Formula Firearms

It’s been over a year since I bought a myself a hot hatch, and I really want to learn to drive it better. I know that some kind of auto racing is going to help me with deal with rapid decision making under stress while I’m behind the wheel, and it will help me see a clear course of action while dealing with all the complex inputs that come with driving a car in traffic.

So naturally, the best way for me to do this is is to ditch my car because it’s not good enough and spend a bunch of money on a Rousch Mustang with racing slicks and join the SCCA, right?

Because everyone knows that my lowly family grocery-getter isn’t a serious car for dedicated, hard-core hobbyists. Boy, did I make a mistake buying a car that fit my budget and my needs outside of racing. I shoulda saved up my money and bought something from a dedicated racing brand that the serious gear heads around me approved of, rather than a four-door hatchback from a mass-market manufacturer that also makes delivery trucks and minivans. I should embrace the race car lifestyle and change my life to fit my car, rather than figure out which car fits best with my family and with my desire to drive fast.

What was I thinking?

It’s obvious that I will never, EVER be a serious driver if I don’t get a hardcore sports car. I’m pitiful. I should resign myself to this fact just leave the car in the garage all day. Clearly, driving fast is NOT for me.

Fortunately for me, that’s not what actually happens in the car world. There are events that are set up to let people like me who want to get better learn how to do high-performance driving without emptying our wallets, and I’ll probably go to one within the year, because race car.

Think that this was allegory for getting new gun owners out to a competition or a training class?

You’re right, it was.

The Whys and Wherefores.

Poking around the internet the last month, I ran into a video where a gentlemen proudly showed off his “bug out bag”, which consisted of a trauma kit (good), a couple of flashlights (good), a tactical tomahawk (umm, ok), an AR-15 (sure, why not?) and big stack of loaded AR mags.

And that was it.

Question: What scenario(s) was he imagining where hundreds and hundred of rounds of ammo were going to be more important than rain gear or a first aid kit? Where is the tool kit? Where is the compass, map and signaling device? Heck, where is the water storage and/or filtration? Why is he preparing for a trip to Mosul instead of a nasty three-day storm?

Needless to say, I have a little bit different take on this than his, and my views are definitely not as fixated on firearms as his views are (although, yes, I do have a long gun with me when I leave the house).

My priorities for stocking a Bug Out Bag / Bug in Bag / Get Home Bag are pretty simple: What would I need if I had to go camping for three days or seven days or even just one day? All the gear that answers those questions should be focused on the Outdoor Survival Rule Of Threes:

  • You can survive three minutes without oxygen (i.e. don’t drown)
  • You can survive three hours without shelter in harsh weather
  • You can survive three days without water
  • You can survive three weeks without food

Note that “300 rounds of ammo” is not one of the rules of three.

Now, do we need to worry about “social disruption” (aka a riot) being one of the situations where an emergency kit of some kind would common in handy? Yep. Do we need worry about that to the exclusion of all other possibilities, like inclement weather, an earthquake, etc?

Nope.

It’s very easy to apply the gun solution to every possible problem, but a rifle is pretty much useless if it’s a hurricane that’s threatening your well-being, not a rioting mob.

Your Own Personal Gaston.

On a recent episode of Mike Seeklander’s podcast, Gabe Suarez said, in response to some rather fierce criticism he recently received online, that some people “treat this stuff (firearms training) as if it was some kind of religion.”.

But here’s the kicker: Firearms training actually IS a religion.

At least it should be.

Firearms trainers are telling their students how to save their lives from the evil people around us, and they also tell people how to change their lifestyle and live a better, happier life.

Isn’t that what a religion tells you to do? Religions tell people why bad things happen in the world, and how to have a mindset that “delivers us from evil.”

All the great martial arts have an element of religion in them as a way to focus one’s energy and calm the soul. Chi, Zanshin, Eye Of The Tiger, whatever you want to call it, the martial arts understands that, to quote The Bard, all things be ready if our minds be so.

One of the reasons why the martial arts includes this stuff is because history has taught us that people who are motivated by a higher calling tend to do more extraordinary things than those who aren’t, and a gunfight (and fights in general) are (thankfully) an extraordinary event in the lives of the average person.
If concealed carry wants to be a martial art, it’s probably going to need some kind of spiritual/emotional mindset development plan as well, something that goes beyond the Cooper Color Code and hazy talk of “situational awareness.”

