Thursday
Nov082012

New M&P Shield 9mm

After running an optimized PPS through the ECQC program this year, I decided to get my hands on a Shield, make some useability modificaitons and see how it stacks up in the end.  The two pistols are very similar, with comparable capacities, weights and overall sizes.  This is not a straight comparison of the two weapons, but rather a write up of the Shield with a few comparative comments thrown in for good measure.

I've had the gun for about 3 weeks now with 2 range trips to date and about 500 rounds fired.

The stock trigger was very rough and the actual break was a little heavy for my taste.  After an Apex Tactical Carry Kit install it is much better.  I tried just the sear & USB, but I really prefer a stronger trigger return spring, so I added that & the sear spring in after getting home from the NM ECQC class.  I doubt the sear spring does a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but I figured I might as well plug it in.  It seems like there is a lot of variation in the Shield triggers.  Some are unusable, some are moderately poor (mine) and some are really good.  If you get one, see if you can dry fire the guns your shop has in stock & pick the best one.  Adding the Apex Tactical parts isn't hard, especially with all the YouTube videos they have, but it could be more work and expense than some are willing to incur.

Recoil isn’t too bad.  It is heavier than a full size M&P 9 but not unmanageable.  It does wear out my hand faster than the full size M&P, but that's to be expected.  Compared to the Shield the recoil of my full size M&P felt like a Care Bear snuggling into my hands with each shot.

On my first range trip I shot 210 rounds of ball & 105 of 147gr Gold dots.  2nd trip was less well tracked & I would estimate it at about another 200 rounds of ball.

The stock sights are mediocre at best, but better if you black out the white dots on the rear.  My rear sight was installed off center from the factory.  These were the hardest set of M&P sights that I've ever taken off.   I stripped out 3 Allen wrenches on the rear sight set screw and ended up having to use a drill and an extractor to get that thing out.  I also had to use a steel punch & full size hammer on the sights to get them moving, which was a first in 3 M&Ps that I’ve swapped sights on.  Usually a brass punch with the big hammer works fine.  The brass punch was just deforming and not moving the sights at all.  I also managed to hammer my thumb into the slide a few times when the brass would shear or slip off the rear sight.  I was not pleased with that experience.

Shooting left handed I had to be careful to keep my firing hand thumb away from the slide.  The front edge of the ejection port would beat on the front left of my thumb as the slide cycled & that got real old real quick.  That part of my thumb is still a little sore, almost 3 weeks later.  I also think the thumb interference caused the one failure to eject on my second range trip.  This was the only malfunction I experienced in about 500 rounds, and I felt the empty case hit my thumb when it was ejected, so I’d call this one an operator-induced malfunction.

I shot two mags with as limp a grip as I could manage & had no malfunctions.

Shooting at speed with my grip clamped down hard my support hand middle finger would press on my shooting hand middle finger, which would press the mag release & drop the mag.  I only had this problem with the 8 round mags, probably because my pinky gets a little under the base pad on the shorter 7 round mags & holds them in.  I filed down a section of the bottom of the mag release (which is actually all metal) & that seems to help.

I got to compare my Shield to SouthNarc’s (aka Craig Douglas) Walther PPS and the PPS feels like it shoots softer than the Shield.  Not by much, but it was noticeable.  We didn’t have the time, or a timer, to check splits, so this is just a by-feel assessment, but Craig & a couple other guys who were at ECQC thought the same thing.  If I can remember to put my timer in my range box one of these days I’ll run a little comparison between the Shield & my full size M&P9

The mags can pinch your palm during a reload, but you have to try harder to get the pinch with the Shield than with the PPS.

In hand the gun is a little slick.  I’m going to try my hand at stippling on the 8rnd mag spacers & if that goes well I’ll probably hit the frontstrap and backstrap.  I’m not much for stippling on the grip sides.

