Tag Archives: Gathering information

Laser sights

I have seen too many people forget the basics and rely on finding the laser dot instead of looking down the sights on pistols. They became much slower with the laser.

So began a Facebook thread in a closed group of ‘operators.’ There’s an antinomy, a form of paradox, in this sort of discussions that I always find interesting.

The paradox arises from the often parroted statement that most armed encounters take place at night or in low light. This premise is less than provable, but let’s accept it at face value for purposes of discussion.


Now, let’s follow up that premise with dismissal of a sighting system because ‘it doesn’t work’ during periods when gunfights are LESS LIKELY to take place.

In this particular FB thread, I will put myself in the category of ‘highly trained,’ since that’s what their membership group supposedly consists of. Years ago, it didn’t take me long to figure out that there were things I could do with a laser on a pistol that I simply couldn’t do without them. That held true even during the day, unless I was on a brightly sunlit ‘square range,’ which is so often said to be a poor and ‘non-realistic’ training environment. In any indoor environment, there is no issue with ‘finding the laser dot,’ even in a well lit room in daylight.

Note visible laser dot.

Note visible laser dot.

Once we get into the realm of low light, where the popular mantra says the majority of gunfights occur, most of us will agree that iron sights are fairly useless. We’re largely reduced to point shooting because the sights can’t be seen.

I wondered about the difference between iron sights and lasers during low light. I think of the time frame between sundown and End of Civil Twilight (dusk) as low light. The US Naval Observatory provides specific definitions of these and states

Some outdoor activities may be conducted without artificial illumination during these intervals, and it is useful to have some means to set limits beyond which a certain activity should be assisted by artificial lighting.

Target Acquisition and, to a lesser extent, Target Identification, is still possible during that period. However, between sundown and dusk, night sights aren’t really visible (not bright enough) and neither are the irons (luminous efficacy of the eye’s cones is insufficient).

To establish a quantitative measure for that difference, I chose several parts of the Handgun Testing Program at the elite Rogers Shooting School. The targets were more visible than they show in the video but I couldn’t see the irons. I proceeded to shoot the tests with a laser equipped Beretta. Having taught at Rogers for five years, I’m fairly confident in saying that, without the laser, I would have made the all the body hits (7) and around half of the hits on the number 1 head plate (8) for a score of 15 out of 69 targets. My score with the laser was four missed targets for a score of 65 out of 69.

There’s a reason I have a laser on my house gun.

The issue of parroting something that was heard without questioning, analyzing, or testing is a separate topic that the training community has yet to address adequately. That’s for another time, though.

Holster retention systems and sloppy research

A few people drink from the fountain of knowledge but most only gargle.

Gun Digest recently published an online article about holster retention systems. The article begins by referencing Safariland’s retention holster rating system as being the standard. Unfortunately, the author, Corey Graff, should have done a little research and contacted Safariland about their retention rating system before writing about it.

That system, devised by Bill Rogers, the inventor of the modern security holster, has nothing to do with the number of mechanisms that the holster has. Corey’s interpretation is a common misconception in the industry. Safariland’s system is based on a series of hands-on performance tests in which the holster is physically attacked and tested. The holster must pass, in sequential order, each test to achieve a given level of rating. A holster can have several mechanisms on it and still not achieve any rating at all if it doesn’t pass the hands-on (literally) tests.

In point of fact, the Blackhawk Serpa holster pictured in the article will not pass even a Level I rating test, regardless of the number of mechanisms it might possess. The reason is that the holster must remain attached to the belt while attacker is pulling on it with a given amount of force. Because of its relatively small mounting area where the screws attach to the belt plate, the entire Serpa holster will pull off the belt when subjected to a Level I test. Unless, of course, the holster itself breaks, which has also been known to happen, when subjected to a hands-on test.

destroyed serpa

I won’t go into the plethora other unsatisfactory aspects of the Serpa holster.

Unreinforced leather holsters, such as the Blackhawk leather slide holster pictured, will not pass a Level I test either. They lack rigidity in the strap holding the pistol in place and the pistol will simply pull out of the holster when subjected to a significant amount of force. This is why true security holsters must be made from a rigid synthetic material.

