Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Fundamentals!

The higher you climb on the training ladder the more important the fundamentals become. ImageFor example we begin by learning the basic skills required to perform a certain task, say the fundamentals of marksmanship. These basic techniques are then bundled with other skills in order to execute more complicated tasks – shooting while moving, communicating and using cover. The more elements you add to your performance the more critical it is to be able to perform the fundamentals at a subconscious level. This means you can apply them without conscious thought. Regardless of what all else is going on, to get good hits you still have to apply the fundamentals.

In the beginning you learn how to apply the fundamentals of marksman – aim, hold, press, and follow-through – to fire one accurate shot at a time. There is no time limit or stress; you take as much time as you need to insure the trigger press results in an accurate shot. As you get the fundamentals down the target size decreases and the distances increase, forcing you to truly apply the fundamentals to score a hit.

The next step is to start applying the fundamentals to combative marksmanship. You learn that a perfect sight picture isn’t necessary to hit the chest from three yards, which is good because at that distance you better be able to get those hits outbound quickly. A smooth trigger press is always mandatory, but you learn how to achieve it over a short span of time. At twenty-five yards a more refined sight picture is required, and a steady smooth press on the trigger insures hits.

In a confrontation chances are high you’ll need to be moving. You move to create distance or get off the line of attack, to get behind cover or obtain a clear angle of attack. There’s also a possibility you have to shoot to stop the threat(s) while you’re moving. You move smoothly, maintaining a stable platform, and learn that those same fundamentals of marksmanship still apply, except now they’re even more important. At this level of training/practice, or application in an actual confrontation, the marksmanship skills are performed at a subconscious level. If you have to think about shootin’ accurately you can’t be thinkin’ ’bout what direction or how far you need to move.

At some point in your training and practice you start addressing moving targets. The threat(s), just like you, are not going to be stationary, standing there while you shoot them. When you start shooting moving targets you get a big refresher course in the fundamentals of marksmanship. Our visual, and mental, focus is attracted to the moving target. You have to remember that when the target is moving it’s extremely important to focus on the front sight. (Assuming you’re using iron sights.) When the target is moving the follow-through – recovering from the recoil, reacquiring a sight picture and resetting the trigger – are mandatory for good hits. You have to constantly be tracking the target with your sights. Follow through is also the key to making multiple hits efficiently. If you don’t continue to track the target you’re always trying to play catch up on the next shot. Eventually the target is moving, you’re moving and shooting accurately.

Clint Smith drilled into my head that “fundamentals win fights.” While this may sound simplistic, the more training and practice you perform the more you appreciate how true this rings. Responding to a violent threat is all about applying a lot of different fundamentals at once. Practice now, because while it may seem simple that doesn’t mean it won’t be complicated.

February 14, 2013 Posted by | General Training | Leave a comment

Low Light Tips

ImageThe majority of confrontations occur in low-light environments, which exist twenty-four hours a day. In the dark you have to use a light to locate, identify, and if necessary engage threats. How much do you use the light? The light is used as little as possible or as much as necessary.

Since lights are sometimes bullet magnets you use the light as little as possible. In a lot of situations there is enough ambient light to work corners, travel down a hallway, or clear your way around various objects such as buildings or vehicles using your light as little as possible. When you locate potential trouble you light it up to assess, making quick decisions on your next actions.

Even though there may be ambient light there will also be shadows creating darker areas. Every shadow can contain a threat; you illuminate the area to insure it’s clear — again, using the light as little as possible.

In an environment where it’s so dark you can’t see you’ll have to use the light as much as necessary. In unfamiliar terrain the light may be necessary to navigate. Cavemen carried torches so they didn’t step off into an abyss. The same thing applies for us. Falling down or tripping during a search is not cool. It makes noise and puts you in a position enemies may attempt to exploit. Depending on the situation if you go down it may be better to hold on the ground in a ready position in case anyone does try to take advantage of your predicament as opposed to immediately trying to get back up on your feet, which can limit your ability to respond to a threat. Then, when you feel it’s safe to do so you work up into a standing position.

