Sunday, December 21, 2014

Glock Upgrades

So I thought I'd say a few words about the upgrades I do to my Glocks on a regular basis.  I've got a few that I consider my go-tos, and I wanted to throw those out there.  First though, I need to push out one over-arching thought: upgrades are to enhance a gun that already works for you.  If you have a gun that doesn't function for you without upgrades, you may have the wrong gun to start with.  That's not to say that there aren't special cases that may need things like a better mag release or slide release, but ideally you should be able to perform the basic functions (loading, unloading, firing) without any upgrades.

With that said, here are a few of my favorite upgrades:

Vicker's Extended Mag Release: I use a Glock Gen 4, and even though I think the larger ambidextrous mag release is a massive improvement over the Gen 3 and earlier models, for me, having the extended release makes it that much easier to conduct mag changes.  It's simple to change out, and I have had no problems with accidental releases.  It's also rounded, which makes it a little easier on the fingers for repeated mag changes.

Ghost, Inc 3.5lb Rocket Connector: Even though it's advertised at 3.5lbs, I'm pretty sure that was measured on a Gen 3.  Due to the changed geometry of the Gen 4 trigger, I feel that this connector produces more of a 4-4.5lb pull, although I don't have a way to measure it (for more info on the changed geometry and its effects, read up on the Glock "dot" connector).  I personally don't like a carry gun with less than 4lbs, but that's me.  The thing I like most about the Rocket is the overtravel stop.  It takes hand fitting, but it's not terribly time consuming and really makes a difference on my follow up shots thanks to a faster trigger reset.  Also, on two of my guns I've polished the internals, but when last I spoke to Ghost, they advised not to polish when using their connectors, so I'm going to forgo the polish job for the time being.

Ghost, Inc Complete Spring Kit: I only use this kit in specific scenarios, such as an IDPA match.  While it definitely reduces trigger pull and makes my follow up shots faster, the lighter weight springs actually interfere with some of the safety functions of the Glock, at least in my experience.  I never use these springs for carry.  They do have a heavy-weight striker spring for "more reliable ignition," but I've never had an issue with the stock spring, so I don't use that particular spring.

Grip Force Adapter: Having seen the effects of Glock slide bite, I like having a beavertail on my Glock.  My first two Gen 4s didn't come with the beavertails that the new Gen 4s do, so I bought these.  Not only do they provide the protection of the beavertail, but they also change the backstrap geometry just enough to help with the weird Glock "high front sight" syndrome.  On my newest Gen 4, I'm going to try the factory beavertail first, and then switch to the Grip Force if I don't like the stock one.

Ameriglo Hackathorn Sights: Let's face it, while the Glock sights are functional, most people I've talked to hate them, some quite passionately.  My personal preference in sights runs to plain black rear with some sort of Tritium front.  I like the Hackathorns because the front Tritium vial is surrounded by a bright orange painted ring, which immediately draws your eye to the front sight, day or night.  Also, they have a nice ledge on the front of the rear sight for one-handed manipulation.

So hopefully I've thrown out some products that may interest you for your Glock.  I'm quite happy with all of these products, with the occasional exception noted.  I do want to re-emphasize the fact that these are upgrades.  My Glock will run quite handily without any of them, but they do enhance its operation for me.  You'll have to be the judge of what enhancements (if any) you want on your gun.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Concealed Carry Responsibilities

In my last post I spoke briefly about what I view as a gun owner's responsibilities. In this post I'd like to throw out some of my views on the responsibilities of a concealed carrier. Just as gun owners have the responsibility to know the safety rules, store their guns properly, and know the legal and technical aspects of operating their gun, we as concealed carriers have additional responsibilities that we should be mindful of.

1. We have the responsibility to be life-long learners. Just as it is important for the average gun owner to be competent with their firearm, it is far more important for a concealed carrier to train. In general, the concealed carrier is going to find themselves in far more confusing and dynamic scenarios than someone who hunts or target shoots. There is a plethora of training available from individuals and schools throughout the country, and there is always something to be learned. Just as a carpenter, plumber, metalworker, or other tradesman needs to stay on top of their trade, so does a concealed carrier. In between classes, read.  Read scenarios, news reports, and trade magazines, anything you can find and assimilate those tools and lessons learned into your toolbox.

2. We have the responsibility to ensure our mindset is correct. I've seen way to many people on gun boards posturing as if carrying a concealed firearm suddenly makes them a hero or makes them invincible. A firearm is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It endows no special powers, and is a last line of defense against death or serious bodily injury. It does not allow you to suddenly travel in areas you would normally avoid, nor does it supersede the need to use good personal safety or home security practices. It is a tool for a specific need - defense of life - whether yours or someone else’s.

