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.