Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Just the Basics - Ammunition Does Matter

This past week I made a range trip to brush off some of the rust in my precision shooting efforts.  The post is entitled “Evaluating Targets” under the “Training” heading.  I used a mix of Aguila ammunition that I had on hand.  I suppose you’d call this “plinking” ammunition.  My primary use is in by introductory handgun classes.  The targets are large, the distance are around 5 yards and the primary thing I am interested in is safe gun handling and very basic marksmanship.  The Aguila works just fine for that.

However, I will confess to some frustration that at 50 yards, 5 rounds per target, my group size was 2”-ish.  To tighten things up I picked the best 3 rounds (smallest group) of the five thus using a rough “average” to tighten up my group size.  With that caveat my group size was right at .5”.  Not bad . . . but the visual of the targets with rounds splattered around bothered be.

When I posted the article to a couple different Facebook shooting groups I received a lot of “why the heck did you use Aguila ammo for precision shooting???” type comments.  Heavy sigh . . . Because I did???  Anyway, I looked through by ammo stash and found 2 boxes of Eley Club ammunition.  I had shot up 8 boxes of a 10-box brick and found I was quite happy with the performance.  So, with a day filled with sun, no wind and mid-30s I thought I’d spend a couple hours at the range just to see how it performed.  I wasn’t disappointed.

First, let’s chat a bit on what goes into making a precise shooting round.  In a word – consistency.  The bullet weights of all rounds are the same.  The Eley Club round is lubricated ensuring consistent loading into chamber.  A precise power load each and every time.  A consistent case size and good application of priming compound inside the rim of the casing.  Do these things, exactly the same, each and every time . . . and you will have a precise cartridge that will perform exactly the same every time it is fired.

Accuracy is the other side of the coin and that is up to you and your rifle.

As a reminder, here is my target from the earlier trip with the Aguila ammunition.  


As you can see, the only way you can begin to detect the accuracy of my rifle and my shooting is by finding the best the shots.  Certainly not ideal and, for me, it was frustrating.  So let’s see how the Ely Club ammunition performed.


As you can see, the difference is stark.  While there are a couple groups that opened up, the precision and accuracy of each round is significantly better.  Other than making myself feel better, what’s the value in this?  Better, more consistent practice sessions.  If I always have to worry about whether it’s just crappy ammunition or a crappy shooter I’m not going to make much progress on all the little nuances of precision shooting.  But, if I have confidence in the performance of the ammunition . . . and I have some thrown rounds . . . I can begin to correct my problems. 

So, about this time my curiosity tickles me a bit . . . how would this stuff shoot at 100 yards?  It turns out that the Eley Club is actually designed to be a 50 yard round.  But surely I can push it out a bit, right.

First things first, the ballistics of the round.  There are any number of ways you can get from here to there – on-line calculators, manufacturer spec sheets, computer software, formulas . . . or how about “there’s an app for that”??

I have an Android phone and have chosen the Strelok Pro.  If memory serves it’s about a $7 app but worth every penny.  It’s rolled through 3 phones with no additional charge and is continually updated.  One of the latest is a Bluetooth link to the Kestrel family of weather meters.  It has a database of 1460 reticles, 3226 cartridges and around 1500 different bullets.  There is a free version that comes with a limited number of reticles, cartridges and bullets though you can define you own if you wish.  It’s enough for you to evaluate the product but for the price it’s a great chunk of software.

It allows you to define different rifles and attach to each their particular scope and the individual cartridge.  Switching between different rifles is simply a drop-down menu choice.  As can see in the image below I’ve selected the Ruger Precision .22 with a Vortex Crossfire II 6x18 44mm scope and it’s reticle.  Also selected is the Eley Club .22 caliber round.  I’ve defined the rifle zero as 50 yards. 

Insert strelok definitions screen here

This yields a couple useful chunks of data.  One a ballistics chart with the hold over required, in this case right at 6 inches.  And it yields an image of what you would see through the scope.  It shows a holdover of 6 MOA or two hash marks.  Since this is not precisely the reticle of the scope I started with a holdover of 2.  


The result looked like this . . .

Notice that the hold over seems to be good but the rounds are about 1.5” right.  That means I need to move the zero 6 “clicks” or 1.5 MOA to the left.  The results of that can be seen on targets 4 and 5.  Each target is 3” with a 1” center.  At this point I had a half box of the Eley Club left so I posted one more target seen below.

