It’s Not You, It’s Your ROI.

Clause Werner and Chris Baker both talk about something that is near and very dear to my heart, the reasons why people get little, if any, formal firearms beyond what is required to get a concealed carry permit or similar state license.

Time and cost concerns are usually given as big reasons why people don’t train. However, people will pay money (LOTS of money) to do activities that they find either fun or rewarding. They dress up to go to the theater. They buy boats and bowling balls. If they feel they get their money’s worth out of an activity, they do it.

If “money and time” are the reasons why people don’t train, maybe the response from the training community shouldn’t be cutting back classroom hours and slashing enrollment fees. Maybe the response should be a long, hard look at what people are getting in return for their hard-earned cash and valuable time. People will send GOBS of money and time on items or activities that they see as valuable or enjoyable. That’s what the whole “leisure sports” industry is based on.

If money and time are reasons not to train, maybe the response from the training community shouldn’t be cutting back classroom hours and discounted enrollment fees. Maybe it should be a long, hard look at what people are getting in return for their hard-earned cash and valuable time.

What is the ROI of a training class, and how do you express that to your students?

CAN you express that to your students?

Left unsaid in Chris’s article (but is a big reason why we guys don’t get training) is the perception that we already know how to shoot.  This puts a trainer in the unenviable position of trying to prove someone is wrong in order to get money from them.

Good luck with that.

Fuel To The Fire.

Yeah, I guess I should have known that anything I wrote that was mildly critical of the NRA would be picked up by one of Bloomberg’s minions.

I don’t mind that as much, though, as they then quote The Truth About Guns right after they talk about me.

Ewwwwwww.

The NRA’s recent missteps remind me, in a way, of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He started off well, taking over a department that was in chaos after it bungled a high-profile mass murder case, and he quickly whipped everyone into shape, instituting popular programs like Tent City, pink underwear and green weenies.

Then a few years into his term, things got nasty. The Sheriff’s Office started to throw it’s weight around and make political threats that were backed up by the power of the badge, and all that good will vanished overnight.

I still believe that Sheriff Joe is a good man who truly wants to put the brakes on crime in Maricopa County.

But at what cost?

Twenty Four Months Have Gone By

Since this happened, and what a wild ride it’s been. I’m still (sorta) working in the industry, still trying to get the iPTS off the ground (may have some news on that before SHOT…), still writing (and writing A LOT), making even more good friends who are involved in spreading the good news about guns, and my life here in Florida is quite good.

You ask pretty much anyone in Arizona what they want to do each summer, and their answer will be “Go to the coast, go to a beach, go to a theme park.”

Well, this summer, I’ve had four trips to theme parks and three trips to the beach.

Not bad.

Looking back on 2015, that crazy, crazy year of panic, uncertainty and change, there were some things that happened that weren’t my fault (like finding out the owner of the company is an immature bipolar millionaire, which is a great combination for a supervillian, but not so great in a boss…) and some things that were my fault, the biggest of which was, I broke one of my one rules: I was desperate, DESPERATE to work in the gun industry.

Walden” is one of my guideposts in life, and there’s a terrific passage early on in the book about how a man should act.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation … but it is a character of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

I broke my rules, and my family and I paid the price. Now, that’s not to say that the payment is ongoing. The reverse is true, I’m happy with how things ended up, and Florida is now my home, and I’m quite happy here.

But just because the plane landed smoothly doesn’t mean there wasn’t turbulence along the way.

Proctor & Gamble For Your Life

David Yamane has an interesting take on branding in the firearms training industry, and his takes are really, really good.

A few more thoughts:

