Layered Like An Onion

It’s not uncommon for awkward and potentially violent situations to pop up inside a church. For instance, one of the issues that’s happened in a church I’ve attended is where one spouse refuses to quit going to the same church as the other after a nasty divorce, and steps need to be taken that restraining orders are adhered to.

Yuk.

My local megachurch posts an off duty deputy in the narthex, which discourages social predators and rude behavior, but it also means that asocial predators will look at him, and strike elsewhere.

Predators don’t prey on the strong, they seek out and attack the weak. I’m glad that we have a cop in our church lobby, but I’d prefer him to be 300 yards to the east, in the children’s educational wing where my sons are learning about God. That’s where the weakness is, and that’s what needs protecting.

The sanctuary with all us adults? Well, I know there’s at least one well-armed, well-trained individual worshipping in every service I attend.

Will it be enough? I sincerely hope I never have to find out.

Character Is What You Are In The Dark.

We must work, for the night, she is coming!

Time and time again, I see people in the gun world, people who preach de-escalation as being vital to self-defense, being unwilling or unable to de-escalate personal spats online, leading to butthurt galore and all sorts of unnecessary drama.

If you can’t de-escalate a virtual spat, it brings into question your ability to de-escalate a spat in real life.

At the very least, it gives a prosecutor a little more ammunition to shoot at you in court: “Your Honor, the State would like to enter into evidence the following online exchange to show that the defendant has a temper and was itchin’ to start a fight that evening…”

Start With The Darkness.

Maglite and Tool PouchThat little combo flashlight / multitool pouch on the right may not look like much, but in a way, it’s what got me started on my journey towards armed personal defense.

I started off my photo career as a photo assistant, something pretty much everyone does, and within a few months, I was making a full-time living at it, something very few people were able to do in the Phoenix market. I rose to the top because when I was on the job, I made it my priority to make the photographer’s needs my priority, and that meant thinking ahead and having a plan to deal with all the things that might go wrong on the set. Sets that were usually pretty dark, because a ) The setups were usually indoors and b ) You really don’t want stray light sources interfering with your photos.

As such, it’s usually dark inside a photo studio, and that means that if something goes wrong, it’s probably going to have to be diagnosed and fixed in the darkness. I found out really quickly that having a flashlight (in my case, a AA Maglite, which seemed AMAZINGLY bright when I first started out) and a multi-tool (this Gerber, which I still love and adore), a pen (a fine point Sharpie) and some gaffer’s tape (because, just like The Force, it has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together) on me at all times was good thing, because stuff can happen when you’re 14 feet up in the air adjusting a light and you may or may not have someone near the grip cart to help you out. You were on your own, and you had to solve the problem in front of you RIGHT NOW with only the tools you had on you.

Sound familiar?

I honestly think carrying a flashlight on a day in, day out basis is the best starting point we have for getting people used to the idea that they need to prepare for the crap that can happen in their lives. As sure as the sun sets in the west, darkness will happen in our lives. We know this, we accept this, and yet the VAST majority of Americans walk around completely unprepared to deal with it beyond hoping that the streetlights come on each night.

Get people to carry a flashlight everyday. That starts the wheels turning.

All The Feels.

There’s a difference between myself and many of my friends, and most other gun owners out there. My friends and I have taken the time to figure out what we are doing wrong when it comes to marksmanship, and we have invested time and money into solving those problems.

That is a HUGE difference compared to most gun owners. You ask anyone on the range if “they can shoot” and nine times out of ten, the response you’ll receive, is “Sure I can shoot”.

The lack of consistent grouping on their target will tell another story, and if you ask that same person a) what they’re best and b) what they need improving on, 9 times out of ten you’ll get a blank stare, because in their mind, they can shoot, so there is no need for improvement.

That element of “I suck at doing (something), therefore, I am not going to integrate (something) into my teaching, and downplay it’s importance,” is what comes natural to most people. It’s people like me and the other members of the 1% who say “I suck at (something) and I need to train (something) so I don’t suck at it, and let others benefit from my experience.”

The problem is that having the courage to say a) I suck and b ) I need to change that is a rare commodity. We ALL have a tendency towards confirmation bias. We forget that buying decisions (and our measure of the relative value of an item) come first from our emotions. If we *feel* like we’ve got our money’s worth, we like that experience. I’m not like most people: I look for training classes that challenge me and show where I suck because I really want to BE proficient, not FEEL like I’m proficient.

The trick is giving people the feeling of proficiency and then adding in actual proficiency, without destroying their self-worth by telling them how much they suck. Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL in favor of standardized measurements when it comes to firearms training and instructors who forgo the idea of using benchmarks to improve performance are foregoing pretty much all of modern educational theory.

