How Much Use Do Your Snap Caps Get?

My snap caps have seen hard use.

About a month ago, as I came back from the dead so to speak with my own training, I found my trusty training tools on the brink of their own demise. My snap caps are probably the most used tool in my training arsenal. They get used every day I dry fire, and they have seen thousands upon thousands of repetitions through my guns.

As I tried to clear one out of my Glock, I had some difficulty with extraction. Upon inspection I found that the snap cap rim was beginning to tear off. If I had owned these for a few days or weeks, I would say that the product was faulty. But after almost a year of daily dry-fire, these snap caps have held up great.

Best uses for snap caps

Using snap caps during dry-fire can be a great way to protect your firearms from unnecessary wear and tear caused by dropping the firing pin on an empty chamber. While this benefit alone is a great reason to use snap caps, I find that their value goes far further.

Malfunction Drills

Snap caps are excellent for malfunction drills. You can easily create double feed and misfire scenarios with your snap caps for practice clearing them.

When combined with live-fire, snap cap utility is fairly obvious. A snap cap can represent a misfired round. When randomly loaded into your magazines, they can create unexpected malfunctions.

In dry-fire sessions the snap caps can take the place of both the malfunction rounds and fresh ammo. When performing a malfunction clearing drill, always make sure a follow-up round gets chambered properly, validating your technique. Create double-feeds by placing a round in the chamber before easing the slide forward on a full magazine.

Reloading Drills

Snap caps are excellent additions to emergency reloading drills. Fresh magazines with snap caps allow you to ensure a round gets properly chambered. Dropping the slide too early during a reload can be a disaster, forcing you into an immediate action drill. Training with snap caps keeps you honest about the timing of your reloads and ensures you don’t drop that slide too soon.

How much use do your snap caps get?

I obviously use snap caps quite a bit in my own training, to the point where I would consider them disposable short-term-use items. Personally I keep a package of spares on hand for the next time the rim breaks off one of my snap caps.

How often do you use snap caps in your training, and what do you use them for?

Don’t already use snap caps? I use and highly recommend the snap caps from A-Zoom. Support small business and Indestructible Training by ordering yours from our friends at WTBGU. (Disclaimer: the preceding link is an affiliate link, and I will receive a commission for anything you buy through this link).

Let Me Introduce You To Your New Best Friend: Your Target

The best tool for improving your marksmanship is your target. Like your best friend, your target is always there and willing to help. But unlike your best friend, your target will not lie to you. Whatever you are doing wrong or right, your target will provide an immediate and unambiguous record. If you know how to read your target, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had every time you go shooting.

The principle is simple really. Just about every common shooting error presents in a predictable way on your target. If you make one of those common mistakes, your target will show it. Knowing how to identify these mistakes can help you easily self-correct and improve your shooting.

Learning to read (your target)

A variety of individuals and organizations have published charts to assist you in identifying your errors.

Using a chart to identify your errors can be straightforward, but if you haven’t done it before there are a few tricks to make it easier.

Step 1: shoot the target

Until your target has holes, there isn’t much it can do for you. Kind of like if your wife were to ask you if an outfit looks good on her despite the fact that you haven’t seen it. The question gets you nowhere except a trip to the doghouse. You can’t blame your target when you shoot poorly, but she still blames you if she doesn’t like your answer. Go figure.

Step 2: consult the chart

Once you have holes in your target, the fun begins. Now you can compare your target to a chart and identify your shooting errors. How you compare will depend heavily on the kind of chart you are using.

These charts come in two main varieties: shot group examples, and wheels. The shot group example charts tend to show pictures representing example groups. With this kind of chart, find the picture that most closely represents your target.

With the wheel charts, things are a little different. Here you need to compare your group position to an area on the wheel. Once you have found a group or a section on the wheel, you should now have a list of one or more errors you could be making.

Step 3: process of elimination

Once you have your list of errors you can start eliminating potential problems. For example the first chart below indicates that with the pistol groups hitting low left generally can be caused by poor trigger control or poor sight alignment.

