The Police Training Institute (PTI) at the University of Illinois has one of the premier shooting ranges in the state. There are five individual ranges, most of which are set up for handgun shooting with targets of 25 yards or less, though one is 60 yards long for rifle shooting. The class met there for instruction on firearms from Mike Metzler, the Chief of Police in Mahomet, IL, and a former PTI firearms instructor.
The day before the class, a 14-year-old boy had gotten ahold of a handgun and accidentally shot and killed his 3-year-old nephew. To Chief Metzler, that was tragic, and completely preventable.
The first point of basic gun safety is to understand why a gun (or guns) is in a house, because that makes a difference with how they are stored. Are the guns for hunting, sport shooting, protection, or part of a collection? Guns used for hunting or sport shooting can go into a vault. A collection could be housed in a secure display. If protection is the reason, you want to have the gun accessible, but it still needs to be secured from anyone who should not get ahold of it. There are single-gun vaults that have biometric locks to give easy access to one person, yet keep others out. A gun owner must also decide when to introduce others in the house, especially children, to gun safety. To children, guns are mysterious. That mystery should be removed and replaced with awareness and respect for a gun’s power.
There are 5 rules for handguns:
1) A gun is always loaded. Treat it that way unless you can personally verify that it is unloaded
2) Don’t let the muzzle cover anything that you’re not willing to kill or destroy – including your big toe.
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until it’s time to shoot
4) Always be sure of your target and its surroundings
5) The only time to use a gun is in defense of life
These days, guns are engineered not to shoot. Many handguns, such as the Kimber and the Glock, have three safeties – one for the thumb, one in the grip, and a last one in the trigger. Smith & Wesson now makes revolvers with key safeties. You have to unlock the gun before it will fire.
Handguns will have different trigger pressures. A Kimber 1911 model has a trigger pull of 4 lbs. With Glocks, the pull is about 5-8 lbs. With the Heckler & Koch double-action automatic, it’s about 12 lbs.
Gun caliber is the diameter of the bullet. A .45 has a diameter of 45/100ths of an inch. Other common calibers are .40, .38, and 9mm. The bigger the bullet, the more stopping power it has, but it also means the gun must be stronger to handle the more powerful bullet. Stronger means bigger. Some IBOs (itty bitty officers) don’t have hands that fit a .45 or a 9mm. The common gun used by police departments now is the Glock .40. It sacrifices some mass, but makes up with penetration power, from a faster bullet. The police will usually use expanding rounds (hollow points) to increase the slug’s punch when it hits. (The military doesn’t use hollow points; they were banned under the Geneva Convention.)
- A magazine is inserted in the handle of an automatic pistol.
- A clip is used on a rifle such as the M-16.
- A bullet is what comes out of the barrel when the gun is fired (also called a slug).
- A case holds the gunpowder and the explosive primer to propel the bullet. They can be made of brass, steel or aluminum. It is ejected from an automatic weapon after use. (Because it’s the primary metal used for hand guns, cases are often referred to as “brass.”)
- A cartridge is the combined bullet and case, ready to shoot. Also called a round.
- Jacketted means a thin layer of a nickel-copper blend has been added to sheath the bullet. It increases its penetration power.
- Magnum was the term coined by the Smith & Wesson Company when they introduced a cartridge with an extra powerful charge in the case. Any size cartridge can be a magnum round, even a .22.
Illinois is one of the few states that does not have a conceal/carry law. Only active or retired police officers can carry a concealed weapon in the state. You have to have an owner ID card before you can even touch a gun in a gun shop. The forms for the ID are available at the State Police website.
States that do have conceal/carry often have reciprocal arrangements with other states to honor each other’s c/c licenses. Florida is one of the most popular states to get a c/c license in since it has one of the largest networks of reciprocal arrangements. You do not need to be a resident to get the c/c license, and you can do it over the internet.
Chief Metzler coached all the participants in the class on the proper shooting stance:
- Feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent
- Weight on the balls of your feet
- Grip the gun with your primary hand (which ever handed you are)
- With your other hand, grip the gun from the other side with your fingers filling in the spaces between the fingers of your primary hand (he doesn’t recommend the “tea cup” grip)
- Push forward with your primary arm while pulling back with your other arm
- With your best eye, line up the target in the front and back sights of the gun. The front sight is a single, vertical ridge. The back sight is a U-shape. When lined up is looks like W.
- Put the other hand’s thumb on the same side as the primary thumb
- Keep your trigger finger along the side of the gun until you are ready to shoot. Only then put your finger on the trigger.
- Squeeze the trigger back to take up the slack then add pressure
Some people may be right-handed but their best eye is their left (or vice versa). In that case you want to move your head further over so it’s nestled against your shoulder to get the best eye lined up with the sight.
At the end of the class, Chief Metzler displayed some guns that had been taken off of people on the street. They included sawed-off shotguns, cheap Saturday Night Special revolvers, derringers, and even a four-shot .22 revolver that’s smaller than a hand. Depending on how they’re used, all of them could kill you just as dead.