Monthly Archives: July 2013

How to Shoot a Handgun

In my previous post on how to shoot a rifle[1] , I explain at a very high level the factors which affect accurate marksmanship. The most abstract of those factors carry over to the employment of the handgun, but we do not expect the same sort of performance.

With the handgun, we achieve less stability under realistic scenarios, and this results in poorer accuracy. Gone are considerations of cheek weld and the stability provided by multiple points of contact. Our inconsistencies are multiplied, our sight radius is shortened, and our generally heavier bullets move at a generally slower velocity. This makes our job more difficult. In return, however, we gain convenience in carry and deployment, and generally engage targets at a shorter distance.

Because of the nature of the reddit medium, I will not cover here considerations of draw, magazine changes, split times, or other important factors beyond general, fundamental accuracy. I am certain that tips and tricks may be found below in the comments and may cover such things in a later post.

Consideration 1: Trigger control

Trigger control is our primary consideration because it offers the greatest benefit per unit of understanding and practice. Grip and stance will necessarily differ based on the conditions under which we draw. We may be unable to get both hands to the pistol. We may be unable to present the pistol at arm’s length or to acquire our sights. We must be good with the trigger. It applies in all cases.

To begin with, we will actuate (or roll or press but never pull) the trigger with the pad of our index finger, as far toward the fingertip as is practical. With time and practice, you may discover that you drive your trigger finger further through the trigger guard, toward the crease of the knuckle. Some trainers advocate beginning this way. I find that the better leverage, sensitivity and mechanical advantage provided by the fingertip makes learning faster.

Take your pistol in hand now, keeping the muzzle in a safe direction. Drop the magazine and rack the slide to eject the chambered round. Check clear with your pinkie[2] . Drop the slide again. Keep the muzzle in a safe direction. Squeeze the trigger slowly and gradually, noting the point at which the firing pin or striker drops (where the shot would break). Holding the trigger back, rack the slide again. Gradually release the pressure on the trigger until you feel the disconnector reset, and squeeze the trigger again. Repeat this task, exaggerating the slowness with which you manipulate the trigger, and keeping the muzzle in a safe direction. That’s the trigger control you want to see on the range. Bouncing back up off the trigger or jerking it back quickly will push and pull the pistol this way and that and severely limit your ability to get good hits.

(Performing this exercise in live fire is faster and more convenient, as the recoil will serve to reset the trigger for you, among other things.)

Consideration 2: Stance

Canonical 2-handed stances are not universal in the real world. They do, however, serve to isolate the other considerations of marksmanship and therefore make for the most valuable practice. Therefore, most of your dry and live-fire practice time should employ a canonical stance.

In the past when I’ve spoken of canonical handgun stances, I’ve recommended trying Chapman and Weaver as well as Modern Isosceles. I no longer believe that Chapman and Weaver have any practical advantages for shooters outside of Hollywood. You will practice Modern Isosceles, and it will serve you well.

In the Modern Isosceles stance, our torso is square to the target, our arms both project straight out as the long sides of an isosceles triangle, and we keep one foot forward of the other, feet shoulder-width apart. Our shoulders roll forward and up to bring the front sight into alignment with our dominant eye. This is a close analog to a karate fighter or boxer’s normal stance, although we will stand flat-footed.

Consideration 3: Grip

“Hold with 60% of the strength in your right hand, and 40% of the strength in your left hand.” “SQUEEZE THE HELL OUT OF IT IN A CRUSH GRIP JUST LIKE YOU WOULD WITH ADRENALINE” “Put your index finger on the front of the trigger guard!”

These are all silly. I find that the 60/40 thing ends up happening, but it’s not a conscious decision on my part. I have not noticed the crush grip under the stress of competition, but perhaps the stress of mortal peril is different.

Place the web of the hand, between the thumb and index finger, high into the curve of the backstrap. Modern pistols have a nice little curvy place for it to live. The fingers of the strong hand curl around the pistol grip, and the index finger rests (indexes) forward along the frame or slide until we are ready to shoot. The middle finger of the weak hand curls around the fingers of the strong hand just at the base of the trigger guard, and the index finger of the weak hand curls around the bottom of the trigger guard.

The thumbs of both hands point forward. During dry fire practice and slow live fire practice, you might point them away from the pistol in exaggerated fashion in order to keep them clear of the slide release and safety. The thumbs do not contribute to retention or accuracy in any case.

I apologize for the lack of photographs in this post and hope to update it next week. If you believe that I have erred on any point, you may well be correct, and I would appreciate hearing it in the comments.

