Category Archives: Training

SEALS & Silencers, in the Seventies

tridentWe’ve just heard the following story, and can’t vouch 100% for its truth, but it would explain something interesting: why, after using at least two suppressed weapons on a limited basis in Vietnam, and another thereafter, the SEAL teams did not pursue more general issue of suppressed weapons. (Two suppressed weapons they did use were the Mk 22 “Hush Puppy” variant of the Smith & Wesson M39, which added a threaded barrel, a suppressor, a raised sight axis (to clear the suppressor), and a slide lock; and a suppressed version of the S&W M76 submachine gun).

In the SEALS, there was a faction that was strong for suppressors as a force multiplier, and a faction that dismissed them as “spy [bleep]” and couldn’t see a practical use for them. So a test was arranged.

In the test, the SEALS, with the support of what was then the Naval Weapons Systems office at Crane, Indiana, tested a variety of US and foreign suppressed weapons in two like-real-life CQB environments: shipboard, on a ship destined for scrap, and ashore, in a Navy building that already was penciled in fora date with the wrecking ball.

Even with the quietest weapons, like the Hush Puppy with slide-lock engaged, there was no mistaking that a gunshot had been fired. The SEALS could hear the thud of rounds hitting walls, or the Spang! of them hitting ships’ decks or bulkheads. In addition, they could still hear  the report, however reduced it may have been.

The SEALS concluded that the state of technology did not support a more general issue of suppressors at the time, because anyone the SEALS engaged would still know he was being engaged (at least, until they killed him).

By 2016 standards, this error forty-whatever years ago is clearly based on a false concept of what a suppressor does for you in combat. In fact, the gadget’s benefits are great even when they fall far short of the Hollywood effect of making the entire report of the shot disappear. Suppressors reduce noise and light signature, preserve operator hearing, help identify friend from foe, and mask the source and direction of friendly fires. Those reasons certainly justify using such tools.

But it took a while for the operators to learn that. Today, a lot more SOF (US and global) are running with suppressors, even though there’s still no way to keep the enemy from knowing that you’re shooting at him. At least, until you kill him.

Correction

This post originally named the Hush Puppy as the Mk 23. Daniel Watters points out in the comments (correctly) that the proper nomenclature is Mk 22 Mod 0. The error has been corrected. -Ed.

Usage: Open Carry Saves Her Life

Frank Taylor_mugshotMeet Frank Taylor. Don’t get too attached to him, because he’s a crumb, a violent criminal, and he’s already dead, dead, dead — where he can’t hurt anybody any more. Maybe he was a lovely guy 99% of the time, or maybe he was always prone to the kind of dyscivic activity that characterized the last hours of his life. We don’t know, although the fact that he already had a scowling mugshot on file is what intelligence officers call “an indicator.”

Moms Demand Action records his demise as a “gun death.” And it was, but not quite the way they mean.

As it happens, he took his chances on robbing a woman a fraction of his size (4’11″/85 lbs, aka 1.5m/39 Kg), and the gamble came up snake eyes for him, as he coughed out his last blood on an operating table soon thereafter. (We can just feel the groundswell of sympathy for the guy, all the way from Arizona).

Now, we’re not big fans of open carry, here. Why advertise? In summer months, when our service pistol would be hard to conceal in shorts and t-shirt, we downsize. (First Rule of Gunfights: Bring a Gun). But some people, like Carolann Miracle of Glendale, AZ, are built so lean that even a Baby Browning is going to print. You might as well carry the horse pistol, exposed, then.

A news channel tells part of the story:

The suspect, Frank Taylor , tried to bum a cigarette. She told him that she didn’t have one, and then seconds later, Miracle said, she could feel the barrel of the gun against her skin.

“He put the gun up to my neck and said, ‘It’s loaded, don’t move,’” Miracle said. ”I think he thought, ‘She’s a little girl. Maybe she doesn’t know how to use her weapon.’”

Miracle said, “I dropped my soda, released my gun from my holster and cocked it. I shot him and ran in the opposite direction.

She called the cops from home; meanwhile, others responded to the scene, where they called paramedics who transported Taylor to the ER, where attempts to save him — why? Not because he was worth saving, but out of sheer force of habit; it’s what they do — were unavailing.

“Every time you hear a peaceable carrier’s gunshot, a devil gets his bat wings.” Now Frank Taylor hangs, upside down, alongside his brethren in the Surprised Scumbag Hall of Infamy.

Carolann Miracle. From Dean's screen cap of a TV interview.

Carolann Miracle. (Note her Glock). From Dean’s screen cap of a TV interview.

Dean Weingarten has done some work on this story, and reached some conclusions we generally agree with:

Carolann’s father was a Marine.  He taught her well. …

Carolann did many things right.  The first was to instantly recognize the threat.  Many become mired in the thought that “this cannot be happening”; “this is not real”.  People who carry are much less likely to do that because they have considered the possibility of attack and prepared for it.

