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Do you carry with a round in the chamber?

If there’s one topic that can cause a lot of heat in shooting circles, it’s whether or not you choose to carry with a round in the chamber.

When you research this topic or bring it up, particularly around experienced shooters, you’ll find a lot of strong opinions like, “only an idiot would carry without a round in the chamber,” or my all-time-favorite, “you might as well carry a brick for as much good as an unloaded gun will do you.”

And these experienced shooters have these strong opinions because there is ample evidence, and many examples, where not having a round in the chamber has cost a good person their life.

That being said, the decision to carry with a round in the chamber, or not, is a personal choice once you understand all the facts and have good information.

So let’s look at the reasons why you would want to consider carrying a round in the chamber, and some tips and techniques to help combat the fears and concerns that may prevent you from doing so.

Why carry a round in the chamber?

The 21-foot rule says that it takes the average adult 1.5-2 seconds to close a 21-foot gap between them and another person.

Stop right now and set a stopwatch to 2 seconds. Unload your carry firearm, and then reholster. Start the timer and see how long it takes you to unholster your firearm, rack the slide, and aim. For the majority of people, their potential attacker would be on them well before they ever got to the “aim” part.

In addition, there are often extenuating circumstances that make it difficult if not impossible to rack a slide while under attack, or where having to rack the slide under stress causes a misfire, as is well documented in this 4-minute (and don’t worry, it’s not judgmental) video by Active Self Protection titled “This is Why You Carry a Round in the Chamber.”

Even knowing all that, carrying with a round in the chamber can be an especially difficult fear for new shooters and those new to concealed carry to overcome.

Addressing the fears of carrying with a round in the chamber

I get it, I really do. It took me a LONG time carrying, and training with, my firearm before I gained the confidence to carry with a round in the chamber. And if I’m honest with you (and I am always honest with you), there are some times when, because of available holster options or other circumstances, I still make the conscious choice to carry without a round in the chamber.

I understand the risks in doing so, but I make that choice in those situations to either carry without a round in the chamber or not carry my firearm at all (and I almost always choose to carry without a round rather than not have my firearm with me, but again, that’s my choice).

If you want to get to the point where you are confident enough to carry a round in the chamber, here are some practical tips and things to consider:

  1. Always follow the 4 Rules of Firearm Safety. I know YOU know this but I’ll say it anyway. Modern, quality guns don’t go off by themselves. They fire because someone (or something) has pressed the trigger. If you always, always, always follow the 4 rules of firearm safety, especially the rule of “Finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire” you should never have a negligent discharge
  2. Critically review your holster(s). Look at your holster choices anew with an eye toward safety, in terms of trigger coverage and material. How well is the trigger covered when the gun is holstered? How about after moving around, sitting, squatting, twisting? Is the holster made from a hard material like Kydex that is molded to your firearm? If it’s a fabric holster is it made out of a thick, sturdy material like a stiff leather or ballistic nylon? If it is made from a thinner material, like some cheaper belly bands, hip huggers and thigh holsters, BE AWARE that it is possible for the trigger to get depressed THROUGH the material. Check your holsters with your unloaded handguns in them to see if this is something that can happen. In addition, even if you have a good leather or fabric holster, they can soften and wear over time, which may make them more comfortable but also make them less safe. For a real-life example of this, see this cautionary tale about a leather holster gone very wrong here at ItsTactical.com. Regularly review your holsters, in particular fabric or leather holsters, for wear and thinning.
  3. Practice, practice, practice, practice. This cannot be stressed enough. You need to get VERY comfortable with the operation of your firearm (whether or not it has an external safety, how to rapidly address stovepipes and other misfires, etc), and with unholstering and reholstering your firearm from all the different holsters you use. That comes from repetition and practice. The absolute best way to do this is with dry fire practice (with a completely unloaded firearm, including empty magazine) at home. I try to dry fire from the holster that I’m wearing on any particular day (I have at least 4 that I use in rotation depending on what I’m wearing) at least once every day I’m wearing it, in addition to practicing more time intensively any time I get a new holster or setup.  Repetition and practice is the most effective way to gain confidence in your gun handling skills.
  4. Carry with a round in the chamber at home first. Spending time carrying in the safe environment of your home with a round in the chamber is a good way to get comfortable and confident that nothing will happen (without your intent for it to happen) before you carry loaded in public.

