Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review - Defensive Handgun 2 AAR 4-25-2015


Any time an instructor builds a course, or a course sequence, there should be a purpose to the flow. If you are a student glancing at this post you should be able to ask the instructor to explain the “whys” of the course – it’s content, flow, how he/she wants it executed. If they can’t . . . if they seem to be confused as to the why they are teaching a specific thing . . . if they play the “big dog” card . . . “why I’ve been teaching for decades, been there, done that, it’s the way I do it!” . . . and they are unable to clearly articulate why they “do it that way” . . . perhaps you might want to look elsewhere.

As instructors, we need to be able to answer those questions, provide a clear, concise flow to the coursework . . . with a very clear and definable end at the end of the day.

A couple weeks ago I threw up a post regarding running my first Defensive Handgun 1 course given my updated material. This past weekend was my chance to do the same thing, but with the follow-on course with the spiffy title of “Defensive Handgun 2”. It was a good day!

My purpose, my goal for the end of the course was for the student to be able to recognize a defined threat, draw from concealment and engage that threat with either “combat effective hits” or a precision shot. It is meant for folks that are new to concealed carry with the understanding they are at the equivalent level of a shooter who has finished my DHG1 course.

I had the wife of one of the students call the day before the course and chat about her coming. It’s not uncommon – be the student male or female – for a new shooter going to their first real shooting course (i.e. one that involves real and extended range work, not just 50 rounds down range at a qual target) to be a bit nervous. She and I chatted, cleared up her concerns she headed to the local range for a new holster and belt! 8AM she walked into the classroom with her husband.

While it shouldn’t be (“you ain’t trainin’ if it ain’t rainin’) bad weather and new shooters doesn’t lend itself to teaching fundamentals to a new-ish shooter. Naturally, spring in Iowa dictated a 100% chance of range with around an inch in the forecast. Yippy, Skippy! And, also being Iowa in the spring weather predictions are “questionable” at best. Our 100% chance of rain turned into a partly cloudy, cool and windy day – not a drop of rain! NICE!!

I always take a few hours on fundamentals regardless of the course. We covered safety, emergency medical responses (one of the guys was a certified EMT, good to have in the course), filled in holes for some of the folks on everything from holsters to running their particular gun, covered things like deadly force, disparity of force, AOJP, de-escalation and in general used that time for “leveling the field” between the students.

Next is an extended SIRT pistol range session. I put up LETargets SEB targets in the back of the room, had them holster my SIRT pistols and began going through the coming range drills. Honestly, I love SIRT pistols as an intro to the live fire range work. I can use the classroom, watch each shooter closely, be a bit more “hands on” in working on stance, grip, extensions, placement of hands for the grip while still providing a very good approximation of how things will feel on the range. I usually set aside about an hour for this type of work which usually leads up to a lunch break.

After lunch I fine-tuned the range, posted targets, set out barrels as loading areas for the lanes, had the shooters gear up and began with a simple set of drills – dry fire first – of just a “Drive, Touch, Press” with a single round. To this I added more and more blocks until, by the very last drill, they would hear a target called out, determine whether a precise shot or rapid engagement was called for then move, draw from concealment, engage, scan, and the slowly and safely holster their defensive weapon. The very last drill employed three targets for a single shooter with colored/numbered shapes as well as the “bottle”. Plenty to evaluate when the “up” command was given.

As a final suggestions to instructors . . . shoot this final qualification target with your students. It’ll keep you on your toes! So I had the fellow whose wife called me run me through the drill. Her suggestion for my final engagement of the drill? She had her hubby call out “BLUE!!” Of course there were 3 targets, 2 blue shapes per target . . . so I shot each one, running dry after 5 rounds. But, it was a good day and I hit each shape . . . I’ll take it!

It was a good day. Everyone improved markedly throughout the day. And by the day’s final drill things were running smooth, the hits were good and smiles were seen by all!

Congrats to Jo, Tim and Braxton! Great job folks!!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Training - So When You Say the Word “Aim” – What Do You Mean?


