Grip Tip to Improve Shooting Accuracy

Grip tip to improve shooting accuracy

Just a quick tip today on your grip to improve your shooting accuracy. I learned this trick from one of the amazing instructors at The Site Firearms Training Center in Mount Carroll, IL and even though it seems small, it’s really improved my accuracy.

Would love to hear your tips on how to improve accuracy in the comments below!

What to Wear at the Range

What to wear at the shooting range

When I first started shooting, I really didn’t know what to wear to the shooting range. Here are some quick tips on what to wear, and what not to wear, so you can hopefully avoid some of the painful mistakes I made.

Always remember there are several hazards at the range (besides the obvious) that you should take into account when deciding what to wear:

1) Brass is ejected from your, and your neighbors, gun every time they shoot. This brass is HOT and it can (and HAS) caused burns when it touches skin; and

2) there is lead particulate all around the range, including on every surface, on your clothes, skin and hair, on your shoes, bags, etc.

My recommendations are focused on how you can minimize the impacts of both of these hazards with your clothing choices, and always remembering that any range, no matter indoor or outdoor, or how new or “clean” it is, is inherently dirty.

Eyes & Ears & Hair

You should ALWAYS have proper eye protection and ear protection when shooting. No matter what. No excuses. Eye protection protects your eyes from flying bass, debris and particles. Ear protection protects your ears from the extreme noise of shooting firearms repeatedly.

How you style you hair at the range is partly personal preference, partly practical. I have long hair, and I find it easier to concentrate on my shooting when hair’s not in my eyes, so I always pull my hair back into a bun or ponytail. It also helps reduce some of the lead particulate from spreading around after the fact.

Some women, and men, with shorter hair wear a hat (baseball style is great as the brim helps deflect flying brass). Again, it’s recommended, but unlike eyes and ears, optional.

Range Day outfit option
You CAN look stylish and be practical at the range
Tops

For women especially, choice of top is critical, because there’s this thing called the “hot brass dance” that happens when a woman decides to wear a low-cut or v-neck top to the range.

Let’s just say those little suckers have some sort of homing beacon for women’s cleavage, I kid you not. If you remember ONE thing, besides your eye and ear protection, it should be to wear a crew-neck or high-necked top when shooting at the range.

Whether you choose short- or long-sleeve, whether you choose to wear a button-up shirt or jacket over your top is all a matter of the temperature, the location (indoor or outdoor range), and personal preference.

I do recommend that ALL of your range clothes be machine washable, again because you’re going to want to clean them separately, with a lead-removal laundry detergent, when you get home from the range.

Bottoms

Choice of bottoms is again, mostly personal preference, but with some practical consideration. Shorts and skirts can be worn, but know you will likely get hit in the legs with flying brass (which is not as painful as the “hot brass dance” but you will end up more direct lead exposure through contact with your skin), and depending on what, where and how you’ll be shooting (indoor vs outdoor, handgun vs rifle), you may end up kneeling or laying in the dirt.

My preference is either jeans or tactical pants (even though I am very much a skirt/dress girl in my daily life).

I often wear jeans when we’re going to our weekly range date at the indoor range, because frequently we may stop for dinner out beforehand. I will wear tactical pants when we go for weekend-long training courses, because they can better accommodate an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster and belt, and are more comfortable and sturdy for all-day shooting marathons in the dust and dirt. I personally love 5.11’s tactical pants – they have good sizing and color options for women.

Shoes

Unlike clothes that can be machine washed with lead-removal detergent, my recommendation is to dedicate a pair of shoes to the range, or at a minimum, a pair of shoes that will only be worn outside. You want to minimize your and your loved ones’ exposure to lead, and the bottoms of your shoes are prime sources of tracking lead indoors once you’ve worn them at the shooting range.

The other thing to consider is comfort. If you’re shooting a handgun, you will be shooting standing up, usually for an hour at a time, on a concrete or other hard surface. Doesn’t sound like a lot but your feet can tire quickly.

