Active Shooter: To Engage or Not to Engage?

I’ve spent some time this month looking at the attributes of a rifleman, their prevalence (or lack thereof), and their role in modern society.  Now I’d like to take a more specific look at how some of these aspects might play out.


The question at hand is this: “A person is armed with a firearm and appears to be indiscriminately shooting innocent people.  You are armed, and in a position to engage the shooter.  Do you?”


I want to make perfectly clear that I’m not talking about interfering with property crimes by introducing deadly force.  I’m not talking about engaging anyone who is not an obvious threat.  I’m talking about an active shooter situation in which someone is engaged in pulling the trigger on innocents in the present (not a minute ago). 

I hear and read a lot of people espouse the opinion that carrying a gun is only for self-defense and that it’s a mistake to interfere in the business of others, even if that business is being an innocent person getting shot by a psychopath.  After the somewhat recent killing at IHOP on 9/6/11 in Carson City, Nevada in which a bystander was armed and decided not to engage with his handgun, there was a lot of debate.  This got me thinking about my own views.  None of the following is meant to second guess what any particular person did. 


I read a few differing opinions on this subject.  The most compelling I read in favor of engaging were by Gabe Suarez.  I generally agree with what he has said on the subject.  I have had trouble understanding the opposing opinions.  I was actually quite angry to hear Tom Gresham say on Gun Talk Radio that other people’s welfare is really none of your business when your carrying, just take care of yourself.


The first thing that comes to mind is that it seems to me an incredibly selfish thing to not even consider engaging.  What I hear over and over, basically being “mind your own business and look out for yourself” seems to encapsulate a lot of what is wrong with our society at this point in time.  If you look at some of the other things I’ve written this month, it’s obvious that my conception of a “rifleman”, which again is a term I use to mean in a very general sense of a protector, is someone who fulfills the duty of what any able bodied male was expected to do when this country was founded.  In our nation’s early days there was no police to call or any kind of government expert to take over the scene.  Apathy, and the failure to take responsibility for what goes on in our communities, is allowing those who would take away our rights and traditions the opportunity to do just that. 


The second thing that comes to mind is that saying “only the police have the responsibility to neutralize an active shooter” and standing up for 2nd Amendment rights are incompatible with each other.  Rights come with responsibilities, in some cases rights exist because of responsibilities.  In the case of the 2nd Amendment, the responsibility is explicitly mentioned, before the right is enumerated.  I’ve touched on that more here. 


In coming up with an article, I actually had to do some thinking and consideration, which has moderated my stance on the subject of engaging an active shooter a bit.  I think that there are certain questions that need to be considered beforehand, before you even consider becoming part of a hellish event like an active shooter situation.  There are certainly valid reasons not to engage.  I don’t think that “it was not my fight” is one of them.


Consider why you carry a gun in the first place, and whether or not you can actually use it.  Is a gun a magic talisman to ward off evil?  No.  You better know within yourself what your capabilities are, both in terms of skill and your emotional capacity to use it.  


You should consider often different scenarios you may find yourself in and consider how you might address them.  You should also consider whether you are equipped to address them.  These are easy situations to figure out after the fact, but hard to figure out when your heart rate is at 180 bpm, people are screaming and running, and you might die.  The sight of your gun will probably freak people out, causing the people running away from the gunshots to panic.  If you carry a gun you should be thinking of things like this ahead of time, so when you are actually faced with them you can act instantly.  If you’re training does not enable you to engage in the scenarios you can imagine, consider whether you need to get that training ASAP.


Consider how you will cope with killing a human being.  I understand, you shoot to stop, but understand that there is a possibility, if not a probability of death.  If you aren’t up to meeting the challenges, consider not carrying.  So the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I up to the task?”  Hopefully you thought about this before you decided to carry.


A crucial question to ask when making a decision whether or not to engage is where you are in relation to the threat.  It would seem that the closer you are, the stronger the case to engage.  If you are directly threatened, we don’t need to ask the question.  If someone is directly threatened within your sight, I hope you don’t need to ask the question.  If it’s in another room, be careful.  Make a decision, use your senses and common sense, and act prudently one way or the other.


Do you have your own family to protect?  This is a situation in which it would be understandable that you take whatever measure necessary to ensure their safety before considering engaging.  Solve problem #1 before considering problem #2.


Something else to consider is whether the situation outweighs your ability to address it.  Can you accomplish this without help?  If not, is help available?  The police will probably not want your help if they don’t know you.  Getting to know them beforehand via ride-alongs or citizen academy programs my help you in this regard, or they may not.  


If the police don’t know you, and you have a gun visible, you stand a good chance of being shot.  That’s definitely something to think about.  If the police are arriving, the situation has likely been going on for a few minutes.  If that’s the case, your window of opportunity for engaging may have closed.  You’ll have to make an assessment of whether that’s the case at the time.  If you are ordered by the police to drop your gun, you better listen and comply quickly.  Don’t delay your compliance to offer  an explanation.  That’s for after.


Speaking of windows of opportunity, once the shots stop, it is no longer an “active” shooter situation.  The shooter may still be alive, and may still constitute a threat, but the dynamic has shifted.  It may now be a hostage or barricaded gunman situation, which unless you are right there and know exactly what’s going on, probably is outside of the realm of what an armed citizen acting alone could hope to solve.


Consider whether your participation in the event will make it more dangerous.  If you have to run against a stampede of people running away from the gunfire, will the sight of your gun cause a traffic jam of people?  Is the shooter within a crowd?  Are there over-penetration issues?


These are all things to consider.  There may be more.  You need to think about them ahead of time.  Make sure that if you carry a gun, that you and your equipment are in a state of readiness and good repair. 
I’m not trying to give you an answer as to what you should do.  I just hope you make a good decision when the time comes.  The question you’ll have to answer at the time is “Are people being killed right now?  Is there something I can, and should, do about it?”

Pushing Boundaries

It can be a very long and difficult road to improve at anything.  Rifle shooting is probably one of the more difficult things to progress at.  It’s a very potent blend of the physical, mental and, yes, even emotional.

