Ruger LCR…pocket full of Kryptonite


15 yard target showing the great accuracy capability of this mean little bastard.

I am a Ruger LCR fan.  When Ruger first released these guns, I rented one at my favorite range, and was impressed by the gun’s easy handling, and very usable sights.  It was very light for its size; a good deal lighter than the 442/642 Smiths I was accustomed to using.

That grip though.  I get it…gun designers aren’t necessarily gun users, and what looks good in AUTOCAD doesn’t always work as awesomely in real life.  For the applications I use a small revolver, I expect them to work well in the following roles:

  1. Appendix carry IWB.  As a deep cover primary, or as a, “gym carry,” gun when wearing shorts
  2. Pocket carry.  For the rare occasion when I need to wear a thick jacket, and carry in an external pocket
  3. Ankle carry.  Where my snubs spend most of their time.  If I need my revolver when it’s on my ankle, I need it now.  Whether it’s a transition from my primary, or a grab (accessibility issue) while I’m seated or driving my truck, I need the machine in my hand NOW.  A more hooked grip helps with that motion.

To do what I need the revolver to do, the, “hook,” shape of the grip is a big plus.  I have big hands, and getting my hand into a pocket, and wrap it around a gun, takes space.  If the gun is hook shaped, that helps.  The hook analogy works well for the ankle and AIWB roles, too.  If you need to draw, you need that gun now, not later.  Unfortunately, the LCR in stock configuration, has the grip profile of a semi colon…it’s nearly vertical.  Which means that it is closer to the belt line when carried AIWB, and in the pocket, there isn’t much room for the stock, and the hand.  The grab to the grip is hasty and unsure.

One of my mentors, Tom Givens, is a fan of the Eagle Secret Service grips on his Colt Cobra.  I noticed the profile of the Colt stocks and the Ruger LCR stocks were similar in Eagle’s photos, so I figured it was worth the investment.  The stocks look awesome and feel great…until you start shooting.  That rosewood transmits the recoil impact to the base of the thumb like a tack hammer!  No bueno.  And yes, I know these guns are supposed to be, “Carried much and shot little,” but I like to shoot regularly, especially the guns I hang my family’s well being on, so I want something that I can actually use.  So, as you can imagine, the search continues!


This gun is every Steampunk kid’s dream. I’m looking forward to finding some stocks I love for this revolver.


Lions, tigers and bears…oh S**T


The great gunfighter, and Father of the Smith and Wesson Model 19, Bill Jordan, wrote in his book, “No Second Place Winner,” that if given his choice, he would always pick his Model 19 as his weapon-of-choice for nearly any task.  He was of the belief that if you had a Model 19, and you were legendary with it, like he was, you could procure any other equipment you would need…  Interesting thought.  Like the old saying goes, “Always fear the one-gun-man (He probably knows how to use it)”.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest.  Since there is such an expanse of preserved nature there, many other folks and I out that way enjoy hiking in the hills and mountains of Washington State.  A few times a year, in the areas where I lived, people would spot a mountain cat of some type.  These animals would wander into town, with a voracious appetite.  Or, a pack of medium sized, but wily coyotes would terrorize an area, and devour house cats, or maul/kill dogs.  At the time, I didn’t have the finances to purchase anything specifically well suited for killing large predators, so I generally used my duty gun, a Smith 681, in a shoulder holster, loaded with the heaviest .357 Magnum loads I could find.  And, as was the custom in the area, I kept a Remington 870 loaded with slugs in the truck.  I’d keep it handy at the campsite and when out on the trails, since the repellent effect of Brenneke rifled slugs on most anything that breathes, is well known.

Now, after living in Tennessee for 11 years, I’ve learned the South has it’s own brand of predatory critters.  Namely black bears and feral hogs.  Who’d have thought that a giant pig could be hazardous!  So, when I decided that I would explore the woodlands of Tennessee, I figured that a non-long gun solution (since there are tourists out here that freak at the sight of a long gun) was needed.  Thus, I procured a Ruger Redhawk in .44 Magnum, with a 5.5″ barrel.  The heavy frame of the Redhawk makes the heavy .44 Magnum loads tolerable, at least for a few dozen rounds.  The OEM grips are a slightly enlarged version of the Ruger Security Six series, and they are reminiscent of the stocks on an old single action revolver.  They tend to, “eat,” at the middle finger of the firing hand, and that makes shooting get uncomfortable after a bit.  Sure, you can wear a glove or put duct tape on your hand, but I generally don’t do that.  I tried out a number of after-market grip solutions for the Redhawk, but I never found anything that I really liked that well.  The Pachmayr product was ill fitting, the Hogue grip was HUGE, and I didn’t really fiddle with anything else after two disappointments in a row.  So, I thought that there had to be a better, more ergonomic, and portable solution out there.

