Friday, September 24, 2010

Words to Action - Ghost Ultimate Trigger Reset

In my last entry, I touched on the importance of trigger control when shooting firearms.  This is especially important for handguns, where sloppy triggers, bad control, and improper grip really throw you off. 

I had already honed and stoned my trigger controls in my Ruger SR9 in the quest for a smoother more accurate trigger.  After doing that, I had range tested the weapon and the groups didn't improve much.  I was still shooting 2-3" at 7 yards and about 7-8" at 15 yards.  I guess that's okay for most people, but I hate to miss. 

I researched the SR9 trigger a bit and found the website for Ghost Inc, makers of trigger bar resets for, among other guns, the Ruger SR9.  They have different trigger bar resets for different applications.  The one I bought is the Ghost Ultimate 3.5 lb trigger reset.

I also bought a trigger pull gauge to check the overall trigger pull weight before and after the reset was installed.  I wasn't counting on a 3.5 lb trigger pull because I didn't change the striker spring.  The trigger still has to pull the sear back, which pulls the striker back.  In order to fire, the weapon must first overcome this spring tension before the sear releases the striker and fires the gun.  So why not get a lighter spring for the striker?  Because the spring shoots the striker forward and attached to the striker is the firing pin.  A weaker spring could mean light primer strikes.  In a fighting gun, light primer strikes are just as deadly as the guy shooting at you.  This is because if the firing pin doesn't hit the cartridge primer hard enough, it may not ignite, resulting in a failure to fire.  In other words, the gun won't shoot when you need it most.  But I digress.

After getting the trigger pull gauge, I tested the trigger pull weight 10 times with the ghost reset and with the Ruger reset. From this I averaged them, as they were pretty consisted for each (which tells me I was doing something right as well). The area of the trigger tested was the part that my finger pad rests on, pretty much 3/4 way down the trigger.
Trigger pull weight without the Ghost Ultimate: Average: 6.326 lbs
Trigger pull weight with the Ghost Ultimate: Average: 5.5 lbs

Overall reduced trigger pull weight of .826 lbs - not a whole lot.

But trigger pull weight is not the only thing the Ultimate boasts. No, it definitely isn't the 3.5 lbs as listed on their website, and honestly, I wasn't counting on that since you WON'T get that unless you change the striker spring, which I won't do because I don't want light primer strikes.

I also tested the length of the trigger pull before firing. The Ruger trigger pulls 3/8" before the sear drops and releases the striker. The Ghost trigger pulls 1/4" before the sear releases the striker. That's a difference of 1/8" before the gun will fire.
So far, the Ghost trigger is 2 for 2. The trigger is a little lighter and the pull before firing is shorter.
Lastly, I checked the take up of the trigger (the slop from where the trigger sits at rest to where it begins to encounter resistance). With the Ruger trigger, the take up was 3/16". With the Ghost trigger, the take up is reduced to 1/8". That is a difference of 1/16".
So by now the Ghost is 3 for 3:

The trigger is .826 lbs lighter.
The overall trigger pull before releasing the sear (creep) is 1/8" shorter.
The take up is 1/16" shorter.

This should make for a more efficient trigger. When dry firing, there is definitely a difference in how the trigger performs with the Ghost trigger as compared to the Ruger trigger.
Lastly, the Ruger trigger does feel much less efficient than the Ghost. The Ruger trigger seems to take forever before it will release the sear, and that also causes the perceived heavy trigger stacking that some complain about.

After testing this, I took the SR9 out to the range.

7 yard shots with the new trigger were far more accurate than before.  I shot groups that ranged from less than an inch to about 1 1/2".  That's about double the accuracy of what I was doing last week.  At 15 yards, I was shooting an area about 5" wide, which isn't too bad, considering I don't shoot much at that distance. 

I performed double tap drills at a torso target at 7 yards.  Each shot was a kill shot.  I performed a rapid reload drill after loading just two round into the magazine.  Then I double tapped the target again.  As with the first two shots, these shots all went into the chest cavity area of the target. 

Why is this important?  It is important because your least accurate shooting is done fast and violently.  My double taps are point-shooting more or less, with some sights involved - mostly the front.  If I can do this at 7 yards without effort, then it makes me a better shooter, right? 

