Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Just the Basics - Your Survival Begins With Your Foundation


It’s surely no secret by now that I am a huge proponent of “The Basics”. I suspect that’s due to the “engineer side” of my brain. I’ve been an engineer for nearly 40 years and certainly colors my thought processes. In fact, with a bit more effort, my first book on “Just the Basics” will be on the bookshelves by the end of the summer – consider yourselves warned!

That said, I believe that the best way to insure your survival, the survival of your family or a person in your charge is to build a solid foundation for your defensive skill set. There are a number of ways to build this foundation.

Again – no secret – I am a proponent of the NRA “Basic” courses – pistol, rifle and shotgun. They are excellent places to start for a new and inexperienced shooter. And, their more advanced coursework in Personal Protection both inside and outside begin to provide a solid foundation as a new shooter moves towards carrying a weapon full time for personal defense.

So let’s talk a bit about the building blocks – at least as I see them – to this “foundation” that will give you a better chance of survival should that day ever come.

Recognizing the “Issue”

First a new shooter needs to “dig the hole” for the “footing”. They need to actually recognize that there is a real need to carry a firearm for personal defense. I’ve shared this phrase many times in the past – yet it fits so well for the folks I see coming for first time training . . . they see that the fabric of the society they have grown up in is becoming “frayed around the edges”. They don’t feel quite as safe as they did 5 years – 10 years ago. As folks my age talk of spending the entire day away from home on bikes, hikes and at friends and watch the eyes of today’s parents go wide with fear saying things like “I’d never let my child do that, it’s just not safe!” Exactly.

New shooters, beginning to walk a path of being able to defend themselves must first come to realize that there is a need. I see this as preparing the space for the “footing”, the foundation.

Developing a will to survive

Most of the folks that come to me for initial training have not been faced with a “live or die” situation. Or, if they have, it’s typically related to a medical issue and not a violent encounter. As a defensive firearms instructor – I am often the first to raise this issue in their mind . . . are they willing to actually fight for their own life? Some have to chew on this a bit. If you ask if they are willing to fight for the life of their child – little hesitation is seen . . . but for themselves? That can cause a true pause for reflection.

Add to that the next question . . . “Are you willing to take a life to defend yourself?” Here the pause can get even longer. Moral issues (the taking of a life), societal issues (defending your actions to friends or in court), emotional issues (how do you justify taking a life to yourself) . . . these and more come into play when deciding to build a foundation for personal defense as well as in exercising that option should the need arise.

Does the new shooter before you want to live to tell the tale? Have they even given it any thought? It is a critical element in their “foundation”.

Knowledge of your weapon

How much do you really need to know? Bottom line – how to load, clear malfunctions, aim in both intimate contact and sighted fire – and that’s about it. Rob Pincus has an interesting video where he takes a person who has never handled a handgun before and in 20 minutes has him achieving combat effective hits on a target around 15 feet away. I would view this approach as the “minimum”.

For the engineer side of my head – I really want a new shooter to be familiar with all the different types of actions for handguns as well as rifles and shotguns if they are part of their defensive mix. I want them to know how to clean them, inspect them and care for them. I want them to “know the words” that are used to describe everything from the backstrap to the muzzle.

I want them to be able to clear all typical malfunctions and to have a reasonable idea why each of them can occur.

If a defensive shooter does not know the weapon he/she is using to defend their life – it may turn into nothing more than a club . . . not good folks, not good!

Know your ammunition

For me, defensive ammunition resolves itself to a very small handful of rounds – Hornady Critical Defense, Critical Duty and Federal Premium HST. For me . . . today . . . those are my choices. I choose hollow points because I want to insure that the damage is limited to the threat before me and not any innocents beyond. I want all the energy to be dissipated by the individual intent on doing harm to me, my family for a friend.

Your choice may be different – and that’s just fine. But I believe you should know the “why” of the choice rather than just saying . . . “Well, that’s what Bill – or Frank – or Joe said to use!”

