Category Archives: Handguns

The Weapon—Mounted Light

Lights on handguns are increasingly popular,
but Mind Those Caveats!

So there I was on the range, shooting my little .40 S&W Shield with its compact Viridian light attached, thinking how far we’ve come in the last quarter century with the WML (Weapon-Mounted Light). In the early 20th century, an inventor managed to attach a flashlight to a Colt Police Positive, but it apparently seemed a little too Jules Verne and never caught on.

By 1990 LAPD had proven the effectiveness of SureFire WeaponLights, dedicated units semi-permanently attached to the firearm. I had one on a Beretta 92 that Bill Jarvis customized for me, and with a 20-round 93R 9mm machine pistol magazine, it became a “bedside home companion.” Concealed carry, of course, was out of the question. But within a couple of years, HK introduced their USP pistol, pioneering the concept of attachment rails integral with the dust cover of a pistol’s frame. The idea caught fire, and has become a common feature today.

Police took the concept to heart. First with SWAT, whose missions often entailed searching dark places for individuals known to be armed and dangerous. Then K9 units embraced it. With one hand on the dog’s lead and the other holding a service pistol, until the WML there had been no practical way to hold a light during night operations. By the early 2000’s, it had already become popular to mount flashlights on duty handguns even for regular uniform patrol, and today it’s generally optional and often standard for everyone to be so equipped. I know plainclothes officers who carry light mounted guns. We have concealment holsters for them now, including inside the waistband designs.

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For search, use dedicated light in your free hand keeping the WML (here on a SIG P227 .45 ACP)
in low-retention position. The light here is a Streamlight TLR-2 with laser. If you have to shoot,
drop your handheld light.

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Lights can be mounted on the fore-end of an AR-15. This SureFire Weaponlight (left) also adds
a pistol grip to the rail. The SureFire X200 on Mas’ Maglio custom Glock 19 (right) also prevents
the pistol from being taken out of battery.

Meanwhile, a whole industry of WML’s, sometimes combined with laser sighting capability, has sprung up. Units like the aforementioned Veridian Reactor TL and the Crimson Trace Lightguard literally allow pocket carry of a light-equipped pistol in a serious self-defense caliber.

One of the biggest advantages of the pistol-mounted light has gone largely unrecognized: standoff capability. Some lethal fights occur at belly-to-belly distances and may require the Good Guy or Gal to fire into their opponent at press-contact distance. I’ve seen cases where this pushed the barrel/slide assembly out of battery, preventing the Good Guy from firing. So long as the business end of the WML is at least a little out ahead of the muzzle, this won’t happen.

A classic example is a shooting in which hero cop Jared Reston of the Jacksonville, Fla., Sheriff’s Office was ambushed by a punk with a stolen 14-shot .45. Wounded seven times, Jared was down but still fighting, thanks to his concealed Safariland body armor and his own indomitable will. The perpetrator, shot four times with .40 hollowpoints, was still in the fight too… until Jared rammed the front of his Glock 22 against the man’s head and fired three more shots, bringing the matter to a predictable and very final close. What allowed him to do that without the gun going out of battery was the Streamlight TLR he had wisely affixed to his duty weapon long beforehand.

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The WML greatly improves hit potential in poor light (above). Here’s a SureFire X200 on a
Springfield XD LE .45 ACP. When fitted with a Viridian Reactor TL (below), the S&W Shield
in .40 S&W is still pocket-size.

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With X200 SureFire light attached, the Glock 19 rides comfortably and discreetly
in Concealment Solutions Black Mamba IWB holster.

Be Careful, Though

We can’t discuss this topic responsibly without some caveats. For one thing, some polymer pistols have evinced malfunctions when so equipped. The weight of the device, and the lateral tension of some locking units, can alter the function and “harmonics” of a light-bearing polymer pistol. Shoot it at least a couple hundred rounds with your chosen self-defense ammo, and don’t trust it until it has proven the combination will run without any stoppages.

We who use WML’s need to always remember that, when mounted on the gun, their use is not indicted for routine searches for “the thing that went bump in the night.” We’re pointing a loaded gun at everything the light beam hits! If the figure we illuminate in the dark turns out to be a family member or a guest a family member unexpectedly brought home, we’ve just committed felony aggravated assault by pointing a loaded gun at that person. Startle response resulting in unintended discharge is also a very real possibility. Yes, the perfect human incapable of making a mistake will always keep his finger off the trigger… but the last perfect human being incapable of making a mistake that I ever heard of got crucified 2,015 years ago. Keep a separate flashlight for search and the WML gun in a low retention position or holstered until the threat is identified. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: The WML on a firearm is like a telescopic sight on a hunting rifle. Use either one for scanning, and you’re likely to come to grief. But when you think you’ve seen something you need to shoot, the magnification of your hunting scope or the centered beam of your WML is a last ditch confirmation of target identity that can prevent us, in either case, from shooting something we had no business shooting.
By Massad Ayoob

Concealment Solutions
438 E. 1910 S.
Orem, UT 84058
(385) 208-8914
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/concealment-solutions/

Crimson Trace
9780 SW Freeman Dr.
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(800) 442-2406
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/crimson-trace-corporation/

Streamlight Inc.
30 Eagleville Road
Eagleville, PA 19403
(610) 631-0600
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/streamlight-inc/

SureFire
18300 Mt. Baldy Circle
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
(800) 828-8809
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/surefire-llc/

Viridian Green Laser
Laser Aiming Systems Corporation
5929 Baker Rd, Suite 440
Minnetonka, MN 55345
(800) 990-9390
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/viridian-green-laser-sights/

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Sights For Rusty Eyes

When Your Eyes Go Fuzzy And You Aren’t Ready For Optics Atop Your Handgun,
There Are Still Options In (More Or Less) Conventional Sight Setups.

Ya know, for a lot of us, it really is the eyes that go first. Opthamologist friends tell me that somewhere around age 40, we really start noticing differences. In my case I didn’t have to wait that long. I was wearing eyeglasses somewhere around first grade, nearsighted in the right eye and farsighted in the left. That never changed. Today, as a certified, card-carrying geezer working on his newest prescription for corrective lenses, I’m still involved in dealing with it.

One option is the red-dot optic sight, now available in compact models like Trijicon’s RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex). Increasingly popular, it’s still a small wave in a big ocean, raising the height of the so-equipped pistol sufficiently to create concealment issues. I only personally know one cop wearing one on his service pistol in uniform, and in a given year, only a few of many hundreds of my students will arrive with a carry gun so equipped. So, let’s talk about conventional sights—colloquially known as “iron sights”—you may find helpful.

