Upcoming Training: Rangemaster Tactical Conference

Upcoming Training: Rangemaster Tactical Conference

Boy howdy, am I looking forward to this one. Not only because I’ll get to meet a whole lot of people in-person who I know only from the Internet, but also because of the training. Caleb Causey on trauma care! Ernest Langdon on DA/SA guns! Claude Werner on pocket snubbies! Mas Ayoob! Chuck Haggard! John Farnam! Craig Douglas! John Hearne! William Aprill! Greg Ellifritz!

Hang on a minute, all that awesome gave me the vapors. I need to sit down…

So yeah, really, really looking forward to meeting great people and taking some great classes. This is the training highlight of the year for me, bar none.

First Comes Motivation. Then Comes Action.

First Comes Motivation. Then Comes Action.

Claude Werner lists out some of the reasons why people don’t get firearms training.

  • Time
  • Expense
  • Accessibility
  • Scheduling
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of incentive
  • Lack of understanding

The thing is, though, people are willing to overcome the obstacles of time, motivation, accessibility, money and scheduling if they think that what they’re getting is worth the effort they put into getting it.

And if you don’t think this is true, ask yourself, when was the last time you drove the extra mile (or ten, or twenty) for really good pizza/Mexican/pasta/beer/whatever, versus stopping to eat at the first place you found?

I thought so.

If an experience, ANY experience, has been proven to be of value, you will do it again. How many people get CCW training? How many people then go beyond that CCW class and get more training in how to use their firearm effectively?

Answer: Not many. Very few.

The CCW Class is the top of the funnel: Enrolling in such a class is a tacit admission that a) threats exist and b) you’re aware of the need to do something about it. However, people who take a concealed carry class are not seeing the value in taking more training.

Why is this happening?

The answer, I think, lies in that word “effectively”. I don’t have the answer for this just yet, but the problem is clear: The value proposition for post-CCW firearms training is not apparent enough to gun owners, and that needs to change.

 

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.

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.

Which Is Better: An Indoor Gun Range Or An Outdoor Gun Range

Which Is Better: An Indoor Gun Range Or An Outdoor Gun Range

Owning a gun is great thing, but owning a gun and shooting it on a regular basis is even better. Having a gun in your house isn’t going to make you safe anyomre than having a car on your driveway is going to get you to the corner grocery store: You have to learn how to use it safely and efficiently so it to do the job it’s supposed to do.

So what does it actually cost a new gun owner to shoot on a regular (monthly) basis? In 2013, back when I lived in Phoenix, I visited some of the local indoor and outdoor ranges to find out what a monthly practice session might cost a new shooter. My assumption is that you’ll go to the range and spend an hour shooting 50 rounds of FMJ ammo from a 9mm pistol at three different man-sized targets, which based on my experience, is about what most casual shooters do on a typical day at the range.

Ranges: Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club (outdoors), Ted’s Shooting Range (indoors), Caswell’s Shooting Range (indoors), Phoenix Rod and Gun Club (outdoors), Scottsdale Gun Club (indoors) and Shooters World (indoors).
Lane Rental: One person for one hour
Ammo: 50 rounds of 9mm FMJ. For ranges without ammo sales (PRGC, Rio), I used the price of a box of 9mm at my local WalMart.
Gun Rental: A 9mm pistol for one hour. For ranges without gun rentals, I used the cost of a typical quality 9mm pistol ($540) spread out over 12 months.
Membership: One year’s individual membership. Range memberships at Ted’s is for 14 months, not a year, so I reduced that amount for comparison purposes.

Just VisitingLane RentalAmmoGun RentalMonthly CostYearly Cost 
Rio Salado$5.00$13.00$45.00*$18.00$756.00
Caswells$15.00$21.00$7.00$43.00$516.00
Ted's Shooting Range$14.00$18.00$9.00$41.00$492.00
Shooters World$15.00$15.00$10.00$40.00$480.00
Scottsdale Gun Club$15.00$14.00$14.00$43.00$516.00
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club$14.00$13.00$45.00*$27.00$864.00
With MembershipLane RentalAmmoGun RentalMonthly CostYearly CostMembership
Rio Salado$0.00$13.00$45.00*$65.92$791.00$95.00
Caswells$0.00$18.90$0.00$48.07$576.80$350.00
Ted's Shooting Range$0.00$18.00$4.50$44.17$530.00$260.00
Shooters World$0.00$14.25$5.00$40.08$481.00$250.00
Scottsdale Gun Club$0.00$13.00$0.00$44.67$536.00$380.00
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club$0.00$13.00$45.00*$71.75$861.00$165.00

* $45 / month reflects the cost of owning your own pistol, spread out over 12 months

So for just a couple hundred dollars more per year or so, memberships at Rio Salado or Phoenix Rod and Gun look like a real bargain, right? After all, that price includes a new gun, and they have long-distance rifle ranges as well.

Not so fast.

First off, they’re outdoor ranges. Not bad, now that temperatures in the Phoenix area are leveling off, but that sucks when it’s 115 degrees outside or, for colder climes, if it’s winter and the snow is waist-deep on the ground.

Secondly, the public ranges at both outdoor ranges have a minimum distance that you can set up targets, about 8 yards or so. Not a big issue for some, but if you’re trying to train a new shooter, it can get discouraging for them to shoot and shoot and shoot and not see decent groups on the target.

