Claude, I really like your blog, I have been a fan and a reader, since I saw it linked over at georgiapacking.org
I’m scheduled to get my NRA certification as a firearms instructor for basic pistol next month.
Do you have any advice for me, in starting out as an instructor?
My main recommendation would be to continuously improve your knowledge and skills. I can’t tell you how many NRA Instructors I know who haven’t
read a single gun book beyond the NRA manuals, have never taken another
class, and who don’t do anything to measure and improve their skills.
My personal library has over 400 books about guns, shooting, tactics, police work, and military history. The subjects run the gamut from appropriate rifles for African hunting in the early 20th century to analyses of the effects of using deadly force by the shooter. My collection has over 100 DVDs in it too. Granted that took me over 40 years to accumulate but it’s indicative of what I try to know about the subject. Many instructors have neither depth nor breadth to their repertoire. They learn one set of skills at a mediocre level and stop there. I see it time and again. That’s a mistake; never stop learning.
I take classes from others regularly, frequently just short evening courses. Those short evening courses are how we are going to begin to reach the majority of new gunowners. And, even if someone else’s class is terrible, like one I took at an indoor range last week, you get important insight about how NOT to do things. Learn from others’ mistakes as well as your own.
With regard to measuring one’s skills, I think it’s important for everyone to benchmark where you are and try to improve that continuously. For an instructor, it’s doubly important. There are a lot of different benchmarks you can use, just having one is the important thing. Shoot it periodically and try to get better at it. You may find that the benchmark you use changes over time to something more challenging and that you have multiple benchmarks that measure different aspects of shooting. One of the main advantages of shooting in competition is that you find out you’re not as good as you think you are. Ego is the Achilles heel of many shooters and instructors.
I also think it’s important to demonstrate drills for the class. Time dependent, it doesn’t have to be all of them, but the first drill and any complex drills should be demonstrated. People are visual learners, for the most part. Telling people how to perform a physical skill is simply not as effective as showing them, IMO. And don’t take your subject matter knowledge for granted about what constitutes a ‘complex’ drill. I have had very intelligent students who couldn’t figure out what the NRA MQP drills were until I demonstrated for them.
Have an inert gun to do this, where it’s appropriate. If it’s livefire, I use a live gun. If I’m demonstrating gunhandling or tactics, the inert gun comes out. I have both of them on me when I’m teaching.
Most importantly, don’t get complacent about anything. Your skills, safety, communication, etc. need to be at the forefront of your mind whenever you’re teaching. Every story we hear about an instructor having a Negligent Discharge or shooting a student in class has complacency as its root. Complacency is a killer, don’t go there.
Structured shooting is a whole new world for most people. Help them understand it in every way you can.
This is the second installment of my Negative Outcomes series. I’ve already been taken to task for commenting about imprecise language and I understand where he’s coming from. The fact of the matter is, however, that we, in the instructional community, take a lot of our subject matter knowledge for granted.
Frequently, I hear comments to the effect that NRA courses go too much into depth about things like the individual components of ammunition, etc. I disagree with that completely. The influx of new gunowners requires that we educate them thoroughly. Many of the new owners have never operated any hand held device more complicated than an electric toothbrush.
As I commented to a student last night, I previously had a student in a class who was using a Sig pistol. He had owned and been shooting it regularly for almost two years. When I told him to ‘decock,’ he looked at me and said “What does that mean?” He had never used the decocking lever before and didn’t understand what its function was. He was actually a good shot, too. But elements of the pistol’s manual of arms had never been explained to him.
When dealing with deadly weapons, we can leave nothing to chance, including our vocabulary and students’ understanding thereof.
I’m not so sure about the empirical reality of the Farnham [sic] idea: “The person most likely to shoot you is YOU. Why? Because you’re always there.” It just seems incorrect to say, so I am wondering what the broader idea he is conveying is supposed to be.
Since John’s statement generated some incredulity, I will elaborate on it. His comment referred to the often atrocious gunhandling he sees, not people committing suicide. Improper and dangerous gunhandling regularly results in gunowners turning themselves into casualties, although not necessarily fatalities.
