Thursday, April 28, 2016

Concealed Carry Essentials Class

In keeping with my promise to do more training this year, I took a Concealed Carry class. I first got my CCW in college, but then let it lapse (at the time I couldn't afford the renewal fee) after about eight years. It took me a couple of years to get around to getting it again, but I finally did and have been carrying ever since.

Despite the fact that I carry on a daily basis, I thought I could learn something from a class that focused on CC. I was right.

The class was small, which lent itself nicely to good discussions. Instead of a lecture/range class, it turned into an idea exchange, full of discussion. We followed the course outline to guide our discussions and I feel as though students and instructors were treated respectfully. The beauty of classroom discussion is that it allows people to examine things from different points of view. Our instructors acted more as moderators and allowed us to teach ourselves through discussion. Of course, they introduced new concepts and taught us new skills, but the most striking part of the class in my mind was the free-flowing discussion.

It was most excellent.

In addition to the outline and discussion, we did a few classroom drills. One was the Tueller drill. An instructor lined up 21 feet from us and attacked with a training knife, while we attempted to draw and "fire". It was a good experience and an effective way to show not only how quickly you can get cut, but also a quick test to see who could move off the X. We all would have been cut, but the majority of us were able to "shoot" our attacker while moving away.

One of our discussions was on clearing malfunctions, which lead us to practicing clearing double feeds. I've done it before, but by the end of the day got a lot more practice than I wanted.

Once on the range we shot a variety of drills including the Dot Torture. I do love that drill. Can't shoot it clean yet, but I do love it. We shot at distances ranging from 1 yard to 25 yards. Initially, I was worried about shooting out to 25 yards because I was shooting my G42 and I only had about 300 rounds through it. I shouldn't have worried; the distance wasn't too much of a problem.

We ran a drill that was similar to many of the match stages I see every month: shoot the hostage taker in the head; step to the side, two to the body of the next bad guy; another step to the side and two to the body of the last bad guy. All three targets were at ranges varying from 3 - 7 yards. I've seriously shot similar scenarios dozens of times. I had this. The Shooting God must have thought I was feeling a bit too cocky, because She had some tricks up her sleeve for me and my Baby Glock. Primarily double feeds. Not one, not two, but three. I'd clear one, slap the magazine back in and end up with another one. I might or might not have said bad words.

I had trouble with double feeds while we were shooting from the line, but thought I was limp-wristing or doing something dumb, so I really focused on my grip, but continued to have problems. One of the instructors ran a magazine through with no problem, so I knew it wasn't my gun or my ammo. It was me. I am fairly certain that I wasn't seating the magazine well enough when I changed mags. Sure enough, I started really slapping my mags in and my double feeds cleared up.

That is, until we did the POST qualification test. It was smooth sailing for most of the test, but when we got to the part where we had to clear a manufactured double feed I had problems again. I got the fake double feed cleared, slapped the mag back in and - WHAMMO! - another double feed, this time for real. I got it cleared, got back on target and the buzzer went off. I was half a second too late to get my round off, so I failed the POST test. I most definitely said bad words at that point. Luckily, it's not required for my job, it was just another skills test for us - our final exam on the range, essentially.

That last double feed cemented my thought that I was the cause. If I had taken the extra quarter of a second to really seat the magazine, I would have finished with time left, but I got in a rush and it bit me in the ass.

During our class debrief, the instructors asked how we felt about using the POST qualification. All but one student loved it. Despite failing the test, I loved it. It was a challenge and gave me something to strive for - a feeling shared by most of my classmates. The one dissenter thought that it might cause some students to be discouraged, which I can see, but I think it's all in how the instructor sells the drill. I'm all about challenges and learning from failures, but I understand not everyone is wired that way.

All in all, it was yet another excellent class put on by Double Tap and I look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Making Chicken Salad Out of Chicken $hit

I don’t like doing negative reviews.   I usually operate from the position of “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything”.   However, I’m going to make an exception to my normal modus operandi for this particular holster.   The holster is the “Leather Wing” from the Sig Sauer store by BlackPoint Tactical.  The reason I’m making an exception for this review is because this holster has so much potential.  The Kydex is solid and the molding is tight.   They attractively screen the Sig Logo on the holster, because this Sig fan bought into the Legion swag! The molding is tight, no excess Kydex, and the holster comes with clips that allow you to convert it to an IWB ride.  

