L.O.J. is proud to offer NRA First Steps Pistol on 20 October at the Comfort Inn University Center in Fairfax, VA. This class provides students with a foundation for safe handgun use. It fulfills the training requirement for a concealed handgun permit in Virginia, as well as the DC firearms training requirement for handgun registration. The course includes live-fire training at the NRA Range in Fairfax. Students do not need to own their own firearm, although they are encouraged to bring whatever handgun they wish to the class, so long as it is unloaded. Please DO NOT bring ammunition into the classroom. The course fee of $95.00 covers all relevant training materials, including use of an instructor provided gun if the student does not have their own. It DOES NOT, however, include ammunition (approx $10 to $15 for a box of 9mm), range card ($10) or range time.The class will be held in the Patriot Board Room at the Comfort Inn from 0830 to approximately noon.
L.O.J. is proud to offer NRA First Steps Pistol on November 10th at the Comfort Inn University Center in Fairfax, VA. This class provides students with a foundation for safe handgun use. It fulfills the training requirement for a concealed handgun permit in Virginia, as well as the DC firearms training requirement for handgun registration. The course includes live-fire training at the NRA Range in Fairfax. Students do not need to own their own firearm, although they are encouraged to bring whatever handgun they wish to the class, so long as it is unloaded. Please DO NOT bring ammunition into the classroom. The course fee of $95.00 covers all relevant training materials, including use of an instructor provided gun if the student does not have their own. It DOES NOT, however, include ammunition (approx $10 to $15 for a box of 9mm), range card ($10) or range time.The class will be held in the Patriot Board Room at the Comfort Inn from 0830 to approximately noon.
With our inaugural class behind us I’m looking forward to teaching again on the 15th of September in Fairfax.
I’ll be teaching First Steps Pistol at the Comfort Inn University Center in Fairfax, VA on September 15th at 0830.
When you get into the details of marksmanship you discover there are many things a person needs to get right to shoot well. Some of those elements of marksmanship are physical, some are metaphysical in nature. If you read Brian Enos’ Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals you learn that for the top-tier shooters, it really is a different game than for the rest of us. From Enos’ book:
“I once overheard a shooter say that he meditated before he shot. When you understand meditation, hopefully you’ll see why you would, instead, want to meditate as [author's emphasis} you shoot. Meditation is simply a state of total awareness of your own function as your senses perceive it."
Pretty deep stuff for your average fast-food eating, action-movie loving American to digest. Nevertheless, the more advanced you grow in the shooting sports, the more you find your barriers to progress are mental, rather than physical.
But before you rise to the level of fretting about the non-physical aspects of the shooting sports/defensive pistolcraft, you need to first master the basics. And what are the basics you ask? According to the NRA there are five elements:
1) Aiming. Maintaining sight alignment (proper relationship between front and rear sight) and sight picture (the proper relationship between front sight, rear sight, and target).
2) Hold control. Reducing your arc of movement through a strong, solid grip.
3) Breath control. Reducing unwanted body movement by controlling your breath.
4) Trigger control. The process of pressing the trigger smoothly to minimize disruption of the sight picture.
5) Follow through. Continuing everything you were doing before the shot was fired for a split second afterward
Seems like a lot of things to cover, but fortunately for combat pistol marksmanship we can simplify things. For example, as important as breath control is for precision shooting it isn't terribly important when your target is 20ft away. The other factors on the list are really intended to support one overriding objective, sight picture. But not all factors are of equal importance. Trigger control reigns supreme.
If you're having trouble with accuracy---new shooters and experienced shooters alike--- odds are you are having a problem with trigger control. Unfortunately, there is no easy means to overcoming trigger control problems. The best way I know is through repetitions, lots of repetitions. This means dry fire practice in addition to a significant amount of live-fire range time. Exactly how much live-fire range time is a matter of some debate, with some arguing that the vast majority of your practice should occur in your basement [dry fire of course], rather than at your local range.
My own view is a little heterodox, I tend to think dry fire practice is a poor substitute for actual, quality range time. It isn’t enough to go blast through 500 rounds. You need to mentally focus on what you are doing. If you do, then you’ll find that the noise, flash, and recoil will condition you to shooting more than smooth, deliberate trigger presses in a quiet room.
