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Selecting a Defensive Carbine

Posted by: Ron Avery | Comments (0)

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From one of my colleagues and friends, John Farnam. He hits the nail on the head, squarely with this one. I too have noted an uptick in the number of concerned citizens wishing for more training in the use of the long gun. Whether it be fear of economic collapse or the rise of tyranny of government, there is an unspoken uneasiness in the hearts of our citizens and they are preparing for an uncertain future.

The following is from John. Let’s hear your thoughts on here!

23 Mar 10

It comes down to Rifles:

Our spiritual ancestors, the Ancient Greeks, fostered the notion of the
warrior/citizen, and the duty of each free citizen to always be armed,
trained,  and ever-prepared to defend the Land.  Individual weapons of war then
were  sword and spear, and they represented the essence of the Warrior.  And,
it  was (then as now) the specter of facing a entire nation of perpetually
armed  patriots, that sends a bolt of terror through the hearts of despots,
petty  potentates, and would-be invaders.

Today, it is the Rifle.  Marines have known and talked of it
unapologetically for decades, that every Marine is a Rifleman first, no matter  what
other piece of high-tech machinery he is trained to run.

When all machines have died, it is the audacious citizen/soldier, armed
with a rifle, who will decide the day, and thus settle the fate of his

I believe it no coincidence that so many courageous Americans are currently
coming to us for competent rifle training, bringing their personally-owned
rifles, eager to learn and exercise, critical skills that every free
citizen  should master, eager to earn the title of “Rifleman,” no matter what
other title  they may have.

In this world, civilizations come and go.  All foolishly believe they  will
endure forever.  None do.  The Test comes for us all, as nations  and as
individuals, the prepared and the unprepared.  Some triumph.   Some perish.
History displays no bias!

In 1907, the winds of war (WWI) were already whispering in Europe, and all
with ears could hear them.  The foolish and naive, of course, ignored them,
as they do today.  In England that year, Henry Lawson wrote this:

“So I sit and write and ponder, while the house is deaf and dumb,
Seeing  visions ‘over yonder’ of a War I know must come
In the corner- not a vision-  but a sign of coming days
Stands a box of ammunition, and a rifle in green  baize*
And in this, the living present, let this Word go through the  Land,
Every tradesman, clerk, and peasant should have these two things at  hand.

No ranting song is needed, and no meeting, flag, nor fuss-
In the  future, still unheeded, shall the Spirit come to us.
Without feathers, drum,  nor riot on the day that is to be,
We shall march down, very quiet, to our  stations by the sea.
While the bitter parties stifle every voice that warns  of war,
Every man should own a rifle and have cartridges in store!”

* “Baize” describes a coarse, cloth wrapping, napped to look like felt,
that was frequently used to pack rifles for long-term storage

Today, without “meeting, flag, nor fuss,” real Americans are also
instinctively sensing the need to have these two items, and the need to know how
to use them.  Thanks to our far-sighted Founders, and the Second Amendment,
we can… and do!

Just as personal liberty and freedom are the birthright of every American,
so honor, fitness, and readiness are ever our individual responsibility.

Never doubt it!

John Farnam

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By Ron Avery – For

Your heart is pounding rapidly in your chest, your palms are sweaty and cold and your breath is coming in a short, in and out rhythm. The adrenaline is pounding in your system. You open the door, drawing your weapon as you move. Your eyes sweep the room, and you see, THERE, threat; as you shoot two rounds in rapid succession at the threat, you glimpse a movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn to see two threats swing out simultaneously from around a corner. You fire into each threat as you smoothly transition through the room. As you approach another threat area, you make a dynamic reload so that you will have a full magazine. Moving quickly now, you step across a threshold and you now have 3 threats in rapid succession. Your finger is pounding on the trigger now as you try to engage them as swiftly as possible. You continue to move through the area, scanning for threats, engaging when you first see them, Your gun seems to be kicking all over the place and you don’t remember seeing your sights too clearly as you try to go as fast as you can. You feel jerky and out of control as you come to the final area that needs to be taken down.

Sound like a nightmare? Not at all. It’s a stage in the finals of a competitive shooting championship and you are going for it, giving it all you have.

Competition is woven into the very fabric of our lives. From a very young age, we are competing for resources, status in our peer group or community, the opposite sex, grades in school, jobs, promotions, and in a lethal force engagement, for your life. This is completely opposite what is taught in school where they try to treat competition as something unhealthy. The idea that there will be winners and losers in situations and in life is not deemed acceptable. This does not prepare one for the real world where competition is a very real force.

The fact is your whole life is shaped by your competitiveness or the lack thereof. Those who are not willing to compete for what is theirs may lose what they have worked so hard to achieve. The history of ancient man shows competition and the survival of the fittest at work. Here in North America, the most warlike tribes controlled the best territories, forcing lesser tribes into less ideal environments or assimilating them into their culture through conquest. Our whole system of government is based on capitalism which is nothing more than competitive trading for advantage and gaining market share.

Competition represents the willingness to compete against your fellow man for something of benefit to the individual or group. There are a variety of reasons to compete as we have talked about earlier. But there is something more fundamental about the competitive drive. It is also the ultimate test of self. How you fare and how you deal with it can be critically important to the direction of your life. The drive to be the best you can be, to win, to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals is rooted in the competitive drive.

Contrast this with shrinking from challenges that you face. Officers who are afraid to qualify because they are unsure of their ability to do so. A firearms instructor who won’t shoot in front of his students because he is afraid of making a mistake, a departmental qualification that is too generous in terms of time and accuracy because those in positions of authority don’t want anyone to fail.

Ironically, many of these qualifications are rooted in competitive shooting, such as PPC. The difference is that the target area shot in that type of shooting and the time limits given are for the 10 and X ring and the shots are being fired out to 50 yards. Now, the scoring area for a “good hit” has been increased to a far larger area and the time has not been reduced to represent a more realistic encounter.

You can run from competition but you can’t hide from it. As a law enforcement officer, you will deal with it almost every day on the job.

The key is to use competition to bring out the necessary mindset that it will take to prevail in a situation. While this is linked with your personal survival it is also linked very strongly with the will to win the conflict. You should be able to visualize yourself as the victor, handling the situation, taking control of the conflict and winning. This is linked directly with the competitive drive. Then you must take the next step. You must engage in activities that promote and test your will to win. Armchair visualization will not cut it.

Bringing competition into the firearm training environment will lead to increased performance among the majority of those who participate in it. There will always be those who shrink from it and will make excuses. This is no reason to get rid of competition. On the street, you don’t get to pick the competitions you will engage in, they will happen to you. If you are not constantly feeding the drive to win on a regular basis, you will not have the skills, confidence and will of those who compete on a regular basis.

As a professional firearms trainer and researcher, I can verify that skilled competitive shooters are in a class by themselves in terms of performance with arms over their peers in law enforcement, military establishments or the civilian sector.

Having been involved in competitive shooting for 30 years now at a national and world class level, I can honestly say that I would probably never have achieved the levels of speed, precision, mental clarity and calmness under pressure if I had not competed. I would definitely not have understood shooting at the level I do now.

Another fact that is obscured by those who think that competitive shooting is not practical or is “gamey” is that world class competitive shooters have been responsible for the vast majority of shooting technique and training that has gone on for the last 50 years or more.

Since the late 1970’s, a small handful of world class shooters have been responsible for nearly all the shooting techniques that are being used today. That’s right folks. World class competitive shooters trained nearly everyone. US Navy Seals? Delta Force? Marine Corp? DEA, FBI, US Secret Service, Dept. of Defense? Yep, did em all and a lot of others for the last 20 some odd years and continue to do so today. The Weaver Stance and later, the Modern Isosceles and its many variants were all developed and validated in competition and then taught to everyone.

