Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Finding ‘Your’ Pistol

“I like the way it looks,” he replied. “It’s the newest model,” another said. “When I went into the shop the guy told me this is what “they” carry,” he said, using hand quotations along with a wink. “You don’t see very many of them,” one man told me. “This is what my father carried,” the man said.

These are some of the reasons I hear when asking students why they have a particular firearm, something that is out of the norm. None of them are good criteria for selecting a fighting weapon.

When it comes to selecting a pistol there are several areas to consider. Jeff Cooper’s three essentials for the pistol were that it fit your hand, have a good trigger, and a set of sights you can see. Your hand size determines what size pistol is ideal. You have to be able to get the correct grip on the pistol, completely surrounding it with both hands, while at the same time able to operate the trigger properly, with the trigger centered in the first pad of the first finger. It’s essential you can press the trigger smoothly, since this is critical to shooting accurately.

Double action/single action pistols are more difficult to fire accurately under stress because you have to learn two presses. The first press is long and requires plenty of pressure, while subsequent shots require far less pressure. You need sights that you can see, especially under low-light conditions. As you age sights become even more important; at some point you’ll need a big dot sight, like the kind XS makes.

Reliability is mandatory. Period. If your weapon doesn’t function correctly then sell it or put it in the safe and get one that does. Just keep in mind that for it to run it has to have good ammo and quality magazines. Some pistols, especially smaller calibers, are ammo sensitive; find what works and stick with it.

Finally, you have to be able to carry the pistol, which is especially a concern for concealed carry, and you should train/practice with what you carry.

The main point here is if you carry a weapon for self-defense then it has to be the correct weapon for you. And you are an individual, so what works for your friends may not necessarily be right for you. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it does the job.

It may not be a good idea to express your unique approach to life in general when picking a weapon. And when your life depends on what you carry, it won’t really matter much who else carries one just like it.

You may have to go through several pistols until you find the “one.” As I’ve often said, don’t stop until you find the idea pistol, the one that seems like it was made just for you. Finally, don’t be afraid to modify it, if it’s necessary and fills a true need. It takes time and money, but in this case the value far exceeds the actual costs.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Git the Hit!

The advantage of the firearm as a weapon is that it allows us to hit the threat without having to be within arm’s reach. The disadvantage, until they come up with “smart” ammo, is that the weapon must be aimed in order to place your shots where they need to go in order to stop the threat as efficiently as possible. Yes, even in a fight you have to aim your firearm.

Combative accuracy, shooting to stop the threat, is completely different from target shooting. In a fight we normally have a short amount of time to stop the threat. Most fights occur at close distances.

Due to time and distance you cannot get a perfect sight picture, nor do you need one. Accuracy during combat is dictated by the shot you’re attempting to make at that point in time. The accuracy required determines what method you use to aim the weapon.

In an extreme close quarter situation, where you can’t extend your arms out otherwise the weapon is within reach of the threat, we aim by indexing the weapon against our body, using the body to place the sights on target. With a pistol this positions the weapon chest high, at the side of your body, tilted slightly outboard so the slide doesn’t hit your body or clothing creating a malfunction. The support hand is positioned where there is no danger of it getting in the way. This truly is point shooting.

Once I have distance I extend the weapon and get both hands on it. At close distance I may aim by seeing that my hands, which are holding the pistol, are centered in the body of the threat. At close distance this will get you on target. As the range increases I start using a flash sight picture to fire. I’m looking at the point I want the round to go. As soon the front sight intersects that line of vision I’m pressing off my shots.

As the distance increases even more, or the size of my target becomes smaller, for example shifting from the center of the body to the head, I have to start using dedicated sight pictures to obtain hits. Remember, accuracy is defined by distance and size of the target, so as distance increases and/or target size decreases it affects the speed you can shoot and still get good hits.

This is true for everyone. Your job is to determine what type sight picture you need so when you press the trigger the bullet goes where it’s supposed to be. This varies for everyone, so it’s not something you can discover from looking at a chart. You have to figure it out through practice.

After you’ve got a good idea on what you have to do at various distances on different sizes of targets to make the hit, then you need to start doing it while moving. Eventually you’ll need to work it against an erratic moving target. Then, you’ll have a good idea of what combative accuracy is. Learn what it takes to “git the hit.”

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

My Pistol Never Malfunctions?

When I hear the statement, “My pistol never malfunctions,” it makes me worried. The problem is your pistol may never malfunction, but the pistol itself is only a part of the whole package.

