Archive for October, 2013

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For those unfamiliar with our store, Ben Autrey’s vision of a local, well-stocked, knowledgable gun store was birthed 10 years ago, this November. As it tends to happen, after birth came growth, and with growth, cramming. Sometimes it’s cramming too-big feet into too-small shoes, but in our case it was cramming product into every conceivable inch available. Realizing there was no room left in the shoe, we went looking for more room. It just so happened, there was lots of room right next door. So I am pleased to announce this vision of excellence, known as Autrey’s Armory, has escaped the too-small trappings of before and is spreading its wings in a brand new 5000 sq. foot showroom!!! Hip hip, hooray!! and all that. While it certainly is a time of excitement and anticipation, I also find myself pondering the financial security in such an investment. The ability to buy nearly anything without leaving the comfort of your couch is certainly hard to compete with. Small businesses have it rough these days (and the government sure isn’t making it any easier on them). While I am merely a humble employee of a small business, I am concerned for the brick-and-mortar shops of today. How do they compete with online stores or big box retailers? How have some thrived, like Autrey’s, while others have withered up and closed doors?  What makes a customer prefer to shop at a small business over all the other options? While I haven’t found all the answers, I believe I have found some. I simply looked at the pros and cons of each option.

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Online

Pro’s:
  1. Convenience: One of the top reasons for shopping online is the convenience of simply clicking a mouse instead of getting in their car and driving somewhere.
  2. Price: Online products are typically cheaper than their retail counterparts (for multiple reasons) and the available savings are quite attractive to a lot of people.
  3. Selection: Hands down, selection online is better than in stores. There really is no way for local shops to beat the endless array of products available online.Xmas time
  4. Consumer Reviews: Reviews are a great way to approximate the experience of having the product in hand. As other people describe their interaction with the product and manufacturer, the customer is able to identify with the authors and determines if the product will work for him.
  5. Less Stress?: Some people find it less stressful to purchase items from the security of their home or office than travel out into retail stores. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I tend to agree. Other than that… meh.
Con’s:
  1. No Touching: You really don’t know what you are really getting when you buy online. It may be one big surprise when UPS or FedEx drops off that box.
  2. No Talking: On most sites there is little to no personal interaction. The websites that do incorporate some “live-person” interaction typically use one of the least personal means of communicating… chat.
  3. Privacy and Security: It goes without saying, shopping online puts your identify and financial accounts at risk. Effort must  be taken to secure your identity and finances.
  4. Not Supporting the Local Economy: Unless you are buying on a local store’s website, your money is not going to support your local economy. Your money may be going across the country or to other countries.

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Major Retail Stores

Pro’s:
  1. RetailselectionSelection: While not on the same level as the internet, major retailers do offer great selection.
  2. Price: Because large retailers purchase in bulk, they are often able to get items at a lower cost. This enables them to sell items at a lower cost.
  3. Product in hand: For many people the ability to physically touch and see the item they are interested in is all the reason they need to drive to a store. Most people, myself included, want to see what an item really looks like, what it feels like, etc… before investing their hard-earned money. Unless you know someone who has that very item, going to your local store is about the only way to get your hands on it before you buy it.
  4. Related Items: Many large retailers do an excellent job of marketing related items. That is why the bike helmets are typically located near the bikes.
  5. Privacy: Unless the store uses some type of facial recognition software connected to their cameras or cell phone tracking, it is normally very easy to shop anonymously. None of the employees are likely to recognize you and most of the other customers aren’t paying attention to much else but their shopping. Pay with cash and people probably won’t even remember you were there (aside from the security cameras of course).
  6. Supporting Local Economy?: To some extent shopping at the big box store supports the local economy, but it also sends  local money off to unknown locations. It does pay the salaries of local employees, state and local taxes on the property, etc… But a certain percentage of every dollar spent at the store gets sent to the pay the overseas suppliers, transport costs, import taxes, etc… and to company headquarters to pay their salary.
Con’s
  1. Grocery_line_SkeletonCustomer Service: Big box retailers have the, typically well-earned, reputation of poor customer service. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but as a whole large stores simply do not have the heart that the small businesses have. Frequently, employees see so many people in one shift that everything becomes mechanical. The personal interaction and relationship is sacrificed to efficiency. Getting people in and out quickly becomes the goal. Generally, employee expertise is also limited.
  2. Long Lines: During peak seasons long lines can be exhausting. Christmas and Black Friday come to mind.
  3. Privacy: See above.
  4. Not Supporting the Local Economy: See Above

