Kerrian’s Notebook, p. 104 “Sheila Goes to the Firing Range”



The last two posts dealt with the need for firearms training and gun maintenance. My wife, Sheila, has a healthy respect for handguns – firearms of any kind – but has never wanted primary responsibility for taking care of our own equipment.


After all, I’m here, so why would she need to?  HA!


That’s a common mistake that many firearms owners make. If there are firearms in the house, whether they are intended for self-defense or recreational use, all the people who will be using them should trade off on taking care of them. It stands to reason that the more familiar people are with the guns in their possession, the better prepared they will be when the firearms are used. That refers to not only cleaning the firearms, but also staying proficient with them. Remember what I said about not leaving the handguns in the drawer?


One of the bits of research that convinced Sheila to get back to the firing range was something I told her about the Tueller Drill. There’s a police officer in Utah who discovered that it only takes 1.5 seconds for an attacker to reach you from 20 feet away. Measure it out in your house. 20 feet is about the width of a small house, or the width of somebody’s living room in an average home.


The stat came up when we were chatting about lethal force and when it was okay to use it, but the discussion got serious when she realized that in the Tueller scenario, the attacker was running. During the time it took someone (who was a deadly threat) to run the 20 feet toward Sheila, she would need to get her gun (if she was home), take aim, and shoot accurately. The average person takes about 1.5 seconds to get off a shot, but all she has to do is beat the runner…


Sounds easy enough, right? Nope.


If the gun is not with her (it’s in a drawer or in her pocketbook) she has to throw things in the way to slow the attacker down as she runs to get it. If the attacker is faster than she is, Sheila loses.

If the gun gets snagged in a drawer, Sheila loses.

If the gun misfires, Sheila loses.

If the gun is too heavy and she has trouble lifting it before firing, Sheila loses.

If her aim is bad, Sheila loses.


In any of those possibilities, that 1.5 seconds will have evaporated and the firearm will be useless, perhaps even become a weapon that can be used against her.


So, Sheila and I went to the firing range so she could get some time in with my backup Glock.


Sheila did some dry firing – getting into a stable position, drawing the gun, aligning the sights and then pulling the trigger – all without the gun being loaded. Getting the muscle memory down can be as important as actually firing live rounds.

Here are some marksmanship fundamentals to check each and every time practicing shooting until they become second nature and are done automatically:


1. Grip – one or two-handed

2. Stance – feet shoulder width apart (isosceles) or one slightly in front of the other (weaver)

3. Sight alignment

4. Trigger control

5. Checking success of the shot

5. Breath control

6. Rhythm


Sheila worked on stance, on timing, on a smooth draw, on focus, on breathing. She worked on getting the front and back sights in perfect alignment. She worked on keeping her grip strong and firm. She used a two-handed grip and muscle tension to control the recoil. She worked on keeping her weight on the balls of her feet.


 After she was comfortable again with the weight and physical handling of the Glock, she fired a few rounds at a paper target, about the size of an average man.


When our time at the range was up, we hung around to watch a proficiency training class. The shooters were reminded of the safety rules:


Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.

Keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

Keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.


 The instructors helped the attendees with details of handling the firearms.


Before each section of firing, the head instructor would command the shooters to:

“Load and make ready!

Shooters ready!

Stand by!


in order to maintain the safety of the area.


If the shooters aimed too high or too far in any direction, the instructor advised them about body position and arm extension, among other tips.


Proficiency tests are conducted during some of the classes. We watched one that required the shooters to hit the target 21 out of 30 times at various distances, within a limited amount of time. The shooters only had 30 rounds (bullets) available, so being comfortable with the firearm was essential.


They were given 10 rounds at the three yard line,

                         10 rounds at the five yard line,

                         10 rounds at the seven yard line.


It seemed as if less than two minutes was given to shoot the ten rounds at each distance, so nerves couldn’t come into play.


My advice: If you buy a handgun, don’t leave it in the drawer.

Take a training class if you don’t know how to shoot or if you don’t know how to handle it safely.

Clean it.

Stay proficient by practicing at a licensed firing range.


And, please don’t believe what you see on the TV shows and in the movies about people being expert shots the first time they pick up a firearm. Not gonna happen. Ever.




