Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fighting from the Ground

Several years ago, in order to maintain my state peace office training credentials, I attended a Defensive Tactics Instructor recertification course. The focus of the program was “ground fighting.” Over the years, I have received continual training in this subject, all of it based on getting up off the ground as quickly as possible. I remember my basic academy instructor screaming at us, “Get up off the ground! You can’t fight effectively from there!” and kicking us if we dwelled too long on the ground. Well, it was a different time, but the lesson was well learned, as I remember it like it was yesterday.

Imagine my surprise when the content
of the recertification was not getting up but deliberately taking your opponent
down in an effort to “pin” them. It was like
junior high wrestling, and I can remember
the three days were a waste of time, in my
opinion. Regardless of what wins fights in
MMA matches, I refuse to adopt the idea
that fighting to the ground is a good idea. 
Once on the ground, you are far less mobile
than when upright, and trying to defend yourself from multiple attackers is almost impossible. Imagine trying to hold someone on the ground and then have his buddy kick you in the side of the head while you are “entangled.”

I feel even more strongly about this when firearms are involved. While there are no rules in a gunfight, there are some points to ponder. If you are not shooting to stop the threat, you should be doing one of the following: moving rapidly to cover, reloading/clearing a stoppage or just “getting out of Dodge.” It’s difficult to do any of these while lying on the ground—at least in a timeframe that will save your life.

There are several ways you can end up on the ground while engaged in armed conflict, and they will have an effect on how you proceed. One is going to the ground deliberately, such as when taking low cover or bracing the pistol for a long shot. Another is grounding unintentionally, such as tripping while moving—something that happens more often than people think when trying to shoot while moving to the rear. Keep in mind that we humans do not have eyes in the back of our heads and that trying to “walk backwards” while delivering accurate fire will eventually result with our butt overriding our feet and thus an unintentional grounding situation. 
The last—and most perilous—is being knocked off your feet during a close-quarters fight. How to handle any of these situations will depend on how far away your opponent(s) is when you fall, as distance equals time and time equals life. The farther away they are, the more time you have to just get up and keep moving. But if they are right on top of you, it is likely you will have to deploy your pistol from the ground and deliver fast and accurate fire. After all, once you are on the ground, you won’t be doing any cool-looking, tactical-style shooting… you’ll have to shoot your attacker quickly, accurately and without hesitation if you want to live to see another day. Nothing else will work.

While the best thing to do is to get up so you can move, getting up might not be possible due to physical capabilities or circumstance. It’s imperative, then, to learn how to deploy your pistol from a grounded position. Years ago, I was taught to bend my legs and bring them up in front of my upper torso to help protect it, which, with modern ammunition’s enhanced penetration capabilities, is a ridiculous thing to do. Rounds fired at the legs will likely pass through, but using your legs like this can help stabilize the pistol if a precision shot is needed. If time is of the essence, don’t waste it trying to fold your legs; use it to get your gun between you and the threat and deliver accurate fire. Also, keep in mind, if you take multiple rounds through the legs, getting up is (probably) out of the question, so mobility is no longer an option.

If your pistol was in your hand when you fell, then all you need to do is get it on target. If you dropped it when you hit the ground, then you have a problem—unless you know where it is. Scrambling around trying to recover it will likely result in failure, which is another reason for carrying a backup gun, as you will know where it is. And hopefully you’ll have practiced drawing it from unconventional positions. If you do start going down inadvertently, tighten your grip on the pistol, keep your finger off the trigger and ride out the fall. Once grounded, find the attacker and engage from whatever position you are in.  Question: How many instructors out there tell your students, if they start to slip and fall, to just drop their gun so an involuntary discharge of the pistol does not occur? Yeah, I get it…once again range safety could be setting shooters up for failure in a real fight.

If the gun is secured in the holster, you will need to draw it and get it on target. Drawing from a strong-side belt holster is the same action whether standing, kneeling, seated or prone (belly up or down), which is why I prefer it. This is not something you can say about other carry positions. Drawing from your preferred mode of carry in two seconds or less is the standard students in my classes must achieve. While this does not seem particularly fast when standing on the square range, it becomes more problematic when lying on the ground, especially if a concealing garment is involved. The most fluid strong-side draw is accomplished by taking your shooting arm’s elbow straight to the rear, which will deliver the shooting hand to the gun without effort, removing the garment along the way. If you end up lying on your support side or belly, drawing the gun will be easy, as your shooting arm is unencumbered. If just the opposite happens, the act of drawing becomes more complicated.

In fact, the direst of grounded situations would be landing on your holstered firearm with the suspect hovering above. In this case, a rapid response will be critical, and speed will come from an economy of motion. Since it is impossible to draw the pistol while lying on it, immediately: 
 Roll over on your back.  Doing so will allow you to use your feet to fend off an attack while you draw your handgun. Remove the covering garment. If it is
a closed-front garment, two hands might be needed. An open-front garment can probably be cleared with one. Once the garment is removed, secure a solid shooting grip, clear the holster and direct it toward the attacker. 
 If you were using your feet to fend off your attacker, get them out of the way before firing so as not to shoot yourself. It will be all the more difficult to get into a standing/mobile position with a wounded leg or foot.
 If you have the core/abdominal strength necessary, sit upright. Once sitting, you will have a more stable shooting platform and will be halfway to a standing position. If you need to use your hands and arms to prop yourself up, they are involved in an activity other than fighting, which means you are defenseless.  Physical fitness is worth the effort!

