Best Approach

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Bob Kolesar, a high level competitive shooter, seasoned gun fighter in law enforcement and military environments, LAPD and US Army veteran with decades of experience, penned this treatise on his preferred approach to training:

Gunfighters I Have Known


Gunfighters I Have Known
And Why They Are Still Around To Tell Their Tales.
by Bob Kolesar

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Pox on Point Shooting


Pox on Point Shooting
by Robert Kolesar

Two of the most experienced gunfighters of the last century, Bill Allard and Charles Askins, were both champion bullseye shooters. Allard has been in more shootings than any other cop in the history of the NYPD. Askins, 1937 US pistol champion, was in two dozen shootings, probably more. Both attributed their success and survival to front sight focus under stress, derived from years of competitive shooting. Something to think about.

And while sight alignment probably isn’t necessary at 3-5 feet, excellent trigger control is. Good trigger control is vital at 5 feet or 50 yards. Point shooting doesn’t develop trigger control.

The LAPD, back in the 70’s, taught “point shooting”. Hit ratios were abysmal. It was learned, through much experimentation with both instructors and recruits, that a certain level of proficiency could be attained. The problem was maintaining that proficiency, which degraded rather rapidly. And any kind of accuracy was destroyed at longer distances, due to the emphasis on pointing and slapping the trigger.

Something I’ve learned from my time as a shooter, cop and Soldier is that marksmanship proficiency and tactics aren’t usually the same thing. A good marksman can learn tactics easily; it comes from applying basic rules of engagement, experience and common sense. Once a certain level of proficiency is gained, that marksmanship proficiency can be applied to tactical scenarios. A poor marksman exercising good tactics can still lose a gunfight.

My point, which has been made numerous times over the last hundred years or more, is to learn to shoot first…constant practice of the basic, boring drills of sight alignment and trigger control on a standard target, over and over again. Developing absolute muscle memory between the brain and trigger finger is the key. This is boring and monotonous, though. No speed rocks, drawing on sinister-looking color targets, no rapid-fire failure drills, no jumping left or right while doing a road-house spin.

A target won’t lie; it’ll tell you where you need improvement. Kind of like the wife of 20 years that knows you and tells you, whether you want to hear it or not. I was always happy to get a new recruit (when I was a training officer) who could shoot, and had the LAPD Distinguished Expert badge to prove it. I could teach him tactics; he already had the confidence regarding weapons handling and marksmanship.

Master Sergeant Robert Kolesar
has been policeman and Soldier as well as a top-ranked competitive shooter. Enlisting in the 82nd ABN DIV at 17, Kolesar learned to shoot and went on to win with both rifle and pistol in Army and National-level competition.

Upon completing active duty, Kolesar transferred to the US Army Reserves and joined the Los Angeles Police Department. Within his 24 year career with LAPD, Bob has been a Street Patrolman, Narcotics Detective and Academy Instructor, receiving more than 140 commendations for outstanding police work, including the LAPD Police Medal for valor 1992. Bob was one of the original LAPD Instructors instrumental in establishing Department training when the LAPD transitioned from revolvers to semi-auto pistols in 1986. A member of the Department’s National Championship Shooting Team, Bob is also one of less than 30 LAPD Officers since the 1930’s to shoot a perfect score on the LAPD Bonus Shoot.

After volunteering for an Iraq combat tour, Kolesar remained on active duty, serving as an instructor while still competing with the USAR Shooting Team. He has earned the prestigious President’s Hundred 18 times, holds Distinguished Rifleman, Distinguished Pistol Shot and Distinguished Police Revolver ratings, is a member of the NRA 2650 and 1490 clubs, and is a High Master in both NRA Pistol and Police Revolver.

Stainless S&Ws and Pachmayrs

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Stainless S&Ws and Pachmayrs
by Robert Kolesar

Like most here, I like older blued S&Ws (especially the early 50’s guns) and stocks of walnut. On my working guns, though, I prefer Pachmayrs. They fit my hand well, are rugged and control recoil. And they’re cheap. What’s not to like? Here’s some of my working Smiths that get carried or shot daily.

From the top: M68 LAPD .38, M67-1 .38, M66-3 .357, M649 .38.

Here’s two of my "shooters". Top is a modified 68 in .38 (used in bullseye competition) and bottom a 66-3 that also is heavily used (PPC and bullseye) in practice. Notice the patridge front sights. Both have also had endshake removed, carry-up modified and pulls slicked up. Both are superb target guns.

Close up of a great front sight, installed by the factory several years back. Far superior to the red-ramp.

My favorite Pachmayr; small Presentation, no finger grooves. Preferably without the gaudy Pachmayr emblem. Pure function.

My old LAPD duty revolvers. Top is my issued 67; I got it new in the Academy. It wears the original Pachmayrs I bought for it in the old Pachmayr store in LA in ’84 when I was a recruit. It is usually within reach when I’m at home. Bottom is my 649, which I won in my 1st PPC match. It also wears its original Pachmayrs. It’s stil DAO, modified by the LAPD Armory when I picked it up from the LAPD Revolver Club.

My Old 649

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My Old 649
by Robert Kolesar

Recently, I dug out my 649 from somewhere in the back of the safe for some photos…I hadn’t shot (or handled) it in awhile, so I thought it might be time to put some rounds through it. I gathered up some ammo and headed to the range. After putting 50 or so rounds downrange, I realized why I liked this gun so long ago; it’s an easy-shooting revolver, with mellow recoil and quick recovery, even with plus P loads.

