Snub Carry

A few years ago, Karl Rehn adapted the KR Training Defensive Pistol Skills course for “small guns”, dubbing it Defensive Pistol Skills: Back Up Gun (BUG). It serves a couple purposes.

First, for those people that opt to carry a small gun on a regular or semi-regular basis. Maybe you prefer that Glock 26, snub-revolver, M&P Shield, Kahr, or other such small gun. Maybe this is what you carry all the time, or maybe it’s what you carry in the summer because you wear less clothing and it’s easier to conceal a small gun. Or maybe it’s an infrequent thing, like you just slip a snub into your pocket when you run down to the corner store. Either way, smaller guns are harder to shoot – they really are an “advanced/expert” gun, not a beginner gun. Being able to learn some practical skills and techniques for using that small gun is quite useful.

Second, for those people that carry a small gun as a back-up to their primary gun (hence the “BUG” acronym). Carrying two guns isn’t paranoia, it’s preparation, it’s acknowledgment that mechanical objects can and will fail (probably when you least want them to). It’s a way to quickly arm an unarmed other person. There’s utility in having a BUG, and utility in knowing how to transition to it and skillfully use it.

One of the masters of the snub revolver, Claude Werner recently posted an article on the different modes of carrying a snub revolver. The snub gives different options than a traditional full-sized service pistol, and Claude enumerates options and the pros and cons of each.

He talks about:

  • Pocket
  • DeSantis Clip Grip (or other methods, like a Barami Hip-Grip coupled with a Tyler T-Grip)
  • IWB
  • OWB
  • Belly Bands
  • Shoulder holsters
  • Ankle holsters

Of course, there are other modes of carry, but those are the ones he covers.

For me, I admit it varies depending upon circumstance.

I never do ankle. I wear shorts in the summer, and often when I wear long pants I have footwear that covers my ankles (e.g. boots). I know some that use this method, and it’s especially useful for folks that have to sit all day (especially in a vehicle).

I’ve never done a proper shoulder holster. One time on a long road trip I did wear my snub inside the inner shirt pocket of a 5.11 concealment shirt; it was my secondary, because it’d be faster to get to from a seated position. But I didn’t like that too much because it was imbalanced, and made the shirt ride abnormally — the fabric didn’t move like a normal shirt would, the shirt hung awkwardly off me. It was OK for the ride, but I’m unlikely to do that again. But a proper shoulder rig I’m not against, if I can conceal it properly (but I rarely wear coats… it’s Texas, and it’s hot).

Never done a belly band, but I do own a SmartCarry. Tried it for a while, will use it on the rare occasion when it’s the best/right option, but honestly? It makes going to the bathroom a cumbersome event, so I save using it for when there’s no other option.

OWB is fine, if you can support it. I’ve got a C-Rusty Sherrick U.S. High Ride, which is perfect for the application. I like the high ride and the fact nothing descends below the belt. Thus, you could wear OWB with just a shirt and have no concealment problems, or at least, it’s the same problems you’d have with IWB, without the IWB annoyances.

IWB for me tends to be with my Kolbeson Leatherworks leather AIWB. Honestly, I can’t remember the model name (and Josh doesn’t make them any more), but it was designed specifically for snubs and AIWB carry, with a reverse 5º cant, which makes a big difference in ride and draw (vs. say no cant). I prefer this method for my snub, but AIWB doesn’t work so well for me when I’ve got a gut going. See all my postings about weight lifting. 😉

The DeSantis ClipGrip is what I’ve had on my snub for a few years now, and it’s my preferred grip. I’ve been trying other things, but it just hasn’t worked out. What set me down this road was Claude’s combination of Barami & Tyler grips, but they just didn’t work for me. The DeSantis has worked quite well. I don’t use the cip portion much any more, but it’s there and an option.

Most often, when I carry the snub, it’s in a pocket. It’s a matter of my body these days, enough stuff on my belt, and so it works. But it does really suck on the draw.

Anyways, that’s my experience. Read Claude’s article for a good discussion on the pros and cons of each method. There is no one perfect method, as you can see. It’s all trade-offs and sometimes you have to go with what the situation dictates. While I grant the importance of consistency, of “same way every time”, well… as Hogel likes to say, “you can’t play golf with only one club in the bag”. 🙂

Ergo Delta Grip – First Impressions

I read about the Ergo Delta Grip in a recent issue of American Rifleman magazine. I thought it was interesting — a “better” grip for a J-frame (S&W snub-nose) revolver, that takes away some of the pain of shooting, helps bring about a natural point of aim, and is dolphin safe (ok, I made up that last one). Sounds interesting enough to check out.

Here’s the copy from their website:

The Delta Grip™ is the first truly ergonomic grip for J Frame revolvers. Designed for the most important part of the gun, the shooter, the Delta Grip was engineered to fit the natural point of aim and mechanics of the human hand, wrist and arm. The result is a grip with a superior natural point of aim, comfort and control. Fits round butt J-Frames. Will not fit on Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 Model (sku 103037 and 103038).

I ordered it from MidwayUSA. It was backordered, but eventually came in. Note: paid for this with my own money, this is my own assessment.

I put it on my S&W 442 and did some initial dry fire work with it.

Dry Fire Impressions

It’s big. It really fills the hand. This is good. It has a lot more surface area, covers the backstrap, and yes you now have a place to fit your support hand! More surface area of the grip allows for more hand/palm on the grip/grun, and thus better control. This is all good.

