Category Archives: firearms

Standards (Part VIII – Trainer Standards)

In the firearms training industry, butthurt is a common condition. There’s quite a bit of it going around right now. The current crop of butthurt, as usual, revolves around equipment, technique, class organization, and philosophy.

 

large butthurt

Yesterday, I was able to take Training Day 2 of the Rangemaster Advanced Combative Pistol course. Both Mindset and physical skills are part of the course. This is the third training class I’ve taken in the past two months, in addition to attending the Rangemaster 2017 Tactical Conference. The others were Law of Self Defense and NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home.

One of the things I get the most out of when I attend training classes is the side discussions I have with my colleagues teaching their classes. We’re all willful individuals with strong opinions based on our own experiences. More often than not now, I listen to the other trainer’s opinion without expressing much of my own. This allows me to think about not only how we might differ but also how we might agree.

Upon returning home last night, I reflected about common standards within the firearms training industry. Even those trainers who say they don’t espouse Standards actually do, without realizing it. Standards aren’t necessarily numbers on a piece of paper, they can also be messages that we send to our clients. Sometimes, those messages are even more important than the numbers. One of my Father’s maxims to me when I was a boy was:

Try to get along with everyone, Son, but don’t let anyone hurt you.

That’s a very concise Standard in the form of a message. I’ve followed it ever since.

So, what Standards, in the form of messages, do almost all firearms trainers have in common? The following list occurred to me. There are probably even more. It applies from the most newly Certified NRA Pistol Instructor to those of us who have been teaching for decades.

  1. Think ahead
  2. Acknowledge your own value
  3. Know what you’re doing
  4. Be a Success
  5. Avoid Negative Outcomes
  6. Criminal events start with the intended victim behind the power curve
  7. Stress inoculation

1) Implicit in the very concept of training is the goal to think ahead. Whether we’re talking about the physical skill of operating a firearm or tactics to avoid becoming a casualty, we want you to think ahead. Trying to learn a skill or tactic in the moment can be a very disconcerting experience. Having operable equipment is also part of thinking ahead. I have twice encountered situations where ladies owned a gun, in one case for years, without having any ammunition. That’s not what I would call thinking ahead.

2) “I could never shoot someone to protect myself.” Every trainer has heard that at some point in their career. The person saying it has not yet “Proclaimed their own Magnificence” as John Farnam puts it. Contrary to the current Politically Correct thinking, everyone does NOT have the same value to society. A Violent Criminal Actor who would callously murder a six year old child strapped in a car seat has no redeeming value to society and never will, period. Nor does someone who would rape two young girls and murder them by burning them alive, after having raped and murdered their mother and beaten their father to a pulp with a baseball bat.

The many many many good people of our society should have no compunction whatsoever about protecting themselves by shooting loathsome criminals of such ilk. We as trainers want our clients to understand that they have a lot of value as human beings and deserve to continue living their lives without being victims of such vicious attacks. Someone once told me I give my clients ‘permission to be rude.’ That’s true of the entire industry.

3) Although we may interpret it in different ways, we all want you to know what you’re doing. Firearms are complex mechanical devices. Some aspects of their operation are either not instinctively obvious or are even designed in a way that requires an explanation or procedure to operate safely. For instance, all firearms are designed so that you can instinctively place your finger on the trigger. Consequently, that’s what people do if they are not trained otherwise.

4) We want you to Succeed. Although our methods may differ radically, I cannot think of a single trainer in the industry who sets out to make sure their students fail. Success breeds confidence. Confidence leads to Proclaiming Your Magnificence. We’re all trying to move our students in that direction.

5) Avoiding Negative Outcomes is a goal of all training. Although I may have coined that particular phrase, it has been the goal of the training industry from the beginning. Trainers don’t want you to shoot yourself, your family members, people around you, and we don’t want you to have to interact with the legal system because you made a mistake. Knowing what you’re doing and knowing the rules goes a very long way to avoiding Negative Outcomes.

And Negative Outcomes don’t just occur in the moment either. Survivor’s guilt can be a terrible thing.

6) Unless you’re an Assassin, all criminal events start with the protagonist behind the power curve. Whether it’s beginning from ‘the Startle Response,’ being on the bottom of ‘Initiative Deficit,’ or simply using a timer or whistle, we want you to understand you’re not going to be the one who starts the action. The criminal is going to do that.

