Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Training – Changes . . .


I gotta admit I’m not a big one for “changes”. As decades – not years – flow by I find that characteristic isn’t “changing” much. TheBoy and I had a chat around camp this past week about “the plan”.

ME: “So where are you two going when you leave tomorrow – what’s your plan?”

TheBoy: Eye rolling, his wife smiling just a bit . . . “No idea Pops!”

And so it went. I’m a big “plan” guy. TheBoy and his lovely wife . . . not so much.

My love of “a plan” should be obvious from my hammering you having a “plan” before you go to the range – why you going, what are you working on, what are your success/fail parameters?

I do vacations the same way – there’s a “plan” – departure times, gear lists, reservations, food, books to read . . . just the way I’m wired. In years gone by as I watch my Avionics shop pack for deployments – it was on me to make sure all gear that was needed went, that we had the right people, parts . . . you get the idea. There was a “plan”.

All this said – which I will continue to do BTW – that does not mean that there doesn’t come a time where a CHANGE is necessary, in some cases just to expand what you have/do/enjoy. In some cases it may well be your survival. I want to chat a bit about how this affects your training, your gun handling, your selection of gun, gear, range, training partners . . . and is it working for you?

Let’s start with “the tool” . . . . your gun. I am going to make the assumption (yeah – I know) that you have been carrying this gun for some time, that you do regular range trips with it. You know it, how it works – you have history to draw from. Is it “working” for you? Obviously its primary job is to save your butt . . . and I pray you have never had to walk that particular path. But – on the range, in your course work, during your training – does it “work” for you?

Can you get a consistent grip as you begin your draw stroke? Does it leave your holster smoothly? Does it fit your hand? Is your grip consistent, trigger press smooth and straight back? Can you acquire sights easily if necessary? Is the recoil manageable? Are your magazines working with your gun? Can you grab them easily? Can you “run the gun” with your hands? Does it all feel “natural” when the beeper “beeps”, the fire command is given, the SHTF?

If not, perhaps it’s time for a change. If you have reservations about any area we just chatted about . . . please, take some time for honest evaluation of your defensive weapon. Your life depends on it.

How’s that holster working for you? Does it secure your defensive weapon? Does it keep it in the same place each and every time you put it on? Is your draw stroke from the holster smooth? If it’s a holster used for concealment – does it? Does it remain open for easy reholstering? Again – setting aside all the “tacticool” reasons for you using that particular holster – please, if it’s not working for you . . . . perhaps it’s time for a change.

Does your choice of defensive ammunition run in your gun? Never checked it?? Change that! NOW!! TODAY!! If you’ve never run a box of your ammunition of choice to save your life – that needs to change now!

What about your belt? Is your holstered defensive weapon secure? And does it still hold your pants/slacks/skirt up? Is it wide enough and thick enough to insure a secure grip on your holster? I firmly believe your belt is one of the most important . . . and most overlooked . . . pieces of gear. If it’s not working . . . perhaps it’s time for a change.

How about your “knowledge base”? Have you added to it? Read any articles specific to personal defense? Watched any videos and they tried what you saw on your next trip to the range? Train with any new training partners? If you’re stagnant . . . you’re skills are diminishing. Please . . . change that today as well.

Have you varied your range work? Is your range work primarily standing is a stall, driving out from the compressed high ready to engage a target directly in front of you? First – there is NOTHING wrong with this particular type of training . . . as a portion of a training program. Just as there is nothing wrong with dry fire, use of a SIRT pistol . . . or any other training tool. The thing I have issues with is when they become your ONLY training regimen. That’s a problem because your chances of meeting a bad guy standing still, directly in front of you, waiting for you to drive out and engage him with an accelerated pair . . . . is slim. Please – take some time to find a local range you can use periodically that will allow draw from a holster, allows movement and multi round engagements. That is the real world and you need to spend some training time in that world.

Been to a course lately? Find a course that will push your boundaries. Take a high volume of fire course. Take a course with multiple target engagements. Take a course that offers a shoot house. Take a course that pushes your skills, allows you to fail and learn.

Take a few steps back . . . take some videos of you on the range . . . work with training partners . . . wear a helmet cam (they can attach pretty easily to your “ears”) . . . and – finally – be honest with yourself.

Is everything “working”?? If not . . . while change can be a bitch . . . to not change can leave you dead.

Change . . . it does a body good!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Training – Are you preparing to be the Victor . . . or the Victim . . .


I mowed the lawn yesterday. Honestly, it’s not something I enjoy. When we first purchased the property I enjoyed the fact it was in the country, in a wood patch and while there are a handful or homes in the wood patch with us – as I look out our front window I seen nothing . . . only our yard and fields to our west . . . for miles. I like it. It comes at a price though, namely the mowing and upkeep of the yard. I mow a tad less than two acres. This time of year I mow frequently . . . We have been through a succession of riding lawn tractors with beds up to nearly 60 inches. It took nearly 2 ½ hours to mow the lawn . . .The killer for me is that my brain simply doesn’t shut off when I do things like that – rather it works on its own projects at full speed as I barrel across the lawn wishing it were over so I could get on with all the “real” projects I have to do. (My wife assures me that keeping the lawn neat and mowed IS A REAL FRICKIN’ PROJECT!)

