Monthly Archives: May 2013

I Asked Julie Golob Five Questions About Shooting

Julie Goloski-Golob is a kind and gentle mother of two. She posts photos of delicious homemade food on Facebook and shoots for Smith & Wesson in competition, having won three Bianchi Cups (and a lot of other stuff) along the way. She is one of America’s finest shooters, male or female.

I have two photos of Julie Goloski-Golob. This one of her (right) with some foreign-looking girl (left), and one of her laughing after comparing belly sizes with Rob Leatham (Mrs. Goloski-Golob was in her third trimester of pregnancy). This photograph was more flattering. Plus, I’d rather not upset two world-class shooters at the same time.

In one of the finest examples of how bad my memory is, I started talking to her about a year ago regarding her book SHOOT. I read the book when it came out and found it to be an easily accessible introduction to firearms and the shooting sports. I wanted her opinion on a number of topics, so I sent her a list of five questions relating to shooting. She responded to my questions an embarrassingly long time ago, and I forgot to post her answers. One of my questions wasn’t worded very well (it had to do with competition vs. military trainers), leaving us with only four; without further ado, here are my questions and her answers.

Andrew: Do you think competition shooting is relevant to those who have no interest in actually participating in competition shooting? Why or why not?

Julie: I think competition shooting is definitely relevant to those who choose not to compete the same way Olympic swimmers and chefs are relevant to those who swim or cook recreationally. Whether it’s Michael Phelps or Julia Child, those who practice and excel at their craft have much to offer enthusiasts. The same can be said for those who work diligently to improve their shooting skills in competition.

Competition shooters are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to speed and precision. These shooters are doing things with firearms that would be considered an incredible run twenty years ago. An example would be the El Presidente drill (http://www.uspsa.org/classifiers/99-11.pdf). Back in the day a 10 second El Prez run was considered top notch. Today, using a Production Division gun (a striker fired or double action gun with few modifications from stock) and scoring all A-zone hits, a 10 second run today would be a C-class level score, a national percentage between 55 and 60%.

Competition shooters also have a lot to offer when it comes to intense durability testing as well as research and development. Let’s face it. Shooters tend to send a lot of rounds down range! If something doesn’t work well, or doesn’t hold up to the rigors of an intense day of training, a competition shooter is likely to discover it. Look at red dot optics as an example. Use of these little wonders were introduced into shooting sports and at first were plagued with reliability issues. Competitors started out with heavy, bulky dots, some as large as soda cans. Putting them through the paces in matches, shooters proved that this sort of sighting system is faster than using traditional iron sights.

Andrew: If you could identify one element of pistol shooting as being more important than any other, what would it be?

Julie: Taking speed out of it and just assessing pure shooting down to the fundamental level, the ability to shoot an accurate shot with a pistol comes down to being able put the sights on the target and keep them there until the shot breaks. You can have a horrendous grip and be standing on one foot and still shoot an accurate shot, but if the sights aren’t on target when the gun goes bang it won’t happen. So the most important aspect of being able to score a good hit comes down to the ability to engage the trigger in such a way that the sight picture stays on target until the bullet exits the barrel.

Andrew: Do competition shooters mostly use the same styles and techniques, with victory in competition coming down to an individual’s skill (or luck), or are there an array of techniques/styles/stances/etc which some shooters find give them an edge?

Julie: At first glance, to some it may appear that competition shooters use all the same styles and techniques. Most competition shooters in practical shooting sports are using the isosceles stance and the basic skills of draws, reloads, one-handed shooting, etc. all look very similar when you break things down to that level. There are subtle differences in style though based on athleticism, strength and body type.

Travis Tomasie and Dave Sevigny, with their athletic backgrounds in soccer and hockey, are especially good when it comes to footwork. Todd Jarrett and Max Michel have incredible twitch reflexes and their hand-eye speed make them super fast on draws and reloads. Bob Vogel and JJ Racaza are strong and flexible and that allows them to be both aggressive and controlled. Then there are the legends like Rob Leatham and Jerry Miculek who have worked so hard for so long, they can draw on hundreds of thousands of rounds of experience. Unlike other sports where the majority of successful players are close to the same height and build, shooters represent a much wider spectrum. The best shooters play to their strengths and work on their weaknesses in order to win.

