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
- 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.
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.
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.
There’s currently a lot of Internet stink about some limitations imposed in the NRA Carry Guard training. I’m not going to comment about Carry Guard in general because as an Instructor certified in numerous disciplines through the NRA Training Department, there’s a possible conflict of interest.
What I will comment about the equipment limitation is:
They’re staying in their lane of competency.
Looking at the background and resumes of the instructors, running a striker fired autoloader or Sig 226 is mostly likely all they’ve ever been trained with, practiced with, or used. Revolvers and 1911s have a different manual of arms and idiosyncrasies that these instructors, with the exception of Jarrett who was briefly with the LAPD decades ago, are probably not familiar with.
They are probably expert with the weapons they have used and the possibility is they are either inexperienced or ignorant of how to operate other weapons at any professional level. I see that a lot now. The number of young police officers who literally cannot open the cylinder of a revolver is stunning. There are numerous firearms trainers who can operate one or two weapons and provide good training, as long as it’s confined to those weapons
Why would we then encourage these Carry Guard instructors to teach students how to use weapons they are not experts in the use of? How often has the meme ‘Stay in your lane’ surfaced lately? To his credit, when Rob Pincus wanted to make a DVD about Snub Revolvers, he brought me in to do it, just as he did with Dryfire. I’m an expert on those topics and he is not.
We can’t have it both ways. If we want instructors to ‘Stay in their lane,’ then we’re going to have to accept that just like lanes on the highway, the lanes have limits. In this case, the limitation is that NRA Carry Guard probably needs to say “Training for a limited subset of weapons but not all.” Describing itself as ‘the Gold Standard’ is probably a bit of a stretch. That is not to say I accept what Carry Guard provides is, in fact, the ‘Gold Standard.’ I mean that if Carry Guard is unwilling to provide training for two extremely common weapons, revolvers and Browning pattern pistols, then, by definition, it can’t be ‘the Gold Standard.’
Perhaps it could be ‘the Silver Standard.’ Without seeing first hand what actually takes place at the training, there’s no way for me, or anyone else, including NRA Carry Guard, to say. What they are going to provide remains a prototype, unlike the training provided by NRA Certified Instructors, which are proven training processes. How well Carry Guard’s training prototype will translate to the Instructor candidates being recruited also remains to be seen. At least as long as you’re not using a revolver or 1911. Then you don’t have to be concerned with it.
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.
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.
- Think ahead
- Acknowledge your own value
- Know what you’re doing
- Be a Success
- Avoid Negative Outcomes
- Criminal events start with the intended victim behind the power curve
- 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.
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.
Telephone [in the United States] –is an internationally popular game, in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Although the objective is to pass around the message without it becoming misheard and altered along the way, part of the enjoyment is that, regardless, this usually ends up happening.
Often, a message that starts out like “My uncle shook hands with the Mayor once” eventually turns into “President Reagan’s grandmother slept with Batman for years” or something equally mistransmitted.
Telephone game issues plague the firearms training industry and are a problem. Several occurrences of it have been brought to my attention just this week. One of the most important things I’ve learned in the training industry is to assume everything that anyone tells me secondhand is wrong. Whenever possible, I go back to the source or vet the information through several other sources, if necessary.
Items that are most vulnerable to mistransmission are intellectual, statistical, or theoretical concepts. These include items such as:
- Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes
- Statistics from ‘the FBI’
- Legal issues
- Hick’s Law without the power law of practice refutation
- My personal favorite, Col. John Boyd’s work, aka ‘the OODA Loop’
What first brought this to my attention this week was reviewing an article a friend wrote about Situational Awareness. In my review, I pointed out that Cooper himself said that even while he was actively teaching, the Color Codes were being grossly misinterpreted. He explicitly stated that they are NOT a system of Situational Awareness but rather stages of Mental Preparation and triggers for Personal Defense. Upon mentioning this to my friend, he said:
And I think it says quite a bit about how misunderstood the concept is that you’re literally the only person to point out that Cooper never intended the colors as situational awareness levels, but rather mental preparedness. Out of a dozen people giving me feedback.
Cooper’s writings on the subject are readily available on the Internet with just a small amount of research. In Volume 13, No. 1 of his Commentaries, he says:
The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life.
He elaborates on the meaning of the Color Codes in no less than six of his Commentaries over the years. All his Commentaries are available on the Internet. There is even a video of his entire lecture about the Color Codes available on YouTube.
He makes a point at 15:20 in the lecture about the distinction explicitly.