We want people to react to extraordinary circumstances. That’s going to require extraordinary motivation.

A religion of CCW isn’t going to save your soul, but it just might save your life.

Everything But The Bang.

One of the biggest differences (if not THE biggest difference) between a Harley rider and every other obnoxious person on two wheels motorcycle rider has little, if anything, to do with the motorcycles themselves. What makes a Harley rider a Harley rider is the mythos that you’re an individualist.

You, and millions and millions of people just like you.

There is a culture that’s built around Harley Davidson owners that has little, if anything, to do with the motorcycles themselves, and it’s a culture that offers events tailored to different levels of engagement into the culture. From “Learn To Ride” events to poker runs to Sturgis, you can find some way to meet your fellow enthusiast and have fun together with your motorcycles.

Is there a culture built around concealed carry? Of course there is.

Are there entry points and events that can handle new gun owners as well as experienced gun owners?

Maybe.

Kathy Jackson turned me on to a new group called Action Shooting International, and I really, really like what they’re doing:

Here at Action Shooting International, LLC, we’re focused on giving you a chance to practice in a way that’s fun, and builds social connections with other gun owners. ASI shoots are competitions, but we’re more concerned about having fun and learning something along the way than fighting for every point. Each shooting problem you’ll face (called a “stage”) focuses on a particular experience or skill — such as reloading, shooting around an obstacle, or shooting while moving.

And the good news is, the rules are lightweight, holsters are optional, .380ACP is the minimum caliber and round counts look to be very low. If you shoot at a range that doesn’t have a competition, this might be right for you to get involved with.

Mama Always Told Me Not To Look Into The Eyes Of The Sun

But Mama, that’s where the fun is. 

B. Springsteen

I remember chatting with a family friend years ago about one of my trips down into Mexico to work with the churches and orphanages in and around Hermosillo. He said he’d never go down to Mexico, for any reason, because he couldn’t carry a gun there. At the time, I didn’t understand his feelings. I’d been to Mexico time after time after time on both vacation trips and church trips, and not only did I not see any reason to avoid Mexico because you couldn’t be armed, I saw no reason to be armed in Mexico (or, if I’m honest, Arizona as well. Hey, I was young and stupid.).

I knew Mexico. I knew what to avoid, and how to not act like a dumb Norteamericano. In other words, I knew how to avoid the acting stupid and going to the stupid places. Also, I was with church people, so the “Stupid people” part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of.

The Farnam Rule runs into trouble, though, because a significant part of the fun stuff in our lives is usually stupid things done in stupid places with stupid people. For years, the best place to go for New Mexican in Phoenix was in a fairly stupid place, as was one of the best Mexican bakeries. You knew it, you accepted it, and you balanced the risk and the reward. About 10 miles away from where I am sitting and writing this, there are a dozen or restaurants, all of which are in a town that is the epicenter for violent crime in our county.

Am I hungry for la verdera cosa when it comes to Mexican cuisine? You bet I am*.

Am I willing to go to stupid places at stupid times to do non-stupid things** surrounded by people who may or may not be stupid? Nope.

Stupid varies from person to person. What is safe for me may not be safe for others, and what is safe for them might be sheer insanity to me. To quote the 20th century’s greatest philosopher, a man has got to know his limitations.

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

Some old Chinese guy

Update: Thinking more about this statement, “I was with church people, so the ‘Stupid people’ part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of,” it’s not actually true in this instance. Church people in church or in their usual neighborhoods are not stupid, but church people dropped into someplace that’s outside of their comfort zone can do very, very stupid things. Yes, the chances of doing tequila shots off a stripper goes WAY down when you’re with (most) church people, but the chances of being blissfully ignorant about how dangerous the world is goes way, way up.

Stupid is a relative term.


* Here’s a hint: If they don’t have corn tortillas available and there’s no cabbage or radishes for toppings, it ain’t a REAL Mexican taco joint. It may be good, but it ain’t the real thing.
** Eating tacos is never, ever stupid. Ever.

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.

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.