2019 Practical Pistol Reunion – Los Alamitos Pistol Course

On Sept 21-22, 2019, many of the key figures in the early days of Practical Shooting reunited for a weekend of shooting and socializing. The event was hosted by Bill and Joyce Wilson at the Circle WC Ranch. Part one of this blog post series has more details about the event and who attended.

As part of the event we shot a four stage match built from courses of fire from the pre-1985 days of practical shooting. One of them was called the “Los Alamitos Pistol Course”. The match was shot from open carry, with everyone shooting 1911 pistols from holsters in common use prior to 1985.

Type: PAR time standard exercise

Targets: 3 standard IDPA silhouettes spaced 1 yard apart edge to edge

Scoring: 5 points, 4 points and 3 points. Complete misses and/or overtime shots are -5 points each

Possible score: 210 points (42 rounds)

Procedure:

Stage 1: 7 yards. Draw and fire 2 rounds on T1 (left target), repeat on T2 (center target), repeat on T3 (right target). 2.5 second time limit per string

Stage 2: 7 yards. Draw and fire 2 rounds on each target (T1-T3). 5 second time limit

Stage 3: 7 yards. Draw and fire 2 rounds on each target (T1-T3) using the strong hand ONLY. 7 second time limit

Stage 4: 10 yards. Begin with 6 rounds ONLY in the pistol. Draw and fire 2 rounds on each target (T1-T3), mandatory slide lock re-load and re-engage with 2 rounds on each target (T1-T3). 14 second time limit

Stage 5: 20 yards. Shooter starts behind a barricade, on signal draw and engage T3 – T1 with 2 rounds each from the right side of the barricade. 10 second time limit

Stage 6: 20 yards. Shooter starts behind a barricade, on signal draw and engage T1 – T3 with 2 rounds each from the left side of the barricade. 10 second time limit

Calculating Drill Difficulty

Given the high level of skill among those that attended, this course, like the other 3 events, became a contest of who could drop the least points. The par times for each stage were roughly 2x the time a current-era GM level shooter using competition equipment could complete the string.

2019 Practical Pistol Reunion – The Speed Course

On Sept 21-22, 2019, many of the key figures in the early days of Practical Shooting reunited for a weekend of shooting and socializing. The event was hosted by Bill and Joyce Wilson at the Circle WC Ranch. Part one of this blog post series has more details about the event and who attended.

As part of the event we shot a four stage match built from courses of fire from the pre-1985 days of practical shooting. One of them was called the “Speed Course”. The match was shot from open carry, with everyone shooting 1911 pistols from holsters in common use prior to 1985.

Type: PAR time standard exercise

Targets: 3 standard IDPA silhouettes spaced 1 yard apart edge to edge. T1 at 5 yards, T2 at 7 yards and T3 at 10 yards

From left to right: T1 (5 yards), T3 (10 yards), T2 (7 yards)

Scoring: 5 points, 4 points and 3 points. Complete misses and/or overtime shots are -5 points each

Possible score: 120 points (24 rounds)

Procedure:

Stage 1: Draw and fire 1 round to the head on T1 (left target), 1 round to the head on T2 (right target) and 1 round to the head on T3 (center target). Repeat for a total of 6 rounds. 4 second time limit per string. Paste any hits below the head box.

Stage 2: Draw and fire 2 rounds on T1 (left target), 2 rounds on T2 (right target) and 2 rounds on T3 (center target). 4 second time limit

Stage 3: Begin with a total of 6 rounds in the pistol. Draw and fire 2 rounds on T1 (left target), 2 rounds on T2 (right target) and 2 rounds on T3 (center target), emergency reload from slide-lock, re-engage T1, T2 and T3 with 2 rounds each for a total of 12 rounds. 10 second time limit

Calculating Drill Difficulty

Using the data from our book Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training, I calculated the skill level necessary to shoot a perfect score on the Speed Course.

Stage 1: Draw and fire 1 shot to the head, 5 yards = 1.00 sec. Fire one round each at T2 and T3. The goal was to hit the 4″ circle in the head, which was the same difficulty as hitting the 8″ circle in the body at twice the distance. So an estimate for each transition is 0.50 second. That means a 100% GM time for this stage would be 2.00 sec, and the 4.00 sec par time is roughly 50% of that.

