Sunday, March 30, 2014

Range Trip - 3-30-2014


Very nice day to head to the range.  Sunshine, 58*F . . . what more could someone in the Midwest want!!  It’s been a bit since I put up a traditional range video.  This is a typical process to just kick the dust off a bit.  I always warm-up with my Ruger .22/45 then I worked on my draw and presentation to be ready for the PPOTH course coming up on April 12,13.  I did a bit of video on this trip – an intro on the way, a Jeep “selfie” video on the way to the range and then some video of the warm-up and some of the 9mm work.  Nothing special really but I want to present it as an example to new shooters of how they can self-document their trips so they can review their trip when they get back home.

The still camera is simply my cell phone, a Samsung Note2.  In fact self-facing camera is what I used to take the “selfie” in the Jeep.  The range video camera is attached to the right side of my hearing protection and is the Contour ROAM 1600.  It’s a great piece of gear.  Take a look through the Gear Reviews for a better look at it.  That said, there’s some perfectly fine gear for much lower prices to get the new shooter started.

Intro to today’s range trip!

.22/45 Warm Up – Left Side Only

.22/45 50ft and 25m

Here’s the results from the warm-up round with the .22/45:

22-45 Warmup Drill (Medium)

Triangles were shot at 5m, squares at 7m and the circles at 10m.  The center chest box was shot at 50ft and the pelvic box was shot at 25m.  My personal goal is 80% so I met the goal and worked out some of the rust.

When you hit the range for the first time after a layoff – don’t rush it.  We’ve all seen shooters step into the box or up to the table and just hurry through their session.  Some of this is nervous energy.  Most is that they arrive without a plan.  Make a plan.  Review it on the way to the range.  Take your time to move to your lane, lay out your gear.  Visualize each part of your plan before you execute it.  Then, just shoot your plan.  Then, at the end of your trip you’ll be able to see if you met your goals.  And, you can compare it to your last trip.  Did you improve?  Stay the same? Did you find areas that need work?  THAT is the purpose of the photos and videos.

Next I did 15 one-round engagements from the draw from 5m, 7m, 10m and 50ft with my Glock 17.  Let’s take a look:

Glock 17, 1-round engagement 5m

9mm 5m (Medium)

9mm 7m (Medium)

9mm 10m (Medium)

Glock 17 Multi-round Engagements

9mm multi round engagements (Medium)

Glock 17 50ft.

9mm 50ft (Medium)

Here is where you can begin to “rationalize” your hits.  Virtually all were “combat effective” (they would do real damage to an oncoming threat) with the exception of one round on the 50ft target that slide out to the left.  Otherwise the the majority of the rest were high, center chest but some rounds fell outside of “the box”.  For the new shooter, this is where you can begin to push yourself to simply do better.  Good hits?  In a gunfight, I’ll take all of them (well . . . with the exception of the one that slid out to the left.  But, when you are training . . . when I’m training . . . I expect better.  And that will be part of the work for my next range trip.  Again, that’s the benefit of images.  You can review your performance, compare it to past trips and to provide you “footsteps” on your shooting journey.

So, hit the range, have a plan, take some images, record your results and then . . . use the information to improve your shooting!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Training - “I’m Lost!” . . . S.T.O.P.


I see three primary ways a person can be “Lost”. Being “Lost” is the starting point when I begin to teach wilderness survival. I realize survival is about much more than simply being lost, but when a person comes to grips with that realization for the first time – it can be an overwhelming sensation that can easily lead to some very bad, and sometimes fatal, choices. I see it as a good starting point.

There is being “emotionally lost” – those times in our lives where life, the current moment in time, overwhelms us and we feel “Lost”. There is danger here as well where emotion rules our choices rather than handling those things that need to be taken care of.

And, “Lost” can mean we are going down a path that simply doesn’t work for us. It is a “been there – done that” moment when we realize that nothing is going to change and we need to try something different. This is the “Lost” of this post – and I want to apply it to our training efforts, our training goals, our training results – and some choices we can make to get where we want to go.

The “word” S.T.O.P. has a specific meaning that can easily be applied to our training path . . .

Stop Think Observe Plan

"S" is for Stop. Take a deep breath, sit down if possible, calm yourself and recognize that whatever has happened to get you here is past and cannot be undone. You are now in a survival situation and that means . . .

"T" is for Think. Your most important asset is your brain. Use it! Don't Panic! Move with deliberate care. Think first, so you have no regrets later. Take no action, even a foot step, until you have thought it through. Unrecoverable mistakes and injuries, potentially serious in a survival situation, occur when we act before we engage our brain. Then . . .

"O" is for Observe. Take a look around you. Assess your situation and options. Consider the terrain, weather and resources. Take stock of your supplies, equipment, surroundings, your personal capabilities and, if there are any, the abilities of your fellow survivors.

"P" is for Plan. Prioritize your immediate needs and develop a plan to systematically deal with the emergency and contingencies while conserving your energy. Then, follow your plan. Adjust your plan only as necessary to deal with changing circumstances.

Obviously these steps are written from a wilderness survival POV, but they easily move into a method to help correct our shooting ability.

Since this blog is dedicated to the “new and inexperienced” shooter, I want to focus on them. That said, even experienced shooters reach a “wall” now and then, the same methods will help them move forward as well.

