It’s curtains for ya! I tell ya, it’s curtains!

Many years ago I watched a Discovery Channel special on the Diplomatic Security Service, and I was particularly fascinated by one segment where they showed what the DSS called a “Box Drill”. 

Livin' in a box The drill was simplicity itself: An agent (with a pistol loaded with simunitions) stood in a designated spot in an indoor range, his vision blocked by an open-bottomed cardboard box that hung down from a pulley in the ceiling.
Oh hai The box was quickly raised, and that was his cue to deal with the threats now in front of him. Sometimes it was a non-lethal threat of an attacker running at him, sometimes it was a shooter, sometimes it was just a bunch of angry protesters yelling and screaming who may or may not turn violent. Was it a threat to the agent’s life? Was it a threat to the VIP he is there to protect? What was the appropriate response? Agents were graded on their response: Blasting a rock-throwing protester with a pistol could flunk you out just as quickly as if you let a shooter take a shot at your principal. 

I thought this was a brilliant way to test reaction to varying threats, and surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone replicate the drill in the firearms community. We train and we practice stress-fire, we compete and practice discerning shoot from no-shoot targets, but what we don’t train is that “Oh S***!” moment when we have make a snap judgement call as to whether there is a threat to our lives, and if so, what is the best response to that threat? 

Unfortunately, most indoor ranges won’t let you shoot simunitions or airsoft, and rigging up an overhead pulley system for outdoor use is beyond my engineering skills. There is an alternative, though, the tactical stage curtain. 

Overture, curtain, lights The setup is easy: A cheap but opaque window curtain, a sturdy frame, and a stand to hold the durn thing in place. At the signal, the RO pulls back the curtain, and on with the show!

Are you ready?

Standby…

Hey, where did THEY come from?

Beep! 

Obviously, if this is a competition stage, the other members of the squad can’t be allowed to tape targets until after they’ve shot the stage, and ideally, they shouldn’t even be in the bay itself until it’s their time to shoot. 

And if you REALLY want to get in to the spirit of things, even talking about what’s behind Curtain Number One should be a procedural/Failure To Do Right. 

The First Rule of Tactical Stage Curtain is: You do not talk about tactical stage curtain.

Outside of competition, the sky’s the limit for this drill. Instead of curtains, a big piece of cardboard or foamcore might work or even a low-tech solution like a blindfold or a welder’s mask.

Either way, the point is to introduce a totally new scenario with no clues as to what or where (or if) a threat might materialize, and help teach shooters the best way to react RIGHT NOW to what’s in front of them.

All illustrations for this post were made with Google Sketchup and the USPSA prop pack.

 

Gunsite Lite

No, this is NOT a post about what Crimson Trace is doing up in Paulden next weekend, this a post about training and branding and consumer trust. 

Gun Culture 2.0 is about self-defence and unless you’re Chuck Norris (PBUH), that means training. Situational awareness training, “tactical” training, stress-fire, less-lethal options, safe rooms, the whole nine yards. Training is what turns the lump o’ metal on your hip into a weapon that will save your life.

Because the market is large and expanding, there are a lot of people offering “tactical” training out there, some of them very competent and serious, some of them not-so-serious. The problem for consumers is, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? With everyone and their dog talking about their tacticool skills, how do you make competent, informed decisions about self-defence training that aligns with your perceived needs and available budget? 

I was fortunate enough to have an extremely talented shooter and teacher as my CCW instructor. One of the first things he told us is that only 1 in 3 people who finish a CCW class are serious about it and will make defensive carry a part of their lifestyle. I like to think I’m that one person, although the fact that I’m STILL stuck in D Class Production casts doubt on that point… 

I digress. 

For that 1-in-3 person, what post-CCW training options are there? The NRA offers excellent one and two-day training classes in Personal Protection. I’ve taken both courses, and they do an excellent job of teaching the basics of defensive firearm tactics like safety, situational awareness and methods of concealed carry. The Personal Protection I and Personal Protection II classes are excellent value: For the cost, they’re hard to beat. 

But.

They are beginning courses. They’re not going to teach stance (much), they’re not going to help much with flinching or mashing the trigger or any of the various ways we humans can mess up a shot. Instructor quality can vary: Generations Firearm Training has top-notch people leading their courses and I trust them implicitly, but when it comes to training, there are few recognized leaders out there for the consumer to chose from.

This is where branding comes in. We trust the NRA to provide good training because of their long history, and, for the most part they come through. I have no idea why the NRA doesn’t step up to the plate and aggressively market their NRA-branded protection courses as the logical next-step for CCW holders, but they are missing out here, and others are stepping in to the void left by the NRA’s inaction. 