Stage 2: Draw and fire 2 in the body on each target. Again this drill’s par of 4 seconds is roughly 50% of a modern GM standard (using open carry match gear).

Stage 3: This drill (2-2-2, slide lock reload, 2-2-2) is essentially an El Presidente drill without the turn. The old 100% standard for El Presidente in USPSA was 60 points in 6 seconds, but the 100% standard was recently increased. The 10 second par is roughly 50% of GM standard.

Given the high level of skill among those that attended, this course, like the other 3 events, became a contest of who could drop the least points.

2019 Practical Pistol Reunion

On Sept 21-22, 2019, many of the key figures in the early days of Practical Shooting reunited for a weekend of shooting and socializing. The event was hosted by Bill and Joyce Wilson at the Circle WC Ranch.

Almost everyone there had started competing in Practical Shooting matches prior to 1985, and most were at the Columbia Conference in 1976 when the International Practical Shooting Confederation began.

Attendees included:

I was invited because of my work archiving and documenting the history of handgun training, and the attendees graciously tolerated all my questions throughout the weekend as I took pictures of all the photos and documents and vintage gear they had brought. The event included a 200 round match consisting of pre 1985 “classic” stages, a tour of the Circle WC ranch and facilities (including Bill’s gun room), lunch & dinner each day, and lots of time to visit.

The event was documented by Michael Bane and his crew from Shooting Gallery (for a future episode of that show), the Wilson Combat youTube channel photo/video team (for online content for Wilson Combat social media), Massad & Gail Ayoob (for a print article), and me (for my upcoming book and this blog).

Over the next week or two I will share more about the event as I sift through notes & photos and follow up with some of the attendees to make sure I got all the details right.

Force on Force at Firearms Academy of Seattle

I just finished up 3 days of force on force training at the Firearms Academy of Seattle. FAS has had its own permanent training facility since the mid 1990’s, offering classes to students in the Portland/Seattle area. I trained with Marty in the late 1990s and he, Gila and I share many mutual friends and colleagues in the training community. Marty visited KR Training to co-teach the MAG Deadly Force instructor course back in January 2018 with Massad Ayoob. During that trip Marty and I scheduled my visit to FAS in September 2019, to teach a one day force on force instructor class to his staff, and run a 2 day block of force on force training open to all students.

There are very few trainers offering force on force course as open enrollment classes, and even fewer offering scenario-based (as opposed to “sparring”) force on force courses. This is because many instructors are skilled shooters and may even be skilled live fire stage designers for IDPA and USPSA matches, but have no background or training in all of the additional skills designing and running live action scenario based training requires. My one day FOF instructor class focuses on teaching those skills. FAS has been running force on force scenarios as part of their courses for many years, so a majority of the students attending my instructor class already had instruction from Marty and prior experience. That made it possible for me to go into more depth and detail in the instructor training I provided to them, and allowed me to have them run scenarios and act as roleplayers in the student scenarios on the first day of the weekend course.

The other key element preventing many instructors from running scenario based force on force training is lack of facilities. FAS has multiple shoot houses, including some that can be used during daytime as “dark houses” with limited light, with working doors, props, furniture and other features that add realism. FAS’ facilities are nicer than what I have at home at the A-Zone, so it was a real treat to be able to take advantage of them.

When most people think of force on force training they assume that will include use of Airsoft, Simunition, UTM or other projectile-firing training weapons. Exchange of projectiles adds an element of realism unavailable in live fire training, but wearing the full face masks required to safely run that training eliminates another element of live action training that can be very useful: the ability to read facial expressions, observe where others are looking and incorporate some pre-fight and post-fight cues that would occur in real incidents. Because of this, I include some scenario work using red guns, SIRT pistols, CoolFire trainers, Laser Lyte guns and other non-projectile-firing weapon simulators. CoolFire trainers, in particular, work extremely well for this type of training because they provide a cycling slide, some noise and recoil, and can produce a laser “flash” where the round would have impacted that can be seen by the scenario coordinator and others in the scenario. This allowed us to work around actual student vehicles and in facilities (like the FAS classroom building) in which projectile-based training could not be conducted.

