Dry-Fire for Handgun Shooting Success

When beginning a dry-fire practice session, check and recheck that your gun is completely empty (including empty magazines for semi-automatic handguns) and that all ammunition has been removed and is far away from your practice area.

When beginning a dry-fire practice session, check and recheck that your gun is completely empty (including empty magazines for semi-automatic handguns) and that all ammunition has been removed and is far away from your practice area.

If I told you there is one technique that, once mastered, will allow you to hit your target every single time, you’d probably write me off as one of those infomercial con guys. But, believe it or not, I speak the truth, and there’s no trick, no gimmick to it.

What is the technique? Perfect trigger press. A bad trigger press is the top reason shots go off target when shooting a handgun. Why? Most handguns require between four and 12 pounds of trigger pressure to fire. Most handguns also weigh less than three pounds; some these days weigh less than one. Now, if I remember my high school physics correctly, when you apply 10 pounds of pressure to a two-pound object, that object is going to move. Therein lies the problem. For you to hit your target every time, you have to press the trigger, with its four to 12 pounds of required pressure, without allowing your handgun to move at all.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to develop your ability to press the trigger without moving your gun: dry-firing. Dry-firing is practicing your trigger press without using ammunition. It allows you to focus on technique without the noise and recoil. You can also dry-fire at home—no need to go to the range to practice—and it won’t cost you a red cent.

The most important consideration when dry-fire practicing is safety. It is paramount that you commit to never having live ammunition anywhere near your gun when you dry-fire, and I mean not even in the same room. Beyond that, four gun safety rules always apply when dry-firing:

  1. Treat your gun as if it’s loaded.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to dry-fire.
  3. Never point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  4. Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

Looks a lot like the rules for regular practice at the range, don’t they? That’s exactly my point. Gun safety is gun safety, with or without ammunition.

Now let’s take a look at how dry-firing should be performed, but one note before we do: Be sure to check with the gun’s manufacturer to make sure it’s all right to dry-fire your gun. With the exception of most .22 rimfire handguns, most modern pistols and revolvers are fine to dry-fire without ammunition, but some guns, especially older firearms, can be damaged by this practice, so better to check first. All set? Here’s how dry-firing works:

Read the rest at the National Shooting Sports Foundation!

Movies and Gun Blunders

thriller on tvYou know what they say: You can’t believe everything you see on TV. That’s knowledge to keep in hand, for while the folks in Hollywood do have a wonderful flair for the dramatic, no one has ever accused them of being realistic.

Carrying and shooting guns is serious business. It’s crucial that every gun owner learn safe practices from the right sources—and that source does not generally include something you see in your downtown theater. Let’s consider a few Hollywood gun blunders and discuss why they’re such bad practices.

1.      Shooting without Hearing Protection!—One entertaining shooting scene comes from the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They’re a married couple, but each is a spy for a competing consortium. To make a long story short, they end up resolving their differences with a shootout, against each other, in their otherwise quiet suburban home. While Brad planned ahead and fought his spy-bride with a suppressed pistol, Angelina blasted away at spy-boy Brad with a 12-gauge shotgun.

You know it’s Hollywood when, after a big shootout, you never hear the characters saying, “Wait? What? I can’t hear you!” Yeah, I know, Brad and Angie wouldn’t have looked nearly so sexy wearing earmuffs and safety glasses, but that doesn’t give us real-life shooters a pass.

If you’ve ever shot indoors, it’s loud even with hearing protection. Outside shooting isn’t much better and often worse, depending on the firearm and caliber. Let’s be clear: Without hearing protection, each and every shot you endure—and this is whether you shoot on an indoor range or outside—may cause cumulative or permanent hearing loss. Always, always wear hearing protection, indoor range to pheasant field, whitetail deer stand to skeet range, .22-caliber to .50-caliber and everything in between.

Read the rest in the October 2014 National Shooting Sports Foundation First Shots newsletter!

5 Tips for New Concealed Carriers

One of the first steps is to get a proper holster, like this Galco King Tuk.

One of the first steps is to get a proper holster, like this Galco King Tuk.

Maybe you have recently completed the NSSF First Shots program or recently acquired your concealed carry permit. Alternatively, perhaps you are considering getting a carry permit. In any of these cases, there are a few things you need to know in terms of your next steps.

1. Get The Right Holster!

The right concealed carry holster will inspire confidence. You should be able to go about your daily business, whether your style is sedentary or active, without worry that your gun will move or fall out of your possession.

What do you look for in a “good”concealed carry holster? That’s simple. Focus on three things.