Trigger Control

YouTube video[1] . The stuff I meant to say follows. I did not memorize it and so the content of the video has more ‘um’ and such things.

This is a gen 2 Glock 22. It is unloaded and clear (check clear with pinkie).

It is not a Ruger 10/22, it is not a Glock 19, it is not an AR-15 and it is not a Mossberg 590. I know this comes as a shock to half the commentors on yesterday’s reddit thread and the entirety of /k/.

Tonight we’re discussing trigger control. Since the vast majority of you have displayed shockingly bad reading comprehension and since this instruction is not particularly amenable to textual description in any case, I am forced to resort to a tedious video in order to better illustrate my meaning.

The goal of all marksmanship is to keep the sights aligned and on target while we fire the shot. Good trigger work makes this possible by limiting the influence of our trigger finger on the alignment of the sights. I shall, rack slide, repeat a few times.

There are a few important considerations. The first is to actuate the trigger smoothly and gradually. With practice this smooth, gradual process becomes very fast. It never becomes violent or jerky.

I use the distal pad of my trigger finger for the best sensitivity and mechanical advantage. You may find that over time you begin to drive the finger further through the trigger guard, even to the point of actuating the trigger with that first joint. That’s okay, as long as you still get hits, but you should not consciously start out by practicing that way.

The next consideration is to ride the reset, to hold the trigger back after the shot breaks and to relieve just enough pressure to feel the disconnector work. The shorter the distance you must move the trigger on each shot, the less work you must do. This reduces the tendency to jerk the trigger too fast. It also reduces the sympathetic action of the other fingers in the trigger hand; that action will bring the sights out of alignment with the shooter’s intention.

Now, I just sit there and do this exercise while I watch Burn Notice, Jack of All Trades, and the Evil Dead series on Netflix. This serves two purposes. Repeated dry fire practice gives me greater familiarity with the trigger and untrains the natural tendency to flinch when the shot breaks. Ten thousand reps of dry fire is also the world’s cheapest trigger job. Over time, the working parts are polished smooth, so you don’t have to stone the trigger to get that nice smooth pull.

You can also do this exercise with an autoloading rifle or a revolver. It is easier with a hammer-fired pistol since you can just cock the hammer back and it is easier with a double action since you can just pull the trigger repeatedly. You can’t ride the reset with a bolt gun for obvious reasons, but they tend to have nicer triggers anyway, and dry fire practice is still valuable.

Feel free to praise me or to insult me as you wish in the reddit comments. If you are especially insightful and if there are few of you I will be more than happy to discuss this subject with you at length.

Stuff Presidentender Knows About The Mosin-Nagant Rifle

So the full form of “how to shoot a…” is a big project and then I look at it and decide it’s too much to bite off. Anything involving video is right out, and ain’t none of you producing content, but only I wanna see more content. With words and stuff. So you get “stuff presidentender knows about” various things, starting with the first rifle I bought myself: the Mosin-Nagant, specifically the ’91-30. You could read wikipedia[2] or[3] , but you’ll read this, in addition or instead.

As with most repeating rifles, the Mosin’s development was motivated by a war in which the performance of single-shot rifles was found to be lacking. The Ottoman Turks had made fools of the Emperor in the late 19th century; the Russians won, but it was costly, and part of that was inadequacy of the single-shot Berdan rifle[4] against theWinchester repeater[5] . This trend toward a greater volume of fire would eventually give birth to the assault rifle concept.

In the competition to select the Russians’s new repeater, Captain Sergei Mosin submitted a design for a .30 caliber rifle, because .30 is blessed by the gods themselves. The Belgian jerkface Leon Nagant submitted a .35-caliber rifle for some reason, and there was some other dude too. Mosin’s flimsy and complicated rifle won the design contest; some changes were made to improve it, including the adoption of Nagant’s magazine – hence the rifle’s English name – and an ‘interrupter’ to prevent double feeding. Apparently rimlock wasn’t a concern for the Russian empire.

Despite its internally complicated bolt and rimmed cartridge, the Mosin proved durable, with a low total cost of ownership and simple manual of arms which the populous and backwards Russian empire and Soviet Union found satisfactory, producing a few rifle and carbine-length variants and exporting the design to communist satellite states. The ammo remains in production today for use in machine guns, a testament to the power of backwards compatibility. The rifle was used with few design changes in every war the Russians and Soviets fought in the 20th century, up through Vietnam. There’re a couple of ’em kicking around in Afghanistan, too.

