Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pistol Lights and Concealed Carry...the time is now!

The majority of time I spent on patrol was on the night shift. Flashlights, what are now commonly called “hand held white lights” (I love it when we make things simpler), were the size of a tail pipe and just as likely to be used as an impact weapon as a lighting device. I used my light in this fashion on several occasions and can honestly say that a large metal tube impacting the center of a suspect’s fore head was quite effective. Keep in mind this was before the Graham and Garner decisions and the Use of Force was not yet determined to be a "seizure" under the 4th Amendment, so it was more of a “no blood, no paper” period of time. Today the use of a flashlight as an impact weapon is a “no go” and carrying a large flashlight is non-existent for cops and armed citizens alike. It is also unnecessary as light technology has advanced to the point where flashing a light in someone’s eyes can be disabling in itself…no need to hit them. I have a light the size of a lipstick tube that offers more power than the one I once carried that was powered by five D cell batteries!

The next move was to mount lights on long guns, something that had been somewhat crude for many years. As far back as the mid 1970’s, law enforcement and military units were mounting full size flashlights on shotguns and sub-machine guns with tape and metal pipe strapping which was a big improvement over trying to hold a flashlight and shoot a long gun. When Surefire introduced their weapon lights molded into the fore grip of a Remington 870 and Heckler and Koch MP-5, agencies and individuals could not buy them fast enough. Today, it is a rare thing to see a combative-grade long gun without a white light attached.

In the late 1990’s, I commanded a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that conducted its own raids, something we were doing several times a week at one point. Heckler and Koch had introduced their USP Compact pistol, which was capable of temporarily attaching a white light to the frame. This allowed Task Force Agents to carry the gun “slick” while concealed, but mount the white light when conducting a forced entry. I purchased the gun and light with seized asset funds and the gun was greeted with medium enthusiasm as some of the agents chose to carry the gun they already had. Those that did carry the HK liked the quick on and off capability. Admittedly, one of my concerns with the new weapon system was agents using the gun/light combination as a lighting device and not a firearm and though I never did see any of them use the gun in this fashion, I did see a few of them looking through drawers and closets for evidence with the gun as a light.  This was quickly corrected…

Today, the pistol mounted light is common not just for tactical teams but on patrol as well and I admit to being concerned originally about how these lights/weapons would be used. Talking with trainers and commanders across the country, it appears my concerns were unfounded, as officers understand the proper use of the weapon mounted light. It seems law enforcement trainers are doing a good job of explaining the weapon-mounted light is a supplement to the hand held light and not a replacement! The hand held light can be pointed in directions the weapon mounted light should not, but when a serious threat arises, the weapon mounted light allows both hands to be placed on the handgun for greater accuracy, enhanced incapacitation potential and reduced liability. It seems the weapon-mounted light is as common as handcuffs and is being used in a tactically sound fashion.

In recent years, the weapon-mounted light has moved to the concealed carry pistol by investigators, off-duty officers and legally armed citizens for EDC.  Admittedly, this was not a trend I followed as I did not want to add more bulk to a gun I was trying to hide. I opted to stay with my hand held light clipped to my pocket or on my key ring, which served me well for decades.  That said I make it a point to tell my students to avoid the words “never” or “always” when it comes to developing combat skills or purchasing equipment. Note that I listed developing skills first as how does one know what they need until they learn the skills required to make a proper choice?  Buying before learning seldom meets with success…

I’m glad I never said “never” as it relates to mounting a light on a concealed carry pistol as we now have lights small enough to conceal. The pistol weapon light is better than ever before, offering greater power, reduced size, weight and enhanced ergonomics. Some of these lights also come with laser sighting devices, which some will like and some will not and that choice is up to you. One of my favorites of this new generation of compact weapon lights is the Surefire XC-1.  Specifically designed to accommodate railed, compact handguns, the unit features a high-performance LED with a Lumen output of 200. The Max Vision Beam is perfect for maintaining situational awareness and identifying threats, something that is often forgot when buying a weapon mounted light.  Max Vision offers a beam with no bright center…a bright white light across the beam meaning threats can be identified at the edge of the beam and not just the center.

The XC-1 is not only compact, but also quite robust with a body made from aerospace aluminum that is hard anodized for a tough Mil-Spec finish.  The unit measures just 2.5 inches, weighs less than two ounces and is powered by a single AAA battery so it adds little bulk and weight to your concealed carry pistol.  The ambidextrous activation switch is both momentary and constant on so it can be adapted to the situation at hand. Momentary activation is achieved by placing your support hand thumb on top of one of the two rear downward-activated switches and pushing down, or you can position your support thumb against the same switch and push forward until the switch toggles down. Simply remove pressure and the light will turn off.

