Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Problematic One Handed Shooting

Over my many years shooting as an LEO, a firearms instructor, and a civilian firearms enthusiast I came to notice that many people's shooting abilities hit rock bottom when it comes to firing a pistol  with only one hand. The reason for this, in almost every case that I have witnessed, has been because the shooter decides to choke the chicken (as I call it). Basically the problem for way too many shooters trying to shoot one handed is that they try to hard. That is not a euphemism for them sucking either, I mean that they literally try to hard. What they usually try to hard to do is to hold the handgun steady thinking that will help them get the shot on target. Let's face it, it is a fact that holding a pistol one handed gives less support. Less support often results in a bit more wobble, or moving around, of the muzzle as you try to hold on target. To compensate for that, the shooter often exerts a tighter grip on the pistol and also locks the shooting arm's elbow and shoulder so that the pistol is held as rigidly as possible while aiming at the target all with the pistol shoved out as far away from the body as possible. The bad thing about that is that trying to hold the pistol in that manner causes a lot of stress and strain on the involved body parts. Usually sooner than later the shooter's arm (from the shoulder to and including the hand) starts to shake because of the strain caused by muscle and skeletal tension due to the position arm that the shooter has assumed. As soon as that happens, guess what happens next - the shooter again compensates by gripping the pistol even tighter and strains even more to keep the arm locked and steady. That all really accomplishes two things - fatigue and piss poor shooting.

It's a lot like I would imagine someone, who was really ticked off, would hold a small animal to choke it with one hand. A perfect example of what I am talking about can be witnessed in a brief gif file of a clip from one of the matrix movies costarring Carrie-Ann Moss.

She is the main subject in the gif. Watch her as she points the pistol at the bad guy. Look at what is happening. She is shaking like a cold and wet puppy - at least her right arm is doing so and that is the one holding the gun. I bet they had her do that over and over again a few times to get the scene just right. All it takes is about half a minute of holding the pistol like that to accomplish the shakes like that. Now look at her again and again - do you see it - the it being that: she is tense, she is holding the pistol exactly as I described with her shoulder, elbow, wrist all locked with the pistol fully extended and seems to me to probably be squeezing the grip way too hard (although that is hard to tell from this gif, I base that on lots of experience with other shooters who held their pistols the same way she is doing); all that besides her lousy trigger finger placement. The weight of the pistol, combined with you locking your arm locked in that position, puts enough strain on you to make you shake just like that and how better would most people think they could stop the shaking than by choking the chicken even harder. It is what happens, I assure you of that.

There is a way to alleviate the problem. All you need to do is relax a bit. Note I said a bit. The best way to do that when shooting one handed is to allow your shooting side elbow to bend just slightly (this works for two handed shooting as well). Bending the elbow just a tad takes an awful lot of strain off of the shooting arm and shoulder, in fact as soon as you bend the elbow just a bit, you also unlock your shoulder as it too bends in sympathy with the elbow. Note, bending your elbow a bit does not negatively affect your ability to aim nor to operate your pistol but you want to make sure you do not bend it drastically thus pulling the pistol in close enough to you for it to strike you during recoil or also causing you to bend your wrist and neck uncomfortably so as to be able to aim.

Look at the following two pictures, examples of one shooter with his elbow bent ever so slightly and another with his elbow locked.

This shooter, in the above photo, has his shooting side elbow bent ever so slightly allowing for reduced muscle and skeletal fatigue and thus for better shot placement at the range or when under the strain of a self-defense situation. His body is also canted slightly forward taking strain off of his back. It is a much stronger shooting position than will be seen in the next photo because in this stance both his elbow and shoulder structure are supporting the weight of the pistol.

