There is a Story afoot . . .

A story has attacked me . . . not sure where it's from, but I have been posting chapters as they come out of my fingers. Yes, I am still posting on firearms training and my new topic of basic prepping - all links are to the right of the blog, newest posts first on the lists. Feel free to ignore the story posts - they usually start with a chapter number. But, feel free to read the story as well and comment on it - I like how it's turning out so far! Links to the various chapters are at the right under . . .

The Story


Monday, April 14, 2014

Review – PPOTH Course – Advanced – 4-12,13-2014


“Everyone’s gotta start somewhere . . .” goes some such saying or other. When an individual decides that they want to begin carrying a firearm on a daily basis for personal defense . . . they need to start “somewhere”.

IMNSHO – the NRA coursework is such place. For the totally new shooter – the Basic Pistol course provides a solid foundation for understanding everything from the bits and pieces of virtually every type of handgun action on the market today . . . to firing those first shots safely and accurately.

Their Personal Protection Inside the Home (PPITH) is a great introduction to the concept of using a handgun for personal defense. The focus on “inside the home” temporarily sets aside all the issues of carrying, drawing and using a handgun for personal defense in all settings and confines it to inside your home. The work is focused on mindset, the ramifications (both mental and legal) of the use of a handgun to defend yourself and then a solid introduction to defensive shooting.

The NRA’s Personal Protection Outside the Home course is the introduction to concealed carry, drawing from a holster and concealment, use of a firearm outside your home for personal defense and a more rigorous introduction to this skill set on the range. Add to this an additional 5-hour shooting block on the range and you have a 14-hour, 2 day course that provides a solid foundation for those new to defensive carry to move forward in their training.

As in all courses, they are held during a specific period of time. This course was held over a Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was scheduled to dry, sunny and hot – low 80s. Sunday was scheduled to be very wet – 1 to 2 inches of rain and temps in the upper 40s or low 50s. Both predictions held true. In lite of this forecast, I moved the lessons around to enable us to get our range work done – both the intro block and the 5-hour advanced block – as well as our guest speaker that taught Lesson III – the legal component - on Saturday with the remaining lessons and final testing completed on Sunday. It was a good choice but by 5:15 PM on Sunday, the group was pretty well drained.

There are three specific shooting “Lessons” – Lesson 5 – Presenting from Concealment, Lesson 6 – Presentation, Position and Movement and finally Lesson 7 – Special Shooting Techniques. Lessons 5 and 6 are contained within the “Basic” PPOTH course with Lesson 7 being the additional 5-hour block to fulfill the Advanced portion of PPOTH. Honestly, I don’t teach the Basic only. There is simply too much value in the Advanced portion that I just teach the Advanced version of PPOTH.

General introductions were done – in this case Mike, Bobbie and Lori are return students from the March PPITH Instructor course. Bobbie and Lori brought their husbands this time and Mike, Bobbie and Lori will finish the 3-course instructor block by coming back next month to take the PPOTH Instructor course as well.

The morning block was spent using dry fire exercises to work on presentation from the holster, loading their firearm, speed reloads and tactical reloads. We also worked on stance, grip and did our best to break some lifelong habits that had developed involving inserting magazines, racking slides, driving to the threat . . . it burned a good chunk of our early morning.

Lesson III was then taught by a friend that has been both a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney in our state. This portion can only be taught by someone authorized by the state to teach the specific components taught in this lesson. For Iowa, that must be an attorney or a law enforcement officer trained to teach these specific components. Chris did a great job, got peppered by a host of questions and we all left clearer on the defensive use of a firearm within the state of Iowa. Then it was out to the range in hopes that we could finish lessons 5,6,and 7 before the rain hit. We were looking at 6.5 hours of real work!

