Author: LNPDSA Staff Writer

Jeff Connell, a retired U. S. Marine Corps Master Sergeant, is a writer, editor, avid shooter, hobby-level gunsmith, and general firearms enthusiast. With experience in firearm instruction, and small arms range control with Marines and law enforcement, he is a NRA certified Pistol instructor, Range Safety Officer, Refuse To Be A Victim™ instructor, NC DOJ certified Concealed Carry Handgun Training instructor, and currently serves as LNPDSA chief firearm instructor. An analytic theist with an earned PhD, he self-identifies as a Warrior Poet.
New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

New, First-Time Gun Ownership Requires Training

It’s My First Gun. Now What?

You are a new, first-time gun owner. You just bought that brand new super-duper magnum thingy handgun, rifle, or shotgun. Now what?

First, Safety First!

Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction (that means do not point it at anything you are not prepared to destroy! It also means that you must know what is behind your target. Pointing at a wall–what’s behind the wall?).

Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Always keep your firearm unloaded until ready to shoot.

Always keep your ammunition in a separate room when dry firing

Here is a safety video by John Lovell.

Responsible Gun Ownership

Owning a firearm bears a significant responsibility. While that firearm is in your possession, whether on your person or not, you are responsible for how it is used. Firearm training is a necessary step in responsible gun ownership. Seek out a certified firearm instructor to learn how to use it, safely and effectively!

Get Some Training!

It is very important that you seek training for that new firearm. Training for first-time gun owners usually consists of two parts: 1) Learning how firearms (especially yours) work, and 2) practical application (shooting it).

Training is available from LNPDSA through several venues.

On-Line Training

One venue introduces how firearms work through on-line learning. The on-line portion covers the first segment, how firearms work. There is a practical application portion is part of the training, but is conducted in person at a time after the on-line segment is completed. NOTE: This is NOT North Carolina’s Concealed Carry Handgun Training class!

At least one internet big-dog, whom I respect greatly, has created an introductory channel for neophyte gun owners: John Lovell’s “5 Steps for New Gun Owners” is highly recommended!

MrGunsnGear created a video in the same vein, “Brand New Gun Owners: The Basics You Need to Know.”

In-Person Training

Alternatively, you can take an in-person basic course for your handgun, rifle, or shotgun in person, where both parts are taught by a trainer.

At the very least, you should take a familiarization course that teaches you the fundamentals of your handgun, rifle, or shotgun: Parts, functioning, assembly and disassembly.

You got your gun-now get your training!

Guns and Ammo: Ban, Tax, and Confiscate!

Guns and Ammo: Ban, Tax, and Confiscate!

Using Crisis for Sleight of Hand and Misdirection

While we have been distracted by our focus  on COVID-19, and the efforts to mitigate the contagion, our U. S. House of Representatives (and now the U. S. Senate) is attempting a feat of prestidigitation through misdirection. A bill was introduced that would effectively nullify the Second Amendment, and possibly eliminate private ownership of firearms in a generation: H. R. 5717, the text of which is available here.

In an era of nanny-state legislative and executive order overreach, the House of Representatives has kicked the nanny, “We’re the government, and we’re here to help” boundaries beyond all sense of reason. To misquote Admiral Nimitz, “Uncommon nonsense was a common virtue,” applies abundantly to the proponents of this bill!

UPDATE (3/24/2020): Not to be outdone by the House, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced S. 3254. Essentially, this bill is a clone of the House version.

The End Run: License It, Ban It, and Tax It!

There have been anecdotal suggestions to repeal the Second Amendment for decades. Most anti-gunners recognize trying to do so would likely fail, or at least take so long as to be unacceptable. The alternative? License it, ration it, ban it, and tax it into non-existence.

This bill includes every infringement on the Second Amendment a rabid anti-gunner could possible conceive, and salivate over: Mandatory owner training and federal licensing, universal background checks, national gun registration, semi-automatic firearm and magazine bans, increases in firearm (30%) and ammo (50%) taxes, red flag laws, repeal of firearm manufacturer protection when someone uses a firearm illegally, expansion of gun-free zones, grants to incentivize states to enact similar legislation, and the inevitable tax-payer funded “research” into gun violence and its prevention .

Is it just me, or does this one have a “Bloomberg smell” about it? This flurry of anti-gun activism makes me wonder if it is an effort to over-load the senses of reasonable people, and browbeat them into “compromising” to pass at least some of it.

The Irony of H. R. 5717

A fundamental and tacit presupposition behind anti-gun proposals is the position that law enforcement is always available to protect citizens from attack. Therefore, it is unnecessary to have potentially dangerous tools available to protect yourself. The problem with that tacit understanding is that the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as developing case law, has ruled the police have no duty to protect citizens not in their custody. To add to the irony, police departments in some metro areas are now announcing they will no longer respond to “minor” offenses as they attempt to integrate communicable disease mitigation practices while performing their role as law enforcement.

