Because I’ve been asked for it so often, I’ve created a Skill Development practice program that goes far beyond my first two books, Concealed Carry Skills and Drills and Indoor Range Practice Sessions. CCSD and IRPS were intended for newer or inexperienced shooters.
The new Program is called Advanced Pistol Practice. It is intended for those shooters who are familiar with their handguns and are serious about taking their skills, both Technical and Decisional, to a much higher level. Although many people would like to take a high level training course, that’s often difficult or impossible because of resource constraints. While it can’t provide the practiced eye of a good instructor, Advanced Pistol Practice provides shooters with a practice approach similar to those used by many good trainers. It uses an integrated approach to Skills Development incorporating both Live Fire and Dry Practice that is found in many high level training courses.
The Live Fire component consists of Technical Drills, Decisional Drills, and Scenarios. While numerous technical shooting drills are widely available, drills that develop the skill of ‘thinking with a gun in hand’ are much less common. The Decisional Drills included in APP are intended to fill this gap. They consist of both Don’t Shoot/Shoot exercises and target identification/follow-up hit assessment exercises. Scenario shooting should be a part of every shooter’s practice but creating realistic scenarios isn’t always easy. The Live Fire Scenarios in APP are based on actual shootings, gunfights, and gunbattles involving both Private Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers, especially off-duty LE incidents.
Snub revolvers continue to maintain a healthy presence as backup and hideout gun among knowledgeable guncarriers. The Snub Revolver Program Of Instruction that I developed and used for many years is included in APP. Snubs are neither “arm’s length guns” nor “one-shot close range shotguns.” Given a structured practice regimen, shooters can learn to accomplish good work with a snub revolver. Dry Practice exercises for the snub are included in the Program, as well.
Dry Practice is often the most challenging practice component of Skill Development because it tends to be unstructured and boring, leading to unproductive “grabasstic gun-clicking.” To combat this, APP includes a series of different structured audio programs in different voices with different sound effects to keep dry practice focused and interesting. Since the space available for dry practice is usually limited, APP also includes reduced scale targets to facilitate the dry practice.
Proficient shooters are frequently asked by new or prospective gunowners to provide an introduction to shooting. To assist the proficient shooter in setting up a new shooter for success, APP includes a short training outline suitable for those with little experience with firearms. Setting up a new shooter for a productive and enjoyable session is an important part of growing our community. The New Shooter Outline can help a proficient shooter do that.
Recognizing that firearms are periodically involved in unfortunate situations, Advanced Pistol Practice also includes the entire Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes recording as MP3 files. The potential personal disasters that can result from poor decision-making and not thinking ahead are often overlooked among firearms owners. Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes challenges the gunowner to think ahead and avoid the pitfalls that can occur during ownership and incidents.
Advanced Pistol Practice is more than a book and contains many audio files and graphics. Consequently, it’s not feasible to offer it as a download. It’s available on my webstore in two formats; CD and USB flash drive. The CD version is $19.95, shipped. There’s a $3 additional charge for the USB flash drive option.
The Program is about the price of one box of ammunition and will pay for itself many times over by saving time, ammunition, and perhaps even lives.
One of the components of NOT producing buckshot targets with a pistol is pressing the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear. With Double Action handguns, either revolvers or autoloaders, this is especially true but it applies to any handgun or rifle. Revolver shooters must master this skill if they want the wheelgun to be anything more than an “arm’s length gun.”
Now that the weather is turning colder and, for some folks, snowy, we have the opportunity to work on our trigger press in dry practice. Here are two drills that can dramatically increase your ability to manipulate the trigger correctly.
Dot Torture is a well known practice regimen among skilled shooters. Its origins and evolution are less well known, however.
Shooting on dot targets, i.e., small filled in circles from 1.25 to 5.54 inches in diameter, as a speed shooting training and practice exercise, was originated by John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, in the early 1980s. In his book, You Can’t Miss: The Guide to Combat Pistol Shooting, he explains the training standard he established for his students. Until they could consistently hit the black bullseye (5.54 inches) of an NRA B-8 bullseye target from the holster in two seconds at seven yards, he didn’t allow them to move on to more advanced drills.
Shaw’s school, the Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting evolved the concept of dot shooting to a high level. Combined with shooting at steel targets, as originated by Bill Rogers, founder of the elite Rogers Shooting School, dot shooting became a standard component used in the practice regimens of knowledgeable shooters who aspired to a higher level of competency.
The concept of dot shooting was so effective at teaching shooters to hit the target, it quickly became part of military counter-terrorist pistol training. The US Army Special Forces developed a course called ‘Special Operations Training’ [SOT] during the 1980s to train its personnel to use the 1911 pistol at a level not seen before that time in the military.
