Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Training–“The Plan” . . . .


Growing up, Memorial Day was important in our community. The vets marched in WWII uniforms that still fit. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts followed with community floats bringing up the rear. We ended in the cemetery – speeches recounting the bravery of those below stones topped with small flags. Each grave was covered with freshly planted flowers that we all had lovingly planted. Myron – the guy who ran the nursery, always gave me a geranium for my dad’s grave that I could plant myself.

Once the ceremonies were done – the work began. Every grave we planted needed to be watered a couple times a week. There were a half dozen plots with 4 or more graves per plot – it took a good amount of time after supper. However, this particular year – the summer of 1965 – every chance I had I’d ask mom: “Wanna go water the flowers??” She’d smile, finish whatever task lay before her and say “Sure hunny, let’s go!” Off we would head, pails and water cans in the trunk. A hand pump was located in the center of the cemetery with a small network of dirt paths/roads that crisscrossed the main grounds of the cemetery. We would drive to the pump, fill the pails and watering cans and then head of to the family plots – one after the other. And . . . . that was my draw – I got to drive!! I got to practice before drivers ed began the end of June. And – bless her wonderful and loving heart – my mom “taught me the road”. Every once in a while she’d smile and say “Well kid, if you hit someone, I’m sure we can find a fresh hole somewhere.”

So, with this first step under my belt - “The Plan” that would lead me to my first driver’s license began. This was followed by a summer’s worth of classroom time and 300ish miles on the road under the watchful eyes of Mr. McQuarters.

I’m a “plan” kinda guy. Part of the enjoyment of learning something new or preparing for a trek/trip/paddle or looking to purchase something new – is the process of putting the plan and info together to help insure the success of the trip or that my money is wisely spent. Let’s take a paddle for example.

BWCA trips are fun, enjoyable but they can certainly be challenging – to the point of being fatal if you do something stupid. I love prepping gear lists, reviewing each and every piece of gear, repairing what needs it, putting it in its designated spot in my pack. It’s satisfying. Planning the route is equally so. I always start with Fisher maps. I pick the route, plot the proper heading departing each portage, picking the hoped-for campsite. I love the process.

How does this dial into firearms training? Well, there was a discussion on Kathy Jackson’s blog awhile back about selecting trainers and whether it was better to have a trainer who had “seen the elephant” or not. In my day it was called spending time in “injun country”. Regardless, a number of comments did a pretty good job of delving into this topic. And, it prompted me to think about how I have approached firearms training over the past 40+ years. Not surprisingly – it always boiled down to “The Plan”.

Whether it was firing the first shots of my dad’s bolt-action .410 or his semiautomatic 12guage shotgun under the careful eye of my mom. Or, whether it was the first shots fired on the rifle range at Lackland, learning the M60 at Pleiku, the .38 for range qualification or – fast-forward to the past handful of years taking the various NRA coursework to become an instructor and Training Counselor – there was always “The Plan”. Things that needed to be learned, courses of fire to be evaluated on, rules of engagement to learn, teaching methods to be learned – all incremental steps of “The Plan”.

So, let’s step outside of the classroom for a bit. Let’s not worry about the qualifications of specific instructors – whether they have real-world experience or a bunch of study, research and individual range work. Bottom line – instructors are stepping stones to take you along your own individual approach to “The Plan”. What is “your plan”? Perhaps some suggestions:

“The Basics”

The Words - Actually, that has become the focal point of this blog – sharing with you all “the basics”. This should begin with a thorough knowledge of the nomenclature of the weapons you plan on working with – handguns, rifles, shotguns, knives – whatever your weapon of choice is. It is impossible – IMNSHO – unless a common language is first established. (the on-going hoopla about “clips”, “magazines” “bullets” or “cartridges” comes to mind) Take the time to “learn the words”.

Safe Weapon Handling – Learn, internalize, and live by the four basic rules of firearm safety. If you don’t know them – there’s one of your first lessons to research and learn.

Basic Stance – Find a stance that works for you – whether Isosceles, Weaver or Modified-Weaver, find something that works. Work on this with dry fire, air soft or actual range time. A consistent and solid stance is an absolute necessity regardless of the type of shooting you’re going to be doing.

Sight Alignment – Sight Picture – Proper sight alignment is simply a must if you ever hope to hit your target. A solid Sight Picture insures that the work you do on sight alignment is well spent with “rounds on target”.

Trigger Press – is an art form all in itself. Nothing takes the place of range time/dry fire/ball and dummy drills – or LaserLyte drills. All of these help to insure you press the trigger straight to the rear with no effect what so ever on your Sight Alignment or Sight Picture.

Firearm Selection – This is the “final” initial step – selecting a handgun that you can use throughout your “education” as a new shooter. Take your time, shoot a number of different guns, build “The Plan” and then – and only then – choose your first handgun.

I call this section “The Basics”. These elements form the foundation – the roots – of your future development. You bypass them at your peril – and expense. It is one of the reasons I am so fond of the NRA Basic courses – Pistol, Rifle and Shotgun. They fill all of these “squares” very well. But, that said – they are BASIC courses, there is much more to learn.

Carrying a Weapon

This is the next step, especially when talking about handguns for personal perfection. You need to know how to carry a weapon comfortably, consistently and in such a way that it is fully concealed. I usually teach this in a two-step process. First, carry without concealment. This allows a person to work on their draw, magazine (or cylinder) reloads, clearing malfunctions. It enables the shooter to determine a holster they are willing to use each and every day, find a firearm they are willing to carry each and every day and it teaches them how to access it quickly to defend themselves. I find that teaching this without the added stress/hassle of teaching a concealed draw is helpful.