Enter the Smith & Wesson Model 69.  Built on the venerable, “L frame,” and preceded in history by the Model 586/686 and 581/681 and their various variants, the L frame was a Police and Security favorite from the time it was introduced on the market in 1980.  Throughout the years, various gunsmiths experimented with the L frame, producing hybrid guns in 9mm, and even reboring some guns to work with the .44 Magnum’s rare cousin, the .41 Magnum.  Later, Smith & Wesson introduced a .44 Special version of the L-frame, that looked like a beefed up version of the Smith Bodyguard.  So, in 2014, Smith decided it was time to dust off the old L frame, and make a highly portable, easy to shoot, 4.25″ barreled, 5 shot L frame, and call it the, “Combat Magnum.”  I saw one at my local gun shop, and slapped down my debit card immediately.  Yes, it sounded kind of tinny when I dry-pressed it, and yes, the barrel isn’t monolithic…it’s a tube screwed into a steel sleeve, and yes it had that ridiculous lock on it, but I didn’t care.  I also bought two boxes of .44 Magnum (240 grain hollow points) and set out onto the range to make some noise.

The revolving pistol worked as advertised.  It shot to the sights with the heavy .44 Magnums (and I found out later, also with 200 grain .44 Special Gold Dots).  The recoil was about the same as any other .44 Magnum I had fired, and not uncomfortable.  The factory OEM stocks were comfortable, but not perfect.  They could be squeezed to the point that they would spread at the backstrap.  Not a deal breaker, but not perfect.  The stocks also didn’t have much cushion on the backstrap, so I could definitely feel the, “oomph,” of the recoil transmit to my hand.  After 100 rounds, I was ready for a break and some dinner.

Although I don’t find myself anymore in the situation where I have to use, “one gun,” to do most anything, I run these thought experiments for the benefit of others, and for the simple reason that someday, I might become a total nomad dentist, and set out on adventure, a la Indiana Jones, in which case, I may have just one gun to rely on for protection from both man and beast, and also for food harvesting capability, on medium to large game, throughout North America.  The Smith 69 could work for that.  Just like it’s older cousin, the J frame, the Model 69 is limited by its meager five shot ammo capacity.  However, unlike the J frame, the Model 69 can handle some of the heaviest, fastest, most effective game ammo made.  Buffalo Bore produces .44 Magnum ammo in anti-personnel, and game hunting ammunition.  Several of the hunting rounds have penetration depths that are measured in feet.  Guaranteed to perforate and shoot through most unarmored human targets, but effective against the thick hide, muscle and bone of many dangerous animals.  The excellent Speer 200 grain Gold Dot Hollowpoint is available in a mild .44 Special loading, and delivers penetration and tissue destruction on par with other large caliber Gold Dot loadings.  The recoil is mild and very workable for self-defense purposes, where fast follow up shots are often required.  So, by only changing the ammunition in the gun, the performance capabilities of the .44 Magnum can be fully appreciated and utilized for a variety of tasks.


Those nickel plated cases of the Speer Gold Dot.  The Gold Dot is nearly considered a universal in the self-defense world.  It works well on most human attackers, in virtually every caliber it is available in.  (Did you know that Speer even offers a Gold Dot loading in the old .30 Carbine?)  These are the Ahrend’s Retro Combat K/L round to Square Butt conversion grips.  They look and feel great, but they beat the webbing of the hand up with heavy loads.

This is the Hogue, rubber mono-grip, but in the, “K/L round to square butt conversion,” style grip, sans finger grooves.  It is a comfortable grip, but a bit sticky for concealment purposes.  If you are going to carry this puppy concealed, I would dumb the grip texture down a hair, to make it less adherent to the cover garment.

Close up of the ball bearing lock at the crane, which confers more strength to the operating mechanism, which helps lengthen the service life of this medium/large, LARGE bore revolving pistol.


The sights, trigger, cylinder release and lock are all contrasting black, MIM parts.  This accounts for the, “tinny,” sound when dry-practicing with this gun.

The topstrap here isn’t thin.  After firing several hundred rounds over the course of a weekend, no undue wear was noted in the area of the forcing cone, or the topstrap.  Other, lighter build .44 Magnums have suffered from flame-cutting issues into the topstrap of the revolvers.  Granted, this is early on in the life of the gun, but it’s still going strong today.



I’m a fan of the, “Roper,” type grips on revolvers, for general use and concealment.  Yes, they DO tend to beat up the user a bit more than their rubber counterparts, but they wear admirably, and they feel good in the hand.  They also conceal well since they don’t grab the cover garment that conceals them.

The aforementioned Redhawk, which looks like an absolute pig beast compared to the sveldt lines of the Model 69.  I worked a BK grip adapter into this gun, and later found an old K frame Tyler adapter on Ebay to put onto this gun, to reduce the amount of skin I’d lose off of my middle finger on my firing hand when touching off the heavy duty CADILLAC STOPPERS that this gun was designed to handle.  Big fun, and I hope that I don’t have arthritis in the future from all of that, “fun.”

BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH THE ACCURACY DRILLS!  The Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters, and the Tactical Professor’s Baseline Establishment


Mark Luell of, “Growing Up Guns,” (left) Darryl Bolke (middle) and myself (right), at the 2016 RANGEMASTER Polite Society Tactical Conference.

As I’ve already written about in the past few posts, I recently attended the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Tactical Conference.  One class I attended there was presented by Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical Shooting, from Dallas TX.  The lecture was entitled, “The Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters.”

Darryl talked about the legendary lawmen, of both the distant and recent past.  Some of these men had been his mentors, and he made careful notes  of the skills he observed these men to have in common.  A common thread through all of these men was their capability to deliver extremely accurate fire, under the threat and pressure of tense situations AND/OR incoming gunfire!  Having the ability to deliver, on demand, gunshots to either the fist-sized vital zone of the upper chest, or the fist-sized vital zone of the head, are the only predictable ways to cease violent or homicidal human behavior, with pistol projectiles, regardless of caliber.

Darryl also noticed that this unique group of men tended to spend their time in extensive dry-practice (which he uses instead of the term, “dry-fire,” for obvious reasons) live-fire practice on the range, AND in accuracy-intensive competition like NRA Bullseye or PPC matches.  If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, it’s that this unique sample group definitely subscribed to the, “accuracy FIRST,” ideal, and it served them well.

Unfortunately, gents like the aforementioned group don’t (or cannot) exist in law enforcement these days due to our hyper-sensitive, politically correct world.  Habitual gunfight survivors are cycled out of their duty positions, and modern law enforcement officers simply cannot accrue the body of experience and success that officers of past generations could, and did.  Not to denigrate past or current generations of law enforcement officers, but, “They just CAN’T make them like they used to!”  In the civilian/armed self-defense world, two gunfighters that stick out in my mind, are Lance Thomas of Santa Monica CA, who successfully defended his high-end watch shop from multiple armed robbers on several occasions, and Second Chance Body Armor inventor (and former pizza delivery driver) Richard Davis, who was also the victor in robbery attempts against multiple armed suspects.  I’m sure that there are others, but most victims of serial robberies change their vocation, or at least their location, after having experienced multiple existential threats.

Unfortunately, I missed Darryl’s range block that covered shooting drills relative to his lecture, because my match shooting time ran over due to previous shooters having some kind of conundrum.  But I took notes on what I could overhear coming off of the range!

Any of my eleven regular readers knows that I’m a big fan of Claude Werner, AKA The Tactical Professor.  Claude (no coincidence) is also a believer in the 100% accuracy club.  Below is a baseline performance drill Claude came up with, that has also been used by Super-Cop Greg Ellifritz from Active Response Training, as outlined here, on his blog.

THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR BASELINE PERFORMANCE DRILL (the goal, is 100% accuracy)  Claude originally posted this drill here, which I have bold printed in a direct copy, for your enjoyment:

The objective of this drill is to determine what distance you can make 100 percent hits on the vital area of a silhouette target. My feeling is that we need to work on achieving 100 percent accuracy because errant rounds in our homes or neighborhoods could be a major problem. Since I also think the first shot is the most important, I structured the session with a lot of first shots but also included multi-shot strings. A lot of people ‘walk their rounds’ into the target even with handguns. This is a huge problem and liability.

We don’t count hits on the head in this drill because they are actually misses if you are aiming at the body. The head is more than a foot away from the center of the body, if you hit the head when you’re aiming at the body, it’s just a lucky shot and doesn’t count in terms of performance measurement.”

Required equipment:

Any silhouette target; B-27, B-21, Q, IDPA, IPSC, etc.

Masking tape (preferred) or magic marker to mark the target.

Pistol, 50 rounds of ammunition

Eye and ear protection


This drill consists of five (5) Sequences of 10 shots each. The Sequences are untimed.


Place target at three (3) yards

Start loaded with five (5) rounds only.


The starting position is Low Ready. This means the pistol is aimed at the floor below the target. For double action pistols, you will decock after each Step.

Sequence 1 (10 rounds)

1) Start with handgun held in both hands, aimed at the floor below the target. Spare magazine loaded with 5 rounds or speedloader with 5 rounds or 5 loose rounds on the bench.

2) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 1 shot at the center of target. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock, if appropriate.

3) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 2 shots at the center of target. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock.

4) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 3 shots at the center of target. After two shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Reload it and fire the third shot. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock.

5) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 4 shots at the center of target. After the shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Hopefully, the slide has locked back if it’s an autoloader.

6) Place your pistol down on the bench.

7) Bring your target back and mark all the hits, preferably with tape but a marker will do.