The Woman’s Gun Pamphlet came up in conversation during The Mingle yesterday. Since the original source is no more, I’m republishing this post for interested parties.
Through an oblique reference, I recently found a link to The Woman’s Gun Pamphlet.Edit: The link and the server appear to be gone. A PDF of the Pamphlet is available at the edit of this post.
It’s a very interesting publication that was written and published by a colloquium of radical feminists in 1975. The intent was to provide information about both guns themselves and about personal protection attitudes to women of that era who knew nothing about guns or personal protection. As such, I consider it an historically significant document. There’s quite a bit of political rhetoric in it but also a goodly amount of information. Even dry practice is touched on. Some morsels of dry wit are quite entertaining.
Especially interesting to me is that it was written from the perspective of self-taught women of the time with some input from men and by doing primary…
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There’s currently a lot of Internet stink about some limitations imposed in the NRA Carry Guard training. I’m not going to comment about Carry Guard in general because as an Instructor certified in numerous disciplines through the NRA Training Department, there’s a possible conflict of interest.
What I will comment about the equipment limitation is:
They’re staying in their lane of competency.
Looking at the background and resumes of the instructors, running a striker fired autoloader or Sig 226 is mostly likely all they’ve ever been trained with, practiced with, or used. Revolvers and 1911s have a different manual of arms and idiosyncrasies that these instructors, with the exception of Jarrett who was briefly with the LAPD decades ago, are probably not familiar with.
They are probably expert with the weapons they have used and the possibility is they are either inexperienced or ignorant of how to operate other weapons at any professional level. I see that a lot now. The number of young police officers who literally cannot open the cylinder of a revolver is stunning. There are numerous firearms trainers who can operate one or two weapons and provide good training, as long as it’s confined to those weapons
Why would we then encourage these Carry Guard instructors to teach students how to use weapons they are not experts in the use of? How often has the meme ‘Stay in your lane’ surfaced lately? To his credit, when Rob Pincus wanted to make a DVD about Snub Revolvers, he brought me in to do it, just as he did with Dryfire. I’m an expert on those topics and he is not.
We can’t have it both ways. If we want instructors to ‘Stay in their lane,’ then we’re going to have to accept that just like lanes on the highway, the lanes have limits. In this case, the limitation is that NRA Carry Guard probably needs to say “Training for a limited subset of weapons but not all.” Describing itself as ‘the Gold Standard’ is probably a bit of a stretch. That is not to say I accept what Carry Guard provides is, in fact, the ‘Gold Standard.’ I mean that if Carry Guard is unwilling to provide training for two extremely common weapons, revolvers and Browning pattern pistols, then, by definition, it can’t be ‘the Gold Standard.’
Perhaps it could be ‘the Silver Standard.’ Without seeing first hand what actually takes place at the training, there’s no way for me, or anyone else, including NRA Carry Guard, to say. What they are going to provide remains a prototype, unlike the training provided by NRA Certified Instructors, which are proven training processes. How well Carry Guard’s training prototype will translate to the Instructor candidates being recruited also remains to be seen. At least as long as you’re not using a revolver or 1911. Then you don’t have to be concerned with it.
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.
Although this sign was at a church, it’s applicable to many aspects of our lives. Interestingly, I saw it while thinking about the 1,000 Days while driving a surveillance detection route I don’t usually take. Synchronicity, as Jung would say.
Working the 1,000 Days has brought a clarity to me about the value of following through on what we start. One of the things that I have noticed is that training classes frequently don’t include a followup program for students to follow. Insights Training Center and Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting are the only two I can recall that gave me a takeaway. I include the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course of fire as a followup for people who take my short classes.
I want to make sure that the students who come to our Violent Criminal Actors and You course have a followup program also. Since it’s not a physical skills class, I have to approach the followup program in a different way.
This is how I’m going to do it: the next 10 people who sign up for the class will get a personal one hour telephone consultation with me about how to develop their individual program. Since everyone’s situation is different, each consultation will be personalized. I ordinarily charge $125/hour with a two hour minimum for training and consultation, so I think this is an offer that has value.
Those who have signed up already will also receive the one hour consultation. I want to get the consultations finished within a month after the class, so that will probably be as many people as I can accommodate. This will be an interesting way to me to followup on what the students gain from the class and how they plan to implement their education.
James Yeager‘s philosophy that training is just a down payment has always appealed to me. So, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and help our students follow-through.
What have I gained from the second run of 1,000 Days?
