Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review - NRA RSO Course 2-20-2016

safety  : freedom from harm or danger, the state of being saf
          : the state of not being dangerous or harmful
          : a place that is free from harm or danger, a safe place

Can I be Frank with you?   (Careful Francine! . . .  sorry, couldn’t resist) Shooting ranges, fire arms and the interaction of one with the other – not to mention hunting activities – are NOT SAFE!!  I’m sure that comes as a complete shock to you.  They are not free “from harm or danger”.  A range – when in use – is not in a “state of not being dangerous or harmful”.  They are NOT A SAFE PLACE!

We forget that.  How many deaths occurred on shooting ranges?  Unknown.  That said, the CDC compiles data on accidental deaths.  Refer to page 41 of the NVSR for 2013 linked below.  Under the row within “Accidents” and “Accidental Discharge of Firearms” you find the following data.

Under 1

There were 505 deaths in 2013 due to the accidental discharge of firearms.  The number of shooting ranges registered with the Nation Shooting Sports Foundation in their “Where to Shoot” app exceeded 7,500 in 2014. 

According to an article published by the Daily Caller in November of 2014 there were between 300-310 million firearms within the us at that point in time.  I suspect the number is substantially higher today. 

Let’s marry a few numbers together then . . . 300,000,000 and 505 accidental deaths due to their unexpected discharge.    Your chance of one of these firearms doing you grave physical harm was .0001683333333333333%

The general inference from this number is that you are relatively safe from grave physical harm caused by firearms within the U.S.

If we try to bring together data on where these accidents happen, 2011 data sited by the NSSF showed of the 606 accidental deaths reported that year, 400 of them happened in the home – 66% were within the home of the gun owner.

Another 41 occurred while hunting . . . leaving 165 unaccounted for.

How many of the remaining 165 accidental deaths that occurred in 2011 occurred on one of the 7,500 shooting ranges?  There is no stat for that.  It pencils out to one death for every 45 ranges. 

At this point, things slide very quickly into pure speculation.  There are 38+ MILLION gun owners in the US owning an in the neighborhood of 300+ MILLION firearms . . . that resulted in 606 accidental deaths in 2011 and 505 accidental deaths 2013.  This gives rise to a simple question . . .

Why aren’t there more?

Given that the object of our discussion – firearms – are inherently dangerous, that they were designed specifically to kill both wild game and humans alike, given that there are hundreds of millions within our borders . . . why aren’t the streets and country side running red with blood?

There’s a simple answer really – legal gun owners aren’t sociopaths.  They don’t take pleasure in the act of killing.  They’re responsible gun owners that handle their firearms in a safe and responsible manner.  And there it is . . . the reason that the use of a firearm for hunting and the shooting sports – as well as self-defense, when compared with a broad range of other activities, is a profoundly safe activity.

There are a number of groups that have lead the way on making shooting a safe activity.  The NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, state lead DNR hunter safety programs, well over 100,000 recognized firearms instructors within the U.S. and all the dedicated dads, moms, grandfathers and grandmothers that take the time to make sure their children can safely handle a firearm.  This truly is a national and a cultural effort that yields a tremendous benefit to our nation.

I’ve taken a lot of words to set the stage here so I can drill down to a specific type of individual whose importance is dismissed all too many times but who, within the world of shooting ranges, is critical in their safe operation.  That would be the Range Safety Officer or RSO.  These are the folks that make sure we seldom . . . and I mean very seldom . . . hear of fatal accidental discharges on the over 7,500 shooting ranges scattered across our country.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to conduct a NRA Range Safety Officer course.  My focus was on scouters since the area council is trying to build our stable of RSOs for the shooting sports with camp season just around the corner.  The class was 50/50 scouters and others interested in becoming a RSO.  Some recently trained new instructors, one fellow looking to help a high school trap team, another couple guys looking to help at ranges in their area that were in need of RSOs.  In other words, all were there with a purpose in mind.  Honestly, that helps more than you can know.

According to the NRA On-Line Catalog – here is a description of the RSO course.

Name:NRA Basic Range Safety Officer Course

Short Description: Develops NRA Certified Range Safety Officers with the knowledge, skills, and attitude essential to organizing, conducting, and supervising safe shooting activities and range operations.

