Friday, October 26, 2012

Drills and Practice

I subscribe to Active Response Training, and I've found their daily articles valuable.  Always.  I've yet to find something that I felt was a waste of my time or that didn't make sense to me.  I've run across sites that offer advice that just doesn't make sense, yet I see people following thier advice.  Not so with Active Response Training.

A few weeks ago, they had an article about the Dot Torture Shooting drill.  I quickly followed the links to download the drill.  Just reading the directions, I got excited and couldn't wait until I could get to the range to try it.  I shot an email over to Tara and she got just as excited as I did.

The weather has changed for the worst here in Colorado and we decided to move our weekly range day to an indoor range.  We were joined by another local GunDiva, MShell, who we hadn't shot with in months.

Though this has nothing to do with Dot Torture, I have to say something.  We checked into the range, got to our bay and looked around.  The range was full, so many people were shooting two and three to a lane.  And men were outnumbered by women.  Go ahead, take a second to digest that.  I've been shooting regularly for nine years or so and it was the first time (other than at an all-female shoot) I'd ever been on the range where the women outnumbered the men.  And not by a little bit, by better than 2:1.  Six full-grown women and two little girls compared to three men on the range.  It was awesome!  Since I didn't know any of the other ladies, I didn't take a picture, but I should have.

Anyway, back to the Torture.  It is very appropriately named.  Only fifty rounds, but requires something like eighty-three sight pictures.  For our fist time around, we didn't draw from our holsters, but we will next time.

Since it's kind of an ammo-eater, we shot it with the GSG.  I started out and felt like I did okay.  Not fabulous, but okay.

I didn't actually read the directions properly,
Each dot has a specified number of strings.
In my brain, it was five strings for every dot.
Tara loaded up the GSG's mags and took her turn.  She did really well, too.

The #8 dot is shot weak-handed only,
it was her tightest group.
And then MShell shot it.  With a gun she'd never handled before.
It's hard to see,
but she shot the damn thing clean.
A clean round.  From our newest shooter.  MShell's only been shooting about two years.  Tara's been shooting five or six, and I've been shooting more than nine. MShell's a rock star.  Maybe she'll teach me a thing or two.

Sadly, as I was loading up one of the GSG mags for her, I dropped the mag on the cement floor.  It exploded!  Parts went everywhere and I'm not exaggerating.  I scrambled around, trying to find all of the parts.  I found all but the most important - the spring.  The damn thing just disappeared.  We all looked for it, but it's g-o-n-e.  Now I'm down to just four mags, but at least I still have some.

The second time through, I chose to shoot it with my Para.

Oh, it was ugly.
Really ugly.

MShell ran it with her 9mm.

She "threw" two rounds.
The hole off the paper on the right was a pre-existing hole.
I really want to hate her.
I can't wait to run this drill again and again.  I love it and intend to incorporate it routinely in my training.

If you're looking for something to hone your skill, I suggest you give this one a try.

(And if you don't already subscribe to Active Response Training, go do that, too.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Secure Is Your Home?

A couple of months ago, I locked myself out of the house.  On one hand, it was a bad thing.  On the other, however, it was a very good thing.

I'm not advocating locking yourself out of your house to see how secure it is, but if that's what it takes to identify any security weaknesses...*shrugs*... okay, maybe I am advocating locking yourself out of the house.

Our zombie-proof apartment

Fortunately, we live on the second floor.  Our bedroom windows face a street with a streetlight on a busy intersection.  The only way to break into our bedroom windows would be to use a 30 foot ladder that would extend into the street.

The living room window, which you can see in the picture, is almost inaccessible.  I say "almost" because someone taller and stronger than me might be able to leap from the stairs to the sill, pull themselves up and get into the apartment.  The locks on the window are good, so it might be more difficult than it's worth.

Our door, which would be an obvious entry point, is unbelievably secure.  I should know.  I tried jimmying the lock and I tried flat-out breaking the doorknob.  No go.  The door is metal and both the primary lock AND the deadbolt are securely anchored into the door jamb.  Someone might be able to kick the door in, but it would take a lot more effort than most bad guys want to expend.

