I am in general a fan of watching myself shoot on video.  Not for the vainglorious reasons, but rather because it gives me an opportunity to critique my performance from outside my body.  I can’t see my body mechanics and presentations when I’m shooting, so the only feedback that I have is my front sight and the target results. One thing I do recommend is to allow some time to pass in between when the video was filmed and when you go back and watch the tape. You need to be able to look at it with fresh eyes that aren’t still dwelling on how good/bad the performance was. For example, the video below was shot at the end of July – sufficient time has passed that I can watch those two stages and look at my performance and think “why did I do that?” in a couple of key areas.

There’s a reason that professional athletes watch film of themselves – even amateur athletes and C-class shooters can benefit from it as well.

Semi-autos and ammo

I’ve been having a very interesting discussion offline with several people about the complex relationship between a semi-auto carry gun and its ammunition.  Right now, we’re shooting the Ruger SR9c for Stock Service Pistol Master Class, and we’re using lots of different ammo.  I know I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere that we were having issues feeding some light loads in the gun, specifically Remington 115 grain UMC 9mm discount ammo.  Because I wanted to be fair to the gun and to the ammo, I did a couple of different things.  I tried different ammo in the Ruger, and the UMC in different guns.  Because I needed more data to make a valid comparison, I waited until I had shot almost the same amount of non-UMC ammo through the SR9c.  As of today, the Ruger SR9c is at 1895 rounds, with 21 malfunctions, which were all ammo related.  Out of those 1895 rounds, 916 were Remington UMC and all 21 malfs came from there.

Now, first off I’m not blasting UMC for this.  This is totally legit plinking ammo, and if it runs your gun then buy it until the cows come home.  However, it didn’t run my gun.  My gun did run just fine on its usual steady diet of 147 grain whatever, be it Federal American Eagle budget ammo, Ranger 147 FMJ, or whatever else I could lay my hands on.  With ammo other than UMC, including other 115 gr FMJ from different companies the gun has had 100% function rate.

Which leads me to the ammo discussion – should your carry gun be 100% reliable with whatever ammo you pick up off the shelf?  I think the answer here is “no”, but with the caveat that it should be 100% reliable with the ammo that you shoot through it.  For example, if I was going to a match where I needed the gun to perform reliably, I would certainly not run the UMC through it.  Not because it’s “bad” ammo, but rather because my particular gun, with its particular mechanics doesn’t like it.  If your gun likes it, shoot it.  It’s worth noting that the Ruger SR9c ran Winchester White Box 115 grain FMJ just fine, and that’s the gold standard of economical blasting ammo.

I tend to personally vacillate on this issue.  One the one hand, I think that a proper gun from a major manufacturer should run ammo from any reputable manufacturer.  On the other hand, if your gun doesn’t run Brand X but it runs Brand Y like a house on fire, then problem solved – shoot Brand Y.  Also, if Brand X chokes other reliable guns (like a Glock 17 for example) then maybe you should avoid Brand X.

It’s also important to shoot lots of ammo through a gun, from different manufacturers.  This is especially true when you’re dealing with economical 9mm ammo.  For the Quest for Master Class, I’ve shot the following brands:

  • Remington UMC
  • Federal American Eagle (and AmEagle Non-Toxic)
  • PMC Bronze
  • Winchester White Box
  • CCI Blazer
  • Winchester Ranger FMJ and JHP

I’ll shoot more brands as the test continues, but it’s important to note that with everything but the UMC the gun has been 100% reliable.

So what does this mean?  Ultimately, not a whole lot.  For me, it means I’ll be avoiding UMC ammo.  For some people, it may mean that they think the SR9c isn’t reliable.  I’d disagree with that statement.  Some people may take it to mean that when fed quality ammo, the SR9c is stone cold reliable.  This is one situation where all I can really do is present the data, which is that out of 916 rounds of UMC, I had 21 failures.  Out of 899 rounds of everything else, I’ve had zero failures.  I’m super impressed with the SR9c, and I plan on continuing to carry it and shoot it in competition.

She's not kidding

Let me tell you something about revolvers: People wax poetic about their ruggedness, reliability and simplicity, but when they call a revolver “simple”, it makes me wonder if they’ve ever had the sideplate off of one. The mechanical ballet going on inside a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector makes your typical autopistol look like a stone axe by comparison.