If you wish to incorporate a laser into your compact white light then Streamlight has the answer.  The TLR-6 is designed to fit on to the front of 18 various compact and sub-compact pistols including the new Glock 43, M&P Shield, Kahr series and SIG Arms.  The unit features a 100 Lumen LED light combined with 640-660 nm read laser.  A parabolic reflector produces a balanced beam with peripheral illumination for greater on-site awareness.  An ambidextrous switch offers push button engagement on both sides of the unit long with laser or light only functions.  The TLR-6 offers a 10- minute auto shut off to conserve batteries and these batteries can be replaced while the light remains on the gun. The unit is powered by two CR1/3N batteries, which are included, while the laser is adjustable for both windage and elevation.  The unit is 2.3 to 2.7 inches in length, depending on which gun it is designed to fit, and is only 1.27 ounces in weight.

I have used both units extensively, the XC-1 on a Glock 19 while the TLR-6 was mounted on a Glock 43.  I did not hold back on rough use, wanting to see if either units would loose its light, while also wanting to know if the Streamlight laser would loose its zero.  I also left the TLR-6 on to see if it would, indeed, turn off on its own which I am happy to report it did.  I am also happy to report the two lights stood up to everything I could throw at them which is probably more rough treatment than the average plainclothes officer or armed citizen would do, which is mostly just dropping the unit on a hard surface.  Truth be told, I did just that from varied heights ranging from 3 to ten feet and both lights suffered no ill effects.

When selecting a white light, think more than just the number of lumens involved. Think about how the hand interacts with the light, how easily the light goes on and off the gun and about the beam itself. Oftentimes, the beam will have a very bright center and that is where the lumen level will be measured. I prefer a beam that is constant in brightness even if it offers a lower Lumen rating so I get the greatest field of view to look for additional threats, which is what I got with both of these lights. I tested a light a few months back that had such a bright “hot spot” in the middle of the beam that is was actually distracting! My eyes were pulled to the center of the beam, which is not good when the eyes need to scan as wide as possible for potential threats.

The compact pistol light is here to stay and I believe it will only be a matter of time before they begin to replace the larger lights found on patrol and SWAT officer handguns. Why not? They are just as tough, bright and easy to use as their larger counterparts. It’s also nice to have a gun that goes from patrol to SWAT to off-duty …”beware of the man who has but one gun for he likely knows how to use it!”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The 5 x 5 Drill

My good buddy Dave Timm of Learning Firearms  ( in Minnesota has come up with a great drill for both pistols and carbines. In a nutshell, the 5 x 5 Drill tests a shooters ability to be both fast an accurate, which is what is required to win in a gunfight. The target is available from the Learning Firearms web site:

If you check out their page, you will note that they have followed in the footsteps of Todd Green and his F.A.S.T. Drill and my 2x2x2 Drill and award a coin to any one who performs the drill successfully in a Learning Firearms course. The procedure is as follows:

Pistol Drill Procedure:

All stages begin from holster, hands at side. Holster shall be student's duty or daily carry equipment, concealed unless duty gear is used. All rounds must be within black box and within par time to count as a hit. The shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 25yards-10seconds, 20yards-8seconds, 15yards-6seconds, 10yards-4secounds and 5yards-3seconds.

Rifle Drill Procedure:

All stages begin with a shouldered rifle pointed at the ground at the base of the target target.
All rounds must be within the black box and within par time to count as a hit.
Shooter will fire five rounds at each of the five distances for 25 rounds total within the listed par times: 50yards-10seconds, 40yards-8seconds, 30 yards-6seconds, 20yards-4seconds and 10yards-2seconds.

I have shot the drill twice with my Glock 19 and missed one round in the prescribed time limits on the first run while in the second run got all hits but kissed the 25 yards time limit by two tenths of a second. It is a very instructional, fun and difficult drill that is attainable if you practice the skills needed to make the drill a success, not practice the drill time and time again. Remember! It is a learned skill if you have a high probability of success on the first attempt…not success after many attempts.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Pistol Sights…What is it you want? Do you even know?

I recently received a question from a shooter who purchased my CAP Sights but was concerned about his lack of accuracy. When I inquired as to what happened, he told me he had difficulty at 50 yards. I’m not surprised…the Ameriglo Combative Application Pistol (CAP) Sight was designed to be a very compact, low to the bore line, high visibility close quarter sight in which the shooter covers what they want to hit at 15 yards and in. It is a true “flash sight picture” sight where the shooters places the square in the square and depresses the trigger. There is very little “light” in the front to back sight spacing in order to reduce quick sighting error. As you move back, it is necessary for the shooter to experiment to see where they need to hold, in a nutshell, what the sight picture needs to “look like” to hit at increased distances. This “picture” should then be easy to recreate but, admittedly, the sight is not designed for long distance shooting.