8) Write on the target how many hits you made in the body scoring area. I prefer to not count the outer scoring area as I mentioned in Why I hate the -3 zone. Use this format, (3) X/10, X being the number of hits. For this drill, do not count any hits in the head, they are actually misses.

Sequence 2 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 5 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 but with the target at 5 yards instead of 3 yards.

3) When you write on the target how many hits you made in the scoring area, it will be (5) X/10. The number in parenthesis is the distance in yards.

Sequence 3 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 7 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 7 yards.

3) Write on the target how many hits you made at 7 yards. (7) X/10

Sequence 4 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 10 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 10 yards.

3) Write on the target how many hits you made at 10 yards. (10) X/10

Sequence 5 (10 rounds)

4) Send the target out to 15 yards.

5) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 15 yards.

6) Write on the target how many hits you made at 15 yards. (15) X/10

“When you finish the drill, record your score for each yardage. Make this a part of your practice record. Shooting this exercise will give you a good idea of what your current proficiency level is. That’s an important starting point.”

Well, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and since some of you like software, and some of you like hardware (and I love you all) I thought that I would run this baseline evaluation test with several guns and make sure that I’m using the guns I should be!  I used a paper version of the IDPA target, and I counted anything outside of the (-0) AKA, “down zero,” which is an 8″ diameter circle in the mid/upper chestal region of the target.  I added an additional record to the scoring, which is the total number of rounds that actually went onto the bad guy, in even the -1 or -3 areas.  You’ll notice in the photo sequence:


This is my ankle gun. A Smith and Wesson Model 640; one of the first ones made in .357 Magnum (although I carry .38’s in it). I dumped one shot out of the down zero at 15 yards, but all of the others were right there. Ammo was 130 grain ball. I plan to do this same test, with 135 grain GDHP (my carry load) in the immediate future. This one wears Uncle Mike’s Boot Grips, which are my favorite J frame grip, ever. They are a rubber copy of the Craig Spegel design, and the latest runs of J frames from the factory feature a rip off/not quite version of these. However, I find the old ones to be the best balance between recoil absorption, grip in the hand, and fabric grab on the overlying cover garment. And they get a nice patina to them after they’ve been buffed by a pant leg for a number of years.


This is my EDC understudy, a S&W M&P 9mm Full size. My carry M&P has Trijicon HD’s, which have a, “drive the dot,” POI. This pistol has Warren Tactical Sights, with the front dot, and I spent a bit of time during the test figuring out at distance if my POI was at the top edge of the sight, or under the dot. I will investigate this further…


This is a, “new to me,” Glock 19 with Heinie Slant Pro sights (in the TOM GIVENS configuration…that is, black sights, with the front blade painted red). Again, I did some fiddling with the POI on this, and as you can see by the vertical stringing, I think I eventually got it nailed down. I marked this 49/50, but when you zoom in and look, the shot actually broke the line, so it really, I suppose, counts.


There are a lot of 1911 fans in the world, and I’m not mad at them. They are a flat, easy to carry gun. I got this particular version as an Undergraduate gift from my Mother. It is a Springfield Armory Custom shop gun. The sliding trigger takes some getting used to after shooting striker fired guns extensively, however if I don’t get jittery, it works great. It runs well, too. This was fired with 230 grain PMC ball, however this particular gun will feed Speer Gold Dot HP’s.


I included this Glock 21 as an homage to my friend Greg Ellifritz, who carries this behemoth on duty. Despite my Size 12 gloves and long fingers, this thing is BIG. I’ve never figured out why that wisp of a man, Rayland Givens carries this huge-ass gun, on JUSTIFIED (the prop guy is probably a Shrek-sized Ogre). This is a First Gen Glock 21 with a conservative home-stipple job. This particular version has old-skool Trijicon night sights on it, which to me, I find really distracting with the BIG white circles around the rear tritium lamps. If I were going to use this gun for serious purposes (and MORE practice) I would dumb down the rear vials with a red Sharpie, and hit the front sight with red nail polish, to really make it pop. It’s easy to forget how, “high,” sights have become in modern times, compared to the old Meprolight and Trijicon offerings of the 90’s. These suckers are LOW. I think that they still offer these types of sights in modern times, but with higher profile sights around, and nobody’s eyes aging in reverse, higher profile makes better sense.

In summary, precision fire from 3, 5, 7 and 10 yards isn’t particularly difficult. Where the rubber truly meets the road for ME, is at 15 and 25 yards. At those longer distances, I really have to slow down, lock into that front sight and get a smooth press to send the projectile into the desired terminus. Botch any one of those segments, and the shot goes wide. Seems simple enough! But alas, as anyone who has hammered on this stuff for hours/days/months/years, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you!” Luckily for folks like me, the lone, armed citizen, shots that long are rare (albeit not unheard of!).  Try this drill, see how you fare, especially with your carry guns. And if you have a gun in your safe that you shoot BETTER than your carry gun, maybe look closer at WHY you made that choice. If you aren’t under any kind of work constraint or regulation to carry a specific sidearm, consider changing to something that you can produce 100% accuracy and thus 100% accountability with. And remember the ways of the past masters…as Larry Vickers says in his classes, “Speed is fine, but accuracy is FINAL!” Thanks for reading!