That process continues today, although there are many others out there muddying the waters who have never competed, do not understand the techniques and their proper application and yet feel qualified to teach them.

While you can derive benefits from all kinds of competitive events, you will get the most from competition that is relevant to your job. Martial arts competition, competitive shooting and the like are among the best for law enforcement.

I will focus on competitive shooting and talk about what it can do for you.

Competitive shooting recreates many of the stress responses that are found in high stress or deadly force situations as our shooter found out in the beginning of this article. Learning to deal with the stress of competition and focus on the tasks and mindset associated with superior performance will serve you well should you ever get into a deadly force situation.

Here are some of the other benefits of properly structured competition.

Develop the will to win

This is one of the single best things that competition shooting will do for you. When you have to go against the best on a regular basis, peak performance becomes a way of life. You have to be ready to take on all comers, to develop the toughness of spirit to risk failure while striving to do your personal best. Learning to walk the tightrope between too fast and not fast enough. You have to be able to do what it takes to do as well as you can without shrinking from the possibility of failure. Feed your will!

Strengthen Character

If you learn to conduct yourself in an ethical manner while competing you will become stronger mentally. Performing well in an ethical manner will make you tougher. You won’t need “props” to help you win.You will develop a strong sense of self worth, which will help you when the going gets tough. You won’t need excuses why you didn’t do as well as you can but will instead examine your mistakes and come up with solutions to problems you are facing. Honest feedback will yield true skill.

Superior Gunhandling and Shooting under Stress

Having worked with both competitive and non-competing people in our various tactical programs over many years, it is a fact that proficient competitive shooters operate at a far higher level of proficiency than their peers when it comes to shooting under pressure. This translates into superior hit probability. It also translates into superior control, speed, processing, movement skills, and a host of other beneficial skills.

Situational Awareness, Multi Tasking and Task Focusing

Being able to observe, orient, decide and act quickly and decisively is what will give you the edge in a lethal force situation. Competitive shooting represents a superb way to increase your mental processing speed and ability to task focus under high stress conditions. Imagine driving a race car around a complex track at speeds varying from 120 to 180 mph. Now imagine how much more awareness and control you will have when you return to more “normal” speeds.

In the sport of International Practical Shooting (IPSC) competitors “race” with guns. Competitors routinely have to multi-task during competition. High speed mental processing and situational awareness while being able to focus on the task of hitting targets precisely and extremely fast is one of the many benefits that can be yours.

This will help you on the street when you are faced with a tough situation that requires mental agility and the ability to focus on tasks under pressure.

Safe gun handling both on and off the range

Competitive shooting practiced under the rules of the  International Practical Shooting Confederation are among to safest in the world. Here shooters may perform high speed draws, engage multiple targets, negotiate complex courses of fire, shoot on the move, open doors with gun in hand, grab guns off of tables, load and shoot rapidly, reload extremely fast; all under uncompromising safety standards

This type of shooting ingrains a keen awareness of muzzle control. Finger on or off the trigger at the correct time are rigidly enforced and become ingrained responses. Competitive shooters rarely have to be reminded of safety with firearms.

Stress Acclimatization

One of the biggest benefits of competition comes from developing your skills in dealing with stress. Competition is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Putting your ego on the line can be a threatening experience. Overdoing things and making big mistakes by trying too hard is also a common experience.

Through regular participation combined with proper coaching, competition will help you deal with your biggest competition and that is YOU.

I can tell you from personal experience that the stress I dealt with in National and World level events was far greater than the stress I felt when engaged in actual deadly force situations. Other peers and friends who have been in lethal force events as well as engage in competition say much the same thing.

Competitive shooting, where you may anticipate the event over a period of weeks, months or even years, generates its own kind of stress. Prior to and during the event, your perspective of the event will trigger emotions that will in turn release stress hormones that can work either for or against you.

Emotional and mental management is a key component of successful performance.  The human body will not be able to distinguish between the hormones released during a competitive event or a lethal force engagement.

Learning new techniques and testing and evaluation of new techniques and equipment

No less of an authority than Jeff Cooper remarked that IPSC was a testing ground where one could evaluate successful technique and equipment of the best shooters. That remains true to this day. While gunfights may vary according to the nature of the fight or the skill of the opponent, competition is structured in a way that pits man against man where the rules are the same. The best will rise to the top.

Competition is not tactical training. It will not replace proper tactics and teamwork. On the other hand, the mental and physical skills you develop will definitely aid you should you need to use those skills to win the day.

The biggest problem with competitive shooting comes with what you bring with you. If it is just a game to you and targets are merely targets and you don’t really care how you finish then you won’t get a lot from it.

If you treat it as something that is important to you and you know that you might have to use those skills in the real world then good progress can be made.

The ancient test of man vs. man has been going on from the beginning of mankind’s existence. Competition represents a means of measuring yourself against others and being able to walk away with a better understanding of yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.

There will always be positives and negatives in any type of training. Force on force training can teach bad habits to; like hiding behind barriers that won’t stop a real bullet. Force on force is also very time intensive as well as being expensive to do on a regular basis. Draw upon the positives and recognize the negatives.

A well-rounded program will focus on different aspects of training. Competition belongs in a well rounded program. Nothing can take its place. Whether you compete within your peer group or reach out into the wide world for more, competition will make you stronger and better prepared to focus on the task of winning when it counts.

For more information on IPSC you can go to For courses and training with The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. go to

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The Case for Distance Shooting

Posted by: Ron Avery | Comments (5)

The Case for Distance Shooting

From my feature column on

Back when I first started in law enforcement, the trend on shooting and qualifying emphasized accuracy over speed and the ability the place your shots, albeit slowly, in a nice tight group. We shot out to 50 yards in qualification, shot with strong hand and support hand and even shot from a sitting and prone position. Read More→

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Nightforce Optics

Posted by: Ron Avery | Comments (0)

It’s November 2006, late rifle Mule Deer season in Northwest Colorado. In the pre‐dawn chill, we saddle our horses and assemble our gear. An early snow has fallen, leaving a thin, unbroken white mantle on the rolling sagebrush and oak brush covered mountains. 

Horseback hunting in mountainous terrain can severely test a scoped rifle.


We are in the land of trophy mule deer, for which this area of Colorado is famous. This is a wild, raw landscape; breathtaking in its scenery.. Yet this land is a test in itself; unforgiving on horses, men and equipment. 

We mount up and begin our hunt, climbing up a steady incline. The horse’s hooves stumble for purchase on the snow covered ground. I ride light in the stirrups, ready to disembark if my horse slips and falls. As we near the top of a steep climb, we let our horses take a brief rest as we glass the surrounding country. 

We see several good bucks, but they are not what we are looking for. So we mount up and begin to scout some likely pockets of cover. As we start another uphill grade, my horse slips on the snowy surface and scrambles madly to regain its balance. I bail, taking my rifle with me as I go. I manage to clear the horse and get out of the way in case it tumbles. As I step back, I trip on a sagebrush root and fall to one side. I manage to mostly protect the rifle and scope as I go down but the scope takes a moderate impact against the ground during the fall. 

We continue our hunt for the morning but I tell my partner that I don’t feel comfortable with the rifle as I am not sure if the impact shifted my zero. Around noon, we head back to camp and I break out my backup rifle. I later harvest a nice buck with my backup rifle. After the season, I took the first rifle out and shot it at the range. I did not think that it had taken that much of an impact but, to my surprise, the scope would not hold zero. 

Now, occasionally a rifle and scope will take a bit of abuse while hiking up a steep mountain slope if you slip and fall. I have seen scopes fail when rifles fall over when leaned up against an object and then they get bumped. I have seen rifles and scopes subjected to recoil forces for many rounds finally fail. In our long range precision rifle courses and our carbine courses, we have the opportunity to test many rifle and scope combinations over time. Students get to use our equipment as well and get a sense of what they are looking for. This can be a real eye opener as sometimes price is not an overall indicator of quality. 