Gear Choices

When a new shooter begins to carry there is a broad variety of gear that comes into play – belts, footwear, concealment garments, purses, holsters, magazine carriers and a spare magazine, flashlight, defensive knife – it can feel overwhelming. But, they are incredibly important choices. Take the time to do your research to insure that each choice is right for you, your method of carry and your defensive firearm.

Coursework and Training

Taking on-going coursework is a lifelong task. I’ve had this discussion on this blog multiple times . . . take some type of coursework each and every year. And while I certainly enjoy returning students – variety in your instructor selection is important as well. It exposes you to new methods, different points of view and broadens your relationships in the defensive shooting community.

Training is the work YOU do on your own on the range or on your dry-fire range. Again, it’s a topic I hammer on frequently. It’s a MUST . . . a HAVE TO . . . and the key to your ability to integrate the elements above into your own specific foundation.

Build your foundation. Use good materials. Understand how they all go together. And once complete – keep it in good repair . . . you don’t want it to crumble just when you need it most.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Commentary – No greater love . . .


America’s military men and women are frequently questioned as to their reasons for joining the military. There are many that come to mind. For some it’s an “out”, a way to get away from a bad home, bad part of town, a way to make a new start, a path to education . . . but if you dig deeper, peel back the layers of the onion that is the soldier, airman, seaman, marine that stands before you, I believe the answer is much simpler . . . love.

An absolute love of freedom . . . that ability to be whoever, whatever you wish to be. That sure knowledge that we are not products of our environment . . . but rather products of our heart.

The love of family . . . and the knowledge that the thin red line is all that stands between their continued wellbeing and the threats of an often violent and vicious world.

The love of another . . . knowing that by standing between that person and evil – they honor their vows, their commitment and the lives of both defender and defended.

The love of a child . . . both family, friends and those children surrounded by violence and death. Lives of service men and women exchanged for a chance, a prayer, a hope that those children may be granted a better life, a better future.

The love of country . . . one that has been truly blessed and severely tested throughout every generation since the first signatures were placed on the Declaration of Independence.

No family, from those earliest generations to todays is untouched by the sacrifices made during wars. Some have lost loved ones, many are dealing with the aftermath of multiple deployments and there are those just struggling to adapt to the new reality of bodies ravaged by combat. Some are a step or two removed – yet still the magnitude of these sacrifices make itself known to all but the most hard hearted and cynical of us.

In memory of this love . . . in memory of friends and family lost . . . in memory of those who will wear their youth for all eternity . . . and “to absent comrades” . . .

Thank you . . .

Perhaps a parting thought . . . and an clear example of the depth of love between comrades in arms . . . I give you Army Captain William Swenson . . .


Captain William Swenson–Medal of Honor Recipient

Monday, May 19, 2014

Just the Basics - Preparing Your Defense


Most instructors have favorite sayings that they like to sprinkle throughout their courses . . . I am no exception. Those who have taken one of my courses have heard my phrase . . .


Typically this is applied to the act of reholstering their weapon. There is no need to reholster quickly – take your time, make sure the holster is clear of bits and pieces of clothing and then make sure you weapon is firmly and fully reholstered.

There are many times in preparing for a defensive encounter that it makes sense to take your time and be thorough. Let’s chat about one of them . . . your legal defense.

An attack on your person by someone intent on doing you real physical harm or killing you brings about two separate and distinct points of survival. The first is the attack – you must have the will and skills needed to survive the attack. Once the attack is over – assuming you are still standing – your second survival point is reached . . . can you legally defend your actions? As the Zimmerman case so clearly shows – there are many forces that can come into play in the “court” of public opinion as well as a courtroom where you will be tried and judged by your peers. While there is little you can do if swept up in a political and media firestorm – there is a great deal you can do NOW, TODAY, THIS INSTANT to help you in a courtroom.


We’ve had this discussion in the past – but just a reminder, continuing education is simply a must. If you are one of the folks who took a quickie 4-hour lecture or on-line course to get your carry permit . . . and that is the full extent of your coursework . . . you are going to have a much more difficult time defending yourself in the courtroom.