This market is prime territory for Gunsite and other top-tier schools. They have the brand loyalty. They have the established trust. They have the brand recognition. And most importantly, they know how to teach people how to safely use firearms. 

The least-expensive course at Gunsite is almost a thousand dollars in tuition. Add in three days of hotel, airfare, car rental and ammo, and you’re looking at the same amount of money as a three-day trip to Disneyland. My wife’s a good shot, but I’d have a hard time justifying spending the money for our family vacation on a trip to Gunsite. 

Why not let the mountain come to Mohammed instead? Consider this: 

Gunsite On Location
Course length: 2 days (18 hours)
Prerequisites: CCW License, NRA Basic Pistol or equivalent instruction
Instructor to student ratio: Minimum 1 instructor to 6 students
Instructors: Lead Instructor is an instructor qualified to teach at Gunsite, with up to three assistants, each trained at Gunsite in some manner.
Class: Defensive Pistol 090. Basics of drawing from concealment, situational awareness, firearms safety, defensive tactics, taught using methods from America’s premier defensive firearms academy. Marketing tagline: “What your CCW class doesn’t teach.”
Cost: $500 per student. 18 Students max.
Ammo: 300 rounds factory practice ammo
Completion of this course entitles the participant to $100 off any 250 Pistol course at Gunsite.

The downside to this is that it may dilute the Gunsite brand, but that can be mitigated with video recording of the instructors on location to insure standards are met, detailed after-action reports and instant feedback from class participants via the web.

The advantages are it’s a new revenue stream for Gunsite, it’s another avenue to advertise Gunsite to Gun Culture 2.0 and it increases interest in the more advanced classes at Paulden, both for the students and the assistant instructors.

Ok, Gunsite, I’m looking for a job. There’s your business model, now hire me to run it. 

Pre-visualization

USPSA/IDPA targets and stage props are available for free download and free use in Google Sketchup

Testing 1, 2, 3

Now stage designers can see how a stage flows and looks in before one target stand gets hauled out of storage. Sketchup is easy to use and learn (heck, my nieces used it to re-design their bedroom) and has become the de-facto standard in consumer-level 3D CAD programs.

It may take too much time to create a stage in Sketchup versus Stagebuilder or Powerpoint for club matches, but this is *perfect* for Area Championships and big matches, as it allows a stage designer to pre-flight and run a virtual walk-through on a stage as it’s being planned. 

 

Planning for Plan B

Pocket Protector

Michael Bane talked about training to your weakness this week on his podcast, and I realized I’ve been neglecting to train with my usual daily carry gun, a Kel-Tec P3AT. 

Oh sure, I’ll go the range with it to try a quick El Prez or the like, but I don’t train with if (or any of pistols, for that matter) in any other situation than standing up. 

But I can’t guarantee I’ll be standing upright if I need to defend my life: I may be sitting, I may be kneeling, I may be face down in the dirt, but I need to know how to get my pistol into action as quickly as possible from all of those positions, and that’s something I’ve never trained. 

For safety’s sake, though, it’s best if I do this in two distinct parts. One is practicing my draw and presentation with an unloaded gun at home. Ideally I should use a blue gun for this, but they don’t make a P3AT blue gun just yet, so instead I’ll use a homemade chamber flag and multiple, multiple chamber checks to make sure the gun’s empty and stays empty throughout my practice. I’ve not had a negligent discharge (yet) and I fully intend never to have one. 

The second part is practicing shooting from sitting, kneeling and prone positions with my P3AT and other carry guns on the range, a fairly easy task to accomplish.

All this practice and training probably won’t make me into a robot mutant cyborg, but it will make me more fast and accurate on the worst day of my life. 

And that’s a good thing.

Flight of fancy

USPSA v. FBI QITI wanted to see how my daily carry rig stood up to a standardized pistol drill, and I chose the Air Marshal standards course, as it seemed to be (and was) a good test of my skills and equipment.

The rig I used was my CZ P07 in a Crossbreed SuperTuck, concealed with an oversized t-shirt. My spare mag was stored in my weak-side front pocket. I don’t have any FBI QIT targets, so I used a USPSA Metric target. I scored A, B and C hits as 5 pts, D hits as 2, and misses as zero.

The drill, and my results

All strings are shot from a distance of seven yards.
Qualification: Time: Cannot exceed total time for each drill. Example: Drill #1 – 1st time 1.70 seconds, 2nd time 1.55 seconds; Total = 3.25 seconds = Go. Must achieve a “GO” on each drill. Accuracy: Target is FBI “QIT” (bottle). Total rounds fired is 30. Point value inside bottle = 5. Point value touching line or outside bottle = 2. Maximum possible score = 150. Mininum qualifying score = 135. All stages must equal “GO” to qualify.

