Friday, January 31, 2014

Training – First Aid / Combat Trauma


First Aid Kits – FAKs, “Blow Out Kits” – BOKs, and any number of alternate acronyms reflecting kits used to respond quickly in the case of an injury from as simple as a slide pinch to a round through the femoral artery have been written about, pondered over, “invented” over and over and over. I’m no slouch here – I’ve done my part as well . . .

Just the Basics – Your Boo Boo Kit

Survival – Your Blow-Out Kit (BOK)

These posts detail what I carry in my own personal kits. During the day they are each clipped to the headrest behind my seat in the Jeep. When I go to the range, they’re clipped to my range bag – ALWAYS, EVERY TIME, WITHOUT FAIL.

That said, you can have all the “cool kid” toys, Quick Clot gauze, Ace bandages, blister kits, band aids, tourniquets, and a whole host of other gear, disposables and nifty crap . . . but if you have no idea how to employ those items to help the person in need . . . why have a kit at all??

One of the things you MUST have on your training list is sound first aid training from an experienced professional. And there are a broad range of resources available to provide such training.

Combat Lifesaving Training

War, conflict, combat has done more to develop lifesaving, immediate response first aid than any other stimulus. And our success rate has skyrocketed. If you view battle field KIA statistics from the civil war, through WWI, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and finally our current GWOT – our death toll has been steadily declining. I realize that much has to do with up-armored equipment (heck, my UP ARMOR was a couple sandbags or a cast-off flack vest to sit on). But, many potential KIA have been converted to survivors through the immediate use of field proven BOKs and men/women trained to use them. While to name count on the Vietnam memorial numbers over 55,000, after nearly 13 years of war, the KIA count for all allied forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan are under 8,000 as of the date of this article. This says a lot about today’s technology and the medical training of our troops in the field.

This has lead a broad range of companies offering you, the shooter the same type of training our military in the field receive as part of their training in the military. A Google search for “tactical trauma courses” will provide you with a good starting point in your search for training in and around your area.

The pricing for this course work will run from the low $200s to the high $300s. Their value . . . they can give you another day with your family or allow you to save one of your family members or friends.

American Red Cross Courses

While I view these courses are great for the shooter, the reality is that you may well want to train for a broader range of First Aid incidents. There is another resource I would like you to consider as a starting point – the American Red Cross.

Their First Aid/CPR/AED course should be a must for every family member. Time will vary based on the number of components you take, but the entire course can usually be completed in a single day or a couple of evening sessions. Costs vary from spot to spot but I would expect it to be less than $100. You are provided with a certification certificate and are granted access to on-line recertification when yours expires at no additional charge.

Their more advanced First Aid course is a multi-day Wilderness First Aid. This gives you a broad range of training on everything from hyperthermia to handling a compound fracture to setting a tourniquet in the event of a damaged artery. It is this course that I see a lot of cross over with the tactical trauma courses and, in many cases, it provides a broader range of training as well. Costs here are typically under $200 for the two day course.

Both of these courses require on-going training to keep the certifications and it is well worth your time to do so.


Self-study in the arena of First Aid is the same as in any other . . . fully dependent on the individuals drive, discipline and desire to learn and be proficient in that particular skill set.

It takes work. It takes effort. It takes time.

It can save your life, you child’s life, your spouse’s life or your best friend’s life.

The following are a couple of links to downloadable PDF materials that should be on your computer and on your smartphones.

Combat Lifesaver Course: Student Self Study

This is the entire Combat Lifesaver Course complete with tests and answers to the questions. THIS IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A FACE-TO-FACE TRAINING COURSE. But, it is a darn good refresher and a darn good supplement to course work listed above.

US Army Special Forces Medical Handbook

723 pages of medical practices, procedures and first aid provided to our Special Forces troops who are, many times, far out of reach of immediate medical assistance. Again, this is NOT A REPLACEMENT for face time, but it is a great supplemental self-study material. (Click the PDF link to the left and then save it to your computer)

Survival and Austere Medicine

Written and Edited by The Remote, Austere, Wilderness and Third World Medicine Discussion Board Moderators

There are a broad array of professionals who spend time in Third World Countries. I’ve made a fair number of trips to Haiti over the years and traveled to some of their more remote villages. While communications is much better (a SAT phone once allowed me to connect with my own doctor to help a young woman out), the availability of immediate care is oft times found by looking in the mirror. This particular manual provides everything from equipment and medicines list to emergency procedures. It is well worth your effort to spend some of your Self-Study time with this manual.

Tactical Combat Casualty Care

Our Military provides on-going training in the arena of Combat Casualty Care. This on-line resource provides a broad range of material, power points and downloadable videos giving you the latest thoughts on casualty care in today’s military.

There are many more resources out there for Self-Study; these simply represent those I have chosen to spend time with. The whole idea of this post is to reinforce a couple of points.