The use of a weapon in personal defense, the ability to quickly and accurately engage a threat, the ability to be aware of developing situations, the ability to fully evaluate the environment prior to – and during – and engagement takes training, takes coursework taught by knowledgeable instructors. An ANNUAL (at a minimum) advanced training is simply a must. And, if you’re the “4-hour guy” – please, find a reputable trainer that is nearby and do yourself a favor this summer – start your advanced training journey!

What type of coursework should I take?

An obvious place to start is with your defensive handgun. You course work should teach you how to run your gun, quickly and accurately engage your threat, how to draw from concealment and how to “live with your gun” on a daily basis. As I said above – this type of coursework should be an annual event – not just a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

The same can be said for a defensive shotgun course. If a shotgun is part of your home defense options – find a defensive shotgun course. While you may well be a “lifelong hunter” there is a world of difference between taking a pheasant on the wing and using a shotgun to defend your family.

Coursework can also include the use of On-Line training, DVD material and any number of excellent books and magazines that cover a broad range of topics on the defensive use of firearms. This is NOT a substitute for live training – it IS a great adjunct to your training process.

How will this help you should you go to court? It shows you are a serious student of the gun. It confirms that it is important to you be able to use your defensive weapon in a responsible and effective manner.

Document This Coursework

Should the worst happen and you take a life in defense of your life, the defense of your family or someone in your charge – having certificates showing that you took training from instructors with professional certifications (NRA trainers, LE trainers, time spent on military ranges or nationally knows trainers) will go a long way in providing evidence that you are serious about the proper use of a firearm for your defense. That said – the flip side of the coin is that it also implies you should know better than to do something stupid as well. Massad Ayoob suggests you take your certificates (make copies for your bragging wall), lists of the books you’ve read, the DVD coursework you’ve watched, the magazines you regularly read and send them to yourself via certified mail. Keep them unopened unless they are needed for your defense – then have the certified package opened in the courtroom and entered as evidence in your defense. I believe this is very good advice.

Document Your Training

A point of personal definition – I define “coursework” as that taken from professional instructors. I take a course to learn new information, new techniques, and new ways to use my weapon effectively. I then bring this information home and integrate it into my own personal range “training”. When I use the word “training” – I mean the time I spend on the range practicing my individual skill set and integrating new skills into my overall skill set. Document this process.

If you are the “I’ll just to the minimum” kind of guy/gal – you probably have taken a quickie course and then go to the range a couple times a year to send a box of ammunition or so downrange making holes in paper. While this gives you some training time in the very basics – it does nothing to advance your defensive skill set.

Make a training plan – then follow it. “Practice with purpose” should be your catch phrase. Why are you going to the range? What are you going to work on? How will this trip enhance your ability to defend yourself? Have a range notebook (or blog for that matter) and write up an AAR for your trip. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to focus on and do on your next trip? Use your phone to document your training trip. Fire enough rounds to make the training effective. A typical trip for me begins with around 100ish rounds of .22 from my Ruger 22/45 and ends with between 100-200 rounds from my Glock 17 EDC weapon. I may work on movement, my draw stroke, accelerated pairs, cognition drills . . . and a whole host of other items. I write it up and many times post it to the blog. If you get in this habit – it too can be used in your defense to clearly show you are a dedicated student of the gun and are intent on knowing how to properly use your defensive weapon.

Words Are Forever

In my youth – “words” were easily lost. School papers written, letters to my wife to be, reports, articles, thoughts – unless effort was made to save them . . . most of my youthful thoughts and ideas were lost to history. That’s probably a good thing! That is not today’s world . . . let me say that one more time . . . THAT IS NOT TODAY’S WORLD!!! Every word you post, every email you send, every text your send, every photo you take, every Facebook entry you make . . . is essentially forever . . . and will certainly be used against you in a trial. If you are mature enough to carry a gun for personal defense – make sure you’re mature enough to temper your “voice” be it spoken or written..