I’m a big fan of the Merrell Moab Hiking Shoe for when I will be spending a lot of time at the range. I’ve worn these at weekend-long pistol training courses where you are on your feet in gravel and hard-packed dirt for 8-9 hours at a time, and they not only withstand the dust and dirt, they are also quite comfortable.

I also have a pair of “comfort” ballet flats that I wear sometimes when we’re just going for our weekly practice at the indoor range, and I know we’re stopping off for dinner or errands before we go to the range and I don’t want to look all “tactical.” Comfy tennies, like my favorite Chuck Taylors, are also a good and inexpensive option.

Just remember that lead exposure is a real issue when you spend time at the range, which just means you should take precautions.  See my previous post – Lead Poisoning – Shooting’s Hidden Risk – for more tips, techniques and products on how to manage lead exposure.

Be sure you’re washing your clothes after range time separately with a lead-removal laundry detergent, and that you’re removing the shoes you wear to the range at the door and not tracking lead dust through your house.  Just remember to practice often, and look stylish and practical while you’re doing it!

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

Dot Torture Target

Practice or plinking – shooting with a purpose

Marksmanship target
Not bad for my first stage!

I love range time as much as the next shooter, but I’m also somewhat competitive, especially with myself.  I found that over time, I would get a bit bored just shooting without a purpose, so I went in search of ways to challenge myself and improve my skills in the process.

Marksmanship Program to the rescue!

One of the first things I did was download the guidelines for the NRA Marksmanship Program. Other than going for the highest level of the program (Distinguished Expert), this program is self-managed, so you basically follow the instructions for the type of firearm you wish to qualify in (and there are many) and work through the program step-by-step.

One of the challenges with this program was finding the right targets. In the Pistol Qualification program that I’m working through there are a few different kinds of targets specified – the AP-1 or AP-2 targets.

These are the AP-2 targets that I was able to locate at a pretty reasonable price from a supplier on Amazon. Good news is these are used throughout the Pistol program.

What I enjoy about the Marksmanship Program is that it gives you an objective measure by which to challenge your shooting skills – improving both your accuracy and speed to target. It’s not just putting some head shots into the latest zombie target, although that can be fun too.

Dot Torture Target
Dot Torture

Dot Torture really IS torture!

If you’re not interested in going through an entire marksmanship program and are just looking for more challenging targets to shoot, I highly recommend Dot Torture.

This target was recommended to me by one of the amazing trainers at The Site Firearms Training Center, and while this is deceptively simple looking, it really IS torture!

You start with the target at 3 yards and with 50 rounds. You need at least 2 magazines as you have to speed reload on 9 and 10. Only when you get a perfect 50 score on the target (all hits within those frustratingly small 2-inch circles) can you move the target back another yard and start again.

At the indoor range we frequent we’re not allowed to draw from a holster, so I “simulate” the draw by going to a high ready stance. I simulate the speed reload by having the extra magazine on the shooting stand in front of me, and just drop my mag onto the table.

The idea is you’re really working a lot of skills here – strong hand and weak hand shooting, quick acquisition of the front sight, and speed reloading. In fact I credit my work on this target to me winning the speed reloading “contest” at one of the pistol training courses I took at The Site because I use this target EVERY TIME I go to the range.

Let me know what some of your favorite ways are to “practice with a purpose” in the comment below – I’d love to hear about it and I’m always looking for a new challenge.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

all clean

Gun cleaning – without the fumes

The only other shooting related activity that is almost as relaxing as range time is gun cleaning time. It’s so satisfying to see the end result – a well-oiled, well-functioning machine ready for action.

Getting there though, can be uncomfortable and challenging if you don’t have the right products and gear to make gun cleaning time fast, easy and fume-free. It took a lot of experimentation for us to find these holy grail products, and now I’m sharing my secrets with you.

Gun cleaning in action
Cleaning my Sig Sauer P320 for range day.

So let’s gear up!

