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All You Can Handle

Ever come back from work late at night or early in the morning and stop at a stop sign even when there is no one else on the road to notice? Besides the influence of a good drivers ed teacher, why do we do that? Simple: Good habits can keep you out of bad situations. Stopping at that stop sign at 2:30 a.m. may seem silly, but not if it keeps you from getting T-boned by a drunk who just left his watering hole.


A generation ago, a lot of police departments had very rational duty weapon policies. If you could shoot a passing score on the qualification course with it, you could carry it. Obviously, not all departments were so enlightened but there were enough of them that it wasn't unusual. Today it is much more common for there to be a "one gun fits all" policy.


We as non-sworn taxpayers (even the police are civilians) have the option of carrying whatever we want. However, having been reading gun magazines for years, maybe you decide that you really "need" a bigbore handgun. Something chambered in a caliber beginning in "4" would be best. You know the old rock 'n roll motto: "Some is good, more is better, too much is not enough."


Hold on there! The laws of thermodynamics, essentially are these: (1) You can't win. (2) You can't break even. (3) You can't leave the game.


What these laws mean is that you will pay for your bigbore. The first price you'll pay is in size. Bigbores mean big guns, and that means more mass. Try going with a compact or lightweight hand blaster and you'll pay even more in the second installment, recoil.


Face it; you are not going to be able to launch a big, heavy bullet at high velocities without taking the recoil hit. The more handgun mass, the less hit you have to accept.


In any handgun of a given size, you're going to have less ammo available in a bigbore version than you would in the medium or smallbores. In something like a 1911, the disparity isn't so great: seven or eight vs. nine or 10. But in the high-caps, it can really add up. A 15-round 9mm in many pistols is the same size as an eight-shot .45. In revolv­ers, you don't even have that option, as a .44 or .45 is always going to be bigger than a.38 or .357. The cost of all this is sim­ple: flinches, blinks, trigger-slaps and missed shots.


"But..." I know, we've heard them all: bigger is better, 9mm's may not expand, but .45s don't shrink—all the clever quips. But if you have too much gun, you won't be well served. Robert Ruark, with his quote "Use enough gun," was referring to situations where your target could only hurt you by impact: claws, teeth, horns. Hold steady, let it get close, and hammer it with a thun­dering big bullet. Well, last I checked, felons don't often use horns or claws.


"OK, I'll step back from my .44 Magnum and load .45 ACP +Ps into my pistol." It might help, and it might not. And if it doesn't help enough, you'll go on with the bad habits.


So, how to check if you’re proficient at that bigbore handgun? Simple, take a page from the competition set.

There is a test drill that became famous in competition circles about three decades ago – The Bill Drill. Invented by Bill Wilson and pro­moted by Brian Enos, it was a one-stop quick test.


As competition tests go, it's simple: a single target, set at seven yards, and a loaded, holstered handgun. On the start signal, draw and fire six rounds. If you can place all six shots in the "A" zone in two seconds or less, you're good to go. "Whoa, that's not very tactical. No movement, no cover garment, and who shoots six times on one target?"


Well, first off, it isn't a tactical exercise; it's a gun handling exercise. The idea is to see whether you have all the basics down solidly—draw, index, sight-alignment, sight-picture, fire, recover and repeat. This is not done to improve your match scores, it’s to see if you have all the elements click­ing. If not, you can find out where you’re losing time and work on that element.


To see if you are over gunned, we'll modify it a bit. Instead of working from the holster, you'll simply start at low ready. We'll also move the target back to 10 yards. No cheating now; we're not talking the "just barely off the target" low ready, but muzzle down, pointing at the dirt a few feet in front of your toes. On the buzzer, lift and fire six times. As with the original, you have to have all six "A” hits. Got them? Good. Don't? Too bad, this is a pass/fail, not a "close enough" exercise. Now do it again. Three times in a row is necessary to successfully pass and any bullet that touches the scoring ring is out, not in.


If you can't do three runs in a row, clean, on demand, you are over gunned or under practiced.


Now, when you first attempt this, the whole thing will go by in one great, big rush. Beep! Blam blam blam blam blam blam, and you trying to keep track of ev­erything. This is not something to do in the first 15 minutes your first time to the range. Once you're comfortable enough to give it a try (and the range rules allow it), you can learn a lot. First of all, you can find out just how much you can do in two whole seconds.


if you start out over-gunned, you’ll learn to flinch in anticipation of recoil. You’ll learn to blink, anticipating muzzle blast. You’ll learn to yank the gun to try to control the recoil that you know is going to throw the muzzle up. And you’ll spend many range sessions trying to unlearn those bad habits. When read, pactice the other essential elements of good defensive practice—scan, smooth draw, clean reloads, cover, etc. But now and then, check to make sure you haven't been lured past your skills into +P or bigbore territory. If that’s the case,you either have to practice more or step down in caliber/power. Don’t listen to your friends who dis your choice of caliber. Check your targets, check your scores, and check your ego at the door.


 Rick Cross
Be Safe Firearms Instruction
Nevada & Utah Certified CFP Instructor
Certified Sabre Civilian Defense Spray Instructor
NRA Lifetime Member #082605371
NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection Instructor
NRA Certified Rifle and Shotgun Instructor
NRA Certified Reloading Instructor
Front Sight Lifetime Guardian Member
Affiliated Instructor Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network
Affiliated Instructor Armed Response & Taser Intl.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mobile: (702) 275-1625