STOP: It has been my observation that many new shooters have three primary goals – get their carry permit, buy a gun and shoot like a master. The last goal being said somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It seems that little real thought is ever given to what it actually takes to become an armed citizen that is actually trained enough to stand a good chance of defending themselves, their family or friends in their charge.

All too often the bare minimum training is taken, the gun is purchased and they head to the range a couple of times to prove to themselves they can shoot. It is at this point that things go off the rails for many folks and many become discouraged, they can’t make the tight little groups all the “pros” can. So, put the gun back in the box and there it sits – doing nothing but taking up shelf space.

Or, perhaps you are a more experienced shooter, you can put holes on paper OK – but you simply aren’t happy with just that . . . you understand that there are many more things to learn.

And then there is the very experienced shooter who is working through an “issue” – some part of their skill set that is simply not up to snuff, and they need a method to move through that point.

The starting point for all of these possibilities is to simply STOP what they are doing. That can be a difficult thing to do, to admit to yourself that what you are doing, what you have been doing isn’t working and probably never will. But, THAT IS the starting point – to stop what you are doing.

THINK: Your most important training tool lives between your ears. It is your ability to reason, to bring data together and to make choices and decisions. It is your ability to THINK! Virtually anyone can be an excellent shooter – it is the stuff that is between the ears that stops most folks from reaching their goals. Physical disabilities aside – good shooters begin between the ears. When you have reached the point where you have finally decided to STOP – that is a great time to begin to think, to reason, to understand why you are where you are, and to begin to take another path to get where you want to go.

OBSERVE: This is your time to “take stock”. Everything should be looked at. How much actual training have you had? Was it done by an experienced shooter or professional instructor or just your work bud? Did it cover that basics or just go right to putting rounds down range? Do you understand your gun? Does your gun fit your hand? Do you have a sturdy belt and holster? What about the rest of your gear – shirt/blouse, pants, shoes, range gear? Are you putting in the training time on the range?

For the more experience/very experienced shooter – are you training with a purpose or simply throwing rounds down range? Do you have a defined training plan? Are you documenting your training – noting your weak points, modifying your training to strengthen them? Are you stubborn? Do you know it all or are you still learning? Do you have a training buddy or are you trying to do it all on your own?

This is a time to step back a bit, to be brutally honest with yourself on how you have been conducting your training to date – and to take stock. What’s working? And, what isn’t.

PLAN: None of these steps require you to physically do a darn thing. You don’t need a new gun, new clothes, a different trainer, better targets . . . you simply need to stop what you have been doing, engage your brain, be honest with yourself and then . . . when the noise has stopped . . . and your observations have been made . . . and you’ve chosen to be honest with yourself . . . then – and only then – can you begin to PLAN.

For the “new and inexperienced” shooter – more times than not the first step is to find good training. If your shooting pal has been your trainer, and you’re unhappy with the result – remain pals . . . just seek out some real training to get you headed in the right direction.

I also encourage new shooters to become a sponge – there are any number of excellent publications, video and on-line (but please – youtube is not a training company) training resources that you can use. There are also hundreds of books available on all aspects of shooting. Take your time, read the reviews and then choose a couple that focus on the specific thing you want to learn.

Finally, when you go to the range – have a plan. One of my pet peeves is the guy who plops down his range bag, hangs his target, send’s 50 rounds down range in short order, pronounces his trip a success and heads for home promising to hit the range again in a couple of months. Please, don’t be “that guy” or “that gal” . . . the skill you are learning can mean the difference between you taking your child home in their car seat . . . or a ZipLoc. Treat range trips as the serious business they are.

For the experienced shooter that is looking to hone, improve, refine their shooting skills . . . perhaps it’s time for one of the more advanced shooting schools. They run from the famous – Gunsite, Thunder Ranch – to the lesser known but well regarded like TDI, Rob Pincus’s CFS courses, Masad Ayoob’s MAG-40, Rangemaster . . . to name a very few. Save your money, set the time aside . . . and GO!!

Finally, for the “very skilled” – training never ends. Range time with other trainers, your peer group – where you push, help, refine each other is simply a must. It is easy for everyone to develop bad habits. Make sure someone “checks your six” and helps you stay on track. And, if you get stuck on a particular “issue” – STOP, THINK about it, OBSERVE yourself (small video cameras are a great tool) and then work a PLAN to get past it.

A lot of words to say that when you are LOST . . . there is no value in wondering in the wilderness. Whether it’s in the lakes of the BWCA . . . or a shooting lane of your local range. To find your way “home”, first you need to . . .


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Training - “The Bells, The Bells!!”


A little “book learnin’” first – then to the heart of it . . .

I’ve always attributed this phrase to Quasimodo played by Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. One of those things I just “knew”. So in researching this entry paragraph a bit I discovered this little tidbit:

The bells! The bells! Catchphrase of Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Actually said by Henry Irving in a famous melodrama in which he played a character called Matthias who was haunted by the sound of the sleigh bells of the man he murdered.

Huh – imagine that. Yet, it still fits so let’s just go with it.

There is also a new catch phrase being bantered about recently . . . “hyper awareness” . . . where an individual is “aware” of every single solitary thing around them – music, people, smells, colors, weather, temperature . . . where these and more elements of their current environment are individually sensed and experienced with no filtering what-so-ever. The person is overwhelmed by the texture of their surroundings.

