Thursday, September 7, 2023

Quit Blowing Up Your Pistols

Quit Blowing Up Your Pistols

In yet another example of how to blow up your pistol, a competitor in a recent pistol match very forcefully hit the back of his pistol’s slide with his left palm in an attempt to clear the malfunction. As he struck the slide, the round detonated in the ejection port.  

At one point, hitting the back of the slide was a commonly taught response to a 1911 pistol failing to go into battery. However as we see in this incident, that may not be a very good idea and indeed could be very dangerous.

The competitor was recording a video of his match so we had the ability to analyze what happened. In picture #1, you can see that there is no round in the chamber. In picture #2 you can see that a round has “nose-dived” into the magazine and was likely holding the slide to the rear. In the video, you can see the competitor pull the slide to the rear to attempt to clear the malfunction which seems to exacerbate the problem because the slide ends up stuck further to the rear.

In picture #3 you can see the competitor’s hand an instant before he slams the slide forward. Note the slide’s position in relation to the muzzle. In picture #4 we see the instant the round detonated in the ejection port—note the slide’s position. The competitor hit the slide so hard he easily forced it forward an inch or more. The competitor received relatively minor cuts since his hand was not directly over the ejection port. The pistol was not seriously damaged, but the magazine was ruined.

So what caused the round to detonate? Before everyone starts—NO, it was not the ejector. The arrow in picture #5 shows the part of the slide which strips a round from the magazine and inserts it in the chamber when the slide moves forward ( I do not know what this part is called and could not find any info identifying the part). When the round nose-dived into the magazine, it perfectly positioned the primer in the path of the slide. Picture #6 shows the detonated round’s primer. Picture #7 shows that the primer fits perfectly into this part of the slide.

As I researched this article, some additional information became available. Earlier in the video the competitor was having feeding problems with his pistol. He mentioned that he had recently replaced the magazine base pads with “+4” extensions without replacing the magazine springs. This coupled with the fact that the magazines were not new may have contributed to the feeding problems and the nose-dive. If you are going to change or add anything to your pistol that takes it out of factory specifications, make sure that the change works.

In my classes I teach that the proper response to a click instead of a bang is to tap the magazine (to ensure it is properly seated) and rack the slide—tap, rack. This will often clear the malfunction. If it does not, the proper response is to lock the slide back, aggressively strip the magazine out, and then reload the pistol and continue to fire if the circumstances so warrant. With the proliferation of striker fired pistols, beating the back of the slide is an outdated technique that is counterproductive.

After reloading, if it does not fire you probably have a broken pistol that's not going to be easily fixed on the spot. If you are under assault, the proper response at that point is to aggressively depart the area or take other necessary action.

Finally, when serving as a match Safety Officer, I have become more aggressive with stopping a shooter when I see them excessively struggling with a malfunction.  This is the fifth incident of this nature that I have direct knowledge of over the past ten years in the San Antonio area. I doubt that it is only happening here. I have noticed that as competitors begin to struggle, the chances of them doing something unsafe rises quickly. These are matches, not life or death situations. If a competitor is having problems we are better off stopping them and allowing them safely resolve the problem and then to reshoot (if necessary) before we permit something unsafe.

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Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Federal Air Marshall TPC revisited using the FBI QIT-97 Target

This is an update of an article I wrote in 2018 that described what I was able to glean concerning the pre 9/11 Federal Air Marshall (FAM) qualification or Tactical Pistol Course (as it was known at that time). From 2016 – 2018 despite numerous tries, I could not pass the TPC even though I was shooting at an IDPA Master level on the old 90 round qualification. I essentially stopped trying.

Fast forward to 2023 and Duane Thomas’ article in the Dillon “Blue Press” on the FAM TPC using the FBI Q target (The Blue Press, June 2023, pages 60-63). Coincidentally, a friend’s daughter is interested in becoming a FAM and asked me to teach a basic pistol class for her and another student. Since I was satisfied that I could pass the TPC using the FBI Q target, I dug out some FBI QIT-97 targets so I could demonstrate the pre 9/11 TPC using that target. I shot it cold and passed the time requirements (barely) and the points.

I shot the qualification with my P320 Carry in 9mm with a Holosun green dot optic sight. I used an open front concealment garment for the strings that required concealment. I was somewhat concerned that the accuracy necessary for success on the QIT-97 would require a bit more deliberation and therefore a quicker concealed draw than the FBI Q target—this proved to be the case.

Target Placement: Two targets placed three yards apart from edge to edge with a third target placed in the middle. Targets are seven yards from the firing line.

Scoring: The maximum possible score is 150 points with a minimum passing score of 135 points. Hits earn five points for inner bottle, 2 points for line hits on inner bottle or full value hits on outer bottle. Zero points for line hits on outer bottle or for a miss. You must be within the time limits for each string of fire. 

Shooting the FAM qualification course within the time limits while hitting the inner bottle necessarily requires a careful balance between speed and accuracy. This is not trivial. If you do not meet every stage’s time requirements, you fail even if you managed to shoot a passing score overall.

The Qualification:

Stage 1: From concealment, draw and fire one round on one target. Repeat. Maximum time is 3.30 seconds for 2 rounds fired.

Stage 2: From low ready, double tap (two shots) on one target. Repeat. Maximum time is 2.70 seconds for 4 rounds fired.

Stage 3: From low ready, fire 6 rounds into one target. Maximum time is 3.00 seconds for 6 rounds fired and all splits (shot to shot time) must be 0.60 seconds or less.

Stage 4: From low ready, fire one shot, reload, fire one shot into one target. Repeat. Maximum time is 6.50 seconds for 4 rounds fired.

Stage 5: From low ready, fire one round into the one of the two outer targets and then transition and fire a round into the other outer target. Repeat. Maximum time is 3.30 seconds for 4 rounds fired.

Stage 6: From concealment and facing up range with back to targets, turn 180 degrees and place one shot into each of the three targets. Repeat. Maximum time is 7.00 seconds for 6 rounds fired.

Stage 7: From low ready and standing, fire one round into one target, slide locks back, drop to one knee, reload, fire one round. Repeat. Maximum time is 8.00 seconds for 4 rounds fired. (Note this is essentially a slide lock 1-reload-1 drill just dropping to a knee while reloading)

The times for the qualification shown in the picture above using my P320 Carry were as follows:

Stage 1: Draw: 1.56, 1.57 = 3.13 (Standard: 3.30 seconds or less)

Stage 2: Double Tap: 1.06, 1.03 = 2.09 (Standard: 2.70 seconds or less)

Stage 3: Rapid Fire: 2.84 (Standard: 3.30 seconds or less)

Stage 4: Speedload: 3.26, 3.34 = 6.50 (Standard: 6.50 seconds or less) I barely squeaked by on this stage.

Stage 5: Transition: 1.55, 1.49 = 3.04 (Standard: 3.30 seconds or less)

Stage 6: Turn & Draw, 3 Targets: 3.04, 3.07 = 6.11 (Standard: 7.00 seconds or less)

Stage 7: Slidelock Reload: 3.10, 3.98 = 7.08 (Standard: 8.00 seconds or less)

Times = Pass for all strings

Points = Passed with 138 points (I dropped a total of four shots (or twelve points) outside the inner bottle)

The Federal Air Marshall TPC is an extremely challenging pistol qualification and particularly challenging using the QIT-97 target.

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