Magazine at range

Are you SHOOTING your self-defense ammo?

I’m guilty. I admit it. I don’t regularly shoot my self-defense ammo.

I have done EXACTLY what a recent article on  TheFirearmsBlog titled “CCW Truths Clash with Self-Defense Ammo Solutions,” said most CCW holders do.

When I go to the range, I set aside my carry magazine loaded with Federal Ammunition 9mm HST Hollow Point self-defense ammo and shoot the magazines that I’ve loaded with American Eagle 9mm FMJ rounds. Then, at the end of my range time I dutifully load the “carry” magazine back in my trusty Sig P320 and off I go.

The problem with rechambering

I am unintentionally impacting my safety with this practice. In some cases, your carry magazine could be years old without the ammo ever having been used, and, get this, with the same exact round getting chambered every time.

“It’s common knowledge within the firearms canon that chambering and re-chambering a cartridge can potentially lead to either the bullet seating further into the case, or even light primer strikes (AR15s). Maybe not on the second time, or the third, or the fourth, but it can eventually lead to a failure to fire, or even a catastrophic malfunction.”

I get it. self-defense rounds are expensive, often almost 2x what the same caliber and grain of full metal jacket (FMJ) or ball rounds cost.

So I called Federal Ammunition to see what they had to say.

Federal confirmed that what can happen over time with chambering and rechambering the same round is “bullet setback” where the crimp that holds the bullet in the casing can break. It’s a problem they said happens often with law enforcement but that they are now seeing with concealed carry as well.

So what should you do?

Federal recommends that every time you unchamber your round from your carry gun, that you first inspect the round. If it looks fine (you don’t see “bullet setback”) then unload the magazine, and load the round you’ve just unchambered to the bottom of the magazine.

This ensures for at least a few cycles (depending on how many rounds your magazine holds) you will be chambering a fresh round.

Federal also recommends that you completely change out the ammo in your magazine every 6 months to a year, even if you don’t see bullet setback. Just use it for practice and reload with fresh ammo.

I’ve adopted a new practice where at least once a month at the range I shoot my carry magazine loaded with HST. For me it’s good just for practice, and then I’m sure my ammo is fresh.

So stay safe out there, and use fresh ammo!

Woman Shooting Gun

How to shoot with both eyes open

One of the more challenging things about learning to shoot for me was learning to shoot with both eyes open. This is a skill that you can learn, and one that is important if you carry a firearm for self-protection. Just like training to shoot one handed, learning to shoot with both eyes open will serve you well in the event you ever need to use your firearm while under duress.

Learning to shoot with both eyes open takes some time, patience and practice. Here is the approach I used:

  1. Bring your attention to an object 15-20 feet away from you – your “target” or sight picture.
  2. Hold a pen or pencil out at arms length, then focus on the tip. This is the “stand in” for your front sight.
  3. Start first by focusing on the pen tip with one eye, then the other – notice how your sight picture changes based on your dominant or non-dominant eye.
  4. Now open both eyes, still focusing on that pen tip. Note your sight picture.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

You’ll find that after some time, you’re able to quickly acquire the sight picture. Every time you go to the range, take your time and practice shooting with both eyes open. You may need to first focus with one eye, then open both eyes, focus and take the shot. In my experience, my accuracy improved greatly with my “both eyes open” shots than my one-eye open shots, and I found that the more I shot with both eyes open the easier it became.

More from the experts

One of the best people in this field is former Navy Seal Chris Sajnog. He has lots of great videos and books to help you improve your shooting skills. His video below, Eye Dominance and How to Shoot with Both Eyes Open, shows exactly what you should expect to see as you learn to shoot this way:

If you are training primarily for self-defense, learning to shoot with both eyes open is just one more skill you should learn. Do you shoot with both eyes open? Why or why not? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

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!

