FBI Firearms Qualification

It is December in Nebraska–30 degrees (Fahrenheit) out, with nice gusty winds so that the weather folks say it actually feels like 20 degrees out.  Obviously, it is a good day to shoot the FBI Firearms Qualification outdoors!

I decided to do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. I haven’t shot this in awhile, and I’ve never shot it on camera while freezing, so I thought it might be interesting to see how I’d do, and how much the cold would affect me.
  2. In my last article, I talked about how this is a good qualification to run for “court value,” which is something that Greg Ellifritz mentions in his article, linked above. As such, it seemed like a good idea to show what it looks like for those who don’t know the course of fire.

It was so cold I couldn’t talk correctly.  My face was numb, and I was having problems forming words correctly.  No, I don’t have a speech impediment, but you couldn’t tell that from how I was talking….

When I shot those last two strings at 25 yards, each time it was the first shot that I pulled low, and at the time, I thought I’d dropped both of them out of the scoring area.  It still would have been a passing score (matter of fact, still passing at the instructor level), but it annoyed me greatly.  In both cases, my hands weren’t working well and I just crunched the trigger.  I had plenty of extra time (the par was 15 seconds, and I finished in under 9.5 both times) so I should have simply TAKEN the time to do it right.

Turned out that the Modified Q bottle (the QIT-99 target) actually extends down a little further than I thought, so I still managed a 100% on the qualification—but it was certainly close on those two shots!

In general, the par times are pretty generous, once you get out past the one-handed stuff at 3 yards.  I need to work on my one-handed draws—I finished all shots within the par time, but it wasn’t nearly as smooth as my two-handed draws.  If I had been drawing from an IWB holster from an open-front shirt, there would have been no time difference between a one-handed and a two-handed draw, but with AIWB, it is just so much easier and faster when drawing two-handed.  I’m glad I shot this, because it shows me what I need to work on!

The rest of the qualification course, up to the 25-yard shots, was no problem.  Other than the 3-yard SHO shots and the one string with the reload, I shot everything in under 2/3 of the par time, if not faster.  (And I had a really bad reload, so that’s why that string was so slow.)  If you happen to try this course of fire, remember to actually USE the time you have–beating the par time by a lot doesn’t get you anything.  If I instead had slowed down and taken the time I had available, my target wouldn’t have looked so much like a poor shotgun pattern–and had I taken the extra 5.5 seconds I had left on both of my 25-yard strings of fire, I certainly wouldn’t have those two almost-out-of-the-scoring-area hits.

The FBI qualification is a good test of fundamentals.  If you have good fundamentals, the par times are no problem and as the scoring zone is NOT small, getting a 100% is not difficult.  It is a fun course of fire to shoot, and for those folks who don’t have barricades of your own, you can simply use a target on a stand.  Try it sometime!

Pistol-Caliber Carbine

With the recent addition of various pistol-caliber carbine divisions to the USPSA and Steel Challenge shooting sports, there is an increased interest in PCCs.  While there has always been a small group of proponents of PCC (for home defense or whatever), the addition of PCC divisions in well-known shooting sports (among shooters, at least) has caused a definite increase in both the availability of various-brand PCCs, and the number of buyers.

I had been wanting a PCC for a number of random reasons for several years, but I had never bought one because my reasons were random fun-type ones, with no particular priority or reason for existence other than “it would be fun to do…”  I had really initially wanted a PCC in .45acp that I could use as a suppressor host—think of that for a second.  A suppressed subsonic rifle with a 230 gr bullet where I could easily find a powder that was completely consumed within the barrel, where I could put either a red dot or a 4x scope on it…..just think of it!

But it wasn’t a priority because seriously, how often would I actually shoot that?  For what purpose?

But once USPSA and Steel Challenge said “hey, you can shoot a PCC too!” I decided that was sufficient reason for me to spend the money.  (I needed an excuse, it sounded good, there you go.)

