Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why? On the subject of Sight Radius.

If you saw my most recent “Crown Royal Thoughts” video ( you know I am a BIG believer in asking students “why”?  It is a cognitive process; you know…process information…roll it around in your brain… which is always a good thing when preparing for conflict. Anytime you can make a student think you are doing them a favor. According to my old, worn out (paper!) version of the Webster’s Dictionary, the word “why” is defined as:

Why: (h)wī/ adverb
For what reason or purpose, cause and effect

That’s right, there should be a reason or purpose…a cause and effect… for everything we do. I do not believe in random, arbitrary, “just because” or “cool looking”, though I understand that cool looking is the reason many students do what they do in combative firearms training. If we understand training is preparation for the most serious moments of our life, you should understand that “cool” is NOT a good reason for anything. In the video mentioned above, I discuss a sway back, elbows bowed out shooting stance I see frequently but cannot find the origin. I have not seen it advocated by any of the currently popular instructors, so I am guessing it is performed as the shooter feels it “looks cool”. Sorry team, not good enough…

More recently, I had a student in class with a pistol that was equipped with a very tall set of sights on a concealment pistol. Now, he was not shooting especially well, so I knew it was not because they gave him better visual on target alignment. In addition, the sights were somewhat sharp and prone to snagging under clothing so I felt like I needed to ask him WHY he was using them. I was pretty sure he really did not know beyond he liked the way they looked on his gun. It turns out I was wrong.

In reality, he was using them because they were manufactured and recommended by an instructor he greatly admired. OK, I guess I can live with this, but I decided he needed to rethink using something that really was not working for him. When I pressed him further he got flustered and said, “They increase my sight radius thus making me more accurate”.  Ahhh…no! His accuracy sucked! Why? Because he had no real concept of trigger control and grip…he looked like he was trying to milk the teat on a cow… that rendered his sight picture a mute point. It seems my student had gotten caught up in all of the on line trappings of combat shooting and its related gear BEFORE he undertook his training. This student told me the instructor he admired was “too expensive” so he settled for me. For some reason, I thought this was funny as hell.  Hey, why not…getting mad would not change it…

I took him off the firing line, called for a short break and began his reeducation program. The first thing I asked him was “What are you trying to accomplish here?” After a bit of discussion, he stated “my personal security”. He is unmarried and had no family in the area, so we were talking about him alone. This gave us a starting point. I asked him if his Glock pistol was for concealed carry and he stated it was. I offered, “Doesn’t it make sense then to keep this gun as slick and low profile as possible? That way it won’t snag on the draw or catch clothing?” The first words out of his mouth were “Well, instructor XXX says…” I held up my hand and said, “He is not here…he’s too expensive, remember? We are here…you and me…what do YOU think?” After a moment he said, “Yeah, it makes sense to keep things simple and straight forward which would include keeping my pistol more snag resistant.”  “What about a set of sights you can actually see and may enhance your performance?” I said. “Yeah…that would be a good idea.”

I then addressed his sight radius comment. I took out a standard rear sight and showed him exactly how much additional sight radius was involved…it was less than ¼ inch. “Its not a rifle, sight radius is not important, how you slam your finger into the trigger is.”  I pulled out my personal Glock 19…the gun I both carry and teach with…and I explained the features on it and WHY I do what I do. Once I was finished, I offered, “you don’t have to modify your gun like I do, but you should know WHY you make the changes you do?” He agreed. I then told him to be wary of the Internet until he got a bit more training and experience so he would know what was a hindrance and what was an asset. 

The Internet is an amazing thing! There is now so much information available at our fingertips that it is very difficult not to dive in and read. The problem is if we really do not understand what we are reading, it is VERY EASY to think everything read is fact. Fact and opinion is not the same and can actually be dangerous! I have been doing this a long time, thus, much of what I read on line I recognize as bullshit immediately. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many. I recently watched a gunfight video and the commentary offered with it. The commentary was dubious at best, dangerous at worst.  It is the kind of stuff that could get people killed, but because the commentator was famous and had his own web site, many consider his opinion fact.  Considering this persons background I doubt his commentary was anything other than information recycled from elsewhere…and done poorly at that!

As I talk with other knowledgeable instructors across the nation, I hear stories like this time and again. Information is easily “recycled” making everyone instant experts! Case in point would be my student’s sight radius comment…the words coming out of his mouth sounded real good to him but once explained it just did not hold water. The problem was he did not know that because his expertise was “false” due to being recycled and filled with voids he did not recognize due to a lack of a solid knowledge base established by training and experience. Sights radius is just the example used here, it could be any TTP related to combative firearms training.

 I am always tickled when a student just tells me the truth when I ask him (or her) why they do something questionable. “Yeah, I think these sights (technique, tactic, etc.…place one here) looks really cool. It makes me feel awesome.” Beer will do this as well and will not place you in as much danger as looking cool in a gunfight, providing you don’t drink and drive. Of course, my response will be “how is (insert whatever here) ability to enhance your performance working for you? If it is not enhancing anything then WHY are you doing it?” Once again, we are back to why.    In the case of cool looking sights, the view of the sights that is important is from the rear…not from the side where “cool looking” is determined. So which is it…cool looking or performance enhancing? If you can’t answer this question, then is cool looking a good enough answer? Only you can decide but one thing I will offer, “shooting cool” can be fatal.

I don’t care what gear you use…that is up to you. All I am saying is know why you are using it! Know why it enhances your performance…God forbid it actually hinders it! Something I have seen more than I would like over the years…

Stay safe!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Drills and Skills…not one in the same…

SKILL: the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well with a high expectation of success.

DRILL: any methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise. Proof of skill.

Skill is the ability to perform an activity with a high expectation of success cold.  A drill…in our case a shooting drill… is intended to show proof that a skill(s) can be performed.  Skills must be learned, understood, practiced, mastered and then anchored to a level of what the motor learning community calls automaticity or what many think of as “auto pilot” or “unconscious competence”.

In a gunfight…where we are fighting to save our life or the life of someone we care about… we can’t be thinking about how to perform the skills that will make us victorious, we need to be focusing on the fight itself, what our opponent is doing and what actions (based on our anchored skills) we can take to counter his/her moves. The shooting part of this conflict must be performed without conscious thought. If there were ever a time to perform a skill(s) to a high level of success COLD this would be it!  What are the chances you just finished a 300 round practice session when your gunfight breaks out?

