Sunday, September 15, 2019

Dry Practice

Dry Practice

We call it dry practice and not dry fire because there isn't going to be any firing. Words have
meanings and by calling it fire, we are in the beginnings of programming ourselves to expect
firing. Here’s the great thing about dry practice, the goal is to practice all the things in
between the shooting. Believe it or not, if you are at the point on your journey that you are
dedicating time to dry-practice you can probably press the trigger just fine. I’m willing to
wager that you do that better than all the other things we do with a gun.

I have students that the closest range doesn't let them move, or even draw from a holster.
Great, when at that range they can focus strictly on trigger presses and at home, they can
dry-practice that draw. When I dry-practice, after all of the safety considerations below, I
always start with drawing the gun. This is a perfect draw, slow and deliberate. I take at least
one giant sidestep but will do more depending on available space. At this point on my
journey, I’m programmed to start moving my feet anytime my hands move towards my gun,
that's exactly where I want to be. The point of dry practice is to build that neural pathway so
I don't have to put any conscious thought into adding that step.

On that same note, every single time I reholster my pistol, there is a full 360* scan
preceding it. The same thing, I have a neural pathway established at this point to get a full
picture of my surroundings before I put my gun away. I could easily do a 5-minute dry
practice session and do nothing but draw the gun and aim in. Then scan and reholster and
get good results on gun handling skills.

One of my favorite things to practice is clearing malfunctions. This is actually one of the few
times I touch a trigger during dry-practice. I will load a few magazines up with dummy
rounds and after the draw, I will aim in at my target and press the trigger without disturbing
the sight alignment. When I get a click, I move my feet and clear that malfunction. Often I’ll
set up different types of malfunctions, some with empty brass and practice those without the
draw. The reason behind that is I don't want to build a habit of drawing the gun and
expecting a click and instantly go to fixing a gun after the first press of the trigger. When I’m
actually shooting, starting immediate action after the first shot is counter to my goals.

I’ll practice reloads, usually from a ready position (High-ready, Low-ready, Gun-Up,
Gun-Down, Assess, Position 3) with the sear already tripped. I get that dead trigger/gun
empty feel and move my feet and reload my gun from my primary magazine location before
I get the sights on target. I will often press the trigger on this one to trip the sear. I can then
practice a tactical reload and have a dead trigger to set up the next emergency reload.
2 reload practices per rep.

The thing I focus on in these is to initiate movement at the beginning and as much as
possible during each rep. Many times that will be moving into a piece of simulated cover.
I usually dry practice at my house and it is full of different sizes and shapes that I can use.
The safety considerations below mention that you should have a backstop behind your
target that will stop bullets if you ignore all the other considerations. Folks will let a brick
wall or something similar define their dry practice location and not be able to utilize cover
or even movement. The simple solution is to make your target smaller than your plate
carrier and simply stick it on the front with a binder clip and then hang your plate carrier
wherever it works for you.

Dry-practice probably has the largest ROI (Return On Investment) of any practice that you
could possibly do, but it can be overdone. Each rep should have 100% focus. After
removing all possible distractions, it’s still easy to burn yourself out and start cutting corners. Corners cut in safety can be catastrophic, corners cut in execution will certainly cease
progress and most assuredly lead to regression. This is why I limit my sessions to a strict
time limit. For my self, it’s never more than 5 minutes at a time. You can pick whatever time
limit suits your ability to completely focus, but I suggest starting shorter than what you think
you can go. The good news is that you can do multiple sessions in a day after you’ve had a
chance to decompress. I think we all could see a large increase in gun handling abilities
with a small investment of our time. Let’s take a look at the actual procedure.

Follow all firearms safety rules while dry practicing.

If you are interupted during your dry-practice, (phone call, knock at the door, etc)
Start over at step 1.

1. Go into your dry practice area and remove all possible distractions (phones, Tv ect turned 

2. Unload your gun.

3. Do a three-point check to assure that it is empty ( Chamber, Breachface and Magwell should
    be EMPTY).

4. Put live ammo outside the room and close the door behind you.

5. Do another three-point check on your gun.

6. Put up a target on a backdrop that will stop a bullet.

7. Do another three-point check on your gun.

8. Announce out loud “I am beginning dry practice”

9. Perform a perfect draw, with movement. Continue on with whatever regimen you decided to
    work on prior to starting. Even if you are not working on the draw (why not?), any time the
     gun comes out of the holster it should be a perfect draw. Every time it goes back in the
    holster it should only be done after a good scan. Practice each rep perfectly, never sacrificing
    good form for speed. Like a musician, we need to get the notes perfect before we get them
    up to speed. Nobody plays Holy Wars on their first day of guitar lessons.

