Commentary – Let’s talk about Virginia . . .


As I type the title I realize that in 6 months folks will scan the index on the right side of the blog and have no clue what it means. There will be other “Virginias” by then . . . But, for today and the next few days the “tragedy in Virginia” is wall to wall.

As an individual that has chosen to carry a defensive handgun for personal defense, as an instructor who has chosen to train folks in a skill set that provides them a chance at defending themselves, their family or someone in their charge and as a member of a broader training community . . . the “tragedy in Virginia” deserves some of our time.

To begin with, I’d like to simply point out that this wasn’t a “tragedy in Virginia”. This was a cold blooded murder carried out in a deliberate and purposeful way, a clear and deliberate act of evil. It wasn’t an accident, an act of God, a death due to an errant act on the part of Alison Parker or Adam Ward. It was a clear manifestation of evil in our time – period.

I read lots of comments about “situational awareness” – seemingly saying that had Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward only been “aware” of their surroundings . . . things may have turned out differently. That fact was that they were, indeed, “aware”. They were aware of the job they were sent to do. Ms. Parker was aware of the woman she was interviewing and was totally and professionally focused on her – as she should have been. Mr. Ward was also aware of the reason he was there – to deliver the best video shot he could for has news station. Their head was fully and totally “in the game” – performing the job professionally and to the very best of their ability. There is no fault there on their part and I find off the cuff comments about “situational awareness” in the context of them doing their job frankly offensive.

The shooter had a history of offensive behavior that had gotten him fired a number of times. From what I read a handful of random comments by Ms. Parker attracted his attention and seemingly sealed her fate. I also find I am exhausted to the ready excuse that he had “mental problems”. Given the effort he had to put into purchasing the weapon (as well as stockpiling more in his car), finding out the time of the interview, traveling to the interview, moving up on them from their blind spot . . . I see little evidence of a lack of mental ability. What he lacked was a moral compass. What he seems to have done is to have bought into the current arguments of whites being modern day slave owners and that “they” continue to abuse the black community. What he seems to have accepted is that the killing of Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward was justified because he had been “insulted”. Sadly, this type of rhetoric can be heard on a daily basis from social media to the main stream press. And it is becoming more and more affective in inciting black on white and black on law enforcement violence. I do not believe Ms. Parker or Mr. Ward will be the last of these types of assassinations.

As an aside, since their killing two police officers have also been assassinated as well. There are days when I feel like we are very close to the wheels coming well and full off the wagon. Time will tell if sanity rules or we will all just have to wait to see who the last folks standing are.

There is one other lesson to learn here as well. It may be hard to hear, difficult to accept . . . yet I believe it is true.

We all have our day.

Regardless of our training, regardless of our course work, regardless of our efforts . . . we all have our day. Whether we are on the deck of a boat club or sitting in our recliner after a fine meal . . . For whatever reason – it arrived for Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward last week. It is something we all need to remember. That does NOT mean to just pack it in, skip the range and say “screw it”. What it does mean is to live your life every day! And, I am grateful to hear that it appears Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward had lived and loved and given to all in their life. In the end – that is what they should be remembered for.

I pray for the peace of their souls and for those in their lives . . .


Bill Keller

Founding Member M.A.P.S.I.


At the beginning of 2015 a group of instructors in the Midwest formed Midwest Association of Professional Shooting Instructors – M.A.P.S.I. You can read the whole story of how MAPSI came about on our facebook page here. Our purpose was to create a set of coursework focused, from the beginning, to introduce the new and inexperienced shooter to the world of defensive shooting.

For me personally, this was a continuation of the development of my own defensive firearms courses and, indeed, the course I am reviewing in this AAR is pretty much my course – Foundations of Defensive Pistol. OK, so why create new coursework? Frankly, I saw a need – as did the other founding members of MAPSI.

In Iowa a carry permit can be issued to anyone receiving a minimum of training – including taking a couple different on-line courses. The additional pressure of rigorous training simply doesn’t exist in Iowa – nor do I believe it should – anywhere. That said, what that means in reality is that most folks simply “take the minimum” that is needed to get their permit. For me that usually means that they take a single course . . . period.

