The Tactical Edge – April

                              Gun shop and Shooting Range Etiquette
It’s getting a little late in the month, so I want to get this posted today because we have an exciting one coming up for next month. This month, I want to talk about shooting etiquette as it relates to your gun shop visits and trips to both the indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. When I say shooting range I’m talking about not just formal organized shooting ranges, but also when you’re walking about our great outdoors here in Colorado with a friend. The word etiquette probably got some of your attention. No, I’m not talking about some Dear Abby non-sense. The following won’t be anything that your mom taught you growing up or that you may have learned in charm school. You remember charm school, right? That’s where your mom sent you after your third detention for pulling the hair of the little girl that sat in front of you at school. No, the etiquette I want to tell you about is what you need to know to keep from getting in trouble with your fellow shooters. If any of you watch the sportsman’s channel on TV, this is the stuff that you will hear from the Sheriff of Baghdad. Believe me when I say that you do not want to mess up on his range.

To get started, I must remind you about the four absolutes or commandments that must be obeyed at all times when handling a firearm. They are the four laws of gun safety.

The 1st Law:
The Gun Is Always Loaded

Imagine you’re at the range and a buddy of yours has a new gun that he just picked up. He asks if you want to shoot it and you say “Well, obviously!”. Even if he shows you that the gun is clear and sets it down, the first thing you should always do when you pick it up is to safety-check it. This also applies to setting it down again. Whenever the gun is out of your control, even if you set it on a table for 30 seconds, you ALWAYS want to safety-check it when you pick it up. There is no exception to this rule.

The 2nd Law:
Never Point The Gun At Something You Are Not Prepared To Destroy

If you’ve done your safety-check and are absolutely sure that your gun is unloaded, that does not give you the go-ahead to be careless with it. Remembering the first rule, The Gun Is ALWAYS Loaded, you should never point it toward anything that you are not prepared to destroy.

The 3rd Law:
Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It

Bullets can go through – and beyond – your intended target. Knowing what’s behind your target is an essential step to safety and responsibility.

The 4th Law:
Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target

This 4th rule, arguably the most important one, should be practiced 100% of the time (as with all of these rules). With any modern firearm, as long as your finger is away from the trigger guard, your firearm will not discharge. Knowing this, there should be 0% chance of a negligent discharge. Notice we didn’t say ‘accidental discharge’, because there is no such thing. It’s negligent, period. With this mindset each and every time, it will become second nature. Should you have to draw your firearm one day, you will instinctively place your trigger finger along the frame and slide instead of directly on the trigger or inside the trigger guard.

Gun Shop Etiquette

For most of you, a trip to the gun shop is like a child’s trip to Disney; You don’t ever want to leave. With these trips come unwritten rules of how to conduct yourself while browsing the fine selection of firearms and accessories. Remember that each employee at the shop speaks with many people a day, a lot of whom are new to firearms. Knowing and abiding by these unwritten rules will ensure a smooth, safe and respectful transaction.

1. Look at one firearm at a time

I have been in a gun shop multiple times and witnessed a customer doing the following: “Let me look at that one, that one right there, this one over here, oh and definitely that one!” While it may be beneficial to compare them side by side, it is recommended to have just one on the counter at any given time. Stay at the counter. If you have a firearm in your hand, do not walk away from the counter unless the attendant has specifically told you that it's OK to do so. Doing so will create a real weird -- and potentially dangerous -- situation in a matter of seconds.

2. Never cover anyone with the muzzle

As per the 4 Rules of Gun Safety, the gun is always loaded. Being in a gun shop does not make this rule any less irrelevant. When handling any firearm ANYWHERE, never let the muzzle cover anything you aren’t willing to destroy.

3. Don’t dry fire or ‘slam’ the slide without asking

I know you want to play with your potential purchase, believe me I understand! 9 times out of 10, if you want to dry fire or release the slide with the slide release, the employee will say ‘go ahead’. It’s always a good idea to ask first though, because after all, it’s their property until they sell it to you. You may also be unaware that dry-firing the firearm in your hand is actually bad for that particular firearm. Please, ask first.

4. If you’re trading in a gun, bring it in it’s case

Instead of walking up to the counter with a firearm in your hands, put it in it’s case and let the employee take it out and safety check it. This seems like common sense to me, but I’ve seen it done the other way numerous times. We’re dealing with firearms here, not jeans you’re looking to return at Wally World.

5. Always, without exception, safety check a firearm as soon as you pick it up

I don’t care if the employee just showed you it’s clear. As soon as you pick up a firearm ANYWHERE, the first thing you should be doing is a safety check. This policy does not change in a gun shop. Above all else, never load a firearm in a gun shop for any reason what-so-ever, never, ever.

6. Know about the firearms you’re interested in purchasing

Do some research online before you go to the gun shop. You probably have an idea of what you’re looking to get, so check them out before you go see them. Even the best employee may not know all the answers to every single product they carry. It’s a good idea to be informed ahead of time to make sure you know exactly what you’re looking at.

7. Haggling is generally ok, but don’t go overboard

If you find a firearm on for $500 and your dealer is selling it for $589, asking for a few bucks off isn’t a bad idea. Asking them to price match however, might not be your best option. Remember that the online purchase may have other fees such as shipping, and they generally don’t have as much overhead as your dealer. He needs to keep his doors open, so haggle respectively.

8. Don’t talk about anything illegal

I’m not even going to explain this. Just…don’t do it.

9. Be respectful and courteous

Gun Shop employees see a lot of people everyday, and many are new to firearms and don’t follow the rules. I hear of ‘angry’ employees all the time, and my feeling is that they come across this way sometimes because they have people all day long doing everything on this list. Give them a break by knowing the proper Gun Shop Etiquette.

Gun Range Etiquette

What you need to know before you hit the range.

Practicing good gun range etiquette isn’t just good manners—it’s good sense! Gun range etiquette is a blend of common sense, courtesy and safety. A day at the range is fun, and good gun range etiquette makes it even better.

Most clubs and ranges require shooters to attend a safety class prior to using the range. This certifies that you’ve read and understand the NRA Basic Rules of Gun Safety and the specific rules that apply at the range you’re using. Remember that there may be other gun safety rules that are enforced on your range, but these three rules are ALWAYS appropriate, no matter where you are:

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Most ranges have Range Safety Officers (RSOs, also known as Range Masters) whose job is to supervise shooters, to enforce the rules and regulations of their ranges, and to handle any problems that may occur. Pay attention to the RSOs, who will tell you what to do in case of an emergency. Remember that the Range Safety Officer has absolute authority on the range. Compliance with his or her instructions is mandatory.

When you arrive at a range, introduce yourself to the RSO and let him/her know if this is your first visit to the range. The RSO will tell you what you need to know before you set up your gear.

Know the basic range commands, and learn other commands that are used at your range. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask the Range Safety Officer. He or she will be happy to explain it to you. Remember that asking questions is a sign of intelligence and maturity.

Two of the most common range commands are Ceasefire and Commence Firing, although sometimes it is said differently. Instead of “ceasefire,” some ranges are using the words, “Stop shooting!” and instead of “Commence Firing,” some are using the phrase, “You may begin shooting.” This is because we want our instructions to be as clear and as easy to understand as possible.

Ceasefires are used whenever all shooting must stop, whether it is because time’s up or because a potential problem has arisen. Whenever the RSO’s attention must be away from the firing line, he or she will call a ceasefire. Whenever someone needs to go downrange for any reason, a ceasefire is called. Ceasefires are also called when it’s time to post, change or retrieve targets.

However, the RSO is not the only person who can call a ceasefire. Anyone who spots a potential problem should call “Ceasefire!” The RSO will repeat the words and see to it that all firing stops immediately. If you aren’t sure what’s happening, it’s okay to call a ceasefire. It’s better to call a ceasefire and be safe than not to call one and be sorry.

Ceasefires are used in all kinds of situations—not just when it’s time to change, post or retrieve targets. Perhaps a person has inadvertently wandered out onto the firing range, or perhaps a shooter in the point next to you has become ill. It’s your duty to call a ceasefire so that the RSO can take control of the situation and provide a solution or direct others to provide assistance if necessary.

During a ceasefire, there should be no handling of firearms. On our range, the command given is stop and show clear, which is the same as the first three items below.  The key things to remember are:

1. Chamber is empty and ammunition source (magazine) is removed.

2. Action is open.

3. Hands off!

4. Step away from the firing line.

Before anyone goes downrange, the RSO will do a visual check to see that everyone has stepped away from the firing line, and then ask, “Is everyone clear?”  Everyone else on the line should also make this visual check, because safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Clear means that all shooters have made their firearms safe, that no one has a gun in his/her hand, and that there will be no handling of firearms until permission is given. Then, and ONLY then, may anyone go downrange.

