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


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Training - Precision Shooting with a 22 cal. Rifle

I am NOT a precision shooter.  Honestly, I’ve spent little time on it.  I’ve taken one Precision Shooting Course, spent 20-ish hours of range work on it . . . and I have made significant improvement.  And I intend to improve this particular skill set.  That said, the cost of the ammunition can be daunting. 

 My go to gun for true distance shooting is my LM-308 as described in the course linked above.  I could easily “ring steel” at 500 yards.  The rub here is that becoming proficient at long range shooting using a .308 is more than a little pricey.  For example, just stock PMC 147 gr, FMJ-BT in 500 round lots runs around .63 cents per round.  If you use Hornady Match Grade . . . 168 gr hollow point boat tail, now you’re talking $1.20 per round.  Real money there.

 An alternative I’ve chosen, to work on the fundamentals, is to equip an AR-223 so that the optic, trigger and bipod are nearly identical to those on the LM-308.  This allows me to use .223 for range ammunition while I am plugging away of foundational stuff.  Now my per round cost PMC .223 55 grain FMJ Boat Tail drops to around 31 cents per round – much better!  Still, what if there was a cheaper way??  Enter the Ruger 10/22 Target Model.   I picked up mine several years ago with an attached bipod and a cheap Tasco scope.  I replaced the Scope with a Nikon Rimfire 4-12x40 BDC 150.  This emulates the Nikon scopes I have on both the AR-15 and the LM-308.  The trigger group in the target rifle also has a very similar touch and feel of the Timney triggers on the other two rifles.  All in all, not a bad surrogate to use while spending range time working on the foundation for precision shooting.  As for ammunition costs?  How about Remington’s “Bucket O-Bullets” . . . 1,400 rounds . . . for $81 . . . or .06 cents per round.  We’re talking 1/5 the price for a single .223 round.  Now we’re talking!

 So, what kind of work can you get done with the Ruger Target?  Can you achieve any real type of “precision”?  That’s what I wanted to work through tonight on my first range trip with the new scope attached.

 I started things out at 50 feet.  I always adjust windage on a new scope first, then elevation.  The key here is to remember that foundational items are exactly the same whether shooting the .308 or the .22.  My position on the bench, how I load the bipod, how I mount the stock, how I place my cheek on the comb, coming into the right position for full eye relief, placement of my finger on the trigger and the smoothness of the trigger press and finally managing my breathing so there is just the slightest of pauses on the bottom of my respiratory cycle as the trigger breaks.  These fundamentals are exactly the same regardless the weapon.  I use a target with 5 each 3-inch targets with 1-inch centers for working with Scouts and NRA Rifle Instructors.  It’s one I whipped up myself and is perfect for what I was trying to accomplish here . . . zeroing the rifle and then beginning some real work.  The following target is the result of my efforts and my final target at 50-feet before I moved to 50 yards.

 I was reasonably happy with the results.  The groups were 1-inch-ish and showed all the characteristics of responding to typical errors regarding trigger press, hurrying the shot, not managing my breathing . . . which is exactly what I am after.  So, I got some really good work done at a reasonable distance for not a lot of money.  Once I was satisfied with the rifle’s zero I moved things back to 50 yards.

One thing that was apparent with the first round . . . the .22 cal bullet hit 2 inches higher at 50 yards.  That was an easy fix, simply dialed things down 8 clicks and I was rolling.  Here too, if I did the foundational things well, my groups were less than an inch.  As you can see by looking at the targets I had flyers, obvious rounds where I rushed things and then a couple nice groups.  Bottom line, the Ruger Target with the Nikon Rimfire scope at 50 yards will be a great tool to continue to develop my precision shooting skill set at a significantly lower cost per round.  I like it!

 A few other things to keep in mind.  6 cent ammunition behaves like 6 cent ammunition.  I had the typical feed issues that I see with the 10/22 (though this particular rifle is in bad need of a good cleaning).  I had a half dozen misfires most of which worked OK if I simply reloaded them in the magazine.  I also had a number of failure to extract issues.  I’m betting on the cleaning to fix that.  I’d love to blame the larger sized groups on variations in ammunition given its cheap price . . . but I suspect it has much more to do with me than with the ammo.

 The other issue here is that a 10/22 does absolutely nothing to teach you about recoil management.  There isn’t any!  That said, the benefit in being able to shoot cheaply while working on your foundational skill set seems to be a good trade off.  I’ll periodically sent 25 – 50 rounds down range with the LM-308 and the AR-15 as well.  Then I can work on recoil management.

 So there you have it.  If you’re looking to work on your precision shooting skill set without putting a huge hole in your wallet . . . dig out your old 22.  Spiff it up a bit and take it to the range.  I think you might be surprised at how much good work you can get done!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Just the Basics – Cleaning your gun . . . just like cleaning your riding boots . . .