She did the right thing when she dropped her drink.  Dropping things to access your weapon or to fight better is not an instinctive reaction.  Many people instinctively hang on to useless things that impede their ability to fight.  I taught my students to practice dropping things at the beginning of a fight so that they could draw their firearm, and fight more effectively.

She did the right thing when she fled the area in the opposite direction from the way the attacker was going.  Many attacks, perhaps 50%, involve an accomplice.  She purposefully made the decision, moved to safety, then called the police.

Carolann’s response is common.  She did not want to kill her attacker. It was a consequence of what he forced her to do.  She would have preferred that it never happened.

Indeed, if Frank Taylor decided to get a job framing houses or working in a car wash, he’d be ahead, not dead, and poor Ms. Miracle wouldn’t have his soul, blackened and crabbed though it may have been, on her conscience.

But he didn’t. He decided he wanted to be an urban predator — the U-Boat of the modern urban environment. If Carolann hadn’t gone home to her three-year-old, if it’d been her vapor-locking on that operating table, that probably wouldn’t have troubled Taylor’s atrophied conscience at all. But she wasn’t the complacent victim he expected. The only problem with the lesson he learned from running into a Q-Ship is that his ability to pass the message on is somewhat curtailed.

Dean has a lot more; go Read The Whole Thing™. (His whole site is excellent).

 

In the Annals of Cop Marksmanship

Case 1: Omar Mateen, whose father that raised him to Jihad is apparently appearing on the campaign trail with one of the candidates. (Gotta sew up that mass-murderer vote, evidently). Mateen was the Moslem version of a man, who bought his ticket to 72 virgins by murdering 49 people at a gay nightclub. But it’s not his dad’s run at 15 minutes of political fame that concerns us; it’s the mechanics of the shooting.

(Aside: Omar, enjoy your virgins. But first, guess what the dead gays get in paradise? Turns out, 72 of them get one virgin — you. Grab your goat-smellin’ ankles).

UPI reports:

Mateen’s autopsy revealed the 29-year-old… was shot at least eight times by police officers as they responded to the shooting…. He was struck in several places, including the chest, abdomen and foot.

Eight hits is pretty good. Out of how many?

The Orlando Sentinel reports that officers shot at Mateen about 150 times during the standoff …

Ew. That’s not so good. Even counting the foot shot, 8/150 comes to about 5.3% hits. Put another way, there were 142 other rounds sailing through the ether, addressed “To Whom it May Concern.”

…and his autopsy indicates he was likely shot from long range while facing police.

The writer probably doesn’t understand this, but on an autopsy, “close range” means, “with powder burns” and “long range” means “no powder burns,” most of the time. So “long range” could be three feet.

But at least the cops shot better than Mateen, right? Er… maybe not.

Friday’s release featured 27 men, not including Mateen, and four women. The victims included in the report suffered a total of 130 gunshot wounds, and the majority died of multiple gunshots.

We don’t know how many rounds Mateen fired from that article, but he managed to get an average of four-plus into each of the targets he hit. For his 130 hits to have been as wild as the police’s 8, he’d had to have fired at least 2,400 rounds.

But… it’s possible the police scored a few more hits than the eight on Mateen.

It remains unclear if anyone in the club besides Mateen was struck by police gunfire, but Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the possibility would be investigated.

They have to know the answer to this question already, and if the police hadn’t hit any of the innocents on the scene, they’d have published that fact already. Ergo, the cops killed Mateen, but only after first being his force multiplier.

 

Case 2: A Chicago cop punches the ticket of a small-time career criminal as said crim smashes a stolen Jaguar into police units. Naturally, it has produced a Black Criminals’ Lives Matter backlash. This body-cam shot seems to show the moment of truth. Rather than repeat the same analysis, we’ll start off by quoting the author of 50% of the common sense published on Chicongo crime, Second City Cop:

chicongo cop shot crim

That is a freeze-frame of one of the body cams. You can see the shell case exiting the ejection port. You can also see the tail end of the vehicle driving (scraping?) the squad. It’s nothing that hasn’t been in the media, so spare us any faux outrage.

That’s also a cop within the arc of muzzle travel….fractions of a degree. Tenths of seconds, split second decisions, tunnel vision, etc. We’ve heard it. And if you have any experience on the job, you’ve heard it, too.

And you ought to admit, seeing it in this form is a sobering and valuable lesson to everyone.

The gun appears to be not quite back in battery at the moment of the screencap. The white SUV in the left foreground is a cop car. The dark car of which the taillights are just visible right of center is the criminal’s ride. If you follow the drainpipe of the brown building down, you’ll see another Chicago cop’s blurry face, blue shirt and black protective vest. Here’s another cop car camera’s view of the incident: criminal’s in the Jag, you should be able to pick up the positions of the Explorer (l) and the police SUV (r). It’s possible, even likely, that the cop visible “downrange” in the video came from the vehicle this camera was in, or the SUV on the right.

Driver View

Q: Why would a cop fire in a situation like this, with a friendly in Polish Ambush position on the opposite side of the perp? (Apologies to our readers from Polsko, it’s an expression).

