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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* https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/08/twenty-plenty/





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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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The FBI Qualification with a Five Shot Revolver?

I routinely carry a S&W Model 342 .38 Special revolver in a pocket holster when I am at home and not otherwise armed. 

The Model 342 is a J-frame revolver with a 2-inch barrel similar in design to the many other variations of the Model 36. This pistol has an enclosed hammer and is double action only with fixed sights.

Just for the sake of doing it, my friend Steve and I decided to shoot the 2019 FBI qualification with our J-frame revolvers. We started with the pistol in a pocket, hand on the grip of the pistol.

The 2019 version of the FBI pistol qualification course of fire is as follows:

3 yards

- Draw and fire 3 rounds strong hand only, switch hands and fire 3 rounds support hand only, all in 6 seconds

5 yards

- Draw and fire 3 rounds in 3 seconds

- From the Ready, fire 3 rounds in 2 seconds

- From the Ready, fire 6 rounds in 4 seconds

7 yards

- Draw and fire 5 rounds in 5 seconds

- From the Ready, fire 4 rounds, conduct an empty gun reload, and fire 4 more rounds, all in 8 seconds

- From the Ready, fire 5 rounds in 4 seconds

15 yards

- Draw and fire 3 rounds in 6 seconds

- From the Ready, fire 3 rounds in 5 seconds

25 yards

- Draw and fire 4 rounds from Standing, drop to a Kneeling Position and fire 4 more rounds from Kneeling, all in 20 seconds.

Scoring: 50 rounds, two points per round for a total of 100 points possible; 90 or above is a pass for FBI firearms instructors. 


Obviously with a five shot revolver we could not do the six shots in one string at the 3-yard line. We fired 3 shots in 2 seconds, reloaded, at the second start signal passed the pistol to the support hand and fired the additional 3 shots in 3 seconds. We did the same thing for the 5-yard string firing two, 3-shot sequences in less than 2 seconds each.

I fumbled a bit on the first run and did not make the 8-second time limit for the 7-yard string of four – reload – four in eight seconds. I also discovered that the pistol was printing low and left at 25 yards with the ammunition I was using. My score (not counting any time penalty) was an 88. The circled round is a miss. According to Tom Givens, all shots must be inside the bottle to count as hits.

On the second run I borrowed Steve’s speed loader and made the 7-yard reload time. With fixed sights you get what you get, so I also adjusted my 25-yard aiming point and scored a 92. 

This light little pistol and its siblings have served and protected many police officers and private citizens alike for decades. I generally don’t carry it when I go out in public anymore in favor of my compact SIG P320. Not that it would not serve for most potential incidents; however, I prefer a larger pistol with greater ammunition capacity given the buffoonery that is going on now days. 

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

To Red Dot or Not?


GILES CUSTOM w/ Aimpoint MKIII Courtesy of Morphy Auctions

My first experience with a red dot sight on a pistol was the Aimpoint Mark III in 1983 when I was a member of an Army pistol team. The Aimpoint was the “newest thing” and several of my team mates had purchased them and mounted them on their bullseye pistols. Even though the sight was too large and heavy for practical carry they worked well as bullseye pistols. We had several Distinguished shooters on the team who could hold the 1.69 inch “X” ring on an NRA standard B-6 50-yard target with both iron sights and the red dot.

I mounted one on my Giles Custom 38 Wadcutter 1911 pistol; however, I could not consistently hold the 8-inch bullseye at fifty yards much less the X ring. The bouncing red dot frustrated me because it was a constant reminder of how large my arc of motion was at that point in my shooting career. I took the Aimpoint off the pistol and installed it on a Ruger Mini-14 and proceeded to use it to hunt jackrabbits. I still have the sight and it still works.

Fast forward to 2015 and my introduction to the Miniature Red Dot Sights (MRDS) and their ability to be slide-mounted for daily carry. I tried a MRDS during one of Gabe Suarez’s classes and was immediately struck by its utility.

What impressed me about the red dot was that it removed one variable in the aiming process. With a dot, you do not need to maintain the relationship between the front/rear sights that you must maintain with iron sights. The red dot is on a single focal plane. If the dot is on the target and you maintain this alignment while properly pressing the trigger, you will hit the target assuming a properly zeroed pistol.

Notice I said maintain the dot’s position in relation to the target and properly press the trigger. A red dot sight will not correct a flinch, jerking the trigger, etc.

