Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I'm a pretty good shot... and hand, finger, and grip strength have a lot to do with it.

While most of the firearms we have are "stock", we still have quite a few with modifications... including various "trigger jobs" on rifles, shotguns, and handguns. A friend recently told me he was ordering a "Ghost Trigger" for his Glock because the gun's stock trigger pull was messing up his "groups". Now... I have a couple of Ghost products and they do a pretty good job on different guns, but a "trigger job" is what a lot of folks turn to rather than work on fixing themselves first. A "trigger job" won't fix a poor application of the shooting fundamentals or... make up for a lack of hand, finger, and grip strength.

Ruger SR9... my usual EDC... demonstration for students... draw and fire...
controlled pairs... flash-sight picture... at five yards...
.22LR single shot in bullseye was demo from ten-yards with Ruger Mark II Government Target Model...

Don't get me wrong, there are mechanical modifications and accessories that can truly improve a shooter's performance... but only if the fundamentals and decent hand and grip strength are already in place. I've shot some S&W M&Ps and Glocks that were amazing guns after folks like Bowie Tactical Concepts and Boresight Solutions had worked their magic, but for the most part beyond sights... our Every Day Carry guns around here are bone stock... and I shoot them pretty well because of two reasons... in my humble opinion... I have a pretty good grasp and application of the fundamentals... AND... I have developed and maintain pretty good grip and trigger-finger strength.

Ruger SR9... demonstration for students... trigger-control focus... ten-shots... at five-yards...

Most folks these days don't do a lot of manual labor, especially manual labor that works fine motor skills to where they build up strength in their hands and fingers, especially with regard to their grip. There are even some regular "gym rats" I know that haven't been purposeful about building hand and grip strength on the same level as their biceps and triceps. Now I've had students that have limitations due to injuries, arthritis, and other problems, but that's not the majority of folks. Also, I'm not picture of overall fitness... I do exercise... but I'm also a fat guy who could stand to lose a few or eighty pounds... but I have still developed very good hand, finger, and grip strength.

So, let's identify some of the advantages to great hand, finger, and grip strength:
  • Easier manipulation of the firearm's action and controls.
  • More consistent trigger press and management regardless of trigger weight.
  • Stronger grip for two-handed and one-handed shooting.
  • Better recoil control for controlled pairs or follow-up shots.
  • Better retention of the firearm if someone tries to take it from you.
  • Less fatigue when doing a lot of shooting.
Glock 17 Gen4... three shots draw and fire... then ten shots...
trigger-control focus... all at three yards...

So the next question is... how do we improve our hand, finger, and grip strength? Most people I know, even those who work-out at a gym, are not necessarily purposeful about building hand and grip strength. Regular shooting and dry-firing is great for developing your fine motor skills as they relate to shooting, but it doesn't necessarily build the strength in the hand, grip, or trigger finger any more than a weight-lifter doing curls with a five-pound dumbbell every day. 

S&W M&P9... eleven shots... seven yards...

You need to be purposeful about building hand, finger, and grip strength and fortunately... you can do a lot by incorporating it into your everyday activities. I do a lot of my grip exercises while driving to work. So if you want to build hand, finger, and grip strength... here are some exercises to try:

  • Grip Exercisers - Equipment: grip exerciser or ball... I still use the GripMaster daily.
  • Arm-Hang and Towel-Arm Hang - Equipment: chin-up/pull-up bar, towels.
  • Wrist Curls and Hammer Curls - Equipment: dumbbells, kettlebells.
  • Pinch Curls - Equipment: Weight plates, heavy books,
  • Farmer's Walk - Equipment: Dumbbells, buckets with water/weight in them.
  • Hand Stretch - Equipment: Stretching bands or heavy/larger rubberbands
Here are some links that explain the some of the above exercises and other exercises you can do at the gym or at home:
I'm not saying a trigger-job or stippling your grips on your gun won't help, but I think you'll find that as you develop your strength... you'll see your shooting improve... and that's why I believe... I'm a pretty good shot... and hand, finger, and grip strength have a lot to do with it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Pepper-Spray should be part of your Every Day Carry...

After recently spending some time answering questions and discussing pepper-spray with several different folks, I decided to post some of my thoughts about carrying pepper-spray for defensive use. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a SABRE Red certified instructor, often recommend their products, and the gals and I carry their products daily.

So, in no particular order, here are some thoughts:

Pepper-spray should be part of your Every Day Carry for self-defense: Pepper-spray is inexpensive, easy to use with training and practice, is legal to carry on all 50 states (but check your state's laws), and is typically non-lethal. Pepper-spray will usually not completely disable an attacker or aggressor, but it will often give you the chance to at least slow down the threat, create distance between you and the threat, and hopefully escape the situation and contact law enforcement... yes... anytime you have to use your pepper-spray against a threat... call the police!

Pepper-spray can be legally carried many places that a gun, and even some knives, can't be carried: My wife and I both teach in public schools... my daughter is an ER nurse at an area hospital... we can't legally carry a firearm at work... and until the law changes here in Ohio on March 21st of this year... we can't even keep a gun in our vehicle on school premises. We can carry pepper-spray. Many personnel policy manuals don't forbid carrying pepper-spray, but most forbid guns and knifes of defensive length or size. Also, know your state's laws regarding defensive sprays. I am not an attorney, but one of the best summaries I've found for the legalities of purchasing and possessing pepper-spray in different states is on Ebay.

