Category Archives: skills

The hardest part of the drawstroke

I had an interesting philosophical discussion during the Contextual Handgun, The Armed Parent/Guardian class this past weekend. The instructor, John Johnston, is very good about attributing his sources. One of his points was a comment by the late Paul Gomez.

The hardest part of the drawstroke is establishing grip.

I told John that I disagree with that. In my opinion, the hardest part of the drawstroke is gaining an adequate sight picture. Establishing grip is the most time-consuming part of the drawstroke.

A good instructor can usually get students to consistently establish grip in a relatively short period of training time. However, getting them to consistently get an adequate sight picture usually takes quite a while longer.

cw at rogers crop

Something to keep in mind during your live and dry practice.

A Day at the Range – I

As always, a good day at the range erases the ennui generated by Internet goofiness.

As I mentioned in my post about Structured Practice (Part II), many people have no plan and use no structure when they go to the range. That’s only because they’ve never been introduced to the concept of structured practice in any activity. I always have two or three objectives in mind for a range trip and I write them down to help me keep on track.

Yesterday, I had two principal themes for the trip.

  • Test the CMMG .22 Conversion Unit I bought for my AR.
  • Test the functionality of the Model 30 Improved I Frame revolver I bought. It had been abused at one time and subsequently reblued so I wasn’t 100% sure of its mechanicals.

For the CMMG unit, I had three things in mind.

Testing the Model 30 was a little simpler. My plan was to shoot the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The Course isn’t extensive but it allowed me to test the revolver’s reliability and see if it shot to the sights.

Fortunately, the CMMG shot fairly close to the rifle’s current zero. It just shot a little low, so I fixed that. The Alt-C course is a precision course shot at 25 meters. The targets are scaled from 50 meters to 300 meters.

25 m scaled target firing tables

Foxhole supported is simply a benchrest shooting position. There are benchrest positions available at my club so that’s how I shot Table 1. Even though I was using the iron sights, I was still able to shoot Sharpshooter. That made me happy because I haven’t fired a rifle in almost a year.

Alt C course

Next, I shot the MQP Tactical Rifle Pro-Marksman. My plan for that is to shoot one level each time I go to the range. Pro-Marksman has three stages; 7, 30, and 100 yards. The targets are expensive and hard to find but six inch circles are an acceptable substitute for the Program. The lid from a Cool Whip container happens to be six inches.

This was my 7 and 30 yard target. I like to mark the hits with different markers for each distance.

Pro-Marksman tac rifle

This was my 100 yard target. Any silhouette can be used for the 100 yard stage. The sun was in my eyes during the kneeling and prone shots so I was glad I hit as well as I did.

Pro-Marksman tac rifle 100 yard

I write my scores on the sheet and scan it for record and future reference.

Pro-Marksman results

Finally, I shot the LAPD course with the Model 30.

Mdl 30 LAPD Ret

Having a plan when I go to the range helps me stay on task while I’m there. It also gives me a feeling that I’ve accomplished something when I leave. Next time, I’ll probably shoot the MQP Marksman level and the .22 Home Defense Course that I based on the old FBI [Sub]Machine Gun Course.

22 HD course

Review: The Complete Combatant (and Sundry Others)

This was a great course. I got a lot out of it just by auditing to aid Brian and Shelley with a little curriculum guidance. I’ll be posting my own lessons learned from observation but Chief Weems gives a good overview of the class.

That Weems Guy

I first became aware of The Complete Combatant due to their hosting Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics for one of his medical courses.  Caleb is a a regular presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, and that is how I met him.  I attended the course, that is how I met Brian and Shelley Hill, the owners of The Complete Combatant.  This introduction resulted in Brian and Shelley hosting two of my Police-Citizen Contacts courses.  They have another class with Caleb coming in September; so, be sure to check their schedule IF you aren’t planning to spend that weekend with me at Social Levergun.  Quality medical training should be a part of your personal safety plan, and Caleb has a solid program.

Another example of the classes that they are bringing in to augment their own offerings, they hosted Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense course.  Andrew’s material…

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NRA Personal Protection Courses

Last weekend, I traveled to Florida to take the NRA Instructor Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home Course (PPOTH). I was asked by several people why I would want this particular “Basic” Certification in light of my background and training experience. It’s simple,

I like training new shooters.

My colleague Grant Cunningham made a pertinent blog post about this shortly after I took the PPOTH Student Basic and Advanced Student Course. Experienced instructors often shy away from training the newest students. There has been a massive increase in people licensed to carry firearms over the past few years. In addition, several States have adopted Constitutional or Permitless Carry. That market base probably needs experienced trainers and coaches.

And I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. It’s unfortunate that the NRA Training Department’s best marketing statement for its Personal Protection training is contained in the PPOTH Instructor manual. “The NRA Basic Personal Protection Series is based on the building-block approach, moving from the simple to the complex.” The most effective training courses I have taken over the past two decades have used a step by step approach to skill building.

The Training Department sees the progression of the courses for new gun owners interested in learning how to defend themselves and their loved ones as follows.

  • NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course, the first course, develops the basic skills of handling, shooting, and cleaning the firearm, as well as a thorough grounding in firearm safety.
  • NRA Basics of Personal Protection In The Home Course, the second course, teaches:
    • the defensive or flash sight picture,
    • firing single shots and/or aimed pairs from various shooting positions
    • shooting using a center-of-mass hold,
    • effectively using cover and concealment,
    • employing point-shooting and multiple target engagement techniques.
    • techniques for improving awareness and promoting mental preparation,
    • methods of enhancing home safety without a firearm, and
    • legal aspects of the use of deadly force in self-defense.
  • NRA Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home, the third course in the series, covers:
    • Introduction to Concealed Carry Safety and The Defensive Mindset,
    • Introduction to Self Defense and Concealed Carry,
    • Legal Aspects of Concealed Cary and Self-Defense,
    • Carry Modes and Handgun Concealment,
    • Presenting the Handgun from Concealment, and
    • Presentation, Position and Movement.
  • Another offering in the series is the NRA Defensive Pistol Course. This is a shorter course than PPOTH. It teaches:
    • How to apply the NRA Rules for Safe Gun Handling when carrying a concealed firearm,
    • basic principles of concealment,
    • drawing from a hip holster
    • levels of mental awareness,
    • developing the proper mindset when using a pistol for personal protection,
    • flash sight picture
    • reloading
    • clearing common stoppages,
    • shooting a qualification course,
    • use of pocket pistols,

In addition to the Courses themselves, the Training Department provides additional Skill Development Exercises for NRA Instructors to use with students after PPITH and PPOTH.

PPITH Skills Development

And the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program has even more exercises that interested shooters can use to increase their skills and earn awards from the NRA.

DPI table

Looking at all the topics covered, that’s a really comprehensive training program. Those who are interested in a defensive firearm as more than a talisman to ward off evil can really get a lot out of such a “Basic” program.

There are a number of aspects of the NRA’s series that I really like. First of all, the classes are between 4 to 9 hours long. Because they’re constructed in modules, even the 9 hour classes don’t have to be conducted in a single day. Most people’s lives are quite busy and asking new shooters to take an entire weekend or even week of training is both difficult and sometimes counter-productive.

The NRA’s program is really the only one in the industry that is built around the student’s capabilities and time constraints rather than a trainer’s weekend convenience. Mea culpa; I’ve done both the traveling trainer and hosting trainer routines, so I’m as guilty of it as any of my colleagues. It’s something I want to try a different approach to.

There’s a place for both newer trainers and experienced trainers in the NRA’s Personal Protection Series. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how I can implement that.

Spot shooting (Part II)

Yesterday, I was re-reading The Complete Book of Modern Handgunning published in 1961. It’s interesting to see how much has changed in the world of handgun shooting and how much has not.

The following gem is found in Chapter 11. How to Shoot

practical spot shooting from handgunning

It brought to mind an unintentional laboratory experiment that happened while I was teaching a snub revolver class. In 2012,  I taught a short block of instruction on snub nose revolvers at the Northeast Shooters Summit, just as I did in 2011. The same block of instruction was given both Saturday and Sunday to two different groups of shooters totaling about 40. Many of these shooters had almost no experience using any revolver, much less a snub. They fired approximately 40 rounds in two hours of training, followed by a 10 round qualification course at 5 and 10 yards. The way the training was structured was shooting on dot targets until the qualification course. I emphasized the concept of spot shooting that I discussed in my previous blog post.

The target used for the qual was the TQ-21TC(C) target photo target. The value of this particular target is that it has a visible aiming point at the base of the V formed by the open throat of the jacket collar.

TQ-21TC-C-Paper_Target

In both years the success rate on the qualification, using that target, was 100 percent. This mirrored my results when teaching other snub revolver classes. On Sunday of 2012, there was a target mixup and my targets were used for a class before mine. The target available for my class was the DST-1A, which has no visible aiming point on it. It is an almost solid black silhouette with a head.

dst-1a

The difference in the students’ success rate from previous classes was stark. Approximately 50 percent of the students failed the qualification course when it was fired on the DST-1A. Their shots were all over the targets with many complete misses. The change from defined point of aim to ‘center of mass’ aiming altered the outcome of the test radically. This occurred despite them being told to try to visualize a spot to shoot at.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Spot Shooting, using blank targets is a poor way to teach people how to shoot. Sadly, the blank target concept has become the norm. Conversely, it is interesting to note that since the Bianchi Cup (NRA Action Pistol)  switched to the AP-1 target, which has a defined aiming point, from the D-1, which doesn’t, records have been broken every year.

The ubiquitous original B-27 target at least has an X to aim at, even if it is anatomically misplaced. Something to think about in training, practice, and actual incidents is to pick an aiming point or “Mark your targets before you fire.” as Colour Sergeant Bourne put it.

sccy lapd marked

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

Line in the sand

Begin to attrit the enemy at the maximum effective range of your weapons.

That was one of the most important things I learned as a young Infantry Lieutenant during the Cold War. We would have almost certainly been facing Soviet forces larger than our own. We had to wear them down as they closed with us in order to destroy them before they could reach us. This is every bit as true today in the context of personal protection.

“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”  is a famous saying from the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War. Very few people understand that ‘the whites of their eyes’ basically represented the maximum effective range of the smoothbore musket. That’s the underlying concept of the order.

No matter what our weapons are, we need to understand their maximum effective range. Maximum effective range is sometimes limited by the weapon, as in the case of the smoothbore musket or pepper spray. In other cases, it is limited by the capability of the user. The firearms instructors and SWAT team members of the Los Angeles Police Department are capable of using their weapons at a greater distance than the average patrol officer. That’s not a slam on the patrol officers, rather it is a result of training, practice, and experience.

In order to know the maximum effective range of your weapons, you have to understand them and test them. This testing and understanding is a key component of John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study. An integral part of ‘Orient’ is knowledge of the capabilities (Previous Experience) of your weapons.

929px-OODA.Boyd.svg

Keep in mind that ‘line in the sand’ is both a chronological concept as well as a geographic point. If a situation goes on for a while,  it’s time to put an end to it, one way or another.

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.