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Survival 101: GUN FU! Just when shit was getting dull around here.

Posted by on 2012/04/07

How can we not talk about guns, they’re so cool, so useful, so much fun to play with, and not at all dangerous!  Guns come in handy when your home town has been taken over by evil communist soldiers that are holding your father hostage, and you and your high school pals manage to flee into the wilderness and become freedom fighters. Go wolverines!

I live in a big city, and I don’t have an outdoor area on my property where I can go shooting at my leisure, I actually don’t have property, which is probably why I’m more into the whole run and gun thing than turtling up in a bunker.  So I have to head downtown and patronize one of the few rental ranges that I have access to.  It’s good, because I get to try out a couple different guns every time I go, but it sucks because i’m shooting at stationary paper targets between 5 and 30 yards away, paying $15 for every 50 rounds I shoot, plus range fees. Still, apparently it’s a pretty good way to learn how to shoot, so whatever.  This ‘hobby’ budget can run me $150-$200 a month, and after a year, I’d still only consider myself an unskilled shooter.  Some dude at a gun range once told me until you’ve fired 10,000 rounds, you’re a novice, even though I’m pretty sure it’s just some bullshit benchmark he heard someone else mumble once, it stuck with me. I’m probably close to around 4,000 right now, so I’ll restrain myself from saying I’m an intermediate shooter.

Guns take a short amount of time to learn how to use, and a long ass time to learn how to use well. I’m going to go ahead an skip the whole: guns are dangerous, and don’t point them at anyone thing, because fuck you if you’re an idiot; and if you accidentally shoot yourself, or get shot by a cop or something, prepping for your extended survival is kind of a waste of time.

Anyway, we want to learn how to shoot accurately with small arms, so that’s going to be the lesson today.  Learning how to shoot correctly means that you’ll be more accurate, and thus waste less ammunition trying to hit your target, thats some basic conservation stuff, and it makes sense I guess, so it’s probably right.

How to fire a semi-automatic, double action handgun. This is the most common form of handgun, and that probably means it’s a good place to start.  Semi automatic means that it will eject the spent cartridge casing and load the next cartridge into the chamber every time you fire. Cartridges are kept in a magazine that typically fits inside the grip of the pistol.   Pistols can be gripped and fired one handed, but don’t be an asshole, use two hands.

Your dominant hand should be holding the gun in a way that feels natural (they’re made to fit in your hand), high on the ‘back strap’ or the back of the grip of the gun, so that the crux between your thumb and index finger is nestled comforably at the top of the grip like a baby goose in the mouth of a walrus.  Keep your finger resting alongside the trigger guard, but not inside of it: this prevents Steven Seagal from grabbing the barrel of the gun and whipping it around quickly so that you break your finger and shoot yourself in the face; and he can pop up anywhere.

Your secondary hand, if you have one, should wrap naturally around the the remaining exposed part of the grip, with all of your fingers below the trigger guard so that you’re not getting those fingers in the way of any moving parts.  Your support hand should fit into place neatly; alternately, you can use it to cup the bottom of the grip and the heel of your primary hand, but this grip is generally considered less stable.  The point of gripping the gun high on the grip with two hands is to control recoil. Don’t overlap your thumbs either, you want to keep both your thumbs in contact with as much of the grip as possible.  

Your stance should be the same as a wing chun neutral stance; feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, weight evenly distributed, ready to move in any direction at a moments notice, but completely stable.  Practicing shooting from this stance will help train your body to naturally fall into this stance when you need to, just like training any martial art.

Your arms should be almost fully extended out in front of you and the gun should be aligned with your dominant eye.  You can find your dominant eye by… oh shit, hang on, put the gun down for a second.  Okay. So pick something about 30 feet away from you to look at. Keep both eyes open. Point to it, now focus on your finger so that it’s blocking the object. Close one eye. If your finger is still blocking the object, then you have found your dominant eye, if the object jumped out from behind your finger, then you just closed your dominant eye.  You can also make a ring with your thumb and index finger and encircle the object, keep both eyes open and bring the ring towards your face, keeping your focus on the ring and the object in the center of the ring, the ring will be moving towards your dominant eye.

Okay, sorry, pick your gun back up. Fix your grip. Now aim.

When you’re using a conventional handgun you’ll almost always have a ‘sight’ along the top of the gun. At the end of the barrel there will be a single pillar or dot, and near the back of the gun, there will be two pillars or dots.  Line the gun up with your target, using your dominant eye, and position the target between the pillars or dots on your rear sight, then align the front sight so that it appears as a center dot or pillar between the similar aspects of your rear sights, creating a perfectly flush line.  When you’re ready to shoot, switch your focus between the target and the ‘sight picture’ to ensure that you are correctly lined up.

Pulling the trigger: That’s actually a misnomer, what you want to do is press the trigger, or squeeze the trigger. Apply constant, increasing pressure to the trigger until it fires. You want to manipulate the trigger so as not to disturb the sight picture, this is tricky, because the rest of your hand has to be holding the gun steady and keeping it on target.  You’re essentially trying to isolate your trigger finger so that it doesn’t make the rest of your hand work. It’s not natural, the rest of your hand wants to react with the effort,it wants to help, and by doing so, it will fuck up your shot.

