Posts Tagged ‘Shooting Techniques’

Picture shows a close up of a woman holding a Glock handgun demonstrating how to wrap one's fingers around the slide in order to rack it.

You Can Rack A Slide. It’s Technique, not Strength.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I can’t rack the slide. It’s too hard,” I’d probably have a condo in the Keys. In fact, when I started shooting, I thought I wasn’t able to operate all semi-automatic handguns either. Believe me, ladies; I understand your slide intimidation. However, have no fear! Regardless of what you may think, it is not your strength or lack thereof that enables you to rack a slide properly—it’s learning the correct technique.

Shooting on the Cheap

Shooting is an expensive hobby. With a tenuous economy and a recent election that motivated droves of shoppers to stock up on guns and ammunition, it is becoming more difficult for the average citizen to spend time doing what they love. Without too much effort, shooting can put a larger dent in your wallet than golf, photography and fishing combined.

Jeff Cooper

The Legend that was Jeff Cooper

Along with John Moses Browning, Mikhail Kalashnikov, Eugene Stoner, Dan Shideler, and Elmer Keith, another man made huge waves in the firearms community with his life’s work. If you are new to the gun world, or if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t bothered to learn read up on some history, let me clue you on whom I’m talking about. Most gun experts recognize Jeff Cooper as the father of the Modern Technique of handgun shooting, and one of the 20th century’s foremost international experts on the use and history of small arms.

3 Gun Nation logo

Gearing Up! The Pistol

Welcome to part #2 in our series of Cheaper Than Dirt articles on Gearing Up! for the new-guy 3-gunner. I will assume you have read “Gearing Up” part #1 and are in possession of a capable yet affordable AR. That’s great; you are one third of the way there! Let’s work on another third, the handgun.

Bullet penetration of 12 layers of sheetrock

What Makes Good Cover?

Picture yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to find a barrier to block incoming fire. You are standing about 30 yards from your attacker and he is about to shoot. To your left is a standard brick wall; to your right is a small economy car. Which one is going to stop those bullets from passing through? The answer can be complicated. The caliber of the attacker’s firearm, the angle of fire, as well as distance are all potential factors in whether or not your chosen barrier will keep you safe. While in public, I realize that many of you would be armed, but for argument’s sake, let us explore what makes a good barrier, just in case you forget your Concealed Carry Weapon!

Crossbow Diagram

The Modern Crossbow: A Beginners Guide

Shooting a bow and arrow accurately is difficult. Shooting a crossbow is also difficult, but much less so. There are many reasons to get into crossbow shooting. You don’t have to spend a lifetime practicing to get effective enough to hunt with one, and advances in technology have made the ancient battlefield weapon an excellent tool for hunting game. As some people age, they have trouble drawing a full power bow. Due to assisting devices on modern crossbows, these people can hunt much later in their lives, since the upper body strength is not as important.

When you are focusing on the front sight, the rear sight may become blurry.

Defensive Shooting 101: Focus on the Front Sight

One of the basic skills of defensive handgun shooting is learning how to focus on your front sight to engage a target, called flash sight picture. For accurate sight alignment, we line up our front sight, the sight closest to the end of the barrel, and center it inside the rear sight, the sight closest to the trigger. While target shooting, we can take our time using both the front and rear sights making accurate, tight groups close to the bullseye. In defensive shooting, there is no time for perfect sight alignment. Flash sight picture is the balance between sight alignment and point shooting. Point shooting is shooting at a target without the use of your gun’s sights.

When you are focusing on the front sight, the rear sight may become blurry.

When you are focusing on the front sight, the rear sight may become blurry.

To obtain the flash sight picture, focus on your target; then raise your firearm towards the target. As you are rising to shoot, turn your focus from the target to the front sight of the gun. Pull the trigger when the front sight meets the target. You will know that you were successful on focusing on the front sight if the rear sights and the target appeared blurry. When using the flash sight picture technique properly, you will more than likely hit the center mass of your target. The point to flash sight picture in self-defense shooting is not to hit the bullseye, but to get all shots in center mass.

