I've written before of the need to match the training you get and the equipment you use to the life you actually lead, not the life you fantasize about leading.
What does this mean? It means that if you're training with a full-sized tricked-out autoloader on the weekends, but the majority of your waking hours are spent with a 5-shot revolver in a pocket holster, your training isn't going to be congruent with your expected use. Training done under such false pretenses is of significantly lesser value than if you’re honest with yourself up front.
It’s a better use of your limited time, money and energy to train with the tools that you are most likely to be using, rather than picking training gear because it looks cool or because it's what your instructor/guru uses or because it gives you an edge in the all-too-common class shoot-off.
Similarly, if your training event focuses on things like running through a shoot house taking out 'tangos' in various 'hostage rescue' scenarios, you're not training realistically either. You wasted training resources that could better have been used to simulate the kinds of attacks that are likely to happen to you at work, at the gas station, or in your home.
Even if you've covered all those plausible scenarios, it’s still not a good use of your resources to train in ways that aren’t similar to your life. If you take a class in advanced hostage rescue team tactics, that class will use up resources that could have been used doing things like taking a course in how to deal with massive trauma (a skill far more likely to be needed even than drawing your gun) or in de-escalation techniques or even in defensive driving. Those are skills which are far more likely to be needed for events which are far more likely to happen to you (by at least an order of magnitude) than being faced with a jihadi-infested three-story building.
"All trigger time is good" is a fallacy. Poorly planned or selected trigger time keeps you from focusing on more plausible, and thus more important, skills.
Sherman House, a dental surgeon with whom I have a passing acquaintance, has made a similar pilgrimage from tactical silliness to reality. He recently penned an essay for the I.C.E. Training Journal where he discusses his evolution and what his training looks like today versus what it used to look like.
Great reading and very much recommended. -=[ Grant ]=-
Occasionally I'll run into an instructor who is teaching appropriate, plausible skills but who insists on using the "another tool for your toolbox" metaphor. Why would he or she intentionally handicap the material in that way?
Sometimes it's because what's being taught lacks internal consistency. The skills and concepts don't relate to each other well, or perhaps the plausible skill contradicts another less plausible one. This happens when the instructor has no overall philosophy for the course as a whole, and has simply gathered what seems 'cool' from disparate sources and stuffed them all into a toolbox of a course.
Very often the toolbox metaphor is used to mask the fact that the instructor is not capable of explaining the technique in terms that the students can grasp and apply. This inability to articulate why a skill is valuable or useful can be simply due to a lack of teaching skill, but often it's a cover for an incomplete understanding of what’s being taught.
If the instructor doesn't understand the material at its core, both in terms of how to perform the skill but also the reason for learning/practicing/evaluating that skill, it's easy to fall back on telling the students that it's another tool for their toolbox. The students, having heard that saying from other instructors or seen it used in books or articles, are goaded into accepting the lack of explanation.
This is also the case when the instructor isn't capable of answering the questions that the students are capable of generating. While this is often due to a lack of deep understanding, it can also be a defense against those rare students who are wedded to a particular point of view and will not accept logic and reason when the material contradicts what they've trained previously. I speak from experience: it can be tempting to fall back on the toolbox metaphor when faced with such a vocally intransigent student, but I believe professionalism demands that I resist the urge. (It also demands that I resist the urge to hit them upside the head with a two-by-four, which I’ve so far been able to do. I will admit to being sorely tempted, however!)
It’s admittedly difficult to explain to any student that a technique or concept has a very narrow range of application, but that it still falls within that plausible range of expectation. When I teach a full (two day) Combat Focus Shooting course, for instance, at the end of the second day there is a drill that teaches a specific technique to address a specific kind of threat that isn’t adequately handled by any other method. I certainly could tell the students “it’s another tool for the toolbox”, but that wouldn’t give them the understanding they need to put the technique into context.
Instead, I take the time and expend the effort to explain the very narrow but plausible circumstances under which the technique is justified, the logical reasons why it’s the most intuitive response to that type of a threat, and why they shouldn’t waste an inordinate amount of their limited training resources practicing the technique extensively.
From the standpoint of instructional integrity I think it’s important to not allow oneself to slip into the habit of using a trite explanation like “another tool for the toolbox.” It’s far better to explain the reason for the material, its expected use, and the frequency with which it needs to be practiced to maintain a certain level of proficiency. If the instructor can do that, there is no need for the toolbox nonsense; if he or she can’t, it should give the students pause.
Whether to cover up for a lack of plausibility or to disguise an issue with the ability to teach the material, the "tools for the toolbox" metaphor is at best a smokescreen. If you're taking a class from someone who uses it in place of rational and complete explanation, it's a sign that you need to be asking questions and getting clarification before accepting the material as being valid.
In many of the classes I teach one phrase (or a variation) comes up with disturbing frequency: "another tool for the toolbox." Not because I say it, but because sooner or later a student will say it.
Then comes The Lecture.
As many of my students will attest, I hate that term. When it's uttered in class I take the time out to explain why I hate it, why it's nonsensical, but most importantly why it's dangerous from the standpoint of learning defensive shooting skills.
The toolbox metaphor seems useful; you buy tools (learn skills), and then when you need the tool to do a job you can go to your toolbox, pull out the tool, and use it for the task at hand. In reality it's more like you have an overflowing toolbox full of low-quality implements, none of which you've actually used because you've not run across the need for them yet - and then you suddenly have a woodworking problem only to realize hat all of your tools are for a machinist!
The toolbox analogy is usually used to justify, as opposed to explain, a technique or concept. If a technique has a plausible use there is no need to justify it; the use itself will be sufficient justification. It's only when the technique doesn't have a plausible use that it becomes necessary to explain why it's being taught by using the self-referential toolbox analogy: "we're learning this technique to put in our toolbox because we have a toolbox to fill."
In any given class there are things which I could teach which don't really have much (if any) application to defensive shooting, particularly defensive shooting as applied to the sudden criminal attack (ambush.) They're neat, they look cool and will impress your friends, but they have no application to defending yourself against the attack you didn't know was coming. I could concoct some ridiculous hypothetical instance in which that technique might be useful, but the less relevant the technique the more outlandish the scenarios become.
Why, you might ask, would I be teaching such a thing if it really doesn't have any application to the life my students lead? That's when the toolbox comes out: you don't need to worry that it doesn't seem useful, it's just another tool for your toolbox in case you need it! The students are mollified and I can continue filling the time with things other than what the students really need to know.