This was my first outing with the Ruger PR .22 cal at 100 yards.  The groups the small squares are .25” and I would estimate that all the groups are 2 MOA or smaller with a couple being sub 1 MOA.

Nothing to really write home about for real competitive shooters but I’m not sure I want to invest the time and money getting to a single hole.  I believe I can get to a consistent sub 1 MOA group and will explore some of the competition rounds that Eley makes at the suggestion of a number of very helpful folks on the FB groups.  Other than that, I’ll focus on the fundamentals, do my best to keep the flyers ammunition related . . . not shooter related.

And, I’ll take advantage of this trainer to refine my skill set so I can work with my RPR in .308 and push my range out to 800+ yards with is the limit of a local range.

Bottom line, this little trip again allowed me to learn, grow a bit as a shooter, confirm some of my hardware and software and demonstrated the real difference between the “cheap stuff” and the “good stuff”.  The “excellent stuff” might have to wait until Spring . . .

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Just the Basics – Your Patrol Shotgun

I’ve used the words “Patrol Shotgun” as part of my overall effort to move the mindset for new and inexperienced shooter from “target” shooting or “goin’ to the range” or, in this case, trap or skeet shooting to that of defensive shooting.  You are going to use your shotgun for the defense of your family and your home.  I suspect you won’t be putting it in a rack in your car or truck.

That said, the type of shotgun, the way you equip it and the way you train and practice with it would not change significantly from the way a law enforcement officer would.  Keeping all this in mind I want to talk about your Patrol Shotgun.  We’ll talk about the type of action I prefer and why, what equipment you add to it, types of ammunition and finally we’ll talk about training and ongoing practice to maintain your proficiency.  Feels like it may be a long post . . . so you might want to drag out some snacks and something to wash it down with.

When it comes to types of actions only two make sense to me, either an autoloader or a pump action.  I do not believe a bolt action, a simple single shot or double barrel break action make sense for a defensive firearm.  While it is always possible that a potentially lethal situation could be cured with a single round or two, or that you would have the time and individual discipline required to work a bolt . . . I prefer the simplicity of working a pump action or simply pressing the trigger again in the case of an autoloader.

In the choice between a pump action and an autoloader, if chose a pump action for the simple reason that there are fewer moving parts and I have a belief that in the long run a pump will be more reliable than an autoloader.

I have two Remington 870 pump shotguns seen here laying on the upper half of the photo.  The lower half are my two Patrol Rifles.  I took this while at a LE Instructor workshop I took in October 2019.  For me, any time I take a training course I take two nearly identical weapons, in the case of the photo both for shotguns and carbines.  I also had a duplicate Glock 17 as well.  The reason is simple – good training is expensive.  The course in October including ammunition, food and lodging cost around $800.  I’ve spent as high as $2,750 and as little as a couple hundred dollars.  And just as sure as I am typing this, if I have not taken a spare along my primary weapon will break.  And just like that, I am out the money.  Now the instructor might be a really good guy/gal and have a spare – but I don’t consider it fair to expect that they do – so I bring two of everything.

Patrol Shotgun

So let’s start there.  My primary Patrol Shotgun is a Remington Model 870 Express Tactical pump action 12ga shotgun.  It holds 6 +1 rounds of 2 ¾” or 3”.  The shotgun is typically stored or carried in “patrol ready” meaning 6 rounds in the magazine, chamber empty and closed, hammer down and safety on.  For sights it has a front blade and a rear Ghost Ring significantly increasing the accuracy at longer distances.

There are a couple other pieces of attached gear that I believe are important to make your Patrol Shotgun effective.

Side Saddle

The Patrol Shotgun is typically loaded with 6 rounds of 00-Buck Shot which would be 9 round .32 caliber pellets.  Additional ammunition is in the form of 6 ea. 7/8 oz rifled slugs and are stored in a Side Saddle either fed from the top or bottom depending on your personal preference, method of combat loading and mix of additional buck shot if so desired.  The Side Saddle provides you a total of 12 rounds to fix whatever problem is before you and is much more reliable than just grabbing a “couple extra rounds” out of a stored box and jamming them in your pocket.


Let’s start with the purpose of a sling.

Weapon Retention: It is a good way to make sure your Patrol Shotgun stays on your body.  If you are moving about your house or perhaps your property it insures that in the even you trip and fall or perhaps the intruder attempts to wrest your shotgun from you, that it is secured to your body.

