I’m taking the NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home Course this week. Taking the Course is a prerequisite to becoming a PPOTH Instructor but I also like to get back to Basics periodically.
Yesterday, I did the Range Exercises for the Basic level of the Course. PPOTH has Basic Level range exercises of 100 rounds. The Advanced Level range exercises total 112 rounds. The exercises are detailed in a Condensed Reference Guide available from the NRA.
The exercises are nothing fancy or ‘high speed’ but they emphasize fundamental skills that everyone who carries a weapon should be able to execute flawlessly. Most are shot at seven yards.
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol, moving to a position of cover and firing two shots (that hit)
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) using the Shooting (Dominant) Hand Only
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) at close range (2 yards)
The exercises are done dryfire first and then live fire. Generally, 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise are done. Accountability for the rounds is stressed. I like that. I’ve used the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program in a number of classes. What my students found was that getting 100% hits on a 12 inch circle at seven yards wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be.
Repetition and performance measurement are the midwives of skill development.
The standard I established for myself yesterday to get all my hits in the 10 ring of the NRA AP-1 target. This is an eight inch circle, which is a relatively well established standard for defensive accuracy among those who can shoot.
I’m looking forward to taking PPOTH and doing the exercises with someone else watching. That’s another of my standards; being able to perform on demand while others observe what my results are.
My colleague Melody Lauer posted an interesting question on Facebook.
What malfunction to shot ratio would you accept on a carry gun (without said malfunctions being purposefully induced)?
Since this had been a topic of conversation with another colleague only a few days before, I posted the answer we both agreed on.
“How many magazines come with the gun? … It needs to be 100% reliable for the number of rounds in the magazine(s) that come with it or how many a person carries, assuming the person even bought a spare magazine. More than that is superfluous. For many autoloaders now that means one magazine plus the round in the chamber.
The multiple thousand round reliability tests that the ‘cognoscenti’ are in love with are meaningless except in a very narrow context. The desire for those kind of tests is generated by training junkies who want to make it through 2-5 day 1500+ round training classes without having a single malfunction. Their applicability in the real world of peoples’ lives is nil.”
I was unsurprised when many folks responded, in generally polite ways, that I was crazy. Most of the cognoscenti want to run at least 1,000 rounds through a carry gun before they ‘trust’ it. My comment relating to ‘Arbitrary Reliability Assessments’ was pure heresy. There was also a considerable amount of mathematical ‘logic’ in the discussion that I found obtuse. For instance, if a gun could be expected to have 5 malfunctions out of 1,000 rounds, it could also be expected to have 1 malfunction per magazine. That was difficult for me to understand but I was told that I just don’t understand math and statistics. If I’m going to have one malfunction per magazine, I’ll just keep carrying a revolver.
Let’s think about the issue in some depth. My questions are:
- 1,000 rounds of what kind of ammo?
- Under what conditions?
- With which magazines?
- With which guns?
- Number 1 carry gun?
- Backup Gun?
- Spare carry gun?
Addressing those questions in order brings some other thoughts to mind.
- Ball or duty ammo? Often, guns shoot well with some ammo and other ammo, not so much. Because of that fact, running 1,000 rounds of ball through a gun and then a box of duty ammo through it doesn’t seem to me to accomplish any more than shooting the box of duty ammo alone. So, in the case of a Glock 19, 15 times 3 plus 1 = 46 rounds. Three magazines for those who like to carry two spares. That leaves 4 rounds out of a box. Always save the last one for yourself. Some folks are such terrible shots they better save two.
- Under what conditions? Unlike wheelguns, autoloaders are subject to the vagaries of the person/machine interface. That’s largely the crux of the reliability question.
- Is the 1,000 rounds to be shot in casual range shooting with no pressure? I can’t count the number of people shooting IDPA matches who have said to me “I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.” Even small amounts of stress can have an effect on how the shooter holds and fires the gun. Perhaps it would be a good idea to involve at least some significant percentage of the test under conditions that might induce a malfunction, such as a State or Area Championship? Yeah but shooting competition will get you ‘killed on the streetz.’ Or maybe all 1,000 rounds should be shot under extreme pressure, such as the first two to three days at the elite Rogers Shooting School?
- Is the 1,000 rounds going to be shot with both hands? One of the things I noticed at Rogers was how many more malfunctions occurred during one handed shooting. Should the 1,000 rounds involve some shooting with Dominant hand only? How about the Support hand only?
