Sunday, March 25, 2018

Thugs Make House Calls--Lock Your Doors

Home invader Jonathan Perales fatally shot a homeowner early one morning in Universal City, Texas recently. According to Perales' arrest warrant affidavit, Robinson had armed himself with a 9mm Glock after noticing a strange vehicle in his driveway. Robinson opened his bedroom door and immediately confronted Perales who had entered the Robinson home through an unlocked back door. As Robinson yelled "Get out of my house," the men exchanged gunfire. Perales shot Robinson once in the torso and Robinson shot Perales in the arm and upper chest.

Robinson was later pronounced dead at Brook Army Medical Center. Robinson's wife and two of his children who were inside at the time were not injured in the gunfight.

Universal City Police Lt. Steve Mihalski said Perales fled the home after Robinson shot him. Perales got back into his vehicle (which was stolen as well) and tried to leave the neighborhood but got lost. He finally stopped and sought help from a neighbor who flagged down police as they were responding to the Robinson home. Police said Perales still had a pistol on him when they encountered him at the neighbor’s house. Perales was also wearing a single red shoe on his left foot and police found the matching right shoe inside Robinson's kitchen.

One of my students who lives in the neighborhood said videos from several security cameras on homes in the area showed Perales going from house to house and vehicle to vehicle trying doors to see if they were unlocked. My student’s neighbor had video of Perales stealing items from his unlocked pick-up truck. Police investigators said they believed Perales was randomly targeting the area.

This is not an unusual tactic. Recently in Fairfax County, VA there were four burglaries in one week where burglars took garage door openers from unlocked cars, used the openers to get into the garage, and from there into the house via unlocked doors between the house and garage.

So how do you prevent this?

One step is pretty obvious: LOCK YOUR DOORS! I did an Internet search on “burglar unlocked home” and there are dozens of entries describing unlocked homes being burglarized. In many cases, the thieves entered homes that were clearly occupied. One document was particularly eye opening. A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of completed household burglaries from 1994-2011 showed that burglars entered the homes through unlocked doors between 56-64% of the time.*

Get into the habit of checking every exterior door (including the one to the garage) every evening before you go to bed. I do this every night and occasionally discover a door that someone in my household left unlocked.

If you have an alarm, set the alarm. Your alarm only works if it's on. A new student recently relayed a story about her home being burglarized (the reason she was a new student). Her friend picked her up for a short errand and she left her alarm off because she was only going to be gone for a short time. She returned to discover that burglars were literally still in her house when she entered. You paid for an alarm system, why would leave your house without setting it?

Many of us live in neighborhoods we would characterize as safe. I live in a gated community; however, that did not stop thieves from doing the unlocked car routine on my street several months back. A number of my neighbors lost valuables from their unlocked cars including my next door neighbor and neighbor across the street. The thief probably checked my SUV as well and found the doors locked.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 2,569,980 burglaries completed in the United States during 2016—one approximately every 12 seconds. Based upon previous studies, it is likely that of these 2,569,980 burglaries, thieves found and entered unlocked homes at least 1,541,988 times. Thugs Make House Calls. LOCK YOUR DOORS!

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* Household Burglary; 1994-2011, Jennifer Hardison Walters, M.S.W., Andrew Moore, M.Stat., Marcus Berzofsky, Dr.P.H., RTI International, Lynn Langton, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics; June 20, 2013; NCJ 241754

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reloading Tips and Tricks

Reloading is a popular hobby among shooting enthusiasts and is a great skill for frequent shooters. If you are completely new to reloading there are a variety of books and online information to help you get started. This article discusses some reloading tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years through my own experience and that of others.

Of course, safety is always the most important thing to consider and there are safety precautions reloaders should always follow. Always wear safety glasses while reloading and anytime you are handling primers (e.g. loading primer tubes). Powder spills will happen. Always keep the reloader, the area around your reloader, and the floor under it free from spilled powder.


Powder generally comes in five basic forms: extruded tubular kernels, cut round flakes, cut sheet flakes, round ball, and flattened ball. From time to time, manufacturers will modify the formula for a given powder so always use load information from current reloading manuals or the powder manufacturer’s on-line data.

The powder’s shape and density directly affects how it will pack and then flow from your powder measure’s reservoir. With some powder shapes, you must maintain a consistent fill or pack in the powder measure’s reservoir to ensure each charge the measure throws has the same weight. I refill my powder measure when it reaches the ¾ mark anytime the powder I am using has cut round flakes or cut sheet flakes.


You must always visually confirm that the powder level is consistent in each and every case as you load—this is the single most important reloading step. If you find a load for a particular application that uses a bulky powder which fills the case more than half way all the better. Experience will help you calibrate your eye and enable you to detect differences in powder charges.

