Shots Across the Bow

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Next Shotgun Bleg

I got some good advice on the last one, so here we go again. One of the best recommendations was to take a defensive shotgun course. I followed a couple of links, and found a school in Charlotte, NC, but they aren't offering another shotgun course for several months. So does anybody know of a good defensive shotgun course located within a 4-5 hour drive of Knoxville TN? The ideal course would be one tailored for the absolute beginner that stresses exercises that I can continue to practice after I get back home.

As for additions to the shotgun, I've decided to keep it fairly simple. Since I'm 6' 300lbs, and my wife is not, I'm going to get an adjustable stock, probably the Knox Spec Ops since it also reduces recoil, and has gotten good reviews everywhere I've read. I also want to add a flashlight, so recommendations on that are certainly welcome. Some of the ones I looked at online were more expensive than the gun itself. I'm looking for value, not cheap. Finally, I will add some sort of shell carrier.

I thought about adding ghost ring sights, but I think I'll wait and see if it turns out that I'll need them.

Thanks for all the good suggestions.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday at the Range:XDm .40 and the Crossbreed Holster

I took my new toy shooting for the first time today. Yeah, I know, I've had it for quite awhile. A real gunny would have been shooting with it within minutes of opening the case.

Between Christmas, New Years, work, weddings, and a persistant illness, I haven't had the chance until now. Sue me.

For review, the XDm is a revision of Springfield Armory's XD line of pistols. Right now, the XDm is available in .40 and 9mm, but there are rumors of a .45 version to come soon. I carried the original XD .40 as my carry gun for quite awhile, but I wasn't happy with the holster I had for it, a leather Mitch Rosen tuckable inside the waistband (IWB) model. It concealed the gun nicely, but it was very difficult to draw the gun, and it wasn't very comfortable. Since the XDm has a barrel that's just about a half inch longer than the XD, that gave me the excuse to try a new holster, one from CrossBreed Holsters called the Super-Tuck.

I bought a tuckable 2 mag holder from CrossBreed and a gunbelt to support the whole thing. This afternoon, I put the whole rig together for the first time.
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Starting with the gun, it was a very sweet gun to shoot. One of the changes Springfield made was to the trigger, decreasing the pull weight, and shortening the release (how far you have to pull the trigger to fire the gun) and the reset (how far you have to let it our before you can shoot again. For competitive shooters, that means they can get more rounds off more quickly and accurately. For me, it means, well, not so much. One change that does help my shooting is that it feels like the slide is heavier, and that noticeably reduced the muzzle climb after a shot. I was able to reacquire the target much more quickly than with the XD. The other big change is the magazine capacity. 16 shots is a lot more than 10. Six more to be exact. You might not think that makes much of a difference but think about any task that requires concentration. Now think about doing it for almost twice as long.

It is an adjustment, but one I'm happy to make.

So after running 100 rounds through the gun, I'm very happy with it. I foresee many trips to the range and the farm in my near future.

Now, on to the holster.
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The Super-Tuck is a hybrid holster, combining a molded Kydex holster riveted to a leather backing piece. The name comes from the holster's design, which lets you tuck in your shirt and still carry concealed, which is pretty nice. The holsters are handmade to order and the Kydex is molded to fit your gun. When I first got it in the mail, I was a little bit concerned. The Kydex piece seemed a bit thin, certainly thinner than the plastic used to make the holster that came with the XDm. I also wondered about the holster's ability to retain the gun. It certainly wasn't as tight as the Rosen holster and that's a good thing, since that was one of the problems I had with it, but still, this seemed like it might be too lose. Fortunately, Mark Craighead inventor of the CrossBreed Super-Tuck anticipated this, and included instructions for increasing retention by molding the Kydex to your gun. I decided to wait and see how things held together before making any modification.
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The tuckable magazine holder has room for two magazines, which means that when I'm wearing this rig, I have 49 shots available, which is probably about 47 more than I'll ever need, but the backup mags aren't really for numbers of bullets, but for reliability. If one magazine fails, I have a back up.

