Wash your hands

One piece of safety advice I got early on is simple: wash your hands after shooting. Wash your face too before eating. The ladies at the Wake County Ladies Handgun league mention this at every meeting.

If you shoot frequently, the lead exposure over time can add up. This is a simple way to address that issue for most shooters. If you work at a range or shoot daily, you may want to add lead testing to your annual physical. One of the instructors I’ve worked with does that. I may well ask for a lead test at my next physical to get a baseline for the future.

Much more information can be found here, on my favorite Shooting reference site, The Cornered Cat: http://www.corneredcat.com/article/firearms-safety/aiming-for-lower-lead-exposure/



No 1911 Malfunctions & 5/25 IDPA Match Review

The 1911 and Log Book

The 1911 and Log Book

I shot an unsanctioned IPDA match last at PDHSC. These matches are hosted by Shoot2Live. Last night for the first time since I bought the S&W 1911, I had zero malfunctions during a match. It has malfunctioned in all 5 of the previous matches. I like the weight, the trigger, and the smoothness I feel when running the gun, but I would never trust it as a carry gun for self defense.

Possibly I’m hitting the end of a break in period. I keep a log book with each gun and note when I shoot, how many rounds, a few words about what I did with the gun (practice, match, class) and when/how I clean the gun. From the book I see I’ve put about 2700 rounds through the gun and the last time I field stripped it was 300 rounds ago.

I’m curious to see if this was a one time thing or if it becomes the exception rather than a regular occurrence in the future.

Notes about the match:

  • I arrived at 4:30pm to sign in. The match went till 9:30pm. There are 3 squads and two bays so there is always down time between stages.
  • There was one stage that required shooting with strong hand then weak hand and one stage that required shooting 5 targets on the move. These are things I can practice.
  • One stage involved moving targets: a swinger and a drop turner. These I haven’t figured out how to practice. Since I’m not an RSO it’s not OK to go downrange to set these up when I rent practice time at the range. Possibly I need to book time with an instructor to get more exposure to these types of targets.
  • I’m usually head to bed about 9:30pm,  so I think I’ll opt to shoot more afternoon matches outdoors in the future.



Hard Safety vs. Soft Safety

This article published on Triangle Tactical back in March started me thinking about the thumb safeties on my guns: Why is it so hard to get a thumb safety right?

1911 with soft safety (top and H&K USP with hard safety (bottom).

1911 with soft safety (top and H&K USP with hard safety (bottom).

I own two pistols with thumb safeties: a S&W 1911 and an H&K USP Compact. They operate very differently and that difference didn’t really jump out at him until I read Ben’s post.

The “Soft Safety” – The first thing I had to learn when shooting the 1911 was to wrap my thumb over the top of the safety when I draw the gun. If I don’t, and the thumb rises up just a slight bit, the safety nudges up and the gun will no longer shoot. The safety on the gun is fluid. You touch it even slightly, it moves. If it raises the least bit, it engages. At first I thought I had a malfunction but soon realized that I was the one with the malfunction, not the gun. When I began to wrap my thumb over the safety, that problem ceased.

Every one I’ve loaned the gun to has done the same thing until I pointed out you need to grip it differently to ensure the safety stays down. So it may not be common knowledge outside 1911 owners.

The “Hard Safety” – My H&K USP compact has what I call a hard safety. You have to push it down hard and when you do, you hear it click into place. It has two positions: on and off. There is no fluidity and no in-between. It is fairly easy to disengage when drawing from a holster as my thumb has more strength pushing down. It’s difficult for me to re-engage one handed before re-holstering. Until I started shooting the 1911 I assumed all safeties worked this way. I also tended to disengage the safety, shoot at the range, then re-engage the safety when I was done shooting for the day – because it was difficult to switch.

One other difference: Once the hammer is down on the 1911, you can’t put the “soft” safety on. Technically there is no need as the gun can’t be fired until the hammer is cocked, but I found this odd when I first started shooting the 1911. I always wanted to put the safety back on after I was done shooting to establish the habit firmly – no matter whether the hammer was up or down. With the H&K, you can always put the “hard” safety on. Whether the hammer is cocked or de-cocked, you can press the safety switch up. So this design will allow you to consistently apply the safety.

