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A Shooter's Education

2646 Views 12 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  SELFDEFENSE
This is a long post, so take your time. Since I bought my M9 last Fall, I've learned a lot about pistol shooting in general and the M9 in particular. First let me explain that I had a couple of rifles when I was a teenager back in the late '50's: a Mossberg 140B with 1/4 minute adjustable peep sights and a Lee Enfield Mark V. With the .22 I regularly got everything into the bullseye and indeed tried to get every shot into the same hole. This was at our local indoor range in the basement of a Recreation Centre on an airbase in Toronto.

I also fired an FN assault rifle at a 200-yard military rifle range and a 76mm tank gun on a tank range. So, I guess what I'm saying is that my contact with guns was more extensive than some teenagers, but it was a long time ago.

I bought the Steyr because I liked the looks, liked the 111 degree grip and respected its Austrian heritage. The one thing I didn't expect was that I'd have any trouble shooting it. The first time I banged away at an outdoor range the bullets flew everywhere but the target. I couldn't believe it. I went and got a bigger target to find out where they were. It didn't make any sense; they were everywhere.

Then I got some instruction from an expert and changed my grip. This was a lot better. I could now get all ten shots on an 18" x 22" target. Still scattered around like buckshot though. Another expert suggested I treat the two-stage trigger like a one-stage. Accordingly I would pull the trigger back half way to the stop, aim and squeeze it off. This was better but still not very good. I was beginning to think either I, or the gun, had a real problem. The expert shot off a nice three-inch group with the Steyr so that left me as the problem.

Next I tried a .22 target pistol. The result, a lovely group around 2 1/2 inches. So obviously my sight picture wasn't the issue.

My friend then brought in a selection of pistols and let me try them. First off was a genuine FN Browning High Power. This weighed 885gms, compared to the Steyr's 780gms, and yes the group was a little better. Then he had me try a genuine Colt M1911A1. He loaded five rounds and I sat down and rested my elbows on a bench. It was the first time in my life I'd ever fired a .45 and I was a bit nervous. Bang! Oh, that wasn't so bad, but no sign of the impact. I concentrated again and squeezed off another. This showed up five inches from the centre. OK, I can do this I thought. I carefully fired the last three. At first I thought I'd missed with these as well as the first one. Then I walked down range and had a closer look. The last three were grouped in the black of the bullseye 3/4 of an inch apart, measuring from the centres. Holy Toledo!

Today I had a long chat with my gun dealer. So why, I asked him, am I so much better with a 1080gm gun than my Steyr? The answer, to make a long story short, is that it's a single action with a smooth, light trigger pull and has 3/4's of a pound more weight to damp the trigger squeeze reflex befoe the shot goes off. And a longer barrel. Who knew?

So, yes, now I'm looking at something a little heftier, say a Para-Ordnance P14.45 (PX1445SR). I still like the look of the M9 and it's still proving very reliable, but I've got to do better hitting what I'm aiming at.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the main reason for the popularity of polymer-framed pistols is that people who carry them want to reduce the weight on their belt. They're willing to put up with the higher skill level needed in exchange for the additional comfort. The reason for the tough trigger pull (my friend the expert says it feels like 9lb to him, not 5lb) is that Police Administrators don't like their employees to shoot themselves accidentally. Gotta really squeeze that puppy, they figure. Which means more time at the range to compensate for the excessive force needed.

As for the criminal element, because they don't get to the range very oven (read never) they throw bullets all over the place. There was one recent exchange in Toronto when two gangs opened up on each other with two pistols. More than twenty shots fired. The only person hit was a bystander (who was killed). Everyone else walked away untouched. I'm sure the guns used were all plastic, which doesn't say much about their natural pointability. In fact, you could make the point that criminals either need to be sent to ranges or given better weapons. Just kidding.

So those are my thoughts on pistols so far. I think it's a great sport.
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The DA/SA vs. DAO Debate.

Most semi-automatic pistols available today are either the single action (hereinafter, SA), double action/single action (hereinafter, DA/SA), or double action only (hereinafter, DAO). There are positives and negatives to each type of action.

The DAO pistol keeps the hammer or striker in a passive or down position that prevents it from firing and only is cocked by the pull of a trigger. This DAO semi-automatic trigger set-up does result in a longer and heavier trigger pull, but it is regarded by those in "the know" as much safer. A DAO pistol is the only type that I feel comfortable carrying with a round chambered because I know that until I pull that trigger there is little chance that the striker will strike the rounds primer and cause a discharge.

So, I can walk around with my concealed pistol (licensed of course) with a round in the chamber ready to fire thanks to the DAO and if I run into a bad guy I don't have to cock back a hammer or pull back a slide to fire. I'm good to go!

