Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Range Report Part 3: The rest of the questions

Posted by Lissa on August 19, 2009

Good morning everyone!  Before I polish off the rest of my many Q&A’s, allow me to stipulate that all errors are probably mine, not Steve’s; I was scribbling pretty frantically and things may have been lost in translation 🙂

Q: What does “double action” mean?
A: It means there are two ways to ready the gun for firing — 1) cock the hammer, or 2) pull the trigger.  If you don’t cock the hammer (putting it in “single action”) then the trigger is going to have a much heavier pull.  [My aim differed a LOT, single-action versus double-action. Mike had much better results, too. — Lissa]

Q: Can I cock the hammer one-handed?
A: Safety-wise it’s better to hold the gun with your right hand (assuming you’re a righty) and cock the hammer with your left hand.  Using the thumb of your gun hand to cock the hammer takes too much control and support off the gun.

Q:  Speaking of safety . . . did you really say we might someday want a Kevlar-lined backpack? Seriously??
A:  It’s not to protect you against snipers in the windows, it’s to help provide a safe direction to point your gun at home while unloading, loading etc.  When you live in an apartment with folks above, below and beside you, a “safe direction” can be hard to find; pointing the gun at the Kevlar base of the backpack is one way to do it.

Q:  Why would I carry a semi-auto versus a revolver?
A: There’s no one answer; people’s needs and preferences vary.

Q:  Well, okay.  But still — what are the advantages of a revolver?
A:  Well, in general, fewer moving parts means fewer parts that could break or decide not to work at a crucial moment.  The lack of slide means that you could, if necessary, fire from inside a pocket.  (Although I wouldn’t recommend it — this snubbie shoots flames and would light your pants on fire!)

Q:  And semi-autos?
A: The slide eats up a lot of recoil, you can generally hold more bullets in the magazine, you can carry spare magazines, stuff like that.

Q:  Why are all the semis lying on their right side?
A:  That’s the proper right-side-up; you should lay them down so that the empty chamber is facing upwards and people can see that it’s empty.

On the range . . .

Q:  Dammit, all my .22 shots are in one place, and they’re all high and to the left of the 10-ring.  What am I doing wrong?
A:  Could be the sights.  It’s a target pistol and you’re built very differently from me.  Could be other things.  It’s better to concentrate on getting all your shots to go to the same spot — which yours are doing — and adjust the sights later.  Some guns have adjustable sights; other guns have fixed sights, and you’d have to learn to compensate.  Regardless, I’d rather have you just getting familiar with the feel of each gun than worrying about your score hitting the target; you and Mike are doing really good getting your bullets on paper.

Q:  Well, all right, then.  Time to move to the 9 mm?
A:  If we’re done with the .22.  When you go to the range, you shouldn’t go back and forth from one gun to another; instead, shoot ALL your .22, then ALL your 9 mm, then ALL your rifles, etc.  Each caliber and each gun fires differently; if you hop from one to another your accuracy is going to take a hit.

Q:  What do you mean, “turn to the gun”?
A:  When unloading this revolver and checking out a problem, some people will turn the gun sideways, not realizing that there could be folks right next to them in the next shooting space.  It’s better to keep the gun pointed downrange and YOU turn sideways while you resolve the issue.

Q: Are we shooting hollow-points?
A:  No, we’re shooting full metal jackets.

Q: Why?
A: Because jacketed hollow-points are much more expensive.  You should definitely run some through your gun to get the feel, and once in a while to maintain it, but in general you practice with full metal jackets because they’re the cheap stuff.

Back in the classroom . . .

Q:  So it’s the Criminal Histories System Board that processes a gun license?
A:  Yep, the same people who track pedophiles and other sex offenders.  Ain’t that great?

Q:  Fantastic.
A: Yeah, your neighbors will be real happy when they see those envelopes showing up.

Of course, in MA, some folks would probably rather think they were living next to a sex offender than living next to someone with a handgun.

That just about empties out my Notebook of Shooty Goodness!  (Steve also told some great stories about testifying in court about Evil Black Guns, as well as a legislative shoot he did, but those are better told in person.)

In conclusion . . . assuming we make nice and the Chief of Police grants our licenses . . . what should our first gun be?


