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

Bill

Monday, August 1, 2016

Training – It’s always the foundation!

A text conversation with a friend this past week  . . .

Friend:  Here’s my question Keller.  How far do you have to stick your finger in the trigger guard to make a Glock Shoot To the Left?

Me:  Shooting left implies to little finger.  Try just a touch more.

Friend:  By the way that was said with levity . . . . . J

A day later . . .

Friend:  Got any range time today??

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the phrase “Shootin’ low left??  Must be a Glock!”  A pistol is a pistol . . . period.  Keep good sight alignment, keep a good sight picture . . . press the trigger straight to the rear . . . and you will send each and every round through the same hole.  Period.  Past this basic “truth” . . . it gets a bit more complicated – and remains simple – all at the same time.

When I’m trying to work with a shooter who is having a problem like this I automatically default to a “Drive, Touch, Press” drill.  From the High Compressed Ready the shooter Drives the front sight to the target, Touches the trigger to take up the slack and then smoothly Presses the trigger straight to the rear.  It is a drill that “moves” slowly allowing an instructor to get some good work done . . . let me explain.

I begin with the “Load and make ready” command.  I can evaluate how they load their firearm, how they rack the slide.  The magazine insertion should be one smooth movement.  The slide rack should be done with their dominant arm’s elbow pinned to the side and the support hand grasping the slide over the top and at the rear of the slide.  Firmly move the slide rearward and simply let go, allowing the gun to do the work it was designed to do.

Once loaded you can begin to work with the shooter.  I start with the stance, check their feet – shoulder width apart, check their toes making sure both feet are aimed at the threat.  Next I look for slightly bent knees.  I want their elbows close to the body, firearm at a point that is approximately at the same level they “join” hands to grip when they draw and I want the front sight already pointing directly at the threat.

On “Drive!” I want to make sure that their finger is at its “home” on the dominant hand side of the firearm and that the front sight drives straight to the target (no “casting” or “bowling”).  If you see this, have them come back to the High Compressed Ready and repeat it slower until it is correct.  I also expect to see them lean slightly into the gun putting their body weight behind the gun to help with recoil management.  By breaking the firing sequence up this way you can work on each little piece of their presentation and firing sequence. 

Another piece evaluated during the “Drive” is their grip.  I did a post about “Get a Grip” quite some time ago that covers the basics but one thing I want to hammer on just a bit here is that the meaty part of the palm of your support hand should have full contact with the grip of the firearm.  One of the biggest issues I see is that the shooter’s grip does not cover a full 360 of the grip . . . there are little gaps, or the meat of the support hand palm is not fully resting on the grip but rather on part of the meat of the dominant hand.  This provides space for energy to escape which will affect the way your firearm responds when you press the trigger.  You need a firm, full 360-degree grip on your firearm.  Again, by slowing things down and taking this step by step, you can see and fix these things.

Next – “Touch” the trigger.  Again, with this step-by-step process you can fully evaluate their finger placement.  This is especially valuable in evaluating the fit of the handgun.  Sometimes the shooter is trying to use a firearm that just plain doesn’t fit their hand.  Small person, full sized Glock 17 . . . may not work well.  Or a moose of a guy with a subcompact might not fit well either.  Fit matters.

The advice I gave my friend is where I typically start when a shooter is placing rounds “low left”.  Too little finger has a tendency to push the barrel left when pressing the trigger.  Too much finger has a tendency to pull the barrel right when pressing the trigger.  I use the word “tendency” because every shooter is an individual.  What causes an issue with one shooter may not with another.  Still, I need a place to start – and this is mine.  My starting position for finger placement is 1/3 the distance back from the tip of the trigger finger to the 1st joint.  After that each shooter “tweaks” it so if feels good, is repeatable and effective for them.

We also discuss the “take up” of the trigger.  This is best practiced with an empty firearm, but I continually remind them of how it feels to take up the slack in the trigger before we move to the “Press” command.  We also talk about shooting off the reset, meaning that the trigger finger never goes fully forward after the round is fired but forward enough to only reset the trigger set – then the string is continued.  Shooting off the reset allows the shooter to better control the firearm for the next shot, eliminates the tendency to “slap” the trigger and decreases the time between rounds in the string.

Finally, there is the “Press” . . . said over an extended period of time . . . “ppppprrrrreeeeessssssssss”.  This allows me to convey the idea of a smooth trigger press and not a PRESS!!!.  The thing I watch for here is first and foremost a smooth front to rear movement and not a slap/jerk/quick pull process.  Once the round is done I look where the hole magically appeared.  I will also throw thoughts in during the “Press” . . . “watch the sight alignment, watch the sight picture, firm grip, lean in a bit more”.  While there are only three primary components – Drive, Touch, Press – there is also stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture to keep in mind.  For new shooters – and as in the case of my very experienced friend – reminders when at the very beginning of the drill set will pay off big time as the session proceeds.

For my friend, shooting a LETargets SEB defensive target we went from 30% on one of the circles to 100% on a square within about 75 rounds and about an hour and 15 minutes of one-on-one instruction.  The hits did indeed begin low and left and ended with a rather largish hole in the middle of the last square.

Honestly, it’s seldom “the gun”.  Nor is it some convoluted stance or grip or method of aiming.  “Fixing” things invariably boil down to foundational issues.  So, how can you “fix yourself” if you are having some issues?  Three primary answers there.

