Kilt on da streets!

Miller Custom .125w front sight with .020 fiber optic

So, as I’ve been told, time and time again, “Fiber optics are unreliable and have no place on a carry/duty/work/hard use gun. That shit will get you killed!” Pump the brakes there Hondo.

The image here is from my Miller Custom 1911, in .45 ACP. This was my primary carry AND competition gun for a fair bit of time. At 40,000 rounds the barrel cracked and needed to be replaced. The rifling was close to non-existent. Yet, THE ORIGINAL fiber optic rod, the one I received with the gun when I picked it up, was/is still there! Undamaged, unbroken, etc.

Lots of people truly believe the only acceptable sights on a carry/duty gun are night sights. That’s fine. This has not been my experience, nor that of many, many, many, others. Most will start off with the premise that “They glow in the dark so I can shoot without a light.” Why are you shooting without a light? How are you identifying your target?! Are you seriously just shooting “where you think the bad guys are?” (Actual quote from an instructor.) If you don’t see all the things wrong with these statements I implore you to seek better training immediately!

Tritium (night) sights have an advantage over fiber optics (and blacked out sights) for approximately 30 minutes a day. This is the time where the intended target is well enough lit to identify it as a threat but it is too dark to refine your sight picture. Some will say that this time is extended exponentially in homes and buildings. My friends Todd Green and Spencer Keepers would argue with me time and time again about this. Admittedly, the potential exists, but I have not found this to be as prevalent as some would believe.

Here’s the trade off for opting for the tritium sights. With the majority of manufacturers, during the day you are essentially shooting blacked out sights. That’s not very beneficial in my opinion. Yes, some have a white circle around the front vile, and hi-visibility options like the Trijicon HD’s exist. All have their own issues. To my knowledge, no manufacturer produces any of these with a front sight smaller than .125-ish width. Ok, let’s say you don’t care about that. How about this: The majority of individuals carry their guns almost all of the sunny hours of the day, and about half or less of the dark hours of the night. That puts an advantage to what works best in the day for me.

“Bad guys attack at night.” While not an absolute, it is more statistically correct than saying they attack during the day, but bad guys attack when they think they can win. Day, night, doesn’t matter. What we’ve seen is that an overwhelming majority (read almost every) civilian/patrol LEO involved shooting has happened in an area where the ambient light was so prevalent that night sights were of no advantage, along with weapon mounted lights. (Check out John Correia’s research from Active Self Protection as well as Aaron Cowan from Sage Dynamics white paper on Red Dot use).

“My fiber optic rod broke after 100rds. It’s not durable enough for a carry/duty gun!” This one gets thrown out a lot. Here’s how you fix it: LEARN HOW TO INSTALL A FIBER OPTIC ROD PROPERLY! Yes, there is a right and wrong way to put fibers in. There are several videos out there demonstrating proper installation, and they make the difference. Along with this, some sights are just better than others. Caveat Emptor. I have had excellent results from Dawson Precision and 10-8 Performance. Most of my fiber optic sights however are custom made with smaller fibers and a little more protection for the rod. Up until this past year (2017), I had never broken a fiber optic rod in one of my guns. A couple of months ago I noticed one was not installed correctly and I did a hasty fit (read improper) of the rod trying to salvage the .02 cents worth of rod. Sure enough, it broke about 1,500 rounds later. First one since 2012…on almost every single gun I’ve shot…

So, you want to run Fiber Optics because you can see them better? Do it. Want to run Tritium sights because there may be a point where they’re more beneficial to you? Do it. Bottom line, choose what works best for you in your reality. Fiber optics are not going to get you “kilt on da streets” nor are night sights going to save you.

 

Back to work!

So, these last several months (April-September) have been epically horrible for my shooting. Between finishing up school, trying to get machines, refinishing the shop, electrical/electrician issues, injuries, and equipment issues, shooting has been about the least of my priorities (and that is the wrong answer). Dry fire has been inconsistent, but happening none the less. I can count the number of range sessions I’ve had on my two hands, and the number of matches on 1/2 of one.

Finally, yesterday I got my ass to the range for a solo practice session. It was rough, to say the least, but still good. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in everything going on around us and neglect our overall and long-term goals. I remember running into Kerry Pearson at a match and him remarking how little he had seen me as of late. As he said, “Life gets in the way.”

My wife and I were having dinner and discussing why I hadn’t accomplished literally any of my shooting goals over the last year. I listed off all the “reasons” why I hadn’t been getting to the range. She said, “Wouldn’t it just be better to grab a gun and go shoot no matter what gun it is or division? I mean, it’s still shooting!” Damn, she’s right.

