Down the Practical Hole: Part 4

Well, 10 months have passed since I wrote the first installment of Down the Practical Hole.  It was a fun exercise, but ultimately, I convinced myself that my original conclusion was correct and that the AR platform is the most practical platform currently available.  In fact, I picked up a brand x upper in 6.5 Grendel for use in critter getting.  The smart play would be to stick with what I have, but much like Henry Fonda wanting that fourth carrier (shame be upon those not getting the reference), I still find myself wanting a turn bolt rifle.

It didn’t help matters that somebody who brought his latest practical rifle project to the range this past week…

Erik Lund of AllFire Dynamics shooting his practical project rifle

It’s only fair as I got him started down this path with my ramblings.

With the aforementioned 6.5 Grendel upper in hand, my thoughts have wandered to the Ruger American Ranch rifle in 5.56 caliber.  The reason for this consideration is the straight-up compatibility with AR mags and ammo.  With 10-round mags, it would be legal in most states but scavenged mags could be used in a pinch (pandemic thoughts, you know).  Heavier ammo, such as the Barnes 70 grain TSX rounds would give it more punch; however, I concede that it wouldn’t be as much punch as originally desired.  I’m still annoyed that the rifle isn’t available with a compact stock from the factory.

Ruger American Ranch


Then again, along comes an interesting contender in the Remington 700 CP:


While it probably doesn’t have the reach as initially envisioned, it is intriguing.  For now, the beat goes on.

A Study of Ready

So there I was… a cadet in the police academy, on the firing line during range week and having paid due attention to the safety briefing and wondering why they told us to never point a firearm at anything we had not decided to shoot, but I was pointing my firearm at the target in a “low ready” giving verbal commands which were indicative of my not having decided to shoot. I was flummoxed.

Along the line came one of the instructors; so, I posed a question to him: “Sir, if we are not supposed to point our gun at something we have not decided to shoot, why are we pointing our guns at the target while giving commands?”

His answer was an emphatic, “Stop jerking the trigger!!” because that was the only response he had for any question that might arise on the range.

Low ready, **in that class**, was presented as the firearm being pointed at the threat with the muzzle being depressed low enough so as to be able to see a suspect’s hands. Follow on training from the same doctrinal source presented the low ready in the same manner.

**That** definition of low ready is arguable.  The term has numerous definitions with each entity being convinced that its particular definition is correct.

In a recent conversation with John Hearne, he pitched the concept of safety positions and ready positions.  He defined the terms as the following:

Ready position – placement of the gun in a manner that a shot can be immediately delivered once the decision to shoot has been made. The muzzle is diverted just enough to gather the information necessary to make a decision. A full firing grip, especially locked wrists, is maintained on the weapon.

Safety Position – with the caveat that the safest place for the gun is in the holster, a safety position intentionally “unplugs” the weapon from the fight in order to facilitate close proximity, typically movement by or movement past, to a non-threat. The ideal two-handed shooting grip is compromised by breaking the wrist, removing the support hand, etc. Safety positions should be viewed as temporary with the ultimate goal being to return the weapon back to a ready position as soon as safely possible.

Dave Spaulding uses similar terminology.  He told me,  “I look at the definitions of the words: Ready: prepared to act or take action. Prepare: to make ready.”  He further stated that he sees them as levels.  Furthermore, he stated, “I think of ready as the gun between you and the threat and the muzzle averted.  Preparatory positions are like Sul and the like.”

My position, and my teaching, on the issue is that any definition of a ready position must include that the muzzle must not cover any portion of the target/threat.  In my classes, students are evaluated, coached, and tested on muzzle discipline.  The reasons for this are to one, reinforce the lifestyle rules of possessing a firearm, and two, documentation for court purposes.  

Since the “Sul” position has been brought up already and will be discussed again in the other videos, an explanation of the position from one of its co-originators is in order:

Dave Spaulding explains his “Arc of Ready” concept:

Paul Gomez discussed Positions for Muzzle Aversion:

Do We Taste Like Chicken?

According to numerous reports, firearms sales are at an all-time high due to the pandemic. My friends in the firearms sales industry tell me that many of the current buyers are first-timers. Unfortunately, the current situation also greatly reduces the training opportunities for these new gun owners. They have the tools, but they don’t know how to use them.

Chris Baker is among those who have stepped up to provide digital content in an effort to help such people as much as possible given the limitations of the format. I applaud Chris for his efforts.

I know Chris personally. We’ve crossed paths on the training circuit numerous times. He is extremely well trained, and he puts out very good content.   Here is a video that he put together for new shotgun owners:

I posted the video in a few places where it would be seen by supposedly experienced gun folk so that they would have a readily available resource to provide to friends, family, colleagues, etc, who may reach out to them for help.

What followed is all my fault as I should have known better than to post anything to the internet and expect it to be received as intended..,

For example, one individual who possesses not one iota of Chris’ training and experience seized on one minute portion of the video and has embarked on a crusade against it. A few of the other responses have been complete misinterpretations of Chris’ content. Yet another opined, “I sure would hate to admit that I learned to shoot from a video.” I hope that his actual accuracy is better than his point-getting.