A: Because that cop does not see his mate right in front of him. He’s amped up, his bloodstream is full of stress hormones, he’s selected the Fight option and rejected Flight or Freeze, and his perceptual field has narrowed to his target. He shoots and places the brother cop at risk because he can’t even see the guy. 

And that’s part of how cops get shot by friendly fire, military SOF occasionally tag one another whilst playing hide-and-seek with bad guys, an entire team of dozens of Air Force smoked a pair of Black Hawks in Northern Iraq, and AC-130s have blown hell out of a 3rd Group team (in 2001) and an NGO hospital (in 2015).

The psychology works against target PID and backstop consciousness in any fight. There are things you can do, including to train under stress inoculation conditions and make as many “pre-decisions” as possible. But those things are limited in their potency, compared to what millions of years of evolution do to your observation and cognition under stress.

Previous (and subsequent) Second City Cop coverage of this shooting:

It includes this summing-up (SCC considers the cops who fired in this case as good as unemployed already, not because they broke the law — they didn’t — but because they live in a cop-hating city with a cop-hating mayor and police commissioner.

Some people aren’t going to happy we did this last post. The Department is getting it from all sides, politically at all levels, in the media, from the community. We’re going to be accused of piling on, or pitting old against new, cops against cops, siding with them against us. You couldn’t be more wrong. These videos are all out there. The politicians are already against us, beholden to the mob. Those who support the police will continue to do so, those who don’t probably never did. We didn’t put any of this out there, so don’t blame us. Comments that do so will be deleted and forgotten in short order.

But these videos, believe it or not, can help, even if it’s not the way we’d prefer – showing exactly where the shortfalls in training are, the things cameras record (visual and audio), where mistakes are made (and yes, mistakes were made). We’re guessing that two guys are going to lose their jobs, and a third is going to carry around a burden no one wants.

And one last thing: we said SCC was 50% of the common sense published on Chicongo crime. The other 50%? Hey Jackass!, who else?

Update

For a Southern California cop’s view of the incident covered under Case 2 above, see Chicago Car Thief Is Latest Martyr for Black Lives Matter, by  Jack Dunphy. Excerpt:

In the videos, we first see two officers responding to the pursuit, only to find themselves in the disadvantageous position of coming head-on with the car being chased: these officers are headed south on Merrill Avenue near 74th Street when the stolen Jaguar is coming north. The body camera worn by the passenger officer shows him inexplicably with his gun already in hand as he exits the car and the Jaguar comes into view. When O’Neal tries to weave his way between a parked SUV and the police car, he clips them both. The passenger officer opens fire as the Jaguar passes. He fires his first rounds with one hand, putting one through the hood of his own police car and placing his partner, who had exited the driver’s seat and narrowly avoided being hit by the Jaguar, in genuine danger of being shot. The passenger officer appeared to fire about ten rounds in total.

Do Read The Whole Thing™.  We were chafing at some of his criticisms of the officers because, while there are screwups all around here, what about the responsibility of the criminal in this case? And in the end, we learned we should have trusted Dunphy, because he did bring the mantle of responsibility back around, to rest on the dead shoulders of car thief Paul O’Neal.

Two Training Firms Accused of Stiffing Instructors

burning-wasting-moneyOver the weekend, an interesting situation began to develop in the training community. It was kicked off by a message from Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts, breaking off his longstanding relationship with Alias Training & Security due to longstanding nonpayment and bad communication. Soon, several other top-level trainers had joined Jeff, including Pat McNamara, Mike Pannone and Larry Vickers. Jeff wrote:

As many of you are aware we have been utilizing the services of Alias Training and Security (ATS) over the last 20 months. Recently, we have experienced some major problems forcing us to reconsider our association with ATS. They have been delinquent on paying us for the last several classes and more than likely will not be paying us for our CQB class in Alliance, OH I am currently getting ready for this coming week.

I am not the only one who has experienced these problems, good friends and fellow trainers Mike Pannone, Pat McNamara and Craig Douglas have all had similar experience both in delinquency of revenue owed as well as lack of communications with ATS. I feel and I know I echo the others my level of frustration has reached a point where I have exhausted all avenues and the benefit of the doubt has reached the reasonable limit.

Alias was slow to respond (which, if you’ve ever had any dealings with them, is par for the course) but finally stopped taking deposits on all open courses, marking them “sold out.”

Finally they posted this to their Facebook page:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that as of Monday July 13, 1016 Alias Training & Security Services, LLC will be closing its doors. An ongoing dispute with our merchant services financial company has made things untenable. Our apologies to all affected students, instructors, etc. To all students of upcoming classes please expect an email early this week to explain the situation in more detail.

Again our most sincere apologies,

Alias Staff

What makes this interesting is the claim that “an ongoing dispute with our merchant services financial company” is the root of their problem. That certainly sounds like a Choke Point attack, the kind the DOJ, IRS and banking regulators have used in the past against the Administration’s political “enemies.”

