Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holy Crap it was hot . . . .


Yep – there’s a heat wave in Iowa.  The “Boy” has been after the old man to go to an IDPA shoot with him – today was the day.  (nearly 80 at 6 AM).  Couple of hours of setup – 6 stages (nearly 85 by 7:30 AM).  Range brief, broke us up into 2 groups.  9:30 AM range brief done, stages set, ready to rock (and we’re at 95). 

Gotta admit the “Boy” kinda handed my butt to me – nice to see him do well!  And, one more thing to note – very high heat can definitely effect my ability to shoot!  Anyway, videos will be posted tomorrow so you can chuckle along with him.  :) 

So, as we go though this long, hot summer together – some thoughts:

  • Drink lots of water – LOTS!!
  • Sun screen.
  • Loose clothing – shed your cover garment between shoots to keep cool
  • Up  your level of focus – high temps, tons of sweat, various levels of dehydration – all lower your ability to focus, compensate for it.
  • Sweat towel – I’ve had one since the late 60s, they were almost an iconic part of the uniform of the Vietnam troop.  Do they even do that any more??  Anyway, make a sweat towel part of your range bag, Boggie-Bag, back pack – you’ll come to love it.
  • Enjoy the day – we had a great time – even with the  heat.  18 shooters, good conversation, gentle ribbing, takin’ crap from the Boy – it was a good day!
  • Did I mention drinking water??

Just as many folks won’t shoot in the dead of winter – many avoid the range in high heat/humidity as well.  Again – bad guys are a 24/7 deal, year around.  So – hit the range, find a shooting competition, make new friends and have fun!


UPDATE:  Some updates – quit laughin ‘ at the fat, old guy in the beige boonie hat!!  :)












Still a few more on the hand-held camera, will see if I can get them up tonight.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Commentary–SCOTUS upholds the ACA


Some thoughts on the SCOTUS and their ruling on whether it is constitutional or not to force individuals to pay for health insurance under the commerce clause – they found that it WAS NOT CONSTITUTIONAL. However, they found – taking the Obama Administration’s third level of argument – that the government has the right to enact any tax it wishes for any purpose, including paying for healthcare for everyone - thus creating a device to collect the funds. The question I have is simply who is going to write that tax law - I'm pretty sure no Republicans will vote for it. And, should it be written - will the House and Senate be able to pass it? Doubtful. So, while we seem to have crossed the line here - there is still no way to fund this thing because I do not see any way to get that tax passed.

On another note - one of the funding mechanisms for the ACA was to remove $500 BILLION from Medicare and pass that on to state Medicaid programs. They seem to have stomped on that option as well. So, while the Big O seems to have "won" this round, he does so with an empty wallet and no way to fill the kitty other that getting a whole new set of taxes through Congress.

And finally - there is the 14th Amendment to consider which could not be brought to bear without the ACA act going into effect. There are approximately 1,200 companies and organizations that were exempted from the ACA and 4 or 5 states as well (Nebraska, Maine, Tennessee, Ohio and New Jersey) to get the votes necessary to pass the ACA. I suspect going forward that this issue will be tackled in short order.

So, while the ACA passed through the use of the 3rd level of argument by the Obama Administration – the government has the right to enact any tax they desire – getting that actually done, so that there is a path to fund the ACA has become much more difficult because for a tax to be collected a tax bill must first be crafted then passed by both the House and Senate. That’s going to be a difficult job.

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out as things go forward. But, while the Democrats may be cheering, they still need to past that pesky tax law before the ACA can truly get going.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just the Basics – HOLY SHIT!!!!! I SHOT MYSELF . . . . . I SHOT MYSELF . . . . .


By golly, your training has been coming right along! You’ve taken a basic pistol class, a concealed carry class and watched a ton of youtube videos showing all those classic training scenarios. And, of course, you’re hammerin’ rounds down range!! You’re becoming quite the stud / studdett!

It’s early morning; you couldn’t wait to get to the range! Last night you watched an amazing shooter – nationally known, heavy competitor in IDPA, USPSA, IPSC – and you have it down! You watched, visualized and now you’re ready to make that draw yours!! Hence the early morning range session.

So, you “load and make ready”. Normally you’d be here with your range bud – but he/she actually had to go to work today so you’re goin’ solo – just you, the early morning air and the nasty lookin’ guy whose mug is plastered on the target. And you’re gonna plant that sucker hard.

You’re also packin’ a new toy – a shot timer. The guy in the video swore by it and you are determined to decrease your draw time. What better way that to draw against the clock? And its great practice for the up-coming IDPA shoot next weekend – your first. Great morning, new toy, bad guy target and all that new knowledge from youtube last night – what could possibly go wrong??

A half-hour later things have been goin’ great! Your time is dropping, your speed reloads have been ok and your groups are beginning to tighten. Time to sit at the bench, reload your mags and get ready to build your speed – that’s it baby speed!! Everyone knows that you have to draw, clear and plant your first round under two seconds. You’re down to under 4 – time to “push through”!

Reloaded, rehydrated and clear headed you head back to the line. Damn it’s a great morning. Cooling breeze, birds chattering away and the whole bay to your self – hell, the whole range. What a great day to be alive!!!

Timer on your belt, eyes, ears, cap tight to the top of your glasses . . . . you push the “start” button on the timer and face the asshole in front of you on the target – “you’re going down baby – hard!!”

