Friday, May 09, 2008

Police Chief + training class = negligent discharge.

Students claim police chief who shot himself was careless

RIVERDALE, Utah (AP) -- The police chief who shot himself in the ankle was waving a loaded pistol and being careless, according to two students who were attending his class to qualify for a concealed-weapons permit. "We were told the gun is the chief's personal sidearm, but it looked to me like he didn't know anything about the gun," Lewis Walker said.

("Activate the Wayback Machine, Norman.")

(Sorry, it's applicable, but I got carred away. Here's the real "I'm The Only One" moment.)

"Okay,I'm the only one in this room that I know of professional enough to carry the Glock .40. [BANG!]"

Song of the Tactical Ranger

Last Tuesday, in an article titled "Isn't That Cheating?", I used the term "Tactical Ranger" to describe people who felt that the primary goal of shooting sports (which involve drawing pistol from the holster) should be "Tactical".

It occurs to me that this may seem to be a pejorative in the mind of some readers, and for that I do apologize. I have no quarrel with those who wish to hone their defensive skills ... I could use a more 'tactical' mindset myself, no doubt.

The fact remains, the tactics of IPSC-type competition are driven by competitive goals, not tactical goals. While it is absolutely possible to improve speed, accuracy and gun-handling skills through IPSC (here, USPSA), those who expect the experience to be an appropriate venue for developing a Tactical Mind-Set are doomed to disappointment.

In order to ameliorate my firearms faux pas, allow me to define what I mean by "Tactical Ranger".

First, what it does NOT mean:
The term "Tactical Ranger" does not mean those who choose to compete in Production, Single-Stack, Limited 10 or Limited Divisions in USPSA competition. Everybody chooses the division which best suits their personal preference, and the equipment they have. Sometimes this is the equipment they can afford, sometimes this is the equipment they consider to be most challenging, but almost invariably this means the equipment which is most appropriate to their personal skills set.

For example, I spent several years shooting a S&W 659 (9mm "Crunch&ticker", as Col. Cooper would call it) because I was willing to accept the points penalty on non-Azone hits for the perceived advantage of a higher magazine capacity, and because it capitalized upon my abilityto shoot accurately, though not very fast. This was my edge.

Later, I used a Kimber Custom (major power, fixed sights, single stack) for several years because I had learned how to shoot quickly and accurately, and reload adroitly. My greatest thrill was to beat competitors with hi-capacity magazines and "better equipment" because I didn't consider that a limited magazine capacity was a handicap, and the pistol was 100% reliable: where the high-price equipment was 'better', I could capitalize on their jams and other equipment failures to allow me an edge on at least one stage.

So I've done a few variations on equipment, and always found a reason to enjoy competing in that Division.

I've also seen people who, after completing a stage, take the time to (with the gun still mounted) look left, right and behind them. This is a basic precept of "Tactical" shooting. It is good training, and any defensive handgunner needs to develop this habit. It's not a handicap to competition, because this does not subtract stage points ... it doesn't add to stage time ... and besides it makes the rest of the squad look at you and say "Ooooooweee! This dude is tactical!"

What "Tactical Is".
A few years ago I was squadded with a "Tactical Ranger".

What are the characteristics?

I picked up on his priorities when I watched him. On every stage where he was required to get 'the best two hits' to score on paper targets, he took "two hits to the body, one to the head". That is, he engaged the lower A-zone twice, and then engaged the Upper A-zoned. He didn't always get his hits, but he got most of them. Usually, the only points penalty was when he hit the B-zone instead of the Upper A-zone.

But it usually cost him a significant Time penalty, which is not competitive.

After a couple of stages I decided: "Well, he has his priorities. It's not my place to correct him." I understood that he was being very safe -- it was his "Certification Match", which meant that he was required to complete the match safely, and USPSA requires that the New Shooter demonstrate his ability to shoot safely in match conditions. His gun-handling skills were just fine, and that was the important thing.

My epiphany came when he was called upon to engage 3 targets from behind the "Store Counter" stage prop.

Instead of drawing and shooting from standing position, he drew and then dropped to a supine position to engage the 3 targets.

No, not a "prone" position (lying on his belly). Instead, he was lying on his back facing downrange. This position required him to hold his pistol "upside down", and make whatever adjustments he deemed appropriate to get the hits needed to improve his score.

Worse, it was a "Timed Fire" exercise, and he was not required to engage the targets from 'below the counter".

He accepted the time penalties needed to assume this unusual position because he was determined to shoot every stage "Tactically", and he decided this was the best solution to his personal shooting problem. In fact, it took more time than was allocated to the shooting problem to assume his preferred position, but he didn't care. He did it his way, regardless of penalty points for exceeding the time allocated to complete the stage.

He shot this stage, and all stages in the match, safely. This is the minimum requirement of IPSC Certification. It mattered not at all that he didn't sometimes acquired a zero score on the stage.

I note also that, at this club, one is required to be "IPSC Certified" to use this close-quarters range.

The guy was eventually certified to be qualified to shoot on this range, and that was his only priority. He never appeared at another IPSC match, and I'm sure he was disappointed. He didn't want to shoot IPSC. He wanted to shoot "Tactical"; he did so, and in the process he acquired permission to use the range best suited to his purpose, which was practicing "Tactical" shooting techniques.

