Archive for the 'Armed Citizen' Category

You Need CFS

Armed Citizen 1 Comment »

I’m tired. My neck hurts, my knees ache and my brain is trying to process a whole lot of new things. I just completed a two day Combat Focus Shooting course with Rob Pincus at Shooters Sporting Center in Little Egg Harbor NJ. ( If you carry a firearm to defend yourself or loved ones, have an easily accessible gun for home defense, or are an armed professional, you will benefit immensely from the Combat Focus Shooting program.

Maybe you know how to shoot. OK, maybe you’re like me. Small arms training in the Army, firearms instructor for a state Dept. of Corrections, NRA Pistol Instructor, graduate of other private sector trainings, regularly compete in organized shooting events and have a box full of medals and plaques attesting to your skills. Sound familiar?

I got skills, you got skills, we all got mad skills and being firearm professionals we are not adverse to adding to them. Enter Rob Pincus and I.C.E. Training. ( I first became aware of Rob years ago seeing a profile on the Valhalla Training center on one of the cable “gun” shows. Realistic 3D targets and a 360 degree shooting environment was pretty novel at the time. As time went on I began to notice him on TV shows like Personal Defense TV and The Best Defense. He presented well and the segments were informative. With social media I started following him and reading articles and watching videos online. ( He posted on Facebook there were openings for an upcoming CFS class in New Jersey. Despite the dread of spending a couple of days in the Garden State, I registered for the class and prepared my equipment. Wait til Mr. Pincus sees what I can do!

The class was small, 7 of us. The range facility was nice and we got started with a course overview and safety protocols. Rob’s demeanor is affable and genuine. He is all business, but has a wit that can’t help but come out. It is obvious he doesn’t suffer fools, yet he encourages questions -GO!- and gives detailed answers based on empirical evidence and research. His mission is to impart the skills that will give the student the best chances of surviving a dynamic critical incident. That means delivering combat accurate shots on the threat as efficiently as you can. This course starts with the premise that a lethal threat to you or an innocent is apparent and you need to engage that threat. Judgement, shoot/no shoot, Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy are not part of this curriculum. (He and I both recommend Massad Ayoob’s MAG-20 class on the legal aspects of lethal force. )

CFS-NJThe shooting starts with the basics. Presentation from a high compressed ready position. Extend, touch the trigger, then press through till the shot breaks. If you’ve been taught the “Modern Technique of the Pistol” codified by Col. Jeff Cooper, then you will be quickly removed from your comfort zone. Rob teaches a very aggressive isosceles stance that is in tune with the bodies natural reaction to a threat stimulus and manages recoil effectively. He will not let you get away with an unlocked left arm. Single shots, then multiple shots. Extend! Touch! Press! Put it all together in one motion, then start presenting from the holster. Assess your environment after every engagement. Don’t just look around, gather and process information. Now add lateral motion. Practice emergency reloads without looking at the gun. Move when reloading. Shoot faster, but you have to get the hits. Balance of Speed and Precision. Don’t get into patterns. Vary shot strings and targets of different sizes with alpha-numeric identifiers. It will seem overwhelming at times and your ego will be bruised. Things you were so sure of may come into question. You may have been a runnin’ & gunnin’, tacticool bad ass and are now being yelled at to MOVE!, fumbling reloads, getting that weak arm slapped until its locked and hitting outside the target box. Very humbling to say the least and I’m paying for this?

Yep. Rob is well schooled in adult learning theory. He seems to know how each student learns and adapts techniques to get the student to perform. He uses failures as a learning opportunity. He is quick to correct and cajole. He doesn’t belittle, but will leave no doubt you can do better and he expects better performance in the next drill. He is careful to make sure each student ends a drill correctly. Even if they have to repeat it. Pure psychology.  Always end on something positive.

In two days you will NOT be an invincible gunfighter. In two days you will have been introduced to concepts and techniques that, with continued practice and evaluation, will increase your chances of surviving a dynamic critical incident.  If you truly are that firearms professional, always willing to learn, then you need to take a Combat Focus Shooting Class.


Knives, damn knives and then there’s knives.

Armed Citizen 1 Comment »

I’ve been thinking of doing an article on knives for a while. My nephew posted a picture of his every day carry items and I have to one-up him and show everyone that good working knives are available and very affordable.

Useful folders and tools.

Useful folders and tools.

While in the Army back in the mid 1980’s, most of us didn’t really think much about knives as tools or defensive weapons. We had dull bayonets and many of us had some type of swiss army knife. I was partial to the simple Tinker model. Ever try to cut commo wire with a small, hard steel blade? Not a good idea. That blade is good for spreading peanut butter and little else now. Since then I’ve gone through any number of blades. As a simple civil servant, I didn’t have the resources to acquire custom forged blades of exotic metals and grip materials. My disposable funds were more likely spent on ammunition and guns to feed my IDPA and IPSC habits. Still I have managed to cobble together some quality knives at reasonable cost.
CRKT Kaspers and Ryan 7

CRKT Kaspers and Ryan 7

Columbia River Knife and Tool has been making some of the most affordable blades for almost 20 years. They are known for their collaborations with some of the best custom makers extant. The Pat Crawford/Bob Kasper design was my first real folder and I liked it so much, I got another one with the partial serrations. One of these will always be with me in a Maxpedition man purse or the console of my truck. The Steve Ryan designed Ryan-7 is another handy folder that I liked.
Spyderco Tenacious and Delicas

