Sarges Roll Call

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Sunday, March 19, 2006


Proper gun-handling seems to be a lost art these days, and there's no excuse for it. Anyone handling any firearm bears the responsibility to handle that gun safely, and how well each of us accomplish that task reflects on the rest of us. We are ambassadors of firearms ownership, and we would do well to remember that.

The safe handling of semiautomatic pistols requires that the user pay particular attention to a few absolutes. The current crop of "point-shoot" pistols, without manual safeties, make it even more important that we absolutely, positively know where our muzzles are pointed; where our trigger finger is; where that magazine is at; and whether the chamber is loaded.

Here are some basics that many Law Enforcement trainers implemented when copshops switched, in droves, to Glocks. They are nothing new; 1911 shooters were doing this stuff since, well, 1911. Commit it to memory- the life you save might be your own.

ON Target/ON Trigger,

OFF target/OFF trigger

Burn this mantra into your brain, and repeat it out loud at least once, every time you pick up a gun. When it becomes second nature, you can stop saying it out loud. Once ingrained, the thought will register in your brain whether you say it out loud or not.

The idea is that you never touch the trigger until your sights are aligned- on something you actually intend to shoot.

When working drills on the range, practice raising the gun on target and firing up to 3 shots; and then lowering the gun about 45 degrees to "low ready." Remove your finger from the trigger-guard, and place it alongside the frame, before you start lowering the gun. Repeat this 3-4 times. Do not touch the trigger until your sights swing back up into your line of sight- to the target.

Always make sure your finger is away from the trigger, and your thumb is away from the grip safety, when re-holstering.

Once you have mastered this, have a shooting buddy stand behind you while you repeat this exercise. At the moment of his/her choosing, have them yell "Challenge!" as you are bring the gun on target. When this happens, keep your sights on the target yell "Stop or I'll shoot!"... and do NOT fire at that point.

The idea is that you do not condition yourself to fire the gun EVERY time it comes onto a target.

Anytime you handle a semi-automatic pistol, particularly indoors, always make a habit of doing the following-

1. Insure gun is pointed in a safe direction.

2. Remove the magazine and set it down- get it out of your hands.

3. Immediately retract the slide and lock it open using the slide stop. Let any ejected round fall onto the floor- you can pick it up later. Step on it so you can feel it, and know where it is.

4. Look down through the open ejection port and out through the magazine well- make sure the magazine is out, and that you can see daylight all the way down.

5. Tip the muzzle down slightly, and look into the chamber to insure that it is empty. Check it with your little finger. (Be careful not to drop the slide while you're doing this. One time will be enough to teach you better.)

If you close the slide for any reason, repeat this process and check the chamber again before dryfiring, disassembly, etc.

If my guns are loaded, they are fully loaded and in the holsters I carry them in.

If I have them out for any reason, they are unloaded and locked open until the magazine(s) & all ammo are removed from the area. Then and only then do I dry fire, strip for cleaning, etc.

And ALWAYS observe the FOUR RULES:

Rule 1: ALL guns are ALWAYS loaded.

Rule 2: NEVER let your muzzle cover ANYTHING or ANYONE you are not willing to destroy.

Rule 3: Keep your finger OFF the trigger until your sights are ON the target.

Rule 4: Be SURE of your target, and what is behind it.

On a closing note- 5 years ago, I lost my nephew, who was close as a brother and my long-time hunting buddy, to a stupid gun accident. He had been raised around guns (including handguns) and he was as safe as anybody I knew. We were both serious handgun hunters. He got excited over calling a coyote in close-real close-and he got careless, ONE time.

He is gone now, and I never walk the woods we hunted together without thinking about him. Be careful, and then be EXTRA careful.

Once it's done- you can't call it back.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Straight Talk on Glocks...

Sixteen years of exposure to Glocks, in the agencies I worked for and on ranges that I ran, has taught me a few things about them. I still don't own one, but not because they "aren't any good." Like Jeff Cooper, I have learned to be objective about them. There are reliable accounts of 9mm Glocks running into the HUNDREDS of thousands of rounds, with only minor parts replacement. You can't argue with that kind of durability.

