Thursday, June 27, 2013

Which Pistol For You?

By Dave Dargo

I love the M1911. I think the number one reason I love it is because of the deep respect I have for Mr. Browning's engineering skill and art in creating a pistol over 100 years ago that is still, arguably, one of the best pistols to carry on a daily basis. When I go to a gun store I try not to pick up a 1911 for fear that I'll buy another one. I probably have four or five too many already.

I love how the 1911 feels, how easy it is to operate and its easy manageability. Just because I love the 1911, though, doesn't mean it's the right pistol for you.

Once in a while I carry a Glock 21. I like the Glock very much, as well. My Glock has a 13 round magazine capacity vs. 8 rounds for my 1911. We refer to the Glock as an all-day shooter because it holds so many rounds and doesn't require a reload as often as the 1911. I think the Glock feels a little smoother than the 1911 but it doesn't have a thumb safety, something I instinctively look for when drawing my pistol.

When my wife and fellow instructor, Wendy, was looking for her first pistol she was on the receiving end of a lot of advice - too much advice, in fact. A lot of friends advised that Wendy get a small (cute) handgun because she's a woman. There was no discussion about caliber, recoil, mass, carry style or any other characteristic. Wendy's a woman, therefore, Wendy should get a small gun.

I knew better. I told her why I liked my 1911 but I was not about to tell her what handgun to buy. Buying a pistol comes down to personal preference. Telling Wendy which handgun to buy would be like me telling her to order vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate because I like vanilla. Wendy is the only one on the planet who can determine what handgun is best for her.

One suggestion I did make to Wendy was to seek opinions from everyone who owned a gun on why they liked their gun; that is, not what gun Wendy should buy but why that person chose the gun they bought for themselves. The other suggestion I made to Wendy was to go and shoot a lot of guns to see how they fit her hand and how they felt to carry, fire and manipulate.

Wendy must have rented 20 or 30 pistols before narrowing her selection and, ultimately, choosing an M1911.

The 1911 that Wendy chose is a forty-five caliber pistol. Many people are under the mistaken impression that such a caliber will have too much recoil to be manageable, especially for a woman. The opposite is true. Wendy finds her 1911 quite manageable. The more mass a gun has the less recoil will be felt. If Wendy had gone with one of those cute, little guns she would have felt much more recoil than she gets from the 1911. Many people start with a small handgun, for a variety of reasons, and are turned off by the amount of recoil and just figure the 1911 with its larger caliber will just be that much more. It's an unfortunate assumption because those people are often turned-off by guns before they ever get a chance to understand them.

There are many considerations when selecting a pistol:
  • What feels comfortable to manage
  • What feels comfortable to shoot
  • What feels comfortable to hold
Notice the use of the words "feel" and "comfortable". That's an important clue. Selecting a pistol is a personal decision. Speak with your friends who have pistols and ask them why they like theirs. Ask your friends to take you shooting. Find a pistol you can easily manage and manipulate. Find a pistol and method of carry that allows you quick and easy access to it in case of an emergency. Finally, find a pistol that allows you to deliver an accurate shot quickly, smoothly and reliably. At the end of the day, that's all that matters when selecting a pistol for self-defense.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Defensive Accuracy

By Dave Dargo

Yesterday I posted about novice shooters and how they often do very well in class because they lack any history of bad shooting habits. I also included a photo of the qualification target of one such shooter showing excellent marksmanship skills. My comment regarding the target is that I would, and did, ask this shooter to shoot faster.

In our first shooting exercises with any of our students, and with all of our NRA classes, we use paper plates as targets. A nine-inch paper plate serves as an excellent target for practicing defensive accuracy.

Many students become target-obsessed and attempt to hit the "X" ring with each and every shot. The qualification target shown here shows a student who did this very well and if the contest were to hit the "X" ring she would have won hands-down.

However, when shooting for defensive purposes we are seeking a balance between speed and accuracy. I previously wrote that you can't miss fast enough to stop an attack. You also can't dally waiting to get that perfect shot. What you need is a balance of speed and accuracy that gives defensive accuracy.

That nine-inch paper plate is what you should think of as your "X" ring when shooting for defensive purposes.

Students who are able to safely and consistently draw from the holster and deliver a shot near the center of that paper plate will be encouraged to speed up a little bit. When students start placing two shots on that paper plate that are only an inch apart they will be encouraged to speed up a lot. We are looking for a grouping where two shots delivered to that paper plate take up about as much space as a fully spread hand. Start to get groupings larger than that spread hand and we'll ask you to slow down a little or, more likely, work on trigger control and sight picture. Start getting those groupings back to quarter-size and we'll push you to go a little faster.

Defensive accuracy is about being able to reliably deliver a shot that will stop an attack in as little time as possible. The best way to improve both accuracy and timing is through practice, even just dry firing, in order to smooth out the draw-stroke and improve the trigger press.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Knowing What You Don't Know

By Dave Dargo

I'm always fascinated when I see novice shooters show up at class, some never having fired a shot in their lives, emerge from class as the top shooter.

How does that happen?

The answer is simple, really. The novice shooter has no preconceived notion about how they should perform or how they should shoot. We instructors would be nervous just at the sight of the novice's own trepidation except for the fact that we've seen this so many times before. Our experience tells us to be more wary of the "expert" shooter than the novice.

The novice shooter knows they don't know anything. They know that a mishandled gun is dangerous and tend to be more careful than the experienced shooters because they assume everything they do is somehow mishandling the gun. The novice shooters are so concerned about doing the wrong thing that they quickly adopt any corrections offered by the instructor.