First – seek good instruction.  A couple hours with an instructor for some tweaking and fine tuning may save you hundreds of rounds of ammunition and hours/days/weeks of frustration.  Self-Help – walk yourself through the above process being exacting and deliberate at each and every step.  From the “Load and Make Ready” to the final round fired.  Call out the Drive, Touch, Press commands aloud and pay attention to what you do each and every step.  Finally, virtually the entire population now walks around with a high definition video camera in their pockets.  Set up your phone and record yourself again being exacting and deliberate through each step, each command and each round.  Call out each step.  Self-assess on the video speaking the notes as you go through each round.  Once you’ve done 20 rounds viewed from the dominant side – repeat the process from the support side.  Then, review the video noting EVERYTHING. 

There are no secrets to fast, accurate and effective rounds on a threat.  There is simply a set of foundational information that must be executed well for each and every shot.


You are the answer to this . . . and you alone.  Do the work . . . it’s as simple as that.  

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Commentary . . . Do your job . . .


So . . . how do we fix “this” . . . 5 cops dead, 6 wounded . . . just in Dallas.  LEO murders up 44% this year.  A nation being pushed to the brink of a race war helped along by a President who slanders police officers, decries “white privilege”, hammers that blacks are being targeted simply because they are black.  And all of us sitting here, knowing more is coming . . . watching BLM members throwing bottles, rocks and bricks at police officers, reading the call of the New Black Panthers to “kill pigs” . . . . how do we fix “this” . . .

This may be hard for some to hear, but I believe the answer can be summed up in three words . . . DO. YOUR. JOB. 

Cops

In light of the past few days, in light of the words of our President, in light of the words of Mrs. Clinton, in light of the words of the BLM crowd and the New Black Panthers crowd, of the Congressional Black Caucus, of the Jessy Jackson’s of the world . . . it’s a hell of a lot to ask of you.  Yet, the request must be made . . . do your job.

We, as a nation, need you to put on your duty gear and go to work each and every day.  You’re that “thin blue line” that is our last resort to keep the wheels “on”.  If you quit, the wheels well and truly come off . . . and that will not end well for any of us.  I can only imagine the temptation to walk away . . . to slow your response when called . . . Those of us who have never warn an officer’s gear, never responded to the call of an active shooter or armed robbery or armed assault have no way of knowing the life you have chosen to lead.  Thank you for your choice . . . we are all safer for your efforts.

And again, the request must be made . . . do your job, please.

Men

Do your job . . . be a man!

Become educated, get a job . . . or volunteer until you find a job.

A “baby daddy” is NOT being a man . . . it’s being an irresponsible asshole and placing a tremendous burden on a woman who really needs you to man-up!!  If you’re not ready to become a father – take all proper precautions, or simply choose not to have sex.  It is NOT the woman’s responsibility to not get pregnant . . . it’s yours as well.

It should be a simple thing . . . but, don’t be a criminal – in any way, shape or form.  Don’t rob, cheat or kill.  Don’t use or sell drugs.  Use a firearm to defend your family, and not to aid in a crime.

Be a father . . . a real, honest to god father.  Be a good example, demand excellence, love your kids, love your wife, protect them, provide for them, lead them.

Go to church . . . have God in your life and in your home.  Understand that your family is His gift to you . . . and you are His gift to them.  Bring your children up to understand His teachings.

Women

Do your job . . . be a woman!

Become educated, get a job . . . or volunteer until you find a job.  And yes . . . “housekeeper”, “stay at home mom” or any other similar description of a woman who takes care of her home and family . . . is a full time job, and then some.

A child is not a ticket to a bigger welfare check . . . they’re a valuable human being.  Know the difference.  If you’re not ready to be called “mommy” . . . then take all precautions to insure you do not become pregnant.  Including the liberal use of the word “NO!”. 

As with a man . . . it should be a simple thing to not become a criminal – in any way, shape or form.  Don’t rob, cheat or kill.  Don’t use or sell drugs.  Use a firearm to defend your family and not to aid in a crime.

Be a mother . . . a real, honest to god mother.  Be a good example, demand excellence, love your kids, love your husband, protect them, work with them, support them, lead them.

Go to church . . . have God in your life and in your home.  Understand that your family is His gift to you . . . and you are His gift to them.  Bring your children up to understand His teachings.

Family

Do your job . . . be a family!

Life is tough, the challenges many.  The salvation to this is the “family”.  In my day it was defined as a “nuclear family” – mother, father and children . . . with grandparents thrown in if we were all lucky.  To me, this is still the goal – whole, solid, complete nuclear families.  For many, that’s not the case.  For men unwilling to be men . . . for men that abandon their child’s mother and their children . . . they leave behind a stress filled life for the woman and her children.  And yet, even here, we see families step up, do the hard work and “do the job” of raising good, well-educated citizens.

Conversely, we see single fathers, abandon by their wives and raising good, well-educated children.  In both these cases, it is harder?  Sure . . . but impossible – not even close.

For the ideal situation, a full on nuclear family . . . do your job.  Be loving of each other, demand excellence from each other, be forgiving, be a good role model. 

Go to church . . . have God in your life and in your home.  Understand that your family is His gift to you . . . and you are His gift to them.  Bring your children up to understand His teachings.