The Steyr is a true DAO pistol in that the trigger continues to cock the striker throughout its stroke until it is released. However, Wilhelm Bubits (lead designer and mastermind behind the M-series) was able to provide the safety of the DOA while giving us a feel similiar to a single action trigger. The Steyr has a very short stroke action (1/8") with a very short reset and that overcomes the common problem found in most DAO pistols that have those long trigger pulls.

The DA/SA is a good choice in that the first pull of the trigger is going to act just like your DAO, but the subsequent pulls of the trigger are going to short stroke actions just like a single action. These pistols however are only safe for carrying if it has a decocker or manual safety (some have both).

I'll just mention the single action (hereinafter, SA) briefly. The SA is the way to go if you are in a markmanship event and this is where you'll find your classic 1911 pistols. Great action, but in my opinion not the best type of pistol to carry around unless you've got alot of training due to the safety issue. I wouldn't trust an SA pistol on my hip with a round chambered and cocked.

I think the DAO for concealed carry is the way to go and the Steyr M and M-A1 series are the best in the world as it offers you the safety of the DAO combined with that short stroke we all like about the SA. At the end of the day I want to be ready to fire without having to worry about accidental discharge and the Steyr delivers that.
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Maybe different for Home Defense

OK, I grant you that. A DAO that can be cocked and locked is great if getting a shot off in a hurry is issue number one and you have a carry permit. I have a different set of problems in my home defense scenario. Issue number one here in Canada is that I can't have a handgun loaded even in a locked gun safe. It has to be unloaded. So that means I'm going to have to insert the clip and cycle the action no matter what kind of action I might have. Secondly, getting off an accurate shot as a home invader breaks in my front door or crashes through an interior security gate is critical so I need a gun that has a fair amount of mass and inertia. In both cases, I'm going to know all the sightlines in advance, so positioning is less important. Finally, there's the stopping power question which is mostly a matter of bullet mass.

I'm not saying I don't like my M9, but it's obvious to me that it needs a higher skill level than a heavy gun with a SA trigger. Which is why you can find me out at the range every week. :)
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Very good summation

Hey, MoD - excellent summation of the relevant terminology/issues involved. Best I've seen, I'd say.

well fhill, looks like to meet your needs a fulsize 1911 might be a better answer then.
But in a apples to apples test try firing your M9 next to a G19 and you'll see why we all love them so much.
Thanks Seven...I try to contribute what I can when I can. :D
i was taught a little different. try placing your index finger in a straight line and use your middle to pull the trigger. the therory is that you have a natural ability to point at the target. it takes some getting used to but i find that with practice i have naturally began picking up pistols this way.
with a handgun that i don't know i still get a five inch pattern, that's the same size as a heart.
fhilliard said:
The reason for the tough trigger pull (my friend the expert says it feels like 9lb to him, not 5lb) is that Police Administrators don't like their employees to shoot themselves accidentally. .
Using a Lyman electronic trigger pull gauge, my M9, S9 and M357 all have an average trigger pull of a little over 7 pounds with variation of +/- 3/4 lbs. This is after I've polished them. I wonder how many actually have a spec 5 pound trigger out of the box. With the shorter sight radius, lighter weight and heavy trigger, definitely doesn't compare to a bulleye .22 or target grade 1911 for groups. For what it is, the Steyr is very good.
You know what Uncle_Walty you may have an older Steyr M-series. The first batch of Ms came off the line with an 8 lbs. trigger, but the factory did a recall and upgraded all previous Ms and produced all subsequent Ms with the 5 lbs. trigger. That would explain why the trigger pull is so close to the 8 lbs. range. I could be wrong though and it wouldn't be the first time. :D Seems odd that all three pistols would be from the older production line.
Here's a tip on trigger weights...

In fact 90% are heavier w/ a few light.
They are all the newer triggers. I'd bet most will be surprised what their Steyr trigger weight really is when they measure it. I believe my Lyman electronic gauge is accurate since I just got it new from Midway. The weights measured is consistant to the trigger weights I got using the club loaner Lyman gauge last year. Midway had a really good price and I wanted to be able to measure the results of the trigger work I plan on doing instead of just guessing and feeling.
FlaChef said:
Here's a tip on trigger weights...

In fact 90% are heavier w/ a few light.
Not exact but it should be close. Over 7 pounds for 4.8 lbs spec is a little excessive. This is after I've tried to lighten it. Once in a while I'll get a light trigger pull during dry fire and it feels great and that's still over 6 pounds. I'm going to keep working on the Steyr triggers to see if I can reduce the variation and get the weight down. I've done the bigtaco trigger job and read the tutorials but still haven't figured out where the variation is coming from. Not a simple trigger to work on. I have gotten used to the Steyr trigger and it works well enough for practical pistol. A lighter trigger would make it easier to get tighter groups.
I have not had the occassion to have my M9's pull measured, but I would be surprised if it was as much as 6.5 lbs. out of the box
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