10. Repeat these reps until your allotted time has passed. If you are losing focus or getting
      sloppy, STOP.

11. When you are finished, Take down your target and announce “I am done with dry-practice”.
      The verbalization will cement in your mind that it is over. Taking down the target reduces
      the temptation to do “one more rep”.

12. Unload the dummy rounds from your gun. Put away any dummy rounds.

13. Open the door to your dry practice area and retrieve your live ammo on the way out.
Charge your gun and reholster it. (Did you scan?)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Professionalism in shooting (and some football lingo)

There’s a few different types of folks out there carrying guns frequently. I try to keep an
internal log of their behaviors and their numbers. Below, I’ll give you my observations.
not to scale

The first group is people that get paid to use a gun frequently that should and do practice
their craft regularly (Green). We like to think of our mighty military as being these guys.
I wish they were. If I had a genie in a bottle, this is one of those things I’d task him with.
However, even with the most powerful military force in the history of the universe, it’s rare
to find a truly impressive shooter working for the DOD. I know you are out there reading
this and said “SOCOM Motherfucker!” And I will absolutely agree that those cats, in
general, far exceed the rest of the Military. Having shot with some guys with funny hats
and a few vanilla frogs I’m still not sold on the overall abilities of that “branch” taking their
job as shooters seriously enough. Too large of a portion of these guys, and the vast bulk
of the rest of the Military machine fall into the second group.

This group is paid to use it infrequently yet often do not, and in large numbers, practice that
craft. (Blue). These people are not professional, nor are the professionals. We see this in
Law Enforcement with alarming regularity. People who, by job description, are much more
likely to use a gun to defend themselves yet treat it as an occupational obligation.
Something they are forced to carry but do not value having the skills to use it to even a
portion of its potential effectiveness.

Some people do not get paid to ever carry a gun, yet they hone their craft much more than
the second group sometimes more than the first group (Orange). These people are the
practice squad in the NFL. They prepare as though they are going to play the Superbowl
with zero expectation of ever putting any of their skills to any measurable test. This
exemplifies professional behavior. These are the people we should admire. That Green
group meets our expectations, that Blue group miserably fails them, but that third group,
the Orange. They do more than is likely needed, certainly more than is ever asked, and
they relish the opportunity to push further.

Most people in that second group, carrying a gun is their job and they treat it like any of the
unpleasant parts of a typical job. They do as much as they have to to keep their job. The
first group, those are the all-stars, they are in the big game, they know when and where
they are playing and they prepare accordingly. I often wonder how many continue putting in
the work once they become members of the third group. Or do they fall into the fourth
group? (Pink). The people who own a gun and therefore they are prepared for everything.
Reliving the days long past, do they become the Al Bundy's of the world, talking about that
time their number was called back in the day, from the comfort of the couch?

I’m going to have to say that the mindset that is to be most favorably viewed is that
third (Orange) group. The ones who train like tomorrow is their Superbowl, knowing that the
chances of being in the big game are as likely as riding their unicorn to the lotto office to cash
the winning powerball ticket while they get struck by lightning. That’s the dedication and
professionalism that I like to celebrate since it’s so often overlooked.
I’m not knocking my word-champ, OBL-slaying Teamguy here, I’m just recognizing those
10 guys who didn't make the 53-man cut. They have a dedication that is difficult to replicate.
They are the ones I put on a pedestal, and rightfully so.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fucking Presschecks

The old presscheck. Why do them? That's a serious question. Why do we do them?

If you answered “ I like to hear the clickety-clack of the gun parts moving around”, I’m not going to argue with you. It’s dumb as fuck, but it is a factual way to accomplish the desired result. The rest of us just throw on that first Magpul DVD and get a cacophony of clickety’s and clakety’s.

If you answered “I want to know the condition of my gun”, now we’re going to have a discussion. If we move the slide, just ever so much to take the gun out of battery, we might be able to see some brass. We just took a gun that might have been working and caused a malfunction. Yep, out of battery means the gun no worky. Sure, we’ll go ahead and palm strike the rear of the slide to put it back in battery, so it’ll be fine. I checked a lot of contemporary instructions on what to do to a gun that won't fire, and all of them said fuck-all about a palm strike to the rear. So now we’re gonna add yet another malfunction clearance method to our list of choices and I’m sure Bill Hick will roll his eyes from the afterlife at us, but what does that guy know, I mean he died 45 years ago, he can’t be too smart, right?

It’s gonna be OK, because we’re not going to do that reactively, only diagnostically. That's what that armorer's class was for right? Diagnose the issue. Apply the proper remedy. Great, we justified making the gun not work and justified the one instance this remedy will be the one we use. So endeth lesson….right?