CW Startle

To paraphrase Tom Givens ‘You don’t get to choose when you’re going to have to defend yourself, the criminal does. And they are only going to notify you at the last possible moment.’ A fallacy that many firearms owners fall into is thinking that the sequence of a violent criminal attack is going to parallel the order of shooting at a range where the shooter decides when to pick up the gun and shoot. That’s the opposite of the way it really works.

7) Being victimized may well be the most stressful event of a person’s life. The first time we encounter a stressful situation is always the hardest. Trainers are all trying to provide you with a low level stress vaccine so that you can more easily cope with a real situation if it ever occurs. That’s not to say dealing with it is going to be easy, but it will probably be easier the second time. That’s the best we can do.

We trainers all have Standards, too. They may just look a little different from behind the firing line.

prisoner escort

Podcast about Standards

“If you don’t know where you’re starting from and you don’t know where you’re going then any route will get you there, but that doesn’t mean you’ll end up in the place you want to be.”

–The Tactical Professor

John Johnston and I discuss standards on his latest Ballistic Radio show and podcast.

Whose Standards? (Podcast – Season 5, Ballistic Radio Episode 207, May 7th, 2017)

  • what a standard is
  • the different kinds of standards we have in:
    • mindset,
    • gun handling and,
    • performance with firearms
  • the difference between training and education
  • the importance of the firearms community and its educational efforts
  • the difference between Personal Protection and Self Defense
  • where to start in your own progression of standards.

 

Standards (Part VII – Fundamental Marksmanship and Gunhandling for Weapons Carry)

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.

PPOTH Range book

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.

AP-1 CB with arrow to 10

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.

Standards (Part VI – Basic Marksmanship Standards)

At the NRA Annual Meeting this past weekend, the NRA Education and Training Division  conducted an update for NRA Trainers. The presentations and discussion rekindled my interest in the standards for students to pass the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting (BOPS).

In short, there are four levels of qualification (standards) offered to the students at the end of the Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. The very first level is Red, for which they must shoot a five shot group into a four inch circle four times at 10 feet. The four times don’t have to be consecutive but the students must be able to demonstrate the skill repeatedly so they can shoot four targets.

BOPS red target

Students who meet that standard are then offered the chance to attain three higher levels of achievement; White, Blue, and Instructor. Achieving Instructor level Qualification does not mean that they qualify as NRA Pistol Instructors but rather that they have shot to the same standard that NRA Pistol Instructors are required to.

BOPS standardsWhile many experienced shooters will say this is ridiculously easy, I say “NOT SO FAST!” Having run over 100 shooters of varying skill levels through the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course, I know it’s not as easy as it seems. The 100% standard for group is the kicker. Out of my 100 or so testees, only 1 person out of 10 was able to pass the MQP DP I Pro-Marksman test on the first try. That standard is five shots into a 12 inch circle at 7 yards (21 feet), four times. Repeatedly shooting a four inch group at nearly the same distance is obviously quite a bit more difficult.

Moving up to the Pistol Instructor standard, how many people practice shooting groups at 15 yards? Very few in my experience. A six inch group at that distance can be a major difficulty if you haven’t practiced it. Having one try at putting 16 out of 20 shots into a six inch group at that distance can be an eye opener about one’s demonstrable skill level.

To test myself on the requirements, today I shot all four levels with three different pistols; Walther P22, S&W SD9VE 9mm, and S&W 332 .32 H&R Magnum, which is my carry gun. The progression I used was as follows:

  • Red BOPS – P22
  • White BOPS – SD9VE
  • Blue BOPS – 332
  • Instructor – SD9VE

I was able to pass all the levels but it required some concentration on sight picture, trigger press, and follow-through. What a concept!

NRA Targets crop

A PDF of all the targets is attached below. Print them out and take them to the range next time you go to practice. Your results may surprise you. Note that the targets print just a little small so if one of your shots is slightly out, as with my Blue #2, you’re still on the mark.

If you can’t pass at the Blue level, perhaps you should consider taking the NRA Basics Of Pistol Shooting Course. You can search for courses local to you at NRAInstructors.org.

BOPS targets

Revolvers will get you killed – Or will they?

Sheriff Jim Wilson posted an article on the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated website recently that has generated some controversy.

Pros and Cons of Concealed-Carry Revolvers

In particular, one of his statements wasn’t particularly palatable to many folks.

