Wednesday, August 31, 2016
My good buddy Dave Timm of Learning Firearms (www.learningfirearms.com) in Minnesota has come up with a great drill for both pistols and carbines. In a nutshell, the 5 x 5 Drill tests a shooters ability to be both fast an accurate, which is what is required to win in a gunfight. The target is available from the Learning Firearms web site:
If you check out their page, you will note that they have followed in the footsteps of Todd Green and his F.A.S.T. Drill and my 2x2x2 Drill and award a coin to any one who performs the drill successfully in a Learning Firearms course. The procedure is as follows:
Pistol Drill Procedure:
All stages begin from holster, hands at side. Holster shall be student's duty or daily carry equipment, concealed unless duty gear is used. All rounds must be within black box and within par time to count as a hit. The shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 25yards-10seconds, 20yards-8seconds, 15yards-6seconds, 10yards-4secounds and 5yards-3seconds.
Rifle Drill Procedure:
All stages begin with a shouldered rifle pointed at the ground at the base of the target target. All rounds must be within the black box and within par time to count as a hit. Shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 50yards-10seconds, 40yards-8seconds, 30 yards-6seconds, 20yards-4seconds and 10yards-2seconds.
I have shot the drill twice with my Glock 19 and missed one round in the prescribed time limits on the first run while in the second run got all hits but kissed the 25 yards time limit by two tenths of a second. It is a very instructional, fun and difficult drill that is attainable if you practice the skills needed to make the drill a success, not practice the drill time and time again. Remember! It is a learned skill if you have a high probability of success on the first attempt…not success after many attempts.
Monday, August 29, 2016
I recently received a question from a shooter who purchased my CAP Sights but was concerned about his lack of accuracy. When I inquired as to what happened, he told me he had difficulty at 50 yards. I’m not surprised…the Ameriglo Combative Application Pistol (CAP) Sight was designed to be a very compact, low to the bore line, high visibility close quarter sight in which the shooter covers what they want to hit at 15 yards and in. It is a true “flash sight picture” sight where the shooters places the square in the square and depresses the trigger. There is very little “light” in the front to back sight spacing in order to reduce quick sighting error. As you move back, it is necessary for the shooter to experiment to see where they need to hold, in a nutshell, what the sight picture needs to “look like” to hit at increased distances. This “picture” should then be easy to recreate but, admittedly, the sight is not designed for long distance shooting.
In truth, the CAP Sight is likely too wide for this type long distance shooting. If this is your desire, a tall thin front sight, which offers greater target information further back, is the ticket. In my mind, sights like the Heine, 10-8, Travis Haley’s Th1rte3n Sight or Frank Proctor’s Y-Notch would be a better choice, all of which are terrific products. The down side of the thinner sight is it will be harder to “pick up” quickly at closer distances. Yes, you could paint the front sight, but that will affect its use at long distance, as its sharp edges will be “blurred” by the added color. I say this based on previous experience as I have seen it in my classes time and again for years. I see just about every variation of pistol sight in my courses and I often request to shoot a particular gun so I can see how the sights work. I also ask the student what they like about their sight…why they chose them… and I get some interesting answers. What I have noticed is students with thinner/taller sights do great when shooting a 3 x 5 card at 25 yards, but they are slower on target when shooting the close, fast drills as compared to the CAP or Trijicon high visibility sight. What is it you want?
I have read many, many research studies over the last few decades stating the eyes are incapable of sight focus in close conflict and there is truth in what these studies say. And while many instructors refer to these studies when discussing close quarter shooting, I think of it at a more basic, visceral level based on my personal experiences…when a person at close distance is trying to kill you it is real hard to take your eyes off of them and shift focus to the front sight. I believe this occurs at an instinctual level where they eyes just refuse to shift as they track the actions of the threat. Yep, the human body has a history of taking good care of itself and it takes a monumental effort to reprogram it.
If this is the case, why mess with the sights at all? In truth, you are more likely to miss due to poor trigger manipulation than lack of sight picture at close distances, but what is close quarters? 2 feet? 20 feet? 20 yards? While sights are certainly not needed at arms length, how far back can you hit without them? Some say 12 yards…other as much as 20! But this is certainly not the case for me. I practice out to around 20 feet without my sights and hit quite well but as I move back towards 30 feet, I start to loose the fight ending accuracy needed to stop a determined aggressor with a handgun. In addition, I need help referencing my front sight quickly, so I have colored the front sight since my revolver days in the 70’s and early 80’s. Revolvers with target-style sights came equipped with red, green or orange plastic insert front sights and those that did not, often times got a coating of Liquid Paper!