That said, it is kinda big. For someone with small hands, I don’t think this is going to work all that well. Gun fit is very important, especially when it comes to a revolver having a long and heavy trigger press. The Delta Grip does make things larger, makes for a longer length of pull, and thus it just won’t work for smaller-handed folks.

However, it’s not so big as to change the concealment profile. Sure, it changes it some because it is larger. But I found in all the places that it matters, it didn’t change all that much compared to say the “boot grips“. But the thing is, the profile does change enough that it could matter. For example, pocket carry is going to be a little more difficult. There’s just more grip, it will fill the pocket a bit more, and it’s going to require a different bit of mechanics and thus pocket “room” to get your fingers around and get a good grip on the gun. Also, the surface is “rubber”; not sure what it’s actually made out of, but it’s a “rubbery-like” texture, that certainly grabs things. While that’s good for your grip, it’s not good for clothing — will drag someone on the pocket draw (unless you can get your hand all the way covering it, see above), and in a holster on your body clothing can “stick” and drag a little bit on it which could affect your concealment. I didn’t try on the ankle (don’t have such a holster as I never carry that way), but again depending upon your clothing it may be just big enough to cause an issue.

These are the trade-offs, folks.

Another thing I worked on dry was drawing. Now, pocket carry is almost out of the question for me any more, because my pants fit quite differently now due to squatting and deadlifting. So I did some holster work, both from 3 o’clock and appendix. I guess this is a grip you’re going to have to get used to. I’m not really sure how to describe it best, but like with a regular gun, there’s a feel, there’s index points when you go to draw… when your hand comes down on the gun, it’s able to do things like slide up under the beavertail and then you know you’re in place and can draw. Here, no such tactile feedback. Even with boot grips on there isn’t anything like a beavertail to index against, but you can still index into the right place into your hand due to how things are shaped. Not so with the Delta Grip. It just felt really awkward to me. But that said, I almost never had a bad grip on the draw. It just FELT really strange to me. As I said, this is initial impressions, so this may be just one of those things I’d have to get used to. All in all it wasn’t a problem to draw, just weird. Caleb @ GunNuts did a review of the Delta Grip and he mentioned how it hurt when his hand was too high and touching metal instead of fully behind the grip. It’s easy to get into that position on the draw, so take that for whatever it’s worth. Frankly, I think this is just one you gotta practice with to learn it.

As for the issue of “natural pointing”, it lived up to that. It’s just slightly different enough (vs. traditional angles you get out of a J-frame) and it’s pretty nice to just point and click.

Live Fire Impressions

Using the same S&W 442, I did some “side by side” comparisons. Alas, I didn’t have 2 revolvers, so I just would put one set of grips on, shoot, switch grips, shoot the same, see how things felt.

I used two types of ammo.

  1. My .38 Special plinking handload.
  2. Speer Gold Dot .38 Special +P 135 grain

The two grips were:

  1. The Ergo Delta Grip (of course)
  2. DeSantis Clip Grip

The DeSantis Clip Grip has been on my 442 for a couple years now and has been my preferred grip. I’ve gone through lots of different grips on my snub, and so far the DeSantis Clip Grip has been my favorite. Yeah, good old Boot Grips are tough to beat too… but the Clip Grip is that plus the clip so….

First, some eye candy.

S&W 442 with DeSantis Clip Grip

That’s my 442 with the Clip Grip.

Here’s the same with the Delta Grip

S&W 442 with Ergo Delta Grip

So you can see what I mean by “bigger”. There’s just a lot more side surface area, which is great for filling the hand and giving you somewhere to put your support hand. But it may not work out for folks with smaller hands.

How did it shoot?

It was… interesting.

One big reason I got it was hoping for something that would help mitigate some of the felt recoil. And the Delta Grip? It does… but it doesn’t.

First, it certainly does reduce the overall felt recoil. There’s just more rubber there, especially over the backstrap. It’s going to absorb energy before your hand gets to feel it. This was evident with both the plinking loads and the Gold Dots.

But yet… it doesn’t. Look at these backstrap pictures

Backstrap of S&W 442 with Ergo Delta Grip

Backstrap of S&W 442 with DeSantis Clip Grip

Top is the Delta, bottom is the Clip.

Look at the contour of the backstrap. Notice the Delta Grip is a bit more pointed? That’s a nice focused area of force transmission. Think of it like walking in snow: your bodyweight (the force) doesn’t change – focus all your weight in a tiny area (your foot) and you fall through the snow, but spread that weight out over a larger area (snowshoes) and you can walk on the snow.

That pointed backstrap drove the grip into the palm of my hand pretty forcefully. So while yes I could tell overall the felt recoil was reduced, what was transmitted was more focused in certain areas. So it’s weird that yes it was less recoil, but in some ways it hurt more than the bare-backed Clip Grips!

Didn’t really like that.

I am pretty sure that if I shot a few hundred rounds of +P  through my snub, I’d be happier with the Delta Grip than the Clip Grip. But I know I’d still walk away sore. Long ago I had used some Pachmayr Compac grips on my snub and they were great at mitigating the pain, but they were just too bulky for practical use.

Pointing was fine. Shooting was fine. My issues of grip and drawing remained, but again I reckon this just needs practice and getting used to it. I did appreciate the extra room for my support hand, but after all this time of shooting the snub I’m so used to it that it doesn’t really matter.

Final Impressions

The Ergo Delta Grip has a lot of potential. I think it can serve a good niche because it doesn’t add too terribly to the profile of the gun, and strives to address grip issues that are just part of having a snub. So there’s a lot of good here.

