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Massad Ayoob on Guns

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Archive for the ‘Firearms’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Friday, September 1st, 2017

“The Guns of August” were, for me, retro; see earlier August blog entries here.  It’s August 31, and tonight I’ll regretfully clean my classic old Smith & Wesson Model 19s and put them back in the safe.

Some of the students asked if I didn’t feel disadvantaged carrying something that only held six cartridges.  You know, I can’t say that I did.  At any given time, I had a speedloader or two. The very fast, very reliable Safariland Comp III looks bulky, but it rides with amazing comfort and discretion in the cell phone pocket of cargo pants, or one of the pockets in a photographer’s vest.  You may not get to where YOU can reload a six-gun faster than YOU can reload an auto pistol, but you can damn well get faster with a revolver than the average street mope with a stolen autoloader:

Or view the video here.

I usually have a Bianchi Speed Strip somewhere on my person, too. Very easy to carry, so flat and discreet you can hide one in the watch pocket of a pair of jeans, but certainly slower than a speedloader:

Or view speed strip video here.

And, for that matter, I usually have another whole damn gun, anyway:

Or watch the video here.

One of the main reasons I tried a revolver for the four 40-hour classes on my August teaching tour was that a double action six-shooter allows the student to better see the distributed trigger pull: they can watch the revolver’s long trigger pull through both retraction and return, they can watch the uninterrupted cylinder rotation, and they can see the rise and fall of the hammer.  By the end of the month, at the wonderful Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers’ club in Pennsylvania, there were three of us staff on the line with revolvers and I told the class, “If any of your coaches this week told you that you were jerking or mashing the trigger, watch the revolver shooters. And do something else: bring your empty gun hand up in front of your face as you’re watching, and run your index finger at exactly the same pace as the shooter you have in view.”  That gave them sixty repetitions of running that trigger finger before they shot their own qualifications…and their own qual scores, including some new shooters, averaged about 97%. Roughly half the class said that demonstration helped them with their own trigger pulls when the pressure was on.

I think I might be onto something with this revolver as teaching tool business. I’ve said for decades that some quality time running a revolver in double action mode will teach you to better control the trigger of your semiautomatic pistol.

My September has a vacation week in it, and one all-classroom CLE program, with two 40-hour MAG-40s that include live fire. As it happens, I have gun magazine assignments to write up a couple of Polymer Parabellum Pistols, so my teaching guns will be 9mm autos, the new Gen5 Glock and the almost-as-new FN 509.  I’ll have a wheel-gun along, though, if only for demonstration purposes.


Massad Ayoob


Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Coupla weeks ago, I posted here that August was gonna be a “retro month” for me, and I intended to teach the four August 40-hour classes with a double action revolver. (   With two done and the third coming up, here’s where the experiment stands.

Smith & Wesson Model 19s

Top, Reichard-tuned 19-4 with green front sight and Pachmayr Grippers; below, round butt 19-3 with Pachmayr grip adapter.

Because my teaching gun is also my carry gun on these sojourns, I didn’t want anything humongous, so being a K-frame (medium frame) size guy, I chose the K-frame Smith & Wesson .357 Combat Magnum with four-inch barrel.  Introduced in the 1950s at the behest of one of my mentors, Bill Jordan of the US Border Patrol, it’s a target grade revolver famous for beautiful workmanship.  The ones I took with me were “P&R” as S&W connoisseurs say: pinned barrel and recessed chambers.

As primary I chose a Model 19-4 worked over by my friend Denny Reichard at Sand Burr Gun Ranch (, complete with recoil-absorbing Pachmayr grips and a front sight painted bright green to show up well for fast shooting.  For backup, I took a bone-stock 19-3 in a rare configuration Smith & Wesson made only on special order and never put in their catalog, four-inch barrel and round butt.

At each class just before the qualification, I and the rest of the staff shoot a “pace-setter” to demonstrate the police-style course of fire to the students who will have to shoot the same thing immediately thereafter. At the first class of the month in New Jersey, I used the 19-4, which Denney had tuned for me four or five years ago… and wound up shooting a 298 out of 300. The Evil Princess looked at me piteously, and reminded me that it was the first time I had dropped below 100% on one of these this year.

Massad Ayoob New Jersey MAG 40, 2017

Mas explains to class in NJ how to score the 60 shots they’re about to fire in timed qualification. He is still in therapy over his 2 hits outside the center rectangle of IPSC target.

Aauugghh! Was I losing my revolver mojo?  My vision has been problematic for a while: I was diagnosed with cataracts last year, and the doc tells me it won’t be time to carve them out until the end of this year.  The green front sight had been awfully hard to align in the notch of the black rear sight against the brown target, and at the farthest distance two bullets had drifted to starboard out of the center ring of the IPSC target. (Maybe I should have blamed the wind…if there had been any wind…)

Massad Ayoob Target MAG40, South Dakota 2017

In South Dakota, Mas was able to shoot a clean score on demo run with the round-butt 19 on this IDPA target. Group was 4.5″.

