Friday, January 29, 2016

Educating New (And Old) Shooters

It's been a while since I've darkened this space with my presence. It's been for good reasons I assure you (none of them "fun with a gun" related unfortunately). I had an interesting encounter at work yesterday which prompted me to put pixel to internet.

My office employs about 150 people; and, being in a gun friendly state, there are a quite a few of us who are well known to be "out of the closet" gun nuts. There are also several young people just getting their feet wet in the shooting world.

Among those young people is a 20 something female who is looking to get her first gun for self defense. She recently had her first visit to a range to try out some guns.

Her first comment to me was: "It was so loud."

"Indoor range?", I asked.

Sure enough it was. I explained to her that it's loud because your are essentially setting off small explosives each time you pull the trigger, and the overpressure from those explosions bounces off the walls of the range and impacts the entire body. Outdoor ranges mitigate that issue somewhat by having fewer hard surfaces for the overpressure to bounce off of.

Her next comment: "Guns are so expensive. It's a car note."

I asked her what she had been expecting. Her response: "I thought they were like $20."

My first reaction was something along the lines of "Seriously???". Then I got to thinking about it. If you've never looked at buying a product (any product) or paid any attention to ads for such a product, how would you know what to expect?

So, I spent a few minutes educating her on the gun market and what she could expect to pay for a gun with which she could reasonably trust her life. She had a little sticker shock since she kept repeating "It's a car note" over and over. There was even a discussion of Cerakoting as she mentioned a desire for a "pretty" gun (pink, in fact).

I mention this encounter not to make fun of her ignorance (literally "lack of knowledge" in this case). The reason I tell this story is that I've been reflecting on what I know about guns and more importantly what I don't know. We all start out at one time or another in the same place my co-worker is coming from which is an interest and not much, if any, knowledge.

I started out shooting when I was a kid, and most of what I know (and many a bad habit) I picked up here and there along the way from other shooters, Boy Scouts, my lunatic grandfather, magazines and the internet. Some (perhaps most) of what I know is pure fertilizer (in fact, some of the things I've written here probably fall into that category). I've spent a lot of time seeking out accurate information from reputable sources to correct some of that fertilizer, but I have a long way to go still.

It would be easy to say new shooters should take an intro to shooting course from a reputable trainer and progress from there. Based on personal experience, some of those classes are better than others and the worst of those are more harmful than helpful.

Unfortunately, I don't have an easy answer to offer since learning to sort fact from crap is part of the learning process. For my part, this encounter served to renew my commitment to learning and being a resource to new shooters. Hopefully, I can serve up more insightful help as opposed to worthless fertilizer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sexy Holsters, Part II

Note: despite the "Sexy Holsters" title, this post applies to all new shooters and their gear. It just so happens that I have seen dangerous sexy holsters most recently.
It is important for us as shooters and instructors to help educate new shooters. We know that there are is a large batch of new gun owners joining our ranks. Many of them will take a basic class (if required) to obtain their concealed carry permit and stop there.

Sadly, many of these new owners will see sub-par - and sometimes down-right dangerous - holsters and buy them because they don't know any better. It is our job to educate them, even if it is only a five minute discussion or a handout in a basic level class. If the students are not exposed to what they need to look for in a good holster, they'll forever be at a disadvantage. Additionally, we need to explain to them why certain things are so important. Giving students a list of what they need without giving the why of it isn't going to help them learn to evaluate their gear critically.

What I find even more frustrating are the manufacturers who are cranking out these holsters. The ones I spoke with at SHOT Show didn't really have a clue about what a good holster entails and they themselves had not continued their training beyond the basics. If the designer does not know what is required in a good concealed carry holster, how can they possibly design one?

The reality is that these poor designs are going to continue to pop up. Why? Because you'll always find people who say, "I've carried this way for years and never had a problem." They're right - they've not had a problem because they've never had to access their gun in an emergency. They've not taken a class with their concealed carry rig and have never tested it under pressure.