Marty took a lot of pictures and will be writing up the weekend as an article for the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network e-journal, and at least one student in the class is writing an AAR for pistol-forum (link to be added after his review is posted). All the pictures posted below were taken by Marty, who assisted at various times in the course as we discussed the scenario outcomes and the likelihood the “good guy(s)” that took action would face charges, trial, lawsuit or jail.

Vehicle scenario using the CoolFire Trainers
Confronting an (armed) burglar stealing a big yellow flat screen TV
Armed intruder at the bedroom door
The clerk working the cash register in a convenience store scenario

Here’s a clip of a convenience store scenario I ran at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference back in 2005.

FOF scenario from 2005 Polite Society/Rangemaster Tactical Conference

I’ll be running two more weekends of force on force classes, one at home Oct 5-6 (we still have room in the Oct 6 course), and a one day class paired with a one day handgun course in Watkinsville, GA October 26-27 hosted by Lee Weems of First Person Safety. In 2020 we already have some force on force training planned for March, including co-instructor John Murphy.

Information about all those courses (and to contact me to do similar training in your area in 2020) can be found at the KR Training website.

KR Training August 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training August 2019 newsletter!

It’s training season. Sign up now for any classes on the schedule by clicking the “Register” link at the top of the page. Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

SEPTEMBER CLASSES

September is shaping up to be a busy month. KR Training Assistant Instructor Tracy Thronbug is leading a MAG-20 Range September 7-8. Massad Ayoob will teach MAG-20 Classroom September 14-15. Both have sold out but we are running a wait list.

I’ll be heading to the Public Safety Training Center in Clackamas, OR, to teach Correcting Common Shooting Errors September 10, then I’m off to the Firearms Academy of Seattle to teach a two-day Tactical Scenarios class September 14-15. September 17, I’m back in Clackamas to teach Advanced Training 6, then finally back to the A-Zone Range where John Daub and I will finish out a full month of training classes while we prepare for a busy October. I travel to Georgia in late October to teach live fire and force on force courses for Lee Weems’ First Person Safety academy.

OCTOBER ADVANCED TRAINING WEEKEND

Twice a year we run a special combination of classes in our Defensive Pistol Skills program: three classes back to back on Saturday, and more recently we’ve added two classes on Sunday, to make a full weekend of training October 5-6. All three of the Saturday classes are required to earn the challenge coin. Those three are Defensive Pistol Skills 2 (live fire), Advanced Training 2 Scenarios (force-on-force), and Low-Light Shooting 1 (live fire and force-on-force).

Returning to train with us this fall will be the guys from Immersive Training Solutions, who will bring their video simulator. Students in each course will get one run in the simulator, so those staying for all three Saturday classes you’ll get three simulator runs mixed in with the other activities. The complete training program for Saturday covers a wide range of skills, taught by multiple trainers in small-group sessions.

The Sunday class, AT-5 Tactics Laboratory, is similar to the ECQC course taught by Craig Douglas, with Dave Reichek leading the instruction. Dave has worked as a Shivworks role player for multiple sessions led by Craig at Rangemaster Tactical Conferences, and both Karl and Dave have taken the ECQC course multiple times. Our AT-5 course is a lower intensity introduction to the ECQC style of training. (We highly recommend Shivworks’ ECQC course and our course is NOT a substitute for the full class taught by Craig and his team.)

Finishing out the weekend is Low Light Shooting 2, providing students opportunity for more shoot house (indoor red gun and outdoor live fire) work and more challenging drills shot in low light.

Registration is open now for all classes on our schedule, including:

PRIVATE TRAINING AVAILABLE

I am available for private lessons on weekdays until Nov 1. Contact me to schedule.

2020 Rangemaster Tactical Conference – Time to get registered!

Coming up March 27-29, 2020, is the 22nd annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference. The event usually sells out months in advance. It is not too early to get serious about registering, and shame on you if you don’t attend when this event is happening in Texas! Tac-Con was the original training conference and is still the best with an outstanding lineup of instructors.