There are tons of variables in my gun/division choices. Being a custom gunsmith, competitive shooter, shooting instructor, and carrying a gun everyday have tons of variables and don’t all play well together. But at the end of the day, I’m not getting any better or going anywhere by not shooting.

Sometimes, you just need to grab any gun out of the safe and go shoot it.

 

We’re bringing Scott Jedlinski out west!

PPT is happy to announce that we’re bringing Scott Jedlinski of Modern Samurai Project out to Arizona early next year! Scott is quickly being regarded as an expert on the slide mounted red dot pistol, nationwide. His accolades include, but are not limited to, F.A.S.T. Coin number 16, USPSA Carry Optics “Master” rating, as well as sponsorships from our friends at Agency Arms, Tuff Products, and Overwatch Precision.  Scott’s class is an in-depth look into the world of slide mounted red dots for both carry and competition.

Where: Prescott, AZ

When: March 24-25, 2018

Details and Sign Up: Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Pistol: Fundamentals and Performance in Prescott, AZ

Don’t miss this awesome opportunity to learn from Scott!

“How to Practice” Handgun Workshop

Just a reminder that our  one day “How to Practice” Handgun Workshop in Prescott, AZ is live and ready for you guys to sign up! We’re offering this course at a special reduced price (20% off)! Most of us attend a class from a trainer, get a bunch of drills and tips, and then have no idea what to do with them after other than to go to the range and shoot them. If only it were that simple. This class bridges the gap between classes and practice. We’ll show you how to take those things you’ve learned and integrate them into a structured practice regimen. We’ll teach you about Performance Tracking, how to use drills and exercises to your advantage, and how to make progress rather than just plinking at the range.

Tickets are available at : Eventbrite Tickets “How to Practice”

Come out and shoot with us!

PSA: Give Credit Where Credit is Due!

  I should just start filing these under a “Pet Peeves” section! Recently, there seems to be an uptick in certain groups of instructors purposely using others exercises or drills and passing them off as their own. Bottom line, if you didn’t think it up, give credit to who and where you got it from. Flashback to before the creation of Practical Performance: I was teaching for a company called TICTOC Training with my good friend Raul. We were invited by a regional SWAT team out west to put on a few days of carbine and pistol training for them. We both jumped at the opportunity. So, we headed out west to a newly established training center, which at the time had only had two other instructors there. Things were not kosher the minute we arrived. The training center had their own “guru” who felt he should have been providing the training to the team rather than us. He constantly interrupted our classroom portions of training and even hijacked our class one morning to give them a plug for his own programs! This same individual had, just a week or so before, had a serious negligent discharge as a student in another notable instructor’s course on the premises. This individual was about as unprofessional as they come. Anyways, class concluded and we voiced our displeasure with said individual to the facility owner.

During the class, we conducted several downed officer exercises requiring officers to engage targets as well as apply tourniquets and SWAT-T’s. These were tiered evolutions, each building on the previous, integrating vehicles, low light, etc. Fast forward several months. There I am, enjoying my coffee and perusing my new edition of S.W.A.T. Magazine, and who’s name do I see but this “SWAT team of one” instructor. I immediately flipped to the article which was basically an ego stroke written about the fantasy camp that was this training event for civilian end users. It was about this time that I saw the pictures in the article. And what did I see? An almost exact replication of Raul’s and my downed officer evolutions. Shooting position by shooting position, shot for shot, evolution by evolution, almost word for word, a copy of what we had taught at that class! Now, this wasn’t the first time I had been ripped off, and it certainly wasn’t the last. But this was the first time I had seen an article almost completely written about something that had been directly stolen from one of my/our courses with no credit given, and totally misapplied I might add.

When I teach a course, I make sure credit is given whenever and wherever possible. If I use a drill or exercise from another instructor, I will go out of my way to make sure they get credit for it. If I get a unique technique from someone, I credit them. I will also spend the time to find out the origin of said drill or exercise if I can. Don’t get me wrong, people are going to come up with similar or the same drills now and again. The more complex the drill or exercise, the less likely this is to occur. But if you go to a class and your instructor, Tactical Timmy, says “Here’s my drill. It’s called a Bill Drill and I came up with it for this…” then he’s part of the problem. This isn’t hard and its common courtesy. Treat it like a college research paper. If it has a non-generic name (“Bill Drill,” “Iron Cross,” “Squatch,” etc.) then it has an origin and deserves credit. Even if you don’t know where it originated, give credit to where you got it from. We ask this of other professions, and we should hold ourselves to those standards in this one.