What people often fail to realize is that for the semi-auto pistol to function it has to have ammunition, magazines, and be fired properly by the shooter.

Obviously ammunition is essential to the equation. Your pistol may be in working order, but when you come across a bad round that will create a malfunction, or worse a jam or breakage that can’t be cleared or corrected. I have a collection of rounds with bad primers, fired in multiple weapons to confirm the primer is defective.

I have rounds that have deformed cases, a small lip at the mouth of the case that prevents it from being chambered. There is also a 9mm round which was fired in a .40 caliber pistol. Then there’s the ‘too much or too little powder in the case,’ which needs no explanation. The point is when you get a bad round of ammo, you have a malfunction.

Magazines feed to ammo to the semi-auto weapon. They have to work properly, especially if we’re talking about fighting. Things happen to magazines. The follower gets stuck in a cock-eyed position. A small rock gets inside it creating a stoppage.

When you were rolling on the round trying to keep from getting kicked in the head, the mag got bent. A bad magazine will create a stoppage. This is the reason I have training/practice mags, which get abused during drills, and my operational mags, which I carry to fight with, after a thorough testing of course.

The semi-auto pistol, at least most of them, are recoil operated, which means it has to have resistance when fired to cycle properly. This is especially true for small pistols with small frames and big bullets. .40 calibers, which have sharp snappy recoil, also require plenty of resistance or you’ll have failures to eject empty cases or problems chambering a fresh round.

Providing the resistance necessary for the weapon to function may not be a problem on the range, until you start doing one-hand drills. On the street you may be firing from a compromised position that prevents you from getting a good two-handed grip on the weapon. In a fight, the unusual and unexpected are constantly occurring. This is fertile ground for malfunctions to pop up.

Knowing how to clear malfunctions is essential to being prepared to fight with a weapon. Understanding that you may have a jam or a breakage as opposed to a malfunction is also important. When your weapon breaks or jams, you ain’t gonna clear it during the fight.

This is a good reason to carry, and know how to use, a backup weapon. And, who knows, you may find that going to your backup is easier and more efficient than reloading an empty weapon or clearing a malfunction.

If you weapon has never malfunctions, then you’re not training and practicing enough.

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Auto Pistol | Leave a comment

My Pistol Never Malfunctions?

When I hear the statement, “My pistol never malfunctions,” it makes me worried. The problem is your pistol may never malfunction, but the pistol itself is only a part of the whole package. What people often fail to realize is that for the semi-auto pistol to function it has to have ammunition, magazines, and be fired properly by the shooter.

Obviously ammunition is essential to the equation. Your pistol may be in working order, but when you come across a bad round that will create a malfunction, or worse a jam or breakage that can’t be cleared or corrected.

I have a collection of rounds with bad primers, fired in multiple weapons to confirm the primer is defective. I have rounds that have deformed cases, a small lip at the mouth of the case that prevents it from being chambered. There is also a 9mm round which was fired in a .40 caliber pistol. Then there’s the ‘too much or too little powder in the case,’ which needs no explanation. The point is when you get a bad round of ammo, you have a malfunction.

Magazines feed to ammo to the semi-auto weapon. They have to work properly, especially if we’re talking about fighting. Things happen to magazines. The follower gets stuck in a cock-eyed position. A small rock gets inside it creating a stoppage.

When you were rolling on the round trying to keep from getting kicked in the head, the mag got bent. A bad magazine will create a stoppage. This is the reason I have training/practice mags, which get abused during drills, and my operational mags, which I carry to fight with, after a thorough testing of course.

The semi-auto pistol, at least most of them, are recoil operated, which means it has to have resistance when fired to cycle properly. This is especially true for small pistols with small frames and big bullets. .40 calibers, which have sharp snappy recoil, also require plenty of resistance or you’ll have failures to eject empty cases or problems chambering a fresh round. Providing the resistance necessary for the weapon to function may not be a problem on the range, until you start doing one-hand drills.

On the street you may be firing from a compromised position that prevents you from getting a good two-handed grip on the weapon. In a fight, the unusual and unexpected are constantly occurring. This is fertile ground for malfunctions to pop up.

Knowing how to clear malfunctions is essential to being prepared to fight with a weapon. Understanding that you may have a jam or a breakage as opposed to a malfunction is also important. When your weapon breaks or jams, you ain’t gonna clear it during the fight. This is a good reason to carry, and know how to use, a backup weapon. And, who knows, you may find that going to your backup is easier and more efficient than reloading an empty weapon or clearing a malfunction.