To start with, guns are dirty pieces of metal and you should plan to protect the surface you’ll be working on. I love my Sig P320 gun mat (hubby has the Sig P226 mat for his 226, natch!), but here are some non-logoed mats that also work really well:

Now that we’ve protected our work surface, we need to protect our hands. Cleaning solvents and the dirt and lead on our guns is very harsh on skin. So I like to use surgical gloves (size M for me, size XL for hubby):

Finally on to the actual cleaning part!

We are HUGE fans of Mil-Comm’s cleaning products. Their products were designed for and used by the military, and best of all – NO FUMES. We’ve tried all the commercially-available cleaning solvents that you can readily get at Cabela’s or Gander Mountain, and frankly were so uncomfortable both in terms of the harshness (even through gloves) and the fumes, it’s worth the price to get Mil-Comm.

We start first cleaning the bore by soaking a GunSponge with the Mil-Comm MC50 NRA Bore Cleaner ($15.50/4-ounce) and passing it through from breech to muzzle (always in the direction the bullet travels). We then let that sit while we detail the rest of the gun.

Next we break out the Mil-Comm MC25 Firearm Cleaner/Degreaser ($12/4-ounce) and spritz all over the handle, frame and slide, and start wiping down with GunSponges or lint-free gun cleaning patches. We also like to use gun cleaning swabs ($6-10/100) to get into all the nooks and crannies, giving everything a final swipe with a patch to remove any excess cleaning fluid.

After letting the bore “soak” for awhile with the bore cleaner, we then use a Hoppe Viper Bore Snake that we spritz with Mil-Comm MC25 Cleaner on the “clean” portion of the Snake and the Mil-Comm MC2500 Lubricant/Protectant ($13.20/2-ounce) on the “lubricant” portion of the Snake. Pull the Snake through the bore (remember, breech to muzzle), and voila, a cleaned and lubricated bore in one fell swoop.

Finally, a few spritzes of the lubricant on a patch or two to wipe down the rest of the gun, paying special attention to the metal parts. A tiny amount of the Mil-Comm TW25B Grease ($16.95/1.5-ounce) on a pad applicator on the slide and parts where metal rubs against metal, a final dry wipe with a patch or two to take off any excess lubricant, and we’re good to go.

gun all cleaned
All clean!

 

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

eves-first-day-at-range

5 tips for shooting range etiquette

Deb and Eve at the range
Deb and Eve at the Range

Recently we took my mother-in-law to our favorite indoor range for her first time shooting. She had recently completed the classroom requirement her concealed carry permit but hadn’t yet shot a gun.

Helping introduce someone to shooting is something we take very seriously, and really enjoy. At our home before we left we made sure to first discuss the 4 rules of Firearm Safety and gave her the opportunity to conduct some dry fire with the Ruger .22 pistol we were going to have her shoot first.

Once at the range we introduced her to Rick, one of the Range Safety Officers (RSOs) and he reviewed the firearm safety rules with her again and also the specific rules of the range.

It got me thinking about range etiquette, which isn’t something I had thought about much since we’re weekly visitors and take for granted what’s expected. But range etiquette is about more than just niceties, it’s about safety too, for you and for everyone else at the range.

While every range may have their own set of specific guidelines and rules, you’ll always be welcomed back if you follow these 5 basic range rules:

  1. Strictly follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. You know them, repeat after me:
    1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded
    2. Never point your muzzle at anything you do not want to destroy.
    3. Know your target and what’s behind it
    4. Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
  2. Obey all commands of the RSO. The RSO is the ultimate authority at the range. If you hear a “Ceasefire” command then IMMEDIATELY stop shooting, place your gun down with muzzle pointed down range and step away from the firing line awaiting further instructions from the RSO. Hands off the gun! Do not touch or handle your gun during a Ceasefire, not until the RSO calls “Commence Firing” or “Range is Hot.”
    • One interesting note about the Ceasefire command is that the RSO is not the only person who can call it. Anyone on the range who notices something wrong or a safety issue can call Ceasefire, which then usually gets repeated by the RSO. Here’s a good article on range commands and how to behave when they’re called.
  3. Gun always pointed down range. If you’re following the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety your gun’s muzzle
    The Side Slide Swipe
    Courtesy Ammoland.com

