Instructors are often asked to help a new shooter locate a personal carry or protection handgun. Many times the obvious choices are either too expensive or not available due to market conditions. Having been involved in this scenario many times I’ve discovered excellent choices a little off the beaten path. I look for quality that parallels that of brand name guns, but with prices under $400. One such handgun is selling at several of the major online retailers for $389. European American Armory (EAA) is known for importing quality handguns made in Italy, Germany and Turkey. Their import that most recently caught my eye, the Girsan MC28SA, is made in Turkey, which should be no surprise if you understand the number of quality imports from there.
Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals. This one garnered my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function. The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium and large grips plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The one installed from the factory was the medium-sized one and it’s the one that fit my hand the best.
I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same, features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their pistol with 3 dot sights, the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front. Both guns feature an accessory rail for mounting a light, laser or combination.
Girsan takedown is accomplished by rotating a takedown lever on the left side of the gun 90 degrees. Then you must pull the trigger before you can move the slide forward off it’s rails. Smith & Wesson came up with what could only be a lawyers solution to avoid having to pull the trigger, but most of us had rather do it Glock style and pull the trigger rather than hassle with pulling out the extra tool and moving a hard to reach little lever inside the M&P to engage the seer without pulling the trigger. When you get the guns apart it looks like some of the parts, such as the barrel, could be interchangeable. I tried the magazine and found the M&P mag to be slightly thicker. Enough of this. We’re not going to be interchanging parts between the two guns, but I just wanted to make the point that anything you could use a S&W M&P for you could use this Girsan MC28 for and not be found wanting. The Girsan has one feature I really like that is not found on the M&P. That is a cocked indicator that extends through the back of the slide.
Several of us among my shooting buddies have shot it now and everyone is satisfied with it’s performance. My first shots consisted of a magazine filled with assorted practice and defensive ammo and all 15 shots grouped within a 4-inch circle from about 15 yards away. The trigger operates smoothly with a consistent 7 lb. pull and a nice reset. If you’re looking for a home defense or carry gun and don’t want to spend $600 or more for it, I have no hesitation in recommending the Girsan MC28SA.
Who is Mossy, you ask? Some of my guns have nicknames, especially the ones I spend a lot of time with. Mossy is my Mossberg MC2c, the handgun that has become my EDC as of late. I like this gun a lot because it’s about the size of a S&W Shield or Glock 43 but it’s a double-stack nine carrying 14 or 16 rounds depending upon which magazine I have in it.
I had been building up to a range trip while waiting for an opportunity for my grandson Josh to go with me. Josh and I are shooting buddies as you’ve probably noticed from other posts. Not only does he enjoy shooting, but he’s a big help to his old granddad who doesn’t get around like he used to. I had a list of guns I wanted to shoot for one reason or another. Three were new guns I hadn’t shot before and several more were wearing red dot or R/G dot sights that needed a sight alignment check before I had absolute confidence in them.
Where we would shoot was a toss up. It’s easier for us to shoot outdoors, but I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather. The temp wasn’t going to get above 60 so I figured we’d go to Texas Gun Experience and shoot indoors. But when we went out, the sun was shining and there was no wind to speak of, so the outdoor range at Quail Creek beckoned.
Josh and I set up on the handgun short range at the very end of the shooting bench. Next to us a man and his daughter were shooting several guns and he was coaching her through some trigger and accuracy work. As the afternoon progressed and we rotated through my guns, I visited with the gentleman next door during times when the range went cold for target swaps. His name was Chuck and he turned out to be a long time gun guy with a nice collection and lots of gun knowledge to go along with it. As we talked about carry guns, I said, “You might be surprised that a guy like me who has a lot of really nice guns to choose from carries a very affordable Mossberg MC2c,” and I offered it to him to take a few shots.
The gun didn’t feed. I said it must be the ammo. He loaded some different rounds in the magazine and the gun wouldn’t feed any of them. Naturally, I was embarrassed and puzzled as Mossy has always been trouble free. “Get a Sig,” Chuck said. I have Sigs, but I really like Mossy. I threw her in the gun bag, loaded up a Stoeger STR1 Compact to put in my carry holster and went back to the mission Josh and I were on.
When we got our guns home at the end of a nice afternoon and pulled them out for cleaning, Josh showed me how he couldn’t get a cleaning rod to go through Mossy’s barrel. Right there just a half an inch beyond the chamber was a stuck projectile. It wasn’t there as a result of a squib load, it had just worked it’s way loose from the shell while in my holster. I’d love to get word to Chuck so he would know it wasn’t the gun, but I’m wondering why I didn’t think to look for that. The ammo wasn’t one of my reloads. It was factory ammo. Hornady factory ammo. Hornady makes fine ammo., so this was some kind of fluke. So, Mossy, I apologize for not finding out it was the ammo at fault, not you, while others were watching.
As we started working with the red dot sights I was disappointed some of them were hard to see in bright daylight. I’ve read that green is supposed to be better, but I don’t really seen much difference. The one brand of red dot that showed up very well in the bright light was Riton. You can easily adjust the brightness on the Riton red dots, so that’s what I did Being aware of the issue is a good start and I’ll make sure any red dot equipped carry gun I use will have a Riton or some other brand that is equally visible.
I have used air guns for several years as training aids for new hunters and shooters as well as for ongoing training in an urban environment. In times when ammo is short or range availability is an issue air guns can be very handy training tools.
My first contact with any kind of BB or pellet gun was 66 years ago when I discovered a Daisy Red Ryder, badly abused by the weather, in the fork of an orange tree in Leesburg, Florida. I was four, so naturally my dad didn’t let me keep the Daisy. Three years later, after we had moved to a farm in Mississippi, Dad gave me a .410 shotgun and began teaching me to hunt. He was a biologist and a conservationist, and he hated BB guns. To him, the only justification for killing an animal was to eat it, or to protect crops or domestic animals. He had seen enough innocent songbirds killed with BB guns to rule them out in our family. I only occasionally dabbled in the world of BB or pellet guns because my cousins had them.
Many years later, the need to solve a couple of training problems opened my eyes to a world of pneumatic firearm usefulness I didn’t know existed. If I were to earn a regular column in this fine magazine, I might suggest it be called something like “Guns in the City.” Many of our writers live in the wide open spaces where they have the freedom to explore the function and features of various firearms without leaving home. Being a firearm owner and shooter in the city definitely has its challenges compared to living in a rural environment and air guns have their role in meeting those challenges.
Hunter Education Training.
Since I grew up country and it was something of a shock to me upon moving to Fort Worth to discover you have to PAY TO SHOOT around here! City dwellers even pay to hunt, and they think that’s normal! I don’t mind paying every now and then, but living here and shooting on my own place wasn’t an option until I discovered air guns that were more than toys.
