Over the past 17-18 years or so I have been a member of more than a few internet gun forums. As an active recreational shooter, hunter, and part-time police officer, I quickly learned that the majority of the people who post on these forums have little or no practical experience in shooting, hunting, or police work. Apparently I was not alone. Within a few years better internet sites popped up that either had a highly critical membership that verbally beat the shit out of the stupid folks, or restricted membership to folks with some real-world credibility that could be verified by other real-world folks.
But a lot of these high-end end-user sites didn’t last. I was really, really disappointed when Hilton Yam’s 10-8forums.com closed up shop, as the most prominent example. It was obvious why these closures occurred: the high-quality end users are mostly too busy doing real life shooting, hunting, and policing to be online several hours every day.
The reason some gun boards–like AR15.com, AccurateReloading.com, and 24Hourccampfire.com–thriving is equally obvious: a lot of people are using them. Not just to exchange information. No, no: contrary to the intent of the people who invented it, the internet is not about exchanging information. It’s about posting pictures of guns and cats, and getting into pissing matches over things that may or may not be important in the Real World.
You see, what keeps internet gun forums going is “hits”… users open pages, write posts in response to other posts, piss on other posters’ posts, and so on. Every hit is recorded, and this translates into what, in ancient times when information was printed on paper and sold on the streets in newspapers, used to be called “circulation”. Circulation drives advertising revenue, and advertising revenue is what keeps websites up and thriving.
Capitalism at work, my friends.
Which brings me to the point of this blog entry.
In the past year or so I joined what was supposed to be a fairly stout forum for people who do real-world tactical stuff. I have to admit that I stopped going there after a few weeks, because it was getting little use. But I “liked” their Facebook page, and I get several updates from this site every day. And most of these updates aren’t worth the pixels used to post them, I’m sad to say.
I don’t think the main Forum would have survived, except that the Facebook side of it generates lots and lots of pissing matches. They’re polite pissing matches, which is refreshing, but they’re still pissing matches.
Case in point: I got sucked into replying to a thread on the Facebook side started by a guy who’s having problems with his red dot sight because he’s developed astigmatism, a problem many of us deal with. He was asking if there were other sights out there that had “better” red dots than his Aimpoint T1. I saw a lot of posts supporting the Aimpoint T2, but also a couple other RD sights like Vortex, and so on. In other words, the focus was on kit, not training/experience.
Now, I’ve wrestled with astigmatism my whole life, so I get this guy’s problem, big time. And I decided out of the goodness of my heart I would share my experience of late. I said he might want to look at a RD sight that could be switched off to allow use of a non-illuminated reticle at the touch of a finger. I used the example that had worked for me, a Burris Fullfield 1-4X scope with an easy on/off RD feature. I shared my experience in using this sight in 3-Gun competition, using it on my daily-driver M4 (the same gun I carried on SWAT ops for several years, with an Aimpoint Comp3 + LaRue magnifier).
The reply I received was: “Not a game gun.”
Well, slap my ass and call me Sally. I done got told, didn’t I?
I guess there’s no way to politelly tell the guy that my M4, with one or the other of these 2 sighting systems, has been through roughly 15,000 rounds of practice, range training, and actual tactical shooting, and that these astigmatic eyes of mine have overcome the problems of astigmatism for more decades than he’s been alive. I guess it’s more important to chew the fat over what latest piece of kit is the best “new” option for the switched-on tactical gunner. And there’s no way I am ever going to convince 95% of the “tactical” guys out there that competition is essential training. (I’ll address this concept in a later blog entry.)
So I decided to delete my hastily-written retort and moved on.
But there’s a lesson here that may be of some use to the folks who follow my Tactical Anatomy blog. And I’m not talking about the lesson that it’s pointless trying to talk about real-world tactical shooting with Equipment Junkies on the internet, as it’s equivalent to trying to teach a pig to sing.
No, the lesson is simply this: you need to shoot your Real Life guns. You need to shoot them a lot. You need to shoot them with all the sights, accessories, and other kit you think will be cool to have on your guns. And you need to shoot them under high-stress non-optimal training conditions to find out if they will work when you’re in a non-optimal shooting environment.
My primary “tactical” M4 isn’t a sexy uber-cool rifle. It’s an out-of-the-box Smith & Wesson M&P M4 that I acquired 7 or 8 years ago, which has had some minor gunsmith tuning done to its action, but is otherwise box-stock. I actually have a new, sexy, uber-cool carbine in my safe, but it hasn’t been through the grinder that my primary rifle has been through, so I don’t reach for it when I want my most reliable fighting rifle.
I reach for my M&P because it’s got something like 15,000 rounds through it under conditions ranging from great to goatfuck ugly, and it always works. ALWAYS. It’s gone through a half-dozen HRC (high round count) carbine classes of 2-4 days duration without puking on me once. The sight systems on it (AimPoint Comp3 in LaRue QD mount, LaRue magnifier in LaRue tip-off QD mount, and Burris Fullfield in LaRue QD mount, plus the Troy Industries BUIS) have survived those same classes without puking even once. In the past 4 years, I’ve used the Burris scope for 3-gun training and shooting when I’m shooting matches that require more shots out past 50 yards, and on the shorter courses I switch back to the Aimpoint. Sometimes. The non-illuminated black reticle on the Burris is much easier on my astigmatic eyes for nailing steel plates at 300+ yards, and for precision head shots on deer at 100-150 yards, but the point is, I’ve shot my primary rifle with both systems THOUSANDS OF TIMES under stressful training and competition conditions, and I know that they will absolutely always work.
Real-life trigger time counts, kids. One of the deadliest tactical riflemen I’ve ever shot with was an old fart from Indiana who brought an iron-sighted Marlin .30-30 lever rifle to a tactical carbine class. Yes, he was a cop. Yes, he carried that levergun in his squad on duty. Yes, he had shot real people with it. And yes, he not only kept up with the rest of us in that tactical rifle class, he waxed most of our tails.
It ain’t what rifle you pick, kids. It’s how good you are with it that counts.
And the only way you’ll get that good is by shooting it. With real ammo, in real conditions. In the rain. In the mud. In the wind and the dust. Thousands and thousand of rounds.
Yet I am constantly confronted by people who have kindergarten-level shooting experience, on the internet and at matches, too, who will pooh-pooh my experience, or that of other men who’ve BTDT so much that we’ve forgotten most of it. These derps are infinitely more obsessed with having the latest kit than they are on practical experience. And I sincerely hope that these guys’ derpitude doesn’t get themselves or some other good guy killed when that latest bit of untested tacticool kit pukes on them in a really-o and truly-o SHTF gunfight.
The best way to get that kind of experience with your primary rifle and handgun is to take some tough carbine classes. I strongly recommend Pat Rodgers’ Carbine Operator class, and there are great classes taught by Paul Howe, Henk Iversen, Hilton Yam, Tim Lau, Tom Givens, and many others; there are many other good ones out there. If you take your primary weapons to one of these 3-day classes, you’ll put 2000+ rounds of ammo through them, and by the end of TD-3 you’ll know if your kit is GTG, or if it’s derp. Then take your fighting weapons to competitive matches to keep up the skills you’ve learned in your carbine class. Take a carbine fighting class at least once every 2-3 years. Instead of spending money on new guns and useless shit, spend it on ammo/reloading compenents and on good training courses.
So, I’m done spitting nails. My point is simple: test your kit under tough conditions. Shoot a LOT of rounds with your kit. If you’ve got less than 1000 rounds through your primary rifle as it is currently set up, in my opinion your rifle is not proven. And “not proven” means it may well puke on you when your life is on the line.