How Far Is Too Far?

I was chatting last week with a friend of mine about AR optics (Yes, I do talk about them. No, they are not my primary focus*). The discussion was around the utility of the low-power, variable power scopes on a defensive rifle. After all, I reasoned, the 1-4x and 1-6x variable power scope rules the roost in 3 Gun, a sport that requires quick transitions from targets that are right in front of you to shots that are 300 yards and beyond.

Sounds like something that would be useful to combat, doesn’t it? So why is the conventional wisdom still get either a 1x red dot/holographic like an Aimpoint or EO Tech, or a fixed-power 4x like an ACOG for a “fighting gun”? Why? Because you should use what the cops and the military uses, not what gamers use, that ‘s what they say. I mean, yes, gamers have used red optics on pistols for decades but red dot optics don’t belong on a fighting pistol, right? RIGHT?

Or you know, not.

The conversation turned interesting, though, when the subject of making self-defense shots at distance came up. Yes, having an optic on your gun that helps you reach out and touch someone at 300 yards might be useful, but will it get you into legal trouble if you do so?

*thoughtful pause*

He has a point. As I learned earlier this year, one of the principles behind a successful use of “self defense” in a legal situation is imminence: Is the threat I’m facing one that is happening right now, or is it a threat for sometime in the future? I can’t shoot someone because they say they’re going to shoot me a week from Tuesday, but that situation changes if that person is ten yards away from me and clearing leather.

So what, then, is the actual useful range of your long gun?

I’d say it depends: If you’re unlucky enough to have the Leprechaun Liberation Army marching down your street, Molotov cocktails in hand and shouting about how it’s time for the little people to rise up and overthrow the humans, then yeah, 50 yards might be a little close for your safety. If they take it one step further and those pesky little buggers have rifles to go with their flaming bottles of gasoline and are pointing said rifles at the general populace, then it might get rather sporty in my neighborhood for a moment or two **.


* Focus. Optics. Get it? Get it?

** As always, remember that I am an okapi in the Bronx Zoo, not a lawyer. I can give you advice on feeding schedules and where to poop in your compound, but not on when it’s ok to shoot someone.

When I Became A Man, I Put Away Childish Things.

Kathy Jackson makes an excellent analogy about firearms training: At first, we climb up the mountain because we are want to escape the rising floodwaters. In time, however, we realize that we enjoy the climb, and we go up the mountain for the sake of the journey itself.

I’m not saying I’m on the North Face of Eiger, hanging on for dear life, but let’s say my life has a distinct vertical tilt to it right now.

Last year, I trained with Bob Vogel. This year, so far, it’s been a class with Andrew Branca, and in May, I’m taking MAG40 with Massad Ayoob. I wanted to take a John Farnham class as well, but time and tide worked against me.

I’m not lacking for training: I’m at just over three hundred hours right now, and while that’s a paltry sum compared to some of my peers, it’s got me to the point where I’m comfortable defending my life or the lives of my family with what I have with me most days.

But I didn’t get into this to be comfortable, I got into this to be better, and that’s why I’m moving on to the next level and learn from the masters of the craft.

A Good Knife.

To be honest, I will never understand people who leave the house without a knife, phone and a flashlight. Unless you work in a non-permissive environment like behind TSA lines or in a school, it only makes sense to carry around a sharp edge, along with some way of seeing in the dark and a means of communicating beyond yelling at the top of your lungs.

Oh, and a lighter would also be a good idea as well, because being able to start a fire is never not handy.

Part of the problem is, when people say “I want a good knife,” we recommend a tactical folder to them or a confusing mulittool when all they really wanted was something cheap and pointy.

Enter the Opinel folding knife. I got turned on to these almost thirty years ago by a knife-loving friend of mine, and I’ve tried to keep one nearby as often as I could.

opinel_1

The Opinel knife has changed very little since it was introduced almost 100 years ago. It has a simple, twist-lock design that keeps it closed when not needed or when it’s open, and that’s about it. It’s not the easiest knife in the world to open (it usually takes me both hands to open mine), but what it does, it does very, very well.

opinel_2

The blade is sharp. DANG sharp, and the handle fits comfortable in your hand. If you’re looking for a cheap, everyday utility knife, skip the cheap Chinese imports and go with something that’s been around for a hundred years.

Switching My Daily Carry

Ruger LCP II

At this point, with almost 400 rounds through it with nary a hiccup, I’m confident enough in the LCP II to carry it on days when I have to be more discreet than usual. Also, based on the results from this test and feedback from people whom I know and trust, I’m switching from Hornady 90 grain XTP’s to Hornady 90 grain Critical Defense ammo in my .380’s. The Critical Defense round was the only round to penetrate more than 12 inches of gel AND expand each and every round that was tested.

