Your Tactical Training Scenario- Pistol as Impact Weapon — Active Response Training

Good advice from Greg Ellifritz on the use of a firearm as an impact weapon.

Written by: Greg Ellifritz Have you ever considered using your handgun as an impact weapon? Before you do, you may want to think about a few things. Take a look at this article. A cop used his pistol to break a car window and accidentally cranked off a round. Don’t think that…

via Your Tactical Training Scenario- Pistol as Impact Weapon — Active Response Training

Crossing the Line

A look at the way we in the firearms community interact on social media.

Armed Missouri, Inc.

I see it regularly on social media; the gun community rallies together to subject some poor soul to scorn, ridicule, and mockery for saying or doing something the group may not approve of.  Perhaps they said something perceived to be stupid.  Maybe they espoused a technique that defies the norm, or they may even have done something that is dangerous.

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Get Your Mind Right

I’ve previously written about the importance of a defensive mindset HERE and HERE.

The defensive mindset is the foundation to your entire defensive strategy regardless of the training you’ve had or the tools you carry.  Just as a building with a compromised foundation can result in a crumbling structure, an inadequate defensive mindset can result in your entire defensive strategy falling apart in the midst of a fight for your life.

What a Defensive Mindset IS

So what does a good solid defensive mindset look like?  Here are some identifiable characteristics:

Proactive: A defensive mindset is one that is proactive.  Proactive people are the ones that get a permit to carry a firearm as soon as they can rather than waiting for a potentially violent situation in their life to prompt them into action.  They are the ones that then seek out much more training than their state requires.  They are the ones that develop a plan for their range time so their time and ammunition is productive rather than wasted by just putting holes in a paper target.

A person with a good defensive mindset shouldn’t wait for a need to arise to develop skill or obtain equipment.  They should spend time learning about the techniques they are most likely to need in order to adequately defend themselves and then seek training in the implementation of those tools and techniques.  Discovering you aren’t equipped with the necessary skills or tools in the middle of a fight for your life is a bad time to wish you had been more proactive.

Introspective: A defensive mindset is one that is introspective.  Introspective people understand what they are capable of because they spend time thinking about their current level of skill.  Instead of an over-inflated opinion of their abilities, they have a true knowledge of their capabilities.

You should never be afraid to take a long hard look at yourself.  Your skills can never be improved inside a vacuum.  Put yourself to the test.  Find a training class or a training partner that will allow you to test your skills in a safe but realistic environment.  Will you be humbled?  Probably.  I, myself, have been humbled many times in many classes when the skill I thought I possessed failed me.  But that’s how we learn and it is essential to skill development.

Retrospective: A defensive mindset is one that is retrospective.  Retrospective people are the ones that have a clear training plan for the future because they know exactly where they have been in the past.  They see the failures in past training experiences and they learn from them.

We all fail sometimes.  After a training situation in which I feel as though I failed, I like to list the things I feel like I did “wrong” and the things I did “right.”  Only through this introspection, can we learn from our mistakes.  A training environment is where we want to fail so we don’t when it really counts.

Dominant: A defensive mindset is one that is dominant.  Dominant people are the ones that others naturally look to as leaders.  Displaying your dominance to an attacker might very well make them change their minds about attacking you.

Dominance can be displayed in the way you conduct your daily life.  Looking people in the eye and standing erect are indicators of a dominant personality.  Displaying dominance may cause an attacker to choose a different person to attack.  Even if it doesn’t, it’s possible to deescalate a potentially violent encounter by asserting dominance over an attacker.  Some people are born with a dominant personality but a dominant attitude isn’t reserved only for those few.  Virtually anyone can learn to impose dominance over another with the right instruction and practice.

Aggressive: A defensive mindset is one that is aggressive.  I’m not talking about people that are intentionally mean to others.  Those people aren’t aggressive, they’re jerks.  I’m talking about those that have determined beforehand that any degree of violence should be met with an even greater degree of violence.

When necessary you should be ready, willing, and able to meet violence with more violence.  Street thugs often don’t understand attempts at peacemaking but they do understand violence.  They understand that the winner in a fight is the one that displays the propensity for the most violence.

Flexible: A defensive mindset is one that is flexible.  Flexible people understand that anything can happen in a fight.  For that reason they intentionally keep their plan of action open to improvisation.

Mike Tyson astutely noted: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”  This is why you shouldn’t place too much stock in choreographed fighting moves.  Keep your options open.  Most defensive encounters devolve into street fighting regardless of the training of either participant.  Limiting yourself to “real” fighting techniques will put you at a distinct disadvantage.  Remember, there are no rules in a fight for your life except one: win.  Any technique or weapon that allows you do get closer to winning is valid.