In order to identify which of these errors you could be committing, you should start by posting a fresh target and shooting another group. This time focus on not making one of the errors you found. With the above example you might choose sight alignment. Make sure those sights are perfectly aligned for each shot. Did the issue go away? If not then repeat but try focusing on a perfect trigger squeeze.

If you go through all the listed options without fixing your issue, you have one of a few potential problems: you were unable to actually self-correct one of the issues, your chart is incomplete and you are committing another unmentioned error, or you are combining multiple unrelated problems which happen to combine to look like a different problem altogether.

Potential pitfalls

Before you head to the range and expect these charts to be your new savior, remember one thing: these charts are imperfect. The real world isn’t always black and white. It’s not impossible to be doing more than one thing wrong (sometimes they will even cancel each other out, masking the problems altogether).

Sometimes you might find new and exciting ways to screw up too, meaning your mistake might not be on the charts at all. Congratulations, have a cookie.

Charts

Not all charts are created equal. They tend to all have common themes and areas where they overlap, but some charts list errors that others don’t. The amount of information on these charts can differ greatly. Which one you use is up to you. When in doubt keep a collection of various charts – more information is never a bad thing so long as you can parse it.

There are many similarities between disciplines, but for the most part these charts are targeted towards one type of shooting. Below are some charts I have found for analyzing pistol marksmanship. If you are looking for a chart that covers rifle marksmanship errors, check out an Appleseed, they provide some great materials.

1. Target Shooting Canada:

This is a good fundamentals chart of the group examples variety. This is a great place to start, especially if you are just starting out.

2. NEShooters (Awerbuck):

This analysis tool caters more to the tactical/defensive shooting crowd. Personally I take exception to a few of the listed errors: in particular 9 o’clock shooting errors being caused by not resetting the trigger quickly enough. This is a good example of a more complicated wheel type chart presenting all of its information in one diagram.

3. Degrata Tactical:

Another good general fundamentals chart, similar in many ways to the first. While the first one had brief lists of errors, this actually provides advice on correcting technique.

4. Xavier Thoughts:

This chart is probably one of the best because it’s so simple. Unlike the other charts I listed, this one is a very concise and clear wheel type chart, but it does require a bit more knowledge to use.

Analyze your groups regularly to improve

Your target doesn’t lie. If you want to improve your shooting and don’t have the luxury of the oversight of an experienced instructor, the next best option is to look at your target. Let your target do the teaching. With the right materials, you can identify your errors and correct them yourself.

What group analysis resources do you use in your training? Post a comment and share!

Examining My Load-Out

Recently I took a pistol/carbine class taught by Larry Vickers. As this was my first foray into this kind of training, I had a lot of equipment to acquire. Before filling in the gaps and buying equipment, my first objective was to come up with a goal (or theme) for the equipment I was buying.

My mission profile

The gear people tend to bring to carbine classes ranges from a couple AR15 mag pouches on their belt to full on chest and belt rigs including rifle plates and just about anything they could imagine. Most of the people in a class like this don’t have a specific mission in mind. How a cop prepares and trains will differ greatly from how a civilian or a U.S. Marine prepares.

When a civilian comes to a class decked out to the max, it really makes you wonder what exactly they are thinking. Is their equipment logical for the situations they might encounter, or are they in the class to play fantasy camp?

When I set out to prepare my equipment, I started with my mission profile. I’m a civilian and unlikely to be paroling or engaging in any sort of prolonged engagement with a rifle. If I need my rifle it is to fight off armed home invaders or, slightly less likely, to deal with an active shooter situation. In either case what I need differs greatly from what I would need if I was planning on marching off to war.

To meet this mission profile, my goal was to set up my gear in a way that I could easily throw over my existing CCW gear. If it takes me more than 30 seconds to be ready to go then I am doing something wrong.

My gear

This is my rifle

My carbine for the class was a custom build (as are all my AR-15 type rifles). This one was built on a matching set of Essential Arms receivers, Essential Arms LPK, and Daniel Defense Barrel.

