When You Find Your Student Is Your Master

When You Find Your Student Is Your Master

One of the things about the dojo model of firearms training is that it requires the use of advanced students to train the beginners: The brown belts train the white belts because in doing so, they a) free up the sensei’s time and b) learn how to do stuff in the process of training others. An example:

Something that helps make Step By Step Gun Training’s Shoot and Scoots so successful is that they have experienced shooters who are NRA Certified RSO’s help the new gun owners with things like finger off the trigger while moving and how to do a safe presentation and reholster. The RO’s aren’t there to help shave 0.2 seconds off a draw: Their job is to get the newbies (white belts) up to speed and in doing so, reinforce those skills in themselves, and in the process, learn how learn so they themselves can become better shooters. There’s an initial sorting process that takes place with first-timers so the RO’s don’t train people who are absolutely new to guns: Those people are sent to a lead instructor to get the Four Rules and some basic marksmanship drilled into them before they hit the range.

This process of using advanced students to help guide competent but inexperienced new students helps free up the lead instructor’s time to a) instill a basic level of safety into the really, really new students and b) allow time to work with experienced students on areas like faster trigger speed and better gun manipulation. The dojo model needs a sensei, but it also needs lots and lots of sempai as well.

After-Action Report: Extreme Close Quarters Concepts With Craig Douglas

After-Action Report: Extreme Close Quarters Concepts with Craig Douglas

This scene in “From Russia, With Love” has always been one of my favourite movie fight sequences. Not a lot flashy technique and technical skills; just two well-trained and athletic men fighting inside a confined space, both trying earnestly and sincerely to beat the other guy to death with whatever is at hand.

I’ve always loved that scene because it felt REAL (and it was… there was only one shot that used stunt doubles: The rest was Sean Connery and Robert Shaw going at it themselves). The editing on it was also sheer genius: Lots of lingering shots of two guys struggling, then a quick cut as positions reversed, then more long shots as they fought for position, then a jump cut or two and WHOA, it’s over and one person is left on his feet and alive.

Which is pretty much what ECQC was like. Taking part in the grappling and disarms and watching the 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 evos (my lower back informed the rest of me on Saturday afternoon that I would not be taking part in the really rough stuff) imprinted on me just how things can go from okay to really, really bad in literally the blink of an eye.

Even though I didn’t get the full experience and engage in the competitive hugging elements, it was still a tremendously valuable class for a number of reasons.

  1. It’s the natural compliment to most firearms training programs, which tend to emphasize accurate fire at around 7-10 yards. The experience of Tom Givens’ students and the video evidence provided to us by Active Self Protection (among others) tells us that if we civilians need to use lethal force, it will be probably be across the length of a car or a similar distance. Note that word: Probably. This is the class to take for when that “probably” doesn’t happen and you have to deal with someone who’s within bad breath distance and very much wants to end your life. A gun class is a good idea and everyone should take them, but what happens inside an ECQC class is probably the ultimate refutation of the idea that a gun as a household talisman against evil. If you’re thinking that owning and carrying a gun is the answer to your self-defense needs, ECQC will disabuse of that notion in some rather unpleasant ways…
  2. We like to think if we have a lethal force encounter, it’ll be with a mugger in a parking lot who’s going to jump out from behind a car wearing a ski mask and say “GIMMEALLYOURMONEYNOW!”. The harsh reality is, though, that you and I have an excellent chance of having to shoot someone we already know. We tend to let friends and relatives into our personal space more than we let in strangers, so if you need to use lethal force against a friend or relative, chances are, it’s going to be at 7 inches distance, not 7 yards, and that’s where ECQC happens.
  3. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1.
    One of things mentioned over and over again in the class is that having good communication skills and some “go to” phrases to help calm things down was as important as having a good trigger press or good ju-jitsu skills. I saw this happen in-class during the two-on-one drills, where one attacker’s initial angry challenge to the defender, (which referenced the defender, oral sex and the attacker’s brother), flummoxed the defender to the point where he was unable to respond intelligently and de-escalate things before things turned into a fight, a fight that the defender ended up losing. That really showed how important is it to know how to remove hostility and anger with your words so someone doesn’t try to remove your spleen with a knife.
    Speaking of which…
  4. Boy howdy, is an easily-accessible fixed blade ever useful in a close-quarters struggle. The most common occurrence when a gun came out in a clinch was a disarm and a gun lying on the ground. Other than that, we’d see a gun come out and a couple of shots might hit the opponent, but a few shots would also go into the crowd or who knows where.
    Whoops.
    Lastly, someone would get their gun out but have it taken away from them and then used on them by their opponent, ending the fight in their opponent’s favor. Every time a blade came out, though, someone was going to get the point, and get it often.