Coloring the front is not new, Jeff Cooper commented on this in the early 1970’s stating, “If you are going to color your front sight, use a color not normally found in nature”. For many years, a brass bead front sight was quite popular. During several situations I was involved in (while a cop) during which my pistol was deployed, I can definitely remember the “flash” of color my front sight gave me even at close quarters while moving quickly and visually tracking a threat, something I have also been told during many interviews I have conducted with gunfight participants over the last three decades. I am convinced a colored front sight is the way to go on combative handguns.
Some knowledgeable folks disagree, however. Many informed shooters and instructors believe handgun sights are for long distances only and they design or recommend sights intended for this purpose. As a consumer, you must decide which sight system is best for you based on your requirements, vision, level of training, experience, “real world of work”, etc. I am not convinced that one sight system will work well across the board (both fast at close range and precise at long range) especially if you suffer from any degree of vision loss. I have spoken to many shooters who, in their young years, advocated black on black sights only to age and find a colored sight was a better option.
There are additional questions when choosing a pistol sight: Is a tritium bead essential? Will a fiber optic work better? If a color, which color does my eyes see best? Which color is best for me across the light spectrum? Are you competing or fighting? Are you shooting white steel plates (or brown cardboard targets) or the multi-colored clothes of people? Will you be out at night? Are your eyes the same as the instructor recommending a particular sight? These questions are potentially endless and only you can answer them… but do you really understand the original question that started the whole process?! I had one student tell me he liked how his sights had a large round orange dot on the front and a round bottom rear window on the back in which he could “drop the round front sight in the round rear window”. However, when I asked him if this is what he is looking at when he sighted his gun he said “no…I’m looking at the top edges”. If this is the case, does the rounded lower of the two sights matter? I don’t know… but if you pick such a sight you should know!
In the end, it comes down to critical thought based on knowledge, training and experience. Do you actually know why you picked a set of sights or did you do so on the basis of an advertisement, seeing them on a gun or instructor recommendation/reputation? Such ads and recommendations can be helpful if they solve YOUR problem…but only you can know what your problem is!
As a side note, I admit to being concerned about the trend of emphasizing long distance pistol shooting… I believe it is a mistake as we have been here before and it was proven to be wrong. When I went through the Sheriff’s Academy in 1976, much time was spent at 50 and 60 yards even though handgun shootings at such distances were rare and still are. From the days of the Wild West forward, the history of pistol fighting has been close quarters with incidents like Wild Bill’s 75- yard shot in Springfield, MO. being unusual. What is the old saying, ”those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?” Why are we returning to it? The Active Shooter/Terrorism phenomenon, I am told. I constantly hear questions/statements like, “How long is the front aisle of the Wal-Mart?” or “How wide is the parking lot at the mall” but should we be launching pistol bullets at such distances? A resounding “YES!” I have been told repeatedly. “If you can shoot at 25 yards, you can easily handle 5 yards”…you know, we were told this very same thing back in the 70’s but it was not born out by reality. Do you realize/understand what such a statement does not include? The pandemonium that will accompany a five-yard gunfight! Hostile and non-hostiles moving back and forth across the battle space, screaming, yelling, incoming and out going rounds…you see, it is much, much different than just planting your feet and shooting a few rounds at distance on a piece of paper or steel while on the square range.
