Friday, December 29, 2017

Just the Basics – Standards

Periodically the training community likes to climb down the rabbit hole of “Standards”.  This usually degenerates into just plain raw speed of shooting some of the more popular drills . . . “Bill Drill”, “Dot Torture”, the new “Super Drill”, the “El Presidente” to name just a few.  And honestly, for those preaching these drills and posting blazing speed and great accuracy . . . these are solid drills that challenge folks that send thousands of rounds down range and spend hundreds of hours per year on the range.  It’s a challenge they need and one they gladly accept.  However, I fear that the new and inexperienced shooter rolling through various and sundry YouTube videos may see these and think that that’s the “Standard” for him.  It’s not.  So, where to begin, where to begin.

Let’s take a quick look at gun ownership.  A recent Pew Research Study concluded that of surveyed adults only 30% of them own firearms.  Of those, only 70% own a handgun.  Honestly, for most of us in the defensive firearm community, that is “our” group of people, the 70% of gun owners that actually own a handgun.  That said, “our” group gets smaller still.

The number of “adults” 18 and over is approximately 250 Million.  I am going to estimate that the over 21 crowd will come in at around 225 Million.  This would imply that 67.5 Million gun owners in the US and that of those 47.25 Million are hand gun owners.  THIS is “our” primary population base, these 47.25 Million handgun owners.

In October of 2017 the Washington Post drilled down into this group.  They found that of the 47.25 (my estimate) gun owners their survey found that 9 Million of them carried a defensive handgun once a month while 3 Million carried every day. 

3 Million carried every day.  These folks, the roughly 6.3% of the handgun owners in the US, carry every day.  It is these folks that I would like to have meet a “Foundational Standard”.  As for the remaining 44.25 million handgun owners . . . that choose not to carry daily . . . honestly, that’s THEIR choice.  As defensive firearms instructors we can encourage, nudge, push them to carry, but unless they mentally come to a conclusion that “TODAY” could be “their day” . . . we will have little to no effect on these folks.  We can share stories, news articles, the “good guy with a gun” stories . . . but the final decision to actually carry is on their shoulders.  So be it!

However, what about these 3 Million people that carry a defensive firearm on a daily basis.  Let’s talk about “standards”.

I believe there are five primary areas that need to be included in evaluating a defensive shooter.  And this builds the foundation of my “standard”.  They are basic handgun nomenclature and knowledge, an understanding of supporting equipment (holsters, belts, footwear, and flashlights), a minimal understanding of what describes a “good shoot” and the foundational elements of defensive shooting and the shooter’s mindset.

There always other ways to combine these areas of concerns, for example Gunsite use what they call the “Combat Triad” consisting of Marksmanship, Gun Handling and Combat Mindset.

Regardless of how you combine things, these are items which can be quantified, evaluated and tested.  Let’s drill down a bit more.

Basic Handgun Nomenclature and Knowledge

It’s difficult to communicate effectively if we don’t speak the same “language”.  Words like Single Action Revolver, Double Action Revolver, Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol, Double Action/Single Action Semi-Automatic Pistol, Double Action Only Semi-Automatic Pistol, magazine, cartridge, ball ammunition, defensive ammunition . . . it’s a long list and a generally well understood list in the defensive shooting community.  But, for the new or inexperienced defensive shooter it may well sound like Greek.  There is tremendous value in taking the time to, at the VERY least, make sure they understand the individual firearm they are going to use as their defensive carry handgun.

This would imply that they understand the individual components and how they work together.  Exactly what type of handgun it is and how dos it functions.  How to field strip it and clean it.  How all additional items like safeties, de-cockers and “California Ready” modifications work (ex.  You can’t fire the firearm unless a magazine is fully seated).  How to execute a reload of the firearm.  And, how to clear the typical ammunition malfunctions as well as firearm malfunctions.

In other words, your student should be able to pick up their defensive handgun and fully describe it to you, tell you how it works, show you how to field strip it, demonstrate how to load it and clear it and describe the types of malfunctions – both ammunition and firearm – they may encounter and how to clear them.

I view this as a minimum standard.

Understanding of Supporting Equipment

While the papers frequently have articles of folks who have thrown a handgun in the bottom of their purse or simple stuffed one in their pockets (without the benefit of a holster or trigger guard) that subsequently shoot someone else or shoot themselves in the butt, these antics should be HUGE RED FLAG AREAS as we are presenting information to our students.  Time spent describing and demonstrating/showing good holster choices, good belt choices, a good magazine carrier choices is time very well spent.  It is all too easy for us to focus simply on the defensive handgun and then simply take a pass on the equipment that will allow this new shooter to safely carry their defensive handgun securely and consistently.

I view this as a minimum standard.

Minimum Understanding of a “Good Shoot”

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV or Netflix.  But there are foundational elements that should be discussed in general.  Those would be Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy and Preclusion.  Why did the individual that you shot have the Ability and Opportunity to attack you in such a way that you felt you were in Immediate Jeopardy of loss of life or grave bodily injury to the Preclusion of any other choice other than the use of your defensive handgun.  If, as an instructor, these words are foreign to you . . . it’s time for some additional training.  I would suggest Massad Ayoob’s MAG-20 course.  My point here being that a new defensive shooter is exposed to a bunch of crap out there . . . from former VP Joe Biden’s thoughts about firing a shotgun in the air or through a door to scare an attacker to dragging an intruder that was shot from the lawn into their home to “make” it a “good shoot”.  Understanding these basics– AOJP - needs to be a part of the “standard” a defensive shooter is measured against.