I’ve made a lifelong effort to stick to the “foundations” of any particular task . . . be it design engineering, keeping my family first in my life, teaching defensive shooting . . . and teaching folks to clean the firearms that they may call upon to use to defend their lives.  In under all the “tacti-cool”, special tools, special kits, special chemicals, special lubricants . . . there is foundational process the guides us to the end-product.  A clean, lubricated and functional firearm.

Truth is though that sometimes the “gun geek” yells so loud, we can’t hear the logic behind a specific technique or the use of a specific cleaner or lubricant.  The speaker has too much energy wrapped up in their point of view that the volume of the words prevents the clear articulation of the point they are trying to make.  I want to try something different . . . by stepping WAY outta the box and I want to spend some time on process rather than specific items.  I want to discuss how you clean your gun . . . not what you clean it with.  Still, it’s hard to do by posting pictures of a specific handgun, my cleaning kit, the chemicals I use . . . because we all know how to do it “right”.  Much of my foundational information is simply lost in the mental argument of . . . “I can’t believe he uses THAT as a degreaser!!!” “Did you see his crappy brushes?!?!?”  “Holy cow!!  You use THAT as your lubricant?!?!?!?”  Yeah . . . so let’s not do that.

Let’s talk about cleaning boots . . . riding boots . . . dressage boots to be specific.  And allow me to show you that cleaning your gun is just like cleaning your riding boots.

My wife is up and rolling early this morning (literally this morning, she’s about 90 minutes into her 4.5 hour drive as I type this).  She’s off for a week of training with an instructor and the instructor’s “school master” horse to continue to work on her riding.  Honestly, she doesn’t compete, not her thing.  She’s demoed riding techniques to both brand new riders and well as those who ride 4th Level Dressage and higher.  She’s skilled . . . as she should be after well over 40 years of experience.  In fact one of our first dates in the summer of ’66 was horseback riding.  It ended with my horse stepping on a ground hornet’s nest and bolting full out for his stall.  Memorable to this very day.  I only add this bit about how long she’s been riding in to illustrate that to develop your craft, to become the best you can be and to maintain that level and push the upper levels of your capability . . . training never ends.  Whether you are a dressage rider or a shooter.  This is something my wife understand very well.

Anyway . . . a task I forgot last night was to clean and polish her riding boots.  They were setting next to the door so I gathered them up and took them to the kitchen.  I dug out the cleaning kit and the polishing kit and set to work.

There are five foundational steps to a clean riding boot.  Cleaning off the dirt, deep cleaning the leather, allowing the boot to dry, inspection of the boot for torn seams and finally the application of the right preservative – typically a boot polish or oil.  In this case, as simple black boot polish.  (Hoping you’re seeing some similarities here.)

If you look at the first photo of the boot, you notice that the seams around the sole are dirt filled, there is some mud build up in various areas of the leather and the boot as a whole is just dusty.  Over a long period of time if you fail to properly care for your boots the leather will crack, the seams will break down and a good pair of boots will become so much scrap.  This particular pair is about 10 years old and in reasonably good shape.

I begin cleaning by waiting for the mud to dry and then using a stiff bristled brush to brush off as much of the dirt and mud as I can.  Once this is removed I make a close inspection of all seams to see of some repair is called for.  I never try to remove mud when the mud is fresh or by using a wet rag to wipe it off.  Leather has pores and you would simply be filling these pores with the mud.  Better to brush it off after the boot and mud have dried.

You can see the difference between the dirty boot and this image of the brushed boot.  Next, a deeper cleaning.

This is one point of crossover between the gun geek and the boot geek . . . what’s the best cleaning material and process.  Ours is one we were taught and have used for over 40 years.  We use warm water, a damp natural sponge and a bar of saddle soap.  You want a DAMP sponge, not soaking wet.  You rub the bar of saddle soap with the damp sponge and then use this soapy surface to deep clean the leather.  The soap both cleans and conditions the leather.  It is a gently process not a heavy-handed process.  Once the entire surface of the boot has been cleaned and conditioned, the boot is again inspected and then left to dry.  The same process is used on the second riding boot.

Once they are dry, notice the difference from the first photo to the clean boot.  Quite a difference.  Finally, the boot conditioner – polish – is applied.  The kit shown is the Ziploc has components that are nearly 40 years old.  The buffing brush has buffed out riding boots, low quarters, combat boots, dance shoes . . . I can sit and brush and buff and feel over half my lifetime in my hand.  I find it comforting for some reason and it is a task I find enjoyable.

I take an application rag, stick my index finger in a fold, rub a couple circles in the top of the can of polish and then rub the polish into the boot beginning with the toe and ending at the gusset at the top of the boot.  Again, I let it dry a bit and apply polish to the second boot.  Once I am finished applying the polish I return to the first boot and use the buffing brush to buff out the boot.  I am not looking for a high gloss, we are orders of magnitude from a traditional military “spit shine” but we do end up with a black and slightly shiny CLEAN boot.  Which is the point.

Clean away excess dirt, use the proper cleaning material to clean the boot, inspect the boot and finally polish and condition the boot. 