But I just can’t use them. That “pointed” backstrap is just too much. If they refine the grip with a more rounded backstrap, I betcha this will be really awesome. But doing so, I’m not sure how that will affect other aspects of the grip and thus if it’s really possible. I’ll leave that up to Ergo’s design and engineering team.

I do want other people to shoot it and see what their impressions are. It may be a personal thing: my hands vs. your hands.

For now, I’m going back to my DeSantis Clip Grip. It works best for me. I can grip it reliably. I can shoot well. It’s very low-profile no matter how I carry it. And yes, the clip is just such a handy feature from time to time.

Updated: Tom Hogel, another KR Training instructor, had this to say about them after I lent them to him:

“Poked” me holster carry and difficult to get a grip on from a pocket holster. Don’t see any real advantage over gripping the crap out of my current rubberized grips.

Another KRT instructor has them now. Awaiting his feedback.

I’m finding more reviews of the Delta Grip online, and it’s starting to seem that people find them interesting and find similar strengths like more grip area (more length for the pinky, more slab for the support hand), similar weirdness (it’s just different, you have to get used to it and practice a lot with it), and similar downsides (the pain from the more focused recoil; doesn’t really work for pocket carry). Who knows… maybe it will inspire Ergo to tweak the design and come out with a version 2.0.

Why don’t you have a backup?

In our modern world, we seem to accept that things break.

Things break because anything mechanical sooner or later does (parts wear and age). Maybe it’s because things are more cheaply manufactured and they just don’t make them like they used to. Maybe sometimes the unexpected comes up, like a nail in the tire. Regardless of why, we accept things will break. Sometimes we’ll have a spare on hand, like another tire in the trunk; we change the tire, and get back on the road. Sometimes we don’t, and we have to go get a replacement before we can keep going. Often not having a backup on hand isn’t a big deal because it’s not critical – if my lawn mower breaks, I don’t need a second because it’s just not that critical. I can wait on the repair, or I can borrow from a neighbor. That tends to be how we look at things is by how important recovering from failure is. Recovering from failing to mow my lawn? Not that big a deal. Recovering from a flat tire? Bigger deal (and harder to go get a spare when you’re 50 miles from nowhere and your means of travel has a flat).

Consider computers. How important is it to have a back-up of your vital data? It was really neat when Apple came out with Time Machine because that was “back-up for the rest of us”. Back-ups used to be a very convoluted thing, and while Time Machine isn’t a complete back-up solution, it suffices for most needs and gets most people back up and running when that important file is deleted or their computer fails. And boy, aren’t we happy for it when that paper we’ve worked on all night can be salvaged? Or we don’t wind up looking stupid because we lost the PowerPoint files for tomorrow’s presentation? Back-ups save our butts.

So yeah, we seem to understand the importance of a backup.

With that in mind, Greg Ellifritz asks “Do you carry a backup gun?”  I’d rather ask the question: “Why aren’t you carrying a backup gun?”.

Guns are mechanical. They can and will fail. If you’ve shot guns enough, I’m sure you’ve seen a failure in some regard. Most of the time it was no big deal, because you were doing something non-critical. If you’re just practicing at the range, it wasn’t critical. If you missed that deer, it really sucks but isn’t necessarily critical.

But if your life was on the line when the failure occurred? That’s very critical. And what does Murphy’s Law state?

And it’s not like you can put the attack on hold while you go fetch another gun. If you need it, you need it right here, right now.

Here’s a few points to consider.

First, simple failure. Your primary gun could just fail for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter the reason, and “now” is not the time to care or figure out why. You may have reaction to “tap, rack, resume”, and that’s good, but what if that doesn’t solve it? The clock is ticking, what to do?

If you do want to get into specifics of failures, consider that a failure like a double-feed? Sure you can fix that in the field, but even in the best hands it takes a LONG time to accomplish. It’s a lot faster to drop the gun and draw a backup.

If your primary is a revolver, yes, revolvers can fail. When a revolver does fail, most failures are going to require a gunsmith to correct thus you will not recover from the failure in the field. So what’s the solution? Back up. If nothing else, consider how slow it takes to reload a revolver; it’s faster to draw a second gun.

People get shot in the hand. You see it all the time in Force-on-Force training. Why does this happen? Numerous reasons. First, when shooting, a good shooting platform puts the gun in front of your chest, and where do you think they are aiming? your chest. So if your hands are in the way, your hands will get hit. Second, often times when there’s a threat people focus on the threat. So if the threat is a gun, people focus on the gun, chances are they may shoot at the gun, which is held by hands. So if you get shot in the hand, the bullet is unlikely to be stopped by your hands, thus the gun will also receive the bullet. That may well render the gun inoperable, cause you to drop the gun, etc..  Now what do you do?

What if you’ve got a friend that needs a gun? Now you can give them one.

Consider as well how a second can make up for shortcomings. If you carry on your strong-side hip, it’s probably difficult for you to draw while remaining seated. What if you had a BUG on your ankle? Perhaps easier to draw. It may not be that your primary is inoperable, just inaccessible.

I know some would consider it “more paranoid” or “crazy” to carry a second gun. Are we paranoid for having a spare tire? Are we paranoid for running Time Machine? Label it however you wish, but the reasons are the same: we accept failure can occur, and we have a plan to contend with it.

(aside: for those in the Central Texas area that wish to learn more about and train with the concept of a BUG, KR Training will be offering it’s DPS-BUG class again this summer, July 20, 2013).

But they never malfunction, right?

