Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ruger ARX Accuracy

On October 7, 2015 Polycase Ammunition and Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc announced a new line of pistol ammunition. Ruger’s decision to market their first offering of pistol ammunition for the self-defense market using the Polycase ARX design is a tremendous vote of confidence in the ARX and Polycase as a company.

Although generally the same length as conventional bullets (the ARX .45 and the standard 230 gr 45 RN are exactly the same length), PolyCase’s injection-molded bullets are significantly lighter.  As a result, Ruger ARX rounds exit the barrel at a higher velocity, have a flatter trajectory, subjectively less felt recoil, and a decreased potential for ricochets.  

Although there has been a lot of discussion concerning the new Ruger/Polycase ammunition, discussion of accuracy potential was absent. Curious, I resolved to correct this oversight.

I tested the accuracy and measured the velocity of Ruger/Polycase .380 Auto, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, and .45 Auto rounds.   I placed the target at 15 yards--the outer limits of a typical self-defense scenario and used a Shooting Chrony Gamma Master® Chronograph to measure the velocity (15 feet from the muzzle). Given that I do not have a ballistics lab (sigh) I verified the Chrony’s measurements using .45 Match ammunition with a nominal velocity of 820 fps. A ten-round sequence of the .45 Match ammunition resulted in an average velocity of 823 fps—close enough.

I fired all rounds from a bench rest over sandbags and was pleasantly surprised with the Ruger/Polycase ARX’s accuracy potential.  The enclosed table shows the results of the testing with every caliber demonstrating better than acceptable accuracy and the .45 Auto ARX load providing an impressive 7/8 (0.875) inch 6-round group (see picture). 



From typical carry pistols the recorded velocities were less than the advertised velocities for each caliber. This is often the case because the manufacture normally uses special barrels for velocity testing.  However, I did have one exception—the 45 Auto rounds from a 5-inch barrel clocked an average of 1396 fps for ten rounds versus an advertised velocity of 1350 fps. 


I was also curious about ARX bullet fragmentation when striking a steel plate with a 90-degree angle.  Polycase states that ARX bullets are tougher than traditional frangible bullets, but still readily break up when impacting hardened steel, resulting in a lower ricochet potential in most shooting situations. Lead and copper bullets when striking steel at 90 degrees explode into fragments that generally spray in a 360-degree circle from point of impact—many of these fragments are large enough to pose a danger.  Using a video camera at 250 frames per second, after a couple of tries I captured the instant of impact for an ARX 45 Auto round.  The video clearly shows that the bullet exploded into extremely small fragments and copper dust, very similar to what you see with a standard frangible bullet.

As far as shoot ability and felt recoil is concerned, the .380, 9mm, and 40 S&W did seem to present less recoil than a typical high velocity factory self defense round.  When it came to the ARX 45 Auto round, I personally could not tell the difference between its felt recoil and that of a CorBon® 185 grain DPX®.  I experienced no failures to feed or to eject with any of the calibers I tested. 

I made no attempt to shoot the AX bullets into ballistics gelatin.  Polycase has done this testing and posted a video at the link below.  A number of writers have also performed gelatin tests with similar results.  I suspect that the ARX would have penetration challenges if it struck a heavy bone—but then traditional jacketed hollow-point lead bullets face this challenge as well.

I was very impressed with the Ruger/Polycase ARX premium self-defense ammunition and would not hesitate to carry this new bullet design.  It is clear that Polycase is producing a quality product for Ruger and I suspect it will quickly grab its share of the premium self-defense ammunition market.

Gelatin test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv5l33yPC60

Monday, December 26, 2016

Shooting Small Guns in Competition, by Glenn M.


This is a guest post from one of our fellow competitors Glenn M., who shared his thoughts on shooting several different guns over several months at the Short Range Match. Very insightful. Glenn kindly gave me permission to use his article as a blog post.  