I don’t like the safety since it’s not an ambidextrous one and tried removing it, but when I did I could see that the sear pin was working its way out until it hit the inside of the frame.  Eyeballing it, it looked like the pin could move about half way out of the ejection port side of the sear housing block.  I don’t know if this would have any long term impact on the durability or function of the gun, but I didn’t feel like risking it, so I put the safety back in

While the slide release isn’t ambidextrous either, I found my index finger could hit it easily enough.  Others may not though, as I have girl-sized hands

Accessory-wise I picked up a Raven Vanguard & a Fricke copy of the Vanguard.  The VG is definitely the superior product.  Between the build quality, cut, and the nose that allows easy removal if the lanyard breaks, there’s no comparison.  If the Fricke wasn’t so cheap I’d send it back to Brownells, but I think I’ll keep it as a demo piece to show people why the VG is superior.  If my $15 can keep some other people from buying an inferior product, so be it.

Some guys have used standard M&P sights on their guns and reported good results, but when I had the Warren sights from my wife’s M&PJG on my Shield it shot about 3” low at 5 yards.  I didn’t have a chance to see what the point of impact was at distance, but that far off that close makes them unusable.  I replaced them with a set of Ameriglo iDots, but I don’t really like the width of the front sight.  Something closer to the Warren night sight width would be perfect.  I haven’t had a chance to really test the accuracy, but I was able to hit a 12” steel plate about 2/3 of the time at 40 yds with the stock, off-center sights.  I had to hold well off to the side of the steel plate at that distance, so the new, centered sights should help me stretch that out since I’ll be able to use a definite aiming point.

I want to run a few thousand rounds through the Shield before I pass judgment, but so far I’m satisfied. 

Monday
Mar122012

Unskilled and Unaware

Unskilled and Unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments 

Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Cornell University, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999, Vol 77 #6

 

This academic paper was brought to my attention via Paul Gomez of Gomez Training International.  He had part of the abstract in his signature over on the Total Protection Interactive (TPI) forum.  It seemed like a very interesting, and frankly, amusing study based on the language he quoted from the following abstract:

"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains.  The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in the domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

 

While it seems a little lighter-hearted than a lot of academic studies, it still gets to a very serious point.  Just because you think you're good at something, doesn't mean you are good at it.  In fact, if you think you're good, you are probably deluding yourself.  Expanding on the paper, which focused on not having the metacognitive (thinking about thinking, yes, I had to look up the definition the first time I saw that word too) ability to accurately self-assess, we also need to consider that a lot of people with inflated self-assessments believe in that assessment because their egos are too fragile, or powerful, to allow that person to accurately assess their performance.

 

If you look further than just the humorous abstract, and view the data, you'll see that the people who actually are good at what they do, are actually prone to under assess themselves.  How many times have you seen someone do something truly impressive, only to have them say something like "Yeah, I'm alright."  or "I'm really not all that great."  or "I still have a lot of room for improvement."?  Meanwhile, someone with no skill or experience in that same area is somewhere on the internet, or hanging out with friends, or trying to impress a girl, and talking about how great they are.

 

Let this be a lesson to all of us.  Train hard, do the work, and never stop being brutally honest with yourself, because that's the only way you'll ever become truly great at anything.  In the context of protecting yourself and others, you can't afford not to.  The same goes for the people you choose to train you.  Do not let someone else's ego and "Because that's the way we do it." get in the way of your learning. 

Take care,

Mike

Friday
Jan082010

Lara's Close Call

A few months ago a friend of ours (we’ll call her Lara) was visiting a friend of hers down in Colorado Springs & was the victim of a date-rape drugging.  Fortunately she made it back to her friend’s house before the drug(s) kicked in & the situation went any further south. 

Lara left work in Denver to head down to Colorado Springs to visit an old friend of hers (we’ll call her Jenni) that she hadn’t seen in quite a while.  A few weeks prior to this trip Lara had been in an auto accident & was still feeling the physical effects of the crash.

