“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
There’s four schools schools of thought when it comes to firearms training:
- I don’t need it, because I learned how to shoot in the military/police/whatevs
- I don’t need it, because dammit I’m an Amurican, and shootin’s in my blood.
- I probably need it because I know I don’t know enough about gun safety or how to use my gun.
- I know I need it because there are specific firearms skills I need to improve.
If you’re in groups one or two, you still need training, we’ll get to why in a bit. If you’re in groups three or four, you’re right, you do need training, and good for your for realizing it.
Reason #1 for Firearms Training: You don’t know how bad you really are
Let’s diverge here for a moment for a video of one of my co-bloggers shooting her very first 3 gun stage with a rather sweet JM Pro Mossberg shotgun specifically designed for 3 gun.
3 gun, in case you were wondering, is kinda like shooting a practical pistol match, except you’re using (wait for it…) three guns: A rifle, a pistol and a shotgun.
Now Jaci is a very good pistol shooter (better than me…), but she struggled when faced with a new challenge like shooting and reloading a shotgun quickly under the artificial stress of competition because she didn’t have any practical experience with this type of match. However, by watching this video, she learned what she needed to learn, and sought out some training from some of the best shooters in three gun.
This video allowed her to see where her troubles were and make the necessary corrections to solve the problem, and this sort of thing is ONLY available when you have someone else around you who knows what they’re doing.
In other words, a training class. And yes, she won the video contest.
If you just hang out with your friends and shoot and you think you’ve got all the firearms skills to pay the bills, what are you doing to get better? What are you doing to fill in the gap between what you THINK you can do and what you actually CAN do? If (God forbid) you need to use your gun in a defensive situation, you’re not going to rise to the occasion, you’re going to fall to your lowest level of training.
If you shoot with people who know what they’re doing, great! Here’s hoping you’ll find a trainer who knows what to teach and how to teach it.
Reason #2 for Firearms Training: Documentation, documentation, documentation.
Let’s say the absolute worst happens and you are forced to defend your life with a handgun, and the prosecutor finds reason to bring you into court and defend your actions in front of a jury. Two things are going to happen: You’re going to wish you had some legal protection to help cover court costs, and you’re going to want to show the court that yes, you were in fear for your life and no, you had no other option to use lethal force, and nothing proves that like documentation. You can SAY that’s you’re good shooter and have been around guns your entire life, but if you can enter documents into the record that SHOW you’ve been trained in safe gun handling, shoot/no shoot situations and civilian counter-ambush training, you’re way ahead of the game. This is also why you want to get a CCW permit even if you live in a “constitutional carry state like Arizona: The more you can show you’ve done you’re homework, the more likely the jury is to believe your side of the story is the right side of the story.
The bottom line is, if you’re a newcomer to firearms want to learn how to safely shoot and enjoy your new gun or if you’ve grown up around firearms and shot your entire life, you will benefit in some way from getting good, solid training that fills in the gaps in your shooting skills.
Take a few moments and watch this video.
Yes, that is an actual promotional video for a California-based “tactical” firearms training company, and yes, that is every bit as unsafe as it looks. To top things off, all that “training” they’re doing is pretty much useless.
Why? Because those “drills” they’re doing aren’t really drills, they’re scenarios: Very, very, VERY dangerous (and stupid) “scenarios” and those people are risking their lives performing them for the camera. Don’t just walk away from a trainer who asks you to do something like that, RUN.
Ok, now that that’s over with, let’s start by defining some terms so we can figure out what we need to learn in a firearms training class and how we’re going to learn it so we can avoid those people like the plague they are. We need to learn…
Skills: The ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well
This is the basic operations required to perform a task. This is what we actually want to perform on demand when needed, be it drawing from a holster, trigger press, reloading a gun, whatever. Everything in training should be based around this core foundation: If it’s something like, “Oh, cool, that looks like fun!”, (Like, say, hanging off a rappelling harness firing an AR-15 when you’re not a SWAT team member), it’s not training, it’s recreation. We’re going to improve our skills with…
Practice: Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency
Simply put, practice improve skills. You do the same thing, over and over again to get better at the skill you’re trying to develop. This is to firearms what kata is to the martial arts. For every firearms skill you want to develop, there’s a practice routine you can use to develop it. The one thing to remember is that practice is not about doing things FAST, it’s about doing things the CORRECT way every single time. We figure out how well we’re practicing skills with…
Drills: Strict, methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise
Simply put, if you can compare your ability to do a consistent, predetermined practice routine against somebody else, it’s a drill. El Presidente, Tueller, Mozambique, USPSA Classifiers, they’re all drills because there’s only one way to do them and the results of any given shooter can be compared against their past results and anyone else who shoots that drill.