I ended up buying a 9mm PCC (AR-style) that takes Glock magazines, put a microdot on it, added a $30 comp that is modeled on the Miculek comp, spent a little more on a Taylor Freelance +12 basepad to put on my 33-round magazines (I shoot Glock pistols, so I have tons of Glock magazines of various length) and threw in a aftermarket trigger that I had gotten off a prize table a couple of years ago and never used.

And it is amazingly fun to shoot.  There is no such thing as a difficult shot anymore.  With a pistol, sometimes you think to yourself “man, I don’t know how long it is going to take me to make that hit” but with a PCC, you have nothing of the sort.  It is simply “how fast can I do this” not “can I do this?”

PCC feels like cheating.  On almost every stage, I never have to reload.  I get to start with the carbine in my hands already.  I get to use a red dot.  It is a rifle, not a pistol.  My ammo will make minor without any issue even if I drop the powder to minuscule amounts.  There is no such thing as one-hand shooting (WHO or SHO).  Sure I might have to switch shoulders, but I’m using a dot.  Who cares?

I’m definitely a pistol guy, but I have to admit, if I want to have a completely fun match with no worries about pretty much anything, pulling out that PCC makes for a completely good time.

The PCC I’m running has had exactly TWO issues in the last 8000+ rounds.  One issue was my reload which had a huge gouge along one side of the bullet, so it didn’t feed.  That was my fault.  The other issue was a failure to feed due to a bad magazine.

I got into PCC for under $800.  (Granted, I already had magazines and an extra trigger, so that helped, but a couple of Glock mags isn’t much, and you don’t HAVE to put a better trigger into your gun.)

Palmetto State Armory makes a 9mm carbine, but they also sell separate uppers and lowers.  I happened to notice that 1) they had both uppers and lowers in stock, 2) all of their 9mm carbines were on sale, and 3) those particular lowers and uppers were additionally on sale.  And shipping was free.  I ended up picking up a lower and an upper for a total of about $500, shipped to my FFL.  I spent $169 for a Primary Arms Advanced Microdot, and happened to buy it when they had one of their periodic sales with 1) free shipping, and 2) a free Radical riser mount.  And then I found a muzzle brake/compensator (of a design that I liked in terms of gas redirection) for $30.

I already had plenty of Glock mags (both standard capacity, and 33-round), and I went on Shooters Connection and picked up two Taylor Freelance +12 baspads.  I can now fit 42 rounds in one mag, and 43 in the other, while still being able to reload with them.  I already have regular Glock mags with TTI basepads for 23 and 20 rounds, so I can run a stage with one mag, or if I have to reload, I can use mags that still hold a ton of ammo but are the size I’m used to using at a match. (And are weighted to drop free more easily.)

HIPERFIRE has been generous enough to donate some prizes once a year to one of our local multigun matches.  (We have three 3-Gun Nation Pro shooters who shoot with us, and their sponsors put together a serious prize table for our local club once a year, pretty much just because they feel like it.  It is really cool.)  I had gotten one of their 24C triggers a couple of years back, but had never put it into an AR.  So I grabbed that, threw it into my PCC, and went from there.  (Finding out how ridiculously good this trigger was makes me a little annoyed I hadn’t put it into one of my 3-gun rifles before!)

I have spent a total of slightly-under-$800 on my PCC.  (That’s less than most people spend to set up a Production rig for USPSA.)  And it has (and does) everything I need.

I’m not really a rifle shooter—I’m definitely pistol-centric.  And yet, with this simple, budget PCC, I’ve shot a GM match in the last two Level II Steel Challenge matches I’ve attended.  (Not merely some GM times on a couple of stages, but my total match score was above 95% of the SC peak times used for classification.  Twice.)  I’m not a national contender, and there are folks shooting who are MUCH better than I am with a carbine.  And yet….even a basic PCC is sufficient as a platform with which to do well, and have a seriously good time.

