Category Archives: skills

Breaking Contact (Part I)

CCW Safe is doing a series about our ultimate goal in Personal Protection. I am happy that I have been able to make a contribution to the literature of our Art.

Our goal in personal protection is to force a break in contact [with a criminal attacker]. We want them to go away, or we want to go away. One or the other.

https://ccwsafe.com/blog/breaking-contact-pt-1

This philosophical fundamental is the true meaning of “Get off the X” for the Private Citizen. Sidestepping or whatever method is taught to get off the X isn’t the end or even the important part of the process. Forcing the attacker to withdraw or making our escape is the end objective.

It’s nothing new. Military units have probably been doing this since before the Roman Empire existed. It’s easily overlooked at the moment of an incident, though. For some folks, escaping is a natural response but for others it is counter-intuitive and needs to be practiced.

In some cases, what we’ve learned needs to be unlearned and replaced with a more appropriate tactic. Assaulting through the kill zone of an ambush toward the enemy is a prime example. Infantrymen are taught this from Day 1 of their military training. However, it’s often not a viable response in civilian life. Sadly, the LT Dwain Williams incident https://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/2021/02/26/using-cover-effectively/ is an example of how wrong this tactic can go.

As Shawn points out in the Breaking Contact article https://ccwsafe.com/blog/breaking-contact-pt-1, POlice officers are especially vulnerable to falling prey to the subconscious instinct to chase when they are off-duty. Several incidents in Real Shootouts of the LAPD https://realshootoutsofthelapd.com demonstrate this. However, private citizens are vulnerable too and he cites several cases where this occurred.

Practicing, using an inert replica of your tool, a simple Battle Drill of Breaking Contact with an attacker is worth actually doing rather than just thinking about. We learn physical skills through repetition.

If you would like to purchase Real Shootouts of the LAPD, click on the image below.

The Importance of the First Shot

#fridayfundamentals

Some principles are just as fundamental as is technique. One of the unintentional themes of the 2021 Tactical Conference was the importance of the first shot. One class even had that as its title. Several other instructors touched on it as part of their classes and presentations.

Rolf Penzel and Mike Treat titled their class Making the First Shot Count.

John Murphy made the comment “It’s not a ‘one shot drill,’ it’s a ‘first shot drill’” in his class.

During his presentation Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters, Darryl Bolke stated “training efficiency means using the sights.”

Chuck Haggard used the term “Target Picture” to illustrate the concept of placing the sight picture on the part of the target we want to hit initially.

In his AIWB Skills class, John Daub instructed his clients to “think about where you want the muzzle to end up” at the conclusion of the draw.

Scott Jedlinski’s comment “The original 1911 sights were suggestions” in his class was a humorous illustration of why point shooting was so common in days gone by. Tom Givens has also written about the dismal quality of factory sights on pistols and revolvers of yesteryear and how that affected technique training of a century ago.

One of trends that is apparent in the Categorical Use of Force Reports by the LAPD is how often one or two shots solve the problem. This is true through the entire database of over 1,000 incidents, not just the off-duty incidents chronicled in my first book about LAPD Shootouts. LAPD’s emphasis on marksmanship and frequent scored qualification is no doubt responsible for this difference from other large departments that have minimal standards.

In a gunfight, the shooter who first scores a hit above the diaphragm of his opponent is the one who seizes the initiative in the incident. Making a good hit with the FIRST SHOT fired is key to seizing the initiative and then retaining it until the incident is over. No one’s performance improves after he gets shot in a vital area.

In terms of operationalizing this principle, the fact that most common autoloaders don’t have a second strike capability during dry practice becomes irrelevant to the fundamental of making a good hit with the first shot. Your dry practice should mostly focus on the first shot anyway.

During live fire, the majority of our practice should be ‘first shot drills.’ Do a little recoil management practice but don’t overestimate its priority relative to the first shot in the real world. As John Farnam put it, “Our desired range product is victory.”

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What is the Tactical Conference?