Which brings me to the crux of this post . . . in broad swaths of our nation today, it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by all the “noise” around us making us that much more vulnerable to predators that prey on the “unaware” – those not paying attention to possible threats.

My wife and I are perfect examples of polar opposites in dealing with the “noise”. She simply turns everything off . . . radio, TV, music . . . and enjoys the silence. And, for us, we can truly find silence since we live miles in the country, off main highways and in a small wood patch. We can make a pretty good stab at achieving true silence.

For me, I simply “filter” it. Years . . . ok, multiple decades . . . dealing with various modes of radio communications from CW through SSB – has taught me to simply “turn off” that which I don’t want to hear. I can sit in a crowded restaurant and pick out the conversation of near-by tables simply by filtering out all other noise except the voice of the person I’m interested in hearing. It’s a learned skill . . . my wife hasn’t learned it – and won’t for that matter.

We are also on opposite ends in dealing with masses of humanity as well. A stroll through pre-holiday crowds of downtown Chicago can push my wife to a near catatonic state by the end of a day spent shopping. For me, a different set of “filters” remove the claustrophobic feelings and allows be to simply pass among the crowds without feeling trapped.

For you, as an armed citizen looking to protect yourself, your family or anyone else in your charge – the ability to “filter” the “noise” and to focus on what is truly important is something you need to practice on a daily basis. There are some specific areas you can emphasize to help you do just that . . . to “focus”.

Putting on your EDC gear. As I’ve said multiple times, putting on my gun is something I do as soon as I put on my pants. This is followed by my defensive knife, my ever-present S4 Juice, watch, phone and spare magazine. I insure each tool is in the same spot every day.

I always take a quick scan as I leave the house and head to the Jeep. Honestly there’s a fair amount of cover around so if someone wanted to use it as part of their approach it wouldn’t take a skilled woodsman to cause problems – the yard and surrounding area are always worth a few extra seconds.

One advantage of rural life is that traffic is minimal (well, except during harvest that is . . .) so keeping an eye on approaching vehicles is fairly simple. Yet, I continue a life-long habit of scanning my vehicle mirrors left to right a couple times a minute. Again, in rural areas the primary threat to me is a car popping out on the highway unexpectedly – and my scans have saved my butt on more than one occasion. In a congested city, scanning your surroundings my well save you from everything from an accident to a carjacking.

By learning to focus on important issues – do you have your weapon, is it loaded, do you have the rest of your EDC gear in the proper place, is there anything odd around your house, any stupid people on the highway near you . . . you can learn to reduce the “noise” and learn to focus on possible threats to your safety.

And, frankly, it doesn’t hurt to turn down the radio in the car. While you might be a budding pop star, while you’re singing your heart out and making all the right head movements – some asshole may well pop your door at a stop light and turn your singing debut into a trip home in a ZipLoc. And while a smart phone is truly a cool piece of tech – use of it for texting, finding your location, running a conference call in the middle of a 4-lane is simply an invitation for a one-way trip to the morgue.

Walking down crowded streets also provides quite an opportunity to practice “focus”. Loose the ear buds, keep Blu-Tooth phone conversations to a minimum, loose the hoodie, the hooded coat, the scarf that covers your face and restricts your vision to a couple degrees of center when you stare straight ahead. All of these things scream “rob me first!!” Observe your surroundings, notice patterns of travel of the folks around you, their demeanor, the general “temperature” of those around you. And, trust your gut – if something feels off don’t wait to identify it . . . LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY!.

We live in a noisy world . . . “The Bells!! The Bells!!” can easily overwhelm your senses and leave you vulnerable to attack. Learn to turn on your “filters”, to focus on the handful of things that will keep you safe and out of trouble. And, when the hair on the back of your neck senses a developing problem . . . pay attention and leave . . .

Focus on your safety and the noise will be much less of a problem . . .

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Training Course Review - NRA PPITH Instructor 3-15-2014


Ya gotta do the work . . .

Being on the instructor side of the table during a course is an interesting experience. You have specific knowledge you want to give to your “students” (honestly at my age/our age you are sharing with peers – yet this weekend I was the instructor). You want to evaluate skillsets, provide training to hone them and finally test their knowledge and skill level.

Ya gotta do the work . . .

I detailed earlier what my preparations were – about 15-20 hours of study and a couple hours of range work for polish. That was for me . . . what about the instructor candidates?

I view the NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home as the introduction to true defensive shooting. You begin the process of teaching students about the “tool of last resort” to defend themselves. This covers everything from evaluating your defensive perimeter to how to engage a threat at close quarter with multiple combat effective hits. It’s a busy day for the student . . . not to mention the Instructor Candidate.

As an Instructor Candidate a real burden is placed on them to know the skillset required, to truly understand the material being presented and to actually demonstrate these abilities to someone like me, a Training Counselor. Like I said . . . Ya gotta do the work!

I last taught this course in September and honestly I wanted to beef it up a bit from the instructor side. So I made some changes in the process . . .

