Second Amendment day: shooting the Glock

I had a delightful reason for my blog silence today:  I had a pistol safety and training class, followed by an instructor supervised hour at the shooting range.  As you all know, on November 28, 2009 — exactly three years ago — I went to the shooting range with my brother-in-law and had a wonderful time.

Up until today, that long-ago outing was my first and last day at a shooting range.  Back home, none of my friends are interested in going to the local gun range.  I’ve heard it’s very good, but I was too intimidated to go on my own.  Also, while our local shooting range has very competitive prices for the San Francisco Bay Area, it was more than I could justify spending on something that would be purely for my pleasure.

So I didn’t shoot any guns in 2010, or in 2011, or in most of 2012.

What changed this non-shooting pattern was a Living Social offer I got in my email:  three hours of pistol safety and usage training, plus one instructor hour on the range, all for $75.00.  Saying “yes” to that was a no-brainer.

Early this morning, feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I made the 50 minute drive to Burlingame to Bay Area Firearms.  If you are thinking of going there, be warned:  if you don’t have navigation on the car, memorize the route beforehand, because the exit interchange and overpass is one of the most complicated I’ve ever experienced.  Thankfully, I do have navigation in my car, or I think I’d still be looking for the place now.

Bay Area Firearms is tucked away almost invisibly in a little office complex.  The front of the office sells and rents scuba gear.  The back of the office is dedicated to weapons and weapon training.  Scott, the owner and one of my instructors, had four or five gun safes, each about 4 feet tall, occupying the far wall of the room in which I trained.  (I appreciated the fact that, every time he opened a safe, he was meticulous about locking it the moment he finished using it.)

I got lucky, because I was originally supposed to be part of a group class.  When the other two attendees canceled, however, I had Scott all to myself.  And when Scott started feeling ill (Get Well Soon, Scott!), he seamlessly passed me into Dean’s very capable hands.  Both men were very patient and supportive.  They fully agreed with my philosophy (at least when it comes to physical skills) that repetition is the best teacher.

The gun I learned on and used was a Glock 23.  After going through the NRA’s fundamental gun safety rules several times to make sure I fully understood them, Scott and Dean taught me how to use the gun.  This started with the stance (a good fighting stance), how to pick the gun up, how to insert the magazine, etc.  They were very particular about my having a good grip, which I found very helpful.  Not only did it stabilize the gun, but it also meant that my finger didn’t wander down to the trigger until I was actually ready to fire.

Because Bay Area Firearms doesn’t have an attached range, Dean and I headed even further south to Reed’s Indoor Range, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  It is a very impressive place.  I arrived at the tail end of lunch and the front room, where they process people and sell myriad guns and gun supplies, was packed.  I later learned that firing a few rounds at the range during lunch is a popular activity at Reed’s.  The staff was helpful and friendly.  Also (and the ladies will appreciate how important this is) the single bathroom — that is, one used by both men and women — was immaculate.  It seems that guys who shoot guns have good aim no matter the activity.

Dean was great.  He explained everything to me, patiently took me step-by-step through the first few rounds, and was very supportive of my progress.  Here’s the target I worked on:

The results aren’t actually as bad as they look.  With straight-on shooting, at about 25-30 feet, I consistently hit inside the red part or inside the circle immediately next to the red part.  My shooting degraded somewhat when we moved the target further back to about 45 feet.  It took my a little while to compensate for the curve.  Also my vision, when fully corrected, is only 20/30, so I was a bit outside of my vision range.  Whether near or far, you can see that I periodically swung left.  I’m left hand dominant, and it took a huge effort for me to keep absolutely straight.  Still, I stayed within the No. 9 circle, except for a few very close eights.