A second flaw in the “police are always available” presupposition is response time. Attacks happen in real time; they happen NOW! Police responses are after-the-fact. That is, at the moment an attack begins, the probability of the police being there, at that moment, is remote. We grant that police responses in metropolitan areas are usually short, but they are still finite, and typically range in being minutes away. Response times can be significantly longer in rural areas.

Protest the Enactment of this Proposed Bill

One of the few mechanisms we have to protest this effort at government overreach, and hopefully defeat it, is to contact our representatives. U. S. House members can be contacted through https://house.gov. U. S. Senators can be contacted through https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact. Register your protest!

UPDATE (3/24/2020): The Firearms Policy Coalition created a website where you can send your opposition to these bills to your House and Senate representatives. FPC’s site is here.

The Future of Gun Control: Virginia and Beyond

The Future of Gun Control: Virginia and Beyond

Gun Control 2020 – The Post-Constitutional Decade

Unless you have been mimicking the proverbial ostrich, you are probably aware of the bevy of gun control bills recently introduced in the Virginia legislature. The proposals range from restricting privately owned gun ranges to law enforcement use only (but only if no one nearby feels threatened) to banning the possession of any firearm that is not a bolt or lever action. By the way, there is no “grandfather” provision where you can retain listed firearms obtained before the proposed ban without government oversight. Only if you register yourself and your firearm with the State, and receive its permission to possess it will you be able to keep your legally obtained property.

Virginia: A Test Case for Gun Control Advocates

Do not be deceived. This flurry of Virginia anti-gun legislation is a test balloon to gauge the political will and muscle of Virginia’s Second Amendment supporters, and by extension, the political will and muscle of gun owners nationwide. Passage of even a modicum of the proposed Virginia bills likely will result in other like-minded states following suit with similar legislation, as well as federal legislation. Damn the electorate–full speed ahead! Other 2A advocates suggest 12 more states are ready to launch similar efforts depending on the outcome in Virginia.

Everytown for Gun Safety Pledges 60 Million Dollars

It appears that the Bloomberg backed (read financed by) Everytown for Gun Safety has pledged 60 million dollars to the 2020 election cycle. That figure does not include Bloomberg’s personal contributions to anti-gun candidates. It is likely that states assessed by Bloomberg’s political machine as vulnerable for flipping from conservative to liberal will be the targets–that suggests “swing” states, like North Carolina. Bloomberg’s position is that no one — NO ONE — should have a gun, except police officers, the military, and of course personal protective service “professionals” for elites such as he. Hmm, can anybody say, “Germany, 1932,” or “Venezuela?”

Demigods and Other Persona

Bloomberg, in one of his political ads, called President Trump a “demigod.” The definition of a demigod is “one so preeminent in intellect, power, ability, beneficence, or appearance as to seem to approach the divine.” Bloomberg’s approach to abridging the electorate’s rights protected by the Constitution through his political clout, monetary contributions to achieve his purposes, and the “I know better than thou what is good for thee” attitude suggests he is no less a demigod than the one he accuses.

After the recent Texas church shooting, where a madman  killing people with a shotgun was stopped by a member of the congregation, Bloomberg pontificated, “It’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place. . . .” It very nearly sounded as if he wanted a Southerland Springs-like episode to entrench his “guns are evil” mantra.

Other anti-gun sycophants have been recorded as saying, “[Repeal of the Second Amendment] will happen. We’re not going to allow guns for anyone, anywhere, any time.” Except of course, for police, military, and their own corps of private bodyguards.

“Sue ‘Til They’re Blue”

The National Redistricting Action Fund, backed by Barack Obama and Eric Holder (the same of “Fast and Furious” fame) repeatedly sues, through judges sympathetic to their cause, to overturn gerrymandering–their term for political districts drawn by Republicans. Instead, they want to institute their own form of gerrymandering that suits their agenda–turning the state blue, as they did in Virginia–while blocking their opponents.

So, what has redistricting to do with rights protected by the Bill of Rights? Can you say Virginia? By creating uneven district lines that favor liberal voting patterns, anti-gun legislators from centers of high population can create a political and legislative juggernaut that can run rough-rod over the state’s rural areas that typically are more conservative.

Local Resource

There is a group in North Carolina that is attempting to stand up to the Bloomberg-Obama-Holder ilk, preserve the Bill of Rights, and stop North Carolina from becoming another Virginia: Grass Roots North Carolina. The future of gun control, for good or ill, depends on an informed and engaged electorate.