I got this 649 as a prize for winning my 1st PPC match as a new shooter with the LAPD Pistol Team. It came with my initials and badge engraved on the sideplate. Before putting it into mothballs, I added a gorgeous set of Coco-Bolo checkered stocks; I had always carried it with Pachmayrs for duty. I still have those old Pachmayr Compacs; I put them back on for shooting and photos. I’m now carrying it again in a new IWB holster from Bell Charter Oak; the older one has earned its retirement after 25 plus years.

I tried wadcutters, Speer Gold Dots and some 158 gr +P LSWCHP loads.

Great grouping at 10 yards with Gold Dots. Hot, light loads tend to shoot low; these weren’t too bad. I aimed at the top of the 10-ring. Gold Dots are probably the best short-barreled factory defense load you can buy today, with an excellent track record with both the LAPD and NYPD in street shootings.

My old warrior and its battered holster, veterans of many an LAPD street caper, updated with new 135 grain Gold Dots. Still a great carry combo today. It now rides in a Bell Charter Oak IWB.

New leather holster by Bell Charter Oak, with an S&W 442 Airweight .38 inside. An excellent replacement for my older IWB rig. Small .38s are best carried inside the waistband or in a pocket. Due to the DA trigger, IWB is totally safe, with good, rapid access to the revolver.

My issued M67 and M649, both outfitted in their original Pachmayrs from "back in the day".

A Beretta for Bullseye


A Beretta for Bullseye
by Robert Kolesar

Just back from Camp Perry, where I participated in the National Pistol Championships, shooting for the USAR Service Pistol Team. I had recently described some of my preparations in a previous thread (“Revolvers for Bullseye“). After an almost 10-year layoff I had some work to do in order to demonstrate some remaining competence with a pistol. Daily practice sessions coupled with weight training paid off, though, as I didn’t embarrass myself with the service pistol (M9), the bread-and-butter gun of a pistol-shooting Soldier.

Here’s my M9, built by Tony Kidd (yeah, that Tony Kidd) when he was still working as a gunsmith for the AMU. Fair warning, though…it’s ugly, but under that exterior is an incredible shooting machine, capable of 1.5" groups at 50 yds with proper ammo.

Shooting this gun I was able to post my 2nd-best score ever in the President’s 100. My goal was to just make the cut with an M9, which I’d never competed with before. I ended up doing far better than that. I also shot a great score as a USAR team member in the team match; the M9 is a superb weapon. I guess the accurized 1911 will be honorably retired from now on.

My Army-issued and accurized M9 (top), with my old LAPD 92FS for comparison. It costs about $1800.00 to get an M9, never designed as a target gun, in shape to shoot tight groups at 50 yards.

Close-ups of some of the work done. Here’s what the front of the barrel looks like; this ensures consistant lock-up from shot to shot. Barrel is a Bar-Sto. Newer guns use KKW barrels. These guns will consistently shoot under 1.5" from a machine rest at 50 yds.

Notice the steel inserts, machined into the aluminum rails. Quite a bit of work is involved fitting these inserts, which are vital to accuracy in an M9.

Close-up of the adjustable BoMar rear sight.

Ammo. M9s, while extremely accurate, are also sensitive to ammo. Part of the problem is most manufacturers don’t produce 9mm "match" ammo. USAR and USA AMU shooters use Atlanta Arms 115 grain ball, which is superbly accurate. Regular GI ball won’t cut it, accuracy-wise.

A satisfying rapid-fire group at 25 yds. Consistent shooting like this is what wins matches. Not a "clean" target, but close enough for government work.

What you get, if the weather at Perry cooperates, your zero is good and your trigger press is perfect.

Retired…my old Jim Hoag-accurized 1911. A great gun, but the Beretta is simply a better target pistol.

Revolvers for Bullseye


Revolvers for Bullseye
by Robert Kolesar

I have a job that many shooters wouldn’t mind doing. I’m assigned to the USAR Service Pistol Team, and I shoot daily when I’m training for the big matches. It’s not all fun and games, though…lots of testing is involved, picking out the best ammo and lot numbers that suit my particular pistols.

The last few years, revolvers have made a comeback in bullseye, with several dedicated matches for wheelguns. At Camp Perry there are two-the Harry Reeves Match and the Revolver Distinguished Match. Being a military service pistol shooter, these matches are fun and excellent practice with a different handgun platform. Here’s my chosen revolver that I’ll be using…a limited production M68 6" in .38 Special that I bought as a young policeman in the LAPD Revolver Club.

M68 .38 Special, built for the LAPD in the mid-80’s.

M68s (.38 Special version of the 66) were made for the LAPD and the CHP.

LAPD version of the M68. Barrel marked "LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT". I had my badge and initials engraved on the sideplate.

I sent my revolver back to S&W years ago for installation of a post (patridge) front sight; a much better target sight than the red ramp. Action was also tuned by the LAPD armorers and the trigger serrations ground off and trigger face polished.

Lots of different loads were tested, including 158 gr RNLs and 148 gr wadcutters. I settled on Rem 158 RNLs and Fed 148 gr WCs.

Preferred grip for me has always been the Pachmayr "Presentation" in small size. I have a few without the gaudy emblem stashed away for future projects.

Proper grip for single action fire with a revolver. Thumb is high (for rapid thumb-cocking) and the revolver is in-line with the forearm. Finger tip is used when shooting SA.

After a little practice and playing with grip and zero, a satisfying timed-fire target at 25 yards. Good shooting with a wheelgun is do-able, but you gotta practice!

Breaking into the Gunzines, Part 2

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Mr. Speir posted a coda to my quest to be published in 2010. Here is how it ultimately went down.


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