Commentary –Sheep and Wolves . . .

There is always the risk in responding to events such as last night’s Paris attack that the emotion of the moment will cloud judgments that need to be made in the clear headed “light of day”. There is virtually no end to the number of 24/7 news reporters that simply run off at the mouth simply to fill air time. You’ll all notice that there are relatively few “Commentary” posts on my blog – they have a tendency to fall outside the lines of the goal of training the “new and inexperienced shooter”.

However – civilized society is again presented the example – by yet another grizzly attack – that true evil exists, regardless of the lengths we go to simply ignore it. If we take the time to explore this evil act, we will find that there are lessons buried within that affects of the fabric of a civilized world.

I’m having breakfast this morning with a woman I’ve known for over 50 years. She slides a bit towards the compassionate side but by no means fits into anything close to a “liberal” category. She’s scanning her regional newspaper . . . and I’m doing my morning read on the net trying to see what has occurred overnight. The global news brings little comfort . . . My friend’s thoughts are closer to home . . . (paraphrasing here)

“It’s just to “big” for me. There’s nothing I can do. I try to stay current on events, make good decisions, I vote, I vote for candidates that I believe will keep us safe. But something like this, there’s just nothing I can do!”

She’s absolutely right . . . there is absolutely nothing she can do about the attacks in Paris, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iranian nukes, Chinese incursions, Russian expansionism, MS-13 or the thugs run amuck in our urban areas. In fact . . . there’s virtually nothing we – and individuals – can do about any of this. She is also right when she sees her primary responsibility as a citizen is to keep current on the events of the world, pay attention to the candidates during elections (especially local elections) and then vote her conscience. THAT is our primary responsibility as a citizen – and well as being vocal and outspoken with our local, state and federal elections so there is no question at all where we stand on “the issues”.

Still . . . with the understanding that the vast majority of armed citizens are in exactly the same boat . . . if you are like me there is a “need” to do something.

Sheep

Don’t become one . . .

France disarmed their citizens in April of 1939, WWII began the following September. Today they require hunting and sporting licenses that require continual renewal and psychological evaluation. To me, that would imply that multiple generations are now simply used to the government “protecting” them. There is no need for self-defense – the government will take care of it. We can easily see those trends in our country today. Many in power, particularly those on the left, would willingly surrender their ability at self-protection to the “professionals”. As a citizen this is one of those spots where we must all simply plant our feet and make sure we elect representatives that understand that citizens have a fundamental right to defend their lives with the means necessary to resist an attacker – be they the local thug or ISIS member intent on a large body count.

You . . . the person you see in the mirror each and every day . . . are the one that has primary responsibility for your safety. That includes our ability to defend against a determined attacker. You certainly have the option to abandon this responsibility to a “higher power” . . . but at the end of the day the last line of defense lies with you. My suggestion? Arm yourself, take good coursework, train frequently and carry your defensive weapon each and every day. Is it within the realm of possibility that if a single individual would have been armed in the restaurant where 18 were killed – the outcome may have been different. A guarantee? No, but a possibility, a chance, and opportunity to change the outcome – most certainly.

Did I mention training??? To me, the word “training” means that you must do REAL RANGE WORK frequently. Work with your concealment gear, refine your presentation from concealment – for all types of weather, part of this simply requires live rounds downrange. If you want a round count, my suggestion is 1,000 – 1,500 rounds per year. At today’s price for my carry weapon, a Glock 17, that comes out to about $250 – $375 per year in ammunition costs. What can I say – real work costs real money, there are no shortcuts.

Get trauma training TODAY!!!! Build your blow out kit, carry one in your range bag, one in your car and throw a tourniquet and Israeli Bandage in your pocket/purse/murse as part of your EDC. In fact this morning I ordered yet another Sofft-W tourniquet and 4” Israeli Bandage to build into a pocket carry kit. Will I need it down the road? I hope not. But if I’m in a mall prior to Christmas and TSHTF, I sure the hell don’t want to be thinking how nice it would be if I had the kit from my car or range bag. If you have never taken any type of first aid training – please, please . . . take a course as part of your annual training cycle.

Don’t hide your head in the sand . . . become aware and study global events and trends. The attack on Paris was an eventuality . . . not a possibility but something bound to happen. We will see attacks in London, Berlin, Rome, NYC . . . and a host of other newsworthy locations. Those politicians that are “shocked” or “outraged” or “surprised” are either liars and just unhappy things occurred on their watch . . . or they are fools. As for our country’s safety from such an attack – remember the open border to our south and the realization that the first of the Syrian refugees began arriving in New Orleans today. It also seems that one of the Paris suicide bombers was also a Syrian refugee as well. Why are we even taking the risk with these folks? And this does not even begin to take into account our very own thugs, drug dealers and gang members. Keep your head in the game, know your community, know your region, look at the world’s stage . . .

Finally . . . to do nothing is to surrender the wellbeing of yourself, your family and those around you to the fates. The fates may well decide that today is the day you are fully tested . . . wouldn’t it be nice to have a fully loaded weapon on your side with a spare mag just to even things up a bit?

Wolves

Wolves are simply part of nature . . . and ISIS is simply part of human nature. A dark side, an evil side . . . put still part of human nature. They will always exist, they will never be fully “defeated”.

One of my favorite movies is Oh God! (both of them). In one scene “god” is trying to explain good and evil. The argument is that you can’t experience one without the other. Light/dark, good/evil . . . we need both to experience life. What we do with that defines the outcome.

Should the good man/woman surrender and submit to evil . . . it grows, expands and threatens all it its way. If we stand against it, fight it . . . it is diminished and “good” grows, expands and threatens the existence of evil. To do nothing against those who fed the spirits of the Paris attackers is to allow evil to grow and expand. They must be confronted – directly, with true military actions. But we must never kid ourselves that the evil they represent can ever be eradicated – it can simply be reduced in influence.

If we focus on Islam, you can see a wolf that is rapidly growing is strength and is an existential threat to all who do not submit. And yes, I spread this belief across the entire faith, not just the “radicalized” portions. If I begin to see articles, speeches, sermons by clerics against the evils of these “radical elements” I might soften my view. But such things are seldom if ever seen. Islam must be confronted and resisted on all fronts. Everywhere. Everyday. Without fail. Avoidance is surrender; it’s a simple as that.

Local wolves are prevalent as well. Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, LA, NYC, New Orleans, Memphis . . . to name just a few are fertile breeding grounds for wolves. And those communities are littered with bodies of sheep. We ignore them at our peril. Problems of broken families, broken schools, lost jobs, little opportunity . . . these are things we can do something. Elect officials that are pro-jobs, that expect and promote strong families, that demand excellence – real excellence – in education. This is a real battle that we need to fight every single day. Wolves need conflict to grow – reduce the conflict, increase prosperity . . . and wolves are diminished.

Where are we?

Paris is but a stone is a sidewalk. It is NOT a tragedy . . . IT IS NOT A TRAGEDY . . . it was an act of pure evil. While today’s multi-media makes it an overwhelming event it is but one event is the chain of humanity. A day, a week, a month, a year from now we will visit this kind of event again.

For today, let’s bury our dead, tend to the wounded . . .

And then it will be time to visit the wolf’s den . . .

Training – How Close is to Close?

 

On or about November 9th Sherry McLain was approached in a Wal-Mart parking lot by a man asking for a light. He got to within 10 feet when she pulled her gun and threatened to kill the fellow. He made a quick exit stage right . . . went back into the store and dialed 911. Ms. McLain was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment. She felt “in fear for my life” . . . the police saw no obvious threat. I’m sure it will be hashed out in the courts and I suspect not to the favor of Ms. McLain.

Please, take a moment to listen to the entire news spot and read the article, it will “set the table” for my thoughts on this topic.

http://www.newschannel5.com/news/local-news/woman-arrested-after-she-said-she-pulled-gun-in-self-defense

The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network is an organization dedicated to the legal defense of the armed citizen. They provide initial funding for attorney fees, bail money and enable an armed citizen who has been involved in a shooting to find local, experienced legal help. If you are an armed citizen you need to give serious consideration to membership in either this or a similar organization.