The expert shooter, on the other hand, often wants to demonstrate to the instructors and the other students how good a shooter they happen to be.

Closeup of a student's qualification target 
I've seen novice shooters break into tears when they fire their very first shot and at the end of the class are the ones most in command of their firearm knowing exactly where each and every shot is going to go.

I remember one student who was very nervous because she wanted to do everything perfectly. She was creating her own increased levels of stress because she didn't want to make any mistakes. It took only a few tips about grip, trigger control and stance before she simply adopted what we were telling her as part of her own routines. My coaching after that consisted almost exclusively of the phrase, "Just relax."

It was difficult to keep from laughing as I watched her shoot her qualification target because most of her shots were going through previously made holes and all I would see was a flutter of paper and cardboard as the bullet passed through.  In the target shown here she fired 36 shots. You can see that about 11 made their own holes in the target and the others simply enlarged the first hole she made.

Her question at the end of the qualification was, "Did I do O.K.?"

I would ask this particular student to shoot faster because of the concept of "defensive accuracy", which I'll cover in a later post but, yeah, she did O.K.

The larger issue, though, is committing to learn more than the minimum state requirements for a concealed handgun permit. One should study the proper methods of drawing from a holster, how to properly reload a handgun and how to clear malfunctions among other topics.

We can easily get you through the qualification course for a concealed handgun permit.  At the end of class, though, I'll ask if you know the proper way to draw from a holster, or the proper way to reload your semi-automatic handgun or if you know how to clear malfunctions. All important topics to understand before deciding to carry a pistol for self-defense.

Try and be open to finding out what you don't know. You'll be surprised at how much fun it is to learn and practice those new things.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fight Or Flight?

By Dave Dargo

"The notion that the only alternatives to conflict are fight or flight is embedded in our culture, and our educational institutions have done little to challenge it.  The traditional American military policy raises it to the level of a law of nature."  - Richard Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit
The concept of fight or flight is so embedded in our culture that most just accept it as truth with no challenge to the underlying concepts that may drive an individual's response to mortal danger.  The fact is that the immediate reaction that any animal has to such a danger comes from a much larger menu of choices and, often, the animal will choose multiple options in varying sequences.

The likely responses when faced with danger:

  • Freeze
  • Submit
  • Posture
  • Fight
  • Flight
Some people may have multiple responses such as freezing as one slowly realizes what's happening and then switching to another response.  Some people stay in their initial response-mode whether it makes sense or not.  Conditioning, as opposed to training, can help build the desired response pattern.

Conditioning often starts with training such as how we teach our children to respond to fire alarms through fire drills in their schools.  When our children get to first grade and hear that first fire drill bell they often freeze and look around wondering what the noise is about.  By the time our children get to later grades they simply react to the stimulus, we hope, and simply get up and exit the building.

Self-defense training is filled with many of the same types of training in order to condition the appropriate reaction.  In fact, sometimes we have to fight the conditioning we receive.  When I'm training with turning targets and the exercise is over the instructor will say, "Do not react to the targets!" as he prepares the targets to face us once again to score them.  I laughed the first time I heard that but as I trained more and more I had to find myself resisting the urge to react to the targets because of the conditioning I received.

When working with partners we learn to shout something as part of the stimulus response.  I've heard people shout all kinds of words, "Threat", "Red", "Gun" or "Knife".  The idea, though, is to condition oneself to shout the threat as not only a response to the threat but as a stimulus to initiate an appropriate action for our partner.  Through conditioning one will start calling the threat as part of the draw sequence.  Some condition themselves to start barking commands at the threat as part of the draw sequence, something along the lines of, "STOP, I HAVE A GUN, I WILL SHOOT!"

We condition ourselves to threat stimuli in order to better practice our desired response under extreme stress.  We must remember, however, that we may want to exercise a different reaction than that which we practiced.  Conditioning ourselves to work under stress actually gives us the time we need to change our response because it takes less time and is easier to change a plan than to invent one.

As with all things, having a plan is critical to success.  Those without a plan will have one of the five responses without understanding why or knowing what to expect.  Those with a plan and proper conditioning will already be aware of what they will do and will be prepared to execute their plan or change their plan.  The prepared person will always have the advantage.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mechanics Of The Draw - Step 5 - Press

By Dave Dargo

In the previous entry I described the "slap" step of the draw-stroke.

Katie Demonstrates Step 5 - Press
At this point the shooter will have a firm, two-handed grip on the pistol, the safeties will be disengaged, the finger on the trigger and the final step commences.

The shooter presses the gun forward while looking at the target. As the gun comes forward the the shooter will begin to pick up the sights. The gun continues to push forward causing the sights of the gun to intersect the line of vision between the shooter's dominant eye and the target. At this point the shooter gets either a flash sight picture or confirms a good sight picture, focuses on the front sight and presses the trigger until the shot breaks. If timed correctly the shot will break just as the shooter's arms get to their final position and have provided a stable platform.

All of these steps come together in a smooth operation from the pistol in the holster right up to the shot break.

The steps as outlined here:

  1. Grip
  2. Clear
  3. Rotate
  4. Slap
  5. Press
You can't skip any of these steps and still have an effective draw.  The critical thing to think here is, "Slow is smooth.  Smooth is fast."  The fast that you care about is the first shot on target.  You can't miss fast enough to be effective.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mechanics Of The Draw - Step 4 - Slap

By Dave Dargo

In the previous entry I described the "rotate" step of the draw-stroke.