I will further accept responsibility in that I should have known better than to try to converse on the topic with such people. Apparently, it is wrong to seek to ascertain the training and experience of those commenting so as to judge the credibility of their assertions.

For the record, Chris has roughly 100 hours of formal shotgun training from names such as Tom Givens, Randy Cain, Rob Haught, Tim Chandler & Ashton Ray, and Daryl Bolke. I’ll be blunt: if one does not know who the aforementioned people are and/or one has not trained with them or their peers, one simply is not qualified to form an opinion on the topic of defensive shotgun usage much less offer it with any credence.

I shall now climb atop my soapbox and begin the sermon portion of this particular pontification:

Circumstances have resulted in large numbers of gun owners who may never have been gun owners otherwise. We, as a so-called community, and we, those of us in the business of training, should be embracing these first-timers. Unfortunately, the nitwittery that may confront them as they search for information is likely to be a turnoff.

I mentioned the above to long time friend who happens to know his way around a shootin’ iron, and his response was, “We eat our own.”.

I wonder, do we taste like chicken?


Does Firearms Instructor Equal Church Security Instructor?

At the time of this writing, we are just a few days removed from the church shooting incident in White Settlement, TX. Google will get you all of the details, but the short story is that a firearms instructor serving as a member of the church’s security team took out the murderer.

Caveat emptor.

I submit that the mission encompasses much more than shooting skills. Furthermore, firearms instructor certification programs are not created equally. The NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course, for example, does not even involve drawing a pistol from a holster.

In considering a training source for a church security program, training and experience in the following areas are something you should look for in the prospective provider’s background:

  • Event security & planning
  • Physical security
  • Threat assessment
  • Crowd dynamics

All of the above in a church environment would be a plus.

Two sources that readily come to mind for such training are Palisade Training Group, LLC, and Strategos International. Both of these companies were offering church security detail training before it became an opportunistic topic.


Noted trainer Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives read this piece and offered some worthy commentary that I am adding below:

Chief Lee Weems makes an excellent point here, does a firearms instructor equal a church security instructor? The answer is, it depends. It depends on the DEPTH of the instructors back ground.

I consider myself a firearms instructor, but I am capable of much more. If you consider what goes into a truly prepared church security team member, it is SO MUCH more than just having a gun. This person’s skill sets should include:

– Pre threat identification
– Pattern recognition
– Medical Skills
– Non-verbal communication including hand signals
– Electronic communication (including capability)
– Movement to the threat including evasive movement
– Movement during engagement
– Weapons manipulation skills including muzzle aversion
– Concealed draw and precision shooting skills
– Elimination of cross fire situations (more movement)
– Non threat awareness capability (non hostiles/scanning)

and on and on…

It is much like Dignitary Protection Operations, something I have extensive experience in. You see, I have further training and experience…”depth” as it were…in related fields. I can also teach carbine, sub-machine gun, shotgun, room clearing (CQB), OC Spray, multiple baton disciplines, combative mindset, weapon retention, SWAT Principals, Raid Techniques, Vehicle Combat and other related subjects. I can even do a fairly good job with basic hand to hand combat, but others do it better…which is the case with many subjects. I have the “depth” for many things…

“Dave! These are great topics, why don’t you offer classes in them?” The answer is simple…I don’t want to. Leaving specialize subjects like church security to others makes more room for folks who want to get into the training business. I like to focus on combative pistolcraft…the EDC, personal security application of the handgun. While it is not the most effective small arm, it is the one that most everyone can…and should have…with them at all times. The combat application of the handgun IS SO MUCH MORE than just accurate shooting. Watching many of the videos on line make me question just hw many people grasp this fact.

And you know what? I’m going to be a bit arrogant here, but I do it really, really well!

“Depth” is important when teaching life saving skills and I believe taking another instructor’s course and recycling the information into your course is not enough. Some would call it plagiarism. You need to truly understand the application of the skills and actually having applied them in the real world certainly would not hurt. It offers perspective…


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…


Down the Practical Hole: Part 3

When I wrote the first piece in this series, I wasn’t expecting it to turn into a series, but the responses led to the second piece, which again, I thought would put the issue to rest. It didn’t. It seems that I have stumbled onto a topic that has either sparked or tapped into a previous field of interest among shooters.

The point that I thought I made in Part 1 was that in the current era of the American rifle, the AR is indeed the most practical (and efficient) option. In Part 2, I outlined my selection criteria and why I passed on the OEM factory options on the market.

I KNOW that I can custom build the rifle that I want.

I KNOW that I can modify an existing rifle into what I want.

If I may be graciously blunt, I don’t need either of those options pointed out to me. I’m already aware.

Erik Lund dropped by my Social Shotgun/Levergun Manipulations class yesterday at the Red Hill Range, and he brought along two rifles for testing.  One was a Tikka bolt gun in .308 equipped with a Kinetic Research Group stock, and the other was an AR build in 6.5 Grendel (6.5G).