Overall, installation of a better trigger bar reset has made my SR9 more efficient in its operation, which translates to better accuracy, provided all the other fundamentals of trigger control are there.  Chew on this.  The FBI training manual, titled, Advanced Firearms Instructional Techniques has 7 pages dedicated to sight alignment, but 13 pages dedicated to trigger control.  That's saying a lot.  Sight alignment is very important to good shooting, but if you can't efficiently fire the gun, all that sight alignment is for naught.

-James

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trigger Control - Lighter is Better

Recently, I wrestled with the concept of installing a lighter trigger bar reset on my Ruger SR9.  I've always assumed that a heavier trigger on a self defense pistol was a good thing.  Then I got to thinking about how I would react to a heavier trigger under stress.  Would I really care about how heavy the trigger is on my gun?  Does it really matter if I have a lightweight trigger on a self defense gun?  What I decided was that a lighter trigger pull is a better trigger pull, especially for self defense?

I've heard all the arguments for and against a lightweight trigger.  Those against light triggers claim that you might be more apt to accidentally shoot a loved one in a stressful situation, and that a heavier trigger will allow you to ensure that when you pull it, you really mean it.  I've always had a problem with that sort of thinking.  I was always taught that your finger is not supposed to rest on the trigger until you are ready to fire.  I've always trained myself to draw my pistol from the holster with my trigger finger resting alongside the weapon, outside of the trigger guard.  I only put my finger in the trigger guard when I'm on target and ready to shoot. 

I've addressed the issue of guns needing manipulation before they fire in another blog post, so I will not go over it here.  What I will go over is the irrelevance of the argument for heavier triggers in self defense guns.  Traditionally, the politically correct way of thinking is that lighter triggers are good for when you are target practicing, but a heavier trigger is preferable when you use your gun for self defense.  I was at a gun store and the counter top commando, who was selling a pistol to a young woman, actually said that having a heavy long trigger pull is good because you can stage the trigger and decide whether or not you actually want to shoot. 

I disagree with that line of thinking 100%.  Even though I used to believe that heavier triggers were ideal for safety, I've never believed that under stress, I would be able to stage a trigger when pointed at a bad guy.  I've never deluded myself into thinking that staging a trigger when pointed at someone was a viable option.  I've always maintained that my finger would rest on the trigger only when I was about to fire. 

So then why is a heavy trigger pull better?  I can't answer that.  When a trigger is pulled, you are exerting rearward force on a weapon that weighs 4-5 times less than the trigger pull weight.  Pulling a trigger causes things inside the gun to move, it moves your hands, and the act of pulling a trigger will move your front sight off target, even if only a little bit.  This is why even the best shooters shoot small "groups" and not just one hole.  Now, it stands to reason that the harder I have to pull the trigger, the more the gun may move.  The less force needed to pull a a lighter trigger means the gun should move less.  After all, I am exerting less effort to move a gun that weighs only a few pounds at the most.

In an intense situation, where I am required to shoot, I'm not going to be concerned about staging the trigger or how much it weighs.  In fact, the trigger is probably going to get pulled quickly, violently, and repeatedly until the bad guy falls over or I run out of ammunition.  So, if I don't care about trigger pull weight during a shootout, what does it matter?  It matters because a lighter trigger pull is still a lighter pull.  If the pull is smooth, light, efficient, and short, it's an asset to me.

Remember, carrying a self defense pistol concealed does not automatically give me the advantage.  In fact, the very act of drawing the pistol probably means I'm playing catch-up with a guy that already has me in a bad situation to begin with.  A lightweight trigger gives me that extra edge needed to place my shots upon their intended target.

It's already been proven that guns with heavy triggers tend to miss low by their operators.  Is this a training issue?  Perhaps.  How many times have you been in a fire fight though?  It's easy for the Internet commandos to come out and say that they weren't doing this right, or they didn't train right, or didn't fire x-thousand rounds of ammunition in training last week, blah blah blah.  The reality is that if you are training, and you are working hard to ensure that your bullets go where you point the gun, giving yourself a light trigger gives you the extra edge to do so.  No matter how much training you have, your gun will still move a little when you pull that trigger quickly and repeatedly. 