The Finns decided they weren’t part of the Russian Empire at some point, and they had Russian rifles hanging around, which they rebuilt and accurized. The Russians favored quantity, and the Finns found a number of means by which to rebuild that into acceptable quality, notably with a clever little trigger spring and nicer stock. The Finns liked the result so much that they kept refurbished Mosins (visually very different from ’91/30s) around as precision rifles into the ’80s, albeit with a slightly modified cartridge for some reason.

While there were millions of Mosins manufactured, the design didn’t really influence future development – at least not in its specifics. The cartridge itself, like the competitor cartridges of other nations, was used in Soviet machine guns. The bore diameter of the Mosin is the bore diameter of the AK, and a folk tale says that Russian cigarettes are .30 cal too, in order that cigarette equipment might be used to reload ammunition in times of crisis. The Mosin’s short stock, designed for malnourished peasants who wear poofy coats, was also retained for the AK.

Today, you can buy a Mosin for less than $200. Last year, that was less than $100. If you’re a betting man, don’t count on selling a crate for $300 or $400 – the ammunition will dry up some day, and they’re so ubiquitous that you’d lose all your money on the frictional cost of purchase and storage. But to satisfy the childish need for recoil and report, to create the impression of competency and danger that the eternally adolescent male mind relishes, the Mosin serves more cheaply than any other rifle.

EDIT OH CRAP I FORGOT ABOUT THE AMERICAN MOSINS HOLD ON Okay, so imperial Russia didn’t make things. During the 19th century it was still the 4th century there, what with a powerful Caesar (a ‘ROMANov,’ whose title is the literal Russian translation of Caesar) and not so much with machinery to make things like rifles and steamboats and the cotton gin. And during the early part of the 20th century, they hadn’t quite caught up, and there was this big fight where everyone in Europe killed each other. In need of more rifles, they farmed out a bunch of Mosin production to other places, including France and the US. While the Americans (Remington and Westinghouse) were making a bajillion of these things, the Czar got himself very messily dead. The broke-ass no-Czar-having Russians had no interest in paying for the bajillions of rifles they had ordered, and so they declared the American Mosins to be of “poor quality,” which is a joke.

Remington and Westinghouse had invested substantially in this one contract, because useful business adages regarding eggs and baskets had yet to develop. They were gonna be super damn bankrupt. The US Government therefore suddenly developed a need for a bajillion Mosins, which its troops hated. Some others were sold to private citizens, either converted to .30-06 or left in the original chambering. Most of these were sporterized.

When the Americans sent military ‘observers’ up via Arkhangelsk to watch the Russians kill each other and decide whether they were red or white, they armed those observers with the Remington and Westinghouse Mosins. They were largely abandoned there in Russia, which is really too bad, because that’d be a thing to own, wouldn’t it?

You can get American Mosins even now; I saw one in a pawn shop a few years ago but it was all chopped and sportered and missing its front sight. Factory originals were kicking around somewhere for like a grand which is ridiculous.

OH WAIT ALSO FIREFLY So there’s this one episode of Firefly (“War Stories”) where Mal and Wash are captured by this Russian-sounding dude, Niska. When the rest of the crew comes to survey the scene of the capture, Book identifies the rifle that the kidnappers used as a “54R sniper rifle, laser sight.”

That’s right. 500 years in the future, 7.62x54R is still the oldest cartridge in regular combat use.

Stuff Presidentender Knows About Kalashnikov Rifles

Alright. The Mosin post[1] was mostly regurgitated Wikipedia and This one’s poorly remembered from CJ Chivers’ ‘The Gun,’[2] which I read like last year or something. I meant to write a review of it for you guys, but never did.

In the ages before the second World War (the ‘Great Patriotic War’ to the Soviets), the arms designers of all the nations had been interested in automatic rifles. John Moses Browning had developed the BAR, John C. Garand had developed his eponymous rifle, and the Russians Federov and Tokarev had developed their rifles. The most promising of these was Federov’s rifle, chambered for the Japanese 6.5 Arisaka cartridge, which granted it mild and easily handled recoil and superb reliability.

In ages past, the notion was that the irresponsible and stupid infantrymen would waste their ammunition whenever the opportunity presented itself. The 1903 Springfield and some contemporary rifles were equipped with magazine cut offs[3] in order to make sure that their operators would more judiciously husband their rounds. The stupidity of this notion became clear at some point but screw you guys somebody else figure out when. Furthermore, a cursory examination of the accounts of prior engagements clearly showed that most fire was exchanged at distances of less than 300 yards, which wasted the thousand-yard potential of the .30-06, 8mm Mauser, .303 British and 7.62x54R cartridges.