  • Build your kits – and CARRY THEM WITH YOU, EVERY DAMN DAY
  • Finally – DON’T STOP LEARNING!!

That last one is on YOU! If you’ve taken the development of your firearms training and your defensive use of firearms training seriously, it should simply be common sense that you also learn to survive the wounds that may very well occur during a fight for your life.

It would be a real bitch to successfully repel a home invasion only to watch your wife/husband/child bleed out on the bedroom floor simply because you didn’t know how to stop the bleeding.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

DVD Review - Combat Focus Shooting - Evolution 2011


As I’ve stated in the past I separate “learning a skill” from “training” in the use of that skill. I realize it’s a nit-picky difference, but it helps me keep the two environments separate and it makes sure I impress on the students I teach that I am not “training” them to do squat. I teach them skills that are either dictated by the various NRA courses I teach or by what I find important in those courses that are uniquely mine.

But, for them to make these skills their own – they must take them home and “train” in their use, take them to the range, work the drills, establish a dry-fire training regimen. Simply attending a course I teach does not integrate those skills into the way they use their firearm – only consistent “training” on the range will do that.

So, given this particular view – there are any number of methods a shooter can use to pick up knowledge. There is a large number of excellent shooting magazines that cover everything from SWAT tactics to what the best recipe is for a .45 LC with a lead 230 gr bullet. My advice – read them all, you will always come away with something. Just one thing to keep in mind – just because you have read an article, the reading of the article and the integration of what it said into your skillset are worlds apart. Reality seldom matches how things are written.

The internet has also brought a stunning array of raw stupidity as well as some very solid instructional material. Many well-known instructors have begun to take advantage of the net to present their material on-line for a nominal annual fee. Here again, be selective but I would encourage you to take advantage of what is available out there. One that I personally subscribe to is the Personal Defense Network honchoed by Rob Picus. (given this review covers his latest CFS DVD, I suspect this is no surprise)

Newsletters are yet another resource that I take advantage of from the NRA to the weekly data dump by Active Response Training - there is a great deal of information out there at little or no cost.

And then we get to the category of this particular post – DVDs.

Let’s talk about the reality of DVDs first. They are NOT substitutes for true course work on a live fire range with the instructor of the DVD – PERIOD! You can’t watch Rob’s Combat Focus Shooting DVD and possibly learn everything you can in a live fire course with him and his assistant instructors there to watch, guide and refine what they are teaching to you. But – what they can do is to open your mind to different methods of shooting. And, as your experience grows as a shooter, as your confidence and abilities increase – it does provide you an opportunity to integrate their techniques into your own individual training.

“He sure sounds like a shooting instructor!” I hear from my own particular peanut gallery as my wife shares her thoughts from the dining room table as I watch Rob’s CFS Evolution 2011 in the living room. She gets a bit “lippy” now and then, but after 41 years together, I listen to her words and in this case, she’s right.

Rob does sound like a “shooting instructor” – he has just a bit of an edge, is very focused, earnest and intent on making sure he truly explains his current topic. I’ve had any number of instructors over the years from military range officers in the very late 60s to more recent TC instructors from the NRA headquarters in Virginia. All have their own “feel”. What I appreciate about Rob when he works through a particular skill or drill is that he makes sure it is explained in such a way that it’s understood by actually seeing it and not because he simply says “do it my way because I said so!” Each component of the video is thoroughly explained, the reason behind it is presented and then it’s demonstrated – warts and all. He doesn’t show only the 100% drills, but all of them, errors, misses and “mistakes” (learning opportunities as he says) included.

I’ve been a trainer in one shape or fashion for over 30 years. Showing warts and all is simply a necessity if you are to have any credibility at all as an instructor, as is actually shooting the drills yourself. Whether I’m teaching an NRA Instructor course of a Defensive Pistol course, I will always shoot any required qualification targets as well as multiple drills throughout the course. It builds confidence in the student and allows them to actually see what I am trying to teach.

Rob has no hesitation to do this at all, something all too rare in the training community. From the very beginning when demonstrating the presentation of the firearm to reloads to a wide variety of shooting drills, Rob shoots . . . and explains. It’s a solid combination.

There is a very broad range of information presented in a significant number of “chapters” . . .

  • Safety, Comfort, Competency
  • Combat Focus Shooting
  • Fundamental Mechanics of Defensive Shooting
  • High Compressed Ready
  • Safety Rules
  • Combat Accuracy
  • Extend, Touch, Press
  • Up Drill
  • Lateral Movement
  • Balance of Speed and Precision
  • Deviation Control
  • Balance of Speed and Precision Drills
  • Skill Development Cycle
  • Push Your Limits Drill
  • Critical Incident Reload
  • Presentation for the Holster
  • Windsprint Drill
  • 4 Factors that Effect BoS&P
  • Multiple Target Drill
  • Take a Lap Drill
  • Volume of Fire
  • Understanding the Value of Lateral Movement
  • Shooting in Motion Drill
  • I.C.E. Ethos
  • Figure 8 Drill

Let’s just say it’s a pretty “meaty” DVD

Each segment is provided in “bite-sized” portions providing a solid opportunity for you to integrate each segment into your own training or dry fire range work. And each segment is fully explained and well-reasoned.