When it’s really dark you’ll have to use the light as you slice or pie corners. While it’s not ideal to turn the light on it’s much better than taking a few steps around a dark corner, then turning on your light only to discover you’ve exposed yourself to three threats standing ready. Working a corner in pitch dark is like coming to a bad intersection where you can’t see traffic. Punching the gas and hoping there’s no oncoming traffic probably ain’t a good idea.

Working in lowlight situations is a lot more complicated than just turning the light on and off. You have to know how and when to use light. The cool thing about learning to work lowlight situations is that you can practice without going to the range. Take a light and play in your house or yard, practicing on working corners, moving shadows around by repositioning the light, taking the mystery out of being in the dark.

Think about it this way, if you’re comfortable and proficient with working in lowlight and your opponent(s) aren’t this gives you an advantage. In a lighted environment everyone is on equal footing. In the dark you control the light. Make ready now, so when the time comes you have the skills you need.

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment

Weapon Mounted Lights

ImageFor survival, especially self-defense involving aggressive attackers, flashlights are mandatory. For everyday survival flashlights are handy. A common byproduct of natural disasters such as ice storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes is the loss of power. When you can’t flip a switch multiple sources of alternative lighting make life a lot easier. For situations involving violent attackers light is a necessity, especially considering that most violent encounters occur in low-light environments.

For home defense it makes sense to have a light attached to your weapon. Mating two tools into one package makes responding to a threat simpler; defending against an attacker in your home will stressful enough without adding to the process. Today there are a variety of pistols manufactured with rails to attach lights. With the light mounted on your pistol you are ready to locate, identify, and if necessary engage a threat.

Carrying a light on your pistol, especially concealed, is a little easier than it used to be. At one time there were only a limited number of holster options available. Most of those were bulky outside the waistband holsters that are difficult to hide. Today a variety of manufacturers produce holsters for pistols with lights, and there are even inside the waistband holsters available.

As with all fighting skills and related equipment training and practice is necessary. It’s not as simple as snapping a light onto the weapon and calling yourself ready. Manipulating a pistol in the dark is completely different from a lighted environment. Using the flashlight properly is an ability that requires a good education on low-light principles. You also need to insure that attaching the light to the pistol doesn’t affect reliability of both light and pistol.

Just because you have a weapon mounted light doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to use hand-held lights. While the LED lights of today are much more reliable than the older incandescent models they can still go bad. When your light goes out you better have a spare. Carrying a hand-held allows you to perform tasks that don’t require you to draw your pistol. A hand-held provides a little more versatility, allowing you to keep the weapon indexed or pointing in one direction and the light in another.

There are more people than ever seeking out training for self-defense, which is a good thing. The problem that we see is very few students ever progress into low-light training, which is a bad thing. Documentation shows over seventy percent of violent confrontations occur in low-light environments, and keep in mind low-light environments exist twenty-four hours a day. There are always areas in buildings and structures that have shadows or are not lighted. This is compounded when you step into them from sunny, bright daylight. It’s daytime, but the power goes off. You need to clear a closet in your house, but it’s probably a bad idea to step inside it to turn the light on.

Once you get up to speed on your daylight fighting skills it’s time to move over to the dark side. Unless you’re prepared to face conflict in the dark you ain’t really ready. Flashlights, and the skills to use them, are mandatory. Don’t get caught off guard.

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Gear, General Training | Leave a comment

The Secrets of Fighting

ImageThe big secret to winning a violent confrontation is that there is no secret. Successfully defending you, family or friends/team-mates against an attacker takes plenty of training and practice. It also never hurts when luck favors you.

In books and movies the story often begins with the hero sadly lacking in the skills necessary to defeat the antagonist. They seek out a teacher for training. At some point in their transformation they experience a mystical revelation, learning the one true secret that allows them to defeat their rival in the final showdown. Real life ain’t “The Karate Kid.”

There are no shortcuts or secret techniques. To fight effectively, regardless of whether we’re talking firearms, knives, or unarmed techniques, you have to train and practice until the point where the necessary skills become learned. To learn something literally takes thousands of repetitions. To apply what you’ve learned under stress, when someone is actually trying to put the hurt to you, takes even more practice.