The toolbox metaphor, however coyly phrased or authoritatively uttered, is a red flag that what you're learning really doesn't have a plausible (let alone probable) use, which means you're probably spending time learning stuff other than what is likely to keep you safe. The toolbox is a waste of your limited training resources, resources that might be better spent learning things that will actually save your life.
Sometimes, though, the instructor will use the toolbox to cover something that actually is useful and plausible. If something is obviously useful, why use the metaphor? I'll cover that next time.
Mr. Guthrie bases much of his article on conversations with Ed Head, the industry veteran who most recently was chief of Gunsite. The article was pretty lackluster until Guthrie got to the part where he described Ed's practice and recommended use of the .380 pistol: he carries two of them, draws them simultaneously, and shoots them alternately at the target. Yes, you read that correctly: one in each hand, blazing away Hollywood style.
Guthrie calls this "unorthodox". I call it something else which I’m ashamed to repeat in a family blog.
If you've not fired one of the uber-small .380 pistols, they're a bit of a handful. Shooting them one-handed guarantees that your balance of speed and precision will suffer greatly compared to getting both hands on one of them. It does not matter how much you practice, you will always be less able to shoot one-handed than two-handed. Also no matter how much you practice, one of those hands will always be worse than the other. *
Shooting them alternately means that not only do you have much diminished control, it means you need to switch your attention between them constantly. You're using precious time and energy re-aligning each gun on target for one shot, which is much more difficult than aligning one gun after successive shots. What's more, even when you’ve spent that time and energy half of your shots will be slower and less precise than the other half, and all of them will be slower and/or less precise than shooting with two hands!
Wouldn't it be better to draw one gun, get both hands on it and achieve a superior balance of speed and precision, then if needed drop it and draw the next (a 'New York reload')? Yes, I believe it would. The .380 is not the complete weakling some make it out to be, and I think you'll find Greg Ellifritz's data show that where it's used six or seven rounds of .380 often end the fight. The faster you can get those rounds onto the target, the faster the fight is going to end. Alternating the shots from two guns simply makes that process longer.
While the article doesn't specifically say so, the genesis of the technique centers around Head's assertion that the small .380 pistols cannot be reloaded easily. He seems to believe that having two guns eliminates the need for a time-consuming reload. There might be some merit to that belief, IF the guns were used successively and the New York reload done when one ran dry.**
Doing this sequentially would at least mean that if you ended up running one dry and needed to access the second gun, you'd already have been able to put a full ammunition load into your attacker far faster and with greater precision than shooting one-handed alternately. You're more immediately disrupting his activity and lessening the amount of time you're exposed to danger.
Shooting the guns alternately simply gives the bad guy more time to hurt you - and, I submit, it's a whole lot MORE time. I can deduce absolutely no upside to this method.
Well, according to Guthrie there IS one: it makes you look like Antonio Banderas. No, I'm not kidding - he really said that. He calls the effect "impressive", without ever explaining exactly why or how shooting less precisely and more slowly is impressive.
That, then, is really the crux of his presentation - it makes you look cool!
I'll say this as plainly as I can: if you choose your defensive shooting technique because it makes you look cool you are simply foolish. That's also the best word to attach to this technique. I'm surprised that anyone would write a glowing article about such nonsense, and I'm surprised that Shooting Times would publish it.
But the bad judgement doesn't stop there! I'll talk about that on Wednesday.
-=[ Grant ]=-
( * - There are people who insist that they shoot "just as good" one handed as two, or that they shoot weak hand "just as good" as strong hand. Remember that shooting is always a balance of speed and precision; shooting as precisely but slower is not as good, and shooting at the same speed but with less precision isn't as good, either. Only if you can shoot with the same balance of speed and precision one-handed as two-handed, or weak-handed as strong-handed, can you claim to be "as good". I've yet to meet the person who can.)
( ** - Personally, I'd need to test that assertion for myself before I accepted it, and that's before factoring in the complication of realistically practicing the technique. I have done such a test with two revolvers, and found that the New York reload has very little advantage. I believe the results would be less persuasive with two auto pistols, given their reloading efficiencies.)
(Note: I am omitting names in this article, not because the information is secret but because I want to focus on a concept. The incidents I talk about are public knowledge and can be found with about 15 seconds of Googling; if you really want the nitty-gritty details, feel free to do the searching - but please don't bring that information in to any comments here, as I want the discussion to center on the ideas not the players. Thank you.)
This last week two seemingly unrelated events came to the attention of the shooting public. First, a trainer whose background is supposedly Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) violated some cardinal safety rules and shot an assistant instructor three times; second, a well-known shooting retailer published an article on their blog that promoted what is universally considered to be an unsafe act when holstering a gun.
In the first incident, the trainer in question has produced some videos (one of which I've seen) that show techniques I find rather dubious from a safety aspect. They're presented under the guise of being "real world" special forces training and aggressively sold to people in the private sector.
In the second incident, the writer (whose pictures and videos show a certain laxity with regard to trigger finger discipline) presented a technique for "safely" reholstering guns like the Glock. This technique required the the shooter to put the trigger finger into the trigger guard behind the trigger to ostensibly keep if from moving backward if caught on something. It was supposedly developed by a Marine-turned-police officer, whose "secret" work necessitated anonymity.
Fans of the instructor who shot his assistant tried to downplay the negligent shooting by invoking nonsensical terms such as "big boy rules" and "real world" safety. Because the instructor was formerly a special forces soldier his methodology, we were told, would be different and we needed to apply different standards of safety to him and his methods.
At the same time, the author of the article in question defended the technique by invoking the inventor's status as both a Marine and an undercover cop. Because of his undercover work, we were told, his technique was "real-world" and needed to be judged under a different standard of safety.
The linkage between the two is obviously safety, but it goes well beyond that. Both incidents are infused with a liberal amount of the logical fallacy of 'appeal to authority' - that is, the material being presented is valuable (or not unsafe) because of the position of teacher/inventor. What concerns me is that so many people will actually fall for that.
Just because someone was a special forces soldier, Marine, or police officer doesn't automatically make a technique or an opinion correct in all cases. First, because of context: just because it's valuable in a war zone doesn't mean it's applicable to you in your home; second, because the authority (real or perceived) that someone receives from his job doesn't mean that his opinions are infallible. If you assume either (or worse, both) of those you can end up adopting wholly unsafe and inappropriate techniques, not to mention the loss of valuable time training and practicing them.
