Concealed-Carry Matters: Home Training Kit for Dry-Fire

Concealed-Carry Matters: Home Training Kit for Dry-Fire

Live-fire training obligates us to ammunition expenses that may come dearly for some. Thankfully, dry-fire practice needs not be so expensive and so it can be far easier to schedule as a multiple-times-per-week activity. There are, however, some equipment needs for a more robust dry-fire and dry-training experience. Well, some are needs and some are nice-to-haves. Let’s look at them and examine some ways to use them in effective home practice.

Home Training Kit

While there are all sorts of kit you might get for your training, the things I believe are good home-training components for everyday carry, in order of importance, include:

  • Snap caps
  • Blue gun (full-weight +1)
  • Airsoft replica

Snap Caps and Blue Guns

Snap caps are mostly known as live-fire training aids, to be used as dummy rounds mixed into a loaded magazine to simulate a malfunction. They’re good tools in this role, but they have a role in home dry-fire practice, too. Even if your dry-fire practice is nothing more than trigger-press precision training, I recommend using snap caps. These dummy rounds help to protect your gun’s components from undue wear and potential damage that dry trigger presses can bring, especially to striker-fired pistols.

The snap cap allows the striker to impact as normal on the back of a shell, saving the striker from repeated impacts on the rear of the breech face in striker-fired pistols. While it takes many dry strikes to do so, repeated striker impacts can cause cracks in the breech face and can ultimately damage the striker. When I use snap caps for home dry-fire practice, I load one or more magazines full of them, so as to add some weight to the magazine for a more realistic feel.

 

orange snap caps

brass snap caps

 

The plastic, florescent orange snap caps are great for range use because they’re easier to find on the ground than the maroon or brass kind. But for home practice I use the kind with a brass case because they’ll last longer. The orange plastic kind tend to wear over time at the case rim area, and have to be thrown away.

A blue gun that is an exact copy of your carry gun is a very useful, even vital component of dry training, both for at home and for practical training at the range. A blue gun allows you to practice manipulations and engage in hands-on partner practice safely, because it is 100% inert.

 

blue gun

 

Blue guns come in light models and true-weight models. You can practice with a lightweight blue gun, but for more realistic training the weighted kind is best. I carry a Glock 19 every day, so my blue gun is a true-weight, exact copy of my G19. I use it at home to practice left-handed concealed carry manipulations and I use it at the range to do a few first runs of new manipulations so that I can make mistakes while maintaining safety. Moreover, I’ve used my blue gun in hands-on practical classes for retention defense and grappling with pistols. This is a very handy tool for gaining firearms and EDC competence.

Airsoft Pistols

I recommend airsoft in a very narrow context for firearms training. I’d say that an airsoft pistol has value if it is 1) an exact replica of your everyday-carry pistol, 2) is a blow-back gun so that the slide cycles when firing, and 3) is used only for practical-scenario solo practice and practical-scenario force-on-force training. Airsoft is a huge industry and hobby endeavor that is mostly focused on airsoft gaming and I suggest that any prolonged participation in that aspect of use for replica weapons is very harmful to your self-defense competency and firearms safety habits.

That said, I believe there are very good ways to use an airsoft replica gun to aid in the development of practical competence. In much the same way a blue gun affords us the opportunity to practice certain manipulations and drills safely, an airsoft replica allows for a next step in that process with the added benefit of a functioning tool. Airsoft practice is not “safe” in the way that blue-gun practice is, but it allows for complete follow-through in scenario-based training, provided you take simple precautions like wearing good eye protection (goggles are best) and perhaps heavier clothing to protect from the very real sting of the airsoft bbs.

airsoft Glock 19

My airsoft Glock 19 with the green-gas magazine and 6mm bbs.

These practical-scenario uses aside, I use airsoft for the same reason I do static, dry-fire trigger presses: to develop my hands’ ability to stay still while pressing and breaking the trigger. In this way I train my hands, body, and brain to not react to the break of the live-fire shot and develop myelin pathways to cement the habit. The benefit of the airsoft gun is that it provides the pop, the cycling slide, and a very mild recoil impulse in that still-hand training. I believe it to be very beneficial.

Some of the dimensions of home dry-fire practice are outlined very well in this (somewhat hilarious) video from the “warrior poet,” John Lovell. John is the real deal and I highly recommend his videos.

 

 

Hope you enjoyed this and work to add dry-fire practice to your regular training regimen.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Automatic, Animated Targets at Eagle Gun Range

Automatic, Animated Targets at Eagle Gun Range

Most indoor gun ranges have rules and conventions that make it difficult for folks to do much more than static target shooting. While target practice and precision fundamentals practice can be fun and they’re important components of shooting practice, if that’s all you get to do you’re missing out on other important training—and fun. Now, Eagle Gun Range has a way to help you move beyond mere target shooting.