When people ask me what type of gun they should purchase for concealed carry I tell them they need a pistol that is concealable, that affords sufficient firepower for most self-defense scenarios, that is reliable, and that can be fired accurately by the carrier. Unfortunately, no pistol is perfect in every one of those categories. Although advances in firearms technology have allowed us to get closer to having our cake and eating it too, the sad reality is that tradeoffs have to be made. With that in mind, let’s look at each of the factors listed above…
1) Concealability. Ask yourself where you plan on carrying, and I don’t mean where on your body do you plan on carrying your gun — we’ll get to that in a second. Are you living in an area where people are supremely uncomfortable with guns? Do you mind making significant changes to your wardrobe? What kind of climate do you live in? Do you plan on carrying everyday? A big guy who normally wears loose-fitting clothes and who lives in a gun-friendly community in a cool climate might want to wear a full-frame 1911; whereas a person who lives in a hot climate and/or in a community where people don’t typically carry firearms might want to go with a pocket pistol. Whatever you do, don’t run out and buy a Glock or XD or any other pistol for that matter without first thinking about how you’re going to hide the thing. Read what other folks have said about carrying a particular pistol and try to imagine how carrying that gun would affect your lifestyle. After all, the odds that you’ll ever need to pull your pistol in a self-defense scenario are very low. They’re certainly not zero, which is why you want to carry in the first place, but they are low, so think practically. Do you really want to carry a Glock 19 with you everywhere?
2) Firepower. This category boils down to the power of the cartridge and the capacity of the gun to carry rounds. I think it was the great Massad Ayoob who once stated that “friends don’t let friends carry mouse guns.” There’s some truth to that, but the reality is that technology has significantly increased the effectiveness of cartridges that were at one time just a step above a slingshot. Today cartridges like the .380, the .38 Special, and the 9mm Para are respectable manstoppers thanks to more powerful loads and better designed bullets. But if you still can’t bear the thought of carrying a 9mm, then you’ve got plenty of other choices. There are lots of concealable firearms chambered for popular cartridges like .45 ACP, .45 GAP, .357 Magnum, and .40 S&W. That said, you won’t find a firearm chambered in one of these more powerful cartridges that will be as concealabled as a small .380. If concealability is a major priority for you, but you still want to carry a more powerful pistol, then you may need to think in terms of an inside the waistband holster, which is fine if you don’t mind going up a size or two in jeans.
When considering which cartridge to go with, try to keep in mind that shot placement is even more important than cartridge power. A 9mm can be just as effective as a .45 if the shots go where they are supposed to. On the issue of capacity, more is always better, but more also means the gun will be larger or the cartridge will be smaller. Personally, I don’t like the idea of carrying around a bulky gun with a doublestack magazine. However, if you can stand to carry a wider gun then by all means go for it. Just remember that while it is unlikely that you will ever find yourself in a situation where you actually need to fire your gun in self defense, it’s even less likely that you’ll be in a bona fide shootout where you’ll need a gun capable of holding 17 rounds. But then again, it does happen. Just last week a store in Tucson was assaulted by three armed men trying to rob the place. Fortunately the owner of the store and one of his employees were armed. They fought the guys off — killing one and wounding the two others. Clearly, in that kind of scenario you don’t want a Ruger LCP. Then again, 99% of the time, that tiny LCP is probably good enough.
3) Reliability. This is pretty self-explanatory. You should carry a gun that goes boom when you want it to. Fortunately, most of the time this isn’t too much of a problem if you buy a gun from a well-known manufacturer. That said, you don’t need to break the bank to buy a reliable firearm. For example, Taurus makes some excellent carry guns that will fit the budget of anyone who isn’t living in a cardboard box. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Taurus’ are prone to malfunction, but I never actually heard that from anyone who owns a Taurus. I’m not saying that there aren’t lemons out there, but in my experience, and yes I do own a Taurus, they work just fine. Indeed, I’m very happy with my PT1911, which I’ve found to be extremely reliable. All that said, even big-name, big-dollar manufacturers produce crappy guns sometimes. I purchased a Para GI Expert last year and I hated the thing. I’ve heard that some people like them, but mine just plain sucked when it came to reliability. I don’t own any Kimbers, but I’ve heard that they have produced some losers in recent years too. The moral of the story is do some research and don’t assume that just because a gun costs more that it’s better.
One last thing, a lot of folks carry revolvers because they don’t have confidence in autoloaders. I can understand where they’re coming from, but there are autoloaders out there that are probably just as reliable as a revolver — Glocks and XDs come to mind. For my part, I do carry a revolver with me when I hike because I want a gun that is light, conceable, and can take a lot of punishment. A Glock would probably fit the bill too, but for some reason I still think revolver when I think woods gun. I guess there’s an example of one of my biases right there. Anyway…
4) Shootability. As noted earlier, shot-placement is even more important than cartridge power when it comes to stopping threats. That means you’ll need a gun that is reasonably accurate and that you can shoot comfortably. If you find a .357 too punishing to shoot, then try a .38. If you can’t hit the broadside of a barn with your baby Glock in .40 S&W, try a Springfield EMP. You don’t need to be able to pull head shots at 25 yards with your carry gun, but you do need to know that you can hit what you’re aiming at within… say… 25 feet.