If you are interested in PCC, you don’t have to spend $1500 on something.  Sure, a JP PCC is fantastic.  If you can afford one, go for it, because they are really cool, and shoot really well.

But….you don’t have to do it that way.  Even if you don’t hit sales like I did, you can still easily get a full PCC setup for under $1000, and you’ll find that it is ridiculously fun to try.

Couple of comments:

  • The Primary Arms Advanced Microdot is excellent for this sort of thing.  I have several, and I love them.  Seriously, unless you have a ton of extra money lying around (if so, of course you are going to buy an Aimpoint) then you should buy the PA Microdot.
  • Lowers that take Glock mags means that 1) mags will always be available, 2) basepads for extended capacity are ALSO already available.
  • Opinions about comps for PCCs vary.  I can feel a difference in the muzzle movement of my PCC with my comp.  Your PCC might not need one.  For $30, you might as well find out.
  • Nothing is more annoying than a gun that won’t run.  Getting a PCC that is reliable is the most important thing, really.  Anything else can be fixed or improved.  I’ve had excellent luck with my PSA gun, as one data point.
  • Factory triggers tend to suck.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do well with them, but it is certainly true that if you are going to spend money on any one particular part, improving your PCC’s trigger is probably where you want to put it.  That HIPERFIRE trigger makes it REALLY easy to shoot well, for me.

I just recently shot our Zombie Match (we hold a charity match for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation every year) in the Psychopath division which allowed me to switch between guns on various stages, so I shot both my PCC and my handgun on the USPSA-like courses of fire.  I chose to use the PCC on 5 stages, and my G34 on the other two.  I ended up first out of 178 shooters, and in Psychopath division I actually had to shoot more targets than people in other divisions (there is no such thing as a no-shoot in Psychopath division!  Shoot ’em all!) and I still won by a fairly large margin.  That PCC makes shooting simple…

Shooting a PCC is just always a good time!

Do you already shoot a PCC?  What kind?  What issues have you had?  What do you like about it?  What mods have you done to it for performance purposes?  (Sure, cosmetic, too, but I like blank black guns, so my cosmetic aesthetic is a little different.)



Marine Pistol Qualification

Let’s be blunt here—the vast majority of people in the military either spend very little time with a pistol, or no time at all. There are plenty of people in the military who have never shot, much less qualified with, a pistol. Of those that have, most engage in less than 100 rounds of practice (including qualification) every year.

It is certainly true that there ARE groups in the military that not only put in significant practice with pistols, but are demonstrated high-level experts in their use.  However, those groups are very specific and well-known, and contain a very small number of troops, for only a tiny percentage of the military as a whole.

As such, the comment of “I was in the military” is meaningless in terms of being any sort of indicator of pistol proficiency.  It is similar to saying “I’ve been a hunter for 20 years” — the information given doesn’t tell you anything about the person’s pistol skill level.

There are certainly military folks who are exceedingly skilled with pistols.  However, the vast majority of them didn’t get to that level because of the fact that they were in the military–they got there because they liked shooting pistols, and got as much training and practice as they could elsewhere.  (Again, outside of those few small groups that specialize in missions that require high-level pistol use.)

But what if someone qualified as “expert” in their branch of the military?  Recently, I was in a discussion where one person mentioned that their friend was really good, and his opinions about pistols (and defensive pistol tactics) should be believed because he had rated Expert in the Marines.

I didn’t actually know what that meant, so I looked it up—the Marine Pistol Qualification is available online, and you can take a look at its requirements.  It looked fun to shoot, so I decided to try it one day.  (Good article about the qualification and its history here:  Shooting the USMC Pistol Qualification: Combat Pistol Program (CPP).)


Shooting Areas

Important thing: I didn’t have any of the official targets. Official MPMS targets are 19.5 inches by 40 inches, and look like the graphic to the right.

I note that on the actual targets, a) the scoring zones are extremely difficult to see at distance (see the second target example), and b) the point values for the scoring zones don’t actually show.