I started with just the holster and the belt. First a few words about the belt. I didn't appreciate exactly how differently a gunbelt felt. It's much stiffer and heavier than a standard dress belt, which improves it's ability to support the gun and holster, which is a good thing with the XDm .40, with its full load of 17 rounds. The good news is that the belt supports the gun easily and very comfortably. The holster helps with that. The wide piece of leather distributes the weight of the gun across more of the belt while at the same time keeping the gun from imprinting on your skin, which can be painful. The other nice thing about the holster is that it is very adjustable. The two belt clips can be moved up or down to adjust the angle the gun is carried at and how deeply it is carried. After adjusting the clips to lean the gun forward just a bit, I put it on the belt for a test run.

It was extremely comfortable, so much so that I forgot I was wearing it. Standing, walking, even sitting and driving, the gun rode comfortably on my hip and was easily accessible. I tried drawing from different positions, and the gun pulled smoothly from the holster every time. Another advantage over my old holster, it was much easier to reholster my gun, since the Kydex stays open better. And the retention issue became a non issue. The tension on the belt added to the tension on the holster to keep the gun securely in place.

I even did jumping jacks.

Next, I added the mag carrier. I tried two separate locations for it, the small of my back, and on my left hip. I settled on the left hip position because it was more comfortable and easier to get to. Like the Super-Tuck, the mag carrier is a hybrid of Kydex and leather and is very comfortable to carry. Also like the Super-Tuck, it is built to allow you to tuck in your shirt and still conceal the mags, letting you dress a little bit nicer than the average carry holster.
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In this picture, you can see that even under a tucked in T shirt, the gun and mags are well concealed.
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A side view of the magazine holder
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Peek a boo!
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I see you!

Incidentally, I can get away with wearing normal size pants if I'm just carrying the gun, but if I wear the mag carrier, I need to bump up a size.

And CrossBreed offers a velcro kit with their belts that include a strip of Velcro sewn on the inside of the belt and a set of clips to replace the ones that come with the holster. The velcro clips stay on the inside of the gelt and attach to the Velcro strip for even better concealment.

I'm extremely happy with this rig. It' comfortable enough and easy enough to access that I will be wearing it full time, It's not a chore, like the old one was. The XDm .40 is a big, heavy gun for concealed carry. Fortunately, I'm a big, heavy guy, and with this holster and belt, I can carry it comfortably and securely, and discreetly.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Shameless Bid for a Link From Uncle

Pics of my new XDm .40
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So, who's up for a trip to the range?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

RTB at the Range.

I went shooting with some other armed members of the RTB last night. Unfortunately, since I was running late, I missed most of them, so I wasn't able to really shoot with them, although I did get to meet up with them afterwards at Ruby Tuesday.

This was my third trip to a range, and went fairly smoothly, except for one thing.

I had my first misfire.

Now that alone wouldn't be too troubling, since, as I've been told by knowledgeable folks, .22 ammo is prone to misfires, but the bullet would not come out of the barrel. I pulled the slide back as Uncle had shown me, and shook the gun, but the bullet stayed put. I tried prying it out with my fingernail, but had no luck.

I had a small dilemma on my hands. I didn't want to carry a loaded gun out into the shop area to ask for help, nor did I want to leave it unsecured on the range. So I asked a guy who was waiting to shoot what I should do. He came over to my lane and checked it out.

"First," he said, "you want to let it sit for a bit to make sure it isn't a hang fire."

Then he worked the slide to see if it would come out. Next, he pulled out a small pocket knife and used it to gently pry the bullet out of the chamber.

"Be careful when you do this," he said. "Make sure you get the knife underneath the rim of the bullet and away from the primer are."

Once the bullet was loosened, it dropped right out, and I went back to shooting.