The Farmer’s Branch location of Eagle Gun Range has a target system that can greatly broaden your training and your fun. In addition to static positions at 1 to 25 yards, their automatic, programmable targets also have 27 animated programs for pistol and rifle that offer fun and challenging training drills to test you and keep your practical skills sharp.

For example, here’s a video of portions of a couple of runs through the Decision program; a shoot / no shoot drill that uses a bad-guy and good-guy side of the target. This video is on the advanced setting and the drill asks for three shots each time the bad-guy target is presented for 1.5 seconds. Note that the beginner and intermediate settings present the target for longer periods of time.

 

 

 

Each shooting lane has a control pad that offers a menu. From here you can choose “Manual,” which you can use to set the static location of your target for precision target practice; “Drills,” which is a topic for another post; and “Programs,” which offers an array of pre-programmed shooting courses. Several of the programs have beginner, intermediate, and advanced settings.

 

 

 

 

It is important to note here that because many of the programs require or allow a number of shots within a short span of time, you are allowed to break the 1-shot-per-second rule at this Eagle Gun Range location, provided that you can demonstrate safe competence when doing so. Your range safety officer will be the arbiter of your shooting speed allowance. So unlike with most indoor gun ranges, if you can safety shoot fast and on target, your Farmer’s Branch Eagle Gun Range RSO will allow you to do so.

For some, “shooting faster” may mean just a little faster than 1 shot per second, but for others it might mean 4 or 5 shots per second. The point is not to go fast, but to take advantage of the opportunity to practice practical shooting, which may well be faster than simply 1 shot per second.

How to Do It

To use the programs you should ask your RSO to turn on the programs for your lane. After doing so, the RSO will need to add a full-size cardboard target backing to the lane so that your target can remain flat during the animations. When that’s done you’re good to go; select “programs” from the menu, find the program you’d like to try, and read the instructions.

Note that several of the programs will require a number of shots that may be greater than your magazine capacity. So be sure to pre-load two or more magazines and have them at the ready; either on your shooting bench, in your pocket, or in your magazine pouch on your belt. When you’re ready, press “start” and the screen will count down from 5 to 1 before the program begins. Be safe and have fun!

 

 

Above: The detailed instructions for the advanced “Decision” pistol drill.

Don’t be intimidated by the fancy features here, it’s just an animated target and each program has clear instruction (and usually some comprehensive details by tapping “more”) for how to engage the drill. Try things out. Make mistakes. Try it again. It’s not a test unless you want it to be. The point is to expand your practice beyond what you’re used to.

For reference, here is a list of the available programs:

  • Pistol – Basic | 2 min
  • Pistol – Intermediate | 2 min
  • Pistol – Advanced | 2 min
  • Rifle – Basic | 2 min
  • Rifle – Intermediate | 3 min
  • Rifle – Advanced | 2 min
  • Decision – Basic | 2 min
  • Decision – Intermediate | 2 min
  • Decision – Advanced | 2 min
  • 6×6 – 3×3 Short Distance | 1 min
  • 10x6x3 Long Distance | 2 min
  • 21 ft. Challenge 1 | 1 min
  • 21 ft. Challenge 2 | 1 min
  • 2 Mag Reload Basic | 30 sec
  • 2 Mag Reload Advanced | 30 sec
  • 1 Mag Reload Basic | 30 sec
  • 1 Mag Reload Advanced | 30 sec
  • Charging Drill Basic | 1 min
  • Charging Drill Advanced | 1 min
  • Long Shot Decision | 1 min
  • 1 Hole Game Short Dist | 2 min
  • 1 Hole Game Long Dist | 2 min
  • Counting Game | 2 min
  • Fed. Pistol Qualification 1/4 | 1 min
  • Fed. Pistol Qualification 2/4 | 1 min
  • Fed. Pistol Qualification 3/4 | 1 min
  • Fed. Pistol Qualification 4/4 | 1 min

Come by the range and try them out! They’re fun and challenging and, most importantly, they allow you to stretch into more practical training with your defensive tools to better evaluate and hone your skills.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Becoming a Left-Handed Shooter

Becoming a Left-Handed Shooter

I am right handed. That said, a progressive issue with my right hand will in years to come require I become a left-handed shooter; carry concealed left handed, train and compete left handed. It’s not what I’d prefer, but it’s likely a future requirement so I’m getting started early with preparations and training to build left-hand firearms competence.

When I mentioned on social media that I was beginning the process of becoming a left-handed shooter, several of my friends asked me to document and share the process. So I’m doing just that, beginning with this article and its accompanying videos. My friends’ request would seem to be sensible, as surely I’m not the only one dealing with issues that will force a change of primary hands for everyday concealed carry, training, competition, and potentially even practical use. Whether from serious injury, stroke, or other causes there are times folks will have to make their lifelong support hand into their primary hand for everyday tasks.

