(*by Steve Weldon www.champaignccw.com)
1. Inexpensive, (read really cheap) safety gear. I’d rather see you buy a less expensive gun than less expensive safety gear. Quality safety glasses and hearing protection only serve to save your eyesight and preserve your hearing.
$10 safety glasses generally are not made for shooting, and believe it or not either are same priced “shooting glasses” you buy in department stores. Prescription glasses, even if plastic lenses, are not ideal shooting glasses. Ideal shooting glasses should have polycarbonate lenses, anti-reflective coatings, no dark coatings that restrict vision, and be big enough to cover the entire eye and eye socket. Check out Oakley for some of the best shooting glasses available anywhere. They even make prescription models which I personally love.
If you can only afford passive (non-electronic) hearing protection then look for those with at least 29-33db attenuation. They should be new enough to have a soft cup to seal your ears and a nice snug band to hold them securely. Ideal hearing protection is electronic and are both noise cancelling and amplified. They typically attenuate less than passive headphones but they more than make up for it by allowing you to hear range commands, instructions, and what’s going on around you. I find it near impossible to teach students who can’t hear me. Electronic headphones are a real blessing for any sort of instruction or top safety. Hearing a CEASE FIRE command could save yours or someone else’s life.
2. Guns you conceal & carry must absolutely without question 100% of the time GO BANG. And bang again and again until the threat is stopped. You might not believe this but it’s true. A full 60% of the guns students bring to my concealed carry classes, have at least one malfunction during the very short 30 round qualification test. Wow, 60%. How can you reconcile that with carrying concealed? It’s like driving a car whose brakes fail 60% of the time. Or an airplane whose motor fails 60% of the time.
Why? Various reasons. Often the gun is so new, combined with shooting lower powered reloads or even inexpensive training ammunition, produces several types of failures. Often the gun is so new the operator has yet to read the manual, scrub the manufacturing gunk off it, and discover it’s lubrication sites. Older guns often haven’t been cleaned and lubed in ages, combined with often bent/mis-aligned magazine lips and the gun can’t help but fail. Others just bring either inadequate or ill-specce’d ammunition. And yet others haven’t yet learned, despite our instruction in the classroom, to hold the weapon properly which can and will induce failures.
We’ve never had so many choices in defensive handguns. This follows that we’ve never had so many ill-designed, first generation, and other problematic models being sold through hyped marketing. My two main conceal & carry guns I personally use were selected based on a lifetime of personal experience and having my ear to the ground of the shooting sports industry including my own gunsmithing business. This means they are great guns. For me. Not necessarily for you. Guns are a personal thing. I bring about 20 different conceal carry style handguns to my classes to help “fit” a gun to someone not too terribly different than you would fit shoes.
3. No planned drills or other targeted conceal & carry practice. I love plinking with my .22’s and I enjoy distance shooting. But if you conceal and carry you should be practicing drills that prepare you for that fateful eventuality where only a well trained response with a weapon will save your life. Every course of instruction for concealed carry should teach you drills you can practice on your own and a means of gauging your current proficiency. Before putting down your deposit for any type of instruction make sure these drills are part of the course. Keep in mind, if you aren’t measuring/timing your drills then you have absolutely no idea if you’re better/worse than last time. A good instructor will absolutely introduce you to a shot timer and how to use it.
4. Not using a holster and/or not drawing. As I look around I notice no one is working from a holster. It’s very rare to catch anyone working a holster. I wrote an article about my own philosophy concerning teaching drawing and holstering during the short range time allotted in a concealed carry class. In short, there’s not enough time to do it well and more importantly safely. I do teach it during our Step-Up advanced courses and we teach you drills to use during your own practice and encourage you to practice your draw, especially from concealment, every chance you get. Including even when dry firing practice in your leaving room, or Airsoft practice in your garage or backyard. In most all armed encounters your draw is vital. It needs to be done second nature, in a smooth fluid motion without having to think through every small step. This requires frequent and quality practice.
The elephant in the room is that many if not most ranges won’t allow drawing from a holster. I understand why. Read my article. Because it’s dangerous and a few incidents could be enough to get their insurance cancelled which immediately shuts down the range. Often for good. So when you do find a range that allows drawing from a holster, and hopefully concealment, respect that range by being especially safe and seeking quality instruction so you don’t become one of the statistics closing down a quality range.
5. Most armed encounters take place during the hours of darkness. Yet, I actually see people hurrying up to finish their range session so they can leave before it becomes dark. Ranges generally don’t stay open during the hours of darkness, many reasons for that I’m sure, but depending on the time of year it can and does get near darkness for a period of time and I’m there experiencing my sight picture in darkness, how severe the muzzle flash is for the ammo I use and possibly experiment with different ammunition. I run my drills from dusk to near and even complete darkness. I’ll promise you this, you’ll be surprised how different it is to operate during darkness. It could save your life.
6. Not practicing with real carry ammo. Or worse, I see people loading up and holstering as they leave the range WITH PRACTICE AMMO!!! Remember what you learned in your concealed carry class, FMJ ammo penetrates a lot making it unsuitable for carry where you can’t always control your backstop. Almost always a good quality hollow point ammo that expands as it penetrates is the most appropriate ammunition to use for concealed carry.