- Since ‘everyone starts moving after the first shot,’ how much of the 1,000 rounds is going to be shot while shooting on the move? It’s probably a good idea to shoot some Box Drills and Figure 8s as part of the testing process. Perhaps including a 50/25/25 percent mix of Freestyle/Dominant hand only/Support hand only during at least half of that 1,000 rounds should be the protocol.
- With which magazines?
- Magazines are often the weakest link in the reliability of any autoloader. Doing a reliability test with ‘training’ magazines and then switching to magazines ‘reserved’ for carry defeats the entire purpose of the test. It’s completely non sequitur.
- But if a person only has three ‘carry’ magazines, that means the test may involve dumping them on the ground somewhere around 20 times apiece. How comfortable are you with those magazines after they’ve been beaten up a bit? You tell me, it’s your decision.
- Which guns to test?
- How many people who carry a Backup Gun run the 1,000 rounds through it? Especially for those using small autoloaders such as an LCP, my guess is almost none. If you don’t run your Backup through the high round count protocol, do you still trust your life to it? If so, why is the main pistol any different?
- I’m a firm believer that anyone who carries a pistol should have a spare. Regardless of the circumstances of a shooting, the police will take the pistol as evidence. If you don’t have a spare, preferably identical to your carry gun, then you’re going to have to go buy one and run it through the testing protocol before you can ‘trust it.’ Back to Square One.
I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.
There are other considerations such as the effects of and on weapon mounted lights, lasers, or red dot sights, but that’s gilding the lily perhaps.
For those who only have one gun, such as the great majority of gun owners, how long is it going to take to conduct this 1,000 round test? Even at 100 rounds a week, the test will take the better part of three months to conduct. In the meantime, how do you feel about the gun? Do you want to have that “I’m still not sure I trust this piece” feeling in the back of your head for three months? How will that affect the person/machine interface?
In the end, if shooting 1,000 rounds before you ‘trust’ the gun makes you feel better, then go for it. But if you don’t design and follow a protocol that really relates to how you’re likely to use the gun in a situation where you have to protect yourself or your loved ones, the whole exercise is just an excuse to go shooting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A discussion developed on Facebook about carrying a gun for another person. I have done this in the past for a girlfriend who was a proficient shooter but didn’t carry because her tight and skimpy clothing didn’t permit it. The gun I carried for her was a small auto or J frame in an ankle holster.
However, an implied task of this situation is developing and practicing a protocol to make sure there isn’t a negligent discharge while the weapon is being passed to them or they are accessing it from the carrier. This implied task is not as cut and dried as it might seem.
My colleague Greg Ellifritz thought this was a good enough topic to put on his blog. Since I respect Greg’s opinion, I will reproduce my thoughts here.
My protocol when carrying a gun for another person and then passing it off to them is as follows:
- Draw weapon with right hand (I’m right handed).
- Place weapon into palm of left hand with fingers of left hand around fingers of right hand, fingers running perpendicular to each other.
- Release weapon with right hand into left hand. Barrel/slide is now in palm of left hand with fingers wrapped around trigger guard from top to bottom. This protects the trigger guard from having the other person’s finger getting into it, assuming they are right handed.
- Pass it toward the person with the muzzle pointed forward, i.e., away from both of us.
- The other person takes hold of the butt of the weapon with trigger finger on top of my fingers, approximating the register position.
6. Time permitting, I will ask “Got it?”
7. If she feels she has a good grip, she will respond “Got it.”
8. I then release my hold on the weapon and then pull my hand straight up from it so I do not sweep my hand over the muzzle.
This is also how I hand guns to other people in general and how I teach gun passing in my classes. The muzzle may be oriented in a different direction for safety.
I believe Scott Reitz teaches something similar to this with regard to gun passing. That may have been the origin of the idea, I don’t recall.
Some folks objected to the idea of carrying a gun for someone else who “isn’t serious enough to carry on their own.” The decision is based on a personal assessment of METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, Civil Considerations). In this case, I was satisfied that her attitude toward the enemy and proficiency with a handgun justified the tradeoffs involved. Would I rather she carried her own gun? Certainly. Would I prefer she was unarmed in a precarious situation? Certainly not.
Up until now, Friday Fundamentals has focused on mechanical issues. This issue is going to focus on mental processes. An incident that was in the news recently drives the discussion.
