Dr. Strange Gun or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Glock

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The strangest thing happened the other day. I pulled the trigger on my XDm and nothing happened. Tap, rack, bang. Yes, but—the nine mil had never failed to fire. Never. Not once in over 7000 rounds (easy). The rest of the bullets in the mag went downrange like scalded cats. So I stopped and thought about it. And then it hit me: I’d short-stroked the gun. I hadn’t released the XDm’s trigger far enough towards the front of the firearm to reset the go-pedal. But I had released it far enough to think I was ready to shoot again. Uh-oh . . .

I found the failure deeply unsettling. Short-stroking a gun may not be the worst mistake I could make during a defensive gun use (DGU), but it certainly ranks in the top twenty on the list of “Things You Don’t Want to Happen When You’re Trying to Shoot Someone.”

Worse, I’d never short-stroked a handgun before. I couldn’t figure out why I’d done it. A random screw-up from a guy who writes about guns for a living, who spends more on ammo than the average American surrenders at their local grocery store on a weekly basis? Not good.

So I communed with the rabbi and conducted a few experiments at the range with the XDm and my carry piece (a Glock 30SF). I eventually sussed-out the cause of my failure to launch and discovered a pitfall all self-defense shooters should strive to avoid. Start with this . . .

You know the expression “Beware of the man with one gun”? According to this old adage, it’s better to get really, really good with a single weapon than to be so-so with a bunch of different guns. If you become extremely proficient with a single firearm you’ll run the gun without thinking and gain a strategic advantage (e.g., you’ll know your effective range).

Yes and no. Yes, there’s a direct correlation between firearms familiarity and the shooter’s lethality in combat—model-specific practice may not make perfect but it can get you close enough for government work. Unfortunately, you lose the ability to use other weapon systems effectively. In other words, I short-stroked the XD because I’d “over-practiced” with my Glock 30SF.

Check out the video at the top of this post. [Excuse my finger placement; I modified my grip to get my thumbs out of the way for the camera. As for the full trigger travel videos below, I know your finger should never lose contact with the trigger until you’re done shooting.]

I’m shooting the Glock the way it’s supposed to be shot (IMHO). You pull the trigger, let it return to the reset point, and shoot again from there. Thanks to the Glock’s extremely loud and tactile reset point, you know exactly when the trigger’s going to break. You can “ride” the reset.

This Glocktastic reset point enables extremely rapid and accurate follow-up shots. Stupidly so; with just a flash sight picture, I can double tap a brace of .45s through the same hole at five yards. At ten yards, I can empty a [Massachusetts-compliant] 10-round magazine in under three seconds with combat accuracy. With enough time, I can hit a sheet of paper with all eleven shots at 25 yards.

Of course, that’s down to both the gun and the fact that I’ve had a LOT of practice. So much practice that I trained myself to let the trigger out so much after firing and no more—regardless of the gun in my hand. I’d programmed my trigger finger (i.e. subconscious mind) to expect Glock “perfection.” Hence I short-stroked the XDm.

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To illustrate that point, check out the difference between riding the reset on an XDm [above] and letting the trigger out to its full length of travel [below].

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The long and short of it: there’s isn’t much difference. The XDm’s trigger reset point is so close to the end of the trigger travel, and the reset’s so demure (especially compared to the Glock), that there’s no point trying to feel for it. You just pull the XDm’s trigger, let it return all the way and pull again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The Glock’s trigger isn’t inherently better than the XDm’s. The XDm’s trigger’s transition from “off” to “on” is wonderfully positive, smooth and easy. You sweep through the XDm’s break rather than punch through it, as you do with the Glock. It’s the difference between the accelerator pedal in a V12 Mercedes and a Porsche Turbo.

OK, so, let’s assume that I want to be able to shoot any gun well—not just my Glock. I have two options. First, I could change the way I shoot the Glock. I could retrain my brain according to a general rule that I will allow the trigger to move through its full range of motion between shots. That way, I won’t short-stroke any gun—at least in theory. Here’s the video of that action:

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Problem. I don’t like letting the Glock trigger go. I’m sacrificing a smidgeon of speed and accuracy for what? The remote possibility that I may have to pick up a bad guy or cop’s gun and use it? Again, I LIKE riding the reset on the Glock. As far as I’m concerned, the Austrian gun’s click-bang-click-bang trigger reset sets the Glock apart from the competition. So . . . what to do?

Eddy at American Firearms School set me straight. “Don’t focus so much on your Glock,” he advised. “Shoot lots of guns. Get so you know how to work all kinds of different triggers.” Roger that. When I was shooting a wide variety of guns with all kinds of triggers—double-action only, double-action to single action, single-action only—I adapted my trigger finger to suit.

