FCSC Practical Handgun Group
The Practical Handgunners Group at FCSC is open to all FCSC members. Please check the calendar to see when sessions are scheduled.
Participants must already have a thorough knowledge of and familiarity with their firearm, have the proper equipment and have strong gun safety habits.
Any member interested in participating should first observe a Practical Handgun session, speak with those running the session, and come early to a session to get an orientation.
INTRODUCTORY NEWSLETTER - Practical Handgunners of FCSC
(By Brian Ng)
I've put together an "Introductory Information Package" as a common means of introducing you to what we as the "Practical Handgunners" group are about. Please read and review this information, along with the numerous links I've provided, particularly about IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association). By participating regularly with our group, you will find that regardless of level of expertise you may be currently at with handguns, you will quickly build confidence and competence in a wide array of "skill sets" that as handgun practitioners, you need for both safety and capability.
At each range session, currently held bi-weekly, members will draw "hot" from a holster and shoot at multiple silhouette targets ranging from near hands-length away to 25 yards. You will learn how and when to reload your handgun fast(er) and capably clear a jam in a semi-auto pistol if that's what you choose to shoot instead of a revolver. Over time, you will draw your handgun from concealment to shoot at multiple targets, often while moving or from behind hard cover. Emphasis is on "defensive tactical" handling of your handgun and yourself, which requires a fine balance between speed and accuracy. You can't shoot fast enough to make up for misses, but neither can you shoot as if you were just bullseye shooting. That's not what defensive tactical handgunning is about.
Beyond learning and practicing "skill sets", we run through stages of "defensive scenarios" or situations if you will, in which we are required to react "defensively and tactically" to situations. And by so doing, we apply such skill sets that will expose where we are inadequately practiced and trained. It becomes quite obvious where we need to improve as handgun practitioners.
But we're not a formal tactical handgun training venue. There are plenty of fine courses where you can receive formal and yes, expensive training. By all means, do take formal classes from good knowledgeable instructors as your budget and time may allow. But like any other hand-eye coordination oriented activity, without practice, those lessons learned will quickly become words we've heard, but unsure of how to follow. Practice, practice, practice... I encourage home "dry-fire" practice as much as the range sessions, too. The goal is to develop by repetitive action "muscle-memory", that is to draw properly, come up to target alignment and squeeze the trigger repeatedly if necessary in a controlled manner, but quickly without having to think through a step by step procedure. If you've played any sport, you know what I mean. How many of you can hit a golf ball or smack a good line drive baseball if you have to think through each and every subtle motion it takes to succeed in doing so?
I won't say that everything we practice and perform at our biweekly range sessions is absolutely the best procedures or strategy to follow in all real-world situations. We do as a group try to point out what is absolute and what may be more subjective in terms of what is right for you. But it is very important to understand that HOW YOU PRACTICE IS HOW YOU WILL REACT IN AN URGENT, SUDDEN SITUATION, so as the saying goes, PRACTICE, BUT PRACTICE GOOD PRACTICE!
As citizens who have chosen to be "licensed to carry", we carry a responsibility to ourselves and others to be as capable with our firearms as we can. I strongly feel that by participating in such range practice, we are learning by doing and watching to handle ourselves and our "gear" in the most safe, yet effective manner. You'll quickly find a group of like-minded new friends who are all more than willing to help. Everyone has started as a beginner and ultimately you just have to begin.
You will surprise yourself. Everyone always is, that after some months of these regular range sessions, further reinforced with regular home dry-fire practice, you'll be doing the various step by steps smoothly. Smooth is fast...
Read the information and access the links below.
1. General Guidelines: If you don't quite have the gear I describe below, whether it be the type gun, holster or mag pouch, DON'T go rushing out to buy a bunch of gear! Let's talk first before you spend a lot on stuff you end up not using... most experienced shooters have already made that mistake. You can start with what you have and then let's see what you want and need.
2. Handgun: Generally suggest 9mm or 38 Spl or larger caliber, but .380ACP is fine as a BUG (Back Up Gun) particularly if you want to only practice with it as your pocket or primary carry gun. The only thing is the need to learn to control the heavier recoil of the larger calibers by shooting it. Read the IDPA rules for further guidance, but it may prove somewhat confusing because they try to cover all the bases with their rulebook. Feel free to discuss with me or email me. But you should eventually select ONE handgun to practice regularly with. And remember, what you practice with is what you'll do best with out in the "real world".
