There is a Story afoot . . .

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

The Story


Monday, 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!


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review - AAR AR-15 Armorer Course 11 29-30 2016

Armorer:        one that makes armor or arms
                      one that repairs, assembles, and tests firearms

One of the staffing holes our community PD has is that of an Armorer for their AR patrol rifles.  While not a huge issue as they are now rolling officers through a standard patrol rifle curriculum and qualifying them on that platform the need for a certified armorer has grown a tad.  There are a lot of reasons that holes like this exist in organizations . . . staffing, time, school availability, school costs to name just a few.  Our specific department had problems with both staffing and costs.  So Eric, the primary trainer forwarded me an email.  “Want to go to Armorer’s school??”   Hummm . . . give me a second or two . . . Sure!!!

November 29th found me traveling to North Liberty, Iowa’s PD for the first of a 2-day AR/M16/M4 Armorer’s course conducted by Defensive Edge/SLR15 Rifles headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota.  The instructor was Greg “Sully” Sullivan.  We began each day promptly at 8AM and ended at about 5:15PM.  There was a 1 hour lunch and a couple 5-minute breaks . . . otherwise you were using the supplied tools to break down you AR to the individual component parts.  It was a very valuable, very intense 2 days that saw each of us taking our lowers down to bare metal a dozen times.  Uppers were disassembled including barrel and gas tubes removal.  The Bolt Carrier Group was also fully disassembled, inspected, warn parts replaced and reassembled.  And, finally, stocks were broken down as well.  Obviously, we covered a lot of ground.
The first part of day one doing typical new-class mechanics and introductions to each other – I believe there were 20 of us in the class.  This was followed by a brief history lesson of the AR platform followed by an in-depth discussion of the weapon’s function and cycle of operation.  All this took about 3 hours. 

Next we were told what we could expect regarding our tour through the platform.  It was basically broken up into three major categories – the upper, the lower and the bolt carrier group.  We were introduced to the tool set provided for the course . . .

Red Rag
Bench Block
Needle Oiler with Kroil
Hammer with magnet
Dental Pick
Scotchbrite and pipecleaners
Delrin Punch
2 pin punches – 1/16 and 3/32
2 roll pin punches – 3/32 and 1/8

We began by watching and learning how “Sully” wanted us to break down our weapons.  We separated upper from lower and removed the charging handle and bolt carrier group.  We set the upper and lower off to the side . . . and spent the rest of the day on the bolt carrier group.

We discussed its function, how it operated throughout the cycle of operation.  We did a quick cleaning with Sully’s recommended cleaners.  We also talked about how poor cleaning methods can damage the bolt carrier group . . . for example broken Q-tips left in the gas key. 

We disassembled the bolt, the ejector, removed the gas rings and talked about how they contribute to certain types of malfunctions, how to check them for functionability, how to lube them and the addition of the little O ring on the ejector to help it be more reliable.  The only component we didn’t remove was the gas key since virtually all were all staked on.  Those that were not staked . . . were by the time we were done.

Add in lunch, a couple 5 minute breaks and we were at the first day’s wrap with a heads-up for the following day.  The morning was to be spent on the lower and the afternoon on the upper.  It promised to be just as busy . . . and he promised to get us grubby as well. 

The morning of day 2 was spent on the lower.  Those with adjustable butt stocks removed the stocks and the buffer and buffer spring.  Next came the grip and the trigger group.  We inspected each component and chatted about its function.  We also removed the magazine release, the bolt catch and the dust cover.  We made lots of use of the punches and hammer as well as strategically placed tape to prevent scratching of the lower. 

We also talked about the difference between single stage and double stage triggers, burst mode and full auto.  The phrase “drinking from a fire hose” comes to mind.  Throughout this part of the process we removed/reinstalled the trigger group a half dozen times.  I think I could do it in my sleep now.