Unrelenting: A defensive mindset is one that is unrelenting in the struggle to win the fight.  People that refuse to give way to the attacker, no matter what happens, generally prevail in the fight.

You may consider the officer that was attacked while confronting a mall shoplifter (you can see an interview with him HERE).  At some point he became certain he was going to die.  He determined at that moment that he was going to make sure he took the attacker with him.  This unrelenting mindset not only allowed him to prevail but he survived.

What a Defensive Mindset IS NOT

Now that we’ve discussed some key characteristics that define a defensive mindset, let’s define some things that a defensive mindset is NOT.

A defensive mindset is not unafraid.  Courage can be defined as “acting in spite of fear.”  Being afraid in a fight is OK.  Setting your fears aside and doing what is necessary to win the fight is the key.  It is a lot easier to do that if you have spent time being proactive and developing the right skills.

A defensive mindset is not unwilling to run away.  Unless you’re a law enforcement officer, you have no legal obligation to continue a fight.  Running away from a fight is not a sign of weakness.  In fact, it takes a modicum of strength to make the decision to run rather than continue the fight.  As an armed citizen, your goal should be to win the fight and go home at the end of the day.  If running away achieves that goal, you should consider it to be a viable option.

A defensive mindset is not all about situational awareness.  Being situationally aware is great… when you are situationally aware.  A person with a good defensive mindset will realize that they can’t always be situationally aware.  It simply isn’t possible to go through life being aware of every little thing no matter how hard you try.  Distractions occur all the time and we usually don’t even realize we are distracted in the moment.  An attack will almost definitely occur in one of these unaware moments instead of when you can see it coming.  Having a good defensive mindset means you will train to deal with surprise attacks.

A defensive mindset is not all about a gun.  Guns are great defensive tools but one can defend themselves without the aid of a gun or any other tool.  You are the weapon.  The gun, knife, club, pepper spray, etc. are just tools.  They are force multipliers that can help get the job done much like a lever helps move a heavy object.  A person with a good defensive mindset will spend time learning how to defend themselves with nothing if necessary.

A defensive mindset is not lazy.  Getting better at anything takes work.  In the case of self-defense, it can take a lot of work since we can’t practice our skills every single day.  I recommend taking at least two training courses each year, even if you’ve taken them before, as well a regular range time for yourself preferably with a training partner.  But far too often I see people put trivial matters before training and practice.  Taking time to rest is mandatory.  Not putting in the work because of laziness or discomfort is unacceptable.  A rainy day is no reason to skip that class you signed up for.  Get out and do the work.  Bad guys don’t take days off so we shouldn’t either.

Becoming proficient in self-defense techniques is a balance between training and practice, and spending time with family and friends or doing your honey-do list.  It should be an important part of your life because your life depends on this knowledge and skill but your life doesn’t have to revolve around it.


Now that we’ve defined a defensive mindset and described several characteristics of what a defensive mindset both IS and IS NOT, I would ask you this: Is your mindset right?  Do you have a solid defensive mindset or do you need to work on it?  Does your defensive skillset have a firm foundation or is it a bit shaky?

If we’re all honest, most people, me included, would admit that we still need work.  Maintaining this mindset is difficult and sometimes all but impossible.  Life gets in the way.  Time and finances are limited.  We all have demands on our attention that it can be hard to meet.

I simply try my best.  I do everything I can to make myself a less desirable target and a more likely victor in a fight.  I ask you to start today with some good introspection of your own.  Once you know where you are, you can move forward.

AAR – Martial Arms Tactical Vehicle Gun Fighting Skills

Date: 9/26/2015

Instructor: Steve Collins

Some have asked why I would spend my time taking a course like this a second time.  The answer is simple; there’s no way to adequately remember the lessons learned in such a course by going through only once.  Too much time passes from the beginning of the course to the end of the day and there isn’t sufficient time to take notes even if note taking were more practical on an outdoor range.

That said, as a previous graduate of this training course, I had a pretty good idea what to expect as I was going into it.  Although the course is basically the same, there were a few minor changes to the lesson plan and, of course, the scenario based shooting was different out of necessity.

The day began with a safety briefing and explanation of how the course would progress.  Once everyone understood the special safety considerations involved with moving and shooting in, from, and around vehicles, we moved over to the actual vehicles we had obtained for use in the class to discuss some basic concepts about defending oneself around a vehicle.

We had acquired a 1991 Ford Tempo sedan and a 2003 Plymouth Voyager minivan from a local salvage yard.  Steve began by going over each vehicle’s best and worst areas of cover as well as a few “don’ts” such as defending with one foot on the ground and the other in the vehicle.  We also discussed when and where people are most vulnerable and what ways we could help to make ourselves a more difficult or less desirable target.