Inconsistent powder charges can cause serious problems. For example, when you fire a round with no powder or too little powder in the case you will typically have a bullet lodged in the barrel. If you hear a slight “pop” instead of a bang when firing a round, stop, properly clear the firearm, and make sure the bullet exited the bore. With pistols and rifles, be careful about automatically doing a “tap/rack” and trying to fire another round during a match or in training. If the bullet did not exit, firing another round will likely cause a bulge in the barrel at best and may destroy the firearm and cause injury if the barrel bursts. I’ve seen shooters destroy four barrels (and two pistols) due to reloaded ammunition with no or too little powder in the case and the shooter automatically doing a “tap/rack.”

The other side to that coin is the dreaded double charge. A double charge can literally destroy your firearm and may cause serious injury. If you believe you have double charged a case and it got by you, you must not shoot any suspect rounds in that batch of reloaded ammunition. If you do, you may end up with a blown case at best, at worst you can end up with a destroyed firearm (I have seen that three times, two pistols and one 5.56 AR rifle) or severe injury.

You can certainly pull all the suspect rounds; however, another means to find the suspect cartridge is to weigh every round in that batch. Any round that is overweight by more than a grain should be segregated and the bullets pulled. This is where segregating your brass can be important since brass from different manufacturers will often have notably different weights. I've even seen different lots of brass from the same manufacturer with significant weight variances.

The picture below shows a 9mm case that experienced a catastrophic failure on firing. It is very possible that this round was double charged and the pistol could not handle the pressure. No one was injured in this incident; however, the pistol was destroyed. An expensive round of ammunition. 

Weight the Charge

Weight at least 3 charges to ensure you are throwing a consistent charge weight when you first set the powder measure. With most powder measures, the charge weight should not differ by more than 0.1 to 0.2 grains across the three measurements. If I get a spread of 0.2 grains or more, I continue to weigh charges until I get a consistent reading. Certain powders (e.g. long grain extruded and stick rifle powders) may not meter as uniformly due to their grain size and the fact that you often cut grains as you throw the charge. Experience weighing a lot of powder charges will teach you how to consistently throw accurate charge weights.

I have found that using a device to gently vibrate the powder measure helps maintain consistency in charge weight. I use an aquarium aerator pump which vibrates gently and is not excessively noisy to perform this function. Polishing the interior of the powder measure body can also aid in maintain powder charge consistency. The polished surface helps powder flow more easily into the powder bar. This is easy to do yourself and several instructional examples of the process are posted on the internet and YouTube.

Aftermarket powder measure accessories can help you throw consistent charges. A number of manufacturers offer Micrometer inserts or powder bar kits that can significantly ease the process of achieving consistent measures (see
the picture below). One example that I use consistently throws charges of flake pistol powder within .01 - .02 grains of accuracy (that’s hundredths of a grain). My normal powder scale will not even measure to that degree of weight—I used a special gem scale to check its consistency.

Consistent Stroke (OK, no giggling)

Another factor in consistent powder charges is cycling the powder measure or press using consistent force. Varying the amount of force you use as you cycle the powder measure or press can result in slightly more or less powder in the charge. Additionally, on a progressive press a heavy-handed operator that slams the lever hard against the stops can cause the powder to settle a bit more and/or bounce out of an already filled case which will result inconsistent charge weights. If you notice that powder as bounced out of a case, dump that charge and refill the case with a fresh powder charge.

If am interrupted during the reloading sequence, I always place the handle fully down before I deal with the interruption. When I am ready to begin the loading sequence once again, I raise the handle and then visually confirm the status of every station on the press (I use a progressive machine), ensure the powder fill is correct, that I have primed the case in the priming station, etc.

New Brass

New brass can be harder to size, prime, and seat bullets in than fired brass at times because the brass may be lacking lubrication. Sometimes the powder-thru expander can be hard to get back out of the case when dealing with new brass, particularly with short cases. This happens due to the brass being stripped clean and polished during the manufacturing process. On progressive presses, the lurch when the case pops free from the die can upset powder drop consistency and bounce powder out of filled cases.

Brass residue buildup on the expander can also cause this problem. Periodically cleaning off the brass residue using a Scotch-Brite™ pad (or similar product) will restore smooth operation. You can also tumble your new cases in used media for half an hour before reloading. The powder residue in the tumbling media will add just enough lubrication to the brass to ease the loading process. Another option is periodically swab a small (less than a drop) of lube on the expander or use a case lube on the cases.

Check your brass

When brass cases are reloaded a number of times, the brass will eventually develop splits upon firing. With pistol cartridges, these splits often (but not always) occur at the case mouth. The picture below shows a piece of 45 ACP that split further down in the case body. The 300 AC Blackout case in the center experienced a similar split. The 9mm case however, has a very unusual split pattern. This split may have resulted from using an ammonia-based cleaning solution to clean the brass.