That, my friends, is a "Tactical Ranger".

He would have been welcome at any Practical Pistol Match, although he would probably not have scored 'high' because his practice did not emphasize "Practical" techniques as well as they emphasized "Tactical" techniques.

Need I add that this gentleman never again competed in another IPSC match?

He achieved his goals, and was indifferent to "Practical Pistol" competition.

I have no problem with this.

I only offer it as an illustrative example.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fluff and Buff

The Conservative Scalawag has a new toy.

It's a Kel-Tec P-32, very similar to the P-3AT I included in my "Buy A Gun Day" pre-purchase.

Word is, according to "Xavier and others", the thing to do is attack that bad boy with a Dremel tool to "reduce friction".

Cited website is actually the source of the "Dremel" reference, and he doesn't actually recommend it. He suggests:
All you need is some 400 grit sandpaper and an hour or so of your time. If you'd like, you can use 600 grit sandpaper for a final finish and a Dremel type tool with a felt bob and some polishing compound to give the feed ramp a little extra finish.

Gunsmiths love Dremel tools.

If they ever get rich, it's because "Some Fool Used A Dremel Tool".

Word is, don't, except in the buffing mode as described above. And if you're handy with tools. And you know what you're doing. And you know when you're done. And you're bright enough to quit when you're done.

And you're not me, because I don't meet any of these criteria.

Ruger SR-9 Recall

Gunner's Journal notes that the manufacturer has recalled the Ruger SR-9

Ruger SR-9 Recall Gunner’s Journal

We have determined that some Ruger SR9 pistols manufactured between October 2007 and April 2008 can, under certain conditions, fire if dropped with their manual safeties in the “off” or “fire” position. The pistols will not fire if the manual safety is in the “on” or “safe” position.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Army Training Gets a New Face

H/T: Reader Scott F.

Via the Army Times:


Too much to fisk, here is the teaser:

FORT BENNING, Ga. — Trainers here are testing a new marksmanship qualification course that stresses shooting from behind cover, fixing jams and changing magazines — key skills all soldiers need in combat.

The pilot program is a dramatic shift from the Army’s standard qualification course, an outdated exercise that trains soldiers on how to pass a test rather than how to master their weapons, said Col. Casey Haskins, commander of 198th Infantry Brigade. The 198th, a one-station training unit responsible for Basic Combat and Infantry Training at Benning, is overseeing sweeping changes to Basic Rifle Marksmanship.

Currently in Initial Entry Training, BRM culminates with soldiers taking a timed test in which they fire 40 rounds of ammunition at 40 pop-up targets. Firing from Cold-War-era prone and foxhole positions, trainees must hit 23 to earn a passing score.

“It focuses on meeting the minimum standard — 23 out of 40. Not too good,” Haskins said. “People train to the test ... We believe we need to teach people how to shoot.”

In the proposed qualification test, trainees would shoot a total of 30 rounds at 15 targets. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. The new test requires trainees to shoot from three firing positions — kneeling unsupported, kneeling supported and prone unsupported. They also would use available cover, change magazines, clear weapon stoppages and shoot until the targets are “dead.” Throughout the test, shooters would be required to perform these tasks on their own rather than waiting for commands from their drill sergeants.

“If we train soldiers properly, we should trust them to change magazines when they need to, not just when they are told to,” said Capt. Jeff Marshburn, commander of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment of the 198th at Benning. “We should trust them to seek cover ... and establish their position based on what they have at hand and the 40-out-of-40 really doesn’t get after that.”

This training regimen reminds us of the "First Ever Afghanistan 3 Gun Match" (Cogito Ergo Geek, April 29, 2008), which includes elements of shooting from cover and aggressive shooting while moving.

As a graduate of the Fort Benning 1969 Non Commissioned Officers Candidate (NCOC) course, I highly approve.

The Army firearms training 40 years ago sucked. Almost anything would be an improvement, and this appears to be the first concerted effort to improve firearms since then.

But I admit, I miss the M14.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Isn't that cheating?

Above The Groucho Line:
Ten years ago, The Unofficial IPSC List was the place to talk about competition shooting on-line.

Since that time, many other online venues have become available and most of these dialogues now occur in 'forums' or 'blogs' (like this one).

But when all we had to communicate with was a listserver mailing address, shooters of all stripes would use "The List" to discuss the most bizarre subjects.

Not surprisingly, some subjects came up again and again, and were fiercely debated with just as much vehemence on the umpty-umpth iteration as we enjoyed the first time it came up.

Also not surprisingly the same subjects are now discussed repeatedly on forums. See below. The difference is, the listserver/email discussions were ephemeral. The forum entries stay around for years and years. Also see below.

The three favorite topics (almost arbitrarily chosen) were:

1) Isn't that cheating?

IPSC is an acronym which includes the word Practical. There is an element (always has been, always well be) in IPSC competitors who were determined to insist that all stage designs, all rules of competition, and all equipment meet the 4th IPSC Principle of Practical Shooting that "Practical Competition is a test of expertise in the use of practical firearms and equipment. Any item of equipment, or modification to equipment, which sacrifices practical functionality for a competitive advantage contravenes the principles of the sport."

What some considered an "innovation", they considered an "abomination", and they were wildly indignant that the sport could be so arbitrarily prostituted to meet the needs of the sport to attract new participants.