Step two is, indeed, doing all of the above, but from concealment. This involves finding a method of dressing that you are willing to adapt for your day-to-day “style” of dress. And, once that is selected – working with your weapon, holster, mag holders to enable you to quickly draw and engage a threat. The typical goal – 2 rounds, 2 seconds, 21 feet.

Beyond this, you can begin work on “focal point shooting” – enabling you to get rounds on target quicker – especially within the 15 foot range – while “getting off the x”.

Once this portion is “complete” – you would have completed the “2nd level” of training. By this time you’ll be comfortable with fulltime carry of your defensive weapon.


Short of actually getting into gunfights – and I would encourage you to avoid this – you need a way to polish these skills. One of the best ways to do this is via various types of competitions. Typical offerings are IDPA, USPSA, IPSC, Steel Shoots, 3-Gun, Trap, Skeet . . . . there is a wide range of opportunities to push your skills, to learn from other shooters and to just plane have fun! Competition should be an integral part of “The Plan” to make you a better shooter.

Annual Training

I honestly believe it’s a big mistake to complete just “The Basics” listed above and then just go to the range once in a while to send rounds down range. Please, consider an annual training somewhere in the US. There are the “biggies” – Gunsight, Thunder Ranch – that costs thousands but are staffed by some of the best shooters in the US. There is so much to learn there – with many shooters taking multiple trips throughout their life time.

There are also those that work on training specifically to help you defend your home better. Some work on rolling security – how to drive defensively, exit your car under fire or enter your car under fire for escape.

Some will teach room clearing techniques – others how to use cover and concealment better. There are those dedicated to shooting while moving. And, there are those that train snipers.

This leads to the development of “The Plan” for you – specifically. Why are you learning this skillset? Are you going to carry daily? Will you compete? Do you need a combined skill set – say pistol, rifle and shotgun? Only you know the answer to this. The advantage to “The Plan” is that it provides direction for you as you move forward. It exposes strengths as well as weaknesses. And, it allows you to conserve two of your scarcest resources (no – NOT ammo!!) – time and money.

So, take some time. Put some thought into it. Build “The Plan” that will take you where you want to go. Then – and only then – find instructors to get you there. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of skilled and dedicated instructors in the US to help you along your way. How can you possibly know where you’re going if you don’t have . . . .

“The Plan”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Training - Snowball Shoot . . . . Steel


Temps this morning when I work up . . . . around 5F.  Clear, Sunny – no wind!  Sounds like a great day to go to the range!!

Today was the day our Ikes chapter set for a “Snowball Steel Shoot”.   Why not.  It was from 2PM to 4PM, $10 fee, shoot as many rounds as you wish.

We only set up one stage – 2ea 8” rounds, 2ea 8”x10” plates and Red 8” round for the stop plate.  The layout was the 8” rounds at 30’ on the opposite edges of the range, the 8”x10” plates were at 60’ at 1/3 in from opposite sides of the range and the 8” Stop plate was dead center at 45’.  Nothing tricky, just a fun day trying to beat the clock.  It looked something like this:

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This is Jerry, one of our RSOs as timer and Doug shooting his first steel ever.  Photo by yours truly.

Couple changes coming to my range gear this year.  I’m switching to my Springfield 1911 for most my work.  I’ve gone the distance to purchase bullet molds and reloading gear to both make and reload my own rounds.  And, I have thousands of casings for .45 along with primers.  So, given the rarity of finding ammunition, especially .45 and .9mm – I’m going to make it myself.  I am still short dies for 9mm and only have 1,000 small pistol primers, so plan on concentrating on the .45 for this summer.  Should be fun . . . . I love learning new stuff!

My runs could have be so much better . . . heavy sigh.  Yet, first of the year and probably only the 3rd time I ran just the 1911.  Should improve with time.  In the interest of full disclosure here are my times:















Run 3 my gun just was not interested in running – one Failure to Feed, one Failure to fire and I needed a mag change.  Heavy sigh.  And Run 5 was essentially the same.  In chatting with one of the guys that just runs a 1911 it was determined I simply have not run enough rounds through this fella – around 300 or so.  We’re going to take care of that.

Otherwise, a fine time was had by all, everyone helped setup and tear down, everyone left with the same number of holes they came with and we introduced an old shooter to a new sport!  Our normal “season” begins the 2nd Tuesday of April . . . . can’t wait!!!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Training – Kill’emKill’emKill’em . . . . . .


Killing isn’t “easy”. It’s not “simple”. It’s not “natural” is the vast percentage of societies and social groups scattered across our planet. Nor should it be . . . . .

For the “professional” – the soldier, the law enforcement officer, the “special operator”, the “agent” – it may well be a part of their life, or at least it may be a real possibility that the day will come then they will be placed in a “kill or be killed” position that will require them to kill. And that is where I would like to spend my time today – those among us who have chosen to “protect and to serve” the citizens of our nation and their friends and neighbors.

Specifically I want to look at how they are trained to overcome the natural resistance we all have to taking a life. And, what does that mean to us – the people they have chosen to protect.

  • Kill: to deprive of life : cause the death of
  • Hesitate: 1: to hold back in doubt or indecision
  •                   2: to delay momentarily
  • Conditioning: a simple form of learning involving the formation, strengthening, or weakening of an association between a stimulus and a response

Prior to Vietnam – training soldiers to be proficient with their battlefield rifle (or pistol for that matter) involved traditional target shooting.


