Sunday, July 26, 2015

It Depends: Firearms & combat techniques should adapt to the specific situation

Whenever you get a group of people together who share extensive knowledge in the same subject matter, disagreement inevitably ensues. Firearms instructors and those who are serious students of the topic are no different. I’ve been in groups where two participants have almost come to blows over such miniscule topics as whether the support arm should be bent, should the body be bladed, teaching students to look at the sights, how to breathe, what type of gun is best (caliber, capacity, shotgun vs. carbine).

I seldom say much in these gatherings, for several reasons. One, if I’m talking, I’m not listening. If I don’t listen, I don’t learn. Two, little is ever resolved by such argument, because those involved seldom change their mind/point of view, and I doubt that I will be able to sway anyone. But such arguments aren’t without repercussions. Who gets hurt in such disagreements? The individual looking for knowledge, trying to build their skill set so when they face a life-threatening situation, they have a skill base to draw upon. These people don’t know what/who to believe because those with expertise in an area are often too busy fighting over who knows more, who’s right or whose doctrine (dogma might be a better word, as such views are usually unchangeable) is better.

 Don’t get me wrong. I have my opinions on how combative firearms should be taught—most of it based on simplicity of action (see my previous blog on “physiological efficiency”) or skill development—but I don’t believe my views are so “ultimate” that I should argue about them. The truth is (and I pride myself on this) If something proven superior to what I’m teaching comes along, I’ll change instantly, because all I want to pass on to those I train is results! If it won’t help win the fight, then I’m wasting their time. That said, one successful incident does not make good technique…there must be history (repetitive use) behind anything useful.  I recently had a gentleman tell me “I don’t care about history… I want the science behind gunfighting!”  I’m not sure gunfighting is a science as it is too variable and seldom the same. In addition, “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”


But how does an LEO or armed citizen decide what tactics or techniques will help them prevail? In reality, it’s tough because so much of what happens in conflict is situationally dependent. I’ve been taught any number of techniques over the years that worked well on the range or in the gym only to find out they were less than stellar on the street. In addition, police training often takes on a perspective that’s not appropriate for all potential situations.

In recent years, cops have been under attack in a way that’s only happened a few times in our history. I say “few times” because cops have been in the crosshairs before: NYPD cops remember the early 1970s, when Officers Foster, Laurie, Jones and Piagentini were actually stalked and ambushed by black militants. The famous Newhall incident, in which four California Highway Patrol officers were confronted and overwhelmed by two armed and committed suspects, wasn’t that much different than the four Washington State officers who were attacked and killed in a coffee shop or the recent attack on a Detroit police precinct. And we all remember the famous Miami FBI shootout of April 1986, one of the most studied events in law enforcement history. All of these incidents share a common thread: Armed, committed suspects knowingly attack armed and trained LEOs and kill them.

It’s happened before and it will happen again. The questions: Will we (both cops and armed citizens) be ready for it? Will our training cover the circumstances we will face? Or will our complacency get the better of us? 


Do we train cops and armed citizens to fight to the death, or do we train them to “stop the suspect’s immediate action”? I can’t help but wonder whether many people in life-or-death situations are thinking about saving their own lives vs. trying to put the suspect in handcuffs or get them to go away. There’s a difference, and it’s situationally dependent. Fighting to the death when attacked by a committed murderer is a much different situation from making an arrest or repelling an attack—but do we train to recognize and react to the difference?

In the law enforcement arena, many police administrators will remind us that we police society; we’re not at war with them. In the case of armed citizens, many states require the citizen to escape first if at all possible. But are we prepared when members of our society…violent felons… go to war with us?

Even the techniques we teach/use in the field are situationally dependent. Handgun-ready positions are a perfect example: They’re numerous, and every school/instructor has their favorite, but no single ready position will work for all situations. Yes, the ready position is situationally dependent.

The two positions that enjoy incredible popularity currently are the Temple Index and SUL. In a nutshell, the Temple Index is the gun held against the side of the head with the muzzle pointed upward. SUL is the gun held flat against the support hand, which is flat against the chest. In truth, neither was intended to be a general use Ready Position but have taken on a life of their own due to their newness and “cool” loo when used on the range. When I was young, looking cool on the range was not a factor but it certainly is now!

Other positions like Chest Ready are very fast on target and easy to teach, but we’re also taught not to point the muzzle at anything we’re not willing to destroy, which is where SUL comes in. I’ve seen SUL taught as the primary building search position in many parts of the country. Instructors tell me that it keeps the muzzle off non-hostiles. It’s “safer,” they say. But I can’t help but wonder: When do we allow our students to be dangerous? After all, aren’t they potentially facing off with dangerous suspect(s) when they search a building, suspects that may snuff out their life? Is having the gun flat against the chest a disadvantage at close quarters? Is having the support hand under the pistol an advantageous position vs. up and away, ready to fend off a close attack? The choice is yours…

In the end, which Ready Position one uses is situationally dependent.