Weapon Transition: Should your Patrol Shotgun stop working either through running out of ammunition or due to mechanical failure, it makes for an easy transition by simply using your support hand to hold it out of the way and then drawing your handgun to continue the fight.  Obviously all of this is dependent on the situation, what precipitated the engagement, whether you even have a defensive handgun on your body, but all that aside it allows you to keep your Patrol Shotgun with you rather than discarding it and moving on.

Load Distribution: Lastly, these darn things can get heavy.  While you may not notice the weight during a short encounter, should things drag on and you end up moving from one point of cover to another, it’s weight will eventually become an issue.  Or, should you take an 8, 16 or 24 hour training course let me assure you that by the end of the day you know you’re toting around more than a few pounds of steel and lead.

There are two primary variations of the sling – a 2-point sling and a single point sling. While there are multiple variations on these two themes, each has primary characteristics.

Two-Point Sling: The sling attaches to two separate sling-points on your weapon. One is usually near the rear of the stock and the second somewhere on the fore-grip. My personal preference is the Vickers padded 2-point sling. It allows for easy adjustment whether I want to snug my weapon to my body during movement or if I want to extend and engage with my weapon. The biggest advantage to a 2-point sling is that when both hands are needed, the weapon can be drawn close to your body so that as your move your hands are free, yet your weapon doesn't bounce off your thighs and knees.

Single-Point Sling: A single point sling attached to a single point on your weapon. This is usually to a ring located near the junction of the stock and frame. It typically has a “shock cord” feel so that while you can keep your weapon close to your body, it easily stretches during engagement without the need for additional adjustments. The biggest fault I find with a single point sling is the amount of movement of the weapon when it is released to hang free on your body. If you do this during movement, you are guaranteed some pretty good-sized bruises by the end of the day. I do not use a single point, nor do I recommend them.

Another big area discussion is “How the heck do I wear this darn thing???” Honestly, to me it’s as clear as day. You want easy access to your secondary weapon system. This is typically a handgun worn on your dominant hand side – therefore, I want that arm to have the most movement possible.  I wear either of these slings by putting my head and SUPPORT arm through the hole. This ensures that there are no obstructions on my dominant side between me and my secondary weapon system.


Another area of consideration are the sights.  The better the sight the more accurate at distance you will be.

My backup 870 simply has a front bead much like a trap gun.  I lay my cheek on the comb of the stock where my eye becomes the “rear sight”.  I sight down the top of the barrel and find the front bead.  Putting the bead in the center of the threat I have my sight picture and am ready to press the trigger.  This is the least accurate type of sight but given the typical range of 50 yards or less, it is typically accurate enough to get the job done.

Next would typically be the Ghost Ring.  The rear sight is simply a larger ring that you look through.  You center a front sight post in the middle of the ring.  Place this on the center of the threat and this becomes your sight picture.  I find this significantly more accurate and I find target acquisition quick and easy.

Yet another option would be a traditional front blane and rear notched sight combination.  Here accuracy can increase but, at least for me, target acquisition is slower.  This would be the most accurate if you’re trying to push beyond the typical 50 yard distance.

Finally, there is the holographic sights – the “red dot”.  These, once zeroed, are fast and accurate.  However, again given the distances we are talking, I find that I have no interest in putting one on my Patrol Shotgun


A weapon mounted light is simply a must.  It will simply not work well if you expect to be able to use a handheld flashlight and still be able to run the gun efficiently.  That said, a handheld flashlight is just part of my EDC kit.  I carry a Surefire G2ZX.  The thing I like about it uses a pushbutton on the butt of the flashlight so I don’t have to mess with switches.  And, it has a wrist lanyard so should I need to “drop it” to help run the gun, all I have to do is to let it go and do what I have to do.  This flashlight is used to help explore an area and to do a general search.  Once I need to transition to run the shotgun I can simply “drop” it and let it hang from the lanyard on my wrist.

As for the weapon mounted light, It’s tough to beat the Surefire TR-1 series.  I use the TR-1s with is a 320 lumen light with a strobe feature.  It also has a momentary on so I can illuminate, identify and then quickly go dark and move.  It also has a “full-on” should I need it and a strobe function that can disorient a threat.  All in all, it’s hard to beat this little guy.

So there you go, a basic Patrol Shotgun setup consisting of the Shotgun, spare ammo carrier, a sling, a sighting system and flashlight.  That’s all you need, keep it simple.


Let’s take just a bit and roll through some ammunition choices.

Bird Shot

No, just no.  In a lethal encounter you want something that will stop the threat.  While you may get lucky with bird shot – please, don’t depend on luck.  Take your defense seriously.  No bird shot.