“BEEP” . . . . you sweep back your garment, grip your weapon, yank with all your might (where’s you support hand right now??) but something’s isn’t right, your weapon is stuck or something – what the F***? So you give one final, hard yank – BLAMMMMMMMMMMMM!! – the sound echoes, a blinding white streak of pain shoots through the inner thigh of your strong side leg . . . . WTF?????????

You look at your leg – the blood is pulsing strongly, it’s bright red . . . .

You’re having a hard time standing on or moving your leg . . . .

Your mind hits the panic button . . . . you gotta get to your cell phone, it’s in your range bag. You head towards the table, reach into the bag – no signal . . . . nothin’, nada, zip. Ah, or course – you have never been able to get a signal out here . . . . you need to get to your car, get to the main road, make that 911 call. “Maybe I should have taken that first aid course that covered – what were they called?? Oh, yeah – “blow outs”. Probably too late now. You notice that you can’t think real clear, you’re starting to feel a bit cold, clammy, you’re starting to sweat pretty heard. You can start to feel your pulse in your ears. You mouth is getting dry. Your legs are getting heavier. The blood is still spurting a bit but not near as bad. It’s still bright read though. You remember something about a femoral artery – warnings to be aware of your muzzle when draw . . . . “Keep your finger off the bang stick!!!” your last instructor was fond of saying. And yet, here you are . . . . in the process of bleeding out.

You hear the gate open – what the hell, it’s Frank – holy crap – it’s Frank.

Hours later, as you are recovering in your hospital bed – you ponder your day. Perhaps you still have a bit to learn . . . .

So what really happened? Was it you? Was it your weapon? Was it your holster? How did you touch the “Bang Stick”?

I’m going to spend a few posts going over why that weapon in your holster goes bang, what determines when it goes bang and the things you MUST CONTROL to make sure Fred doesn’t find you on the range pad some morning, a hole in your thigh and you life’s liquid spread all around your carcass.

The first post will cover the mechanics and chemistry of the cartridge. The second, your weapon and how it makes the cartridge go bang. Next – holsters, what is the best one for you? Are some better than others? Are there any that are just flat out dangerous? And finally – YOU – the steps that must be taken to remove your weapon from your holster and engage your threat without having your family cash in on your life insurance.

There’s a video popular on many sites right now by Tex. Seems he shot himself. There’s more to why folks are pointing to this video but for now, here’s a gentle warning . . . . you have the opportunity to shoot yourself every time you draw your weapon or put it in the holster. Fair warning – keep your head in the game!!

Stick around . . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Commentary – Gear Lists, Friends and Traditions


Mrs. Bill – “Got the list?”

Me: “Yep.”

Mrs. Bill: “I’m going to the store, we need anything?”

Me: “Nope, I’ll get packin’.”

And were off . . . . Our destination is Rock Island State Park off the tip of Door County in Wisconsin. We’ve been doing this for a while – our 25th trip in 27 years (official determination of years coming was completed around the fire ring over brats!). So Mrs. B heads off to the store and I go to the gear room and grab the equipment for our trip from the Rock Island Gear List. We take items that turn a simple hole in the woods into the camping equivalent of the Hilton – a well equipped kitchen, large tarp and plastic table cloths for the picnic tables, two cook kits, plates, bowls, “plastic ware”, large dome tent, garden cart, multiple 5-gallon water jugs . . . . a larger-than-usual camping list (that all has to be schlepped to the camp site BTW – hence the lawn cart) that turns a cleared site, on a well wooded patch of island into our own private retreat for 4 “too short” days.

I have grown to appreciate gear lists over the years. I adapt each to their specific task. I have them for my “Backpacking Load-Out”, a weekend Scouting trip, a ten day canoe trip, my range bag, gear for my Wrangler, my “toy bag” (the day bag I carry with books, spare power supplies, snacks, crescent wrench, pens . . . . it’s a “complicated” bag). These lists perform a number of functions for me – they allow me to insure I have what I need/want along on trips. They let me mentally visualize each trip – with respect to the individual gear list – to see if there are any modifications I may need to make for “this” specific trip. They let me estimate the age of gear in case items need replacement/updating. (we will be upgrading our tent, tarp and cooking stove before next year’s trip). And, they help avoid the “Well SHIT” moments of forgotten items when they are desperately needed.

As a change of pace, I took a little Kodak Zi8 Video Camera to play with some video for the blog. As an aside, I chose this camera because of the ability to connect an external microphone. I have a couple wireless mics and a mixer that I use and that gives me a bit more flexibility. HOWEVER, the price of this camera is now ridiculous. I think I paid around $250 when I bought mine, now it’s OVER $450 – they are outta their frickin’ mind!!!!! There are other good video cameras out there that fill the bill. My only real recommendation is that you find one with and external mic, it will give you options in how you film things.

So, rather than ramble on about gear lists even more, I will simply drop in a video right here:

Gear Lists

One of the reasons Gear Lists are important it that they help in camp setup.  As you build the lists, you can visualize how you want a camp set, what precautions to take and how you would handle really bad weather . . . such as this . . . . .

Yep, bad weather happens!!

On Friends:

Words mean specific things to me when I use them – and “friend” is no exception. If I have to “bottom line” it, a friend is a person that, if I would call them at 2 AM and say; “I really need you to come right away . . .”, they would simply get up, get dressed and come – regardless of their location on the face of the earth. Yeah, yeah . . . I know, kinda a stiff test – and yet, there it is. The folks that went on this trip with us are those kinds of friends. Deep, soul-connected, loved. We have raised kids, buried parents, cried, held each other, laughed and generally survived life, in part, because we are friends. They, and all friends, are precious commodities. They provide bedrock, a foundation that supports our lives that is there regardless the chaos that surrounds us. Bottom line . . . . Love your friends with all your heart, bonds like that are rare and precious.

