It’s Supposed To Carry Guard, Not “Carry On”.*

Claude Werner (and others… many, many others) have talked about this little nugget inside the course description for the NRA’s new training regimen.

Wow. Okay. While we’ve not seen what training will emerge from the instructors behind the “Gold Standard” in firearms training, that is not the sort of thing you want to see in a firearms class. A good class is pretty much equipment neutral: Instructors are not there to teach you the most efficient way to use their handgun of choice, they’re there to teach you how to use YOUR handgun and help inform you with the tradeoffs that come from what you’ve decided to carry around with you. By limiting this class to Glocks and Sigs and similar, they are SCREAMING to the world that “No, we don’t know anything beyond what we learned in the military, and that’s all we’re going to teach you.”

Reports that they are mandating Oakleys and shemaghs for all students and are limiting reloads to whatever you wear on a plate carrier rather than on your belt remain unconfirmed at this time.

Good teachers adapt their material to the classroom environment. This is true of my math-teacher wife, and it’s true of firearms instructors as well.


* Explainer for those of you who aren’t into sophisticated, highbrow British humor.

Concealed Carry As A Martial Art.

concealed carry martial arts

Let’s take it from the top.

  1. Civilian firearms training for concealed carry is a martial art*. Probably the first martial art to originate from America.
  2. There are dojos and gyms that teach quick, cheap and easy “Sexual Assault Avoidance” classes that leave their students feeling empowered and slightly better off than when they walked into the gym, but those classes don’t take the time to teach students more than a few ritualized responses to a violent attack.
  3. There are gun schools that do the same thing as Point #2, leaving their students with a feeling of empowerment but with a limited skill set that does not encourage further training.
  4. Lessons are lessons. Dry fire is kata. Drills are sparring. Matches are, well, matches. None of that is an actual fight.
  5. No serious dojo or boxing gym would ever consider tossing someone who just bought their gi and white belt into a sparring match without training them to some extent beforehand, yet we tell new gun owners, over and over and over again, to go to a match to learn how to shoot under stress.

And then we wonder why they’re afraid to go shoot and embarrass themselves in front of others.

Why are they embarrassed to shoot in front of others?

They have a lack of confidence in their own skill with a firearm.

What do we do to increase that confidence?

Keep thinking. I’ll wait.

In order to succeed in a sparring match, the student needs to be trained to the point where they can throw a bunch of punches or block a bunch of strikes without conscious thought.

There are also certain skills in the martial art of the defensive pistol that need to be performed without conscious thought during a match.

They are:

  • A smooth trigger press (still working on that one…)
  • An appropriate sight picture
  • Something resembling a good stance**
  • Drawing the gun from a holster without shooting something
  • Recognizing and engaging multiple targets
  • Reloading without fumbling
  • Safely moving from point to point with a gun in your hand
  • Shooting with the strong hand only and weak hand only
  • Reholstering the gun without shooting anyone

The good news is, that’s actually quite a small list of techniques to master, compared to a lot of martial arts, and you really don’t need to do them all without conscious thought in order to shoot a match***.

The bad news is, how much of that do you learn in a CCW class (Answer: None.) and who is teaching that stuff with the goal of getting people out to a shooting match (Answer: Pretty much no one).

We have not built a dojo around concealed carry (yet), and then we wonder why so few people make the transition from getting their CCW to carrying a defensive firearm.


* Why did karate become popular in Okinawa? Because the local constabulary was doing a sucky job of protecting the citizenry. Same with the monks who dreamed up gungfu. And this differs from you and me wanting to arm ourselves with our defensive sidearms… how?

** Ever notice how all the arguments about what is and is not a good stance go FLYING out the window the minute you run up to a barrier, or have to shoot through a low port? To quote Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

*** Oh, and “tactical carbine” = All those esoteric weapons-based martial arts like Iaido and Kendo. Are they fun? Sure. Are they useful? Well, unless you carry around a boken in your day-to-day life, no, not really.

Well Isn’t That Special.

Breach Bang and Clear has more on the “Tactical Operator = Instant Training Legend” phenomenon that’s popped up as of late, and it’s worth your while:

Who would you rather learn from? A guy who’s had his hands in peoples guts every day for 30 years? Or a guy who spent a couple of tours overseas dealing with guys that come fully stocked with all of the med gear you would ever need – on their person?

