Snub Training – The book

September 2, 2009

Dear Fellow snub shooters:

I hope this note finds you well.

About eighty-five percent of what I hope to be the first book in a three volume set of snub revolver skills is complete.

Starting this week, every second day I plan to post some newly re-edited sections and start outlining many of the actual shooting drills used in the snub class.

Posting the material every second day will give me time to sort through the corrections and suggestions so many of you have been kind enough to offer.

When this final material is up on the computer I will collect all of it in a monograph form and if interest permits make available a sample copy to the readers of this blog

The monograph copy will give us a chance to see the book sample in its near final form.

With this sample we can note and correct any text and photo issues before the first volume goes off to the publisher.

More importantly with a print sample we can identify any sections that you as a reader think need to be added, expanded or reduced.

I am looking forward to getting the remaining material up on the computer and
I am looking forward to working with many of you in helping to put out a monograph we can all enjoy.

I hope you will join me in the next few weeks as we get this material ready for its first printing.


Michael de Bethencourt


Snub Training – One Hand Snub Skills

August 22, 2009

Nationally known police trainer Michael Boyle has most accurately described “serious training with the defensive handgun … as a study of ‘what ifs.’” These include such basics as: reacting to a gun shot, drawing quickly and smoothly, moving to cover, firing from cover, combat loading and low light shooting.  An important skill beyond these basics includes the ability to fight back if injured.  An injury can occur at any point during an assault.  Lt. Boyle also noted that there are reported statistics indicating that in an exchange of gunfire with an attacker, the defender can expect to suffer a wound in his hand, arm or shoulder roughly 12% of the time.  The majority of these wounds occur in the shooter strong hand side.  This makes sense as an attacker firing on the handgun armed good guy will naturally be focused on the threat and the threat will often be perceived as the handgun. It is easy to remember that where the eyes focus the shots often cluster. It should be remembered that during the 1986 Miami shoot out, and very early into the gunfight one of the two killers tragically managed to strike three of the FBI agents in the hand and/or arm limiting their ability to return fire and subsequently reload.

As a consequence the prepared snub shooter must take it upon himself know how to draw and shoot with either hand equally well. As it will be expected that any need to shift to weak hand shooting skills will be predicated on the strong hand being injured, the shooter will also be expected to know how to reload his revolver with only one hand. One handed snub skills must be practiced before the emergency, not developed during the emergency because to quote nationally known trainer Mike Boyle: “Improvisation under stress has never been, and never will be, a strong attribute of man.”

Snub Training – Safe Direction’s Academy Pad

August 15, 2009


Safe Direction’s Academy Pad

Safe Direction’s Academy Pad

One piece of equipment I use both at home and bring to every training class is Safe Direction’s Academy Pad.  The Academy Pad is one of a series of the Safe Direction Ballistic Containment Systems.

The Academy Pad is an 8-inch by 11-inch composite armor board resting atop an energy absorbing/dispersal panel and wrapped in a bright safety Red Cordura® nylon outer shell.  The composite board is comparable to a threat level III-A body armor panel and will contain a single unintentionally discharged handgun round and is rated up to +P .45 ACP. The Academy Pad’s second layer, the energy absorbing/dispersal panel is designed to minimize damage to a supporting surface that might be caused by any blunt trauma forces that travel through the composite board.  The Academy Pad is additionally fitted with a set of three self piercing brass grommets. These grommets are designed and spaced to permit the owner to carry the pad in a standard three ring binder notebook.  As an instructor I find this feature exceptionally useful.  I can transport the pad to and from my classes in the same notebook I use to carry my instructor’s materials. In the classroom it is indispensable for clearing a student’s weapon whenever a shooting range is unavailable.  When traveling legally armed it is both a useful unloading safety tool and between range visits and important skill maintenance tool for safe dry fire practice.  At home or in an office the Academy Pad can be mounted with three stick-up nylon hooks and positioned on an appropriate surface as a safe dry-fire backstop.  Be sure to always pick a dry-fire area with the same great care you would use if you weren’t using the Academy Pad. For the traveling firearms instructor, the legally armed business traveler or the at-home gun owner the Academy Pad is an exception resource.


Dear Snub Training Readers:

Please note I will be traveling until next Wednesday.

We will pick up these posting then.


Michael de Bethencourt

Snub Training – Bellman Cross Draw Skills

August 14, 2009

There are several methods for left hand cross drawing out of a holster when the right hand is injured.  The best I have ever been exposed to was given to me by Bill Bellman. For many shooters this will be a new skill so do not strive for perfection. Work for safety then competence. Speed and fluidity will come with proper practice and repetitions. Please remember to begin your cross-body left hand snub drawing skills with an unloaded weapon and keep the muzzle under control and pointed in a safe direction.

Starting with the snub in a strong side holster reach across with your left hand. Seize the snub around the stocks with your left hand’s thumb pointing to the rear and your palm turned in toward your ribs.