I view this as a minimum standard.

Foundational Elements of Defensive Shooting

There is a whole host of foundational material here.  Accessing their defensive handgun, Stance, Grip, Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Trigger Press, Reacting to a threat, Moving off the line of fire.  Here an instructor must evaluate each individual student by observation.  Each element is important.  The melding of all these elements is an evolution.  During a set of coursework these things can be introduced but for real integration into the shooter’s life, it takes time, range time, dry fire time and rounds down range.  This too is something to be stressed during training.  Their learning does not end when the coursework is over.  That is the BEGINNING, not the end.  I see far too many permit holders that, once their coursework is over and they have their permit, they seldom touch their handgun.  It’s as though the “magic” of gun ownership will protect them.   For me personally, I stress that the absolute MINIMUM round count per year should be 1,000 rounds.  And I view that as a maintenance level, not a level that will promote growth.  Add to that taking some type of coursework each and every year and new shooter can grow into an effective defensive shooter.

I view this as a minimum standard.

Shooter Mindset

Mindset is, to me, one of the most difficult things to change with a new defensive shooting student.  I view my success rate by the number of students that actually change their life style to incorporate the daily carry of their defensive handgun.  If they don’t carry – that option to defend their lives, the lives of their family or those in their charge is greatly diminished.  While many come to class after the latest news program about a mass shooting, home break-in, local murder . . . once the coursework and range time is over and they are back in their daily flow, it is all too easy to fall back into the “that can’t happen here” or “that surely won’t happen to me” mindset.  Buying a gun, buying a sturdy holster and belt, changing clothing to provide for better concealment, taking time each month to visit the range to maintain basic proficiency, finding coursework to take the next year . . . THAT becomes hard.  Leaving the gun in the safe become easy.

One of the best lectures that married Col Cooper’s color code and his ideas on mindset was played for us as part of the Gunsite carbine course I took this past summer.  Here is the link, it’s well worth the half hour to watch it.

I view this as a minimum standard.

So, where does all of this leave us?  If you are an instructor . . . or a student . . . is there a “drill” that will do a reasonable job of wringing out the skill set of a defensive shooter?  Will it evaluate their equipment, their ability to “run their gun”, their ability to move, their marksmanship?  Will it evaluate this over a range of distances that the defensive shooter would typically encounter during his use of his handgun?  Personally I believe there is one that does a very reasonable job . . . that would be the OLD FBI course of fire.  It has been adopted by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and it is used to evaluate the vast majority of officers in the state of Iowa.  Let’s take a look at it.

Target:          FBI “Q”

Ammunition:            50 Rounds

Qualifying Score:   80%  (2 Points Per Hit)  90% for Instructors

Stage 1

Starting Point:         25 Yard Line

Time Allotted:          45 Seconds

Start with a fully loaded weapon.  On command the shooter draws and fires 3 rounds prone barricade position, 3 rounds strong side kneeling barricade position and 3 rounds strong side standing barricade position.  Upon completion, the shooter will conduct a tactical reload and holster a fully loaded weapon. 

Stage 2

Starting Point:         25 Yard Line

Time Allotted:          2 Rounds Standing (2-Strings)

                                  3 Rounds Kneeling (1st – 15 seconds on Movement String / 2nd 8                                              Seconds on Stationary String)

On command the shooter moves to the 15 yard line, draws and fires 2 rounds standing and 3 rounds kneeling in 15 seconds.  The shooter will scan and holster in between strings.  The shooter will start from the standing position and on the second command the shooter will fire 2 rounds standing and 3 rounds kneeling in 8 seconds.  Scan and holster upon completion.

Stage 3

Starting Point:         15 Yard Line

Time Allotted:          15 seconds

On command the shooter moves to the 7 yard line and fires 12 rounds in 15 seconds, to include a mandatory combat reload.  The shooter then arranges to have 5 rounds in the weapon and all remaining rounds in the magazine in their magazine pouch.

Stage 4

Starting Point:         7 Yard Line

Time Allotted:          15 Seconds

On command, the shooter moves to the 5 yard line, draws and fires 5 rounds strong hand only, combat reload, transfers the weapon to the support hand and fires 5 rounds support hand only.  Upon completion, holster weapon with strong hand.

Stage 5

Starting Point:         Arm’s Length from Target

Time Allotted:          3 Rounds in 3 Seconds (3-Strings)

On command the shooter takes a half step rearward and fires 3 rounds strong hand only from the Close Quarter Retention Position (with support hand in a defensive position) in 3 se3conds and then scans and holsters.  On command the shooter will then reposition at arm’s length.  Repeat two more times.  Then holster an empty weapon.

So let’s see if this “drill” evaluates things I want to look at in a defensive shooter.  Reliability of their firearm – Yep, at least for 50 consecutive rounds.  Clearing malfunctions – yep, they need to be cleared as the shooter moves through the drill.  Other equipment – yep, crappy holsters and belts show up pretty quick as does poorly positioned equipment.  Foot wear can also be evaluated.  General gun handling – yep, you get a reasonably good idea of the shooters ability to draw from concealment quickly and safely as well as establishing their grip as well as shooting single handed and doing both combat reloads and a tactical reload.  Ability to move safely – yep.  Moving between the different firing lines allows the instructor to evaluate their general ability to do so safely.  Marksmanship over a range of distances – yep.  The shooter engages the threat from 25, 15, 7 yards and arm’s length.  With this course of fire and a standard FBI Q target a hit within the outline of the silhouette.  Minimum qualification is 80% and shooters are typically given 3 opportunities to qualify.  For instructors the minimum score is 90% again with 3 opportunities to qualify. 