My primary purpose for purchasing this particular DVD is that I will be attending his CFS course this coming summer – and I wanted to get a “head start”. I’ve done this with other course work and it’s a combination that works well for me. It lets me get a sneak peak at what’s coming and allows me to begin to adjust my own particular shooting.

“So why attend the course at all? Just pay for the CD and not the $500 for a 2-day course and another $450 for the required 1,000 rounds of ammunition?”

The answer is simple really. Because as well done as this particular DVD is, as detailed as each individual presentation is . . . it simply does not stack up to being on a live fire range with the instructor and his assistants and receiving instant feedback on the drill you’ve just shot. There. Is. No. Comparison. Period.

The Combat Focused Shooting – Evolution 2011 carries a price tag of $34.95 which puts it in the “no brainer” category. There is also a CFS book as well which I am working my way through – also worth adding to your library.

As for the course itself – I’ll have to wait until June 2014 for a full AAR . . . is it summer yet??


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Training – Head Shots


At the outset let me just say that this is one of those posts that got a bit out of hand. You would think the topic would be simple – threat attacks, I draw gun, shoot threat in head . . . the “threat is stopped”. Yup, you’d think it’s that simple – not so much.

Next level is the “knowledgeable” fellow who says something like . . . “Why just put a round through his Mudella Oblongata and he’ll drop like a rock!!” True enough but, as with all things there’s more to it than that.

“Just shoot him between the eyes!! That’ll stop the threat!!” Again, not so much. So rather that beat around the bush, spout “group thought” or just sling a bit of my own BS . . . let’s do what it takes to understand “Head Shots”, fill in the blanks and do it “right” . . . all IMNSHO, of course.

A couple of stories first to set the stage a bit.

The morning of December 24th, 2003 a Staff Sargent was part of a squad clearing a building. He heard movement around a corner and as he turned a corner he was shot point blank in the face by terrorist using a 9mm pistol. He stumbled back a bit but did not fall. The terrorist, out a fear of shooting an American soldier at point blank range in the face and seeing that he simply kept coming, dropped the weapon and surrendered on the spot. When the Sargent arrived at the hospital it turned out the energy exchange between the bullet striking the top of his tooth and the amount needed to eject the tooth was “equal” . . . the bullet simply took the place of the tooth with little extra damage.

Something you might want to keep in mind when you are oh so confident the 9mm on your hip will stop a determined attacker when you simply shoot him in the face.

Shooting someone in the face can kill . . . but it might be your friend.

This past December in San Francisco four young toughs decided to rob a man of his cell phone and other items. Not satisfied to just take the loot and run, one of them decided to just shoot the man in the face anyway. He did . . . and the bullet ricocheted off the man’s face and stuck and killed one of the other attackers – 16 year old Clifton Chatman. The victim survived, karma seems to have taken care of Clifton and at least one other has been captured.

This shooting was also covered by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training and Grant Cunningham, a well-known trainer, writer and contributor to Personal Defense Network. Both do a great job rehashing this particular shooting and sharing their own thoughts and concerns about “The Head Shot”. Take a few moments and read the linked articles, they are well worth your time.

My purpose is to broaden this topic a bit, put some effort into studying the brain, its purpose and individual components, to view its “packaging”, to define how it is protected and then to elaborate on its weaknesses, how they can be accessed and then to consider the differences between shooting someone in the head (and the possible outcomes of such an event) and truly hitting their “off switch”.

The ancients used to view our heart as our soul. Cut out your enemy’s heart – you destroy their soul. Modern man, while still learning the meaning of the word “soul”, has come to understand that “who” we are, how we think, how we react, our ability to speak and learn and understand, to love and to hate, to appreciate music, the written word and the beauty of a sunset . . . is all contained in the soft, delicate grey matter contained within our skull. This 3 pound mass, 75% of which is simply water, is “us”. And, given its importance, it is very well protected and not nearly as susceptible damage as one would think.

A high school friend of mine also married his childhood sweetheart. The typical life followed for my particular generation – a tour in Vietnam, marriage, hard work in a local lumber yard and a family. I don’t remember the exact age any more honestly, but my recollection is that around 10 years old his daughter began to have grand mal seizures. Over time they progressively got worst, to a point where they became life threatening. Their final solution required a trust in God I’m not sure I would ever be able to find . . . they removed half of her brain – again, I do not remember which half. Yet the result was an end to the seizures and, over time, a near normal life for their daughter.

50% damage . . . normal life . . . think about that the next time someone quickly declares a head shot to be the way to stop the threat.