To get better at shooting, we need to keep pushing our capabilities.  I don’t think that anyone would argue with this.  If this is so widely acknowledged, then why do shooters tend to be so complacent in their skill development?


The first impediment to pushing our boundaries is that it is difficult.  It’s going to involve a four letter word called W-O-R-K.  Right now as I’m writing this it’s about 30° outside (don’t even consider that it’s 1:54 am and I really couldn’t shoot right now even if I was super pumped to get out there).  The nearest range is about 15 minutes away, but chances are good that something (someone) at that public range will impede me from accomplishing my goals for the day.  If I do go shoot, I will then have to maintain my equipment, creating further work.  If I don’t go to the range, I can make a nice, hot, chocolaty, coffee drink and work my way up the blacklist of gun blogs.  


Not only is it difficult to improve our skill, it can be expensive.  Ammunition, fuel to get us to the range, cleaning and maintenance materials are all significant expenses if you keep track of that sort of thing.  If you really want to improve and get some training, WOW!!!, it can cost a lot before you even factor in travel, lodging, and 500 rounds of ammo.


Improving takes time.  Often, this is time that we need for other things, like work and family.  At another level, our lives involve a finite amount of time.  Combine those two things, and sometimes mediocre is the best we can hope for.


As to some of the things we could do, but usually don’t do to improve, consider that it takes planning to get good.  How often do you sit down and consider your strengths and weaknesses, and devise a plan to correct your deficiencies?  How many of your trips to the range involve working on something specific you planned to do way ahead of time?


This brings us to something very important to realize: It’s more fun to do what we’re already good at.  It feels good.  It reaffirms to us that “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me.”  The musician would see this as the difference between practice and playing.  Practice involves planning and executing a specific exercise devised to address a particular deficiency.  Playing is just playing.


A more significant impediment to our improvement is to know what we’re not good at.  It’s hard to push the boundaries if you can’t find them.  Our context of shooting is incomplete, so often our conception of relevant skills is unrealistic.  Furthermore, there are aspects of ourselves that we are blind to, but are easily observed by others.  This makes self-directed practice particularly challenging.


Hopefully, highlighting some of the impediments to success will help you to

1.)  Get up off your rear end. 
2.)  Budget your time and money with shooting as at least somewhat of a priority. 
3.)  Plan your range time (and dry fire practice) to address specific deficiencies. 
4.)  Spend time doing things you are not good at and don’t currently enjoy,    
5.)  Seek out advice and evaluate yourself as objectively as possible in order to  
      expose weaknesses that you are not currently aware of.


Get to it!!!

Stages of Learning in Riflecraft

The way of the rifle is a journey that could last a lifetime depending on what it means to you, what you’re willing to give it, and what you want out of it.  There are many landmarks along the way to give you an idea where you are.  They are no different from the landmarks of learning any other art.  I can only speak to what I have experienced, but I think I have managed to get down the road a ways.

The beginner has just stumbled onto the rifle.  He has no context, he just feels the pull towards the steel and walnut, or fiberglass, or aluminum and plastic, or the massive claw extractor, or the power and speed (mostly these last).  The beginner has a choice: to remain a beginner with some cool equipment, or to adopt a method and begin learning about shooting.  In the flow charts that follow, notice that to the left is an end, and to the right as a continuation.

To continue learning the beginner will adopt a method and become a disciple.  The disciple believes first and foremost in his discipline, and usually his in master as well.  Note that the master in some cases may not be personally known to the disciple; he may publish a method to be followed via media.  The disciple believes without any doubt in the superiority if his system.  Why is this?  It is because the disciple does not have the experience to realize that his discipline exists within a defined context.  The particular discipline is probably functional within this context, because the context is also defined by the method.  But the disciple does not have the knowledge or experience to imagine that there are other methods to address other problems or other definitions of reality.


With regular practice and application, the disciple with become an advanced practitioner of his method.  This is analagous to a 1st degree black belt in the martial arts- having a bit of skill, but not mature skill.  Traditionally, this is the level in which the practitioner is ready to begin serious study.  Currently, because not many people understand the difference between having a little skill and mastery, this level is thought of as more of a destination than a waypoint. 

The acquisition of a little skill is kind of a milestone- hence the new black belt for the uniform.  Curiosity on the part of the practitioner may lead him to explore other contexts of skill in the same discipline.  This is frowned upon by insecure instructors, or those with an immature level of skill themselves.  This brings the practitioner to another fork in the road: to wallow in his expertise in his system, or to begin to feel what is outside of his system, which is to question the system itself.

It is a difficult thing to question the method.  The devotee has invested time and probably a good deal of money into learning and mastering it.  Questioning the system can lead the practitioner to feel duped- all that time and money, not only that, but the emotional investment- for what?  It will lead the rifleman to feelings of resentment toward his system.  On the other hand, it is a period of tremendous growth.  The rifleman can apply his considerable skill to learning other ways, to solving other problems he has not considered before.  It will give him a new and broader context to frame what he already knows, and to realize what he has yet to learn.


Note that the rifleman does not necessarily need to leave the system.  He may decide that the system is sound, although he will have improved his mastery of it through his questioning.  He will find weaknesses that he will learn to address.

The rifleman may adopt a new method and start anew.  He may dabble in more than one method.  What the rifleman will discover is that with each new method comes a group of new people that believes as he once did in the superiority of their own system.  But now the rifleman can see that these new peoples’ vision is limited, that their context is narrow, and that what they are doing may be better at addressing some things, but also limited in ways the people cannot see.


As the rifleman grows, he will become weary of seeking out new skills, only to find yet another “teacher” with no more skill than he, telling him “you’re doing it wrong, my way is best”.  He begins to take correction as a challenge, and is not very easy to teach.  He may become angry or resentful.  This is essentially pride in his skill that is blocking him from learning.  This is a problem because the rifleman is correct to question what he is being told, but incorrect to be defensive.  At any rate, the rifleman cannot help but be who he is and where he is.  If he cannot settle with a system, he will become his own master.