Fortunately, U.S. LEOs and armed citizens confront far more armed suspects than they shoot. When such confrontations occur, officers and citizens orient their sidearm/long gun in the direction of the threat in an attempt to get them to comply with their verbal commands. The firearm is used as a tool of compliance; its use is a threat of what will happen if the suspect doesn’t comply which is sound practice.

This said, if as a suspect you were confronted by an armed officer, would you feel more threatened by a gun in Chest Ready or SUL, or by a gun that was outstretched, pointed in your general direction—as if the officer was ready to use it? It’s always a good idea to think like your opponent when anchoring skills and techniques for your use. The extended position is called the Guard or Low Ready: The gun is slightly low, so the shooter can see the entire suspect and what their intentions might be. It’s the same position they would use with a long gun. Although its use in the street is well documented, the Guard/Low Ready position is no longer taught in many regions, as it’s thought to be “old school.” It is unfortunate that many things determined to be old school are also documented to have worked over many years.

In addition to ready positions, the choice of weapon is also situationally dependent. The carbine is here to stay, which is a really good thing because it gives patrol officers and armed citizens greater capability to respond to a wider range of threats. I’ve heard a number of instructors make the statement, “Use your handgun to fight your way to a long gun.” But is that reality? I understand the sentiment behind the statement, but can it be done?

Maybe. But the history of unexpected conflict reveals that the fight starts and finishes in seconds…one or both (maybe more!) of the combatants involved go down with their available gun(s) empty or almost empty. Reality states that the fight will start and finish with the weapons the individual has in their hand or on their person. Does this make the carbine unnecessary? Hell no! The person who knowingly goes to a gunfight with a handgun isn’t very smart, but that also doesn’t mean the carbine will replace the handgun.

The bottom line is train and practice with all available weapons, because what weapon comes into play is situationally dependent.

Essential Focus

At this point you might be asking, how can we possibly train for every potential situation we could face if/when engaged in armed conflict? The harsh reality is we can’t.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying. How many training programs have you seen developed based on a single incident? If an officer somewhere in the U.S. is hurt or killed in a mud hole while trying to draw their back up gun from an ankle holster, a slew of “Combat Mud Hole & Ankle Holster” courses will be introduced with THE ANSWER to this situation revealed. Uh huh…

But do we really need such a program? Is it a wise use of limited time and money? Could this situation have been dealt with by a focus on the fundamentals (what I prefer to call The Essentials!) of drawing from the chosen holster and basic punches and kicks adapted to being prone? If you’re going to use an ankle holster, it makes sense to spend some time drawing from it—upright, kneeling, laying on your side or back, falling, getting up, the same things you’d train on with your primary belt holster!

And is fighting on the ground really different from fighting upright? I’m not talking about grappling, I’m talking about fighting: punching, kicking, biting, gouging, head butting and other related non-competition acts of combat. If you can do it upright, you can (with a bit of thought) adapt it to being on the ground. It’s just a matter of reorientation…and commitment!

So much of this is a matter of how you think about the situation at hand. History has shown that the person who will win a gunfight, regardless of how it unfolds, is the one who can keep their head and adapt their skill set(s) to the situation they face, not the person with the fastest draw. Again, there’s no way to specifically prepare for every potential situation you may face. But you can train on how to adjust your tactics to the situation at hand.

In the end…

Maintaining situational awareness and being willing to engage in combat will always be the keys to your personal security. The attack that’s a complete surprise will always be hard to get the upper hand if not impossible, regardless of your level of training and combative mindset. Reality bites; there’s just no way to prepare for every potential situation. Adaptation of essential skills, combined with a combative mindset, is critical…and nothing else will be as vital…











Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Physiological Efficiency

Like many jocks of college age, I minored in Physical Education with an emphasis on coaching. In my case it was Track and Field as I attended college on a scholarship in the same sport.  To successfully complete this degree, I was required to attend a year- long course entitled “Sports Physiology” which was the study of human anatomy and that relates to movement specifically directed at athletics. It was a good thing I could run fast and jump far as I had (still don’t!) no real hand-eye coordination. I was the poor kid who grew up unable to catch a ball, hit same or shoot one through a hoop with any degree of success.  This course of instruction was a real eye opener for me as it explained many things about the body, what it was capable of and how you could improve its performance by adjusting technique to best make use of how it wants to move. 

