Smith and Wesson EZ 380 Gun Review

I recently purchased two of the new Smith and Wesson EZ380 pistols.

Historically I have discouraged students from carrying or purchasing pistols in .380, because the caliber’s generally poor performance in actual shootings, and its failure to meet FBI minimum test guidelines for defensive ammo. Greg Ellifritz has a good summary of those issues on his blog.

However:  every now and then I have a student that has fingers too short, or grip strength too weak, to comfortable shoot and manipulate any 9mm pistol.  Years ago I added a Glock 42 to my collection of loaner guns, for use by students in that specific situation.  The EZ380 has several features that made it appeal to me, so I bought two of them: one to test and one to have as inventory.

Features I liked

The EZ380 is a single action gun with a hidden hammer. That makes the slide easier to rack than a striker fired or double action pistol.  The grip is longer – built to allow most people to get all their fingers on the gun without needing a grip extender base pad on a magazine.  The barrel is longer. This gun wasn’t built to be a pocket gun. It was clearly designed to be a larger sized, belt- or purse-carry gun that would be easier to shoot than any of the smaller pocket pistols.

It has a giant grip safety, almost the size of the squeeze-cocking lever on an H&K P7, except on the backstrap instead of the front strap.  For someone with arthritis or limited dexterity, that’s a better option than the tiny thumb safeties found on the SIG 238/938 series. I’ve seen many students struggle with the safety on those pistols, some making the bad choice to carry with an empty chamber, finding it easier to rack the slide than to swipe off the safety when drawing from a pocket.  The giant grip safety enables the gun to be carried “cocked and locked” without a thumb safety at all.

I thought I was going to like the little “nub” built into the magazine, intended to help users pull the follower down when loading the magazine. It makes the magazine like most magazines for .22 semiauto pistols.  I found the nub too small and almost painful to use. However, I’m sure the aftermarket vendors will come up with a solution, as they did for Browning Buckmark magazines.

When trying to use the gun the way it would get used in our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, drawing from a holster, doing reloads from mag pouches, I found that the ‘nub’ sticking out of the side of the magazine made the mags drag and hang on every single stack mag pouch I had on hand.  That means that mag pouches for the EZ380 will likely have to be a custom design (e.g. hard to find and expensive).

The magazine release is reversible, which is a great feature, allowing right- and left-handed shooters the option to use thumb or trigger finger to press the release, depending on how the release is installed.

The slide lock is only accessible using the right thumb, not ambi like the slide lock on the full size M&P models.   Changing the slide lock to work from both sides is the #1 change an EZ380 2.0 model could offer.

A Sight Problem

One of the questions I had was, of course, how good does it shoot? I took both of the EZ380s out to my range and fired some groups, using Winchester white box and Hornady Critical Defense ammo.

With both guns, shooting from benchrest, at 15 yards, the groups were reasonable (3-4″) but off to the left.

When the shots are hitting left for a right handed shooter, my default answer is “it’s the shooter”. I tripled down on attention to trigger control and finally convinced myself that yes, it was the guns. Both of them.

Sight Adjustment

The EZ380 has yet another unique design feature: the rear sight can be drifted left or right by loosening a set screw you access from underneath the sight. Lock the gun open, flip it over, and you can adjust the sight without a vise or a hammer.

 

I have some concern that the sight may drift over time, as the gun is shot and that screw comes loose.  I’ll be keeping an eye on the gun I’m going to use as a student loaner for that issue.

However, once I made the sight adjustment, groups moved over to the right closer to where I wanted them.

I’m hoping there will be aftermarket sights on the market for the EZ380, because it comes with the standard 3-dot sights that come on every gun, yet no trainer or top tier shooter likes or recommends.

SUMMARY

If you are capable of shooting and handling a 9mm pistol, the EZ380 is not a gun I recommend for you. You’d be far better off with a striker fired, no-thumb-safety 9mm like an M&P Shield or Glock 43.   If you are someone that can’t reach the trigger without dragging the frame on any 9mm pistol, because of short fingers, or can’t do basic tasks like fully racking the slide (all the way to the back as far as it will go) or locking the gun open on any 9mm you’ve tried, take a look at the EZ380.  It has more positive features and fewer negatives for that type of customer than any other 380 on the market.  It’s a pistol that you could use in a “real pistol class” (something beyond the carry permit level).

The final thought is a disclaimer. The EZ380 is a first model year gun, and normally I’m slow to recommend first model year guns.  S&W has already done a recall on the EZ380 models that have a thumb safety. The non-thumb-safety models were NOT recalled.   Over the next 6 months the EZ380 in my loaner collection will see a lot of use, and I’ll update this post if we encounter any problems with it.

More pics from 2018 A Girl and a Gun Conference

In a previous post I gave an after-action writeup from the 2018 A Girl and a Gun Conference.  There were a lot of great pics that I didn’t get to use in that AAR, so here they are.

Range Safety Officer Course

General Conference Pics

This pic is one of those “you had to be there” things. In 2017, Dawn fell down near the Pavilion, during one of the highly attended events. Her fall was memorable (no serious injuries) and in 2018 the location of her fall was commemorated with this sign.

The event was held at Reveille Peak Ranch, a great facility in Burnet Texas.