*Photos taken at Freedom Firearms Training in Carthage, NC.

Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.

Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.

Steve Jones















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Kerrian’s Notebook, p. 103 “Did you clean your gun this week?”




Are you a recreational shooter or do you use your firearm for self-defense? There is some disagreement even among gun enthusiasts about how often a firearm should be cleaned – anywhere from after every single use to only after 1000 rounds. But, the reason for cleaning doesn’t change: the gun should work when we need it to.


Every time the gun is fired, a pin (or hammer) strikes the primer in the bullet and causes a spark. This spark ignites the powder in the bullet and causes an explosion, which moves the bullet down the barrel of the gun. Minute bits of gunpowder and lead residue are left behind in and outside the firearm and builds up over time. Gunpowder dust? Bullet dust? A bit of both. If left on and in the firearm and ignored, the handgun will most likely lose efficiency and reliability.


Imagine driving your car for a while without getting the plugs replaced, the filters changed or the oil changed. It might still run, but not as well as if you did the regular maintenance. And, it might even stall (or not start at all) for no apparent reason when you need it the most.


Cops on TV and in the movies do have occasional scenes where their guns don’t work and a partner has to come to the rescue. There may be lots of reasons for a handgun to misfire – lousy ammo, worn parts, dirty/rusty mechanisms, blocked barrel, cheaply made – but checking the gun on a regular basis can help avoid some of the common malfunctions.


There are three basic rules for safe handling of a firearm, whether you are showing it to someone, shooting it, putting it away, or you are about to clean it, and it’s good to practice them even when you think it’s unnecessary. There are too many accidental deaths caused by people cleaning their firearms, so please take note:

1 – always point the gun in a safe direction

2 – keep your finger OFF the trigger until you’re ready to shoot

3 – keep the gun UNLOADED unless and until you’re going to shoot


When you buy the gun, pick up a cleaning kit at the same time. Cleaning kits are not expensive – $20.00 will get you a basic kit that includes the metal rods and brushes you need to clean your handgun, along with cleaning patches and patch holders. There are several types of brushes to use, but most gun owners say that a toothbrush will work to do the overall initial cleaning, and twisted bronze brushes will work best for cleaning the bore. The bore brushes come in different sizes to fit the different caliber guns. A bore brush for a .45 won’t fit a .22, etc. Check the manufacturers catalog to see which brushes you need, if you don’t already know.

assorted caliber bronze brushes


An interesting tool for cleaning a firearm is a Bore Snake.

Bore Snake   

Because of its construction, it is possible to combine a couple of cleaning steps into one. The two ends (of what is essentially a very fat shoelace) are softer, with bronze bristles in the center. As the Bore Snake is pulled through (from back to front) of the bore, the soft end removes loose residue, the bronze wire on the Bore Snake loosens the more resistant grit, then the softer floss at the end pulls away the rest. It can be used with solvent, or pulled through dry.


Glock with Bore Snake

The Bore Snake can also double as a safe storage and transport aid. If the Bore Snake is in the bore, there’s no possibility that a bullet is in the chamber.


Steps to cleaning the firearm:

1. Check to make sure that the gun is unloaded.

2. Take apart the gun.

3. Wipe down all the parts to be cleaned, using cloth rags.

4. Apply a solvent recommended by your gun’s manufacturer to the dirty areas and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.

5. Scrub the entire gun, inside and out, with a soft brush to loosen the grime.

6. Wipe the gun clean with a solvent-soaked rag and repeat if necessary.

7. Use a bore brush (or the Bore Snake) to clean the bore, being careful to start at the back and move forward through the bore, without reversing direction while inside the barrel.

8. Use the solvent to clean the bore with a cotton patch or the Bore Snake.

9. After cleaning the gun, lubricate it.

10. Grease the sliding parts of the handgun.

popular cleaning supplies

There are different oils and greases used during extreme weather (hot or cold) as well as in wet, humid conditions, so check with the gun manufacturer to see which product(s) will work best for your firearm.



Some military rifles are built so that cleaning supplies can be stowed in a special compartment in the stock.


We hear every once in a while about people shooting themselves while cleaning their firearms, sometimes with deadly consequences. It would seem impossible for these tragedies to occur if following standard gun safety rules, but sadly, people don’t always do that. 