Track and Field…especially the field events…are very technique-driven and great improvement can be attained through what was called “physiological efficiency” at the time.  I attribute the phrase to a very famous (both in and out of the track world as he was the founder of a little known company called Nike) track coach as he was the first person I ever heard use the phrase as it related to the long jump. Basically, the athlete eliminated any motion that was not required to attain speed and distance.  It was a real asset to me as I tried to excel in my sport. In a nutshell, I improved my jumping distance by several feet!!  Have you ever seen a runner who was so smooth when they ran that it looked effortless? This is a good example of physiological efficiency.

Upon entering the police academy, I realized my lack of hand/eye coordination would once again be a detriment in hand-to-hand combat and shooting. I could hit my target reasonably well, but all of the other necessary motor skills were a challenge.  I first used a semi auto in 1982 after my agency’s SWAT team was formed, and I quickly realized a rapid magazine exchange, better known as the speed load, would be a huge challenge for me. The gun was a 1911 and as you all know, single column auto loaders are the most challenging to load fast. Thinking back to my track and field days, I pulled out some of my old training books to review the sections that dealt with physiological efficiency and applied the lessons to pistol shooting.

I understood even back then, there were only so many ways to “run” a pistol and they had all been invented regardless of any current or future claims of “the latest greatest” technique.  Nonetheless, by applying the physiological efficiency I learned while running track, I was able to put together a method that worked well for me. Why is this important? Admittedly, it’s because I’m not a gifted shooter and it is likely that neither are you! But in three-plus decades of law enforcement, I’ve won a few matches and faced my share of danger. In addition, I’ve trained tens of thousands of cops and armed citizens using physiological efficiency and it has worked well.  As an instructor, I feel this is my greatest asset…to learn from someone who struggles with shooting well and found methods to improve versus a gifted shooter who really does not understand why they are good.

At last count, I have had 112 individuals contact me and tell me that what they learned saved their lives…12 have supplied video tapes of their incidents.  While this sounds like a lot, it really isn’t for an instructor in law enforcement who has been teaching for almost four decades. Conversations with large agency instructors at conferences like ASLET, ILEETA and IALEFI has made me realize this. 

I included physiologically efficient methods into my book Handgun Combatives, the video of the same name from Paladin Press and the five videos I did for Panteao Productions. I feel they are the simplest and most efficient ways to shoot and manipulate the semi auto pistol in combative situations. While calling the book something like “Combative Handgun Shooting made Simple” or “Combative Handgun for Dummies” was enticing, my publisher felt it might send the wrong message and they were probably right.

I have been informed recently by people who were riding tricycles or wearing diapers when I first explored the concept that my use of the word “physiology’ is wrong and that I am referring to “biomechanics” or “kinesiology”. Huh, I did not know the year- long course I took should have been called “Sports Biomechanics” or “Sports Kinesiology”. Look at the dictionary definitions of biomechanics and physiology:

noun: physiology
1. the branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts, the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions or moves.

noun: biomechanics; noun: bio-mechanics
1. the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms.

I believe that both terms are technically correct. I have found that when someone feels compelled to “correct” another, rename something or generally be a pain in the ass it’s because they are trying to get people to believe they created or invented it. This is usually done to increase profit or raise profile…whatever.  Sorry folks, the study of human motion has been ongoing for centuries and no “new on the scene instructor” created this stuff. If you think they did then get with me as I have a bridge in the Everglades to sell you…and I will offer it at a super price!

Physiological/Biomechanical efficiency is a theme I emphasize repeatedly in my classes and I will continue to do so as it works!  When it comes to combative shooting or open hand fighting if it feels like you’re hardly moving, you‘re probably doing it right! My search for simpler and easier ways will probably last until the day I die.’s that important...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Equipping the Carbine Intelligently

 I received a sizeable number of positive comments in regards to my blog on how to run the carbine, most of which ad to do with how to “dress it”. But I thought I would do in this article was talk about what features I think are important.  That said, I lament the “passing” of the 12 gauge shotgun as the long gun of choice for personal security. It’s on target power is most impressive!  I have been in the position to see several people shot with the gun (not after the fact but as it happened!) and I remain impressed with its capability. It is still the close quarter combat weapon of choice for me. However, the shotgun is limited in effectiveness in regards to range, while the AR-15, Ruger Mini-14 or other such 5.56 carbines can be used as far as the naked eye can see. With current-generation optics, these guns can be used well beyond their original intended limit of 300 meters.