Lesson 5 and 6 consists of 9 specific exercises to help the instructor evaluate the shooter and then begin to build their foundation to complete the course. Depending on the class I will usually add a few more drills to hone their position, trigger press, method of sighting as well as to cover malfunctions. Add to this moving to cover, strong hand only shooting, and the introduction of Point shooting – both two handed and single handed – it makes for a very rigorous and busy introduction.

After lunch we began Lesson 7. By this time we were sitting in the 80s and the range was definitely warming up. As an instructor this is something you MUST be aware of – and how that heat is affecting the shooters. Water and breaks are a must. Frankly, it being the first 80-degree day of the year one shooter did, indeed, overheat. So, I slowed the pace a bit, made sure she and all were drinking and we all got back at it. Bottom line – as shooters or an instructor – keep your head in the game!

Lesson 7 is 12 additional exercises including everything from shooting at contact distances to facing away from a threat and turning to face and engage the threat. I also added in some cognition drills from time to time to keep everyone thinking. And sprinkled in cautions, reminders and complements as needed. By the end of Exercise 21 – it had been a long range day. The round count had just topped 300 rounds and the gang was hot, tired, sweaty and ready to find a place to relax for a bit.


And isn’t that just the time when a threat would appear to hand you a very bad day. On this occasion, while not being a threat – I did present one more set of drills – marksmanship on the LEB target with distances from 5 m to 25 meters. The drills went like this:

  • 3-rounds, 5m on #5
  • 3-rounds, 7m on #3
  • 3-rounds, 10m on #1
  • 3-rounds, 10m on #4
  • 3-rounds, 10m on #6
  • 3-rounds, 10m Triangle
  • 6-rounds, 50 ft., center mass
  • 6-rounds, 25m, lower square


All can find reasons to be pleased with their final target . . . and all can find areas to improve, as it should be with any course work. These courses are meant to teach foundational elements. Training past that occurs when each shooter returns home, goes to their own range and works on the fundamentals taught in the PPOTH Advanced course.

Sunday found us finishing the lessons that covered psychological responses to a shooting, the physiological response of your body to such a high stress event, modes of carry, types of holsters, levels of awareness – all those lessons bypassed on Saturday so that we could remain dry and warm on Sunday. It turned out to be a good choice because it was raining as the crew arrived on Sunday and it remained raining well into the night.

A final exam with grading and final discussions . . . and it was over.

I find I was spoiled yet again by a group of shooters who truly came to learn, work and give it 100%. So to Bobbie, Jeff, Lori, Dan and Mike – thanks for coming, thanks for all your hard work . . . and I’m looking forward to seeing you all in May!

Personal - Perspective on “Another Year of Livin’”


“I just want to celebrate another year of livin’” . . .

The lovely and lively “Miss Lou” and Grandpa celebrated “Another Year of Livin’” last night after a fine meal and in the company of family.  She hit the “BIG 2” and Grandpa . . . a few more than that . . .

I want to pause and ponder that just a bit.

Miss Lou is our daughter’s and her hubbie’s number 3 child.  This past year has been a blessing in so many ways but at it’s simplest just watching her grow, enter “the two year old phase” of life and begin to see the young woman that she will become is one of life’s pleasures that – if you don’t slow your life, quiet your mind and truly take time to watch and observe . . . it’s gone in an instant and forever. 

On those days when I wonder about my purpose, my reason for existence – thinking of our kids and grandkids truly puts purpose to the whole scheme of things for me.  I love Miss Lou and all of them with all my heart.  And time in celebration of her birthday – as we will do with each parent, child and grandchild in turn – is time well spent and a solid grounding in the important things in life. 

As for me rolling another year – I keep waiting to feel  “different”, “older”, “grown up”.  I do grumble about body parts that don’t work quite as well as 40-50 years ago.  It was nice to lay on a double Thermarest on our annual campout this past year, shooting drills with words like “kneel”, “squat”, “run” seem to make me reach for “Vitamin I” at the end of the day . . . and still . . . when I reach into my mind and view “me” – I still see the geekie 16 year old out on his first date with his far distant bride to be.