I’m not going to go into a “blow by blow” comparison of how this all relates to cleaning your defensive weapons . . . but I’m hoping you see the obvious similarities.   Use a firm nylon brush to remove the excess GSR, us a cleaning material that can be fully removed when you’ve done a deep cleaning of your weapon, inspect your weapon for damage and finally apply an appropriate amount of lubricant to protect your weapon and to insure it operates smoothly. 

Cleaning your gun truly is just like cleaning your riding boots.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Training - Standards - Close Enough!

Training standards.  They’re subjective, variable, scenario dependent . . . flexible.  At the end of the day, when the last round is counted . . . your result is either “close enough” . . . or it’s not.  It’s as simple as that . . . and as “hinkie” as that.  Let’s chat about “Standards” for a bit.

We all get introduced to “standards” at an early age.  Standards of behavior by our parents.  Standards of performance by our teachers.  “Grades” that must be met to “pass”.   In the shooting community whether military, law enforcement, competition or civilian the word “qualify” pops its head up.  All of these systems come into to play . . . to see if me meet the “standards” . . . are we Close Enough . . . so that an individual or organization monitoring our performance looks us in the eye and say . . . you “made it”.

Standard:     something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example

something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality

I’ve touched on this a few times in the past.  But it resurfaced for me again last week when I visited a local indoor range for a little lead therapy.  My intent was to shake off some of the winter rust.  I have not done any real range work since the end of November so the first task is to just do some evaluation on where my skill set stands.  I continually preach to my students that shooting is a perishable skill and the fact I act as an instructor doesn’t grant me any special dispensation.  I spent time at four different distances.  I began at 7 yards, moved to 5 yards, then 10 yards and finally 50 feet.  The first three distances were covered on my first target and the 50 foot distance on the second.  So let’s drill down a bit.

My minimum “standard” is 80%.  When deciding on that number you also need to define the target.  For my purposes on target one, the targets are individual shapes and areas on the SEB target.  The “high center mass” box was the first target of interest.  50 rounds at 7 yards from the high compressed ready, slow fire.  I varied between single round engagements to accelerated pairs to slow strings of 3 to 5 at 1 second increments.  I loaded my magazines with 10 rounds each working with two range magazines and pausing to reload at the appropriate times.  My result, I put 49 out of 50 rounds within the “high center mass” box, a hit rate of 98%.  Notice that the group is fairly well distributed in the box that implies a reasonable balance of speed and precision.  I’ll take it.


Next was to move to smaller sized targets to increase the requirement for precision.  The circle on the right size was target 2.  I engaged is with 20 rounds of slow fire at 5 yards being careful to practice those things that help insure an accurate shot . . . a solid stance, firm grip, good sight alignment and sight picture, take up the slack in the trigger and finish with a smooth trigger press.  The result?  I was down two yielding a 90%.  I moved to the Ocular Cavity with another 20 rounds, same distance and ending up dropping 4 rounds yielding an 80%.  A squeaker.  Finally, a final 20 rounds at 5 yards on the circle on the left dropping zero and a 100% hit rate.

Next I moved the target out to 10 yards and engaged the Pelvic Girdle with 50 rounds.  Here things opened up a bit and I dropped 8 rounds with a score of 84%.  Finally, I moved to two more precise targets - the 4-box and 3-box – engaging each with 10 rounds.  Obviously here things degraded quite a bit with a 50% on the 3-box and a 30% on the 4-box.  These scores certainly show that I need to work on precision at longer distances.  This took around 45 minutes to an hour complete my evaluation of the depth of the “rust” that had accumulated over the winter.

Next, I posted another target and sent it out to 50 feet.  I slow fired 50 rounds from the high compressed ready and evaluated my results.  Here I want to point out a couple different “standards”.  If you shoot a military or law enforcement course of fire with 50 rounds an hit is any hole within the silhouette.  If we take that standard I dropped 1 rounds for a score of 98%.

A second standard would be using the high center chest box as the target.  If I use that standard I shot a 60%.   Regardless of which standard you choose . . . you eventually reach a point where you are “close enough” to meet the “standard” of the instructor/RO/shooting wizard in charge of the drill being shot . . . or you’re not.

What prompted this particular post is that a friend replied to my post on my FB where I posted my targets and commented that I obviously had work to do this season.  His question was:   Where you aiming at the target... cuz it looks look you hit the target. Congrats!   Where I was aiming had an effect on my overall accuracy.  His “standard” was obviously different than mine.  Bottom line we both get to the same place, a consistent way of evaluating my shooting.  But when you drill down a bit, specific courses of fire vary and can be evaluated separately.   

Bottom, bottom, bottom line . . . set your own standard when you do your individual training on your monthly range visits.  Document your trip.  Detail what your course of fire was – distance, number of rounds, specific target area.  And then, hold yourself accountable for your result so you know which specific areas you need to work on.  Remember to use your full range of tools to document and evaluate your trip.  Photograph your target.  Save that photo to your documentation file on your computer that proves you are diligent in practicing your craft.  Consider using your video camera on your phone to evaluate your draw stroke, how you move off the “x”, your reloads, how you drive out to the target.