I am not passing judgement at this time on which I like best. I have many more hours with the 1911 and I’m clearly biased toward that design at this time. I just wanted to point out the differences for anyone considering a gun purchase. And I’ll admit that shooting the 1911 has made me much more aware of how safeties work and to disengage / reengage each time I draw / reholster.






First Squib

NOTE: This is the first guest post to my blog. The following was written by my shooting partner David Young. His enthusiasm is endless and he helps to nudge me when I lost momentum, so when he asked if he could post to my blog, of course I said yes! 

I just takes one…

Today, after about 24 months of regular shooting, I had my first squib round. I was breaking in my new XD9 Service pistol, so thankfully I was shooting slowly. About halfway through a box of recently purchased factory new Independence 115gr FMJ, I pulled the trigger and heard the classic “pop”. I’ve always heard it described that way, but in reality it’s more like shooting a paper-strip cap gun

  • no recoil;
  • sounds the same;
  • and a wisp of smoke rises from the chamber.

The slide did not cycle (obviously), but I dropped the magazine, cycled the slide manually, ejected the spent case and began my inspection.

I field-stripped my gun and ran a bore snake down the barrel. Sure enough, the bullet was lodged about 1/3 of the way down. I was shooting at Personal Defense and Handgun Safety (PDHSC) in Raleigh. Without batting an eye the staff took the barrel into their work room and removed the bullet. Removal took about 15 minutes and I watched as the gentleman (I wish I remember his name) used a brass rod and hammer. No charge and no barrel damage.

Having a squib (safely) is one of the best learning experiences I’ve had since I began shooting. I’ve listened to the description countless times, but actually experiencing a squib is invaluable. I have no idea what the outcome would have been had I been under duress; say, during an IDPA match or intense training. During rapid firing I might very well have put another round through the barrel and destroyed my gun. I can only hope that the experience has imprinted itself and I’ll have the presence of mind next time to cease firing as I did today.

I’ve read on forums that the vast majority of squibs occur in handloads. Not this one, which means factory ammunition is not immune. It might be rare but it can happen.

By the way, I shot the remainder of the Independence with no issues.

Finally, I want to offer kudos to the staff at PDHSC. Of all the local gun stores I’ve been to in the Raleigh area, the folks PDHSC are hands-down the best. Their level of service, expertise and advice is without equal, in my opinion.

David Young

The Pencil Test

I cleaned my 1911 and my XD9 after the last IPDA match at PDHSC. I finally got a video clip of “The Pencil Test”. The gunsmith who took me under his wing showed me this after he walked me through a complete take down. Maybe I’m just a kid at heart but it makes me giggle every time I do it! This is a simple test that will assure you put your 1911 back together correctly after you clean it.

Before you load any ammo in the gun, slide the pencil in the barrel, eraser side down. Point the gun in a safe direction and pull the trigger. If the pencil doesn’t fly, neither will your ammunition.

Practice vs. Defense

I don’t read many other gun blogs because I’m trying to get out and shoot, not sit in front of a computer nearly as much as I have. But there are a few I read. And every once in awhile I read an article that leaves me thinking “I would never have thought about that”. Recently there were two defense related articles that made me think about all the things I don’t know about defensive shooting. Maybe reading blogs can be more helpful than I realized.

The simple one that really made me go “duh” was from Kathy Jackson at the Cornered Cat: Squib. The point of the article is that your behavior should be very different on a practice range than it should be in a defensive situation, if you actually notice the issue during the adrenaline dump of a defensive situation.