“Combat Effective” Hits and “Combat Accuracy”

Target from Sentinel Concepts, taken during CHE course. One of the best targets out there.

The terms “Combat Effective” and “Combat Accurate” have been swirling around the shooting world for quite some time now. Their definitions however, are a gray area at best, normally used to describe less than ideal (also known as bad) shot placement by a shooter or Instructor. I have seen where an instructor was attempting to demonstrate how easy it was to get a 1.0 second draw at 7 yards and continually placed rounds in the D-zone of a USPSA target (I.e. Shoulder/arm/read as complete miss on an average sized human). Of the five reps, zero impacted the A-zone and none were a “close” C. His response every time was “It’s a combat effective hit.” Does a shot in the arm have an effect on someone? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think it’s time we redefine combat accuracy and combat effective hits.

What we’ve seen thanks to a decade of war and individuals really putting in the time to study how gunfights happen scientifically, is that if someone is hit in the arm, leg, even chest at times, the only thing that stops them from continuing to fight is their own lack of will to fight. If we want to truly define “Combat Effective” hits, we’d be talking about the A-zone of a USPSA target or the -0 portion of an IDPA target. And even these would be considered somewhat generous by some instructors. If we really want to be effective, we’d be shooting 4×6 and 3×5 cards. Does a hit in the hand have an effect on someone? Sometimes. Does a shot to the face have an effect? Sometimes. But I’ll say this, the shot in the face has a much better chance of having an effect than a a round passing through the meaty part of someone’s hand. (No, I’m not saying immediately go for the head shot.)

When we’re running our Combative Handgun/Carbine or Practical Application of Concealed Carry (PACC) courses, we shoot almost exclusively on B-8 targets, 3×5, and 4×6 cards. We shoot a lot of cards in our other courses as well, but the accuracy standards for the combative courses are far less forgiving. We didn’t do it just to make the courses harder. We did it because it is the most accurate representation of what is needed when fighting with a gun. One thing we’ve learned (and relearned over and over again) is that shot placement is king. Statistically, caliber barely matters, capacity rarely matters, but making good hits in vital areas ALWAYS matters!

So let’s be a bit more realistic, and honest with ourselves. A-zones and -0’s are easy, and they let us go really fast. 4×6 cards and 2″ dots are hard and are a more accurate representation of what stops gunfights. So go out, buy a100 pack of 3×5 cards, glue them to your USPSA/IDPA targets, and get to shooting. Hold yourself to a higher standard.

Believing Your Own Hype

Some of you are most likely familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, where someone of moderate or low skill believes themselves to be of a much higher skill level. Normally this manifests in the industry as “One second draws are easy. I carry with an empty chamber and I can easily draw, load, and fire under a second from concealment.” (That was an ACTUAL comment that was said to one of the guys I work with.) These comments generally come from the guy/gal that can be found shooting a couple times a year, or plinking in the middle of the desert at cans and televisions. These individuals are of little concern to me. They spout blatantly false statements on the Internet and forums, and often have an opinion about everything, and everyone, and anything that isn’t theirs is wrong. Again, while they annoy me to great extent, they are of little actual concern.

What does concern me greatly are those with moderate skill level that truly believe themselves to be HIGHLY skilled shooters. As much as it pains me to say, this is glaringly present within the tactical training community, and it stretches from the local instructor up to national level. One minute they will tell you how they are the greatest combat marksman that has ever been and if you didn’t come from their background you obviously aren’t worth shit. Three minutes later, they demo (if they demo) a draw from concealment at seven yards where they are unable to get a single hit within two seconds… Or perhaps they show you their sub-one second draw, to a D-zone or shoulder hit… Often the excuses of, “I’m on the road too much so I can’t practice” or “well, that’s a combat effective hit” comes out. BULLSHIT!!! What it comes down to is you’ve believed your own hype for far too long and have continued to make excuses for lack of skill instead of practicing, or practicing what you needed. I know very few truly skilled shooters who believe they are currently at the top of their game. They are hyper aware of their deficiencies and rarely make real excuses for them. They see and recognize things that are often not even apparent to a large majority of shooters. Things like how a 14lb recoil spring completely changes how a gun reacts in recoil vs. a 16lb recoil spring, or how a .010″ difference in front sight width completely changes the relationship between speed and precision.