Taking responsibility for one’s own learning opens a floodgate for the rifleman.  The possibilities are endless.  He has a huge perspective of the world of riflery.  He has enough information to form his own context and make his own path through the world.  He can apply his own logic and reason to draw his own conclusions, and devise a method that will address each conclusion.  He will work to bring his craft from the nebulous and uncertain to the square and defined.  


It is human nature to want to make order out of chaos.  If his skill, perception, timing, and luck all come together, the rifleman can create a legacy for himself along the lines of Whelen, O’Connor, Cooper, and Hathcock.  He can bask in the glory that he deserves after all of his tireless inquiry… or he can fight stagnation yet again.



What’s odd about learning is that we seek to find the answers.  At the beginning we don’t even know what the questions are, but we seek.  We may learn the answer before we figure out what the question was.  Then we start to learn the answers to other questions.  Then we can know enough to ask our own questions and learn our own answers.  


Finding the answers can be anti-climactic after a while.  Sometimes it seems like the answer given was produced off the top of someone’s head to keep them from looking stupid in front of the “class”.  The answer is just there to function as a plug in the pathway.  It’s the questions that lead to an influx of learning, to making realizations, to huge leaps in progress.  The rifleman will discover that he doesn’t need to know the answer, but only needs to ask the question.


The rifleman will then realize that although his is good enough to make his own way, it will benefit him at times to take counsel from others.  He will discover that he needs to find a golden mean between self-reliance and humility.  He knows that he need not depend on another to show him the way, but that he can still suspend what he knows or has used in order to further his progress along the way.


As I said before, I can only speak to my experience.  Not all of it is with shooting, but life is life.  I try to call it as I see it, but obviously I can’t see everything.

Shooting in the Wind

“I believe that studying the nature of wind deflection should be the highest priority for long range shooters” 

–Bryan Litz, Rocket Scientist, Ballistician, from his book Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting, 1st Edition (P. 63)

One of my primary shooting goals for the year 2012 is to become competent at shooting longer ranges in the wind.  I’ve been avoiding addressing the subject of wind in my blog for a few months.  The main reason is that I honestly don’t consider myself as good at shooting in the wind as I am at the basics. 

So far this blog has been primarily in a tutorial vein, I’ve been sharing what works for me.  I’ve probably expended 75-80% of what I have down pretty well, so I’m going to have to adjust my approach to this blog.  Instead of a “here’s what works well for me” approach, it’s going to be more of a “here’s how I’m going to approach this problem and we’ll see how it works as I progress” type of approach.  It will be more of a training journal from now on, which is actually more along the lines of what I was looking to do when I started it. 

My current ability as a wind shooter is that I have a decent understanding of the theory behind it, and I have gotten lucky for the most part in the few times that I have attempted to apply it.  The farthest I’ve been out is 500 yards.  I was able to coach a buddy into a sub-minute group into the “A” zone of an IPSC target in a 12-15 mph wind coming from 4-5 o’clock just by looking at a chart and guestimating.  That was about a year and a half ago.  I haven’t had to dope much wind since. 

Wind is different from a lot of the other variables we deal with as shooters.  Distance can be known to within a few yards pretty easily these days by referencing a screen.  Muzzle velocity, and therefore trajectory can be calculated fairly easily and accurately.  We have a lot of technology at our disposal that our forefathers did not.  Temperature, density altitude, and humidity can even be accounted for on the spot these days.  Enter in your data, get an answer, and make an easy adjustment.  Wind doesn’t work that way. 

It’s easy enough to calculate what a steady wind that’s consistent along the flight of the bullet will do.  I have it right there in my computer screen that a 10 mph wind from 3 o’clock will move my 155 grain Nosler Custom Competition bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2950 fps 44.19” at a distance of 700 yards in approximately the atmospheric conditions that exist right at this moment.  So I can just dial 6 minutes right and voila, HIT!  Sounds great in theory. 

The problem with wind is accurately estimating its magnitude and direction along the course of your bullet.  The wind is not considerate enough to maintain a consistent speed and direction from your position to your target’s location.  The direction of wind tends to shift, as does its speed.  It may be blowing in an opposite direction downrange.  There may be whirls and eddies along your bullet’s path that confound your attempts to adjust for it. 

In a match, you get may get a sighter to get a feel for what the wind is doing.  This lets you “calibrate” yourself to the wind pattern at your location and how it effects your bullet.  In field shooting you probably won’t get any sighters (although it can happen).  You want to hit with your first shot.

What is Known 

As I mentioned above, the theory of how wind affects bullets is not all that hard.  Find your bullet’s BC (that means ballistic coefficient, if you didn’t already know that read this).  Plug your bullets BC, preferably the G7 version (thank you Bryan Litz) into a ballistics program like this one and take a look at the results.  A 10 mph wind is a good place to start, because it makes calculations pretty simple if your actual wind is something else. 

The default setting for the ballistics program is for a crosswind.  This is also called a full-value wind.  Typically wind is expressed in clock values expressing where the wind is coming from, 12 directly from the front, 6 from the rear, 3 would be 90° from the right, and 9 would be 90° from the left.  A crosswind coming from 90 degrees is called a full value wind because all if its power is applied laterally to the bullet.  Wind coming directly from 6 or 12 will have no effect on your bullet from left to right, but may have a minor effect on your bullet’s elevation. 

Wind coming from another angle will only apply part of its force laterally on your bullet.  You would probably think that wind coming from a 45° degree angle would impart half the effect as a full value wind.  That’s a good guess, but wind doesn’t work that way.  Earl doesn’t like it when I explain how it doesn’t work, but he also knows that I’m “an independent lot, kind of self-reliant”.  Earl,let’s just pretend this paragraph never existed, shall we? 

One of the books I have about wind explains that wind is a “vector force”, meaning it has both magnitude and direction.  If you think of the wind blowing from the outside edge of a clock’s circle to the center of the clock, and you look at only the left or right distance from the outside edge of the circle at any given number to the center, you would get an idea of what the actual wind value would be.  This is all paraphrased from The Wind Book for Shooters, by Linda K. Miller and Keith A. Cunningham (pages 9-10).