Be Able to ARTICULATE your choices

Articulate : able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing

                   : clearly expressed and easily understood

When you decided to carry a weapon for personal defense – you made a choice. Why? Why are you carrying a tool with the ability to inflict deadly force on your hip or in your purse? While words like “the 2nd Amendment says I can!!” sounds all macho/macha . . . they would carry little weight when defending you against charges in a deadly shooting. Today – now – this moment . . . take some time to work that out in your mind. For me I carry because our society has become a little more dangerous, many folks have chosen to use crime to advance their lives rather that good old hard work, things have become a bit more “frayed around the edges”. It affords me the ability to defend myself, my family or those in my charge. Regardless of YOUR reasons – make sure they are clear, that you are certain and that you can clearly articulate them should the need arise.

When you choose to carry – CARRY. Every day and every place you legally can. First, that just makes sense to me. A predator will never willingly give you the ability to choose the ground you fight on – they will do their best to find a time and place that best fits their needs. If you figured you “didn’t need to carry today” and your paths cross . . . your day will not end well. And, words like “well, I carried today because I was going to a bad side of town, my gun just made me feel safer!” may well be true for you on that day, but in court they lead to many very uncomfortable lines of questioning – “why is THAT the bad side of town?” – “didn’t you have other places you could have gone to pick up that same item?” – “did you harbor bad feelings about people of that color?” . . . If you’re going to carry . . . carry!

Why do you carry the gun you carry? What is it about that gun that allows you to run it better and more accurately than some other choice? If it’s a high capacity semi-automatic . . . why do you need so many rounds? Surely 6 or 7 is more than enough . . . and a spare magazine? Do you really NEED that many rounds just to feel safe?

Can you clearly articulate an answer to these questions? Have you even given it any thought – or have you gotten so wrapped up in the choice of your carry weapon that you’ve not given much thought to the “why” of the choice. And, right behind that, do you spend quality range time on a consistent basis with your carry weapon? My “range gun” IS my carry weapon, one that I send thousands of rounds down range each and every year. Training gives me comfort knowing I can quickly and accurately engage a threat, it gives me confidence that I am intimately familiar with how to run my carry gun and how to keep it running. Do you have the same feeling about whatever is on your hip or in your purse as you read this?

Can your articulate your choice of defensive ammunition? What are YOUR arguments for the specific cartridge you carry each and every day? What makes it a good choice for stopping a bad guy while reducing the risks of injuring an innocent bystander?

Why do you carry where you carry – be it strong side carry, outside the waistband, inside the waistband, appendix carry, shoulder holster, pocket carry, off body in a purse – why do you carry THERE and can you clearly articulate your choice?

Why even think about this stuff?

The simple answer to that question is that your continued freedom may well depend on your ability to “articulate” all the choices you have made – from the training you’ve taken to the weapon you choose to carry.

Spend some time, gather your thoughts, refine your reasons, clarify your choices, document your training, make adjustments to the amount of coursework you take and the training you do . . .

It matters more than you can imagine . . .

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Just the Basics – Best Caliber – Best Gun for you to carry . . .


I’ve seen this discussion pop up for years and years and . . . well, you get the idea – for as long as there have been handguns for personal defense – the argument over what the ‘Best” caliber and what the “Best” gun has been on the lips of many an expert.

Let’s set the context of the argument first. As a defensive firearms trainer, folks that come to me for training come for that specific focus – defensive shooting. They are asking me (and all defensive fire arms trainers as well) a profoundly important question . . . “What is the best weapon I can use to defend my life?” That’s a pretty weighty question. They deserve so much more than many of the canned answers out there . . .

“Can’t ever go wrong with a Glock!”

“Nothin’ better that a good old 1911!”

“I think this little pink 380 would do a great job for you!!”

Or the 5’ nothing, 100 lb woman being handed “The Judge” by the sales clerk with the words “Hell, just point this thing at them and they’ll haul ass!”

There are a lot of people who have gotten some truly poor advice – typically given through laziness, ignorance or simply the desire to “make the sale”. Let’s spend some time on this topic.

