Snub Training – Snub as Back-up Gun I

July 31, 2009

All fights, certainly gunfights, are violent physical encounters.  In the middle of the fight any number of failures can occur.  If there is a Murphy’s Law it is certainly most likely to occur in the middle of a gun battle. Fortunately everything that makes carrying a single snub convenient: small size, light weight, adequate power also supports the carrying of a back-up snub. But are their any legitimate reasons to do so? By my count there are ten reasons for carrying a second gun.  These include:

You run out of time

You run out of ammunition

Your primary gun malfunctions

Your primary gun is disabled

Your primary shooting hand is disabled

Your primary gun is lost

Your primary gun is inaccessible

You’re fighting over the primary gun

You’ve lost the fight over the primary gun

You need to arm a trusted other

Tomorrow we will start looking at each of these items in some detail.


Snub Training – Gunsmiths I

July 30, 2009

Karl Sokol is the owner and chief gunsmith with Chestnut Mountain Sports in West Rutland, VT. He is one of the only two gunsmiths I use for work on my self-defense snubs. The other is Mike LaRocca, owner of LaRocca’s Gun Works in Worcester, MA.

Recently I asked both for a list of those features that they consider important on a snub used for self-defense. Both listed several of the same generial recomendations though neither contained the eaxct same list of items. Nor did either mimic my own thinking on the subject.

Like many things in life, recommendations from qualified sources are based on both the personal and practical experience of the men involved.

Here now is Karl Sokol’s thoughts on the subject.

Dear Mr. De Bethencourt:

Regarding you inquire about the risks, if any with removing the hammer spur. My experience and advice is that properly bobbed hammer does not affect ignition.

Regarding you inquire about the pros and /or cons of adding a hammer shroud: A shroud fitted snub can [aid in clearing] a pocket or shoot multiple times thru a [jacket] pocket in theory. However, I have had no problem [drawing from a pocket with] with my bobbed Smith and Wesson [nor] shooting through  [jacket] pockets …”.

[Here are my] thoughts on custom [self-defense] snubb work:

1) Smooth the action and add a Double Action Only (DAO)  conversion. A light action does not equal smooth; reliability is the most important requirement

2) Bob the hammer, where and when applicable

3) Round and smooth the face of the trigger in order to remove any sharp edges; your revolver should not bite the hand that feeds it

4) Chamfer the cylinder’s charge holes

5) Add stocks that work with the gun and shooter

6) Add a front sight color insert, or night sight where feasible. A front sight needs to grab the attention of your peripheral vision

Ultimately it’s the customers decision regarding what he/she feels is most useful.

Finding the “right” pistolsmith is really the ultimate key to a custom
project. (Don’t let your cousin Billy Bob work on your self defense

Thanks again.

Karl Sokol – Gunsmith
Chestnut Mountain Sports

Snub Training – Speed Strips and QuickStrips

July 29, 2009

Note – Before making any observations regarding the two brands of loading strips I need to point out that I am currently aiding TUFF Products with some of their QuickStrip marketing efforts. I also edited the directions used to explain two loading techniques used in their packaging and wrote the ten loading techniques noted on their web page. So please remember to take all of the following with a grain of salt.

Bianchi Speed Strip 6-round strips

Bianchi Speed Strip 6-round strips

The Speed Stripis an injection molded strip of flexible urethane material with six recessed holes and concludes on one end with a small, flat tab.  The Speed Strip’s recessed holes were designed to hold six .38/.357 rounds in a line and are spaced to permit loading either individual or paired rounds into the cylinder’s chambers.  According to Bianchi sources the Speed Strip was invented by John Bianchi between 1969 and1970. It was invented in the age when the policeman was issued a service revolver and his spare ammunition was carried either on the uniform’s belt loops or inside dump pouches.  A dump pouch is an ammunition carrying case designed to literally “spill” six loose rounds into the policeman’s hand for reloading. At the time many departments forbid the carrying of speedloaders. Forced to work under the mechanical limitations of the dump pouch, John Bianchi invented the Speed Strip.  The Speed Strip would fit inside many of the dump pouches of that era and for the officer trying to hold a weapon in one hand and juggle six loose rounds in the other hand the Speed Strip must have been a Godsend.