Spyderco Tenacious and Delicas

You can’t go wrong with Spyderco. They patented the thumb hole and gave us that flick of the wrist opening we take for granted now. Some of my newest and oldest knives are by Spyderco. The old zytel handled serrated edged Delica is my oldest. This is my GP utility blade and is what I give my wonderful partner when she wants to open taped boxes or anything else. The stainless Deilca II is another GP blade I usually have handy. I find the stainless scales slippery when sweaty or wet. The Tenacious is big for a folder. I like the blade ergonomics and feel. Some question these Chinese Spyderco blades, but they are solid with good steel and G10 scales. You could do a lot worse for around $40.
Cold Steel Prolite and Urban Pal

Cold Steel Prolite and Urban Pal

Kershaw Blur and Gerber Crucial

Kershaw Blur and Gerber Crucial

Cold Steel is another top tier manufacturer. If there is something sharp involved, they probably make it. The Prolite is a robust liner lock available in may blade styles. I chose the tanto blade because I didn’t have one and wanted to test it out. Love it or hate it, the tanto has a place. The Urban pal is small and fits on my key chain. It is unobtrusive and handy to open mail and boxes. When a real knife can’t be found, the Urban Pal is handy to have around.

Kershaw and Ken Onion introduced the assisted opening blade. These are not automatic or switchblades, they just open really fast once you get them started. I really like the Blur. The grip and blade design just really work and I think it rather elegant to boot. The Gerber Crucial is just a small basic multi-tool. Just needle nosed pliers/wire cutter, partially serrated blade, plus your flat and phillips head screwdrivers. I like that all the tools use a liner lock to keep them open and there is a spring clip to hook it to your gear bag.

Benchmade Barrage

Benchmade Barrage

Now the knife most likely to be in my pocket these days is a Benchmade 580 Barrage. It is an assisted opening blade that uses the proprietary axis lock used by Benchmade. This is not an inexpensive knife, but is a lot cheaper than most custom folders. You can find very good knives for the cost of a couple of boxes of pistol ammunition and you can pay ten times more for a beautiful and functional custom creation. When it comes to knives, guns, and flashlights: one is none, two is one, and three (or more) is better.
Let me know what you carry or collect.

IDPA BUG Match emphasizes need to focus on fundamentals.

Armed Citizen 4 Comments »

A local sportsman club held an IDPA BUG (Back Up Gun) match this month and it served as a very useful training experience. The International Defensive Pistol Association ( was prescient enough to realize that many people who carry firearms on a regular basis do not always, and some rarely, carry full size service pistols or revolvers on their person and they created the back up gun (BUG) division, so local clubs could allow smaller weapons and calibers in competition. I regularly compete in Stock Service Revolver with a 4 inch Smith & Wesson 686 or in Custom Defensive Pistol with my Wilson Combat CQB 1911. For the BUG match I used my 2 inch barreled Taurus model 85 Ultra-Lite in .38 special. It is similar to any J-frame S&W and will fit in most holsters made for the J-frame. I normally carry the Taurus in a front pocket where its small size and light weight make it virtually unnoticeable. Safety rules won’t permit draws from a pocket, so I dug out an old Galco pancake style holster I’ve had for years.

Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite and Galco holster.

The pancake design keeps the gun close to the body and completely covers the trigger guard. Working with it on the belt reinforces one key safety practice: Keep your finger away from the trigger when reholstering! IDPA rules say all BUG strings of fire should be no more than 5 rounds and reloads are to be off the clock. Fortunately, reloads were part of most of the stages and your reloading skills were tested repeatedly. Small revolvers with short barrels and shorter ejector rods will truly test your technique. Grip design can interfere with spent cases cleanly falling away. You must get the cylinder vertical and hit the ejector smartly to ensure a clean reload. I used HKS speadloaders and Bianchi speedstrips throughout the match. These I carried in the strong side pocket of my concealment vest. The weight in the pocket also helped me clear the vest when drawing. Revolvers will always be slower to reload than a modern semi-auto and is something a wheelgunner learns to live with.

All I really needed for the BUG match: gun, holster and reloaders.

The match itself tested many gun handling and shooting skills. Safely loading, unloading, drawing and reholstering small guns stresses muzzle awareness. It is all too easy to let a finger or hand get in front of the barrel and that would be an instant disqualification. I’m glad to say no one was DQ’d. There were dominant and non-dominant hand only strings of fire, shooting while advancing and retreating, as well as several “swingers” and steel poppers. Use of cover was emphasized and there was one kneeling stage which is always hard on my aged knees. The club has a 360 degree shoothouse and they always make a challenging scenario that each shooter has to run “blind”. The targets have guns on the bad guys and guns and badges on some good guys and be careful or you might shoot the guy with the coke bottle like I did. Negotiating doors and hall ways and making shoot/don’t shoot decisions is good practice, if only to make you realize that attempting to clear an unknown (or even a known) structure is a losing proposition and should be undertaken only in the most desperate of circumstances.
Lessons learned? You can never practice enough with your equipment. Little guns are harder to master. Short barrels, small sights and grips are a challenge. We like the compact and lightweight package, but that means short sight radius and more recoil with any load. I shot Speer Lawman 135gr. TMJ and even these mild loads barked in the lightweight Taurus. With small revolvers I alter my grip to clamp my support thumb over the knuckle of the thumb gripping the revolver. This locks my hands together and keeps both thumbs away from the trigger guard and the possibility of interfering with the trigger finger.