One endless debate is whether competition (usually IDPA or USPSA will hurt you on the street). The matches supposedly lack realism as compared to actual critical incidents and/or training motor memories in ways that are not useful in such. One other solution is a more ‘realistic’ match – if a match can be realistic. In the San Antonio/Austin area, Eric Lamberson’s Short Range match is oriented to your carry gun and scenarios based on real critical incidents. I’ve shot it a few times and used my actual carry guns: a S&W 642 revolver, Glock 42, and a Glock 19. Here are comments on three different matches with all my faults visible:

Glock 42:  I bought it has pocket gun for those dress circumstances that warrant it and as a back up gun (BUG). Out of the box it was a horror during a KR Training pocket gun class. It jammed almost on every round. At an indoor range, it fired out of battery, with fire, sparks and smoke coming out of the ejector port – which scared the crap out of me. It went back to Glock as the 42’s had lots of trouble at first. It seems fixed now and it ran at the match.

The Match:  This was a fun match.

The emphasis was close up and difficult target configurations. My frustration was with me. I decided to shoot my new G42. It’s the third match for the gun. After going back to Glock, it now runs well. No problems with it. However, on the first two stages, I stunk. I couldn’t hit a whale. The smaller grip, etc. led me to default to the classic left hander’s problem of hits going down to the right very badly. The last three stages, I managed to get back into decent but not great shooting. I was truly annoyed with myself. (as Glenn indicates, he’s a left-handed shooter. The most common shooting error for a left-handed shooter is hits going low right, the mirror image of the low left hits the typical trigger-yanking right hander produces.)

My G42 mags do not drop free easily. You have to extract the empty mag most of the time. Thus, carrying a bigger higher capacity gun is a plus for the more complex stage or problem. But this is a pocket gun. I’ve conquered the “low right” hit problem with my full-sized guns. But this little guy just brought it up again. I had shot it in an IDPA match before and it wasn’t that bad. More practice is needed. I think I shot a J frame a touch better. Might try that.

Since the stages were based on real problems with multiple attackers – the guy who says you only need two shots on the average – BAH! Reloading the little guys is slow, especially if you pocket carried the gun and extra mags.

It is a very soft gun to shoot. Not like a Ruger LCP which I found really was sharp in my palm. Winchester White Box, Herter’s, and Blazer Brass – no problem or discomfort.

Not my best day. Lots of reloads and screwing up at first with the G42. However, it was a good match and a learning experience. Takeaway points.

1. Scenarios can be more complex than those written within IDPA standards
2. Small capacity guns and lots of targets are challenging
3. Need to practice with new small guns. Can’t assume you will be on target with it.
 
4. G42 – after its trip to Glock – ran perfectly and recoil is trivial.
 
5. Used a DeSantis belt holster for the G42 – it’s very small. It’s the only left handed holster I found when I last looked. For a mag pouch, I found that a Galco leather 1911 one would take the G42 mags with some screwing around with the screws. However, carrying it on the belt seems silly. If it’s a belt gun – then the G19 or 26 is the gun for me. The 42 is clearly a pocket gun.

Short Range Match with the Glock 19

Glock 19 – This is a 2nd generation gun I’ve had for years. It usually runs well (until it doesn’t). It is my most common EDC, alternating with a G26. Holster was a Galco Matrix.

The Match:  Shot the match again today but with my G19 which is a carry gun. So, I didn’t suck. I hit most targets quite well. The scenarios were taken from real life and some were quite interesting. A multiple attack Mumbai run does make the pocket gun less attractive as a primary and more of a BUG. However, sometimes clothing issues intervene.

On an Internet forum, a poster claims never to see a semi jam. Well, in my squad – I saw a CZ fizzle out once. A new SIG was repeatedly problematic. My Glock did one stove pipe and another Glock malfunctioned twice. I guess semi’s do jam. Lots of folks were hitting three targets twice each in 3 to 4 seconds from the draw.

The incident used for scenario set up is relevant as compared to the artificiality of some matches. Of course, all such matches are somewhat artificial.

The results: Good news – points down out of 30 shooters, I’m 5th. Time – I am an old fat sloth who rambles around. Towards the bottom. I might say that I’m deliberate – yeah that works. I’ve always been slow in IDPA. Accuracy – always good.

Short Range Match with the J frame – 642.

I’ve carried the 642 quite a bit.  I’ve shot it in IDPA. Since I carried it – I took a class in snubby usage from Claude Werner’s at KR Training. Very useful.  Folks who just recommend them and don’t shoot them – they need to rethink that recommendation for a beginner.