When the ceasefire is over, the RSO will ensure that no one is downrange before stating, “The range is going hot.”  This alerts everyone that the range is shifting from a ceasefire, but it doesn’t mean that shooting may begin. You must wait until the “commence firing” command has been given before you can shoot.

Commence Firing is the command given that tells everyone it’s safe to shoot. That doesn’t mean you start blazing away. It means that when you are ready, you may shoot your gun. These are two of the sweetest words a shooter will hear.

Remember, safety is everyone’s job. You are responsible for your own safety, the safety of others and for the behavior of your guests. If you see that someone else isn’t following the rules, you should leave the range. Go to a safe place and report the situationas soon as possible to the authorities.

A few other rules of Good Gun Range Etiquette are:

1. Do not fire at posts, supports or target frames. These are expensive and time-consuming to replace.

2. Shoot only range-approved targets. Check with your range to find out what types of targets are allowed. Some ranges allow only approved paper, cardboard, club-furnished metal targets and clay targets.

3. If you set out target frames to support your targets before you started shooting, you will need to return them to the storage area once you are done.

4. If your club or range allows pets, keep them on leashes or under control at all times. (This also goes for any young children that you bring with you) Give careful consideration to bringing a pet to a shooting range. Remember that shooting may hurt your pet’s hearing the same way it may hurt yours. Pets that scavenge (eat things that may or may not be food) should not come to a shooting range with you. Be aware that pets unused to gunfire might panic on a range.

5. It’s good etiquette to leave the range better than you found it. Picking up trash, cleaning your firing station, and obeying all of the range rules are not only good gun range etiquette—they’re good manners!

One final thought, Dress appropriately! Remember that hot brass is going to be ejected by not only your firearm but that of the people shooting around you. No one wants to see you doing the hokey pokey and waving your gun around because hot brass went down your shirt or into your shoe. I’ve seen it happen frequently, and while it looks funny, it’s actually dangerous to the shooters around you.

These are the general rules of etiquette for shooting ranges. Each range will have its own rules that you must follow. Become familiar with the requirements of the range that you attend. Most important of all, if you’re not sure of something, ask!

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog.  We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us.  We love to get email.  In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to the
m to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.

                                    The Tactical Edge – July

                                       Firearm Safety And The OOPS Factor

Oh my gosh, it’s mid July already. We are all sweltering in the heat and hoping September comes quickly before we melt. It’s been so hot here that I really worry about leaving ammunition in the car for more than an hour for fear of a fireworks show. The one at the fairgrounds was awesome but the one in my car won’t be. I’ve been thinking that when we go out shooting I should probably take a second cooler along just for the ammo. Oh well, it’s almost over. Another two months and we’ll be in the 80s again. A few years ago, September meant the first possible snow. Now it means a possible chance to be in the 70s. Dreams are still free, right? Anyway, back to the blog. This month we need to talk about gun safety and the dangers of being unsafe.

The Oxford English dictionary definition of OOPS says the word is used to show recognition of a mistake or minor accident, often as part of an apology. It’s a quaint, sometimes funny term that you hear frequently in conversation. It’s used to express surprise or distress or to say in a mild way that you are sorry about having done something wrong. We’ve all used that at one time or another I’m sure. But, it is never ever good to hear it used on the firing line while you’re handling a loaded gun. On the firing line, it’s neither cute, nor funny, but downright scary. It can make even the seasoned instructor turn ghostly white. I know this because I’ve witnessed it myself. I’ve seen veteran instructors, decked out in their military fatigues and decorated in curious scary tattoos go absolutely pale at the sound of the word, especially when they hear a gunshot at the same time. An oops on the firing line can get somebody killed or severely injured. That being said, immediately remove the word oops from your vocabulary if you are a shooter and then take the steps necessary to eliminate its need. I would like to reacquaint everybody with the rules of gun safety. I think the best way to do this is through the insight of Jeff Cooper.

                                        Jeff Cooper's Rules Of Gun Safety


There are no exceptions. Do not pretend that this is true. Some people and organizations take this rule and weaken it; e.g. "Treat all guns as if they were loaded." Unfortunately, the "as if" compromises the directness of the statement by implying that they are unloaded, but we will treat them as though they are loaded. No good! Safety rules must be worded forcefully so that they are never treated lightly or reduced to partial compliance.

All guns are always loaded - period!

This must be your mind-set. If someone hands you a firearm and says, "Don't worry, it's not loaded," you do not dare believe him. You need not be impolite, but check it yourself. Remember, there are no accidents, only negligent acts. Check it. Do not let yourself fall prey to a situation where you might feel compelled to squeal, "I didn't know it was loaded!"


Conspicuously and continuously violated, especially with pistols, Rule II applies whether you are involved in range practice, daily carry, or examination. If the weapon is assembled and in someone's hands, it is capable of being discharged. A firearm holstered properly, lying on a table, or placed in a scabbard is of no danger to anyone. Only when handled is there a need for concern. This rule applies to fighting as well as to daily handling. If you are not willing to take a human life, do not cover a person with the muzzle. This rule also applies to your own person. Do not allow the muzzle to cover your extremities, e.g. using both hands to reholster the pistol. This practice is unsound, both procedurally and tactically. You may need a free hand for something important. Proper holster design should provide for one-handed holstering, so avoid holsters which collapse after withdrawing the pistol. (Note: It is dangerous to push the muzzle against the inside edge of the holster nearest the body to "open" it since this results in your pointing the pistol at your midsection.) Dry-practice in the home is a worthwhile habit and it will result in more deeply programmed reflexes. Most of the reflexes involved in the Modern Technique do not require that a shot be fired. Particular procedures for dry-firing in the home will be covered later. Let it suffice for now that you do not dry-fire using a "target" that you wish not to see destroyed. (Recall RULE I as well.)


Rule III is violated most anytime the uneducated person handles a firearm. Whether on TV, in the theaters, or at the range, people seem fascinated with having their finger on the trigger. Never stand or walk around with your finger on the trigger. It is unprofessional, dangerous, and, perhaps most damaging to the psyche, it is klutzy looking. Never fire a shot unless the sights are superimposed on the target and you have made a conscious decision to fire. Firing an unaligned pistol in a fight gains nothing. If you believe that the defensive pistol is only an intimidation tool - not something to be used - carry blanks, or better yet, reevaluate having one around. If you are going to launch a projectile, it had best be directed purposely. Danger abounds if you allow your finger to dawdle inside the trigger guard. As soon as the sights leave the target, the trigger-finger leaves the trigger and straightens alongside the frame. Since the hand normally prefers to work as a unit - as in grasping - separating the function of the trigger-finger from the rest of the hand takes effort. The five-finger grasp is a deeply programmed reflex. Under sufficient stress, and with the finger already placed on the trigger, an unexpected movement, misstep or surprise could result in a negligent discharge. Speed cannot be gained from such a premature placement of the trigger-finger. Bringing the sights to bear on the target, whether from the holster or the Guard Position, takes more time than that required for moving the trigger finger an inch or so to the trigger.


Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight. Do not assume anything. Know what you are doing.


Make these rules a part of your character. Never compromise them. Improper gun handling results from ignorance and improper role modeling, such as handling your gun like your favorite actor does. Education can cure this. You can make a difference by following these gun handling rules and insisting that those around you do the same. Set the example. Who knows what tragedies you, or someone you influence, may prevent?

I’ve read this before and I think it pretty well covers every aspect of safe gun handling in blunt and understandable terms. Jeff was a military man and didn’t waste much time on useless talk. He was also one of the best firearms instructors of our time. Gunsight, his Arizona shooting school taught some of the most prestigious shooters known today. We can all benefit by his wisdom.

All of us that have spent any amount of time in the shooting world have seen the acts and heard the stories of what can happen or in some cases did happen because of the oops factor. If you talk to the people involved, they like to tell you it was an oops, a mistake, they didn’t mean it, it just happened. What they are actually telling you is that they never learned or took seriously the four rules of gun safety. But we as the teachers and the instructors and the leaders can’t let them be satisfied with that answer. It is our job to teach what is absolutely a must for every shooter, safety first.