On Traditions:

Our Rock Island trip is a tradition – followed each and every year with only two exceptions to date (birth of children if memory serves). We make reservations on New Year’s Day of each year after spending New Year’s Eve reflecting on the past year and enjoying each other’s company with snacks, good wine, old movies and finding the comfort found, again, in the presence of friends. This year was truly different, the first year without kids along. It was both lonely and peaceful. The three young girls that first went 27 years ago have blessed us with a total of 8 grandchildren, most of whom have visited the Island with us. Our daughter’s newest little was only 2 months old, frankly too young to be that far from emergency care. But, plans are afoot for next year and Ms. L’s introduction to this family tradition.

Traditions provide cornerstones to our lives. They can be those traditions common to our lives – weddings, baptisms, funerals, parades, annual community gatherings . . . . or they can be individual – vacations, trips such as this one was, date nights, New Year’s gatherings with friends. Traditions provide context, texture, definition to who we are, where we are going, what we believe. They give us a future to look forward to and a past to enjoy and reflect on. They provide “stories” to share and tell our friends and acquaintances. I would encourage you to build your own traditions – your children and grandchildren with remember the stories they create long after you have passed . . . . with love and humor.

Moments in Time:

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I love cooking on an open fire. Gear can offer a number of things, a solid tool for preparing food, multiple ways to do that task, and good memories along the way. The cast iron griddle with the brats was a new addition by our son-in-law last year. He’s a very good cook and has taken on many food prep duties over the last dozen years. He wanted something new for pancakes last year hence the griddle. This year we expanded it’s duties to open fire cooking of brats and also pan-fried steak. MMMmmmmm – meat!

The image on the right falls into the “long lived with lots of memories” category. To you it is a simple cooking pot, to us it is the first pot, purchased in the mid-70s on a trip out to the north east. Our tent was a $27.95 JC Penny, 5x7 pup tent. It was our very first camping adventure as a married couple. Stories, traditions . . . . geezz, turning into a sappy old fart. Heavy sigh.

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Our friends and Mrs. B. It always pleases me how easily we all fit together, how deep the friendship is and how we can sit all evening and still find things to talk about.

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Brunch duties – left over brats, steak and 3-egg meat and cheese omelets. Does life get any better?? I love cooking on these trips. Mainly because when you are camping absolutely everything tastes good!!!

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Tarp, tent, pack cover . . . yep, looks like a base camp site to me!!

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One final tradition – “picture tree” photos (we have these from very nearly every year) and the real reason we journey to this spot each year, spectacular sun sets.

So there you have it; make your gear lists - they will insure you are well equipped on any journey. Make true friends and love them with your entire soul, they are your foundation. And build traditions - they will leave little bits and pieces of you long after you continue your journey.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Feet Dry . . . . . .


We are once again “feet dry” – headed home from our little adventure.  Very nice time, a bit “wet and wild” and always refreshing.  Still a day out . . . will get an AAR up in a day or so.

Enjoy your day!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Training – Being stressed . . . . And Remaining Vigilant . . . It’s about shoe boxes


My life rolls through cycles – fun times, frustrating times, happy times, sad times, times when life flows smoothly . . . . and times when it seems to struggle through rather torturous terrain. That’s where I seem to be living for the past while – torturous terrain . . . . where frustration and anger flirt around my conscious self. It can be a powerful distraction.

My “torturous terrain” currently is the general climate for my business (nope, it is not firearms training – though that is growing and a change may come in the next couple of years). My customers – through no fault of their own – are finding that their increased dependence on government funding does not always mean that the government will actually . . . you know . . . pay their bills. Or not change the rules part way through the game. Or not simply change the fees they choose to pay to something so low it no longer covers the cost of the service. Little things like that. And, “trickle down poverty” does indeed work . . . . Heavy sigh.

So, I am distracted . . . . bills that need paying . . . . clients that aren’t paying . . . . thoughts of letting a business of 30 years simply end . . . . wonders of what’s next . . . . it can be and has been a powerful distraction. Honestly, this is not meant as a complaint or a plea for an “awwww, poor Bill”, I’ve been here before – it’s simply the nature of owning your own business. It’s not for the faint of heart. That said – my mental state and my level of frustration provide a nice segue into the topic of “Being Stressed . . . And Remaining Vigilant” and my particular solution – the use of “shoe boxes”.

Bad guys do not take a day off. While one may be on the sidelines for some reason (cooling their heals in jail, takin’ up room on a morgue’s slab, or just having a roll in the sack with his bimbo) there are plenty to take his/her place. Threats are real, persistent and continuous.

A few posts back when we were chatting about training while minimizing physical injury I made the point the YOU are the army, YOU are the source of personal protection, YOU are the only one that can respond in seconds rather than the tens-of-minutes that LEOs can take. Therefore, it paid for you to adapt your protective gear to reduce physical damage during training so you remained physically capable of responding to an immediate threat. However, there is another element to the mix as well – your mental game.

When you are distracted – you are more vulnerable. When you are distracted – your reaction time slows because you must first come back to the “present” before you can respond to the threat in front of you. With luck, you can do this in time – if not – your fears still end because the plastic bag the medical examiner zips you in ends all mortal problems in dramatic fashion.