At the end of the day, you need to do what you feel comfortable and confident with, when considering all the pros and cons, and all the risks and fears.

Additional resources

Here are a few additional resources on this topic that are informative and non-judgmental. Give it some thought, and make your decision based on what you alone are comfortable with. I’d also love to discuss it with you in the comments below.

In upcoming posts we’ll go further into the issues around mindset and situational awareness (in effect, how to  “extend” that 21-foot gap) as well as different levels of firearm condition readiness and what that all means.

Real Avid Gun Tool

Gift ideas for your gun lovin’ guy

After our post on Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Gun Lovin’ Gal, our always-generous readers asked for some gift suggestions for the men in their lives too. They’re always thinking of others, aren’t they? So with the help of my own gun lovin’ guy, here are a few suggestions that we think the man in your life may not actually have bought for himself yet that he would be very thankful for.

Coolest Guy at the Range
Real Avid Gun Tool Pro-X
Real Avid Gun Tool Pro-X

Your guy will be the coolest guy at the range if someone has an issue with a malfunction and he’s able to whip one of these babies out of his pocket or range bag. The Real Avid Gun Tool Pro-X ($41) has literally any tool you would need to fix a malfunction on the fly, including an ingenious built-in (and removable!) LED light to allow you to see what you’re working on. The Pro-X version also includes a ballistic-nylon case that can clip onto a belt.

UpLULA Autoloader
UpLULA Autoloader

While not as visually impressive as the Real Avid Gun Tool, having one or two of these UpLULA Autoloaders ($23) in your range bag helps make the most of your range time by speeding the time to load magazines as well as save wear and tear on your hands. In addition to the black, these are also available in burnt orange and olive drab.

Friendly Swede Caribiner Grenade
Friendly Swede Caribiner Grenade

I can’t tell you how much I love the Friendly Swede Caribiner Grenade ($11).  I bought one for hubby, hubby’s cousin, several of my friends, myself. This is just one of those things that you hope you’ll never have to use but if you need it you’ll be glad you have it. I have it clipped onto the handle of my Get Home Bag in the trunk of my car. Hubby has his clipped onto the emergency first aid kit he keeps in his car. It’s essentially a mini survival kit, which includes a firestarter, tinder, aluminum foil, needle, fishing hook and line and a few other items, all wrapped up in 9 feet of paracord.

Training with the Big Boys
Navy Seal Shooting
Navy Seal Shooting

Former Navy Seal and firearms instructor Chris Sajnog really has the chops when it comes to teaching you marksmanship and how to improve speed and accuracy. His latest book, Navy Seal Shooting ($20) has simple-to-follow directions and illustrations that can really make a difference in improving your shooting skill.  Chris is the person who detailed out step-by-step how to shoot with both eyes open and that alone has greatly improved our marksmanship.

Seal Survival Guide
Seal Survival Guide

Having the right mindset in any kind of situation is critical, and former Navy Seal Cade Courtley, in his book Seal Survival Guide ($14) walks you through everyday potential disaster scenarios and how to handle them. Not a “fun” read (because I don’t know about you but I prefer not to think about all the bad things that can happen), but definitely a very informative and helpful book to have read.

Gear for His Guns
Sticky Holster
Sticky Holster

I don’t know about your guy but my hubby likes to carry around the house and when working outside in the yard or garage. Having several of these Sticky Holsters (various sizes, $26-36) to fit each of his handguns make it easy for him to have his handgun safely with him no matter what he’s wearing, from jeans to shorts to sweatpants. These fit nicely in a pocket or tuck into the waistband of well-fitting pants. They really do work!

