Follow-through for pistol accuracy

by Sandy Keathley
McKinney Firearms

A shooting topic not often discussed is follow-through, probably because it is so simple. Well, simple in theory, but in the greater scheme of things, harder to prioritize than aiming and trigger work. It doesn’t actually happen until after the shot breaks.

In general, follow-through means to continue the fundamentals of stance and grip all the way through the shot, in the same way that a golfer or batter swings through the ball. If they relax at the moment of contact, the result will not be as good.

Shooters also use the term in a more specific way, meaning to continue to pull the trigger after the shot breaks, until it hits the frame of the gun. Granted, some triggers break very close to the frame, so there is almost no perceptible overtravel. This is generally a good thing, but either way, continuing to pull back until the trigger stops moving forces the shooter to maintain a certain discipline. Otherwise, there is a tendency to react suddenly to recoil, and that can impact the POI (point of impact) negatively. I see student’s fingers jumping off the trigger as the shot breaks. There is no way that can be good.

The next time you go to the range, try moving this up your list of things to remember as you shoot. It may take some practice, but it will help.


A frangible essay on choosing the right ammo

People new to shooting (and some not so new) are often confused by the bewildering array of descriptions of handgun ammunition available now (don’t get me started on rifle ammo!). Full Metal Jacket, Total Metal Jacket, Hollow Point, Round Nose, Frangible, Boat Tail, Steel Core, Steel Case, Aluminum Case, Sub-Sonic, +P, +P+, etc.

Let’s simplify this a little. Some of the terminology above relates to specific purposes like hunting or target shooting.If that is your interest, join a forum of like-minded people so you can learn more about those specifics. If your interest is more along the lines of basic marksmanship at 25 yards or less, or self defense, then your options come down to two:

  1. FMJ / TMJ (Full Metal Jacket / Total Metal Jacket)
  2. HP (Hollow Point)

Full Metal Jacket and Total Metal Jacket are similar enough to be called essentially the same.  These both contain lead bullets coated with a copper or zinc alloy, but with minor differences in the manufacturing process that have little impact on the average user.  FMJ/TMJ bullets are less expensive than HP, so they are typically used as range and training ammo, and have greater penetration than HP (sometimes too much).

Hollow Point bullets expand after leaving the barrel, and expand more on striking something. The point is not to cause greater damage, but to minimize over-penetration, which could be a danger to innocent bystanders. A side benefit is greater surface damage to tissue, which translates to greater stopping power. In a defensive situation, a high-powered caliber like .40 or .45 in FMJ could pass right through an attacker and injure/kill someone else. I have a Soviet military pistol that would go through two people and the wall behind them. However, smaller calibers like the .380 might not have enough penetration to even injure someone if they were wearing heavy winter clothing, so some people suggest using FMJ for these smaller calibers.

Both of these types of ammo are also available as Frangible ammo, which disintegrates on contact with anything harder than itself. This eliminates the possibility of ricochets off concrete walls.

Some mention should be made of +P and +P+ rated ammo. These are pressure ratings, indicating that these cartridges generate more force (+P) and much more force (+P+) than normal cartridges of the same caliber. Think of it as steroids for your gun. If the manufacturer of your gun specifies that your gun is approved for those higher pressures, then use them if you want, but only if the gun is made to handle it. Note that there is no industry specification for .380 +P, so these should not be used for that caliber, even if it is available (which it is).

Keep in mind these points about ranges and ammo:

  • Some ranges do not allow uncoated lead bullets, as a possible health hazard.
  • Some ranges do not allow steel-cased ammo, simply for economic reasons. They recycle brass casings, and do not want to sort out the steel.
  • Most ranges do not allow steel core ammo, as it may throw off sparks in the bullet trap and be a fire hazard.
  • Pretty much all ranges disallow tracer ammo, as it is definitely a fire hazard. 
  • A range is generally the cheapest place to get ammo, unless you need something special, so I always buy extra when I go, to keep an inventory for the next run on ammo.

Knowing what to buy, and what not to buy, can save you both money and aggravation.

Home Defense Guns for Ladies

by Sandy Keathley

Lately, I’ve had several women in pistol classes, and found that some of them had great difficulty in racking the slide on a semi-automatic. That is not surprising; as a general rule, women tend to have less grip strength than men, especially when those women are small-boned, older, or generally not inclined toward athletic activities. Certainly, this is not a problem for many women, especially younger ones, many of whom participate in competitive shooting (or athletics), and hold their own against men.

However, that difference in grip strength should not preclude a woman from being able to have protection at home.  With that in mind, here are some thoughts on guns that all women would be able to safely and reliably operate.

The force required to rack the slide is not the same for all models. It depends on the design, and the quality of manufacturing. As always, you get what you pay for. Go to a gun show, and test every 9mm you can. You will find that some are easier than others. Unfortunately, cheaper ones will tend to be harder than more expensive models.  I specify 9mm because larger calibers will tend to have stronger slide return springs. A 9mm is generally thought to have the minimum required stopping power.  You might find that a .380 is much easier to rack, but that may not have enough stopping power to stop a home invasion. Keep reading.