“It scared me absolutely to death,” said Sherry McLain. She was loading groceries into her car this past Saturday in the crowded Walmart parking lot on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.
That’s when a strange man approached, surprising her, and she pulled her revolver. “I have never been so afraid of anything in my whole life I don’t think,”
There are a number of problems here that led to her arrest.
- Her level of fear was irrational. Witnesses and surveillance cameras confirmed that the man simply spoke to her from 10 feet away.
- Being startled and being legitimately rationally afraid are two entirely different things.
- She doesn’t understand the difference between setting boundaries and enforcing boundaries.
- Because she doesn’t understand the difference, she didn’t comprehend that when we are defending ourselves, there’s a hierarchy involved. First, we set the boundary and then we enforce it, not vice versa.
- As a result, she now has another issue; the criminal justice system. She was arrested for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Based on the current information, I doubt that will go well for her.
Let’s make something clear at the outset, when you pull a gun on someone, you’re threatening to kill them. It doesn’t matter whether you say a word or not, you’re threatening to kill them. Some people apparently don’t understand that and the gravitas it carries. You better have a good reason for doing so. Irrational fear is not a good reason. Simply being startled is not a good reason.
The question of how this might have been avoided brings us to the issues of controlling fear, setting boundaries, and enforcing boundaries.
Controlling fear is a complex topic that is not often discussed in the training community. If anything, the community tends to promote fear, “I was in fear for my life” having become almost a mantra. The woman in the incident invoked it but the police were unimpressed. The difference between reasonable fear and irrational fear is frequently left out of that discussion. It’s somewhat pathetic that there’s better literature in the competitive swimming community about how to control fear than there is in the self-defense community. Learning to control fear is a process beyond the scope of a single blog post. It behooves those who carry deadly weapons to do some research on the topic.
The next issue is boundary setting and boundary enforcement. This is a process more easily trained than controlling fear. Boundary setting and enforcement are simply elements of a process. All we need to do is understand the process and practice it.
It’s important to understand that we set boundaries with communication and barriers, not with tools. The communication can be either verbal or non-verbal. The most obvious form of barriers are the homes we live in, assuming the doors and windows are closed and locked. If a criminal fails to respect the boundaries we set, then we use tools, in this case weapons, to enforce the boundaries. We don’t use tools at the outset to set our boundaries.
One of the biggest issues we have as a society is that we have forgotten or gotten out of the habit of saying NO! That can be done either verbally or non-verbally. Training to say NO! should be a primary lesson in every class on personal protection and people should practice it on a regular basis. Simply raising an outstretched hand and shaking the head can accomplish a lot. Keep in mind that a great deal of communication is non-verbal; we can use that fact to our advantage.
A proper sequence that would have kept this woman out of trouble might be as follows:
Recognize that being startled is not the same as being afraid. She was startled because she was task fixated on loading her groceries in the car, i.e., she had not one bit of situational awareness. Most people are like that. In this sort of a situation, looking around before you get to the car, as you arrive at it, and then after loading each bag goes a long way toward avoiding being startled. Positioning the car for safety helps too. In the sense of color or awareness codes, she was in White or Unaware.
If she had been in Yellow or Aware and seen him approach, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and raising the hand in the ‘stop’ gesture. That’s the first step in setting a boundary. Her mental state at that point could be described as Orange or Alert.
And yes, at this point, we could invoke the boogeyman of ‘The 21 foot rule’ that Dennis Tueller himself says has become terribly misconstrued. But the circumstances where a criminal runs up to someone in a WalMart parking lot and slashes their throat are far less common than ‘incrementing,’ which is a standard way for criminals to operate. Whether those throat slashings are in fact, reality or figbars of overactive imaginations remains to be seen.
If the person continued to advance, a default verbal response of ‘Stop, don’t come any closer’ clearly sets the boundary. Any decent person would stop at that point. If the person doesn’t stop, it’s an indicator that something nefarious is developing. The mental state shifts to Red or Alarm. Once the intent of the other party becomes more clear, then we can make a decision about which tool we want to employ to enforce the boundary. We can also determine what barriers we might employ in the process. That, too, is a discussion for another time. The boundary setting and enforcement decision process is what’s important in this particular case.
Another thing to consider is that any time we get a gun out for defensive purposes; be that from a holster, purse, nightstand, safe, or whatever, there’s a possibility it’s going to be fired, either intentionally or unintentionally. The more scared we are, the higher that possibility. Therein lays one of my chief objections to brandishing, which is what the lady did; the possibility it will culminate in a Negligent Discharge.