Small Businesses

Pro’s:
  1. small_business_ownersCustomer Service: A main reason many people buy local is the customer service they experience, both in regards to buying and returning items. Small businesses typically excel at providing personal assistance as customers research, examine and purchase items. Should anything go wrong with your item, purchasing from a local store gives you a person to speak with. A face you can remember and approach for help. Many times you find the employees to be a valuable resource as you explore your item of interest. The knowledge and expertise of such people add an intrinsic value to a local shop that is not replicable online. For example, one of the gentlemen in our shop is extremely well versed in old firearms. I’ve been astounded to hear him not only identify an unknown firearm by make and model but also go on to mention where it was manufactured and what type of machine was used to manufacture it. He is truly a wealth of knowledge. Small businesses frequently have a bit more flexibility in their pricing and some may negotiate deals with customers to ensure customer satisfaction. The first example that comes to mind is our store’s policy of mounting scopes for free with the purchase of a rifle or scope. With few exceptions, customer service is paramount in small businesses.
  2. Product in hand: In small stores you normally have more time to look at items and discuss them with the employees. Employees are typically well versed and are able to point out the features and benefits of the item. Many gun stores further satisfy a customer’s curiosity by supplying a wide variety of firearms for rent. When it comes to knowing if you are comfortable with a firearm, there is no substitute for actually firing the weapon. I wish I’d learned that lesson a few years ago. I bought an XD-40 as my carry gun on gunbroker.com. I read all the reviews I could find. I researched it up and down. But I never shot it. After years of poor shooting, I finally tried out an XD-9 and quickly traded in my 40. You just never know until you try it.

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    Customer or friend? … Why not both?

  3. Personal Relationship: Shopping at a local store provides an opportunity to develop personal relationships with the employees and owners. We have many regular customers that are more friends than customers.
  4. Privacy: It is much easier to protect your privacy and security when you shop at local Mom-and-Pop stores than online; especially if you pay with cash. (Unless you are buying a gun. Federal forms negate that benefit.) It is also highly unlikely to encounter the type of tracking and surveillance big box stores are now implementing at the local art supply store, boutique or coffee shop.
  5. Supporting Local Economy: Purchasing items at a local store inputs cash into a local business, enabling the owner to pay his employees, bills, vendors, utilities, buy groceries for his family, etc… directing nearly all his funds back into the local economy.
  6. Socializing: Many people simply enjoy going to the local store to look over the merchandise, talk with other customers and the person behind the counter. The trip to the store is no longer about buying ammo or a new holster, but about catching up on the latest industry news, information or gossip.
  7. use this2Finding related items: Local stores also tend to do a good job of carrying related items, thus enabling a customer to get all that he needs in one place.
  8. Short lines: lines are typically shorter and (excepting times of national gun buying panic) service is more prompt.
Con’s:
  1. Retail-Vertical-Price: Unfortunately, small businesses are not able to get items in bulk quantity and their prices typically reflect that. Small businesses typically have slightly higher prices than online or big box retailers. It’s just the nature of the beast.
  2. Selection: Again, simply because it is a small business, the selection in the store will not be as varied as what you can find online or at major retailers. Just look at holsters. There have got to be thousands (if not tens of thousands) of holster models. There is simply no way for a small business to carry a sample of every holster design available. It is just not going to happen. The best a store can do is carry the most popular models and special order the rest, if need be.
  3. Inconvenience: The store cannot come to you. You must leave the comfort of your home or office and travel to it.

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Which Will It Be?