One of the things I feel really strongly about after going over the rules with new shooters is the fact that they must be able to handle their firearm. New shooters like the wow factor of having a big gun and a big caliber, but frequently they don’t have the physical strength or dexterity to handle such a firearm. I see people coming to the firing line and when it’s time to load and make ready, they don’t have the ability to pull the slide back and they fumble around trying to load their gun. This can get really dangerous for the shooters standing around them. They’ll struggle trying to retract the slide and their attention is so focused on the slide that they don’t see they are pointing their gun at the people next to them. We’ve seen other people come out with firearms that they’ve never used before and they know nothing about. All they know is the bullets go in here and come out there and hopefully they figured out which is which. Those people are really scary. They don’t even know enough to know that they need help in the form of some classroom work with an instructor or a knowledgeable shooter. Yes, I am definitely picking on these people because it’s me or my friends who could get shot by them.

There are so many things that can happen with a firearm even with a good shooter and a quality firearm. One of our instructors was handling a brand-new gun on our outdoor range. Luckily it was one of our instructors because when he racked the slide to load the firearm, it fired, not once but repeatedly. There was evidently a factory problem with the seer and it allowed the weapon to accidentally fire several times in succession. The instructor tried this same maneuver several more times and in each instance he had the same results. The gun was disassembled to be returned to the factory. Had this been a new shooter, who knows what could’ve happened. A lot of people I’m seeing lately are having their guns modified so that they have a lighter trigger pull in a more accurate shooting firearm. There is nothing wrong with that provided that the shooter has the skill to handle the new settings on their firearm. If you’re not a skilled shooter, having a very light trigger pull can very easily mean and accidental discharge. We had one recently on our range. We were doing movement and shooting drills. One person was carrying a revolver with an extremely light trigger and they had it cocked. As they went to move, there finger accidentally brushed against the trigger and the firearms discharged. The student and the instructor were standing less than a foot apart and the round went into the dirt between their feet. That was almost too close to a disabling injury. Both the student and the instructor were in shock when it happened. If you have a modified firearm, it is even more critical that your attention is focused on safety and awareness.

Another thing that I see a lot of is people coming out with a gun that was handed down to them or sold to them by a friend or whatever. You can tell when a gun is in bad shape and has been neglected. Who knows if they are mechanically safe to operate. Firearms like that are potentially unsafe until they’ve been cleaned and thoroughly inspected before any attempt at loading and firing. I’m proud of my guns. They are cleaned and mechanically inspected after each use. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life could depend on them. Besides that, I pay a lot of money for my guns. Most shooters I know feel the same way. It behooves us to pass this knowledge on to all new shooters and even seasoned shooters around us. In such a serious business, it is up to the knowledgeable to spread that knowledge for the benefit of all of us. I hate funerals and don’t much care for hospitals, so I’d rather be a good trainer than a sad visitor. Don’t you agree? I could go on and on with examples of things that go wrong but strict adherence to the safety rules can prevent 98% of them. Just be safe.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and
enjoy our sport.

                               The Tactical Edge – September

                                        Silencers and Suppressors

Summer was really hot this year, but now its fall and the weather is turning nice again. It’s cooling down and the elk are now in rut. Everyone is heading up to the mountains early in the evening to watch the bull elk rounding up their herds of cow elk. It’s quite a site around here. On a good night, you have no trouble seeing hundreds of elk in one area or another. As the winter comes on, you will see more and more elk in the town area especially around Estes Park. On a good day there’s more elk than tourists.

This month I want to talk about the topic of silencers and suppressors on firearms. Why do people own suppressors? There are three main reasons: reduction of noise pollution, hearing protection, and safety training. As for the first, hunting frequently takes place in state or national forests or other locations near where people live. During hunting season, nearby residents may be annoyed by the frequent sound of gunfire. Likewise, some people have built houses near established target ranges; when people at the range use suppressors, the ambient noise is reduced, although certainly not eliminated.

There is no difference between a silencer and a suppressor or for that matter, a car muffler. They all function the same way, which is to suppress and muffle sound. Now if you’re a big movie buff, you know a silencer on a gun will enable it to shoot without somebody in the next room even knowing it. That’s an awesome feat, but it’s only possible on a Hollywood movie set. Silencers do not make firearms silent. The average silencer on a typical handgun will suppress or reduce the noise level between 24 and 30 dB. Typical ammunition for a handgun such as a 9 mm has a muzzle blast in the range of 140 to 150 dB. Suppressing that noise by 30 dB only brings it down to a range that is reasonable and not completely damaging to your hearing. It is definitely not silent by any means. Even if you were able to make it silent, the mechanisms on most handguns and rifles make enough noise when they cycle to be easily heard at a reasonable distance.

Silencers were made illegal to own in the United States by the National Firearms Act of 1934 because people thought that if they were silent, bad guys could do mass shootings without being detected. Silencers can be purchased similar to a gun purchase, but ATF forms for the transfer from the gun store to the purchaser had to be sent to ATF headquarters in Washington along with the $200 application fee and a roughly six-month waiting period while an FBI background check is completed before you can take possession. Currently that six-month wait is taking almost a year. With more and more silencers being purchased, the wait times are just going to get longer and longer. I will speak more to this in a little bit. It’s a funny thing, but if you wanted to purchase a silencer/suppressor in Europe, all you would need would be the appropriate amount of cash. European nations such as Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Britain, among others, an individual who is licensed to own a firearm is always allowed the appropriate suppressor. Many European guns are sold with suppressors already attached. The policy is that if a person is legally authorized to possess a firearm, then it is generally preferable for that firearm to have a suppressor. Simply stated, they are regulated just like holsters and scopes are. Suppressors have the benefit of both decreasing the likelihood of hearing loss and decreasing noise pollution from hunting and shooting ranges. In the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia, they recognize the health and environmental benefits of suppressors, so they are sold over the counter without much regulation at all.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that silencers not only reduce sound but reduce hearing difficulties and deafness as a result of that sound. Most instructors that I have ever met that have been in that line of work for a long time have hearing aids. If you watch the shooting programs on the sportsman’s channel, you can notice that almost all of the older instructors have hearing aids. The constant high decibel sounds that come with shooting can severely damage your ears. Even with good hearing protectors, the sound is loud enough over a long period of time that it can become debilitating. Silencers are able to suppress the noise to a level that your hearing can tolerate better. Even with silencers, it is highly recommended that hearing protection still be worn. Hearing damage begins to occur at about 85 decibels, about the sound of a hairdryer. Most hearing protection sold for shooting purposes has noise suppression in the range of 21 to 30 dB. That still leaves a fairly loud noise that can damage hearing over time. If you combine the noise suppression of the hearing protectors in combination with a good silencer, that comes out to a 55 to 60 dB reduction in noise. That brings most firearms into the range that is not damaging to your hearing. That is the primary reason for having a silencer/suppressor for your firearm, the ability to hear and understand what your grandchildren are saying to you.

Suppressors have the benefit of both decreasing the likelihood of hearing loss and decreasing noise pollution from hunting and shooting ranges. This is a big deal in Europe where most shooting is done in closer proximity to towns and villages then in a lot of areas in this country due to the population density.

Another reason to own a suppressor that is not commonly discussed, is the fact that they also suppress the recoil on a firearm. I myself like to shoot large bore, big caliber pistols and revolvers a lot more than I enjoyed my .22’s. Due to some medication that I use, I tend to bruise very easily and a day of shooting my .45 auto can leave my hands very sore and bruised. The suppressor I use tends to reduce the recoil of my pistol by roughly 40%. It makes shooting a lot more enjoyable, especially the next day.

What I would like to bring to your attention is the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act that is currently being reviewed by several congressional subcommittees. The Act has 16 titled sections within it that cover a sweeping list of subjects ranging from Good Samaritan search and rescue and polar bear conservation to the management of federal lands for recreational purposes. Buried in the middle of it is the Hearing Protection Act (HPA).

What is the Hearing Protection Act? In the current Congress, the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) is H.R. 367 in the House (sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.) and S, 59 in the Senate (sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho). The HPA retains all of the Gun Control Act’s provisions on suppressors. In other words, purchasing a suppressor would continue to be subject to all the rules that apply to purchasing or possessing an ordinary firearm but it removes silencers from the National Firearms Act (NFA) where it is currently treated the same way as machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, grenades, mortars and various other devices. The HPA removes suppressors from the National Firearms Act, which means buyers would not have to pay a $200 tax and would not have to go through a months-long federal registration process.

How many people own suppressors? As of November 2006, the number of suppressors in the ATF’s registry was 150,364. By February 2016, the number had risen to 902,805. There is no doubt that suppressors have become much more popular, especially with hunters, as CNN has reported. This number seems to be growing exponentially now.