The goal is to create lifelong students of marksmanship, not one-and-done gun owners who either think they know everything after two days of classes, or who are so demoralized by their performance in a class they never set foot in a pistol bay again.

A good percentage of the instructors I know look at firearms training as an intellectual exercise… “In this class, you will LEARN (knowledge) how to draw from a holster and blahblahblah.”

How many of them add in an element of emotion? Can you do that without treading on tactical derpitude territory and claim your students will learn to shoot like a Navy SEAL?

If someone bought a gun in order to FEEL safe, what about your class and how you talk about it enhances that feeling? What detracts from it? Are you even asking those questions of yourself and how you teach?

Range Stuff, Life Stuff, Other Stuff.

Gabe Suarez has a great article on the realities of shotgun reloading in defensive situations. If you need to reload a shotgun in the midst of a defensive encounter, that means the 5+1 or whatever rounds you had in it were not up to the task at hand, and if 6 or more #00 buck or slugs ain’t solving your problems, buddy, you have problems indeed.

Which got me thinking about skills that are essential on the range in a training class, and skills that are essential outside the training bay.

Loading a shotgun quickly is one of those training bay skills, and it’s even more essential in 3 Gun. There is gadget after gadget out there designed to help you reload your scattergun in mere seconds during a match, but those gadgets are of limited utility outside of a 3 Gun stage.

Speaking of reloading, Karl Rehn has a terrific breakdown of what is actually faster; reloading a pistol with the muzzle pointed up vs. level vs. pointed down, which is great for proving which method is faster and safest in a training bay or at a shooting match.

However, given that John Correia has watched and analyzed over 10,000 gunfights on video and not one armed citizen has ever needed to reload his gun during the fight, is a fast pistol reload necessary for the training bay, or for outside the range?

Final, semi-heritical note: Reloads are an essential part of a number of pistol drills, including the beloved El Presidente and the F.A.S.T.

If we know that reloading the pistol is a skill that we probably won’t need to use under pressure, even if we get into 10,000 gunfights, should it really be a part of those drills?

I don’t know, but I’m interested in finding out.

Say When.

It was interesting reading this bit from Greg Elifritz on choosing the right time to get violent, especially considering that he posted it almost two years before John Corriea talked about the same sort of thing over there. Both guys came to pretty much the same the conclusion, but using different methods.

It’s something I think we need to think about more. The cliché you see in an NRA Personal Protection Class (and elsewhere) is the bad gun (always a bad GUY) jumping out from behind a car with a knife and shouts out “GIMMEALLYOURMONEYRIGHTNOWORI’LLKILL!!”

But lets face it, we’re probably more likely to stumble into something already in progress or be caught on the fringe of something that goes down in front of us than to have the mugger-in-the-car-lot scenario happen to us, or we’ll be involved in a “monkey dance” situation with a stranger (or more likely, a family member or friend) that we just can’t de-escalate fast enough.

Then what?

Well, the five things that Andrew Branca talks about all better be in-place, or else you’re in a heap of trouble.

Market Forces

I have a good friend who is an outstanding advertising / fashion photographer, and, more importantly, a outstanding photo instructor as well. He can teach you how to see light and use it to your advantage better than almost anyone I know, and he’s been doing this for years and years now. You would think that his workshops, which teach you the advanced fundamentals you need to take your picture-taking to new levels, would be sold out YEARS in advance.

And you’d be wrong.

The classes that ARE getting filled up aren’t taught by him, but rather by hacks who know little to nothing about the technical aspects of photography but they CAN teach you how to take cute pictures of your kid like those STUPID Anne Geddes photos.

In other words, the demand for photo classes about photography is almost non-existent, but the demand for classes that teach you how to use photography to capture an emotional moment is rather high.

Who out there is effectively using an emotional appeal to sign people up for a post-CCW training class? Marketing 101 tells us that we make buying decisions with our emotions first, then justify those decisions with our brain. Is there a way to use this effectively without sliding into “Learn How To Shoot Like A Navy SEAL” territory?

I dunno, but I’d like to find out.

USCCA Elite CCW Insurance Versus NRA Carry Guard Gold Plus

USCCA Elite CCW Insurance Versus NRA Carry Guard Gold Plus

This post shows up early and often for searches on “self defense insurance.” It’s a good post, and I’m proud of how it’s helped a bunch of people find the concealed carry insurance that was right for them.

But that post covers just the lower-end of the spectrum, not the “Cadillac” plans, and so I thought a follow-up post might come in handy so people can see for themselves how things shape up at the top end of the scale, and compare USCCA Elite CCW insurance versus NRA Carry Guard Gold Plus concealed carry legal insurance.