Frankly, while magazine capacity might be an issue for members of law enforcement, it is not much of one for the legally armed citizen. Research into actual gunfights involving the armed citizen seldom shows more ammunition is needed beyond what’s in their concealed-carry revolver.

Let’s look at some examples of how he might have arrived at this seemingly outlandish conclusion. At least one source that could be used would be The Armed Citizen (TAC) column of the NRA Journals. The May issue of The American Rifleman was just published.

TAC_ar_201705

One of the criticisms I often hear about The Armed Citizen column is that it may not reflect the reality of armed encounters. In other words, Citizens may get into troubling situations that reading The Armed Citizen doesn’t give a sense of. This is absolutely true but not in the sense that those who criticize it think. Years of research shows that those troubling situations, Negative Outcomes, actually involve shooting yourself, shooting someone you didn’t want to, either intentionally or unintentionally, or other problems that have nothing to do with either the capacity or caliber of the gun. In fact, such problems are usually the result of what Infantrymen jokingly refer to as ‘headspace and timing’ issues, not gun issues.

Here’s how TAC broke out for May. Before getting into issues such as capacity and caliber, it’s useful to see what tasks were involved.

The Armed Citizen task list May 2017 Skill uses
Number of incidents 7
Shoot with handgun 6 86%
Retrieve from Storage (handgun) 3 43%
Engage multiple adversaries 3 43%
Challenge (verbalize) from ready 3 43%
Move safely from place to place at ready 2 29%
Draw to Challenge (verbalize) 2 29%
Shoot with non-threats downrange 2 29%
Intervene in another’s situation 2 29%
Engage from ready (handgun) 2 29%
Draw to shoot (seated in auto) 2 29%
Shoot in midst of others 2 29%
Fire warning shot(s) 1 14%
Challenge (verbalize) with non-threats downrange 1 14%
Hold at gunpoint until police arrive 1 14%
Counter gun grab attempt 1 14%

Now that we have some idea of what we might need to do, let’s take a look at what we might need to carry out the tasks.

Number of Shots Fired
Average 1.43
Median 2.00
Mode 2.00
Max 2.00

Doesn’t look like a lot of ammo was required, does it? Looking at the circumstances of the individual incidents is also interesting.

The California arson attempt involved two warning shots. The homeowner chose not to shoot the would-be arsonist but rather to fire warning shots and hold him at gunpoint for the POlice. Holding someone at gunpoint is a skill not too many people practice.

Skills involved:

  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)
  • Move safely from place to place at ready
  • Challenge (verbalize) from ready
  • Engage from ready (handgun)
  • Shoot with handgun
  • Fire warning shot(s)
  • Hold at gunpoint until police arrive

Adversaries: 1

Shots fired: 2

In the Indiana incident, a woman saw a sworn Conservation Officer struggling with an individual he was trying to take into custody. After retrieving her handgun, she came to assist. She then fired one shot, most likely at close range, at the man while the struggle was going on. He was hit in the torso, ceased struggling, and later expired.

Skills involved:

  • Decide to Intervene in another’s situation
  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)
  • Move safely from place to place at ready
  • Shoot with handgun
  • Shoot with non-threats downrange

Adversaries: 1

Shots fired: 1

The Ill-Annoy incident has several interesting aspects to it. The Armed Citizen was seated in his car with a friend. When they were accosted by two criminals, he drew his handgun and shot one in the face, killing him. This caused the second criminal to become alarmed because he realized he was late for another appointment. As he turned to leave, he ran into the second bullet fired by the Citizen. This caused him to forget about the other appointment. He was transported to the hospital and was subsequently charged with Felony Murder because of his friend got shot in the face while committing a crime.

Skills involved:

  • Draw to shoot (seated in auto)
  • Shoot in midst of others
  • Shoot (someone in the face) with handgun
  • Engage multiple adversaries

Adversaries: 2

Shots fired: 2

Fortunately, the State’s Attorney for the County chose not to charge the Citizen with violating Ill-Annoy’s law about Concealed Carry. There is no reciprocity with other States and the Citizen’s permit is from Missouri.

Intervention was the cause of the Michigan happening. A woman was being beaten in a store by a former domestic partner of hers. Another customer intervened in the situation, first by challenging the maniac and then shooting him twice when the maniac tried to grab the Citizen’s gun. The maniac got the message and was subsequently hospitalized in critical condition.