Quick question: Which sold better, the “Police Quest” series of video games, or “Call of Duty”?

If you’ve ever picked up a game controller in your life, you know the answer to that question. People these days didn’t grow up playing Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers, they grew up blowing up (virtual) terrorists inside a video game.  On the range and in our training, we tend to want to emulate our heroes, and right now, our heroes are Delta Force, not 1-Adam-12. This, combined with the subtle (and not-so-subtle_ amount of “Walter Mitty-ism” to the gun training community*, means the SpecOps is going to the glamour industry for the foreseeable future.

Good, bad, indifferent, it just is.


* I mean, it’s not like it started out as cowboy “Quick Draw” competition, or something. Oh, wait.

Definable, Verifiable, Logical, Repeatable.

MAG Qualifier

One of things I liked about my MAG40 class was that the Qualifier at the end of the class is based on police qualifiers from around the country, and the that your results on the test are documented by the instructor at the end of the class.

This may not seem like much, but if, God forbid, you do need to use a gun in defense of a life and are taken to court afterwards, wouldn’t it be nice to have some hard, verifiable data about how effective a marksman you are versus an instructor who shuns standardized testing testifying that you’re a pretty decent shooter.
Or something. Which is good, until opposing counsel produces THEIR expert witness who shreds the testimony of said instructor like it’s pulled pork at a Carolina barbecue.

Documented test results are not subject cross-examination. They stand on their own accord, and a mighty ally to have on your side during a courtroom cage match, and the CSI Effect can have a strong effect on juries.

This was one of the reasons why I shot the test with my carry gun and holster, not a competition gun. Could I have scored better with one of the CZ-75’s I shoot in USPSA Production? Sure. Do I carry that gun? Nope. Shooting this test with my carry gear helps me establish what my baseline is for street work. My baseline for pistol bay work is established by my USPSA and IDPA Classifier scores (which, to be truthful, need some help).

Gun Culture From The Inside Out.

As I’ve said before, I believe a big part of the growth in ‘Gun Culture 2.0″ has been driven by fear, either the fear of a President that will severely restrict the individual right to keep and bear arms, or the fear of antifa, $VAR Lives Matter or another one of the organized, terrorist-leaning forces out there.

To paraphrase Clint Smith, do I carry a gun because I’m afraid? Of course not! I’ve got a gun, and I know how and when to use it, so why should I be afraid?

While my lack of fear is based on good equipment and good training, the fact is, most people who buy a gun buy it and then bask in the false sense of security that having a household protection idol gun inside their home provides them. While you and I know that the sense of security that an unloaded gun under a bed (or similar) provides is a false sense of security, it’s important to remember that it appears very, very real to the people who have guns under their beds. You don’t know you’re actually on Mount Stupid until you find yourself falling off a cliff.

Fear is to be a poor motivator for post-CCW training from here on out. Can people be motivated by other emotions besides fear to get post-CCW training? Dunno. Can we? I hope so.

After Action Report: MAG40 At Safety Solutions Academy

“Front sight, crush grip and a smooth roll on the trigger is the last cheat sheet before the ultimate final exam.”
– Massad Ayoob

I was trying to define why I wanted to take this class, but I can’t do a better job than how my friend Tam described it, “A MAG40 class from Massad Ayoob,” she said, “is one of the stations of the cross for people seriously interested in developing their ability with the defensive pistol.” Massad has been writing about and teaching the defensive pistol for decades now, and he is THE person when it comes to dealing with the legal after-effects of using a pistol to defend your life. Let’s face it, we lost Rauch, we lost Cooper, we lost Cirillo and the number of trainers like Massad Ayoob, who have been there from the very start, is growing smaller with each passing year.
The class was hosted by Paul Carlson of Safety Solutions Academy. The range portion was taught at The Southington Hunt Club by David Maglio, a veteran law enforcement officer and senior instructor with the Massad Ayoob Group, and the classroom legal stuff was taught at a nearby hotel meeting room by Mas himself.