A good leather holster will wrap around the hip and keep the gun tight to the side.  A well-made Kydex holster will operate the same way.   The makers of Kydex holsters will heat the Kydex up and roll it along a coffee can or some other curved surface to add a contour.  The idea of marrying these two materials seemed to have merit pre-purchase (think Crossbreed), the holster is attractive,  and we know you got to look cool, check the reviews and they seemed positive.  Ok purchase is a go!

It’s an attractive holster, and that’s the extent of my positive comments.  My problem with the “Leather Wing” is the rigidity of the leather. The leather is not stiff enough to accommodate the “hi ride” design of the holster and the weight of the gun (so the gun flops out away from the body angling the muzzle toward your thigh).  The grip heavy 229 attacks this weakness like my Siberian husky attacks the fence looking for a weak spot.  This one characteristic is a fatal flaw for conceal carry in my mind, but this problem seems like it could be resolved in a couple of different ways.  Sandwich 2 layers of leather to form a thicker, less pliable “wing”, maybe back the leather with a thin sheet of Kydex, or some other material, or scrap the idea of the leather wing and go with a more traditional Kydex model.     
For my requirements, the holster was not secure enough for all day carry.  It was fine early in the day  (no not really) but as the day wore on I became more aware of the holster movement, and floppiness.

Not one to give up too quickly, I contacted BlackPoint Tactical about remediation.   They were polite and listened, and then told me “good bye”.   So taking matters into my own hands, I ordered a couple of sheets of black Kydex to convert this holster from a “Leather Wing” to a “Kydex Wing” ( prime $20).   I took off the leather dressings, traced one side out onto the Kydex with my trusty black sharpie (I omitted one side all together), Made a minor mod to put the belt loops closer to the gun.  Found the scroll saw in the garage, and hit the belt sander - Viola!   A still largely good looking holster and a much more secure and comfortable carry solution!  The “Kydex Wing” did what I had hoped (at last!), it added the rigidness needed to keep the gun and holster in the same location and tighter to the body.

In summary, the Sig Sauer “Leather Wing” holster is a no go.   While the holster gets points for style and minimal use of Kydex, the “leather wing” belt loops fails to deliver rigid, keep your gun in place performance.   If you’ve already got one and agree with my assessment, you can shoot me an email for a “Kydex Wing” kit for $5.  If you’ve not gone this route, you might want to consider a Galco Concealable Belt Holster, about the same money online, no mods, smells like leather, which is a bonus in my mind.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: FNAR - Competition rifle that is not ready for competition

For many years Fabrique Nationale (FN) has produced many fine products.  But no one bats a thousand and every company produces a mediocre or bad product.  Today I review one of FN’s least desirable products.  The FNAR. 

The FNAR is a semi-automatic rifle based on the Browning BAR.  (The hunting rifle, not the military rifle)  FN took the Browning design and added a magazine well to accommodate 5, 10 and 20 round magazines and a PIcatinny rail and a fancy stock.  Otherwise, the action is the same.  It is chambered only in .308 Winchester. 

Overall it is a sound design.  The fit and finish is excellent.  Just what you expect from a FN. The Competition model is colored blue (the company color) and looks sharp.  Has a nice adjustable cheek piece to fit the shooter.  A large Picatinny rail for mounting any optic.  It also includes a small Picatinny rail on the end of the barrel if you are so inclined to add iron sights.  The short, medium weight, 20 inch barrel is handy.  The action is smooth and functions well. 
This is where the good ends.  Let me move on to why this is not a good rifle, especially for a competition rifle. 

The Bad:

11. The medium weight barrel unbalances the rifle.  All the weight is up front and makes the rifle clumsy to move quickly and efficiently.
22. The Competition stock has no provisions for a sling or for a bi-pod.  This tells me this rifle was designed for one and only one type of competition.  One that does not require the use of a sling or bi-pod.  Without aftermarket gunsmithing, this rifle is not useful for multiple uses or competition types.    
33. The front Picatinny rail is pointless.  It is intended to put iron sights on.  But with iron sights you want a longer sight radius to minimize aiming errors.  The 20 inch barrel is a bit short for iron sights, especially if you want to win at competition.  Just remove the front Picatinny rail.   Most people will be using some sort of optic in today's world. 
Also, the iron sights sit very high above the bore, which will not allow for a good cheek weld.  This is not good for your accuracy.

