Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Great advice for taking out a beginning shooter

This was a response on a forum I frequent and I thought it was excellent advice. I wish I knew better the first time I took some friends out to shoot. I look back on pictures from the day and realize that not everyone was always wearing eye protection!
For beginners, I always try to have a classroom session to introduce new shooters to the 4 basic safety rules, and to show them how to align the sights with the target, stance, grip, and trigger press, and the basics of how the handgun functions mechanically (easier than trying to show someone how to load magazines or operate a safety lever or open the cylinder while other people are shooting and making noise around you). The classroom session can be in your home or at a range's classroom (some ranges will let you use the room for free if you are a regular customer and tell the manager that you are introducing a newbie to shooting) if it is not already reserved for a class. Call before you go.

Be sure that the ear plugs or muffs fit properly and actually block the sound before entering the firing line. Lots of beginners don't know how much sound is supposed to be blocked, so they may initially accept incomplete fitting, then get annoyed or scared by the muzzle blast. I tell beginners that the plug or muff should block 90% of the sound, and then snap my fingers next to their ears, before and after fitting the ear protection, so they can experience the difference before going to the firing line. Glasses can cause poor seal of ear muffs, unless the glasses are worn over the muffs.

Naturally, eye protection is a requirement.

The neckline of the shirt/blouse should be fairly high and closely fitted, to prevent hot brass from getting inside. As you may guess, this can be a bigger problem for women, since they are more likely to wear loose or low-necklines than men.

I find that .22 LR is the way to start most people, although people who are seriously hypersensitive can benefit from starting with an air pistol (I have a Daisy Powerline 717 that is inexpensive, has a decent trigger pull and sights, and is far more accurate than even the average experienced shooter), since it has essentially no recoil or noise. It's drawback is that it is a single shot handgun and must be pumped once for each shot.

As for the type of .22, I differ from most people who prefer to start with a revolver. I find that a nice full-size .22 semi-auto is quite suitable for beginners as long as you show them how it works, start them out with only 1 round in the mag, and watch them carefully while they shoot (which you should do anyway, with any beginner). After they have tried a couple of cycles of "one round in the mag", I let them load 2 or 3. If they do fine with that, 5 or 10 is ok. Watch for slide lock to determine empty gun.

It is not "cheating" for a beginner to use a rest at first.

I emphasize that if anything (ANYTHING) does not go according to instructions, the student should keep holding the handgun with finger off trigger, pointing it downrange, and ask for help. I will be right there watching them, so it isn't hard to get my attention. Naturally, I am also watching constantly, so I may see any problem immediately and they may not even have to ask for help. I am always at their shoulder and prepared to block or grab the handgun if they inadvertently turn around.

Other calibers:

.25--not a good choice for beginners, since it is usually only available in tiny handguns that are too small, too fiddly, and have more recoil than the student is expecting.

.32 ACP--again, often available in small handguns with more recoil than expected (i.e. Seecamp .32 or Beretta Tomcat). If you have a nice medium size handgun in this caliber, it can be quite pleasant (Walther PP or Beretta 70S).

.32 Long or .32 H&R Magnum--pretty easy-going caliber in the usual medium size revolver, or target semi-auto.

.380 ACP--Can generate an unpleasant level of recoil for beginners, especially when fired in blowback semi-autos (which is to say, most guns available in this caliber). Fired in a locked-breech gun, the recoil is very mild (Colt .380 Govt. or Mustang, and very old versions of the Llama .380 Government)

.38 Special--Easy- going caliber with the right loads in full-size revolvers (i.e., S&W Model 10 with 4 or 6 inch barrel). Target wadcutters are loaded lighter than the duty rounds, so start with target wadcutters. Duty or self-defense rounds are loaded hotter, and +P loads are quite hot. Short barrels make everything worse (noise, muzzle backblast, recoil).

9mm Luger/Parabellum- -Standard loads have noticeable noise and recoil. +P loads can be fairly sharp.

.40 S&W, .357 Magnum, .45 ACP--all of these can be intimidating to beginners. .40 S&W normal load is practically a +P, the .357 Magnum is very high intensity, and the .45 has long been over-rated in terms of recoil. Choose wisely. Under no circumstances should a beginner shoot a snub .357!

However, some students are quite recoil and noise tolerant, so they may easily adapt to anything you throw at them. Might as well have one or two larger calibers with you, just in case your student is adventurous and wants to try the "big bores" like .357 Mag or .45. Or the student may want you to shoot it just to demonstrate what larger calibers do. No sense making them bored!

.44 Magnum, .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .500 Magnum, etc.--Just don't! These are only for shooters with some experience.

If you wish to start with a .22 or .38 revolver, I'd suggest shooting in the single-action mode for beginners. The trigger pull is lighter and smoother, and the student is more likely to be able to hit the target. Double action can be frustrating and discouraging. Self-defense revolver training should almost always be double-action, but that can come later.

I commend you on your efforts to teach new shooters and I hope you and your student have fun!

Randall N. Herrst
The Center For The Study Of Crime
"Join now! Learn how to become a more effective activist!"
www.StudyCrime. org
310 213-4709

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Only Black or White?

I subscribe to a couple of forums. One of them is the Warriors for the 2nd Amendment. There are a number of interesting posts there and everyone seems well behaved for a forum. I recently read a post from the 4th.

This fellow presents an interesting argument...
Remember.... Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another:
reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a
choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your
bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one
of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact
through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social
interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is
the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use
reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your
threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon
that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger,
a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger,
and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys
with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical
strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a
The problem I see is that he has limited his argument to a binary paradigm. I'm sure he would agree (reason) that there are many more responses than just "reason and force". (Please feel free to add your own as well...) What about... ?
  • walking away
  • humor
  • non-compliance
  • friendship (I know it sounds silly, but it is an option)
Those are just a couple of general responses. There are probably many others depending upon the circumstances.

I'm not saying that using a firearm to defend yourself is not an option. Just the opposite. I believe that everyone should have that option as a means of self-defense when all other options are exhausted. I understand that those options can quickly run out within seconds depending on the situation, but to think that we walk around everyday with only to possible actions is only inviting serious reprocussions. You're practically flipping a coin with almost any request.