Category Archives: standards

Friday Fundamentals – Understanding Zero for Handguns

Zeroing any firearm is the process of understanding the relationship of Point Of Aim (where the shooter aims the firearm) [POA] to Point Of Impact (where the round actually strikes the target) [POI].

For Soldiers to achieve a high level of accuracy and precision, it is critical they zero their [sighting system] to their weapon correctly. The Soldier must first achieve a consistent grouping of a series of shots, then align the mean point of impact of that grouping to the appropriate point of aim.

–Appendix E – Zeroing, Department of the Army Training Circular 3-22.9 – Rifle and Carbine, May 2016

This is the process most shooters are familiar with regarding zero. However, zeroing a fixed sighted handgun is different than zeroing a rifle.

Bottom Line up front: With rifles, we zero the sights to the ammunition. With fixed sighted handguns, we zero (adjust) the ammunition to the sights.

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Snubby recommendation

I was emailed the following question. It’s a good question with an involved answer.

Which snubby do you recommend?

This was my reply:

It depends on the person, their ability, their needs, and their desire to achieve an acceptable standard of performance. The S&W 642 and Ruger LCR .38 Special have become the default purchases for people who want to carry a snub. They work for some people but not everyone.

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Determining Your Ability – Friday Fundamentals

The famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is quoted as having said:

The journey of a thousand miles [li] begins with one step.

This is only partially correct. The journey really begins with knowing where you are in the first place. This is also true about the journey to proficiency with firearms. Especially for newer gun owners, it’s important to gain an understanding of what their current capabilities are, if they want to improve. Many people who have purchased handguns made the purchase with the intent of personal protection. In this light, a good first step in gauging proficiency is the Michigan State CCW Basic Pistol Safety Training Assessment Course of Fire. It is a simple course of fire that can easily be done at any indoor or outdoor range. It’s also extremely manageable with a J Frame revolver. The Michigan course of fire is the first evaluation in the Indoor Range Practice Sessions program. It also can serve as the basis for a more challenging evaluation.

The target consists of three 11 inch x 8½ inch letter size pieces of paper stacked vertically. The combined sheets of paper are quite close to the FBI Q target both in area (280.5 square inches v. 275 square inches, respectively) and in general shape (a target much taller than it is wide). The target is placed at 4 yards,

1 MI Safety 3 sheets setup crop

(Note: FBI Q drawn for reference)

Four yards happens to be the boundary between Public Space and Social Space in the study of proxemics.  Proxemics is a subject that is worthy of study by anyone interested in the Art of personal protection.


Diagram by WebHamster

There is no time limit. Shooting is done with both hands. You will shoot 5 rounds in three separate sequences. Start with the handgun loaded with five rounds and aimed below the target.

  1. When ready, aim at the target and fire all 5 rounds.
  2. Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence.
  3. Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence one more time.
  4. At this point, you should have fired five shots at the target three separate times.
  5. To successfully complete the assessment, at least 2 out of 3 of the sequences must have had five (5) hits within the 25½ inch by 11 inch outline of the three pieces of paper.

2 MI Safety 3 sheets

While experienced shooters will consider this course quite easy, for new owners of J Frame revolvers, it frequently is not. This course can also be used as a measure of the effectiveness of Indexed Shooting (shooting without using the sights) by taping up the sights of the gun, in this case a Model 36 S&W snub nose revolver.

3 taped sights on 36 crop

To use this method, bring the gun into the eye-target line and then place the outline of the cylinder or slide on the target. The great NYPD gunfighter Jimmy Cirillo taught this technique to NYPD Officers as a way of effectively using their revolvers at close range in situation where the sights could not be seen. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘metal on meat.’

If the group shot in the first three sequences meets the requirement, then try reshooting the exercise with only one piece of paper. Taking the tape off and using the sights may yield better results.

4 One paper sheet

While this course of fire is simple, many newer gun owners may find it challenging. As can be seen in the pictures, the target is smaller than the silhouette target that many Private Citizens and POlice Officers are accustomed to shooting at. It also has the requirement of a 100% standard for the sequences. The 100% standard is the start of having a mindset of being accountable for every round.

What do you teach the students?

What do you teach the students in your classes, Claude?

That question was posed to me recently by an older gentleman at my gun club.

I teach them how to handle guns safely and how to hit the target, Ray.

He looked at me quizzically when I said that. He’s a competent shooter who can hit a six inch plate at 50 yards with a handgun. I could tell he didn’t understand so I told him a story.

I received a call a while ago from a range I used to teach at, which has subsequently burned down. The call was from the guy working the counter where they sign people into the range. “Can you come down right now and give a lady with a snub nose revolver a lesson right now? She will pay you and she’s willing to wait for you to get here.” It was 20 minutes away so I grabbed my gear and went.

The lady had a very nice 2 inch Model 15 Combat Masterpiece. She had purchased it at a gun shop when her husband died. This was her second visit to the range to ‘practice.’


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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.