Check your rounds

I check every round in a chamber checker. There are a variety of chamber checkers on the market and they are well worth the money (see the
picture below). Prior to the advent of chamber checkers, it was common for pistol shooters to remove the barrel and check every round by hand. You can still do this; however, the chamber checker has made this step easier. A chamber checker’s dimensions replicate the chamber of the barrel in your firearm. If your reloaded round does not easily go into and drop out of the chamber checker, then that round is suspect. 

The picture below shows several rounds that failed the chamber check. Round #1 is clearly out of spec and may have been the result of a high-pressure load fired in a pistol with a chamber configuration that does not fully support the chambered cartridge case, round #2 has the primer upside down (a condition that might have gone unnoticed without checking the rounds), and round #3 is questionable and will likely not chamber. The 4 rounds in the bottom row passed. As you can see, they sit flush or slightly below the chamber checker opening. 

Reloading can be very satisfying and can save you money. I hope you’ve found these tips and tricks useful and I welcome tips from readers.  

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Low Light 18: Decision-Based Scenarios #1

Don't Shoot the Good Guy!
We just completed our final practice session for 2017/18. This is the 5th year for our low light curriculum and the shooters who have taken these classes and continued with practice sessions have noticeably improved in most low light tasks.

We started the session with the new IDPA 5x5 classifier to provide the participants the opportunity to test their skills against a known standard without using the flashlights. However, as light began to fade cardboard targets against a cardboard-colored dirt berm posed some challenges with precision for some (me included, I was having a hard time precisely indexing the target and dropped 5 points).

Once it was dark, we then conducted the IDPA 5x5 classifier with lights. Several participants did much better point-wise with lights, but times were significantly slower. My average for every time I have fired the 5x5 CCP is 19.61. My time for the 5x5 using a flashlight was 35.56 with zero points down. This was 55% slower as I manipulated the flashlight during the draw, firing, reloading, etc. I was approximately 3 seconds slower for stages 1, 2, and 4 and my time for stage 3 was almost double what I normally shoot. I am uncertain how to categorize the results using flashlights. 

One of the participants requested some decision-based scenarios so we conducted two scenarios. I have not conducted too many scenarios over the last couple of years, preferring instead to provide participants an opportunity to practice and master low light techniques. As I have mentioned previously, these practice sessions have led to substantial improvements in the participant’s ability to accurately engage targets under low light conditions. However, these practice sessions do not test a participant’s ability to employ these techniques and make sound decisions under stress and that can be a challenge as well.

Decision Based Scenarios

The decision based scenarios we use are surprise scenarios where proper target recognition, flashlight techniques, movement, and marksmanship are critical to success. We use photo realistic targets with a mix of threats and non-threats. 

In the scenario prebrief I asked participants if they were licensed to carry handguns and if they routinely carried their pistol. All five indicated they were licensed and routinely carried. We then discussed the possibility of encountering an armed “good guy” on the scene who, just like them, was caught in an unfolding violent event. All agreed that was a distinct possibility and something to consider. I also discussed the fact that rifle fire and pistol fire made clearly different sounds and what each might sound like during the course of the scenarios so the participants could distinguish between the two weapons.

As you look at the scenario pictures, potentially disabling hits are shown in green, marginal hits in yellow, and misses in red. 

Scenario #1: You are leaving an evening event and walking to your car. You are alone and have no family members or friends present. The parking lot is lit, but not real well. Suddenly you hear a male screaming Jihad! Jihad! and rifle fire erupts in front of you. What do you do?

The first participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight while moving laterally. He then abruptly turned and ran away from the rifle fire without drawing his pistol. I stopped the scenario and asked the participant why he decided to run from the scene. He responded that when he scanned with his light there were too many people present to quickly decide who was/was not a threat and that he thought the best decision was to run. Textbook solution—if you are alone and violence erupts, leave immediately if possible.

The second participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and immediately noticed the armed “good guy” who was present, but not pointing his pistol at the participant. He then fixated on this individual and fired at him every time he heard rifle fire—hitting him a couple of times. I asked the participant why he did not scan the scene and he responded that he was concerned the person with the pistol was the primary threat. He never noticed the three Jihadi ten yards away.

The third participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and noticed the armed “good guy.” He then fired at this individual hitting him a couple of times. The participant continued to move and scan the scene and he noticed and fired at 2 of the 3 Jihadi hitting one.

The fourth participant quickly scanned the scene using his flashlight and noticed the armed “good guy;” however, he did not fire at this individual nor did he fire at the police officer or bystander. The participant continued to move and scan the scene and he noticed and engaged all 3 Jihadi hitting 2 several times and the 3rd Jihadi’s rifle scope turret. Participant 4 applied good tactics and used his light to his advantage. 