Jeff Cooper’s “Color Codes” do not change – regardless of your mental state. The druggie looking for a quick score does not care you have a sick child or spouse, that you can’t make the car payment, that your grades suck, that you just heard you have cancer, just heard your wife has inoperable cancer . . . they don’t care, they simply want your money. “Fine for you to say Bill – just how the hell can I turn my brain off????” Really, you can’t – but you can manage your worry rather than surrender to it – I use shoe boxes.

More sophisticated folks call it compartmentalization – the ability to take specific segments of your life and separate it away so fully that it no longer affects your emotional state. I like to use boxes – shoe boxes actually. I have a closet that they are stored in – some for as short as a couple of hours. Some have been there a very long time – unopened, waiting for attention. Yet, while the box is there – I simply let go of its contents. There is nothing I can do about it at this moment, so I do my very best not to chew on it.

A couple of examples (you knew I have to tell a story or two, right??):

The life of a soldier – regardless of the branch of service – demands this skill. Worry about a letter from home, the infamous “Dear John”, the sick child, the long distance argument - all can get you dead if you pay attention to your thoughts rather than the road or trail or instrument panel. Loss of focus is loss of life. The vast majority learn this from the “old heads” simply by watching and following their example and then integrating it into their life style. Others observe the tragic result of a team mate worrying about the “letter” rather than the trail as they disappear in a pink mist. War is a crucible that tempers a soul and dispatches learning with brutal efficiency. “Boxes” are a necessary tool to set aside things that are unimportant to the “present”; they allow the soldier to remain vigilant. The box will be there at some future time – to be dealt with when danger is past.

I’m sitting in a waiting room waiting for the doctor to tell me how my wife’s hernia surgery is going. Magazines have been read and conversations with my mother-in-law have given way to a quiet discomfort. A “box” has been started – the contents as yet unknown. The clock ticks on . . . . .

Finally the surgeon walks into the room – his manner brisk, business like . . . and to the point. “Your wife has a tumor, it’s grown down her leg, wrapped itself around the sciatic nerve – I can’t remove it. It looks as though it’s spread to her lymph nodes as well. I’m going to do some exploratory surgery and find out the extent to which it’s spread.” He smartly turns on his heel and return to the OR. No time for questions, no further comment, no word on how long it will take . . . . . and my world ends . . . .

We are just starting in a new community, our daughter is only two, I have a new job, I gotta be at work, how long will this take, will she die????????????, my mom needs to know, where will I bury her, will our little girl ever know her . . . . . . . And, with a strength I had not used since my return to “the world” I gathered my thoughts – opened the shoe box – jammed them in and focused on what was truly important, my wife. It took over 5 years – some painful enough to require their own box – to resolve its contents. Yet – I did, we did and I now relate this looking over 30 years in the past.

Boxes allowed me to focus on the NOW – it was the only thing I had control of, how I reacted at each specific instant of my life. I could do nothing about the future – and neither can you.

As you put your weapon on each morning and head out the door, all you have control of is the instant that is before you. One of the most critical jobs you have for the day is to arrive home at the end of it. The fears that are gnawing at you, the frustrations of the day, the “what-ifs” – are all threats to you, they distract you from observing your environment, the people that are headed your way, the car behind you, be fellow whose eyes have just locked on you and is walking quickly in your direction . . . .

So, take a shoe box from the shelf, open the lid and lay your “stuff” in there until you are safe at home again . . . . . because even though you are, indeed stressed . . . . a “shoe box” can help you remain vigilant.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Training – No, no . . . . that’s actually the TITLE of this post . . . .


Seems to be the current topic lately that’s flying around the gun blogs I read. Train more, train less, train harder, “train like you fight”, proper form, proper approach, good trainers, bad trainers . . . . . . . . yeah.

I suppose this post is just a bit self serving because I am – at least in my mind – a “trainer” – a person who imparts the knowledge I have, the methods I use, the approach I like – to students who look over my blog, company site and reviews and decide to come and spend their time and money with me. Yep, I am a trainer.

So let me share some of my thoughts with you about training, what to look for, how to evaluate a trainer and what all this means to you – a new shooter.

Do I need “training”. Well, it depends on why the heck you bought a gun in the first place. A few examples:

Cool gun to hang over the fireplace? Nope – skip the training.

EVERY OTHER FRICKING PURPOSE UNDER THE DAMN SUN????? Why yes – some training would be advised.

Perhaps a bit finer definition of the word “training”. Let’s go “lowest”. work our way up and see where that takes us.

“I just want to shoot the squirrels that are chewing large honking holes in my house” or “I just want to kill the armadillos that are ripping the crap outta my back yard”. (These are two actual conversations I have had over the past year). Well, training in this case began with weapon selection (both a nice air rifle with hunting pellets), “range time” with a target and box in the back yard, confidence in the “4 RULES OF SAFETY” and the general use of the weapon of choice and, voila , the training is complete. Other than on-going target practice (though one got his with a laser sight) they are good for life – spend your money on a night out with “the little woman”!

Next level – hunting (something other than squirrels and armadillos). OK, training here begins with defining the type of hunting you want to do, the location you want to do it in, the firearm rules of the state and county and then making a weapon selection. Once that is done I see two paths. Meet the requirement of the state to purchase a license (most require a hunter/safety course as a minimum) and then find a good friend to “sponsor” you in your hunting endeavor. This becomes your “training” – everything from the right ammunition to how to track, set blinds, handle close/medium/long range shots. And, finally how to choose your animal, properly harvest it and field dress it as well as store and prepare it. My only golden rule of hunting – you eat what you kill. And yes, that means sparrows, robins or any other stupid choice your child makes with their BB gun during “hunting season”. THEY WILL ONLY DO IT ONCE!