Let’s spend a little time breaking down the brain first. Here is a quick tour:

Brain Composite

The brain, like most of our body, is somewhat redundant. It has two hemispheres, each of which is focused on primary tasks, yet as can be seen in my classmate’s daughter, there is an ability to “cross train”. The majority of our body has redundancy – eyes, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, lungs, kidneys, large parts of our digestive system. The single component without a “spare” so to speak, is our heart and for women, we need to add the uterus.

Let’s talk about the “focus” of each hemisphere, and then we will sort through the various lobes of our brain.

Our Left Hemisphere lives in the “real world”. It deals analyzing, logic, language, thought, mathematics – the “geek” side of our lives.

Our Right Hemisphere is where the artist in us lives (honestly, the right half of my brain must be the size of a walnut!). It’s where we “think”, it holds our creativity, intuition, our enjoyment of art and music. It’s our “heartsy” site.

Both halves, work together to make us “whole” – yet when you look at an individual as a mortal threat, they may well be just as dangerous to you with one hemisphere completely shattered by your bullet.

The brain also consists of a number of lobes, each have which have developed their own specialties.

Frontal Lobe: This portion of the brain resides at the front of each hemisphere. Its areas of focus are our behavior, intelligence, memory and movement. With respect to the title of this post, while it’s tempting to think that a headshot to this primary region for movement would stop a shooter and would prevent their pressing the trigger – the exact opposite might occur and by disrupting the activities of the frontal lobe we might actually set off a firestorm of brain activity that may well include pressing the trigger.

Parietal Lobe: The “central” portion of the brain is the Parietal Lobe. It also deals with intelligence, language, our ability to read and our physical sensations. Other than some blood loss via a bullet’s damage, nothing here to stop a threat.

Occipital Lobe: These lobes reside at the very back of the brain. Their purpose is to convert all the signals generated by the optic nerve to enable us to “see”. Damage to this region of the brain could easily bring about blindness but nothing here to stop a trigger press.

Temporal Lobe: Located on the left and right side of the brain, the Temporal Lobe contributes to our vision, our behavior, hearing, memory and speech. Again, no critical component that would stop a trigger press.

Cerebellum: Buried just below the rear of the brain the Cerebellum deals with our balance and coordination. This region approaches some of the most fundamental control system for our body. Damage here could severely impede our ability to move in any determined fashion.

Brain Stem: This is the most primitive part of our brain. It deals with most of our basic autonomic functions – breathing, our heart beat, blood pressure, our ability to remain conscious and our ability to swallow. Damage here could stop our heart, stop our breathing but still allow a command for a trigger press to reach its final destination.

Mudella Oblongata: Below the brain stem and just prior to reaching the spinal cord sets the Mudella Oblongata. If I put on my computer engineer hat, this would be very roughly equivalent to a network hub with multiple cables plugged into it. They feed the signals from the brain into the spinal cord and out to feet, legs, arms, hands and fingers. Destroy this little component and the ability to press the trigger is instantly terminated just as unplugging a network hub kills a computer network. This is the ultimate “off switch”. When trained snipers go for a “head shot” – this is the x-ring. And, in many cases, it’s a must hit. Miss it, and the bad guy’s finger could easily press their trigger making it a very bad day all the way round.

This spot – in addition to being the size of something less than a half dollar, is also very well protected, as is the rest of the brain.

The container for the brain is built as tough as you would expect it to be given its importance. An adult brain is surrounded by a hardened skull that averages about a quarter inch thick. You can set a ton of weight on it before it begins to deform. Below that is a water cushion to help protect our brain from random blows. Though damage is certain possible from a strike to the head – there is also the very real possibility the blow will simply glance off.

The skull provides a surface that is has a continual curve to it. So while you may well think your bullet or your blow is striking “straight on” – it is, instead treated like a vector that has a mass, velocity and a direction. Once it encounters a surface, this “vector” is essentially broken into it individual directional components (in the horizontal and vertical) based on the angle it hits the skull at. I know, I know – sounds like a physics problem. Well it is.

Picture yourself in front of a steel plate and your send a round into that plate. If it is straight on, the entire energy of the bullet it applied to the steel plate.

Now, picture yourself in front of the same steel plate, but this time it is turned at a 45-degree angle to you. While you hit the plate in the same spot, this time only half of the energy from the bullet is transferred to the plate, the rest continues on with bullet as it glances off the steel plate.

Our skull can act exactly as the steel plate, allowing the bullet to glance off as in the story of the 16 year old killed by a ricochet from the man’s face detailed in the story above.

Nature takes its job of protecting us seriously, and our brain is well protected, let alone a miniscule chunk of tissue buried at the back of our brain and just below the brain stem.

That said, it is vulnerable to a couple different shots. The images below show the location of the Mudella Oblongata in a variety of ways – from the rear, from the right side and from the front.

Your “shot” from the front is just below the tip of the nose. This is a region where the bone is thin and, provided you have a straight on shot, the Mudella Oblongata is directly behind the tip of the nose with virtually nothing to protect it.