First, a good holster will help you access your gun quickly, easily and safely. It will hold your gun in a consistent position, so if you ever have to reach for it under stress, it will be exactly where you expect. A good holster will not move around and won’t require you to “check”the well-being or position of your gun as you move throughout your day.

Second, a good holster protects the trigger. No matter what your method of carry (waistband, ankle, purse, pocket or other), your holster needs to prevent stray objects or fingers from engaging the trigger. It is amazing how keys, change, chairs and other items can interfere with a trigger, potentially causing a negligent discharge.

Third, a good holster will ensure that your gun remains under your control at all times. It will not allow your gun to work its way out. It will not detach itself from your belt or clothing. If you have an active lifestyle, you may even want to consider a retention holster that requires a specific operation to release the gun from the holster.

If you don’t know anything at all about holsters and different ways to carry a gun, you might check out this book.

2. Practice with a purpose!

If you need to use your gun for self-defense, it won’t be much like your outings to the range. Most attacks are sudden and unexpected – initiated and resolved in seconds. Your attacker will be moving. You will (hopefully) be moving. If guns are involved, that means hitting moving targets while moving, and all while under enormous stress.

Standing at the range plinking at cans and paper targets is fun and satisfying. By all means do it! Just don’t think that prepares you for self-defense. If you want to start practicing skills that might help you in a defense situation, be sure to practice drawing from a holster, evaluating targets and what’s behind them, shooting quickly, but accurately and dealing with malfunctions in your gun. Have a friend load your magazines with random numbers of bullets so you might have to unexpectedly change magazines. Get some snap caps and have your friend insert them in your magazines randomly so you can practice what to do if your gun goes click instead of bang.

You also might create scenarios to track your progress. Try using a paper plate for a target and seeing how fast you can hit it from a draw with 5 straight shots at certain distances. Track your progress and set goals for improvement in both time and accuracy.

The very best way to practice is to make sure you complete step 5 in this tip list. Your instructor will give you lots of ideas for effective practice after your class.

Read the rest at NSSF First Shots!


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Try Competitions To Become A More Effective Shooter

Competition shootingThere’s a big difference between good and effective.

If you are involved in shooting purely for recreation and the joy of punching holes in paper or tin cans, then being a good shooter is, well, good enough.

If you intend to use your gun for self or home defense, then you need to think about how to become a more effective shooter.

What’s the difference?

When you’re enjoying a range outing with family and friends, you can be really, really good. Your shots impact where you want and they’re all impressively close together. When it comes time to reload or change magazines, no worries, you can chit chat about that new gun you want while leisurely preparing for the next round of shots. Hurrying or running around while trying to shoot would put a real damper on your ability to make pretty target patterns. You’ve got all day, and when time isn’t a factor, you are one impressive shooter!

That’s good, as long as you aren’t planning to use these “impressive shooter”qualifications for self-defense needs. If you intend to have a gun for personal protection or home defense, then you need to be effective, not just good. You need to safely operate your gun and get shots on target when the conditions are the worst imaginable—exactly the opposite of those fun days at the range.

One way to become a more effective shooter is to introduce a little bit of pressure and stress into your shooting routine. In this issue of First Shots News, Barbara Baird talks about various types of competitive shooting, so I’ll focus on what those competitions can do to make you more effective.

Even though some shooting competitions, like International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) mimic self- or home-defense situations, they won’t help you much with specific defensive tactics. They will, however, help you master core skills that can contribute to your ability to use a gun in a defensive situation. Let’s consider some skills you can improve by shooting competitively.

Read the rest in the National Shooting Sports Foundations First Shots Newsletter!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Meet the Shotgun!

Double barrel shotgunLet’s take a look at what makes a shotgun a shotgun.

If you rely on Hollywood for your information, a shotgun can never miss and is capable of knocking a 1970 Pontiac GTO clear across Hazzard County.

In reality, they’re not quite that impressive, but a shotgun is one very versatile gun. Competition, recreation, hunting and home defense—a shotgun can do it all.

Before we get into types of shotguns and their various uses, let’s talk about what a shotgun is. A shotgun used to be a gun with a smooth (non-rifled) bore that fired multiple pellet projectiles. As with everything, the lines got blurry because gun people like to invent new stuff. Now some shotguns can fire single projectiles, have rifled barrels and are available as handguns.

For purposes of this discussion, let’s consider a shotgun as a shoulder-fired gun that has a smooth bore and is intended to fire ammunition loaded with multiple pellet projectiles. Even with this basic definition, the versatility of a shotgun is evident.