The stray shots — the ones in the No. 8 circle and the black areas — happened when I tried the triple shot:  tap, tap-tap.  If I had been shooting an intruder, I would have gotten his torso every time, but only the first shot would have been on target.  I also had a hard time doing one-hand shooting with my right hand, which accounted for a couple of those wild shots.  I did much better shooting one-handed with my left hand.  By then, though, I was starting to feel my muscles.  I’m in very good shape, but holding a 31 oz gun at arm’s length was working muscle groups I didn’t know I had.  By the last round, I had a fine tremor going on.

Dean paid me a very nice compliment, which was that I did a very good job of grouping.  And, if you look at the first two circles (the red and the first white), I think he was right.  “You have good focus,” he said.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that I had good fun.

In addition to fun, I was reminded that, if used carelessly or with malice, guns are very dangerous.  If used correctly, though, with proper respect for the harm they can cause, guns are a delightful form of recreation.  There’s something viscerally satisfying about firing a gun and hitting the target — and the better the shot, the more satisfying it is.

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  • Charles Martel

    “It seems that guys who shoot guns have good aim no matter the activity.”

    LOL, Book!

    Book, I’d be happy to go shooting with you sometime at Bullseye in San Rafael. My treat. I’ve been practicing shotgun, and you could rent one of their Glocks. While we’re dismembering targets, we could pretend we’re shooting holes through liberal arguments.

    • Bookworm

      Charles Martel: I will happily take you up on that offer — except for the “my treat” part. The pleasure of your company is the only treat I need.

  • Jose

    Congrats on finally getting to the range.  There is nothing I enjoy more, especially with good company.  I’m glad you found some good instructors and a well run range.

    I’m not a Glock fan, but I find that they are easy to shoot accurately, and they have a great reputation for durability.  I would suggest you take any opportunity to try different firearms (more fun!) and see what works best for you.

    • Bookworm

      Jose: As far as I can tell, the Glock has the great virtue of being light weight because of the plastic bits and pieces. For the first few rounds, I could have held a heavier weapon but, by the last few rounds, I was tired.

  • lee

    When I was living in Marin, I stopped by Bullseye to see what the scoop was. I was never able to find someone to go with me… now i live in south carolina and there are gun stores and safety classes all over the place. People wear browning jewelry! BTW, Book, have you read Emily Gets Her Gun blog? She writes about the Orwellian gun laws in our nations capitol. Very interesting.

    • Bookworm

      Lee: I know that gun culture in the South is very different from the West Coast. Friends of mine were looking at houses in Houston and told me that a lot of the houses had dedicated gun storage rooms, built specifically for that purpose. It’s hard to imagine that kind of thing when you live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • jj

    Pulling high and to the left, but really nice.  You’re smallish, give some thought to a .380.  A Smith Bodyguard might be right up your alley, 10 in the magazine, 1 up the spout.  A good carry weapon, very light, easy to control.

  • NavyOne

    I love this! Good job, Book. It really is fun. And surprisingly stress relieving. My suggestion would be to make it a weekly affair. . .

  • Spartacus

    Mrs. Bookworm,
    1) Your shot grouping is likely a result of muscle memory.  Spend a couple of hours every day firing shots at the left-of-center, and, well… 😉
    2) It’s a bit surprising that they gave you a .40 to work with: it’s a serious caliber.  Probably better to spend quite some time with a .22, teaching your muscles not to flinch, before moving up.  And the muscle tiredness?  I can do a heavy-barrelled .22 for a very long time without really noticing, but several mags of Glock 20 (10mm), and my hand is shaking noticeably.  Pound on your nerves, and they will shake.  Happily, this post-range shaking can be remedied by such over-the-counter medications as IPA, Cab, and Merlot, and many pharmacies carrying these are located near shooting ranges (although some charge an automatic 18% gratuity when filling prescriptions for your entire shooting party).
    3) They say that most gunfights take place between 3-7 feet.  If you can do that at 30… you’ll be just fine.  =)

