Friday, October 17, 2008

Night shooting and reflections on preparedness

Be nice to me. I gave blood today.

Every six weeks or so, I try to donate, especially as the Red Cross is running low at present. So because I gave blood, I didn't run tonight.

Instead, I waited until full dark and got in some pistol practice.

I try to get out every couple of months for some firearm/flashlight practice (because it IS dark half the time.) and tonight just happened to be a good night.

This time out, I actually wasn't alone. For the first time since I've been doing this, there was someone else there--a husband and wife duo. Of course they didn't want to practice night shooting...they just happened to dawdle and got to the range a bit after dusk. They were just setting up when I arrived. They had a target up and he was going to hold the flashlight on the target while she stood next to him with the gun and shot at it.

So since I wanted it darker anyway, I sat down to wait on Ma and Pa Kettle, figuring I'd watch them until they finished, and then I'd shoot. If nothing else, they were starting to amuse me.

As luck would have it, her pistol had night sights. When she first asked him how she was supposed to see the target (after bitching at him for getting them there so late), he told her that he would just "charge up" her sights. He then took his flashlight and shone it on the pistol for a few seconds and said "There. They're all bright now."

Dude, they're Tritium. Say it with me. "Trit-i-um". They glow all by themselves because they're an unstable radioactive element. They don't have to be exposed to light first like those glow-in-the-dark stickers and toys that we used to get in our cereal boxes. That's -1 for insufficient understanding of your essential equipment.

Anyway, they shot for a bit, standing about ten feet away from a full-size silhouette target, and she put most of the rounds on or at least close to it. She fired about thirty rounds or so, then he shot a few while she held the light. Then she yelled "Ha! You didn't do any better than me!"

Ah, women... Gotta love that supportive nature.

So when they came back to the bench, they asked me how I planned to shoot. I told them that I was here to work on flashlight techniques, and I briefly demonstrated how I did it. I told them that if she was going to practice, she really should be holding the light along with the gun, as her husband probably wouldn't be there to hold it if she ever needed to shoot in the dark for real. She dismissed that idea, telling me that she didn't want to learn to shoot in the dark; she just had to qualify for work tomorrow and wanted a bit of practice first.

OK, now I was curious. I asked her where she worked. She told me that she was an armed security guard at a local government facility that I won't name. She said that they make her qualify once a year and she doesn't shoot otherwise.
"But you carry that gun on the job all day," I pointed out.


I turned to her husband and I asked him if he'd bet ten dollars on a football game where he knew that the players on one team only handled the ball once a year. He laughed, and I could tell that he got my point. I then told her that she might want to get in a bit more time practicing since she carried that gun as part of her job. She replied that she'd like to, but they won't give her any ammunition to practice with.


I told her that no one gives me any free ammunition to practice with either. I just like to go home at the end of the workday so I invest in a few boxes for my own practice. She just shrugged it off and said that it wasn't worth the trouble.

Man, I really hope that no one that I care about is ever inside her worksite if and when things break bad. She's not mentally prepared to do anything other then add her own name to the casualty list.

Well they stuck around to watch me shoot, and I did my best to put on a show. I also shot at head and torso targets, putting three up at once. I practiced drawing from the holster, bringing the light and the pistol up, and firing two aimed shots into the center five-ring, then re-holstering. I did this while moving between the targets, engaging each one in turn from a different distance and position (standing, crouching, kneeling) and I switched hands every once in a while. I also practiced a few failure-to-stop drills, where I hit the target twice in the chest and once in the head. I did this from 5-10 yards back, firing each group from the holster at a different target and a different range and position, always with the flashlight in one hand because it was full dark.

Out of the hundred shots I fired from the two pistols I used (H&K P7M13 and Springfield Armory 1911A1), it appeared that 87 of them went into the 5 ring or the head, twelve were just outside of the five ring but still incapacitating hits, and one shot out of the hundred was just off of the body next to the neck. (One of the head shots that I'd fired with my non-dominant hand apparently went slightly astray, blowing an otherwise pretty good session. DAMMIT!)

The Kettles were impressed. Pa told Ma: "Now that's what you need to be able to do."
But she was not convinced. "I don't think I'll ever need to shoot anyone," she replied.

Yeah, she's armed and Condition White. Just what we need protecting the public. Nice lady, but as good as dead if she ever has to use that pistol. And I'm sure that she's far from the only one like that out there carrying a gun just to take home a few extras dollars an hour more than those blue-smocked greeters at Wal-Mart.

If you carry a handgun, either for a job or just for protection, please do me, yourself, and everyone else around you a favor: At least take it seriously enough that you don't become part of the problem in a crisis. Practice, practice, and practice some more, and stay alert to the very real possibility that one day you may actually need to use that thing.

Be ready. Be able. And if you don't think that you can, Wal-Mart can always use a few more greeters.


  1. Maybe they couldn't afford the Trijicon sights, so they used the "night sight paint" that you have to "charge" with a light to make it glow.

    A'la this

    It's a piss poor excuse for a "night sight", but it sounds like your range buddies were about the right caliber for this stuff.

  2. Honestly, ma'am, if your employer believes you will never have to use a firearm they would never ever give you the firearm in the first place.


  3. Oh My Word!!! I would HATE to be an employee wherever she is guarding.....scary!!!

  4. Anonymous6:57 AM

    This is something I have practiced too. Seeing all of most likely I will be robbed at night.

  5. Ofc. Smith,

    The pistol was a Beretta Storm with real factory night sights. She showed it to me. It was her actual issue firearm.

  6. Anonymous11:23 AM

    The OEM Beretta Px4 Storm sights do require "charging" to glow.

  7. Whoops. I stand corrected. She may have had this set up:

    "Px4 features an interchangeable, luminescent 3-dot sight system (coated in Super-LumiNova) for use in dark or low-light situations. With short exposure to any kind of light, the night sights' luminescence lasts up to 30 minutes. "

    Still, can't say I'd want that on my pistol. I'll stick with tritium, thanks.

  8. It seems like everyone has guns in your city. I was there once and remember walking behind a security guard on the street who had a ball cap hanging on her pistol.


  9. Liz, was that my house here in Harpers Ferry, or my apartment back in the DC area? Because I'm not remembering that from your last visit but I could see it in DC.

  10. Yeah, I meant "your city" as in DC because Harper's Ferry is more like a town. But I guess everything is more like a town compared to DC.