If you are looking for a solid “drill” that evaluates a shooter over a broad portion of their overall shooting skill set, I believe this particular course of fire does a very good job.  And, if you are looking for a “standard” to judge yourself against, this is a very balanced place to start.

“Standards” . . . do they matter?  It depends.  While being able to score a 50 on the Dot Torture drill certainly does a good job of evaluating a shooters fine motor skills and their ability to focus and be diligent about doing all the shooting portions of a skill set well, it leaves large portions of a defensive skill set untested.  The same argument could be made for many of the other drill favorites. 

But, if you are truly interested in testing an entire skill set as well as equipment, take a look at this particular drill.  I think it does a solid job.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review - AAR Defensive Firearms Coach Certification Course

UPATE 8/20/2017:

"I am writing to confirm your new certification as a Defensive Firearms Coach."  


We’ve had this discussion multiple times.  In fact, it takes one form or another every time I take coursework of some type.  As instructors, it is imperative that we take coursework each and every year.  Multiple times a year if at all possible.  It is a time to learn new things and see how other instructors conduct their training.  It allows us to polish skills under the watchful eye of another training team. 

 That said, as instructors – not just shooters – instructors, it is incumbent upon us to also focus on developing our skills as an instructor by taking “Instructor Development” or “Methods of Instruction” coursework as well.

 If you are a NRA instructor this typically comes in the form as BIT – Basic Instructor Training as well as the Instructor Course for which ever of the firearms courses you wish to teach.  I’ve taken BIT as well as the Instructor Course for Basic Pistol, Basic Rifle, Basic Shotgun, PPITH, PPOTH as well as the NRA Training Counselor Development Workshop.  In my private life, I’ve been an adjunct college instructor for an intro computer science course, a corporate trainer over the past 35 years for my own software development company selling our custom software to nursing homes and hospitals and I did a 3 year stint as a personal development facilitator (don’t ask, way to complicated to explain).  I’ve had multiple instructors teach me how to teach from their individual point of view.  And I’ve spent literally thousands of hours in front of students attempting to transfer the knowledge I wanted them to know from my head and material into theirs.  I’m taking a lot of words to say that I didn’t walk into this experience blind.  I’ve taken a couple of courses from Rob as well as from a couple other instructors presenting his coursework.  Rob sets a pretty high bar . . . I wasn’t disappointed.

 As a whole, we as a community of instructors, come with a pretty good helping of ego.  Honestly, I’m no different.  I believe I’m a good instructor.  The coursework demonstrated that I have room to improve.  Where I’m going with this is that when you take coursework – be it a shooting course, tactics course or instructor development course you simply need to check your ego and what you “know” at the door.  I did my best.  Actually, I think I did a pretty good job of it.  One of the first questions we were asked on Saturday morning is “Why are you here?”  It’s a question I always ask in my classes.  My answer . . . I wanted to learn new methods of instruction.  There’s always different things you can do, say, present, demonstrate . . . and I wanted to learn a few new ones.  Our progress on our goal was checked at the end of every day including during the AAR on the last day.  That helped to make sure we were all staying focused on our primary purpose for being there.

The primary trainer was Jamie Onion.  The link provides a starting point for you to take a look at this trainer.  I must confess I’m a research hound on coursework I’m interested in taking.  I look for AARs, reviews of the instructor and I talk to folks I know and trust who have taken the coursework.  Jamie came with the highest of recommendations from these folks.  Add to that being a full time Detective with a police force near Cleveland Ohio, let’s just say I went in expecting a lot.  Again, I wasn’t disappointed.

 His training partner was Mike McElmeel of Eighteenzulu LLC.  He’s a true “been there, done that” kind of guy with a true humility that comes from knowing his stuff and a willingness to share it.  I’ve had the pleasure of taking coursework with our local PD conducted by Mike so I had I pretty good idea what to expect here as well.

 We were a course of 5 . . . me, Todd, John, Julie and Kevin.  All of us are NRA instructors and all had taken coursework from ICE.  Most, maybe all, had taken some of that coursework from Rob Pincus himself.  We had a pretty good idea where we were going.  I don’t believe any of us truly understood what the three-day journey was going to be like.  They were long-ish days.  First ran 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  Second – 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM.  The last was short . . . 8:30 AM to about 4 PM.  A total of 27.5 hours.  This included both classroom time and range time.  The range bolstered the concepts taught in the classroom.  Let’s say the three days were “busy”.

 This course is actually instructor development for two sets of coursework.  The first is the “Fundamentals of Home Defense Handguns Course” and the second is the “Fundamentals of Concealed Carry Course”.  Obviously there is considerable overlap when you begin to talk about handgun selection, handgun safety, shooting fundamentals and a host of other topics.  And, there are separate topics covering home defensive tactics, de-escalation techniques, equipment requirements to name but a few.