With time I learned the subtleties of the lawn, ways to do things a bit quicker, faster . . . A few years ago I bought a Zero-Turn lawnmower – HOLY CRAP!! What a difference in mowing time – nearly an hour difference, down to 1 ½ hours to complete the entire lawn. Here the differences are a bit more nuanced – turning is quicker, easier . . . more efficient.

Efficient: capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

Let’s ponder parts of that definition – without wasting time or energy . . . I like that.

This post came to me as I sat in the mower cage looking at this:


I have a row of three crab apple trees behind my office. They are between me and the lot behind and, as you can see here – they are in bad need of a haircut. So, while my “efficiency” has been significantly increased by the hardware I am sitting on – I have degraded my overall “efficiency” by not tending to these trees as I should have. The result – mowing around them is an tremendous pain in the butt and I once again promised myself I’d remove the branches back to “walking height” before the next cutting is due. I’ve made this promise to myself longer than I’m willing to admit on “paper”.

I am willingly being less efficient . . . and that got me thinking and wondering how many folks are being “willingly less efficient” with their Every Day Carry gear? By the time I finished this small portion of the yard I had an hour of mowing remaining and as I said, my head does have a habit of thinking about things so I put it to work on this post. Let’s chat about gear, weapons, modes of carry and the “efficiency” of it all when it comes to our personal defense. Are you preparing to be the Victor should the need arise . . . or are your preparing to be the Victim?

Efficiency – in a gunfight or a fight for your life – implies that you can employ your defensive weapons quickly, easily. A favorite saying revolving around this concept is “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” – meaning if your rush your actions so much that they become clumsy, they are valueless – and your day will end badly. But, if you slow down a bit, use well practiced motions – while you may well be moving slower physically – your final result will be quicker because of no wasted movements. In other words your “efficiency” improves.

When speaking about your carry weapon, efficiency speaks to both its ability to be presented quickly and consistently and to your ability to “run the gun” smoothly. In my opinion – fewer controls are better. That is why I shy away from handguns with external safeties, de-cocking levers and low capacity magazines. Fewer levers to operate and fewer reloads make me – personally – more efficient and more likely to survive a violent encounter.

If I look at how I react to an external threat – realistic training on the range helps my body remember how to “get the job done” (draw, extend and engage the threat) even though I may be startled initially. When someone talks about “startle response” let’s see if I can set that in a bit more context with this video. Funny – but what if the threats were real?? In my opinion that’s why it’s important to integrate a “startle response” and some movement to your training simply because that’s what your body is going to do anyway – why fight it?

I also watch my mode of carry – if I can’t efficiently draw my defensive weapon – my day will not end well. For me that means strong side, 4 o’clock carry each and every day. And, it also has meant a reworking of my wardrobe . Untucked shirts, shirts that are a bit longer, patterned shirts – all help conceal my defensive weapon.

My holster has also gone through the “efficiency filter” – does it allow me to draw quickly and consistently? Does it firmly retain my defensive weapon and hold it in place? Does it conceal well?

Spare magazines also dial into the overall efficiency equation. For me that means my spare magazine rides in my rear left pocket and provides an additional 15 rounds should I need them.

So how does this transition to range drills or real life? Everyone points to the “Tueller Drill” – you have approximately 2 seconds to respond to a threat that is approximately 21 feet away with a blunt instrument intent on doing you harm. It has morphed into “the standard” of being able to draw and engage a threat in that time. Reality is a bit more messy than that. Hence the integration of a startle response and movement to such an event because that is what your body is going to do anyway.

So how can you “prepare” today . . . to be more “efficient” should the need arise?

Purchase a defensive gun that fits and that you can run perfectly every time you pick it up. Cut back on the controls – fewer buttons and levers means fewer “mistakes” and a more efficiently employed defensive weapon.

Adopt a single mode of carry and then work on it until it is SMOOOOOOOOOTH! And if you simply can’t get there . . . abandon it and adopt one you can make smooth!

Same with holsters and belts – if they are unable to secure your defensive weapon in the same spot each and every time . . . abandon them and find a holster and belt that will get the job done.

Finally – range work. If you go to a range, stand in a little cubical and punch holes in targets . . . the only thing you are doing is working on a very limited portion of your entire defensive response picture. You MUST . . . simply MUST find a range that will allow holster draws, movement and strings of fire on a simulated threat. Because THAT’S the real world . . .

Bottom line . . . what are you preparing to do? Are you preparing to be the Victor . . . or are you preparing to be the Victim?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review – Hell Fudge . . .


A while back I attended the NRA Annual Meeting and met a group of bloggers.  While having breakfast with OldNFO the first morning of the show two folks showed up – Midwest Chick and Mr. B. of Middle of the right.  Conversations ensued over the next few days and one of the discoveries I made about Midwest Chick is that she is a crafter of fine fudge.  Now . . . I gotta say . . . fudge is one of my personal weaknesses.  I grew up in Michigan and there is no finer fudge to be had than that manufactured on Mackinaw Island.  So . . . I have a pretty high individual expectation of what a fudge should taste and “feel” like as I eat it.  I asked Midwest Chick to send me the recipe for her “Hell Fudge” which comes in various “heat” levels – all the way up to Ghost Pepper!

