Saturday, February 25, 2012

Limp Wristing Is Not A Good Excuse

When I got my Glock 19 I was thrilled. I had fired many Glocks of many different calibers, had handled the Generation 4 Glock 17 and was very eager to get its little brother in my hands. My Gen 4 G19 was one of the first off the presses and I couldn't wait to get it to the range. When I did, however, I was disappointed to find that my Glock--a name promoted to be almost synonymous with reliability--was anything but.

Failure to feed, failure to eject, no slide lock on the last round.. to say I was frustrated by my new pistol would be an understatement.

Being as involved with the internet gun community as I am I allowed those who were interested to see both video of me shooting and I wrote about my issues on a few gun forums.

I was not surprised to find those who found it hard to blame the Glock. I was surprised by their enormous number. People who were loyal to the Glock and the firm belief that it is error proof started to get out their hammers and sharpen their spikes to nail me to the wall of inexperience.

The comments poured in on how I was limp wristing and needed to adjust my grip. I then had someone tell me I needed to loosen my grip. One person even said I needed to change my stance.

Stance? Really? Changing my stance will affect the cycling of my firearm? Too loose? Too tight? Too high? Too low? And people say 1911s are picky!

I am not a bulls-eye shooter. I don't train and practice to put five shots in a dime-sized hole. I do not buy bulls-eye guns that are milled to perfection and handled with glass-balancing care. I buy combat guns to use for self defense in combative environments. I shoot for speed and combat accuracy. I expect my gun to work if I'm standing on my head with one hand behind my back, in the rain, with jelly on my fingers after the gun happened to fall into a mud puddle. I don't have the time or inclination to baby a gun that may or may not work because I happened to have a slightly weakened grip at one moment or too tight of a grip the next.

I've never had to fire a gun in self defense, but I have had to fire guns in simulated scenarios. I've fired one-handed around obstacles, while running. I've fired guns over my shoulder while trying to move in the opposite direction. I've fired guns lying on the ground with both my strong hand and my off hand all in attempts to simulate the kind of conditions that one may be required to fire from if fighting for his or her life.

One thing was universally true: perfect grips and stances are hard to come by when you move off the static firing range. And if a perfect grip or stance is required for your gun to work reliably than it is not a combat gun and should not be relied on as such.

I've read stories of officers and civilians who continued to fire guns despite massive injuries to arms and hands that severely weakened grips.

I also watched a clip of a well-known and highly-respected firearms instructor shooting his XD upside down in his hands with his pinky on the trigger and naught but his thumb on the backstrap. If anyone was looking for the definition of a compromised grip, there you have it.

He fired through an entire magazine without a single malfunction.

I'm tired of people making "limp wristing" an excuse for a gun that cannot preform reliably. With modern technology and machining there's no reason why a firearm should have trouble with a compromised grip. 

Yes, individuals should be griping their firearms as securely as possible and, yes, recoil-operated firearms do need a base to provide resistance for that cycling slide but asking for that base to be perfectly stable under all circumstances is an unreasonable requirement for a combat pistol (in my humble opinion).

After I was done beating myself up about my Glock and done listening to the internet commandos I went out and bought myself a new recoil spring. I switched out parts and was rewarded with a perfectly functioning firearm. I have yet to have a malfunction with the new spring (now made old with time) but I still get people trying to tell me the malfunctions were somehow related to me and my handling of the Glock (despite the fact that they magically went away when I switched recoil springs). If that were true then I wouldn't be a Glock owner today as I would not trust the Glock to be reliable under combative conditions.

Don't get me wrong. This blog is not to pick on Glock. I have now been carrying my Glock for well over a year in confidence. My issue is not with Glock, or any gun manufacturer. My issue is with those who would blame a shooter and his or her grip for reliability problems.

If you are going to call a firearm a combat gun, hold it to a combat standard.. one in which a compromised grip would not cause regular malfunctions. "Limp Wristing" is not a good excuse for a firearm to be unreliable.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Twenty-One Foot Rule Be Hanged

On the opening day of my college sociology class the professor called a girl to the stage. He gave her no instructions but to stand there. She did. He walked back to the podium, about seven feet away from her, and continued his lecture on how different societies have different ideas about what is acceptable and normal. As he talked he kept getting closer and closer to the girl.

When he was about three feet away the girl started looking at him a little strangely. When he got to about a foot away from her she took a step away from him and he stopped lecturing to ask us what we observed. Most of my freshmen classmates were clueless.

He was happy to explain that we Americans have a social understanding of personal space. The American standard is between three and four feet for strangers, two to three feet for friends and two feet or less for intimate partners. Strangers who violate the three foot rule for American's get a dirty look, if they continue to advance it is natural for an American to step away to regain their personal space unless there are extenuating circumstances like everyone is in an elevator, full bus, concert or other crowded event where space is limited.

Conversely, if one were to demand more than the socially accepted "norm" of allotted personal space (say five or six feet) they would also be looked at with suspicion, considered rude and possibly even be considered hostile for showing prejudice.