If you are interested in this topic and want to see silencers/suppressors become more available, contact your local congressman and senator and ask them to vote for the Hearing Protection Act as it is included in the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement or SHARE Act when it comes up for a vote. If you are new to silencers/suppressors, talk to a friend who has one and ask their opinion on how they work. They are a great tool to keep in your shooting bag. If you buy the largest caliber suppressor that you’re going to need, you can buy the reducers to couple them up to your other smaller caliber firearms. Or if you have the financing, ideally you will have one for every gun. However, they tend to run anywhere from $600 to $2000.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We hope you’re reading the blog, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport. 

                            The Tactical Edge – August

                             Firearm Security At Home And Away

Guess what folks? In case you haven’t noticed, Labor Day is coming up in about a week. That means summer is almost over and we can begin to get possession of our mountains and national parks again. Don’t get me wrong, tourists are awesome. They bring a lot of money to our state, but they also bring long lines of traffic and large crowds to popular areas. After Labor Day everything seems to quiet down quickly and the locals get their turn to swarm the mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining at all. I love the mountains in late fall and early winter. You’ll see more wild game than the tourists ever see during the summertime. It’s really common to see herds of elk inside the town of Estes Park and other small towns in the area. In fact, elk are considered a natural hazard on most of the mountain golf courses. You don’t get a do over if one of them gets in your way.

Anyway, this month we have to talk about firearm security in the home and away from the home. One of our instructors wanted me to call it “Securing your firearm at home and abroad” but that sounded kind of confusing. I asked several people around here what the term “abroad” means. I got funny answers. Several of them said that’s anywhere east of the Mississippi, like Chicago or New York. Others told me that’s where the flatlanders come from. To make things simple and easy let’s just go with in your home and outside of your home.

Firearm security in your home is of paramount importance, especially if you have children in the home. Firearm regulations in Colorado do not include written specifications for the lawful safe storage of private guns and ammunition. Other states have varying regulations dealing with safe storage of firearms that range from fairly weak to extremely intense (California, New York). Since this blog deals mainly with people in Colorado, I’m going to talk about what we should do here. If you’re not from here, anything I relate to you should be reviewed in conjunction with your local laws. Colorado has very weak laws regarding firearms storage and safety, but that will not protect you from civil actions if your gun is lost, stolen, found by a child, or used in a crime. Anybody can sue anybody about anything and it will still cost you money to defend yourself even if you’re not guilty. That said, it behooves us to protect our firearms and our children when storing guns in the home.

Unsafely stored firearms cause major public health and safety problems in the United States. Researchers estimate that more than half a million firearms are lost or stolen from private residences each year. These unsecured guns are a major source of black market weapons and are a significant threat to public safety. Safe firearm storage laws help prevent burglars and other dangerous people from gaining unauthorized access to firearms.  Since Colorado does not mandate specific regulations or methods to provide secure storage, we must take it upon ourselves to come up with the methods that suit our individual circumstances the best.

Safe storage of a firearm in Colorado is every gun owner’s responsibility, regardless of federal, state, or local regulations. Even in the absence of laws, common sense should tell the law abiding citizen an unsecured gun is a dangerous proposition, especially if it should fall into the wrong hands. In states that don’t have specific laws related to securing the safety of a firearm, there are almost always laws on the books for some sort of criminal negligence that can be levied against the gun owner. For gun owners who do not take responsible measures for securing their weapons, there is the possibility of a civil suit that can be brought against them in the event someone is seriously injured or killed while using their firearm. It doesn’t matter if your children are all grown, if it’s just you and your spouse in the home, or if you are taking a trip to the store; your responsibility for ensuring your firearm is safely secured when left unattended is a duty you have to yourself, the safety of others, and the community. One of our most important decisions must be child access prevention.

                  # 1 Safety Rule:  “If it’s not on your person, it’s locked in a safe!”

The question of safe firearm storage can be a confusing topic. If the firearm is stored in a safe that is difficult to retrieve during an emergency, it could actually hinder you in carrying out your personal protection strategy. On the other hand, if the safe can be easily accessed or is portable, a thief or criminal may be able to gain access or remove your safe from your home; allowing them to break into it at a more convenient time. The balance between the two scenarios is up to the gun owner to determine and no two gun owners will have the same opinion.

If you were raised in the 1950s, ’60s, or ’70s, it’s a good bet your childhood was quite different from those of kids today. We drove without car seats or even seat belts, bikes were ridden without helmets, and lead paint was used to brighten our lives. And, if you grew up in a hunting and shooting family like we did, having guns around was just as natural as having kitchen knives, cleaning chemicals, and power tools in the home.

Much as with other potentially dangerous objects found in our household, my siblings and I were raised to follow a strict “Don’t Touch” policy. Don’t touch the hot stove, don’t touch the paint thinner and don’t touch the guns. The “Don’t Touch” policy that worked for us, may not work for you and your family today.

The right safe storage solution for everyone is different. Whichever method you choose, it must provide an adequate level of protection to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the firearms. The determination of what is “adequate protection” is a matter of judgment on the part of the individual gun owner.

The variety of options for safe and secure storage seem limitless, but tend to fall under six different categories.

Trigger Locks - are a simple and affordable option for preventing a gun from being loaded or fired by an unauthorized user. Whether they are provided by the manufacturer or the dealer, most new guns are now sold with a trigger lock right in the box. These locks take different forms. A trigger shoe clamps down around the trigger or trigger housing to prevent the trigger from being manipulated. Because these devices come into direct contact with the trigger, they should never be installed on loaded guns. Also, older children are unusually clever at defeating them given enough time.

Cable locks - block the action of a firearm, preventing the action of rifles and shotguns from being closed. When used with a semi-automatic pistol, they will also prevent a magazine from being loaded into the grip. For revolvers, the cable is looped through the barrel to prevent the cylinder from closing.

If a dedicated gun lock is not available, an ordinary padlock can be used with many guns. Simply slip the hasp of the lock between the back side of the trigger and the trigger guard to prevent the trigger from cycling. Trigger locks are inexpensive (less than $20), or even free through some community programs, and can successfully prevent an unintentional discharge when installed properly. However, they do not offer any physical protection for the firearm or a measurable level of theft deterrence.

Gun Cases - are readily available at local sporting goods stores in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and material options to fit every kind of commercially available firearm. Case options range from padded fabric sleeves to rugged foam-lined plastic containers, with prices from $10 to $150. The primary role of this kind of affordable carry case is to protect one or more firearms from physical damage.

Most soft and hard-side cases can be “legally” locked for firearm transportation to and from shooting events. A padlock through a soft case’s zipper pull or a hard case’s carry handle can do the trick (check your local regulations). Affordable, portable, and easy to store, locked gun cases represent a common and convenient safe gun storage method, and a big step up from tossing a bare gun into a drawer or closet. A locked carry case will certainly keep small children from handling a firearm, just as a trigger lock will.

However, their usefulness as safe storage devices is limited by the materials from which they are made. The soft fabrics and plastics used in these cases can be quickly defeated by ordinary edged tools. Because gun cases are designed to be light to carry and handle, they can be carted around just as easily by a thief as their lawful owner. Unless they are secured within some other lockable structure, gun cases may be spirited away, along with their contents, to be opened and pilfered at another location.

Strong Boxes and Security Cases - represent an effort by manufacturers to provide gun owners with the anti-theft and gun-finish protection features of a locking gun cabinet while maintaining the portability of handgun and long-gun carry cases. Pricing for these units varies greatly, anywhere from less than $50 to more than $300, based on the level of technology incorporated into the system. Some of the best storage options for those who want quick-access to defensive firearms are found in this category.

When it comes to strong boxes, it’s hard to beat the variety of configurations and lock options provided by GunVault. The MV500-STD Micro Vault is a portable model that’s slim and light enough to carry in a briefcase or to be tucked into a small drawer. The No-Eyes electronic keypad allows the user to enter a customized code by touch so that the box can be opened quickly in total darkness if necessary. I keep one of these in my car for storage when I am unable to take my gun into a prohibited area. The Speedvault SVB 500 mounts to vertical surfaces, such as the interior of a desk or closet. The programmable biometric fingerprint reader allows access to a single pistol or revolver in less than two seconds. Multiple-gun or increased-capacity units, such as the DrawerVault and Multi-Vault, are also available.

Secure Firearms Products provides some of the most rugged security cases available for travel. These metallic cases feature welded corners, heavy-duty plated steel latches, case hardened locking studs, and a high security Medeco Lock. Mounting hardware and cables allow the cases to attach directly to the trunk of a car, the wall of a closet, or the interior of a suitcase when flying with commercial airlines.