At this point, the shooter's pistol is pointed at the target, the mechanical safeties have been released and the finger is on the trigger ready to break the shot.

Katie Demonstrates Step 4 - Slap
In this next step, "slap", the shooter is going to bring their hands together and start the push-pull of the Weaver stance.

Katie is bringing her left hand across her body and meeting her right-hand with it. She will use the feel of these two hands to match up the joints in her left hand with those knuckles of her right hand that allow her to roll the left hand into proper position on the pistol as she moves the pistol forward into the "press" position.

Each shooter is built differently and the hands will fit differently for each person on each pistol. My hands, for example, fit best when the joint closest to the finger-tips of my left hand are on top of the finger knuckles closest to the hand on the right hand. I know this from practice and the coaching I've received. By knowing what-fits-where I am able to get a consistent, predictable grip on the pistol - a key attribute of a good draw-stroke.

At this point in the draw-stroke, Katie will start to push forward with her right hand and start to pull back with her left creating a firm tension on the pistol. By matching her fingers the same way every time she is able to get the most "meat of her hands" on the grip giving a more stable platform. Katie is also very careful not to attempt to strangle the pistol.  She wants to maintain a firm grip and provide a stable platform without using so much force that she starts shaking.

In the next posting I'll cover the final step of the draw-stroke, the "press".

Mechanics Of The Draw - Step 3 - Rotate

By Dave Dargo

In the previous entry I described the "clear" step of the draw-stroke.

Katie Demonstrating Step 3 - Rotate
The next step is referred to as "rotate" or "click". "Rotate" describes exactly what happens with the pistol, it is rotated so the muzzle is pointed towards the target.  Some refer to this step as "click" because this is the same place any mechanical safety is released or "clicked" off.

In the case of the M1911 that Katie is using she would click the thumb-safety down on rotate.

The pistol should be retained as far back as physically possible for the individual shooter and the muzzle should be pointing at the target.

In a previous entry on gun-safety I mentioned one of the important gun-safety rules, "Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target."

This is a safety rule that is often misunderstood and, I'm sure as with all things gun-related, it is debated.  In the previous entry on "clear" I warned that the shooter should not "bowl" the gun out towards to the target.  There are many reasons but self-defense is an important one.  At this point of the draw-stroke, Katie's pistol is pointing towards her target, the safety is off and she has the pistol near her retention position.  She can, if need be, fire the pistol from here.  For that reason she may place her finger on the trigger at this point and start preparing for her shot; whether she takes the shot from this position or from the "look" position described later.

This description highlights the reason for using the same mechanics whenever drawing the pistol.  If the student were in the habit of "bowling" the pistol forward then they would not be able to get into a good retention position and be prepared to take a shot from this position.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Not Everyone Should Have A Gun

By Dave Dargo

At Condition Ready we believe that all Americans have the fundamental right to self-defense and that handguns play a critical role in that right. Integral to the right to use handguns for self-defense is the responsibility to be properly trained in the modern technique of the pistol.

I have mixed feelings about requiring training in order to exercise a fundamental right and I've written previously about how much training you should have or if it should be required; my first reaction is that while it shouldn't be required I do think training is the responsible thing to do.

Then I run into an article like this one, "My Month With A Gun: Week One" written by Heidi Yewman and I start to rethink a lot of things about guns.

The biggest conclusion I can draw about Ms. Yewman is that she probably shouldn't own guns, though I do have hope that even someone as hoplophobic as Ms. Yewman can be turned to the good side.

In her article, Ms. Yewman, who has a history of anti-gun advocacy, decides to strap on a gun and go about town. It is clear from the article that she is neither prepared nor capable to carry a gun around town and began the exercise with a strong anti-gun agenda.

Some of the comments praise her courage in being able to actually step forward and wear, shudder to think about it, a gun in public and demonstrate just how silly and irresponsible a thing to do it is.

I've seen many a person go through training and make a responsible decision that they shouldn't carry and probably shouldn't even own a gun. I've seen more people go through training where the training class is the very first time they ever fired a gun and emerge at the other end at the top of their class. Friends who don't own guns ask me about training all the time and I tell them one of the great things about training is that one can make an objective decision afterwards as to whether or not they should own or carry a gun.

Ms. Yewman, on the other hand, has gone about the entire process without any shred of evidence towards objectivity. I could, perhaps, be wrong. Maybe part of her exercise will be to get training and learn if she's capable, mentally and physically, to carry a gun. The first article doesn't set the stage for such a conclusion, though.

I think an important thing any of us can do is to invite those who have never shot a gun to go out and safely shoot. We should give them a positive experience and allow them to learn about guns and about themselves. They may very well find that they like guns, are competent and would like to confidently carry a gun.

I have such hope for Ms. Yewman.

Mechanics Of The Draw - Step 2 - Clear

By Dave Dargo

Katie Demonstrating Step 2 - Clear
In the previous posting I described the initial step when drawing from the holster, establishing the grip.

After establishing the grip, most new students want to quickly get the pistol up and out and on target. This urge must be resisted in order to establish a good sight picture as quickly as possible.

I've written previously about the urge to move faster rather than smoother and the draw stroke is one of those places where the urge to move faster rather than precisely and smoothly will cause issues.

Many students at the point shown in this photo will simply "bowl" the pistol out and up (imagine the move a bowlers arm makes as they release the ball forward). There are many problems with this move: it's slower, it's more difficult to get a good sight picture quickly and it exposes the pistol to an adversary in close-quarters situations. "But", some students will say, "I won't expose that pistol if it's a close situation."