Now, do not take what I have just said out of context…you should know how to shoot at distance, but should it be your primary focus as I am seeing more and more? Stop and ask yourself a question…are you more likely to face a mugger in the parking lot at 5 yards or an active killer/terrorist in the Wal-Mart center aisle at 50 yards? Don’t know? Do a simple on-line search of crime statistics and see which occurs more frequently…murder, rape, robbery, assault, home invasion or the active killer/terrorist? My good friend and former CIA SAD Officer Ed Lovette did a pretty extensive study of armed citizen shootings and discovered that not only are they close, they are most likely to happen in and around the home. I know I know…training for an active killer/terrorist just feels so much cooler as compared to a simple crime, but is doing so reality or a training scar? Keep in mind, reality is what it is…not what we WANT it to be…
Again, keep in mind such a shot will not take place in a range vacuum…can you make a 50 yard shot in a pandemonium-filled event (people running and screaming, adrenaline high, respiration at maximum) such a situation would actually entail? I find it interesting the number of shooters who worry about the “liability” of modifying their carry gun, but think it is perfectly fine to launch bullets across a parking lot or down the aisles of a major store. Watch the videos from various terrorist attacks and active shooter events…could you make a long shot with people in panic everywhere? I tried this recently during a class, running a Moto-Shot robot target back and forth across the line of fire as students tried to hit a full size silhouette (no attempt at shot placement) at 50 yards. No one delivered a fight -stopping hit as they split their focus between the target and the robot. Rapidly moving, panicked people will only magnify this. Remember, the reason we shoot is to incapacitate…to end the attack…so you need to hit well!
Sure, anything is possible but what is more likely for you? This process is called critical thought and you should be using it when you select a set of pistol sights or decide how to prepare to handle your personal security. As I close, please understand I am not attacking the lesson plan of any other instructor…I don’t disparage others…it is unprofessional. But I do believe in critical thought! I truly believe no one teaches something they really believe is stupid (at least I hope not!). They teach what they think is important, which is why a good student of combative pistol craft learns from a wide variety of instructors, to get varied viewpoints, opinions and backgrounds...military, law enforcement, security contractors and armed citizens. They then combine what they have learned with what they know to be realistic for their real world of work and they make an informed decision via critical thought. Pistol sights are no different…choose wisely and smartly…
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The firearms training business is booming! I have never seen the large number of folks involved in the business as I do today. Every law enforcement agency in the country has at least one firearms instructor and with every state in the union having some type of CCW certification process, the armed citizen side of the market is exploding. But what are we getting in instructor quality? While some genuinely care, others are just interested in money and notoriety. Which are you? How have you prepared for your instructional career? A single NRA instructor course or a battery of courses from a wide variety of instructors and backgrounds? What is your background? Are you teaching a subject matter you really have no concept of? Are you just recycling information you really do not comprehend? Do you yell and scream or offer guidance and control? Hell…do you even know why you do why you do other than you got it from someone else?!
I give careful thought to everything I do and teach in my classes. It is the result of many years of training, interviews and personal experience. I have even thought hard about the targets I use. I’ve shot at a wide variety of targets throughout the years. Some were just paper plates; others were elaborate, electronically controlled human torsos capable of life-like movement. Each type has its place and those of us who have immersed ourselves in perfecting our combative shooting skills understand what each target represents—the relatively small areas of the body vital for sustaining life. Handguns suck as tools of rapid incapacitation, but they’re portable. LEOs rely on them when instant deadly force is reasonable and needed. The shotgun and carbine are much better for this, but what are the chances you’ll have the bigger gun when a threat presents itself? If you know a fight is coming, you might want to take a sick day. Those who understand human conflict understand that no matter how skilled you are, there’s always a chance of losing.
However, if you’re on the job and a hot call comes in, you can arm yourself appropriately before deploying. What if the situation turns bad in front of you without warning? Many claim the handgun should be used “to fight to a better gun” and, although I understand the sentiment, you’ll probably fight with what you have at the time the fight starts, as time is quite restrictive. Reality stinks, doesn’t it?
The fact remains that law officers and armed citizens need to be good with their handguns. All cops selected the profession voluntarily and that means that you will confront an armed individual sometime before you retire—maybe multiple times. Remember: Your chief will not be there, so your firearms skills are for you… not your agency. If you can’t shoot well enough to save your own life, then it’s you who will die. You owe it to yourself to have the best skills possible, and this will require commitment on your part. In the case of the armed citizen, YOU decided to go armed…do it well!
Two or three practice sessions a year does not a shooter make, but this is the norm for most cops. If that’s all that’s being provided the officer or citizen needs more so find it! If that is all there is going to be, those sessions should be the very best! A quality program is the result of an innovative and knowledgeable instructor. Yes, having a well-equipped facility is nice, but it won’t make up for an instructor who’s unskilled, which I see quite often within the LE community. Remember: Qualification is not training! It’s merely a test and this is true whether it is a law enforcement program or a CCW certification. Training, on the other hand, is the building and refining of skills. I’m surprised by the number of certified firearms instructors who don’t understand how to look for and correct shooting mistakes…and don’t understand the physiology behind them.