3. We have a responsibility to be the most courteous people around. I cannot emphasize this enough. This applies to everyone around us, whether our fellow citizens or the authorities. If you've spent any time on YouTube, you've seen videos of concealed carriers deciding to be royal jerks to law enforcement. Laws governing notification of law enforcement vary from state to state, but giving a cop a heads up is usually a good idea. Most (not all, but most) street level police officers in my area are supportive of concealed carriers, but just as you expect them to treat you with courtesy, they deserve courtesy as well. Just because you don't have to notify them, doesn't mean it's not a good idea to give them a heads up. When it comes to our fellow citizens, we also have a responsibility to be courteous and avoid provoking a confrontation. Sometimes there is a guy who's going to start a fight no matter what, but usually, we have a chance to avoid a fight through one technique or another. Driving, sports events, even a visit to the mall has the possibility that there will be a confrontation, but many times simply apologizing or walking away is a valid tactic. Even if you are in the right, it doesn't mean you have to win every argument when the cost of winning the argument is possible escalation. In Virginia, whether or not you were at least partially at fault in "provoking the difficulty" changes the requirements for when you can and cannot use deadly force in self-defense. If you are not at fault, you have no duty to retreat, for example. If you were at least partially at fault in the provocation, you are required to retreat as far as safely possible.

I've found that by and large, concealed carriers are a good bunch of people to be around. But we are all human. We have our good days and our bad days, and sometimes we get a little cranky or complacent. This is intended primarily for the new concealed carriers, but hopefully it rings true for those who have been carrying for a while as well.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rifle versus Pistol

I love stalking gun owners on Facebook and Instagram.  While I'm sure that sounds plenty creepy, I love to see pics of people out enjoying the right to keep and bear arms, and I love that people are taking time out to do some serious practice.  More and more, though, I notice that a lot of pictures are full tactical gear with a carbine.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing (carbines are an important part of your tool kit, as is your tactical gear if you choose to own it), but I sometimes wonder if the emphasis in recent years on the "combat carbine" has skewed our collective perception of practical training/practice needs.

The vast majority of my practice time is devoted to the pistol.  There are two main reasons behind this: 1) pistol skills are harder to maintain than rifle, and 2) probably greater than 75% of the time I may need a firearm, I'll have a pistol on me, not a rifle.  I base reason (1) on my own personal observations as well as discussions with professional trainers (both the NRA kind and the funny green beanie kind).  I went almost a year and a half with no rifle practice other than zeroing two carbines.  After only two days of dedicated practice, I had my rifle up to about 80% of where it had been at the MSRT, and I think I could have gotten it back up the rest of the way with another day or two.  I contrast that with my pistol skills, which noticeably degrade after about a month off the gun.  Also, if you've ever been through specialized firearm training that involves both pistol and rifle, they usually start with pistol and once you have a good foundation, they move you on to rifle.  The pistol is simply less forgiving and harder to run effectively (for most people) than a rifle.  Reason (2) should be fairly obvious for most people in the continental US.  Very few locales allow you to carry your carbine when you go out for lunch.  More and more allow you to carry a pistol though.  Unless I am somewhere that prohibits concealed carry, I have a pistol on me.  The only time I pick up a carbine is to go to the range.  It therefore stands to reason that we should devote the majority of our training time to the firearm that we will be the most likely to use.

Now, most of my concern regarding the focus on carbines is anecdotal, I'll admit.  My Instagram stalking is hardly scientific.  It could be that full kit and carbine just makes for a sexier pic (which it does, I'll agree).  And I'm certainly not going to argue with people that choose a carbine for home defense and want to stay proficient, or people who just want to blow off some steam and have a good time with friends at the range.  I just wanted to throw it out there: in my opinion, it is far more important to train with the firearm you are most likely to use (including immediate action, reloads, and flashlight work) than it is to spend a lot of time training for a zombie full kit and carbine apocalypse that is far less likely.

My $.02, feel free to disregard.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gun owner responsibilities

In the national gun debate, the biggest focus is on the rights of the individual to keep and bear arms.  While I certainly appreciate the individuals and organizations who remain constantly on guard and fight for our rights against those who preach "common sense" restrictions and other such blather, I wonder many times if we as gun owners are our own worst enemy.  Have gun owners on the whole become so caught up in the right to own a gun that we forget the responsibilities that come with that right?

1. We have the responsibility to know and apply the safety rules.  I don't really care which version of the safety rules you follow, whether the military's, Cooper's, or the NRA's.  All cover the basics: every gun is loaded, don't point it at anything you are not willing to destroy.  If you have guns in your house and you have kids in your house, your kids need to know the rules by heart as well.  Everyone in a house with a gun needs to know the rules.