Overall,  it seems most people do want that face-to-face, personal interaction that is inherent in small businesses. Many are tired of the brusque efficiency of big box retailers and unsatisfied with the cold simplicity of online shopping. We are social creatures that long for pleasant, enjoyable social interactions. Having a designated place to turn to for help is also a major point for small businesses. So, while I must confess I do shop online from time to time (typically for hard-to-find items), I do believe Ben’s vision is safe in the hands of our loyal customers, new customers, and the customers yet to discover us. Why? Because, overall, for me and many others, customer service, personal interaction, and building relationships trumps cheaper prices. (Besides, one thing I’ve learned working at a gun store: just because you found it cheaper online does not mean it will be cheaper by the time you take it home.)

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. And definitely let me know if I left out anything. Thank you for reading. Stay safe.

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Delayed post

Posted: October 28, 2013 in Self Defense

My regular Monday post will not go up until Tuesday night (due to a heavy workload this past weekend and today). Thank you for your understanding and patience.

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Ever get stuck in a rut? Do you ever do the same thing over and over, simply because that is how you have always done it? Not good. What’s worse than being in a rut? Being in a rut and not knowing it. I didn’t realize until I read this article last night that I was in a carry rut. I always carry my gun in the same place without consideration of which type of gun I am carrying and if my chosen placement is the best concealment for that particular firearm. As my first daily carry firearm was an XD-40, I quickly determined the best place on my body to conceal a firearm was inside the waistband, behind the hip. Fast forward multiple years, I am 40 lbs less and I recently added a J frame revolver to my short list of possible carry guns. Out of habit, I stuck the revolver behind my back.

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A thinking person would have realized a reevaluation of carry positions was in order. A thinking person would have recognized the size and form difference between an XD-9 subcompact comfortably carried behind the hip and a S&W 442 theoretically capable of being carried in more locations. A reevaluation was absolutely imperative upon finding the revolver was not secure or stable behind the hip. Unfortunately, I did not behave as a thinking person and I simply relegated the revolver to a back-up position in my work bag. I neglected to even attempt problem solving. I was in a deep, deep rut and did not even realize it.

Wake UP!

The smack-upside-the-head came as I read Active Response Training’s blog. Carrying the revolver in front of the hip (appendix carry inside the waistband or AIWB) solves most of my problems (minus holster issues) and others I had not thought about. The AIWB method has several advantages over my preferred behind the hip carry.

Advantages:
  1. summer-conceal-shortsConcealment: Shirts, especially for women, tend to be looser in the front than the sides or back. This provides a perfect place to hide a gun. Many blog writers and forum participants claim they are able to conceal medium to large sized firearms in this position. For me personally, I saw today that my revolver printed very little under a tight T-shirt, and what little it did print, I was able to disguise by putting on a belt. The belt buckle added just enough texture and shape to the area that the butt was no longer noticeable. The revolver printed horribly when carried behind the hip.
  2. Drawstroke: In the same way that IPSC and USPSA competitors position their gun in front of the hip to gain a faster draw, so AIWB carriers gain a slight advantage in draw time. Draws from in front of the hip generally test faster than draws from the side or behind the hip.
  3. Accessibility: By being in front of my body, the firearm is much more accessible to my non-dominant hand in case my dominant hand or arm is injured. Reaching around and behind my body to draw with my left hand is a very challenging maneuver I hope to never have to perform in a hurry. Carrying in front makes it drastically easier. It may also be easier to access if I am grappling with an opponent.
  4. gun-grab-coverFirearm Retention: It is much easier to protect the firearm in a crowded environment with it in front of you than on your side. It is the same reason ladies pull their purses in front of them when they get on a crowded bus. It is easier to control an object in front of you (with both hands if necessary) than on your side with only one hand. Our strength tends to be focused more towards the centers of our bodies than our sides. Have you ever noticed how we pull a jar in to our centers when we struggle to open the lid? The gun on your side or behind you is in a weaker position should you have to protect it. Only one hand will be able to reach it and the strength you will be able to apply to keep the gun in the holster is less than what you could apply to a gun in front of you. (Of course, you will likely only have one hand on the AIWB gun too. The second hand will probably be doing something to your opponent.) It is also much easier to maintain awareness in a crowded environment of anyone making a motion towards your gun if the gun is in front of you (for the simple fact that your eyes are also in front of you).
  5. Encourages good posture: On a personal note, I also found it encourages good posture. As I am rather short-waisted I quickly found bad posture resulted in the butt of the gun digging into or getting under my ribs.
Disadvantages:
  1. D0UgkMuzzle Direction: This is the number one concern for most people. As the firearm sits in the holster, the gun is typically pointed either at the groin or the femoral artery. Most men have a visceral reaction to the very idea of having a loaded gun pointed in that direction, but the femoral artery is actually the worst option. You will likely bleed out if that is shot. Either way, messing up is a very, very bad thing if you carry AIWB. For this reason, careful holstering is absolutely imperative! Many of the links below share techniques and tips you can use to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction while holstering.