A big U-shaped notch in the rear sight—coupled, of course, with a proportionally large and visible front sight—is so fast its popularity isn’t limited to us Social Security age shooters. A whole lot of young and “prime of life” handgunners have adopted them, too. One example is the BattleSight from Wilson Combat. A few years ago I had those on a Wilson Combat CQB .45 auto at the IDPA Nationals, and loved ’em. The sights (and the pistol) shot better than I did. I have a set on my favorite carry Beretta, a Wilson-tuned M9A1 Compact. In both cases, the front sight was a big fiber optic, easy for old eyes to catch so long as there was some ambient light. The big U-notch is also a feature on Scott Warren Tactical sights: I have a set on one of my favorite carry Glocks, a G31 in .357 SIG. Those sights are precise enough they once gave me a 1.25-inch 5-shot group at 25 yards with Remington Bonded Golden Saber .357 SIG, yet come very quickly to the eye; the front sight is a big, high post with a Tritium insert for night shooting.

The ultimate U-notch was brilliantly conceived by ex-cop and gun writer, Gary Paul Johnston. Like most of us, he found a big “ghost ring” peep sight didn’t work as well on the back of a handgun at arm’s length as it did on the rear of a rifle closer to the eye…so he simply cut the “ghost ring” in half, creating a humongous U-notch. Coupled with a big front post, it proved to be remarkably accurate, and remarkably visible to those of us with less than perfect vision. It’s available today as the “Ghost” sight, complete with a Tritium night dot front sight from Novak.

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Sight picture with Advantage Tactical sights consists of a bright plastic front
at the peak, and bright lines along the side to form most of the triangle.

Express Delivery

The ancient concept of the Express sight—a very shallow “V” rear and a big round front—goes back to the old African hunters and their super-powerful “Express rifles,” aka “Elephant Guns.” Something big enough to kill you and coming fast has to be aimed at and shot quickly, and not until the latter 20th Century did my friend Ashley Emerson popularize the same concept with the short sight-radius handgun. Whether yours is the original Ashley Express or the later XS, you’ll find this concept deadly fast in close. At a distance, the Big Dot sitting atop a centered line on the shallow rear “V” gives you a “lollipop” sight picture. I can’t guarantee 25-yard head shots with it, but that may just be me. James Yeager can be found on YouTube doing some awesome shooting with these sights mounted on his Glock 19.

Yeah, I know, trust a guy with an Arabic name to push the pyramid. But, I gotta tell ya, my very favorite “geezer sights” are the Advantage Tactical, which give you a pyramidal sight picture. A bright plastic front is the peak, and bright lines along the side form most of the triangle. Choice of colors is yours, there are several in the kit. It took me about 200 rounds to get the hang of it, but I discovered (A) using just the front triangle, in close was as fast as a red dot. (B) If there was time for a proper sight picture, it would keep every shot in the 10-ring of a B27 target at 25 yards; and (C) it worked great if I had vision problems. I had an infection in the dominant eye when I went for the Shodan test in Soke Jeff Hall’s martial art of shooting, Hojutsu, which is very similar to Chuck Taylor’s famously difficult Pistol Master test. On the first run, I realized I couldn’t see the regular sights on the Glock 17 I was using, so I switched to a stock G17 with Advantage Tactical sights I was testing. It got me through and earned me the coveted Black Belt. The big, bright, coarse rear and front were visible even when blurred. I’ve shot that Tactical Advantage-sighted gun a lot since, won some IDPA matches with it, and keep it handy in case my vision ever again becomes impaired. “Advantage Tactical” really does give you a tactical advantage, especially if your vision is blurred.

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“Front sights to watch” include (above, from left) Heinie Straight Eight Tritium, Tritium front
from Scott Warren Tactical ensemble, standard Trijicon front post, Advantage Tactical front
sight and fiber optic from Dawson. Optional rear sights on full-size Glocks include (below, from left)
Heinie Straight Eight on a G17, Scott Warren Tactical U-notch on a G31, Trijicon on a G22, Advantage
Tactical on a G17 and the Dawson Adjustable on a G17RTF2.

Laser Blazers

Laser sights can be a godsend to visually disadvantaged shooters. A decade ago, John Strayer beat me on X-count and drove me down into second place at Andy Stanford’s famous Snubby Summit event. I was shooting a 2.5-inch Colt Python with a Reeves Jungkind action. John was shooting an out-of-the-box S&W Model 642 Airweight with Crimson Trace Lasergrips. John maintains he won only because when we had to shoot from the hip, his laser dot let him get a center-X hit ahead of me. (I maintain he was a better shot and flat outshot me. We still argue about that.) I’ll tell you one thing though: Both John and I have Crimson Trace Lasergrips on the J-Frame Smith & Wesson snubbies.

Lasers and red-dot optics aside, though, it’s absolutely true that careful selection of more or less “conventional” iron sights can keep you shooting straight under pressure when your eyesight is less than “20/20 uncorrected.”
By Massad Ayoob

Advantage Tactical Sights

WrenTech Industries LLC
7 Avenida Vista Grande, B-7, Santa Fe, NM 87508
(310) 316-6413
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/advantage-tactical-sight/

Crimson Trace Corporation

9780 SW Freeman Dr., Wilsonville, OR 97070
(800) 442-2406
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/crimson-trace-corporation/

Heinie Specialty Products

301 Oak Street, Quincy, IL 62301
(217) 228-9500

Novak Sights

1206 30th Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101
(304) 485-9295
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/novak-s/

Warren Tactical

Brownells
200 South Front Street, Montezuma, IA 50171
(641) 623-4000

Wilson Combat

2234 CR 719, Berryville, AR 72616
(800) 955-4856
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/wilson-combat-scattergun-technologies/

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Reliability VS. Round Count

This has long been an issue in
handgun selection. It remains so
today and can take many forms.

Back when I was a young cop in the early 1970’s, the service revolver was standard issue for most of American law enforcement. When most officers asked their bosses for autoloaders, or even for permission to buy their own for duty use, here was the standard answer: “Those automatics are jam-a-matics! You can’t trust ’em! Forget eight or 14 shots that will maybe go bang, when your revolver gives you six for sure!”

Well, time, nature and the handgun industry all took their natural course. Today we have very reliable semi-automatics, which are all but universal in police uniform holsters.

