Historical Handgun – even more on the 1945 FBI course of fire

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 searching for old handgun qualification courses of fire, and shooting them using the techniques and equipment used in that era.  In a previous article, I discussed the 1945 FBI qualification course of fire. A follow up article added more detail.   Several books I’ve read since writing those articles provided more details and insight the specifics of the FBI course, sometimes called the Practical Pistol Course.

In Jeff Cooper’s 1958 book Fighting Handguns, he includes two pictures showing a range set up to run the FBI 1945 course in its original format.   That format required shooters to start prone at 60 yards and move downrange quickly to firing positions at 50 and 25 yards, firing additional rounds, all run as one long string with a 5 minute, 45 second time limit.

Unless all shooters completed each string at the same pace, moving as a group, following that protocol would put the fast shooters as much as 35 yard downrange from the slowest shooters. The FBI solution to this issue, back in the late 40’s, was to build the range with lanes that fanned out, creating more space between shooters as they moved downrange, as shown in these pictures.

This doesn’t really solve the problem of shooters being downrange of each other. It reduces the risk of being shot somewhat, but still violates basic range safety protocol.

In another book I reviewed recently, the 1974 book Introduction to Modern Police Firearms, the authors address this problem and their solution to it.   When I ran the course during a Historical Handgun class, we split the FBI qual into separate strings with shorter par times for each position.  Roberts and Bristow did the same in 1974. Here are their string par times:

  1. 7 yards, hip shooting, 10 rounds, 25 seconds
  2. 25 yards, three positions, 15 rounds, 90 seconds
  3. 50 yards, four positions, 20 rounds, 2 minutes, 45 seconds (165 seconds)
  4. 60 yards, prone, 5 rounds, 35 seconds

When I split the course into individual strings, I divided up the 5:45, leaving the total time intact.

Roberts and Bristow reduced the total time from 5:45 down to 4:50, using an estimate of how long it took shooters to run from 60 to 50, and 50-25 yards.  By removing the requirement to run to each new firing position, that reduces the physical stress and made the course easier – likely something the firearms instructors that designed the course would have objected to, but their reduced par times for each string does a better job of simulating how much actual time shooters had for each string than my version does.

Another interesting artifact:  many modern shooting timers designed for high speed, short duration courses of fire typical in USPSA, IDPA, Steel Challenge, even NRA Action pistol were designed with a maximum par time of 99.99 seconds, making them ill suited to older courses of fire with par times longer than 100 seconds for a single string.  To run many of the older drills, I had to get my old PACT MK IV timer out of the closet, because it could handle those longer par times.  It’s yet another example of how concepts of shooting training and competition have changed over time.

For future sessions of Historical Handgun, I’ll use the Roberts and Bristow timings in place of my own variation of the FBI 1945 course.

 

 

Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Fighting Handguns (1958, Jeff Cooper)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

Today’s book is Fighting Handguns, written by Jeff Cooper in 1958.

This book was loaned to me by KR Training assistant instructor Ed Vinyard, who has been assisting me with research.  It’s a reprint from Paladin Press, who re-published 4 of Cooper’s early books. As they note in the preface, the print quality of the text and photographs are not up to modern standards, but the information is well worth preserving.

Another victim of the internet age and the Amazon-ization of the book business, Paladin Press is closing up.  They are selling off remaining inventory at deep discounts until the end of November 2017.  It’s a great opportunity to get some print copies of many classic books on shooting and gunfighting. Their contribution to preservation and distribution of knowledge on these topics is significant.

CHAPTERS

  • The Beginning
  • Before the Revolver
  • Sam Colt and the First Revolver
  • Metallic Cartridges and the Peacemaker
  • The Western Tradition
  • Double Action
  • The Autoloading Pistol
  • Pocket Pistols
  • Combat Pistol Techniques
  • The Power of Pistols
  • Odds and Ends

Fighting Handguns is great summary of the early history of handgun development pre-1950, with at least half of the book devoted to 19th century guns and the 20th century concept of cowboy fast draw.  During the 1950’s the popularity of Westerns was at its peak in television, movies, books and comics.  The chapter The Western Tradition discusses “the code of the West”:

A man pays his gambling debts first.  A man’s word is kept, even if it kills him. A man may not accept an insult.  A stranger must be fed.  A man does not shoot another in the back or from ambush.  Horse thieves hang.  A man may not be held accountable for the outcome of a fair fight.

Those are all concepts deeply embedded in the way Western stories were told in the 1950’s, but probably not as widely believed by, or as important to, those living in the Old West as scriptwriters and novelists (and gunwriters) of the 40’s and 50’s asserted.

Cooper dives deeper into the science of the “showdown”, discussing draw speed for hip & point shooting:

Experiments in modern times indicate that a totally untrained man takes between 1.5 to 3 seconds to get off a controlled shot from the leather.  An ordinary good shot takes about a second. An expert can make it in half that.  So while the sharpie might provoke a duffer into a “fair fight” the result was murder.  The difference between the world’s best gunslinger and any other ace is so slight that the loser’s bullet is on its way before the winner’s shot can affect its aim. To allow a foe to initiate action and then to hit him before he can get off a controlled round requires approximately twice his speed.  A 15% edge won’t save your life.

Cooper includes some pictures showing bad (first) and good (second) point shooting technique:

Thell Reed, famous quick draw artist and Hollywood firearms coach, writes in the forward that he met Cooper in 1957 during one of the Leatherslap matches, where they were shooting live ammo out of single action revolvers drawn at lightning speed – a practice that was replaced by the use of wax bullets and blanks to reduce the risk of injury.  American Handgunner has a good article about the history of fast draw competition.  This article from the modern Cowboy Fast Draw Association is another version of that history.