It is here . . . right here . . . where I personally believe our nation went off the tracks.  When the idea of family became a throw-away idea.  When fathers morphed into “baby daddies” and mothers began to look at their children as a paycheck . . . we lost our way.

The solution is not to be found is a group like Black Lives Matter . . . or White Lives Matter . . . or Hispanic Lives Matter . . . or Chinese Lives Matter . . . or German Lives Matter . . . or the local, state or federal government . . . the solution is closer . . . much, much, much closer to “home” . . .

It’s not to be found in legislation, in federal police forces, honestly it’s not to be found in schools or churches.

The answer is not “out there” . . . it’s “in here” . . .

Do Your Job!!!!!

Be a Man . . . Be a Woman . . . Be a family . . .

And then . . . and only then . . . will we begin to right this ship and change our course . . .




Monday, July 4, 2016

Review – AAR Gunsite 150

One of the things I continue to harp on with the instructors I teach and the students I teach is that taking on-going, life long coursework is simply a must.  The idea that an individual can simply take a 4-hour quickie, or a single full day set of coursework . . . and be “good to go” for the rest of their life is profoundly short sighted.

Yes . . . I understand that the 2nd Amendment is your right to carry . . .

Yes . . . I understand you spent time in the military, time in the jungle, time in the sandbox (and – truly – thank you for your service, your sacrifice is what keeps our country safe and free from foreign attack) . . .

Yes . . . I understand that YOU are the instructor . . . and that YOU teach coursework and simply do not have time to actually take coursework . . .

Yes . . . I understand you visit the range “frequently” and send rounds downrange . . .

I get all that.  I also understand that there are a number of top tier sets of coursework out there . . . and that many disagree with methods and techniques taught by other schools.  Yet, the “good” instructors will be able to clearly articulate the WHY of their approach, their methods, their drills, their flow . . . without disparaging their professional competitors.  It is YOUR responsibility as a shooter to see if what they are offering fits within the choices you are making.  Bottom line here . . . no one has ALL the answers or has the single BEST set of course work . . . yet each dedicated professional instructor does their absolute best to deliver to the student the “best” of what they teach each and every day of each and every course.  I was NOT DISAPPOINTED with the Gunsite 150 course in any way, shape or form.

This year the coursework I chose to attend was the Gunsite 150 course.  I chose this particular course because it “travels” from the home base of Gunsite Ranch in Paulden, AZ.  At “the ranch” their primary pistol course is the “250” course – 5 days including both indoor and outdoor simulators.  The 150 course omits those exercises that are conducted using the simulators and focus on the square range work.  This drops the length by 2 days and allows it to be more flexible so that it can be taught off site.  The Indiana 150 course I took was conducted at the Putnam County’s EMS building for the classroom portions and their newly refurbished pistol range right next door.  The facilities were excellent and the hospitality shown by the sheriff’s department was great.  As a side note one of the Sheriff’s Deputies as well as a “soon to go to the academy” Sherriff’s recruit were students in the coursework.

I’ve chatted about budgeting training dollars each year – for coursework, travel and ammunition.  Quality coursework costs money – simple as that.  If you have to travel to take it, that also costs money.  It also costs time . . . something, frankly, that is typically a little tight for me.  A 3-day course in Indiana with two of those days being on a weekend – I can do that.  A 5-day course, plus travel, in Arizona gets much more difficult to accomplish.  That was another reason for the choice of the Indiana 150 course.    A reasonable summary of the course costs would be . . .

·        Course Cost - $850

·        Lodging – 4 nights total with some meals included - $650

·        Misc travel expenses - $100

·        Gas – 800 miles R/T – 42 gal - ~$2.50/gal - $105

·        Ammo – 1,000 rounds - $220 (we used approximately 700 rounds)

·        Total course cost . . . $1,925

Now . . . before your heart stops and you gasp at the price . . . just a quick reality check.  Let me say this slow one more time . . . GOOD COURSEWORK COSTS REAL MONEY . . . period . . . get over it.

Gunsite is one of “those” destinations that is simply a “have to” in my book, and this was the most cost effective way I could find to accomplish this particular goal.  If you live in the Midwest I would urge you to consider it.

There are also many “preconceptions” on what a  course will be like, what they will teach, how they will teach . . . and I am no exception to this particular phenomenon.  I read all the reviews I could (most were years old), I’ve read most if not all of Col Cooper’s writings, watched many of the interviews of him on youtube . . . I tried to do my homework.  I came away with a few things I thought I “knew” . . . the “Modern Technique” would focus on the Weaver Stance, emphasize the 80/20 push pull grip and all the instructors would be shooting (and pushing) the .45cal 1911.  Yep, I just knew this is how it would be.  (reality proved to be much different).  Bottom line, I’d never taken any formal instruction in the “Modern Technique” and saw this as a way to fix that particular problem.

One other player in the equation was the weather – so let me mention it, and then I will leave it out of the equation for the rest of the discussion.  It was “hot” . . . as in the gates of hell hot.  The shooting pad was brand new – we were the first shooters to use the range since its update.  It was the standard very light grey crushed limestone which acted as the perfect reflector for the sun that seemed intent on cooking us where we stood.  Temps remained in the very high 80s to low to mid 90s with heat indexes in the low 100s.  Hydration, good cover clothing and sunscreen were simply a necessity.  The first day I drank 6 quarts of water . . . without a single “head call”.  So I continued to drink heavily that evening and the next morning and finally “caught up”.  If you take summer coursework . . . drink water . . . constantly . . . period.

