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.