On Competition

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“Difficulty is a severe instructor … He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”
– 18th-century philosopher-statesman Edmund Burke

That is, my enemy is my friend. Competition demands that I make myself physically and intellectually fit and that I strive toward constant self-betterment.

– John Tate

John Tate on “Assault Rifles”

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1. “Assault weapons” have several characteristics: the two main ones are low power & selective fire. Functionally, these interact. Selective fire means either semi- or full-automatic fire are options. Low power so the arm is controllable in full-auto mode.

2. Accurate, full-auto firing is a non-sequitur. Single shots are for specific targets; full-auto is in fact an area weapon. And becoming effective with full-auto is: (a) very expensive in ammunition consumed and barrels ‘shot out,’ (b) it’s by physics, inaccurate – which is why we call it ‘spray and pray,’ (c) and of little avail for the casual or sport shooter … because of a & b.

3. Given any level of proficiency, a manually operated rifle (e.g., a bolt gun) and a semi-auto have about the same capability for aimed fire. Want a demo? Here are links to some Norwegian competitions. The first link is just to a bolt gun shooter (using the 1890’s vintage Krag-Jorgenson action). The second & third are not only a face-to-face competitions between bolt guns and semi-autos, but the bolt guns win! #3 also features lady shooters! They are deadly accurate!! Watch Jenny Stene and her bolt gun. (Note: she pulls the trigger with her ring finger.)

(at 5:25 is a Krag shooter)
(at 7:40 is a semi-auto competing against bolt guns; note the bolt guns shoot faster, Miss Stene wins the round AND beats the gas gun.)

4. I won’t belabor the point … beyond this: I was a competitive highpower rifle shooter for 10 years. I used an M14. (It was the “assault weapon” predecessor of the M16. It wasn’t practical for full-auto because it fired the .308/7.62 cartridge … too powerful for controlled full-auto fire.) I often shot against bolt guns. With a skilled shooter, the bolt guns won because they (a) fired just as fast, and (b) were more accurate.

5. The gross ignorance of the media and their hyperbole of presentation AND the general ignorance of the man-on-the-street and consequent vulnerability to the media distortions are what has propelled the AR-15 to such depths of public disdain. Indomitable ignorance is far more dangerous than ARs!

If it looks silly, but works … it ain’t silly

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Notes from Rifle Fundamentals: Breath and Hold Control

It is said that 600 yards separates the men from the boys. Maybe, but for me, offhand shooting is hardest. The illustration at the head of the article linked below shows two tools to make offhand a bit steadier.

1. Hip support for the support elbow. Yes, both male and female usually need to push the forward hip out to get better support. Looks silly – but it works.

2. Note how far back toward the trigger guard is the shooter’s support hand. (In fact, I use the trigger guard for my forward support.) What does this accomplish? The longer the moment arm, the slower the oscillation. This characteristic of oscillations is most commonly observed in grandfather clocks. And, like a clock, put a bigger weight at the end of the moment arm and oscillations will again slow.

One more ancillary comment – the article is about breathing. But while breathing and getting oxygen for your muscles and brain, you can use that time to improve your ability to see.

1. Blinking your eyes will spread basal tears that will keep your cornea clean, clear, nourished and lubricated.

2. Simply closing your eyes, or looking at something green, will help the retina recover from your eyes previous staring at the sights & target. The relatively long term and intense fixed staring at black-and-white sights and target will ‘burn’ these images into the retina, making the ability to discriminate these a bit harder. The remedy – look somewhere restful, or simply close your shooting eye.

By the way – the comments above about moment arm and eye sensitivity recovery apply to all phases of shooting, not just offhand.


Lones Wigger: 1937-2017

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“The will to win is really better stated as the will to prepare to win. In shooting, it’s persistence that pays the biggest dividends—constant, steady practice, week in and week out, all year long. I truly believe that anyone can be a champion marksman if they work at it long and hard enough.”

– Lones Wigger, LTC, USA (Ret)

COL Lones Wigger was a four-time Olympian and the most decorated shooter in the world.