I mourn the “passing” of the shotgun with a smile on my face because in the AR-15, we now have a gun that police officers and armed citizens want to use, train with and shoot versus the “reluctance” to put the 12 gauge through its paces. Cops and citizens alike buy carbines with their own funds and then “dress” them like a child would a Barbie or G.I. Joe.  There are now so many add-ons for the AR that we’ve reached a level of absurdity. The truth is, the AR-15 is just plain cool and I’m OK with that. Any long gun will be more effective than a handgun, though not as portable.

As most readers know, I currently operate a training school that focuses exclusively on the combative application of the handgun, which is the most difficult of weapon systems to master and the most likely gun an officer or armed citizen will have with them when they need a gun. The handgun is a reactive or reflexive weapon, while the carbine is a responsive one, meaning the carbine is the gun taken when you know what the threat is, while the pistol is the gun you will likely have when the threat breaks out and unfolds in front of you. Since most police operations are investigative in nature, many of the threats cops face will be reactive, happening as a situation develops.  Armed citizens will likely face a criminal attack which will certainly develop unexpectedly. Thus the handgun will always be the primary firearm for American cops and armed citizens. That’s why I dedicate so much time in my regular column to the handgun. The military, on the other hand, works to kill the enemy and a rifle or carbine is much better for this.

The Basics

The primary reason I like the AR platform is that it offers training and manipulation continuity with the semi-automatic pistol. Whether an officer chooses a gas-driven or gas-piston platform is up to them. There are good and bad things with both systems. Regardless of the platform, the AR needs TLC …it needs to be cleaned and properly lubricated regularly.  While the gun will run dirty it will not run dry! If such care is given, both the gas-impingement and gas-piston AR platform will give decades of reliable service.

I’ve owned a number of ARs over the years (in both systems) from a variety of manufacturers. My current go-to gun was built by Templar Custom Arms with both lower and upper of their manufacture combined with a 1-7 Wilson Combat barrel.  From there it’s a matter of personal choice as to which accessories are added.


Because I want my gun to be light and sleek, I’m very careful about how I “dress” it. I don’t need enough rails to start my own railroad, so I chose a Midwest Industries fore-end due to its trim profile and adaptability. The fore-end comes with a top rail for the forward mounting of optics and the capability of adding rail sections only where I want them. In my case, there’s one section of rail at 9-o’clock so I can add a white light. I like the way I can wrap my hand around the trim fore-end to help “drive” the gun from target to target and also help reduce the overall weight of the gun.

Sights & Optics

 I also added a set of Midwest Industries flip up iron sights as they are a must have contingency. As good as optics are in this day and age, they do fail and when it is raining they can be all but useless. That said, an optic of some type is also a good idea and the general rule of thumb is one power of magnification for every 100 yards you expect to use it within. Although anything is possible when working the street as a cop, history has shown most patrol operations will occur within 100 yards, so a simple, fast-action red dot is the way to go. I think this same rule can be applied to the armed citizen as well. The Mini-Aimpoint red dot backed up by their 3 X magnifier meets my needs for fast on target acquisition, sleek profile and simplicity. The magnifier can be rotated out of the way when not needed, but truth be told it usually rides in my gear bag unless I am shooting at long distance.

White Lights

Every long gun needs to have a white light attached, or at least the capability of adding one. Truth be told, I’ve never been completely happy with any of the white lights I’ve tried on my AR. Unless I use a pressure switch (which can come loose and fall off), I’ve never been able to get my support hand thumb onto the light’s pressure switch without compromising my grip. But that’s recently changed. While browsing the Brownell’s booth at the 2013 SHOT Show, I noticed a new light mounted on an AR.  I asked Brownell’s Larry Weeks about it and he offered to send one for testing. I quickly agreed and after using it for just a few weeks found it was the best weapon-mounted light I’ve ever used. Made by In Force, this light differs from others due to its canted rear switch instead of the flat rear switch found on other white lights. This design offers the same ease of use of a tape-pressure switch but without the wires and loose fit found with Velcro mounting.  I have the momentary only model which I am told has been discontinued. Too bad as I really like this unit!

Other Add-Ons

Magpul makes some of the best designed, reasonably priced accessories available. This company never seems to “miss” when it comes to new product development. Their telescoping rear stock (CTR) is the best of the breed in my opinion. It’s light, sleek and locks solidly in place with a dual lever system that eliminates wobble. It’s also set up for mi. spec detachable QD sling swivels, which I use on my preferred Magpul quick-adjustment two-point sling. I also prefer their MOE pistol grip. Its design pulls the hand back for proper finger placement on the trigger face as well as Magpul’s  P-MAG magazines due to their incredible level of reliability.

