Revolvers for new shooters

Everyone is talking about snub nosed revolvers for new shooters.  Here at Gun Nuts, we have beaten this topic to death.  I even have an article coming up in US Concealed Carry Magazine on this various topic that looks at issues such as grip strength, trigger pull, and shootability.  However, instead of rehashing over 3000 words and quite a few articles, I will simply re-print this quote from Tiger McKee.

Most people think revolvers are easy to shoot and operate, and for some reason they think this is especially true for women shooters. This is simply not the case, regardless of the shooter’s gender. The trigger on most revolvers is longer and heavier than the majority of semi-autos. – Tiger McKee

Tiger is right.  If there is one thing I learned from firing over 10,000 rounds through a revolver last year, it’s that these things are hard to shoot well.

Steel Challenge results

The final results are in for the 2010 World Speed Shooting Championships.  Here are the Top 5 finishers for Overall, Steel Master, and then by the myriad of divisions.

Match Overall (also Open Division)

  1. KC Eusebio
  2. Dave Sevigny
  3. Jerry Miculek
  4. Tatsuya Sakai
  5. Max Michel

Steel Master – aggregate of Limited, Rimfire, and Open

  1. Dave Sevigny
  2. Jerry Miculek
  3. BJ Norris
  4. Todd Jarrett
  5. Ryan Leonard

Jessie Abbate also captured the Ladies Steel Master title for the 2nd time in a row!

On to the division winners!

Limited Division

  1. Dave Sevigny
  2. JJ Racaza
  3. Tatsuya Sakai

Production Division

  1. BJ Norris
  2. Rob Leatham
  3. Mike Seeklander

Optical Revolver

  1. Jerry Miculek
  2. Everyone else

Iron Sight Revolver

  1. Seiichi Ishikawa
  2. Dave Olhasso
  3. John Bagakis

Stock Service Pistol

  1. Petros Milionas
  2. Dave Olhasso
  3. Brad Engmann

Enhanced Service Pistol

  1. Petros Milionas
  2. Taran Butler
  3. Michael Tanita

Custom Defensive Pistol

  1. David Hamilton
  2. JT Tedder
  3. Tony Phan

Ladies Results

  • Ladies’ Open: Jessie Abbate
  • Ladies’ Limited: Julie Golob
  • Ladies’ Production: Julie Golob
  • Ladies’ Iron Revo: Molly Smith

No female shooters competed in the IDPA categories.

It looks like it was another great year at the World Speed Shooting Championships.  As has been the case since the show aired, Top Shot alums have fared well, with JJ, Mike, and Brad all taking Top 3 honors in their respective divisions!  Way to go!

A PhD in feral hog eradication

Between this awesome thread at the High Road and the many conversations I’ve had with Farmer Frank I honestly feel like I have at least a Master’s Degree in killing feral hogs.  These are not “Charlotte’s Web” piggies, feral hogs are violent, destructive, and smart.  You think deer cause a lot of property damage?  If you live in an area where these things haven’t migrated to yet, be thankful…and shoot on sight if you do see one.*

*Assuming of your course that doesn’t violate any laws.

Get involved locally

This is primarily for my readers in Washington State – as you know, we’ve got an election coming up this November and if you’re as tired of Patty Murray as I am, now is your chance to get involved locally and do something about it.  It’s pretty easy, head over to NRA Washington’s Facebook page, and click “Like” to get signed up to receive updates on events in your area in Washington State such as gun shows, doorbell campaigns, yard sign distribution, and other ways to actually get involved at the local level to support pro-gun candidates.  Click here to sign up!

It's been the worst day since yesterday

Not really, but I wanted an excuse to use a Flogging Molly song as a post title.  I shot an IDPA classifier yesterday, and going in to the classifier match I was feeling pretty good.  I had posted consecutive runs on the classifier in practice that were under 90 seconds aggregate time, so to be honest I figured that I had SSP Master in the bag.

Holy cow was I wrong.  I seriously had one of the worst days on the range that I’ve since I figured out what the bumpy thing on the end of the slide is for.  If I look back on bad performances, this ranks right up there with with a match against the Naval Academy in 2001 where I had a U2 song stuck in my head and couldn’t do anything but shoot 8’s on a Free Pistol match.  Back to the IDPA classifier – there are days when you’re in the zone, days where you can find the zone, and days like yesterday where I swear my front sight had a cloaking device on it.  Some people call it “chasing the zone”, it’s where you’re pushing yourself to find your groove and your performance envelope, but the harder you push the less natural everything is.  That’s where I was at yesterday.

So the question is, as frustrating as those days are, how do we as shooters and athletes deal with sub-par performances like that?  The obvious answer is “practice”, but practice what?  This of course is where honesty in self-diagnosis comes in to play.  It would be easy for me to say that I screwed up on the first two stages and go practice something easy to make myself feel better – but the real truth is that while those stages weren’t as good as I can shoot, I didn’t really shoot myself in the foot until stage 3.  The 20 yard stage was a complete disaster, I was 32 points down at 20 yards, and while my raw times were plenty fast, I quite simply couldn’t find and center the front sight.  My times on Stage 1 and 2 would have been good enough to get me SSP Master if I had shot the 3rd stage to the best of my ability.  Guess what?  I didn’t.

That’s why personal honesty is important.  I don’t like shooting at 20 yards.  It’s not as fun as 10 and 7, I don’t get to go as fast, the shots are more technical, and it’s basically a combo of things I don’t enjoy (except for reloads with retention, which I’ve gotten REALLY good at).  And so the problem is that I could based on my performance justify practicing stage 1 and 2 a lot because they’re easier and more fun.  But that wouldn’t be honest.  It’s important to practice the things we’re bad at, and for me what really hurt was stage 3.  So that will be the focus of my practice until the next classifier I shoot.

Here are some tips on practicing for stage 3 of the IDPA classifier.

  • Shoot the entire classifier from 20 yards.  Try it!  You’ll have an awful score, but if you can make a head box shot on command at 20 yards, you’re in good shape.
  • 10 shot a-zone drill.  At 20 yards, on the clock draw and fire a single round in to the -0 zone of the IDPA target.  Holster, then draw and fire 2 rounds in to the -0 zone.  Holster, then draw and fire 3, then finally holster and draw and fire 4 rounds at the -0 zone.  The goal of this drill is to get all your hits in the -0.  If you miss on any of the strings and throw a shot, go back to the beginning of the drill.  If you can get -0 on all 10 shots without worrying about the time, try to set time limits for yourself.

Just those two drills will help with the 20 yard stage of the classifier and in fact will help your performance over all.  At the ’09 Bianchi Cup, one of the veteran shooters there told me that “if you can hit X’s at 50 yards, you can hit anything” – that’s a true statement.  Practicing at long ranges makes you faster and more accurate on closer in shots.  Which is why I’ll be cursing Stage 3 for a couple of weeks to come.

USPSA Video

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!