The early days of fast draw competition provided insight into human performance with handguns, and motivated the development of shooting timers – two essential steps that led to the innovations of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Cooper shares a 1958 definition of what a “highly trained pistol man” should be able to do: hit a silhouette (probably a Colt Silhouette or B-21) 10 times out of 10 at 25 yards, from the leather (open carry), given two full seconds from the signal to the shot.

MODERN GUNS

The chapters on double action revolvers and autoloading pistols are heavy on technical details about makes and models of specific guns.  Unsurprisingly, Cooper favors the 1911 in .45 ACP and spends much of the remainder of the book making his case for the “stopping power” of the .45 (Colt and ACP).

The chapter on Combat Pistol Techniques begins with another baseline drill from Cooper:

Until a man can put nine out of 10 shots into a 6″ ring at 25 yards, using a major caliber weapon, slow fire, offhand, he is not ready to take up combat technique.

The modern equivalent of this is “The Test” from Ken Hackathorn, which uses a 5 1/2″ bullseye and has a passing score of 90 points, for a 10 shot drill fired at 10 yards, with variations at 20 yards.

If Cooper’s original requirement were imposed on students taking most modern 2 day defensive pistol classes, it’s likely that 90% would be unable to meet it.  Slow fire, one handed bullseye shooting is a skill very few still practice, and even many USPSA and IDPA competitors lack the skill to meet that requirement shooting two handed.

Later in the book, Cooper notes:

Pointer shooting is not as hard to learn as sighting.  I can teach the average infantryman to stay on a silhouette at 10 yards, using pointer fire in two-shot bursts, more easily than I can get him into the bullseye at 25 yards using sights.  Work at this starting at 20 feet until you can slam that first shot within 10″ of your aiming point every time.  When this happens go to two shot bursts and work until the first shot is always within 8″ of the peg and the second shot is always closer than that. 

Cooper’s concept of two shot bursts from the pointer position evolved to the fast double tap using sighted fire less than a decade later.

The remainder of the book covers holsters, use of cover, the draw stroke (circa 1958, based on the 1940s FBI techniques) and a faithful recitation of Hatcher’s stopping power formula as explanation as to why calibers starting with 4 are best.

Gun Politics

Cooper’s observations about the politics of gun control are as valid today as they were 60 years ago when they were written.  He explains:

The (anti-gun) arguments seem to run like this: (1) Guns are dangerous and you might shoot yourself with one (2) Guns invite the feeble-minded to use them in fits of temper (3) The prevalence of guns constitutes a hazard for the police (4) Guns are used by criminals and should be prohibited and (5) You should not resist a criminal because somebody might get hurt.

Firearms in the hands of the people do make police work dangerous. Any policeman would feel better if he knew there were no guns in town except his.  This is the overwhelming reason why police officials should never be treated as experts in the field of arms legislation.  But as much as we sympathize with the policeman’s lot, we cannot pass laws for his benefit, if they encroach upon the liberty that we established this country to ensure.

Summary

This book is often overlooked among Cooper’s work, probably because some of what he advocates in this book he later rejected in favor of better and more effective techniques.  As a historical document, it’s an excellent time capsule of conventional wisdom of the late 1950’s.

The search for new shooting glasses

Vision plays a significant role in shooting well.  Brian Enos’ classic line “you can only shoot as fast as you can see” is absolutely true.   My vision is not perfect. I’ve had to use prescription glasses for most of my 30 years as a competitive shooter.   For the past 12 years, I’ve used a set of Oakley Half Jacket glasses, with the correction built into the lens itself.  I strongly prefer having the correction in the lens, as opposed to using a prescription insert. My experiences with Rudy Project and Bolle glasses with inserts were that you had twice as many lens surfaces to attract dust that had to be cleaned off, and twice as many surfaces that could fog or be fouled by sweat or rain.  Worse, the correction was not available in the full coverage of the lens, but only in the small section corrected by the insert.

So about 12 years ago I wrote a big check to Oakley and got RX lenses in their VR28 color. When I got the glasses, I was amazed at the quality of the optics, which were better than my daily wear glasses.  The Oakley lenses appeared to correct all the way to the lens edge, giving me improved peripheral vision.  I liked the VR28 because it increased contrast with minimal color distortion.  I discovered that I could wear them from dawn to dusk anytime I was outdoors: driving, shooting, even on stage at outdoor gigs.

After more than a decade of heavy use, and some changes in my vision, it’s time to get not only new lenses, but a new frame.  Why not just get another Oakley frame and VR28 lenses?

This article from Lucky Gunner testing different shooting glasses for safety, did not show that the Oakley product performed well.  And several other companies, particularly Wiley X and Rudy Project, have competitive & similar products.  Rudy Project, in particular, is a big supporter of the practical shooting sports, sponsoring a shooting team and offering discounts to competition shooters.

I reached out to Kevin Gentry from the Rudy Project team and he connected me with Rudy’s RX specialist, who answered a lot of my questions, and arranged for me to get a T&E package to use on the range.  It included multiple lenses.  (The T&E package was not free. I gave them a credit card number and I basically bought some Rydon glasses & extra lenses, which gave me 30 days to evaluate before returning and placing my RX order.  They sent the lens samples at no charge — all of which was terrific customer support, as they even included a shipping label to return everything when I was done with my test and evaluation.  The support I got from Rudy was outstanding.)

 

LENS COLORS AND OPTIONS

I wanted something that would allow dusk to dawn use, driving and on the range. Rudy Project suggested their “racing red” color, and a photochromic lens that could change from clear to “laser red” as lighting conditions changed.  They also sent a clear to brown, and a clear to red w/ blue mirror lens.  All of those lenses were their ImpactX2 line, which met the highest level of ANSI standard for protective eyewear.

One of the other members of the KR Training shooting team (Roy Stedman) had been using his Rydon glasses with the clear-to-red photochromic tint for the past several months, including wearing them at the 2017 IPSC World Shoot, so I was most interested in that option, which he recommended.

