Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Deliberation...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in…

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Pelvic Shot: Ultimate stopper or over rated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Your opinion does not trump my personal experience.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in…

Monday, December 26, 2016

Every Day Carry…considerations for your REAL world of work and play!

As I advanced through my police career, I continually evaluated my individual readiness for conflict. I “war-gamed” potential scenarios, talked to my family about what to do, upgraded my weapons and everyday carry (EDC) gear and generally tried to stay prepared for the dangers that lurked on and off-duty. During several off-duty situations, I ran into people I had arrested. Recently, an older man walked up to me at Wal-Mart and told me he had just gotten out of person after 20 years and I had put him there! I had no idea who he was until he told me (to all my cop and former cop friends…this can happen to you! You might not remember them, but they remember you!), it made for a few tense moments until he told me he harbored no animosity and wished mea Merry Christmas. This renewed my need to stay vigilant to the possibility of attack for no other reason than what I had done for a living.

Street cops are called “first responders” and I like the term. When trouble starts, and everyone else is running away, cops run into the fray no matter what the situation. As Col. Dave Grossman has stated, cops “run to the sound of the guns.” It’s what cops do, and I’m damn proud to say I’ve done it. That said, how many armed citizens could suddenly find themselves thrust into the role of first responder? In a time of 4th Generation warfare where every citizen is a possible combatant (according to our enemies!) we must all be “active participants on out own rescue.”

I’ve been involved in a number of situations off-duty that had nothing to do with fighting and I had the proper state of mind to act instead of dither. I’ve helped traffic crash victims, found lost senior citizens, directed traffic until additional patrol units could arrive, pulled a drowning child from a pool, did CPR on a heart attack victim, treated a severe wound, talked to a suicidal subject and even cut away the trouser leg of a child whose pants got caught in an escalator. Yet with all of these situations, I never thought about my EDC carry gear being appropriate for anything other than armed conflict. A situation not too long ago, reaffirmed the need for everyone to be a potential first responder, to be ready for a wide variety of situations, whether cop or citizen, during the course of our everyday routine.

River Rescue

I read a story in the Salt Lake Tribune that gave me pause (Dec. 31, 2011: “Passers-by rescue children from submerged car in Utah river”). Three children were saved by passers-by after the car they were riding in lost control, fell down an embankment and landed upside-down in the icy Logan River. The 46-year-old driver was able to free himself, but the children, two nine-year-old girls and a four-year-old boy, were trapped in the freezing water. The doors of the car wouldn’t open, so a retired police officer named Chris Willden, shot his Glock 23 through the window to break it. Passers-by then assembled, flipped the car over and helped pull the children out of the broken windows.

Although the youngest child wasn’t breathing when freed, he was resuscitated and flown to a hospital. The two girls were treated for hypothermia. Calibre Press founder Chuck Remsberg interviewed Willden later on Willden offered these learning points to all who might face a similar circumstance.

• Never leave home without a knife, gun or flashlight.
• Keep current on first-aid and CPR certification.

• Train rain or shine—but rain is better: If you can perform in bad weather, you can
• Seatbelts are hard to cut. Consider carrying a seatbelt cutter and glass-breaker.

Fellow trainer and good friend John Farnam stated Willden was one of his students. After talking with him about the incident, John stated: “There were several other well-meaning citizens present, who bravely endured the freezing waters that day. But only Willden was truly prepared! He had the necessary tools at hand and the boldness to unhesitatingly take unilateral, dicey, audacious action, not waiting around for ‘someone else’ to ‘do something. Through preparation and boldness, he snatched victory from the jaws of disaster.”  Even though Willden is retired he rose to the occasion and took action when others didn’t. He was prepared mentally and had the gear he needed to accomplish the task.

How many of you can say the same? Could you stand back and watch three children drown? Nope, I couldn’t either! So it’s smart to stay ready.

EDC Gear

When it comes to EDC gear, what do you carry? Have you given it careful consideration based on your real world of work and play? Let’s examine the subject a bit. Like Willden, I carry a gun, knife and flashlight every day.