A range half-day: To evaluate a person’s shooting skills you simply must see them on the range. While simply running the candidate through the shooting qualification would provide me the ability to see their current level of skill . . . it would do nothing to let me help polish it. So, I added a voluntary ½ day on the range. We began with a simple “5-rounds on the dot” drill, worked through an “extend, touch, press” drill and finally ended up – 3 hours or so later, with the “accelerated pairs” qualification round. The result? Each candidate improved, learned some new teaching techniques and – qualified easily by the range secession’s end. It was a good addition.

Actually teach the PPITH course first: The requirement for becoming a PPITH instructor candidate is to be a Basic Pistol Instructor. That’s it. I noticed during my September course we spent as much time expanding on each topic as the candidates were actually teaching it. So, this time – I taught the entire PPITH course first – then moved into the instructor course. BIG improvement IMHO, allowing the candidates more ability to provide deep discussions on each and every topic in the PPITH course. I will do this from now on.

SIRT range work first: I rotate candidates between each range drill making them use the range commands, monitor the “students” (the other candidates) and become comfortable being in charge on the shooting line. This can be done in the classroom which was nice because it was in the very low 40s, a bit windy with 6 inches of water to wade through to get to the firing line. While that can certainly be done in a live-fire exercise – use of the SIRT pistols in the class room on the “range” we set up has really improved the way this portion of the course flowed. Again, something I will continue across the spectrum of NRA and my own course work.

Finally – Conduct the PPITH Instructor Course: Of course, the whole idea here is that the candidates actually conduct the course for each other. It’s a good technique with feedback provided by their fellow candidates throughout the process. The change for me this time, with the additional range session and me actually teaching the PPITH course first was that the presentations seems more crisp, provided much more depth and actually became much more of an actual teaching process than simply gaining experience standing in front of a class room presenting information.

Ya gotta do the work . . . for me that was the 15-20 hours course study and a couple hours’ worth of range work for polish.

For the candidates it looked like 3+ hours of range time and then shooting a qualification round, going through a full presentation of the PPITH course and finally teaching the whole course back to each other.

Honestly, they did the work . . . and it showed both in their instructor test scores as well as their shooting on their qualification targets.

Terry, Mike, Lori, Laura and Bobbi . . . you guys did great! Thanks for coming! I’ll look forward to hearing about your first course and how your students do! I’m confident they’ll do great! Just remember . . .

They gotta do the work!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Training – Course Preparation


I have a NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home Instructor course coming up this weekend and have been doing my usual course preparation. I suspect many of you will either be attending courses this spring or perhaps teaching some of your own. So, I thought I’d spend some time on preparing for a course – both from an instructor’s point of view, and from a student’s.

For those students wondering what kind of preparation the instructors go through, it’s similar to what I do when I get ready to take a course, just from a little different point of view.

Specific Material: Every course has specific material that is presented – whether the course is one of my own design or if it’s one of the NRA courses. For me, for this weekend I’m doing the NRA PPITH Instructor course. By way of preparation I will review the NRA’s Basic Instructor Training (BIT) manual (this is the NRA’s course on how to teach their courses), I’ll review the actual PPITH course itself, I’ll review the PPITH Instructor course and, finally, I’ll review the PPITH Training Counselor training manual. That’s around 15-20 hours simply reviewing and refreshing the material in my mind’s eye.

I’ll also add a review of the power point material as well – look at the flow, make changes that I have thought of since I last taught this course. Just try to settle the information in my head.

Range work: This is the first course in the NRA course work where you need to shoot a qualification target. Shooting qual targets is a great stressor for new instructors because they simply must perform . . . or take the course some other time. I always stress to instructors that when they go to the range – they MUST shoot the first target by way of demonstration. And, I encourage them to demo the majority of the drills in the course work to take some of the pressure off their students, to demonstrate proper shooting techniques and, to show they can . . . well . . . actually shoot. If an instructor is unwilling to shoot a drill, why should the student? This DOES NOT mean the instructor needs to be perfect – but they must shoot well enough to pass any qualification cold . . . “out of the box”.

So, off to the range today with my trusty “tombstone” target and 50 rounds of .22 and 100 rounds of 9mm. The qualification for PPITH is 10 ea controlled pairs from 21 ft, each pair from the low ready, 2-seconds or less with 80% of the hits within a 9” blank circle. Honestly, it’s a pretty easy drill, but for those who have never shot on the clock or had a required target to pass, it “up the ante” just a bit. Here are my targets:

20140313_145406 (Medium)

20140313_145411 (Medium)

The 50 rounds of .22 were all within a 7” circle and the 100 rounds of 9mm had one flyer on the left but otherwise the other 99 met spec. So, we’ll see if I can repeat this little puppy again tomorrow afternoon.

I’m taking a lot of words here to say that if you are an instructor . . . do the damn homework and course preparation. If you do not see enough value in working through your courses prior to teaching them . . . why should the students take your course seriously?

The preparation is a bit different from the student’s point of view, but there are similarities as well.

Gear: Virtually any course worth its salt will have a gear list available as well as some type of syllabus. Bring what they say . . . the gear is on the list for a reason. And, read over the course syllabus. If there is some work you can do prior to attending . . . do it!

