Author Archives: parvusimperator

(More) Testing the RMR and Irons

I’ve spilled plenty of virtual ink on slide-mounted red dots. Specifically, the RMR. When last we left the subject, I found it less than ideal for unconventional presentations. Of course, class being class, I’m not always getting good, apples-to-apples comparisons. And I’m not always able to get a chance to record data.

So I thought I might spend a little time on my club’s new Quick Draw Range with a timer and some pistols. Out came the Glock 34. Out came the Glockblaster. Time for some work. I did two five shot strings with each pistols. A quick coin flip said the irons would go first. I alternated pistols between strings. All tests were from the 7 yard line, square to the target for the standard draw. I care more about the overall results, and the second strings, i.e. after I’ve gotten ‘warmed up’ for comparison purposes here. No test is perfect, but here’s my rather unscientific data:

G34 String 1GBL String 1G34 String 2GBL String 2
1.361.361.261.11
1.321.381.271.33
1.401.411.261.16
1.481.361.171.04
1.281.171.231.24
Avg: 1.37Avg: 1.34Avg: 1.26Avg: 1.18

Sigh. Okay. Let’s draw some conclusions from the data. First, I need to practice more. There’s a lot of variability in there. I need to iron that out. And I need to get faster. Further, we can see that the red dot pistol is faster on average, both cold and when warmed up.

As I said before, everything is a compromise. I think red dots are a good one overall, if you’re willing to put the time in to practice. I’d also like to get and try a frame mount. Frame mounts add bulk, but make the dot significantly easier to track in recoil. There’s an obvious shootability win there, but I’d have to see one in person to determine what I think of the increased bulk. Stay tuned.

PII: A Useful Cooperism

The Great Col. Jeff Cooper coined a fascinating and useful term, PII, ‘Preoccupation with Inconsequential Increments.” To wit, in his own words:

Years ago we coined the appellation, “Preoccupation with Inconsequential Increments,” or PII. This peculiarity lies in attributing importance to measurable deviations so small as to be meaningless. You see it in the people who shoot test groups in rifles, awarding a prize to a group which is only thousandths of an inch smaller than those unrewarded. One sees it in speed records awarded in one-thousandths of one mile-per-hour. One sees it in basketball scores which, nearing the century mark, are separated by less than three points. In all such cases Score A is “better” than Score B, but who cares?

An increment may be termed inconsequential when it has no significant relationship to the purpose of the exercise. Of course if the purpose of the exercise is in itself inconsequential some may not think this to be foolish. A very distinguished general at Quantico once caused the sign to be placed over the exit door of every office asking, in brilliant scarlet and gold, “What are you trying to do?” There was a man who knew more about human nature than most.

The Colonel knew what he was talking about. Know what one is trying to achieve. Beware the obsession with minutia that don’t really matter.

The enumeration of specific examples of PII is an exercise that I shall leave to the reader, who will no doubt find it enlightening.

Visible Lasers for Carbines

On pistols, I know many trainers who’ve had very good experiences with visible laser sights on pistols. The late Todd Green was a big fan, for example. Laser sights work well for target-focused shooting and shooting problems involving unusual shooting positions. They also reduce time to first shot, which is big from a defensive standpoint.

Do they make sense on a carbine?

Clearly, the answer is yes if one is using night vision devices. IR lasers are tops at night, if you’re hunting hogs or scum.

What about visible lasers? Visible lasers can be had for a lot less than IR ones. That much is obvious. Also, the nature of the laser means that a red dot or low power variable optic will make the most sense as the primary sight for most. If one had a gas mask on, the laser would be a much better choice as a primary sight.

This points to some of the use cases that might make lasers helpful. The laser will naturally make shots from nonstandard positions easier, because we don’t have to get all the way behind the gun to get a good sight picture. The laser can help.

We might also expect the laser to help on getting faster first shots, because we don’t have to get the rife all the way up before getting our initial shot off. I would love to test this in match conditions. And yes, this is a very gamer reason for a laser. Yeah, I’m a gamer.

Another thought for the laser is as a backup sighting device. We love backups. Normally, people mean ‘backup iron sights’. But iron sights are very different from a red dot or other optical sights. Lots of people have backup irons on their guns, but don’t practice with them. I’m pretty sure plenty of people don’t even zero them. Or, you could use a laser, which is going to give you a similar ‘colored dot in a tube’ as your red dot.