That said, bird shot, particularly low recoil trap rounds are great for practice and learning to run the gun.  Perhaps the best way to explain the manipulation of a shotgun is to say it’s just plain clumsy.  It’s heavy, you load it a round at a time, there may be instances where you need to feed in a single slug round, throw in a quick round because you ran dry . . . and if you don’t spend some time learning to run the shotgun properly things may not end well should you need to deploy it to defend your family.

The course I took in October 2019 went through about a hundred of the low recoil rounds.  We shot against steel targets and the process worked great.  One thing to keep in mind is that, as with a pistol, you need to spend range time to keep your proficiency with your weapon.  A couple day training course becomes meaningless after a couple months if you don’t spend the time practicing your skills on the range – and low recoil birdshot is a great way to do that.


00-Buckshot consists of 9 .32 caliber pellets.  The typical range for Buckshot is 15 yards or less.  For most types of buckshot once you exceed that distance, they spread out enough that they are not very effective.  One exception is Federal’s “Flight Control” 00-buckshot.  While I’ve not used this myself, it was demonstrated in the coursework and it could keep all 9 pellets on a steel plate at 40 yards.  However, with increased performance comes increased costs – they are much more expensive than traditional buckshot.


The biggest issue with slugs is simple recoil mitigation.  They will hammer the crap out of your shoulder.  As a result, folks shy away from practicing with them.  If you look at the velocity of the Winchester rounds, you will notice that it comes in at 1,600 fps.  That’s a lot of energy.  In looking at different rounds for this course I found a 3-gun competition round that had about half the recoil while sacrificing some speed – down to 1300 fps.  Honestly, for a 50 yard or less shot, the lethality of the round would not change in any significant way while my ability to quickly provide a follow-up shot improved simply because the recoil was so much lighter.  These will become my standard defensive round though I will continue to load the magazine with 00-buck shot and the side saddle with the slug rounds.

Range Results

How do these rounds transfer to range performance?  This is my qualification target from the coursework I took.  The smaller holes are a result of the rounds of buckshot I fired.  It was a mixed course of fire requiring combat reloads and conducted from 15 yards.  Each pellet counted as an individual round.

The large holes were made by the slugs fired from 40 yards (the max distance we could get on their range).

A qualification score for an instructor was 90%.  As you can see the spread of 00-buckshot at 15 yards is well within the outlines of the target.  This should give you some idea of how this type of shot placement would affect a threat.

So there ya have it – my view of a Patrol Shotgun and the rounds I use to defend myself and my family.  I realize lots of folks have their own opinions – I’m always willing to listen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Training - Target Evaluation

Rabbit holes, rabbit holes, rabbit holes . . .

The gun and training community is just full of them.  Latest handgun, carbine, precision rifle, grips, trigger, sights, magazines, bipod, scope, bullet, factory load precision round, powder, handload formula . . . . Been there?   Done that?

Add to that the latest training method, trainer, shooting school . . .

So . . . how is your budget??

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before I find myself on a precision rifle shooting journey.  My large caliber rifle is the RPR in .308.  Honestly, that’s pretty pricy to shoot and I’m not ready for the whole reloading rabbit hole.  So, I’ve working out a lot of the mechanics with the RPR in .22 LR. 

I did my first range trip with it in quite some time this week.  I am always working on the fundamental stuff . . . good cheek weld, good use of a rear bag, keeping the scope level, not wrapping my hand entirely around the grip by keeping my thumb alongside the grip rather than around the grip, smooth trigger press, managing my breathing, focusing on the crosshairs and not the target, working the bolt smoothly . . . I’m sure there are other things but these are a good place to start.

My distance was 50 yards and the target is one of my own design.  It has 12 2-inch individual targets each with a 1-inch center.  I typically shoot 5 rounds per target – a total of 60 rounds will fill out the target.  For me that’s about enough for one trip. 

After my range trip I posted some thoughts to my FB page and two different company pages – eIAft’s page (my company page) and NAPSI’s page (a second training company I am involved with).  These were my thoughts . . .


Quick range trip today with my Ruger .22 Precision Rifle. It's probably been 5-6 months since my last range trip with this particular firearm. I use it to work on all the "mechanics" for precision shooting, however, I just shot from the bench today.

I used a new target I whipped up. It has 4 rows of 2" targets each with a 1" center. 5 rounds per target (though I just cleaned out leftovers on target #12). Had an interesting trip, perhaps learned a few things.