So – I’ve been granted this past year.  I pray I used it wisely.  I am certain there are many times I did not . . . and some that I did.

And, I’ve been granted the very beginning of another . . . the beginning of my 65th.  Body parts in relatively good shape, head still fairly well screwed on, surrounded by a loving family and with an abundance of good friends.  God has truly blessed this soul . . . Sir – thank you!

The point of this rambling is that whatever your current trial, problem, fear . . . take the time to ponder and remember all the good that has been placed in your lap.  It is the love and the good and the joy that breaths life into your soul – enjoy today . . . with all your heart!

And here is the dashing couple – Grandpa and Miss Lou . . . the cakes were GREAT!!!

Grandpa and Mss Lou

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review - Range Safety Officer AAR 4-5-2014


Perhaps one of the most overlooked position at a shooting range is the Range Safety Officer. This occurs for many reasons – many ranges verge on the “ad hoc” category, say a hillside in a rural area or an old quarry.

Sometimes staff on ranges does double duty – trainer, gopher or range manager so the RSO isn’t a separate and distinct individual.

While common at shooting events and competitions, for the typical range there is seldom a full time RSO available and on duty.

That said, their job and position is critical for both the range and the shooter. The “RSO” is the person who makes sure the range you are shooting on is safe. There are innumerable ways to do real damage to yourself, range neighbors or your shooting buddy. The RSO helps mitigate many issues BEFORE they become a problem and/or danger.

I had the pleasure of training six new RSOs this past weekend. And while the RSO course is one of the “shorter” trainings – and while the class started early enough at 8 AM, before you knew it the clock showed 6 PM when the last grade was copied onto the attendance sheet. While a long day . . . the time went FAST!!! Here is a list of the topics covered on the 5th during the RSO course:

  • Role of the Range Safety officer
  • Purpose of Standard Operating Procedures
  • Basic Inspection Procedures for Ranges
  • Range Rules
  • Inspection Procedures for Indoor Ranges
  • Inspection Procedures for Outdoor Ranges
  • NRA Gun Safety Rules
  • General Range Rules
  • Site-Specific Range Rules
  • Administrative Rules
  • Purpose of a Range Safety Briefing
  • Develop and Conduct a Range Safety Briefing
  • Purpose of having Emergency Procedures
  • Steps to take during an emergency
  • Conduct an Emergency Exercise
  • Define a “stoppage”
  • Define a “malfunction”
  • Demonstrate how to clear stoppages on common types of firearms – including pistols, rifles and shotguns.
  • Demonstrate how to safely take a gun from a shooter.

Add to this a physical walkthrough inspection of the outdoor pistol range, rifle range, trap range and archery range – an hours’ worth of work in and of itself, it’s not hard to see how you get from 8 AM to 6 PM in the “blink” of an eye.

The walkthrough inspections lead directly to range safety briefings. I had one team do the trap range and archery range while the other focused on the pistol and rifle ranges. These were then developed and presented to the class.

Malfunctions and stoppages were discussed and many demonstrated with dummy ammunition. Work included demonstrations on all types of actions for rifles, shotguns and handguns. While this was a very experienced group of shooters, everyone had an introduction to at least one new type of firearm or action that they were not familiar with.

A 50 question exam finished up the day with a required score of 90% to pass the course. I always use exams as reviews of the course. We discuss each question and we pay particular attention to questions a student misses.

Bottom line for the day . . . 6 new RSOs are ready to hit the ranges this summer.

It was a great course – congrats to Colby, Dan, Chuck, Ken, Larry and Loel – good job guys!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Training - Integrity


A bit of a rant . . . apologies in advance . . .