The beneficial part of the extreme heat is simply the stress factor.  It truly helped me – and most I think – focus their efforts on the task at hand – gun handling and marksmanship. 

Let’s chat a bit about gear.  When I take coursework I always shoot my carry gun – a Glock 17 with the claw rear site and a trijicon large green square front site.  And, I always take a duplicate (with the exception of Truglo front and rear sites) Glock 17 with me.  Old saying “two is one, one is none” may well prove accurate and – as I said – this coursework costs real money.  Nothing would suck more than to get on the range and have your one and only firearm die in your hands.  Take two . . . always . . .

I typically like to shoot the coursework the way I carry – concealed at 4 o’clock with a blade-tech IWB holster and a single magazine in my rear left pocket.  Since the instructors have no idea of the level of skill of the shooters – their requirements are a bit different.  LEOs shoot in their duty gear.  Civilians must use an OWB holster (I used the Blackhawk Sportster), a two-mag pouch carrier and all shooting is done in an unconcealed manner.  The differences are minor as long as you place the holster in the same location and the mag carriers as close to the rear pocket as you can.

The other thing that was encouraged was to throw 50-100 rounds of ammo in your pocket so you could top off magazines while the opposite flight of shooters were on the line.  This is kind of a toss-up instructor to instructor.  About half I’ve taken from like this idea and half like to take a break to reload and chat about the previous drill.  I like the ammo in the pocket – it saves time and gets the shooters more time on the line.

Instructors

You can have the absolute best coursework available . . . but if the instructors presenting it have no real teaching talent . . . little is learned.  The “do it my way ‘cause I said so” days within the firearms training world are long since gone.  If that is the primary fallback position of your instructor – or if that is YOUR primary fallback position – find a different instructor, or become a better instructor.  I believe we had 17 shooters in the class that was divided up into two flights of 9 and 8.  We had 3 instructors which gave a 3-1 ration of shooter to instructor on the range.  That’s a nice ratio!  They all paced the line offering a word here and there – insuring what one might have missed another caught.

Jay was the lead instructor.  A former marine and retired LEO he was what I would consider a modern day “warrior” with approximately 16 years under his belt teaching Gunsite coursework.  He was very skilled in the use of his carry weapon but also trains in various types of hand to hand work, knife fighting and even some sword work.  He made clear that this coursework was a “gunfighting” class and that was indeed the focus of virtually all drills.  How can you insure that you get the first accurate hit should the world truly go sideways in a very big way?

He was tempered and direct in his feedback, honest, progressively more demanding as our time went on and always perfectly clear in what he wanted and expected. 

Pete is an LEO and trainer from South Philadelphia.  I believe he said he’s been teaching Gunsite coursework for nearly 10 years.  He too also falls easily in the category of a modern day warrior.  Of course he is still on the street as part of his work as both a trainer and patrol officer with the police department in Philadelphia.  He could bring to the fore how the techniques they taught played into his daily life as a LEO.  While some instructors imply how things work, all three of ours brought real world experience to the table.  He would take the time to help adjust the smallest things.  For me specifically it was the positioning of my dominant foot and the way my support hand joined my dominant hand during the presentation of my weapon.  Little things that made big differences.

Jerrod was a local officer that had been a Gunsite trainer for 6 years if memory serves.  We had the honor of shooting on a pistol range named in memory of his father.  You could tell that meant a lot to him.  The description of “warrior” applies to him as well with a broad range of training from firearms to hand to hand to knife fighting.  All three had a very broad base of fighting knowledge.  He too would deliver specific parts of the lectures as well as offer feedback to individual shooters during the drills.  The best piece he offered me came during a “headshot” drill.  The previous drill at 3 yards went well.  At 5 – not so much.  His comment . . . “How the heck did you go from hero to zero so quick??”  Heavy sigh.  In watching me he noticed I was taking longer to press off the shot.  He simply said “when you sight picture is right, finish the trigger press”.  It seemed I was waiting for the perfect alignment . . . while when I finished my drive, with the slack taken up . . . I truly was already on target.  So, I simply finished the press.  The result was MUCH BETTER with rounds quickly falling into the “ocular cavity”.

 Little things, little things, little things . . . foot position, trigger take up, smooth press, earlier joining . . . all fine-tune a shooter . . . and all make them a quicker and more accurate gunfighter.

Preconceptions

Things I “knew” going in to this . . .

·        All instructors would shoot and promote the .45cal 1911.

·        The “Weaver Stance” would be demanded.

·        The concept of “Modern Technique” would be hammered home.

The reality was something quite different . . . there was not a single 1911 amongst the instructors to be found.  The Weaver Stance had been replaced (and is being replaced throughout their coursework) with a “Balanced Fighting Stance” and at the end of three days the phrase “Modern Technique” meant to me – placing rounds on target quickly and in a combat effective way.