The second class was in South Dakota, hosted by Paul and Susan Lathrop of the Polite Society Podcast, and with similar brown cardboard targets (IDPA this time, with tougher, smaller center zone than the IPSC), I decided to go with the plain sights on the backup Combat Magnum.  It has the usual smooth S&W action of its period, if not as sweet as a Reichard Custom. With both front and rear sight being the same gunmetal color, alignment was easier, and I got back to 300/300.  Whew!


I’ve also gone to this round-butt gun for daily carry: less bulge. In a Bianchi #3 inside the waistband holsters from the late ‘70s, it hides like a six-shot snub-nose .38, but is loaded with the Federal 125 grain .357 Magnum hollow point load that proved so effective on the street, Kentucky State Troopers dubbed it “the magic bullet” and Texas State Troopers spoke of its “lightning bolt effect.”

In New England now, and feeling confident with my “old school” gear.


Massad Ayoob


Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

A decade or so ago, I was teaching at a conference of ILEETA, the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association.  They liked as many of us as possible to show up in uniform for the first day, for “Kodak moments” with the press.  I was so accoutered, with a Smith & Wesson Model 64 .38 Special revolver on my right hip. That same day, I sat on a panel discussion and was seated next to a gun-savvy police chief who looked down at my wheelgun and said with a smile, “Going retro, huh?”


It should be noted that the chief in question was carrying a customized, cocked and locked Colt .45 automatic (Model of 1911) on his hip, and the guys carrying Glocks might have said the same of him.  Oddly enough, the reason I was carrying it was because I was scheduled to go from there to the Midwest Regional Championships of the International Defensive Pistol Association.  At the time, I was a “sponsored shooter,” and the sponsor wanted team members to win as many gun divisions as possible. We had other Master-class shooters registered in Enhanced Service Pistol, Stock Service Pistol, and Custom Defense Pistol.  The team needed someone to shoot Stock Service Revolver, and since even then I was the oldest on the team and had the most experience with six-shooters, I had become the Designated Dinosaur with the old fashioned gun.  The Model 64 is a direct descendant of the Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Model of 1899, also known as the Military & Police model.

I’m proud and happy to say I won the Stock Service Revolver Championship at that match.

Fast forward to now. I’ve decided to use a double action revolver for the four MAG-40 defensive handgun/judicious use of deadly force classes I’ll be teaching in August, even though I know most of my students will be shooting semiautomatic pistols.  There are several reasons why.

One is that bad shooting is often the result of poor trigger manipulation more than anything else.  With the short trigger stroke of most semiautomatic pistols, the students can’t really see how the instructor is running the gun.  With a revolver they can more easily observe the long stroke of the double action trigger and the smooth uninterrupted rise and fall of the hammer and rotation of the cylinder, and much more quickly grasp the concept of distributing trigger pressure, no matter what the speed of fire or length of trigger press.

Higher ammo capacity has been the big selling point that made the semiautomatic pistol dominant in the armed citizen sector and almost universal in the police sector.  I get that.  At the same time, I’ve never needed more than six shots to put down any living thing I needed to shoot. “Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum” is almost as comforting to my generation as “Colt .45 automatic,” and more so to some. And if for any reason six does not turn out to be enough, well, it ain’t like that four-inch barrel Model 19 will be the only Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum I’ll have readily at hand…

Massad Ayoob


Friday, June 9th, 2017

Ruger has just issued a safety recall on their cool new Mark IV pistol.  Details here: .

This is a very cool sporting firearm, and we wrote it up here at the blog when it came out: .

Take it serious, and send the pistol in.  They’ll take care of the cost, and you’ll get a free, new .22 magazine to boot. Everything you need to know about it is in the Ruger news release in the first paragraph here.

Thumbs up to Ruger for taking responsibility and issuing the timely notice.

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Optical gunsights, in the form of telescopic sights, proved their worth in the 19th century, and today are all but standard on most hunting rifles that aren’t intended for short range.  Red dot optical sights – giving a single focal plane of both aiming index and target, but not necessarily any magnification – showed up in the mid-20th century, as did telescopic sights for handguns.  They were novelties then…but technology moved on.  Glock19 Gen4 MOS RMR

Today you see red dot optics on rifles and handguns alike in competition, ranging from standard bulls-eye pistol to action three-gun matches, and red dots have proven themselves fast, accurate, and rugged enough for combat in the Middle East.  The latest evolution, led by the Trijicon RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex), are small enough to sit atop the slide on a concealed carry gun.  I know a couple of cops who carry them on their duty pistols, and more private citizens who are doing so.  They are a logical answer for older shooters with aging eyes.

How well do carry optics work, really?  My friend Karl Rehn at KR Training near Austin, Texas is a grandmaster in the United States Practical Shooting Association’s Carry Optics division, and has done more solid research on the concept than anyone I know.

Here is his lecture given at the MAG-40 class I taught at his place earlier this year, courtesy of ProArms Podcast.  More details of his study are at Karl’s site.

A better mousetrap or not yet ready for prime time in concealed carry?  Ya gotta give ‘em a fair shake before you make your decision, but I know some folks who swear by ‘em.  Let us know here what you think of the concept.

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