TUFF QuickStrip 8-round strip

TUFF QuickStrip 8-round strip

The QuickStripis similar to Bianchi’s Speed Strip, but there are three features that differentiate the QuickStrip from the traditional Speed Strip. First, the rubber used in the QuickStrip seems to be of a slightly more uniform consistency. For student use in my snub classes I own to about sixty sets of Speed Strips. It is my impression that some of the Speed Strips are a little stiffer than they need to be while others are a little more pliable than necessary. I don’t believe the difference is due to the age of the Speed Strips, classroom temperatures or the amount of usage. The range of flexibility seems to be noticeable regardless of these conditions. This does not affect function in any perceptible way but is rather a general observation. Second, TUFF Products molds on each QuickStrip a set of reinforced rubber ridges. There is one ridge along each side of the loading strip. The sales literature suggests that these ridges helps reinforce the length of the strip and reduce the chance of unwanted rounds coming off the strip when using a lateral-twisting loading method. While these ridges may in fact reduce the risk of losing rounds with this reloading method it would be exponentially more effective to completely avoid the risk by never attempting to reload with any lateral-twisting method. Massad Ayoob, I and others have written extensively about the advantages to using various in-line loading strip pealing method. One of Ayoob’s methods is described in detail with photos in every QuickStrip package. Finally, QuickStrip offers a wider variety of loading strip lengths and calibers. They are available in as few as 5-round strips for .500 caliber rounds to 10-round strips for the .22. Smith & Wesson is supplying 5-round QuickStrips with a 5000 model run of their ubiquitous J-frame and I find that many campers and day hikers tent toward carrying a pair of their 8-round strips. Of more interest to the snub shooter is their 5-, 6-strips in .38/.357.

While no loading strip will ever be as quick as a second gun or a speedloader, they do offer several unique virtues.  Loading strips can be a useful addition to your regularly carried speedloader. Failing that the loading strip are also convenient low profile primary ammunition source if you don’t regularly carry a speedloader. Its flat shape encourages the carrying of spare ammo when a snub owner might otherwise be tempted to travel without spare ammo. That is temptation should always be resisted as in the past the practice of carrying no spare ammunition has cost men their lives. Many years ago, two California detectives were shot and murdered by a man in a wheelchair.  The facts I remember were that the killer had ended up in the wheelchair from a previous shooting with the police.  The detectives came with an arrest warrant and found the subject on his bed without his pants on.  When one detective turned around to get the subject’s pants for him, the killer pulled a snub from between his legs and shot the officer. He killed the detective, and was shot at but not hit by the second detective. After the second detective shot his snub empty he tried to escape the area but was unable to locate an exit. The bad guy then got off the bed, took the dead detective’s snub and crawled after the second detective. Trapped in a dead end hall the second detective had time to reload but no spare ammo to do and was subsequently murdered by his partner’s killer.

In additionally to encouraging the carrying of spare ammunition, the loading strip also enjoys the virtue that it, unlike the majority of speedloaders, can be worked effectively with an injured hand for one-hand-only snub reloading.  A detailed description of one-handed-only snub reloading will follow.

What conclusions if any are there regarding loading strips? If you have Bianchi Speed Strips and you pratice an effective loading method I think you are well served. In addition to the classic .38/.357 caliber Speed Strip, Bianchi has introduced a .44/.45 Speed Strip. If you don’t have or have never used loading strips I would recommend you pick up a set of QuickStrips. They are well made, competitively priced and unlike the Speed Strips they come with a well written set of directions. (I would say that of course). In addition to the .38/.357 caliber QuickStrip, TUFF has introduced a .44/.45 and .41 Magnum strips. Finally, whichever one you buy go with the 6-round strips. Fewer common reloading methods can be optimally preformed with the abbreviated 5-round strips and the 8-round strips are little too much of a good thing. While the age of the dump pouch has all but vanished, for the contemporary concealed snub owner either the Speed Strip or its competitor the QuickStrip continues to be useful reloading tools.