I decided to shoot my S&W 642 that has a Crimson Trace laser grip. I wore a holster as you can’t draw from the pocket per match rules. I had two speed loaders (HKS speed loaders) on the other side. So, gun on the left side and the ammo on the right.

Eric’s match is designed to simulate real and close up encounters that he draws from life and videos of such. Thus, the targets can be complex. There can be no easy cover and clear shot paths. This is unlike IDPA where the design usually gives you cover and the path to shoot fairly easily from cover with a small number of no-shots.

One stage had six targets mixed in with overlapping and close to equal numbers of no-shoots. Another had three close in opponents with t-shirts to obscure the obvious IDPA centers. Third, a drill: three targets, hit the first with two rounds, the second with three rounds, reload and the last with 4 rounds. Repeat. Fourth – barricades, no shoots and lots of targets – the kicker – the last target is at 10 yards (the farthest distance) and it is a picture of a terrorist. You have to fire one shot at the head – if you miss – it is considered that he was a bomber and he blows up and you lose 10 seconds (as you are blown up). Last, a series of close targets with a kneeling component. So, how did it go?

1. Accuracy – pretty decent – on the first stage before my grip and trigger settled in – I missed two head shots between some no shoots but got the body shots.

2. On the others, usually no -3s (targets were 2 shots, except for some mandated 2 body and 1 head and the bomb dude warranted just one head shot. So at these distances I was in the range of most of the semi shooters and better than some. I got the head shot on bomb dude – by that stage my muscle memory of the J had returned. Most people in my squad got the bomber but some were blown up. The other squad blew up quite a bit or so I am told.

3. The laser – at the real close – I could see the dot and used it for a fast sequence close up. However, in the Texas sun, it was not visible beyond really close and looking for it, is stupid – thus -the old iron fixed sights.

4. The tee shirts – lots of folks shot low. Below the bottom of the 0 circle. Hmm? I dealt with those by remembering what I was taught and shot between the shoulders.

5. The no – shoots. In the very crowded stage, about 5 out of 8 people hit a no shoot. The shots were usually on their edges; I don’t recall a center mass shoot through but there could have been one. Something to think about for the Internet dude who will not shoot an innocent in an Orlando scenario because he is soooo good.

Take away about the J as a gun. Well, I could use it. With multiple targets – oh, are those reloads slow – no I’m not Jerry Miculek and I run out three times in a stage.

Thus, it is a nice in the pocket, one or two muggers at the gas pump gun--let’s hope they flee in terror. In some horror show – I would prefer my Glock. I shot that the match before and it was much, much easier.

The J is uncomfortable to shoot after 90 rounds – ouch. UMC 130 gr loads. Started to feel it. These weren’t +Ps, my normal carry. Usually never feel my 9mm, 45 ACP, or 380. 

It’s not a gun for the non-gunner if you take it seriously as compared to pulling it out and scaring the bad guy away. Yes, folks do use these successfully and shoot them better than me.

Conclusion--it’s a BUG or mowing the lawn gun. Taking Claude’s class was a big help. Today’s world, I want better for the extreme case. Laser – maybe at night or from a weird angle with no time for a sight picture but I like the sights better. The match is a good one as it moves away from some of the artificiality of the big games.

Take aways:

1. Practice with a real carry gun when you can. Of course, competition with a specialized gun is fun but one needs some experiences with the EDC. 

2. If you carry a little gun, that needs practice. I note that the first shots with both little guys were off until my grip settled. 

3. In my mind, there is a distribution of critical incident intensity. It’s multimodal. The first peak is no shots fired as the gun is a deterrent. Don’t need to carry ammo. 

The second is the one or two muggers with economic motivation. They generate the arithmetic mean we hear of 2 to 3 shots fired. Those shots, usually stop or shoo away the attackers. 

Then, there is the rarer high intensity incident like an Orlando, Mumbai, or San Bernardino – multiple attackers and shots. Sure, you should flee but if you had to fight – a low capacity J frame or semi-auto is not optimal. Shooting a match like Eric’s points out all these factors.