But the problem with that is this: while Choke Point could keep you from paying Gonzales, Pannone or Vickers what you owed ’em, it can’t stop you from telling them about it. If that was the case, would Jeff really be talking about

…lack of communications with ATS…

…the rest of the group and I went above and beyond trying to remedy this situation. I take this matter very seriously and I’m sure you will all see how the group and I have acted in the most professional manner, but now it is time to move forward…

instead of criticizing the regulator?

By the way, it looks like Jeff is planning to go forward with the Alliance class even though he has not received and doesn’t expect to receive the money the students paid (through Alias’s web site).

Meanwhile, Paul Howe has been fighting his own battle with Pantaeo Productions. In his July newsletter (.pdf), he writes:

It is with regret that I ask CSAT followers not to purchase or stream any CSAT content at Panteao at this time. This is reference to not receiving compensation for my work.

Life is a people business and I try to give everyone chances and support them until I see things go in the wrong direction. Even then I still try to correct issues give positive advice. At some point I must step in and do what I think is right.

Pantaeo has made some dynamic videos and has an excellent e-commerce website. However, its principal, Fernando Coelho, is a convicted felon, and what’s more, what he was convicted for was, specifically, financial fraud. This was in relation to the long and drama-rich collapse of an ammunition firm, Triton Cartridge Corporation, he once owned in upstate New York. (The newspaper headline called him, “Swindler,” not an epithet we’d want to wear). He got five years’ probation and was ordered to repay $328k he had essentially embezzled from a creditor and/or stolen from his own employees by not paying them. We’re unaware of whether he ever paid that money back, or any of it. Maybe he did.

Unlike Alias, as far as we know Pantaeo hasn’t even tried telling a story about why they’re stiffing Howe.

So — are Pantaeo and Alias being squeezed by Operation Choke Point or some nameless, more deniable successor? Or are they themselves doing the squeezing, to the instructors they haven’t paid?

UPDATE

This story continues to develop. Soldier-Systems has a story with comment from both Mike Pannone and Larry Vickers (LAV is actually in the comments, not the story). Do read the comments — some of the background on Alias is, well, let’s just say it’s no wonder they called it “Alias.” They seemed to be planning on needing one.

 

Safety: This is Doing it Wrong

Victim James Baker

Victim James Baker

The first report was dry and brief, but was enough to let anyone know that something had come unglued seriously:

Officials say a man has been fatally shot in an apparent accident during a concealed carry class at a gun shop in Ohio.

The Clermont County sheriff says the unidentified man was shot in the neck around 1 p.m. Saturday and died at the scene. There were about 10 people in the concealed carry class when the shooting occurred at KayJay Gun Shop in Amelia, about 20 miles east of Cincinnati.

According to the gun shop’s website, the class taught basic pistol safety, gave attendees range time and reviewed Ohio’s gun laws.

via Man fatally shot in accident during class at Ohio gun shop.

The first story neither identified the victim, nor explained anything about how this happened. More detail was soon available on Fox 19:

The owner of a gun shop was accidentally shot and killed during a concealed carry class in Amelia, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office confirms.

Crews responded to the the Kay Jay Gun Shop on Lindale-Mt. Holly Rd. around 1 p.m. on Saturday for reports of a shooting.

Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg said James E. Baker, 64, was shot in the neck after a class participant discharged a handgun while practicing weapon malfunction drills, striking Baker who was sitting in an adjacent room.

Investigators said efforts to resuscitate Baker were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Something went seriously wrong in that class.

If the Four Rules (or however many are in your version) had been followed assiduously, nobody gets shot. A firearm has zero tolerance for inattention to detail.

UPDATE 1

An updated story described neighbors’ and friends’ feelings of loss (warning, autoplay video with loud ad. The mute button is your friend):

Baker’s gun shop offers a long list of training courses to teach people to use guns like rifles and pistols the correct way.

Now, many in this tight-knit community say they are devastated knowing he won’t be here to do that anymore.

“He’s just a great guy, I mean, I can’t believe it happened, it’s hard to believe, just a really good guy,” Fritz said. “I’m going to miss him because he was a good neighbor.”

We also talked with a man who lives just a few houses down from where it happened.

He told us Baker gave him his very first job, calling him a great boss and friend.

Investigators aren’t saying what type of gun was used or if any charges will be filed.

Update 2

(Warning, autoplay video again). The Investigation continues, with more details trickling out.

In a media release, the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office said, “Investigators discovered that a class participant discharged a handgun while practicing weapon malfunction drills, striking Baker who was sitting in an adjacent room. Efforts to resuscitate Baker were unsuccessful and Baker was pronounced at 3:12 p.m.”

Baker regularly conducted gun training sessions.

A friend and fellow Vietnam-era veteran took a session a couple years back and said Baker was careful and experienced.

“When I took the class, nobody had a loaded weapon,” said Dennis Cooper. “I mean, you could bring your own weapon, but it had to be cleared.”

