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Defensive Shooting Instructor Development - the way it should be done

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Taty2007

Take a good look at the fellow above and try to guess what he does for a living. (No fair using image search to find out; I will, however, tell you that it isn't what you might imagine.) We'll come back to him in a bit.

What have I been doing lately? Well, I spent the last few days at a conference for shooting instructors -- to which I took neither guns nor ammo. Almost none of the other twenty-some participants did, either. Sound odd to you? I'm not at all surprised.

Most "instructor development" courses (and conferences) are focused on developing the shooting skills if the participant instructors, as opposed to developing their teaching skills. The defensive shooting community still holds to the outdated notion that the best shooter will naturally make the best instructor, and so it focuses on shooting rather than teaching others how, when and why to shoot.

That's why I put up this gentleman's photo. His name is Bela Karolyi, and he is probably best known as Nadia Comaneci's gymnastics coach during her astonishing Olympic career. He's also coached a number of other Olympians and world medalists, including Mary Lou Retton and Kerri Strug. His list of students is impressive: 15 World Champions, 9 Olympic medalists, 16 European medalists, and a half-dozen U.S. National Gymnastics champions. In short, he's one of the best gymnastics coaches in the world (if not the best.)

Now you might think that he would be a terrific gymnast himself, but you'd be wrong. He's a former boxer who decided to focus his life on becoming a gymnastics coach. Rather than trying to become a great coach by first becoming a great gymnast, he wisely focused on becoming a great teacher. His accomplishments speak for his wise choice.

This is actually pretty typical in many fields. Tiger Woods' coach Hank Haney might be a passable golfer, but he's certainly not anywhere near championship level; I know many top level musicians who still study with teachers who aren't as accomplished as some high school players; and you can find quite a few NCAA coaches who either never played the game, or played only in high school.

Why are these people sought out by others whose actual performance ability might be greater than theirs? Because they focused their energies on becoming better at teaching others skills that they might not be able to do themselves. People look to them for their ability to coach to high performance, not to perform.

Great coaches and teachers understand that that they need to be great at
their jobs, not at their student's jobs. The only way to do that is to invest time and effort in the art and science of teaching.

That's what the sixth annual Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Conference, from which I recently returned, was all about: learning how better to transfer information to, and build the skills of, our students. If we'd spent most of the day on the range improving our own shooting skills it would have been a lot more fun, but would have been time and effort we couldn't have spent developing our teaching abilities. The former only makes
us better; it's the latter which makes our students better. That’s the whole point of teaching, isn’t it?

Too many people in the defensive shooting world are openly hostile to this approach, fixated as they are on the nonsensical notion that you can't teach others to do something if you haven't "perfected" it yourself. Of course you can, and teachers and coaches in many other fields prove it every single day.

(I wonder how many would dare tell Mr. Karolyi to his face that he can't possibly be taken seriously in the gymnastics world because he's never been a great uneven bar competitor...they might find out just how good his boxing skills were!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

This weekend I helped more people become better defensive shooters!

Returned very late last night from teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course in sunny Medford, OR. The class was sponsored by the good folks at Medford Rifle & Pistol Club and held on their superb indoor range. That was a good thing, as the temperature (according to the car's thermometer) hit 98 degrees!

Had a great group of students, all of whom showed outstanding defensive shooting skill development. Many thanks to Greg Mead for putting the class together, and to Julie, Seth, George, Byron, Glen, Phillip, and Charlie for having open minds and a willingness to learn. Teaching is a joy when you have great students!


Thanks also to my colleague Vincent Perrizo, who came down from Washington to teach with me. (I’m especially grateful that he compensates for my notorious inability to place names with faces!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Where was I last Friday?

You may well wonder what became of last week's Friday Surprise. (Humor me and pretend that you were wondering.) Well, I was working - just not on the blog!

I was up at Firearms Academy of Seattle teaching an Advanced Pistol Handling course with Rob Pincus. This was the last stop on the Personal Defense Network Spring Training Tour, which saw Rob and me (and several others) teaching classes all across these great United States.

Advanced Pistol Handling (or 'APH' for short) is just that: how to handle the handgun in situations other than standing on two feet and squared off to the target. Its goal is to expand the range of contexts under which you can apply your existing shooting skills, and is comprised of both gunhandling and shooting from unorthodox positions.

For instance, what if you're attacked when sitting in a restaurant - or in your car? Both very plausible situations which require specific training. How about being knocked to the ground? Again, it happens. What if you're holding your child in one arm and find that you need to reload the gun; can you do it efficiently one-handed? How about clearing various kinds of malfunctions rapidly when you can't see the gun - like in your living room in the middle of the night? These are all things that are covered in the APH class (along with a lot more.)

We had a pretty good-sized class of receptive students, and despite the oppressive (for the Pacific Northwest, you understand) heat it went very well. We now have ten more people who are better able to apply their skills.

After class a few of the students joined the instructors for a quick FitShot workout. FitShot is simply exercise with shooting added in; it's not practical in any way, and isn't meant to be, but rather is to get people to exercise by combining something they need to do (the exercise part) with something that's fun to do (the shooting part.)

Here's a shot (courtesy of Rob Pincus) of three of us - fellow instructors Jotham Lentz in the foreground and Vincent Perrizo in the middle, yours truly in the background, all in various stages of doing squats and shooting.


No, that's not a revolver in my hand; it's a Steyr S40-A1 I borrowed from Jotham. (There is a bit of a competition in this particular FitShot, and I decided that my 'J' frame wouldn't allow me to be competitive. Besides, I got to shoot someone else's ammo!) I'm also currently trying to decide on a new autoloading pistol for myself, our Glock 19s not fitting my hands terribly well, and I wanted the chance to shoot the A1 version of the Steyr. Other than those crazy trapezoidal sights, of which I'm still not enamored, the gun handles tremendously. Unless I find something I like a whole lot better, I think there's a Steyr in my near future!

-=[ Grant ]=-

A rave review from one of my students!

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I had the pleasure of teaching a Combat Focus Shooting class in which my editor at Gun Digest, Corrina Peterson, participated. I was honored that she flew across the country just to take this class, particularly when she has access to most of the “name” instructors in the business!

She's written up a terrific review of the class, and
you can read it on the Gun Digest website.

One thing she mentioned that I'm particularly proud of: my classes are devoid of the testosterone-fueled nonsense which pervades so much of the training community. That's intentional; my goal is to help people learn to protect themselves in their day-to-day activities. To that end I focus on real skills, for real people, living real lives. I want to bring this important information to the widest possible audience, and that won't happen if a large percentage of them are turned off by the experience.

As I point out at the beginning of my classes, every student will have his/her own level of competency. It's my job to help each of them reach that point (or as close to it as is possible in a couple of days), and that's difficult to do if the rest of the class is involved in a ritualistic alpha male dance. That's also why my classes don't have shoot-offs or competitions disguised as drills, and I keep the posturing to a minimum. We’re all there to learn, not tell war stories or measure our…well, you know.

If this fresh approach appeals to you or someone you know, contact me about scheduling a class in your area!

-=[ Grant ]=-

How did you spend your weekend?

I spent mine on the range at Firearms Academy of Seattle, teaching a Combat Focus Shooting class! Had a great time, too.

Father’s Day weekend is usually a bad time to schedule a class, but we did it anyway. Back in the old days when I ran shooting matches at our club, Father’s Day weekend always had the lowest participation. Mother’s Day weekend, however, usually had a very good turnout. This was consistent over a period of six years; I'd have expected the opposite, and to this day have no rational explanation for the phenomenon.