A Gun: It’s obvious—it’s a tool of personal security to be used when deadly force is reasonable based on the circumstances. In the case above, it was used as an impromptu window breaker…would you have thought of this? Would you know how to do it? True, not the best choice, but when nothing else will work as Clint Eastwood said in the movie Heartbreak Ridge, “Improvise, adapt and overcome.” My gun of choice: A Glock 19 in a some type of Kydex belt holster and accompanying magazine pouch with a 15-round magazine loaded with Speer Gold Dot 2 “impact expansion” hollow points. The G19 is compact enough to carry in all but the hottest weather, and is as reliable as any human-designed and engineered product can be.

I carry at three o’clock even though the current trend is towards appendix inside the waistband. While some call it hazardous, I have no problem with AIWB as long at the user trains with it and keep their finger away from the trigger when re-holstering… an accident that happens more often than many realize! I have spent decades building the familiar task of drawing from three o’clock and I am not going to go through the process required to change this late in my life. Regardless of where you carry…carry!

A Folding Knife: It’s a cutting tool to me. Sure, it could be used as a weapon, but how many people can remove it from their pocket and get it open while under attack? Very few without extensive practice! If you disagree, grab a folding trainer and try it as you spar with a training partner…a humbling experience to be sure. Having cut a few people out of seat belts, I can tell you a knife is a handy thing to have. I can also tell you that not having a cutting tool when you need one is a gut-wrenching, hopeless feeling. How would you feel if you were in Willden’s place and had to watch those children perish because you had no way to cut them free?

Although I’ve carried any number of folding knives over the years, I’ve settled on the Rick Hinderer three-inch Spanto folder. This knife is no larger than the palm of my hand but also fills it! It has a three-inch blade that can be opened with either the dual thumb studs or index finger flipper that doubles as a hand guard. With a titanium and G10 grip and a titanium blade lock, this lightweight knife is also rock-solid and tough as nails. I wish it had a small section of serrations for sawing through tough materials, but seldom can you have everything you want. That said, this Hinderer folder is everything I look for in an everyday folding knife. There are so many fantastic folding knives available; you should have no problem finding what fills your needs…just give it careful thought.  Part of the fun is finding it!

A Flashlight: An EDC flashlight doesn’t have to be a large or exceptionally bright light. It just needs to be able to search and navigate in bedroom-sized places. Or, in many cases, just needs to be bright enough to find a light switch or find your way out of a smoke-filled room. I had the opportunity to hear one of the survivors of the 9-11 World Trade Center attack speak, and he made it quite clear that the people who had flashlights were able to find their way out of the smoldering buildings. Smoke, dust and other debris can easily fill the air to the point where the naked eye can’t see. Having a white-light source can mean the difference between life and death.

My EDC flashlight has also been a bit of a journey and I admit to being a bit of a flashlight geek. While many folks want a “tactical” style light with a momentary tail cap activation switch for gun fighting, I’m not convinced it is essential for EDC. As we have tried to establish here, EDC application does not necessarily mean gun fighting…it means preparation. The Surefire Titan and Titan Plus are two key ring lights that are compact, robust and bright and can easily be carried everywhere. The twist cap activation does require a bit more effort but it also helps keep the light super compact. If you feel more comfortable with the momentary tail cap, the Streamlight ProTac 1AAA is a palm size light with three modes of light that can also be carried just about everywhere. Brite Strike, Fenix and a host of others offer a very impressive line of lights
for law enforcement, military
and EDC applications. A search on Amazon reveals a staggering number of white lights…just be careful, as there is also a lot of junk out there. If the light offers a tremendous number of features for a unbelievably low price it is probably crap!

A Cell Phone

Instant communication…a no-brainer. In this day and age, why would you be without one? I-Phone, Blackberry, Android? Who cares? Pick one…

First Aid Kit

The growing popularity and understood importance of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) has made many folks think about what they can carry with them at all times that will address wounds. Some folks I know are ready for Armageddon on their belt but my concern is they will grow tired of the load and go from ready for every thing to ready for nothing. Its best to compromise and decide what is most likely needed for everyday use and keep it sleek.