Defensive Weapon

The primary argument made for the selection of a defensive weapon revolved around elements of the Combat Triad . . . Gun Handling and Marksmanship.  If you can’t run your gun . . . what good is it.  And, if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at . . . things won’t end well.  We had a segment on Terminal Ballistics in one of the lecture periods.  The bottom line is that if you look at a 9mm, .40 or a .45 the differences between terminal ballistics of a modern defensive round is virtually non-existent.  So, find a defensive weapon – in any of these calibers – that you can run and shoot well.

 One thing I have noticed in coursework I’ve taken is that many times folks simply don’t run large volumes of ammunition through their defensive carry weapon.  The result being that they truly have no idea whether they can run their gun or not.   One of the shooters on the line was carrying a full sized .45 1911.  While they were certainly accurate with the firearm, the presentation was very slow and they had real difficulty simply running the gun.  The first two days all three instructors worked with the shooter to make sure they were getting the most out of the weapon that they could but in the final analysis the gun was simply too large physically to make a good match with the shooter.  On the 3rd and final day someone loaned the shooter a 9mm M&P Shield.  The difference was remarkable and the shooter left the course much more confident and ready for a shopping trip!

First Day

 First day was an in brief, the distribution of course material – name tags, name placards for the desk, course book, review sheets, emergency contact info, hold harmless agreements, a metal water bottle, a pen . . . everything needed to get things rolling.

We covered Coopers 4 safety rules, talked about the Combat Triad (Gun Handling, Marksmanship and Mindset), outlined the flow of the course, answered initial questions, went through introductions and the remaining administrative items.  Then we headed to the range.

The target shot was the Speedwell Gunsite Target.  The entire target is covered in a sand colored camo with very indistinct outlines of the desired “hit” areas – “high center mass” area as well as the “brain box”.  The idea for this style of target is to get the shooter used to shooting at an area on a threat rather than shooting at a defined and outlined target area.

The afternoon began with simple single round shooting drills from the low ready.  The holster was a storage device at this point, not the starting point for the drills.

Day one was simple drills – single rounds to high center mass from 3,5 and 7 yards.  Faster, controlled pairs were introduced at the end of the day.  Everything was examined – stance, grip, our extension, shot placement, sight pictures were adjusted . . . all the little things like I referred to earlier were worked on.  The idea – to get everyone ready for the accelerated pace that would begin the following day.

At the end of the day was the first shooter on shooter competition.  Two lines, 30 feet from two 18” steel plates.  On the fire command the first to draw and hit the steel moved on . . . the other went home.  I got my first hit then waited through the line again.  I was the very last shooter and the two in front of me missed . . . so I took home the first Gunsite challenge coin.

The range was run as a hot range.  From the very first “make ready” command until the final exercise at the end of the day where you put your weapon in the state you wanted to put it when you left the range, all firearms were loaded.  Many, when leaving for the day, simply changed out ball ammunition for their defensive carry ammunition.  I was staying at the “Inn at DePauw” which was on the university campus, so I cleared my weapon and left it locked in the vault in my vehicle for the night.

The first day ended with the cobwebs brushed aside, the first round jitters gone and a building excitement for the rest of the week.

Day – and Night – Two

Day two was simply building on day one’s work and increasing our speed.  There were a small group of engagements – single round, controlled pairs and finally a “hammer” – two rounds as quickly as you could press the trigger off a single sight picture.

We also worked on precise shots by through the use of a single shot to the “brain box”.  Drills were worked at all three distances – 3y, 5y and 7Y.  The feedback also continued with suggestions, tweaks, nudges . . . all with an eye toward making us accurate at increasing speeds.

It was also here that folks really began running their guns better.  It was the logical time to introduce malfunction clearing, speed reloads and tactical reloads.  Ammunition management was also worked on during this time.  Breaks were at specific junctures in the coursework and not simply because you ran low on ammo.  Fully loaded magazines when drills commenced, a pocket full of an extra 100 rounds and topping off magazines while the other flight shot their drills kept everyone on the line and the drills moving at a pretty quick pace.

I read an article just this morning on how “Tactical Reloads” will get you killed and it was a bit of a reminder that the word “never” is dependent entirely on context.  The argument against tactical reloads is why on earth would you want to drop a partial magazine in the middle of a gun fight.  Short answer – you wouldn’t.  But – you have a very low magazine, the bad guy in front of you is down and likely dead . . . and their might be a wingman parking the car . . . wouldn’t it make sense to move forward from this point with a fully loaded handgun?  There method was very similar to others I’ve learned and taught and – in context – it makes perfect sense.  So, we worked on tactical reloads and at the end of every drill we were given the opportunity to holster a weapon prepared in the manner we wished to start the next drill.

Finally, for the day shoot another coin was up for grabs.  This time for accuracy.  Same lines, same targets, same “out if you miss” but this time a hit earned you the right to shoot from a farther distance.  I popped out of this one pretty quick.  The winner was two stages back from the 25 yard line . . . let’s call it 40 yards before his competitor dropped a shot.  Very nice shooting.