2. We have the responsibility to properly secure our guns and ammo when not in use.  This is a good idea for a number of reasons.  First, properly securing a gun reduces the likelihood of a child gaining control of the gun, especially younger children.  Second, properly securing a gun reduces the likelihood of it being stolen and a criminal gaining control of the gun.  Separating ammo from the gun further reduces the chances of an accident.  Having a gun out in the open increases chances of a fatality (whether intentional or mistaken).  If you keep a gun loaded in your home for self-defense, excellent, they make safes and lockboxes that fit your needs as well.  Simply throwing a gun on the top shelf of the closet is not enough, you need a physical means of securing it.

3. We have the responsibility to know how to use our guns.  Owning a gun and knowing how to use a gun are two entirely separate things.  While your particular use for the gun may dictate different training requirements, you need training and constant practice to retain the skills you learn.  If you carry a gun for self-defense, your training needs are far higher than someone who hunts for recreation.  In a worst case scenario, you will be expected to engage a moving target while discriminating between the threat and the non-threats around you while shielding a family member while you are moving while being shot at.  A trip to the range every couple of months isn't going to cut it.

4. We have the responsibility to be aware of any legal restrictions.  I'm not saying you have to agree with the legal restrictions, but you do need to be aware of the legal framework surrounding owning, carrying, and using a gun.  This is especially important if you carry for defense.  Every state has different rules, so just because an internet forum lawyer says you are good to go doesn't mean you actually are.  Consult a lawyer or seek out a class designed in consultation with a lawyer, preferably a pro-gun lawyer.

5. We have the responsibility to be involved in the political process.  I preach this regardless, but if you are a gun owner, you especially need to be involved in the political process.  Contributing to the NRA or other pro-gun organizations is good, but taking the time to actually contact your representatives is better.  Both pro and anti-gun organizations spend a lot of time influencing politicians.  If an anti-gun group is bending your representative's ear, what could be better than a groundswell of calls from their constituents to push back that group's influence?  Will it always work? No, but if you decide to sit out the debate, you might as well be helping the other team.

I realize that I may be preaching to the choir right now.  After all, you probably got to this blog from a pro-gun page or Google group, which means you are already taking ownership of your gun ownership.  For that, I thank you, I truly do.  Nothing makes me more hopeful for the preservation of our rights than when I see ordinary citizens taking their rights seriously.  But there are many others out there that do not take this right seriously.  They buy a gun and some ammo, load it up, maybe take a trip to the range, then put the gun in their nightstand, and there it stays.  In this day and age, that attitude simply won't cut it any longer.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Redback One Combat Carbine 2 AAR

Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media

I got the opportunity to attend the Redback One Combat Carbine 2 class at C2 Shooting Center, Virginia Beach, VA on October 25-26.  Prior to the class, I hadn’t shot a rifle except for simple zeroing since I transferred out of my last unit, almost a year and a half ago.  Needless to say, I was really excited to have a
chance to get back on the gun, learn new techniques, and have an instructor watch me for any bad habits that had crept in.

Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media
First off, I really enjoyed learning from Jason Falla, the owner of Redback One (RB1).  Jason is a former member of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, and his training and professionalism shows in every aspect of his instruction.  His instructional system teaches principles first, techniques second.  This system teaches a few over-arching principles that pertain to multiple scenarios, allowing the user to apply the techniques that their individual scenario requires.  As he stressed during our class, the goal is to provide “reference points” that individuals, whether LE/mil or armed citizen, can fall back on in a stressful situation, minimizing the lag created when a person confronts a new situation.

In addition to my goal of getting back on the gun, I also used this course to test out some gear, including my Faxon Firearms ARAK 5.56 upper, UF Pro Striker XT Combat Shirt, and my Dead Coyote/Tactical Tailor chest rig.  More info on those will come in later posts.

After a quick safety brief on the morning of the 25th (Day One), we started our class off with the Operator Readiness Test (ORT): 

·         Two six inch dots - one for the head, one for center mass at seven yards.
·         Fire ten rounds from the rifle into the head,
·         Transition to the pistol, fire 10 rounds of pistol center mass,
·         Reload pistol, fire two more rounds center mass,
·         Reload rifle, fire two more rounds to the head.
·         Par time: 20 seconds, no rounds outside the black.