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    It works great for some people.

  2. May or may not work well for overweight people. Many people on the forums reported that appendix carry was not comfortable for those with “large bellies.” But each person is different and what does not work for some may work for you.
  3. May or may not be comfortable while sitting: While I have not had much chance to investigate this personally, I read many conflicting reports of how comfortable sitting is while appendix carrying. Some say flat-out it is uncomfortable, others say it is fine if you get a good holster that is specifically designed for AIWB.
  4. Unconcealed reach for the gun: Again there were conflicting reports. Some blogs argue that it is easier to cover up a draw from AIWB than from the hip by using a magazine or a bag to cover your hand motions. The movement of drawing from an AIWB holster may be minimized to the forearm and hand. However, the full arm is engaged in a draw from the hip or behind the hip, thus revealing to the opponent that an item is being drawn. However, a person may also pretend they are reaching for a wallet in their back pocket when in reality they are going for their gun. That subterfuge would hardly work for AIWB. So each has their pros and cons.

Overall, AIWB is the preferred method of carry for many well-renowned instructors, has been around for decades, is used by thugs worldwide, competitors have used it successfully in the past, and is the most comfortable position I’ve tried yet. While there is a lot more for me to research and really dig into, before I begin daily carrying this way, mentally getting out of the “behind the hip” rut and exploring possibilities is exciting and refreshing. Please share in the comments below your thoughts, experiences, and beliefs regarding AIWB carry. This is a whole new world to me and I would love to hear from those of you who have adventured forth into this brave new world.

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As a side note, many years ago I developed the habit of keeping the gun in the holster as I put the holster on or take it off. I always figured everything was safer that way… no chance of a negligent discharge if the trigger was always covered. Basically, the only time my guns are ever out of a holster is at the range or dry-firing. Seeing as how holstering is one of the major concerns with appendix carry, it seems like that would be a recommended manner of putting your gun on for the day; yet only one of the sites I went to mentioned it as a possibility. Anybody know of a potential safety hazard I am not aware of when I do this? Thanks!

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http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/appendix-carry-thousands-of-thugs-cant-be-wrong

https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/ccm-columns/features/learning-to-love-appendix-carry/

http://www.calccw.com/Forums/holsters-carry-methods/13521-benefits-appendix-carry.html

http://theprepperproject.com/top-5-reasons-i-carry-in-the-appendix-position/

http://www.corneredcat.com/article/holsters/holster-safety-the-four-rules/

http://www.corneredcat.com/article/holsters/straight-talk-about-curves/

http://www.warriortalknews.com/2010/05/appendix-carry-comfortable-concealable-and-quickest.html

http://pistol-training.com/archives/7768

http://pistol-forum.com/showthread.php?120-AIWB-%28Appendix-Carry%29&p=87911&viewfull=1#post87911

http://pistol-training.com/archives/7234

http://www.handgunworld.com/episode-63-continued-appendix-carry-benefits-fanny-pack-and-purse-carry/

http://churchsecuritymember.com/appendix-carry-church-security-safety-gun/

http://monderno.com/monderno/getting-started-with-appendix-carry/

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It gives ya a wallop of a headache, let me tell ya…. While that is not me in the picture I certainly feel for her. Thankfully, there were no cameras around to document my hammer kiss.