Here’s my already busy wind clock without the vector force illustration:

Wind Clock Resized
It’s too much visual input for a field reference, and maybe too much for a learning aid, but it should give you some idea of the wind values for various angles.  Notice that although the angles for 8 and 10 are the same, the values are a little different.  This takes into account that a 10 o’clock wind is also partially a headwind, and will slow the bullet down a bit more.  Totally academic, because the number you assign to the wind speed will be a wild guess (more or less).

Entering the Unknown

When you find yourself out on a windy day shooting, and you haven’t shot that much in the wind, it can be intimidating.  You probably have no idea how to put  a number on the wind that you feel and see via moving vegetation and similar cues.  I’ve noticed that most people overestimate wind speed when making an uneducated guess.  You might think that a10 mph wind is 15 mph.  Here’s a commonly encountered type of reference to give you some idea: 

    1-3:    Barely felt on face.  May see drifting smoke.
    3-5:    Felt lightly on face.  Leaves rustle.
    5-8:    Felt on face.  Leaves rustle.  Twigs move.
  8-12:    Raises dust and loose paper.
12-15:    Small branches move.  Bushes sway.
15-20:    Small trees/bushes in motion.  Dust clouds form.

20-25:    Large trees sway.  Wind whistles.  Spray on water. 

Visual indicators like this are helpful, and quite necessary, because you’ll have to get an idea of the conditions downrange.  If a tailwind condition exists, it would also be helpful to know what’s going on uprange to have an idea of the conditions heading your way.  That’s one reason a spotter or wind coach is so helpful.  They can keep an eye on the wind condition that hasn’t reached your bullet’s line of flight yet. 

Another helpful tool to have is a wind meter.  This Kestrel 4500 will calculate all of the pertinent information that your ballistics software will ask of you.  A good approach to using this is to generate some natural curiosity within yourself about what wind conditions look and feel like.  If you see a tree, a bush, some tall grass, a piece of fabric, etc…, moving in the wind, you should want to know how fast the wind is that’s moving it.  You should also want to remember what that wind speed is to go with a mental picture of the condition. 

Keep your wind meter with you (might as well make the most of it- it was expensive).  When you see or feel wind, make a guess as to what it is before consulting your device.  See how close you were.  Repeat.

My Kestrel 4500.  The 4000 would also be a good choice, but I wouldn’t go lower (you’ll want to have the density altitude).

As your curiosity develops, start noticing wind patterns.  Notice how topography, both man-made and natural, affects wind patterns.  I might be off base, but I think of wind as similar to water in the way it flows.  Wind does not flow in one homogenous direction, but  varies surprisingly.  Where I live, wind typically blows in one direction, but I often notice that it’s moving in the exact opposite direction.  Sometimes at the range, the wind will change to an opposite directions.  There are often somewhat predictable patterns to these changes.  Watch the wind and try to learn these patterns.

Approaches to Dealing With Wind

I’ve been reading up on wind to refresh my knowledge.  I’ve come across some helpful pointers.  David Tubb advises in his book, The Rifle Shooter that your ability to learn to shoot in the wind will be aided by your ability to shoot in normal conditions.  Put another way, the more confidence you have in your ability, and your equipment’s ability to not only make good hits, but call your shots, the better your feedback will be from your attempts to dope the wind. 

Tubb further advises the reader to get away from wind charts as soon as possible.  His approach is to get out and shoot, then take a look at what is actually happening as you make windage changes.  He makes an excellent point that it doesn’t matter what the wind speed actually is, rather what matters is your ability to observe wind and adjust for what you see.  Labeling it doesn’t affect the hit.  What I think it does give you is knowledge of what exactly is going on and the ability to communicate that effectively with another person.  Still, his point is well taken. 

Bryan Litz, in his book Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting has a good overview of wind, and the importance of learning to shoot in it.  He makes a good case that carefully considering the performance of the bullet you choose can make a very significant change in how well you can hit in the wind. 

The other book I mentioned earlier, The Wind Book for Shooters, by Linda K. Miller and Keith A. Cunningham, addresses the topic of wind shooting from a competition perspective.  I have previously found this a limiting aspect of the book for me, because every time they mentioned wind flags, my eyes would kind of gloss over.  Recently, I’ve found the book to be very helpful.  Every time they say “wind flag”, I read “tree”, “bush”, “tall grass”, etc…  They also discuss the mental side of making wind corrections, which is good for me, because I’m very mental (JOKE ALERT).  The more I read this book, the more I realize that it is a more valuable resource than I had previously realized. 

What was missing for me in all these books was the importance of a good wind call for the first shot.  Being competition shooters, they explain how to use your sighter shots to give you feedback.  In the type of shooting I’m interested in, you don’t get a sighter.  You get one shot.  I want to make a good decision right out of the gate.

My Plan To Get Better At Shooting in the Wind

The primary component of improving my wind shooting is to make a priority to do it more often.  I’ll be looking at strong winds as an invitation to the range.  I’ll also be looking to shoot from as far as I can to magnify the effects of the wind.  I’ll also keep the .22 rimfire in mind if I can’t access longer ranges, because it will get blown around a lot more than a .30 cal will. 

A second component of improving my wind shooting will be to take meticulous notes of my shooting (using a data book of course).  I want to know what my wind call was, what my correction was, how I called my shot, where it actually hit, and what the correct wind correction would have been, in addition to all the other things I usually want to know.  If you read some of the above books, you’ll get an idea of the information that will help you.  I plan on making a set of pages, oriented so they can be viewed in the book simultaneously, that include a topography sketch, a call plotting diagram, a hit plotting diagram, a diagram that plots groups according to sight settings (which will hopefully demonstrate the wind pattern at work), and all the other normal things such as atmospherics, range, and sight settings. 