After lunch, we moved on to the uppers.  There was no requirement that we actually remove our barrels from the upper.  We removed the handguard assemblies, the flash suppressor and gas tubes.  Sully had brought some grinder stands with vices attached and an assortment of jiggs to firmly fix the upper to the vice.  He also had an assortment of wrenches and offered those that wanted to remove and then reinstall the barrels.  What the heck . . . in for a penny . . . in for a pound.  I got in line removed the barrel and then reinstalled it – torque wrench and all.  By the time that was done we were told to do a final reassembly, clean up are areas and Sully would button things up.  After a few final thoughts, we were given our certificates of completion for the 16-hour course and sent on our way.  Gotta admit . . . I was pretty wiped by the time I headed home.

Some take-aways.

There is “the guy” who builds his own gun . . . and then those that also take an armorers course from a respected company.  I believe there is a difference.  Throughout the entire course we were filled with years of experience on how this specific component affected the operation of the weapon, how it failed – with live examples that were passed around.  Cleaning and lubrication was attended to and the products he recommended.  These primarily revolved around the Slip2000 products.  He paid special attention to lubrication for everyday use, training use and cold weather.

I first put a M-16 in my hand in August of 1969.  While I have never considered myself anywhere near an expert . . . after this two-day course I have absolutely no concern totally breaking down and troubleshooting an AR today.

I would not hesitate in the least to recommend Defensive Edge and their Armorer’s Course for the AR. 

Go forth . . . learn things . . .

Friday, December 9, 2016

Review - AAR NRA BP Phase II  12-8-2016

Well, after – what – 9-ish months, the phone rang.  It was a very pleasant fellow by the name of Steve, a state patrol officer and state certified firearms instructor looking to take the NRA BP Phase II from me.  Things that make ya say hummmmmm . . .

Seems his state certification will expire the end of this year.  He’s not going to renew it.  In the state of Iowa a NRA certification is (as is a LEO cert) acceptable to teach a carry class . . . and the NRA BP course fills the square for an Iowa carry class.  I know, it all sounds fairly convoluted, because it is I guess.
Anyway, on his way to getting a NRA Certification, his first stop was the NRA BP Phase I online course closely followed by the Phase II course . . . and me.  So, this past Thursday we met and completed his Phase II coursework.  Since this has been my one . . . and only . . . BP course since blended learning was introduced I felt there may be some value in doing an AAR for it for those fellow instructors who may have interest in such things.

Steve is definitely an anomaly as far as students are concerned.  He’s been a patrol officer for 22 years, an instructor for the past 13 (?) if memory serves as well as a USCCA instructor.  Let’s say he has shooting and instructing experience.  All that said I can honestly say he set all that experience aside and truly jumped in as a student.  Honestly, few instructors can do that . . . very few.

The day began with paperwork . . . hold harmless agreements, media releases, filling out the Student portion of the 4-page “review” signoff sheet.  And we were off.  You would think that with an experienced individual you could blow through this puppy is a couple of hours.  The estimated time is 5 hours . . . it actually took just a bit more.  Keep that in mind should you students be “new and inexperienced”.  While it is one thing to assume that with a Phase I cert and PIN number in their hand, they truly “got” the on-line portion, the time it takes to roll through all the verification material simply takes . . . time.  Honorable instructors will do the work .  . . which will take around 5 hours IMNSHO.  (Keep in mind that even with the change to blended learning there was nothing stopping Steve and I from adjourning to a coffee shop – instead of the -5*F windchill range – and doing a little “wink, wink – nod, nod” and pencil whipping this puppy.)

During our working through the exercises we chatted some on how Phase I went for Steve.  If I recall it took me about 11 hours to complete the entire thing.  11 – what I would consider painful hours.  It took him a week of a couple hours a night to complete Phase I with a 90% first time through.   He expressed real concern how a new and inexperienced person would do and, as we rolled through the exercises and checkoff sheet. he continued to comment how he could see much of the “review” would probably be actual instruction.  I gotta say I agree.