A brief word on sight models. As usual, there are some high end military type models available for quite a bit of coin. For experimentation purposes, I’m not going to be getting one of these. I’m going to start with a Crimson Trace Railmaster, which is a bit cheaper than a high-quality BUIS set. It’s not as durable as an ATPIAL, but it’s a lot cheaper. And it should let me evaluate the concept fine. Given my expected use cases, I’m not concerned about the relative lack of durability.

Red Dot Pistols In Class

I attended a pistol class this past Saturday. As ever, it was awesome. This time, I decided to try something a little different. I brought my Glock 17 with slide-mounted RMR. No compensator.

Knowing the instructors, I figured this class would focus on the short ranges typical of defensive handgun encounters for the CCW holder. I also knew this class would have plenty of unconventional presentations. I would not always start square to the target standing straight and tall. Plus, there would be plenty of mindset aspects that would ensure that I wouldn’t be focusing on my draw and presentation.

In short, this would be a great test of the RMR in conditions that wouldn’t be in its favor. To make this test as focused as I could, I used the same holster and weaponlight combo that I would normally use on my Glock 34.

I found that the RMR was, as expected, disadvantaged by class conditions. I found myself slower when I didn’t have a chance to focus on a good presentation, and when I wasn’t starting from the ‘standard squared-up draw’ that I practice a lot. Overall, the Glock 34 worked better in these class conditions.

Why is this? And why does the RMR work a lot better in the competition setting? In the competition setting, you get a draw once per stage, and there are many subsequent shots. These shots may be against very small targets, or targets at significant range. Here, even a slide-mounted dot can provide a noticeable advantage. Also, the draw is usually from a conventional, reasonably-squared off stance. So, in a competition setting, there’s a net advantage to the dot, even if your presentation isn’t perfect.

Clearly, I need some more practice with the red dot. Or, maybe everything is a compromise, and the dot may not always be the best choice for everyone all of the time.

Parvusimperator Talks on the Value of Competition

Near the Many Words HQ is a monthly (at least from April to November) two-gun match. Both Fishbreath and myself have found it tons of fun. There are lots of great other competitions out there, including USPSA and IDPA and IPSC. They’re lots of fun too.

Do these competitions have some training value? Sure! They get you out of the rigid, fuddy rules you find at most square ranges. Here you can move and shoot and apply your firearms skills to various problems. Excellent! Plus, you get to talk to other shooters about approaches and gear. All of which is highly valuable.

Further, matches introduce a stress component, which will cause little things to become a problem. Little things that you would not have noticed before. And it helps you to become inoculated to stress to practice having to deal with it. Note that I am not claiming that match stress is the equal of combat stress. I haven’t been in combat, and the comparison is probably disingenuous at best. They are different animals, but some work under stress is certainly better than no work under stress. Giving you some stress to work under in a safe environment can do nothing but help.

Now, there are those who complain about gun games. They will tell you that real targets don’t always present themselves in convenient normal silhouette orientations, they don’t stand still, they do shoot back, and (at least the clever ones will mention) that for the concealed carrier the decision to draw or not to draw is the hardest part. I would respond that all of these complaints are completely true. But what would you have us do?

Well, you could not have fun and not go to a match, and ignore all of the helpful things I’ve mentioned. That’s an option, and you’re welcome to it, if you’re an idiot or if you hate fun. You could also insist on MORE REALISM! but that way can get dangerous. Remember, a competition needs to be safe. And it needs to be accessible. And it really ought to be fun, or else people won’t come and then you won’t have a match. So let’s think critically about these complaints.

Targets should shoot back? How, pray tell, should we do this? Force on force? Fair enough. It’s the most dangerous kind of training, and most people don’t have simunitions guns, and have never done it before, and you’ll need lots of supervision, and you’ll have to use a specialized shoot house since you’ll need to contain any errant rounds, and it’ll take a lot of setup, and you’ll need to find people to be the “bad guys” and get shot a lot all day. I wish you all the best of luck in this. It’s a lot easier to set up an ordinary match with ordinary steel and cardboard targets on an ordinary range.