The argument between the value of “point shooting” and “aimed fire” came to life again recently. Much like the 1911/Glock or .45/9mm discussion favorites – trenches are deeply dug on both sides of the “point shooting” / “aimed fire” discussion. Everything’s been said over and over and over . . . again. So why yet one more discussion? Because it’s my blog . . . and I want to present it in a bit broader scope to the “new and inexperienced shooter” that my blog caters to in such a way that they realize “aiming” their defensive weapon requires a continuum of skills . . . it is NOT an either/or situation.

Let’s set the context first.

You are talking about the defensive use of a handgun to defend your life, the life of your family or someone in your charge.

You MUST SHOOT to save your life, there are no other options available.

You are fully aware of the various elements of AOJP and can clearly articulate your you HAD TO SHOOT to save your life.

You fully understand the concept first described by Rob Pincus – there is a “balance of speed and precision” that is defined by the individual characteristics of each defensive shooting engagement.

You understand that well over 80% of all defensive engagements occur at a distance of 15 feet or less. And, that few exceed 30 feet.

You are the prey . . . your predator will give you little to no warning. It is your responsibility to be aware of your surroundings and potential threats as well as options for escape and evasion.

You understand that distance is time . . . and there is little time when the shit hits the fan. Your attack may be as close as physical contact and require little more than rolling your body so your defensive handgun is centered on your attacker to 30 feet or more with a predator holding a knife to the throat of a spouse or child . . . with the police minutes to 10s of minutes away where a single precise shot is your best chance to stop the threat to your family.

In other words, a violent attack on you, your family or someone in your charge can easily cover a continuum of distances from contact to 30+ feet. Your skill set must provide you the ability to meet a deadly threat anywhere within this range of distances. You must be able to place defensive rounds on your threat that quickly inhibit their ability to continue their attack.

A starting point for “very up close and personal” – within 4 yards – is a tome written over 70 years ago by W. E. Fairbairn and E. A. Sykes entitled “Shooting to Live”. I find that many times their methods are simply cast aside with some type a derisive comment about “point shooting”, references to how inaccurate it is, comments about only “accurate hits” count and that the drive to “aimed fire is the only way to go.” It makes me wonder if they ever read the book or why they cherry pick arguments that fit their point of view rather than give these gents a fair hearing.

Their methods were developed after evaluating nearly 600 shooting incidents . . . to believe they have nothing to bring to the table is terribly short sighted.

At the very beginning of the book the first chapter is entitled “Purposes of the Pistol”. Let me quote a rather large section of that chapter.


By “Pistol” is meant any one-hand gun. This book is concerned with two types only: (1) pistols with revolving cylinders carrying several cartridges, and (2) self-loading magazine pistols. For convenience, the former will be referred to henceforth as “ revolvers ” and the latter as “ automatics.” The word “ revolver ” has long been accepted by dictionaries in almost every language. If “ automatic ” has not yet been quite so widely accepted, it is, we think, well on the way to being so, and we shall not be anticipating matters unduly if we. continue to use it in the sense indicated.

Excluding dueling (since it is forbidden in most countries and appears to be declining in favor even in those countries in which it is permitted tacitly or otherwise), there seem to remain two primary and quite distinct uses for the pistol. The first of those uses is for target shooting (i.e. deliberate shooting with a view to getting all shots in the ten-ring on a stationary target). Its second use is as a weapon of combat.

This book is concerned solely with the latter aspect, but it must not be inferred on that account that we in any way decry the sport of target shooting. On the contrary, we admire the high degree of skill for which it calls and which we personally cannot emulate. We recognize the great amount of patient practice necessary to attain such skill, and we can see that in suitable circumstances the inclusion of a target pistol in the camper’s equipment would not only be a source of pleasure but might be useful as well. Target shooting has its place and we have no quarrel with it.

There probably will be a quarrel, however, when we go on to say that beyond helping to teach care in the handling of fire-arms, target shooting is of no value whatever in learning the use of the pistol as a weapon of combat. The two things are as different from each other as chalk from cheese, and what has been learned from target shooting is best unlearned if proficiency is desired in the use of the pistol under actual fighting conditions.