They also have a Facebook page and this incident took center stage for a day or two with a broad range of comments by many well-known firearms instructors. Again, I would like you take a few moments to take a pass through the comments, they give an interesting look into the landscape of how professional firearms trainers view the event . . . and this also helps “set the table” for this post. The link is as follows:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/221594457860509/permalink/1053816907971589/?comment_id=1054266461259967&offset=0&total_comments=131&notif_t=group_comment_reply

Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum . . . and Shirley McLain doesn’t live in one either. Just a couple more searches . . .

The first is a search for “parking lot assault Murfreesboro tenn”, the link is here . . .

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=parking+lot+assault+MURFREESBORO%2C+Tennn

The following attack caught my eye in the search . . .

http://wkrn.com/2015/11/04/woman-violently-sexually-assaulted-in-murfreesboro-parking-lot/

What if we tighten up the search to just Walmart parking lots (there are 3 in Murfreesboro) . . . it looks something like this . . .

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=walmart+parking+lot+assault+MURFREESBORO%2C+Tennn

Including a story about finding dead bodies in a Walmart parking lot . . .

http://www.wsmv.com/story/24585997/2-bodies-found-in-walmart-lot

One last search, about a favorite game played by the “yoots” of today – the “knock out game”. Is that played much in the quiet little burg of Murfreesboro?

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=knockout+game+MURFREESBORO%2C+Tennn

So let’s flesh out the table setting a bit.

Shirley McLain is 67 years old. As I begin to stare at that age myself I must admit that were I to go up against a good sized critter in their teens or 20s, I may well end up on the short end of a physical assault. During her on-air interview I made a number of judgments about her – she is fairly slight, obviously frightened (though that certainly in exacerbated by the past few days) and I did not get that she was merely “saying the words” – I was in fear of my life – I believe she truly believed she was under threat. I also got the impression that she lives alone. If true that could certainly add to her discomfort.

She lives in Murfreesboro area. Just take a moment to recall the violent assaults, the victims of the knockout game and the bodies actually found in a Wal-Mart parking lot. ALL of this plays into the formula that Ms. McLain sees herself living in. Whether she knows details of all or some of the incidents – I suspect she knows of some of them. It is certainly easy to imagine herself as being in danger by simply driving to a Wal-Mart parking lot. Extreme? Maybe – but to a career criminal I suspect a Wal-Mart parking lot looks more like an ATM than we care to admit.

We live in a 24-hour news cycle that thrives on the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality. Again, this plays into a belief that I see in many of the folks that take my defensive handgun classes – things are becoming “frayed around the edges”.

Does race play a part? Sadly, yes. If you watch today’s news the “face” of violent crime in urban area, that face is all too often black. For Ms. McLain to be afraid of an approaching black man is perfectly understandable to me. In an ideal world this would not be . . . we do not live in an ideal world.

I also want to spend a bit of time on the “victim’s” side of the fence as well. Seems he bought a pack of cigarettes – there is video and witnesses to support that. However, once in the parking lot his singular choice was to look out into the parking lot (reportedly busy by news accounts) and single out an unaccompanied, elderly white woman. Is that what comes to mind when you’re looking for someone with a light for your cigarette? Really?? Heck, I’d head for the redneck in the pickup! Not the little old lady.

A second question – why not just go back in the store and pick up a dollar lighter? They’re at virtually every checkout line I’ve ever seen. A couple minutes and you can light every cig in your pack.

I’m also curious just who this guy is. Seems he’s unwilling to be interviewed. Heck if it were me I’d love to go on TV and complain about the crazy old woman who shoved a gun in my face . . . yet he refuses to do so. Why?

With these “place settings” laid out upon the table . . . the courts will obviously have the final say. I suspect it won’t end well for Ms. McLain.

There are, though, a few more things to consider and lessons to be learned here. Here they are in no particular order.

“He never got within 10 feet” I call BS on this particular argument. Were he a dedicated attacker – and didn’t have a gun in his face, we may well be reading about the poor old woman beaten and robbed in the Walmart parking lot. If you have a determined attacker within 10 feet – and you’re not up and on target – it will not end well for you.

“Pepper Spray – that’s the answer” Heard this too. I give this a “maybe”. If the attacker is committed (and in this case this woman was SELECTED for approach) I suspect that pepper spray in the hands of a 67 year old woman be little in the way of a deterrent.

“Should have evaluated the pre-attack signs” Again – I give this a “maybe”. There is not enough information here to make a determination when Ms. McLain first saw her perceived threat. If he approached across a parking lot and she had eyes on him for a significant distance – that is one thing. If he just popped up on her – he’s probably very lucky (and she as well) that he left the scene with the same number of holes he arrived at.

There are obvious things that she either forgot – probably out of fear – that we all need to remember.

Being aware of people around us as we approach our cars in parking lots. As I said earlier – in many areas these are simply ATMs for the bad guys – keep your head in the game.

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO USE YOUR VOICE! While there were many witnesses that heard Ms. McLain threaten to kill the man in question – no one that I have heard describe the event heard her say anything about him staying away from her – that she wanted him to leave and had no interest in helping him. If your course work and training does not include a loud vocal challenge – I would encourage you to work that in as part of the shooting drills.

She is obviously going to have to defend her actions in court. There are four primary areas she is going to have to be able to articulate clearly – Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy and Preclusion. I’m not going to cover that here but if you go to THIS POST I covered it in detail. The best time to prepare for this type of defense is to take good coursework NOW, TODAY . . . no really, I mean right now and learn the things you need to be absolutely clear on should a defensive encounter occur. Massad Ayoob’s MAG-20 course is the one I point every one of my students towards should the opportunity arise. Just yanking a gun, sticking it in their face and threatening to kill them may seem like a good idea at the time – there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Finally, when the perceived threat ran away – that’s it, it’s over. Check your surroundings, holster your weapon and notify the police. DO NOT THREATEN TO KILL THEM WHILE THEY ARE RUNNING AWAY!!! Oh . . . and one other thing . . . DO NOT POINT A LOADED GUN AND EVERYONE ELSE BETWEEN YOU AND THE PERCEIVED THREAT AS THEY ARE RUNNING AWAY!!!!! Just sayin’.

So I disagree with the “quick answers” – never got within 10 feet, pepper spray, clearly no threat . . . there’s always more to it. Will that help Ms. McClain? Who knows but I would suspect not. Listening to the police, to the folks interviewed on TV – I think she’s going to get the “crazy old lady with a gun” treatment.

That does not mean that the guy wouldn’t have beaten her to a pulp if he hadn’t looked down the barrel of her revolver either . . .

For us, as armed citizens, it’s another example of why training is important. As instructors it helps point out things we need to make sure each and every student understands when they leave our classrooms.

And, as a society, it is yet another indication that things are, indeed, becoming “frayed around the edges”.

Is “blended learning” really the “future” of firearms training?

I recently read a blog post where the author opined that “blended learning” is the “future” of firearms training. As someone who has provided countless hours of in-person firearms training to a few thousand students, and who has also taken part in “blended learning” formatted instruction, this line of thought bothers me a bit.

Before we discuss why, let’s first talk a little about the concept of “blended learning”. “Blended learning” describes a form of instruction that involves multiple delivery methods. Usually, this consists of some form of audio/video presentation of certain portions of the coursework; perhaps a presentation recorded to DVD or, more likely in this day and age, some variety of e-learning software delivered via the internet, and then a follow-up session (or multiple sessions, depending on the coursework) with a teacher, instructor, or “test giver” at a later date. The idea behind the concept is that the student can utilize the e-learning portion of the coursework in the comfort of his or her own home, at his or her own convenience, and then not have to spend as much time at a later date attending the in-person portion of the coursework. It all sounds so good – take the training you desire to take in the comfort of your own home, whenever you feel like it, and then you only have to dedicate a limited amount of time “inconveniencing” yourself with actually having to leave your home and show up for a brief in-person session – I mean, what’s not to like?

