Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More on pistols...

From comments:
"Thanks for the great advice y'all. I'm still working on accuracy--I can reliably hit a 9" target at 25' slow fire with my Glock 23 (which seems to conceal well in the small of my back under an untucked polo or Hawaiian shirt) but I'm nowhere near comfortable with draw-and-fire yet. Practicing draw-and-fire at the range just doesn't seem safe. Will training with an empty weapon at home help?"
"Dry-firing," as it's called, is not only helpful-- it's mandatory.

1. Find a safe place with a wall that is safe. (If the unthinkable happens, where will that bullet end up? You want to know that it would be only embarrassing, not tragic.).

2. Unload your pistol by: removing the magazine, and THEN pulling the slide back sharply to eject the round.

3. Lock open the slide.

4. Double-check the chamber, by looking into it.

5. Triple-check the chamber, by feeling it with your little finger, with the muzzle pointed up.

6. Place your load in a safe place. Now, many people advocate putting the loaded magazine and Barney Bullet in another room. I happen to embrace reality. Put the load on a table in plain view. NOT in your pocket. NOT behind you. Place them in front of you, where you can see them at all times during the exercise. Thus you know exactly where your ammunition is while messing with your gun; you can SEE it.

7. Put away your other carry ammo. Got a spare magazine? Put it with the other ammo out of the gun.

8. Ideally, you have an empty spare magazine to put into the pistol for the right feel. If not, either unload one or do without. Using a loaded magazine in the pistol is NOT an option. Yes, the weight of an unloaded magazine is different from a loaded magazine. Learn to adapt. The almost empty pistol weighs different from the fully-loaded one, too. BFD.

9. Check it again. Unloaded? Good.

10. Place the cocked pistol in your holster/carrying position.

11. Find a good aiming point across the room. Door knobs are good. Light switches are great. So is your duty load, sitting on the table across the room and out of reach.

12. Start with your hands across your body, preferably clasping each other.

13. Draw smooooooothly. By the numbers: Grip pistol with shooting grip. Unsnap or release whatever retention device you have on the holster. Draw straight up and out of the holster. Begin moving the pistol forward, knocking the safety off as you put your support hand out. Place the pistol-holding hand into the open support hand. Align your sights with your target, placing your finger on the trigger. Press the trigger, following through with the sight picture all the way through the pull.

14. Continue scanning. Seriously, do NOT immediately re-holster.

15. Now, re-cock, and reholster and resecure the holster.

Do it again. A little faster. Try to get your draw set so that your sights are aligned by the time you look for them, on the target. Change targets. Try starting your draw with eyes closed.

If you're motivated, you can do this about 40 times while a Sunbeam coffee pot brews. Do it 10 more times for an even 50 every day.

Take the weekend off, and you get 250 a week.
1000 a month.

12,000 strokes a year.

THAT is how you build muscle memory.

Dry-fire at least 5 shots for every live round you fire in practice. You'll be shocked at how it improves your draw-and-fire.

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At Wednesday, October 24, 2007 5:38:00 PM, Blogger JD said...

don't forget the snap cap so you don't damage the firing pin. . ..

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 6:01:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Sure. If you want to.

But you know what?

I never do, and I take the firing pins out of my pistols when I clean them, and I never find them to be damaged. If I see them starting to wear, I can replace them pretty cheaply, and for almost no effort.

I've gotten snap caps before, but I lose them. If I held off dry-firing until I had snap caps again, I'd almost never dry fire. Not dry-firing is a bigger hinderence to your shooting ability than is dry-firing without snap caps.

Snap caps are not useless, but their use has been over-recognized.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 7:33:00 AM, Blogger Don said...

I was going to suggest a dummy round, too, but not to save the pin. I just like the extra step of putting my bright orange plastic fake round into the gun, plus it makes the checking very positive because you should see nothing but blaze orange in there each time you check.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Good points.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 12:04:00 PM, Blogger JD said...

Don - hadn't thought of it that way but the snap cap/dummy round is a good safety step. Have to remember that on the plus side for them next time someone asks. . .

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 1:39:00 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

In the army we would balance a dine on the front sight of the M-16 while dry firing. I have been doing that lately with my pistols to help work out my arms.

I have a full set of the plastic snap caps for the calibers that I rely on, .45 .357/.38 .223 .308 and 45-70.
I even have .22lr for when I do my dry firing with my Ruger MKII target.

My Routine is to unload every mag and put the ammo away. This gives me a chance to inspect the rounds and check the mags. I then bring out the snapcaps and load the mags/speed loader with them.