Inspired by a close encounter of the forehead kind with a .500 Wyoming, I recently embarked on a search for a better way. Other people of similar (or less) size to myself are capable of shooting large calibers, so there must be something they know that I need to learn. Come to find out, there is much more to recoil management than just leaning forward. Being of small frame and shooting a .40 S&W, I learned that particular lesson early on. To my consternation, I now realize by halting my recoil management education on that one technique I lost years of potential development to poor control and frustration. I essentially learned addition and remained ignorant of subtraction, multiplication and division. Leaning forward is good, but it’s only the first step. There are many other skills one will benefit from learning.

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*Disclaimer: What follows is a description of new techniques that I have found to benefit me and improve my shooting and recoil management. Every person is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all method of shooting. I encourage you to explore all the well-known techniques and experiment with modifications and find the method that works well for you. 

Isosceles Stance

behind-the-line-weaver-stance

Over the years, I developed an aggressive stance similar to a Modified Weaver. I stand with my feet apart, the strong-side leg back, support shoulder angled toward the target and strong-arm straight. Basically, I’d take a boxing stance. This stance fully depends on maintaining isometric tension between arms to keep the firearm steady. I frequently defended this stance (to those kindly suggesting I try the Isosceles stance) by claiming it was the most comfortable for me. In this stance, I feel stable, aggressive and confident. It invokes feelings akin to a boxer entering the ring. However, after researching and testing other stances (and giving them an honest go) I realized my favorite stance gave me the least recoil control. I simply do not have the upper body strength to make the Weaver effective for me. So while the stance feels good to me, it actually has a negative effect on my accuracy, time, and felt recoil.

behind-the-line-isosceles-stance

Previously, I had noticed many competitive and highly trained shooters utilizing the Isosceles stance but I had dismissed it as a personal choice and irrelevant to me. The Isosceles is identified by the shooter facing the target square on, bending the knees, extending the arms straight out and locking the elbows, forming an isosceles triangle. Once I gave it an honest attempt though, I quickly realized why so many shooters use it. The Isosceles utilizes the strengths of my body (the skeletal structure) while minimizing a dependence on the weak points of my body (my upper body muscles). The perceived recoil was dramatically less when I tried this stance and the firearm jumped significantly less as well. The Isosceles is a strong, simple stance.

Strong Grip

Right gripWhen it comes to grip strength, I need to make a confession. I am guilty of playing the “I’m too weak” card. In my own mind, I excused my weak grip by saying I “just don’t have the strength.” Well, like so many things in life, once you stop the excuses and actually try it, you find you can do it. I discovered I have more strength than I thought and I gained a lot of recoil control. However, as was pointed out on multiple forums and videos, it is possible to grip too much. If you squeeze too hard with your shooting hand you can pull the gun off target. I had to concentrate to make sure I maintained a higher pressure with the support hand and less with the strong hand (many recommend a 70: 30 ratio). Consciously gripping the firearm tighter most certainly improved my recoil control.

Angled Support Hand or Fist-Fire Grip

Another trick I found works well for me is to utilize a downward 45 degree angle on my support hand. This locks your wrist and stabilizes your shooting frame which provides a much more stable foundation and greatly enhances recoil management. While it feels awkward at first, I am quickly getting accustomed to it and find it helps me greatly. This video by Grand Master and World Champion Shannon Smith is a great demonstration.

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Elbows out

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This next technique I picked up from watching YouTube videos, as well as observing multiple shooters I highly respect. I noticed they all directed their elbows out instead of down as they shoot. I found I handled the recoil much better by mimicking this style. Directing the elbows out allowed the gun to recoil straight back instead of up, which in turn kept the sights closer to the target. Instead of losing the sight picture completely, the sights looked like they were dancing on target.

Push Out

pushoutTo bring all of this together and truly make it all work, I found I needed to do one last thing: push the gun out. Whereas, I naturally just hold the gun in front of me with my arms extended, making an effort to push the gun out in front takes up the slack in my arms, rolls the shoulders forward, and firms up the isosceles triangle. Pushing forward tightens up the whole frame and brings all the techniques listed above into one cohesive whole. Not only did I notice a dramatic difference once I applied this technique, but I also found I had to consciously push forward after each shot as my body wanted to return to the relaxed, natural state of rest.