 The coursework is taught from the point of view that the student is a new and inexperienced shooter.  Everything from the type of handgun best suited for personal defense to defensive ammunition to belts, holsters, positions of carry and much much more was covered and discussed.  Just a reminder . . . when you take instructor development coursework from a company they are presenting THEIR POV.  It is your responsibility to be open, to listen, to learn what they are trying to teach you and to then . . . after you’ve gone home and worked on the range on what they taught . . . decide if you are willing to teach it.  For me, this portion was very easy . . . I believe ICE is one of the companies currently in the forefront of defensive shooting and working hard to be there.  The big thing they offer is that they can clearly articulate the “WHY” of what they do.  I may not always agree – in fact I challenged what was being taught a handful of times, but I know that I will be presented with the WHY from their POV.  Many training companies simply fall back on the “because I said so and I’m the expert here” line of reasoning.  I have little time for those folks.

 One bone I did pick on a couple of times was the “But there’s no training manual!!!!!” bone.  “Yep” Jamie said, “And I doubt there ever will be.”  But, but, but . . . I like training manuals.  It means I don’t have to take that good of notes . . . I can look at it any time . . . I can use it to review for the test . . . I can refresh before I teach a class . . . ya know????

 Here’s the good news I discovered, my notes turned out awesome.  It forced me to engage the entire day.  It forced me to ask things to be repeated or covered again if I didn’t understand, because I wasn’t going to be able to go home that night and catch up on what I didn’t hear or understand.  It forced me to be a much better student!  It was a fair trade.

 Of course, you know there’s one more kicker out there on the material, right?  The final written exam was closed book . . . with a few fill-in-the-blanks questions . . . and the remainder were short answer to short essay.  All 50 of them.  Frankly, all of us did a bit of a gut check there.  My last college level course that I took was in June of 1980 . . . and other development workshops were open books and open notes.  Crap!!!!!

 We all kept breathing . . . and then simply jumped in with both feet.  Topics came fast and furious for all three days.  While there were some power points let’s just say this was NOT a “slide-rich-environment”!  This forced us to LISTEN, ASK and WRITE . . . not simply watch a slide and copy.  Again, this worked to all of our advantage insuring we focused on what the hell was being said because there was no going back.

 How about “teach backs” . . . remember those???  These too we had in spades.  They were “graded” with phrases like “that was pretty solid” . . . to . . . “that didn’t completely suck” . . . to “Bill, ya kinda just slipped off the track there!”.  As expected we also gave each other feedback as well.  It was all direct, as clear as we could make it and always taken as “feedback”, NOT criticism (something you need to keep in mind when you take coursework).

 Depending on how old you are in my day there used to be “challenge circles” at high school dances.  The idea was that couples formed circles and then a couple would jump in an “challenge” other couples to dance better than they were.  (I DID NOT participate in these being all nerd-o-licious at that age, but it left quite an impression on me.)  Saturday night’s teach backs were exactly that.  Jamie picked a victim . . . sorry, candidate . . . to get things started presenting them with a topic to “teach back”.  At the end that candidate then chose the next . . . and so the circle went.  Pretty interesting, challenging and fun by then.

 Teach backs continued until the last day and was a cornerstone of the classroom work.

As for range work, we went through – depending on how you count things up – 8 primary shooting drills.  From a simple, by the numbers, single shot shooting drill to a multi-threat, multi-round drill.  We were all taught the fundamentals of each drill and then expected to teach it back.  Yeah . . . that was interesting.

 A side note here . . . if the request is put out on who wants to go first . . . and you wait for more than the count of 5 . . . and no one volunteers (especially early in the course) go first!  Suck it up and just do it.  A couple things will happen . . . you’ll probably screw the first one up.  As you are asked to the same one again, you’ll get better.  By the end . . . you’ll to it at least to the “Ya know, that doesn’t completely suck” level.  YOU WILL LEARN A TON DURING THE PROCESS . . . and your classmates will as well.  I did this a number of times.  Honestly, I’ve had my ass chewed by TIs, pissed off customers and . . . after 45 years of marriage . . . my wife.  In each and every case my rear has been nibbled on . . . I’ve learned.  That is NOT to say that Jamie or Mike yelled – never did they raise their voice.  But they did correct, encourage and they clearly articulated what we did wrong and what we needed to do to fix it.  The range work was all good!!

 Each course – Home Defense and Concealed Carry has a specific “end of course scenario” as a final shooting exam.  They were simple.  We all watch our fellow students perform them . . . and each of us, to a person, experienced a fair level of surprise and anxiety as the drill began.  It was a great way to end the range work!

 Jamie had a court date for a case he was working on so he needed to leave a bit early on Monday.  That meant our AAR was with lunch.  It is the time in a set of coursework that both parties are leaning.  We each got to hear Jamie’s thoughts on us and our performance.  We also got one more chance to clarify how well we had reached our goad, in my case . . . did I learn new teaching methods??  Yep, in spades.  And I got to hear feedback from him about me.  One thing I appreciated is that he initially feared I’d be “that guy” . . . and old fart that knows everything!  He was pleased that it turned out I listened and engaged rather than challenged and disputed.  I would offer those reading this that same advice.  Listen.  Engage.  And learn.

 Did I pass??  Heavy sigh, I don’t know.  It takes time to read the hand-written answers – god help them with my hand writing – and to decide if the answer is what they wanted or missed the mark.  In my heart, it felt good.  I’ll post a Pass/Fail on this post once I find out.

 One other benefit to this course . . . you can sit through it as many times as you wish.  I can see myself doing that from time to time.  Just to shake the dust off.