The thing I notice about hunters is that most of the training evolves into information revolving around the game animal, the habitat selection of a hunt and the stalk itself. Once hunters are comfortable with hitting their target – shooting training seems to end.

Next up – personal defense. This is certainly a topic that has exploded over the past couple of years. In fact it was the change in Iowa law – moving from a “MAY” issue state to a “MUST” issue state that nudged to to starting e.IA.f.t. So, to answer the basic question – “do I need training”. If the immediate answer in your head is “hell no” – then please, move along. You’re not thinking yet and I simply do not tolerate folks who can’t/don’t think.

Yes grasshopper – you need training. So what does this mean exactly – training? At the basic level (for simplicity I am going to stick with handguns for this post) the most basic question I get is “so, what kind of handgun do I need – I hear Glocks are great!!” Perhaps a little more knowledge is needed prior to weapon selection. For example, can you kill a person?? Just a thought. Past that one small item . . .

Do you have any physical limitations, how strong are your hands, how big are they, do you plan to carry, how do you plan to do this . . . and these are just the basic questions. Good, solid training programs will answer these and more. And, that is the purpose of the NRA Basic Pistol and First Shots programs. These programs (or similar programs), will answer most of these questions and put you on a sound footing to move forward. And yes, I know many folks get all pissy about the NRA and their courses – but for a starting point, with instructors that have been trained and evaluated, you could do worse, much worse.

Next step with personal defense – carrying your weapon. “I’ve been to a basic course, what more could I possible need other that more range time?” As soon as you pass this question – you have entered another phase of training. In the defensive pistol world this moves you to re-evaluate your weapon choice, selection of holsters, belts, magazine carriers, ammunition, secondary weapons – a pretty broad list of knowledge that is greatly facilitated by an instructor.

And, at this level, testosterone begins to be a factor in the instructor community. Everything from combat vet – run and gunners, to grizzled old farts like yours truly – who “know” everything about everything. Honestly, it’s just the way we are – all of us – and if anyone denies that, they’re lying. Of course, if an instructor is not confident in their ability to carry a weapon and employ it to protect themselves, their families or folks around them, why the hell would you want them as an instructor in the first place?

So, how does selection go forward for you from here? Luckily, it today’s world you have your little friend – the Internet. Gunnies talk about everything – instructors, course materials, course videos – everything imaginable. Bottom line, it’s YOUR money – read trainer and course evaluations, look up any youtube videos you can find to see if it’s what you’re looking for, ask for references, talk to other students – MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION – then tell anyone else whodings you about your course/instructor choice to go to hell – it’s your choice.

As for the “do I need training” question, just think about the decision you have just made. You have bought a tool that, with the simple press of the trigger, can end a life. You feel uncomfortable enough in your environment that you believe carrying one of these tools 24/7 sounds like a good idea. And, you have made that decision that yes – in an existential threat situation – you could use your tool to kill the attacker. Maybe it’s just me – but this choice of tool just screams out for more training. Doesn’t it?

So, bottom line, get training, make informed decisions about weapons purchases, find reputable trainers to give you the basics, grow from there. Be satisfied with YOUR choices – demand excellence from your trainers.

Finally – carry your weapon – period. Things go sideways when you least expect it. If your dying thought is “damn, shoulda brought my gun today, shoulda been able to clear that double feed, wonder why I pulled the trigger and it didn’t go bang” . . . . .

Shame on you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Training – Training to the point of failure . . . . .


System failure is a bitch . . . .

July, 1969 and I’m sitting on a runway at the US airbase at Tainan, Taiwan. I’m being deployed to an island about 70 miles away off the western coast called Ma-Gung (seems the world now calls it whatever the Red Chinese wants to call it). My mode of transportation?? A Taiwanese Air Force C-119. Yep, a no shit “Flying Boxcar” first made famous by the Berlin Air Lift. It’s an odd mix of military protocol and civilian passengers. The pilots give a nice little pre-flight brief (in Mandarin, of course), the civilians applaud. Then they return forward to the cockpit and we settle into the web seats – military, civilian, commercial air freight, military equipment – all crammed into a nice, tight little hold. It was all very Kurt Vonnegut – “Catch 22”ish.

The nick name for a C-119 . . . . . “Flying Brick”

Lead sentence of this post . . . “System failure is a bitch . . . “

About half way through the flight – 15 minutes or so – you hear the kind of “bang” that takes you to the “oh shit!!!”, “think I’m gonna fill my pants”, “hope I don’t scream like a baby” place as the aircraft lurches to the right and feels  like the high-speed down elevator in Sears Tower.

We have experienced the catastrophic failure of the starboard engine and we ARE going down – “Flying Brick”, remember. I’d been in the Air Force for right at one year, was going to my first TDY duty assignment, had never experienced the joys of FUBAR common in all military environments . . . . and now I was going to die. Well shit!!!

Obviously, it was not my day. The pilot did what ever magic he needed to do and though our decent was constant and steady after the engine failure, we touched down at the very, very, very, very end of the runway and rolled up to a holding point as fire trucks surrounded us and got ready to extinguish a – thankfully – non-existent fire.

The ramp dropped, the pilots emerged to the applause of the passengers and I was off to my new duty assignment – none the worse for wear.

This was my introduction to the dangers of complete and unexpected system failure. I’d love to say it was my last – but 21 years in the military assured me that FUBAR was real, prevalent and could make your day a very bad day indeed.