What I wanted was a scope that would stand up to a lot of shooting, hunting and tactical conditions in rough country without having to be pampered. 

Enter Nightforce Optics 

Early in 2008, I was able to acquire 4 Nightforce Scopes for testing and evaluation and for use in our Practical Shooting Academy. Nightforce has acquired a considerable reputation for scopes that are built to stand up to the kind of abuse that everyday usage in rough conditions can throw at them. They are being used by fifty caliber shooters for thousand yard shooting and beyond, special operations snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan and top competitive shooters looking for a scope that is as consistent as a high quality timepiece in terms of toughness and repeatability, time and time again. 

My criteria for testing are simple. I use the test items as a routine part of my everyday life as a professional shooter, trainer and outdoorsman. I use them in our training courses where they are subjected to real world testing in the course of training under realistic conditions. I take them with me as I travel around the country. I put them in many different conditions over time and test them in those real world conditions. With temperatures over 100 to down below zero, bumping around in trucks over dirt trails, horse scabbards, 4 wheelers and a lot of shooting. I typically take up to a year to do a test of equipment to see how they shake out over time.
The Scopes 

Law enforcement officer and PSA PRO TEAM Member, Keith Garcia, puts the NXS 1‐4 through its paces.


I tested the NXS 1‐4 X 24, 2.5 ‐10 X 24, NXS 3.5‐15 X 50 and the NXS 5.5‐22 X 56mm optics. All of these scopes came with a zero stop feature that allows the shooter to set the zero and lock it in. This feature becomes important when the shooter is doing a lot of moving up and down with the turret and becomes confused as to how many revolutions they may have done. Simply by dialing back down, the turret will stop at the established
zero point. This also works if you have had your turrets accidentally move on you during transit or someone else dials your scope while handling the rifle. This is a must have option in my opinion. 

Nightforce scopes are built here in the US. Theyare built to a standard of toughness that is far and above what you will typically find with other optics companies. They are bigger and usually heavier than comparable optics from other manufacturers, although the 1‐4 and the 2.5‐10 are very compact.
After shooting all of these scopes in our long gun courses, as well as out in the field under a variety of conditions, I have to say that their reputation for toughness is well deserved. Box drills with the optics always came back to the same point of impact with monotonous regularity. After numerous excursions on horseback, on foot, in vehicles etc. that covered many miles, the scopes always held zero, despite taking some abuse that would have done in a lesser quality scope. 

The quality of the glass is superb and I feel it definitely contributes to a feeling of confidence when shooting under different lighting conditions at different ranges. Targets appeared very clear in the optics and I had no trouble seeing the reticle, even against different backdrops such as sagebrush, pinyon pine, desert rock or forest cover. 

Author with Antelope taken in Wyoming. Rifle is Remington in .260 AI with Nightforce 5.5 X 22 put together by Sam Johnson. Range 478 yards. Nightforce made the difference here.


During the testing and validation phase under field conditions, I harvested an antelope at just under 500 yards in Wyoming, a mule deer and another antelope in Colorado and a bison. Being able to dial the scope in and make shots at different distances, under tight time constraints, really brought home the value of Nightforce Optics to me. 

The 1‐4 X 24 was part of a military design for close quarter shooting and comes with the FC‐2 reticle. This reticle consists of a circle/dot in the center with a tapered line on each side. 

The reticle is illuminated with graduated settings for different lighting conditions. It is ideal for close quarters shooting situations yet has capabilities built into it for shooting at extended ranges as part of the reticle design. I use this scope in our carbine classes as it is a very good performance piece of kit. The only downside I found with this scope is that the illuminated reticle is not bright enough for daylight use under bright conditions and appears black even at the highest settings. This
comes into play when looking for a sunny location into a shaded area such as under bushes or trees. The reticle is thick enough to be seen without the illumination however, and the other attributes of the scope help to more than compensate for this deficiency. This scope would be an excellent choice for a patrol rifle. It is fast enough to be used indoors and can really reach out for precision shooting at
extended ranges. 

Author with Antelope taken in Wyoming. Rifle is Remington in .260 AI with Nightforce 5.5 X 22 put together by Sam Johnson. Range 478 yards. Nightforce made the difference here. 

The 2.5 – 10 came with the NP‐R2 illuminated reticle. This reticle is graduated in 2 MOA increments. Nightforce scopes have the option of choosing reticles with either mil dot or MOA reticles. I prefer the MOA reticles over the mil dot reticles as it becomes very easy to do the math in my head for distance measurements and comeups etc. This scope is very compact and fits well on either a designated marksman rifle in semi‐auto or bolt gun. If you want a compact scope that is the equal of other 3.5‐10 power scopes in terms of light gathering, along with superior glass and ruggedness, look no further than this one. 

Author lines up a steep downhill canyon shot with the NXS 2.5x10 with cosign indicator on a DPMS/MSTN AR‐10.


The 3.5‐15 X 50 mm and the 5.5‐22 X 56 are really designed for long distance shooting. Both came with the NPR‐1 reticle, which is divided into 1 MOA increments for elevation and 2 MOA increments for windage. A full 110 MOA adjustment make these scopes very versatile in the field when shooting at extended ranges. 

If I had to pick one scope for precision rifle shooting, I would pick one of these two. They represent, to me, almost all of what I would want in a long range scope for rough conditions. They are currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq with military units and are generally held in high regard. 

Nightforce scopes are more expensive than other scopes on the market. However, it is money well spent in my opinion. They are significantly tougher than other scopes that I have worked with in the past. If I was looking for a battle tough, compact scope for a patrol rifle or designated marksman rifle, I would go with the 1‐4 X 24 or the 2.5 – 10 scope with zero stop feature. 

For a true precision rifle, the 3.5‐15 X 50 with the NP‐R1 reticle and zero stop gets my vote. Nightforce just came out with a new model 3.5X15 scope that has the reticle in the first focal plane so you can use the reticle at any power. This was at the request of the US Military. 

Nightforce scopes represent a combination of high optical quality, sensible reticle design, truly repeatable turrets and toughness that makes them one of the best values in scopes on the market. You will be well served with a Nightforce Optic on your long gun. 

Nightforce Optics can be found at

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As a professional shooter, one of the fun parts of my job is the ability to frequently test and evaluate new firearms and wring them out to see how well they perform and provide feedback for manufacturers, law enforcement and the general public. (It’s a tough job but someone has to do it :‐) )

I was having a good natured argument with one of my PSA PRO TEAM members, Ara Maljian, a Cheyenne, WY Police Dept. Officer and world class shooter in his own right about what is the ultimate gun for duty and concealed carry.

Anyone who knows me for any length of time knows how much I like the Colt Government Model 1911 and it various configurations. Now Ara likes to debate and, once he gets going, he hangs on to his arguments like a pit bull.

His contention is that the model 1911 single stack model is getting a bit long in the tooth and might not hold the title for the ultimate pistol anymore. It was his contention that the Springfield XD .45 ACP just might be in contention to replace the venerable 1911.

Now this is a debate that can (happily for those of us that like to shoot) take quite a while to test out. You have to factor things such as performance at speed, accuracy, controllability, trigger management, sights, grip, ergonomics, ease of maintenance, ease of gunsmithing, concealability, size, cost etc. to determine a value to assign to the gun. Before we go down that road, let’s get some background information.

Background Information

Full Size Springfield XD in .45 ACP

The Springfield XD is actually made in Croatia by another company. It is licensed and sold by Springfield Armory here in the US.