I plan on using the Remington 700 .308 more in reading the wind.  Why?  First of all, as I’m learning, I want to dial my wind rather than hold for it.  I want to eliminate my ability to utilize Kentucky windage as a variable so I get the most accurate feedback I possibly can.  I can dial with #1, but the scope was made to “set in ‘n ferget it”, so I’ll use something better adapted for learning.  Secondly the rifle is more accurate, which again, will give me more accurate feedback.  Thirdly, the cartridge I’m using, the Federal Gold Medal 168 grain load will be slightly more affected by wind than my 30-06 load, which will give me more feedback. 

I will be using my wind meter in the manner I described above.  Whenever I feel wind or see it, I’ll be curious about it.  I’ll be measuring it.  I’ll be wondering how long before it changes, and where it will change to.  These skills will also help me to get my cigar lit on windy days with wooden matches. 

I will probably join a friend shooting some Highpower in F-Class.  Getting out to 600 on an unfamiliar range will undoubtedly help my wind chops.  It couldn’t hurt my general shooting either. 

I hope that I can make good on my goal to become a solid wind shooter.  I hope this will help you to do the same.  Thanks for reading.

Attributes of a Complete Rifleman

It may be helpful to note that when I say “Rifleman”, you could insert the word “warrior”, or infer any number of skills other than mere rifle marksmanship.

In my review of McBride’s book, A Rifleman Went to War, I highlighted his assertion that just being a good rifle shot doesn’t make one a “complete” rifleman.  Firing the shot in the field usually comes after doing a lot of work to get in position and locate a target.  You may not get any sighters.  One round may be the entire “match”.

In John Plaster’s book, The Ultimate Sniper, he lists the triad of skill types for snipers as marksmanship, fieldcraft, and tactics.  This is a very skill oriented way to look at it.  I think he leaves out something of extreme importance, and I think that is attitude.


Jeff Cooper had a different set of traits he thought were necessary.  He called this the “Combat Triad”.  The Combat Triad consisted of marksmanship, gun-handling, and mind-set.  Like Plaster, Cooper takes a very skill oriented approach, but includes mind-set.  I think that there’s still a little more that’s necessary.


I would therefore propose a set of attributes for the rifleman that take into account more than what he knows how to do.  Skills are necessary and good.  We all love skill, and work to improve our own.  Skills are easy to define, measure, and improve.  That is good, but skills need to be employed effectively.


Keeping with the triad (that means 3 of something)  as the basic unit, but expanding on the necessary attributes that are needed for success, in my opinion the attributes of a complete rifleman are Skills, Mindset, and Problem Solving.


Skills encompass things like marksmanship, gun-handling, field-craft, tactics, etc…  Think of these as the tools on your belt.  Alternately, consider that this is the engine that makes the car move.  Hopefully we have a lot of horsepower.


Mindset is the component that compels the other attributes to be effective.  To continue with the car analogy, if our skills provide a big engine with a ton of horsepower, mindset is the gas pedal.  To win a gunfight, you have to be willing to fight.  The objective is to win.  You have to know that you’re going to do whatever it takes to be the one who goes home safe after it’s all said and done.  A fight for your life is not a movie or a sporting event.  If you need to get ugly to survive, then get ugly.  If a thumb in the eyeball is what it takes, you should have the mindset to put it there and get it covered with gelatinous fluid.


If skills are the engine, mindset the gas pedal, then problem solving would be the steering wheel (and the brakes).  You can have all the skills in the world and know that you’re going to win, but if you make stupid decisions, you cut your chances by a huge margin.  We all know the guy with 2 master’s degrees who’s cocky as hell, but manages to put his socks on upside down and backwards.  Well maybe only I know that guy, but consider the guy with lots of books smarts and no common sense.  We’re tracking now, right? 


Problem solving is the ability to make sound decisions based on limited information in a split second under stress.  Skills don’t do this, but they give you tools to work with.  Mindset doesn’t do this, but can grease the wheels, or push you to “engage”.  To solve problems under stress, you must be able to control your level of arousal to keep you from going into “Condition Black”, which is a state of overstimulation that makes it hard to function.  It should be obvious that there’s going to be some overlap between these artificially constructed ideal attributes.


Learning skill is fairly straightforward.  How do we improve our mindset and problem solving?  I’ll explore those questions in future articles.  If you have any suggestions, please share (I’ll give you full credit).

Book Review: Applied Ballistics For Long Range Shooting (1st Edition), by Brian Litz

Just to be clear, Bryan wrote the reviewed book. I am not Bryan and I wrote the review. I don’t know Bryan.  Now you know I’m being objective and impartial.

Bryan Litz is a guy who is well known and respected in the shooting community as an expert in ballistics.  He has a degree in aerospace engineering and worked for the US Air Force for 6 years designing air-to-air missiles.  Anyone who has gotten paid to blow moving explosive targets up with other moving explosive targets has my attention.  Bryan is currently Chief Ballistician with Berger Bullets.  What’s more useful is that he has a genuine desire to help other shooters, and unlike a lot of people who are very talented, he has the ability to convey complex material to the layman in plain English.  To that end, he wrote a book about ballistics that even I could understand.


Here are the general specs:


-536 pages


-Table of contents:




                        Chapter 1: Some Fundamentals
                        Chapter 2: The Ballistic Coefficient
                        Chapter 3: Gravity Drop
                        Chapter 4: Uphill/Downhill Shooting
                        Chapter 5: Wind Deflection
                        Chapter 6: Gyroscopic Drift
                        Chapter 7: The Coriolis Effect
                        Chapter 8: Using Ballistics Programs
                        Chapter 9: Getting Control of Sights
                        Chapter 10: Bullet Stability



                        Chapter 11: Interesting Facts and Trends           

                        Chapter 12: Example Performance Analysis

                        Chapter 13: Generalized Score Shooting Analysis
                        Chapter 14: Lethality of Long Range Hunting Bullets
                        Chapter 15: Hit Probability for Hunting




                        Chapter 16: Anatomy of a Bullet
                        Chapter 17: Using the Experimental Data


-Pages 331-521 provide data on specific makes and models of bullets.


-Pages 523-536 provide more detailed information, such as the equations used in the  
 ballistics programs.