CZ-USA was the main event sponsor.  In a discussion with one of the CZ reps, I learned something interesting.  The CZ-75 pistol, widely used in USPSA Production division as a DA/SA gun only has a DA trigger pull option because the intent was to give it “second strike” capability in the event of a bad primer strike resulting in a misfire.  The CZ design has no decocking lever, requiring the gun to be manually decocked (hold the hammer, press the trigger, slowly lower the hammer to the down position). The designers intended for it to be used as a single action pistol.

Skill Builder sessions

 

Historical Handgun session

Shooting the 1945 FBI test

John Kochan giving his talk

2018 NRA Annual Meeting (Dallas, Texas) – AAR

I made a quick trip to the NRA Annual Meeting in Dallas.  The NRAAM has basically become a copy of the SHOT show that’s accessible to the general public, combined with a lot of seminars and meetings related to various NRA programs.  The event usually draws more than 80,000 attendees over the multiple days.  Admission is free.  There are many, many blog posts and youTube videos all showing bits and pieces of the event out there if you search for them, way too many for me to link to here.

My experiences at this year’s NRAAM:

THURSDAY Pt 1

Arrived Thursday afternoon.  Very little signage explaining where to park. Parked in a commercial pay to park lot near the convention center. Was immediately approached by a panhandler asking for money.  Put my “Managing Unknown Contacts” skills to use twice, as I had to work around him to get to the pay station and then go by him again to get back to the car to put the tag in the windshield.

No clear signage explaining where registration was. Apparently I parked in the back of the facility, ended up on the back loading dock, and entered the vendor area past security, eventually winding my way to the front to the early bird registration area.  Despite being a Benefactor member, they didn’t give me a “Benefactor” ribbon, only a Life Member ribbon with my registration badge.

Saw some on-duty Dallas PD officers, told them about the panhandler in the parking area. Was disappointed that none of the 3 of them knew enough about the layout around the arena to know where the “P-Star parking lot by the loading dock” was.  But one of them did stroll off to go try to find it and look into the panhandling situation.

Had a stroll through the NRA store, where all the various NRA-branded items were on sale.  Propper, Vertx and 5.11 also had booths inside the NRA store, and I got to chat with one of the Propper execs who was working his own booth.  Double bonus, I was wearing Propper pants and a Propper shirt – all items they had discontinued – and got to talk to the exec about product needs of those carrying concealed in upscale business casual environments.  One big blind spot for all the ‘tactical’ clothing companies is that they think their market is cops – so garments have features intended to appeal to cops, on and off duty.  Reality is that there are less than 1 million cops, but more than 13 million carry permit holders. That’s a much bigger market.  Most of the “concealed carry” shirts and parts that these companies produce have pockets in weird places (Propper shirts have sideways secret chest pockets held closed by magnets) that do get noticed by women and others that pay attention to how others are dressed.

Most of the products I saw at the NRA store continued that “tradition” of being just a little too abnormal to go unnoticed in a true business casual environment.  Penny’s comment is that these companies need an actual fashion consultant, not just cops and retired military people, on staff to help them.  Little things, like making sure the plaid material on the pockets aligns with the plaid on the shirt, get overlooked.  (The whole Plaid Tablecloth shirt design approach has become cliche.)

This particular Vertx shirt includes an interesting feature: an integral “half undershirt” attached to the shirt, to make it easier to wear a single carry garment and still have a layer between bare skin and the gun. That idea is clever, but the shirt itself is too casual for professional wear.

(Aside: one company that probably *should* have been at the NRA show advertising their products is Untuckit. They make higher grade products designed to be worn untucked. I have several of their shirts, and their Austin storefront is staffed by people that are gun friendly – they are Ok with customers trying on shirts in their dressing rooms while wearing holstered pistols as long as it’s done discreetly.)

Carry Guard

Last year NRA rolled out a new program called Carry Guard that included both gun owner ‘insurance’ and a training component.  I have nothing good to say about any aspect of this program. For those that haven’t been paying attention, here’s a quick summary:

1) The insurance was poor compared to all other programs offered by non-NRA alternatives such as Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.

2) At last year’s NRAAM, companies competing with Carry Guard in the insurance/legal market were not allowed to have booths. This year ACLDN had a booth but USCCA and others did not.

3) When Carry Guard rolled out, I contacted them about becoming a Carry Guard instructor and about hosting Carry Guard classes.  A year later, I (and apparently thousands of others) who contacted them have never been replied to.

4) An early Carry Guard misstep was to tell students they could not bring revolvers or 1911 style pistols to class.  This was only rectified after significant outcry from potential Carry Guard students and major industry manufacturers who produce revolvers and 1911-pattern pistols.

5) There are over 5,000 people certified to teach the NRA’s Personal Protection Outside the Home course – a class offering training similar to what the Carry Guard program offers.  KR Training‘s Defensive Pistol Skills 1, 2 and 3 courses are derived from, and aligned with, this NRA course. At this year’s NRAAM, tens of thousands of dollars were spent promoting the Carry Guard program — with ZERO dollars spent to promote ANY program, trainer, or course connected to the NRA’s Training and Education Division. The T&E division is the official training operation of the NRA  Not Carry Guard.  Instead, magazine-sized books were available, by the hundreds, promoting Carry Guard.

As I discuss in my Beyond the One Percent presentation, basic level NRA instructors, who provide the state-mandated training for concealed carry and Hunter Education, are the primary source in the US for most gun owners to receive training.  As many as a million students a year take NRA basic level firearms classes.