Target #1 has the "Clean Bore, Cold Bore" round at about 1 o'clock (it's labeled). I had about 3 REAL flyers, one on 2, one on 3 and one on 4. They were certainly on me.

I noticed most groups were 1-inch-ish low and right. Finally before starting the last row I moved the zero up 1" and left 1". Holy crap!!! All over the place!! Through incremental adjustments I ended up exactly where I began - at the zero as it had been when I last shot the rifle.

With that I shot the final row. Notice the significant improvement with target 12 being a total of 8 rounds.

I have a whisper of a memory that says something like . . . to check zero before getting serious run a couple rounds through the rifle, move the turrets both plus and minus of the defined zero, then reset them to zero and check zero again. Something about re-tensioning the reticle comes to mind. If any of you real shooters out there have a clearer memory of this, drop a note. 

Bottom line . . . 52*F, sunny, no real wind, range to myself . . . and heavy snow due midweek. All the rounds were "OK" - it was not match grade ammo . . . so, I'll take it. 

Not going to be many of these days available for the next 6 months or so . . . heavy sigh.

A fine time was had!


I had some images from the trip as well . . .

Discussions that followed revolved around a confirmation of the +1/-1 turret turn after firing the cold bore shot.  And, a conversation with another shooter I listen to that prompted this post . . . just how am I evaluating the target results given that I don’t really know the consistency of the ammunition I was using – Aguila .22 subsonic Solid Point and some Aguila .22 Pistol Match Competition thrown into the mix for good measure. 

That is what I want to chat about here . . . how do you evaluate your targets.  And, is your evaluation reasonable?  Most folks are susceptible to self-criticism . . . I expect to make a single hole . . . every round of fire.  My reality differs from this expectation.  So what am I paying attention to, all the little nuances of making a consistent shot . . . or the fact that my group sizes are simply not 12 single holes?  How do we find balance so that we can give ourselves good, reasonable, solid feedback on the range and not just get grumpy with our results?

Let’s start by looking at a marked-up target.  In this target I circled the 3 best rounds out of the 5 I fired at each target.  As noted above there were 3 complete flyers.

So what can we derive from this?  Let’s start with target #1 and the cold bore , clean bore shot.  It was high/right but within an inch of the target center. The CB shot should be fairly consistent.  The remaining 4 rounds created one 3-round group of .5” and another ½” inch out.  As the round continues through the first 9 targets, I was able to create a group of an average of .52” for the three closest rounds and simply discounted the two farthest out.  Ya but, ya but, ya but . . . you say, why discount the remaing 2 rounds per target?  My argument in grabbing the 3 best is that I have no real way of knowing how consistent each individual round in in the box . . . so by taking the best 3 rounds I am trying to increase the overall accuracy of the box of ammo by only taking the 60% that were closest being the same.  Were I actually building the individual rounds I could guarantee the bullet weight, case dimensions, amount of powder, seating depth, cartridge length . . . to ensure that each and every round was as identical as I could make it.  Here, when I’m buying bulk ammo, short of buying match grade rounds, the 3 of 5 option isn’t a bad way to go in my humble opinion.

That said, by the time I’d gone through 9 targets, 45 rounds, the frustration grew to the point that I though perhaps my zero has slipped or the scope itself had some issues.  So, I re-zeroed the rifle.  As I was doing that, I realized that after my initial adjustments of 1-inch up and 1-inch left the results were even worse.  As I worked by way to a proper zero and suddenly realized I was back “home” to the zero setting on the scope.  That was when the memory light went off and the reminder to go +1/-1 on both the elevation turret and the windage turret after the first few rounds.  This memory was confirmed by a good friend who is a long-range shooter.  As we’ve often discussed, it’s always the little things . . . and there are a lot of little things.

With this “adjustment” made the last row went much better with 2 of the 3 groups coming in at .25 inches.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this little exercise.  Well, first . . . have this conversation with yourself.  Create a range diary or a simple blog and put your thoughts down.  I always learn new things by having words move from my head through my fingers to the “paper”.  And isn’t that what a range trip is for – to learn things, to practice what we learn in training and to grow as a shooter?

Second, I am consistently shooting 1 MOA groups with this particular rifle.  I’ve search for a definitive expectation of the RPR .22 cal and can not find one but it seems that most are right at that limit (which would be .5” at 50 yards).  So, I seem to be shooting to the limit of the rifle which provides some level of confirmation that I am performing the foundational steps consistently.  THIS, this right here . . . is why I am doing this, to ingrain these small individual pieces of learning so that when I move to my full-size RPR in .308 I don’t need to spend a couple bucks a round to learn these things.