With all the gun-related and concealed-carry-related chatter going on recently, I’ve been seeing more of the old debate about revolver vs. semi-auto. And it’s the same old reasons dragged out to justify “my choice is superior”.

Some of the typical ones to justify the revolver have to do with the bulletproof (pardon the pun) reliability of a revolver.

O RLY?

At the recent Defensive Pistol Skills BUG class, Karl was shooting his Charter Arms snub. Karl bought the Charter a couple years ago for Claude Werner’s snub class. It was an experiment to see how well the inexpensive Charter would hold up. It’s not as good as a S&W, but it’s been a pretty good gun for the price. Karl uses it as a BUG, so naturally it was the gun he used for demos during the class. Karl was shooting some of my .38 reloads and at one point asked me what primers I was using because he was shooting and getting a click instead of a bang. This particular batch was made using Wolf SPP, and while a lot of people are down on Wolf quality I only opted to use Wolf because so many people on the Brian Enos forum highly recommended them. Plus, my snubs have all had work done and need slightly “softer/more sensitive” primers, and all the rounds go bang for me so it was curious why they wouldn’t go bang out of his stock gun. But it’s natural to suspect the ammo. Karl tried some factory Speer Lawman, but had similar results of too many clicks when there should have been bangs. Some rounds took 2-3 strikes before they would go off, and I think one didn’t go off at all.

As of this writing I’m not sure what exactly is wrong, but all signs point to the gun malfunctioning.

Of course some will say, this is precisely why the revolver is so great, because if you get a click, just press the trigger again. Yeah, but now your 5-shot snub has become a 4-shot-or-less snub. If you saw how this went down, it was a lot of clicks before we’d get a bang, and it was a lot of time wasted with nothing useful going on. Imagine you were in a life-or-death situation and only kept getting clicks? What if only 2 of the 5 rounds went off at all? Plus consider a natural response will be to press harder/faster, meaning when one finally does go off you likely will have yanked the trigger and won’t get an acceptable hit with what little functioning ammo you had! Is that really a comforting feeling? It was disconcerting enough on the practice range, I’m sure it would be horrifying if I needed the gun to fire right now and it didn’t.

Plus, “just press the trigger again” only works if you can press the trigger at all.

After a class like that, I like to dry fire to reinforce and remember what I need. So the day after class I pulled out my 442 to do some dry practice. I unloaded it, but something didn’t feel right as I tried to move the cylinder. I locked the cylinder back into the frame and tried pressing the trigger and it was like pulling against a rock… it would barely budge! I unlocked the cylinder and tried to manually rotate it. It was like someone left the parking brake on and it would barely budge. I got scared that attempting to use the gun would break some small part from pulling so darn hard on the thing. *sigh*

Ultimately what wasn’t working was the cylinder wasn’t spinning freely. I removed the crane retention screw, but couldn’t get the crane to easily remove from the frame. After some work it came out. Then I tried to remove the cylinder from the crane, and while that should normally just slide out, it wasn’t going to come so easily. After more work I managed to remove it… and all over the sleeve was this brown something or other. I couldn’t tell if it was rust? Was it dirt and crud (the soil in Lee County is sandy loam, emphasis on the sandy)? I couldn’t really tell, but I spent a good deal of time cleaning and scrubbing it clean, lubing things up, and back together it went. It functioned fine after that.

What surprised me was how the gun ran just fine the day before, no problems in class. But the first trigger press after class was a failure and wasn’t going to happen.  That wasn’t a comforting feeling.

What caused both of these? Some might say the guns needed more cleaning. That’s probably true, but I can ignore my semi-auto (my XD-9 or my M&P-9) for many many cleanings. Look at how much the pistol-training.com torture tests specifically avoid cleaning, and those guns run and run. But if a purported reason (myth?) for the superiority of revolvers is they “just work”, well… they didn’t. Two instances of revolver fail. Myth busted.

Realize, I’m not a semi-auto nor a revolver guy — I’m both. I’ll have an M&P 9 as a primary and the 442 as a BUG. I appreciate both systems for what they provide and offer. Both have advantages, both have disadvantages. The key is to remember that both are mechanical. Both designs have been around for over a century, but in the time since then improvements have been made to tweak the system. Modern semi-autos are extremely reliable. They can malfunction in simple ways that are easy to remedy, they can malfunction in ways that require you to see a gunsmith. Modern revolvers are extremely reliable. They can malfunction in simple ways, they can malfunction in ways that get Wife upset because you now have a gun disassembled on the bed. 🙂  Neither is without risk of failure, and when either fails they can fail in simple ways or fail in difficult ways. Let’s put those justification myths aside, shall we?

AAR – DPS-BUG @ KR Training 28 July 2012

Today was pretty cool.

I took part in the first offering of KR Training’s new “Defensive Pistol Skills – Back-up Gun” class. I participated as a student, tho I certainly assisted where and when necessary. I’ve been looking forward to this class, because I think it’s an important offering.

You see, like all things made by humans, guns aren’t perfect. Like all mechanical things, guns can break. There are many reasons for carrying a Back-Up Gun (BUG), and mechanical failure of your primary gun is one reason — hence, “back-up”. But because BUG’s tend to be small guns, like Glock 26’s, snub-nose revolvers, Ruger LCP, Kel-Tec’s, the smaller Kahr’s, and the like, a lot of people choose to carry these “little guns” as their primary guns. Whether you carry one of these guns as a primary or a secondary, taking a class like DPS-BUG is highly recommended.