    should ALWAYS be pointed down range, but it’s such an important point it bears repeating. It can be easy to get distracted, turn to look at what’s going on in the lane next to you or to talk to a friend, with your gun in your hand. Suddenly you’re muzzle is pointing where it shouldn’t be. Another common example of this is when you’re racking your slide – the guys at Ammoland call it the “Side Slide Swipe.” The natural tendency when holding the grip in your dominant hand is to turn the gun sideways in front of you to rack the slide with your non-dominant hand (see the photo, right). When you do that, however, your gun is now pointed directly at the shooters next to you. It takes a lot of practice, but remember to always turn your BODY not your GUN.

  4. Keep your gun in a case to and from the firing line. Bring the case with the unloaded gun to the line and place it on the shooting table, don’t uncase it somewhere else and then walk it to the line. Same is true when you’re done shooting. Bring the case to the table and unload and case the gun before leaving the line, always remembering Rule 3 – Gun always pointed down range. I love these small range bag inserts that unzip all the way to also serve as a gun rug on the table.
  5. Clean up after yourself. Police your brass in the way the range wants it taken care of, dispose of all used targets in the appropriate receptacles, put away any range property you used (stools/seats, rifle stands, etc), pick up and dispose of any garbage and make sure you’ve left your area as clean (or cleaner!) as it was when you arrived.

If you follow these 5 tips for shooting range etiquette you’ll have fun and stay safe.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

548px-electron_shell_082_lead

Lead poisoning-shooting’s hidden risk

When we first starting shooting on a regular basis, we went to a local indoor range that was quite old and out-of date. We became concerned, however, when we would find a thin black film in our noses and ears as we were leaving the range and quickly Googled that the likely culprit was lead dust.

Lead poisoning. The “hidden” risk of shooting.

We hadn’t even considered that a risk with our new hobby. And we had particular concerns because we were shooting as a family, including our then-12-year-old daughter, and children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of lead poisoning as exposure to lead can cause serious issues with brain development.

Pregnant women are also at considerable risk with exposure to lead and so should take additional precautions when handling guns and ammunition, including having someone else load magazines, wearing a face mask at the range, wearing gloves, and ideally having someone else handle gun cleaning, while expecting.

Lead is an issue for the shooting hobby through a number of avenues – the bullets themselves (particularly evident when you’re loading your magazines before a range date and your fingers are covered in black dust), the gasses that emit from the bullet leaving the gun barrel and the fragments created as the bullet hits the backstop. That can contact you directly or end up as air particulates, particularly if you are in an older, poorly ventilated indoor range.

Testing recommended, especially for children

Shortly after we started shooting we took our daughter to her pediatrician for a blood lead test. We considered it our baseline. She had slightly elevated levels but nothing that the doctor said she would be concerned about immediately. She did recommend however that we test her every 6 months just to be sure. We also made sure that either my husband or I loaded her magazines, especially when she was shooting .22LR, which usually has an exposed lead tip.

How to protect against lead poisoning

For all of us we switched to full-metal jacket ammunition for the range, as it’s completely clad in copper or brass (no exposed lead) and is often less expensive than the hollow-point ammunition we load for self-defense.  We also purchased several bottles of D-Lead soap, lead-off wipes, and anti-lead laundry detergent and instituted a strict lead protocol for any handling of guns or ammunition.

  1. After loading magazines hands are washed with D-Lead soap and cool water, rinsed then rewashed with regular soap.
  2. After shooting at the range hands and faces are washed in the range bathroom with D-Lead soap and cool water (our range has this in the bathroom, and we also keep a small bottle in the car just in case). If we are at an outdoor range without access to running water, we use the Lead-Off wipes we keep in the car at all times (along with our first aid kit) then make sure we wash our hands with our portable D-lead soap before eating or drinking anything at the first opportunity.
  3. Once home we drop all our range clothes and shoes in the basement hallway, and the clothes get washed immediately (and separately) with the anti-lead laundry detergent. Showers then follow for everyone.