I read a paragraph in the document – Basic Pistol Shooting Techniques, by Law Enforcement Services LLC – that seemed pretty cool, and I’ll quote it here, even though I have no idea if it’s actually practical information.

Another helpful technique is to control small motor muscles. For example, concentrate on not blinking when the round is fired. One method to determine if you are blinking is to watch for the ejected casing when firing a semi-automatic weapon. An ejected casing is only visible for a few hundreds of a second, about the same time it takes to blink. Shooters who never see an ejected casing are blinking. Blinking is a negative conditioned reflex. Reprogramming the brain to control the small muscles used during blinking also programs the brain to control larger muscle groups. If you are not blinking you are not flinching. When the round is fired a properly conditioned shooter will feel the spray of burnt gunpowder on his face, see the slide of the weapon move rearward, see the ejected casing as it is hurdled from the ejection port, and see the smoke curl around the barrel. At this point the shooter will then become one-with-the-weapon, will harmonize with the weapon, and will have mastered mental conditioning and trigger control.

All that cowboy shit, quick draw, and shooting spinning plates, and shooting other bullets out of the air, that’s cool, but before we learn how to do that fancy shit, there isn’t really a substitute for learning the fundamentals.  Neutral stance, extended position, two handed grip, taking time to aim and find your sight picture, and control the trigger.  Once you can place a tight grouping of shots on the target, exactly where you’re aiming, at a range of distances; then you should feel comfortable learning other techniques.  It’s that whole walking before you run thing.

After the shot, the recoil will pull the muzzle of the gun up, and it will take a second or a fraction of a second for your grip to regain full control of the gun, firing again before you’ve had time to align your sight picture, is pretty much just wasting ammunition.  When you ‘rapid fire’ a pistol, you’re relying on blind luck to land your bullets rather than any semblance of reason or skill.  Rapid fire should be reserved for expert shooters who are incredibly familiar with how their gun performs, and have a realistic measure of their own skill.

Some general rules for semi-automatic pistol selection: A heavier gun will be easier to control, a longer barrel will increase accuracy, larger caliber pistols inflict more damage to the target, a lighter gun is obviously easier to carry.

A note on choosing caliber: Technically, caliber is an antiquated measuring system that referes to the internal diameter of the gun barrel, in relation to the diameter of the bullet which will pass through it. Realistically, caliber roughly equates to the diameter of the bullet at its widest point.  A .38 caliber bullet has a diameter of .38 inches;  9mm an 10mm rounds are .38 caliber and .40 caliber respectively; typically.  All this means is that the higher the caliber, usually the larger the bullet, and thus the more damage it does when impacting the target.

I’ll make this easier.  9mm rounds are the most common, therefor are usually have the greatest availability, and an expectedly low cost, making it an excellent choice for practice, additionally a 9mm round is effective for self defense.  The S&W .40 is fairly common, and is known for its propensity to create disproportionately large entry wounds compared to the 9mm due to the way the rounds are shaped.  The .45 ACP is also very attractive choice, using a larger, heavier round that is known for it’s ‘stopping power’ or ‘one shot stop’ potential.  Cartridges have a lot of different designations like FMJ (Full metal jacket) or JHP (Jacketed Hollow point).  The difference is in the composition and shape of the bullet. Practically, what you need to know is that FMJ generally are better at target penetration, whereas JHP are designed to spread out on impact, meaning more actual damage to the target.  For self defense, JHP is recommended.

Every gun will have a reputation for reliability and accuracy, both are very important. Good quality firearms that are well maintained are designed to be both reliable and accurate, but every gun has its strengths, and are designed with a variety of tactical applications in mind.  Choosing your first firearm is a highly personal choice, and if you have the ability, then by all means, try out a variety of guns before making a selection.  Once you do choose a gun, you’ll want to practice with it often, learn how to maintain and repair it, and familiarize yourself with every aspect of its function, because when you need to use it, chances are your life depends on it.

Learning how to maintain your firearm is probably as important as learning how to use your gun. In a semi-automatic, it’s not uncommon for a cartridge to ‘jam’ the mechanism of the gun; knowing how to solve this problem immediately, safely, and while in a stressful situation is some seriously important stuff, but that’s only one of the crazy number of things you’ll need to know about your gun. Always seek the advice of professionals before following the ramblings of some jackass on the internet who writes a survival blog that’s primarily a source of entertainment rather than practical knowledge.

In Gun Fu! Part II, the revenge; we’ll get a little deeper into how the semi-automatic works, and what they mean by ‘tactical applications’. Also, we’ll try to dig a little deeper into technique, and troubleshooting your shooting.

We’ll tackle revolvers next, then move on to rifles, and if we get around to it, blaster pistols, phasers, and disintegration rays.

2 Responses to Survival 101: GUN FU! Just when shit was getting dull around here.

  1. JCRogers

    I love your writing style, so casual and awesome.

  2. chance

    Thanks! I really dislike being taken seriously.

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