I recommend taking such a class because shooting these guns is not like shooting a full-sized gun. Basically, it’s harder to shoot them and shoot them well. They have low-capacity, so every shot matters. Some of them shoot weaker rounds, like .38o Auto, so again every shot matters. Then because they are small, the sight radius is short thus a small change in alignment can mean a big difference in the ability to hit the target. It’s hard to get a good grip on them. Many are intentionally designed to be “double-action-only” with long and heavy triggers; that’s hard enough to shoot with as it is, then coupled with such a lightweight gun makes it even harder to shoot. Carry modes, like in a pocket (holster) are harder to draw from. I know these sorts of guns are very popular with folks that carry concealed, so if you opt to carry such a gun you should get some training in the use of that gun.

The class curriculum is based upon the Defensive Pistol Skills 1 course, but it is NOT the same course. If anything, consider DPS1 a prerequisite to this class. DPS-BUG starts out with some fundamentals work using the little gun, because that is important. All the “high speed low drag” stuff means nothing if you can’t basically hit what you need to hit. And yes, you will be working on one-handed shooting… you can hate it all you want, but you won’t stop sucking at 1H shooting unless you keep shooting 1H. There’s group shooting, shooting against a timer, shooting the “3 Seconds or Less Drill” (in fact, we shot that both with our BUG’s and our full-sized guns, to compare and contrast). We shot from a chair, to allow experimentation with drawing a BUG, since they might be carried in an ankle rig or a pocket holster.

That was one cool thing about the class: experimentation. Whereas a lot of other classes have to be straightforward in the gear and what’s done in class, here part of the point was to allow you to see and figure things out. Normally carry in a pocket holster? Maybe try an ankle rig, or using off-body carry like a fanny pack or a daytimer. It’s a great opportunity to try things out and figure out how things are going to actually roll and work for you.

As for how the class went for me….

I shot my S&W 442 with the DeSantis Clip Grip the entire class. For much of the class I actually opted to use the clip grip and draw from the appendix position. That actually worked quite nice, tho it’s still a little difficult to get a solid draw (gotta get your stomach out of the way). I’m also happy that my hand held up after 150-200 rounds of abuse. 🙂

The big take home for me? I need to work on getting on that long, heavy trigger press a lot faster. My problem is because of that long heavy trigger  to overcome, I will smash it thus yank the hell out of the gun. To avoid that, I press a lot slower than I should. I scored suboptimally on the “3 Seconds or Less Drill” with the snub because on the last string (7 yards, 3 shots WHO, 3 seconds) I only got 1 shot off. I was determined to only get good hits even if it meant I didn’t get all the shots off, but totally lacking 2 shots killed my score. *sigh*  So I need to work on getting on the trigger sooner and faster yet ensuring an acceptable hit.

I’ll also say, when we switch to our normal carry guns at the end, it felt weird. Not just because I had a large gun in my hand, but when I shot it I could feel the springs vibrating and shaking. It was weird. 🙂  In fact, I felt like I couldn’t shoot as well… just spent 3 hours shooting this little hammer, then switching guns and shooting the full-sized M&P9 felt totally foreign in my hands. Just more things to practice and work on.

And I remembered to put on sunscreen this time. 😉

A good day. I hope we can offer this course more often… and I hope more people will be willing to take it. If you carry a small gun, you owe it to yourself to take this class. You’ll learn a lot.

AAR – BP2 & Skill Builder @ KR Training, 14 July 2012

Saturday July 14, 2012 was a bit of a different day for me at KR Training. The morning was a Basic Pistol 2 class and the afternoon was Skill Builder. It’s the Skill Builder that made things different, for me at least.

I thought BP2 ran well, and was fairly standard for what a BP2 is. People come to realize how vital trigger control is towards ensuring acceptable hits. They get their first taste of shooting to higher standards, such as trying to get all hits into a 6″ circle, shooting under the pressure of a timer, and realizing that yes, they can do it… they may need some practice, but they can do it.

But one thing dawned on me during this particular class (and note, this was just something that hit me; it is no commentary on the students). This is probably one of the hardest classes we provide. It’s not that the skills a particularly difficult. Rather, it’s a huge mental shift for most people. If they’ve shot guns before, they’ve never shot them like this. We bring a particular focus, a particular discipline. It’s not just plinking tin cans off the fence post, it’s not just aimlessly poking holes in paper until the box of ammo is empty. There’s now a focus, a point, a purpose, a direction. That everything done, every motion, every action, the way to grip, the way to hold, where to hold, how to hold, how to look, how to do, every little movement is intentional, thought out, and with meaning and purpose. Everything is geared towards making you efficient and effective at getting acceptable hits. And it’s a big shift from how people have shot guns in their past. Making that mental shift is difficult.

But it’s great to see so many people willing to make the shift. 🙂

Then came Skill Builder.

I’ve been looking forward to SB for a while. It’s something that Karl’s been working on for a while, and it’s still evolving. I’ve been looking forward to seeing and experiencing the class, given some prior discussed plans for SB’s ultimate direction. But even what I saw was different from what had been discussed, but when Karl explained his reasoning for the refined direction, it made a lot of sense. Read: KR Training doesn’t teach static courses based on 20-year-old material; constant evolution, constant improvement. It also shows why it’s important for you to keep up with your training, because things change.

Another different thing? I shot the class, instead of being full-time assistant. Oh sure, I assisted and did whatever needed to be done, but I was up on the line shooting the drills.

And I shot it with my snub. 🙂

I’ve wanted some more work with my snub, one reason being the Defensive Pistol Skills BUG class coming up in a couple of weeks. But also because I thought it’d just be fun to shoot it this way.

