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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.


Friday, September 1st, 2017 by Mas | 14 Comments »

“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.



Saturday, August 26th, 2017 by Mas | 28 Comments »

When I say “mirror image” shooting, I mean the right-handed shooter running the gun left-handed in every respect, and the southpaw shooter doing vice-versa.  It’s useful for a number of reasons.

  • An injury to anything from eye to hand may, someday down the road, force you to shoot this way. It would be nice to know how to do it beforehand, and not have to learn it while suffering through a recuperation period.
  • For defensive shooting, particularly with a rifle or shotgun, if vertical cover must be used mirror image shooting will give the practitioner minimum exposure from behind the cover.
  • For those of us who teach, how will we teach a student with opposite-side dominance to shoot if we can’t teach ourselves to do it?
  • Many professionals and serious users carry a backup gun on their non-dominant hand side, in case they ever have to shoot weak-hand only. One should be prepared to do so, no?
  • I ask my staff instructors to teach a class, compete in a match, or at least shoot a qualification once a year “mirror image.” It’s my insurance that they continue to master the techniques they teach, and aren’t overcoming bad technique with physical strength or constant repetition. (Either of the latter can eventually work for an individual, but they don’t lend themselves to transmission to students.)

In the latter vein, I got in my own mirror image run while shooting the pace-setter for my third MAG-40 class of August, and it being a “retro month” for me, I did it with a Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver drawn from a left-handed High Noon thumb-break holster.

It brings you back to basics, the “conscious competence” level of performance where you are thinking about what you are doing.  Yes, we all seek the zen state of “unconscious competence” – perfect performance on auto pilot – but it’s not something any of us can achieve on demand 100% of the time.

Managed to finish with a 300 out of 300, on the ASAA (American Small Arms Academy) target used by our hosts in Connecticut, Defense Associates. The group measuring about five inches.  That’s a bit sloppier than last week’s, shot right-handed on an IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) target in South Dakota, which tells me I could stand a bit more southpaw shooting time.


Southpaw Model 19 gave 300/300 in approx. 5″ group.


This pace-setter was author’s “mirror image” run for the year. Left-handed holster by High Noon.


The Connecticut MAG-40 class, August 2017.



Monday, August 21st, 2017 by Mas | 47 Comments »

The recent violence in Charlottesville, culminating in the death of a young woman and the injuring of several more people at the hands of an apparent racist has triggered grief, outrage, tribalism and…hypocrisy.

I’ve written about American tribalism before, here.  The recent Charlottesville experience splashed a huge bucket of kerosene onto that particular fire.  And with it, came vast quantities of self-contradiction on both sides, enough to trigger the bullshit alert built into anyone who practices critical thinking.

Here’s the deal:

If you’re a self-styled Antifa (anti-fascist) and you advocate violence with slogans like “Put your fist in a fascist’s face,” and you use physical force and intimidation to shut down voices you don’t want to hear, you’re practicing fascism yourself and you’re a damned hypocrite.

If you’re a Southerner and ready to fight to keep people from pulling down statues memorializing Confederate soldiers like your great-great-grandfather who perceived themselves to be fighting for state’s rights, you have a point and I’ll listen to you.  But if you do it while wearing a swastika or any other Nazi regalia and are chanting anti-Semitic Nazi-born rhetoric while doing so, given that your father and grandfather fought and bled to defeat the Nazis in World War II, you’re a God-damned hypocrite.

If you excoriate President Trump for saying there was fault on both sides, your black and white view of things constitutes at least partial blindness.  Just as many of the good people marching in protest against racial supremacy were not there to harm others, even though they marched alongside ready-to-fight provocateurs, it’s hard to believe there weren’t also a few well-intentioned townsfolk who were there to preserve their memories and memorials of Charlottesville past. If there hadn’t been earlier violence and civil disruption on the part of Antifas, I suspect a whole lot of people would not have been motivated to march with the supremacists. Until lately, the American neo-Nazis and the KKK had been underground, festering like anaerobic bacteria but not manifesting themselves as a serious social illness; I don’t think there’s any question that high-profile Antifa violence provided them at least one step in the stepladder they used in Charlottesville to pull themselves up out of their well-deserved place in the dustbin of history and into the media spotlight they sought.  Hypocrisy in there? Oh, yeah.

Some of us who’ve dedicated our lives to teaching judicious use of force have advised that if your car is surrounded by a crowd of vicious, violent, out-of-control humans who are dragging innocent people out of the vehicles and savagely stomping them, you are justified in shooting them to save your life and the lives of your passengers, and equally justified in putting your car in low gear, laying on the horn, and driving slowly but steadily away.  If those intent on harming you and your passengers are willing to die by deliberately blocking your escape from their unwarranted violence, if they go under your wheels the history of the law says that their death or injury is on them, not you.  But if you try to twist that into saying that it’s justifiable for someone not under physical attack to drive their car full speed into a group of protesters who have offered you no harm save inconvenience, you’re not only a hypocrite, you’re a vicious lying SOB who has just sacrificed his credibility.

Yes, it’s complicated.  A spirited discussion on the matter is going on in the comments page here.  However, I think the blog entry you’re reading now is the best place to carry on the discussion, and as always, your comments are welcome.


Thursday, August 17th, 2017 by Mas | 32 Comments »

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.



Sunday, August 13th, 2017 by Mas | 41 Comments »

I recently had the pleasure of teaching another class in New Jersey (or, as some of my colleagues in the gun owners’ civil rights movement elsewhere might put it, behind enemy lines.)  There are few places left in America where the gun laws are more Draconian than they are in the Garden State.

The class had been arranged by my usual host in that state, Anthony Colandro, a tireless fighter for gun owners’ rights.

NJ is a classic example of why egalitarian “shall issue” permitting is so important, and why more than a dozen states now have followed the Vermont Model in which no permit is required to carry a loaded handgun concealed for protection in public.  New Jersey is one of the relatively few remaining states which requires the applicant to show that they customarily carry large amounts of cash, negotiable securities, etc., or have already been attacked or received serious death threats, to have any hope of getting the permit.  This “may issue” policy has, predictably, resulted in a situation where practically speaking, only the rich and influential are likely to get the permit to protect themselves and their families in public.

Not surprisingly, NJ does not recognize carry permits from any other state.  Moreover, the lucky few who do have permits to carry there are forbidden to load with hollow point ammunition, though the state attorney general’s office has supposedly approved expanding bullets with nose caps (Hornady Critical Defense, Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket, Cor-Bon Pow’rBall). Yet another reason to hope for the passage of national reciprocity.

There are a few bright spots. Governor Chris Christie seems to have given up on BS gun control theories and has repeatedly granted relief to innocent people who were licensed to carry and got jammed up because they didn’t realize that, unlike their marriage licenses and drivers’ licenses, their licenses to carry were not recognized in New Jersey.

Fortunately, gun owners’ groups like NJSAFE continue to be voices of reason, with positive activism as manifested here.

As I told my students there, “Pennsylvania accepts refugees!”  That said, though, I admire the determination of those who have decided to stay in New Jersey and fight for their civil rights.  Their mission is a righteous one.

The beautiful South Jersey Shooting Club

The beautiful South Jersey Shooting Club

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