In three days of training, dozens of well-known trainers will conduct two-hour and four-hour blocks of instruction in handgun, shotgun, empty-hand skills, emergency medical and trauma care, legal issues, defensive tactics, and much more. There are classroom and live-fire sessions, and hands-on topics. Trainers include Tom Givens, Lynn Givens, Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Craig “Southnarc” Douglas, Chris Cerino, Gabe White, Cecil Burch, Tatiana Whitlock, Karl Rehn, Wayne Dobbs, Darryl Bolke, John Hearne, William Aprill, Caleb Causey, and many more. Attendees may participate in as many training blocks as time allows over three full days of training. There is also a defensive pistol match. Your conference registration fee covers attendance at any training block and entry in the pistol match. This is the 22nd year for this event, and we’re excited to come to the Dallas area for the first time. We’ll be using the excellent facilities of the Dallas Pistol Club, in Carrollton, Texas. Tac-Con fills several months in advance every year, so please don’t delay. Detailed information, equipment lists, lodging info, etc. will be sent to registered attendees by email.

BLOG-O-RAMA

Here’s a list of links to articles we’ve shared so far in August. See links as we post them by following KR Training on Facebook or Twitter.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, to receive this newsletter each month, subscribe here or follow this blog (right) for more frequent posts and information. You can also follow and interact with us on Twitter or Instagram.

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

Jeff Cooper’s First Article

Here is a scanned copy of Jeff Cooper’s first published article, from the Marine Corps Gazette, in Sept 1946. Titled “What Good Is A Pistol?”, it discusses pistol training and caliber selection.

Highlights: Cooper comments that the semiauto pistol be redesigned to have more slant and a slight curve — essentially describing the difference between the 1911’s grip and the Glock frame’s design.

More pistol design concepts from Cooper’s article: Ease of field stripping (finally achieved with the Glock and other striker fired designs in the 1980’s and beyond), a capacity of 12 or more rounds, a crisp single action trigger, and a magazine with stronger feed lips. Cooper also advocates for the shoulder holster – an idea that fell out of favor after he started the Leatherslap matches and hip holsters proved to be the fastest way to get to a quick first shot.

Cooper defines some shooting proficiency standards:

  1. From cocked and locked, holstered, draw and fire one center mass hit at 25 feet (8.3 yards) in 0.6 to 0.8 seconds. (This likely assumes a military holster, open carry, and shooting from some kind of hip or point shoulder position as was commonly taught in 1946.)
  2. Draw, fire and hit 3 targets twice each (2-2-2) in 4 seconds. Today this drill often called the “Blake drill“. In Cooper’s article the target distance is 15 yards. (This would be likely be done shooting one handed, aimed fire, if commonly used techniques of the era were employed.)
  3. Draw and hit 4 targets, spread at varying distances from 5-20 yards, in 4 seconds. (Cooper doesn’t specify but my assumption is he means one shot each target, and this would be one handed as well.)
  4. FBI Practical Pistol Course, 48 shots out of 60 to pass.

These drills could be combined in this way to make a 100 round practice session, using the B21 or B21M target (commonly used in that era).

  1. Draw and fire one shot, 8 yards, one handed, from hip or point shoulder position, 0.8 seconds. Six runs, total of 6 rounds. Score is number of hits in “bottle” part of target.
  2. Three targets, side targets spread apart so they are at “10 and 2”, 15 yards. Draw and fire two on each, one handed, 4.0 second par time. Three runs, for total of 18 rounds. Score is number of hits in bottle on each target.
  3. Four targets, one each at 5, 10, 15 and 20 yards. Draw and fire one on each, one handed, 4.0 second par time. Three runs, total of 18 rounds. Score is number of hits in bottle on each target.
  4. FBI 1945 PPC course.

This article is a great example of Cooper’s vision, as many of the ideas and recommendations in this article eventually found their way into hardware and changes in shooting qualification courses decades later.

Small changes

The discussion today is all about making big changes in response to the recent active shooter events. Most of those big changes will not occur, and particularly with regard to gun control measures, even if they do occur they are incredibly unlikely to prevent future events.

I have to wonder how many guns were in parked vehicles during the El Paso Walmart incident, left behind for all the usual reasons: it’ll never happen to me, I’m just going inside for a few minutes, it’s uncomfortable, everybody will notice and I’ll feel weird, the gun might fall out/go off, and so on.

If you know people that carry “in the car” but never go armed outside their vehicle, encourage them to take the step of putting some kind of holster, belly band, fanny pack or some other carry option in the car with their gun. Make that one change in response to recent events. Then on that day they finally decide to put the gun on when they leave the car, “I don’t have a holster with me” isn’t another excuse.