ECQC was everything I hoped it would be. I’ve been looking for something that would integrate the gun solution to a violent attacker with the empty-hand solution to violence, and that’s exactly what it was. If an old and slow white guy like me can take this class and get a lot out of it, so will you.

Brand Ambassadors For A Country No One Has Ever Heard About.

Brand Ambassadors For A Country No One Has Ever Heard About.

I’m a bit of a gearhead. I drive a hot hatch, and I exceed the posted speed limit on a regular basis.

Perhaps a little TOO regular, if I’m honest.

I digress…

I watch The Grand Tour and Top Gear, and I love seeing all the exotic cars that show up here in this particularly plushly-upholstered section of God’s waiting room.

However, even I couldn’t tell you who the current Indy Car Champion is, and if, say, Lewis Hamilton showed up at a local Mercedes dealer to hawk some wares, I probably wouldn’t go see him.

Now admittedly, I am kinda celebrity-shy: I’m not really impressed by people who are famous, so that does color my judgement somewhat.

With that in mind, I have to ask myself, what is the purpose of a sponsored shooter? To advance the brand of the companies who sponsor them, that’s what, no matter how big or small the brand is.

This is why I’m very interested in what Shoot Center has done. They’re a local range who’s sponsored a shooter who shoots USPSA very well, and I think there’s a real opportunity for them and other local ranges to use a really good shooter to increase the prestige of the range. It doesn’t have to be much: In return, for, say, a case of 9mm every other month or so or maybe access to employee pricing on reloading supplies, have your sponsored shooter do a Facebook video on what makes a good defensive handgun. Or how to shoot better. Or how the safety rules on an indoor range. Heck, just do a video of the shooter punching out the X ring of a target at 25 yards: There’s a TV program dedicated to “Impossible Shots“, why not have your sponsored shooter strut his stuff on your range and show off how much of an authority he/she is on shooting?

A sponsored shooter brings some gravitas and authenticity to what’s being said, and store/range who has one and shows them off therefore appears more clued-in than its competitors, making it appear to be a better place to go shoot than the other ranges in town.

This is why people want to go shoot on a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman: They want the ego boost that comes from doing something associated with someone who is famous for doing what they enjoy doing.

If you got it, flaunt it.

Don’t Try To Understand ‘Em…

Don’t Try To Understand ‘Em…

… just rope ’em, tie ’em and brand ’em
Soon we’ll be living high and wide.

My heart’s calculatin’
My true love will be waitin’
Be waitin’ at the end of my ride

Move ’em on, head ’em up
Head ’em up, move ’em on
Move ’em on, head ’em up
Rawhide

A quick roundup of some articles I wrote that aren’t SHOT-related.

That Dropzone article is my first article for Shooting Sports USA, and they’ll be more articles over there by me in the near future. One thing that happened at SHOT this year is that I really diversified the number of places I’m writing for: Look for stuff on Beretta’s blog, the USCCA and even (gasp) American Hunter sometime this year.

Speaking of roundups (and bad segues), I’m outta here later today, off to take ECQC with Craig Douglas this weekend. This is a class I’m really looking forward to (even though I’ll probably get my @ss kicked in new and exciting ways) because it’s an area of self-defense that a) I know little about and b) have noticed for awhile now that there are a lot of people teaching a gun solution to violence and a lot of people teaching a martial art solution to violence but there are very few people integrating the empty handed skills of martial arts into the gun world.