Hunting was such a part of my early life, when I grew older and wasn’t hunting regularly, I figured it was time to give back. One of the best ways to do that is as a volunteer Texas Hunter Education Instructor. I’ve had opportunities to teach Hunter Education classes at a range where shotguns or rifles were available for basic gun handling exposure. Other times I’ve taught in a facility that had no gun range. Since the curriculum allows for using air guns, I tried a couple of AR air soft guns, but wasn’t satisfied with the experience they provided for students as education rather than entertainment. What does work well are simple-to-operate air rifles such as the Gamo Shadow Whisper. It’s a spring action model that shoots a single .177 pellet with each shot. Because it doesn’t use CO2, performance doesn’t deteriorate after firing 25 or 30 shots. The Shadow Whisper and its cousins in the Whisper family have excellent sights and at distances up to 20 to 25 feet are extremely accurate. For the Hunter Education classes, I set up an indoor range with a couple of Champion 22 bullet traps using Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets to give students a chance to learn the basics of sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press. Each student gets to take home their own target to show their friends and family.
Some air rifles are suitable for serious hunting with larger caliber air rifles costing as much or more than some of our favorite standards that shoot cartridges loaded with gun powder. AirGunDepot.com or PyramidAir.com are great sources for information and shopping for air guns for hunting or for our next topic—Handgun Training.
When Texas dropped the training requirements for a Concealed Handgun License from 10–12 hours to 4–6 hours a few years ago, many instructors were in a dilemma. This change meant the classes were geared more toward experienced shooters because there just wasn’t enough time to for basic handgun instruction on top of all the laws and other subjects that are part of the required training. Almost universally those of us actively teaching came up with some type of introductory class to get people with no handgun experience ready to take the course for their carry license. Because so many potential students were looking for evening classes, my solution was a two-hour Handgun 101 class taught in a classroom. The first part of the class was spent on gun safety; handgun operation; and the basics of stance, grip, sight alignment, breathing, trigger control and follow through. The training needed practice to seal the concepts in the minds of the new shooters.
Initially, I used SIRT laser training pistols. This was actually fun for the students, but it had some negatives. The triggers on those early SIRT guns were not very realistic and when a student finished shooting, their shots were erased. Except for the triggers, those guns had no moving parts. To help new shooters get a better feel for a gun that moves, makes noise and puts holes in a target you can take home with you, I started using a pellet pistol that had real blowback operation—an accurate replica of the Beretta PX4 Storm, made by Umarex, licensed by Beretta. The air gun had the same dimensions, weight and feel of the real PX4. It is accurate at distances up to 10–12 feet and the blowback action is very realistic. Students loved shooting it and being able to take home their own Shoot-N-C targets to show off their new shooting skills to friends and family.
That Beretta was soon joined by other realistic air guns such as the Smith & Wesson M&P, Sig Sauer P226 and recently a Sig P320. I’ve even thrown in a Luger P08 at times. Each student gets to fire 10 to 20 rounds with an instructor right beside them helping them to adjust stance, grip or sight picture as needed. Seeing how these tools helped new shooters overcome the fear of shooting and begin to develop basic skills before taking them to the range encouraged me to get some for home use. Now, even as a city dweller, I can shoot for fun or practice whenever the urge hits me.
Tips to help you get the most from your air gun experience.
Many air pistols and some of the rifles will shoot pellets or BBs. Outside, it generally doesn’t matter, but inside I prefer pellets because they react to backstops and bullet traps like you would expect them to. BBs are both round and hard and bounce off almost any hard surface. One new discovery has helped change that. Dust Devil BBs, available from Pyramid Air, are frangible, so they shatter upon hitting a solid surface. With either pellets or BBs, eye protection should always be worn.
Don’t expect the CO2 cartridges to go the distance as advertised on the carton. After 25–30 shots, they start slowing down, and then they’re not accurate. If you’re shooting for accuracy, listen for the slowdown and change the cartridges when the sound begins to diminish. You’ll need some tools to change cartridges. Some require an Allen wrench; with others, it’s a wing nut. I keep a small vice grip pliers on hand for dealing with the wing nuts.
You’ll be disappointed if you expect every pellet to fire. Most pellets are made of lead and their shape can be easily altered with handling. Sometimes they just refuse to budge, other times they’ll leave the magazine, but not quite make it into the barrel. Just shake it off and keep shooting. You may have to clear the magazine and shake out the occasional BB or pellet that didn’t leave the barrel under air pressure.
Air guns have come a long way. Daisy, Crosman, and Beeman are brands I’ve known forever. They have been joined by several other companies, including Umarex whose specialty is making branded guns for companies like Colt, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson and others. They make very realistic replicas of many of your favorite handguns. Some of the revolvers load cartridges with pellets or BBs inserted where the primers would be. Many of the semi-automatic designs use CO2 to emulate the blowback operation of their real brothers enough to make an excellent training platform. Chances are you can find some excellent shooting replicas for prices you can justify for personal or family entertainment. You’ll see handguns and long guns for home use, plus a whole world of hunting air rifles and pistols in serious calibers. When my income won’t allow adding “real” firearms to my collection, I can sometimes slip in a nice air gun for the price of taking my family to dinner.
Dr. Will Dabbs wrote an article for one of the FMG Publications about being a Gun Nerd. When I read that article, I realized I was indeed a Gun Nerd according to Will’s definition. I found myself wondering how that came about. My early life was punctuated with guns, but there was no big emphasis on them. If you were a kid in Mississippi, especially one with rural roots, guns were just part of your life. My first was a single-shot, hammer-fired, el cheapo .410 shotgun. It had been my father’s when he was a boy. He gave it to me the summer between my first and second grade school years and taught me to hunt squirrels with it. That was gun number one and I still have it.
Gun number two was acquired when I was eleven and in the fifth grade. Dad gave me his 16-gauge Winchester Model 12 because he rarely hunted and I hunted every chance I got, which was often since my uncles and cousins had bird dogs and hunted throughout the fall to put meat on the table. That gun had actually belonged to my Dad’s Dad. It was given to him as a gift from the men who worked for him when he retired from being the Director of the Mississippi Game & Fish Commission (now the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks).
Guns number three and four were acquired at the end of the summer of my 12th year. The Boy Scout camp where I had worked that year was selling some rifles off to make room for some new donated guns. I bought a Remington 514 .22 rifle for $4 and a Marlin 80 .22 rifle for $2. I still have all those guns, but I never thought of it as building a collection.
Gun five was a High Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver I bought from a Western Auto store when I was 15. I had a lot of fun with that gun but traded it for a stereo set. Later in life when I really was a collector, a friend helped me find a replacement, still in its box with a $54.95 price tag on it, though I paid something like $300 that time.