Composite - Front View - 3

If you envision a number of training targets, many have a small triangle in the head region. It represents this area of your threat’s face. There is no room for error. As can be seen from the images, there is thick, angular bone all around this spot. A miss may well mean the end of your threat, but it will not instantly stop their ability to press the trigger.

From the right side you are looking at a spot slightly behind the jaw and below the ear lobe. This is a riskier shot because there is more bone available from the skull that should you hit it, it will easily deflect your bullet. Again, the goal of this particular shot is an “instant off” to protect a loved one.

Right View Composite 3

Finally, when seen from the rear, you are looking for a spot in the middle of the neck, approximately even with the bottoms of both ears. Here too, there is significant bone to deal with, including the spine. A bit off the mark may put the threat down, but may easily let the trigger press command through first.

Composite - Back View - 3

I took a lot of words and pictures to essentially say, head shots are a bitch. In a defensive situation, with you moving, your threat moving and rounds headed your way, the possibility of hitting a half-dollar sized opening behind the tip of your threat’s nose and that round going absolutely straight back to their “off switch” – it’s a difficult shot to say the very least.

Do I practice it? Yep, every range trip. My scenario is virtually always a hostage situation. Someone has my wife or granddaughter or friend at gun point or knife point and things are going sideways in a hurry. It’s shoot or watch them die. I intend to take that shot if there are no alternatives.

Setting that specific scenario aside – are there more “productive” areas or options available? Yep, there are . . . but that’s a topic for another post.

Head shots, they’re a bitch . . . but if you need to take one, you better know all the details that go into a decisive shot.

A few reference links used in this post:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Personal – Our Life’s Tracks . . . .


Paths have a beginning . . . a singular point in time where the path begins . . . . as do lives. That instant where we leave the warmth and safety of our mother’s womb and fight our way out into the world and all that it holds for us.

Humans mark these special days – our individual special day – our Birthday Day – with loving words, hugs, kisses, meals, presents . . . allowing us to know that we truly make a difference in the world, that we matter, that our life has meaning for ourselves and to others.

Today is one such day . . . it is my wife’s Birthday. We have had 47 of them together as a “couple” and 41 of them together as husband and wife. She’s not changed . . .

She is kind, loving, quiet, smart, intelligent, she has a soft soul, and iron will, a quiet being, a Christian’s heart, a loving mother and she has been patient and loving enough to be my wife.

We have marked our path together in many ways but today I want to share with you about the beginning of our path – what I consider the first “official” day of the next 47 years of our life.

We had noticed each other towards the end of the previous school year – the beginnings of “something” . . . and then the school year ended. At the time I worked at a local mom and pop grocery called Hubingers as a carryout/stocker/checkout kinda guy. And I noticed that nearly every day “she” would come and buy an orange push-up. A few moments chatting and I found myself waiting for the next day . . . It was a long summer.

The fall term of 1965 found us in some shared classes and with more opportunities to become friends. By homecoming we were dating and after putting on a sport coat and tie for the dance it felt like we were a couple.

There are phrases that have long since been lost to history and one that held sway for this blooming relationship was “sweet 16 and never been kissed” . . . she was 15 . . . . As corny as I am sure it looks to today’s youth – heck, even to those of 1965 – she remained so until the night of her 16th birthday. January 17th, 1967.

We’d returned from our birthday date. I’d like to tell you I remember the where’s and what’s of that date. I don’t. I do remember the ending of the date . . .

We walked into the side door of her parent’s garage only to find a profoundly affectionate cat waiting. With purrs and rubs Susie was pretty much forced to bend over and pick up the cat – Puny – up for a bit of a snuggle. And that’s when it happened . . .

With the cat between us, we leaned together and shared our first kiss . . . it is one of the single most intense memories of our life together, our very beginning . . .

I looked for a card to share my feelings and, as has been the case for all these years, none come close. She’s my soul mate, my wife, my friend . . .

And today is her Birthday Day!

Happy Birthday Kid, I love you with all my heart!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Training - How much should be REQUIRED by government??


A couple of FB groups I belong to roll around any number of topics regarding firearms, NRA policies and procedures, training . . . to name just a few. Recently I “poked the bear” with the following question:

What's the "proper amount of time" that should be required by law for "proper" firearms training? May as well "poke the bear first" . . . . . . zero hours, period!

I posted the same question on three separate groups and the responses varied from ones similar to mine – none – to descriptions of what was required by the individual’s personal state. It’s a topic that invokes the passions of the gun-rights crowd as well as the caution of instructors who truly understand the ins and outs that are required to properly and safely use a firearm for everything from personal defense to knocking down pop cans. I’d like to spend some words on this and broaden the topic just a bit.

I had this exact discussion with the recent glass of NRA Basic Pistol Instructor candidates. And the responses were similar to those I have seen in the group’s responses (paraphrased here):

“I think everyone should be trained on how to use their gun properly!”