Life happens and that’s no excuse to go through the rest of it incompetent, unarmed, and defenseless.

First Steps

The first consequential and necessary step I took was ordering a left-handed holster in the model I prefer (the INCOG Eclipse). When it arrived, I began using my full-weight blue gun to practice mechanics and to sort out the changes I’d need to make in order to switch my everyday carry, draw, and presentation from right to left. There were more changes than I first thought there would be.

Have to flip my belt from left-side insertion to right-side insertion into my pants’ belt loops.
This change is required because I carry in the appendix position and I don’t want the holster clip to have to cover two layers; both the belt and the belt tail. So the tail needs to extend in the opposite direction than it does now.

Had to contour and stipple new locations of my gun frame.
I carry a Glock 19 pistol and I always contour the right underside of the trigger guard so that there is a larger, smoother transition from the trigger-guard underside to the right side of the frame. This makes gripping and shooting the pistol far more comfortable. I now had to contour the left side as well. As for stippling, I contour and stipple the forward area of the left side of the frame where my support-hand thumb rests when I grip the pistol. I use that index point as an anchor for my thumb to help control the recoil impulse when firing. I therefore had to do the same to the right side.

I’ll need to order a magazine pouch with bullets facing the opposite direction.
I carry two extra magazines every day as a part of my EDC kit. I’ll have to carry them on the right so I need a pouch with the bullets facing forward on my right side. Haven’t ordered this Ronin double mag pouch yet, but will do so very soon. Interesting to note that this change means I’ll have to change my phone-pouch carry position from the right to the left.

Above: My current belt complement for my right-handed carry. I’ll have to reverse all of what you see here for left-hand carry.

I’ll need to order a right-facing holster for my TDI knife.
I carry a TDI knife in the near middle of my back on the exterior of my belt that is made for me to reach back and draw with my left hand. I’ll eventually need one facing the opposite direction, for use with my right hand.

I may also eventually need to change the pocket locations of a couple of other EDC items, but perhaps that won’t be so crucial.

Week-One Observations: Drawing from Concealment & Manipulations

Luckily, I’ve practiced left-hand-only pistol manipulations for years and I’m confident in my ability to draw (from a right-hand holster), reorient the pistol, engage, clear malfunctions, and reload all with my left hand. That’s just part of training to stay in the fight should my primary hand/arm be injured or otherwise engaged. Going to a left-hand draw from a left-hand holster and engaging lefty with both hands on the gun is a different matter.

After some blue-gun practice at home, I did some left-hand training at the range this week. I started with some dry draws and presentations, making sure I was solid getting my hands safely into a proper grip in that process. As you can see in the video here, things went okay, but there were a host of little things that were not quite right.

 

 

Observations from Dry-fire:

  • My support hand doesn’t yet feel very comfortable on the gun. It feels weak, actually. Adding a stippled index point for my forward thumb may help with this.
  • As a lefty shooter I’ll be cross-eye dominant. There will be no changing of my dominant eye from right to left, but I’m good with this.
  • Marrying my hands after the draw feels clumsy. This is a training issue.
  • My arm mechanics in and after presentation are wrong. Elbows should be facing outward more and not pointed down toward the ground.

After some dry-fire I went to live-fire draws and shots. Here I was 23 yards from a 12” steel target.

 

 

Observations from live-fire:

  • I may have to adjust my holster’s ride height to get a better grip before drawing from the holster.
  • Accuracy is pretty good. The video eventually shows a few misses, all because I was trying to concentrate on shoulder/head position and grip mechanics rather than accuracy. At first and then later, I have solid hits because I was trying to be accurate, so I was.
  • Grip still feels odd and weak.
  • Arms are still in wrong position (elbows badly facing downward).
  • Turtling, still (head down, shoulders hunched).
  • Appendix carry can be mildly dangerous for beginners and those switching hands as I am here, but my draws and re-holstering are going just fine and I am competent in my safety here.
  • Other than this, things are going pretty well.

This is day one of week one. I’m not surprised by my mild clumsiness and the poor mechanics. It’s a process. I’m mostly concerned with safety and gross mechanics at this point. On those issues I am happy with the results.

Here is my summary of observations from day one, the video made after my range session.

I’ll continue to document my transition process and will be sure to note any and all interesting or consequential observations that come from it. I’ll publish those observations in subsequent articles either here on the Eagle blog or on my own site. I hope you’ll find it all interesting and will stay tuned.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Shooting Review – The H&K VP9SK

Shooting Review – The H&K VP9SK

Heckler & Koch’s VP9 remains one of the more popular full-sized pistols of the past few years. I remember when shooters first got it into their hands, they immediately started calling for a compact model for concealed carry. Now, after a few years, H&K have release that smaller-version pistol.