3. Holster: You will definitely want to use either a stiff leather or "plastic" holster, one that is stiff enough to allow reholstering without having to use your offhand to hold it open. If you don't have one yet, DON'T rush out to buy one. Talk with me first. You'll need to give thought which one handgun you'll want to initially practice with to develop fundamental "skill sets", then buy a good holster. Again, talk with me about it. Soft nylon holsters are ok to draw from, but impossible to reliably and safely reholster a "hot" gun properly. You will want to start off with an outside the waist holster to carry the gun at your strong-side hip position. It is preferable not to start with trying to draw from an inside the waist holster; save that for after you've developed good and safe basic tactical handgun handling habits.
4. Magazines and Pouches: You need at least 3 magazines for the semi-auto handguns, even 4 if you are shooting a model whose magazine holds less than 10 rounds. You'll want to have either one double or two single pouches for the best practice sessions because we'll often run stages that require two magazine changes. These are worn outside on your weak side hip position. Nylon pouches will work fine, but again plastic or leather is better. If you're shooting a revolver, you will want to use "speedloaders" and/or "moonclips". The reason to have the extra mags is to have shooters practice reloading under some sense of urgency, thus the timer continues running while the shooter reloads, etc. Makes for a more complete practice of skill sets every handgun shooter should strive for.
5. Belt: Yes, the belt matters. You want to wear a wider, stiff belt, one that will hold your gear in place and doesn't allow it to shake around loosely while you're moving. And you will be moving in our sessions. I suggest a thicker leather belt, perhaps 1-1/2" wide or so. No need to to spend $50+ on a "tactical" belt. The belt I currently use was something like $15 at Walmarts, definitely stiff enough to hold my gear well.
6. Concealment vest/overshirt: IDPA shot officially requires the shooter to have the handgun concealed from sight to begin a stage of shooting. To start off the sport, I suggest not being overly concerned about this until you have developed good handgun handling skills first. We don't require concealment carry at our biweekly sessions, although many of us choose to do this for practice anyway. Concealment draw is slower and requires good technique to do so properly, smoothly and fast.
7. Eyes & Ears: You must wear glasses and ear protection once inside the range area. If your prescription glasses are of a safe, non-shatter glass or plastic, it should suffice.
8. Cap with a bill: Strongly suggest wearing a cap with bill. It can help with keeping an ejected shell from somehow finding its way to drop in between your glasses and your face - HOT. It happens to everyone sooner or later.
9. Ammunition: Bring about 100 rounds for each biweekly session. We will sometimes burn through that many rounds. Use inexpensive ammo as you can come across them. Reloads are fine, but it should be from a reliable source. For the distances we shoot at defensively, you won't need "match grade" ammo. Accuracy will be from you, not the ammo for our type of handgunning.
AT THE RANGE:
1. SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY! There is no substitute for it, nor can it be temporarily set aside for convenience. Review the 4 basic gun handling safety rules - these NEVER change:
a. Always assume a gun is LOADED and ready to fire. Do not accept what someone tells you. You check and recheck it to be empty, so YOU know.
b. Never point a gun, empty or loaded, at anything you don't intend to shoot.
c. Know what you're shooting at and what may be behind it or otherwise be hit by a stray round.
d. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are up on target and ready to pull the trigger.
NO GUN HANDLING UNTIL DIRECTED BY SAFETY OFFICER!
2. We all take gunrange safety of absolute importance. If anyone demonstrates otherwise, we are all obligated to not accept it, shrug it off, or ignore it. We cannot and will not allow otherwise at any time.
3. There will be designated gunhandling locations where one can take a gun from a bag, confirm its empty and clear, and holster it. At all times, the muzzle must be pointed in a safe direction downrange.
Once the gun is in the holster, IT REMAINS IN THE HOLSTER. DO NOT REMOVE THE GUN FROM ITS HOLSTER UNLESS YOU ARE DIRECTED TO DO SO BY THE SAFETY OFFICER.
3. We're pretty "informal" as participants, so folks can join or be temporarily MIA as necessary. There's no additional fees other than you must be an FCSC Member. If you're not a member yet, you'll need to be applying for membership to continue participating with us. It all helps with funding the facility and the equipment we are using there.
4. The whole purpose is to provide everyone an opportunity to develop and practice handgun skill sets that otherwise would never happen. In time, we learn to handle handguns safely, quickly and to have for ourselves the self-assurance of what is real and possible with handguns. No real pressure on you or anyone else, really! Just come out and practice at your pace. Over the years, I've seen this at club after club. This type of club always welcomes novice members and are extremely helpful and understanding, basically because everyone knows they had to go up the learning curve, too.