The students who did show up provided me with one of the most inspiring times I've had as a teacher. Everyone experienced not just physical skill development, but came away with a solid conceptual understanding of defensive shooting. One student came into class with essentially no handgun shooting experience, a brand-new gun, and an admission of being intimidated by the prospect of attending this class. By mid-morning on the second day was running the gun like she'd owned it for years and was making difficult shots at surprising speed. I'll admit to grinning like a madman behind her back as she nailed one drill after another.

Don’t labor under the misconception that it was all me, though, because I couldn't have done it without the help of my colleagues Joe Lentz and Vincent Perrizo, both certified Combat Focus instructors and great guys.

I wish I could say everything went perfectly, but I can’t. One of the guns, a brand-new Springfield XD-S in 9mm, experienced repeated jams using Federal American Eagle 147gn Truncated Cone (I think they call it "Flat Point") ammo. I'll post pics later, but the case mouths were getting pushed back in one spot, resulting in a slight accordion effect; when those rounds entered the chamber, they would jam solidly - enough that the shooter couldn't clear them, and even I couldn't clear them without going back to bench to have a solid surface against which to press the slide back and eject the round. Luckily Mr. Perrizo, who is much larger and stronger than I am, was able to clear it on the line - but even he struggled.

At first we thought that it had to be defective ammo, but after the first occurrence the shooter was thoroughly checking every round that went into the magazines. Still the problem repeated itself, for a total of eight or nine times over the two days. An inspection of the feedramp (which has a curious two-angle design) revealed some brass shards, which suggests that it might be the culprit. I'm unwilling to condemn it just over this, though, as it may in fact turn out to be an ammunition issue. I will wait judgement on the reliability issue until I hear of significantly more test data from other instructors.

There's more about the XD-S, however. The shooter experienced a couple of grip-safety related issues where, even with a solid grasp, the safety wouldn't disengage without a bit of "wiggling". This may have been exacerbated by the shooter wearing gloves, a situation which was necessitated by the rough edges of the aggressive grip texturing causing both blisters and bleeding. It wasn't just the gun's owner, either - after handling it myself I looked at my hand to see my own blood dripping on the ground. I was not amused.

The reliability problems, the grip safety failures, and the handling issues all conspire to cause me to label the XD-S as "not recommended" at this point. As we collectively get more experience with the gun I might change my opinion, but right now I think I'll pass on this model.

Want to hear the worst part of all this? Multiple problems with the latest polymer pistol, while the 1911 in class -- a well-worn full-sized gun used by a fellow who thoroughly understands the platform -- ran flawlessly. You can imagine my disappointment!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Want to take a class with me? Now's your chance!

Sorry I've been scarce the last couple of days, but it wasn't my fault. I decided to upgrade this site's software, and while it was no problem from a user standpoint - you saw what you should have seen - it wouldn't let me update the blog! That's fixed now, and we're back on track. I think.

Now, what's all this about training? With ammunition starting to show up in the stores (I'm told Cabelas has 9mm ball at almost pre-panic pricing) it's time to get your defensive shooting training program back on track!

As it happens, I'll be teaching a
Combat Focus Shooting class at Firearms Academy of Seattle next weekend - the 15th and 16th. This is THE class for developing intuitive self-defense shooting skills (whether revolver or autoloader) and there are still some openings available.

Click here to register, and I hope to see you on the range next weekend!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Determining how and what we train.

A question from a student in the class I taught last weekend brought up an interesting dichotomy in the defensive shooting world: what we prepare for often doesn't match what we actually face. Many people prepare for social violence, but actually face asocial violence. The difference between the two affects how and what we train.

Social violence is that which occurs between people engaged in a ritualized struggle for status or prestige; it can also be applied to groups vying for territory. Social violence occurs between two people who see each other as people, as antagonists, and there is often an aspect of mutuality to the encounter. The term 'fight' is most appropriate when referring to social violence, and the victim usually has some forewarning of the attack in the form of the posturing which precedes it. He (or she) may not recognize those cues, but they exist. Social violence is very often illustrative of escalation.

This is in stark contrast to asocial, or criminal, violence in which the victim is seen as a resource by the perpetrator. The resource is to be exploited with as little danger to the exploiter as possible, and that usually means both surprise and overwhelming force (or threat of force.) The term 'attack' is more appropriate when referring to criminal violence, and it usually shocks the victim by being both surprising and rapid.

A rather large, and in my mind unwarranted, amount of time in defensive shooting classes is spent training to deal with social violence gone bad. Why unwarranted? If the defensive shooting data that Tom Givens has collected is any indication, the overwhelming majority of lethal force incidents are in response to criminal violence and not social violence. His victims were usually doing normal, everyday things when they were surprised by a violent attacker. They weren't engaging in the one-upsmanship dances that typify social violence; they were attacked and needed to respond immediately. Their encounters lasted mere seconds.

(It could be argued that Tom's data set, gathered from his students who were engaged in shooting incidents, is heavily biased toward those who have either learned to avoid social violence or are socioeconomically predisposed to conduct which does not place them in the kinds of situations where social violence is common. After all, people with hot tempers and/or a psychological need to dominate others are usually not the responsible types who tend to sign up for shooting classes.)

In defensive shooting training, focusing on social violence as a precursor to the use of lethal force leads to training which doesn't reflect the reality of how attacks happen. The escalating nature of social violence lends itself to formulaic responses: verbal challenges, maneuvering for position, getting into the perfect (and preferred and usually non-intuitive) stance, getting a solid focus on the front sight, and shooting rapidly by "catching the link" to reset the trigger perfectly between shots and reduce split times.

The problem is that the techniques for the social violence scenario don't match the circumstances under which criminal violence occurs. If you don't know the attack is coming beforehand (because you've not spent the last minute or two sparring with someone who is trying to save face) you won't get the opportunity to use your well-practiced verbal de-escalation techniques; there won't be time to look around and get in just the right location to take advantage of cover; the sudden attack will activate your body alarm reaction and you'll automatically square yourself to the threat, which negates any sort of special stance; the loss of accommodation in the eyes and the resulting lock of focus at infinity makes it unlikely that you'll be able to focus on your front sight; and the reduction in blood flow to your hands, resulting in lowered tactile sensation, dexterity and strength means you're probably not going to be able to feel the little 'click' which tells you the trigger has reset.

So, the known and documented physiological reactions (which can't be trained away) to the kind of attack which most commonly results in the use of lethal force doesn't match the stuff that's learned in preparation for the least common kinds of incidents. In my mind, that's not a good use of scarce training resources! It's better to train in techniques which acknowledge the nature of the attack and our hardwired responses to them; they are more likely to result in an efficient response.

As it happens, the things that you learn to respond to criminal violence will work just as well if you need to shoot as a result of social violence, but the reverse is not true. This is because a learned response will always work when the body's alarm reaction hasn't been activated, otherwise you wouldn't have been able to learn it in the first place. They may not work under the body's natural alarm reactions, however, unless they match the way in which the body responds - because those natural reactions can't be trained away.

Does this mean that understanding social violence and how to deal with it is useless? No, not at all. In fact, Wim Demeere's blog recently had
an article on how to deal with social violence that I think is worth your time to read. (It's aimed at men and their particular kind of interactions.) Everyone should know how to handle these kinds of incidents to prevent them from escalating to the point that lethal force is both warranted and needed.

It's when we add in the tool (a gun) and body functions that aren't normally encountered (because we've been surprised by a criminal attack) that we need to thoughtfully modify how and what we train.

-=[ Grant ]=-

I spent my weekend teaching, and what I learned from doing so.