Some studies have stated that a red dot does little to enhance accuracy at the 0-5 yard ranges for typical targets. In reality do you need sights at these ranges at all? I personally don’t and many accomplished shooters can extend this out to 6, 7, or even 10 yards. If the target is close then the sights are unnecessary, the body mechanics of pointing the pistol will allow you to hit the target absent some intervening factor (e.g. severely jerking the trigger).

Sights are for precision shooting such as a 1-inch group at 10 yards or making a head shot on an IDPA target at 25 yards. Precision and distant shots are where sight selection becomes important whether you are looking at the width of the front sight blade on adjustable iron sights or the minute-of-angle (MOA) diameter for a red dot sight.

In 2015 & 2016, Karl Rehn and KR Training partnered with the Texas A&M Huffines Institute to conduct a study comparing shooter performance using iron sights, green lasers, and slide mounted red dot sights.* They collected data on 118 shooters of all skill levels from age 18 to 76 years old over a two-year period. I learned of Rehn’s study at the 2016 Tactical Conference where he summarized the study’s conclusion: Shooters using the slide mounted red dots did not shoot better than those using irons or lasers.

As I listened to the Tactical Conference presentation one thing immediately caught my attention. Per the study: “There was not time in the testing to give participants significant training time to learn the red dot or the laser. They were allowed 10 or less dry fire presentations before testing began. Red dot advocates insist that finding the dot on presentation improves with training.”

In my experience this is absolutely true. The physical alignment of the pistol on target results from properly positioning the body, your hand eye coordination, and a proper grip on the pistol. These factors are what align the pistol on target, not the sights.

If you do not have a solid mastery of shooting fundamentals or if you cannot properly present the pistol from a draw, the red dot will not magically cure these problems.

The pistol’s ergonomics can affect your grip and ability to obtain a consistent pistol presentation. The grips size compared to your hand size and the grip angle come into play. In my case, I personally don’t like the grip angle on some pistols because they cause me to present the pistol with the muzzle elevated—iron sights or red dot. I don’t have that problem with other pistols such as the 1911, S&W M&P, or the SIG P320. My current carry pistol is a SIG P320 with a Trijicon RMR and the SIG Lima Laser Grip module.

SIG P320 & SIG Lima Laser Grip module

If you have a pistol that fits you and have practiced to the point that you have a consistent presentation then the red dot will be exactly where you need it to be in relation to the target. All you need then is a good trigger press and you will hit.

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* https://blog.krtraining.com/red-dot-study-key-points/

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Practice 2019: Rangemaster Level V qualification

Every now and then you should test your skills against a recognized standard course of fire. On 28 September 2019, my friend Steve and I ran five standard courses of fire one after another. The second course was the Rangemaster Level V qualification.

I shot the all of the standards 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.

For the Rangemaster Level V qualification you fire 50 rounds with a total 250 possible score. I have not attended a Rangemaster pistol course; however, my research indicates that the passing score is 200 points.

The Rangemaster Level V qualification uses an RM-Q2 target scored 5, 4, 3. I did not have an RM-Q2 target; so, I used a standard IDPA target since the inner center circle on the RM-Q2 is 8” and the head circle is 4 inches.



The Rangemaster Level V qualification is as follows:

    -- 3 yards – Draw and fire 3 rounds. 2.5 seconds. Repeat.

    -- 5 yards – Draw and fire 5 rounds, dominant hand only. 5 seconds.

    -- 5 yards – Start at (low) ready and fire 5 rounds, non-dominant hand only. 5 seconds.

    -- 5 yards – Draw and fire 3 to the chest and 2 to the head. 5 seconds. 

    -- 5 yards – Draw and fire 3 to the chest and 2 to the head, dominant hand only. 6 seconds.

    -- 7 yards – Draw and fire 5 rounds. 5 seconds.

    -- 7 yards – Start at (low) ready, 3 rounds only in gun. On signal, fire 3 rounds, reload, fire 2 rounds. 8 seconds.

    -- 10 yards – Start at (low) ready, stove-pipe malfunction in place. On signal, fire 2 rounds. 5 seconds.

    -- 10 yards – Start at (low) ready, dummy round as top round in magazine (live round in chamber). On signal, fire 2 rounds. 7 seconds.

    -- 15 yards – Draw and fire 3 rounds. 5 seconds. Repeat.