The reason I included John’s quote began with a statement he made in the first DTI class I took. The statement was “Eighty percent of police officers who are shot shoot themselves.” Once again, he was not referring to suicide but rather negligent shootings where the officer injured himself or herself. Whether that is still true, I don’t know. I do know that holster manufacturers are sued numerous times each year, unsuccessfully, by police officers who shoot themselves in the process of drawing or holstering. However, given the multiplicity of reports I have about private citizens who accidentally shoot themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised. It happens a lot more often than we like to think. The two casualties I have had on ranges I have been running were self-inflicted non-fatal wounds. One was a highly trained and experienced police officer who had a momentary lapse of concentration and technique.
Here are a few recent examples:
This is an excerpt from a detailed incident report by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners.
Officer A was off-duty and inside his residence. Officer A was seated alone in the living room of the residence cleaning and putting tactical lights on his personally owned handguns. Officer A indicated that he had completed cleaning his .40 caliber Springfield Arms semi-automatic pistol and during this process he had inadvertently seated a partially loaded magazine and released the pistol slide that chambered a round. Officer A mistakenly believed the weapon was not loaded, so he pulled the trigger and caused the weapon to discharge.
Officer A received a through and through bullet wound to his left hand just below the little finger. The bullet traveled through Officer A’s hand, then through the back of a couch [the interior decorator in me thinks it was a sofa and not a couch], and the living room wall adjacent to the couch, entering the garage and striking the metal back of a clothes dryer before falling to the garage floor.
Officer A was treated and released from the hospital the day of the shooting.
The BOPC found that Officer A’s use of force was negligent, requiring Administrative Disapproval.
Unfortunately, some incidents prove fatal. Gunshot wounds to the upper leg can sever the femoral artery, resulting in rapid death. RIP Sgt. Davis, who was an experienced officer with 8 years of service, including on SWAT.
This video of Tex Grebner shooting himself contains explicit language. I give him credit for taking responsibility and showing how easily this can happen.
There is an image I see used on Internet websites that makes me cringe whenever I look at it.
That’s a good way to shoot yourself in the support hand. The number of beginners I see doing this at IDPA matches is legion. I warn them immediately to stop doing that. If your holster doesn’t allow you to draw from it with one hand, then you need to stop using it immediately and get a new holster.
If IDPA and USPSA Production Class do nothing else other than to train people to draw their gun without putting their support hand on the holster, that’s a great contribution to the shooting community. For those who say IDPA isn’t training, I would counter that it’s excellent training in safe gunhandling. There’s nothing like getting disqualified for a safety violation to make the point that someone’s gunhandling needs work.
So the point of John’s Master Lesson is twofold:
- Proper gunhandling has to be at the forefront of our minds anytime we handle a firearm. Firearms are mechanical devices; they do no more and no less than we make them do. Consequently, they are relentlessly unforgiving of carelessness and/or stupidity.
- Pointing your weapon at yourself can have serious consequences. Some holsters force us to point our weapons at ourselves. But placing your hand in front of the muzzle when the pistol is out of the holster is a prescription for an unhappy outcome. One of my personal peeves is the devices that shotguns shooters put on their shoes to rest the muzzle on. I have some really nasty pictures of feet with holes from shotguns in them. Those people are unlikely to ever walk right again. Similarly, taking a high performance anti-personnel bullet in the hand at point blank range is unlikely to enhance your ability to play the piano.
Reflecting on Shunryu Suzuki’s comment – “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,” some frequently ignored or overlooked fundamentals taught by people who have been at this a long time come to mind. My research on ‘bad shootings’ has reinforced some things to me.
Jeff Cooper – The Four Rules
1. ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED.
2. NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY.
3. KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET.
4. BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEYOND IT.
The person most likely to shoot you is YOU. Why? Because you’re always there.
• Muzzle direction is the primary safety; always has been and always will be.
• Identify your target at night, preferably with a flashlight, before you shoot it.
The Most Dangerous Man
• Shooting isn’t always the optimal solution.
• Holding someone at gunpoint isn’t as easy as it seems.
Ken Hackathorn –
It’s a downrange world
Avoiding the problem (implied task) is a lot easier than fixing the problem, either at the moment or in the legal system later.
Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.
–Aesop’s Fables, The Fox and the Grapes,
Periodically, I see comments in the tactical/concealed carry community downplaying the value of competition for someone interested in personal protection. The commentary usually revolves around “the stress isn’t the same as a two way range” or “competition isn’t realistic; the targets don’t move, you don’t move” or some other blah, blah, blah. Oftentimes, the person making the statement is from the ‘tactical training’ side of the house.