When my grandfather died I was given his Lefever double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. That became my quail gun. My high school and college job involved training show horses and bird dogs, so I used the Lefever a lot.
I joined the Army and shot their guns and flew their helicopters for a few years. Got married, raised a family, worked a number of jobs and never thought of guns until my sons reached their teenage years and wanted to hunt ducks and doves with their friends. We had two shotguns and two hunting age boys so it worked out.
My career had moved from being a corporate pilot to being a computer guy. As a computer guy I built websites. One of the websites I built was for a sporting goods mail order company whose owner realized the Internet would soon replace mail order. In addition to having a warehouse full of sporting goods, the company had a gun store. You had to go through the gun store to get to the bathrooms and snack bar. On my way through the store one day, a gun in the used gun display caught my eye. It looked like a buntline special but was a Ruger single-action revolver with a price tag of $300. I didn’t know much about gun prices and values, but that gun looked to me like it was worth way more than $300, so I bought it. Pure impulse buy. The salesman asked me if I knew the gun was a .357 Maximum. I didn’t know at the time what a .357 Maximum was, and I didn’t care. He told me I could shoot .357 Magnums or .38 Special in it and that was fine with me. After getting the gun home and doing a little research on it I discovered the gun was the subject of a recall by Ruger because of reported top strap burning. There was no burning on my gun’s top strap. As I researched further, I came to understand the .357 Maximum was developed for long-range steel plate shooting. The backstrap burning came from a few individuals shooting very hot handloads in order to get more performance. I decided then I would mostly shoot .357 Magnums in the gun, which had a 10.5″ barrel. Somewhere down the road a friend helped me cut the barrel down to a more manageable 6″ which was fine with me because I wasn’t going to be shooting steep plates at 1,000 yards.
The next gun was a Winchester Model 1300 shotgun because son number three was ready to hunt with his brothers. So far, I’m just a dad with three sons and with enough shotguns to hunt, two rifles that were never used and a revolver to protect the house.
Things sure changed after that. We were attending a rapidly growing church. The bigger it got, the more I started thinking about the crazy people around who like to shoot up schools and churches. My whole life I’ve known I was a protector, what we now call a sheep dog, though I was not to learn that term until later. I felt I should be armed when in church, or anywhere for that matter, because of all the crazies in the world. My wife and I talked it over and we decided to get our Concealed Handgun Licenses. Number three son decided he wanted to do it with us. After the class we were eating at a Mexican fast food joint when my son said, “Dad, you could teach that CHL class.” We had noticed earlier that the instructor for the class, who taught it in his home, had lots of toys in his garage — toys like a Corvette, a Harley, a big boat, Wave Runners, etc. I did a little math, estimating how many people were going to his class each week and paying him the $100 fee and decided, yes, I could teach that course.
Becoming a certified instructor in Texas involves first being a certified pistol instructor, either from the NRA or from the law enforcement route. With that in your pocket, there was a week long course presented by the Texas Department of Safety instructors which you must complete before becoming certified. I learned a lot in that course and the NRA course. I had to have a gun, so I bought one that was inexpensive, but reported to be good, a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro.
A buddy I knew from work, who was “into guns,” got his instructor rating and the two of us started teaching what was at that time the Texas Concealed Carry Course. We also taught the Texas Hunter Education Course. Business was good, so we rented a facility, hung up a sign and taught classes every weekend. Class attendees asked our opinions about guns so much I decided to get an FFL license. We converted the breakroom in our classroom facility into a small gun store. Before long, revenue from gun sales exceeded revenue from classes. We became a gun store with classes offered as a service.
As a gun store, we had five wholesale suppliers. I kept my regular job but taught classes in the evenings and weekends while my son managed the store. He hired people to help with the store and with instruction. Because I had a salary at my regular job and we had a good source of guns, I started paying myself for the time I spent instructing in guns. That’s when I really became a gun collecting Nerd.
My son and I each built up a good collection of guns, then came the Trump slump. Sales at our place went from a lot, to a little, to nothing. As sales and our ability to purchase inventory dwindled my son and I each put some of our guns into inventory in order to have money to pay our employees. When it became obvious the slump was going to continue for a while and we were out of resources we had to close the store.
Meanwhile, I was hooked on discovering and shooting new guns. The opportunity to continue that habit came about when I pitched an article to Roy Huntington, then editor of American Handgunner magazine, and he bought it. I submitted some more articles and before I knew it, I was a contributor to both American Handgunner and GUNS magazines, along with their special editions. Not only were checks coming in from writing, but many of the guns I was writing about were offered to the writers at a special writer’s price. Some of them a real special price, like free. I still make some money teaching what is now called the Texas License to Carry course since Texas went to an open carry state a few years back. I have sent some of the Test and Evaluation guns back, but not many. I love learning about new guns, shooting and sometimes carrying new guns and building an inheritance for my wife, my three sons and their wives and seven grandchildren. When I’m gone, they may sell them off to provide for mama and if they have to do that, I’m all right with it, but I really hope they can sit around the safes and choose, one for you, one for you, one for you and after they’ve gone around the first time they should be able to do it at least ten more times and if I am able to continue to write and teach for a few years, maybe a lot more than ten times. Being a Gun Nerd is fun. Thanks, Will, for defining it and thanks, Roy, for helping me become a gunwriter Gun Nerd.
Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but my first semi-automatic handgun was a Stoeger. That one was a Beretta-designed Cougar which is no longer in the catalog. The only handguns listed are several models of the STR-9 and the STR-9 Compact while it seems like hundreds of shotgun models are listed. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. That doesn’t mean Stoeger doesn’t know how to make a good pistol. They do.
When re-entering the handgun market, it seems the company felt opportunities existed within the concealed carry and home defense markets for a capable but affordable pistol. First came the full-size STR-9 models and now the compact model. The compact model has a 3.8″ barrel compared to the 4.17″ full-size barrel. The overall length is shortened by just a hair over half an inch. The compact carries 13+1 rounds where allowed. Ten round magazines are available for people who live in places where magazine capacity is limited. Total weight of the gun is 24.5 oz. The frame is constructed of fiberglass reinforced technopolymer, designed to be light but strong and durable.
Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. I always like to read the manufacturer’s description of a gun before I start writing about it. Stoeger starts off by describing the design as snag-free and low profile. I get the snag-free. The top of the slide is rounded, and the front is scalloped for easy holstering and to prevent garment snags. Low profile is one of those subjective descriptions that originated in the shotgun world to describe the total height of the action. Okay, Stoeger has its roots as a shotgun company, so I looked at the total height of the STR-9C’s action compared to other handguns I have around. Although I found one or two slightly higher, I found none lower. The pistol sits low in the hand because its design allows for a high grip with your hands.