It was not always thus, however. In 1967, the Illinois State Police (ISP) became the first major US police department to adopt semi-automatic pistols as standard issue. They chose the 9mm Smith & Wesson Model 39. In the following decade, I spent a lot of time at that department, and followed up on the 9mm transition with everyone from the road troopers and their representatives, Fraternal Order of Police Troopers’ Lodge 41, to Bob Cappelli and Sebastian Ulrich, the lead armorers at ISP’s Ordnance Section in Springfield. I learned from Bob and “Bash” that once the guns were in the hands of their then-1,700 troopers, some problems showed up. This led to ISP recommendations to Smith & Wesson, which resulted in the improved Model 39-2 pistol… and also led to a policy of downloading the guns by one round.

The 39 was originally designed with an 8-round magazine, with a ninth cartridge to be carried in the chamber. ISP ran tons of ammo through those guns, and discovered when loaded all the way up, there was potential for misfeed. The policy recommended was to load only seven rounds per magazine, which helped to cure the problem and became 7+1-for-sure beat 8+1 rounds maybe.

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It became almost customary to download 13+1 9mm P35’s, like this Novak Browning
(above), by one round. Mas’ ROBAR custom Glock 30S is loaded with 10+1 .45 ACP,
but spares will be either G21 mag with full 13, or G30 (below) downloaded to
nine to guarantee positive insertion with slide forward.

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Other Handguns

Another classic handgun, since 1935, has been the Browning Hi Power. The purpose of the P-35 project was to create a 9mm service pistol with lots of bullets, and John Moses Browning and Dieudonne Saive loaded its mag up to max with 13 cartridges, making it a 14-shooter with one up the spout.

It turned out that to be a whole lot more reliable as a 13-shooter. I first shot in England in 1979, and began teaching there in the 1980’s, and in both roles got to interact with members of Britain’s SAS and the elite armed unit of the London Metropolitan Police, both of whom used the Hi Power as did their nation’s military. I was told the rule of thumb was no more than 12 rounds per magazine, and it was rigidly enforced. They had seen pistols jam after the first shot when the mags were loaded with 13.

Sure enough, before long I ran across a case in the US where a cop with a 1911 .45 won a gunfight with a bad guy who opened fire on him with a Browning loaded all the way up. The bad guy got the first shot off, and the cop lit him up and killed him. Turned out the bad guy’s gun had jammed on the full mag after the first shot, quite probably saving the officer’s life. Time went on; Wayne Novak provided me with a modified magazine for a Hi Power that worked 100 percent with 14 in it plus the chambered round…but to this day, I load no more than a dozen in a Hi Power’s magazine. The lesson? Twelve for sure beats 13… maybe.

For most of the epoch of the 1911 .45 auto, it had a 7-round magazine, and 8-rounders came out decades ago. I saw problems with the early ones. Keep ’em empty until match day and then fill ’em full, fine. Leave them loaded all the way up for a year or so, and you’d start to have feeding problems. And, because there was absolutely no flex left in the cartridge stack, if you had to slam one into the gun while the slide was forward, it might not seat. The word went out: seven for sure beat eight, maybe. Today, of course, we have mags like the Wilson ETM (Elite Tactical Magazine), which holds 8 .45 rounds without fatiguing the spring and reloads smoothly with the slide all the way forward. The ETM is my current favorite, because it does give “eight for sure.”

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For decades, the “six for sure” argument kept cops with revolvers instead
of autos. These circa 1918 Colts are a 1911 .45 ACP and .38 Army Special
.

Most masters of the AR-15 platform will tell you they load their 30-round magazines to only 28. This gives enough flex in the magazine spring under the cartridge stack to allow it to seat smoothly when reloaded into a rifle when its bolt is forward. The same occurs with some pistols.

The Glock pistol is most common out there today, and most of them work just fine with the mags loaded all the way up. My favorite Glock is the 30 series, an amazingly accurate compact 11-shot .45 ACP. (In fact, I’m carrying my ROBAR custom 30S as I write this.)

To fit 10 fat .45 rounds into that short mag, meant there was just no stack left, and a full mag has to be just about hammered into the gun. No sweat, I can do that in an “administrative load,” when the pistol is loaded in a condition of calmness. A speed reload with the slide forward? Much harder. So my spare magazine is a compatible 13-round Glock 21 mag, built longer for the full-size Glock .45 ACP, with enough spring flex to seat all the time, every time. But when I carry one of my Glock 30’s in a state where I’m limited to 10-round magazines, my spare 10-round mags are downloaded to nine in case I have to do a reload under pressure with the slide forward. ’Cause “nine for sure” just beats heck out of “10, maybe.”
By Massad Ayoob

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Reconsidering The .357 SIG

Mas Wasn’t Crazy About This
Bottleneck Blazer At First,
But After A While…

Did you ever meet people you didn’t like at first, but after a while, you discovered they had redeeming qualities? Was there ever a job you disliked at first, but after a while you became comfortable with it and even enjoyed doing it? The same can happen with machines. Cars, for instance. Or handguns, or even handgun calibers.

I started reading the S&W catalog as a kid in the 1950’s. In their smallest .38 Special line, the conventionally styled outside hammer Chiefs Special made sense, and the Bodyguard with built in hammer shroud and a little nub you could still cock to single action made even more sense, but the “hammerless” double-action only Centennial struck my young self as clueless. What was the point of giving up a feature, when the Bodyguard was just as snag free and offered two modes of fire instead of one? I figured then only an idiot would buy one.

Passing decades taught me to appreciate the Centennial design. I learned in fast-breaking self-defense scenarios, a revolver would almost always be fired double action anyway. I saw cases where cocked revolvers were unintentionally discharged, sometimes with tragic results. And then, I saw cases where it was falsely alleged that such negligent “cocked gun” discharges had occurred, even when the officer had fired double action. I came to realize why LAPD, and later many other departments, had gone to double-action only (DAO) revolvers. The true “hair trigger negligent discharges” would have been much less likely with the DAO, and the false allegations of same would have been impossible.

I also learned through experience the Centennial was more controllable than the other two formats. The higher backstrap of the “hammerless” design allowed a higher grasp, lowering the bore axis and reducing muzzle jump. Today, I own all three types, but almost always choose that once despised “hammerless” for my J-Frame needs.

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Arrows show brass from double tap in the air, Mas’ .357 SIG P229 still on target.

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Mas’ Scott Warren-sighted G31 is good for 1.5-inch 25-yard groups with
most any .357 SIG load, including this Winchester PDX1 125-grain load.

.357 SIG

When the .357 SIG round was introduced, my first thought was, “What’s the point? An oddball bottleneck case, and a 125-grain 9mm bullet at 1,350 feet per second, when we’ve already got a CorBon load for .40 S&W with a 135-grain 10mm bullet at 1,300?” As time went on, .357 SIG’s started showing up in class, and we started seeing case-neck separations. These weren’t “catastrophic incidents” because the guns didn’t blow up or anything, but they were “tactically catastrophic” in that you had to disassemble the weapon and somehow get the sheared brass collar out of the chamber, and then reassemble before you could fire another shot. Back then, I wouldn’t give a .357 SIG houseroom.