24 Responses to “Range Report Part 3: The rest of the questions”

  1. Breda said

    What do you want your first pistol to be for, self-defense or just fun at the range?

  2. Sevesteen said

    Single action: The trigger only releases the hammer. Double action: The trigger both cocks and releases the hammer. Some guns can be shot either way. Some guns are single action only or double-action-only.

    An alternative to a kevlar backpack–Used bulletproof vest panels are available fairly inexpensively, or a large bucket or planter of sand. He’s right that the floor isn’t a safe direction if you have downstairs neighbors.

    I intentionally alternate between centerfire and .22 when shooting, to reduce the tendency to flinch with larger calibers. Probably hurts my accuracy with .22, but I think it improves accuracy with larger calibers.

    From a self-defense standpoint:

    Semiautos generally hold more ammo, usually have lighter triggers, and some are thinner than revolvers.

    Revolvers are simpler, potentially more powerful for equal size. They used to be regarded as more reliable, but modern semiautos are nearly equal. Most are shot double action in a self-defense situation, requiring a heavy trigger pull that can make aiming accurately more difficult.

    The .38 snubnose holds a special spot–Near perfect balance of power vs. ease of carry. The downside is that they are more difficult to shoot well.

    If I could keep only one gun, it would be my .38 snubnose, although it isn’t what I carry most, and not what I’d recommend for a beginner.

    I voted .22 as a first gun. I’ve got a Ruger 22/45 (designed to somewhat mimic the operation of a 1911) and I like shooting it. Be aware that it is a fairly complex gun to thoroughly clean, to the point where I pretty much bore-snake mine and leave it at that until it malfunctions.

    If it is going to be an only gun, rather than first, go with a 9mm.

  3. Jeff said

    I second Sevensteen. If it’s to be a first gun, get a 22 pistol. I’m partial to the ruger Mark series, but there are other good choices. For an only gun, I think the Glock 19 or a K-frame 357 S&W revolver are right at the sweet spot of shootability vs carryability.

  4. “Q: Dammit, all my .22 shots are in one place, and they’re all high and to the left of the 10-ring. What am I doing wrong?
    A: Could be the sights. It’s a target pistol and you’re built very differently from me. Could be other things. It’s better to concentrate on getting all your shots to go to the same spot — which yours are doing — and adjust the sights later. Some guns have adjustable sights; other guns have fixed sights, and you’d have to learn to compensate. Regardless, I’d rather have you just getting familiar with the feel of each gun than worrying about your score hitting the target; you and Mike are doing really good getting your bullets on paper.”

    Actually, this is probably an artifact of the grip you were using, assuming it was the teacup grip, not the sights. With the teacup grip, you’re applying a lopsided pressure to the right side of the gun, so when you squeeze to fire, you’re probably ever so slightly nudging the gun to the left. If you’re shooting high, you might be anticipating the shot. Slow it down a little bit and make sure you’re not holding your breath. Bending my knees and tucking my pelvis under a little bit (which corrects the back arching issue) helped me when I had this issue, so you might see if it makes a difference.

    I have a sig mosquito, and it’s a good little .22. Sigs are excellent guns. They have the least malfunctions of all the guns I’ve shot. I use my .22 as a practice gun at the range because it is about the same size frame as my sig p239. I got the p239 as my first gun because it shoots like a dream, but after doing the defensive pistol class and an IPSC tourny, I’m looking to get either a Sig P226 in 9, which is the full size (P239 is the compact) and holds 14 rounds compared to 8 for the compact. Or the glock 19, because it is what a lot of the IPSC shooters seem to prefer for competition, and I’d like to do more of that in the future.

    I do love my Sig p239, and I shoot better with it than with other guns, in terms of target practice. However, it is a DA/SA. I shot it in SA for a while after first acquiring it. I wasn’t really used to shooting DA/SA until I shot with it in IPSC, and it was a little tough to get used to but didn’t affect my shot placement, and I hardly noticed by the end of the day (200 rounds later…). I think being used to shooting the gun in SA for a while was one of the reasons it didn’t harm my shot placement. If I was just out of the gate, it probably would’ve made a big difference. Like with anything, practice makes a difference. I was of the opinion that my p239 would be my carry gun forever and always, and it will always be my first love, but I want something that holds more than 10 rounds for defensive purposes. The p239 will probably end up as my secondary handgun.