It is a modern semi‐automatic pistol and has a number of features that make it an attractive choice for all around carry. It has 4 different safeties – two internal and two external. The grip safety (similar to a 1911, the trigger safety, (similar to Glock), striker block/drop safety and an internal action block so the gun won’t fire if not fully in battery.

Other useful features are a loaded chamber indicator to see or feel that the weapon is loaded as well as a cocked striker indicator.

Click here for more information on the XD .45 and other products By Springfield Armory.

The next logical step was to obtain some Springfield XD .45’s for testing and evaluation here at The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. Now, I am no stranger to the XD’s, having shot a pair of 9mm Tactical models for a year in competition. What originally attracted me to the Springfield XD models were their excellent ergonomics. Simply put, they naturally point well, due to the excellent grip angle which is more in alignment with how the human hand aligns itself when pointing a finger. This is no small thing, in and of itself. If a firearm points well, it generally will perform well in terms of time for target acquisition and recovery in fast, multiple shot drills.

The next thing that attracted me was the size of the grip. It was significantly smaller than the Glock grip, especially in .45 ACP. If you have smaller hands or have to wear gloves, then this is a BIG deal.

I contacted Springfield Armory and talked with Debbie Williams in the marketing department. Springfield is always committed to being the best they can be and Debbie readily agreed to let me test 3 of the XD’s in our Academy.

Springfield XD 9mm sub-compact

The three models I wanted to try out were the full size .45 ACP, the compact .45 ACP and the subcompact .40 S&W.

Dave Williams of the Springfield Custom shop sent the first full size .45 ACP XD with a competition tuned trigger as part of the package so that I could evaluate their new trigger system. The compact .45 and the subcompact .40 were left stock. For the purposes of testing, no after‐market sights were put on the guns. With the custom shop .45 ACP, all I did was put some skid tape on the grip area to enhance friction between the gun and the hand.

I did obtain some of the excellent Pearce Grip Extension for the XD Compact and the Sub‐Compact. This proved to be an ideal configuration for concealed carry.

The first morning with the tuned .45 XD, I worked with the trigger to develop a feel for the take‐up and reset characteristics. Then it was time to do some basic dry and live fire drills with it.

The first test is to see how ergonomic the piece is in terms of pointability and what I call “shootability” at speed. “Shootability” is a blend of recoil characteristics: time to recovery of sight alignment , the grip angle and pointing characteristics, the fit of the tang to the hand of the shooter, the amount of slide lift and dip in relation to sight alignment etc.

It is measured in the speed/precision of the shot or shots, the split time between shots and the perceived amount of effort on the part of the shooter to both visually track and control this process.

I am happy to report that the XD did very well in the tests we put it through! The way it points is very close to a Government model 1911.

I did find that the tang area is excessively wide and makes the gun wallow a bit side to side initially during the draw and subsequent shooting until you get used to it. This is due entirely to the injection molding process vs. machining the grip. As with the Glock pistol, if you move the strong side thumb off to the side a bit instead of alongside the frame; it allows the gun to continue to point naturally without thumb pressure misaligning the slide as you bring the weapon up on target.

With one of my original XD’s, I simple re‐contoured the tang to virtually eliminate this problem. (Springfield Custom offers this as a modification and I highly recommend it!)

The grip is a bit slippery without some sort of texturing on it. I put some skid tape on the gun and it became very secure in the hand. However, grip tape will eat through clothing like battery acid if you carry it concealed for very long. I would recommend re‐texturing the grip using either Bar Sto PrecisionMachine or Springer Precision. They stipple the grip and can also re‐contour it to get rid of the excessive tang material etc.; thus making it more secure in the hand.

Working with a Comp Tac holster, the XD is very fast for the first shot. There is no pointing high as with the Glock pistol. The sights come up level and align well. (In the not too distant future, I will be doing some video clips of the shooting with the XD that will be available on my website,

Using the stock, compact model .45, I found the trigger system usable, although not as crisp or precise on the press and reset as the tuned trigger job. Some may argue that you shouldn’t modify a duty gun and this is a question for another article in the future. I say “yes you can and indeed you should if it contributes to excellence without making the trigger too light”.

Sights and trigger are usually put on for economic benefit and avoidance of a lawsuit, not for tactical performance. If I am going to modify anything on a gun, it will usually be sights and trigger first.

One thing that the XD has going for it over the single stack 1911 is magazine capacity. It will hold 13 +1 rounds of .45 ACP vs. 8 + 1 for the 1911. If you carry a full complement of 2 magazines plus one in the gun and one in the chamber; you have 40 rounds instead of 25.

Springfield XD Sub‐compact with Pearce grip extension

The compact .45 ACP has the ability to convert, via the magazine, from a full size XD grip to a more compact grip for concealed carry. The compact magazine holds 10 +1 in the gun. I found the grip too short for my liking on the compact and subcompact models. However, with Pearce magazine extensions, they become user friendly.

With the full size magazine, it handles identically to the full size .45 XD. With the compact magazine and Pearce extension, it still shoots very well.

The sub‐compact XD in .40 sports a 3” barrel and a very compact grip. In testing it in classes with students and during other tests, recoil was found to be controllable although a quite a bit more “snappy”. This translates into a faster recoil impulse that takes a bit more effort to control effectively when compared side by side to the .45 compact and would be the case with any other comparable firearm. However, being smaller allows it to be carried in a coat pocket more easily and it may lend itself to carry as a second gun, depending on where you choose to carry it on the body.

It does convert to a full size grip model as with the .45 XD. However, given the compact size and different mission I envisioned for the piece, I left it in the smaller configuration.

The XD also has a light rail on the frame to which you can attach a weapon mounted light such as the excellent Surefire X‐300.

The trigger system is far better than a Glock trigger in my opinion. It has the initial take‐up and then a bit of mush as it breaks. However, one can get used to this without much fuss. When tuned properly, it functions almost as well as a tuned 1911 trigger system in terms of functional performance, which is saying a lot. For carry in fanny packs, inside the pants etc. it is superior to the 1911 trigger system due to the care required to keep the thumb safety engaged on 1911’s, especially if you have to pin the grip safety for it to function 100% at speed.

One of the highlights of the XD .45 ACP, in my opinion, is the grip safety. Being slightly bigger in the grip than the .40 XD, I can get it depressed 100% of the time at any speed. I did not find this to be the case with the smaller XD in .40 without modifying my hand position slightly. This is for high speed shooting when I am drawing and firing up to 2‐3 shots under one second at 1‐3 yards or head shots in less than 1 second at 5 yards from the holster.

With a standard 1911, I have to pin the safety to get it to depress and work properly 100% of the time. The only exception I have found to this is the excellent SIG SAUER 1911, which has a vertical raised section down the middle of the grip safety, making it the best grip safety on the market so far with 100% positive engagement at any speed.

On shooting drills, we shot multiple targets, head shots, plate racks, 0 – 25 yards shooting drills, left hand, right hand, tactical reloading, and a variety of shooting angles and positions to test for malfunctions and shootability. We shot from a variety of holsters and a couple of fanny packs. We also shot with the weapons mounted light in place to test for malfunctions.

The XD performed very well in all these tests and it would be tough to tell the difference between a tuned XD and a 1911 at the closer distances. If you shoot them enough side by side, you will notice that the 1911 has a slight edge on pointability/shoot‐ability due to a thinner grip/tang area that fits the hand better and less perceived effort to track and control the gun at high speed. However, the single stack 1911 also weighs more than the comparable XD model and holds fewer rounds.

If the XD has any noticeable weaknesses they are the magazine release button, which can be very stiff to release with a full magazine in the gun as well as the hardness of the magazines themselves, which tend to be a bit soft. They can deform from hitting the ground and could benefit from either heat treating or thickening the material a bit. Having seen the newer XD‐M magazines, they have changed some of these problems. I would recommend having one set for carry and another set for practice/training.