I'm tired. I always am after teaching a class, but it's a good tired. Knowing that my students emerged from two days of training with relevant, evidence-based defensive shooting skills is a wonderful feeling.

The class in question was a Combat Focus Shooting course held at Firearms Academy of Seattle. Though the current ammo shortages reduced the size of the class - two people dropped out only because they couldn't scrape up even 1/4 of the ammo they needed - we had a good group of very enthusiastic students.

One of the interesting things that came out of this class was a confirmation of the need to consider the student when we teach sighted fire, and by that I mean how we use our sights when we need to use them. In this class I had two students who, like me, wear bifocals. For quite some time I've said that using a traditional front sight focus is neither practical nor even possible for someone who needs supplementary close-up vision correction. In fact I even wrote an article for the Personal Defense Network on this very topic, titled
"I Can't See My SIghts!"

Both of the students had problems using their sights when they needed to simply because they couldn't focus closely enough to get the front sight sharp. I coached them on the points in the article: focus on the target, allow the sights to blur, and then align and superimpose the sights on the target. Look THROUGH the sights, not AT them. Suddenly they were hitting even small targets at plausible distances, which neither had been able to do before then. We even had time to try a few shots at small targets from barely plausible distances, and both of them were easily able to land their rounds on target.

In our debrief one of them mentioned that his deteriorating eyesight had actually caused him to consider selling all of his handguns and using a shotgun for home defense. He decided to take this class because he'd heard of my target-focus emphasis and wanted to get some experience and coaching in this approach. By the end of the course his shooting, his balance of speed and precision, was very close to that of the younger and sharper-eyed students. He told me that he was astonished at how quickly his shooting turned around and was delighted that he not only wouldn't need to sell his pistols, but that he now felt much more comfortable carrying one for self defense.

The other bifocal wearer had been to other schools - very well known schools, in fact - that had taught an inflexible front sight focus technique for all defensive shooting. Using a target focus was new to him, but he rapidly grew to appreciate the fact that it allowed him to deliver whatever level of precision he needed, as fast as he could, at whatever plausible distance he found himself - which he'd not been able to do for some time. His debrief comments could easily be summarized by an old quote from Robin Williams: "Reality - what a concept!"

I've found that these reactions are pretty typical for people who have formerly trained with instructors who don't understand how the human visual systems work nor understand the need to modify techniques if the student's particular issues require it. (I've never had student tell me that he was considering selling his handguns because of this, however.) It was a pleasure to be able to give these two people the information they needed and help them learn the defensive shooting techniques that might someday keep them alive.

Now THAT'S a good weekend!

(If you’re interested in learning the same things the students in this class did,
check my schedule for upcoming classes!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

How do you budget for training?

My colleague
Omari Broussard recently wrote an interesting article for the Personal Defense Network about budgeting for your self defense needs. Too many people only think in terms of the cost of a gun, but you really need to think about the whole package: the gun, magazines, ammunition, holster, and - perhaps most importantly - the training to use it all safely and appropriately.

It’s a good read. Please share it with your friends!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Task fixation in critical incidents.

One of the concepts that we talk about in
Combat Focus Shooting classes is that of task fixation: the diversion of attention to a particular sub-activity during an attack. We discuss this specifically relating to looking at the gun while reloading.

The concept is clearly illustrated in this video of a very dynamic simulation during a Craig Douglas ECQC class (one of the few on my "short list" of classes to attend.) Note that the gun fails to fire and suddenly the defender's entire attention is diverted to getting it running again, rather than dealing with his attackers. Craig even mentions that to the student at the end of the exercise, and the student admits to a fatal task fixation.

Many trainers maintain that the best place for the gun is in front of the face so that you can see both it and the threat while you reload. I don't believe that's a rational expectation when the body's threat responses have been activated, and believe instead what will happen is the task of reloading will divert attention completely from the threat in the way that a malfunction did for this fellow.

In the couple of seconds that any normal person is going to take to reload their pistol the threat can shoot or stab quite a few times, or cover a lot of distance to bring himself into contact with the victim. During that time it's more important that you avoid being shot/stabbed/beaten than it is to get a small (and theoretical) advantage in reloading speed. The first order of business is not getting hurt or killed in the process of defending yourself! That sounds silly, but the popularity of techniques that increase your exposure to danger rather than decrease it make it necessary to point such things out.

Instead of looking at the gun, we teach making the reload process a strictly mechanical activity that can be done with the gun out of the direct line of sight to the threat. (The specific ways to accomplish that are beyond the scope of this post, but it's not difficult to do for either autoloading pistol or revolver.) While the gun is being reloaded in that repeatable, mechanical fashion the defender is able to keep an eye on the threat and move, seek cover, or do whatever else is necessary to avoid becoming a casualty.

This is also why we approach the act of malfunction clearing similarly to that of reloading the gun, teaching a non-diagnostic approach to the problem which doesn’t result in the kind of attention diversion that happened in the video.

With the gun in front of the face, as some recommend, I believe (and this video supports my contention) that what will happen is fixation on the reload rather than on the threat. There are other downsides as well, some relating to the perceptual distortions that accompany the threat reaction and how they affect the “look at me” type of reload, but that’s another topic for another time.

-=[ Grant ]=-

An independent review of a Combat Focus Shooting class.

Fellow Combat Focus Shooting instructors
Matt DeVito and Jeff Varner recently taught a CFS class in Nevada. One of their students was the guy who writes the Zombie Tactics blog, and he made an unsolicited after action video report of his experiences in that class.

Sounds like a great course, doesn't it? Maybe, even, one that you'd like to attend? Well, I still have a couple of spots open in the
Combat Focus Shooting course I'm teaching on Sept. 9th in Canby, Oregon (just outside of Portland.) Drop me a line for more information!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Training (and some self promotion.)

First off - check out the video announcing the start of the PDN Spring Training Tour!

Second - if you're not already subscribed, run out to your local magazine stand and check out the May issue of
SWAT Magazine. Turn to page 68 and read the article therein - you'll find someone you know (ahem) mentioned in that article!

Happy Monday!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Speed vs. efficiency: what's the difference?

Check out my new article at PDN for an answer!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings: 2012, training, and a couple mysteries.

2012 is shaping up to be a very interesting year. Lots of stuff I can't yet discuss, but suffice it to say that there are intriguing things afoot on several fronts. Stay tuned.


One thing I can talk about: I've had requests for a lever action rifle class, which I plan to work into my offerings this year. I've watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles and blogs about handling the lever action, and I'm surprised at how poorly conceived most of them are. The lever action is different from other types of rifles and needs to be handled on its own merits. Trying to make it into an AR-15 is just as silly as doing the opposite, and this new class will teach techniques and procedures tailored specifically to the lever action. I'll have a section for this class added to the training page sometime in January.


Speaking of training, I'm still open to booking classes for 2012! Check out my
training page for the courses I'm offering, and read the page about hosting a class. Remember that no class happens until someone steps up to the plate to hold one -- maybe that someone is you?!


If you like the writing of Ed Harris, and if you like the .45ACP, you won't want to miss this Friday's blog! (Trust me, it's not what you're thinking. No, I'm not giving you any more clues -- you'll just have to wait until Friday!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

A gun safety failure that goes deep into training methodology.

From Washington state, our neighbor to the north, comes an
interesting news article about a fellow who managed to put a round into a neighbor's abode while practicing his "quick draw".

There's a lot to say about this incident beyond just the safety failures. What struck me, however, wasn’t his gun handling stupidity; is was the erroneous training decisions he made before he ever committed a safety violation. It's one of those decisions that I want to discuss today.