It looked something like this. In fact even to this day, if you watch the shooting competitions at Camp Perry – this is the style of target you will see. The shooter’s group is scored – best score for the entire competition wins. During marksmanship training on the range during WWI and WWII and Korea – the shooter “qualified” with a defined score indicating they had reached the minimum qualification score or were “marksmen” or “experts” or whatever classification the specific service chose to award the shooter indicating they were qualified to take their battlefield rifle to the field, into the trenches or the foxhole or the city and kill the enemy. The only rub was . . . . they didn’t. Interviews of soldiers after the war indicated that even in the case where a soldier had a clear shot at an exposed enemy soldier – only 1 in 5 actually took the shot. 80% let their enemy pass unharmed.

While their skillset to accurately hit a small area at a significant distance improved and was more than adequate to the task – their hesitation on the field of battle insured that in 80% of the cases – a shot was never taken. While they had the skill to Kill, they were not conditioned to kill. Their conditioning had failed – so the military went to work on that.

By the time I found myself on the range and getting my first introduction to the M-16 – things had changed. Gone was the “marksmanship” target – replaced by the Silhouette.


For virtually my entire career – when I went to the range – this was the target I shot. No rings, no “bulls eye”, no center dot. Simply a form that resembled a person at distance – the center mass of their body, distinct shoulders and a head. It was distinguishable as a man – not a “target”, but a man. If memory serves minimum qualification was 80/100 rounds within the body. Expert was 100/100. Shot placement was defined as rounds to the body or rounds to the head. As a shooter you were shooting an enemy combatant – not a sheet of paper. We were being conditioned to engage another human. Natural barriers were being slowly sanded away. In “my war” – Vietnam, this training had a clear effect. As opposed to only 20% of the soldiers firing on their enemy (80% firing not a single shot), 95% of the soldiers in Vietnam fired on enemy soldiers. Think about that change – from 20% engagement to 95% engagement. The internal barriers that the WWII soldiers experienced had been diminished enough that there was a 75% improvement in willingness to engage the enemy.

Training on targets that looked like people at a distance reduced our hesitation and conditioned us to engage enemy soldiers much more easily and frequently. It didn’t do much for accuracy however. It took over 52,000 rounds fired on the battlefield to get a single hit on VC or NVA soldier. So, we were willing to shoot . . . we just couldn’t hit much.

With the initiation of the GWOT – training of the shooter again changed. While not a “uniform” – the enemy bore similar characteristics in their style of dress and specific weapons used. The form of combat changed as well – elephant grass, rice paddies and thatch huts were exchanged for a near desert environment, walled compounds and homes made of mud and poor quality cement. Engagements went from up-close and personal jungle attacks to urban settings with compound/room/house clearing the norm. Put these new requirements together – and targets like this emerged.

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Targets clearly depicted humans, clothed in similar manner with the weapons of choice of our current enemy. While range work is still part of basic training – training for final deployment has moved to training “communities” complete with shoot houses that enable a soldier to experience entering a compound/house/room and clearing it of enemy. Of killing them. Their skillset now included near-instant weapons identification and evaluation of the level of threat and the need to kill or not. Again – they are being conditioned or reduce their hesitation to shoot. It is a fine line . . . . it certainly increases their chance of survival – yet it also increases the possibility of a friendly fire incident that can just as easily cause the death of a civilian as well. Not judging here – war is war . . . . I understand that. I am focused on the result of this type of training – a reduction of hesitation to kill (probably a GOOD thing in the overall scheme of things) and a conditioning of the soldier to kill individuals that fit specific visual profiles.

Let’s move to training of today’s Law Enforcement Officers. Long gone are the “peace officers” of my day with his revolver, 12-gauge and possibly a Winchester carbine. The LEO of today is highly militarized. They wear body armor, carry a high-capacity handgun that is typically either a .40cal or 9MM with defensive ammunition designed to expand quickly, create significant damage yet remain within the body of the threat. Most I know carry a minimum of two spare magazines as well. Their squad car typically is equipped with a tactical 12guage and many also have an AR-15 carbine – again with multiple high-capacity magazines.

Their training has also changed – following the example of their military counterparts. Targets now mirror typical threats.

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Targets are engaged at distance typical of real-life encounters – 30ft, 21ft or 9ft. The marksmanship target has been replaced by humans that “look” like a bad guy, have a weapon and may well have a hostage in-hand. Add to this training in live-fire shoot houses and force-on-force training and the average LEO is exposed to some very creative and effective training that greatly increases his possibility of survival.

However – there are also real issues that need to be directly and forcefully addressed in this type of training where a LEO is operating within the confines of a community – NOT a battlefield. (OK, it would be hard to tell in some cities.) My specific concern is that the officer’s hesitation to shoot, his need to actually determine the full situation before engaging is being “conditioned” OUT of the officers. Three different instances for your consideration.

First – the POST training I took a few weekends ago. One of the scenarios was a hostage situation that involved moving from one set of cover to another and then engaging the hostage taker while leaving the hostage unharmed. We were on an open range – the target was clearly visible prior to each shooters run. I’m pretty pleased to say I left the hostage unharmed (and put 3 rounds in the center of the hostage taker’s head)  while a number of LEOs worked on the speed of their movement and engagement only to put three rounds center mass . . . . on the hostage.