The versatility comes from shotgun ammunition, commonly called shot. Shot type is identified by number. The higher the number, the smaller the pellet size. For example, 000 buck shot shells have pellets that measure .36 inches in diameter. That’s the same diameter as a .357 Magnum bullet! Number 9 shot shells have a gazillion tiny pellets that measure .080 inches in diameter. There are about a dozen options in between. If you require longer range and more power, you can use a shell with fewer, but larger and heavier pellets. If you’re shooting at clay targets or bird hunting, you can use a shell with many smaller and lighter pellets. Using the same gun, you can customize your ammo choice for the job.

We need to talk about one more thing before we get into types of shotguns—choke. Think of a choke tube as a nozzle you put on a garden hose. If you put a small nozzle on the end, the water stream gets narrower and shoots farther. It’s the same thing with a shotgun choke tube. For example, a “full choke” tube constricts the diameter of the muzzle, causing the pellets to compress into a tighter cloud.

Types of Shotguns

There are three common types of shotguns: break action, pump and semi-automatic. We’ll lump the more unusual designs into the “other” category. Let’s take a look at each.

Read the rest at the National Shooting Sports Foundation!

What’s Better? Revolver or Semi-Auto Pistol?

Which one is best for you?

Which one is best for you?

I feel sorry for new shooters.

Back when I was a new shooter, movable type had just been invented and the internet wasn’t even part of Nostradamus’ wildest dreams. Learning about guns and self defense was hard, but easy. It was hard because I couldn’t sit at my computer and browse the opinions of thousands of self-proclaimed experts. It was easy because I had to get my information from face to face conversations, and it was clear when someone was full of baloney.

Now, with the advent of online advice, it’s up the the new shooter to filter out the good information from the chaff. Ask a simple question like “should I get a semi-automatic or a revolver” and you’ll get 4,357 opinions and a few offers for diet plans of the stars.

For this inaugural issue of the NSSF First Shots Newsletter, I wanted to address one of the most persistent, and challenging, decisions for new shooters: revolver or semi-auto? Granted, to you, I’m also one of those 4,357 opinions on the internet. But on the plus side, I do this for a living and I’m a student just like you. I’ve been shooting and studying shooting issues for decades, yet I still learn something new every day. I love that. More importantly, I love sharing what I learn. So what do you say let’s get started?

The first order of business is to resolve some of the perpetual myths that surround the revolver versus semi-automatic decision.

“Revolvers are more reliable!”

“Semi-auto’s are prone to jamming!”

“A snub-nose revolver is the perfect carry gun for beginners!”

“Semi-automatic pistols are hard to operate!”

And so on… You could write a book on revolver vs. semi-automatic myths.

Let’s address these issues with the appropriate level of detail and care.

Bull hockey!

So what are issues to consider? Let’s talk about some real decision criteria. The goal isn’t to provide an answer for what’s the best choice for you, but rather to give you things to think about. Why? Because there is no “best” choice. The best choice for you depends entirely on your situation and preferences.

Let’s take a look at a few factors that might influence your decision.

Read the rest at National Shooting Sports Foundation First Shots!

Top 10 Shooting Industry Masters Fun Facts

Tisma Juett is only serious about two things: shooting and leading the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program. When it comes to something as serious as the Ruger/Smith & Wesson Rimfire Rodeo, stand back! I’m pretty sure I felt all the available oxygen being sucked out of the area when Tisma started to focus. And when it comes to getting new people into the shooting sports, the game rises to a whole new level. One of her first projects upon taking the reins of First Shots was to schedule a series of events literally surrounding Washington, D.C. I think that’s called “throwing down the gauntlet.” Dear politicians: you think you got game? Ha! You’re rookies!

Tisma Juett is serious about two things: Shooting and NSSF First Shots. Shown here taking aim at the Ruger/Smith & Wesson Rimfire Rodeo event.

The NSSF Team, left to right: Bill Brassard, Tisma Juett, USA Shooting 3-time Olympian Matt Emmons (just photo-bombing here), Randy Clark and Steve Sanetti

Hosting free beginner First Shots seminars requires cash, and that’s where the great folks at FMG Publications step in. Publishers of American HandgunnerGuns MagazineAmerican Cop, and numerous special issues, FMG has hosted theShooting Industry Masters event to benefit First Shots and USA Shooting for 11 years now.

The NSSF Team, left to right: Bill Brassard, Tisma Juett, USA Shooting 3-time Olympian Matt Emmons (just photo-bombing here), Randy Clark and Steve Sanetti

The NSSF Team, left to right: Bill Brassard, Tisma Juett, USA Shooting 3-time Olympian Matt Emmons (just photo-bombing here), Randy Clark and Steve Sanetti

Not familiar with the Shooting Industry Masters? Let’s take a quick look at the top 10 Masters fun facts:

1. NSSF First Shots Benefits! Over the past 11 events, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised and donated to NSSF First Shots. That’s a lot of green that helps emerging “green” shooters become safe and proficient.