So I can still ride the reset on my EDC (Every Day Carry) Glock—as long as I train my brain to recognize the type of gun I’m shooting and react accordingly. Revolver? Long smooth pull. XDm? Same deal. Glock? BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG.

More generally, I learned that the same rule that applies to female deer applies to handgun training: no rut, no problem. Or you could say beware of the man with one gun. Don’t let it be you.

comments

  1. avatar Eric says:

    Though provoking article. I love the Glock trigger personally. I think it is possibly the dominant thing among many other qualities that makes the Glock platform my personal and recommended carry piece.

  2. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    I’m not going to say ‘I told you so’ because I never, in fact, told you. But I do vividly recall your critique of my Glock sheutzenfest at Media Day two weeks ago. You urged me to ride the reset, which I only reluctantly did on the second or third magazine.

    Why? Because my carry gun has a long-reset trigger, which I’ll short-stroke if my muscle memory gets tuned for a short-reset trigger like a Glock’s. I habitually let the trigger reset all the way, because many of my guns require it.

    Your point is well made: don’t train so particularly for a single type of gun that you lose the ability to pick up and fire other guns effectively.

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    Aside from practicing with their own personal autoloader, those who want to become better pistol shooters should also practice with revolvers. Anyone who can master the long travel, heavy revolver trigger will be a better shooter with their EDC.

    Baseball hitters take practice swings with weighted bats because it makes their unweighted bat seem lighter. It speeds up their swing and improves their bat control. Whether it does so in fact or the effect is psychological doesn’t really matter, because the process works. The heavy revolver trigger will do the same for pistols.

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      +1

    2. avatar BT says:

      Last time I went to the range, I figured I would try shooting a S&W Airweight just for the fun of it. After 100 rounds through it, my trigger finger was sore. No joke, sore. But when I started shooting my 4006 after, the trigger felt light, crisp and damned if the recoil wasn’t more controllable as well.

      Shooting a revolver every so often will make you a better shooter. Guaranteed.

  4. avatar Aharon says:

    “train my brain to recognize the type of gun I’m shooting and react accordingly”

    That can often require lots of training and practice time. Then there is the pressure of the stress factor kicking in possibly slowing down, confusing, and even freezing up a person needing to use their gun in a DGU situation when micro-seconds count. I think it’s important for a person’s mind and emotional response to be ingrained deep in muscle memory. For me, I think that learning to master more gun diversity is going to make me less effective. I appreciate this post. Less can be more.

    While I do not like a revolver’s heavier and longer trigger pull, and less ammo capacity than a semi-auto, I prefer the revolver for its simplicity of use. My SP101 is my go to gun for home defense. I am now going to consider the LCR for concealed carry rather than my compact SR9C semi-auto. I appreciate this post.

    Last week, I spoke with a martial artist who does not own guns. He told me how a fast and fit attacker can cover 21′ in 1.5 seconds. Ok, let’s say it takes 2.5 to 3 seconds to cover that distance. I wonder how many and how effectively concealed carry gun owners can respond to such an unexpected attack if they had not seen it possibly happening from a greater distance and a longer time frame. I suspect that many cc owners over-estimate their safety and under-estimate a skilled street-smart attacker.

    1. avatar BLX says:

      If the train comes down the track, get off it. Don’t just stand there like Superman. The faster and more committed the train, the less you have to move, and the less it takes to re-route the train into the canyon to self-destruct. If you just stand there and go bang-bang, even within the 1.5s, chances are that you will turn into a shiskebob even thoughgh the skewerer falls down dead after doing you in. Basic Aikido skill. Get off the track, then throw the switch.

  5. avatar Ropingdown says:

    Interesting point of view. There’s a similar problem for people who shift between short action (308) and long action (30’06) bolt rifles…short racking. It got two bear hunters killed last year in Alaska. Competition pistol shooters are extremely sensitive to the reset (and take-up and overtravel) of their 1911’s. If you actually expect to ride the reset in a gun fight with two attackers, good luck. If you don’t, who cares about it? Agree with Ralph about revolver shooting, even though, in contrast, I’m not a snubbies-for-carry guy. If you want to experience the far side of reset, try an AR fitted with a Geissele 3G trigger group. 1/8 inch travel, no take-up, no over travel, and 1/16 inch reset. You almost can’t NOT shoot a double-tap. If you have an Enzo in your garage, would you really bother to master the shift-points of lesser cars as finely? I wouldn’t, unless I was going to race it, at which point I’d stop driving the Enzo for a few weeks. Mastery of a carry gun, to my thinking, is too important to slut around with, changing to other actions and triggers, except for review purposes. I carry a G36. The 30 and 21 have identical actions and triggers, and I occasionally carry them. My 1911’s are safe queens for target use.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      Well said.

