You Don’t Need Something Like That. Until You Do.

Tam talks about how much fun it is to go to a tactical carbine course.

I know people who take butt-tons of carbine classes because, face it, running and gunning with an AR or AK, especially on targets in the 7-to-50 yard range, is fun as hell.

Which is not to say that there wasn’t a ton of value in what I spent last week doing, because any time you get a chance to have to think on your feet while armed and move safely around other armed people and make decisions with a gun in your hand is time well-spent. Working tactics in the house is a different animal altogether from doing marksmanship stuff on the square range.

That got me thinking.

I’ve bagged on such courses in the past, and I still think that they should not be a priority for the average citizen who owns guns. If you have never taken a post-CCW pistol class and have no idea how to set a tourniquet, a carbine class shouldn’t be your first choice.

But let’s stop and think for a second. My neighbor across the street from me is a recently retired 82nd Airborne veteran, and another neighbor the next street over is a former LA County Sheriff.

A carbine class, especially a low-light carbine class that would teach me how to act in conjunction with my neighbors who once got paid to shoot people in the face for a living, suddenly seemed to be a very good idea as I was sitting on my front porch during the darkness of a post-Irma curfew on Monday night, as did some sort of body armor and chest rig. I have a IIIA soft plate, so it might not be a bad idea to get another and also something to hold them close to my body.

Nobody needs such things. Until they do. And given that Category 3 hurricanes are not an uncommon event here in SW Florida, it might behove me to learn how to use an AR-15 more better, and use learn how to use it in conjunction with my friends who know how to use them as well.

Lessons From Garland.

Garland Attack

“When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man!”

Ramon Rojo 

“The hell you say.”

Garland Texas Police Officer Greg Stevens 

Stevens immediately drew his Glock 21 pistol and engaged Simpson with four to five rounds as Simpson fired at him and Joiner with the rifle.

As Stevens fired, he slowly advanced on the suspects from 15 yards away, pressing the attack on the pair as he fired “rhythmically,” obtaining a “decent sight picture” for each round. Stevens was conscious of the fact he had to make his hits count, and his deliberation was rewarded with the sight of Simpson falling to the ground and dropping his rifle.

Switching to the next threat, Stevens pivoted to the left and fired at the driver, Nadir Soofi, who also wore soft armor and LBE, and had a backpack and a pistol. As Soofi rounded the back of the car with his rifle raised in the firing position, his left side was exposed to Stevens, who drew careful aim and shot Soofi in the elbow, above the elbow, the side of the chest and the shoulder, as he continued to advance and fire at a controlled pace.

Read the whole thing: It’s an absolutely rivetng after-action report, full of lessons for all of us.

One thing I will note is how “situational awareness” played a part in Officer Stevens’ success. He knew that because of the detail he was on, there was an increased chance of an attack, so he was in a more-alert state than if he was processing paperwork in his patrol car. As such, when a car rolled up with out-of-state plates and blocked an entry to the venue he was watching, he was on high alert, knowing that the potential for trouble was even more greater now. When the balloon eventually did go up, he didn’t hesitate: There was no ramp-up time to combat mode because he had already crossed those bridges way before two guys with AK’s popped out of the car.

There are those who say that situational awareness is of marginal use in a self-defense situation, that when lightning strikes, you should learn how to react quickly, and not worry about what happened beforehand.

I say that lightning only strikes after the thunderclouds have rolled in, and if you’re paying attention, you can see (and hear) those clouds coming in from miles away.

Three Books Every Firearms Trainer SHOULD read…

Bad email… but most won’t.

Why? Because they’re too busy trying to be a good gunslinger, not a good businessman.

A quick story.

The email at the right here is a perfect example of why I still try to help out the gun industry with marketing. This is an email from Bass Pro Shops, one of the biggest names in firearms retail, and it sucks. Someone in their marketing department decided that making everything look pretty was more important than getting the message across, so they designed what I assume is a pretty-looking .jpg image that had all their content on it, dropped that image into a basic .html message, and voila, out it goes, and the money comes POURING in.

Except, of course, that images in an email are turned of by default in most email clients these days. This means people will have to REALLY want to read your message and turn images on for you before they have a clue what you’re trying to say. Also (and even worse), emails that are nothing but an image get clobbered by spam filters, which means chances are that email never got to their inbox in the first place, and if it did, because it was nothing but an image, it’s going to hurt the deliverability of your emails for months to come.

So what three books should a firearms trainer read to help avoid a rookie mistake like this?

Seth Godin: Permission Marketing

Modern-day marketing begins with this book. Written when email marketing was in its’ infancy, it’s the book that secured Seth’s position as the internet’s leading marketing guru.

The Non-Designer’s Web Book

No, we can’t erase bad design from the web altogether, but we can make it less frequent. This book is easy to read and helps even the most left-brained of nerds get in touch with their inner Paul Rand.

The Yahoo! Style Guide

Avoid the ongoing AP vs. Chicago style gang war, and instead, concentrate on writing for your audience. Learn what an upside-down pyramid is, and why it’s so important to reading comprehension. This is a great book on how to keep your blog posts short, and keep your audiences coming back.

A few evenings spent with these books will help you gain more students than a month spent on learning how to do a faster tactical reload.

I’m Sucky And I Know It.

45 out of 50. Not too shabby.

Why is the Dot Torture drill so beloved of “serious” (aka “hobbyist”) pistol owners, even though we suck at it so much?

We do it because shooting a Dot Torture drill is a sign that you’re willing to say that “Rather than do the things that I’m good at all day long and tell myself I’m a good shot, I am willing to do a drill that I suck at in order to learn where my weaknesses are.”

To borrow from Tam’s excellent article from earlier this month, THAT’S the difference between a hobbyist and everyone else. A “hobbyist” understands they’re not good at something, and has the willpower, means and lack of ego to get better at it. Most gun owners couldn’t tell you what’s wrong with how they shoot a gun, and they have little desire to improve.

And that’s actually really, really ok, because they are having fun while they shoot, because they shoot for fun. The thing is, though, I don’t really shoot for fun all that much anymore. Pretty much every time I go out to a range now, it’s to shoot a match or test a gun or work on a skill. I’m a hobbyist. It’s what I do.

Now, can we get people to work on a skill while preserving the fun?

Do we even want to?

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.

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.

What So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Gaming the Crap Out A Stage?

One thing I’ve noticed about the practical shooting sports is that people consider them to be Very Serious Endeavors and Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

I swear, some people look at a pistol bay like it as if it was a church, and we’re not playing  a game, we’re meditating and seeking to unite our souls with the spirit of St. Cooper.

And then we wonder we newcomers seem to feel intimidated when they come to a match.

Why not embrace the gaming element every once in a while? Better still, go full happy fun run and gun in an event that serves as introduction to the sport, and leave the target overlays and rules lawyering for another day.

Simple, easy, lightweight stages with a low round count, lots of steel and no timer are perfect for this. The point isn’t get people thinking about their time, it’s getting people thinking about what they’re doing on a stage, and how much stinkin’ fun it can be to shoot well on a stage. The emphasis shouldn’t be about the score, it should be about the fun.

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.