I replaced the factory flash hider with a model from Battle Comp, which I’ve found it not only reduces muzzle flash, but also helps hold the muzzle down during recoil better than anything I have ever used.  Shooters next to me do not like its blast so I try to shoot on the end of the line. Too bad for them but great for me! Although the Battle Comp model is expensive, I really don’t mind paying for something that really improves my shooting ability. Few add-ons really do.

Choose Wisely

hat’s truly useful for you, however, it’s important not to get distracted by all the add-ons. It’s not enough that you want to take it out of the cruiser, car or closet. Your AR-15 must also be configured to be the most effective gun for your needs. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Combative Carbine Training: Focus on the essentials

The ultimate goal of shooting any firearm is to hit your target. Nowhere are the downsides of a miss so dire as during a real gunfight. If you miss, someone may lose their life—and someone will more than likely be shooting back at you. Can you shoot your carbine quickly and accurately at distances of 25 yards and more? All while taking incoming rounds?  I own a training company that focuses on "the combative application of the handgun" but that does not mean I do not see the value of the long gun. I choose not to teach carbine courses because I never carried one during my law enforcement career so I have no original thoughts on deploying the system. To teach it would seem a bit disingenuous, but that does not mean I do not train with it and have thoughts on how to excel with it. 

The primary reason for the carbine for the legally armed citizen and law enforcement officer is to have a gun with greater reach and precision for the atypical situation in our society, like a sniper or active shooter. The faster the threat is neutralized, the greater the chance everyone involved (both active participants and those caught in the cross-fire) go home with few, if any, psychological or physical injuries. Getting the first hit and following up fast is how a gunfight is brought to a conclusion.

It’s like Barbie for men!

To me, the AR-15 is like the 1911 of the feel compelled to hang crap on it! Every armed citizen of police officer needs to give critical thought to what they really need on a combative-grade carbine. Please keep in mind I am not talking about your 3 Gun Match Carbine, those requirements are likely to be different. I am talking about the gun you will be pulling from your vehicle to defend your life or the life of another. You want this gun to be light, sleek and as reliable as possible. Never rely on gadgets for performance! You can’t buy skill so don’t even try. As a general rule, an AR set up for combative purposes should have:

     •    An optic (one level of magnification for every 100 yards you expect to use it in):
     •    Back-up iron sights;
     •    A sling;
     •    A mounted white light with pressure switch activation;
     •    A good muzzle break/flash hider

 Anything beyond this will probably make your lightweight carbine clunky and heavy so think carefully. DO NOT take your light 7 pound carbine and turn it into a ten pound plus piece of junk!
I like the AR-15 platform because it offers a certain continuity of action with the semi-auto pistol. It uses a pistol grip, a push-button magazine release, a slide action (charging handle) that can be manipulated with the support hand and the ability to clear stoppages quickly. “Tap, Rack, Target” is a simple stoppage drill that prepares students for this potentiality. Tap the bottom of the magazine to make sure it’s seated, rack the action (slide of a pistol, bolt handle on the carbine) and focus back on the target to adapt your next move. Controlling the recoil of the two guns is also similar in that putting one’s body mass behind the gun will help keep the muzzle on target. The carbine’s recoil is even more “rearward linear” than a pistol as the bore of the AR is actually in line with the stock while the pistol sits above the hand. Having the bore in line with the shoulder makes recoil control all the easier.

Combative Carbine Training

When training to use the carbine for personal security, focus on the essentials! There is no way any of us can practice for every possible situation that may develop, so practice the basics and “war game” in your head how to use those to adapt to a rapidly unfolding situation. With the AR/M-4 carbine, combat grade speed and accuracy is accomplished by squaring the body behind the gun with the upper torso slightly forward: This keeps body weight behind the gun holding the muzzle down. Many shooters want to blade their body due to the length of the gun, but this is a serious mistake in a fight. Think of it as if your upper torso were a gate—when the gate is closed, it’s locked in line with the rest of the fence. If the gate is left open to swing, it can be moved with very little effort. Square to the target, the gun is locked down with very little muzzle rise occurring. But if the body is bladed behind the gun, recoil can actually push it back allowing the muzzle to rise unnecessarily. Keeping the muzzle on target results in fast, accurate shots, which end the confrontation.

2.       Keep the shooting hand high on the pistol grip: Everyone knows gripping the semi-auto pistol high on the tang helps control the gun. On the AR, it keeps the hand in proper alignment behind the trigger for better trigger control. If the standard grip allows too much of the index finger to enter the trigger guard, get a grip that adds surface material behind it. The Magpul MOE grip is a perfect example of this. Also by pulling back on the grip, the gun is better locked into the shoulder. This further increases weapon control—not doing so is the mark of a lazy shooter.