The Carry Guard program, by comparison, has only offered a few, expensive, poorly advertised, 3 day courses that have limited/zero appeal to the average carry permit holder. The Carry Guard instructor team is a tiny number of former military personnel with close ties to the non-NRA for-profit ad agency.

From a pure business perspective, there is no way the Carry Guard training program generated enough revenue in the last year to pay for the level of advertising presented at the NRAAM. And without expanding the program to incorporate local and regional trainers, or even responding to submitted requests to host courses, there’s no realistic way the program will be anything more but a small scale operation competing with dozens of well established private sector programs offering cheaper, shorter courses with a known track record of student success.   They can’t sell enough t-shirts or mugs to break even.

In an era when major resources are being deployed by gun control groups, including weaponizing the media, corporations, banks and social media companies to suppress firearms related information and limit the abilities of firearms-related companies to operate, misuse of NRA funds for this failed program needs to stop. The resources should be diverted to the Training and Education program to improve or expand programs actually reaching large numbers of students, particularly new shooters that we need to grow the ranks of pro-gun voters, or given to NRA-ILA to support political action.

THURSDAY Pt 2

Thursday night I had the opportunity to dine with Michael Bane, producer of many shows for the Outdoor Channel, and other Down Range/Outdoor Channel folks.

I brought my old copy of John Shaw’s book “You Can’t Miss”, which Michael co-wrote, to Dallas, and managed to leave it in the car, failing in my quest to get it signed.

Ended the evening staying with Caleb and Lisa Causey at Lone Star Medics World HQ.

FRIDAY

I got there early Friday, anticipating bad traffic and difficulty parking, both of which occurred but not to the degree I expected.

I was able to spend the morning strolling the vendor floor with four longtime friends.  Two of them attended the Pence/Trump talk Friday afternoon.  I had to get back to College Station for a music gig and could not stick around after lunch.

My first purchase of the morning was a TUFF products iStow backpack – a clever product that’s a full size backpack that folds up into a small package about the size of a hardback book.  It was useful for wearing while browsing the floor but will also come in handy in my luggage for future trips.

Highlight of the morning was getting a copy of Bill Wilson’s “Gun Guy” book autographed by Bill.  His contributions to practical shooting and concealed carry, over the past 30+ years, has been significant. The book was co-written by Michael Bane, so now I have two books on my stack to get signed by Michael next time I see him.

Another product that caught my eye was the new RAPID car gun safe from Hornady.

This could be a useful product for those that can’t carry at work and need a secure place to put their gun inside the car.

The last thing I purchased was a discounted (show special) copy of LASR software. It uses a laptop and any laser-equipped pistol (like a SIRT pistol) to support many different kinds of dry fire practice.  I’ve been working on improving the dry fire/classroom materials we use in classes, and I’ll be setting up a dedicated laptop/webcam with the LASR software.

MEET AND GREETS

If you wanted to meet a pro competition shooter, industry legend, or social media celebrity, they were all at NRAAM.  Many vendors had meet and greet events at their booths with their sponsored stars.  I ended up with a signed “Pigman” hat by being at the Hornady booth at the right place and right time. I wasn’t familiar with his program, but getting the hat did motivate me to look him up.

SUMMARY

The 2019 NRA Annual Meeting will be in Indianapolis. If you live close to that area, or just have time and funds to go, I encourage you to attend. The annual meeting is one of the best things NRA does all year.

 

KR Training April 2018 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training April 2018 newsletter!

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.

DEFENSIVE PISTOL SKILLS PROGRAM

We have created a 40 hour certification and challenge coin that will be awarded to students that have completed 40 hours of training with us. The core curriculum is Texas LTC (from any trainer), DPS-1, DPS-2, DPS-3, Personal Tactics Skills, Beyond Basics Handgun, AT-2 Scenarios, Low Light Shooting, and at least one from a list of elective courses.  We are offering several of the rarely offered classes in this program  (Personal Tactics Skills June 9, Defensive Pistol Skills 3 August 11) over the next few months so students that are close to completing the program requirements can earn their coins.

MAY & JUNE DISCOUNT OFFERS

May 19 Defensive Pistol Skills Small Gun – two slots for $120. Bring a friend!

June 9 Defensive Pistol Skills 2 & Personal Tactics Skills – take both for $130.

June 16 Handgun Coaching & License To Carry – take both for $125.

50% off refresher slots in any course you’ve taken before.

Payment in full in advance required for discounts.

Register here

MAY-JULY CLASSES

We’ve added more classes to the schedule, including:

Basic & LTC Courses

Defensive Skills Program

Advanced Classes & Guest Instructors

A GIRL AND A GUN 2018 CONFERENCE

Team KR Training is back from the 2018 A Girl and a Gun National Conference, held at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas, April 2018. Three KR Training instructors (Karl Rehn, John Kochan and Tracy Thronburg), assisted by Tiffany Johnson from Tom Givens’ Rangemaster school, presented 12 sessions at this year’s conference.  A full AAR is posted on the KR Training blog.

RANGEMASTER TAC-CON NORTHWEST

Karl and Ed Vinyard will be representing KR Training at the NorthWest Regional Tac-Con, July 26-28, 2018, to be held at the Firearms Academy of Seattle in southern Washington state.  Haven’t made summer vacation plans yet? Join us in the Pacific Northwest for cool weather and great training.

BLOG-O-RAMA

2018 SCHEDULE

The KR Training schedule shows most of the classes we plan to offer through late October 2018 and even a few already scheduled for 2019. Registration is open for everything listed.