In 2012, I attended a training seminar conducted by Rob Pincus in Kansas City, Missouri called “Counter Ambush”. This seminar was being recorded by a film crew and it was slated to later become the first Distance Learning Course ever offered by Rob and his training company. I spent about 8 hours in the class altogether. Rob covered a variety of topics throughout the day, many of them fairly complex, and he covered them in depth. There was a LOT of information taught in that class, and I learned a lot from attending. Due to the nature of the instruction (it was being filmed for a DVD production), it wasn’t possible to ask questions of Rob in real time. It would have simply been too disruptive to the flow of the content and would have created a nightmare for the editors. This presented a bit of a problem as the element of real-time Instructor/Student interaction simply wasn’t possible. Now we were largely able to overcome this problem because Rob made himself available to answer questions and engage in discussions at the completion of each segment of recording and during the lunch break, but from a pure learning standpoint, it would have been beneficial to all of the students in attendance if that interaction could have happened in real time.

A number of months after attending the class with Rob, the “Counter Ambush” distance learning course was released to the general public. Rob was kind enough to send me the complete at-home study course, including the information I needed to complete the e-learning module, take the test online, and receive a completion certificate (assuming I was able to pass the test). The home study course included a full set of 5 DVD’s that contained the recordings of the entire training class, a set of 5 audio CD’s that contained all of the audio from the class, the book, “Counter Ambush”, as well as a student work book designed to help the student prepare for the test. I have to admit that it was a few months before I finally sat down to take the online test. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my bigger priority was in truly learning all of the information presented in the course. I found myself listening to the audio CD’s as I traveled back and forth to work in the car. I probably listened to the entire set at least 20 times over the next few months (I have a fairly long commute). I also watched the DVD set a couple of times on days off. Additionally, I read the Counter Ambush book as time allowed. I finally sat down with the student work book and worked my way through all of the exercises. The next day I sat down at the computer, completed the e-learning module and took the test. I ultimately scored 98% on the test of my first time through and earned a course completion certificate.

I share this story in hopes to convey just how dedicated I was to this training program. I had a strong desire and high level of motivation to take the training. So much so that I took a day off of work and drove 4 ½ hours to Kansas City so I could attend. I took meticulous notes during the in-person class – five full pages in small print. I still have those notes and still refer to them from time to time. I asked a ton of questions at the end of the sessions and during the lunch breaks, and was provided with valuable feed back in exchange. I then spent another 50+ hours listening to the audio CD’s, watching the DVD set, reading the book, and taking the e-learning portion of the class. And I still listen to the audio set (now more conveniently loaded on my i-pod) every few months in my commute back and forth to work. In addition, I’ve conducted a considerable amount of my own study into a lot of the topics covered in the course. I also continue to consult with Rob on a regular basis and have incorporated a lot of the concepts into my own proprietary coursework.

My point here is that I truly learned a lot in this “blended learning” format. More than I can even try to convey in a blog post. Not only that, but what I learned from the coursework, I’ve actually gone on to anchor and, in my view, even master. Between the information I learned from the class and the subsequent study I’ve done on my own, I am able to speak about and teach the concepts with a high level of competency.

So why won’t the “blended learning” format work for new, inexperienced shooters when it comes time to learn the mechanical aspects and operation of firearms and ammunition, safe gun handling practices, and basic shooting fundamentals? Well, there is nothing that says it absolutely can’t work. Though there are certainly a considerable number of hurdles that would have to first be overcome. My understanding of the new “blended learning” format that is going to be rolled out by one of the most prominent training organizations in the country is that the “blended learning” courses will involve an e-learning module delivered via the internet, then will involve the student meeting in-person with an instructor at a later date who will then perform some variety of evaluation to ascertain whether or not the student actually learned the information presented in the e-learning module. Then, if the instructor is satisfied with the knowledge level of the student, he or she will conduct some variety or live-fire session and then either give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” depending on how well the student performed, before a completion certificate will be issued.

Here are the most major problems with this proposed format as I see them:

First and foremost, in order for learning at any level to take place, regardless of format, it requires a considerable amount of dedication and motivation on the part of the student. This level of dedication and motivation is rather easy for a competent, living, breathing instructor to ascertain. It’s also fairly easy for the competent instructor to help nurture dedication and inspire motivation. As I explained in my story above, I was very dedicated and highly motivated in my “blended learning” experience, and I learned a lot. I am a “self starter”. Many people are not. In fact, from what I’ve seen in many of the beginner level courses I’ve been involved with is that most people aren’t. A lot of students seem to show up to these kinds of classes simply so they can “check off the box” and complete the training their state mandated they complete before being issued a carry permit or a permit to purchase a firearm. Oftentimes a competent, dedicated instructor can “get through” to them during the class and you can see a real change in their motivation and dedication. I simply don’t see any way an e-learning module will ever be able to do that. These “check the box” students will likely do the bare minimum needed to complete the on-line test at the end of the module with a passing grade. They will then show up to the in-person training session and waste the instructor’s time in addition to wasting the time of any other students in attendance, not to mention their own time. Of course, they will go home blaming the instructor for all of their problems and their lack of competency at the end of the day.

Secondly, we have to understand the different types of learners in order to appreciate the dynamic instruction that is provided by a professional, competent trainer. There are three primary learning styles. These include Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinisthetic Learners. Visual Learners tend to learn best through visual stimulation. They require visual access to the complete presentation – body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, and any written or multi-media presentation that goes with it – in order to get the most out of the instruction. Auditory Learners learn best by hearing, listening, and speaking. They learn best by being involved in discussions, listening to a well-presented lecture, and by participating in brainstorming sessions with other participants. Lastly, is the Kinisthetic Learner. They learn best in a hands-on learning environment. They need to be able to touch, feel, and interact with the physical world around them in order to learn best.

The problem presented by “blended learning”, specifically an e-learning system, is that it falls short with every type of learner mentioned. Recorded media, as good as it is and even in an interactive form, simply can’t provide all of the visual components that the Visual Learner requires. It fails the Auditory Learner because it can’t fulfill the need for auditory interaction. Even in its most interactive forms, it can’t involve the Auditory Learner in discussions or in brainstorming sessions. And the shortcomings it presents to the Kinisthetic Learner are innumerable. It simply fails in every way.

The third problem is accountability. I’ve yet to see this organization address this potential problem. If students are completing a significant portion of the training via an e-learning module in the comfort of their home, and scheduling the in-person session at a later date, the instructor really has no way to know for certain that the person showing up for the in-person session is the one who actually completed the e-learning module. As an instructor, I’d have a hard time giving my “endorsement” to a student whom I am uncertain actually completed the coursework in its entirety.

The fourth major problem is that it undermines the credibility of the instructor. In the case of a national training organization, students will definitely wonder why the informational part of the coursework has been taken out of the hands of the instructor and switched to an e-learning format. If the organization doesn’t trust the instructor to provide competent instruction, why should the student trust him or her? Credibility is paramount as a trainer. Without credibility, the trainer will never gain the trust of the student. Furthermore, it simply doesn’t make sense from a logical standpoint to entrust instructors to provide live-fire training, when you don’t trust them with providing informational training. I dare say the former requires considerably more competence and integrity than the later, at least in matters of liability.

The last major problem as I see it is that this format will increase the cost of training to the student. A quality e-learning system and the required software are not inexpensive. While to my knowledge a price structure has not been released, whatever the cost of the e-learning portion of the class can be added to whatever the current rate for in-person instruction is now. An instructor’s time doesn’t suddenly become less valuable just because the accrediting organization has decided to sell a portion of the training directly. So if the student can currently purchase the entire class via an in-person format for $100, the same class will now cost them $100 plus what I am guessing will be somewhere in the $50 – $75 neighborhood for the e-learning portion. This is a significant price increase. Multiply that by the number of family members that would potentially take the training, and it could be a real financial burden. And while the living, breathing instructor might be willing to provide a family discount, you can be pretty certain that the e-learning system won’t do the same.

In summary, while it might be possible for “blended learning” to work for some new, inexperienced shooters as far as teaching the basics is concerned, it is my belief that it won’t work for many based on the reasons I mentioned above. Safe, effective shooting skills can be compared to most any other set of athletic skills as far as skill development is concerned. It takes dedication and motivation on the part of the student, and requires the guidance of an experienced, competent coach or instructor if the student is to ever reach his or her full potential. While I am hoping to see better results than I expect once the “blended learning” courses are made available, I can’t help but feel as though I will be disappointed at the end of the day.