Skills involved:

  • Decide to Intervene in another’s situation
  • Draw to Challenge (verbalize)
  • Challenge (verbalize) from ready
  • Challenge (verbalize) with non-threats downrange
  • Counter gun grab attempt
  • Engage from ready (handgun)
  • Shoot with handgun
  • Shoot with non-threats downrange
  • Shoot in midst of others

Adversaries: 1

Shots fired: 2

A revolver was used in the Georgia episode. A store manager was attacked by two criminals in the parking lot of his store after closing. Although the criminals got one gun from his car, he had another stashed and managed to shoot one of them once. The shooting jogged both criminals’ memories about other engagements they were late for. The County Sheriff’s Deputies subsequently assisted the men with an appointment to remain in the jail. Because the manager’s pistols were being held as evidence, a local gun shop gave him a new S&W .38 Special as a replacement.

Skills involved:

  • Draw to shoot (seated in auto)
  • Shoot with handgun
  • Engage multiple adversaries (sort of, since one was already running away)

Adversaries:  2

Shots fired:  1

No shots were fired in the New York incident. A woman pulled an ice pick on a taxi driver in lieu of paying her fare. The taxi driver drew his pistol and warned her not to approach him. She decided that was a good idea and was subsequently taken into custody by the POlice.

Skills involved:

  • Draw to Challenge (verbalize)
  • Challenge (verbalize) from ready

Adversaries:  1

Shots fired:  0

A storekeeper in Washington became alarmed when he saw two men enter his store with bandanas over their faces and pistols in hand. He declined to make a cash donation to their cause and pulled out a .40 S&W instead. Two shots were sent in their direction, which caused them to remember being late for another appointment.

Skills involved:

  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)
  • Shoot with handgun
  • Engage multiple adversaries (or fire in their general direction, anyway)

Adversaries:  2

Shots fired:  2

Notice how many non-shooting tasks were involved in relation to the shooting tasks.

  • Decide to Intervene in another’s situation
  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun)
  • Move safely from place to place at ready
  • Challenge (verbalize) from ready
  • Draw to Challenge (verbalize)
  • Challenge (verbalize) with non-threats downrange
  • Counter gun grab attempt
  • Hold at gunpoint until police arrive

From the technical standpoint, the marksmanship tasks were both simple and low round count. It would seem that all of these incidents were much more intensive on incident management skills and much less intensive on capacity issues.

So maybe carrying a revolver won’t get you killed on the streetz, at least if your headspace and timing are set correctly.

Reliability

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.

snub on belt

Let’s think about the issue in some depth. My questions are:

  1. 1,000 rounds of what kind of ammo?
  2. Under what conditions?
  3. With which magazines?
  4. With which guns?
    • Number 1 carry gun?
    • Backup Gun?
    • Spare carry gun?

Addressing those questions in order brings some other thoughts to mind.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Standards (Part V – Know the Rules)

Deputies: Homeowner arrested after fatally shooting intruder in shower

The man went inside and confronted another man he found in his shower, deputies said. The homeowner left after the two exchanged words.

‘He returned home, retrieved a firearm, came back over to the residence and fired multiple rounds into the shower … killing the intruder,’ said Mason County Sheriff’s Lt. Travis Adams.

The homeowner called 911 and told dispatchers that he had just shot and killed an intruder, Adams said.

It’s not clear how long [the intruder] had been inside the home, but detectives don’t believe the homeowner gave him any warnings before he fired his gun, they said.

Deputies later arrested the homeowner for second-degree murder. They believe he had ample time to call for help when he went back home.

The odds are that the shooter will spend a significant portion of the rest of his life in prison. This is a Negative Outcome. It’s a clear example of how foolish the “I’ll shoot anyone I find in my house” ideology is.

I’ll shoot anyone I find in my house.

Bad idea

When I posted the link to the story on my Facebook page, one person replied that he SHOULD have been allowed to kill the intruder. My response was: “No, adjusting our response to the context of the situation is what keeps us from being savages.” Usually, it makes me cringe when news stories refer to someone being ‘gunned down’ but in this case, I think it would be appropriate. What the shooter did was a savage act of unnecessary lethal violence. It wasn’t motivated by fear for his safety or the safety of his loved ones; rather, it was a senseless expression of emotional outrage. We shoot people only when we have to not because we want to.

Another person commented that it was his property and the intruder had committed the offense of breaking and entering. The question was why wasn’t this a Castle Doctrine case. The Castle Doctrine is not an absolute defense. Reasonableness of your response will almost always be applied as a test of the response’s legality. Gunning someone down while they’re taking a shower isn’t likely to be viewed as ‘reasonable.’ As Massad Ayoob put it in the linked article:

Yes, your home is that castle. However, that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to install an execution chamber.