Everything in context: Fighting with a firearm is different than competing with one, but shooting is shooting. The gun doesn’t know the difference. If you cannot perform a skill in isolation, such as drawing to an eight inch circle at seven yards and getting a hit under two seconds, how can you EVER think you will be able to do it within the context of a fight! If you really think you will “rise to the occasion,” I have some really bad news for you. So, let’s all be realistic about our skill levels. Understand that we can always get better. There is no end to this game of leveling up as it were. Something that is apparent amongst all the champion shooters I have dealt with, studied, and spoken too: they are always trying to get better. Some are trying to get faster, some more accurate, some are seeking both, but they are always trying to get better.

Let’s not believe our own hype, and remember that “The way is through training” (Miyamoto Musashi). We are all deficient in some area of shooting. Let’s get to shooting, dry firing, competing, and start forge welding some of those chinks in our armor.

The Fast Folley

The magazine is caught by one of the feed lips due to missing the mag well.

We all want to go fast. Whether we are driving a car, running, or shooting, we can’t help but try to go fast. And shooting is no different than anything else, if we push too hard we’re going to crash and burn. Most of us are guilty of what I call “The Fast Folly.” In a nutshell, we go too fast too soon.  I’ll give you an example: You switch guns from your Glock 17 to CZ P-09. You figure, no big deal they are both in 9 and full size guns. You get about 200 rounds into the gun and then it happens. “I should totally be able to hit the same speeds as I did with my 17.” WRONG! I know very few great shooters, let alone the average/above average shooters, that can make a major gun/caliber switch and shoot both equally as well with no practice. Something is always taking a back seat to something else. If you are focused on precision, your speed suffers. If you focus on speed, precision suffers. I am not of the belief that one can practice both speed and precision at the same time. I can maintain my level of precision while working on speed, but I cannot improve it.

So where does “the Folly” come in.  Generally, we all run too fast too soon. We feel we have obtained an acceptable level of precision, so it’s time to push the speed. Next thing we know, we’re dropping 70% of our shots outside of the A-Zone (or 8” circle). Then, we really mess ourselves up: we start making excuses for it. Things like “well, its combat accurate” or “well, it’s still a good hit factor.” In some cases, you may be right, but I prefer to err on the side of precision. The Folly always seems to plague me when it comes to reloads, especially coming off of an easy to reload double stack gun like a Glock or 2011 onto a single stack. My hands can move faster than I can accurately perform the technique.  This is where I start to see dropped magazines, missed mag wells, and overall bumbled reloads. I recently switched back to my 1911 in .45 ACP from my 2011 in 9mm. Day one of dry fire, “the Folly” bit me hard. As my buddy Frank Proctor has said, “You went all Ricky Bobby on it!” Truly, I did. I did maybe 20 slow and deliberate reloads, and then pulled out the timer and set the PAR for my average (after weeks of practice average) reload speed. Instant crash and burn. It was a glorious failure. I reset the PAR to a speed I knew I could guarantee a solid reload, and restarted from there.

Some right now may be thinking “Got it, go slow to guarantee the hit/reload.” That’s not what I’m saying. We NEED to go fast, but we have to put in the time to get there. I don’t believe you can master a technique in 10 minutes. You won’t be doing 1.5 second reloads after 10 minutes of deliberate practice. It takes work to get fast. Generally speaking, that work is deliberate and methodical, not simply “go fast.” (Sometimes it is, but not in this case.) Ease into it, it will save you heartache when timing really counts.

The Oversimplification of Technique

A.J. practicing speed reloads. Notice the focal shift to the magazine well.

A.J. practicing speed reloads. Notice the focal shift to the magazine well.