J-frame grip: note support thumb clamped over gripping thumb and use of “Ayoob” wedge under trigger guard.

I grip the revolver as high as I can and use what Massad Ayoob would call a “crush” grip. That means squeezing hard! I also use another technique he taught me called the wedge. I wedge my support middle finger tightly under the trigger guard and then wrap the index finger over it. That creates a camming action that seems to reduce muzzle flip and helps control recoil for me.

Top view of support thumb clamp.

I have found these techniques work for me and my small hands. Your mileage may vary, but I hope you try them and if they don’t happen to work for you, they might just be the ticket for someone you you may teach someday. A strong grip, along with a good powerful shooting stance is the foundation for A-zone hits. However, you still have to align the sights and roll the trigger properly shot after shot. Small sights and short barrels mean even more concentration on that front sight and a smooth trigger pull. My Taurus has a smooth, but pretty stiff trigger compared to my other revolvers. The pull weight is nearly as much as the gun itself weighs. Keeping the sights on target while pulling the trigger is a test of all the fundamentals mentioned above.
All in all the BUG match was fun and a great learning experience. I have confidence in my skills and also know I can improve on them with dedicated practice. I would encourage any competitor to shoot a BUG match or shoot a regular match with their BUG. You’ll learn a lot and increase your skill and confidence with the tools you may one day be called upon to use to save yourself, a loved one, or another innocent from a violent attack. I’d like to thank the folks at the West Shore Sportsmen’s Association ( and the guys and gals at Sights ( for all the work they put in designing and setting up this match and their monthly IDPA matches throughout the year.

My first “Assault Weapon”

Armed Citizen 18 Comments »

Since gunpowder was discovered there have always been those who have tried to increase the firepower of weapons. With single shot weapons you had to increase the number of weapons, whether artillery or shoulder mounted musket/rifle, to increase the odds of causing casualties. (Lines of artillery or men shoulder to shoulder) You could add additional projectiles to the weapons at the expense of accuracy in an attempt to achieve the same thing. Canister and grape shot were used to great effect at close range in cannon and ‘buck and ball’ rounds were found to be of some use in muzzle loading long guns up through the Civil War period. Modern armies have experimented with multiple projectiles per round in small-arms to enhance hit potential. The goal has always been to send more “lead” downrange in the shortest period of time with some precision so as to be effective in either causing injury or disrupting the intentions of the enemy. To fulfill the need for firepower inventors have tried multiple barrels, multiple loads in one barrel, rotating barrels, the classic revolving cylinder and culminating in today’s magazine and belt fed weapons.

Today we see most militaries and security forces armed with the so-called “Assault Rifle” typified by the M4/M16 family and the many variations of the Kalashnikov AK series of rifles. These are magazine fed weapons usually capable of firing semi-automatic, automatic, or 3 round burst in the case of most of the US military issued rifles. These weapons typically fire a medium power round that is a compromise between power, recoil, and effective range. Civilian versions of these rifles are flying off the shelves of gunshops across the country and every good citizen should acquire one (or more) and support the rights of all law abiding persons to own the same. Now I have my ‘Black Rifle’ (an original Colt AR-15 sporter post ban w/ 16″ barrel sans flash hider and bayonet lug), but not everyone can afford these weapons and may find them politically incorrect for their neighborhood or jurisdiction. The ancestor of today’s military style rifle is still readily available and maybe even more practical for urban, suburban and rural environs.

Spencer Rifle
Spencer Rifle

One could say that the first truly practical assault rifles that saw relatively widespread use appeared during the Civil War. These were the Spencer and Henry repeating rifles. They were both lever actions and fired metallic cased rimfire rounds, but each operated a bit differently. The Spencer was loaded through the buttstock. To operate, the hammer was brought to half-cock, the lever brought down, forward and back which moved the .52 caliber cartridge from the magazine tube into the chamber, the hammer was brought to full cock and the trigger pulled. This could be done 7 times before reloading the magazine tube. The Spencer was famously tested by Abraham Lincoln who essentially forced a reluctant ordinance department to order significant numbers for Union troops, primarily cavalry units. The Henry was introduced in 1860 and bought in small numbers by the Union, but was usually an individual purchase. Some units that had wealthy members or patrons outfitted their men with Henry rifles. At the time there was no weapon that could equal the sustained rate of fire of the Henry. It held 15 rounds under the barrel. It’s lever action cocked the hammer and moved a cartridge from the magazine tube into the chamber in one smooth motion. Pull the trigger and repeat until ammunition is exhausted. The Henry utilized a .44 caliber rimfire round that propelled a 200-215 grain bullet around 1000/fps and was considered somewhat anemic even in its own day compared to the rifled muskets of most regular troops, but it was effective enough at the ranges armies were engaged in during the Civil War. The Henry was the rifle “you could load on Sunday and shoot all week”. Soldiers used to single shot muzzle loading muskets were quick to acquire these weapons whenever they could. Ammunition to feed these weapons were their major drawback and one reason why the ordnance department was hesitant to procure them in large numbers. There were already a myriad of weapons and calibers in the supply chain and new ones just added to the logistical problem.