The VP9SK (SK for subkompakt, I think) is an abbreviated version of the VP9. I have been shooting the VP9SK this month and have some thoughts to share on that experience here. I was pleased to find that it does bring with it that butter-smooth trigger and the contoured, configurable grip. It also brings with it some of the less attractive features of the larger model, but not all of them. Here are my thoughts after spending a few hundred rounds with this oddly-large subcompact.

Why Consider the H&K VP9SK?

The H&K VP9SK is a large-ish “subcompact,” double-stack pistol that is purpose-made for concealed carry and it has many of the qualities of its larger namesake. You might consider this pistol for the manufacturer’s reputation for producing firearms of excellent quality. You might also consider this one if you don’t want to carry a full-size pistol, but don’t want the lower capacity of a single-stack gun. Mostly though, you might consider this pistol if you really enjoy the popular features of the VP9 and wished there was a smaller version for concealed carry. There is!

H&K VP9SK Specs:

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Length: 6.61″
  • Height: 4.57” with flush magazine, 5” with extended magazine
  • Width: 1.31”
  • Barrel: 3.39”
  • Trigger: 4.5lb to 5.5lb.
  • Sights: Luminescent 3-Dot, steel
  • Weight: 23.07 oz. w/empty magazine
  • Slide: Black oxide finish
  • Capacity: 10+1
  • MSRP: $719 (often found for much less)

The overall size and weight of this supposed subcompact pistol are a bit surprising. While slightly smaller than a compact Glock 19 and with considerably less capacity, the VP9SK is a couple of ounces heavier! That’s not what I would have expected from a gun that is labeled a subcompact. The fact of the matter is that despite the claim, the SK is not a subcompact and is among the larger and heavier compact pistols on the market. This may or may not matter to some individuals, but it’s worth noting for comparison purposes.

Shooting the VP9SK

Putting rounds on target with the VP9SK was, for me, a better experience than shooting its full-size brother. The shorter slide of the SK greatly reduces the muzzle flip found with the full-sized VP9. In that respect, the VP9SK provides a superior shooting experience. Not surprisingly, the trigger on this compact model is as good as on the full-sized original; smooth and relatively light. I, like many others, think this is one of the better stock triggers available on a striker-fired pistol.

What I first noticed when I started shooting the SK was that my hands could not find a comfortable position for a good grip. I felt awkward holding the pistol, due to the extended mag finger-groove mismatch for my primary hand and the lack of any anchor point for my support-hand thumb. Others with different-sized hands and grip conventions may or may not have this experience. The only other things I found less than enjoyable on this pistol were the paddle-style magazine release and the polymer “wings” on the back of the slide. More on those later.

The extra weight this medium-sized gun carries makes for a relatively soft shooting experience. I find its recoil impulse to be less noticeable than that of the G26 or other double-stack short guns. The fact that the VP9SK is considerably larger than most of these certainly helps on that score.

Comfort, Controllability, & Capacity
Controlling the VP9SK is easy. With its relatively soft recoil impulse and lack of muzzle flip, fast follow-up shots are a breeze. It would be even more controllable if there was an index point for your support-hand thumb on the forward frame. The takedown lever is there, but it is too far back to be a worthy anchor point for anyone with large or medium-sized hands.

As I mentioned earlier, I did not find the SK to be a comfortable gun to hold or fire. I like the finger grooves in the grip, but the added groove that comes on the magazine extension does not play well with the rest of the grip. I ended up with either odd finger placement or my pinky on the hump of where the grip and extension meet. And for reasons already mentioned, my support hand always felt oddly weak on the gun. Shooting was not a comfortable experience for me.

The SK’s 10-round capacity is fine for a double-stack subcompact, but given the fact that with the extended magazine the grip is larger than even the 15-round-capacity Glock 19, there should have been room for a couple more rounds here. This is not a tiny gun and it flat out dwarfs the 10-round Glock 26. So it’s not bad capacity, just a little disappointing based on the size. That said, there are 12-round extended magazines available from H&K. At around $70 each, they’re not an easy purchase to contemplate.

Components and Features
Not surprisingly, the slide is nicely contoured and finished, and has excellent serrations front and rear that provide excellent purchase for manipulations. A conspicuous feature on the slide is the presence of polymer “wings” at the back. I assume they’re meant to assist a weaker operator in racking the slide, but I found them to be quite uncomfortable when doing so. Moreover, they’re entirely unnecessary since the slide serrations are well done and easily gripped. I’m told you can remove these wings and I’d highly recommend doing so.

Again, the trigger is excellent and it doesn’t ask to be modified in any way. There is a trigger-shoe safety rib that, unlike with some other models, doesn’t create any discomfort when pressing the trigger a couple hundred times in a shooting session. Well done.

The grip has a conspicuous hump in the backstrap, but I found it fit my hand quite nicely. Like the VP9, the SK model comes with replaceable side and rear grip panels that allow you to find the perfect combination of contour and size. This is a good feature more guns should have.