More Details: This course is nine hours long and is conducted in a classroom and at a shooting facility. Range Safety Officer candidates will learn roles and responsibilities of an RSO; Range Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); range inspection; range rules; range briefings; emergency procedures; and firearm stoppages and malfunctions. Each Range Safety Officer Candidate will receive an RSO Student Study Guide, a Basic Firearm Training Program brochure, an NRA Gun Safety Rules brochure and a Course Evaluation form.

The name simply and clearly explains their job . . . Range Safety.  Period.

There are a number of facets to this, let’s chat a bit about them.

Physical layout and structure:

A range’s safety begins with its physical layout.  A RSO needs to consider/review its physical location with respect to housing, roads, farm fields (at least in Iowa) all while considering what is “down range” as well as outside its other boundaries.

Rear berms and side berms must also be considered for their ability to stop rounds as well as their ability to protect the shooter.

Targets and target stands – from paper to cardboard to steel.  All must be appropriate to the range, be in good working order and be appropriate to the event itself.

Clear areas for observation, positioning gear, loading, well defined firing lines and final areas to clear and/or reload of weapons before the shooter leaves the range must also be provided and be clearly defined.

Prior to any shooting event the RSO must inspect the facility and make sure everything is in good working area.  As is explained in virtually every shooting course I’ve ever attended – the two primary reasons for firearm injuries is ignorance and complacency. The RSO can simply NOT BE IGNORANT of proper range procedures or be COMPLACENT in any way, shape or form.  Facility safety starts with them.

Knowledge of a broad range of firearms:

As you don the RSO cap . . . you become “the guy” or “the gal” who is expected to know all the ins and out of every firearm that walks onto the range while you’re on duty.  Take a moment to breath that it.  Of course the individual range will do a great deal to determine the range of firearms you will need to become familiar with.  On a Boy Scout rifle range the chances of you needing to know how to clear an AK are profoundly slim to none.  Help out with a carbine class . . . and the possibility of you needing to lend a hand with an AK substantially increase.  As a RSO it becomes your responsibility to become knowledgeable with a broad range of firearms – and the guys in the classroom for this particular RSO course had a reasonable depth of handguns, shotguns and rifles.  For those that were focused on the shooting sports for Scouts, they were more than knowledgeable enough with the types of firearms used to fill the RSO square.

Understanding of the individual range’s SOP – Standard Operating Procedure

It is the responsibility of a range’s Chief Range Safety Officer to develop a SOP for the individual range or ranges on a property.  It is the responsibility of the RSO to know, understand and enforce that SOP.  Honestly, this is another area that gets a bit shaky for many ranges.  If you choose to become the RSO for a specific range – make sure a clear SOP is in place and that you become thoroughly familiar with it.

Range Inspections

Things change.  People get sloppy.  Equipment degrades.  Weather happens.  One of the primary duties of a RSO – at least in my mind – is to periodically inspect a range, suggest improvements and to assemble work parties periodically for a range cleanup day.  “Crap” can easily accumulate on a range – broken target stands, shot up targets, spent brass, fallen leaves – the list is virtually endless.  A clean and tidy range lends itself to safer operation.  There is no guarantee . . . but clean shooting lanes, assembly areas and berm areas go a long way towards setting the proper attitude when a new shooter comes to the range.

Range safety briefings

Typically, as part of the process of joining a range, a Range Safety Brief is given.  It covers the rules and expectations of the range for its use and membership.  Each range is slightly different but it has been my experience that many rules are common across the community.  As an RSO it will be your responsibility to know and to be able to deliver these general briefings.

In addition, for events that you are acting as an RSO, you may well be expected to deliver a safety brief for the range, the event, or perhaps a specific stage of the event.  It is your responsibility to clearly understand all aspects of the range, the event or the stage so you can effectively and fully answer any question that may head your way.


You must be a presence, and authority on the range.  If you are there as the RSO for the day – you are THEY GUY, THE GAL that insures all shooters act in a responsible and safe way.  Much of this can be done by being a “presence” or a “force” on the range.  You don’t need to be an asshat . . . but you do need to be in full control of what is going on within the lanes of your range.


You may well know the rules, know the firearms in use, understand the SOP up and down . . . but if you can’t communicate in a clear and concise manner – your day may not end well.  There is a balance between loud, forceful, intimidating . . . and clear, concise and firm.  Find it, work on it and use it.