Since I didn’t have any of these targets, I instead copied a graphic of part of the target, that could fit on two 8.5 inch x 11 inch pieces of printer paper.  It meant that when I was shooting I’d literally not have much of the target to shoot at (compared to the total), but I would have all of the 10-zone, all of the head, and part of the 8-zone around the chest 10-zone.


Shooting Areas

The parts I copied are shown by the red boxes on this second graphic. Like I said, most of the target wasn’t going to be available to me, but that was okay. It gave me all of the top scoring zone as a target area, and I made sure that the sizes of my targets matched the size of the actual targets exactly.

The qualification is 40 rounds, with twelve rounds taken from the 7, twelve from the 15, and the last eight from the 25.  Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points, for a total possible of 400.  Each string of fire had a par time.  Strings included drawing from the holster, shooting controlled pairs, emergency reloads, and precision shooting from the 25-yard line.

To rate “expert” you have to get at least 364 points.  In other words, you can only drop 36 points–less than one point per round.

Here’s what it looked like when I shot it:

So, my thoughts about the qualification itself…

  1. The par times are REALLY generous, particularly at the 25-yard line where you have 7 seconds to take one single-action shot from high ready.
  2. The overall target itself is REALLY huge, and while the 10-zone is fairly reasonable in the body section, the 10-zone for the head is just bigger than I think it should be (same for the neck area).  The 8-zone drops VERY low on the target.
  3. If you don’t have good fundamentals, you are going to drop a lot of points at the 25, and some points on the 15.  It isn’t about speed, given those par times, but the ability to properly perform the fundamentals.
  4. Anyone with good fundamentals should be able to get expert on this, and probably should be able to ace it or (ahem) drop only a couple of points.  I’m a bit annoyed with myself because the points I dropped were on controlled pairs at 15, and there was simply no reason for that to occur–I just rushed when I didn’t need to, and pulled the trigger badly.

The author of the article where I got the information about the qualification said that he thought the 10-zones were small, and that shooting this double-action from a retention holster with the safety on made the par times reasonable.  I personally disagree, because my draw time (from an ALS holster with a SLS hood) just isn’t that much slower than my concealment draw (that ALS is a great holster) and don’t they use their thumb to click the safety off as they get their initial grip on the gun?

I do certainly agree that this qualification seems much more appropriate to the needs of Marines than the old version.  If a Marine (outside of a specialty that uses a pistol on a regular basis) has a need for a pistol, that means things have gone VERY wrong and the action is both close and immediate.  While this qualification is very basic, in my opinion, it has a MUCH better grasp of important skills needed than the old qualification did, other than there really is no emphasis whatsoever on time.  Yes, there were par times.  But….

…when I shot this, I wasn’t in any particular hurry, since I knew the par times were really generous.  As such, the times you see in the video were what you’d expect when I was relaxing and simply taking plenty of time to relax and aim.  And yet…I still shot the entire thing in less than 40% of the par time allotted.  During most of the qualification, I shot it in a bit less than half the time.  (I shot the 25-yard line section in one-quarter of the time allotted.)  In other words—the par time isn’t a factor in how people do on this qualification, or at least it shouldn’t be.  (If it takes someone 5 seconds to draw and fire two rounds center-mass at the 7 yard line, there’s a problem.)

Overall, regarding the comment that someone who rated Expert in the Marine Pistol Qualification is an advanced shooter?  I’m afraid I disagree.  They MAY be an advanced shooter (just like any given military person may be an advanced pistol shooter) but in my opinion, the Marine Pistol Qualification, at Expert level, is simply a decent test of the basic fundamentals of pistol shooting.  Someone with solid fundamentals (in a bullseye fashion) should attain an expert rating.   Claiming more than solid fundamentals–is going to take more than that.

Similar to how saying “I was in the military” is not a meaningful phrase when attempting to justify someone as an advanced pistol shooter, saying “I rated Expert at the Marine Pistol Qualification” does not mean anything other than at one time, the person speaking had a solid grasp of the fundamentals of pistol shooting.