Now, most trainers I’ve seen with shy away from drills because they can have a dampening effect on a student’s desire to learn: If you get your @ss whipped by someone else in a class, it may hurt your desire to go back to that class. However, I think you won’t know how far you’ve come unless you know where you’ve been, which is why I’ve been using the same drills for almost three years now to track my progress, and it’s been encouraging to know that yes, I am getting (slowly) better at this sort of thing. Stringing a bunch of drills together in a bunch of different ways is called…
Scenarios: An imagined or projected sequence of events, especially any of several detailed plans or possibilities
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. All those skills you developed with practice and kept track of with drills now come down to this: Can you deliver the shot when it’s needed under some kind of artificial stress? Simply put, a firearms training scenario is a series of drills strung together in a way that requires an element of problem-solving and critical thinking to complete correctly as quickly and accurately as possible. Scenarios like a shoot house, USPSA stage, IDPA match or a Figure Eight “drill” all require the shooter to put together different skills developed through practice while under some form of artificial stress, such as a timer or “realistic” training environment.
So if you’re walking into a classroom for a firearms course and the instructor seems to be more interested in talking about about the high-speed, low-drag tactical operations you’re about to do in his class but can’t talk about what actual firearms skills you’ll be developing while doing so, you’re not enrolled in a training class, you’re enrolled in a armed forces fantasy camp. Next time, look for an instructor who can teach, not lead a team of wannabes.
I was on the Talking Guns with Kate Krueger show last Sunday, talking about, well, guns.
Have a listen now:
Owning a gun is just the first step on a journey. Guns are not self-protection talismans that ward off evil-doers all by themselves: You have to have it handy when you need it and you need to be ready, willing and able to defend your life and your loved one’s lives, if, God forbid, the need to do so arises. I applaud Sherri Shepard for doing what thousands of other people have also done: In order to keep her family safe, she has chosen to purchase a defensive firearm and become her own first responder.
The alarm and it’s warning terrified Shepherd, her husband Lamar Sally and their son Jeffery, despite the police arrived seven minutes later to reassure the family it was simply a false alarm.
Nonetheless, the devout Christian who has taken a more conservative stance on a number of recent hot-button political issues to make The View’s roundtable, declared they were buying a gun.
‘I’m trying to calm Jeffrey down and all I had was this wicker basket,’ Sherri said. ‘I have nothing, a bat, nothing. We’re going to get a gun.’
And that’s what this website is about.
If you’re a first time gun-owner, we’ll help you get your gun out from its box underneath the bed (or wherever) and onto the range. At TeamGunBlogger, we’re not tactical ninja SWAT types and we’re not ex-special forces with years of experience in the sandbox. We’re people like you who have chosen to purchase a gun (If I’m honest, more than one…) for self-protection and enjoy the shooting sports. We’ve gone down the road you’re about to go down, and we’re here to help guide you where needed.
Stick around, and let’s enjoy the journey together.
I’ve been a fan of mini 9mm pistols for concealed carry since I purchased a Sccy CPX-1 in 2007. My history with the Sccy has been a little chequered, (it’s gone back to the shop three times), so I carry a Smith and Wesson Shield now. Even with that history, I’m still a big proponent of the combination of size and firepower that a sub-subcompact 9mm brings to the table, and they have the added value of having roughly the same manual of arms as their bigger cousins, the 9mm service pistol. Which is good, because despite their popularity, these are not good guns for a beginning shooter: Their small size means they have more recoil and kick then bigger 9mm’s, and that small size also equates to a shorter sight radius, making longer shots a bit tougher.
Here’s a semi-complete roundup of all the mini/pocket 9mm’s out there, set up so you can quickly compare features such as price and weight against each other gun. Scroll to the left to see all the columns.
[table id=1 /]
(1) Assuming 0.441 ounces for each 124gr 9mm cartridge and .355 ounces for each .380 100gr cartridge
(2) Concealablity Index =
( 0.75(Length) x Height x 1.25(Width) x 1.5(Loaded Weight) )/100
(3) Firepower Index = ( Energy In ft/lbs x bullet weight in grains x Capacity)/100. 124gr for 9mm’s, 95gr for .380.