It's up to you to look at everything you read, see, or experience in a class with a critical eye. Just because someone is famous or holds a certain position doesn't mean he's right! You need to ask yourself whether what you're seeing is safe, applicable to your own life, and addresses a plausible need.
More importantly, the person who is promoting that technique or idea must be able to give you more justification and explanation than simply "I'm special forces/SWAT, and unless you are too you’re not in a position to question!"
Whenever you encounter a technique justified only (or at least primarily) by the status of the person who invented or is promoting it, you should immediately question its validity. Anything you learn with regard to defensive shooting has to make sense, it has to address a real need, and above all it needs to be safe. If there isn't a rational explanation forthcoming, if all you're given is appeal to authority, then you should be extremely wary of both the material and the person feeding it to you.
Up until now we've heard only from Jerry Tsai, the editor of RECOIL. FIrst he said that he stood behind what he wrote, but that he simply worded it unclearly. (Remember that one of the reasons he cited for the gun being unavailable to "civvies", and with which he agreed, was that it served “no sporting purpose” and was bad for cops and soldiers - both common refrains of the Sarah Brady crowd.)
When the industry started taking notice he wrote a second "apology" where he claimed that what he printed was just what HK told him. I sincerely doubt that any company the size of HK uses words like "civvies" and "scumbags"; even a first-grader can read the item and see that it wasn't written by the maker of the product. The words were Jerry's, through and through, only this time he claims they really weren't.
The exodus of advertisers was swift; I named some of them on Monday, and in the intervening days many more have jumped ship - including industry behemoth Magpul, who virtually defines the modern concept of "shooting style". If you're aiming at the twentysomething crowd, and you don't have Magpul on board, you're nothing.
Apparently that reality has yet to occur to Joe Galloway, who is the Associate Publisher of RECOIL. He sent this communique (in its entirety) to advertisers this morning:
RECOIL Magazine’s Position:
In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:
· It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.
· The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.
· Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
Quite honestly, if you read the article, it was one paragraph that was actually quoted from the manufacturer and we did not state it that way. Recoil has 26,000 likes on face book and the magazine has only been out for three issues and issue number 4 is just hitting the streets. I honestly believe that this will not hurt the magazine. I have not lost anyone as a result of this and do not expect to.
Joe Galloway Associate Publisher 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Phone 813-675-3493 Fax 813-675-3557 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant: Jennifer Conklin 813-675-3507
Several things stand out. FIrst, Tsai admitted writing and agreeing with what was published in his first "apology". Now his publisher says Jerry didn't write it, an assertion which directly contradicts what his editor said. Then he has the temerity to claim that the magazine "has not lost anyone", despite the number of companies who have publicly cancelled their involvement with them.
As I said on Monday, the new generation of shooters needs their own magazine. This one, bankrolled by someone whose political associations are highly suspect, may not be it. The shooting fraternity still needs a magazine like RECOIL, but it needs to be one which doesn't compromise on the Second Amendment. Could RECOIL become that magazine? I have my doubts, especially after their publisher dug in his heels to support the status quo, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if they truly repent.
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-Rob Pincus -I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading, – JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Sincerely, Jerry Tsai Editor RECOIL
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck excuse apology. I find that odd coming from an editor! Having worked for a number of editors, and knowing the hawk-like attention they pay to what comes out on their watch, it seems rather incomprehensible that one would blithely regurgitate a manufacturer's inflammatory talking points while simultaneously adding his own clear and obvious agreement.
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
Someone sent me this link to a story on Tactical-Life.com about the Center Axis Relock (C.A.R.) system of Paul Castle. At the outset it's important to note that I don't think much of this "system", largely because it asks the shooter to do a number of things that aren't congruent with how the body reacts to a threat stimulus. It may or may not have some use to military or police tactical teams when in a proactive mode, but since I'm neither of those I'm not qualified to judge its tactical usefulness in those areas.
I can, however, comment on the intellectual inadequacies of one specific part of the story. In the fifth paragraph of the article, the author defends the C.A.R. system's extreme bladed position with regard to body armor. One of the criticisms of this exaggerated stance is that it exposes the weakest part of an officer's (or soldier's) body armor to the threat. The author’s rejoinder is that the system places the bones and tissue of the upper arm in a position to protect that vulnerable spot.
Seriously, that's what it says.
There was a shooting instructor back in the 1950s or '60s (whose name I'm not recalling at the moment) who recommended that the pistol be shot one handed, with the weak hand reaching across the chest to the strong shoulder to put the bicep roughly over the heart to provide protection. Gosh, why aren't we still doing that? If the bones and muscles of the upper arm are sufficient for protection of vulnerable areas, why are we wearing body armor at all?
The whole idea of body armor came about because flesh and bone have proven to be quite inadequate at stopping bullets. In fact, that's exactly the kind of material that bullets are designed to defeat. While a muscled arm may slow the bullet down a bit, it's still going to go through and into more important organs. Body armor exists because bullets go through muscles, and we've expended many resources to give people ever-better armor with fewer and fewer vulnerable areas.
The sides and arm holes are a well known weakness of all armor, and the recommendation has always been to keep the front area of the armor pointed at the threat if at all possible. There are many stories of soldiers and cops killed because a bullet (or piece of shrapnel, in some cases) made its way into the body by way of the open space around the arm - the size of the bicep notwithstanding.
There are those who will read the article without questioning. Unless they think critically, examining both the author's assumptions and logic flow, they might be caught up by the recasting of a flaw as a feature.
It seems that I’m always looking at new riflescopes. I'm pretty particular about image quality, and given how I tend to treat field gear (roughly!) I also need a scope that will stand up to abuse. In past years I've been happy with the price/performance balance of the IOR/Valdada and Leupold scopes I’ve owned, but their optical quality isn't as good as the more expensive brands. I’ve had the privilege to use a Schmidt & Bender scope, and while I love the optical (and mechanical) quality I can’t afford the stiff tariff! I’m thus in a constant quest for something approaching the quality of the S&B, while costing closer to the Leupold. Believe it or not, there may in fact exist such a scope.
At SHOT I managed to stumble upon the Premier Optics booth. Premier is familiar to me (and I suspect a few of you) as the maker and installer of custom reticles in Leupold scopes. Unbeknownst to me, a couple years back they decided to start making their own scopes. They hired some very experienced German scope makers to do the engineering, then started building them here in the U.S. I've got to say that what they've come out with is stunning!