The shooter in the second photo is holding the pistol fully extended as far from his body as possible. His elbow is evidently locked; thus virtually all of the weight of the pistol (and of his hand and arm) is straining the shoulder. It causes the shakes if you have not developed your muscles and skeletal structure to always hold a pistol like that and even if you have trained yourself that way, this position puts much more strain on you than holding your arm out with you elbow slightly bent. 
Now, maybe you have been trained all of your life to shoot one handed as this guy appears to be doing. Not only did your dad or buddy teach you that but you learned it in the military, then you also went to an NRA or some other class where they taught you to shoot one handed with your wrist, elbow and shoulder locked and arm fully extended. I will only say it once, they were all wrong to have taught you that as the strongest and best way to shoot one handed because it is a much weaker position by which to hold you pistol one handed than doing so with your elbow bent slightly.
Here is yet another example of a photograph of a shooter using the bent elbow technique.
I actually prefer to bend the elbow a bit more than shown in each of the pics above that show it bent but just bending it a little gives the arm a lot more strength and endurance while shooting. I know for a fact that this technique improves shooters' one hand shooting abilities, at least ones who have poor arm strength or who choke the chicken and wind up shooting poorly with one hand (this is especially so with the 'weak' or 'offside' hand). I say that because each and every shooter whom I instructed over the years, and who was shooting poorly one handed, improved when they did two things - bent the elbow slightly and relaxed their grip to a firm one instead of a death hold. Even the ones who maintained a death grip and only bent their elbows shot better than they had been shooting when they had kept their elbow locked.
I know other range officers who were diehard proponents of locking the elbow but who tried this after I explained it to them. They all were favorably impressed with how the slightly bent elbow relieved stress on the one handed shooting arm. They all admitted, it was a much easier position to maintain. Old habits do diehard though (I catch myself locking the elbow sometimes but as soon as I start shaking I bend my elbow) and most firearms instructors continue to teach shooters to fire one handed with the arm fully or hyperextended and with the elbow locked. It has been taught that way, probably almost as long as one handed shooting has been taught and seems to be the favorite one handed shooting hold in both the military and law enforcement as well as in competition shooting. Depictions of that technique can be found in historical photographs and artwork that date way back.