In my area I know two very fine precision shooters.  A fellow by the name of Dave Coots who is a bench rest international level shooter that has competed around the world and throughout the US.  He shoots 5,000+ rounds a year – all of which are handmade, including the individual bullets.  He does make a single hole at 100 yards.  The second fellow is Jim See – a national PR shooting champion shooter on the professional circuit.  He easily shoots 5,000 rounds a year, the vast majority of his rounds are also hand crafted.  Honestly, I am never going to shoot that many rounds annually, nor am I driven to do so as these two fellows are.  But, if you want to shoot at their level THAT is what it’s going to take.

That said, I want to be an above-average shooter.  I want to be able to shoot 1 MOA groups at 100 yards “out of the box” . . . and to do that it will probably take 1,000 rounds of .308 and a couple thousand rounds of good .22 long rifle ammunition a year.  That I can do.

Bottom line, make reasonable evaluations of your targets.  Don’t bang on yourself if your range trip isn’t up to your expectations.  Work to figure out the “why” and then move to the “how” to improve your shooting.

And as part of the mix of figuring out the “how” to improve, call on friends and shooters for a hand.  I believe that this in a unique journey that is shared by few.  But those folks just plain love to help.  I’ve never received a nasty comment or a laugh . . . but have always heard . . . “Have your tried this?”  or “When I worked through that, here’s what I did.”  We are part of a great community . . . and for that I’m grateful.

So, go forth . . . shoot . . . make holes . . . evaluate . . . learn . . . grow . . . and become the best shooter you can be.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Commentary – The Guns Went Silent

“the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month” . . . the “Guns Went Silent” . . .

Throughout my life the first half of this phrase is what folks have always associated with Armistice Day.  That day when WWI – the “war to end all wars” – ended.  

In 1926 the date became recognized as “Armistice Day”.  In 1938 it became a national holiday.  And it 1954 it gained its current name – “Veterans Day”.  A day set aside to honor all veterans.  It was so proclaimed in the “Veterans Day Proclamation” 

Rather than the date/time of the end of hostilities, rather than “the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month”, I would like to focus on the phrase – “The Guns Went Silent”.  The guns had raged in Europe for 4 years.  30 Million dead.  An estimated 35 THOUSAND MILES of trenches scared the landscape.  New methods of death had been developed and used – from mustard and phosgene gases to aircraft dropping bombs . . . machine guns, tanks, long range artillery . . . not to mention nature's toll from the trenches – flu, infection, dysentery, pneumonia.

And suddenly . . . in an instant . . . “the guns went silent”.  After 4 years you could hear the wind, the birds, a clock . . . and not the guns.  What would that have sounded like?  Thanks to the technology of 1918 and the technology of 2018 . . . we have some idea.

Here is a link to the project “Making a New World:  Armistice Soundwave” that describes how the data for the recording was gathered.   Note that it was technology to gather data to kill the guns . . .

And THIS, THIS RIGHT HERE is what it actually sounded like . . . amazing.  

I can’t imagine the relief given the horror those on the front experienced on a daily basis.  

That said, this is but a moment in time of a nearly 250 year history of Americans defending American ideals and allies.  Where the American Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine stood, took their oath of service and faced an enemy.  Many of them have had their moment when the “guns went silent” be it an ambush, rocket attack, perimeter attack, when the immediate danger ended and they were relative safe . . . or when they boarded the “freedom bird” for rotation back to friends and family.  They were finally out of range of small arms fire, artillery fire, rockets and mortar fire . . . and the guns were truly silent.

To all Veterans – thank you for your service, for your willingness to defend us all, for your willingness to sacrifice all.  May the guns be silent and may you all enjoy the peace.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Training Course Review - Basic Patrol Rifle and Shotgun Instructor - POST Certified

On October 19th and 20th of this year Armed Missouri and NAPSI hosted Bill Regina of “Specialist Research and Training Group”.  Bill taught a two day POST Certified  “Basic Patrol Rifle Instructor Course” and a “Basic Patrol / LE Shotgun Instructor Course”.  Each course ran approximately 8 hours and was a mixture of some classroom but primarily range work.