Bring two guns! Let me say that one more time . . . BRING TWO GUNS!!!!! You are probably spending real money on the course, spending more on gas and perhaps a motel room . . . all of which will be wasted if your weapon has a hard failure early on in the course. Yes, it’s expensive . . . I get it. Yet, to travel and prepare for a course is expensive as well. Bring two guns.

Study course reviews or instructor reviews: This should be part of your prep work before even selecting a course to take. A nice feature of the internet is that everyone reviews everything. If a course is a dud, the instructor is crap or the course work is dangerous . . . that word WILL get out! And, if the course work is great, the instructor awesome and the value is seen as high . . . that word WILL get out as well.

Also, many instructors maintain websites or blogs or Facebook pages that host AARs (After Action Reports) that review their courses and ask for comments from students that have attended the course. This is another great resource to help you prep for the course.

On-line/DVD material: There are some instructors that post a fair amount of information about their courses on-line or they offer DVDs that also present much of their material. My suggestion is to pick up the DVDs or review their on-line offerings prior to taking the courses. It will help focus you, allow you to prep a bit better before you take the course and it will help you get your “head in the game” so you can get the most out of your training experience.

The two most valuable training resources are time and money. Vigorous preparation on the part of the instructor helps to insure that they offer the most “bang for the buck” to their customer. And, for the student, it insures they are making the best use of these two valuable training resources . . . time and money!

So, as we in the northern half of the country prepare for a new training season – get out to the range, shake off the cobwebs and let’s all hit the ground running this year!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Commentary - Turn Away From Sin and Be Faithful To The Gospel


This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of the season of Lent. And, for Catholics a day of Holy Obligation (ya gotta go to church) . . . a day to receive ashes on your forehead.

20140305_191440 (Small)Ashes have traditionally been a public symbol of atonement. And that is their purpose in this Catholic tradition – a public display of faith, of recognition that we are, by nature, sinful and that we are truly sorry for our actions.

I was again asked to help distribute the ashes. As you can see Father got a bit carried away with the old thumb/ashes this year. Our phrase as we placed ashes on the forehead was “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel?”   There are days I find that a tall order.

And that is the intent of Lent, to provide the faithful a time of reflection, of study, of atonement prior to the events of the season – Palm Sunday, Good Friday and His crucifixion and death and finally His resurrection and appearance to those He loved.

I see myself as a man of faith. I have no doubt of the existence of God. And I have no doubt of the birth of Christ or the events of His life. I do, however, struggle mightily with the “why” of it. Why would a being with ability to create worlds and universes with a simple thought find enough value in our so very small corner of the universe to offer a sacrifice for our salvation? This I struggle with. Reduce that to my own individual salvation – that I do not understand . . .

I have been granted yet another season of reflection . . . to once again hear the words, hear the command and to do my very best to comply . . . to leave sin behind and to fully embrace the Gospel in my life.

It is a direct challenge by to Church to me . . . to us . . . to strive to be the very best person we can be. I will once again encourage you all to take a few moments daily to sit and ponder where you are in your life. To realize that He truly knows you, loves you and is more than willing to grant any assistance you need.

And I will yet again attempt to come to an understanding of the “why” of it all . . .

One day down the road I want to have a Diet Coke with Him, to be granted time to hear from His own lips the “why” of it all . . . and to thank Him for the love and compassion He has shown me throughout my life . . .

It is a gift He grants us all . . .

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Training - Stopping the Threat


“So, why do you carry a gun??” I’m having a chat with a friend who, while certainly is not anti-gun, simply cannot imagine carrying one for personal protection. I convey my standard answer – I want to be able to defend myself, my family and any friends under my protection from any threat that might come our way.

“So you’d just shoot them until they were dead?!?!?!” They’re not completely surprised by my answer – we’ve chatted before. Still, the thought of me killing someone is simply beyond their understanding.

“Of course not, I would shoot until I felt that the threat to me, my family or my friends had stopped.” Again, a fairly stock answer from me . . . it’s an honest answer that is clear to me . . . but not to them.

“So what the heck does that mean . . . you stopped the threat?”

And I realized while clear to me, it’s very easy to tell a friend or a student they should “shoot until they stop the threat”. Let’s chat about that a bit.

First some cautions to folks out there who carry a weapon for personal defense and are not shy about sharing their thoughts and ideas in today’s electronic age. The words you type . . . like these flowing from my fingers . . . will NEVER GO AWAY . . . EVER!!! So keep that in mind. If you put on your bad-ass hat, brag about your permit and the weapon you carry and talk about how you’re going to kill anyone who messes with you, your family or your friends . . . and then you find yourself in a situation where you do exactly that . . . what you type, what your share, what you post on video will surely be found and used by your accuser.

Secondly, carrying a weapon for personal defense and having the required state paperwork does not turn you into James Bond – licensed to kill.

William . . . William Keller . . . and I like my Templeton chilled with ice . . .

Nope, not so much.

To add to the mix that is rolling around in my head on this topic is an ongoing discussion about the value and meaning of “combat effective hits” vs. accurately placed multi-shot engagements.

And the value of a “balance of speed and precision” vs. – again, accurately placed multi-shot engagements, this might get to be a wordy

I want to approach this from two different angles – first the physiological requirement for actually killing a human being. Certain things must happen for this to occur, let’s talk about them.

And, I want to approach it from the perspective of a defensive shooter whose only goal is to survive an attack from what they perceive as a mortal threat.