    -- 25 yards – Draw and fire 4 rounds. 8 seconds.

I was pleased with my performance scoring a possible 250 on the Level V qualification and met all time requirements. I have been focusing on my trigger pull in my practice lately and this target is showing some improvement. My shots have a better distribution in the center of the 8” scoring zone with only a few in the lower left.



Although clearly designed for a semi-automatic pistol, my friend Steve shot the Level V qualification with his S&W 686 revolver. Steve also scored a possible 250 and finished every string within required times. 

In the world of semi-automatic pistol courses of fire the revolver is normally at a disadvantage. Not so with the
Level V qualification.  Steve could not do the 10-yard stovepipe malfunction clearance nor the Tap/Rack so we set his revolver to click on an empty chamber for these strings. With a revolver, when you hear a click instead of a bang, you simply pull the trigger again.  A bang and you are good to go.  Another click and you reload.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Setting Yourself Up for a Murder Charge--The James Meyer Incident

James Meyer (Dallas Police Photo)
A Dallas man has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting a burglar outside his Dallas home on 26 September 2019.

According to the arrest warrant, James Michael Meyer told police that noise outside his home awakened him about 5 a.m. He looked out a window and saw someone trying to break into his storage shed with a pick-axe. Meyer said he grabbed his handgun, chambered a round, and then exited his home yelling at the person to stop what he was doing and not come any closer or else he'd shoot.

Meyer told police the person took several steps toward him, so he fired his gun. Meyer stated that at that point, the burglar dropped the pickax and ran toward the park. Meyer said he fired an additional shot "into the night" in the direction of the park; however, he didn't know whether he had struck the person, so he went back to bed.

Later that morning Meyer looked outside once again and saw something in the park. Upon closer inspection, he found an unidentified individual lying face down so he called the police.

When police investigators were looking for spend cartridges at the scene the could not locate any. When asked about this Meyer told them he had thrown them in the trash.

Meyer has an uphill struggle ahead of him. Texas Penal Code § 9.42. Deadly Force to Protect Property contains a clause stating that a person is justified in using deadly force against another to prevent the other's imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime.

In addition to the provisions of § 9.42, the circumstances Meyer faced when the individual was advancing toward him with a pick-axe may have justified the use of deadly force to defend himself from a reasonable perception that the burglar was threatening the imminent use of deadly force.

However, Meyer like many people, now finds himself charged with murder because the incident evolved from one in which Meyer's use of deadly force was potentially justified into one where the perpetrator is fleeing and the defender is now the aggressor. Meyer told police that the burglar dropped the pick-axe and was fleeing the confrontation when Meyer fired his final shot.

To add icing to the cake, Meyer then disturbed critical evidence and altered a crime scene when he gathered up his spent cartridges and threw them in the trash.

As a result of his extensive experience with deadly force incidents and their aftermaths, Massad Ayoob has developed a five-point checklist.  


Call the police. If you are involved in a deadly force self-defense incident call the police. Don't call your attorney, your neighbors, your parents, your husband, your wife or anyone else before you call the police. Tell the police dispatcher that you have been attacked and that your attacker may be (in Meyer’s case he said did not know) or is down.

Stay on the line with the dispatcher and give your location, describe what you are wearing, and remind the dispatcher that you are the victim. Request that the dispatcher provide responding officers a description of what you are wearing and where you are located. The dispatcher will likely ask questions concerning what has happened however, you do not have to answer. Tell the dispatcher that you will talk to responding officers.

Sign the Complaint. When the police arrive tell them you will sign the complaint. This reinforces that you were in fact the victim in the incident.

Point out the Evidence. Evidence is perishable and can be moved or stolen. Under no circumstances should you willingly disturb or move evidence yourself. This is altering a crime scene and is itself a crime in many jurisdictions.

Point out Witnesses. If there are witnesses point them out to the police. If you do not, they may leave the scene and their testimony will leave with them. 

Cooperate. Tell the police that you will cooperate fully once you have consulted legal counsel. Police may ask questions at the scene beyond what you have told them in the steps above. Politely decline to answer and repeat that you will cooperate fully once you have consulted legal counsel.