Individual Drill Starting Position Time Allowed Actual Time Score Pass/Fail
One Round (Twice)
3.3 Seconds Total
Concealed from Holster 1.65 seconds 1.92 5 F
1.65 seconds 1.82 5 F
Double Tap (twice)
2.70 Seconds Total
Low Ready 1.35 seconds .98 10 P
1.35 seconds 1.07 10 P
Rhythm; fire 6 rounds at one target; no more than 0.6 second between each shot.
3 Seconds Total
Low Ready 3.0 seconds 2.62 30 P
One Shot, speed reload, one shot (twice).
6.5 Seconds Total
Low Ready 3.25 seconds 2.89 10 P
3.25 seconds 5.35 10 F
One Round each at two targets three yards apart (twice).
3.3 Seconds Total
Low Ready 1.65 seconds 1.35 10 P
1.65 seconds .89 7 P
180° pivot. One round each at three targets (twice). Turn left, then right.
7.0 Seconds Total
Concealed from Holster 3.5 seconds 2.84 15 P
3.5 seconds 2.75 10 P (?)
One Round, slide locks back; drop to one knee; reload; fire one round. (twice).
8.0 Seconds Total
Low Ready 4.0 seconds 5.1 10 F
4.0 seconds 4.7 10 F
Result: (1 miss on one of the pivot drill strings)       142 Fail

A few thoughts…

FAIL.

I love my Crossbreed Supertuck, but it sucks to draw from. I need to start thinking about a pancake or yaqui slide holster for the P07 and use the Crossbreed only as a tuckable IWB holster, or else modify the Supertuck so I can get a quicker draw.

And no, switching to a “shoot me first” vest isn’t something I’m considering, mainly because I never wore them in the past, even when I was a full-time photographer, and in the heat of a 115+ Phoenix summer, adding on additional layers of clothing doesn’t seem that wise. Besides, I’m more of The Dude than I am Walter Sobchak .

I need a better way to store spare mags than my front pocket. I blew one string because I wasted a couple of seconds playing pocket pool with my reload, and failed two others for much the same reason.

All in all, though, I like the drill as it tests both my skill set and the tools I use. When I didn’t hav to draw or reload, I easily beat the required par times. A few tweaks to my holster and accessories, and I should pass the next time I run this drill.

Seventh Report

It’s been far too long in between practice sessions. I’ve been shooting matches and keeping to my schedule, just not practicing.

Dot Torture Drill: 46/50

March 2

I was doing SO good on this until I let my brain slip into neutral and my trigger jerk showed up. As to what’s going on in Dot 10 there, I have no idea… 

030211 CZ75 1 CZ75 2 CZ75 3
Target One 2A C M 2A C M 4A
Target Two 2A 2C 4C 2A 2C
Target Three 2A C D 2A C D 3A D

Time 9.43 7.86 9.07
A’s 6 4 9
B’s
C’s 4 6 2
D’s 1 1 1
M’s 1 1
Points 33 29 52
Score 3.5 3.69 5.73

One ammo-related misfire

And a new high score on the drill! Let’s compare how much I’ve come along in the past 9 months with just one practice session and one match a month (or so). 

070710 CZ75 1 CZ75 2
Target One A, C, M, M 4A
Target Two A, D, M, M 2A, 1C, 1D
Target Three 2A, 1C, 1M 2A, 2C
Time 9.1 11.43
A’s 4 8
B’s
C’s 2 3
D’s 1 1
M’s 5
Points -23 50
Score -2.53 4.37
Draw 2.33 3.08

9.1 seconds with 5 Mikes versus 9.07 with 9 Alphas, and my draw is now in the 1.8-ish range (I forget to write that stuff down this session).

How fast I’m improving could be better, but I don’t have the time and $$$ I need to do more than I already am, and besides, this is FUN. Anymore worrying about it, and it’d seem too much like work.

More …

Maybe I was wrong after all

I wanted to go up to the range and run through my practice drills, but the near-freezing temperatures in Phoenix last week talked me out of it. Instead, ExurbanSteve and I went to Caswell’s and shot on their indoor range, and ended up I working on my strong hand and weak hand only shooting. 

I also wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference in accuracy and controllability between my compact (-ish) 9mm CZ P07, my subcompact Sccy 9mm and my .380 Kel-Tec P3AT. The range rules at Caswell’s don’t allow me to draw from a holster, so instead I ran through three Mozambique drills each from low ready with each gun. 