Around 8:30 they went out to dinner & spent about 2 hours eating & talking. (1&2)  Lara had one beer with dinner & when they finished up they headed down the block to a bar to hang out & talk some more.  At the bar Lara had another beer & Jenni had a few more drinks.  Lara was approached by a large guy (G1) & after some very brief small talk he said “You’re going home with me tonight.”  Lara replied that she wasn’t & his response was “You wanna bet?”  At this point Lara turned around on her barstool & ignored G1. 

Over the next couple hours a few people came & went talking to G1, one of which (G2) eventually stayed with him & became his wingman for the night.  It was obvious to Lara that G1 was a regular at the bar & was well known to the bartenders.(3)  Lara had to visit the restroom & had Jenni look after her beer.(4)  G2 was talking to Jenni & G1 kept asking about Lara while she was gone, in a somewhat anxious tone.(5)  When Lara returned she finished her beer & G1 bought her another.  Lara took that beer directly from the waitress without G1 having access to it that she was aware of.  The beer tasted kind of sweet which seemed odd to Lara at the time but she didn’t think much of it.

 A little later G1 grabbed Lara’s ass & she just blew it off as him being drunk & stupid.  When he went to pay his tab however, she had an overwhelming need to get out of there & get back to Jenni’s house.  Lara was feeling very freaked out & they quickly got out of the bar, into Lara’s car & drove off.(6) 

When they got back to Jenni’s house Lara immediately felt sick, vomited & passed out.  She slept through her 5am alarm & didn’t wake up until 8:15.(7)

 

1- They had planned on Lara driving that night so Jenni could drink a little more.  Jenni ended up being semi-drunk by the end of the night.

2-The dinner & bar locations were not regular haunts for either of our heroines & were not planned out in advance.

3-G1’s regular status may have allowed him to have an accomplice in the bartender which is not unheard of.

4-Jenni had been drinking more than Lara & probably wasn’t in much of a condition to keep an eye on Lara’s drink. 

5- During our conversation Lara recognized G1’s anxiously asking about her while she was in the restroom as the first time she really felt like something was up beyond G1 just acting like an overly aggressive drunk. 

6- Lara mentioned being afraid of G1 following her to Jenni’s house.

7- Jenni had no symptoms of being drugged.

 

I talked to our buddy SouthNarc about Lara’s experience & his response was “Wow, that guy just screams sexual predator.” & “She was a very, very lucky lady to make it out of there when she did.”  I think he also threw out “bad situation,” “really lucky” & “that never ends well.”

 

Assessment:

You never know when things are going to go sideways so pay attention to your surroundings & if things feel wrong get out.

While people tend to focus on bad things happening in strange/new settings or being perpetrated by strangers, this scenario could just have easily unfolded in a place Lara was familiar with. 

Some people need to realize that they rank higher on the potential victim scale than others.  Lara is young, small, pretty & generally friendly.  All of those contribute to pushing her to the top of that list.

People who are intoxicated may try to help (watching a drink in this case) but usually don’t do a very good job.

Most criminals are NOT lone actors.  In this case the obvious accomplice would have been G2, but G1 could also have had an accomplice behind the bar doing the dirty work for him.  This would be supported by the fact that he was apparently well known & very friendly with the bar staff.  The real threat could be sneaking up behind you with a tire iron or, in this case, from behind the bar.

Lara exhibited a very common behavior in that she didn’t leave or definitively break contact with her attacker at the initial sign that something was wrong.  On the other hand, she wasn’t afraid of seeming rude when she decided that it was time to get out of there.  The intended victim usually has a number of opportunities to escape during the ramp-up to an attack.  If you get lucky & a second opportunity is presented, take it.  You might not get another one.

Lara did a good job of getting out when G1 was distracted & had the presence of mind to be concerned about being followed. 

While Lara did get very lucky that the opportunity to leave unobserved presented itself, she made the most of it & avoided a very bad situation.

 

Our thanks go out to Lara for sharing this story & being open & frank about what happened. 