In truth, the CAP Sight is likely too wide for this type long distance shooting. If this is your desire, a tall thin front sight, which offers greater target information further back, is the ticket. In my mind, sights like the Heine, 10-8, Travis Haley’s Th1rte3n Sight or Frank Proctor’s Y-Notch would be a better choice, all of which are terrific products. The down side of the thinner sight is it will be harder to “pick up” quickly at closer distances. Yes, you could paint the front sight, but that will affect its use at long distance, as its sharp edges will be “blurred” by the added color. I say this based on previous experience as I have seen it in my classes time and again for years. I see just about every variation of pistol sight in my courses and I often request to shoot a particular gun so I can see how the sights work. I also ask the student what they like about their sight…why they chose them… and I get some interesting answers. What I have noticed is students with thinner/taller sights do great when shooting a 3 x 5 card at 25 yards, but they are slower on target when shooting the close, fast drills as compared to the CAP or Trijicon high visibility sight. What is it you want?

I have read many, many research studies over the last few decades stating the eyes are incapable of sight focus in close conflict and there is truth in what these studies say. And while many instructors refer to these studies when discussing close quarter shooting, I think of it at a more basic, visceral level based on my personal experiences…when a person at close distance is trying to kill you it is real hard to take your eyes off of them and shift focus to the front sight. I believe this occurs at an instinctual level where they eyes just refuse to shift as they track the actions of the threat. Yep, the human body has a history of taking good care of itself and it takes a monumental effort to reprogram it.

If this is the case, why mess with the sights at all? In truth, you are more likely to miss due to poor trigger manipulation than lack of sight picture at close distances, but what is close quarters? 2 feet? 20 feet? 20 yards? While sights are certainly not needed at arms length, how far back can you hit without them? Some say 12 yards…other as much as 20! But this is certainly not the case for me. I practice out to around 20 feet without my sights and hit quite well but as I move back towards 30 feet, I start to loose the fight ending accuracy needed to stop a determined aggressor with a handgun. In addition, I need help referencing my front sight quickly, so I have colored the front sight since my revolver days in the 70’s and early 80’s. Revolvers with target-style sights came equipped with red, green or orange plastic insert front sights and those that did not, often times got a coating of Liquid Paper!

Coloring the front is not new, Jeff Cooper commented on this in the early 1970’s stating, “If you are going to color your front sight, use a color not normally found in nature”. For many years, a brass bead front sight was quite popular. During several situations I was involved in (while a cop) during which my pistol was deployed, I can definitely remember the “flash” of color my front sight gave me even at close quarters while moving quickly and visually tracking a threat, something I have also been told during many interviews I have conducted with gunfight participants over the last three decades. I am convinced a colored front sight is the way to go on combative handguns.

Some knowledgeable folks disagree, however. Many informed shooters and instructors believe handgun sights are for long distances only and they design or recommend sights intended for this purpose. As a consumer, you must decide which sight system is best for you based on your requirements, vision, level of training, experience, “real world of work”, etc. I am not convinced that one sight system will work well across the board (both fast at close range and precise at long range) especially if you suffer from any degree of vision loss. I have spoken to many shooters who, in their young years, advocated black on black sights only to age and find a colored sight was a better option.

There are additional questions when choosing a pistol sight: Is a tritium bead essential? Will a fiber optic work better? If a color, which color does my eyes see best? Which color is best for me across the light spectrum? Are you competing or fighting? Are you shooting white steel plates (or brown cardboard targets) or the multi-colored clothes of people? Will you be out at night? Are your eyes the same as the instructor recommending a particular sight? These questions are potentially endless and only you can answer them… but do you really understand the original question that started the whole process?! I had one student tell me he liked how his sights had a large round orange dot on the front and a round bottom rear window on the back in which he could “drop the round front sight in the round rear window”. However, when I asked him if this is what he is looking at when he sighted his gun he said “no…I’m looking at the top edges”. If this is the case, does the rounded lower of the two sights matter? I don’t know… but if you pick such a sight you should know!

In the end, it comes down to critical thought based on knowledge, training and experience. Do you actually know why you picked a set of sights or did you do so on the basis of an advertisement, seeing them on a gun or instructor recommendation/reputation? Such ads and recommendations can be helpful if they solve YOUR problem…but only you can know what your problem is!

As a side note, I admit to being concerned about the trend of emphasizing long distance pistol shooting… I believe it is a mistake as we have been here before and it was proven to be wrong. When I went through the Sheriff’s Academy in 1976, much time was spent at 50 and 60 yards even though handgun shootings at such distances were rare and still are. From the days of the Wild West forward, the history of pistol fighting has been close quarters with incidents like Wild Bill’s 75- yard shot in Springfield, MO. being unusual. What is the old saying, ”those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it?” Why are we returning to it? The Active Shooter/Terrorism phenomenon, I am told. I constantly hear questions/statements like, “How long is the front aisle of the Wal-Mart?” or “How wide is the parking lot at the mall” but should we be launching pistol bullets at such distances? A resounding “YES!” I have been told repeatedly. “If you can shoot at 25 yards, you can easily handle 5 yards”…you know, we were told this very same thing back in the 70’s but it was not born out by reality. Do you realize/understand what such a statement does not include? The pandemonium that will accompany a five-yard gunfight! Hostile and non-hostiles moving back and forth across the battle space, screaming, yelling, incoming and out going rounds…you see, it is much, much different than just planting your feet and shooting a few rounds at distance on a piece of paper or steel while on the square range.