Emergency Actions

I have been very fortunate.  I’ve been working in and around shooting ranges since 1968.  I’ve never seen any type of catastrophic event on a live fire range.  I consider myself fortunate . . . but there is also a reason why ranges, as a whole, see very few tragedies.  The range operators, the RSO and the CRSO, as well as the individual shooters – take their responsibilities seriously.  That said – there is always . . . ALWAYS . . . the opportunity for things to go sideways in a truly big way.  Mitigating that event will, at least in portion, fall on the shoulders of the RSO.   HAVE A FRICKIN’ PLAN!!!  The absolute worst time to deal with a “holy crap” moment is during the actual moment.  Have addresses, phone numbers well posted on the range.  Assign tasks – medical response, who calls and directs the 911 response, who takes notes, who guides the response team to the area of the mishap, what do those uninvolved do and where do they go?  All of these things need to be determined and briefed before a group steps on to the range.

For “open ranges”, have addresses and contact numbers posted so they are easy to find and use.

Get some type of first aid training.  I’ve chatted about this topic a couple of times.  Basic Red Cross training at a minimum.  Their Wilderness First Aid course will fill the vast amount of squares you want filled on a shooting range.  Or, take one of the many shooter first aid courses that have popped up from a reputable training group.  Bottom line . . . get this training ASAP – lives could truly depend on it.

Inspection and Range Briefings

I am fortunate that at the range I teach at the RSO candidates could inspect and prepare range briefs on an Archery Range, Trapp Range, Rifle Range and Pistol Range.  They formed into 4 separate inspection teams and each team inspect each range.  Each team then prepared an inspection status brief for their assigned range that covered each range in depth along with what they viewed as deficiencies and their suggest course of action to fix the problems.

Once that was complete and all briefings were complete we moved on to the Range Safety briefing.  Again, each team was assigned a range and given 15 minutes to develop a safety briefing.  Once the prep was done, each team presented their briefing in turn.
The purpose of these two briefings was to simply put them in front of the class and have them deliver a brief and then respond to questions.  Your ability as an RSO relies in no little part to your ability to clearly and quickly communicate with shooters on the range.

Finally, the exam and it’s grading.  A 90% is required to pass the course – they all handled that easily

A final wrap-up and their thoughts, ideas and suggestions on how the class went, what they liked and what they thought I could work on ended the day.  Below you see the shiny face of 8 brand new NRA Certified RSOs.  Good job guys.  And, you’ll also have access to some of the other photos I took throughout the course.

Again, congrats guys, it was nice having you in class!

Additional links of interest

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Commentary - We want mo’ money!!

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has a personal policy of visiting all 99 counties within the state at least once a year.  Last night – February 16, 2016 – was our turn for the year.  I found the evening disheartening.

The Town Hall’s meeting room was packed with standing room only.  As you can see from the photo pretty much every inch was used up.

The meeting occurred within days of Justice Scalia’s death so the nomination and approval process took center stage.  Since Sen. Grassley chairs the Senate’s Judiciary Committee he will play a significant role in the proceedings.

To his great credit he didn’t let things bog down – instead he went around the room, took down 10 topics and then went through the list top to bottom.  Topics included the appointment of Justice Scalia’s successor, allowing adopted children to contact siblings, taxation of “Cadillac Plans”, rising cost of insurance, rising cost of prescription medication, reduced COLA for social security recipients, the unfairness of minimum sentencing from judge to judge, an end to out of control government spending . . . as well as a few others I simply can’t remember.

It is at about this point that you begin to realize how small an individual’s voice truly is.  And, it was also apparent just how willingly dependent we, as a nation, have become on the local, state and federal governments.  It was disheartening and disturbing.

The driving desire on the part of those folks who were obviously members of the Democrat party was to approve President Obama’s nominee TOMORROW!  Sooner if possible.  The Constitution was bandied about over and over forgetting that the Senate has an Advise and Consent duty.  The Senator smiled and said that no one has asked his advice on a nominee since the 80s and that he and his fellow Senators take their responsibility of consent seriously.  He sees no way that this president will have a nominee approved and sees it as one of the first duties of the incoming President.  Time will tell as to whether the Republicans stand fast against what will no doubt be a tidal wave of criticism.  I pray they remain strong.  I’ve been sorely disappointed with this particular batch of congressional Republicans as recently as October and hope they find a spine.