Finally, a whole other series of posts could be (and have been by many other authors) written on the topic of the aftermath of such an encounter – whether it be a fatal encounter or if the attacker survived. That is beyond the scope of this post – perhaps at some other date I will address my thoughts on that, but not today.

Physiology of Killing a Human

Death in a human occurs when their brain activity ceases. If connected to an electroencephalogram you would see lines representing braining active that were simply “flat lined” – no movement at all, no indication that any brain activity of any type is going on. This is not respiration, this is not heartbeat, this is not blood flow but rather a direct window into the person’s brain that indicates that it is no longer functioning at any level. This person is well and truly dead.

It takes much more to pull this off than you would think. A drowning victim, depending on the temperature of the water, can go 10s of minutes without air and escape without injury.

On the other end of the scale soldiers with massive trauma frequently survive – many continuing to fight until the engagement ends and help arrives.

When faced with severe injury the body protects the most important parts – circulatory system, pulmonary system and finally our ability to think and run our bodies – our brains. Physiologically our bodies will do whatever it takes to protect the “who we are” portion of our bodies, our brains while sucking up tremendous damage. We are not killed easily.

We also can intervene in this process by chemically altering both our biological and mental state through a broad assortment of medicines and narcotics. It’s certainly not unusual for a person to pop an aspirin or Advil or Tylenol to relieve a headache to enable them to think clearer and to reduce the pain. Those taking much stronger and many times illegal drugs can also substantially alter their response to physical damage. Ask any officer who has been attacked by an individual filled with PCP or some other narcotic whether that affected their attacker’s ability to continue their attack long after a normal person would have stopped.

Given then my preposition that humans are much more durable than we tend to see them as – how do we go about actually killing a person. Let’s evaluate it from a systems approach and talk about three primary systems that sustain life – the circulatory, pulmonary and nervous systems.


Our circulatory system is used to move nutrients and oxygen throughout our bodies to nourish our cells and then to remove the waste products from those same cells. How long can a properly fed and “cleaned” live? It depends on the cell. Blood red blood cells live around 4 months. White blood cells live around a year. Skin cells a couple weeks while some brain cells live our entire lifetime.

That said, if we damage the circulatory system enough that it cannot properly tend to our cells – we die.

The medium used by the circulatory system to do its business is our blood. A 150 pound man has about 8 pints of blood. Diminish the amount of blood in a person’s body and their ability to maintain life is reduced. Loose a third of your blood . . . your outlook becomes iffy. Loose half your blood supply, death is a near certainty. As in all things there are those that survive well beyond typical limits, but the one third is a tipping point of real trouble.

For a threat to stop being a threat strictly via blood loss – it takes minutes – not seconds, and during those seconds – provided there is no other damage to them other than produce bleeding, they remain a real threat.

Of course virtually all defensive shooting classes talk about shooting a threat “center mass” – the center of the chest. Shots aimed at this region seek to not only open wounds to deplete a threat’s blood supply but it also seeks to actually destroy the threat’s heart insuring that eventually the threat will stop – which can still be moments.

And those are the two ends of the spectrum – wounded until they bleed to death or their heart destroyed which can still grant the ability for moments of life for the threat to do real damage to you, your family or your friends.

Pulmonary System

Humans are oxygen breathers. Our lungs are the organs that take in air (and all its component parts), extract the oxygen from the air, extract the carbon dioxide taken from the cells by our blood, expels that carbon dioxide from our bodies and then re-oxygenates the blood to allow it to repeat the cycle of delivering that oxygen to our body’s cells. In standard conditions, our brain begins to die within four minutes without oxygen. Variables such as extreme cold can prolong our life without oxygen, but – in the end – if our lungs stop working properly, our death is certain.

This again is one of the reasons for “center mass” shots for a defensive shooter. Damage the lungs, prohibit them from delivering oxygen and eventually the threat dies. And, again – this can take minutes to happen providing a threat time to continue to do real damage to you, your family or your friends while you wait for their body’s cells to die.

Nervous System

Our nervous system provides the brain with the communication’s channels to control our bodies. And it controls virtually every facet of our body – from our heart beat to moving our pinky finger. Destroy the nervous system – regardless of the integrity of our circulatory system or our pulmonary system – and you inhibit the ability of a human’s body to move and respond.

Our primary “cable” that moves this data around is our spinal cord. It’s well protected inside a the flexible bone structure of our spine with multiple sharp angles that allow flexibility as well as the ability to deflect everything from clubs to bullets that might damage it.

Yet, sever the spine above the pelvis – and a threat’s legs stop. Sever a spine above the top of the chest and everything below the neck stops – including the heart and lungs. Destroy the Medulla Oblongata that sits between the spinal cord and the brain stem at the very top of the spine and you “pull the plug” on the entire body of the threat.

I’m taking a lot of words to say that we do not die easily. And as a defensive shooter, if you face a determined threat – one intent on doing you great physical harm or on killing you – you need to be just as determined to “stop the threat” and survive the engagement.

These are the physical elements of using a firearm to damage a threat. There is more involved to actually “stopping” the threat.