It’s not a huge effort. Open a search window, buy online. Open the box, put it in the car. Even the worst product they choose will be better than no product.

Yes, they should go get training in how to use the holster, and they should carry med gear on their person and in the car, and pepper spray, and a flashlight, and buy into the whole well prepared/well trained mindset.

But don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. The next logical step from carrying in the car to all those other things is actually having a holster or some other way to carry outside the car with them. Encourage those standing on the curb to take that first step down the road.

KR Training July 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training July 2019 newsletter!

We’ve added more classes to our schedule through the end of the year and into 2020. Sign up now for any classes on the schedule by clicking the “Register” link at the top of the page. Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

AUGUST CLASSES

With the heat of the summer upon us, we’re taking it easy for the month of August and gearing up for non-stop training during cooler weather in the fall. It’s the perfect time to train and expand your skill-set, so start planning your classes and registering now. September will be here before you know it!

Complete classes toward your Defensive Pistol Skills Program Challenge Coin. Check the schedule for class availability.

Continue your Defensive Pistol Skills Program education in August and September with classes that apply toward your challenge coin. Remember: now is the time to check out the September and October class schedule and register for any classes you still need to complete your 40 hours of required coursework.

While you’re building skills in your defensive toolkit, start thinking about attending the MAG-20 Range September 7-8 with Tracy Thronburg, followed by the MAG-20 Classroom with Massad Ayoob himself September 14-15. Together, these classes make up the MAG-40, the Massad Ayoob Group’s fundamental shooting skills and legal self-defense course for armed civilians. If you haven’t trained with Mas, register now for these classes. Click on the class links to make sure you have the gear, ammo, and mindset to prepare and be ready to learn.

Seven more students earned their Defensive Pistol Skills Challenge Coin in July.

SUMMER USPSA MATCHES

Our summer USPSA-format matches continue with two more matches July 31 and August 7. Anyone that has completed DPS-1 or other classes using a holster can attend and new shooters are welcome. Details and dates here.

PRIVATE TRAINING AVAILABLE

I am available for private lessons on weekdays. Contact me to schedule.

BLOG-O-RAMA

Here’s a list of links to articles we’ve shared so far in July. See links as we post them by following KR Training on Facebook or Twitter.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, to receive this newsletter each month, subscribe here or follow this blog (right) for more frequent posts and information. You can also follow and interact with us on Twitter or Instagram.

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

Book Review – Breakthrough Marksmanship (Ben Stoeger, 2019)

Multi-time USPSA and IPSC champion shooter Ben Stoeger recently published another book, Breakthrough Marksmanship. This book is all about troubleshooting. As Ben puts it:

There is a disconnect between what happens and why it happens for many shooters. Connecting the dots between what happens and why it happens is complex, and that’s the reason most people … don’t understand what corrections to make.

Breakthrough Marksmanship, Ben Stoeger, 2019

Ben’s been teaching for about a decade now, and I was one of the first people to host him early in his teaching career. One of my first observations about him was that he got more value out of each round fired in practice than most shooters. That value came from spending more time in dry fire preparing for live fire practice, more skill at structuring his live fire time, and better mental focus during the drills themselves. Many of his earlier books explained how to do effective dry fire practice, and the best drills to develop skill. This book is the fix-it manual – like a well written set of notes from one of his classes.

It has 4 major sections: Intro, Marksmanship, Practical Marksmanship, and Drills. The Intro section puts the rest of the book in context, giving some examples of target arrays that have been shot, showing how the shooter can gather information about what errors occurred during the run from reading the holes. That skill is something that comes from firing hundreds of thousands of rounds and observing thousands of shooters — and it’s a topic that really hasn’t been addressed or explained in any other shooting book I’ve read. His analysis goes beyond the over simplified “bullseye chart”. Practical shooting involves engaging multiple targets, drawing, reloading, movement – many skills that induce errors that aren’t addressed by the bullseye chart.

The second section, Marksmanship, has sections on each of the key fundamentals of basic marksmanship: grip, index, acceptable sight pictures, acceptable aiming areas on targets (relative to target distance from the shooter), shot calling, trigger control, recoil management, and one handed shooting.