So what the heck does this have to do with personal defense?? (other than the fact that I enjoy telling tales) What systems do you, as a shooter and as an individual committed to the defense of yourself, you family and those around you use in a day that could fail and put you in a world of hurt?

Many more than you think. Run your day through in your mind from the time you plant your feet on the floor until you roll back into the sack.

  • Electrical grid
  • Alarm clock
  • Water and Sewer systems
  • Your vehicle
  • Virtually all municipal systems
  • Communication systems – cell, radio, tv, cable
  • Public alarm systems – fire, nuclear power plant, intrusion
  • Your personal weapons system that you carry in your EDC system
  • Your home defense weapons

There are more, but the idea is that in today’s world we are, in many ways, dependent of multiple systems that are complex beyond words. They are all subject to failure of one type or another – and each failure, should it happen at a critical moment for you – can make you have a very bad day.

However, behind all of these systems is  the most critical system of all – you. Your body is the single most important system that determines your experience of life.

AGirl seems destined to present post ideas lately. A while back she discussed her martial arts training and things that were holding her back – which led to my recent post on Violence. Well, she obviously hopped right over whatever speed-bump was in her way about fighting and seems to have had her ass handed to her.   Honestly, a big step for her but not without some unintended consequences.  Which lead to my post on her thread about training limits and techniques and more than a few days of pondering about “Training to Failure” . . . . hence, this post.

I’m chewing on some systems failure posts – options, reactions, clearing procedures – but still just chewing. What I want to focus on here are the physical failures each shooter experiences as they train for personal defense, some cautions and some suggestions on how to continue to expand your defensive envelope to make you quicker and more lethal.

So, lets chat about . . . . You.

Physical Structure

You are what you are. And with that come the characteristics of the basic machine, whether male or female. Skeletally, you are either short or tall or somewhere in between. You may have physical limitations in your foundation – an imperfect structure, a structure missing components, a damaged structure due to accident or health issues. Yet, this is what you have, this is what you start working with. There is little you can do at this foundational level.

Internal Systems

A quick walk through your “innards” reveals an amazingly complicated system, well integrated and seriously interdependent. Brain to nerves, nerves to organs, organs providing the nutrients to serve the brain and nerves, muscle, tendon to provide mobility – all controlled by the brain and nerves. Heart and lung to provide nutrients and oxygen to the brain, nerves and muscles. Damage any system in any significant way – your life will be significantly changed or will end.


What an interesting system. The easy comparison is to a computer – hardly accurate, at any level. Your brain does manage your major system groups, but it is also home to your personality, your dreams, your desires, your hopes, your fears. It IS you. Damage this system in a significant way – again the outcome will go badly.

You have some control

You have control over various parts of these primary systems. For you entering defensive training, the physical capabilities and the mental conditioning are critical. If you choose to be fat, out of shape, unwilling to eat right, exercise your body, train your muscles – you limit your ability to respond to threats, you limit your ability to be lethal. Your choice. If it’s not what you want, choose differently.

If you don’t push your mental limits – place yourself in fearful situations, expand your boundaries of risk taking – you also limit your ability to respond to threats and your ability to be lethal. You can use training to first find your limits – then to expand them.

Physically, start with a walk/run and find your limits. Begin training times at 15 minutes (if you’re out of shape), 30 minutes if feel like you’re “in shape.

Pay attention to your heart rate. There are any number of web sites dedicated to helping you find good “training zones” given your age, weight and general condition. Use them. Then – after a couple of weeks of effort and conditioning – “train to failure”. Push yourself at the walk or run until you’ve simply had it. Back off, use the tools, do the work – then a couple of weeks later “train to failure”. If you are not pushing to failure periodically, you are not growing, not becoming as strong as you could, not expanding your limits, not becoming more lethal to those who would wish to do you harm. This should be a life long process. While your physical ability can change throughout your life due to illness, accident or simply the characteristics of age – it remains import to “train to failure” so you know what your failure points are. Once you know them, you can adjust your training and equipment to adjust for them. Where do you carry, what do you carry, how wide is your “yellow zone”, your “red zone” – if you know your limits, you can adjust to them.

You are an “individual system”.  In order to defend yourself, YOUR system must be battle-ready 24/7. Is this always possible? – Nope. I find my body needs to curl up and heal once in awhile – as everyone’s does. However, when you physically train – especially hand-to-hand, I see little value in training in a way that physically damages you and takes you out of the fight. While that is done and expected in full-on military training, their resources are deep and an injured soldier can be removed from a mission and replaced with a healthy soul. You however ARE the army. When YOU are down, your ARMY is down and your DEFENSES are down. Broken arms, legs, fingers, ribs do little to allow you to respond to an intruder or a gunman in the same 7-11 you just walked into. I see little value in this. So, trainer lighter??? No, of course not. However, I do would recommend using enough protective equipment to dampen the injuries while still allowing full strength training. Use pads, use head protection. Less macho?? Sure, I guess – however, when a “goober” seeks to do you harm on the way home from the gym or as you are settling in for an evening with the family, you’ll be able to respond quicker.

Range Training

“Training to failure” is difficult on many ranges. In our area most ranges do not even allow holster draws let alone shooting while moving, multiple target engagement or switching between multiple weapons systems. Yet, this is what you need to train for. Let’s look at the individual components.