Shooting is a perishable skill.  If you choose not to visit the range . . . your scores are going to diminish, simple as that.  Set a standard, hit the range and get some good work done.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Training – It’s not about the gun . . . or the permit

Talisman      an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune
                     something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects

These requests weren’t new, I’ve heard them before.  In fact, there were two separate and different requests this past week.

The first came from a woman.  She and 9 of her co-workers were interested in a “carry class”.  Honestly, here in Iowa that means a lot of different things.  State law requires that the coursework be taught by a certified NRA instructor, LEO instructor or an instructor from a national organization involved in gun rights and teaching safe gun handling.  There is no requirement for face to face training or for actual range work.

As a result, there is a broad range of instructors and types of coursework available.  Honestly, most folks tend to go to the least expensive.  For this woman, we’ll see.  For what she is asking, I teach the Foundations of Defensive Pistol course from NAPSI.  It takes about 9 hours and 200 rounds of live fire.  It’s not a “quickie”. 

In under all of that though, a lot of folks who, frankly, choose the “quickie” classes view their “non-professional permit to carry a concealed weapon” as a talisman of some sort that has some type of magic power to protect them.  I have countless friends that have gone through everything from “quickie” to multiple day defensive firearms coursework that carry . . . only their permit.  No gun.  Just the permit.  I suppose they could paper-cut a threat until they surrendered . . . but I wouldn’t want to bet my life on that particular approach.

My advice is simple . . . if you get a permit, carry . . . every day . . . everywhere it is legal to do so.  Pretty tough to tell an attacker – “excuse me – stay right there – I’m gonna run home and get my gun – be right back!”

The next talisman to come into play . . . THE GUN!!!  “Yep, I went out and bought a gun!”  It’s said with a relief that they are finally ready to handle “things” . . . whatever things there are that might threaten their life.  This is usually followed by how they are keeping it safely locked up with the ammunition locked and stored elsewhere.  The mere purchase and possession of the firearm is a strong enough talisman to ward off all evildoers.  Perhaps even worse if the husband or father who buys his wife or daughter a handgun to protect herself . . . cause . . . GUN!!! 

There is no magic in the handgun.  It takes real effort and time and on-going work go gain and maintain a level of proficiency that can be used to defend your life and the lives of your family.  REAL WORK.  I’ve given this pitch many times . . . buy 1,000 rounds in January, expend 100 rounds every month.  You’ll miss a couple months . . . and this will go a long way towards you keeping a viable level of proficiency with your defensive firearm.

And, before even purchasing a defensive handgun – take training that is focused on defensive shooting.  Target shooting, while truly fun, will do little to help you in a life-threatening situation.

The last talisman is “training”.  No magic occurs during the coursework you take.  In fact, “training” doesn’t even occur during coursework.  If you are going down the defensive shooting path, the training should introduce you to a solid set of foundational information and principals along with a solid set of shooting drills you can take away with you.  Your actual training occurs when you take this information and drills and practice them while expending those 1,000 rounds you bought in January.

Taking a lot of words to say that carry permits and guns are NOT TALISMANS.  They will not ward off evil.  They may allow you to SURVIVE evil if, and only if, you put in the work.

I haven’t finished a post with this lately, let’s pull it off the shelf again . . .



Do the work . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Training – Yep, it happens . . . we all get older . . .

Me:     Keller!

Skip:     Bill, got I minute?  I want to ask you to be on my podcast.

Me:      OK, got a topic?

Skip:     Yep, I want to talk about how getting older affects you as a shooter and trainer.  Old fart that you are . . . I thought of you . . .

Old fart . . . personally I identify as a C.O.G. . . . Crotchety Old Guy . . . and I’m damn good at it! 

So a time is set to record a couple segments for his podcast, one about my book and the other about “aging” and shooting.  In the interest of full disclosure Skip Coryell is the owner of White Feather Press who also happens to be my publisher.  He’s been great to work with and I was more than happy to play the “old fart” part of the interview.

That said, it’s a serious topic.  Aging affects us in a broad range of ways but the raw physicality of firearms training begins to play a part pretty darn soon.  So, I’d like to take a crack at this topic from both a shooter’s POV and then a trainer’s.

Being a shooter . . . and getting older.

Let’s begin by defining “older” . . . I remember attending my Uncle Ted and Aunt Ester’s 25th wedding anniversary and marveling at them being so old and being married for so long.  How did people live that long.  Of course, Susie and I have left our 25th anniversary 20 years in the past . . . so there’s that.

Aside from that . . . life happens.  21 years in the military from which I escaped pretty well unscathed excepting a “lung thing” that’s been a bit of a pain in the butt since returning to the world in ’71 and gaffing out on a telephone pole while on a deployment that sometimes reminds me with twinges in my back.  Minor, minor things.