First, an illustrative digression: many years back I was in (ironically) Washington state shooting a "tactical" match. One of the stages had the shooter standing in front of a single cardboard target with simple directions: at the buzzer, draw and put one round into the IPSC "A" zone as fast as you can; re-holster, and repeat for a total of five shots.

I was using a Colt Python in a straight-drop tunnel-loop holster and realized that I could easily 'game' the stage. The target was set abnormally low for a person of average height, which made it just right for me. All I needed to do was pull the gun from the holster, raise the muzzle to place it parallel with the ground at roughly my mid-torso, and fire. I never reached extension; it looked very much like an old FBI point shooting technique. My first draw and fire was .85 seconds and they got a little faster from there. If my memory is accurate, the fastest was something like .70 seconds. All were hits.

It was an interesting exercise and I'm sure that there are those out there who think it a good defensive shooting drill, but it's not. I was standing in front of a target which had been identified for me, the area of precision I needed to hit was predefined, I had already determined exactly what I was going to do, and I had my hands in the perfect place waiting for a buzzer which I knew was my permission to shoot. It meant nothing other than I was really fast under those artificial conditions, regardless of the importance given it by anyone else.

The fellow from the news account made a similar error of concluding that his "quick draw" was a significant thing to practice -- so much so that he absolutely needed a realistically weighted magazine to make the drill complete. There are legions of people out there just like him, oblivious to the reality that how fast one can draw is really of little importance in a defensive shooting encounter. Far more important is the ability to first recognize that an attack is happening, then efficiently process that information and recall the skills necessary to respond appropriately. The time sink isn't in the execution of the learned skills -- the quick draw -- it's in the recognition and recall.

Practicing the drawstroke by itself is called “skills in isolation", and it's a common error people make in practicing for defensive shooting. Is getting the gun out of the holster important? Yes, it is. But learning to react to a threat stimulus, efficiently process that information and develop the mental linkage which allows relevant skills to be performed without cognitive thought, is more important. Skills need context, a real relationship to the circumstances in which they'll be used, in order to be useful.

Draw practice, pulling the gun from the holster after getting ready and knowing ahead of time what you're going to do, is a simple mechanical action. It's an athletic skill, nothing more, and relative to all the other things you need to do in a critical situation not even the most important. Figuring out that you actually have a situation where you need to shoot, and figuring out WHO you need to shoot, is more important and usually the most time consuming.

How should one realistically practice? Read the last two sections of
this article over at the Personal Defense Network. A good defensive practice routine involves processing information and making decisions. It requires a random start command, one that forces the shooter to think about what he's doing, identify what he's dealing with, recognize the precision required, and recall the skills necessary to make the shot(s).

Can this be done at home? To a certain extent, yes. Having a training partner, or a smartphone app which randomizes the target calls and rounds needed, is a must. Couple that with one of the laser shot designators which are affordably available allows the kind of contextual training which is actually valid to developing self defense skills.

(There is a caveat: this is no substitute for doing the exercises in live fire. Shooting multiple 'shots' without recoil and muzzle blast is of no use. This kind of training is really only valuable to the extent of developing the necessary processing skills and verifying that the first 'shot' hits.)

The way I see it, this fellow set himself up for failure by insisting on practicing something of relatively minor importance, and doing so without any context to a real need. Forget about the safety rule violations for now -- his first mistake was making a poor decision about what he was going to "practice". The rest was simple negligence.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings.

This being a holiday week, I'm going to refrain from any major articles. Black Friday, however, will feature an interesting piece by Ed Harris! If you're tired of shopping, be sure to check in for his exploration of a load that most of us know nothing about.


If you live near a Gander Mountain store, listen up! They're building
Gander Mountain Academies into many of their stores, and you need to check them out. They haven't gotten a lot of press yet, but the GMAs are state-of-the-art shooting facilities unlike any others. Combining both live fire and computer simulation ranges, they provide a shooting experience that very few places can. These are major investments, and they show that Gander Mountain is serious about firearms training.

All of their locations can be video conferenced together, which is (to the best of my knowledge) the first time any shooting facility has done so. The great thing is that they can have a senior instructor in one location who can watch people in all other locations, and provide two-way feedback on what they're doing and how to correct errors. This is going to give people across the country far greater access to top-flight instructors than has ever been seen in this field.

The first such class is going to be with Rob Pincus, who will be teaching Dynamic Defensive Handgun on December 17th and 18th. If you've got a Gander Mountain Academy near you, take advantage of this opportunity to be at the leading edge of shooting education!


Have you gotten your copy of the
Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver yet? It's my new book dealing with all aspects of owning and shooting the double action revolver, and it's getting rave reviews. Even my lawyer said that he didn't expect a gun book to be this good! Get a copy now for yourself, and be sure to pick one up for each of your shooting friends. (Remember: orders over $25 at Amazon ship for free! There’s also a Kindle version!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings

It's odd, really. This is the time of year that I pine for the long days of summer that are sure to come, and in the heat of that season I wish the early darkenings of winter would get here sooner. I guess I'm just never happy with the here and now!


The whole zombie schtick has long since jumped the shark, and my thoughts on the utility of a .410 shotgun revolver are well known. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that someone would
combine the two, and likewise it won’t be a difficult task to figure out what I think of the thing. (Thanks to Tam for ruining my breakfast with this news.)


Trying to catch up with emails, snail mails, parts orders, and everything else around the shop isn't being helped lately. You may remember that my wife decided I needed someone to keep my company during work hours, so she brought in Shop Kat. Turns out that SK is a girl, which we learned when she finally grew up enough to go into heat. When that happened I decided to take her in for a little surgical modification, but as it happens that can't be done until she's out of heat. I thought that if I kept a close eye on her during her infrequent and short outings during that time things would be under control, as I'd seen no stray cats in the neighborhood. You can guess what happened next.

I now have a pile (seven, to be precise) balls of fur who are about six weeks old. They're constantly underfoot, seem to think everything exists for their own amusement, and are generally making the shop difficult to work in. I wear an apron while I work and they seem particularly amused by the parts of it that they can reach. Anyone want a free kitten (or two?)


I've got a couple of interesting articles by Ed Harris which I'm going to run on coming Fridays in place of the Friday Surprise. Ed's got some great stuff and addresses areas of the shooting world that aren't in my normal purview. I think you'll find them interesting.


In the next month I'll be working on my teaching schedule for 2012. If you'd like to book a class now's the time to start the process!

Of course I'll be teaching my flagship Revolver Doctrine course; if you liked my book, you'll love this class! I take you through the revolver, showing you how to shoot it, reload it, manipulate it with one hand, and more. It's a one-day class that can be held on nearly any range, and doesn't require drawing from a holster. It's a great introduction for anyone who is new to the revolver, regardless of their past shooting experience.

I'm also available to teach
Combat Focus Shooting classes, both one- and two-day. CFS teaches you the most efficient ways to defeat a threat, ways that work with what your body does naturally. CFS classes are open to revolvers and autoloaders (much as I hate to admit it, I do know how to run an auto. Let's just keep that between the two of us, OK?)

A great combination is what I call the Defensive Revolver Weekend, which combines Revolver Doctrine on the first day and Combat Focus Shooting on the second. RD teaches you how to
operate the revolver, while CFS teaches you how to use it to protect you or those you love. This is a great way to take these classes, as there is some overlap which is eliminated when they're back-to-back. The result is that we get in more material than we would if the classes were separated. (This combined version of Revolver Doctrine does require drawing from a holster.)