Integrity:       : the quality of being honest and fair

                        : the state of being complete or whole

I live in Iowa, about 90 miles west of the Mississippi from Illinois. They are taking their first steps into the carry world - the last to join the rest of us in an ability to carry a firearm to defend ourselves, our family and any friends in our charge. It’s been a painful process to watch over the years. On the one side you have a state government seemingly intent on keeping their citizens dependent on the local law enforcement community for their safety. And on the other side, citizens that are tired of the assaults, break-ins and murders committed by those that have long since given up living under the rule of law.

While some states have instituted “Constitutional Carry” – you are a citizen able to purchase and possess a firearm, therefore you can carry it, others have enacted requirements that can be both arduous and expensive. Illinois is, to me, one such state. The basic requirement is 16 hours of face to face training. No short cuts, no videos, no on-line . . . face to face contact. Section 75 of the Firearm Concealed Carry Act goes into the details of what is covered, requirements to be a firearms instructor in Illinois and what the passing score in on the range. The act itself is 168 pages long, you’ll find the requirements under Section 75 on page 30.

Which brings us to what prompted this post today. I received an email from a fellow instructor with links to two separate stories about firearms instructors losing their training certifications and their students losing their carry permits because these trainers decided to take shortcuts with the training . . . and the students went along with it. So . . . let’s spend a bit of time on the personal trait of INTEGRITY. Take a few moments to read these two articles first . . .,0,2695924.story,0,1949490.story

Integrity – the quality of being honest and fair. The state of being complete or whole. Pretty clear – to the point. I want to examine this from both sides of the coin – the instructor and the student.

Instructor Integrity

An instructor should be who they say they are – that simple. And, they should be fully familiar with what they are teaching and be able to demonstrate it. I’ll take it a step further – instructors should demonstrate all drills and shoot all qualifications right along with the students. An instructor should have a purpose – a mission. Why is he/she teaching? Is it important to them? Does it matter that the skillset is taught or simply that the checks cash? If the instructor is presenting coursework that they claim meets or exceeds a particular state’s training requirement – they better make damn sure it does. The standard dodge – “gee, I didn’t know I had to teach that”, “or I didn’t know I was required to provide 16 hours of instruction” – simply doesn’t cut it in the training world. And yes, I know . . . other states may require far less from their instructors. Move. Otherwise, it’s the responsibility of every instructor to know the material they’re teaching, know the laws of their state regarding training and to simply do their damn job!

And if they’re unwilling to do that – few of us will be sorry to see them go.

Student Integrity

My kids are long since grown, one with three daughters of her own. Periodically, as they were growing we would be at odds over the performance of a specific task or the timing of an event or the breaking of a rule. Both came to an understanding that the words “I didn’t know” simply carried no weight. It was BS . . . they knew it . . . and they knew I knew it.

And so it is with the “victims” of these instructors. Were they all to be interviewed, and were they all to answer honestly . . . I suspect they ALL knew the 16 hour requirement but simply chose to believe that there was a shorter path, that these instructors knew that path and less time in the classroom is always better – right?

So, I call BS . . . there were no secrets as to the requirements, simply a willingness by both parties – instructor and student – to get by on a wink and a nod for part of the state requirement.

As “students of the gun” ( I am not associated with any groups using that phrase – I simply believe it accurately reflects what we all are in the shooting community) we know there are no shortcuts to being a better shooter, to being an armed citizen, to being trained is a skillset that we can use to defend ourselves, our families and friends in our charge. It requires range time, dry fire, ammunition, seeking our coursework to help us grow, reading broadly, listening, joining in “the discussion” of training and use of firearms. IT. TAKES. REAL. WORK.

So, if you’re an instructor intent on taking the shortest path – or a path that doesn’t “meet spec” – shame on you. Get your crap together or quit teaching.

And, if you’re a student looking for a quickie permit . . . remember, you get what you pay for. When they put your wife, your child, your friend in a ZipLoc the words “I didn’t have time to train” or “I thought I had all the training I needed” or “I only had to take a 4-hour class to get my permit” is going to be of little consolation to you.