Targets don’t move? Well, nothing says we can’t make steel and cardboard targets move. It just takes a little effort. Lots of matches I’ve been to had some moving targets. And usually, people in a fight won’t move all of the time, because they might want to shoot back, and shooting on the move is hard.

As for the decision to draw, ok, you got me. To do this right, you need those simguns again, and experienced roleplayers to set up scenarios. Those people can be hard to find, and they have to be willing to get shot with simguns (read: paintballs) a lot. Plus, it’s a shooting match. Spoiler alert: there’s some shooting involved.

Really though, matches are fun. Go shoot them. You’ll improve your skills.

Carbine Class Lessons: Equipment

A couple weekends ago, I went to a Carbine 1 class. I had a great time. Classes are a great way to build skills. And, also a good place to test equipment and compare notes.

I brought Bridget, with a couple modifications. Bridget is admittedly a competition gun, but that’s my primary AR-15 use case. When I do drills, she’s the carbine I’ll be grabbing, so I figured it was good to get a baseline with her. I swapped out buffers, moving to an H2-weight buffer, and switched to a Springco Blue buffer spring, which is heavier than standard. These on the recommendations of Mike Pannone, who has an excellent treatise on maximizing AR-15 reliability.

I also decided to switch triggers. I love the Geissele SSA-E, but I happen to also have an AR Gold laying around, and that trigger is the trigger of choice for a ton of high level multigun competitors, including Kalani Laker, Daniel Horner, and Jerry Miculek. The AR Gold claims to duplicate the feel of a well-tuned 1911 trigger, and I’d say they’ve done their job. Other than the geometry being different, with the AR-15 trigger having a pivot. There’s a very, very short take up and then a light, crisp break. And then a very short reset. It feels a lot like the trigger in my Springfield Professional.

I also brought a more traditional Colt 6920 as a backup gun. Always bring a second gun to class, just in case your primary goes down. Then you can keep right on learning.

Pretty quickly, I learned that I had done a really good job when I built Bridget. I had no malfunctions. She ran great. Everyone who picked up my rifle commented on how light it was, how easily it pointed and transitioned. Being a four-person class, we all got to try each other’s rifles. Bridget got top marks for weight, and top marks for lack of recoil. Even with mediocre technique, the muzzle really doesn’t rise at all. And with good technique, you can shoot as fast as you like and keep your rounds on target.

Of course, all of this comes at a price. Bridget was the loudest carbine by far. Angry SBR loud. .308 loud. Wear your earpro.

Also, light weight has its downsides too. Bridget is less stable. She’s easier to disturb accidentally, which was a bit noticeable in some of the marksmanship portion. She really forces you to focus on a good prone position.

The trigger was also really good. On the one hand, the light, short reset means you do need to focus if you’re trying to let the trigger out to the reset point and stop. But just like a good 1911 trigger, it was basically impossible for the trigger pull to disturb the rifle sights. Even when I tried to go fast and slapped the trigger around. The slow point in drills was transitions and my fatigue, not trigger control.

I added a sling attachment point for the purpose of the class. I also got some keymod rail covers. These were welcome. That aluminum-magnesium rail got very hot to the touch. Note to self next time: wear gloves.

Of course, I never come out of a class not wanting more stuff. One of the guys had some Crye Magclips. These are a really great way of easily adding a few extra magazines to your loadout. They’re not super secure, but they don’t have a big footprint, and they’re pretty cheap. Perfect for carrying a little extra out to the firing line.

Also, for probably the millionth time: knee pads. Very helpful for kneeling and prone. Very, very helpful. If your instructor is wearing kneepads to class, you should too.

New though would be elbow pads. Pistol classes don’t do a ton of prone shooting. Rifle classes do. It’s nice to have something to protect your elbows from errant rocks or recently fired spent brass. Ask me how I know.

My equipment was not all perfect. I found that my Elcan 1.5x/6x was noticeably slower on drills than my Aimpoint Comp M4s. The Elcan was also kind of obnoxious for switching between standing and prone shooting. Another shooter had time on an Elcan in a class setting (and had also brought an Aimpoint to this class) and we both figured it was a combination of a smallish eyebox and relatively short eye relief that makes the Elcan a little more awkward for this type of transition-heavy shooting. On my list of optics to go for next is probably the Swarovski low power variable, because it has a much bigger, more forgiving eyebox and better eye relief. I’ll report back here with my findings.