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

The more complicated post that made me realize that I have put much too little thought into defensive scenarios was by Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!. The post is “Developing mental notecards” and lays out a flowchart scenario of options if you were in a bad situation in your car. My background is programming and I like the flowchart approach – but more than that it made me consider situations that never crossed my mind: 

  • Not blocked in? If not, drive away. Always remember that your 1st choice is to leave.
  • Am I alone? My default situation is to be driving alone, but that isn’t always the case and I shouldn’t let that be a “how the heck to I deal with a passenger” situation. “Get down and cover your ears!” gives them a chance to limit damage if I shoot.
  • Think about the seat belt and how that may impede you.
  • How does the location of the threat affect use of the car for cover?

Here’s where shooting matches has helped:

  • Have you ever tried to draw in a car? I have at the local IDPA match. I’m so glad to have had that experience. That is very valuable practice. Below is the set of targets shot from the backseat of the car shown above:

Targets highlighted in red…




Elusive Ammunition…

Last year when I started competing and practicing on a regular basis, I decided to stock up on ammunition so that would never be a barrier to shooting. I came close to crying a few times as I parted with cash or paid my credit cards, but over a few months, I hit my goal.

With what has happened since I’m really happy I did that. Now, as I use up what I bought I am trying to replenish as I get close to the minimum level I’d like to keep on hand. But being rather frugal, I’m also patient.

Before the election and Sandy Hook, a reasonable deal on 9mm Luger was around 25 cents a round.  That is $250 per 1,000 rounds (without taxes). And I’d much rather buy in 1,000 round batches than have to run to the store for 3-5 boxes over and over until I feel stocked up again. My last 1,000 round purchase was from PDHSC in January for $238. They laugh at me now when I ask if they have more bulk ammo in stock.

I have a friend that has recently paid around $600 for a 1,000 rounds and I’m just not willing to pay that. At that price I may have to reconsider the frequency I shoot live rounds and force myself to spend much more time on dry fire practice.

What I’ve found though is that with patience and persistence, ammo is out there and not everyone is price gouging.

UMC 9mm Luger 50 round packs from 9Forward in Oxford, NC. Price: $14.71. Five "box" limit.

UMC 9mm Luger 50 round packs from 9Forward in Oxford, NC. Price: $14.71. Five “box” limit.

For example:

  • I was in a Walmart near my mom’s house in SC a few weekends ago and decided to stop by sporting goods. I’ve been in this store before and I’ve spoken to the very knowledgeable woman who works there several times in the past. She asked what I was looking for and I told her .38 Special (for mom) or 9mm (for me). Amazingly she said she’d found some 9mm in the back and had two boxes left. I asked the price: $19.99 — for 100 round bulk boxes. This was the pre-election price! No price gouging here. I was happy to give her my money. 
  • In Oxford last week I found 9mm in 50 round packs for $14.71. They have a 5 box limit per customer. Turns out they also had some Winchester 100 round bulk packs for $26.94. The first is 29 cents a round, the second 27 cents a round. In this current ammo starved environment, both are very reasonable deals.

I’m not sure what the future holds but with some networking, tips from friends, and supporting businesses that are not price gouging, I’m hoping that I can continue to shoot without resorting to paying top dollar.

Of course, the real solution is to start reloading. But one thing at a time…


9Forward – Opening Day!

9Foward storefront on Hillsborough St. in Oxford, NC

9Foward storefront on Hillsborough St. in Oxford, NC

I received a heads up through the Ladies Handgun League mailing list that a new gun store, 9Forward Firearms & Ammunition, was opening in Oxford, NC this past Saturday, May 4th 2013. Here’s the website with key details: www.9Forward.com.

  • From the website: 9 Forward sells firearms, ammunition and firearms accessories.
  • They are 10 minutes from The Range in Oxford, which hosts IDPA matches as well as other shooting events.
  • They are closed on Sunday and Monday. So the doors will not be open again till Tuesday.

The key phrase in the email announcement that got my attention was “healthy ammo inventory”. I called  Rachel, one of the owners, on Friday to check prices and limits on ammunition. The prices were very good and the limit was 5 boxes. I shared the information with my shooting partner and planned an early morning road trip to Oxford on Saturday morning. A friend and I arrived at 8:45am and were on hand for the opening at 9am. My shooting partner was already there, drinking coffee and chatting with Rachel out on the sidewalk.