It is true that as you study the art of firearms there are revelations. For example it’s a great thing to see a student pick up on the proper way to press and reset the trigger. You actually see them smile when they figure it out. As you progress the learning curve begins to flatten out; the revelations become less frequent but no less important.

Sam Sheridan, in “The Fighters Mind,” mentions a study done on musicians that discovered that the more musicians practiced the better they performed. The musicians began playing at around age five with roughly the same amount of talent. “But when students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge.” Those who began practicing more outperformed their classmates. “(B)y the age of twenty they were practicing … over thirty hours a week.” These were the ones who would go on to be famous performers. Everyone started out more of less with the same talent. Eventually what separated them was the amount of practice. There were no naturals, or students at the top.

The martial art of firearms is truly one of the only arts that allow almost anyone, regardless of size or strength to easily defeat a much stronger, bigger opponent. But there is no substitute for training and practice. Through practice you fine tune and polish your skills, becoming more efficient and effective. You get to the point where very few mistakes occur, and when they do you fix ’em immediately. As long as you practice you can be a good fighter.

Few of us have thousands of hours to devote to practice, but luckily it doesn’t take that to become proficient at using firearms. While the mechanics are fairly easy, in the beginning it does take time and repetition. At some point the key becomes more about frequency than quantity. Anyone can schedule ten minutes a day to dry practice.

There are no secrets. The bad guys are out there getting practice on the job. They are ready and willing. Are you?

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment

Organization

ImageStudies have shown that the more organized a person is the less chance there is that they become involved in stressful situations. This applies to work, home-life, and every aspect of owning a firearm.

Purchasing a firearm, depending on where you live and at least for right now, is an easy process. Once you own a firearm is when you have to get organized. Step one, especially if you own a weapon for self-defense, is learning how to operate it safely and efficiently. This is going to mean making time to obtain training, and more time for practice so you can truly learn the required skills.

You have to be organized so that when you have the opportunity to train and practice you’re getting the maximum return from your time and money. When training, attending an organized class to get exposure to new skills, it pays off to insure you have all the necessary equipment and that it functions properly. Nothing sucks more than arriving with everything you need only to discover that your new magazines don’t feed rounds into your carbine. During practice, repeating the same skills over and over until you truly learn them, you need to have an organized, structured plan. Otherwise you end up expending large amounts of ammo and not learning anything.

It’s also your responsibility to insure your weapons are safe and secure. The only way to achieve this is through organization, developing and practicing a routine that the only people who have access to any weapons and related gear are those who are qualified.

Being organized also helps avoid becoming a victim. Prior to taking a trip, I check my weapons to make sure everything is good to go. I also confirm the truck is gassed up, the tires are good, and everything is road worthy. This helps prevent being stranded in the middle of the night in an area that may be known for its high crime rate. Everything you do should be thought out and performed in a manner that reduces your risk of being involved in anything other than what your intentions and plans are. At the same time though you have to be ready for any surprises that may pop up.

If you’re forced to become involved in a violent confrontation it definitely pays off to be organized. You have to know what your response options are, and able and ready to do what’s necessary to defeat the threat. While you can learn the skills needed in advance, you better have your mind organized to make ’em work under stress.

On a larger note if we don’t get organized we may all suffer restrictions on our rights to own firearms. While you’re buying as much gear as you can, find take time to contact your representatives, at all levels, to let them know your legal right to bear arms should not be infringed because of criminal activity. Start the year right; get organized.

January 10, 2013 Posted by | General Training | Leave a comment

Marksmanship Part 3 — Follow-through

ImageIn the past two columns we’ve talked about aiming, holding, and pressing the trigger to fire an accurate shot. (Remember, accuracy is defined by the shot you’re attempting.) The final step in the fundamentals is follow-through – recovering from the recoil, reacquiring the sights on the target and resetting the trigger. Following through after every shot fired is essential for firing multiple shots accurately and to improve accuracy.