Purely on a mechanical level, lots of reps. The average number of repetitions I did each day was somewhere between 30 and 40. Some of the regimens I have used frequently in the final year are:
- My 12 shot drill; two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 36 reps
- The LAPD Bonus Course – 40 reps
- A two target adaptation of the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre-9/11) – 30 reps
- An Enhanced Standard version of the State of Illinois Police Qualification Course – 30 reps
- Defensive Pistol I of the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program (through Sharpshooter) – 80 reps
- Tactical Performance Center dots – two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 75 reps
- The Georgia Security Guard Qualification Course – 48 reps
Let’s say the average is 40, which might not seem like a lot on an individual daily basis. However, by the end, I will have seen the sights and pressed the trigger smoothly 40,000 times. Dryfire provides feedback on the quality of those movements in a way that livefire cannot, simply because of recoil. Even if I didn’t already know how to the see the sights and press the trigger smoothly, 40,000 deliberate repetitions of them with quality feedback would go a long way to learning them. Not to mention the difference in cost between firing 40,000 dryfire repetitions ($0) and 40,000 rounds livefire (~$10,000 for the ammunition alone).
Since I religiously check the status of my pistol each day before dryfiring, I will also have completed 1,000 repetitions of correctly determining the load status of my firearm. My procedure for doing that has become completely automatic. I notice it when I go to the range or a gun shop and someone hands me a pistol; I don’t even think about checking it, I just do in a sequence.
On another level, I learned to plan ahead, develop a list of options, and then decide which option to implement in the moment. All of the above regimens have some training aid readily available in my dryfire practice area. For example the TPC dot target and 12 shot drill are two of the targets I have hidden behind a novelty sign in my practice area. The LAPD Bonus Course, Ill-Annoy Police Qual, and FAM TPC are recordings on my phone and in my computer. Defensive Pistol I is a sheet I have on a clipboard in the area.
For each regimen, I developed the material ahead of time. Then I set it up so I had immediate access to the target, the recording/sheet, or both. This is John Boyd’s true legacy to us about tactics, drawn from the Aerial Attack Study, not some nearly incomprehensible diagram and touchy-feely misinterpretation about outwitting our enemies in the moment.
By having an already developed group of options, we can pick from them and execute immediately even when we are tired, stressed, or simply don’t know what else to do. Getting into the habit of thinking ahead of time, developing options, and then simply picking from the list when needed has been a powerful learning experience for me.
Having a list of options doesn’t preclude me from adapting and improvising for the situation. I don’t have a set regimen for practicing with my flashlight. Instead I pick one of my regimens and do it with a flashlight.
Philosophically, making the commitment to follow a daily process of repetition and desire for excellence has been the most valuable part of the 1,000 Days. Periodically, people ask questions like “Are you really planning to do this for 1,000 Days straight? Although I generally respond with a simple ‘Yes,’ there’s a lot more to it than that. Aristotle said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
That applies in many areas of life. While I was developing some sales tools for real estate agents and other salespeople, a friend commented that her firm already had a training program and tools for their people. She said that many of the salespeople didn’t use them though and were always looking for something new or ‘cool’ or simply improvised on their sales calls. Doing so tended to produce mediocre results because they were always improvising.
Improvisation is overrated.
The really successful salespeople followed the company program and used established tools. As a result, they closed a lot more sales using a limited set of tools and techniques. They had practiced extensively (every sales call is a practice) and could use a small set of tools and techniques to a high standard of excellence.
Bruce Lee is reported to have said:
Colonel Boyd provided us with an example of how right Lee was. Boyd’s reputation as ’Forty Second Boyd’ [Coram, p 88] was gained through his ability to perform one single aerial maneuver with the F-100 fighter better than anyone else in the world. During his years as an instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, he was never bested and only was only flown to a ‘dead heat’ once. He had pushed and tested the F-100 to its absolute limit on one aerial braking maneuver over and over again until he could slow the aircraft several hundred miles per hour in a matter of a few seconds. His opponent, unable to replicate or defeat the maneuver, would then unintentionally fly past him. Boyd would then regain his speed and get on the opponent’s tail, radioing the kill signal “Guns! Guns! Guns!”
There’s a lesson for us from ‘Forty Second Boyd.’ The real estate phrase ‘location, location, location’ can also be paraphrased as ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ when we need to prepare ourselves for action and achievement.
Many people find it difficult to dryfire every day because they don’t have access to a firearm. Airline pilots and business people whose job require frequent air travel have a hard time of it. There are different ways of dealing with it.
The first would be to practice every day you do have access to your firearm and start counting. Doing that means you wouldn’t have a consecutive progression of the 1,000 Days but you would still get in 1,000 Days, it would just take longer.