Henry Rifle
Henry Rifle

After the Civil War the Spencer sort of faded away. With surplus Spencers on the market, new rifles didn’t sell and the Army went to single shot breechloaders converted from surplus muskets and eventually to the 1873 “Trapdoor” Springfields. The Spencer’s action, compared to the Henry, was crude and crude rarely sells well in civilian markets. The Henry, on the other hand, fared much better. There seems to have been a steady demand for a reliable repeating rifle. Now the gun that really ‘won’ the West was the lowly shotgun and single shot hunting rifle as these were the most common weapons settlers possessed. Handguns were expensive luxuries and of limited use on a farm or ranch and a repeating rifle even more so. Still, there was a market and the well heeled lawman, cowboy or rancher would purchase quality firearms when they could. A shirt maker named Winchester was the largest investor in the Henry company and eventually took over. The Henry rifle was improved and became the classic Winchester lever action rifle. General Custer discovered the hard way that an enemy with superior numbers and significant numbers of Henry’s, Winchesters, and even some Spencers could over whelm  and wipe out even the most well trained and experienced cavalry unit foolish enough to split its forces and attack without proper reconnaissance.

Collectors will talk about various models and rare chamberings, the 1866, 1873, 1876, 1895, the 1 of 1,000, engraved by Tiffany, the take-down and trapper models, etc. Books abound and may spark your own desire to acquire or collect. But the quintessential Winchester has to be the 1894. It became available in many calibers, but is most remembered as chambered for the new smokeless powder powered round the 30-30 Winchester. Some have said more deer have been taken by Winchesters in 30-30 than any other rifle/caliber combination in history. Especially handy in the wooded Eastern US, the Winchester is a familiar sight during hunting season. The lever action rifle is a familiar weapon to almost everyone through the westerns we all watched all through our lives at the movies or on TV. They are not as ‘menacing’ as those black rifles and as sad as that thought is to some of us, the reality is that in some areas a Winchester or Marlin will draw no attention in a gun rack or cabinet, while an AR-15, M1A1, SKS or Romanian AK will label you a “gun nut” or “Rambo”.

Before I could afford an AR-15 system, I picked up the next best thing in my opinion, a poor man’s military style weapon in the form of a new Winchester 1894 chambered in .357 magnum. It is a “Trapper” model with a 16″ round barrel. Having several revolvers in .357/.38 special allows me to feed a number of guns with the same ammunition. This can be important in a zombie apocalypse and maybe even in a real world disaster/survival scenario. Being a newer Winchester (2000ish) it has the hideous cross bolt safety at the top rear of the receiver and is a side ejector, unlike the original 19th century Winchesters, which is useful if optics are to be used. Compared to my Colt AR-15 it is roughly the same overall length and both are in the 6-7 pound range depending on sights and ammo load. The 1894 will hold a good 10 rounds of the .38 special +P’s I carry in my revolvers and am fully confident they will do the job if I do my part out to football field distances. For backwoods travel I would certainly look at some heavy cast loads in .357 magnum. The 1894 is svelte and handy. It carries well and could be fitted with a sling if you wanted. Don’t get me wrong, given a choice I’ll grab my AR and bugout bag, but if I only had the Winchester, I wouldn’t feel much at a disadvantage. Sure you can pull the trigger faster on an AR, but only hits count and the first shot from either is going to come within an eye-blink of each other. Follow up shots will be slightly slower with the 1894, but with practice you can expect to achieve a

Winchester 1894 in .357 magnum

round per second AIMED fire. Watch a cowboy action match and you’ll see maybe 2-3 rounds per second hitting the targets with the lever guns from the top competitors. Keeping an AR fed is also easier. In a couple of seconds you can go from open bolt to fully charged with 20 or 30 round magazines. In a couple of seconds you can feed probably one round into the Winchester. So, you should treat the Winchester as  a shotgun when it comes to ammunition management. That means shoot one, load one whenever possible and top off at every opportunity. Practice keeping that tube filled.

Now with USRAC Winchester gone (Belgian group Herstal now owns them) my Trapper has a little more value and I’m going to keep it. My Black Rifle may become an outlaw if certain political groups have their way. As I’ve explained, the century and a half old design can still fulfill its defensive/survival role if and when needed.

Zombies beware!

The S&W 386NG Night Guard

Armed Citizen 11 Comments »

More than a year ago I found, what I thought, to be the perfect revolver for concealed carry and defense. It was a S&W 686+ with a 3 inch barrel. It was handier and a tad lighter than my 4 inch 686 and gave me 7 rounds of .38/.357 ammunition. I used it in IDPA matches and did just as well with the shorter sight radius. I got a Galco Summer Comfort for it and all was right with the world. My only wish would be some kind of night sight and maybe something a little lighter.