Since thinking about the ‘worst case’ is something many people like to do, let’s examine the possibility of a Negligent Discharge in this situation. Say the woman had an ND as she pointed her revolver at the man or the other people present. It’s probably a good thing for all of the parties involved that she had a revolver and not a striker fired autoloader. If her irrational fear had caused her to have an ND, what would be her eventual statement in court? Something to the effect of “He asked me for a light, I was scared so I drew my pistol, I had an Accidental Discharge, which resulted in a death. It was an accident.” Most likely, she’d go up the river for Manslaughter. Fortunately, that particular Negative Outcome didn’t happen. What did happen was the Negative Outcome of ‘Police Involvement,’ to wit, getting arrested.
If this lady had understood the awareness and boundary processes and then used them properly, she probably would have gone home instead of getting arrested. That’s something for all of us to consider.
Isn’t it just common sense to ensure you know what you’re shooting at?
That question was posted on my Claude Werner, Researcher and Analyst page.
It’s an important question that we need to put in perspective.
Not intending to be pejorative but there is no such thing as ‘common sense.’ What we refer to as ‘common sense’ is actually learned behavior based on our past experience.
For instance, as adults, we consider it ‘common sense’ to not stick our hand in a fire. When we were three years old, we didn’t know it would hurt and probably found it out the hard way.
Similarly, we as gun people would consider it ‘common sense’ to not look down the bore of a firearm. If you gave a pistol to an Australian Aborigine, one of the first things they would do is look down the bore because in their worldview, knowing what’s in a hole is really important. Even Al Gore did it when he was searching for the Internet in Viet Nam. That was before he realized he had to invent it.
Ninety-nine percent of what most people know about firearms usage they learned from TV and the movies. In those media, there is never any ambiguity about the shoot/no shoot decision. As a result, when people get placed in a real set of circumstances, they do indeed default to their ‘training,’ which is the media programming. So they tend to make mistakes and shoot, even if it’s not appropriate. I once bemoaned to a colleague that my Threat Management classes didn’t sell. His response was “Nobody buys a gun with the idea that they’re not going to use it.” His comment put it in perspective for me.
I am 62 and not nearly as strong as I once was. So long as he is only shouting, that’s where it will stay. Touch [me], I’m too old to fight. I will shoot.
An Internet Common Tater
Merrill “Mike” Kimball encountered one of the worst Negative Outcomes, being convicted of murder. Leon Kelley experienced the worst of them all, getting killed.
There are a number of items relating to decision-making, both during the confrontation and preceding it, that bear discussion in this case. Decisions are often made based on attitude and feelings, rather than facts. Most gun control arguments are rooted in feelings and we gunowners belittle anti-gunners for that. However, don’t think that the same reliance on fact rather than feeling can’t come back to haunt us in the courtroom.
An aspect of the Kimball shooting that I find interesting is that the ‘disparity of force’ aspect swayed the jury not at all. Leon Kelly was half a foot taller and outweighed Merrill Kimball by over 100 pounds but the jury didn’t care. The above Common Tater has the same attitude Mike Kimball displayed on October 6, 2013. Unfortunately, the jury didn’t see it that as a justification. A fear of serious bodily injury has to be seen as ‘reasonable.’ As a Maine defense attorney wrote on his blog
note the use of the word ‘reasonably’ [in the Maine statute]. Whimsical or irrational beliefs attributed to the defendant do not suffice.
Just because some of us are older (I’m 60) doesn’t mean we can think every assault is cause to respond with deadly force. This is why I tell every Defensive Pistol class I teach:
Failure to have an Intermediate Force option implies that all you are willing to do to protect yourself and your family is kill someone. That’s not a position I care to put myself in, nor should any rational adult.
For now, I’m not going to address the wisdom of even going to the scene of the confrontation, all things considered. However, if Mr. Kimball had carried a can of pepper spray with him, he probably wouldn’t be facing the probability of spending the rest of his life behind bars. I hear many objections to carrying pepper spray. Without exception, they are foolish, yet speciously alluring. As the prosecutor commented about the Kimball case:
People have a right to carry firearms, but the law only provides for use of firearms in defense in very limited and particular circumstances, and this was not one of them.