Andrew: Do you call it a “slide stop” or a “slide release” – and if someone calls it a “slide release,” are they in the wrong?

Julie: I never really thought of it! I think I probably use both terms depending on what I am describing. I use “slide release” when I am talking about slide-lock reloads. I refer to the part as a slide stop when I talk about the slide locking to the rear. I don’t view one as being correct or incorrect. To me, both terms are interchangeable.

Thank you, ma’am, for your patience and your well-thought-out answers.

Two Funny Firearm-Related Observations

I have a strange knack for observing and remembering odd details. This is offset by my inability to recall vitally important dates, names, and information. Anyway, here are two things that made me chuckle recently.

First, the guy who wrote this, George Hill, now works for an AR15 manufacturer.

Next, in this video, Rob Pincus tells us that free floating a barrel will deliver greater accuracy. He shows two targets with the label “Normal vs. Free Floated Barrels,” but the bottom of the left target is labeled “M16A4″ and the right target labeled “SDMR.” He does not describe the differences between the two rifles. Most notably, the SDMR has a heavy, fluted, stainless steel Douglas barrel, while the M16A4 has a relatively thin chrome lined, chrome moly vanadium barrel not meant for match or extreme accuracy purposes. If he wanted to demonstrate the benefits of free floating an AR barrel, this was not the way to do it.

Range Time With The Desert Tactical Arms HTI in .50 BMG

While at the Sniper Country facility in far northern Utah, I had the chance to shoot – but more importantly, shoot photos of – the Desert Tactical Arms Hard Target Interdiction rifle, or DTA HTI. It’s a bullpup precision rifle which can be swapped between four cartridges – .50 BMG, .416 Barrett, .408 CheyTac, and .375 CheyTac. We were shooting .50 BMG. What follows is not a review, but a brief description of the rifle, along with some observations and photos. If you’d like to see high speed video, click here.

Can you tell that we were shooting a powerful rifle? 

The HTI has a sizeable muzzle brake, but with a relatively light weight of 20lbs, recoil was pretty stout. It wasn’t incredibly painful, but it was sharp enough to encourage making every shot count and avoiding unnecessary shooting.

Feel free to make comments about my shooting face.

To that end, it appeared to be phenomenally accurate. I only shot it to 1000 yards, but as an example of how luck and a good rifle came together on our second day of shooting, my very first shot on an E-type silhouette at 1000 was a center mass hit. The more skilled shooters, such as my friend Jim from Deliberate Dynamics who was a sniper in 1st Force, were making back to back to back hits at 1000 and beyond.

In case you weren’t entirely clear on this point, the muzzle blast was ferocious.

I mentioned earlier that it was a bullpup design, and that definitely reduced the overall length of the firearm (45 3/8″ for the BMG, compared to 57″ OAL for a McMillan TAC-50 with the same 29″ length barrel). However, it also brought the bolt much closer to the shooter’s shoulder, and that made single loading cartridges, as I was doing, a good bit more awkward than it would have been otherwise. This is a tradeoff that the end user would have to decide upon – is that reduced length worth the slight reduction in ease of manipulation?

Even with the bullpup design, this is a big rifle. It’s seen here in a hard case with a spare .375 CheyTac barrel and bolt. The chassis sells for approximately $5000, with the barrel, bolt, and magazine costing approximately $2500. So what you see here is about $10000… not counting the optic and mount.

If you thought .50 BMG was expensive at $3-4 a round, try .375 CheyTac at $7 per.

Normally, the shooter would load 5 rounds in the mag and go to town. I wasn’t doing that because I always intended to fire “just one more round.”

Removing the bolt was pretty easy, and I figured it out without any help, which should earn the rifle a gold star. The buttpad rotates out of the way, and the bolt is removed to the rear.

The bolt of any .50 BMG is hilariously large to those used to smaller firearms. This one was pretty simple in design, but it worked just fine.

While everyone else was cleaning, I took photos. Well, when I was done taking photos, I did my part – kinda – and wiped the HTI down. It was pretty dirty after two full days in the rain and dirt, but we didn’t have any functional problems with it.