44. The magazine release is too far forward.  Though ambidextrous, it is located too far forward for easy access, which will slow down your magazine changes.  This fact alone will lose you the competition.
55. Proprietary magazines that are stupid expensive.  Running around $50 each.  Ouch!  Since you added an extended magazine well, How about using standard off the shelf magazines?  Way to think of your customers needs FN.   
66. The bolt release is also in a bad location that will slow you down. 

77. Trigger.  It is definitely not what I would call a competition trigger.  Though light at approximately 3 – 3.5 pounds.  It is full of slack, creep, grit and crunch.  It is everything but a competition trigger.  Fine for a hunting rifle.
88. Complex gas system that is major pain to take apart to clean.  Definitely follow the instruction manual.  Lots of small screws, pins and springs that need to be taken out.  Good news, you do not need to pull it apart very frequently.  Bad news is the instruction manual that came with the rifle is incomplete.  It only explains how to disassemble the gas system.  But does not tell you how remove the bolt from the receiver.  Thank Google for the power of YouTube.  And a big thanks to FN for doing a half-ass job on the instruction manual.  Incomplete, small with tiny black and white pictures that are hard to see. 
99. Only chambered in .308 Winchester.  Why not 6.5 Creedmoor?  Same horsepower but much less recoil.  Less recoil means faster return to target.  How about .223?  Even less recoil and lower ammunition costs.  The only advantage of .308 is knockdown power at longer ranges (400+ yards).  Assuming you can hit your target.
110. Accuracy:  Definitely mediocre.  Even with the medium weight barrel, the rifle acts very much like a light weight hunting rifle.  The accuracy expands and contracts with the temperature of the barrel.  See Photo.
1.    First group, cold bore.  This is what you expect from a competition rifle.  The separation is most likely operator error. 
2.    2nd group.  As the barrel heats up, the group open ups.  Still not bad.  Ignore the flying on the lower left of the group.
3.    3rd group.  WTF?  Pushing 3 inches and no clue where shot #5 went.  This is AK territory.  Or Tavor is you prefer.  It also limits your maximum effective range depending on target size.  A 3 inch group at 100 yards gives you have a theoretical 15 inch group at 500 yards.
4.    4th group.  After a short barrel cool down, the group closes up a bit.  Getting back to normal.  Again, separation is probably is operator error.

Not good for a competition rifle.  Fine for a hunting rifle.   


The FNAR evolved from the Browning BAR hunting rifle.  Fabrique Nationale sexed it up and threw it out into the market place and marketed it as a “competition” rifle.  The FNAR is not a competition rifle in any way shape or form.  It is outclassed by the AR-15.  Hell, it is outclassed by an AK-47 and even a Tavor. 

I know YouTube is full of videos of people singing the praises of this rifle.  Sure, if a 1-3 inch gun is accurate enough and you limit your range to not more than 500 yards on a target not smaller than 10” in diameter, then yes, the FNAR is a fine rifle. 
I disagree with most people on this rifle.  It is outclassed by almost all other rifles.  For the same $1500 I can build a hell of a great AR-15 that will outshine the FNAR in all respects. 
It is the height of mediocrity for a “competition” rifle.  It is something I would expect out of Taurus, not FN.   

Fabrique Nationale needs to discontinue this rifle and remove it from the catalog.  Shut down the assembly line and put the money into fixing their other craptactular products.  

If you are hell bent on owning one of these, I do recommend the Browning BAR version.  It is a nice, sleek design with a flush fit magazine and available in multiple calibers.  It is hunting oriented, but that is what this design was meant to be and nothing else. 

Browning BAR Rifle

This is my $1.02 worth.  

By: Mez


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tactical Rifle Skills 2

A few weeks ago, I spent the day out on the range in Double Tap's TRS2 class. I took the TRS1 class twice, and wasn't sure what to expect from TRS2, but I loaded up my gear and headed to class anyway.

My goal this year is to increase the number of training classes I take. Every year, I teach additional phlebotomy classes to earn extra "play" money for the year. In the past, I used that money to buy new guns for me and the hubby. I've also used that play money on horses and the Writers' Police Academy. Instead of buying a new gun this year, I decided to take as many training classes as I could reasonably afford (and still attend WPA).

TRS2 was the first class on the schedule for me. For Christmas Mez gave me an AimPoint red dot for my AR and I was excited to get to use it. For both TRS1 classes, I used iron sights. I believe it's a good skill to have, and I'm glad I took the fundamental course with the bare basics.