Attempting to justify multiple methods of drawing a pistol depending on the closeness of an adversary is merely attempting to justify a lack of a practiced and well-executed draw stroke.  Always draw the pistol the same way.  Lock the mechanics of your draw-stroke into a repeatable and predictable form. The draw-stroke, when properly executed, is a natural and automatic physical action. With enough practice it becomes baked in without having to think about how close an adversary happens to be.

The "clear" step is executed by pulling the pistol straight up out of the holster.  How far you draw it up is determined by your particular body build and flexibility.  The straighter, higher and quicker you clear the pistol the better.  Your elbow should be tucked in as tight as possible avoiding creating a "chicken wing" effect with the elbow pointing out to the side.

In the "clear" step the pistol should be snatched straight up in preparation for the next step, "rotate".

When students first start executing a proper draw-stroke they will feel and appear to be somewhat stilted and mechanical. After hundreds and even thousands of draws, however, the student's draw-stroke will become quite smooth and that's the goal: a smooth stroke, without any hitches or artificial mechanical affectations; a draw stroke that looks like a natural movement.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mechanics Of The Draw - Step 1 - The Grip

By Dave Dargo

I've previously written about building practice routines and dry-firing. One of the important skills to practice is drawing from the holster. The draw stroke is critical to efficiently and accurately getting your first shot on target.

Katie Demonstrating Step 1 - The Grip
The first step to a proper draw stroke is the grip. It's often a new concept when the student realizes the grip one establishes while the pistol is in the holster is the grip they're taking with them to the shot.

This is why it's critically important that the grip one establishes while the gun is still holstered is a proper, strong and repeatable grip.

In the photo here, Katie demonstrates the grip. Her hand came down on top of the pistol with enough force to firmly establish the pistol into her hand. The force she used was enough to cause a slight "bounce" that will help her next step of removing the pistol from the holster, the "clear" step. The web formed between her thumb and forefinger established itself in the proper position high on the backstrap, her thumb is resting on top of the thumb safety and her forefinger is positioned directly over the part of the frame where it will rest when the pistol is removed from the holster.

The grip that Katie established here will be the grip she maintains until her first shot breaks and for her subsequent shots. If she finds it necessary to adjust her grip then that means she didn't establish the grip properly in this first step. When teaching the draw-stroke we will have students perform the grip step as many times as necessary until they can repeatedly get it just right. The importance of establishing a proper grip in this step can not be overstated; this is the step that will define the efficiency and efficacy of the following steps.

Important characteristics of the grip Katie established:

  • Her forefinger is already established in the proper position for its placement on the pistol. When not firing, unlike what you may see in TV, the trigger finger should be positioned straight down the frame of the pistol. It's a safe and repeatable place to keep that finger and this practice helps keep down those pesky negligent discharges.
  • Her hand has already engaged the grip safety in this M1911. When she forcefully placed her hand on the pistol she did so in a way that engages that safety and keeps it engaged through the rest of the process.
  • Her thumb is resting on top of the thumb safety for the M1911. She has not disengaged that safety, that will come later, but her thumb is in a position to disengage it and, most importantly, that thumb will stay in that position when firing to help ensure the safety stays disengaged.
  • What you can't see in this photo is that her support hand, Katie's left hand, has taken a position on her chest at the same time her strong hand, her right hand, has taken the grip on the pistol.  You will see this in the photo for the next step.
As you can see, there's a lot going on in establishing a proper grip but with proper training and practice it becomes second nature and that's exactly what we want to establish - the draw-stroke should become second nature.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Compromising And Common Sense

By Dave Dargo

There are a few phrases the anti-gun politicians use over and over again when they beg my fellow Americans to support their views but the two that irritate me the most are "common sense" and "compromise".

I've tried to figure out if those phrases are just as void of meaning as everything else they say or if they really think they're saying something worthy of an honest debate.  They think that anyone would be for common-sense gun control measures and if us gun-nuts would be open to compromise we could stop the gun violence in this country.

Who could be against common-sense and compromise?

The only issue is that they hijacked both terms to mean something else entirely.  We have been witnessing the formal adoption of Newspeak where their ultimate argument is, "Anti-gunners are good and we're bad."

Common Sense

Merriam-Webster defines common sense as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts."  Let's start there.  The common sense argument they want to make is that if we get rid of guns we'll get rid of gun violence.  That certainly satisfies the "simple perception of the situation or facts" but hardly meets the more rigid requirement that it be a "sound and prudent judgment".

The issue isn't gun-violence; the issue is violence and those people who would visit violence on their fellow citizens.

The real issue is those who advocate common sense gun-control legislation tend to have a "simple perception of the situation or facts" about many things in life. They want to live in a utopian society where simple logic is all that's needed to convince someone to abide by the core values and principles demanded by a polite society.  Their simple-minded view of the world blinds them to the fact that predators have always existed and will, in all likelihood, always exist. There are those in the world who decide to prey upon their fellow human being and appear to know of no other way to exist.

These predators exist not just as individuals but also as organized groups from the street gang all the way up to entire national governments.  Witness poor President Obama's oft-repeated claim that he can fix the problem with the North Koreans or the Iranians by "just sitting down with them and talking." I think he really believes it's just a matter of winning an academic debate with the latest Kim or Ahmadinejad and all will be right with the world.

Be it gun-control or international relations the "common sense" crowd fails the first test of common sense; applying sound and prudent judgment.