Now, do not take what I have just said out of context…you should know how to shoot at distance, but should it be your primary focus as I am seeing more and more? Stop and ask yourself a question…are you more likely to face a mugger in the parking lot at 5 yards or an active killer/terrorist in the Wal-Mart center aisle at 50 yards? Don’t know? Do a simple on-line search of crime statistics and see which occurs more frequently…murder, rape, robbery, assault, home invasion or the active killer/terrorist? My good friend and former CIA SAD Officer Ed Lovette did a pretty extensive study of armed citizen shootings and discovered that not only are they close, they are most likely to happen in and around the home. I know I know…training for an active killer/terrorist just feels so much cooler as compared to a simple crime, but is doing so reality or a training scar? Keep in mind, reality is what it is…not what we WANT it to be…

 Again, keep in mind such a shot will not take place in a range vacuum…can you make a 50 yard shot in a pandemonium-filled event (people running and screaming, adrenaline high, respiration at maximum) such a situation would actually entail? I find it interesting the number of shooters who worry about the “liability” of modifying their carry gun, but think it is perfectly fine to launch bullets across a parking lot or down the aisles of a major store. Watch the videos from various terrorist attacks and active shooter events…could you make a long shot with people in panic everywhere? I tried this recently during a class, running a Moto-Shot robot target back and forth across the line of fire as students tried to hit a full size silhouette (no attempt at shot placement) at 50 yards. No one delivered a fight -stopping hit as they split their focus between the target and the robot. Rapidly moving, panicked people will only magnify this. Remember, the reason we shoot is to incapacitate…to end the attack…so you need to hit well!

Sure, anything is possible but what is more likely for you? This process is called critical thought and you should be using it when you select a set of pistol sights or decide how to prepare to handle your personal security. As I close, please understand I am not attacking the lesson plan of any other instructor…I don’t disparage others…it is unprofessional. But I do believe in critical thought! I truly believe no one teaches something they really believe is stupid (at least I hope not!). They teach what they think is important, which is why a good student of combative pistol craft learns from a wide variety of instructors, to get varied viewpoints, opinions and backgrounds...military, law enforcement, security contractors and armed citizens. They then combine what they have learned with what they know to be realistic for their real world of work and they make an informed decision via critical thought. Pistol sights are no different…choose wisely and smartly…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A message to instructors…

The firearms training business is booming! I have never seen the large number of folks involved in the business as I do today. Every law enforcement agency in the country has at least one firearms instructor and with every state in the union having some type of CCW certification process, the armed citizen side of the market is exploding. But what are we getting in instructor quality? While some genuinely care, others are just interested in money and notoriety.  Which are you?  How have you prepared for your instructional career? A single NRA instructor course or a battery of courses from a wide variety of instructors and backgrounds? What is your background? Are you teaching a subject matter you really have no concept of?  Are you just recycling information you really do not comprehend?  Do you yell and scream or offer guidance and control?  Hell…do you even know why you do why you do other than you got it from someone else?!

I give careful thought to everything I do and teach in my classes. It is the result of many years of training, interviews and personal experience. I have even thought hard about the targets I use. I’ve shot at a wide variety of targets throughout the years. Some were just paper plates; others were elaborate, electronically controlled human torsos capable of life-like movement. Each type has its place and those of us who have immersed ourselves in perfecting our combative shooting skills understand what each target represents—the relatively small areas of the body vital for sustaining life. Handguns suck as tools of rapid incapacitation, but they’re portable. LEOs rely on them when instant deadly force is reasonable and needed. The shotgun and carbine are much better for this, but what are the chances you’ll have the bigger gun when a threat presents itself? If you know a fight is coming, you might want to take a sick day. Those who understand human conflict understand that no matter how skilled you are, there’s always a chance of losing.

However, if you’re on the job and a hot call comes in, you can arm yourself appropriately before deploying. What if the situation turns bad in front of you without warning? Many claim the handgun should be used “to fight to a better gun” and, although I understand the sentiment, you’ll probably fight with what you have at the time the fight starts, as time is quite restrictive. Reality stinks, doesn’t it?

The fact remains that law officers and armed citizens need to be good with their handguns.  All cops selected the profession voluntarily and that means that you will confront an armed individual sometime before you retire—maybe multiple times. Remember: Your chief will not be there, so your firearms skills are for you… not your agency. If you can’t shoot well enough to save your own life, then it’s you who will die. You owe it to yourself to have the best skills possible, and this will require commitment on your part.  In the case of the armed citizen, YOU decided to go armed…do it well!