As anyone who frequents my blog or either continually trains or teaches knows, there are a number of excellent courses out there. I’m an NRA Instructor and Training Counselor. The NRA coursework – as taught today – is some of the best available in the country. However, much of it – especially the “Basic” coursework – is taught from the “sports shooting” point of view, not a personal defense point of view. Add to that the changes coming to the Basic Pistol course work and its move to a blended curriculum . . . and much of what I feel is important for a new and inexperienced shooter to know simply isn’t being taught by the NRA or anyone else in a single course. Hence my development of my own “Defensive Pistol 1” course – now morphed into MAPSI’s “Foundations of Defensive Pistol” course.

Well, we are past the development phase of FDP, past the beta testing and we are entering – for the rest of this year, live teaching and review of FDP (along with our two other courses – Essential Defensive Pistol and Basic Defensive Shooting Skills). These courses are done, finished and in the can. They have been taught to hundreds of folks, reviewed, changed, polished . . . they’re ready for prime time. Hence this AAR about the FDP course I conducted this past weekend.

Let’s take a look at the outline for FDP . . .

  • Introduction to Revolvers and Semi-Automatic Pistols
  • Firearms Safety and Safe Gun Handling Practices
  • Introduction to Holsters, Belts, and Off-Body Carry Methods
  • Introduction to Ammunition
  • Care and Cleaning of Handguns
  • Range Safety Protocols
  • Defensive Handgun Selection
  • Defensive Mindset Concept
  • Defensive Shooting Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Using Cover and Concealment

For this class Steve and Connie are new shooters. They have a real interest in getting their carry permit, they do not own a handgun and they were looking for the best place to start. And, after talking to some folks who had taken my coursework, they chose us.

We begin by introducing revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. I always begin with a Single Action revolver and then the Double Action Revolver. Next is the Single Action Semiautomatic pistol, Double Action Only Semiautomatic pistol, Single/Double Action pistol, and an into to striker fired semiautomatic pistols. This begins to allow them to make better decisions when choosing a firearm for home.

Next was firearm safety and the proper way to handle a pistol. FDP uses Cooper’s rules since we feel it fits in better with the concept of using a handgun for personal defense. This lead to the introduction of holsters, belts and various methods of off-body carry. While no holsters are used in FDP, folks seem to make some horrible choices when choosing holsters and belts – we hope to make a dent in that problem.

Ammunition was next on the list – how it works, types a defensive shooter will typically use and then we spent a fair amount of time on the “whys” of selecting defensive ammunition.

We covered the care and cleaning of their defensive firearm and then covered the essentials of range safety and the range commands that would be used during the day’s range time.

Another issue new shooters have is going to a gun store to purchase their first defensive handgun. We spent a fair amount of time on exactly how to go about that process and the fundamental issues that go into making a solid choice.

And that took us to lunch . . .

After lunch we began to make the shift to range work. I am a big supporter of the use of SIRT pistols in training. By the time they returned from lunch I had a range setup in the classroom along with SIRT pistols and spare magazines. It is this space, right here, that I spend most of the time working on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture. It saves a great deal of time on the live fire range if you are willing to add SIRT pistols to your training process.

Then we moved to working on mindset. Here we introduce Cooper’s color code, use of force, use of deadly force, AOJP and disparity of force. These are taught in a broad scope with emphasis that they download and read Iowa’s code regarding the use and carry of a defensive handgun.

Finally we move into the fundamentals of defensive shooting. We talked about stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture. We touched on alternate methods of aiming and talked about the continuum of aiming a defensive handgun at a mortal threat – from using kinesthetic alignment to fully sighted fire.

At the end of this, we moved to the shooting range and setup our firing line at about the 5 yard line. I always begin with a single round in the magazine and run all drills “by command”. We worked through single round engagements, accelerated pairs, use of low and high cover (and the difference between concealment and cover), challenge drills and a final evaluation of their shooting skill. Also sprinkled in were the beginnings of “balance of speed and precision” drills – accelerated pairs center mass as well as single precise shots at called boxes.

For this course I’ve included a custom target for “center mass”. It has a vertical rectangle around the center of the target that is 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall. This spot, on a standard sized human will typically yield the most damage and provide the best chance at “stopping the threat”. I have another post in the works to show the exact placement and the reasoning for this particular sized box – should be up by the end of the weekend.

Finally, we took some time to chat about the day. Honestly, it was a good day with a couple new shooters well on their way by the end of the day!