We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training team

A Girl and a Gun National Conference 2018 AAR

Team KR Training is back from the 2018 A Girl and a Gun National Conference, held at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas, April 2018.

350 A Girl & A Gun Members
65 Brilliant Instructors
40 Generous On-Site Vendors
16 Dedicated Staff Members
12 Hard-Working Range Donkeys
67 Event Sponsors
35 Simultaneous Training Sessions
185,000 Rounds of Ammunition
210 Rolls of Toilet Paper
1 Incredible Sisterhood

Three KR Training instructors, assisted by Tiffany Johnson from Tom Givens’ Rangemaster school, presented 12 sessions at this year’s conference:

Wednesday: NRA Range Safety Officer (Karl Rehn), “Should I Stay or Should I Go – Preparedness” (John Kochan)

Thursday: I performed an hour of pre-banquet music (solo piano and vocals) for about 400 people.

Friday: Skill Builder (Karl and John, 2 sessions), Handgun Skills and Drills (Tracy and Tiffany), 2 sessions)

Saturday: Correcting Common Shooting Errors (Karl and John), Historical Handgun (Karl and John), Everyday Carry Guns (Tracy and Tiffany, 2 sessions)

Sunday: Pushing to the Next Level (Karl and John), Precision Pistol (Tracy and Tiffany)

Teaching Skill Builder at the national A Girl and a Gun conference.

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Pics from Historical Handgun class for A Girl and a Gun conference today.

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DOING IT RIGHT

I’ve been a presenter at the conference every year since year 2 (this was the 6th year).  Everything about this year’s conference was professional grade.  A short list of things they do very well, that deserve recognition:

1) For the 3 days of the main conference, there were 35 different training events running in parallel, involving dozens of instructors teaching a very wide range of students.  The scope of that effort is equal or greater than a major match like a USPSA or IDPA National championship, particularly since many conference attendees have never attended anything beyond a local chapter event before.  The event organizers and range support staff do an incredible job with logistics and support for all the activities.

2) On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the main conference, AG&G provided continuing education and development for their local chapter facilitators, who serve both as club leaders and trainers at the local level.  The level of shooting skill expected from those facilitators is higher than what is required for NRA basic pistol or our state level “license to carry” instructor program.  In a perfect world, the NRA would offer regional annual instructor continuing education similar to what AG&G offers for their facilitators.  It’s a significant level of commitment for the facilitators to invest 6-7 days each year for both the facilitator training and the main conference.

3) AG&G sorts participants into different “tracks” based on their experience and ability.  Early attempts to have participants self-sort encountered the same problems that exists everywhere in the firearms training industry: the tendency of people to over-rate their abilities and enroll in courses that require skills beyond their actual capabilities.  In recent years they created a check in “gear check” process with a clearly defined set of performance standards that participants have to demonstrate, to earn their track.

This process solved a lot of problems trainers presenting at previous conferences had with mismatches between student equipment and skills and course curriculum.  This year was the first time that every course I taught was attended by students with the correct background and gear for the session. Previous years always had 1-2 that were not ready for the higher level courses.

John Daub and I have written extensively on minimum standards and methods each shooter can use for individual assessment (and goal setting).  AG&G has done an excellent job of creating a structure for their members that describes a clear path to developing handgun skill.

4) Equipment selection can be a challenge, particularly holster selection for ladies.  AG&G required all ladies attending to have an outside the waistband holster, regardless of level.  Additionally, they had requirements for holsters similar to what we use in our classes, so most ladies showed up with good quality kydex holsters, instead of cheap nylon, or “gimmick” holsters that are appealing for concealed carry but are problematic when used on a firing line during a group class.  This year the only gear problems we had in any session were guns that were too big for the shooter’s hand. That’s a significant reduction in gear challenges that occurred in earlier years.

5) Overall level of shooting skill and consistency in prior training.  Over the past 5 years, I’ve seen the overall level of shooting skill, even at the lowest track, move up.  Similarly, the level of safe gun handling and understand of proper range etiquette (how to use a safe table and handle guns in a training environment around others) has significantly increased.  I’ve also observed that the information being given to local chapter members by facilitators is much more consistent than it was in the early years.

All of those things are happening because the national organization has put a lot of effort into developing their local facilitators, and the local facilitators are doing an excellent job of passing good information down to local chapter members.

The end result of this is that the majority of women I trained at this year’s conference had better gun handling, better technique and were shooting better than the vast majority of shooters that only have their state carry permit who attend my Defensive Pistol Essentials or Defensive Pistol Skills 1 course.

Everyone associated with the AG&G organization deserves recognition and attention for that significant accomplishment.   AG&G’s created its own new shooter course, that facilitators were trained to teach during this year’s conference, and I expect that will be yet another step forward for the excellent work being done, particularly by the local facilitators.

 

 

 

A-Zone Range Maintenance

We built the KR Training A-Zone Range back in 2001, with grand opening on 02/02/02.  Pics and info from the grand opening event are still saved on the archive.krtraining.com site.

After 16 years of regular use on the range, we had the lead from the berms extracted, and the berm faces rebuilt.

We pulled more than 10,000 lbs of lead out of the berms.  A few years ago, a group of reloaders extracted about 1500 lbs using shovels and manual labor.  At 7000 grains per pound, that’s over 80 million grains of lead, over 650,000 rounds fired over the past 16 years.  That’s not counting the rounds fired on steel targets that fragmented, or the rounds fired into side berms and in the shoothouse bay that we didn’t extract.