Here are the specs:

  • 16” Daniel Defense Mid-length Barrel

  • BCM Full-Auto Bolt Carrier Group

  • Collapsible Stock

  • Magpul MOE Midlength Handguard (green)

  • Troy BUIS

  • Aimpoint Pro

  • MOE Rail VFG

  • VTAC Sling

  • GG&G Sling Thing (Rear)

I found this rifle to be very reliable, running quite well even when it was drier than it should have been.

The VTAC sling got the job done for a quick adjust sling, and it worked fairly well for switch shoulder drills. A few times I missed the adjustment lanyard, but for the moment I’m attributing that to my own inexperience with it. The GG&G Sling Thing makes a great rear attachment point, providing a slot for a QD sling swivel on a standard collapsible stock.

In general the rifle handled very well, and the MOE Handguards I ordered would probably remain on the rifle if it wasn’t for the Troy rail already being bought and working well for me.

Glock 17

For a pistol I used my 2nd generation Glock 17. They sure don’t make them like they used to. This pistol has been through a lot and keeps ticking. The only problem with my Glock is the sights. It still sports the stock sights, and I’m seeing more and more why this is a problem. I carried it strong side in a Comp-Tac belt holster with a spare mag in one of Comp-Tac’s numerous pistol pouch options. I’ve always been a big fan of Comp-Tac, and every holster I have from them does the job well.

The rest of my gear

In order to fulfill the quick gear-up profile, I went with the BCM 03 MSF split front chest harness. This worked well for me for two reasons. Being split front it’s very easy to put on, just like any vest you might wear. It also fits in such a way that my pistol carried in my IWB holster is still readily accessible. If I had to put this on in a hurry all I need to do is tuck in my shirt and I’m off to the races.

On the front of the harness I mounted a pair of Maxpedition pistol mag pouches, one each of single and double mag. These seemed to work fine and mounted pretty easily. The mags are not super easily accessible, but my intent was to use them to back fill my belt pouch – a role they performed superbly.

I’m also a fan of keeping medical gear on the body. I still haven’t found a good way to mount a small kit, but I definitely wanted a tourniquet that I could access easily. I ended up trying the 215 gear tourniquet holder to hold my CAT-T tourniquet. It held the tourniquet well all class without losing it. Experimenting at home, the holder works well for quick one handed access to the tourniquet.

For a dump pouch I tried the Maxpedition Rollypoly pouch. This pouch folds up to be not larger than a fist. I have a few complaints about this dump pouch. To place the pouch where I wanted it, I needed to wear it on my belt. This means I’m unlikely to get it on quickly. I suppose I would just dump my mags or use my shirt or a pocket if I needed to retain them, but it would be nice to be able to throw a pouch onto my belt without taking the belt off. When it is folded up, the pouch doesn’t take much space, and it is almost small enough to really consider for wearing all the time. Unfortunately it is just large enough to be very uncomfortable when seated in a car in the position I like to wear it: 7 o’clock behind my mag pouch.

When wringing out the rifle before the class, I noticed some heat and a few scratches on my hands so I figured I would try out some gloves. I bought some Mechanix “Original” gloves. They worked well and gave me good grip on everything I handled. Like most gloves they made some very fine motor skills difficult, but it wasn’t a huge problem for me. My biggest disappointment was when I realized early into using them that they were already damaged. The seam on the right hand palm near the thumb came unstitched. The gloves still did their job, but I expected more from a 20 dollar pair of gloves. Walmart gladly replaced them, and I have not seen a repeat of the issue on the new ones just yet.

What went right

Some equipment stands alone, but ultimately for a class like this, it’s how different pieces of equipment interact and work together that matters. Did the equipment I selected meet the mission profile I was trying to fill?

For the most part, yes. Everything was placed such that it was accessible. The split chest harness was not very bulky, and I felt like I could move fairly freely with it on. It was also pretty easy to quickly don.

What went wrong

I did have a few minor problems. The placement of my tourniquet caused it to pick up dirt from the range whenever I shot from a prone position. This in itself was a minor problem that became worse as I stood up. My Aimpoint pro sat at just a low enough position when slung that this dirt then would drop off the tourniquet and onto the rear aperture.

Not good.