This is a very busy course yet the flow works well for the new and inexperienced shooter as well as those with more time under their belt. I think it will make a solid contribution to the training community to introduce folks to the concept of the defensive use of a handgun.

As for Steve and Connie, thanks for coming and congrats!

What are the TOP 10 things to remember for an armed citizen?


How about a little “bear pokin’”?? What are the TOP TEN things you, as an  armed citizen who has chosen to carry a defensive weapon need to remember . . . least important to most important.

10. Wear “sturdy” shoes.

Your ability to move quickly may well mean the difference between another meal with your family . . . and a meal in the church basement after your funeral. Sturdy, good fitting and supportive footwear goes a long way towards giving you the best chance to run away or stand and fight.

9. Quality holsters and belts matter.

If your holster doesn’t secure your defensive weapon and keep it is a consistent location, you can be certain that you will not be able to get a firm grip for your draw stroke should the need arise. Spend the required amount of money to get a good holster for your defensive weapon and a sturdy belt to secure it to your body.

8. Pay attention – situational awareness is the key to avoiding a fight.

The best way to survive a gunfight is to not get in one in the first place. Whether you use the NRA’s “Levels of Awareness” or Jeff Cooper’s “Color Code” . . . PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU!

And, should a fight be forced upon you – the sooner you see it coming, the better your chances are to be able to effectively respond to it.

7. Conceal your defensive weapon – why give the BG a heads up??

Stop all the open carry crap! Why would you want to give the BG a heads up that you are armed? Why become a “shoot me first” target? Suck it up, make whatever life style changes you need to make and conceal your defensive weapon.

6. Use the largest caliber round you can control.

“If it don’t begin with a 4 . . . it ain’t gonna stop nothin’!” or “I carry God’s own caliber . . . .45 ACP!” It’s the argument that just keeps on giving. Still . . . if you can’t control the handgun. If you can’t manage the recoil . . . when you are going to depend on your defensive weapon to save your life . . . it isn’t going to end well. Find the largest caliber handgun you can control, find a version that fits your hand well . . . and then become the most lethal defensive shooter you can be.

5. More rounds in the magazine are a good thing.

Every bullet you can send down the barrel, every round your weapon can cycle into the chamber is one more opportunity to go home at the end of the day. 7 +1 with two spare magazines is better than 6 in the cylinder. 17 +1 with two spare magazines is 52 chances to see your family again. More rounds are better . . . PERIOD!

4. Accuracy counts more than caliber.

While “spray and pray” may look cool on TV is various and assorted crime dramas, 3-5 rounds placed quickly center mass will take the fight out of the vast majority of threats. If you can’t quickly and consistently meet this most basic of criteria for a defensive shooter . . . rather than spending your hard earned cash on another gun – spend it on some good coursework and a couple thousand rounds of ammunition for individual training on the range. If you can’t hit it . . . you can’t stop it.

3. Your defensive handgun MUST GO BANG EVERY TIME.

You may have the coolest, most tricked out defensive sidearm this planet has ever seen. But if it doesn’t go BANG!!!! Every frickin’ time you press the trigger . . . it may well make you dead someday. You choice is to either take your unreliable gun to a certified armor for that specific weapon . . . or buy a new, reliable defensive weapon. Choosing to carry a defensive weapon that “goes BANG most the time” is simply stupid!

2. Carrying without coursework and personal training is just plain stupid.

Carrying a defensive weapon without doing any course work, on-going course work, advanced coursework is yet another choice that can sent you home in a ZipLoc. Find GOOD coursework; take some sort of class each and every year – at a minimum. Then, bring what you have learned home to your personal training on the range. Set aside a couple thousand rounds each year for solid defensive training. You can’t integragte what you learn without range time. It’s difficult to learn new or advanced shooting techniques without face to face training on a live fire range. Take classes. Go to the range. TRAIN!!

We are talking about your ability to defend your life, the lives of your family or a friend in your charge. There are simply no shortcuts.

1. Carry your damn gun!!! EVERY DAY!!!

You would think that #1 would be so obvious, there is simply no need to mention it. Yet . . . how many times have you left your defensive weapon home because it was too much of a hassle to carry it, that it was too heavy, to big, wouldn’t stay in the holster . . . ??? There’s an endless list of excuses. Bottom line . . . you don’t have your gun? You can’t defend yourself. PERIOD!!

