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Firearms Training is Boring

Andy shooting

In order to develop physical and technical gunfighting skills it is necessary to run many individual drills many times. This means you go to the range, choose a drill and run that drill over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Then you chose a different drill and run it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

It’s possible that you could then chose another drill, but it’s likely that by then you’re probably out of ammo for that day.

These drills may be as simple as pressing out from compressed ready, or bringing your rifle up, and putting one round on target at a specific range for time. Or as complex as a multi-person, multi-target, multi-distance, multi-mag, multi-weapon drill that involves some static or fluid scenario plus time and accuracy measurements. Regardless, it is repetition of actions plus measurement and reflection on the results that forges mastery. Without it, you don’t get it.

Firearms training is boring, but so are good shooters. Repetition and measurement; there is no other way to develop technique and skill.

Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Train often, train well, and be boring.

25-Yard Heart-Rate Drill on 7″ Steel

Any good shooter can take their time and get 100% accuracy, but this is exploring boundaries. With this drill I’m working to get fast, accurate shots while moving dynamically between them and while my heart rate is climbing with each shot. My six misses (!) in this drill are testament to the difficulty of managing fatigue and speed at the edge of my current ability. The point is to push boundaries and improve with time.

7″ steel plate from 25 yards.

– Draw from concealment while moving off the X and put 1 round on the 7″ plate,
– Run around the obstacle and put another round on the 7″ plate,
– Repeat until magazine runs dry,
– Perform a speed reload while moving away, scan an assess, re-holster.

You can do a 1-mag (15 shots) or 2-mag (30 shots) drill. It’s important to ignore fatigue and any frustration from misses and continue no matter what, until you’re empty.

Nighttime Rifle Drills

Spent last night at Proactive Defense for Drills Night. We started with dry manipulations as the sun was setting. When it got completely dark, we started live-fire drills: manipulations and accuracy drills in the dark, using our weapons lights while firing (only). It was a beautiful night with a great bunch of folks.

nighttime rifle drills

Responsibility and Concealed Carry

Responsibility and Concealed Carry

If you carry a concealed handgun, it means that you’re committing yourself to a few logical conclusions. In the event of a life-threatening event, carrying means you’re committed to:

  1. drawing a live weapon from concealment in the heat and chaos of a terrifying moment,
  2. doing so safely and competently, despite your adrenaline-compromised state of mind and physical mechanics, so as not to injure yourself or those nearby,
  3. bringing the weapon to bear while avoiding physical or projectile attack upon yourself,
  4. making the life-and-death decision to fire or not fire as the situation develops, moment to moment,
  5. putting rounds accurately on your target, should you deliberately choose to fire, avoiding endangering innocents in the vicinity,
  6. being able to properly decide when and if the threat has been stopped, and if there are other threats besides the initial one,
  7. and, when the danger has passed, re-holstering your live weapon safely.
 

Now, how many times/week do you train to do those things, at least the mechanical things? How many times per day do you draw your live, chambered weapon from concealment with speed and deliberate intent and bring it to bear on a target, and then re-holster back into your concealed holster?

drawing from an aiwb holster

What about doing all this with the t-shirt that is longer than others you wear; the shirt that’s a bit more clingy than your others; with the jacket you wear zipped in cool weather; with the heavy coat you have on you during winter; with the gloves you wear while outdoors? How many times do you train to speedily and competently draw your live, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment under these garments…and safely re-holster? How many hundreds of times each month? Because hundreds of times each month is what is required for gaining any semblance of competence.

I wonder if most concealed carriers think about these things. Any of them.

In my experience most concealed carriers imagine that when they feel the need to defend themselves, some nonspecific things will “happen” wherein their weapon will move, safely and surely, from concealment into the perfectly formed grip of their outstretched hands…and, after some quick and easy decision, the threat “will be neutralized.”

I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m prejudiced by the fact that of the people I know who carry concealed, very few of them spend any time at the range training to do or handle or examine any of the things listed above. But they should because unless you have practiced unconsciously correct mechanics and habits, when you try and bring a loaded weapon into play from concealment while under duress—or while trying to perform quickly in a practical training class—you’re likely going to mess up in one or several ways. You might possibly even shoot yourself or someone else due to your negligence in training and resultant incompetence.

I believe this is what will likely happen because gun owners tend to shoot themselves when they “try something;” something they should try time and time again, every week of every month of every year of their lives. But they don’t, so they shoot themselves in the groin or the hip or the leg.

Instead of doing what is responsibly required of someone who carries a deadly weapon, I believe most concealed carriers merely practice drawing and re-holstering at home (when trying out a new holster), with an unloaded weapon, and I believe only a relative few of them visit a gun range to practice more than a couple times a year. And when they do they’re standing statically in a bay, slowly firing ball ammo rounds at a static target 7 yards away. This, anyway, is what my acquaintance, observation, and conversations with other shooters proves to me.