Let's understand a few things about the human body for a minute.  Your body was built with a survival system.  It is called fight or flight.  When you encounter a situation where your life is in imminent danger, the adrenaline starts to flow.  All non vital functions for the moment cease.  Your body undergoes chemical changes.  Your fine motor skills and abilities go out the window.  Your large muscles prep themselves for a fight, or to run away.  Your vision narrows, and your heart starts pumping blood quickly to get oxygen to where it needs to go.  Guess what?  Pulling a trigger on a gun is a "fine motor skill", and when the adrenaline started pumping, all that trigger staging ability went down the toilet with all your other abilities to use fine motor skills, like typing, writing, tying a knot, or putting a key into an ignition.  Suddenly, you are left with your primeval abilities, fear, and a gun.  When you put your finger on that trigger, you are going to pull it!

It is my opinion that people preach heavy triggers because they don't want to focus on training.  They think that a heavy trigger will be good insurance against negligent discharges from someone who isn't trained to properly handle the weapon.  In fact, it is a liability.  There are statistics that show police agencies who use heavier triggers tend to miss their targets more than those that employ lighter triggers.  To me, the chance of missing my target more with a heavier trigger is a liability - not insurance.

To conclude, I'd like to ask why we place so much importance on punching little holes in paper over the ability to defend one's life?  Is it really better to have a heavy trigger on a self defense gun, and leave lighter triggers to target practice?  Really?  If I'm caught in a self defense situation, I'd rather have all the advantages I can get.  A lighter trigger is a big advantage and can mean the difference between hitting close to the mark or missing completely.  I'll take a hit over a miss any day.

-James

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Have You Forgotten?

I woke up this morning to the sound of my baby girl and my wife.  I love waking up on a Saturday morning to my beautiful children and wonderful wife.  It is one of those "precious moments" that make me truly happy.  My baby girl smiles so big and I hear my son laughing at something he did.  I look up to see my wife smile at me and say "good morning."

However, I still remember the significance of this date in history: September 11, 2001.  The world we live in changed forever.  Thousands lost their lives, heroes were made, and a nation was shocked into reality.  For too long, we had become complacent in our lives.  We walked around with this attitude of, "It'll never happen to me" and we paid the price for our ignorance, our arrogance, and our complacency in life. 

The world was, and still is, a dangerous place.  On that day, September 11, 2001, terrorists from an extreme religious faction opened our eyes to just how dangerous this world is, and many innocent people were killed.  Thousands more had their lives changed forever.  Millions of people were awakened to fear, terror, panic, and sadness as our televisions showed us the gruesome images live and repeated over and over until they were burned into our memories. 

These images are burned into my memory forever, but I'm not so sure about others.  It seems no one is in the mood to talk about the historic events of that day.  I'm sure it is painful for many - it is painful for me, even now, 9 years after the fact.  But the fact of the matter is that we will be doomed to have a repeat of this day, lest we forget.  Have you forgotten 9/11?  Have you dismissed the senseless killings of over three thousand innocent victims and the heroes who gave their lives to help their neighbor?  Did you forget the long lines outside of Red Cross buildings with people who were willing to give blood to those whom they never met?  Did you forget the sense of community that was shared by those who suddenly realized that life is precious and that everyday is a gift?  Did you forget about the sense of urgency you felt from not knowing whether you or your loved ones would be next?

This tragedy could have occurred anywhere in these United States.  You could have been a victim of this attack.  Before 9/11, you didn't give it much thought, but after 9/11, you suddenly imagined the possibilities.  Your eyes were opened, the blinders were removed, and for a while, you were concerned about security, safety, and the need to be prepared.

What has happened to this nation?  Why have so many forgot about such an important event in our lives?  Many in my peer group seem to dismiss this event as something that happened in ancient history; forgotten along with the US Revolution, the Spartans or Alexander the Great, only to be discussed among those who have chosen remember and never forget.