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  • bkivey

    Very nice post, and I’m glad you got a day of shooting in. I agree with Spartacus that a .40 is a bit heavy to start. My favorite handgun is a S&W .40: fits my hand well and easy to control. My brother-in-law has a modified trigger Glock that is a joy to shoot. You think about it and it goes when and where aimed. I’ve never been to a range because where I live there is an abundance of ‘natural’ shooting areas, and ranges would frown on the contents of my target box; mostly recalcitrant electronics. Yes, there is a lot of pleasure in taking a shotgun to a computer.
    As far as price, when I lived in Honolulu, there were a couple of ranges that charged $20 for five rounds. These were ‘tourist’ ranges, and very popular with the Japanese visitors.

  • JohnC

    First off, good for you for taking the time to learn proper gun safety and practices. I’m glad you had a great time. Women who enjoy firearms and know how to handle them are dead sexy in my book.
    You’re right. Used carelessly or with malice, guns are very dangerous. I’m teaching my 5 and 6 year-old kids that guns are tools. They’re very dangerous tools to be sure but still just tools. They must be treated with respect for they have no conscience and you can’t put the bullet back in once it’s gone. Treat one of these tools like a toy and it will kill you or someone you love. Learn to properly wield one and it will serve you. We’ll be starting with BB guns come springtime. Santa will be leaving safety glasses in a few weeks. (Don’t shoot your eye out!)

  • JohnC

    To lee –
    Aiken County greetings from a fellow South Carolinian!

  • Danny Lemieux

    Your upper-left clustering could also be the result of your handgrip and trigger-pull. Very slight changes could make all the difference.

    An instructor should be able to set you right. It’s good to get these details right early in your shooting experience so that they become habit.

    For the record, it took me years of infrequent practice to get the “right” grip and trigger pull. 

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  • Ymarsakar

    Finally managed to get to a range, I see. The benefit of social media, I suppose.

    As for the Bay office, I would say it is more likely that they weren’t”allowed” an indoor range rather than that they just didn’t have one. 

    Just watch the DEA agent video people here like to link and you’ll get a good grasp of what all that NRA safety stuff is about. One way or another.

    Some tips you could try. Make sure the gun is attached to your hand in such a way that the recoil goes straight down your wrist. Much like a punch, you don’t want slightly twisted hands. It is why the grip tends to go off center when your breathing fluctuates and you tighten or relax the hands. Recoil can also distort your grip, making multi shots harder.

    Make sure your shoulders are sinked in, not raised. Imagine a nail hammering down on your shoulder. Do not unseat the shoulder joint when you extend your hand. Keep a good angle. The angle will transfer the force from the hands, to the wrist, to the forearm, to the elbow, and to your shoulders. Which will automatically sink it down into your feet through skeleton links. But only if you keep the proper alignment in your body.

    People often times lift up their shoulder, and what does the lifting is muscles. When they take feedback, the muscles work over time to dampen it. Very inefficient.

    I imagine much of your focus came from thinking about shooting, but never getting an actual opportunity to do so physically. So you could only mentally imagine the only experience you had, and duplicate it in your mind’s eye. This is an old method used by people to get the most out of physical practicals, as it develops mental concentration and is used often times in battle meditation. Of course, what they visualized was success, not failure. Thus their body came to replicate success, not failure.

    Your left hand dominance and your right hand dependency, makes it so that when you double hand hold, there’s a distinct recoil imbalance and grip strength imbalance. Lessen the grip strength on your left, and increase the strength of your right to compensate. You might want to experiment using the left or right hand up top, for the trigger pulling too. That is one of the easier ways to rebalance imbalanced left/right sides.

    Always remember that fights at closer than 21 feet is harder than ones at 30+ feet when utilizing handguns. Ideally, you want to get rid of targets before they get within 21 feet, because at that point they can start zig zagging and avoid your targeting simply by the fact that their radial velocity is faster than your body can track them. Although not many have the skills to do such things, they just run right into you, which is a danger of its own, for if you shoot them and they still have momentum, they will still reach you and deal you perhaps a mortal blow before they expire. To counter such incidences, there is something called tactical shooting, which is another way of saying fast drawing your gun and shooting from the hip while utilizing your other arm for close range melee defense.