What part does shooting drills play in this process?  Is shooting a drill the same as winning a gunfight? Should we be overly fascinated with popular shooting drill?  To my way of thinking, a drill is nothing more than a test of a skill or skill sets.  Emphasis should not be placed on shooting a successful drill, but on executing the needed skills at a high level so the drill will be a success…they are not the same thing.  Instead of practicing the drill over and over until success is achieved, the student of combative pistolcraft should practice the required skills for that drill!  This includes the smooth and efficient “chunking” together of skills into one fluid motion. As a matter of fact, it is this “chunking” process that makes any drill important as a drill is not a fight…it is merely a practice method for the anchoring of skills so they can be performed together automatically.

To become a “slave” to any particular drill is just silly, but I see it all the time.  Regularly, my students tell me “I’ve been practicing the 2x2x2 Drill almost every day” and I ask “why?”  “So I can win the buckle” is the normal response.  Wrong answer. While practice is certainly worthwhile, it is the wrong train of thought.  The 2x2x2 Drill is meant to test the skills of a smooth draw (from the student’s normal mode of carry), the gun arriving where it is needed, a clean trigger depression and recoil control performed in conjunction with the restaging of the trigger for the second shot. In reality, there is a lot going on in a very short time frame. My response to these students? “Don’t practice the drill, practice the skills that will make the drill a success!”  It’s all in how you think about the process…

Drills should reinforce the proper execution and application of skill sets…they should not become the central focus of the student’s practice regime.  They should be the test of the skills practiced and nothing more. Yes, it is fun and challenging to shoot such drills, but they are a means to and end and not the end result! To my way of thinking, drills should be shot at the beginning of a practice session COLD so they can offer an indication of where you stand in regards to skill development.   To shoot them over and over until success is achieved is just false expertise.

In addition, the drills should be difficult…a challenge! If the shooter can do the drill on demand without difficulty then the skills required are ether anchored or the drill is just something the shooter likes to do, is good at and is not really a challenge. The drill should also have meaning! I see many instructors use drills in courses they like or look good shooting, but what do they mean?  How do they advance student skill?

For example, my Fifteen to the Third Drill requires the shooter to draw and fire five rounds at fifteen feet into a 3 x 5 card, move laterally fifteen feet, plant and shoot five more into a 3 x 5 card before moving laterally again to the original position for five more rounds.  What does it mean? The drill is used to get the student to chunk together the essential skills of drawing, shooting accurately  (a 3 x 5 card is roughly the size of the heart and aorta), controlling recoil, moving explosively of the X to another position, planting, shooting accurately and then changing direction ASAP. It must be shot in 12 seconds to offer a sense or urgency.  The drill can be found on the Handgun Combatives web site (  These are skills that have been used in actual gunfights time and again.

At Handgun Combatives, every drill we use in our courses is meant to reinforce a skill…or set of skills…that we feel is ESSENTIAL to prevailing in conflict and we always explain these reasons. We do not do arbitrary, random, trendy or the like. Our drills are challenging, meaningful and require regular practice in order to complete them successfully on demand.  Even though they are drills of my creation I cannot do them successfully unless I have been practicing the required skills. Yep! I fail regularly…but I then know what I need to work on…something drills are really good at telling us.

Shoot drills by all means…but shoot them with purpose and do not let them control your practice sessions. Remember, practice is training and training is preparation…preparation is undertaken because you are smart enough to know you need it!

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Dangers of Backing Up… QUICKLY!

I am criticized regularly for “turning your back on a threat”! People ALWAYS deliver these criticisms with limited to no information, which in my estimation is just plain stupid. But then the Internet is full of really stupid people!  In reality, this criticism is uncalled for, as I am not telling practitioners of the combative pistol to turn their back on a threat, I am telling them not to try and move backwards quickly!  There is a BIG difference…its just that many of the tactical lug nuts on the Internet refuse to acknowledge it as it gives them something to bitch about. All of you reading this know how much the Internet tac-tards like to hear themselves talk…or type…

It has been a tradition of square range training for as long as I can remember to simulate staying on a threat (target) as it “goes down” and then holding for an undetermined period of time to make sure it “stays down”. I get it, its just I’m not sure what this accomplishes as the paper target does not fall and there is no visual indication of a threat and whether it is incapacitated or will get back up.  Students are merely “imaging” a threat and hopefully are holding long enough since there is really no way to know for sure.  Its like the simulated scan…one does it but no one really knows what is being accomplished as there is no real threat so we do not know what we are looking at or for. In reality, most shooters turn their head WAY TO FAST to truly see, but it does look cool.  Why do we do this? Tradition mostly…

I have long asked people who emphasize this hold on target what happens if the “threat’s” friends do not allow them to hold on target for the desired amount of time?  You know, they attack from the flank before you are ready to look for other threats?  This is reality, you know. I usually get a frozen stare as they try to process this. After all, this is NOT part of tradition…it’s not what they normally do!  When I suggest they may want to look around as soon as they get some feedback from their original threat (like folding over or falling down…something a fixed target does not do) I usually hear “they may get back up!” True, but how long does a look around for other attackers take? After all, you are not looking to scan the area HARD at this point, you are looking for obvious threats like someone running at you, stabbing with a knife or pointing a gun. Yeah, not perfect and in it’s place, but gunfighting seldom is…

Turning away from a threat and moving quickly is another subject that gets real emotional on line. After all, it’s easy to “type a good gunfight” from the comfort of your computer…much harder to actually do it under the duress of someone trying to kill you.  The fact of the matter is you can’t run backwards!  By run I mean move quickly, at a speed that will help save your life if bullets are in bound. Yes, it is possible to move to the rear at a controlled speed, but if moving as fast as humanely possible to create distance is the goal, then trying to move quickly backwards will result in a fall and falling in a gunfight can prove fatal.

Moving to the rear in a controlled fashion can be accomplished two ways. The first is a “step and drag” technique that has the shooter step back with one foot and then drag the trailing foot into place. The second is a “shuffle step” in which the feet are kept in contact with the ground and shifted back and forth…neither will allow for the development of rapid speed…the type of speed needed to get from place to place as fast a humanly possible.

If you take a moment to think about how you move forward…you don’t need a motor skill scientist to explain this… you will note the body’s center of gravity (the hips) stays either above or in between the feet while moving.  As you step and move forward, the hips are between the feet and as forward progression continues, the hips move over top of the feet until they are centered again between them.  This is a very efficient method and it allows us to walk, jog and run without falling. In addition, our eyes are in front of our head…the same way our feet are pointed! Even when moving laterally the body keeps the hips either over or between the feet. Falling occurs when the feet stop (snag on something?) but the hips do not due to momentum and you topple over.  There are techniques to ensure this does not happen and I teach them in my Advanced Combative Pistol course which is all about HOW TO MOVE in conflict.