Don’t bother with the super expensive premium boxes of 20 rounds unless you have money to burn. You should ideally run at least 200 rounds of your carry ammo through your carry weapon without a malfunction before even think of carrying it. And run a full mag through your weapon every range session o ensure it’s maintained its ability to cycle and feed that ammunition. To shoot this much and not have money be a problem you will need to find a good quality hollow point ammo sold in boxes of 50. I like to buy cases at a time so once I regulate my sights different lots of ammunition won’t result in a different point of impact. There are many such brands that fit the bill, often around $20 for a box of 50.
Don’t bother with +P or +P+ ammunition. Here’s the thing, we used to rate different rounds by how much “stopping power” they had using the FBI as the authoritative reference body because they get the government funding to do the tests and virtually every police department and even the military listens to their results. This last year they shocked everyone by saying stopping power was a myth. After studying virtually tens of thousands of shootings they found that the definitive variable which really mattered was shot placement. They stated that virtually every major handgun round would work the same if you achieved proper sight placement with fast follow up shots.
So stay away from anything that increases muzzle flip and the time it takes to get back on target, like +P or +P+ ammunition. I personally shoot 9mm because of this and I carry a quality 147g hollow point to maximize energy down range while achieving the fastest follow up shots. I used to carry 230g .45’s +P’s. I’m sure they deliver more energy down range, in fact the ballistic tables prove it. But according to the FBI, and they are the trusted authority, what stops threats is show placement first, followed by fast follow-up shots on target.
7. Their gun isn’t properly regulated! My gosh, how obvious is this one? If your sights aren’t regulated so you can reliably and consistently hit your point of aim then it’s next to worthless. You don’t know if it’s you or the gun. Nail in the head frustrating. Yet, many aren’t. And if you’re not sure where you’re gun is hitting, then how do you know if it’s your shooting or the gun? And if you don’t know for sure where it should hit, then how can you diagnose issues with finger placement and trigger pull? And if this is your only gun you can’t even compare it to something different. What this does is it results in whatever bad habit you’re doing to hit where you want.. and breaking the bad habit later takes a lot of work.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people struggling on the range, letting others shoot their gun thinking that will sort things out. I’ve seen many variations of this. Here’s how to correct this:
A very popular and wise handgun modification, especially for concealed carry, is a set of sights which is properly regulated, suitable for your eyes at their current age and health, and ideally compliments your carry habits.. i.e. night sights, fiber optics, etc. At 55 with two eye surgeries behind me I find the Ken Hackathorn sight system with a plain serrated flat black rear sight, and either a tritium night sight or a quality fiber optic. You can read more about selecting these sights, which sizes, thicknesses, and even their installation here. If you buy your new sights from Amerigo and after installation the regulation is off, give them your information and they’ll calculate a new sight height and exchange them for free.
8. They never train with a tactics based instructor. In my experience most people have learned to shoot from someone they either really respect or care about, often both. And of course that person takes it personally when you go elsewhere for instruction. I’ve had some almost violent episodes in my concealed carry classes between spouses because one spouse having paid attention during class was starting to realize their significant other wasn’t necessarily the shooting guru they’d for years purported to be. And even if they could help them hit the target with regularity.. unless they had really advanced training in their past, they had no real concept of tactics. And folks, I’d much rather have on my side an average shooter with knowledge of tactics than a great shooter with no knowledge of tactics. If you disagree, you are due for some tactics classes so give me a call.. J
9. That person with the loaded gun is being distracted by…… I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the range trying to get in some serious practice and a parent is there with youngsters, not to shoot and learn which I think is entirely appropriate dependent on age and maturity, but as self-babysitters. The parent has usually managed to perch ear protection on them, set them in a row, and as soon as the parent turns around to shoot the kids start playing. Of course they do, they’re kids. But then, the parent gets distracted, yells at them (they’ve got earphones on so they’re yelling much louder than they’d otherwise be), and distracts everyone. Worse case the parent turns around with a loaded gun in their hand, angry and stressed, endangering everyone.
Most ranges have rules against this.. but they’re often not followed. Those that don’t allow dogs. Do I really have to explain why dogs are a bad idea at a range? They’re like young kids with all the same issues, but who resist to their last wearing earphones. Yep, some people try to put ear-protection on their dogs.. and others.. well.. dogs can easily lose their hearing by being too close to guns.
10. They don’t follow range rules. I can’t even fathom why a shooter would ignore range rules but they do. From bringing kids or dogs like mentioned before, to shooting .50bmg’s on the rimfire range. Folks, ranges cost a lot of money to build and maintain and a single person can cause thousands in damage in a very short time. Worse they become dangerous. Sometimes ignoring the rules puts the wrong gun in the wrong area resulting in bullets flying into houses, highways, fields, and more. Folks, I could tell you a book worth of stories that I’ve personally seen where not following the rules resulted in a severely dangerous condition. People think if they’re the only ones there it won’t matter. Maybe, maybe not. Integrity is all about what you do when no one is watching..
Until next time..