Another approach would be to broaden the focus of your practice, as I mentioned in Part I. That’s one reason I entitled this series 1,000 Days of Practice.
Other skills appropriate to personal protection could be included as part of your mission statement for the 1,000 Days. This wouldn’t be 1,000 Days of Dryfire but it could be 1,000 Days of Personal Protection practice. Many of the most important Personal Protection Skills are soft skills that don’t require equipment to practice. Some that come to mind are:
- situational awareness
- the decision-making process
- incident analysis
- wargaming and decision exercises
- proxemics, and
- human communication and interaction
The memory aid I use for personal protection is RADAR.
- Ready – being prepared, mentally and physically
- Aware – eyes on the horizon, ears not plugged up
- Where am I?,
- Who is around me?,
- What are they doing?,
- What is going on?,
- Points Of Likely Concealment
- What is wrong in my right world?
- Decide – based on your decision criteria
- priorities, and
- the situation
- Act – do what you need to do
- Ready Again – be ready for your plan to need adjustment or the police to arrive.
Dryfire is one component of the Ready stage but it’s certainly not the only one. Understanding the criminal mindset and their methods of operation is also key. How about spending a few minutes periodically reviewing criminal victimizations that occurred to others and wargaming how to either avoid or deal with the situation? I have taken this so far as to go on a field trip to the location of a particularly bad incident and actually observe the lay of the land.
There are games that smart cops used to play to tune up their situational awareness. How common they are anymore, I don’t know. For instance, when in a waiting area, look around the room, then close your eyes and try to describe everyone in the room; clothes, height, weight, etc. That would be Aware practice.
Or, let’s say you encountered something that caused your to Alert and then realized it wasn’t a problem. You could mentally wargame what you thought the original problem and your solution. Take it all the way through to Ready Again, including your interaction with the authorities afterward.
There are many different ways to approach the 1,000 Days and tailor the focus to your personal needs and circumstances.
I’ll be going through a more in-depth explanation of RADAR, including some decision exercises, in the Violent Criminals and You class that William Aprill and I are teaching next month. William will be giving his extensive presentation on the criminal mindset and how differently criminals think.
An implied task, the first time of the 1,000 days, was simply devising a way of getting through it. To avoid boredom and make the process efficient, I recorded cassette tapes of several different regimens. The regimens were all based on my needs at the time, which mostly consisted of improving my competitive performance in IDPA and other shooting sports. I limited them to 10 minutes duration so I had compact practice blocks. When I wanted more practice, I could do more than one in a day, sometimes consecutively and sometimes one in the morning and one in the evening.
Having a specific structure for my practice also helped avoid ‘grabasstic gunclicking,’ which as a friend said, is what dryfire often devolves to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had inadvertently incorporated one of fundamentals of tactical decision-making; have a plan ahead of time. My decision-making research of the past few years made the value of having several practice regimens available quite obvious to me. John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study was instrumental in providing me with this moment of clarity.
My regimens of the second 1,000 Days are considerably different than those of the first. Several of the regimens are based on higher level police qualification courses, such as the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre 9/11) and the LAPD Bonus Course. While most police qualification courses are easily cleaned by a competent marksman, a few are much more demanding and I prefer that.
In other cases, I took police quals that had a good basic structure but mediocre standards and enhanced them. My favorite is the State of Illinois Police Qualification Couse. For the armed private citizen, the distances and round allocations are good but the standards are so low that some of my friends in Ill‑Annoy can literally pass it with their eyes closed. The enhancements I made were to make the target smaller, cut the times in half, and do parts of it Primary Hand Only and Support Hand Only.
Being a fan of the NRA Markmanship Qualification Program, I developed dryfire versions of both Defensive Pistol I and Defensive Pistol II. The time limits set for these courses are quite generous but they have an accuracy standard of 100 percent. Since we’re accountable for every round we fire, I like the idea of a strong accuracy standard, in general.
In a defensive encounter, every bullet you fire that doesn’t hit its intended target is headed straight for a bus full of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney.
There are also some improvisations I like to make. My research into Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes made me a believer in the absolute necessity of verbalizing and being able to use a flashlight in conjunctions with a handgun. I usually dryfire something like Defensive Pistol I using a flashlight at least once a week.
One of the concepts I retained from my first 1,000 Days was making a good hit with the first shot. There’s too much emphasis placed on shooting fast in the community and not enough on making sure the first shot counts. Based on the incidents in my databases, I came to the conclusion that making a solid first hit above the diaphragm is the way to gain the initiative in an armed encounter.
Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’
What if your situation or job precludes you from having access to a firearm every day? Some thoughts about that in Part III.