The paddle controls are not easy to reach with either my thumb or index finger so I have to modify my grip considerably to actuate it. I ended up using my index finger, as it was the easiest to use and required the least grip modification. Others with different sized hands may not have this trouble.

The frame includes a picatinny rail for lights or lasers and I found the drift-adjustable 3-dot sights to be just fine. Like the magazine release, the slide-lock lever can be accessed on both left and right sides. While the SK comes with a flush and extended magazine, the extended mag does not add any capacity. C’mon, H&K, stop being stingy!

For color and magazine complements, the VP9SK comes in several configurations, as described on the Heckler & Koch website:

Conclusions

Pros
The VP9SK is relatively soft shooting for a subcompact. The trigger is excellent and the stock sights are good (they’re glow-in-the-dark, but not “night sights”), combining to make this a small pistol that’s easy to be accurate with. The configurable grip panels allow you to find just the right grip size and contour for your preference. Some folks will like the ambi slide-lock lever.

Cons
The VP9SK is heavier than the G19 even though it is smaller and has considerably less capacity. Some folks may find that the VP9SK doesn’t conceal as well as other subcompacts, due to the wide slide and heavier weight. The finger grooves don’t match well with the magazine extension. The magazine extension doesn’t afford any extra rounds. There is no forward anchor point for the support-hand thumb. Some people will not like the paddle-style magazine release and the slide “wings” just get in the way. Finally, it’s a bit pricey.

So for rating the H&K VP9SK…

Ergonomics (***)
The VP9SK was not for me very ergonomic. The grip was excellent (and configurable), but I was never comfortable holding and shooting the gun, owing to the mag-extension finger affordance and no good place for my support-hand thumb. Additionally, the magazine release controls were not easy for me to manipulate. I admit I was a bit disappointed on this score.

Shootability (****)
Definitely a shootable pistol in other respects; has a great trigger, it’s easy to get quick follow-up shots, and it’s not too snappy.

Accuracy (****)
I found it to be plenty accurate for a small gun.

Concealability (***)
At 1.31” wide, the VP9SK is rather chunky—even for a double stack—and with the magazine extension the grip is a long as that of a G19. So it’s not unconcealable, but for a supposed subcompact it will be a bit more difficult to conceal.

In Summary

I simply found too many nitpicks to really enjoy this pistol. That said, lots of folks love the VP9 so I expect they’ll enjoy this smaller version too. Moreover, Heckler & Koch are known for the excellent quality of their guns and I found nothing here to cast doubt on that quality.

If you like chunky, heavy, small guns of excellent quality with moderate capacity that afford right-hand or left-hand manipulations, The VP9SK is definitely worth checking out. As a model to bring something new and special to the compact/subcompact market, this is nothing to write home about. Even so, I encourage you to rent this pistol and see what YOU think of it.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
You Carry Concealed Now. What’s Next?

You Carry Concealed Now. What’s Next?

So you got your concealed-carry permit or you live in a free state where you don’t need one, but you’ve decided to carry a concealed firearm at home and in public. Now what? In this article I’ll touch on a few of the things that responsibility and morality now require of you, including the hard stuff and things most folks find distasteful, because you need to hear them.

There is no such thing as “trained in the use of firearms.” Those who believe they’ve been trained and are good to go are delusional. There is not trained. There is either regular training or incompetence of one degree or another. You do not want to be incompetent and you certainly don’t want to be exposed for your incompetence should some criminal decide to make that happen. I’m guessing you don’t want to die for your incompetence either. So get training on a regular basis and practice on a regular basis to maintain competence.

Note that the competence I’m referring to here has little or nothing to do with being able to load and calmly stand still and slowly fire to hit an 8” target at 7 yards. Rather, I’m talking about quickly and surely deploying from concealment and fighting with your gun (not “shooting” it) and keeping it running in a chaotic firefight. If you don’t train for this, you are incompetent and should address this failing. Don’t worry, we all start out incompetent. But we can get better.

Concealed Carry is Serious Business

Meditate on these facts: when you decide to carry a concealed firearm you are committing yourself to the possibility of getting into a deadly firefight as well as the possibility of having to take someone’s life. You will not pick the terms of the fight, which is 99.9% likely begin with you at a severe disadvantage. If you are competent in quickly deploying and running your gun and have an indomitable spirit, there is a significant chance you won’t survive. If you are incompetent or lack the proper spirit you will not survive. Your gun probably won’t matter.

Therefore, you have a moral obligation to cultivate and then continually work to maintain safety and competence and to explore and develop your will to prevail in a fight. You cannot develop these things on your own; they require professional instruction. Receiving instruction should be an ongoing endeavor in your responsible lifestyle as a concealed carrier (are you starting to get the message?).

