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…

Quote of the Day, Colion Noir Edition.

“I’ve always looked at firearms training as a form of (the) martial arts. In that world, people spend hours perfecting a fighting craft, yet no one thinks  they’re nuts. Average people think hand-to-hand combat is a pursuit of accomplishment, rather than preparing to beat up the next dude we see in a Tap-Out t-shirt. Part of reason of the reason why people train with a gun is self-defense, but they also want to be good shooters for the sake of it. Learning to use a gun with extreme proficiency is an art form, and it’s time we start talking about it that way.”

So. Much. This.

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.


Failure Is The Preferred Option.

Training to fail is the only way to get better, but failure is not fun.

“Tactical” training that mimics “playing soldier” adds in an element of make believe and is therefore more fun than more effective training that lacks such elements. All of us guys* liked “playing soldier” when we were kids and the rush of “taking charge” and mimicking violence and/or rigid adherence to authority, so it only makes sense that doing such things again as an (alleged) adult triggers pleasant childhood memories.

No one ever grew up “playing USPSA” (at least not yet) so it will be a while until walking through a stage triggers pleasant childhood memories.

Good training requires failure, because unless you’re Rob Leatham and you popped out of your mother’s womb with a 1911 in your hand**, you have bad habits you need to break. Breaking bad habits without breaking the student’s spirit is tough, and the “suck it up, buttercup” approach used by ex-military types is uniquely unsuited to us free-spirited civilians.

I mentioned this to my wife, who has 20 years experience teaching middle schoolers, and she said she gets around the despair that failure often causes by reminding her students of how far they’ve come. Her students can do the scary stuff because she reminds them that they’ve already learned so much in her classes.

This is where standards come into play. If you can show a student how far they’ve come from the first hour of class while teaching them something more advanced later on in class, you can make them want to learn more. In order to measure progress and boost confidence, you need to, well, measure progress.

It works for eighth graders, and might just work for adults as well.

* Yes, I know. How cisgender, heteronormative of me. Piss off.
** Ow, that must hurt Mrs. Leatham somewhat…

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.

Training Desert.

Kathy Jackson uses a swimming lesson metaphor for firearms training, and it’s a good one because both firearms training and swimming lessons help you stay safer when you’re out at the range or in the water, and let’s face it, they’re both really good ideas as well.

But what if we told our new swimmers that the only places they could practice their freshly-taught skills wasn’t in the community swimming pool or school pool, but only in the bathtub in their own home or in large open bodies of water?

Sounds silly, right? There is no way that swimming would be popular if the only place to do it would be in lakes or oceans, and somehow paddling in a tub just isn’t the same as doing laps in a pool.

But that’s what happens in 99% of  firearms training classes. The students go the range, get their training on a pistol bay or outdoor range, and then are maybe given some brief instructions about dry fire and that’s it. No advice on how to hone your skills in an indoor, “bowling alley” range, which are far more common and accessible than pistol bays. Most indoor ranges don’t allow movement and drawing from a holster so it’s hard to make a direct correlation between defensive pistol skills and what you can practice on a range, but some practice is better that nothing. Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor, has an e-book of drills that will increase defensive pistol skills but yet can still can be practiced on the indoor range, and to the best of my knowledge, he’s the first one to realize that not everyone hangs out on a pistol bay every weekend.

And that’s a shame.

Getting people to practice, and practice in the context of a fun day at the range (whether that range is indoor or outdoor) should be goal of every trainer, because happy and engaged customers are repeat customers.


It’s Not The Choreography, It’s The Stumbles.

We learn situational awareness by establishing a baseline for the environment and noticing what’s out of place. A mini van or an SUV with handicap plates idling by the front of the pharmacy is not out of place. A beat-up pickup truck or a tricked-out street racing car idling by the entrance to the pharmacy would be out of place, however, and if that happened to be at a pharmacy I was about to walk into, you are DARN RIGHT I’m not going in.

In that same way, we shoot matches because we get used to dealing with what’s out of place and unusual when we are dealing with stressful situations with a gun in our hands.

The very best thing that can happen on the stage is we do everything exactly the way we planned. As Steve Anderson is fond of saying, practical pistol is speed biased and negatively charged. This means that unless we pay attention to things, we tend to go too fast on a stage and not get our hits, and we tend to notice our screwups more than we notice what we did right.

Emptying a gun in a few seconds is not hard. Emptying a gun in a few seconds and getting your rounds on target? That’s hard. Also, noticing the screwups that happen on a stage lets us become accustomed to correcting for them as they happen and come out on top of things.

Isn’t that also what training is about?

The value of competition is when things don’t go well on the stage and we are forced to make things up on the spot, and that carries over 100% into firearms training. For example, we were doing a drill in a Combat Focus Shooting class where the instructor would call out a number from one to six, and then we’d put rounds into the corresponding number on our targets.

Except the time the instructor called out “seven”, and then things changed. Almost all the class reacted to the vocal command, but they didn’t process the data in the command until their gun was pointed at the target. The other students did not shoot competitions so they were not used to the unexpected happening on the firing line and reacted on instinct.

Me? I heard “seven”, saw that there was a “one” and a “six” on my target, added the two together, pressed out my gun and put rounds into both of them while the rest of the class stood there dumbfounded with their dicks guns out. The unexpected did not faze me, as I’d had to deal with missteps and altered plans with pretty much every stage I had shot.

We have spent thousands of years developing sports like javelin, judo, jousting, and other sports that don’t begin with a “J” to prepare our bodies for combat. Using sport as a way to prepare for war has worked for centuries, so why do we think that pistol competition are no help when it comes to pistol combatives?

Practice Makes Prefect.

Thinking a bit more about last week’s post, I’ve had a fair amount of firearms training so far (250 or so hours at the moment, with more to come), but I haven’t had homework after a class. I’ve never been handed a structured practice regimen after a class was finished and been told “Ok, here’s some things you can do you improve your skills after I leave town.”

Homework works for college students, so why won’t it work for gun students?

We go to gun school to learn good habits / get rid of bad ones, and yet when gun school is done, there is nothing handed out that would make practice a habit for us.

“Ah-ha!,” you say, “That’s because if you go to gun school, practice should be a habit for you!”

“Should” is not “is”. I don’t practice as much as I should, and I hardly think I’m alone in this. Anything to help get my lazy butt up off the couch and dry-firing or going to the range (especially things that work on an indoor range) will increase the value of returning to gun school after the class is over.

And yes, I get that homework is not fun (as someone who has a thirteen year old who has to be browbeaten to do homework every night, believe me, I understand this,), but achieving and excelling at set goals?

That’s fun, and also rewarding.