I’m available for classes all over the western U.S. How do you go about booking a class? It's easier than you might think, and you can train for free just by hosting at your local range! Email me for the details.


Looking even further ahead, I'm considering teaching a master class on Colt revolver gunsmithing. This wouldn't happen until at least 2013, but I'd like to throw out some feelers now to see if anyone might be interested. If so, drop me a note; if I have enough interest, I'll develop the course tailored to your interests.


Well, I think that's enough for one Monday. I'm going to return some emails then go do battle with some very intimidating kittens!

-=[ Grant ]=-

A (long) Combat Focus weekend.

I returned yesterday from a long weekend at the 2011
Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Conference. (If you were wondering why there was no blog on Friday or Monday, now you know.)

The annual Conference is a chance for active Combat Focus Shooting (CFS) instructors to get together with peers to exchange ideas, learn new concepts, develop skills, and have a little fun at the same time. In this conference we looked at some of the latest information about how attacks happen and how the body reacts to them, and asked ourselves how that changes what we teach and how we teach it. We learned and we grew.

This DNA-level commitment to progress is one of the things that sets the CFS program far apart from others. In any field of human endeavor perspective changes along with knowledge, and defensive skills are no different. Collectively we learn more every day about how to survive deadly encounters; the problem is that so very few instructors or programs are truly committed to evolving with that increasing knowledge.

Let's face it: humans are often resistant to change, particularly when that change means admitting that we are in some way wrong. When we have a lot of ego investment in what we do and how we do it, it becomes darn near impossible to make substantive changes even when they're really necessary.

For instance, I've always considered myself reasonably fit. I'm no athlete, but owing to the heavy work I do around our homestead I'm in better shape than at least half of the people my age. As I learned this weekend I still need some work in that area, and it's important because fitness is critical to long-term survival. Being fit not only helps you survive a deadly attack, but also helps you to survive equally life-threatening but far more common things like heart disease and diabetes. Only by stepping away from my ego am I able to see that and make the changes I need to make.

In CFS we're able to make progress, to evolve our program, precisely because of this lack of ego. Don't get me wrong: there are a lot of Type-A personalities in our group, but very little ego. I know that sounds contradictory, but it's not! One can be very committed and very driven with regard to a topic without the exaggerated self importance that comes from ego.

Colleague Ricardo Pipa put it best: “we lack ego, we are collaborative." We acknowledge that sometimes new knowledge makes old positions untenable, and we change those positions to the benefit of our students and the defensive shooting community as a whole. That's what makes CFS, in the words of founder Rob Pincus,
the most progressive defensive shooting program "on the planet."

On a personal note I progressed toward a couple of additional certifications: one for the rifle (Combat Focus Carbine) and one for a new program aimed at absolute beginners in the defensive shooting world (more on that later.) I don't yet know if I passed either one - CFS instructor certifications are notoriously difficult to acquire - but I hope to hear good news later this week.

Regarding my fellow CFS instructors, I don't wish to be maudlin. I'll close simply by saying that they are, in the words of the original Hawkeye Pierce, "the Finest Kind."

-=[ Grant ]=-

Context, perspective and gun testing.

Something I've noticed in the last year or so: as I've incorporated the concepts of reality-based training (RBT) in my teaching and practice, my point of view has changed. I'm not really aware of it until I'm around people who haven't had that exposure, and then the contrast becomes stark.

The realities of how attacks actually occur and our reactions (instinctive and intuitive) affect not only
how and what we train, but what we train with. My upcoming article over at the Personal Defense Network examines this idea with regard to the seemingly banal process of holster choice, and this weekend it cropped up during an informal gun test in which I participated.

I was assisting with a rifle class and one of the other instructors brought in one of the new uber-compact 9mm pistols that are all the rage. We all got a chance to shoot the thing, and the results were telling.

Most people's approach to testing a new gun is to get set into a 'proper' range-based stance, carefully line up the sights, and make a slow, smooth shot; repeat until the magazine is empty, and declare it a wonderful gun. Everyone at this range did that, and I used to do that too, but lately I've been testing guns under the conditions I expect to use them, conditions that are congruent with the gun's purpose.

For a defensive gun that means shooting as if I'm being attacked.

I'd already played with the thing, so I was familiar with how it worked and how the trigger broke. In terms of the gun's operation there were no surprises. I chambered a round and, from the high compressed ready position, extended and pressed the trigger repeatedly and rapidly. I shot at a pace that was consistent with how I shoot an Airweight 'J' frame, which frequent and realistic practice has taught me would deliver the balance of speed and precision needed to put rounds on the target (the ring in an IDPA silhouette) at the distance I was standing (about 5 yards.)

The results were awful. This particular gun is so slim and flat that the grip panels do not appreciably contact the palm of the hand, and the only points of real contact - the front and backstraps - were polished and finished in a smooth gloss. The result was an alarming lack of control when shooting at a realistic pace. My first three shots landed in the target area, but the final three drifted far to the right as the gun rotated against the pressure of my hands.

I inserted a second magazine and consciously tried to counter the torque of the little monster. The results were a little better, but the extreme amount of physical force I applied to the gun brought my group down and to the left. As long as the gun was shot sedately, like on a nice friendly target range, it performed. Pushed into a more realistic shooting circumstance, it simply failed because of design flaws - the people who built it didn't understand the context in which the gun would likely be used. They built a miniature target pistol, but they’re selling it as a fighting tool.

Are there some people who might be able to make it work under realistic conditions? Perhaps, but no one else that day even tried; the closest anyone got was to do a sequence of double-taps/controlled pairs (a shooting method which illustrates that a gun can't actually be controlled for a realistic string of fire) and the results weren't a whole lot better. Would more practice - familiarity - with the gun improve my results? Experience suggests this is unlikely, as the first couple of magazines/cylinders out of a new-to-me gun are almost always my best.

I’ve covered this before, and it bears repeating: any shooting you do has to be in context. Are you practicing for an IDPA match, or are you practicing for the time when you're surprised and in true fear of your life?

What I see when I watch videos of actual shootings isn't the carefully measured BANG.....BANG.....BANG.....BANG.....BANG.....BANG of the target range, and It usually isn’t the contrived BANGBANG.....BANGBANG.....BANGBANG of the shooting match. What I see consistently, when people are surprised and in true fear for their life, is BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG. That's because the human in full reactive survival mode wants the threat gone as quickly as possible, and knows that the only thing which will do that is rounds on target.

Whether or not he/she can control the gun in those circumstances is the variable, which is why I insist on training in context so that I know I can do so.

When training isn't congruent with the realities of the fight, or if the equipment doesn't work well in that context, the needed hits won't be there. We call that 'inefficient' - using more of our own resources (time, energy, ammunition, space) than necessary to achieve the goal (making the bad guy go away.)

Ironically, in these very small guns a lesser cartridge, like the lowly and maligned .380ACP, may actually be the better choice if it allows the defender to shoot with a balance of speed and precision that achieves the necessary efficiency.

The only way one can know for sure is to practice and test realistically. On this day, I did and it greatly affected my opinion of the hardware. If it weren't for the understanding of context in training, today I'd be telling you what a great little gun it is.

Just like everyone else.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings, Aug. 22 edition.

Omari Broussard talks about 'cool' techniques
over at his blog this morning, and I agree with him.

About four or five years ago I took some heat from other instructors over the term 'Walter Mitty Training', which I used to describe techniques and courses that weren't grounded in reality. It's the kind of training one takes to pretend to be someone else (or somewhere else), because preparing for plausible scenarios just isn't a whole lot of fun.