Use of your defensive weapon.

First, let’s look at why, exactly, you carry a defensive weapon. Its purpose is to defend your life, the lives of your family or folks in your charge . . . TO. DEFEND.THEIR.LIVES. ponder that thought just a bit. It’s not to make holes in paper, for entertainment on a range, for the enjoyment you get from taking challenging training, for hunting. At the instant you draw your weapon from its concealed location – you will either win the engagement – or go home in a ZipLoc. Once drawn – it is life and death. Take some time to chew on that just a bit because the intensity, the “stakes” of that moment are seldom part of the overall discussion.

Control of your defensive weapon.

In order to be effective in your defense – you must be able to control and manipulate your weapon. If you are unable to get “combat effective hits” (each “hit” does real damage to the threat’s ability to continue their attack) – your weapon is of little value. If you are unfamiliar with how your weapon works – your weapon is of little value. If you can only control you weapon through the first round – and are then unable to manage its recoil and rapidly get back on the threat – your weapon is of little value. If you experience a misfire, a failure to feed, a failure to eject, a double feed – and you are unable to clear these issues quickly – your weapon is of little value to you.

Bottom line – if you cannot use the tool you carry with you each and every day that you depend on defend your life, well – your weapon is of little value to you.

So let’s start there – with YOU – as we begin the examination of which is the BEST gun for you to use for your personal defense and which is the BEST caliber to use.

A quick story – I’d just gotten a call from my FFL that my Ruger LC9 had finally arrived. I had anxiously awaited its arrival as this was to be my new carry weapon. (long since relegated to a classroom demo gun – I’ve returned to by Glock 17 as my EDC gun – but that’s another story) A mutual friend of the FFL and me happen to be there as I opened the box for an examination – we’ll call him “Tom”. Tom is an older gent – late 70s but at that time quite an active guy helping the FFL at gun shows, golfing regularly showing little in the way of reduced mobility with his age. He had been looking for a new gun and was intrigued by its size so he asked to look at it. Being an “old hand” with firearms, his first task was to lock the slide back (there was no magazine inserted) so he could insure the chamber was empty. That’s where the issues began. It has a very tiny safety that is stiff and difficult for me to manipulate. For Tom, with the beginning of some arthritis in his hands – it was nearly impossible taking quite some time and “messing around” to get it off. Next was the fact that the return spring was pretty darn “stiff” making the simple task of racking the slide difficult as well. And, finally, the tiny little slide lock proved very difficult to engage while holding the slide back. After all these difficulties – he still ordered one only to find that the magazine spring was so stiff he has never been able to load it to full capacity. To the best of my knowledge it remains in its original shipping box in his gun safe – which is probably the best place for it because that specific firearm would be of little value to Tom should the need to defend himself ever arise.

You need to choose a handgun that “fits” you – with all your kinks, quirks, disabilities and physical characteristics – paying no attention to the caliber to begin with.

Revolver or Semi-Automatic

Running a semi-automatic handgun requires the ability to rack a slide, manipulate safeties, change magazines and clear cartridge failures “automatically”. This takes a couple of things – practice (lots of practice) and physical ability – especially hand strength and the ability to grip the weapon. The physical issues made the LC9 a poor choice for Tom – as similar firearms for many other shooters. Yes, there are special “techniques” a person can learn to help the processes – but under stress, with a bad guy/gal bearing down – is it wise to rely on special “techniques” to save your life? I would argue it is not. This is my decision point when recommending a semi-automatic (my preferred gun) over a revolver – can the shooter physically manipulate the weapon easily? If they lack the physical strength and dexterity to do so – a revolver gets the call for me.

On the revolver side – a whole new array of challenges comes when a shooter is required to reload quickly. Still, for those without the strength to manipulate a semi-automatic pistol, I find they typically can utilize the cylinder release and use a speed loader. Granted – fewer rounds, it can take longer to reload – yep, I get it. But, at least they CAN reload. As for clearing malfunctions, a simple press of the trigger advances the cylinder past the failed round – much easier that a “slap, rack and shoot” drill.