5. Let me suggest this. Numerous of the members often stay afterwards and just chat for awhile, including me. Stay and chat afterwards. It's a wonderful opportunity to learn by asking!
HOME DRY-FIRE PRACTICE:
1. If you've not done "Dry-Fire" practice at home before, I suggest first reading about it and wait to discuss it further with me and others. SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!!
2. Check and recheck that the gun is empty, that the magazines are empty. Do NOT have ANY live ammo anywhere near or even in proximity of your Dry-Fire practice area.
3. Establish a SAFE wall and direction to aim and point at for Dry-Fire practice, which is applying Basic Safety Rule Numbers 2 and 3 about where you point a firearm and knowing what's behind it.
4. Dry-fire practice can provide every benefit of shooting live rounds, short of recoil and rapid fire control. But before the recoil and reset of a trigger after a shot, all the "skill sets" needed are practiced in Dry-Fire.
5. If you put in regular time to Dry-Fire practice at home, you'll advance your skill sets that much quicker than just shooting at the range every other week.
6. But always practice GOOD practice. Sloppy techniques practiced in Dry-Fire practice will only make it worse, not better.
7. Practice smooth and proper draws. A good draw is not simply pulling out the gun and somehow getting it to a point of aim. Definitely learn what is a good draw and practice GOOD draws smoothly. Speed will come with the smooth motions practiced over and over. Keep your offhand against your chest, so it's "indexed" and not wandering possibly in front of the muzzle when it goes BANG!
8. When you pull the trigger in Dry-Fire, pay close attention to the Front Sight which you should be doing anyway. Does the sight move down or to one side? If so, then you know there's work to be done! Get to the point where every trigger pull results in the front sight remains steady on the target.
9. Practice transitioning from one target to another before pulling the trigger
10. Practice smooth reloads, not herky-jerky motions. Practice both "Tactical" and "With Retention" magazine reloads. Read and view on the internet, but also ask during our range sessions.
11. Do NOT place your "used" magazine back into the mag pouch. Make a habit of stuffing it into a pocket instead. You want to know that a magazine in the pouch is always a FULL magazine, so you don't have to wonder if it's partial or maybe even empty.
12. Here's a Tip: I recently came across a YouTube video showing to make "weighted" practice magazines for a 9mm handgun (can't find the link now). To be more realistic in Dry-Fire magazine reload practice, a properly weighted mag provides better muscle memory practice than using a light empty mag. And you SURE don't want to practice reloads with a mag full of real rounds! I assume you can find similar steps for 40S&W and 45ACP.
a. View the attached picture of Eagle Claw 3/16 oz "Bullet" lead fishing weights. This weight happens to fit perfectly into an empty 9mm or .380ACP shell.
b. Pound the pointed end inside into the empty shell, then add glue to keep the lead weight in place.
c. By racking the slide just back far enough to set the trigger, but not so far that the gun tries to load one of the weighted "empty" rounds, I can then Dry-Fire draw and reload with the gun feeling and weighing as fully loaded!
13. Before reholstering, practice "scanning" to ensure no other potential dangers are present, but keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. Don't be in a hurry to reholster! No one ever won a gunfight by reholstering the fastest.
14. When you reholster, practice reholstering with just your strong-hand. Look at the gun and holster to confirm nothing is possibly snagging the gun or worse, the trigger. Again, your offhand must be held against your chest to keep it out of potential harm's way. Thus the need for a good stiff holster that remains open to receive the gun as it's reholstered with one hand.
1. I'm working now to reach out to other local clubs, so we can participate in local competitions. At some point, we may very well become a sanctioned club ourselves in the sport of "IDPA".
2. Some of the stages we've been practicing is from straight from the offical "IDPA Classifier". Shooting this classifier allows each shooter to be grouped with others of similar experience and capability. So in competitive matches, you are only competing against your peers rather than much more advanced shooters. Read more about the "Classification Match" on the IDPA website.
3. But best of all, shooting the IDPA Classifier establishes a baseline performance for each shooter to compare his/her progress against in the weeks to come.
4. We will begin shooting through such an IDPA Classifier "match" over a period of biweekly range sessions, although we're not a sanctioned IDPA Club at this point. But by practicing it now, we can capably shoot the IDPA Classifier at a sanctioned area club in the near future.
5. I can see that eventually there will be those of us who will want to travel as a group to local clubs to shoot competitively against their members. But even if you choose not to do so, it in no way holds you back from continuing to participate and develop your essential handgun "skill sets".