(It’s about here that I think I begin to sound like the old men sitting around Floyd’s bitching about their aches and pains . . . only to remember so few of those reading this will even know who “Floyd” is . . . heavy sigh.)

Men have their own particular “typical” milestones.  From age 27-35 all men are assholes.  Nothing personal, we just are.  We know everything, are well into our careers, we’re strong, vital and ready to take on the world.  Typically, we’re “book smart” and life stupid.  There are things that temper that . . . marriage (and we’re blessed if we marry an adult to whip us into shape – I was so blessed), military life and deployments, loss of parents and grandparents . . . and individual life lessons – accidents, illness.  Provided we survive this, we are reasonably well prepared to face “life” as an adult after age 35. 

At age 40 our eyesight goes.  Again, this isn’t personal, it just happens.  For me I had a kick-ass case of the flu and climbed out of bed 10 days later with one eye focusing about 6” different than the other.  I went from perfect vision to tri-focals in 10 days.  In the past 27 years (yes, I’m THAT old, about to hit 67 my next B-Day) nothing has changed and my prescriptions have remained virtually unchanged.

Age fifty and guys just can’t pee anymore.  Typically, due to a little walnut sized and shaped critter called a prostate.  It’s called “enlargement” and since it surrounds your “drain tube” when it gets big it stops things up.  One of the things that can cause that is the Big “C” . . . which happened to be my issue.  One more time the good Lord was kind and after a bit of a “snip-snip” the offending critter was gone and the Big C has also remained gone for the past 14 years.

When you reach 60 some of these things begin to add up.  When I look in the mirror a part of my mind still sees the 16-year-old that is still hanging around.  That said, when I took a 2-day, 24-hour patrol rifle course this past November in the cold, rain and dark . . . it hurts a bit more than it did when I was 16.  So, this is where I am today . . . and it does affect my abilities as a shooter.  Let’s talk a bit about that.


Issues with eyesight are real and span a broad range of ages.  For me reading is the primary issue but picking up the front sight of a handgun also became an issue.  There are some good solutions for this.  Mine was to pick up the I.C.E “claw” rear sight and the Trijicon large green square front sight combination.  I have these on both my primary carry G17 and my backup G17.  They make a real difference.  And, during a recent night qualification shoot they were easy to pick up in lowlight and worked well in combination with a flashlight.  RMR sights are also beginning to come on strong as an option.  My main issue here is that I hate to trust my life to an electrical device.  I have backup irons on my carbine incase the batteries on my optic die . . . I have the same fear with a RMR sight.  For now, I am very happy with my choice of sights and I do not see myself changing.

The other possibility is that your night sight diminishes to the point that you simply can not distinguish the target.  Period. The easy answer is a weapon mounted light or flashlight (which should be in your pocket anyway).  My caution here is that there will come a time when you have to be honest with yourself.  The age will vary . . . but if you can not clearly identify the target you are about to press the trigger on . . . please . . . don’t.

Hand Strength

You need to be able to “run the gun” and many of today’s semiautomatic pistols are “stiff”.  I’ve told the story before of a friend that picked up his LC9 the same time I picked up mine.  When he went to manipulate the slide, he simply did not have enough hand strength to do it.  Nor could he load the magazines fully.  From an emotional . . . mental . . . POV, these can be difficult things to wrap your head around.  From a practical POV, your life depends on your ability to run the gun.  If you can’t manipulate a semiautomatic pistol it may well be time to consider pulling out your revolver, or picking one up for the first time.  There will still be some issues, but as long as you can press the trigger you have the opportunity to protect your life, the life of your family and anyone else in your charge.


Small, involuntary hand movements are also common as a person ages.  At times, they can begin early and for many they don’t show up until the 70s, 80s or beyond.  I currently am tremor free and pray I remain that way.  That said minor tremors have little effect on a shooter’s ability to get combat effective hits at typical defensive distances of 15-ft or so.  As long as the shooter can run the gun, minor tremors are simply a nuisance – nothing more.


The effect “mobility” has on a shooter depends on what you are evaluating.  At a minimum, a defensive shooter needs to put rounds on a threat as quickly as possible.  This implies the ability to move at least one hand and arm quickly, accurately and to be able to press the trigger at least 6 times for a 6-shot revolver.  Past that the individual could be confined to a wheelchair, have a single arm only and be blind in one eye.  They could still accurately engage a threat.  If the need grows to include escape and evasion, the task becomes much more complicated.

The CQB qualification shoot I went through for the patrol rifle covers typical movement.  Running short distances.  Moving between prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.  Rapidly engaging a threat at distance while quickly moving between standing, kneeling and prone.  As a C.O.G. what I notice is that as I move forward in time this simply hurts more.  I am blessed enough that I can still make times, shoot a score required for an instructor . . . but . . . I genuinely feel it at the end of the day.  For the older shooter there is a balance here between allowing pride physically hurt you, and honestly assessing where you are in the scheme of things.  Pay attention . . . and be open to the simple fact that at some time you won’t “make times” . . . and you won’t be able to smoothly move from prone to standing in any type of reasonable time . . . if at all.

