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!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Basic Versus Enhanced Protection by William Tracy

Handgun Combatives follower William Tracy sent this to me and it has some pretty sound advice. Thus, I thought I would share it with everyone…

    So often when we discuss personal protection we, as firearms enthusiasts, go straight to the issue of gun choice. But that is only one of many aspects to personal safety and protection, and beyond that, individuals facing sufficiently specific or personally directed dangers must take measures beyond those basics.
     Little of what I have to follow is original to any degree, and even if I thought of it, someone else likely conceived the idea also, but I’ll try to give credit as best I can. What follows is not necessarily in any order of priority.

Awareness: Have you ever looked at people walking to their car at the shopping center? I have, and I can’t tell you how many times I see them not even looking both ways as they cross from the curb. You should be routinely scanning around yourself in an alert, relaxed manner when out in public. Most of us will probably never have to worry about a criminal attack (in which case a few more seconds can make all the difference), but there can be much more mundane hazards, including, but not limited to overhead construction items falling, or inattentive drivers. Likewise, I don’t like the idea of walking about in public having both ears plugged with ear buds from an MP3 player or similar device. Hearing will serve to draw our attention to activities beyond our field of vision. By removing or diminishing it, we limit our early warning system to what we see.

First Aid Kit: I’m talking pretty basic here. A stethoscope (preferably dual tube), blood pressure cuff, box of 4x4 inch gauze squares, a couple of roll gauzes, tape, a can of spray saline (the type used for contact lenses), and either a pair of scissors or small tactical knife to cut away clothing over an injury, and a ventilation mask. None of this is meant for treating major multiple traumas, but in a pinch you can get creative. A blood pressure cuff and some gauze can serve to apply direct pressure to smaller extremities such as forearms, hands, ankles or foot when there is significant bleeding. The stethoscope tubing can be used as an impromptu tourniquet for legs. Saline in a spray can will keep for extended periods and is useful for clearing blood and debris from a smaller injury without further traumatizing tissue.

Exterior Lighting: A motion activated light at entranceways is not a bad idea, and doesn’t have to be obtrusive, though I’ll admit to a mea culpa on this. At least have functioning lights at entrances. If you live in an apartment or other rental housing and entrance lighting is not working, put your request in writing if any verbal request is not acted upon within a reasonable time.

Basic Handgun: Have at least one reliably functioning handgun, preferably one that can serve both for home defense and concealed carry, as your applicable laws allow. My usual first recommendation is a mid size to low end of duty size polymer frame pistol in 9x19 with a 4 to 4.25 inch barrel. Examples include Glock 19, Springfield Armory XD (standard model with 4 inch barrel), or Smith & Wesson M&P (standard 4.25 inch model). Smaller guns might be slightly more concealable, but the somewhat longer grips and barrels on these make for greater handling and shooting ease, and they’re not all that hard to conceal with good holsters. For those who have neither the equipment or inclination to reload, 9x19 factory FMJ ammo is the cheapest available for practice, and any number of premium hollowpoint factory loads provide decent stopping effectiveness. And, though none of these models would be considered “game” guns for competition, they can still serve very well for IDPA SSP or ESP or for USPSA Production, thus further familiarizing the gun owner with awareness of their capabilities.
Be discreet in your possession, transport and carrying. I’m a life member of both USPSA and the NRA, but you’ll never know it by looking at my house or car. There may be times you’ll have to leave a weapon secured in your car. Anything suggestive of a house or car containing a gun can make it a target for thieves. When carrying as per your laws, avoid clothing which might suggest being armed or having a too casual attitude regarding use of force. The first can make you a target for an armed assailant looking to eliminate resistance and either can potentially provide fodder as to liability. I never wear any of my match t shirts as an outer cover garment when carrying.