After a thorough look at the best cover areas on each vehicle, we moved to the range and started with some warm up shooting.  I should add at this point that it is an instructor’s responsibility to begin shooting classes with some fairly basic shooting to ensure each student is “up to speed” and doesn’t need remediation before moving on.

The first shooting exercise was simply to draw and fire a single round using a two-handed grip at full extension.  We did this ten times at our own pace.  We then were instructed to draw and fire multiple shots using a two-handed grip at full extension.

Then we moved up to arm’s length of the target and shot using a “guarded” position in which the dominant hand would grip, draw and fire from retention while the other hand would come up to the side of the face to protect from incoming blows or cuts.  Adding a layer of complexity, we then turned toward our dominant side and were told to first strike the target with our non-dominant hand, turn toward the target and then perform the previous exercise of guarding, drawing and firing.

These two exercises were run through dry many times before live fire was permitted.  I personally noticed a very real possibility that, if guarding with the non-dominant hand incorrectly, a shot could be put right into the elbow of the non-dominant arm.  Dry fire practice is vital to work out these kinks to ensure a safe shooting exercise.

The idea of this exercise was to simulate putting a child or cargo into your car and being approached by a would-be carjacker.  I should mention that it was firmly pointed out that at no time should we use the “speed rock” method due to the off balance nature of that position.  Instead, we were instructed to take a more aggressive position and lean in to the target.

Once we had performed these drills we moved chairs to the line and worked from a seated position in order to get used to drawing and firing from a seat.  The chairs faced the targets on the first set of exercises and then we turned them to our dominant side.  This proved to be especially challenging to the left handed shooters on the class as they realized accessing a gun that may be up against their driver’s door would be very difficult.

The warm up done, it was time to move the junk cars into place and set up scenarios.  Steve took great care to make the scenarios believable and challenging, since the bad guys rarely make things easy for you.

While it’s difficult to describe the drills run from the cars in any great detail, I will mention a few major points that I took away from my participation in each scenario.

  • Shooting your attacker(s) is less important that not getting shot.
    • Don’t stand your ground behind a flimsy car door to shoot back if you have the ability to move behind more substantial cover.
  • It’s always better to move forward.
    • Moving backwards or sideways is less natural and, therefore, less efficient and provides a greater opportunity to stumble or fall.
    • Moving forward sometimes requires the gun to be transferred to the non-dominant hand. When it can be done, it should be done but it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t do it.
  • Running the drills alone is one thing but running them with a partner is totally different.
    • This isn’t something you’ll just do without taking the time to discuss and plan your actions well in advance of the need for such actions.
    • Now, throw an unarmed passenger or kids in the backseat into the mix and see how easily you come up with a “solution” to the “problem.”

In all, we each had the opportunity to run through several scenarios at least twice each.  Some were performed on our own and others were done with a partner.  Steve allowed us to use our best judgement to go through most of the scenarios.  If, during dry practice, he noticed something that needed improvement, he would interject and have the student try it again.

Personally, I have come to realize that there are many “right” ways to get the job done when someone is attacking you.  Some of these right ways are better than others but the end result of surviving speaks for itself.

There are also plenty of wrong ways to defend oneself and that’s why we each need training like this to help eliminate our tendency to go for the wrong way to begin with.

The last hour or so was spent doing a Test and Evaluation of various calibers of ammunition through various firearms at various parts of the two vehicles.  We used a .380ACP, 9mmx19, .40S&W, .38SPL, .357 Magnum, .45ACP, .454 Casull,  7.62×39mm, 12 Gauge Buckshot, 12 Gauge Slug, .44 Magnum (through a lever action rifle), .30-30, .50 BMG.

We shot at front doors, rear doors, B-pillars, and a tail gate.  With few exceptions, most of the above mentioned rounds failed to fully penetrate the Tempo from one side to the other.  Several of them failed to penetrate the first door leaving anyone inside relatively safe until a follow-up shot in the same location finally breaks through.  Even the 12 Gauge Slug failed to penetrate the B-pillar of the Tempo.

On the other hand, the .30-30 had little difficulty penetrating the tail gate of the Voyager as well as the rear seat and front seat.  It would be likely to be seriously injured in the event someone shot a more potent round tough the rear of a minivan or SUV.

The .50 BMG, on the other hand had no difficulty penetrating pretty much anything we shot it at.  It went all the way through the minivan leaving a fist sized hole in the firewall before becoming lodged somewhere in the engine.  On a second shot, a five gallon bucket of paint left in the cargo area of the van was struck leaving paint throughout the vehicle.  There was even paint on the dashboard and windshield.  It bears noting that this paint and the human body have roughly the same consistency.

It’s no surprise that a round so powerful would have such a devastating effect.  It was designed to disable military vehicles from a distance.  Thankfully, your average gang-banger thug doesn’t have access to such a weapon.