ConcealedRevealedPurseHolster

Tips for Concealed Carry in a Purse

There may be times when your choice for concealed carry of your handgun is either carry in a purse or don’t carry at all. For example, where I work firearms are not allowed. It’s much easier for me on a day-to-day basis to carry in my purse and transfer the handgun to a portable gun safe in my car before heading into the office, than struggling with un-holstering and then re-holstering an on-body carry option in my car.

Purse Carry Considerations

However, if you choose to purse carry, there are a number of additional considerations you should be fully aware of and prepared for.

    1. You have to treat your purse or bag like a newborn baby. That means you can’t do the usual of dropping your purse on the floor or over the back of a chair while at a restaurant or coffee shop (I KNOW you do that, don’t try to deny it!). You can’t leave your bag in the basket of the shopping cart when at the store. You can’t shove it on the floor by your desk when you’re at work. You have to keep your purse on you AT ALL TIMES if you are carrying a handgun. If you think of your bag like a newborn baby, which must be with you and secure at all times, it’s a good mindset to have if you’re carrying in a purse.
    2. You have to have a proper holster and dedicated spot in your purse for your handgun. DO NOT under any circumstances just tuck your handgun into your well-worn pocket holster and toss in the bottom of that pit that’s your hobo bag. That’s a negligent discharge waiting to happen. If you have a good-quality, dedicated concealed carry purse, there is usually a zipper or other compartment that a holster attaches to (usually with Velcro). If you choose one of the purse holster options you can use with your regular purse, it ideally should be in a separate compartment of your bag with NOTHING ELSE IN IT.  The bits and bobs that float around all of our purses can get caught up in trigger guards that are not properly secured and cause a discharge. Your gun needs to have a secure holster with proper trigger guard protection and the gun needs to be in a separate location in your bag without anything else around it.
    3. Reconsider purse carry if you have or are around small children. There are numerous recent stories about women who were carrying in their purses and small children (some as young as 2 years old) were able to access a gun with tragic and deadly consequences. This goes with tip #1 above, but think of situations like in a car, where your purse is either next to you on the seat or behind you – NOT ON YOUR PERSON. Or when you’re at a friends’ house and you set down your bag on the floor and a curious toddler decides to check it out while you’re engaged in conversation. There are just too many opportunities for children to gain access when a gun is off-body that it deserves serious reconsideration.
    4. Be prepared that your purse (and gun) could be stolen in an attack. This, along with the sometimes careless inattention we give to our purses (see #1 above), is one of the biggest risks to purse carry. If you aren’t carrying your purse cross-body (most recommended) and you get mugged or attacked, not only could you lose your wallet and keys but you could lose your gun as well, and/or the gun could be used against you.
    5. Train, train train and then train some more. Most ranges will not allow you to draw from a purse, so that means regular, consistent dry-fire practice at home with your chosen purse holster and handgun. You need to practice your draw from both your dominant side and your non-dominant side (assuming you’re like most of us and sometimes switch the shoulder you carry your purse on). Be forewarned that drawing from a purse of other off-body holster is ALWAYS going to be much slower than a good on-body carry option.  A recent article on LuckyGunner.com actually put the purse draw to the test on the range and in most cases it took more than twice as long to purse draw.
Purse Carry Resources

Here’s a good video from DressedToCarry.com that demonstrates how to draw from one of the more typical side-zipper concealed carry purses.

One of my current purse holster options is the CrossBreed Purse Defender. As I noted in a recent post, I have a few issues with this option but given what else is currently available in the marketplace it’s the best that I’ve found available right now, especially since it uses a molded Kydex holstering system to allow for good trigger coverage.

One of my favorite dedicated concealed carry purse options on the market today is the Been and Badge Olivia Tote. It’s made in the US of very high quality leather, and I like the holstering option with the quick-release Velco pocket rather than the more common side zipper holster seen with most dedicated concealed carry purses (because it’s easy to muzzle someone in those). But as with any holster option, you have to go with what works best for you and your handgun.

I hope this has given you some things to think about if you choose to carry in a your purse. As with any issue around the great responsibility you’ve taken on if you conceal carry a handgun, be smart and be safe.

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!

 

*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.