Lessons learned:
  1. Bring a small pocketknife, or something similar, to the range with you to help clear stuck misfires.
  2. .22 ammo is not the highest quality in the world. Expect some bad rounds even from name brand ammo. These were Remington Thunderbolts.
  3. According to the guy behind the desk, it is possible to refire a dud by turning it slightly so the hammer falls on a different area. I didn't try this.
  4. When in doubt, ask somebody. Don't be embarrassed to admit you're ignorance. It;s the only way to learn, and on something as important as shooting, what you don't know can kill you or somebody else.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, February 02, 2004

My First Handgun

I bought my first gun last week, and it was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. The actual process is pretty easy, but deciding what gun to buy is anything but, as their are about a million different things to consider, and enough different ways to accomodate each consideration that I quickly became a little overwhelmed by the choices. But, with some help from both knowledgeable friends and several gun store owners, I made my decision.

Before I get deeper into the details, I do want to point out that never in my life have I found a group of hobbyists as friendly and open to helping a newby as I have in the shooting world. I'm sure I've asked some really stupid questions, and I know I pestered one poor guy to death, but everyone I've run into has been very helpful and willing to take the time to help me learn this new sport.

One thing that everyone I talked to stressed was that buying a gun is a very personal thing. Each person will have their own unique set of requirements, as a consequence, it makes it difficult for folks to give advice on what caliber or gun to buy, unless they can take the time to get to know you, and your reasons for the purchase. It was a little frustrating because I was looking for help to cut down on some of the options, but at the same time, it forced me to consider carefully exactly what I wanted from this first gun.

I decided to start out with a .22 as my first handgun. As I detailed earlier, I went shooting with Uncle, and shot a .45 and a 9mm, and while I was comfortable with both, I wanted something that I could shoot a lot without spending a lot of money on ammunition. I wanted to be very comfortable handling, maintaining, and shooting a gun before I started looking for my carry gun. Plus, I was told that it's a good idea to start off with a smaller gun, to avoid developing any bad habits, like flinching. The final consideration was that two of my kids said they were interested in going shooting with me. So it worked out that a .22 was the way to go for me.

The next consideration was revolver vs semi-auto. There are trade offs to each, and most often, I got a recommendation to get a revolver, based on easier maintenance and higher reliability.

So I went with a semi-auto.

Why? I don't really know except that it felt like the right decision.

Finally, I had to choose an actual gun. I went to a couple of different ranges and gun stores, and handled several guns, including Rugers, Brownings, and I can't remember what else. The people helping me were very patient, showing me several different guns at each place I went. I almost bought a Ruger .22, but it felt a little bit awkward in my hand, so I kept looking. Finally, I was handed a Walther P22, and I had my gun. It felt right in my hand, was balanced nicely, and had a trigger safety.

That safety was very important to me, since I could lock the gun, keeping my kids safe. This lock not only locks the trigger but mechanically locks the slide as well, and isn't subject to tampering. I'm comfortable that there's no way any of my kids can fire the gun without my being there.

Of course, I've also hidden it in a locked case.

Now some folks say you shouldn't tell your kids there's a gun in the house. They think that what they don't iknow won't hurt them. I'm just the opposite. If they don't know it's there, and then find it, they're much more liable to mess around with it. I know that's how I would have reacted if I'd found a gun as a kid. But, if they know it's there, know to leave it alone, and know that if they do want to shoot, I'll take them to the range with me, the curiousity that goes along with something being forbidden is eliminated completely.

Anyway, I made my selection, and asked the lady behind the counter for any accessories I might need. She came up with a cleaning kit, and a secondary cleaning tool called a Bore Snake that slides down the barrel and cleans it. She recommended it for use after light shooting when I wasn't going to do a full cleaning of the gun. Then she brought me a brick of CCI MiniMag ammo, and we started to fill out the paperwork.

I had to produce my Driver's License and fill out a form declaring that I was sane, buying the gun for myself, not under a restraining order, not a felon, and things like that. Meanwhile, she was running my instant background check (a $10 non refundable fee).

