Sunday, December 29, 2019

West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting--Preliminary Observations

As most of us are likely aware, there was a shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas this morning (29 December 2019) and unfortunately the shooter critically injured one innocent and killed another. As of this writing, what appeared to be a security guard stopped the murder’s rampage with one shot. These are preliminary observations based upon my analysis of the video the church was streaming at the time of the incident.

During the service, the shooter who was seated on the left side of the auditorium approached church member #1 and appeared to ask a question. Church member #1 responded and pointed to the back of the church. At that moment, the shooter took one step back and produced a pistol-gripped, probable pump shotgun from under his coat initially pointing it at church member #1.

Another church member (#2) seated along the wall noticed the shotgun, stood, and began to slowly draw a concealed pistol catching the shooter’s attention. The shooter then shifted his aim and fired a shot that struck church member #2 before he could completely draw his pistol. From the time the shooter’s gun became visible to the shooter’s first shot at church member #2 was 3.58 seconds. Approximately 1.18 seconds later, the shooter fired a shot at church member #1 who fell to the floor.

The shooter then turned to his left, pumped the shotgun, and started forward while raising the gun into a firing position.

The security guard (my assumption because the individual appears to be wearing visible body armor and an openly carried pistol in a duty rig) noticed the shooter’s gun and began to draw his pistol approximately 1.2 seconds after the gun became visible.

He completed his draw and fired one shot that likely struck the shooter in the head (the shooter’s hood moved when the bullet struck) approximately 4.66 seconds after the shooter’s gun first became visible.

I believe there are many lessons to learn from this incident and I will provide an update in the days to come.

Practice 2019: Rangemaster Bullseye Course

NRA B8 Target
I firmly believe that you should periodically test your skills against a recognized standard course of fire. On 28 December 2019, my friend Steve and I shot the Rangemaster Drill of the Month.

Rangemaster has a monthly drill published in their newsletter along with articles of interest. If you do not read it, I would recommend you give it a look: Rangemaster Newsletter 

I shot the Rangemaster Bullseye Course with my every day carry SIG P320 compact that has a Trijicon RMR. I used my 135gr reloads that are the equivalent of the Hornady Critical Duty 135gr standard pressure loads and fire to the same point of impact. Although the course calls for you to begin at low ready, we shot the course starting with a holstered pistol for each stage.

Rangemaster Bullseye Course: Fired on NRA B-8 target, scored as printed, except any shots outside the 7 ring count as zero points. For reference, the "8 ring" of the NRA B8 is 8-inches in diameter (the same size as an IDPA "zero down" body scoring area), the 9 ring is 5.54-inches, the 10 ring is 3.36 inches, and the X ring is 1.695 inches.

All strings begin at the ready position

-- 25 yards 5
rounds in 1 minute

-- 15 yards 5 rounds in 15 seconds

-- 10 yards 5 rounds in 10 seconds

-- 7 yards 10 rounds in 15 seconds.  Start with 5 rounds in the pistol. Fire 5 rounds, reload, fire 5 more rounds all within 15 seconds.

-- 5 yards: 5 rounds in 5 seconds

Each shot is worth 10 points so 30 rounds total is a possible score of 300 points. Per Rangemaster, 270 is necessary to pass at Instructor level.

I shot Run #1 cold without warm up using the red dot sight and shot a 299. Run #2 also using the red dot followed with a 300. Although Run #2 was a higher score, the group size for Run #1 was actually better.

I shot Run #3 with the dot turned off using the iron backup sights. Even if you use a red dot, you should occasionally turn it off and confirm that your iron sights are still zeroed.  My eyesight not being what it used to be, the 25 yard string was more challenging and I shot a 295.

I maintain a record of my practice sessions and my skill with the red dot has significantly improved over the past two years as has my shooting in general. Deliberate practice pays off over time.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Rangemaster Shotgun Instructor Course--Part 2: More Highlights and Observations

Common Shotgun Shells
As I mentioned in part 1 of this article, I recently attended Tom Given’s Rangemaster shotgun instructor course—a very good class that I highly recommend. The class is a three-day course designed to train instructors how to teach techniques for handling and shooting the defensive shotgun under stress.

Some additional highlights and observations:

-- Always check your ammunition. Examine the primers, ensure that the shells are not damaged or corroded, properly crimped, and that the shell mouth has not expanded. Shotgun shells that have been in a tubular magazine for an extended length of time occasionally swell which may result in an inability to chamber the shell.

    Ensure you are using ammunition of the correct gauge. This is particularly true if you own shotguns in several gauges which increase the potential to mix shells. Although many ammunition companies use different colored shells for different gauges, this is not always the case.

    Tom mentioned the chance of mistakenly placing 20 gauge ammunition in a 12 gauge shotgun. The 20 gauge may slide down the barrel far enough that the shooter can load a 12 gauge shell in the chamber behind the 20 gauge shell and fire it with the obvious potential for catastrophic results.

    Ironically, one of the students in the class had a gun that suddenly would not chamber a round. Examination showed that the barrel was obstructed with another shotgun shell. Considerable pounding with a cleaning rod produced a 16 gauge shell that entered and became stuck in the barrel. The student sheepishly admitted that he owned a 16 gauge shotgun. Both shells were the exact same red color and only a close examination would have identified the 16 gauge shell.