If you weapon has never malfunctions, then you’re not training and practicing enough.

March 8, 2011 Posted by | Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Compact Pistols

Mid to large caliber pistols with small frames, short barrels, and grips that are reduced in length are easy to carry, especially in a concealed location. That’s an advantage.

But, as with all things, there are disadvantages you should considered. These compact pistols can be difficult to operate properly. Notice I said can be; some people can operate them efficiently. The majority of people, when there is an option, would be better off carrying a mid to full size pistol as opposed to the compact versions.

Compact pistols are difficult to manipulate. When it comes to manipulating smaller weapons – loading, unloading, which we do a lot of, reloading, and clearing malfunctions, which are sometimes necessary – are difficult to perform properly, especially if you have large hands. It’s common to see those larger hands covering ejection ports, creating stoppages.

Large hands also mean you have to modify your grip to allow the magazine to drop free during empty reloads, since the bottom of the palm is actually covering the mag’s base. The grip has to be opened up to seat the mag as well, otherwise it won’t seat, and you can get a good bit of your hand pinched between the mag and mag well of the pistol. As a matter of fact people with smaller hands have problem as well due to the fact that the recoil springs are stiffer, requiring more strength to cycle the slide aggressively.

The short sight radius, the distance between the front and rear sight, of compact pistols can make it difficult to shoot accurately. For most situations, where the fight takes place close and quick, this shouldn’t present a problem. If you’re forced to make a shot from extended distances, or at a small portion of the target, a longer sight radius makes those shoots easier to accomplish.

Compact pistols are lighter weight, which means more recoil, and that increases the time between shots. This is especially true for newer shooters who have not had the time to get their grip, stance, and that type stuff squared away yet. In a fight the lower the split time between shots, as always only shooting at the speed that places your rounds in the proper location, the quicker we stop the threat.

As Jeff Cooper said, a fighting pistol must fit your hand properly, in addition to having a crisp trigger and sights you can see. The only way to determine whether your pistol fits you or not is through intensive training and practice, working on the fundamentals of marksmanship and manipulations, over and over again.

If you discover the size of your pistol if keeping you from performing these skills properly, then you should get another weapon, regardless of who gave you the small pistol, what type sentimental value it has or what brand it is. When forced to use your weapon to defend against a violent attacker, none of these things will matter.

Get a pistol that fits your hand. Work with it until it becomes a natural extension of your body and mind. This is the way to defeat your threat.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Auto Pistol, Concealed Carry | Leave a comment

The Head Shot

When I did my first Gunsite class the standard firing response was two shots to the chest and one to the head. As my training/learning progressed I started adding pelvis shots to the response, and eventually got to the point where the head-shot was an occasional added hit. Three to four hits to the body, two to four into the pelvis, and then maybe adding a round to the head.

Don’t get me wrong, head-shots, when applied correctly, are about the only guarantee for stopping a threat instantly. Apply the bullet in the correct location and you disconnect the computer that creates all the thoughts from the body that performs the physical actions. This is why snipers, in critical situations involving bystanders or hostages, go for the head. It’s literally like flipping the switch. One second the threat is standing, the next instant they are on the ground.

The problem in a defensive situation, using a pistol or carbine within fairly close distance, is that in most situations you’re in a reactive state, initially anyway, facing someone who is seriously trying to put the hurt on you. You’re moving to cover, creating distance or just to be a moving target to the threat. Most likely the threat will be moving, especially if you display a weapon and look like you know how to use it; they ain’t just gonna’ stand there and let you shoot them. So they are creating distance, going to cover, escaping or possibly even advancing rapidly towards you. Under these conditions placing the bullet in the proper location, just the right area to create the damage necessary to stop the threat, is extremely difficult to do. If you don’t agree try it on the range against a 3-D target that’s moving erratically. Work on it while lying on your back or side with the threat elevated, or with the target positioned at the bottom of the stairs. Then imagine it being ten times more difficult under actual combative conditions, which, unlike the range are usually less than perfect. Oh yeah, and lives depend on your performance.

Under these conditions how long will it take you to get one good head shot, on a three dimensional target that doesn’t want to be shot? How many body or pelvic shots can you get during the time it takes to make one good hit to the head? And, being realistic, at what distance, under these conditions, can you actually achieve this type accuracy?

These are some the questions you need to investigate and discover for yourself. What you read in a column, see on an internet forum, or hear about from your buddy doesn’t help you understand what you can do. It will be your fight, so find out what you can and can’t do in advance.

