The Deadeye Journal

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A Tale of Two Walls

Would you rather your firearm instructor have a wall of certificates from 175 hours of training and very poor shooting skill, or a wall of trophies and awards proving a very high level of shooting skill?

Would you rather learn from an instructor with 175 hours of training or an instructor with nearly 175 five star reviews?


Would you rather take a lesson from the instructor who boasts about his 175 hours of training by others, or the instructor who shot a match in almost 1/2 the time of the guy with 175 hours of training?


Would you rather take lessons from the 175 hours of training guy, or from the guy whose student beat the 175 hours of training guy at the same match?


Would you rather take a lesson from the guy with 175 hours of training, or the guy who practices more than 175 hours every year, and shoots 17,500 rounds each year and has shot far more than 175,000 rounds in an effort to shoot better and understand what it takes to shoot better?

Would you rather take a lesson from the guy who took 175 hours of training from others, or the guy who trains 175 people a year to be better, smarter, safer shooters?


I look at my "I love me wall" at work and figure I have at least 175 hours of handgun, rifle and shotgun training.  Between the US Army MP School's Officer's Basic Course, subsequent annual qualifications, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, and all of the quarterly quals and training days it's certain to exceed 175 hours easily.  Yet it didn't really make me a shooter.  As such it was unethical to ask for money to teach others to do something I didn't really know myself.


When I get home I will go to the garage and dry-fire.  In my garage is another, "I love me wall" displaying trophies, plaques, and one spiffy gold, silver, and emerald studded belt buckle won based on my shooting skill.  I believe it is that wall which says I might actually know enough about shooting to accept money to share my knowledge of shooting.

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Part 3: Real Combat Accuracy Is Now Defined

In parts 1 and 2, I shared my opinions on what constitutes good shooting in terms of accuracy and speed. Accurate-Good shooting is fundamentally sound 100% of the time and will likely be a 4” group at 7 yards. This standard is scalable and adaptable to the gun. When it comes to Speed-Good the faster the better, just as long as you don’t fail fundamental marksmanship and sling shots outside the Accurate-Good standard. In part 3 I will share my observations on how well these standards work when applied to sport or defensive shooting.

The ability to shoot 4" groups at 7 yards and the knowledge of how fast you can shoot 4” groups at 7 yards has direct and positive application to sport and defensive pistol use. Close to my heart is USPSA. The “A” zone of the USPSA Metric Target is 5.9” by 11”. Knowing what is required to hold 4” groups at 7 yards allows you to rapidly assess the application of fundamentals to the shooting challenge. If the target is 7 yards away and you desire a near certain A zone hit then shoot your fundamental accuracy 4” group at 7 yard pace. If you wish to shave a little time for a likely A zone hit, it’s ok to do so. But, only shave a little time. If the target is 10 yards away then you should shoot no faster than what is required to get 4” hits at 7 yards. You might pull a C, but not likely. Now, If the target is just 5 yards away you can sacrifice more accuracy for speed, but if the target is 21 yards then you ought to be shooting as if you were seeking a 2” circle at 7 yards. Nothing much changes if you are shooting IDPA.


The -0 zone in IDPA is an 8” circle. That which means your 4" group at 7 yards is largely golden to 14 yards. At less than 14 yards you can incrementally “ramp it up” and sacrifice some accuracy for a faster time while still holding the -0, 8" circle.  The head box on the USPSA/IDPA target is 6” by 6”, so just shoot it fundamentally at 7 yards. By knowing what is required to get a fundamentally accurate shot you know what is required to get an A zone or -0 zone hit, no matter the distance. Kindly note that I did not discuss anything other than the A zone or -0 zone.


I did not discuss anything outside the A/-0 zones because accepting a shot outside those zones is planning to accept fundamentally flawed, inaccurate shooting. Planning for poor shooting is a very poor plan. Whether in IDPA or USPSA the time required to shoot the -0 or the A zone almost never counters the penalty for inaccuracy. It may happen that we error, we are human after all.  But, those shots should be viewed as the errant failures in fundamentals they are. Planning for poor shooting in a defensive situation is even poorer planning.