In response to this, Hitler’s designers developed the Sturmgewehr 44, a rifle which would grant its user a better rate of fire than existing rifles while retaining a greater effective range than the submachine guns used by tank crews and rear guard units. The Stg 44 was chambered for the 7.92mm Kurz, which is basically the 8mm Mauser’s stumpy and poorly-watered relative.

At the conclusion of the war, the Americans took Nazi rocket scientists in Operation Paperclip, and used ’em to build moon rockets. The Soviets kinda did too, but they also took German arms designers, and used ’em to design arms. An injured veteran tank driver named Mikhail Kalashnikov was the head designer of the most successful design, but I suspect that he was largely a figurehead, overseeing the efforts of the appropriated Nazis.

The result of these efforts was the most widely-adopted and manufactured rifle design of all time, beginning with the AK-47.

Now, there are variations among the Kalashnikov rifles. Distinctions in manufacturing (milled or stamped receivers), the design of muzzle devices, the cartridges for which they are chambered, the shape of the handguards or folding stocks or perhaps the angle of the machining on the trigger can tell a savvy collector exactly where a given rifle was manufactured, providing the specific speaker with an excellent excuse to call out the ignorant for their reference to an “AK-47” instead of an “AK-pattern rifle” or a “WASR 10/63.” A proper AK-47 was manufactured in Russia, with a milled receiver, no muzzle device, and a few other cosmetic features which escape my recollection. Call it “an AK” or “a 5.45 AK” or “a 7.62 AK” if you don’t know the specific model, for safety’s sake.

The general characteristics shared by all the descendants of the original design share a running theme: namely, these are very reliable rifles, with a relatively small cost to manufacture, given the right equipment. The user should adapt himself to the rifle, not the rifle to the user.

The long-stroke gas piston has a great deal of inertial mass, and it travels much further than is strictly necessary to extract each case. Furthermore, the wide clearances between the moving parts mean that fouling and sand present no issue. The safety serves as a dust cover. The strongly tapered case of the 7.62×39 cartridge breaks contact with the chamber completely as soon as the extractor moves it, so stuck cases are a non-issue. The trigger is simple and the rifle has few parts.

That said, the user experience leaves something to be desired. A Warsaw Pact stock is short, matching the Mosin’s stock, which made training easier in the 1950s and now sticks around forever. The easy-to-understand tangent sights are imprecise and slow to acquire. The simple trigger is squishy, even if replaced by a nice aftermarket American trigger. The safety is in the wrong place. The magazine must be rocked in, which is slow. The bolt does not lock back. The sling is not a shooting sling, nor can a shooting sling be readily mounted. The wide clearances and loose tolerances which improve reliability and make for cheaper manufacturing also reduce precision, and the 7.62×39 cartridge has a rainbow-like trajectory which becomes quickly unworkable at great distances.

Now, speaking of that rainbow-like trajectory, the Soviets took a look at captured M16s from the Vietnam conflict. They weren’t impressed with the rifle itself, but they sure did like the 5.56×45 cartridge, and chose to clone it with their 5.45×39, necked down from the original 7.62×39. This higher-velocity cartridge offers better wounding effects and trajectory, but poorer immediate lethality. The Afghans named it the ‘Poison Bullet’ because the men struck with it would die days later, as if from poison.

The Kalashnikov rifles have their limits, but they perform the task for which they were designed: to effectively arm shooters of limited training. Presupposing a lack of access to my home and a need for a rifle to carry around with me, it’d be my 5.45 AK, not my FAL or an AR or a precision rifle.

Now tell me where I’m all wrong and let’s have good talk and whatnot.

Stuff Presidentender Knows About AR-Type Rifles

Y’all remember how presidentender didn’t actually know all that much about 1911s for that one post[1] ? It’s kind of like that.

Most of what I care about regarding ARs comes by way of comparison to AKs[2] , and so Chivers is once again relevant. Guys like /u/othais [3] and the dearly departed runnybare can tell you all about the specific trivia and identification of various military and military surplus rifles, and there are some here who can distinguish between specific modern variants based on the presence or absence of specific features – knowing, for instance, that a particular Carcano carbine has the grooves cut for a sight hood, or the ways in which a Yugo Mauser differs from a Czech Mauser.

I don’t tend to know that stuff for more than a few moments after I read it. What’s interesting to me is the decision-making process regarding the adoption of arms by various forces, and the capabilities those arms provide to their users: essentially, I want to know why the government bought the AR-15, and what an AR could do for me today much more than I want to know the ways in which an M16A1 differs from an M16. If you care about such details, I hope that you’ll find them in the comments on this post, and provide those that you know as well.

