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.
In most areas of the country, it's generally held that you may use lethal force to protect yourself if you are in immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily injury. One of the factors which can contribute to that perceived danger is known as "disparity of force"; that is, a marked difference in the ability of the parties involved to inflict injury.
If your attacker is much larger than you, or if he's much stronger, or if he brought friends with him to help, are all examples of disparity of force. This disparity can also be due to an infirmity on your part, making the attack one of the able-bodied against someone who is disabled (if only temporarily.) Unfortunately, it's a disability which might attract a predator in the first place!
His wife Julie was recently knocked off her feet by an injury, and what she and Andy discovered may be of use should you find yourself in similar circumstances. Recommended reading, and especially check out the comments where others weigh in on their experiences.
(Speaking of injuries, it's probably not a bad idea to have a left-hand holster around for your primary gun. Hand and arm injuries and surgeries are not unheard of, and just try to find a lefty holster when you really need one! This is one of the few times I recommend preparing for a relatively low-probability event, simply because of the availability of the necessary equipment.)
Please, go look at the list and check out the other winners - there are some really good articles and videos. If you're not spending time at the PDN site, you're missing out on some of the best self defense information on the 'net.
It's Cyber Monday - the day when everyone shops from the comfort of their chair! There are some deals out there for shooters and those interested in personal defense, and here are just a few.
First off, a DVD that I've been recommending for some time is "Lessons From The Street" by Tom Givens. I consider it a must-have for any personal defense library, because Tom distills the lessons from the nearly 60 shootings his students have experienced. This DVD contains some really important information that counters a lot of the misinformation that's often encountered in the defensive training business. It's available from the I.C.E. Store.
What's the deal? If you use the code "ICEXMAS" at checkout you'll get 20% off this DVD - in fact, any of the DVDs that you order from the I.C.E. Store will be 20% off! There are a lot of terrific titles available, so don't miss this opportunity to stock up!
Speaking of DVD deals, the Personal Defense Network is running a Cyber Monday special: sign up for a PDN Premium Membership and get 3 free DVDs - over 3 hours of training. The PDN Premium Membership is one of the best-kept secrets in the defensive training world; for the price of a typical DVD you get access to tons of streaming training videos, many of which are available only through PDN. The DVD offer is like icing on the cake! Click here for the PDN Cbyer Monday DVD Deal.
I've got another new article up at the Personal Defense Network, and those of you who are pushing 40 (or pulling 50) will be particularly interested. It's called "I Can't See My Sights!"
It's the distillation of all the things I've learned over the past few years about how to adapt to vision changes, particularly those related to the march of time. If you have contrast or color blindness issues, or if you wear bifocals, this article will likely have something of special value for you.
I'm gratified to see the defensive shooting world coming to some of these same realizations. While there are some folks out there who are still stuck with outdated beliefs, like the .45ACP being the "ultimate" defensive cartridge despite the lack of corroborating objective data, the movers and shakers in this business have long since moved on. Even some of the old guard have evolved to the realization that the 9mm cartridge and the modern striker-fired (MSF) pistol are the most efficient way to deal with criminal attacks, and now recommend that combination.
There was a time, more than a decade ago, when I espoused the .357 Magnum as the ultimate self defense cartridge. Even then, though, the data was a little hazy as to its effectiveness versus the .38 Special +P. After talking with a lot of people who'd actually had to shoot bad guys with those cartridges, I discovered that they all fired about the same number of rounds to get the bad guy to hit the pavement. It came down to a simple equation: if I'm going to need to fire x-number of shots regardless of the cartridge, wouldn't it be better to get those rounds into the bad guy as quickly as possible? Why was I putting up with the reduced controllability of the Magnum when the Special (with proper loads, of course) would do the same job?
That question caused me to switch to the .38 Special +P for carry, and today all of my revolvers are sighted in for that round - none of them are sighted for Magnums. I went through the same evolution with the 1911 versus the 9mm. Remember that I started out with the 1911 and the .45ACP for my autoloading needs, but quickly shifted to the 9mm and then almost as quickly adopted the MSF pistol (the Glock 19, specifically.) When I carry an autoloader, it's a compact 9mm loaded with Speer Gold Dot +P rounds.
Today, luckily, the choice has been made easier; the study that Greg Ellifritz did, for instance, puts better numbers to my informal research and gives a much better picture of the overall performance of the common self defense cartridges. I believe it to be the best data we have on a very difficult-to-quantify subject, and you should read the linked article. (It's important to actually read what Greg wrote; if you just look at the charts, you'll be missing some very important information.)