Moving rapidly to the rear does not allow for this natural shift of the center of gravity between the feet.  The shuffle step and step and drag work to accomplish this, but when speed becomes the overriding concern, the hips shift forward of the feet as the body moves to the rear. Since the feet and toes are not pointed in the direction of said movement, the ass over rides the feet and the combatant falls.  Don’t believe me, watch Live Leak or You Tube and you will find a number of gunfight videos…primarily officer involved shootings…in which shooters try to move backwards rapidly and fall on flat surfaces! And these videos do not take into account those who trip and fall because they do not have eyes in the back of their head!

During rapid rearward movement, the typical person will have 3 to 4 steps before they run the risk of falling. This means a rapid disengagement, such as pushing away from a close contact fight, is possible but continued rearward movement become perilous. At this point, the combatant has two choices: 1. Stay facing the threat and move controlled but slowly back or 2. Turn and move rapidly away. Which you choose will be based on the situation you face. Yes, it will be situationally dependent; something some say is an excuse for lazy training but is a reality of combat. No two fights are exactly alike and it is impossible to train for every potential situation one may face. Thus, you focus and practice skill sets and adapt as necessary!

The idea that you will NEVER turn away from a threat is ludicrous! If others attack you, you will have to turn, refocus or die! If moving quickly is more important than moving in a controlled fashion, you may have to turn your back in order to create distance, move to cover or gain a position of advantage to continue the fight. If you have someone to cover you that is fantastic!  A “leap frog” movement will ensue with verbalization to ensure covered rearward movement. If not, move fast, turn as necessary and move again.  The choice is up to you and will be based on what you perceive to be IMPORTANT NOW…at this moment in time!

One thing I have learned over four decades of law enforcement and firearms training is to avoid the use of the words NEVER and ALWAYS…one or the other will certainly bite you in the ass at some point…

Finally, consider falling back in the middle of a gunfight. As you fall backwards, there is a good chance you will roll back and your ass will rise up due to momentum (unless you have been trained in how to fall).  I have had several medical experts tell me if you take a round (or rounds!) through the rectum that travel long ways up through the body, there is a very good chance it will result in a NON-SURVIVABLE WOUND! As the bullet(s) travel upward through the torso (most gunshot wounds travel across the body) a considerable amount of damage to a wide variety of organs and spine can occur. Infection would certainly be a concern.  In this age of medical care, your chances would be better than ever before, but those who work in the field tell me it would be a very tough fight.

In the end, it come down to WHAT’S IMPORTANT NOW while the fight ensues. In truth, there is no way to predict how the fight will unfold but to say you will NEVER do something is wrought with peril. Yep, you may have to turn away from a threat to fight another or move quickly to a better position but one thing I can say with great certainty…you will not be able to run backwards FAST!

The choice is yours…of course…believe and do what you see as being best. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sights by Heinie

I do not hide that I created the Ameriglo Combative Application Pistol (CAP) sight...I'm proud of them!  They were designed for fast acquisition, a true “flash” front sight picture of the type required in a close quarter pistol fight…if you have the ability to use the sights at all! To align one merely places the front square in the rear square. They were never intended to be used as a precision sight for long shots of 25 yards plus. That said I use mine to hit a 3 x 5 card at 25 yards all the time. You just need to know “what to look for” and where to hold…a process of discovery.

In most every class I teach, the topic of gear comes up…what belt to wear, what holster to use, iron sights or red dots…gear is easy and certainly more fun than building skills.  That said, gear will never replace skill. It can certainly enhance it, but only after the skills are mastered and anchored…a long process to be sure.

In this inevitable conversation, I always get the question “if you couldn’t use the CAP Sight, what sight would you use?” Easy…Heinie. As a matter of fact, I have Heinie Sights on several of my pistols and I have no intention of changing them to CAPs. Heinie Sights are clean, highly visible and accurate across a wide range of uses. Of course, I paint the front sight  for faster acquisition, something easy to do and takes just a few minutes, some finger nail polish and a tooth pick.

I first saw a pair of Heinie Sights on an FBI Browning Hi- Power around 1990. I was President of the Ohio Tactical Officers Association and one of the speakers at our annual conference was an FBI Agent who had recently transferred out of their Hostage Rescue Team.  During a private conversation on pistols, he showed me his Hi-Power (he was allowed to continue to carry it on regular agent duties he told me) and it had a set of sights on it I had never seen. He told me they were Heinie Sights and he preferred them to the Novak Sights that were (then) in use.

Fast forward several years to the 1995 SHOT Show. I ran into good friend Lou Alessi (may he rest in peace!) the master holster maker. Lou was talking to a gentleman in the hallway and he introduced me, “Dave, I would like you to meet Dick Heinie, I make a several holsters exclusively for him.”  I have been friends with Richard Heinie ever since. I have a hard time calling him Dick (I reserve this for those who really are dicks!), though Louie seemed to enjoy it!  I have always used, and continue to use, Heinie Sights to this day. Even as I created my own, Richard and I have stayed friends…though it is only fair to state the Spaulding version of the CAP Sight was greatly influenced by my Heinie Sights with the painted front.

Why do I say this? Because so many people have taken Richard’s basic design and have given him ZERO credit!  While my Spaulding CAP Sights do not look like his, my preferred view from the rear was taken from his sight…colored front, square notch rear with serrations all around.  All one needs to do…if they are capable of true, independent critical thought and not some lovelorn fan boy mode of thought…is look at Richard’s sight, note how long he has been in business (over 40 years!) and then look at the popular sights of today and the similarity is obvious.

I have Heinie Sights on my Smith & Wesson M & P and Unertl MEU-SOC 1911…the Unertl sights were a custom fit Richard did for me himself.  Both of these guns have slide cuts for factory sights, which lowers the Heinie sight into the slide, lowering their profile.  I have never really understood the desire to place a set of tall sights on a concealment pistol. I have seen students go out of their way to get a compact model, have a carry bevel package performed to remove sharp edges and corners and then place a set of sights on their gun that can sit as high as ¾ inch over the bore line!  To each his own, of course…but does this seems to be a bit of a cross-purpose?  I like my sights to be as close to the bore line as possible while also being high visibility, which is why I like the Heine models that fit into existing slide cuts.