I shot with my S&W 442 as long as I could. That gun is set up with the DeSantis Clip Grip. That means: airweight gun, pinky dangle, and my hand gets to soak up all that recoil. I was using my .38 Special plinking reloads, but even still… the hand got tender after a bit. I’m glad I brought my S&W 640 as well. That means, all steel gun, factory grip which is full sized and rubber, and that means my hand absorbs a lot less of the recoil. I got through probably 40% of the class with the 442 and did the rest with the 640.

I shot respectably. I’m generally pleased with my shooting, given the limitations. However, I had more than a few times where I dropped the hell out of a shot. Even with the improved triggers in my snubs, that’s still a long heavy trigger press. The sights are crappy, and the grip angle is a little more “downward” than is comfortable and typical with my semi-autos, so it’s some adjustment. What it means is: more practice. Especially practice on the trigger press during the press out — given the trigger, it’s a VERY different timing than the press-out with a semi-auto. I admit, most practice I do with my snubs has been dry fire, and that just doesn’t give the same feedback. So again, I’m glad I shot the course and did so with my snub. Still, I can work on improving the timing of my press out in dry practice.

That said, SB is certainly more geared towards semi-autos, and that makes sense given 99.99% of students use semi-autos. I actually can’t remember the last time a student in a regular class used a revolver. But the COF’s ran generally fine, generally organized in a manner that worked with varying capacities, and tho I missed the tail end of a few drills due to low-capacity and slow revolver reloading and given a few drills are really geared towards semi-autos, I really liked what Karl put into the course. I like the evolution, and I think SB is really worthwhile. It’s tough, but it’s tough because it focuses on those key fundamentals that everyone needs, and presents it in a manner that will test you, help you practice, and show you where you need more practice.

Other than coming home totally exhausted and a little sunburned (stupid me didn’t put on sunscreen), it was a fine day.

M&P Shield, and capacity

The first thing about the Shield is capacity.

Maybe it’s because I came about in the age of the Tupperware Wonder Nine (i.e. Glock, etc.), with double-stacked magazines and manufacturers constantly one-upping each other in the capacity race well… I guess I like having ammo. But it’s more than simple “more”. Do some math. When you start to look at crime and gunfight statistics, you bode well to have more ammo. For example, Tom Givens‘ student incidents have ranged from 1 to 11 shots fired, average of 3.4 (if memory serves). So sure, the average can be handled with a 5-shot snub revolver, but what if you’re that guy that needed 11 rounds? Or what if you get to be the trendsetter and need 12 or more? If you think having more ammo is a bad thing, then why don’t you choose to go around with just 1 round? Capacity is good. The whole “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”. Be prepared. You can’t go get more ammo in the middle of a fight. And so on.

And so, going from my 17+1 full-sized M&P down to a 7+1 Shield… I feel naked, I feel like I’m taking a chance, gambling, playing odds that I don’t know if I want to play. Rational or not, it’s the feeling I get. OK, I could use the “extended” magazine and get 8+1, but honestly, if you use the extended magazine and carry IWB, then you’re almost the same size as the full-sized so you might as well carry the full-sized. Or at least, that’s how things fall on my body. It’s not exactly the dimensions of the full-sized, in terms of what “sticks out” from my hip, but it is close enough for me that it just about negates the benefit. But that 7 round “flush” magazine and the gun disappears into my side.

Here’s the thing.

You can’t really load these magazines to capacity.

Oh sure you can, but then try seating the magazine. It’s hard, because there’s a lot of backpressure on the magazine spring. To make it worse, put one in the chamber, reload the magazine to capacity, and NOW try to seat the magazine (so you get your 7-8 + 1 capacity). It’s near impossible to seat the mag. I have to clamp down really hard in a non-standard way to get the magazine to seat, and I’ve almost had a finger slip into/onto the trigger a couple of times when doing this just because it’s such a struggle (and I’m not a weak guy). I then worry about the backpressure and spring tension and if I could expect the magazine catch to fail and the mag come flying out of the gun at a most inopportune moment.

But more than that? I worry about potentially needing to perform a reload under pressure, and if it’s THAT hard to seat the magazine, that I won’t get it seated under pressure because you really have to push (struggle?) HARD to get it there. Some might say to give it a hard slap, but that won’t even do it; furthermore, that’s complicated by the fact you may not get a flat hit on the magazine basepad because of the gun’s short grip and that your palm will likely be in the way.

The only remedy I can see? download the magazine by one. This is a standard operating procedure for magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds (e.g. I load my M&P9 mags to 16), but generally sub-10-round mags you should be able to load all the way up.

Nope. Just not so here.

So really, the Shield effectively becomes a 6+1 and 7+1.

Still better than a pointed stick.

But some might argue that it’s not much better than a snub revolver. Well, I would say it is. It’s still a bit more ammo. It’s got better sights. The trigger is going to be shorter and lighter, easier for those small/weak hand people (I’ve seen people who can’t work a snub trigger, even my improved snubs with their Verne Trester action work). But of course, YMMV.

So keep this in mind if you opt to use the Shield for carry. Sure you CAN load the magazines all the way up to the manufacturer’s stated capacity, but SHOULD you? I say no, because it’s hard to seat the magazines when they’re full. Download them by one, and just accept that’s how it goes.

An ode to the snub

Seen over at Unc’s place, a wonderful poem about the snub nose revolver.

Cute for sure. 🙂

But it does point out why revolvers, specifically snubs, still have a place in our modern “plastic gun” world. I still say that snubs are not beginner guns, but they have a place.