People argue tourniquets these days like we used to argue 9mm vs. .45 or Weaver vs. Isosceles. Soft-T Wide, CAT, RAT, TK-4 ...the styles seem to be constantly growing and are lauded by some, demeaned by others. Truth be told, I use what my Paramedic friend Jon Willis recommends, as I do not know enough about the various types to independently select. There are a sizeable number of videos that explain the various models…again, choose wisely. Bandages and Combat Gauze are also widely available and should be considered. The great thing about all of these items is they are easy to use with simple training and while hands on training is ALWAYS best, you can get a lot of information on line about how to use TCCC related gear.


Its great to have gear, but if you are not fit enough to take action then what is the point? You don’t need to look like my buddy Greg Ellifritz to be considered “fit”, you just need to be able “to do”… to pull someone out of a window, run far enough to escape danger, climb a fence, pull yourself out of harms way, have a strong enough heart to withstand conflict, flexible enough to get through a tight space…you just never know! A big part of being able to “keep your head” in a crisis is keeping your heart rate low. If your resting heart rate is in the high 80’s or low 90’s this is going to be real hard to do. My resting heart rate is 63 and I am 61 years old…it can be done. Yes, it requires effort, but most thing worth doing… does!

The bottom line: As a possible first responder, whether you be law enforcement or legally armed citizen, be prepared for a wide variety of situations, not just a gunfight. If you haven’t given careful consideration to your EDC gear, it’s time. Take a good look at what you need— someone’s life…or even your own…may depend on it.  Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reloading: Essential or insignificant?

Opinions on reloading, especially when running a semi-automatic pistol, vary greatly, even among the instructional community. Depending on your background or desired application, reloading is everything from critical to useless…”something that seldom happens” except in competition where it is often times forced on the shooter. So, what is the reality of the reload in combat? Do we ignore it or do we emphasize it? Remember what they say about opinions and those stink! Also consider an opinion is not fact, even if you do read it on line from a “famous” person…

Based on my many interviews and life long study of armed conflict (something many claim to have done) I will offer this: reloading in a pistol fight does not happen often…but it HAS happened and when it does there is a need to reload very, very quickly! Based on my many years of training law enforcement officers, legally armed citizens and some military folks, most do not reload very well. They are slow, look clunky and uncoordinated, are imprecise or carry their spare magazine in a piece of crap magazine pouch (LE issues the worst!), having given NO thought to what they bought other than price. A properly fitted magazine pouch should cover no more than half of the magazine body so the shooter can get a proper grip on it. Proper grip is important if you wish to do it well! A magazine pouch made for a Glock 17 is not a good choice for the 26, regardless of what the gun store clerk told you.

Others do it so well it is all they want to do!  Go on You Tube and watch all of the homemade videos of people attempting a one second speed reload. Many are quite good, but what does it mean? Bragging rights mostly, as performing a reload that fast, unless you are expecting it (like in a competition) is unlikely.  What about “load when you want to, not when you have to?” Having used the H & K MP-5 for many years (it did not lock open on the last round unless you had an MP-10) I am a BIG proponent of the concept, the problem is most are not capable of that level of focus…they will shoot their gun empty, even in practice. Yes, YOU may be the exception, but I am talking the typical student of pistol craft. Please resist the temptation of logging in to dispute this by telling me how awesome you are. I get it…

Even keeping the gun “topped off” seldom happens. I emphasize in my classes to keep the gun topped off. “There is no reason to start a three round drill with one round in your gun”, I say time and again, yet students continue to ignore my words. “I wanted to have a slide lock reload to force myself through it” I am told. Why would you do that? I know its bullshit and the student knows I know, but saying it is a way for them to save face. An armed professional always knows the status of their gear…something that can be accomplished with a bit of discipline. There is a time to reload under pressure, but a three round drill that is emphasizing some other skill set is NOT the time to do it! I want the student to concentrate on the skill being taught, not doing an unnecessary reload, which divides said concentration. And let’s be honest, most adults have only so much concentration capability, so I do not want to waste what they have on unnecessary actions!

