Archive for January 27, 2012

Improving accuracy

Many new shooters, and to be truthful many experienced shooters, get discouraged at the shooting range by targets that look like they were hit by a shotgun blast. The problem is, they don’t know what to do about it.

The best way to correct accuracy issues is to get help from a professional trainer. If you don’t know or can’t afford one, there are a few things you can do to improve your shot grouping.

Make sure the gun fits you

A gun that doesn’t fit your hand well is much more difficult to shoot well, particularly one that is too big. Not only the size of the grip is important, but the weight of the gun and the amount of recoil (kick) as well. A big, heavy gun that noticeably rises with ever shot can be very difficult to control. If this is a problem for you, consider downsizing. Shooting accurate groups is far more impressive than shooting a big, loud, magnum caliber.

Conversely, a very small gun is inherently less accurate because of the shorter barrel. This gives less time for the bullet to develop a stable flight path as well as making for a shorter sight radius. A medium sized gun in a small caliber (.22, .38 or 9mm) is often the best choice for a newer shooter.

Take your time

The vast majority of shooters have accuracy problems while shooting quickly. Take your time and be sure to aim carefully with each shot.

Proper grip

I see a lot of shooters who hold a pistol incorrectly. A proper, consistent grip can go a long way towards improving accuracy. Your hand should be high on the grip in order to line the gun up as closely as possible with the bones in your arm as well as providing maximum grip surface area for your second hand. For a semi-automatic, the top of your hand should press against the beavertail (a small projection at the top of the grip below the hammer) if your gun has one. Be careful on a semi-automatic to not hold too high or your hand will be cut by the slide (slide-bite).

Take a firm grip with your shooting hand and then add your non-shooting hand getting as much contact between your hands and the grip as possible. You want your non-shooting hand to have considerable contact with the grip as opposed to simply closing around your shooting hand.

Grip pressure is important as well. You want firm pressure, but not so much that you get muscle tremors. You also want a little less grip strength with the fingers of your shooting hand so there is not too much tension interfering with a smooth trigger squeeze. A good rule is to apply 40% of the grip pressure with your shooting hand and 60% with your non-shooting hand.

Trigger squeeze

Proper trigger control is one of the most common problems shooters face. The trigger should be smoothly “rolled” to the rear in a continuous motion while disturbing the sight alignment and sight picture as little as possible. For the proper motion, it is helpful to think of a medicine dropper. If you squeeze a medicine dropper hard and fast, it sprays all over the place. However, if you squeeze it slowly and smoothly a perfectly formed drop will fall.

Be careful to not anticipate the shot. You should not know the exact moment the shot will break. Again, a medicine dropper is a good example. The drop slowly gets bigger and bigger until it falls, but you do not know exactly when it will do so. Anticipating the shot (mentally telling yourself to FIRE!) leads to flinching which will ruin your aim.

I also see a lot of people “slapping” the trigger. After each shot their finger flies off the trigger and outside the trigger guard, returning with force to take a swing at the trigger. This leads to a jerky shot.

Don’t forget your follow through! After the gun fires, continue depressing the trigger those last few millimeters until it stops. Like in many other sports, correct follow through will help you be successful because it minimizes unnecessary movements.

Sight alignment and sight picture

This can be a difficult concept for some people.

Proper sight alignment means the top of the front sight is aligned with the top of the rear sight. It should also be centered in the rear sight with an equal amount of light visible on both sides.

Sight picture is aligning the sights with the target. Some people shoot better with the sights splitting the target like a pie, others shoot better with the target sitting on top of the sight alignment like a pumpkin on a fence. Use whichever works best for you.

The front sight is the most important part of the sight picture. The front sight should be in crisp focus with the rear sight and target slightly blurry. Think of it as looking through the rear sight at the front sight.

Shooting stance

Like a building,  it is important to have a good foundation for your shooting position. You feet should be about shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. You should lean forward slightly and resist the urge to lean backwards to counterbalance your gun. You want to be stable and balanced. Some people find it more stable to have one foot ahead of the other and their body turned at an angle to the target, similar to a boxing stance. Whichever works best for you is fine as long as you are stable and balanced.

Breath control

Proper breathing is essential for good accuracy. At an extreme, gasping for breath creates a lot of muscle movement which will disturb your sight alignment and sight picture. You should take slow, controlled breaths. Breath in, let it out slightly, and then hold your breath while squeezing the trigger as you try to minimize the arc of movement of the sights over the target (the movement of the gun). If your trigger squeeze is taking too long and you need to breath simply stop squeezing the trigger, take a few seconds to breath, and then start the process over again.

These are just a few general tips to help improve your accuracy. There is far more to it than just these and as I said earlier, the best solution for poor accuracy is to get help from an experienced trainer.