Follow-through begins by recovering from the recoil. When it comes to recoil we control it as much as possible with the proper stance, isometric tension between the arms and a sound grip, but the idea is to concentrate on allowing the recoil to occur and then using the entire body to assist in recovering from the recoil efficiently. If additional shots are required you’re back on target and ready to fire. By not attempting to control the recoil you’re able to press off the shot without recoil anticipation, which is definitely going to improve your accuracy.

While pressing the trigger your visual focus is on the front sight, or with a red-dot sight, on the target. Once the shot fires keep your eyes on the same focal point. Ideally with iron sights you’re watching the front sight travel up and back down onto target. Make sure to fight the urge to shift your focus to the target to see where you hit. This will cost you time and without the proper follow-through you’ll see accuracy degrade. When using a dot your focus in on the target and the dot drops back onto the target. One reason dots are so easy to operate is that you don’t have to program the eyes to shift their focus from the threat to a front sight. Iron or dot visually acquiring another sight picture is essential for firing additional shots without delay, often required in a confrontation, and again a critical part of accuracy.

The final component of the follow-through is resetting the trigger. To reset the trigger you fire the shot then release the trigger forward only far enough so the internals reset and it’s ready to press again if needed. The speed you press the trigger is dictated by the accuracy required. The same thing applies to a certain degree when resetting the trigger. When surgical accuracy is called for you want to press smoothly to fire the shot, completely recover from the recoil, and then reset the trigger. This makes sure the shot has cleared the barrel before you start changing anything in your grip or stance.

In a lethal confrontation we know it’s likely multiple shots will be required to stop the threat, especially when we’re talking about handguns. The proper follow-through allows you to place multiple hits accurately on the threat in the least amount of time possible. The more accuracy required the more important follow-through becomes; for precision/surgical shooting follow-through is a key element to success.

If you think about it follow-through applies to almost everything we do in life. Make sure to get the job done efficiently, regardless of the task.

December 13, 2012 Posted by | AR-15, General Training | Leave a comment

Marksmanship Part 2 – Trigger Press

ImageShooting accurately requires you to know how to work the sights and trigger. For fighting the term ‘accuracy’ is very subjective. Some situations call for efficient shots to a large target at close range. The threat is two yards away; hits to the chest don’t require a perfect sight picture and you don’t have all day to press the trigger. For a longer distance shot, or when firing at a smaller target, if you don’t get a good sight picture and smooth trigger press you ain’t gonna get the hit.

In the last column we talked about obtaining a sight picture, aligning the sights between the eyes and the point on the target the shot needs to go. Once you have the sight picture, as defined by the accuracy required, you hold steady by focusing on the front sight. The degree you focus on the front sight is determined by the accuracy needed. For a large target at close distance a flash sight picture, a quick confirmation the front sight is on the area the shots need to go, will suffice. As the distance increases or target size decreases you have to focus more intently on the front sight.

With red-dot sights, which a lot of people are putting on pistols now as well as rifles, your visual focus is always on the target and you place the dot where it needs to go. Focusing on the dot will get you into “chasing the dot,” which will never settle down exactly where you want it. Focus on the target and put the dot on the spot.

Once you’re holding steady, regardless of what type sights you’re working with, it’s time to smoothly press the trigger. The time it takes to press the trigger depends on the accuracy. The only way to learn how to press the trigger smoothly, no matter what the speed of the press is, is to start slow. 

Your job to point the weapon in the right direction, using the sights, then press the trigger, allowing the internal components of the weapon to do their work and firing the round when it’s time. Trying to make the weapon fire when you’re ready, going “now” and slapping or jerking the trigger, usually results in recoil anticipation, which is going to affect accuracy.

There are a variety of ways to learn how to achieve a smooth trigger press. In the beginning you have to consciously think about the press. If you’re not thinking about pressing smoothly it won’t happen. One technique is to achieve a smooth press is to verbalize the word “press,” dragging it out, saying “pressssss” as you steadily increase pressure on the trigger. At some point the shot is released. You can use a count method, starting at 1, slowly going through 2, 3, 4, … steadily increasing the pressure as you count up. Another technique is to see just how much pressure you can apply to the trigger without making the weapon fire. At some point the pressure will override the trigger and fire the shot. Imagining they are slowly pressing the bullet out of the barrel while holding the sights steady works for some people. We all have a different method or technique that works. Discover what works for you.