The first session ended early with an evening start time around 8PM.  This was a low light / almost no light session to get some familiarization with using a flashlight and shooting in low light.  This is something I’ve done while helping training our local PD but virtually none of the “civilian” shooters had ever shot in low light.  Most found it enlightening and definitely a skill set they wanted to work on.  The two primary methods taught was the “FBI Method”, hold your flashlight high and away from your body while pointing it at the threat. And, the Harries method – flashlight held in your support hand, brought up under your dominant hand with the back of the hands pressed together.  That pressure helps stabilize your shooting.  Again, these were introduction drills with all of us expected to work on them when we returned home.  So ended day two.
Day Three

We started with a “cold shoot” - “Hammers” from 3y, 5y and 7y with head shots added in.  Next we were introduced to the “Failure Drill”.  You’ve engaged a threat with a “Hammer” high center mass . . . and nothing – the threat is still up and fighting.  The failure drill is simply a “Hammer” – two rounds high center mass off a single sight picture, and a single round to the “brain box”.  In gunny terms – the Mozambique Drill.  While I see much poo-pooing of this drill – in context it again makes sense.  If you have an immediate threat intent on your demise – why hit them with two rounds and wait and see” Or 3,4 or 5 rounds?  Two rounds center mass and one to the “brain box” will go a long way to making your day better. As with all of these drills – context, context, context . . . one size will never, ever fit all.

We moved on to use of cover and ended the day one more time with two lines at 30 feet, two 18” steel plates . . . miss you’re out, fastest you move on, slowest – you’re out.  I gotta say with just a touch of pride that I managed to bring this challenge coin home as well.

We finished with a brass pick up, final Q and A and the handing out of certificates for the completion of 24 hours of training from Gunsite.

Final Thoughts

Very good course.  Beyond excellent instructors.  The flow was well thought-out with one drill building on another.  Virtually no wasted time – we were either talking gun fighting or practicing gun fighting – never hanging around shooting the bull.   The instructors were profoundly knowledgeable, clear spoken, direct, helpful, demanding and enjoyable.  Bottom line – tons of value here folks, definitely worth looking at should you be in need of coursework later this year or next!

Photos



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Gunsite was founded in 1976 by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, author, columnist, professor, WW II and Korean War combat veteran. Col. Cooper intended Gunsite to be the vehicle for spreading the Modern Technique of the Pistol, which he created during his years in Big Bear Lake, CA.










Thursday, June 16, 2016

Commentary - It’s a surrender process


Surrender:   a :  to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner

                    b :  to give (oneself) over to something (as an influence)

I’m sitting in a dimly light room, some type of instrumental music playing in the background.  There’s a fellow reciting a mantra over and over again . . . “Palms together . . . . . . . . palms apart . . . . . . . . the process will not change.”  He had been doing so for hours – and would continue for hours more.  The exercise was known as the “Surrender Process” . . . and my head was about to explode.  I felt certain that I could change the f#%@ing process pretty damn quick if I punched him in the face!  We – my wife and I – were here after an odd journey attempting to repair, glue, hammer and nail, love our life back together after her cancer treatment and the subsequent aftermath of that event.  To say I was out of my comfort zone would be a profound understatement.

The purpose of the exercise was to show, in a fairly direct fashion, that there are indeed times when an individual must simply “surrender” to the “process” . . . simply because it cannot be changed . . . PERIOD!  The process eventually ended . . . some “got it” . . . it took me years to truly understand . . . For us, as a couple, that particular part of our journey genuinely worked as this is a memory now 27 years in the past . . . and my wife is healthy with our marriage entering its 44th year this coming August.  For me individually I finally “surrendered” to the fact that I was NOT in full control of my life, our direction as a couple or the final outcome of her bout with the Big “C”.  Understanding that, accepting that allowed me to turn all the energy I’d been spending on “control” to a much more productive path – simply doing the best I could every day and then loving my wife.

I know how trite this must sound on a firearms training blog . . . simply, sappy . . . I get it.  And yet . . . our nation is going through this exact “surrender process” as I type this.  Many of us – as both shooters and instructors – are also going through this process as well.  And I want to spend some words to discuss it with you.

Sunday morning we all awakened to yet another terrorist attack by an Islamic Fundamentalist . . . a “good boy” . . . a devout Muslim son.  Our world . . . from Orlando to San Bernardino . . . From Paris to London . . . From Brussels to Aleppo . . . From Mosul to Baghdad . . . From Kabul to Islamabad . . . From Bali to Bukidnon . . . is awash in attacks by “devout Muslims” and “good boys” that follow the strict interpretation of the Koran and Sharia Law.  The “process” continues . . . “palms together . . . palms apart” . . . we sit in our rooms, our cars, our coffee shops and we listen to the reports of the dead, the terror that has torn the communities apart literally limb from limb.    . . . “palms together . . . palms apart . . .  the process will continue . . . “

What are we “pretending not to know”?

Perhaps it is time to “surrender” . . . to a few simple truths . . .

We – meaning Western Civilization – are in an existential war with the followers of Islam who adhere to the tenents of Sharia Law.  Islam, by its very nature, is a religion of conquest, domination and subjugation.  A non-believers, a “kafir” has few options – convert, submit or die. 

“ . . . palms together . . . palms apart . . . the process will continue . . . “

In disgust I listened to those on the left blame the NRA, blame the gun, recite the evils of the AR, assault rifles, the “extreme right wing” . . . with an arrogance born of breathtaking ignorance we are told to surrender our weapons of personal defense while we open our nation’s doors to thousands upon thousands of “refugees” that the CIA readily admits contains terrorists anxious for more Orlandos.  Many in our nation’s leadership – particularly on the left – continue to wonder aloud . . . “Why do they hate us???”  They simply refuse to accept the simple truth . . . they hate us simply because we are, we exist, we breath.