Once you have established this sequence of actions, you will be well situated to engage the threat and make sure you are safe. When possible, get to a standing position as quickly as possible.  Make no mistake about, fighting from the ground places you in a position of serious disadvantage. Shoot from the ground as quickly as possible to stop the immediate threat, then get upright and look for additional threats. 
Being on the ground is not a death sentence provided you have trained from there and know what to do. Trying to sort it out in the middle of a fight will likely result in failure of the worst kind. Make sure you are ready, and you will be more capable of overcoming the threat.  Like all written word, this article is not all-inclusive, merely some thoughts and guidelines to fighting from the ground. Each situation will be different so be prepared to ADAPT your anchored skills!

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Custom Carry Gun…enhanced or modified?

enhance[en-hans, -hahns]
verb (used with object raise to a higher degree; intensify; magnify: raise the value or price of make better, improve

verb (used with object) change somewhat the form or qualities of; alter partially; amend:

When physical changes are made to any object they are certainly a modification, I am not here to argue this. What I wish to address in this article is how the end user views what is a very personal object…the everyday carry gun. Much has been said over the years about modifying a gun to be used for personal security. Some maintain that any modifications will result in legal judgments…if not jail time…if they are made. While others totally ignore any legal implications and carry guns that border on the absurd!

I swear I once saw a student’s carry gun with an engraving on the slide of the grim reaper pulling a line of victims behind him wrapped in chains! Other such things like barrel crown messages saying “look at the dark hole and wait for the flash” are certainly ill advised. If you want to have these types of modifications on a range or “fun” gun I have no problem with it. But I would strongly warn against having them on a gun that could be wrapped up in a legal fight.

It is with this in mind, I present to you my thoughts on “modifications” and “enhancements”.  This is sure to be controversial with folks arguing both ways and this will be a waste of time. Anyone who takes the time to post/type an argument to an article like this has their mind made up and it is doubtful any minds will be changed…including mine.

I have always carried (40 years now) what I prefer to view as an enhanced carry handgun. To me, modifications that were made to my guns over the years were done to make the gun perform better for me. While they may not have worked for others, that was not my concern. I never carried an issue gun, always opting to buy my own so I could enhance as I saw fit. My agency had no provisions or restrictions for changes to a personal gun.

In the revolver days, the enhancements were pretty straightforward, thing most everyone did if they cared at all about how well they shot. I had an action job performed so I could “roll” the DA trigger back without all of the glitches and catches that were very apparent in the factory action. I changed the wood bell-shaped grips to a more physiologically efficient tapered grip that followed the shape of the hand (the pinky finger is the shortest…why do the factory grips get larger at the bottom?). I even further enhanced the grip my removing all of the finger grooves except the top one so my hand could wrap as it wanted… not as the grip company thought I should.

I liked the red plastic insert on the large, wide front sight, but removed the white outline rear sight a replaced it with a flat black blade. I also had all sharp edges rounded (like on the cylinder release) so as I quickly and smartly manipulated the revolver, I did not cut my hands. This made for a carry gun that I could really shoot well! And that, my friends, is what I was trying to achieve. In my mind, these were performance enhancements not modifications…

Semi-auto pistols came upon us in 1987.  My first pistol was a Smith & Wesson Model 669. I liked the size of the gun, but there were instantly a few things that had to go. First, the crunchy trigger action needed to be fixed. There was NO way I could shoot this gun to its full potential with all of the snags and catches in the action. Next, the sharp edges of the two plastic grip panels were blended to the frame to remove the sharp edges. The front and back edges of the grip frame itself were also rounded.  I liked the front sight with its red line, but hated the white outline rear. I had the rear sight flattened and serrated.  A carry bevel package was then added to remove all sharp edges and make it more snag resistant under clothing.

Several years later, S & W replaced the 669 with the Third Generation 6906 with Novak tritium sights. I sold the 669 for more than I paid and bought one. The one piece, wrap around grip was a big improvement, but once again the action needed smoothing.  I removed the rear Novak sight and replaced it with a Trijicon rear that had a notch for one hand manipulation.  The white rings around the rear tritium vials were backed out.  Like before, all sharp edges were removed.

I then moved into a period of time when I carried the SIG pistol using both the P-225 and the P-228.  I had both of these guns worked over by Robbie Barrkman at Robar. The grip on both guns was fine, but the trigger reach was a bit big for my smaller than average hand. Fortunately, SIG offered a short reach trigger that really helped me get the proper “trigger finger geometry” on the trigger face. Robbie smoothed the action and applied NP-3 to all of the internals and the slide assembly after he did a carry bevel package removing all sharp corners and edges.