In general, cars are more bullet proof than you might think but there’s always that chance that something will make it through.  Your best bet is to get out and get behind as much solid material as is possible.

The day ended with a quick debrief and certificates were handed out.  As usual, Steve Collins met the superior expectations that I have come to have for his instruction.  He has taken a lifetime of military experience and masterfully translated it into the civilian world of moms and dads getting groceries or going out to eat.

I will take this course again as it is not only very informative but it is also extremely fun.

A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

Tactical Ted is my favorite hypothetical person.  Despite his complete and utter lack of any formal training, he considers himself to be an “operator” and, unlike me, he knows every answer to every question in the defensive shooting world.  Sometimes Ted shoots only occasionally and sometimes he shoots every week.  Sometimes he shoots competitively and sometimes just for fun.  In spite of all of his shooting experience (or lack thereof), Ted is all knowing.

The problem that Ted often runs into is that most of his “knowledge” comes from unreliable or inaccurate sources.  He tends to believe the popular gun blogs that he reads and takes them at face value without stopping to consider the source or motives behind the article.

When I ask Ted about a method or tactic for a particular situation, he is confident in his response.  He always knows exactly what he would do in that situation.  He knows because he read about it somewhere on the internet and a buddy confirmed the information after reading the same article.

My problem with Ted, of course, is that he talks what sounds to many as a good game but has nothing to back it up.  He may have had some minimal training, perhaps a state mandated course to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but has never taken it past that very basic level.  Even though that’s all the training he has had, he still knows what to expect in a fight.  He knows because he has watched a lot of action movies.

That sounds silly doesn’t it?  After all, we all know that movies rarely mirror real life…

Or do we?  You’d be amazed at how often I hear people paint their planned response to an attack as if it were in a Die Hard script.

I see Ted all over Facebook and other social media spouting how he would have responded in the recent shooting everyone is talking about.  He goes on to say that if he had been in the theater, there would be one dead bad guy and everyone else would have survived to post their videos of his heroic victory on YouTube.  His situational awareness can never be broken.  He sleeps with one eye open and all that stuff.

He comments on a post about what he would do if ever faced with someone holding a hostage at gun point.  He knows he would be able to take the only possible shot to the head of the hostage taker and that the shot would be perfectly aimed and timed.  He knows this because he can place a one inch group into the head of a B-27 target that isn’t moving and doesn’t have a hostage while he isn’t under the stress involved in a real life threatening encounter.

He talks about how he always uses his sights because one should never shoot unless they have taken a proper sight picture.  He knows this because he shoots competitively and knows where each target is beforehand and can take the necessary time to acquire a sight picture.

He may even discuss his reason for choosing to carry a gun.  For him, it’s so he doesn’t have to run.  Or so he doesn’t have to fight.  Or some other equally mind-numbing tired old argument.

He never carries with a round in the chamber because he’s just that fast.  He only open carries and the second amendment is his carry permit.  Smith & Wesson is his security system.  He carries a .45 so he only has to shoot once.

I sure am glad that Tactical Ted is merely a hypothetical person and that none of us know any real person like that.

So what’s my point?

Tactical Ted’s are all over the internet.  They have an extremely small amount of good, useful knowledge and a whole lot of bad, useless and inaccurate information in their heads.  They talk a lot but, when it comes to obtaining more good information, their inaction speaks volumes.  They would rather remain ignorant of reality than humble themselves by taking a more challenging defensive shooting course.

Don’t be a Tactical Ted.  Talk less, learn more.

Carry Your Gun

Sometimes it blows my mind when I hear some of the ridiculous excuses made by folks when it comes to why they don’t carry their gun.  They have put a lot of time and money into buying a gun, taking a state mandated safety course, paying for their carry permit, and buying a holster and other equipment but choose, instead, to leave their gun at home.

Let’s look at some of these excuses and see why they are invalid.

It’s not comfortable.

I hear this one most often.  They don’t carry regularly because it’s just not comfortable.  This excuse is shattered by two simple facts.

Proper carry equipment will make you much more comfortable.

Carrying in a $10 nylon holster attached to your $15 Wal-Mart belt is likely the culprit.  The added weight and bulk of a gun takes the right belt.  I have used a 5.11 TDU belt daily for about ten years.  It’s a great value at around $17 but it is very high quality.

The right holster is also essential for daily carry.  Most people I know have a bag of holsters they have tried but abandoned due to various factors.  Most of them were just not comfortable.  You don’t have to spend $100 on a holster to find the right one but it’s unlikely the $10 nylon holster is going to cut it.  You should expect to spend between $40 and $80 on a decent holster.  All you need to do to help eliminate the bag of holsters collecting dust is a little research to make sure you’re getting something with a known reputation for comfort before you buy it.