And, that’s kinda where I left it . . .

When much to my surprise a few weeks later this arrived . . .


The large 9x9 “sample” on the right had a heat index of “2” in her estimation – enough to insure my face and forehead burst into a sweat as each portion was consumed.  The 4-squares on the left are made with Ghost Peppers and rates a flat out 10.  It was a wonderful surprise and fully deserving of my full review! 

An evening or two ago this was all that was left of the large sample . . .


It has been a wonderful journey . . .  to the review!

Firmness   I don’t care for “mushy” fudge.  Nor do I like fudge so hard that it crumbles when you eat it.  I like it “firm”, moist on the tongue – not wet, pliable so I can roll bites around in my mouth.

Texture  I also don’t like granular fudge where the texture feels like little chunks of chocolate flavored sugar crystals.  I want it to melt in my mouth, to feel smooth and to coat my tongue evenly.  (not too picky am I . . .).

Smell  It must have the smell of a rich chocolate.  That is as important to me as is the firmness and texture.

Taste  Finally, taste.  Getting the taste of fudge just right is a true art form.  In fact Midwest Chick said she has been tweaking this particular recipe for 13 years.  Her passion and love shows.

Opening the package flooded the immediate area with the deep, rich smell of a fine chocolate.  I guess I expected to smell peppers – what ever that means – yet there was only a heavenly chocolate smell.

Poking the fudge showed that there was real body to it, but it was “firm” – not brick like.  A knife cut smoothly through it – something that remained throughout the nearly 2 months I managed to stretch out the “sampling” process.  It never dried out, never crystalized, never got hard . . . simply remained “firm”.

Not knowing what her interpretation of a hotness level of 2 was as compared to mine – and I fully admit to being a bit of a candy-ass when it comes to truly spicy-hot food – I cut about a dime sized chunk and bit off about half of it.

My mouth was flooded with a rich chocolate taste.  It melted easily on my tongue and the resulting liquid quickly coated the inside of my mouth . . .

It was about this time that I noted that the chocolate had turned to lava and it was flowing down my throat . . .  My body reacted appropriately with my face and forehead bursting forth in sweat in an odd attempt to cool my mouth and throat!  And still, as I was detaching quickly from my body, my mind was noting how wonderful the chocolate taste was, how smooth the texture was, how deep the chocolate flavor was, how evenly it melted . . . and “we” – both body and mind – decided this was indeed a very fine piece of chocolate.

So, as my body was asking “what the HELL do you think you’re doing!?!?!?!” my mind demanded that I take the remaining half of bite and pop it into my mouth!  Please re-read the above 2 paragraphs . . .

As you can clearly see by the two images, the “little bit of heat” did nothing to deter my working through the entire block of chocolate.  And while I had able assistance from my wife, she has much more willpower to restrict her ingestion of sweets that do I.  I managed to eat the lion’s share of the large package.

As for the 4- squares of Hell Fudge with an estimated heat level of 10 . . . my wife jumped into that quickly.  Her level of acceptance of truly spicy food is much greater than mine.  She NEVER sweats, never mentions the “heat” . . . until this particular time.  First there was the smile of enjoyment of a truly good piece of fudge.  Next came a rather surprised expression with eyes going wide, a smile spreading across her face and a few beads of sweat appearing here and there.  As the moment passed the words “Dang that’s HOT!!” were heard . . . followed by a long MMMMmmmmmmm . . . and finally – after a few moments – “Well, maybe just one more bite!”

She has continued to nibble on remaining fudge but was kind enough to leave me two pieces to sample.  Honestly, watching her reaction made me a bit nervous but finally last night with the first batch gone and a desire for a “bit of fudge” growing I went and cut one of the remaining chunks into four pieces and settled in my recliner to taste test.  She was sitting on the couch – looked at me a smiled and said “Pretty big chunk there kid!”  She knows how I react to hot stuff and I am confident she was looking forward to the entertainment.

I took a bite and noticed that this fudge had more the taste of a rich dark chocolate.  It was a bit firmer but melted easily in my mouth.  I expected the “lava” to flow momentarily but was instead greeted by intense points of heat all across my tongue – yep – quite intense . . . very intense . . . just a few steps below white hot intense . . . all immersed in this wonderfully chocolate flavor.  Truly a unique taste.  My next fear was lava flowing down my throat and it bursting into flame.  Strangely, the “heat” remained strictly on my tongue – nothing on the inside of my mouth or my throat.

I am pleased to say I still have 7 more little chunks to finish off  . . .

Two thumbs WAY up Ma’am . . . truly a tasty and unique fudge.  Thank you so much for your kindness in sending a sample this way . . .

You are going to the NRA Annual Meeting next year . . . . right??? . . .  Smile