Participant five noticed the armed “good guy” and fixated on this individual; firing at him several times and missing with most of his shots. Every time he heard rifle fire, he fired at the armed good guy.

This was the first decision scenario for one participant. The other 4 had completed decision scenarios previously; however, not for 2 years. For 4 of the 5 participants, low light tactics, techniques, and procedures went completely out the window. Several shooters managed to completely avoid hitting targets that were well within ten yards even though they fired several rounds. Others misidentified non threat targets and engaged them with enthusiasm. 

However, no one shot at the unarmed, innocent bystander--that is not always the case as you can see from the picture below. 

I’ll provide an overview of Scenario #2, some overall comments, and lessons learned in the next post.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Not my circus. Not my monkeys

Catawba County, NC: On Jan. 22, 2016, Jefferson Heavner and his friends stopped to help a driver whose car had spun off an icy North Carolina road during a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the area. But the driver opened fire on the group, killing Heavener.

Camden, NJ - According to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Mosby was abusing his ex-girlfriend and the altercation spilled into a building common area where Carey was sitting. “Carey intervened and tried to protect the woman and her toddler, when Mosby again started to physically assault her.” Mosby then shot Carey once in the chest and fled. Carey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Many years ago, a friend of mine tried to intervene when he saw a man beating a woman in a bar. When he stepped in, both individuals immediately attacked and severely beat him. The woman’s comment? “Nobody hits my man!”

As you consider the situations described above (and dozens of others like these) questions arise: Could you get involved? Should you get involved? Must you? In many (perhaps most) states the answer is a qualified yes to the “could you” question depending upon the circumstances. However, should you get involved in someone else’s problem? As you charge forward, pistol in hand, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into? 

“Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” A saying that has become popular in Army circles (my day job) and if we think about it, a saying that often fits into our day to day circumstances. Unless someone is using or attempting to use unlawful force or deadly force directly against you or someone under your direct, personal protection, the immediate question arises: Do you actually know what is happening? 

You must answer this question quickly and accurately if you are considering intervening in someone else’s problem. If you are not directly involved in the altercation or incident, is it worth stepping into an uncertain fight with unknown people? Your financial future, freedom, and literally your life may depend on this answer.

Look at the buffoonery underway in this video. Numerous private citizens are trying to corral an alleged purse snatcher. During the course of this incident, Ms. Emma Cotten, is seen on the video pointing a pistol at a suspected thief as other men had him pinned to the ground. Ms. Cotten then fires one round toward the individual and others after the alleged purse snatcher broke free from his captors and started running through the Wal-Mart parking lot. A grand jury returned a true bill for a deadly conduct charge and prosecutors have indicted Ms. Cotton for her discharge of the firearm in this incident—this is not a trivial offense in Texas.* 

Should you get involved? Be very cautious about coming to the defense of others, especially strangers. Although many of us would like to be Good Samaritans and a few want to be “Heroes!”, do you want to perish as a result of stepping into someone else’s problem? A more prudent course of action might be to call 911 and be a good witness. 

Must you get involved? In Texas (and I suspect in most states) the license to carry law does not confer a public duty that would require a licensee to get involved in stopping a crime. In other words, must get involved is never a requirement; however, we can all imagine witnessing an attack so monstrous that we just could not stand by and let it continue. If the situation is such that you believe you must intervene before police arrive, think of your own safety first. 

Can you confront the individual from a position of cover? Are there obstacles between you and the individual that will inhibit him from getting close to you? What if the assailant simply ignores your commands and continues the assault? Are you prepared to escalate? Are you able to deal with these possibilities and the aftermath?

Your decision to get involved and try to stop a crime in progress is entirely up to you. However, a point I always make while teaching a License to Carry class is that the time to think could, should, must is ideally well before you face the decision during an unfolding incident. Maintain situational awareness and make the best decisions that you can based on your training and experience. 

One thing to always remember is that you will live the rest of your life (as short as it may be) with the consequences of your actions. The time to think about these potential scenarios is before you find yourself witnessing a crime unfolding in front of you.

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Sec. 22.05. DEADLY CONDUCT. 

(a) A person commits an offense if he recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

(b) A person commits an offense if he knowingly discharges a firearm at or in the direction of:

(1) one or more individuals; or

(2) a habitation, building, or vehicle and is reckless as to whether the habitation, building, or vehicle is occupied.

(c) Recklessness and danger are presumed if the actor knowingly pointed a firearm at or in the direction of another whether or not the actor believed the firearm to be loaded.

(d) For purposes of this section, "building," "habitation," and "vehicle" have the meanings assigned those terms by Section 30.01.

(e) An offense under Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor. An offense under Subsection (b) is a felony of the third degree.


(a) An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years.