A friend at a nearby gun shop didn’t want to be identified, but said Baker had close law enforcement connections and helped to build area SWAT units.

He seemed stunned at how this went down.

Immediately after it happened, a 911 caller told the dispatcher, “We were doing malfunction misfires and we have plastic bullets and we just, I just, we just double checked the bullets and there was a live round in one of the guns and it went through the wall and shot the owner in the neck.”

Those who knew Baker feel the loss deeply.

A father and his young son placed a potted flower at the property gate Monday.

We’re told Baker was a Marine sniper in Vietnam about 45 years ago and let police in the area use his target range to recertify as they must do each year.

We wonder why they were doing malfunction misfire drills during a basic CCW class.

Real Live Tueller Drill, 2016

Thanks to the Boston Herald and Officer.com for this video; you get to see a real cop threatened by a real knife-wielding nut case. We’re looking at events from a security camera — five cameras in all captured this shooting, as is getting to be more common — as an officer who has not yet been named responds to a call that a man is harassing pedestrians on Broadway in Everett, Massachusetts (a part of Boston in fact if not within the city limits thereof). This video is instructive, and you can get a lot out of studying it. The whole evolution plays out in barely more than half a minute.

 

First, notice where it takes place. It’s not on a range, it’s not in a classroom, it’s not in an alley with only the officer and the nut job present. It’s in a bright sunny city intersection, with tons of people around and a million distractions — moving pedestrians, moving cars, all the sensations of a busy city.

At first the cop moves right in on the suspect, one Mario Mejia Martinez, whose criminal history and immigration history (if any) are being closely held by the Massachusetts authorities.

Distractions or no, we bet that officer’s perceptual field was stopped down to about f/32. He didn’t see anything but Martinez attacking him — and maybe he didn’t see anything but Martinez’s knife.

(Everett, MA 04/21/16) Police investigate an officer involved shooting on Broadway in Everett on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki

(Everett, MA 04/21/16) Police investigate an officer involved shooting on Broadway in Everett on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Boston Herald Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki.

That means he definitely didn’t see his backstop. He seems to have hit Martinez with all four shots (we believe from watching the video that he fired four shots, and witnesses reported hearing four), which reduces the risk to all the pedestrians and motorists you see in the video.

The officer, who hasn’t been identified (Martinez’s family are said to be looking for revenge, in the courts and on the streets), did just about everything right.

  1. He tried to take charge of the situation. This often works. This time it didn’t.
  2. When Martinez reaches back behind his back for a weapon (which turned out to be the knife, the cop backpedals. He doesn’t seem to draw at this time (a point you could argue either way) but he keeps talking to Martinez (who keeps talking also, while moving).
  3. When Martinez attacks, he draws and fires and keeps firing while the threat remains in being.
  4. He sidesteps Martinez, still engaging him.
  5. With Martinez down, no longer a threat, he disengages.
  6. He secures his firearm as the tape ends.

The outcome of the whole thing validates the officer’s training and judgment, in our opinion.

Judgment is hard (but not impossible) to teach meaningfully. But it’s of supreme importance. It’s very rare that a cop, soldier or self/home defender loses his or her life (or gets jammed up in a court) because his or her level of marksmanship did not pass the ultimate test. These unpleasant and tragic outcomes are more often associated with judgment errors.

In a completely unrelated matter, the liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, partially reversed the “sanctuary state” policy of his predecessor, liberal Democrat Deval Patrick. Now, the state still will never ask a criminalien where he’s from — that would be waaaaacist with five a’s — but at least they’ll hold him for 48 hours if ICE wants to trebuchet him back over the nonexistent border fence.

The policy shift comes nearly 17 months into Baker’s first term and nearly a year after the feds fully implemented the Priority Enforcement Program. His aides say there wasn’t a particular incident or arrest that prompted the change, and David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said he was unable yesterday to quantify how many detainer requests police may have refused from ICE under the old policy.

Part of the problem, Baker said, is “the commonwealth stopped asking for them.”

The usual suspects — the kind who, like Deval Patrick, would have preferred the incident in this video to end with the cop on the slab — are outwaged. That’s a great weeping pity, isn’t it?

The DA/SA Pistol, Reconsidered

At LuckyGunner’s blog the LuckyGunner Lounge, Chris Baker has been running a series of really good articles on traditional DA/SA pistols and how he’s recently made the change to DA/SA after going striker fired for a while.

Chris Baker firing-beretta

While we call them “articles,” they’re really informational and instructional videos; but Chris and LuckyGunner present the full transcripts of the videos, which is a beautiful thing.  A video can show you, but if what you want is the words, you can read a lot faster than it takes to watch the vid. The way they set it up, you can pick your preferred learning method. ‘S’all good!

So far, Chris has presented three parts, which may be the whole thing for all we know; the first covers general double-action history.

The double action autos got to be pretty popular in the 20th century and various designs were used by Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Sig, CZ, and a lot of other gun companies.