  • Past military experience is a brand, and right now, it’s a hugely effective one.
  • One of the biggest brands in guns (if not THE biggest brand) is the National Rifle Association. What’s interesting is that rather than brand their latest training endeavor with the NRA itself, they have branded it with military training, not NRA training. What that says about the NRA’s confidence in their own training and/or the tensions between Fairfax and Alexandria remains to be discovered.
  • Extraordinary brands are built on extraordinary products, and if your brand is yourself, that means you have to show you’re extraordinary in some way. This is a problem for the vast majority of schlubs out there who are terrific guys and good instructors but do not have time as a Special Operator or SWAT cop to talk about, you have to differentiate yourself in some way. There are ways around this. For example, John Corriea does it through showing his expertise on self-defense via his YouTube channel, and if his advice were incorrect, the internet would let him know he’s wrong. Boy howdy, would they let him know.
  • Associating yourself with a brand influences others only to the degree that the parent brand is known as a household commodity. Serious shooters would know what a Contax G2 does versus an AE-1 Program and what that says about your commitment to photography, but most schmoes wouldn’t know that. The fact is, though, that very few trainers have spent the time to develop themselves as a public figure that people can look to as a source of reliable information. There are a bunch of reasons why this happens, and a few I can think of off the top of my head are:
    • The firearms training industry takes its cues from military and law enforcement, and “glory hogs” are frowned upon (if not outright derided) in those fields.
    • Firearms trainers tend to be focused on the process of teaching students, not promoting themselves (and I’m perfectly ok with that).
    • There really isn’t a whole lot of “secret sauce” training out there to set one instructor apart from another. Suarez emphasizes shooting on the move, Pincus has a different take on sight picture than most people and Ayoob is the “go-to” person on self-defense and live-fire training, but other than that, we are taking about differences in personalities and methods of instruction, not the items they’re selling.
    • An aversion to singularity. No one is “thinking different” yet and coming out with something unusual that shakes up the training industry such as  the 300 Gullwing or the iPhone, because what firearms teachers are doing demands a high level of safety, and any “innovation” that breaks those rules can get people killed on the range LONG before they are killed on the streets.

All that being said, at least half of the trainers out there would be better off spending their time reading Seth Godin rather than Charles Askins, and learn how to be a better teacher rather than how to do a faster tactical reload.

Every trainer was a student before they were a trainer, and the temptation to continue down the path of gun learning that got you into the training industry, rather than change horses and learn about learning and become a better a trainer is mighty strong.

Ruger LCPII 2000 Round Challenge: Rounds 736 to 836.

100 more rounds of Lucky Gunner’s PMC Bronze .380ACP ammo went through the LCP][ last weekend, and nothing happened except loud noises were made and 100 holes appeared in a piece of paper.

100 rounds of lucky gunner ammoJust like the previous occasions when I shot this gun, I’m not wasting my time trying to shoot one-hole groups with this pistol. That’s not the purpose of this gun: This gun is meant to be used to quickly put as many rounds into a target that’s well within the Tueller scheme of things, and it does that job very well.

Most of these rounds were shot as fast as I could get the sights somewhere near center of the target (or as you can see, sometimes, I shot a little bit before that actually happened…) from a distance between three and seven yards, and mostly two-handed, with a few rounds shot strong hand only / weak hand only.

A couple of thoughts:

Once again, I was amazed at how easy the LCP][ is to shoot strong hand only. I chalk this up to the fact that there really isn’t a whole lot of room for your weak hand to grab onto something as you shoot the gun. Perversely, though, shooting it weak hand only was quite the chore: It felt strange, off-balance and was very hard to shoot well.

No, I don’t know why.

Secondly, just to see how accurate the darn thing is, I tried some hostage shots with the gun from about five yards away. I wouldn’t consider this gun to be a “combat” firearm: It’s not meant for a prolonged two-way exchange of leaden projectiles, it’s meant to be used to get you out of harm’s way from an attacker (or two) who are up close and personal. This this not the gun to armed with if you’re expecting an attack from the Leprechaun Liberation Army: This is a gun you use if you want to give an armed robber the surprise of his (or her) life. I don’t want to be in a situation with this gun where I have to make a precise shot on someone who’d holding a hostage, but it’s nice to know I might be able to do it if needed.

Rounds Fired : 100
100 Rounds PMC Bronze

2000 Round Challenge Results
Total Rounds Fired: 836.
One possible failure to eject on round 116, two failures to eject on rounds 400 and 489.

Getting New Shooters To The Range Is Only Half The Battle.

Getting them to shoot is the other half.

Put yourself in the shoes of a new gun owner. You’ve just bought a pistol for self defense. You keep it safely loaded at home, and you want to start carrying it more often, because darn it, the neighborhood with that terrific sandwich shop is getting rougher and rougher, and the nephew of your friend down the street got jumped by a pack of thugs and beat up pretty badly.

You’re scared. You want to feel safe. You know carrying a gun and using it well might help keep you alive on a very, very bad day. Your CCW instructor told you that competition is a good way to help prepare your mind to think clearly and use a gun effectively under stressful situations, so you go out to the local range with your gun, your holster, a few mags and a couple of boxes of ammo.

What do you find when you arrive there?

Match directors, how do you handle someone who shows up with a Ruger LCR in .22Magnum or a Sig P238 at a USPSA match? Do you turn them away, or do you have them shoot for no score? Do you want newcomers to enjoy the sport and learn from the experience, or do you want enforce the rules above everything else?