So, when do we practice the reload? Some say we do not practice it at all, claiming that when the gun needs reloading during other training activities it will be enough. Sounds good, but will it? In my almost four decades of experience, this depends on the training regimen. If running the gun empty seldom happens in your routine, then it will probably not be enough. In addition, watch people when they do practice. The gun will go empty and they will reload it at some lackadaisical pace, as they do not want to “damage” their magazine by dropping it or don’t want to bend over to pick it up. If it is not “reload practice”, then it is not what will be emphasized. Lack of discipline, you say? Yep! It is…but saying this will not change it…its human nature, pure and simple. In my classes I constantly yell, “do not waste the opportunity for a good practice repetition!” meaning when you need to draw, reload, clear a stoppage, etc. do it like you are in a fight! But they won’t unless I ride them; they will fall back into just getting the task accomplished. Yep…lackadaisical…I sometimes wish I could just threaten my student’s lives just a little bit…make them understand what is at stake…but I just don’t want to go to jail at this late stage of my life. In the end, its up to them…

This is why I teach the reload and I make people practice it. I still teach the classic in battery speed load versus just teaching the emergency or slide lock reload. I do this as I think of the speed load as ”training wheels” for the emergency load.  If you take a moment to think about it, the emergency reload is the same as the speed load, you just have to drop the slide. Should we discuss the “controversy” of how to drop the slide? Shooting hand thumb, support hand thumb, over hand (saddle) grip, “pull on a rope” grip? You have no idea how much I do not give a shit how you release the slide! As long as you get it done as quickly as possible, that’s all I care about. For more on this, go to the Handgun Combatives You Tube channel where I address this subject in one of y videos.

What is interesting to note is even though I teach the speed load and tell students “load when you want to, not when you have to” the only time they will do so is when they are forced to do it…when they gun runs dry! You know what else is interesting? How they stand and stare at the gun when it does happen, especially when the slide does not lock open due to a malfunctioning slide lock lever or their shooting hand thumb was resting on it. This results in a five to six second reload which is a “get killed” level of speed…

Tactical or magazine retention reload? I show students a couple of ways to do this but spend little time practicing it. Why? They seem to get plenty of practice as they perform the “lackadaisical reload” previously discussed. You know, so they don’t damage or have to bend over a pick up their magazine. Ok, ok…rant off…sorry…

How fast should a reload be? As I previously stated, if a shooter does have to reload in a fight, it needs to be fast as the history of pistol fighting over several centuries has shown us they are over quickly...seconds not minutes. Just like the draw from the holster, I think you should be able to perform a shot to shot reload in around two to two and a half seconds with a pistol, regardless of the situation faced. No, this is not hard to do standing still with no stress on the square range, but can you do it on the move in the middle of a fight? Sitting behind the steering wheel of your car? Hunkered down behind low cover? Something to consider.  A revolver reload will be slower…no way around this even with speed loaders, but we have known for a long time that the primary advantage of a pistol over a revolver is capacity (not firepower…and AC-130 has firepower) and speed/ease of reload. The “New York Reload” as popularized by Jim Cirillo is the answer here.

Should I just “look” the magazine into the magazine well? Sounds inviting, but from personal experience…and the experience of the many people I have interviewed…you will have a hard time taking your eyes off of the person who is trying to kill you. And if you are behind cover, you will probably want to track where they are so they don’t flank you. “It is only a brief second” you say? Then go ahead and believe it /do it…I don’t care… I’m just telling you what will happen when someone is trying to take your life. You are welcome to any gun fighting fantasy you choose. I think it is ok to watch your magazine as you are learning, but as you get better, it is a good idea to do it quickly and efficiently by feel. There is a method for doing this that many instructors do not know or teach…reloading should be done by feel, not sight just like the draw.

In order to reload…or any crisis-level skill, really… to a level of motor skill “automaticity” you will have to practice it. PRACTICE is the key to any skill development and anchorage and anyone who disputes this does not understand proven motor learning skill development. How often should you practice? It depends on how much you suck at the particular skill! If you struggle with reloading, you will have to focus on it. I would suggest you practice reloading in a dry fire environment…don’t waste expensive ammo practicing to reload. If you can walk out on the range and perform a 2-2.5 second emergency reload cold, go practice something else! I start each of my practice sessions with a series of skill drills and I use them to tell me what I need to practice on that day. My reload standard is 1.5 seconds for a speed load and 2 seconds for an emergency reload. I add .25 second for garment removal. I will be honest here, if I am struggling with a skill, I will work it unconcealed until I smooth it out, then I will conceal.