A little bit of attention solved the problem (knock the dirt off prior to letting the rifle stay slung), and I’m not sure the issue was serious enough to warrant moving my gear around.

The dump pouch was also a huge pain as I had to run my belt through it. Would I really need the dump pouch if I were to ‘grab and go’? Probably not, but I would still prefer some easier attachment for the dump pouch. I’m still on the lookout for a suitable replacement.

Conclusion

My equipment got me through the class and looks as though it will work in the conditions I want it for. I was disappointed that the gloves would start falling apart so soon, so I’m hoping that was a fluke.

Other than the gloves, everything else held up to the class and functioned flawlessly.

The Secret to Setting up a Dry-Fire Area

I am obviously a big fan of dry-fire and dry-practice. I have proclaimed its usefulness, and how much it has helped me in my own pursuits to improve my shooting skills. What I would like to talk about today is one secret to getting the most out of your dry-fire practice: a well organized dry-fire area.

Setting aside a place in the house for dry-fire can simply make your practice safer, but it also allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time. With a designated dry-fire area, you can get far more out of your practice than a lonely wall might give you.

Improved Safety

Safety is one of the biggest reasons to set aside a place in the house for dry-fire. Ideally you need a backstop even without live shooting, because accidents do happen. Select a part of your home where you will have peace of mind knowing what is beyond your target.

Dry-firing against an interior wall is probably the riskiest thing you can do unless you live alone. Pointing a gun through a wall that might be the only thing between you and your wife, husband, children, or other loved ones is not a great idea.

Your best options would be something like a concrete wall (say in a basement) or an exterior wall with nothing valuable behind it.

Your dry-fire area should contain no ammunition. It is your personal responsibility to make sure no live ammunition enters your dry-fire area. If you have no ammunition, then the risk of an accidental or negligent discharge is significantly reduced.

Make use of good targets

Another advantage to a dedicated dry-fire area is being well-organized. When dry-firing you will want to make the best possible use of good targets. Scaled down targets of various shapes and sizes are great for practicing presentation of the pistol and transitioning between targets.

One of my favorites is this scaled down F.A.S.T. target put together by Todd Louis Green from Pistol-Training.com. If you are training more for competition than self-defense, scaled down IDPA or USPSA targets are also an excellent idea.

The advantage to your own dedicated area is that you can post all of these targets simultaneously. You can post targets scaled to different sizes (to represent different distances) and be able to do all your dry practice without needing to change targets.

Necessary equipment

A good dry-fire session might include some timed practice, so you should add a shot timer with a good par feature (or a PC application that can mimic the same thing). I use this flash application from predatortactical.com.

Barriers for good dry-fire

One thing that is missing from many dry-fire routines is barrier work. Do you dry-practice making use of cover? This can be difficult without good preparation.

My recommendation is to build yourself some soft lightweight barriers out of large pieces of foam board or cardboard. A lightweight barrier is easily moved into your practice area, or out of the way for storage.

In order to be best setup to use these tools you should consider a small table, perhaps an end-table or a small folding table. This gives you a place to put any electronics you might use, but also a place to stuff magazines.

Wait, did he just say stuff magazines?

Do yourself a favor and buy some snap-caps. If you are practicing pistol skills, not only will these give you a solid way to practice malfunction clearance (tap rack and bang doesn’t work so well on an empty mag), but it will also make practicing reloads easier.

Ultimately having a dummy round to chamber will allow you to practice moving as fast as possible, and verify that you are actually successfully reloading.

Space and movement

Practicing staying on the sights while moving is another skill that is often left out of most dry-practice sessions.

Make your space ideal for practicing movement by keeping an open and clear floor. Ideally you would have something like a 10ft x 10ft space to enable you to move in a variety of patterns while practicing keeping your sights locked on the target and dry-firing.

While we’re on the subject of space – another quick tip is to use a room with carpeted floors. Not only will the carpets protect your mags as you practice reloading, but it’s not as likely to be dinged up by them either. If you prefer staying out of the doghouse, avoid dropping mags on a nice tile or hardwood floor! I find my fastest practice sessions send magazines flying across the room, so keep fancy furniture and decor around at your own peril.