Truth be told, I'd class most of the 'tactical' training out there as Walter Mitty or very close to it. There's a big difference between performing a tightly choreographed obscure skill after making ready, and trying to decide between fries and onion rings when you're unexpectedly forced to defend yourself.

Context. Plausibility. Two words that are absent from far too much training.


Someone emailed and asked about the new
Charter Arms Pit Bull revolver chambering .40S&W without the need for moonclips. My reply: "Ummm, OK. Why?"

As I see it, the only compelling reason to use autoloading cartridges in revolvers is because they require moonclips, making for blazing fast reloads. I suppose there might be some argument for the fellow who owns a .40 autoloader and wants a revolver to play with without the bother of stocking two kinds of ammunition, but really: how many of those people are out there?

The claim that it can be used as a backup to an autoloader and thus benefits from sharing ammunition doesn't compute: if you need the backup, it's probably because you ran out of ammunition for your primary gun. If that's the case, what are you sharing ammo with? It didn't make a lot of sense a couple of years ago when it was announced, and hasn't gained much in the intervening time.


Jeff Quinn over at GunBlast did a
review of a special edition Ruger GP100. The Wiley Clapp edition features non-standard dovetailed sights, an interesting matte stainless finish, and - hold still my beating heart! - a return to the original GP100 grips with inserts, dolled up for this gun.

(One of the dumbest decisions to come from Ruger’s management lately was replacing their perfectly usable grips with the execrable Hogue Monogrip. Glad to see they didn't throw away the molds!)

I'm not sure about the claim that the gun is "built for defense" - I'd have done things a bit differently and I see at least two important features missing - but it's a nice treatment of the old warhorse and an indication that Ruger still takes their revolvers seriously. Just wish they'd do so more often!


Everyone, it seems, has their name on a gun lately. The Firearm Blog tells us that Mossberg recently brought out the
Thunder Ranch Model 500 shotgun. Supposedly designed by Clint Smith, it features a shorter stock (12-3/4" length of pull) and a stand-off door breaching muzzle. In fact, very little other than the aforementioned muzzle and the much-appreciated shorter stock. And that huge TR logo with the expected higher price.

Seriously, a door breacher on a defensive shotgun? Someone has finally jumped the shark, but I can't decide whether it's Clint or Mossberg.

(It's my considered opinion that the perfect home defense pump shotgun would be an
Ithaca Model 37 Defense in 20ga with a few minor enhancements. The Ithaca is the smoothest, easiest-cycling pump I've used and is a joy to shoot. You listening, Ithaca?)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Progress before our eyes.

Back in April
the Personal Defense Network published an interview with yours truly, wherein I opined that the future of defensive training would be integration: a fluid combination of both armed and unarmed responses. This month, we've been greeted with a big endorsement of that trend with the appearance of Rob Pincus on the cover of Black Belt Magazine.

The Black Belt article on Rob deals specifically with why and how unarmed combatives trainers should include armed responses in their repertoire. It's a good article, and you should pick up a copy of the magazine and read for yourself. I'm sure that there are some pure martial artists who will wail and gnash their teeth at the prospect, but the trend is now clear -- both sides have observed the same dynamics, and are headed in (roughly) the same direction.

Black Belt has published a Q&A with Rob on their website, where he answers questions about Combat Focus Shooting, what martial artists can bring to the table, and why novices need to train. Definitely worth the read.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A great training weekend!

I spent this weekend up at the
Firearms Academy of Seattle teaching Combat Focus Shooting with Rob Pincus. This was the last leg in Rob's cross-country spring training tour, and a chance for me to see how he's pushed the state-of-the art forward in the year since we last taught together.

I've said that all instructors should jump at the chance to teach with (or at least observe without the distraction of being a student) a better instructor than themselves. It's especially useful to pick an instructor whose style -- and even material, in some cases -- is very different from one's own. It gives a fresh perspective and reveals the blind spots that we all develop over time.

This weekend was no exception. I came away with a whole bunch of new ideas that I hope to incorporate in my own work.

We had a good group of students, including one who had just recently bought his first gun. I always get a thrill out of watching someone go from zero to doing pretty complex tasks in just a couple of days, and this fellow really gave it his all. Two of the students were experienced instructors themselves and found that their first exposure to the advanced CFS exercises was as challenging to them as it was to everyone else.

Because the students were at various stages of ability, some came with bad habits from prior training. They weren't bad in the sense of being unsafe or dangerous but rather in the sense of not being appropriate to the task of surviving the sudden, chaotic events on which CFS focuses. We were able to have a good conversation about this important idea of context: that skills need to be judged in relation to the goal (efficiently making the bad guy go away after he's surprised you), and not to some separate and arbitrary measurement.

Marty and Gila Hayes, who run the Academy, are great hosts who bring in programs like Combat Focus Shooting in order to give their students a well-rounded view of the defensive firearms world. Even though CFS doctrine doesn't always agree with theirs, they know that perspective is important in this field. There are very few -- if any -- schools who are confident enough in the quality of their own programs to expose their students to new ideas. That's why FAS has evolved and stayed fresh over the years where other schools have become insular and hidebound.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to treat a badly sunburned elbow; apparently I missed a spot when applying the sunscreen!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Someone is talking about me. Oh, wait, it's me!

Over at the Personal Defense Network,
they've put up a profile of yours truly. Based on an interview I did recently, it covers my views on teaching and the state of the training business. Hope you enjoy it!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Rhino Revolver. ProArms Podcast. Yours Truly. What could go wrong?

I recently recorded an interview for the ProArms Podcast, and
it's been released. The first half is the ProArms gang discussing the Rhino, and the second half is my discussion with Gail Pepin about the gun. If you've been waiting to find out what I really thought about the Rhino, have a listen!

-=[ Grant ]=-

A couple of blogs you have to read.

Two people I know have started new blogs in the last week or so, and I believe they're both worth your time to check out.

Fellow instructor Omari Broussard and I met at the Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development course
I recently mentioned. Omari's done a lot of training in armed and unarmed combatives, and he's kept a logbook (multiple logbooks, actually) of all the courses he's attended. His blog is called, appropriately enough, the Training Log Blog.

Keeping a training log is an idea endorsed by a wide range of instructors. Doing so gives you a legal record, a way of reminding yourself of lessons learned, a chronology of your development as a student, a chronicle of your evolution in thought, or perhaps just an opportunity to reminisce about good times and good people. A training log is all of these things, and more. So important is this process that Rob Pincus wrote the Training Log Book to make it easier to keep up with the task.

In my case I've been remiss about doing this. Despite my slightly OCD nature I've just not been as disciplined about this as I should be. Omari, however, has kept detailed logs over the past several years, and his blog is all about sharing those many entries with you. Expect to learn what's important to him, what he's changed his mind about, and how he's grown through what he's learned. Omari's blog stands a good chance of becoming
the must-read blog for those who are serious about their training and personal growth. He's off to a great start.

Speaking of Rob Pincus (what a segue!), you're probably familiar with him from his articles in SWAT Magazine - or perhaps his television appearances, his DVD instructional series, or maybe even his books (the aforementioned Training Log Book, and his essential
Combat Focus Shooting: Evolution 2010.) Rob's always in the public eye, but there's something you don't know about him.

He's homeless. By choice. He decided that would be a good name for a blog, and so it was born.

Homeless By Choice blog details Rob's life without a permanent residence. Rob travels more than three hundred days a year, and a while back he decided that it was silly to maintain a home base that he never saw. He put all his stuff in storage and resolved to live on the road as a preferred condition.