Note: I can't blame them for this interpretation. In fact, this is the very point which caused Jeff Cooper to resign his position of 'President For Life' of IPSC, and entirely disassociate himself from IPSC for the remainder of his life.

They didn't like the introduction of stages which were not "revolver friendly". (That is, no target array required more than the six-shot ammunition capacity of a wheel gun.)

They didn't like the acceptance of high-capacity magazines, compensators, or electronic dot-sights.

On the other hand, when the IPSC rules changed to split the competition into two "Divisions", they didn't like that while "STOCK" division specified equipment restrictions more in keeping with the original vision of Col. Jeff Cooper (the originator of Practical Pistol Competition, originally "Combat Pistol"), it still allowed people too compete in the new "OPEN" division, using equipment (pistols, magazines, holsters) which were decidedly not "practical". No, they weren't required to compete directly, but they were still outraged that the new high-tech equipment was permitted to compete at all.

The equipment was not "practical", and so it must be cheating.

(NOTE: The "Stock" division quickly changed to the Modified division. Later editions of the IPSC Rule book introduced other divisions. In the United States, the USPSA version of the rule book used the term "Limited" division instead of "Modified", and eventually introduced "Limited 10", "Production", and "Single Stack" divisions ... which are differentiated almost entirely by the equipment restrictions.)

2) "IPSC will get you killed!"

One of the popular gun-rags (magazines: eg: "Guns & Ammo", not saying that's the gun-rag in question) of the time ran an article titled "IPSC Will Get You Killed". The thesis was that the rapidly evolving rules of IPSC encouraged non-Practical (read: "Not Tactical") practices which are not supportive of "Combat Shooting". For example, in IPSC competition you didn't have to seek cover; instead, you stood in the open and engaged (shot at) targets without cover, you made magazine changes while exposed to "enemy fire", and you may be using equipment which was too bulky to be easily concealed and (electronic dot sights warning) required you to 'turn on' your sights: "What if your battery runs down? You don't have a sight, and the Bad Guys will kill you!"

3) "IPSC: Is it a game, or is it training for personal defense?"

This third topic was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back". It was also the theme which allowed us ... forced us ... to find a way to accommodate all competitors under a common understanding.

The "Tactical Shooters" remained outraged. They felt that they had joined under the impression that ISPC competition would teach them how to defend themselves. Now they were forced to either discontinue their participation, or accept that, while IPSC may teach them valuable gun-handling skills, the successful competitor would usually win turn in a better score than the Tactical Ranger. (Sorry, that terminology is probably hurtful to the Tactical Community. Suck it up.)

In the final analysis, it became clear that the majority of competitors were not involved in IPSC competition to learn how to use their carry guns to defend themselves; most competitors were there to shoot as accurately as possible, as fast as possible. All considerations involving true "Practical Shooting" (combat shooting, defensive pistolry, whatevery) were going to be ignored if they were not competitive.

Competition includes getting the hits in the highest scoring portion of the target, as quickly as possible.

This is supported by the scoring algorithm:

Stage Score = Points minus penalties / time.

That's it.

Ultimately, you receive no points (no benefit, in terms of a competitive advantage) for assuming a defensive position by seeking cover, retaining partially depleted magazines, or evaluating the stage to determine the greatest threat and engaging/neutralizing that threat first. In fact, any stage-time devoted to tactical activities is penalized, because it consumes time and imposes awkward shooting positions which your competitors spend doing reloads and discarding magazines, moving to the next shooting position, or just shooting more targets.

The objections noted by the "Tactical Rangers" ... sorry, get use to it ... were reduced to two choices: either go somewhere else where they could spend their range-time training for a gunfight, or stay and play.

Fortunately, IDPA (the brain-child of Bill Wilson) came along about that time. While even IDPA is not practical enough for some of the practitioners, at least nobody has said that "IDPA Will Get You Killed!" ... yet. Some IPSC competitors trickled over to IDPA. A few trickled back to IPSC, for reasons which are beyond the scope of this subject.

You will perhaps notice that these three themes overlap. Give yourself a pat on the back for being aware that the single greatest source of angst for IPSC competitors during the 1990's was that we thought we were competing because it was fun, but we 'felt' that we should be training for some kind of personal Armageddon. Until we resolved this issue, we didn't know who we were.

Now we know: we're gamers, we're players, and we do this because we enjoy it, and we like the other people who have the same gamer attitude.

Can IPSC/USPSA competition teach you skills which may prove to be valuable in a "self defense" situation?

Only if you carry a firearm, or keep one handy in your home. Or, as Grouch Marx so often said:

You bet your life.

The Groucho Line:

(I loved that guy. What a sleaze ... the original Geek!)

All of this reminiscing was inspired by my evening Internet Surfing, which turned up a 2003 page in the "The High Road forum".