Carry your damn gun!!! EVERY DAY!!!

So there you have it . . . my thoughts on the top ten things an armed citizen needs to remember when they choose to carry a defensive weapon. I’d be interested in seeing what your thoughts are!




Bill Keller

Founding Member MAPSI

Your Most Effective Weapon

If I asked you what your most effective weapon in a dynamic lethal force encounter would be, what would your answer be?

Would it be pepper spray…

A Taser…

A knife…

A gun…

I have often heard people that practice martial arts and other fighting techniques claim that if you can’t win a fight without a gun, you won’t be able to win it with a gun.  Most of them use this claim due to their desire to get more people involved in hand to hand self-defense techniques.

I believe such a blanket statement to be untrue.  There are many people that have successfully defended themselves with a gun that would probably not have survived had they not been armed.

I submit, though, that the difference between a victim and a victor lies much deeper than the weapons or tactics employed during a fight.  The average person with minimal training can set themselves up for success well in advance of a fight if they have the proper mindset.

The human brain is one of the most complex and amazing things on the entire planet.  Running on only twenty watts of bioelectricity, it is capable of storing up to 3,500 terabytes of information at a rate of 2.2 quadrillion operations per second.

Compare that to your iPad which stores only 64 gigabytes at a rate of 170 trillion operations per second.  I know the numbers are so high it’s difficult to grasp but the human mind runs approximately 13 times faster than an iPad and stores over 50,000 times more information.  Even under extreme stress, the human brain can observe the events before it and make a decision on an appropriate course of action in a fraction of a second.

In other words, your ability to think cognitively through a deadly situation and your will to prevail in said encounter are much more vital to the outcome than your possession of any other weapon.

The question, then, is two-fold:

  • How do we develop the proper mindset?
  • How do we achieve the ability to “think” your way through a fight?


To develop the “right” mindset, you must first determine what is right.  I believe the proper defensive oriented mindset could be defined as:

“A determination beforehand that, regardless of the amount of force applied by your opponent(s), you, using all tools and techniques at your disposal, will not submit or relent until you have prevailed.”

Of course, it’s much easier to say it than it is to live it.  Part of this development is equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools needed to follow through on your predetermination.  It’s easy to sit on the couch and armchair quarterback dash-cam videos.  It’s quite another thing to attend a Force on Force class to see if your “techniques” will work in a real fight.

  • Knowledge – Take classes. Watch (good, credible, realistic) videos.  Read books.  Learn what to expect from both an attacker and yourself in a fight so you know what techniques are most reliable to counter an attack.
  • Skills – Once you learn the techniques, you need to practice until you master them. This may involve a training partner or even additional training.
  • Tools – Purchase and carry the tools you need to defend yourself. Are you going to use a gun?  If so, is the gun you have a good gun to use in a fight for your life?  What if you need to fight your way to your gun?  Can you do that with your hands or do you need a knife or some other object to get the job done?

Spending the time, money and energy on the above list can result in a strong defensive mindset provided you have also considered the fact that failure will most likely result in your death or the death of a loved one.

Cognitive Thought

In order to develop your cognitive abilities under stress, there’s really only one solution:  Good reality-based defensive training.

A good defensive course should tell you what happens to your body under stress and why each of the physiological changes that occur is useful in a fight.  This understanding of the body’s physiology is the first step in retaining some of your cognitive ability.

In addition, a good defensive course will put you through drills specifically designed to make you think about your situation and environment before you take a shot.

  • Could you escape instead of engaging in a confrontation?
  • Is there cover available to use?
  • Do you need to change position so you won’t shoot an innocent person?

It is also necessary to consider the fact that, despite your training and preparation, you may not retain cognitive thought.  It’s for this specific reason that the techniques you learn need to be as intuitive and consistent as possible (but that’s a different blog).

In conclusion, don’t take a concealed weapons course, buy a gun and think you’re Rambo.  Find a good instructor with a good reputation and a good reality-based defensive training course.

Taking the necessary steps to develop the proper defensive mindset and learning how you react under the relatively minor stress of a reality based defensive training course can provide you with a good foundation for success in a fight.  The other things you need (i.e. gun, knife, hand to hand defensive techniques, etc.) only serve to enhance and solidify your structure.