The factory sights were replaced with Trijicon sights with the front being painted florescent orange. The one enhancement I really required was some modification to the slide lock/release level.  My shooting hand thumb sat right on top of it, keeping it from locking open on the last round. My hands are too small for me to place my thumb over the support hand thumb, so I needed some type of solution. Robbie heated the lever and bent it up and then removed the excess material so my thumb sat below it. Nice!

The move to the .40 S&W by American law enforcement led me to adopt the Heckler & Koch USP Compact, a gun I still like. The grip on this gun is the best I have felt and is the standard I apply to all guns. I sent the USP-C to Robar and had them perform the same modifications as the SIG with the only different being the slide lever. On the USP, the lever is mounted in the middle of the frame so all that was required was rounding of the rear corner so my thumb did not sit on it.

This was the first gun in which forward cocking serrations were part of the enhancement process. Personally, I can take or leave them, believing it is more about hand strength than surface roughness when it comes to manipulating the slide. I have always press checked forward on the slide but never felt like I needed serrations to do this.  Admittedly, I do chuckle at the people who make a serious issue out of them. I’ve seen folks come unhinged over them, screaming “I WOULD NEVER OWN A GUN WITH FORWARD COCKING SERRATIONS!” If its a good gun otherwise, I would just ignore them.

David Bowie of Bowie Tactical Concepts was just getting started about this time and he stippled the grip of my USP-C. I have been a fan of grip stippling ever since, believing it offers superior friction to anything else I have tried.  If it comes back a little sharp, rub some sand paper over the surface until you achieve the grip you desire.  The only real problem I had with the USP-C was reloading…it did not matter if I used my thumb of index finger I never felt like I could maintain a solid grip on the pistol when I shifted it during a reload. The European-style ambidextrous magazine release just did not work for me. It wasn’t a matter of speed…I was fast enough with it…I just did not feel like I had a solid grip and dropping the gun on a reload would be a real “game changer” in a gunfight.

While teaching an IALEFI Regional Training Course in Arizona, I stopped in to see Robbie at Robar and while talking about all things guns; I mentioned this reloading problem with the USP-C.  Robbie said, “Why don’t you try a Glock?”  Man, I didn’t want to shoot a Glock…they were weird…they had no hammer! Trying to come up with an excuse, I said, “the grip is too big”. Robbie looked at me and said, “I can put any shape grip on a Glock you desire” forgetting that Robar pioneered the Glock grip reduction. I was stuck, so I bought Glock 19 and shipped it to Robar. I have been carrying the G19 ever since.

My original enhanced G19 had a Robar grip reduction, trigger guard rounding and nothing else. The grip felt exactly like my USP-C! I then stated to take note of other problems. I could not reach the magazine button, which was resolved by adding a taller one.  Glock factory sights are lacking, so I replaced them with a set of Ameriglo Operator sights. The slide lock/release sat right under my thumb so I cut it off which allowed it to lock open but eliminated me using it for any type of manual manipulation.

I had my Dad heat up a new factory lever and bend it straight.  I filed off the excess material and put a glob of JB Weld on the end to make a small knob, which stayed out of the way of the shooting hand thumb, but allowed for manual manipulation. I used this lever until Karl Sokol of Chestnut Mountain Sports made me a custom lever to my specifications that went forward away from the shooting hand thumb. This lever served as the model for the Bullet Forward Slide Lock Lever now made by Ghost Inc. and I use to this day.

The Glock action was enhanced by adding a Ghost 3 .5 (actually 4.5 when measured in the middle of the trigger face and not the tip!) connector, which removed the connector/trigger bar “bump” which occurs when the two meet as the trigger is depressed to the rear. The trigger weight was brought back up to 5.5 to 6 pounds with the addition of Wolff 6 pound striker and trigger springs.  I could have been happy with this gun until David Bowie showed me the carry bevel package he performed on his G19.  While there are not many sharp surfaces on a Glock, David took the extra step and removed unnecessary metal at the corners of the slide, which gave the gun a much sleeker look.  It also made it a bit more concealable which I am all for.

Today, I carry the Templar Custom Arms Handgun Combatives Package pictured above. As you have read here, the features built into this gun are from a long string of handguns I have carried over the last 40 years.  The enhancements on this gun all serve a purpose FOR ME…there is nothing superfluous in my opinion.  Could I do without? Sure! But I would not shoot a stock gun near as well and isn’t that the point of any enhancement?  If it has no purpose, then it’s just a modification, or at least that is how I see it.

Some will say I am flirting with legal trouble by carrying such a gun, but as I have stated I have carried a enhance handgun all of my life. I have thought about it long and hard and I am prepared to articulate what I have done. “It will cost you a lot of money to articulate those changes in court!” Maybe, but at least I will be alive when I do so. My goal? To win the fight and then deal with the aftermath…this is what all of this is about, enhancements directed at my ability to prevail!

You certainly have the right to see it differently…

Thanks for checking in!