What’s great about this book is that you can actually understand things like a manufacturer’s claimed ballistic coefficient, and the limitations of that number.  He also makes a great case that the most commonly used version of the BC, the G1, is not well suited for long range bullets (you don’t understand what I’m talking about? READ THE BOOK).  Bryan makes a compelling case that we should be using a G7 BC, and that we, the consumers of bullets, should be telling manufacturers as much.  


Bryan has taken the time to personally test the ballistic coefficients on a whole lot of bullets, and has published the numbers in his book.  This is a compelling reason alone to buy the book.  You’ll want that number to plug into your ballistic software to get the most accurate data you can get.


The other subjects, such as gravity drop, coriolis, wind, and spindrift, will also give you a more solid understanding.  It was full of epiphanies for me.  It takes a lot of the mystery out of the game.


This is not a cheap book, and I am somewhat of a cheapskate.  That should convey how much I think of this book, although I haven’t yet acquired a copy of the 2nd edition yet.  I’m told that it has a lot more info, including new chapters and a lot of new bullets.  I would encourage you to buy the 2nd edition, or buy my copy of the 1st edition at full price for sentimental reasons so I can afford the 2nd edition.

Who are the Untapped Riflemen?

The gun culture is dying a slow death.  Despite our best efforts, we are becoming nothing more than a curiosity in our increasingly stupid pop-culture.  Say what you like about legislative victories, the next generation is more firearm illiterate than ever, and they are the only hope.  I think now if you even say the word “gun” in school, you’ll be expelled (unless in the context of “guns should all be banned”).  The common man is largely unaware of the rifleman outside of the hollywood (deliberately left in lowercase) caricature.  It may seem at times as though we are gaining, but so long as the public schools are what they are, and pop culture is what it is, we are going downhill sooner or later.  Because we are not stupid and we sense we are in danger, we often attempt to co-opt the mainstream into adopting our view of things.  When we are unsuccessful, it is frustrating.  


Instead of dealing with the frustration of blindly selling our lifestyle to the masses and failing, we should be refining our search criteria until we can effectively locate the potential, the untapped riflemen.  I think we can do this by identifying the characteristics of the rifleman, and by eliminating people who exhibit characteristics of the typical modern-day moron.  Let’s assume a total population of 100 people and devise not only a set of characteristics, but the probability of locating a rifleman in waiting.

The rifleman must have the capacity to appreciate the beauty of the rifle itself.  This is more than an object or a tool.  He must have a curiosity and an aptitude for its design characteristics, the way it feels, how it handles, its internal ballistics, its trajectory, its terminal ballistics, how it feels when he shoots it.  He must have a mind built for shooting.  He must have self-discipline and be devoted to learning effective riflecraft, not just collecting guns and gear.  


Let’s break this down.  Out of a 100 people, 50 will not have even the capacity to fully appreciate a gun.  They may fear it, they may loathe it, they may just disregard it due to other things that are more aggressively marketed to them.  At any rate, they are useless.  We’re down to 50%.


Out of the remaining 50, 20 will not have the intelligence to master shooting a firearm.  This is not to say that they are unintelligent, it is to say that their aptitude may lie elsewhere.  We’re down to 30%.


Out of the remaining 30, 15 will not have the self-discipline required to maintain interest in the art of the rifle.  This is not to say that they don’t like guns; it is to say that they cannot effectively progress as shooters.  We’re down to 15%


Of the remaining 15, 10 will get mired in the trap of the “gear whore”.  Instead of advancing their bodies and minds, they will attempt to gain proficiency with gear and gadgets.  This is a difficult trap to overcome.  As modern humans, we are inundated with marketing at all times.  It is natural for us to develop a drive to consume and adopt a direction to apply that drive.  Because most modern Americans cannot escape from this trap, we’re down to 5%.


Of the remaining 5, 4 will make a bit of progress, then reach a milestone of mediocrity that seems “good enough”.  This will cause them to turn off their curiosity.  They cannot handle the possibility of not knowing the answer.  They will therefore cease to ask questions.  If you’re not growing, you’re dying.  That makes these 4 dead as riflemen.  That leaves us with only 1 potential rifleman out of 100.  This brings to mind the words most often attributed to Herclitus: “Out of every hundred men, ten shouldn’t be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle.  Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” 

How many actual, functional riflemen exist in the general population?  One in 1000, in 10,000?  How many people in the general population even understand what a travesty this is?


How can we increase our numbers?  I think that the first step is to walk the walk and be true riflemen ourselves (I always include women in the word, so don’t feel left out).  Secondly, take notice of people who exhibit the traits of a rifleman, and foster their development in the way of the gun.  Thirdly, be a good role model for young people, and encourage their curiosity in the safe use of firearms.  There are surely many more ways to make American a “nation of riflemen”.   

The 1907 Sling- Part 3

I showed you the “most normal” way to attach your 1907 sling in part 1 of this series.  In part 2, I got a little more “out there” but the technique still had some bona fides to back it up.  I came up with a new way to configure my 1907 sling that seemed to make sense to me.  I later discovered that I was not the first to do this with my 1907.  Ray Brandes, whose credentials ready thusly: “Distinguised, Presidents 100, High Master” also configures his sling this way, although his shooting needs differ a bit from mine, and he uses it with an emphasis on stability rather than speed.  I suggest that you take a look at his document because although his sling is put together like mine is, his technique is a bit different (and I don’t have cool credentials like that).  


Here’s how I ended up with this configuration.  I was thinking that there’s no reason that the 1907 sling can’t be as fast to loop up with as the TAB.  The TAB has a loop that is left open, and the 1907 can be configured with the loop open.  The TAB has a keeper ready just above the open loop.  The 1907 has two keepers, so obviously at least one of them can be made ready just above the loop.  I was gazing lovingly at my rifle, which was wearing a 1907 in what I call the USMC configuration, and saw that I could just use the loop and a keeper without assembling “the unit”.  I tried it without adjusting anything.  Guess what, it worked!