In my role as the Georgia/Alabama Area coordinator for IDPA, I was recently reviewing some tweaked stages for the upcoming 2014 GADPA Georgia State Match Championship. As I was doing so, I was struck by the complexity and marksmanship challenges presented in the match. Some of the aspects of the Championship include:
- Moving targets
- Shooting on the move
- Shooting Strong Hand Only with holding something with the Support Hand
- Shooting from inside and around vehicles
- Head shots at distance
- Steel targets with a concealed hit zone that have to be knocked down to count
- Engaging targets while moving through a structure
Those tasks have to be accomplished with a limited supply of ammunition, requiring a minimum hit rate of about 60%, just to finish. To be competitive at all, the hit rate on a torso sized target (-0/-1) better be 100% or you’re out of luck. Rapid reloading is an integral part of each stage, requiring a high degree of weapons manipulation skills.
In short, it’s a very demanding test of one’s ability to effectively manipulate a handgun. Hitting the target with a high degree of regularity, while being confronted by awkward shooting positions and scenarios is an integral part of it.
I think of Preparation for Personal Protection as having three components; Training, Practice, and Testing. Training is something you get from someone else. The other person or group structures your experience, almost always outside your comfort zone. Practice is something you do on your own, hopefully with some kind of structure, based on training or re-creation of actual incidents. Then there’s the nasty little question: “Where is my skill level at?” Testing is the only way that question can be answered. In his book POLICE PISTOLCRAFT, Mike Conti mentions Police Officers who are so intimidated by firearms qualification that they become physically ill, simply from the thought of having to do it. That’s a good example of how daunting the testing process can be. Those of us active in the competition world often look at police qualification courses in a bemused way because they are so simple compared to the tests we are used to.
Bill Rogers once said to me “You and I are from the last generation that is comfortable being tested.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but it is quite obvious to me that there is a great deal of cognitive dissonance and ego defense that goes on when discussions about competition v. ‘training’ start. The next time you hear someone disparaging competition, keep The Fox and The Grapes fable in mind. And for those who make negative statements about competition, I invite you to come out and test yourself and see what it’s like. Firearms competition has evolved a great deal since the original Columbia Conference. One of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard is “I never saw a timer in a gunfight.” It was there every time; it’s called your lifeclock and it’s running all the time, at least until someone stops it.
I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
— John Bernard Books in The Shootist
Mine is somewhat more complex than that, but the principles remain fairly simple. They guide me every day.
“Son, try to get along with everyone; but don’t let anyone hurt you.” – my Father, Jerry Werner
“An officer is responsible for his own morale.” – General of the Armies John J. Pershing
“When they get the duct tape out, it’s time to make your move, ready or not.” – The Most Dangerous Man in the World
“Stupid people, stupid places, stupid things. Avoid them and you’ll probably be all right.” –John Farnam
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” ― Shunryu Suzuki
“Thinking ‘I’ll solve it when I get there’ has gotten a lot of people killed.” –Bill Rogers
“Look good, be right, control and dominate, avoid being controlled and dominated. Those are the things that run most people’s lives.” – Lifespring
“There are two kinds of people in the world, those who eat to live and those who live to eat.” – my ex-wife
“When you leave your car, don’t forget your Mace. That is unless you want to get stabbed in the face.” – Attractive Eighties Women
“Son, when you park the car, face the rear end into the Sun so you won’t have to sit on a hot seat when you get in.” – my Father, Jerry Werner
“You can do a lot of aiming and squeezing in a second and a half.” – Mike Benedict
“Don’t ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.” – Major Robert Rogers
“Begin to attrit the enemy at the maximum effective range of your weapons.” – The Infantry School
“Auditing is intellectually rigorous and is not for everyone.” – Nick Crooks, Senior Manager, Deloitte & Touche
“Guns and knives, sir, you can never have enough of them.” – CSM Autrail Cobb
“Little things I should’ve said and done, I never took the time. You were always on my mind.” – Pet Shop Boys
“Surrender is not a Ranger word.” – the Ranger Creed
John Johnston of Ballistic Radio and I spoke on the air last weekend about Threat Management.
Threat Management is a topic that is woefully under-represented in most people’s skill set. Going to the range occasionally only helps develop the shooting skills. In contrast, how much time do folks spend on the skills that lead to ‘non-shooting?’ A short list would include, but is not limited to:
STOP! Don’t come any closer!