      I short stroked my .30-06 after a lot of time with my bolt .308, and ditto for short stroking a 3.5″ chamber 870 Express mag after lots of rounds with a 3″ chamber 870 Police mag.

      I think its a good thing for experienced shooters to eat a piece of humble pie every now and then – especially since you may encounter a problem in a tactical situation.

      1. avatar Ropingdown says:

        Agree. I had my humbling moment when I realized a few years ago that I was carrying “this and that” but that my speed to first accurate pair had gone down with all of them, even my ‘base’ gun. I’m human. I’m mortal. I’m also not 18. If I’m taking my .375 H&H out I practice raising and racking it. A lot. “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” laugh.

  6. avatar Jason says:

    I solve this problem by not buying guns with poor triggers. There are enough guns out there with positive and tactile trigger resets, why bother with the others? The 1911 disconnecter clicks, and it’s now a century old. Glock’s been building good triggers for three decades. My old S&W 3rd gens get it right. Enough people now understand and appreciate the importance of a good reset that SIG is touting its SRT, and Walther is listing the short reset of the PPQ right up front in its marketing materials.

    There’s simply no excuse for modern guns that don’t get it right, or require modification out of the box to get it right. (I’m looking at you, XD and M&P. And SIG, I know you can do better than the disgraceful P250.) If you buy these guns, you’re simply rewarding bad behavior on the part of the manufacturers. If you then proceed to adopt a sub-optimal technique to compensate, you’re unnecessarily handicapping yourself.

    You get more of what you pay for. Unfortunately, a lot of shooters these days seem content to pay for poor triggers, both in money, and in training time and mindspace.

  7. avatar Jason says:

    PS. What’s with that gap between the top of your hand and the bottom of the beavertail? Thumbs down? Teacupping? What is this? Cagney & Lacey? Is shooting so boring that you need to give the gun more leverage to keep it interesting? Get up on it! Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If you’re just using it to burn in bad habits, all that money on ammo and gas to get to the range is worse than wasted, it’s actively doing you harm.

    1. avatar Moonshine7102 says:

      “Excuse my finger placement; I modified my grip to get my thumbs out of the way for the camera”
      —–
      Read first, then comment.

      1. avatar Jason says:

        A proper grip with the right hand would in no way obscure the trigger. In fact, by getting up higher on the gun, it would leave room for the left hand to get on the gun, and still not get in the way. That’s why it’s a proper grip: it gives you more contact with and leverage on the gun to keep recoil under control.

        (Also, that was apparently an edit made after my comment.)

        1. avatar Robert Farago says:

          The qualifier about changing my grip was in the original post. But I can understand how one might skip over it in the excitement to get to the denouement. Anyway, to get the appropriate video, I was shooting the gun on an angle at about shoulder height aiming slightly left. All a bit of a bother really, requiring multiple takes and a whole bunch o’ ammo. Bottom line: there’s a lot I don’t know about firearms but I do know how to hold a gun.

        2. avatar Jason says:

          So do it. Even a one-handed high-thumb grip could give you a better view, and better control. There is no reason not to have your strong hand wedged up into the backstrap. If it were a HiPower or a 1911A1, and you were afraid of a little hammer bite, I might make an allowance. But on a striker fired semi? If you’re not automatically taking a positive firing grip each and every time you grab a gun, after that much experience, you have taken a wrong turn somewhere in your training.

        3. avatar ddbaxte says:

          +1 on Jason’s comments. I don’t think Mr. Farago has his fundamentals down properly, and I was convinced of it when he suggested that anyone who experiences slide bite “can’t be bothered to re-learn proper basics.”

          Robert, this is a proper handgun grip: http://www.handgunsmag.com/files/2010/09/hgcombatg_100206d.jpg
          A high, thumbs forward grip very susceptible of giving the operator slide bite. Many, many shooters at a higher level than you or I will ever be experience it, and if Mr. Farago believes folks like Brian Enos (pictured) are doing it wrong and “can’t be bothered to re-learn the basics”, he certainly wasn’t exaggerating when he said “There’s a lot I don’t know about firearms…”

        4. avatar CarlosT says:

          Seriously folks, he did it this way this one session to get video that clearly showed the trigger action. He went out of his way to note the incorrect grip in the post and explain it’s use. It wasn’t unsafe and he’s already said he knows how to hold the pistol the correct way and has said he does so at all other times. Sheesh.

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      He’s holding that way so his thumbs don’t obscure the finger travel portion.

