When in doubt, blame the machine

In my day to day practice, as a dentist, I’m always amused at the interesting phenomena of what I call, “The Blame Game.”  I regularly have patients that haven’t been to the dentist in thirty plus years, or sometimes, they’ve NEVER been to the dentist.  They will come see me, and I will take out one of their rotten teeth (and they never have just one rotten tooth).  Invariably, they will come back within a week and claim, “My tooth (teeth) really hurt where you took out that rotten tooth.  YOU must’ve done something wrong.”  Hmm…I usually say very little, or nothing, and simply throw the before and after x-rays up on the monitor for the patient to see.  When I show them what their tooth looked like before the extraction, how the extraction socket is now EMPTY, and how the extraction socket is bracketed by two OTHER rotten teeth, I let them put together the puzzle pieces themselves.  If they don’t get it, I spell it out…”YOU simply haven’t taken responsibility for your portion of this equation.  You STILL have rotten teeth, aside from the one that I took out already.”  Oh, and gum disease.  They’ll always have gum disease.  But that’s for another day.

rotten teeth

Oh don’t worry, that’ll buff right out.  NOT.  As you may have guessed, this isn’t caused by iatrogenic (physician caused) injury.  And this isn’t meth mouth.  This is just good old fashioned American apathy.  Don’t take care of yourself, and “yourself” will stop taking care of you!

When I take a particular gun and ammo combination to the range, to purely test accuracy (practical accuracy, that is) I never fire off an awful salvo into a paper or cardboard target and think, “Well, this gun must just be bent.”  I immediately think, “How am I contributing to this mess?”  Most people always blame the machine!  It’s easier.  There is no ego on the line; you don’t have to face up to any kind of deeply buried truth (like, “HOLY SMOKES I MIGHT JUST REALLY SUCK AT THIS), and you can simply go on about your day, completely satisfied that you have, “ONCE AGAIN,” been failed by technology.  How unlucky!

I have exactly one revolver that truly is, “broken.”  It is a Charter Arms Pathfinder in .22LR, that I bought on a lark, thinking it would be a good practice piece to keep my DA revolver skills sharp while I was a poor college student (don’t laugh…I was a poor college student for ten years).  I don’t know exactly what is wrong with it (other than maybe the barrel missed the, “rifling,” phase of manufacture), but it can make any .22LR tumble, and it makes holes in paper targets that look like staples.  It’s weird.  However, it makes these oblong keyholes consistently.  If I do my part running the trigger and keeping it pointed at the same place, it’ll loose a cylinder full of .22 slugs in a workable group, albeit an odd looking one.  I always think/remember that I should send it back to Charter Arms to be repaired, but since they’ve been in and out of business a few times since I bought it, I am never sure if it would ever actually arrive anywhere, and so it sits in the back of my gunsafe.

MP PRO

People often complain about the poor mechanical accuracy of the Smith M&P pistols.  This is the third, full size version I have owned, and I can regularly squeeze these size groups out of them, at 10 yards.  SOME samples had barrels that unlocked early, and/or had extremely loose rifling (like one twist in 18″) that poorly stabilized projectiles.  So, as far as practical accuracy goes, I am happy with this.  I got this drill idea from Greg Ellifritz, who I think got it from Ron Avery.  Except I changed it just slightly.  It’s a variation of the, “Clover Drill.”  At 10 yards, I fire two rounds with both hands, two rounds with one hand, then two rounds with the other hand.  For a total of six rounds on each paster.  This is the, “PRO,” version of the M&P.

When I had a regular job teaching defensive firearms skills for a time, there would always be a student or two in every class, that would invariably, during the first 50 rounds of the class, raise their hand and signal to me that something was wrong with their gun, and that it wouldn’t shoot where they were aiming it, at a modest distance of 3 yards.  I would safely have them transfer their pistol, fire one round into a target paster, and then give it back to them, and assure them that their particular pistol was working fine.  Later, through the class, once they figure out the fundamentals and work the trigger smoothly and predictably, they regain their confidence in the blaster that they brought with them to the class, and press on to worry about other things.

I enjoy the fan mail I get from readers.  A common one reads something like, “Hello.  I enjoy your site.  I have a 2″ barreled Smith 64 that won’t hit the broad side of a barn.  I keep it for self defense of myself and my family though, because all physical confrontations take place at bad breath distance and I’ll just screw it into the bad guys’ navel and fire away.  I sure wish it were more accurate though!”  I think if I had a gun that I couldn’t hit anything with, past contact distance, I would rather have a spear or a big knife, that I could at least control.  Of course, that’s just me; I’m a different breed of cat I suppose.  Sad thing is, these folks’ revolvers are no doubt mechanically sound, and mechanically accurate.  However, their PRACTICAL accuracy suffers because they aren’t running the trigger in a consistent and repeatable manner.  Thus, they blame the machine.