He uses the international IPSC target for all the examples, but the concepts translate easily to the USPSA and IDPA targets and their larger scoring zones. His concepts about what are acceptable aiming areas and acceptable sight pictures connect nicely with the ideas John Daub and I presented in our own book.

The third section, Practical Marksmanship, adds in all the dynamic elements of practical shooting matches (and defensive shooting) such as gun handling, drawing, reloading, target transitions, movement, shooting on the move, and stage planning/mental preparation.

The final section, Drills, includes 9 drills familiar to readers of his earlier books. The difference here is that for each drill, he provides examples of what usually goes wrong and how to fix it. This is valuable information for those trying to improve without a training partner or a coach.

(Aside: Ben is now offering online coaching through the Practical Shooting Training Group, which is an excellent resource for USPSA and IPSC competition shooters wanting more instruction than a normal weekend course can provide.)

Who should read this book? The first group I would recommend it to are instructors, particularly those teaching carry permit and mid-level students (including those teaching law enforcement officers). They should take the book and go to the range and run the drills in the last section, and learn how to improve their own shooting using the fix-it information the book contains. Then they can start applying that information in classes with students to become better coaches.

The other group that should read this book is it’s stated target audience: people that practice a lot and are working to get better, but may have roadblocks that need to be broken through. Back when I started training with Ben, this was me. His approach to training got me past the USPSA Master level up to the Grand Master level, after being stuck at M for many years. This is one of Ben’s shorter books, but it condenses the key knowledge from his program and presents it very well. Highly recommended.

Book Review – The Secrets of Double Action Shooting (Bob Nichols, 1950)

Book cover – Secrets of Double Action Shooting

Bob Nichols published this book, “The Secrets of Double Action Shooting” back in 1950, in an era where most handgun shooting was one handed bullseye, or point shooting (unsighted) from the hip. Nichols was ahead of his time, advocating for handgunners training for personal defense to transition from thumb cocking to double action technique. The book discusses nuances of grip and trigger control in more depth than most books on shooting from the 1950’s do. It was reprinted by Sportsman’s Vintage Press, who brought it back into print in both physical and e-book format.

Nichols was convinced that the Smith and Wesson revolver design was far superior to the Colt. It’s worth noting that both the best revolver shooters of the 20th century, Ed McGivern and Jerry Miculek, accomplished all their world record feats using S&W wheelguns.

Nichols was a big fan of Lt. John D. Leppert, of the municipal police force of Saginaw, Michigan, who would shoot traditional bullseye matches, firing all his shots double action, rather than thumb cocking for each shot as was common in that era.

The ten-second interval for five shots in the conventional rapid fire stage of bull’s-eye match shooting was a laughing cinch for Lt. Leppert. He could shoot five shots in five seconds, or even faster. Leppert’s rapid fire scores were nearly always winning scores, too; and the same was true of the other double action shooters (William Peterson, Joe Rivers) mentioned here.

Nichols, Bob. The Secrets of Double Action Shooting . Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

As Nichols describes it, McGivern manipulated his trigger using a smooth, continuous roll all the way through the double action. Leppert staged his trigger pull, pausing part way through the stroke with hammer at full cock, confirming his sights before finishing his trigger press. McGivern shot with the gun in a traditional grip, with the barrel aligned with the bones of the arm, recoiling into the soft space between thumb and forefinger. Leppert twisted his gun to the right, as shown in the photo.

Nichols believed that combining Leppert’s grip and McGivern’s trigger control techniques was the key to shooting the double action revolver well.

  1. In the long, smooth double action trigger pull to let-off of the shot, no “breaking glass rod” climax of single-cocked sear disengagement takes place. We are therefore not tricked into easy transgression of the first commandment of all good pistol shooting, which is: Know not the instant of thy trigger let-off. The long, smooth double action trigger pull simply “dissolves” into let-off of the shot. Result: accuracy of fire
  2. The one-digit fire control and four-digit alignment control, as in double action shooting, gives us much more positive alignment control over the pistol—especially with the added control of the trigger finger on the long double action trigger pull following the recoil disturbance of the fired shot. Result: speed of fire.
  3. Double action triggering is a technique of natural motion—which naturally blends and synchronizes with natural and unavoidable body motion, both internal and external—and which also blends and synchronizes with target motion, if any. Result: hitting, whatever the target, whether motionless or in motion—and easier hitting.