A proper combative firearms training program must include skill building in three areas: fundamentals (how to run a gun), combative aspects (how to fight with the chosen weapon), and interactive aspects (e.g., force-on- force scenarios, crisis decision making and proving the skills taught in the other levels work). Without all three, shooters will never be truly prepared for armed conflict. I’ve had many instructors tell me that they just don’t have the time for all of this. I’ve been there, but this is where one must be innovative. NYPD has 40,000 cops to put through firearms training in any given year. They don’t have a lot of time with each officer, but they win far more confrontations than they loose. How? They study the problem and make the most of the time they have. You can too!
One area you can improve is to give proper thought to what type of targets you use. As I talk with instructors across the country, I always ask what targets they use. I want to hear their thoughts on how and why they do what they do. I’m disappointed, for the most part, that many instructors are more fixated on having their own agency or company target than truly understanding what they want the target for. Many of these targets have so many shapes, symbols and add-on targeting devices on them that they look less like targets and more like circus advertisements. Oftentimes, the target is created based on a target design used by an instructor/institution that they attended. Understand that such targets are often designed to build certain skills or complete certain drills and may not be the best choice for a more rounded combative level of training.
Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” We have known since the research of S.L.A. Marshall and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that targets are important. They prepare fighters to engage the enemy where bull’s-eyes and other non-human shapes do not. The soldier, cop or armed citizen who trains on a target that looks like a actual person is more likely to engage a living, breathing attacker than one who has never done so.
In addition, training on a realistic target better prepares the student for the combative and interactive aspects of the process. Have you ever experienced someone who just can’t bring him or herself to point a gun at another human? They often express safety concerns (never point your gun at anything you’re not willing to shoot, kill or destroy) as the reason they’re refusing to do so. But you can see the look on their face and know they’re simply uncomfortable pointing a gun at a human. Not good…
During my classes, I’ll have my students disable their guns by plugging the barrel of their pistol in such a way so the gun cannot physically chamber a round. Afterward, I walk in front of the line so I can see how they present their gun from both ready position and the holster, because this angle just gives me a better view of the physical process. I correct them as necessary. REMEMBER…I KNOW they are unloaded and incapable of firing, so keep the snarky, know it all comments to yourself, Dickweed (you know who you are).
I also want the student to get used to confronting a live protagonist at the end of their gun. Approximately 30% of students won’t do it! I know the gun can’t fire because I render it inoperable, but they still refuse to point the gun in my direction. Even after I tell them it’s OK and they aren’t violating any safety rules, they still refuse! Once the drill is over, they tell me they’ll point the gun at a “real bad guy” when the time comes—but will they really? In all truthfulness…I seriously doubt it!
Training targets not only need to reflect reality, they also need to offer different angles of confrontation. Gun- fights are fluid affairs. If a combatant stands still during a fight, it’s probably because they didn’t know they were in a fight. If they did, they’d be moving to some location where it would be less likely they’ll be shot. Thus, training targets must represent a wide variety of possible confrontational angles. A 3-D target would be best, but this is difficult when multiple shooters are on the line, so a training target should also be able to represent the restricted area of proper shot placement as the body offers differing angles. . Ensure your target reflects the reality of confrontation. Don’t accept crappy hits in the interest of getting students “qualified.” As Mel Gibson said in The Patriot, “Aim small; miss small.”
In the end, if you require a high level of skill on the range, you’ll likely get it back on the street. Lack of desire on their part doesn’t justify lackadaisical performance on your part. Stay alert, stay safe and check your 360 often.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Recently, I was teaching a combative pistol course to a group of law enforcement professionals and legally armed citizens. Although many instructors call the basic handgun skills fundamentals, I prefer to use the word essentials because shooters must have these skills in order to use a handgun for personal security.
I begin some of my courses with several “time in” drills in order to evaluate each student’s skill sets. My time in drills are fired at 20 feet into a 6 x 10-inch rectangle as follows:
• One shot from the ready position of their choice in one second;
• One shot from the holster in two seconds;
• One shot, slide closed reload, one shot in 3.25 seconds;
• Four rounds from ready in two seconds
I look for essential skills such as proper grip, trigger control, recoil control, aggressive body position and general weapon handling ability. I also look at whether they’re confident in their gun handling or confused and uneasy. Bottom line: Do they look as if they know how to “run their gun”?