Look for more rounds downrange with the LCP II in the near future.

Ruger LCP II 2000 Round Challenge : Rounds 223-383

Even though most of my free time is spoken for (there should be an announcement on what I’ve been working on in the next two weeks or so). Nevertheless, I found some time this weekend to duck out for some range time and continue this test (thanks, Jason!).

Odds and Sods.

I’ve got a bunch of partially-full boxes of .380 ammo laying around, so I spent this range session burning through them and freeing up space in my ammo cans, along with shooting some of the PMC .380 provide to me by the good people at Lucky Gunner, so I loaded up them all up and shot them.

Because that’s what you do with ammo and guns, that’s why.

Ammo Fired
6 Speer Gold Dot JHP’s
11 Winchester White Box FMJ’s
2 Hornady XTP JHP’s (why I had just two of them, I’ll never know)
142 PMC .380 FMJ’s

All the rounds fired and fed with no issues, bringing the total round count up to 383 rounds fired, with one possible failure to feed on round 116 of the challenge.

One thing that’s interesting to note is that I shot 48 rounds strong hand only and 24 rounds weak-hand only with the LCP II during this range session. The gun felt surprisingly good in just my strong hand and I was able to shoot it as asccurate as I could with two hands, just a bit slower while doing so. In the weak hand however, ho boy, it first weird, and I am fairly used to weak-hand shooting. I don’t know how to describe it beyond saying it felt more like a water gun in my hand, not a real pistol.

As I said, weird.

Also, the gun is quite easy to shoot for extended periods of time compared to my P3AT (which, I realize, is quite a low hurdle to cross). I had no problems dropping 3 boxes of ammo in out of this gun, and left the range with the same amount of pain in my right hand as when I arrived.

That is to say, none. Not a bad accomplishment for any pocket 380, especially a lightweight polymer one.

Well That Was Nice.

Whilst searching for an article I wrote for Shooting Illustrated (Memo to Jay: Bring back the “Author” feed feature. My ego demands nothing less.), I ran across this nice little critique of my first article for SI (the one that got the Instalanche).

“…an ankle holster was a very slow mode of carry, adding seconds to the draw. No shock there, either. Everyone knows that with an ankle or leg holster you’re trading speed for stealth.

What was shocking was that pocket carrying — these guys were using a pocket holster, which helps both concealment, by breaking up the outline, and the orientation/presentation of the weapon — was substantially faster than a tucked IWB holster, and even a little faster than gimmick holsters like faux day-planners or computer bags.”

It’s always nice when I can add a little bit to the sum total of gun knowledge out there, no matter how small it may be.

How DARE You Show Up To MY Class With A Gun Like That!

Thinking more about this post, whether we like to admit it or not, we are in a golden age of guns. With a very few notable exceptions (coughcoughR51coughcough) we expect our guns to work correctly with most types of ammunition right out of the box, and guess what, they do. This is true of Taurus, Glock, Kimber, you name it. Now, do all of those guns handle long stretches of high round count shooting equally well, like at a training class?

No.

But guess what, that doesn’t make those guns “bad guns,”, it makes them bad guns to take to a class, but not a bad gun to carry on your person.

Right now, a significant portion of the firearms community is saying to themselves, “THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE TWO, BECAUSE MY TRAINING IS WHAT YOU NEED SO YOU DON’T GET KILLED ON DA STREETZ TOMORROW (and twice on Sunday)!!! YOU NEED THE GUN THAT I HAVE PERSONALLY DECREED AS THE ÜBER-WAFFEN (or similar) IN ORDER TO KEEP YOU SAFE!!!! IF YOU DON’T DO THAT, YOU’RE NOT ‘SERIOUS’ ABOUT YOUR TRAINING AND I DON’T WANT YOU IN MY CLASS!!!!”.

And chances are, the gun that those trainers are saying is the best (and only) choice for you is a compact, striker-fired 9mm double stack handgun. They’re good guns. I recommend them a lot. Those guns work GREAT on a training range and they’re really good off the range as well. But are they the only viable self-defense pistols out there? Of course not.

Which person is more serious about self-defense, the person who carries a Glock 19 in an AIWB holster to the training range, but then carries nothing with him on a day-in, day-out basis, or the person who has a compact .380 (or better) on him every waking moment? We tell people that “A .22 on you is better than a .45 in the truck” (or some variant thereof) and then we insist that people bring that .45 with them to class, rather than provide training opportunities for the .22 they have with them.

And then we wonder why no one wants to get training beyond what’s required to get their CCW.