I do each drill three times and if I hit the standards, I practice what I want on that day. If not, that is where I focus. It is a system that works for me and has done so for decades. As Bruce Lee so eloquently said, “Advanced skills are the basics mastered.” To me, “mastered” means automaticity.

So, did I change your opinions on reloading? Probably not…but if I have gotten you to think about it, consider what you do or how your practice, then I did my job. Did I step on what your guru thinks? Yeah…don’t care. What I do and teach I know works in the street over many years. It doesn’t mean other techniques don’t work; I just have confidence in mine. Stay safe, thanks for checking in and have a great holiday season!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Federal HST…the new standard of excellence.

There was a time when I collected shooting reports from all across the country. It started in the late 1980s when I was working on my master’s degree in criminal justice administration and I needed to pick a thesis topic. I proposed a research project entitled "The Incapacitation Effectiveness of Police Handgun Ammunition" and my student advisor and counseling professor accepted it.

In addition, I conducted ballistic research by shooting bullets into various mediums—including ballistic gelatin, wet undertaker’s cotton, duct sealant and water tanks—to determine whether or not one substance was better than another based on the bullets removed from human tissue. I was also permitted to use my agency’s letterhead to solicit shooting and autopsy reports from across the country. I contacted many of the country’s largest agencies and they responded to my request. I kept many of those contacts open over the years and continued to exchange data with officers across the country. I quit doing it several years ago as I retired (along with many of my contacts) and in truth, I wasn’t learning anything new.

This network kept me abreast on the types of ammo that worked on the street and which did not. Many promising ammo styles (based on lab testing) ended up as dismal failures in the street. Others proved worthy. I’ve seen continued success with the .38 special all-lead hollow point regardless of brand; the Winchester SXT and Speer Gold Dot regardless of caliber; and the Federal Hydra-Shok in slow- moving bullets, like the 230 grain .45 caliber or 147 grain 9 mm.

Recently, while driving home from a course in Richmond, VA with co-instructor Brian Buchanan, “Bucky” told me about a recent shooting his agency was involved in. The reason this event was significant is due to the department changing from .40 “back” to 9mm, something many in the department felt was moving in the wrong direction. If the first shooting had been a disaster, controversy would follow. As it turned out, the officer stopped the suspect with a 147-grain Federal HST load, which was selected after an exhausting test period, which included ammunition styles from across the spectrum. The Federal 147 HST was selected as the selection committee felt it had the best performance parameters, loosing nothing from the .40 S & W. The bullet performed flawlessly and raised confidence across the agency.

I’ve been watching the progress of Federal’s HST over the years as it takes some time to see street results and HST’s results have been impressive across the caliber spectrum, offering consistent expansion and optimum penetration for terminal ballistic performance, i.e. incapacitation potential. HST’s specially designed hollow-point tip won’t plug while passing through a variety of barriers, and it holds its jacket in the toughest conditions…two claims that have been born out over a growing number of shootings. HST is engineered to provide 100% weight retention through most barriers and impressive expansion, often as much as doubling its original diameter.

The hard object penetration was really brought home to me recently during a vehicle combat course I taught in Northern Minnesota. Two Federal employees were enrolled in the course and offered to insert ballistic gelatin into the cars during the small “lab segment “ in include in each class. During this block, I normally allow the students to shoot the vehicles with the ammo they carry to see how well it will penetrate. The gelatin just added to the experience and I can honestly say the HST loads in both 9mm and .40 worked flawlessly! They were only eclipsed by one load, the new Speer Gold Dot 2, designed for the FBI.