MAG20 Range Practice

The Range: MAG20 Live Fire

The first day started off with training safety, stances, grip… the usual stuff. I came into this class not expecting to learn something new during the range portion, but I was pleasantly surprised when I learned how to significantly improve my strong-hand only/weak-hand only shooting, something that’s eluded for me YEARS. The MAG20 qualifier is based on elements from various police qualification courses and to be honest, it’s not that hard. I was more handicapped by my out-of-date prescription lenses than I was by the course of fire. Nevertheless, I managed to shoot 96% on it with my tiny little S&W Shield, a feat that I am somewhat proud of.

The Classroom: MAG20 Armed Citizens Rules Of Engagement.

Let’s face it: 99% of what we know about how to defend ourselves in the courtroom after a defensive gun use comes from what Massad Ayoob has been teaching all these years, and I had heard much of it before. However, just because you’ve listened to a lot of rock and roll, it doesn’t mean you understand how good Chuck Berry really was, and Massad Ayoob is the Chuck Berry of defending the use of lethal force in self-defense inside the courtroom. The advice he gave out in class was simple, sound and is rooted in years and years of defending the legal use of self-defense in our nation’s courts. One thing that I learned in the MAG20 classroom made so much sense, I thought I’d share it here.
We’ve heard, over and over again, not to use hand-loaded ammunition in our self-defense guns, but what I never knew before this class was WHY.
The answer is quite simple: If (God forbid) we need to defend a life with our gun, our gun and the ammunition it contains will become evidence, and the court may need to replicate the circumstances surrounding our defensive gun use, up to and including shooting similar guns using similar ammunition to replicate the circumstances before, during and after we pulled the trigger.
With factory ammo, this is not a problem, as example rounds are kept of each case lot of ammo at the factory, but how do we replicate a hand load without the defendant (us) pulling the handle on the press? Could that be an issue in a defensive gun use that might invalidate evidence that would otherwise free us for the court’s grasp?

You bet it is.

I was also pleased that Massad’s comment about the influx of military trainers into the United States mirrors my own thoughts. As he put it, “A whole lot of the wartime rules of engagement do not apply to armed civilians and law enforcement inside the United States.” Not that there’s anything wrong with learning from someone who’s been in the military, but if, say, you take a course in Medieval Spanish literature, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t help you order up some food in a backstreet cantina in Hermosillo.
You may think that a class like this is something for the hard core student of the gun, but you’d be wrong. In our class of nine, there was one guy, Javier, who had never taken a firearms training class of any kind before in his life. His progression as a shooter over the two days on the range was a joy to watch, and he was hailed at the end of the class as the most-improved person in the class because, well, he was.
If Javier can do it, so can you, and that’s just one of the reasons why I’d recommend taking a MAG40.

Trust Icons.

Or, I have not come to bury using a military background to teach concealed carry to civilians, but to praise it.

Let’s face it: Being able to trumpet your history of shooting people in the face to people who are worried about being shot in the face helps us believe that you’ll help us not get shot in the face.

That’s a big, big advantage in marketing, because we make purchasing decisions with our emotions, then we justify that decision with our intellect. Being able to cozy up to the emotions instilled by service in the military or law enforcement affects us at a visceral level that is not easily matched.

Now, should we immediately believe that someone who has shot people in the face is a good civilian firearms instructor? Of course not! It doesn’t matter if said face-shooter is really, really good with a pistol, because unless they’re really, really good at translating what they’ve learned about shooting the pistol and can re-interpret that knowledge into something that’s applicable to our lives as civilian, it’s not that useful for someone who doesn’t wear a uniform and body armor for a living.

Bottom line is, look at the trust icons that someone with military is using as a bonafides for firearm training, then verify that what they’re teaching is usable in your daily life.

Recoil In Horror? No, Recoil In Delight!

It’s fun working with super-smart people, and the super-smart people I’m working with on the Interactive Pistol Training System have figured out a way to add recoil into the system, a way that DOESN’T involve CO2 cartridges or any other chemical means.

What is it? Can’t say. Super secret sauce stuff. But it will work, and it will simulate recoil.

If you’ve been on the fence about backing the Indiegogo project, now is the time to jump off and join in.

Not Invented Here Syndrome.