Premier was showing their two basic lines: the Tactical line, which features 34mm tubes and the biggest, best adjustment knobs I've ever handled; and the Light Tactical line having 30mm tubes and smaller (but still big) knobs. I examined the scopes closely, and did a quick-and-dirty optical evaluation. I could find no obvious spherical or lateral color aberrations and no field curvature. The scopes have great contrast while color, to my eyes, was a little on the cool side (but not so much that there was a cast.)
The Premier rep assured me that all of their scopes would pass a box test with flying colors and return to zero perfectly. Given their long experience in military and long range competition circles, I’m inclined to believe them!
I was particularly taken by their Light Tactical 3-15x50. I has very solid click adjustments, and they even built in a mechanical turns counter so that you don't get confused trying to remember how many clicks you've put into the adjustments. Neat!
Turns counter, underneath dot on upper turret, shows the number “1” - meaning the turret has been rotated one full turn.
As noted, optical quality was top notch, which is not surprising considering the pedigree. All reticles are in the first focal plane, making rangefinding with the mil-dots a snap at any magnification.
I did a double-take when I looked through their new 1-8x Tactical scope. At magnifications under 3x you see a red dot, designed for speed of acquisition and rapid close-quarters shooting. Once the magnification is set beyond 3x, the reticle magically changes into a standard cross-hair mil-dot! It's a cute trick, and I can see this scope being very popular with AR-15 shooters who want its unique attributes.
Like with anything else, quality costs - but not as much as it might from some of the German brands. Yes, you’ll spend north of two grand for the cheapest of their scopes, but given the very high construction and optical quality I think that’s a bargain.
There were quite a few vendors of what has come to be called ‘tactical gear’, things like pouches and bags and load-bearing equipment, at SHOT. One I'd not heard of is Marz Tactical Gear, a Phoenix-area company who proudly marks their stuff as Made in USA. They showed a couple of products that intrigued me.
First was a first aid kit pouch perfectly sized for a trauma kit. Called the "Patrol IFAK", the pouch will hold a tourniquet, pressure bandage, a roll of hemostatic gauze, and a few incidentals. The cool part is that the back is covered with Velcro, and they have a matching plate that straps onto the backside of an automobile headrest. This keeps the kit in a known and easily accessed location; in use, you simply grab the handle and rip the kit from the mounting plate. You can then take it to where it is needed. Very useful; I think I'll be buying a couple of them.
The other thing that caught my eye was what they call their "Field Kit". It's a large piece of waterproofed Cordura nylon attached to a couple of zippered pouches. The pouches can hold cleaning supplies, lubricants, or even spare parts. When unrolled you have a decent-sized work surface to catch parts and keep dirt away from mechanisms, with the pouches on one side for easy access to the aforementioned incidentals.
It would make a great field cleaning station or armorer's go-anywhere emergency shop, and might be very useful for the instructor who occasionally needs to fix a student’s gun. A neat little idea to make life in the field (or at the range) a little easier.
All week I kept hearing about Mossberg's new "tactical" lever action. At least a half-dozen people told me that I just had to go see it, so I did.
“Tactical” has officially jumped the shark.
My initial reaction: “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Where to start? Mossberg managed to design out all of the lever action's positive attributes while adding very little to its usability. The collapsible AR-style stock wobbles and doesn't have a comfortable grip; the rails add unnecessary weight and make holding the forearm quite unpleasant; and the action was, to put it charitably, rough.
The myriad protrusions of the butt stock and fore end rails simply destroy the smooth, snag-free handling that is one of the chief virtues of the lever action. It's a rifle that has been styled as opposed to designed, perhaps by someone who might not have had the opportunity to become familiar with the lever action and how it is best employed.
Available in .22LR or .30-30, I'm sure it will sell - just like the Taurus Judge sells. I'll stick to my traditional models, thank you, as they've proven themselves capable of a wide range of tasks, without poseur bolt-ons, for quite some time now.
(This is a perfect example of my belief that the rifle, particularly the lever action, is a general purpose tool. The more crap you hang on it, the more specialized and therefore less useful it becomes. My AR-15s are pretty much stock, and I've found that they're the most versatile in that configuration. As my eyes continue to deteriorate I may have to fit them with optics, but even then I'll make sure that the choice will leave them usable for the variety of tasks I expect to encounter. The same can be said of my lever actions. Someone at Mossberg, in my opinion, just doesn’t Get It.)
I had several things about which I wanted to write, but frankly I just can't muster the enthusiasm today. Some of them involve idiots outside our ranks who want to restrict our freedoms, while a couple more involve idiots inside our ranks who want to argue because they want to argue.
Instead I've decided to look at the lighter side of shooting. Presenting, for your edification and amusement, a couple of satiric YouTube videos which are so close to reality that some are apparently finding it difficult to discern the difference. First is the "Most Tactical AR-15 EVER!:
But wait, there's more! He's also done the "Most Tactical Loadout EVER!”, where he captures on video -- for the first time -- the super-sekrit Gecko45 reload using crossed, duct-taped magazines.
A personal item: I hate this whole getting older thing. This last week I stacked our winter's firewood supply in the woodshed - all five cords - and managed to do some soft tissue damage to my right elbow. The last time I remember doing this was about five years ago, when I was doing a lot of hammering during a kitchen remodel. My wife, however, tells me I did the same thing last year when I stacked wood for the winter. That's another part of getting older I can't stand: the memory lapses!
Anyhow, my elbow is quite painful and I'm none too happy about it.
Last month a Colt Paterson revolver sold at auction, setting a new record for the price of a single American firearm: $977,500. Yes, you read that right - within spitting distance of a cool million. Somehow the S&W I'm carrying at the moment seems tawdry in comparison.
For those who have asked, the Kindle version of my book is available NOW!
Just as I was going to press with today's blog post, The Firearm Blog put up news of a new rifle: Advanced Armament Corporation's "Honey Badger", a subsonic .30 caliber rifle built on the AR platform. Tacticool rifles are getting common enough to bore me to tears, but I'm glad they named it what they did because it gives me the opportunity to link to one of my favorite YouTube vids: the (famous) "Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger"!
Omari Broussard talks about 'cool' techniques over at his blog this morning, and I agree with him.
About four or five years ago I took some heat from other instructors over the term 'Walter Mitty Training', which I used to describe techniques and courses that weren't grounded in reality. It's the kind of training one takes to pretend to be someone else (or somewhere else), because preparing for plausible scenarios just isn't a whole lot of fun.