I really appreciate Glenn's permission to use his article.  If you enjoy reading these please subscribe. The link is on the upper right side of the page. All that will happen is that you will receive an e-mail when I post an article. Your information will never be distributed.

 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Shots in the dark


We just finished our first Low Light practice session for the 2016 season at Cedar Ridge Range in San Antonio, Texas. The format we use for these sessions includes a review of flashlight techniques, low light drills to develop skill, a standard qualification course, and decision based scenarios.

As expected, the shooters had no difficulty with the qualification course. This represents the progress these shooters have achieved over the last several years. We used a modified Texas LTC qualification as the first one for this year. We stayed within Texas LTC time limits; however, we used an IDPA-style picture target (with IDPA-style scoring shown in the target on the right) and shooters started all strings of fire with flashlight in hand, drawing from the holster. The lowest score was a 249 out of a possible 250. As we conduct additional sessions this season, the qualification courses will increase in difficulty.

Flashlights

Through experimentation over the past several years we have confirmed much of the conventional wisdom concerning low light gear. While the 60 lumen Surefire 6P was certainly state of the art many years ago, modern high intensity lights have come into their own. We have discovered that a powerful light (300 lumens and up) overpowers a weaker light and permits the shooter to identify and engage targets that would otherwise be hidden from view.


The spot size of the flashlight beam is also important. Ideally when you illuminate a threat you want the spot shining directly in their eyes. Some lights have a very small spot designed to throw the light over longer distances. While this works well as a spotlight, it loses effectiveness when used as a self-defense light because the narrow spot requires too much precision to effectively blind the threat.

A flashlight with a large spot requires much less precision and therefore works better. I have carried a Fenix PD32UE and an older model of the Surefire 6Z for many years. The Fenix has proven to be a good general purpose every day carry and self-defense light. It is small, lightweight, takes rechargeable and standard batteries, and is adjustable from 8-740 lumens. At 25 feet the spot is almost 4 feet in diameter with a generous spill. Fenix has produced several PD versions since the PD32UE and most will work almost as well as the 32UE. The newer versions like the PD35 TAC and others tend to have a smaller spot with the possible exception of the new Fenix FD30. This light has an adjustable spot that promises to work very well as a self-defense light. A drawback to the Fenix and many lights like it is the tail cap design which makes using some flashlight techniques difficult.

Surefire lights are also a good choice. I have an older model Surefire 6Z that works very well with some modifications. My Surefire has a modified Malkoff Devices drop-in LED* which throws 300+ lumens and has a generous spot as well as a modified TorchLAB McClicky tail cap from Oveready.** This tail cap allows you to click the light on with a press of the button unlike many Surefire lights that you must twist to activate constant on. 


There are literally dozens of flashlight models on the market today and it is impossible to test them all; although, the members of Candlepowerforums.com certainly try and is a good place to learn about all aspects of modern LED lights and rechargeable batteries.

How about a flashlight on the pistol? We have had several police officers who attend our low light classes and practice sessions and some are issued pistols with mounted lights. I have no objection to pistol mounted lights and they can make firing the pistol much simpler with the proper switch configuration. However, I do require everyone to master the hand held light techniques for several reasons. Searching with a mounted light virtually guarantees that you will point the pistol in unsafe direction at some point. For that reason, I require shooters to search with their hand held light and then they are free to release it and go to the pistol mounted light if they wish to engage.

Challenges


When I first started doing low light classes (2014) we discovered that the two biggest challenges for shooters was recognizing the threat targets in decision-based scenarios and then hitting the threats. When initially exposed to low light problems, even very accomplished shooters that have very little difficultly hitting a target under normal lighting conditions often go through an adjustment period as they learn low light techniques.

So what is posing a challenge for them under low lighting conditions? Almost every student initially shoots high on the target or (presumably) over it. We discovered that students were subconsciously tilting the pistol up slightly in order to see the front sight better in the low light. Clearly, regardless of the lighting conditions you must properly align the sights and then concentrate on the front sight while simultaneously pressing the trigger. Hard to do under normal circumstances with good light--more difficult to do under low lighting conditions.