Well, not so fast sport. We did some mental gymnastics to get here, but what did we learn? Well, we learned that maybe we saw something. I know, you’re saying “ what do you mean maybe?” Well, I mean we can see stuff when there's enough light to see stuff with. If it’s dark, breaking open the slide works as well as that silly witness hole in the top of my M&P slide. But, we can just run it back further until we can feel it, can't we? I don't have the fattest fingers in the world, but I have to pretty much extract the round to get my finger in there. Maybe some readers have dainty enough fingers to reach in there (as long as their acrylic press-on nails don't get in the way).

But just like the ridiculous loaded chamber indicator on the top of an XD slide. (Don't get me started on how often the bits of XDs stop working). All that tells us is that there is brass in the chamber. Some of us are keenly aware that a piece of brass and a live round are not the same things. The last time the gun was fired, was there anything impeding the slide? If you remember the last round that was fired, I beg the question: Why are we doing this press check again? (Hint: the answer is that we like the clickety-clack.)

Let me ask you, what will you do if you neither see nor feel that the chamber is loaded?  That's also a serious question. What do you do next, after you diagnosed the problem?
We all know that the remedy is to run the slide all the way to the rear in a sharp fashion and let it go, allowing the fully compressed spring to expand, flinging the slide forward with authority and strip a new round off the magazine on its way home. Odd that many of the sources I checked on fixing malfunctions included this particular step and not the palm strike, but what do those guys know?

To recap this series of events, when we aren't sure if the gun is loaded, we induce a malfunction to check if we can see or feel what we hope is a live round. If we don't see or feel what we want, we then run the slide. This is akin to the old fallacy of tourniquet usage. Instead of doing a bunch of steps prior to doing the one that works, we could always just start with the one that works. We have abandoned the idea of direct pressure, elevation, pressure points and waiting for those to fail before applying a TQ, I’m perfectly happy with doing the same when learning the status of my gun. I know running the slide works, so if I am in doubt, I’m gonna do that. I don't care if a live round goes to the deck. If it’s a partial magazine and I’m not sure how many are in there, I should probably top off the gun. And you know what? That also includes running the slide. Notice I didn't include a palm strike nor any justification for doing one, I wonder why that is?

If you managed to make it this far, there's the lesson. If you don't know the status of your gun, run the slide. If you do it after inserting a fresh magazine, all the better.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Pistol Sights and How I Choose Them.

I am sure my journey is a lot like other folks who want to find the best tools to fight
someone with. Possibly we are on a different leg of this journey but be sure, most
folks are on an entirely different trip. On this journey, people will talk ad-nauseam
about what firearm is “best” and they know because they own 35 different ones.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the sights that go
on top of them, and specifically pistol sights.

From my time plinking, into my first rudimentary military firearms training, to my foray
into competition shooting, on to my study of violence and into my career as an
instructor, I found a lot of my time consumed with looking through sights. At those
different points in my life, I evaluated all the different sights that passed in front of my
eyes (see what I did there?). It was more obvious when I didn't like something than
when I did. But I kept notes. A few years ago I finally settled on what features are
important on sights and found what products had those features.

When I evaluate sights, there are a few things they must do and a few things it would
be nice if they did. The top priority for any sight is that it has to be reliable. Steel
construction without moving parts is all that will do. I’ve broken a fair amount of Bo-Mar
style sights. Enough to know that they don't belong on a fighting gun. I want front and
rear to fit in a dovetail. When I install them, I use Loctite and stake the dovetail to
prevent them from coming loose. The Glock style front or GI 1911 style front is a recipe
for being broken. Admittedly, these are a choice made by the gun manufacturer, not the
sight company, but that certainly influences what guns I buy.

If we go on the assumption that we are only going to compare reliable sights, there is a
feature that stands above the rest. A highly visible front sight in variable lighting conditions.
By “variable”, I mean a little dark, a lot dark, super dark and potentially pitch black. Oh yeah,
and then daylight too. Two features dictate this: size and color. For size, it needs to be big.
How big? Bigger. I haven't yet found a front too large, nor a rear with too wide of an opening
yet. I imagine that a front site can be made that obscures a person at a certain distance, but
the widest front sights I’ve seen are .191” wide and they don't cover a dude at 100 yards,
which is a shot that is a tall order for most gun guys with a pistol. I have made that shot, with
that sight, in front of students, on a gun without a rear sight at all. So for those that are
screaming at their screen that it has to be super thin in a narrow notch, I don't know what
else I need to ask my sights to do.