The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. They are drift adjustable and can be exchanged with night sights if desired. Rather large cocking serrations both front and rear help with slide manipulation. The slide lock lever is big enough to do the job without getting in the way. I’m not one who uses the slide lock to release the slide into battery, but I do like the way this slide lock lever is easy to manipulate into the locked position when the slide is fully retracted. The magazine release has ridges that help with thumb positioning and can be swapped to the right side for lefties. The trigger guard is large enough for gloved operation, squared off in front and with a high undercut at the back to facilitate a high grip on the frame. Up front ahead of the trigger guard, the Picatinny rail has three notches plus extra room for mounting lights or lasers.
The trigger and takedown buttons look as if they were transplanted from a Glock with a blade trigger safety which seems to be the defacto standard these days. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break. When I first got the gun, my Lyman trigger pull gauge consistently put it at 7 lbs. After shooting a hundred rounds or so, the trigger now breaks at 5 lbs. If you shoot the gun, you’re going to like the trigger. Stoeger STR pistols have a striker blocking device that prevents forward movement of the striker/firing pin unless the trigger is completely pulled. One more safety mechanism disconnects the trigger bar when the slide is out of battery. This is meant to ensure the pistol cannot fire unless the slide is fully forward and the trigger is pulled.
A loaded chamber indicator protrudes from the top surface of the slide when a round is in the chamber. This gives both a visual and tactile indication there is a cartridge in the chamber. The trigger guard is undercut considerably which helps make the shorter 13-round grip easy to get your full hand on. Everything about the gun feels good to me, and it shoots just as well. The backstrap is replaceable, although the package I have only has one backstrap. The magazine loads easily, yet the spring is obviously strong enough to feed rounds properly.
Stoeger makes the gun affordable by offering different configurations. For example, the package I got has only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I see it priced at multiple locations for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449. That one can be bought for less than $400, and I would put it up as far as performance and reliability against handguns costing twice as much.
As I write this, the world is experiencing an ammo shortage, especially in 9mm. In the midst of this, Hornady provided me with an ample supply of their new Handgun Hunter ammo for testing, and I was fortunate in locating three different types of new ammo from Norma plus some defensive ammo from a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. That left me with enough ammo to put the STR-9C through its paces, and I certainly enjoyed doing so. I shared the shooting experience with my grandson Josh and with several people we met at the range. Initially the sights were off, so the shots were impacting slightly to the left of the point of aim. Tapping the rear sight to the left solved that issue. Groups were tight all the way out to 15 yards. I shot the gun clean and I shot it dirty. It doesn’t like dirty, with the issue being not going into battery. A bump with the heal of my hand on the rear of the slide solved that issue on a temporary basis, but a good cleaning solved it permanently. After cleaning the gun, I shot numerous rounds of different brands to make sure that was the issue and there were no more failures of any kind. I put enough rounds through the gun to insure my confidence in it as a carry gun.
I found carrying the STR-9C easy in both my Bullard IWB leather holster originally built for a P226 and in the Bianchi Foldaway Belt Slide holster. It’s a nice carry size and with 13+1 rounds on board, it’s an easy match for my Mossberg M2C2 which has become my regular carry gun in recent months. Who’d have thought a couple of years ago that two of the most practical concealed carry pistols today would be made by traditional shotgun companies?
One of the things I appreciate about the Stoeger, that is also true of the Mossberg, is how well it’s made. The fit is tight. The finish is flawless; the grip, trigger and sights are of the quality of a good trap or skeet gun. Because of my role as an instructor, I’m often asked to recommend a handgun for people for whom it’s a stretch to come up with any money for a gun but they feel the need to own and perhaps carry one. Because of my hands-on with this gun, the STR-9C has just been added to my list of recommendations.
In the latter part of 2012, European American Armory (EAA) began importing SAR pistols into the US. I was running a gun store and training academy focused mainly on the Texas Concealed Carry License course. Many of our attendees had never shot a gun and were undecided about what handgun to buy. We provided loaner guns for these people for the shooting proficiency section of the course. Our loaner bag contained a Sig SP2022, an S&W M&P, a Glock 19 and several SAR B6s. The B6s were attractive to us because wholesalers were offering them at discounted prices designed to introduce them to the US market. We had some confidence in the B6 because it was like EAA’s Witness, an Italian gun made by Tanfoglio, with which we had previous experience. Both guns are CZ-75 knockoffs.
We sold a ton of B6s, including one sale of six to an attendee of our class who liked the SAR (and its price) so much, she bought one for herself, one for her husband and one for each of her college-age kids. Colors were available then and there was at least one pink and one purple gun in that mix. Although I added both a B6 and SAR’s second US offering, a K2, to my own collection back then, I didn’t manage to hold onto them. The K2 is internally the same as the B6, but it’s more squared off on the outside. I recently asked my son, who was active with me in the gun store business, what happened to our loaner B6s when we closed our business and he reminded me we gave the loaner bag of guns to one of our instructors who was starting a training business of his own to replace the one we were closing down.
As a bit of background, Sarsilmaz Firearms Corp. is a privately owned small arms manufacturer based in Düzce, Turkey. The company was founded in 1880 and is the largest small arms manufacturer in Turkey. Sarsilmaz produces handguns for the Turkish National Police and the Turkish Armed Forces and exports firearms to over 75 countries. In 2018, Sarsilmaz founded SAR USA to import and distribute Sarsilmaz firearms in the United States. They are headquartered near Auburn, Alabama.
The B6 and K2 are hammer-fired guns. I first saw the striker-fired SAR9 at an NRA Convention in Dallas in May 2016. I found it interesting but didn’t follow up as I was no longer selling guns or doing live training. Now that I’m back in the business as a gunwriter and online instructor, I pay attention to new guns and when the SAR9X was announced, I reached out to SAR’s marketing representative to ask for a test and evaluation sample. I see and handle a lot of guns. Very few create the Red-Ryder-BB-Gun-under-a-nine-year-old’s-Christmas-tree reaction I had to this gun. My example gun has a platinum Cerakote finish with accenting controls and grip panels in black. It looks amazingly like the H&K VP9. In fact, I’ve read some references calling it the “Turkish VP9.” The SAR9X is pre-packaged as a duty gun for a police officer or civilian looking for a carry gun. It arrived in a red plastic case containing a paddle retention holster and matching magazine carrier, both a 17-round and a 19-round magazine, a light to mount on the picatinny rail, extra back straps and grip panels, a magazine loader, a punch for changing out the backstrap, a cleaning brush and rod, a manual, and of course, a gunlock. The packaging was part of my initial reaction at receiving the gun, but the attractiveness of the gun amplified it. Even if we carry concealed, most of us like to have an eye-catching gun when it comes time to show it off to our gun-loving friends.