Speaking of which… the KR Training crew had some discussions about BUG training (since most of us carry one, typically a snub), and on July 28, 2012 will be offering our first “Defensive Pistol Skills – BUG” course. If you carry a BUG — and if you don’t, why not? — it’d be a course worth taking.

DeSantis Clip-Grip – second impressions

I got to shoot my S&W 442 with the DeSantis Clip-Grip this past Saturday while out at KR Training.

Click here to read my first impressions.

The main thing I wanted to do was shoot the gun with those grips to see how it fared.

It went about as I expected.

You can’t get a great grip on the snub with these grips because they’re small. But you can get enough of a grip that you can shoot, and shoot I could. I could do some slow fire and nail the small steel plate at about 20 yards, once I figured out the hold-under for the load I was using.  I shot some of my .38 Special 158 grain handloads, and I also shot some Remington R38S12 .38 Special +P 158 grain stuff. Everything went about as I expected it would. You feel it, the +P of course stings a bit more, nothing I’d want to shoot a few hundred rounds of, but I can certainly practice with the plinking loads well enough and shoot enough of the carry loads to get by. It’s not horrible, but not the more pleasant thing in the world.

I didn’t really notice much difference between this and the factor boot grips. I expected maybe a little more felt-recoil, and perhaps there was on a meter, but nothing I could really notice.

The one kicker? I didn’t try a full draw as I’m not ready to do that (I like my femoral artery), but I have been working on the draw dry at home. When drawing, due to the way you have to get a “grip” on the gun to draw it, you don’t get a nice “choked up grip” on the gun… you’re a little down the back of the grip. I tried shooting from this grip and it works but it’s not ideal because of course after the first shot the gun now torques back and nestles into that “choked up” position… but now everything has changed, different sight picture, the gun and grip have shifted… not ideal. There may be a different way to draw to mitigate this. I’ll have to experiment.

All in all, I’m alright with these grips. I’m going to keep them on my 442 and see how it goes. If nothing else, they don’t really change the form factor all that much from the regular boot grips, and it gives me options.

DeSantis Clip-Grip – first impressions

Look what MidwayUSA just sent me:

Yes, my quest for appendix carry and/or a better way to carry the snub continues.

Disclaimer: the following is my own personal opinions and perceptions. I purchased this with my own money. I’m not out to please anyone but myself. I’m not out to promote nor diss any product, merely share my opinions and experience.

Background

I’ve been interesting in appendix carry (appendix inside waistband, AIWB) for a while. The biggest benefit to AIWB is the speed of the draw, but there are many other benefits. Here’s a good article about it (h/t Paul Gomez). One I also like is something from SouthNarc, that when in a FUT (fucked-up tangle, how many “grappling” situations end up as a mess of arms and legs), drawing from AIWB is far more possible.  Of course, the one major downside to appendix carry is the location of the muzzle — pointed either at your genitalia or your femoral artery. Carry in the traditional 3 o’clock position and the worst you’ll do is put a hole in your butt. Let one fly here and you’ll likely bleed out before help can arrive.

Why haven’t I done more appendix carry? Simple. I can’t. If you have a gut? Forget it. Either your flab will mold around the grip of the gun and you’ll never be able to get a grip on the gun to draw it, or your fat will push the butt of the gun out thus the muzzle angles into your groin and gets rather uncomfortable rather quickly. But a lot of this can be managed with gear. Different guns, different holsters, they can all make a difference. And of course, getting rid of the flab helps too.

I’ve tried numerous things over the past few years. I started with the “boot grips” that came on the S&W 442, tried different holsters, tried the “Werner Carry System” with the Barami hip grips and a Tyler T-Grip, and then just left them all and came back full-circle to the original boot grips. When I got a S&W 640, the factory grip on that is nicer because it’s longer and covers the backstrap, and of course that’s easy enough to swap between any round-butt J-frame. But because it’s a little longer, it doesn’t conceal in pockets as well. And no, I don’t really care for pocket carry as much… has some advantages, better than nothing, but not ideal to me.

And so, the quest continues.

I saw Claude Werner post about the DeSantis Clip-Grip® on his Facebook page, so I figured to give it a try. They were cheap enough, on sale at MidwayUSA, so why not.

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed was how similar to the original “uncle mike boot grips” they were, with of course the added clip.

Here’s a shot of things for perspective:

On the left (with the nickel finish) is my S&W 640, with the boot grips. On the right (with the black finish) is my S&W 442, with the 640 grip. Yes, I have the factory grips switched around because recently I’ve been carrying the 442 as my back-up. In the middle is the Clip-Grip.

You can see how similar the Clip-Grip is to the boot grip, but while similar, it’s not the same.

In this picture, I have the “right side” of the Clip-Grip (it’s on top), and the “left side” of the factory boot grip (on the bottom). If you look at the arrows, you can see how they don’t line up perfectly. Who knows… this may be done for legal reasons, to keep things from being dead-on copies. But functionally speaking, the contours are generally close enough so that if you know how the boot grips feel in your hand? That’s about how the Clip-Grip will feel in your hand, in terms of how your hand will fit, how your pinky will dangle, how the grips will and won’t fill your hand, etc.. So in general, I’m OK with that “feel” of the grips, how it works in my hand, etc..  And note, it does not cover the backstrap, so your palm will get to absorb all the recoil.

I also noticed there’s a gap where the grip comes up behind the trigger guard.

See the arrows? There’s space up there.

Here’s the boot grips on the same gun for comparison.