 Final recommendation . . . if you are looking for a set of coursework to present to your client base . . . this particular set of coursework should be on your list.

 Thanks Jamie, Mike . . . for what it’s worth you did a great job!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Just the Basics – EDC Update 2017

If you have found a combination of gear that you are willing to carry on a daily basis you will notice that your EDC changes little over the years.  I’ve recorded 6 years’ worth of EDC gear on my blog.  Little has changed.  I’ve long since settled into a Glock 17 with a spare magazine.  With this update, I’ve moved from the Blackhawk leather IWB holster to a Blade-Tech Nano IWB.  I’ve updated my flashlight and phone but other than that the foundational equipment has not changed in 6 years.  I consider this a sign that I’ve gotten things “right” for me.  There was a signification addition this year – a blowout kit worn around my left ankle, details are below.  So, let’s take a closer look.

Carry Weapon:

My carry weapon is a Glock 17 carried in a Blade-Tech Nano IWB holster at the 4 o’clock. I also carry a spare magazine downloaded to 15 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense ammunition (I never load a magazine to full capacity – old habit). For cover garments, I typically wear an un-tucked polo shirt or Henley. Or, I wear a cover jacket or sport coat.

A word of caution – if you are reading this and are new to carrying your weapon on a daily basis . . . please, spend a significant amount of time using dry fire to practice your draw – extension – engagement of a threat. I’ve promoted the crap out of LaserLyte rounds or SIRT pistols for that purpose – use them. But your draw needs to be automatic, instinctive, smooth . . . and the only thing that will get you there is hundreds/thousands of draws. There is no shortcut.


I’ve very recently upgraded to a SureFire G2X Series LED Flashlight with a Nitrolon body. It provides a unique way to hold it to facilitate it’s use with a handgun and the attached lanyard proved very useful during a recent carbine course during night fire.  It provides 320 lumens which easily light up a standard target out to 25 yards.  It’s powered by standard C123 batteries.

Defensive Knife:

My backup defensive knife remains the Kershaw Skyline Model 1760. It rides clipped in my right pocket each and every day. The blade is made of Sandvik 14C28N steel with a bead-blasted finish. The blade length is 3 1/8 inches in length with an overall knife length of 7 3/8 inches when the blade is fully opened. The handle is made of G10 with an overall knife weight of 2.3 oz. Its blade can hold a brilliantly sharp edge needing sharpening infrequently throughout a year’s use. A simple, sharp flick of the wrist quickly opens the blade for immediate use.

The Skyline fulfills the role of a secondary defensive tool. However, the ease of access finds me using if for everything from cutting an apple to opening letters and shipping boxes. It’s ability to be a useful addition to my E.D.C. and to hold a fine edge has been proven over the last five years in my pocket.

Tactical Pen:

A number of years ago I added a Tactical Pen to my EDC.  The Smith and Wesson M&P Tactical Pen.

Here are the basic specifications for the Smith & Wesson SWPENMPBK Military and Police Tactical Pen, Black.

  • 6.1 inches overall, weighs 1.4 ounces
  • Made of T6061 aircraft aluminum
  • Features a click on-off cap
  • Utilizes a Parker and Hauser ink cartridge (included)
  • Has a black finish

The pointed end of the pen body is NOT the writing end. The writing tip is housed under the cap on the blunt/flat end-cap.

I have a pretty high expectation about the performance of a writing instrument. For pens I expect the pen to feel good in my hand, I expect the ink to flow consistently and smoothly and the ball should glide across the paper, not have to be dragged across the paper. The M&P Tactical Pen exceeds all of my writing expectations.

My one bone to pick with them is the pen clip – a typical weakness for pens. As you can see in the image, the clip here is missing. It’s in my desk drawer and I suspect that’s where it will stay. Regardless of how I try to coat the screw threads that hold the clip onto the pen – after 2-3 months they are loose and need to be retightened. I finally missed a sequence and lost one of the screws. Rather than fight it, I simply removed the clip and I have the pen ride – point up – in my left front pocket next to my flashlight. That’s been an OK choice.

Tool Kit:

There’s tremendous value in having a small “tool kit” in your pocket.  Whether it’s as simple as tightening a screw, bending a bit of wire or even sawing a small branch – a small set of tools has proven invaluable in the 10-ish years I’ve carried this particular kit . . .– a Leatherman Juice CS4 .

It has a sturdy and well shaped blade with a broad spine that holds an edge through the worst abuse. It’s made of stainless steel with a blade length of 2.6 inches. Care is simple with periodic cleaning of the tool and sharpening of the blade, it has found a home in my pocket pouch for the past 10+ years.

The pouch is from a much larger Gerber multi-tool that now lives in the center counsel of my Jeep. You also notice a small Bic lighter and a striker fire tool in this photo. All of these items fine snugly in the pouch that rides in my right front pocket. I have a personal rule of always having three ways of starting a fire on your person each and every day. The Bic lighter and striker fire tool are two of these options (the third is a small Frenzel lens that lives in my wallet.


