A Shot in the Dark

I had the opportunity to go to a four-hour “Fight at Night” training class over at Rio Salado on Saturday night, put on by Brad Parker of Defend University. I took the class because I knew I had a big gap in my training when it came to low light and night encounters. Most lethal force incidents happen in low-light conditions, but for reasons of safety and convenience, we do most of our practice and training on clean, well-lit ranges. It’s like a karate student who spends all of his time in the dojo doing kata and never does any sparring.

The class covered many of the standardized flashlight and pistol grips, types of lighting (backlit, frontlit, etc.), how to manipulate your firearm with a flashlight (your prirmary hand armpit, btw, makes a handy-dandy flashlight holder when you need both hands free), the basics of using a flashlight as a defensive tool and some of the physiological effects of darkness on the human body.

And then we got to the shooting. And it was unlike anything I’ve done before.

Backlighting

Here we’re trying to learn to shoot with our off-hand while trying to deal with a backlit target without illumination from with our flashlights. The glow you see behind the steel targets comes from a couple of dozen road flares strewn about the berm, and I’m kinda happy I was able to get a couple of muzzle flashes in the shot. For safety reasons, we all wore glowsticks so the RO’s could keep track of our whereabouts, and the firing line was designated by glowsticks as well. If this sort of thing looks cool, well, it was. 🙂

I learned a LOT for this class.

* This was the first time I’d used my new CZ for anything other than practice on the range, and it performed without a hiccup, which increases my confidence for using it as an everyday carry pistol.

* My $25 Coleman flashlight from Wal-Mart was up to the task. Sure, it’s not a Surefire, but it does 90% of what a Surefire does for 30% of the price. Not bad.

* I need night sights, a flashlight and/or a laser for every firearm I may use in a self-defense situation. The sights on my P07 are great in broad daylight or at sunset, but once the lights go out, they’re utterly invisible.

* I learned I can trust my instincts. One of the drills we did was in total darkness: No lights, no nuthin’, just the backscatter of the lights of Mesa off the clouds overhead. Despite the lack of light, I was able to bang the steel four times out of four. Maybe I should close my eyes each time I go shooting…

The class was DEFINITELY worth the modest registration fee, and I’d recommend it (or any other low-light training class) to anyone who is serious about defending their life or the lives of their loved ones.

Oh, and if you haven’t read any of my posts over at the mothership, I have a tendency to use song titles in my posts, and this one is no different. 🙂

Arizona’s new concealed carry law takes effect today

Lost in the all the hubbub yesterday over Arizona’s new immigration law was a seismic shift in the firearms laws of Arizona. As of today, citizens and legal residents of Arizona do not need the government’s permission to carry a concealed defensive firearm, and with this new law, Arizona joins Vermont and Alaska as the three states in the Union return this right to their residents.

I’ll be honest, I was a little bit leery of this law at first, but now I’m on board with it. Self-defense is a human right and it should be regulated as little as possible. A CCW permit is still very, very useful, though. An Arizona CCW permit GREATLY speeds up the paperwork associated with firearms purchases from an FFL, and it also allows the bearer to carry concealed in restaurants that serve alcohol (were permitted. Also, a CCW permit allows the bearer to carry concealed in the majority of states that have CCW laws on the book, making it very handy for anyone who travels out of state. 

While a CCW permit is no longer required, it’s still a very good idea to get if you plan on carrying concealed, but keep in mind it’s a licensing class and not a training class. If you carry concealed, it’s a very, very good idea to get some training so you can be prepared and ready for that worst day of your life when you might have to use it. Owning a gun isn’t enough: A gun isn’t a magical talisman against violence, and having a pistol with you doesn’t turn you into Massad Ayoob any more than sitting behind the wheel of a Ferrari means you’re now Michael Schumacher. 

Get training. I can’t say it often enough. 

And the cool thing is, there are PLENTY of opportunities for firearms training in Arizona. Generations Firearm Training (a sponsor of this blog) offers a full range of NRA classes for all skill levels, and Alan Korwin (who literally wrote the book on Arizona’s gun laws) has created TrainMeAZ.com as a resource for everyone inside and outside the state who want to take advantage of the many firearms training opportunities here in Arizona. 

Whenever the restrictions are eased in this state, the cry goes out that we’ll return to the “Wild West”, with gunfights on every street corner. When Arizona passed “shall-issue” concealed carry, nothing happened. When Arizona allowed concealed carry in bars, nothing happened. And now that we can carry concealed without a permission slip, I’m looking forward to nothing happening once again. 

 

Finally!

3 Gun Nation is coming to TV at last: The first show is this Monday at 7:30 (!) am. 

Oh well, that’s why they invented TiVo. 

Really looking forward to this show because if it’s done right, it could point the way to greater exposure of practical shooting on the bigger cable networks, and, dare I say it, (“Dare! Dare!”), ESPN or broadcast TV. 