And you probably know the rest of the story. In the 1980s, the American US military ditched the 1911 and adopted the double action Beretta M9. And then when police departments around the country started switching from revolver to semi-autos in the 80s and 90s, at least at first, most departments adopted double action semi-autos.

And then a few years later, Glock came along and shook things up.

His basic reason for defecting from the striker-fired camp, he tells us in the second part, on why he switched, is safety:

if you mess up and get on the trigger too early — which happens a lot to people under stress — or if you think you need to shoot someone and then realize you don’t, the length of travel of the double action trigger gives you an extra split second to correct your course of action before you put a bullet somewhere it doesn’t belong.

Double action pistols are also safer when it comes to holstering the gun. This is probably the most dangerous thing we do with our handguns, and it’s when a lot of accidents happen. With a double action pistol, you can put your thumb on the hammer after you de-cock, and that way, it’s impossible for the gun to discharge if you accidentally leave your finger on the trigger or you get a strap or a piece of shirt caught in the trigger guard. And if you don’t remember to de-cock the gun or thumb the hammer, then you’re really just a pound or two of pressure away from where you’d be with a striker fired gun anyway.

One reason cop shops went in for DA/SA in a big way in the 1980s is that it let you have a gun ready to fire without any fiddling, but with a long enough first-shot trigger pull that only intentional shots would be fired. Cops being cops, some of them from time to time found a way to outflank the idiot-proofing, but they’d done that with DA revolvers, too, and a DA revolver is about as safe a gun as you’re going to get without molding it out of Play-Doh.

A second reason, one that mattered to the military but not to police who generally use new ammunition, was that a DA pistol gave you a second poke at a dud primer. You will see this often mentioned in early-1980s documents, especially ones written by people with military connections. That’s probably because at the time we were still firing 1944 and 1945 headstamped ammunition from WWII production! After the adoption of the M9, the Army quickly ran through its supply of ammo that had only been feeding SOF secondary demands (like MP5s and foreign weapons training).

In the third part, on learning to use the DA/SA trigger, Chris says:

It’s only been about six months since I started the transition from primarily using striker fired pistols to using double actions for all of my personal self-defense guns, so I am by no means an expert. But I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of it, and I’ve had some good teachers, so I’m going to share a few tips that have helped me out with shooting double actions over the last few months.

The first challenge is the double action trigger itself. In order to master this, you have to actually shoot the gun double action. Some people are so intimidated by the longer and heavier trigger pull that they never actually shoot the gun this way. It’s possible for you to go to the range and just rack in the first round and now your hammer is cocked, and you could fire the whole magazine single action and never actually have to fire double action.

But if you own a double action pistol for self-defense then you have to have the discipline to decock the pistol and shoot both triggers so you can learn to run the gun the way you would if you had to draw it and shoot to defend your life. I decock the pistol after every string of fire and every drill and I never thumb cock the hammer. Whenever the gun comes off target, I decock. This is a good habit to get into anyway just for the sake of safety, but it also forces you to have to shoot that double action trigger.

There are several different variants of decock and safety on DA pistols. The Beretta 92S/92F/92SF/M9, which has a safety loosely based on Walther practice, is a bit awkward, thumbwise, for one-handed decocking. (The 92G has a decocker, which is what Wilson Combat does on their custom Berettas, and it’s nice but still in that out-of-the-way place. There are also DAO-only Berettas 92D and 96D, and all Beretta lockwork from at least the FS on up is interchangeable). We dunno what the polymer Berettas that Chris seems to prefer work like; just never tried one. SIGs have a separate safety and decocking lever, which is very handy, you just have to practice enough to make decocking second nature. CZs have to be different, and have one of two safety arrangements: a non-decocking, 1911-style safety that requires a careful manual hammer drop on a live round to decock, or a very nice decocker in the safety position.

A CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first Beretta, M92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

A compact CZ cocked and locked. This was also possible on the very first DA Beretta service pistol, the Model 92. The M92S with slide-mounted decocking safety soon replaced it.

What works with you depends on the size of your hand, and how diligently you want to train on a complex system. People who are casual about shooting and indifferent towards practice might be better off with a striker-fired gun on which the trigger weight and throw never change. But striker fired guns have their own issues.

Having grown up with both SA (1911, et al.) and DA/SA (P.38) autopistols around, and going through the “wondernine” 1911->DA/SA conversion when that was a thing, we didn’t consider that many young shooters didn’t have hands-on with this system, but Chris sure did, and that’s what makes his articles especially valuable to today’s shooters. Maybe they’ll think better of those of us who still shoot these coelacanths of the range.

Gun Maintenance by Sound Principles

Remember what we’ve said about maintenance before: a gun is a machine, and maintenance is like maintenance of any other machine. Every firearm contains several classes of parts. Some of these parts may be so over-engineered they’ll never fail; other, parts that the manufacturer expects that you will replace (like the battery in your car, or springs in your gun, or wipes in an old-style suppressor); and still other parts can be expected to wear out depending on how hard you use them — parts that will fail due to wear or fatigue if not replaced pre-emptively.