Second – an incident in Texas. A home is invaded, the husband grabs his weapon and shoots the invader while his wife calls 911. The entire call is recorded by the 911 operator. The wife – and husband – yell at the 911 operator to make sure the arriving police know that he is the one with the gun, that he is holding the gun on the fellow that broke into their home. The police arrive – see the homeowner holding the gun on the invader . . . . . and shoot him multiple times. After they realize their error . . . . they conspire over their comm system to put forth a story that the homeowner pointed his weapon at them and they “had” to shoot him. Their mistake . . . . EVERYTHING WAS RECORDED. Rather than determining the facts – they shot first. It did not end well for them.

Last story (I promise) – a friend of mine is a member of a police force. Part of their training is hostage rescue. They practice the above scenario with force-on-force airsoft weapons. The result – the good guy has a better than even chance of winding up dead.

These instances (an many, many, many more) should act as a reminder to our Law Enforcement community – there is not a ground war within the borders of the US. Dangerous areas – yes. Ground war – NO. Training MUST take this into account . . . . and LEOs must be as accountable for their actions as the citizens they are tasked to protect.

Which brings me to the impetus for this post – a new set of targets from my favorite supplier of targets - “Law Enforcement Targets”. They have a new product line out called “No More Hesitation”. They are specifically designed to further reduce an officers hesitation to engage and shoot a target. Honestly, I find the targets disturbing . . . .

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I realize that there are “atypical” threats that LEOs must train to handle. Still, I have to question why these human form factors were chosen. With the exception of the child – I can think of any number of reasons a pregnant woman, a grandpa, a grandma or a single woman may point a weapon at a perceived threat. I realize that there is a whole scenario that is probably scripted before the officer got to the point of shooting any of these “threats” – but still I find myself concerned about the idea of NO MORE HESITATION. I call bullshit. In a community environment – I want plenty of hesitation. I realize that places the officer at a higher level of risk – I see that as part of the job. If it frightens them – go sell insurance. If there is NO MORE HESITATION, if a pregnant woman, a grandpa, a grandma, a young woman are today’s threats . . . . where the hell are we headed?? I also wonder how police officers would feel if civilians trained on targets that looked like a tacked-up LEO?? Frankly, if this is some of the thinking going on it today’s law enforcement community – the citizens of our community’s better get clear real quick what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Going back to the very beginning – it should never be easy to kill, never be easy to take a life, never be easy to put two rounds center mass . . . . . it may be necessary, but it should never be easy. Conditioning of our LEOs to make it so . . . . bothers me . . . .

For those who have not read Lt. Col. David Grossman’s book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.  I strongly urge you to do so. You are learning a skillset that may well require you to kill someone. There are consequences . . . . and they should be considered well ahead of such an event.

Remember . . . . YOU are responsible for every round.

YOU are responsible for drawing your weapon.

YOU are ACCOUNTABLE for the result . . . .

However, your threat is responsible for what finally happens to them . . . .

Train – keep your head in the game . . . . and be willing to do what is necessary to survive.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review – NRA Basic Pistol 2/17/2013


This past Sunday’s course was quite a change from last month!  Temps were in the upper teens with little to no wind . . . . as opposed to last month’s 8 degrees and 15+ MPH wind.  Things are moving in the right direction!!

And, a much smaller class this time – 6 folks signed up with two of those having a last minute change in plans, so only 4 folks in the class.  Ah well.

All guys this time.  That, at times, can prove “challenging”.  There’s something about guys and guns . . . . we feel bad if we don’t know everything about them.  And, we are sometimes tempted to “BS” our way through.  Gratefully – that was NOT the case this time.  I had Ted, Theodore, Dennis and Wayne show up for the day with their attitude definitely in the right spot! 

All but Wayne are, what I would call, shooters.  Ted and Theodore (father and son) are big black powder guys – including flintlock pistols and rifles.  Dennis’s father was a LEO so he has had a life time of exposure to handguns.  Wayne is new to this skillset.  That said, all four jumped in, asked questions, listened, talked and did great on the range.  Honestly, regardless of class size or male/female mix – you just can’t ask for more than that!

Thanks for comin’ guys! You all did great!!!





Friday, February 15, 2013

Just the Basics – Ears


We experience our world through our five senses – Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight and Hearing. They allow our bodies to orient themselves, to protect themselves and provide a defined connection to the world and the people around us. Without them – we are but a bag of meat. With them . . . . I’m “Bill”.

The loss of any one of them diminishes our level of integration. A blind person loses the ability to identify people, places or things by “eye” so they will switch to identification by sound or smell or touch.

An individual who has lost the sense of touch – perhaps through stroke or accident – relies much more heavily on sight to determine their physical location and orientation.

A loss of smell affects our ability to taste as well – creating a bland and “grey” world as we take nourishment while losing the enjoyment of varied tastes.

Finally – our sense of sound allows us to identify friend or foe, enjoy the melody of our favorite song or the voice of the one we love.

As shooters – we place two of our senses in harm’s way every time we visit the shooting range, our sight and our hearing.

We’ve discussed the protection of our sight in the past.    A malfunctioning weapon, an unfortunate ricochet, an errant casing ejected from our weapon can easily damage our sight. “Eyes” are simply a must EVERY TIME YOU STEP ON THE RANGE!!

So let’s chat about our hearing. A quick review of just how we hear might be useful.


The Ear Flap is that combination of skin and cartilage that we typically call our “ear”. Yet, it is but a small part of the overall sensor. Its primary purpose is to gather sound waves and funnel them down the Ear Canal.