One area that I believe Phase II truly got it right was the shooting portion.  The process, the flow, the round count . . . I like it.  Honestly it follows fairly closely what I do in my own coursework and is a good path to turn out a very proficient new shooter.  I left extra targets at the office so we ran a bit short but he qualified at the 10 and 15 foot distance no problem as well as at the 45 foot distance.  Honestly, wasn’t surprised at this given his level of experience.  That said, there’s always surprises.
As I indicated earlier – it was chilly, -5*F windchill and light snow.  Welcome to winter training in Iowa.  Anyway, he’d forgotten is patrol gloves and only had what most new shooters would have – fluffy, “warm” gloves.  Through the “development” phase things seemed to go just fine.  We got to the first qualification target . . . second circle and everything just plain went to crap.  Rounds hitting all over the frickin’ place.  WTH???  Now, I’ve seen this a couple of times, particularly with new handguns where a front sight loosens or a rear sight has been bumped in transit . . . so I asked to shoot 5 rounds to see how things went.  Nice 1” group . . . not the gun.  So, he shot, I watched . . . finally . . . “Steve, take off your glove . . .”.  So, he takes off his dominant hand glove and sends the next 5 rounds downrange . . . into a nice 1-inch-ish group.  He completed his course of fire for all the remaining targets I had out to 45’ . . . and shot the way you would expect a LEO Instructor would shoot.

Back into the warmth, a final review, a bit of an AAR . . . and it was done.  So, a few take-aways.

I’ve not changed my mind on blended learning.  I can easily see Phase II being a full 8+ hours for folks not as experienced as Steve – much of it just spent in review and clarification.
This is an 8+ hour course.  For new and inexperienced shooters – with the added range work – and the review.  It’s a full day.  So the price on my end didn’t change - $95 for Phase II.  What that means on the range, with the requirement of not more than 2 shooters per instructor is that costs to the instructor increase significantly and classes of 10-ish with two shifts at the firing line with an instructor and an RSO are gone.  Adjunct instructors cost $150 per day . . . going to make this a very thin profit type of course. 

Based on results, interest in BP has dropped significantly in my area.  USCCA, stand alone coursework and others have taken up the slack.  Folks demand face to face around here – at least those truly interested in learning to shoot and the Blended Learning course is now simply too expensive.  As I said, this is my first BP class of 2016 since blended took over.  I’m not optimistic about demand in 2017 either.
Thanks for the call Steve – nicely done!  Congrats!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

AAR - Patrol Rifle 11 21-22 2016

As I write this it’s November 23rd . . . the day before Thanksgiving.  Our contribution to the Thanksgiving Dinner is complete, arrival times confirmed as well as letting our hostess know that we are indeed coming.  It’s a time of gathering families together and giving thanks to God for all our blessings . . .

Unless you are the family of one of the 131 law enforcement officers that have lost their lives so far this year in the line of duty . . . 11 this month with the latest death this very morning.  Officer Collin Rose of the Wayne State University PD.  Their tables will have an empty place setting that will never again be filled.

Our officers are at war . . . actively being hunted . . . and yet they show up for work, tac up and do their patrols.  They respond to calls for help and hold the “Thin Blue Line” against pure anarchy in our streets.  Thank you seems so trite . . . so little . . . but, thank you for all you do.

An officer’s begins his shift with a number of weapons at his disposal . . . Taser, ASP, Knife, duty weapon, backup sidearm, shotgun and patrol rifle.  Each officer must be trained on each weapon – from “less than lethal” to lethal, and they must qualify annually with each weapon. 

We had quite a range of experience in our course from one officer just a year out of the academy to officers with decades of experience.   Our community is just introducing the patrol rifle to their officers giving them one more means to respond to a potentially lethal threat.  The course is foundational in nature along with significant range time allowing officers to shoot qualification courses of fire for Marksmanship, CQB, low light as well as low light handgun.  Total round count was 800-ish over two days.  Weather was in the upper 30s with rain for virtually our entire second days’ range work – including all the low light shooting.  It was certainly challenging as well as rewarding.  My whole purpose of going through the course was to see what was taught, how it was taught and then to shoot the drills and the qualifying courses of fire.  A qualifying score is 80% for officers and 90% for instructors.  On the Marksmanship Course of fire I shot a 27/30 – 90%.  On the QCB I shot 48/50 – 96%.  This will allow me to lend a hand going forward in helping to teach their Patrol Rifle coursework.  Honestly our local department is simply stretched thin, as are most departments across the country.  If I can lend a hand, free up some hours . . . my time here at the course will be well spent.

