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A Girl and Her Gun: Drills

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


This post is really for those of you who are not yet shooters or are relatively new.

If you have not shot a gun before then you may not be aware that guns can "malfunction". I will leave all the technically aspects of this to the experts, but basically, when you pull the trigger and there is no bang, you have a problem.

If you are in a bad situation and it calls for you to draw your gun and shoot, you want it to go bang and more likely, you will want it to go bang, bang, bang. If for some reason, your gun doesn't do that, then it is imperative that you know how to deal with that problem, quickly.

There are several reason why the gun might not go bang and there are several ways to deal with the problem.  I will not get into all of those ways because I don't want to bog you down with to much information.  For the purpose of simplicity, I will just say, dealing with malfunctions is an important part of your training.

If you missed my post yesterday, I talked about having some bad dreams and all of them focused on my gun not working and me not being able to fix it.  Lots of people posted that these kinds of dreams are very normal and all have had them.. Huge relief.  Many of the suggestions to dealing with said dreams was to a accept them as nothing more than the mind doing its thing and to practice.

I receieved lots of very helpful comments, but I thought I would share part of one from Weer'd...

"I used to have the crazy malfunction dreams, and I still have REALLY weird ones, like one when my wife and I were in a hotel room and some creep tries to force their way in. I grab the travel box I had taken the gun in (obviously we must have flown or driven through an unfriendly state) and open it up and there is my 1911...perfectly field stripped and laid out.

So now I'm putting a 1911 together as fast as I can while the door is breaking down.

Just weird.

Still the most common nightmares everything works as I practice, my draw is smooth, I keep the gun in a position where it can't be grabbed and I shoot and hit my target....and nothing changes, the attacker keeps coming, and eventually my gun breaks or falls apart, or jams just because my mind is out of bad ideas.

I suspect the reason for this is I've never actually SHOT a person. I know what its like to draw and fire, and I know how to fix a gun that's stopped working...but I have no idea (in practice) how to stop an attacker because I've never had to do it.

I know my biology, I know my ballistics, and I've read a ton of books about such things...but I've never seen it happen, and so my mind has nothing to draw on".

 I think that makes perfect sense.  Our minds do in fact draw from what we tell it or what it has experienced.  I actually, know this to be true from my education in Deaf studies and linguistics.  That is why practicing anything you want to do well, is so important.  You have to develop those neural pathways.

Anyway you slice it, I needed to get to the range. So, yesterday my husband and I met John at the range to work on malfunction drills.

The first drill was a target placed at a relatively close spot to me, maybe 5, maybe 7 yards. John, placed some live ammo mixed with dummy rounds then I shot the magazine and dealt with the issues that came up.

A dummy round is a "fake" bullet. It isn't supposed to go bang. They are also called snap caps. There might be other names, but those are the two I am familiar with. Mine are red. You can read more about them here

So, let's say I pull the trigger and the gun makes a click sound, but nothing else happens. Then I have a problem. What I practiced was tapping the bottom of the magazine, racking the slide and then pulling the trigger. It is actual called...tap, rack, bang. I have practiced this before, but it has been a while. The other part of the drill was to move while tap, rack, bang was taking place. If your gun is not working, you don't want to stand there like a sitting duck while trying to fix the problem. It is important to move and to make yourself a difficult target. Now, when I say I moved, understand at the indoor range there isn't much room to actually move.

Again, if you have never shot at an indoor range let me explain that basically you are put in a little cubicle.

I had just enough room to take 2 steps to the left or to the right, but it got my mind thinking about moving and any practice is good. Well, as long as what you are practicing is based on good solid training.

I practiced dropping the magazine and reloading and John showed me how to tap, rack, bang with one hand. The range we were at would not actually allow us to practice this, but I got the idea and I can certainly practice that at home during my dry fire practice time.  For more on dry fire practice see the Cornered Cat's article on the subject.

I did pretty darn good if I do say so myself. What I found interesting is that when the target was a man, I did much better then when I was shooting at little circles. When I was shooting a "person", I hit every shot in center mass with a fist sized group, but when I was shooting at little circles, I was still hitting the target, but not exactly where I was aiming. Not sure why.

All in all it was a very good day at the range and I felt much better about being able to handle a malfunction. I will, of course, keep practicing, but I am feeling good and last night very peacefully.


At January 17, 2012 at 7:35 AM , Blogger Tango Juliet said...

Good that you slept well. And good that you got some malfunction drill work.

Clint Smith will tell ya that the more reliable your handgun is, the more you should practice your malfunction drills.

Keep it up!

At January 17, 2012 at 7:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every gun can, and does, malfunction. They key is trying to find a firearm that will limit those malfunctions. You've done that with the Glock. Then, as you have described here, practice is key. Without it the odds go down on survival.