Another thing I like about Henie sights is the fact they are constantly updating, testing and adding new products four decades later!  From the Henie web site:

“All HEINIE SPECIALTY PRODUCTS sights have been fully tested on the pistols they have been specifically designed for. For example: Glock, Springfield, H-K, Kimber, Colt, etc.

All of our sights have been tested on newly manufactured pistols. We try to use at least two or more pistols to base our sight specifications/designs on. All sights are tested by at least two qualified people. They are test fired shooting in a standing position and using a bench. We try to obtain as many different loads and bullets as we can for testing.


Your bullet may not strike where you want it to hit, which may be due to many causes. For example: manufacturer's tolerance, ammo or the way you are shooting. Also if you had adjustable sights previously and install a fixed rear sight, it may not be the same POA/POI.
We are constantly retesting pistols on a regular basis. Manufacturers change and do not tell us that there may have been a change.

If you tell us your pistol is shooting 8” or 12” low or high or any extreme variation, Heinie will not replace or offer a sight to correct that problem. When this type of discrepancy happens, it is most likely the way you shoot, the type of ammo, or a different sight was installed instead of what was intended for the sight set.”

Note the last sentence…most sighting errors are the shooter, not the sight!  Its easy to blame the object and not the user, but if we are really being honest with ourselves, POA/POI errors are usually us!

There are a lot of sights on the market …which is good as sights are a very personal thing…and Heinie deserves your attention.  Yes, I would like you to try the CAP Sight but if it doesn’t work for you then my next stop would be I know it is for me…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Four “Modes” of Combative Pistolcraft

From Mr. Webster…

Mode: noun
1. A manner of acting or doing; method; way:
“Modern modes of transportation.”

2.a particular type or form of something:
“Heat is a mode of motion.”

3.a designated condition or status, as for performing a task or
  responding to a problem:
“A machine in the automatic mode.”

I have been teaching firearms for 35 years now.  I entered the “art” as trainer for my agency’s newly formed SWAT team. Like many teams of the era, there was not a lot of background information to draw on, so we used Army field manuals, a basic course taught by the state training academy and a lot of phone calls across the nation to get started. Fortunately, we were “saved” by a Prosecutor’s Investigator who had been a Green Beret in Vietnam. This man, along with a local emergency room physician who was a gun enthusiast, got us traveling down the right path.

Command officers knew we needed a “certified” firearms instructor for the team and since I was the youngest member, I was “volunteered” to go. I liked guns, so I didn’t mind the four- week journey (a week for revolver, pistol, shotgun and rifle/submachine gun) to “instructor-hood” and as it turned out, I liked instructing.  I started helping out the regular Rangemaster and as time went by, I moved away from SWAT over to more conventional law enforcement firearms instruction, which meant more focus on the handgun.

After all, the handgun always has been and always will be the primary firearm for American law enforcement. The same can be said for the armed citizen as well. While the carbine and shotgun are certainly more effective, the handgun is more portable and concealable, meaning it will be the gun available when an unexpected incident unfolds. The handgun is a reactive/reflexive style of firearm while the long gun is more responsive…the handgun will be available most of the time while the long gun will be the gun used when one has time and knows what they are responding to such as the military application of a small arm.

As I have gone through this multi-decades long journey of instruction, mostly focusing on the handgun, I have noticed that four “modes” of combative pistolcraft application and training exists and they are a result, mostly, of the background a given instructor comes from.  I spent most of my adult life in law enforcement and when I started to focus on the training of armed citizens, this background “colored” how I taught the subject matter. I know realize I was partly wrong in doing so. Oh, I didn’t endanger anyone, but I could have had a more task specific focus.

What brought me to thinking about the various modes was a pistol course I took from a retired Special Operations Forces member.  As a former member of a high speed, direct action unit, his standards were quite high and I was interested in seeing what he taught and why he taught it. Much to my disappointment, he never really said…it was mostly “do what I say”.  We spent a sizable amount of time shooting beyond 25 yards…50, 75, 100 even out to 200 yards with semi-automatic pistols. While this is certainly doable, I could not help but question why we were spending such a large amount of time on something that was unlikely, even ill advised legally!

At first, I thought it was for marksmanship, but when I asked him about it I was told, “how long is the front hallway of a Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes? What if you have to make a shot to save your family at such a distance?”  The legality of such an action…especially if it were to go astray…filled my head but I decided not to challenge. After all, it was his class and he certainly has the right to teach as he chooses. I left the class thinking deeply about what I had just experienced.  After all, when I entered law enforcement in the mid-1970’s, long distance revolver shooting was emphasized but was stopped after research into armed conflict involving cops showed it seldom happened.  Emphasis was placed on just the opposite…extreme close quarter engagements!

After a bit of reflection, it struck me that every instructor will teach what they know, have experienced and been taught based on their background and one is no more or less relevant than the other…its just a matter if that particular mode fits YOUR real world of work…and only you can decide that. Lets look at these varied modes:

1. Military:  The military does everything they can to KILL THE ENEMY (an important distinction) at GREAT distance. It is the way it should be! If they can kill the enemy (no intelligence value, of course) in Iraq from a trailer in Nevada using a drone, then they should!  Distance favors the trained shooter, so the further away one can be from an adversary when the fight breaks out, the greater advantage we (those trained) have in winning the fight. Shooting at contact distance requires no skill, just tenacity, so trying to engage far away increases survivability.

The problem arises in the fact the pistol is not designed for such long shots. With a short barrel and reduced sight radius long shots become problematic. Yes, with practice they can be made but how many folks who carry a handgun for personal security purposes possess this level of skill? Its one thing to make a 100 yard shot on the square range with little stress, but quite another while under the duress of a real gunfight with non-hostiles running through the battle space in panic, which would be the case at a large box store.

2. Law Enforcement: Unlike the military, law enforcement does not kill the enemy; they police society and thus, TAKE POEPLE INTO CUSTODY (another important distinction). Great strides are taken to arrest offenders and take them in front of a judge. Even in extreme situations like hostage rescues, the goal is to apprehend the offender, not kill.  Offensive action, like a sniper shot, is avoided if at all possible and is only used if it is the final option.

Because of this arrest standard, law enforcement will always be an activity of close contact. Even in situations that do not involve arrest such as citizen contacts, those involved wish to keep the interaction as private as possible, thus close contact is required. Can you imagine the uproar if a patrol officer stood back 10 yards and yelled to an honest citizen, “HEY! THROW ME YOR INDEINTIFICATION! I DO NOT WANT TO GET TOO CLOSE UNTIL I FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE!  Nope…that will not go over well with the citizenry.