    I used an XD9 for my defensive pistol class. It wasn’t my gun, I’d never shot it before, and I can’t complain about how I shot with it. It was a little bit bigger than my Sig, but I handled it just fine. My only complaint was that I had some issues with the grip safety, and a couple misfires where the pin struck the bullet, but no bangbang. While this is sometimes an artifact of a slow and not deliberate enough pull of the trigger, I guarandamntee you, this was not the case here. It happened about once every 50 rounds. The nice thing about the Sig is that it will fire every time you pull that trigger.

    I second Jeff on the Glock 19 in 9mm for an only gun, it was the gun that the ninja boys had me shoot the first time, and I think you should try it out before making your final decision. One of the upsides not yet mentioned here is that glocks are very common guns, so should you need a repair, you wont have to go too far out of your way. They’re not particularly sexy or interesting guns from an afficianado’s standpoint, so people like to hate on them, but they’re popular guns for a reason. Boyfriend picked on me for a while because I wanted to get a glock, and he’s all about the sexy guns and guns with “personality” and history, but after shooting some IPSC and starting to do more practical and defensive drills, he’s now looking into a G34. The first time he picked up Marc’s glock 19, he shot it better than he shot his own carry gun – a 1911 at the time – and also shot it better than Marc himself. Everyone will have a different opinion or experience, but I think there’s something to be said for boyfriend’s experience with it…you should try it out and see if it suits you. OHHH! And it’s also on the more affordable side of the spectrum, as far as quality guns go. You can get a cheap gun that shoots well, like a Taurus, but the Glock lifespan kicks the shit out of the Taurus’ lifespan.

  5. Also, if you are looking into a gun that will be functional and fun, you should consider a gun that you can trick out. The Sigs are available with an array of features, such as threaded barrels for compensators (which don’t serve any real purpose unless your doing a covert mission or planning to get in a gun fight, but are tacticool) and rails for lights.

    This, or the Glock 19 will be my next pistol. The guys who taught my defensive pistol and night shooting course told me that if I must shoot with a Sig, I should get the DAK option. It’s not a DA/SA, but is DA only – however, the trigger pull is 6.5 pounds, which is pretty comfortable compared to the 10 lb pull for the DA/SA guns.


  6. Jeff said

    You can swap in the DAK parts yourself if you want. The laws apply to what a dealer can sell, not what you can buy or own.

  7. Another vote here for the Mark series from Ruger.
    Mrs. DT had a MK II when I met her, & it’s one of my (!) favorite pistols for jus’ plain fun.
    Good value, good shooter, even if a b1t@h to disassemble. Accurate as any of my autos.

  8. wrm said

    Yup, get a 22. Shoot it lots. The Ruger’s a great choice, unless you’re a revolverhead like me, who likes the S&W K-frame 22 revolver.

    Revolver vs pistol? Some people just like revolvers. Or calibers. I happen to like 357, and that almost only comes in revolver flavour (there’s an exception to everything 🙂

  9. Go with a Sig, and don’t get a .22. You’re gonna end up getting a 9mm shortly there after anyways! A Sig would be a great all-purpose firearm, and durable, and just practice yourself till you’re used to the DA. It shouldn’t take a long time. It’s really not as bad as everyone seems to think it is. True, the action differs between the first and second shot, but if I can get used to it in a mere 200 rounds (that’s like one solid range session) and still make A-zone hits under the pressure of the shot-timer, the naysayers should sack up 😉 I mean, really, anyone who is enough of a gun-nut to state that the DA/SA detracts from their skills should consider that they should be able to pick up any firearm and shoot it. You can always rack the slide to put it in SA.

    The Sig will live up to it’s motto: to hell and back reliability. If they’re good enough for the Navy SEALS, well…..

  10. Jeff said

    So she should learn the basics of pistol shooting at 20 cents a round rather than 3 cents a round? A 22 is a bad ‘only’ gun, but if you’re going to have two, one should be a 22.

  11. wrm said

    Yea, I agree, a 22 isn’t the best “only” gun (hey, IMO, the best “only” gun is a 357 revolver, OK?).