Ch-ch-ch-changes!  (To the 12 gauge);Turn and Face the Strange

After running this Remington 870 Wingmaster through a block of Tom Givens’ Defensive Shotgun course, I made a few simple changes to the gun, to allow me to run it better.  Tom mentioned these modifications in the course, and I did them over the past week.  Total investment?  $310.00 and that’s in US dollars.  A workable, high quality solution doesn’t need to cost $2100.

THING ONE:  I ditched the OEM magazine cap with the integrated sling loop, and the OEM magazine tube spring and cheap plastic follower.  I replaced the cap, spring and follower with a unit from Wilson Combat/Scattergun Technologies.  This magazine, “extension,” allows one more round to fit into the magazine, for a total of five rounds.  I leave it loaded with four rounds, to allow the spring to have a bit more, “oomph,” instead of leaving it fully loaded.  I keep it, “cruiser ready,” with a loaded magazine tube, hammer down (action unlocked), and the safety off.  If I need it, I can pick it up, rack a round in and fire.  WHY NOT A LONGER EXTENSION TUBE, YOU ASK?  I’m not convinced that the longer tube is the way to go…they are basically unprotected, and hang out underneath the gun where they are susceptible to dents and dings.  Dent one deep enough, and you can prevent the follower from traversing the tube, unimpeded, as it should.  I’d hate to turn my repeating shotgun into a manually operated (albeit a fast one) single shot weapon.  The basic bead works well for me.  I do have other guns that have ghost ring, rifle sights, or express sights, but the longest shot in our home is 15 yards.  The bead accomplishes that shot at that range, with a minimum of fidgeting, or alignment.  If you have a good cheek weld, the bead is right on what will get clobbered when the trigger is pressed.  So while advanced sights have their place, until I amass enough wealth to purchase Wayne Manor, the basic bead will work fine.


THING TWO:  Five round nylon/elastic shell strip, attached with heavy duty Velcro to the right side of the stock.  This configuration gives me 9 rounds in/on the gun, which should be MORE than enough ammo to statistically handle ANY civilian-context threat.  This wood stock came from the factory, with a 14″ length of pull.  Awhile back, I had Taylor Mock at the Texas Brigade Armory shorten the stock, and refit the recoil pad, to give a total length of pull of 12″.  Don’t freak out tall folks…you can still use this length stock, easily.  So can your smaller family members.  


THING THREE:  Federal Flite Control, “Personal Defense,” OO Buckshot.  I bought a bunch of this ammunition.  It is my new, “go-to,” round.  It runs in whatever guns I’ve tried it in, and turns in patterns that I previously thought were only possible with a Vang Comp type modification.  Pretty great.  The flight control wad makes keeping 9 out of 9 pellets on the bad guy at 25 yards easy.  Each of those 9 projectiles MUST be accounted for in a defensive shooting, and keeping them closer to each other, and on the target, makes that easier.  You might win the battle, but lose the war, if you effectively down the bad guy, but have an errant pellet hit a family member or a neighbor.  

THING FOUR:  WHAT, NO LIGHT?  In short, no.  While I DO have a Surefire forend in my gear box for an 870, I don’t have it mounted on this home defense shotgun.  Your experience and opinion may vary, but here’s mine.  Surefire forends were designed for law enforcement use.  Law enforcement officers find themselves in situations where they need to search for a bad guy inside a structure, or outdoors in low light.  I keep my carry handgun, and flashlight available to address situations like a, “bump,” in the night.  My family loves in a multi floor, loft type of dwelling, with 180 degrees of floor to ceiling windows.  Even with the blinds down, there is still enough ambient light to be able to see well.  A flashlight would absolutely confirm the identity of the noise/intruder.  With my flashlight, I can illuminate said disturbance, then decide if a firearm solution is necessary.  WITH THE SHOTGUN, I cannot illuminate the target and decide if a firearm solution is required…BECAUSE WITH THE INTEGRATED LIGHT, THAT’S ALREADY BEING DONE!  With the flashlight/pistol combo, I still have the option to electively point the gun at the possible bad guy.  With the shotgun/light system, I do not.