Failure from overstress is another thing entirely. You can blow up any gun with Uncle Bubba’s Dynamite Hot Loads, even a perfectly produced firearm straight out of the box for the first time with the dealer’s hang tag still dangling from the trigger guard.

The parts you need to prepare to replace are the ones subject to physical wear and to fatigue failure. And there are several ways to do it. You can replace parts that are subject to wear and fatigue failure:

  1. When they actually fail. A lot of people do this, and if it’s not a machine that you depend on for life, Replace On Failure works just fine.
  2. When an inspection reveals that the parts are showing signs of imminent failure. At the risk of overstating the obvious, this means you have to conduct inspections on some sort of a schedule timely enough to find bad parts before they fail… or your Replace On Condition plan becomes unplanned Replace On Failure.
  3. When a certain interval has passed, which might be a calendar schedule or might be number of operating hours or cycles. This approach is called Replace On Schedule; and whether it’s a good or a bad plan depends on the devilish details of the case.

Modern firearms are much more reliable than their historical forbears. And modern ammunition is, as well, plus it also tends to be noncorrosive.

Another part of maintenance is cleaning. How frequently should you clean your guns? The answer may surprise you. Given modern designs and materials, noncorrosive ammunition, and reliable modern systems,  the real requirement to clean an AR or a Glock is this: when it absolutely needs to be cleaned because the mung buildup has begun to interfere with the firearms’ functions.

Here’s a picture of Kyle Defoor’s glock, as it came up for on-condition maintenance and was immediately scheduled for a cleaning.

DeFoor Funky Glock

 

The pistol was essentially never cleaned. You’re looking at 7,500 rounds of baked-on range mung, and it was still working, but the slide had started slowing down.

Many people overclean their weapons, wearing the protective finish off and exposing their guns to the risk of corrosion. How come, when Kyle’s pistol shows it’s not necessary (and many others, Mountain Guerrilla comes to mind, have gone even longer between cleanings on rifle platforms). If it’s designed right, manufactured right and assembled right, it’ll keep rocking, or, as in this case, Glocking.

So why do we overclean? History, and culture. Used to be priming compounds like fulminate of mercury or lead picrate, and some chemicals in propulsive powders, were deadly to firearms. Thorough, frequent cleaning was the last line of defense. Now it’s come full circle — cleaning can actually put fine old firearms at more risk than leaving them alone!

In Praise of the Single Shot Firearm

We have never had the patience for single shot firearms. That is exactly why we like them.

Here's a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn't get simpler than this.

Here’s a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn’t get simpler than this. All images from GunBroker.

We probably should explain that. Patience, you see, is a virtue, but it’s one that is unevenly distributed. (It can be developed, to a degree, but like any other talent you can only build on the foundation you already have). And like any young guy with limited patience, we always sought ways of firing MOAR BULLETZ MOAR FASTLY.

Here's a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1

Here’s a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1. Available in calibers for squirrel to dangerous African game.

It took a while to dawn on us that time spent practicing speedloads so that you could burn another mag (or belt) in the general direction of the berm, while fun, wasn’t necessarily productive.

You see, whether you are shooting in a competition (and in SF, shooting was always a competition, even if only with your teammates for who’d buy the beers), or shooting for real (which is the ultimate competition), only hits count. 

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There’s something about the necessary discipline of loading a single round, aiming it, firing it, extracting and repeating as needed. It seems to settle the mind and encourage attention to the fundamentals of shooting.

In these days of .22 ammo shortages, it’s nice to have a natural rhythm, and get an hour of shooting out of a box or two of ammo.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot bolt action .22 is a sporter on a target action.

The funny thing is this: any repeater, semi-auto or revolver can be a single shot if you want it to be. Simply single-load the rounds. This can get fiddly with some auto actions where the follower activates the bolt hold-open, and it doesn’t work with some tightly-enclosed actions, like many lever actions. But while it really does work with most guns, it doesn’t force on you a deliberate rhythm, the way a single shot firearm does.

There’s something about a single-shot firearm. The guy shooting a single shot is serious… he’s like the guy that rides his bicycle to work, or the guy who disdains a guitar collection for one simple Telecaster because he hasn’t found all its tones yet in the forty years he’s owned it.

Shooting single-shot is doing things the hard way, not because there’s no alternative, but simply to rise to the challenge of it.

You Didn’t Plan or Rehearse… Now What?

No, the American MTT didn't do this. Mother Nature did

No, the American MTT didn’t do this. Mother Nature did

That was the question Woody had to ask himself in January, 2010, when a massive earthquake trashed the hotel where he and his USCG Mobile Training Team were staying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

He quickly discovered that when you haven’t planned and rehearsed, you’re down to improvising, at best; and pulling it out of your fourth point of contact, at worst.

In a painfully honest self-criticism at ReFactor Tactical, he reviews some of the things he did wrong — and right.

Complacency can get you killed. Have a plan, practice it as much as you can, and don’t count on someone coming to save you. Emergency services in a catastrophic event (those that aren’t affected by the event) will be focused on the most severe injuries or most severely damaged areas.