These views are the outcome of many years of carefully recorded experience with the Police Force of a semi-Oriental city in which, by reason of local conditions that are unusual and in some respects unique, armed crime flourishes to a degree that we think must be unequalled anywhere else in the world. That experience includes not only armed encounters but the responsibility for instructing large numbers of police in those methods of pistol shooting which have been thought best calculated to bring results in the many shooting affrays in which they are called upon to take part.

There are many who will regard our views as rank heresy, or worse. We shall be content for the present, however, if in the light of the preceding paragraph we may be conceded at least a title to those views, and we shall hope to fortify the title subsequently by statistics of actual results of shooting affrays over a number of years.

At this point it would be advisable to examine very carefully the conditions under which we may expect the pistol to be used, regarding it only as a combat weapon. Personal experience will tend perhaps to make us regard these conditions primarily from the policeman’s point of view, but a great many of them must apply equally, we think, to military and other requirements in circumstances which preclude the use of a better weapon than the pistol—that is to say, when it is impracticable to use a shot-gun, rifle or sub-machine gun.

In the great majority of shooting affrays the distance at which firing takes place is not more than four yards. Very frequently it is considerably less.

Fairbairn, W.E.; E.A. Sykes (2010-04-09). Shooting To Live (Kindle Locations 90-91). Paladin Press. Kindle Edition.

Notice that they have clearly set the table. They are discussing pistols – both revolvers and “automatics”. They have differentiated between target shooting and combat. And believe me, the use of your defensive handgun – at close distances – to save your life, your family’s life or the life of someone in your charge is, indeed combat. They had the opportunity to evaluate the use of a pistol simply because the city they were located in – early 1930s Shanghai – was one of the most violent on earth at that time. Based on their evaluations, they developed 5 separate shooting positions for their officers to become proficient with: Close Hip, Quarter Hip, Half Hip, ¾ Hip and full extension. The first four for use WITHIN 4 YARDS OR LESS . . . 12 FEET OF YOUR LETHAL THREAT . . . and the final to be used if it was at all possible. Let’s chat about these a bit.

Close Hip

Draw your weapon, lock your elbow, drive your elbow down and your weapon will be pointed at the threat. Ideally you’ll be squared to the threat, more than likely using your support arm to fend off the attack. But, you may also need to turn your body to help defend your weapon from being taken away. The point with this position is that it is employed VERY close to the attacker where there is no opportunity to extend it to provide sight alignment/sight picture. While pin point accuracy is not available, “defensive accuracy” certainly is and these early rounds can be used to begin to stop your threat and to create distance so more accurate methods can be used should follow-up shots be required.

Close Hip (Large)

Quarter Hip

Once your weapon is drawn, you are always trying to drive to your most accurate shooting position – one that is two handed, fully extended. That said, you may have a bit more distance available but a threat that is still way too close for full extension. As you drive to full extension, you will find that ¼ of the extension – Quarter Hip – will become a more accurate shooting position than Close Hip.

Quarter Hip (Large)

Half Hip

As your distance to the threat increases so does your ability to extend towards the threat for a more accurate shot placement. Half Hip is half way between Close Hip and Full Extension and, again, provides better accuracy.

Half Hip (Large)

¾ Hip

This is the position that most of the recorded engagements occurred. It is still a single hand shooting position but you have your weapon moving towards eye level and your ability to get solid defensive hits becomes much higher at this point.

Three-Quarter Hip (Large)

Full Extension

Full Extension provides the ability for a solid sight alignment/sight picture but the situation may not. You have other options available. You can “look through” the back of your weapon and “through the barrel” when you are at very close range and use that as your method for “sighted fire”. Or, you can simply use the top of your slide or barrel for sight alignment.

Full Extension (Large)

One of my favorites for close distances – 15 feet or less – is “metal on meat”. Place the metal of the rear of your slide on the center mass – the meat – of your attacker. Press the trigger and your probably of an effective hit on the attacker is very high.

Image 106 Metal on meat 2

Finally – Sighted Fire

You can use a couple rapidly placed defensive shots at very close distances to provide you the opportunity to create distance. With distance comes time and with time comes the ability to switch to fully sighted fire. Once you are up and on the threat mere milliseconds are required to shift your focus from the attacker to your front sight to bring your accuracy to a much higher level.

