Saturday, October 30, 2021

Bumps and Other Contraptions on Top of Our Pistols

Simple Sights on an Early S&W Revolver
Why do we have these bumps and other contraptions on top of our pistols? Regardless of whether the sights on your pistol are literally bumps or you have a sophisticated electronic or mechanical sighting system, they are there for one reason—to align the pistol’s bore with the point in space where you would like the bullet to impact.

However, if the target is close enough, the sights are often unnecessary. Although the definition of “close” is dependent upon the shooter’s skill and other factors like the size of the target, the body mechanics of pointing the pistol will allow you to align the bore and hit the target absent some intervening factor such as severely jerking the trigger. 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 or MOA* diameter for a miniature dot sight or MDS.

When it comes to iron sights, the typical 0.125-inch blade width found on most factory pistols with iron sights is an acceptable compromise between accuracy and speed. I prefer a thinner front sight blade (say 0.115 or even 0.110 inches) because the thinner blade covers less of the target at longer distances and is therefore more precise. I personally believe that front sight blades wider than 0.125 are unacceptable because such a wide blade covers too much of the target at 20 yards and beyond. Manufacturers of tritium night sights often use blades that are 0.135 or wider to accommodate the tritium capsule. While these sights work fine up close, the excessively wide front sight makes precise distant shots difficult.

The same holds true with the dot size in an MDS. I started my MDS training with a 6.5 MOA dot in a Trijicon RMR 06 red dot and still use the RMR for steel matches and other short range, fast action events. The RMR 06 dot size works well out to ranges of 25 yards or so; however, I discovered that the 6.5 dot covers too much of the target for precise shots at longer distances. I now use a Holosun MDS with a 2 MOA green dot on my carry pistol and the smaller dot works very well for short range as well as longer shots.

Some MDS brands have multiple reticle systems including a dot within a circle, solid triangles, open triangles with a dot in the center, etc. Personally, I find these reticles too busy and distracting with a triangle reticle being the one possible exception. If you zero the pistol/rifle for the point of aim/point of impact coinciding with the apex of the triangle, then you have a precision aiming point (the apex) for longer distances and a gross aiming point (the entire triangle) for short range engagements.

The MDS does have limitations; however, if you understand these limitations it will work for you. But what if it’s raining? I carry concealed and rain is typically not an issue since the cover garment protects the sight from rain until you draw the pistol. I used an MDS during a Gunsite 3-day class and it rained hard every day—all day. The initial MDS sight picture with water present was a bit fuzzy; however, first shot cleared the water away. How about batteries? With modern battery technology, the battery in your MDS is unlikely to fail. If you replace it every six months with a quality battery, you will almost entirely eliminate this possibility.

I’ve heard discussion concerning whether iron sights or the MDS is faster. In my experience, for short-range engagements there is no practical difference. I recently shot a Sensible Self Defense Short Range Match twice—once with a SIG P320 Carry pistol equipped with an MDS and once with a SIG P320 Carry pistol equipped with iron sights. The match consisted of five stages with an average of nine target engagements per stage and movement between shooting positions, etc. Distance to the targets ranged from arm’s length to 20 yards and non-threats or hard cover rendered many targets only partially visible.

My match total raw time with the MDS was 78.94 seconds and my raw time with the iron sights was 78.00 seconds. A difference of .94 seconds in favor of the iron sights. Another IDPA Master, Steve also shot the match with substantially identical Springfield XD-M pistols, one with iron sights and one with an MDS. His times were 69.60 with the MDS­­ and 71.66 with the iron sights.

I have become a firm believer in the miniature dot sight on carry pistols and with the variety on the market today the shooter has a wide range of choices. I will discuss some of these choices in a future article.

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*One minute of angle or MOA equals one inch at 100 yards. Therefore, a six MOA dot would cover 6-inches at 100 yards.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Home Invasion Response--Dress Rehearsal

Home invader Jonathan Perales fatally shot homeowner Michael Clayton Robinson early one morning in Universal City, Texas. According to Perales' arrest warrant affidavit, Robinson had armed himself with a 9mm Glock after his wife noticed a strange vehicle in his driveway. Robinson opened his bedroom door and moments later 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.

Doctors later pronounced Robinson 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.

What is your protocol for a possible home invasion? Have you rehearsed it, at night, under circumstances similar to those you might encounter in a real home invasion? One of the best techniques the military uses is immediate action drills. The immediate action drill encompasses all of the tasks necessary to prepare you to respond rapidly to a specific set of circumstances without the application of a deliberate decision-making process.

As an example, let’s say my house cameras detect a disturbance and then my alarm begins to sound indicating a possible home invasion. Among my immediate actions is to secure my pistol, move to a location in the bedroom area where I will don a relatively heavy set of body armor, and then secure my shotgun as the primary defensive weapon.

A friend of mine suggested that we rehearse our home invasion protocols or immediate action drills on the live fire range. We performed each task to prepare and arm ourselves and then engaged randomly designated targets to simulate our response to a home invader using unlawful deadly force.

I immediately had difficulty quickly donning my body armor. I had never actually tried to don it in the rapid manner I would use during a home invasion. The design of my armor’s cummerbund when coupled with side plates caused the cummerbund to twist and made securing the armor very difficult. Upon further reflection, I decided the side plates were unnecessary and I removed them. This solved the cummerbund twisting issue and allowed me to don the armor in less than 30 seconds.

I then practiced securing and charging the shotgun with my eyes closed to simulate doing the task in the dark. My friend was monitoring my actions from a safety perspective to ensure I did not inadvertently do something unsafe. I am familiar enough with my "house ready" shotgun storage that I was able to perform this task easily.