There are lightening cuts above the cocking serrations at the front of the slide. Bold, three-dot sights grace the top of the slide as do pre-drilled holes for optics mounting. The frame features textured, replaceable grip side panels and backstrap, a pebbled front strap with mild finger grooves — just deep enough to ease your hand into the proper grip. Further enhancing the grip is a high undercut on the trigger guard which is plenty big for gloved operation and also features serrations on the front to aid the grip for users who like to place the forefinger of their support hand on the front of the trigger guard, something I’ve begun to do lately after years of shooting. It helps steady my grip. The magazine release is just beneath a thumb groove on the grip and is reversible.
There’s an ambidextrous thumb safety, a blade trigger safety and an internal striker block safety that doesn’t release until the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The striker-cocked indicator is a small red triangle at the base of the trigger. If you see that red indicator, the gun is cocked. If the gun is not cocked, the trigger remains to the rear and the red triangle is not visible. The trigger was a little rough when I first started handling the gun, but after dry-firing it 20–30 times at home and firing a couple of boxes of ammo at the range, it smoothed out. The trigger pull is now consistently a little over 4 lbs. and all the initial grunge is gone.
The SAR9X weighs just 27.5 oz. It’s 7.6″ long, 5.5″ high and 1.4″ wide. That puts it in the size category of the Glock G19 and many other defensive handguns, including ones I carry regularly. I wasn’t sure the paddle holster in the kit would work for me, so I slipped the gun into the leather IWB holster I wear every day and it fit fine. That holster was created for a Sig P226, but I have successfully used it for a variety of guns. Even before shooting the SAR9X I had the feeling it was going to become my regular carry gun.
I’ve already mentioned the trigger was a little grungy when I first started shooting the SAR9X, but it cleared up and when it did, I found it predictable and easy to tune my finger to. I had some issues early on with the gun not cycling and ejecting rounds. My bad. I took it to the range initially dry as a bone. After putting a little oil in all the recommended places, the pistol began to run like you’d expect a VP9 to, only it’s not a VP9. It’s a $500 Turkish-made Sarsilmaz, and those folks know how to make good firearms and are able to do it without having to charge exorbitant prices.
I’ve been fortunate in having ammo to shoot during this time of shortages thanks to Norma entering the handgun ammo market, Hornady offering a new Handgun Hunter round that I figure if it’s good for four-legged animals I would be safe in carrying it for possible use against two-legged mammals that might become a threat, and a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. The SARX9 is a delight to shoot. After the early issues with feeding, a result of me not lubricating the gun before shooting it, it just chugged along regardless of the ammo I was using. I only had one box of practice rounds, so it was pretty much all defensive ammo going down the pipe, and to my delight, whenever I did my job with the sight alignment and trigger press, the gun did its part in tightly grouping the rounds on target.
Sarsilmaz apparently has a mounting plate for the SAR9X available from their Turkey operation, but you don’t need a mounting plate for a red dot sight with mounting holes that line up with those cut on the top of the SARX9’s slide. Among those are the Swamp Fox Sentinel, the Shield SMS 2, the Shield RMS C and the Sig Romeo 0. I reached out to the folks at Riton and they sent me one of their mini red dot sights, an X3 TACTIX MPRD. The holes aligned perfectly, the threads on the screws they provided with the sight were correct for the holes in the frame so the sight installation was a breeze.
Zeroing it in was also a breeze as it was already aligned at 15 yards. I dug through my holster drawer for an IWB holster that would fit the SAR with the red dot sight installed. The one I chose is an N8Tactical Professional Holster that fits the SAR9X perfectly with the red dot installed. So now I’ve entered the brave new world of carrying concealed with a red dot sight installed. The Ridon has a 50,000 hour battery life and no off switch. You turn it on in the morning and it will automatically go off after 12 hours. If you’re still out close to 12 hours, just turn it on again.
With all the interest in red dot sights these days, I thought I’d share with our readers my journey to learning about and using red dot sights on my handguns. It’s easy enough to get a red dot equipped handgun if money is no object. You can select a pistol with a slide drilled for mounting a red dot and spend $400–$500 to buy one of the recommended brands the pistol is set up for. But for those of us on a limited budget the process can be bit challenging. Even taking the first route, the available choices may leave you wondering which of the recommended brands is the best.
My first experience with a red dot sight was a Bushnell Trophy installed on a Bushmaster Carbon 15 AR I bought in 2011. I’ve done nothing to the sight but change the battery as part of a yearly periodic preventive maintenance schedule. The sight was zeroed in when the gun was new and hasn’t been adjusted since. It’s still right on target.
The second oldest red dot I own is a Pursuit TX30 R/G Dot installed on my Ruger Mark III Hunter. That sight is big for the pistol and I’ve considered replacing it with a much smaller sight such as the Kingwolfox 20mm Rail 4 Reticle Tactical Red/Green Dot Sight I found on Amazon for $32.
That $32 price for a multiple reticle red/green sight is not unusual for a red/green dot sight that mounts on a picatinny rail. In fact, I have a couple of sights that I purchased for $49 each from a company called My Crisis Gear in Allen, Texas. I don’t find a place to order them. They were apparently an email promotion for a time. But I have found similar products at similar pricing on Amazon.com. If you’ve been shopping for sights like Sig Sauer’s Romeo Zero, Trijicon’s RMR, Leupold’s Delta Point, JP Enterprises’ JPoint, C-More Systems STS’ and EOTech/Insight Technology’s MRDS, you’re probably used to prices in the $200–$500 range and you’re wondering if an under $50 sight could be useful.
While I can understand the argument that you shouldn’t trust your life to a $50 sight when good optics obviously cost a lot more, these sights are mounted on fun guns and they are fun. One of them is on an HK416 .22 AR style pistol and everyone who shoots it enjoys it. Even some in our family who aren’t really into guns and don’t shoot much enjoy it. These $50 sights have multiple reticles — crosshairs, a dot inside a ring, and a ring with crosshairs — which can be displayed in either red or green and in various levels of brightness varying from 3 MOA to 10 MOA. I mounted another of these to an S&W Victory .22 which we use for plinking and target practice. If they didn’t require a picatinny rail for mounting, I’d probably use them everywhere I wanted a red dot sight.
The dot in red dot optics is measured in MOA, or “minutes of angle” which is a unit for angular measurement of a circle. In a sight it refers to the size of the dot and how much it covers at a certain distance. The smallest dot currently available is 1 MOA. Most red dot sights are around 4 MOA which means the dot will cover 4 inches at 100 yards, 2 inches at 50 yards, and about an inch at 25 yards. Larger dot sizes are helpful for fast acquisition while smaller dot sizes are better suited for precision shooting. Red dot sights do not have magnification like a rifle scope, so the size of the dot represents the size of the area in which your shots should impact.