Tikka .308 and an AR build in 6.5 Grendel

I shot two 10-round mags through the bolt rifle; one each suppressed and unsuppressed.  I fired one mag of Wolf ammo through the AR along with one mag of Hornady 123gr SST.  All shots were on steel at 100 yards.  This was not an extensive test, and I make no pretense that it was.  It was simply to let me get some trigger time with a bolt gun and to get a feel for the 6.5G through an AR.

The session led me to two conclusions.  The first is that my determination in Part 1 holds true.  The AR was pleasant to shoot.  The recoil was hardly more than that of an AR in .300 Blackout, but the ballistics are far superior, and I am simply a few mouse clicks away from the configuration I desire.

The recoil from the .308 was not harsh.  It had more muzzle rise than push against the shoulder.  However, a lighter recoiling round such as the 6.5 Creedmoor would be more to my liking.  The 20″ barrel was heavier and more unwieldy than what I want for the intended role.   Thus, my specs of a lighter, handier bolt gun as outlined in Part 2 were validated.

Even though I am now more convinced of the expediency of the AR-option, I am still intrigued by the idea of a bolt gun, and I keep coming back to a particular rifle.  I just need to get my hands on one to see if I like the feel of the stock.  If I do, perhaps there will be a Part 4.

I’ll close with the following video.  There’s a rifleman in it doing some impressive work, and I imagine one of those straight pull bolt rifles would be mighty practical.



Down the Practical Hole: Part 2

When I wrote Down the Practical Hole, I had no intention of it leading to additional articles on the topic, but the responses have been both amusing and bemusing, and I am thus prompted to write at least Part 2.  Whether or not there will be a Part 3 will depend upon whether or not I move forward in this line or if I simply accept my previous conclusion and purchase an appropriate AR-upper.

I specifically didn’t outline my preferred specifications as I knew I was posting the piece on the interweb and that there were would be no shortage of people willing to tell me that I was wrong about what I want in my rifle.

I’m not trying to pick a rifle for anyone else.  I’m picking a rifle for me, and I don’t imagine myself to be Jeff Cooper.  As I am not trying to convince anyone of anything here, I won’t argue my specifications.

At this point, I want to thank Erik Lund for patiently enduring my barrage of phone calls and text messages as we painstakingly evaluated options.  Erik has been extremely generous with his time and expertise for as long as I have known him.

I do appreciate the many well-intentioned suggestions of “Have you looked at the XYZ rifle?”, but when I stated that I studied the current offerings and found none to my liking I must not have been clear because what I meant was that I had studied the current offerings and found none to my liking.

Here we go:

First, let’s dispense with the caliber discussion.  I wanted a round capable of taking hog and deer sized game at 300 yards, perhaps 400.  Erik is quite fond of the 6.5 Grendel; so, I looked at several options in that round.  Quite frankly, if the Ruger American Ranch were available in 6.5 Grendel, the search would have started and stopped there.  Yes, I know they offer it in other configurations of the American, but none are to my liking.  As I wrote in the original piece, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and effort on mods.

I also considered 6.5 Creedmoor (6.5CM henceforth) and the venerable .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO.  The plus for 7.62 NATO is the availability of fodder ammo for practicing the practical rifle techniques; however, ultimately I decided on 6.5CM as it will perform as desired, but it generates less recoil than 7.62 NATO.  Plus, it’s a cartridge that is on the rise, and it has staying power in the market.  Again, this is my rifle.  If you prefer 7.62 NATO, good for you.

The choice to go with 6.5CM knocked the Ruger and Savage Scout rifles out of contention.  Both are fine rifles, and I was (and still am) very tempted by them.  I also don’t want a forward mounted scope.  I am aware that the Ruger will accept a traditionally mounted scope; however, this would mean giving up the rear sight, and while iron sights weren’t an absolute requirement of mine, I just don’t like the idea of removing them.

Ruger Scout Rifle

Note:  Dr. Sherman House and I tossed around the idea of a forward mounted red dot paired with a magnifier in a flip mount.  Ultimately, we concluded that eye relief on the magnifier would be problematic if using the forward rail.  In a traditional rail setup,  a variable power scope with a true 1x power would accomplish the same thing as the magnifier and red dot; so, why bother (he typed rhetorically)?

Now, let’s move on to my specs:

  • 16-inch, threaded barrel (18 would be acceptable but NO longer)
  • Length of pull NO longer than 13-inches
  • Accepts a common magazine such as an AICS pattern mag or a PMAG
  • Traditional scope location mount/rail
  • Strongly preferred:  tang safety
  • Somewhat preferred:  iron sights

Again, I am not trying to convince anyone of the merits of the listed criteria.  I have reasons for each of them.  For instance, the shorter stock makes it easier to mount the rifle centerline and to get into other-than-standing firing positions as well as maneuvering in and out of vehicles or through buildings, and it helps if wearing a thick coat or body armor.  You may have noted that the stock on the levergun I’m holding in the original piece is so shortened.  It’s actually around 12.5.  I run my shotgun stocks at 12.5 as well.

I am fully aware that rifles can be modified to meet the above-listed criteria.  I’m also aware that each modification has an associated cost.