Was the September 11 attack of 2001 so traumatic as to be put into the back of the closet and never brought up again?  Have we buried this memory deep down so we don't have to think of it again?  Have we forsaken those who died that day?  Have we forsaken the memories of the soldiers who have put their lives on the line to ensure that attacks like this never again occur on our shores?  What service do we do to our countrymen and our nation by forgetting 9/11/01?

We, in fact, do not do any service.  We do a disservice to those men and women who died and sacrificed so much by not honoring the memories of those who died that day, and those who were hurt during the catastrophe.  We do not honor those civilian sheepdogs who warned of these attacks nor do we honor those who stood up and gave what they could to help our their countrymen and their neighbors.  When we forget important dates in our history, and refuse to discuss the impact they had on us as a people and as a nation, we ultimately do ourselves a great disservice.

I will never forget the events of September 11, 2001.  I will continue to remember the tragic events of that day and I will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.  I will remember those who were murdered by extremists who wish nothing more than our destruction out of their own vile hatred for who we are as a people.  I will not let 9/11/01 go quietly into the night and just fade away.  The memory of all those in this event will live on in me and my family.  My children will hear of it from me.  Their children will be taught, and hopefully, the sense of urgency, community, and the need for preparedness and love for our neighbors will be passed along to them.

Remember September 11, 2001.  Remember those who died.  Remember those who ran toward the falling trade towers and died trying to help their neighbor.  Remember those in the line of fire at the Pentagon.  Remember those who retook a hijacked plane and crashed it in Pennselvania to save others.  Remember those who gave on that day, and gave in the days thereafter.  Remember our soldiers who acted on their oaths to defend our nation.  Remember those who hated us and attempted to destroy us.  Most importantly, remember that this tragedy happened in your time and that you are the force of change and the voice of freedom on these shores.  Uphold the Constitution and defend your values as an American, a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, colleague, etc.  Remember who you are and never forget!

-James

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gun Culture

As my wife and I were driving up to the mountains today, we started to talk about how we were going to introduce our son to guns.  We discussed some of the events of the recent past and other history about how curious children gained access to their parent's guns and, in their curiosity, killed themselves or their friends.  While discussing the issue of weapon security, I drew upon my experiences as a young child, growing up in a house full of guns.

When I was a small boy, gun safes and GunVaults were accessories for the rich.  Nobody in my town had a gun safe.  In any given house in our rather poor city, the guns were kept in a closet with the boxes of ammunition stored next to them.  This was a common occurence when I was young.  Yet, when I look back, nobody in my school accidentally killed themselves with their dad's guns.  Nobody came to the school yard and blew anyone away.  Moreover, guns weren't really talked about with anymore fascination than you'd talk about a screwdriver or frying pan - even though everyone and their brother owned a gun.

Looking back on those days, I recall that Dad was a police officer.  Seeing Dad in uniform, with a handgun on his belt, was normal.  Taking the ole 30-30 carbine to the woods on a gun rack in Dad's truck was also normal.  In our family, in our culture, a gun was just another tool in the toolbox, and it served a specific purpose.  Just as one would reach for a #2 Phillips screwdriver to remove a screw, you would pull the rifle from the gun rack to hunt or to protect against predators.  Many a time, we would be out on the logging roads, far away from anyone, to saw up leftover logs for firewood.  A couple sandwiches, a gallon of gas, a chainsaw, an axe, and a medium bore rifle were things that seemed to always go along with Dad and me.

I grew up in the gun culture.  Dad taught me to shoot when I was 5 years old.  He taught me the fundamentals of safe gun handling, how to load, aim, and fire the gun.  He taught me about "Kentucky Windage" and how to properly sight in my rifle.  Dad taught me about what a firearm was capable of doing to a human being.  Dad taught me that unsafe gun handling could have devestating consequences.  Dad planted the seed of gun safety and reinforced it for years. 

I grew up knowing exactly where the guns were located.  There was no lock and key, no safe combination, no separately stored ammunition; the guns and the ammo were in Dad's bedroom closet.  We knew where they were, how to get them, how to clear them, check them, clean them, and most importantly, how to operate them safely.