When making recommendations for which handgun a person should look at – please, take time to evaluate they physical abilities first. If they can’t run the gun physically, they have a real problem should the need arise.


As in anything from jeans to a ball cap – fit is important. Handguns are no different. Long ago and far away during the qualification round for my first carry permit the fellow in the lane next to me brought a Colt .357 6” Python as his qualifying weapon. I had a Colt Woodsman .22 (yep, the first handgun ever fired with my Uncle Ted). He was tall and slender (as I could only hope to be), took his stance, pressed the trigger for his first round . . . let’s be kind and say his qualification round did not go well. The qualification officer finally gave him a .22 Mark II and the fellow qualified just fine. My point? The Python was anything but a fit for the fellow as a defensive weapon.

A firearm should fit the shooter’s hand such that they can firmly and fully grasp the grip of the gun. The full 360-degrees of the grip should be enclosed by their hands without stress or strain. Next, it should direct the recoil straight back into the arm of the shooter. This means their grip should be high on the back strap and as close to being in line with the barrel as possible. Finally, they should be able to touch the trigger with the end 1/3 of their trigger finger without stress or strain and they must be able to press the trigger straight to the rear without the first segment of the trigger finger moving left or right.

Put these things together, and you have a firearm that physically fits the shooter.

Simplicity of Use

A firefight is chaotic, terrifying and mind numbing – at least first seconds . . . and all too often that is the deciding time between life and death. I am going to assume (yeah, I know . . . ass – u – me) that the typical individual that carries a weapon for personal defense DOES NOT train regularly, DOES NOT get more advanced training and does little more than hit the range a couple of times a year with a box of ammo and makes holes in paper . . . and that is all they do. IMNSHO – for these shooters – simpler is better which leads me to handguns with safe action triggers or long trigger pulls or a revolver as opposed to those with manual safeties. Fewer things to remember equates to a better first shot response time for those folks who simply do not spend time on the range.

Recoil Management

Once a round is fired, how quickly can the shooter get his weapon back on target to send a second round down range? That depends on their ability to manage the recoil of the firearm. If they have followed my suggestions about “fit”, the vast majority of the recoil is sent straight into their body. If they have trained enough to “follow through” and not try to see where their shot hit, a second shot can be nearly instantaneous. I like to use accelerated pairs to help a new shooter work on this along with a couple “Bill Drills” thrown in to get a real sense of what it takes to keep their weapon on target.


For me – caliber selection pretty much comes last. First you need to find a gun that fits the shooter, one they can manipulate quickly and easily. Can they get combat effective hits (read a center mass pie plate sized group) on a threat? And finally, can they control the recoil well enough to insure accurate follow-up shots with multiple rounds. It is at this point that caliber begins to make an entrance for me.

As I related in my story above about the fellow qualifying with the Colt .357 Python – size does matter. If their handgun is so big, so powerful that they only get one shot – they have a problem.

The typical rule of thumb is that is defensive rounds are typically .380, .38, .357, 9mm, .40 or .45. The lowly .22 seldom makes the list and I typically would agree. However, if I have a shooter who can only manipulate and shoot a .22 cal revolver due to physical issues – I would never withhold that as a viable choice over nothing at all.

And, on the other end of the spectrum – I wouldn’t recommend “The Judge” to a shooter who has a small frame and small hands just so they can “scare the hell” out of an attacker.

My typical recommendation is the largest caliber that they can manage the recoil on and get combat effective hits when stressed. That will tell the tale to me and help me make a solid recommendation to a new shooter as to what style and caliber of handgun they should purchase for their personal defense.

For a weapon to be of value for personal defense – the shooter must be able to “run the gun” and manage it when it’s fired. ALL of that goes into the mix when both selecting the gun and selecting the caliber of the gun.