Is the XD going to replace the venerable 1911 as the king of the shooting world? My answer is “not yet” as far as shooting performance when compared side by side and both are tuned properly. I know Ara likes to debate this one, but, that is what friends are for right?

However, having said that, the XD Springfield allows for a wider variety of carry options, carries more rounds, is easily tunable and shoots extremely well when compared to the single stack 1911. The size of the grip of the XD .45 ACP is distinctly smaller than the Glock .45 and is a bonus not to be overlooked.Last but not least, it is a LOT cheaper than most 1911’s, which allows you to do some aftermarket work on sights, trigger and reconfiguring the tang/grip slightly for improved performance.

For a carry gun, both on and off duty, I choose the .45 ACP compact as the best package of the 3 XD’s for the money invested. Get some Pearce magazine extensions for the compact magazines and you will have range of carry options open to you without spending a lot of money. I would recommend investing in some work for better sights/tuned trigger and re‐contouring the grip and tang for improved performance when you can.

Springfield XD .45 Compact Model in both 10 +1 round and 13 + 1 Configuration. Shown with Surefire X‐300. Note the Pearce Magazine extension on the 10 round magazine.

If you want a second gun, the .40 subcompact may fit your needs very well and gives you the same weapons platform in a slightly smaller package.

It is interesting to note that, in terms of sales, the XD is literally flying off of the shelves of sporting goods stores and is hard to keep in stock. This means that the shooting public has also made their choice in terms of what they like.

All in all, the Springfield XD .45 ACP is an excellent buy for the money and we endorse them here at The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc.

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As the right to carry spreads among states, many law enforcement agencies and police officers express their unease, and, for some, outright alarm at the idea of citizens carrying concealed weapons.

In an effort to disseminate useful information that would be of benefit to law enforcement, let me talk about this issue from both sides of the fence so to speak.

As a former law enforcement officer, I have had to address concealed carry issues as part of my regular duties. In Colorado, where I live, guns are as natural a part of life as putting on your pants and hat. It is not uncommon to see a rifle or shotgun in the rifle rack in the back of the pickup truck window.

I live in one of the best parts of the country for deer and elk hunting. Come hunting season and we have literally thousands of hunters coming to Colorado to hunt. I never worried about
contacting individuals where the guns were in plain sight. Without fail, the people contacted were forthright and honest in their manner and deeds. When I would ask if they had any
handguns, they would tell me where they were and what they had.

Philosophically, I support the right to carry for anyone who can exercise the responsibility for proper care and awareness. I have found, by and large, that citizens who do carry concealed are very pro law enforcement and would be very apt to come to your aid if you were in the middle of a fire fight. This can be good and bad but I try never to forget that they are supporters of law enforcement, not felons. This is a BIG difference.

Here are some thoughts to share with your personnel when they have to contact citizens who may be carrying concealed.

  • People who have gone through the process of getting a concealed carry permit are, in general, law abiding citizens, not felons.
  • Do not expect them to know the letter of the law or the interpretations of the law in various districts. They will have a general idea what the law states.
  • Officer safety should be tempered by good judgment. IF THERE IS PROBABLE CAUSE to treat them as an armed criminal, by all means do so. However, when you make a contact with someone who may be carrying a concealed weapon, proning them out wouldn’t be my first option without digging a little deeper.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

Manner of Dress

Concealed carry folks and cops seem to go to the same tailor. They are generally conservatives in viewpoint and tend to dress the part. Generally speaking, most will not look
like dirt bags. Many are professional people. They will be more neatly dressed. They don’t generally have the crotch of their pants at knee height and don’t wear their baseball hat
cocked at a ridiculous angle.

The discriminating CCW Carrier also falls prey to fashion just like cops do. The “tactical look” is in. Look at the various brands of advertised tactical gear and clothing or concealed carry wear. Study the brand names and learn what the clothes look like. Felons don’t generally go for this look but CCW carriers and many cops do. Again,an indicator.

I look at “Tactical carry” vests, ala 5.11 Tactical, Blackhawk, Concealed Carry Clothiers or other “brand name” items. Some sort of hat, with logo (baseball style most popular) long sleeved shirt, side cargo pocket pants or jeans with sturdy, lightweight, hiking shoe type footwear round out the “uniform”.

Colder weather finds them wearing jackets, windbreakers etc. Unzipped jackets can be an indicator of concealed carry in cold weather.

They may or may not be wearing some sort of sporting goods or gun manufacturer logo. Oakley or similar impact resistant, higher profile eye wear in daylight rounds out the basics.

In hot weather, some will have a shirt hanging over the belt line to conceal an in the pants holster. Any sort of outer garment in hot weather or the shirt hanging out over the pants is
cause for further scrutiny.

Concealed carriers generally wear holsters! This is a key point. Most felons I have known or have heard about won’t carry a firearm in a holster. Also common are fanny packs. These two things alone can be a big tip off that you are not dealing with a felon. Day planners, briefcases, backpacks are less common but available. Study the gear catalogs and get the look of them.

Off duty cops will also wear the above many times. Look at the shoes. In my area, if they are black, nine times out of ten they are either a cop or a security guard. Areas with military personnel have other indicators to look at.

Look at the belt line. Are they even wearing a belt? Look at the belt and the buckle if they are wearing one. Gun belts are generally a bit thicker and most times wider than a standard dress belt. Web belts with hard core buckles, 1.5” thick leather belts with strong buckles are indicators of concealed carry.

BlackHawk has a dress belt that is 1 ¼” that simulates a smaller dress belt. Look at it. There are only a couple of styles and colors. They have some sort of reptile skin pattern.

Look for bulges on one side of the body which you can see under clothing easily. Some wear a T-shirt over their gun and it will bulge conspicuously. Bulges in the pocket for the small autos or revolvers are something to look for. Look for bulges when they bend over and the butt of the gun may stick out slightly.

I don’t know of any CCW carriers that carry a gun in the hood of their sweatshirt like felons are known to do. I do know many that carry one in a jacket or coat pocket. Look for the sag on that side.

Look at the hem line if long pants, one side may droop more if the gun is pulling that side down. If carrying an ankle holster, it will bulge the inner part of the pant around the ankle. Deep cover carry around the groin etc. will be hard to pick up visually with a small gun. Only a pat down search will reveal it.

Accessories — CCW’s carry the same gear as cops. Expensive folding knife in pocket, Surefire flashlights, magazine pouches etc.

Are they right or left handed? Most carry the gun on the strong side of the body. What side of the body is the wrist watch on if you can see it? Right handers generally wear the watch on
the opposite hand. This will tip you off on where to look. Is there a cell phone that you can see? What side are they wearing it on? If not on the strong side, then maybe there is a
reason for the off side carry? Possible indicator.

Important note: Don’t stop looking when you find one gun. Look for second guns, knives, pepper spray etc.


Most concealed gun carriers have nothing to hide. They are generally not evasive in their speech or mannerisms. They may be nervous but they are generally forthright in their dealings with law enforcement. If you ask them if they are carrying a handgun, they will most likely tell you. The law in many areas demands that they tell you upon contact.

Don’t expect them to share this information with you on contact though. Some will be nervous enough to forget to tell you or just hope to get through the contact without you noticing. This may be true on car stops for traffic infractions etc. Technical foul but not a deal breaker for me personally.

Being around cops will make many gun carriers nervous. They become self conscious about carrying their gun and will demonstrate that nervousness by their body language. You may key into this as being suspicious behavior. I would suggest evaluating further before you make an assumption.

Off duty cops have a bad habit of not really concealing the gun well. They don’t seem to mind that it will show or that people may notice and take alarm. After all, they are cops and not bad guys right?