Then, when it comes time to dish out defeat, you know what to do and how to do it properly.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol | Leave a comment

The Empty “Empty” Reload

You’re engaging the threat, firing accurate rounds with your pistol while moving to create distance and searching for cover. You find cover and slip behind it for protection. The threat is still up. You shoot again and your pistol runs empty. Immediately your support hand drops down to the mag pouch, only to discover it’s empty. You have no more ammo. What next?

Option 1: You hesitate, a wild look of panic in your eyes. The threat sees all this and smiles. This option has a bad outcome.

Option 2: Dump the empty mag, just like you always do, grab a pretend mag, shove it into the pistol and cycle the slide aggressively. The threat saw you run empty and then reload. He hesitates and ducks behind cover. This creates an opportunity for you to tactically retreat, and escape the situation. Or your partner/teammates arrive. Maybe you remember the revolver on your ankle. This action results in a good ending.

“But you’re bluffing,” you say. Yes. Anything, even bluffing, is better than quitting and giving up. But this means you have to have a combative mindset. An attitude that says, “I will win no matter what may happen.” An approach to fighting that will not allow you to stop fighting until winning. Regardless of what the odds are, the weapon you have, or how much it hurts, you never stop.

In feudal Japan there was a warrior monk named Benkei, who was the only one still standing to defend his lord Yoshitsune during an attack. Alone, Benkei charged against the enemy, taking hit after hit from samurai archers. Finally, surrounded by the enemy, his armor full of arrows, he stopped moving. None would approach him. After time his opponents moved close enough to determine that he was dead. He never fell, and even in death his enemy was too scared to attack.

I have a clipping in my collection about a young mother who was attacked in her home by a violent threat, who was covered in blood and looking to escape the law. Two children, both young, were also in the house. She fought him. She grabbed a knife off the counter and cut, then managed to get her two children into a bedroom and lock the door. The attacker started working to get the door open. She opens the window, drops the kids out, and escapes with them just as the law arrives. There are shots fired, and the responding deputy is hit by her car as the threat escapes. In the article she says, “My kids are my life,” adding “I am hellbent we’re going to make it.”

Few of us can devote our lives to the pursuit of the martial arts. We’re lucky to be able to attend a class every once in a while and then practice our skills as much as possible. Yet every one of us can cultivate a combative mindset.

October 10, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, Defensive Mindset | Leave a comment

Moving Targets

Fights are dynamic and fluid, and most of the participants, at least in the opening moves of the conflict, are mobile. Both good and bad guys know that if you’re not moving then you’re a stationary target standing out in the open. This is a bad place to be in a fight. Armed with this knowledge, it makes sense to learn how to shoot moving targets.

For engaging moving targets there are two techniques – tracking and ambush. When tracking you obtain a sight picture on the target and follow it, pressing smoothly on the trigger to fire your shot(s). Make sure to follow through after the shot breaks, continuing to track the target. This is important for making multiple and accurate hits. If you stop tracking as the shot fires you’ll shoot behind the target, and if you come off target, but have to re-engage, you’ve lost valuable time. So I track, press the trigger, recover from the recoil while continuing to track, obtain another sight picture and reset the trigger in preparation of firing again. This is the method I prefer, especially at the distance where most fights take place.

With the ambush technique you pick a spot you think the target will be moving into, and as the target moves into position press off your shot. The problem with using the ambush method, especially at close range where most confrontations take place, is that it consumes more time and the target may not arrive at the point you think they will. People are funny, and sometimes they don’t do what you expect them to, especially during a fight. For shooting moving targets at extended distances the ambush method works really well because you can pretty much predict the target’s path of travel, and it can be difficult to track at longer distances.

One common tendency when tracking or ambushing is applying too much lead on the target. At the range most fights take place the speed of the bullet and the target won’t require any lead. For tracking hold center and press. For ambushing I tend to press off the shot as the edge of the target bumps the sight. By the time I press the trigger and the bullet exits the barrel the target is in position to take a hit. As the distances increase, or the target moves quicker, you’ll have to figure out what lead you’ll need to use. And everyone’s lead distance will be different because of the time it takes the brain to say shoot, you press the trigger, and the bullet exits the barrel.