I know that doesn't sound so unusual, as many people live full time in motorhomes and have no fixed residence, but Rob doesn't have an RV - he lives in hotels with what he can carry on his back! The HBC blog covers his life on the road: where he goes, what he does, where he stays, the people he meets and the things he sees.

If you ever wanted to read a blog where you could actually live vicariously through someone else, HBC is definitely it!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday catch-up.

Whew! What a week I had! I’m actually glad it's Monday, as I might finally be able to catch my breath!

I spent a few days last week helping to teach a Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development (CFSID) course in Washington (as in 'state', as in WA.) We had a great group, all of whom were there to learn how to teach progressive, reality-based shooting in both the public and private sectors. Rob Pincus was the lead instructor, and I had the pleasure of interacting with three other Combat Focus instructors who were also there to help out. Teaching something is the best way to learn the subject, thus teaching how to teach makes one a better teacher. (Seems almost circular, doesn't it?)


One of the take-aways from this session was a new way of looking at the concept of precision in combat. You'll be hearing more about this as I flesh out my thoughts.


Speaking of Combat Focus Shooting, I've received a number of emails showing interest in booking classes for next year. Some of them have been from sunny or very scenic locations out of state, which is much appreciated, but I'm also looking to do more courses here in Oregon. If you'd like to see either Combat Focus Shooting or my Revolver Doctrine class come to your town, let me know - perhaps you could be the one to host it!

Here's something to consider: host a Revolver Doctrine class on a Saturday, followed immediately by a Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting class on Sunday. The former teaches you how to run your revolver properly, while the latter shows you how to use it efficiently to protect yourself. It's a great one-two combination!

If you're interested, email me for the details. (Remember that while I love teaching in Oregon, I will travel in the Western states to hold classes.)


Last week was particularly full because I was working feverishly to finish my Chiappa Rhino review for Concealed Carry Magazine. Deadline was Sunday, and I managed to slip in under the wire. The review turned out to be very long - over 3600 words - and I'm concerned that it will need to be heavily edited to fit into the magazine's allotted space. (Lots of pics, too.) My editor at CCM, Kathy Jackson, has her work cut out for her!

I'll be posting the next installment of the blog's series covering the technical features of the Rhino on Wednesday. Coincidentally, I'll be recording an interview about the Rhino with the ProArms Podcast folks that day. I'll certainly let you know when that gets released.


One of last week's frustrations was my outgoing mail server. It stopped accepting my login name and password, thus no mail went out for about four days. Qwest's technical support (the pride of Bangalore) was of no use: "I'm sorry that you're not happy with your service, Mr. Cunningham. First I'd like you to turn off your computer and turn it back on again." I swear that if you called them instead of dialing 911, they'd respond to your request for an ambulance by telling you to turn your computer off!

I tried valiantly to get them to escalate my call to someone who wasn't translating a script from Hindi to falsely accented Southern American English. I failed. The problem finally resolved itself sometime Saturday. For that I am grateful, even if a bit puzzled.


On a personal note, I'm very happy that tomorrow evening all of the campaign advertisements will cease. (How do you tell when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Training opportunities!

I'm starting to book teaching dates for next year. If you're interested in hosting a
Combat Focus Shooting or Revolver Doctrine class, drop me an email and we can discuss the details.

Of course Oregon is my preferred venue, but I'll travel anywhere in the Northwest and I could
possibly be convinced to go to California. (Since that's the only place to get Sparky's Root Beer, it might not be hard to get me down there!)

I also have some very limited dates for private instruction, which need to happen in western Oregon. Range facilities for private instruction can be less developed than for a class, as long as we have a safe area to shoot.

Check out the course descriptions, look at your calendar, call your friends, and get in touch with me.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday update.

I'm recovering from a BUSY weekend.

On Friday and Saturday I did my annual duty at a local high school's all-night graduation party. For several years I've volunteered as part of their security detail, making sure the kids stay safe from both internal and external threats. (This, despite having no children of my own! How did I get talked into this?) It starts every year at about 10:pm and goes until breakfast the next morning.

I usually get a long nap Friday afternoon before the event, but this year I couldn't do it. Not in the sense that I didn't have time, but because I just couldn't fall asleep in the middle of the day! The net result is that I ended up going 24+ hours without sleep, and I'm just not used to that kind of thing! After it was over I crawled into bed and dropped right off to sleep. Saturday was essentially toast.

Sunday I worked my way up to The English Pit range in Vancouver USA to help out at a Combat Focus Shooting/Advanced Pistol Handling class with Rob Pincus. Jeff Varner, one of my fellow Combat Focus instructors, hosted the course at what is his home range. Great class.

After class Randy, the club's owner, brought out his Mateba Unica 6. Rob thought the Unica to be mythical, but here is a picture of him shooting the .44 Magnum beast as Randy looks on in amusement:

(I have another pic of Rob which is far more embarrassing. I'm keeping that one in my files as "insurance"!)

Non-related note: the best arrangement of the tune "It Might As Well Be Spring" is on the 1961 Stan Kenton "Adventures in Jazz" album. I don't have the liner notes handy, but I believe it's a Gene Roland arrangement.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Hey, I made the ProArms Podcast!

Last year Gail Pepin interviewed me for the ProArms Podcast, and
it finally got released this week!

I'm pretty sure the delay was due to the amount of editing required. We were up at the
Firearms Academy of Seattle, and Gila Hayes had insisted that I try a dessert she'd made - some sort of brownie mocha torte. Near as I can tell it starts with a 55 gallon drum of concentrated chocolate extract which is somehow crammed into an 8" square cake pan. I usually don't eat such rich (and sugary and caffeinated) desserts, and it left me 'wired' for a couple of hours. You can actually hear me slow down toward the end as the effects wore off. My wife thought it was hilarious. Some of the sillier stuff was thankfully left on the cutting room floor (free tip: never do an interview while on a sugar high, unless you want to sound like a deranged chipmunk.)

Most common phrase not heard in the interview: “you can edit that out, right?” I’m sure I added immeasurably to Gail’s blooper reel!

Much as I like bragging about myself, the cool thing is that the other interview on this episode is with
Rob Pincus! Rob's interview was done a little over a month ago, just after I finished his Instructor Development class, and Gail thought the two interviews would make a good match. She's right as usual. (Thanks to the mocha torte, this is the only time you'll ever hear me able to talk nearly as fast as Rob!)


-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did on my days off.

I spent the weekend up at
FIrearms Academy of Seattle teaching a Combat Focus Shooting class with "the man", Rob Pincus. We had one bright, sunny day (got the sunburn to prove it!) and one exceptionally wet, cold, dark day. That's life in the Pacific Northwest!

We had a diverse group of just under 20 students, some of whom were "advanced practitioners" and some who were significantly less experienced. From the comments in the mandatory end-of-class debrief, everyone came away learning something about themselves and about how to survive a deadly encounters. How fortuitous that the course is designed to do exactly those things!

(If you're an instructor, one of the best things you can do is to teach with another instructor, preferably one who style is very different from your own. I learned as much about my ability to teach as the students learned about their ability to shoot. It pushes your limits, identifies areas where you need to improve, and gives you a different perspective on the art of teaching.)

One of the
best weekends I've had in a long time.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Book Report: Combat Focus Shooting - Evolution 2010.

Rob Pincus' original book on
Combat Focus Shooting was published in 2006, and in a very few pages - 120, give or take - managed to present an entirely new way of looking at defensive handgun training.

Instead of forcing contrived techniques onto a fight, techniques that might not be appropriate or even effective, CFS offered a radically different perspective: pay attention to how the body reacts to a threat, base your techniques on what works well with those reactions, and train in those techniques as often and as realistically as possible. It was a concept-driven philosophy, and stood in stark contrast to the majority of training that was (and remains) technique-driven.