This may not be a popular position among gun rights folks, but I don't mind the whole background check process. Not because I think it's a deterrent to criminals (it isn't) but because it is a reasonable precaution to take to insure that those who shouldn't be able to easily purchase a gun can't. If we accept that it is fair to restrict certain groups from gun ownership, ie criminals, etc., then it is only prudent to take what steps we can to ensure that they can't buy them legally. On the other hand, the argument that since it doesn't stop criminals from getting ahold of guns, it is a needless invasion of our privacy is also a good one. On balance, I'd rather put up with the invasion if it keeps a few guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them, unless of course, the background checks become a pretext to expand the definition of "who shouldn't have them."

Now this was at about 5:00PM on a Friday, and my background check came back Yellow, which means Pending. Something in my background required a closer look before my application would be approved. Because it was so late on a Friday, all the supervisors were gone, so it would be Monday before my background check would be completed. When I asked, they said it was fairly common and could be a chance resemblence in names, or possibly someone else using my SSN to try and get a gun. (I didn't feel too good about that possibility) I knew it would clear eventually, so I went ahead and paid for the cleaning gear and the bullets, put a deposit on the gun, and headed for the house. It was on the way there that I realized what the hold was.

Because of where I work, I have a couple of Security Clearances through the NRC and the DOE. I assumed, and later had verified, that if you have a security clearance, anyone running a background check will have to get permission to access the file. It's entirely routine, and usually only adds a couple of hours to the process.

So, the following Monday, I called the gun shop around noon, and my background check was cleared. I drove over after work and picked up my gun and headed for the house. I asked the clerk about carrying a gun without a concealed carry permit, and she said that I didn't need a permit to transport a gun as long as I wasn't carrying it with the intent to go armed. Since it was unloaded in the case, that showed my lack of intent.

And that was it; I had my first gun.

This weekend, I took the P22 to the range. I'll report on that next, but the short version is fun to shoot, fairly accurate, with only a few gripes about reassembly after cleaning.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 12, 2004

First Trip to the Range.

Well, I'm a pistol virgin no longer. SayUncle and I headed out to the range where he gave me my first lessons in shooting handguns. I learned quite a bit about shooting, both practical information (Don't touch the trigger until you're ready to shoot.) and legal (requirements to purchase a gun, requirements for concealed carry, training courses etc.)

When we first got to the store, there were about 10-15 people wandering the store, waiting their turn on the range. While we were waiting for my orientation tour, Uncle took me over to the counter and showed me several guns that he would recommend, and some he wouldn't. He stressed that in firearms, as in everything else, you get what you pay for.

Looking at the guns, I was struck by their singleness of purpose. A knife can be used as a tool as well as a weapon. A steak knife doesn't look intimidating, even though it can cut and stab as well as a K-BAR. But looking at a gun, you know it has only one purpose.

That's a sobering realization.

The orientation tour was brief, but thorough, and the attendant made sure I didn't have any questions.For those of you who've never been at an indoor range, it's loud! I had on earmuffs, and it was still loud. The range we were at had 9 lanes and all were in use when we went in. Eye and ear protection were required, and double hearing protection was recommended if you wanted it.

The rules of the range were simple, and related to safety. One gun and one ammo type at a time on the line. Additional guns, ammo, etc kept behind the line. Do not cross over the line for any reason. When the alarm sounds, stop shooting and set you gun on the table. Always keep the gun pointing down range. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot. Never hand anyone a loaded gun.

After the orientation, Uncle showed me the basic operation of a Glock 30 .45. Yeah, I started with a big gun. He showed me how to insert the clip and work the slide to load the chamber, then how to remove the clip and clear the chamber to insure the gun was empty. Then, he went over some basic rules of gun safety. Always assume the gun is loaded. Don't put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot. (Yes, this one is that important, that's why I've repeated it several times, but not as many times as he did.)