My next purchase is a batch of Aluminum Snapcaps for the 12GA. The plastic ones have Brass bases, and I want a visual difference.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 1:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A suggestion: if you don't feel safe doing your draw/fire from the holster, do the training Matt described. But just draw and present. Stop short of pulling the trigger. Do this with an unloaded (check it again), cocked and UN-Locked gun. For a Glock thats how it always is any way.

After your done practicing the draw/present a few times, see if the gun is still cocked. If not, you would have put a bullet some where you didn't mean to. If the gun is still cocked as started it means you're safe to do it with live ammo.


At Thursday, October 25, 2007 3:41:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Why, though?

Why not work on the extremely iportant issues of sight picture, trigger control, and maintaining sight picture through the trigger pull, while practicing the stroke? Add in the extra safety of unloading your firearm while doing the manipulations.

The stroke includes bang. If, during the draw, you see that the subject doesn't need to be ventilated but still needs a gun pointed at him (very narrow field of situations), you will find your brain screaming "Don'tShoot-Don'tShoot-Don'tShoot!" First time I had to do that, I found an indentation in the top of my right thumb, after, caused by my pushing the safety HARD into the UP (safe) position throughout the encounter.

At Thursday, October 25, 2007 4:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finding a "safe" wall is the trick. A 9mm/.40 bullet will pass through several layers of wallboard. You also have the problem of never really being sure of what's on the other side. It's safer to point the weapon at a solid object such as a stove or a TV (but not a flat panel). I have seen a 25" console TV stop a .357 round and a 20" stop a .380.

I would also not make dry firing a part of the draw action. Practice them separately, so you don't reflexively fire the gun when drawing on autopilot. That could be a problem in real life.

At Friday, October 26, 2007 5:01:00 AM, Blogger Carteach said...

Excellent post, and advice.

I don't do nearly as much of this as I should. I will do more now.

I do practice draw and fire at the range, from various carry options and positions.

By far, the toughest being bag carry and draw with my weak hand. Through that I learned to flip the bag around to the weak side or just forget the draw.

I've been asked... "You think you a gun fighter or something?" by a person at the range. I replied "It would be morally wrong to carry a weapon and not be practiced in it's use" (yes, I do talk like that... sigh).

I practice draw and fire, not just draw. I am not a police officer, and my first duty is to deescalate and evade violent problems, not seek out and control them. Should I have to fire in self/family defense that decision is most likely to have been made before I draw, not after.

At Friday, October 26, 2007 9:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The indoor range at which my wife and I practice in the wintertime explicitly FORBIDS practicing "draw-and-fire" from any kind of holster, under any circumstances. The only place we can actually do that is at the outdoor range, and only for about 8 months out of the year.

We usually expend our "carry" rounds during the first couple of magazines when practicing, and then replace with fresh.

With a 1911-style pistol, is there any problem with cycling the first round of the magazine into the chamber (for carry), and then out for dry-fire practice? What I usually do is pull the loaded magazine, thumb down the safety, and rack the slide to extract the chambered round. Then (without closing the slide) push up on the slide-stop to lock the slide back. I visually and physically check the pistol, and usually set it down somewhere with the slide locked back.

I then pick up the extracted round, look it over, and then put it back onto the top of the stack in the magazine, which is then set aside at the other end of the room. Pop in an empty magazine, drop the slide-stop while easing the slide forward,, put the safety back on, and re-holster. Then I'm ready to dry-fire.

But that same top round might get put in and out of the chamber a whole bunch of times before it gets expended in practice. I've never had a problem, but does this have the potential to create one?

At Friday, October 26, 2007 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent points all of them. I do dry fire often plus I use an airsoft replica every day, it's close enough to my carry Sig that the muscle and neuro pathways should be virtually the same. Obviously an airsoft requires safety also but you will never put a .45 into your neighbors townhouse with it!
Nurse Tim

At Friday, October 26, 2007 5:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Repeatedly chambering a round can lead to the bullet being pressed further into the cartridge case. This will raise the gas pressure in the case when the round is fired. If the pressure gets too high it can be dangerous.

How much is too much? I dunno. I'd say that if the cartridge is noticeably shorter than the others it probably shouldn't be fired.

For more precision, you can buy a cartridge gauge through Dillon Precision that will tell you if the round is too short for safety.

At Saturday, October 27, 2007 6:18:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Blackwing1 said:
"Pop in an empty magazine, drop the slide-stop while easing the slide forward, put the safety back on, and re-holster. Then I'm ready to dry-fire."

Blackwing, I don't find fault with anything you mentioned (assuming other safety precautions are being followed), except that you're "easing the slide forward."