On June 7, 2003, member jptsr1 opened the topic "Isn't That Cheating?":
I don't mean this in an accusatory tone, but for those of you who have a "special" gun and carry rig for IDPA, does it feel like you are cheating a bit? I'm going to be participating in my first IDPA event soon and ill be shooting my G26 out of a Royal Guard because its as close to how I carry every day as I can get (I actually carry it in a pocket holster or on my ankle). As I'm researching the boards looking for tips and tricks, I see a lot of post referring to "my IDPA rig" or "the gun I use for IDPA". Are you supposed to shoot what you carry or what you can carry?
The following comments (among many) were included:

Member Pat S immediately replied:
Some approach IDPA as a training exercise with their carry gear. For others it is merely a gun game like IPSC. Both can play the game, just accept the fact that the "gamers" will be posting the best scores. If you approach the stages from a tactical aspect to where the bad guy targets in the stage could shoot back you will be dreadfully slow on most stages, but tactically sound.

If you're looking for tactical exercises you won't find them in IDPA you'll have to look elsewhere. What you will get is an opportunity to refine your shooting and gun manipulation skills under a slight amount of stress.

Once you've gotten your gun handling skills up to the level you would like you might look into scenario based tactical exersises. Especially if you carry a gun for self defense. You'll probably have to seek out a training school for these.
Wow, what a rush.

First, it's a game.
Next, the gamers may beat you.
Finally, if you really want to be tactical, seek training 'elsewhere'.

This is the same thing we said about IPSC in 1997, before the advent of IDPA. Now we learn that IDPA ... the response to "IPSC CAN KILL YOU" .. isn't Tactical, either.

But wait, there's more.

Big S is still bemoaning the "Equipment Race":
Most of the *cough* practical *cough* types of sports, including shooting, start off with their hearts in the right place but quickly become exercises in who can bend the rules the most without breaking them. It's human nature. Think of Sammy Soza with the corked "practice" bat. That's practical baseball. Don't get caught seems to be the watchword.

Why does IPSC have $4,000 rigs that you can't hardly conceal in a briefcase? Because the rules say you can. IDPA is not far behind.
[ED: Emphasis Added}

Later, Grand Master (and professional shooter) Matt Burkett contributes in a reply to faustus:
"Here's a secret if you are good with your IPSC race rig, chances are you are good with your carry gun."

Great statement! People that can shoot, can shoot anything. You won't find a highlevel [sic]IPSC open shooter that can't shoot a limited or IDPA gun.

Remember that if there is a clock and a scoresheet, it is a game. Please do not think that IDPA is tactical or can be approached that way. It is a test of shooting skills from concealment under pressure and can be a heck of a lot of fun. It will help develop your shooting skills and your carry equipment if you choose to use it. If you want to develop your "tactical" skills, go to an FOF class and learn what happens when people are actually shooting back.
This is classic IPSC List theme #4: "It's the shooter, not the gun."

Finally, classic IPSC List theme #5: "Bring What You Got" per member El Rojo:
I tend to look at it as practice. If I use my Glock 27, 870P , and my M1A at a three gun match, I might be at a disadvantage. I will just see how good I can do with what I have. What I have is all that I got, so no need to worry about anything else. Be good with what you have and be confident in your own skills. For those guys that beat you, make them your friends and not your enemies. :D
I really enjoyed this exchange, and there are more "classic IPSC themes" to be explored. I encourage you to go there and read the whole thing.

(There's also a 'wannabe' who pipes up from time to time, spouting bold assertions about how great he is but never convincing anyone. He's generally ignored, and rightly so. See if you can pick out the 'wannabe'. No, this isn't a contest, you don't win a prize if you name him in the Comments section. Just ... know him, avoid him, don't be him.)

The point of the exercise is, competition shooters like to talk about their favorite sport. Their concerns are common to us all, and they continue to re-hash the same questions. Even six years after they were"asked and answered", we continue to debate the major points.

This is a good thing. This is healthy dialogue (and often more respectful than the earlier versions ... it took me years to learn not to be accusatory when discussing these subjects, and I lost not a few valued friends due to the resulting acrimony.)

If you think you would like to involve yourself in this sort of dialogue, I encourage you to view, and perhaps even join in online forums to see what people are talking about, and what they say.

The following is a list of some of the more popular online Shooting forums, many of which are represented in links on the sidebar of this blog:

The High Road (Competition Shooting sub-forum)
Ask IPSC (questions for IPSC)
Vince Pinto's "Global Village" (the official IPSC forum)
The USPSA Forum (you must go to the USPSA Home Page, and sign on to the Members' Page which requires a userid and password. These are available from the first page of the Front Sight magazine, which you will receive if you are a USPSA member.)
The Brian Enos Forum
Canadian Gun Nutz, for our Canadian readers.

Most of these forums will allow you to view posts and threads as a guest; some of them require that you join, and sign on, before you can view them. All of them require that you join and sign on before you can post your own opinion.

Also, note that I am a subscriber to most of these forums, so my links may take you directly to a URL which assumes you are a subscriber, and if you are NOT the link may seem unworkable. Just delete the right-hand portions of the URL to the first backslash (\) and that will take you to the home page where you will be given the opportunity to view, or join, the forum.

Enjoy, but be polite!

Jerry the ("It's A GAMER, Folks!) Geek


Monday, May 05, 2008

Microstamping Ammunition: Replacement Parts

As I understand the Microstamping process, either the firing pin or the slide breech-face of "new" semi-automatic handguns would be required to stamp unique codes on the primer and cartridge base, respectively. Most of the bills I've seen introduced in state legislatures require that both parts perform the microstamping process, which may be considered either "productive redundancy" or the "Belt and Suspender" method.