Yet, just because it has been long taught does not make the locked elbow method the best technique. Not only is the bent elbow technique a stronger shooting position, it also will do more to assure you keep your firearm secure in a gun takeaway attempt and probably is less likely to result in injury simply because the elbow remains flexible and unlocked. It simply is better overall in my opinion.
Think I am wrong, doubt I know what I am writing about? Let's try a simple test. I don't recommend doing this with a pistol because of the chances that something could go wrong even if you think the pistol is completely unloaded (as all to often proves not to be the case in accidental and negligent discharges). So, please, use something that approximates the size and weight of your loaded pistol. What you are going to do, and you need an assistant, is to grip the item (something that has little to no potential to hurt you or your assistant - so don't use a bladed weapon or tool either) that you have substituted for your pistol and hold it out at full arms length just like the guy wearing the red shirt in the photograph is holding his pistol. Make sure the arm and elbow are fully extended (hyperextended) with wrist, elbow and shoulder locked. Now hold it out like that for one minute while holding whatever is representing your gun in that hand. Have your assistant watch the clock and watch and maybe even video your arm. Think that will be easy without getting the shakes, well let me add a little twist. As you hold it in your fully extended arm, with your joints locked, aim over the top of it at a target at least 10 yards away although 15 to 25 would be better and make sure to keep it aimed at center mass.  Did you get the shakes or strain to hold it on target. And no, I don't mean did it sway or move a bit - did you get the shakes and strain? I am going to say yes you did at least a bit - correct me if I am wrong.
Now, take a break. Wait at least 10 minutes and exercise your arm a bit by flexing it once or three times to loosen it up from the strain you just put on it. Take the item into your shooting hand again and this time extend your arm fully but once you have achieved that, bend your elbow a bit - I would say enough so that your fully extended hand moves back and up at least an inch or two. (Or you can start with it bent without ever fully extending your arm and locking the elbow.) Now aim in on the target and try to hold the aim keeping your elbow bent just a bit. Did you strain much and get the shakes. probably not but if the answer is yes, think about if it was as soon as you did before when your arm was hyperextended with elbow locked? My bet is that is you are the average Joe or Jane, it took longer for you to become so strained as to start shaking.
If you did strain and start to shake, with either method, did you make the mistake most shooters make and stiffen your arm even more, or extend it fully if your elbow had been bent, fully locking your elbow joint? Did you also grip tighter on the pistol grip? Both of those actions only make you shake more as they add more strain. If instead you had flexed your elbow in and out a bit, you would have mitigated most of the strain. You can shoot comfortably, much longer, with the elbow bent a bit than with it hyperextended.
Are you still doubtful that what I am telling you truly amounts to the bent elbow hold being the stronger stance? Here is yet another test you can take to see which position is the steadier way to hold a pistol while shooting one handed. Hold your item, that represents the pistol straight out, extended as far from you body as possible while still in a pistol holding like grip and have your partner slowly, firmly and steadily start to push down on your hand from above - in other words your assistant is adding weight. (Please don't use a pistol loaded or unloaded for this.) Try to offer resistance with your arm still extended that way - in other words, try to hold the item representing your pistol in place still aimed in on target. Tell me, no actually tell yourself, how easy or difficult was it to offer resistance. The test is only half done.
Once that part I done, give yourself a break and flex a bit to loosen up. Take a few minutes rest. Now, old the item representing your pistol the way I recommend, arm extended but with elbow bent a bit and keep it aimed on target. Have your assistant do the same thing to add weight by pushing down slowly, firmly and steadily on your 'gun' holding hand. (Again, please don't use a pistol loaded or unloaded for this.) As the assistant does so, you should be resisting remembering to only use the strength in your 'pistol' holding arm to do so. Which way were you able to offer more resistance, with your elbow bent or with it locked in place. If you think it was the same each time, ask your assistant which way was easy to push your arm down.
Unless you are a freak of nature or did not do the tests as I explained them, you will find that the bent elbow method was the stronger. It works exactly the same way when shooting a pistol.
All the best,
Glenn B

Fahrenheit 451 - Islamic Style

Fahrenheit 451 was a novel (later made into a movie), by Ray Bradbury, about a society in which books were banned. If books were discovered anywhere, they were seized and burned in mass. The title of the story was supposedly the temperature at which ignited.

Today, a similar story is unfolding but it is not fiction. ISIS is destroying books by the thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands. The most recent episode was their burning of the library in Mosul, Iraq where it has been estimated that ISIS destroyed thousands of volumes including 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. For more info see this linked article.

In Farenheit 451, hope was held out for books surviving at least in memorized form. A group of dissidents, each assigned a single book, would read it over and over again to memorize every word of every line of it. Unlike the story in the novel, where there was hope that books would remain forever in our legacy, people today are not reading and memorizing books in secret to prevent their destruction by ISIS. The truth be told, even if folks in Iraq, and other areas plagued by the animals of ISIS, were trying to memorize each word of every line in every book - it would be of little good since ISIS has made it clear they have absolutely no compunction against burning people to death as easily as they burn books and buildings to destroy them. It is odd, their sheer hatred for the entire population of the earth who are not Islamic along the same exact lines as are they as to how readily they burn works including the Bible; yet, they work themselves into a frenzied psychotic killing madness should even a single page of the Q'ran be burned. I fear the only hope we have of stopping ISIS (and al-Qaeda and the Taliban), and thus literally saving the rest of the world as we know it, is the utter destruction of each and every one who is part of it.

All the best,
Glenn B

Tight Skirts And Shooting

Ladies, there may be a darned good reason why you might not want to wear a very tight skirt while carrying a handgun and it has nothing to do with concealment. Watch the following gif and it should be self explanatory. Of course, a simple solution - other than shortening the skirt of wearing a looser fitting one - would be not to crouch when shooting.

Wearing tight fitting pants while you shoot though, looks okay to me.

All the best,
Glenn B