Law enforcement has known for over a century that the single most dangerous moment is when the first handcuff goes on…that is when the fight will start! I have been there numerous times and it is not an enjoyable experience. Four times during my career I fought over my own gun in such situations and all were quite perilous. None ended in death because in those days, we were allowed to HIT PEOPLE HARD, something that is judged as cruel, mean and heartless in the days of the cell phone video.  A punch to the throat or poke to the eyes always ended such attacks. That said, with close contact being a reality, is it any wonder why law enforcement shootings tend to be within double arms length to ten feet?

3. The Armed Citizen:  A distance of six yards seems to be a continuing aspect of armed citizen confrontations. I have seen this distance so many times now, that I have started to incorporate it in my training courses.  It makes sense as armed citizens ARE NOT DUTY BOUND TO APPREHEND, ARREST AND CERTALY DO NOT WISH TO KILL…THEY WANT TO REPEL AN ATTACK AND GET THE ATTACKER TO STOP (another important distinction).  If the attacker flees, that s just fine.

    For this reason, armed citizens create distance between   them and the potential threat, distances like the length of a car, across a parking space, a living room or a public hall way…a distance in which they can converse, issue warnings but also retain a reactionary gap.  Just a few steps can increase distance significantly.  In many cases, their hand is on their holstered sidearm, but it has not yet been displayed.  For whatever reason, the individual could not avoid the situation so they are now trying to evade by creating distance and allowing the potential attacker to move on.  This is a wise move! Engaging in a deadly force situation is life changing and costly!  The armed citizen is not duty bound so they should avoid or evade at all costs.

4. Felons: Their mode of thought is quite simple…THEY WISH TO COMPLETE WHATEVER CIMINAL ACTION THEY HAVE STARTED AND GET AWAY.  In some cases it is violence committed in the act of another crime (robbery, theft, etc.) in others it is the act of violence itself that satisfies the offender. In either case, they wish to flee the scene once the act is completed.  It should be understood that they do not see the world as you do, they do not think like you do and they were not raised as you were. DO NOT APPLY HOW YOU THINK ABOUT A PARTICULAR SITUATION TO THEM!

They are not “trained” in combative pistolcraft per se’ and do not concern themselves with “legalities”, after all they are already committing multiple crimes. Thus, if gun play is involved they will not worry about shot placement, who is hit, where their bullets go and will likely spray the area with bullets in order to assist their escape.  While they may not be traditionally trained, many have been involved in gunfights...some have been shot…thus they will have NO APPREHENSION about shooting at you, your loved ones or anyone in the area.  Fortunately, many choose to flee instead of shoot, but one cannot count on this…some offenders just like violence.

 While you will be worried about such things as legalities and misplaced shots…your mind might be filled with them… as you deploy your handgun, they will not!  Crime is their occupation, violence just a way of life.

As I wrap up this already too long blog, I want to go back to the definitions listed at the beginning.  A mode is “A manner of acting or doing; method; way” and this method or way will certainly be affected by one’s background. In addition, when it comes to training, many instructors have been trained to operate it certain environments…I know I was! It makes sense, why would a war fighter train himself or herself to function as an armed citizen? It’s not their “real world of work and play”.

As we proceed through this “journey of discovery” that is training and preparation, we must all decide what our real world of work and play is and proceed accordingly.  Does that mean we cannot “dabble” in military style training? Of course not, I believe we should seek training for a wide variety of sources. But when it comes building skills, mastering and anchoring same to a level of “auto pilot” (a longer process than many understand), we need to use critical thought and choose wisely…not be sucked into the world of tacti-cool and fantasy.  The reality of conflict SUCKS…you don’t want to make it worse by preparing incorrectly…

Thanks for checking in!


Friday, April 7, 2017

Foundational is Essental...not Fundamental...

I board the metallic tube of death for a sold out Combative Pistol course in Cresson, TX. This course sold out months ago which is most gratifying. Something else that is gratifying is the increasing interest in this "foundational" pistol course. Foundational should not be viewed as "basic", something many ill-informed combative shooters do due to their desire to be seen as "advanced". The reason I avoid the word "fundamentals" is it sends the wrong message. I use the word "essential" as the skills taught in a foundational class are just that...absolutely necessary!

For a period of years, students wanted "advanced" courses, totally ignoring Bruce Lee's admonition "advanced skills are the basics mastered!" That said, how many of us have truly ANCHORED those essential foundational skills? If the students in my classes are any indication...very few. In every class I go over the essential skills required for the lesson plan to be taught so the class does not bog down. It is surprising how many "advanced" shooters do not have a solid grasp of a true ready position (more cool looking stuff than functional stuff), a COMBAT draw, a reload, a stoppage clearance, a solid shooting platform (that allows rapid movement) and the like.

When I see a deficiency, instead of getting a "oh can I improve?" I will usually get a "this is how I do it!" My response? "Yeah man, but you really suck at it! Just because it feels "right" to you does not mean it is good. Look, I can help you but only if you are willing." About 50% are willing to try something different. The rest just go on sucking. Thus, I am really happy to see a renewed interest in Combative Pistol and other foundational courses. Winning a gunfight is more about adapting than it is shooting. The person who sees the fight for what it is an adapts accordingly is the one who will PREVAIL! Survival is NOT the goal...

Adapt is defined by Mr. Webster as "to change as necessary" but that is not the whole story. What we are looking for is the person who is ADAPTIVE, which is defined as "THE ABILITY to change as necessary". THAT, my friends, is easier said than done! In order to have the ability to adapt, one has to have skills that are anchored to a level of auto pilot or what is known within the law enforcement community as "unconscious competence"...something few truly achieve. Why? Because it takes a long time and a lot of work! Its easy to go to gun school, its more difficult to return home and practice the lessons learned to a point of anchorage as this requires a lot of excellent level repetition which requires TOTAL focus on the skills being practiced. Very hard for many...

In order for a student/shooter to do this, they must understand how IMPORTANT the skill(s) are to them...if not they will not put in the time and effort. They will just have a fond memory of a good time at gun school. For some, this is enough...but not for the serious student of combative pistolcraft. The choice is up to you...

Thanks for checking in!

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!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Deliberation...

Deliberation [dih-lib-uh-rey-shuh n] noun
1. Careful consideration before decision.
2. Formal consultation or discussion.
3. Deliberate quality; leisureliness of movement or action; slowness.