2. Olympic shooters can be bought! While the IOC might frown on the outright cheating and bribery, one of the fun parts of the Shooting Industry Masters is that teams can “purchase” a ringer from the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team to help improve their scores. It’s OK though, the competition is just for fun and fundraising.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub.com!

A Weekend of Firsts at the Shooting Industry Masters

There’s a first time for everything.

Last weekend was a first time for a lot of things – for me anyway. Hosted by FMG Publications, publishers of American Handgunner, Guns Magazine, American Cop, and Shooting Industry, the Shooting Industry Masters event benefits the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s First Shots program.

Organized as a friendly shooting competition for industry insiders, the Masters event has raised nearly $100,000 over the past three years. This year’s event at the world-class Rockcastle Shooting Center promises to be a record breaker when all the donations are tallied. Money is raised through sponsors, team entry fees, raffles, auctions, and the world-renowned side matches.

Over two full days, teams compete in three event categories: handgun, rifle, and shotgun. With the exception of the shotgun event which is a sporting clays format, the stages are almost all multiple-gun shoot-and-move scenarios. And the side matches? Let your imagination run wild with things you can do with guns, night vision, lasers, and zombies and you’ll get the idea.

The really fun part of the Shooting Industry Masters is the opportunity to do a lot of things not normally accessible at the neighborhood range. In fact, with all the shooting in which I’ve been fortunate enough to participate, I still racked up a large list of ‘firsts’ at this year’s events. With that said, here are some of the highlights:

I shot an FN M249 Mk 46 machine gun.

FN M249 Mk 46 machine gun

The FN M249 Mk 46 is an assaulters gun

A new model designed as an ‘assaulters gun’, the Mk46 has been simplified, and lightened, to allow a professional door kicker to handle it more adeptly. The carry handle is gone, as is the ability to insert standard AR magazines, so it’s belt fed only. A new stock design with hints of M240 appearance rounds out the package. At this side match, hosted by FNH, you plunk yourself down on the ground, jam the bipod into the dirt, and engage three steel targets about 150 yards downrange. Attendees were given two competition options: fire a 20 round belt to knock down all three targets in the fastest time or use a 10 round belt to knock down all three with no time limit. The 10 round option required serious trigger control to limit yourself to two round bursts. This provided four or five bursts to cover all the targets.

I’m trying to convince my wife that the Mk 46 will make an excellent home defense gun.

I got smoked in the Colt 1911 side match by American Handgunner Editor Roy Huntington.

Roy Huntington American Handgunner Magazine shooting Colt 1911 Shooting Industry Masters

Don’t let Roy fool ya. The boy can shoot!

Don’t let the humble and nice guy image fool ya. The boy can shoot! Colt set up a course of fire consisting of two 1911’s on a table – a .45 ACP and a 10mm. The idea was to pick up one, your choice, then engage 3 steel plates with double taps. Then pick up the other gun and knock down a series of six bowling pins with one shot each. Each gun was loaded with only six rounds so there was no room for misses. Oh yeah, and the whole scenario was timed.

Lesson learned: don’t bet with Editor Roy. Even if he does claim that he hardly ever gets the chance to shoot.

I got a chance to try Cowboy Action Shooting

Shooting Industry Masters 2012 Benelli cowboy action shooting

Cowboy Action shooting can be fast and fun

I’ve always had an itch to try a Cowboy Action event. I’ve just had a thing for lever action rifles, six guns, and last but not least, coach shotguns. And cowboy boots. At the Benelli side match event, I got to try all three in a single string of fire – plus a Uberti rifle in .45-70. I had to push the limit of my already questionable powers of concentration to even complete this string of fire. Start from a sitting position, leap to a window and pick up a single action sixgun to engage a series of height-challenged steel Evil Roy’s downrange. Next, run, don’t walk to another window and pick up a lever action rifle to engage some slightly chubbier steel cowboy bandits. At the next window awaits a coach shotgun. Whack a steel target with the first shot. If and when it falls, a clay bird is launched in to the air. Nail that and you’re off to the final stage where you pick up a .45-70 to hit a steel plate way, way, way out in the woods.

Hat’s (cowboy style of course) off to Benelli for creating a great side match stage to introduce folks to the fun of cowboy action shooting!

I re-killed a horde of undead in a cave.

Surefire cave match - Shooting Industry Masters

Can’t see anything? That’s exactly the point!