Thirdly, you can pull down at a set up targets at an outdoors public range only during cold range times, and those happen on a schedule, and not when you need them.

Finally, most outdoor ranges have pistol bays, where you’ll be the only one shooting and you can set up and take down targets however you like. These are where the real improvement happens, as shooters can set up advanced drills that involve drawing from a holster, moving with your gun in-hand and multiple targets at multiple distances.

So which should you chose?

That depends on your needs. I use both on a regular basis. I’ve been a member at Rio for over 5 years. I like their public range, and I like the people. But I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of indoor shooting and the convenience of reserving a lane in advance in an indoor range.

It comes down to what kind of a shooter you are. A public outdoor range membership is great for people who know what they want in a firearm and don’t need (or want) to try out new guns. However, indoor rental ranges are the perfect for  people getting into the shooting sports: For less than $50 a month, you can try out many different firearms and find the one(s) that suit you best and lets you grow into firearms ownership at your pace.

Either way, there are no bad choices: The worst day at the range is still better than the best day in the office.

The Button Pusher.

The Button Pusher.

A great example of why you want to hire a professional photographer.

It's all in the knowing how.

I have a friend who describes his job as being paid $100 to push a button. $1 of that fee is actually pushing the button, the other $99 is knowing what button to push, and when to push it.

People who aren’t professional shooters tend to focus on gear, specifically the camera. However, people who are actually working pros tend to focus on how to manipulate light, and the camera is tertiary at best. Some of them, like Ansel Adams and Robert Frank, learn how to adapt the light that’s there to what they want to see. Others, like Irving Penn* and Mark Seliger, learn how to add and subtract light until the get what they want.

These guys know that no amount of money invested in a camera is going to make up for sucky lighting, but they learned early to either how to master the existing light, or else a few dollars spent on a decent beginner’s strobe setup and a few more dollars (and a little time) spent on learning how to use light will make all the difference in the freaking world in your pictures.

Look at those two shots above: Unless you knew what the light actually looked like and knew what was needed to make it look better, you’d have taken the first shot. More importantly, because this was a wedding, you wouldn’t get a second chance to get a good shot?

Understand the metaphor yet, or do I have to hammer it home a bit more?

The photog knew he needed to solve the challenge of getting a good shot at that time and at that place, and he knew that a camera alone was not up to the task. As a result, he relied on his training and experience to under-expose the ambient light by at least two stops and then fill in the subject with a strobe light so that she’s properly exposed.

He also knew that standing up and shooting the camera at eye level wasn’t going to get him the results he wanted, so he got out of his comfort zone and got onto his belly to make the shot.

Get it yet, or do I have to use the phrase “tools in the toolbox” on ya? 🙂

Learn the rules. Learn to adapt the rules. Learn which gear helps you execute the rules to their fullest extent.

Then go have fun.


* If you’re doing commercial photography, specifically product photography, and you don’t know who Irving Penn is, chances are, you’re doing it wrong. What ol’ AA was to landscape photography, Irving Penn was to taking pictures for a client. It starts with him, so start there.

Trust Icons.

Trust Icons.

You know those silly images on e-commerce sites which show who provided their SSL or say things like “Protected by McAfee”? To someone like me, who’s been on the web for over two decades, they’re at best a silly gesture and at worst totally useless.

But here’s the dirty little secret about them: They work. They bring in more business. Sites that have those images on their checkout pages have better conversion rates than sites that don’t have them. They’re called “trust icons”, and they work because people make buying decisions with their heart first, then with their head. They feel safe with a site that has them, and they want to do business with that site.

The same is true for firearms training, which is why trainers who talk about their military or law enforcement background can get away without little or no civilian training courses or instruction on how to teach anyone who isn’t being forced to sit in their classroom. They may not have be teaching stuff that’s particularly relevant to our lives as everyday people, but to many, many people out there, knowing that you’re getting your training from a cop or military veteran means you’re getting training from someone who has been there and done that, and you can trust what they say.

No matter if what they’re saying makes any sense or not.

New Year, New Goals

New Year, New Goals

My goals for last year was to be and not do, and boy howdy, did I do, err, be, that. I filled in some huge gaps in my training with a Law Of Self Defense Class, a MAG40, The Armed Parent/Guardian class and a class on how to dispense spicy treats onto the annoying people in your life.

This year, I’ve got SHOT, my first go-round through ECQC with Southnarc, TacCon and then probably a long-range rifle class as well. All of that will happen before May is over. Whew!

I still need to work at getting better at movement, and my overall conditioning in general. This means getting up a half hour earlier to work out. Ugh.

The good news is, I’ll be working out only ever other day. The days in-between, I’ll be working on dry-fire. I finally got serious and bought Ben’s book. Now to put that into practice.

I’m also working on a deal for a two-day hog hunt in central Florida, but more on that when and if it happens.

As for guns, I’m thinking about getting a Smith&Wesson J-Frame. I’ve been writing a lot about pocket guns as of late, and I figure it’s time I get one of the O.G. pocket pistols. I’m getting in a Colt Competition 1911 for an article I’m writing, and if I like it, it’ll go into my collection as well. Also, as a long-range class might be in my future, it’s time to change the bottom metal on my Savage so it can take detachable mags. Also, I’ve had it up to HERE with my little Lee reloading press, so a progressive press is definitely in my future.

So, those are my goals. What are yours?