Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Realistic Firearms Training

As the self reliant individual advances in his path of improving his defensive capabilities many things become clear that used to be completely ignored before. One of those is understanding that training doesn’t mean that much if you don’t keep practicing to sustain and hopefully improve your level of proficiency.
In the initial stages it feels like seeing the light when you’re introduced to the world of defensive shooting and understand there’s so much more than aiming and pulling the trigger. The person that shoots at paper targets or plinks in the back yard, even goes hunting once a while, he may feel he’s at least proficient in the use of weapons for self defense if it ever comes to that, but that’s only due to his level of ignorance being so great, he doesn’t even know how much he ignores. Sure, you might scare a junky away with a 22LR Derringer and no idea of how to use it, but it takes years of taking classes, then practicing what was learned to evolve into a level of training that allows you a reasonable chance of survival in a gunfight where you’re being ambushed and outnumbered by more serious attackers.

Once the knowledge is incorporated, then the tricky part starts. How do I keep the skills that I learned? How do I sustain that edge gained as time goes by? Of course training is the answer, but this is easier said than done. You need the time, the money, the physical place and like minded people that add that extra factor to the equation. Solo training is ok, but its much better if you’re testing yourself against others and also being placed outside your comfort zone, going through drills and scenarios that you haven’t thought of yourself.
At least for me the solution came in the form of TEA, Tiro en Accion or Action shooting. (TEA Video) This is somewhat of a local IDPA version with a few variations, more oriented to defensive shooting. We do this for a few hours every Friday night, and its often the same people we do defensive training with. Its generally just 50 rounds being shot per Friday, so its not as if you’re spending a lot of money. 200 rounds per month is very reasonable and you keep an adequate level of skill. Its not only the amount of ammo fired but how you shoot it that matters. You may burn through 100 rounds shooting at a target and not learn or practice a single thing.

Race gun and speed holster, not exactly daily carry gear.

If you have friends that are willing to get together or you plan on joining an action shooting group so as to practice and sustain a level of training here’s a few pieces of advice:
1)Train with the firearm you carry, and carry an adequate firearm. Someone commented in a previous post that “the Best Gun is the loaded gun you have in your hand vs. BunderBarr Fantasy gun in the safe.” No man, that’s the crappy last resort. A responsible shooter will carry an adequate big bore gun in reasonably powerful caliber, reliable functioning, with enough capacity to respond to the level of violence and technology used to apply such violence. Its not 1800’s where the idea of firepower was to carry two or three single shot pistols. Today its multiple attackers with auto pistols that have an average 15 round capacity. If you have to keep in mind not to spend more than 2 rounds per attacker while fighting for your life you’re adding an unnecessary complication to an already delicate situation. Just say no to mouse guns, or insanely chopped ones. Same applies to race guns full of bells and whistles. If training for self defense, then you use the exact same gun you carry and forget about reducing your time by a few seconds during competitions.
2)The belt and holster must be the same you carry daily. A speed belt and holster may be fast, huge 23 round mags sticking out of your side makes for faster reloads, but I bet that’s not what you carry daily. “But IWB holsters sucK!” No, you suck, a good IWB holster is just as good as any other. Of course its not a race gun holster, which reduces your draw in 0.1 second, but here’s where sporting and defensive shooting go their separate ways.
The Bladetech Phantom I use is just as fast as an outside the waistband holster, it keeps the gun secured during normal activities and its kept concealed.
3)Shoot from concealment. During winter in TEA we use a concealment garment. Of course an opened vest of some sort is faster than pulling up a tshirt, but since I do it mostly for defensive practice and not to win anything I just cover it with my shirt. So I’m 0,5 seconds slower than the guy with the opened vest, so what? You will fall back to doing what you did when training.
4)Use similar ammo. Reloading milder loads may be an advantage for winning competitions, but not for realistic defensive training. Even when reloading, try to replicate the recoil of the loads you would be carrying.
5)Memory conditioning. If you use a certain type of mag carrier just to be faster but throw your spare mag in your pocket, expect your hands to reach for nothing when you need it the most. The gear, the clothes you wear and where you place and carry each piece of equipment should be the same.
6)Use these sessions to see what works and what doesn’t. Thanks to these Friday night sessions I realized that XS Big Dots weren’t for me and I got rid of them. I gave them a chance, practiced with them and when I added the timer and pressure factor a couple times I realized it wasn’t for me. I shoot just as fast but more accurately with tried and true Patridge style sights and so does the handful of instructors that tried them.(one didn’t even bother picking it up and just laughed at the stupidity of fixing what wasn’t broken…) Even if you do this for practice rather than sport, the timer does add that extra pressure factor, taking you outside of your comfort zone, telling you time is running. That’s your chance to try new gear and techniques.
This also means you’ll end up daily carrying more adequate gear. You holster, the clothes you wear, your belt. When your shooting gear is your carry gear and not something different, then your capabilities on the street improve considerably.
I was loading mags with a friend of mine and asked him why was he now using a holster when he usually carries his Glock with a Clipdraw tucked inside his pants. “I want to win” he grinned.
Decide what is that you want to do. If you want to improve your skill at certain shooting sports, then ignore the article, but If you want to practice defensive shooting then stick to what you actually carry in spite of the results.
Take care.
Join the forum discussion on this post