A quick definition – POST

“Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST): In some states, the POST provides peace officers with the training and certification mandated by a state, including the authority to carry firearms, concealed or otherwise, subject to the written firearms policy created by the agency employing the peace officer.”

In this case it was the Missouri Post Program that had reviewed and approved this course for “Approved Provider” training credit and an appropriate Post Control Number was assigned to the course work. 

What that means is that a Peace Officer could take this coursework and be granted CE credit towards any Missouri state requirements for officers within their state.  It could also be granted in other stated dependent upon the individual state’s POST program.

However – for me as an instructor – it helped define what content should be in a Basic Patrol Rifle and a Basic Patrol Shotgun course.  It would then be up to me to develop and test the coursework and finally submit my coursework to my state’s POST Program for acceptance within my state.  This was not a . . . “teach this, it’s “certified” . . . kind of course.

This was also not a “shooting” course.  There was significant range time, but it was all focused on the “what to teach” in a course and NOT the actual teaching of the skill set.  It was assumed going into the course that you could “run the gun”, that you were already a proficient instructor and that your goal was to broaden your course offerings.  And that was indeed one of the purposes of myself and other NAPSI instructors in taking the coursework.  It is our intent down the road to offer coursework for both the carbine and the shotgun.  This seemed to be a solid place to start evaluating the content of that course work.

Bill Regina is the founder of the SRT Group , a retired law enforcement officer and has conducted training for military, contractors and law enforcement since 1997.  I found him to be direct, focused, very informative and profoundly competent in his instruction and on the range.  He went well beyond the “do it my way because experience!!!” and did deep dives on the “why” of things.  He was more than willing to respond to any question.  Much of the shotgun work was new to me and he took no issue with explaining things to me and helping me become much more proficient with that firearm.  

He also didn’t hesitate in his evaluation of our performance.  From tweaking our grips, adjusting our foot and explaining various reloads and malfunction clearing techniques – he kept things focused and moving.

Bottom line – good instructor!  Go, take things from him . . . you will learn a ton.

Basic Patrol Rifle

I wrote a post quite some time ago about my patrol rifle, you will find it here.  It is the rifle I depend on to defend myself and my family.  For the officer who rolls out of his car to engage a bad guy, the meaning is the same . . . it is used to defend himself, his fellow officers and civilians in the area.  The focus is different.  It’s not for plinking but for self-defense.  And that was where our energy was spent both in the classroom and on the range.

Our classroom period began with a medical brief (who does what, who has specific skills, the assignment of a primary and secondary responder, our location, info sheet should calls need to be made, location of medical kits) and a range safety brief.  The safety brief was repeated each day at the beginning on the range work and it was conducted on the range.

We also covered what is typically included on a patrol rifle – the rifle, spare magazines, sights (a red dot, irons, both), sling and flashlight.  

Next was a discussion of the basic rifle zero.  The standard taught in the course was a 50/200 yard zero.  This zero was also verified on the range at the 50 yard point but it was also evaluated at various distances much shorter than 50 yards – 5 yards, 10 yards, 15 yards, 25 yards . . . all with the idea of knowing where your bullet is going to go regardless of the distance you are shooting from.  It also acknowledges that most of the “work” done by a patrol rifle will typically be closer than 50 yards.

Keep in mind also that all of this was taught from the POV of . . . “This is what you should be teaching new officers and why it is important that they understand it.”

Once the zeroing was completed, we moved on to basic marksmanship where our position, the way we held and mounted the rifle, foot position and body position were evaluated.  Suggestions were made based upon the “why” of the situation.  Again, the view was how to instruct new officers and how to evaluate them during their shooting drills.

Various drills were shot, typically multiple rounds with Bill evaluating us and tweaking as needed.  

Reloads were next with discussions of where spare magazines are kept, what their orientation was in the mag holder – and why – and how to do a clean reload.  Discussions were also held about the difference between a forced or emergency reload and a “speed” (tactical) reload to top off the rifle.

Next up were malfunction drills.  Errors were introduced and methods were evaluated to clear them.  From the simple failure to fire to double feeds.  The case over the bolt was demonstrated but we did not induce them into our rifles.  Along with malfunctions were transitions.  You run dry, your rifle breaks, the threat is still a threat and you need to transition to you handgun quickly and smoothly.  A number of drills covered this particular topic.

Use of cover was shown as well as movement to cover, moving to cover for a reload and an understanding of the position behind cover for greatest usefulness.  Again, all of this was from the POV of teaching this to a new officer while paying particular attention to the “why” of the situation.