3.       Grip the forward hand guard firmly with the support hand: How this is done differs from shooter to shooter. Some prefer to use a vertical fore grip while others don’t—there’s no right or wrong way here. Keep in mind that when using a vertical grip, don’t grasp it like you’re holding a beer can. The thumb should stay on the support side of the hand guard and not tucked under, mimicking the thumbs forward grip used on a pistol. This keeps the wrist locked and allows the support arm’s elbow to be bent down holding the hand back and holding the muzzle down. The vertical fore grip is an excellent lever—to not use it would be such a waste. Rolling the thumb over the top of the fore end and lifting the support side elbow high is becoming increasingly popular. If you like it, fine…but do not lift the elbow so high you cannot scan for threats without getting the elbow in the way. I tend to roll my thumb over top and place the elbow in a position that will allow me to pull back on the fore end as if I am pulling on a rope. Do what works for you.

The high elbow “C grip” allows for an exceptional level of control when driving the muzzle from one target to another, but I have seldom seen it used in actual conflict. Watch news footage from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and you’ll see many soldiers and Marines grasping the magazine well—a technique I used with my HK MP-5 and still like. That said using this technique infuriates many instructors. In fact, I had an instructor slap my hand when I reverted to it unknowingly during a training course (He and I had a little discussion about this afterward) which is totally unprofessional. 

 I had the opportunity to bring up the high elbow, reach forward C Grip with a couple of recently returned Army Rangers during an interview.  They told me they had been trained in the C grip technique and liked it. But they also said when the bullets are flying and the muzzle is leading out and around toward the threat—say around the corner of a building or over a wall—few want to place their hand near the muzzle so they end up pulling it back and grasping the magazine well. While I too, like reaching forward on the hand guard, this is something to consider as real bullets in the air fighting is quite different than shooting on the range. Maybe the solution is grasping the hand guard in the middle but still wrapping the thumb over top. Something to think about. 

Keep the head locked down on the rear stock: Not only does this give a consistent view through the optic or irons, it also helps hold the gun firmly in place. With the head locked down (the consistent cheek weld) and the shoulders forward, there’s no place for the gun to go so the recoil comes straight back, making follow-up shots very fast.

5.       Drop the strong side elbow down: Once you’ve mounted the carbine as described, the next thing is to drop your strong side elbow. This performs a few important functions: First, it tightens the pectoral muscle, which helps solidify the carbine’s position. Second, it helps keep the elbow out of the way of objects and prevent injury. As someone who smacked his elbow on a door frame during a building search for a bank robber, I can’t express how important this is. Third, the downward pressure also helps bring he gun tighter into the upper torso.

6.       Control the trigger! Trigger control is weapon control. If you slap, smack, smash or spank the trigger, the muzzle will move no matter how hard you hold the fore end. It won’t be as much as a pistol, but poor trigger control will affect the muzzle. Proper trigger control, whether it’s a pistol, shotgun or carbine, is a smooth depression straight to the rear (i.e. press). This will always be the case regardless of the gun being shot. Control the trigger and you’ll control the muzzle.

Incorporate tactics into your shooting! Tactics keep you from being seen and shot. Shoot around objects of various sizes and heights, move into and out of position, reload and “run the gun” in unorthodox positions, transition to a secondary weapon and practice pulling it out of whatever type of rack the gun is carried in while being transported in the car. Combative firearms training doesn’t vary greatly from weapon to weapon, it just needs to be relevant and prepare the shooter for the likely situations they may face. Remember: Winning a gunfight usually comes down to adapting your practiced skills to the situation that’s unfolding before you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Red Dot Update: Are mini red dots the next generation of combative pistol sights?

Recently I had a young students take me off to the side at a class and try to "explain" to me the benefits of the mini-red dot optic on a handgun over traditional iron sights. I had to catch myself as this young man just wanted to be heard. When he finished, he looked at me and said "you should really get into the 21st Century." This kid was in his twenties and it took every bit of patience I had not to throttle him for trying to lecture me on pistol craft. I took a deep breath and told him, "You have told me nothing that I did not tell you first." With a puzzled look on his face he said, "What do you mean?" I then handed him a copy of the LAW OFFICER MAGAZINE in which the article below appeared. He read it and trying to save face said, "Well, I still think I made several good points." Sigh...