Don Williams said...

1) One question I have --from considering the earlier 45 vs 9mm thread -- is this: what are the circumstances/training scenarios where one would need (or be able to fire) more than 8 rounds?

2) There is no magic -- You have a limited space in the grip , hence a fixed amount of powder/lead. You can stuff in 8 45 rounds or 15 9mm (the latter at the expense of fatter grips which affect accuracy if you have smaller hands.)

3) It takes three 9mm rounds to make the same wound channel volume as two 45 rounds. Hence you can take out 4 opponents with a 45 double tap and 5 with the 9mm. I would give the 45 a little more points because I think 9mm wounds are small enough to be partially self-closing --like sticking an icepick in an inflated automobile tire. But the 9mm gives you more flexibility. So we are almost in a philosophical debate.

4) But if you are fighting armed opponents at close range, what are the odds of shooting more than 4 attackers before being hit yourself?

It seems to me that the larger mag of the 9mm is of value mostly in dealing with failures to stop due to attackers having body armor-- e.g., having to shoot for the head as in the Mozambique drill. But won't you be hit by the time you make that discovery?

Don Williams said...

Or does body armor again change the situation -- i.e, you may be hit before getting off more than 8 rounds but you will be wearing body armor and hence will have time for several more shots before your attackers realize that and adapt??

FerFAL said...

Hi Don;
1) for training on TEA we do 3 mags with 7 rounds each per stage. That way you practice reloading even if your mag has 15 round capacity.
More ammo is always better, there's a million reasons why you may end up needing more ammo: severla attackers, more than one round needed per bad guy, prior suppresive shooting, etc.
2)It's not that simple. Each 357 SIG round packs more power than 45 ACP, but it fits more ammo than 45 ACP pistols. Since placement is more important than marginal caliber differences, more shots (with training) means greater chances of hitting where it counts.
3)It depends, this isn't math, if you put a round thorugh a persons heart, nervous system, brain or mayor blood vessels it matter little if its 9mm or 45 ACP, and again, with good JHP 9mm will do as good as 45 ACP. Of course pacement is the key.
Its not 3x9mm=1x45 ACP.
4)Against pros, your odds aren't good, but take for example Mr. Rico, Mayor of the city of San Miguel, he's fend of multiple armed attackers 4 or 5, maybe more, several times. Got wounded last time but he still survived, guy laughed while on the strecher saying he'd kill the MF if they came after him again.
I also remember an icident where a 18 year old boy with his dads 40S&W fought several corrupt cops trying to break into his house, killing 3 or 4 of them. It really depends and its a matter of training, luck, rigt tool for the job and determination.


Don Williams said...

1) I judge cartridge power by momentum --bullet weight
times velocity -- since that when divided by cross sectional area (bullet diameter squared) gives you the depth of penetration.
(Assuming the bullet doesn't tumble --something that limits
the penetration of spitzer rifle

2) A 124 gr 9mm+P at 1150 fps gives you a momentum of 142,600.
A 124 357 Sig at 1350 gives you 167400.

In contrast, the basic 230 gr 45 ACP at 830 pfs gives you

3) Plus the Sig is a hot load. A similar hot +P 45 ACP --230 gr at 936 pfs -- gives you 215280.