There’s one final question that I feel I should address that relates to shootability; should you carry a single action autoloader or a double-action? Personally, I don’t care for double-action pistols. Their triggers usually feel like doo doo to me. I grew up shooting single action pistols like the 1911 and for me a double action feels like a major strep backward in terms of shootability. That said, I do have a double-action Diamondback .380, which I don’t totally hate, but I chose it in spite of of the fact that it’s a double-action and not because Diamondback managed to create a double-action trigger that doesn’t feel like crap. If money were no object, I would have purchased SIG’s single action .380, because single action pistols, simply put, allow for better marksmanship. There are some pretty good double action triggers out therem (e.g. Glocks feel OK to me), but even the best double action trigger doesn’t feel as good to me as a well tuned single action.
All that said, there are reasons to go with a double-action. 1) Some folks, including Massad Ayoob, have pointed out that you might be accused of using a gun with a “hair trigger” if you ever use a single action in self defense. Of course, such an allegation is total nonsense, but there are some very unscrupulous prosecutors out there who have tried to play that card for the sake of getting a conviction. 2) There may be a greater risk of accidental discharge in a stressful situation. Single actions are more sensitive, so you can’t paw the trigger and not expect the thing to go off. 3) You have to carry a single action locked and cocked for it to be useful. The idea of carrying a 1911-style pistol with the hammer back, a round in the chamber, and safety on is enough to make some folks cringe, but that is the accepted way to carry a single-action autoloader for self-defense.
So what’s the answer to the double vs. single-action question? If you’re new to guns, stick with the keep-it-simple-stupid principle, which means you should probably go with a double action. As you become more proficient in firearms handling, then think about a single action.
A couple of years ago there was a surge of interest in the .380 ACP, a cartridge that was virtually moribund. The reasons for the triumphal return of the .380 to the world of defensive carry are varied and in some cases disputed. But whatever the reasons for its revival, it is undeniable that the .380 is back, with many people relying upon it as a primary armament.
I can understand the appeal of the .380, with its small size and ease of concealment. I own one myself, although I have passed it on to my wife for her use. Indeed, until recently, I regarded the .380 as an adequate albeit—barely adequate—primary defensive gun. Although I still think the .380 can effectively serve as a primary defensive gun, I must question why anyone would choose one over a single-stack, sub-compact 9mm, such as the Ruger LC9 or Kel-Tec PF9. Granted, my (her?) .380 is still smaller than my LC9, but there is a point where the law of diminishing returns renders reductions in the size of a defensive gun irrelevant or even counterproductive.
A person of average size and build will have no problem hiding an LC9, even while wearing a T-shirt and shorts. The advantages in firepower and shootability that come from having a slightly larger pistol chambered for a more robust cartridge far outweigh the disadvantage that come from a loss of concealability. From Dick Metcalf at The Shooting Times:
- “SAAMI industry-standard catalog specifications for the two cartridges rate the 380 at approximately 950 fps velocity and 200 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) energy for JHP bullets in the 90- to 100-grain weight range while the 9mm (which is offered in a much wider range of bullet weights and styles) is specced at 1150 fps and 340 ft-lbs energy with a 115-grain JHP bullet and 990 fps and 320 ft-lbs energy with heavier 147-grain JHP subsonic loads. In raw energy terms alone, then, the 9mm has about a 65 percent advantage. (Standard four-inch ballistic test barrels are employed for the SAAMI ratings for both cartridges.)”
All that said there are some scenarios in which a tiny .380, such as the Ruger LCP or Diamondback DB380, would be optimal. For example, a jogger may want to consider a .380 for carry in a fanny pack. A .380 would also make a great choice for a bug-out-bag or a long hiking trip. In other words, anytime weight is a critical consideration, a small .380 may be a better choice than a 9mm. In the vast majority of situations, however, a subcompact 9mm will almost certainly serve you better. With significantly better stopping power and better ergonomics, you’ll have a better chance of hitting your target and stopping it from harming you.
We’re offering NRA First Steps Pistol at the Comfort Inn University Center in Fairfax, Virginia on August 18th. Visit here for details.