Two or three practice sessions a year does not a shooter make, but this is the norm for most cops. If that’s all that’s being provided the officer or citizen needs more so find it! If that is all there is going to be, those sessions should be the very best! A quality program is the result of an innovative and knowledgeable instructor. Yes, having a well-equipped facility is nice, but it won’t make up for an instructor who’s unskilled, which I see quite often within the LE community. Remember: Qualification is not training! It’s merely a test and this is true whether it is a law enforcement program or a CCW certification. Training, on the other hand, is the building and refining of skills. I’m surprised by the number of certified firearms instructors who don’t understand how to look for and correct shooting mistakes…and don’t understand the physiology behind them.

A proper combative firearms training program must include skill building in three areas: fundamentals (how to run a gun), combative aspects (how to fight with the chosen weapon), and interactive aspects (e.g., force-on- force scenarios, crisis decision making and proving the skills taught in the other levels work). Without all three, shooters will never be truly prepared for armed conflict. I’ve had many instructors tell me that they just don’t have the time for all of this. I’ve been there, but this is where one must be innovative. NYPD has 40,000 cops to put through firearms training in any given year. They don’t have a lot of time with each officer, but they win far more confrontations than they loose. How? They study the problem and make the most of the time they have. You can too!

One area you can improve is to give proper thought to what type of targets you use. As I talk with instructors across the country, I always ask what targets they use. I want to hear their thoughts on how and why they do what they do. I’m disappointed, for the most part, that many instructors are more fixated on having their own agency or company target than truly understanding what they want the target for. Many of these targets have so many shapes, symbols and add-on targeting devices on them that they look less like targets and more like circus advertisements. Oftentimes, the target is created based on a target design used by an instructor/institution that they attended. Understand that such targets are often designed to build certain skills or complete certain drills and may not be the best choice for a more rounded combative level of training.

Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish?” We have known since the research of S.L.A. Marshall and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that targets are important. They prepare fighters to engage the enemy where bull’s-eyes and other non-human shapes do not. The soldier, cop or armed citizen who trains on a target that looks like a actual person is more likely to engage a living, breathing attacker than one who has never done so.
In addition, training on a realistic target better prepares the student for the combative and interactive aspects of the process. Have you ever experienced someone who just can’t bring him or herself to point a gun at another human? They often express safety concerns (never point your gun at anything you’re not willing to shoot, kill or destroy) as the reason they’re refusing to do so. But you can see the look on their face and know they’re simply uncomfortable pointing a gun at a human.  Not good…

During my classes, I’ll have my students disable their guns by plugging the barrel of their pistol in such a way so the gun cannot physically chamber a round. Afterward, I walk in front of the line so I can see how they present their gun from both ready position and the holster, because this angle just gives me a better view of the physical process. I correct them as necessary. REMEMBER…I KNOW they are unloaded and incapable of firing, so keep the snarky, know it all comments to yourself, Dickweed (you know who you are).

I also want the student to get used to confronting a live protagonist at the end of their gun. Approximately 30% of students won’t do it! I know the gun can’t fire because I render it inoperable, but they still refuse to point the gun in my direction. Even after I tell them it’s OK and they aren’t violating any safety rules, they still refuse! Once the drill is over, they tell me they’ll point the gun at a “real bad guy” when the time comes—but will they really?  In all truthfulness…I seriously doubt it!

Training targets not only need to reflect reality, they also need to offer different angles of confrontation. Gun- fights are fluid affairs. If a combatant stands still during a fight, it’s probably because they didn’t know they were in a fight. If they did, they’d be moving to some location where it would be less likely they’ll be shot. Thus, training targets must represent a wide variety of possible confrontational angles. A 3-D target would be best, but this is difficult when multiple shooters are on the line, so a training target should also be able to represent the restricted area of proper shot placement as the body offers differing angles. . Ensure your target reflects the reality of confrontation. Don’t accept crappy hits in the interest of getting students “qualified.” As Mel Gibson said in The Patriot, “Aim small; miss small.”

In the end, if you require a high level of skill on the range, you’ll likely get it back on the street. Lack of desire on their part doesn’t justify lackadaisical performance on your part. Stay alert, stay safe and check your 360 often.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Standards in Training

Recently, I was teaching a combative pistol course to a group of law enforcement professionals and legally armed citizens. Although many instructors call the basic handgun skills fundamentals, I prefer to use the word essentials because shooters must have these skills in order to use a handgun for personal security.

I begin some of my courses with several “time in” drills in order to evaluate each student’s skill sets. My time in drills are fired at 20 feet into a 6 x 10-inch rectangle as follows:

One shot from the ready position of 
their choice in one second; 

One shot from the holster in two seconds; 

One shot, slide closed reload, one shot in 3.25 seconds;
Four rounds from ready in two seconds

I look for essential skills such as proper grip, trigger control, recoil control, aggressive body position and general weapon handling ability. I also look at whether they’re confident in their gun handling or confused and uneasy. Bottom line: Do they look as if they know how to “run their gun”?

During class, one of my students drew their firearm and shot in a very slow, deliberate manner—it took him almost three seconds to get a hit on target. So I asked him to do it again, assuming he’d step up his pace on his second run. But he performed the drill with the same slowness. When I asked about the speed of his draw stroke, he said, “I have found that it leads to a higher level of success when I shoot the XYZ Drill. I have been working toward a faster time on this.”