Safety

Inexperienced gun handlers under duress are habitually unsafe because merely knowing the 4 rules of gun safety has no effect on gun handling when you’re simply reacting. One of the most valuable benefits of training is the ingraining of safe habits. Safe habits take quite a while and lots of effort to get internalized, but they must become unconscious habits and have to be reinforced continually by someone other than you. For this you cannot monitor yourself so you need someone else to offer instantaneous correction. A training class is the best place to acquire and reinforce these habits because the level of expectation is high and uncompromising, and others’ eyes are always on you. Practicing at a good gun range is another means for safety reinforcement because the RSO will have his/her eye on you and will be quick to offer correction.

A Training Regimen

A level-1 pistol course is something you should already have completed before you began to carry concealed. That training, and copious, ongoing practice, should soon be followed by a level-2 course. The Intro to Intermediate Pistol class at Eagle Gun Range is a prime example of the kind of course that is meant to prepare you for the later classes that you need most: those that teach you to run your gun and survive an attack.

Having completed these courses, and with accompanying, regular self practice at home and at the range, you’re likely ready to begin the real training and take the important practical (some call them tactical) courses. Don’t let the “tactical” label fool you; these are not courses for Special Forces operators, but rather fundamental-competency courses that expose and help you to understand and develop the basic skills required for anyone to be competent with a firearm. They’re not nice-to-have skills or special classes; they’re must-have compulsory classes necessary for anyone who carries a firearm.

Though some have the label, there is no such thing as an advanced firearms class, only more and more practical, fundamental skills and competency. The most important classes are likely those that are about fighting with your gun, not shooting your gun. Even more important are those concerned with when and when not to introduce your gun into a situation…and how to best avoid ever having to do so. As one who carries a firearm, you have an obligation to avoid danger and confrontation, and to de-escalate those that find you. It’s good to be trained to do that.

How many classes should you take?

All of them, and on a regular basis. I took six such classes in 2016 and eleven classes in 2017 and I sometimes retake classes just because the refresher and opportunities to receive professional instruction are always good.

I recommend that you take a class every 2 months at minimum, with ongoing practice every week in between. Think of your competency with your firearm the same as with a musical instrument. Would you be ready to perform a public concert after just one or two music classes? What if that concert would decide whether you live or die? Maybe take every class you can possibly take and practice as much as you possibly can. You don’t get to pick the time, place, or circumstances where you may be called upon to demonstrate your competency.

Some Advice and Caveats

If you carry concealed, make sure that all of the classes you take either require or allow running your gun from concealment. I’m not talking about the level 1 or 2 intro classes, but rather the practical classes. It makes no sense whatever to train to draw from a military-style, open-carry holster if you do not carry that way on a daily basis. If you carry openly, make sure your classes are for that style of carry. Take the class in the same clothes and with the same loadout you carry every day. Don’t ever change to something specific for the class unless that new thing will be your new every-day.

Spend your money on ammo and training, not on new guns. Find your pistol and stick with it. Don’t pursue every newfangled model to emerge, but find one that perfectly fits your hands, your preferences, and your carry style and build a system around that. This “system” should or may include a safe-training gun (blue gun), top-quality holsters, lots of extra magazines, a replacement-parts kit that you assemble yourself (learn to work on your gun), a light made for that model, etc… Don’t change your gun based on the seasons, but find the right gun and carry it in all seasons.

Carry all day, every day. No exceptions. Put your gun on when you get out of bed and take it off when you go to bed. If it’s not on you it’s not available to you, no matter what lies someone may have told you.

Carve out an ammo budget and dedicate part(s) of every week to dry-fire practice at home and live-fire practice at the range. You don’t have to fire 300 or 500 rounds in a training session. You can get excellent practice with 50 rounds once or twice a week, provided that you actually train for specific skills and don’t just “shoot” at the range.

There’s a place for standing in a lane at a static, indoor range and taking target practice. It is one component of many necessary components of ongoing practice. Remember, though, that all firearm defense is practical shooting. If you don’t train to draw from concealment, run with your pistol, take defensive positions behind cover, and defend from cover against several targets—and do so safely—then you are 100% unprepared to defend your life or anyone else’s. Find a gun range that allows you to do these things and make your training dollars count.

Work on what you’re poor at, not on what you’re good at. If you can fire 5 rounds in 3 seconds and shoot a hand-size group at 7 yards, don’t ever waste time doing that. Push your target out to 15 or 25 or 50 yards and/or change to primary-hand-only drills. If you’re solid with your primary hand, switch to support-hand-only drills. Practice shooting 4 different targets in one string, transitioning while maintaining a good sight picture and good accuracy.

Practice fast accuracy at longer ranges like 25 and 50 yards. With your pistol you should own everything 25 yards and in and be capable of incapacitating hits at ranges beyond 25 yards. There’s a place for 3 and 5 and 7-yard training, but they’re just one small component of productive, regular practice. That’s not a Shield of Invulnerability you’re carrying. It’s a tool that is meant to reach out and stop a deadly threat. Keep reaching out further in practice.