And why are competitions that are .22LR only considered to be an effective on-ramp for new gun owners? That new gun owner just spent HOURS of deliberation before buying that Glock 19/Sig P320/M&P/P10C* they now own. Then, when they reach out for advice, we tell them that the best way for a beginner to learn how to shoot under stress is to buy a .22 pistol, something that a gun store clerk has just told them (over and over and over again) is not a effective self-defense tool. It’s like teaching people to ride a motorcycle by handing them a bicycle. Is bicycle riding fun? Of course it is! Is it the same as riding a motorcycle? Well, sorta, but not really.

I’m not bagging on the .22 sports, they are a LOT of fun, and I love shooting my red-dotted M22A. However, the .22 sports appeal to people who already have a .22 they can compete with, not to someone who spent hours and hours agonizing over their first handgun purchase.


* Like I’m NOT going to add in a CZ to that list.

Culture Clash

We’ve won the gun rights battle. We’re rolling things back (slowly… too slowly) but we are winning. The left is getting more and more radicalized (Linda Sarsour and Assata Shakur? REALLY?), and there will be a void open for the NRA or someone else to step into to and expand gun rights even further into ground that once belonged to the enemy.

We’ve won the battle. The war? The war continues, and wars are not won on the basis of winning battles, they’re won on the basis of holding territory and making it your own.

We have regained (cultural) ground from our enemy. What are we doing to hold it and make it our own?

Cultures don’t change because the extremes get pushed out more and more, cultures change because, in the words of the Doobie Brothers, what were once vices are now habits. Gay marriage was once a vice. Now it’s the law of the land. Ditto with doobies (words are my business! 🙂 ) in Colorado and many, many other states..

Armed self defense was once considered a vice. It’s now a habit for millions and millions of people.

Let’s keep that going.

The Dearth Of The Cool.

Let’s break it down:

  • Awareness of the martial arts started with American servicemen stationed in the Far East after the Second World War.
  • Martial arts became cool in America primarily because of Bruce Lee.
  • Martial arts became cool for kids to learn as a way of exercise / moral guidance because of the Power Rangers.

So why aren’t gun training and shooting competitions cool?

It’s not like we don’t have millions of kids running around in (virtual) environments shooting stuff with (virtual) pistols, rifles and shotguns. We have that already. Boy howdy, do we have that already.

And I find it interesting that you can make more money playing with (virtual) guns than you can competing with real guns. This is not true in any other sport. Real tennis pays more than virtual tennis, real football pays more than virtual football, and yet when was the last time you heard of a match offering a prize pool of $250,000 in cash?

Something is out of whack here, and someone will find a way to fix it.

Go With The Flow.

A couple of interesting paragraphs from an article I linked to last week.

A first-person shooter combines (three dimensionality, violence and escapism) in a distinct way: a virtual environment that maximizes a player’s potential to attain a state that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”—a condition of absolute presence and happiness.

“Flow,” writes Csikszentmihalyi, “is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: ‘that was fun,’ or ‘that was enjoyable.’ ” Put another way, it’s when the rest of the world simply falls away. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is mostly likely to occur during play, whether it’s a gambling bout, a chess match, or a hike in the mountains. Attaining it requires a good match between someone’s skills and the challenges that she faces, an environment where personal identity becomes subsumed in the game and the player attains a strong feeling of control. Flow eventually becomes self-reinforcing: the feeling itself inspires you to keep returning to the activity that caused it. (emphasis mine)

It isn’t just the first-person experience that helps to create flow; it’s also the shooting. “This deviation from our regular life, the visceral situations we don’t normally have,” Nacke says, “make first-person shooters particularly compelling.” It’s not that we necessarily want to be violent in real life; rather, it’s that we have pent-up emotions and impulses that need to be vented. “If you look at it in terms of our evolution, most of us have office jobs. We’re in front of the computer all day. We don’t have to go out and fight a tiger or a bear to find our dinner. But it’s still hardwired in humans. Our brain craves this kind of interaction, our brain wants to be stimulated. We miss this adrenaline-generating decision-making.”

I’ve experienced “flow” on pretty much every practical shooting stage I’ve ever shot, and I’ve also experienced when I *nailed* a kata in front of my sensei.

Do the shooting sports, as they stand now, encourage that feeling, especially in new gun owners? Does firearms training create a sense of enjoyment, empowerment and adrenaline rush that makes people want to return to the range for more training?

Why not?

Maybe the answer lies in that bit that I highlighted, where it talks about when the player (or trainee) faces a situation where the challenges they face and their ability to master them are closely matched, and then a sense of mastery occurs.

How often do the challenges at a match or in a training class match up what a new gun owner actually can do? What, if anything, are we doing to increase that feeling of control?