Let’s Get a Grip
Most of my life my wrists were a scapegoat. When the topic of push-ups would come up, I would always blame my inability to do them because of my weak wrists. No one ever corrected me that my wrists have nothing to do with completing this exercise. Let me share some brief knowledge.
The muscles to perform a push up are: Pectoralis major which makes up most of your upper body. It consists of two large chest muscles primarily the pushing muscles of the upper body. Deltoids are the shoulder muscles helping the pectoralis major to push the body during a push-up. Triceps brachii are situated at the back of the upper arm and help in extending the arm outward. It makes up about two-thirds of the upper arm mass and is most exerted muscle during push-ups. Serratus anterior lies under the armpit at the back of the chest. As the abdominal muscles are engaged in a push-up the core strength develops. As the body is held in a prone position, the abdominal muscles help the body brace itself. Coracobrachialis runs from the shoulder blade to the upper arms. During a push-up, the coracobrachialis pushes the upper arm against the body, which is essential to perform a push-up.
Why do I bring this up? If someone had taken the time to inform me the proper muscles to use and technique to perform, it is something I could have worked on to improve. When I am on the floor at the retail counter or range desk, the one comment I hear over and over from women of all ages is “I don’t have any grip strength”. Having this strength and flexibility in your grip is important for racking the slide on a firearm, loading a magazine and even pulling the trigger. Let me be your friend and tell you the good news, this can be improved!
There are ten muscles that make up your hand grip. Three of these muscles are located in the forearms and wrists. These are: Flexor Pollicis Longus, Flexor Digitorum Superficialis and Flexor Digitorum Profundus. The other seven are located in the hands themselves and I will save you the technical names. Grip strength training requires a different type of training regimen than other muscular training. It is generally considered that all aspects of the hand must be exercised to produce a healthy and strong hand. Following are some very basic, do anywhere exercises to increase you grip strength.
Squeeze! Perform this simple exercise in which you squeeze a small ball, which can be an old tennis ball or a rubber stress ball. Grasp the ball in the palm of your hand, and then slowly squeeze the ball as if your hand is a trash compactor. Hold the fully-squeezed position for up to five seconds and then release. Perform 10 reps, resting for a few seconds between reps. Switch hands and repeat the exercise.
Let your fingers do the walking. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and envisioning a wall in front of you. Slowly inch your way up the wall with your fingers moving like the legs of a spider. When your arms are fully extended and your hands are overhead, flutter your fingers for up to 10 seconds. Reverse the movement to return to starting position. This will strengthen your pinch strength and increase the dexterity of your fingers. These exercises also boost the flexibility of the muscles in your shoulders, arms and back. Bonus!
Lock and Walk. Practice picking up a relatively heavy object and holding it, this can improve your supporting grip. By holding a weighted object, such as a thick book or a jug of water, and walk the length of your living room or kitchen. Vary the shape of the objects to change the size of your grip, and also use increasingly heavier weights to progress the exercise.
Curl it Baby! Sit on a chair and hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing the ceiling (start with 1 to 2lb weights and move from there). Rest your elbow on the middle of your thigh and keep your forearm resting. Your wrist hangs off your knee so it’s able to move up and down for curls. Place your left hand on your right forearm to help keep your arm stable during the exercise. Allow the dumbbell to move out of your right palm and toward your fingers as you move your wrist toward the floor. In a slow and controlled motion, raise your wrist and bring your knuckles toward your face.
The results you receive from these exercises are no different than any physical activity. The more often you do them and the effort to do them correctly will get you results. In no time you will be racking the slide on your firearm like a BOSS. And yes, today I can do push-ups!
What Did You Say?
Did you know that a single gunshot can often lead to temporary hearing loss? Well now you do! My wish for any new shooter in our facility would be to heed our warnings and listen to our suggestions for hearing protection devices (we affectionately call just “ears”). You can end up with substantial hearing loss or ringing of the ears if you don’t take the time to find the right hearing protection for shooting sports.
Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB. Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. People who use firearms are more likely to develop hearing loss than those who do not. Firearm users tend to have high-frequency permanent hearing loss, which means that they may have trouble hearing speech sounds like “s,” “th,” or “v” and other high-pitched sounds. People with high-frequency hearing loss may say that they can hear what is said but that it is not clear, and they may accuse others of mumbling. They may not get their hearing tested because they don’t think they have a problem. They may also have ringing in their ears, called tinnitus. The ringing, like the hearing loss, can be permanent.
You can prevent hearing loss by using appropriate Hearing Protective Devices (ears), such as earmuffs or earplugs. However, studies have shown that only about half of shooters wear hearing protection all the time when target practicing. It is a requirement on all of our Ranges. Hunters are even less likely to wear hearing protection because they say they cannot hear approaching game or other noises. While some HPDs do limit what a person can hear, there are many products that allow shooters to hear softer sounds while still protecting them from loud sounds like firearm noise.