Although not part of Massad Ayoob's five-point list: ensure your legal counsel is qualified to give you proper legal advice. According to Meyer’s arrest affidavit, Meyer's attorney agreed to allow Meyer to make a statement on 26 September 2019 the day of the incident. A detective read Meyer his Miranda Warning before questioning him. The attorney then sat (presumably) silent while Meyer made an incriminating statement:

     Suspect Meyer stated that the complainant (the burglar) took several steps towards him and Suspect Meyer fired his gun. Suspect Meyer stated the complainant dropped the pick-axe and ran away in the direction of the park. At that point Suspect Meyer, repositioned himself and fired an additional shot "into the night" which in the direction of the park [sic]. According to Suspect Meyer, the complainant had left towards the park when he fired the second shot. From the suspect's accounts, the threat of serious bodily injury against him was over when the complainant dropped the pick-axe and ran off away from him [Meyer]. 

James Meyer may well have turned a justified use of deadly force into a prison sentence with the aid of his legal counsel. Using deadly force against a fleeing perpetrator who no longer poses an imminent threat of deadly force, failing to call the police immediately, intentionally altering evidence, and then making an ill-considered, incriminating statement to the police can be very problematic for how and where you live the rest of your life.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Practice 2019: CSAT Standards—Where do you stand?

Every now and then you should test your skills against a recognized standard course of fire.  During my research for another article, I came across an article by Paul Howe of Combat Shooting & Tactics (CSAT) stating that “In the end, I have not seen anyone as fast with optics as they are with iron sights. No one has passed my standards yet with a pistol mounted optical device.” (Note: The article was published in 2016 so this may no longer be the case.)

I decided to shoot the CSAT pistol standards
cold with my every day carry SIG P320 compact that has a Trijicon RMR optic. 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 as follows:

The CSAT Standards use the CSAT target shown below which is similar to a USPSA standard target although the CSAT target is slightly larger. From what I can gather, the CSAT is 23″ wide and IPSC is 18″ wide. Since I did not have CSAT targets I used the USPSA target.


CSAT Target


The CSAT pistol standards require 2 targets and I set them at the same height two yards apart. The CSAT pistol standards scoring are pass/fail—only shots in the center box and head of the CSAT target count. At the instructor-level shooter must pass at least 8 of the 10 standards.

The standards are a 25-shot course of fire. All standards are fired from the 7-yard line except #10 which is fired from the 25-yard line as follows:


   -- Standard 1: From the ready fire 1 shot (body) in 1.0 second

   -- Standard 2: From holster fire 1 shot (body) in 1.7 seconds

   -- Standard 3: From the ready fire 2 shots (body) in 1.5 seconds

   -- Standard 4: From the ready fire 5 shots to the body, 1 shot to the head (6 total) in 3.0 seconds

   -- Standard 5: From the ready fire 2 shots (body) on target #1, then 2 shots (body) on target #2 (4 total) in 3.0 seconds

   -- Standard 6: From the ready fire 2 shots weak-hand-only, transition pistol to the opposite hand, 2 shots strong-hand-only (4 total) in 5.0 seconds

   -- Standard 7: Start with an empty chamber, and full magazine inserted. From the ready fire, press out and press the trigger (click), tap/rack, 1 shot (body) in 3.0 seconds

   -- Standard 8: Start with 1 in the chamber, 1 in the magazine; full reload in mag pouch. From the ready fire 2 shots (body), reload from slide-lock, 2 shots (body) in 5.0 seconds

   -- Standard 9: Start with rifle shouldered/ready with an empty chamber. Raise the rifle and press the trigger (click), transition to pistol, 1 shot (body) in3.25 seconds

   -- Standard 10: Standing at 25 yards: From holster, kneel and fire 1 shot (body) in 3.25 seconds

I passed all of the standards except for standard #6. I easily made time and squeaked the one shot to the lower left (at 7:00) of target #1 on the line with my left hand; however, forgot to use strong-hand-only for the second pair of shots so I did not pass.



The CSAT standards are not trivial; however, I personally know a number of shooters who are better than me and who could easily pass them using pistol-mounted red dot sights. 

Pistol-mounted red dots sights are coming into the mainstream of concealed carry and police use. Although a quality red dot is not cheap and it does take practice to master, the red dot will enhance your capabilities as a shooter beyond what traditional iron sights will allow--particularly with precision shots.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Four Rules of Firearm Safety? Instructor Shoots a CCW Student.


The Palm Springs Desert Sun* reports that a Riverside California County Sheriff's Department trainer (apparently not a sworn officer) shot a man attending a concealed weapons permit firearms training class.

