24 thoughts on “What I Think When Someone Tells Me…

  1. I was in the military for 5 years.

    Week before last was the first time in 64 years of life that I had ever been on a civilian shooting range. I rented a Shadow Systems MR920 and put 50 rounds downrange, deciding if I want to buy one.

    Other than that, I did half an hour of range time in boot camp, and another half hour during small arms quals when I went to the fleet. That’s the sum total of my shooting experience other than my dad teaching me to shoot when I was 6.

    I tend to take it as given that unless you were in a combat specialty, no, you didn’t “learn how to shoot.” I know I didn’t. Maybe the Marines, because supposedly all Marines are riflemen first, including the paper pushers and the supply pukes, I don’t know.

    Me? I know enough to keep my booger hook off the bang switch unless I want to actually shoot at something, I know to keep it pointed downrange at all times, and I know to take out the mag, clear it and leave the action open before I come off the firing line.

    And this last range session has taught me that I need a class in Basic Pistol. My range safety may not be horrible, but my aim sucks balls. At 15 yards I’m not even within a 1 foot diameter with all 15 rounds. I’m guessing there are techniques to improve that. I feel like I should be within 3-4 inch radius. All inside of, or barely outside of, a standard 7 inch target.

    1. “I feel like I should be within 3-4 inch radius. All inside of, or barely outside of, a standard 7 inch target.”

      Yes, it has been more than 30 years since I had fired a pistol before that. Nevertheless.

    2. Dang, I had much more range time than you in as an Air Force Avionics (aircraft electronics) tech. Others might have gotten through a career with only firing 50 rounds through an M16 at Basic Training, but I was assigned to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, commanded by a rather old school Colonel. Civilian contractors were available to clean the floors and the tiles were no-buff, but we buffed the floors because that builds unit cohesion. (I came to agree about that.) He traced the 27th’s unit history back to a B-25 group dispatched to the Philippines in 1941. All the ground crew, cooks, and clerks arrived before Pearl Harbor, but the airplanes and pilots didn’t. So they were issued rifles and fought in the trenches of Bataan. And we all re-qualified with a rifle once a year.

      OTOH, he couldn’t get a budget that covered real 5.56 ammo for practice. Instead we had an adapter that went into the breech of the M16 and fired .22LR rounds, and left us working harder at getting the effing adapter to cycle than at hitting the 25-yard targets. And we still only had 50 rounds per year. No one reaches peak proficiency with just 50 rounds. Anyone who had a chance of being effective in ground combat, should that have been required, was shooting his own (civilian-type) rifle much more frequently and buying his own ammunition.

  2. Pretty much all of my weapons training (and the matches that earned me my military shooting awards) were done on my own time and dime.

    Of you course if you want to really experience fear, spend some time around a law enforcement range when the non-SWAT types are practicing.

    1. I don’t know whether it’s true, but I’ve heard for years (not least from several cop friends) that nobody on Earth is as likely to accidentally shoot themselves as a cop.

      1. I suspect this would be true even if all cops were well-trained in gun handling and safety, because they create so many chances to shoot themselves. It seems like most departments operate under idiotic “safety” rules that require each cop to haul their weapon out of its holster and clear it several times a day. A handgun kept in a proper holster cannot fire, and outside of firing ranges most cops will have the gun in their hand only a few minutes in an entire career. But drawing and re-holstering are prime time for “accidents” – and most cop holsters are worn pointing at somewhere between the waist and the toes, so a negligent discharge is likely to hit flesh.

  3. “Students of the gun” is a key phrase to remember.

    My observation is that military and police standards of training and shooting are all over the map, and that their center of mass is “minimally adequate”, unless you’re in some sort of door kicking and shooting specialty (i.e. special forces, SWAT & the like) in which case the standards range from adequate to excellent.

    For example, we informally, and with no practice or preparation administered the NJ State Police shooting qualification course at our gun club just for yucks, and we all passed with casual ease, most of us with time and points to spare. This contrasts badly with what we see on the range when its crowded with all the local cops the week or two before their annual qualifications. A few were good, but most shot slowly, carefully, and with mediocre results. Apparently, once or three actually *fail* every year and have to do some sort of remedial class.

    As to “normal army guys”, I understand that they just don’t shoot much, and therefore don’t shoot well.

    The other thing to point out is that military training is usually stuck in some sort of doctrinal orthodoxy, and it took retired military (aka civilians) to advance the art at civilian gun schools, whose methods eventually found their way back into the training regimens of military and police…so…unorganized militia for the win.

    The bottom line is this: whether you wear a uniform or not, some people are “students of the gun”, and most just aren’t.

  4. “As to ‘normal army guys,’ I understand that they just don’t shoot much, and therefore don’t shoot well.”

    As I said above, I have been looking at pistols with an eye to possibly buying one. When I was browsing, something said by the owner of a small gun shop (former Marine, ex-cop, claimed to have I think 7 bullet holes in him) stuck in my mind.

    I made a remark that I suspected no matter how good the gun was and no matter how smart the shooter was in terms of figuring out what needed to be done, there was really no substitute for just blowing wads of cash downrange on a regular basis. Just like anything else, if you never learn the muscle memory you won’t be any good.

    His reply was to say that yes, that’s true, but if you don’t get some instruction from someone who knows what they’re doing, you’ll just be making your bad habits harder to get rid of.

    1. And he’s right. One comment I hear from trainers is that it’s harder to train men than women, because women don’t have bad habits to break, thinking they know what they’re doing.