The course is “busy” to say the least . . . let’s look at some of the objectives.)

·        Know the nomenclature of the patrol rifle

·        Know how to safely operate it

·        Know how to load it in both tactical and administrative situations

·        Understanding the fundamentals of marksmanship

·        Understand the rifle bullet’s ballistics

·        Be able to perform immediate action drills

·        Be able to perform basic rifle retention techniques

·        Understand Iowa law and use of force while deploying patrol rifles

·        Be able to disassemble and reassemble the patrol rifle

·        Be able to hit targets while shooting on the move

·        Be able to accurately shoot a patrol rifle in low light

·        Be able to successfully engage multiple targets

·        Be able to use the four basic shooting positions

·        Be able to use cover and concealment

·        Be able to transition from patrol rifle to duty pistol

As I said . . . a busy 2 days.  To complete the course the officer needed to attend the entire course, pass a written test with a minimum score of 80%, pass the ILEA required courses of fire with a minimum score of 80%  (100 yards, 30 rounds and 50 yards with a half sized Q-Target, 50 rounds), the ILEA CQB 50 round course of fire  and the VPD low-light QCB qualification course with 50 rounds.

The first half of the first day was going through all the foundational material – how do projectiles perform, how do they wound, FBI ballistic information, methods of testing different projectiles and their typical penetration performance.

Case studies were evaluated – the 1986 Miami FBI shootout, Columbine, 1997 North Hollywood shootout and the Keokuk County 2011 shootout. 

We then moved on to rifle nomenclature and the various components of a standard AR platform patrol rifle.

This was followed by working towards our range work.  Range safety was discussed, methods of clearing the AR platform as well as second-person clearing checks.

Shooting fundamentals were covered – mounting the rifle, hand position on the grip and foregrip, placement of the trigger finger, position of the adjustable stock, position sul, the low ready position.

The basic shooting positions were reviewed – Prone, Kneeling, Sitting and Standing.  Methods of sling carry and types of slings were discussed.  Loading and unloading the AR and finally zeroing.  We used the 10 yard, 50-200 yard zero method and insured that everyone was zeroed before we moved to shooting our various drills leading up to the qualification shoots.

Range work on day one began with the zeroing process and then steadily moved each shooter back starting at 25 yards (I think) and then moving back to a maximum of 75 yards.  Our shooting range is a tad short of 100 yards.  Add in the cover over the rear area of the range and a vertical baffle, it becomes simply impossible to shoot a full sized Q-Target.  The solution, use a half-sized Q-Target and then push the distance out to 75 yards during the practice rounds.  Once we had worked through all the positions multiple times we shot the actual qualification course of fire. 

The ILEA Rifle Marksmanship course of fire is as follows:

30 rounds – minimum score of 24 to pass

100 yards – or 50 yards with half sized Q-Targets

100 yards      Supported Prone                5 rounds slow fire       5 min

Un-Supported Prone          5 rounds slow fire

100 yards      Standing                             5 rounds                     1:30 (for all 15 rounds)

                      (Starting with safety on – 1 magazine change)

                      Kneeling                             5 rounds

                      Sitting                                 5 rounds

100 Yards     Standing                             2 rounds                     :30

                      Kneeling                             3 rounds

All shooting was done with either iron sights or a “red dot / green dot” non-magnified sights.  While not a particularly difficult course of fire – shooting in front of peers always ups the ante just a bit as well as the requirement that the officer must shoot a qualifying score if he/she wants to be able to carry a patrol rifle while on duty.  Everyone passed and, as I stated earlier, I was pretty darn happy to shoot a 90%.

Next up – the ILEA Rifle CQB course of fire – 50 rounds – 2 magazines, 25 rounds each on a full-sized Q-Target.

Stage 1 – 50-yard line – 15 rounds – 50 seconds

On command the shooter takes an unsupported prone position and fires 5 rounds, moves to the standing position and fires 5 rounds and then moves to the kneeling position and fires 5 rounds.