The Ear Canal is a channel to the primary hearing sensor components – the Ear Drum, the Hammer, the Anvil and the Stirrup. These are very fragile components and during the development of our bodies, they migrated deep into our skull – protected by skin and fat and muscle and bone. The combination of the Ear Flap and Ear Canal insure that the gathered sounds find their way to these sensors.

As the sound waves travel down the Ear Canal they encounter the Ear Drum creating vibrations in this thin, taught membrane of skin. This is one component that can become damaged over time by repeated exposure to high levels of sound, by repeated infection or by rapid changes in pressure.

Attached to the opposite of the Ear Drum is the Hammer. It transfers the physical vibration of the Ear Drum to the Anvil which then transfers it to the Stirrup. Finally, the Stirrup is attached to the Cochlea. This is a fluid filled sensor with an attached nerve bundle – the Auditory Nerve. As the vibrations of the Ear Drum are transferred through the Stirrup the fluid that fills the Cochlea receive these vibrations. They are detected by the Auditory Nerve and transferred to the brain for interpretation and final conversion to the “sounds” that we “hear”. The Cochlea performs one additional function for us – it provides us with “balance”. There are small hairs – cilia – that line the inside of the Cochlea. As we move, the fluid within the Cochlea also moves inducing motion of the cilia. This movement is also captured by the Auditory Nerve that is also transferred to the brain for interpretation of “which way is up”.

You’ll note that the components “inside” of the Ear Drum are a “sealed” system. This means that the pressure from one side of the Ear Drum to the other can encounter significant differences. Think how your ears “pop” as you rise in an aircraft. The differential pressure between the “outside” and the “inside” is increasing. Yawning or swallowing or chewing gum act to equalize this pressure. What really happens is that your Eustachian Tube is used to equalize this pressure through your open mouth. This is a protection your body provides to insure that your Ear Drum doesn’t rupture during a rapid change in pressure.

So now that we have reviewed how we hear – how do we lose this ability??

Well – illness, disease and age are common causes of hearing loss. However, as shooters we are at additional risk of hearing loss through repeated exposure to high levels of noise. For comparison – let’s look as some typical noises and their “levels” – typically measured in a unit-of-measure called the “db”.

Painful Noise:
150 dB = Rock Concerts at Peak
140 dB = Firearms, Air-Raid Siren, Jet Engine
130 dB = Jackhammer
120 dB = Jet Plane Take-off, Car Stereo, Band Practice
Extremely loud:
110 dB = Machinery, Model Airplanes
100 dB = Snowmobile, Chain saw, Pneumatic Drill
90 dB = Lawnmower, Shop Tools, Truck Traffic, Subway
Very loud:
80 dB = Alarm Clock, Busy Street
70 dB = Vacuum Cleaner
60 dB = Conversation, Dishwasher
50 dB = Moderate Rainfall
40 dB = Quiet room
30 dB = Whisper, Quiet Library

As you can see – most of the time the average sound levels around us rest in the 50-60 db levels. Short duration elevations – while possible painful – will have little long-term effect on our ability to hear. However, frequent or prolonged levels above 70 db provide a prime opportunity for hearing loss. For those of us who make frequent trips to the range run a real risk of severe and permanent hearing loss. Hence the frequent cry heard on shooting ranges . . . .


“Ears” will typically consist of three types of hearing protection:


Simple foam plugs. These are pushed past the Ear Flap and into the Ear Canal. Their simple purpose is to absorb some of the high-amplitude sound waves and attenuate their level before they reach the Ear Drum and damage it. These are cheap, usually “OK” for a single use but should not be considered as a long-term solution.


Ear Muffs surround the Ear Flap. They are filled with sound-dampening foam and act to attenuate the sound before it reaches the Ear Flap. Variations on this type of hearing protection will provide you with the best long-term solution for hearing protection on the shooting range. And, for very large caliber weapons, a combination of a simple Foam Plug AND Ear Muffs will go a long way to insure you will be hearing just fine well into the future.


Amplified Ear Muffs are the best of both worlds. They contain an electronic system that uses external microphones to pick up the conversations of those around you and yet, at the first indication of a gunshot, the electronically turn off the microphones and provide you a full level of protection for your hearing. I find their only downfall is that I consistently forget to turn off the amplifiers in them and I drain the batteries. Still, they are great for the range when you want to carry on a conversation without having to remove your ear protection to hear the other person.

There’s a reason everyone hears “EARS!!!” on the range – take care of your hearing. Once it’s gone . . . . it’s gone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Commentary - From Dust You Came . . . .


“From dust you came . . . . and to dust you shall return.”

From Dust You Came

It’s Ash Wednesday again . . . . my 62nd as a matter of fact. As with last year’s post, I suspect many would find commentary on Ash Wednesday a bit out of place on a blog dedicated to training folks in the use of a weapon to defend themselves. Yet, to me coming to “terms” with the idea that we are mortal and limited in our understanding of how the world, the universe works and our place in it pushes me to examine my faith a bit deeper.

In the Catholic tradition, on Ash Wednesday a person’s forehead is marked with the ashes of the previous year’s palm fronds from Palm Sunday. Some parishes even make burning them part of the tradition of the Mass. Our parish has done that from time to time, not this evening.

After the Gospel reading and the Homily we process to the front of the church to receive our ashes. I was one of those who placed ashes on the forehead of our parishioners. It was accompanied by the phrase “From dust you came . . . and to dust you shall return”. They are our reminder to each other that this life is temporary, simply mere seconds in the ultimate journey of our existence.