Truth be told, I'd class most of the 'tactical' training out there as Walter Mitty or very close to it. There's a big difference between performing a tightly choreographed obscure skill after making ready, and trying to decide between fries and onion rings when you're unexpectedly forced to defend yourself.
Context. Plausibility. Two words that are absent from far too much training.
As I see it, the only compelling reason to use autoloading cartridges in revolvers is because they require moonclips, making for blazing fast reloads. I suppose there might be some argument for the fellow who owns a .40 autoloader and wants a revolver to play with without the bother of stocking two kinds of ammunition, but really: how many of those people are out there?
The claim that it can be used as a backup to an autoloader and thus benefits from sharing ammunition doesn't compute: if you need the backup, it's probably because you ran out of ammunition for your primary gun. If that's the case, what are you sharing ammo with? It didn't make a lot of sense a couple of years ago when it was announced, and hasn't gained much in the intervening time.
Jeff Quinn over at GunBlast did a review of a special edition Ruger GP100. The Wiley Clapp edition features non-standard dovetailed sights, an interesting matte stainless finish, and - hold still my beating heart! - a return to the original GP100 grips with inserts, dolled up for this gun.
(One of the dumbest decisions to come from Ruger’s management lately was replacing their perfectly usable grips with the execrable Hogue Monogrip. Glad to see they didn't throw away the molds!)
I'm not sure about the claim that the gun is "built for defense" - I'd have done things a bit differently and I see at least two important features missing - but it's a nice treatment of the old warhorse and an indication that Ruger still takes their revolvers seriously. Just wish they'd do so more often!
Everyone, it seems, has their name on a gun lately. The Firearm Blog tells us that Mossberg recently brought out the Thunder Ranch Model 500 shotgun. Supposedly designed by Clint Smith, it features a shorter stock (12-3/4" length of pull) and a stand-off door breaching muzzle. In fact, very little other than the aforementioned muzzle and the much-appreciated shorter stock. And that huge TR logo with the expected higher price.
Seriously, a door breacher on a defensive shotgun? Someone has finally jumped the shark, but I can't decide whether it's Clint or Mossberg.
(It's my considered opinion that the perfect home defense pump shotgun would be an Ithaca Model 37 Defense in 20ga with a few minor enhancements. The Ithaca is the smoothest, easiest-cycling pump I've used and is a joy to shoot. You listening, Ithaca?)
There is a certain segment of the training community that makes quite a fuss about teaching techniques randomly collected from SWAT teams, Special Forces (ours or someone else's), or SEAL Team Six. (It's always Team Six, because they're apparently the coolest. And the only one which the average Mall Ninja recognizes. Good for marketing, you understand. I feel for the guys on Teams One through Five though, suffering with the knowledge that they're not nearly as cool.) These classes are usually sold to the public as being "full strength" or "not watered down for civilians" or some such twaddle.
I have two concerns with such courses. First is the applicability to prIvate sector self defense and the resulting drain on our training resources. Many of these techniques, such as shooting while running toward a threat, are offensive in nature and require either attaining initiative or being part a large enough group to be able establish and maintain sectors of fire. No matter how convoluted the logic (and I've heard some twisted justifications), this doesn't have much to do with the kinds of self defense incidents that you and I are likely to face. They are a lot of fun, I'll concede that point, but we need to keep in mind that we all have limited training resources (time and money.) If one spends precious training resources doing things that aren't at all applicable to the task at hand, it means that something which is really needed won't get trained.
The second issue I have is that of safety. For any drill or any technique, the benefit of the activity needs to greatly outweigh the perceived risk. Perception, I need to emphasize, is relative. What is risky to a real-deal SEAL is very different than what is to you or me! A SEAL puts himself in extreme risk on every active mission, and as a result his training is correspondingly riskier. That doesn't mean that they take foolhardy chances, but it does mean that the nature of their job requires them to practice things that are far more dangerous than what you or I need to practice. A drill that would seem boringly safe to them may in fact expose us to an unnecessary -- and correspondingly unacceptable -- level of risk. A downrange drill (one where students are downrange of other students shooting), for instance, has some value to those guys whose job it is to kill people and break stuff; in my never-to-be-humble assessment, it has near-zero value to those of us who face criminal threats here at home.
Getting hurt in a training drill that has no plausible application to the average citizen's life is a double fail. How to avoid it? Be discerning in your training. I realize the overwhelming desire to relate one's reality-show-like adventures to the guys in the office on Monday morning, but being practical will make you better prepared. It will also ensure that you leave the class sporting the same number of orifices with which you arrived.
The limitations of the equipment that we discussed in the previous installment aren't the only things that affect the utility of force-on-force training. The way that drills and scenarios are approached is important as well.
I'll use two terms to describe broad categories of FOF training. Drills are man-against-man tests of mechanical or physical skills: drawing the gun, moving off the vector of the attack, and so on. Scenarios, on the other hand, test decision making and information gathering skills. They may also include a physical/mechanical component, but their primary purpose is to test judgment.
At the top of the list, as it always should be, is safety. FOF training demands a sterile, segregated environment. Any course that doesn't enforce both should be avoided at any cost. The risk of accident is too high to trust anything other than a rigorous, and rigidly enforced, exclusion zone for live weapons. That means all weapons: firearms, knives, chemical and electrical weapons. The only weapons allowed inside the FOF training area should be simulated - and that goes for the instructors, too! If you encounter a FOF course where the students are required to disarm but the instructor(s) aren't, that's your cue to leave. Vociferously, I would add.
As I mentioned last time, a drill or scenario which continues past the first shot is suspect. As I’ve pointed out, the lack of ballistic effect on both ends of the muzzle means that multiple shots from a simulated handgun have little to no value. If the scenario or drill is set up so that the gun serves as a marker, a device to signal force has been used and how successfully placed that force might be, then there is no need for more than one shot. If, on the other hand, it is set up so that some predetermined number of shots have been fired or - worse yet - unlimited shots are allowed, then its value as a teaching tool must be questioned. Remember that any simulated munition has value only in that it provides first round accountability; after that, it's just recreation.
It’s common to see FOF drills that attempt to teach something which is affected by a student's foreknowledge. For instance, a student knows that he's in a FOF class, he's got a loaded sim gun in his holster, and he knows that the drill is testing his reaction time or ability to do a specific task. His anticipation of the need to shoot is sky high. If the technique works, all it shows is that the student could do it when he had advance warning of the event. Would it work if he wasn't already primed for action? The trouble is that this can't be tested in FOF, because there will always be that anticipation. FOF drills must be carefully selected so that the skill being developed or tested isn't negatively affected by that anticipation. They also can't be used to justify training that benefits from anticipation, a fault I see all too often.