Sunday
Nov082009

Class Review: Todd Green- Aim Fast Hit Fast

After seeing nothing but rave reviews of AFHF on a number of websites & talking to a buddy of mine, we decided to make the trip to New Mexico for the Aug. class. Due to a last minute cancellation my wife was able to attend as well. First off, thanks to Tom for hosting the class & to the Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club for letting us use the ranges. For some background on me, I’ve taken a bunch of classes from OPS, SouthNarc & Tactical Response. I’m also an OPS instructor as of a few months ago so my perspective was primarily as a student trying to improve, but also as an instructor looking at Todd’s assessment & instructional techniques when possible to see if there were some things that I could pick up on to make myself a better coach for our students.

TD-1
My notes are a little shabby for TD-1 so most of this is from memory & may or may not be the right order & doesn’t cover everything we did. The class started off with Todd talking about his thoughts on shooting fast, why the class is structured the way it is & what he expected of us in terms of safety, response to any medical issues & taking care of ourselves (hydration especially). The drills started off with shooting groups on a 3x5 card then we moved on to the first round of the FAST test. Both were to judge the class skill level and, I’m sure, to make sure we were all able to handle our weapons safely. From there we ran walkback drills on 2” circles (“You need to stop shooting so well with those Big Dots so I can make wholesale fun of them.”) worked accuracy on 3x5 cards attached to the target heads & max speed body shots. We also ran through some front sight deviation drills & those of us with Big Dots did a little extra experimenting with the deviation since the sights don’t provide as much hard info as notch & post. I think it was after lunch that we continued with the 3x5 cards & body shots & ran an interesting drill that involved shooting as fast as we possibly could at the berm w/o targets. The point was that we can all work the trigger very quickly & proved to some that they could shoot the gun a lot faster than they were. We worked the draw & getting the first shot off right at full extension. I had been having some issues flinching on my first shot off the draw & in an attempt to break myself of that I was slowing my press out & keeping my trigger manipulation at about the same speed as usual which resulted in my first shot going off at about ½ extension. Not a perfect solution but I hit was I was aiming at. We started working reloads with mags with various round counts randomly inserted into mag pouches & pockets by a training partner. The day finished off with the charging dog drill, another pass at the FAST test & dinner after a drive that nearly cause a mutiny in some of the student body. “Where the hell are we going?” “Am I following the right Jeep?” “Are we going back to Colorado for dinner?” The food was good though and, as usual, it was worth it to get some off-range time with some of the other studs & Todd.

TD-2:
Started off with another FAST test where I got my best score of the weekend of 5.80 with the slower press out. We ran the Dot Torture drill & a number of students managed perfect scores. I dropped the first shot of the last drill & while that was a disappointment you just have to accept it & move on. Todd talked about multiple targets for a while & some of the realities of how we react to stimuli & naturally transition from threat to threat. None of it differed from what I’ve learned in other classes, but he did a very good job of explaining the natural reactions which covered the all-important “Why?” question. Back on the range we ran some multiple target drills mixing up body & 3x5 card head targets so we could work on transitions & manipulating our shooting speed as appropriate. Next up was shooting on the move with a short discussion on how we naturally move. We ran a few diagonal movement drills with different target requirements. Then we worked strong & weak hand only drills on the 2” circles & then on the IDPA targets. Todd gave a short lecture on use of cover & we put movement, cover & multiple targets together in a couple drills that really brought up the stress level. The day finished up with another FAST drill, packing up, rain & the graduation ceremony.

Class Takeaways:

Todd’s Attention- One thing I really liked about the class was that we were given an assignment like “Run this drill for 4 mags, go.” We were on our own to complete the drill while Todd walked around the group giving pointers, corrections, etc. He did a damn good job of watching & catching mistakes that we were making & offering corrections. Letting us run the drills on our own freed up his time for more coaching- definitely a good technique for an instructor.