Lessons Learned…

A new stance, a polished grip and an updated mental checklist and suddenly shooting a .45 ACP is fun. I’m not sure I want a repeat attempt at that .500 Wyoming quite yet (It took 50+ plus rounds to work out the flinch from the last time) but I’m definitely warming up to the larger calibers. However, next time I try any caliber larger than standard handgun calibers, I’m definitely locking my elbows… Lesson learned on that one. In fact, many lessons learned. I suppose I should be grateful for the new scar on my forehead. It pushed me to step outside familiar territory, correct poor habits and adopt better ones. Not only that, but polishing up my shooting technique also made a day at the range much more enjoyable.

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http://www.gunnuts.net/2013/07/03/leaning-forward-vs-the-tactical-turtle/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJrA7wMXuuQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0QUqhC6c_w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a-bFZQPvpI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Pmc8wtAhc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9c_TrV7qSE

http://booksbikesboomsticks.blogspot.com/2013/07/speaking-of-recoil-control.html

http://www.chuckhawks.com/recoil_management.htm

 ipsc-10

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Shooter 1: 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 2:  2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 3: 2 Alpha; 1 Alpha, 1 Bravo; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 4: 2 Charlie; 1 Charlie, 1 Mike; 1 Charlie, 1 Mike; 2 Charlie…

Shooter 5: 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

If this sounds like your idea of shooting at a competitive event (with you being Shooter 4), you owe it to yourself to go to a local competition. Unlike the perfect scores you imagine everyone else gets, you will find the “All Alpha” shooter is only slightly less rare than bricks of .22lr. At the local level, a large portion of the shooters are in the solid A and B category. A number of them even have the occasional Mike (otherwise known as a “Miss”). You will also probably find yourself shooting much better than you expect. After my first IPSC shoot, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alpha called out a couple of times while my targets were scored. I think I was more surprised, however, to see one of the regulars put a hole in the roof of our indoor range. A negligent discharge while shooting a course is a disturbing experience for all (both witnesses and shooter). Watching the dust and debris settle to the floor I realized a very important life lesson: just because someone repeatedly participates in an activity does not make them competent at said activity. So don’t be intimidated. Unless your local competition is filled with sponsored, olympic hopefuls you will soon be shooting midrange of the pack. You will also soon discover that the competition is not really against the others but yourself.

 jessb

I attended my first competitive shooting event nearly a year ago. That first event, I realized how rough my firearm handling skills were. The only kind of shooting I had done was standing still firing at a still target. I had never practiced tactical reloads, strong hand/weak hand shooting, or shooting and moving. I had also never practiced drawing with a loaded gun. Participating in the IPSC competitions helped me fine tune many of these skills. For this reason, I recommend other gun owners check out their local shooting competitions. The lessons you will learn not only benefit you in the competition, but will also benefit you in real-life lethal scenarios.

Skills Developed

Competitive events, such as IDPA and IPSC, are fun and challenging activities for those of us that enjoy the thrill of competition. However, even if you are not a competitive person I still recommend you try it out. You can learn and fine tune many weapon handling skills by engaging in competitive shooting.

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~Shoot and Move: Unlike most ranges, here you are actually required to move. To see various targets you must change your position constantly and it is not uncommon to see a competitor running between stations. This movement not only reflects the realities of many lethal force confrontations but also helps mimic the physiological conditions (adrenaline, loss of fine motor control, etc…) inherent in those situations.

~Moving targets: I’m not sure how many of you have ever tried to hit a moving target but it is a lot harder than I expected (of course, trying to hit an eastern diamondback in tall grass at night may not have been the best introduction to moving targets). I would highly recommend first practicing with moving targets in a controlled environment, such as a competition, over waiting till you hear that “bump in the night.”

~Safety Awareness: Many shooters become much more aware of safety concerns once they begin to shoot competitively. I believe some of this is due to the constant reminders given by the range masters and fellow shooters, but it is also emphasized by point deductions for violations.