By mid-first decade of the 21st century, ammo-makers had gotten the knack for this round, though, and I stopped seeing the case-neck separations. I won a Glock 31 in .357 SIG at a match, and got to really like it. It put five shots in 1-1/4 inches for me with 125-grain Golden Saber from 25 yards, and about 1-1/2 inches with Speer Gold Dot of the same weight. Both of those loads chronographed hotter than factory spec, around 1,430 fps, which absolutely did fulfill the .357 SIG’s promise of duplicating the ballistics of the most spectacularly effective .357 Magnum revolver load with much less recoil and with many more rounds on board. Soon my G31 had a little companion gun, a Glock 33 tuned by Dave Maglio, which launched the Golden Saber and Gold Dot .357 SIG rounds at a still impressive 1,340 fps or so from its stubby barrel. That was downright impressive.

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It takes two J-Frame Magnums to equal on-board firepower of a 10-shot M&P357C
self-loader. Although the M&P357C has been discontinued, it is available on
special order. Five shots (below) from Steve Denney’s S&W M&P Compact in .357
SIG, from 25 yards shows stellar accuracy with power to spare.

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When this S&W Centennial Airweight first came out, it seemed so stupid that the market
abandoned it and it was discontinued for years. Its descendants are now S&W’s most popular.
Later, Mas came to realize the frame shape of “hammerless” Centennial lets your hand ride
higher, lowering bore axis for better recoil control.

Field Performance

So was the .357 SIG cartridge’s performance in the field. Richmond Virginia Police and the Virginia State Police, after many shootings, reported spectacular performance with the Gold Dot load in the .357 SIG. So did the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other organizations. The round’s tactical penetration in auto bodies was particularly impressive. In Texas, the .357 out of a SIG P226 pierced a semi’s heavy truck body to kill a gunman when .45 slugs hadn’t gotten through. In New Mexico, a trooper dropped a rogue bear with an issue S&W M&P .357 SIG. A Tennessee trooper dumped a would-be cop-killer at spectacular range with his Glock 31. The reports were adding up around the country, and they were impressive.

Today, the .357 SIG’s performance has turned me from foe to fan. I don’t compete with it—there’s no pistol game I shoot where that load gives any advantage—and I don’t teach with it because when I travel, less popular ammo like .357 SIG, 10mm, or .45 GAP is hard to find on the road. When at home, though, on a rural property where a long shot is occasionally offered, my flat-shooting Glock 31 with 16 Gold Dot .357 SIG loads on board is often what’s on my hip. My S&W M&P357 Compact carries the same 10 .357 SIG rounds as two J-Frame .357 Magnums and is a lot sweeter to shoot. And if the SIG P229 .357 is good enough to protect the First Family in the holsters of Secret Service, my P229 .357 is certainly good enough to protect mine.

The lesson I learned here was a simple one. Sometimes, something we doubted proves itself over time, and becomes worthy of reconsideration.
By Massad Ayoob

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A Special Purpose Wheelgun

Yes, Even An 8-Shot 9mm
N-Frame Has Its Niche.

Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center recently introduced an 8-shot N-Frame revolver chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge. Its barrel with tapered underlug is almost 7 inches long counting the removable recoil compensator at the muzzle, it weighs 44.2 ounces, it’s more than a foot long overall, and it carries a suggested retail of $1,189.

And from beyond the grave, I can hear the voice of Col. Jeff Cooper shouting… “Why?”

Why buy a 929 when a turn of the page (or a click of the mouse) of the S&W catalog will bring you to the M&P Shield, a very compact semi-automatic pistol holding the same eight (7+1) 9mm cartridges (and you can order mags that hold one more) but less than half the weight, length, and cost of a Model 929?

The answer would, first and foremost, be action revolver competition. It’s a signature model of Jerry Miculek, and when the man I consider the world’s best double-action revolver shooter puts his name on a gun, that carries weight with me. For the revolver division in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the Model 929 makes huge sense. I’m told the 929 has already made its bones, a pretty deep pile of ’em, in that game.

It’s also a solid choice for the Open Division or, with comp removed, the Limited Division of the International Congress of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE). In fact, the 929 appears to have been purpose-built to help the shooter dominate these games. There’s another niche, too: Some folks are fine for double-action trigger pull and significant gun weight, but have palsied hands. The weight can dampen the tremors and make such people shoot better, even in home defense work.

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The crane is locked by a ball detent (arrow), replacing traditional
the S&W front lug and providing solid lockup.

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The big S&W was fired with three relatively inexpensive brands of 9mm FMJ ammunition.

Perks & Quirks

For one thing, you don’t want to shoot this gun without the cartridges in moon clips. Those of us who have shot .45 ACP Smith revolvers with loose ACP round know that they will reliably go bang if you have a stock mainspring, but you may have to punch the empties out by hand because the ejector star can’t grab “rimless” cases. Headspace does not appear to allow that with 9mm ammo in the 929, however. I stuffed eight random 9mm ball rounds into the chambers, and pulled the double-action trigger eight times. The result was four unfired cartridges with untouched primers, two with tiny needle-like dings on the primers, one shallowly indented primer… and a single fired round and empty casing with its primer impressively smeared. The phrase, “Don’t try this at home, kids” comes to mind.

So, you’ll need the moon clips… but that’s not really a knock on the gun, because moon clip capability is part of this revolver’s raison d’etre. If you need 13 to 16 shots to complete your stage in an ICORE match and you’re running this 8-shooter, you’ll only need to reload once but the sixgunners will have to reload twice, and the unforgiving clock runs at the same pace for all. On a long assault course, you might only need three reloads where the six-shooter folks require four.

Bad news: The 929 comes with the internal lock S&W aficionados love to hate. Good news: the lock never screwed up, and on big N-frame, it doesn’t uglify the classic the way it does on smaller S&W’s.

Double-action trigger pull was smooth but heavy, a tad over 12 pounds, with the single-action press going about 4 pounds on the nose, crisp and backlash-free thanks to the trigger-mounted trigger stop. Due to headspace issues with springy moon clips, heavy pulls are standard on auto-caliber revolvers, but judicious custom gunsmithing can bring it down.

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Winchester 9mm 147-grain FMJ delivered sterling accuracy at 25 yards from the bench.

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The lighter weight American Eagle 9mm 115-grain ammo also delivered
excellent accuracy at 25 yards from the bench.