As always, remember that I am not lawyer nor do I give legal advice. Both companies post copies of their policies on their websites, and I urge you to read them over very carefully before you sign up for anything.

NRA Carry Guard Gold Plus

Aside from all the benefits listed below, NRA Carry Guard Gold Plus comes with a one-year membership in the NRA. The NRA also recently had a “Carry Guard Expo” featuring training opportunities and a trade show, and instructors can also add NRA Carry Guard training to what they teach.

Coverage costs EITHER $550 a year OR $49 a month, and the NRA is promoting Carry Guard very heavily right now. The NRA’s coverage is “first dollar” coverage: You will have to pay for your lawyers in someway, then, if you are acquitted, the NRA will reimburse you. NRA CarryGuard also covers your spouse if they need to use a firearm to defend a life, and it covers firearms only, not the use of other means of lethal force.

USCCA Self Defense Shield Elite

USCCA membership comes with a subscription to Concealed Carry magazine (my first article for them should show up early next year), and coverage costs EITHER $497 a year or $47 a month. The USCCA puts on a “Concealed Carry Expo” each year, and has so for the past four years. The USCCA also has their own cadre of trainers with their own training program as well.

USCCA self-defense insurance covers your spouse and also covers anyone under the age of 21 in your household if they need to use lethal force to defend a life. They cover most means of lethal force (knives, pointed sticks, fresh fruit) as well as the use of a firearm. The USCCA’s coverage starts immediately, which means there is no out-of-pocket expenses incurred by you up to the limits of your policy if you are acquitted.

 NRA CarryGuard Gold+USCCA Elite
Monthy Fee OR$50$47
Yearly Fee (Not Both)$550$497
Criminal Coverage$250,000$250,000
Civil Coverage$1,500,000$2,000,000
BailYesYes
"First Dollar" CoverageNoYes
Spouse Also CoveredYesYes
Any WeaponNoYes
Wage Compensation While In CourtYesYes
Training ResourcesYesYes
Choose Your Own AttorneyYesYes
SIGN UPSIGN UP

Usual Disclaimer: I am an NRA member, though not a Carry Guard subscriber, and I am an affiliate of the USCCA. 

… And You Will Be Invincible

During the spring and summer months, it’s common practice for Euro fashion catalog shooters to come out to the U.S. to shoot the fall / winter catalogs. They liked AZ because of 300 days of sun a year, and I’d make a decent amount of $$ off them as their RV Driver / local guide. There was one guy I assisted, Bob somebody, a Welshman (funny as hell… a rarity amongst fashion shooters, in my experience), who was shooting for one of the German catalogs. The results from a week-long shoot out in Arizona was riding on his shoulders, and expenses involved included a dozen Euro models (HOT Euro models…), an art director, me, his assistant, three stylists… and he shot everything on Kodak 100 chrome using (wait for it) a half-dozen Nikon Quicktouch point and shoots. Yep, not an F4, not a Hassie, a consumer-level compact 35mm camera, about as basic and boring a camera as you could get at the time.

No manual settings. No external light sources beyond fill cards and reflectors. His assistant would get an incident meter reading, they’d note it, and then it was off to the races.

He shot that way because he wanted to focus (no pun intended) 100% on what the model was doing and how she was interacting with the camera, and didn’t want to bump something and have a whole session ruined. And it worked for him. He got some great shots from his models, and the chromes looked really good when all was said and done.

He could do this because he knew every single step before, during and after the shot, and knew how to play within the limits of his gear.

I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to figure what all this has to do with your gear, how you use it and what’s the “right” gun for self defense.

It’s The Little Things That Make All The Difference

Hi, my name’s Kevin, and I have a turtle draw: I hunch my shoulders up and drop my head down when I draw a pistol, and that’s affecting the speed and accuracy of my first shot. Why? To be honest, I blame the Combat Focus Shooting class I took way back in the day, where you’re taught to hunch up and hunker down as the first part of your draw stroke.

It’s affecting my speed because I’m moving more muscles than I need to in order to get my gun on-target. I don’t need to move my head, I need to move my hands and arms so my gun comes up to the level of my eyes and I have a decent enough sight picture to make the shot.

It’s affecting my accuracy because of my nearsightedness. I wear bifocals now, and part that sees close is the part at the bottom of each lens. When I turtle, because of angle of my head, I’m actually looking through the TOP of each lens, and as a result, my front sight is blurry.

Whoops.

Fortunately, a friend of mine on social media posted this video of Max Michel: Watch how his head moves during the draw.

Hint: It doesn’t.

A brief dry-fire session over the weekend with my new stance had me making consistent sub-1.5 second draws from concealment into the down zero area of an IDPA target that’s 7 yards away, including one that was darn close to one second flat.

I’ll take it.