I firmly believe watches should perform multiple functions. My watch of choice is the Casio Pathfinder 2000T.  Mine is going on 17 years old and still going strong.  However it seems to have been discontinued.  The closest brother I could find is the PAG 240T Pathfinder from Casio.  Obviously it tells time . . . using a solar powered system . . . and radio sync to the national time standard. Let’s just say it keeps good time! Since I spend time in the wilderness it has three additional functions that are a must, an altimeter that at least provides an indication of traveling up and down and is typically within 600ft., a barometer – worth its weight because it can inform you of changing weather patterns. It typically gives me about a 2-hour heads-up on arriving storm systems. And a compass that I simply hold to my chest, press a button and my heading is immediately shown for about 15 seconds. It has timers and alarms – none of which I seem to use. The watch’s primary purposes – time, barometric readings and direction make the Pathfinder an essential part of my EDC gear.


My wallet slides into my front left pocket along with my flashlight and the pen.  It has the usual items – some cash, credit cards, ID and my carry permit.  The front left pocket location makes it much less susceptible to the hands of a talented pick pocket.

Cell Phone:

My current phone is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.  Today’s tech is truly amazing.  Being a fellow who started with a bag phone, to progress to the state of today’s handheld phone/computer/camera/GPS system has been a tremendous amount of fun.  From an EDC point of view the resources available from simple 911 calling to being able to photo document and video important events, have a GPS available at your finger tips as well as the knowledge base of – quite literally – the entire globe - today’s cell phone is an intricate part of any EDC loadout.

Blowout Kit:

If you look back over my past posts and updates of my EDC you will see little has changed – as it should be.  However, this year there was a significant addition – an EDC Blowout Kit.  I wear in around my left ankle using SFD Responder manufactured by SaferFasterDefense.  Please note that this is a CONTAINER ONLY, what you put into it is up to you.  Mine contains the following.

·        SOFTT-W Tourniquet in my kit made by Tac Med Solutions.

·        Tactical Trauma Dressing (Israeli Bandage, 4 Inch)

·        2ea pairs of NITRILE Gloves

·        Benchmade 8 Safety Cutter

This was a significant change in my EDC . . . so why?  Let me approach it in a different way, why do you carry?  If you are like me I believe it is within the realm of possibility that I could happen upon my worst day ever and have to engage in a gun fight to save my life, the life of someone in my family or someone in my charge.  Given that there is general agreement that gunfights with handguns are up close and personal . . . is it not also within the realm of possibility that such an even could leave me or a family member wounded?  So why carry a defensive handgun, go through all the coursework, train frequently on the range . . . and actually win your gunfight . . . only to bleed out on the street.  I found the additional weight to be un-noticeable.  The SFD Responder is comfortable and remains in place.  Yep, it took some getting used to but honestly after a couple months of effort I don’t even notice that I have it on.  I consider this very cheap insurance and would encourage you to consider adding it to your own EDC load out.

So there you have it . . . my EDC as of July 2017.  The review is as I expected, no real foundational changes, some upgrades to newer equipment and one significant change . . . the addition of a Blow Out Kit.  Just remember . . . this is an EDC loadout.  Your gun does you no good locked up home is your safe.  Your backup knives do you no good on the dresser at home.  And your blowout kit does you no good in your range bag.  EDC . . . Every Day Carry . . . means what it says.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review –  AAR Gunsite Indiana Carbine 1-2-3

After Action Reports – AARs – are always interesting to do.  They’re an opportunity to sit in the calm after the “event”, gather your thoughts and experiences and try to make sense out of what happen over the past little bit.  In this case, from June 7 through June 9 during the Gunsite Indiana Carbine 1-2-3 course.  I talked about how a prepped for the course a few weeks ago here.   I’ve had a couple of days of R&R, got my feet wet back at work . . . so let’s chat a bit about the course, my experience, things I learned and things I will continue to work on.

This review is coming together a bit differently in my head.  I’m going to do it in the following sections:

·        Training Team

·        Teaching Methods

·        Drills

·        Expectations of the Training Team

·        Equipment Malfunctions

·        User Induced Malfunctions

·        Personal Equipment

So, let’s get started!

Training Team

Last year I took the Gunsite 150 3-day pistol course.  I believe I was fortunate to have the same three instructors (as well as 3 of the students from last year) return for this year’s carbine course.

The lead instructor was Jay.  He’s a former Marine, retired LEO and has been an instructor for Gunsite for 16 years if memory serves.  His teaching style is certainly one to emulate – open, friendly, direct, demanding.  He was continually pushing each student making sure they were truly getting the concept presented and insuring we integrated each concept throughout the rest of the course.  He made sure he gave individual attention to each of us throughout the course.  As new things came along he would also demo those items he was presenting as each of the other instructors did in turn.

Jay was the primary presenter for our very limited amount of classroom time.  Over the three days I believe we only spent about 4-5 hours in the classroom.

We covered the basic functioning of the AR platform, fundamental ballistics, methods of zero with particular emphasis on bullet drop and rise so we could account for hold-over since shooting distances were 3y, 5y, 7y, 10y, 15y, 25y and finally zero checks at 50 yards each day.

We also listened to a 1/2 -hour lecture by Lt. Col. Cooper on the color code.  You can find a link to the YouTube video here . . . take the time to watch it, I found it quite enlightening.

Jay – and the remaining team members – were professional in every respect.  Their bearing, their dress, their willingness to demonstrate and explain and their insistence that each student do their very best are solid examples of what should be expected from a firearms instructor.

