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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