Physical conditioning: I hadn’t really thought of this as an aspect of personal defense until I read some comments by Dave Spaulding, but he made a valid point along the lines that if you do nothing more vigorous than reach for the TV remote, you can’t expect to put up much of a fight. Although an activity such as certain martial arts might seem most applicable, the more important overall point is to regularly participate in a sufficiently vigorous activity on a regular basis. Not every aggressive action by an assailant calls for use of a gun or to stand and fight when fleeing is appropriate. Besides, you reap the inherent health benefits.

Flashlight: Get any of the small tactical flashlights on the market. You never want to shoot anyone you’re not justified in doing so to, especially non aggressors. They are bright enough to disorient a potential assailant and possibly help avoid the need for shots to be fired, and can serve as emergency lighting when moving around in the dark, as happened with a power outage in my area last fall.

Cell phone: They provide you mobile access to emergency services, both medical and law enforcement, though coverage can be erratic in some regions. I’m uncertain how well triangulating technology works for any given region or provider, so give as specific a location as possible. I’m not entirely ready to dump my hard line though, but regard them as complementary. The redundancy of having both cell and hard line phones can actually cut both ways. There was an instance in my county (Allegheny) a few years ago when 911 calls made on hard lines did not get answered due to a system programming error, but cell calls DID get answered. It happened again in recent weeks in a county north of me, Venango. In any case, give specific descriptions of yourself and any assailant present if calling law enforcement, as a protection for you and police who may arrive on scene.

Fire extinguisher(s): It’s a good idea to have one or more in any household. You can get small household ones in most any hardware or home supply store. I keep one near my bedroom and another at the top of my basement steps, to cover the mid and lower level areas of my house. And no Clint Smith, I didn’t get the idea from you (though I did see it in an ad for his personal defense series) they can serve as an improvised weapon via spraying an opponent’s eyes, enabling one to flee or access a better weapon.

    All of the above basic items, as you can see, has multiple applications, and in the case of handgun choice, multiple competitive venues to which it can be applied at a relatively modest cost as compared to other choices.
    Now if a person is facing relatively specific threats, there are a host of other measures which need to be considered, the ones utilized to depend on how truly serious and ongoing the danger might be.

Record of hostile contacts: Keep a record of hostile contacts, including e-mails, police or insurance reports of property damage, or harassing phone calls. You can print out hard copies of e-mails-contact your ISP as to how, if at all, for them to keep a record of any harassing e-mails. Save any answering machine tapes of harassing calls if you have this type of machine-contact the manufacturer as to how to save calls for legal purposes if you have a digital machine. If you have electronic voice mail for either a cell or hard line phone, contact your provider as to how to save calls for legal purposes. If possible, set up your caller ID so it won’t accept calls from blocked numbers. Note the time of any harassing calls and the number (if displayed) on your caller ID. All of this can serve as evidence for charges of harassment or stalking, and in a worst case scenario, be proof of acting in reasonable belief of harm if you need to use force.

Home alarm systems: An alarm system won’t necessarily scare off or stop a truly determined intruder. For an unoccupied residence, it might only make them aware they’re on a tighter time schedule. The most important benefit is in giving one more time to react when an intruder comes into an occupied residence. If they mistakenly broke into a place they thought was unoccupied, they MAY be more likely to flee if encountering an armed and prepared person. If it is someone who broke in KNOWING occupants were present, it gives the occupant(s) valuable moments to set their defenses and call to have police in route-any intruder who intentionally breaks into an occupied residence is a very potentially dangerous individual.

