Very Good. You Get A Cookie.

My family and I went to the Naples Zoo earlier this month, and watching the zookeepers feed the alligators was endlessly fascinating.

As you may know, alligators are not indigenous to either western Canada or central Arizona, so living so close to these throwbacks from the Creatous Era is a new experience for me. As I type this, our local ‘gator,whom we’ve nicknamed “Greg”, is no doubt lurking around in the pond in our backyard, waiting for a errant turtle or fish to swim by.

This did not happen on the mean streets of Gilbert, Arizona.

The keepers at the zoo trained the gators to behave not with negative reinforcement, like poking them with a stick when they misbehaved, but with positive reinforcement, giving them raw meat when they did they did something right.

My wife, who teaches middle school, decided to try something similar with her students. She kept up the negative reinforcements (detention, etc.) but added in handing out unannounced rewards when her students where doing well.

And it worked. Her kids are quieter in class now, as they can now see an immediate, tangible benefit when they do the right thing.

Which got me thinking: What would a firearms training version of a positive reinforcement loop look like? Sure, you can say, “We have adults in our classes, they are smarter than alligators”, but on the other hand, they don’t call it the “reptilian brain stem” for nuthin’.

An alligator doesn’t know how to act like anything other than an alligator. Positive reinforcement is needed to get the alligator to act in a manner other than how an alligator would naturally act. Human beings, with the exception of Rob Leatham, do not naturally know how to operate a firearm in a stressful situation. Therefore, positive reinforcement will probably work with us as well.

The best I could come up with when it came to an existing positive feedback loop is shooting steel or other reactive targets, as they let you know right away that you did your job right and the hit was on-target. Other than that, the cupboard is pretty bare.

Maybe one of the reasons why we track draw speed and split times is because they’re one of the few places in firearms training where we can see a positive feedback loop happen in our training. The goal then should be not to poo-poo the existing feedback loops, but rather create more feedback loops that drive the skills we want to teach.

… But Fear Itself

There’s an interesting discussion popping up on the Gun Culture 2.0 blog on the role that fear plays inside the civilian armed defender community. On the one hand, you have the experience of those who don’t carry a gun on a regular basis who are fearful of the gun itself, as if it, and not the person wielding it, is reason for violence, and on the other hand, you have people inside the gun industry using fear to market their products.

A certain amount of fear is needed to sell something that may save your life. AAA sells roadside service on the basis of keeping you safe from a flat tire on a lonely road late at night, so of course Comp-Tac is going sell holsters based on keeping your gun safe and secure until you need it.

Speaking for myself, yes, fear does play a role into why I carry a gun. One of the reasons why I started this journey was becaue there was a violent home invasion in Central Phoenix and a three year old boy was briefly kidnapped.

My oldest son was three at that time, and it brought the reality of things (literally) home to me. My wife and I were both very familiar with the neighborhood where this happened (4oth and Thomas) and while it had been going downhill for a while, it wasn’t one of Phoenix’s worst neighborhoods. We had been hearing about gang activity on the West Side and around South Mountain for years now, but we were not concerned because those were not the neighborhoods we knew about and lived in. But 40th and Thomas? I used to work in a store on that exact corner, and my wife lived a mile and a half away on the edges of Arcadia. We knew that area of Phoenix well, and that brought it home to us.

Was it fear that drove me towards becoming an armed civilian defender? Yes, that was some of what’s behind this. Knowledge, however, is fear’s Kryptonium, and knowing that I am now sufficiently trained, prepared and aware to shift the odds in my favor more than there were ten years ago removes the fear of random attack and lets me live a happier life.

Push Me, Pull You

Tam is 100% correct here: It’s ridiculous for those of us who have spent years of our lives adjusting our clothes around our guns to suddenly expect that new gun owners will immediately buy a whole new wardrobe just because they want to carry a Glock 19 around.

Note to the gun community: We need to fit into people’s lifestyles, not the other way around.