Learning and practicing those skills can help us keep a situation under control before shooting and hopefully prevent a shooting at all.
Here’s the permalink to the interview. http://content.blubrry.com/ballisticradio/140824_BALLISTICS.mp3
I was given the opportunity to shoot a SCCY CPX-2 pistol today. The pistol has been of some interest to me because of its small size, double action only mechanism, and relatively low price point. Many people are price constrained about what they can buy, so inexpensive but serviceable pistols are always of interest to me.
In the past I owned a Kel Tec P11, to which the CPX-2 bears a strong resemblance. I thought the P11 had promise as a pocket pistol for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The trigger was so bad that I could never get a split under .50. And it had the annoying tendency to not ignite +p ammo, which made no sense to me but was a well known problem at that time. Finally, I gave up and sold it to someone who really wanted it.
So the SCCY had to have a lot better trigger than the P11 to fill the bill for me. The only real way to test that is to shoot it. Through an unexpected coincidence, a meeting was arranged with the local representative, who met us at Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range with several pistols. He had a number of guns in a large laptop bag, just like I am prone to use as a range bag. He explained some of the features of the CPX-2.
- Very important to me was that it can be dryfired, which some KelTec pistols cannot.
- It also has a second strike capability, which I like. Although the standard doctrine upon receiving a click is to tap-rack, gunowners who are not well regulated don’t know what that phrase means, much less how or when to execute it. Having a second strike capability will allow an untrained user the opportunity to simply press the trigger again and maybe get a bang.
- It’s very easy to disassemble, which cannot be said for the Kahr, another popular DAO compact gun.
- The CPX-2 has a polymer front sight and a steel rear sight, unlike the P11. The rear sight has two huge white dots on it, which are much larger than the dot on the front sight. I dislike this ‘feature.’ If I bought one, a black Sharpie would be the first thing I would put to it.
As an initial benchmark, I shot a variant of the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The course consists of 10 rounds shot at seven yards on a silhouette target. My variation is to use two magazines of five rounds each, one of which has a randomly inserted dummy round in it. Shoot five, reload five, and clear the dummy wherever it happens to show up is how I do the drill. I was easily able to shoot the course at speed with only two hits outside the 10 ring.
Although most personal protection incidents occur within seven yards or less, the need to shoot at longer distances is not unknown. My colleague Tom Givens, has documented several armed citizen shootings at distances from 15 to 22 yards, which represent about 5% of his students’ encounters.
To test the SCCY at distances like this, we set a target at 15 yards and fired a five shot group on the torso. I was able to shoot a five inch group, despite the distracting dots on the rear sight and the indoor lighting. Then I moved the target out to 20 yards and fired a five shot group at the head. Although it was only about four inches, it was centered slightly to the right of the head. I fired another group while really concentrating on the rear notch. This group was more satisfactory, with all the rounds hitting the head in a five inch circle. This exercise confirmed for me why I dislike three dot sights so much.
I finished by shooting five rounds at seven yards Strong Hand Only, followed by five rounds Weak Hand Only. The group was slightly larger but still acceptable.
The pistol’s handling qualities were good and we experienced no malfunctions. The only issue we encountered was with the slide failing to lock back when a friend shot the pistol also. This occurred because my friend doesn’t have the proper grip habit of keeping his thumb away from the side of the pistol.
The CPX-2 has a full size ‘Slide Hold Lever’ and if the thumb is not kept away from it, the pistol is not going to lock open on the last shot. It would also be easy to bump it up if the thumb were positioned under the lever. The rep said a flat lever was available from the factory.
There is also a laser available from ArmaLaser. The laser comes on when the pistol is gripped and requires no manual pressing of activation buttons.
Overall, after 100 rounds, my impression was quite favorable for an Every Day Carry piece. I may get one and try it out in IDPA to see what I can do with it.
The second class I attended at Paul-E-Palooza 2 was OC and “less-lethal” for CCW folks given by Lt. Chuck Haggard of the Topeka Police Department. There was a little humor about the class title because to many attendees, ‘OC’ means Open Carry rather than Oleoresin Capsicum. As a result Chuck had to explain he was talking about pepper spray.
