CNLiveClip

On Colion Noir “CN Live” at NRA-TV

I had the pleasure of chatting with Colion Noir of NRA-TV’s “CN Live” last night about being a relatively new shooter and some of the challenges for women who carry – including purse carry. If you haven’t checked out some of Colion’s work, do so. He’s one of the more thoughtful commentators in the firearms space today.

Colion Noir  CN Live

 

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Do you have the mindset for concealed carry?

I had a situation happen to me recently that led me to question whether or not I had the proper mindset for concealed carry.

I was driving down a busy city street and as I approached an intersection, I accidentally cut too close in front of a white panel van.  I waved “sorry” to the guy behind me, who was clearly upset and yelling at me through his windshield.

Then, sitting there at the stoplight, I hear a loud pounding on my drivers-side window, and it’s the guy from the van who is standing next to my window screaming at me. And as I’m sitting there, with my concealed carry handgun right next to me tucked between the seat and the console, I just keep telling the guy “I’m sorry,” in the hopes he’ll just get over it.

Well unfortunately, he didn’t. He ended up following me, and all the while I’m thinking, “Is this really happening? Is this guy really following me?” When it became clear to me he was, I decided that rather than head home (which is where I was originally heading), I headed back to my office building, which has a security guard stationed at the entrance [in hindsight, I should have headed straight to the nearest police department while dialing 9-1-1, but hindsight’s great that way].

Once I got to the office, jumped out of my car and headed inside to the security desk, the guy finally sped out of there – all the while cursing me, and finally screaming out his window, “I’ll find you.”

The second guessing

Almost as soon as the incident was over, I began to second-guess my actions. First was my initial and continuing disbelief that this was really happening. That some nutjob was first getting out of his van at an intersection to scream at me through the drivers side window, and then that the nutjob actually continued to follow me.

Second was my panicked choice to drive to my place of work once I realized that he was, in fact, following me, where he could certainly find my car and possibly wait for me at some later date with who knows what intentions.

Third was my decision to not be more aggressive with him when he first approached my window, letting him “see” my handgun and forcefully telling him to “back off.”

Situational awareness is the key

The first issue, that disbelief that this was actually happening, is actually very common.

In the aftermath of public shooting incidents, survivors will often say they thought the noise they heard was fireworks or backfiring, rather than recognizing immediately that the noise was gunfire. There’s an initial disbelief that their worst nightmare could actually be happening. This to me is key to the mindset question – it’s being in the “yellow” state of situational awareness and moving rapidly to red as required.

As for my choice of driving to where I work, I think it’s related to the state of disbelief and panic I was feeling because of my lack of proper situational awareness.

I admit I was only thinking partially clearly in that moment. At least I didn’t drive to my home, I drove to somewhere where I knew there would be people, but I could have picked a less identifiable option than the place I work if I had been more calm and had been able to focus and reason.

As for the third, I still believe I did the right thing by trying to de-escalate the situation rather than escalate it by exposing my handgun. The guy was clearly enraged, and who knows if he, too was carrying and if that would have just set him off? Also, I did not at that moment fear for my life, even though I was scared.

One of the 4 Rules of Gun Safety is never let your muzzle cross anything you do not want to destroy. I felt I was in the “safety” of my locked car at a very public (and crowded) intersection. Right or wrong, it was what I believed in the moment.

In the end, I was able to learn a lesson about myself and my need to focus on improving my situational awareness and mindset. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another to practice and live it. I’m working on the latter.

Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

Some additional reading:

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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.