Lawful concealed gun carriers also feel as if they are the “good guys”.

I once had a driver/bodyguard for a foreign dignitary during a car stop come out of the car quickly and come rapidly my way while reaching behind him to his right rear waistband. I had already drawn my weapon at that threat indicator and when I commanded him to stop he was suddenly acutely aware of his faux pas.

He was in a hurry to get the dignitary to a meeting and wanted to establish his bona fides with me ASAP. In his mind, he was a “good guy” and didn’t realize what he had done when reaching for his wallet while rapidly coming out of the vehicle and towards me.

Remember, they don’t always think ahead or have rehearsal training in how to interact with law enforcement. Again, this demeanor will show upon contact if you are a uniformed officer contacting an off duty one. Smart idea to carry the badge next to the gun if you are going to advertise that you are a cop.

Be aware that there are “concealed carry” badges for sale out there that look similar to cop badges. Really check to see what you are looking at and check other forms of ID as well.

I would expect there will be forgeries out there as well. Know what the concealed carry license looks like from your area and see if you can get photos of concealed carry ID cards from other areas of the country. Other forms of ID to compare with the concealed carry ID would be helpful such as driver’s license, etc.


Things that I look at when evaluating a potential gun carrier.

Evasive behaviors

  • Looking away or avoiding eye contact when talking to them. This is suspicious to me and is not in the manner of a law abiding gun carrier.
  • Moving away, getting out of sight when they see a uniformed officer. Again, suspicious to me.

Behaviors not typical of lawful CCW carriers

  • Challenging to fight
  • Gang style clothing and manner of dress.
  • Gang signs and posturing
  • Belligerent attitude unless provokedObviously there are many others but I am sure you get the basic picture.

Shared behaviors

This is normal behavior and/ or indicators from most of the gun carriers I see, cops, CCW carriers and other gun carrying personnel carrying discreetly.

  • Shifting of the clothing, i.e. hitching up the pants, moving a jacket in place, pulling a pant leg over something, etc. especially when getting in or out of a vehicle or getting up from sitting etc.
  • Not zipping up a jacket when it is cold out.
  • Touching the area of clothing over the gun with any part of the forearm, elbow or hand. Whether it is a subconscious affirmation of protection or self conscience behavior I am not quite sure. I just know they do it. Again, only the highly trained and disciplined ones don’t do it.
  • Checking out their surrounding constantly. Head on a swivel.
  • Stopping with back to a wall.

Stances or postures

  • Bladed stance upon contact. Combined with manner of dress and demeanor would be indicative of concealed carry. Many will do this without realizing they are doing it. I don’t see it really as aggressive behavior. They are just being cautious like you or I.
  • Fingertips touching each other in front when contacted.
  • More alert, balanced stance than the typical, sitting on heels, slouched back posture of the average person. A perception of “readiness” will be conveyed to you quite clearly.

Education and Public Awareness

Rather than seeing CCW as a necessary evil, I would look upon it as an opportunity to work with your citizens. By and large, they are very pro law enforcement and will go out of their way to help you should the need arise. I treat them with respect and as a resource.

In talking with CCW carriers in my courses I have had numerous opportunities to get their point of view on this subject.

Law abiding citizens do not expect to be treated like a felon. Nor should they be. They will be angry if you prone them out, spread eagle them against a wall, take their firearm from them etc. without just cause. Good point to remember. A little thought and common sense goes a long way here.

When I made contacts with suspected concealed gun carriers, I would first position myself to advantage and then ask if they were carrying a firearm. If they replied in the affirmative, I would then ask them not to touch it and tell me where it was. I would them have them put their hands away from it during the time of the contact if it was in public. I would not disarm them unless there was demonstrated cause and/or I was going to arrest.

On traffic stops, I would ask them to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times unless I asked them to do something. If I needed more from them, I would ask them to remove the firearm, after I have stepped back, and then get out of the vehicle so I can finish
the contact. A pat down search is appropriate after they have left the vehicle.

I don’t expect them to be experts on the law. Most will understand the gist of it but may get lost on certain points. In some parts of the country, it is legal to carry a handgun within the confines of your vehicle while traveling. If you ask them to get out of the car however, they are now “carrying concealed”. You have put them in this position. They may be flustered or nervous and not know what to do. I advocate educating, not enforcement under these circumstances.

If they grossly violated certain provisions of statute, then it is your call on what to do. There is a culture and custom that exists in every area of the country on what is expected on both sides of the aisle, law enforcement and the general public. It is largely unwritten, but definitely there.

If it was a traffic or other violation combined with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, then you have a couple of problems to deal with. Disarming is appropriate without letting them handle the firearm as soon as it is safe for you to do so.

Proceed as per your usual policies, putting them in a position of disadvantage and controlling the arm on the side of the gun when you take it from them. Make sure you deal with the gun safely when you do take it.

Obviously, hostile behavior should be treated just like any other felon contact.

Consider having a pamphlet made up that explains concealed carry in layman’s terms instead of dry legal prose. Have a question and answer section of the most commonly asked questions that you will get. When you make a citizen contact with a CCW, give them a pamphlet.

Keep in mind that though they carry firearms, CCW permit holders don’t expect to be treated like felons when contacted for minor infractions or otherwise. A little care and consideration goes a long way in avoiding unnecessary conflict.

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At SHOT Show 2007, I made my way to the Nosler Booth to look over their impressive display of hunting, competition and handgun bullets. One thing led to another and before too long I found myself talking with Kyle Hopp of Nosler’s Public Relations and Custom Shop.  As part of our continuing research into practical, high quality training and products, I was intrigued with the possibilities and options with the various rifle caliber bullets that Nosler offers as well as their brass. From prior experience with the Nosler Partition®, I knew that it would penetrate and kill well at all ranges. I wanted to try out various caliber bullets, usingboth the Ballistic Tip® bullets and the Accubond® bullets for both practical use in competition, hunting etc. and tactical use.

Author shooting the JP Rifle at 300 yards from the Carroll Ultimate Precision Rest

In short order, I had a supply of bullets in .22, .25, .270 and .300 as well as some Nosler brass for testing and evaluation and the game was on! I envisioned the test to encompass various varmints like jackrabbits, coyotes, foxes on up to deer and elk. I also was evaluating the bullets for their potential for law enforcement and tactical use. I enlisted the aid of my good friend and Practical Shooting Academy Pro Staff member, Rich Kendall, who was the perfect guy for the job of assisting me in this project. Rich is one of those completely dedicated shooters who will experiment with everything and anything if it shows promise. He is very honest about what he believes and he has a vast range of experience when it comes to shooting all kinds of animals at different distances over the years with different calibers and bullets. One of the first things that we wanted to look at was the brass itself. Reloaders are known to be very picky when it comes to case preparation. I am no exception. As a professional shooter and trainer, time is something that can be in short supply. Spending hours on case preparation can be counter-productive to developing high performance loads. I am happy to report that Nosler brass is about as perfect as you can get for your money. I don’t make that statement idly. Concentricity, uniformity of weight and primer pocket depth are extremely uniform. The cases are already resized and the flash hole reamed. Literally, what we were able to do was seat primers, put in powder, get the seating depth adjusted and then assemble our loads for those calibers we had brass for. For those that don’t have the means or the time to spend on case preparation, this is the way to go! One of the first tests we performed was an accuracy test with the .22 caliber, 50 grain, Nosler Ballistic Silvertip. What I was looking for was a bullet that could be driven at relatively high velocity out of a 16 – 20” barrel AR-15 for both tactical use and varmints. As part of the testing, we used a JP Enterprises AR-15 with an 18” barrel on it. I also had on hand my Mid-South Tactical Network AR-15 with a 17” barrel.