After the lead extraction was complete, we added some erosion control barriers (railroad ties) to keep the berm dirt from sliding back down.

Book Review – Newhall Shooting (Mike Wood)

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that effort has been seeking out and reading old books on shooting, purchasing copies signed by the authors when possible.

Newhall Shooting – A Tactical Analysis – Mike Wood

https://www.amazon.com/Newhall-Shooting-Enforcements-Deadliest-Shootings/dp/144024099X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517501742&sr=1-1&keywords=Newhall+shooting

The Newhall shooting is a famous incident in the annals of firearms training, best known for the widely repeated, but incorrect legend that the fallen officers were found with spent brass in their pockets.

Mike Wood’s father was an officer with the California Highway Patrol, and his book was written with significant input and contributions from current and retired CHP officers.

He wrote a recent article on the incident for Police One, and Claude Werner also wrote about the incident recently on his blog, if you want brief introductions to the history of this incident.

The first section of the book is a very detailed narrative and reconstruction of the gunfight, including crime scene photographs, and drawings.  Section 2 of the book relates to my Historical Handgun program, as it discusses the state of CHP training in 1970. Section 3 is an analysis of the gunfight, and Section 4 assesses how the Newhall gunfight affected firearms training in the years after it occurred, with Appendix A of particular interest to me, as it provides a history of CHP firearms, equipment and training.

Section 1 – The Gunfight

The book includes a lot more details, but here’s the shortest possible description of the incident, for those unfamiliar with the incident: Two criminals, Jack Twining and Bobby Davis, were driving around Southern California with a carload of guns, planning to steal explosives and rob an armored car.  They threaten another motorist with a gun. The motorist calls 911, and two CHP officers (Gore and Frago) respond.  During the initial contact, Frago is shot by Twining as he stands by the passenger door of the criminal’s vehicle.  Officer Gore is killed by Davis, all within the first minute of the stop.

Two more officers, Pence and Alleyn, arrive on scene and are immediately fired at as they call for more units on the radio. An extended gunfight occurs, with Pence and Alleyn both dying, with minor wounds to Twining and Davis. During the fight, an unarmed citizen/former Marine, Gary Dean Kness, attempts to assist, using a shotgun and a revolver from fallen officers, to engage the criminals, hitting Davis before retreating.

This video includes interview footage with Gary Kness, the citizen that used dropped CHP guns to fire back at the attackers.

 

Other officers arrive.

Twining retreats into a nearby building and eventually commits suicide rather than surrender to CHP; Davis flees on foot and is captured.

Section 2 – CHP Training 1970

This section details the behind the scenes situation at the CHP academy, as competing agendas between CHP and FBI programs fought for their part of the available training time provided to cadets. A 36-hour CHP tactics course on felony car stops was 30 hours of classroom and 6 hours of field exercises. CHP photos included in the book show some of the tactics that were taught.

Firearms training in 1970 was one handed bullseye shooting at distance, and one handed hip shooting at distances 7 yards and closer.  Single action (thumb cocking) was advocated for shots past 7 yards.  As the author notes:

Courses of fire began with the gun in hand, not in the holster. Officers mostly fired at match-style bull’s-eye targets in training, and they loaded from trays or cans of ammunition that were frequently located on a waist-level table in front of the shooter. They were expected to police their brass during the course of fire and neatly collect it for disposal later. The whole affair was a rather orchestrated and orderly process—a test of marksmanship perhaps, but bearing no resemblance to the chaotic conditions encountered in a real gunfight.

They did use a “Drawmeter”, a device developed in the 1930’s to time quick draws, to measure draw speed.   During the 1960s, drills were expanded to include some shooting at night with a flashlight, some two handed shooting techniques.  Non dominant hand shooting and gun manipulation, and shooting on the move were not taught. Shotgun training included both hip and shouldered firing.

According to the book, three of the four officers killed scored well in training, and Officer Gore was top shooter in his academy class.

This video was produced by CHP after the incident for use in police training.

Section 3 – Gunfight Analysis

Author Wood uses Ayoob’s priorities of survival as a framework to analyze the gunfight, starting with Mental Awareness and Preparedness, Proper Use of Tactics, Skill with Safety Equipment, and Optimum Choice of Safety Rescue Equipment.

Under Mental Awareness and Preparedness & Proper Use of Tactics, Wood postulates that Officer Gore was using tactics appropriate for a high risk stop, where Officer Frago appeared to be treating the incident as a low risk stop.   In both cases, proximity of the officers to the suspects was a key element in their deaths.  The officers arriving later in the incident already knew it was a very high risk situation and adjusted their actions accordingly.  For Pence and Alleyn, it appears that marksmanship was a key factor, as they fired many rounds but failed to get effective hits. The most effective hit on either criminal was fired by the citizen who stopped to assist.  Wood’s analysis also addresses the myth regarding “brass in pockets”, explaining that what actually occurred is that Officer Pence was trying to reload his revolver pulling loose rounds from a dump pouch, while wounded and crouched behind cover. He dumped his spent brass on the ground and did not put the cases in his pocket.  Certainly higher capacity firearms that were easier to reload or backup guns (Optimum choice of equipment) would have provided some advantage to the officers. The criminals had multiple loaded guns in the vehicle, and simply discarded empty guns, grabbing others, to stay in the fight.