In the course of doing the review, I came across a blog post that purported to explain Cooper’s Codes. While the cursory overview given wasn’t awful, the post stated that the Codes were contained in the ‘Awareness’ chapter of Cooper’s book Principles of Personal Defense. Unfortunately, there is no such chapter. Principle One in the book is Alertness but no mention of the Color Codes is contained therein. False memory at work.
In that sense, the Color Codes are similar to Boyd’s work, which has been mostly butchered into unusability by the training community. Not an hour after making my comments to my friend, I came across yet another recently published article about ‘the OODA Loop’ that grossly oversimplified Boyd’s work. The ways I have seen Boyd’s work grotesquely misstated are legion. We can easily portray the oversimplification of John Boyd’s work in a graphic.
One article last year by a member of a well-known and regarded training company claimed that Boyd had developed ‘the OODA Loop’ during the Korean War to counter the ‘shocking losses’ of F-86s at the hands of Mig pilots. In fact, Boyd’s first mention of ODA [only one O] was in 1976 after he had transitioned to strategic acquisition planning and no longer even flew aircraft. Estimates of the kill ratio in Korea for the Sabre jet has dropped from 10 Migs for each Sabre to 5.6/1 but this isn’t a ‘shocking loss’ statistic in the slightest. Clearly, the author hadn’t done one bit of research on the topic but was just regurgitating a distorted and false memory.
Despite the readiness of information in the Internet age, there is often a tremendous amount of intellectual laziness within the training community. Doing research isn’t as much fun as shooting. Hearing someone regurgitate important concepts in a class or even a side conversation and then failing to go back to the source to vet and understand it is poor scholarship. It would get a college freshman an F on a simple term paper. If we in the community can’t even get a passing grade on a college term paper, should we be teaching people how to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones?
Let’s turn to the research and vetting issue from the standpoint of the practitioner. Someone who wants to defend their own life and the lives of their loved ones ought to be able to get that passing term paper grade, too. When you hear something ‘important’ attributed to a third party, don’t accept it at face value. Research it on your own and find out what was actually said or published. It’s rarely hard and usually doesn’t take much time. You may be surprised at how different the two versions are.
“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.
- what a standard is
- the different kinds of standards we have in:
- 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.
I’m taking the NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home Course this week. Taking the Course is a prerequisite to becoming a PPOTH Instructor but I also like to get back to Basics periodically.
Yesterday, I did the Range Exercises for the Basic level of the Course. PPOTH has Basic Level range exercises of 100 rounds. The Advanced Level range exercises total 112 rounds. The exercises are detailed in a Condensed Reference Guide available from the NRA.
The exercises are nothing fancy or ‘high speed’ but they emphasize fundamental skills that everyone who carries a weapon should be able to execute flawlessly. Most are shot at seven yards.
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) while wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) while not wearing a concealment garment
- Presenting the pistol, moving to a position of cover and firing two shots (that hit)
- Presenting the pistol and firing one shot (that hits) using the Shooting (Dominant) Hand Only
- Presenting the pistol and firing two shots (that hit) at close range (2 yards)
The exercises are done dryfire first and then live fire. Generally, 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise are done. Accountability for the rounds is stressed. I like that. I’ve used the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program in a number of classes. What my students found was that getting 100% hits on a 12 inch circle at seven yards wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be.
Repetition and performance measurement are the midwives of skill development.
The standard I established for myself yesterday to get all my hits in the 10 ring of the NRA AP-1 target. This is an eight inch circle, which is a relatively well established standard for defensive accuracy among those who can shoot.
I’m looking forward to taking PPOTH and doing the exercises with someone else watching. That’s another of my standards; being able to perform on demand while others observe what my results are.
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.
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.
While reviewing some files in my reading list, I came across this gem. It’s from an article called The best advice for today’s music industry was written 80 years ago
In his closing keynote presentation [at the DIY Musicians Conference] called “How to Make an Extra $100,000 from Your Music Next Year,” Martin [Atkins] ran down a long list of creative cost-saving and money-making suggestions, peppered with commandments like “Don’t be an asshole” and “Whatever the fuck it is, get the fuck over it.”
At the heart of Martin’s talk, though, was this quote:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Dale Carnegie wrote that in 1936, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Martin’s first suggestion brought to mind a comment one of my first bosses in the real estate business made about one of the brokers in our office. “That guy needs to take a Dale Carnegie Course. Twice!”