Wearing a belt holster

Wearing a belt holster seems like a pretty straightforward process. Take a holster, stick your belt thought it, put the belt on. In reality, just attaching the holster to your belt is the easy part. You also have to decide where on your belt to put the holster.

Most people have seen police officers wearing a gun on their strong side hip (right side if they’re right handed). This works great for open carry, but not as much for concealed carry. With your gun protruding from your hip, you are more likely to print (show the outline of your gun through the cover garment).

To keep the gun as close to your body as possible, it is recommended to instead carry in front of your hip (appendix carry) or behind the hip.

In front of your hip can be a good strategy if you are wearing a cover garment that closes in the front, a t-shirt, buttoned shirt, sweater, zipped jacket, etc. Having the gun at the front of your waist tends to allow for a faster draw. Whether you wear it on your strong side or weak side (cross draw) is a matter of personal preference.

If you’re like me and wear an open cover garment (unbuttoned shirt, vest, or unzipped jacket) this is a less desirable position. The gun can easily become visible if your movement or the wind opens the cover garment even slightly. It also can be very uncomfortable if you have a few extra pounds around the midsection.

My preferred position is right behind my strong side hip bone. As illustrated in the picture above, this does keep your gun tight against your body, aiding in concealment. It is also close enough to the front of your body that you don’t have to reach too far around to draw the gun, a particular concern if you need to draw quickly.

It does bring up the question of exactly where to position the gun, a question that can only be answered by what feels most comfortable for you. For me, it works best if the rear sight of my gun is lined up with the seam in my pants. The picture above (click on it to enlarge) shows this position.

Some people like to carry their gun all the way around to the small of their back (SOB). This natural indention does make for a convenient place to carry, however there are several drawbacks.

First, it can be very uncomfortable to sit down and your gun tends to dig into your back because you’re leaning directly on it. It is also much more difficult to draw the gun quickly because you have to reach all the way around. The most important reason I recommend against this method of carry, though, is that if you happen to fall on your back your gun could be smashed into your spine and cause serious damage. For this last reason, some holster manufacturers won’t even make holsters designed for SOB carry.

Regardless of which location on your belt to place the holster, there is one additional consideration: which cant to use.

Cant refers to the tilt of the holster on your belt, and can be in varying degrees. This is best illustrated in the following pictures.

Backward or Rear cant
Vertical cant
Forward cant

The location of the holster and how you prefer to perform the motion for drawing the firearm all determine which cant to use. Most holsters have a fixed cant, but some are adjustable. The cant could eliminate certain positions on your belt. For example, if you want to carry weak side in front of the hip, it would be very difficult to draw from a rear canting holster.

My recommendation is to try several different positions on your belt until you find the one that works best for you, and then stick with it. You always want to carry your gun in the same place whenever possible so that you know exactly where it is and can rely on muscle memory to draw it quickly if you are suddenly attacked.

Protecting against home invasion

There have been several stories in the news lately regarding home invasions. A home invasion occurs when whether intentionally or unintentionally a criminal enters your home while you are present; as opposed to a burglary where they do so when the house is empty.

Many times during accidental home invasions the criminal is not expecting to encounter anyone and will quickly flee when confronted. Intentional home invasions are much more dangerous as the criminal is expecting to confront someone (or is at least prepared for the possibility should they attempt a theft at night without waking the occupants) and will already have a plan for dealing with the residents. This may be as simple as threatening them with a weapon, restraining them, forcing them to assist with the robbery by leading the criminal to valuables or the confrontation could lead to rape or murder.

One such home invasion occurred in Elyria, Ohio in the morning of Thursday, January 5th. According to her account, she was in bed watching television when she heard a suspicious noise. She armed herself and was creeping down the stairs when a 31 year old drug addict kicked down her door and entered her home. She kept yelling for him to stop and when he succeeded in getting inside she fired three shots at him and he fled before later being arrested.

Since a neighbor reported hearing him yell “Oh My God!” as he ran away, it is likely he expected nobody to be home; or at the least not an armed response. The man was suspected to have broken in several weeks earlier when the woman’s daughter and granddaughter were home but they stayed upstairs and did not encouter the robber.

This is contrasted with another incident in Elyria on the same day. This time, the resident woke up to find a man with a gun in his bedroom. The robber forced the man to help him load up two garbage bags full of loot before escaping. Since this victim was taken by surprise while sleeping, being armed might not have led to a better outcome.

In both of these cases, there would have been warning if the resident had an alarm system. Even if you can’t afford a monitored service, an inexpensive stand-alone system can sound an audio alert to warn you of intrusion and possibly even cause the criminal to flee without a confrontation. At the very least it will give you more warning that awaking to find the intruder already in your bedroom giving you time to arm yourself and possibly lock your bedroom door or get to your children.