They also sent a brown polarized lens and a non polarized “action brown” color. I still had my original (15 year old) “racing red” Rudy glasses and my Oakley VR28’s (bottom right in the picture below) on hand as well.

EVALUATION

I wore the Rydon frames for about a week, changing lenses around several times, as I used them every time I went outside.  For a long time I only needed glasses to see objects far away clearly, and I’ve been able to see my front sight without any correction.  As I have gotten older, my far vision has gotten better with near vision starting to suffer.  Last year I actually passed the eye test for my renewed driver’s license without any vision correction, which was convenient as it allowed me to use the various Rudy lenses while driving during the daytime.

Despite marketing claims that their polarized lenses made it possible to read car LCD displays and phone displays clearly, I found the polarized lens gave too much distortion in those uses to be the right answer for me.   Their polarized lens had less distortion than the polarized sunglasses I still had from 20 years ago, so it does appear that some improvements have been made.

I finally got out to the A-Zone to do a serious evaluation of all the lenses.  I went out on the main range, where I could look at my sights (irons and red dot) on white steel plates, tan targets, and a variety of colored objects (barricades and 55 gal drums), with both dirt and grass backgrounds.

TINT PICTURES

I put the lenses in front of my phone camera, to provide some insight into how each lens affected contrast and color.  The photos aren’t a perfect depiction of what I saw.

Photochromic clear-to-red

Clear to laser brown

Clear to laser red w/ blue mirror

Oakley VR28

Photo Red

Racing Red

I spent a lot of time looking at my sights with the different lenses, and looking at the bullet holes I could see on the target at 5 yards with each lens, getting an idea of which one gave best visual contrast on the tan target.

The tinting on the photochromic clear-to-red and clear-to-brown lenses worked well, going from clear to maximum tint fairly quickly, functional indoors and out, dawn to dusk.

Choosing

I ended up narrowing it down to the photochromic clear-to-red, maybe with the blue mirror option, with final decision to be made after I have my annual eye exam and talk to my eye doctor about it.  After that I’ll be placing my order for some RX lenses and a Rydon frame.

This is the current version of the Rydon non-RX kit.

 

D.C. Al Coda party for Paul Hollis

On October 23, 2017, over 130 friends and family of Austin musician/engineer Paul Hollis celebrated his retirement from his technology day job.

I don’t know how Paul’s wife Jeanne (and 130 of his friends) managed to keep the party secret from Paul, but apparently we did, as he had no idea what was in store when he stepped through the door at the Highball.

 

The moment Paul Hollis walked into his surprise party last night.

Posted by Karl Rehn on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

He’s not retiring from music, though, as he performs with at least 4 active bands in the Austin area on a regular basis.  He worked for Motorola, Analog Devices, MediaTek, and Broadcom in the semiconductor field for many decades.  Because of his dual careers, the attendees represented what I remember as the old, cooler, hipper Austin of the 80’s and 90’s:  technology innovators and people passionate about music.   Many musicians attended – not only Austin players but some from Paul’s younger days in Florida.

Seven bands were represented, many with shared members, with many guests, as many of us who were never full time members of one (or more) of Paul’s bands have filled in with one band (or three, in my case) at one time or another.

As one musician attendee remarked “it’s like every gig I’ve played in the last 10 years all in one night.”

The party was held at the Highball lounge run by the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s located in a shopping center where the Austin musician’s landmark Ray Henning’s Heart of Texas music store used to be.

Paul’s band Java Jazz was the Sunday brunch band at Nutty Brown in Oak Hill for 11 years. During that time I sat in with them many times, returning even after I moved to College Station.

Here’s some vintage Java Jazz video from 2005 at Nutty Brown:

After I finished my guest spot with Java Jazz, I grabbed a good seat near the stage, and live streamed some of the bands using Facebook Live.

Java Jazz playing live at the party

 

 

Java jazz live.

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

S7ven laying down the fusion funk

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

Gumbo Ya Ya bringing the New Orleans groove

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

More gumbo yaya band

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

Electron Donors playing some tasty medleys of rock classics

 

Electron donors playing little feat

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

 

Posted by Karl Rehn on Monday, October 23, 2017

Lots of great music. If you are in the Austin area, come out and see all these excellent bands.

KR Training October 2017 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training October 2017 newsletter!  Upcoming classes include Basic Pistol 2 & Defensive Pistol Skills 1 (Oct 21) and License to Carry (Sunday, Oct 29th)

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

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.

CLASS DISCOUNTS AND DEALS

50% price refresher slots available in all courses.  If you haven’t practiced the skills you learned in class in awhile, refresher slots are a great option.

UPCOMING CLASSES

October 21 morning – Basic Pistol 2 (Rehn)
October 21 afternoon – Defensive Pistol Skills 1 (Rehn)
October 29 afternoon – License to Carry. Two sessions; Rehn at A-Zone, Maldonado in NW Austin.
November 6 (Monday) – Low Light Shooting at CCC Shooting Complex (south of College Station)
November 18th – Advanced Training 7: More Force on Force Scenarios

Register here.

NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER

Every November we take a break from live fire classes at the A-Zone, due to requests from our range neighbors and the start of deer season.  I’ll be teaching a Monday evening (November 6th) Low Light Shooting class for the Snook chapter of A Girl and a Gun.  The event is open to everyone (men and women). Pre-registration is required, via the KR Training website.  And due to student requests I’ve added a session of the Advanced Training 7 “More Scenarios” force on force course on November 18th.  I’ll be working on my Historical Handgun book during the fall and winter also.

KR TRAINING ON THE ROAD AND ONLINE

Karl and Dave Reichek will attend the Rangemaster Instructor Conference in Oklahoma Nov 11-12. Karl will travel to El Paso to take a one day handgun class from legendary trainer John Farnam in December, and Tracy Becker will attend the MAG-120 with Massad Ayoob in Florida in December.  I’ll also be a guest host on the Handgun World Podcast, filling in for Bob Mayne. You can also hear Tracy on the Polite Society Podcast every episode.

