How did you spend your weekend? I spent mine teaching! Here’s what I learned.

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Father’s Day weekend is usually a bad time to schedule a class, but we did it anyway. Back in the old days when I ran shooting matches at our club, Father’s Day weekend always had the lowest participation. Mother’s Day weekend, however, usually had a very good turnout. This was consistent over a period of six years; I’d have expected the opposite, and to this day have no rational explanation for the phenomenon.

The students who did show up provided me with one of the most inspiring times I’ve had as a teacher. Everyone experienced not just physical skill development, but came away with a solid conceptual understanding of defensive shooting. One student came into class with essentially no handgun shooting experience, a brand-new gun, and an admission of being intimidated by the prospect of attending this class. By mid-morning on the second day she was running the gun like she’d owned it for years and was making difficult shots at surprising speed. I’ll admit to grinning like a madman behind her back as she nailed one drill after another.

Don’t labor under the misconception that it was all me, though, because I couldn’t have done it without the help of my colleagues Joe Lentz and Vincent Perrizo, both certified Combat Focus instructors and great guys.

I wish I could say everything went perfectly, but I can’t. One of the guns, a brand-new Springfield XD-S in 9mm, experienced repeated jams using Federal American Eagle 147gn Truncated Cone (I think they call it “Flat Point”) ammo. I’ll post pics later, but the case mouths were getting pushed back in one spot, resulting in a slight accordion effect; when those rounds entered the chamber, they would jam solidly – enough that the shooter couldn’t clear them, and even I couldn’t clear them without going back to bench to have a solid surface against which to press the slide back and eject the round. Luckily Mr. Perrizo, who is much larger and stronger than I am, was able to clear it on the line – but even he struggled.

At first we thought that it had to be defective ammo, but after the first occurrence the shooter was thoroughly checking every round that went into the magazines. Still the problem repeated itself, for a total of eight or nine times over the two days. An inspection of the feedramp (which has a curious two-angle design) revealed some brass shards, which suggests that it might be the culprit. I’m unwilling to condemn it just over this, though, as it may in fact turn out to be an ammunition issue. I will wait judgement on the reliability issue until I hear of significantly more test data from other instructors.

There’s more about the XD-S, however. The shooter experienced a couple of grip-safety related issues where, even with a solid grasp, the safety wouldn’t disengage without a bit of “wiggling”. This may have been exacerbated by the shooter wearing gloves, a situation which was necessitated by the rough edges of the aggressive grip texturing causing both blisters and bleeding. It wasn’t just the gun’s owner, either – after shooting it myself I looked at my hand to see my own blood dripping on the ground. I was not amused.

The reliability problems, the grip safety failures, and the handling issues all conspire to cause me to label the XD-S as “not recommended” at this point. As we collectively get more experience with the gun I might change my opinion, but right now I think I’ll pass on this model.

Want to hear the worst part of all this? Multiple problems with the latest polymer pistol, while the sole 1911 in class — a well-worn, full-sized gun used by a fellow who thoroughly understands the platform — ran flawlessly. You can imagine my disappointment!

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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