The weak point in our security is the window above the door.  Yes, someone could reach it to crawl through.  In theory.  However, the window doesn't open.  The storm window is completely sealed and the inside window is sealed from the inside.  Could someone get in through it?  Yep.  If they wanted to badly enough.  But it seems like an awful lot of work.  Especially considering the apartments below us on the ground level are much easier to get into.

Also, we've got two security lights; one at the first landing of the stairs and one next to the front door. Anyone wanting to break in after dark will be well illuminated.

Though I felt like a complete idiot for being locked out of the apartment in my pajamas for a great deal of the day, I actually came away from experience feeling much better about the security of our apartment. Not that I really doubted it, but it is reassuring.

Maybe you should give it a try. Or pretend to lock yourself out.  Spend some time walking around your house/apartment and look for entry points.  Use your imagination - in this case, you can't think like a good guy, you've got to think like bad guys.  Try to get yourself into your house.  If you can do so easily, so can someone else. 

Don't fall into the "it can't happen to me", especially if you have guns in your house.  The last thing you want to do is arm a bad guy with your well cared-for, hard-earned guns.

I'd love to hear from you - what was the outcome of this little exercise?  What changes did you make?  Do you feel good about how secure your home is when you're away from it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Training Review: Two Hour Handgun 101

If you have read my bio, you know that I claim no formal firearms training as part of my background. As my involvement in the shooting sports has increased, my desire to change that circumstance has increased as well. Towards the end of August, I was perusing my daily Groupon email when I noticed a deal for a two hour handgun 101 class. One hour of classroom followed by one hour of range time with range fee, gun rental and ammo included for two people for the obscenely low price of $39.

Cha-Ching! Where do we sign up?

Yes, I said we. In my excitement at getting such a deal and my desire to share my hobby with my long suffering wife, The Queen, I signed us both up for this educational experience. Then, I told her I had a surprise for her. The Queen is no stranger to firearms, but she is not obsessed with them like I am. Once upon a time, I took her on a date during which go karts were raced and a select fire 9mm H&K MP5 was rented and fired. The Queen claimed she had a great time at said date. So, this surprise date was going to be well received too. Right?

Yeah, not so much. More on that later. Maybe.

Word of advise to husbands reading this: don't bill a date involving your hobby as a surprise to your wife who is stressed from caring for three children under the age of five and dealing your sorry hide day in and day out.

Word of advise to wives reading this: when you present your husband with the receipts from your massage/spa day/shopping spree/shooting spree, gently remind him that you didn't kill him for getting your hopes up for something romantic.

Any fail, back to our story.

Notice I am not naming names here. There are two reasons for this: 1) there is no need to publicly shame this business across the Internet for those located somewhere other than the Dallas/Fort Worth area (those in DFW can email me for names if you so desire), and 2) I don't want to discourage other businesses from offering similar opportunities via Groupon.

The Groupon portion of the experience was awesome. Paid online. Scheduled online. Printed voucher. Done. No fuss.

The classroom portion of the event was not bad. It was not great either. The classroom was long and narrow with the tables setup facing the centerline of the room instead of the front of the room. This made watching the video portions of the instruction difficult. There were about 22 to 25 people in the class with 1 instructor. Remember these numbers, they will come back to haunt us soon.

Now, here is a little pet peeve. A training class advertised to start at 7:00 know...start at 7:00. Not 6:50. When we walked into the classroom at 6:55, the instructor had already started a power point presentation and was showing a video clip of Clint Smith talking about something or other, I honestly can't remember at this point.

Before moving on, let me describe our instructor for the evening. Short, overweight and wearing a Springfield XD 9mm in a Miami classic shoulder holster rig. I found it amusing that he continually muzzled the whole class with his loaded XD every time he turned around while demonstrating "proper" muzzle discipline with a revolver and a semi auto.

Back to the classroom material. I don't have a problem with an instructor inserting video clips to enhance a presentation. I've done that myself professionally. However, over reliance on video clips from others more qualified than you just highlights your own lack of qualification. Also, I don't really feel the need to pay good money to watch clips of Clint Smith or Todd Jarrett that I can see (and have seen in some cases) on YouTube for free.

The instructor did do a good job of demonstrating a solid two handed grip as well as the rationale for same. He demonstrated the Isosceles stance. I would have liked to have seen other stances covered as well, but that would have meant cutting out one of the Clint Smith video clips.