The number of people who own firearms or other deadly weapons and yet haven’t the slightest clue about the legal ramifications of their use is astounding. Know the Rules needs to be a standard of our conduct just as much as the physical ability to use the weapon. What you might think the rules are or should be is irrelevant. The actual rules are all that are important.

It used to be that reliable information about the legalities of personal protection was hard to come by. Not anymore. There are numerous readily available sources of information about the law. Without leaving the comfort of your home, several good sources are available.

For the lack of reading and understanding a book, the Washington shooter will pay dearly. His legal fees for the trial will most likely cost him everything he owns and he’ll still probably go to prison.

I recently attended the Law Of Self Defense Level I and II classes. They were an excellent legal education resource, tailored specifically to the State I live in, Georgia. The law does not necessarily make sense nor does it have anything to do with what you think it should be. The cost of such training is minor compared to the cost of a trial or even just being arrested on a charge that is later dropped. The optional simulator exercise at the end of the day was also a sobering demonstration of how poorly unpracticed people tend to shoot under stress. LOSD classes are available all over the country and are specifically tailored to the laws of the State they are given in.

LOSD certificates

A benefit of membership in the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network is the training DVDs provided with membership. Once again, you can learn a great deal about the appropriate and inappropriate uses of forces without having to leave your living room.

Don’t guess, don’t listen to the foolishness you read on Internet Forums, and don’t make decisions based on what you think the rules SHOULD be. Invest at least a little of your resources and find out what the rules really are. It’s true that most situations are fairly cut and dried and work out legally for the defender. The issue is that when things go bad, they tend to go really badly. The rest of your life can easily be at stake. Very few of us would look forward to spending decades in the can (prison) without a Man Lock by McGard.

McGard Manhole ad crop

Perhaps the most unintentionally funny advertisement ever.

Also, if you’ve taken a State CCW class, the one hour briefing when your eyes glazed over doesn’t count as any kind of meaningful legal education. Don’t confuse that with education that actually teaches you how to apply the law to your personal situation.

Fair disclaimer: I was a guest of LOSD for the classes and didn’t have to pay for them. However, no promotional consideration for my recommendation was offered nor accepted by me.

Endnote: The intruder in Washington was probably a confused drunk. That’s not going to go over well for the shooter, either.

Standards (Part IV – Establishing your baseline)

In the previous installment, I mentioned that shooters have a tendency to ‘walk’ their rounds into the center of the target. The reason for this is that the most missed shot in shooting is the very first shot. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, commented about this in his book The Wilderness Hunter, published in 1893.

No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.

To TR’s comment, I would add ‘and mashing the trigger’ after “carelessness of aim.”

The second most missed shot in shooting is the shot immediately after clearing a stoppage. Stoppage refers to either a malfunction or a reload. As put in the military, “any unintentional interruption in the cycle of operation.”

Both of these shots are missed so often because they represent a transition point from using a complex motor skill (combination of gross and fine) to a fine motor skill. Unless well practiced, that transition is a difficult one to perform well.

Common shooting tasks requiring complex motor skills are:

  • presentation from ready or pickup,
  • draw from a holster, or
  • stoppage clearance.

Those three tasks require the shooter to engage, both concurrently and consecutively, both large muscle groups such as the biceps, triceps, trapezius, etc. in broad movement (gross motor skill) and the tendons of the hands in small movements (fine motor skill). Immediately following the complex motor skill comes the requirement to perform the fine motor skill of pressing the trigger smoothly.

There is also a series of visual transitions that must take place. The shooter initially starts with an infinity level focus on the target and then must bring the focus inward to index the pistol onto the target. More experienced shooters may recognize this step as the inverse of ‘Sight Picture’ as classically taught. Finally, the shooter must quickly transition from a coarse (soft) index focus on the outline of the pistol to a reading distance fine focus on the front sight itself.

When a stoppage occurs, the shooter will, or at least should, bring the pistol closer to the body to perform the stoppage clearance. Most people cannot clearly focus at this distance, so the eyes will shift to a soft focus, either on the pistol, the target, or somewhere in between. Once the stoppage has been cleared, the shooter must shift focus to infinity to reacquire the target. The coarse index of the pistol onto the target comes next. And as a final focus point, the shooter must once again shift to a reading distance fine focus to reacquire the front sight and achieve both a good sight alignment and sight picture.