One more lesson, this from observing another shooter. If you’re going to use an adjustable gas block, be sure you can access it without removing your handguard. Removing handguards is a pain, and it can be very difficult in the field. We had a shooter who noticed his gas block was coming unset from where he wanted it, but was unable to access the adjustment valve with the handguard he had on his rifle. And he wasn’t able to remove that handguard with the tools he brought with him. He switched to his backup gun for the remainder of the class.

Sling Use

The sling is a massively useful piece of equipment. A long gun without a sling is like a pistol without a holster. You’re just not serious. Let’s talk about a few ways to use a sling, and what kind of slings you should (and shouldn’t) consider.

We’re going to focus on tactical use, because I’m a tactical kind of guy. I’ll touch on slings for high-power-type marksmanship competitions later.

What kind of sling should you get? You should get a quick-adjust two-point sling, unless you have a big reason to get something else. If your job is doorkicking, and you’re one of the first guys in the stack, you may find a one point sling is better for you. Everybody else should stick with the modern, quick-adjust sling. There are many out there. I happen to prefer the VTAC one. The Vickers one is good too.

The problem with the one-point sling is that it doesn’t stabilize the weapon on its own. Your carbine will swing, probably between your legs, whacking you in the knees and groin as you move. Fun. So you’ll need to put a hand on the gun to keep it stable. Hopefully you don’t need both hands for stuff.

Properly mounted, a quick-adjust two-point can be lengthened to facilitate transitions. Or it can be tightened to secure the gun and keep it out of the way. Given the two points of attachment, it will stabilize the gun fine on its own, letting you do other things with both your hands. It will also comfortably support the weapon, but let you get the gun into action quickly.

Let’s note that a quick-adjust sling requires a quick-adjust mechanism. A nylon strap is not a quick adjust sling. That’s good for carrying a rifle on your back and looking bored and not ready. Fresh out of the 70s. Have a c-ration with that, cheapskate.

I should also tell you that three point slings are stupid. I don’t know anyone who uses these anymore, probably because it isn’t the 90s. Just say no. Three point slings are a great way to strangle yourself. Or trip yourself.

Now that you have your sling, you need to figure out how to mount it. Some of this will depend on carbine setup, and some of this will depend on you. As a general rule, the further apart your attachment points are, the more support you’ll have. The closer the attachment points are, the easier it will be to manipulate the carbine in transitions. It’s up to you which you value more. QD sockets will help you adjust and figure out what works right.

For the forward attachment point, if you have a modern handguard with rails, keymod, or m-lok, you can get a QD sling socket that attaches to it, and you can move it around until you find what works. Problem solved. Don’t forget to loctite it down once you found what you like.

Further aft, you can get a receiver end plate with a QD socket. Most not-craptastic stocks come with a QD socket on either side. Again, the end plate socket will work better for transitions, and the socket on the stock will stabilize the rifle better. If you opt for the stock, remember to attach the socket on your strong hand side. I.e. if you are right handed, use the socket on the right side. Having the swivel on the outboard side will feel weird at first, but it will allow you to switch shoulders without the sling choking you.

If you’re shooting high power or similar competitions, you want a sling that’s going to help lock the rifle in place. These slings are loop slings, and they connect your support arm bicep to the rifle. The mounting swivel is adjustable so you can get your support hand in behind it. This will significantly increase the stability of the rifle once you master it. The sling should be tight, and is taking your muscles out of the problem of supporting the rifle.

On Airbase Hardening

Conventional wisdom might say that airbase hardening was demonstrated to be foolhardy in the 1991 Gulf War. USAF precision guided weapons demolished Saddam’s hardened aircraft shelters. But is it really still so foolhardy? Let’s set aside a convenient mountain to hide your planes under, and think about the traditional Hardened Aircraft Shelter: a small hangar covered with a good deal of reinforced concrete and other armoring materials.

Let’s also suppose, of course, that we’re in an operating environment where the question has some merit. That is, we’re in an area where there are reasonably proximate threats. The mental calculus is different in the middle of Nebraska or Siberia than for most parts of Western Europe. Fortunately, that is where Borgundy is.