Nichols, Bob. The Secrets of Double Action Shooting . Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

McGivern finger

Nichols’ notes that McGivern’s trigger finger was abnormally short, causing him to manipulate the trigger using his finger tip, from an unusual angle compared to most revolver shooters. This likely required a significant amount of grip strength.

Another historical fact in Nichols’ book may be the origin of a training technique still in use today. He credits with Col. Sandy McNab, during World War One, with developing the technique of having the shooter aim, and the instructor press the trigger for the student, or press the trigger while the student’s finger is resting on the trigger, so they can feel what a proper trigger press feels like. I use this technique a lot, because one repetition of this drill can convey the concept of what a good trigger press feels like more than thousands of spoken or written words can.

Nichols explains that there are two dominant modes of “one-digit fire control and four-digit alignment control”: either pinning the trigger of a Colt single action to the rear and running it purely by manipulation of the hammer, or shooting a double action revolver purely in double action mode. He felt that the awkwardness of thumb cocking, whether it was a single or double action revolver, added unnecessary complexity. Similarly, he felt that having to click off the manual safety (or rack the slide as part of the draw) made the 1911 semiautomatic’s design suboptimal as well.

Many of the arguments Nichols’ makes for the double action revolver can also be made for the modern striker fired semiautomatic pistol. Here’s his description of trigger manipulation:

With the long, smooth double action trigger pull, this sudden climax of the “breaking glass rod” single-cocked sear disengagement simply disappears. Actually it no longer exists—there is no such sudden climax, no sudden change from the static condition to a condition of abrupt motion. The long, smooth double action trigger pull simply “dissolves” into a let-off of the shot. Automatically we are thus led to obey the first commandment of all good pistol shooting, Know not the instant of thy trigger let-off.

Nichols, Bob. The Secrets of Double Action Shooting . Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

In his discussion of the “new” Commander sized 1911, he writes that

I wish Colt’s might have foreseen what a long, smooth, imitation double action take-up trigger pull might accomplish for its already cunning hitting quality. Such an imitation double action trigger take-up continued into quietly “dissolving” let-off of the shot would, I surely feel, make this new light-weight big-bore centerfire automatic the most astounding gun ever produced in its class. Such an imitation double action trigger take-up continued to quietly “dissolving” let-off of the shot should avoid completely the treacherous climax of the “breaking glass rod” trigger let-off which is inherent in all single cocking. Also, the extra realignment control of the gun from the trigger finger, following the recoil of the fired shot, should give the big-bore gun increased speed of aimed fire with better accuracy. Even with an imitation double action trigger take-up, of smooth quality, the .45 automatic could be gripped for best control, whatever the shooter’s preference in hold so long as it seemed to him secure and steady.

Nichols, Bob. The Secrets of Double Action Shooting . Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

In a later section of the book, Nichols shares his opinions on statements made by earlier authors, such as Winans, Frazer, Hatcher and Himmelwright – several of which I’ve read and reviewed in previous posts. He cites Askins’ 1939 book as the only one in which double action shooting is discussed in any detail. Nichols also discusses Ed McGivern (his book, and his shooting skills) in detail, giving some insight into how influential (or not) McGivern was in his day.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit about Colt legend Henry Fitzgerald:

Next, we come to the trigger guard. Shall the front be cut away, or not? This all depends. On a snubnose pocket gun for a civilian, yes. This cut-away front of the trigger guard was originated by Fitz of Colt’s. Fitz was a civilian. Fitz’s favorite carry was the side trousers pocket carry. When Fitz rattlesnaked his guns on his lightning double draw, his guns were lifted out of his pockets by the trigger finger, already on the trigger, already to go. Fitz carried his two big snubnose .45 FitzGerald Specials strictly as shooting man killers, not as striking weapons.

Nichols, Bob. The Secrets of Double Action Shooting . Sportsman’s Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.

Throughout the book Nichols points out that American pistol shooting has become too focused on sport, with the defensive aspects being ignored. His observations were ahead of their time, as it wasn’t until the Southwest Pistol League began developing what became known as “practical shooting” to change the focus of both sport and defensive shooting.

This book should be a “must read” for any fan of the double action revolver, and the content makes it one of the most significant books on handgunning published in the 1950’s.