There’s also no eating or drinking at the range, as ingesting lead through touching food with your fingers is one of the primary ways of getting exposure. We’ve also been lucky enough to find a newer range in our area that has state-of-the-art air handling capabilities and is really cognizant of reducing lead exposure. No more black noses and ears when we’re done with a shooting session, which is a relief.

While lead exposure and lead poisoning is serious, if you’re careful and take precautions, it shouldn’t affect your shooting enjoyment.

*The products in this post are all products I purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

fort-knox-7241-black-cherry

Keeping your handguns safe – at home and on the go

The primary responsibility of any gun owner is the safe handling and storage of their guns. This is especially true in situations where the gun is not in your immediate possession (on your person) and doubly especially true if you have children or others in your house who should not be allowed to access a firearm without your supervision.

Not having a gun safe was not an option for us

I know for us that when we made the decision to purchase our first handguns, the very next decision was how we were going to properly and safely store those guns when not in use to keep them out of reach from our daughter but yet also readily accessible on a daily basis.

If you are only going to own a handgun (or two) for self protection and home defense, there are plenty of small, reliable handgun safes on the market that are designed for quick access at home.

In our bedroom we have the Fort Knox Pistol Case. It’s amazingly heavy, sturdy, and I love the fact that it uses a push-button, mechanical lock.  You don’t want to have a failure in accessing your handgun if you need it in the middle of the night under stress, and unlike this safe’s push button lock, digital and biometric locks can fail, batteries can die, keys can get misplaced or lost and you can’t dial a combo lock in the dark.

This case is big enough for 2 handguns and has drill holes to bolt it to the floor or drawer for extra security. And even though it’s very heavy steel, the lid has a pneumatic hinge that allows for one-handed access.

In my car I have a portable gun vault by Nanovault, that I tether to the frame of my car and tuck out of view.  In my state, Wisconsin, as in most states, there are areas in which you’re not allowed to carry a firearm, such as governmental buildings, school zones and college campuses.

In addition, firearms are not allowed at my office so I need to have a safe place to store my gun when I head into work. As I’ve noted before, these small safes are inexpensive, and are a bare minimum for safe storage of and quick access to your handgun, particularly in your car. I’ve also used this small portable safe when carrying while traveling and want to be sure I will always have a secure place to store my gun if I need to.

What to consider when choosing a pistol safe

It’s important to think through not only the safety features but also how accessible you want your handgun to be as you think through your gun safe options.

If you’re not going to on-body carry at home, which many people do, you need to think through where you want to keep your handgun while not on body. You don’t want a situation where you can’t get to your gun if you need it, but you also want to be sure that it’s secure from unauthorized people such as children or guests when you’re not able to carry it.

Think through in what situations you will be using the safe and where you will be keeping it – in the bedroom at night, during the day while at work, or in the car or while traveling – to determine not only the kind of safe but what features you want – in particular the kind of lock (biometric, digital, push button, combination, key) and the size and layout (open from the top, open from the side).

Once you have your gun safe, it’s important to practice accessing it regularly. This is particularly true for a bedroom safe where you may keep a home defense handgun that you’re not carrying every day. Practice opening in the dark. Practice opening from on the bed or on the floor.  Practice so it becomes second nature and you can have your gun both secure and accessible when you need it.

*The products listed here I have purchased and use. Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

sig-and-sw

Why women should buy two guns, not just one

When I first decided to get a concealed carry permit, I gave a lot of thought as to what I wanted for a handgun. I took several trips to our local gun shop, talking with the very helpful staff and trying a lot of guns in my hands.

I wasn’t comfortable handling the micro- or sub-compact guns that a lot of women tend to get directed to because of their size, and instead found a good balance of size and power in the mid-sized Sig Sauer P320 in 9mm. As an added bonus, the P320 is a modular gun, so I was able to get the medium/compact size frame and swap out the medium grips for the small grips. It feels great in my hand and is a lot of fun to shoot.

After months of training and putting many thousands of rounds through my Sig, I gained some pretty decent gun handling skills and finally felt comfortable enough to start to carry.