      It’s an intentional mistake similar to the “Hollywood Hold” used in movies where actors are trained (or screw up on their own) to hold guns away from their face, so the camera can pick up their grim and determined expression (before they win the fight against impossible odds). Works great in the movies, since your Glock Hollywood mag holds 87 rounds and the bad guys always miss…

  8. avatar ryan says:

    I really like the Croatian flag decal on that XDm.

    (sorry for trolling but I couldn’t resist.)

  9. avatar Rob J says:

    I had the same problem trying to switch from my duty Beretta to a Para-Ordnance or Sig. I was so used to the Beretta trigger reset that I immediately started my malfunction drills (tap, rack and bang) with the other two guns after I short stroked the triggers. If you spend a decade carrying the same type of weapon and becoming very good with it, you tend to shoot the same way.
    I now carry Glocks. If you dont like the way the Glock trigger feels you can change it with a Glock manufactured spring. By adding a spring and changing the connector, you can get the feel of a revolver. This is basically a lighter version of the Glock New York trigger.

  10. avatar DaveY says:

    Farago employs the Tex Grebner defense to rationalize “another gun”.

    Trigger control is binary. You’re either doing it right, or you’re not.
    Another gun might mask the problem if the trigger is something you like or works for your hands better, but it won’t cure poorly executed trigger control. Which your guy at AFS seems to get.

  11. avatar ST says:

    The core of the problem stands like this;there are only so many hours in the day,and thus only so much time can be dedicated to learn one weapons system.

    Is a pistol a weapons system?No one will confuse a Glock with an M1 Tank,but each pistol type is complicated enough that it should be considered a unique instrument.In simpler language,there is no such thing as an ‘interchangable firearm”.For an example of what I mean,take a Beretta 92 and a Taurus PT92.In terms of firing line behavior each pistol should handle the same as the other,but my real world experience owning both weapons is that ,close as they are,there are enough subtle differences with the Taurus and Beretta in the trigger and mag release design to cause me problems switching between firearms in a high stress situation.A mag change drill that works for the Beretta will cause a mag to catch the well on the Taurus.It should be mentioned that both pistols were made the same year.

    My motto;pick one gun and learn it well.I shoot the other ones for fun,but there are sound reasons for the saying of “beware the man with one gun”.

  12. avatar CarlosT says:

    I got taught from the “trigger prep” school of thought, in which you don’t look for that reset, but instead prep the trigger for each shot and instead work of speeding up the “prep, pause, fire” cycle, prepping the trigger during the recoil.

    1. avatar NR says:

      Sounds like staging the trigger. Is that a good idea? On the DA stroke on my SIG, I usually start the stroke fast and then slow down as I approach the break. I keep the trigger moving and I keep the sights on target the whole time- no stopping to reacquire a sight picture before I shoot.

      Edit: I know, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Maybe a question of the day: does anyone think it’s good idea to stage the trigger?

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        It’s not really staging as the Glock’s trigger breaks so cleanly and authoritatively, and you only do it after the first shot.

      2. avatar CarlosT says:

        I had to look up what staging the trigger is. No, it’s not that, as you’re maintaining the same sight picture throughout. What you’re doing is quickly taking up what slack there may be in the trigger, up to the break, then firing. While each trigger is different and therefore you should spend the majority of your time on your carry gun, it’s the same concept on each gun and the same mechanics from the first to the last shot.

      3. avatar Ralph says:

        I think its a good idea to safely practice staging the trigger (with the gun on target the whole time). In just a couple of repetitions, you’ll know exactly where the sear trips, and you’ll quickly identify any unwanted overtravel. Those issues can get lost in a normal trigger stroke.

        1. avatar NR says:

          But do you shoot that way? I was taught to stroke a DA trigger by applying pressure at a slow and *constant* rate until it breaks. But I find I can get my first shot off much faster and without losing accuracy if I start fast and then slow down, so I’ve switched to that.

        2. avatar Ralph says:

          But do you shoot that way?

          I’ll stage the trigger when I’m checking out a new gun, especially when I’m testing one for TTAG. It helps me get into the gun’s “head.”

  13. avatar KR says:

    Bill Rogers teaches a “flip and press” technique where you let the trigger out past the reset point and immediately take up the slack to get back to the reset position. I learned the traditional “let the trigger out to the reset point and no farther” approach, and I think that approach is a good way to learn the feel of having all the slack out, but “flip and press” is just as fast and significantly reduces the likelihood that you’ll get “trigger freeze” (failure to reset the trigger all the way). Give it a try.
    P.S. for those unfamiliar with Rogers – his is one of the oldest handgun schools, with a graduation test that requires Grand Master level shooting to score “Advanced”. Rogers and Rob Leatham are the only shooters to ever shoot a perfect score on the test.

  14. Where did you get that XD with the flag on it? Do they make one with a Croatian flag on it?

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