Unsnap any safety straps and lift the snub up and clear of the holster.  While maintaining a good grip on the stocks, bring the snub around to your weak side.  Keep the muzzle pointed down and make no effort to adjust the orientation of the snub untill you have moved the snub to the left side of your body. Idealy the snub will end up near your left hip.  Your left hand thumb and the butt of the snub should now both be facing forward with your left hand at or near near your left hip.  Being careful not to make contact with the trigger, stuff the nose of the barrel into your waistband.  Do not let go of the snub as there is too little barrrel length to keep the snub in place.  Using your belt line as a temporary shelf only and without losing control of the snub, rotate your left hand 180 degrees. You should end up with your knuckles turned into your ribs and your thumb pointing rearward.  Re-grab the snub.  Your new grip on the snub should resemble a classic cavalry draw.  Lift the muzzle up from behind the belt line only high enough to clear the top of your waistband.  Once you have cleared the top of the waistband lower your hand to full arm extension.  Then rotate the gun 180 degrees before lifting the snub to firing position.

Note that the usual method to complete a cavalry draw after your hand has ended up at the knuckles in, thumb pointed to the rear position is to lift your hand as high as possible then rotate the weapon 180-degrees while keeping the muzzle pointed down.  While the traditional Calvary style cross draw is reasonably safe with a long barreled weapon often the shooter trying this with a short barreled snub will rush the job and inadvertently swing the muzzle across his own ribs.  The Bellman’s method of lowering the snub before rotating the gun 180-degrees removes this risk

Snub Training – Trigger Contact and Compression

July 18, 2009

 Only after your sights are on the target and you have made the decision to fire should your finger contact the trigger and compress it.  There have been over the years several theories about the best contact point on the finger for the trigger.  Classic marksmen used the tip for sensitivity when the weapons were often cocked before firing. For pure marksmanship this position may have had some validity but for today’s double action only snub shooter it does not.  The time and dexterity required to position the tip of the finger on the face of the trigger under the constraints of a lethal encounter may well prove to be fatally demanding. Other theories include the use of the pad of the finger, the area between the pad and the first distal joint, and the crease of the first distal joint.

Many shooters find that the size of their hands as well as the style of the revolver’s stocks will effect optimum finger contact position.  The majority of men with average sized hands will often put too much of their finger through the trigger guard of the J-frame sized revolvers, a frame size designed for an average woman’s hand. 

Subsequently there has developed two schools of though regarding trigger contact on the self-defense revolver.

First, that using the crease of the first distal joint offers the best combination of mechanical leverage and practical sensitivity. Advocates for this trigger contact point rightly consider the fingers crease and easy spot to consistently locate when firing. To aid in using the finger’s crease they argue that the face of the trigger should be polished mirror smooth so that the face of the trigger will stay in the crease like a ball bearing in a grove.

The second (and distinctly minority) theory is that the trigger should be pulled in a line straight to the rear of the trigger guard. That the face of the trigger should be lightly grooved in the fashion of the classic Colt triggers or the “combat” triggers originally on the self-defense revolvers Smith and Wesson made for police style service weapons.

Because I have average size adult male hands I find several ways to cheat this question. First, my day-to-day carry guns are a K-frame Smith backed up by a D-frame Colt. Both guns were built for the adult male’s hand and I find on both a more comfortable trigger contact location that I can find on any small frame .38 or .357 without having to add oversized stocks.

Before moving on I will admit to being in the “pull the trigger in a line straight to the rear of the trigger guard” crowd. I find that this is ridiculously easy to do with either a D-frame or a K-frame over a J-frame. Take a moment to look at your fist. Extend your index finger as if you were going to stroke an imaginary trigger. Now curl you finger in-and-out several times as if you were pulling the trigger for several shots. Note that there is a slight but perceptible arc in the line of movement if you follow the crease of the index finger’s first distal joint. This is easy to note if you put the knuckles of your fist against the edge of a table and your index finger on the table top. Put a slip of paper between your index finger and the table. Then ask someone to hold a pen in the crease with the pen’s tip on the paper while to “pull the trigger” several times. Remove your hand and the arc should be plainly visible. How can pressure for this arc not be disruptive to your aim when you applying pressure to your small frame revolver?

Second, when trying to cheat the trigger contact/trigger compression issue and when using a small frame revolver – like a Smith and Wesson J-frame – I will apply a set of over sized stocks like Hogue’s nylon Monogrips. Be sure to use one with the backstrap covers as this moves the web of your hand farther away from the trigger and gives you a trigger reach more in keeping with a K-frame.