The cry for more funding for Social Security, for help with pharmaceutical costs, for those on fixed or limited incomes, for lower health care costs, lower insurance costs was loud and demanding.  The simple answer seemed to be to simply take it from taxes.  There seemed to be little understanding of exactly how we got here in the first place.  Much can be laid at the foot of the Affordable Care Act.  It had a 40% insurance rate increase built into its structure.  Folks were clearly told that rates would go up, the cost of pharmaceuticals would increase, hospital costs would rise, insurance costs would rise . . . the information was there.  The rub was that it was coming from the “wrong side of the aisle”.  The President’s promises of “you can keep your doctors”, “your insurance rates will go down by $2,500 per person” along with dozens of other promises were much easier on the ears so warnings went unheeded.  And here we are – with health insurance in chaos, rising costs as far as the eye can see . . . and now the cry of “SINGLE PAYER” has begun its rise.  We do have a national example of how single payer would work . . . it’s called the VA.  Our best and bravest dying on waiting lists, being left unattended and given care typical of 2nd world countries.  While the assurances that things would be better under single payer system are said over and over – there is virtually nothing to point to that would indicate that anything would get better and much to show things would get worse.  You want improvement – release health insurance to the market place.  Let it be sold across state lines.  Let someone create the GEICO of the health insurance world.  Competition will drives the prices down, and competition alone.

One other lesson seemingly lost on many in the group is that the Government has no money . . . they create nothing . . . they sell nothing . . . they simply take what they want.  Let me say that one more time . . . They take what they want . . . from us.  Of 163 countries the US ranks number 3 in corporate tax rates at 39.1%.  Third highest in the world.  And we wonder why corporations are leaving and no other countries are investing here.  Add to that a combined top individual tax rate approaching 49% - the government does a great deal to simply remove capital from the market place that could be used to grow business and expand the number of jobs.  The reality is that as the government takes more and more of the free capital available, companies will become smaller, fewer jobs will be available ultimately resulting is less money available for the federal government . . . which will only drive the amounts they take higher.  There will be an “end point” . . . we can see it in Venezuela even as I type this post. 

Another disheartening part of the evening was just listening to the grumbles of folks that fully expect the federal government to take care of them . . . as individuals.  It was never built to do that.  It will never be able to meet their expectations.  As I kid I grew up “pre-Great Society”.  When my father died family help us, friends helped us, my mom taught herself what she needed to know to get a better job.  Kennedy lit a nation on fire with “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”  He lowered taxes, sent men into space and created the space for the most massive growth spurt our nation has ever seen.  At the meeting I saw a nation with their hands out.  The cry seems to have become “We want mo’ money!!”  Gone was self-reliance and in its place was dependence on a government mired in petty politics and the raw desire for power.  How anyone can believe that they are the answer, that they are the solution, that they are the only hope . . . it nearly breaks my heart.

Folks, here’s the truth.  No one is coming to save you.  No one is going to pull our butts out of the fire.  No one is going to “kiss it and make it better”.

Look in the mirror.

That’s your help.

The sooner we eliminate our dependence on Uncle Sam, roll up our sleeves and get to it – the better off we will all be. 

My thanks for the good Senator’s time.  I am truly appreciative for all your hard work.  That said, I would like to see you all do less, spend less and do your very best to stay out of our lives. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Review - Below 100 Training and Its Application to Civilians

The law enforcement officers in our communities pay a steep price for their chosen profession.  From the daily stress of such a high risk career, to the fears they face every day to the prices they pay in their relationships – we owe them a true debt of gratitude.

And . . . we lose way too many of them each and every year to both deadly assaults as well as accidental deaths while on duty.  In fact, the last time there was a year where fewer than 100 law enforcement deaths was the year 1943 . . . 73 years ago.

In 2010 an effort was begun to do something about that – it has come to be known as the “Below 100” project.  I’m fortunate enough to live in the same community as one of the group’s founders and primary trainers – Cpt. Eric Dickinson.  I have the opportunity to lend a hand with their firearms training – especially their new reserve officers.  And, in turn, Eric invites me along on some of their training sessions.  A few months ago he invited me to their local Below 100 training session for their department’s officers.  Let’s just say it was enlightening.