One of the leading handgun experts of all time, John Dean Jeff Cooper invented the flash sight picture as part of his Modern Technique to pistol shooting. Jeff Cooper is also the one who developed the first four rules of firearm safety. Cooper’s flash sight picture is a way to get your sights immediately on target. All of his techniques apply only to defensive shooting.

The best way to learn flash sight picture is to practice. It is important to create muscle memory for self-defensive shooting. We perform drills as a way to train with our self-defense weapon so that we can develop muscle memory for when the time comes when we have to shoot, our training takes over. When faced with a threat our bodies go into fight or flight mode. This response causes the body to release adrenaline, noradrenalin, and cortisol into our blood stream. The reaction causes our heart and lungs to accelerate, loss of peripheral vision, pupil dilation, and loss of sound judgment. This is the total opposite of how we train when we are target shooting.

Hold the gun at low ready when you perceive a threat, but have not seen one yet.

Hold the gun at low ready when you perceive a threat, but have not seen one yet.

When I flash sight picture drill, I start with my hands completely off the gun and with the gun laying down. An instructor or you may yell, “Go.” At the signal, grab the gun, raise it to the target, and focus on the front sight. When the front sight has met the target, shoot two rapid shots. From no further than 10 yards, hang a traditional silhouette, IDPA-type target, or a simple paper plate to shoot at. You can practice this simple drill at the range for live-fire or at home. When you first decide to train finding the flash sight picture, do not worry about your speed. Speed will come in time. After you feel comfortable finding that front sight on the target, then you can start shooting. I do this drill by shooting two rapid shots, called hammers. Some like to call it double tap. Hammers are when you fire two shots in one sight picture. You may also do a controlled pair. A controlled pair is slower, but more accurate. With the controlled pair, you will find your target, shoot, wait for the gun to come back to the target after recoil, and then shoot again.

You will see many flash sight picture drills starting with the pistol at low-ready. Low-ready is a term to describe the position you hold your gun when a threat may be present, but you have not seen it yet. A gun is low-ready when you have both hands on the grip, just like you hold it when shooting targets, finger off the trigger and have the gun and your arms lower than the target. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

Keeping the focus on my front sight is the very first lesson I learned in self-defense handgun shooting. It is an excellent drill to practice getting those shots to where they count.

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The Last Match: What to do When your Season is Over

XD(M) 5.25 004

XD(M) 5.25 004

Hopefully you’ve been following the Shooter’s Log all season and keeping up with Down Zero TV as we’ve traveled from one end of the country to the other, shooting some of the best matches in the nation. Even more importantly, I hope you’ve been shooting your own matches, working hard to improve yourself as a shooter and having a great match season as well. But now it’s October, and in two-thirds of the country that means match season is winding down. I just finished up my last match of the year, the Indiana State IDPA Championship. One of the most important parts of my shooting season starts right now though – the off-season. The down time. Sure, I’ll get a club match in here and there during the winter, but I won’t shoot another major match until February, and the 2012 season won’t really kick off until May. But it’s important to have an off-season checklist, a breakdown of things that you need to do once the last shot is fired. Here’s my off-season checklist for Q4 of 2011.

  • Gear maintenance: It’s been a long season, and now is the perfect opportunity to tear down all my gear and make sure it’s in good shape. Some stuff won’t get used again for a while, so that will get cleaned and prepped for storage.
  • Personal maintenance: If you travel to a lot of matches, odds are you’re tired, you haven’t been eating right, and you’ve probably not been getting enough exercise. For me, with the travel season over, it’s time to look to my personal well-being as well as the well-being of my gear.
  • Create a training plan: Athletes in every other sport train in the off-season. Whether it’s physical conditioning, hitting the batting cages, or watching film, the off-season is the time to look back and assess your performance and identify areas for improvement for the next season.
  • Set goals for the next season: With the creation of a good off-season training plan, you need to set goals to accomplish for the next shooting season. Do you want to improve your classification? Win a major match? Assess your weaknesses, find out what you want to improve on, and create a training plan to reach that goal.