The 386NG Night Guard

The 386NG Night Guard

Well S&W can read minds, or there are quite a few of us who expressed the same idea, and has recently introduced the Night Guard series of revolvers. These are all Scandium lightweight frames with stainless cylinders, 2.5 inch barrels and a big tritium front sight. You can have a 6,7, or 8 shot .38/.357 in K,L, or N frames and there’s a 6 shot .45ACP as well as a 5 shot .44 special. There’s 10mm/.40S&W, .41 and.44 magnum models now too. (These weigh less than 30oz. Ouch!) Since I had a 3 inch 686+ already, the 386NG seemed ideal. My HKS speedloaders would work in both and the Summer Special fit it too. The 386NG weighs around 24,5 ounces, a good 12 ounces less than the all steel 3 inch 686. In comparison the scandium frame guns feel like toys. This weight reduction means a more comfortable carry and more comfort means more carry. (I’m partial to full size 1911’s and have regularly carried one for years. My Wilson Combat CQB has a factory trigger pull of 3.25lbs. Mas Ayoob said it was a bit light for a carry piece and I grudgingly decided he was right. I might justify it by my years of experience, schools and competition with it, but why give someone ammunition that could be used against me? So, I’ve been wheelgunning for defense and use my 1911 for IPSC/USPSA competition.)

The guns are a matte black all over. The blackened stainless cylinder is virtually indistinguishable from the frame. They come with big cushy Pachmayr grips that cover the backstrap. This added to the bulk and seemed a bit odd to me. I’m sure the big grips would help in reducing felt recoil, but I have small hands to begin with and they just had to go. I put on a set of Hogue compact monobloc grips. They fit flush and expose the backstrap. They give me the best reach to the trigger and are perfect for the concealed carry role of this revolver.

The double action out of the case was somewhat stiff and a bit ‘gritty’. The single action was S&W sweet. I don’t know the poundage (2-4lbs?), but there’s no creep or movement at all and the release is like the proverbial glass rod. There is a slight bit of over travel and no stop on these factory guns. A few thousand dry fires and treating some of the interior points with a good grease has smoothed the double action considerably. A wolf spring swap is looking imminent too.

Cylinder and Slide sights

Cylinder and Slide sights

The sights come from Cylinder and Slide. The front is a big white circle with a green tritium insert. Bright and very easy to pick up. The rear is their new heavy duty replacement for any S&W adjustable. It is a big U notch. The front sight fills the rear notch almost perfectly. You won’t see much of anything on either side of that big dot. This set up is pretty good. I would like to see a tritium insert in the rear personally. A straight 8 dot on dot, or a bar dot would make low light alignment quicker. I noticed I lost the front sight frequently in very dark scenarios where a slight off center alignment hid the front sight. At ranges this weapon would likely be used, putting the tritium dot on the target and squeezing the trigger will probably produce good hits.

I did a little testing at my state game lands range. It was a cold morning with temps in the teens. I brought a selection of .38 loads. I’ve shot small all steel guns with full power .357 rounds and I can say it was none too pleasant. In this Scandium frame piece I am not even contemplating firing .357’s of any kind. So, I had Federal 129gr Hydrashoks, Speer Gold Dot 125gr, Remington classic 158gr LSWCHP all in +P and some S&B 158gr FMJ standard pressure loads to test. I see this gun as a defensive weapon to be used at contact to across the room ranges. I don’t have a Ransom Rest and since it was below freezing, I decided to run a simple drill to test the combat accuracy of the test loads. I would fire a cylinder of each load. The first two rounds would be to assess felt recoil. Then I would fire 5 as fast as I could hit my aiming point at 10 yards. You could call it a modified ‘Bill drill’. I wouldn’t fire as fast as I could pull the trigger, but as fast as I could reacquire my aim point and fire again. I averaged about a round per second which gave me a good compromise between speed and accuracy. Looking at the target and groups, I can say this gun will do anything I can ask of it at reasonable ranges. All the loads fired shot pretty much to point of aim at 10 yards and they all shot around 3-4 inches for 5 rounds and best 3 groups were mostly around 2 inches. Like my mentor Ayoob I think best 3 groups fired offhand like this gives a good average of what the gun can do from a rest. The Cylinder and Slide sights are not precision optics. The big dot and round U rear are meant for fast pick up and combat accuracy. Taking head shots at squirrels off hand at 50 yards is asking a bit much of them.

Test Groups: Top-158gr LSWCHP, Right-125gr Speer Gold Dot, Bottom-129gr Hydrashok

Test Groups: Top-158gr LSWCHP, Right-125gr Speer Gold Dot, Bottom-129gr Hydrashok

As for the felt recoil, I can tell you it wasn’t too bad. The big Pachmayr’s would have softened it quite a bit no doubt. But the bare backstrap and thinner grips were not bad either. Recoil was brisk, but with a good ‘crush’ grip and strong stance the recoil was very manageable and shot to shot recovery very close to that of my all steel 686’s. I couldn’t tell any difference between the +P loadings, but the standard pressure S&B load felt like the difference between a .45 and 9mm to me. Like I said, I feel no need to fire .357’s through this gun. The +P’s are very manageable, but I wouldn’t want to take a class and shoot hundreds of them a day. I’m sure my hand would give in long before the gun would. With standard pressure rounds I might shoot an IDPA match with it this spring to see if I do any worse than with the all steel 3 inch. I think with match nerves and andrenaline, I won’t notice much of a difference.