I continue trying to figure out the “whys” of my faith – the reason for Christ’s birth, the real reason for his death, the mystery of his resurrection . . . . there’s a life’s journey of thought, learning, acceptance and more right there. A few years ago I participated in what our Diocese calls “Lay Formation” – the preparation for the laity to become more involved in the church. As part of this 3-year journey one of the elements was to discern my particular Charism – my specific talent of faith within the church. Honestly, it did not come as much of a surprise when it was revealed that my Charism is . . . Faith. That is my gift to use within the church and my life.

Seems like such a big task . . . .

But, I’m workin’ on “it”. And the 40 days of Lent provide yet another opportunity to set aside time each day for reflection, for discerning my place in the universe, the church and within God’s plan.

As for our place – as individuals who have chosen to take up arms – physically, take up arms – to defend ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities from the evil that does, indeed, exist – time spent in prayer, reflection and worship helps insure that we stay true to our ideals.

I would encourage you all, for the next 40 days, set aside 15 minutes a day to have a conversation with Him. He knows you, He loves you, He hears you. 15 minutes to refresh your spirit, refresh your soul and to refresh your relationship with Him.

Remember . . . .

“From dust you came . . . . and to dust you shall return.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review – Tactical Handgun 2/9/2013


This past weekend saw Saturday (February 9th, 2013) set aside for a training course hosted by Armed Missouri and conducted by Gauntlet Professional Services. The title of the course was Tactical Handgun and was conducted by their primary instructor – Jeff Dill (more on staff in a bit). The short version of this AAR is that it was a great course – clear and measurable goals, solid training plan, good briefings before each exercise, knowledgeable staff, good staff/shooter ratio and a consistent “flow” to the entire day. At $120 for the day, the price point on this level of training was exceptional. For me, this was time (total of 3 days – two days travel and two nights in a motel) and money well spent. Thanks to Chris of AMI and Jeff of GPS for the invite and a great course. OK – that’s the short version, let’s talk about the “meat”.

So many courses attach the work “Tactical” to their course thinking . . . . what??? They can charge more? We all get to run round in “Tactical” clothing and do “Tactical” things?? I knew I liked Jeff right out of the box when he approached the word “Tactical” and what it meant in the context of this course . . . . it meant THINK!!!!! You, as a shooter, are responsible for EVERY ROUND you send down range. Regardless of the situation, you damn well better be thinking about your “tactics”. Which threat are you engaging? Why? Is there a hostage? Are there more than one threat in the room? Can you do the “basics” (headshot on the hostage taker)? Is every draw safe and quick? Are you aware of your surroundings and your team mates? And on . . . . and on . . . . and on . . . . Your “tactics”, your “Tactical” approach to the situation before you will determine the outcome – pine box or arms of your spouse . . . . it’s that simple. “Tactical Handgun” – how to best use your handgun as your primary weapon while engaging single/multiple threats . . . . all while your head is FULLY ENGAGED. Jeff was very clear, up front and during the run-through of each and every drill what the objective was, round count, direction of movement (if necessary) and what the expectation of the drill was. This is simply key to any instruction – period. If the lead instructor has no idea where the hell he/she is going . . . . there is real opportunity for things to go sideways in a hurry.

The next thing I look for is staff. Having not met these folks before, I do what everyone else does – scour their website. There were three folks there – Jeff (lead instructor), Michelle (EMT, course manager, RSO and photographer when she could sneak in a picture or two) and Derrick (RSO). A thing to note here on staffing level – 7 shooters, 3 staff, a good ratio! When you have a course with a high round count (around 400 rounds for me) with movement and all sorts of opportunity for things to go sideways – 3 sets of eyes watching the shooters is a very good thing. And, they were “active”. With me specifically Michelle corrected a foot position while I was kneeling and Derrick caught a thumb position error I made while switching shooting hands from left to right that could have easily messed my thumb up! Eyes, eyes, eyes . . . . are good things.

Also, Michelle brought to the table her position as a licensed and active EMT – again almost a must when you have a course with high round count, movement and multiple opportunities for things to go sideways.

Finally, you need a lead instructor that is “in charge”. No, not like the DI on the range but firm, clear headed, clear on his/her direction that can communicate clearly, directly and make honest assessments of your ability, things you need to work on and things you do well. Jeff was a solid professional in all of these areas.

Next, a look at the course and its content. Honestly, the first thing that caught my eye in Chris’s invitation to the course was the price-point. Hey, I’m as frugal as anyone and a full day course for $120 had my attention. Next was the course content – here’s a link. While any company can slap anything they want on a web page – the fact that it was POST certified for law enforcement in Missouri indicated that it had been reviewed and approved for continuing education for LEOs in Missouri. Again, a “plus” when I evaluated the course.

The content was also indicative of a skillset law enforcement and serious defensive shooters are interested in – combat accuracy, clearing malfunctions, movement, methods of retreat, transitions from carbine to handgun, single and multiple threats, deliberate room entry with a partner, what I call “cognition drills” – you shoot the “numbers” on the targets with a specified round count. All of these elements are skills that need work and evaluation if you are depending on them to save your life or the lives of family and friends. Courses that let you “make holes” hold little value. Courses that push, expect, demand allow you to grow as a shooter is where I would encourage ou to spend your time and money. Such was the Tactical Pistol course offered by GPS.

