About Featured Expert: Mike Campbell has over two decades of experience in the firearms community, serving as an instructor for law enforcement and civilians alike in the field of defensive handgun use. Today, we’re proud to feature him on the Science of Skill podcast.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
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Marcus: Glad you could be here. Mike, tell us how you got into the field in general of firearms. Where it all began, and then how it progressed to instruction…
Mike Campbell: Sure. When I was 17 years old, downtown Princeton, New Jersey of all places, I was attacked by a street gang. It was a racial incident, it came out of the blue, and basically after that attack I took up three main interests in life. Strength training, martial arts, and target shooting. Sort of devoting time to all three, I realized all three were important and I spent a lot of times over the years researching guns and shooting guns. When I moved to Texas the personal training business I was in was off to a slow start, so I took up a job as a handgun instructor at a very high end shooting club.
From there I would teach three different classes. I would do one on one instruction which I was very familiar with being a personal fitness trainer. I would also teach introduction to handguns which was basically taking 18 beginners that have never shot a gun before in their life, giving them an hour and a half classroom instruction, and then an hour and a half on the range, shooting 20 different guns. By the end of the third class, we’ll talk a little bit about later, this was gun selection, how to choose the right handgun for you.
MR: Let’s talk about firearms training then. What is the number one mistake you find most shooters commit during the first time they step out on a range, and how would you correct that?
MC: The number one mistake I would see would be people, as they’re pulling the trigger, they squeeze their whole hand and what that always results in is shots dipping well below the target, sometimes even the floor. It’s in anticipation of recoil, so they feel like they’ve got to over muscle it, and instead of just isolating their trigger finger, they squeeze the whole hand which brings the gun down. What I would tell people when I would see this happening, is a good strong stance with a forward lean to it, sort of putting their weight behind the gun. A good consistent grip, but then just isolating the trigger finger itself. Adding no more force to the grip than the trigger finger pulling straight back on the trigger. That would usually correct the problem. There were a few other causes of the gun dipping low, but that was the number one.
MR: now let’s go into the second biggest mistake you see new shooters at the range, and how do you correct that?
MC: Okay. This would probably be a tie between two issues. Number one, sometimes people will try and pull the trigger with the tip of the finger, and that also can shoot the gun left or right and it doesn’t give good mechanical advantage on the trigger. It makes the trigger much harder to pull. They’ll try using their tip, and it just, if they are able to pull it, the shot always goes left or right, and that’s if they can even pull it. It’s a question of good mechanical leverage. I usually recommend the last crease of the finger joint, or the pad of the finger. The crease will give the best mechanical advantage. Sometimes though, people prefer the pad for sensitivity which I understand.
The second thing sort of ties into what I was talking about before, people leaning back when they’re firing a gun. When they lean back, they’re trying to put themselves away from the gun, and that gives the gun more mechanical advantage to rise up, and recoil is actually worsened. That’s when I said leaning forward into the gun, whether your feet are in a parallel stance side by side. In the isosceles stance, or the Weaver stance where your stronger leg is to the rear, and you’re really shifting your weight forward. That would be the two biggest secondary mistakes that I see.
MR: Talking about handguns, what is your preferred brand of handgun, and why? Do you recommend that to other shooters?
MC: This is a very interesting question. I’m a fan of a lot of brands, and we’ll talk about this later, but most brands of handgun do not fit my particular hands. I do have three favorite brands that will fit 85 to 90% of shooters. That would be anything made by CZ USA. Springfield Armory XD and XDMs fit most people extremely well. Then lastly, the old classic from 1935, that’s still made today, the Browning Hi Power. I’m also a huge fan of GLOCK.
MR: Okay, so what about bullets? How should a newer shooter pick the right type, and to piggy back on that, what’s the difference between a high end bullet that costs way more money than the cheaper bottom self bullets?
MC: Oh this is a great question, and one that I’m more than happy to address.. Being an instructor, you see a lot of beginners come in and they might get their concealed handgun license for the first time, and they just buy any old ammunition off the shelf. The problem is, more often than not they buy the cheapest ammunition which is usually full metal jacket, so it’s basically a lead core with a copper coating over it. It is cheap, it is plentiful, they’re sold in boxes of 50. Great for target, great for plinking, terrible for self defense. Full metal jacket is known to not expand and get bigger as it enters an object, yeah a target, and it will over penetrate. There have been documented cases of full metal jacket ammo penetrating 11 layers of dry wall. That’s not something you’d want to be shooting in your apartment during a self-defense situation. Now getting to your point about the more expensive ammo, that would be quality hollow point ammunition. It is more expensive, it averages about 85 cents to a dollar 15 per round. They’re sold in boxes of 20 or 25, and not that cheap to practice with. But they will expand better, they will get bigger as they enter a target. They will be more accurate, they will be more reliable.
MR: Do you have a few bullet points right now that you could go over? Maybe the top two for our listeners here?
MC: Okay. I could run down more if there’s time and if I could do it quickly. Number one, you have to define the purpose for the handgun. Sometimes we would see someone come in and say I’m going to get a Beretta 92 for concealed carry. Well realistically, that’s a very very big gun and it’s not a great concealed carry gun. Great home defense gun, great duty gun, great target gun, doesn’t really do well for concealed carry. You have to define the purpose and be realistic about the purpose and there are some guns that can do multiple things like the GLOCK 19 would be great for home defense, great for concealed carry, duty use, and target shooting.
The second bullet point would be do you want a pistol or a revolver, and basically I would go through the different pros and cons of each. Pistol has more to learn, but it’s easier to shoot. Revolver is simpler, but the ammunition is typically more expensive.
MR: All right so what do you do with a gun that doesn’t fit after you bought it? What are your options for getting rid of that gun?
MC: My typical move would be to trade the handgun on something. It goes back to a licensed, federal firearms dealer, and they’ll take that into their inventory and that is now theirs. If they sell it to someone else that does wrong with it, it doesn’t fall back on you. The problem with doing it on a trade or selling it to them, just like with cars, you’re not going to get as much as if you sold it on a private market. You could sell it on the private market, but the problem with that is if you get a phone call, if you place an ad and the person says, “Meet me behind the 7/11 at 3AM”, that’s not a meeting, that’s not a phone call you want to take.
There’s gun shows, you’ll walk around a gun show with your gun and a sign for sale. The guy sitting at the tables, they’re real interested and they want that gun for probably about one fourth of what it’s worth. There are a lot of different issues getting rid of it. I would say to be on the safe side, again go to an FFL.
MR: I see. You’re letting the FFL become your north star in determining if it’s a good sell or not, because you don’t want to sell to any 7/11 arm dealers. That could come back to bite you in the end.