The ebook about Advanced Skills and how to practice them is now available. Recognizing the value of dry practice, the download also includes two MP3 files to easily guide your dry practice sessions.
A commonly heard statement in the firearms training community is “There are no such things as ‘advanced’ tasks, only ‘fundamental’ tasks done at greater speed.” While this statement is true to an extent, there is a broader perspective to be considered.
There are three components of Advanced tasks, all of which have equal importance.
- Performance Measurement
The ability to perform a given task in the same way and achieve the same results each time is a characteristic of advanced shooters. We have all experienced that day when we were ‘on’ and could do everything well. The difference between those days and our worst days is the measure of our consistency and what we are able to produce ‘on demand.’
Measuring our performance regularly and recording our results is the only way to know whether we are being at least consistent and hopefully improving our skill level. Performance measurement has two components: accuracy and time. Our personal perceptions of how competent we are at any given time are often flawed. The target and the timer, not our perceptions, tell us the true story of our competency. The ‘observer effect’ of performance measurement can also change a fundamental task into an advanced task.
The element of ‘context’ is a key component of ‘advanced’ tasks. Any fundamental task has to be applied in a certain way to different situations. Analyzing situations provides us with the context for a task. Studying incidents in detail over time can give us a broader view of the tasks and circumstances involved in using firearms for personal protection. This book had the input of an in-depth analysis of a database of over 5,000 Defensive Gun Uses (DGU) by Armed Citizens. From that analysis, the tasks involved in DGU were broken out along with the context in which the tasks were applied to a situation. Due to significant differences in Mission and Circumstances (METT-TC for Army veterans) between Armed Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers, on-duty law enforcement incidents were not included in the analysis. A few well documented off-duty incidents that paralleled incidents involving Armed Citizens were included
Another aspect of Advanced Practice is that some very common tasks in personal protection either physically cannot be practiced at indoor ranges or outdoor gun clubs, either due to rules or feasibility. Practicing drawing from the holster is the most obvious, because this is prohibited at most indoor ranges.
A less obvious personal protection task is shooting with innocent people downrange or in the midst of innocent people. This situation occurs much more frequently in real life than most gunowners realize. Think of how many times gunowners speak of ‘protecting their family.’ This statement implies that the family may be present during a Defensive Gun Use. However, the family members are often in between the criminal and the gunowner.
While it’s currently fashionable to talk about keeping a gun on one’s person at home, this isn’t the reality for most people. Among those who have Licenses To Carry, actual on-body carry is still rare. More likely, the gun is kept in some (hopefully secure) place of storage, either at home or in a vehicle. At home, this reality creates two implied tasks for personal protection; 1) access the pistol from a place of storage and 2) move safely from place to place with a loaded firearm. Since many people are uncomfortable with having a round in the chamber of an autoloading pistol, yet another implied task is possibly, 3) chamber a round and render the pistol safe for movement.
Note that in this book, the term ‘personal protection’ is used in place of ‘self-defense.’ The reason for this term substitution is that the person being protected is often not ourselves but rather other innocent parties. As an example, Armed Citizens often refer to ‘protecting their families’. We can refer to this relationship as The Myth of the Lone Gunman, which easily distorts the apparent relevance of both tasks and standards. This fact introduces a higher level of complexity into both the psychology and the tactics of the encounter, even when the technical marksmanship problem is the same as in a self-defense (Lone Gunman) situation.
It’s finally done. My new book about Skills and Drills for those who Concealed (or Open) Carry. The book is based on my analysis of over 5,000 incidents involving Armed Citizens who successfully defended themselves and their loved ones.
This book was designed to fill a need. For many gun owners, training is a resource intensive activity that they have difficulty affording in terms of time, money, distance, etc. Introductory Concealed Carry licensing classes generally focus mostly on legal aspects and non-shooting tasks such as situational de‑escalation. The only shooting task, if any, involved in a licensing course will usually be a ‘qualification’ or evaluation of the shooter’s ability to perform to an established standard. In most cases, that standard is quite low but it is still intimidating to many.
The gunowner is thereby placed in an unenviable situation. First, having to learn to shoot prior to attending a licensing course. Even with some instruction, which will often be informal by a friend or relative, this can be a difficult task. Second, assuming the person passes the licensing ‘qualification,’ they often ask the question “What do I do next?” The standard response is “Get more training.” Since spending a day or a weekend at a remote location ‘getting more training’ doesn’t fit into most people’s resource constraints, they simply choose not to unless it’s required at license renewal time.