My team was required to submit a mission plan that included procedures for what to do in an emergency. Quite frankly, I did a crap job of sitting down and thinking about what could happen. I blame it on personal complacency. By this point, I had completed 2.5 years of mobile training teams on 5 continents. Nothing had ever happened, and I was in the mindset that nothing ever would. My plan for everything was the same: call the Embassy.

When the earthquake hit, the initial panic and injuries among personnel (both permanent party and TDY) resulted in Post One having to assume control of the net and regulating traffic. If you weren’t severely injured, you weren’t getting through.

It was worse than that. If their fallback plan was to go to the Embassy, they didn’t know how.

We had a vehicle, but didn’t know how to get to the Embassy (all our driving was done by a hired driver), and we didn’t have a map. We also had no weapons. You don’t necessarily wander around certain parts of Haiti during normal daylight hours, much less when all security and social services just disappeared.

via Lessons Learned, Haiti, January 2010 | RE Factor Tactical.

There’s a lot of painful true confessions there, and more in the article.

His commo PACE plan had only three legs, and all legs went down in the quake. The Cell phone net went paws up (P), the team screwed up their only satphone (A), and the Marine Guards’ Post One radio net (C) was saturated with higher-priority traffic. There was no (E).

As he notes, a lot of this was due to complacency. We’d also suggest lack of rehearsals. An SF team can always go to HF voice (old-timers can go to CW but they don’t teach Morse at the schoolhouse, at least not to everybody). This is also an argument for doing what we did, carrying a personal satphone. The downside of that is that we now have an obsolete Iridium phone in the basement that cost  … let’s just say, a lot of money. But we didn’t stop with buying the phone, we drilled with the thing until we could work it without reference to the manual, and we knew where we were at any point in the phone’s sometimes counterintuitive menus and screens. In other words, we took personal responsibility for and personal charge of last-ditch emergency communications.

One thing we always do in a new location is conduct reconnaissanceHeck, when we visit friends, we often do both a map and a car recon of their neighborhood. It’s nice to know if the next street over has a police station or a meth lab! The point of this recon is not just to observe the area but also look at it from a military standpoint. High-speed avenues of approach and egress? Covered and concealed withdrawal routes, if needed? Alternates? Key terrain? Observation points?

For most users, a baseplate compass from Suunto is better than a GI Lensatic. The GI compass is superior for night use (contains tritium) and for measuring azimuths (like for calling artillery). Copies of the .mil compass lack the tritium and are mostly worthless.

With the map, you need a compass and possibly a protractor. For most users, a baseplate compass from Suunto is better than a GI Lensatic. The GI compass is superior for night use (contains tritium) and for measuring azimuths (like for calling artillery). Copies of the .mil compass lack the tritium and therefore lack that key advantage..

You need maps. Physical, paper maps. Why? Because a paper map never runs out of batteries, gets jammed by a “trawler,” gets knocked offline by an EMP, or suffers the Blue Screen of Death® (Blue Screen of Death® is a registered trademark of Microsoft, Inc., for its proprietary software solutions). Everyone has become a cripple, unable to stand up without the crutch of GPS. And in the .mil it is a problem because (1) most services, schools and units do a piss-poor job of teaching map reading and land (and coastal!) navigation; (2) nobody believes that there will ever be a minute without GPS even though the satellites are vulnerable to crude ASATs, and the signal is so low-gain it’s trivial to jam; (3) not issuing maps is cheaper than issuing maps, and it never takes much persuasion to get Uncle Sam to do the cheap thing.

Now, one of you young bucks is going to say, “Yeah, but a GPS never dissolved in a light drizzle.” To which the wise old sensei must reply, “The map is only half of a map, Grasshopper.” We’re not going all Zen on you for nothing: you must cover the map with sticky (and not coincidentally, waterproof) acetate.

Is it really true that a US Embassy let a military team set up in a foreign country (in fact, a foreign country with natural and human hazards aplenty) without at least giving them a strip map from the no-tell motel back to the chancery? If that’s the case, the DAO needs a rapid transfer to a branch immaterial assistant quartermaster position somewhere out along the arctic DEW Line.

Action This Day

What you can do right now is: get a topographic map of your area and any other areas you usually are found in. Print it off if you have to. Cover it in acetate. Get a compass. Put them both in your bugout bag. (Multiple copies: house, car, boat, office, etc. are even better). Don’t just put the stuff away, either: practice with it.

Learn how things are oriented to the real world. What side of your house is north? OK, what is the long azimuth of your house? In what cardinal direction could you walk to probable help in a disaster? In what direction would you be most exposed to risk?

And think about communications. Who would you want to talk to in a natural disaster? (Or an unnatural one, for that matter). How many ways can you think of to reach that person? How many of those would be working “the day after,” whether, “the day of,” was a massive terror attack like 9/11, or a massive natural disaster like the 2010 Haiti earthquake?