Attitude – one of the cornerstones of NRA courses, yet really a corner stone of any course and the staff of that course. I’ve had plenty of “hard asses” on military ranges. I suspect it’s because it’s just “expected”. However, in the civilian market, there is a line that must be walked between what I will call “firm” and being a jerk. All three staff members were clear, consistent, direct, “firm” and professional. Each drill was fully explained, practiced dry and then executed multiple times “hot”. Their attitude promoted excellence and their expectations brought every shooter up a bit.

All in all – GPS provided exactly the type of course and environment that I like to work/train it, and I truly appreciated it.

The Course:

Make a list – see here – and take the damn list!!! It would have been oh-so tempting to skip the cold weather components since it was “going to be near 60!!!” I’ve spent the past 4 weeks in a bit of a deep freeze and just the hope of warm weather could have easily led me to leave out the UnderArmor long-johns and heavy wool socks, the lightweight fleece and gloves. Fortunately, I have been around the block a number of times . . . . the list is the damn list!! I took it all.

8AM . . . . Saturday . . . . cloudy . . . . 32 degrees . . . . heavy sigh. If it topped 40 in any significant way I’d be shocked!! Midafternoon saw a pretty good breeze come up as the sun began to dip. By the end of the course – 5PM – it slipped past chilly. It’s the first course in the past few years that I shot with gloves the whole day. And, with UnderArmor long-johns, wool socks and a fleece . . . I stayed in the “comfy zone”.

There was a wide range of drills – from basic marksmanship to a deliberate entry drill with a partner into a room with 4 shooters. Interesting, good skills to practice and lots of meat to think about moving forward.

At the end of the course each shooter was presented with a full POST evaluation on 20 or so specific skills – from draws to movement to combat effective hits and more. A little back-slappin’ . . . I scored highest marks across the board. Pretty happy with my performance.

On a personal note, I’ve been really working on my weight (don’t we all???) and have dropped 32 pounds to date. That had a real effect on my ability to move and get down on my knees for low knee, high knee and double knee drills. Last year this time I would have just squatted. This year, with some awesome knee pads that will see their own review over the next few weeks, I performed all drills with little discomfort. I’ll take that as heading in the right direction!

Photos and videos. I used my Contour2 for videos and I was very happy with the videos. I will add those to this review sometime this week. Until then, Chris of AMI has posted a pretty good assortment here.   Still . . . here’s a couple of mine.

Hostage shot – pretty happy here, 3 round in the head, one miss low and left.  None in the victim!  I’ll take it!!

Hostage Shot

Deliberate Entry – me on the right.

deliberate entry

So . . . . good course, solid curriculum, good instruction, professional staff . . . . and a fun day learning/practicing/shooting . . . . a fine time was had by all! Given the opportunity, there is much value it GPS’s Tactical Pistol course. It’s well worth your time and money!

Thanks again to Jeff, Michelle and Derrick – I appreciate your efforts!  And Chris . . . thanks for the invite!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Training - The LaserLyte Range


It’s been no secret that I’m fond of my LaserLyte rounds and time on my indoor “range”.  With my Tactical Pistol course coming up Saturday – and not wanting to make a fool of myself – I’ve been working my draw quite a bit this week on a clean draw stroke with a sub-2 second par time.  I thought I’d prep a quick “target’s eye view” of what this process looks like.

  • Weapon:  Glock17
  • Holster:  Blackhawk IWB Leather
  • Distance:  Reduced size IDPA target simulating 21 feet
  • Timer:  And Android timer app set for a par time of 2 seconds
  • Stance:  Modified Weaver, 2-hand, full extension

As they say . . . . . “Let’s go to the tape!”

LaserLyte Indoor Range 5 Rounds 2-7-13

Nothing tricky here.  I want a clean draw stroke, single hand only, 2-hand, full extension and a part time under 2 seconds.  My standard goal is 80% combat effective hits. 

Not a bad way, IMNSHO, to polish your skills.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Training – What’s your life worth???


TheBoy: Hey dad, what ya doin’ tomorrow??

I smell a trap here . . . .

Me: I have some meetings until about noon . . . . what ya need???

TheBoy: Can you drive up in the van and help me take our old carpet to the land fill?? Please??

He and his fiancĂ©e had recently replaced old carpet with a new laminate floor and she was getting a bit antsy to have it gone from their porch . . . . . not sure why, it’s only been a couple of months . . . .

Me: Sure, will call you when I’m on the way tomorrow.

Various meetings fill my Saturday morning and finally, just afternoon, I’m headed north. Within 15 minutes of their home I call . . . .

Me: Almost there bud, gear up and off we go . . . .

TheBoy: MMMmmmm – OK. Say, made a bit of a mistake when I looked for the landfill in Waterloo . . . . I looked up Waterloo, ONTARIO.

On – frickin’ – TARIO?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

TheBoy: But the one in Waverly is open until 4PM, can we go there???

Well, given that Waterloo, ON-frickin’-TARIO is 11 hours away, a 25 minute drive is lookin’ pretty good. So I say “no problem” – we load the old carpet in the back of the van – and off we go.

I enjoy my time with TheBoy – he’ll be 24 in a few months and is turning into a solid man. Our conversations are on equal footing now-a-days rather than a Father/Son posture. And, he reads the old man’s blog so he earns a few points right there!!

TheBoy: I liked your posts on Gloves. But you really need to do one on “What’s your life worth.”

So we chat about that on the way to the landfill. His take revolves on selection of a reliable weapon to defend yourself and I gotta say I’m pleased with how he has thought this out, his considerations and his own personal decisions as to the weapon he’s chosen to defend himself and his bride-to-be.