Legends: Lones Wigger 1937-2017
by Hap Rocketto


Sling Use


Sling Use
by John Tate

I’m a firm believer in slings for long guns for several OBVIOUS reasons:

  • Hands-free while hands-on. Once a perp is located and needs to be hooked-up, you gotta put that long gun somewhere safe and secure. Voilá – the sling.
  • Shooting position stability. The sling, if properly used, reduces wobble and may remove the need for muscle support (all positions except offhand).
  • Hands-free when traveling. Think “sling arms.”

My background is the classic 1907-style leather sling. But I’ve also used the one-piece web sling. Either works as a “hasty sling.” And the web sling can be disconnected from the butt for an upper-arm-to-rifle-forearm config.

I’m not familiar with the modern one-point and … well, I don’t know the name(s) for modern around the neck and around the back-shoulder options.

Full disclosure: Virtually all my sling experience is with the military two-piece leather or one-piece web sling. For either, the only quick option is the hasty sling. Otherwise, whether kneeling, sitting or prone, a different length is needed, which means individual adjustment prior to going into position. When I was a kid and did a bunch of hunting, it was mostly along the central eastern seaboard around Piedmont NC. I always had a tree for standing support; so I didn’t need slings, sticks or bipods.

Czech government tells its citizens how to fight terrorists: Shoot them yourselves

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Guns from a previously held firearms surrender are displayed at police headquarters in Manchester, England. (Andrew Yates/Reuters) [Editor's Note: I'm noticing a few non-firing orange and blue guns turned in to the firearms surrender.]



Safety – Safariland 7390 holster

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From John Tate.

Please immediately discontinue the use of the Safariland Holster 7390. A problem has been identified when holstering the weapon. During the holstering procedure, it is possible for a small piece of the holster, located internally (pictured below), to catch the tip of the trigger and move it towards the rear. While we do not believe it possible for the trigger to travel far enough to cause the weapon to fire, such movement clearly should not occur at all.

Safariland has been notified of the problem and is actively working on a solution.

Please advise your personnel to immediately discontinue the use of this holster and return to the holster that they were using prior to the 7390.


Remembering Fundamentals

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from John Tate

“Military actions are distilled down to shooting, moving, and communicating.”

“The most dynamic of the basics is shooting, and shooting well requires technique, accuracy, effect on target, and an understanding of what you are shooting at. This is a complex skill set, including everything from rifles/artillery to submarine-launched precision-guided missiles and close air support. Those that are doing the shooting and those that are directing the shooting need to be trained and exercised constantly.”

On a related note: Have you ever shot a Highpower match where (for example at 600 yds) the fog/haze/rain was so dense that your couldn’t clearly see your target? So you use a “berm hold” for elevation. Or, same distance, the wind exceeded your rifle’s windage, and you had to aim at the next target over? These are both examples of off-set aim points; attack aircraft crews use the same techniques when using RADAR significant objects as aim points with bomb navigation corrections that will achieve a hit on the intended target.

Every artillery officer knows the effect of wind(s) at altitude(s) on ballistics.

Over-the-horizon targeting can employ similar relational aiming techniques.

My point, the comment of aiming being “a complex skill set” is fully on target. And having all warriors skilled in small arms will likely have positive transfer to other warfare skills.

The service of the author, LTC Ray McFall, USMC (1986 – 2008), overlapped with that of Gen A.M. Gray’s tour as commandant (1987–91). You may remember, Gen Gray said, “every Marine is a rifleman.” That philosophy may have been impressed on McFall during his formative years. But even as a sailor, I’m firmly of the belief that every warrior should be confidently competent with small arms and thus his basic psyche permeated with the skill and will to kill.

Here’s hoping Mattis can return our military to a fighting force with only that focus.

The Unacceptable Price of Mediocrity

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As you read this essay, please keep in mind this thought, contributed by a police officer, Todd Jayne. “[Shooting] is probably the most important skill [a soldier or peace officer] may never need. When it comes time to shoot, you are doing so for your life, or the life of someone else. There is literally no other facet of our job where that is 100% true.”