Additionally, you will probably need to adjust your wardrobe to accommodate your gun.  It may require purchasing pants a size larger and wearing your shirt untucked.

Carrying a gun shouldn’t necessarily be too comfortable.

While we all want to go through our daily lives without discomfort, it’s important to realize you are carrying a tool, which if used or handled improperly, is capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death upon yourself or another person.  This responsibility should never be taken lightly and, therefore, the weight of the gun should never be so comfortable that you take it for granted.

It’s important to remember a gun is not a magical talisman that can ward away evil doers by its mere presence.  Despite that, I’m still much more comfortable internally if I have my gun with me than I am when I am forced to be unarmed.  I know that I at least have the means by which to meet violence with an equal or greater amount of violence if necessary.

There are just too many places I can’t carry the gun so I just don’t take it.

I’m going to be blunt here.  This excuse is generally the result of laziness.  Either they are too lazy to learn the laws regarding the carrying of a firearm in their locale or they are too lazy to disarm when required.

Of course, each state and municipality may have its own set of laws governing where you may or may not carry your gun.  Some states are quite restrictive but most states are much less so.  It should be a relatively easy matter for you to choose to patronize businesses that have not posted signs prohibiting firearms in their establishment.

It’s best to become intimately familiar with your state’s carry laws.  Never rely on what a friend or relative, or even an instructor or cop told you regarding what is and what is not legal.  Many of these people don’t know the laws as well as they think they do and it could be to your detriment to take their statements as fact.

Regardless of what the laws are where you live, there may be times you simply can’t carry your gun.  I recommend a good gun storage box for your vehicle so you can unload it and lock it up when necessary.  I prefer to use this method even if it means I have to lock my gun up several times in a day just for the simple fact that I would rather have my gun on my person as often as possible rather than not carry it because it’s inconvenient.

I only carry when I think I’m going to need it.

I actually hear this one a lot.  Unfortunately, those that use this excuse haven’t thought logically about their statement.  I avoid places I think I will need my gun.  If you thought there was a chance, even a small chance, you would need your gun, why would you ever go to that place?  A wise person would avoid a place where they think they will need their gun like the plague.

Of course, what they really mean by this statement is that they only carry when they are going to a place in which they are more likely to need their gun.  The problem with that lies in the fact that violent criminals don’t only choose to prey on victims in “bad” neighborhoods.  Many violent criminals are opportunists and they will attack if you appear to be an easy target or, sometimes, because they just felt like it.

A gun should be considered as emergency equipment.  Fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, emergency candles, etc…  These are things we keep on hand at all times just in case there is an emergency and they are needed at that time.  We don’t run out and buy a fire extinguisher after our kitchen stove catches fire.  Likewise, a gun should be kept with you as often as possible should the need to use it arise.

There are relatively few things in this world that I am totally certain of.  One of these things is this:  You definitely can’t shoot back if you don’t have your gun.

Don’t make excuses.  Find what will work and do it.  Carry your gun as often as possible.

Is Your Instructor Certified or Qualified?

Part two in my series of “gun people” getting words mixed up will take a look at who you are receiving your training from.  Many people, especially instructors, confuse the words certified and qualified.

Certified can be defined as “having or proved by a certificate” or “guaranteed; reliably endorsed.”

Based on these definitions, it is reasonable to view a certified instructor as one who has met certain requirements to obtain a certificate in a specific discipline.  This means that this instructor has attended a training course, school, or seminar that, at the end, provided this person with a certificate of sorts that allowed him or her to conduct training exercises or classroom material compiled by the certifying agency or organization.

Qualified, on the other hand, is defined “having the qualities, accomplishments, etc., that fit a person for some function, office, or the like.”

The question I pose is this:  Can an instructor be “qualified” but not be “certified” and can an instructor be “certified” without being “qualified?”

The answer to both parts of this question is a resounding YES.

Example One, Hypothetical Instructor Sam:

Sam becomes interested in the use of firearms for self-defense in his early twenties.  He takes many highly reputable defensive firearms courses, reads many books, and watches many videos from reputable sources over the next ten years.  Eventually, Sam becomes a practical expert in the subject of the defensive use of firearms.  He realizes he has knowledge that he would like to share with others.

Despite never having taken an actual instructor development course, Sam develops several courses on his own that can take a person from novice shooter to competent defensive shooter.  He finds he has a talent for teaching and spends the next ten years teaching and developing courses while, at the same time, continuing his own education in the self-defense world from other reputable instructors.  He continually finds new information that he incorporates into his own curriculum in order to provide students with the best training experience possible.