~Rapid target acquisition: The very nature of competitive shooting encourages a shooter to develop the skills necessary for quickly getting sights on target. The quicker you get on target, the quicker you can complete the course and the higher ranked you will be (assuming a constant degree of accuracy).

~Accuracy: while accuracy may also be practiced on a static range, there is a big difference between typical range practice and the stress of competition. At a competition you have the stress of the timer, other shooters, and the physical stress of movement. You will be surprised by how much one or all of those factors may affect your accuracy.

~Shooting Under Stress: By incorporating the stress of the clock, competition and the physical stress of that particular course, shooters can approximate real life encounters. We fight the way we train. It is vital to train as realistically as possible.

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~Tactical Reloads: Many, if not all, of these competitions require you to reload your firearm at specific points. Again, this is to reflect the realities of lethal encounters. You do not want to be left holding an empty gun after dispatching the first threat… there may be a second or third threat.

~Malfunction Clearing: Same goes for malfunction clearing. It is better to be fumbling through clearing your first malfunction during a competition than in a real firefight.

~Holster Draw: Many ranges will not allow you to draw from a holster, for safety concerns, yet most real life encounters begin with a holster draw. The ability to quickly access and draw your firearm from a holster is a perishable skill and must be practiced continuously.

~Muzzle Control: Muzzle control is rigorously enforced at competitive events. The majority of people who come through our store on a regular basis would benefit from such continuous reinforcement.

~Recoil Control: At my first competition, I quickly realized that my biggest challenge was managing the recoil. The ability to keep sights on target (and not loose your sight picture as the gun flips up) greatly reduces your time between shots and improves your overall score.

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~Weak/Strong Hand Shooting: While many of us acknowledge the importance of practicing one-handed shooting, how many of us honestly do it? I never did. I was intimidated by it. By participating in IPSC competitions I was forced to practice a skill I didn’t practice otherwise. (To offer a word of encouragement: I found shooting one-handed is nothing to be intimidated by. I actually tend to be more accurate with my weak hand than my strong hand.)

Gear Needed

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A Race Gun

What you will need to bring with you depends on which competition you decide to participate in. Before rushing out to buy a whole bunch of supplies, contact the organizer of the event or one of the participants and ask them. As a general rule, you will need 2-5 extra magazines, a way to quickly access them (they should not be in pockets), and an OWB holster. IPSC competitions are focused on time and accuracy whereas IDPA was developed to facilitate the practice of realistic lethal force encounters. You will see a lot of “race guns” at IPSC but IDPA bans “competition only” equipment. Either way, you will probably need 50-100+ rounds of ammo. Again, it is a good idea to ask beforehand.

General Advice

In the long run, you really are not competing against others. You are competing against yourself. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t move up the scoreboard. The others may be improving at the same rate you are. Focus on improving one or two techniques at a time, and don’t let the others bother you. For your first event, take it slow. Don’t try to match the speed of the others around you. Focus on accuracy and forget about the clock for the first couple of times. I often am told, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Focus on the mechanics: draw, aim, shoot, move, aim, shoot, move/reload, aim, shoot, etc… Once you get all of these down, your speed will naturally increase.

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How many of us of have ever reacted to a nocturnal, outside noise by turning on an inside light and peering out the glass? I know I have. As a child, I remember hearing many a frightful noise outside my window and trying my darndest with my little hands to block out enough light so I could actually see more than my reflection. Eventually, I learned it works much better to turn the inside light off and the outside light on. Unfortunately, this is where light analysis ends for most of us. We know it’s easier to hide in darkness than in light and we know it’s much easier for the person in the dark to see the person in the light. What many of us don’t think about is how this relates to self-defense and home protection. Even though there is controversy over methods utilized in low-light situations there are universal principles of light, darkness, and concealment.

There are 4 key principles of low light tactics we need to know as we build our home defense (and self-defense) plan:

 1. Read the light

When operating in no, low, or dim light conditions it is vitally important for you to assess lighting conditions in the environment. Where is the light coming from? What surface is the light hitting? Will you need to walk through or in front of that light? Do you need a light to safely navigate the area or can you wait for your eyesight to adjust? Where are the darkest areas (dark holes may contain threats)?