    In a true battle, you never knew when you might get wounded in one arm or the other, so practice so that you can use both arms to destroy the enemy.

    Lastly, remember to control your breathing pattern. As an exercise, put your palm on your stomach and breath in from there first, then expand your chest. Then relax and let the air out. When you are shooting, inhale just like that, and when your lungs are, that is a good time to shoot. Deep breathing methods are known by US Marine snipers and other individuals, such as those who hold their breath underwater, to control precision and biorhythms. In this instance, what you are doing is making it so that your heart stops beating, by slowing it down, so that your entire body remains absolutely still for the few milliseconds it takes for the gun to discharge. The longer range of a shot you are making, the more this becomes critical. Also in battle, your adrenaline tends to go off the charts, and that makes your heart race too fast.


    • Bookworm

      Ymarsakar: The instructor gave me a lot of the same advice you just did. Conceptually, I understood everything he (and you) said. The problem was getting my body to agree with my brain!

  • Ymarsakar

    Spartacus, that was a nice hit with your #1.

    Martel, we’re relying on you and other people in that area, to get her up to speed. It’s too easy to not do what is needed, when online. Harder to do for people physically prox to you.

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  • Ymarsakar

    All of these things base themselves upon the same advanced concepts as full muscle control in things like Taiji Chuan. Meaning, martial arts, the ones that didn’t rely on size, strength, and the quickness of youth, already provide a foundation on Full Body control, whether that control is used to kill people using bare hands or using a firearm.

     Even if you don’t have a range or gun to practice with, there are many training tools to develop these mind-body harmony and control methods. But the ability to put that training into practice, requires extremely advanced knowledge and skills, equivalent to doctorates.

     This is also why individual preparation and training can only go so far. But it doesn’t mean going to someone else and not using your brain, simply doing as you are told. I train in H2H with a combination of external sources, my own research, some other people’s training methods, and the training methods I develop on my own, for my own personal use. Firearms training, isn’t particularly different to what I normally do anyways.

    When you have achieved a high skill in one area, such that it automatically bleeds over into related, but separate skill branches, that is when you know you’re getting to that high standard. It doesn’t matter what you devote yourself to, so long as you achieve high skill and standards there, so that your comprehension, mental and physical, harmonize. 

    When punching, I do it slowly 3 times, normal 1x, and fast 1x. This allows me to selectively pin point the energy projection into specific parts of my arm. It used to be I couldn’t control that, so I would often snap my elbows and get shoulder pain, because the force was literally pulling on my joints whenever I hit air (air isn’t that good of a force absorber). Now that I’ve trained using the slow training methods of the Ancients, re introduced by Taiji Chuan and TFT, I find that I can consciously select where the force will go. I send it to my fingers now, since it doesn’t hurt. It also means my muscle chain is smooth and unblemished. No weak chains. Energy from the beginning flows to the end with as little loss as possible.

    When a person has gained control akin to that, dealing with firearms recoil isn’t particularly different all in all. Just a slightly different problem, using the same principles.

    I only rate my speed in terms of above average, but all of the people I’ve trained with, tend to comment that it is too fast to follow. Absolute speed, in my view, isn’t all that valuable. Timing, however, is. Neither too fast nor too slow, but arriving right on time when needed. 

  • Ymarsakar

    Also, Westerners tend to ignore breathing techniques, as something only a select few need to know about. But women who have given birth and US Marine snipers using breath control to increase accuracy, have literally used the same  chi gong or breath control techniques. There is absolutely no difference. A person that has a sufficient skill standard in breath techniques can use it for almost anything, it is a tool versatile as the sun.

     The Ancient Chinese used nei gong for various things, including medical recovery and martial power. I personally use it for health, endurance, and martial applications.