2018 CLASSES

We have guest instructors scheduled every month from January through June in 2018, and I’ll be making several trips out of state to teach Historical Handgun, other classes, and be an invited trainer at multiple national conferences.  Next month I’ll be announcing class dates for our in-house classes for the first half of 2018.  If you have any requests for specific courses, let me know.

BLOG-O-RAMA

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

Muzzle Direction during a reload

Kathy Jackson recently posted an article about muzzle direction during reloads. It generated a lot of discussion and controversy, which motivated me to go run some tests to analyze the issue a little deeper.

Relative importance of Reload Speed

Reloading is one of those skills that’s been a part of handgun training and handgun qualification drills since at least 1945, when the FBI required officers to do multiple reloads in their test.

The classic “El Presidente” drill includes a reload.

Those drills were created back in the days of 6 shot revolvers and 8 round single stack 1911 pistols.  And even in that era, I’m not sure that reloads were that common during gunfights. Tom Givens’ data on his 66 student-involved shootings show that none of them reloaded during the fight. Some shot to slide lock.  Analysis of police gunfights also shows in-fight reloads, where reload speed could be a factor between success or failure, rarely, if ever, occur. Similarly, John Correia of the Active Self Protection youTube channel has watched over 5000 gunfight videos, and observes:

I have seen precisely 2 reloads in a real gunfight that weren’t on-duty LEO. And neither of those affected the outcome of the fight. I have seen about 7 or 8 where a higher capacity firearm or the presence of a reload might have affected the outcome.

The main driver for obsession with reload speed comes from modern pistol competition, where reloads “on the clock” are an integral part of almost every course of fire, and tenths of seconds matter.

Where Does My Muzzle Point During a Reload?

I chose 3 reload techniques to study.  (1) the one I normally use, which has minimum vertical muzzle movement, which was the technique that worked best for me to hit those Grand Master level reload speeds.  (2) The muzzle up reload technique, taught by some tactical schools, which places the muzzle pointing up at the sky. It puts the mag well right in front of the shooter’s eyes, which aids in ensuring the magazine is seated cleanly.  (3) A muzzle down technique, with the gun held down at stomach level, muzzle down as far as I could tolerate and still reload smoothly and within reasonable time limits.

The video below shows both the reload technique and a view of where the muzzle wanders, as the green laser starts and returns to the center of the NRA B-8.  I did the video standing 7 yards from the target, using the same target I used for the live fire time trials of those 3 techniques.

For my default technique, the muzzle goes high and left, up to the yellow window frame, which would likely keep the gun pointed into the berm. My wall is 8′ high, which is shorter than typical 10-12′ berm height.  In the upward technique, the laser dot was pointed at the ceiling.  In the downward technique, the laser, at its lowest point, was on the floor a few yards in front of me.

Which technique is faster?

I grabbed a shot up target from the pile, stuck an NRA B-8 on it, and put it at 7 yards out on my range.

I ran 10 trials of each reload technique, changing technique each trial, pitched the slowest and fastest runs and kept the best 8 as data.  I started aimed at the target, finger on trigger, as if I had just completed a shot. On the buzzer, I reloaded and fired one round.  A run only counted if the magazine seated smoothly and the shot hit the 6″ bullseye of the B-8.

I expected to be a bit faster using the reload technique that I used most often, but the data really doesn’t show that.  My average time for my preferred technique was 1.75 sec, and the averages for the other two were 1.77.  The spread of values was not that big, and all of them were below 2 seconds.

 

What is a safe direction?

In my classes, I define a safe direction as “any direction in which you are willing to fire a live round”.  And I discuss the concept of safest available direction, which may change as you or people around you move.

Off the range, options for safe directions may be limited.  Down is generally better than up, because with down you can see where the bullet may impact and you have some control over what it impacts and at what angle.

Down may not always be an option, if you are on the top floor of a building, or there are people close enough to you that you risk shooting someone in the leg or foot – or worse, if someone is lying on the ground or a small child is clinging to your leg for protection.

On the range, the Minimal technique keeps the muzzle in a safe direction if you are close to the backstop and the backstop is relatively tall.  If that technique is done standing 25 yards from the backstop, the muzzle is going to point over the berm at most ranges, and into the ceiling of an indoor range.

Unless the range has a bullet proof roof, there is no way to do the Upward reload technique without pointing the gun in a direction that doesn’t quality as “safe”.  And muzzle down, particularly at indoor ranges, may bring the muzzle completely below the backstop down to a concrete floor, which would be less safe than the top of the backstop.

Final thoughts

Many that commented on Kathy’s article claimed that any technique other that what they were currently doing would make their reload times unacceptably slow.  My own small experiment indicated that modifying my reload technique to change muzzle direction from “up at the sky” to “down at the ground” didn’t really change my reload times.

Many pointed out that a key part of learning to do a reload is getting the finger off the trigger during the load.   The problem is that the basic gun safety rules of muzzle direction and trigger finger placement aren’t “one out of two is good enough”.  In every class, I or one of my assistants have to remind at least one student about finger off trigger during a reload. So do range officers in matches.   A few competitors in national and local matches get disqualified every year for that error.  And under stress, people that have been trained to keep finger off trigger will do what is called “trigger checking” – unconsciously touching the trigger, preparing themselves to fire.

My advice to those training for real world defensive handgun use is to spend some time practicing reloads using all 3 techniques I showed in the video, and practicing some administrative (off the clock) reloads working to minimize muzzle movement. A laser was a great training tool for this, as it revealed a lot more muzzle movement in my default load technique than I expected.  Any reload not occurring while the shooter is in immediate danger can take a extra heart beat to make a decision as to what the safest available direction is, and the muzzle can be averted to that direction do to the load.  This is no different than the skill of averting the muzzle in any other situation – and learning to modify muzzle direction in a rapidly changing situation is a skill anyone that carries a gun should develop.