What I wonder is, what happens when either of these parts are broken, damaged, or otherwise rendered inoperable?

Since the bills, if enacted in law, specifically require this feature on "new" pistols, would it no longer be considered to be a "new" pistol after it has been purchased, if even a single shot had been fired?

My gun dealer doesn't think so, and the bill text offers no enlightenment on this point.

In the worst-case scenario (which is the only reasonable assumption, given the lazy thinking and perfidy of most politicians) I'll assume that for the purpose of this bill, any pistol purchased as a "new" pistol in these states will continue to be regarded as such no matter the degree of subsequent usage.

I put a lot of rounds through a pistol each year (your mileage may vary) and, as I have mentioned before, my experience is that it is not an uncommon incident that firing pins will bend, or become otherwise damaged to the point at which it is no longer usable.

I've even broken a slide ... big ol' crack from the ejection port to the LEFT side of the slide. It wasn't difficult, simple use can stress the most malleable metal to the point of breakage, and slides are not known for being malleable.

That's the reason why I carry a 'small parts' kit in my range bag. In it you will find extractors, firing pins, slide-locks, guide rods, "firing pin retaining plate" as well as various springs.

If a firing pin is rendered unusable during a match, I can fetch a replacement firing pin out of this box, replace it in about one minute, and go on with the match.

A broken slide is a more complicated (and expensive) proposition. I need to send the gun to a gunsmith or back to the factory to have a replacement fitted. This takes about a day to perform, not counting shipping time and the wait until the gunsmith can get around to it.

But what if I'm a resident where the "Microstamping Ammunition" bill has become law?

The law strongly implies that it is not legal to fire the pistol unless it is suitably accessorized with an encoded firing pin and/or slide.

That means that I can't replace my firing pin with a 'blank'. I have to use a firing pin which has been engraved with the appropriate microstamping information.

How do I get that unique part?

Regardless ofI will have to have the broken part replaced, with reference to the manufacturer (who is the 'only one' who is likely to have the necessary machinery, if it's a slide). If the broken part is the firing pin ... what do I do?

Can I just replace the broken firing pin with a blank, and continue shooting? That's against the law. I have to use an unique part.

It sounds as if I would have to ask the Manufacturer for a replacement part. Who knows how long that would take? Certainly it would prevent me from replacing the broken part from my small-parts box or from a gunsmith who could order up a blank, or who might already have one on hand ... unless I have already (showing great fore-though) asked for a 'spare' part from the manufacturer.

(I wonder how much that would cost, and how long it would take?)

But wait! What if someone steals my spare firing pin from my range bag? How valuable would that be on the black market?

And by the way, how would the manufacturer know that I'm the legitimate owner of that make/model/serial number pistol?

Why couldn't someone else surreptitiously check out my pistol at a match, note the make/model/serial number, and send the request to the manufacturer? They could get their own part, and masquerade as "me".

Would the manufacturer be liable in this event?

You bet your bippy, in this litigious society. Do you remember how New York City and other municipalities tried to sue Manufacturers because a legally sold a firearm was later used in a crime? Do not doubt that city, county or state governments are still looking for an excuse to shut down firearms manufacturers.

The only way that the manufacturing company could protect itself is by requiring that the entire gun be sent for a 'fitting', at great expense to the owner and to the manufacturer (who would pass the costs on to the owner.) This would also cause a delay in returning the part/ repair to the owner, and greatly increase the cost to the owner of the firearm.

The alternative would be for the owner to have previously identified himself in a secure manner to the manufacturer, so a verification process would not be necessary.

Manufacturer records are available to the BATFE under existing law. This is de facto registration of firearms.

Thus the Microstamping Ammunition laws could be parlied beyond the point of a time-consuming inconvenience to registration ... which is the penultimate step before confiscation.

This process may not have been intended as a means to enact a firearms registry, but it is certainly subject to the ultimate abuse, in the hands of an agenda-driven legislature (and what other kind is there?)

The current method of assembling firearms at the manufacturing level is that there are a number of parts in 'bins' at the station of the person who is responsible for the final assembly of a firearm.

Somewhere at this station, the firearm serial number is stamped on the frame, which is the part which legally constitutes a "firearm" (and is subject to governmental control).

This legislation would require that the corresponding firing pin and slide be mated to the serialized frame. This constitutes a trifecta of trouble for the manufacturer, who is legally responsible for insuring that the serial number encoded on both the firing pin and the slide be accurately (100%) mated with the frame bearing the same serial number.

This requirement magically transforms the manufacture of firearms from an "assembly line process" (a la Henry Ford) to a "cottage industry". And the manufacturing expenses increase not alphabetically (see below), not geometrically, but exponentially .. as does the exposure to legal problems if the match is not absolutely correct, all day, every day.

We've just added another hand-fitted step in the inspection step of the manufacturing process, requiring workers to view the serial number on the firing pin and the slide breach to verify the serial numbers ... using microscopes.