When I was a lad, nearly every gun publication around had a section of gun test articles devoted to the, “RANSOM REST,” portion of the test, where the pistol being reviewed was bolted into a machine rest, that allowed the examiner to predictably see where a given projectile launcher was launching a given type/loading of projectile.  Some of these tests were amazing!  Like, five round groups just larger than the diameter of the projectiles themselves.  They always amused me, and I thought that they were a great test to demonstrate mechanical accuracy.  These days, I don’t see many folks use them, aside from Jeff Quinn at Gunblast and the Mythbusters crew.

I went to a local gun shop and range complex here, and heard a customer complaining to the staff about a pistol he bought there (Glock 21) that, “Wouldn’t shoot worth a damn,” with Federal Hydra-Shok rounds.  “Groups the size of shotgun patterns.”  The clerk went on to explain to him that the hollowpoints are ALWAYS less accurate than ball ammo, since they have a hole in the front of them, which, “Disturbs the air flow.”  When I was younger, I would’ve bothered to explain to both of these people about the aerodynamics and physics involved, that really upends the hollowpoint inaccuracy, INACCURACY.  But now, I don’t really care to argue much with anyone, these days.  Let them believe that their machine is the weak link in their defensive chain.  Changing the gun/ammo combination for that kind of thinker, isn’t going to fix any of their, “problems.”

As long as there is something other than one’s self to blame, it will get blamed.  “The other guy.”  “This darn phone.”  “This stupid Glock.”  “These expensive hollowpoints.”  “This damn dentist.”  The final fact checking comes down to the mouth at the other end of the gun…or the teeth in that mouth.  So like I tell me 10 year old when he says his videogame system, “Just stopped working,”…”WHAT DID YOU DO TO IT?”

GP100

These Ruger GP100’s, in .357 Magnum, despite having only 3″ barrels, are quite capable of good accuracy if I press the trigger right.  I used to say, “Align the sights and press the trigger right,” but as I’ve aged, and my vision has degraded, I’m more concerned about pressing the trigger well and keeping the sights (when I can see them clearly) pointed at the same portion of space, the entire time.  If I don’t get groups like this, I know it is me and not the equipment.  I think of this as the achievable baseline, for practical accuracy.  If I don’t achieve it, then I have work to do…not the other way around.

THANK YOU FOR READING!  -Dr. House

 

5 thoughts on “When in doubt, blame the machine

  1. Doc House: Great article…I employ the same remedy whenever one of my folks was not happy with and losing confidence in their platform…taking a “strange” pistol and placing a few rounds in a quarter size hole at 7yds usually chagrined them sufficiently to pay better attention to the fundamentals…oh and BTW the “new” Charter Arms has an excellent CS shop and will fix your Pathfinder Dede Mau

  2. Hmmm…this sounds a lot like the string of problems I have had with guitars my whole life.

  3. First, I totally agree with you.

    Just wanted to mention on the M&P’s that actually there have been legit problems with them. I think Hilton Yam documented some of it IIRC.

    But I know for a fact. I bought an M&P9, ran ammo through it that in any (truly any) other gun that’s run the ammo you can group 2.5″-3″ @ 25 yards. With that ammo in that gun, I was all over the target at 10 yards. Even shooting Gold Dot 124 +P’s I’d get like a 4-6″ group at 10 yards. Unacceptable. Ended up dropping a KKM barrel into it and now it’s acceptable. Had a friend (USPSA GM — i.e. knows how to shoot) with a similar poorly performing M&P. He sent his back to S&W and it’s better now.

    I think S&W went through barrel changes and hasn’t told anyone (again, I think Hilton documented this somewhere). I’ve bought a bunch of “recent manufactuer” M&P’s including some of the 9c’s, and from the factory they’re all shooting great. Heck, I’ve got one 9c that I adore because it just drills everything better than my full-sizes, go figure. So whatever they broke, they fixed.

    So, your point is totally on and yeah I see it too when teaching. But with some M&P’s of a particular manufacture lineage (so it seem) it CAN be legit mechanical problems. But certainly more exception than rule.

    As we say in my industry: PEBKAC – Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. 🙂

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