My tone here may seem a bit harsh, but, to take from a political aphorism, concealed carry ain’t beanbag. It’s deadly serious stuff that directly impacts people’s lives and fortunes in all sorts of ways. I therefore believe that those who aren’t prepared to meet their responsibilities with respect to carrying a concealed weapon should stay out of it.

Untrained and incompetent firearms owners seem to shoot themselves or others quite often. I say quite often because that sort of thing should never happen, given how easy it is to be safe with a firearm. Easy, yes, but safety and competence each require work. Lots of work and on a regular basis. It’s easy, but so many don’t seem to bother with it; the required training to forge competence and safe habits, I mean.

A Few Tips

The way to not shoot yourself while drawing your handgun is to do so with your index (trigger) finger ramrod straight along first the holster, then the frame of the handgun. You then keep your finger ramrod straight along the side of the frame until your sights are on your target. You need to do this thousands of times, perfectly, so as to make it automatic. You need to do this so many times that you become unconsciously incapable of putting your finger anywhere else.

If you do not do this thousands of times, you will fail when your conscious mind is occupied by some immediate threat and your unconscious mind is screaming, “Find the trigger! Find the trigger! Shoooooot!” In that case, you’re likely to shoot yourself or the ground while drawing.

The way to not shoot yourself while re-holstering is to

  1. Look your weapon back into the holster. The whole way.
  2. Know the habits of your outer garments as they hang and behave while you’re holding them out of the way while re-holstering. Know this from your thousands of repetitions in training. Know this about all of the kinds of outer garments you wear; not just clothing types, but each of the specific individual shirts, jackets, coats, etc.
  3. Know the habits of your pants and undershirt, if you wear one. Know, from thousands of repetitions in training, how they may try and interfere with the opening of your holster; especially an IWB holster.
  4. Re-holster slowly and surely, and know (from thousands of repetitions in training) what it feels like when some unseen piece of fabric is in the way.
  5. Keep your index finger ramrod straight along the frame of the weapon the entire time, and keep your thumb on the back of the slide, so that it won’t be pushed out of battery by the holster or anything else.
  6. Replace your garments to their normal hang/position and know the feel (from thousands of repetitions in training) of something being a bit out of place.
 

Do all of these things perfectly for thousands of repetitions in training, all while obeying the 4 rules of firearm safety out of habit (developed through consistent, ongoing training around other people), and you will never shoot yourself. Fail to do things this way and you will eventually shoot yourself. I’d almost bet my mortgage on that.

Because incompetence…

Last year, firearms trainer Larry Vickers announced that he was banning AIWB (appendix-inside-the-waisband) carry from his classes. Why? Because most people don’t train enough and don’t train correctly. Given the fact that his classes are open to shooters of various skill levels, in his place I would likely do the same. Because unsafe people are unsafe.

In his announcement, Larry observed…

“I know of two different students in two different classes taught by two different instructors who have shot themselves reholstering – I don’t want my name added to that list.”

Indeed. And negligently shooting oneself in the groin area is perhaps more traumatic than shooting oneself in the hip or outer leg. However, what’s at issue here has nothing to do with carry position. Rather, as always, the only relevant issue is safety and competence. Unsafe people are unsafe and incompetent people are incompetent. You may know them by their repeated lack of training and practice.

How To Not Shoot Yourself: Train

The thing that separates safe and competent shooters from unsafe and incompetent shooters is ongoing, contextually appropriate training. By this, I mean training that involves (after sufficient, requisite safety and mechanics training) drills that require drawing a live weapon from concealment while moving off the X and engaging targets effectively…while around other people…and then safely re-holstering the live weapon. Then doing it all over again and again and again. Even better if drills involve moving to and/or using cover, and better still if they involve speed reloads from concealment (you do carry a spare mag, don’t you?).

In the absence of this training, a person lacks competence at every step, which is highly dangerous given that it all involves manipulating a deadly weapon while doing complex things. Drawing a live handgun from an inside-the-waistband holster is not in and of itself dangerous at all. But the fumbling, unsure hands of one whose conscious attention is occupied by an immediate threat or training objective, without benefit of automatic muscle memory and unconscious habits, turn that multi-step operation into a crap shoot (so to speak), fraught with deadly danger.

An Anecdote: My Training

I draw and re-holster my loaded and ready-to-fire pistol at least 480 times every month. At least 320 of those reps are done in live-fire training on the range, where I draw from my AIWB holster and engage one or more targets, then re-holster the still-loaded pistol (Note: it’s a bad idea to holster an empty firearm. If you deliberately or accidentally make a habit out of doing that, it may one day get you killed. Besides, since you MUST treat every firearm as though it is loaded, make damn sure it is always loaded. Any other habit sows the seeds of failure.).