Overall, I really like this gun and it will no doubt spend a lot of time inside my pants.

386NG & Galco Summer Special IWB holster

386NG & Galco Summer Comfort IWB holster

2nd Annual SCI-Fayette Invitational

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2008 Awards and CQB

2008 Awards and CQB

On October 11th SCI-Fayette held its second Law Enforcement Invitational PPC shoot. 30+ participants fired a 48 round PPC course from 7 to 25 yards. Most shooters came from the prison ranks, but a number of other state prisons were represented and local law enforcement agencies. The match was well run by Sgt. Curt Shaffer and other members of the Fayette Combat Shooters team. This year I chose to use my Wilson combat CQB model 1911 in .45ACP. The five inch barrel and sight radius, I thought, would give better results than the stock four inch S&W 686 I used at the Beaver County match the prior month. The results weren’t too bad. I earned 1st place in single man Marksman class and my partner, Stephen Longstreth, and I took second in the two man Expert class. Stephen would have walked away with overall high score and given us first place in Expert had he not given away 60 points by shooting the left hand barricade with his right hand. That’s a big no-no in PPC where part of the test is shooting with either hand.

So, I can’t complain about the outcome. I have a couple more placques for the wall. The real winners and the reason for the match was to raise money for our co-workers in the military who have been deployed this year to foreign soil. We will use the funds raised to send care packages this holiday season. Good fun for a good cause! I look forward to next year’s match.

Beaver County Law Enforcement Invitational

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Saturday I joined 3 corrections officers from my prison to make a 4 man team to participate in the 15th annual Beaver County Law Enforcement Invitational. There were many local agencies, civilians and Feds like the FBI and Marshal Service represented. It was a standard police pistol combat match. We shot the course three times, one for each event: single, two-man and four-man teams. Each course was 60 rounds on B-27 targets. For an IDPA and IPSC shooter it was a humbling experience. You only shoot 12 rounds at 7 yards and the rest of the course is shot at 25 and 50 yards. Most modern agency qualifications don’t go beyond 15 yards any more. To make it more difficult any hit outside the 7 ring counted as 0 points. Oh, you had left hand and right shooting from the barricades, prone sitting and kneeling strings too. It was tough.

I used my 4 inch S&W 686 and some generic Remington .38 special loads that ran around 755fps. I was holding on the shoulder line at 50 yards to try to drop rounds in the scoring zone. When you can’t see any hits you tend to focus on sight alignment and trigger control. I didn’t prepare properly and didn’t have a good barricade plan. I tried a couple of different holds and even single action fire, but found my double action pull was more consistent for me. (something Mas Ayoob has told me before) You shoot the course 3 times straight through and 180 double action trigger pulls in a half hour added a certain hand/finger fatigue factor into the mix. That may sound wimpy to some, but I use the Ayoob crush grip when I shoot and Mas will tell you that unless molten rubber or sap is oozing between your fingers, then you’re probably not squeezing hard enough.

So, when all was said and done my officers and I managed to bring a Bronze medal home in Marksman class of the 4-man team event. My teammates don’t shoot in competition as much as I do and performance anxiety effected them more than me. One told me he couldn’t sleep the night before and they had no prematch routine or rituals to help reduce stress. I’m sure on our home turf any of them could shoot the same course and score 100 points higher than they did this Saturday, but that’s one reason to shoot these matches, you always learn something. It was good to shoot at 50 yards where all your fundamentals have to be good to get those hits. If nothing else you learn your or your equipment’s limitations and like Dirty Harry said, “a man’s got to know his limitations!”

West Virginia IDPA Championship

Armed Citizen 5 Comments »

Saturday started out pretty dreary, but I headed down to Morgantown, WV to compete in the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) West Virginia Championship. It had stormed off and on overnight and anyone who has ever set up a match knows how the weather can really muck up the best laid plans. I pulled into the Mason-Dixon Rifle Club wondering not only if I was going to need a rain jacket, but maybe waders too. The M.D.R.C. is kind of my home club and I know what water can do to the shooting bays. Lew Soccorsi is the President of the Club and coordinates the IDPA events. He and his crew worked tirelessly preparing for this event and it was evident that Lew had all his ducks in a row. This was their second time hosting the WV State Championship in as many years and Lew doesn’t leave anything to chance. The shooting bays were in great shape and we were lucky that we only suffered some light rain off and on throughout the morning hours. The schedule said shooting would start at 0800 and you know what? I do believe I heard rounds going down range at 0759. Getting started on time has a big psychological effect on folks. It told me we were going to have another well run match. There were 10 stages of fire spread out over 9 shooting bays including an indoor stage with reduced lighting. There were 10 squads and most squads had 10-11 shooters. RO’s shot the match Friday, so I figure close to 130 people participated in this match. I met shooters from South Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and even a few from West Virginia. It’s hard to find a friendlier group of people. In IDPA I’ve found there are only a few degrees of separation  between us all. You talk to a perfect stranger and within a minute or two you both were at a match with so-n-so, who everybody knows.