 

Range Safety

Range Safety

(Originally posted in March 2018. As we begin a new year, this is an appropriate re-post.)

Range Safety

The paramount concern when conducting firearms training or practice is safety. The central premise of continually observing firearm safety is if we observe the fundamental safety rules in all our dry-fire training, practice, cleaning, and maintenance, then doing so in a live fire environment will be second nature. Range safety is the primary concern in a live fire environment.

Safety Rules

There are several versions, or lists of safety rules, but they all revolve around the same premise: keeping the shooter, and bystanders safe. All ranges will have some variation of the following rules:

a. Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
b. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
c. Always keep the action open and the firearm unloaded until ready to shoot.
d. Know your target and what is beyond.
e. Be certain the firearm is safe to operate.
f. Know how to use the firearm safely.
g. Use only the correct ammunition for your firearm.
h. Wear adequate ear and eye protection.
i. Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting.
j. Store firearms securely so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons when they are not in use.

Most ranges post their safety lists conspicuously to remind participants of their responsibility for range safety, and most ranges also post procedures and telephone numbers to call in case of an emergency.

General Range Rules

Every range has some set of range rules to ensure a safe shooting experience. The following list is a minimum set of ranges rules that all shooters should observe, regardless of the range at which they are shooting.

a. Know and obey all range commands.
In many instances, ranges are informally organized. That is, there may be no range officer, and no centralized form of range control that stops all participants from shooting when targets require attention, for example. When there is no centralized range control, all participants must coordinate among themselves when the range is safe.

b. Know where others are at all times, whether they are shooting or not.
Shooters often bring people with them who do not shoot, but simply observe; be aware of where they are as well.

c. Shoot only at authorized targets.
Some ranges have restrictions on the distances at which targets may be engaged. For example, steel, or reactive targets may have a minimum distance from which they may be shot. Other ranges may prohibit “head” shots to prevent shooting into ceilings, or over berms.

d. Unload, open the action, remove the magazine and ground and/or bench all firearms during a cease-fire. Some ranges require a “empty chamber indicator,” a device that is inserted into a firearm’s chamber that prevents a round from being chambered, and is obviously visible, during cease fires.

Empty chamber indicator (ECI)
Pistol with inserted ECI

 

 

 

 

 

 

e. Do NOT handle any firearm or stand at the firing line where firearms are present while others are down range.
Virtually all ranges have a prominently marked safety line (a firing line that is usually painted red) that participants must not cross when firing is under way. Some ranges may have a secondary safety line behind the firing line, behind which non-shooters must stand.

f. Always keep the muzzle pointed at the backstop or bullet trap. Never allow the muzzle to point in any direction whereby an inadvertent discharge would allow the escape of a projectile into an outer area.

Range safety is an individual responsibility. In most cases, disregarding safety or range rules result in ejection from the range, and may result in prolonged temporary, or even permanent, bans.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Frustration and Anger

There are times when my frustration at current events runs so high that I have to vent–some would call it a rant. Over the last 10 years I have seen the political system fail many of us. Often, most of us are voiceless, and have no avenue through which to express our frustration. My epiphany occurred during an election for U. S. Senate seats. I experienced the divide between the voting power of densely populated urban-suburban areas, and less populated rural areas. After the election, I contacted “my” Senator to express my views and concerns over a national debate. The response I received was virtually, “Thanks for your letter, but I don’t care about what you think.” The exchange gave me a renewed appreciation for the electoral college (as an aside, I think states should have similar provisions for U. S. Senatorial elections, or repeal the 17th Amendment). It also changed my mind about term limits, which I now support.

 

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

A phrase we have heard repeated over the last three years is “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Most often it is heard in the context of a public official committing so grave an offense some consider it grounds for removal from office.

Oaths of Office

Oaths of public office usually include something to the effect, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; . . .” And, the last time I checked, referring to the Constitution includes all its Amendments.

I cannot help but wonder if someone who has taken this oath, and attempts to curtail the tenets of the Constitution without a duly affirmed Amendment is guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor? Does a promise to commit a high crime or misdemeanor disqualify someone running for public office?

A Wearisome Litany of (Gun) Crime Prevention

Every contestant in the Democratic primary has voiced his or her intention to curtail “gun crime.” Most often they refer to highly publicized incidents involving multiple victims committed with rifles they deem “assault weapons” (the newest label is “assault firearm”). The mimeographed script from which they recite includes:

  • Ban “assault” weapons.
  • Ban “high capacity” magazines.
  • License gun owners.
  • Register all guns and their owners.
  • Require all gun transfers to be federally approved and recorded.
  • Tax private gun ownership out of existence.
  • Classify gun owners and advocates as extremists and supremacists.
  • Authorize “pre-crime” confiscation without due process.