When it comes to defensive shooting the 4” group is essentially into the heart of the person trying to kill you. A shot striking a 4” group centered over the heart is near certain to hit a very vital bit of anatomy and very quickly end the threat to your life.  This is why I eschew "combat accuracy" at The Deadeye Method.  There is accurate and inaccurate, but there is not combat accurate.  It is a very tidy coincidence that the heart, major arteries, and spinal cord fill a 4” circle as does the brain/motor-cortex when a person threatens you face-on. The challenge will be to remain disciplined under a lethal threat and not panic firing.


Instead of panic firing you should attempt to shoot (exercise marksmanship fundamentals) as needed for a 2” group. By striving to implement what gets you a 2” group you might still hold that 4” group. Here's the good news- self-defense distances are typically very close.  The stress of someone threatening your life will nearly certainly mess you up. You’ll be less accurate and you won't get that 2" group. You’ll likely fire before you see a 2" group sight picture, you’ll likely press the trigger in a far from ideal manner. However, the very act of trying to shoot a 2” group you is more likely to produce the 4” group which is what you want and need. It will help prevent spraying rounds all about needlessly endangering innocent persons and damaging property wantonly.  That accurately will likely save your life.  Don't worry about being too slow. That speed thing will take care of itself. The clear sense of urgency naturally speeds you, and is what is messing with your accuracy. You work with it; attempt a 2" group, get the fastest 4" group you ever shot.


So, how does this USPSA Master Class shooter define, “good shooting?” Good shooting is fundamentally accurate shooting in the least amount of time required. It works well. Generally I shoot in excess of 90% of the match points (in minor) with few penalties. Because I have developed a quality level of efficiency it does not take me much time to do so (.4 seconds or less at 7 yards). The result is generally an above average (dare I say well above average) match performance. This former military officer and former Deputy Sheriff defines good shooting as fundamentally accurate shooting in the least amount of time required. It gives me a high level of confidence that should I need to defend my life, or that of a loved one I can meet the challenge.

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Part 2: How fast is good?

In Part 1, I shared my opinion on how much accuracy is required to be, “good.” In summary, it’s execution of proper fundamentals 100% of the time. A good habit if you will. Allowing for rather generous amounts of variation in the sights (or wobbly aim), a 4” group generally describes fundamental marksmanship though that group size is scalable and adaptable. Least you think this too lenient, go visit the public firing line and note how very few shooters can hold a 4” group with all of their shots. Granted, you may be reading this knowing you are capable of sub 4” groups at 7 yards. That’s very good, but, how fast can you shoot and still hold that 4” group?

Unfortunately, most shooters develop only a tenuous grip on marksmanship. They can put together a 10 shot group in a 4” circle, but it takes very little to get them to fail at fundamentals; they have no habit. There are many reasons for this: attending only a weak fundamentals class or a combat pistol class that never taught marksmanship, it might be a failure to visit the range regularly (weekly?), not dry-firing even more regularly (daily?), and too quickly seeking speed at the expense of accuracy are the prime culprits.

I encourage students to never neglect accuracy in their pursuit of speed. Famed GM Saul Kirsch commented that IPSC/USPSA shooters trade accuracy for speed. He only spoke to those sports as it was where his experience lay.  When you have the ability to shoot 1” groups at 7 yards you have accuracy to trade.  I suspect it more accurate to say you have a habit of good shooting which is insulated against stress.  Because your shooting skill is protected from the negative effects of stress it applies to defensive pistol craft as well.

When you are threatened with deadly force you are under tremendous stress. The best counter to the debilitating effects of stress is a strong habit. But, if you have no accuracy and no habit, you have nothing to trade and no counter to stress. Whether it is stress from competition or a thug you will be regulated to being slow or being inaccurate or being a mess. In essence you are relegated to being a monkey whacking at a trigger.