Toward the end of dem zweiten Weltkrieg, it became clear that the thousandish-yard capability provided by full-power cartridges was overkill, and that therefore the militaries of the world would be better served to provide their soldiers with rifles chambered for smaller, lighter-recoiling cartridges, granting them the advantages of controllable recoil and the ability to carry larger quantities of ammunition. The Germans developed their Storm-go-where 44, chambered for a ‘kurz’ version of the venerable 8mm Mauser round. The Soviets developed the SKS and the AK. The French smoked some cigarettes and wore little acorn hats and the British fucked up the middle east by drawing arbitrary lines and calling them nations.

The Americans, on the other hand, labored for a time under the illusion of their exceptional marksmanship. Their successor to the M1 Garand, the M14, included the innovation of the detachable box magazine, but it retained the notion of the full-power cartridge (the rest of NATO also persisted in the fuckuperry but I had to make a different joke earlier and the FAL is a later post) and the associated long-range capabilities and boner-enhancing recoil and report.

.308 (7.62×51 METRICSYSTEM) is a great cartridge for corn-fed American football heroes and Rhodesian mercenaries, but when the CIA handed these enormous half-mile-long giant-penis-firing thirty-pound rifles to the Vietnamese, they found that the satisfying report and recoil we so loved was unwelcome. The average weight of a Vietnamese soldier was 90 pounds. 90 pound adult men do not successfully protect the remnants of the French empire against the forces of communism when you arm them with 90 pound rifles, especially when the enemy gets to use 7.62xReallysmall SKSes.

So a new rifle was needed. In a very Soviet-style back room deal, some Colt bigwigs bought dinner for some Army bigwigs, and they went out and shot at watermelons with their shiny new Stoner rifle, chambered for the high-velocity small-caliber .223 Remington (5.56 Samedamnthing for those of you who mill their meters). The generals were extremely impressed by the rifle’s ability to reliably make good hits at distances of 500 yards, a range at which conflicts frequently occurred in the dense jungles of Indochina. So they bought boatloads of ’em, and then the Colt guys and the Army guys smoked a bunch of grass and fucked on a large bed of taxpayer money.

Unfortunately, Stoner’s well-designed rifle was manufactured as a real piece of shit. The men to whom the rifle was issued were told that the damn thing was self-cleaning, which it isn’t, and the ammunition contract went to some beancounters who decided that dirty-burning corrosive ball powder would make a great propellant for the eastern franchise of the Amazon rain forest. To make matters worse, the great Chrome shortage of the 1960s that had plagued automakers since the 50s now caught up to Colt, who were unable to line the barrels with the corrosion-resistant metal.

I joke, but a lot of guys carried non-working rifles and so died for no goddamn reason, even when you consider that they were over there to get shot at for no goddamn reason in the first place.

Anyway, Colt eventually unfucked the M16, adding an ‘A1’ onto the end of the name to show they were serious. American hippies then proceeded to win the war for the godless Communists, regardless of the new M16A1’s awesomesauce, and Vietnam became a Soviet satellite state anyway. Having failed to defeat them “over there,” we were forced to fight them “over here,” as recounted in the documentary “Red Dawn.”

The M16 went through a bunch more improvements, with burst fire and shortening and shit, ending up as the M4A4 which has a vertical frontpenis and a red dot the way god intended.

Oh, and those Soviets that the Wolverines were so angry with took a look at some of our not-working pieceashit rifles. They didn’t much care for the rifles themselves, but they really liked the cartridge, so they copied it and sent it to Afghanistan, where they proceeded to lose. Note: wars of empire fought by nations which use high-velocity small-diameter cartridges end in defeat.


The AR-15 is a direct impingement design. As many internet neckbeards can tell you, the DI design is still a gas piston, except then we’re losing a whole awful goddamn lot of descriptive power and needlessly lumping ARs in with AKs and FALs and everything else. This “direct impingement” means that gas still comes back through a gas tube as the bullet travels down the barrel, and that gas still serves to unlock the bolt carrier group and send it rearwards, but the gas tube does not contain a metal thing to add weight and occupy space. This means that the bolt carrier can be much lighter and that the forces acting upon it can be much closer to the axis of motion (god I hope I said that right) so there’s less wiggling about and your rifle’s clearances and therefore tolerances can be much tighter. Overall, that results in a much more mechanically precise piece of hardware.