It isn’t just about the caliber of the ammunition . . . it’s about the marriage of the shooter, the gun and the ammunition that will make it a true tool for the shooter’s personal defense.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review – Personal Protection Outside the Home – Instructor Course May 2,3 2014


The NRA PPOTH course, as I have stated in earlier AARs, is the NRA’s introduction to a concealed carry. To date – it is the most advanced shooting course they offer (in my opinion). The course I conducted over the weekend of May 2,3 is the last of the sequence I began in March beginning with PPITH – Instructor, PPOTH and finally the PPOTH – Instructor. All three, taken together, provide a solid foundation for instructor candidate of the foundations that must be – first – FULLY UNDERSTOOD – and then taught to those folks coming to an NRA instructor for course work designed to have them begin learning the skill set to defend themselves, their families and those in their charge both inside and outside the home.

For the PPOTH – Instructor course in particular, I spend a fair amount of time on instructor mindset. When a student comes to an instructor – they expect to learn the skillset as advertised – in this case those skills required that are foundational to protecting themselves while walking through everyday life. This includes everything from ways to carry their defensive firearm, to levels of awareness, types and uses of cover and concealment, how to avoid possible conflicts and, how to draw and use their defensive firearm in the protection of themselves, their families and those in their charge.

It is a very busy course, especially the “Advanced” version. That is the only version I teach. Frankly, the basic one is too “basic” when it comes to range work. The “Advanced” course provides a much better foundation as a starting point for students to build their defensive skill sets. For Instructor Candidates – it’s even busier. And, there is absolutely no guarantee a candidate will become an instructor. If you are reading this post with the idea of becoming a PPOTH Instructor – some thoughts before you find a course to enroll in . . .

Be a “shooter”. This means so much more than simply having your carry permit and hitting the range. From the NRA’s POV, you must be a BP Instructor, you must be a PPITH Instructor and you must have successfully completed the PPOTH course itself. This is no small feat – but also no guarantee that you are a “shooter” either. I expect every instructor to shoot multiple student drills throughout a course to provide first – a proper example early on in their course and, to build confidence in the instructor. There’s always a bit of “can you really shoot?” questioning of instructors at the beginning of range work by some of the students. This gets that out of the way as well as keeping an instructor on their toes. Be a shooter . . .

Know your firearm. Coming to any of these instructor courses is NOT the time to learn your firearm. It should be second nature. Clearing malfunctions should simply be “automatic”, being fast – accurate – and safe should be second nature, it should be an extension of your body and not something you are just beginning to carry.

You should shoot your carry piece. That’s the whole idea of this course work – to teach your students how to defend themselves, their family or those in your charge with the firearm you carry every day. As instructors – teach the course with your carry gun. Oh – and please don’t say something like “well, I’m just starting to carry – I haven’t decided on a carry gun yet.” If you don’t carry . . . how the heck can you evern begin to believe you can teach the dozens of little lifestyle changes your students will have to come to grips with as they begin to carry a defensive handgun??? Take another year, carry 24/7 (yes – that means having your firearm readily available in the middle of the night), travel with it, wear it everywhere you can legally each and every day, send a couple thousand rounds down range during that year . . . . then come back to the instructor course and learn how to teach the skills you now use on a daily basis.

Be aware of the magnitude of what you are going to be teaching. Folks are going to come to you to learn how to defend their life – the lives of their family – and the lives of anyone else in their charge. Take a deep breath and ponder that responsibility . . . they deserve the very best you have to offer.

This particular course had the opportunity to “fall off the rails” on me. There were three folks that were scheduled to finish out this last course in the sequence. Unfortunately one of them got yanked because of a work project. If this happens, you have two options as an instructor – pull the plug on the course – or find a solid solution. The solution I used was to pull in an earlier student of mine from other NRA courses and my own coursework to “flesh out” the classroom and the range work. We have a small (narrow) range here and with this type of work where you are just beginning to teach folks to draw – fewer shooters on the line are better. With a two lane rotation, it worked well to have the “guest” take up one lane and then have the candidates rotate between drills to run the range and the drill. You would think with fewer shooters it would go faster – it doesn’t. There are nearly 2 dozen drills to go through, learn, perfect and teach. No matter how you slice it between the “Basic” requirements and the “Advanced” requirements that’s a lot of range time . . . ya just have to deal with it.