Dry-fire is a great way to develop firearms manipulation skills. You can improve your draw-stroke, trigger control, sight-alignment, reloading, malfunction clearance, shooting around obstacles, transitioning between targets, shooting on the move and a variety of other skills.

Set yourself up with a dedicated place to practice, and you should improve the benefits you gain from dry-fire.

Do you have a dedicated dry-fire area? How did you set it up?

Warning: IDPA Is Not Training

Photo credit: dagnyg

A little over a week ago, I competed in my first IDPA match at my local club. I have been more than a little excited to give the sport a try and see both how much fun it would be (spoiler: tons!) and how I stack up against the guys that compete at this sort of thing all the time.

I learned a lot about IDPA while at the match, but I also learned a lot about myself and training in general. I’ll be looking forward to shooting another match soon. If any of you happen to be in New Hampshire and want to meet up at a match, contact me, I’d love to shoot with you.

Here is what I learned…

IDPA doesn’t build skills

Quite a few people seem to be confused and state that IDPA is good defensive training. These people couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, IDPA is a game. All games have rules. Real life doesn’t.

More importantly, IDPA isn’t training because it doesn’t build skills. Efficient skills development requires repetition in isolation.

When you practice your draw-stroke, you train through consistent repetition. Every repetition works to ingrain the proper motions in your subconscious.

In IDPA you shoot a stage once.

One repetition does not give you a chance to make refinements to your technique. One repetition does not allow you to ingrain good habits.

What IDPA does do for you is to provide a good opportunity to pressure test what you bring to the table. I now know my weaknesses and which areas need the most additional practice. You can expect to discover the same things about your own training.

Any game with rules will deviate from real life

Since IDPA is a game, and has rules, it deviates from many of the realities that we train for. For example IDPA limits your magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

IDPA also restricts placement of your gear. Restrictions are placed on where your holster and mag carrier may be worn. If you have chosen to carry Appendix In Waist Band (AIWB), then clearly you can’t compete in the same way you normally carry.

This is a problem if you are using IDPA as a tool to test your skills. If you enjoy the sport, you are forced to either carry as you compete, or train two different skill sets, one for carry, and one for competition.

Marksmanship is key

The match reinforced for me how critical good marksmanship is.

The second stage of the match was essentially a skills test. Three strings were shot, and they all came down to marksmanship.

The first string consisted of 6 shots, with weak hand only, at two targets that were behind hardcover from the neck down (head shots only). The second string was 6 shots strong hand only from the draw at two targets placed a little farther out that had hard cover from center chest and below. The final string was shot freestyle at two targets even further back, no cover.

Watching the other participants, you could easily tell who really practices and who doesn’t. I shot with a group of shooters that were also new to the sport, and almost everyone had trouble making hits on the targets.

Do you think that this stage improved anyone’s shooting skills? I don’t think anyone who missed on that stage could magically make hits afterward. But they did gain an appreciation for one of the weakest links in their skill-set: marksmanship.

IDPA doesn’t really build skills on its own, but it does test them.

Everyone is a gamer

Another thing I noticed at this match was that I seemed to be the only person with an IWB holster using a t-shirt as a cover garment. Everyone else was shooting using some sort of vest or jacket combined with a belt-style holster.

There are two possible explanations for this: either everyone normally carries with a gaudy looking photographer’s vest, or everyone was gaming the match.

I’m going to assume the latter because I don’t see too many of those vests outside of a match.

Gaming in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can’t fault people for trying to be competitive. Why compete if you don’t plan on trying to win?

However, it is important to keep in mind that this type of competition can have its disadvantages. If you are gaming it, odds are you are sacrificing some of your training benefit. Remember the statement “Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train”? If IDPA were really training, you would compete like you carry, or carry like you compete.

A fun way to pressure test

In short, my take on IDPA is that it isn’t training, but it is a great way to pressure test your gun handling and shooting skills.

Shooting on a square range without movement and without pressure can only get you so far. Fighting is dynamic, so it makes perfect sense to test your training with a dynamic activity.