Threat of Force

It’s a wildly variable statistic but still thrown around frequently. Somewhere between 500,000 and 2 Million times a year a firearm is used to deter a threat and no shots are fired. The range is broad enough to make it an essentially useless statistic, yet even the low end of the estimate – 500,000 times a year a defensive shooter displays a weapon and the threat changes their mind and leaves. For all parties concerned, this is probably the best outcome. The defensive shooter does not have to go through the emotional and financial issues of shooting or killing a person. And, the attacker is given one more opportunity to mend their ways.

Shoot them Center Mass

Depending on the level of training of the defensive shooter, this will be the desired target area should they be required to actually press the trigger. The reality is typically something else. In a 2008 NY Time article reviewing the NYPD entitled “11 Years of Police Gunfire” it was estimated that after reviewing 11 years of data of the NYPD the officers only had a “hit ratio” of 34%. One in three rounds found their mark. Obviously you can’t paint all police departments with the same brush but it does highlight that in the heat of a gun battle even trained shooters can have problems hitting “center mass”.

For the defensive shooter this, and similar studies, should help to emphasize that merely gaining a carry permit and putting on a defensive weapon is no guarantee that if attacked they will be able to even hit the attacker. It helps to drive home one of my primary points for my students – good instruction and personal training is simply a must.

In many instances – the statistical majority – the defensive use of a firearm happens at very close range. A defensive shooter’s ability to draw and engage the threat in such a way to do real damage is imperative. A common phrase used to describe such hits is to call them “combat effective hits”. These are typically “center mass” with the primary goal of damaging the circulatory and pulmonary systems of the body.

It is also at this point that the phrase “balance of speed and precision” comes into play. It does little good if the defensive shooter can empty a 17 round magazine in 3-4 seconds if only a few of those rounds even finds the threat. Add to that the fact that a defensive shooter “owns every round” – and you can begin to see that speed without precision has little value. You also have to define the word “precision”. On the training range does it mean “somewhere within the silhouette” or is it within the box that typically defines “center mass”.

On the other end of the spectrum is the defensive shooter that treats range time as marksmanship training striving to make a “single hole” in the center of the target. The disadvantage to this is that if they train to take their time to make the smallest possible group – that is how they will react to a mortal threat and they will make their final trip home in a ZipLoc.

Hence the idea of a “balance of speed and precision”. You need to find that blend of speed that allows you to draw and to place shots on the threat that will do real damage so that they will eventually stop attacking you. For my students I expect them to get 100% of their rounds within the silhouette and 80% of them within the center mass box. And I want them to go as fast as they can and still remain safe. This is my own personal boundary that I want them to push.

How many shots will it take? Somewhere between 1 and the contents of your defensive weapon and your backup magazine and speed loader because after that it may well be a moot point.

As a defensive shooter you are NOT a licensed killer, nor are you a murderer. You are an individual that may well be faced with a mortal threat that you must respond to or you will die. You must be able to do this quickly, you must focus your response and your rounds on your threat – and not to your threat’s “general area”. And you must be able to keep your head in the game enough so that you can determine when the threat has actually stopped being a “threat”. It takes instruction by good instructors . . . it takes focused training on the range . . . and it takes determination to win . . .

To “Stop the Threat” . . .

No one said it was easy.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

DVD Review – Counter Ambush by Rob Pincus


I’m an engineer by training . . . Computer Systems to be exact with a dose of Industrial Electronics and HF Communications thrown in for good measure. It affects the way I teach defensive pistol skills and how I learn them as well. It is also the “foundation” of my blog where I focus on the “new and inexperienced” shooter.

For me, personally, I want to know the “why’s” of things. An engineering mindset and skillset begins with the “basics” – math, physics, chemistry, technical writing skills, core specific “geekery”. This is then molded into a specific specialty. For me there have been two – HF communications with a dedicated focus on the design of receiver frontends and on HF drive amplifiers that feed the transmitter’s finals. (Yep, I am that much of a geek!) From a computer side I’ve worked on everything from chip design to network design to my company’s current focus of employee and time management software for nursing homes and hospitals. Been doing this stuff since 1975 and built my first computer in 1978.

What engineering teaches you is that the basics, the foundation matters. If you fail to grasp the basics of math, physics, chemistry, technical writing skills – your ability to be successful is severely limited.

So what the heck does this mini-slice of bio have to do with defensive shooting or my ability to protect myself, my family or my friends? It’s difficult to fully embrace the “art”, the skill set necessary to become a lethal defensive shooter if you don’t fully understand the “basics”, the foundation of the skill set and the reasons for different techniques and physiological responses. Yep, you can skip over them, you can go to the range and bang holes all day, you can take a classes here and there . . . but unless you dig a bit deeper and search for the bed rock . . . much of what you learn comes from the idea of “well – that instructor said so and I believe him!” Honestly, you can do better than that.

Rob Pincus seems to have made it his life’s work to really drive down to the “foundation”. I’ve had any number of folks respond with something like “yeah . . . don’t really watch his stuff, isn’t he the guy that waves his hands all around before he shoots?” Because the method is different, they are unwilling to dig deeper to look for the “why’s and wherefores”. Rob however, takes the exact opposite approach and willingly explains ALL his reasons, approaches, his successes and those things he has let go of and why he changed. He pretty much hangs it all out there for folks to either accept or reject, it’s up to them. Honestly, I like that.