Great Shooter

Accuracy testing was done with affordable factory ball, all hand-held from a Matrix bench rest at 25 yards. Remington-UMC FMJ 115-grain put five shots in 3.15 inches, the best three in 1.90 inches. Federal’s American Eagle 115-grain FMJ delivered 2.05 inches for all five, and 1.15 for best three. Winchester Winclean 147-grain delivered the same 2.05 inches group for five shots with a pleasing 0.70 best three cluster.

If the above makes me sound cool toward the 929, I may not have expressed myself well. This revolver speaks to me. What it says is, “Don’t send me back to Smith & Wesson! Keep me here, where I can shoot ICORE and win for my shooter!”

I think I’m going to listen to that voice. And if they ever hold a National Pistol Whipping Championship, well, this big ol’ 8-shot 9mm revolver should do nicely for that, too.
By Massad Ayoob

Model 929
Maker: S&W
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01104
(800) 331-0852
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/smith-wesson/

Action type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: 9x19mm
Capacity: 8 (moon clip necessary)
Barrel length: 6-1/2 inches
Overall length: 12-1/4 inches
Weight: 44.2 ounces
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Fully adjustable
Grips: Synthetic
Price: $1,189

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The Comfort Zone

The 1911 Not Only Abides,
It Flat-Out Thrives.

So here I am in the front seat of a van with a laptop on my lap, remembering the student who asked me yesterday why more training staff than not were wearing 1911 pistols, when we were obviously familiar with more modern technology.

Well… not only flat but thin, the full-size Springfield 1911-A1, currently riding in an ARG holster inside my waistband, is more comfortable than almost any other handgun of the same power level. When seated for an all-day drive, that’s important—indeed, it’s important for all-day carry whatever you’re doing.

Serious shooters appreciate the 1911 because it is, well, shootable. It points well in most hands. Various trigger lengths and a slim grip profile allow it to fit the smallest hands, and the largest. Its trigger pull is consistent from first shot to last, and can be made very controllable. A relatively low-bore axis minimizes muzzle jump caliber for caliber, and those caliber choices range from .22 Long Rifle to .50 GI, and the classic chambering, .45 ACP, is remarkably versatile.

Some of us like to compete when we can. The .45 I’m carrying, Springfield’s Range Officer model, costs under $1,000 retail and comes with adjustable sights, which adapt to the different trajectories of the .45 ACP’s wide range of available loads. It is suitable for bull’s-eye pistol events in both centerfire and .45 competition, the Stock class of NRA Action Pistol and the Bianchi Cup, Limited category in USPSA, the Custom Defensive Pistol division of IDPA, any bowling pin shoot, Steel Challenge or a PPC Auto match.

Defense? Pistol and load have proven themselves from the street to the battlefield for well over a century. A popular meme on the gun-related Internet is “handgun calibers suck,” but you’ll have a hard time selling that argument to those of us who’ve seen what a 230-grain Federal HST +P .45 round does in living tissue.

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Kevin Williams displays splendid control of his Springfield
Range Officer 1911 9mm at ProArms IDPA match.

The 1911 is one of our most iconic firearms. For my generation, it was the gun Grandpa carried in WWI, Dad in WWII, older brother in Korea, younger brother in Vietnam, and perhaps even son in the most recent conflict, since the 1911 .45 still endures as a niche weapon with our military. For those who carry for protection of self and others, that long and distinguished history of getting the job done is… comforting.

Contrary to the beliefs of some, a quality 1911 can run just fine without your gunsmith looking over your shoulder. That said, though, it requires attention for maintenance and manual of arms. Properly carried cocked and locked, it wants an experienced hand that knows when to flip the thumb safety up on “safe,” and when to flick it down into the “fire” position. With its short and relatively light trigger pull, the 1911 really, really wants us to keep our finger outside the triggerguard until we are in the very act of intentionally firing a shot.

The recommended hammer-back carry frightens the uninitiated, but the most important word in “cocked and locked” may be the last one. Exquisitely ergonomic and easy to use once habituation is developed, that thumb lever is a safety net in case a criminal attacker gains control of the pistol and tries to commit murder with it. Tests show it may take the unfamiliar user 17 seconds or more to figure out how to “turn on the shooting machine,” and that’s a lot of life-saving time for the Good Guy or Gal who has been disarmed.

If it becomes necessary to shove the pistol into the waistband without a holster—never a good idea—we have both thumb safety and grip safety between us and an unintended shot if a careless index finger or some foreign object gets caught in the guard and pushes the trigger rearward. For years I’ve taught holstering with thumb on exposed hammer, another safety net, and one not available on striker-fired guns. The thumb on the hammer also pulls the web of the hand off the grip safety, putting that component on safe as well.

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Thumb on hammer, trigger finger extended, safety on: Ed Brown Signature
1911 .45 goes into comfortable, concealable Rosen ARG holster.

Bear in mind that some 1911’s are not “drop safe,” and can discharge from inertia if dropped or struck sharply. That’s why I like those with internal firing pin safeties, such as the Series 80 system of the Colt and ParaOrdnance or the Swartz type on the Kimber II series. Failing that, inertia discharge can be prevented with a lightweight firing pin and extra-strength firing pin spring, as found in the Springfield currently on my hip.

Habit brings comfort, too. My generation started shooting when the 1911 was the only available large-caliber, semi-automatic pistol. The years have made it as familiar as a well-worn pair of slippers. That’s not exactly a bad thing, either.

I’ve now mentioned “comfort” four times here. And you know, speaking of my old favorite pistol, I’m comfortable with that.
By Massad Ayoob

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Silent Service

Gould & Goodrich B897 Leather Holster.

In the time of Kydex and other holsters, some makers cleave to the old ways and make scabbards of good old fashioned leather. This is not a bad thing, and a reminder was found in Gould & Goodrich’s new B897 Tension Belt Slide Holster.

It’s geared for strong-side hip carry, with a very slight forward tilt, also known as “FBI tilt” (a homage to the holster designed by famed FBI instructor Hank Sloan in “the time of the ancient ones”). In keeping with the Sloan-style heritage, there is a tension screw located at the rear, just below the triggerguard, hence the name of the product.

For those who prefer an open-top scabbard—which indeed seems to be the overwhelming choice in the CCW market today—one downside of leather is it tends to be too tight early on. After a while, it breaks in nicely. And then, over time, the leather stretches a tiny bit, and suddenly it’s too loose—a big reason why many turn to synthetics.