The practice for fighting you need to be shooting on moving targets, while you are moving, and using cover whenever possible. After that’s working well then it’s time to throw a few no-shoot targets into the mix. Now you’ll start to get an idea of what a fight looks like. Standing stationary and shooting tight groups ain’t gonna cut it, so get creative, even with airsoft, and learn how to hit the threat.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Moving and Shooting

In a fight we communicate with the threat, family members, or teammates. We shoot to stop the threat. We use cover for the protection it provides us from the threat(s)’ weapon. We move for a variety of reasons. A threat is armed with a knife and charging. We step to the side to avoid his ‘line of attack.’ There are bystanders in the environment, so we reposition to acquire the target without fear of injuring any innocents. We move to cover, and then when possible to go to better cover.

Moving is easy, it’s a natural instinct and we’ve been doing it since we could first walk. Moving and shooting is not natural, so through repetition we reprogram ourselves to move tactically and shoot accurately. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, it just takes practice.

For moving to the rear we initiate that movement with the strong side leg – the right leg for right-handed shooters. The knees are bent so the legs act as shock absorbers. Step back with the right leg, place the foot to insure good footing, then shift your weight and reposition the left leg and foot. Every time you complete a set of steps you should end up in your fighting stance. Think about it as taking a full step with the right leg, and then a half step with the left leg. To move forward use the same technique, only now stepping with the left leg first.

Lateral movement is initiated with the leg that is leading to the direction we are moving. To move right step with the right leg first, taking a full size step, then after assuring good footing shift your body weight. While shifting the weight take a half step with the left foot, again ending up with your fighting stance. Repeat as necessary.

With these techniques the upper body is the same as your normal fighting stance, which keeps your weapon indexed on the threat. Crossing your legs twists the upper body, making it difficult to keep the weapon on the threat, puts you in an unbalanced position, and there is always the danger of tripping over your own feet.

While moving apply the fundamentals of marksmanship to get hits. If you come up on target and go “now,” slapping the trigger and tensing your muscles in anticipation of the recoil, you won’t get good hits. Shoot when you have the sight picture you need, but don’t create that opportunity by slowing down or stopping your movement. You’re moving for a reason, so keep moving until you get to where you need to be. You can either move smooth and shoot accurately, or move fast and not shoot. The situation will determine which is best. If you have cover two steps to the side, it may be better to move quickly, get to cover, then worry about shooting.

Our natural instinct when threatened is to root to the ground and fight, or run. To win the fight we need to move tactically and with reason. Start practicing now, so when the time comes you’re ready.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Basic Retention Techniques

Most violent confrontations take place at close distance. A lot of bad guys practice disarming techniques. When your weapon is taken away chances are high you will be shot with it. Basic retention techniques should be part of your fighting skills.

The best retention technique is distance. For someone to disarm you they have to be within arms’ reach, so whenever possible don’t let them get close. In theory this is simple, but theory and reality are normally separated by a wide gap that is filled with possibilities, both good and bad. The average person can cover twenty-one feet in a second and a half, and usually quicker. Even if you have distance and go to draw your weapon the ground between the two of you can disappear quickly. The environment may not allow you to create distance. And you always have to remember there is a high possibility of multiple threats; while one is attracting your attention another suddenly appears at your side.

When someone does get hands on your weapon immediate action is required. Action always beats reaction, so if you’re reacting to a disarming attempt you’re starting from behind. There is not a fraction of a second to delay.

Step one: If, when, or as someone attempts to put their hands on your weapon consider them a lethal threat and react accordingly, and if necessary use your weapon, engaging as necessary, and creating distance whenever possible.

Step two: If they do make contact, getting a grip on your weapon, step back with your strong side leg, right leg for right hand shooter, and extend your arms. Then suddenly and violently jerk your arms towards you. Most of the time this will strip the weapon from their hands, even if they have a good grip on it. The key element to success is surprise, so the move must be quick.

Step three: Should the threat anticipate your actions and come forward as you step to the rear and pull then use their momentum, drop and roll down onto your back while at the same time getting your feet up, positioning them against the threat’s pelvic area. Your leg muscles are the strongest part of your body, and you may be able to keep the threat off of you, and possibly kick them away. You could need to fire from here, so flatten out your legs so you don’t end up shooting yourself and can track the attacker to your left or right sides.

Step four: As soon as possible work up to standing, engaging as needed, and create distance, move to cover, or escape the situation.

There are a lot of retention techniques out there, but for me simple is best. Simple techniques are easy to employ. Additional benefits of simple retention techniques are that they are easy to learn, retain, and to teach others if you’re an instructor. And if the same technique will work with pistol and carbine, well that’s even better.

Practice your technique, prepare for the worst-case scenario, and when necessary react immediately. And remember, it ain’t gotta be pretty, it just has to work.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, Defensive Mindset | Leave a comment