Oh, and the ejector is spring-loaded, which helps to account for the wimpy-ass lightweight bolt carrier and the associated lack of extractive momentum.

Also there’s a forward assist on most of ’em, so that the bolt closes more better. I don’t run ARs much, but I’ve never had to use the forward assist.

Really, this description by comparison is the best way to talk about an AR. I’ve heard that AR vs AK is an apples-to-oranges comparison, and in some ways that’s true: apples and oranges are both tasty fruits grown on trees which are domesticated for human consumption and may be taken by school children as a part of their lunch, but they achieve their goals differently, and consuming them has different side effects.

The AR is much more ergonomic than any contemporary rifle. The FAL’s controls are further from the user’s fingers, and the AK’s controls are placed almost grudgingly wherever it was cheapest to place them. The AR could’ve been designed by Mavis Bacon, with all the keys on the home row. Dropping the magazine, charging the rifle, operating the safety, it’s all very easy. The triggers range from “wonderful” to “I need a cigarette after that, honey, that was great.” The rear sight aperture is located very suitably close to the shooter’s eye. The stock is of usable length, or adjustable, in the carbine versions.

Furthermore, ARs have wide aftermarket support. We’re starting to see this with AKs, too, but the AR is a much more mature platform. A variety of handguards and doodad-mounting solutions exist, and you could conceivably hook up as many as 8 frontpenises, presumably to reinact some far eastern animation scenes.

For all its merits, though, the AR platform is simply not as tolerant of poor maintenance as many of its competitors. I have seen the article in which the gun ran “without cleaning,” given repeated doses of large quantities of light oil, but we also see more stoppages with ARs subject to poor maintenance than with AKs. (Interestingly, the worst rifles I’ve seen are questionably-built and unmaintained FALs, but that’s a different story.)


Stuff Presidentender Knows About 1911 Handguns

Again, as with the Kalashnikov[1] post and the Mosin[2] post, I’m relying on the background knowledge I have from prior reading, not on research I’m doing today. This time, though, most of that knowledge comes from past reddit conversations rather than dedicated resources, since I don’t geek out on 1911s the way I did on the Russian rifles. That might mean there’s more subtle wrongness here, so reading the comments is highly recommended.

The 1911 pistol was born of the US military’s desire for an autoloader chambered in a cartridge more lethal than those fired by the revolvers it had used during the 1890s. One story is that the Filipino Moro tribesmen who continued to plague the American occupation forces after the Philippine-American war possessed an unconquerable morale and perhaps some drugs which made them very difficult to kill. Another story suggests that the brass wanted the new sidearm to be able to stop enemy horses. Either way, the .45 ACP was the cartridge chosen, and John M. Browning’s pistol beat the competing designs (including the German Luger) to become the new American service pistol.

At the time, the 1911 was absolutely the best pistol available. Browning’s previous designs shared many of the same characteristics and much of the same reliability, but they were chambered for cartridges of a very polite European character. The autoloaders designed by various non-Browning persons ran from “overpriced dog shit wrought in the approximate shape of a handgun” to “almost good enough if you didn’t mind constant failures,” with the Luger in the latter category. Browning added a grip safety at the insistence of the client, in a move later pundits would call “very very dumb I mean seriously what is the point of that good lord man you could just have the thumb safety like everything else shit now Springfield is doing that with their modern polymer autoloaders look what you did John it’s the 21st century and they’re cargo-culting the grip safety.”

The M1911 pistol was upgraded to the M1911A1 at some point, with the addition of further magical goodness of some sort. The trigger was super great, allowing the US to refrain from training officers at all, so they could spend more time doing whatever the hell else they do while enlisted men go accomplish shit. The pistol’s specified clearances were exceedingly generous, which made for economical manufacturing and (along with Browning’s magic) granted superior reliability.

Browning later worked to improve the design, but then he died before he finished, and this Belgian dude took his drawings and made the Hi-Power, which had better magazines and no grip safety and then the French were all “screw the grip safety we want a magazine safety” in a move that some pundits have called “really seriously this again I mean look what you did Ruger just put a magazine disconnect in their budget-ass polymer line and you suck Dieudonné this is all your fault probably.” The Hi-Power eliminated the 1911’s peerless trigger, too, which I just do not understand.