I would much rather carry a can of pepper spray than a spare magazine or a defensive knife. The chances you will need a spare magazine are infinitesimal. The reasons I hear for carrying a spare magazine tend to be:
- Carrying an extra implies you know what you’re doing.
- That you know that most semi-auto malfunctions are mag-related.
- That you know to top off after the fight.
- That you know that 6 rounds of .380 isn’t that much.
- That there might be another adversary.
The chances you will need a non-lethal response to an ugly situation are much higher than any of those reasons. Being shoved, even repeatedly, is not sufficient legal provocation for a killing. Even if it was, do you want to kill someone in front of your wife and son, as Mr. Kimball did, unless it’s absolutely necessary? But if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Ponder the implications the next time you strap on your heater.
A writer from Gun Digest contacted me about the Five Year Armed Citizen study TAC 5 year w tables I did a while back. He asked if I would give him a quote about it, so this was my reply.
“Analyzing incidents involving Armed Private Citizens, rather than LE/MIL situations, leads to different conclusions. Common discussion topics among Armed Private Citizens, such as equipment and caliber issues, rarely are the cause of Negative Outcomes. Negative Outcomes result from 1) lack of conceptual understanding leading to poor decision-making, and 2) lack of appropriate and necessary skills, techniques, and tactics.
Carrying and being capable of using a small gun adequately will yield much better results than owning a large pistol that isn’t carried or shot well. More criminals have been planted in the ground by .22s that hit than by .45s that miss.”
Unfortunately, once we covered up the trigger guard, the path was paved for negligent discharges going back into the holster. Carelessly leaving the finger inside the trigger guard when reholstering will result in the holster helping the finger press the trigger. That’s not the holster’s fault, it’s the user’s.
Taurus Manufacturing has officially released the Curve, a small, polymer .380 pistol with a distinct curved frame, meant to comfortably wrap around your hip or thigh when carrying inside the waistband or in a pocket, respectively.
Here’s my gripe about ‘range tests’:
First, some quick range notes: After handling and firing the Curve I can straight away can [sic] tell you that the 100 or so rounds I fired through the gun fed well and the empty cases ejected perfectly. The long trigger was decently smooth and the recoil, while sharp, was manageable. And not only was the gun a reliable shooter, it also hit where I aimed, thanks in part to its integrated light and laser.
How much meaningful information does that convey? What distance, what was the target, what speed, what anything? How about putting a trigger pull gauge and ruler to it? Then we might know what ‘long’ means, in a couple of dimensions.
I’m actually interested in doing a comparative test of the Curve. Anything that has generated so much hate without even being seen, handled, or fired deserves a second look. Perhaps I’ll do something even slightly scientific, such as firing it on the same course of fire as a full size gun or perhaps a competitive gun, e.g., an LCP.
If they’re going to fire 100 rounds anyway, why not do something meaningful with it? For example, “I fired the XX State weapons carry qualification course with the Curve and an LCP. With the Curve, I was able to make a score of XX in a time of XX. The LCP gave me a score of XX in XX seconds. So, XX produced better results, for me, than the XX. Then I fired the same course with a Glock 17, which produced XX results. So the smaller guns gave up XX percentage of performance.”
Larry Potterfield, of MidwayUSA, even developed his own analysis protocol for testing handguns. His procedure is not what I would use but I give him credit for doing something original, measured, and somewhat informative.
C’mon guys, this isn’t that hard if you think about it just a bit. You don’t have to put on a Top Gear show to provide some kind of meaningful information for people to use in decision-making.
This is the second installment of my Negative Outcomes series. I’ve already been taken to task for commenting about imprecise language and I understand where he’s coming from. The fact of the matter is, however, that we, in the instructional community, take a lot of our subject matter knowledge for granted.
Frequently, I hear comments to the effect that NRA courses go too much into depth about things like the individual components of ammunition, etc. I disagree with that completely. The influx of new gunowners requires that we educate them thoroughly. Many of the new owners have never operated any hand held device more complicated than an electric toothbrush.
As I commented to a student last night, I previously had a student in a class who was using a Sig pistol. He had owned and been shooting it regularly for almost two years. When I told him to ‘decock,’ he looked at me and said “What does that mean?” He had never used the decocking lever before and didn’t understand what its function was. He was actually a good shot, too. But elements of the pistol’s manual of arms had never been explained to him.
When dealing with deadly weapons, we can leave nothing to chance, including our vocabulary and students’ understanding thereof.