Dale Carnegie Training has an excellent eBook abstract of Dale Carnegie’s writings available for download on its website. The eBook is called Dale Carnegie’s Secrets of Success. Here’s the link to it. I have two well-worn hard copies, from when it was called Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book, one of which I keep on my desk.
Secrets of Success is recommended reading for everyone, regardless of what you do or your personal philosophy. Those who are churned up about recent political events, on both ends of the spectrum, should take note especially.
What does Dale Carnegie have to do with personal protection? Let’s keep in mind that unlike natural disasters, personal protection against criminality involves a social transaction between two people. Those two people might be:
- You and a Violent Criminal Actor
- One of your loved ones and a Violent Criminal Actor
- A trainer and you
- You and someone you are trying to teach, either formally or informally
- You and someone you are trying to influence to make decisions about personal protection
Since I am a trainer and educator, I’ll address the last two points first. Recently, a trainer and blogger posted a 4,128 word rant about numerous shortcomings an acquaintance of his had. The rant was very pompous and disdainful. Some of the shortcomings related to personal protection and some were general life ‘flaws.’ No doubt the trainer’s object was to give his readers some food for thought about how they might have shortcomings similar to the acquaintance’s. However, Atkins’ first comment, “Don’t be an asshole” immediately came to mind as I read it. The overall tone of the blogger’s post was “this guy’s an idiot and I’m sooooo much smarter and better than him.”
No one likes or is influenced by a pompous asshole. Unfortunately, I see a lot of pompous assholiness in the training community. I’m not immune to being that way, either.
The Be a Leader section of Secrets of Success makes several germane points.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Another aspect of the training community I often see is a lack of connection to the everyday lives that our students live. There are several worthwhile items from Secrets of Success in this regard.
Become a Friendlier Person
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Throw down a challenge.
So, I’m going to throw down a challenge to the training community.
Get a job; a real job where you have to fill out a W-4 when you get hired. Just like the jobs your students have.
Right now is a golden opportunity, no pun intended. The end of the year is a relatively slow time for training and there are numerous seasonal positions available in the retail sector. Target, WalMart, and Sears, among others, are all hiring for temporary positions through the end of the year. If you don’t like wearing a uniform, Macy’s and other high end retailers are hiring and will give you an even better environment to test your hypotheses. Get a temporary job in a retail store for a couple of months. Walk a mile in your students’ moccasins while carrying the heater and all the gear you tell them to EDC. See how it works out for you.
If you get fired (or arrested) for a weapons violation or you decide you can’t carry all that crap while working and interacting with people all day without getting made, you owe me a drink. If you work at least 30 hours a week for six weeks in the retail environment with your full EDC loadout, I’ll buy you dinner. Full time sworn LEOs, 16 hours a week will fulfill the challenge. Totally on the honor system; I’ll accept whatever outcome you tell me you had.
In our Violent Criminal Actors class last month, William Aprill talked about the difference between odds and stakes. The payout odds for my offer are about 5 to 1 in your favor. The stakes; well that’s a different story.
Next time, we’ll discuss the relevance of people skills to The Deadly Mix and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 2015. Until then:
“when pride arrives, logic [leaves].” –Samurai Rising
I would say the same is true of fear, which is one reason I don’t care for the “I was in fear for my life” mantra. When we in the industry teach fear to our students, I am concerned we are setting them up to make bad decisions.
Although this sign was at a church, it’s applicable to many aspects of our lives. Interestingly, I saw it while thinking about the 1,000 Days while driving a surveillance detection route I don’t usually take. Synchronicity, as Jung would say.
Working the 1,000 Days has brought a clarity to me about the value of following through on what we start. One of the things that I have noticed is that training classes frequently don’t include a followup program for students to follow. Insights Training Center and Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting are the only two I can recall that gave me a takeaway. I include the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course of fire as a followup for people who take my short classes.
I want to make sure that the students who come to our Violent Criminal Actors and You course have a followup program also. Since it’s not a physical skills class, I have to approach the followup program in a different way.
This is how I’m going to do it: the next 10 people who sign up for the class will get a personal one hour telephone consultation with me about how to develop their individual program. Since everyone’s situation is different, each consultation will be personalized. I ordinarily charge $125/hour with a two hour minimum for training and consultation, so I think this is an offer that has value.
Those who have signed up already will also receive the one hour consultation. I want to get the consultations finished within a month after the class, so that will probably be as many people as I can accommodate. This will be an interesting way to me to followup on what the students gain from the class and how they plan to implement their education.
James Yeager‘s philosophy that training is just a down payment has always appealed to me. So, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and help our students follow-through.