    Point is, I don’t see this gal being a single-gun gal for long, do you?

    And shooting the crud out of a 22 pistol gives you a better idea of what you really want, and then you can drop the cash on the SIG, or H&K, or Les Baer, or whatever.

    Or you can buy a Ruger 357 🙂

    Wouter, who doesn’t have a hidden agenda, no, really…

  12. Sevesteen said

    IMO, Sigs are great, but somewhat overpriced. On the other hand, ammo cost will overwhelm the cost of the gun. As long as you don’t go too cheap, the price difference between guns isn’t all that important.

    I wish I had started with a .22–I think you learn faster with smaller calibers, and practice with a .22 is not only more valuable per dollar, it may be more valuable per round fired.

    • Jon said

      I picked up a gently used, in great shape P239 for $500 the other day – it took a little waiting and looking, but the deals can be found.

  13. Hence my comment that it’s probably only a short matter of time before they get a second gun anyways. I have a Sig Mosquito. I got it as my “practice gun” because of ammo pricing. I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on the transferrence of learnings from calibur to calibur. A good reason to put off getting a .22 would be to wait until you know what gun will be your primary handgun, because you will probably want the .22 to most closely resemble that gun. It might not be optimal to work it the other way: I like this .22, I’ll get a 9mm (or whatnot) made by the same guys. Better to go the other way, IMO. But, if you must get a .22 first, I really like my Misquito.

    Yes, Sigs are expensive, but overpriced? I think they’re worth every penny, when it comes to reliability and how they shoot. They’re also as accurate as they’ll come, and very comfortable to shoot. I’ve tried a good handfull of 9mm that are similar in size/shape/function to the Sig p226 (or the compact version): Glock 19/17, XD9, Smith and Wesson M&P 9, as well as the CZ75 and the Steyr M9 (what my boyfriend carries), and I found the Sig to be the most comfortable to shoot. The main differences I note between the Sig and the rest of the 9mms that I’ve tried is the action and recoil. Both feel smooth like buttah with the Sig, and the others seem to hit my hands a lot harder, leading to soreness and wristaches. WHile the guns didn’t shift in my grip, the recoil kind of hit my hands a little on the hard side. None of the guys ever seem to think the guns feel all that differently, but I do wonder if its a male-female difference. The default answer I received when bringing this up on the forums was that my grip must be the factor, however, I have had my grip refined by several professional gun instructors, and there’s not much left to correct. I think not-having man hands does make a difference. The Sig had the nicest action of the group – felt more smooth and more even. But again, maybe it’s my fragile, girly apendages.

    Another good aspect of Sigs is that they’re widely distributed, so should something go wrong down the road, it’s not hard to get them fixed. Cheap guns are great because you can get more of them, but when it spontaneously disassembles itself or breaks down, are you still going to want *that* gun to be the one you keep on your nightstand? “the best gun for the job was the one closest to me” will only get you so far; if you can give yourself a tactical advantage over the other guy, you should. It’s just plain non-sense not to do so.

    Lissa, there’s a wealth of info here from everyone’s individual experiences and opinions on make and model, but in the end, alls ya can do is get thee out there and try as many guns as you can. You’ll know when you find “your” gun.

  14. Jeff said

    “Lissa, there’s a wealth of info here from everyone’s individual experiences and opinions on make and model, but in the end, alls ya can do is get thee out there and try as many guns as you can. You’ll know when you find “your” gun.”

    Absolutely correct. Anyone who disagrees with this is probably giving you bad advice. Lucky for Lissa, she has many friends with many guns who would be more than happy to let her shoot them in exchange for cookies.

  15. mike w. said


    Most likely you’ll end up buying both a .22 and a larger caliber pistol. The 1st gun I bought was a 9mm Sig P225 and then a .22 Bersa for cheap practice.

    I’m partial to Sigs and have a whole safe full of em’. While I don’t hesitate to recommend them to folks it’s ultimately up to what YOU like, what feels good in your hand, and what you shoot well. You really can’t go wrong with a lightly used Sig (of course then the question is do you want DA/SA or DAK?) DAK is a lighter, very smooth DA trigger.

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