Be an adult! Be a man! Be a woman!

Put on your big kid panties and get to it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review - PACT Club Timer III


Timers . . . it’s an interesting topic among shooters as they begin to think about getting “faster”. It’s almost spoken as FACT – strap on a timer, you’ll shoot faster!! Gaaarrrrrroooonnnnnttttteeeeeedddddd!!

MMmmm . . . not so much. In fact, getting “fast” is a topic in and of itself, there are so many bits and pieces to the process that just throwing in a few words about it here would do the topic and you a disservice, I’ll save it to until later.

My biggest concern for a new shooter that is looking to get – or has just gotten – their first timer is that they push so much on simply a quick draw that the basics of good safety, solid grip, RULE NUMBER 2 (Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot! i.e. – On Target!!) and trigger discipline are thrown out the window. Instead there is simply a drive to “beat the timer”. Honestly . . . it’s an inanimate object – you can’t beat it. But, you sure the heck can put a round in your thigh trying to.

So – Rule number one of a timer: Draw as fast as you can – SAFELY! With time, with practice, with hundreds/thousands of draws you will naturally get smoother. This will make you a faster shooter.

Rule number two of a timer: A FAST draw and a poorly aimed shot is just that . . . a poorly aimed shot. Speed from the holster has little to do with survivability in a defensive encounter if you cleared the holster and got the shot off in under the “magical” 2 second time . . . if the round was a foot high and to the left of your attacker’s head.

Rule number three of a timer: They should be rock simple to run. I have three different timers. One – and app on my Android. See the reviews for an overview of it. My lovely wife bought me the PACT MKIV XP as a Christmas present and I have used it extensively on the range. That said, it’s bulky and absolutely packed with features I seldom if ever use. Did I mention it’s bulky??? My third is one our Ikes chapter uses for their steel shoots. All of these offer a broad range of adjustments, settings and a double handful of buttons or menu selections to roll through to set it to your specific needs. I am a geek at heart, I have no issue with buttons, settings and multiple menus. But, are all those settings really necessary for what I want for 99% of my timing needs? No.

Rule number four of a timer: It needs to display the information you want to track your performance. For me that’s time to first shot, number of shots, split times between shots and total time for all shots fired. Add the ability to set a PAR time (the amount of time allowed to complete your string of fire) and I’m a happy camper.

These four “Rules” lead me to search for a new range timer as the snow cleared and the temps rose. My choice . . . yet another PACT timer . . . the PACT Club Timer III.

PACT Club Timer III - Top (Medium)

PACT Club Timer III - Front (Medium)

PACT Club Timer III - Back (Medium)

It has MINIMAL settings. I can choose to have the timer sound the moment I press the “GO” button. Or, I can choose the “DELAY” feature that will randomly delay the start tone from 1.5 to 3.5 seconds. (This random delay is hard wired! I spent quite some time trying to figure out how to set the delay time simply because virtually every other timer I’ve used allowed me to do that.) And, you can set the PAR time from 00.01 seconds through 99.99 seconds.

It’s a fairly compact size, about 1-1/2 inches thick, 3-7/8 inches wide and 4-3/4 inches deep.  Not tiny, but not overly large either.  The buttons are big enough to easily allow their use by a gloved hand.

Once you have chosen either “Immediate” or “Delay” and set your PAR time all you need do is hit the “GO” button, wait for the start tone and engage your target. When your PAR time elapses the tone will sound again and your time is over.

A RVW – Review – button allows you to scroll through your shots looking at each shot’s time and the split time to the next shot.

Very simple, very clean, very easy to run. I like it!

The timer is powered by a single 9V battery and will shut itself down after 15 minutes of inactivity.

Cost is between $130 and $150 depending on the vendor.

So, if you are looking to pick up your first timer, or searching for an alternative to your current timer – I urge you to consider the PACT Club Timer III.

I find it a solid performer!