If this sounds like a complex series of fast breaking events, that’s because it is. Especially for those whose eyes began to lose their ability to accommodate (quickly change focal distance) in their 40’s (i.e., all of us), it’s a difficult series of visual focus events.

The following is a drill that accomplishes two things.

  • It provides a baseline measurement of how well a shooter can perform the complex series of tasks involved in making a good hit with the first shot, including a distance component.
  • The drill itself is a very structured exercise that can be done on a regular basis to improve the shooter’s ability to perform that set of tasks.

Basic level shooters can use a larger target, such as a B-27 or a Q, and count their hits in the largest ring to establish a baseline. Intermediate level shooters can use the actual scoring values of a target such as a B-27 or BT-5 as their performance standard. Advanced shooters can use a smaller target, such as the NRA B-8, as a very difficult criterion.

B-27E-white-red-black-22670-tiny

B-27

bt-5sbhpd

BT-5

b-8c-p

B-8

The drill is untimed. The object is to subconsciously ingrain the skills necessary to make the hits. Some shooters may find value in talking themselves through the tasks required as they are shooting the drill. For instance, the visual task sequence might be described as:

 

  • Target focus
  • Pistol index focus
  • Front sight focus

Baseline Drill

Sequence 1 (10 rounds) – 3 yards

Start with the handgun loaded with five rounds only. Shooting is done with both hands. Starting position is aimed at the floor below the target (Low Ready), below where a subject’s feet would be. The trigger finger is consciously off and above the trigger. Have a spare magazine loaded with 5 rounds available. Revolver shooters use a speedloader, speed strip, or loose rounds.

  • Bring the pistol up on target and fire 1 shot at the center of target. Follow through for one second, call your shot, and then return to low ready. Decock, if your pistol has a decocker.
  • Bring the pistol up on target and fire 2 shots at the center of target. Follow through for one second, call your shots, and then return to low ready. Decock.
  • Bring the pistol up on target and fire 3 shots at the center of target. Note that after two shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Call those two shots, reload, and fire the third shot. Follow through for one second, call the third shot, and then return to low ready. Decock.
  • Bring the pistol up on target and fire 4 shots at the center of target. After the shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Call your shots and holster the pistol or place it on the bench.

Bring your target back and record how many hits you made in the body scoring area. You can write this on the target or a separate piece of paper. Use this format: 3/X, 3 being the distance and X being the number of hits. Intermediate and Advanced shooters record the actual value of your hits; maximum value being 50. Cover all the hits with masking tape or pasters.

Sequence 2 (10 rounds) – 5 yards

Repeat Sequence 1 but with the target at 5 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.

Sequence 3 (10 rounds) – 7 yards

Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 7 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.

Sequence 4 (10 rounds) – 10 yards

Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 10 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.

Sequence 5 (10 rounds) – 15 yards

Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 15 yards. Record the value of your hits and paste or tape them.

At the end of the drill, your record should look something like this.

Basic

or

Intermediate/Advanced
Distance Score   Distance Score
3 5 3 50
5 4 5 48
7 2 7 41
10 3 10 35
15 2 15 32

Now you’ve established a baseline for how well you can shoot a specific series of tasks. Over time, shooting this drill and other drills should allow you to increase your scores at every distance. ‘Getting better’ is a process not a performance.

Standards (Part III – Who Sets the Standards?)

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.

–J.B. Books

When discussing Standards, we should keep in mind that Standards come from several sources.

  • Ourselves (personal standards)
  • Private Sector (social values and employment criteria)
  • Public Sector (legal requirements)

Of those, the standards we set for ourselves are the most important. For instance, I don’t drink if I’m driving. I enjoy having a cocktail but I either have one at home or in the company of a designated driver. That’s my personal standard. In most cases, I could probably ‘get away with’ driving home after I’ve had a drink. However, even if I wasn’t close to the legal limit of intoxication, alcohol consumption reduces the margin of safety I consider acceptable for operating a two ton potential manslaughter machine. Not only is my personal safety at stake but the safety of others. It’s the same reason we accept not handling firearms after consuming alcohol as personal and community standards; to maintain an acceptable margin of safety.

