When I was a little boy, my dad’s choice of home defense gun was “American Traditional”: a double barrel 12 gauge shotgun and double-aught buckshot. Joe Biden would have approved.
The shotgun was the home defense standard in this country for centuries, but recently we’ve seen a huge surge in the adoption of the A15 rifle for this purpose. With proper ammo, it won’t penetrate through residential building materials any more than a service pistol bullet, but is very easy for all authorized members of the family to manipulate, particularly when equipped with the telescoping stock so hated by those who scream for the ban of “assault weapons.”
At the other end of the spectrum, my old friend Rich Grassi made a case in The Tactical Wire for the tiny Ruger LCP .380 pistol as part of the home defense armory. Reason: it can be constantly carried in your pocket, giving you a firearm instantly at hand wherever you are inside or outside the four walls, buying you time to fight your way to something more substantial if necessary.
As I write this, our current home defense guns motel room defense guns are a couple of .45 autos: A Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911A1 on my side, and a ROBAR Custom Glock 30-S for the lady of the house hotel room.
What’s your current approach to home defense hardware?
While deer season is the traditional time for sighting in, and that’s a ways off from now, it’s never too early to get things nailed down. Besides, self-defense knows no season, and the protection guns should always be sighted in, if only for verification. Something bumps the gun, eyesight changes…ya never know, so it’s best to be currently sure.
I had two guns to select and sight in last Sunday. For an upcoming class, significant other’s 19-year-old grandson will be attending, and needs us to bring a handgun for him. He asked for a Glock 9mm, and it seemed logical to select one of the three I had earned recently at matches.
Only one had already been sighted in, a 4th generation Glock 17, which I’d had fitted with Trijicon night sights. It had been dialed in with the three glowing green globes in alignment, but we wanted the kid to learn a conventional post in notch sight picture, and with that it hit a tad right. (LESSON: Dots, fiber optic modules, and conventional sight pictures don’t always send the bullets to the same point of aim/point of impact coordinates.) Group size was a bit under three inches.
Next up was a 3rd generation specimen of the same pistol, just in. The 115 grain American Eagle full metal jacket training ammo put five shots exactly into an inch and a half, the best three half an inch apart center to center, but the group hovered a tiny bit to the left of point of aim. Finally, I tried a likewise new from the box Gen 3 Glock 19, the slightly smaller version of the 17. The group ran 3.65”. I let the Evil Princess decide, since it’s her grandson. She chose the Gen3 G17. There’s enough difference between two shooters’ eyes that what’s off for me might be spot on for him, and if it’s not, it’ll be no trick to push the rear sight a whisker to starboard.
The other thing I needed to sort out was the gun to wear on our next trip after this one, which will encompass a state with a strict ten-round magazine limit, so I decided I’d take a 1911 .45 with single-stack mag. Two that I pulled from the safe were Springfield Armory guns. One was a TGO-II match pistol I’d just gotten back from a friend, who’d borrowed it as a spare to his twin of it for a major match. (His ran fine and he didn’t need the spare.) He told me he’d adjusted the sights some, and sure enough, at 15 yards the group averaged two inches left for me. Fortunately, that’s easy to fix with adjustable sights. I was happy with the 1.70” group, three of them touching. REDUNDANT LESSON: What’s “sighted in” for one shooter’s eyes, may not be for another. A much less expensive .45 from the same maker – the Springfield Range Officer, which I consider the best buy in an all-around 1911 pistol today — ran 3.45” and a compact Nighthawk Custom T3, 3.70”. There were “called flyers” with both of the latter that expanded the groups: I caught myself starting to look over the sights to spot the shot with the Nighthawk, causing a predictably high hit I can’t blame on the gun, and with the Range Officer, I felt myself rush the shot that went lowest.
On that last set, since I’ve got time, I’ll give ‘em another run before the next trip. LESSON: The sooner you start sorting and sighting, the more time you have to get things right.
All those .45s, I know for certain from testing, will group two inches or better at 25 yards with the ammo they like best, from a bench rest. I wouldn’t be surprised if all those Glocks shoot better from the bench at that distance than I did here, shooting offhand from 15 yards. LESSON: The bench rest is used intentionally to test the GUN more than the shooter. When I demonstrate for a class (or lend a gun to a student shooting that class), I want to know what the gun will do from the human hand, and in these upcoming classes the 15 yards I shot these at will be the farthest distance. LESSON: Once you’ve tested the gun, test the shooter with that gun, at a predictable distance. If testing for another shooter, test it the same way he or she is likely to be shooting it.
I suspect y’all out there have also learned some lessons about sighting in and verifying point of aim/point of impact. Feel free to share here.
A few days ago, I was passing through the Panhandle of Florida and got to spend dinner with a guy I hadn’t seen in 30 or so years, and whom I first met 40 years ago.
I had met “Johnny” Robbins when he was tagging along with his dad Jack Robbins at the first “big money professional pistol match,” the National Shooting League event sponsored by Dr. Bob Burgess in 1976 in Laramie, Wyoming. The following year, we met again at the Second Chance Shoot in Central Lake, Michigan.
Johnny outshot his dad at that match. And me. And everybody else. He set a record time to come up off a shooting bench on a start signal and stop the timer when the last of five bowling pins were blown off a table 25 feet away.