The safety and trigger weren’t exactly as I would have envisioned them. The safety was a bit stiff and it wasn’t perfectly easy to tell if it was on or off safe from touch only, especially while wearing gloves. The trigger had basically no takeup and was incredibly light. It is adjustable, and it was probably adjusted to the light side when we were firing it.

You could add small rail sections to the forend, although I think I would rather have seen sturdier attachment hardware for the rail sections given the weight of the rifle and its recoil/blast. Nothing broke, mind you.

The brake was sizable, and did an admirable job of keeping my shoulder intact. It also made very impressive blast patterns.

I’d like to thank Desert Tactical Arms for the use of their facility, rifle, and ammunition. All in all, it was a pretty fun – and impressive – time.

I’ve had worse days.

That AR Charity Auction

I forgot to provide an update on the charity auction for Rogue Corps. The rifle ended up selling for $2050 to a man local to me, so we met at the range and shot it a little. He’s a good guy and he really seemed to like the rifle. I gave him his choice of upper receivers and muzzle devices, and he went with a flat top, folding rear BUIS and a Smith Vortex flash hider.

Rogue Corps received the funds back in February. Thanks to all who helped out by spreading the word about the auction.

Pretty Much The Worst AR-15s I've Ever Seen

Today I was wandering around the NRA show and saw a few AR manufacturers I wasn’t terribly familiar with, so I decided to check out their wares.

A selection of Battle Rifle Company firearms.

At “Battle Rifle Company,” I was invited to dry fire their triggers.

So I did.

After four distinct and palpable points of creep, the trigger broke at a weight of somewhere upwards of six to seven pounds (by my estimate). I tried another rifle, and it did the exact same thing. Hey, at least they’re consistent, right? I told the BRC employee who was showing me the rifle that I didn’t think it was very good, and he responded that I was the first person to say so.

Looking at another rifle, I saw that the railed handguard – to which the front sight was attached – was noticeably crooked. I pointed this out, and the rep said “Well, it might have gotten dropped.”

I checked out a third rifle, a .308, and saw that it had a midlength position gas block and a carbine length rail, exposing approximately two inches of the gas tube. I asked why, and the employee said it had been put together like that by accident, but once it was together, they liked the way it looked, so they left it that way. Another employee saw me looking at it and asked why I thought it was a problem. I said, “It might get damaged,” and he said, “Yes, that could happen,” with no followup.

They thought it looked good.

Sensing that I might be skeptical about the quality of their rifles, the first employee told me that they had given a rifle to a former Top Shot contestant, who had fired 4000 rounds through the rifle in a year, and that he had encountered no problems. As a point of reference, here is a small example of my experience with the platform.

He also said that another rifle had accidentally been dropped 50 feet from a helicopter and still managed to function, which was a testament to how tough their rifles were. When I inquired what made their rifles more durable than any other AR, they described how tight the fit was between the receivers and the railed handguards. This is an example of how some AR manufacturers intentionally confuse the attributes of the platform with the attributes of their particular product.

At this point, I had had quite enough, and decided to walk away.

To summarize my trade show observations:

- Their modified triggers were, in my opinion, of lower quality than a standard AR15 trigger
- Their firearms were improperly assembled, both from workmanship and design standpoints
- They have no concept of proper quality control or testing and evaluation procedures

Not confidence inspiring. So I checked them out on the internet…

On their website, they describe their products:

We make the finest, most functional battle worthy tactical rifles and work hard every day to make sure our quality is never compromised. We also bring added value to every rifle we field, from M4 to M16, because we know – you need reliability on a budget. Whether you are patrolling the streets of a big American city, or moving house to house in a busy foreign village, you can count on the reliability, functionality and performance that a BATTLE RIFLE gives you, wherever you might have to end up fighting the good fight.

…yeah, okay.

And how their rifles are put together:

Each Battle Rifle is put together by a Master Armorer with years of experience. Proprietary components are fabricated to tight tolerances so that the fit is cleaner and enhances functionality. Upper and lower Receivers are matched and fitted to maintain tight fit. All of the internal components are buffed, filed, polished or smoothed to make them fit perfectly.