There’s a push-pull going on here: Yes, we need to be better in recommending guns and holsters that people will use, but the fact is that I’ve found that novice shooters, left to their own devices, will choose smaller guns for CCW like pocket .380’s and mini-9s. We need to guide them towards guns they shoot well and shoot often and give them holster and carry options for they can carry comfortably and frequently.

I like my little Shield. It’s an accurate, reliable gun and I carry it whenever I can, but it is not a beginners’ gun. Sub-compact 9mms are a modern version of the snub-nosed revolver, and while some very hard, hard men have successfully defended their lives with snubbie .38’s, chances are, a first time gun owner does not have Walt Rauch’s skill*.

I don’t own a Glock, yet I continue to recommend Glock 19’s as a starting point for people who want a portable defensive firearm. They’re small and light enough to carry on a regular basis, yet they’re big enough to shoot properly and often. With a few exceptions for people with poor hand strength and the like, it’s where we all should start.

On the other hand, I started with a CZ75, and I didn’t turn out too crazy.

* Neither do I. Yet.

Take What Is Best, Discard The Rest.

There’s been quite a lot of chatter from parts of the internet about the effectiveness of timers in training and what skills we should use as benchmarks in our training. Some of it is good, some of it isn’t.

A lot of the talk centers around what should and should not be tracked with a timer, because chasing those skills, some say, is a waste of your time and effort.

Let’s look at one of the most “gamer” skills out there, target-to-target transitions. “On the street” it doesn’t matter HOW fast your gun moves from one target to another, right? That sort of stuff is pure gamer, useful only for getting a better score at a match or impressing your buds at the range.

Or is it?

Let’s review.

  1. Pistols, even the vaunted .45AKCACP usually do not stop a threat with just one shot*.
  2. This means that multiple rounds on-target (preferrably in the center-mass area or into the ocular cavity of the skull) are going to be needed, and they’ll be needed under very stressful conditions.
  3. People don’t like getting shot and they tend to run away from people who are shooting at them.

All of this means that if (God forbid) we get into a gun fight, we may need to dump many rounds into a target that is moving so that it does not get shot full of holes.

Think being able to quickly acquire a new target and move your gun so the sights are on-target helps in that situation?

I do.

Still think that target transition speed is a “gamer” skill?

Let’s watch this in practice. Notice how fast the bad guys de-ass themselves after their supposed victim shows his claws. The “victim” in this case wisely decides to stop shooting when it’s apparent that their victim du jour is anything but and de-ass themselves from the situation, probably weighing slightly more as well, thanks to the several dozen grains of lead that is now deep inside their chest cavity.

They call them “running gun battles” for a reason, people.

* Although a round into the ocular cavity that drives into the medulla oblagata does tend to end things right quickly…

It’s Friday. I Should Be Thinking About The Weekend.

But I’m not. It was my youngest son’s birthday last weekend, and over the course of the past few days, I wrapped up a longish article for a new client (one that I am VERY happy to be writing for), and there’s a big project at work going on, so the best I can do for content right now is leech off of Tam’s excellent article about dealing with the realities of real-world carry by pointing you towards the first article I wrote for Shooting Illustrated, which dealt with concealed carry in the office.

Concealing a Glock 19 in a tuckable holster means pretty much nothing if it takes you a quarter fortnight to draw the darn thing.


Book Review: Indoor Practice Range Sessions by Claude Werner

Moving to an area of the country that has a paucity of outdoor ranges has opened my eyes to the reality of what most urban gun owners face in America. Not everyone has a pistol bay or a back yard range to work on drawing from a holster, movement or other defensive pistol skills.

We’re also seeing millions of new gun owners, and personal protection is one of the biggest reasons why people are buying guns today. Sadly, though, many people are buying a gun and leaving in locked up and unloaded where it’s no use to anyone as a defensive tool, or they buy a gun, get their concealed carry permit and then never carry the gun.

A big part of the reason why this gap exists in gun culture is because there are no easy on-ramps for new gun owners into defensive concealed carry. A concealed carry instructor might mutter some platitudes about dry fire or competition, but unless new gun owners are given specific guidance on what works and what doesn’t, they’ll quickly get lost in a confusing morass of arcane terminology and members-only shooting ranges.