Those chasing Master and Grand Master level scores at matches need to be diligent about trigger finger placement and timing of getting the finger back on the trigger – both to avoid disqualification and to avoid launching a round over the backstop, which could have life changing consequences in the worst case scenario, particularly at outdoor ranges with houses (or people) within the 1.5 mile drop zone a bullet might land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 14-15 2017 Multi-Class AAR

Over the weekend of October 14-15, 2017, I taught 5 short courses at KR Training: Defensive Long Gun Essentials, Skill Builder Handgun, Advanced Training 4, Advanced Training 6, and Low Light Shooting 2.

Some post-class observations:

Defensive Long Gun Essentials

The class is designed to be suitable for any long gun. This session was all semi-auto rifles, with one pistol caliber carbine.  One student brought a Steyr AUG to class.  Steyr is now making these guns in the US.  The bullpup design provides short-barrelled rifle length, using a 16″ barrel, making it an excellent handling long gun for armed movement in structures work.

The level of shooting by the students was above average, allowing us to run additional drills going beyond the standard curriculum, including multiple runs in the shoot house using my pistol caliber carbine, and some work at 75 yards shooting my steel rifle targets.

I think this class is a very useful, practical course relevant to anyone that has a long gun for home defense – a course that students could or should take each year to maintain skills, particularly since refresher slots are available for half price.  Turnout for this class is often lower than I think it should be, possibly because the curriculum or the class name.  The curriculum isn’t ninja operator enter-trainment. It’s the basic skills people will likely use:  get the gun from ready to target quickly, move to cover if available, and get a few effective hits, all within a few seconds, at across-the-house distances from 5-25 yards.  No chest rig is needed, we aren’t shooting underneath cars or learning how to assault an enemy position. The skills in the class are the ones people should be practicing and proficient at.

During the classroom lecture I joked that I needed to rename the course something cooler, like Advanced Dynamic Tactical Operator Zombie Defense Carbine, to optimize my search engine keyword use.  In 2018 I’ll be revising the lesson plan and course description, as well as adding a scored shooting test (3 Seconds or Less Long Gun) that must be passed to earn the course certificate.  In the past, we’ve run the drills for that test but issued course certificates whether students made the par times or got acceptable hits or not.  That may have created a false perception that those that graduated the course are ready for a “level 2” long gun class when they may not be.  I’m hoping to see more graduates of the course return for refresher work (and better evaluation of their long gun skills) in the future.

Skill Builder Handgun

The Skill Builder class is mainly a trigger control class, working on hitting smaller targets at 5-7 yards, including work shooting with right hand only and left hand only.  As typical for this course, it drew a mix of students at different skill levels.   It’s a great course to refresh and maintain skills. 200 rounds in 2 hours in a solid structured practice session.

Advanced Training 4 & Advanced Training 6

On Sunday, I offered Advanced Training 4 and Advanced Training 6 back to back, and most students attended both classes.  AT-4 included group shooting at 15 yards, training to speed up draw and reload skills, and several hours of drills shooting on the move, including hitting 12″ steel targets on the move at 10 yards.   A 12″ steel target at 10 yards is basically like shooting a 6″ A-zone on a USPSA target at 5 yards. Practicing on steel makes bad shots that would be C or D (-1 or -3) hits obvious and is an excellent way to realistically assess shoot on the move ability and speed.

The AT-6 course is the reality check class: it’s a series of baseline drills that students practice and then shoot for score.  At the end of class, each student gets their personal data sheet, with times and hits recorded.  We started with 25 yard group benchrest shooting, measuring group sizes and offset of the group from intended point of impact.  If student abilities at 25 yards are acceptable, the class includes a walk-back drill shooting steel to determine each students maximum effective range with their pistol.  Unfortunately, student performance on the 25 yard drills exposed a lot of deficiencies and the walk back drill was bypassed in favor of additional drills working to improve trigger control.

Other drills run during this class include Bill Drills at distances from 7-25 yards, the F.A.S.T. drill, Hackathorn’s The Test, and the 5×5 drill.

The lecture portion of AT-6 was at the end of the course, as I went through each drill and provided students with specific goals (times and hits) they could use in dry and live fire practice.  Every student in the AT-6 class would benefit from taking that class each year, until they are meeting all the drill goals, which would get them roughly to USPSA B class or IDPA Expert level skill.

Low Light Shooting 2

The final course of the weekend was the updated and revised Low Light Shooting level 2 course.  A small number of diehard students attended this one, and were rewarded with lots of work with red guns and flashlights (handheld and weapon mounted) inside the classroom building, multiple live fire shoot house runs, and running all the segments of the 3 Seconds Or Less Low Light test (which all students passed).

The level 1 low light class is instruction in technique. The level 2 class is all application of technique in realistic context, such as not muzzling the no-shoots in the shoot house.  We’ll offer the level 2 class several times in 2018, as I think all graduates of the level 1 low light class would benefit from it. The level 2 class would be the right choice for those wanting annual refresher training in low light skills.

Izzy A. Threat Retirement Ceremony

Monday morning, after all 5 classes, one of the 3D targets we’d been using all summer & fall in the shoot house (Izzy A. Threat) was retired.

The ceremony was attended by some of his co-workers.

Final Thoughts

Classes are not a “one and done” thing.  Taking a class once, spending a few hours working on a skill, is not equivalent to truly owning that skill.  Whether it’s my classes or classes with other instructors, unless you are shooting 100% scores on every drill, never dropping a shot and always being the fastest shooter on the line, there’s value in repeating a course, particularly when the skills covered are difficult or impossible to practice at most commercial ranges.   We’ll continue to offer half-price refresher slots in all courses to encourage students to use the classes to not only learn new skills but maintain skills learned in previous classes.

 

Book Review (Historical Handgun) – G-Man (2017, Stephen Hunter)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

Today’s book is a work of fiction, but historical handgun (and submachine gun) shooting technique is an integral part of the story.