I hope to be one of the people who carries daily, yet never needs to use my gun, but that doesn't mean I'm going to use inferior equipment. I want to know my gear works every time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beware of Sexy Holsters

Do you remember, in the not-so-distant past when gun manufacturers just painted guns pink and called them "women's" guns without any thought about the functionality of the gun? (Let's be honest, there are still a whole lot of manufacturers continuing to do this - only they offer a wider variety of colors.)

It took a few years, but there are now manufacturers who are making guns that fit a variety of hands. After years of having to "make do" with guns that didn't fit my hands, it makes me very happy to see different sized pistols being offered.

Now that we have more gun options for smaller hands and the number of female shooters joining our ranks has sky-rocketed, holster manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. I saw several holsters for women that are not only a Bad Idea, but are dangerous. Look people, you cannot just slap together a sexy looking holster and market it to women. Wait ... apparently you can, as evidenced by the holsters we saw on the floor.

Just like with guns, women need the same functionality in their holsters as men do. A good holster should:
  1. hold the gun securely in place (no flapping, or migrating)
  2. cover the trigger (without being able to inadvertently activate the trigger)
  3. allow the carrier fast and consistent access to their gun
  4. not require constant adjusting and re-adjusting
It's really not that difficult, just four basics need to be covered. Of course, there's the ability to conceal comfortably and too many manufacturers - even holsters "made by women for women" - are focusing on the concealability and overlooking the four basics.

One of the holsters we saw was no better than using an ACE bandage to strap your gun to your body. It's got a sexy name (no, I'm not giving the name or a link to this product) and their sales pitch is great. They talk about the versatility of their holster: how you can carry anything from a pocket gun to a full-sized one and how many different places on your body you can wear their holster. If we use the four listed basics as a checklist, it fails on three of the four.
  1. Does it hold the gun securely in place? No, there is nothing to keep a pocket gun from slipping down in the pocket of the holster, or to keep a full-sized gun from flapping over with bending.
  2. Does it cover the trigger? Yes, the trigger is covered, by only by a couple of thin layers of cloth so while it's technically covered, I'm not convinced that the trigger cannot be activated
  3. Does it allow the carrier fast and consistent access to their gun? No, in fact, the manufacturer recommends wrapping the holster over the grip of the gun to get better concealment. If you cannot put your hand on the grip of your gun easily, you might as not wear one.
  4. Does it require constant adjusting and re-adjusting? Yes, which is a bad, bad thing. Have you ever worn an ACE wrap? If so, you know that it needs constant readjusting throughout the day; it shifts and slides around, or gets too tight or too loose with activities of daily living (ADLs).
Another holster was corset-style. It was dead sexy, no doubt. I've seen several different version and each time I just roll my eyes. One of the corset-style holsters places the butt of the gun right under the carrier's breast. Another corset-style holster places the gun in a better place - between the breasts - but still makes the drawstroke difficult. These types of holsters fail in one (possibly two) of our four basics.
  1. Does it hold the gun securely in place? Yes, as long as the corset is made well with good stays.
  2. Does it cover the trigger? Yes, though it's covered with just a layer of cloth.
  3. Does it allow the carrier fast and consistent access to their gun? No. The first type of corset-holster which puts the grip of the gun directly beneath the breast might look sexy as hell, but if you're using your gun to give one of the girls a little "lift", there is no room to draw it. The second type of corset-holster carries the gun in a better place, but is still difficult to access. With both types of corset-holsters, the carrier either needs to pull her shirt up over her breasts or wear shirts that allow access from the collar. 
  4. Does it require constant adjusting and re-adjusting? This depends on the quality of the corset and stays. If it is made properly, there shouldn't be any adjustment required during ADLs. After all, our ancestors settled the West wearing corsets. However, if the corset is poorly made it will slip, twist, and roll with ADLs.
Oh, the yoga pants. I almost forgot those. They're popping up all over the place. I have to tell you, I love a good yoga pant, and I don't even do yoga! However, the yoga pants with built-in holster fail on all four of the basics.
  1. Does it hold the gun securely in place? No. Beware, without a retention strap, too much bending will allow the gun to "walk" up out of the cloth pocket and fall out. 
  2. Does it cover the trigger? Yes, with just a layer of cloth.
  3. Does it allow the carrier fast and consistent access to their gun? Since the gun typically sits in a designated pocket the answer is yes and no. Yes, it might be in the pocket (you know, if it didn't fall out with ADLs); no because the it's just in a pocket and you can't guarantee consistent access.
  4. Does it require constant adjusting and re-adjusting? Yes. Think about how many times a day women adjust their yoga pants. Most women do it unconsciously, so just watch others. Now, add the weight of a gun to the pants and imagine how many times during ADLs the carrier will have to adjust.
Are there good holsters for women on the market? Absolutely! There are a couple of great holster manufacturers out there that are made by shooters who put a lot of thought into their holsters and address all of the four basics while still addressing concealability.