I then asked him what other skills he practices regularly and he told me: none. “I feel this drill is an excellent compilation of what I will need in a gunfight ... it covers it all.” After a brief pause I said, “Except someone shooting back at you.”

It was obvious he didn’t know what to say. I find this mentality in my classes more often than I’d like. Few people have experienced armed conflict, so they confuse their competition experience with combat. They’re not the same. Although both involve shooting guns and stress, the stress level isn’t equal in severity.
I’ve competed in scholastic and collegiate sports as well as competition shooting at various levels (PPC, USPSA and IDPA) and I’ve had someone try to kill me —the stress isn’t the same. The activities themselves aren’t the same either. If there are rules, it’s a sport/competition. There are no rules in a gunfight—so if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough to win. This is an obvious difference in mindset compared to sport/competition.

Armed conflict should be avoided because you always run the risk of losing, no matter how well trained and prepared you are. Worse yet, many people believe they’re better trained and prepared than they really are… it’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Read up on it, its quite interesting. People “suffering” from this condition enter conflict with a serious disadvantage they don’t know they have. Con- fusing proficiency in a particular drill with combat preparation is a symptom of this affliction. Shooting standards and drills during training are an excellent way to build and maintain essential skills, but they aren’t a solution to armed conflict! A standard is “something established for use
as a comparison in measuring quality” while a
drill is “systematic training, practice or teaching
by repeated exercise.” A
skill is “an ability or proficiency; an art, craft, etc. using the hands or body.”

As these relate to the combative application
of a firearm, skills are those essential physical activities needed to shoot well enough to save your own life, a drill is used to reinforce the physical activity and standards are used to measure performance as training progresses. None of these are a gunfight and to confuse them as some type of equivalent is unwise—and potentially deadly. Standards and drills should be viewed as vehicles toward preparation, as should competition, but neither should be confused with being prepared to act.

With this understood, drills and standards are useful tools and most every student of combative weapon craft is always looking for new ones in which to test their skills. I thought I’d share some of my favorites and why I like them. They’re not all-inclusive, nor should any drill be thought of as such.

One of my favorite drills is the classic El Presidente, as pioneered by the late Jeff Cooper.  This drill is still used in classes at Gunsite ( and I like it because it tests a number of essential skills in a short exercise. From a distance of 10 yards, 12 rounds are fired at three targets one yard apart. The targets should represent the high chest region.

Col. Cooper used 10-inch circles while Gunsite currently uses an 8-inch circle. I use a 6 x 10 rectangle but 8-x- 11 sheets of paper work fine too. With your back to the targets, turn and draw from your holster and shoot two rounds at each target. Perform an in- battery reload and then fire two more rounds at each target. Try to get all hits in at 10 seconds or less.

Another drill I like also came from Gunsite, but is not part of their curriculum.  While attending a gun writer event years back, the Gunsite staff had those in attendance shoot a drill that required drawing from the holster (a new handgun and holster were being featured at this event) and fire two rounds on two targets in four seconds at 15 feet. I mentioned to the Range Officer that I felt a reload could be incorporated in that time frame.  Others threw the gauntlet down and the competition was on!  I do this drill now at 20 feet on 6 x 10 rectangles starting with the draw, two rounds fired, an in battery reload followed by two rounds. If the time is not a challenge, then incorporate an emergency reload.

Hopefully the difference between drills and standards is apparent. Both are designed to build and test skills, but they should never be confused with what will occur in armed conflict. In a gunfight expect nothing, plan on everything potentially failing and be prepared to move on to a contingency plan. The person who will win in armed conflict is someone who can adapt their essential skills to the situation they face. This isn’t something that can be taught in a drill or standard shoot but only by well-developed and thorough training.

For additional drills used in Handgun Combatives courses, check out the videos on or the Handgun Combatives You Tube channel.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

One gun for all? The choice is yours...

It may be a bit obvious to say that citizens across this great nation are feeling a financial pinch. Everyone is feeling it, from doctors to maintenance workers, from cops to firefighters. People from all walks of life are trying to stretch their dollars. Many are doing away with their landlines and using their cell phones for calls in and out of the home. After all, why pay for two phones when one will do? This same logic can be applied to daily carry and home- defense firearms. In times past, savvy gun-owners with carry licenses had a gun for carry and a gun for the house, but this trend is shifting…mostly due to a struggling economy.

In one of my recent pistol classes, a young lady told me that she was now carrying her .38 Special Ruger LCR each day and keeping it on the nightstand each night. Her thought was, “Why have two guns when one will perform the needed task?” My student explained, “I carry this gun daily, practice with it at least once a month, and have trained with it in low light. It only makes sense that I will shoot it best when trouble comes, so why complicate it? I’ll just use one gun for all needs.” What is the old saying…”beware of the man (or woman!) who has but one gun for the likely know how to use it” Her logic is sound, however, you may not have the same needs.