Give me your lunch!!! No?  O.K., let's compromise, just give me your french fries.

Merriam-Webster defines compromise as, "a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions."  The anti-gunners have had one goal in mind for the past forty years - the elimination of guns from society.  Their common sense tells them that by getting rid of guns they will get rid of violence.

Lately we're told that we need to compromise.  CBS News reports yesterday that the NRA is going after West Virginia Senator Manchin over his compromise.

The problem is that Senator Manchin's bill was not a compromise any more than my demand for your lunch is a compromise when I settle for just your french fries.

Senator Manchin even uses the anti-gunners other favorite phrase, "I am the same proud gun owner and NRA member that I have always been and I believe that criminal and mental background checks are a commonsense approach to protect our neighbors and children without infringing on our 2nd Amendment rights."

The problem with their "common sense, compromise" was that it took more and more rights away from lawful gun owners.  I previously posted about the issues with the Manchin bill and my suggested compromise on background checks.

Suffice it to say that neither Senator Manchin nor his cohorts who would deny us the fundamental right to keep and bear arms know the definition of common sense or compromise.  I suggest they get dictionaries and take a remedial reading comprehension class.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Background Checks

By Dave Dargo

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) regularly publishes statistics on background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  NICS is run by the FBI and most gun-purchases go through NICS to assure the purchaser is not a prohibited person, that is, someone who is not permitted to possess a firearm.

NICS was set up as part of the Brady Bill to make it more difficult for a prohibited person to obtain a firearm.

Not all firearms transactions go through NICS.  For example, in a private party transfer meeting certain specifications a NICS check is not necessary.  Some states with concealed weapons permits systems qualify to exempt their permit holders from needing a background check when acquiring a firearm.

Anyone who examines the data, or reads stories about NICS, knows that the number of checks being conducted is growing tremendously.  The NSSF notes in their most recent article that May, 2013 marks the 36th consecutive month in which the year-to-year comparison of NICS checks has increased.  To give you a sense of the numbers:

  • 2010 saw 14,409,616 background checks
  • 2011 saw 16,454,951 background checks
  • 2012 saw 19,592,303 background checks
  • Through May, 2013 there were 10,164,990 background checks - on track for another record year
NICS works buy keeping a list of those people who are not permitted to possess a firearm.  At least as interesting as the number of checks conducted are the statistics about who is in NICS.

There are 10,530,966 people in NICS who are prohibited from possessing a firearm.  If they attempt to purchase a firearm they will be denied. Here is the complete list (which can be accessed from NICS here):

Rank Prohibited Category Description Total Percent of Total
1Illegal Unlawful Alien5,392,85151.21%
2Adjudicated Mental Health2,926,36327.79%
3Convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years1,593,41915.13%
4Fugitive from Justice397,6783.78%
5Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence Conviction92,8640.88%
6Federally Denied Persons File33,9280.32%
7Under Indictment/Information33,5280.32%
8Renounced U.S. Citizenship22,1970.21%
9Unlawful User/Addicted to a Controlled Substance20,2250.19%
10Dishonorable Discharge10,2460.10%
11Protection/Restraining Order for Domestic Violence4,6880.04%
12State Prohibitor2,9790.03%
Total Active Records in the NICS Index10,530,966100.00%

I'm not sure what I expected to see in the numbers but I do know that I didn't expect to see illegal aliens making up more than half the total.  I also expected to see a larger number of criminals on the list.

So, just how many denials have there been? Here are the numbers since NICS started (November 30, 1998 - May 31,2013):

Rank Prohibited Category Description Total Percent of Total
1Convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years595,37557.91%
2Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence Conviction104,00610.11%
3Fugitive from Justice101,6499.89%
4Unlawful User/Addicted to a Controlled Substance85,1238.28%
5State Prohibitor46,6534.54%
6Protection/Restraining Order for Domestic Violence43,7224.25%
7Under Indictment/Information21,5092.09%
8Illegal/Unlawful Alien12,3641.20%
9Adjudicated Mental Health11,3931.11%
10Federally Denied Persons File5,5550.54%
11Dishonorable Discharge7480.07%
12Renounced U.S. Citizenship580.01%
Total Federal Denials1,028,155100.00%

So, there you have it, the other side of the background check system.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dry Firing

By Dave Dargo

In yesterday's posting I discussed the importance of consistent habits when managing your pistol; always draw from the holster the same way, always condition-check the pistol the same way and always reload the same way.

There are other practice steps you can take to keep your pistolcraft sharp and dry-firing is one of the most important.

Dry-firing is the practice of firing your pistol with no ammunition and there are some rather specific practices you must do in order to assure safety:

  • Always use the same place for dry-firing.
  • The place you use for dry-firing should have a ballistic back stop.
  • Never store or have ammunition in the place you choose for dry-firing.
  • Always start dry-firing with the same routine.
  • Always end dry-firing with the same routine and never, ever, ever try just one more after you've formally ended your dry-fire session.
The importance of having a ballistic back stop is just in case you make a mistake.  Never having any ammunition in your dry-firing place is to minimize the risk of making a mistake and starting with the same routine each time builds safe practices.

The reason you should never, ever, ever try just one more is because that one more time often becomes a live-fire exercise.  It happens when you've finished dry-firing, gone back to your ammunition storage place, reloaded your pistol, re-holstered and as you're walking down the hall to leave for the day you start thinking about your draw stroke and decide, "just one more".