I have been there, and even blogged about itSeriously, click that picture.  Look at what you see in there.  All those little gears and levers, it’s a machine only a watchmaker could love.  Compared to that, a 1911 is simple and a Glock is barely a machine.  I like revolvers a lot – I think once I get my 5-Gun Master tag there is a good chance I’ll go back to shooting revolvers primarily, although that seems to be a long way off right now.

The point of course is to come back to one of my favorite and most visited topics.  No swords are magic swords, and many are heap less magic than others.  Want a surefire way to upset a lot of “old-school” shooters?  Tell them revolvers break.  I know they do, because I’ve broken them.  Any gun that relies on the kind of clockwork parts you see on your left is going to subject to mechanical failures – that doesn’t make it a bad gun, it just means that it’s piece of machinery with parts that wear over time.  Shoot any gun enough, and it will break.

Of course, some swords are a lot less magic.

The Self Defense quick draw

I sometimes have very strong opinions on certain topics, especially in the area of shooting and self-defense.  I ran across this quote at a self-defense blog the other day, and because of my strong opinions felt the need to address it.

I’ve never been very keen on developing fast draw skills.  Though necessary for competition, they should be unneeded for defense as long as someone maintains a decent level of situational awareness.

The theory behind that is one that I’ve heard on multiple occasions, namely that you should be so aware of your surroundings that you’re ready to draw if a threat presents or you’ve already drawn and are ready in the event of an attack.  It’s a nice theory, but it’s wrong.  My own personal anecdotal experience would disagree with the statement.  When I was the subject of an attempted mugging, I was very situationally aware.  I saw my attacker at a distance, employed ranged weapons to keep him out of his effective attacking range, and successfully defended myself without injury.  One of the things I remember clearly about that moment was trying to draw my pocket pistol in a hurry.  While I’m sure it was the quickest pocket draw I’ve ever executed, it felt slow.  Because my attacker had a knife, there is nothing I wanted more than to get my gun out of the holster and in to action in a great big hurry.

That’s my big problem with the situational awareness theory of why you don’t need to draw in a hurry.  I was aware of my surroundings, but I posses the physical limitation that I can’t see through brick walls.  That allowed an attacker to get within a reasonable attacking distance for a contact weapon without me knowing he was there.  I was forced to react to his actions, but because I was able to react to his actions quicker than his thought process, the initiative changed to my favor.  Again, while this is only a personal anecdote from one experience, the lesson to take away is that speed in reaction can change the dynamic of the fight.

While I’m not a big fan of the whole OODA Loop concept for casual shooters, it does provide an adequate example of the benefit of speed in a self defense encounter.  The four letters in OODA stand for “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” and represent the four components of any decision made and especially those made in a dynamic environment.  In a mugging situation, your attacker has already reached the “act” phase – he’s observed his target, oriented himself for max advantage, decided when and how to press the attack and is now on the “act” phase of the attack.

Generally, the act of fighting back in and of itself will interrupt your attacker’s decision making process and force him to do a battlefield risk/reward calculation.  The speed at which you react will help that calculation end in your favor.  Hypothetically example: you’re confronted by an attacker armed with a contact weapon but initially outside of contact range.  He’s in the “act” stage – you observe, orient (filter the information through your training and evaluate the best course of action), decide to draw your pistol, and then act on that decision by drawing your pistol.  Because you’ve practice your draw form concealment, you’re able to perform the entire action above in 1.5 seconds or less.  Because your attacker was not likely expecting you to react in such an aggressive fashion, you’ve now changed the dynamic of the fight.  Instead of you reacting to his initiative, he’s now reacting to your actions.  That’s a much more advantageous position for your to be in.

The key element that allows you to change the fight dynamic in a surprise attack is your speed.  Unless you walk around with your hand on your gun at all times, you’re not always going to be in a position to draw.  Yes, situational awareness will always help you be more prepared for that dynamic incident, but unless you’re able to act on that situational awareness faster than your attacker, it’s not going to do you a whole lot of good.

There is a reason that Gunsite Triangle on my challenge coin is “Accuracy, Power, Speed”.  Speed in a vacuum isn’t necessarily that valuable, but speed in action when combined with the will to defend yourself and the skill to act allows you to change the fight dynamic in your favor.  Simply “being aware” isn’t enough.  It doesn’t matter if you can see the threat coming if you lack the physical skill to act on that awareness fast enough to make a difference.

Speed isn’t a panacea, because you need the accuracy component as well.  Fast isn’t very useful if you can’t hit anything.  That being said, if one day my ticket gets punched by someone else, it’s my hope and prayer that I’ll be at the very least fast enough so that I don’t die with my gun in the holster.

Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas

Gun Nuts Radio – Top Shot Finale

Click here to download last night’s episode of Gun Nuts Radio, where the topic of discussion was the series finale of Top Shot.

Also available in .mp3 and on Gun.

We will be back next week with an all new episode talking Steel Challenge with some of our friends from the competition shooting world, so don’t miss it!

HK G3 rifles

Shooting Illustrated has a neat little piece on the variations and family of rifles related to and descended from the HK G3.  The G3, as fans of Top Shot know, was featured heavily in the second to last and the final episode of Top Shot.  It and the AR15 were the only two modern sporting rifles used on the show, and for some reason it made me lust after an HK G3.  Shooting Illustrated talks about the best way to get one without getting hosed.

Time for some fail

Fail 1.  Guy buys an FN-45 Tactical, which is FN’s .45 ACP polymer pistol with a red-dot mounted to the slide, barrel threaded for a can, and high-rise sights to co-witness the dot.  It’s a pretty cool gun.  Guy decides that he’s going to modify a Hi-Point .45 to be like his FNP-45 because…uh…you know what I have no idea why you would do that.  So he decides to mill the slide down and mount a $30 off-brand red-dot on the gun.  Hilarity ensues.  I did not know you could make a Hi Point uglier, but HEY LOOK AT THAT.

Now in all seriousness, this is fail for reasons other than cosmetic issues.  The Hi Point is a blowback operated gun, which means it relies on the mass of the slide and the strength of the spring to keep the gun in battery while you set off an explosion in the barrel.  Compromising the weight of the slide could cause the gun to open up too soon, which would be a bad, bad thing.  Additionally, because of the violent blowback operation, the odds of that cheap-o red dot holding a zero for more than 50 rounds are in the area of slim and none.  It’s going to get whacked around bouncing on that slide, and that’s not going to help your team.  Of course, the final reason why this is fail is because HE JUST BOUGHT AN FNP-45 TACTICAL.  Seriously.  You already have a high quality firearm made of proper materials that does exactly what you’re trying to make this gun do, why in heaven’s name would you do this?

Moving on, we have Fail 2 – also more Hi Point fail but now with danger!

That is a Hi Point that was chambered for .40 S&W.  As you can see, it has suffered a catastrophic slide failure of the zinc alloy slide right along the ejection port, which is the weakest part of the gun.  I have seen Walther P22s (which have slides made of the same alloy) suffer this exact same failure, albeit not as completely after a diet of CCI Stingers, so seeing that a .40 can blow up a zinc slide doesn’t surprise me in the least.  The .40 S&W is an absurdly high pressure round.  Sometimes it blows up perfectly good guns that I would actually recommend people buy.  The problem with the Hi Point design is that it is entirely dependent on the weight of the slide for its operation, and if that slide is a poor quality casting, then the gun is much more likely to fail.

Now, Justin is still doing the Hi-Point Throwdown, which is primarily focused on the ergonomics and shootability of the pistol.  I’m not going to lie though – I have shot enough .40 through other platforms and seen its potentially destructive powers that shooting it through a Hi Point would make me all kinds of nervous.  That gun blew up after only 200 rounds.

I’m not saying don’t buy a Hi Point.  If you really want to, knock yourself out.  It’s your money after all.  I am saying that doing things like milling the slide on a blowback gun that’s made from a zinc casting isn’t smart, and neither (in my opinion) is shooting a gun with a zinc casting slide chambered in .40.  These are things I would not do, and I would strongly encourage you to not do either.  If you must have a Hi Point, get the 9mm carbine.  That one works, and I’ve never heard an stories of them blowing up.

Top Shot final thoughts

Join me tonight at 9pm Eastern time on Gun Nuts Radio at (6pm Pacific) for a discussion on Top Shot in general; not just my experience on the show but the effect the show has had on the shooting community at large as well as the general public.  Tonight I’d be very interested to hear feedback from fans and listeners, so if you have a question you can join us live by calling in at 347-539-5436.

That’s tonight at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific time on the BlogTalkRadio Network at!

Top Shot Series Finale

I have a few minutes to put together my thoughts on the series finale of Top Shot; which for the two people that haven’t yet seen the episode are posted beneath the jump.  If you’re not up to speed on Top Shot, go watch the finale at History.Com then come back and read the re-cap.

Continue reading “Top Shot Series Finale”