These work well but they have to be secured to a stationary object to prevent them being carried off. In my car they are attached to part of the frame. In your home you would have to find something strong enough or heavy enough to contain them. They work great in the home as a defensive vault where you have quick access in an emergency. They can be on your dresser and give you immediate access while preventing your children from gaining access.

Locking Steel Gun Cabinets - provide an increased level of storage capacity and internal configuration options, when compared to security cases and strong boxes, but they differ from gun safes in several respects. The thinner gauge of steel, a simple locking mechanism, and the absence of fire-resistant insulation keeps these units in the $150 to $450 price range and reduces their weight. Because these cabinets are light enough to be moved safely up and down stairs by just one or two people, they can be employed in locations such as apartment buildings or second-floor rooms, where a gun safe would be too large or heavy to install.

An excellent example of this category is the Model GCB-18-C convertible security cabinet from Stack-On. This California DOJ-approved cabinet can hold up to 18 54-inch long guns, or nine long guns and four shelves of storage, or it can be converted to all storage shelves, depending on your needs. The three-point security system features a double-bitted, key-coded lock for greater security. Fastening hardware, for attaching the cabinet to the floor or wall, and foam padding for the shelves and floor of the cabinet are included. If additional storage space is needed, a Model GCB-900 pistol and ammunition cabinet can be mounted on top of the GCB-18-C convertible.

Gun Safes - represent the most secure gun storage option available to the average gun owner. A basic, no-frills safe is superior to any other storage option discussed so far in preventing unauthorized access to firearms. The dedicated racks and lined interiors will help to protect the finish of the guns and, most importantly, safes are an effective theft deterrent. A gun safe’s weight, the heavy-gauge steel of the outer box, the complex locking mechanism, and the option to bolt the safe directly to a concrete slab, all work together to frustrate the efforts of burglars. Safes not only fulfill the three-fold mission of safe gun storage, they can also provide additional protection against flooding, fires and other disasters. Quality safes are available from American manufacturers, including Cannon, Fort Knox and Liberty Safe.

The purchase of a gun safe represents a significant financial commitment. Just like other high-end consumer products, safes are available with a wide variety of features, all of which affect the bottom line cost of the unit. Prices range from $500 to more than $3,000.

Now we get into away from the home firearm security. When you’re away from home, the absolute best way to secure your firearm is on your hip in your immediate control. If that’s not always possible then several of the options above will work equally well in your vehicle, office, or hotel room. I highly recommend against storing your firearm in either your luggage or the so-called safe that most motels and hotels provide for in your room. Neither of those options is secure. The trunk of your car is fairly secure and if you add one of the above strong boxes or security cases which are either mounted to your vehicle or secured by a cable in your vehicle.

I can’t stress enough that the best place for your firearm is either in a strong gun safe in your home or in a well-made holster attached to your belt. You have to decide for yourself based on your circumstances, your location, whether you have kids around, and how strongly you feel about the necessity of immediate response to a sudden threat against yourself or your family. All of these must be part of your plan for how to secure your firearms. Each individual will have to look at their unique situation and decide what’s best for them. In the case of children, we think it’s critical that they are educated about firearms and their dangers. On the one in 1 million chance that you leave one laying around and a child finds it, you want that child to know it’s not a toy and they need to find an adult right away to secure it. The older the child the more you can train them, but the most important thing is to take the curiosity factor away by showing your firearm to them along with the importance of their danger and why they shouldn’t touch them. A trained child in your house is a safer child compared with the untrained child who happens upon a gun and gets excited to play with it.

If one of your firearms gets into the wrong hands and someone is injured or killed or the firearm is used in a criminal manner, you ultimately will bear the responsibility for it. In the event of an accidental death, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life. It’s one thing if you have to take out a bad guy as a last resort, but it would be devastating to find out that one of your children or a neighbors child was accidentally shot.

By this point, you are probably wondering how you were going to protect your home and family after you secured everything. It’s a great question. Home invasions aren’t planned, they happen and happen quickly. Ask yourself “What’s my next step to being safe while having my firearms secured”?

Balancing Security and Accessibility with Guns in the Home

Having children in the house changes everything, including your gun habits. At least it should. Even if you do not have kids of your own, you may on occasion host others with children, or even other adults that are not trustworthy. Here is a good policy:  Any firearm that you own is either physically on your person or locked up and inaccessible to unauthorized users. No exceptions. This is the only way to responsibly maintain your guns. The issue that plagues many, however, is balancing the necessary safety with quick accessibility in case you actually need your gun to defend your home. Here are some suggestions for striking this balance.

Home Carry

The optimal place to store a home defense gun when you are awake is on your body. It is that simple. We tend to relax and certainly shut the world out when we are at home. Even most folks who carry a gun when in public put the gun away when in the home. Being a victim of a home invasion is quite low statistically. However, when it comes to self-defense I encourage people to remember that the odds don’t matter, what is at stake matters. Just as having a fire plan is important for yourself and your family, even though being the victim of a house fire is exceedingly low statistically, having a home invasion plan is also important. The best place to have a home defense gun when your walls are breached is on you.  My approach to carrying a gun does not change whether I am home or out in the world. I always carry a gun unless I have to go in a place that prohibits it. In the morning my gun goes on my body and remains there until I go to bed at night. Therefore, my foremost defense at any moment is my handgun on my person, even if at home. This is the best policy for home defense, making no distinction between home defense and general self-defense.

Leaving loaded handguns out and about in the house is exceedingly irresponsible if you have children who are too young to be trained and educated in firearm safety. A firearm that is carried on the body is the only firearm you truly maintain control over. Any gun not worn directly on the body needs to be locked in a secured container of some sort, period.

Another reason I am generally opposed to unsecured guns in the house is the fact that they tend to remain unsecured, even when the homeowner is gone from the house. Many people who leave guns laying around claim they always lock them up when not at home. I find this is rarely true. It has happened more than once, a homeowner returns home to a robbery in progress only to be killed with his own firearm. These are all reasons to avoid the habit..

Staged Handguns

Let me now address what some refer to as “staged” handguns for home defense. If you do not home carry, this is going to be your best solution. Even if you do home carry, but only carry a smaller handgun, staging a full-size combat handgun in a quick-access safe is a sound idea. I have found that a quick-access hand safe is the ideal balance of speed and security for the home defense handgun. These devices are not only suitable for in the bedroom next to you at night; these safes are quite small and can be secured out of sight in different locations of the house, keeping the gun out of unauthorized hands, yet providing rapid deployment.

Regarding the hours of sleep, some people are very concerned with the idea of having a gun quickly accessible if, heaven forbid, you wake up to an intruder literally right in the room with you. I am of the opinion that your bedside handgun is best kept in a quick access safe for safety on a number of levels. Being forced to gain enough consciousness to open the safe may also avoid an accident. The best solution here is to ensure that there are warning systems in place that will wake you before an intruder is actually in the bedroom with you while you are fast asleep. While the open gun on the night stand may be fast for you, it may also be right there for an intruder to grab himself if you are dead to the world while he stands next to your bed. Terrifying thought indeed, but the answer to this is multiple layers of security and warnings to ensure that you are awake if your home is breached. Alarms and/or alert dogs works here.

Staging Long Guns

For those that wish to embrace the effectiveness of a long gun, I think there is sound motive here, but it should be considered supplemental to the handgun, and utilized and deployed from a planned position of ensconced defense. The long gun is harder to stage, less maneuverable within the house, and slower to deploy into action than a handgun. However, if unwanted company has gained entry into the home and all members of your household are accounted for in the designated safe room, now is the ideal time to be holding a shotgun or a rifle. Therefore, a home defense long gun is best staged within the safe room, whatever room that may be. If it is the master bedroom, perhaps you wish to mount a shotgun or rifle to the wall somewhere in that room. The same safety issues that apply to handguns apply to long guns: the gun cannot be simply left in the corner of the closet; it needs to be locked up.

Gun safety, like home safety, is best practiced in layers. Just as you have good lighting, secure windows and doors, an alarm system, a dog, a home defense plan AND a home defense firearm, keeping your firearms safe from kids requires layered security. Awareness is first. If you have kids and firearms, the former need to know the safety rules for the latter. They need to be intimately familiar with guns: what they are, what they do, and how to handle them safely. Begin the process as soon as they can talk. Reinforce firearms safety until they leave home for higher education or gainful employment. Include your children in your home defense plan. Giving them tasks in an emergency helps them view firearms responsibly. At some point, you may want to give your progeny access to your home defense firearm or firearms; you can’t alway be there for them. But maybe they can be there for you.