Remote car starter: I know some will think protection against explosive devices tied into the ignition, but I feel that’s truly a rarity. The greater benefit, I feel, when facing harassment or potential threat from another person or persons is narrowing your window of vulnerability as you approach and get in your car. With a remote door key you can have the care started and unlocked as you enter it, greatly decreasing the time an assailant can approach.
Long guns: My first choice would be an AR variety carbine in a flat top configuration with iron sights in .223, next would be an auto or pump shotgun 12 gauge loaded with tactical buckshot, next would be a pistol caliber carbine. The first gives all the range you might need in any but a very rural setting (Pat Sweeney wrote a great article you should look up if this is an issue for you), the flip side being more penetration and range than you might want in an urban or suburban setting. The shotgun gives less penetration and range, thus it might be better in those settings, with a trade off in lesser capacity and less precision at longer distances. The pistol caliber carbine (semi auto) is a very valid option with range slightly beyond typical handgun ones via the longer barrel and sight radius, as well as being easier for recoil or blast sensitive individuals. And speaking of that, especially with the shotgun or rifle caliber carbine, the blast can do quite severe damage to your ears-not that a handgun round is anything good to set off near bare ears. If you’re routinely keeping a long gun of this sort for home protection, or facing a specific threat, electronic hearing protectors are well worth it to keep handy. They also give you the bonus of having softer sounds magnified.

Hardened fighting position(s): You needn’t have an extravagant “panic room” that costs as much as some small houses. If you have a house with much heavy stone construction or brick, particularly inside, you may already have hardened positions. (Another nod to Pat Sweeney on his rural defense article, since I hadn’t before thought of type of house construction as a means of cover. He also wisely pointed out that any heavy equipment a rural resident might have would be useful as cover.)
    However, most of us won’t have this type of construction available as cover, or it might not be in a tactically optimal part of the house. Ordinary wall materials are more truly concealment rather than cover. It can be something as simple as some steel plate or heavy polycarbonate panel leaned against a wall just inside a door. If you wish to be more discreet, you can have it inserted between the walls through the door frame. Choose a location which gives you as much distance as possible against an approaching intruder.

Backup weapons: Traditionally, this is thought of as a small auto or snub revolver carried in a pocket or ankle holster, assuming typical strong side carry with the primary handgun. If carrying 2 guns, you may want to install a Sure Set Universal holster mount in your primary car, as trying to draw while seated can be devilishly tricky. Your backup might even then become your primary gun in certain circumstances. I pretty much set the .32 ACP as the bottom end caliber and power wise, but lean more towards preferring .38 Special +P or 9x19. One option to consider is a smaller version of your primary gun, especially in 9x19, thus being able to use mags from your primary if you lose use of that weapon. I’m not too keen on some of the extremely light mini guns in more powerful calibers given how difficult the recoil can be to manage in such weapons.
  Ironically, a long gun kept for home defense may actually function in the backup role, given the handgun may be more rapidly accessed since it’s more portable, with the long gun kept near or at a more defensible position, hearkening back to Clint Smith’s saying,: “A handgun is what you use to fight your way back to the rifle you should have had in the first place.”

Legal aspects as to workplace: If you’re fortunate, you live in a state with shall issue concealed carry laws and a boss with no hesitation as to your carrying a concealed weapon for defense while on the job, but for most of us outside of law enforcement, it’s highly unlikely one can do so. The next best thing, if company policy and law in your area allows, may be to have a security officer meet you upon arrival at work and have you secure your weapon in the security office, then retrieve it and immediately exit after work. Next step down the rung is securing your firearm in your vehicle in the parking lot before entering work. Legal protections on this can very widely from state to state. Some specifically protect individuals securing their weapons in cars in parking facilities, others do not, while others leave you in legal limbo especially if you work in an “at will” state as to labor law. Check with a lawyer knowledgeable as to firearms law in your area.
  Whether or not you can or do secure a weapon in your car, you can request permission to park in an area that permits quicker access to work entrances and a greater likelihood of other people nearby. If a verbal request to this effect is not honored, make one in writing, preferably via registered mail so they can’t claim they never received it. This can potentially serve as leverage for liability in case you are actually attacked or injured after requesting such parking accommodations, the idea being you were attempting to prevent “foreseeable damages”.