The tension screw solves this problem nicely. The test holster came out of the box as if it was set up for super-fast draw. We weren’t sure it would retain the pistol in, say, a backward somersault, (once the test in certain “combat matches” back in the day for a good reason). The gentle touch of the screwdriver quickly brought the B897 to where it still allowed quick clearance, but would hold the loaded pistol in place upside-down.

The sample holster was for the .380 ACP Glock 42, which caused me to audibly whimper. It’s a caliber thing, not a gun thing. I think the G42 is one of the best .380’s ever made, and for many shooters, the best, but .380 is not my favorite caliber. Whenever I have to test a .380, I feel a bit like Ralph Nader testing a Corvair.

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Gould & Goodrich B897 Tension Belt Slide holster, with Glock 42 .380 ACP inside (above).
Thanks to the tension adjustment, the pistol stayed in the holster even when held upside-down.
Gail Pepin gave the holster a high rating after a week of concealed carry. It was quiet on
he draw and equally as quiet to reholster (below).

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Fortunately, petite Gail Pepin, the producer and editor and therefore PR editor of the ProArms Podcast (proarmspodcast.com) took pity on me after a day of my carrying the .380 in the Gould & Goodrich holster as backup, and a .45 in a shoulder holster as primary, and offered to be the “test driver.” My one day with the G42 on my hip had taught me it was so light and comfortable it felt like it wasn’t there, and I had to keep checking with my forearm every now and then to make sure there really was a pistol at my side.

Ms. Pepin, however, was a better tester. Her decade of pistol-packing has seen her win multiple Woman Champion titles in IDPA and top female a couple of times at the National Tactical Conference shoots, she has carried everything from 1911 .45’s to the full-size, 20-shot Springfield XD(m) 9mm. While she shoots exclusively TKW Kydex gear in competition, she has learned to appreciate good leather for daily CCW.

She explained, “I liked this Gould & Goodrich B897 holster a lot, and started to love it,” she said. “It held the gun close to my body. It was easy to wear, with the little Glock 42. It was extremely comfortable. It was very easy to conceal!”

And, she added a particularly meaningful point: “I like that it’s silent. The gun doesn’t make any tell-tale noise when it comes out. And it doesn’t make any noise when it goes back in, either.”

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The belt loop (above) is designed to accommodate a belt as big as 1.5 inches.
The tension screw (below) gives this holster its name, and enhances its function.

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This is an important tactical point many people miss. Plastic and Kydex holsters are noisy. The first one becoming popular, back in the early 1970’s or so, was actually called the “Snick” because of the noise it made when the plastic parts of its breakfront design snapped back together as the gun cleared. In real-world danger situations, there can be many situations where the Good Guy or Gal wants to surreptitiously draw their gun—unseen, and unheard—when things are uncertain and they don’t want to draw attention to the fact they have a gun out. When the gun returns to the holster, once the danger has passed, many of the hard-shell synthetic designs will emit another audible “snick” as the pistol secures. That can sometimes be problematic, too. With a leather holster such as the Gould & Goodrich B897, you just won’t have that problem.
Price is reasonable at a suggested retail of $45.32, quality is high, and so is function. Check out the B897. I like it, and after testing this one, I’m in the mood to buy one… for a larger-caliber Glock (but that’s just me).
By Massad Ayoob

Gould & Goodrich
709 E. McNeil St., Lillington, NC 27546
(800) 277-0732
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/gould-goodrich-inc/

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J-Frame Upgrades

S

Though Not What You Might Want For
A Match, The Ubiquitous Small-Frame
S&W Offers Important Carry Attributes.

A few years ago at our sister publication American Handgunner, editorial director Roy Huntington did a poll of his writers as to their preferred carry guns. The answers encompassed everything from Glock to 1911, but the one common touchstone was virtually all of us had at least one J-Frame Smith & Wesson in their carry rotation, whether as primary or backup.

Made in calibers including .22 LR, .22 WMR to .327 Federal Magnum and 9mm, the J-Frame is most commonly encountered as a 5-shot .38 Special or .357 Magnum on its extended .32-size frame. Since the introduction of the Chief Special circa 1950, it has been America’s most popular “snubnose .38” and remains hugely popular for armed citizen concealed carry and police back-up and off-duty carry.

The tapered barrel and rounded butt make it faster when drawing from ankle holsters (presuming you don’t have a snag-prone hammer spur), and quicker to access and clear from a pocket. The shrouded hammer models in particular allow firing at close range through coat pocket or purse. With hard muzzle contact against a belly-to-belly rapist or killer, most autos would come “out of battery” and fail to fire at all, but these snub revolvers will guarantee a shot for every pull of the trigger, with the muzzle blast significantly magnifying each wound at press-contact distance.

The downsides of the J-Frame are likewise well known: nasty recoil and hard-to-see sights, both of which impair hit potential, particularly as speed and distance increase. Fortunately, those shortcomings can be significantly alleviated with careful attention to grips, sights, and planning.

HG-1214-3

J-Frame grip progression (from left) include the factory “splinter,” Eagle
“Secret Service,” Herrett’s, Pachmayr Compac and (below) the new Ergo Delta.

Stocks

Start with your choice of J-Frame. The “hammerless” Centennial style (Model 642, etc.) gets my vote because the shooter’s hand can get higher on the backstrap, lowering bore axis and reducing muzzle rise. Next most controllable is the Bodyguard (Model 638, etc.) whose built-in hammer shroud acts like a recoil shield at the web of the hand to prevent the gun from rolling up on recoil, which can let a Chief Special (Model 637, etc.) hammer be blocked by the web. The original, tiny “splinter” stocks on early J-Frames tended to let the gun twist in the hand upon recoil. Pachmayr and Tyler-T (and now, BK) grip adapters helped, without changing the gun’s concealability. However, decades ago, Craig Spegel designed his much copied Boot Grips which kept concealability, but filled the hand much better.

To decrease recoil discomfort you need to cushion the web of your hand, and many neoprene grips will do a good job of that. My own favorites in that respect are Pachmayr Compacs, which increase bulk more than I like for pocket carry but are still concealable, and shaped to distribute the “kick” across the entire web of the hand. Of late, I’ve come to appreciate the new Ergo Delta grips, which seem to direct the recoil into the heel of the hand. The Ergo also has a Luger-like grip angle, locking the muzzle down to reduce muzzle rise, and I’ve found it acceptably sized for trouser pocket carry.

HG-1214-4

Better J-Frame sights include (left to right) the CTC laser grip, D&L sight set
on Model 342 .38, XS Big Dot front and U-notch rear on Model 340 M&P .357.