And son of a gun, but the little 9mm Sccy was significantly harder to control and less accurate than the even-littler (but less powerful) P3AT, even though the sights on the P3AT are, at best, limited (actually, “pitiful” would be the word I’d use). 

I won’t know until I get out on the range, shoot from a holster and time my runs, but my first impression is that if you’re looking for a compact, easily concealable CCW gun, skip the subcompact 9mm and get a pocket .380. 

Sixth Report

Remember how I said “next time, it’ll be perfect?” 

I lied. 

4 to go

Dot Torture Drill: 46 out of 50

Not unexpected: I’ve not had any range time of note since the Classic last month, and while dry-fire is good, live-fire is better. 

El Presidente Scores 

CZ75 1 CZ75 2 CZ75 3  CZ75 4
Target One A 2C D A B D M 1A 3C 1A 3C
Target Two 3A D 2A C D 2A 2C 2A 2 C
Target Three A 2C D 3C D 3A 1C 3A 1C

Time 8.78 8.88 8.98 8.51
A’s 4 6 6 6
B’s
C’s 5 5 6 6
D’s 2 1
M’s 1
Points 27 46 48 48
Score 3.08 5.18 5.35 5.64
Draw 2.09 1.95 2.09 2.05
Reload 2.52 2.89 3.08 2.48
Avg. Split 0.42 0.39 0.39 0.38

Even with sucky draw times, I scored my best El Prez score ever, and all of my runs were sub-10 seconds.

I’ll take that. 

More …

Fifth Report

“Diligentia – Vis – Celeritas”
“Accuracy – Power – Speed”

– USPSA Motto

Behold, the (almost) perfect Dot Torture Drill. 

091510 Report

Dot Torture Drill: 49 out of 50. 

And the instant I dropped that one shot, I knew it was because I let my concentration slip. Next time, it’ll be perfect. 

El Presidente Scores


CZ75 1 CZ75 2 CZ75 3 P3AT
Target One A 2C D A B D M 2A 2C A B 2D
Target Two 3A D 2A C D 2A 2C 2A C M
Target Three A 2C D 3C D A B C D A C 2D

Time 8.1 8.65 10.09 15.81
A’s 5 3 5 5
B’s 1 1
C’s 4 3 5 8
D’s 3 3 1 3
M’s 1 1
Points 40 20 44 42
Score 4.94 2.31 4.36 2.66
Draw 1.88 1.95 2.09 4.46
Reload 2.51 2.89 3.08 5.85
Avg. Split 0.36 0.35 0.45 0.57

I wanted to get in some more time with my P3AT, and at first blush, my times with the CZ look really bad, as my scores were much lower than last time, including one really awful run there in the middle. 

But. 

Let’s compare where I was back in July versus where I am now. 


07/16/10 09/15/10
Target One 3C M A 2C D
Target Two 2A 2C 3A D
Target Three 2C 2D A 2C D

Time 8.16 8.1
A’s 2 5
B’s
C’s 7 4
D’s 2 3
M’s 1
Points 23 40
Score 2.82 4.94
Draw 1.82 1.88
Reload 2.6 2.51
Avg. Split 0.37 0.36

The times for everything are about the same, however, my accuracy has definitely improved, which was the point of all of this all along.

Cool.

More …

Train up a child in the way they should go

I remember one of the major network newsmagazine shows did an entire show on kids and guns a few years back. They gave a bunch of eight year olds the standard “If you see a gun, don’t touch, run, and tell a grown-up lecture”, and then later in the day, set up a deactivated gun in an unattended location with a hidden camera on it in order to record the kids reaction. 

And the kids not only touched the gun, some of them picked it up and played with it. Why? Because kids are curious about stuff they’re not used to, that’s why. Their conclusion was simple: If you have guns, you shouldn’t have kids (I wonder if they feel the same way about kids and swimming pools. I digress.).

My kids know not touch a gun or ammunition, but they are also used to guns, in fact, my youngest is a bit bonkers for them, I have GOT to get him an air rifle as soon as I can.Now I’m not saying my sons are impervious to the temptation of reaching for the forbidden fruit, but both of them were playing unsupervised in our master bedroom yesterday, and my unloaded rifle and unloaded shotgun were resting on the bed, waiting to be put away after my three gun match. I snuck in and watched what they were doing, and rather than play with Daddy’s guns, which were sitting there right out in the open, they were playing with our cat. 

That’s good to know. I’m still going to lock everything up, but that’s still good to know.