I then moved to the target area and engaged the specified targets with the buckshot rounds I keep with the gun. Although this was the first time I had conducted live fire with this armor combination, my defensive shotgun’s 12-inch length of pull allowed me to manipulate the shotgun and fire it effectively with the body armor in place. (Note: A shotgun with typical 13-14 inch length of pull may be too long to manipulate effectively with while wearing body armor. This is particularly true for pump guns.)

This is one example of my home invasion protocols. My wife and I rehearse the others periodically; however, this was the first live fire immediate action drill that I have conducted with the actual armor and shotgun combination I keep for home defense. I learned a few lessons in the process and made some modifications to my armor. I have subsequently dry practiced it at home several times with dummy rounds in the shotgun and my modifications were sound.

My friend forgot to bring his body armor to our live fire rehearsal and the shotgun he brought was not his home defense shotgun. As a result, he decided he would do a dry practice run in his house one evening in the dark. He keeps his shotgun and body armor under the bed. His immediate action is to roll out of the bed, reach under it, secure and don his body armor, and then retrieve the shotgun.

He rolled out of the bed, reached under it—and no body armor, no shotgun. He stretched as far as he could reach and still no body armor, no shotgun. He got a flashlight and discovered that his wife had shoved the armor and shotgun to the center of the king-sized bed because she did not like seeing it and bumping into it when she vacuumed. He had to get a cane to fish the armor and shotgun out from under the bed. Imagine discovering this during an actual incident. Until that moment, he did not know that his home invasion response protocol had a serious flaw.

Periodically checking your equipment, doing dry runs to test your home invasion immediate action drills, and rehearsing with your family is a very good idea. My friend and I both discovered that our home invasion response plans required modification to ensure we could effectively execute them.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Least Amount of Physical Force?

Training exercise (AP Photo/Ted S. Warre)
With the defund the police movement in some large, more liberal leaning cities and other feel good measures some state legislatures are considering or adopting, the private citizen who is involved in a self-defense incident may face the flawed concept of “the least amount of force” necessary to resolve an incident. 

On the surface, it would appear that the requirement to use the least amount of force necessary to resolve a problem has merit; however, when you consider the actual application of this concept in the heat of the moment, it is clear that the idea is impossible to implement.

In Washington State for example, recent legislation requires police to: “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances, which includes a consideration of the characteristics and conditions of the person for the purposes of determining whether to use force against that person and, if force is necessary, determining the appropriate and least amount of force possible to effect a lawful purpose.”

The difference between police use of force versus a private citizen’s use of force under the law in most states is that police may use necessary force – i.e., force that is one-step above that of the criminal when is necessary to mitigate an incident, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm. 

Private citizens on the other hand may only use equal or proportional force to stop a threat. In other words, a private citizen may only respond to another’s use of unlawful non-deadly force with non-deadly force and may only use deadly force in response to the threat or use of unlawful deadly force.

When deadly force enters the equation, there is no difference between police use of deadly force and a private citizen’s use of deadly force. 

The thoughtful article linked below discusses the challenges inherent in determining how one would identify the "least" amount of physical force necessary to resolve a situation. This is a good read and is particularly useful if you live in a state adopting or considering such legislation.

Article here

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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Winchester, Herters, and Browning 115gr 9mm Ammunition Recall

If you have purchased any Winchester, Browning, or Herter’s, or 115 grain 9mm ammunition after 25 March 2021, the ammunition may be subject to recall. (Note: apparently Winchester loads/loaded this ammunition for Browning).

According to Winchester, some lots of 9mm Luger 115 FMJ and JHP ammunition may contain propellant that may not properly ignite and burn when the cartridge is fired. Even if the cartridge propellant does not fully ignite, it may still generate enough pressure to cause the bullet to enter the barrel and lodge in the pistol's bore.  Commonly known as a squib, if the cartridge's failure causes a bullet to be lodged in the barrel, subsequently loading and firing another round with the bore obstructed will very likely cause firearm damage and may render the firearm inoperable or destroy it. It could also injure the shooter and potentially bystanders.

Since squib loads generally fail to expel the bullet from the barrel, you must use a metal rod or wooden dowel and some impact (e.g. a hammer or hard surface) to drive the bullet out before the firearm can be placed back into action.

I have witnessed a squib load result in the destruction of a pistol. The competitor believed she had failed to chamber a round when she reloaded the pistol, she then executed a Tap-Rack malfunction clearance, immediately came back on target, and fired another round. This round was noticeably louder (I heard the unusual report) and the pistol jammed with the slide locked in place. The Safety Officer said he didn’t realize the competitor had a squib due to the noise from nearby shooting bays and because the shooter’s body was obstructing the SO’s ability to see the pistol (a tight corridor in the stage—a poor stage design).

The competitor had trained herself (as many of us have) to clear the malfunction automatically. The Tap-Rack maneuver chambered a fresh round, which when she fired it blew the stuck bullet free, caused excessive pressure that bulged the barrel, stressed the slide rails out of specification, and jammed the pistol solidly in a partially open position. The local gunsmith had to cut the barrel in half to get the slide off the pistol. Smith and Wesson later x-rayed the plastic frame and determined that it was stressed as well—the pistol was essentially a total loss. If this happened in a self-defense situation instead of during a competition, the competitor would have had a serious problem; a problem only a backup gun could likely have solved.

So if you have any of this ammunition, go to the Winchester and Browning websites and determine if the lot numbers of your ammunition match the recall. Note: If ammunition was purchased before March 25, 2021, it is NOT subject to recall.

Shameless plug: We manufacture the FreeBore titanium squib removal tool and key chain designed to remove squibs, cartridges stuck in the chamber from a broken extractor, or jammed cartridges in a revolver. You can buy one here: FreeBore

I also did a video demonstrating what a squib sounds like and how to remove the stuck bullet: Squib