We know that with sufficient application of firepower, any target can be destroyed. Emphasis on the word application–only hits count. This is where the precision comes in. Precision guidance kits have massively increased the hit probability. If we can see it, we can hit it. And if we can hit it, we can kill it. And aircraft shelters, hardened or not, are pretty easy to spot.

The Iraqi experience in 1991 bears this out. Shelters didn’t last. The Iraqis were unable (or unwilling) to contest the coalition airstrikes, so coalition airpower hit targets at will. Tougher shelters might have taken multiple hits, but precision guided munitions made this easy.

All of this is true. But note that the bombs used in Desert Storm were big. 2,000-5,000 lbs big. And the coalition air forces were able to operate with impunity. Suppose we have a more aggressive, competitive air force, and a more useful air defense system. In other words, suppose a peer opponent. Unless your ‘peer’ is the United States, your opponent will not have a near-limitless supply of precision guided munitions.

You will not be able to harden your shelters against everything, of course, but you can harden them against a strike or two from 1,000 lbs class penetrator warheads. Why 1,000 lbs? Because those bombs are easy to carry in quantity on tactical fighters, and that’s the size warhead you can fit on a Tomahawk cruise missile. And the Tomahawk is widely emulated. That’s a pretty standard size for a large cruise missile. Long range, 1,000 lbs warhead. Smaller cruise missiles have tend to have significantly shorter range and similar warhead sizes.

Cruise missiles are cheap, accurate, and effective. They’re hard to stop, being significantly smaller than a fighter aircraft and flying low and fast. And if they are downed by a high-end air defense system, there are now POWs or friendly casualties to see on the evening news.

So the goal is to remove some low-risk, low cost means of attacking your hard targets. Force them to increase missile count and bombs, meaning more sorties.

Now all I need is some cost estimates for a bunch of bunkers.

Movie Guns: Indy’s Revolvers

I’m lumping a couple guns together with this one. Indiana Jones primarily used a Smith and Wesson Second Model Hand Ejector in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Colt Official Police in Temple of Doom, and a Webley-Government (sometimes referred to as a Webley Green) in The Last Crusade. The Hand Ejector and the Webley were chambered in .455 Webley, and the Official Police was chambered in .38 Special. I’m going to focus on the better movies. Indy barely uses the .38 in Temple of Doom anyway.

Recall that Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936 and The Last Crusade is set in 1938, so choices of sidearms are limited accordingly.

The S&W Second Model Hand Ejector is a double-action revolver where the cylinder swings out to the left side of the gun. Pretty typical for the day. The example here, being a gun for the parts filmed in England, is chambered in .455 Webley. Also note that this is the pistol used to famously and simply dispatch the swordsman in Cairo, so it should have a place in the heart of pistoleros everywhere.

The Webley Government was a popular service revolver often purchased privately by British Officers and used as their sidearm. It’s a top-break double-action revolver, and it’s chambered in .455 Webley.

The .455 Webley is an interesting old cartridge. Interestingly, it’s one of three service pistol cartridges to get an endorsement from Col. Cooper as having ‘acceptable stopping power’.1 It’s rather lower pressure than .45 ACP, but comes from the same sort of ‘heavy and slow’ school of thought. It’s also more closely descended from black-powder loads. In an all-steel service revolver like the Webley Government, the .455 will provide quite tame recoil.

Overall, the .455 Webley gave good ‘man-stopping’ service in British hands in two world wars and a number of colonial actions. It also provided the origin of the term ‘dumdum’. The British had a large stockpile of early hollow point rounds at an arsenal in Dumdum, India around the time when they signed the 1899 Hague Convention outlawing the use of such rounds.

Double action revolvers were generally seen as the police sidearm of choice in the 1930s, though a good bit of this may be due to Depression-era finances and following the lead of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, who thought that semiautomatic pistols were tools of ‘criminals’ and not fit for law enforcement personnel.2 In military service, they tended to stick around due to post-Great War budget cuts not leaving room for new sidearms.

Revolvers do provide the advantage of letting you quickly deal with a bad cartridge by pulling the trigger again, rather than having to clear a jam. For this reason, they were commonly seen as the ‘more reliable’ option, despite having intricate, clockworklike internals. They also lack a magazine to go wrong. However, when they do go wrong, it tends to be a real bother to fix.