I recently visited with personnel from an optics company based in the community where I live. I asked personnel there why there was such a difference in prices on red dot products and was told most optics sold in the US are built in China using glass made in Japan. The quality and difference in price are based upon the quality of the glass, strength of the housing and features such as number of reticles, battery life, on/off switching, etc. The clarity of the dot is not generally a factor as all dots have a bit of fuzziness. The more expensive red or green sights should take more abuse and last longer, but don’t really have an advantage in the aiming department.
This visit occurred while I was trying to decide upon a sight to mount on a S&W Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E. pistol. This gun has a removable plate on the slide just ahead of the rear sight that is set up for mounting a red dot sight. The gun came with adapters for many common red dot sights. My local gun store had all the recommended sights in stock with prices ranging from $300 to just over $500. During several visits to the store, I eyeballed those optics but having experienced how well the $49 mail order optics were working and being on a rather tight firearms budget, I just couldn’t see springing that kind of money. One of the $49 sights wasn’t an option because it is designed to mount on a picatinny rail and that wasn’t one of the options for the M&P.
The company, Riton, gave me one of their X3 Tactix PRD pistol sights to try. This sight has a 3 MOA dot and mounts on the M&P using the RMR adapter. This sight features a 5000-hour battery Life, a lens coating that allows use with night vision devices, 4-hour auto shut off, 2 night vision settings and 10 brightness settings all at a price of $199. Mounting it on the M&P and zeroing it in was simple and I’ve been very pleased with the way the sight complements the pistol.
My next red dot sight adventure was with a Ruger-57. The Ruger-57 has predrilled optics mounting holes with mounts available at ShopRuger.com. One of the two mounts available fits the Burris® and Vortex® red dot sights and the other fits the Docter®, Meopta, EOTech® and Insight® Sights. Ruger offers the Viper® and Venom® red dot sights each at a price of $349. Money being no object it would have been a simple matter to have purchased one of these sights and the appropriate mount from Ruger. Money was an object, so I went to Amazon and found an Ade Advanced Optics RD3 Micro Mini Reflex Sight for $62. This sight uses the Venom® red dot footprint so it mounted perfectly to my Ruger-57. My grandson and I used my Firefield Red Laser Universal Boresight to align the red dot at home then took it to the range and enjoyed shooting targets out to 25 yards with amazing accuracy.
I’ve now shot enough with red dot sights that I’m confident in having a red dot sight on my EDC gun. The gun I chose for that purpose is the Sarsilmaz SAR9X, a very capable H&K VP9 knockoff. The SAR9X has predrilled optics mounting holes on the slide. Just as I was beginning my search for a red dot sight to use those holes without an adapter, a Riton X3 TACTIX MPRD arrived in my mailbox. I had requested one of these from Riton’s director of marketing almost two months prior when I met him at a writer’s event. I had almost forgotten about the request, but the timing was perfect. This sight bolted right to the SAR9X and according to my laser boresighter was aligned perfectly. One of the things I really like about the Riton is its auto-off feature. You can turn the sight on when you holster the pistol in the morning and leave it on. It will automatically turn off after 12 hours. The sight promises a 50,000-hour battery life.
In order to carry the SAR9X with the red dot sight on it I had to find a holster that would accommodate the sight. My favorite leather IWB holster was cut too high for the pistol to fit with the sight on it. A Crossbreed SuperTuck designed for a Sig Sauer P226 worked perfectly with just some minor trimming of the kydex.
There’s no question that drawing, aiming and shooting accurately with a pistol that has a red dot sight mounted on it is different. It requires some adjustments to your technique and a lot of practice. But with that practice will come better accuracy at distances that may have been a struggle for you with iron sights.
The day my Ruger-57™arrived in it’s beautiful black box with red trimmings and the Ruger logo in red on its top, a press release announced the Ruger-57™had been awarded the Caliber Award in the Best Overall New Product category by the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) in partnership with the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). I could see why, even though I had not yet shot the gun. The 57 is beautifully made and in a caliber that’s unique and very interesting.
One of my sons has an FN HERSTAL Five-seveN and we’ve all enjoyed shooting it. He got his when they were in high demand and short supply and has always treasured it as a unique piece of handgun history. Now Ruger has acknowledged the caliber with a handgun that’s more affordable than the FN gun, yet with the typical Ruger ruggedness enhanced with features and handling that make it a standout in any gun collection. When I opened the box, before ever touching the gun, I was impressed. It just looks really cool.
I knew it would be light, so picking it up wasn’t a surprise in that category, but the way it felt in my hands was more in keeping with a heavier gun. I think it’s the length of the slide and barrel that give it that feel. It’s a 5″ barrel, with a long slide to match. The slide has a lightening cut at the top, a green fiber-optic sight at the front and a fully adjustable all black sight at the rear. There are cocking serrations front and rear and much to my delight the top of the slide is predrilled for a mounting plate that will accommodate most of the common red dot sights. I wasted no time ordering a mounting plate from ShopRuger.com as I had a red dot sight looking for a home. The slide is also contoured nicely on the front and top to aid in holstering and concealment. This is a gun lots of owners will decide to carry because of it’s capacity, lightweight and overall thinness. The 57 is long, 8.5″ front to rear, and it’s 5.5″ tall. The width is 1.5″ and the weight is 24.5 oz. Sure it’s going to stick down in or outside your pants a little further than most carry guns, but the weight isn’t an issue and carrying 21 lethal rounds is nothing to sneeze at.
The Ruger-57™is internally hammer-fired with a trigger known as the Secure Action fire control system. It’s similar to the action on the LCP II and Security-9 pistols. The Secure Action fire control provides the feel of a short, crisp single-action trigger that consistently breaks around 5.5 lbs.
Controls on the Ruger-57™are easy to operate and located where you’d expect to find them. There is an ambidextrous external safety to go along with the blade safety in the trigger. The slide lock is only on the left side, but the magazine release button is easily switched to the right side if that’s that you’d like. The ejection port is rather long to accommodate the length of the 5.7x28mm brass. The takedown lever rotates 90 degrees counter-clockwise after being pushed out slightly by pressing a button on the right side of the frame. I found the button a little difficult to press, but the manual recommends using the bottom of one of the magazines or some other non-marring surface to push on the button, rather than your fingers. Once you’ve rotated the lever, takedown on this pistol is different. You move the slide forward about 1/4″ then just lift it off. Removal of the recoil spring and barrel is then done just like you’d do on any other centerfire semi-automatic pistol.