A sheriff’s department spokesman stated that as gun range staff were inspecting student's firearms to ensure they were unloaded, the range staff member administered a "trigger pull test" and shot the student in the leg.

Paramedics transported the citizen to a local hospital where he received treatment for a non-life-threatening wound. 

The news report goes on to say that the sheriff's Perris Station staff and the staff at the Ben Clark Training Center are investigating the "accidental discharge" incident.

I can save them the trouble.

The instructor, having failed to check and see if the firearm was loaded, pointed the firearm at the student’s leg, and intentionally pulled the trigger. 

Did the instructor intent to shoot the student?  Undoubtedly no; however, this was negligence, not an accident.

The instructor violated at least two of the firearm safety rules.

1. The instructor did not treat the firearm as if it was loaded.

2.  The instructor did not point the muzzle of the firearm in a safe direction.

The four firearm safety rules are multilayered.  You can typically violate one without catastrophic consequences.  Once you begin to violate two or more you are in trouble.

The four firearm safety rules:

1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded at all times.

2. Always point the firearm in a safe direction — this is dependent upon the environment and circumstances. We line in a 360-degree world.  A safe direction one minute may not be safe a moment later.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you are intentionally firing a shot. Discard all other variations of this rule.  Intentionally firing a shot.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

From the Palm Springs Desert Sun, Published Aug. 24, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Think Before Shooting--Fleeing Suspects

Jason Moak--Suspected Burglar

Recently Concealed Nation ran an article that recounts a burglary incident and shooting that happened in German Township, Ohio. Richard Winegardner’s unoccupied home has been burglarized numerous times over the last few months; however, this time it happened while Winegardner was home and in the shower. You can click on these links to read the Concealed Nation article and news account.

Winegardner calls 911 while he is confronting the person in his house and simultaneously providing the dispatcher information. It seems that the suspected burglar (later identified as Jason Moak) at some point decided to flee and Winegardner apparently gave chase, ultimately firing numerous shots at Moak’s SUV. The news reports that police found the SUV with the back window shot out, bullet holes in the interior, and the rear bumper.

The Concealed Nation article closes with a comment that causes some concern. “While we never recommend shooting at a fleeing suspect, this particular case ended up working out. Had Winegardner shot Moak, well, that could have been a different ending for Winegardner.” It is not clear whether the comment implies that it was better to shoot at the fleeing Moak rather than using deadly force in the residence or whether it is fortunate that although Winegardner shot at Moak’s vehicle he did not hit him.

Ohio like many states has a form of a presumption of reasonableness if you use force or deadly force against someone who has unlawfully, or in some circumstances, unlawfully and forcibly entered an occupied habitation (and in some states) vehicle, or business. Under Ohio law* there is a presumption that a defender acted in self-defense or defense of another if he used deadly force against another if the person against whom the defensive force was used had unlawfully entered (or was in the process of unlawfully entering) the residence or vehicle that the defender occupied. Further, Ohio law does not require the defender to retreat before using force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of his residence.

Ohio law does not say anything about chasing someone who is no longer in the occupied residence, who is in fact fleeing from the scene, and is not posing a deadly threat. I confess surprise that prosecutors did not charge Winegardner criminally for shooting at Moak’s vehicle.

Knowing your state’s specific laws associated with these circumstances can be very important. Texas law for example presumes you acted reasonably and justifiably if you use force or deadly force to defend yourself or another innocent against an intruder who unlawfully and with force enters your occupied habitation (home or residence), vehicle, or place of business or employment. 

Texas law requires meeting these two provisions to give rise to this important legal presumption. Someone unlawfully entering your occupied residence through an unlocked front door would not meet the use of force provision and therefore not enjoy the presumption of reasonableness. Of course this does not mean that you could not argue self-defense under the totality of the circumstances if someone illegally entered through an unlocked door and subsequently presented a threat of unlawful deadly force.

Many people find themselves in trouble when an incident evolves from one in which deadly force was justified into one where the perpetrator is fleeing and the defender is now the aggressor. It is clear that some people cannot control what is apparently an irresistible urge to chase after and shoot at someone who is fleeing from a confrontation. A quick Internet search for “chases robber” or “chases burglar” shows numerous instances. Although some states have fleeing felon provisions in the law, using deadly force under these circumstances can potentially be very problematic for how and where you live the rest of your life.