There will be more attacks . . . there will be more death . . . there will be more gnashing of teeth . . . there will be more heartache . . .

“ . . .  palms together . . . palms apart . . . the process will continue . . . “

So how does this affect this community of shooters and instructors? 

For those of us who are instructors . . . myself included . . . are you growing as an instructor?  Are you taking annual coursework to make you a better instructor, a better shooter?

Is the coursework you teach “relevant”?  Are you teaching the minimum in your area so your students can “get their permit” . . . or are you teaching what they need to have a chance to survive an attack?

Are you doing individual training on your own at the range honing your skills? 

Are you continually learning, growing, pushing your limits as a shooter and an instructor?

If your intent is to teach a skill set that will give your students an opportunity to defend their life, the life of their family and those in their charge . . . it takes real work!  Do the work!!

The charge for the shooters amongst us is the same . . .

Take coursework on an annual basis – at a minimum – that will allow you to grow as a defensive shooter.

TRAIN . . . frequently . . . We’ve had this conversation before.  A minimum of 1,000 rounds per year is a starting point.  A hundred rounds a month with a solid training plan that if followed diligently with maintain your skills is a starting point.  More is better . . . always.

Carry your gun . . . every day . . . everywhere you legally can . . . it will do you no good at home in the safe when an active shooter or just a plain old street thug decides that this is your day . . .

Finally . . . pick a side . . . now.  The cries to implement all manner of “common sense gun control” will only increase.  As the attacks continue . . . so will the demand for your guns.  You need to decide in your heart of hearts whether the Bill of Rights was written my man or are a natural right granted by your Creator and act accordingly.  Elections matter – at all levels of government.  Governments by their very nature crave power and control.  Our founders understood this and invested their very lives to allow us the opportunity to be a nation of free people.  When you look at the ballot before you this election cycle – from your local officials through the Presidential slot . . . as the Old Knight said . . . Choose Wisely.










Monday, May 30, 2016

Commentary – Pieces of our soul . . .


Past all the ads and commercials for “Memorial Day Sales!!!!”

Past the “First weekend of Summer!!!”

Past the days off, the first games of summer, first days at the lake or on the river, past the BBQ with neighbors and friends . . .

There are the graves, that hold the pieces of our nation’s soul.

From Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr . . . to . . . Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) 1st Class Charlie Keating IV . . .

Conflict has been part of our nation since its founding – it was created through the blood of those who hungered for freedom . . . for our natural rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  Every generation or two forces arose to challenge those natural rights . . . and citizens of the time rose to those challenges.

From Boston to Gettysburg, from Flanders’s fields to Berlin.  From the Chosin Reservoir to the Ia Drang Valley to Sarajevo.  From the Twin Towers to Telskof.  Our nation has left behind the blood of those of us who stepped forward in times of need.  Our soldier’s graves – both marked and unmarked – dot the globe in our efforts to stand against evil.  We have invested so much . . . .

Today – take a moment in quite prayer – and remember these souls that have given so much that we, as a nation, may have a chance at survival.  They freely gave their last full measure for us . . .
Please Lord, hold them in your loving arms and help us to be worthy of their sacrifice . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review - AAR Basic Rifle Instructor and BIT 4-15-17-2016

Once a year I run a NRA Basic Rifle Instructor course that is primarily for scouters.  The NRA and the BAS have joined forces to insure that the training scouts receive is consistent and provided by well-trained instructors.  All scouters that conduct the Rifle Merit Badge training must be certified NRA Basic Rifle instructors.

Sooooooo . . . this past weekend found me at scout camp to conduct the training for three current scout leaders and an “interested party” who I suspect will be joining our ranks soon.

The first day was filled with the NRA Basic Instructor Training course.  I must say that of all the coursework I teach for the NRA – this particular course surprises Instructor Candidates (ICs) the most.  They typically expect it to be a “drag” and are surprised at its depth, at how much they find they actually didn’t know and how much they learn about the art of teaching.  It is, IMHO, the absolute most important piece of coursework in the entire sequence.

BIT is a long day.  I’ve mentioned that more than once.  The recommended minimum length is 6 hours . . . I typically find it takes 8.  It introduces everything from basic teaching principles to the concept of the coach/pupil method.  Unless the individual has had teaching/training experience in the past (we actually had a retired fighter pilot who was a student pilot trainer as one time in his career) the BIT course covers a lot of new ground.  It takes time to roll through the principles, to work through the exercises where the candidates “build” short presentations to practice/learn an instructor skill set and get some understanding of what this entails exactly.

The BIT course is also something you don’t want to rush through.  It is my opportunity to introduce the ICs to how I present information – following the outline laid out by the NRA training guide.  I want the ICs to truly experience the whole process of learning and becoming an “instructor”.  As I said, it’s a full day and these four ICs did a great job.

The NRA Basic Rifle Instructor Course . . .

Just a few points of clarification for those looking at taking this specific coursework.  It’s “sports shooting” . . . not tacticool, house clearing, butt kicking tactical shooting.  That’s not it’s purpose.

It’s “foundational” coursework . . . much time is spent on safety, range protocols, nomenclature, a broad range of action types, shooting positions and correcting issues with individual students.