Eager customers waiting as Rachel turns the sign to "Open" for the very first time.

Eager customers waiting as Rachel turns the sign to “Open” for the very first time.

My sister lives walking distance from the store and agreed to meet us over there to do a bit of ammo shopping with me. We all picked up 9mm rounds and I was very pleased with the prices. The store wasn’t crowded, but there was a steady stream of customers, most looking for ammo.

Rachel hugged the first customer after he paid – the store opening was the culmination of a business plan that started prior to the last election and was in doubt at a few points along the way. Flipping the sign on the front door to “Open” and ringing up that first sale was was clearly exciting, memorable, and significant to her. The enthusiasm she shared was contagious. I wanted to talk with her more but we had what we came for and she had other customers waiting.

I headed over to my sister’s house for a cup of coffee by 9:30 and did some catching up. I was ready to head back to Raleigh by 11:30 and since it was on the way, a stopped back in the store. I wanted to see if they were sold out of ammo yet. I ran into Frank from The Range as I walked back in the door and gave him a hug. My gun friends are starting to feel like family.

I noticed they had plenty of staff on hand and were clearly service oriented. Rachel laughed when I asked her if they were out of ammo and said they were not. I took the time to chat with her since she was taking a break from the register.  When I asked why they are closed on Sunday, Rachel said that was their day to go shooting. Fair enough.When I asked why they chose Oxford, she said the space used to be a gun store. The previous owner closed up shop and they found Granville county to be very gun friendly. When I asked how they were able to stock ammunition when others stores couldn’t seem to get it in stock, she said they had been working on opening the store for quite some time and lining that up was something that had been in the works well before they opened. She and her husband have an interest in defensive shooting and I’ll be back to talk with her about that.

I noticed they carry Flashbang holsters for women and spoke to her about carry holsters, then the biometric safes they had in stock. I found her to be knowledgeable without being pushy or overly opinionated. She’s willing to share what she knows and let the customer decide what’s best for their situation.

I noticed that they still had space for additional inventory and I expect they will start to fill the shelves with much more inventory over time.

It was fun to be part of such a significant event and I’ll be back. I’m particularly interested in checking back for ammo. Since I don’t reload at this point, finding reasonably priced ammo in stock is a huge challenge. This may be part of my solution.

One eye, two eye

When I first learned to shoot, at the NRA First Steps Pistol class, they explained “eye dominance“. I closed one eye to aim and was most accurate that way, so I continued shooting that way.

When I took defensive shooting classes, I heard over and over: keep both eyes open. You lose peripheral vision and that might include a bad guy who’s trying to shoot you. I have periodically tried to practice with both eyes open and see double, get frustrated, and go back to closing one eye.


Dean coaching Sadie. Dean provides lots of personal coaching in his classes.

I took a class up at Caswell Ranch from Dean Brevit on April 6th, 2013. The most valuable thing I took away from Dean’s class was a new way to look at the target.

For defensive shooting, look at the target. Bring the gun up and when it gets in the way of the target, pull the trigger.

That is a huge over simplification, but it was the first explanation that really made sense to me.

The hitch: breaking the habit I’ve already established of closing one eye and lining up the sites.

Why does it matter? In a situation where another person is pointing a gun at you and is moving, it’s most likely that you will focus on the target. It is instinctive to focus on the threat. It’s also faster to shoot that way. The challenge is to maintain accuracy. And when the target is 6″ in diameter, for IDPA or to hit a bad guy’s chest, it is possible to be accurate enough. Dean made a believer out of me.

Making the change is a slow process. I keep getting cross-eyed when I try to change my focus to the target. All my practice time has been devoted to this one skill the last few weeks.

However I have much more work to do. At the IDPA match I shot last Saturday night, I immediately went back to closing one eye. I knew I was doing it, was very accurate for me, and didn’t want to shoot even slower… possibly a bad trade off, but one I made.

Finally, in a “deja vu” moment this past week, another blog I follow posted an article about focusing on the target, so I’ll share that as well: Can target focus be good? from Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!