Most 5 shot groups averaged this size at 100 yards with the 50 grain Nosler CT Ballistic Tip® The spread was due to the wind and the shooter getting used to the rest.

We used Jim Carroll’s Ultimate Precision Rest as part of the testing. This rest is ingenious in that it can quickly be moved and set on an object and locked in or left free swinging while providing enough stability to make a shot. It also has a built in recoil reducing system that made even a .300 Win Mag seem tame. I will write about it in a future article. We fired groups at 100 yards to get a feel for the rest and the load. It was a breezy day with the wind coming in erratic gusts up to 10 mph. Even, so we shot quite a number of sub-inch groups. Most measured right around the size of a penny.

300 yard group under windy conditions with 50 gr. Nosler Ballistic Silvertip

Having established our hold, it was time to shoot the rifles at a distance. The wind was a bit of a problem but I was able to hold a 3 inch group at 300 yards with the JP Rifle. Later in the afternoon the wind died down and Rich got on the rifle. He fired a 3 shot group at 400 yards that measured just under 2 inches!

PSA Pro Staff Richard Kendall’s sub-2 inch group with 50 grain Nosler Ballistic Silvertip.

We did some shooting with Rich’s .300 Winchester Magnum and 165 grain Nosler Accubond® bullets. We were able to hit steel targets out to 900 yards quickly and repeatedly using Carroll’s rest.

We then tried some handloads using Nosler .30 competition bullets in two semi-auto .308’s and my bolt action .308 sniper rifle. We used the 155 grain HPBT and the 168 grain bullets. My 16” barreled, DPMS .308 semi-auto that was modified by MSTN really liked the 155 grain custom competition bullets that were loaded into some of Nosler’s superb brass. Rich shot some 3 shot groups with it that measured right around a quarter inch at 100 yards! It shot groups around ¾’ out of the 20” .308 upper. We gained a bit of velocity from the 16” to the 20” barrel but the 16” barrel upper is one of my favorites for compact performance. Those competition .30 caliber bullets shot phenomenally well and should be a winner for the competition circuit.

The author shooting his MSTN .223 rifle with Trijicon 1.25x4 TR-21R scope. To the side you can see Kowa’s excellent compact 15-30X ED spotting scope that we used for spotting hits.The author shooting his MSTN .223 rifle with Trijicon 1.25x4 TR-21R scope. To the side you can see Kowa’s excellent compact 15-30X ED spotting scope that we used for spotting hits.

We also used the .30 caliber 150 gr. And 165 gr. Accubond® and Nosler brass out of a DPMS .300 Remington SAUM as well as my bolt action .308. Most groups would go well under an inch with some hovering around the ½” mark using the bolt gun and the semi-autos.

Practical Shooting Academy Pro Staff - Rich Kendall hitting steel targets at varying distances out to 900 yards with Nosler 165 grain Accubond® in .300 Win Mag.

Rich was able to do quite a bit of field testing of loads on game animals this year while hunting and guiding. He used his .300 Win Mag and the 165 grain Accubond® as well as a 25/06 using 110 grain Accubond® bullets during the 2007 elk and deer seasons here in Colorado. During the course of the 2007 season, he let different clients shoot these rifles at both elk and mule deer at distances ranging from 75 yards to over 400 yards. Altogether, he witnessed 6 elk killed with the 165 grain load out of his .300 Winchester and 6 more with the 110 gr. Accubond® out of the 25/06. The Accubond® bullets penetrated cleanly, expanded precisely and stayed together.

Using the 50 grain Nosler Ballistic Silvertip, he has taken (so far) 8 coyotes, 3 foxes and numerous jackrabbits etc. this winter with an 18” barreled DPMS AR-15 at distances out to 400 yards plus. I used a 150 grain Partition® bullet in my .300 WSM to harvest a mule deer buck at 360 yards on a horseback hunt here in Colorado. I was using a handload that Rich put together which launched the bullet at around 3300 fps. This was a potent load. The bullet hit a little far back due to the wind but the buck humped up from the shock of impact and didn’t move very much. You could tell that he was hard hit and he went down with another shot. Due to time constraints I wasn’t able to do a thorough examination of the wound channel but I suspect that the bullet wound was extensive. I shot a cow elk on a late season tag at 287 yards using a T/C Encore chambered in .270 Win. I was using a 130 grain Accubond® at around 3100 fps. The elk was quartering towards me and I put the crosshairs on her near shoulder and touched the shot off. At the impact, she spun around and ran over the top of the hill which was 25 yards away. As we approached the crest of the hill and glanced over it, I saw my elk lying just 30 yards away She was very big in the body and Rich said that she was as big in the body as a six point bull.

After field dressing, we noted that the bullet has taken out both lungs very handily, doing extensive damage and then kept on going. We went to a local meat processing plant and had them skin out the elk and cut open the chest cavity to examine the damage. We found the bullet stuck under the hide on the off side 3 feet from the point of impact with the shoulder. It had held together and had a nice mushroom to it.

The bullet had punched through the toughest part of the shoulder bone and opened a 3” hole in the near side chest wall. It had then smashed through both lungs, ranged through part of the gut and then stopped against the hide. The recovered weight of the bullet was 99 grains. It appeared to have dumped a lot of its energy into the chest cavity while hanging together to penetrate deeply. This is excellent performance on the part of the Accubond® bullet.

All in all, I am thoroughly pleased with the performance of Nosler bullets. I have used them both in the competitive shooting arena for handgun as well as in the hunting fields. They are accurate and dependable in performance and I have every confidence that they will do the job they are designed to do. I will be doing further testing for law enforcement and tactical use in Part 2 of this article. I look forward to a lot more shooting with them in the future!

.270 Winchester 130 gr. Accubond®

Recovered Nosler .270 Win. 130 gr. Accubond® taken from large cow elk. Distance 287 yards. Recovered weight is 99 grains.

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n any discussion of lethal force shooting, the subject of head shots is one that needs to be addressed thoroughly. I would like to offer some concepts and drills to share with shooters and other personnel that are interested in this important topic.

We know that hits to the central nervous system (CNS) result in more or less rapid incapacitation of subjects. The problem with a head shot is that it can be a fleeting, frustrating target.

There is a high probability of a miss when doing it under real world conditions. This problem is compounded by shooters who only train head shots from static positions or moving slowly. This problem gets bigger with lenient scoring procedures or too big a target area. Then there is the matter of what to do if you keep missing the head and have to account for the rounds fired.

Other problems are not training to take the shot with the first double action pull for autos that are set up that way. This raises the question of whether we should be training folks to rapidly thumb cock the hammer if the need for a fast, precise head shot at distance is to be taken. Heavy trigger pulls and precision shots at speed do not go together well. This would be a good case for lightening the trigger pulls to allow proper isolation of the finger at speed.

Lastly, there is usually no time pressure when the shot has to be taken. I am glad to see that some individuals are shooting head shots in 1.5 seconds at 7 and 10 yards in training. My only question is: What is the start position for the drill? Weapon on target or a ready position?

First let’s examine the situations that the shooter will most likely have to take a head shot.

  • Close quarter assaults – within 5-7 yards, perhaps as far as 10 yards. These may or may not be preceded by body shots.
  • The only target available is the subject’s head; i.e.; he is shooting from some form of cover or is in a crowd situation.
  • Where a rapid incapacitation is called for: i.e. hostage type situations or suicide bombers.

Now let’s look at some dynamics in these situations.