Reverting to old habits- Watching others it is obvious that training & practice is absolutely necessary in order to maintain, let alone master, a skill. There were some people who reverted to their old habits as soon as the timer came out (stressor) or they were uncomfortable with the drill for whatever reason. We even had a few do the wrap the support thumb over the back of the shooting hand deal. My take on the issue- While there is some validity to the old slow is smooth & smooth is fast cliché I’ve become a firm believer in pressure testing yourself. Practicing something at 25% speed doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it at anything even approaching full fighting for your life speed. Start slow so you get it down then increase the speed until you fail. Assess how/why you failed, make corrections, start slower than your failure speed, ramp it up to failure & repeat. This is where having a training partner & putting your ego aside will help a lot. You may not notice that you jacked something up but your buddy who is under no pressure can easily spot your problem.

Reloads- Using the slide stop/release/whateveryoucallit is faster and, in Todd’s experience, less likely to induce a malfunction during a reload than racking the slide. There were a number of people of various training & ability levels (including the top shooter) who induced malfunctions by racking the slide. I’ve long been a rack the slide guy but this class is getting me to think more about that. I ran the class using the slide release & didn’t have any problems but I haven’t decided where I’ll land on the issue. At the very least this has softened my insistence on racking the slide for reloads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shooter-induced malfunctions on reloads as I did in this class.

Sights- There were a number of people there with Big Dots (myself included) & some were making hits, some weren’t. Todd’s main criticism of them was that they don’t provide nearly as much feedback as traditional notch & post sights. In turn it is harder for a shooter to see small things they’re doing to throw their shots. I still like them & I think there are a lot of misconceptions on their use & what you can do with them but a lot of that stems from a lack of training & familiarity. The feedback issue is one that I’ve seen argued before by a few good shooters & trainers. If I get another M&P9 one of these days I want to run some timed drills with the Big Dots & standard sights to see where I’m faster with each setup while maintaining a set accuracy standard.

Cross Dominance- My wife & I are both cross dominant & we have both been shooting left handed. I started off shooting right handed with a dominant left eye, switched to shooting left handed & saw an immediate improvement so I’ve stuck with it. I started my wife off shooting left handed years ago because of that experience & this was reinforced by the opinion of Claude Warner & others on the subject. Todd suggested that she switch to shooting right handed & after some gear swapping she improved immediately & dramatically. She had been struggling in the class & was very encouraged by the improvement so I ordered her a right handed set of carry gear when we got home. Having the ability to shoot with both hands is, in my opinion, a critical skill to have so, if nothing else, she will at least have a decent “weak hand” base if switching to the right as primary works out for her.

Do what your body does naturally- I firmly agree with Todd that under stress the fancy shoot-walking, pivoting & other optimized for shooting contrivances will probably go out the window. Learning to shoot while moving like a human being & within your natural threat/surprise reactions will do more good than trying to alter your movement & reactions to conform to an ideal shooting platform.

Grip- Use that support hand to minimize muzzle flip. There is a huge difference in your ability to shoot quickly between a nancy-boy support hand grip & actually getting some good force out of the support hand. This is something I’ve found I get lazy with & it really shows when shooting multiple fast shots. You can get away with a weak support hand grip for a few rounds but once you start turning up the speed & the round count that support hand becomes exponentially more important.

Lastly, good job to Jimmy (high shooter) & Troy (the 16 year old) who both earned advanced ratings during the class.

Todd's website is http://www.pistol-training.com 

 

Demo with a Blue (inert) Gun: 

 

Todd demoing the infamous Dot Torture drill:

 

One handed Dot Torture: 

 

Our class host self-torturing:

 

Mike shooting from cover:

 

One guy with a very cool job doing a one handed reload while being harassed by another guy with a very cool job:

 

Same guys, same jobs, reload finished & engaging targets one-handed from cover:

 

A one-eyed OPS/DRT student reloading behind cover:

 

Tuesday
May192009

Article: On Wolves, Sheep and Sheepdogs, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

A great article by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that has helped to make him a celebrity among soldiers and police.

Click to read more ...