The Rangemaster Tactical Conference started as an International Defensive Pistol Association Major Match in the late 1990s. The IDPA Indoor Winter Championship, as it was then called, was held at Rangemaster’s facility at that time in Memphis, Tennessee. The organizer was Tom Givens, the owner of Rangemaster, a long time pistol competitor, and the leading trainer for Tennessee Concealed Pistol Licenses in Memphis. It was a large enough event to be featured as a segment on Shooting USA.

Typically, a shooting match consists of a few minutes of shooting and hours or days of idle time. However, the Winter Indoor Championship presented a unique opportunity because it was held at an indoor range with classrooms. Tom Givens’ relationship with the training industry meant that he was able to host various trainers who could present concurrent lectures about Self-Defense and Personal Protection. Some of the earliest presenters were well known names such as Massad Ayoob, Marty Hayes, and John Farnam.

The Pistol Match is still an integral part of the Conference. All attendees are invited to shoot the Match to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their skills. Not everyone shoots it, though, because of the wide variety of other training opportunities that are also available during the three days.

Eventually, the demand for the tactical lectures and training necessitated moving to larger venues. The Memphis Police Academy, US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, and DARC in Little Rock have all been sites over the years. The larger venues allowed a wide variety of instructional blocks, including lectures, live fire shooting classes, and unarmed hands-on training. As the Conference grew, trainers held classes such as Managing Post-Shooting Stress and Trauma, Snub Nose Revolver Skills, Tactical Medicine for the Prepared Citizen, and Home Defense Shotgun Skills.The 2021 Conference was held at the excellent Dallas Pistol Club.

Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make was inspired by lessons learned in an Experiential Learning Laboratory session conducted by Craig Douglas of Shivworks at one year’s Conference. The Experiential Learning Laboratory has become a staple each year as a well-structured Force on Force exercise specifically for Armed Private Citizens.

Starting from just a few lectures at its inception, the Conference has grown to an extravaganza of educational offerings attended by hundreds of people over a period of three days. A vast number of training opportunities are made available for the prepared individual. The 2021 Conference featured 54 different blocks of instruction by dozens of different trainers. Some of the sessions repeated to allow attendees access to them because there is so much going on at the Conference.

There is no other opportunity like it available for the Armed Citizen who wishes to be prepared to prevent criminal violence against themselves and their families. The Conference is held in late March each year. The 2022 Conference will be held at the Dallas Pistol Club in Dallas, Texas. Registration opens in May and sells out by October every year.

TacCon 2021 Match

The Rangemaster 2021 Tactical Conference is in the books. A small part of the Conference is the shooting match. Of the over 200 attendees, 161 elected to shoot the match. I didn’t bring a gun because of my flight situation, so I borrowed a 642 from a friend and shot with it. Only three of us shot with revolvers.

All shooters have the opportunity to shoot the first two parts of the Course of Fire.

The first part of the match is shot as a standard exercise using turning targets. This was my target for the Standards. My score was 198. The 99 percent score meant I was able to shoot the tiebreaker.

For those who score 95 percent on the standards, a five round tiebreaker is shot on a B-8 target using Comstock scoring (points divided by time). I shot this well, scoring a 49 but using a lightweight snub nose revolver meant I was slower than I needed to be to get into the shootoffs on Sunday.

The top 16 shooters then enter a man v. man shootoff using a double elimination ladder. The shootoff format uses falling steel targets. Each shooter has an array of three clothed steel target with an eight inch steel circle [Correction about the target: The plate is a vertical rectangle, 5.5″ X 6″. If you run a vertical centerline down the mannequin, and a line across at armpit level, the intersection of those lines is the center of the 5.5″X6″ plate] that has to be hit to make the target fall. After knocking down all the shirt targets, the shooter must knock down the mini-popper in back. The popper that ends up on the bottom determines the winner.

It was a fun match and I’m glad I was able to shoot it.

I’ll be recapping the Conference in the next few posts.

Press On!