See? Almost no gap. I’m not sure why there’s a gap in the Clip-Grip, nor if that will make any difference. Could be to account for minor variations across the gun line? I’ll say this. The Clip-Grip fits tight and snug on the 640 and 442: there’s no wiggle, and that’s even just mating the grip to the frame, no screw to tighten things down. So that’s good. I also noticed that when on the 640 the Clip-Grip was very flush with the backstrap, but on the 442 the grips protrude just a hair off the backstrap making a little ridge… you can feel the edge of the grip insides, if you run your finger along the backstrap. But you can’t notice it when you’re gripping the gun in a firing grip. So, my guess is it’s all to help account for differences across the J-frames.

The other first impression was the material. The boot grips and the 640 grip are rubbery. Not sure what they are actually made out of, but essentially like a hard rubber. The Clip-Grip is, as the box describes: “built from a very rugged glass reinforced polymer, and we guarantee it for life!”  So it feels like a hard plastic, with texture. Comparing to the Barami, I like these better. The Barami are smooth hard plastic, and they feel kinda cheap, like they could break (tho they’re also inexpensive enough that if they do, no big deal to replace). These don’t feel like that. I figure it has to be hard in order for the clip to work, so no “very hard rubber” would really work here. I also think the texturing is good, whereas the Barami are totally smooth and you don’t get much for grip. In the hand tho, you don’t really notice the “plastic” feel of the Clip-Grips, you just notice how it fills the hand and the texturing. I don’t think the Clip-Grip design is bad, but I’m not sure how it will affect recoil since there’s no rubber to absorb things.

Wearing It

Excuse me while I whip this out!

– Sheriff Bart, Blazing Saddles

I opted to put the Clip-Grip on my 640. My thinking? It’s a slightly heavier gun, will help with recoil a bit more than the 442 (I only plan to shoot .38 Special +P, no .357 Magnum). Because of the clip, the weight will be supported on the belt instead of dangling in a pocket. So this could all work better vs. the 442.

I like how they made the “ledge” of the clip. When seated fully and flush against the belt, it rides in a reasonable position. That is, there’s enough butt exposed so you can get a grip. The grip is presented at a good angle where you can get your fingers around it. The muzzle isn’t canted at too odd an angle to seat comfortably. The trigger is behind the belt, so there’s little chance anything could snag on the trigger and depress it. All in all, I’m quite pleased with how it feels! Yes, I do have to find “just the right spot” in order for it to work… can’t have it too close to my belly button, nor too close to my hip. About where you see it in the picture is about where it rides comfortably.

And yes… because of all my working out and improvements to diet, I’ve lost a lot of the gut, thus this isn’t so bad. You can see I still need to shed some flab… the flab does make it a little difficult to get a good firing grip on the gun. But at least it’s not pressing the muzzle into my groin so badly.

The entire time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been wearing the empty 640 in my belt to see how it is with sitting. It’s a little uncomfortable, but not overly so. In the past I never could have lasted this long. I can stand up, squat, bend over, whatever… pretty free to move about. That’s all good. The gun does shift slightly when sitting down, because of the way my body moves, but it’s not too bad; I can still get a grip on the gun and draw it from a seated position. One point of note: the muzzle on the 640 is 2 1/8″ and the 442’s is 1 7/8″. Can that 1/4″ make a difference? I will say yes. After wearing the 640 around for a while, I swapped the grips to the 442 and wore it for a little while. That 1/4″ made a big difference; it’s a lot more comfortable in terms of muzzle digging into you.  I will say, carry in this fashion helps your health because you can’t carry a gut and you need to have really good posture. 🙂

I’ve done some practice draws. It’s still slow, but that’s a matter of figuring things out and practicing. Oh, and the clip is just the right size to work with my belt and my pants: not overly big, not too small… it’s not a tight cramped fit, but there’s very little play. And if I want to put the snub into my pocket, I use a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster and it works just fine with that (as I would expect).

In terms of concealment, it disappears. Truly. I had thought gee… why are they making the grips so short? Why not make them a little longer, because it’s not like the intent of this design is to go into a pocket? If they did, it’d bulge and wouldn’t disappear. I’m truly amazed at how invisible this setup is. Of course, if I had 5% body fat, it might not disappear as nicely, especially when seated. But even then I can see that it’s still more or less fine and under clothing, not an issue.

And for those curious, no problems going to the bathroom… at least, standing up. If you need to sit down well, it’s evident it’s going to need some management.

Note that this is one big thing about AIWB: it’s very dependent upon the person, and the their choice of equipment. I can say to a lot of people who a good general carry setup is something like an M&P in a Comp-Tac MTAC or CTAC holster at 3 o’clock and that works for a lot of people easily. But appendix? It seems so unique to the person.  So you have to recognize that what may work for me may not work for you, or what doesn’t work for me may work for you. Even if I decide this Clip-Grip doesn’t work, that’s because it doesn’t work FOR ME. Your mileage may vary.

Next time I’m at a gun range, I would like to shoot it some and see how it fares. While I originally wanted to go with the 640 due to weight and recoil management, I’m probably going to work with the 442 because that carries a bit more comfortably. If that’s not a pain to shoot, then the 640 will be fine to shoot as well. I’m certainly not ready to carry it live and loaded yet… need more dry practice for the draw, need to just shoot it and see how it feels with target loads and social loads.

But so far, it seems at least worthy to take it to that point. If it wouldn’t wear, if it wouldn’t feel right, if it would gouge into me… well, no point in shooting with it if it can’t pass the first tests, y’know? But so far so good. I’ll report back after some range time.