“They need to know how to be safe!”

“New shooters MUST learn how to shoot accurately!”

You get the idea . . . and it’s what I would hope to hear frankly from future pistol instructors. If they don’t care if a new shooter is trained – what the heck are they doing becoming instructors.

The question was, of course, a setup simply by the virtue of the word “REQUIRED”. My response to these statements by the candidates went something like this . . .

“I think you should all come to my church . . . see you all at Mass on Sunday . . .”

And instantly the discussion changed directions . . . from rights . . . to responsibilities under our nation’s Second Amendment . . .

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

When the Constitution was ratified by the new states and finally became the law of the land – there was no “Bill of Rights”. The process of amending the Constitution began nearly immediately and reflected the tension between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. The government needed enough power to govern – yet not so much so as to subjugate its people. The result of this process was the ratification of the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution in 1791. They codified individual liberty within the Constitution and acted to LIMIT government and strengthen the rule of law in defense of the individual citizen. Setting aside the other 9 components of the Bill of Rights – let’s drill down a bit on the Second Amendment.

For the vast majority of those in congress that wrote and created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the very idea that an individual did not have the God given right – the inalienable right . . .


Not subject to sale or transfer; inseparable.

That which is inalienable cannot be bought, sold, or transferred from one individual to another. The personal rights to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States are inalienable. Similarly, various types of property are inalienable, such as rivers, streams, and highways.

. . . to defend their life with all means necessary and at hand simply did not occur to them. What they could believe though was that a government could become so powerful, so corrupt, so oppressive that it would have to be opposed with a force equal with what it could bring to bear against the people. They had, in fact, just emerged from just such a process that we call the Revolutionary War. They understood that defending their rights as human beings could, indeed, involve use of force with everything from the cutlass to the canon.

They also understood that should a government begin to view itself as “the answer” to all its citizens woes, and seek to impose its will on those people – among the first things it would want to do would be to disarm the populace. Hence – the Second Amendment . . .

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The founders were not talking about a Militia being required to defend the United States from foreign invaders . . . they were talking about a Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” , a state free from the tyranny of an over-reaching government.

You have a God given right to defend your life – it is the most basic of all human rights . . . the right to live . . .

So when an Anti-Second amendment person says something like “The Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to own a gun to protect yourself . . .!!!” They are exactly right – the founders never even questioned the right of a person to protect their own life with a gun. However, what they DID question was their right to defend their very freedom from a possible tyranny . . . . the US Government. And, they wanted to insure that the Americans of the future had the means to defend against and remove – if necessary – such a tyrannical force.

The argument has morphed in truly perverted ways in recent years. Now it seems to be that individuals have no need to defend themselves – nor are they to be trusted with their own personal defense – because it is already provided by the government be it city, county, state or federal. And here in lies today’s Second Amendment battle ground . . . so far from our founder’s original intent.

It also provides the groundwork for my answer to the question . . .

What's the "proper amount of time" that should be required by law for "proper" firearms training? May as well "poke the bear first" . . . . . . zero hours, period!

Zero . . . nada . . . . none . . . . because it not the government’s role to be the final arbiter of whether I can defend my life or not. My ability to defend my life is the most basic of all God given rights . . . I have the right to exist. The government is simply NOT part of my right to exist.

We do, as individuals, have the responsibility – the individual responsibility to become familiar with whatever tool we chose to use to defend our lives. At the same time, we have the individual right to ignore that particular responsibility and simply “wing it”.

Rights, responsibility and “Murphy” . . . . life can be a harsh teacher. And this is what I impress on instructor candidates and students alike. You have the right to own a gun. In fact, I could easily expand that thought to the Constitution giving you the responsibility to own a gun.

And, given that life’s lessons can be very harsh – doesn’t it simply make sense that you, as an armed individual would do all in your power to make sure “Murphy” doesn’t come along and bite you in the ass? That is where training comes into play, as an act of a responsible individual intent on defending themselves, their family and their friends.

Being a trained shooter . . . being a lethal shooter . . . being a shooter who can end a threat to themselves, their family and their friends . . . that should be our goal as instructors and as shooters.

How much training is enough?

Training is a life style, just as going armed each and every day is a life style – period! If you make a trip to the barber or beautician monthly just so you can look good . . . doesn’t it make sense that you make a trip to the range so you can better defend your life?

If you take a college course to learn how to manage your money . . . doesn’t it make sense to take a shooting course that would teach you skills to keep yourself alive?

If you spend money monthly on health insurance or life insurance to take care of you should you become ill or your family should you wake up dead . . . doesn’t it make sense to spend money on training and ammunition to give yourself the best possible chance of surviving an attack by someone meaning you deadly harm?

Is training required?

Yes . . . a life time’s amount of training . . .

Should the government REQUIRE you to do it . . . ?

No more than they should require you to go to Mass with me on Sunday . . . . though there’s always a seat next to me if you’d like to come.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Commentary - It’s Your Gunfight . . .