Two types of “ears” designed for shooting sports are electronic HPDs and nonlinear or passive HPDs. Electronic HPDs make softer sounds louder but shut off when there is a loud noise. The dampening of the noise happens instantly the moment it is detected to have passed a certain threshold. Electronic HPD styles include earmuffs and custom-made in-the-ear devices.
Nonlinear HPDs are not electronic and are designed to allow soft and moderate sounds to pass through, while still reducing loud sounds. Nonlinear HPDs can be either earplugs that are inserted into the ear, custom-made earmolds and earmuffs. People with very sensitive ears and for children it is best to use both the earplugs and earmuffs for comfort.
So how do you choose? For starters you want “ears” that can reduce the noise to 33dB or lower. While this rating is not required to be certified it must be labeled on the packaging. Next I would say is the overall comfort. Imagine if you needed to wear them for an extended amount of time (hunting or taking a training class), would they become an irritant? Do you like the look or style and of course what do they cost? For an enjoyable shooting experience, take the time to find the right fit for you.
MARCH 2017 – Part 2
I find that dry firing helps bring back muscle memory that may have gotten a little foggy due to the time between range visits. Winter can make us hibernate some so it is an excellent way to get some practice in while the days are still chilly or rainy. Any time you’re going to practice dry firing, make sure your pistol is completely unloaded and safe to dry fire before you start. I like to use Snap-Caps which you can find in any shooting range or sporting goods store.
One of my favorite dry fire practices is to draw from my holster, acquire my target, fire and then re-holster, all while never taking my eyes off of my target. It is easy to work on this technique around the house. Whether it is a plant, picture or the television, they suddenly become my target to dry fire. This practice drives my husband nuts, but he will get over it. And of course I never point it at him or our fur babies!
Another useful practice is magazine changes. After working on the above scenarios several times, I’ll add these into the mix. What if you need more ammunition in an actual emergency? Fumbling for your magazine will slow you down and could be a costly mistake. For me, changing magazines seems like a very foreign concept so practicing has become very important to me personally. Being able to rely on muscle memory as you drop your existing magazine, grab your backup, tap it, rack it, and pull that trigger in a smooth, fluid motion—all while moving—will definitely be worth the time you took to practice it at home. Being able to do this on the fly could save your life someday.
Traditionally I have been speaking to women and this topic is no different. As a wife and Mother myself I know we put the needs of our family first and shooting on a regular basis can be expensive. Practicing by dry firing is an inexpensive way to hone your skills in the convenience of your home. As shooting Gold Medalist Gabby Franco says “Women must understand that owning a firearm and shooting it once a year is not safe, and it is not responsible. Women must also understand that owning a gun should not be trendy. Be safe, be responsible and defend the second amendment.”
MARCH 2017 – Bullet Belle Drops the Wisdom
Take it or Leave it Tips
- Try before you buy! Ladies let’s be honest, we won’t even buy a pair of shoes without putting them on in the store and walking around. So why would you purchase a gun without shooting it first? Don’t listen to your husband, boyfriend or even your best friend on this purchase. This personal decision should be made by YOU.
- That said, choosing a common caliber will make your life easier. The ammunition will be available and probably cheaper. And you can never have enough ammo. 50 bullets may seem like a lot at first but you will go thru a box in no time. Buy in bulk, buy on sale (I have yet to see an ammo coupon) and stash it away.
- If you also choose a popular model it will be easier to find a gunsmith to perform repairs as well as access to available parts that may be needed. And let’s not forget “bling”. Manufacturers offer specialty holsters, color triggers and magazine releases and color magazines for the more popular models. This way you can really make the firearm yours.
- Once you find your “baby” practice, practice, practice! How much to practice do you ask? New firearms can take 300 to 500 rounds of ammunition just to “break it in”. I judged my progress from “just firing” my handgun to all shots hitting the paper to getting a clean, tight grouping. If the range staff knows your name, you are probably getting in enough practice.
- Challenge yourself. I know the sounds and smells in a range can be overwhelming for a new person to shooting. The process can make you very anxious but remember the first time you tried any activity for the first time. Zip lines, riding a motorcycle even public speaking with practice got easier for you. It is the same with shooting, so the next step is a class to challenge you with high pressure situations. You can’t even imagine how you will react in a life or death situation if you only shoot paper.
- Learn how to clean your gun. Enough said.
- If over time you fall out of love with your “baby” trade it or sell it. Your life can not depend on a firearm you no longer shoot. Grip is too rough, cleaning is a challenge, or the trigger is too heavy then it is time to say bye, bye, bye!