Elimination Through Bankruptcy

While the anti-crime script includes legislative approaches, other means to eliminate private gun ownership are being attempted. One occurring in Connecticut is to sue firearm manufacturers for marketing dangerous implements to masculine egos. While slower, if there are enough successful suits, gun manufacturers will either stop marketing commercially, or be economically forced out of business–bankrupted.

Such a move begs the question if manufacturers can be sued for marketing to egos, will auto manufacturers be sued for tailoring their marketing of high horsepower vehicles toward masculine egos? Can car makers be sued if someone robs a bank and uses one of their cars while doing so? If one tool manufacturer can be sued because someone used their product to perpetrate an illegal act, why not others?

Although the Connecticut lawsuit is very narrow, it raises the specter of other state’s attorneys-general to create inventive ways to persuade firearm manufacturers, through economic intimidation, to stop selling guns for private ownership.

Coming Attractions: Ban Everything-Grandfather Nothing

Ban everything! Virginia is about to experience a gun ban that virtually outlaws everything that has a magazine, with no grandfather clauses (Virginia SB-16). If you own it, you are a felon! Period!

Further, the bill is written in such a way that the owner of a banned firearm cannot transfer it or transport it to anyone. By default, the only way to get dispose of a banned firearm or magazine is to destroy it.

Another bill (SB-64) pre-filed in Virginia classifies anyone who teaches another to use a firearm as a felon if there is reason to believe the instructor should have known(?) the person being taught intended to use the firearm in an act of civil disobedience.

But don’t worry. Your state is next!

Restore Your Voice

There are ways we, as gun owners, can restore our voice. As I found out, writing to elected representatives can be an exercise in futility. Arguably, the most effective is to monetarily support organizations that fight back:

  • Firearms Policy Coalition. “Firearms Policy Coalition is a 501(c)4 grassroots, non-partisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for individual liberties and important constitutional rights—especially those protected under the First Amendment (Free Speech, Association, etc.), Second Amendment (Right to Keep and Bear Arms), Fifth Amendment (Takings, Due Process), and Fourteenth Amendment (Due Process, Equal Protection, Privileges and Immunities)—sound public policy, and related issues through legal action, direct and grassroots advocacy, research, education, outreach, and other programs.”
  • Second Amendment Foundation. “The Second Amendment Foundation is dedicated to promoting a better understanding about our Constitutional heritage to privately own and possess firearms. To that end, we carry on many educational and legal action programs designed to better inform the public about the gun control debate.”
  • Gun Owners of America. “Gun Owners of America is a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 to preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. GOA sees firearms ownership as a freedom issue.”
  • National Rifle Association. Originally organized to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis” in 1871, the NRA is now a multi-faceted organization with educational, legislative, and lobbying divisions.
  • Save the Second.  There are some who suggest the NRA is past its usefulness, especially when one considers other, more directly active, defenders of the Second Amendment. However, the NRA has a nationally recognized cachet, even though it has been eroded by turmoil. Save the Second is trying to restore the integrity of the NRA to make that cachet even stronger: “In order for the NRA to be strong, relevant, and effective, we must reform the leadership and bylaws, reduce the amount of wasteful expenditures, and refocus the NRA on the primary task of providing firearms training and education and protecting the Second Amendment.
    Our vision is to save the Second Amendment by strengthening the National Rifle Association. We hope to grow the NRA’s membership, improve its public image, and secure the NRA’s long-term ability carry out its stated purpose of protecting our “individual rights of self-preservation and defense of family, person, and property,” as provided in Article II, Section 1 of the NRA Bylaws.
    Save the Second is a coalition of gun owners, Second Amendment supporters, and firearms instructors working to strengthen to National Rifle Association from the inside. We are NRA members, prospective members, and former members with grave concerns about the recent scandals and negative media coverage that now plague the organization and the slow response from current leadership. We support the NRA’s mission, and we want the NRA to do the same.”

Fight back. Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against its domestic enemies. Restore your voice!

The Decision to Carry

The Decision to Carry

Decisions, Preparedness, and Consequences

Responsibility: What It Means

North Carolina’s concealed carry training handbook entitled Concealed Carry Handgun Training (the “red book”), published by the North Carolina Justice Academy, opens with the acknowledgement, “With the right under law to carry a concealed handgun, comes a tremendous responsibility.” Carrying a concealed handgun entails the personal assumption of that responsibility. Fundamentally, deciding to carry a concealed handgun means that you, and you alone, choose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you may take with that handgun.