Holster Draw

How fast can you get your weapon into the fight from your normal carry position. I DO NOT mean from your favorite holster that you like to train with on the range or in the shooting classes you take. (for me personally, this would be a Glock 17 in a Serpa Holster). What I mean is drawing from concealment. 90% of your draw stroke is muscle memory. You brain thinks “draw” and your weapon appears in front of you ready to put the threat down. You DO NOT need range time to train your muscles – you need lots of draws, thousands of draws – perfect draws. I would encourage you to set aside 15 minutes a day to do as many PERFECT draws as you can – each and every day. “Train to Failure” – if your draw “fails” fight through it, get on the threat and press the trigger. (I would recommend a “LaserLyte” round for this dry fire exercise – review is in the works). Once you can do 15 minutes worth of draws perfectly – accelerate the draw until you fail – and repeat, EVERY DAY until you get 25 perfect draws – then accelerate . . . . . . .

Live Fire

Training involves risk. Weapons training involves risk of death – period. Yet, If you never “train to failure” during live fire – you do not condition your self for a full engagement . For this – 25 perfect draws per week at the range. I would suggest you back off just a tad from your max dry-fire speed – yet ride that limit as closely as you can.

You are most at risk during the draw and re-holster. PAY FRICKING ATTENTION!!!!!!! Muzzle discipline, finger discipline, work the safety, use the safety. There are innumerable Youtube videos of “experts” that shoot themselves during “quick draw” training. You too have the opportunity to appear on international Youtube! You too have the opportunity to screw up and put a hole through your leg, foot, arm or other body part. There is risk in everything – that’s why you train – to REDUCE your risk – NOT to eliminate it.

Once you are happy with this, add movement. AS you draw – MOVE!! The five most common directions are: straight at the threat, 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock and 10 o’clock. Add this component to your dry-fire exercise first. Once you are confident, add it to your live fire training. Next to actually carrying a weapon each and every hour of each and every day you are awake – learning to move and shoot will do the most to save your life in an actual encounter.

The process is the same – find your limits. Work on a different direction each day during your 15 minutes of dry fire practice. Once you have as many perfect “move and draw” rounds under your belt as you can get, go faster . . . . repeat . . .

And, again, once this process is fully learned in a dry-fire mode – move it to the range and live fire. (note – please, work with your RSO and your range before you do this or you will quickly find yourself out on your ear with a note to never return). Movement, rapid draw stroke and combat effective hits are your goal and while will keep you in your family’s life rather than in the family plot.

Training, in all things, is the path to learning that skill set. “Training to failure” allows you to monitor your growth, to see the progress you are making, to refine your technique, to grow. Unless you are pushing your limits – you are stagnant. And, as they say “you don’t want to be that guy” . . . .

“Train to failure” . . . . . the secret to success.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Commentary–It was about something bigger . . . .


The 68th Anniversary of D-Day.  Try to wrap your head around that – so many years.  Folks my age were raised by parents who experienced WWII in a very personal way.  My Uncle Victor was a bomber pilot.  My Uncle Clemmy trained bomber pilots.  My dad, to old actually – built tanks for GM.  Their stories of the war years reminds me of stories of Vietnam.  But, under all the stories, under all the nights sleep never founds its mark, was the sure knowledge they played their part in something that was bigger . . .

It was bigger than the individual, bigger than the unit, bigger than the aircraft, bigger than the family . . . .

Around 140,000 men landed on December 6th, over 10,000 died.  Many never left the water.  More died on the beaches.  Still more died in the hedgerows.

For something bigger . . . .

Thank you.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Violence – it’s a good thing . . . .


Violence: a: intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force b: vehement feeling or expression c: a clashing or jarring quality

I’ve been following AGirl’s journey on her mission to smack the crap out of her martial arts instructor. Of course the fact he’s a Marine and a MMA fighter might be seen as an impediment to his to anyone else but AGirl. To her it seems to be an additional driving force. Anyway, she had some real success the other day despite being a bit bruised up herself – she was pretty darn happy. In the post and in the thread that followed my contribution revolved around the fact – IMNSHO, of course – that violence is a GOOD thing; it’s the focus and management of her violence that made the difference. That has lead to a couple of days of pondering regarding the purpose and act of committing an act of violence and where that fits into your life a as individual who has decided to carry a weapon for personal defense.

With the birth of our “touchy-feely” society in the 70s, we have been continuously flooded with sure knowledge that “violence is bad!!!” Of course, a quick review of the 35 years previous to the 70s certainly could be viewed as a reason for the reluctance to use violence – a generation that was immersed in WWII, Korea and then Vietnam would certainly be looking for a period of peace. Yet it seems to have lead to the wholesale belief that all violence, any violence at all is a bad, bad, bad thing. This has lead us a point in time where we are Creating a Society of Victims – the subject of a January post.

The example I use most to express the changes in the societal norm is the playground, and a guy named Jack. My grade-school days go back to the late 50s. Jack was the stereo-typical bully and I was one of his many victims. Aggression was much more acceptable as a human trait then and Jack was our playground poster boy for aggression. Finally, after multiple years of his attacks on me – and my mom’s patient mantra of “you have to learn how to stand up to bullies Billy” – I finally made my stand. The net result was a bloody nose for me and my removal of the top of his knuckle with my teeth as he punched me in the face. And, a life free of his bullying from that day on. In school, well . . . . I got sent to . . . . the NURSE to stop the bleeding of my nose and Jack got a Band-Aid for his knuckle – and then we both got sent . . . . back to class! Because the administration – and the adults of that era – realized we all needed to learn how society worked in the clenches. Obviously, much has changed today. We would have been suspended – at the very least – because violence is simply unacceptable in today’s world.