So, with this approach in place, we moved the course work that began with the “presentation” of the firearm through all the range drills on day one – again because of weather. Spring – Iowa – and Murphy can really work you over on schedule. The second day was then the candidates conducting the remaining lecture. The disadvantage for candidates with a small class is that they spend much more time presenting the material. And that’s also the advantage – they spend much more time presenting the material.

This course was unique because it ended up women only – Lori and Bobbi. The final result – two brand-new instructors with a passion to teaching women in their communities the skills they need to defend themselves, their families and anyone else in their charge. They worked hard, shot well, had great command of the range and the range drills and did a great job presenting the course.

Good job ladies!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review - Dark Angel Gen 3 Pouch


A number of years ago I did a post about my personal Blow Out Kit and its contents. If I’m on the range, it’s clipped to my range bag. If I’m in the car it’s clipped to the headrest behind my head. Without fail. That said, it has always felt a bit bulky to carry and difficult to deploy single handed, so I have continued to search for a different pouch to carry my BOK in. Enter Dark Angel and their Gen 3 Pouch used in their D.A.R.K. Kit – Direct Action Response Kit. These kits were designed by military medics and work on the principles of :

“Life is hard – keep your med kit simple”

“Simplicity Under Stress”

While they offer fully stocked D.A.R.K. kits, the images you will see here is my kit transferred into their pouch. There are two omissions from their kit, an airway tube and a Mylar blanket. I will add the blanket; I will not add the airway tube to my kit since I have not been trained on its use.


This is a good sized pouch measuring 8”H x 3”W x 2.5” D. Here you see my shears on the left side of the pouch held in by a retention strap. An additional pouch in the front holds my SOFTT-W Tourniquet.


Seen from the front you can see it will take up little room on your belt, your battle belt or your chest rig. The primary concern is accessibility. Worst case where I can still deploy its components is that I have a badly damaged dominant arm which is now useless. I must deploy the tourniquet within 60 seconds if a major artery is hit. Thus, placement becomes an issue. If I am wearing a chest rig – anywhere on the front would be accessible by either hand. If I am wearing a battle belt or pistol belt on the range, the best place is the center of the back where, again, either hand can easily reach it.


A “pull tab” easily pulls the “cap” off the top of the pouch. Another long pull tab that is pushed down into the pouch when the med pack is inserted is used to easily extract the med pack.


My med pack was simply a heavy gauge Ziploc freezer bag with my two Halo seals, a pack of combat gauze with quick clot, an Israeli field dressing and two sets of gloves.

You’ll notice there are two molle straps to attach the pouch to a battle belt or chest rig or, you can use them as a belt loop on a gun belt at the center of your back.

This pouch is perfect for its designed use – rapid deployment of BOK gear in the event of a catastrophic wound on the range or in a fight for your life. The items I have within my BOK are fairly standard and will go a long way towards providing me or someone in my care a fighting chance to hang in there until the EMTs arrive.

So one other question then – why the emphasis on single handed implementation. Perhaps this image will help clarify things . . .


This is an image of me holding a Glock 36. I use it to build targets for my indoor SIRT range (that’s another post). THIS is what your threat will see if you engage them. You pointing a loaded weapon right at them. Notice where your eyes are naturally drawn. If I am the threat, and I am engaging this person, my body will naturally aim at the most demanding portion of the image – the barrel of the gun. What this means to you as a shooter is that there is a very large chance you will take wounds to your hands or arms. Knowing how to use your BOK single handed is simply a must – from initial deployment through the installation of a tourniquet – if you can’t get to and use your gear single handed, you may well be in a whole world of hurt.

Bottom line – after 2 years of searching the Dark Angel Gen 3 Pouch is the best pouch I have found to carry my BOK on my person on the range. I would encourage you all to give it – and their full kits – a very hard look.