I've seen FOF courses that employ students as both attackers/antagonists and defenders/protagonists. With the possible exception of what might be akin to a martial arts flow drill, where the same pattern is repeated multiple times to build familiarity, I don't see the point in letting students fight things out. The antagonist in a FOF drill or scenario is the agent by which the protagonist, the student, learns whatever lesson is being considered. I don't see where the learning occurs if both parties are ignorant of the lesson.
Allowing two students to go at each other, no matter how well coached, seems to invariably devolve to the the equivalent of a dodge ball game. This is exacerbated by the lack of ballistic effect which we discussed last time. Students as counterparts works; students as teachers, I'm not at all sure of.
Scenarios that test decision making are a natural use of FOF. Here, too, care must be taken to ensure that there is actual instruction. One flaw I see is that scenarios are designed with arbitrary outcomes, and the student spends his or her time not evaluating the environment for what it actually is but rather for what the instructor wants it to be. In other words, the scenario becomes a puzzle where the student is figuring out the instructor, not the situation. This is very common in 'tactical' shooting matches, and is part of the reason that even the best stage design isn't all that realistic. The scenario has to be designed so that the situation, the interactions, and the conclusion are all plausible.
That's easier said than done! It is very difficult for a scenario designer to avoid bringing his or her idiosyncratic biases into the design. Scenarios shouldn't be puzzles and shouldn't be difficult to figure out, but it seems that many people are intent on making them so. If the student is forced to examine vague and misleading clues in order to arrive at the 'correct' solution, how does that in any manner relate to a plausible real life interaction? It doesn't, and that's the point.
At the same time, the people playing the antagonists in scenarios have to be good actors. A thug on the street behaves in ways that we all recognize (or should recognize), and the person playing a thug needs to be able to replicate that behavior. If he/she can't, then the protagonist is back to figuring out the puzzle rather than reacting to a real stimulus. The actors must be well practiced and disciplined - again, another strike against students being used in such roles. (Heck, it may even be a big strike against many instructors. I know how a crackhead acts, but I also know I’m not a good enough actor to recreate one realistically enough to teach a student what such an interaction is like!)
This is true even in drills. The antagonist already knows what the student is going to do, or at least has a very good idea. That foreknowledge allows him to act and react in ways that a real attacker couldn't or wouldn't. This skews the results of the lesson, and requires that the instructor both take the role and be able to play it as 'straight' as possible.
It sounds like I'm not a fan of FOF. That's probably true on some level, because I don't think it has the wide application that so many think it does. I think that it has some use in very specific circumstances, but not as a general teaching tool. Its utility is probably in well thought out scenario training, and less so - perhaps much less - in simple mechanical drills. To be valuable it has to be carefully conceived and implemented, something that doesn't seem to happen all that often. It's not the ultimate test of defensive preparation, as some contend, but properly and sparingly used it can be valuable.
Force-on-force ('FOF') training has become all the rage in the last couple of years, with some instructors making it a hallmark of their courses. Everyone, it seems, is buying Airsoft pistols and touting their FOF credentials. Supporters of the concept have done a very good sales job, as I routinely am asked if my courses have a force-on-force component.
Such questions remind me so much of my college days working in a camera store. People would walk in, look at a lens, and proceed to ask how many elements it contained. That's a useless bit of information to anyone other than an optical engineer, but these folks had been told by someone, somewhere that it was an important question to ask. They didn't understand the question, and certainly didn't know how to interpret the answer, but by golly they were going to ask anyway!
I've played with FOF a bit (yes, I bought the requisite gas-powered Glock lookalikes.) Understand that I don't claim to be guru at FOF, nor am I a super-tactical-high-speed-low-drag-tier-one-operator kind of guy. I am, however, fairly intelligent, reasonably well informed, and possess an inexorably analytical mind. I can truthfully claim to be a good diagnostician - figuring out how things work and, more importantly, why they don't. I also don't believe everything I'm told, no matter how well sold it may be.
What I see too often with regard to FOF promotion is a certain lack of critical thinking about the concepts, and it starts with the equipment used. FOF naturally is limited to the ability of the equipment, so it's important to know what the gear does and does not do.
Whether AIrsoft or simulated munition, FOF guns all do one thing: to the extent that they mimic a gun you actually own, they give you first shot accountability. That's it. Read that again, because it's important to the discussion. This is all they do!
When you discharge an Airsoft in a drill or scenario, where the first round hits will probably be pretty close to where it would have hit had you used a real gun (within the range limitations of the pellet, of course.) In other words, if you used a simulated Glock 19 and you regularly carry a Glock 19, you can be reasonably sure that the first simulated round would be representative of a real round.
Understand that this is only true if the guns match. If you use the Glock Airsoft in FOF training, but actually carry a Beretta 92, the value of that first round has been diminished. You don't know for certain that you would have shot your Beretta just like you shot the Glock simulant.
Beyond the first round, the predictive value drops to near zero. This is because of a lack of ballistic effect, from the standpoint of both the shooter and the shootee. Simulated rounds don't have the recoil and muzzle rise of a real gun, so each additional shot can be made much faster, with greater precision, than can real rounds; the shooter's balance of speed and precision is skewed. If the technique you're learning in FOF only works when you can discharge 10 rounds in under a second, how valid will that be when you're using a real gun with which you can't?
Just because a person can land multiple, fast shots with an Airsoft does not mean that he'll be able to do so with a real gun. At the very least, he'll shoot a real gun slower and with greater deviation than a simulated gun. Any conclusions drawn from the second, third, fifth, or ninth shot with Airsoft or Code Eagle has virtually no predictive quality with regard to a real gun with real ammunition.
The first time I picked up an Airsoft and started doing drills this became clear. As I was going through the exercises I thought "I'm kicking butt!" I quite literally put down the Airsoft, picked up a real Glock, and tried the same thing on the same target. Surprise! I couldn't shoot nearly as fast, with nearly the deviation control, that I could with the Airsoft gun. What, then, was the value of those extra simulated shots from the standpoint of the physical shooting skill?
The lack of ballistic effect is important on the other end as well. The pellets - be they Airsoft or paint capsules - don't stop people. There is no effect on the target other than a small sting (if that), and there is no cumulative damage. This means that where a real bad guy might start slowing down with the first shot and might be on the ground with the third, the simulated opponent can continue full speed, full power charges through the tenth, twelfth, or fifteenth round. The rejoinder, of course, is that one never knows how many rounds it will take to stop an attacker (true), so one should keep shooting until the threat goes away.