I should note, I was made aware of the encouraging lab results of the HST before it even hit the market. I was at Federal’s Anoka, Minn., plant writing an article on the Expanding Full-Metal Jacket (EMFJ) ammunition when I was asked if I wanted to see the next-generation hollow point. Hell yes—who wouldn’t I thought?!  I was shown a series of bullets that had been fired through various mediums into ballistic gelatin and all displayed incredibly consistent performance. I was then allowed to enter the ballistic lab and watch tests being conducted. I admit to being impressed by what I saw, but I wanted to see actual shooting data. Well, HST has been on the market long enough for shooting data to roll in and results show the bullet is as good as the early testing said it would be. As a matter of fact, it would not be out of line to say it is the most street proven load currently available.

Although some say HST stands for High Shock Two, Federal says it really doesn’t stand for anything other than a designation for
a line of ammo. During an email exchange
with Tom Burczynski, 
the inventor of the
 HST bullet as well
as several other
successful bullet designs, he
 wrote, “After
 testing, I submitted two different concepts (for two different bullets) to Federal. One concept dealt with a serrated core while the other dealt with a series of highly effective scores in the jacket. Federal engineers incorporated both concepts into the same bullet and dreamed up a way to align the serrations with the scores in the jacket. It is a pre-stressed core, which is why the expanded bullets look like El Dorado Starfire (no longer in production) and Speer Gold Dot.” It’s also the reason why the HST expands and penetrates so well through various barriers and materials.

According to Burczynski, early versions expanded well through FBI cloth, but not International Wound Ballistics Association denim test medium. Federal re-worked the bullet and later versions expanded well through denim as well. Over the years, Federal tweaked the bullet’s velocity—raising the velocity of some loads while lowering others—to get the maximum performance parameters from each load. In the end, Federal has a bullet design that’s only rivaled by the Gold Dot in on-the-street effectiveness. I have seen actual shooting data on the 124 and 147 grain 9 mm, 165 and 180 grain .40 S & W and the 230 grain +P .45. The performance of the HST in this limited number of actual shootings is exemplary. The 124 and 147 loads expanded to .65 and .63 in tissue, while the .40 loads deformed to .66 and .65 respectively. The +P .45 was recovered at autopsy to have expanded to a whopping .74 caliber—that’s three fourths of an inch! Even though this is a limited number of shootings, it’s certainly enough for me to recommend with HST with confidence.

Recently, I decided to perform my own tests with the HST using both 10% ordnance gelatin ( a real pain in the ass, to be honest) and rolls
 of-wet undertaker’s cotton. The cotton material was a substance formerly used by the crime lab in my jurisdiction to trap bullets for ballistic comparison. David Taulbee, the late master firearm’s examiner at the lab (and one of the smartest ballistics experts I’ve ever met), noticed the bullets he fired into the cotton looked very similar to those removed from bodies at autopsy. He conducted a number of tests in the mid-1980s and determined the rolls of cotton were an excellent way to test bullet expansion and I couldn’t agree more. I fired the bullets into the gelatin and cotton at 15 feet with the bullets crossing the screen of a Shooting Chrony chronograph. I only charted penetration in the gelatin, as it is difficult to do in the cotton. Cotton is a great “back yard” test medium for those who wish to do it yourself. The leg of a pair of blue jeans covered the gelatin and cotton and the guns used were a Glock 17, 22 and 21.

To test accuracy, I bench rested the three guns and grouped each load at 25 yards that, admittedly, is outside the normal distance law enforcement or armed citizen use of a handgun, but in the age of the Active Killer, “normal” is being pushed out further. That said, when testing a gun’s accuracy, why not take it to the limit?

In the end, only you or your agency can determine what load or caliber is right for you and yours. Note: I don’t recommend purchasing ammo solely based on a magazine article review. Instead, research and test any potential issue or carry load for yourself. HST is a real good place to start!

Caliber      Load Type      Velocity    Cotton   Gelatin      Penetration
9 mm   124 grain +P  1,177 fps   .65 .62           12.5 inches
9 mm   147 grain    987 fps   .64 .61           14.5 inches
.40 S & W 165 grain  1,112 fps   .66 .67           14.5 inches
.40 S & W 180 grain  1,008 fps   .64 .66           15.5 inches
.45 ACP    230 grain +P    977 fps    .70         .71             13.5 inches