#mindsetmonday

In 2011, I had heart surgery two weeks before this match and couldn’t move my right arm. The solution for me was to shoot the monthly IDPA match with my Support Hand Only.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

President Calvin Coolidge

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Even more about Skill Development

‘three shots, three yards, three seconds,’ https://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/skills-conversation-about-lapd-shootouts/ has generated some good discussion and questions, which makes me happy. Someone posted a question on the Facebook page for Growing Up Guns.

Nothing was said about whether this done from a low or compressed ready, or from concealment, as far as the par time. Being LE based info, I’m assuming this was done from a duty holster. Thoughts?

It’s a progression, just like the size of the target. When someone is first learning to shoot, do it from Low Ready, muzzle below the feet of the target, finger off the trigger. Once a shooter achieves some degree of proficiency, which I would personally define as being able to consistently hit the quarter sheet, then branching can begin. Others might be satisfied with hitting the full sheet consistently as a standard.

There are numerous possible branching variations.

  • From the midpoint of the drawstroke.
  • From the holster. Take your pick of open, concealed, or Level III Security.
  • Primary Hand Only from Low Ready
  • Support Hand Only from Low Ready
  • Etc.

I use the term ‘midpoint of the drawstroke’ rather than ‘compressed ready’ because I’m not a fan of muzzling suspects prior to making the SHOOT decision. If the bore is parallel to the ground, there’s almost no way to avoid muzzling others. From that perspective, the idea of having the bore parallel to the ground as a ready position is purely “square range” thinking.

For those who are feeling exceptionally froggy, try stacking all three targets on a single silhouette. Shoot all three targets as one string using three round magazines and reloading between targets. Obviously, your time will be more than three seconds. Keep in mind that the second most missed shot is the first shot after a Stoppage Clearance. Reloading is a Stoppage Clearance so you’ll have two opportunities to maintain your focus.

The end outcome, consistent hits on a variable sized target, is the focal point of the drill. There are numerous tasks that can achieve it, most of which have value.

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Skills conversation about LAPD Shootouts

#fridayfundamentals

I was talking with a friend of mine, who has Been There and Done That (BTDT), about Real Shootouts of the LAPD. He asked:

What was your biggest conclusion after writing the book?

DIA Guy

“When Frank McGee (head of NYPD firearms training in the 70s) said ‘three shots, three yards, three seconds,’ he wasn’t far off the mark” was my response. I still think that on-duty POlice shootouts may be a different story but the off-duty shooting situations are much like those of an Armed Citizen.

We then started talking about the difference between ‘when to shoot’ vis-à-vis ‘how to shoot’ training / practice. He had an interesting take on targets in terms of ‘how to shoot.’

What he tells his students is,

Use a sheet of paper. When you can consistently hit that, fold it in half. When you can consistently hit that, fold it in half again.

How do we combine that concept with ‘three, three, three?’ Since I am a firm believer in consistency, let’s do it three times in a row. That would make it 3X4. I also think context is important, so let’s put the sheet of paper on a silhouette. Place the silhouette at three yards. Fire three shots at the target. Repeat twice for a total of nine rounds fired in three strings of three. Since it’s a three second Par time exercise, you can use a Par timer app on your phone with your earbuds underneath your hearing protection. I like ‘Dry Fire Par Time Tracker’ but there are others.

If all three strings of three shots hit it, fold another sheet of paper in half. You’ll end up with a target 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Repeat the three strings. You should have nine hits on the half sheet of paper.

Assuming you have all nine hits on the half sheet, fold another sheet of paper in half twice. This time your target will be 4.25 x 5.5 inches. Shoot the three strings again.

Now you’ve done a good 27 round workout that is ‘Reality Based.’

When you get home, put your gun away. Get out your Blue Gun, Nerf gun, or water pistol and do some ‘when to shoot’ exercises.

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Friday Fundamentals 01 – Establishing Your Baseline

Having a solid idea of where you’re starting from is important if you want to get anywhere. Otherwise, you’re just wandering around in the wilderness.

tacticalprofessor

My friend Mark Luell, the author of Growing Up Guns suggested I provide a ‘Friday Fundamentals’ post weekly. We got the idea from my colleague Cecil Burch who wrote a blog post about Fundamentals. It’s a great idea to stay in touch with the basics.