In conclusion

Depending upon which study you believe, somewhere between 60 and 85 percent of all police officer-involved shootings occur during the hours of darkness. No such data exists concerning private citizen-involved shootings with criminals; however, since a lot of criminal activity occurs in low light conditions, we can assume that there is a likely correlation. There are several reasons to use a flashlight: to observe and detect, to illuminate and navigate, to eliminate anonymity, and to identify and engage threats. Used properly, a flashlight lets you see danger before it can affect you and it can encourage the danger waiting in the dark to go elsewhere.


1 https://malkoff-devices.myshopify.com/collections/surefire-drop-ins-for-6p-g2-c2-etc-6-9-volts

2 https://www.oveready.com/flashlights/legos/upgrades/

Monday, December 5, 2016

Tuning Your Shooting Skills


Sensible Self Defense, Inc. recently held this year’s first Shooting Skills Tune-up session at Cedar Ridge Range in San Antonio, Texas.  The concept behind the tune-up is providing shooters an opportunity to practice IDPA and practical defensive pistol skills outside of a match environment.  Many (most) commercial ranges will not permit shooters the freedom to practice these skills due to safety/liability concerns.  The Shooting Skills Tune-up is a structured practice session with Safety Officers supervising all of the range activity.  Shooters have the opportunity to learn and practice efficient pistol handling skills, drawing from concealment, shooting while moving, use of cover, shooting a double tap, and other skills.

The sold out tune-up was a resounding success with beginner and more advanced shooters attending.  We started with a review of the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship including stance, grip, sight alignment/picture, and trigger control. My reasoning for reviewing the fundamentals was that during matches (as a Safety Officer) I have noted many shooters performing reasonably well, but who have developed bad habits or who may never have learned efficient pistol manipulation.  Many of the more advanced shooters praised this approach and indicated that it is easy to forget how important periodically practicing the fundamentals was too fast and accurate shooting. 

We then moved on to shooting while moving forward and backward. Once again, many had never been exposed to the proper way of maintaining your upper body relatively stable while walking. Of course, this is a match skill—if you are actually under fire you just move out as quickly as possible.

We finally did some moving to cover exercises discussing the proper way to get into and leave cover positions. If you are only moving a few feet, then keeping the pistol in a firing position (i.e. mounted) is fine.  If you must move more than a few feet then dismount the pistol (muzzle awareness at all times) and run normally to the next position mounting the pistol as you cover the last few yards. This enables you to enter the position with the pistol ready to fire an accurate shot without the additional time spent if you had waited until you came to a complete stop to bring the pistol onto the target.

We ended the session shooting at some steel targets.  Shooters who have never shot steel targets either love them or find them very frustrating.  Steel teaches you to apply shooting fundamentals because they are binary targets—you either hit it or miss it.  Unlike paper targets, on steel you get no partial credit for a miss.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dirty dozen: Avoid these 12 bad shooting habits




Bad habits are something we all try to guard against, but they often creep into our shooting. Some shooters learn bad habits because the people teaching them do not know any better. Even when taught correctly, others develop bad habits through failing to apply what they have been taught. Flinching, anticipating the shot, chasing the sights, jerking the trigger, etc., are all bad habits. In this article I examine some of the more interesting variations I typically see.

1. Going too fast for your skill level 


This is an issue for shooters, instructors and match safety officers. From the shooter perspective, do not try to go faster than you can safely perform the task. I tell novice shooters they must master the fundamentals of safely drawing and presenting the pistol before they try to speed up.


The picture at right shows a video frame capture of a of a novice shooter trying to draw faster than his skill level. In this draw sequence, he fired the round into the ground approximately 3 feet in front of where he was standing. Although he did not believe he was doing it, he was subconsciously placing his finger on the trigger early in the draw process before his pistol cleared the holster and was pointed toward the target.


This is not just a novice issue. I recently asked several accomplished Expert and Master-level shooters if they had ever felt the pistol muzzle with their support hand when they were trying to draw quickly. In other words, had they ever let the support hand get ahead of the firing hand on a draw? All admitted that had happened at least once when they were learning to draw and shoot quickly. Speed comes with the mastery of the fundamentals. Don't go too fast for your skill level. 

2. Performing ritualistic movements during static range training


I see this all the time from novice shooters in classes and during pistol matches. One student would rotate the pistol to the left every time after he reloaded — even when doing the reload at speed. When I asked him why he did this, he sheepishly admitted he had seen someone else do it and thought it looked cool. 


