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.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Bill! And that reminds me I need to get back to the range and practice those 'basics'.