      1. As I said in the original reply, my shopping, my homework and my range time has taught me that I need to take a Basic Pistol class.

        But at the same time, I also decided I didn’t want an “entry level” pistol. I used to play bass, and when I was learning I found out that if the tool you learn with is a POS, you’ll never get to be any good, you’ll be held back by the quality limitations of the tool. Not only that, if you get a decent one, you’ll quickly get good enough to be dissatisfied with it. It needs a different _____ and a better _____, and frankly the _____ sucks, that kind of thing. So I’m going to try to get one that, once I’m competent with it, I’ll still want to keep it.

        I just spent tens of thousands of dollars on a new pickup truck, and did nearly 2 years of homework deciding exactly what I wanted and exactly who I wanted to buy it from. The thinking that guided me there is the same I’m using here: At these prices, I’m not doing regrets.

        1. The only rule I can mention is that your first pistol won’t be your forever pistol. Book research is of limited value, as the unique bio-mechanical shooting machine that is your body, your mind and a given pistol will vary. For example, Glocks and I just don’t get on. (Quiqley: I didn’t say I couldn’t use them…/Quigley) The only way to know if a pistol truly fits is to shoot it more than a mag or three.

          Also, you will find that components of your unique bio-mech will change with age, as I have discovered to my chagrin. On bad days, the arthritis in my thumbs makes operating the slide painful, and so (gasp) I no longer carry a .45, and instead have transitioned to a compact .357 revolver.

          I submit that your first pistol should be an ~adequate~ pistol: a reasonably good fit, with the understanding that you just haven’t yet aquired the bullets down range experience necessary to determine what a really good fit for you actually is.

          The keys are: reputable manufacturer, caliber you’re comfortable with, for factor that suits purpose (house guns are not carry guns and vice versa) and operating system that fits your tastes. And if you’re lefthanded, like me, avoid the few layouts that are actively hostile to leftys.

    2. “His reply was to say that yes, that’s true, but if you don’t get some instruction from someone who knows what they’re doing, you’ll just be making your bad habits harder to get rid of.”

      I’d argue that the quality of the instruction is just as important (as you alluded to), but also that if you’re of a particular…personality (type A, high IQ persons), it’s possible to make mistakes and evaluate what you’re doing, then make the necessary corrections for improvement. It might still be slower than one would desire, but sometimes it’s more satisfying and/or the only way to truly learn the “why,” of the situation.

      1. I can see how that would be so… but I can also see how that would require throwing a BUTTLOAD of lead downrange just getting a useful data set to find out that X change of stance or grip tends to yield Y result.

        And that’s BEFORE you throw a buttload of lead downrange for the purpose of building muscle memory from what you’ve learned.

        I’m not sure I have that much patience, and I *am* fairly sure I’m too cheap for that.

        And right now, I’m having trouble getting any kind of consistency. I hit low more often than anything else, but in 50 rounds about a third of them are more than 6 inches from where I’m aiming, in apparently random directions. Looks to me like I’d blow through a thousand rounds just finding out what the problem is.

        1. Honestly I would start with a .22 and use that to learn how to shoot the right way. Ammo is much cheaper and you can get some very decent guns without spending a ton of money. Do you need a competition level pistol – no. Something that fits your hand and is comfortable to shoot for extended periods.
          If it ain’t pleasant to shoot you won’t and given the ammo shortage .22’s are a good choice and a class can help sort that out

          1. You’re certainly on the right track with the rimfire training.

            You’re also correct with the thousand rounds bit, and I don’t know anyone who’s a serious shooter who’d tell you that competence can be a had with fewer, and likely a bunch more. I’ve been shooting in one form or another for more than 40 years and I’ve just learned to ignore the dollar costs associated with shooting, and instead consider it a skill that is constantly in need of being sharpened, and enjoy the confidence that shooting sessions reinforce.

    3. Direct instruction is important: it saves a ton of time and money.

      It also is important to determine what sort of shooting you need to learn, as there are important differences in theory and practice. For example, defensive pistol calls for a balance that favors a wider cone of fire in exchange for speed.

      At the end of it all, the key moment comes down to aligning the sights on the target, and acutating the trigger without disturbing that alignment.

      1. “At the end of it all, the key moment comes down to aligning the sights on the target, and actuating the trigger without disturbing that alignment.”

        Exactly. I try to hold on my point of aim, and I can watch it wander all over the place. Once I stop that, I can work on not disturbing it with the trigger pull. Once I have a handle on that, then comes recoil management so the following shot doesn’t have to start from scratch.

    1. Shooting the “El Presidente” drill with his eyes closed was actually a trick one of my shooting instructors did on the range to illustrate the importance of muscle memory and proprioception, which is our sense of out body’s position in space.

      1. I used to teach down hill skiing – one instructor I had took us to the bunny slope and had us ski with our eyes closed (this was at night with no one on the slope and him behind us shouting at us. Very different but it did makes us very aware of out bodies and everything associated with that.

  5. Come on guys! You have to be REALLY well trained to shoot a Sterling SMG without a loaded magazine in the gun … That and not having the stock to your shoulder.

    Tremble and be afraid!

    1. It doesn’t look like American uniforms to me, thank God. OTOH, I haven’t been within sight of any military unit since 1990, and who knows what Obama and his hand puppet have gotten up to.

  6. Try to find a pistol that has a quality matching BB / soft air version. You can practice the motions and get 90% value of training with it at short (~10 yard) range. CO2 cartridges and BBs are still cheap, and you can (generally) practice in your own back yard.

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