I personally think this is the ideal home defense weapon. True, it only holds 6-7 rounds, instead of the 10-18 of a full-size semi, but if you need more than 6, you have other problems, anyway.  It is idiot-proof; you don’t have to remember how to work it, whether or not there is a safety, which way to take it off safety; just point and pull, and it never jams. The problem for a revolver is that it has much more recoil than a semi, but that is mitigated if the gun is all-steel, has a long barrel, or both.  Revolvers intended for concealed carry are painful to shoot, but an all-steel Colt or Smith & Wesson with a 4-6 inch barrel is an easy shooter, very accurate, and can be managed by anyone. If the trigger pull is hard, just cock it with your left thumb. If you break into my house, and get past my dogs, that is what you will face!

If that is too big for you, consider a revolver in .22 Magnum.  It is much more powerful than a normal .22, in a small package.  A .22 may be lethal, but may not be lethal fast enough to save you.  However, it is better than nothing, and a .22 Magnum will get their attention.

Here is a novel solution; a high-capacity .22.  During WWII, in places like France, Italy, and Poland, partisan guerillas took out sentries at Nazi locations like railway stations and ammo dumps with small caliber pistols like .22 or .32. They were quiet and drew no attention. They were short on stopping power, but the partisans “zippered” the guards. Instead of shooting 3 times at the same place, they shot them 6-10 times in a pattern from the upper chest to the lower abdomen.  Even when it wasn’t fatal, the guard was in serious trouble, as he was bleeding from multiple locations, and could not stop the bleeding, even with two hands.

Several manufacturers, like Ruger and German Sport Guns, make .22 pistols in a large form factor, like a 1911 design, with a capacity of 10-14 rounds. These target pistols are very easy to shoot, and very accurate at 25 yards or more.  The recoil is so little, and the sight-picture reacquisition so fast, that you can hit a burglar 10 times in under 4 seconds. Stopping power is not an issue when he has 8-10 wounds.

Even more solutions:
IF there are no children in the house, get a semi-automatic rifle. S&W makes a .22 rifle with a 25-round magazine. Talk about zippering!  These are even easier to aim and shoot than the pistols. If you want more stopping power, get a rifle chambered in .223 (or 5.56).  Despite the odd numbering system, this is nowhere near a .22; this is a true combat rifle. The .223 has less recoil than the 5.56, but is still manageable, and has all the punch you could ever need.

There are many solutions to the home defense problem, and the Internet can give you much information to maximize your self-defense plan.  Just search.  Write me with questions.

Cleaning your guns

by Sandy Keathley
McKinney Firearms

While it might not seem that this is a suitable topic for a blog on shooting tips, it actually is. It doesn’t make much sense to practice accurate marksmanship, only to have the gun fail to work in a defensive situation. The issue is not so much the cleaning of carbon from the chamber and bore, but lubricating the moving parts. Revolvers are much less affected by this, but semi-automatics have a delicate balance between the backward force imparted by the cartridge firing, the forward force of the return spring, and the friction in the slide channels. That balance is easily upset, by using a low-powered cartridge, the wrong return spring, or allowing dirt buildup around the slide.

Cleaning kits can be bought inexpensively at all gun stores and outdoors/hunting stores (Cabela’s, Bass Pro, Gander Mountain, etc.), or online. They will generally include solvent, gun oil, patches of various sizes, a T-handle cleaning rod, and a selection of rod ends for pulling patches through the bore. Not included are the brushes (brass or nylon) used for cleaning the bore, as these are caliber-specific, and need to be bought separately.

Revolver. This one is easy. Swab each of the chambers in the cylinder, and the entire bore (barrel) with a patch soaked in solvent. Run the proper-sized brush through each several times, then follow with patches until they no longer show discoloration. Wipe down both ends of the cylinder, and any other places inside the frame you can reach. Revolvers require very little lubrication, but you can put a drop on the ejector rod and one where the cylinder revolves in the yoke.

Semi-auto. These must be broken down a little. The first step, of course, is to remove the magazine and clear the chamber. When you hear that someone said “I was just cleaning my gun, and it went off“, they are lying. They are trying to explain why they shot someone. You can’t run a bore brush through a chamber that has a cartridge in it. Duh! Don’t be an idiot.

The next step requires your manual. If you don’t have one, they can be found online. The process for breaking down the gun is similar for most guns, yet different enough that you should not try it unless you have the manual, or your gun is identical to another with which you are familiar. Once you know the trick for removing the take-down lever (pin), the slide will come off. The main part of the gun can be put aside. Remove the barrel from the slide. You will be cleaning the grooves in the slide, and the inside of the barrel, just like with the revolver. On reassembly, be sure and oil the grooves in which the slide moves. Instead of gun oil, you can also use gun grease; that is just a personal preference.

Once reassembled, rack the slide several times to test the action. If you did anything wrong, you will find out now. If it passes, put it away, and you are now good for another two or three range trips.