As always, stay safe.

Chris Shoffner

MAPSI Founding Member

chris.shoffner@mapsitraining.com

Just the Basics – Triggers – They Matter

 

So bit by bit I’ve crept down the rabbit hole of long range shooting. I think I’ve reached the bottom of the first level with this post . . . Triggers – They Matter. Obviously, as with all things “geek” there are virtually no limits to details, new gear, shooting techniques . . . I get it. I think it’s one of the things I enjoy about defensive shooting and this introduction to long range shooting. That said, this post will close out the “introductory phase” of my learning process – with more to follow I am sure.

There is, perhaps, no single element that affects an accurate and precise shot more than “consistency”. A consistent cartridge – from the case to the powder to the primer or the bullet weight to the precision of its assembly is one of the first requirements. Then there’s the barrel built just precisely to impart the correct rotation as well as velocity. There is the optic that can be aligned to match the ballistics of the cartridge as perfectly as possible. There is the peripheral gear – scope levels, bipods, shooting bags. All of these items must align to produce a weapon that consistently delivers and accurate and precise shot each and every time the trigger is pressed.

So, it seems fitting that that is where I end this portion of my exploration . . . where the final act of firing the rifle ends . . . with the end pad of my right hand trigger finger being smoothly pressed to the rear until the trigger breaks, the sear is released and the hammer strikes the firing pin. This last little piece of the puzzle that must be consistent to insure that I can shoot the rifle to within its manufactured capabilities . . . and my desire of having a 1 MOA .223 rifle to continue to learning with.

So let’s see where I started out. Below is my final target from a couple weeks ago when I mounted my Nikon Prostaff BDC scope to my backup .223.

20151003_154559 (Large)

Notice that overall the shot placement was accurate and I had a number of precise groups . . . yet the overall group size was closer to 2.25 MOA rather than my desired 1 MOA. The weapon is a “build” with a Bushmaster upper, an inexpensive lower receiver, a DPMS lower receiver kit and an off the shelf, no name stock. Nothing tricky because my intention was to use this carbine as a backup for the CFS course I took this past June. What I noticed was that once my scope was mounted and my final adjustments were made – trying to breach that 2 MOA level of accuracy was something I simply could not pull off. What I did notice was that the trigger break was fairly inconsistent with some being “normal”, some being “heavy”, some feeling like kind of “grindey” and a few that were smooth.

DMPA AR-10 Stock Trigger Grou2 (Large)

Since I had noticed a real improvement when I replaced the trigger group in my AR-10 with a new Timney trigger group I suspected that the same would be true with my backup AR-15. So I punched up Amazon and made yet another withdrawal from the credit card’ s limit.

timney trigger group (Large)

Tinmey Trigger Group 1 (Large)

 

So, was the result noticeable? After firing 10 rounds to get the feel of the new 3lb Timney trigger, I settled down to shoot two more targets doing my very best to perform the fundamentals properly . . . good placement of the scope crosshairs on the target, light touch on the grip, bipod properly loaded, good cheek weld, rear bags properly in place, breathing naturally and pressing the trigger smoothly during a respiratory pause . . .

The final result?

223 final with new trigger (Large)

I’m happy to say I noticed real improvement with each target showing a 5-round group – on each – now at 1.25 MOA – a significant improvement.

There is value in answering the question of “why the difference”. If you take a moment and look at the DPMS trigger group first notice that it consists of three primary components – the trigger, the sear and hammer. There are also two springs on either side of the trigger group to provide enough force for the hammer to strike the firing pin to ignite the primer. These come as a loose set of parts. Two pins slide through the lower receiver to hold the trigger group in the proper place . . . to a point. But past that the group has a fair amount of wiggle room. It is this wiggle room, this inconsistency from one trigger press to the next that can introduce the differences I spoke about earlier. These small inconsistencies add up resulting is a less than desirable group size. I am not saying that even with these inconsistencies the weapon does not meet my expectations of a defensive firearm – it does. But when I began to desire an accurate and precise shot that my expectations were not met.

Now, look at the Timney trigger group. It is a precision piece of gear that is machined and assembled to an exacting standard. Each and every trigger press is exactly 3 pounds. All the components are mounted in a housing that is in turn positioned by the mounting pins but the entire group is then held in place by locking screws. There is no wiggle or subtle movements. This insures that each and every trigger press is exactly the same. And that had a profound effect on the accuracy and precision of my group sizes. It was well worth the cost and effort to move this weapon to the “next level”.

I had mounted the targets to a standard “Q” target that had been used while I had helped our local PD complete their annual qualification shoot the night before. There happened to be a clean “head” to shoot at so I loaded another 10 rounds and shot 5 groups of accelerated pairs. Shot a 90% when all was said and done, I’ll take it for now.

20151105_152634 (Large)

From here on out, it’s on me . . . to practice the fundamentals, to spend the range time to improve, to demand that I get better and to continue to take course work to develop this portion of my shooting skillset.

Saturday will be my first long range shooting competition. We’ll see if I can keep my head in the game for each and every shot. 6 stations, right at 60 rounds out to 800 yards. Honestly, I’m kinda excited!

Keep working hard folks, new skills take time and dedication to learn – and real effort to keep them sharp.

Enjoy!

Training – Prep For Your First LR Shooting Competition

 

The decent down the rabbit hole continues. Jim See has formed an Iowa Precision Shooters group with the intent of holding precision shooting competitions in our region. Our first one is November 7th. There will be 6 stages, 3 prone and 3 from improvised barricades. Each stage will require 8 – 10 rounds with time limits of 90 to 180 seconds. There was no indication of the ranges but the max range for the shooting venue is 800 yards . . . should be interesting. I sense my tail is about to slip below the surface!

So I want to take a few lines to share my prep for this event. And, I want to take a short detour to share why I even bother to share it . . . or anything else on this blog for that matter. Then we’ll get to the “meat”.

I had an interesting conversation with a shooter/trainer whose opinion I value. They are direct, honest and detailed when I look for feedback. They have been kind enough to evaluate coursework I’ve developed and I found their AAR to be of real value. As we chatted some interesting words came out of the Bluetooth earpiece . . . “You know, you’re rare in our industry . . . very few will offer their work up for such evaluation.” I pondered that for a bit – sadly I suspect the evaluation is true.

As instructors I believe we must challenge ourselves . . . on the range, in the classroom and it what we choose to develop and offer to prospective students. If we can’t answer the where’s, whys and how comes . . . honestly we have no business offering anything to a student. Since I focus on the “new and inexperienced” shooter most of what I offer is basic or foundational. One of the quickest – and perhaps the most uncomfortable ways – is to hold yourself up to your peers for review and evaluation.

And another is to share what you’ve learned, how you’ve learned it, what your thoughts are, what your opinions are . . . so others can learn from your mistakes and successes. And that, good reader, IS the purpose of this blog . . . so you can learn for both my words and experiences – it’s as simple as that. Back to the title of this post – preparing for your first LR precision shooting meet.

The Gun

It needs to be both precise and accurate, at least 1 MOA and reliable.  I described my current LR gun here as I prepped for my first LR Shooting Course. As you can see it’s a 16” carbine – not a typical choice for a LR weapon. But, it’s what I have and what I will use for this next year because it’s real purpose is a longer range defensive firearm.

The Gun

I have upgraded the scope to a Prostaff 5 with a Mil Dot reticle. It’s certainly not a $2,500 piece of glass but I am more than satisfied with it as I begin learning this new skill.

At the end of the day I was able to shoot a couple of sub-MOA groups and a solid MOA group with the level of accuracy I wanted. I’m satisfied it will do the job . . . now we’ll see if I can.

100Y Zero Target

As described above I’ve added a Timney trigger, a Harris bipod, Vortex scope level . . . it’s as ready as I know how to make it.

Rear Bags

The whole idea is to separate your muscles from the gun. By doing this you reduce unwanted tremors that reduce your precision. One of the tools used to do this are rear bags. This looks like one of those “options” that you can easily go crazy on. Already I’ve tried a half dozen. I’ve added a couple for this match . . . the Weibad Mini Cube and Todd Tac Bag. They are used to help you “build your position” to make sure your weapon is as stable as possible. Honestly, this is one of those areas I’m still working my way through . . . we’ll see how it goes on the 7th.