Through the next month, I’ll be posting my off-season training plan, which includes shooting drills and physical training drills. I’m a big believer in treating the shooting sports like any other athlete treats their sport, which means that there is more to winning than just shooting well.

Preparing for IDPA Part 3: What Not to Do

In the past two posts, we’ve talked a lot about how to prepare for IDPA matches in terms of checking your gear and how to set up a practice session.  Today is probably the most important post of the three, because it covers the crash landings of IDPA preparation.  The first big crash landing is one of mine, which is the tendency to obsess.  So, here’s the first tip:

  • Don’t over think it

IDPA is a game.  And it’s actually a very simple game.  There are a ton of variables in IDPA, and the only ones you can control are you shooting and your gear.  Once those are set, worrying about anything else won’t really benefit you, so just let it go and focus on practicing for the match.  Speaking of practice, here’s tip number 2:

  • Don’t over practice

It is entirely possible to push yourself too hard in practice and not have anything left in the tank for the actual match!  Don’t do that.  If your practice sessions reach a point where you’re frustrated and tired, stop.  Find something fun to do like watch Top Shot reruns on Netflix or make the cat chase a laser pointer around the room.  Practicing until you’re frustrated enough to throw the gun across the room won’t help.  And with practice in mind, here’s tip 3:

  • Don’t try to learn something new in a week

I fire my first shot at the IDPA World Championship on Friday of next week.  That’s just a week away, and I’m certainly not going to learn any new skills in that time.  But that’s a trap that a lot of shooters fall in of trying to learn some new super-seekrit ninja trick just before the match.  Especially if that new skill involves changing something that you’re already pretty good at.  And finally, the last crash landing:

  • Don’t take it so seriously you don’t have fun

Shooting matches is part of my job.  Whether it’s a club match or a major match, it’s something that I’m responsible for doing and obligated to multiple parties to do well.  But even with that, it’s still fun.  The day that I stop having fun at matches is the day I hang it all up and take up hang-gliding or shark baiting or some other dangerous hobby.  Yes, competing is serious and a challenge, but it’s also supposed to be fun.  If you’re not having fun when you’re shooting, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

If you liked our IDPA Prep posts, head over to Cheaper than Dirt to pick up your IDPA essentials!

Virginia State IDPA Championship – a teaser

I’ll have the full match footage uploaded to YouTube this week, but since I’m typing this from the Dulles Airport, today I’m just tossing up a single stage video. This is stage 7 from the match. The procedure was simple: start seated in the chair, move to the door, open with your strong hand, draw and engage the four visible targets from cover with two rounds each. Then retreat and engage the remaining targets on the move while retreating with two rounds each. I decided to do a tactical reload after the first array specifically because I had screwed up my reload on an earlier stage and only fired one round at a target. By tactical loading, I had more than enough bullets to finish the COF (course of fire) without having to do a 1-reload-1 drill on any targets.

Stage Score: 15.70(-3). This was one of my best stages of the day on my way to a 4th Place finish overall in CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol)! Another match, and another Top 10 finish for Team Cheaper Than Dirt!

Gunsite Scrambling

What does your range day look like? For most shooters, an average trip to the range is going to involve standing in an indoor bay and shooting at paper targets. If you’re lucky, you’ve got access to an outdoor facility that allows a little bit more than just static slow-fire. If you’re smart, you’ll compete in IDPA and USPSA to really amp up the shooting fun. But what if you want more? What if you want to go to Disneyland in the Desert for Gun Nuts? That’s where tactical training schools such as Gunsite Firearms Academy come in to play.   One of the courses of fire you get to run at Gunsite is the Scrambler, designed by Clint Smith to simulate some of the improvised shooting positions he’d encountered in the field.   Here’s a look at that course of fire.