I carry an M1911 and I can dry-fire it all day long with no damage to the pistol.  A Glock can be dry-fired, within reason, without causing any damage.  However, Glock will tell you that if you're going to dry-fire thousands of times that you should use a snap-cap.  If you have any doubts about dry-firing your pistol then just buy an inexpensive snap cap.

Another key to practice is to keep from over doing it.  It's better to practice 10 perfect draws in a session rather than 50 sloppy ones.  Decide what you're going to practice and dedicate 3-5 minutes to doing it. You should set a goal of dry-firing as many days as you can but in fairly short sessions working on perfect technique.

The goal of dry-firing is to help you lock in the mechanics of your pistolcraft. Get used to drawing the pistol as if you mean it. Make routine the process of drawing your pistol and getting those sights on target. Perfect that trigger press and get away from squeezing your whole hand when you want the gun to fire.

Remember, the loudest noise in a gunfight is a click when you expect a bang.  The loudest noise in dry-firing is a bang when you expect a click.  Keep that ammunition in another room.  Tie it up in a dirty sock if necessary.  Never mix ammunition with dry firing.

Practice correctly, practice often and make routine your pistolcraft mechanics.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Perfecting Practical Routines

By Dave Dargo

We've all heard, "Practice Makes Perfect" and most of us have heard the correction, "Perfect Practice Makes Perfect". What does perfect practice mean and why should we worry about it?

I previously wrote about gun safety rules and the need to handle your pistol consistently. Do the same things each and every time you handle your pistol so that you have no chance of missing a step or adding an extra step that causes a negligent discharge.

Pistolcraft is the skill and art of handling a pistol and it is one of the most perishable skills you can obtain. Without proper practice you will lose the skill rapidly. With most activities we take up as a hobby that's not an issue. However, pistolcraft is different - if you lose your pistolcraft skills and need them in an emergency you may not be able to perform to the required level. Your best performance under stress will be like your worst day at practice. Therefore, we need to practice and we need to practice properly.

There are things you can do to practice your pistolcraft without even thinking about:

  • Always draw your pistol like you mean it. If you carry a pistol and store it outside the holster at home then be sure to draw the pistol like you mean it when putting the pistol away for the evening.  Every time you draw your pistol from the holster you should do it exactly the same way - whether it's to put it away, to draw it for practice, to draw it to check its condition or to draw it in case of confrontation. If you can discipline yourself to always draw your pistol the same way then you are more likely to draw it that way when under stress.
  • Get in the habit of checking the condition of your pistol every time you pick it up. Even if you just checked the condition of your pistol before setting it down only a few seconds ago, when you pick it up check its condition again. The purpose of the condition-check is to determine if the pistol is loaded.  If you always check the condition of the pistol when you pick it up then you will establish the unflinching habit of checking it the same way every single time. You will build proper pistolcraft habits.
  • Always reload your pistol the same way. Grip the magazine and the pistol the same way whenever you're loading the pistol and get it up in your work space. Again, by doing it the same way each and every time you will instill a habit that may become critical in a crisis.
The reason you want to create these repeatable and predictable mechanisms for handling your pistol is so that you don't need to think about them. If you always reload your pistol the same way, and practice reloading your pistol in that manner then you will have one less thing to worry about in a crisis; you should be able to rely on your practiced mechanics to perform the function without any additional thought.

Removing excess thought from the routine mechanics of pistol handling allows you to use your brain for any crisis you may be managing.

But, you may ask, how do we know we're doing it properly? Get a coach. Have someone who knows the proper techniques watch you, coach you and drill you. In our defensive pistol classes we may require you to grip the holster 50 times before you move to the second step of drawing from a holster, "clear". The drill isn't repeated just for fun or for repetition's sake; it's repeated until you can confidently repeat the mechanical action of gripping the pistol in its holster without thinking about it.

This stepwise approach to mastering a skill will allow you to build the proper foundation necessary to become both confident and competent in your practice sessions and we all know, the more practice is like real-life, the more real-life is like practice.

Practice well, practice often and you will find that your pistolcraft becomes routine.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Strictly Speaking

By Dave Dargo

Just what is this thing called "strict scrutiny"?  I ask because of some recent discussions in and out of our classrooms related to gun rights in the State of Louisiana.

The voice of the people is a critically important concept within the American system.  In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court said of the second amendment:

"Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people..."
The Supreme Court was saying that the people had already spoken, they had already balanced the interests of public-safety and the fundamental right to keep and bear arms and had removed from all branches of the government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial the power to change the will of the people.  The only thing that could change the will of the people were the people themselves.

Just as the people spoke in the 18th century when adopting the second amendment they spoke more recently in the State of Louisiana by passing a constitutional amendment requiring strict scrutiny as the basis of review to be used by the court system within the state.  Strict scrutiny is the highest standard of review in American jurisprudence.  Under strict scrutiny if the government wishes to infringe upon a fundamental right then the infringement must be related to a compelling government interest, the regulation must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest and they must use the least restrictive means to achieve that interest.

The people of the State of Louisiana have spoken; the people changed the state constitution in order to remove from all branches of the government the power to infringe the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.

As with most things legal, it is not the passing of the law that generates the most interesting news but rather it's implementation over the following years.

In our last concealed handgun permit class the question of carry restrictions was raised.  For example, can a concealed handgun permittee carry concealed into an establishment that serves alcohol by the drink?  If you ask anyone who's taken a concealed handgun class in the last 17 years they will tell you, "Yes".  If you ask the state police, the New Orleans police or the Baton Rouge police they will tell you, "No".  In fact, those police departments have stated that they will criminally charge anyone they find in such an establishment who possesses a handgun, permit or not.  The State's Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell has been asked to issue an opinion on his interpretation of state law.