Like most shooters in their youth, every action I undertook on the training range was about speed…fast on the draw, fast trigger action, fast reloads, fast manipulations…sound familiar? Yes, it probably does, as most of us could not help ourselves when we are/were young we want to go FAST…it seems to be the natural order of things, but is it wise?  After all, is not the goal of shooting to hit?  Not hope we hit?

Bat Masterson was once quoted as saying the three priorities of gunfighting were (in this order) 1. Deliberation 2. Accuracy 3. Speed.  His good friend and fellow Dodge City Deputy Marshal Wyatt Earp was quoted as saying “the secret to winning a gun fight is taking your time in a hurry” and “the most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of gun play usually was the man who took his time.” Could not “taking your time” be viewed as a deliberate act? Something one has to make happen? Earp went on to clarify his statement, saying “Perhaps I can best describe such taking time as going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous muscular actions which trick-shooting involves. Mentally deliberate, but muscularly faster tan thought is what I mean”.

Is speed important? Sure! But we should not let the electronic timer become our “master”, something I have seen continually over the decades. The history…over several centuries…has shown combative pistolcraft occurs close and fast, a few seconds in most cases, but at the same time it is accurate fire that ends the fight! (Unless, of course, the attacker just gives up which does happen…if only we could create a methodology to ensure this!) What is accurate? In my mind, after many years of research, its multiple hits in a short time frame to vital areas of the body, areas defined as the high chest (approximately a 6” x 10” rectangle just below the neck to include the heart, aorta, major blood vessels and spinal column), neck and head. I discussed the pelvic girdle in a previous blog which resulted in some “lively” debate, so I will let that dog lie…you may certainly believe what you wish on this topic. Fast AND combat accurate shots are necessary to end a close pistol fight, something that is often times difficult to achieve. After all, its easy to be either accurate or fast but not both at the same time and we have known for a long time the key to successful combative pistolcraft is the balance…blending actually…of speed and accuracy.  Which brings us to deliberation…

As you can from the above definition, deliberation can mean different things; consideration, consultation, leisureliness of action, even slowness…slowness?! We’ve already stated that speed is important when fighting for your life so how can we possibly be slow? Remember what Wyatt Earp said? “The secret to winning a gunfight is taking your time in a hurry!”  WTF??!!

Speed and accuracy…blending and balance…which and when…”slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Smooth is fast, slow is just slow…

Deliberation occurs long before the fight is undertaken in that we must all decide what is worth fighting and dying for? What is our “line in the sand”? Oftentimes we do not get time to ponder as situations are thrust upon us with little opportunity to “observe, orient, decide and act”, we must “see and do” or we perish. In such cases, deliberation comes in the form of a combative mindset. In my old, worn out version of the Webster’s Dictionary, mindset is defined as “a previous decision to act based on reason and intellect” while combative is defined as “ready and willing to fight”. Thus, a combative mindset could reasonably be defined as “a previous decision to be ready and willing to fight”. Not eager to fight mind you, as we always run the risk of loosing, but willing to do so with great enthusiasm, if required. Doesn’t this sound like the first definition listed above… “careful consideration before decision”? A deliberate act to be sure…

Ok, the fight has begun…isn’t speed critical? Only if it does not lead to panic, via fear, which is oftentimes the result of an unexpected attack. Hell, any attack but certainly one we are not ready for. We have all seen or heard of examples of “panic fire”, where a large volley of rounds is fired in the direction of a threat with little affect. As Dennis Tueller (the Tueller Drill creator) once stated, “If you don’t think you have time to aim you certainly don’t have time to miss!” Only accurate and effective fire will stop a determined attack, which requires self-control when on the verge of panic…a deliberate act…or as Wyatt Earp described, “taking you time in a hurry”. After all, speed is not herky, jerky, spastic muscle manipulation, it is lack of unnecessary motion (smooth is fast!), something that must be trained in through a deliberate training activity and repeated, meaningful practice. It takes time, effort, energy, ammo and commitment to incorporate such self-control into our being and most will not know if they have it until they are in the fight. That said it is still worth the effort required to try and build in (anchor) such a response. Prepared will always be better than not prepared. Yes, luck is a factor but the harder I have worked, the luckier I seem to be and having faced such tests in my life, I know deliberate training and preparation works.

Fear is the single biggest factor in why people fail in armed conflict, yet we have known since the days of The Spartans that the single biggest factor in overcoming fear is confidence in our skills. Controlling fear through training, education and preparation is a deliberate act…

Formal consultation or discussion should also come before any attack occurs. Consultation through solid, effective training and quality information that has little to do with the flash and panache seen on You Tube or other so called “training” videos. Those who are serious, knowledgeable trainers already know what will work, is effective and what can be “trained in” or anchored. Rebranding, non-sensical, scientific sounding terminology or fancy titles does not change effectiveness…there are only so many ways to shoot a gun and they have all been invented. It all comes down to the application of the proven techniques and we know that simplicity and lack of unnecessary motion/action works best. When choosing a training course, choose wisely. After all, such a selection is a deliberate act. Discussion? Do so with family members, partners and those who may be involved in conflict with you before it happens so there are no surprises or complications in the fight. These things seldom “go to script” so try to eliminate as many unknowns as possible through discussion.

Yep, Bat Masterson had it right; deliberation, accuracy and speed…but is one more important than the others? It sounds to me that deliberation occurs throughout the combative process…before, during and after… and being deliberately accurate and fast in a gunfight is not the same as bulls eye shooting or just throwing rounds quickly.  Deliberation is a process…a lifestyle commitment, really…as it occurs constantly and must be continually nurtured. Something to consider…

Thanks for checking in…

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Pelvic Shot: Ultimate stopper or over rated?

Over the years, I have heard many stories as it relates to shooting someone in the pelvis. Some claim it is the "ultimate" location to shoot a person in an effort to create incapacitation, to others it is a serious mistake. Of course, these opinions are based on information these same people have received from other sources. Some come from eye witnesses, others from medical professionals that see wounds after the fact.

The most "famous" pelvic shot/wound ever recorded probably belongs to western lawman, buffalo hunter, gunfighter and legend Bat Masterson.  In 1875 in Sweetwater, Texas Masterson was involved in a shootout with Corporal Melvin King (U.S.Army) involving either hard feelings over a card game or the affections of a woman, historians go both ways on the issue. I know, I know...the shooting involved liquor, gambling and a women...hard to believe those three would result in a fight, right?