If you use your handgun in a defensive force scenario, you are accountable not only for the immediate force-on-force required to stop the threat against you, but also for collateral damage your action may cause. Bullets have no consciousness. They continue on their trajectory until their energy is expended.  One facet of bullet design that aids in expending that energy, thereby slowing it down, and eventually stopping it is its expansion capability. Bullets with full metal jacket (FMJ) construction lack the characteristics to expand appreciably. This feature, alone, weighs against using full metal jacket rounds as part of your defensive carry.

The Decision To Carry

Presuming that you have considered the risk of taking upon yourself the moral, legal, and financial accountability for any action that a defensive force scenario may require, and elected to take that risk, there are other elements you should consider. The most significant is mental preparedness.

One harsh, in-your-face reality of carrying a concealed handgun for self-defense entails the risk of having to use it. This means you may have to point your handgun at another human being, and pull the trigger. A decision you have to make before putting that holster on your belt is, “Am I mentally prepared to take a life?” There are some who propose that “if you do not believe you can kill another human being, you have no business carrying a gun” (Chris Bird, 2019, The concealed handgun manual, 261). Bird couched his proviso in a crass and seemingly aggressive tone to provoke a conscientious assessment of your personal fortitude–“If a self-defense scenario develops, do I have the personal rectitude to potentially destroy my attacker.”

Consequences

If you are ever involved in a defensive force scenario, you will inevitably experience aftershocks. They may merely be the shakes, or they may rise to more severe bodily reactions, such a vomiting or bowel evacuation. It will happen.

And then there is law enforcement. A consequence of using deadly force is that you, at the least, will be interviewed. Your interaction with law enforcement also may result in detainment or arrest with incarceration until the event is investigated.

The good news is that there are organizations that can help reduce the trauma (let alone the financial burden that may ensue) after the use of defensive force. United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), and U.S. Law Shield are two that spring to mind. Remember, when you made the decision to carry a handgun for self-defense, you chose to personally assume moral, legal, and financial accountability for the actions you take with that handgun.

A Personal Decision with Personal Accountability

The decision to carry a concealed handgun mandates critical and conscientious, and highly personal self-assessment at the deepest moral levels. Our final decision, whether we carry or choose not to, is fraught with varying responsibilities and consequences. Hopefully, it will be one we can live with.

The NRA: A Tale of Two Organizations-Maybe

The NRA: A Tale of Two Organizations-Maybe

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Anyone who has seen any of the classic movies about Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper probably remembers the phrase, “The King is dead! Long live the king!” The combination of these two clauses mark both an end, and a beginning–the first marks the end of an era, immediately followed by the arrival of a new era. So it may be with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Organization 1 – The NRA

There is little doubt that those of us who are involved in shooting sports have at least heard of the NRA. If you have been around long enough, you probably remember the tag line that “the NRA was chartered in the state of New York in 1871 to improve the shooting skills of post-Civil War Americans by encouraging people to engage in competition shooting.” For nearly 100 years, its primary focus was target shooting, hunting, and sportsmen, with only sporadic involvement in national gun legislation. One indicator of its success is reflected in the statistic that in 1940 there were more organized gun clubs than organized golf clubs.

However, NRA detractors interested in protecting the Second Amendment are quick to point out the NRA advocated for enactment of the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Yet, since the mid-1970s, and in the wake of members’ malcontent over the 1968 GCA, the NRA incrementally shifted its focus to fighting infringements of the Second Amendment from increasingly hostile anti-gun activists, and legislatures. Although unable to suppress the passage of 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, it was successful in promoting its sunset provisions, and the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)” in 2005, an act designed to protect manufacturers from suits alleging they should have foreseen their products would be used in violent acts.

The NRA is currently caught up in several imbroglios, both internal and external. The external pressures are a function of anti-gun forces trying to reduce its lobbying influence on Congress. In one instance, New York state is investigating the NRA for alleged violations of its original charter, and non-profit status. Internally, the NRA is entangled in suits and counter-suits with its former public relations firm, and in allegations of fiscal impropriety by its Executive Vice President, as well as accusations of cronyism levied against its bloated, and sometimes figure-headed, board of directors. One result of the in-fighting is the abandonment by former NRA members from what is seen as a non-functional, unresponsive, and ineffective organization that is pro-gun in name only, and is only nominally pro-Second Amendment.

Organization 2 – The NRA

One of the recent boasts from the NRA leadership is that it has five million gun owners on its rolls. One implication from this is that there are five million voters who would resist legislation infringing on the rights of gun owners.

Another implication is that many of those five million are eligible to vote in the NRA annual elections. As a matter of note, annual members who have been so for five or more years are eligible to vote in the annual NRA elections, as are its life members. However, very few eligible members do vote annually.