Bad habit, Bud. The gun was designed to go into battery at full speed. Let the slide slam shut. Easing it closed is a bad habit that is easy to entrench and hard to get rid of. Hell, I did it at a carbine match a month ago, and got to hear "Click" instead of "Bang." That will embarrass and piss you off.

I absolutely agree that we should practice lots of draw and cover ONLY, but I think a lot of people are missing the point of how important it is to practice getting your draw and shoot to become one seemingly continuous motion. (It's actually about six separate actions, pushed together.) I'm not speaking as one who is a super-duper pistolero whom others should attempt to be like-- I'm speaking as someone who has embraced reality, and has accepted that he has certain limitations that can only be overcome through practice. Good drawstrokes culminating in a good A-zone hit at 7 yards in less time than it takes to fill out a holographic will take practice.

Y'all who shoot at ranges that disallow "draw and shoot" are suffering, but I'm not sure I blame the ranges. I've seen so much buffoonery at public ranges (and heard of more). Plus, there's a lot of folks still carrying the old style holsters that expose the triggerguard while the gun is holstered. Apparently, back in the 1950s and 1960s, the desire was very strong among the shooting public for a holster that would allow them to employ much greater speed while shooting themselves in the arse.

(Don't put your finger into the trigger until your firearm is pointed at the target.)

So, to overcome your range hardship, do lots of safe dry-fire away from the range, and then just practice the live fire with the second part of your stroke: With pistol held one-handed in the strong hand, push it forward into the support hand (don't cover your support hand with muzzle!), and fire as soon as your sights make the target. At most, doubletap and scan. Do NOT just dumbly empty your magazine into yon paper to hear the bangs. Waste of time and money.

At Saturday, October 27, 2007 2:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the comment on NOT easing the slide forward on a 1911. I invariably let it slam forward when actually chambering a round, but I'd been told that doing so WITHOUT a round would cause excessive wear-and-tear on the pistol. On both the 1911's and the pistol I shoot even more of, the Ruger 22/45, I routinely just thumb the slide stop down and let it go into battery all on it's own.

But it's okay to do that without anything, live round or snap-cap, in the chamber, eh? Thanks for the tip.

At Sunday, October 28, 2007 7:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a lot of myths out there that are either started or fostered by obsessive-compulsive gun store clerks.

Dry-firing will not hurt a centerfire firearm. It can damage rimfire firing pins, because it is striking part of the breechface, but with a centerfire it's only hitting air.

As Matt already mentioned, dry-firing is a necessary part of building muscle memory and making the whole process part of an unconscious competence. Dry-firing will, if anything, improve the trigger pull by slowly wearing the parts into a better fit. A Glock must be dry-fired to disassemble it. The waffen-gnomes would never have built it like that if dry-firing would hurt it.

The slide is designed to slam into battery faster than the human eye can follow. It's a very violent process. Dropping the slide on an empty chamber doesn't even begin to approach the level of villence that the weapon was made to opeate under.

Now, I am told that specially tuned, custom competition pistols should not be dry-fired because they are so carefully fitted or some such. I can't answer to that either way. If you own such a weapon, I'd ask the gunsmith who built it, but not a retail commando.

At Monday, October 29, 2007 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Tam said...

I'm no expert on 1911's, and I only own two (well, two and a project gun) at the time, but those two equal the price of a pretty fair used car. The have been routinely dry-fired and had the slides dropped on an empty chamber untold thousands of times over the last six years. I can find no evidence of abnormal wear on any impact or bearing surfaces of the weapons.

Just FWIW...

At Monday, October 29, 2007 12:49:00 PM, Blogger Tam said...

Bear in mind, of course, that I've only ever been a "Counter Commando", too. :)

At Monday, October 29, 2007 1:55:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Yeah, but Tam, since you're the person I was referring to in the fourth paragraph of the 08:52 comment that I wrote on Oct 22 in my Tips On Concealed Carry post, I'll give you a pass.

At Monday, October 29, 2007 3:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bear in mind, of course, that I've only ever been a "Counter Commando", too. :)"

Not meaning to cast aspersions on YOU. But I think you know what I mean; when a new shooter walks into some gun stores it's like feeding a baby chick to an alligator. They don't have a feel for what is BS and what isn't. I've seen it from both sides of the counter, too. Some folks are either too damn ignorant to be trusted with a FFL or they take a perverse delight in feeding misinformation to the less fortunate.

I've had clerks give me the whole "dry-firing damages the gun" line. Yeah, and I suppose turning the engine over damages the car, too, if you want to look at it that way. If this piece of steel is too fragile to survive me pulling the trigger, why the hell are they selling it? Dean Speir calls them "Fat Franks" after a notoriously verbose-yet-ignorant clerk who mae his lair behind the counter of a gun store in New Yawk.


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