G-Man, written by Stephen Hunter, is a “could have happened that way” story about the fictional exploits of the Swagger family, multiple generations of soldiers and lawmen, all gifted shooters.  The first book in the series, Point of Impact, about modern day character Bob Lee Swagger, was made into a movie (Shooter) and a spin off TV series (Shooter, on USA Network).  There are multiple books in the Swagger family universe.  Hunter has done several book signings in Texas, at Houston’s Murder by the Book, and I have several signed Hunter hardbacks in my collection.

G-Man tells the story of Charles Swagger, grandfather to Bob Lee, and his adventures working for the FBI in 1934, chasing down famous machine gun gangsters Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, and others.  A secondary plot, set in the modern day, involves an aging Bob Lee Swagger and works in several other Swagger family members at various points.

Many of Hunter’s recent books, like this one and the Third Bullet (about the JFK assassination), are carefully researched, with the plot woven around historical incidents.  Hunter takes great care in getting the gun details right, diving deep into technical and historical nuances, working in historical figures from the gun culture.  The reader gets to learn history and gun tech as part of the story, and the story depends on those details for key plot points.

Technique and Training

Firearms training, specifically Swagger’s advocacy of two handed aimed fire, shooting at targets from different angles and positions, snap shooting against a clock, in a memo sent to FBI HQ – in opposition to the crouched hip shooting and one handed bullseye shooting that was actual FBI doctrine of that era – is discussed in detail, as Swagger trains officers working with him to turn them into gunfighters.

Hunter’s gunfight depictions are detailed, often first person point of view, with the mechanics of aiming, firing, and reloading described in depth with the perspective only someone truly familiar with firearms can provide.  (Unlike other action/thriller authors who are not only gun-ignorant but also anti-gun in their politics, such as Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher books, for example, Hunter is a true blue member of the gun culture: collector, shooter, historian.)

As appropriate for a book about 1934, the Thompson submachine gun in .45 ACP is used by good and bad men alike, and passage of the National Firearms Act (and its impact on legal sales of full auto guns) is woven into the plot as well.

Summary

Anyone interested in reading G-Man should probably start with Point of Impact, to become familiar with Bob Lee Swagger (the print version), and Hot Springs (the first book about Bob Lee’s father Earl Swagger) before reading G-Man, to have more of the history of the Swagger family and content for events in G-Man to appreciate it fully.  G-Man does include enough information that those new to the Swagger family saga can probably follow the story — but for those likely to enjoy G-Man, reading some of the earlier books in the series will be worth it.

 

 

Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Modern Police Firearms (1974, Roberts & Bristow)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

An Introduction to Modern Police Firearms was written in 1969, reprinted in 1974. It’s currently out of print and can be difficult to find. It was recommended to me by Tom Givens.   Authors Duke Roberts and Allen Bristow were Professors of Police Science at California State College in Los Angeles, and the book was written to be used as a class textbook in college level courses on policing, as well as in police academies in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

It’s a detailed time capsule of the status quo in police training of that era, covering all the techniques and drills that were already being rejected and revised by Jeff Cooper and others who were busy redefining the entire concept of defensive pistol training during those years.  The shooting skills content is essentially the same as police training books from the 1930’s I’ve reviewed in other posts.

Chapters

The book’s chapters cover these topics:

  1. Introduction
  2. Firearms Safety
  3. Nomenclature, Maintenance and Ballistics
  4. Basic Marksmanship
  5. Combat Shooting
  6. Courses of Fire
  7. The Police Shotgun
  8. Chemical Agents
  9. Legal and Ethical Use of Firearms
  10. Selecting a Firearm
  11. Police Recreational Shooting

The book’s two appendices include use of deadly force guidelines from a 1967 DOJ report, and from the Rochester, NY police department.

Firearms Safety

The book lists 12 rules for firearms safety (consolidation of the many lists of 10-20 rules into 4 rules by Cooper, later 3 rules by the NRA, was a significant milestone.)

As with older books on shooting, the safety rules are a jumbled mix of range rules and “lifestyle rules” (as Tom Givens describes them).  The rules, with my comments in italics:

  1. When reporting to the range carry personal weapons in a holster or suitable transportation device.
  2. Treat every gun as though it were loaded until you have personally checked it. (This implies that there a different rules for handling an unloaded gun, which is a bad idea.)
  3. Guns are to be pointed downrange only.
  4. Only shooters are allowed on the firing line.
  5. No guns are to be handled behind the firing line.
  6. Unload, load and fire on command only.
  7. Shoot only at designated targets.
  8. Never leave a loaded gun unattended.
  9. The only safe weapon is an empty weapon, and no weapon is empty until it has been checked.  Never lay a weapon down where someone may pick it up, unless it has been checked by you and left open. (Repeats their rule #2 with more words.)
  10. When a weapon is in use, never place your finger into the trigger guard until ready to fire. (The phrase “when a weapon is in use” is unnecessary).
  11. Never point a weapon, loaded or empty, at anything or anybody, that you do not intend to shoot, or in a direction where an accidental discharge may do harm.
  12. On the range, never, turn around at the firing point while holding a loaded weapon in your hand. (Same as Rule #11.)

Advice from the authors to police about “display of firearms”

Children occasionally question a police officer about his firearm or ask to see it.  The refusal to allow this should be tactful, yet firm.  It is generally accepted that one of the indications of an immature, poorly trained, unstable police officer is his unauthorized display of his revolver.  This officer frequently may be observed practicing quick draw before the mirror in his locker room (KR note: a practice recommended in another police training book from this era)…He practices dry firing when assigned to desk duty and shows his weapon to every department visitor, lost child and anyone else who expresses an interest in it.

Basic Marksmanship

The authors assume that a double action revolver will be carried, and much time is spent in the book discussing slow fire target shooting performed by thumb cocking the gun, shooting it single action.  The focus of the text is on group shooting at 25 yards, same as it was in the 1930s.