My time Saturday was 31 seconds, with two rounds dropped.  Needless to say, I felt more than a little behind the curve at that point.  Next, we moved into simple dot drills, finding and working our red dot’s offset.  We also conducted some stress drills, moving quickly between targets and engaging various size dots.  After we worked stress drills, we worked transition drills from rifle to pistol and back, including reloading the rifle.  This is where Jason’s Individual Protection Drill (IPD) comes into play. 
Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media
While it sounds complicated, it essentially boils down to keeping a weapon in the fight.  For example, while engaging a target, your rifle runs dry.  You immediately switch to pistol and finish the engagement.  Once the threat is neutralized, you scan for additional threats.  If no further threats present themselves, you bring the pistol to position 3 while grabbing your rifle at the “control point” (the front of the magazine well) and bring it to eye level.  From this position, you can now see both the slide of your pistol and the bolt carrier of your rifle, giving you the ability to assess the condition of both and determine what to do next while still having a weapon available if needed.  In this case, since your rifle is out of ammo and there are no further threats, you put the pistol away and reload the rifle.  If, however, your position was unsafe, you could decide to move to a better position (ie, cover) and reload or clear the malfunction.  If you were working in a team, you could call for cover while you remedied the stoppage, but since this course was geared toward individuals working alone, the IPD provides a solution for the lack of available support.  The “control point” from the IPD would also come into play on Day Two when we worked transitions to the off shoulder.

Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media
After an eventful morning, we took a break for lunch.  While we ate, Jason lead a discussion on the precepts of Tactical Combat Casualty Care, with special emphasis on tourniquets.  He also took a minute to demonstrate RB1’s tourniquet holder (I purchased one after the course).

Our afternoon was spent working weapon malfunction drills on the rifle.  Jason likes to keep it simple, and his malfunction clearance drills illustrate that.  “Body obstructions,” such as double feeds and failures to extract are both treated the same way.  Using his IPD, once you glance at the rifle’s ejection port, if you see brass, it’s a body obstruction.  From there, you:

·         lock the bolt to the rear,
·         remove the magazine,
·         insert your fingers through the mag well to assist the rounds in falling free,
·          rack the bolt three times,
·         re-insert the mag,
·         and charge the weapon.  

Sounds drawn out, but it only takes a few seconds once you practice it.  We also covered bolt overrides.  Jason ran another stress drill where he set up three rifles with various malfunctions.  We had to sprint to the first rifle, identify and clear the malfunction, fire a round, and move to the next rifle.  After clearing all three malfunctions, we had to sprint back to the starting point.  
Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media

We finished Day One with some extreme angle shooting emphasizing footwork.  Jason set up targets all the way to a full 90 degrees to both left and right.  This drill really pushes you to find the most efficient, not the most perfect, foot position to effectively transition and engage all the targets.

Day Two started out a little rough.  We arrived at the range at 0800, only to find out that we couldn’t go hot until 1200.  Thankfully, Jason had gotten word the night before, and he brought out his Sim guns.  We spend the first four hours working single person (or as Jason calls them, singleton) room clears.  I personally really enjoyed this, since I hadn’t been in a shoothouse in 2+ years, and I had never worked single person clears.  As a team, we always cleared with at least two people in a room.  While that works well on a tactical team, for your average homeowner a single person clear is a stark reality.

Once we got the clear to go hot, we started off with bilateral shooting.  Jason’s control point lesson really   I really enjoyed this block, as I never really practiced bilateral shooting in my previous job.  Now that I know how simple it is to transition, and how much of an advantage it can give you, I plan on practicing it a lot more.  We also spent some time clearing weapon malfunctions from the opposite shoulder, then moved into improvised shooting positions from behind cover.  Our last block of instruction was individual, two man, and five man shoot/move/communicate drills between barricades.  To finish the class off, we re-shot the ORT.  I managed to shave 7 seconds off my time, with a slight improvement in accuracy, although I still need a lot of trigger time to get under par.
Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media
came into play here, as it forms a crucial part of efficiently switching the rifle from shoulder to shoulder while maintaining the ability fire as quickly as possible.

My biggest takeaways from this course were the use of the high ready and its applicability to defensive tactics, bilateral shooting, singleton room-clearing operations, and malfunction clearance.  Since I had never used my ARAK except in zeroing, getting a chance to work up and practice malfunction drills was a huge benefit.  I’ll also be re-evaluating my ARAK setup and making sure that I can operate all the controls, including the flashlight, with either hand.  

Jason also deserves massive credit for going ahead with a five person course.  I know his profit margin was probably pretty slim, but I also know that all five of us took something away from this course, and it was great to see him put forward a clear students-first ethos.  His adaptability on Sunday also made sure we got our money’s worth out of the course, when he could have easily copped out by pointing to the range restrictions.  He’s currently putting together the 2015 calendar, and I know I’m personally looking for his Home Defense course in the local area before I head back to Texas in June.
Photo credit Redback One/Boombot Media

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.