Thinking more about yesterday’s post, it really is no surprise that the NRA chose to play up the military backgrounds of their new instructor corps rather than go with people who have a verifiable history with training we civilians, because let’s face it, the NRA just doesn’t play nice with others. We’ll ignore (for now), the rather graceless way they kicked out the U.S. Concealed Carry Association from the Annual Meeting this year, and instead, go back to the ILA’s involvement in the attempts to improve our gun rights ten years ago. The NRA’s impact on D.C. v. Heller was, to say the least, nominal (and to say the worst, harmful), and they followed that up with an attempt to muscle in on McDonald v. Chicago.

In the minds of the NRA, there is no reason to acknowledge the existence of Gunsite or Cornered Cat or Lethal Force Institute in the CV’s of their new top-notch trainers, because, I’m guessing, that might put the thought in people’s heads that the NRA in and of itself is not the sole source of civilian firearms training. It’s pretty similar to when I went to Front Sight: If you go to that range, you will never hear about how Jeff Cooper invented the color code or anything about any other training except what’s done at Front Sight. This is NOT the way to build a robust training program that adapts to the customer’s needs. It is, however, an excellent way to move your customers two-thirds of the way up Mount Stupid and leave them stranded there, possibly in danger of their lives.

Look, I like the NRA. I write for the NRA. I’m an NRA member, and the NRA has done and is doing a lot of great stuff for our right to defend ourselves from harm. However, the NRA is no more the sole protector of that right of self-defense than AAA is the sole voice for everyone who drives a car. The sooner the NRA learns to play nice with others, the better off we’ll be.

Who Are The NRA Carry Guard Trainers?

Is the NRA Carry Guard the gold standard in training?

Update 8/1/17: If by chance you were smart enough to click through the link that The Trace had about this article in order to read what I actually said, let me repeat what I have written elsewhere on this blog about the NRA.

Yes, the NRA pays me to write for them, and yes, I make money when people join the NRA using the recruiting link I have on the side over there ->. I support the NRA, and I support the NRA’s mission. I also went to church before, during and after the Jim Bakker/Jerry Falwell/Jimmy Swaggart scandals, because I know the message will go on, no matter how fallible the messenger is.

Now, on to what you came here to read.


Included with the new NRA Carry Guard concealed carry insurance is some training in how to use a firearm and other stuff. From the NRA’s own website,

THE NRA CARRY GUARD TRAINING PACKAGE
FIREARMS TRAINING
No matter your skill level, NRA Carry Guard offers world-class firearm training. But next to knowing how to protect yourself physically, nothing is more important than protecting yourself legally.
RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITIES
NRA Carry Guard members receive immediate access to our Rights & Responsibilities video curriculum, featuring hours of instruction that will prepare you for the modern reality of self-defense.

Well that sounds kinda cool, right? But who are the people doing the training? Well, to be honest, I’ve never heard of any of them. This puzzled me, so I went about searching for the credentials and history of the trainers associated with the “Gold Standard” of concealed carry insurance, and what I found out was rather troubling.

There was no history. Well, very little history, and that is not what you want in a nationally-recognized training program.

To find out who the people associated with NRA Carry Guard were, I searched for the names of all the people involved in this program, using keywords like “‘name of instructor’+training” or “‘name of instructor’+concealed carry”. I was looking for the (digital) impression they have made in the firearms training community, and to be honest, it just isn’t there.

As an example, here’s the same search criteria, using my friend Jon from Phoenix Firearms Training instead of these guys. Jon’s training company isn’t the biggest one in Phoenix, but there are still ten pages of results for him using one of those keywords.

“‘George Severance’+concealed carry”? One page of results, and it’s all about his involvement with NRA Carry Guard. To the best of my ability (and I do online marketing for a living, including Search Engine Optimization), there is no evidence online to show that he was involved with concealed carry training in any way prior to his involvement with NRA Carry Guard.

Now it could be that all of the civilian firearms training done by these trainers has taken place in places that don’t mention the training online, or they don’t have websites about what they do because they don’t feel comfortable in today’s digital age, and Lord knows that technophobia runs rampant in the firearms community.

But are such things emblematic of the best thinking in firearms training today? I don’t believe so. We should take advantage of every opportunity we have to spread knowledge of the safe use of firearms, and that includes venues such as websites, social media and online video.

Let’s take a look at what I did find out about each trainer in the NRA Carry Guard program.

George Severence
Veteran U.S. Navy SEAL
NRA Carry Guard National Director
Through more than 20 years in Naval Special Warfare, George led special operations teams on four continents as a Team Leader, Platoon Commander, Troop Commander, Task Unit Commander, Operations Officer and Executive Officer.