Then we loaded the clips. I'm typing with one less finger today because the tip of my index finger is sore from loading those clips. It takes a lot of force to load a clip, especially the last bullet because the spring is fully compressed. Uncle showed me the technique, but I'll have to work on it before I get comfortable with it.

Uncle showed me his preferred stance while telling me that other people would give me other advice, and to find what works best for me. He showed me a basic, two handed grip, squeezed off a couple of rounds, then set the gun on the table.

It was my turn.

Keep in mind that while we're going through all of this, there are 8 other people shooting almost continuously. I'm flinching with nearly every shot, particularly when a guy 2 or 3 lanes over shoots. I didn't know what it was he was firing (Uncle later said it was a .44 Mag if I remember right, but not only could you hear it, you could feel the concussion of each shot. I stepped up to the line and assumed a comfortable stance with my left foot in front, my right about 18 inches back and turned to the side (what we called "sugarfoot" in wrestling). I picked up the gun with a two handed grip, and carefully sighted along the barrel to the target 7 yards away.

7 yards doesn't sound like much, and it isn't, but it was plenty for a first time out. My hands were shaking with adrenaline, and I took a deep breath to settle down, and began to squeeze the trigger. Uncle told me that the pull was around 5 pounds, which sounds light but is a lot stiffer than I'd expected. I slowly increased pressure and the trigger moved back until it hit a slight resistance.

Then the gun went off.

That's how it felt, anyway. I wasn't concious of the trigger moving any further, or increasing pressure to break past the resistance. I hit the resistance, there was a heartbeat, then the gun roared. The recoil wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated, but it was still a little overwhelming to feel the gun move with that much power. It didn't tear my hand off, but I knew right away that controlling the recoil would be a challenge, particularly since Uncle warned me against it. He said a common problem among first timers is a tendancy to anticipate the recoil, pulling their shots down.

Oh, yeah, I did hit the target.

I finished the clip, and afterward, Uncle told me that I'd drawn quite the crowd as people stopped to watch the newbie shoot. The last 5 or 6 rounds, I began to get a little control, and achieved a decent grouping. Oddly, shortly after I fired the first couple of shots, I was concentrating so hard, I didn't really hear the other folks shooting anymore. Except for the guy with the cannon.

After the Glock, we went to a SIG 9mm, which had a few different features, like a decocking lever. Still the basic setup was the same, and the 9mm clips were much easier to load. The biggest difference on the SIG was that the first shot was a double action shot, which really jacked up the trigger pull. (If I understand it right, single action means the trigger releases the hammer; it has to be pulled back (cocked) another way. Double action means the trigger cocks and releases the hammer. The Glock we fired earlier had what they call safe action. The hammer is cocked when you work the slide to chamber a round.) After the first shot, the hammer is cocked by the action of the slide and the trigger pull is single action at around 4 pounds. I really didn't like the difference between pulls, but once I adjusted to it, I did OK with the SIG.

We went through 2 boxes of ammo, with Uncle letting me do the lion's share of shooting. Before we left the range, we had to clean up all the casings by sweeping them past the line, where the store would collect them for reloading later. After leaving the range, we went to the washroom to wash our hands to get rid of the lead residue, important if you don't want to wind up like the Roman Emperors.

Range time, ammo, targets and orientation came up to just over $50, which may or may not be expensive; I have no basis for comparison, but seemed reasonable to me.

Holding and shooting the gun felt differently than I expected. I searched myself for feelings of power, or invulnerability, and was happy to find instead feelings of responsibility. The gun in my hand didn't make me feel strong or invincible, but cautious and careful. Every second that it was in my hands I was aware that I held a powerful tool. A gun is a tool like fire is a tool, and just like fire, it can turn on you. Properly controlled, both serve vital purposes, but if you fail to control either, they can destroy everything.

Anyway, I plan on doing some more research, and trying several more guns before making my first purchase. Of the two I've shot so far, I think I liked the Glock a little bit better.

Posted by Rich
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