ALSO, my shotgun fits into my home defense system like this:  the shotgun is placed in the safe room, where all the occupants of our home will retreat to, in the event of an emergency.  If we are behind the door, shotgun at the ready, anyone that forcibly kicks down the door isn’t there to offer us foot massages…in that case, there would be enough light to see that the behemoth that just kicked the door down isn’t Aunt Edna looking for the last of the Girl Scout Thin Mints!  Their intent/ability/opportunity to cause grave bodily injury or death to me and my family will be obvious.  THE POLICE can brandish/point guns at people that they do not know, or who occupy areas where calls for service have been made to.  That’s part of their job…if you’re a good guy in a building where a bad guy is known to be, and the police are searching for him, you WILL get guns pointed at you.  Civilians, cannot do that.  Sure, you could make the argument that The Castle Doctrine will protect you if someone is an unauthorized party in your own home, but how often are the circumstances, “THAT,” apparent?  The chance of a negative outcome, SEEM to be much greater when guns are pointed at questionable/unidentifued threats.  So for me, adequate ambient lighting is a good thing, and having a search light separate from the weapon is, too.

CONCLUSION:  There is a strange cognitive error that occurs in the civilian defense industry lately.  Regular folks look at military and law enforcement equipment and techniques, and then adopt them, prima facie, without considering that the mission of the police, the military and the civilian is EACH a completely unique proposition.  There is little overlap between the three missions.

One area of pure overlap is in ammunition selection.  I’ve heard Tom Givens, Massad Ayoob and other instructors say that using the same caliber, brand/weight ammunition as the local police force can be a wise move.  Here, the purpose of the civilian and the LE antipersonnel ammunition is the same…accurately fire projectiles that will quickly stop a bad guy from causing any further harm, with as few rounds as possible.  If you’re being attacked at a gas station by a man demanding your cash and keys with a switchblade held inches from your face, and you shoot him, and he drops the knife and runs away, you’ve accomplished your mission.  IF YOU WERE THE POLICE, and the same scenario occurred (hey, nobody said crooks were smart) that would just be the start of your mission, as now the bad guy has to be apprehended.  But, as Joe civilian, your part is done.  Thus, the ammunition commonality analogy makes sense.  The choice of carry pistol could also carry over from LE circles, if one is willing to carry a full-size/G19 or G23 size gun.

The analogy falls apart when the conclusion of, “The local Police carry M4’s loaded with Hornady TAP ammo for active killer threats in the trunk of their squad cars, therefore I, the friendly neighborhood dentist SHOULD ALSO keep an M4 in my trunk, to better prepare for active killer threats!”  While a Police patrolman might very well interdict a bad guy trying to hack up patrons of a second-run movie theatre with his M4, the more likely scenario for the civilian user is that the M4 would be stolen from my unattended vehicle, and then end up in the bad guy’s hands.  Since the majority of the guns that are taken FROM badguys ARE in fact stolen, it makes good sense for us, the citizen sentinels to keep them out of their hands, as well as we can.  So, while the missions are different, the context of equipment utilization can overlap, but it doesn’t, automatically.
Be wary, be wise, be safe.

Photo Credit to Tiffany Johnson, of RANGEMASTER

There’s no normal life, Wyatt, it’s just life. Get on with it.  SUBTEXT:  You are your own backup!


I work in one of the most violent, ethnically diverse areas of Nashville, TN.  Everyday, an assortment of crimes take place within earshot of my dental practice.  If you lived in an area that rained everyday, you’d always have an umbrella handy, to keep as dry as possible.  Conversely, since I work in an area that is physically hazardous, I pack appropriately.

I’ve been carrying a gun as a private citizen for 20 years now, and I spent several of those years carrying in an official capacity as an armored truck guard.  I’m, “over,” the allure of whatever is the latest and greatest carry pieces; even with the occasional test gun/experimentation, I always end up coming back to the old standards (what you see in the picture).  I have an EDC (Smith M&P 9mm FS), an EDC BUG (Smith 640), and a gym/lounge/check the mail/let the dog out gun (Smith 442).  If I go to a place for work where my compatriots will all be using Glock 19’s (or 17’s), I’ll sub out my M&P for the 19.  The commonalities between the two pistols overlap enough that the learning curve isn’t difficult to overcome with a short dry-practice/draw refresher. The revolvers work exactly alike, except one is a bit lighter, and works better when worn without a belt (like in gym shorts).  I feel it’s better to invest money in practice ammunition and software (training and education) than to carry the latest gadget laden polymer pistol.  Once you’ve invested into a carry system, switching to something else is a major investment!  Magazines, spare parts, holsters, non-plastic sights (if it’s a Glock), ALL these things take money and time to find and purchase.  There are other things to spend time on!

I know that our world is in bedlam, some locales worse than others.  Everyone is concerned about active killer events, and we’ve even had one in this area (  However, my biggest personal security concern is the big parking lot outside my office, and the twenty footsteps that are required to traverse said parking lot from the front door of my office.  And then there is the worry of car jacking, which happens here, regularly, too.