Near midnight, Masterson left the Lady Gay Saloon accompanied by Mollie Brennan and walked to a near by dance hall.  Masterson and Brennan sat down near the front door and began talking. Corporal King, intoxicated and angry over the night’s events (either loosing at cards or Brennan's attention to Masterson), saw the two go into the dance hall and watched them through the window before he approached the locked door. King knocked and Masterson got up to answer it. As he did, King burst into the room with a drawn revolver and a string of profanity. While stories as to exactly what happened vary, somehow Brennan found herself between the two men when King fired (whether she was trying to protect Masterson or simply trying to get out of the way is unknown), the first shot narrowly missed her and struck Masterson in the abdomen and shattered his pelvis taking him to the floor. King’s second shot hit Brennan in the chest and she crumpled to the floor. At this point, Masterson raised himself up and fired the shot that killed King. Some say Bat Masterson walked with a cane the remainder of his life due to the severity of the pelvic wound while others say he merely used it as an excuse to keep an impact weapon with him at all times...a weapon he was known to use with great effectiveness!

Its the bold sentence that is of great concern to those who question the pelvic shot.  I have talked to several people over the years who have either been involved or have been witness to armed conflict in which a pelvis shot was delivered and all describe the victim of said wound go down while at the same time, this person was capable of remaining in the fight. This being the case, one must ask themselves if incapacitation is the same as lack of mobilization? Incapacitation means being unable to take action while immobilization means not being able to move...are they the same thing?

I have been looking at the issue of handgun "stopping power" for decades now and have come to the conclusion that handguns are not impressive man stoppers regardless of caliber or bullet design. While we currently have THE BEST combative handgun ammo ever designed, all the logical person must do is hold a cartridge in their hand, consider its weight and size and compare it to the mass that is the human body and it is not hard to see why such a small, light projectile will likely have limited impact on the human organism quickly. Just hold a .45 caliber projectile in front of the human chest cavity and you will see it is pretty small. In order to get any type of rapid result, it will have to hit a pretty important part of the body. The question is, is the pelvis "important"? Should it be a primary target?

In my classes, I use a simple target that highlights the upper chest cavity and head, a 6 x 14 inch rectangle that includes the center of the skull and the vital organs of the heart, aorta, major vessels and spinal column. Few dispute this area as "vital". The head can be considered controversial since handgun rounds have been known to not penetrate the skull but I, personally, discount this. I have been on the scene twice when humans have been hit in the skull by a handgun round that did not penetrate and on both occasions, the person was knocked off their feet much like a batter that is hit in the head with a baseball.  I have received this same feedback from others. My concern with head shots is the lack of "back stop" to catch a round that is not well placed.  The center chest has the remainder of the torso to help slow/catch a round that does not hit the center chest while a round that misses the head goes over the shoulder. I counsel my students to use the head shot for close distances where they know they can hit or for times they can take a low posture and shoot upwards. 25 to 50 yard head shots? Up to you, I guess. You might be able to do it on the square range, but the pandemonium of a real gunfight, where non-hostiles might be in your battle space, is an entirely different thing. Consider carefully...

I believe the high chest and head is a much better "strike zone" for combative pistolcraft than I do the pelvic girdle. I do not emphasize it in my classes, but I also do not take to task those instructors that do. In the end, the region of the body you will shoot for is that which is available to you when you fire your shots! We will all take what is offered to us, but if there is a hierarchy of shot placement, the pelvic girdle would be ranked below the chest and head...and least in my mind.

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Your opinion does not trump my personal experience.


                                         "Your opinion does not trump my personal experience".
                                                                                                      - Jon Willis

Hard to believe, but Jon and I were sitting in a bar. I had not seen him in a few weeks and we were catching up after the holidays. The last time we had been together it was a group of guys sitting around a campfire enjoying fine whiskey and cigars after a grilled steak dinner. Again, hard to believe...

During this outing, I had over heard Jon get into a rather "lively" discussion on tourniquets and which one was best. Jon is a Firefighter/Paramedic and I know he has used these devices on the street numerous times, so I defer to him on the topic and his choice is what I carry in my IFAK and vehicle Trauma Kit.  What many people might not know is the tourniquet is debated in the TCCC crowd and its graduates like 9mm vs. .45 is in the handgun crowd.

Truth be told, I don't pay attention to this or many other debates as I have some personal experience, extensive training and I have a real good idea of what actually works. For situations that I don't, I have real world practitioners like Jon to advise me. In regards to tourniquets, I'm just glad to see the quality of tourniquet we now have! You should have seen the tourniquet I was taught to use back in the mid 80's when my SWAT team first created their own IFAK. Done at the direction of Emergency Room Physician and SWAT Doc Dr. Nicholas Pancol, my first tourniquet was merely a nylon strap with a slider buckle and locking device. It worked but it was BRUTAL to apply, hurt like a stick in the eye and probably did result in limb loss in a few hours due to it's thinness.  Listening the the debate of which tourniquet is better makes me smile...hell, I would have taken ANY of them over what we had back then!

The person Jon was talking with was not a street practitioner, merely a student, though his opinion on the topic was strong. Jon tried to explain to him why he liked his tourniquet based in using it in actual blood loss emergencies on the street, but this fellow was having none of it! I'm guessing whoever taught him was an instructor he held in high regard and such a person could not be in error due to iconic status. I was amused at how easy Jon sluffed it off. When I asked him about it, he just laughed and said "I tried to talk to him but he would not listen. I don't care...anyone can do what they like...but your opinion does not trump my personal experience."

BAM! There it is...I have never heard it said better. In a time when so many people are GREATLY affected by what they see and read in the movies, video games, blogs, You Tube, Facebook, Instagram , etc. etc. we need to stop, take a deep breath and see what has actually works in know, those stress filled events in which you are under great PRESSURE to perform...when lives are on the line...maybe YOURS...and not just what is currently popular or looks cool.

OPINION IS NOT FACT! Just because a noteworthy person says this is the way to do something does not mean we follow blindly without critical thought. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have asked a student why they are doing what they are doing or using the technique they are and I get a blank stare. "Huh? What do you mean?" they ask. "Why are you holding the gun like that?" or "Why are you doing this?" or  "What are you trying to accomplish by using this technique?" I will say in response. What do I get back? "I went to a class taught by XXX and he said do this." "OK", I will say, "WHY are you using it? How does it benefit you? How does it enhance your performance?" It is distressing to see how many students do not know beyond they were told to do it by a famous person.