Example Two, Hypothetical Instructor Jim:

Jim grew up around guns.  By the time he is in his early twenties, he decides to become a firearms instructor so he can pass on his knowledge to others.  Dave takes a two-day instructor development course offered at a local shooting range.  He passes the course with relative ease and obtains a certification through a nationally recognized organization to use their curriculum in a single course entitled Basic Target Pistol Shooting.

Jim organizes several of these courses over the next couple of years but decides he wants more from his training business.  Despite never having taken a course other than his instructor development course, Jim writes course material for a few defensive shooting courses so he can offer his students something more advanced than their initial course.  Jim bases the material in his course on his own experience as a shooter, common sense, and what he has learned from several friends that are in law enforcement and the military.

Of the two examples above, it’s pretty obvious that Sam is the “qualified” instructor that was never “certified” and Jim is the “certified” instructor that really isn’t “qualified” to teach much of the material he is teaching.  If I were attempting to vet these two instructors and I had all of this information available, I would most certainly choose Sam over Jim any day.

Example Three, Hypothetical Instructor Dave:

Dave develops a serious interest in firearms at a young age.  When he is old enough, he begins taking defensive shooting courses developed by a highly reputable nationally recognized training organization in order to develop his own knowledge.  After a few years, Dave begins taking the instructor development courses of the same defensive shooting courses in order to teach others what he has learned.  Eventually, Dave earns certifications in ten different shooting disciplines.  Using his extensive knowledge, Dave conducts his courses based on the curriculum provided by this nationally recognized training organization but is always diligent to ensure he is teaching the most valid and up-to-date information.

Dave is an example of a well-rounded instructor that has both certification as well as qualification.  He encompasses what most people should be looking for in an instructor.

Sam is a close second choice.  Anyone that has put in the effort to develop their own training courses consisting of valid and relevant information based on all of their previous training is someone I would recommend training under.  I might take a moment to question why Sam never acquired an official certification but his track record speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, Jim is the instructor I fear I see all too frequently.  He may have some legitimate knowledge but has failed to ensure what he is teaching is something worth learning.  His level of instruction has exceeded his level of qualifications by leaps and bounds.  This kind of instructor should be avoided completely.  If he isn’t willing to spend money and time to develop his own knowledge and skill, why would you trust him with your money and time to help you develop your knowledge and skill?

In the end, the difference between a qualified instructor and a certified instructor is pretty obvious.  You should always vet your instructor.  Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their experience or for professional references.  If they get defensive or evasive when asked, move on to someone else.

Worthwhile instructors tend to spend more energy talking about the value of their training program to you as an individual rather than the “cool factor” that they can provide in their classes.  A good instructor shouldn’t have to draw people in with the promise of “flying ninja” moves or the opportunity to shoot “machine guns” during their training courses.

In other words, don’t discount the less “flashy” of us.  These often overlooked instructors are quite often the best the industry can offer.

Are You Training or Practicing?

The words we use to describe a particular activity are important.  If we use the wrong terms it can lead to a gross misunderstanding by others of what we hope to convey.  This is especially true in the use of text since there is no variance or inflection of voice to help get the point across.

With that in mind, I have noticed many people in the “gun world” using the wrong words to describe all sorts of things.  One pair of such misused terms is training vs. practicing.

Recently a friend of mine posed the following question on his Facebook wall:

“How often do you train and what kind of training do you do?”

He got a number of responses.  Most of them included the some form of “I’m at the range every couple weeks,” or “I shoot 200 rounds a month.”

While it’s actually quite commendable for anyone to take the time and money necessary to spend every other weekend at the range shooting a hundred rounds or so each time, these responses completely failed to answer his question.

These folks have failed to recognize the difference between training and practice.  Let’s take a look at what it takes to do both effectively.

By definition, training is “the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained.”

In other words, in order for one to be training, they must be in the process of acquiring new knowledge or skills.  It is entirely possible to go to a firearms course, listen to every word the instructor says, and perform every drill as instructed and still NOT be training.  If all of the information presented in the course is something at which you are already adept and if you fail to acquire new knowledge or skill in the process of the course, you have not been training.

Practice, on the other hand, is defined as “repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency.”

Once training has taken place and you have acquired your new skills and knowledge, you must hone them to get better.  In order to do this you repeat them over and over.  This process is called practicing.

Going to the range and putting a bunch of lead downrange is practicing NOT training.

If you are one of those people that spend five hundred to a thousand dollars each year putting holes in a paper target you might want to go back and reread that last sentence.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There’s nothing wrong with practice.  Practice is an essential part of the use of firearms whether you are a beginner or an expert.  What is important, however, is the distinction between the two.

You are short-changing yourself if you set aside several hundred dollars each year with which to pay range fees and purchase practice ammunition if you never set aside anything with which to acquire new knowledge and skills.  You are deluding yourself if you have convinced yourself that spending all that time and money at the range is training.