The best policy is to assume the gun is loaded and check each and every time before you clean it, to make sure you don’t shoot yourself or somebody else.



*First photo – (disassembled Glock) – from Wikipedia

Other photos by Patti Phillips


Photo of Glock with Bore Snake taken at Freedom Firearms Training, in Carthage, NC. Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.

Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.

Steve Jones
















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Kerrian’s Notebook, p. 102 “Do you need firearms training?”





Do you own a handgun? 


Do you know when to use it?


Can you take care of it?


Do you know how to use it?


These are not dumb questions to ask, because not everyone is knowledgeable about firearms, not even the ones they have in their own houses. Sometimes people buy handguns in reaction to a nearby shooting, but don’t take the time to learn about the firearm they have plopped down good money for.  Sometimes one spouse has purchased the gun(s) and the other spouse is not familiar or comfortable with handling it (them).


Luckily, there are licensed, NRA sanctioned, firearms training facilities all across the country where a person can attend classes that teach the laws governing the use of firearms. The classes also cover safety, as well as proficiency, in handling a firearm.


In the USA, you must have a permit to legally purchase a handgun. You fill out a form at the gun shop, and in about a week, after the background check has been completed, you can actually purchase the gun.


If you need to obtain a concealed/carry permit, you must attend a class that includes:


information about the gun laws,

definitions of what is meant by lethal force,

safe care and handling of a handgun,

a written test,

a handgun proficiency test.


If you meet all the requirements, then a stricter background check is run and in 4-6 weeks, the permit may be issued.


You need to know the laws in your state for owning and operating your firearm.


Not all states have the same laws about gun ownership. Some states allow open carrying, some allow concealed carrying, some allow properly licensed handgun owners to cross state lines with their guns, some don’t. Violation of these laws in any of these situations can land you in jail. And, by the way, ignorance of the law is not an excuse to avoid jail time or hefty fines.


There are legal definitions about when (and where) you are allowed to use your gun in self-defense and they vary somewhat from state to state. Ya can’t just go shootin’ your gun off in public. That will land you in jail everywhere.


Even if you have the proper credentials and concealed/carry permits, there are some places where you absolutely cannot take your gun. After a deadly shooting in a health care facility in North Carolina a few years ago, the laws were changed to bar handguns for everyone visiting private health care facilities except for law enforcement personnel. Some restaurants allow handguns, but if liquor is served, the law is different. A training class will point out the most recent changes in the law for a dozen different public settings – parks, bars, parades, etc.


How does one decide when to use a gun for self-defense?


Ask yourself whether firing it is an appropriate use of lethal force, because make no mistake, if the bullet leaves the gun, it can kill somebody.


Think before firing. There are legal ramifications to your decisions. The law requires certain legal hurdles to be met before a shooting can be justified.


Is it reasonable to shoot this person?

If the person is your size or larger, as fit as you or stronger, is threatening you with serious bodily harm, you are sure that walking away will not stop the threat, and if the police won’t get there in time, then you may be within your rights to shoot – but not always.

Is it proportional to what has already happened?

If talking the situation over has not worked, or if the other person has escalated the violence in the situation, if you are being robbed, if you are being beaten, or if you are being threatened with a gun, then you may be within your rights to shoot – but not always.

Is it necessary to shoot this person?

The danger for harm to yourself must be immediate – that is, if you don’t take a shot right then, it will be too late. You may be within your rights to shoot – but not always.

You do not have the right to shoot someone else “just ‘cause they had it coming.”


In every court case where a shooting is involved, when the phrase ‘reasonable force’ is used, the prosecution and the defense alike are looking quite seriously at what led up to the actual shooting – who did what to whom and why.


There is more to owning a gun than buying it and sticking it in a drawer.


Future posts will deal with loading your handgun safely without shooting yourself in the face or foot, proper storage of your firearm, as well as caring for your firearm so that it will fire properly when it’s needed.


*photos taken by Patti Phillips at Freedom Firearms Training, in Carthage, NC.


Steve Jones



Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.

Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.








Please visit www.FreedomFirearmsTrainingnc.com for information about the training available at this well-run facility.


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