Do Right

By carrying a concealed firearm you’ve made a serious, consequential choice that brings with it significant obligations and, perhaps, some lifestyle changes. Own up to these obligations and find ways to responsibly fit your choice into your life.

There is nothing more valuable to your concealed-carry lifestyle than training and practice. And there is nothing so irresponsible as neglecting the cultivation and maintenance of your competence. The consequences of your actions are now greatly magnified. Make sure you do right by yourself and by those around you.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Shooting Review:  The SilencerCo Maxim 9

Shooting Review: The SilencerCo Maxim 9

The SilencerCo Maxim 9 is an integrally suppressed 9mm pistol that uses Glock 17 magazines. This is an idea that surely lots of folks have fiddled with for a while, but it took a suppressor manufacturer to get one properly launched. This is not a perfect pistol, but it’s a solid first step; I hope it’s the first of many steps.

Others have kind of beat to death the odd look of the pistol so I won’t. If you’re going to make an integrally suppressed pistol it’s got to have some extra structure going on. I think the Maxim 9 handles this pretty well. While there are some problems here, this is a more than worthy effort and it warrants our attention and probably our money. The pistol is configurable for the size of the suppressor and even at full size is not terribly unwieldy.

Before shooting the Maxim 9 I was sure I was not going to like it at all, but as you’ll see I found plenty to like about it. I’m glad that I got the chance to shoot and evaluate this interesting pistol.

Why Consider the SilencerCo Maxim 9?

The idea of an integrally suppressed 9mm pistol is pretty compelling and the Maxim 9 is a good first production effort. Its practicality takes some consideration, but it’s not at all difficult to imagine good uses for this pistol.

An obvious reason to consider the Maxim 9 is for target practice and general plinking. Being free from ear pro is rather appealing for pretty much anyone. While it obviously is not a concealed-carry candidate, it makes some good sense as a duty weapon. With the proper holster, the benefits of the long sight radius and suppressed firing report could be brought to a context where one seldom if ever wears hearing protection.

Perhaps the best reason to consider this pistol right now is for home defense. Suppressed guns are the best sort of home-defense guns, as they keep you and your family from having to pay a high hearing price for firing inside a home.

SilencerCo Maxim 9

SilencerCo Maxim 9 Specs:

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Length: 10.75” or 9.54”
  • Height: 5.41”
  • Width: 1.58”
  • Barrel: 4” Fixed
  • Trigger: ~5.5lb
  • Sights: Tritium 3-dot (compatible w/Glock 17 sights)
  • Weight: 2lb, 7oz – or – 2lb, 5oz
  • Frame: Glass-reinforced nylon polymer
  • Slide: Stainless steel
  • Baffles: Stainless steel with aluminum outer shell
  • Capacity: 17+1 (Glock 17 mags)
  • MSRP: $1,499

The SilencerCo website has the following stats on the hearing-safe configurations with ammo:

In short configuration:

  • 147+ gr: 139.9 dB

In long configuration:

  • 115gr: 137.1 dB
  • 124gr: 138.3 dB
  • 147gr: 136.3 dB

Shooting the SilencerCo Maxim 9

As I was getting ready to shoot the Maxim 9, the first thing I noticed was that the slide (kind of a half slide) was easy to rack. Also the slide serrations are very sharp and easy to get a grip on. Only the portion from the ejection port back moves, which likely helps explain the next thing I noticed: almost no recoil.

Shooting the Maxim 9 is like shooting a .22 pistol. The recoil impulse is veeery soft and combined with the suppressed firing report makes it hard to believe you’re shooting a 9mm pistol. I immediately got the sense that I’d like to shoot this pistol all day! …Except I could not shoot it for more than 100 rounds, as by around shot number 70 I could not properly grip the pistol. Everything forward of the trigger guard was far too hot to touch, so I was basically shooting the last 30 rounds of that first day one handed. I had both hands on it, but my thumbs were not on the frame. Apparently, turning the “frame” into a suppressor has consequences.

That trigger tho! The Maxim 9 has the worst trigger I’ve ever felt on a striker-fired semi-auto pistol. The takeup is gritty and stuttering and the reset, while quite short, is almost impossible to feel or hear. It’s a long trigger press and a very short reset, but the quality of both is pretty awful. Good thing this pistol has several redeeming qualities. It’s possible that the trigger will smooth out after a couple thousand rounds, but I hope there’s a mechanical way to address the press action and the reset.

I found the sights to be okay, but I never saw any dots on them. They’re tritium night sights, but the dots are quite small. No worries, though, as it was just like shooting blacked-out sights; which are just fine. But maybe consider replacing these guys with Truglos or Trijicons, as they use Glock format sights.