If I haven’t scared you by now, I probably can’t. I do hope you understand the importance of our subject matter. If you have questions, send us an email or talk to a knowledgeable firearms instructor or your local gun store. It’s help that we’re all glad to give.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog. We wish everyone a safe holiday weekend.  We hope you’re reading the blog, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us. We love to get email. In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.

                               The Tactical Edge – March

                 The Importance of Cleaning and Checking Your Equipment   

Alright folks, in previous blogs we’ve explained how to use your firearm properly along with various techniques and maneuvers to protect yourself in different situations. Now, we want to discuss the importance of both cleaning and inspecting your equipment both before and while using it. It sounds very easy, but if you miss something, it could possibly endanger you or someone around you. Everybody cleans their gun after they shoot, right? The statistics on that answer might boggle your mind. I’ve heard people say that when they shoot, the first bullet cleans the barrel from what was there when they shot before. Really? The copper, carbon, lead and grease continually build up to the point where they impact your accuracy to a great degree. Even when you buy a new gun, the grease and oil used at the factory to prevent corrosion until the gun is purchased is enough to cause your firearm to jam on a semi auto pistol. I know this from experience. Two of my new semi-autos were taken to the range to test their accuracy. I didn’t clean them first. I had multiple mis-feeds until I cleaned the factory grease out of them. The more precision made your firearm is, the more of a problem that factory grease can be. Even the lubricant in the barrel can affect your accuracy.

There are no hard and fast rules for when you should clean your gun. If you look on the Internet you will see all kinds of answers to the cleaning question. Some people clean their gun after each use while others never bother. Does it matter? I can approach this from a couple different ways. Is your gun a precision firearm? Is it made to close tolerances to be highly accurate? If your answer is yes to those two questions, then cleaning will definitely improve the effectiveness and accuracy of it. What is your intended use for your gun? If you are carrying it for self-defense or to protect others, then you definitely wanted to work effectively. Your life might depend on it. There are other reasons for cleaning your firearms that I will address shortly. If you’re just shooting tin cans and harmless pieces of paper, then cleaning isn’t that important. Retired military and law enforcement tend to clean their guns after every shooting session. Because of their training, they feel that a clean gun prevents malfunctions. One retired police officer told me, “Clean them as if your life depends on it.” This is somewhat true. Dirty semi-automatic guns tend to fail-to-fire (FTF) and failure-to-feed (FTF) more often than when the gun is clean. If you’re carrying and are suddenly involved in a life-threatening situation, having an “FTF” can get you killed. I hope you’re starting to see that a clean gun is more desirable to have. If you’re like me, I tend to find inexpensive bulk ammunition when I can get it for use at the range. Part of the time, this ends up being surplus military ammunition. Black powder, most Berdan-primed and a lot of military surplus ammunition is corrosive. This means there are salts in the ammo’s primer. These salts will damage your gun. If you shoot a gun using corrosive ammunition, you should clean it after each shooting session. This corrosive ammunition when left in your gun will corrode the steel and cause rust. It will also damage the rifling and impact the accuracy of your firearm. Today’s precision made firearms are not inexpensive. That alone should make you want to take care of them.

What is “corrosive” ammunition? Corrosive ammunition is ammunition that uses a primer that has chemicals that when ignited leave a residue of corrosive salts. Most often these primers have potassium chlorate, or sodium petrochlorate which, when burned, decompose into potassium chloride or sodium chloride. Sharp-eyed readers will note that sodium chloride is also known as common table salt. Potassium chloride isn’t much different than common table salt, and both are very hygroscopic (meaning that they attract water) and, because of that, highly corrosive. We’ve all seen what salt water does to metal. The same thing happens to your rifle when it is left uncleaned after firing corrosive ammunition. Potassium chloride and sodium chloride are pretty harmless alkalis, but when exposed to the hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient humidity in the air they can form a powerful acid that will cause the steel in your rifle to rust and pit.

Most modern ammunition is not corrosive, but old military surplus ammo is different. For surplus ammunition, there are two main types of primers: Berdan and Boxer. Boxer-primed ammunition is not corrosive, so you don’t have to worry about it. Not all Berdan is corrosive, but almost all of the surplus ammunition you find on the market with Berdan primers is corrosive. If your ammunition is Berdan primed, it’s better to be safe than sorry and treat the ammunition as if it is corrosive. Corrosive ammunition is perfectly fine to use. The corrosive surplus ammunition on the market is a great inexpensive way to enjoy your firearm. By properly cleaning your gun after using ammunition that is or is suspected to be corrosive, you can ensure that your gun has a long and corrosion-free life.

This brings me to the next important reason to clean your firearms. It gives you a chance to look it over for mechanical problems, such as a broken firing pin, broken spring, loose screws, or anything else that can impact your ability to use it when needed. Also, and this could be a critical point, it gives you a chance to see what’s inside of it. I’m talking about things that inadvertently end up in the barrel or the breach and go unnoticed until you fire the gun and the barrel bulges or explodes. It’s a very slight possibility but it increases over time for stored firearms. I’m grasping at straws here, but I have known people that had it happen to them.

You aren’t doing anything wrong if you clean your gun after every range visit. Some find it relaxing and therapeutic. Others just love breaking down their gun and putting it back together.  One seasoned shooter I know says, “If it doesn’t work dirty, than it’s not a dependable gun.”  Whatever your cleaning routine is, it is important to remember that guns are a machine, periodic maintenance never hurts it and will only keep it in proper working order. The most critical task of any firearm maintenance plan is a good inspection. You should be familiar enough with your firearm to know if something doesn't look right and you should have an idea of how long each gun or gun part has been in service. If you shoot a lot, failing parts will generally reveal themselves over time.

‘Nuff said! What about the rest of your equipment? When is the last time you checked the other equipment that you use? Is your holster still functional? Do you know how to use it? Do you actually pay attention when you put it on? This reminds me of a funny story that I was told by another instructor. He is one of those people who only takes his gun off when he goes to bed. His habits are so ingrained that he doesn’t think when he puts it on. It’s an automatic thing. It seems he and his wife were at the local gym and he had changed into his gym outfit and just clipped his concealed carry holster to the inside of his gym shorts. Sounds simple enough but he didn’t double check what he did. A short while later while running on the treadmill, he could feel the holster sliding forward on his waistband. Just about the time he thought he should stop and readjust the holster, the holster containing the gun fell out of his shorts and went tumbling down the treadmill and out onto a floor filled with a group of women exercising. To say that he was slightly embarrassed doesn’t express the reaction he got from that group of women when they saw it slide into their group. The gun was fully loaded and being carried cocked and locked. It was a scary sight! When he attached the gun holster to his gym shorts, he didn’t get it fully attached. Had he double checked, this would’ve been prevented. This is a funny story but it could’ve been tragic also.

Any equipment that you use or carry should always be checked. Things like magazine pouches, your magazines or speed loaders, your mace containers if you carry them. Did you ever go to reload on the range and find that your magazine that you took out of your magazine pouch was empty? What if that happened while you were on the street and suddenly found yourself in a confrontation? What if your magazines were full but they didn’t function right? A full magazine is useless if the bullets don’t feed into your firearm’s breach. These are things that you need to know ahead of time not at the time. “At the time” may be too late during an armed confrontation. I have another funny story, but it could have been a sad story also. Police officers are required to periodically qualify with their firearms. The timing and frequency of this varies by state and jurisdiction. Where I came from, this was done semiannually. While running qualifications, the officer had to unload his firearm and present it for inspection prior to going on to the range. I happen to be present when an officer arrived who was a village constable for a small community in our County. After introducing himself and stating that he was required to come for qualification before he could go back on duty, we asked him to take his gun out, empty it and make it safe. That was the start of his problems. He was having trouble removing it from his holster. It was an older revolver and the leather of the holster looked in bad shape. After he got it out, he tried to open the cylinder with some difficulty and was unable to remove the ammunition. The bullets were a strange shade of blue-green and very corroded. He was sent outside with his gun until we could retrieve a hammer and wooden dowel at which time we literally pounded the cartridges out of the cylinder. He was sent away with instructions to thoroughly clean and inspect his gun before he comes back and also his holster which had mold and gunk in it. This person was a town constable in a small community that had very few incidents requiring police action. He was also the local dogcatcher at the same time. Luckily, he had gotten by up to that point without needing his firearm because I guarantee you that it would not function the way it was intended.