Body armor: We’re talking basic soft body armor such as can be concealed under average dress or casual clothing. It’s not foolproof-I know of 2 local cases of officers killed in the line of duty by rounds that struck above the neckline and another with a lower abdomen injury from a vest failure with penetration-but in the vast majority of cases they will stop common handgun projectiles or edged weapons, thus allowing the individual to either stay “in the fight” or retreat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fighting from the ground: Unconventional Shooting

Several years ago, in order to maintain my state peace office training credential, I attended a Defensive Tactics Instructor recertification course. The focus of the program was “ground fighting.” Over the many years I was on the job, I have received continual training in this subject, all of it based on getting up off the ground as quickly as possible. I clearly remember my basic academy hand-to-hand combat (that’s what is was called in the good old days) instructor screaming, “Get up off the ground! You can’t fight effectively from there!” and kicking us if we dwelled too long flat out. Well, it was a different time, but the lesson was well learned.

Imagine my surprise when the content
 of the recertification was not getting up, but deliberately taking your opponent
 down in an effort to “pin” them. It was like 
junior high wrestling and I can remember
 the three days were a waste of time, in my
opinion. Regardless of what wins fights in
 MMA matches, I refuse to adopt the idea 
that fighting TO the ground is a good idea. 
Once on the ground, you are far less mobile
 than when upright, and trying to defend yourself from multiple attackers is almost impossible. Imagine trying to hold someone on the ground and then have his buddy kick you in the side of the head while you are “entangled.”  Won’t happen, you say?  You need to wake the f*#k up and find out what a real fight is all about!

I feel even more strongly about this when firearms are involved. While there are no rules in a gunfight, there are some points to ponder. If you are not shooting to stop the threat, you should be doing one of the following: moving rapidly and aggressively with purpose, reloading or just “getting out of Dodge.” It’s difficult, if not impossible, to do any of these while lying on the ground—at least in a time frame that will save your life.

There are several ways you can end up on the ground while engaged in armed conflict, and they will have an effect on how you proceed. One is going to the ground deliberately, such as taking low cover or bracing the pistol for a long shot. Another is grounding unintentionally, such as tripping while moving—something that happens more often than people think when trying to shoot while moving to the rear. Keep in mind that we humans do not have eyes in the back of our heads and that trying to “walk backwards” while delivering accurate fire will eventually result with our butt over-riding our feet and thus an unintentional grounding situation.
The last—and most perilous—is being knocked off your feet during a close-quarters fight. Many pistol fights start out as fist fights...

How to handle any of these situations will depend on how far away your opponent(s) is when you go down, as distance equals time and time equals life. The farther away they are, the more time you have to just get up and keep moving. But if they are right on top of you, it is likely you will have to deploy your pistol from the ground and deliver fast and accurate fire. After all, once you are on the ground, you won’t be doing any cool-looking, tactical-style’ll have to shoot your attacker quickly, accurately and without hesitation if you want to live to see another day. Nothing else will work.

While the best thing is to get up so you can move, getting up might not be possible. It’s imperative, then, to learn how to deploy your pistol from a grounded position. Years ago, I was taught to bend my legs and bring them up in front of my upper torso to help protect it...using them as cover, as it were... which, with modern ammunition’s enhanced penetration capabilities, is a ridiculous thing to do. Rounds fired at the legs will likely pass through. That said, using your legs like this can help stabilize the pistol if a precision shot is needed. If time is of the essence, don’t waste it trying to fold your legs; use it to get your gun between you and the threat and deliver accurate fire.

If your pistol was in your hand when you fell, then all you need to do is get it on target. If you dropped it when you hit the ground, then you have a problem—unless you know where it is. Scrambling around trying to recover it will likely result in failure, which is another reason for carrying a backup gun, as you will know where it is on your body. And hopefully you’ll have practiced drawing it from unconventional positions. If you do start going down inadvertently, tighten your grip on the pistol, keep your finger off the trigger and ride out the fall. Once grounded, find the attacker and engage from whatever position you are in.