The stages were fairly straight forward, yet tested a number of essential gun handling skills. There were strong hand and weak hand only strings on one stage and several stages required shooting from unconventional positions such as kneeling, prone and supine. The use of cover was emphasized throughout. There were doors to open and vehicles to shoot around. Targets were standard IDPA and poppers. Many of the paper targets had hard cover areas painted black that attracted a fair number of hits in our squad. This forced me to really concentrate on that front sight.

There were some targets activated by poppers and one interesting mover set off by an electric eye. That was arguably the most challenging stage with a variety of targets and when the mover was triggered it was exposed for what seemed like only a second and a half. Even though you knew it was coming and you could be ready for it, it moved by really quick. I fired 3 rounds and got 2 hits (both down 1).

Everyone in my squad was impressed with how smooth everything went and how professional the RO’s and volunteers were. They were great! They made sure the shooters experience was the best it could be. They were fair and very helpful. Safety was stressed at all times. We only had one reshoot due to a popup target malfunction. We actually finished almost an hour before the scheduled time and no one was complaining about that. Even the lunch provided was exceptional. A nice catering job. Everyone had plenty to eat and even leftovers during the awards presentations.

The swag bag was decent. A nice T-shirt design and some vendor samples. Springfield Armory donated a couple of XD 9mm’s. One was raffled off to raise money for the club and the other was given as a door prize for the RO’s. A very considerate gesture to recognize the folks that worked their butts off before, during and after the match. Had I known I could have won an XD (even a 9mm), I might have tried to get into an RO class this year. The prize table was pretty good too. Blackwater and Storm Mountain donated certificates to attend one of their classes and Starline donated gift certificates for some brass. Glock owners were particularly happy to see the number of donated magazines. There were the usual range bags, T-shirts and various vendor items.

Oh, and how did I do? Well, I’m proud that I placed First as Sharpshooter in the Stock Service Revolver division. Revolvers are seriously under represented in IDPA. I shot my stock S&W 686 4″ in a Bladetech Kydex holster. I used Remington 158gr. Lead hollow point +P ammunition that factory specs says would make a 140,620 power factor. Nobody can accuse me of using wimpy loads for an advantage. The spirit of IDPA is to use real world handguns with real world loads. If I can be accused of any ‘gaming’ it might be the Safariland Comp III’s I used. They are big and bulky and I honestly haven’t carried them on the street where the Comp II’s are hard to beat.

So, it was a fun match and I did pretty good for my ego and have a piece of wood for my wall. I met some interesting people and got to shoot almost 150 rounds in a day. Some may think my expectations are low, but to me it doesn’t get much better than that.

If you carry a handgun for defense of self and/or those in your care, then competition like IDPA can only improve your skills.

My Black Rifle

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Everyone should have a black rifle. It’s usually a version of the military service rifle and in this country that means a AR-15. There are a myriad of companies making AR-15 style weapon systems these days. The choice is personal and each manufacturer has features they claim makes theirs better. Being a poor civil servant, I couldn’t just go out and pick up the latest from Sabre Defence, Rock River, S&W, or a Semi-custom piece from Les Baer or Wilson Tactical. I’ll have to wait for lottery winnings to afford those. Luckily for me, a few years ago I stumbled upon a used AR-15 at a local gun shop. Checking it out I found it was an original Colt AR-15 Match Target Lightweight. It was used, but I couldn’t find any wear on the thing. It was like new in my opinion. It was bargain priced and all original, so I took my prancing pony home. Built during the dark Assault Weapon Ban years it had a fixed stock and was lacking the evil bayonet lug and flash suppressor. Being a Colt I can count on a magnafluxed barrel and bolt carrier. Some may not think that important, but it’s added assurance that there are no defects in those critical parts. The lightweight 16″ pencil barrel is a feature to me. I doubt I’ll be heating it up in any sustained firing (Zombie outbreaks have dropped off in recent years) and it lends to a overall balance I find comfortable. I added a collapsible stock, carbine forend with rails, and a First Samco pistol grip. I have an EOTech sight, but haven’t found a mount I like with the fixed carry handle. Again, being a Colt it has a 1:7 twist barrel. I would prefer 1:8 or 1:9 just for the wider range of bullets that can work with it. Lighter bullets (like cheaper surplus 55gr loads) may be over stabilized or even come apart in flight. The standard 62gr bullets are fine and it appears everyone likes the heavier bullets these days. I have a supply of greek surplus 55gr rounds and haven’t seen any keyholing or jackets separating, but accuracy is not the greatest. I’ve used it in rifle side matches at local USPSA events and it hasn’t embarassed me. I’ll eventually get a new flattop rifle of some type; piston operated with all the gadgets mounted and in some exotic new caliber. Until then I’ll be comfortable with my Colt. It will be more than enough for any likely doomsday scenario I’m going to face.