So if it’s big, it’s easier to see. Like the front you chose to set your screen to read this. Why
would this be important? When you need your sights on a bad guy, like right fucking now,
easier to find would be good. If we’re also watching that bad guy move, like they do, easier
to find would be good. If we are also moving (like we should be doing) and shits bouncing
everywhere, easier to find would be good. Big is the key to this in any lighting, but really
important in low lighting. I’ll get to that in the next paragraph.

Now let's talk color. Straight color with no energy source first. The human eye has rods and
cones. I know you learned it in 10th-grade health. The cones that are in the middle are great
at finding small stuff and focusing on it. They also see colors well. The rods around the
outside are what give us low-light vision. They don't focus like a cone and they are naturally

So what's that mean in the dark? They have a hard time focussing on small things (I told you
I’d get tot hat) And all those fancy colors we like are just a shade of grey. You know what the
brightest shade of grey is? White. Yep, the color of the dots that came on the gun. Who
knew that the gun companies would actually give us the highest visibility sight color when they put the cheap sights on at the factory. I can hear the gnashing of teeth now.
People are saying “Garry, at the well-lit range, those orange, green, blue, purple sights are easy to see.” Yeah, they are. But so is plain black. I don't know what the percentages are, but I can point it out with simple words. Black sights are very easy to see in daylight. White dots are a smidgen easier to see. Some bright colors are even easier than that, but only by a little. In the dark, black sights are quite hard to see, those fancy colors AKA grey sights are a fair amount easier. The whites are really easy to see. Orders of magnitude easier than the various greys. If we remember the various lighting conditions I mentioned, daylight ranks dead last. Just because that's all the average gun dude shoots in, doesn't mean that what a martial gun handler should focus on.

But what if we add an energy source? Something like tritium or photoluminescent dots. Tritium stores energy from the factory and slowly releases it, letting your sights glow 24/7. The only downside is that the tritium is usable in a very narrow set of circumstances. Often it is too bright to see the glow, or too dark to identify your target. But the downside? None. Photoluminescent is pretty neat. They store energy after you charge them. For some amount of time. There are a number of colors in the spectrum that can be made to glow after some outside source of light has been shined on them. They generally emit much more light than tritium does. The downside is that white is not currently one of those colors. So in darkness, prior to being exposed to a light source they are orange, green or yellow. Which is less than ideal as mentioned above.

I've talked to some leading scientists that study eyes. They tell me that there are colors that are easier to see in the dark than others. Some yellows and even some oranges that are closer to the yellow end of the spectrum are much closer to the visibility of white in human night vision. One of these colors in a photoluminescent might be a viable option. Fiber optic is another option that requires energy to work. The downside is that the energy is not stored at all. The energy source must be directed at it while being used. Generally, these require good lighting to make them more visible than the surrounding black sight. They shine awesomely in the daylight, but that's not what we’re looking for. Being a little bit better in ideal conditions is not an adequate trade-off for being the worst choice in common conditions. The last option for a sight that requires an energy source is a red dot. The energy is stored in a battery and is usually bright enough to be seen in all conditions. I haven't written an article about red dots on pistols yet, and this one isn't going to be it. But like anything that is battery powered, a mechanical backup is a priority and that backup should meet the above criteria.

Down my list after size and color, I look at the shape of the sight. I need the sights as I’m aiming to not be overly intricate. Lining up triangle inside of diamonds or any craziness in unwanted. Some way to grossly align the front to the rear and possibly a way to finely align them for precision shots. However, being able to hit a dude-sized target at 100 yards with no rear sight at all limits my belief in the importance of finely aligning sights. From a side profile, I like the rear sight to have a ledge that I can use to rack the slide with and not be so sharp I cut myself on them. If it doesn't, it’s ok. I own a file and can make a ledge and soften the edges.

Beyond that, the sight needs to be made for all the pistols on my approved list. Not really a concern since currently, only 4 guns have managed to get on that list. That's the entirety of my requirements. When I try a new set of sights, the first thing I do is a bunch of dryfire in random parts of my house at night. The basement, the hallway with the nightlight in it. The Living room with a streetlight seeping in around the curtain, the kitchen with the blinking clock on the coffeepot. That's the lighting I’m focused on. If they look ok there, I’ll install them on a UTM gun and use it for force on force. The lighting covers all possibilities, and the target and I are always moving. That's it. No live-fire required at all to test sights. I heard one of the best pistol shooters in the world talk about sights. He said every single shooter he had seen, and he has seen all of them, shoots better with new sights. Not because the new sights are good, but because they focus more on the front sight when it's different than they are used to. In essence, live-fire testing of new sights is more likely to give us false-positive results than actual useful results. So I skip it. I urge you to do something similar. When you want to try new sights, get those sight pictures in the dark. Try them in as many different levels of dark that you can and then get in a shoothouse and try them in some force on force.