As I tell my Basic Pistol students, any monkey can whack a trigger fast. Speedy shots only matter if the shot is still fundamentally sound. This means you’re only as “fast” as you can remain “fundamentally-accurate.” Once your shots lose fundamental accuracy, you are not shooting “good”; you are just making fast noises with your gun. Good shooting is efficient- a healthy balance of speed and accuracy. It is the habit of maintaining fundamental accuracy in ever smaller increments of time or, if you prefer, not sacrificing too much accuracy for speed.

Ok, smart guy, how efficient is good?


You are as efficient as you are. Hopefully you are striving for improvement no matter your skill level. I have observed many a true-blue beginner shoot at about 3 to 4 seconds per shot. That was their efficiency at that point in the shooting progression. Some true-blue beginners were closer to 1 second per shot. If forced to opine, and it would only be an opinion, I'd say that most people recognize it requires practiced skill to shoot 4" groups at 2 seconds per shot.

Shooting 4" groups at less than 2 seconds per shot definitely requires skill and practice- it is not happening by accident. That level of shooting requires both solid fundamentals and confidence (knowledge that one is right in the execution of the shot). I suspect at 1 second per shot other shooters not only recognize that skill is present, it will catch their attention.  At under 1 second per shot some may presume you're just making fast noises until they see the 4" group... then your shooting should impress them. At under .5 seconds per shot it might be fair to say the shooter is approaching something akin to mastery of fundamentals. Regardless of how closely you agree with my opinion, the focus should be inward. Currently I can hold a 4" group at 7 yards in just under .4 seconds per shot and a 2" group at about 1" second per shot.  You may be impressed or you may be smirking at .37 splits to hold 4” at 7 yards; regardless, you should only invest in practicing.

Instead of judging another’s shooting, focus on yourself. If you can hold 4” groups in 3 seconds per shot today, you are a good shooter. Strive to be a better shooter tomorrow. If you can hold 4” at .4 seconds per shot today, drive for .33 seconds tomorrow. Good shooting has little to do with whether you are better than anyone else. It has a lot to do with whether you are better than you were yesterday and you won't be better that you were yesterday without practicing. When you are practicing you are focused inward, where you should be focused. Thus ends Part 2. Part 3 will conclude with why this standard works and how to use it.

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Good Shooting

Part 1: How accurate is Good?

I define good shooting as the proper execution of fundamentals 100% of the time.  Fundamentals are, as I am certain you have read elsewhere: a balanced stance, a firm grip, and proper sight alignment with a good sight picture.  Most importantly, good shooting requires a great trigger press which allows the gun to fire without disturbing the good sight picture.  I found that Fundamental Accuracy is a 4” group at 7 yards.


Many years ago I placed my Glock 34 on a rest and fired 5 specific groups of shots.  In the first group I fired with the sights properly aligned.  As a result I placed three shots into the center of the target in a sub one inch group.  Next, I intentionally moved the front sight in the rear sight notch so that it appeared to touch the inside edge of the rear sight notch’s left wall.  The shots were 2” to the left.   Then I shot the opposite.  I moved the front sight so that it appeared to touch the inside edge of the rear sight notch’s right wall.  The shots were 2” to the right.  When I centered the front sight in the notch but intentionally deviated the front sight about the same distance high and low as I had left and right, I got shots which were 2” high and low.  From this I deduced that any shot within a 4” circle is fundamentally sound if we accept that keeping the front sight in the notch of the rear sight with the rear sight nearly centered on the target is fundamentally sound.  This 4” group represents a minimum standard- one in which you are shooting without any gross error.  You cannot claim to be a good shooter until you are fundamentally sound.  I said, good, not great, because clearly better shooting is possible. 