Surefireset up their phenomenally popular cave match. We’re not talking virtual cave or simulated cave. We’re talking the kind of cave you access by finding a hole in the middle of the woods. Climb down a rotting ladder into the hole, then squeeze your slightly-out-of-shape butt through a rocky entrance that’s about three feet tall. Crab crawl for a bit, then navigate 20 yards or so of 18 inch wide winding crevasses. Now you can mostly walk. Proceed another 100 feet or so into the cave and you find a couple of Surefire folks waiting with a Glock 17 equipped with a tactical light / laser combo unit and a couple of loaded magazines. Your instructions are simple. Keep going into the cave and shoot anything you see. It turns out you’ll see a series of 3 dimensional zombie targets. Hint: You might even encounter Zombie Adolf Hitler and of course Zombie Osama bin Laden.

Navigating a cave in complete absence of light, equipped with a gun, tactical light, and laser is one of the most exciting shooting experiences I’ve had.

I cleared a shoot house with night vision goggles and an infrared laser equipped H&K 416.

Shooting Industry Masters - night vision shoot house

Geared up with night vision.

I think this stage motivated me to acquire the ultimate rodent hunting setup. Pick a fun gun, appropriate to the mission, like an Umarex H&K 416 full auto airsoft in this case. Add a night vision monocle to the tactical helmet of your choice. Mount a Crimson Trace infrared laser vertical grip, and launch into the depths of a blacked out building. Being that zombies were an unofficial theme, you could expect to find them throughout the darkened house.

I was impressed by the usability of the system. I set up the night vision scope over my right (dominant) eye and proceeded into the house with both eyes open. The gun, sights, and targets were perfectly clear. Of course, the way to go on this one was to use that infrared laser dot. Fun.

I tried the same target scoring system used in Olympic shooting competitions.

Shot Response Electronic Zombie target

The Shot Response electronic scoring system

Shot Response created the Guns and Golf Zombie Challenge match. This was a  wildy popular shoot and move stage that showcased the Shot Response electronic scoring system. This is no gimmick. You shoot real guns, with real ammo, at real targets. The Shot Response target frame contains microphone / pressure sensors which triangulate the location of the hit. Results are processed by computer and displayed on screen at the shooting line. Distance from center, group size, and other feedback metrics are displayed and stored for analysis and printing. In this event, the Shot Response folks created a zombie golfer target, decked out in rotting lime green golf attire. Start the stage from a golf cart with a double tap from an FN SCAR, then run across the street to a kneeling position and launch another double tap. Now run to a sandtrap and engage the still-undead plaid pants corpse from a standing position. Next, drop the SCAR in a golf bag and run to the green. Grab an FN pistol from the hole and engage with another double tap. This is one persistent zombie. To finish, dash to the 19th hole, plant your fanny on a bar stool, and nail the zombie two more times. All of this is electronically recorded. And timed.

This system will absolutely show you how much you suck. No more excuses. I loved it.

Look for the Shot Response system at the upcoming Olympic games.

I finally got to shoot an FN SCAR.

FN SCAR - Shooting Industry Masters 2012

Hot Caliber teammate Douglas unloads a SCAR – the fun and easy way!

The Shot Response Golf Zombie Challenge match featured an FN SCAR 16Sfor the first three shooting positions. Built as a contender for the next generation assault rifle, the SCAR can be configured in 5.56mm or 7.62mm. It’s a short stroke piston design which allows the system to run cooler and cleaner. Add user swappable barrels and lots of rail options and you have a very customizable platform. I found the SCAR to have a soft and controllable feel – OK, that’s kind of expected with a 5.56mm rifle – with no “twang”  as with many AR platform rifles.

One tip – be sure to keep your forward hand out of the way of the reciprocating charging handle.

I found out that it takes 1 driver, 1 ballast guy, and 3 pushers to move a golf cart up a muddy hill.

Shooting Industry Masters 2012 muddin with golf carts

This cart was not equipped with muddin’ tires…

Day 1, Friday, started on the heels of a torrential thunderstorm the previous night. Add some morning showers, and the woodsy Rockcastle shooting center was buried in about six inches of mud. The size of the facility mandated the use of gas powered golf carts to get from one event to the next. With each golf cart being loaded with four people, conditions were ripe for lots of mud-bound vehicles. We learned the hard way that steep hills require a coordinated team effort to move the cart. A driver, a lard guy, and three pushers just might get you moving.

Dirt. Mud. Water. Guns. Yes, it was as fun as it looks.

First Shots!

When it comes to learning about handguns, shooting and firearms ownership, not knowing how or where to start can be an intimidating hurdle for newcomers. First Shots® provides opportunities to get started and the support to continue in handgun shooting.

Check out www.firstshots.org for more information!

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