The argument levied here is that instead of abandoning the NRA, we, its rank-and-file membership, should stay and fight to defeat the cronyism in the board of directors, demand accountability from the executive leadership, and restore a solid heading toward the goals of providing firearms training and education, and protecting the Second Amendment. A grass-roots assemblage of NRA members is trying just that: “Save the Second.” Its “vision is to save the Second Amendment by strengthening the National Rifle Association. We hope to grow the NRA’s membership, improve its public image, and secure the NRA’s long-term ability carry out its stated purpose of protecting our ‘individual rights of self-preservation and defense of family, person, and property,’ as provided in Article II, Section 1 of the NRA Bylaws.”

The “Save the Second” suggests the NRA can be salvaged from its current malaise and imbroglios through five goals: (1) Reducing the number of the board of directors; (2) Establishing terms limits for its board of directors; (3) Requiring board members to personally attend directors’ meetings; (4) Encouraging rank-and-file membership engagement, and thereby requiring accountability from the executive leadership and the board of directors, and (5) returning the NRA’s focus to “firearms-related activities and causes (gun safety, education & training, recreation, competition, hunting, collecting, [2A] advocacy, etc.).”

“Save the Second” has already launched an effort to achieve one of its goals; a petition from its membership proposing the adoption of an amendment to the NRA bylaws that establish attendance requirements for its directors. The next board of directors meeting convenes in September, after which the “Save the Second” promoters will publish its decision.

If you are a member, or former member, of the NRA join with “Save the Second.” Perhaps we can turn the NRA to its being a pro-firearms advocacy organization we can all be proud of supporting. Only after trying to right the ship and failing can we legitimately abandon it.

Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

Training? I don’t need no stinkin’ training

What is the difference between training and practice?

As a firearms trainer, one of the first tasks I ask of students is to describe their experience with firearms. Most of them answer something like, “I’ve been shooting since I was X years old,” or “I’ve been shooting for ‘X’ years.” Fill in the “X” with any number you choose. Only rarely do I see references to formal training.

Don’t get me wrong–learning the fundamentals of shooting while relatively young is a great thing. Most of the time, we learned something variation of “Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction,” quickly followed by actually shooting whatever was at hand with a short lesson on how to aim. Very likely, that first experience focused around hunting. For some of us, this is the extent of our “formal” firearms training, other than the hunter safety course required before getting a hunting license.

For some of us, the first formal training we received happened after we joined the military. Most often, training there included safe handling, operation and maintenance, and sighting fundamentals, followed by dry and live fire. Others of us may have sought out formal firearm training for beginners. I suspect most of us tried to apply our training with varying degrees of success. This brings me to the point of the differences between training and practice, and the importance of training. Training is usually where a new skill is introduced, although we may also seek out refresher training, simply to get back to basics. Practice is the continued application of that skill.

The Importance of Training

As stated earlier, training is most often where new skills are introduced. However, training also can be environments for correction of bad habits. In training environments, you have (at least) another pair of eyes watching your technique.

As trainers, we do not watch the target, we watch the shooter. Most often we watch the shooter’s hands. By watching you as you move through your shooting exercises, we often can detect issues of stance, presentation, and shot release, and offer immediate correction that will improve your shooting skills. Another benefit of training is that we may remind you of concepts or techniques you may have forgotten.

Concealed carry training is arguably the firearm training presently in demand the most. However, going through a concealed carry class to satisfy whatever requirements your jurisdiction may have is like graduating from elementary school–it’s an achievement that marks a beginning, not an end. Defensive firearm classes build on the elementary skills that may have been introduced in your concealed carry class.

Defense training often includes presentation drills that concentrate on getting the handgun out of the holster quickly to deliver an accurate shot. Your training may also include situational (should I shoot?) training to help you to correlate your immediate environment, the threat, and your response. Training frequently includes movement drills that help you develop your shooting skills where movement may be required to effectively defend yourself. Whatever the defensive firearm training may include, think of more training as acquiring more advanced skill sets that will aid in your ability to defend yourself.

The Importance of Practice

As we stated earlier, training is where new skills are introduced along with reminders of other factors we may have forgotten. Practice, on the other hand, is trying to replicate the lessons learned in training. However, practice brings on its own challenges–one of which is how to measure, or gauge, our performance.

And, as we stated in an another post, it is also important to practice with a purpose. For example: Suppose your brand new, super duper, Never-Fail handgun has replaceable backstraps. How do you know which backstrap works best for you without quantitatively working that out through practice? Developing a practice session where your purpose is to assess which backstrap gives you the ability to place shots on target most accurately, and most consistently in the least amount of time would probably be a profitable practice. You may be surprised that the most effective backstrap is not necessarily the one you would have picked out of the box.