What are some other personal standards that might apply to aspects of personal protection and shooting? A few come to mind immediately:

  1. Know the rules (law) of where we live and places we travel to.
  2. Shoot only at positively identified threats.
  3. Shoot only in a manner we can make 100 percent hits on a threat, thus not endangering innocents downrange. Factors affecting this include:
    • Personal skill
    • Distance
    • Cadence (rate) of fire
    • Relationship of the weapon to the eye-target line

My presentation at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference last week was titled Strategies, Tactics, and Options for Personal Protection (STOPP). Since many of us were not from Arkansas, I asked the audience how many of them from out of state had researched the Arkansas statutes about the Use of Force and Deadly Force. Not everyone had. Researching this piece of information took me less than 30 seconds on my phone before I entered the State. Was it a prudent decision to do so? I think so.

Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-2-607. Use of deadly physical force in defense of a person

I’ve harped quite a bit about Identifying Friend or Foe already so, for the moment, Point 2 requires no further elaboration . Please remember that the Flashlight Practice Session of Indoor Range Practice Sessions is available as a free download.

Let’s consider point 3. My colleague Darryl Bolke’s presentation at the Conference included an important tidbit about the rate of shooting. The LAPD SWAT Team, one of the most highly trained and experienced shooting units in the world, practices to shoot at .5 (½) seconds per shot, no faster. They do this regardless of whether they are on the square range, in the shoothouse, or in actual confrontations with criminals. Why? Because that’s the rate they can identify threats and make decisions about using or continuing to use (follow up shots) deadly force.

The Force Science Institute has found that it takes about .3 seconds or more for the ‘stop shooting’ decision. That’s considerably longer than the splits we consider important in the world of competition shooting. There is a tension inherent between those two situations.

We all like to consider ourselves to be responsible gunowners. Is it prudent for us to practice shooting faster than we can guarantee a hit and whether it’s necessary to shoot at all? That’s an open question in my mind. I shot the Match at the Conference very deliberately and relatively slowly. I’m okay with that. All my hits were exactly where I wanted them to be and nowhere else. In the measured environment, that’s now become my personal standard.

Claude, I’m haunted by that last shot because I don’t know where it went.

–A friend who is both an Expert competitive shooter and a practitioner of personal protection.

Going to public sector standards, a fear is periodically raised that the standard will be set too high for gunowners to meet. The State of Illinois was the last State in our Nation to allow concealed carry because its political elite has a pathological fear of firearms (hoplophobia) in the hands of private citizens. Consequently, that State makes an interesting case study regarding Standards for private citizens. Let’s compare the standards Ill-Annoy has established for police officers v. private citizens.

Tested Criterion Police Citizen
Rounds 30 30
Strings of fire 12 3
Furthest distance 15 yards 10 yards
Time Limits 6 – 10 seconds None
Target 8.5″ x 14″ (119 sq. in.) Entire B-27 (~700 sq. in.)
Starting Position Holster Ready
Hit Requirement 23/30 (77%) 21/30 (70%)

Strings of fire is a useful criterion to include because less skilled shooters tend to ‘walk’ their rounds into the center of the target during a longer string. Having more strings reduces the effectiveness of this technique and makes a given course of fire more difficult for an equal number of rounds fired.

The qualification requirements of some States are so low that a reasonably skilled shooter can literally pass them blindfolded. For instance, the State of Michigan requirement is to hit an 11×25 inch target (three sheets of paper) at four yards with five rounds, two times out of three tries, starting from a ready position. It should be noted that although this seems like a large target, it has roughly the same area as the FBI ‘Q’ target; 281 square inches v. 275 square inches, respectively. The fear of established marksmanship criteria being excessively high seems unfounded in reality.

It should also be noted that reflexively firing a number of rounds can be a legal liability. In the Mike Kimball case in Maine, the first shot was deemed by the medical examiner to be deadly. The two additional rounds fired by Kimball were raised as an issue by the Judge in his trial. Kimball was ultimately convicted of murder and will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison. There were additional factors in his conviction, but the number of shots was definitely a question.

A lawyer friend pointed out recently an aspect of the California jury instructions regarding self-defense cases. The wording can be interpreted to mean that shots fired after the threat has ceased could be viewed as excessive force and no longer reasonable self-defense. Whether we like it or not, the rules are the rules. We need to be cautious about parroting and then internalizing memes such as ‘shoot him to the ground.’

When you start [and continue] shooting at someone, you have to assume you’re going to kill them. That’s why we call it ‘deadly force.’ Doing so needs to be a decision not a reflex.