Anyway, the Americans had no interest in the new and improved results of FN’s activities, and chose to improve the 1911 on their own, without the ghost of Browning to guide them. The first effort was to take a bandsaw and just chop the front end of the slide and barrel off to make the pistol shorter and easier to carry. Browning’s subterranean gravespinning caused an almost imperceptible shift in the earth’s rotation, which is why we have leap years. The shorter “officer” 1911s were unreliable, since the barrel’s tilt and locking and stuff had changed or something, and the guys at Colt hadn’t accounted for it. Later, this would be corrected; presumably because the spirit of John Moses rearranged the schematics at the factory to… I think they replaced the barrel bushings with a heavier conical barrel or something. Spectral bastard didn’t get rid of the grip safety, though.

Later adaptations of the design include firing pin block safeties, which prevent a nonexistent mode of failure; double-stack magazines, which are super great and seriously why didn’t they do that in the first place; and red dot barrel compensated ghost holster magwell flares which allow their users to win “practical” pistol competitions (sidebar: how the hell is that “practical”? You can’t carry that!).

Later manufacturers and custom gunsmiths discarded the economic and reliability advantages of the wide clearances, preferring instead tightly hand-fit guns which offered excellent accuracy and required extensive break-in before they’d run reliably. This lack of reliability was exacerbated by a few factors: first, Browning had designed the pistol with the assumption that it would fire military ball ammo, and not the jacketed hollow points which are now popular for self-defense. Secondly, the 1911 uses a controlled round feed design, in which the magazine’s feed lips send the next round directly into the chamber, essentially ignoring the feed ramp. This means that the feed ramp is very steep, and an imperceptible deviation in the magazine’s feed lips might turn a previously reliable pistol into an expensive pistol-shaped brick at an inopportune moment.

So the 1911 really did set the standard for greatness, over a hundred years ago. Later designs are clearly its intellectual relatives, in that almost every pistol produced today uses Browning’s short-recoil action. But the technology has changed and developed since then, and that greatness is now disputable, to say the least.


EDIT ALSO If you have 1911s please show us them so we can have a nice “here are pictures of 1911s and also information” type thread.

The Just Use of Force

You might prefer ‘judicious’ or ‘justifiable.’ That is your prerogative. I sit awake and torture myself wondering whether I’ve done all I can and that is mine.

The gun is not justice, in and of itself, just as it is not evil or murder. The gun is a thing just as you are a person and the steel cannot bless your actions just as it cannot be cursed by those lawmakers who would ascrine intention to the inanimate.

The gun is a tool, in your hand as in mine, and it brings no righteousness to the works of those hands.

The use of lethal force is just in such cases as it prevents death or grievous bodily harm. It is wrong and generally illegal to use lethal force in the defense of property or pride. You may use the gun to harm only when you prevent greater harm from being done.

It is not right to shoot to kill. Having shot to stop a threat, it is not right to shoot to prevent badguy’s pending lawsuit. If badguy is incapacitated or immobilized, you must let him live, and call upon the services of modern medicine to save his life.

I understand the desire to kill the evildoer who has wronged you. I conprehend the call to kill the killer who can bring pain to your family, to prevent the theft of your property and things or to stop the sinister intent of the interloper. But my understanding is not force of law.

Please, if you carry a gun, learn to use it. Please, in your learning to use, learn also to have appropriate mercy upon those you might otherwise end. I beg you for the sake of the evildoer as well as the eternal right to keep arms and bear them in our own defense.

Only Carry Jacketed Hollow Point Ammunition

Ammo’s scarce. Good JHP (jacketed hollow point) ammo costs more. Carrying FMJ (full metal jacket) rounds seems awfully appealing. Despite this, you should only ever carry jacketed hollow point ammo in your self-defense pistol.

Given the same number of shots fired, FMJ is less likely to stop the threat. FMJ doesn’t expand and will therefore turn a vital hit into a miraculous near miss.

FMJ’s tendency to penetrate means that it presents a greater threat to things which are not your target than JHP would. There are important things behind badguy, and an unexpanded projectile may damage them after passing through his body.

FMJ will remain intact upon a ricochet against concrete, dumpsters, or brick walls, making it a threat to bystanders around badguy. JHP has a much reduced tendency to retain its kinetic energy, and is more apt to fragment into smaller and less dangerous pieces after striking a hard surface.

If you do manage to stop the threat with FMJ ammunition, you’ll have punched more holes in badguy than you would with JHP. Counterintuitively, this means that FMJ ammunition is more likely to kill badguy than JHP: a one-shot stop with JHP is one hole from which to bleed, while many holes punched by FMJ provide more avenues by which blood may be lost. For this reason, JHP ammunition is more humane than FMJ.

If you’re carrying a defensive handgun, load it with hollow points. Loading it with cheap walmart FMJ is irresponsible.