Skill drills are an excellent way to improve your practices. Nearly all the top competitors have developed skill drills to address and improve shooting weaknesses. Some drills concentrate on first shot delivery, others concentrate on multi-shot delivery, while still others concentrate or magazine changes, or changing shooting hands. One source for skill drills is Burnett Live Fire Drill Cards®.

The Cheapest Practice on the Market

Practicing our shooting skills costs money. Even if we hand load, rounds still cost money. The absolute cheapest, and arguably the most profitable practice in terms of ROI, is dry fire. Virtually every aspect of shooting can be practiced in dry fire: sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, presentation speed and techniques. All without the flash, bang, and recoil that instinctively induce reactions. Adding a shot-activated, light emitting device, such as a LaserLyte®, simply adds to the effectiveness of our dry fire practice. Here again, the most profitable practice is one done with a purpose.

The most important aspect of dry fire is to do it safely. Make certain no live ammunition is in the room where you practice. Make certain your firearm is unloaded. Announce to yourself–out loud–that your firearm is unloaded. A tool that may be useful, especially for handguns that require an inserted magazine to fire, is a BarrelBlok®, a combination empty chamber indicator and dummy round device with magazine adapters that allow slides to be racked without locking them back.

Bottom Line

Shooting well is a perishable skill. That means unless we practice and train consistently, our ability to defend ourselves, and those we care for, quickly, and most importantly, accurately will deteriorate.

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

To Thumb or Not To Thumb-That is the Question

Is The Thumb Safety an Anachronism?

Thumb safeties–one may deservedly ask if the thumb safety on contemporary pistols is an anachronism. We first do well to define what we mean by anachronism. One definition from Webster says, “A person or a thing that is chronologically out of place, especially one that belongs to a former age and is incongruous if found in the present.” This definition is the crux of this post. To put the question another way, “Does the thumb safety belong to a former generation of pistols, and is it incongruous when found on semi-auto pistols as they are currently designed?”

The Thumb Safety Paradigm

We would probably be safe in saying that virtually every pistol shooter is aware of the 1911-style handgun–and its thumb safety.  Interestingly, a precursor to the 1911, the Colt Automatic Pistol of 1900 had no thumb safety.1 The thumb safety offered a mechanism to prevent an inadvertent trigger pull, which would release a cocked hammer, and make the pistol go “bang.” The mere presence of a thumb safety in the “on” position requires that we adapt our manual of arms to disengage it so the trigger can be pulled, causing the hammer to strike the firing pin.

Enter the striker fired semi-automatic. There are some, however, who want the added comfort of a user-operated safety, even on a striker-fired handgun. Quite frankly, the cumulative affect of adding a thumb safety is negligible, and potentially can be a detriment.

Look Ma! No Thumb Safety

With the advent of striker fired semi-autos, the thumb safety disappeared. There was no hammer to release (or block). Since the firing pin strikes the primer, anyway, why not simply manipulate the firing pin. By adding a cocking protrusion on the firing pin, and modifying the fire control mechanism to place it under spring tension as a function of the gun’s inherent action, no hammer is needed. Mechanical trigger blocks, whether lever-style or the pivot style, ensure positive trigger engagement is present before the striker is released. Firing pin blocks ensure the firing pin (now called a “striker”) cannot move forward until positive trigger press is present. Various limitations on striker cocking and/or release also require positive trigger press. The combination of these elements obviate the need for a hammer. (Besides, a cocked hammer on a 1911 has to be dangerous because of the way it looks, right?) All of these positive control features also obviate the need for a thumb safety.

The Danger of the Thumb Safety

Many concealed carry licensees periodically rotate their “every day carry” gun (the wisdom of rotation is a discussion for another day). For some, a 1911, in some form or fashion, is among those in rotation. A problem arises when switching from a striker-fired semi-auto, with no thumb safety, to a 1911 with a thumb safety. Suddenly, another  step is required in the manual of arms, and one that may easily be skipped during a real confrontation, when our brain is least likely to be thinking–at least about our manual of arms, and releasing the thumb safety. The trigger is pulled, and nothing happens! It could be a bad day in black rock.

Two remedies come to mind: For many trainers, the first is never to carry an immediate reaction firearm that has a thumb safety. If you are going to carry a concealed handgun, make certain it is one that does not require, or have, a thumb safety.

Another remedy, if you are among the 1911-style aficionados, (and one that is probably in the minority among trainers) may be to ensure every semi-auto you own has a thumb safety, whether it’s a 1911 or striker-fired. If every handgun you may carry has a thumb safety, then at least your manual of arms is necessarily consistent. There are many competent trainers who argue that properly and consistently training can minimize, and likely eliminate, the probability of failing to disengage the thumb safety if you are ever in a scenario where an immediate action becomes necessary.