Many in the intended audience of the Firearms User Network are warriors; for us, firearms’ ultimate purpose is as a weapon, one where skill may be measured in lives. Is this an activity where any warrior can be satisfied with mediocrity?

Robert McNamara was famous for bringing his Ford Motor Company ‘bean counters’ to the Pentagon and applying his business and management strategies to the business of war. But, as Mr. Jayne suggests above, war and its preparation are not endeavors that lend themselves to the typical concepts of efficiency. In truth, the opposite is nearer to reality. Consider that if an entity is known to be able to overcome immediately any opposition, that opposition is likely never to be launched. Whoa, doesn’t that mean all the entity’s preparations for war will never be used … and are thus a waste? This is the Vegetius Renatus paradox of deterrence: si vis pacem, para bellum.

Even without attempting commercial efficiency, the reality of limited resources demands careful allocation of those limited resources. A popular adage is, “People are our most valuable resource.” OK, but let me color that with Mark Twain’s metaphor: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Anyone who has observed Israel’s wars against her neighbors knows this is true. My point here is, if we must have a relatively small armed force, let’s have each member’s goal be perfection in fundamental pursuits. Gen. A.M. Gray, USMC said, “Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman.” I believe the same attitude applies to all warriors: you are first and foremost a marksman, because, for you, no other skill is more fundamental.

A saying goes: Perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi observed, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” That pursuit of perfection is something we should never deny to those of our members who want that chase.

I know a soldier who was never given access to or a chance to practice any Army obstacle course. The soldier was sent to an Army school where passing the “O” course was required, and only two chances were allowed. The soldier failed and was sent home. Later, at a subsequent school, with practice and preparation, the same soldier excelled on the “O” course and finished as a distinguished graduate. So the question is, why was the soldier not allowed to try and try and try in the first iteration? Stated differently, why would we deny success when success is within reach?

I know a soldier who is a better than fair shot, but had never shot the “pop-up” targets on the Army qual course. The soldier shot a poor but passing score (29/40) and was pulled off the line so other soldiers could shoot. Passing is 23 hits on 40 exposures; that’s a 42% miss rate … with no pressure, no one shooting back. This is passing for the most fundamental skill of a soldier? Our soldier was genuinely embarrassed to leave the line with such a poor score, and not a little angry at not being given an opportunity to shoot again in a subsequent relay. But, here, the management decision was made and “better was the enemy of good enough,” and good enough was allowed to win.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote that “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” If the Army has a soldier who is willing to dedicate 10,000 hours to maxing the “O” course or perfecting his sight alignment and trigger squeeze, why would we deny him the opportunity? If we are smart, we won’t, for two reasons. If we do:

we deny that soldier the pursuit of perfection that may result in excellence, and
we lead that soldier to be satisfied with mediocrity.

If we’re going to be a force of limited numbers, those few we have must be allowed to be their best.

The world of the warrior is not the world of the feather merchants. In a fight, you cannot hit your opponent too hard, you can only end the fight more quickly. I do not disparage the store clerk for his expertise in sweeping a floor, and he may be rightfully proud of a job well done; but dust isn’t life. For the warrior who deals in life, excellence must be a routine mindset in all military endeavors, especially shooting, because “when it comes time to shoot, you are doing so for your life, or the life of someone else.”

Stay safe all,
John Tate

Technical use of force / excessive force / 42 USC 1983 case

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Technical use of force / excessive force / 42 USC 1983 case
by John Tate
from law-reviews.googlegroups.com

((Prefatory comment. This case presents an interesting extension to several other police-shooting-at-car-in-self-defense cases. [1]))

It is the facts of Havens v. Johnson [2] that make it interesting, because the case itself deals with a somewhat minor, legal technicality.

The Facts.

Darrell Havens was the intended target of a sting operation; he was to deliver a stolen car to an informant in exchange for money and drugs. Additionally Havens had been identified as having “had outstanding warrants for robbery and weapon possession, had previously fled from law-enforcement officers, and had associates known to carry weapons.”

When Havens arrived with the stolen Audi at the appointed meeting place, police cars boxed him in.