- If you decide to conceal carry, again try a variety of holsters to determine what works best for your shape and stature. For example carrying inside the waist band is very uncomfortable for me so I carry outside the waistband with a jacket or some type of covering jacket. An extra loaded magazine in your purse, pocket or glove box is a good idea too.
FEBRUARY 2017 – Part 2 from our Prolific Guest Blogger Bullet Belle
The Newbie Buys her First Gun
If you listen to the advice from a “gun” person in reference to personal defense or conceal carry handguns it will probably not include having a 22 caliber to defend your life. Since this is where I started my journey in the firearm world there was a need to expand my horizons. The 9 MM caliber was my next step. Polymer, Forged Steel, Single stack, Double stack, Sights were all terms I needed to investigate and understand. Being so overwhelmed in the beginning, I had no idea “the gun would pick me”. This very personal purchase correlates to buying a car. Body type, leather or cloth interior, adjustable seats, heated seats all of which you start to critic when you are making an investment even when you can’t put into words the preferences. A firearm is an investment.
Just like test driving a car, it is important to try before you buy your firearm. Things to consider are how the firearm feels in your hand. Is the grip too aggressive and rub on your palm. Does your pinkie finger fall off the end therefore needing an extended magazine? Can you pull back the slide to load the first round in the chamber? Also, how hard the trigger is to pull back and fire. Keep in mind this was over several months but I started with a Glock 43 (too snappy), Smith & Wesson Shield 9 MM (grip didn’t thrill me), Honor Defense Honor Guard 9MM (better grip but not perfect), Century Arms Canik (love the firearm but too big for personal carry) and Springfield XDS-9 (finally it all came together).
Technically this baby consists of Forged Steel Slide with Melonite Finish, Black Polymer Frame, Dual Spring Recoil System with full length guide rod, Fiber Optic Front Sight and Dovetail Steel Rear Sight and a 3.3” Hammer Forged Barrel with a 1:10 Twist. Whew! For me it fits like a glove in my hand and has the right amount of weight to help with recoil. It cradles in between my thumb and first finger with the grip not too rough in my hand and my pinkie has a place holder. The Fiber Optic Front Sight helps my old eyes and it has “curb appeal”. In a nutshell she is sexy!
The advice from this Newbie in the firearm industry is try one firearm, then another, then another and even another until the gun picks you. This is one area you don’t make a purchase solely on someone’s advice. This investment is personal and if you don’t love it, you will not train with it and therefore cannot protect yourself or your loved ones with it. Happy Shopping!
FEBRUARY 2017 – Guest Blogger Bullet Belle
Starting from Scratch
I consider the area we have chosen to raise our family as “safe”. A snap shot would show many churches, great neighbors and an excellent school system. This seems well and good until I watch the news or read the local paper’s headlines. Simple battery, auto theft, home burglary, and business robbery – you probably get the picture. In a neighborhood very close to mine, recently a woman was raped in the shed in her backyard. I have made a conscious decision to “take my blinders” off and see that evil is around me and my family. It is time to take things seriously. So what does that mean for a middle aged wife and mother? Well, I have always told my kids that knowledge is power so I started the journey to learn how to protect what I value and love.
My Dad always had a firearm in the house. He showed me where he kept it but never chose to teach me how to use. My husband and I made a choice to not have a firearm in our home when we had children. Basically firearms were taboo to me. All I hear on the news about them is bad right? I needed to discover what a responsible gun owner actually means. What does that take? For me, I started at the gun range with a 22 caliber handgun since that is the smallest bullet and seemed “easier” to me. With the advice from a few folks (“gun” people love to share their opinions) I started shooting on a regular basis. I was acquiring a lot of bad habits so I then decided to take a training class, Basic Pistol. The instructor was able to take my “negative” feedback and teach me the corrections needed to not only consistently hit the paper but finally make a close grouping of the bullet holes. After building my confidence from more practice, I purchased my first firearm, a Springfield XDS 9MM.
Great! I am learning and practicing to protect my family in the case someone decides to invade our home. But what could happen to me in the parking lot of the grocery store? Or walking to my car after a shopping spree at the mall? The next step for me was to apply and receive my Conceal Carry Permit. Over time while I carried the Springfield in my purse, I decided it was too heavy and would not be able to carry on my person (too bulky). Therefore, I bought my second handgun, a Sig Sauer P238. My training stepped up with personal instruction and a Defensive Pistol class. There is still much I need to learn but I know my foundation is solid.
I say all that to say this, owning and more so personally carrying a firearm is a very personal choice. The mental anguish can be great; however, for me I weighted the pros and cons and decided to not be a victim. I feel I have taken the “right” journey by researching, testing and training. Can I pull the trigger on another human being? That is to be determined. But just as I am CPR certified, I don’t want to ever need to use it but if I do I will perform with confidence.