Mr. Todd Lizette, inventor (or "co-inventor") of the Microstamping technology, makes much of the idea that the cost to the manufacturer would only be a minimal expense, not worth thinking about:
Microstamping is a one time cost to the firearm. If you figure a cost of $6.00 per firearm, than you are talking the price of two cups of coffee at Starbucks, divide that over a year and your talking about $.50 a month in the first year to cover the cost. If you figure that it costs about $15 for a box of .40 cal ammo, it means sacrificing half a box of ammo one time to provide law enforcement with an opportunity to track and target people who traffic firearms to criminals.
[Letter from Lizotte, 2-May-2008]

Well, that may or may not be true. Considering the problematic situations described above, Mr. Linette must be counting only the cost of the machinery, pro-rated at an undefined production level. As we have seen, the manufacturing process would be dramatically slowed down, resulting in dramatically increased production costs and dramatically reduced production rates.

Pretty dramatic, eh?

I think we've easily moved from "Starbucks" to "Cadillac" in one easy step.

In point of fact, I question the original "$6.00 per firearm" figure. The manufacturer would have to purchase microstamping equipment.

I understand the personal interest issue. That is why I offered a royalty free license to the technology, to the firearms industry (that manufacture in the US). Remember, we import more than 50% of the firearms purchased in the US. I figured I would give a leg up to US manufacturers who employ people.
and ...
I have agreed to give a free license to use the technology in support of the legislation. I am sure you are aware, only about ~900,000 pistols are manufactured each year for the US market. Many of those are law enforcement or military. Civilian markets, which the technology is targeting is very small in comparison.
(Both citations from Lizotte Letter of 2.5/08)

Although the technology is generously provided "... a free license to the technology ...", one can only assume that the actual machinery will not be available under such grandiloquent terms. After all, the statements are made in the context of patent rights.

As consumers, we are left with the impression that there is a dollar to be made here.

Cui Bono?

What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

Efforts have been made to generate quasi-gun-control legislation at the state level. This legislation requires that firearms manufacturing processes be altered to accommodate arbitrary standards which are not supported by current, proven technology, and which have not practically been proven to provide a benefit to society.

This is coupled with what is essentially a sole-source of the technology (read: machinery which can perform the necessary manufacturing functions), at an undefined increase in manufacturing costs.

When combined with the after market costs, and considerable inconvenience and delay of individual implementation for parts replacement to firearms owners, it is difficult to determine what the ultimate cost may be.

We know one thing many things for sure:
  • This technology will slow production rates;
  • firearms will be more expensive;
  • delivery dates will be later;
  • firearms manufacturers will be unable to meet market demands;
  • manufacturers will be driven out of business;
  • parts production will suffer;
  • another step will be taken closer to a national Firearms Registry;
  • because the bills are so ineptly written, the proposed system is rife with abuse and misinterpretation;
  • people will go to jail, or be fined, because the resultant laws will be enforced arbitrarily;
  • gunsmiths will be unable to meet the needs of their customers;
  • Todd Lizotte will make a ton of money because manufacturers are forced to buy his machinery;
  • no Crime Reduction goals will be met by enaction of these laws.
I don't see any "up-side" to this.

Do you?

Microstamping Ammunition: Letter from Lizotte, 5/2/08

Email from Mr. Todd Lizotte, Inventor (or "Co-Inventor") of Microstamping to Jerry the Geek: 02-May-2008:

Hello Mr. [Jerry the Geek],

I understand the personal interest issue. That is why I offered a royalty free license to the technology, to the firearms industry (that manufacture in the US). Remember, we import more than 50% of the firearms purchased in the US. I figured I would give a leg up to US manufacturers who employ people.

Another point many people don't fully understand is that licensing of patents is based on the scope of what the technology does. In this case, all that could be justified is a trivially small value. The patent is not something that adds value to the operation of the firearm; it is a simple tool for forensic use.

The tendency of people is to think people who have patents can become Billionaires just because they have a patent. You need to look at what the patent is really about and how it impacts the value of the product. In the semiconductor and microelectronic industry it is easy to justify a good royalty because you impact performance in commercial goods. But, even then it is based on volumes and the impact of the technology to the products and the market.

However this doesn't matter I have agreed to give a free license to use the technology in support of the legislation. I am sure you are aware, only about ~900,000 pistols are manufactured each year for the US market. Many of those are law enforcement or military. Civilian markets, which the technology is targeting is very small in comparison.

But, I also want to make a point. We all have a constitutional right to have a patent, as championed by one of our greatest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. In Article I, section 8, the U.S. Constitution:

The importance of granting monopolies for new inventions has been recognized in the United States since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

"Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

What I find amusing is that the government through legislation offers everyone, including the firearms industry, a monopoly on their designs and inventions.

However, the industry is stating that it is unfair, even though it is a Constitutional right granted to all of us and is a legislative sole source monopoly right granted by the Constitution. Remember the right is short term, less than 15 years, by the time most technology is ready for the market. My first patent on the technology issued in 2000/2001. That was seven years ago.

Just my thoughts. Look forward to future discussions.

Best regards,

Todd Lizotte

Co-Inventor of Microstamping

Microstamping Technology Center

C/O Pivotal Development LLC

4 Delta Drive, Suite 6A

Londonderry, NH 03053

Ph: 203-304-2452

Fx: 603-421-0214

Sunday, May 04, 2008

USPSA New Shooter Training

Yesterday I talked about the New Shooter Certification "Field Training" experience (I have admittedly invented some of the terminology), formatted as a chatty letter about the interesting things that happened.

