Month: November 2019

The Trigger Reset Question

As I have mentioned in other posts, I attended the academy in the waning days of the revolver roaming the earth in duty holsters. One could still find “semi-automatic transition courses” in various training catalogs.

My own agency had transitioned from the S&W Model 64 (K-frame .38 Special revolver) to the S&W 4006 only a few years prior to my arrival. The 4006, now out of production, was a “traditional double action” (TDA) pistol meaning that the first shot was fired double-action with the reciprocation of the slide in recoil cocking the hammer thus making subsequent shots fired in single-action mode.

Here, Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives discusses the training of that era and teaching people to “shoot to reset”:

My experiences very much mirror what Dave describes in the video. The only problem was that I was never told that the pinning of the trigger was an intermediate step in the learning process. I discovered it on my own while participating in the “reactive shooting” portion of a course. I remember going back to my agency and telling some of the guys, “Hey, did y’all know that you can let the trigger reset during recoil?” receiving only a tepid reaction.

The state qualification course is shot against very generous par times, and quite frankly, one has plenty of time to shoot, let the sights settle, then let the trigger reset, and then press another shot. Most of coworkers and colleagues just didn’t see the need to be able to shoot faster because “I shot a 98” was thought to be “good”. It was later when I dipped my toes into the competition world that I realized that there was another level of “good”, and it wasn’t until I dove into the open enrollment world that I developed any real consistency.

Here are two short videos from Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical discussing trigger reset and the problem with teaching shooters what he terms as the “interim step”.

Going back to Dave’s video, somewhere along the way I saw the demonstration that he describes in which one shooter grips the gun while another shooter smacks the trigger with a pen. Yes, it worked.

After seeing that demo, I concentrated on grip, and yes, I found that with a very firm grip I could smash the trigger and get hits. Well, I could get hits provided I was shooting at something like an eight-inch circle at distances inside of 10-yards.

In late 2018, I attended the Applied Fundamentals course with OpSpec Training. I signed up for the course based on other things in the description, but what I received was a rewarding (while at times frustrating) three day class on trigger control. Two key components in the class were prepping the trigger and resetting DURING recoil. This class came at exactly the right time for me as I had hit shooting plateau, and I was trying to work through some issues.

Trigger reset can be done by either letting the trigger out only to the reset point, or the trigger can be let out past the reset point and then prepped again. Both of these can be accomplished during recoil. The latter method does help avoid trigger freeze.

I personally believe that either of the above described methods are superior to the trigger slapping method advocated by some. I am aware that many high level competitive shooters utilize trigger slapping, but they are very small segment of shooters capable of doing such.

UPDATE: I am updating this post to include the following video from Dave Spaulding covering reset in recovery. I want to be clear about what he is teaching. I chose the video above because of the historical context that he explains.

The Reliability Question

Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, raised the issue of asking the proper questions in personal protection in the midst of interweb hullabaloo concerning revolver reliability. I addressed that fracas in Six For Maybe and Six For Maybe, Part 2. I have asked both Claude and Darryl Bolke to produce materials on keeping the revolver running in a training environment.

Speaking of proper questions, trainer and AIWB holster maker Spencer Keepers posed an excellent question via text message, and I will paraphrase it below:

“How do we balance revolver reliability as in ‘It will get you though five or six rounds and a reload if you start with a clean gun alongside the high round count torture tests for semiautomatics with shooters stating that they won’t carry a gun if it has a single malfunction in that arbitrary round count.”

I personally don’t buy into such high round arbitrary standards. In fact, I intentionally keep the actual live fire round count on my actual duty/carry pistols low.

I carry a Glock 19 as my daily carry/duty pistol. When I first obtained the particular sample that I carry, I ran a few hundred rounds through it to make certain that it functioned. Since then, I run it through a qual-course a few times per year. I maintain it. Otherwise, it rides in a holster. When I am attending or teaching a class, I swap out to a “training” Glock 19, and it has thousands upon thousands of rounds through it, but prior to leaving the range, I swap back to my carry/duty pistol.

Machines fail. Pushing a large number of rounds through a pistol (a machine) is pushing it towards inevitable parts failure. Your mileage may vary.

Six For Maybe, Part 2

Fresh off of the inaugural Rangemaster Master Instructor class and accompanying social media hullabaloo, I wrote Six For Maybe, a discussion on revolver reliability.

Today, I discussed the issue with my boss who will soon have been a lawman for a mere 42 years. He was the top gun in his academy class shooting a Smith & Wesson Model 66, and he worked for an agency that issued Navy surplussed Smith & Wesson Model 10s. He has some time behind a wheelgun.

He told me that he didn’t remember revolvers failing at the rate in which I have seen them fail in various classes. He then went on the tell me about the old 10th Congressional District Pistol Matches (a pistol match open to all of the agencies within the 10th Congressional District of Georgia) and other training events, and he said, “I just don’t remember any real failures that weren’t related to ammo”.

So then I asked, “Did you carry a brush with you to the line?”