A 45 ACP wildcat --necked down in the manner of the 357 Sig to 40 caliber -- will give the penetration of the 357 sig but with a 40 caliber wound channel vice 357.

4) A 16 rd 357 mag requires an oversized grip. Given that the
Sig is a necked down 40 S&W, a 12 round mag would be a more
meaningful comparison to the 8 round 45.

And 10 round 45 ACP mags are available -- probably not something you want to carry
in the gun itself but a reasonable option for reloads if people want.

5) This year is the 100th anniversity of the 1911 45 ACP -- and a reminder that if you want to stop a cavalry charge, you need to
shoot those horses with big bullets. :)))

Anonymous said...

"This year is the 100th anniversery of the 1911 45ACP-- and a reminder that if you want to stop a cavalry charge, you need to shoot those horses with big bullets."

True, but I think it was Moro Tribesmen in the Philipine insurrection that got the generals' attention by refusing to fall after being shot 6 times with the .38 special. We were losing too many valuable officers, you know.

The US Army began a program that culminated with the greatest pistol ever made. That after 100 years this point is still being argued is a tribute to John Browning's design and the bullet created to fire in it.

I see you are an aficionado of the 1911. So am I. I have 3 of them, my favorite being the Kimber Ultra CDP-11, but my Colt Combat Commander and Government models aren't too shabby.

templar knight

Don Williams said...

1) I need to clarify an earlier comment.

A single stack 45 ACP mag holding seven 45 rounds gives a holding space of 7* 45 = 3.15 inches. That space will only hold 8 (NOT 12) rounds of 40 S&W or 357 Sig rounds. (3.14 div by .40).

The Glocks hold more because they have oversized, wide grips (1.5 in) and double stack their rounds. A Glock 21 45 ACP holds 13 rounds, not 7 or 8.

Whether the oversized, wide grip is desirable depends in part on the size of your hand -- you may get better accuracy with the single grip Colt 45 and it is thinner for concealment.

There is no magic -- for a given space you have X amount of lead and Y amount of powder. 15 rds give more flexibility than 8 but a contrary argument is that it is best to throw out more lead per shot with better accuracy because you may not get to shoot rds 10-15.

Sean C said...

Don, you can't win a gunfight with math. I can understand where you're coming from, I'm a very technical and analytical person too. The problem is that historically and factually speaking, gunfights are a mess in simple terms. Very few bullets fired ever find their mark. I've read many different reports but a good average seems to be around 15-20%. I've read of many occurrences where an officer was shot in the hand or arm, making it even more difficult to accurately shoot back. I'm a reasonable person, no superhero, so I don't expect to improve significantly in accuracy during a gunfight compared to law enforcement. If I should then expect no more than 1 in 5 bullets to hit my target, I want as much capacity as I can reasonably carry in a proven caliber.

Nolan said...

Unless our situation in the US is dramatically altered, the chances of us ever being in a "gunfight" are much lower than the chances of us running into a mugger on a dark street or parking lot.

One reason that so few shots hit the mark is that few shots are ever intended to hit the mark, but are instead fired in the general direction of an enemy as suppression fire.

Of all the people I know who have ever had to use a gun for personal protection outside of the home the distances are just a few feet and the concept of cover/concealment is non-existant. I have never even heard of anybody anywhere near me getting into a gunfight where more than a few shots were exchanged.

At least from everything I have seen and heard, shootings are very common but gunfights are exceedingly rare. The only gunfights I have heard about are in or around a house.

Do criminals in other places really stick around and try to shoot it out just to rob you?

Anonymous said...


The caliber debate will rage until the end of time. Your math is solid, but your assumptions are slanting your own argument in favor of the .45 (3x9mm = 1x.45 is not a realistic assessment of how gunfights work out).

I've seen guys that had been shot (fatally even) with a .45 multiple times fight on for much longer than you'd think is possible, and I've seen guys go down with one 9mm to the torso.

You never know what the fight will be, and assuming different is a good way to lose.

Personally, I'd much rather have the option of having 45 rounds versus 21-27 (depending on mag capacity) if needed.

And yeah if you look at the uniform crime report, the incidence of multiple attackers is sharply increasing here in the US.