That being said, whenever I see self defense situations discussed on forums, facebook pages, Youtube and the like I am overwhelmed by how many people spout phrases along the lines of, "If you let someone get that close to you, you have already failed," or, "I would never let someone that close to me." Then someone, somewhere, will bring up the Tueller Drill (or, in lay terms, the 21-foot rule) and say something like, "If a bad guy gets within 21 feet of you you're dead!"

For those who do not know, The Tueller Drill was meant to demonstrate that someone attacking at or within 21 feet can usually reach an individual before he or she has time to draw and fire a defensive handgun.

The Drill is a very powerful teaching aid as it does raise awareness that, in most civilian defensive scenarios you are not going to be able to stand still, draw your firearm, bring it up to a full extended grip, acquire your sights and fire at an advancing attackers. It is meant to teach awareness but some have taken it to mean that we should somehow aspire to keep 21 feet of personal space between us and strangers.

That, my friends, is entirely unrealistic. Even sitting in your car in traffic allows others sitting in their cars to be within 21 feet of you. Walking through your favorite grocery store, getting gas as a gas station or standing in line at the convenience store is going to require you to get within the normal and socially accepted range of other people you don't know.

Yes, there is prudence in keeping strangers as far away from you as reasonably possible. There is even more prudence in moving away from individuals who alert you as being suspicious. Keeping watch of the people who do move within your Tueller Drill distance is far more practical than trying to shoo them out.

But now that you have accepted that people are going to get close to you it's time to answer the question as to whether or not you are capable of fighting at those decreased distances.

A gun is a good tool to fight with if you need it but sometimes you have to fight to get to the tool or else you might also find yourself in a fight over your tool.

Through hours and hours of getting beaten up and "killed" in force-on-force I was beginning to learn what was finally very simply laid out for me by Greg Ellifritz in my defensive knife class: In order to bring any defensive tool into play in a close quarters encounter you have to have either distance from or control of your attacker. Without one or the other you will very likely get your draw stuffed or your tool of choice taken away from you.

To accomplish this you need hand-to-hand skills and possibly a few other options in place besides a gun alone.

When people say "hand-to-hand" a lot of people groan and think this means they are going to have to go out and join the local martial arts studio. Though certainly an option and not a bad one, it's not the only one. A lot of martial arts studios will have short weekend seminars or classes with some quick and dirty defensive tactics that are easy to learn and use.

Universities, the YMCA, local police departments, women's support groups, fire houses and even hospitals will often host self defense classes. If they don't they might know who does or have the contact information of someone who does. Give them a call and start asking around. Believe it or not, the telephone can often be a better networking tool than the internet and provide better local resources than twenty-four straight hours of google searches.

Other, well known fighting schools like Krav Maga will also have traveling seminars for those who do not have centers in the area and one can find a more local class or be able to travel for just a weekend workshop.

No, you aren't going to learn everything in a weekend seminar or workshop but you are going to learn something and even if it's only one single thing that saves your life it was worth it.

Many of these schools and classes will also offer returning student discounts so you can go back for a refresher.

The next step is incorporating your defensive tools into your hand-to-hand skills. This can be done through close quarters gunfighting classes and force-on-force. These classes generally combine hand-to-hand tactics with gun work to help the shooter gain ability and confidence in introducing a firearm into a close quarters encounter.

Almost all of the well-known gun schools have a close quarters gunfighting course or two and it should be on the "go" list of every individual who packs a gun for self defense.

Accept the Tueller Drill for what it really is, a demonstration and be realistic about your proximity to others in daily life. Don't waste your time trying to achieve the impossible of keeping people 21 feet away from you. Train for the possibility of being an effective fighter within those 21 feet.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What You Are Used To VS What Fits Your Needs

I was talking to a gal yesterday who wants to get her permit to carry.

I asked her what firearm she wanted to carry and she said she wanted to get a Taurus Millennium .45. When I asked her why she wanted that particular gun she said it was what she was "used to."

Having known this gal for a long time I know it is one of the only handguns she has ever shot if not the only handgun.

Wilson Combat Professional .45
There is some credence to shooting and carrying what you are "used to." I don't think anyone should buy and carry a firearm that they have not tried and tested for reliability and performance in their own hands and gotten used to on some level. However, I do question the prudence of buying and carrying a firearm solely because it is the only firearm you have had experience with and not weighing the benefits of other firearms and how they might better suite your needs.

Granted, I've had the luxury of trying a lot of different handguns. I've shot somewhere between 150 and 200 different handgun models. I have carried somewhere around a dozen different firearms. I have a good basis for knowing what works well for me, what I prefer and why I prefer it.

There have been guns I have gotten "used to" only to change later on and consciously have to work at breaking habits I acquired with those firearms in order to get "used to" the new firearm.

Some might question why I would do that and the simple response is that the benefits of the new platform outweighed any frustrations at giving up the old.