Wood’s analysis is far more detailed than I can recount in this review.

Section 4 – Where Are We Now

After the incident, CHP changed tactics for felony stops, required officers to wait for backup before doing a felony stop, treated reports of brandishing more seriously, and increased training in tactics.  Firearms training changed, to eliminate policing brass during a course of fire and add instruction in weak hand firing, reloading, night shooting, malfunction drills and movement, both for pistol and shotgun.

Duty ammunition, not target ammunition, was used for training after Newhall. CHP began carrying speedloaders, replacing dump pouches.  Methods for how shotguns were carried in cars were changed. Car radios were updated.

The Newhall incident was a turning point in the evolution of firearms training, a key step in the major transition away from the status quo established in the 1930s and 1940s, leading to more realistic and dynamic training conducted today.

Appendix A – History

The Appendix is a great summary of one agency’s evolution from the 1920s to the present day – a subset of the material I’ll be covering in my Historical Handgun course and book. It uses a similar format to mine, breaking down history in blocks of time, discussing the guns, gear and skills used in each era.

SUMMARY

Anyone teaching firearms, at any level, and anyone that carries a firearm for self-defense should read this book.  The level of detail it includes about the Newhall incident is significant, the perspective it provides on the history of firearms training is essential.   It’s an extremely well researched, well written book heavy with footnotes and references.

 

 

 

2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference AAR part 5 – The Match

\From March 16-18, 2018, several of us from the KR Training team (myself, Dave Reichek, and Tracy Becker) attended the 20th annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference, held at the Direct Action Resource Center near Little Rock, Arkansas.  This is part 5 of a series of posts about sessions I attended and taught, the match and products I evaluated as part of the conference.

Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here. Part 4 is here.

Today’s post is about the 2018 match and the evolution of the match format.

MATCH HISTORY

The Conference began as the IDPA Winter Nationals, held at Tom Givens’ Rangemaster indoor range in Memphis.  The match consisted of standard IDPA stages.  When the event evolved into the Tactical Conference, the live fire match changed to an all-low-light, all-surprise-stage, multi-stage event.  Competitors received very little/no information about the stages, and were instructed not to discuss the stages with others after shooting them.  The stages used reactive 3D targets designed by John Hearne. I purchased 4 of them to use at my own range. They use the plastic 3D Tac-Man shells, attached to a pepper-popper type steel target that must be hit in the 6″ chest plate or small head plate to fall.

Stage scoring was simple.  Total time to knock down all the shoot targets, with penalties for hitting no-shoots and a few other IDPA-ish tactics rules about use of cover.  No limit on magazine capacity. No reload restrictions.  Simply “solve the problem using your actual carry gear”.

In 2005 the conference was featured on an episode of Shooting Gallery.  A sample of what the stages were like that year are in this video.

When the Conference moved to the Memphis police academy, the match began to evolve, combining a standards stage (simpler to run for more shooters in less time), with a decreasing number of surprise scenarios.  In 2010, when the match was held at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, the match included a run in their shoot house.

The importance of the live fire match began to decrease, as the number of presenters and sessions increased.  When the conference became a traveling event, logistics of the host facilities became a factor, as did the increasing number of participants. This resulted in a transition away from scenarios to a pure standards/qualification course of fire approach using a challenging course of fire intended to be very difficult to shoot a perfect score for a Master or Grand Master level shooter.

2018 MATCH

The 2018 match was shot using turning targets, and the first event was a variation of the FBI qualification course used in many courses taught by Rangemaster certified instructors.

You can see a simulation of the match course of fire by visiting dryrange.com and selecting Tac-Con 2018 as the course of fire.

186 shooters completed the defensive pistol match this year (many attendees opt not to shoot the match). This total included 160 males and 26 women.

38 of them shot a perfect 200 on the first stage, and progressed to the shoot off, which used the Five Yard Roundup drill I described in a previous blog post.  All those in the top 16 were IDPA Master or higher level shooters. Under the stress of competition, only one shooter (Massad Ayoob) fired a perfect 100, and many shot less than 90 points.  Scoring 90 points or better on this drill, with the small 10 ring on the NRA B-8, can be challenging even for the very skilled shooter.

(photo Tamara Keel)

from Tom Givens: The man vs man shoot-off pitted two contenders against each other on a mirror image problem based on the old Middle Race shoot. Each contestant had two mannequin type reactive targets, one at about 8 yards and one at 10 yards, plus a Split Popper at 9 yards. Shooters began while holding an empty cartridge box in both hands, chest high, to simulate a cell phone. On signal, the shooter must drop the cell phone, draw, knock down the closer mannequin, knock down the farther mannequin, then knock down his side of the Split Popper, all before his opponent could finish on his side. Two out of three falls wins the bout, and advanced the winner to the next level. This continued until the only two undefeated shooters met for the championship, when their bout was for best three out of five.

After that final stage was completed, Gabe White was the match winner, with Spencer Keepers 2nd and KR Training student KA Clark 3rd. Here’s video of their shootoff runs. Here’s more video of the shootoff that shows the 3D targets. For the ladies, Melody Lauer won this shoot-off, with Lynn Givens in second place, and Sarah Ryan took third.