The next thing I noticed was that the metal frogs were facing my stock.  I don’t like that.  My stock is gradually getting dinged up from all the metal hardware on the USGI web sling and the 1907 sling.  So I detached the swivels from the studs, turned the sling around, and reattached it.  Guess what, it still worked.


Here’s what happened next (this must really be a nail-biter, huh?).  I detached the rear portion of the sling and gave it a half clockwise twist (if you are left handed you’d twist it counterclockwise).  I did this so I could use the hasty sling (still haven’t given up on it) and the sling would pass properly over my support hand.  What this also does is place the shooting loop open at the perfect angle so it doesn’t need to be twisted prior to inserting the support arm.

Let’s take a look:


Here’s the overall view of the sling.  Notice the important, easily identifiable points.  The frogs are facing away from the walnut stock, and the keepers are both below the frog.  In Mr. Brandes’ instructions, he warned you to never run three lengths of sling through a keeper.  It was too late for me.  I also was given food after midnight and turned into a mischievous, destructive gremlin.  Maybe if he explained why not to do it, I would offer that reason so you could make an informed decision as to whether or not to follow the following instructions.  On my sling, one of the keepers is even larger than the other, and the large keeper was just begging me to pass it over all 3 lengths.  If my instructions cause you to stretch a keeper and by extension tear the fabric of the universe apart, causing all matter to be destroyed, I guess I will wish I had followed his advice.  If that doesn’t happen, keepers aren’t that expensive. 

The reason I passed the keeper of these three lengths of sling is simple, to keep the extra length in the center portion under control.  Notice that the lower keeper is pressed right up to the center portion.  This makes for a small loop that must be enlarged prior to looping up.  What needs to be done to make the sling more practical is to trim away about 3” of that extra length off with an x-acto knife.  I’ve already trimmed the sling, and it looks quite nice.  Scribe a radius (so it will be shaped like the end of a tongue after you are done) on the part of the sling you wish to trim and just keep working at it until it’s done.  This would make it nice and tidy, and fast to loop up with, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-7 seconds (5 or under if you practiced).   

Notice that the frog for the short section of the sling is attached at the loop.  It makes a little more sense to attach it to the lower section, that way the hooks won’t be trying to hook to your arm.

Looping up:

Notice that the sling is twisted already because I put a half twist in prior to attaching the rear swivel to the stud.  The rigidity of the leather holds the twist in place, keeping the loop ready for the arm.  Also note that I have already taken the center length of the upper portion of the sling out of the way to simulate what it would be like if it were trimmed.  Because the sling is already twisted, I don’t have to reach to the outside of the loop to bring it to the pistol grip.  Just get a hold of it with your finger.

Bring the loop to the pistol grip:

Shove the support arm in:

Work the sling up over the bicep:

Tighten the keeper on the bicep:


Bring the support and around:

It should be trapped between the sling and forend:

Ready to shoot:

I haven’t rated the 1907 sling yet, so here goes: I’d give it a 9.3 out of 10.  Here’s why:  It looks classy and classic.  Leather is the most comfortable material I’ve used on a sling.  It’s easy to adjust for shooting length or for carry length- probably easier than anything out there with the exception of the USGI web sling adjustment for overall length.  It’s just as fast as the TAB sling.  The leather is rigid, so it holds the half twist in position, and the rear portion can be used as support, just like the TAB.  It’s also over 100 years old, just like the Mauser 98, the Springfield 1903, the 1911, etc.  The important thing is that the technology predates the 1947 Roswell incident which gave rise to space technology, Hillary Clinton, and a rising, creeping socialism that threatens to end our way of life.  I guess I might have been redundant with the last two items in that sentence.


Why not a 10 out of 10?  Leather is a little more high maintenance than nylon, which can make it more rewarding, but its life may be reduced under hard use.  I didn’t deduct any points for leather being leather, because it’s more comfortable than nylon, and that’s the trade-off.  The major problem with the sling is that the adjustment holes start out stiff like the buttons in a new pair of Levi’s.  After a long time, the holes get loose and the frog hooks start to slip out unexpectedly.  The leather and the keepers will also stretch.  Note that the Biothane 1907 slings will not have any of these problems.  I have heard that the Biothane keepers are especially nice, even if you can’t stand to switch the whole sling over from leather.  Biothane does not feel as nice as leather, and does not predate the Roswell crash (I really hope you caught that I was joking).

The 1907 Sling- Part 2

Although I was plenty capable of following instructions and setting my sling the normal way, I have a contrarian streak in me.  When I came across another set of instructions in Jim Owens’ book, Leather Sling and Shooting Positions, I became curious and decided to try it.  I believe his method is in accordance with the USMC shooting team.  You can quickly identify this configuration by the frogs on both sections facing the rifle and placing the stock in danger of scratches and dings (those wily Devil Dogs).  You’ll also notice that the keepers are both below the frog on the long section.


This sling configuration is well suited to Highpower shooting, or any competition rifle shooting where a service type sling is needed, and a relatively static type of accuracy is needed.  The two keepers, being compressed between the “frog” and the arm, cause this loop to be more secure than in the standard configuration.  The difference seems to be just on the verge of being significant, but it’s overkill for a quick shot in the field.  If you are taking a string on shots on a small stationary target, this is your configuration.  


The big compromise with the sling configuration is with the speed that it may be assumed.  There are a lot more steps from carry mode to shooting sling mode.  If you really practice and get fast, it’s going to take about 15 seconds.  There are also a lot of steps, which make it clumsy under stress.

Let’s take a look:


The USMC configuration can be readily identified by several things.  First, the keepers are together at the bottom of the long, forward portion of the sling, just above the loop.  Second, the keepers are both below the frog, as opposed to the frog being between them as in the standard configuration.  Third, the frogs are facing the rifle stock.  Fourth, someone at the range will approach to and tell you that your sling is on backwards, and offer to help you do it the “right” way.  There is a reason that the frogs face the stock.  When we get to that photo I’ll point it out.