Shooting and moving was covered as was engaging multiple threats.  Also included was engaging the threat and moving quickly from the point of engagement and then reevaluating the threat.  The primary idea here was to teach the new officer that this isn’t just target practice and that he/she is better off moving as much as is practical.  

The day ended with shooting a 50-round course of fire for a qualification score.  We were required to shoot a minimum of a 90% to pass the coursework.

This was a very full day.  Again, it was not so much an instructional day as it was a “this is what you should teach new officers” kind of day – with Bill explaining, tweaking and evaluating us throughout the day.

We celebrated the day by having a great meal at a Mexican restaurant, spending some good time just BS-ing and getting ready for day two – shotgun.

Basic Patrol Shotgun

I have no experience using a shotgun for personal defense.  I’ve used it trap shooting and bird hunting.  But using it in a combat type environment – nope, none.  I have a Remington 870 with an extended tube.  I can carry 6 rounds in the tube, one in the chamber and 6 in the “side saddle” on the left side of the frame opposite the ejection port.  For me, this particular gun was new and frankly the sidesaddle was useless simply because if held rounds so firmly and could not easily pull one out.  So, I threw 15-ish rounds of bird shot in my rear left pants pocket, 5 rounds of 00-Buck in my left front pocket and 5 rounds of slug in my left cargo pocket.  This management seemed to work well for me.

A pump shotgun is also labor intensive – both in the act of shooting as well as reloading.  I was satisfied with my performance by the end of the day, but it is, in no way, intuitive to a new shooter.  Something to keep in mind when teaching a new officer or defensive shooter.

Minimal time was spent in the classroom.  A review of medical assignments was made and then a general overview of a standard pump action patrol shotgun was given.  Again, standard equipment bubbled out to be a sling, flashlight, and some type of sight – front bead, red dot or ghost rings.  Once these discussions were had, we headed to the range.

Our very first drill was “patterning” . . . just what will your shotgun do.  For that we loaded five rounds of 00-Buck shot.  We shot single rounds from 5,7,10,12 and 15 yards and noticed the spread.  Remember, 00-Buck is typically 9 rounds of .32 caliber ball.  The general consensus was with standard buckshot 15 yards is pretty much the max effective distance for the round.  A couple rounds of Federal Flight Control 00-Buck were demoed as well – it significantly affects the patterning and can extend the useful range significantly.

Our general marksmanship and shooting drills were done with birdshot on steel targets.  This essentially focused on “running the gun”.  It was also a time to work on tweaking stocks, evaluating the particular firearm, working on the location of rounds for reloads . . . all in all, I’m happy with my choice of 870s and the way it ran.  I have a fondness for “keep it simple” and the 870 is about as basic as it can get.  I have a light, sling and ghost rings.  My rear sling point separated near the very end of the day, figure some blue Loctite will handle that.

During this time, we simply got familiar with loading the tube quickly and easily, a combat load of a single round, using a tactical reload for a “slug drill” – I need a slug – NOW!!” drill.

We worked a few malfunction drills – primarily a failure to fire drill and talked about double feeds and rounds stuck in the chamber.

Use of cover again came up as did transition drills when you need to transition from the shotgun to your handgun.

And shooting and moving as well as multiple threat engagements were reviewed.

Finally, at the end of the day there was a qualification shoot as well with a minimum passing score of 90% required.

A quick range cleanup and a final sit down – AAR in the classroom allowed us to review, decompress and share our thoughts about the past two day.

Honestly, I had my concerns before I came on what could be accomplished in only a single day for each platform.  The shortest carbine class I’ve taken was 3 days.  The shortest ILEA patrol rifle course I’ve taken is 3 days and 900 rounds.  Not to mention adding in shotgun instructor.  I had my doubts.

The fact that we were all experienced, all instructors and all active instructors mitigated most of my concerns.  The focus on learning what to teach, what a new officer or new defensive shooter needs to learn eliminated my remaining concerns.  We learned and focused on the “what” and NOT the “how”.  And Bill got that job done very well.  

The bottom-line truth is that for officers, what we learned to teach will more than likely take three days to actually teach.  For an officer or an individual who has never shot a carbine or never used a shotgun for personal defense – three days of classroom and range work is a realistic timeframe depending on the depth the course.  But, for simply fleshing out what needs to be taught and a review of various techniques, a single day for each worked very well.

Good course, good time, good information and a solid foundation for moving forward with course development.  What more could I ask for.

Thanks for your time Bill, I appreciated it!