Sights

In their early decades, J-Frames had tiny 1/10-inch wide front sights and equally Lilliputian rear notches notoriously hard to align in less than ideal conditions. Some prized the rare adjustable sight version of the Chief Special because the sights were at least visible. Most of us just painted the sights and hoped for the best, until S&W finally made them bigger. The best in the S&W catalog for my money are the XS Big Dot front with correspondingly large rear U-notch, found on the expensive-but-worth-it Model 340 M&P .357 snub. Of course, you can get larger Patridge sights from Dave Lauck at D&L Sports. Or, you can simply go laser. I’ve seen John Strayer win the Snubby Summit match in 2005 with a stock Model 642 and Crimson Trace LaserGrips against target-sighted 2.5-inch Model 19’s and Colt Pythons, and Dave “the Blaze” Blazek with the same gear once beat night-sighted subcompact autos at Lance Biddle’s Back-Up Gun Championship. The Crimson Trace Model LG-405 laser grip gets my vote for the best balance of concealment and control.

HG-1214-2

J-Frames have limited capacity improved by good reloading practice. Here Mas’
cylinder is already closing (above) as the 5-shot Jetloader (arrow) falls away,
during a Back-Up Gun match. The new Hyskore Compact Revolver Light, available
through Cylinder & Slide, aids illumination for this S&W 340 PD .357.

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Firepower

Five shots are often enough, but not always. Tuff Strips and Bianchi Speed Strips fit the “watch pockets” in jeans. My new favorite speedloader for the J-Frame is the Jetloader from Buffer Technologies. Snubby guru Michael deBethencourt turned me on to it. It’s simply faster for me than anything else, and while longer than other speedloaders, it conceals perfectly in the cell phone pocket of cargo shorts or upright in the outer corner of a hip pocket (a folding handkerchief holds it in place). Of course, the trusty New York reload—another loaded J-Frame elsewhere on your person—is faster still!

Training is key. The three best J-Frame courses I can recommend are taught by Michael deBethancourt in Massachusetts, Denny Reichard in Indiana and Claude Werner in Georgia. Google will get you to all of them.

The J-Frame S&W is like any other tool. Take advantage of its strengths, and shore up its weaknesses. The S&W 340 M&P, loaded with Speer’s street-proven .38 Special 135-grain +P Short Barrel Gold Dot ammo, remains my single most often carried backup gun.

By Massad Ayoob

Bianchi Int.
3120 E. Mission Blvd., Ontario, CA 91761
(800) 347-1200
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/bianchi/

BK Grips
P.O. Box 440022, St. Louis, MO 63144
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/bk-grips/

Crimson Trace
9780 SW Freeman Dr., Wilsonville, OR 97070
(800) 442-2406
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/crimson-trace-corporation/

Cylinder & Slide, Inc.
Compact Revolver Light
245 E. 4th Street, Fremont, NE 68026
(402) 721-4277
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/cylinder-slide-inc/

Eagle Grips
460 Randy Road, Carol Stream, IL 60188
(800) 323-6144
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/eagle-grips/

Ergo Grips
P.O. Box 1459, Moriarty, NM 87035
(877) 281-3783
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/ergo-grip-falcon-industries/

Herrett’s Stocks
P.O. Box 741, Twin Falls, ID 83303
(208) 733-1498
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/herrett-s-stocks-inc/

Hogue Grips
P.O. Box 1138, Paso Robles, CA 93447
(800) 438-4747
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/hogue-inc/

D&L Sports
P.O. Box 4843, Chino Valley, AZ 86323
(928) 636-1726
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/d-l-sports/

Pachmayr Grips
Lyman Products Group
475 Smith Street, Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 632-2020
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/pachmayr-tacstar/

Craig Spegel
P.O. Box 387, Nehalem, OR 97131
(503) 368-5653
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/craig-spegel/

S&W
2100 Roosevelt Avenue, Springfield, MA 01104
(800) 331-0852
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/smith-wesson/

Uncle Mike’s
Bushnell Outdoor Products
9200 Cody, Overland Park, KS 66214
(800) 423-3537
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/bushnell-outdoor-products/

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Ayoob’s Law Of Necessary Hypocrisy

Sometimes, You Just Have To Make Do With
What You Know Is A Less Than Ideal Solution…

In my decades on masthead staff at GUNS magazine, I’ve been privileged to work with many fine editors and, to my great and enduring relief, no bad ones. One of those editors was Jerry Lee, who went on to become an editor for Petersen Publishing and then (and now) editor of Gun Digest. He was in the second of those positions when he asked me to write an article that wound up titled, “Ayoob’s Laws.”

It began kinda like this: “Ayoob’s Law No. 1: Be able to predict where the attack will come, and have a proven counter-attack already in place and poised for launch. Ayoob’s Law No. 2: Anyone arrogant enough to name laws after himself is arrogant enough to number them arbitrarily.”

And, somewhere in there, was “Ayoob’s Law of Necessary Hypocrisy.”

Ayoob’s Law of Necessary Hypocrisy holds thus… We will tell you: Do not do this thing! It is incredibly (expletive deleted) stupid. However, we realize you might be in a situation where you say “You ain’t where I am and I have to do this!” Therefore, it is our responsibility to show you the least incredibly (expletive deleted) stupid way of doing this incredibly (expletive deleted) stupid thing.

HG-1114-3

Mas demonstrates a handcuffing technique. Not usually taught to civilians, but…

Example

I began training police in 1972 and law-abiding armed citizens in 1981. From the beginning of the latter endeavor, I taught private citizens the many reasons why they should never attempt to close in with a criminal suspect they were holding at gunpoint and attempt to disarm and handcuff him or tie him up. (Any experienced cop or corrections professional reading this knows the reasons why.) But, by the late 1980’s, in advanced classes I was teaching armed citizens one handcuffing technique.

Why? Two reasons. One was I had students who spent time in places so remote they had no communications that could reach the police, and had bought handcuffs for such purposes. The other was that I discovered the kind of people who would take my classes at Lethal Force Institute then, or Massad Ayoob Group now, were the kind of people who would come out of the crowd and help an embattled cop who was losing a fight on the street.

HG-1114-1

Micro .380’s like the Ruger LCP (above) aren’t ideal “man-stoppers,” but are
often the only compromise the armed citizen can make work. A J-frame revolver
like this S&W 340 M&P .357 Mag (below) has ample power, but requires training
commitment for hit potential and recoil control.

HG-1114-2

Applied to the Gun

How does the Law of Necessary Hypocrisy apply to defensive handguns? One example: I’m the guy who coined the phrase “friends don’t let friends carry mouse-guns,” and I personally don’t care to carry a .380; the best .38 Special and 9mm hollowpoints are my personal baseline minimum.