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* Ohio 2901.05 Burden of proof - reasonable doubt - self-defense: Section B (2) A person is presumed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if the person against whom the defensive force is used is in the process of unlawfully and without privilege to do so entering, or has unlawfully and without privilege to do so entered, the residence or vehicle occupied by the person using the defensive force.



Friday, July 26, 2019

The Same Thing, the Correct Way, 48 out of 50 Times

I recently had to fire the Texas License to Carry qualification to renew my instructor certificate. In Texas an LTC instructor must qualify with a .22 caliber or larger revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. 

For the revolver I chose to qualify with a 4-inch S&W 44 Remington Magnum with a heavy (however not absolutely full power) 240 grain load that is about the equivalent of the Remington factory Semi-Jacketed HP load. For the semi-auto I shot my everyday carry SIG P320 carry in 9mm with the equivalent of the Hornady 135gr Critical Duty load. 

My goal for the semi was 50 shots in the "X" ring. To shoot well you must do the same thing, the correct way, every time. My students tell me that my mantra is often the one thing that really sticks in their mind. I tend to repeat it over and over during the course of a class. I did not do this with the semi and slipped two in the Ten ring due to two sloppy trigger pulls. The same thing, the correct way, 48 out of 50 times--I missed my goal.

Chased the same goal with the revolver and dropped a few more outside the "X" ring and two in the Nine ring. Grrrrrr. . .



The Texas License to Carry qualification is as follows: Your handgun must be .22 caliber or larger. 


Course of Fire:

3 yard line – 20 shots:

- 1 shot in 2 seconds, 5 times
- 2 shots in 3 seconds, 5 times
- 5 shots in 10 seconds, once

7 yard line – 20 shots:


- 5 shots in 10 seconds, once
- 1 shot in 3 seconds, 5 times - 2 shots in 4 seconds, once - 3 shots in 6 seconds, once - 5 shots in 15 seconds, once

15 yard line – 10 shots:
 

- 2 shots in 6 seconds, once - 3 shots in 9 seconds, once - 5 shots in 15 seconds, once

An LTC student must score of 70% or 175 points of a possible 250 to pass. An LTC instructor must score at least 90% or 225 points to pass. Five points for each shot within the 8 ring, 4 points for each shot within the 7 ring, 3 points for each shot within the colored silhouette, but outside the 7 ring, no points for shots outside the silhouette.

I fired a possible score of 250 on both qualifications; however, that was not the point.

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Thursday, July 4, 2019

Advanced Low Light Course

In Mid-May 2019, I conducted an advanced Low Light course with two students who have progressed to this level. For the qualification, we fired the MAG 20 Live Fire course. I tossed in an extra challenge by covering each target with a new t-shirt so the students did not have a reference aiming point.

We used the San Antonio Police Department target and scored it as five points in the inner “bottle,” four points inside the next scoring area, and zero points outside the four point ring or for misses.

⁣We shot a single speed qualifier in daylight for a control score and then in low light with no moon. I shot the qualifier as well and achieved a 300 with a 5-5/8ths inch group. I used a P320 Carry with Lima Module, a Trijicon Red Dot and a Fenix hand-held flashlight.

To learn more about the MAG20 qualifier, go to the link here.


SIG P320 Carry with the LIMA Module
At 15 yards the standard MAG20 qualifier has six shots using the Weaver stance, six shots using the modified Chapman, and six shots using the Isosceles with a reload between each string. The only challenge with the qualifier was using the Isosceles stance at 15 yards—very difficult with a hand-held light unless you are using the syringe technique and then the pistol/light grip will shift with every shot. With the Fenix light I was using, the tailcap design makes the syringe technique almost impossible. The student’s flashlights had a similar design.

Given these challenges, I allowed the students to use the Isosceles or if they preferred the modified Chapman or Weaver. At 15 yards, I shot it using the Weaver, then Chapman, then Weaver and used the 
Harries flashlight technique.

Harries Technique
Harries Technique
You must practice low light techniques to have any hope of using them under stress. The students in this course have mastered low light shooting through practice and taking more advanced classes. 

You can practice these techniques with live fire during daylight if your range won’t allow night shooting. If your local range has IDPA matches, shoot the course of fire using your flashlight if the match director will permit it. You won’t win the match; however, you will learn how to shoot and manipulate your pistol under some stress.