Once you discover your mental key for pressing the trigger practice, over and over, always properly working your sights. Eventually you get to the point where you shorten up the time required to press the trigger. After time and repetition it becomes an action that doesn’t require conscious thought. Pressing the trigger becomes a subconscious act; you press the trigger smoothly because of thousands of repetitions.

In part III we’ll talk about the importance of “follow-through.”

December 6, 2012 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Marksmanship Part 1

ImageTo shoot a firearm accurately you have to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship: Aim, Hold, Press, and Follow-Through. In addition to these fundamentals you use the proper stance, arm position, and grip, but these things are subject to change according to the situation. In a fight you may not be able to acquire a textbook stance. The arms may not be indexed in the ideal position. You could be firing with only one hand. But anytime you’re firing a shot the four fundamentals still apply – even more so when the other basics are compromised.

When you fire a shot it should be with predictable results. You aim, hold, press and follow-through to ensure accurate shots. Just keep in mind that accuracy is defined by distance and the size of the target. The speed you can cycle through the four fundamentals depends on the accuracy necessary for the shot you’re attempting.

Aiming basically means getting the weapon pointing in the right direction, but it’s a little more complicated than just pointing. Very few things required to fight effectively with a firearm are instinctual. Under stress we are programmed to visually focus on the source of our problem. When faced with a threat we shift our focus to the person, then begin visually assessing to determine how big the problem is. Normally this means watching the hands to see what they are doing. Do they have a weapon? Are they responding to our commands for them to drop the weapon, or did their hands start out empty and now there is a weapon. Watch the hands. It’s also a good idea to watch their feet. The feet will predict what movement a person is about to perform, often even before the suspect consciously realizes what they’re about to do.

When the situation turns to the point that we have to use our weapon, it’s time to shoot, our focus should shift to the point on the threat that we want the bullet to go. With the eyes focused on this point we bring the weapon up so the sights intersect our line of vision. Now we have a sight picture, the alignment of the weapon’s sights between our eyes and the point of impact, where we want the bullet to strike. This is much more efficient than seeing the whole target, bring the weapon up and lowering the head down to find the sights and then having to align all that onto the target.

The precision in the alignment of the sights between the eyes and target is dictated by the accuracy needed. To put shots into the chest of a target five feet away you can get by with just having the front and rear sights close to actual alignment. To hit a four-inch plate from twenty-five yards the sight picture is going to need to be more precise.

Once you have a sight picture it’s time to go to step two, holding the sights steady. We’ll discuss that in part two of this series.

December 4, 2012 Posted by | AR-15, Auto Pistol, General Training | Leave a comment

Why I Don’t Like the Forty

ImageI do not like the .40 caliber. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with me on this, but since it’s my column I get to state my opinion. This opinion is based on two issues with .40 caliber pistols. Keep in mind that an issue is something that is common, you see it a lot, as opposed to a problem, which is normally limited to an individual or particular weapon.

The .40 was developed specifically as a law enforcement caliber by Smith & Wesson and Winchester and as a direct result of the 1986 F.B.I. Miami shootout between agents and two hard criminals, Platt and Matix. Both bad guys were killed, but two agents were killed with five others injured. Basically the F.B.I. was looking for a cartridge that had the performance of the .38 Special +P load that would work with a semi-auto pistol. The .40 is supposedly the ideal blend of bullet size and velocity.

There is no doubt the .40 performs well, but it has a very sharp recoil impulse, which is hard on shooter and pistol alike. The most common issue we see with shooters is related to recoil. With the .40 you must use a good aggressive stance, arm position with isometric tension between the arms, and the proper grip to provide the resistance necessary for the pistol to function properly. Failures to eject, commonly called stovepipes or smokestacks, are more frequent with the .40 than 9mm’s and .45’s. This is especially true when shooters are working with one hand, during injury drills, or firing using a less than ideal platform, like laying sideways on the ground.

