Carry Guard Surrenders.

In response to clear feedback surrounding the NRA Carry Guard Level I course announcement, we have modified the required firearm platforms as well as our site language to clearly articulate how firearms will be used in the class.

Bottom line: our decision to not include 1911s and revolvers as primary firearms in our initial Level I course was a mistake, and we appreciate the feedback we have received from the firearms community.

Not a good start, guys, not a good start. However, I think I found the reason why they initially banned 1911’s and revolvers: The suggested round count for their two three day class is… 1,500 rounds.

Yep.

Now if you’re shooting an 8 round 1911 or a 6 round wheelgun, that is gonna suck. You’ll be reloading 2-3 times more often than your friends who are shooting Glock 17’s, and you’ll probably be slowing down the class somewhat.

Reloads aside, shooting one thousand five hundred rounds, in a two three day class for beginners? I can *almost* see that for a pure shooting class like the Vogel class I did a couple of years ago, but 1500 rounds for a two three day beginner’s class that teaches, and I’m quoting here…

“Safety and Weapons Awareness; Pistol Ready Positions; Fundamentals (stance, grip, holster draw, sight alignment, trigger press, recoil management, follow through, economy of motion, self-critique); Treating a Malfunction; Live Fire Progression Drills; Combat and Tactical Reloads; Drawing from a Holster; Low Light/No Light Shooting; Combat Reload while holding a Light; Key Components to Carrying a Concealed Weapon; Carry Location Options (i.e. waist, ankle, purse, etc.); Real World Scenario Based Training (Airsoft scenarios)”

You’re teaching all that, and you also want your beginning students to shoot 1500 rounds in two three days?

Good luck with that.

UPDATE: I got the number of days wrong. It’s a three day class, not a two day class. However, 1500 rounds is still an awfully large amount of ammo to send down-range in that amount of time. The chances of you doing that and teaching your students anything beyond what gunfire sounds like is mighty slim. Heck, to teach the “Low Light/No Light Shooting; Combat Reload while holding a Light” and maintain even a basic level of safety is at least a couple of hours of non-shooting time.

The Well Armed Person.

Spend sometime inside a gun store, and you’ll see people walk in wanting to buy their very first gun. They’re scared because they can see that the world appears to be spinning out of control, and they know that in the end, they themselves will be in charge of keeping themselves and all they hold dear safe from the evil in the world.

But they have no idea where to start. Like so many others, they’re not familiar with the tools or the techniques needed to stay safe in an unsafe world, so they spend literally hours talking with gun store clerks about what’s the best gun for someone like them.

The problem with that is, gun store clerks don’t get paid on the knowledge they provide, they get paid to sell guns and stuff, and spending hours and hours of time educating customers on Glock vs. Ruger or 9mm vs. .40 pumps up the ego of the clerk, but it does little to pump up the sales volume of the store they’re working in.

Enter Carrie Lightfoot, and the enormous success of “The Well Armed Woman”.

The Well Armed Woman has been very, very successful in introducing women to the concepts of defensive shooting in a relaxed, informative environment that tackles gun choice, concealed carry options, and all the other questions that can bamboozle someone who wants to buy their first gun.

But who says that type of firearms education has to be limited to just women? Why not open it up to everyone? A two-hour “Intro to Defensive Firearms” class once a week, starting with a short dog and pony then followed by questions from the audience and maybe a hands-on with a bunch of (unloaded and empty) guns would go a long way to answering all the questions people have about what gun is “best for them”, and get them closer to the point where they’d buy a gun. Toss in a carrot on top, like, oh, a free box of ammo when they buy a gun, and rather than having to do the same spiel over and over and over and over again, you can do it once, for a bunch of people, saving you time AND money.

Role Player.

Thinking more about this post, a big part of the problem, I believe, is that we see ourselves as “firearms instructors”. We teach guns. We teach guns because we like guns. We are hobbyists, and we preach the hobby.

The problem is that’s not what our audience needs in order to be confident with their gun. They don’t need to be confident with a gun inside the gun range, they need to be able to integrate the gun and that confidence into their lifestyle. Knowing that you can drop all your shots into the upper thoracic cavity at ten yards means little if you don’t have your sidearm with you when you need it.

Who teaches you not only a skill, but how to integrate that skill into your life?

A coach does. A coach doesn’t just teach performance, they teach mindset and ethics and confidence.

Everything we want to see in an armed citizenry.

Maybe we need to stop thinking in terms of Albert Einstein, and start thinking in terms of Vince Lombardi.

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.