Guns are arguably the most critical tools of our concealed carry or self-defense plan. When everything else fails, we have to resort to our trusty firearms to save lives, sometimes our own. That being the case, proper maintenance and inspection is paramount. We need to know our rifle/pistol/shotgun is not only going to shoot true, but shoot at all. This same thing holds true for you the shooter. Are you functioning the way you should be? Do you double check what you’re doing? A fully functioning firearm is only as good as a fully functioning operator. We should all be fully functioning operators. But, at the same time, we should all be looking out for each other to make sure that we all are fully functioning. If you research what we have discussed here, you will not find one absolute rule that everybody agrees on. What we recommend to our friends and students here at Black Mamba Tactical is “Treat all of your equipment as if your life depends on it…it very well could!”

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog.  We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us.  We love to get email.  In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.

                           The Tactical Edge – February

                           Concealed Carry and Armed Confrontation

Previously on the blog, we have covered the fundamentals of shooting. We have also touched on situational awareness and how it can affect you. This month, I want to make you think about the ramifications of carrying your concealed weapon. Having a carry permit allows you to carry a firearm. It brings along with it the requirements that you not only act in a safe and responsible manner for yourself but also anyone else around you. Part of that responsibility also mandates that you avoid or minimize situations that could develop into armed confrontations. In most cases of flight or fight, common sense and your defense attorney should tell you that flight is your best option. That being said, the situation itself, not you, normally will determine what your possible options will be.

 Several studies have been done that found that people who carry guns are between 2 and 4 times likelier to be shot than people who are unarmed. Some of the thinking here says that the type of people who carry guns are more apt to be involved in tense situations compared with unarmed citizens. Also, carrying a firearm gives one a sense of security to visit neighborhoods and situations that an unarmed citizen would avoid. Studies are all well and good up to a point. Common sense should tell us that if we would avoid these situations when unarmed, we definitely should avoid them when we are armed. Getting shot is painful but shooting someone else can be just as painful if not more so. You would have to live the rest of your life with the consequences of your actions. I would like to bring up a thought here that I’ve had in the past when training new police officers. Some people are mentally and emotionally not equipped to take a life. That is a good thing and is probably how it is with the majority of people. Taking a life is a traumatic situation. If you carry a firearm, at some point down the road you may have to deal with the possibility that you might have to kill someone. We don’t say kill, all of our training says that we act to stop the person. But, a lot of the time that person can or will die. If this is something that you’re not capable of doing, then you should definitely not be carrying a firearm. It could get you seriously injured if you are unable to react to a violent situation. It could also cause bystanders to be hurt. In this case, the safest place for your firearm is in your gun safe unless you’re just going to the range.

Let’s look at a common scenario. You have taken the CC class, purchased your firearm, and received your permit. You’ve been out to the firing range several times and filled paper targets with multiple holes. Are you now ready to carry a concealed weapon? Most people would say yes. I and most of the instructors that I’ve worked with will tell you emphatically NO. There is a lot more to concealed carry then this. If you get into an armed confrontation with someone who is intent on harming you, it could go down before you even realize that it started. Without the proper mental and physical training that is required, you won’t have a chance. An armed attacker, who is within 21 feet of you, can be on top of you in 1.5 seconds. You won’t even have time to think before it’s over. If he has a firearm and intends to shoot you, your reaction window is now down approaching zero. You need to have the training both mentally and physically to give yourself the edge to survive this. Shooting paper targets does nothing to prepare your mind to react to this type of the situation. Someone intent on shooting you is going to do everything in his power to get the job done. You will need to have the mental and physical skill set to stop him. If you haven’t taken the classes on tactical and defensive shooting skills, I highly recommend that you find a good instructor and take them. It could save your life. This isn’t just a one time training either. It is something that you have to do ongoing to hone the skills and refine them. As you go about your daily life, you need to have situational awareness of everything going on around you so that should a threat suddenly appear you will already be thinking of a plan of action to eliminate it. You should always be thinking, if something were to happen right now, how do I avoid it or react to it? Go back to my earlier blog on situational awareness to refresh your memory.

 Once you determine that a threat to your life is imminent, and retreat is not possible, you need to react with extreme haste and extreme violence. Your goal at this point is to win at all costs, overwhelming the senses of the bad guy. Salt Lake City Police Department Sergeant Dennis Tueller is a law enforcement trainer and contributor to SWAT magazine. He has stated that a person, with weapons other than a firearm, is in your danger zone when he is within 21 feet. The more proficient you are with your firearm, the closer your danger zone can be. He suggests you draw your weapon as soon as the danger clearly exists. There is no point in waiting until the last possible second to play "Quick-Draw McGraw" if you recognize the threat early on. Also, the sight of your "Equalizer" may be sufficient to terminate the action then and there. Sergeant Tueller has developed a training drill that everyone should try in their training called the Tueller Drill so you can determine how close is TOO CLOSE in your case, based on your skills.  You can look it up online.

 The goal of the Tueller Drill is very basic. At the sound of the buzzer, draw your gun from concealment and get the first shot off, all in 1.5 seconds. Sounds simple right? Trust me, it’s not. The Tueller Drill can be set up and run in a number of different ways.

                                                  The Drill
     Have a runner and a shooter stand back to back. On the go command, the runner sprints away from the shooter as fast as he can. The shooter draws and fires one shot at a target 21 feet away. The shooter is successful if the runner did not cover 21 feet.

     Another way is to position the runner 21 feet behind the shooter. On the go command, the runner sprints towards the shooter with the intent to tap the shooter on the back. The shooter must draw and fire one shot at a target 21 feet away. The shooter is successful if he is able to get the shot off before being tapped from behind. This can add more stress to the shooter since they don’t know when the tap is coming.

      If you have a SIRT Pistol or other inert training gun, a full contact drill could be run. Have an attacker start 21 feet away from the shooter. On the go command, the attacker runs at the shooter and the shooter must draw and “shoot” the running attacker before they get to them and touch them. Another variation of this is to have a target that can move at the shooter and do the same thing, only live fire since it’s a target.

      If you are lucky enough to have a local gun range with a programmable target carrier system and allows draw from the holster, you can run the drill yourself. Program a delayed random start time, a return to zero from 21 feet and a turn to face at the beginning. When the target turns and advances, draw and fire.

      If you can draw from the holster at your range, use a shot timer. Your goal is to draw and fire at a target 21 feet away in under 1.5 seconds.
Alright, we have determined what the threat zone is and you have decided that your immediate action is needed. At that point you should explode into action and not stop until the threat is ended. What happens if you get shot during this time? The simple answer is “if you ain’t dead you ain’t done”. 85% of people that get shot and get to the hospital within two hours will survive. The exception to this would be headshots and spinal cord injuries. With everything else you will still have a chance to fight back and WIN. This will require you to overcome your injury and continue your explosive reaction force. Your adrenaline will be surging but if you’re conscious, you can still react by breathing deeply and focusing on your attacker. Speed is urgent now since if you’re shot, you’re most likely bleeding profusely. The quicker you stop your assailant, the quicker you will get to medical help. There are no rules here. You bring all the violence that your body is capable of committing to bear on the attacker.

 Here is a little information to lighten the seriousness of the mood for a minute. It contains some good ideas for you along with a little humor.

                               "Rules of Gun Fighting"

Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns.

Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive. 

Only hits count. Close doesn’t count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss. 

If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough, nor using cover correctly. 
Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.) 
If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun. 
In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived and who didn’t. 
If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running. 
Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun. 
Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.” 
Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty. 
In combat, there are no rules, always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose. 
Have a plan.
Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work. 
Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The visible target should be in FRONT of your gun. 
Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours. 
Don’t drop your guard. 
Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees. 
Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them). 
Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH. 
The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get. 
Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one. 
Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation. 
Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “4.” 

Training and defensive tactics are critical in these high stress threat situations. The amount of time you have to stop an attack requires a lot of skill and muscle memory. Remember, if you shoot too early, you will most likely be defending yourself in court on a murder charge. If you wait too long, your survivors will be attending your funeral. There is a fine line between shoot and don’t shoot. The differences in how much training and practice you have had. Watching DVDs or reading will not give you the skills you will need for survival. I highly recommend that everyone reading this find a good instructor and take live training. It will further prepare you for your concealed carry and potential situations that arise.

Black Mamba Tactical  is going to be starting up a new series of live fire and simulator classes in Self-Defense Shooting, Tactical Shooting, and Combat Shooting. You will be able to find these classes on our website when we have them ready to go. Our classes are run under the supervision of a highly skilled and extensively trained tactical instructor. I can personally attest to his ability as one of his students and as a former police instructor myself.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog.  We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it.  If you have comments, please send them to us.  We love to get email.  In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to the shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills.