Look, that instructor may be right on, but the student/shooter using it should know why! It's called Critical Thought and we are all capable of it, its just that many have decided to blindly follow and not ask why something will benefit them. If you are building skills to be used to save your life or the lives of those you love and care about you should know WHY THEY WORK! You should also want to have learned them from people who have used them in crisis mode! Why? Because they can tell you what it was like to do it, where it was strong, weak and what they did to improve it for next time.

Charisma is not fact, scientific sounding, non-sensical jargon is not fact, having a great time on the range is not fact, feeling cool and looking good is not fact. The fact is if you get it wrong you could die...

Your instructor has told you that actual conflict experience is not necessary? Gee...I wonder why? What I can say is their opinion does not trump my personal experience...

Thanks for checking in...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

“Load when you want to, not when you have to!”…Probably not…

The above statement has made a lot of sense to me over the years. I first heard it while taking the Heckler & Koch MP-5 Instructor Course in the late 1990’s.  Those who have used the weapon system know it does not lock open on the last round. The non-reciprocating cocking handle is located above the hand guard and protrudes from a tube at approximately a 45° angle. It is not connected to the bolt carrier and therefore cannot be used as a forward assist to fully seat the bolt group or lock open. The lever is locked back by pulling it fully to the rear and rotating it slightly clockwise where it can be hooked into an indent in the cocking lever tube. The FBI requested a “bolt open” feature on their 10mm version the MP-10. Thus, when the MP-5 ran dry, not only did you have to “push through” the hesitation caused by no round fired, you then had to eject the spent magazine, insert a new one and work the bolt handle to chamber a new round.  If you had the presence of mind to merely swap magazines before you drained the 30 round box magazine, life was a whole lot easier!

I have long felt the same concept should be applied to semi-automatic pistols.  The idea of shooting your pistol empty while a bad guy is shooting at you is almost mind numbing! Think about bullets impacting around you when suddenly the slide locks open and you have a dead trigger.  There is that moment it takes to recognize what has transpired followed by grabbing a new magazine, ejecting the spent one, inserting the new one, dropping the slide and reacquiring both the threat through the sights. If you “suffered” the misfortune of not having your slide lock open on the last round maybe you went through a “tap-rack” manipulation before you discovered your gun was empty? Never happened to you, you say? Murphy has this weird sense of humor…

A lot if time has passed here…combine it with someone trying to kill you while you were possibly on the move and it makes one start to think about “load when you want to, not when you have to” as being a good idea!

One problem…it doesn’t happen! I have tried VERY hard to keep the traditional speed load alive. First, it is like the “training wheels” for the slide lock or emergency reload, a way to teach the magazine exchange alone. Second, if you have the presence of mind to swap out magazines before the gun runs dry, life is so much easier! It has and can be done. My friend and Special Forces veteran Bob Keller told me recently he never runs his M-4 or Glock dry and used this methodology in hundreds of direct action missions during the GWOT. “ If I had a chance I reloaded…I may have only fired ten rounds but I kept my gun topped off at every opportunity.” The difference, of course, is Bob had a load out that included a high number of magazines (I don’t know how many, but he did tell me he sometimes did not carry a pistol so he could add more M-4 mags) so running low on ammo while following this methodology was slim.  He did tell me if he could retrieve the partially spent magazine he did.

When fighting with a semi-automatic pistol the argument against topping off like Bob describes is the VAST majority of folks (I’m sure there are some hard core, John Wick types out there who have magazines all around their belt) do not carry a sizable number of pistol magazines daily. Hell, some carry NO SPARE AT ALL, which makes this article a mute point for you.  Conversely, the argument can be made that pistol fights, historically, do not require a high number of rounds to “solve”. Most are over quickly with few rounds fired. Yes, yes, I know…do you want to bet your life on this? Well, many do as they choose to carry a low capacity handgun with no or just one reload. How many rounds does it take to win a gunfight? Yeah…I don’t know either…

Ok, at this point you might be thinking loading when you want to and not when you have to sounds like a good idea, provided you carry a spare magazine, that is.  This is where the problem lies…most do not have the presence of mind to do it!  Yes, there are a few gunslingers out there that do (before you post below how awesome YOU are I acknowledge this!) but they are the minority.  The fact of the matter is, students of combative pistolcraft shoot their pistols dry, period! I have been fighting it for decades now and I have decided to give up. As Dirty Harry once said…”a man has got to know his limitations” and I have reached it. While I still think it is a sound tactic to “load when you want to” (and I will still personally use it) I have given up on trying to introduce the classic speed load to my students.  Starting this year (2017) I will only address the slide lock/emergency reload in my courses.

Please do not take this as sour grapes as it is not. It is merely recognizing the tide and accepting it. I realize the time spent trying to introduce the speed load is time wasted that I could be using for other skill introduction and development.  Students pay good money for my courses and I owe them as much as I can offer. Why waste time on something students just will not do? Forget high stress, students continually shoot their pistols dry even during low stress drills such as “draw and shoot” ,“shoot from ready” or other simple exercises.  Students from my classes will tell you I continually walk the firing line offering the admonition, “there is no requirement to run your gun dry” or “ it is perfectly acceptable to top off your gun as you see fit’” but students just do not do it no matter how often I remind them.

What really surprises me is the number of folks who step up to the firing line to complete a known round count drill (for example, “draw and fire tree rounds in three seconds”) and do not have enough rounds in their gun to complete it!  Of course they always say, “I meant to do that…I wanted to push myself through an emergency reload under stress” (the look on their face when their gun runs dry unexpectedly tells another story!) which sounds one hell of a lot better than saying “I was not sharp enough to keep track of how many rounds were in my gun” and we all know one of the hallmarks of a true armed professional is always knowing the status of you gear.

While I do not think this is the best move, I think it is the correct one.  Hell, many students question why you would want to load before the gun is empty!  “These are perfectly good rounds, why waste them?”  The only thing I can think is they do not really understand the confusion and delay of action they will suffer when their gun runs dry in a REAL fight … “It only takes an additional half second to drop the slide…big deal!”  How many rounds can you fire in a half second, especially if the gun is already being fired? Also keep in mind the delay of action you will suffer when you expect a round to fire and it does not…something that does not happen when you expect the run to run dry, like in a range drill.  Additionally, will you notice the slide locked open or will you automatically “tap-rack” in a fight? So many questions…

Training, like any things in combative pistolcraft, is the answer but I can’t help but think we are making a mistake when it comes to when to reload. That said, from here on, its emergency reloads only in my classes but we will work hard to execute them well!

Thanks for checking in…