Sig Sauer Tactical Mini Light
Sig Sauer Tactical Mini Light

I LOVE this tactical light by Sig Sauer, and it’s on sale right now on the Sig Sauer Store (reg. $72, on sale for $50). Not only is it a standalone high-powered tactical light powered by a single AA battery (I personally prefer replaceable batteries over rechargeable, especially with something you want to have operational if the SHTF), but it has a mount and remote that can be used on a long gun.

*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.

Holiday Gift Ideas for your Gun Lovin' Gal

Holiday gift ideas for your gun lovin’ gal

It’s that time of year again, and we’ve got ideas for you to find just the right gift for your favorite gun lovin’ gal.

Concealed Carry Holsters – especially for Women

She’ll love the fact you’re supporting woman-owned businesses, with products that are designed by women, FOR women, and Made in the USA.

Can Can Hip Hugger Holster
Can Can Hip Hugger holster

The Can Can Concealment Hip Hugger holster (various, $76-85) is one of the most convenient, comfortable, secure and easily concealable ways for women to carry on-body. It works equally well under jeans as it does with skirts, and even with sweat pants or yoga pants. Made in the USA of a durable and comfortable ballistic nylon it’s available in a variety of colors and styles to fit micro to full-size handguns, as well as several sizes to fit all body types. Multiple holster and magazine pockets allow for flexiblity of handgun placement. It’s beautiful, high-quality and functional.

Can Can Concealment Thigh Holster
Can Can Concealment Thigh Holster

The Can Can Concealment Thigh Holster (various, $66-75) and optional Garter Belt ($32) offers women the option to carry easily while wearing dresses and skirts.  It too is made in the USA of quality ballistic nylon and available in a variety of colors, styles and sizes to fit micro to full-size handguns. I strongly recommend also purchasing the optional Garter Belt for additional security, as heavier guns in particular can have a tendency to pull down the holster over time. Unlike a lot of other holster options available, this is beautiful as well as functional and would make a great gift.

Concealed Carry Handbags

Honestly, I’ve not seen a lot of beautiful options out there when it comes to concealed carry purses or handbags, with the exception of these:

Been and Badge Olivia Concealed Carry Handbag
Been and Badge Olivia Concealed Carry Handbag

The Been and Badge Olivia Cross-Body Tote ($269-294) is designed by women and made in the USA. It is available in two colors of a beautiful quality leather, and also features an ingenious holster system that both secures the handgun in the much safer muzzle-down position but also effectively conceals the handgun while the purse is opened. The strap is detachable so it can be used as either a cross-body bag or as a tote with just the sturdy handle. If there was one concealed carry purse you wanted to buy, this one is it!

At the Range

Here are some fun options for pistol cases that add style in a sea of black and olive drab.

Leopard print pistol case
Leopard print pistol case

This fun Leopard Print Pistol case ($18-20) by Ace Case is made in the USA and comes in a variety of patterns and sizes, including a pink camo, orange camo and zebra print, although my personal preference is for the classic and goes-with-everything leopard.

Range bag insert in red
Range bag insert in red

These compact and easy-to-use Range Bag Inserts by VISM and NcStar ($10-15) serve dual purposes as both a pistol case and open up fully as a gun-rug when you get to the range. These are available in a variety of colors, including red, navy, black and even pink camo.

Be Prepared

I always think its sweet when someone is thinking about my safety and security in their gift choices. To that end, these two products make great stocking stuffers and tell the recipient, “I’m thinking about you.”

Olight Keychain Flashlight
Olight Keychain flashlight

I cannot begin to tell you how handy it has been to have a powerful keychain flashlight on my keys as part of my everyday carry. Not only for the obvious safety reasons, but practical reasons too (for everything from being able to see the check when we have dinner at the local movie theater, to the lock on the door when I get home now that daylight savings has kicked in). This Olight Keychain flashlight ($10) is a tiny bit bigger than some tiny lights, but has the added benefit of being powered by an easily replaced AAA battery.