Johnny and Jack hit the Second Chance Shoot every year after, and when the Bianchi Cup came along, they shot that too. That came to an end in the mid-1980s when Jack, who had never smoked a cigarette in his life, died of lung cancer at 47. Johnny came to Second Chance by himself the year after that, but it wasn’t quite the same, and…he stopped going.
Jack Robbins, you have to understand, worked at Eglin Air Force Base and was the prime mover in the legendary JSSAP (Joint Services Small Arms Project) tests that led to the adoption of the Beretta M9 pistol all-service-wide by the United States military at about the time Jack passed.
As John and I reminisced (while all the shooters called the kid “Johnny,” his father Jack called him John, which is what he has gone by ever since), he remembered that when Jack told Smith & Wesson officials why their guns of the period were failing in the tests, they ignored him, but when Jack told Beretta officials what they’d have to change to pass the tests, they listened. That link from the 1978 issue of American Handgunner has a picture of Beretta’s 9mm circa that period. Compare that to the M9 of today. You can see Beretta listened. A fuller account is in my book “Gun Digest Book of Beretta Pistols.”
John Robbins is 52 now, a proud dad and grand-dad himself. Still a shooter, just out of competition for all these years; it was something he shared with his dad, and when Jack passed, it lost meaning. (Gonna try to get him to shoot a match with me now, though.) Retired from a career as a firefighter/paramedic, John is now a paramedic working with a Florida hospital. He’s carrying on his father’s tradition of taking care of others.
Before we parted, John presented me with his dad’s Milt Sparks custom holster/belt/magazine pouch set for the 1911 .45 he preferred to compete with. “My dad was right-handed like you, I’m left-handed, and besides, he’d have wanted you to have it,” he said. It’s going to occupy a place of honor in my library/gun room.
Read that old article. Please. It will show you how a fine man raised a fine son with guns. For Jack, the guns – like other icons of adult responsibility – were tools of parenting.
Wherever you are, Jack, know that a lot of us still miss you, and it was great to re-connect with your son. You’d still be as proud of him as you were when he was younger…and I just want you to know, I was glad I was carrying a Wilson Combat Beretta 92G when we met again. Without Jack Robbins, I’m not sure that fine pistol would still be in production, and the iconic American protection weapon it is today.
John and Mas today.
Without John’s dad Jack, I don’t think we’d have today’s cool Berettas like this one, from Wilson Combat.
Jack Robbins’ old Milt Sparks 1911 rig will occupy a place of honor.
Today’s 60-shot pace-setter target, shot in Texas, is dedicated to the memory of Jack Robbins, who did so much to re-design the modern Beretta that was used.
Had the prof done the slightest bit of research, he would have learned that blanks won’t cycle the slide of a semiautomatic service pistol, leaving the gun “jammed” after the first futile loud noise. To make an auto pistol work with blanks for TV and movies, the gun has to be altered in such a way that it can no longer safely fire live ammunition. In a situation where you are on the defensive and have to shoot or die in an instant, loading a defensive weapon with blanks is not only spectacularly stupid, it can be fatally stupid.
In December, some rocket scientist decides the safest way to identify your target before you fire is by pressing your trigger…to activate gun-mounted white light what-could-possibly-go-wrong/ . The first prototype I saw like this was 25 years ago that the inventor had planted on a Glock, leaving the shooter a startle-twitch away from shooting anything in the light beam that surprised him. We laughed at it then. It’s better to laugh than to cry now, a quarter century later.
And, at SHOT in January, we saw a resurgence of a trigger that fires the gun once each time you press it…and again as soon as you take your finger off! It’s an idea that has been around for a while. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives has thus far let that skate with the maker’s argument that it’s only one pull of the trigger, and nothing in the legal definitions EXPLICITLY bans a shot firing when the trigger finger is removed therefrom (a/k/a “release trigger”). I am not sure how long it will be before the Bureau changes its mind on that, but I for one don’t want to be the test case. Yeah, I know: “because fun.” Still, a firearm that discharges when you take your finger OFF the trigger after firing an intentional shot is far enough away from a normal “manual of arms” that it strikes me as an accident waiting to happen.
How many things do YOU think can go wrong with the above?
At industry-only-people SHOT, as at the ordinary folks-accessible NRA annual meeting, you get to talk to the manufacturers and, more importantly, the engineers who are responsible for new guns and related gear. I’ve found them to be generally responsive to questions.
Photo courtesy Laura Burgess Marketing
You also get to pick the brains of the many experts who congregate there. World champion shooters like Max Michel at the SIG booth and Rob Leatham at the Safariland booth are happy to dispense advice.
At the Harris Publications booth I got to chat with Janelle Cooper, widow of the great Col. Jeff Cooper, and their beautiful daughter Lindy Cooper Wisdom, who wrote a superb biography of her ground-breaking dad. Some good reminiscences, occasionally amusing, were shared.
Spent some time chatting with fellow gun writers and gun owners’ civil rights activists. It was good catching up on things with Sheriff Jim Wilson, and many others.
Gun owners being very much a persecuted minority today, it is good for us to immerse ourselves now and then in large groups of like-minded people. It’s a recharging of the batteries for a political fight that’s going to last longer than any of us will live, and it never hurts to be reminded that we’re on the right side of that fight.
A lot of business is done away from the show floor. Here is a snapshot from a meeting of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network board of advisors. From left: Vincent Shuck, Lynn Givens, Tom GIvens, Marty Hayes, John Farnam, Gila Hayes, Dennis Tueller, Mas, Jim Fleming. Not visible: Manny Kapelsohn.