The first installment is Session 01 of my Pistol Practice Program – Establishing Your Baseline. As in any journey, you have to know where you’re starting from before you can get to where you want to go.

The objective of this drill is to determine what distance you can make 100 percent hits on the vital area of a silhouette target. My feeling is that we need to work on achieving 100 percent accuracy because errant rounds in our homes or neighborhoods could be a major problem. Since I also think the first shot is the most important, I structured the session with a…

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Goal Setting for 2021

The book The Practicing Mind https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007C8NRSA/ was written by an accomplished musician and concert piano renovator. It contains the following story about when he started playing golf as an adult. The lesson in the story is well worth considering.

even though they had played golf weekly for many years, they still couldn’t accomplish basic things, such as getting the ball up in the air.

What I learned from golf was that all my failures in music had stemmed from my lack of understanding the proper mechanics of practicing, of the process of picking a goal, whatever that may be, and applying a steady effort toward achieving it.

The passage about ‘picking a goal, whatever that may be’ is particularly important in developing competency with firearms. The ‘whatever that may be’ part should be well considered as part of the goal setting process. It’s not uncommon for gunowners to place a high priority on marksmanship tasks. However, in the context of using firearms for Personal Protection, there are many implied tasks that complement or even surpass marksmanship in importance.

  • Being aware
  • Verbalization
  • Accessing a weapon
  • Moving from place to place safely (e.g. without having an Unintentional Discharge)
  • Making reasonable and appropriate decisions
  • Coordinating with friends and loved ones
  • Etc.

The ammunition deficit will give us all time to work on non-shooting tasks and skills that are, or at least should be, an integral part of our Personal Protection plan. For those who place a priority on their safety and their loved ones’ safety, range time can be re-prioritized to time to practice other skills. Some of those complementary skills do not even involve handling firearms. Others are easily accomplished with an inert or even toy gun.

The enjoyment aspect of the shooting sports is another worthwhile goal. My shooting goal this year is to achieve my Distinguished Expert rating in Shotgun from the NRA. Since I already hold two DE ratings, I will become one of the few Triple Distinguished Experts. My gun club is rebuilding our rimfire range, so I’ll also be able to get back into smallbore rifle shooting, a highly disciplined activity.

On the other hand, my interest in ‘Boyd’s Process,’ of which the ‘O-O-D-A Loop’ is part, has been rekindled. I am going to make a concerted effort to delve deeply into the entire process and produce a written piece and presentation for my Patrons about integrating all the parts of Boyd’s thinking into a cohesive paradigm. That falls into the ‘making reasonable and appropriate decisions’ and is only peripherally concerned with firearms, other than as a backup tool.

Think about what your goals are for 2021 for firearms and Personal Protection. Decide what a measurable indicator for reaching each of your goals would be and then make a plan for getting there. That is a different process than ‘New Year’s resolutions,’ which generally are ephemeral and therefore more easily dismissed than a goal with a concrete plan.

FTC notice: I receive no commission for any links mentioned in this post.

Riding Shotgun With Charlie

#mindsetmonday

I almost never listen to podcasts I’ve been a guest on, which is probably a mistake. Since Charlie put the clip of me with my long gun (Zombie MP5) in his intro, I had to listen to this one, though.

RSWC CW with MP5 airsoft

There’s a lot of good information in this episode that doesn’t usually get touched on in the industry. I’m very happy that Charlie gave me the opportunity to share it with the community.

e.g. My father used to say to me ‘son, you’re much more sophisticated about this than I am’ and I want my clients eventually to be more sophisticated about this than I am.

The Negative Outcomes mentioned are detailed extensively in my book Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make http://seriousgunownermistakes.com/ .

The LAPD Retired Officer Course and numerous other courses that can be practiced at both indoor and outdoor ranges is in my book Indoor Range Practice Sessions http://indoorrangepracticesessions.com