Concealed carriers should examine their carry gear as critically as they examine their carry guns.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SHOT Show 2016: Kimber Revolver

Here is a quick post of a neat item from Kimber we found at Industry day.  Normally I am not a big fan of Kimber due to their 1911 line of pistols.  Simply because I think they are overpriced for what they are.  But this time, I think Kimber has a possible winner.
Kimber has introduced a revolver.  The K6s.  It is a snubnose revolver.  2 inch barrel.  Stainless steel body. 23 ounces.  And a 6 shot cylinder instead of the more traditional 5 shot cylinder.  The overall size does not appear to be bigger than a comparable Ruger or Smith snubnose revolver.
It is chambered in .357 magnum.  Will also shoot .38 Specials. 

What sets this revolver apart is the 6 shot cylinder and more importantly, the trigger.  Factory revolvers are notorious for heavy, crunchy triggers.  Typically in the 12 - 16 pound range and desperately need the loving touch of a good gunsmith to smooth them out.
Kimber's specification for this revolver is 9.5 - 10.5 Lbs.  This is a very good trigger weight for a revolver.  To top it off, the trigger is very smooth.  Smooth  is very important in a revolver.

I only had limited time to test fire this revolver.  But after 18 rounds, I was impressed for a Kimber product.  The trigger was smooth, not too heavy and easy to press.  Kimber representatives claimed we were firing full power, 158 grain .357 magnums.  Didn't feel like it.  This pocket revolver was very easy to manage.  My Ruger SP101 can be a handful with full power loads.  First, impression, I like it.   

Now the bad news.  MSRP is $899.  OUCH!  This is very high for a snubby revolver.  A comparable Ruger or Smith will retail for $550 - $750.  But, they have stock triggers and typically need some TLC.  This is where the Kimber shines.  I don't think additional work is necessary on the Kimber.  If you combine purchase price and a trigger job, you are at or almost at the same price as the Kimber.  I do think you are paying a little more for the Kimber name.  But the performance was very nice.

Definitely take a look at the Kimber revolver if you are in the market for a pocket revolver.  The price is high, but the additional work most revolvers need has already been done for you by the Kimber factory.


By: Mez

Friday, January 15, 2016

It's that time again!

Our annual SHOT Show trip is just around the corner - in approximately 30 hours we'll be hitting the highway on our way to Vegas.

I'm having a hard time getting as excited as I have in the past. I am definitely looking forward to seeing my peers, but I can't say there's anything I'm just dying to see.

Part of my lack of excitement is real-world work stress. Now that I'm finished with work for the week and there's literally nothing else I can do to ensure my students do okay in my absence, I'm starting to feel the stirring of excitement.

Industry Day is always a good time and last year Mez and I spent a lot of time in the non-shooting area. We found it was a good place to wander and talk to vendors. In years past, we'd been too busy wanting to try all the guns and we'd overlooked an area full of great items. We won't make that mistake again.

I am looking forward to the panels and presentations as well. Again, last year, I spent more time sitting in presentations than I had in the past and found that I really enjoyed them and learned a lot.

There is also a women's meet and mingle on Thursday that I'm looking forward to - it's an opportunity to expand my network. As an introvert, that's hard for me to do, but something organized makes it a lot easier.

I know posting has been sporadic here, and I apologize, but look for new (brief) posts throughout the next week. I'll be posting on Facebook throughout the show, so if you're not following us there, you might want to click on over.