The grip is textured and fills the hand more front-to-rear than side-to-side. That nicely shaped and textured grip makes handling the long slide and barrel seem natural. It’s a hoot to shoot. When my mounting plate arrived from Ruger I installed an Ade Advanced Optics RD3 that I bought on Amazon. Mounting the optic with Ruger’s mounting plate was an easy task. Before going to shoot, I used my Firefield Red Laser Universal Boresight to get a starting alignment, which turned out to be right on target when I got to the range.
I’d love to tell you about all the different types of ammo I tried but the real story in this time of unprecedented gun buying and ammo shortages I was lucky to find any 5.7 x 28mm ammunition at all. Palmetto State Armory had some American Eagle 40 grain FMJ in 50 round boxes for $50 so that’s what I shot. The gun seemed to like it and shooting it was pure delight. My friend and fellow gunwriter, Will Dabbs M.D., who beat me to posting a Ruger-57™ review in both GUNS and American Handgunner magazines wrote about a love affair with the gun. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but when you’ve got a Ruger that spits fire, makes a loud boom, puts the holes where you want them every time you pull the trigger and doesn’t have much recoil, it would be dang near impossible not to really like the gun.
Is it the right gun for concealed carry or home defense? I could be. It’s light, though kind of big, especially with the red dot sight on it. The bullets travel really fast, like 2250 fps, so there’s no doubt they’ll wreak havoc on a flesh and blood target. Compared to its only real competitor, the FN HERSTAL Five-seveN, The Ruger-57™ is a real bargain. Ruger set the MSRP for their 57 at $799 while the FN HERSTAL Five-seveN’s MSRP is $1,199.
Several years ago, Sig Sauer had a .22 pistol called the Mosquito in its product line. The Mosquito was very similar in appearance and operation to the P226. Sig no longer produces the Mosquito, choosing instead to concentrate on the Law Enforcement and Personal Protection markets. However; the enjoyment found in shooting the Mosquito is not lost as German Sports Guns and American Tactical, Inc. have brought it back. GSG’s relationship with Sig involves creating realistic licensed air gun replicas of several Sig Sauer pistols, including the P226. After working with Sig on the specs, GSG developed a Mosquito knock-off called the FireFly. Still an insect, but with a little more spark. American Tactical, Inc. imports the FireFly with several color schemes, with and without threaded barrel and with an optional Bridgemounted Duosight Red/Green Dot sight.
I’m a sucker for .22 pistols, especially ones that emulate my centerfire pistols. Lots of cheap shooting helps me maintain my proficiency, plus it’s just plain fun to go plinkin’ with a .22. Right now anything that qualifies as a handgun is scarce, but I was able to get my hands on a tan, non-threaded barrel version of the FireFly. In normal times the other colors available are: black, green, pink and purple. I probably would have chosen tan regardless of the other colors being available.
The FireFly has an alloy-frame with an integrated accessory rail. The slide features adjustable sights, cocking serrations and a slide mounted ambidextrous thumb safety. The three-dot sights look like Trijicon night sights, but they don’t glow in the dark. The frame has a fixed barrel that operates with a blowback system. It also has an ergonomic grip that feels excellent in my medium-sized hands. Like the Sig P226 it emulates, the FireFly is a DA/SA hammer-fired pistol with a decocking lever. It is equipped with a magazine safety which means with a magazine removed the trigger won’t operate. The single-action trigger pull is slightly over 8 lbs. and the double-action pull a little over 12 lbs. There’s a clean break for either one. There’s almost no slack before the double-action trigger is engaged and the stacking distance works out to about .5″. The single-action trigger moves almost .5″ before engaging but the break is immediate. None of this is out-of-line for a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. The FireFly is a 95% scale of the P226 but weighs considerably less — 24.6 oz. compared to the P226’s 34.4 oz. The alloy frame overmolded with polymer makes the difference.
The key to making this gun run is choosing the right ammo. The printed manual that came with my sample gun only warned about using good factory ammo and did not mention the two recoil springs that shipped with the gun. Having had previous experience with the Sig Mosquito, I knew there had to be more to it. I went to the ATI website (americantactical.us) and located the FireFly manual that was online and it included the following information, obviously translated from German:
According to updated knowledge of modern gun manufacturing for caliber .22. We have therefore decided to make an adjustment to the loads that have priority for use with the FireFly, which are the two major groups, utility and high-speed rounds. So to increase the round compatibility, we provide two slide springs for every pistol. The bigger bored version is designed for high-speed loads and is fitted in the pistol with delivery. The simple coiled smaller spring (marked white) is for standard loads and is supplied with the pistol. Tip: It has been proven that many types of utility rounds function more smoothly if the rounds are lightly oiled.
Take a tip from this old gunwriter and longtime shooter of .22s. Stick with the recoil spring that was in the gun when you got it (should be the larger one) and shoot only high-velocity ammo (1200 fps and above) and you’ll have a grand time with the FireFly. High velocity ammo is as easy to find and generally cost no more than standard. My favorites are Aguila Super Extra HPs, Blazer 22 Long Rifle, CCI Stingers, CCI Mini-Mag High Velocity, Eley High Velocity Hollow Points, Federal Game Shok, Federal Premium HV Match, Remington Yellow Jackets, Remington Golden Bullets and Winchester Super X High Velocity. I was having so much fun shooting the FireFly I tried all of these and had zero issues with feeding and ejecting ammo.
Disassembling the FireFly for cleaning is simple, but not like a centerfire handgun. Remove the magazine and lock the slide back. Rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the slide 180 degrees. Pull the slide back slightly and lift the back of it before pushing the slide forward off the barrel. Be careful to remove the recoil spring and guide rod so you can get them in the right place before reassembly. After cleaning and oiling make sure the guide rod and spring are seated then reinstall the slide. The slide needs to be in the forward position before rotating the takedown lever back to its operating position.
The FireFly can provide hours of enjoyment, whether popping aluminum cans or putting holes in paper. I didn’t do any accuracy comparisons between different rounds as I was mostly checking to see if there were any high velocity rounds that didn’t work in the gun. I didn’t find any. My shots pretty much went where I wanted them to, but I was shooting at close ranges, typically ten yards.
I haven’t found anything not to like about the Firefly and at an MSRP of $349 for the base model, you’re likely to find them priced around or just under $300 when supplies are once again available. I think you would enjoy the FireFly and certainly get a lot of utility out of it you own or plan to own a Sig Sauer P226 or P229 pistol.
We Can All Benefit from Training Regardless of Our Experience Level
One of the chief concerns we trainers have is: People don’t know what they don’t know. When it comes to guns, for many, they have been so ingrained in our culture folks just assume they know what to do and how to do it. Often what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies is not a good example of safe and proficient gun handling.