Well, Craig is one of those people, so I am really looking forward to this class, no matter what it does to my poor, decrepit body.

Match Report, Louland Practical Pistol, January 11

Match Report, Louland Practical Pistol, January 11

As part of commitment to shoot more matches this year, I was able to squeeze in the Thursday night practical match at Louland Gun Club last week.

It’s a very lightweight match, usually all-steel courses of fire that have designated shooting boxes and less than 30 rounds apiece. One bay, though, is set up as a more typical USPSA stage, and that’s what we’ll look at here.

Stage Briefing
Targets A and B must be engaged from shooting area 1, else wise it’s shoot ’em as you see ’em. Target C back there is a right bastard of a shot that can only be engaged from the gap in the shooting area at the top left.

All in all, a fun little stage with a mix of hoser shots and a tight, tough shots with no-shoots.

How’d I do? Not bad.

Some things I like here:

  • I’m up and running as I do the reload. Not much hesitation at all, and I am up and on-target as quick as I can.
  • I shot the two targets at the end of the shooting area on the move, and then the last two as quickly as the ones before them. In fact, on the waveforms in the audio portion of the video, the spaces between all four shots are pretty much the same.
  • Most competitors shot the first two targets on the left side in the main shooting area from one spot, then moved up a few feet to take the partials behind the barrel. I figured out that I could split the difference and engage all four from one spot, saving me a few seconds on the stage.

Some things I don’t like here:

  • All that time shooting three shots at that first target, and I went Alpha-Mike. I figure I must have jerked the first shot (Ah, the joys of a DA/SA gun…), hit the second shot and then got a little anxious on the last one and tossed it off into the bar somewhere.
  • Everything looks good, but everything looks… slow. If I could speed everything up by a third, I’d be happy.

All in all, a good run for me. Had I not thrown that Mike, I’d have been the top non-Open shooter. As it is, I wound up third amongst iron sight shooters.

A Movement Towards The Better.

A Movement Towards The Better.

Chris Wagoner was a leader in the Florida Open Carry movement, and he bailed on them before I did, because they’re a bunch of dorks who have no idea how to get legislation passed in the halls of power.

Now he’s back in the game, leading a new gun rights group called The Florida Firearms Coalition, and they’re determined to advance the right to keep and bear arms on ALL fronts here in Florida, not just open carry.

I’m in, and if you’re in the Sunshine State and you’re reading this, you should be too.

Shots Fired.

Shots Fired.

Florida Carry cuts off its nose to spite its face – Again

Once again Florida Carry, Inc. has demonstrated a lack of concern for Concealed Weapons and Firearms License holders.  License holders continue to be abused by law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts.  When firearms, that are being lawfully carried concealed, accidentally become exposed to the sight of another person, license holders are being arrested for violating the open carry ban.

In Florida, there are 1.8 million law-abiding license holders. Every time they leave their homes, carrying a firearm, they run the risk of that firearm becoming exposed to the sight of another person and then being thrown face down on the street, arrested at gun point and treated like a criminal – because the wind blew open a jacket or they reached for something on a top shelf or a shirt got snagged and uncovered their firearm.

Yeah, I’m gonna guess that the ILA ain’t gonna get a Christmas card from Florida Carry this year.

And probably next year as well.

I’d criticize all those “no compromise” groups out there for how they compromised their beliefs in order to gain a political victory, but first, they need to actually HAVE a political victory for me to do that.

Product Review: Elite Survival Systems Pulse 24 Hour Backpack.

Product Review: Elite Survival Systems Pulse 24 Hour Backpack.

Advantages: Well-made, holds a bunch of gear, doesn’t look menacing
Disadvantages: Could use a just little more MOLLE on the sides
Rating: Five Stars Out of Five.

