tHE PERFECT PISTOL SHOT
Improvements in ammunition have made the old arguments on caliber less important. Pistols won the popularity contest against revolvers, but revolvers are being justified by DAO pistol triggers, and a remarkable array of calibers never before found in handguns. If you've read The Perfect Pistol Shot, you know I strongly encourage shooters to stick with whatever modern, full-size, service weapon they currently have, and then master that particular handgun. Like you, I have prefences in caliber, handgun type, barrel length and ammunition, but I've learned that in terms of effectiveness the shooter is what matters. Nonetheless, there is one thing in handguns I just won't keep to myself. I don't like stainless steel finishes on handguns. They work well, they resist weather, and I can't stand them. Give me a blued or parkerized handgun that shows holster wear and age, not one that just scratches. Clean, properly oiled, blued handguns don't rust, either. Look at a richly blued firearm and trace the years of service in its finish. A blued or parkerized weapon keeps a record of service. revealing how it adapted to its shooter. Thats the aesthetic pay-off for lugging the cursed thing around for ten years. I know it doesn't matter, it really doesn't...but I can't help myself.
There's no mystery to preapring your guns for winter. It's more a question of altering priorities dependent on your location. Generally, winter means wet weather, though indoor storage may actually be drier in winter due to fireplaces and heaters. The two things to look out for are exposed metal and dry wood. Bare metal is used in firearms at friction points. Make sure you have a thin coating of oil on those areas. Wood stocks and grips are like wooden furniture, they require a little wood oil to keep them from cracking or absorbing excess moisture. Don't forget your leather gear. Good leather treatments prevent brittleness and cracking. Saddle soap works great on slings and cases, but will darken leather. Leather car seat wipes are an easy way to keep duty gear in good shape. Pay attention to gun safe location and keep some distance from heat sources which may over-dry the air. Obviously, humid climates can benefit from de-humidification. Try an open box of mom's Arm and Hammer. There is no excuse for rust on a personal weapon. Be preapred.
Law enforcement training almost univesrsally accepts that an attacker with a knife will be able to reach an officer before that officer can draw and fire a holstered handgun, if the distance is less than 21 feet. It's a lousy standard to bet your life on. Try this test at an outdoor range:
Have a shooter stand on the firing line with the weapon holstered and secure. An additional person (unarmed) should stand back-to-back with the shooter. Without warning, the unarmed person is to run directly away from the shooter (uprange). At the instant the shooter feels the runner depart, the shooter will draw and fire downrange. When the runner hears the sound of the shot, he will immediately stop. The distance between the runner and the shooter is the distance that a knife wielding attacker could cover before the shooter could draw and fire. It is rarely as little as 21 feet. In one case, I witnessed a deputy sheriff mis-grip his revolver and fumble with his clam-shell holster so long that the runner covered a full 50 yards. If you take the same test and conduct it using a reactionary target (read the last post about using ballons), which requires the shooter to actually hit his mark, the distance will get even longer.
The proper distance to draw your handgun when facing a threat is whatever distance you are at when you recognize the threat.
Remember today, while you're cyber-shopping, everyone would love to have a copy of The Perfect Pistol Shot, and I mean everyone: toddlers, fashion models, the family pet, and of course, you. Enjoy!
There is a need in firearm training for reactive targets. When marksmanship has been attained and defensive skills are being acquired, targets that give instant feedback are invaluable to the student-shooter. Knowing you have missed causes stress and requires self-discipline to correct your shooting. That's good experience to have in your training.
There are many reactive targets made of all sorts of materials. Some swing and drop, others explode in colors, and some just make noise. For economy and versatility, I prefer a cheap bag of party ballons. Different colors allow you to conduct simple shoot/don't shoot scenarios. They make noise. You can fill them with smoke or liquid, and depending how much you blow them up, the size of the target can be controlled. Balloons can be affixed to almost anything, and they're easy to clean up, with no debris left on the range.
For a dollar at the party store you can enjoy the cutting edge of "Audio/Visual Reactionary Firearm Target Devices."
Before I mention a couple more cheap tricks to improve your handgun, let me clarify the last batch:
Smudging the front sight tip: Traditional rifle ranges may have smudge pots available to you. These used to be very popular and the Marine Corps still uses them. They usually burn kerosene through a thick fiberous wick that gives off a low level of black smoke. A shooter holds the rifle sight over the "pot" until the sight is black. Too much smudge can actually thicken the sight post. The goal is only to prevent light reflection. You can make one with a small piece of cloth lightly coated with kerosene and placed inside a can, or a small coal fire. Magic markers create shine and flat paint is hard to remove. Be careful.