The handling qualities either work for you or they don't, and for me, they don't. I believe if I shot them to the exclusion of everything else, I could overcome this. The Glock can be learned, and any gun you are going to bet your life on deserves this much effort. I also note subtle changes in the grip of the 9mm/.40 frames over the last 10 years, which have to some degree minimized their propensity to "point high" for those of us raised on classic handgun designs.

The trigger is weird by conventional standards, but you'll get used to it. Resist the urge to install all manner of lightweight springs and levers, and leave it alone. I find that by pretending that a Glock is a DA-only revolver, I can shoot one pretty dang well. I have yet to get ahold of one that wouldn't group its shots in the 9-ring of a B27 at 50 yards, from a rest. It ain't a target pistol, but it wasn't designed to shoot targets with either.

Aside from that, they have a few little design issues that are easily remedied. Some of them have plastic sights, which are easily knocked akimbo with the slightest collision. This is dangerous, because the best defensive handgun cartridges are marginal at best, and you need good centerline hits to be effective with them. Put a good set of steel sights on the gun, if yours don't have them, and them zero them for 50 yards with one bullet weight.

Like all automatics, they can and do jam- and you have to plan for it. They are more reliable than a poorly set-up 1911, which a plethora of manufacturers seem to specialize in these days- but properly set-up 1911 combines qualities not available anywhere else. I consider Glocks more reliable than the first and second-generation S&W autos, and about equal to the Beretta 92’s-which is very good indeed. FWIW I have seen a lot of jammed guns, and less of them were Berettas and Sigs than anything else. I have seen some Glocks (and other modern service-pistol designs) give years of perfect service, while requiring nothing more than good ammo and an occasional cleaning. The finish Glock uses on its exposed metal components is exceptionally durable.

The KaBoom issue. It's real, and no it's not "the ammo" as the KoolAid-drinkers will attest. Glock .40 brass typically exhibits a bulge at the unsupported juncture of the feed ramp and chamber. Look at the fired brass from full-snort .40 loads, and you will understand without a doubt that you are dancing on the rim of the volcano.

I am personally aware of three explosive-disassembly events, one of which resulted in a wrist injury to a friend of mine. His 10mm Glock let go with the first round of a reload (can't say what it was- I didn't load it) that we had been using with fine results in Colt Deltas. The other two were .40’s, which cracked up with factory ammo. Glock seems determined to correct neither the out-of-battery firing nor unsupported chamber issues, which obviously contribute to this. Lead is a no-no in their barrels. The polygonal rifling may also be a factor, but I suspect it is more the manner in which the leade is cut into the rifling, which collects bullet metal until it contributes to a KaBoom. Wild speculation on my part; I can’t say for sure. Glock is obviously selling enough guns that they aren’t concerned about it, and a very small percentage of their .40+ guns have KaBoomed.

There are several manufacturers who make aftermarket barrels for these guns, which feature much better chamber support and conventional rifling. You can bet your reloading press that I would be installing one in any .40+ Glock that resided in my holster.

Thanks to its popularity the Glock also enjoys a superb aftermarket support network, and the factory offers replacement parts freely. I used to recommend the Springfield XD- but have withdrawn that recommendation based on Springfield’s recent policy prohibiting the direct sale of internal parts for them.

Aside from the above, get a good hard holster that covers the triggerguard and work on your trigger-finger & muzzle discipline. Be damn careful when disassembling the gun, as it requires the trigger to be pulled. The internet is loaded with ‘shot left hand’ images from folks who forgot that pesky little round in the chamber- and somehow got their off-hand in front of the muzzle when the were pulling the trigger, prior to disassembly.

With a few little improvements and a lot of practice, the Glock excels at one thing- keeping good guys alive in car-length gunfights, that ‘come out of nowhere’. You could have made a lot worse choices as a carry gun.