In that spirit, I ordered his Counter Ambush 5-DVD set to learn “Counter Ambush” – whatever the heck that meant. I’m taking his CFS course in June and as is my habit, I like to review course work and reviews of instructors before I take their courses if it is at all possible. Over about a month I watched, listened, and researched his thoughts myself. The DVD set was absolutely nothing like I envisioned it would be . . . nothing.

I’m thinking I’m going to learn various responses to being attacked in a vehicle, walking down a street, having bad guys burst into my home . . . you know . . . how do I “counter” an “ambush”. MMmmmm . . . not so much.

The course is all about building your FOUNDATION. For the engineer side of me it was like taking a basic math, physics or chemistry course. It took the approach of “how can you become a better defensive shooter if you don’t think of what might happen, know how your brain and body work, understand the basics of everything from weapon selection to the physics of your stance and grip or have any idea of how to put together a training plan that works for you? Without a solid foundation of knowledge, you’re just making holes on paper. Honestly, this course hit ALL my geek buttons.

Disk One – “The Most Likely Event”

Training resources (time, money mostly) are limited for all of us. And, while it may well be fun to take a 5-day carbine course in how to fend off the Zombie Apocalypse – the likeliness of such an event is nil . . . so why spend money there.

The likeliness of taking long range defensive shots – let’s say 100 yards with a pistol – is also very low.

Spending a great deal of time, effort and money even at the 50 yard range is questionable. Yet, when we move to within 25 yards . . . 50 feet . . . 30 feet . . . 21 feet . . . 15 feet . . . 10 feet or less . . . we move closer and closer to “likely” and hence closer and closer to those skills that will help us most in an ambush.

Rob spends about 40 minutes (actually, each DVD is around 40-45 minutes long) walking you through his thinking on this, the decisions he’s made to mold his training to accommodate this and why he thinks it’s important that you seriously evaluate your training and make sure you are spending the majority of your training resources preparing for what is “likely” and not “possible”.

Disk Two – Neuroscience of Dynamic Critical Incidents

I get a bit of a kick on the heat the term “Dynamic Critical Incident” takes. The “doubters” like to snicker a bit at the term yet for the engineer in me – words MEAN THINGS. And a clear definition does a lot to get everyone on the same page – which is exactly what the phrase DCI does. It’s used LIBERALY throughout all of Rob’s course work so if you watch his videos, read his books or take his course work – get used to it.

You brain has had its “wiring” worked on for a millions of years. Each millennia has had its own threats from avoiding a Saber Tooth to dodging a bullet. It observes, evaluates and responds to threats based on this evolution. Disk Two helps to understand the foundations of your response . . . the difference between your instinctive reactions and your intuitive responses. And, it helps to see ways both can be made to work in your favor. Again, Rob digs deep here bringing knowledge and understanding from a broad range of experts and shows how it can be deal with and how these responses can be harnessed to make you a better defensive shooter.

Disk Three – Physiology of the Body’s Natural Reactions

Again, your physical being is the result of millennia of evolution. When faced with a mortal threat it IS GOING TO REACT . . . and you need to have some understanding of what those reactions will be, why they occur and how you can either mitigate them or use them to your advantage. Foundation, foundation, foundation . . .

Disk Four – The Physics of Defensive Shooting

I love physics, one of my favorite areas of study. When applied to defensive shooting, it revolves around gun handling, basic shooting and movement. Selecting the proper handgun involves physics – as does recoil management, sight alignment, sight picture, ease of weapon manipulation, your grip, your stance, your body’s position during shooting. While many folks recoil from the word “physics” – the fact is that our lives are ruled by laws of physics . . . and defensive shooting and the use of a defensive firearm is no different. Learning the physics makes us all better defensive shooters.

Disk Five – Developing a Training Doctrine

My phrase, when I teach this, is “Practice With Purpose”. Why the hell are you going to the range? Are you just making holes in paper . . . or do you have a plan.

Rob walks through this in great detail. There are specific skills you need to simply incorporate into your neural-network. There are physical changes that happen in your brain to allow parts of this to happen yet without a consistent plan that is actually WORKED, it won’t happen. It’s not hard, it’s not difficult . . . it simply must be followed and done.

So . . . was this course anything like I expected it would be? Nope – not even close. It was much better. It filled in a lot of holes I had been working on myself and, honestly saved me quite a bit of my most valuable training resource – time. And . . . it didn’t because the engineer side of me asked a lot of questions that I am currently working my way through with my own study and research.

The price for “Counter Ambush” 5-DVD set is $69.95 on their I.C.E. website. Click on the link, order the DVDs . . . I’ll wait . . .

My only concern is that folks watch training DVDs and then take that as a REPLACEMENT for range time. If you are one of those folks . . . please . . . unless you incorporate new techniques into your training regimen, you are learning nothing. Unless it is actually making you a better, more efficient, more lethal defensive shooter . . . you are just playing the odds and hoping you never run into a “Dynamic Critical Incident”. That kind of thinking will put you in a ZipLoc . . .

Watch the course, see how it fits into how you react, how you train, how you select a carry weapon, what your range work looks like . . . and then use it to get better, more efficient, and more lethal.

While this course does not have the dynamic interaction of a live course . . . it is very good and well worth your money and time.