There is only one problem with that whole thought – there ARE violent people. And, in the dark of the street at night, in the dark of your home at night, in the Quick-Trip after midnight – when they are intent on doing violence to you, your family or those around you – they are looking for victims. And we are creating them by the millions each and every day. The NRA has even gotten into the act with their “Refuse to be a Victim” courses – just to teach people not to let other folks crap on them. Really?? Is this what it has come to??

So let’s talk about why it’s a good thing for you to be VIOLENT!!

I’m going to chat about what I would call “normal violence” – the violence that a typical individual can be pushed into. I am not discussing the individual that’s a psychopath or sociopath that uses violence as their fuel – we will leave them for another day.

Every one has the ability to become violent – everyone. From the toddler that pitches their plate on to the floor – to the wife who has been beaten for the last time. Within our psyche there is a switch that, when thrown moves us from an individual taking punishment, taking abuse, taking our situation to a person willing to fight, willing to harm, willing to kill. While the wild-eye, full-on violent counter attack, in defense of your person may work as a last ditch effort, it brings with it significant risk because it is without thought, it is simply instinctual. Where the true value of violence comes from is in its focus and management.

Let’s start small and work up. A fist fight. Your “Jack” enters a discussion with you that rapidly gets out of hand. The next thing you know the fists are flying. Your body will naturally respond – your fists come up, fore-arms block, you crouch, widen your stance placing one foot slightly back for stability – all this really without thought. To end this threat you have two choices. First, defend, take the blows and wait for Jack to tire. This is risky, he may be stronger, have more endurance. He may lose all control, employ additional weapons and reach a decision to simply end you – rather than win the fight. If you allow yourself to lose focus, to not pay attention to his physical queues – dilated eyes, facial color, color of his ears, sound of his voice, content of his speech – you may wake up dead and never have seen him move from fighter to killer. Just because you have entered a physical conflict does not grant you the luxury of turning off your brain, turning on your defenses and hoping for the best - at least not if you want to see another sun rise, kiss your spouse or hold your child. A thinking fighter wins.

A more solid response, after acquiring a defensive stance, is to look for weaknesses, patterns, movements that will allow you to either escape – or allow you to put Jack down quickly and hard. Remember, escape guarantees survival – going on the offensive offers the possibility of survival, but it is no guarantee. Full disclosure – I am NOT trained in the martial arts. The ever lovely Mrs. B reminds me that she can “break by femur” with her Brown Belt in Tai-Kwan-Do. I have chosen not to test this statement – I suspect it’s a wise choice! However, in a fist fight I am confident I could get a quick strike to the wind pipe, a solid thumb in the eye, a good elbow to the ribs or a knee to the crotch. Given this particular situation, release your violence – but keep your brain engaged to look for opportunity. Is this easy to do? Nope, we have been so trained in non-violence over the past 40 years; we have multiple generations of sheeple running around all over the country. I am simply saying; don’t allow yourself to be part of this flock. Train, learn, fight your instructor and learn to allow your violence to serve you well.

Next level? Knife fight. Honestly, knives scare the crap out of me – period. They can disconnect tendons, let blood, sever windpipes and pierce vital organs with a simple ease and grace that is terrifying. My advice in this case – find a “force multiplier” quick. Make sure you “bring a gun to a knife fight” – and use it. When the Balloon Goes Up has been posting a number of scenarios lately. His latest involved a couple walking their dogs when they encounter a 3-person threat. One with a knife out, one near by for backup and a third standing off in a doorway. This is where practice, carrying your weapon, the ability to clearly communicate with your spouse can save the day. Three things make this a shoot first environment for me – a threat was issued by the fellow with a knife, a knife is drawn and is part of the threat and there are three of them. My suggestion – pass the dog lead to your spouse, MOVE and DRAW, shoot the threat with the knife until he is on the ground, KEEP MOVING, engage the others as required. While this is going on, the spouse should be dialing 911. Did I say KEEP MOVING towards safety?

I guess the main idea here is – again – be willing to do real violence, keep thinking, and keep moving. There are no guarantees other than the assurance that if you simply stand before a threat with a knife your day will not end well.

Final level – a gun fight. The very first rule of a gun fight – DON’T GET INTO ONE!!! Adopt Cooper’s Color Levels or the NRA’s Levels of Awareness as part of your life style. Scan, assess, and observe constantly, continuously – every day, all day.

Bring your damn gun!!! One-more-time: BRING YOUR DAMN GUN!! Enough said.

Gun fights typically (70%) follow the rule of 3: 3 rounds, 3 seconds, 3 meters. Can you get to your carry weapon and get off the first round in under 3 seconds? Down to 2 seconds?? In over 80% of the cases the shooter who gets the first hit wins. Practice, practice, practice.

Shoot the threat down. Draw your weapon, get the first hit, and the second, and the third, and . . . . . Until your attacker is down and unmoving on the ground – period!

MOVE!!! If you “stand and deliver” like at a typical range, you stand an 85% chance of taking a center mass hit – you are pretending to be a target. If you MOVE, that hit rate drops to 25%. MOVE and shoot, MOVE and reload, MOVE and find cover. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE . . . . .

You must be mentally, emotionally and physically willing to commit true violence – quickly and brutally. And do it while thinking, evaluating, moving, choosing . . . . .

Remember, in an existential threat environment, where your choice is a box or a sunrise, violence is truly your friend. Learn about it, experience it, embrace it . . . . this friend may someday save your life.