To my knowledge, no data exists concerning private citizen-involved shootings with criminals under low light conditions; however, since a lot of criminal activity occurs after dark 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.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Don't Get Shot: Dealing With Police During a Traffic Stop

March 6, 2014, Opelika, Alabama: Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Davidson was travelling on I-85 headed to his next duty assignment at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. While driving through the Opelika, Davidson (who was driving an SUV) lightly sideswiped a tractor-trailer so both drivers pulled over to report the accident. Coincidently, just prior to this accident the Opelika Police Department had received a phone call about an SUV driving erratically along I-85 and Opelika Police Officer Phillip Hancock was in the area attempting to locate the erratic driver.

When the accident call came in Officer Hancock quickly arrived at the scene and pulled up behind the two vehicles just as they both exited the roadway. The police dashcam shows Airman Davidson attempting to get out of his vehicle; however, because he had pulled his SUV off the road shoulder, the vehicle was tilted slightly to the right. This caused to door to close as the Airman tried to exit.

As he struggled with the door, Airman Davidson made a movement with his right arm that is similar to someone drawing a weapon--and apparently similar to removing a wallet from your back pocket since that is what the Airman was actually doing (see picture #1 below). However, as Davidson exited the vehicle, he held the wallet in an unusual manner in both hands, pointing toward Officer Hancock (see picture number #2). In the video, Airman Davidson looks exactly like someone pointing a weapon as though he was preparing to shoot.

#1: Airman Davidson Exiting Vehicle
 
#2: Airman Davidson Holding Wallet


Officer Hancock yells at Davidson to “Let me see your hands” two times before firing almost immediately (0.25 seconds) after he yells the second command. Officer Hancock fired two rounds within approximately 0.25 seconds, one bullet struck Airman Davidson in the lower abdomen and the second bullet struck the road next to Davidson’s right foot.

A furtive movement is a suspicion provoking movement that (under the totality of circumstances) is consistent with accessing a weapon, but is not reasonably consistent with doing something else. The totality of the circumstances is the key element in this discussion since Davidson was drawing his wallet, not a pistol. It would be a gross overreaction on your part to draw a weapon while standing in a cash register line at a store when the person in front of you reached for their wallet. Their actions would be consistent with paying for merchandise given the totality of the circumstances.

When dealing with an uncertain situation, it is perfectly reasonable for an officer to be acutely aware of the ability, or inability, to see a person's hands to ensure he is not clutching or reaching for a weapon. However, yelling show me your hands and then shooting when the person does exactly that is obviously problematic as we see in this incident. Officer Hancock yelling “show me your hands” provided Davidson no effective warning that he was about to shoot him. Davidson later stated that he was in fact showing his hands just as the officer commanded.

In this incident, Davidson’s movement with his right hand and then extending his arms while clutching his black wallet with both hands clearly made Officer Hancock believe that Davidson was holding a firearm and advancing toward him. How quickly can someone exit a vehicle and start shooting?

We did an experiment to determine how fast someone could do this. I exited my vehicle while simultaneously drawing my pistol from a strong-side holster and firing three rounds while advancing. From the time someone could see that I had a pistol in my hand until I began firing was a 0.81 second average time for five runs. My fastest time to begin shooting was 0.47 seconds. My average split time between shots was 0.20 seconds as I advanced toward the remote camera. (see video here).

Many studies have shown that the average person’s reaction time to a stimulus is between 0.70 and 1.5 seconds or longer depending upon the circumstances. Added to the reaction time is the time necessary to complete the physical action the stimulus requires (e.g. pushing the brake on a car or drawing a pistol).* As we see in my experiment, the time between your ability to recognize that someone has a pistol until that person begins shooting can be as short as 0.47 seconds.

Were Officer Hancock’s actions reasonable given the totality of the circumstances? Look at picture #3 below. The left picture is of Airman Davidson drawing his wallet; the right picture is me drawing a pistol.  Do the actions look similar? 

Drawing Wallet                          Drawing Pistol

In January 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court's ruling that Officer Hancock acted reasonably when he shot Davidson. "After careful consideration and review of a video recording of the shooting, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Davidson, we conclude that a reasonable officer in Hancock's position would have feared for his life," the three-judge panel wrote in the ruling.**

The court’s decision hinged on a single issue: “whether, given the circumstances, Davidson would have appeared to reasonable police officers to have been gravely dangerous.” The Eleventh Circuit justices clearly believed that was the case.