One thing that helps me is vitamin “I” . . . ibuprofen.  I “pre-medicate” with about 600 mg about an hour before range time and every 6 hours for the next 12 hours . . . 1800 mg for the day.  And repeated the next day.  I do this on pack and paddle trips as well.  I find no value in “suffering”.  That said, I am also mindful that a day will come where it won’t provide the relief I will need.  A bridge I will cross when I need to.

Range time.

Being old . . . and an experienced shooter . . . doesn’t mean you can skip consistent training.  We are all reminded over and over . . . “shooting is a perishable skill”.  Because it is.  Just because you’ve been shooting for 50 . . . 60 years or more doesn’t mean you get to skip range time.  None of us can afford that luxury.  Do the work, put in the time . . . expect excellence on each and every trip.  Pay attention to changes, do your best to adapt to them. 

From and instructors POV

As an instructor working with an “older” student take a bit of time and evaluate them as you take them through your coursework.  I usually start during the classroom portion and find out if anyone is on any type of medications that can affect their performance on the range.  While this is important across the board . . . older shooters can be on multiple meds at the same time – all of which can be a problem at times.  It can also affect your emergency response plans as well.   Ask the questions in private if you must.

One personal example is that I had a shooter get a bit of a slide-bite that simply would not stop bleeding.  He was on blood thinners and it took a lot longer and more direct pressure before things finally clotted and the bleeding stopped.

On another occasion, I had an older shooter have a hard time with the heat on the range on a surprisingly warm 80-ish degree day in late March.  This one was on me . . . I was not paying as much attention as I needed to.  By the time I noticed there was a problem brewing,  she definitely needed a bit of down time to recover.

Evaluation of their ability to pick up the sights and get good hits may well come into play more for your older students.  That said, fixing the problem is no different regardless of age.  We’ve had this discussion before . . . return to the “Drive – Touch – Press” drill, watch what they do and tweak as necessary. 

Mobility will definitely come into play with your older students yet what I notice is that it is typically speed that is affected.  Us C.O.G.s just plain move slower.  And, if you ask us to roll around on the ground, kneel and stand quickly . . . there’s a good chance many of us simply will have to take a pass.  If you have students that have these problems, take the time to talk about alternatives, other ways to move to cover, to use cover.  Remember, the bottom line is rounds on the threat regardless of how fast we’re moving.

Finally, there’s the “SUPER C.O.G.”  God help ya!  A few years back I took a CFS course from Rob Pincus.  In attendance was a “SUPER C.O.G.” who simply knew everything, had no intention of evaluating himself in any way and was not interested in trying anything new.  For two whole days.  Honestly, it was sad.  He’d spent good money, two days’ worth of time . . . to learn . . . NOTHING!!!           He didn’t even show up to the AAR session.  Please . . . don’t be that guy.  And, as the instructor . . . I think Rob presented a good example.  You need to demand the best from the students – all of them.  Rob nudged, pushed this fellow throughout the entire course.  That’s all we, as instructors, can do.  It is always up to the student to be open minded enough to search for value.  But, in the end, it’s their decision.

Age will affect us all in one way, shape or form.  It might be quick . . . or it might be a slow progression.  Regardless . . . we will all walk down that road.  Listen to your body, take care of it, adapt your firearms if possible to compensate . . . but bottom line . . . keep at it.  Do your range trips, be the best possible shooter you can be . . . for as long as you possible can . . .

Now, where did I put that ibuprofen???

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Just the Basics – The AR Platform.  An introduction . . .

I see tons of new shooters at local ranges with new (or even old) ARs and they’re making holes . . . or “sightin’ it in”, or rippin’ off a magazine through a silhouette up against the berm . . . and little else.  Virtually all are capable of so much more.
Of course, there are dozens and dozens of book out there on the AR from the armorer level to the tacti-cool shooter level.  We’ve all rolled through a bunch of them I suspect.  So, why
one more?  Because, frankly, I have yet to see one that provides me “Just the Basics” all in one spot.  I don’t need an armorer’s manual . . . but I do want to know nomenclature, how the platform functions, how to clear malfunctions, something about its ammunition and a review of the basic shooting positions.  I want “Just the Basics”.  And since I can’t find what I want, I intend to create it in such a way that will be useful to a new and inexperienced shooter as a basic learning tool and hopefully some instructors may find value in it for their basic AR courses as well.  If nothing else, just putting thought to paper is fun for me and hopefully educational for those shooters that I like to focus on.  So, what to cover, what to cover . . . here’s where I’m going.  Feel free to offer thoughts if you’d like things added.