The match staff tracked competitor equipment this year and found the following trends:
Calibers
9mm- 89.6%
.40- 4.8%
.45- 3.6%
.38- 1.2% (2 revolvers)
.357 SIG- 1 example

Handgun Type
Glock 70.5%
M&P 23.2%
1911 4.4%
Other 1.9% (Beretta, SIG, HK, Kanik, CZ)

Holster Type
IWB 58.4%
OWB 41.6%

Optic on pistol- 9.6% (Top 3 in both Open and Ladies Championship standings had no optic)

The top 3 male competitors all carried in the appendix position.

The One Point Down Club

I don’t practice as much as I used to, because 99% of the time I’m on the range I’m teaching, preparing to teach, or cleaning up from a class.  It’s the irony and the joy of owning my own range.  But I always use the TacCon match as motivation to tune myself up and evaluate gear. This year was no different.  When I was on Mike Seeklander’s American Warrior Society podcast discussing red dot sights, I stated that I had planned to shoot the match using a slide mounted red dot.

When I started doing practice sessions using the previous year’s match course of fire, however, I found that I was consistently shooting better scores with iron sights using an OWB holster, so that’s what I used on match day.  The performance losses were occurring at 3 and 5 yards, with one hand presentations and occasional failures to find the dot quickly.  I went back to my notes from the 2017 match and focused on improving my “IDPA gamer” slide lock reload technique.  Instead of using my dominant hand thumb to work the slide lock lever to release the slide, I experimented with using both thumbs, in a technique Massad Ayoob taught in MAG-40, and with simply using my non-dominant hand thumb, pulling down.  That practice time paid off, as I not only figured out a technique that was reliable for me 100% of the time, but improved my understanding of variations on that technique I can teach others.

The other area I worked on that needed improvement was clearing an open front cover garment.  When really pushing for speed I found myself sometimes getting the cover garment tangled up and fouling the draw.  Again through lots of repetition, with attention paid to what worked and what did not, I cleaned up that movement so that multiple different cover garments that I wear on a regular basis were all clearing cleanly and consistently.

Most previous years were scored in Time Only format, with speed being a factor in the match score and time added for shots outside the center zone.  This year’s match was shot on points using par times – par times that were slow enough that 38 people shot perfect scores.

I had a perfect score going until the final string at 15 yards, where I pushed my first shot up and right, maybe 1/2″ into the -1 zone, shooting a 199/200.  There were a lot of us in the One Point Down club this year.  The level of shooting required to finish in the top 10, or top 16 (this year), continues to increase, as does the number of attendees (most of whom are trainers) shooting at a very high level.

Tom Givens, on the full match results:

We’re not going to post the full results, but let me explain why.

First, for the men, this was a three-tiered match, which can get pretty confusing. The paper match was a series of standard skill drills, fired on turning targets, which increases the stress a bit. We had 186 shooters complete the match, and we needed to narrow the field. The average score was 188.86 out of 200 points possible.  Of 160 males, 38 shot a perfect 200 out of 200 score on this paper match. Those 38 then shot a preliminary elimination round on a scored drill, again on the turning targets.  The Top 16 shooters from this elimination went on to a man vs man shoot-off.

As you can see, especially for the men, the full results would be confusing, at best. Among the 38 men who shot 200 on the paper standards, for instance, that does NOT mean a 38 way tie for first place. Some of those men did not survive the preliminary cut and some who did were eliminated on the first round in the man vs man event. So, this year the only scores that really mattered were the top 3 in the men’s shoot-off and the top 3 in the ladies’ shoot-off. Congratulations to these six intrepid contestants who clawed their way to the top of a contest full of talented and dedicated shooters.

Raising the bar for handgun skills performance is one of the main legacies of the Rangemaster Conference – one that I expect to continue as the 21st annual conference happens in 2019, at a new facility near New Orleans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KR Training March 2018 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training March 2018 newsletter!

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.

DEFENSIVE PISTOL SKILLS PROGRAM

We have created a master certificate and challenge coin that will be awarded to students that have completed 40 hours of training with us. The core curriculum is Texas LTC (from any trainer), DPS-1, DPS-2, DPS-3, Personal Tactics Skills, Beyond Basics Handgun, AT-2 Scenarios, Low Light Shooting, and at least one from a list of elective courses.  We are offering several of the rarely offered classes in this program  (DPS-3 April 14th and Personal Tactics Skills June 9) over the next few months so students that are close to completing the program requirements can earn their coins.

APRIL DISCOUNT OFFERS

April 15th: Handgun: Beyond the Basics and Defensive Long Gun Essentials. $160 ($40 savings). Must pay in full in advance. These two courses cover material not included in other courses.  Taken together they are a great foundation for defensive skills on any platform. Visit the class links for full descriptions and prerequisites.

April 21st: Basic Pistol 1 and Gun Selection Clinic with John Daub. $100 ($20 savings). Must pay in full in advance. Learn the basics of safe gun handling, accurate shooting, and what to look for when purchasing a handgun.

50% off refresher slots in any course you’ve taken before.

Register here.

INSTRUCTOR / RANGE SAFETY OFFICER CERTIFICATION CLASSES

In April I’m teaching and hosting multiple instructor and range safety officer classes. Many of them are weekday courses associated with the national A Girl and a Gun conference and Tom Givens’ instructor course.