The Tactical Edge   by Wayne Hansen

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                                 The Tactical Edge – June

                       What you need to know when buying your first gun

Whew!.... May flew by really fast, but the vacation was great. Now we need to get back down to business. In this month’s segment, we hope to answer some questions that are on your mind or should be on your mind when looking to buy your first gun or another gun. With so many people taking concealed carry classes and wanting to get involved in shooting, we felt it was just the right thing to do to help you make that first purchase.

The number and variety of handguns available at any good gun store will boggle your mind if you’re new at this. Even experienced shooters with multiple guns in their arsenal can get bogged down in a large gun store if they don’t do their homework. To help you make your decision, I’m going to list a number of steps for your consideration. Except for the first step, all of these steps are up for discussion. Each expert has his or her favorite gun and they can tell you 100 reasons why it’s going to be good for you, but you have to realize THEY are not YOU. Your needs will depend on your experience, your build, the size of your hands and most importantly of all, your needs.

#1. What is the purpose of this gun

 This is a simple question – why are you buying this handgun? Do you simply want to have some fun shooting at the range? Will you use it for personal defense at home or personal defense in general, and will need to carry it around with you all the time? Answering these questions now and establishing a clear purpose for your gun will help you determine later which type it will be, because its size, caliber and barrel will be a factor. A good range gun is usually a large firearm; bigger guns tend to have less recoil, greater accuracy and better comfort. A large gun is also good for home defense; a comfortable, accurate, high-capacity firearm is a handy thing to have when things get dangerously gnarly. A good carry gun, well, that’s a matter of debate and personal preference. Most – but not all – buyers prefer a relatively small gun. No single gun is ideal for all of the above uses. Finding a gun that is good for all of the above, you will sacrifice some of the fine points of the gun that you need for each individual use. (Being really good with one gun is better than being OK with a range of firearms.) But generally speaking, a do-it-all gun involves unnecessary compromise.

#2. Revolver or semi-auto

Learn the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol because it will help you choose. They differ greatly when it comes to the firearm’s size, its cartridge capacity, its reliability, how capable you are of reloading a gun under stress, its grip strength, and the list could go on.

#3. Don’t think of your first gun as your last one

Many first time shooters and/or buyers make the mistake of getting way too attached to their first gun. However, most experienced gun owners will tell you that you quickly outgrow it, for various reasons. There’s no way anybody can convince you of that, of course, so you just need to take their word for it. Do the best you can to find the gun that fills your needs knowing that experience and use will probably change your mind eventually. We all went through that and some of us still are. A highly skilled veteran shooter will still have difficulty leaving a gun store without some new, better toy. I shouldn’t tell you this, but being a shooter is equivalent to being a potato chip eater. You can’t have just one! Once you get the thrill of shooting, never enter a gun store without proper supervision by a spouse or good friend. It’s just too easy to come out with two or three new toys.

#4. The gun must fit your hand

If the gun is either too big or too small to fit comfortably in your hand, you won’t shoot it well and you probably won’t enjoy shooting it. A petite girl probably isn’t going to be comfortable starting out with a large frame 44 Magnum and conversely a big football player type man will not be comfortable with a handgun you can hide behind your belt buckle. Once you determine the proposed use, then you’ll know whether it’s going to be a large frame range gun or a small concealable carry gun. Unless you normally wear a large trench coat, that ideal range gun is not concealable. Getting back to fitting your hand, the grip should be a good fit both in comfort and the ability to properly control shooting it. Before you purchase a gun, make sure you can use it properly. Some of the higher powered semi-autos are difficult to rack the slide if you don’t have the grip strength in your hands. We found this out recently during a class. We picked up several new guns to use for display and show and tell and one particular gun had such strong recoil springs that half of the class could not properly operate the slide mechanism to load a round.

#5. The gun must be a quality gun

There are many good quality pistols on the market today. Just remember that you will get what you pay for. If you want a cheap gun then only spend $125.00 – $250.00 and you will more than likely have wasted your money on an unreliable firearm. One that will jam every other time you pull the trigger. If that is what you have right now, then get rid of it and get yourself a quality firearm. You can have a great quality firearm for around $500.00 one that is reliable and dependable. The question I have for people who buy junk guns for self protection is: what is your life worth to you? Most people think that a gun is a gun. In other words what’s the difference? The difference, my friend, is quality. If you ever need a gun to save your life, you will want that gun to shoot every time you pull the trigger with no malfunctions. Now let’s be real honest: no one can guarantee that even a quality gun won’t malfunction. However the chance of a quality gun malfunctioning is far less likely to happen. The point is why try to protect your life with a cheap piece of junk. If you can afford a quality pistol, then get a quality pistol.

Never buy a gun just because it’s cheap. Guns are not an area where you want to skimp. A cheap gun might mean it’s poorly manufactured or that it has some problems the seller won’t tell you about. You should know from the start that guns aren’t cheap. So if you’re in this for the long haul, you should be prepared to spend on them, their ammunition and their accessories. The best solution is to buy from trusted and famous brands.

#6. The gun must have a smooth trigger

This is equally as important as the last two requirements. There are some very good quality guns that have a very rough trigger from the factory. However, a good gunsmith can usually fix this with no problem. Having a smooth trigger is very important. Most of the time when a shooter pulls a shot, it is due to a poor trigger press or trigger control. A smooth trigger on a good pistol will make it easier to have better trigger control, thus, better accuracy.

#7. What caliber do I need

This requirement will depend on the intended use along with your skill set and physical attributes. This is not cast in stone, but will depend on the person involved. Smaller people are more comfortable shooting less powerful ammunition but I have seen tiny people that were very comfortable with 44 Magnums. You have to decide what your comfort level is along with how much recoil can you absorb and still get the next shot off accurately. A 22 is just as ideal as the 45 if you’re target shooting and it’s a whole lot cheaper to shoot. When the purpose of your gun is self-defense then you need to look at larger calibers but still stay within your comfort zone. Most self-defense instructors will tell you not to buy a gun if the first number on the caliber is less than a 4, that means 40 caliber, 44 caliber or 45 caliber. I myself, feel very comfortable carrying a 9 mm with the right type of ammunition. If you’re not sure, then I highly recommend that you take a class with a good instructor who can go over all of your choices and help you settle on the right one for you.

You need to realize that it takes two things to stop a man or an animal, (1) Shot Placement and (2) Penetration. You can shoot a man with a .22 caliber and have good shot placement and good penetration and stop him, or you can shoot a man with a .45 and have real good penetration, but poor shot placement and still not stop him. You can also have real good shot placement and poor penetration and still not stop him. Even if you have good shot placement and good penetration it may still take 12-15 seconds for an individual to bleed out. They can still do a lot of damage to you during that time or even kill you. A man with a gun shooting at you for 12-15 seconds is a long time. And if he is cutting you with a knife, it will seem like an eternity. You shoot and continue to shoot until the problem is solved and you are no longer in danger of death or serious bodily harm. You shoot until he stops all lethal aggression toward you. It may only take one shot or it may take several. There is no set number of shots to shoot in a gunfight. You shoot and continue to shoot until he stops all lethal aggression toward you.

#8. Practice, practice, and more practice

Once you decide on the right gun for you, go to the range and learn how to operate it properly. Practice will develop your skill level which will definitely be needed in the event of an immediate threat. The hard fast rule is that you will react during an emergency by how you reacted during training. The better you trained, the better your reaction will be in an emergency where time is of the essence. I highly recommend that you find a good instructor and take classes, especially classes designed for the purpose which your gun is intended. Even the most skilled shooters will tell you there is no such thing as too much practice. Even if your intent is only target shooting, the more you practice the better your skill level will become and the more fun you will have. Shooting is a great hobby and you will get the most enjoyment out of it when participating with a group of friends. That’s what we do! Most of all, I can’t tell you how much you’ll gain from finding a good instructor and building a good relationship with them. Making you into a great shooter will benefit both of you.

Well I hope this has been helpful to you, and if you still have questions, please consider taking some classes BEFORE you make this purchase. A good instructor can really be a big help in deciding what is best for you.

Well that wraps up another month’s issue of the blog.  We hope you’re reading it, enjoying it, and most of all, benefiting from it. If you have comments, please send them to us.  We love to get email.  In the meantime, keep your gun clean and your powder dry and take someone to a shooting range or training class with you. You owe it to them to improve their skills and enjoy our sport.