Once the Audi was blocked between the Blazer and the blue pickup, it began ramming the Blazer in front of it and the blue pickup behind it.1 Sandy drove his white pickup into the passenger side of the Audi and pushed it sideways toward a snowbank against the east wall of the alcove. The Audi stopped moving and Johnson stepped out of the passenger side of the white pickup with a Taser in his hand, planning to arrest Havens. Sandy also exited the pickup and broke the front passenger window of the Audi with a wrench. The Audi then maneuvered to push the pickup backwards, pivoting on the right front bumper of the truck, and continuing to move down the truck’s passenger side. Johnson was in front of the Audi wearing a police badge and a jacket that said “Police” in reflective material. He drew his gun, ordering Havens to stop and put the car in park. Meanwhile, Beauvais had driven the Jeep Liberty behind Johnson. Johnson fired nine times, hitting Havens three times and rendering him a quadriplegic. [3]
The critical factual issue is what was going on when Johnson fired at Havens. Johnson’s post event testimony varied over time as to whether Havens’ car was touching him or approaching him and whether Johnson was some feet away from Haven’s car or was leaning over it. There was a hand print on the hood of the Audi indicating Johnson had, in fact, been leaning over the hood; but it is not clear when this print was placed there.

The statements of officers other than Johnson indicated that the Audi was moving toward Johnson when he fired the shots.

As for Defendant Johnson’s [final] version, he testified at his deposition that while the Audi accelerated down the side of Sandy’s pickup, he backpedaled, Havens turned the steering wheel, and the Audi struck him. Thinking he was about to be crushed by the Audi, he fired his gun nine times into the windshield to stop Havens. After he fired the shots the Audi was temporarily pinned by the Intrepid; but its engine was revving and it started coming at him again. He pulled out a new magazine, dropped it, picked it up, reloaded, and got back into position to fire again if needed. No more shots were fired. [4]
The State of Colorado charged Havens with multiple offenses; he pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree assault of Johnson (among other things).

In the case at bar, Havens brought an excessive-force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Johnson in which Havens denied any wrongdoing. Instead, he asserted that he at no time attempted to resist arrest, claiming that the officers, by crashing their cars into the Audi, caused Havens “to lose control of the vehicle which resulted in the vehicle lurching forward under its own volition.”

The Law.

Two areas of law are here significant: Johnson’s justification for use of deadly force, and the effect of Havens’ guilty plea on his subsequent recantation and civil rights suit.

Regarding the former:

The “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” The use of deadly force is justified “if a reasonable officer in [the defendant’s] position would have had probable cause to believe that there was a threat of serious physical harm to [himself] or to others.” “Thus, if threatened by [a] weapon (which may include a vehicle attempting to run over an officer), an officer may use deadly force.” [5]
Resolution of whether Johnson’s use of force was justified never reached because of a legal technicality from Heck v. Humphrey. [6]

The Heck rule is beyond the scope of this review. It’s details are available at the link to the reviewed case at note 2. In essence, Havens’ Alford plea served as a guilty plea for Heck purposes and thereby foreclosed his ability to later claim Johnson’s use of force against him was unjustified as excessive.


[1] Read and contrast State v. Morales, 2002-NMCA-052; Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012 (2014); State v. Mantelli, 2002-NMCA-033; Fancher v. Barrientos, 10th Circ. #12-2114 (2013); and Martinez v. City of Albuquerque, 184 F.3d 1123 (10th Cir. 1999).

[2] 10th Circ #14,1118, 15 Apr 2015)

Click to access 14-1118.pdf

[3] Ibid. at page 4

[4] Ibid. at page 6

[5] Ibid at page 10. Internal citations omitted. Emphasis added.

[6] 512 U.S. 477 (1994)

CAVEAT LECTOR: These materials have been prepared for educational, andragogic, and informational purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between the author and you. Any views expressed in this introduction and the summaries are those of the author alone and do not express the views of the any New Mexico authority or law enforcement agency. No person should act or fail to act on any legal matter based solely on the contents of these materials. Anyone finding fault with the representations of this analysis is urged to promptly notify me for appropriate corrections.

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