 

Ozbourn Tactical Pen
Ozbourn Tactical Pen

This Ozbourn Tactical Pen ($18) not only has the ability to write well and serve as a weapon, it also has a glass window break on the end, which is something that every person you care about should have with them at all times. I also like the fact that it uses the standard Parker ball point pen refill for ink, so you’ll not have to replace the whole pen when the ink runs out.

 

*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.

Concealed Revealed purse holster

Concealed/Revealed: Dress and jacket with purse holster

In this series, we show different styles of women’s clothing with different holsters for concealed carry. One of the biggest challenges faced by women who concealed carry is how to effectively carry our handguns while not giving up the clothes we want to wear. Here we’ll present different approaches and options that work with our actual, everyday clothes.

For your consideration today, a work-appropriate dress, jacket and heels, with a purse holster:

Concealed Revealed dress and jacket
Work appropriate dress and jacket
Purse holster
Purse holster
Concealed Revealed inside purse
View from inside the purse
Crossbreed purse defender
Closeup of purse holster

I know there are many strong feelings about the idea of off-body carry in a purse or handbag that I plan on addressing in a future post. There are inherent risks and issues that require extra diligence if you choose to off-body carry. Regardless, I sometimes choose to purse carry, and this Crossbreed PurseDefender holster has been the best option available so far – although I do have some issues with it. While it’s great to be able to carry in any purse I own, the fact that the gun is clearly visible in the bag as soon as I unzip it is concerning for me when I’m paying for groceries or a coffee and I want my carry to remain, well, concealed.

As for the outfit, the dress is the Aditi 2.0 (machine washable!!) dress by MM.LaFleur. The jacket is the Drape-Front Colorblock Jacket by Eileen Fisher. The heels are the Colcotta 100 in black patent by Christian Louboutin. The handbag is the Kate Spade Cedar Street Harmony medium tote, similar here. The handgun is my absolute favorite Sig Sauer P320 9mm in the Carry/Medium size with optional small grip module.

*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.

vertx-bag-loaded

It’s in the bag – Vertx A-Range Bag Review

We go to the range to shoot as a family, and to keep things neat and organized we went in search of the BEST range bag for the needs of either a single shooter or a small family.  It took awhile, but we found the most versatile solution in the Vertx A-Range bag.

Vertx A-Range bag
The Vertx A-Range bag
Vertx A-Range bag
Vertx A-Range bag fully loaded

While big enough to hold everything the 3 of us need at the range (it’s 10″x12″x19″), it’s not so huge that it’s messy and overwhelming. By way of comparison we also have the 5.11 Tactical Range Bag which is much bigger (10″x21″x14″) but is not as well organized as the Vertx. We take the Vertx to the range every time and relegate the 5.11 bag as a supplemental bag for when we go on weekend-long training classes and are hauling tons of ammo.

“Garage Deck” Feature

One of the ingenious features of the Vertx A-Range bag is the ammo “garage deck.” When you open up one of the sides, you have two pull-out “drawers” with mesh inserts that can be used to hold ammo and accessories.

In addition, the lining on the flap is all Velcro. I ended up buying a small pack of Velcro and adding it to the back of the included magazine pouch so it could be easily attached to the inside flap of the bag. This keeps both the magazines and ammo secure and easy to access. The mesh pockets on top are great for holding our autoloaders.

When we get to the range, we set the bag on the rear table, unzip the flap (which lays flat and can also do double duty as a gun rug), and then we can each reach the ammo we need right from one of the convenient drawers.

Vertx A-Range bag inside
Vertx A-Range “garage deck”

 

Great interior o

The inside of the Vertx A-Range bag is also well organized, with a rigid bottom and several side pockets to store small items. In the top compartment we’re able to fit 3-4 handguns (we like to use these small zip-up range bag inserts that fully open up to serve as individual gun rugs), and 3 sets of ear protection.