Unnecessary flourishes and motion might look cool to some, but this does nothing more than add time and inefficiency to the task. That extra half-second required to get your sights back on target adds up and could cost you your life in a self-defense encounter. Efficient pistol manipulation is critical to developing speed and eliminating unnecessary movement is the key.


3. Drawing slower as distance to the target increases


I routinely see shooters who draw quickly when the target is close and who literally go into slow motion for distant targets. Your draw speed must be the same regardless of distance.

Indeed, the faster you draw for distant targets, the more time you will have to settle the sights and make an accurate shot. Keep your draw speed the same for every distance.

4. Taking your finger off the trigger between shots


The only time your finger should be on the trigger is when you are intentionally firing a shot. That said, new shooters often take their finger completely off the trigger between shots even when they intend to fire a follow-up shot. Instead, the shooter should release the trigger until it resets and no further.


Trigger reset is the distance the trigger moves back toward its "at rest" position before it re-engages the internal linkages (sear, etc.) at which point the pistol may be fired again. This distance varies among pistol designs.


All motion equals time, so you want to eliminate unnecessary motion. Going past reset requires you to recover the distance the trigger has traveled (i.e. take up the slack), recognize the sear's resistance, stabilize your sight picture, and then begin the trigger press once again.


Learning trigger reset forms the foundation for fast, accurate shooting and begins with training yourself to hold the trigger to the rear after each shot (also known as follow-through). You then reacquire a good sight picture and begin to allow the trigger to move forward just to the point when you feel the sear reset (on many pistols there is an audible click and you will feel it was well).


Once the trigger resets, begin to press the trigger again with minimal disturbance of the sights. Start with dry practice with no ammunition. Once you have perfected this step, it is time to begin doing it with live ammunition. Press the trigger and hold it to the rear as the pistol fires, reacquire the sight picture, release to reset and press again. During this process, we are teaching ourselves the proper distance the trigger needs to travel to reset the pistol for the next shot.


For those who wish to advance further, the next step is to train yourself to begin resetting the trigger as soon as you feel the pistol start to recoil. Your goal is to have the trigger just far enough forward to reset the sear as soon as your gun returns to battery (slide fully closed). Then, as the pistol settles and the sights return to the target after recoil recovery, you are ready to press the trigger once again.


With practice, most shooters should be able to easily achieve splits (the time between shots) of .25-.30 seconds. Many shooters will get in the .19 to .24 range and truly advanced shooters will get into the .14 to .18 range with some going beyond. Gordon Carrell, who has more than 50 national, regional and state titles including the 2011 Smith & Wesson Indoor National Championship, once told me his fastest recorded split was .11 seconds. A friend of mine who is an IDPA 6-gun Master did it in .10 measured on a video. 


5. Failure to maintain a solid firing grip


Anytime you have your pistol in your hand, have it in a solid firing grip with your finger along the slide or frame outside the trigger guard. This includes initially loading the pistol (have the magazine in a pocket you can reach) and holstering the pistol. Some shooters just sort of hold the pistol’s slide and grip when holstering--a sure recipe for eventually dropping the loaded pistol when they snag something as they attempt to holster.

6. Unnecessarily adjusting your grip


Another common problem is the shooter who unnecessarily adjusts his grip or re-grasps his pistol before and during a firing string. This is a bad habit that always seems to be waiting in the wings. I typically see this during the draw and after reloading, but I've seen some novice and even experienced shooters do it after every shot. 


More unnecessary motion. Learn to acquire a solid firing grip as you initially grasp the pistol while it is in the holster, then maintain that grip as your support hand comes into play and you begin to fire.

7. Pointing the pistol at yourself when you holster


Some shooters tend to dig for the holster with the pistol's muzzle when they holster the pistol. This is often accompanied by the shooter pointing the pistol inward toward his hip or waist.


This is common when the shooter is using an inside-the-waistband holster (IWB) or when using a holster design that allows the mouth of the holster to collapse when the pistol is withdrawn. Although not as much of a problem with outside-the-waistband (OWB) holsters, I've seen shooters do it with this design as well. Don't point a loaded pistol at yourself.