Pete is a LEO from South Philadelphia and has been a Gunsite Instructor for over 10 years..  He manages the officers in his department and is the sniper for a regional SWAT team.  He could easily take everything that we were being asked to do and present real-world instances to explain the “why” of doing things that particular way.  Whether showing how to sling a carbine, how to enter various kneeling positions, shooting around barriers and the use of cover . . . Pete did it smoothly while explaining each individual step in the movement.  Again, his demeanor, clarity, willingness to answer questions and to nudge, demand, fine-tune each individual student clearly showed his dedication to his craft.

Jerrod is also a regional LEO adding his 15+ years of experience to the mix.  As with Pete and Jay his professional demeanor brought a great deal to the training team.  He would nudge, prod, explain, expect from each student and was relentless in puling the best from each of us.

One of the things that sets various training companies apart are the instructors.  Their knowledge, their skill level, their attitude while teaching and their willingness to share with their students.  This particular training team – Jay, Pete and Jerrod – are great examples of what we all should be looking for.

 Teaching Methods

Their primary teaching method is one I’ve been familiar with for 50 years.  Tell ‘em what you’re going to teach ‘em . . . teach ‘em . . . and tell ‘em what you taught ‘em.  The “Oreo” method.

Each element of the shooting position was described, demonstrated and then, as each student emulated what was shown, we were tweaked and adjusted.  The tweaking, reminding and expecting went on for the entire three days.  Add to this mounting the carbine, grasping the foregrip, the position of the weapon for low ready, indoor ready and how to quickly bring your weapon up for an engagement covered.

This method covered all the positions we were worked on – standing, speed kneeling, double kneeling, braced kneeling and prone.  We covered emergency reloads, tactical reloads, use of high cover, use of low cover, turning to the left and right 90-degrees as well as engaging a threat with a 180-degree turn and moving targets.

This was the 3rd formal carbine class I’ve taken over the past 2 years.  And yes, once again “foundational” information was covered.  But, every time you learn the basics from a new instructor you find that the majority of the information presented is very similar, there is always subtle differences that provide you just a little bit more understanding of that particular element being covered.   

Each element that the training taught was thoroughly covered, demonstrated and experienced throughout our three days of live fire exercises – all under the careful eye and tweaking of the training team.


Drills were simple and demanding.  We all began at the 3-yard line with a single round at high center mass.

I zero my carbines with a 50/200 zero, and had confirmed my zero prior to coming to class.  On the first day, everyone confirmed their zeros and adjustments were made as necessary.  Five round groups were shot from the 50-yard line in the unsupported prone position.  There was no time limit for this exercise.  Zero was also confirmed on days 2 and three.  As you can see my weapon held a solid zero throughout the entire course.

A quick look at the ballistic chart for a 55-grain bullet at 3 yards clearly shows that the impact point will be a tad over 2 inches below your POA.  This would prove to bite me in the butt a couple of times where I simply forgot to incorporate it into my shot.  Heavy sigh . . . 

On the “FIRE!” command we sent our round and then did everything that comes after – the post shooting process . . .

·        Reset the trigger during recoil

·        Follow the target to the ground

·        Finger off the trigger, head up off the gun, scan for additional threats

·        Check the bolt to make sure it’s fully forward

·        Safe the weapon

·        Close the dust cover

This process was done, from this point forward, after each and every shooting drill . . . without exception.  The training team was relentless on making sure we completed each and every step in order.  I had a particular problem with resetting the trigger during recoil.  And, it seemed the loud CLICK of the reset – after I had followed the threat down – always occurred when Jay or Pete or Jerrod was just to my rear.  “Don’t ya hate it that we can all here that CLICK when your reset too late?”  asked Jay.  Yep, yes sir, I do.  By day three I had this under control . . . mostly . . .

The single round engagement was done 5 times, shooter checked and taped their targets and the second flight took the firing line and repeated the process.  Then we moved back to the 5-yard line and repeated the drill.  Then the 7-yard line, the 10-yard line, the 15-yard line and finally the 25-yard line.  With each round, our stance, our follow through, our post shooting process was evaluated. 

Then we moved and repeated the process with a single round to the head box, at each of the distances, with each round evaluated and each post shooting sequence reviewed . . . all the way out to 25 yards.

Next, accelerated pairs and each of the distances.

Then “Hammers” . . . two round engagements off one sight picture.  Where accelerated pairs are  . . . BANG! . . . reacquire the sight picture . . . BANG!.  A “Hammer” is . . . sight picture . . . BANG! BANG! . . . reacquire the sight picture.

Next came the “Failure Drill” – also known as the Mozambique Drill.  A “Hammer” to high center mass and one to the head box.  Hammers are quick but the headshot is very deliberate so there is a noticeable pause after the first two rounds.

By day three all of these drills were simply mixed together while other things were being worked on.  Be it turning to the left, the right, a 180, use of low cover or use of high cover . . . any of these drills could be called.

While the drills seem simple . . . they are the foundation of what you, as a shooter, need to be able to perform upon demand simply because if you can’t the bad guy is going to have your lunch!

Let’s talk a bit about mag changes.  We were typically encouraged to “manage your ammunition” at both the beginning of a drill and again upon the completion of the drill.  The idea behind that is to make sure you are aware of the state of your weapon and your ammo supply.  Before a drill the command was “Load and make ready”.  We were all welcome to do a tactical reload at this point using either the “Beer Can” method or by grabbing the dropped magazine between thumb and forefinger and then inserting the replacement magazine.  The “Beer Can” method worked best for me.  I would also allow my weapon to run dry to work on my emergency reload as well.