Snub Training – Interrupted Loading

July 28, 2009

Another loose round drill with some self-defense training value is the interrupted loading drill.  This drill is best run with three of four training partners but two as minimal can work.  Shooters start with an empty snub and three loose rounds in their pockets.  At a pre determined signal all shooters draw their snubs, go through the “semi-auto” reload manual of arms and start loading each single round as fast as safe handling will permit.  Remember to “feather” the cylinder after inserting each round.

The first shooter to load his three rounds closes his cylinder and starts shooting at the target.  At the sound of that first shot going off all other shooters must stop loading, close their cylinder “as is” with whatever they have currently loaded in the cylinder and start shooting their targets.  Any shooter who did not managed to load even a every single round can continue to load that one round only, but not one more.  All shooters must shoot only whatever they managed to load.  I find that the first time a shooter hears a shot going off while he is still in the middle of a race-against-time reload reports the effect as equal parts “jarring” and “terrifying.”

The drill is a great motivator and a teaching tool.  Most range shooters shoot quickly but reload slowly.  Leaning to reload quickly is an important self-defense skill and a great reminder that you are reloading against the attacker’s watch and not yours.

After the shooters have determined their fastest re-loader they can repeat the drill with one small change. The fastest shooter is given a fourth round. He alone is required to load all four rounds before he can close and fire his snub. All other shooters are still required to load their three available rounds. Again at the sound of the first shot going off all shooters still in the middle of a reload must immediately stop, close their cylinders and start shooting their respective target.

The added “handicap” of an extra fourth round for the first string shooter is a bonus for all the shooters. The fastest shooter learns what it is like to load too slowly while the other shooters get a chance to build their reloading speed without the burden of trying to compete against a shooter they already know is a faster reloader than they are.

I usually run these drills a total of three times with the fastest shooter from the third shooting string also being given a fourth round. This advantage encourages the other shooters to really put on the speed now that they know the fastest two shooters in the class are required to load four rounds to their three, and it drives the fastest two shooters to put on the speed in order to “out-load” the only other shooter in the class who is on par with them for reloading speed.

Snub Training – Paired Round Loading

July 27, 2009

Few exercises point out range effect scaring as clearly as a two round loading drill.  Start with two dummy rounds in your pocket and an empty snub in its holster.  At the self-initiated signal load both dummy rounds as quickly as you mechanically can. Work as if the lives of your family depended on it! When you have done that and re-holstered the snub with the dummy rounds still in the cylinder and ask yourself a question.  Did you just load both rounds side by side?  If you did, and 99.99% of everyone I have ever conducted this drill on did, then you are a member of the conditioning-to-fail club.  If you were loading to protect your family wouldn’t you have better served them if you had loaded those rounds anywhere other than side by side?  When loading side by side you run a statistical risk of closing the cylinder and having to cycle through three or four empty charge holes (depending on if you loaded a five or six round cylinder) before you hit upon your first live round.  If you had split the loading then your chances for a live round earlier would have gone up to 25% with a five shot revolver and 20% with a six shot revolver.  Now why do so many shooters load side by side during this test drill?  Because on the shooting range they have unconsciously conditioned themselves for years to load each round one-after-the-other side by side until the cylinder is full.  Consider retraining yourself.  Start by loading every full cylinder in a random fashion. In the future when loading a partial cylinder load in your first two (in a five shot snub) or three rounds rounds (in a six shot snub) anywhere and in any order except side by side.  In addition to breaking a dangerous range habit practicing with two or three rounds in your cylinder will continue to extends your range time, reduces your shooting costs, reduces or eliminate any flinching, reminde you to shoot through empty cylinders and most importantly helps you evaluate all your on-the-range behaviors. Are you on the range to shoot or are you conditioning your mind and reflexes to win a violent attack against a lethal assaulter?

Snub Training – Single Round Reloading

July 25, 2009

There are a few reasons why a shooter might want to practice loading only one or two loose rounds in a cylinder. 