The class built nicely on TRS1, though it had been over a year since that class. It took me a while to get back in the groove of things and feel comfortable again. We started with a review of the previous class and did some warm-up exercises. I still struggle with mag changes the way we were taught. My hand isn't big enough to do the "beer can" mag change, so I mostly use the "L" method, though I sometimes have issues with the magazines slipping when I do the "L". What I've come up with is kind of a bastardization of the "beer can" method.

Instead of wrapping my hand around the magazine like a beer can, I hold it like I would a pistol mag, with the butt of the magazine resting in my palm. Then I can grasp the magazine in the gun with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th fingers, keeping my index finger between the mags. I can pull the magazine out, shift my hand just a bit to the right and slam the new magazine home. I've found that I'm less likely to drop a mag or fail to seat the new one using this method.

After running through our paces from TRS1, we started into the new stuff. We worked on threats from the side and the rear. We learned how to quickly and safely turn to face the threat without sweeping each other with the muzzles of our rifles. Since I was on the far left side, I was feeling pretty good when our threat was to the left. I knew I had control over my own rifle and that I wouldn't sweep anyone in front of me. Boy, did I pucker up when the threat was on our right and I had three people behind me having to turn with their guns. It was not a comfortable feeling. I mean, we'd only been on the range an hour or so and I was so focused on what I was doing I didn't look around to see how their gun-handling skills were. (I may or may not have trust issues.) It was like doing a trust fall, but with projectiles that could kill me.

I was actually very comfortable with the skill, because I'd finally made the connection that handling the rifle is just like handling an over-sized pistol, and I had already done those skills with a pistol.

Probably the most uncomfortable part of the day for me was when we were learning unconventional shooting positions. Yes, I'd shot from most of those positions with a pistol, but the added length of the rifle barrel made it more complicated for me to move from one position to the next. When in a crouched or kneeling position, the rifle is as tall as I am. While I wasn't as fluid as other students, I did manage to complete each of the positions and I got my hits on target.

The most psychologically difficult position for me to shoot from was supine. Flat on my back with my heels drawn up to my knees is not a good position for any female. Not only is it a powerless position, trying to shoot with my rifle flat against my body was difficult. In order to see through the optic while still lying flat on my back, I laid the gun on its left side and drew it up my body until my shooting hand was pretty much level with my shoulder. By lifting my head off the ground I could look through the optic and made my hits.

The purpose of making us shoot from a supine position was to remind us that even if we ended up flat on our backs we could still get our shots on target. The example given was if we were backing up and tripped. From the ground we could still continue to send rounds downrange.

I might have struggled with the unconventional shooting positions, but once we started shooting on the move I was in my element. We shoot on the move frequently in the defensive pistol matches, and frankly, doing it with a rifle and a good optic is much easier than with a pistol. One of the exercises had us moving forward while shooting at steel, then moving on the diagonal shooting at 3" dots on silhouettes, and finally ending with a transition to pistol to take out the last guy.

When I finished my run-through I was feeling okay about it until the instructors pointed out that I was the only student to not throw rounds outside of the 3" dots. That was truly the confidence boost I needed. I felt I'd been lagging behind the other students with some of the other exercises, but to absolutely NAIL a difficult exercise made me feel much better.

Our final exercise of the day took skills we'd learned throughout the day and put them all together. We started shooting from prone, had to run to cover, engage a few targets, move to different cover (2nd cover required us to contort ourselves to fit behind it), and engage the next few targets before stepping out from cover and shooting the remaining targets as we walked toward them.

This was another exercise where my defensive pistol practice really paid off. I took the time to do a tactical reload while behind cover so that I wouldn't have to reload from empty while exposed. The instructors asked what made me think to do that, and it was absolutely something I picked up from the monthly matches.

It was an excellent class and I learned a lot; I pushed myself to do things that were not comfortable or easy, yet I left the class feeling very accomplished. I'm beginning to feel less like a noob with the AR, but will still take the class a second time. Next time around, though, I might do it left-handed. I just need to get an ambi mag release and ambi safety. I always tell my medical students when they are learning a new skill, such as phlebotomy, that it's awkward even with your dominate hand, so you might as well learn it with both hands as you'll never know when you'll need to use your non-dominate hand. Manipulating the carbine is getting more comfortable with my dominate side; might as well learn to do it with my non-dominate side as well.

If you ever get the chance to take a class from Mike and Will from Double Tap, you should jump at it.

My next class is Concealed Carry Essentials. Even though I carry daily, there's always something new to learn. I can't wait!