So what’s the point to all of that? Most of us as civilians will never need to do anything like that to save our lives, so some will ask “why bother”? Aside from the obvious answer of “because it’s incredibly fun”, there is a tremendous benefit to training in unusual circumstances. This applies to people that carry a firearm in self-defense, or hunters looking to make a clean kill. As someone that carries concealed, I don’t know what my self defense situation could look like. I could be mugged on the street by myself, it could be a home invasion, or a loved one could be a hostage. By choosing to carry a firearm for self defense, I accept that I could be part of the small minority of people that actually needs that firearm, so it is my duty to be as prepared as possible for that situation.

The same goes for hunters, inasmuch as I believe hunters have an ethical duty to harvest animals as cleanly as possible. You don’t know what kind of shot you’re going to need to take when that trophy buck pops out of the woods 75 yards away. Can you make an unsupported shot? Can you get to a supported position fast enough to get the shot before the buck disappears? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, it’s time to get some training.

I firmly believe that if you use your gear for anything more serious than plinking on the range, you owe it to yourself to make sure that you and your gear can perform in adverse conditions. People don’t rise to the occasion – they default to their training. Make sure your training is sufficient to get the job done.

USPSA Classifier breakdown: CM99-42 Fast’n Furious

Unlike IDPA, which uses a fixed 90 round course of fire as the classifier, USPSA uses a rotating array of classifier stages.  Usually one classifier stage will be inserted in every club match, and a shooter needs to shoot a minimum of four classifiers in one division to achieve a USPSA classification.  From time to time, clubs will hold special “classifier matches” where the bulk of the stages will be classifiers, which allows shooters who are unclassified to quickly get classified.

Classifier stages themselves are broken down into “skill tests”, and while shooting a classifier well doesn’t mean that you can shoot a 32 round field course well, it does mean that your shooting fundamentals (such as sight picture, trigger control, etc) are generally solid.  Most classifiers will also test your ability to reload, which is imperative for pretty much every division except Open and Limited.  To help with that, we’re going to break down CM99-42 Fast’n Furious.


Fast’n Furious is a very simple classifier stage that can cause a lot of problems for shooters.  Right off the bat, the shooter is faced with a choice – start on the weak hand side of the barricade, or the strong hand side?  I personally choose to start on the weak hand side of the barricade.  While this slows down my draw slightly, it speeds up the reload as it’s much faster for me to reload as I move back to my strong side.  So for decision number 1, I recommend starting on the weak-hand side.

Decision number 2 is “Steel or paper first?”  Once you’ve picked which side to start and finish on, you have to decide whether or not you’re going to shoot the poppers or the paper targets first.  For Revolver and Single Stack shooters, the choice is clear cut: steel first.  If you’re running a revolver, you cannot afford a miss here, but in the off chance that you do it’s better to engage the steel first so that you’ve got enough rounds to get them down.  In a perfect world though, you don’t miss the steel and shoot exactly six rounds on each side.  Production/L10 shooters (and of course Limited and Open) could shoot either first – if I was running L10 I’d draw and shoot the paper first, because I can get a faster presentation on a paper target than I can on the steel popper.  So decision number 2: which targets first is steel for SS/Revo, and paper first for everyone else.

Once you make your decisions on how to shoot it, all that’s left is execution.  The critical parts of this classifier are 1) not missing the steel, 2) sticking your reload, and 3) getting good first shots on your draw and after your reload.  If you can do all that, you’ll post a great score!

Accurately Using A Double Action Trigger

The gun industry has continued to meet consumer demand by producing an immense number of small pocket sized handguns. As concealed carry has grown in legality (and popularity) the demand for these little heaters has also increased dramatically. Smith & Wesson’s Bodyguard line, Ruger’s LCP and LCR, and Kel-Tec’s popular P3AT line all have small pocket sized pistols, and all of these little numbers have triggers that are double action only.