(4) A full can of soda weighs about 13.76 ounces
* I couldn’t find a review for the AMT Backup in 9mm. If you know of one, leave it in the comments
IWB = Inside the Waistband holster. OWB = Outside the Waistband Holster.
SAO – Singe Action Only. DAO – Double Action Only. Striker – Striker fired. SA/DA = You guessed it, both Single Action AND Double Action, depending on how you use it.
Long, boring description of what this means over here, but for now, just think SA = better, smoother trigger but needs a safety, DA/Striker = kinda sorta like a revolver. -ish.
I added in other pistols like the the Glock 26, which we don’t often think as part of the “mini 9mm” group but is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to size, weight and firepower, and other guns like the Kel-Tec P3AT and the Glock 19 to compare the pocket 9mm’s to their smaller and larger siblings. And why the CZ P07? Because I like CZ’s, that’s why! (And it’s also an occasional carry gun for me as well).
The Firepower/Concealability Indexes were just my way of quantifying how easy any particular gun is to carry and how much oomph it brings to the party. If you like the idea or think it should be tweaked a bit, let me know in the comments.
And why weight in soda cans? Because I suck at judging weights, that’s why. In my mind, there’s not heavy, heavy and “lift with the legs, not with the back.” But a can of soda? I know how heavy that is. Imagine carrying around two full cans of soda on one side of your belt all day long (like a Glock 19), and you’ll know why pocket 9mm guns are so popular for concealed carry.
Kevin’s Note: My choice of all those is the Smith And Wesson Shield, although if CZ made something in this size, I’d probably buy that instead. I like the Shield for its combination of size, capacity, ergonomics and trigger: It’s not the smallest, thinnest, lightest or least expensive, but it covers all of those bases very well.
Jaci’s Note: Once I made the decision to purchase a carry gun, I spent a few months handling and shooting several pocket/CCW style pistols. The LC9 impressed me with its slim form, light weight and long, but smooth trigger pull. During my search for a carry pistol, I was able to shoot the LC9 on a back up gun stage at a practical pistol match. It was so easy for me to operate, I was instantly sold. One of my favorite features of the LC9 is the extended magazine floorplate. I can get a solid grip on it with my right hand, which helps me shoot it more confidently and accurately.
AKA Intro to USPSA 090
Duck Dynasty is the #1 show on basic cable. Top Shot is returning to History Channel. Guns are selling in record numbers. The clampdown on gun ownership proposed after the Sandy Hook massacre has failed, and despite Joe Biden’s tough talk, gun control just isn’t a priority for the American public right now.
In short, it’s safe to go back to the range again. If you’re one of many, many new gun people who have bought their first gun these past few years, now is a great time to think about different ways to enjoy going to the range. Along with thousands of other people, I’ve found that practical pistol is a great way to have fun with a pistol and learn how to use it safely under the stress of competition.
I didn’t get into the shooting sports because I grew up around guns, (though I did quite a lot of shooting in my youth), I shoot because a) it’s FUN and b) I want to protect my family’s life from a lethal threat. I am fortunate to have a home range that is ground zero for USPSA in my area, so I thought I’d write a quick guide for everyone out there who want to get into USPSA but doesn’t know where to start.
Two quick points:
- I’m not “high speed, low drag” (the opposite, in fact’¦) and I’m not a Tier One Tactical Operator, I’m just a guy who thought practical shooting might be a fun way to get in some firearms training under stress, so this advice is coming from someone whose first time at a match wasn’t that long ago.
- There are two major organizations for practical pistol in the United States: the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). What’s the difference between the two? Lots, and yet, very little. What it boils down is that USPSA tends to have more specialized equipment, and IDPA tends to focus on “real world” application of things. If you need an analogy, think of USPSA as Formula One, and IDPA as NASCAR.
Which is better? That’s for you to decide.
This is the basics for USPSA Production class, which is for “stock” semi-automatic pistols. Now before you start thinking that it’s the Little League of practical shooting, some of the best shooters in the world compete in this class, but don’t worry, you don’t have to live up to their standards. USPSA (and IDPA too) is set up so marksmen of comparable skill compete against each other, not against the top guns.
What You’ll Need
A serviceable and safe semiautomatic pistol in 9mm.