Self-Defense Training Heirarchy

If you accept that my self-defense heirarchy[1] is reasonably accurate, and that avoiding conflict is better than winning fights, I propose that this is the proper list of priorities for training.

  1. Situational Awareness (SA): situational self-preservation (staying out of trouble by always being in safe places) isn’t amenable to training. After that, SA is the most valuable self-defense asset, and among the most difficult to train. Therefore, you ought to work on it all the time, no matter what you’re doing. You’ve seen the TV show ‘Psych’? Be like young Shawn, and practice making observations and being aware of your surroundings. This will also happen naturally as you take conflict-oriented formal training.
  2. Will to Live: It is not enough to be situationally aware. In a trying situation, the power of will is required to keep you going when your animal instincts tell you it’s hopeless. This doesn’t just mean “don’t be suicidal,” it means having a willingness to place your own safety and the safety of your loved ones ahead of comfort or the safety of others, and a refusal to quit.
  3. Physical Fitness: getting the heck out of dodge is a whole lot easier if you can sprint more than 50 yards over uncertain terrain. It’s tough to escape and evade when your fastest movement is ‘waddle.’ A physically fit person can also develop better posture and is less likely to look like a target.
  4. Non-Weapon Skills: related to both Situational Awareness and Physical Fitness, these are the skills you will always carry with you, even if you are dropped naked from a helicopter into an unfamiliar desert. You may not always be armed, but you will always have your muscle memory, and cannot be robbed of Parkour or Krav Maga. I believe it’s healthy to focus this training on escape (Parkour and Gymnastics) and risk mitigation (First Aid, Psychology) before bothering with martial arts.
  5. Weapon Skills: these are less important than anything listed before. That does not mean they are unimportant in general. Physical fitness and athletic abilities are not an option for everyone, particularly if you are disabled, infirm, or afflicted with 20 years of office work and not enough exercise. Firearms are the great equalizer, and the skill to use them effectively makes it possible to take advantage of that. A single NRA Basic Pistol course is not enough.
  6. Weapon Choice: waaaaaay down here at the bottom, a forgotten footnote in any sane debate. I don’t care if it’s ugly or LOLOLOL or an outdated design. You’re more than welcome to engage in pissing matches on the internet as to why Glocks and Sigs are better than 1911s, but at the end of the day, even a black-powder revolver gets you most of the way to “gun advantage” territory. Besides, CZ-75s are the best.

Self-Defense Heirarchy

  1. Situational self-preservation: some areas are more dangerous than others. You’re more likely to be shot at in a war zone than at the company softball game. Staying out of dangerous places reduces danger.
  2. Situational awareness: you’re in danger, either because you were in a dangerous place or because a safe place became dangerous. If you notice this fact, you can avoid or escape the danger before it becomes imminent.
  3. Escape and evasion: you didn’t notice the threat before it became imminent. Your adversary is a direct threat to your well-being; he has a weapon out or is simply very goddamn big and scary. If you can run, he can’t hurt you. Still requires situational awareness.
  4. Intimidation via body language: This falls at about the same level as escape. If he thinks you’re bigger and scarier than he is, he leaves. Properly done, this doesn’t involve verbal threats; it’s more about how you carry yourself. You wouldn’t mug the Terminator or Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, right? Still requires situational awareness and a willingness to escape.
  5. Threat engagement: all other avenues of threat mitigation have failed. Visigoth raiders are assaulting your six-year-old’s birthday party in the suburbs. You’re aware of them, and of the situation, but you can’t abandon the first graders to the slavering horde. They’ve seen your best John Wayne impression and don’t care. It’s time to engage the threat.

Threat engagement doesn’t mean quick-draw and shooting. As soon as you draw your gun or reach for an improvised weapon or simply shout “STOP,” you’ve engaged the threat. There’s no turning back from that point, and it is not a threshold to be crossed lightly.

Effective threat engagement requires the willpower to do your adversary harm, the situational awareness to recognize the threat in time, the skill to engage him effectively, the equipment to neutralize the threat quickly, and a willingness to escape, confer with law enforcement, and properly handle bystanders or other victims afterward.

Of the possible responses, threat engagement is the least desirable and most dangerous. To engage the threat means that your efforts to mitigate that threat have failed several times. There is no pride in killing or gravely harming another human being. It is far, far better to avoid the problem beforehand. Prevention is much better than treatment.

I get to step 4 far more often than is necessary or comfortable, because 4 makes me feel good about myself. This is a sign of weakness, not of strength, and is not to be imitated.