The biggest difference between the two revolvers is that the Smith has a swing-out cylinder, which you’re probably familiar with from more recent revolvers, whilst the Webley has a top-break design. With a low-pressure cartridge like the .455 Webley, the design choice really doesn’t matter all that much. As more powerful cartridges were developed, the ease of making a sturdy frame with a swing-out cylinder meant that design became the standard. There might be a small reload margin in favor of the Webley, since it automatically ejects spent cartridges, but that’s a minor one. The particular hand ejector used in the film had a shortened barrel, which might be a little handier.

As for the choice of firearms, they’re both pretty reasonable. They are duty pistols in a good caliber, and you could certainly do a lot worse. Of course, my preference during the era would be for an M1911A1. No surprise there. I’m quite fond of Old Slabsides. Despite the capacity disadvantage, I much prefer the handling characteristics, trigger characteristics, and lack of magazine safety of the 1911 when compared to the Browning Hi-Power. Also, being limited to 1930s ammo (i.e. ball ammo), I’d prefer to shoot .45.


  1. The other two rounds are the .45 ACP and the 10 mm Auto. 
  2. Though, of course, plenty of such semiautomatic pistols were used by G-Men, especially in the early days when equipment was less standardized. 

TTPs: The Scan and Assess

One of the most oft-derided things to come out of tactical training is the scan and assess. It’s also a great illustrator of why watching a bunch of tactical videos on youtube is a bad idea. Taken out of context, both good and bad ideas all seem stupid. Or brilliant. Or both. With proper context and explanation, one can determine if something is actually good or if it’s dumb. And let’s face it, the scan and assess is really easy to mock.

But let’s talk about it, because it’s got a lot of value if done correctly.

Everyone says they ought to have Situational Awareness (TM). And, everyone claims to have great Situational Awareness. Like driving, most people suck at situational awareness. It’s not something you can quickly switch on, or something that’s easy to teach. It’s the kind of thing that you have to practice, usually with drills.

When you’re shooting, you get focused on the target (and your front sight). That’s what you’re oriented on. And it’s really easy, especially under some stress or when the goal is speed to focus on the drill too much. Maybe run things by rote. Supposing we’re thinking about training for something defensive, this tunnel vision will get a bit counterproductive.

The idea of the scan is to look around and break out of the tunnel vision. Notice I said look. Not shake your head around with a neck spasm. Look. See things. That bad guy you shot. Is he out of the fight? Does he need more shooting? What about around you? Does he have some friends? What about you? Are you hit? Does your gun need some ammo management?

It’s really easy to cheat the scan, flip the head around a few times, call it good, and then get back to growing that tactical beard. You’re missing the point. Like reholstering, there’s no prizes for doing this fast.

It’s a lot more fun to do this with a friend. Have a friend stand behind you. Maybe have that friend hold up some fingers. Or hold them out at his sides. And then check if you actually saw those fingers. Do you know how many he held up? Did he have something in his hands? Was it car keys? Are you looking?

Looking around slowly and breathing is a great way to start to bring those stress levels down. If you’re training hard, you’ll sometimes need a breather. Make it work for you.

Is there anyone in the parking lot? Maybe your buddy’s coming to test his new blaster. Maybe some sketchy guy is looking to score a free gun. Are you looking?

In addition to your surroundings, you might need some minding. You might have been hit and not know it. Your weapon has less ammo than when you started. Maybe you should see to that. Especially in classes, or if you’re working timed drills, executing the drill as written is important. If the drill doesn’t require a reload, and you haven’t been doing it with a reload, then a reload is going to throw off your times.

Someone is going to be along to quote the importance of a reload to me. Fine. Nevermind that actual CCW permitholder gunfights and the vast majority of Officer Involved Shootings don’t involve a reload. You’re going to have to reload, so you should learn to do it right. And there are plenty of drills that call for a reload, just so you can practice it. But if you’re doing some Mozambique drills, and you’re looking at by the book par times, those don’t count a reload. So keep your gun prepped. It’s a good thing to do in class too, if you’re not drilling reloads, for the same reason. Keeping that gun topped off lets you execute the drills as instructed. Are you looking?