I don't know how or when Mr. Caldwell may decide to issue his opinion but let's look at the law itself and how it may play out under strict scrutiny when challenged.  The government will have to state a compelling state interest in prohibiting concealed handgun permittees from carrying a concealed handgun into a place that serves alcohol by the drink.  I imagine the interest will take the form of, "alcohol fuels outrageous and dangerous behavior and the concentration of alcohol and people found within an establishment that serves alcohol by the drink would create an entirely unacceptable danger if people were permitted to have handguns within that environment."

Now, it's not enough for the state to make such a claim.  Under strict scrutiny they will have to demonstrate that such a statement is true.  They will have to demonstrate that those places that serve alcohol create such a volatile environment that allowing handguns near them will create unacceptably dangerous conditions.

Let's pretend for just a moment that the state is able to demonstrate their compelling interest.  Well, then they will have to demonstrate that their prohibition against the carrying of concealed handguns in such an environment is a narrowly tailored regulation and that there is no less restrictive method other than the complete ban.  These steps are much more difficult and made even more so given the regulations other states have adopted allowing concealed handgun permittees access to such dangerous environments.  Arizona, as an example, allows a permittee to go into a place that serves alcohol by the drink as long as the permittee keeps their firearm concealed and the permittee doesn't consume alcohol. Does Arizona's regulation accomplish the governmental interest with a narrowly tailored regulation and in a less-restrictive manner?

Another area is BREC's prohibition of weapons on BREC property.  Will the Parish of East Baton Rouge be able to justify their prohibition under the rubric of "strict scrutiny"?

I think that neither governmental entity will succeed in defending their regulation under strict scrutiny. I don't want to be the test case for either one because of the difficulty that personally creates but I also don't want to see the government continue to push unreasonable restrictions  upon a fundamental right.

Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said in this article, "What they're doing is taking the decision out of the hands of the legislature. They're pre-deciding that guns should be allowed in public places and that the ability to regulate firearms should be very, very limited - if at all."

Wow, I actually agree with something that someone from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said.  Laura, this is precisely what the people did.  The people spoke and took out of the hands of the legislative and judicial branches the ability to regulate firearms except in very, very limited circumstances.

The people expressed their will, they declared the results of their interest balancing approach and decided that "the ability to regulate firearms should be very, very limited - if at all."

This is what the people do and it is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Miss Faster

By Dave Dargo

No, this posting isn't about a woman with a last name of Faster, it's about what happens under stress - even "easy" stress.

In a lot of the advanced defensive handgun classes I've taken it's common to have a contest. Metal is often used in these contests because of its immediate feedback and satisfying sound when hit. Imagine a number of targets about 30 feet away of varying size from 4x5 inches, to 8 inch circles and poppers.  The drill is often to hit a set number of these targets, perform a speed reload and then down the final target which is usually a split popper.  Fail to do the reload or down your competitors side of the split popper by mistake and you lose.  Properly down all your targets and perform the reload at the correct time and you win.

Because the contest involves an activity where time is critical it's not unusual to see people speed everything up in a very bad way.

A saying we use when we teach drawing from a holster is, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast".  The smoother you are at performing a proper draw technique the faster you will be on target and will be able to make the shot you intend.  Part of being smooth is being slow; but in a special way.  Deliberate is a good word to use for the description - being deliberate in performing all the steps of the draw stroke will get your sights onto the target much faster than the flailing that will go on when trying to be fast for fast's sake.

In these particular contests, which have much less stress than an actual defensive situation, the contestants confuse speed and smoothness.  They are so concerned about being faster than their opponent that they toss smoothness right out the window.  They certainly get their pistol out quicker than the methodical shooter but they almost always miss.  In fact, they usually miss a lot.

Imagine the contest:  You're standing there and intend to be fast.  You hear the go signal and speed to your pistol in the holster.  You whip it out of the holster with not quite the correct form and you get that first shot off.  You can tell you're faster because you've fired before your opponent.  But you miss.  Your slower opponent performs the correct draw technique, gets proper sight alignment, presses the trigger and hits the first target.

You heard the metal being hit and, even though you were quicker from the holster, know that you're falling behind.  What do you do?  You go even faster because as you hear your opponent hit the second target you realize that you've fired three times at the first target and missed each time.  Now you're really in a frenzy and you go even faster.  Meanwhile, the slowpoke next to you is methodically downing each of his targets.

You've forgotten one of the fundamental rules of shooting.  A rule that can't be violated.  You can't miss fast enough to catch up with someone who is taking their time in knocking down targets.  The same goes for a truly stressful situation such as being in a defensive position - you can't miss fast enough to save your life.

Don't miss faster, hit smoother.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Run-Away Legislatures

By Dave Dargo

How many laws are enough?  How many unintended consequences can we create in a single year?

I ran across three articles over the past few days that really have my head spinning.

In the first article, the Sacramento Bee published an AP story showing how many bills have passed in the California legislature in the first half of their current legislative session.  I was stunned by the number, which I will share momentarily.