Unfortunately, carrying two guns, spare ammo, a flashlight, less lethal options, and a Spyderco folding knife is the, “new normal,” for many regular enlightened civilian folks like me.  I’m under no illusions that calling 911 will get me any kind of help with a degree of urgency.  As much as I love our wonderful Metro PD, I know that those ladies and gentlemen are simply tied up dealing with other people’s problems.

There is no, “normal,” life anymore.  There is just, “life.”  Each of us has to decide if we are going to be a slave to the criminal/terror threat, or if we are going to rise above it, and not compromise our quality of life.  The equipment is only a small part of the equation.  I’d rather be outfitted with a Speedo and a #2 Dixon Ticonderoga and be physically fit, than to be obese and bristling with weaponry.  For me, I’m glad I have the experience and the training to be my own bodyguard.  It makes living in our weird world, THAT much easier.  I am glad that I am not one of the masses, who walk the Earth, completely unaware of the evil that lurks, just around the next corner.

Here comes the BOOM!

This poster showing the anatomy of the Remington 870 shotgun hangs in one of the classrooms of the Memphis Police Department’s Firearms Training Unit.  Look at that vent rib/Ghost Ring barrel!


I LOVE shooting shotguns.  Whether it’s at birds, paper or steel, no other gun is more satisfying for me to shoot.  The noise, the smoke, and the on-target effect is dramatic.

I spent two hours this weekend in a block of defensive shotgun instruction with Jedi Master Tom Givens, at the 2016 RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference in Memphis TN.  I have trained with Tom several times in the past, and I really appreciate the utility of his courses.  Tom couples a rich curriculum with a thoughtful, entertaining delivery, that is completely, 100% bio available to the lone, armed citizen.  If you are looking for some high speed military door kicking shotgun course, or some LE, “Patrol Shotgun,” course, look elsewhere.  Tom’s class prepares regular folks for the eventuality of defending themselves from a life-threatening attack in their home or business, with the shotgun.  Make no mistake…the curriculum isn’t, “easier,” or any less valuable than the aforementioned genres of classes.  The mission of the armed citizen is simply different than the military or LEO user.

The target to Tom’s left has the pleural region obliterated by close range application of birdshot.  However, you’ll note the pattern of buckshot at the belt-line of the bad guy…which Tom sent from 25 yards away using the Federal Flight Control 12 gauge buckshot.  All nine rounds are still present on the bad guy.  The next target over to Tom’s left, with the tight shot group on the bad guy’s pistol, was fired from 15 yards, and it is still fist sized!  Amazing!

Tom’s approach to teaching the shotgun is very systematic and delineated.  There is an order of operations that must be practiced.  Tom said that unlike a handgun, which with careless use can cause an errant hole to appear in an unintended target, shotguns simply destroy things that are unintentionally shot.  Prevention is key, and that prevention is actionable through careful, regimented gun handling.  Safety was stressed throughout the class.  And, like Tom’s other range classes, Tom tells you exactly what he wants you to do (electronic ear protection is invaluable for training classes.  If you don’t have them, you need to get them) and then you do it.  It’s a game of, “Tactical Simon Says!”  If you keep up, and do things the way Tom tells you, you quickly see the majesty and superiority of the shotgun for close-in self defense scenarios.  The students that fell behind, or had trouble following directions, were coached back into the right algorithm by Tom or his wonderful wife, Lynn.

Although we only used birdshot for this class, Tom’s full shotgun course uses birdshot, buckshot and rifled slugs.  However, Tom demonstrated and explained the wonder of the Federal Flight Control OO Buckshot, at 5 yards, 15 yards, and 25 yards.  Even at 25 yards, all nine of the .33 caliber pellets were clearly present on the silhouette targets we were using.

Tom also talked about the rationale behind the shotgun.  Lately, in law enforcement (and in the civilian world, as a natural by-product of this) the trend for M4 or AR-15 type rifles use has become far more common than ever before in history.  M4’s, are mildly recoiling, and less intimidating to small framed folks, than the 12 gauge.  So many uninformed, uniformed folks feel, “better,” with an M4.  Even though engagement distances for nearly any domestic law enforcement and certainly any civilian self defense scenario are well within the range performance envelope of the shotgun, many people still opt for the carbines.  The, “non-standard response,” drill with the M4 dictates that 5-7 rounds are fired from the carbine into the bad guy to maximize the ballistic effect of the sometimes anemic and not always predictable 5.56x45mm or .223 Remington round.  Thus, a standard 28 or 30 round carbine magazine contains what Tom calls, “4-5 servings,” of projectiles.  From the shotgun, with Federal Flight Control ammunition (for example) a standard pattern 870 Express, Wingmaster, Police or Tactical has a tubular magazine that contains between 4 and 7 shells, each containing 9 projectiles.  This meets or exceeds the projectile delivery capabilities of the carbine!