The student who faces the target directly will have difficulty controlling the elevation of his shots and will have a tendency rock back and forth…if the student shooter stands at a ninety degree angle..he will probably find that the shots spread right to left.

 

Combat Shooting

To the authors, this means using the revolver in double action, and not aiming. In addition to the 1940’s FBI approach of hip shooting, a point-shoulder position is taught.

At distances beyond 7-10 yards, the accuracy of hip shooting falls off rapidly.  This position is the same as the hip shooting position, except the arm is held straight, the gun is raised to eye level…and the shooter does not use the sights, but focuses on the target.

(KR note: 2017 IPSC World Champion shooter and trainer Ben Stoeger often discusses using a “target focus” on targets 10 yards and closer. The key difference between the modern approach and the techniques taught in the 1970s is that even when a target focus is used, modern shooters are looking at and aligning the sights, even if a perfect target shooting sight picture is not used.  Brian Enos referred to this as type 2 focus in his excellent book on practical shooting.  The shooters of the late 60’s/early 70s that were good at the point shoulder position were likely seeing the sights more than they were admitting to others.)

Many statements are made in this chapter that have been disproven or discredited over time, including:

  • Instinctive hip shooter is accurate up to approximately 10 yards (KR: if “any hit on a B27 target is considered “accurate”)
  • With practice, hip shooting is the fastest method of accurate shooting at this distance.
  • It is dangerous to condition the shooter to the use of both hands..as his (non firing) hand may be otherwise occupied.
  • It is important for the officer to begin firing as soon as possible..the first shot may not hit the suspect but it may distract him greatly. The period of time required for the officer to come to the point shoulder position (KR: less than 0.5 second for most shooters) could be sufficient for the suspect to shoot him.
  • from an earlier chapter: When a police officer exhibits lack of skill or judgment in a gun battle, the public is willing to accept such a situation with a “you can’t win them all” attitude.
  • To avoid being blinded by muzzle flash when shooting at night, the officer must be able to place his shots without holding the weapon at eye level.

Courses of Fire

This book is an excellent, detailed resource for those looking for information about how historical courses of fire were run, and their origins.  This was, by far, my favorite chapter of the book.  It included long descriptions of the nuances of the Camp Perry Police Course, National Match Course, International Center Fire Course, (FBI) Practical Pistol Course, NRA Combat Course (Police Practical Course aka PPC), with breakdown of scores required to reach Marksman, Expert, and Sharpshooter for each.

Shotgun

One chapter is spent on shotgun shooting, including hip-shooting the shotgun.

The courses of fire they recommend with the shotgun do all shooting at 25 yards with buckshot, but do not actually test hip shooting skill.

Other Chapters

The chapters on chemical agents, use of force, and recreational shooting for police officers all reflect the conventional wisdom and status quo of that era.  The shooting games recommended to police are the NRA PPC and bullseye sports, as practical shooting competitions (IPSC) did not formally exist until 1976 (and even after it began, was not considered mainstream or allowed at most gun clubs).

The chapter on use of force includes 10 hypothetical law enforcement use of force scenarios that end with questions to the reader about what actions are lawful and which are not.  These were clearly included as discussion questions for classroom use, and unfortunately no answer key is provided giving the authors’ opinions as to what the right answers were. It would have interesting to compare their views on which actions were lawful against current standards.

In the chapter on selecting a firearm, more disproven/discredited statements are made, this time regarding the 1911 semiautomatic pistol. This NRA article explains the 3 “conditions” or modes in correct detail.

  • It must be carried in the holster with the chamber empty (Condition 3)
  • It could be carried loaded with the hammer down, but must be thumbcocked during the drawstroke (Condition 2. In that mode the 1911 is NOT drop-safe, which the authors do not explain, which is a dangerous omission.)
  • When the weapon is carried with the magazine and chamber both loaded and the hammer cocked and safety locked, it is unsafe. (FALSE. Condition 1 is safer than Condition 2) For this reason, most agencies authorizing the 1911 also require a holster which places a leather safety strap between the slide and hammer when the gun is cocked.

If you’ve ever wondered why older shooters often have incorrect ideas about operation and carry of the 1911, look no further than outdated police training from the early 1970’s, where “experts” clearly unfamiliar with, and not advocates of, the semiautomatic pistol for law enforcement use present technically incorrect and tactically poor information to their students.

They recommend that a student spend $80-100 on a handgun, and $12-20 on a holster to carry it in.  Scaled to today’s prices with 500% inflation/devalued currency since the 1970’s, that ratio becomes $400-500 on the gun, and $60-100 on a holster.  They describe a poor quality $3 holster, would equate to today’s $15 nylon gun show special.

Summary

Law enforcement training, military training and even the NRA’s own training programs, all governed by bureaucracies, are slow to change.  When this book was written, major changes were already occurring – in the same state in which the authors were teaching.  Even as late as 1974, when the book was reprinted, the authors make no mention of, or seem to have any awareness of, the innovations that were occurring.  It would take another full decade for the major changes in technique and philosophy would reach the typical police academy recruit.

 

Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Manual of Police Revolver Instruction (1932, R. M. Bair)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

The Manual of Police Revolver Instruction is a short book written in 1932, reprinted in 2014 by the Sportsman’s Vintage Press.  My review copy was loaned to me by KR Training assistant instructor Ed Vinyard.

The author, R. M. Bair, was the revolver instructor and ballistician for the Pennsylvania Highway Patrol, and the book was originally published by the NRA.

Chapters

  • Position
  • Grip
  • Sighting
  • Breathing
  • Muscle Strain
  • Squeeze
  • Flinching
  • Safety Rules
  • Care of Revolver
  • Dry Shooting
  • Qualification and Match courses

The techniques shown are typical of other books from the 1930’s: one handed bullseye shooting, mostly shot on the Standard American Target (NRA B-6) and the Colt Silhouette (B-21).