One thing we were expected to do during initial loading or emergency reloads was to touch the cartridge in the throat of the magazine, determine if it was to the left or right,   insert the magazine and tug to make sure it was seated then release the bolt.  Then drop the magazine and make sure the top round was now on the opposite side of the magazine throat.  This insured that we knew a round had truly been loaded.  There were plenty of opportunities to experience what happened when a shooter failed to do this process and a round had not been stripped off the magazine and loaded into the chamber!  The idea of touching the round was to offer a method that worked in the dark in preparation for our night shooting.

As you can see there was plenty going on during the live fire porting of the course which was fully 80% of the course.

Expectations of the Training Team

The training team expected us to get our hits, perform our post shooting process, keep our weapons functioning . . . to run the gun . . . and not let the gun run us.  They did this with encouraging words, humor, gentle little jibes, and subtle looks or shakes of their head.  They were continually striving for us to perform well.  With three instructors and 11 shooters little was missed. 

Equipment Malfunctions

Set in context, your weapon and the items hanging off it determine whether you go home or not should the stuff really hit the fan.  There was a broad range of carbines represented from some easily reaching the $2,500+ mark to my lowly DPMS Oracle.  I suppose I’ll jinx things here but I had zero weapon malfunctions.  I caught a tremendous amount of crap for my Eotech 517 and certainly set myself up saying I’d never had a problem with it (though I kept a spare pack of batteries in my pocket).  But I had no problems with anything – weapon, sling, magazines, weapon mounted light . . . it all worked as it should.  I did move my mounting points for the sling moving the foregrip mount rearward a bit and the stock to the slot on the top of the stock.  Overall I was more than pleased.  The zero held for the entire course, the gun ran well, I had no ammo failures.  I was a pretty darn happy camper.

We did see quite a few failures though.  Three optics failed, many had problems accepting magazines that needed to be fiddled with while they were inserted.  One shooter ran into a problem with his ammo and gun.  It was never really determined where the problem was be it ammo, magazine or gun.  The bottom, bottom line . . . if you just take your gun to the range once in awhile and run a magazine or three through it . . . you have no idea if your gear works.  After three days and 900-ish rounds . . . you’ll have a much better idea.  Would you bet your life on your gun?  After three days, for me, the answer is yes.

User Induced Malfunctions

These were abundant.  I’ll talk about mine.

The frickin magazine dropped out after firing a single round!!!  Yep, this comes from skipping the - tug the magazine once it’s inserted – step of loading process.  The late Pat Rodgers even had a patch and “moose call” for this particular little failure.  I did this once . . . and only once.

What the hell do you mean CLICK??  As a drill was beginning my mind drifted.  We were coming from a condition 4 carbine (empty, bolt locked back, ejection port cover open) and I simply didn’t hear the “Load and Make Ready” command.  On the command FIRE I mounted my weapon and . . . nothing.  I do a clearing drill and press on the bottom of the magazine . . . to find it’s missing!  Heavy sigh.  And  , , , emergency reload . . . I completed the drill.

Double feed??  Really???  I wear a glove on my support hand because the charging handle has aggressive “teeth” cut into it to insure a firm grip is available.  During dry drills in a patrol rifle course I took this past November I noticed my index finger on my support hand was dripping blood all over the floor.  Since then, I wear a glove on my support hand.  The thing to remember though is that when you grasp the foregrip make sure a finger doesn’t slide along the bolt as it goes forward . . . or it might slow things enough to give you a double feed.  Heavy sigh.  Rip out the magazine, lock the bolt back, slip a couple fingers up the mag well, “diddle, diddle, diddle” so the rounds drop out, rack, rack, rack, emergency reload . . . and finish the drill.

And a tactical “failure”.  We’re shooting the mover and I’ve challenged the threat, determined that it is a real threat and engaged it while it was moving.

“Bill, he’s shooting at you – use cover!!  BILL!!  BILL!!!!!! HE’S SHOOTING AT YOU!!  BILL!!!!!  And finally, as I’d emptied by first 10-round magazine . . . I heard Jerrod yelling at me.  And I began to use cover while engaging the threat.  Heavy sigh . . . keep your frickin’ head in the game folks, that’s all I’m sayin’!

Personal Equipment

There’s the typical items – ears, eyes, cap, long pants, sturdy shoes.  Something that works for you.  Something I added this year was a white, long sleeved, SPF 50 shirt.  It really made a difference, I was much cooler and no sun burn issues,  I bought 3, one for each day.

We needed three magazines (PMags for me) and I had two mag carriers that attached on my support side starting at about 9 o’clock.  The third magazine I dropped in my rear left pocket and I used my right rear pocket to hold the empty magazines.  I have 5.11 tac pants that work well for me.

I use a Surefire TR1 weapon light and I bought a new Surefire G2ZX for a handheld light.  I was very happy with that and will write a review soon. 

My optic was an EoTech 517.  While there has been much bad press about the company mine has functioned well and continued to do so over the three days of the course.  My BUIS were by Magpul.  I have zeroed them at 50 yards but found no need for them during this course.

Bottom line, keep it simple.  That worked well for me.

Final thoughts

I always harp on folks taking some type of training every year.  This is one of three I will take this year and it was worth the 5 days away from home and the cost of the course, gas, food and lodging.  I’m a very pleased customer.

Thanks to Jay, Pete and Jerrod for a great three days.  It was a good, solid training experience!