IDPA fits that bill.

If you want to test your skills and have a good time doing it, seek out an IDPA match. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you shoot IDPA? Share what you may have learned from the shooting sport by posting a comment below.

Pistolcraft – The New Way of Strategy?

Miyamoto Musashi was a great swordsman who lived in the late 1500’s into the early 1600’s. He excelled in the use of the sword, but also as a tactician. As a practitioner of swordsmanship, Musashi like many other swordsmen was considered a strategist. And more so than studying the sword, these men practiced the way of strategy.

Picture by MShades

For them the sword was a tool. They needed to have the raw skills to manipulate that tool, but it was just one part of the big picture. Over the course of his life, Musashi defeated many men in duels. He has been credited with defeating a large group of warriors sent to kill him, and he ultimately lived his life undefeated. Musashi didn’t win all of these encounters purely based on his raw technique being better than his adversary; instead, he was a master of strategy.

During this time period it was common for the members of the warrior caste to carry with them their swords at all times. These strategists were always armed, and always ready for whatever threat might lay before them.

Translating the Sword to the Pistol

If you fast forward to today, it is uncommon to see anyone carrying a sword. The sword is in many ways a classic weapon, but not one that is considered part of the modern stable of fighting weapons.

In its time the sword was the weapon of choice for the armed citizen. Today the weapon of choice for the armed citizen is the pistol. We carry pistols to protect ourselves in the same way that the sword was carried in feudal Japan. The pistol has replaced the sword as the preferred implement of combat.

You could break the study of Musashi’s way of strategy into two parts: the study of the sword and its techniques and the study of the strategic and tactical use of the sword. We could similarly break down the study of pistol strategy.

Pistol as the New Way of Strategy

As with the sword, we can spend an eternity perfecting the use of the pistol. Marksmanship takes dedicated effort to master. Drawing the pistol and getting on target, recoil management, reloads, malfunction clearance, and retention merely scratch the surface of all of the skills that come along with studying the pistol.

Learning how to manipulate the sword does not make you a strategist, and neither does learning how to manipulate the pistol. To be tactically sound with the pistol there are a variety of skills and tactics that need to be mastered. Moving through structures and making best use of your environment to maximize cover and concealment both immediately come to mind.

The modern strategist goes above and beyond simply studying and perfecting the manipulations of a weapon. He learns to use that tool as part of a broader strategy. Raw skills are worth the investment of time and effort, but without strategy they will always remain just skills.

Stop Trying To Shoot Better

When I went shooting a few days ago I came to a familiar realization. Like many times before, I realized that when I try too hard I tend to screw things up. The more I ramp up the pressure on myself, the less smooth my actions become, and the more mistakes I make in my efforts to perform better.

Last weekend I was at the range working on improving my draw stroke and slide-lock reloads. To practice these skills I was using a 1Reload2 drill (draw, fire one shot, reload and fire two more). I was doing this drill with my shot timer in an attempt to measure how I was performing and push myself towards a faster time. What I found was that the harder I tried, the more often I would flub the draw or screw up the reload. My actions became jerky and not the smooth and calm movements I had emphasized in my dry-fire practice. Ultimately this hurt my time instead of improving it.

The same problems occur in my marksmanship training. These days I spend much more time teaching others how to shoot rifles than I spend shooting them myself. I’m trying to change that, but whenever I do get a chance to shoot a rifle I feel like the pressure on myself to do well is a huge barrier to success. I often start with a decent shot group, but the problem is knowing that I can do much better. I push myself to the point where my performance just gets worse, causing me more and more frustration. Eventually I have to pull myself back from the stress of trying too hard, and force myself to simply relax.

Rifle marksmanship, especially when you are talking about shooting using a sling, is ultimately about being relaxed. Let your bones and the sling do the support work while you align your body so you can make the shot. As they say, shooting is very much a mental game at this point. The harder you (or I in this case) actively try the more likely muscles are to become involved. I fuss the shot and as a result of trying too hard my groups open up.