At this point, you are typically past the traditional 7 yard distance and pushing out to 10 yards or more. Should the opportunity to disengage and escape present itself - TAKE IT AND LEAVE! On the other side, should you find yourself free of the attacker but a family member still under attack, the distance buys you time for a precision shot to defend them from the attacker.

Defensive shooting is NOT one or the other . . . it is NOT point shooting or aimed fire. It is a continuum of options from Close Hip through a fully sighted precision shot. It is your responsibility as a defensive shooter to be able to “make the shot” that is required to defend your life. Take some time to develop your shooting skill set. It takes work. It takes time.

And it can make the difference between going home . . . and not . . .

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Commentary - Milestones . . . Embrace them . . . !


A bit of reflection today . . .

There are specific milestones in all of our lives that, while important at the time – blend into our life’s timeline. Today I have reached one of the traditional “markers” in my journey . . .

One of the earliest I remember was the passing of my dad. I have memories of bits and pieces – but just that, bits and pieces. I was only 7 and the biggest change was my mom’s change in career, selling our home and moving to something smaller and her determination to make sure I grew up a “normal” (ok, those who know me, no laughing!!!) boy.

10 was a biggie – out of the single digits and in a hurry to become an adult!

Of course 13, bring on the teenage years!!

Is there a bigger, more important age than 16 when you’re a young male hungry to make your mark on the world? Driver’s license, bought my very first car and the very beginnings of our life together – boyfriend, girlfriend – Bill and Sue . . . we’re still seen that way . . .

18 holds a special place as well. Within three months I was in the military and headed off to basic. It would be 21 years before I would put on the uniform for the last time.

21 of course. If you can actually remember how your day ended. For me the celebration began early in the NCO club at Peliku AFB in the central highlands. The “tradition” was to down 21 drinks – at a dime a piece. A task I vaguely remember completing. More memorable is being rousted from my bunk to head out to the runway tower to repair damaged equipment. I remember driving over the stop sign as I left the base in a very intense fog. The hard evidence shows no bullet holes complements of the local VC, probably do in no small part to my “evasive” driving skills I’m quite sure.

22 and my marriage to Susie, the absolute single, solitary love of my life!

25 and an Associate’s degree in Industrial Electronics.

The big 30 and a newly minted BS in Computer Systems Engineering and a new job in Iowa at Rockwell. The 30s decade was a bizarre mix of terror, fear, joy, relief and more of that mix. The birth of the best daughter and son on the face of the earth. Susie’s cancer and subsequent cure . . . and all that goes with trying to paste your life back together after that.

40 was kinda a non-event . . . things had finally settled out and we were finally just caught up in the flow of life, not the drama.

50 was met in the sandwich line at a local subway with some of the folks that worked for me delivering the infamous “black balloon bouquet”. The 50s also brought a Prostate Cancer bump for me and a decade of scouting and watching my son grow into the good man he is today. The introduction of granddaughters to the mix reminded Susie and I that very young kids are a joy and blessing . . . and totally exhausting. That said, bumps and all it was a great time!

60 was once again pretty much a non-event . . . punctuated with the wedding of our son and Holly. A very fine time was had by all and gaining Holly as a daughter was a true gift. And, life has taken a bit of a breath . . . kinda nice . . .

Which brings me to what, in my mind’s eye, is the “last” of the biggies . . .

Today I’m 65 . . . how the hell can that be?!?!?!?

I guess I see everything from here out as just gravy – to enjoy, to take advantage of and to relish my time with friends, kids, grandkids and the love of my life – Susie.

So how does this fit into a firearms training blog?? A few thoughts . . .

Time goes blazingly fast . . . enjoy every day!

Friends do the same . . . love and enjoy them . . . every day . . . and tell them you love them!

Family is family . . . sometime it’s good, sometimes not so much . . . but let them know you love them every day . . .

You have a right to life . . . as do those around you . . . be prepared to defend it!

Your life, your direction, your choices are YOUR responsibility . . . as is the defense of yourself and your family . . . take it seriously!