Stage 2 – 25-yard line – 15 rounds – 50 seconds

On command the shooter takes a strong side kneeling position and fires 5 rounds, moves to strong side standing and fires 5 rounds, performs a combat reload while dropping to a support side kneeling position firing the last 5 rounds.

Stage 3 – 15-yard line – 10 rounds – 15 seconds

On command the shooter fires 5 rounds then drops to a strong side kneeling position and fires the final 5 rounds.

Stage 4 – 7-yard line – 10 rounds – 10 seconds

On the command “MOVE” the shooter raises his rifle and begins to move towards the threat.  ON the “FIRE” command he fires 2 rounds – scans and then returns to the 7-yard line.  This process is repeated 4 additional times.

This is the exact same course of fire for the low-light course with the only difference being that there is a police cruiser just rear of the 50-yard line with headlights and flashers on.  Once the 15-yard line is reached the shooter could use their weapon mounted light as well.

I ended up shooting a 96% for the daylight course and a 94% for the low-light course.

The officers were also run through the low-light pistol course as well.  Here murphy reminded me to pay attention.  We began the course of fire with three magazines loaded with 15 rounds each and an additional 5 rounds in our pocket.  I ran the course of fire – hear the training officer say something about managing our magazines and ammunition – I think what the hell, I know where they all are – no worries.  The final drill is to fire 6 rounds as fast as we can from the 5-yard line.  And . . . after a single round . . . I’m out . . . cause the other 5 rounds are still in my frickin’ pocket!!!!!  Heavy sigh!  Anyway, I only dropped 2 so even with the 5 unfired rounds I shot a 43/50 or an 86%.  No problem qualifying . . . but if my head would have been outta my ass it would have been a 98%.  Crap!!!!

The low light shoots were all done on the second day along with several shooting drills including a rifle version of “el Presidente” and a moving and shooting drill that forced transitions to the shooter’s duty weapon being conducted while we were waiting for “low light” to arrive.  The entire second day was also blessed with a constant rain.  Not a down-pour but a steady light rain that added a bit of discomfort to the mix as well.  Temps were in the mid to upper 30s.

Classroom time on the second day was spent on weapon retention, malfunction drills, taking the final written exam and then an After Action sit-down discussion.

Some take-aways for me.

We are all fortunate that we have folks in our communities willing to do the “heavy lifting” to keep us safe.  Collin Rose was attacked during on 2nd day of class.  Each of these officers are well aware of the number of officers attacked and killed while on duty this year . . . and in years gone by.  They all know the risks . . . and the do their jobs every day.  As I said earlier . .  .  a “thank you” doesn’t begin to truly say how grateful we all are that they are willing to climb into their cruisers day after day.

Coursework with law enforcement officers has a different “timber”, a different feel, a different urgency to it.  When we were working reloading drills on the range, in the dark, in the cold, in the rain . . . and the reloading process went sideways . . . it was always with the knowledge that in real life it could mean the risks to the officer would climb dramatically . . . to the point where the trip home might well be in a Ziploc.  It brought home individual training, individual range work, individual work with the patrol rifles to ensure that everyone could run them smoothly and consistently.

I allowed me to realize just how safe and easy my life is in comparison.  These officers are at risk every day in ways I have not been in well over 40 years.  Sure, I could happen upon an active shooter, be attacked in a parking lot, walk into a robbery or face a home invasion.  All of us who teach and practice defensive shooting skills accept this.  A law enforcement officer is charged with going after the “bad guys/gals” . . . every day . . . it’s their job.  It’s humbling to recognize this difference . . . and it makes me appreciate them even more.

Finally, I am probably my own harshest critic.  I expect to do better that every other shooter on the line.  I expect to exceed minimum expectations.  I expect to do my best on each and every drill.  I’m confident that every officer out there had exactly the same expectations of themselves as I did.  I am happy to have been shooting with “peers” . . . very well qualified, experienced and dedicated shooters.  We all held our own.

It was a good course, a good set of drills and a great time on the range.

Nice job Eric, it’s a very solid piece of coursework.  I’m looking forward to lending a hand any time I can.