The sharp recoil of the .40 literally beats pistols to death. No, you probably won’t see a problem if you only run a few rounds through your pistol a couple times a year. But with heavy shooting sooner or later with the .40 you’ll likely see problems develop, and a lot sooner than with a 9mm or .45. A few years ago one area department we train sent several of their officers here for five-day handgun classes. We worked hard and during the class each officer fired approximately five thousand rounds. After the classes the officers’ pistols had send their pistols in due to problems with the rails on the slide and frames. They had been beat out. (The pistols were replaced, but they were never given a good reason from the factory why this problem appeared in the first place.)

The recoil also presents a problem with individual shooters who come to fear the snap of the .40 and begin anticipating the recoil, which of course drastically affects their accuracy. You can take the same shooter, give them a 9mm or .45, and their accuracy improves. I know recoil shouldn’t be an issue, but with most shooters it is so we might as well go ahead and acknowledge it. Several departments I deal with have switched from .40 caliber pistols to .45acp weapons with a noticeable increase in their qualification scores.

When new shooters me what they should get my immediate answer is a 9mm. And, as we know, it’s a lot more about where you put the bullets as opposed to how big or fast they are moving. Get a pistol that works for you, plenty of ammo, and practice the fundamentals until you can perform them under any conditions.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Auto Pistol | Leave a comment

Model 10 Rebuild

ImageWhen I decided to learn how to work on S&W revolvers I picked up a “throw-down” Model 10 – a K frame .38 special with a four inch barrel – to practice on. The blue finish was scratched up and worn but internally it was in good condition and the price was right. It was the perfect revolver for my first work. Then, somewhere along the process, what began as a test monkey ended up being a really fine fighting revolver.

The Model 10 is a square butt frame, so the first step was to cut it down and reshape it to a round butt, which is easier for me to conceal. Metal work was nothing new for me; I started with hotrods and Harley motorcycles decades ago. I used a cutting wheel, files, and lots of sanding to get the grip reshaped to a round butt. The key, like most things in life, is to take plenty of time, measure twice, cut once, and use the right tools for the job.

I also thinned the front of the trigger guard so it would be quicker to get my finger on the trigger. The sharp edges on the trigger itself were rounded off for comfort and control. Bobbing the hammer was mandatory for the old-school look and carrying. Those hammer spurs snag on clothing, plus for a fightin’ pistol you ain’t gonna be thumb cocking it anyway.

While the metal work was easy, working the action and internals was something I’d never done. A search with Brownells provided Kuhnhausen’s manual on S&W revolvers (924-100-001), stones for honing, proper size screwdrivers and springs. After reading and rereading I discovered there is much more to tuning a revolver than I thought. Not only does the trigger have to be worked, which involves tuning every other component inside as well, but I also learned about things like working the cylinder and latch so it opened easily and snapped shut crisply.

It took me a long time, but after working over everything and installing a Wolf rebound and mainspring spring (080-665-201) I had a revolver that snapped the hammer smoothly with a good crisp break.

I like XS dots, and for this pistol their Big Dot was ideal. The problem was how to install it on a fixed sight revolver. I studied on this for a few months, ordering, testing and measuring different sights from XS. I finally determined how to do it, and with a little help from Matt W. and some machine work we got it licked.

While Matt had the pistol for machining he asked me if I wanted it parkerized. After spending so much time with the 10 I’d grown found it so it needed some type finish to make it look sharp. I took him up on his offer. The sight installation and park job turned out perfect.

For stocks I went with a set of Precision Gun Specialties Hideout stocks (729-100-001), which fit my hand well and matched the pistol’s looks and personality. To provide them with extra friction I stippled them using my soldering iron.

The Model 10 looks unique; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It combines the best of the old school revolver modifications with new technology, and .38 +P’s are a good round. I’ve only had a chance to test fire it and haven’t had time to work on accuracy to see how the Big Dot works so I’ll save that for another column. From what I’ve done so far I can safely predict it’s going to be a great combination.

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Revolvers | Leave a comment