Flatline Ops Rear Bag   Wiebad Mini Cube Rear BagWiebad Todd Tac Bag

Ammunition

Consistency is the key . . . a consistent position, consistent trigger press, consistent pull weight and a consistent cartridge. While I have reloading gear for the .308 I’m not “there” yet to load a consistent cartridge for the match. The alternative . . . match grade ammunition. My choice is the .308 Hornady 178gr BTHP.

Range Time

THIS is where I’m lacking . . . heavy sigh. I’d love to spend a couple hours each week on this particular skill set. Sadly, real life has a tendency to poke its nose into my fun. But, that said . . . if I focus on the fundamentals of sight alignment, sight picture, reading the wind and trigger press – I am hopeful I’ll not make a fool of myself. Again, time will tell.

Dope

“Dope” is the fundamental adjustments you will need to make to your scope to adjust for bullet drop and windage (the biggies) and a whole host of other things. It’s specific to your barrel, bullet, speed and direction of the wind and the distance to the target. This is my dope for my particular round for this match. The advantage of having this info printed out is that should my Strelok Pro fail on my Android . . . I have everything I need. I also suspect glancing at the sheet will be quicker that punching in the data . . . again, we’ll see.

Clothing

The last piece here is the same as any coursework – dress for the weather. It’s supposed to be in the upper 40s to low 50s with 60% chance of rain. We’re gonna have weather . . . dress for it. It’s as simple as that.

So there you have it – I’m as ready as I’m going to be. The thing I’m really looking forward to is simply the learning opportunity. There are 20+ shooters signed up. Each will have their own thoughts, ideas, methods . . . untold opportunities to learn. Should be fun.

AAR to follow, hope to get enough photos to give you all an idea of how it went. To hold you over a bit here is a link to the Precision Rifle Series 2014 Finale . . . some pretty good shooters there! Enjoy!!

Training – Accidental, Negligent, Complacent, Ignorant, Stupid

 

On the evening of Friday, October 16th Cody Deneault and his pregnant wife went to the movie theater in Salina, KS to celebrate his birthday. In his pocket was loaded and UNSHOLSTERED handgun. I’m sure you know where this is going . . . during the movie he stuck his hand inside his pocket to adjust its position . . . and shot himself in the leg.

From the news article’s interview with him . . . (Links to the news story and another blog’s thoughts are at the end of this post)

Let’s chat a bit about this incident and the “mindset” of Cody Deneault in the aftermath of the event.

Accidental

  • arising from extrinsic causes
  • occurring unexpectedly or by chance
  • happening without intent or through carelessness and often with unfortunate results

Negligent

  • marked by or given to neglect especially habitually or culpably
  • failing to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances

Complacent

  • marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

Ignorant

  • destitute of knowledge or education,
  • lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
  • resulting from or showing lack of knowledge

Stupid

Lest some think I am riding atop my high horse, I too have experience an unexpected discharge of a firearm causing a lifelong memory as intense as if it happened this past weekend.

It was in the opening weeks of pheasant season in Michigan. My dad had passed away 6 or 7 years earlier and my mom was intent that I would be able to go hunting if I so desired. On the day in question she rushed home from her job at the post office, we loaded up my dad’s full choke 12ga Browning semiautomatic shotgun, hopped into the car and drove to a 20 acre plot of land we owned so I could walk the fields for a bit before it got dark. This was my first time hunting with the 12ga and, frankly, I was unfamiliar with how it worked. I figured out how to put 3 or so rounds in it, I knew enough that I should put it on “safe” before I started walking and I did know about “safe directions”. What I didn’t know was . . . which way was safe? When you could see the red band . . . or when you couldn’t?. To me, at age 12-14 what made perfect sense was that if I could see red . . . that would STOP the trigger. You know stop signs are red . . . right? So, before we headed into the field I thought I would test my theory. I pressed the safety so I could see the red band, I was smart enough to know what a safe direction was, I positioned the butt stock firmly in my crotch . . . I know, I know . . . the home of my future progeny . . . and pressed the trigger fully expecting to not have the trigger go anywhere because . . . red band . . . stop sign . . . it all sounded so reasonable in my head when I worked it out.

Imagine my utter shock when Goliath of Old Testament times appeared out of nowhere and promptly kicked me in the balls with his number 50s!!! I was stunned!! I was breathless!! My mom, being entirely clueless of my balls-on science experiment, hollered over to my row . . . “Did you shoot one honey?!?!?” I must confess I never told her this story though if she’s looking over my shoulder I hope she knows how much I loved her for taking me hunting and that she is having a good chuckle with my dad over my story.

So in that instance, I had a purposeful discharge of a firearm, in a safe direction to wring out an experiment because I was ignorant. Stupid perhaps, but I’ll stick with ignorant simply because everything was done with purpose and in a safe direction. On the plus side . . . I’ve never forgotten the lesson . . . ever! And, was still able to have a great son and daughter a few years down the road so no lasting damage was done.

“Hunt for Red October” Admiral Josh Painter: “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”

As Admiral Painter put it . . . if we allow the way we handle our defensive firearm to get out of control . . . if we are carless . . . if we are complacent . . . if we are stupid . . . we’ll will be lucky to leave this life with the same number of holes with which we entered.

You carry a loaded defensive handgun to protect your life, the lives of your family or someone in your charge. And while we all hear of the “21 foot rule”, the “2 second rule” and a host of other “rules” surrounding our ability to present our defensive handgun quickly enough to stop a threat . . . the FBI boils it down in a slightly different way. Approximately 86% of all engagements happen within 12 to 15 feet. Up close and personal. Working to be quick enough to engage a real threat at that distance should be the goal of all of us.

So in Mr. Deneault case . . . what went wrong. Let’s look at how he characterized his “misshap”.

  • “I think I either bumped the trigger or pushed it the wrong way or something and it went off,” Cody said.
  • “I’d say my biggest mistake here was probably I didn’t have a holster,” he said. “And that is on me, for sure.”

There was no accident here . . . bumping a trigger . . . pushing it the wrong way . . . is not an accident when the weapon is buried in your pocket, you are seated in a theater and the lights are out. Oh . . . and this little gem . . . “my biggest mistake here was probably I didn’t have a holster” . . . that is NOT an accident . . . that is negligence, pure and simple. What lead to this?

I suspect complacency played no small part. “I was in the military!” “I’m a law enforcement officer!” “I’ve been shooting all my life!” These statements attempt to characterize the shooter as someone skilled in the use of a handgun. Actually military service or LEO experience does little to guarantee the shooter is experienced in the use of their handgun. In fact, I fine that most in these categories spend little range time getting real work done – most focus on “qualifying” . . . and little else. I suspect Mr. Deneault fell into this trap convincing that his military time suddenly gave him skills that he’s actually spent little time on.

Ignorance certainly played a role here. Had he taken any serious coursework regarding defensive carry he would have – at the very least – insured that he had a proper holster for his pocket carry and that he was reasonably proficient in drawing it smoothly and quickly. Ignorance can be a killer . . . did you take advanced work this year? Did you take any coursework this year? How’s that range time coming?

As reluctant as I am to use a more coarse term . . . Stupid easily applies here.

  • given to unintelligent decisions or acts
  • acting in an unintelligent or careless manner

The choice to pocket carry without a holster that covers the trigger is certainly an unintelligent decision and making such a decision is undoubtedly carless. In reading his responses to the reporter it is apparent he has learned little from this experience. I would not be surprised to see his name in the paper somewhere down the road in some very similar circumstance.

He good news? He shot himself . . . and not his wife, or unborn child, or anyone else in the theater. And I pray a light goes on somewhere that will lead him to more training and to a place where he takes his responsibility of carrying a defensive weapon a bit more seriously.