TheBoy: Yep pops, you gotta write that one some time . . . . .

Perhaps I do . . . . .

What, exactly, is your life worth?? There are many ways to compute “value” for an individual – let’s walk through a couple of them.

Biological Value: You can look at the value of your body for simply the value of it’s minerals and the “leather” that could be made from your skin. Your body’s breakdown is roughly as follows:

  • 65% Oxygen
  • 18% Carbon
  • 10% Hydrogen
  • 3% Nitrogen
  • 1.5% Calcium
  • 1% Phosphorous
  • 0.35% Potassium
  • 0.25% Sulfur
  • 0.15% Sodium
  • 0.15% Chlorine
  • 0.05% Magnesium
  • 0.0004% Iron
  • 0.00004% Iodine

The value of the minerals in your body would be around $1.50. Your leather?? At $.25 per square foot, you can add another $3. Let’s round it up to $5. So there ya go, you’re physical value is a “fiver” . . . .

Spare Parts: How about the “junk car” approach – organ harvesting. Lot’s of “meat” there. (sorry, couldn’t resist) In today’s world, lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys, bone marrow, bone, stool, skin, arteries, eye lenses and corneas, blood, plasma all can find value on “the street”. A 2011 segment on NRP rang up an inventory accounting of a value of $250,000 for the author’s individual body components. So, should your loved one be so inclined . . . . a cool quarter-mil could be added to their bank account by simply choppin’ you up!

Earning Capacity: Today, in 2013 the median age of the average American is approximately 35 years old. In 2011 the Social Security Administration estimated the average income of an American was approximately $43,000. Assuming that you are 35 years old and work to age 70, you earning capacity is a tad over $1.5 Million dollars. Perhaps this is how you should value your life.

The Soldiers Sacrifice: We’ve all heard the stories – grenade – buddy – body . . . . a supreme sacrifice made in an instant of mortal threat. A soldier chooses to value his body in terms of lives saved. His/her life measured against a fellow soldier’s ability see their children, another sunrise, to hold a wife or parent or lover. Their true value is their buddy’s life. “No greater love hath a man than to give their life for another . . .”

A life lived: Perhaps the simplest “value” is the value of a life lived. Meet Peter and Margaret.

Peter and Margaret

In 2004 my wife received an invitation to a birthday party . . . . for Peter . . . . his 200th. When seen in the scheme of things, this is a virtual sliver of humanity. But, still, a distinct, finite starting point that is fixed and measurable. From these two individuals have emerged over 5,000 direct decedents. Take this couple away – say an accident during a day’s trip by horse and buggy – and 5,000 souls disappear from existence. As we scanned through our “relation” one notable person that I remember is a member of the 1980 Olympic hockey team. It’s very odd to look at the trunk, branches, twigs and leaves of this family tree and realize that the “value” of Peter and Margaret can be measured by 5,000 lives lived – and all that goes with such a thing.

A life ended: It was one of “those” 2AM calls – the kind you instantly know you don’t want to answer yet you must. It’s Ronnie’s wife on the phone – my step brother’s wife. “Bill, your mom’s been in the hospital for the past 8 hours – she had a heart attack and the treatments for it lead to a massive stroke. She’s on life support. You need to come home so we can let her go.” A 45 second conversation – and a life ended. All too suddenly I am walking into her room, her husband Harold weeping in the corner. Mom will be the third wife he will bury – all friends/acquaintances of my mom and father. We say little – there is nothing to say. We agree, give the nod to the doctor and silence fills the room as the ventilator is turned off. I’m holding her hand as a nurse leans over – “Talk to her, they say the hearing is the last of the senses to stop.” So I say goodbye – thank her for the love she showed me – tell her I’ll see her again . . . . And in this final goodbye her value is apparent . . . our life together, our shared love . . . . nothing monetary, just her “being”.

The value of a gun:  Whether you look at your base elements, body parts, progeny . . . . you DO have value. You are worth defending – your family is worth defending. Given that . . . . . what are you defending them with? I have no problem with “grandpa’s gun” – provided it is functional and reliable.    Or a used gun in your favorite dealer’s case. Or your buddy’s weapon that they just want to get rid of. The actual “cost” of the weapon truly means little – it is all about function and reliability.  And – that you carry your gun each and every day – without fail!

The value of training: In the world of personal defense – training is the central element that decides if you go home at the end of the encounter or if you’re “carried by six” after a solemn service by your favorite pastor. Your inability to draw your weapon, your inability to put combat effective rounds on a threat, your inability shoot and move – will get you killed. Period. The bottom-line value of training?? You get to go home at the end of the day . . . .

So just what is this “personal defense” going to cost me – other than my life if I don’t take it serious. Some estimates:

  • Handgun                           $500
  • Extra Mags (3)                 $100
  • Holster                               $60
  • Belt                                     $50
  • Mag Holder                        $30
  • Eyes, Ears,Cap                 $60
  • Range Bag is gear            $100
  • “Basic” Training                 $150
  • Ammo                                  $800
  • First Year Base Costs   $1,850
  • Annual Training                  $400
  • Annual Ammo                    $800
  • Annual Costs                    $1,200

So there ya go - $1,200 to “keep your edge” throughout the year, to prepare for those 3-seconds no one ever wants to experience, to do your best to insure you are ready to protect yourself, your family or your friends should the need arise.

What’s your life worth?????