  • Lighting conditions – Great, Good, lower light? Twilight? Need for artificial illumination?
  • Is the subject moving or still?
  • How far away are they?
  • How well do you have your gun sighted in?
  • How fat is your front sight? Does it pretty much cover the head at 15 yards?
  • What kind of position are you shooting from? Standing, Kneeling? Prone? Barricade? Awkward position leaning around a vehicle?
  • What kind of time pressure is there to fire? Is the target going to disappear or does he only present a fleeting target as they are moving in and through cover or crowds?
  • What kind of backstop is there in the event that you miss?
  • Are you moving or stationary when you are taking the shot?

There are other questions to be asked but these will suffice for now. The main point is, do you really train head shots under realistic conditions or just do “rubber stamp” training to satisfy the brass?

Understand, I am not picking on anyone here. Not ever. I want to help people make better choices by being well informed of the dynamics of lethal force situations that involve high speed, precision shooting so that the training can be realistic and meaningful and they can be prepared when their time comes.

Let’s address ways of conducting meaningful training.
First: Lets address the weapon: Most front sight posts are way too big when they come from the factory. A front sight of around .090 to .100 will give you a much better picture on the head out to 15 yards. Richard Heinie makes a nice one on his “straight eight” sights. You can replace existing sights quite readily and I am amazed at the number of shooters who think that putting on a different sight somehow changes the weapon from factory specs and makes them subject to a lawsuit.

Trigger pull – If the pull is too heavy, it is difficult to isolate the trigger finger at speed. If the shooter cannot reach the trigger to get enough leverage, the first shot will get dumped in order to go to single
action mode. Shooting precise, first shots double action in short time intervals requires much work in order to master it. This may make a good case for getting the lighter 3.5 connectors for the Glocks or authorizing the
1911 style single action autos.

If that is not allowed, consider teaching rapid thumb cocking of the double action to get a better quality shot.

Sight the gun in to hit spot or very slightly high at 15 yards or so. Shoot it from standing and kneeling, not just from a bench.

Second: Lets address the drills.

The following are some of the drills I recommend and use in training students.

Warning: User takes full responsibility for safety if/when performing these drills. Some of these drills are highly advanced and definitely not for amateurs! Get proper training and negligent discharges and other safety issues!

Target: Standard IPSC target, put a 3 or 4 inch circle of paper inside the head of the target. This is your aiming point.

You must use an electronic timer for the following drills. Stop watches or turning targets will not suffice.
Drill #1

3 Yards From an imminent threat position, shoot one round in the center of the head in 1.5 seconds. Drop down to 1 second.
3 Yards From a low ready position, shoot one round in the center of the head in two seconds. Drop down to 1.5 seconds and then go down to 1 second.
3 Yards Repeat the drill, from the holster. Use different hand start positions so you don’t just practice with hands in one position. Work down to 1.5 seconds.
3 Yards Repeat the drills, this time firing two shots in head. Work down to 1.5 seconds.
5 Yards Repeat the above exercises
7 Yards Repeat the above – exercises

Drill # 2

5 Yards From a low ready position, drop to a kneeling or squat position and shoot one round in the center of the head in two seconds. Cut down time to approximately 1.5 seconds.
7 Yards Repeat the drill
7 Yards Repeat the drills, putting a no shoot target next to head to increase the stress load. Have two setups, one on right side of no shoot and one on left side of no shoot.

Drill #3 Advanced Shooting Drills – Watch out for trigger finger creeping on to trigger too soon!

10 Yards From a low ready position, fire one head shot in 2 seconds. Then reduce time to 1.5
10 Yards Repeat drill from holster, hands in different starting positions.
10 Yards Repeat the drills using the no shoot target setups.
10 Yards Repeat drills above; firing two shots. Start with 2.5 seconds, work down to 2.0 seconds.
10 Yards From low ready position, Drop to kneeling or squat position and fire the shot in approximately 2 seconds.
15 Yards From a low ready position, fire one round in 2.5 seconds. Drop the time to 2 seconds and
then 1.5 seconds.
15 Yards From a low ready position, drop to kneeling and fire one shot in 3.0 seconds. Then work
down to 2.5 seconds or lower.
15 Yards Repeat drills, from holster.
15 Yards Repeat drills, firing two shots. Work down to 2.5 then 2.0 standing. Working down to 3.0
and then 2.5 from kneeling.

Now let’s start putting together some more dynamic drills.

Next phase:

The fact that you can hit the head on a head sized target out to fifteen yards is a good start. Now, get a good swinger target (Contact Jim Carroll at (970) 240-8600 for a top notch swinger target) that induces movement from side to side. Have it gently swing while you place head shots on it. Try doing the drills that you did before. This is much harder to do. Hence the reason that I stress two shots on heads if time allows.

Now, starting at 15 yards, move rapidly to a shooting box placed at 10 yards and then place two shots on head target. Time limits will vary but make it snappy.

Next, Move from 10 to 7 yards in the same manner.

Now, with gun up in imminent threat position, move from 7 to 5, firing two shots in the head while moving.

Move laterally at 5 yards, first to the right, firing two shots in the head.
Repeat drill, moving laterally to the left, firing two shots.
Move backward from 3 yards to 5 yards. firing two good shots while moving.
Repeat this last drill, moving from 5 to 7 yards, firing two controlled head shots.

Lastly, set up a group of no shoot targets clustered around a shoot target. Have shooters rapidly move to a good angle and take a head shot without hitting anyone else.

Score these movement drills by dividing the points scored by the time taken to complete the exercise. This will result in a decimal fraction which we call a comstock factor. Divide each shooter’s score by the highest factor in your department or area. This will give each shooter a percentage of the best score shot. Minimum of two shots on head of target in appropriate target area.

Lastly, consider these points when you conduct training for head shots.

Head shots are generally “finishing shots” They are difficult to hit at speed and the chance of a miss is relatively high for the average officer who doesn’t practice on a very regular basis. Go for the sure hits
first unless the head shot is your only option.

Mickey mouse style training yields poor results. Be realistic in your training. Tight time limits, realistic scoring zones, miss penalties, different lighting conditions, shooting from stationary and moving
platforms, shooting from realistic cover and awkward positions, using artificial light or not.

If the distance is too great, lighting poor etc. and you have no other choice, consider using pelvic girdle shots to break the subject down and then applying the head shot. This is particularly applicable for a
rapidly moving subject, ala suicide bomber who is trying to get close to a crowd to detonate himself.

I have heard that some bombs are impact sensitive and can detonate and have read about incidents where this has occurred. I have also been to some dynamite shoots where they detonate them with
gunshots etc. as well.

I don’t think there is a good answer but rather the lesser of two evils defense going on.

Is it better not to shoot at all or risk a head shot and keep missing and have the subject make it into a crowd and then detonate or take a chance on hitting the hip/pelvic area and bring them down?

If we keep missing the head shot, chances are he will either get away or get into a more densely packed crowd, increasing the casualties.

If we hit him and he does detonate, perhaps we will minimize casualties.

If we hit bone and knock him down and he doesn’t detonate, that allows us a brief span to target his head while he is relatively stationary.

It is dicey for anyone but a high level expert to hit a moving head shot that is out past 10 yards or so with a pistol. Compound this with sub- par lighting conditions and it can be problematic whether we hit them at all if we keep trying to take head shots.

I think it should be in the options bag. My responsibility in training shooters and agents is to look at all the options, examine the pros and cons and make a real world assessment of the hit probabilities. One of the drills we do work on with our law enforcement/counter assault teams is running into a crowd and taking a fast head shot at close ranges without hitting bystanders.

If you can anchor the subject before they can make it into a crowd, then you can minimize casualties even if they manage to detonate themselves. If the bullet happens to detonate the bomb he is wearing, then that is the lesser of two evils. The point being how many more casualties would he inflict if allowed to get into a crowd with the device?

Lastly, let’s work on implementing sensible trigger and sight policies in law enforcement departments that allow better trigger and sight options that work under high speed, precision shooting events.

Stay safe all!

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