At January 17, 2012 at 7:49 AM , Blogger TheMinuteman said...

I meant to comment yesterday and forgot. I've had some really weird malfunction dreams. More often than not it turns into a brawl in my dreams.

When one of those dreams happens every tool I have will malfunction some how.

I had one dream where the wife and I were walking through a town somewhere, no clue why but three men approached one obviously armed. I drew my gun and the slide flew off at the first shot. Then the knife blade fell out of my knife. I grab the tac light and it disintegrates. Flip open the collapsible baton and the end goes flying across the room. At this point they're on top of me and it's hand to hand. It's like that gorramed Murphy lives in my dreams.

Only on a few occasions I've been jarred awake, though I have been told by the wife she can tell when they happen. My teeth grind noticeably.

As for why, I think the assumption your brain hasn't seen it is correct. I was in plenty of fights through school and I don't wake up when it goes hand to hand. Everything I am unfamiliar with though disappears.

The thing I hate most about them though is usually when everything goes wrong, they're also the most vivid.

At January 17, 2012 at 7:59 AM , Blogger Robert Fowler said...

but I have no idea (in practice) how to stop an attacker because I've never had to do it.

And hopefully you never will. Next month will be 36 years since I was beaten and left on the side of the road. In all of those years, I have only drawn my weapon one time, no shots fired. I guess the rather large guy thought I was a easy target, fooled him. Even though nothing has happened, I still practice. Keep practicing and polishing your skills. You may never need them, but there is always that one time. I was unprepared once. Your post are inspiring to everyone. Even those of us that have been doing this for years.

At January 17, 2012 at 8:49 AM , Blogger Kirk said...

My guess would be that dreams are your subconscious mind's way of telling you that you need to look into something. Its worried or concerned, and is letting you know about it. You've taken that step to get the training you need, which has satisfied your subconscious mind.

My dreams, when I remember them, are either about being stuck back in Nuke school, with a test (transphase or comp...the big, 4-hour mind/soul-crushers) being handed out. And I've been out of Nuke school goin on 20 years now. That, or they involve Vikings. At least in the Viking dreams, I know how to dual-wield those war axes I'm toting. And I have a killer mustache so epically awesome that it takes down two Viking berserkers just on its own. (although, for some reason, that part only happens on Friday or Saturday nights, after reading up on the weekly badassoftheweek dot com post)

At January 17, 2012 at 9:01 AM , Blogger Old NFO said...

Mine is always the wrong ammo for the gun... and then it ends up in a knife fight or hand to hand... sigh...

At January 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM , Blogger Erin Palette said...

Weirdly, I have never (to my recollection, at least) had any dreams like this, but neither have I shot anyone or received a large amount of tactical training. I'm not sure if my mind is simply preoccupied with other things or if I have some sort of character defect.

At January 17, 2012 at 11:27 AM , Blogger agirlandhergun said...

Robert, I am glad you are here and fighting. I am sorry for your experience.

Erin & Kirk,, your hilarious!

At January 17, 2012 at 4:03 PM , Blogger God, Gals, Guns, Grub said...

Practice is the key... I think you'll find it not only builds your physical and mental skills... but also your comfort level...

I even find that visualizing it in my mind helps... and then as you incorporate it into your entire lifestyle... all the pieces will come together when the time requires...

Some golf, some bowl... the Gals and I love to shoot together... the gun store fella hands my daughter a gun and she automatically pulls the slide back and checks the chamber...

Keep up the good work...

Dann in Ohio

At January 17, 2012 at 4:24 PM , Blogger Jennifer said...

In a dream, I left the takedown lever down so when I went to draw, only the frame came out leaving the slide in my holster. I could be satisfied until I tested the scenario and discovered that even if I made this mistake, it would not spontaneously field strip in that manner. Crazy stuff. In that one I was able to get the thing back together because the barrel fell off the bad guy's gun when he tried to shoot me.
My brother-in-law dreamed that his gun was inexplicably shootings marshmallows and making a comical pop! sound when it did. Funny in the retelling, but terrifying in the context of the dream.

At January 17, 2012 at 7:42 PM , Blogger 45er said...

Good post. I'm glad you got some malfunction drills in. Dummy rounds are something that I think aren't used enough in training. I buy them in bags of 50 in all calibers I have including .223 for the AR. They are just molded plastic, not fancy that way if I lose one or two on the move on a big course it's no big deal. That's great advice. Thanks for posting.

At January 18, 2012 at 6:22 AM , Blogger wrm said...

If you're that way inclined, join up with the IDPA crowd. We don't need snap caps to get malfunctions :-)

At January 23, 2012 at 1:32 PM , Blogger Bob Johnson said...

i can definatly relate to wierd's dream about shooting and then the gun breaks because he didn't know what to expect - i had the same kind of nightmares about my 16 prior to iraq


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