2. Operate from the lowest level of light

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Operating in the areas that are the darkest (the lowest light level) is key for staying concealed. I saw the perfect demonstration of this principle tonight, walking down my driveway. As I walked towards the house, I realized I could not see my car. I unintentionally parked it in the lowest level of light, beside a large bush/tree that blocks the beams of the exterior lights. The picture does not do justice to how hidden my car is, but it does help illustrate the point. The same way my car disappeared into the darkness, we need to blend into the shadows and darkness.

 3. Avoid or control backlighting

home-invasion4Backlighting occurs when a higher light level is behind you and you are in a lower light level. For example, if you leave the living room light on and walk down an adjoining, dark hallway you will be silhouetted against the ambient light coming from the living room. Backlighting makes you an easy target for an adversary by revealing your exact position. Backlighting may also warn your adversary of your approach by throwing a long shadow. Frequently, the best ways to minimize backlighting are to close doors and turn off lights.

 4. See from the threat’s viewpoint

Often, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to put yourself in the mindset of your enemy. Analyze your house for weak spots in the security as if you are a thief or home invader trying to break in. Assess your jogging path as if you are a rapist looking for an opportune moment. Walk through your home at night deciding where you would hide and thinking of what you would do if you were a criminal. Constantly thinking of what your adversary would see as you move through your environment will help you maintain a cautious regard of light and backlighting.

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The following 3 additional principles are for those who choose to use a flashlight to identify the target in a low light environment:

 5. Light and move

flashlightSeeing as how white light shows up extremely well in dark environments, using a white light may draw enemy fire directly at the light. The best way to protect yourself from this threat is to light and move. Momentarily activate the light in random intervals and at different heights to confuse and disorient your adversary and follow-up with movement away from the previous location.  The quick flash is enough to reveal your next few steps and/or the presence of the threat without making you a static target. If you must engage your target, it is also best to shoot and move. Enemies may aim at the location of the previous muzzle flash. You do NOT want to be in that location.  MOVE!

 6. Dominate with light

Many modern flashlights are so bright they may also be used as a weapon. The extremely high lumen output temporarily blinds and disorients the enemy. This approach is best used within close range to discourage further aggressive behavior or to enable you to seize the upper hand and take control of the situation. Frequently, it is also at this point that you are able to accurately assess the threat you are facing and determine a proper response.

 7. Carry more than one light

home_defense_534When you hear footsteps coming down your hallway, the last thing you need is for your flashlight to suddenly die. Murphy loves to rear his head at the most inopportune times, and a flashlight dying right when you hear a bump in the night would definitely be inopportune. I’m sure you have all heard the popular phrase, “One is none, and two is one.” Well, Surefire takes it one step farther and strongly urges you to have the “Tactical Trinity.” As a concept, the Tactical Trinity refers to identifying threats, disorienting opponents and illuminating targets. For all practical purposes, the Tactical Trinity is itemized as a primary light, a backup light and a weapon light. While this concept was developed for Law Enforcement, the principle applies just as strongly to civilians. If you plan on using a flashlight in your overall home defense plan, you need more than one light. If you rely on one light alone, Murphy’s Law just about guarantees it will not work when you need it.

To Sum It Up…

While it is easy to focus on this tool or that gadget, the skills and mindset required to correctly implement said tools (or operate without them) are much more important. The greatest tool you have is not the one in your hands, but between your ears. Relying on physical aides without developing skills is faulty logic at best and a lethal mistake at worst.

For further information and research….

http://pfctraining-ap-blog.com/2013/05/29/pfc-low-light-principle-number-1/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2_1Ox6zhXU  Executive Course by Surefire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAguTe8FaYk Home Defense–Talon Training Group part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1DBQeX7iSQ  Gunsight: Low-light/no light

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNcrysTdKKc Low Light Home Defense Tactics from Tac TV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6ECYv16Ac good info, annoying music