Once again it’s time for me to address a “trend” becoming popular in the shooting/training community. It’s become fashionable for a growing portion of “Instructors” to over simplify shooting techniques that have no business being simplified in the first place. If running guns fast and accurately was so simple, a student would be able to walk away from a two day class shooting like a USPSA Grand Master!  News flash: IT’S NOT! I’m talking about the instructor who’s whole block of instruction on Slide Lock Reloads is: “Dump the mag, put a new one in, and send the slide forward. It’s that simple.” NO, IT ISN’T! I get it, Keep It Simple Stupid, but we have to draw the line somewhere. When I see an instructor teaching like this, two thoughts occur to me. First off, the instructor in question undoubtedly reloads his gun about as fast as a snail ties it’s shoes, often citing consistency or reliability for their lack of speed. Secondly, the instructor himself either doesn’t know how he’s actually doing the reload, or absolutely knows, because he’s been taught, but isn’t going to give the student the nuances right away.  Now, I’m all about the tiered, guided self discovery approach, but often there is little to no more information given. Now, I see this most often with the reload, but it is not exclusive to it. From the holster presentations, sighting the gun, even the grip has been dumbed down so that there is no semblance of any actual technique or skill left. Don’t get me wrong, shooting a gun is simple at its core, but running one fast and accurately is not. Techniques don’t need to be complicated, but they don’t need to be Cro-Magnon simple either. World class shooters like Mike Seeklander and Rob Leatham certainly don’t just “dump the mag and put a new one in really fast” when they are doing a reload. There are nuances like index points, visual patience, even magwell direction that all play into the efficiency of the reload. If you are an instructor doing this, you are not doing your students any favors by dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator for everyone in the class. Anything worth teaching a student is worth teaching properly.

The Safety Engaged Reload: ILE

A.J. teaching carbine for potential PSD members

A.J. teaching carbine for potential PSD members

by Seth M. Blair

If you know me, you might be shocked to know that I have been running my AR as of late rather than the AK. I’m shocked myself. I started to run it due to demands from work. I’ll never tell anybody, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Particularly the ease of the reloads.

Reloads on the AR are like taking candy from a baby after running the AK for so long. In the hopes of making it even more of a walk in the park, I installed a BAD Lever from Magpul on my gun. The BAD Lever extends the bolt release down and through the trigger guard to the right side of the gun. This allows the bolt release to be manipulated without having to shift your hands. This means I can lock it open during a malfunction (although the Daniel gun hasn’t had a single one in close to 5,000 rounds) or drop the bolt with my trigger finger. Dropping the bolt for the reloads is nice, but the real draw I have to it is the ability to lock the bolt open with my trigger finger.

Reloads with the BAD, are quite smooth. By working the release of the bolt with my trigger finger, rather than my support side thumb, I am able to send my support hand back to the end of the gun a split second sooner. This may not seem like much, and it isn’t when it is looked at alone. We must remember that running a gun well is nothing more than faster times to good hits. Whether it is in competition, or combat. If I can shave a tenth of a second from my reload, I’ll take it, especially if I am able to shave a tenth off of other skills along with it. A tenth here, a tenth there and now you’re saving a second. Side note for the combative side of things: There are some instructors who say: There is no timer in a gunfight. I’ve gotta call bullshit on that one. There is absolutely a timer. Except instead of a beep/buzz for your par time, it’s the report of a gun. If his goes bang sooner than yours, you don’t make the par. Chances are, you’ve been shot. You were not accurate enough, fast enough. Okay rant over.

The first range session I did with my Daniel Defense, AJ encouraged me to activate the safety before I initiated the reload. I of course scoffed at this, and continued to not do it. It seemed like an unwanted step in an already relatively slow process. We discussed this idea at length over the next couple days, and I began to come around to the idea.

He pointed out the known issue of the AR sometimes slam-firing as the bolt drops onto a fresh round. I was aware of this, but figured it wasn’t that big of a deal because I follow gun safety laws. One of them being: Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy. He then brought up the idea of working in a multi-level structure. Let’s say I’m on the bottom floor, and I have unknowns upstairs. Or friendlies. I perform a reload, it slam fires! Or, more likely, during the reload my finger slips off the BAD lever and I land on the trigger. I just put a round through my ceiling, their floor. Oops. Sorry innocent bystander/buddy. Now, it is not a guarantee that the safety will prevent it from slam firing, but it sure can’t hurt. Even after all of this deliberation, and appeal to my sensibilities, I was still unsure.

I decided it was time to put it to the test under dry fire. I got set up for some rifle drills, and began my research to see if I could run the safety and still have a respectable time. After the warm up, I got the old timer fired up. First string on the timer, I rushed myself. Timers have a weird way of making it seem like the world depends on this one drill, and this is especially true when there is a par involved. In my rush, my finger slipped from the BAD Lever. Can you guess where it went? The trigger. The bolt had already closed by the time my booger hooker mashed the bang switch, and I heard the click of the hammer.

Boom. That settled it. I was a convert. Right then, right there. Since then, I have been running the safety when I perform a reload. Is it as fast as it would be without the safety? Probably not. But, I now have less concern about sending a round to a place it shouldn’t be. This is something I highly encourage all of you to incorporate into your skills. It isn’t easy to break old habits, but sometimes they are worth breaking.

Seth M. Blair