This long heavy trigger is compact, simple and reliable, but it can be difficult for many people to operate accurately. The long pull and heavy trigger weight, relative to a single action trigger, makes negligent discharges less likely by users unfamiliar with the stress of a combat scenario and decreases the chance of an accidental discharge from a foreign object hanging on the trigger when the pistol is carried in a pocket or purse. But these same traits that make the action safe and reliable can make actually firing the handgun more difficult unless the user has practiced with the firearm extensively. The additional force required to pull the trigger can drop the nose of the pistol or otherwise cause the shooter to lose a proper sight picture.

To quickly and accurately use a double action trigger, you first need a proper grip on the handgun and the correct interaction between your finger and the trigger. Without getting into the specifics of a proper handgun grip, your trigger finger should rest on the trigger with only the pad of your fingertip touching the trigger.

Most people who have had at least a minimal amount of training in handgun use are familiar with the phrase “front sight, press.” This of course refers to the action of acquiring a proper sight picture and then smoothly pressing (not pulling) the trigger to the rear. Rather than pulling the trigger with your first joint as one might do when gesturing “come here” with a single finger, with only the pad of your finger contacting the trigger press it straight back. As you press the trigger, focus on keeping a consistent force and speed throughout the press.

Some people say that the first joint of the finger should be used instead of the pad of the finger tip on a heavy double action trigger, but this can cause problems with accuracy. Because of the long arc of a double action trigger, your finger will slide down the trigger face as it is pulled. When using the finger pad, this is not a problem, but if you are using the first joint of the finger tip to press the trigger the motion needed to keep your finger joint in constant contact with the trigger face can cause the pistol to twist. This does not mean that it is wrong to use the first joint of the finger on a double action trigger- don’t misunderstand. In general using the pad is much more accurate, faster and smoother. But heavy triggers and double action triggers with a long arc can be easier to operate using the finger joint. Using the first joint gives you additional leverage that helps operate heavy triggers without dropping the front sight. If you choose to use the first finger joint as opposed to the pad of your finger tip, take care not to “milk” the trigger. Milking or grasping the trigger occurs when using the joint of the finger causes the finger to contact the frame of the gun or allows the entire hand to curl with the trigger finger as part of the motion. For this reason, it is better to learn to use the pad of your finger and, if the trigger pull is too heavy, lighten the trigger or use a different pistol with better ergonomics or a lighter trigger pull.

Pistol manufacturer MasterPiece Arms recently redesigned the trigger of their Protector line of pocket pistols to make it easier to pull and reduce friction as the shooter’s finger slides down the trigger face. This new “Rev B” trigger provides a much smoother and more comfortable controlled trigger pull.

Just as important as the trigger press is the trigger return and reset. Again, maintaining a smooth and consistent speed and pressure on the trigger is important. Think of the trigger return as your follow through. A good trigger return allows you to setup your next shot quickly and accurately.

Coin balanced on the front sightProperly done, a double action trigger pull will not move the front sights at all. The best method I’ve found to practice using a double action trigger involves balancing a coin on the front sight while pulling the trigger. The goal is to be able to pull the trigger through the full range of motion until the hammer drops (or the pin fires) without dropping the coin. The larger the coin, the more difficult it is to balance it properly. With most front sights it’s fairly easy to balance a dime or penny on the top. Nickels and quarters are more difficult, but as you get better with your double action trigger control you can move to a larger coin.

It doesn’t take much practice to get smooth and consistent when using a double action trigger. If you are unable to work the trigger using the pad of your finger tip, you can use the first joint for better leverage, but be aware that this can have a detrimental effect on accuracy and can build bad habits.

Red dummy bullet

Dry-Fire Training at Home

I recently shot a local IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match. I did OK but noticed a couple of problems that slowed me down significantly—namely, quickly and smoothly drawing from the holster and pressing forward to the target.

… On the Trail to becoming a Riflemen

The trail begins one step at a time–each one finding surer footing through the confidence of mastering another marksmanship fundamental.  Finding the trail and following it through requires personal perseverance and the committed help of fellow riflemen.  It requires the kind of instruction and coaching offered by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA).