Odd Angry Shot
The Horror And The Heresy
The Golden Book of Shootery: It’s purty, but it’s only guidance — not gospel. It happened again, and I can’t stand it anymore — the muffled whispers and furtive pointing; the sidelong slitty-eyed glances and snide snickering. I have to confess; get it off my chest and out in the open: I don’t shoot by The Book!
I was at another GunWriter Group-Grope — one of those wingdings put on by arms and ammo makers where a buncha real gunwriters and a couple fellow hacks like me are invited to burn up a ton of somebody else’s ordnance and fondle their firearms.
Anyway, I was merrily makin’ mayhem on innocent cardboard targets when, once again, I became aware of weighty stares and rancid repugnance radiatin’ from an assembly of The Anointed. They were horrified at my heresy. See, I don’t worship at any particular Temple of Technique or follow any “School of Shootery” du jour. I have what I call “evolved practices,” born of experience, and they’re still evolving. But in the eyes of the Keepers of The Book, my sins are many and mortal, it seems.
In an attempt to avoid co-pay costs for sessions on a shrink’s sofa, maybe I’ll just spill my guts to you guys …
The Seven Deadly Sins
I don’t do “tactical speed reloads” with pistols or mag-fed rifles. I don’t hit the mag release and kick empty magazines out on the deck with my weapon hand while reaching for a fresh one with the other. I do “sure & certain combat reloads” as fast as I can without fumbling. That means keeping an unchanged granite grip on the weapon, hitting the mag release with my off-hand and assisting that empty mag out if necessary. Then I’ll fetch a fresh mag and shove it in.
Yeah, I know. This might cost you critical points in a match. But in my experience, doing otherwise could cost my life in a fight. Pristine mags should fall free from a clean mag well, but just add mud/blood/beer, sand/sludge/grit, twisted positions or damage to the equation, and “drop-free” mags often don’t. I could practice “tactical speed reloads” just for matches or to “fit in with the boys,” but I won’t, because I know me under fire, and I want just one absolutely reliable reloading drill in my head when somebody’s trying to blast my butt off.
My slide release ain’t a “slide release,” it’s a “slide STOP.” I don’t thumb that lever to feed first rounds on reloads. I crank the slide back briskly to its limit either overhand or “slingshot style” because I want that slide driven home under full spring-plus-paw power. Again, it’s all about keeping that granite grip, plus absolute certainty the round is fully chambered and the slide is in battery. It ain’t slick and stylish, but it’s survivable. If you can chew gum, whistle and play with your GameBoy whilst shooting for your life, good for you. I can’t.
I don’t “ride the safety” on a 1911, keepin’ it held down with the master thumb to prevent it from bein’ bumped up and engaging unintentionally. I confess I never heard much about it until recently, but I’ve read several experts’ opinions that this practice separates the pros from the poseurs.
I guess I’m a heavily-experienced poseur. Riding it just doesn’t work for me. If I use too high a thumb-over-thumb grip I lose rigidity, and I’m not installing shelf-sized safety levers. Maybe a tad wider than standard, OK. I like my slides slick and “service-issue” for all kinds of clumsy Neanderthal reasons.
Plunging Into Purgatory
I am a profligate expender of ordnance, operating under the premise if anything needs shootin’ once (besides game) could probably benefit from a barrage of bullets until its inherent threat potential is absolute zero. Kinda like the difference between water “kinda-sorta-maybe conditionally” freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, versus complete cessation of quantum activity at minus 459.6 F or zero Kelvin. I’ve seen too many guys who were “technically dead,” but who apparently didn’t receive their termination telegram, so they kept fighting. That kinda thing scares me.
I respect my own Fear Factor. For me, the quicker that dude is deader, the sooner I’m less scareder.
I don’t like feather-light triggers that “break like a thin, glass rod.” Not on firearms for Serious Social Work anyway, so I avoid them entirely. I want to know when I’m “on” that trigger, and it will require deliberate pressure to go bang — not when Adrenaline Overdrive decides to drop the hammer for me. What I want is a clean break after a tad of take-up. So I’m not a connoisseur, so crucify me, OK?
I’m not a straight-up shooter. The Book says a handgun should be held at zero vertical and, as much as possible, zero horizontal. I think this sprang from the days when first, shooting positions were dictated by geometry-driven military martinets, second, when a lot of pistols wouldn’t feed and function when held off-axis, and third, when all training and practice shooting was done on black-ball bull’s-eye targets. It made for a prettier sight picture — but I’ve never had to fight a bull’s-eye target. Two-handed or single, strong or weak hand, I shoot best when side-canted about 10 to 15 degrees. You might shoot better that way too, but watch out for angry mobs of The Anointed bearing pitchforks, tar and feathers.
I don’t “index” nice, or “UTM” per usual. When you’re not actually “tappin’ the trigger with intent to pop caps,” your index finger is s’posed to be rigidly extended straight along the frame. Mine doesn’t “rigid” very well, and “straight” went off the table with some fractured mitt-bones and nerve damage a while back. The tip of my crooked trigger finger parks on the side of the triggerguard in Condition Orange, and it’s on the trigger in Condition Red. Note: I go Red real easy (another reason for favoring sorta stout service triggers).
(Messy, imperfect e-mails can be routed to Connor at TheOddAngryShot@nullyahoo.com — Editor)
Dudes! Ain’t this cool? Now I can fill you folks in on lotsa details that just won’t fit into the “print issue” of Handgunner! I think it’s a great idea – heck, I’m even gonna get a digital camera-thingie so I can include video for you in future Web Blasts – and if you agree that it’s a good thing, you should let Their Editorial Imperiousnesses Roy-Boy & Jeff John know it. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. It don’t have to be much, just somethin’ like, “Dude: Web Blast: Good Thing.” OK?
Now, this stuff is kinda the fluff & filler follow-on to “True Confessions” in the March ’08 paper copy, so you might wanta have that issue at hand for reference.
Lots of you guys (including you lady-type guys) would really like to attend one of the GunWriter Group-Gropes I talked about. How often do you get a chance to travel, get “bedded & boarded,” play with all kinds of new guns, and shoot lotsa somebody else’s ammo on their dime?*
Well, there is another way of doing that and I’ve done lots, but that way also entails “getting shot at with intent,” the accommodations tend to be rudimentary, and you might have to stay longer than you like. You know what I mean. But there is a downside to the GunWriter GroupGropes.
Most of the real gunwriters I’ve met have been pretty good folks, and some are sterling people – but some of ’em are so hide-bound and ultra-opinionated that for them, there’s only one way to do things – especially when it comes to shooting styles and techniques – and they appoint themselves as the Grand Inquisitors of Gunnery.
Well, not every Tactical Technique du Jour works for everybody, and in my opinion, some of ’em don’t work at all if you preface them with the qualifying phrase, “If you’re shooting at and being shot at by armed opposition.” Frankly, some well-publicized techniques seem to be spun out by “gunwriting authorities” who are simply flailing about for a drill they can tack their names onto; somethin’ like “The Dilbert Double-Snap Triple-Tap Drill,” or “The Fearless Farnsworth Forty-Five Flip;” some crap like that. A few will actually work and find favor. Others will melt in the crucible of combat. Meantime, you have to – and you need to – find out what works for you.
My “evolved practices” reflect a pretty deep and detailed knowledge of how I actually respond under fire and fulla fear; soaked in adrenaline and exhaustion. I concentrate on avoiding any moves which seem clearly counter-instinctive, and those that are – but happen to be the most survivable nonetheless – I subject to endless repetitions to build neuromuscular memory and assure a high level of compliance under lethal threat stress. I know myself, and I know what’s gonna be shakin’ at what level of harmonics when lead’s a’flyin’.
A good example of this I addressed in comments on “tactical reloads.” There are two sides of that issue: mechanical and physiological. For weapons designed to drop mags free – even kick ’em out under spring pressure – when you hit the mag release, I absolutely insist on reliable function in that regard. Further, I make sure mags for that weapon will in fact “drop free” every single time I test them – under clean, controlled conditions. Then I never, EVER expect them to perform that way in a fight!