As I pondered the number presented in the article I started to wonder how many new laws would be reasonable and what justifies a new law.  I remember an Ayn Rand quote I used in a previous posting,

"There's no way to rule innocent men.  The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them.  One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
I started thinking, well, it's reasonable that homicide be illegal, stealing, assault and many other crimes I could agree with.  Those actions that infringe on the rights of another have a good shot at being illegal.  I then started wondering how long it took us, as a species, to come up with a reasonable list of actions we would deem to be unreasonable and create laws against those actions.  I would think that as time passed we would need to pass fewer and fewer laws as the list of laws grew to encompass all those bad things one person can do to another.

I, apparently, was wrong.  In the first half of their legislative session the California state legislature discovered 1,200 things that had not been covered before.  In the first half they passed 1,200 new bills. I am so thankful that such thoughtful people are looking out for the benefit of those they represent.

But wait, I said there were three articles.

This article describes how the Connecticut state legislature had to modify all the gun-control laws they passed after the Sandy Hook tragedy.  It seems they were a bit hasty in their legislative free-for-all and now have to correct a number of mistakes they made in so hastily passing laws based on emotion rather than reason.

The final article discusses how the president of the Colorado State Senate is facing a recall because of his support of that state's new gun-control agenda.  He says,

"This is a hill worth dying on.  This is a fight worth having; it's a fight we've already had on the floor of the Senate; it's a fight worth winning."
Sir, you may have already had the fight on the floor of the Senate but it appears there are enough people in Colorado who believe you were on the wrong side of that fight.

The purpose of a state legislature is not to continue to introduce bill after bill and then spend their time correcting their past mistakes.  The purpose is to represent the best interests of their people while maintaining a presumption of liberty and acting with cool-headed objectivity rather than emotion.

I'm beginning to really appreciate part-time legislative bodies.  All that time off gives the hot issues time to cool down before some hot-head decides to make a name for him or herself at the expense of my liberty.

Monthly Permit Issuances in Louisiana

By Dave Dargo

Last year the Louisiana State Police Concealed Handgun Permit Unit was issuing just over 850 permits per month.  This year, according to our sources in that unit, they've been issuing between 3,000 and 5,000 every month.

That's an increase of 250% - 490% over last year.  These numbers provide good insight on why it's taking longer to issue those permits.  We've been told that they're just now getting through February's mail.

I previously wrote that I think a responsible person who chooses to carry a gun will opt for more than the nine hours of training mandated by the state.  While the amount of training one gets is a personal decision, it's difficult to justify carrying a firearm ready for confrontation without more training than the minimal requirements of the state.

In that article I wrote of the P.O.S.T standards of 24 hours of pistol training for a new police recruit.  I have somewhere over 240 hours of pistol training, including force-on-force training.

I'm delighted to see the number of people who've decided to exercise their right to self-defense take it seriously enough that they're willing to go through the training, fingerprinting and background check necessary in order to obtain a permit.

I hope those people also take it seriously enough to expand the amount of training they receive beyond that state mandated minimum.

Monday, June 3, 2013


By Dave Dargo

Merriam-Webster claims the phrase "follow-through" was first used in 1895.  The most common definition seems to be, "The concluding part of a stroke, after a ball or other object has been hit or released."  We know that when a batter in baseball takes a full swing at a ball they don't attempt to stop the bat at the point where the ball meets the bat - we expect the batter to swing through the ball and "follow-through" with their swing.

Follow-through is also important in business, we need to follow-through with our commitments and assure that our customers are satisfied.

Follow-through is a difficult technique to master, though, when it comes to trigger control.

Some instructors will tell you to squeeze the trigger gently.  I prefer the phrase, "press the trigger"; as in pressing a button.  I think that when some students hear squeeze they think of squeezing an orange and use the major muscles in their hands to "squeeze" the trigger and the pistol grip together.  I want the student to imagine the frame and the grip of the pistol as stable objects and to use the minor muscles of their trigger finger to gently press the trigger as if they were pressing a button.

Though the difference may seem subtle, the reality is that a gentle press of the trigger is more likely to deliver a good shot with less recoil anticipation.  Pressing the trigger helps invoke a thought process of gently applying increasing pressure until the shot breaks - hopefully with a bit of surprise to the shooter.  We call this a "surprise break" and it is a desired attribute when shooting.

One thing that I see almost all students do, though, is take that finger off the trigger as quickly as possible after the shot breaks.  We don't want to do this.  We want follow-through.  For the shooter for whom follow-through is new, we want that finger to continue to apply that same pressure through the shot break and continue until the trigger no longer moves rearward and hold it there.

I can stand right next to a student watching their trigger finger and encouraging them to keep pressing after the shot breaks and it may takes hundreds of shots before the student becomes comfortable with this process.  For some students I will insist that they hold that trigger all the way back until I give them permission to release it.  It is difficult for the student to do this but it develops in them a sense that the trigger pressure needs to be maintained until after the shot breaks.

Once the shot breaks we want to release the trigger slowly until the point of reset; that is, the point in which the pistol is ready to fire the next shot.  If the student has good trigger follow-through and control, they will feel and probably hear a "click" as the trigger resets.  Once the trigger resets and the sights settle back on target it is time to break the next shot.

If the shooter has flung their finger off the trigger at the time the shot broke then it will take longer to get their finger back in position, the sights back in position and the trigger slack taken up.

Good trigger control with follow-through allows for faster sight re-acquisition and faster subsequent shot-breaks.  In other words, one can fire more shots in a shorter space of time with those shots being more accurate.

Once a student becomes adept at trigger control and follow-through they will no longer need to press the trigger all the way back after the shot breaks.  They will be able to control that space between break and reset delivering very accurate, very quick shots.

Follow-through in shooting, as with many things in life, is critical to success.