First Shots through the Wilson
I can illustrate this with the example of having given up my Wilson Combat Professional .45 for the 9mm Glock 19. That was probably the hardest switch I've had to make in the world of handguns; both emotionally and mechanically. Emotionally I was very attached to my Wilson (and still am). It is the most accurate firearm I have ever owned, it is heavy but decent to carry and I shot it well with both hands. I had trained with it and felt very confident with it.

When I had my first child, however, I realized that the Professional was probably not the best carry choice for me anymore. Though I shot it well with both hands I found control of it to be a bit more difficult with one hand. It wasn't too heavy when I had nothing else to carry but with the addition of a child and all the gear that comes with said child I needed to shed some weight. I love the .45 caliber but I didn't love the price of ammo. I also really wanted more capacity. I needed a firearm in a caliber I could better control one-handed. I trusted Glock's reliability, reputation and warranty and was happy with all of the features of the G19.

First shots through the G19
The transition to the Glock from the 1911 was not an easy one. I was not used to the Glock. Even though I had shot many Glocks before it took some commitment on my part to gain new proficiency with the G19 as a carry gun. I had to adjust to a new trigger pull. I adjusted to the new grip angle and sights and even to the new capacity, carry and recoil. Some adjustments were easier than others but the Glock was certainly not what I was "used to."

I find myself going back to the Wilson from time to time out of nostalgia and still shoot it well but I am happy with the choice I have made regarding my carry gun as it fits my current needs. If I ever need to win an accuracy contest I'll go get my Wilson. If I need combat accuracy with a good volume of fire while on the move, one-handed, I'll stick with my Glock.

When people consider a carry gun (or any gun) just jumping to "what I'm used to" may be okay but then again, it may not. Sometimes, when deciding on a firearm, you have to abandon what you're used to and go instead for what fits your needs. It means being honest with yourself and with your experiences and breaking away from fears of adjusting to something new and untested. 

Some things to consider are:
How well you perform with that firearm

Now, when I say, "How well you perform with that firearm" I am not saying that if you find yourself having some initial struggles with a firearm you should just ditch it and move on to something else. There is a level of training and practice that needs to go into all firearms in order to be proficient with them. However, after you have trained and practiced, if you find yourself experiencing a particular issue with a firearm you need to consider that in deciding whether or not it is a good fit for carry.
The G19 and all my carry gear

If, after a couple of thousand rounds and a few classes, you still can't shoot a particular firearm well with one hand or operate a feature well, etc, it may be time to concede to the fact that the firearm might not be meeting your needs.

Not every issue can be trained out.

Don't just jump on the "because it's what I'm used to" band wagon. Really think about whether or not what you are used to is also best for you and your needs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Milt Sparks, Oh How I Love Thee

If I had to choose one form of carry for all day, everyday, it would be a Outside of the Waistband (OWB), open top, leather belt holster.

Hence, my UBG Regulator which I have pegged my F.A.S.T holster.

But, sometimes you need a good Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster. Primarily if you are wearing a shorter cover garment that will not conceal the full length of your holstered firearm if carried OWB.

Today was one such day. I tried hard to find a long cover garment that worked with the turtleneck I was wearing (Hey, it's cold here!) and failed so I stuck on a short vest and plunged into the gear chest with a wince on my face in search for a good IWB that would assist in concealment.

Keep in mind.... I just had a baby a little over a month ago. Though I have miraculously made it back into my pre-pregnancy jeans I have been deliberately eating my own weight in fats and proteins to keep up with the demands of a nursing baby and not end up looking like an escapee from an anorexia camp like I did with my first child. I've also been working diligently to close the gap in my abdominal muscles caused by said pregnancy. Things are getting back to normal but it's taking time, exercise and patience I tend not to have.

Needless to say, some outfits are still a little tight and that means that donning an IWB at this point in time seemed a bit daunting.

I thought about my Crossbreed SuperTuck but decided against it only because I was not ready for that much leather against my skin. That and I was going to be driving and I have yet to find a comfortable position for that holster and my gun while driving.

Milt Sparks VMII
I remembered then that many moons ago my husband had purchased me a Milt Sparks Versa Max 2 (VM2). If there could be a "Cadillac" of holsters some would consider Milt Sparks holsters to be it. 

I honestly don't think I've even worn the holster once (at least I can't remember wearing it) because I've spent so much time carrying in other holsters I've either been reviewing or pregnant and not able to carry on body.

So, yeah, the VM2 was stiff but I left the house wearing it and my tactical diaper bag and with my daughter and my son and my bag of stuff for the library and my stuff for the post office (don't worry, no federal carry laws were broken in the course of my day).

By noon or so I almost forgot I was carrying and by the time I got home (with my library bag filled twice as full as it was when I left) I was very satisfied with my holster pick for the day.

Holsters and belts make a great deal of difference to the experience of the day as do clothing fit.

I have a feeling the VM2 will be my IWB F.A.S.T holster.