Chuck has extensive training and experience with pepper spray. He is a National instructor for the National Law Enforcement Training Center and an Adjunct instructor for Strategos International. He has also been featured as a guest on Ballistic Radio. Chuck stated that he has been sprayed with OC about 60 times, in the training context, and has sprayed somewhere around 1000 people. Most of his sprayees are Police Cadets since his department has a mandatory exposure to OC policy for its officers.
I wanted to take the class because I am a firm believer in carrying what I call ‘Intermediate Force Options.’ Pepper spray is one of those weapons that give us a response to predatory behavior not requiring deadly force. As I state in all my classes “Lacking an intermediate force option while you are armed with a firearm implies that all you are willing to do to protect yourself is kill someone.” That’s not a position most reasonable people would be comfortable in taking, given a little bit of thought.
The class began with a lecture including a review of OC history, products, training and best practices. It then moved on to aspects people need to know for effective use, carry and deployment. Once the lecture was completed, the class moved into the open for practical application with inert trainers. No live weapons, ammo or OC were allowed in the practical exercises. Dummy guns and inert pepper spray canisters, which sprayed water only, were furnished. Eye protection was also furnished to the students.
Once again, as at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, I had the distinct honor and pleasure of beginning the demonstrations by spraying Chuck in the face with an inert container. We demonstrated two scenarios. In the first, Chuck began to encroach on my personal space while I attempted verbal dissuasion. When he continued to advance, I gave him a good dose and then quickly moved away while he simulated remembering a previous appointment. In the second scenario, after I sprayed him, he became irate and threatened me with a training knife. At that point, I transitioned to my dummy gun and gave him a good cowboy “Pow, pow, pow” while maneuvering away.
The second scenario was especially interesting for me because I ended up with the pepper spray container in my left hand and my dummy pistol in my right. I shot one handed while maneuvering away from him. I’m not sure how things ended up that way because I started with the can in my right hand. I’m curious whether I transferred the can initially or if I did a ‘Border Shift’ with the can when I started to draw my pistol. I do remember seeing my sights while I was shooting. My dummy pistol has a rear sight notch cut in it because I cannot abide a pistol without sights, even a dummy pistol.
After our demonstrations, the students then split up into two groups. Initially, one group played the predator while the other played the role of the defender. Then the groups switched roles. The students enacted both the non-lethal and lethal scenarios while spraying each other. The class concluded with a critique of spraying and maneuvering.
I don’t practice as much as I would like with my personal OC, a Zombie Spitfire from Sabre. The class gave me a little tuneup, as well as some interesting background on the evolution of pepper spray as an Intermediate Force Option.
There are numerous definitions of Wargaming. Most of them are too elaborate for our use. The definition I am using now is: The process of evaluating your options in light of your situation and the circumstances. Wargaming is a way determining if:
- Your tactics work.
- The tactics employed contribute to your strategic end goal.
- There are significant possible negative outcomes
Wargaming has the following characteristics:
- Evaluates a possible Course of Action against opposing adversary.
- It is an iterative process of action, reaction, and counteraction.
- At a minimum, it should start if you go to Condition Orange. When you’re on the ground, in a pre-contact situation, the wargaming will not be very in depth. But the better your grasp of your end goals, possible options, and negative outcomes, the quicker and simpler it will be.
First, you have to decide what your end goal is. This should be done before you walk out the door of your home each day. Deciding your end goal does not mean saying “I would do this.” That is just one step of the process and not the first.
In my previous post about Tactical Decision Making, I listed some end goals and some possible negative outcomes. Both of those lists, and any additions you may have to them, are worth reviewing from time to time.
It’s extremely important to take into consideration the possible negative outcomes. Failure to consider consequences is a huge gap in most people’s analysis of the situation. Some of the consequences are legal but not all of them are.
Some concrete examples of negative outcomes are:
- Zimmerman shooting – Extensive and costly interaction with legal system ($2.5 million in attorney fees)
- Theodore Wafer shooting, Detroit – Murder conviction
- Jerome Ersland, Oklahoma City pharmacist – murder conviction, life sentence in prison
- Petit murders, Connecticut – Loss of wife and daughters under horrible circumstances
- Joseph Robert Wilcox, Las Vegas – murdered trying to stop an active killer
- Joe Hendrix, Georgia – shot an elderly man with Alzheimer’s – consequences to be discovered in the future
There are three areas you must consider as part of your wargaming. They are your situation, your options, and the circumstances; i.e., your surroundings and the event. We’ll discuss these in the next installment.