I spent most of my time describing our group encounters with situations "... not perhaps typically taught" in these classes. More accurately, these are situations which the class is not designed to teach.

"Repetition for emphasis" is a training tool, and I used it as much as I could during the class.

Now I want to use the same tool to examine the difference between the subject matter which the class is "designed to teach", and the things which I found were "necessary to teach".

The class is designed to give the new competitor some familiarity with they way matches are conducted:
  • the role of the Range Officer;
  • the 'drill' of being prepared to shoot when it is your turn to shoot (see the 'bonus' item);
  • what it is like to shoot at the basic types of targets (eg: steel targets, cardboard targets);
  • safe movement (finger off the trigger, muzzle always pointed downrange);
  • basic 'start positions' ("hands relaxed at sides", "wrists above shoulders");
  • how the competitor should respond to the various Range Commands ("Make Ready", "If you are finished, unload and show clear", "If clear, hammer down, holster");
  • how to reload -- change magazines -- safely (this was of great interest to the students, and unfortunately was only practiced one time due to time constraints);
  • how to shoot from behind a Bianchi barricade ... which we hope will be translated by the student to "how to shoot from behind any prop";
  • and as a bonus, we managed to give the students some practical experience of what it's like to shoot as a member of a squad -- knowing when it is your turn to shoot, knowing how to prepare for your turn to shoot, understanding that if you are not prepared in all aspects you will be sent back to prepare and the next shooter will be advanced to shoot while you are getting your stuff together.
This is a lot of information to convey in a single two-hour time period. In the actual event, because we had a very large class (13 people), we ran overtime rather than to cut the training short.

I wish we had started at 9am instead of 1pm, because the in-class portion of the training ran for an hour and our "Field Training" (range time) training took almost 3 hours.

I think the students were almost sorry to see it end. I know I was, because they could have benefited greatly from more time.

In fact, a minimum amount of time should probably be predicated on the number of students in the class, plus at least one hour "question and answer" time at the end of the class to discuss the questions which inevitably arise as the students gain more understanding of what the rules of competition mean, and their practical application during an actual match.

The situation cries out for individual instruction, which requires more staffing and more time allotted. Unfortunately, these resources (time, and experienced instructors) are not likely to be available.

But if they could be, there are a couple of subjects from which the students could benefit greatly ... if there were resources to make the training available:


For the purpose of this discussion the term Gun Handling is defined as "the ability to use ones personal firearm in a safe and confident manner, always being aware of the rules of safety, conversant with the technical and safe use of the firearm, and equally conversant with the design, features, and efficient operation of the firearm as a piece of machinery."

This definition is proposed as a provisional definition, and is subject to revision. That is to say, if you can provide a better definition, you're invited to contribute.

The nice lady who had never fired her brand new Kimber before this class is perhaps an extreme example, but it illustrates the external pressures the student may feel when entering this class.

We assume that the student already knows how to shoot, and I found that all students were indeed quite accurate; they knew how to shoot.

But they were often unprepared for the structure of competition, which imposes an uncommon combination of a deeply ingrained understanding and appreciation of the safety rules, and the twin imperatives of fire-and-movement which typifies Practical competition.

Ideally, each student will be interviewed before the training starts to determine their familiarity with their firearms, to demonstrate their level of expertise with the firearm, and to provide immediate remedial training to correct 'bad habits'. The term 'bad habits' would include:
  • familiarization with the controls (magazine release; slide lock; safeties and modes of operation especially with Production-type pistols which have 'selective safeties', 'decockers', thumb and grip safeties.)
  • how to grip the pistol, position of the hand on the draw, when to set the safety 'off' during the draw/first target engagement, where to put your thumb when firing.
Obviously, the line between 'gun handling' and 'accurate shooting' is a little blurred. The above list is imperfect because "gun handling" should probably be be restricted to those items which are safety related.

It would be nice to have the time to include some of the marginal items, such as the points related to finger placement on the trigger and balancing your grip, but these are advanced techniques. While they would be of benefit to the student, they properly belong to the realm of 'individual competitive instruction' which is available from professional trainers, available in most USPSA section.

Students seem to be concerned with questions such as "what should I do to get ready on the morning of the match?"

What they really want to know is:
  • When should I put my gear on ... holster, magazine carriers?
  • Should I carry my pistol in my holster all day, or should I carry it in my bag?
  • What about this 'gun bag' thing? What are the reasons why I should not carry my gun in my holster? If I do that, when and where and how should I transfer it to my holster?
  • When should I load my magazines? Do I load them full in the morning and top them off as needed, or should I unload all my magazines after each stage and fill them again when I get to the next stage? Why?
  • What is a stage?
  • How many magazines should I carry to the firing line? Why?
  • How many magazines should I buy? Why?
  • Does everybody walk around all day with a pistol on their hip and a belt full of magazines, or do they carry everything in their range bag until they're getting ready to actually shoot?
And the least asked question (but perhaps the most interesting, even if they haven't thought to ask it yet:
"What do I need a Range Bag for? What do I carry in it?"


It seems inevitable that someone who is just starting is waiting to learn more about the sport before they buy a firearm for competition. The circumstances may vary; they don't know if the firearm they know own is 'competitive', they don't know what is the 'in' firearm is, or they don't know what the 'best' firearm is for the division in which they expect to compete.