8. Failure to train with the auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster


The auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster has been commercially available since 2006 with at least four variations currently on the market. As a retention holster, this design protects and retains the pistol well and automatically "locks" the pistol in the holster when it is inserted without the need to manipulate anything.


The retention release mechanism is located on the outboard side, in the pistol's trigger/trigger guard area. To properly operate the release, the shooter establishes a strong-hand grip, extending and straightening the trigger finger exactly like a draw from any style of holster. The shooter then applies finger-pad pressure with the trigger finger to the "release button" that deactivates the retention and allows the shooter to draw the pistol.

However, unless the shooter deactivates the retention before beginning upward pressure as part of the draw, the retention continues to hold the pistol in the holster. Often, the inexperienced shooter then begins tugging on the pistol and tends to transition from finger-pad to finger-tip pressure causing the trigger finger to bend.


When the novice shooter finally manages to deactivate the retention and draws the pistol, this bend in the trigger finger positions the finger near or on the trigger, and the finger tends to stay in motion. As the trigger guard clears the holster, the finger enters the trigger guard and contacts the trigger — occasionally with unpleasant results. I have witnessed two people shoot themselves doing exactly this. 


The holster is not the problem, it works exactly as designed. If you are going to use an auto-lock trigger finger manipulation holster, you absolutely must train with the holster until a safe draw is second nature — for that matter, you should do this with any holster you use.

For Safety Officers: You will see the belt rise if someone is doing this. Stop them immediately and explain what the are doing incorrectly.


9. Failure to clear cloth in holster


IDPA, USPSA, IPSC, CAS, etc are all active sports, and shooters often have their shirt tails or other garments drift out during the course of a stage. If the shooter fails to clear this cloth from the mouth of the holster when he re-holsters his pistol, this cloth can find its way into the trigger guard. 


As the shooter presses the pistol into the holster, the cloth jams, which can lead to an unwelcome loud noise as the cloth tightens around and pulls the trigger. Always visually confirm that your holster is completely clear of any cloth or other obstruction when you holster a loaded pistol. 


10. Placing empty or partially empty magazines in your mag pouch


I cannot guess the number of times I've seen shooters put an empty or partially empty magazine into their mag pouch, then later discover it is not fully charged when they run out of ammunition. In a match, this is cause for laughter at the competitor's expense, but in a self-defense encounter it could be fatal. 


Stow your empties in a pocket, not in the pouch. 


11. Crowding cover


Novices frequently want to crowd (get extremely close to) cover. This limits their available work-space to manipulate the pistol and may lead them to point the pistol in an unsafe direction as they maneuver to the next firing position. 


With IDPA fault lines a shooter considered behind cover no matter how of much his upper torso is exposed, as long as his feet are not touching the ground on the other side of the fault line. The fault line must extend at least three feet from the cover barrier. Not crowding the cover provides space to manipulate your pistol and maneuver. 


On the competition stage design side, I occasionally see stages designed in such a manner that they force shooters to crowd cover. In a IDPA match where I served as safety officer, one stage required the shooter to maneuver in a tight V-shaped barricade space and fire through ports. The stage had a barrel obstacle in the center of the V which forced the shooter to maneuver close to cover and prevented the Safety Officers from staying with the shooter as they fired the stage — obviously a less-than-optimal design. 


On a related note, many stages have ports through which the shooter must engage a target. Shooting through the port does not mean you must stick the entire pistol through the port. The time you lose poking your pistol through is doubled when you now must pull it back out before you can move on. More inefficient and unnecessary motion.


12. Hollywood ready


At some point, film and television producers began directing the actors to hold the pistol vertically next to their face so both were visible in the scene. This generated a bad habit among novice shooters who believe pointing the barrel at the sky is an appropriate ready position.


There are several reasons not to do this, including the fact that if you fire a round with the pistol next to your face you will likely cause permanent hearing loss. 

I often see novice competitors who are crowding cover use the "Hollywood ready" as they move away from a shooting position. Step away from the cover and use a low ready or compressed ready when you move.  

These are some of the bad habits I've seen — I suspect there are others and welcome comments or input.

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