Something people often misunderstand is that the law does not require us to make perfect decisions in a self-defense incident nor does it demand that the threat against which we defend ourselves be an actual threat. The law demands that you must have a reasonably objective belief that you are responding to an imminent deadly threat. Many states have an apparent danger clause which aligns with the concept that in a given set of circumstances, an antagonist’s furtive movement could cross the threshold of apparent danger in the mind of a reasonable and prudent person. If you wait to see the gun, you may well see what comes out of it as we demonstrated in our experiment.

If it later turns out that perception was mistaken, that’s legally acceptable so long as the perception was reasonable and therefore the mistake, a reasonable mistake. All of this is true even if it turns out that the perceived attacker never actually possessed a weapon as in this instance.

In a separate case with similar circumstances the Fifth Circuit held in Young v. City of Killeen, Tex.: "If Young's movements gave (Police Officer) Olson cause to believe that there was a threat of serious physical harm, Olson's use of deadly force was not a constitutional violation.... We hold that no right is guaranteed by federal law that one will be free from circumstances where he will be endangered by the misinterpretation of his acts." ***

So how should you conduct yourself during a traffic stop to lessen chances that your actions will be perceived as a potentially deadly threat?

 -- Stay in your vehicle. A well-known tactic of police killers at traffic stops is to quickly exit the vehicle and advance on the officer while shooting. Bank robbers, terrorists, and other felons have been doing this since at least the late 1970’s and probably much earlier. Although Airman Davidson probably did not know this, his actions mimicked this tactic.

 -- Roll down the driver’s window and place your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t worry about turning on an interior light—at night the officer will light up your vehicle with their spotlight anyway so this is unnecessary. However, your movement can increase the officer’s suspicion that you are doing something nefarious.  

-- Wait for the officer’ further instructions.

This was truly a tragic and very unfortunate event--nothing in this article should be see as placing blame on either Airman Davidson or Officer Hancock. Police officers don’t want to get shot nor do they want to shoot innocent citizens. In reality, both parties want the same outcome. Ensure that your actions cannot be mistaken for threatening behavior when you interact with the police during a traffic stop.

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____________

* http://www.technology-assoc.com/articles/reaction-time.htmlhttps://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/reactiontime.html


** United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. Michael Davidson, Plaintiff - Appellant, V. City Of Opelika, Alabama, Phillip Hancock, John Mceachern, Defendants - Appellees. No. 16-10857, Decided: January 17, 2017


Before Wilson, Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor, Circuit Judges. Michael Davidson was shot by Opelika, Alabama police officer Phillip Hancock just after exiting his vehicle alongside the highway. Davidson was unarmed. He survived the incident but was grievously injured. Davidson subsequently sued Hancock, Opelika Chief of Police John McEachern, and the City of Opelika for claims arising from the shooting. The shooting was undeniably a tragedy, but it resulted from the unique and lamentable position of Davidson's hands holding his wallet the moment before the shooting. After careful consideration and review of a video recording of the shooting, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Davidson, we conclude that a reasonable officer in Hancock's position would have feared for his life. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in favor of Hancock on all claims. 

*** In Young v. City of Killeen, Tex., 775 F.2d 1349 (5th Cir. 1985), Carolyn Young brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and wrongful death action against police officers and the City of Killeen for the shooting and killing of her husband David Young. The Fifth Circuit stated the material facts:

"David Young, with a friend, drove to a parking lot in an area of Killeen where they could buy marijuana. Officer Olson observed the apparent drug transaction between the two men in Young's car and a pedestrian. Olson directed his patrol car, with lights flashing, at the participants in the attempt to apprehend them. Olson successfully blocked Young by pulling his patrol car in front of Young's car. Olson left his car and ordered Young and his passenger to exit theirs. Young apparently reached down to the seat or floorboard of his car and Olson, believing that Young had a gun, fired his own weapon. The shot was fatal." 

The Fifth Circuit held that Mrs. Young could not recover under Sec. 1983, stating: "If Young's movements gave Olson cause to believe that there was a threat of serious physical harm, Olson's use of deadly force was not a constitutional violation.... The only fault found against Olson was his negligence in creating a situation where the danger of such a mistake would exist. We hold that no right is guaranteed by federal law that one will be free from circumstances where he will be endangered by the misinterpretation of his acts."