Age . . . “old” . . . limitations . . . “things you are too old to do” . . . lives between your ears . . . not in the real world . . .

Training, range work, learning, growing, challenging yourself, expecting more from yourself, goals, direction . . . these are LIFE LONG processes . . . until they “lock the lid” . . .

Consider me your time machine, your glimpse into the future . . . 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years . . . and realize your future is in your hands. The milestones will come – like them or not.

Live your life, enjoy the journey . . .

And it the range!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review – Handgun 1 AAR 4/11/2015


There comes a time when projects nurtured, babied, reviewed, tested and refined finally bear fruit. Today was just such a day.

I’ve been teaching our own version of a defensive handgun course for a number of years. Over the past year I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours tweaking it, presenting it to other trainers, reviewing their AARs, making adjustments, teaching it again . . . until today. Today, finally, I taught it for “real”. Very small class – just three students but it allowed me to “watch” as best I could while I taught it and ran the range drills.

The idea of the coursework was to provide a solid foundation to new shooters but from a defensive point of view. Yes, yes . . . I know, there’s bunches of others out there doing this but I had my own thoughts on the matter so I pressed forward with the rework of our course that I’ve been teaching for the last number of years.

Topics covered are safety, holsters, clothing, various types of handguns, ammunition, situational awareness, “Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy-Preclusion”, the foundation of the OODA Loop, various types of sight alignment, what is loosely defined as “startle response” (John Hearne recently lectured that there are over 30 different types), an introduction to defensive shooting and a set of 13 drills taking a shooter from dry fire through single round engagements to a final set of qualification drills from 5,7 and 10 yards. It’s been an interesting undertaking. I’ve had the benefit of a broad range of reviews from absolutely new shooters to seasoned LEO firearms instructors giving me feedback. It’s also been humbling and challenging.

Setup was completed by 7:30 AM and the students arrived by 8 AM. We jumped right to it. It’s a “full’ set of coursework. I provided handout material with key slides from the course PowerPoint and areas for note taking. As always, an emphasis was placed on a “bi-directional” course with an ongoing probe to make sure key points were understood. That was an advantage of a small class – it was much more intimate than a full classroom. I’ve always limited this coursework to 10 students. I believe that is the upper limit to really do the course justice. That said, since only minimal training is required here in Iowa to receive a carry permit, there are not many students that look for more than the bare minimum. These attending were different. Two fellows moving into a career in law enforcement and a friend of my daughters who is the mom of a 2 year old and looking to be a responsible gun owner capable of defending her family. Good motivation all around.

Classroom work is just that, classroom work. All in all, about 5 hours of lecture, questioning and dry fire using SIRT pistols. Lunch lead up to range work. One of the fellows going into law enforcement is former army with one tour under his belt. That said, it was apparent that the handgun is still a tertiary weapon system. Still, he came up to speed quickly. From single round engagements to accelerated pairs to working on both speed and accuracy – it’s a busy range session. Still, for many of my students I only get them once. A basic introduction, a basic marksmanship course simply isn’t enough to give them a fighting chance. My goal for this course was to provide something that would equip them with enough tools to have a reasonable chance of protecting their family in a fixed location in their home. To flesh this out I also added both low and hi barricade drills to the mix as well as a “challenge drill” forcing them to shout at an intruder. As simple as that sounds, we simply have become so “polite” as a society, the mere idea of shouting at someone is foreign to many. That particular drill is to just “break the ice”.

I also make it abundantly clear that this is “course work” and NOT training. I am introducing concepts and some initial drills. Their true “training” needs to be done on their own ranges – refining and cementing the drills I have taught as well as finding new ones to stretch their capabilities.

Finally, I stapled a B-8 target to the center of the LE Target they had been using. This was to become their qualification target with 10 rounds fired from 5,7 and 10 yards. I was pretty pleased with the result with two shooting over 90% and the third student coming in at around 70% but clear on the work he needed to do.

I’ll continue to this course as is through the rest of the year while I take notes, read AARs, present it to a couple other trainers for feedback . . . and then work on any updates over the winter.

And so it goes . . .

Congrats to Beth, Braxton and Nigel for a great effort . . . good job guys!