If the gun is secured in the holster, you will need to draw it and get it on target. Drawing from a strong-side belt holster (which, in my mind, includes appendix carry) is the same action whether standing, kneeling, seated or prone (belly up or down), which is why I prefer it. This is not something you can say about other carry positions. Drawing from your preferred mode of carry in two seconds or less is the standard students in my classes must achieve. While this does not seem particularly fast when standing on the square range, it becomes more problematic when lying on the ground, especially if a concealing garment is involved.

The most fluid strong-side draw is accomplished by taking your shooting arm’s elbow straight to the rear, which will deliver the shooting hand to the gun without searching, removing the garment along the way. If you end up lying on your support side or back, drawing the gun will be easy, as your shooting arm is unencumbered. If just the opposite happens, the act of drawing becomes more complicated.

In fact, the direst of grounded situations would be landing on your holstered firearm with the suspect hovering above. In this case, a rapid response will be critical, and speed will come from economy of motion. Since it is impossible to draw the pistol while lying on it, immediately roll over on your back. Doing so will allow you to use your feet to fend off an attack while you draw your handgun. Remove the covering garment. If it is 
a closed-front garment, two hands might be needed but never settle ONLY on a two hand garment removal technique...the off or support hand can be involved in any number of things in a struggle. An open-front garment can probably be cleared with one. Once the garment is removed, secure a solid shooting grip, clear the holster and direct it toward the attacker.

If you were using your feet to fend off your attacker, get them out of the way before firing so as not to shoot yourself. Though contrary to what all of the Internet Ninjas might say, it is quite possible to shoot yourself in a close quarter, rapidly moving gunfight. If you have the core/abdominal strength necessary, sit upright, which makes getting up all the easier. Once sitting, you will have a more stable shooting platform and will be halfway to a standing position. If you need to use your hands and arms to prop yourself up, they are involved in an activity other than fighting, which means you are at a disadvantage.

Make no mistake about it, fighting from the ground places you in a position of serious disadvantage. Shoot from the ground as quickly as possible to stop the immediate threat, then get upright and look for additional threats.
 Being on the ground is not a death sentence provided you have trained from there and know what to do. Practice it now! Trying to sort it out in the middle of a fight will likely result in failure of the worst kind. Make sure you are ready, and you will be more capable of defeating the threat!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Ankle Holster: Convenient but possibly deadly

My first experience with an ankle holster was the 1971 Academy Award-winning movie The French Connection. I was in high school at the time and hadn’t even thought about a law enforcement career. My life’s total focus was two things: girls and sports, in that order. I saw the movie at the drive-in and was immediately taken by the concept of strapping a gun to one’s leg. It was so cool looking!

When I graduated from the police academy, one of the first things I did was buy a snubby revolver and an ankle holster. Carrying the gun was easy because of the pants style of the time (large bell-bottom trousers). I fantasized about confronting armed robbers and being able to swiftly draw my gun from my leg while saving every damsel in distress (most young male cops do). But once it happened, I realized that relying on an ankle gun for primary carry was/is a huge mistake.

Like many young police officers trying to make ends meet, I took a number of off-duty security jobs. One was at a local hotel along the interstate at the southern end of my county. Known as an upscale location, the hotel in question had indoor and outdoor pools, a fine-dining restaurant and a nightclub that stayed open late. With the exception of a few vehicle break-ins, this business was considered a low-crime area.

The thought of not carrying a gun while working these off- duty jobs was out of the question. And let’s be honest, that’s why these businesses hire off-duty cops. But carrying a concealed weapon can be a hassle, especially because nothing ever happened at this hotel, so I succumbed to the siren song of the ankle holster and carried a Smith & Wesson Model 60 as my only carry gun. It was convenient and out of the way, and I didn’t have to wear a jacket. For a while, I carried a Bianchi Speed Strip in my front pants pocket so I’d have some spare ammo. As time went by, I even quit doing that. I’d fallen into a complete state of complacency, and it almost cost me my life.