Below 100 has five primary tenets:

·        Wear Your Belt

·        Wear Your Vest

·        Watch Your Speed

·        WIN – What’s Important Now

·        Remember:  Complacency Kills

Virtually all of these apply to the civilian defensive shooter with the exception of “Wear Your Vest” but I have a thought on that.  Let’s roll through each of these things and see how they fit into both the LEO community and the civilian defensive shooter arena.

Wear Your Belt

I actually grew up in the era before seatbelts, collapsible steering columns and air bags.  Just down the road from my home when I was about 6 or so a fellow lost control of his car and hit a tree square on.  Today things like our seatbelts, collapsible steering column and air bags act to protect us.  In fact, two of those require no human intervention at all.  In 1956 the driver plunged forward, the front end lunged rearward and the solid steering column impaled the driver on about 3 foot of rigid steel.  We’ve come a long way.

And yet, one safety measure does require human intervention to be effective.  The driver must manually secure their seat belt system.  One of the major causes of death for a law enforcement officer that is involved in a vehicular accident is the fact that many times they simply choose not to “buckle up”.  Today’s squad cars are filled with camera equipment – some with both internal and external cameras – not to mention body cams.  Part of the training involved watching some very tough video of officers becoming involved in a car crash . . . and not walking away.  It was sobering.

There are some familiar excuses that are used.  “I’m just going to the court house – it’s not that far away.”  “How am I expected to exit the squad car quickly with all this gear if I’m belted in?”  “What I wear is uncomfortable enough let alone strapping myself in!”  Bottom line – whatever the excuse – our nation loses a significant number of officers each year simply because they didn’t have their seatbelt system engaged.  WEAR YOUR DAMN BELTS!!

From a civilian defensive shooter virtually nothing changes.  I hear the same excuses – “It’s just a short trip.”   I just can’t get comfortable with a belt on.”  “I carry on my right/left hip, how can I draw with a belt on?”  As with the LEO . . . you are not special . . . you are not magic . . . you may well finish your trip in a ZipLoc if you take a pass on your seatbelt system.  So – for the majority of us who fall into the realm of a civilian defensive shooter . . . WEAR YOUR DAMN BELTS!  Your family wants to see you next Christmas.

Wear Your Vest

Comfort seemed to be the issue here.  They’re too bulky, too heavy, too hot, they don’t fit right, I get rubbed raw . . . so I’m not going to wear mine today.  I can imagine the pain a wife or husband must feel being notified that their loved one has just been shot to death only to glance over and see their vest hanging there.

I would love to have a country where our officers could rest easy and not ever have to face a deadly evil.  That’s simply not the real world.  I know they’re hot, heavy, uncomfortable . . . but the last thing I want for a LEO to think at the very end of their life is . . . “Damn . . . should have worn my vest!?  WEAR YOUR DAMN VEST!

My corollary for the civilian defensive shooter is . . .

Wear Your Gun

Yes – I realize a vest would be just as valuable to a civilian as a LEO.  However, it “real-ville” I suspect a civilian wearing a vest each and every day is probably a “step too far”.  Where the similarities do crop up though is that I hear many of the same arguments as to why someone chooses to not wear their defensive firearm as I do for a LEO to not wear their vest.  “It’s too heavy.”  “It’s too bulky to conceal well.”  “I’m just running to the store, nothing’s going to happen.”  “As long as I stay out of “that part of town” I’ll be safe.”  We’ve all heard these.  Some of us may have used them at one time or another.  Reality is a bit harsher . . . it that trip to the store goes sideways in a really big way . . . and your defensive firearm is home in the safe . . . your day may well end badly.  WEAR YOUR DAMN GUN!

Watch Your Speed

I gotta be honest . . . this particular part of the course was really heart wrenching.  Painful.  Awful. As I stated above – squad cars are fully equipped with video gear . . . gear that can easily capture those last few seconds that never should have happened.  These accidents fell into a couple different categories.  The first I’ll call “Have no fear – I’m a highly skilled cop!”  Until they’re not.  These seemed to happen during times that the officers simply wanted to drive fast . . . not because they needed to but because COP!  In one the officer left his side of an expressway, crossed the median and broad sided a car with a mom and daughter in it.  Everyone went home in a ZipLoc.  He was going well over the speed limit, driving with one hand, talking on a cell and periodically checking his computer. 