However, I work for myself and can dress how I like. The only environments in my life where I have to wear mandated clothing are part-time police work, where I’m expected to openly carry the department-issued .45, and court appearances, where most of my suits are tailored to hide a full-sized handgun that’s generally secured in a courthouse gun locker before I step into the courtroom anyway.

But I recognize a lot of people have more restrictive dress codes in “non-permissive environments,” and if someone has a choice of carrying a tiny Ruger LCP or equivalent .380 or nothing at all, I’d really rather they have that on their person than a .45 at home in the dresser when they’re attacked on the street.

The saying among those who study the history of gunfighting is absolutely true: “I’ve never met a gunfight survivor who wished he’d had a less powerful gun or less immediately-available ammunition.” That said, though, I don’t usually participate in Internet threads about “How much is enough?” There seems to be a meme on the gun-related Internet that says, “Those who carry more than I do are paranoid, and those who carry less than I do are pathetic ‘sheeple.’” I don’t buy that. As I write this I’m wearing a so-called “high capacity” 9mm pistol and spare magazine, and a backup J-frame S&W with 5 rounds of .38 +P and Speed Strip with 5 more. (It’s not hard with some thought, some ingenuity, and of course, habituation.) An adult lifetime of studying gunfights has taught me that with round count, “it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.” Still, I recognize that my much younger self with the 5-shot Chief Special and no spare ammo was a heckuva lot safer than someone who had no gun at all, as that younger self learned on a dark and icy night by a dark and icy river in New England in 1971.
Which may be why my much older self is alive to discuss the matter in the year 2014.

Ayoob’s Law of Necessary Hypocrisy is one I invoke as little as possible. It should be taken in context with three other of Ayoob’s Laws.

1.) “Those who demand all or nothing generally end up with…nothing.”
2.) “Nothing is everything, but everything is something.” And, finally, a law someone invoked long before I did:
3.) “Something is better than nothing.”
By Massad Ayoob
Photos By Gail Pepin

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The Accidental Southpaw

You don’t need to be in a gunfight to injure
your dominant hand or arm. It’s a contingency
best prepared for ahead of time.

A thread on one of my favorite Internet shooting forums brought back memories. Fella lost the ability to use his dominant hand for a while, and brought both logic and a sense of humor to his adaptation. Not long after, one of my editors found himself in the same situation. Both men were glad their time in cowboy action shooting had made them familiar with shooting “weak hand only.”

My own flashback was almost 3-1/2 decades old. I had been en route to a long-awaited Advanced Pistol Course under the great Ray Chapman at Chapman Academy when a freak accident left me with a crushing comminuted fracture of my trigger finger. I wound up shooting the whole thing non-dominant hand only. It taught me a lot about “wounded officer return fire” problems and solutions, and raised my consciousness as a shooter and firearms instructor overall.

HG-1014-1

Even if you prefer one-sided 1911 safety (above, left), as on this Ruger SR1911,
you’ll be glad you had an ambi (above, right), as on this Springfield Armory TGO .45,
if your right hand is taken out of action. Ambi-safety on 1911 (below, left) is much
easier to use than standard configuration (below, right) when you become a southpaw
on sudden notice.

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Don’t wait until you need it to get ready for that day! When you just got out of the emergency room with your dominant limb in a sling (or in a cast, like mine) is a lousy time to start the adaptation. Have an opposite side holster, or at least an ambidextrous one, broken in and ready to go. Your natural southpaw friends can tell you how thin on the ground their holster options are at local gun shops, and how long you have to wait for a new one you just ordered to come in. Already have a gun you can run non-dominant-hand-only. That same left-handed friend can tell you how long it takes to get an ambidextrous thumb safety installed on, let’s say, your pet 1911. Mine didn’t have one at the time, and my pet Colt .45 Auto stayed in its case while I shot Chapman Advanced with a borrowed gun. It was drawn from “Mexican carry,” stuffed into my waistband on the port side, because there wasn’t a left-handed holster to be had on short notice. (Holsterless handguns get hot in the waistband when you’re doing a lot of rapid-fire shooting!)

Above all, have a substantial positive balance already deposited in your long-term muscle memory bank for “mirror image” shooting. I had long practiced weak-hand-only shooting from an officer survival standpoint by the time I sustained that injury, but none of it had been drawing from my left hip like a natural southpaw. That gave me a much steeper learning hill to climb than the other shooters I was trying to keep up with in the advanced class.

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Mas keeps his (left) hand in by packing a backup on that side, in
this case a S&W M&P340 .357 in Safariland pocket holster.

These days, there’s always an ambi or mirror-image holster in the suitcase when I travel, and I make sure I have at least one ambidextrous handgun along for the trip. I do what I can to keep the muscle memory bank balance up, too. I wear a backup gun on the left, and qualify with it that way. Now and then I’ll shoot a match or teach a class mirror image—that is, all southpaw even though I’m right-handed—for the same reasons. And for one more reason.

I got something out of my intensive left-hand-only week at Chapman Academy I hadn’t seen coming. My dad started me with pistols and revolvers when I was still a little boy. Having literally grown up shooting, the handgun had become the proverbial extension of my hand. I had found myself losing patience as a firearms instructor when a student “didn’t get it.”

The gun hand in the cast was a consciousness-raiser. It taught me what it was like for the new student who feels, not that familiar extension of the hand but an alien, awkward, “How the heck do I work this?” type of thing. It made me a better and more patient instructor.

HG-1014-4

Above all, have plenty of practice shooting non-dominant hand only before your
dominant hand gets taken out of action. The pistol here is a 9mm Glock 19.

Something else about it made me a better instructor. How does a right-handed person teach a left-handed person to do something, if he hasn’t learned to do it that way himself? In the larger picture, shooting “with the wrong side of your body” makes you re-think, and more deeply analyze, how you’re doing things.

And finally, if we can’t teach the non-dominant side of your body to do something, how on earth are we going to teach a whole separate human being to do it?

As my dominant limb healed, it came back slowly, as yours will, and it was able to perform support functions long before it was ready to be my primary hand again. For six months, I carried and competed as a southpaw. Interesting thing: I won a higher proportion of the matches I shot during that period than I did before or since. I think it was because when all was well, I had a tendency to trust unconscious competence and go autopilot. I was thinking stuff like “This time I’ll beat Tom Campbell!” But when it was the less experienced hand running the gun, I was forced back to “conscious competence.” I had to think, “Front sight…smooth trigger roll.” And that turned out to be more of a winning thought process.

There’s more to learn from “mirror image” shooting than is generally seen on the surface.
Massad Ayoob

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