1 – Range practice with a few empty charge holes are the revolver equivalent of ball-and-dummy drills.  Can this be done with dedicated dummy rounds? Yes, but leaving a few charge holes empty saves the work of collecting the dummy rounds at the end of the shooting session. Also, your local indoor range may not want to shut down the range so you can recover your dummy rounds while other shooters are waiting.

2 – Few things will help you develop a “flinch free” shooting habit than constantly catching yourself anticipating the revolver’s recoil only to then have the hammer fall on an empty cylinder.

3 – A cylinder only partially loaded teaches a shooter to “shoot through” the cylinder rather than A) expect the rounds to automatically be indexed or B) demonstrate how quickly you can cycle through to the live rounds rather than trying to manually index the next round.

Once when I was at the SIG Academy I set up the following drill: The “good guy” had shot down two of three attackers who were trying to assault (kill) his family. The good guy had fired off all five  of his cylinder’s rounds. He was now attempting to reload. As it was an artificial drill I told the shooter that he would have time to load two  rounds (all I gave him to reload) but that he was to reload under the clock. As soon as he loaded histwo rounds he was to return to the target and get off two accurate shots. The shooter rushing to get the rounds in loaded both rounds, turned to the target and (Still racing the clock) pulled the trigger three times. “Click!-Click!-Click!”  Believing the rounds had misfired he dropped his shoulders in defeat and we suspended the drill.  “What!?!” I screamed “are you doing?” The rounds “failed me” he told me. “No!” I continued, “the gun is still hot. You’re so used to loading the gun and indexing the cylinder that you think the gun will do it for you in an emergency! Now get back on target and fight!”

4 – A partially loaded cylinder can break a shooter of the deadly habit of believing that the gun is only partially loaded. Here is a simple math test. If the cylinder holds five rounds and you load the cylinder with four rounds, by what percentage is the gun loaded? (Here is a “hint,” four divided by five is eighty percent) Do you know the answer? Did you say eighty percent? Well then move yourself to the back of the class. Four rounds loaded into a five round cylinder means the gun is loaded one-hundred percent four times over. A single round loads that gun one-hundred percent. At least one of the four policemen killed during the Newhall shootout was reported to have died with an open revolver loaded with five rounds. Might he have been better served by his instructors if they had taught him to partially load the cylinder and then return to the fight with a fully loaded gun (Five rounds meant the gun was loaded one-hundred percent, five times over!) rather than leaving him to die trying to fully load the cylinder?

That said, the following three drills are offered only as an exercise. I would rather a 2nd snub, a speed loader, or a Speed- or QuickStrip be used in lieu of deliberately planning on reloading with loose rounds, but sometimes uncommon scenarios do occur.  By way of example, sometimes rounds come loose from speed loaders, Speed- or QuickStrips. Remember that during the infamous FBI shootout at least one agent tried to reload his revolver with the loose rounds from a box of fifty kept in his car’s glove box.

Snub Training – Self Defense Reloading

July 24, 2009

Reloading skills can take one of several forms; Skills that develop familiarization with the weapon, Skills that develop tactical awareness, Skills that develop self defense competence and, Skills that develop range competence.  Most reloading skills blend two or more of these attributes.  As a general rule I try to avoid any reloading skill that is predominately a range competence skill.

A classic example is the traditional reload where the shooter takes a 1/4 step to the rear before he unloads the revolver.  The usual rationale for this 1/4 step is to ensure that the revolver’s muzzle remains pointed down range.  This is all wonderful on a static range but what does this 1/4 step have to do with self-defense? 

Do you want your shooter to take a 1/4 step away from cover during a gun fight?  Are there not equally safe range-reloading mechanics that don’t leave “training scares?”  How many old style reloading drills required the shooter to catch his empty brass in order to avoid having to police the range at the end of the training? 

Even Bill Jordan in his text No Second Place Winner recounted an incident where a long time reloaded had unconsciously stuffed spent brass into his pockets during a gun fight, an unconscious result of catching spent brass rather than training to let it fall to the ground.  I have no qualms with any reloading drill as long as it has some passing relevance to a weapon familiarization, tactical awareness or self-defense skill.  The following reloading skills are a case in point.