I think MRDS are here to stay, though they have not reached the level of popularity many thought for the very reason I state in the article...they are expensive! I have opted not to use the MRDS due to the many years I have shot iron sights, plus, I really like the Ameriglo CAP and Spaulding sights with their VERY high visibility front sight. The attached photos are of the pistol I used in my year long trial. The Caspian Slide was cut for the MRDS by Caspian while I was on a visit to their plant. This was done before other gunsmiths got the idea. The reason I had them cut it was because I wanted the rear notch in the sight to line up with the front sight. David Bowie of BOWIE TACTICAL CONCEPTS took the idea and made the red dots more streamlined and then started adding irons along with the MRDS, something many lay claim to but I truly believe David did it first.  The second photo is a custom gun Bowie built for Kelly McCann as Kelly's original gun was getting "rough"...

Note that Pete McGrath from Trijicon cites my original study in his report to the Trijicon Board of Directors. Below is the article...please enjoy! 

I’ve dropped the ball. In my January 2009 column of Law Officer, I wrote about using a mini red dot sight on a handgun and how I intended to use it during the coming year to determine its validity on a combative pistol. I had told readers that at the end of the test period, I would report back about what I had found. But I forgot. Then I was reminded at the 2011 SHOT Show by an officer who attended my Enhancing Combative Pistolcraft Skills lecture. The officer asked, “What did you discover about mini red dot sights on pistols? You said you would report back, but I never saw it!” As Charlie Brown would say, “Rats!”


The first time I saw a compact red dot sight on a combative pistol was on the Glock 19 of trainer Kelly McCann. A former Marine with an extensive background in special ops, as well as a master in hand-to-hand combat and firearms skills, McCann left the Marines in the early 1990s and started his own training company called Crucible. He and his staff train military special mission units, security contractors, teams and individuals who are deploying around the globe for high-risk environment operations, operations in which they are not supposed to be where they are.

McCann wanted to have the same visual sight on his carry pistol that was on his carbine, so he placed a Docter optic on his Glock and began to run the gun. McCann presents his reasons for changing to a red dot sight in his video training series Inside the Crucible, from Paladin Press. His use of the sight led a number of others to place compact red dots on their combat handguns—including me. The concept is becoming so popular that a number of custom gunsmiths are now mounting these sights into (cutting a dove tail) a pistol’s slide to offer a lower profile and allow for co-witnessing with iron sights in the event of failure.

Personal Experience

During the year that I used the red dot, I used a fixed-sight slide as a control. I carried the red dot (I selected the J Point from J.P. Enterprises) in all weather conditions, as well as a few competitions and training courses, all in an attempt to see how well the sight would hold up. Although it takes time to get used to the red dot and not look for the front sight, after an officer grasps the concept, the red dot sight is fast and accurate even at a distance and allows the shooter to look at the target through the sight. I passed this gun around during SWAT training for a local team, and all who shot it liked the idea that the pistol sight looked the same as their rifle sight. Such continuity would be a real plus during training and operations.

My Two Cents

Do I believe these are the next generation of pistol sights? It will depend on how the sights develop and what their cost will be. Very few people are going to spend $700 to $1,000 on a pistol and then another $500 to $1,000 for a sight. Those who purchase a less expensive gun are even less likely to do this. If the gun comes from the factory with the sight attached and the cost is built into the gun, then I think there may be a possibility that this sight system will be what the YouTube generation will be using on their combative pistols.

Will iron sights go away? No more than they have for carbines. A contingency plan is always a good thing and having sights to fall back on in the event the optic fails is just good practice.

Trijicon Trials

Do compact red dots offer any advantage over traditional iron sights? Trijicon instructor Pete McGrath partnered with criminal justice professor James Ryan of Norwich University to determine if the Trijicon RMR (RM02 8 MOA dot) optic enhanced the learning curve of new shooters. 27 students majoring in criminal justice from Norwich underwent a simulated training course of fire using the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) silhouette targets for four different stages of fire. Thirteen students used iron sights and 14 students used the RMR optic. The test subjects for this project group were thought to represent those likely to be entry-level police cadets or military recruits. The firearm used was a 9 mm Glock 19. The course of fire consisted of four stages with the subjects firing all shots from the standing position using an isosceles two-hand stance.

The Exercises

Stage 1: A slow-fire exercise at 15 yards with each subject firing 10 shots.

Stage 2: A rapid-fire engagement drill at five yards with students starting from a chest-ready position. When a signal from an electronic timer went off, each student engaged the target and fired two shots with their times recorded for each shot. This exercise was repeated nine times for a total of 20 shots.

Stage 3: Identical to Stage 2 except the distance was increased to 10 yards and the exercise was repeated five times for a total of 10 shots.