The first time I shot the Maxim 9 it was very dirty. The suppression blowback helps keep a lot of the gunpowder residue in the gun, which quickly gums up the internals and slide rails. My first time shooting the Maxim 9, the pistol experienced 4 or 5 instances of a failure to go into battery. I chalked this up to the grime. I later shot the Maxim 9 after a good cleaning and experienced no malfunctions of any kind. So it seems that this is a gun you’ll have to keep clean and clean more often than other pistols.

SilencerCo Maxim 9

Comfort & Controllability

The grip of the SilencerCo Maxim 9 is well shaped, but it has odd contours. The contouring looks pretty rough, but I didn’t feel anything disagreeable. It’s a good full grip and the reach to the trigger was comfortable for my medium-sized hands. Racking the slide, while easy, involves gripping the extra deep and extra sharp serrations. They’re pretty vicious, but they work very well. I wish some other companies (hello Glock!) would pay this kind of attention to their slide serrations.

Controllability is a dream. The Maxim 9 is the softest-shooting 9mm I’ve ever had to pleasure to operate. It literally feels like you’re shooting a .22 target pistol, but the gun for all its size is not perceptibly heavy. The shooting softness is likely due to the suppressor, the fixed barrel, and the fact that only half of the slide reciprocates with each shot.

Components and Materials

The SilencerCo MAXIM 9’s frame is glass-filled polymer and the matchup with the forward baffle structure is very good; almost looks like one piece. The frame has an odd-looking texture, but it’s fairly effective for grip. The baffles have an outer shell of aluminum, but the internals are stainless steel. You can configure the baffles for a short and long configuration, simply by removing one of them. The suppression quality varies by doing so, but it’s nice to have the choice.

The 4” barrel is fixed, so it does not move with the action. That’s another bit of recoil impulse movement nicely removed from what you’re used to. The controls are almost ambi: there is a slide-lock lever on both right and left sides and the magazine release control is reversible. The trigger is not curved and has no safety rib in it, so it’s a long, flat, straight trigger that would otherwise be a nice feature if not for the terrible action.

The top of the baffles/slide is drilled for a red-dot sight. That’s an interesting and I think good stock feature choice by the manufacturer. The sights are 3-dot tritium and they’re compatible with Glock replacement sights, if you desire to replace them. The Maxim 9 uses Glock 17 magazines, so it’ll be easy and relatively inexpensive to get more.

The feature I find most odd is the fact that the bottom of the baffle structure is milled with keymod slots as the accessory affordance. One wonders why they didn’t just go with a picatinny rail, but perhaps that would have added more weight than they wanted.

Conclusions

Pros
The sound suppression at full size is pretty darned good and it’s configurable to allow you to choose better suppression or a smaller package. The extended sight radius naturally helps with accuracy. The Glock replacement sight and magazine compatibility are a welcome boon. The extra-mild recoil impulse is excellent and the easy-racking slide will have lots of fans, making the Maxim 9 easy for just about anyone to operate and shoot well. The fixed barrel will likely have a positive effect on accuracy and the pistol’s overall longevity.

Cons
At nearly $1,500, this is a very hard pill to swallow—especially considering that there will be a $200 tax stamp in addition to the purchase price. The Maxim 9 has about the worst trigger I’ve ever felt on a semi-auto pistol. Note that this is not a pistol you can use for lots of continuous reps in training. It gets hot fast and after 75 or so rounds is pretty much too hot to hold properly. As with all suppressed guns, be sure to keep your mouth closed, as there is gas face and you don’t want to be eating that acrid stuff. Finally, keymod slots?

So for rating the SilencerCo Maxim 9…

Shootability (***)
The Maxim 9 is super easy to operate and the long sight radius and soft recoil help make it a highly shootable gun. It’s pretty much like shooting a .22 pistol. Awful trigger, though.

Ergonomics (****)
The grip is well shaped if not perfectly contoured, and the pistol feels good in my hand. Despite the big, long structure out front, the pistol is still pretty wieldy.

Accuracy (****)
I found it very easy to be accurate with this pistol. Surely the fixed barrel helps in that regard.
The long sight radius helps and the mild recoil makes getting sights back on target a breeze.

In Summary

The SilencerCo Maxim 9 is an interesting pistol-and-suppressor combo that warrants some attention. As the first of its kind (that I know of), it’s a worthy effort and the result, even with its faults, is not bad. This is a good plinker and an excellent home-defense gun where, combined with the right ammo, will save the hearing of you and your family should you ever have to use it indoors.

I want to see SilencerCo continue to innovate and try some different configurations, especially to try and mitigate the heat buildup in key grip areas. Oh, and fix that trigger. In the end, you should give this one a try. Rent it and put a few rounds downrange. I’ll bet you’ll be impressed. Maybe start saving your dollars now, though.

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About The Author
Andy Rutledge is a design professional, competitive shooter and avid road cyclist. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.