Training journal launch.

I like to think I’m a decent shooter and that I’m continually improving, but how do I really know?  Being a decent shooter is pretty subjective, I think it’s largely dependent upon the shooting crowd you run with (e.g. big fish in a little pond) and unless I’m measuring in some way how do I know if I’m actually getting better?  I set out to find a set of standards to measure my skill level with.  I wanted to stick with tried and true numbers that respected professionals used, no new age drills.

After researching for quite a while I’ve settled on using Gunsite’s Cooper Cup as the gold standard.  I’ve compiled all types of drills and qualifications that major trainers use and decided on the Cooper Cup as it has a relatively low round count, varying distances and pushes both speed and accuracy.  As I understand it the Cup standards are:

3 yards, one shot to the head, in 1 second
7 yards, one shot to the head, in 1.5 seconds
10 yards, two shots to the body, in 2 seconds
15 yards, two targets, two shots on target 1, reload, two shots on target 2, to the body, in 6 seconds
25 yards, two shots to the body, in 4 seconds

I think most would agree those are solid numbers.  So now comes how to use them.  I’ve gone back and forth on the best way to run, and what I’ll further refer to as, The Test.  I ultimately decided on shooting it cold.  There’s no doubt that taking The Test at the end of a range session would allow faster times and more accurate hits but it isn’t really a true representation of ‘on tap’ skill.  To that end, I’m limiting myself to shooting each string twice.  I went back and forth on this as well, real life doesn’t give you do-overs but since part of this journal is about gathering information I don’t want to limit myself to just one data point per string of fire.

I’ve considered picking one pistol, one type of trigger system, one type of safety and specializing in it.  I would use it for all my training, competitions and practice to become an expert with it.  Which you can make a good case for but that idea really bores me.  I carry such a wide variety of pistols (pocket .380s, revolvers, 1911s, Beretta 92/96s, etc) that I need to be proficient across them all.  At the beginning of each day I ask myself “what’s the biggest gun I can conceal based on how I’m required to be dressed today?” and choose accordingly.  For the purposes of The Test I’m choosing my Dan Wesson CCO in .45 Auto (230 gr Fiocchi FMJ) and my Beretta/Wilson 92G Brigadier Tactical in 9mm (124 gr American Eagle FMJ).  Which are two quite different pistols.

The DW CCO is a single stack pistol with a short single action (SA) trigger breaking at 3.75# and a frame mounted thumb and beavertail safety.  The 1911 is designed to be carried with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the thumb safety engaged (pictured above).  Which is commonly referred to as “cocked and locked”.  To fire you grip the pistol to disengage the beavertail safety, click down the thumb safety and press the trigger.  When done firing you flip-up the thumb safety and holster.

In contrast, the 92G Brig Tac is a double stack pistol with a long double action first trigger pull around 7# with resulting shots taking place in single action (DA/SA) with it breaking at 3# 7oz, and a slide mounted decocker.  The Beretta is designed to be carried with a round chambered and the hammer down  (pictured above).  To fire you only need to pull the trigger, the long first pull is because it cocks the hammer.  All subsequent shots in single action require only a short trigger pull.  When done firing you press down on the decocker which safety drops the hammer and holster.

Why is this important?  Muscle memory, to not get too technical about it.  Basically, actions we repeat becoming ingrained and we get better and faster at them as we learn to perform them unconsciously.  The smaller/finer the action the harder they are to remember and do when under stress.  Complicating matters even more by having to different types of firing and safety controls adds even more difficulty.  For example, forgetting to disengage the CCO thumb safety in a stressful draw and shoot scenario would leave me pointing a shiny stainless steel paperweight.  Embarrassing if on the range with friends but could potentially get you killed in a real life encounter.  Many advocate against such things and I won’t say differently.  Facts are it is simpler to master one type of system you’re intimately familiar with.  Nevertheless, I’m determined to make it happen.

First round of The Test begins tomorrow with the Brigadier Tactical taking the spotlight!

-SA

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