Positive take aways from the classroom portion: 1) Mag Out / Round Out for proper clearing of semi autos so that you do not inadvertently reload the chamber from the magazine, 2) you use the pad of your index finger to engage the trigger as using the first joint causes the meat of the finger to interfere with proper operation of the trigger, and 3) Todd Jarrett / Clint Smith are worth whatever money they are getting paid since our instructor felt the need to use their material instead of his own.

Now, on to the range portion. The range where the class was held is a relatively new facility with 7 pistol bays. Remember the number of students in class? Do you see where this train is about to crash? To add insult to stupidity, the range was not closed to outside shooters for the class. Those 7 bays were thus reduced to a mere 5 bays available for the shooting portion of the class. So, 1 instructor is going to run 25 students, some of whom have never touched s firearm, through a minimum of 20 rounds of ammo on 5 pistol bays in under an hour. Oh, and give quality one on one coaching in the process.

Yeah, not so much.

To add a additional level of stupid, one of the lanes rented to a non-class member was a guy trying to impress not one but two girls by shooting his .40 gangsta style. I really wanted a few quiet moments with that bonehead, but such was not to be. For what it's worth, one of the girls was a better shot than he was.

Heck, The Queen is a better shot than he was. But I digress.

The rental guns were supposed to be Smith & Wesson M&P .22s. I was really kinda interested in shooting them to see what all the hubbub with the triggers is about. Alas, when I got my chance to shoot, the lane I landed on had a Sig Mosquito for use. Apparently, one of the M&Ps was taken down by a squib round that left a bullet lodged in the barrel that need to be hammered out, and the Mosquito was pulled in as a substitute.

A word or two about the Sig: I don't like the long DA/SA trigger. I've never liked the DA/SA trigger system. Didn't like it on the Beretta. Didn't like it on the S&amW 4506 that my brother in law had. Didn't like it on the Mosquito.  Personal preference. Your mileage may vary. The sights were way high. Point of impact at five yards was about three inches low. Once I figured that out, I turned the number 8 on a standard Texas DPS silhouette target into one ragged hole which is what I expect of myself at that distance.

Watching some of the others in the class, there were clearly some newbies. One guy in front of me had the shakes so bad, I thought he was going to drop the gun. He really needed some one on one attention. Unfortunately, he didn't get it that I saw.

Range commands, though discussed in class, were non-existent on the range. I didn't notice any glaring safety issues, but that could have just been luck given the experience level in the class.

So, bottom line: when it comes to Groupon firearms events, buyer beware.

In hindsight, I should have called the provider and asked some basic questions. My self assessed experience level is higher than a basic, intro class. I wanted to take the class for the sole purpose of starting with the basics to make sure I was not reinforcing ay bad habits left over from my grandfather and also to give The Queen and I a good basis for future firearms activities. A mentioned above, I did get something's out of the class. However, I was left feeling like I should have gotten more out of it.

For the price, I can't complain too much more than I already have.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ruger LC9 review

I've watched Ruger LC9s come across the counter and watch them leave as rapidly as they showed up.  It didn’t seem to matter which model, the plain version, ones with Crimson Trace Lasers, and others with LaserMax came in and left quickly.   I've carried a gun with a permit for about 8 years and have been an instructor for a few more than that.  I recently picked up a Ruger LC9 and wondered why?  Ruger already makes an SR9 Compact model.   That gun seems to sell well, and comes in at about 23 oz.  It supposedly competes with the subcompact Glocks for those people on a budget.  As quickly as the SR9s come in, they go out.  Ruger has done a good job of offering reliable, feature-rich guns at affordable prices.   If the SR series competes with Glock, who does the LC9 compete with?  Could it be that Ruger intends to steel business from the Kimber Solo?  The Kimber Solo has received good write ups, but Kimber has been slow to ship these guns.   Looking at the features I have to say this makes more sense than the LC9 competing with the Glock subcompacts.   The Solo and the LC9 weigh in at 17 Oz., both come in 9mm, both are DAO, and both have a small thumb safety. The solo offers a 6 round magazine and the Ruger a 7.   The Ruger can be had for almost half the cost of the Solo.