In most states, the training required for carrying a handgun on your person, concealed or open is minimal. While in my heart I’m a firm believer that a right shouldn’t be legislated, my experience as a License to Carry Instructor has taught me people need training, and if they won’t get it on their own, maybe it should be required, like Driver’s Ed. Almost daily I watch people handle guns like they were a set of keys or a monkey wrench, with no regard for where they are pointed and with their finger on the bang lever. Scary.
IT ALL STARTS WITH SAFETY
The title of this article promises training can help you at any level, so let’s start with the basics. Your initial training should cover the well-established safety rules. They may be worded differently and the order may be changed slightly, but these rules start with 1) always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, 2) keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, and 3) always treat every gun as if it were loaded. There are additional rules such as knowing your target and what’s in front of and beyond it; knowing your gun and ammunition; being healthy, alert and sober when shooting and others that may be related to where you shoot.
Telling someone the safety rules usually doesn’t sink in for a while. For the first hour or two of instruction we’re constantly having to remind people to keep their gun pointed in a safe direction and to keep their finger off the trigger. When they finally get it, I often wonder if they really got it or they just want the instructor to stop bugging them about it. Seriously, it takes concentration until the habit is learned and ingrained in your muscle memory. This rarely happens without some instruction. The safety rules associated with handling firearms are listed, usually in red letters, in every firearm instruction manual on the planet, but, who reads instructions?
Any gun has parts that move during shooting. Especially on semi-automatic handguns these parts have pinch and scrape zones that can do considerable damage to your hands if you don’t know how to properly hold the gun and execute the required movements. There are parts that must be loaded and parts that must be put in the proper starting position before firing. There are parts that move rapidly during shooting.
A basic course is where you should learn how to load and operate your gun, how to stand comfortably, how to grip the gun for maximum control and to mitigate recoil, how to align the sights, how to smoothly operate the trigger, how to breathe and follow through to get the next shot on target. Many people assume they know these things, but in class or at the range we see a wide variety of positions and grips that are not very effective and some which can get you hurt.
HITTING THE TARGET
Accuracy doesn’t come about by instinct or luck. It’s a process of learning to align the front sight properly with the rear sight, point the aligned sights at the target and smoothly move the trigger straight back until the shot is fired. If we all did that correctly on every shot, we’d all be world champion shooters with very tight groups around the aiming point. That’s not what we usually see, is it? Mastering the sight alignment and smooth trigger pull is facilitated by learning to stand comfortably, holding the gun correctly, positioning your finger on the trigger correctly and moving it smoothly straight back instead of pushing or pulling it to one side or the other or jerking the gun so that the shots go wide. Good technique also involves follow through that helps get you back on target and ready for the next shot.
Without training people develop a variety of ways to hold a gun, but rarely do they discover on their own what a little time with a qualified and experienced instructor can teach them.
If you took the step to get some basic training, good for you. Let’s say you passed the proficiency test, if one was required in your state, and got your permit. If your training stops there, you should probably make an honest assessment about whether or not you’re really ready to defend yourself with your handgun under the pressure of a surprise attack. How can you tell? Find an instructor who can teach you to draw from a holster or purse, move to cover while having to defend yourself and reload when you’re under fire. You should learn to clear a jam quickly and under pressure. The same goes for engaging multiple targets, targets converging on you or moving laterally to you. For most of us, initial exposure to this type of training is a real eye-opener. I know it was for me, and I not only played army when I was a kid, I was in the Army, in a war with a job that got me shot at, but oh how much I’ve forgotten.
PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE
The first thing you learn during intermediate training is often, “I was not ready to defend myself!” Okay, buckle down and learn. You’ll sweat, you’ll get frustrated, then you’ll get better. You’ll learn, you’ll become more confident and hopefully you will realize the skills you develop here must be practiced and practiced often enough they become automatic.
I’m not talking about training for SWAT, Personal Protection Details or SEAL Teams. I’m talking about training for ordinary people like you and me. I’m a Granddad who gets around on a mobility scooter, but I intend to be ready and competent should the need arise. My family also expects this of me.
Even though I’d grown up owning and shooting guns, when I got serious about being armed in a daily basis, I did some training and I was confident. I practiced my newly learned skills concerning stance, grip, aiming, breathing and trigger control until I could consistently put all my shots within a small group. But this was shooting at paper targets at relatively close range at my own pace.
Recently I had the opportunity to try another type of training at a live fire indoor shooting cinema. This is not Simunition training; all shooting is done with live ammo. The targets are projected onto a large white screen. Cameras and microphones triangulate and capture your shots electronically. You see your hits and misses and the simulator produces responses based on where your shots land. The response may be a visible hole or the target may fall, disappear or spin, depending on the programming.
I started my session shooting at fixed silhouette targets to insure I was aiming and grouping correctly and the computer was picking up my shots. Then I moved to a projected version of steel plates that I knocked over easily. Next came moving silhouette targets at various ranges coming in from the left and right. I nailed them. Then onto targets mounted on spinning wheels–one going clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. Missed a few. Then timed targets, pop-up targets, shoot-don’t shoot scenarios, and I was missing all over the place. The instructor knew I was an experienced shooter, so he gave me some latitude to figure it out myself. I didn’t. When he told me to look at my grip, I couldn’t believe it. I know the basics of how to grip a gun. I teach the basics of how to grip a gun. When the pressure was on, I had loosened my grip, opening it up and therefore allowing my shots to go wide.
I determined to practice every week until I got it right. The next week I started off doing better, so the instructor cranked up the speed and sure enough I started forgetting the basics again.
The basics do matter. This I learned through advanced training. That’s not all I learned. I have several “favorite” handguns. My first choice for a carry gun is typically a Commander-sized 1911. I have several and usually shoot them all well. One of them is 9mm, but I’m really a .45 ACP guy. Let me rephrase that. I was a .45 ACP guy but sometimes the arthritis in my thumbs, wrist and shoulders whispers 9mm to me, and on those days I carry a Ruger LW Commander 9mm or one of my other favorites–a Sig 229 or an M&P, both 9mm. Guess what I learned as the shooting challenges got faster and faster? The width of the grip does matter. One of the instructors running the Cinema range held my hand up and said, “short, stubby fingers.” I said, “Yes, that’s what I’ve always been told and why I don’t play the piano.” To which he responded, “I’m not talking about music, I’m talking about shooting a gun that fits your hand, so you can keep your grip closed and your wrist behind the gun.
I’m an experienced instructor, but every time I train under another instructor, I learn, I get better. Practicing with an experienced eye to provide insight and instruction is even more beneficial. Try it and you’ll be amazed.