Naturally, gun-owners wonder, “What do members of my family rely on if my gun leaves the house with me?” An excellent question! The young lady above lives alone, so keeping her gun with her not only offers continuity but also keeps the gun from falling into the wrong hands if someone breaks into her home when she’s away. A single gun cannot be in two places at once, so if your family members need a gun at home, you’ll need a second gun, regardless of how tight your budget is—no way around it. One of my students told me he does not leave a gun at home with his spouse, because she refuses to practice with it. He believes, in this case, the weapon is more likely to be used against her than to protect her and the home. However, this may not be true.

Ed Lovette, a former CIA Para-Military Operations officer and the author of The Snubby Revolver, conducted fairly extensive research into armed citizens’ use of handguns. He found the majority of those who have repelled attacks on their home were not gun-school graduates. While Ed and I both feel advanced training is a must, it appears it is not the sole indicator for successfully thwarting of a criminal attack. Many of us who have studied armed conflict believe that success usually comes from a “willing to do whatever it takes” mindset. I have long felt that anything can be a weapon if your mind makes it so, and armed citizens across this land have continually proven this.

If holding down the family budget is a concern, then selecting a cost- effective but reliable firearm is key. While the compact .380 ACP is not the best selection for personal security, guns like the .380 Ruger LCP are reliable, affordable and certainly better than facing an attacker empty-handed. I was recently walking the aisles of a local gun show when I came across an older .38 Special Smith & Wesson Model 36 snubby for $150. The exterior of the gun was rough, but the barrel and cylinder chambers were free of pitting, the cylinder locked up solid, and the action wasn’t bad. It would have been very easy to buy this gun and clean it up—a gun does not have to look gun-shop new to be effective.

Whatever type of gun you choose, it should be able to serve in carry and home- defense roles, which will make the size, weight and shape of the gun increasingly important. While the LCP is certainly easy to carry, some will say it is too small for home defense, as it has small grips that are hard to handle for follow-up shots. The 2-inch snubby, however, seems to get the nod from both the small enough and big enough crowds. Different size grips can be installed to make the gun easy to carry but large enough to hang onto in rapid fire. Many knowledgeable shooters also draw the line at the .38 Special when it comes to incapacitation ability—they are just not comfortable with a .380 ACP. But for those on a tight budget, it’s not about what they want but what they can afford. So it is wise not to be too condescending as, again, during an attack any gun is better than a pair of empty hands.
The sub-compact 9mm, like the Ruger LC-9, Kahr or Glock 43 can be a good overall choice, but the price will also reflect their popularity, thus they are probably not the best choice for the budget conscious. In addition, seldom will you find these guns to be “a deal” like the Model 36 I spoke of earlier.

Once you have decided on the type and number of guns you’ll need, consider how the gun will be carried and positioned, both on your person and in your home. For example, when you come home and take the gun out (e.g., a holster or purse), should it go into some type of storage receptacle (e.g., a bedside safe or closet vault) or on the nightstand beside your bed? Small children in the home or potential visitors will make this an easy decision. Whatever you do choose to do, do it consistently. It only takes one slip-up for an attack to become a tragedy.

If your gun has a rail, should you mount a light or laser only when it’s at home, or would continuity of gear be wise? This will likely depend on how large you are and whether you can conceal a gun with a mounted light or laser.

Is it a good idea to have a “gear down” ritual, in which the gun comes off as soon as you arrive home and is placed on the nightstand? Similarly, would you have a “gear up” ritual each morning, or should this be situation dependent? The concept of gearing up (and down) is something taken from my SWAT days. In my case, as I put on my various pieces of kit in the morning, I make sure I place my folding knife in my right-rear pocket, my flashlight in my left-side pocket and my holster on my belt and then press check and place my pistol in the holster. When gearing down, I follow the same process in reverse, placing the items in the drawer near my bed in the same position each time. By doing so, I can acquire my pistol, by feel, in the darkness of my bedroom. As I leave the house, I am confidant that my gear is in its proper place and that I can access it through the “familiar task” process developed by consistent practice. Consistency is the road to success when preparing for personal security, so carefully consider it here.

There are many elements involved in choosing a gun that will serve home- defense and daily-carry functions. Giving no thought to them and letting what- ever happens happen would be a mistake. Try to sort out the potential pitfalls ahead of time. So often, problems arise for no other reason than a gun- owner’s oversight, which can easily be prevented. Martial Arts Master Richard Bustillo says, “Most people don’t plan to fail. They just fail to plan.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

What the Hell?!?  Sticky Holsters…the damn things work!

I wrote the “Plainclothes” column in the now defunct Harris Publications magazine GUNS AMD WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT for 17 years. While the column covered many topic related to plainclothes work, off-duty tactics and concealed carry, many, many columns were dedicated to concealment holsters. I was fortunate to be a magazine writer in a time when gun magazines were king, before gun T.V. shows and the Internet killed them off. Thus, I was (literally) surrounded by concealment holsters most of the time. Many manufacturers used to send their rigs to me unsolicited so I could (hopefully) test and evaluate them in my column. As much as I would have liked to give every rig some attention, many did not make it into print.