I reached out to Elite Survival Systems for a couple of EDC/Bug Out bags, and they didn’t send me just two bags, they sent me three: A Pulse 24 Hour bag that I’ll review right now now, and an Echo EDC bag and a Guardian concealment pack that I’ll talk about later.

How cool is that?

I reached out to Elite Survival Systems for this bag because I found out that my current bug-out bag, a Paladin Gear, um, Bug Out Bag, just wasn’t comfortable enough to carry on a long-term basis. I did a seven-mile walk with the Paladin on my shoulder (note: *shoulder*. More on that later.), and it became really tiresome to carry around about halfway through the journey.

This is a problem, because my idea for this bag and what it holds is simple: It holds all the stuff I need if I need to go camping for three days on a moment’s notice, anywhere in the American Southeast. I don’t go camping as much as I used to, and I don’t go into the back country here in Florida like I did in Arizona (probably due to the fact that the back roads here are, in fact, swamps, and not roads), but still, I like to have a backup plan handy at all times, so I carry a bug out bag.

The Elite Survival Systems Pulse takes the tried-and-tested 72 hour bag and tones it down a bit. Rather that make it Kyrptec or Multicam or some other tactical color, the bag comes in either brown or black, about as boring as possible, and boring is good if you’re going to be walking around town with it on your shoulders.

And that’s a key point: This bag has two very comfortable padded shoulder straps, along with buckles the chest and level and waist level, and makes it very easy to carry around for hours on end. I did the same walk recently with this bag, and it was a MUCH more pleasant experience. A sling bag is good for emergencies, when you need to grab something quickly and move quickly, but that’s not why I have a bag in the back of my car. The bag in my car is meant to keep me going for at least three days without access to all the niceties of the modern world, and if that means taking a hike to get  back to the modern world, I take a hike.

The Pulse is built well: The zippers open easily and don’t hang up, the nylon is nice and thick and there are no loose threads to be found anywhere on the bag. One of the reasons why I like the Pulse for this sort of thing is it contains a pocket for a hydration pouch: Living in Arizona taught me that a ready supply of water is really, really important, so a bladder is a “must have” for me in a bag like this.

A hydration pouch is just one of the pouches this bag has. I was able to squirrel away all the gear I had been carrying in old bag, with some space left over. The Pulse has MOLLE on the back of the bag and a plethora of pockets inside, allowing me to sort out my stuff into some sort of logical order for quick access. One thing that is different from the Paladin bag is that there is no MOLLE on the sides, which really isn’t a bad thing, I guess, but I carry around a machete with me in my car (because I live literally minutes away from the Everglades) and it’d be nice to strap it to the side of the bag if I need to take a long walk in the swamp, for one reason or another.

Bottom line is, if you’re looking for a gear bag that won’t make you look like you’re headed out to the sandbox when you’re headed out of town.


FCC Disclaimer: Yes, I said they gave me this bag. What of it? 

Hog Wild.

Hog Wild.

Whole Hog

Michael Bane brought up an interesting idea on last week’s podcast: Hog hunting, specifically eradicating feral hogs in the Southeast, has saved the sport of hunting in the U.S.

And he’s probably right.

Getting into hog hunting is really easy, especially for people like me who are middle aged and have never hunted. As I’ve said before, it’s actually easier for my wife and my kids to get into a regular hunting training program than it is for me to get into one.

However, getting into hog hunting is actually pretty easy: I snagged an evening’s trip awhile back to help me evaluate a cheap little IR sight, and there’s two-day classes on hunting hogs available near me as well that I’ll probably take advantage of next year.

And then there’s the simple fact that hogs are an invasive species, and blasting them into oblivion is like fishing for lion fish or hunting for Burmese Pythons: Yes, it’s hunting, but it’s hunting that tries to restore the balance to the ecosystem, and even the most fervent of tree-huggers understands that getting rid of invasive species is a good idea for everyone.

So go out and blast Wilbur into oblivion, and do so knowing that not only are you restoring balance to the environment, you’re also creating an on-ramp for generations of hunters to come.

And organically-grown, free-range, antibiotic-free bacon is just icing on the cake.