One evening, I’d just reported for work and walked back to the office located behind the front desk to punch my time card. After doing do, I took off my glasses and was cleaning them as I walked around the corner to talk with the desk clerks. It was at that moment I noticed their hands in the air. I looked up into the muzzle of a .38 caliber revolver and noticed it had a cheap-looking Colt Python-like rib on the barrel. It’s interesting what you notice at the strangest times.

The robber told me to raise my hands, and it was at that moment, a certain clarity came over me. I was facing a gun with my hands in the air. Not only could I not see clearly, my hands were at the opposite end of my body from my holstered firearm. I couldn’t protect the hotel and its staff. I couldn’t even protect myself. I’ve never felt so helpless. I might die and there was nothing I could do about it.  Its interesting to note the circumstance in which your realize you are stupid!

Fortunately, the suspect decided not to shoot anyone, took the cash and fled out of the front door. I immediately went into super hero mode as I put my glasses on and went to leap over the counter to give pursuit. Unfortunately, my left foot became entangled in a wire brochure rack that was sitting on top of the front desk, and I slammed face first into the floor.

Not to be deterred in my heroic pursuit, I got up and ran to the same doors the suspect exited. This was a double door with a carpeted mat in between, and, as I opened the first set, I thought it wise to draw my gun. As I tried to both run and draw from my ankle rig, I slipped on the mat, going face down for the second time in less than a minute.

I finally cleared the Model 60 from the holster and exited the second set of doors, looking left and right but not seeing the suspect. I went to my right because it offered the quickest path out of my field of view. As I rounded the corner of the hotel I saw the suspect in the distance just as he fired a round in my direction. At that moment, I did the only thing that I could possibly do… I tried to crawl into a crack in the pavement! Finally realizing this wasn’t a good idea, I moved to a wall and tried to get my bearings. It might come as a surprise that the suspect made a successful getaway. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

My life changed that night. It wasn’t my finest hour, and I admit to a great deal of embarrassment regarding my preparation and performance. But as a professional trainer, if my mistakes can save a life, then a bit of embarrassment is a worthy price to pay. I became a training “junkie.” A never-again attitude enveloped me, and I never used an ankle holster for primary carry again. Only a “hand full of gun” would be mounted on my belt. Even when carrying a back-up gun, I leaned toward pocket holsters because they required less movement. I was fitted for contact lenses, and tried to minimize my wearing of glasses. Looking back now, it’s a humorous story but one that also changed my life. Don’t take your personal security for granted. Bad things happen to good people in nice places, and I had to make sure it never happened to me…or my family… again!

The model 60 was replaced with a 4" Smith & Wesson model 66 and once semi-autos were approved, a S&W 669 9 mm. I carried the gun in a belt-mounted speed-scabbard on my right hip, which I soon realized was the closet position to my shooting hand. I practiced drawing so I could get a solid hit on target in less than 2 seconds from concealment regard- less of the position I was in, and this included seated and laying on my back.

I still have a couple of snubby revolvers and a few ankle holsters, but they were long ago relegated to back-up gun carry only. While seated, the ankle gun can be accessed reasonably fast, but it will never be as quick as belt carry. Keep in mind trousers with enough space around the ankle are needed, meaning something like a boot cut jean or larger. Uniform trousers usually have enough room for ankle carry. There are several methods of ankle draw that work well, but the ankle holster will always require more movement and time than more conventional, standing upright carry modes.  Also, bending over or kneeling down takes your eyes off the threat and makes you less mobile.

If you choose to carry in an ankle holster, please understand the potential drawbacks and complications: It’s not as easy as it looks. Although they’re certainly convenient, they’re also slow and complicated to draw from. Think about your real world of work and the threats you are likely to face, and decide if the ankle holster is right for you or potentially life threatening. Keep in mind why you carry a gun and decide if it’s a fashion accessory or life-saving tool. This will be an important decision. If you choose to carry your primary weapon on your leg, practice, practice, practice. Nothing else will allow you to be an active participant in your own rescue.

Stay safe, and check your 360 often!