Gun ranges are not ideal learning environments. Trying to get even informal instruction from someone else when people are shooting on either side of you is rarely productive. The question of what are appropriate tasks to learn and how do we practice them comes next. How do we make the best use of our limited resources at the range is another question. The horrible visualization on TV and in movies of what shooting looks like is non-helpful at best and destructive of proper conceptualization and skill development at worst.
Self-Study is an activity most of us are used to. It is how we often learn to drive a car and perform many other physical and athletic tasks. Not many people who play sports have ever been to a sports training camp. They just go out and practice the activity, play the game, figure out their weaknesses, and then practice some more.
The difficulty of Self-Study with firearms is the question of how to do it safely and properly. Guns are esoteric tools that are not intuitive to use. We have no instincts that prepare us for having explosions repeatedly go off two feet in front of our faces. Few other tools we use have the capability to cause instant death during a moment of ignorance or carelessness.
What this book provides is a guide through the process of improving your shooting skills on your own in the context of Personal Protection. Guided training with a competent instructor is still the best way to improve your skills and will yield the best results. However, an intelligent person who can follow directions can still learn a great deal on his or her own, given a suitable program.
This book is not a guide to becoming a Champion shooter or being able to shoot like a member of an elite military unit. What it can do is help you to become a safer, more competent shooter who can focus your cognitive abilities on the situation, instead of the gun, during a criminal encounter. It is also an excellent reference for more experienced shooters providing informal training to new shooters.
There are 30 different drills in the eBook. They focus on building Concealed Carry skills from the ground up and then refining them. The drills are structured in a stair step approach starting at a level that a new shooter can achieve and then work to a greater degree of difficulty and achievement. Different types of drills are coordinated to build a variety of skills at the same time.
The vast majority of Personal Protection incidents are simple, if rather frightening, events, and are quickly solved by untrained inexperienced persons. The issue is that if an incident goes wrong, it tends to go horribly wrong, a NEGATIVE OUTCOME. The odds are low but the stakes are very high. Helping the Armed Private Citizen stack the deck in their favor is the object of this book.
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,
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.
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.
- When ready, aim at the target and fire all 5 rounds.
- Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence.
- Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence one more time.
- At this point, you should have fired five shots at the target three separate times.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Standards (Part I – Introduction)
While I’ve been on hiatus, I’ve been thinking a great deal about Standards. The Free Dictionary lists the first noun definition of Standard as: An acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value; a criterion.
In the area of personal protection, standards can apply to many different facets of our skills and body of knowledge. Standards imply measurement, something that many people are deathly afraid of. While ‘public speaking’ is often mentioned as being the most prominent fear, that is merely a subset of a larger body, individual performance measurement.
The most obvious and contentious type of standard regarding Private Citizens who own firearms is the concept of marksmanship standards. The discussion comes up regularly among the training and gun communities without any general consensus about what is appropriate. Generally, the topic revolves around Citizens who have some form of of License to carry a weapon. We should keep in mind that it can also apply to those who keep firearms for home defense.
Opinions vary widely about what standards are appropriate for those who carry weapons. On one end of the spectrum, some people feel there should be no standards at all. Rob Pincus of I.C.E. Training holds this view as do advocates of Constitutional Carry. On the other end of the spectrum, there are very difficult standards such as the FAST Drill developed by the late Todd Green, the Humbler popularized by Larry Vickers, or the Handgun Testing Program developed by Bill Rogers of the elite Rogers Shooting School.
In the middle are the Qualification tests used by many States as one of the prerequisites for obtaining a Weapons Carry License or whatever name the State puts on the card. For those who wish to carry a weapon in those States, the discussion of what standard is appropriate starts with what their State’s requirement is and how to meet it. No two States having a Qualification requirement are alike
The difficulty of these State Qualifications varies quite widely. Anywhere from 10 rounds to 50 rounds have been mandated. The distances shot at fluctuate from six feet to 15 yards. Some are timed but most are not. The targets may be large or much smaller. Interestingly, very few States have a test requirement that includes drawing from a holster. In fact, some States specifically prohibit the Qualification test from including drawing from a holster. While this might seem paradoxical, it is not because of liability and fairness issues.
What this series will explore is the various types of standards that exist, what skills are required to meet them, and how to choose what is appropriate for you, if anything.