Stage 4: Exercise consisted of rapid fire with multiple threats at a distance of 10 yards. The test subjects faced two targets and after a timer signal, fired two shots—one at each target. Students alternated between shooting first at the target on the left and then shooting first at the target on the right, with shot times being recorded. The targets were placed about six feet apart. This exercise was repeated six times for a total of 12 shots.

The Results

Stage 1: The group using iron sights fired a total of 130 shots, 97 of which hit the target for a hit percentage of 75%. Those using the Trijicon RMR fired a total of 140 shots, 137 of which hit the target producing a hit percentage of 98%.

Stage 2: The group using iron sights fired a total of 260 shots, 248 of which hit the target for a hit percentage of 95%. Those using the RMR fired a total of 280 shots and hit the target 274 times for a hit rate of 99%. Note: This difference wasn’t statistically significant.

Stage 3: The group using iron sights fired 130 shots, 105 of which hit the target for a hit rate of 81%. Those using the RMR fired 140 shots, 136 of which hit the target, producing a hit rate of 96%.

Stage 4: Data for each group was limited to 12 shooters. Some subjects were confused regarding the changing sequence of aim points and shot at the wrong targets. Data for these shooters were eliminated from the analysis. The group using iron sights fired a total of 132 shots, hitting the target 110 times for a hit rate of 83%. The group using the RMR fired a total of 144 shots and hit the target 138 times for a hit rate of 96%.

Final Thoughts

Norwich University researchers readily admit the study was too small to be considered trend setting, but it does offer interesting research possibilities for the future. While I admit I’m not a statistician and don’t know how statistical significance is determined, I can’t help but notice that shooters hit their targets at a higher level of accuracy when using the mini red dot sight. To me, any tool that helps cops hit their target while under the stress and duress of armed conflict is worth studying. Red dot sights on pistols are the future of combative pistolcraft. It’s just a matter of when it will happen.

Spaulding’s Red Dot Trial Findings

• The sight is fast and accurate. Though I didn’t overly abuse the sight, it did hold its zero through normal-to-rugged use.
• When going from cold to hot environments, the sight would always fog over. I tried several different defog products and most worked as advertised. The only problem was knowing when I might have to defog. I found that wiping the sight with saliva worked just as well, and I always had a supply of that on hand!
• The sight got in the way of the rotating hood-style of the police duty/SWAT holster. A thumb break worked just fine, as well as open top concealment holsters, which is what I used most of the time.
• The sight window was chipped on several occasions by extracted brass that went back instead of out. This didn’t affect the sight or obscure the dot because the J Point has an acrylic window, not glass.
• Although the sight did stand up to abuse, I don’t know what would have happened if the gun was dropped with the sight top down. It’s doubtful that the sight would go flat, so the back-up fixed sights should work fine.
• The sight was no harder to conceal in a proper belt holster than traditional fixed-pistol sights, and was even faster to draw from the holster.

Red Dot Attributes

Pete McGrath offered some interesting observations and advantages in his report to Trijicon executives.  The following is taken directly from his report.

1. Both eyes open shooting: The benefit of both eyes open shooting has become mainstream in the military combat world in recent years with the addition of illuminated reticle optics on service rifles. It increases situational awareness, reduced tunnel vision and the ability to transition much faster between targets.
2. Elimination of “eye sprint”: Citing an article written in Law Officer Magazine January 2009 by Dave Spaulding, eye sprint is a term often used to describe exactly that: the eye sprinting from the target to the front sight to verify alignment and then back to the target while maintaining awareness of the location of the front sight between the rear sights. The process can be slow and takes practice to get faster. With that in mind, it’s widely known that one of the physiological effects of imminent danger instinctively forces someone to focus on the threat, not the front sight as is required in a three-dot sight set-up. The red dot sight allows a shooter in a gunfight to do what is natural, focusing on the threat, while superimposing the red dot on it.
3. Decreased training time: It costs departments and agencies money to conduct initial training and subsequent annual training in firearms. The traditional three-dot-style sight takes training and practice to get a shooter used to lining up all three dots and bringing them to a level of proficiency where they can qualify. If you eliminate the three-dot-style sight and simply have one dot, you can very possibly cut training time and ammo costs associated with training.
4. Old eyes: There are many law enforcement officers who have been “on the street” for  many years and have skill sets that only come with age and experience. Often, these very officers struggle as they get older because their eyes simply cannot focus on traditional pistol sights as well as they used to. A red dot style pistol sight would significantly reduce this problem by placing the dot on the same focal plane as the target, possibly buying these professionals some more time in public service. 
5. Increased effectiveness in low light: In a low-light situation, where an officer may struggle finding his sights to engage a threat, a red dot illuminated-style sight would ensure that speed and officer survival wasn’t compromised.