I observed a lot of things in the classes, and many of my observations remain the same as always:
- Slow down. It’s better to do something slower but correctly than fast and wrong. Yes ultimately you do want to go faster, but only if it’s correct. Work to be correct first, then speed will come.
- This is especially important for people breaking a lifetime of bad habits. If you try to go fast, you will revert to old habits. If you revert to old habits, you just reinforce them instead of ingraining the new habits. Slow down, concentrate on applying the new skills, on building the new habits. It may take you thousands of repetitions to ingrain the new habit, but work to ingrain it.
- To help with all of this, dry fire. Costs you little, gains you much, especially if you’re breaking old habits.
- When you yell commands, you have to find your inner drill sergeant, then kick it up 150%. The commands must be yelled, long, and loud. And yes, you must practice this. You must have your script written and memorized, because ad libbing isn’t good. “Stop! Don’t Move!” is reasonable.
- That support hand? (your left hand, if your right hand works the trigger). It’s called a support hand for good reason — it’s what supports the gun! It’s the prime player in recoil management. You need to grip with that hand hard. As Karl has taken to saying, it’s like Homer Simpson choking Bart. 🙂 And it’s not just crushing, it’s also ensuring some sort of downward torque — the pinky is in play, think about keeping that pinky held towards your chest… moving towards your chest… torquing your wrist in that (downward) direction. That helps counter the recoil that’s trying to torque the gun upwards — you’re applying a counter-force.
- We can all use more work on fundamentals, be it grip, stance, or safety.
One last thing I want to comment on — for the ladies, and the men in their lives.
Ladies? If your man — husband, boyfriend, father, uncle, grandfather, whomever — wants to buy you a gun? That’s great. Just make sure the ONLY thing he does is finance it. Everything else needs to be up to you. Why? Because this gun is for you, not him, and so the gun needs to fit you.
One young lady arrived to class. I went to check her in. I asked her what gun she had. The exchange was something like this:
Lady: a .380
Me: OK. But what’s the make/model? Brand?
Lady: I don’t know.
Me: OK. Did you buy this gun?
Lady: No. My dad did.
Me: Did you go with him? Did you have any part in the purchase?
O…K…. 🙂 That told me what I needed to know. I appreciate what her father is trying to do — I’m a father, I have a daughter, so I totally get it. The trouble was, it sounded like she had no involvement in getting the gun, so the gun was chosen for I don’t know what reason. The gun was a Bersa Thunder, and for some reason those are gaining a following as a “good gun for ladies”. I don’t know why, and after the experience I had yesterday I don’t think I’d recommend that gun for anyone. First, it has a double-action then single-action pull. Then it has a decocker. The sights are marginal. It has very low capacity, with a marginally acceptable caliber. Trying to get that gun to work was quite difficult. We struggled to get it working, and I tell you… trying to flip the decocker and safety around was truly a struggle, to a point of forcing risky gun handling merely to flip the lever. I’d like to hope THAT part of the gun may have just been that particular gun and not indicative of all Bersa Thunder’s. Nevertheless, there’s enough other things about the gun’s design that prevent me from recommending such a gun.
Getting back to the lady. Why was this a bad choice for her? Well, apart from the reasons why the gun itself was a bad choice, she had troubles with it. All the levers and mechanisms? It creates a complicated device and it was a lot of procedure to have to remember, on top of all the other things she was learning (tho she was smart and picked up on things pretty well). She also had trouble racking the slide. Eventually she got it running, but smaller guns tend to have tighter/stronger springs and are more difficult to manipulate than larger guns. I watched her first shots, from that long heavy double-action trigger press — they weren’t good. But when she just worked that short single-action trigger? By the end of class she was shooting pretty well. If she can get a better gun, she’s going to do quite well. What’s a better gun? The short answer is Smith & Wesson M&P, an XDm, or a Gen4 Glock. I’m specific on the last 2 because she did have smaller hands and would need the replaceable backstraps for the smaller grip.
There was another lady in class that had a tough situation too.
She brought a Sig. I don’t recall the exact model right now, but it was a small Sig, with a huge double-action trigger pull (long, heavy), and chambered in .40 S&W. The lady was petite, small hands, not a lot of hand strength. That gun was just wrong for her. She struggled to pull the trigger, then it recoiled hard and she could not control the gun. When we asked her about it, she said this was the gun in the safe that she would have to use if someone broke into their house. Basically, it was a “husband leftover”. This lady came with some friends and one had a .22 pistol. When the lady switched to the .22, she did MUCH better.
While it’s generally agreed upon that .22 LR isn’t the ideal self-defense caliber, I’d rather you have a .22 that you can shoot quickly and accurately vs. any gun you can’t handle, where you can’t hit the side of a barn or worse… you make unacceptable hits.
So what’s important in choosing a gun? Here’s a great guide that discusses the factors that actually matter in purchasing a gun. I love this paragraph:
Let’s put this in perspective. The whole point of shooting is to hit your intended target quickly. If you miss or you are too slow, the consequences could run from just wasting ammo to giving up a game animal, a prize at a shooting match, or your life. There’s no award for ‘had a big caliber’, ‘carried the lightest gun on the market’, or ‘had plenty of ammo in the gun’. You either hit or you don’t. Choosing the right equipment will get you to a higher level of skill in less time, and whether you only shoot 50 rounds every 4 years because the state requires it for your carry permit, or you shoot multiple days a week with dreams of winning the Nationals, equipment will make a difference for you.
“You either hit or you don’t”
When it gets down to it, it’s all about hitting. Make sure she has a gun that she can hit things with. It’s up to HER to find that gun that fits HER.
So gentlemen? Thank you for caring about the women in your life. Thank you for supporting them. Thank you for encouraging them to take steps to protect themselves. Thank you for involving them in the process. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to help them find what works best for them.