Bottom line . . . don’t be stupid!

http://concealednation.org/2015/10/cody-deneault-has-an-excuse-for-why-his-gun-went-off-in-a-movie-theater-the-other-day-it-was-an-accident-whoops/

http://www.kwch.com/news/local-news/accidental-shooter-in-salina-theater-knows-guns/35953350?ver=9

Review – MAGPUL DYNAMICS – Precision Rifle

 

Rabbit holes can be challenging. My current quest, as I’ve covered in a couple posts, is one of becoming a good long range shooter. This means that my goal is to shoot my AP4 to the level of its capabilities. It has proven to be capable of sub-MOA work and can reliably produce a group 1 MOA plus or minus 1/10. That’s my goal, to do this upon demand.

I also hate to look stupid or unskilled . . . I know you’re all shocked! So, as with all things I jump into (and believe me there’s a ton of topics that grab my attention from Astronomy to Wilderness Survival) I jump in with both feet, hit the books, hit the “classroom” and – in today’s world – I look for solid coursework on the Internet (think Udemy or Creativelive for example) or on DVD. In my review of Jim See’s long range shooting course I linked to MAGPUL DYNAMICS “The Art of The Precision Rifle” as one of my source materials for course preparation. If you are poking your nose down this particular rabbit hole and looking for some good foundational material, you could do much worse than this $38, 5-DVD, 10 hour set of coursework. Honestly, it’s a no brainer – send them your money, wait for the brown truck of happiness and enjoy!

   Cover (Large)   Back Panel (Large)Inside Panels (Large)

So, I thought I’d take a bit of time and do a review of this set of coursework.

The primary players on for the majority of the video are Todd Hodnett, Chris Costa, Travis Haley, Steve Fisher, Mike Olivella and Caylen Wojcik. Todd Hodnett is the President of Accuracy 1st – a company specializing in training long range shooters (both civilian and military/LE) as well as selling products to assist the shooter.

At the time of filming Chris, Travis, Steve, Mike and Caylen were instructors for Magpul Dynamics. Magpul Dynamics has morphed into Magpul CORE and still offer the Long Range 1 course that seems to follow the first 2 DVDs of this material.

Caylen Wojcik continues to work for Magpul as their Director of Training for Long Range Shooting. Steve Fisher now acts as a Trainer/Business Consultant in his company Sentinel Concepts. Mike Olivella is currently a Trainer/Coach for SOLKOA Inc. in Florida. Chris Costa left Magpul in 2012 and founded Costa Ludus LLC specializing and weapons and tactics training. Finally, Travis Haley also left Magpul and founded Haley Strategic, offering a broad range of training and custom equipment.

The course work was divided into a five disc set, each focused on multiple topics. I’ll list the contents of each and then give you my thoughts on its individual content.

DISC1 – Course Part 1 (142 min)

 

  • Intro
  • Rifle Setup
  • Zeroing
  • Reticles
  • Truing
  • Ballistics
  • Cold Bore vs Clean Bore
  • Trace

DISC 1 focused on the foundation – the rifle, its configuration, the equipment tacked on it (bipod, stock, scope, rear bags), zeroing the weapon, building your position behind the gun, loading the bipod, the various Reticles available and a ton of little bits and pieces of wisdom that Todd Hodnett has picked up over the years teaching this type of coursework. The range was setup through a valley in Texas. Targets ranged from a couple hundred yards to a mile. I’d say most the shooting was done between 400 yards and 1100 yards. DISC 1 is worth the price of admission along just for the amount of info presented regarding the weapon and the shooters position.

DISC 2 – Course Part 2 (133 min)

 

  • Broken Scope Field Zero
  • Accuracy 1st Wind Formula
  • Wind Course Part 1
  • Wind Course Part 2
  • Wind Course Part 3
  • Wind Course Wrap Up
  • The One Mile Shot
  • Mindset
  • Wrap Up

The focus of this entire DVD was wind, wind, wind, wind, wind . . . While mild winds have little effect on a 100 yard shot, push that shot out to 300, 500, 800, 1000 yards and you bullet can easily be pushed left or right distances larger that the width of your entire target. By observing surrounding grasses, indicator flags, mirage an estimate of the wind speed and direction can be made. Then, either by experience, ballistics tables for your particular bullet and cartridge or through the use of a Ballistics Calculator a “hold” can be developed so the reticle can be used in such a way to allow the “hold” to account for the speed of the wind and its direction insuring that your bullet still strikes your intended target. Honestly, in watching the 3-part wind course and experiencing Jim See call the wind during his long range shooting course . . . this is much more an art form than a purely computational problem. I suspect I will be putting many more rounds down range before I am anywhere near comfortable with this particular stretch of the “rabbit hole”.

The distances they were shooting were pretty darn impressive. The weapons ran the gamut from a .338 to a .308 carbine. It was a pretty impressive 2 hour display.

DISC 3 – USMC Fundamentals (126 min)

 

  • The Sniper
  • The USMC Sniper
  • LE Sniper
  • Tools of the Military Sniper
  • Data Books
  • Exercises
  • Quick Reference Drills

I wonder how many long range shooters visualize themselves as a sniper on over watch. The reality is that actually shooting is but a very, very small part of a sniper’s job. Much of it revolves around data gathering, acting as a spotter for artillery, mortar fire or close air support. And, on occasion they take out a designated target. That said, the shooting process, the preparation, the training, the mindset was well laid out and is certainly applicable for the civilian long range shooter. It was also noted that many of the requirements for a military sniper carry into the law enforcement community. In fact, given that law enforcement snipers operate in a community environment their requirement for precise shots is significantly higher.

Some time was also spent on Data Books. These are used as direct feedback to you, the shooter, to evaluate your level of training, your understanding of what exactly you are doing on the range and to provide solid data on the performance of your particular weapon. Secondarily, they provide good documentation that you are serious about your training.

DISC 4 – Gear (97 min)

 

  • Bolt Action
  • Semi-Automatic
  • Ancillary Gear
  • Rifle Optics
  • Muzzle Accessories
  • Support Equipment

This DVD drilled down much more comparing bolt action weapons to semi-automatic weapons. It covered rear bags, bipods, shooting sticks, tripods, hand held weather stations, rifle scopes and various reticles, muzzle breaks, suppressors and various support equipment. There is no shortage of gear you can spend money on. There was a lot of solid information, well thought-out discussion and ideas you might want to review before you head to the gun store.

DISC 5 – Bonus Features (93 minutes)

This disc filled in any remaining blanks that I could see. They covered cleaning, unconventional positions, long range trajectories and ways you can push yourself as a long range shooter.

Obviously, to get through the entire set of discs you are looking at 10 hours. The majority of the “meat” is contained in the first two discs, but that in no way implies that you should take a pass on the remaining three. I found real value in each disc, each lesson and each shooting example.

So, would I consider this a long range shooting course? No, not really. But for me, a data geek, it was nice to have some of the terminology, the basics and a general idea of a direction before I took Jim See’s long range course. None of the information conflicted with Jim’s approach. And, I did feel like it gave me a bit of a leg up since I’d never shot at the distances Jim asked of us.

“The Art of The Precision Rifle” is well worth your time and the $38 that Amazon is asking for the product.

Enjoy!

Training – Dry Fire – An Update

 

Dry Fire: The act of drawing and engaging a “threat” with an empty firearm for the purpose of refining your skill set.

It’s beginning to lean into the corner turn between fall and winter with a full return to warm, comfortable range days some 5 months in the future. Oh, it’s still pretty darn nice out at the range here in Iowa – it was 70*F today . . . but promises of mid-40s and lower in the next few weeks leads me to believe it might be worthwhile to revisit my indoor dry fire range, chat a bit about the purpose of dry fire and to lay out some of the tools I use.

The definition is mine . . . dry fire is the act of drawing your unloaded (checked 3 times and still aimed in a safe direction) defensive carry weapon and engaging a threat with 3-5 rounds high center mass with a slow and safe holster at the end of the drill. Or, perhaps with a precise shot to the head or some other called box or threat. You can get real work done on every aspect of your draw and engagement with the exception of recoil management . . . it is well worth your time.

Safety. I have, at times, heard the words . . . “I know it’s empty, I’ve dropped the magazine – but, just to satisfy you, I’ll rack the slide one more time!” And, I’ve observed the genuine surprise of their face as they rack the slide and eject a live round on to the floor. It’s a reminder that there are NO SHORTCUTS to safety – rack your slide 3 times to insure that your defensive weapon is, indeed, empty.