Almost anything out of the box in that caliber is good to go as is, as long as the magazine can hold ten rounds. Sucks to be you, New York. And yes, you can compete with a .40 S+W or a .45 auto, but Production division was set up with 9mm in mind.
A safe holster that attaches to a belt.
Nylon may (MAY work), Kydex or leather is better. No drop-leg, shoulder, cross-draw or small of back holsters. And a good stiff gun belt to hold everything secure on your waist.
Magazines and mag pouches.
Four is pretty much the minimum. In USPSA, you can shoot up to 32 rounds (without misses) on one “stage”. To make things even for states with mag capacity bans (sucks to be you, California) and to account for the varying capacities of a bunch of different guns, the USPSA mandates that Production guns can only start with 10 rounds in a magazine, even if the mag holds a dozen or more rounds. 10 rounds a mag, 32 shots… You do the math.
Ear and eye protection.
Safety glasses and good earplugs are a start. I like electronic earmuffs, myself.
What does this add up to, cost-wise?
$500-700 for a new pistol. Glock, S+W, CZ, Springfield, H+K, whatever. If you own own of those already, you’re in. If you don’t have one already, get something you like, know how to use and are comfortable with. If you’re one of the thousands of people who recently bought a pistol for home defence, go ahead and use that. I did.
$50-100 for the holster and magazine carriers. Bladetech, Safariland and Blackhawk! are all good brands to look out for. Hard plastic nylon or Kydex is preferred, but soft nylon works as well.
$50 for a gun belt. I started out thinking a gun belt was just a “vanity” accessory and that any ol’ belt will do. It won’t. Think of the gun belt as the foundation that will hold the weight of your pistol and magazines as you run around on a stage. The better the foundation, the more secure your stuff will be.
$50-100 in spare magazines. Get at least four, because you’re going to be dropping these suckers into the ground over and over again, and stuff breaks.
$10-50 for a range bag to carry everything. Something big enough to carry all of the above yet easy to lug around with you from stage to stage. I saw a guy at a match last month with a DeWalt tool bag as his range bag, and you know what? It worked GREAT!
$50 and up for ammo. Here we get to the really expensive part of USPSA. A typical match for my club is 4 stages, each with about 25-35 rounds fired. Add in misses and the need to keep your spare magus full and you’ll soon see that bringing 200 or more rounds to a match is a good idea. The good news is we’re starting to see 9mm creep back into stock again, the bad news is, it’s at higher prices than it was a year ago. But don’t let the cost of ammo stop you: Practical pistol is worth the ammo costs, that’s for certain. And it’s STILL cheaper (and more fun) than a round of golf.
Pre-match preparation. Go to a match ahead ahead of time without your gun and see how things are run before you shoot your first match. Find someone there who can show you the ropes the next time when you show up. Know how to use your gun and use it safely. You don’t need to be Annie Oakley, but you should know how to load it, how to unload it, how to deal with loading or feeding issues and most importantly, the basics of gun safety. And be safe and have fun.
Is it worth it?
A practical shooting competition will quickly show you how well you perform under semi-stressful conditions with a firearm. Under the artificial stress of the timer, simple things like reloading an empty pistol become the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and hard things like hitting a 25 yard head shot become nigh-impossible. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more you become confident in your firearms-handling abilities. Todd Green, who knows more about combat pistol training than just about anyone else out there, said it best:
Possibly the biggest benefit of competition is that it is often the most stressful shooting many people will ever be exposed to. While obviously not the same as being in an actual gunfight, shooting in a competitive event in front of peers and strangers will do a great job of showing you just how easy it is to make mental mistakes under stress. Learning to stay focused on the task at hand and building experience fixing mistakes under pressure both have legitimate real world payoffs.
At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to competition shooting for the ‘œdefense-minded’ shooter. But, the pros are pretty universal’¦ and the cons are really only cons if you let them be. Because whether you stay true to your original purpose or give in to the dark side and become an absolute gamer, you’re still getting more time on the range and more experience shooting complex problems under stress. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that winning at a game makes you an honorary gunfighter, competition is a fun and effective way to become a better shooter.
This is the reason I do this, (well, that, and it’s FUN) and it’s the same reason why humans have used games to train for combat since the days of ancient Greece. We train to be good when it doesn’t matter so we can be good when the highest stakes we have are on the line.