Saturday, August 29, 2015

Commentary – Let’s talk about Virginia . . .

As I type the title I realize that in 6 months folks will scan the index on the right side of the blog and have no clue what it means. There will be other “Virginias” by then . . . But, for today and the next few days the “tragedy in Virginia” is wall to wall.

As an individual that has chosen to carry a defensive handgun for personal defense, as an instructor who has chosen to train folks in a skill set that provides them a chance at defending themselves, their family or someone in their charge and as a member of a broader training community . . . the “tragedy in Virginia” deserves some of our time.

To begin with, I’d like to simply point out that this wasn’t a “tragedy in Virginia”. This was a cold blooded murder carried out in a deliberate and purposeful way, a clear and deliberate act of evil. It wasn’t an accident, an act of God, a death due to an errant act on the part of Alison Parker or Adam Ward. It was a clear manifestation of evil in our time – period.

I read lots of comments about “situational awareness” – seemingly saying that had Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward only been “aware” of their surroundings . . . things may have turned out differently. The fact was that they were, indeed, “aware”. They were aware of the job they were sent to do. Ms. Parker was aware of the woman she was interviewing and was totally and professionally focused on her – as she should have been. Mr. Ward was also aware of the reason he was there – to deliver the best video shot he could for his news station. Their head was fully and totally “in the game” – performing the job professionally and to the very best of their ability. There is no fault there on their part and I find off the cuff comments about “situational awareness” in the context of them doing their job frankly offensive.

The shooter had a history of offensive behavior that had gotten him fired a number of times. From what I read a handful of random comments by Ms. Parker attracted his attention and seemingly sealed her fate. I also find I am exhausted to the ready excuse that he had “mental problems”. Given the effort he had to put into purchasing the weapon (as well as stockpiling more in his car), finding out the time of the interview, traveling to the interview, moving up on them from their blind spot . . . I see little evidence of a lack of mental ability. What he lacked was a moral compass. What he seems to have done is to have bought into the current arguments of whites being modern day slave owners and that “they” continue to abuse the black community. What he seems to have accepted is that the killing of Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward was justified because he had been “insulted”. Sadly, this type of rhetoric can be heard on a daily basis from social media to the main stream press. And it is becoming more and more effective in inciting black on white and black on law enforcement violence. I do not believe Ms. Parker or Mr. Ward will be the last of these types of assassinations.

As an aside, since their killing two police officers have also been assassinated as well. There are days when I feel like we are very close to the wheels coming well and fully off the wagon. Time will tell if sanity rules or we will all just have to wait to see who the last folks standing are.

There is one other lesson to learn here as well. It may be hard to hear, difficult to accept . . . yet I believe it is true.

We all have our day.

Regardless of our training, regardless of our course work, regardless of our efforts . . . we all have our day. Whether we are on the deck of a boat club or sitting in our recliner after a fine meal . . . For whatever reason – it arrived for Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward last week. It is something we all need to remember. That does NOT mean to just pack it in, skip the range and say “screw it”. What it does mean is to live your life every day! And, I am grateful to hear that it appears Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward had lived and loved and given to all in their life. In the end – that is what they should be remembered for.

I pray for the peace of their souls and for those in their lives . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2015


At the beginning of 2015 a group of instructors in the Midwest formed Midwest Association of Professional Shooting Instructors – M.A.P.S.I. You can read the whole story of how MAPSI came about on our facebook page here. Our purpose was to create a set of coursework focused, from the beginning, to introduce the new and inexperienced shooter to the world of defensive shooting.

For me personally, this was a continuation of the development of my own defensive firearms courses and, indeed, the course I am reviewing in this AAR is pretty much my course – Foundations of Defensive Pistol. OK, so why create new coursework? Frankly, I saw a need – as did the other founding members of MAPSI.

In Iowa a carry permit can be issued to anyone receiving a minimum of training – including taking a couple different on-line courses. The additional pressure of rigorous training simply doesn’t exist in Iowa – nor do I believe it should – anywhere. That said, what that means in reality is that most folks simply “take the minimum” that is needed to get their permit. For me that usually means that they take a single course . . . period.