The history of the AR platform.  It’s hard to know what you hold in your hand if you don’t know where it came from.  We’ll take a walk through the general nomenclature of the AR.  What is its cycles of fire.  I’ll summarize their primary assemblies – the Lower Receiver, the Upper Receiver and the bolt carrier group.  In the Lower Receiver, we’ll take a pass through the stock, the buffer, various trigger assemblies and modes of fire, the grip and the magazine catch and bolt catch.  The Upper Receiver will cover handguards, front and rear sights, rail systems, gas tubes, pistons, barrels, gas blocks and flash suppressors.  Finally, the bolt carrier group will cover the charging handle and all components of the bolt carrier.  When you’re finished reading each of these sections you should have a solid foundation of the AR platform from a component and functional point of view.

After the foundational information, we will chat about magazines, general maintenance, various sighting systems from the standard rear peep and front post to pop up backup irons to holographic options.  And, we’ll spend a bit of time on telescopic sights as well.  Then we’ll move on to various types of slings and flashlights.  Again, the idea is to provide foundational information for a basic defensive firearm, not a weapon to hang a ton of “furniture” off.

Ammunition will be part of the mix as well.  I’ll stick to 5.56 NATO, .223, 7.62 NATO and .308 Winchester.  We’ll cover the particulars of each round, their subtle differences as well as their ballistics.  Then we talk about zeroing your AR and then move to a review of the basic shooting positions – bench, standing, kneeling, sitting and prone.

Finally, I’ll work through some foundational shooting drills, talk about longer range marksmanship and outline both a marksmanship course of fire as well as a CQB course of fire.

That’s the plan with the intention of having everything completed by June and hopefully to the publisher so it’s out by the end of the year.  We’ll see how it goes.  My method for rolling out each section will be to provide a new index area to the blog entitled “The AR Platform”.  Each “chapter” will be posted there along with any appropriate images.  If you have thoughts on any post, you’re welcome to review and share them.  I will make sure you all get attribution at the end of the book for any suggestions you may offer.

So, first section out of the box . . . “History of the AR Platform” . . .

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Training - It’s a Wrap

I do one of these for the family each year . . . the Keller Family in review.  What did each member do, what did our married kid’s families do . . . just a way to bring all our friends up
to date.  I like writing the “Christmas Letter”, it’s a time of reflection, a way to connect with friends and a way to remember that life goes fast and that if you don’t slow down and savor it, participate in it . . . those opportunities are lost forever. 

In that same spirit, I want to spin through the firearms training part of my life and share with you folks that take the time to read my musings (thank you, very much) how the year meant and what it means as both an instructor and a student.

Why even post this?  Well, as I said, it helps me personally as a “check” on just where I am in the scheme of things.  Am I moving forward, stagnating or falling back.  I’d encourage you – whether simply a shooter, student or both a student and instructor – take some time and write (yes, write the damn thing down) a year in review for yourself.  It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, to look over your own shoulder and evaluate your life as a shooter, student and instructor.  It’s easy to tell yourself stories in the quiet of the evening while sipping an adult beverage in your favorite recliner.  Stories don’t help you grow. 

As for why this post should have any meaning for you, it probably won’t other than to serve as an example on how to do such a thing.  But, I hope you find value in one example of how one shooter and instructor spent their year.  Who knows . . . drop a note/comment/email and let me know what you think.

I’m going to break this into four different categories – coursework I taught, course work I took, range trips and finally blog posts.  So let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Coursework Taught

The “shooter” side of my life is not how I make a living and I suppose that is reflected in the number of courses I teach in a year.  This year I taught 12 courses for a total of 156 hours of instructor time.  I’ve reviewed many on the blog but here’s the list.

1/8-10/2016               NRA BIT and BP Instructor                        24 hr

2/6/2016                     NAPSI FDP                                       8 hr

2/20/2016                  NRA RSO                                          8 hr

4/2/2016                     NAPSI FDP                                       8 hr

4/9/2016                     BBGun Rangemaster                     6 hr

4/15/2016                  NRA BIT and BR Instructor            24 hr

4/30 – 5/1/2016         NRA BS Instructor                           16 hr

5/14/2016                  NRA RSO                                          8 hr

6/28/2016                  NAPSI FDP                                       8 hr

9/22-25/2016             NAPSI MOI & FDP Instructor         32 hr

10/19/2016                NASPSI FDP                                                8 hr

12/7/2016                  NRA BP Phase II                             6 hr

As you can see it’s a fairly broad mix of subjects.  What a list like this means to an instructor is that you are in front of students practicing your craft . . . firearms instruction.  Whether it’s a BBGun Rangemaster course for scouters or a NAPSI Foundations of Defensive Pistol, you are refining your abilities as an instructor, working on the skill of transferring your knowledge to new shooters or instructors.  As instructors – THIS – this right here is your most important goal – to teach.  Like shooting, it’s a perishable skill.  If you don’t teach, you forget the words, the flow, the goals . . . you diminish as an instructor.  What’s not shown in the hours listed is the prep work.  I probably spend 4 or more hours per course taught simply reviewing my lesson plans, rolling through the power points if there are any, reviewing the instructor manual, reading old course AARs . . . because students expect our best . . . they deserve our best . . . and that simply takes time and effort.