A common thing a criminal will try is to see if your doors or windows are unlocked to allow for easy entry. To prevent this, you should keep your doors and windows locked whenever practical, even if you are home.

Another frequent ploy is for the home invader to summon the victim to the door and press an attack when the door is opened. The best defense against this is to not open the door to someone you don’t know to keep a physical barrier between you. A door chain can be of use here if it is of high quality and properly installed so a simple push won’t break it. Likewise a good, solid door can help keep an intruder at bay.

Not only should you have a strong door at all entrances to your home, but having a good door and strong locks on your bedroom can allow you to use it as a safe room. Losing your possessions is much preferable to losing your life or becoming seriously injured.

Arming yourself before answering the door can also be an option, though a sudden rush by the invader can render you unable to bring your weapon into play. If there is more than one person home it might be better to arm the second person instead. If attacked, the first person can create separation either by running, shoving the attacker, or going to the ground allowing the second person to enact an armed response.

In addition to an alarm, there are several other things you can do to make your home a less attractive target. Keeping shrubbery trimmed back can prevent an attacker from hiding himself or an accomplice. A well-lit exterior, particularly with motion activated lights, can help make the criminal less comfortable. Owning a dog, particularly a large one, can be a strong deterrent.

One dangerous situation that can occur is surprising a burglar when you come home. Always be aware of your surroundings so you can take notice if things seem out of place or there are signs of forced entry. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security when you enter your home, either. Glance around for things to be out of place and you also might catch a glimpse of the invader. If you do see someone as you enter, get out immediately. Even if armed you do not want the risk of confronting a possibly armed criminal. Discretion is definitely the better part of valor.

If you do manage to successfully enact an armed response you should attempt to verbally repel the intruder before firing if safe to do so. Most criminals will take an available escape route which is preferable to needing to win a gunfight or risk a round from your gun striking a neighbor or passerby. Attempting to apprehend the intruder can be dangerous as well, giving him opportunity to counter attack or forcing an accomplice to attempt a rescue.

These are just a few suggestions to help protect yourself against a home invasion. There is a lot of good information on the internet, and the NRA offers several good courses covering these topics including Refuse to Be a Victim and Personal Protection in the Home.

How to get a concealed handgun license in Ohio


Obtaining a concealed handgun license (CHL)  in Ohio is a fairly straightforward process, but does require some time and commitment.

First of all, you have to get gun safety training. Ohio requires 12 hours of instruction, including a minimum of two hours of live-fire gun range training. This training must be conducted by a certified instructor. The two most common are Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission trainers and instructors certified by the National Rifle Association. As part of this training, you are required to take a written test as well as demonstrate that you’ve learned how to safely handle a gun. Certain other forms of proof of training are also acceptable, such as military training or police training. You can find instructors by visiting many local gunshops, the NRA training website, or OhioCCWTraining.org. Of course, Northcoast Firearms Training provides certified training for both students and those persons wanting to be concealed carry instructors.

Once you have the training, you need to fill out an application for the license. These are available from your local sheriff or you can download them online. The application must include, to the best of your knowledge, every address you’ve lived at since you turned 18 (note that you must be at least 21 years old to apply and be a legal resident of Ohio for at least 45 days). It is recommended to fill out the application at home unless you want to sit in the sheriffs office for a long time working on it.

Once you have the application filled out, you can turn it in. You have to apply for a CHL with a county sheriff, either of the county you live in or a neighboring (adjacent) county. You’ll need to bring with you your proof of training (a photocopy of your training certificate or affidavit), a color photograph (the kind used for passports are best) taken within 30 days and a fee of $67 if you’ve lived in Ohio for at least five years or $91 if you have not. Note that some sheriffs are very specific about the forms of payment they will accept, so you are advised to call ahead. Some also require you to make an appointment to drop off your application.

You will also need to have read the concealed carry laws booklet published by the Ohio Attorney General (available for download from their website). When you apply, you will be fingerprinted (electronically at most sheriff’s offices) and they will conduct a background check. If you have any felonies, drug offenses, or certain violent misdemeanors or were put into a mental health facility by a court you may be declined for the license.

Ohio law specifies that a sheriff has 45 days to issue or deny the license. Once you have it, it is good for five years. The renewal fee is currently $50.

It is also important to note that there is a Temporary Emergency License available in Ohio. You can obtain this license if you have reasonable proof of a threat against you and it is intended to allow you to carry a concealed handgun while you are going through the training and waiting process to obtain a regular CHL.

More information is available by reading the Ohio Revised Code section 2923.125.