Fouling the barrel: You should keep a clean weapon, properly oiled. However, accuracy in firearms is often improved as rounds are fired. If you want the best accuracy from your handgun, try firing groups at the end of your range session when your barrel is dirty. When I was a counter-sniper the thinking was rifle barrels had to be perfectly clean for that first shot. Today, even military snipers are realizing the benefit of a dirty barrel. As a Marine marksmanship instructor I saw great improvements in M-16 groups as barrels became dirty and "tighter." I am not suggesting that you should not clean your weapon. However, if you want to improve your accuracy that fraction of an inch, try a mildly fouled barrel -- then clean it.
Here's a couple more tricks:
1. For long distance shooting mark your front sight with two or three evenly-spaced horizontal lines (a thread tipped in nail polish works fine as a snap-line.) Use the lines as front sight tips and points of reference when firing beyond 100 yards. This will allow you to learn where to hold and to be consistent at more than two hundred yards (handgun, ammunition, and shooter permitting.)
2. Reloaded and light brass has an advantage in a revolver. When doing a tactical reload and trying to save your unfired rounds, simply turn the revolver upward and the the heavier, un-expanded rounds will drop into your support hand. Striking the yoke (the plunger) will eject the fired brass. This technique allows you to reload a partially-full cylinder without throwing good rounds on the ground or collecting spent brass, which can be dangerous when reloading under stress. The goal here is to put the unfired rounds in your pocket, the spent brass on the ground, and charge the cylinder with a fresh reloader, saving those unfired, loose rounds for the last cylinder.
I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
I realize that advocating nothing but training to firearms fans makes me the fat kid at the dance. So let's compromise and combine an emphasis on training with some cheap improvements to make your handgun more "shootable."
1. If you are getting glare on your front sight tip, blacken the tip using smoke from an oily flame. A drop or two of coal or kerosene will work fine. You want the oily smoke not the fire. You will achieve a beautiful flat black front sight tip that is easy to see even in bright sunlight. It wipes away when you're finished.
2. If your grips get slippery as your hand perspires: Go to the dollar-store and get a roll of medical tape. Make one tight wrap around your grips. It'll come off and the grips can be cleaned. If you decide to keep using tape, you will have to change it periodically as it can become slick with body oil and dirt but it's cheaper than a new set of grips and very comfortable.
3. One drop of oil on the machined (sliding) surfaces of your pistol. Many shooters suffer stoppages from not oiling the surfaces that slide against each other and cause friction. Don't over-oil and never pour oil into your barrel.
4. Buy a bag of cheap reloads at your local range and shoot four bucks worth. The fouling inside your barrel will actually tighten your groups.
Dry fire with regimented purpose, which costs you nothing.
The Perfect Pistol Shot has been available for over a year. I wasn't sure what to expect as far as sales numbers. There is greater interest in the use and ownership of firearms than at anytime in the past, and I'm not just referring to the United States. Like everything else, marksmanship as a study -- as work, has not been popular for some time. The material that does sell well tends to emphasize hollywood poses, "secret" military techniques, and close range shooting without measureable standards. I get the appeal but the desire for convenience doesn't change what is required to be a consistently accurate shot under a variety of conditions. So, I figured my book would have some limited interest for a short period of time. Fortunately, as with many other things, I was wrong. The Perfect Pistol Shot has slowly and steadily sold well in both paperback and Kindle formats. About a week ago, it bumped into the top ten. Readers have been my primary source of advertising, and I apprectiate it. Thank you.
Most shooters eventually consider some manner of equipment upgrade to improve accuracy or speed. Popular options include grips, trigger jobs, sights, and of course, a new handgun. There are some factory grips that can get slick with shooter perspiration, and some service-type handguns have rough triggers. Smaller weapons may not have good, clear sights. However, generally speaking, most modern handguns are okay. Take the cash equivlant of the uprgrade that you're planning and treat yourself to some practice ammo. Training trumps equipment nine times out of ten.
I will tell a tale on myself. When I was a patrolman I had occassion to get my trigger-finger stuck inside the mouth of a lunatic who made a yeoman's effort at chewing it off. Due to our positioning I could not access my pistol with my support-hand and I couldn't get hold of the suspect. What saved me from losing the finger was another cop. After that I always carried a small folding knife within reach of my support hand. If you carry a handgun consider carrying a folding knife.
Over the past twenty years there has been an increasing interest in concealable handguns. Many states now allow concealed carry and the demand for firearms is at an all-time high. The consumer tendency seems to be toward big calibers in small guns. That's a problem. Big loads need barrel length to burn the entire charge of powder. Otherwise, the excess powder is simply blown out the end of the barrel, having no positive effect on ballistics. What that means to the shooter is a big bore round or a hot load may be less powerful than a smaller caliber or milder load that was propelled by its entire charge of powder. It is worthwhile to check your ammunition manufacturer''s website for ballistic information and suggested barrel lengths for individual loads. Also, balls of fire, powder spray and heavy fouling of the barrel may be indicators of too much load. The good news is smaller calibers and milder loads are less expensive and easier to shoot.
Albert League is a former Marine Corps and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics. He is the founder of the Practics firearms defense system and author of the Practics book series.(www.practicsusa.com)