During class, one of my students drew their firearm and shot in a very slow, deliberate manner—it took him almost three seconds to get a hit on target. So I asked him to do it again, assuming he’d step up his pace on his second run. But he performed the drill with the same slowness. When I asked about the speed of his draw stroke, he said, “I have found that it leads to a higher level of success when I shoot the XYZ Drill. I have been working toward a faster time on this.”
I then asked him what other skills he practices regularly and he told me: none. “I feel this drill is an excellent compilation of what I will need in a gunfight ... it covers it all.” After a brief pause I said, “Except someone shooting back at you.”
It was obvious he didn’t know what to say. I find this mentality in my classes more often than I’d like. Few people have experienced armed conflict, so they confuse their competition experience with combat. They’re not the same. Although both involve shooting guns and stress, the stress level isn’t equal in severity.
I’ve competed in scholastic and collegiate sports as well as competition shooting at various levels (PPC, USPSA and IDPA) and I’ve had someone try to kill me —the stress isn’t the same. The activities themselves aren’t the same either. If there are rules, it’s a sport/competition. There are no rules in a gunfight—so if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough to win. This is an obvious difference in mindset compared to sport/competition.
Armed conflict should be avoided because you always run the risk of losing, no matter how well trained and prepared you are. Worse yet, many people believe they’re better trained and prepared than they really are… it’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Read up on it, its quite interesting. People “suffering” from this condition enter conflict with a serious disadvantage they don’t know they have. Con- fusing proficiency in a particular drill with combat preparation is a symptom of this affliction. Shooting standards and drills during training are an excellent way to build and maintain essential skills, but they aren’t a solution to armed conflict! A standard is “something established for use as a comparison in measuring quality” while a drill is “systematic training, practice or teaching by repeated exercise.” A skill is “an ability or proficiency; an art, craft, etc. using the hands or body.”
As these relate to the combative application of a firearm, skills are those essential physical activities needed to shoot well enough to save your own life, a drill is used to reinforce the physical activity and standards are used to measure performance as training progresses. None of these are a gunfight and to confuse them as some type of equivalent is unwise—and potentially deadly. Standards and drills should be viewed as vehicles toward preparation, as should competition, but neither should be confused with being prepared to act.
With this understood, drills and standards are useful tools and most every student of combative weapon craft is always looking for new ones in which to test their skills. I thought I’d share some of my favorites and why I like them. They’re not all-inclusive, nor should any drill be thought of as such.
One of my favorite drills is the classic El Presidente, as pioneered by the late Jeff Cooper. This drill is still used in classes at Gunsite (www.Gunsite.com) and I like it because it tests a number of essential skills in a short exercise. From a distance of 10 yards, 12 rounds are fired at three targets one yard apart. The targets should represent the high chest region.
Col. Cooper used 10-inch circles while Gunsite currently uses an 8-inch circle. I use a 6 x 10 rectangle but 8-x- 11 sheets of paper work fine too. With your back to the targets, turn and draw from your holster and shoot two rounds at each target. Perform an in- battery reload and then fire two more rounds at each target. Try to get all hits in at 10 seconds or less.
Another drill I like also came from Gunsite, but is not part of their curriculum. While attending a gun writer event years back, the Gunsite staff had those in attendance shoot a drill that required drawing from the holster (a new handgun and holster were being featured at this event) and fire two rounds on two targets in four seconds at 15 feet. I mentioned to the Range Officer that I felt a reload could be incorporated in that time frame. Others threw the gauntlet down and the competition was on! I do this drill now at 20 feet on 6 x 10 rectangles starting with the draw, two rounds fired, an in battery reload followed by two rounds. If the time is not a challenge, then incorporate an emergency reload.
Hopefully the difference between drills and standards is apparent. Both are designed to build and test skills, but they should never be confused with what will occur in armed conflict. In a gunfight expect nothing, plan on everything potentially failing and be prepared to move on to a contingency plan. The person who will win in armed conflict is someone who can adapt their essential skills to the situation they face. This isn’t something that can be taught in a drill or standard shoot but only by well-developed and thorough training.
For additional drills used in Handgun Combatives courses, check out the videos on www.handguncombatives.com or the Handgun Combatives You Tube channel.