What’s the solution?

A well-rounded defensive shooter requires a balance of training and practice.

If you spent a lifetime on learning about the subject, you could still never know everything about the art of self-defense.  Therefore, it stands to reason that the average person has much to gain from regular training courses.  And those new skills must be put into use through regular practice as well.

I challenge you to set aside just a few hundred dollars each year from your “practice budget” and use it for training instead.  Attend one course each year at minimum.  Vary the subjects that these courses cover.  They may not even be shooting related courses.  You might also consider medical, knife, and hand to hand courses to round out your skillset.

Find a good instructor with good, relevant, up to date course material.  These don’t have to be the best known schools or the most expensive courses but they must fill a need in your skillset.

Once you have acquired the knowledge and skills from these training courses, spend the next year honing them while you search for the next course to sign up for.  I think you’ll find the training side of self-defense is more fun than simply putting holes in paper once you start doing it regularly.

AAR – Suarez International: CRG-4 – Force of Force Gunfighting

Organization: Suarez International

Course Title: CRG-4 – Force of Force Gunfighting

Instructor: Steve Collins

Dates: August 29th & 30th, 2015

Having taken (and taught) many defensive shooting courses over the last several years, I have a level of skill with a defensive handgun superior to that of the average person that has taken nothing beyond their state mandated concealed carry course.  I don’t mean that to sound boastful or arrogant but it is difficult for one to achieve a higher level without putting in additional effort.

That said, I am pleased to discover that this course challenged me in many ways.  It was able to confirm many of the beliefs I have had for quite some time and it also answered some of the questions I have had about real world defensive situations.

It is simply impossible to completely simulate a real life defensive encounter in any training course.  Many things have to be toned down for safety reasons.  But this course comes very close to providing participants with a stress-inducing problem to solve.

The course began with a quick safety briefing and a triple check to ensure the students possessed only training knives and airsoft guns.  Once we were totally confident no one could be hurt by a real weapon, we geared up and took part in the “Suicide Drill.”

The Suicide Drill is performed by two participants.  One is the assigned “bad guy” and initiates an attack with a firearm.  You could picture an old west showdown at high noon.  The moment the “bad guy” goes for his gun, the “good guy” goes for his in response.  Throughout the exercise, both participants are to remain glued to the spot in which they are standing.  This exercise has one specific purpose.  Unless the “bad guy” fumbles the draw, the “good guy” is always shot before he can respond with a shot of his own regardless of the distance.

From just this exercise alone, it’s more than apparent that the old “Speed Rock” method is not only inadequate, but it will likely get you killed if you try to employ it.  The solution, of course, was for the good guy to MOVE.  Movement to either side, preferably at an angle, may be all you need to not only stay alive, but you might not even get shot.

After the suicide drill Steve had the good guys start moving upon recognition of an attack.  The bad guys were instructed to continue to shoot where the good guy was originally.  He layered difficulty by then allowing the bad guys to “track” the good guys as they ran and finally allowing the bad guy to also move once initiating the attack.  These drills were practiced starting around seven yards and then working in to about five or so feet.

By lunch time on the first day it was blaringly obvious that if you don’t move, you will die.

We practiced similar drills with a knife wielding attacker.  This is commonly known as the Tueller Drill.  From seven yards, even my less-than-swift self, running in gravel, can reach an extremely aware good guy and stab him before he can shoot enough times to stop me.  Typically I would get shot about three feet from my intended victim.  At that distance I would have enough momentum to finish my attack even if I were nearly dead.  A less-than-aware average person would have less time to respond after recognizing an attack was imminent and an attacker high on drugs would be less likely to feel any effect of bullet wounds.

On the other hand, if the good guy moved off the line of attack there was little chance of the bad guy changing direction fast enough to compensate.  As the attacker, I might get a cut in on their arm but it wouldn’t take them out of the fight.

Steve discussed with us how an attacker with a weapon that is only a few feet away is not a gun or knife problem.  He demonstrated methods of disarming someone with a gun within arm’s reach.  It’s no surprise that each of these techniques utilized an explosive movement out of the line of fire before attempting the disarming moves.

Over the course of two days, the traditional methods of defensive gun technique were continually destroyed.  Over and over we discussed various traditional techniques that simply don’t work in real life.  Spending the time necessary to acquire a grip or shooting position simply isn’t possible.  Over two days and hundreds of pellets, I never once used or even saw the sights on my gun.

The second day found us working on two on one and three on one evolutions.  Let me say this.  You better hope your attacker’s buddies are smart enough to run away when they see you are armed because, if they aren’t, you will probably die.  It’s virtually impossible to overcome more than two opponents.