The second group was simply driving faster that road conditions allowed.  One was at night and resulted in clipping a kid on a bike – killing him.  Another was moving down a winding road where trying to follow the road while staying between the lines became impossible.  The officer didn’t die but it took months to reassemble him.

There were others – dramatic, scary . . . and preventable.  Watch Your Damn Speed.

As for the civilian side of the coin . . . do you see any difference here?  We all know folks who drive beyond their ability, who are reckless when the highways are dangerous to travel.  Who just “have to get home” when holing up for the night would make perfect sense.  The same warning easily applies.  Watch Your Damn Speed!

WIN – What’s Important Now

Being focused can save your life – whether officer of civilian.  What decisions need to be prioritized?  What choices, actions or events are important right now . . . and which are not?  By focusing on What’s Important Now a LEO or civilian can attend to those things that need to be handled immediately . . . while keeping an eye on what may need to be handled in the future.  Think of this as almost a “scan and assessment” process.  What’s important now? . . . and now? . . . and now? 

There is virtually no difference in the civilian world.  If you manage your day, keep yourself focused on things that need to be handled in the moment . . . the possibility of you being taken total unawares decreases . . . it doesn’t go away . . . but it becomes much more manageable.  Stay focused on What’s Important Now!

Remember:  Complacency Kills

This last point rolls all of this material together.  Murphy . . . karma . . . evil . . . all of it sits “out there”.  It’s not necessarily targeting you . . . but it is opportunistic.  And given the opportunity it will act on your life in some truly horrific ways.  It’s not the training officer’s job to make sure you follow these tenets . . . it’s not the Chief’s . . . your partner’s . . . your wife’s . . . it ALL ON YOU!

Buckle up!  Wear your vest!  Carry your gun!  Watch your speed!  FOCUS!  Every day!  Every time you go out the door!  Period!

Without fail!

If you’re a law enforcement officer and have not attended a Below 100 training session – please, schedule one in your department or travel to a training near you.  I promise it will be worth your time.

So there you have it . . . five simple tenets that can drive down officer deaths as well as civilian deaths.  Learn them, practice them and you will live with them.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Training - 2016 Resolutions for the Instructor

Instructor     : a person who teaches a subject or skill

: someone who instructs people

Teach            : to cause or help (someone) to learn about a subject by giving lessons

: to give lessons about (a particular subject) to a person or group

: to cause or help (a person or animal) to learn how to do something by giving lessons, showing how it is done, etc.

As instructors we fill a special void in the firearms arena . . . that of improving the skill set of (in my case) the defensive shooter.  As the definition says – we “teach a subject or skill”.  While the actual act of teaching helps the defensive shooter “learn about a subject by giving lessons”.  That’s our job . . . our reason for being in the classroom . . . our passion.  And growing as a firearms instructor should be a lifelong goal.

So what are three resolutions we – as instructors – can adopt that will further our efforts as firearms instructors in 2016.


I’ve chosen this as being “first in line” for my previous two posts for 2016 resolutions . . . it is no different for instructors.  If we are unwilling to actually take coursework to broaden our base and understanding of defensive shooting how on earth can we challenge or expect our students to take follow on coursework?  Mind you – I do understand that most do not . . . that those who really do a deep dive in learning to use their defensive firearm are few and far between.  But, that simply CAN NOT BE THE CASE for us as instructors.  We must stay current.  We must be challenged. We must challenge ourselves.  We must continue to grow and learn.  Period.

If you fit nicely in this “shoe” – congrats!  Don’t let up.  Roll through the various types of coursework that are out there, make your plans, buy your ammo, reserve your seat and room and then go have fun and learn things.  It will certainly make you a better shooter.  And it will add to your value as an instructor allowing you to bring what you learn to your students as well as providing a good example to those coming to you for coursework.


I’ve made it clear that coursework and training are two entirely separate items.  Training is the “rubber meets the road” part of these resolutions.  My suggestion to the new shooter and the experienced shooter was to pick up 1,000 rounds at the beginning of the year and use that for their individual range training throughout the year.  For you – the instructor I would encourage you to double or triple that.  Solid work on the range on the fundamentals – stance, grip, presentation, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow-through is critical to your ability to perform these functions for your students and to maintain your skill level as a shooter and instructor.  There are no short cuts, no quick solutions . . . simply range work. 