There’s another side zipper on the opposite side of the “garage” that doesn’t open up all the way but is wide and deep enough to accommodate all our eye protection, our compact Real Avid gun tool and a small bag with emergency cleaning gear.

What I love about this bag is it’s not so huge that it would seem too big if you’re just going to the range by yourself (especially if you like to bring several handguns with you), but it is big enough to accommodate the needs of several people all at once.

Vertx A-Range bag top
Vertx A-Range bag main compartment

 

Security on the go

Finally, one of the nicest additional features of the bag is an integrated lock-down system – a looped coated metal rod through the bottom and halfway up the side where the zipper locks through – that allows you to attach a cable to secure the bag (and the zippered main compartment) to a locking point inside your car.

For us, that’s been great since our favorite indoor range is about 30 miles away and we frequently plan stops for dinner or errands on our way there. Knowing we can discretely leave the range bag secure in the back of the SUV is comforting.

Vertx A-Range bag security cable
Vertx A-Range bag security cable

We’ve been using this bag continuously (at least weekly range dates) for the last several years. It’s held up amazingly well and shows very little signs of wear. The zippers, handles and stress points are all high quality and show no sign of giving up any time soon. For us, it’s been well worth the investment.

The Vertx A-Range bag is $199, and is available on Amazon.com* and other online stores.

*The Vertx A-Range bag is a product 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.

concealed-revealed-top-skirt

Concealed/Revealed: Top and Skirt with Thigh Holster

In this new series, we’ll show different styles of women’s clothing with different holsters for concealed carry. One of the biggest challenges faced by women who concealed carry is how to effectively carry our handguns while not giving up the clothes we want to wear. Here we’ll present different approaches and options that work with our actual, everyday clothes.

For your consideration today, a work-appropriate long-sleeve top and pencil skirt, with a thigh holster:

concealed-revealed-top-skirt
Concealed: Long Sleeve top and pencil skirt with pumps

Concealed Revealed Concealed Carry Thigh Holster

Revealed: Thigh Holster

This holster is one of my favorites for concealed carry when wearing skirts and dresses: the CanCan Concealment Thigh Holster. I had originally planned on wearing the top untucked and using a belly band, but it looked better tucked into the skirt so I had to regroup and go with the thigh holster.

The top is the Winfrey top in Boysenberry by MM.LaFleur. The skirt is Armani Collezioni in a pink and grey tweed, similar here. The shoes are a Manolo Blahnik t-strap pump in Bordeaux leather, similar here. The handgun is my easily-concealable Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380.

*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.

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.

Concealed Revealed Jeans T-shirt belly band

Concealed/Revealed: Jeans with belly band

In this new series, we’ll show different styles of women’s clothing with different holsters for concealed carry. One of the biggest challenges faced by women who concealed carry is how to effectively carry our handguns while not giving up the clothes we want to wear. Here we’ll present different approaches and options that work with our actual, everyday clothes.

For your consideration today, jeans with a fitted t-shirt and jacket for a night at the movies with the family, using a belly band holster:

Concealed carry outfit jeans tshirt
Concealed – Jeans with fitted t-shirt and jacket

 

Concealed carry outfit with belly band
Revealed – belly band at hips

 

Concealed carry outfit jeans tshirt
Concealed without jacket to show minimal printing

 

The holster is The Well Armed Woman 4″ Belly Band. The jeans are NYDJ Sheri Skinny Jeans, t-shirt is H&M, similar here, jacket is AG, similar here, ballet flats are COACH, similar here. The handgun is my easily-concealable Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380.

I was really pleased at how well this belly band concealed my .380 even considering my wearing a relatively fitted t-shirt and jeans. One of the nice things about this belly band is the ability to tweak the carry location by moving around the placement of the band’s holster. I normally like to do kidney carry, but since we were going to see a movie I knew I would be sitting for awhile and that can get quite uncomfortable. This worked out quite well, and as you can see, with minimal printing.

*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!

 

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