It’s interesting that the author used Blackhawk holsters as illustrations despite the fact that they don’t pass the Safariland rating system. What is up with that, I don’t know, but it’s certainly poor research and understanding of the topic. Since this article is an excerpt from a book about Concealed Carry Holsters, I certainly hope the rest of the book is better researched and based on factual information rather than common misconceptions.

What skills should we train and practice?

“What is the best use of my time right now?” —How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein

As many people know, I like to read The Armed Citizen column of the NRA Journals in detail each month. Years ago, I did a Five Year Analysis of The Armed Citizen to give me an idea of what actual incidents really looked like. Revisiting that concept appealed to me, so I did a short version for the first six months of 2014.

What I was looking for this time was the skills and techniques that were used by The Armed Citizens to solve their problems. Each incident was looked at from the perspective of skills that could or might be taught in an entry level to intermediate level firearms training class. Here’s what the list and usage rates ended up looking like from 10% up and 0%:

  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)                32%
  • Move safely from place to place at ready    22%
  • Draw to shoot                                        20%
  • Challenge from ready                                  15%
  • Intervene in another’s situation                  15%
  • Draw to challenge                                        12%
  • Engage from ready (handgun)                     12%
  • Hold at gunpoint until police arrive              12%
  • Retrieve from Storage (unknown)               10%
  • Shoot with non-threats downrange            10%
  • Retrieve from Storage (rifle)                        0%
  • Reload                                                  0%

How often do we, as firearms trainers, ask our students to bring their home storage containers to class with them? Probably not 32 percent of the time. Or do we at least provide some kind of drawer for them to get their roscoe out of to show they can do it safely? I know a lot of people keep their chamber, or even the gun, empty when it’s off their person, so do we make them demonstrate loading it safely? Something I really like about the NRA Defensive Pistol I Marksmanship Qualification Program is that it includes those type of skills and incorporates both a time and accuracy standard for performing them.

How about moving safely from place to place with a loaded gun in hand, especially with innocents around? This is one of the biggest challenges that new IDPA and USPSA shooters encounter. Almost inevitably, a new shooter will run around with finger on trigger and then is taken to task about it by the match staff. While they’re not training, those shooting sports are providing a lot more realistic practice on a critical skill than most training classes are. Does that mean that the shooting sports are more relevant, at least in that aspect, than training classes are?

Challenging criminals is another skill I see rarely. John Farnam emphasizes it in his classes but I don’t see verbalization prior to using deadly force in many other classes. I personally think the concept “the gun isn’t coming out until I decide to shoot” is one of the most ill-considered ideas in the firearms community. But I still hear it quite a bit. If we can convince a criminal that the victimization has gone South and turned into a conflict, the chances are quite good they will break off. If they break off the attack without us firing a shot, I consider that a big WIN. Verbalization is another skill that is included in the NRA MQP. But a number of my students have found it hard to do without considerable coaching.

We’ll discuss the other skills in the future, but I want to draw attention to the percentage of reloads involved in these incidents, to wit: ZERO. As I mentioned in a Personal Defense Network interview, I’ve completely de-emphasized reloading in my classes for Armed Citizens. It’s a useful exercise for practicing good gunhandling but as a tactical skill, I just don’t consider it important anymore. Some folks spend a lot of time on thinking about how much spare ammunition to carry, how to carry it, and how to reload quickly. I think that time and effort would be better spent on practicing to make a good first shot, which is a skill many people need a lot of practice on.

Ballistic Radio interview

Last Sunday, I was interviewed about Incident Analysis on Ballistic Radio. A podcast of the broadcast is available here. It’s about 45 minutes long.

A broad outline of the discussion was:

  1. What is it?
  2. Why do it?
  3. Gathering information.
  4. What are the sources? There is a lot of open source information available now that simply wasn’t available just a few years ago.
  5. Framework for thinking about it.
  6. Vetting the information.
  7. Applying the conclusions to one’s own situation.

It was an interesting discussion that I really enjoyed.