APRIL-JUNE CLASSES

We’ve added more classes to the schedule, including:

Basic & LTC Courses

Defensive Skills Program

Advanced Classes & Guest Instructors

RANGEMASTER TAC-CON 2018

Karl, Dave Reichek and Tracy Thronburg represented KR Training at the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.  Karl has been posting a series of after action reports on the KR Training blog: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4, with more parts to be posted soon.  Registration for the 2019 conference, to be held at a new facility near New Orleans, is open.  It’s the best value for your training dollar available.  I’d like to see more KR Training students attend in 2019!  It’s open to everyone regardless of skill level – not just for instructors or top tier shooters. The event sells out quickly so I suggest registering soon to ensure you get a slot.

Karl and Ed Vinyard will be representing KR Training at the NorthWest Regional Tac-Con, July 26-28, 2018, to be held at the Firearms Academy of Seattle in southern Washington state.  Haven’t made summer vacation plans yet? Join us in the Pacific Northwest for cool weather and great training.

BLOG-O-RAMA

2018 SCHEDULE

The KR Training schedule shows most of the classes we plan to offer through early July 2018 and even a few already scheduled for 2019. Registration is open in everything listed.

We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training team

Five yard Roundup Drill

At KR Training, one of our ongoing efforts is to identify acceptable minimum standards and drills for defensive handgun skills.  In the February 2018 issue of SWAT magazine, Justin Dyal wrote about a drill he designed, called the Five Yard Roundup.

FIVE-YARD ROUNDUP: Timed Close-Up Shooting Drill

THE DRILL

The 4 strings of the drill require 10 rounds. It’s shot on an NRA B-8 target at 5 yards.  I’ve broken the drill down with shot by shot par times.

2.5 sec par time

String 1 – one shot draw from concealment

String 2 – 4 shots from ready – 1.25 sec presentation, 0.4 sec splits (1.25, 1.65, 2.05, 2.45)

String 3 – 3 shots from ready, SHO – 1.50 presentation, 0.5 sec splits (1.50, 2.00, 2.50)

String 4 – 2 shots from ready, WHO – 1.75 presentation, 0.75 sec split (1.75, 2.50)

Any late shot (after 2.8) is -5 points (max possible for that shot is 5 points, not 10)

 

HOW HARD IS THIS DRILL?

I had USPSA multi-time national champion Ben Stoeger shoot the drill to benchmark the drill’s difficulty level.

He shot 100 points (perfect score), with 6 in the X ring.

His string times were

String 1 – 1.25 sec (from concealment)

String 2 – 1.63 sec, avg .23 split time between shots, first shot from ready 0.72 sec.

String 3 – 2.07, avg .47 split time, first shot from ready, 0.86 sec.

String 4 – 1.71, .82 split time, first shot from ready, 0.89 sec.

Most of the speed difference between his time and the shot breakdown for the 2.5 sec par time comes in the time from the buzzer to the first shot.  For most shooters at the intermediate/advanced level, the performance gap is in the points (accuracy).

In discussions with Ben and other top shooters, I’ve learned that the general consensus is that the level required to win a national match is between 110-115% of the USPSA 100% standard used in classifier stages.

Using Ben’s times as the 110% standard: 1.25 + 1.63 + 2.07 + 1.71 = 6.66 seconds

Calculating “110%” hit factor = 100 / 6.66 = 15.0 hit factor, so the 100% hit factor is 15/1.1 = 13.636

Shooting 100 points using the 2.5 second par time =100/10 = 10.000

10/13.636 = 73.3%

So the overall “difficulty level” of shooting a perfect score on this drill, with a full size pistol, from concealment, is 73.3%. That means that shooting a perfect score on the drill requires skill at the upper end of IDPA Master, USPSA B class or law enforcement SWAT level.

Those seeking a bigger challenge from this drill should try running it with a 2.25 second, 2.0 second, or faster par time.

RANGEMASTER TACTICAL CONFERENCE 2018 MATCH

At the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, 38 of the 186 attendees that shot the match shot a perfect 200/200 score on the par time standards.  The Five Yard Roundup drill was used as the tiebreaker, to select the top 16 that would advance to the shootoff.

(photo h/t Tamara Keel)

All those in the top 16 were IDPA Master or higher level shooters. Under the stress of competition, only one shooter (Massad Ayoob) fired a perfect 100, and many shot less than 90 points.  Scoring 90 points or better on this drill, with the small 10 ring on the NRA B-8, can be challenging even for the very skilled shooter.

MINIMUM STANDARDS

How can developing pistol shooters at any level use this drill?

A reasonable goal, on this drill, as a minimum practical standard for a carry permit holder, would be 80 points, using a 3 second par time for each string.

80 / 12 seconds = 6.66 hit factor

6.66/13.636 = 49%. That’s roughly equivalent to the standards for most 2 day “tactical pistol” courses, about twice the difficulty of the Texas License to Carry shooting test

Setting a goal of 90 points is better:

90/12 = 7.5 hit factor

7.5/13.636  = 55%.

POINTS ONLY VERSION

Many ranges do not allowing drawing, and many shooters don’t have shooting timers.  One way to use this drill is to run with it starting each string from the ready, with no par time, and score it purely on points.  That approach will teach proper trigger control and sight alignment. Once someone can score 100 points, start increasing the speed that you run each string.

SUMMARY

This is a well designed short drill that tests a bunch of essential skills using very few rounds.  Because of its design, it does a good job of guiding the shooter to understand the relative cadence of shot to shot speed with 2 handed, dominant hand only and support hand only shooting.