At the same time, make sure there is NO AMMUNTION in the room! That includes the backup magazine you carry on your person. There should be nothing around you but an empty gun and empty magazines.

Set up your “range” so when you “fire” at the targets, you are pointing in a safe direction or into a “berm” that can handle the discharge of a live round.

Consider a LaserLyte round. I’ve reviewed their full system in the past – and still use their target with my SIRT pistol, but their cartridges are an excellent tool to provide a visual indicator of your sight alignment, sight picture in your everyday carry weapon – and to insure that your chamber does not have a live cartridge in it. The only disadvantage to these “rounds” is that you cannot use them for multi-round engagements; you will need to work the slide each and every time unless you have a DA semiautomatic pistol.

I am very fond of the SIRT pistol, which I reviewed here. I have the Glock 17 look-a-like and have probably sent thousands upon thousands of rounds “down range” with them. I bought the 3-pack for use in my coursework – another great benefit to these particular training aids. As you can see in the review, they fit my carry holster just like my daily carry weapon, have the ability to change magazines and provide a solid laser indicator of where the “round” hit. The slide is not operational, nor – obviously – is there any recoil management issues. But, for working on the speed of my draw stroke, clearing my cover garment, the accuracy of my first round hit (and follow-up hits sans recoil) and allowing me to practice magazine changes without damaging a real magazine by ejecting it on to the floor – there is no training tool out there that is better in my opinion.

The cost of a pistol and a couple magazines is $200-ish. While that may seem pricy – in today’s market this is equivalent of around 1,000 rounds of Blazer 115gr FMJ ball ammunition – the ability it provides you to build a “range” in a spare room, the elimination of travel time to and from the range, the ability to grab 15 minutes of range time pretty much any time you wish – and the prospect that ammo may once again become as rare as hen’s teeth some time down the road – I’ve decided that my investment in a SIRT pistol has been well worth it!

Finally, here’s my “range”.

Dry Fire Wall 10-14-2015 (Large)

It occupies about 1/3 of an office wall and has “evolved” over the past couple years. It has everything from a dot torture to outlines for IDPA targets out to -200 yards. It also has the LaserLyte target as well. It allows me to do everything from simple draw and engagement drills to more complex cognition drills. A handy way to mix this up is to build 5-minute drill sets on your cell phone’s audio recorder. You can find an example here. (To save it on your computer simply right click on the screen and select “save as”.) There are 10 ea. 30-second “drills” in this example. On the “UP!” command send 3-5 rounds to the high center mass of your selected target. On a “ONE” or a “SQUARE” or a “HEAD” deliver a one-round precise shot to the designated box/number. (This also works on a live fire range if you have one of the blue tooth ear pieces or a blue tooth speaker available). So in the 30 seconds you must draw, engage your target, scan and assess your situation and then holster your weapon. 5 minutes is easy to slip into your routine a couple times a day and by building your own 5 minute drill sets and then using your shuffle capability in your phone, you can come up with a dry fire drill set that is NOT boring and will challenge you. Give it a try.

So how do your approach your dry fire time? Well, just like you would a live fire trip. Have a plan. What do you want to work on? Accuracy? Dropping the time of your draw stroke? Your magazine change? Single or multiple target engagements? Headshots with a family member held hostage? Dot torture? Frankly, with the exception of recoil management – there is simply no limit to what you can work on.

Don’t take shortcuts. It can be all too simple to just work from a high compressed ready or a low ready and not integrate a draw from your holster. Answer me this . . . if this “range time” is supposed to help you win a gun fight . . . how many of you walk around with your defensive weapon at the high compressed ready? No shortcuts. Remove your carry weapon and spare magazine from your person and store it safely. Or, prepare it for use by dropping the magazine and clearing the chamber . . . rack the slide 3 times!! Then, I would strongly suggest you insert a LaserLyte round to make sure there can never be a live round in the chamber until your session is over.

Use a timer. It will only give you a draw time, but it will provide some level of uncertainty when you will need to draw. Depending on which weapon you are using, it may record your first round being “fired” . . . or not. I find the PACT Club Timer I use typically will not record my SIRT pistol’s trigger press. That said, the randomness of the timer has value IMNSHO.

Record your dry fire training. While no holes are made . . . the time you spent is real training time. Should the worst ever happen and your find yourself in court I believe there is real value in having a log that shows you have a history of taking your firearms training seriously.

Have goals. Cleaning Dot Torture. All rounds within the sensor target on a LaserLyte electronic target. Work your magic on Todd Green’s FAST drill. Record your results – so you know where you came from and so you gain confidence you can get to where you want to go.

Does this take the place of your live fire range time? Obviously not. But, it can be a very economical and convenient way to get good work done when you simply can’t make it to the range this week . . . or month . . . or quarter . . . or year . . .

Dry Fire . . . It Does A Shooter Good!

Just the Basics – Accuracy and Precision

Accuracy

  • Exactness.
  • The ability of a measurement to match the actual value of the            quantity being measured.

Precision

  • The state or quality of being precise; exactness.
  • The ability of a measurement to be consistently reproduced.
I’ve started . . . and I mean just started . . . down the rabbit hole of long range shooting. My current weapon of choice for this endeavor is a Panther Arms AP4 .308.
20151003_151341 (Large).
I’ve described it to varying degrees here, here and here. The last link has a title of “Training – Long Guns . . . and shooting the accurately . . . Part 1 – What does “accurate” mean?” Accuracy is simply part of this equation . . . there is also “precision”. So let’s spend a bit of time defining “accuracy” and “precision” and their place in the shooting community – particularly long range shooting.

Accuracy is the more flexible of the two terms because it is up to personal interpretation. If you take a walk through my last article referred to above – there actually is a place for “close enough for government work”. If you are talking about the arena I spend most of my time in, defensive shooting, you must be accurate enough to get combat effective hits on a defined threat as quickly as possible. This comes under Rob Pincus’ idea of a “balance of speed and precision”. It typically shakes out as 3-5 rounds, high center mass in an open palm sized group. Anything within that area will have a real effect on the threat’s ability to continue their attack on you. There is no need to take the amount of time it would take to make sure all the rounds created the smallest group possible.

What if your required POA becomes “the head shot”? I talked about that at length here. Now the size of your target has been reduced to something the size of a silver dollar. Here you must move past the level of defensive accuracy and place a “precise” shot to the ocular cavity. Something requiring a much higher level of skill.

So what does this look like on a target? Well, it looks something like this . . .

First let’s examine a target that shows a lack of both accuracy and precision.

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Notice there is no pattern, no groupings . . . just a bunch of holes on a piece of paper. Now, given that the paper was placed at the 100 yard line, there is some level of accuracy and precision . . . but it is far below what we are looking for. The AP4 is capable of 1.00 MOA give or take a couple of tenths. When we achieve that, we are “there”.

Second, let’s look at a target that is “accurate” but not “precise”.

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Notice that in both instances the rounds are within a 4” square (with one flyer), but their overall groupings are far wider that the 1 MOA of the gun. So while the groups are accurate – they are NOT precise.

Third, let’s look at a target that has “precise” hits but lacks accuracy.

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Notice that target 1, with the exception of 1 flyer, there are 2 three round groups that are sub-1 MOA but the groups are high and left of the desired target – the 1 inch square in the center. These groups are VERY precise with one being less than ½” . . . yet it is NOT accurate.

Finally, let’s look at a target that is both Accurate AND Precise – within the capabilities of the weapon.

Notice that on target 2 the 4-round group is almost exactly a 1 MOA sized group, the capability of the gun. And, it is much more centered on the desired target, the 1 inch square in the center of the 4 inch square. The group is both Accurate AND Precise.

In the long range shooting environment – whether hunting, shooting competitively, defensively or using your skill as a designated marksman or sniper in the military – there are many instances where your ability to be both accurate and precise are required. And that ability like so many others requires good equipment, good instruction and trigger time.

Only YOU can take yourself to that level. I must admit I am enjoying walking down this rabbit hole much more than I thought I would. I suspect it will find its way into my range work on a regular basis and that a couple of firearms will find themselves upgraded to accommodate this new path.