LFI-I Harrisburg, PA June 26-29

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LFI-I Harrisburg. PA June 2008Late June is vacation season and this year, like last year and hopefully next year too, Massad Ayoob came to the Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers Assoc. to conduct his entry level class: Judicious Use of Deadly Force. Jack Brady was the local coordinator and host. He did a great job with logistics and support. Mas has a loyal following, some may say a cult, (I wouldn’t try to kidnap and deprogram any of us!) who come out to help with the classes. This year Ken Kelly came up from Virginia to share his experience and help out. He’s a true Modern Warrior. ( Dr. Tony Semone is a Neuro-Forensic-Psychologist who’s lectures are enlightening and inspiring. He went from a Marine to a Ph.d, so you know he must be special. Speaking of special, Gail Pepin came with Mas and helped out. Without her you wouldn’t be reading this. Gail really encouraged me to start a blog and get a podcast going. She can shoot too, as I’ll explain later. Myself I have 22+ years of military and corrections experience. I took my first LFI class in 1997 and thought it was, and is, essential training for any responsible citizen who chooses to exercise his/her Right to go about armed.Qualification
Almost 30 individuals recognized their responsibility to themselves, their loved ones, and society in general to learn about managing the use of force and the necessary skills to make them safe, competent shooters. Maybe even more important, they were shown the legalities involved and the aftermath of deadly force encounters. This, I think, is the real eye opener for folks. LFI-I is mostly lecture and video presentation. You will shoot some everyday , but most folks will not expend all of the 500 rounds they bring with them. This particular group was older on average than previous classes I’ve helped with. Only one woman too. The mix of weapons was interesting. Many baby Glocks and a mix of XD’s, Sigs, 1911’s of various makes and sizes and a couple of revolvers. One problem with older folks is a lifetime of sometimes bad habits that can unconsciously develop. We noticed a lot of fingers getting on triggers before they should be. There is no compromising on safety and all the range officers cajoled, whispered, yelled and may have even threatened removal of offending digits as necessary. By day two everyone was self-conscious of there fingers and muzzles and bad habits were replaced with safe conscious competence when handling the weapons.
Staff shooting the qualification
The staff shot the qualification course first to demonstrate the course of fire. Mas used a Colt Detective Special 2″ fixed sighted revolver. I used my S&W 686+ 3″ with adjustable sights. Gail shot a Glock Practical/tactical and Jack and Ken had a Glock and HK respectively. We were using IPSC targets. It was my lucky day because Mas threw a round about an eighth of an inch out of the “A” zone and scored a mere 299 out 300 on the 60 round qual. I managed a 300 and earned an autographed $5. Gail managed a 300 too and her group was 2 centimeters smaller than mine, so she gets top honors and bragging rights (til next year!) To be fair to Mas he was using a 2″ revolver with fixed sights. Had we used B-27 targets, we’d all have cleaned the course and Mas’s group would have easily have been the smallest. Out of the class the high score was 299 shot with a Springfield Armory LDA commander length .45 auto. Everyone qualified and passed the dreaded written exam. Four 10 hour days plus homework readings and dryfire practice. Folks were worn out. One reason I help with these classes is to meet so many fine people. They come from all over. They have a desire to learn. They have made a decision to take an active interest and control over their personal security. Anyone who chooses to use a firearm for protection has a responsibility to learn safe gun handling and shooting techniques. Maybe even more important is the legal and moral issues of when you may or may not use that weapon. You owe it yourself and your family to get this type of training. It may empower you. It may dissuade you from carrying a gun. It will educate you and then you can decide for yourself what is best. Hope to see some returns next year. Mas says there may be enough interest to do LFI-II.


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I believe the Right of self-defense is as unalienable a Right as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Indeed, without it Life and Liberty become arbitrary at best. Rights may be unalienable, but they do not necessarily come free. Responsibility is the cost. Individuals must accept the responsibility of their actions and the consequences. My personal safety is my responsibility. To expect others to take on that responsibility is fool hardy. We must make certain concessions as social creatures for the good of the order, so to speak, but we should never concede the basic Right and individual responsibility we have to preserve ourselves. To that end, I believe the 2nd amendment of the constitution of the United States of America is a fundamental Civil Right. Any authority that deprives normal law abiding individuals of the means to protect themselves from the predators that exist in all human societies, must be questioned. Society has nothing to fear from the responsible, armed citizen.

Post LFI trauma

Armed Citizen 1 Comment »


Is that a gun in your pocket,
Or are you just glad to see me?

Actually, it’s a Smith & Wesson
Model 36 Chief’s Special in an
Uncle Mike’s pocket holster worn
In the weak side front pocket.
It’s a backup to the .357 or .45
I normally carry in a strong side
Concealment holster behind the hip.

Two guns? You feel the need to carry
Two guns? What are you afraid of?

Nothing really, I’ve got the guns!
I also have smoke alarms, a fire extinguisher,
Extra keys for my car and front door too.
Don’t you bring a first aid kit when camping?
Don’t you have a spare tire in the trunk? Why?
On vacation, do you have more than one
Credit card in case one is lost or stolen?

Sensible precautions certainly make sense,
But why the guns? Is it trouble you expect?

I don’t expect a flat tire. Still, I have the tools
To deal with it should it ever happen.
I don’t expect trouble, and don’t look for it.
The tool on my hip is for the unexpected, immediate
And otherwise unavoidable threat of death
Or grave bodily harm to the innocent.
Any means are justified to end such a threat.

I know that no one really wins a gunfight.
If ever forced to defend self or loved ones,
Life will never be the same. If fortunate,
You’ll not be charged, the civil suit won’t bankrupt you
and the nightmares will come less and less frequently.
You’ll be marked like Cain, and people will whisper.
You’re not the winner, you just lost less.