(Yes, I’m the dorky-looking guy at 0:15, lower camera left with the grey hat. This is why I blog and not do a video journal…

Heat gun

“My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.” 

– The Ghost, Hamlet Act I Scene V 

“Ditto.” 

– Me 

Off to shoot the Thursday Night Steel at Phoenix Rod and Gun. 

It’s 112 degrees here right now. If the heat causes a round cook off in the chamber, I don’t think I should be DQ’d. 

More …

Sometimes good enough is good enough

“Know thy enemy, know thyself, and you will be invincible.” 

– Sun Tzu

When I was a professional photographer, once someone found out what I did for a living, I’d usually at a party, “Say, I want to take better pictures, what kind of camera should I get?” 

My answer to this was always “Well, that depends. How many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”, which would usually end that part of the conversation as the would-be photographer grapples with the concept of shooting an entire 36-shot roll of film each week, much less more than one, where it was not uncommon for me to burn through two dozen rolls of HP5+ or TMZ covering just one high school basketball game. 

The point I was trying to make is that it’s not the camera that limits the photographer, it’s his or her ability to put in the time necessary to realize their vision and their desire to push their creativity that limits a photographer.

Looking back on this now, I realize my answer to the wannabe photogs was/is snarky and condescending: People want to take better pictures not to become the next Mark Seliger, they want to capture memories that are more evocative and aesthetic, something all of us share. 

Which brings me to practical shooting. I’m blessed/cursed to call Rio Salado Sportsmans Club my home range. It’s loaded to the gills with USPSA Grandmasters. It’s a blessing in that each match is challenging and exciting, but each match is meant to be challenging and exciting to shooters like Rob Leatham, Vic Pickett and Matt Burkett. 

This can (and does) discourage beginning shooters. Imagine cranking off the best golf drive in your life and then have Tiger Woods shoot behind you and out-drive you by 100 yards. 

The upside to this, though, is that in the words of The Chairman Of The Board, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. And  another great thing about shooting at Rio is the opportunity to participate and shoot in some 1st-class matches like the Desert Classic and Mystery 3 Gun, which bring in shooters from around the country. I get to meet some of the best shooters in the world, and the prize tables for each match can be really good

All of this explains why I’m shooting a laid-back, easy-to-shoot steel match with friends on a regular basis rather than the more difficult but less friendly USPSA matches at Rio. I like Rio: I do all my practicing there and I’ll still shoot a USPSA match there as often as I can, but right now, it’s important that I believe I can shoot well and do so when needed, even in the toughest of competitions. My practice sessions are there for me to prepare me physically, the steel matches are there to prepare me mentally. My standard for success needs to be me and the progress I have made, not the best shooters in the world can do.

Site picture

Not a typo, rather, bay three of the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club

Looks nice, but what you can’t see is the heat. 105 degrees in the shade when we started shooting tonight. And by “we” I mean me, Danno from Sandcastle Scrolls and Capitalist Pig and Mz. Vast Ring Wing Conspiracy from Great Satan Inc

This was the first match I’ve shot when there’s been somebody I know socially to chum along with, and it won’t be my last. It makes a fun sport even better, and I highly, highly recommend it. 

And I shot pretty good, too, which makes it even more better. 

More …

The Journey Begins

A long, long time ago, on a pistol range far, far away… 

Like, say, 2 years ago at the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club

A few years ago, after a pair of brutal home invasions in the Phoenix area, my wife and I decided that we needed to improve the protection of our home and family. We installed a burglar alarm, and I bought a pistol for home defence. 

I decided on a CZ75 after trying all the 9mm pistols at Caswell’s Indoor Range. I tried Glocks, S&W’s, Springfields and my groups were the tightest with the CZ, so I went to a gun show the next week and bought a pre-B CZ75 from a dealer there for $400. 

Then I went to get training. I took the NRA FIrst Steps class at Rio and learned about something called “Practical Pistol”, and it looked like a good way to get myself used to using a handgun in a semi-stressfful environment. 

This intrigued me, as I knew I was good enough to shoot well at a static target on a firing range, but I also knew that wasn’t any guarantee that I’d be able to shoot well when the lives of my loved ones depended on it, and USPSA looked like a good way to learn how to shoot fast and accurately as fast as possible. 

So I gave it a try. And I liked it. A lot. I shot about once every other month, and I got to the point where I became a “D” Class shooter. Better than the lower 2% of shooters out there, but there’s lot of shooters better than me. 

Classification Bracket Percentages

Grand Master – 95 to 100%
Master – 85 to 94.9%
A – 75 to 84.9%
B –  60 to 74.9%
C – 40 to 59.9%
D – 2 to 40%

That’s got to change. And that’s what this blog is about.