Relax

If you find yourself having this problem yourself, go back to the basics. Be calm and collected and stop trying so hard. You’ll usually find that going a little slower and not making mistakes is actually faster than going as fast as you can and struggling the whole way there.

We put pressure on ourselves to do better with every shot, to increase our speed and get tighter groups. This pressure ultimately serves to do nothing other than to make things more difficult.

Personally I shoot the best when I have no expectations for myself. A couple years ago I had a chance to shoot my AR15 out to 600 yards. I was having trouble seeing the target through my iron sights and figured my rough elevation adjustment would be off anyway, so I really didn’t expect to even hit the target. I relaxed and shot a carefree group by the basics, and I was totally shocked when I saw the great group on my target.

I am fastest and most efficient when I worry less about speed and instead just worry about being smooth and practicing the fundamentals. You too may be surprised at the difference when you stop trying so hard to shoot your best. Focus on the technique rather than trying to make each shot perfect.

Remember slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Does self-imposed pressure negatively impact your performance? Let us know and post a comment below!

Debunking the Revolver Myth (or Why Revolvers Suck)

Image by szuppo

There is a crowd in the armed citizen world that would have you believe that a revolver is the ideal weapon for home defense (or to put in your wife’s hands for home defense, or to carry, etc). They are wrong.

Here is a point by point breakdown of why a revolver is not the ideal gun for home defense, even for the lazy jerk who doesn’t want to invest training time.

Reliability

The majority of these revolver fans will tell you that their revolver doesn’t malfunction. This is mostly true. The only malfunction you can really expect in a revolver is a failure to fire. If this occurs the immediate remedy is to squeeze the trigger again and try the next round. Most revolver malfunctions are going to be blamed on the ammo and not the gun itself.

Most modern semi-auto pistols are plenty reliable. I’ve put thousands of rounds through my Glock 17 with very few malfunctions. Sure there have been malfunctions, but these are rare. If you maintain the gun properly, it won’t be likely to malfunction.

Simplicity

Revolvers are said to be simple. They have no external safety, so there is essentially a single input – the trigger. Aim and squeeze is all you need to do to shoot the target.

I’m sorry to break this to people, but my Glock 17 has a control interface that is just as simple. I too can aim and squeeze without the hindrance of disengaging a safety mechanism. If the lack of external safety is your reason to use a revolver, there are plenty of semi-auto pistols to fill that role as well.

Safety

Revolver proponents are often quick to judge semi-autos based on the risk of injury. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that firearms can be dangerous when used improperly. Revolvers come with their own caveats.

Both types of pistol can hurt you. Semi-autos used improperly can bite you as the slide reciprocates (a bad grip on the pistol where your hand comes too high on the back-strap of the pistol). This type of injury would be unpleasant, but it can be easily avoided with a little training. A revolver on the other hand can take off or seriously injure your thumb if it is placed too far forward next to the cylinder. Also correctable with training, but not as easily. Do you really want to worry about becoming thumbless under pressure? I don’t.

Capacity

Most revolver users will claim that a revolver has enough ammo to get the job done. Most defensive revolvers carry a maximum of seven rounds. What if seven isn’t enough? Do you feel confident that seven rounds could put down multiple attackers? Reloading a revolver requires much more skill than the semi-auto pistol. The motor skills required are also far finer since you need to either load each round or line up speed strips or a moon clip to reload it. When the adrenaline starts pumping, fine motor skills like this will be out the window.

If I want to reload my Glock, I slide a fresh magazine into the mag well and at the press of a button, I’m ready to keep shooting. Its a little more complex than that if you are worried about speed, but it is certainly easier than futzing with rounds in a cylinder under pressure.

Unfortunately, it seems that many revolver fans completely overlook the reloading issue. Maybe you won’t ever need more than those seven rounds, but are you willing to gamble this way with your life? Your family’s lives? Even sillier, if we assume that we will never need to reload, a semi-auto generally carries many more rounds than a revolver. My Glock for example carries 17+1, and with an extended magazine can carry as much as 33+1 rounds if home defense is my goal.