One special course I helped teach was the NAPSI Methods of Instruction (MOI) and the Foundations of Defensive Pistol (FDP) Instructor Development Course.  It was our first of what hopefully will be many more in the future.  We are having our NAPSI Development Conference the end of February – our IDC courses for the year will the listed after that.  That AAR is posted on the blog if you’re interested.

Take a look at the number of courses you taught, read your AARs, be honest with yourself . . . and then look forward to next year and see how many ways you can improve as an instructor.

Coursework Taken

We’ve had this conversation before.  You MUST take some type of coursework every year.  Whether it is instructor development or coursework offered by other instructors – your own individual learning simply must be a priority every year.  This year I took 4 separate courses for a total of 72 hours of coursework.

6/24-25/2016                         Gunsite 150                          24 hr

8/20/2016                              CFS 1-day pistol                  8 hr

11/21-22/2016                      Patrol Rifle                            24 hr

11/29-30/2016                      AR-15 Armorer Course       16 hr

Three of these courses have AARs posted.  And, just as an aside – let’s spend a few minutes on AARs – After Action Reports.  There is tremendous value in conducting a brief AAR at the end of each class.  What did your students think, do they have remaining questions, how do they evaluate you, what went well, what didn’t.  Then, take an hour or so and do your own.  I’m a notebook kinda guy.  I have them going back to the late 60s.  They let me focus, store data, learn from my mistakes and remember those really good ideas that slip away when I promise myself that “I’ll remember that!!”  If this isn’t a habit you’ve build, I gently suggest that you start.

I did not post an AAR for the CFS just because I ran out of time in August and September.  It’s been a busy year!

The other things students should look for is that you – as an instructor and shooter – are still growing.  Taking a single Basic Pistol Instructor course does little to make you a competent and skilled instructor or shooter.  And how can you expect a student to come to you to learn . . . if you have stopped learning.

Range Trips

As the saying goes . . . “Shooting is a perishable skill!”  Yes, yes it is.  If you aren’t regularly visiting the range, your skillset is diminishing.  Period.  My usual pitch to students is that in January they buy 1,000 rounds of ammunition.  Plan to shoot once a month and use 100 rounds per trip.  Given that “stuff happens” this approach would guarantee at least 10 range trips.  I see that as a minimum . . . but it’s not a bad starting point.

I also harp on the phrase “practice with purpose”.  Range trips are not about making holes but rather about honing and refine skills.  And – these too should be documented.  That little smartphone in your pocket is a great place to start along with a Sharpie.  Date the target, display the round count, the hit count, the percentage of hits, define the drill you’re working on, add that to the little notebook you’re going to start carrying in your range bag and then photograph your finished targets at the end of each drill.  You are doing a couple things with this.  First, you are giving yourself increments on the measuring stick to see how you are doing as a shooter.  And second, you are providing proof that you diligently practice your craft should the unspeakable happen and you are involved in a lethal shooting.

For me this year I expended around 2,000 9mm rounds and about 1,800 .223 rounds in coursework.  Add another 1,000 of each on range trips . . . it’s been a good year on the range.

Blog Posts

I fancy myself a “Blogger” and an “Author”.  In 2016 I posted 32 articles to my blog including this one.  Honestly, my most blogger measurements I’m a piker!  But, I post with a purpose.  My blog is specifically for the “new and inexperienced” shooter.  I don’t want my teaching to be limited strictly to the classroom.  I want to provide one more alternative to new shooters to learn new information and to hear an alternative opinion.  So I blog.  I also want to have a way for prospective students to see if they want to take coursework from me.  I’m fairly clear in my thoughts and opinions and the blog is yet another way for a student to evaluate me.

This is also a way for you to broaden your reach as both an instructor and as a marketer for your training company.  For my blog I use  I also use Facebook.  Both have value in their own way.  I would suggest that you will find value in sharing your thoughts, ideas in experiences with your students and prospective students.  Give it a try for a year and see what you think.

On the “Author” front I was nicely surprised to begin receiving quarterly royalty checks for my “Just the Basics” book this year.  Honestly, it was just kinda hanging out there – out of sight, out of mind when I get a report of upcoming payments.  Cool!  For those kind enough to purchase the book, thank you.  And for the instructors that have started to use it as a reference for their students, the publisher will sell it to you for 50% off the $16.95 retail price.  If you have written your own coursework and are looking for a book to provide – give me a look-see.

And, for 2017 . . . “Just the Basics – the AR Platform”.  The publisher is pretty excited, now all I need to do is to roll the puppy out.  I plan on releasing it chapter by chapter on the blog so stay tuned if you have interest.

So, that’s a wrap for the year.  290 hours for training and writing.  As I said, I’m a piker compared to many who do this for a living.  But, I’m happy with what I’ve done and turned out and looking forward to what 2017 has to offer.

A bit late but . . . Merry Christmas folks!  And I wish you all nothing but the best in the New Year!