Under this I will add my pitch for SIRT pistols and LaserLyte rounds for your defensive carry weapon. (And no . . . I’m not a sales rep for either, I just see a great deal of value in them.) You can add thousands of presentations and single or multiple round engagements for little or no cost.  Let’s assume you take 5 days a week and perform 25 presentations with engagements each of those 5 days.  Over a year that results in 6,500 additional engagements from concealment.  THIS MAKES A DIFFERENCE!  Provided you take the time to make sure they are well done each and every time.  And, once the initial $200-ish price for a SIRT or $100-ish for a LaserLyte round is covered . . . your only investment is the 20-30 minutes a day that you invest.  Cheap folks . . . CHEAP!


Sounds simple, doesn’t it.  You’re an instructor . . . TEACH!!!  Yet, there’s more to it than that isn’t there.  Teaching a formal course . . . where real work and learning can be done . . . takes time and effort with no shortcuts.  There are thousands and thousands of “instructors” out there who got a cert from some organization that maybe taught a single course, or “teach” family and friends once a year or so.  And that’s it . . .

Or, there are instructors who have again received a cert from some organization, and then another, and another . . . and have taken multiple sets of coursework a year . . . yet simply don’t teach.  Or teach a single course or two a year.  I find it hard to view these folks as “instructors” . . .  but rather I view them as “instructors in training”.

Bottom line, Instructors teach . . . or they’re something else.  Period.

So home many courses do you need to teach a year before you move into the instructor category?  Now that, friends, is a great question.    So let’s chat about that a bit.

Rather than looking at it from a “students taught” POV, let’s view it from a classroom hours POV instead.  The caveat here is that you give every class your very best effort – 120% - each and every time you run a class regardless if it’s a single shooter on the range or a full classroom.  You give it your all!

Let’s consider a “class” as an 8-hour block of time.  If you taught a class a month this would come out to 96 hours a year in the classroom.  Honestly, I would consider this a minimum.  If you look at that number and wonder how you could ever scratch up a class a month . . . honestly folks, work on your marketing.  There are any number of skill sets you can work on other that just some type of starting pistol or carry class.  This is exactly what I mean when I talk about building your teaching foundation.  At the high end?  Heck the sky’s the limit.  Remember, it’s not about the number of students – but the quality of education provided to the student.  Even simple things – say carry permit recertification shoots – can be solid opportunities to teach a shooter something.  Iowa is currently going through the first of the “Non Professional Permit to Carry Weapons” recertification.  From this point forward, every 5 years folks with that permit in Iowa must “recertify”.  There is everything from the $12.50 on line quickie to something more along what I do – the 1 hour, 70-ish round, review, evaluation and qualification option.  I find that the opportunity to do more than simply put holes in paper adds enough value that some folks will pay the extra costs to actually learning something.  And I have yet another opportunity to teach.

So, bottom line, make this the year you push the envelope in the instructor arena.  Schedule classes, advertise, talk to former students and build your hours in the classroom.  Everyone wins here – you become a better instructor and, your students reap the benefits of a more experienced instructor.

So there you have it.  Get off your butts – take some new coursework, build your training regimen and then take that result and teach it to those around you!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review – N.A.P.S.I. Foundations of Defensive Pistol Course 2-6-2016

The reality for the vast majority of “Concealed Carry Instructors” or “Defensive Pistol Instructors” or whatever we choose to call ourselves is that we typically get an individual who wishes to obtain a “Concealed Weapon Permit” (your particular state may choose to call it something else) once – and only once.  And most of these are looking for the cheapest possible course out there.  That is a simple truth.

Honestly – for those looking for the cheapest route – the on-line quickie, the 4-hour quickie . . . or those living in a Constitutional Carry state that have no interest in any type of coursework – they are many times just a lost cause for an instructor.  They are not going to look for coursework and we are not going to see them in our classes.

But that new or inexperienced shooter that is looking for real information to teach them about various handguns, to inform them about various legal aspects, to help them choose belts, holsters, range gear and their defensive firearm . . . these folks will come, invest a day (sometimes more) and their hard earned money with an instructor who offers such coursework.  The chances are though that even these folks will limit themselves to a single course . . . and that course should do a solid job of introducing that new or inexperienced shooter to a solid set of fundamentals before they reach the end of the day.  And that is exactly what the N.A.P.S.I. Foundations of Defensive Pistol Course does.