–The Tactical Professor

Make good decisions model

Should we settle for having mediocre personal standards and being able to only do the bare minimum? It’s true that ‘getting better is not for everyone.’ Especially if that is the case, having an objective benchmark of how we can and cannot perform is worthwhile information. That’s the main reason there is a benchmark test included in Indoor Range Practice Sessions. link to purchase all 24 Sessions

JB Books wont be wronged

Standards (Part II – Why)

A good man always knows his limitations.

–Inspector Harry Callahan

As early as the colonial times, it was recognized that shooting firearms is an athletic endeavor. Thomas Jefferson implied as much to his nephew, when he recommended shooting rather than “games played with the ball” as a pastime. In any physical endeavor, it’s useful to establish a benchmark. This concept applies in:

  • Medicine – what’s your blood pressure? Your doctor probably doesn’t just look at your face and decide if you have high blood pressure or not. A measurement is required. And that measurement is then evaluated in relation to established benchmarks for normal, pre‑hypertensive, or hypertensive conditions.
  • Sports – universally, sports rely on numerical performance indicators. A team would certainly not field a player without having looked at the player’s performance stats. While good stats are no guarantee of success on the playing field, poor stats are unlikely to lead to success.
  • Education – making acceptable grades is generally required to graduate from any educational institution. If your child went to a school that never evaluated performance, you probably would be unhappy about that. The general problem of that in our schools today is beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice to say that any parent whose child can’t read but still is allowed to graduate from school should be very, very unhappy.

Avoiding Negative Outcomes is another key reason for why people might choose to have standards. This is where Dirty Harry’s statement comes into play. Two particular incidents come to mind as examples.

  • A woman in Mississippi shot and killed her husband with a handgun while trying to protect him from an attacking dog. One bullet missed the dog and struck the husband in the chest, killing him.
  • In Texas, a woman and her roommates were victims of a home invasion. When she fired her shotgun at the invaders, she missed them both but shot and seriously injured one of her roommates. This incident highlights a downside of owning a shotgun for home defense. There are few places those who live in urban or suburban areas can do any meaningful home defense practice with a shotgun.

“Weapons System” is a military buzzphrase that should be considered in the context of having standards. When a person picks up a firearm for personal protection, the combination of person and firearm become a ‘weapon system.’ Compatibility of the firearm with the person operating it is an important aspect of an appropriate choice.

  • What works for you? Although the Glock pistol is enormously popular, it’s not the right choice for everyone. The other side of the coin is that the snub nose .38 revolver often recommended for women isn’t necessarily the right choice either.
  • One of my colleagues somewhat rhetorically posed the question “What I shoot the best is a .22; is that what I should carry [or keep for home defense]?” That’s actually a really good question. If a person could only successfully shoot a very simple testing protocol with a .22, what’s the answer? Especially where senior citizens are concerned, how should they make a decision?

Psychology is yet another aspect of the standards decision. People like to think they know what they’re doing. Conversely, they don’t like not knowing what they’re doing. My friend and colleague Ken Hackathorn states a concept he calls Hackathorn’s Law.

You won’t do something under conditions of stress that you’re not subconsciously sure you can do reasonably well.

His Law has a distinct relationship to the concept of ‘Critical Distance’ in proxemics. Critical Distance is the distance at which pursued prey will turn and initiate a counter-attack against the predator. My analysis is that the North American subconscious Critical Distance is in the zone of 4-7 feet (the near phase of social space).

Proxemics

Diagram by WebHamster

Those familiar with the Tueller Principle will recognize that primal Critical Distance is only one-third of ‘too close.’ As the late Paul Gomez said, “We’re not teaching people to start shooting soon enough.” If a person never has an inkling of the standard they are capable of shooting to, most likely they will default to the primal Critical Distance.

Liability mitigation is sometimes cited as a reason for having standards. Other than as an unstated barrier to entry, standards have been mentioned as a way for issuing authorities to reduce their liability. To what extent this is actually true remains to be seen but it is stated as a reason.

A significant downside to standards is that encountering or testing them may force a conflict with a person’s ego. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a well-recognized aspect of human nature. It’s the opposite side of the Hackathorn’s Law coin. As one shooter wryly observed,

Getting better is not for everyone.

If a person never tests what their skill level actually is, then this ego conflict is avoided. Many people are okay with that. Unless meeting a standard is mandated, it’s a personal decision.