Frog on the inside:

Keepers together:

Again, frog facing the stock:

If you like to keep the sling in “parade” fashion, there is an easy way to make it snug or loose depending on your needs at the time.


To make it snug, attach the rear frog to the highest set of hooks that it will easily reach.  Then pull up on the inside portion and down on the outside portion.  This will make your sling so tight you won’t be able to pull the frog out of the hooks.

Too loosen the sling, pull the sling the opposite way:

To sling up with this configuration (this is going to be complicated!!!):

Pull the keepers down together to get them out of the way for the moment:

Now pull the center, extra length of sling out of the way as well:

Pull the outside portion up, and the inside portion down.  This will bring the frog to about 1/3 up of the upper length of the sling:

Now we are ready to assemble what is called “the unit”.  This is an assembly composed of both keepers compressed against the frog, with the extra length of the sling tucked down against the frog in a “U” shape:


The unit with the loop below it:

Give the entire assembly a half twist (clockwise for right handed shooters, counter clockwise for lefties):

Maintain the unit with the firing hand, and shove the support arm through:

Work the loop and the unit over the bicep:

Make sure the unit’s tight:

Pull the loop as tight as you can get it:


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Move the unit to the outside of the arm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-10 o’clock, if the top of your bicep is 12 o’clock.  Here’s what you should have:

The above photo illustrates why I believe that the frogs are on the inside with this sling configuration.  It’s somewhat standard to move the top of the loop to the outside of the arm.  The TIS sling I reviewed last month is the only exception I can think of.  If the frogs were on the outside, I believe to get the effect of the unit, you’d have to move it to the inside of the arm.


As always, bring the support hand around the sling:

The support hand should be sandwiched in between the sling and forend:

Ready to shoot.  Although we did all we could to keep the loop tight, there will still be a gap.  This does not compromise the steadiness of the sling:

There you go.  I hope that was worth it.  This series of articles on the 1907 sling will be concluded tomorrow at approximately the same time.

The 1907 Sling- Part 1

I’m a sling junkie.  Saying it ain’t gonna cure it, but it’s the truth.  So far, I’ve had the USGI cotton web sling, the regular TAB sling, and the Tactical Intervention Slip Cuff Quick Release on my rifle.  Actually I started out with the Brownells Latigo Sling.  I might even dig that out and give it a second chance before I’m done with this.  But right now, it’s all about the 1907 sling.  I get at least one hit on my blog from someone looking for info on the 1907 sling, so here you go.

My 1907 was purchased from Brownells, and has their brand on it.  I suspect that Turner Saddlery made it, but I can’t be sure of that.  It is of good quality and has held up well.  If you decide to get a 1907, I recommend that you splurge and get something nice.  If you wanted a piece of junk, you’d get some cheap carrying strap from Cabela’s.  If you want a 1907, get a Les Tam Sling (heirloom quality from what I’ve heard) or at least a Turner Saddlery Sling.  You don’t want some 1″, thin, ugly piece of junk.  If a cheapskate like me is advocating spending extra money on something, it’s at least something to consider.


If you can guess the year that the 1907 sling was adopted by the military, you’ll be smarter than the average bear.  At some point, folks found that the use of a shooting sling enhance their ability to hold accurately.  The idea is that the sling takes the place of the muscles to hold up the rifle in position.  It works well.  The idea was good enough to catch on with the military, who still expected people to deliberately aim at and hit a target in those days.


There are a couple different ways I have seen of configuring the 1907.  Note that in all of them, the shorter section of sling attached to the rear swivel and then to the long section near the middle of the total sling length.  Just forward of the junction of the rear (short) and front (long) portions is the loop.  I’m not going to give you explicit instructions on how to put the sling on the rifle.  I’m going to assume you can figure it out by the pictures that follow.


There are a few ways of configuring the 1907 sling on your rifle.  I will cover three: the standard method, a method used by M/SGT James R. Owens, USMC (Ret.) and the Marine Corps shooting team, and a third method that could be considered a hybrid of the two.  There are so many photos that I decided to give each sling configuration its own blog post.


The primary way of configuring the sling is the way whoever designed the sling had in mind.  I think of this as the “Army” way, although that is by no means any kind of official designation, or even a common way of referring to this configuration.  This method is what you would find if you typed in “1907 rifle sling installation” in your search engine.  It’s not a bad choice.  It works great for carry and for slinging up.  It’s a relatively quick configuration to sling up with, figure about 9-10 seconds.  Here’s what the sling in the rifle in that configuration looks like:


Notice the characteristics of this configuration.  As for nomenclature, the leather bands that bind the sections of sling together are called “keepers”.  The metal hooks are called “frogs”.  The ring that hold the front and rear together is called the “D-ring”.  Notice that the frogs are on the outside of the sling, away from the rifle.  Also notice that the frog on the long section of sling is between the two keepers.  On some 1907 slings, one of the keepers will be wider than the other.  The wider keeper goes at the top (toward the muzzle). 
If the center portion (extra length) were shorter, the loop could be big enough to put the arm in without further adjustment.  Consider trimming the sling.
                    The upper keeper keeps the frog hooks from slipping out

I hear and read a lot that to loop up with this sling in this configuration, you need to loosen the rear portion.  This is only the case if you have the sling set up as a parade sling, which is where the sling is as tight as possible.  If you have the frog of the short section attached anywhere to the short section (below the “D” ring), the sling will be at a good length both for carry and for slinging up.  Just leave it in place.

To begin, reach the firing hand around to the underside of the loop and grasp it with either the index or middle finger:

Bring the firing hand back to the pistol grip while retaining the sling:

Get the extra length out of the way and move the keeper up to make the loop bigger:


Shove the support arm in and work it over the bicep:

Grasp the lower keeper…

…and slide it down tight against the bicep:

Bring the support and around the sling:


The support hand should be trapped between the sling and forend:


You are ready to shoot:
If you have a 1907 sling and have never known how to use it hopefully this has been of help.  Tomorrow I’ll go over what I call the USMC method (again, just what I call it, not an official or even common unofficial term).  Tune back in, same Bat time, same Bat channel.