So this past Saturday saw me in a classroom with 9 such folks, 4 women and 5 men and all new shooters.  Some brought old family handguns, some had handguns but virtually no formal training at all and one woman had recently purchased a new LC9S.  For those without firearms I rent them a Ruger 22/45 for the range work.   

Because of the size of the class and their inexperience I asked for help on the range.  Annette Chapman – owner of Pistol Prep Academy located in Atlanta, Illinois and a certified NAPSI instructor – answered the call, drove 4 hours and dived in for the day.  And, Melody Lauer, a Rangemaster instructor and newly minted Director of Training for Ballistic Radio also raised her hand and made the 90-minute drive to lend a hand.  Both of these women have years of experience both in the classroom and on the range, it was great to have them for the day.  We jelled nicely as a teaching team and while I fully admit my big mouth probably took up most of the time, everyone “threw in a nickel” when they felt they needed to.  Their eyes and suggestions were invaluable on the range helping the shooters on the line make corrections with their grip, finger placement on the trigger, sight alignment, sight picture, working on their stance . . . all the little things that need to be worked on for the new shooter to have a successful range trip.  Just want to take a line and say thank you for coming to lend a hand.

The three N.A.P.S.I. courses being currently being taught are the result of a couple years of development including having it presented to other instructors, experienced shooters and brand new shooters for review and evaluation.  It’s “mature” in that it’s in its first release cycle.  It will be reviewed each fall with updates made should they be deemed necessary the beginning of each year.  The Fundamentals of Defensive Pistol is the first in the series. 

We started out the day with an introduction to various models of handguns.  We began with the Single Action Revolver and then moved to the Double Action Revolver.  Next came the Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol, the Double Action only Semi-Automatic Pistol and finally the Double Action/Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol.

Holsters, Belts and Off Body was covered next.  We talked about various types of holsters, their purpose and the material they were typically made of.  This is an area where new shooters typically “choose poorly” the first time out.  With a little knowledge and forethought, much better choices can be made.

Next up was a discussion of Ammunition – it’s components, various types and their purposes as well as considerations each shooter must think about when they send a range “down range”.

Handgun cleaning, safety rules and range safety and commands, loading and loading of the different pistol types and magazines finished out the presentation part of the classroom.

We then moved into the Introduction to Defensive Shooting portion.  This covered some thoughts on how your body responds when it’s presented with something totally unexpected, determining their dominant eye, aimed fire and other alternatives, trigger press and follow through, situational awareness and mindset.

Defensive use of a firearm brings up unique areas of consideration – use of force, use of deadly force, defining why the threat had the Ability to harm you, the Opportunity to harm you, why you – the shooter – felt you were in immediate Jeopardy and that you had to use deadly force to the Preclusion of every other alternatives.  Add to that Disparity of Force and there is a lot of ground to cover. 

We left our seats and headed to the SIRT range I had set up in the rear of the classroom.  I use this to wring out range commands, get folks used to picking up a handgun and then beginning to work on the fundamentals of stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through.  My past experience has been that 30 minutes spent here will save hours on the range.  With 9 shooters we built a flight of 5 and a flight of 4 to run through the range work.  The flights we built for the SIRT range carried through to the live fire range.


After lunch came the live fire range.  I use a D-1-ish target that fills many squares for the coursework I teach.  The distance was 15’.  As I’ve been sharing for the last couple range reviews . . . “global warming” has been tough on range work this year though things had truly warmed up and we were in the mid 30s – not bad.  Everyone had dressed for the day and everyone seemed to stay reasonably comfortable throughout the while trip. 

We began with drills where were single round only and fully by command.  And, we ended the learning portion with accelerated pairs on the “UP!” command.  Once this portion was finished everyone shot a 20 round qualification course with accelerated pairs.  Smiles were seen across the board when the range work was finished.  I hope it was because of what they had accomplished on the range rather that it being the thought of returning to the classroom and its warmth.

A final written exam, a short – “So what did you think?” – feedback session and passing out certificates of completion ended the day.  Started at 8AM and had everyone out the door by 5:45PM.   Pretty satisfying day.

So there it is . . . good job folks and, again, many thanks to Annette and Melody for their hand both in the classroom and on the range.  I appreciate it!