It’s time consuming.  When was the last time you actually worked you way through the bench rest, standing, kneeling, sitting and prone positions to the point you could shoot a precise group at a specified distance?

Day 1 . . . Teaching ICs to teach the fundamentals.

Words mean things.  In a training community – they mean very specific things.  I write things like “bore”, “lands”, “groves”, “comb” . . . and if you are like me images appear in my head and a group of words form around them describing exactly what they mean.  They should mean the exact same things to all of us.  And that is much of what Day 1 is about.  Getting us all on the same track . . . in agreement . . . clear on the meaning of the words . . . and clearer on the words each individual IC will say to explain these things.

Again – long day, repetitive day but pretty interesting because each IC would describe exactly the same thing but using their own words.  We all learned something.  The ICs learned that PREPARATION is a very big word.  Tough to be smooth and clear . . . if you’re not fully prepared, if you have not solidified in your own mind what each item is and how you want to explain it.

I always start with the simplest firearm . . . in our case a single shot, bolt action .22 savage rifle the scouts use at camp.  (Were this a basic pistol class I would start with a SA revolver).  What I like to stress here is that if they learn the “words” on a simple firearm . . . the IC can show how the words don’t change when you get to a more complex firearm such as my AR that I used to work through a long range shooting course last year.

A common “issue” is moving ICs from the word “weapon” to using vernacular specific to the firearm in their hand.  “This is a single shot, bold action, .22 caliber rifle.”  It’s a little thing, many TCs kinda go overboard to extent of a jar on the table with fines placed in it for each infraction.  My approach is a bit different.  Three of us are were former military.  The argument I use is that the young scouts we will be training truly do not know the difference between a “weapon” and the firearm in their hand when they are on the range.  I simply want to keep it that way as long as I can . . . as we all can.  Sadly many will get the opportunity to hold a weapon in their hand during their life to defend their country, their buddies or their families.  As I type this I have men I’ve worked with when they were young scouts doing exactly that.  So, that’s my argument “against” using the word “weapon” . . . let’s allow them to be kids as long as we can.

While virtually all the ICs had shot rifles “all their life” . . . I find it a great deal of fun to see lights come on as they hear new words for the first time, learn from other ICs as they all presented their piece of the coursework.  By the middle of Day 1, they are truly “in the game” and working hard. 

This is their first opportunity to fire first shots from the bench rest position.  I like to use this as an opportunity to talk about building a position, refining the words they may want to use for sight alignment and sight picture.  And, with only four, I can work each and every one through the process acting as the “coach” to their being the “pupil”.  Our range is 50’ so we are using targets scaled down from a 25 yard target to represent the same sized target area on a 50’ range.  The course of fire is 5 rounds per target outline (there are five on each target).  I begin with each round “by command” and end with them firing the entire 5 round string on their own.  And, while this is going on I am walking from one shooter to the other “coaching” – demonstrating how that process works and letting them experience what it feels like.  This also kicks some of the “mud” off in the form of nerves, anxiousness and general fear of shooting really crappy.  They all did fine.

The day ends with a reminder that the next day is a full range day, they need to study the positions, work on their words, practice what they can . . . and be ready to roll at 8AM sharp.

Day 2 – Range Day

I spend the entire second day on the range.  For me it begins with a range safety brief . . . and then each IC was required to do a range safety briefing as well.  Again, it is instructive to watch the progression from first presenter to last as the words become more refined, clearer and each become more comfortable.  This is the 3rd day of instruction, the nerves are quieted, the words come more easily, all are in their respective “roles” be it instructor or student.  And we can get real work done.

Next are presentations on each of the shooting positions – no live fire.  They describe, demonstrate without a firearm and demonstrate with a firearm – no live rounds are sent down range.

With only four ICs there is time to allow each to make a full presentation of each shooting position we will work through that day – standing, kneeling, sitting and prone.  We work on the first one – standing – the most.  The idea here is to make sure the “depth” of what is taught and demonstrated is as effective as it can be.  The first guy out of the chute has the disadvantage of simply being first.  The last . . . reaps the benefit of all the preceding presentations.  And we all learn.






This consumes the morning.  We had to lunch and come back for the live fire portion.  I do this by dividing the ICs into two pairs – one acting as the coach . . . and one the pupil.  By this time, it’s rewarding to see that both “coaches” are truly in their roles are the students.  There is real teaching and learning going on.  The course of fire is 5 rounds on each target.  The first 5 are by command only and then the target is fully reviewed downrange.  The last two are then shot, again 5 rounds per target, with both being evaluated after the course of fire is completed.  Do this for two shooters per target . . . for four positions . . . and you’re talking 60 rounds per shooter or 120 rounds total per shooting position . . . 480 rounds for the day total between all ICs.  It’s a long range session . . . but an incredibly valuable one.  Each IC has the opportunity to discover their weaknesses (and believe me folks, we all have them), learned what they need to work on as they go forward, and had the opportunity to coach a shooter through 4 different positions firing a total of 60 rounds.  It was a good day!

The range work a wrap they took both the Basic Rifle and Basic Rifle Instructor exams.  We graded them (90% was the minimum acceptable score), reviewed them, did final exit interviews . . .

 . . . and it was a Wrap!!!

Congrats to Tom, Jim, Jeff and Tim!  Thanks for coming guys!  Great job!!

Class Photos