I left the column (actually thrown out when Editor Harry Kane retired and the “Women of Harris” took over) with a few thoughts that I maintain to this day:

1. There are only so many ways to conceal a gun on the human body and we know them all.
2. Off body carry is a real bad idea.
3. You can conceal too deep…if it takes longer than two seconds to dig your gun out from under all the layers of clothing you are wearing and get a solid hit on target, you need to reevaluate your carry method.
4. Don’t worry about your concealed gun being seen…most people don’t notice, including the police.
5. If your mode of carry is not comfortable you will not carry it. As much as I respect the great Clint Smith (I consider him a mentor) his admonition “Its not supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to be comforting” is universally ignored by many gun carriers.
6. As Mike Boyle admonishes, there is a difference between concealed carry and plainclothes carry…something plainclothes cops do, armed citizens do not.
7. Carry always or don’t carry at all…you can’t tell when you will need a gun based on where you are going. “I’m going to my parents house…I won’t need it there!” How do you know? One never knows what crazy person resides near your folk’s house.

Last but not least, holsters designed to carry a variety of guns seldom work. Yes, I have seen a few that have functioned, but they were generally clunky and were too bulky for true concealment. I have become quite skeptical of the claims of many holster makers, which has led me to stay with conventional carry rigs. I addition, I am not a fan of pocket carry…yes, I know how convenient it is, especially in summer, but I do not like the limited access due to being seated, etc.

I have seen the Sticky holster around but had, quite frankly, ignored it thinking it was just another pocket rig. I am a ferocious reader, having books stacked up for months in advance, alternating between fiction and non-fiction as I have found little of interest on television. Even the news can wear one down, watching the same story discussed again and again by “taking heads” that don’t know any more about the subject that I do. Sigh…

While reading Brad Thor’s new thriller (Mr. Thor is a gun guy, I met him at the Las Vegas airport as we both waited on a flight), I read his main character was wearing his pistol IWB in a Sticky holster. The character liked the rig, as it would say in place without clips, snaps or straps and was quite comfortable. “What bullshit!” I thought, but then I don’t know everything. I went to the Sticky web site and checked it out. This is what they said about their “stick in place” IWB rig:

“The outside skin is a super non-slip material that, with a little pressure, adheres to just about anything. That outer material combined with the inner closed-cell foam and the inner-liner keep your pistol and the holster securely in place. In the pocket, it works like any other pocket holster. However, when you pull the gun, the outer layer grabs the inside of your pocket. Our modular products use the same “Sticky” material against itself to hold the concealment holster and gun in place. In addition, with use and body heat, your Sticky Holster will conform to your particular gun, making a custom fit.”

Color me skeptical here…this sounded like all of the claims of the concealed carry rigs of my past. At the same time, it is 90 plus degrees in Ohio with 80 to 90 percent humidity, making concealed carry a real challenge…what if the rig did work? A check of Amazon revealed I could buy one for my Glock 43 for 25 bucks with free shipping. Hey, I’m willing to risk 25 bucks, so I ordered one.

I have been wearing it for the last few weeks, day in and day out, and it has done exactly what it claims! Now, please understand I have not done cartwheels or taken a Greg Ellifritz CQC course, but for routine daily wear it has performed exemplary. Up and own, in and out, kneeling, running, getting in and out of cars, the rig has not shifted and the gun is quick to draw. No, it is not a gun school rig as you need to remove the holster to put the gun back in place, but it is secure and fast to draw.

I have a good friend who has worn his Sticky holster with a Glock 43 on a weeklong motorcycle trip with no issues and he admitted he was originally as skeptical as I was. He bought his Sticky rig at the Louisville NRA Show, having stopped by the booth and spoken with the folks who make them. “Dave”, he told me, “what I liked about these guys was they were willing to praise other company’s rigs. They just felt theirs was better. I really respect that!”  I do too and even though I have no idea how the holster will perform in a knock down, drag out fight I do not plan to get in one if at all possible. I’m too damn old! You know what the say about old folks… don’t try to fight with them, they’ll just kill you! Sounds like a good pan to my old ass 61 year -old body!

I have been so pleased with the Sticky holster/Glock 43 combo that I ordered one for my Glock 19, which is my preferred concealed carry pistol. Stand by for a report on this combo down the road…

Now…without a doubt…there will be someone who will feel compelled to log in below and offer a horror story about the Sticky rig and how it slipped and shot them in the dick. Please try to ignore them…they are haters and usually do not know what they are talking about. They want to raise their own profile and they do so by being a f*#k tard. Take it from someone who has been in this business for decades, try the Sticky for yourself…there is no guarantee of success for YOU, but there is little risk here…and you might just discover a very useful rig!

Thanks for checking in!