Each chapter ends with review questions. A few examples:

  1. What is meant by firing line? Line of fire? (Position)
  2. How should the hammer be cocked, between shots, when firing with the right hand? left hand? (Grip)
  3. What is the difference between blade and patridge type sights? (Sights)
  4. How would you sight a revolver at night to hit a man-sized target at 50 yards? (Sights)
  5. If you take a deep breath and hold it until the shot is fired, what will be the result? (Breathing)
  6. When firing with the right hand, why should the left hand never be placed on teh hip? (Muscle Strain)
  7. What will be the result when firing if the thumb pressure is not equalized with the trigger finger? (Squeeze)

The review question answers are found in the text of each chapter.

The chapter on sighting includes many well drawn examples showing the effect of incorrect aiming on a 25 yard target. In these pictures, the black dot is the bullseye center, as it appears to the shooter firing at that target at 25 yards.

15 Safety Rules

The book lists 15 different safety rules – far more complicated than the current NRA 3 rules or Jeff Cooper’s 4 rules, or the 2 rules I teach.  The 15 rules were very specific to the type of training the author conducted, both for range qualification and firearms handling on duty.

Examples:

  • #1 NEVER handle, point or look over the sights of any firearm handed to you without opening the arm to be sure it is not loaded
  • #4 NEVER turn around to talk to any person behind you when at the firing point without first lifting out the cylinder of a revolver or locking back the slide of an automatic pistol, and laying either one down on the shooting bench before turning around.
  • #8 NEVER talk to a shooter when he is at the firing point.
  • #10 The revolver should be loaded with the muzzle pointing toward the ground about a yard away from the feet. NEVER load a revolver if anyone is standing in front of you.
  • #13 A shot should never be fired while the officer is running.  In the case of a running gun fight, the officer should stop and fire deliberately.
  • #15 In a running gun fight where the fugitive turns to fire at the officer, the officer should fall to the ground (where he makes a very small target), grip the revolver with both hands, rest both elbows on the ground and fire deliberately.

DRY FIRE PRACTICE

The use of reduced scale targets for dry practice is recommended, as is doing dry fire practice with a partner that can observe shooter errors.  The author suggests the following:

The officer should practice drawing the revolver from the holster with the right hand, firing one dry shot at the target, and then passing the revolver to the left hand, firing the second shot, being careful to assume the proper position in each case and to see that the proper grip has been taken.  He should continue this practice with the empty revolver until it feels natural in either hand.

Similar to today, instructors had to address bad ideas students learned from entertainers that use guns as theater props.

After drawing the revolver from the holster, the officer should never raise the revolver over his head before bringing the sights into alignment with the target. This is wild west hokum, and if his adversary were a good shot it would be entirely possible for him to fire two shots at the officer before he could bring his sights into alignment.

DRILLS

During a recent private lesson, my student and I shot a few of the drills from this book.  The first one is 25 rounds and requires one handed bullseye shooting at 15, 25 and 50 yards using right hand only.  The fastest string in this course of fire is 5 shots in 15 seconds, same as required by the current Texas License to Carry shooting test. The Texas LTC test uses the giant B-27 target, scored with the 8, 9 and 10 rings (11-3/4” wide by 17-1/2” tall) counting 5 points, but this drill is shot on a bullseye target with a 3.36″ circular 10-ring.   Unfortunately, the book does not state what a passing minimum score on this drill is. 70% of possible points is typical of other similar courses from this era.

Some pics from the 15, 25 and 50 yard strings.  I’m shooting the smaller bullseye target on the right.

One challenge in shooting these older drills is par times longer than 99 seconds.  I had to dig my old PACT timer out of the storage closet, because it could handle the 300 second (5 minute) par time for the slow fire (1 shot per minute) strings.  Shooting that slowly is a very different skill from modern training. Going as slowly as I could go, my slowest time for the 300 second par time was just over 100 seconds to fire 5 rounds.

This drill was tough – one of the hardest I’ve shot in my historical exploration thus far.

I shot the drill cold without doing any dry fire runs on it, using my S&W 686 revolver, one handed, thumb cocking each shot as they did in the 30’s.  My score was 186 out of 250 possible.  I used the FBI-IP target, which had bullseye dimensions matching those listed in the book, but lacked the 5 and 6 rings the book described. I drew in a rough 6 ring, which allowed me to pick up the two 6’s and one 5 outside the printed target.

I had my student shoot another drill from the book that used the Army L (NRA B-22) target. It’s quite a bit larger, with bigger scoring rings, than the FBI-IP, but the 15 yard string has a shorter time limit (11 seconds) than the 15 seconds used in the previous test.

The drill was:

  • 25 yards, slow fire (5 rounds in 5 minutes), 2x, right hand only
  • 25 yards, timed fire (5 rounds in 20 seconds), 2x, right hand only
  • 15 yards, quick fire (5 rounds in 11 seconds), 2x, right hand only

I had him shoot my 686 revolver, also shooting the drill cold with no dry fire warmup.  He shot over 90% on the Texas LTC test, and passed my “3 Seconds or Less” test with a score over 80%, using an M&P Shield.  On this drill, he shot 64% with a lot of low-left hits, likely due to the very different feel the grip and trigger of a 6″ barrel DA revolver (shot single action) has compared to a polymer striker fired subcompact semiauto pistol.

SUMMARY

This book is yet another example of the many books written about shooting during the early 1930’s. Not particularly influential, but certainly another record of what was considered conventional wisdom of that era.  My main takeaway from it is the collection of drills that I can incorporate into the Historical Handgun course and in my own practice, as I work toward being able to shoot 90% or better on every drill, from every era.  I plan on putting some additional dry and live fire time in on additional runs on these drills over the next few weeks, and students in the October 2017 Historical handgun “one day part two” course will shoot a few of them in that course.