During the NRA BP Instructor course this past weekend there were discussions on breaks and over lunch about guns, holster, story examples, the 21ft / 2 second “rule”, gun fights and any number of other topics. Gun fights have been the focus of a couple FB groups and blog posts that I’ve read over the past few days as well. I want to put my own slant on this particular topic.

As I teach the Personal Protection courses that the NRA offers – or my own flavor of Defensive pistol courses – I will virtually always roll through a couple of topics. They are part lore, and part fact – yet they still offer a sense of urgency to the topic - losing a gunfight may well mean a meeting with St. Peter well before what you consider “your time”.

There is the “Rule of 3” . . . most gunfights are finished in 3 rounds or less, in 3 seconds or less and at a distance of 3 meters or less. Numerous stats are sited and quoted regarding this rule but I am comfortable enough with current stats to agree that most gun fights using handguns are going to be at very personal distances.

The next thing everyone “knows” is that you need to be able to draw and get rounds on your threat in 2 seconds . . . i.e. the Tueller Drill. I usually encourage folks to dig up the original article and read it for context. Then read Dennis Tueller’s updated thoughts. Whether you have 2 seconds or less, the bottom line for a defensive shooter to keep in mind is that you have next to no time to defend your life – your ability to react quickly and properly is the difference between life and death.

Of course there are always discussions on course breaks about the best carry weapon . . . revolver, Glock, 1911 in“God’s own caliber” . . . each shared with passion and each ably defended. (Glock 17 BTW, with a spare magazine! ) This is an interesting discussion for the person new to the carry world; especially if there are some students who consistently carry on a daily basis.

The whole concept of “shooting until the threat stops” is always kicked around. It runs the full gamut of thought on what “the threat stops” means.

We usually touch on what your chances actually are for being involved in a gun fight. The reality is that it’s ridiculously small . . . and yet, as has been said recently . . . “The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun, is a good guy with a gun!”

So how do all these little “rules” and sayings and words of wisdom affect you, YOUR gun fight . . . .?

They don’t.

It’s your gun fight. Period. The outcome will depend on your skills, your willingness to engage someone trying to put you in a ZipLoc, your mindset, your will to survive. You can give yourself an edge in a number of ways . . .

  • Train daily, even if it’s only dry fire.
  • Integrate “Levels of Awareness” or Cooper’s “Color Code” into your life.
  • Become as physically fit as you can.
  • Run scenarios in your head

. . . as well as a host of other things that we can all bring to mind.

But, at the end of the day . . . regardless of the situation, its location, the number of attackers . . . it’s YOUR gunfight.

And, it’s YOUR responsibility to train for it every chance you get!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Training Course Reviews - NRA BP Instructor 1-11-2014


Well . . . first instructor course of the year is now under my belt – what a good weekend.

First, actually having nothing to do with the course, we finally broke our “colder than crap” weather pattern. Last week our highs were in the mid –teens F. Today, mid-upper 30s. Can summer be far behind? And, it made the range work today a very nice change from my post a while ago regarding shooting in cold weather. Yep, definitely headed in the right direction!

Had four candidates today – the guys from Canine Tactical and a CJ instructor from Indian Hills CC. Tough crowd . . . no, not really – but experienced trainers and shooters. That can be a mixed bag but for this particular course, it was a solid group of guys that jelled quickly and worked their butts off!

There are always a few things that differentiate one course from another. Otherwise I could just comment something like “ditto course such and such” and my AAR would be done.

Anytime you have candidates that are ex-military . . . and one a team member at that . . . there are “adjustments” that need to be worked through. For those of us who learned the majority of our shooting skills at the hands of military training officers, there is always some effort needed to move to a “gentler” civilian market. That adjustment came easily this weekend. And, as for the CJ instructor and retired LEO of 28 years, learning the NRA method of teaching and presentation came very easily. Their program actually offers a full shooting component so the weekend was more polish than anything else.

The first day – Saturday was, as always, the Basic Instructor Training. For the Canine Tactical crew learning a skill set better suited for the civilian market than their typical LEO SWAT students was an interesting process to watch. And, as is typical, presentations made first were rough and unpolished. By mid-afternoon today a 5 minute prep garnered a solid presentation. I am always fascinated by that whole process.

Sunday was used to cover the majority of the Basic Pistol Instructor portion and the range time. This presented a second difference that set today apart from other BP Instructor courses. One of the Candidates struggled with the qualification requirement for the course. Not unusual really, but it was an interesting mix of a physical tremor the candidate has and a training habit of essentially shooting controlled pairs. It gave the class an opportunity to see how to work a shooter through multiple issues, a benefit to all. I finally dialed him in to the shooting rotation on the range as each candidate took their turn running the range for a 10-round course of fire and by the time his rotation came up, he qualified just fine.

As instructors, instances like this are opportunities to demonstrate how to bring a shooter who is working through some issues up to speed. It was a great opportunity.