CFS sounds simple, and at its core it is. The concepts that back it up, however, draw from many fields, and explaining them in writing takes a bit of space. The brevity with which the original book it was written meant that some parts of the program didn't get the exploration or explanation they deserved.

At the same time the Combat Focus Shooting courses, which were the origin of the book, were evolving. Much new material was added, and there were changes to the way the program looked at certain aspects of defensive handgunning. It was time to update the book.

What an update Pincus has brought us!

"Combat Focus Shooting - Evolution 2010" is not just a simple edit. It's been greatly expanded, now over 210 pages and with very little fluff. Gone is the minimalist treatment of the concepts that underlie the program; the new book feels luxurious in comparison, with every facet of the Combat Focus philosophy explored and explained. The new edition makes it easier to understand what CFS is all about and especially why it's different from other courses. It's much more readable and closely follows the path of a live CFS class.

Of course
nothing beats taking a CFS course in person, but this book will give you a good grounding in the concepts and science behind intuitive shooting. If you want to develop defensive shooting skills that reflect the realities of actual encounters, "Combat Focus Shooting - Evolution 2010" should be on your reading list. It's a must-have for every serious student of defensive handgunning.

Of course,
it's available in my Amazon bookstore!

-=[ Grant ]=-


Just got word from Rob Pincus - I passed my written and subjective teaching evaluations, and am now a certified Combat Focus Shooting instructor!


-=[ Grant ]=-

Better than I could say it.

One of the people in the
CFSID class last week was veteran trainer Robb Hamic. He posted a recap of the class on his blog.

Being fundamentally lazy (which I now realize to be 'efficient' - CFS students will get the joke), I'm just going to let you read his great thoughts while I attend to other matters.


-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did during Spring Break.

I just returned from a visit to Virginia Beach, where I attended the
Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development (CFSID) course. I've been searching my brain for a one-word description of what the class is like, and this is the only thing that even comes close:


We spent 4 days and just shy of 60 hours learning the ins and outs of Combat Focus Shooting so that we could accurately and efficiently communicate the program to students. We spent the first of those day on the, that's not quite right; for any other course it
would have been the first day, but for us it was roughly half of the first day, as the entire session ran well past 9pm. The rest of the week was spent not on becoming better shooters, but learning to be better teachers.

We studied a little of everything: anatomy, physiology, neurophysiology, psychology, philosophy, and more. By the end of the fourth day, which is when testing was done, my brain was fried. I don't even remember the final written test, but I do remember nearly passing out somewhere on page three (serious blood sugar drop, complete with tremors and sweating.)

Apparently I finished it. At least, I think I did!

This isn't like most other instructor courses. Most of the time, an instructor certificate is a matter of showing up, shooting well, and having your check clear. CFSID is different;
Rob Pincus is committed to producing good teachers, not just good demonstrators. That showed in the caliber (pardon the pun) of the people who were there, as I'd be confident in recommending any one of them as a competent and knowledgeable instructor.

There's a reason that, historically, less than 50% of Combat Focus Shooting instructor candidates pass the course. It's that tough, and takes a phenomenal amount of mental discipline just to make it through.


As it happens, my return trip routed me through Chicago, where I spent nearly three hours waiting for my next flight. Turns out that
Tam was in Chicago at the same time. Wish I'd known, I'd have loved to finally meet her.


We also got to study some (unintentional) modern art, courtesy of an ancient video projector that refused to hold a sync signal with Rob's new MacBook:

Yes, that's Rob Pincus getting all Warhol on his students.


I don't usually plug local businesses, but this one deserves it.

The day before I left, I discovered that my old camera had died. It powered up, but none of the controls worked. (It will still take pictures, but the exposure control is fried and the autofocus appears to be only sporadically active.) We had planned to upgrade our camera later this year, but this forced our hand: we needed it now.

I spent that day not packing, but running all over Western Oregon to find the camera I'd decided on. I finally found the body, but the lens I wanted wasn't in stock anywhere. I decided to pick up a used optic as stopgap measure, while I waited (and recovered financially) for the one I really wanted. Trouble is that none of the camera stores I called carried much (or any) used equipment. About that time I remembered seeing a yellow pages ad for a little one-hour photo place located in a small town fairly close to us. I had it in my mind that the ad said something about used cameras, and since phone calls are free I dialed their number. A pleasant young lady answered the phone and said that yes, they had used gear and that they had several suitable lenses for me.

What I found when I walked into
Focal Point Photography blew me away. This is a tiny shop, located in a small farming community in a rural area, and it is filled with photo gear. From Speed Graphics to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, these folks have a little of everything. Piles of used gear (literally), a surprising selection of lighting equipment new and old, even darkroom stuff, all stuffed (literally) into a two-story building in little ol' Dallas, Oregon. It was like going back in time, to what camera stores used to be before the age of big-box homogenization. I don't know if they do mailorder, but they're so accommodating I suspect they would. If you're looking for just about anything photographic, particularly if it's out of production and now hard to find, give them a call: (503) 623-6300.

I have no affiliation other than as a satisfied, if somewhat amazed, customer.


Now, I'm back to catching up on your emails!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday meanderings.

DRAW FAST, HOLSTER SLOW: Tam alerts us to a ND that happened at a Todd Green class. In his commendable reporting of the incident, Todd says "Never be in a rush to holster your pistol. We all know it, we say it, we teach it. Not all of us do it." So true.

As instructors it's easy for us to forget that reinforcement, and sometimes enforcement, are necessary parts of our job. Especially when we're dealing with "advanced" students, we tend to go easy on the reinforcement of fundamentals for fear that we'll be resented for belittling their ability or experience. We have to resist that tendency, and we need to do so consistently. When warranted, enforcement (up to and including ejection from class) has to happen.

The only instructor I've ever seen who is absolutely consistent in this regard is Georges Rahbani (
TBRIYNHO.) Even in his advanced rifle classes, which are invitation only and have stringent prerequisites, you will hear "safety on" and "finger in register" (index, if you prefer) commands at the end of a string of fire. He never wastes an opportunity for reinforcement at any level of training or ability.

When Georges encounters failures to heed commands or instruction, he has a way of bringing the point home to the student: he/she has to publicly deposit a dollar bill into a pot. (The students have a friendly shoot-off at the end of class to win the pot.) This has a non-confrontational, yet still very chastening, effect on both the offending person and the rest of the students; I've seen it work on countless occasions. I don't know where the idea comes from, but I'm giving Georges the credit.

THE PROBLEM WITH ELECTRONIC SCALES: I recently sat down to work up a new .308 load. I turned on my RCBS electronic scale, waited a couple of minutes, and starting weighing charges. Much to my surprise, the weight of the charges thrown by my powder measure increased each time! I'd forgotten that electronic scales need protracted warmup periods before accuracy and repeatability can be expected. After a half-hour of warmup, it settled down and gave correct readings. Word to the wise: keep your mechanical scales around to double check the electronic ones, or buy a set of check weights.

HERE COMES DA JUDGE: From The Unforgiving Minute comes this gem:

"The inexplicable success of the Taurus Judge still depresses the hell out of me. Taurus keeps cranking out new versions, each more grotesque, hideous and nonsensical than the last, and people KEEP BUYING THE GODDAMN THINGS. Just another sign that our culture is doomed, I suppose."

(The opinions of the contributor do not necessarily reflect the views of the Management of this blog. Then again, they just might.)

-=[ Grant ]=-