My go-to shotguns for home/office defense.  The stocks are cut down to 12″ LOP.  That way they can be used by anyone in my family.  As long as I remember to keep my thumb straight, I won’t clobber myself in the face…despite that I am actually 6’4″ tall and could run a slightly longer LOP.  The Magpul stock, with no spacers, gives a good, “usable by anyone,” LOP, and so does the Hogue short stock.  The 870 on the left in the above photo has the, “DEA Barrel,” but currently (and what I ran in the class) wears an 18″ bead sighted barrel.  I like sights that are low on the barrel.  That’s my preference, and yours may vary.  So I tend to gravitate towards the bead on the pedestal or the bead mounted to the barrel.

Tom covered the various ways that one can carry and transport ammunition for the shotgun and have it ready for immediate use.  The two ways that we examined were the stock (butt cuff) carry, or receiver (sidesaddle) carry.  Tom prefers butt cuff carry.  He feels that having a sidesaddle changes the handling characteristics of the shotgun, making it thicker than he’d like around the middle. He also doesn’t like the mounting system for most sidesaddles which can pinch the receiver excessively, causing difficulties for the action bars to properly traverse the race ways inside the receiver.  This can tie up the gun, and that is simply a non-starter.  The butt cuff (or, the modern iteration, a nylon and elastic strip, attached with vehicular grade Velcro to the stock of the gun) offers a less obtrusive solution to the sidesaddle.  Another feature of the butt cuff that I noticed was that the rounds tend to be less susceptible to the effects of recoil, and thus actually stay in the loops, instead of falling out after long strings of fire, since the shells are located further from the axis of rotation during firing, and hence less susceptible to inertia.  My sidesaddles have notoriously dumped rounds (if they aren’t brass, “up,”) with astounding regularity.  Nobody wants a garage sale of spare shells at their feet when they need their life-saving equipment close at hand.

There were several different shotguns present in the class, ranging from 28″ barreled 870’s that were meant for bird hunting, to a Winchester Model 1200 Defender.  A few students brought guns that were either obsolete for the class purpose, or simply unsuited for the user.  One student brought some iteration of the Taurus Judge, in .410, but in shotgun form.  The same student also brought an Ithaca 37.  Since neither of those guns can be easily combat loaded (that is, have a round dropped directly into the chamber, and run the action forward and be ready to shoot) Tom told the student to leave those guns in their cases and borrow one of his loaner Remington 870’s.  Another student brought a shotgun that was nearly as long, as she was tall.  She traded that out for another one of Tom’s loaner guns, a 12″ Magpul stocked 870, that was MUCH easier for her to use.  Tom lectured specifically on the length of pull of a defensive shotgun…and why too many people use shotguns that have a woefully long LOP that they really cannot use.  Tom recommended that any defensive shotgun have a LOP between 12″ and 13″.  However, most shotguns come from the factory with a 14″ OR LONGER length of pull.  While a stock that long might work great for bird hunting, when the shooter is bladed at a 90 degree angle from the target, in defensive shooting, when our stance is more squared to the target, a shorter stock makes wielding the weapon easier, and more ergonomic.  Thus, Tom recommended that if people keep a shotgun in their home or office for defensive purposes, than they should keep the length of pull short enough to allow any family member to use it.  Also, people that are very tall can STILL use a short LOP shotgun!

I am a lifelong student.  I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on private training tuition over the last 20 years.  And I’ve spent over $500K on my graduate education.  I know what good training looks like!  And while I am always open-minded in classes, there are things that I hear, or learn that I simply choose, “not to incorporate,” into my mental utilization schema.  I can honestly say, in the three live-fire classes and the seven classroom presentations I’ve taken from Tom, I’ve never heard him recommend a concept or introduce an idea that I didn’t agree with.  Tom’s material works!  He has had 62 students successfully navigate the muddy waters of self defense shootings, and he has continually evolved his curriculum to reflect the changing context of the urban environment, as well as adapt to new emerging threats.  Tom has been at this for 35 plus years now, and the impact he has made on the self-defense industry is IMMENSE.  I always learn something new when I am in Tom’s presence.

The Rangemaster Polite Society Conference is THE best training symposium around.  You cannot find a deeper well of knowledge for such a low price, anywhere.  The expertise of all of the instructors and the attendees is truly a sight to behold.  I have so enjoyed the two Polite Society Conferences that I have attended, that I modeled the Paul-E-Palooza Memorial Training Conference after the Rangemaster conference, and even many of the same instructors teach at both events!  As Tom said this past weekend, “I put on a conference to see all my friends!”  And that is very true for me, too.  Some of the greatest, most honorable people I know on this planet were in attendance, and a good weekend of learning and fellowship was had by all.

From the left, Cecil Burch of IMMEDIATE ACTION COMBATIVES, Caleb Causey of LONE STAR MEDICS, and Mark Luell of GROWING UP GUNS


Mark, Tom and I.