The day finished with exams, grading and . . . we were done.

Thanks to Eli, Truman, Joshua and Tim for coming and spending the weekend and all your hard work. I’m looking forward to the next time with some of you guys.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Off to conduct a NRA BP Instructor Training . . . .


Well let's see - gear all packed, room set up, candidate material all gathered, material reviewed, power points all in place . . . yep, think I'm ready to give BIT and a BP Instructor Training . . . gonna be a fun weekend!

AAR and photos to follow . . . have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Training - Cold Weather Range Training


I did a post a while back talking about dressing for “COLD!!!” weather. While we certainly have had colder temperatures so far this winter, today it was 1*F with a wind chill of -13*F. Temps were headed down but I had other projects for the afternoon so I headed to the range shortly after noon for a bit of video work and range work.


I dressed for the range exactly as I described in the link above with a couple exceptions – no outer layer pants or extra fleece. The gloves I wore are my standard daily fare for winter wear – leather gloves with 3M Thinsulate.

Cold days on the range are – like many things in life – a “head game”. If you dress properly, you are simply as cold as your head lets you believe you are. I was actually quite comfortable for the entire range trip – about an hour beginning to end.

I shot my every day carry weapon, a Glock 17. One of the NRA Instructor Facebook groups I belong to had one member who was doing some research for an article he’s writing on whether a shooter goes to the range in inclement weather – and cold weather in particular. I was planning on doing a post on “COLD!!!” weather shooting, Iowa seems to be in the grip of a substantial artic weather system - so all the right conditions seem to dictate that today was the day for a range trip!

I wanted to focus on two specific pieces of training today – the draw and solid first-round hits. As a result I did only single round engagements and set an 80% as my minimum hit percentage. A “hit” is a round within the silhouette on the standard LE training target that I use. I also sent 3-round groups down range at the 5Y, 7Y and 10Y distances for marksmanship.

I teach and emphasize a single hand draw with the shooter’s dominant hand. I make the assumption that during an attack their support hand will be used for defense while they are getting to their weapon. I also stress a single hand reholster as well. I ask shooters to draw as quickly as they can safely and to take “all the time in the world” to reholster. Winter gear adds an additional issue of much more clothing. Rather than the “shoot me first” vest may shooters wear during standard competitions like an IDPA match – in the winter, in “COLD!!!” weather, there is much more clothing to clear away during your draw stroke.

For my own defensive shooting courses I teach a 4-step, single hand draw . . . Clear the grip, drive to the grip, draw and drive to the threat. At this point you may – or may not – be able to bring your support hand up to support your weapon. You need to practice both ways. For today’s videos – all engagements were 2-handed, full extension.

I brought a PACT MKIV timer set with a start time around 2 seconds and a par time of 3 seconds. The typical goal of defensive shooters is a draw and first round engagement in 2 seconds or less. Inches of winter gear affects this goal line. I extended mine to 3 seconds and, for the majority of shots the first round met that goal. A time or two, when my draw went sideways . . . I didn’t.

And, speaking of going sideways – that is always a possibility. I had one draw in particular that was a “challenge”. Your ONLY OPTION is to KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER, work to clear your garment and get your round on target. In the real world failure to do this results in a trip to a steel table in a ZipLoc. These failures on the range are your opportunity to work through these issues.

As for weapons failures – there were two and I had not experienced them before. When I pressed the trigger the safety simply failed to release. The cure was to release pressure on the trigger and press a second time. This happened twice and the release of the trigger and pressing again cleared both malfunctions. I am ASSUMNG it was the cold, but have no firm proof.

I put 10 rounds down range, each from a draw with an 80% accuracy. On the video I mention two rushed shots – I focused on reducing my time and NOT hitting the threat. Two problems with this. Typically the guy who gets the first hit . . . wins. Secondly, YOU OWN EVERY ROUND! Saying words like “I was just shooting to keep them away” simply isn’t going to hack it! Every shot counts and you should do your best – your VERY BEST – to put every round on the threat.


As for marksmanship today . . . it was a heavy sigh trip. I shot from 3 distances. 3 rounds from 5 meters – hit ratio 66%. 3 rounds from 7 meters – hit ratio 33% with 1 round just outside the circle. Finally, 4 rounds from 10 meters – hit ratio of 50%. You can see the target below. That is why you work on marksmanship EVERY TRIP!


Training in all seasons, in all types of weather, is simply a must for every defensive shooter. The bad guys will not take a pass just because it’s “COLD!!!” or wet or hot or beautiful. They will attack on their own schedule – and you simply must be able to respond.

Buy some rain gear, some cold weather gear – work with your carry system and then hit the range. Carrying your weapon EVERY DAY, being able to draw and engage a threat regardless of weather or clothing, and being able to hit the threat is your best chance for survival during a lethal attack.

And the training to do this is firmly in YOUR hands . . . so get off your butt and hit the range!