Why are you so mean?

Periodically, someone asks me why I’m so direct with my replies regarding civil rights such as self-defense.  They get angry because I say what I mean, without cushioning it for their feelings.  I’m not impolite, I just (quite some time ago) lost patience with caring about certain people’s feelings if I tell the truth, back it with facts, and state my conclusions from it, and they get all angry because their defense is purely emotional, with no rational basis.

“Why are you so mean?” I hear.

Well, it gets old being demonized by groups of people who preach caring and love and “no violence” and tolerance while simultaneously saying:

Bill justin laura mermer merner michael Willie-Warren-WalkerNow, some people will say “Well, there are fringe crazies on all sides, you should just ignore them!”  I’d like to—but these aren’t the fringe crazies.  They may be crazy—but they aren’t fringe.  For example, here’s a post from the anti-self-defense, anti-civil rights individual that Obama specifically invited to attend his speech in Omaha:

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 1.44.18 PM“Fringe crazies” aren’t normally treated as honored guests.  So apparently this particular individual, with type of social behavior, is considered someone that people should listen to—so don’t ask me why I’m so mean.

I’m not the one saying “Fuck you” nor am I the one advocating killing people who don’t agree with my beliefs.

The next time you want to have a conversation (an actual conversation or discussion) about self-defense rights, start by being polite, and we’ll talk.

Is 2016 the year you get better?

I didn’t get enough better in 2015.

I did some good stuff.  (Among other things, Tom Givens’s Instructor Development Course was excellent.)  I shot some good things here and there (won a couple of state-level IDPA matches, placed here and there in USPSA matches).  And I got in some good practice and read and mulled over some good research regarding self-defense.

But my physical skills didn’t get enough better in 2015 because I didn’t practice the physical skills enough.  Mental work—actually, I did some really good mental work through the year.  Organized some thoughts on awareness and monitoring (those aren’t the same thing), read some research on predator behavior (both known-person and unknown-person), did some good internal work on reaction choices and consequences, came up with some good teachable moments regarding self-defense.  Oh, and got my 5th degree black belt rank in Hapkido.

But my physical skills didn’t improve as much as I wanted for the year.  Because I didn’t practice like I should have.

Did you?

IDPA Tactical Journal (19.4)…

So, I read the latest Tactical Journal this morning (yes, I know it has been out awhile, I don’t want to hear it) and I thought I’d comment on something I read in it.

For those who don’t know, the “Tactical Journal” is the “whenever we feel like it” publication of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) containing supposedly excellent articles about the sport, self-defense, and so on.

[cough, cough]

Anyway:  I’ll ignore the fact that Robert Ray’s article* about the 2015 World Championship (by the way, Robert is the editor of the Tactical Journal, and one of the major rule-arbiters in IDPA) completely got wrong the first, second and third place finishers in CCP division.  Not only was he wrong, but he wrote about a third of a page about the supposed winner being the first time someone from outside the US has won, etc, etc—-too bad that guy wasn’t the winner.  His article didn’t even MENTION the guy that actually won the division at the 2015 IDPA World Championship.

But we’ll ignore that.

We’ll also ignore Joyce Wilson’s comment about how the points down penalty will be doubled because two MAs and one EX think we should do it, and how all the feedback that she’s gotten has been positive (all evidence, discussion, commentary, and quotes to the contrary), and how there is no actual timetable for this because they don’t know what they are doing and how it will affect classifications.

We’ll ignore that too.

No, my ACTUAL comment is on the article where they asked a number of female MM shooters what they wanted for Christmas—and one said that she wanted a class from Front Sight, “to improve [their] accuracy and timing.”   Another was getting her husband “something special” — a course at Front Sight.

Front Sight.

Seriously?  Was the point of this article to show that even in the shooting sports, people make stupid choices about where to train, and who to train with?