Mmmmhmmmm.

There’s also a list of what makes their rifles special. Among things like “Butstock Pad” and “Rail Covers” are gems like “Polished Feed Ramps,” “Polished Chamber,” and “Resized Gas Port.”

Given their inability to get very basic things like railed handguard alignment – and even proper handguard length! – correct, I shudder to think of how poorly done their polishing and resizing might be. Not to mention the fact that resizing gas ports is generally something to avoid without a specific reason, and “polished feed ramps” end up wearing prematurely.

I cannot think of a single reason why anyone should consider purchasing a product from this company.

Fire Superiority Is The Best Medicine On The Battlefield

I was recently sent a photo of some civilian carbine/vehicle training. Some of the things I saw in the photo bothered me, and I’d like to discuss why.

First, I should probably cover my background, as in the past not doing so has led some people to assume that I did not have relevant experience, although the “about me” link above has the relevant information.

I was an FMF Corpsman (8404) and deployed to Anbar province for essentially all of 2006. I have treated injuries ranging from those caused by knives to those caused by multiple artillery shells, and many things in between. I have taken part in mounted as well as dismounted patrols in varying terrain (rural, suburban, urban) and participated in training and security activities at small fixed bases far from higher levels of care or support. During this and other times, I or the units to which I was attached were the target of direct and indirect fire, IEDs, complex ambush, and near ambush attacks. I also co-wrote an SOP (standard operating procedure) on the treatment of injuries sustained during convoy operations. Okay, moving on…

What many people do not understand about “tactical” medicine, or care under fire, is that time can be as valuable as treatment. “Hey!” you say. “In the photograph above, time seems to be taken seriously! That one guy is seriously injured and needs to be treated right away, so the the other guy is treating him while the woman covers them.”

Well, that’s exactly the problem. In a combat situation – also known as anywhere bullets are flying in two directions – the immediate treatment of casualties needs to take a back seat to the suppression/elimination of the enemy. That’s because fire superiority wins fights, and winning the fight allows you to safely evacuate your casualties to a higher level of care. And in this example, we have three people being taught by at least one instructor that it’s okay for two out of three shooters to be voluntarily taken out of the fight while the third shoots at what appears to be multiple attackers. The attackers are also apparently from the Revolutionary War, because they’ve dressed and covered themselves in a neat row from which to attack.

Having one shooter maintain a static position and empty multiple magazines at the bad guys – while shooting from a position and location that opens a large portion of her body open to injury – is a good way to lose a fight. Once that lone defender goes down (and with multiple opponents, that’s a matter of probability), the remaining attackers are free to move around both sides of the vehicle and kill the first responder as well as finish off the injured guy, neither of which is maintaining control of their carbines.

Not only could the man providing aid be working with the woman to shoot the bad guys, but the injured guy (who probably got shot because he was wearing his drop leg holster too low), if conscious, could also be shooting while he either waits for or receives treatment. It really doesn’t matter what his injury is. At the very least, the uninjured man could put direct pressure on the wound while providing covering fire or looking at the front of the vehicle for bad guys trying to sneak around the front, which the woman cannot see or defend against from her position.

This would double or triple the volume of fire directed at the bad guys, and also provide additional angles from which bullets could be placed on target. The net result would be a more rapid movement of that casualty from the battlefield to a higher level of care. This point seems to be missed by the instructors, although it is somewhat possible that my interpretation of the photo is entirely wrong. I would like to know things such as “why didn’t they drive away?” and “how far away are the bad guys?” but those questions are not readily answered by the photo.

My job as a Corpsman was “to keep as many men at as many guns for as many days as possible,” because that serves multiple purposes. It helps achieves the mission, which is, after all, why the military unit is there in the first place. It limits the amount of time additional forces may be required to take part, thus keeping them from being exposed to enemy fire. And it allows for the most effective and rapid evacuation of those casualties in immediate need of a higher level of care. Which is why I found the Field Medical Service School admonishment “fire superiority is the best medicine on the battlefield” to be eerily accurate.

“That’s why I carried the biggest gun I could find.”