That’s quite a resume, but George’s background in civilian training seems to be limited to running a fitness camp that uses Navy SEAL techniques to whip us landlubbers into shape.

That’s cool, but what does that teach me about having a fast draw stroke, or shoot/no-shoot situations?

Eric Frohardt
Veteran U.S. Navy SEAL
NRA Carry Guard Training Director
As a veteran Navy SEAL with nearly 12 years of active duty service, Eric had some of the best firearms training in the world and learned from some of the world’s most elite tactical shooting instructors. He’s the co-founder of BluCore Shooting Center.

Eric also has a background in teaching fitness. He’s also been involved in the launch of the Springfield Saint, a campaign that was managed by Ackerman-McQueen, the same people who manage advertising for the NRA.
Some coincidence there.

Jeff Houston
Veteran Green Beret
NRA Carry Guard Lead Instructor
Jeff served as a Green Beret with U.S. Army Special Forces, completing service in 2009. He was deployed multiple times to Iraq, and has excelled at completing various tactical shooting courses with both assault/tactical rifles and pistols.

I, too, have “excelled at completing various tactical shooting courses with both assault/tactical rifles and pistols”. Why am I not involved in this as well? Oh, and in another AMAZING bit of coincidence, Jeff just happens to be the director of training at the range that Eric opened up in Colorado.
Funny how that happens.

James R. Jarrett
Veteran Green Beret
NRA Carry Guard Curriculum Director
As a veteran Green Beret, Los Angeles Police Department officer, federal agent and deep-cover intelligence operative, James R. Jarrett has decades of experience as a tactical weapons practitioner and instructor.

James has, by far, the most results for firearms-related keywords of any of trainers. For example, he has a full six pages for his name + concealed carry. However, James’s training calendar looks a little… sparse. Now it could be true that he’s off somewheres training units that can’t talk about the training he’s giving them or he doesn’t want to train in the often-brutal Arizona heat, or it could be that he’s just not that busy.

Anything is possible. Not all things are likely.

Now let me be absolutely crystal clear about one very important thing: I am not impinging, in any way, the sacrifice and service these men have put in defending my rights and my family’s ability to live in peace. I am in complete awe of anyone who signs up for the military and runs towards the sound of gunfire, and I always will be. I am actively encouraging both of my sons to serve in the military when they are of age: That issue is settled, and I will hear no more about it.

However, I have to ask, what relevance does that training have to my life as a married, middle-class marketing guru? Yes, there is value to training from someone who has seen the elephant and won a battle for their life, but that experience needs to be made relative to my life if it is to be valuable to me. From what I’ve noticed about the resumes of all of these trainers, all of them stress their military creds as qualification to teach civilians. Do I really need military training? What does suiting up and kicking in doors with an M4 in my hands have to do with me keeping my family safe at home? I can see how training with a SpecOps type can make me FEEL safe, but isn’t the point of all of this to BE safe, regardless of how we feel?

I’m not getting it.

I’m a member of the Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network, and the training DVD’s I received (and watched) from that organization were from guys like Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Tom Givens and Marc MacYoung, all people who are recognized as leaders in training civilians how to safely defend themselves from the lethal force and also defend themselves in the courtroom afterwards. The US Concealed Carry Association has guys like Andrew Branca, Mike Hughes and George Harris on their training roster, filling similar roles, and they have a proven history of success in the streets and in the courtroom.

Speaking of the courtoom, all the training that Carry Guard seems to talk about is how to shoot people with your gun more better and more quicker. Where is the training in the legal consequences of using lethal force? Where is the less-lethal training? Where is the de-escalation? Where is the acknowledgement just having insurance isn’t enough, you need to do your part and not get into any fights you’re not supposed to get into? Talking about military service is one thing. Talking your way out of a fight with an angry, belligerent drunk is something else.

There are a lot of things to consider if you’re considering post-incident legal help, and one of those things is who are the people who are backing each program. In this case, while the military background of the NRA Concealed Carry trainers is very impressive, it seems to apply more to the streets of Khandahar than it does to a Walmart parking lot, and the NRA needs to consider adding in more options with the training and background that relates to the needs of me and my family, rather than the needs of special operations warrior.