As anyone who frequents my blog or either continually trains or teaches knows, there are a number of excellent courses out there. I’m an NRA Instructor and Training Counselor. The NRA coursework – as taught today – is some of the best available in the country. However, much of it – especially the “Basic” coursework – is taught from the “sports shooting” point of view, not a personal defense point of view. Add to that the changes coming to the Basic Pistol course work and its move to a blended curriculum . . . and much of what I feel is important for a new and inexperienced shooter to know simply isn’t being taught by the NRA or anyone else in a single course. Hence my development of my own “Defensive Pistol 1” course – now morphed into MAPSI’s “Foundations of Defensive Pistol” course.

Well, we are past the development phase of FDP, past the beta testing and we are entering – for the rest of this year, live teaching and review of FDP (along with our two other courses – Essential Defensive Pistol and Basic Defensive Shooting Skills). These courses are done, finished and in the can. They have been taught to hundreds of folks, reviewed, changed, polished . . . they’re ready for prime time. Hence this AAR about the FDP course I conducted this past weekend.

Let’s take a look at the outline for FDP . . .
  • Introduction to Revolvers and Semi-Automatic Pistols
  • Firearms Safety and Safe Gun Handling Practices
  • Introduction to Holsters, Belts, and Off-Body Carry Methods
  • Introduction to Ammunition
  • Care and Cleaning of Handguns
  • Range Safety Protocols
  • Defensive Handgun Selection
  • Defensive Mindset Concept
  • Defensive Shooting Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Using Cover and Concealment
For this class Steve and Connie are new shooters. They have a real interest in getting their carry permit, they do not own a handgun and they were looking for the best place to start. And, after talking to some folks who had taken my coursework, they chose us.

We begin by introducing revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. I always begin with a Single Action revolver and then the Double Action Revolver. Next is the Single Action Semiautomatic pistol, Double Action Only Semiautomatic pistol, Single/Double Action pistol, and an into to striker fired semiautomatic pistols. This begins to allow them to make better decisions when choosing a firearm for home.

Next was firearm safety and the proper way to handle a pistol. FDP uses Cooper’s rules since we feel it fits in better with the concept of using a handgun for personal defense. This lead to the introduction of holsters, belts and various methods of off-body carry. While no holsters are used in FDP, folks seem to make some horrible choices when choosing holsters and belts – we hope to make a dent in that problem.

Ammunition was next on the list – how it works, types a defensive shooter will typically use and then we spent a fair amount of time on the “whys” of selecting defensive ammunition.

We covered the care and cleaning of their defensive firearm and then covered the essentials of range safety and the range commands that would be used during the day’s range time.

Another issue new shooters have is going to a gun store to purchase their first defensive handgun. We spent a fair amount of time on exactly how to go about that process and the fundamental issues that go into making a solid choice.

And that took us to lunch . . .

After lunch we began to make the shift to range work. I am a big supporter of the use of SIRT pistols in training. By the time they returned from lunch I had a range setup in the classroom along with SIRT pistols and spare magazines. It is this space, right here, that I spend most of the time working on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture. It saves a great deal of time on the live fire range if you are willing to add SIRT pistols to your training process.

Then we moved to working on mindset. Here we introduce Cooper’s color code, use of force, use of deadly force, AOJP and disparity of force. These are taught in a broad scope with emphasis that they download and read Iowa’s code regarding the use and carry of a defensive handgun.

Finally we move into the fundamentals of defensive shooting. We talked about stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture. We touched on alternate methods of aiming and talked about the continuum of aiming a defensive handgun at a mortal threat – from using kinesthetic alignment to fully sighted fire.

At the end of this, we moved to the shooting range and setup our firing line at about the 5 yard line. I always begin with a single round in the magazine and run all drills “by command”. We worked through single round engagements, accelerated pairs, use of low and high cover (and the difference between concealment and cover), challenge drills and a final evaluation of their shooting skill. Also sprinkled in were the beginnings of “balance of speed and precision” drills – accelerated pairs center mass as well as single precise shots at called boxes.

For this course I’ve included a custom target for “center mass”. It has a vertical rectangle around the center of the target that is 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. This spot, on a standard sized human will typically yield the most damage and provide the best chance at “stopping the threat”. I have another post in the works to show the exact placement and the reasoning for this particular sized box – should be up by the end of the weekend.

Finally, we took some time to chat about the day. Honestly, it was a good day with a couple new shooters well on their way by the end of the day!

This is a very busy course yet the flow works well for the new and inexperienced shooter as well as those with more time under their belt. I think it will make a solid contribution to the training community to introduce folks to the concept of the defensive use of a handgun.
As for Steve and Connie, thanks for coming and congrats!