What followed was a detailed description of how they all carried brushes and cleaning cloths so that during any shooting event they could clean out under the extractor star or wipe down the breach face and other such sundry tasks.

So then I asked, “How often did you do all of that?”

He described that at least every 100 rounds or so he would go through the above described procedure?

So then I asked, “In the academy, was somebody always yelling at y’all to do all of that?”

The answer was an affirmative, but then he said, “I guess at a certain point we just all knew that we had to do all of that stuff.”

So then I asked, “Would you foresee problems if somebody was told by a buddy or gun shop guy that to use a revolver because it was “six for sure” and who didn’t understand the maintenance needs of a wheelgun?

The answer was in the affirmative.

Going back the original piece and the position that Darryl Bolke expressed, if you are going to seriously run a revolver, you have to be committed to maintaining it constantly while shooting it.

The only way to develop skill is to train, and in order to train, you are going to have to maintain.

That is a vital point that must be driven home to those who are going to use a revolver.

Six For Maybe

The oft-uttered mantra for wheelgun fanciers is “six for sure” referring to the supposed reliability of the revolver. Whether or not such is actually the case is a matter of perspective.

I pinned on a badge at the very end of the revolver era. I attended a regional academy, and only two agencies still mandated revolvers. Those cadets worked in jails, and if they moved to a field division, they transitioned to semi-autos.

Of note, we were required to shoot the “Double Action Course” (GDAC) to graduate from the academy. That course had a stage in it based on the Newhall Incident, which occurred in 1970, requiring those shooting revolvers to fire two rounds, manually load two rounds, and then fire two more rounds all in 15 seconds. Those of us shooting magazine fed guns simply used a two-round magazine. I attended the academy in 1999. The GDAC was replaced circa 2004. Some things are slow to change. The replacement course is “revolver neutral” meaning that six-round magazines are mandated so that those shooting revolvers and semi-automatics all reload at the same time.

A decade or so later, I traded into a Smith & Wesson 586 so that I could shoot in an IDPA revolver match. I won my class and earned a match bump in classification with it. One thing I didn’t include in the original piece on that match was that in the later stages, I had trouble with the cylinder sticking. I brushed the cylinder out and tried to clean it in a safe area, but it took a detailed cleaning after the match to get it running smoothly.

In 2014, I met Tom Givens of Rangemaster and began to train with him on a regular basis. I had the chance to attend his Defensive Revolver class as a student in 2015. In that class, we had three revolvers go down hard, as in done for the day. I assisted him with teaching an iteration of the class earlier this year, and we had revolvers fail in that class as well.

This past weekend (11/15-17/2019), I was part of the inaugural Rangemaster Master Instructor class. The class is only open to those who have already completed the Rangemaster Instructor Development and Advanced Instructor Courses.

We had four revolvers mechanically fail, and we had a fifth revolver get deadlined when the bullet from a squib round lodged between the forcing cone and the cylinder. This was during the revolver qualification course, and the student was forced to continue with his backup gun (a J-frame). This is the second time I have seen this happen. The other time was a first hand experience with one of my own revolvers. While this is an ammo related problem, the firearm is put completely out of action, and the fix involves using a rod and hammer to beat the bullet back into the chamber so that the cylinder can be opened. That’s not going to happen in time to save your life.

One of the failures was due to a small piece of debris binding up an action. This was at the outset of the revolver shooting. The person shooting this revolver was Chuck Haggard.

Another student in the class reported the above on Facebook resulting wheelgun lovers forming crowds with torches and pitchforks because their beloved platform had been impugned. Other responses ranged from “yeah, okay” to “Why would anyone shoot a revolver anyway?” The answer to that last question is that firearms instructors teach students, and sometimes students show up with revolvers…

One response, however, came from Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical Shooting.

I understand the point Daryl’s point. I also think that by making his point he disproves his thesis somewhat.

I fall somewhere in between on the issue. I agree with Daryl in that a well maintained revolver in the hands of someone who knows how to use it can be formidable for the first cylinder full of ammo. I’ve also seen enough revolver failures in training and competition environments to worry about when that failure is due.

I enjoy shooting revolvers and will continue to do so. I very much enjoy teaching revolver skills. I’ll even continue to carry a revolver in Class A uniform for ceremonial functions because I personally think that they have much more class than any “bottom feeder”.

All things considered; however, I simply have much more faith in a quality semi-automatic for social purposes.

I’m not trying to convinced readers anything here. I know that even though I write that, some readers will assign a conclusion to me and then either praise or cuss me for it. Other readers will be mad, but they won’t know why. Such is the case when you put something on the interweb.

I’m not trying to change Darryl’s mind. He is certainly qualified to espouse his conclusion.

As for the Master Instructor class, I shot a perfect score on the qualification course as did two other students. Each of us was shooting a service sized revolver with adjustable sights. Nobody shooting a small frame revolver or one with fixed sights shot a perfect scores. Maybe there is a clue there.

To settle the matter, the three of us participated in a shoot-off. I didn’t win the tiebreaker as I had two failures to fire…