Gunfights, whether military, police, or “street-civilian” never seem to go as smoothly as practice sessions in your family room … Dirt, grit, mud, blood, beer, leaves, twigs, rocks-rodents-pocket-change, altered stances and odd angles-of-attack and you name it! seem to rudely intrude into real-world gunfights. One result may be that if you practice a “tactical speed reload,” you may wind up with a left hand fulla fresh magazine and a right hand holding a weapon with an empty mag hung-up half-outta the frame. I choose to “help” ’em out, trying to make myself invisible or un-hittable while doing so, and then surely, certainly get a fresh topped-up mag shoved in.
Yes, I’m aware there are techniques for dealing with a hung-up empty mag when your reload is in your off-hand mitt, but I’ve tried ’em, and again, knowing myself, I think either I’m too clumsy or they’re too clumsy or both, for me to rely on them when my life’s on the line. If they work for you, Steely-Nerves Steve, great.
The Slide STOP. I don’t care for the practice of just thumbing off the so-called “slide release” to feed the first round of a fresh mag into a firearm. It can result in failure to fully chamber the round, especially when dirt, debris, or counteracting movement gets fed into the equation. It just ain’t worth betting your life on. Not mine, anyway – you’re free to bet your own. I’d rather it didn’t fail you when I need your help.
I want absolute assurance that rounds are feeding and chambering right. I’ll either reach over and rack the slide or bolt to the rear stop and then “ride it home,” or slingshot the slide for maximum “pack it home” power. This practice could add a second to your competition time – and decades to your life.
Riding the safety on a 1911. Given the miniscule chance the manual safety might engage itself unbidden while you’re puttin’ out rounds, riding the safety with your gunhand thumb can be a good idea. I’d do it if it worked for me. It doesn’t. My grip tends to be very tight, and I find my thumb pressed against the slide so the slide serrations rasp it when the slide cycles. I wouldn’t mind the abrasions if it meant saving my life, but it also throws off my reflexes and concentration. Try it, and if you don’t have that problem, that’s great. But if you avoid that serration-rasping effect by adding an oversized safety to your pistol, allowing you to park your thumb outboard a bit further, please consider that (a) this may alter your grip stability, and (b) it changes the profile and dimensions of your pistol in ways you may not like. For me, one of the best features of the 1911 is its relatively slick, smooth slabsides.
An extended safety makes it easier to take the piece “off safe.” I just don’t want it to be more easily taken off safe. There are “slightly extended” safeties out there, and you may wish to consider them rather than one that looks like a bow plane on a submarine.
After writing this I spoke with Ed Head, Director of Operations at Gunsite and a real 1911 expert. He told me about a “low-mount safety” for the 1911 that’s finding favor among many staffers there. This safety might allow me – and you too – the ability to “ride the safety” without negatively altering your grip. You can find it in the inventory at www.brownells.com. I’m going to try it, and I’ll let you know how it works out.
Expenditure of Ordnance: Let me add this – I also think an emphasis on “making every shot count” has led to the false impression that one should only shoot when one has a clear, crisp sight picture on one’s “object opponent.” I believe that “making every shot count” also applies to suppressive and “suggestive” fire, that is: any fire which causes your opponent to do or not do ANYTHING, when such action improves your chances of winning the gunfight is in fact, “effective fire.”
The doctrine that says you should only shoot when you can absolutely put a controlled round dead-center into your target is in my opinion, (a) guidance, not gospel, and (b) mostly touted by those who haven’t shot for their lives. If a couple of rounds careening down the side of a building forces your oppo to leave a good position and head for a bad one, that’s effective fire, even if all it does is scare him and coat him with plaster-dust. If rounds smackin’ solid cover in front of him cause him to keep his head down while you move from a poor position to a better one, that’s effective fire too. There are a million good examples, and I’ve used a bunch of ’em.
Of course, this comes with a caveat about taking care not to endanger innocents nor create unnecessary damage – in a civilian environment. But in America, the fact is, virtually any action you take to defend your life other than running, hiding and weeping is likely to get you into deep legal trouble. Make your own choices. I choose to pack a lot of ammo and consider it “combat consumables.”
Fine, Touchy Triggers: Again, this is an “I know ME” thing. Fine, light competition triggers – sometimes miscalled “match-grade” versus “target” triggers (they ain’t the same thing) – are lost on me. Under threat, I am frankly not capable of managing them with absolutely certain small-motor muscle control, and judging from the unintentional discharges I’ve known to afflict those who tried to use ’em in gunfights, neither are most people – including the most experienced real-world operators.
I like a “combat trigger;” one with distinct “take-up” followed by a clean break, but a clean break that requires deliberate pressure. Most Glock triggers, for example, are just fine for me. There’s no danger of “think-shooting” them, or “it had a will of its own” discharges, much less having the sheer pulse and tension of your muscles set them off prematurely. One of the best “service triggers” I’ve found is on the Smith & Wesson M&P pistols – an M&P40 and an M&P45. I don’t even like the .40 S&W cartridge, but the pistol, owing largely to its trigger, makes it a natural for serious carry.
I have a beautiful, straight-shooting, flawless-functioning Rock River Arms “Basic Carry” 1911 (I don’t know why they call it that, because everything about it is anything but “basic”) that I use extensively for ammo testing and comparative shooting. I don’t carry it. The trigger is crisp, clean, highest-quality – and too light for this Neanderthal to carry for self-defense. Others might, and they’d be well served. It belongs to Rock River – it’s just on loan to me – and if it were mine, I’d have somebody like Steve Barlow at Barlow’s Custom Guns in Utah, “heavy-up” the trigger for me, essentially adding a pound or two to the pull. Otherwise, it’s beautiful AND a Master-Blaster, and the equal of many 1911’s at twice the price.
When you’re considering triggers, ask yourself, “How well could I manage this trigger after running a 100-yard dash, chased by a grizzly?” In terms of elevated pulse and respiration rate, that roughly equates to a sprint across your driveway and front yard with somebody shooting at you…
Not a Straight-Up Shooter: Now, I’m not talking about a “gangster-cant,” but a slight cant; not forced in any way. I used to be a straight-up shooter, but began canting the pistol slightly inboard after reconstruction of my shattered shoulder. Then I noticed that once I rejected the rigid rule of geometry, canting the pistol the same amount in my left hand resulted in greater control and comfort too.
Just try relaxing your shoulder and taking unnatural torque out of the act of extending your arm – dry-firing an empty weapon, of course. If it holds better – especially if it holds better longer, with less tension bringing on trembles – then you might want to try it in controlled live fire. It might work better for you, and that’s the only “rule” that counts.
“Indexing” – called “Uniform Trigger Mode”: Law enforcement is all over this, enforcing it with a passion verging on the perilous, demanding that if officers are not actually pulling that trigger, their index fingers must be lying flat along the pistol’s frame, nowhere near the trigger. It’s not a bad policy for bean-counters and liability lawyers. Considering the poor level of training given many peace officers (I know; I’ve trained enough of them), it can be a sound practice. But if you can’t move OUT of UTM to a fast, controlled trigger press in reasonable life-saving time, then it’s not right for you. I wasn’t trained that way, injuries and nerve damage do not favor it, and it doesn’t work for ME!
If you’re a nerve-damaged Neanderthal too, try parkin’ the tip of your trigger finger on the triggerguard – or even ON the flat side of the trigger – and responding from that position. Note to ladies: Empress Ming fingernails can be problematic here… The prime point is, you gotta avoid unintentional discharges, yet get on and manage that trigger quick.
Hey, this has been fun… and… ummm…Hey! Wait a minute! Now I see what “the real deal” is: the editor just got 2,000 more words outta me without payin’ a cent! Oh, well; you can’t be a gunwriter for the money, anyway. Kwaheri, folks; watch your six and stay off the ridgelines!
*[Note: Since they’re payin’ the tab, you’re not supposed to write things like “the new GruntFire Magnum appears to be made from sun-dried hammered goat dung,” or “forged from a solid billet of gourmet bologna,” or stuff like that, but The Editorial Emperors of FMG Magazines say I can if I wanta. They smile and adds, “At your own risk,” but what the heck; that covers everything I do anyway.]
The trigger on Smith & Wesson’s M&P40 is one of the best “service triggers” I’ve found. Shown here in Hoffner’s kydex-framed, leather-wrapped “Hybrid Warrior” rig.
The Rock River Arms “Basic Carry” (I call it my “black rubber door-stop) is a terrific value with a clean, crisp trigger that’s too refined for a clumsy caveman like me. Note the “slightly extended” safety, too. I think that’s about maximum width for a “safety shelf.”