Pepper-spray should be carried in your hand, ready to use: You need to carry your pepper-spray in your hand and be ready to use it in various situation and contexts... especially in transitional or vulnerable spaces... jogging on a trail, carry it in your hand or on your body... leaving the store, headed for your vehicle in the parking lot, carry it in your hand. If your pepper-spray is buried in your purse, or in your pocket tangled up with your keys... you likely won't be able to deploy it quickly enough when you need it. I carry my pepper-spray and keys in my left-hand (weak-side) and practice using it with my left-hand because I wear my gun on my right side, either AIWB or IWB.

Pepper-spray allows you to engage a threat at a short distance, but beyond arm's length: Unlike empty-hand techniques, stun guns, impact weapons, and many other defensive tools... pepper-spray can be used to defend against an attacker or aggressor beyond your arm's length. Different pepper-sprays have varying distances of effective use and that is why it is important for you to practice with whatever pepper-spray you carry. I have found the pepper-gel products by SABRE Red to have an effective spray distance of twelve to fifteen feet. The other advantage to the pepper-gel is that there is less chance of it blowing back in your face due to wind, but you also have to be more purposeful in aiming the pepper-gel products. The gals and I also like and carry the SABRE Red Spitfire which is natural to carry and aim, has replaceable cartridges, and has a "stream" of spray that extends the reach of the spray out further than typical cone/aerosol pattern sprays.

Pepper-spray is typically non-lethal, as are many of the physical threats you will face: In most states, defensive size/designed knives and firearms are considered deadly force. Again, in most states, you can only legally use deadly force to defend against an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm.  In many defensive situations your firearm is of no use... yes, it's true. There is a lot that an aggressor or attacker can do to an average adult in many contexts and situations before you are ever near the threshold of defending yourself with deadly force.  The attacker can push you, chest-bump you, spit in your face, finger-thump you in the chest... and in many of theose situations and contexts... if you pull out the gun and shoot... you're going to jail. Pepper-spray gives you another tool in your personal defense force continuum. Beyond humans, pepper-spray is also very effective against animals... like an aggressive or attacking dog and even an aggressive raccoon... from personal experience.

Pepper-spray is a self-defense tool for those who may not be ready or want to carry a firearm: Yes, I know in the gun-folks circles and those who consider themselves "in the gun industry"... that a firearm is considered a great defensive tool, if not THE defensive tool. Truth be told, there are a lot of folks out there that would like to defend themselves that just aren't ready to carry a firearm daily for a variety of reasons. Pepper-spray gives them another defensive tool... a tool... as previously mentioned... that may have more potential for use than a firearm.

Pepper-spray is not tear gas and not all pepper-sprays are created equal: First, since the term "pepper-spray" seems to be generically applied to all defensive sprays, you should know the difference between common defensive spray products. OC sprays use capsaicin and/or related compounds called capsaicinoids. They cause significant irritation (a pain response) and severe inflammation (a physical response) of the oral, nasal, conjunctival and tracheobronchial mucous membranes . OC sprays are usually more effective for defensive use because an attacker can fight through the pain of the irritation caused other sprays, but the severe inflammation aspect caused by OC sprays can't be controlled by the attacker... it's the body's natural response to the OC spray.

The other common defensive sprays... often referred to as "tear gas"... contain either CS which uses 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile or CN... often known as "Mace"... which uses phenacyl chloride. Both CS and CN sprays are irritants and the effect on the person sprayed subsides more quickly than the effects of OC sprays. The "heat" or "hotness" of OC pepper-spray is measured in Scolville Heat Units (SHU) and varies from product to product. The bottom line is you want a good quality OC pepper-spray and I typically recommend products with at least a million SHU rating from SABRE Red and Fox Labs.

Pepper-spray use, to be effective, requires training and practice: Just like every tool used for self-defense, including firearms, to effectively use pepper-spray you should get some training and practice regularly. SABRE Red offers training and there are a lot of terrific instructors out there like Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, Chuck Haggard of Agile Training & Consulting, and myself with G4 Personal Safety in Ohio who offer it too.

You should also practice. Purchase inert pepper-spray units to practice... and when you replace your pepper-spray, use your expired pepper-spray and practice.

Pepper-spray is designed for results on people, wasp spray is not: Folks, this wasp spray nonsense has to stop! Will wasp spray possibly sting or burn in someone's eyes... maybe... but good a OC pepper-spray uses a hot pepper extract that will severely affect the the eyes and mucous membranes causing significant inflammation and irritation. If you want to see a demonstration of wasp spray, check this video out by SABRE Red.

Pepper-spray will not cause you legal problems if you carry a gun: What will cause you trouble is YOU not knowing the legal principles and laws as they relate to the use of force for self-defense. I am not an attorney, but Andrew Branca is and you should take one of his excellent seminars. Aside from that,  the bottom line is you can only use deadly force to defend against the threat of deadly force or serious bodily harm. If an attorney or prosecutor wants to know why you used your gun instead of pepper-spray for self-defense... then you better be able to explain that you were threatened with deadly force or serious bodily harm. If you were threatened with a little bodily harm and a bruised ego, YOU CAN'T USE YOUR GUN! You could use your pepper-spray. Now, every situation is different, so I have no interest in going down the rabbit holes of every possible context of when, if, maybe, hypothetically... just carry pepper-spray!

A lot of thoughts to think over... and there are many more to consider... but for now... don't you think... Pepper-Spray should be part of your Every Day Carry...