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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting Stressed Out On The Range

Last week, I had a wonderful lunch (wonderful because they're good folks, and the lunch was was on their dime!) with some friends in Reno.  Since I was up in that neck of the woods, I decided to hit one of the indoor pistol ranges.  It had been way too long since I'd done any sort of pistol training.

I brought 3 guns with me, a Glock 19, Glock 26 (my primary concealed carry gun) and a Smith & Wesson M+P Shield (my secondary concealed carry gun).

My regular routine is to run one magazine through them just to re-acquaint myself with the sights, then go into "stress mode" training.  More on this in a second.

Since it had been a while since I'd been to the range, I put two magazines through each pistol.  I did one at 7 yards and one at 10 yards.  Everything was in the bullseye or no further out than the 9-ring.

I'm all, "you a bad, bad man" thinking it had been so long since I was in the range, and I'm still tearing out the center of the target.

Well, that glow of self-congratulations didn't last long!

It's difficult - ok, impossible - to replicate the stress one would be under if you were using a weapon in self-defense.  The best you can do in an indoor range where you can't move around (because of the other shooters) is to add some timed "games" to your practice routine.

One I was using goes like this:  You set a timer on your phone for 5 seconds.  Your 2 x 3 foot target has 4 of the 6 inch "Shoot-N-C" targets - one placed in each of the 4 corners of the larger paper target.  If you're not familiar with these targets, they have a black background that shows your hits instantaneously.  As an example, here's one of their 12 inch targets I used to zero a rifle.

When the bullet tears through the target, it instantly leaves a yellow ring so you can see where you hit.

I load my magazine with 6 rounds.  I number the targets 1 through 4, starting with the upper left hand target, and going clockwise.

First time through, I've got the gun in my right hand pointed down range, I hit the "go" button on my phone with the left hand, and shoot all 4 targets in numerical order within the 5 seconds.  If I miss a target (no yellow ring), I must fire again, hitting the target before moving on to the next - and knowing in my mind I only have 2 extra shots.

Why do this - limiting myself to only two extra shots?  Getting in the habit of "spraying bullets" doesn't stop bad guys, and puts any potential bystanders at risk.  I want fast, accurate shots.

After successfully doing the shots in 5 seconds, I drop it to 4 seconds, then to 3 seconds.

I'll then mix up the order:  I'll do a "Z formation" - 1,2,4,3.  Then a reverse Z - 3,4,2,1.  Then an "X", then a reverse X - you get it.

OK, so I start off with my Glock 26, and get through the drills in fine fashion.  Yeah, baby... bad, bad man....

Next up is the Smith and Wesson.

"Humility has just entered the building!"

I take the first shot at target 1 and miss entirely.  WTF?  I take the second shot and hit low-left on the target.  I move to target 2, same thing, miss then low left.  Buzzer goes off.


I do the drill again, with virtually the same results.  It must be the gun, right?  Did I drop it, and mess with the sights?  No, no dropped gun.  Barrel must be dirty.

I bring in the target, and put on one of the 12 inch Shoot-N-C targets.  I load the magazine with 5 rounds, and shoot them all in rapid fire fashion.

All 5 are down at the 7 o'clock position - lower left side of the target.  And then it dawns on me:  I'm over-squeezing the  grips when I'm shooting under stress.

To see this for yourself, grab an empty pistol, or anything that is gun shaped, hold it out in front of you, and squeeze your grip.  You'll see the muzzle pull down and to the left.

Wait, wait, wait!  Pump them brakes there, cupcake!  How come this didn't happen with the Glock?

Hmmm, good question.

Well, it's all about the grip... and lack of practice.

First off, here are the two guns in question - Smith and Wesson on the left, Glock 26 on the right.

Size and weight wise, they're just about the same.  It's the differences that count.

The Smith uses a single stack magazine.  Each cartridge sits right on top of the one below it.  This gives you fewer rounds per vertical inch (which is a negative), but also gives you thinner grips (which is good or bad, depending on your hand size).

The Glock uses a double stack magazine.  Each cartridge is slightly offset from the one below it.  This gives you more rounds per vertical inch (good), but fatter grips (same good or bad as above).

The Smith can carry 8 rounds in the magazine (or 7 if you use the standard magazine) and the Glock holds 10.

Here's what they look like side by side - Smith on left, Glock on right -

It doesn't look like much of a difference, but in the hand, it's very noticeable.

There's a BIG difference how the grips fit in my hand.  First is the Smith -

And the Glock -

Notice that the back of the Smith grip nearly fills my entire palm, and the Glock stops at my "life line" (interesting.....).  At the front of the grips, my fingers fit well with both guns (it looks like my pinky is off of the Glock, but it is being held by the grip extension).

At this point, it seems as though the Smith should be giving me better control than the Glock, but the exact opposite is what's happening in the real world.

I think these pictures explain it.  Natural placement of my trigger finger on the trigger.  You want the center of the pad at the tip of the finger to be centered on the trigger.  First the Smith -

And the Glock -

First, compare the angle of the middle knuckle on each hand.  The Smith has a sharper angle - more distance between the inner finger surface and the side of the pistol - than the flatter angle of the Glock.

Then notice the angle of the knuckle at the end of the trigger finger.  The Smith is bent inwards, where with the Glock, the finger tip is flat.

So, aside from the better "fit and finish" of the Glock to my hand, I train like crazy with the Glock.  As this "stress test" showed, I must have NEVER done any rapid shooting with the Smith.  Just lobbing slow and easy shots down range.

This seriously pisses me off at myself.  I have been semi-regularly concealed carrying the Smith for the past few months ASSUMING I was proficient and accurate with it.  We all know about assumptions...

Accept The Challenge

Get thee to the range, and do some stressed out shooting.  The drills above are even better if you do them with a buddy where he/she randomly calls out the numbers rapidly after each shot.  You're getting both the stress of timed shooting AND competition with another person ('cause you KNOW you want to win!).

Obviously, you can do even more life-like exercises if you're at a range that allows holster draws (most indoor ranges frown on such things), or if you go out into public lands and set up IDPA-like drills.

More practice is more better!

Oh, and keep the targets small - no larger than 6 inches for pistols.  And keep the distances similar to "gun fight" distances - no more than 10 yards or so.

Lastly, if you're setting up a scenario, be sure that as you're moving from shot to shot, try and incorporate moving away from your targets, not towards them.  If you're getting closer to the bad guys, you're making yourself easier to hit.  No bueno.

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Copyright 2017 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. Please note that in addition to owning Bison Risk Management, Chief Instructor is also a partner in a precious metals business. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

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