-- Are lights really necessary on a shotgun for home defense use? Not really. Tom discussed the benefits of simply leaving a light on in your home that illuminates any areas where an intruder might enter. As you think about it, under these circumstances you will likely see the intruder before or when he sees you. If the house is dark and you come into the area with a light, the intruder will immediately know your location; however, you may not know his.

    As an experiment, I completed the Rangemaster shotgun qualification during a recent low light practice session. I did not use a mounted light and instead held the light in my support hand alongside the shotgun’s forend. I scored 100% and completed all the strings of fire within the prescribed time limits with no problem. The paired holes are where the Federal Flitecontrol® wads struck the target.

-- "The 20-gauge is much easier to shoot than the 12-gauge, produces significantly less recoil, and is lighter and more maneuverable."* Like many others, I have always accepted the comment that a 20 gauge is better for small-statured people in a home defense role due to less recoil. However, as Tom discussed, a 20 gauge may not be better than a 12 gauge for home defense (and indeed other defensive applications). Although this may not have been the case at one time, modern low-recoil 12 gauge buckshot loads have less recoil than many modern 20 gauge equivalents.

    It is a matter of physics. A 20 gauge, 20-pellet standard load of #3 buckshot weighs 468 grains. At 1200 feet per second (FPS) it will have a muzzle energy of 1497 foot pounds. A 12 gauge, 8-pellet 00 buckshot load weighs 430.4 grains. At 1145 FPS it will have a muzzle energy of 1253 foot pounds. All things being equal, the 12 gauge load would have less felt recoil than the 20 gauge load. All things  typically are not equal however. The 20 gauge shotgun will probably be lighter than a comparable 12 gauge shotgun so if recoil is a concern, the 12 gauge will likely produce noticeably less felt recoil.

I have always been impressed with the shotgun’s effectiveness and power and the Rangemaster shotgun instructor course reinforced my belief in the shotgun as a defensive tool. When employed correctly and within its proper range envelope the shotgun is very effective; however, trying to use it beyond its capabilities is an exercise in frustration. It is not a rifle and trying to make it one will result in disappointment. Remember, you are responsible for every pellet you fire.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Rangemaster Shotgun Instructor Course: Highlights and Observations

I recently attended Tom Given’s Rangemaster shotgun instructor course—a very good class that I highly recommend. The class is a three-day course designed to train instructors how to teach techniques for handling and shooting the defensive shotgun under stress.

Some of the highlights and observations included:

    -- Absolutes: Muzzle discipline and trigger finger discipline. For administrative movement, Tom had the students move with the action locked open, muzzle vertical, and fingers of one hand inside the open ejection port.

    -- Shotguns are not drop safe. No shotgun is drop safe if dropped on the muzzle. While some may be drop safe for impacts on the butt of the stock you certainly cannot count on this. Using the shotgun to deliver a butt stroke may cause the weapon to fire as recently occurred when carjacker Reece Ramsey-Johnson fatally shot himself while delivering a butt stroke to a car window.

    -- Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot loads using the FLITECONTROL® wad throw an extremely tight pattern. My fellow students and I fired a variety of buckshot loads during the course and only the Hornady 00 Buckshot load with the Versatite™ wad was comparable.

    -- Multiple projectile loads require particular attention to what is behind your target. YOU are responsible for every pellet you fire. This is where target distance and the pattern of a particular load in your shotgun come into play. Fiocchi 9-pellet 00 buckshot loads from my Beretta 1201 shotgun at a distance of 12 yards generally put all nine pellets within a 10 inch circle. I say generally because occasionally this load throws one wild pellet off the target at that distance. The Federal 8-pellet 00 Buckshot load puts all 8 pellets through a hole 2 inches in diameter at the same distance.

     -- High visibility, brightly colored followers make it easier to see that there are no rounds in the magazine. My personal Beretta 1301 shotgun which only fired a grand total of 2 rounds during the entire class did not have a high-vis follower. Tom graciously loaned me his personal 1301 for the class and his did have a high-vis follower and it was clearly much easier to see that there were no rounds in the magazine.

    -- You should have spare ammunition on the shotgun in either a side carrier on the receiver or some type of butt cuff. I personally prefer the side carrier. I find removing the shells from a butt cuff requires more dexterity and is slower than loading from a side carrier.

    -- The length of pull as measured from the trigger to the center of the shotgun butt should be between 10-12 inches. Most shotgun manufacturer’s standard length of pull for a sporting gun is between 13 and 14-1/2 inches—much too long. I started the class (my 1301 did dry fire very well) with a 13-inch pull and that was too long. I am 6’2” tall and found the 12-inch pull to be perfect. A shorter person would likely find a 10-11 inch pull to work well.

    -- This goes without saying: Always wear eye protection. I was surprised by the number of 00 Buckshot pellets that apparently bounced backwards off something on/in the dirt berm. We found numerous pellets in the 2-10 yard area on the firing line and found one pellet approximately 22 yards from the berm. Some of them showed obvious signs of having impacted something (e.g. a pebble) others were perfectly round. No student reported being struck so the bouncing pellet’s energy level was likely very low.

I will provide more highlights and observations in part 2 of this article.

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