Claude Werner’s new E-Book, Indoor Range Practice Sessions, is designed to fill in the knowledge gap between what is taught in a concealed carry class and what is taught in a defensive pistol class at an outdoor range. There is book after book written on defensive training with a pistol, but all of them pre-suppose that the student has easy access to a range that allows for moving with a pistol in your hand and multiple targets to be set up and engaged.

Claude’s book corrects that oversight. It’s not for advanced students, as it starts off with very basic techniques, but it’s set up to help new gun owners improve their ability to shoot in a defensive environment and improve their confidence in their defensive skills. I’m a big fan of using standards to boost the confidence of new gun owners, and one of the features I like in this book is that it has the concealed carry qualifications for various states scattered throughout the text as a standard for the students to shoot. While most of them are ridiculously easy for even mid-level shooters, they allow novices to gain confidence knowing that they could pass the concealed carry course in any number of states.

A copy of Indoor Range Practice Sessions should be sent to every new gun owner who just applied for a concealed carry permit, because there is nothing else out there like it to help people ease into the concealed carry lifestyle. This e-book is an outstanding resource for anyone who wants to be a better shot but doesn’t know where to start and is highly recommended for new gun owners. This is not the book for you if you’re a regular competitor in practical pistol or take one or two advanced training courses a year. It is, however, the perfect book for your friends who have just bought a gun or who want to get their concealed carry permit. Buy a copy of them, because the knowledge they gain from reading it and putting it into use may save their life one day.

Or yours.

The Next Logical Step For “Israeli Carry”.

Look, if you believe, as these guys do, that somehow, your gun just isn’t safe enough to carry around with ammo loaded in the chamber and the appropriate safeties engaged, why not take the next logical step and walk around with an unloaded, empty gun?

After all, if you gun is unsafe with a round in the chamber, isn’t even MORE safe without any ammo in it whatsoever? And you’re going to have to use two hands to chamber a round into the gun if you carry in Condition Three, why not use two hands to load and chamber a round when carrying in Condition Four?

Do it. Do it for the children.

Or just carry your guns the way they’re supposed to be carried, with a round in the chamber and safeties engaged.


This. So Very, Very Much This.

“When we’re talking about employing deadly weapons for the purpose of self-defense, we want to GET better, not FEEL better.”

“The way you get better is you have a plan before you go practice.”

“I used to think, like a lot of instructors do, that the hard part of the draw was establishing a grip. Now I realize that’s only true if you have a crap holster.”

Claude Werner

Send this video to anyone who wants to get better at shooting, but isn’t sure where to start, and have them buy his book on effective practice on an indoor range. It’s excellent.

Tactical Hipster.

Speaking of trauma kits, the one I’ve been carrying around is a little bit on the bulky side. Yes, I can conceal it under a t-shirt, and although it looks like the iPhone case it really is, it prints like a son of a gun. While no one as pointed and laughed at me yet, I’d like to have other options for carrying around the stuff that might keep might keep me alive.

In addition to this, I’ve started using an iPad Air with keyboard as a surrogate laptop, and I need a way to carry it around with me on my daily travails.

And so here is my new man-purse European carry-all tactical hipster messenger bag.

Tactical Messenger Bag

I was going for “Indiana Jones“, but at my age, I’ll settle for “old guy trying to look cool but failing.” Look for a complete rundown in a few days as I assemble all the various bits and pieces that will go in it.

Quick, Simple, Cheap.

REALLY like this fast and easy way to make an improvised tourniquet in the field, courtesy of the late, great Paul E. Gomez.

We’ve gotten so used to having disposable tissues on-hand everywhere we go that we forget just how useful a handkerchief really is. I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying one in my back pocket no matter where I am, and with two young sons, it’s come in handy a number of times already. No, a handkerchief in a pocket is not sterile, but they’ll die of blood loss LONG before they die of an infection from an unsterile tourniquet. I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying around a tourniquet, but I’m backing that up with a handkerchief as well.