What they are really looking for is some assurance that they aren't making the wrong decision in what is, to most of us, a major purchase. Worse, they are painfully aware that whatever decision they make, they will have to live with it long enough to (a) justify the cost of the original purpose, or (b) learn to be so dissatisfied with it that they feel forced to Buy a New Gun'.

When I was asked "What's a good Production Pistol", I dodged the bullet as by tap-dancing as fast as I could.

I don't know much about Production pistols, and I would hate t0 recommend one out of ignorance just because I heard a gun-owner bragging about how good his Glock/Sig/Ruger/Smith etc is.

My best reply is to plead ignorance (which is honest, if not helpful) and make a few suggestions ... which are also not helpful to the new competitor who wants to buy The Perfect Pistol now.

My only suggestion is to talk to people who shoot, and find out what they recommend. Ask to try their pistols, if only at the safety table, and see how well it fits your hand. (A person with small hands may not like a HK USP; a person with large hands may not like a sub-compact 10mm Glock 29.) And a person who has experience shooting a .45 ACP 1911 may not like the ergonomics and grip-angle of any Glock at all.

The best advice is 'talk to the man who owns one', and in any training class there may be a plethora of owner/pistol combinations to provide data for making a decision. The best anyone can do is to know what he wants; this isn't always the case for a new competitor, so it would be helpful to provide a "Kumbaya" session where everyone can sit down and talk to each other, to share experiences and discuss their personal preferences.

Again, not likely to happen when the class is only scheduled for 2 hours. But meeting other shooters and discussing the sport of shooting is often as important as the shooting experience itself. If nothing else results, it helps to get to know the people who share your interests. At best, the new competitor can gather information which may help him/her to decide what firearm best meets personal needs and expectations.

When I go to club matches, I enjoy meeting new shooters and helping them to meet their Certification requirements by shooting a safe match. If I can help make it a fun experience, one they are motivated to repeat, that's even better. Most of us enjoy Practical shooting competition, and we want everyone to enjoy it as much as we do; that unstated goal implies that we volunteer to be part of the recruitment process, and that we enjoy the company of other good people who like to shoot.

But the experience is only enjoyable if you don't feel like a total dork at your first match. The best way to avoid that feeling is to be prepared, and to know that you are prepared.

I remember that I was feeling dorky most of the first year that I competed, and the only reason I stayed with the sport is because individuals encouraged me.

The best thing that I can do for The Sport, to pay back the rewards that I discovered (a fun activity, a way to use the firearms that I like to shoot and to compare my performance to that of others, training, establishing a reasonable set of goals and meeting them, and the camaraderie or fellowship of like-minded people) is by easing the Rite of Passage which we all endure on the way to becoming membership of the fraternity of competitive shooters ... and making new friends who enjoy similar interests and values.

Sure, the goals I have defined here are probably not practical. The expense is unbearable, the people willing to put in the time are not available, and the club/range resources are limited. Perhaps more important, if you advertise that you can certify people in two hours, they are more likely to show up for the class than if you tell them in advance that they can expect one hour of classroom instruction and four or five hours of range time.

On the other hand, what's wrong with four or five hours of range time?

Nothing. It's all good. Except when you find yourself spending more time watching other people shoot and waiting for your time, than you spend shooting.

The key is to make the 'waiting time' part of the training. Involving the people who are 'waiting for their turn', encouraging them to watch the other folks shoot and then using whatever happens as part of their training, is the most efficient use of range time.

It teaches observers (other students waiting for their turn to shoot) to be aware of what is happening on the stage. This is "Situational Awareness", which is difficult state to attain but can be encouraged by including the entire class in any corrections or comments the trainer may make to an individual student.

Comments made to a student, to correct a less-than-optimal practice or action, will take a certain amount of time. If you only make those comments to one student, the rest of the class doesn't learn from it.

Instead, turn to face the rest of the class and describe the situation, describe what action the student made, define what made it a good (or not-good) action, and then describe the preferred manner of handling the situation. The lesson is made to the shooter, and the rest of the class may learn from it as well. If nothing else, it relieves the boredom holds the attention of the waiting students; ideally, the instruction which may be "Information Overload" in a classroom situation becomes intuitively obvious instruction when combined with real-time, real-life situations in which the students ... all of the students ... have become participants by virtue of being informed observers.

The people who show up for these classes are highly motivated, as a rule. They want to learn, and they readily accept lessons if they are presented within the context of a situation which is presented as a part of the real-time, real-life experience of shooting a match.

This is the reason they are participating; everything is new to them, but their motivation is to shoot a match without screwing up or looking like a dork. They are as hungry for usable information as 'we were' when 'we' started shooting competitively. As a rule they are bright, aware, and they know bullshit when they see it or when they hear it.

Instructors who can make the lessons interesting even to the part of the class which is not actively participating will find that their students achieve a higher rate of success.

I'm making authoritative statements based on a single large-class lead instructor experience.
I can only back this up with experience in the business arena as a trainer, and training in "Supervision and Training" classes, often out-of-pocket, extending over several years.

While many of the "I wish we could do this" suggestions present here are obviously not practical because of resource shortages, the principles are sound and verifiable. Experienced trainers are invited to suggest corrections, or to offer suggestions which expand on the theme.