If you despise striker-fired handguns that have thumb safeties as options, do not put a 1911 in your rotation.

Of course, this discussion over thumb safeties presupposes there is no mechanical failure. Arguably, thumb safeties on 1911-style handguns may have a higher probability of failure than thumb safeties on striker-fired handguns simply due to the design mechanics involved.

Bottom Line

Carrying a concealed carry handgun is carrying an immediate reaction tool. When you need it, you need it now! Rotating between handguns with and without thumb safeties just puts yourself at risk. In the end, the decision to carry a semi-auto with a thumb safety is yours. But if you do, carry one consistently, and train with it.

Is the thumb safety anachronistic? From a mechanical design standpoint, very likely. From a carry standpoint, if every handgun in your everyday carry rotation lacks a manual safety, it probably is as well.

 

1 Jerry Kuhnhausen, The Colt 45 Automatic: A Shop Manual: Volume 1 In The Kuhnhausen M1911 Pistol Series, ed. Noel Kuhnhausen (McCall, ID: Heritage Gun Books, 1990), 7.

Practice with Purpose

Practice with Purpose

Infuse Your Practice with Purpose

Shooters often go to a range because we haven’t shot in a while, and simply want to “snap some caps.” I’ve done it. However, while shooting recreationally with no clear objective may satisfy our immediate penchant to shoot, why not combine that with focused practice. Why not infuse your practice with purpose?

Defensive shooting is a complex combination of skills that must be practiced to retain even a modicum of proficiency. Practice, correct practice, helps develop the neural pathways, aka “muscle memory,” necessary when traumatic events stun our higher level thinking into inaction.

Dry Fire Practice: Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast

An effective practice technique is to break your larger movements into smaller discrete events. One of the discrete events when drawing from a holster is ensuring you grip the handgun firmly prior to drawing it from your holster. Depending on the position of the holster, that may involve making sure your thumb presses into your body to get a firm handhold on the pistol’s grip. Another example may be one where you may have a thumb-break holster, that discrete movement may be to position your hand so that the thumb-break is opened at the same time the web of your hand hits the back of the pistol’s grip.

In the beginning you may have many small events, perhaps as many as eight. Keep it basic. Don’t add cover garments in the beginning. Concentrate on a proper grip, drawing the handgun straight up from the holster, rotating the muzzle from vertical to horizontal, adding your support hand, and moving the handgun to a shooting position, all while ensuring you do not sweep yourself or someone who could be standing next to you with the muzzle. It helps to number each step, and count them off, cadence-like, as you practice them. It’s fine if your beginning practice is somewhat disjointed, like a robot whose timing is off. Slow is OK. You’re building new neural pathways-it’s identical repetitions that count, not speed. Don’t rush. With continued practice, some steps will merge, your movements will become smoother, and the numbers in your cadence will decrease.

When dry firing, do NOT practice in the same room where you keep your ammunition, and triple check your firearm to ensure it’s empty before starting your practice session. You may also consider using dummy rounds, barrel blocks, or laser emitting simulators in your practices.

Range Practice: Keep Records

It’s important to infuse your practice with purpose while on the range, as well. Have a clear goal in mind. For example, part of your range practice may be to concentrate on holding proper sight alignment and sight picture through the moment of firing. It’s helpful in this sequence to shoot at a target with no images or bulls eyes, just blank paper. Remember to follow-through, that is after the recoil, bring the sights back on target, and keep them there for a moment. Later, in defensive pistol exercises, the follow-through becomes part of your scanning for other threats.

Another approach may be to practice specific drills, such as double taps (shooting twice in quick succession). Start slowly, striving for accuracy. Once you are consistently hitting the same spot, only then increase your speed by decreasing the interval between shots.

When practicing with purpose, keep records of your practice sessions. Recording your practice sessions gives you two advantages: The first is that your records hold you accountable for improvement. The second is that your practice sessions are recorded so that improvements are measurable. Don’t worry if some sessions don’t go as well as you had hoped. Some days of shooting are better than others–what you are looking for is improvement trends. Are you improving over the relative long term?

Two items that you may want to acquire for practicing with a purpose are a shot timer and drill cards. Both are available from a variety of sources. Avoid using your cell phone with a shot timer app by itself. Cell phones don’t have the audio discrimination required to accurately track your activity. However, there are attachments available that plug into the headset jack of most phone that do improve the phone’s ability to track shots.

Wrapping Up

Practicing with purpose hones your defensive pistol skills by giving you measurable steps and goals, and by building on the neural pathways (“muscle memory”) that may be needed in a defensive situation.