The LC 9 comes in a nondescript box, one 7 round magazine, key (that is also used for take down), and a nylon carry case and owner's manual.   The model I used is the plain version without laser.   The gun weighs in at 17.10 Oz. according to the web site.  Retail pricing comes in at $443 but at the gun shops, $335-$350 is common.

I’m not going to tell you this is the be all and end all gun.   I've not had it long enough, or put enough rounds through it to make that determination.   The gun has cycled through 1 box of Federal 115 grain target ammo and 10 rounds of 124 grain Federal Hydra-Shok JHP.   The gun ate all rounds with no failures to feed, eject or fire.   It was 100% on function.  
The Good:
The gun was a surprise to shoot.   I was expecting it have nasty recoil, similar to the LCP, but no, recoil was mild to moderate.  The dual springs dampened recoil to a very manageable level as long as the shooter maintains a good grip on the gun.  The glass nylon frame is rugged, light weight, and well checkered for control.   It’s a close range gun and shot accurately at close ranges.   The target below was the first magazine through the gun at 25 feet.
The second image (head shots) was the 2nd string of fire on the target.
The last target image is the balance of the 60 rounds spent on this target.

Last positive notes, the top of the slide comes with a big, tactile, loaded chamber indicator, the magazine comes with a base plate you can get your pinky on, dove tail sight mounts, and a big trigger guard that gloved hands can utilize, round out positive features.

What Could be Done Better:
The sights are of the 3 dot variety and Ruger does not have a traditional night sight offering.   However, I’m aware of no night sights offered on a $350 gun.   I've seen some instances of the LaserMax version being offered in this price arena, and probably explains why Ruger doesn't offer a traditional night sights.

The trigger pull is long  The trigger is not so bad that a bit of dry fire practice can’t overcome, and the trigger is consistent for each pull.   The reset has a 2 “snap” tactile/audible feature that does a good job of telling you the trigger is ready.  Some of you will find it tolerable and some won’t.   As far as DAO triggers go, it’s not bad.  I've certainly seen worse triggers on more expensive guns, but as you would expect from a 1911 guy, the trigger is long.

The take down is a bit wonky.   The logic is familiar, but the practice is cumbersome.  There is a small window which must be slid down into the frame, then a small punch, or provided key, is used to push the pin from the other side of the frame through the open window.   It seems like a more traditional 1911 style slide stop pin, or Beretta or Sig style rotating pin would have filled the bill and not impacted the appearance or function of the gun.  

The provided key acts as a punch for all the pins and used to unlock the gun if you were to use the in frame lock (not function tested).

No Ambi controls.  Thumb safety and mag release are on one side only, however, if I were a southpaw, I’d just dispense on using the thumb safety, the trigger pull is long enough.

I do not like magazine disconnects, I don’t get it, is this feature that you want? 
The magazines are a bit more expensive than I would have thought for a metal single stack 7 round magazines at $35.  A magazine that looks like it is a common 1911 9mm magazine.  The factory magazine is labeled “made in USA”, but the second mag, purchased in Ruger packaging is labeled “Made in Italy”.   I’m guessing made by Mecgar for Ruger.  Both flush fitting and extended base pads are included.

The Ruger LC9 is a budget minded subcompact, 7 + 1 single stack, DAO only, 9mm semi-automatic handgun.   I’ve always carried a mid sized 1911 for CC applications and that’s not going to change for me.   However, as a BUG or CCW for women, or others that need a small frame gun, this gun fits a nice price point and is out of the box reliable.   Good ergonomics, allow you to point the gun quickly and accurate at close ranges.   If you consider this is a 9mm that recoils more lightly than similar sized 38s and 380s I think the gun has a great future in CCW applications.   I’m not telling you this is the be all and end all of subcompact guns, but if you’re looking at a Glock 26, or Kimber Solo then this gun should be evaluated as well, and measured on its own merits to help you make an informed decision. 

Big Note, I've barely put a box of ammunition through this gun, only time and more rounds down range will determine if this gun really is up to the task of defending your person.   Ruger has a good reputation and has been engineering more desirable guns in the last few years.  The gun shoots accurately at defensive distances and has features that CCW applicants look for.   The purpose of this review is to give you a look at a new gun on the market and give you initial thoughts.   If after 250 rounds this gun continues to shoot well and function error free I would consider carrying it or would suggest my wife evaluate it as her CCW gun.