This also is true, but we have to go back and reconsider the lessons from the preceding paragraphs: you can't shoot a real gun that way, and the target won't react that way, so where's the learning happening? It's a vicious circle: with simulated guns, the more rounds you fire in an attempt to be 'realistic' the less 'realistic' the exercise becomes.
This is the basis for my belief that, in most cases, force-on-force drills which continue beyond the first shot are probably not of great value. They may be fun, may be exciting, but one has to critically examine whether they're really teaching us anything that is relevant to an actual encounter.
Next time we'll look at the structure of FOF drills and scenarios, and some of the issues they raise.
A large percentage of accessories produced for the AR-15 comes under the heading of "tacticool" - fashionable, but of dubious value. Every once in a while, though, someone comes up with something that screams "now why didn't I think of that?"
AXTS Weapons Systems has introduced a slightly modified AR-15 lower that addresses the issue of manually locking the action open. With a normal AR, to lock the bolt back you have to find and manipulate a tiny bolt catch with your left hand, while operating the charging handle (designed for left-handed use) with your right hand. Whether you're trying to clear a double feed under fire or just locking the action open as an administrative task, it's a juggling act. If your hands are a little on the small side, like mine are, it's even more awkward.
The A-DAC Lower Receiver adds one internal part: a plunger that goes between the magazine catch and the bolt catch. When the magazine catch is pressed, the bolt catch is activated. With this system, locking the bolt back is simply a matter of pressing the magazine catch with the right hand (like we always do) and operating the charging handle with the left hand (which we always do.) The procedure is now consistent with all the other ways that we normally handle the AR, and consistency is a big contributor to efficiency.
The Firearm Blog has an article and a video about the lower. (The comments show a certain lack of comprehension: the magazine catch is not transformed into a bolt release, only a bolt catch, and the gun still functions completely normally for those people who aren’t aware of the modification. From a training standpoint, I don’t see a downside. I do agree with the rants about the stupid 'action' music, but then again most of the shooting shows on television do the same cheesy thing. I'm talking to you, 'American Guardian'!)
My only concern is whether the plunger can get bound by oxidized lubricants or dirt, thereby activating the bolt catch inadvertently. Time will tell; I'll give the system a year or so, and if this concern proves to be unfounded I might just buy a couple for myself.
Last week I heaped scorn and derision on AR-15 foregrips ('Pharoah's Beards'), and feedback suggests I need to expound on the subject.
The issue with foregrips is that they limit how you interface with your rifle. That's a fancy way of saying that they get in the way; instead of the hardware (the rifle) allowing flexibility in use, it becomes more specialized - less flexible. The rifle no longer responds to the user's will, rather the user now must adapt to the accessory's limitations, in addition to the rifle's.
As long as the AR-15 is being shot from a standing, squared off position, the Pharaoh's Beard feels like a great invention. A real incident, however, may demand more. The shooter may have to contort himself into a stable firing position because of the surrounding cover; the opponent may be at a radical angle (in any direction) from the defender's point of view; rapid fire from a compromised 'stance' may be needed as the defender rapidly moves relative to the attacker.
When any of those things happen, the changed body position requires a modified relationship to the rifle. With a plain forearm, the support arm simply moves to the necessary position and the shooting commences. With some sort of foregrip hanging off the rifle, one of two things will happen: the shooter will doggedly maintain a grip on the thing, all the while trying to get his body to do things that it isn't structurally capable of doing, or the shooter will realize that the grip isn't working, and try to maneuver around it to get to the best placement. Sometimes he can, more often he can't, because that accessory is taking up the very space he needs. Bottom line: less-than-optimal shot placement and less-than-optimal response times.
Most people test these things in a range-perfect stance of some sort; they don't push themselves or their equipment. In such undemanding circumstances, foregrips seem to work well. The further from that ideal world, the less well they work. You can decide for yourself if that's meaningful to you.
I see this frequently with students in class. Georges Rahbani, who I've mentioned many times in this blog, runs his 'Fighting Rifle' course as a triad: three separate 2-day classes, based on real-life encounters, that rapidly ramp up critical survival skills. The first class has the students working on fairly traditional range platforms: standing, kneeling, etc. Foregrips seem to work in that environment, because they're designed to facilitate just this kind of handling. The environment isn't asking much of the shooter, which is important to understand.
By the time the second class rolls around, students discover that they're not in Kansas any more. The environment now asks much more of the shooters; the concept off 'ideal' is dispensed with, and 'field expedient' becomes the new paradigm. As that occurs, the students who showed up for the first class with gizmos and gadgets on their rifles find themselves hurriedly removing them during breaks.
Why? Because they've discovered that their options are limited, not increased, by added hardware. They've learned that the situation dictates their response, not the other way around. The more universal their equipment, the easier they can adapt their response to the situation; the more specialized the gear, the less they're able to do so. Conceptually, this is the same thing I said last week; substitute 'gear' for 'technique', and the same lessons apply.
There is also an issue with attitude, with perception of the rifle's role. Georges asks his students: "Is your rifle a fun toy, or a serious tool?" If it's strictly a recreational object, a ballistic tinker toy, go wild - hang whatever you want on it. (Tacticool accessories, it must be admitted, are a heck of a lot of fun and building just the "right" configuration can be an enjoyable hobby in itself. Machined aluminum is like bacon - it makes everything better!)
Otherwise, save that money and use it to buy more ammo. You'll be better off.
The Firearms Blog reports that KBP, the Russian arms maker, has introduced a "tactical" version of their MTs 225 revolving shotgun. (Basically, they took their standard sporting arm and added a folding stock.) You can make what you will of the revolving shotgun concept, but I liken it to the various revolving rifles which have come and gone: this is a good idea, why?
I now realize that I like looking at beautiful sunrises more than beautiful sunsets. I'm sure there is some deep psychological significance to that preference, but it as yet escapes me.
Everyone, it seems, is making a "tactical" pen these days. Benchmade, Schrade, Tuffwriter, Hinderer, Surefire - and now Smith & Wesson. Who will be next?
I have nothing against the concept, as it's simply a return to the roots of the familiar Kubotan (the techniques for which were originally intended for the common Cross-type pen.) These, though, all look like rejects from The Mall Ninja Outlet Store. I have half a mind to make one myself - classically styled out of real rust-blued steel, of course.