     Most of these things you can also use an air gun to practice with. If you visualize yourself doing the right things, you will find that it translates into physical results later on. Military marksmanship teams used to use wooden mock up rifles to train civilians with. They put a coin on the top of the barrel and if the coin falls when the person pulls the trigger, they don’t need a real gun just yet.



    I wish you lived here in Wisconsin! I would take you out to the range, and let you try my Heckler & Koch USP9F. The HK USP series is the most easily pointed double action semi auto that I am aware of, HK intentionally copied the grip angle of the Colt Government Model for thier USP line of double stack magazine pistols. I think you would really like one, as the 9 is somewhat milder than the Glock, 

    Personally, I do not like the grip angle of the Glock, and I really, really dislike the trigger, which i consider an accidental discharge waiting to happen. I am a Badger, ie, one who wears a badge, and carry the .45ACP version of the HK, the USP45F, as my duty weapon. It’s grips are big enough to allow one a good hand weld, and makes the felt recoil of the .45 very manageable.

    While I have never fired one of their pistols, people I know and respect have many nice things to say about SIG-Sauer pistols, as well. Smith & Wesson is one of the finest makers of firearms in the world, my first duty pistol, was, indeed, a S&W 459 in 9MM. They make their M&P series with adaptable grips, for various sized hands, which, if you have small hands, may be something you would want to look into. Smith & Wesson also makes the worlds most fun gun to shoot, the M&P15-22, a .22lr AR-15. But since in CA, you can’t have more than 10 rounds in a magazine, there really isn’t much point in buying one in your  case.

    Will you be getting one to keep at home? If so, be sure and get a light for it, for when you have to check on things that go bump in the night.  Lastly, of course, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

    Enjoy being a pistol shooter! 

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  • Spartacus

    Y-Man: Excellent point about radial velocity.  My plan for that is to avoid going up against ninjas and other nimble folk [insert some sort of “nervous grin” emoticon here].

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Personally, I am a Kimber-man. The Kimber 0.45 Ultra-Carry with a 3-inch barrel is surprisingly accurate down range, fits easily into your purse or pocket, and is very easy on your hands. My wife prefers it to her own 0.380 Walther PPK (James Bond’s carry). It also has three levels of safety mechanisms (the lack thereof which is one of my big problems with the GLOCK – an accident waiting to happen).

  • Ymarsakar

    I probably meant angular velocity, although radial would work for direct line of sight rushes.

     I heard reports that during Ft. Hood and other such incidents, most of the defenders ran straight at the attackers. It would have been better overall if Americans learned anti-gun as well as firearms tactics, but that wouldn’t do too well in a country set on the road of slavery.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Serpentine, serpentine!

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  • Scott Kirwin

    I too came to firearms late in life. I didn’t fire a gun until the ripe old age of 34 and didn’t own one until I was in my early 40s. Now my gun safe is like my tool box, seemingly always in need of something new.
    I’ve recently shot the Glock 23 and the Glock 17. I like the built-in safety feature and have been taught to keep my finger off the trigger until I’m ready to fire. It is a very easy gun to shoot, and I’m looking to add one to my safe in the near future.
    I heartily recommend this book about the history of the Glock .
    Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun

  • Danny Lemieux

    Scott, not to quibble too much, but Glocks are Austrian. 

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Hmmm. Then again, maybe I am going to have to come around to your point of view on Glocks…. 

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  • Ron19

    “Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you’re sick”
    As we struggle with this as a national problem, coincidentally I’ve started reading comments from the bookwormroom as a mental break from something I am reading elsewhere, about individual problems that lead you around by the nose for a different issue: 
    Lots of good, deep comments, it’s like reading the postings and comments here.
    I know that not everybody here will agree that the problems are in anyway related, even in style, but I was struck by the coincidence of their similarity.  And the timing of when I was reading that site and this one.

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