Ultimately revolvers are the lazy man’s answer. Too often people choose a revolver thinking they won’t need to invest as much time and energy into learning how to use it. You are kidding yourself if you think you can avoid putting in substantial time training with any firearm. If you honestly can’t find time to train, I still think a semi-auto offers tremendous advantages over a revolver, and has fewer problems than you may think. If you can’t invest the minimal time to learn the basics of your weapon, should you really be arming yourself at all? A weapon in the hands of an unpracticed individual is a threat to yourself and those you love.

Revolvers may sound like an easy option if you are looking for something you can simply point and shoot, but I think many of us in the self-defense community should have higher goals. I’ll take the capacity of a semi-auto over the purported reliability of a revolver any day.

Do you agree that semi-autos are superior to revolvers or are you a revolver fan?

Training Considerations When Selecting a Pistol

I strongly believe anyone who legally can should learn how to employ a pistol to its greatest effect. If you can legally carry one concealed, you should make every effort to do so. Self-defense boils down to controlling your environment. A pistol lets you control more of it when the chips are down.

 There are plenty of articles out there to compare and contrast the differences in various rounds: would the ultimate concealed carry pistol be a 9mm or a .45? There are plenty that compare sizes: should you carry a full size service pistol, or a subcompact? And there certainly are plenty of online flame wars discussing which is the best brand and model. Reliability, accuracy, and features are all points of many lengthy discussions.

 While all of those things certainly do factor into what pistol you plan to entrust your life to, there is something else that I believe is even more important: does this pistol facilitate training? The most important thing you need in a pistol is the ability to train with it. If you cannot train with your weapon of choice, it’s a toss up whether you can actually use it effectively when you need to.

 Can you train with it safely?

 This is a fairly silly question, but it does need asking. Can you train with this pistol safely? Some people decide that an inexpensive Makarov or other inexpensive classic that isn’t drop safe is the best firearm for them. I’ve heard plenty of stories about a dropped pistol discharging and injuring its owner. If you plan on training aggressively, you want something you can safely drop. If you can’t safely train with your pistol, maybe it’s time to go gun shopping.

 Do you enjoy training with it?

 While a carry firearm is a tool, if you do not enjoy training with it, you won’t train with it. Simple as that. If the gun is easy to conceal but is too small to be fun to shoot, you’ll carry it, but you’ll never spend the time with it on the range that you need to.

 Can you find an inert training replica?

 While it isn’t 100% necessary, finding an inert training replica (a blue gun for example) of your carry gun is a great way to be able to train without risk of damage to the gun, or damage to your training partners. If you practice any gun grappling, it is certainly safer to train with an inert gun than a real one. I also find that an inert replica works great for practicing presentation of the firearm.

 Can you find and afford the ammunition?

 If you cannot find ammunition or afford it, then you cannot train with the gun. I prefer a 9mm myself because the ammo is less expensive than .40 or .45 and I feel it still gets the job done. Generally it isn’t too hard to find practice ammunition in these common calibers. Some people decide to carry a small .32 or .380 and find that ammunition is scarce. I would rather carry something that doesn’t require a pilgrimage to find ammo.

 Are there .22 conversions or training models available?

 Regardless of the round your carry gun uses, it’s cheaper to practice with .22 than it is to practice in the caliber you carry. There are limitations to how these conversions and clone models can be used in your training, but they certainly can help to increase the volume of your training. Check out this article by Todd Green on the pros and cons of .22 trainers.

 Are there Airsoft replicas available?

 Another great training method is to use an Airsoft training replica of your firearm. This allows you to practice force on force scenarios without having to shoot your training partner. Training with Airsoft of course isn’t perfect, but availability should definitely be in the back of your mind when selecting a carry weapon.

 Can you dry fire it?

 Dry fire is a great way to practice your skills. It’s the cheapest practice you can get. It can do great things for your marksmanship, speed of presentation, and efficiency reloading. Not all firearms can be dry fired, but just about every modern center-fire can be. Make sure you check when deciding what pistol is right for you.

Of course there is plenty more to think about when selecting a pistol. Remember that no matter how reliable or accurate your pistol is, if you can’t train with it, you may very well be useless with it when you need it.

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