One of the better (most balanced) preparedness blogs extant is Jim Rawle's SurvivalBlog.com It's one of the few blogs on my morning "must read" list, and has been since I found it several years ago. This morning he posted the sad news that his wife Linda has died after a long illness.
He's shared the progress of his beloved in the blog, and while not a shock it's still depressing to hear. My wife and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Jim and his family.
It's necessary, if one is to maintain proper perspective, to learn from those whose experience is different from yours. Take, for example, an interview with a WWII Soviet tank crewman (thanks to Tam, who finds the most amazing stuff.) What he says about the Sherman tank, the Tommy gun, and the .45ACP cartridge are very interesting and definitely challenge certain widely held opinions.
(When you read what he says about the mighty .45, think back to the very similar stories regarding the .30 Carbine.) If you have any interest in WWII, armaments, or the nitty-gritty of battle, it's a great read.
If you go to a car show featuring hotrods from the '50s and '60s, a common sight will be a pair fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. They're always carefully chosen to complement the paint color, and I've even seen fastidious owners arranging the dice "just so" to get the proper look. Fuzzy dice are an accepted, and expected, part of the decor.
Take those same fuzzy dice, run over to the Tour de France, and hang them from Lance Armstrong's bicycle. No matter what color dice you pick - to go with his jersey or the bike's paint - they'll just look silly. Fuzzy dice on a racing bike? Preposterous!
Yet, objectively, the function of the dice has not changed. That is, they really have no function. They don't do anything, they serve no architectural or mechanical purpose, they simply have mass and occupy space. They derive whatever value they possess from the context in which they occur, but that value is not intrinsic; it exists only because the context allows it to exist. Think of it as Second Life with mag wheels.
Once taken out of the expected setting, stripped of the value of that context, the reality of the fuzzy dice becomes apparent. Understand this: whether on a '57 BelAir or Lance's Trek Madone SL, fuzzy dice are silly. In the former case, we don't see them as silly because we've been conditioned to accept them in that environment. In the latter, if every Tour de France competitor were to carry them for a few years - perhaps a decade or more - they would become part of that context too. They'd still be silly.
The same is true for the tacticool accessories Tam questions. (A bit of a correction: the device hanging at the muzzle isn't strictly a white light - it's a combination light and laser.) We're accustomed to seeing lights, lasers, and milspec red dot scopes attached to autopistols. In the gun rags, in the movies, and especially in video games, we're told that "serious" guns carry these things. Tough guys, warriors and operators, have these on their guns. Thus the context is constructed, such that we no longer objectively analyze the value of those things.
Putting them on a revolver takes them out of context. (After all, "operators" don't carry revolvers!) Once out of context their true worth becomes easier to evaluate, and laughter is the result.
This whole idea of context is particularly important to those of us interested in the concept of self defense. There are a lot of instructors out there who teach what can only be termed range tricks. In class, the instructor's reputation and manner of delivery combine to create a reality distortion field that even Steve Jobs would envy; in that context even the silliest ideas sound valuable. They may be useless and even counter productive, but if the student can't evaluate them outside of their context that reality will be hidden.
The same thing happens with people who get their firearms training from Hollywood - what I've heard called the "Mel Gibson School of Firearms". In the movies, the good guy always orders the bad guy to drop his weapon. The good guy gives the bad guy a chance to redeem himself, to straighten out his horrible life and repent for his sins. Naturally the bad guy doesn't take that opportunity, wheels around to shoot the good guy, at which point our hero drops him neatly with a single shot. Roll credits.
Inside the context of the movie script, this seems perfectly plausible. Through repetition the scene is burned into our subconscious, to the point that we start to accept it as normal. Unless we learn to force ourselves to evaluate the behavior outside of the theater we may find ourselves repeating it.
This apparently happened to a certified good guy up in Washington a few years ago, who faced a gunman in a mall. From all reports, it seems the good guy drew his legally carried gun, then challenged the bad guy to drop his. Life isn't like a movie, and the rampaging gunman simply shot him - five times, paralyzing him permanently.
It's important to develop both the ability to look at things objectively and critically, and the judgement to recognize when it's necessary to do so. I'd say that anything dealing with defensive firearms needs such evaluation.
I recently received an email asking about the feasibility of mounting a light on a revolver. The writer was concerned about clearing his house at night and being forced to shoot one-handed with a separate flashlight. Would it be possible, he asked, to somehow mount a light to his wheelgun, to approximate those that are widely mounted on autoloaders?
That's a tough one to answer, because it's really two questions in one: can it be done, and should it be done.
I'll address the feasibility portion first: yes, it can be done, though the approach varies a bit with the make/model. In all cases, their are some limitations - mainly, the light has to clear the ejector rod as it swings away from the frame. The larger the light, the smaller the gun, and/or the more closely the light is mounted to the bore axis or to the cylinder, the more likely it is to interfere with proper cylinder opening.
The best choice is to make provision to mount the light in a forward position, in front of the ejector rod. This is the approach taken by S&W in their 327 TRR8:
The problem with this is that it makes activating the light on a momentary basis from a firing grip difficult (if not impossible.) One is left with the necessity to turn the light on and leave it on if one wants to shoot with a two-handed grip.
To provide a platform on which the light can be mounted, a short section of Picatinny rail can be attached (via screws) to the barrel's underlug. If the particular gun doesn't have an underlug, the barrel itself can be carefully drilled & tapped to accept the rail - only, of course, if the barrel is of a bull (heavy) configuration. There are also some clamp-on solutions available.
The other half of the question is "should you?" I'll put on my Tactical Tommy hat here, and say that I think it's a bad idea except in very specific circumstances.
For a gun to be used in an ensconced position the attached light has merit. All you're required to do is wait, and the light is nothing but a shooting aid: confirm the target, and allow a clear sight picture.
Using it to check your house, on the move, is another matter entirely. In this case, the light takes on multiple functions: navigation, search, identification, and (in the worst case) shooting aid. The trouble is that if it's attached to your gun, then you have a loaded weapon pointing in all sorts of directions that proper safety habits say it shouldn't!
A loaded gun is not a tool for navigation or searching, and using it as such is (in my opinion) irresponsible. Think of it this way: would you be pointing your gun in all directions and places in the daylight? I would hope that the answer would be 'no.' If that's the case, why would you deem it acceptable to do so in the dark?
The light on the handgun is a limited-use device. Don't try to make it into something it shouldn't be.