I don’t consider a group good for myself unless it approaches 1” at 7 yards.  4” at 7 yards is simply a minimum standard.  Once you can hold every shot in a 4” circle I expect you will note a large majority of your shots landing inside 3” with but a few shots closer to the line describing your 4” diameter.  I suspect you will quickly set a goal to hold all of your shots in that 3” circle.  With a little more practice most of your shots are landing in a neat 2” groups with a few in a 3” diameter and almost none outside that.  Again, you will likely set a goal to goal to hold that 2” group with 100% of your shots.  Should that seems unfairly challenging to you and your M&P Shield as opposed to my Glock 34 I would respond that this is OK; the standard is scalable and adaptable. 

It’s adaptable to your gun.  Were you to do the same sighting arrangements as I and found a larger or smaller group (based on sights, sight radius, inherent gun accuracy, etc.) then use that group size as your fundamental accuracy.  It is scalable to distance. Using my group size of 4” at 7 yards, if you’re at 5 yards, fundamentally sound shooting is akin to 2.85” ((distance/7)*group size).  At 10 yards it’s 5.7” inches ((distance/7)*group size).  It will also serve to identify your improvement over fundamentally accurate.  Should you prove yourself capable of shooting 2” groups at 7 yards you are 50% better than fundamentally sound.  2” groups at 15 yards is about 76% better than fundamentally accurate.  I predict you will quickly begin to tire of just shooting small groups.  I know that I did, and we all recognize that “speed” is a skill, too.


I regularly play games wherein I try to see how fast I can shoot and keep all shots touching a 2” square.  I also use the 4” standard to see how fast I can shoot and not fail at fundamentals.  You no doubt noticed that did not share how fast that was.  In Part 2, I will share how fast I think is “good.”

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I always blame arrogance. 


Whenever we presume to believe the actions needed to insure an accidental or negligent injury by firearms are unneeded... arrogance has occurred. 




In the video a man arrogantly (stupidly) presumes he doesn't need to follow the rule, "Never let the muzzle cover anything you are unwilling to destroy."/"Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction."


The results are predictable.  You knew it was coming as soon as he started pointing the gun at his own hand.

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According to some, night-sights are beneficial for only short periods of time or in very narrowly defined places.  They are wrong. 

Click the link to down-load a better researched opinion on the usefulness of night-sights.

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Read this.


Let it sink in.


For almost a decade I have been presenting three slides.


The first of the three slides declares the first and most important step in cleaning any gun is to UNLOAD THE GUN.


The second slide proves to you that bullets go through walls.


The third slide teaches you how to unload the gun: remove the magazine, cycle the action, verify an empty chamber.


I have also opined that, "I was cleaning my gun," is often a convenient lie to avoid admitting to other worse (negligent or criminal) behaviors.   I have sympathy for this family and father, but this was an avoidable tragedy.

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The caliber debate is ridiculous.

Chris Baker at Lucky Gunner did a bang-up job testing defensive ammo and publishing the results in October of 2015. 

I reviewed the results and ultimately exported them to a spreadsheet for better analysis.  I excluded from the results ammunition which failed to meet two standards.  The first is the FBI standard of 12" minimum penetration in ballistic gelatin.  If the ammunition did not penetrate at least 12" it was tossed.  The logic was that people would not risk carrying ammunition which failed to penetrate deep enough to stop bad-guys.  Second, if it failed to expand to at least 1.5 times it's original diameter... gone.  The 1.5 times original diameter is a commonly used threshold and is in no way magical.  But, again, if you have 12 good choices for your 9mm that penetrate at least 12" and expanded to at least .53" from .354" why not choose one of those? 

Using that philosophy I compared the 9mm, the .40 and the .45. 

And I found no significant difference between them: 

The 9mm will give you a .61" hole which was 16.1" deep, on average.
The .40 produced a hole .69" wide which was 15.5" deep, on average.
The .45 induced a hole .79" wide which was 14.6 deep, again, on average.

The largest 9mm was .70" in diameter, the largest .40 was .82" in diameter, and the largest .45 was .85" in diameter. 

By averages, you would only get a hole which was 0.09" larger in diameter in any direction using a .45 over a 9mm.  By best example you would only get a hole 0.075" in any direction doing the same.  That's not enough of a difference for this guy to get excited about.

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