I purchased a few different kinds of holsters, but found that both the kinds of clothing I normally wear (skirts, dresses, t-shirts and sweaters) didn’t lend themselves to most holsters, and the holsters that did lend themselves to the clothes I wear didn’t work well with the size of my 9mm. I was printing like crazy (where you can see the outline of a gun under your clothes), and both the belly band and thigh holster I ended up with were just not big enough to allow for a quick draw of the 9mm.

Given that I didn’t want to change the kinds of clothes I wear, I needed to go back to the gun store to find a solution.

The Search for a Small Carry Gun

I went in search of a much smaller gun that I could carry on body in both the belly band and the thigh holster. I was looking for something lightweight and as thin as possible while still being able to have effective stopping power .

I found what I needed in the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380. It is the same height and length as my husband’s subcompact Sig P938, but much thinner and much lighter, due in no small part to the fact his is a tiny 9mm and mine’s a 380, which is a slightly smaller round.

There’s a catch though, and that is that I absolutely hate shooting my S&W Bodyguard.

Oh, I dutifully take it to the range every time we go, and I grudgingly put a few magazines of ammo through it, but I can’t wait to finish and pack it back up. Much like when I first went to the gun shop all those years ago and was handling those little subcompact handguns, the small 380 is no fun to handle or shoot.

Small, subcompact guns have a lot of recoil, because there isn’t enough metal to absorb the energy of an explosive bullet firing through it. If I would have purchased this as my first gun, I don’t think I would have ever purchased a second (or third or fourth). I would have never practiced, never trained, and never learned to enjoy the sport of shooting.

And that would have made me much less skilled and confident, and in turn then, much less safe in the handling of any gun.

Women especially may need multiple options for carrying

Unlike most men, who, both through their clothing choices and body structure can comfortably and effectively on-body carry a mid-sized 9mm that they feel comfortable both shooting and training with, for most women, it’s challenging.

What feels most comfortable to on-body carry (small caliber, sub-compact or micro guns), is really miserable to shoot and train with. And we all know that training and regular practice is critical if you take on the responsibility of owning a gun.

That’s why I think most women who want to concealed carry really need two guns – your first gun a great shooter to train and practice with, and, once you’ve built up your skills and confidence, a second smaller gun for on-body carry.

*Note that some of the links in this post may generate a commission that will help support this site, although that in no way influences my opinion or review. Please see my full Disclosure Statement here.

handgun_collection

4 Things to Think About Before You Buy Your First Gun

You’ve thought about buying your first gun for protection, and maybe even considered going to a concealed carry class too. Before you take that step, here are 4 things you should think about:

  1. It’s a significant monetary commitment. Buying a gun is not like buying a new sofa or new computer. When you commit to owning a gun you also commit to keeping it safe at home or in your car, carrying it safely, and training, training, training. That means beyond the cost of the gun you need to think about a gun safe, holster, lots of ammo, range fees, training costs and possibly a second gun (more on that in future posts).
  2. It’s a significant time commitment. Training and owning a gun go hand in hand. You don’t just buy a gun and then stick it in a drawer – that’s just asking to become a bad statistic. In addition, gun handling skills are perishable, meaning that you need to practice regularly (live fire at least once a month, and dry fire at least once a week) to build up the confidence and muscle memory to safely and effectively handle your gun when you need it most.
  3. It’s a significant responsibility. Much like owning a car, owning a gun means you are responsible for a tool that could kill or injure someone or cause serious damage. That means you know like your own children’s names the 4 rules of Firearms Safety and you have committed to both safe storage, safe handling and training with your guns.
  4. It’s a significant amount of fun! You may initially start to think about a gun for self protection, but when you realize the amount of practice and training you need to get really comfortable and proficient with your gun, you hopefully will learn to enjoy it as a sport or hobby. Shooting can be really fun! I actually call it a form of “range yoga” because to challenge yourself to shoot well you really need to focus, which can in its own way be quite relaxing. There is so much to learn and the community is so diverse, it’s really a life-long adventure.

We’ll be here with you all the way.