I have one last cheat I hope to test once I locate the correct trigger. Combat triggers are narrow and target triggers are wide. I hope to test a target trigger that will be narrowed on the right of its center line to a combat trigger width and left wide to the left of its center line like a target trigger.  I am interested in determining if – if I keep the majority of the combat trigger’s face in the crease of the first distal joint if I can get the mechanical leverage advantage of the “keep it in the crease” crowd while by keeping the left side of the target trigger’s face on a portion of the trigger finger’s pad I will get a more consistent “pull to the rear of the trigger guard” pull and avoid pulling the sights off line during the trigger stroke.

Once I know I will let you know.

Special note – I will be away for two days and will not have any postings until Monday. But when I return we turn to what Conceal Carry Magazine refers to as “the controversial manual of arms.”

Snub Training – Five Sight Pictures

July 16, 2009

Few topics in the field of gun handling are as contentious as the subject of sight picture.  Every possible sight picture style seems to have its advocates and all are willing to point to specific facts to prove the superiority of their method over all others.  These include advocates for the classic or traditional sight picture (NRA et al.) the roughly aligned sight picture (Cooper, Stanford, et al.’s Flash Sight sighting) the front sight post focus sight picture (Ayoob’s StressFire sighting) the silhouette of the weapon sight picture (Cirillo’s Silhouette sight picture) as well as target focus or line-of-sight sight picture (Sykes, Fairbairn, Applegate et al.’s Point Shooting sight picture)

Several firearm trainers have tried to bring a cold and dispassionate researcher’s eye to the debate.  Of the research done to date I believe the current state-of-the-art work comes from Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Conti as presented is the seminal text Police Pistol Craft.  While Trooper Conti’s examination has led him to side closest with Applegate threat focus or line-of-sight sight picture side of the debate he makes the persuasive argument that a thoroughly skilled self-defense shooter needs a functioning knowledge of all these sight picture styles.  Furthermore he notes that under actual shooting situations and the various distances involved each one of these sight picture styles offer some specific advantages. 

Acknowledging that there is a specific value in each of the various sight picture systems and not wishing to reinvent the wheel what then are the best sources for the shooter interested in becoming more familiar with each method?  Here are a few sources I would recommend:

For traditional sight picture skills, see any NRA basic shooting text. For information on the roughly aligned sight picture see both Cooper on Firearms by Jeff Cooper and Surgical Speed Shooting by Andy Stanford. For front sight post focus sight picture see StressFire by Massad Ayoob. For the silhouette of the weapon sight picture see Guns, Bullets and Gunfights by Jim Cirillo. For target focus or line-of-sight sight picture shooting see DVD of Bullseyes Don’t Shoot Back by Applegate and Janich.

In every snub class I offer we review and practice all five of these sighting systems against targets at varying distances and under (ideally) artificial stressed situations.  The two important learning points I want every snub shooter to come away with is 1) There is value in each system and 2) seamlessly flowing from the one to the other is not only easy but a practical skill to develop.

Snub Training – Stocks and Grip Strength

July 15, 2009

Improving your handgun shooting performance is made easier when you improve both total grip strength and individual finger strength.  A strong grip will only enhance a shooter’s recovery from recoil.  Handgrips from the sporting goods store as well as some specialized ‘shooter specific’ hand strengthening tools are too often made of inexpensive plastic and built with springs of minimum resistance. The hand exercising tools sold in some weight lifting gyms to develop and ‘strong man’ grip strength tend to be of professional quality and will generally better serve to help develop a shooter’s grip strength.

Ironmind's Captains of Crush Grippers

Ironmind's Captains of Crush Grippers

There is at least one hand gripper company that produces a series of grip strength tools that are the gold standard of grippers and I believe should be in the shooting box of every serious shooter: IronMind’s Captains of Crush hand grippers.

The IronMind company produce hand grippers and finger grippers that are used by shooters, athletes, weight lifters and strong men the world over.  Their Captains of Crush hand grippers come in ten different strengths with a range of spring pressure from the starter ‘Guide’ and ‘Sport’ gripper of only 60lb and 80lb respective to the truly amazing ‘Number Four’ that only a few men in history have been able to grip close.  IronMind also produces a specialized set of finger grippers called the IMTUG that are also ideal for shooters because each allows you to train one or two fingers at a time. The Captains of Crush grippers and IMTUG grippers are serious training tools for the shooter who is looking to substantially increase his hand and finger strength.

Ironmind's IMTUG Two Finger Griper

Ironmind's TUG Two Finger Griper

The best place for a shooter to begin grip training program is with a starter set of grippers. A Captains of Crush hand gripper set including a ‘CoC Sport – 80 lb,’ a ‘COC Trainer – 100lb,’ and a ‘Coc No. 1 – 180 lb’ can be the best investment in improving your handgun recoil control.

If you do decide to improve your grip strength with Captain of Crush grippers remember these are serious exercise tools.  Always start with warm-up sets using a minimum number of reps. Also ‘Banging out’ an endless number of easy reps will do nothing for your grip strength.  Keep you reps low and limit sets for each hand to five or fewer.  And just like weight training give yourself every other day to recover.  Your recoil control will improve in short order.