How is it that I, and many of my peers, did not end up accidentally maiming or killing ourselves, or each other?  The answer is simple: Guns are not taboo.  They are not some unsafe implement that should be locked away and never shown to a child.  A gun, like any other mechanical device, is a tool that requires the operator to manipulate in order for it to work.  In order for it to work safely, the operator must handle it safely.  Guns weren't something that Dad hid away, hoping we'd never find.  Dad encouraged us to handle them under well supervised and safe conditions.  He taught me about weapon nomenclature, what did what, and how it did it. 

I remember Dad showing me what a 12 gauge shotgun could do to an abandoned car that we found at a local shooting pit.  That image is still burned into my head to this date.  As long as we were being safe, Dad encouraged me to expand my knowledge and ability.  He would advise often, correct when necessary, and teach every time we went out.  I remember a lesson in muzzle discipline rather well.  Dad taught it to me the first time we ever went out.  He said, "Son, too many people have been killed by weapons that were thought to be unloaded.  So, first when you are done shooting, check your weapon to see that it is unloaded.  Then treat it as if it is loaded.  When you walk with a rifle, you are either shooting birds, or you're shooting worms."  Of course, the lesson was that when you walk with a rifle, you either have the muzzle pointed skyward, or straight down at the ground, away from your body.  This lesson serves me even unto this day.  I never muzzle people, or turn my weapon around into a group.  For us experienced shooters, this is a no-brainer.  I have, however, been shooting with inexperienced people who will turn a muzzle right around at you when they talk to you.  Those people usually get a quick lesson in proper muzzle discipline.  The older the gun handler, the quicker and more forceful the message gets.

I grew up liking guns, but I was never fascinated by them.  I knew what they were.  I knew what they do.  Guns were as normal as anything else in the house.  I was actually astonished to find out, in my preteen years, that one of my friends actually thought that guns were dangerous.  Up until that time, I just figured everyone knew how to handle guns.  After all, the little town I grew up in had enough guns and ammo to get a small military going.

Now, I'm a dad, with two beautiful children of my own; a boy and a girl.  Will they grow up in a house where guns are locked away and never to be seen?  Absolutely not!  Of course, the guns are locked up when not in use, but that's more for theft prevention than anything else.  If you make a gun something they are not allowed to see, they will find a way to see it.  They will figure out the safe combination or find the key.  If the kid hasn't had any training, then what?

As a concealed pistol license holder, I carry a gun on a daily basis.  It is just another part of my attire that I put on with my pants and belt.  Thread the belt through the holster, and slide a handgun into it.  My two year old son sees me do this all the time.  Yes, indeed, I take my loaded gun out of the GunVault when he is in the room, and holster that loaded weapon, all the while he is watching what I'm doing.  To him, it is just normal behavior.  Is my gun going to go off because it is loaded?  NO!  You wanna know why?  Because I'm an experienced gun handler and I use safe (also known as proper) gun handling when I remove it from the safe and put it in my holster.  My son seems no more fascinated about my guns than he does the kitchen faucet.  At this point, he knows it is not a toy for him to play with. 

My son and daughter will both be fully immersed in the gun culture while they are living under my roof.  This doesn't mean that I am going to force them to take an interest in guns.  If they don't care about guns, then they don't care about guns.  There's nothing you can do about that.  What you can do is ensure that they know what to do with a gun, should they come into contact with it.  A mindset for gun safety translates into many other things.  The mindset easily crosses over to driver safety, knife safety, fire safety, etc.  Living the gun culture will help them in their lives in many more ways than just how to be safe with a gun.

Of course, all these rules and requirements are for not if the house is insane.  Our house is to be a house of order and values - good values.  I will teach hard work and real consequences for their actions, good and bad.  After all, if being a parent means raising my child to be an upstanding citizen and contributor to society, I'm going to instill the values of a good contributor.  That means teaching my children about the lies that the protectionist gun grabbers perpetrate.  That means teaching the sheepdog effect of concealed carry and being a well-armed citizen.  That means teaching about the founding fathers and the Constitution.  That means teaching "leave no trace" when dealing with the outdoors and being a good steward of the land.  That means teaching the value of hard work and income.  If you can't get your house in order, you should not own a gun.  But if you can get your house into order, teach your kids, train them right, and make them children that other parents compliment, then the gun culture is for you.
-James