I wish I could find Tamara Keel‘s comment about training with people or groups like Front Sight, Suarez, and Yeager—it was a great quote, but I think it was in the comments on one of her posts and I can’t find it.

Front Sight. Seriously. Sheesh.



*I note that I met Robert Ray when I went down and shot the Arkansas State IDPA match this past year.  He was polite, seemed like a nice guy, and I saw him make a number of rules decisions that seemed logical, pragmatic, and sensible.  So this comment about his article is not about him as a person, but it certainly is about how the overall editor of the whole magazine shouldn’t be making this kind of egregiously awful mistake in something as easily factually checked as this.

I shot badly at the last match…

Awhile back, my wife mentioned to me that people had told her that it was annoying when they’d hear me mention that I did really badly on a stage–and then would find out later that I won that stage.  Or that I’d say that I only shot well for two stages, but pretty badly on three others–even though I won the match.

According to them, it made them angry or upset because I seemed to be saying that since I shot badly and won, then their shooting must have been horrible because I beat them.

I’m curious:  When you first teach someone to shoot, if they act safely, demonstrate the fundamentals well, and can hit the target most times, don’t you praise them for doing well?  Because they ARE doing well?

If a powerlifter wins a meet but doesn’t actually perform near any of his PRs, should he be happy about his performance?

If someone wins a D-class football state championship, don’t you tell them that they did really well, even though they would have been destroyed by the A-class state champion?

If the USPSA Production National Champion came to a local match, and shot with TWO TIMES as many dropped points as he normally has, isn’t that really poor shooting for him?  Even though it wouldn’t change the fact that it would still be good enough to beat us all?  He would rightfully be unhappy with himself for shooting badly, even though it still left him far ahead of us.

One of the things that I like most about the shooting sports is that while we are competing against other people, we are also competing against ourselves–and the people who get REALLY good are the ones who pay attention to how they shoot, and work on trying to always shoot to their level of competency.  (Preferably above, but in a test situation, if I can shoot to my standard level of competency the entire time, I’m all sorts of happy.)  In practice, we try to raise our level of competency, but in tests, we at least try to shoot to our level of competency.

I won the Production division of the Steel Challenge match we shot the other day.  I wasn’t happy with how I shot, however–it was not up to my level of competency on four of six stages (I was about 2 seconds slower than my normal time on each of those four stages) and I was mediocre on another (about 1 second slower than normal) so while that one stage was ok, I was only happy with one stage in which I managed to shoot Smoke & Hope under 10 seconds for the second time ever. I actually shot slightly above my previous expected competency level for that stage, which made me really happy.

Being under 10 seconds is a big deal to me, as it has been a goal of mine for quite some time. Now, national-level folks consistently shoot Smoke & Hope under 10 seconds.  For them, beating 10 seconds isn’t a goal, it is their expected level of competency.  They would consider it poor shooting for themselves to NOT make 10–and I consider it a wonderful thing if I make 10.

If I say “I didn’t shoot well” it means simply that—I did not shoot well, compared to my competency level.  I can, with perfect honesty, tell someone who got half of my score that they shot really well if they exceeded their normal competency–that would make for a great match for them!  That would be something they should be proud of, and it has NOTHING to do with how well they shot compared to me.

I can shoot badly and still sometimes win a match.  I can shoot really well and not win a match, because if I shot to my level of competency (or above!) for an entire match, I’d be perfectly happy even if I didn’t win.

I’ve shot against Ben Stoeger a number of times now, and have never come even remotely close to beating him.  And yet, several of those times I’ve been happy with my overall shooting for the match.  At the same time, I know he’s been unhappy with himself for some of his shooting during those exact same matches in which he destroyed the rest of us.

Instead of taking things personally, people might instead start thinking about their shooting and rating it compared to their current competency level, as opposed to making everything about how they compare to others.  🙂

Can you consistently shoot to your level of competency when tested?  Then that is something to be happy about.  (It also means it is time for you to up your level of competency through practice!)

…and that has nothing to do with how you did relative to other people.