A recent conversation on Facebook has gotten me thinking about “the journey” that shooters take in their (unending!) quest for mastery.
I see discrete stages of shooter development. The stages I define below are really oriented towards tactical/competition shooting with pistols and carbines, but I am sure extreme long-range and shotgun sports shooters will see some very similar patterns.
I’m going to record my AR-9 trouble-shooting process in this blog post so that maybe someone else can glean some insight into all the things that can possibly go wrong, and how to fix them… because I lived through them.
I bought a DDLES “Glock mag” AR lower from Gunbroker once upon a time because that was the hotness like five years ago, and hard to get hold of. It was a smoking deal; based on the person’s other sales item and lack of engraving on the lower, I suspect they had an illegal SBR they were parting out in an attempt to make it go away. I dutifully filed a Form 1 on it, waited G-d only knows how long, and bought a cheapo PSA upper to put on it – I think it was 10.5″, whatever it took to get it across the magic 29″ OAL floor we have in MD.
It was a terrible performer right out the gate. It didn’t eject right. It didn’t cycle reliably. It tore cartridges in half. But, last night, after months of work, I got it working. How? Read on.
I love competition. I have been slacking with doing it due to family commitments and taking up BJJ, but I’m hoping to do a bit more USPSA in July-September. Competition really drives the standard for speed, accuracy, and efficient movement, so I want to lead off the post by saying this isn’t some sort of variation on “competition gets you killed in the streets” or other nonsense. However, I just want to talk about how competition has had something of a negative effect on firearms development in a couple areas, because I think that has been inadequately explored.
First and foremost, I think factory compensated pistols have not been nearly as developed as they could be due to the fact that they dump you straight into USPSA Open division. Contrary to nonsense opinions on the Internet, good compensators make a noticeable difference with 9mm ammo, and I really think their downsides (cycling problems) could be greatly reduced if manufacturers spent some R&D time on resolving them.
Second, detachable-mag shotguns. As I think I’ve noted previously, Swearengen’s well-written 1970s-era book “The World’s Fighting Shotguns” extols the virtues of detachable-mag shotguns. He felt that if you were going into trouble, they were a superb weapon in almost any close-in environment (note that the book was written before the proliferation of effective body armor, though). While I readily acknowledge that they have logistical issues in a home defense situation, they put far more firepower on target in a sustained fire engagement (like 15+ rounds), can be changed from breaching to buckshot ammunition much more quickly, and provide certain benefits in gun handling and administration.
Unfortunately, that detachable magazine dumps your shotgun into 3 Gun Open (and maybe USPSA Open), which is a huge disincentive to their use in more casual competition settings (and makes pump guns with them completely unusable). Courses of fire and training classes are designed around the limitations (and sometime strengths!) of tube-fed guns. This leads people to downplay the advantages they bring, because they are never put into a situation where they need to use them. (I would suggest that shoot-load drills with more than three rounds are where detachable mag shotguns start looking substantially better.)
Honorable mention: IDPA is doing no one any favors by banning weapon lights. I don’t think this has significantly harmed the development of weapon lights, but it’s contrary to the IDPA “run what you brung” mindset.
Those are the two that come to mind. I’d love to hear if my readers can think of others.
After engaging in YET ANOTHER argument online about 9mm NATO specs, I’d like to just say my piece once right here and then reference it. I have STANAG 4090 right in front of me; it’s not that hard to read, it’s just that most people have not.
American shooters have had access to M882 for years. This is excellent ammo, and I run a lot of it through compensated pistols. Unfortunately, this has also led to many shooters deciding that M882 is the NATO spec, and nothing else works. This is absolutely not the case, and I would be glad to tell you why after the break.
On the recent Primary & Secondary modcast 187, Matt was discussing his new DSA FAL and the general concept of taking what was an obsolete battle rifle and making it new again. I thought this was a cool idea, and decided to embark on a similar project. I have a number of relatively obsolete guns in my safe, but a fair number of them are in “mil-spec” configuration, and thus I don’t want to alter them. But I do have a Sig 556 SBR and a Sig 556R Gen2 that are basically just old “cool guy” guns from a decade ago, and thus fair game.
I took a long look at them, and what I thought needed to be improved… and did it.
As I’ve worked to try to improve my skills – with mild success – I’ve come up with a few things that have really improved my dry-fire practice with Glocks. They may or may not help you, but they have been winners for me.
The biggest thing, of course, is consistency and timing yourself. You need to dry-fire daily to really develop the skills you’ll need to get better.
One of my big commitments is trying to get in a class every month on some sort of martial skill. Mostly, that’s guns, because guns are fun, but I’m good with knives, hand-to-hand, medical, whatever. It is expensive, but they’re usually one day and local, so there’s not a lot of ancillary costs.
The big problem is often making the call about what class to go to. There are some months where I’ve got hard choices. Do I do the Green Ops practical pistol clinic, the FPF Training Minuteman Rifle class, or the PNTC PRS class?
In an attempt to solve that conundrum, I’ve got a list of priorities that I try to use to as an evaluation standard to determine what I should take. These are ordered in importance to me, but no priority will ever totally override the others. I am very interested in what my readership feels about these, so please leave comments if you agree/disagree!
Here’s me dry-firing. No cuts, except for the one where my old camera conked out at a 4gb file limit, and a touch of trimming at the beginning and end for where I was manipulating my camera. I am not saying this is good or whatever, but I am saying that this is how it looks when someone does the work. It is not always smooth or perfect, especially at first.
Ignore the Instagram-driven BS. If it looks awesome all the time, you’re not doing it right.
Every time I see someone ask about non-5.56 calibers on the AR-15 platform, there’s a legion of fanboys who start proclaiming that .300 AAC (aka, .300 BLK or Blackout or whatever) is the way to go. Let’s take a look at its capabilities:
Subsonic .300AAC? All the ballistics and energy of .45ACP. Somewhat better penetration due to bullet profile, but I don’t get the hype at all. We’ve spent literally decades declaring PCCs and SMGs dead, and now this is the hotness?
Supersonic .300AAC? Nearly indistinguishable from 7.62×39 in terms of ballistics, and if you’re OK with .308 bullets in a .311 bore, the bullet selection is the same.
Yes, .300AAC can be a .45 ACP and a 7.62×39 on demand. That’s the best cartridge design of the years 1911 and 1944, all in one gun. That’s not a compelling to me. But, OK… let’s say that is compelling to you. I can use my imagination!
I am going to lead off with a rather controversial statement, but I think it’s one I can justify: when choosing and configuring a long gun for any specific role that involves dynamic movement, there are four top considerations: reliability, functionality, weight, and cost. I frequently see people ignoring weight, and it drives me crazy.