In fact it was an upgrade to the AP4 that brought about the range session that created the targets shown. I was unhappy with the scope I had used in the long range shooting class. So, I upgraded to a Nikon Prostaff 5 with a Mildot reticle and a Nikon M-223 mount. I wish I could have afforded some of the $3,000+ scopes that were in the class . . . but I have enjoyed my marriage for too many years to break in a new wife at this time in my life. The short story is I was very happy with the performance of the Prostaff 5 and also with its price point. I’ll do a review of it in the not to distant future.

There is value in adding accurate and precision long range shooting skills to your skillset. It does not need to cost an arm and a leg and, you will learn far more about being deliberate, about ballistics and how a gentle breeze can affect your shot than you ever imagined! Enjoy!!

AAR – Suarez International “HITS-8 Defensive Knife” 08/28/2015 – By: Chris Shoffner – www.mapsitraining.com

Course Title: “HITS-8 Defensive Knife”
Instructor: Steve Collins
Date of course: 08/28/2015
Location: Armed Missouri, Inc.
Class time: 8:00 – 5:00

How do you take a person who has no experience or knowledge in the application of a knife for self-defense, and turn him or her into a knife-fighting expert in just 9 hours? You don’t. It simply can’t be done. How do you take a person who has no experience or knowledge in the application of a knife for self-defense, and provide him or her with a solid foundation from which to start utilizing the knife as a defensive tool in just 9 hours? You enroll them in the Suarez International, HITS-8 Defensive Knife class, have them show up, pay attention, and put in the work!

That is exactly what happened with me during my participation in this class. I’ve been carrying a knife for years – since I was a young man even before high school. I’ve used a knife in most any way you can imagine – as a cutting tool, as a saw, wire cutter, carving tool, deer skinner, meat processor, and even a hammer on a few occasions – but I’ve never used one as a defensive tool, at least not in a practical sense. So I came into this course a blank slate. I was ready to learn, ready to put in the work, ready to be humbled, and ready to improve.

The SI Defensive Knife class is billed as, “……a compressed version of our two day Defensive Knife program…”. The course description goes on to say, “……You will learn knife grips, angles of attack and defense, ballistic cutting and thrusting tactics, use of the live hand, footwork concepts, dynamic training drills and exercises to develop spontaneous and unplanned reactions. We will dispel the commonly held myths of the knife and leave you with a respect and a skill-set for this close range weapon that equals or surpasses your skill with the CCW pistol and allows you to begin integrating the knife and the gun…”. While this all might sound a little intimidating, the format is actually very well thought out and presented in a very logical order, so the intimidation factor drops off pretty quickly once the class begins.

The class starts out with a safety briefing and an equipment check to make sure everyone has possession of a training knife on their person, rather than a true blade. Next is a bit of lecture regarding theory and concepts of using a knife as a defensive tool. From there, it moves into some penetration and slicing demonstrations using a variety of blades and a pork roast that is wrapped in 20 or so layers of plastic rap around a broom handle. Steve lovingly referred to this as “Pork Man” throughout the demonstrations. It took no less than the very first demonstration for the students to realize just how serious of a tool a quality blade is. “Pork Man” suffered stab after stab and laceration after laceration. Even the small, 2-inch blades left nasty cuts and slices all the way to “the bone” (the broom handle). When Steve deployed what he called “the comma cut” with any of the blades, “Pork Man” sustained damage that would have taken a talented surgeon to try to piece back together.

With a good understanding of just how efficient a good knife blade can be at piercing and cutting, we then began actual work with our training blades. In all, we had 5 students enrolled in the class. Everyone was instructed to bring both their daily carry knife as well as a replica “training blade” facsimile of it. We started off with some basic fighting strokes, (5 strokes in total) which each of us practiced on our own, one type of stroke at a time, until each of us had the mechanics down pretty well.

As we progressed, we started combining the strokes together, so a practice drill would comprise of drawing the knife from the sheath, then moving into one or more fighting strokes, then eventually back to the sheath. After a little more work combining different strokes on our own, the students were paired up and used each other as compliant “sparring” partners. The bulk of the morning consisted of adding new components, practicing those new components on our own, then practicing them with a compliant partner.

At one of our hydration breaks about an hour into the class, I remember mentioning to Steve that I had “….learned more about knife fighting in 20 minutes of hands-on participation in his class, than I had in the past 43 years of my life….”. And that was the truth. I was no expert, but I already felt a lot more competent, confident, and knowledgeable than I did just an hour before.

After a short break for lunch, the group returned to the range and we began working on counter-measures to the fighting strokes we had worked on all morning. This involved all of the students partnering up in pairs and working through the drills over and over again. Similar to the fighting strokes we’d learned in the morning, the techniques Steve taught us to counter those moves were kept as simple as possible to allow for as little tie-up time with the adversary as possible. Being able to end the fight quickly and make a quick escape is definitely preferential to engaging in some kind of long, drawn out knife fight. And, just like the morning block of instruction, techniques were learned one at a time, then Steve would teach us how to start combining multiple moves and strokes for a more effective, less predictable defense.

As the day progressed, we experimented with a variety of different grips – a few different forward grips and some reverse grips. We also started working from different angles of attack and the training partners became less compliant as the day progressed. We eventually ended the class with about a half hour of discussion followed by a quick debrief as all of the students in attendance were scheduled to attend the next two days of Force on Force training together.

Takeaways

Honestly, it is rare that I take a defensive oriented class where I am not at least somewhat familiar with some of the material before it starts. In this case, however, it was like sailing into uncharted waters. Knife fighting is simply outside of my realm of experience and was definitely outside of my comfort zone. There were many times throughout this class where I felt awkward like a kid trying to ride a bike for the first time. That said, Steve has a way of keeping things simple and he doesn’t mind demonstrating something 2, 3, or even 10 times if a student needs it (and all of us required plenty of remediation throughout the day). He was quick to point out that we needed to focus on proper technique and application of technique before we worried about trying to develop more speed.

In addition, I learned a new appreciation for the capabilities of edged weapons in a defensive role. Knife fighting is up, close, personal, violent, and bloody business. It is absolutely something you do NOT want to engage in unless you have absolutely no other option. You are not insulated by distance in a knife fight – it all happens inside of two arms reach. There is no mercy from a blade – it will cut to the bone and pierce to the vital organ faster than you can imagine. Incapacitation comes from blood loss – a LOT of blood loss – or from starvation of oxygen due to a slashed wind pipe or punctured lung.

Of course, I also subsequently learned that the knife IS a viable secondary weapon to the handgun, or even as a primary weapon in non-permissive environments. A very capable blade can be in the form of an innocent looking folder in the pocket, a fixed-blade boot knife, or a hefty blade carried in a centerline position, easily accessible with either hand – and the carry options are almost limitless (though some modes of carry make for much easier access and presentation than others).

Lastly, I confirmed that, just like my choice in defensive firearms, I want my blade to be as simple to operate as possible. The guys using folding knives in this class, no matter how good they became with their presentation, simply couldn’t deploy and utilize the weapon as quickly as the guys using the fixed blade knives (all else being equal). There were times where even the assisted-opener models failed to open due to a minor mistake in the draw stroke or due to catching on some clothing. That never happened with any of the fixed blade models. They came out of the sheath ready to fight every time.

In closing, Steve Collins, once again, proved himself to be a capable and diverse instructor. He brings a deep level of experience and expertise, and always presents the material in an easy-to-understand format with a realistic level of humility and the right amount of seriousness.

As to the coursework itself, I believe it is well suited for the novice like me. Just like nearly any other discipline, there are certain fundamental skills and concepts a person must learn first before moving on. This class provided me with those fundamentals. I didn’t leave the class a knife fighting expert (nor was I supposed to), but I did leave with the confidence and competence to start carrying an edged weapon in a role that surpasses that of a common pocketknife/utilitarian mode. I will be looking forward to hosting and attending this class again, hopefully sometime next year, as a way to reinforce what I learned and as a way to evaluate the progress I’ve made.

As always, stay safe!

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

chris.shoffner@mapsitraining.com