By the afternoon of the second day, Steve set up several life-like scenarios; an outdoor café setting, a walk-up ATM or Redbox, and a car in a parking lot.  We were each able to test the skills we had learned in an environment that required problem solving.  We wouldn’t know who the bad guy was or who innocent bystanders were.

I was pleased with my performance on some of these scenarios, very disappointed on others.  That was the idea.  Find the flaws in your technique and skills in order to better yourself.

In all, I returned home with a lot more knowledge and a whole lot of welts, blood blisters, some bruises, and sore legs.  Some people have asked, “And you do this for fun?”

The answer is a simple one.  It’s not fun to have a small plastic pellet hit you in the hand when it’s moving at 229 miles per hour.  It hurts like a son of a gun.  It’s not fun to have your ego put in check when you “die” in a given scenario and you have to look back to re-examine your choice of tactics.  It’s not fun to spend two days in 90 degree or higher temperatures while wearing extra layers of protective equipment.

Did I have fun?  Sure, there were several parts of the class that I found to be very much fun but that’s completely beside the point.  This is self-improvement.  Self-improvement is often painful.  A lesson learned the hard way (in that I mean the realization that if the last scenario had been real, I’d be dead) is a lesson not soon forgotten.

If you carry a gun for self-defense you need this type of training.  Nothing can substitute for the realism found in having an opponent that can move and shoot back.  And, although you’re not going to die from them, these pellets provide more than sufficient incentive to avoid being shot.

This course will take you far out of your comfort zone but that’s exactly what most of us need to become better.  You will leave with an entirely new understanding of what a real fight feels like.

AAR – Suarez International: HITS-8 – Defensive Knife

Organization: Suarez International

Course Title: HITS-8 – Defensive Knife

Instructor: Steve Collins

Date: August 28th, 2015

I decided nearly twelve years ago that I would carry a gun to defend my own life or the life of another person if necessary.  That said, I typically do carry a knife as well but have never considered it to be of much use to me as a defensive weapon.  I had absolutely zero knowledge on the defensive use of a knife and had always viewed the knife as a last ditch weapon if other, more familiar, options failed to be effective.

It’s rare that I participate in a training course of any kind in which everything is completely new.  Defensive Knife put me into just that situation.  By the end of the day, most of the expectations and conceptions about defending myself with a knife had been shattered.  Having taken instruction from Steve Collins in the past, I had a general idea of how he would run a course.  His method of instruction works very well with my personal disposition.

The day began with a quick safety briefing and a triple check that each person had purged themselves of any functional knives, guns, pepper spray, or any other real weapon.  Steve explained that the method we would use involved a simple five step fighting stroke which he taught us and we practiced one step at a time.  He encouraged us to begin each set of practice strokes with our knife in its regular carry position so we could practice our presentation with each rep as well.

Once each participant had seemed to have the basic steps down, he moved on to using the steps in different ways.  He explained that varying ones knife strokes and cadence can be useful to keep ones opponent from taking advantage of a timed hole in your defense.

We partnered up and practiced the fighting strokes using the other person as a dummy.  Their role was to stand in place and allow the defender to better visualize how these knife strokes would affect a human body.

This is how much of the first half of the day was spent.

After a lunch break, we began learning how these strokes would be applied against an attacker wielding a knife.  Steve took great care in demonstrating each technique and, with each one, showed us how it could also be used if we happened to be unarmed.

It would be most difficult to attempt to describe the techniques he taught us so I won’t try.  I will say this:  There are really three primary target areas and a couple of secondary areas when fighting another person with a knife.

The first target area is a cut to the inner forearm of the knife wielding arm of your attacker.  This should be followed up with an immediate cut to either the bicep or tricep (preferably both) of the same arm.  These two steps should place you in direct contact with your attacker at which time you should attempt a deep and long cut to as much of the thigh as possible.

The concept is simple.  Once you have cut the two primary muscles on the attacker’s strong arm they will lose much of the strength in that arm and be forced to use their support hand if they want to continue the fight.  The cut to the thigh is meant to ensure they can’t chase you so you can get to safety.

Until now, I had believed that stabbing motions would be most effective against an attacker.  I learned that stabs are far less effective than cuts.  I also believed that one would need a very expensive, extremely sharp knife to get the job done.  I learned that practically any knife with a good working edge can be used as long as it can be deployed quickly when the time comes.

The most important thing I learned from this class is the fact that developing sufficient skill with a knife will take much more effort than developing sufficient skill with a gun.  I’m not sure I will ever get to what I would consider “sufficient” but most of the techniques are relatively easy to practice even if you’re alone.

If you’re a “gun person” but you carry a knife, I would highly recommend taking a course like this.  I’m willing to bet you know much less than you think you know.  I know that’s what I found of myself and I would be so bold as to suggest most of the other participants did as well.