Here’s an example (below) of a concealed-carry competence drill:

 

Every morning after arming myself, I perform at least two draws of my loaded, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment. Additionally, I perform at least two reps of drawing my replacement magazine. I do this so that, outside of any range training I’ve done, I have a practiced understanding of how these clothes are best manipulated in drawing from concealment, today. I then do the same thing at the end of the day when taking off my weapon. This regimen isn’t enough by itself, but it’s a daily reinforcement of what I’ve forged on the range. It’s like brushing teeth; you just do it.

Now, I mention these facts to present readers with an example of where competence comes from. It comes from training; lots of training on a regular basis. And in the absence of lots of training on a regular basis, the result in every case is an unsafe and incompetent individual. There are and never have been any exceptions to this fact.

So don’t shoot yourself. Train right, train often, and pay particular attention to the draw and re-holster operations. Pay attention to these things a few hundred times a month. Or else.

Three Targets with Reload From Concealment

Three Targets with Reload From Concealment

Here’s a drill run from concealment using standard EDC kit.

The drill I concentrated on is a 6-shot drill, using 3 targets at 10 yards, spaced 3 yards apart. My target area is typically a paper plate (as shown below). The drill goes as follows:

  • At the beep (time), draw from concealment while moving “off the X”
  • Engage each target with one shot (slide locks back, empty)
  • Draw replacement magazine from concealment while moving “off the X,” all while keeping eyes on last target
  • Reload, rack the slide to charge the pistol
  • Re-engage the targets in reverse order
  • Check the environment (around and behind you)

Time for the drill should be less than 6 seconds.

My best time today (with accurate hits) was 4.81 seconds.

3 targets at 10 yards, 3-yards apart

Above: Three targets 10 yards away, spaced 3 yards apart. The target area for each is one of the paper plates.

My Firearms Training – Annual Report for 2015

I train. A lot. I also keep detailed records of my training and gun-specific data.

In 2015 I trained on 221 of the 365 days of the year. I shot an average of 203 rounds per training session. That amounts to 47,480 rounds fired in 2015 (not counting simunition or dry-fire training).

As I did last year, I put these stats—and several others—into an infographic annual report. Here goes…

 

Andy Rutledge firearms training annual report

Armed Confrontation Survival Course

On Saturday I participated in the armed confrontation survival course offered by Brian Harpole and his staff from Consolidated Training Group. It was an all-day class held at the Proactive Defense range in Argyle, TX.

The class was lots of fun and very well run, I thought. It was also very revealing.

carjacking drill

As described on the CTG site

The Armed Confrontation Survival Course focuses on quality, practical training that has real world and situational transference. This course focuses on developing a survival mindset and aggressive weapon handling techniques, while sharpening concepts of threat visualization and reflexive reaction skills. This one or two day class (8 or 16 hours) is applicable for Military, Law Enforcement, Contract Security and Responsible Gun Owners. Topics have immediate relevance to the day-to-day functional activities pressed upon us, and lead directly to the development of specific action steps for immediate life implementation.

We started with marksmanship and gun-handling assessments at varying ranges, then built up to more practical situations. None of the practical drills were static; all involved either an evolving situation, physical requirements in the midst of defense, moving from cover to cover, or having to defend from inside and around a vehicle.

More than half of the drills required us to make critical threat and/or environment assessments and respond according to the new threat or non threat.

shooting drill

This was an exercise where we defended from cover against one assailant, then had to assess the environment to defend against one or more additional threats that appeared at the instructor’s whim.

The latter portion of the class was concerned with dynamic, real-life scenarios in which we used live-fire with Simunition FX ammunition in otherwise real weapons against a real person. These were, by far, the most mentally challenging drills. Each scenario was different and a complete surprise to the student.

There was no instruction; you just entered the scenario with a specific task—”You’ve just arrived home and are going to your door…” or “You are at a store checkout counter…” or “You have just rear-ended another motorist in your car…”—and the situation unfolded with you in it.

I think it notable that in each of these scenarios there were usually moments where the threat was real, but did not warrant deadly force. At some point, however, things changed and deadly force was appropriate to stop the threat to yourself or someone else in the scenario. These were challenging scenarios and it was unnerving to point a real weapon at someone and pull the trigger. See for yourself…

My Conclusions

Brian and his staff did a great job and put together a fun and challenging class. I’m glad to have taken part and I’ll be doing more of these kinds of classes in the near future. I was reasonably happy with my marksmanship, but my lack of experience in these sorts of dynamic, practical, evolving scenarios left me disappointed. As a CHL holder I want to address this gap in my training for, like most people, I lack what I consider to be requisite competence in dealing with the breadth of threatening situations one might be confronted with on any given day.

The result of one’s performance in a threatening situation will have a result that is permanent. Tentative or unpracticed decisions and actions would be detrimental for all involved. I’d rather respond with a practiced eye, spirit, and resolve. That means more training.

If you’d like to prepare for real-world threats and challenge yourself, visit the CTG website or their Facebook page and see what they offer. Sign up for a class or two or six.