Back to Rob's article: he makes some specific gun recommendations, most of which I agree with. I'll add, based on my own experience, the Steyr M9 and C9 series, which we've owned for nearly a decade now and have proven to be very reliable. However, since ours have the Steyr trapezoidal sights I'll add the caveat that the recommendation stands only if the gun is ordered with the optional night sights, which are of a conventional post-and-notch arrangement. The trapezoid sights, with which I was initially enamored, have shown themselves to be less efficient and usable than the standard variety. (I'm not big on night sights generally, but on this gun they're the only way to get a conventional sight picture.) That being said, I think my next gun will be the new Caracal, which I like even more than the Steyr.
You'll note that Rob also recommends small revolvers for carry. The revolver shares some surprising characteristics with the MSF pistol, including efficiency (no controls other than the trigger to manipulate in order to shoot) and reliability. Of course, as he points out, there are compromises: the reduced capacity and the harder-to-master double action trigger. Still, the MSF pistol can really be considered the ultimate evolution of the revolver, which is why they're both the best choices today!
I'm pre-empting today's Friday Surprise for one from the Personal Defense Network (PDN) - because it's one I'm excited about and have been waiting for!
As (I hope) you're aware, PDN has become a premier site for personal defense information, articles and videos. I've contributed a number of articles (with more to come), and there are a ton of videos there as well. What's great about PDN is that the content isn't from any one point of view; there are a number of different perspectives from a wide variety of personal defense experts. Our managing editor, Rob Pincus, has gone to great lengths to make sure that there is a great variety of different opinions represented in the content. That's what makes PDN unique and uniquely valuable.
This week they've announced a big upgrade: Premium Memberships. For only $4.99 a month (or $34.95 a year) you can have access to defensive video tips and techniques, step-by-step training drills, feature length videos, complete personal defense courses, and full streaming DVD presentations. The videos are exclusive to PDN and all in HD video. The topics are timely, the information is authoritative, and the quality is superb.
I've watched a number of the Premium videos, and they're all good - in fact, they blow away a lot of the training DVDs you can buy. With DVDs running anywhere from $39 to $85 these days, I think that makes the $34.95 for unlimited access to all of PDNs Premium streaming content a great bargain. Of course, the Premium content is accessible from your computer or your iPad (guess I'm going to have to break down and get an iPad now), and you'll still have access to the huge and ever-expanding library of free PDN content - and there's much more to come!
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!
On Monday I commented about a video from an outfit called American Defense Enterprises (ADE.) In it, a group of black-clad aspirants show us what they can do with guns. It was apparently so embarrassing that ADE actually pulled it from YouTube, but luckily someone managed to snag a copy and put it back up (and with a far more appropriate soundtrack!)
The whole video looks like a Hollywood caricature of firearms use; the word that kept popping into my head was 'choreography'. Hmmm....sure enough, ADE is headquartered on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. That would go a long way to explaining why the video looks more like a video gamer's wet dream than realistic defensive shooting.
You really need to watch the video, as it illustrates some vital principles about how you should NOT train. How plausible are the scenarios they're setting up? Look at the safety aspect of some of their drills - is there a benefit that outweighs the not inconsiderable risks? My answers would be ‘not very’ and ‘no’.
I'll go out on a limb here: it's damn near impossible to produce an exciting video clip of quality defensive shooting instruction, because at its core it is boring. Learning to shoot efficiently doesn't lend itself to flashy room clearing footage, and how one deals with a real threat doesn't look anything like an exciting team assault. Defensive shooting is as much about concepts and processes as it is techniques, and when was the last time you saw a blood-pumping video of a concept?
If you want to see good defensive shooting videos, you can find them at the Personal Defense Network. If you want entertainment, watch the video under discussion.
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.
This piece is probably going to be controversial, because it takes a fresh and different look at how we think about accuracy and precision in the context of self defense. In it I make the case that shooting 'better' shouldn't be our goal -- shooting more appropriately should be. If I may be so bold, I think it's one of the more important things I've written.
It's a longish article that explores these concepts at a deeper level than you're going to find in the gunzines. Read it thoroughly and consider carefully the issues raised.
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!
Her remarks about physical fitness resonated with me. Thanks to lots of heavy chores around the farm my strength level is pretty good, but because of my general lack of aerobic exercise (despite daily woodsplitting) my endurance isn't what it should be. According to my physician I'm also 15 pounds heavier than ideal, which is a lot on a short guy like me.
I think losing the extra pounds just became a higher priority.
This one is sure to raise a few eyebrows. In it I question the value ascribed to situational awareness as it is taught in most self defense courses today. Note that I don't suggest that it has zero value, only that it has a different value than what most believe. It's that difference which affects how and what we should train.
An area of defensive preparations where I've been quite deficient is in empty-hand techniques. I've been trained to shoot (obviously), to use a knife, and to use a Kubotan - but have learned precious little about using no tools other than what nature has provided.
The gun is an appropriate tool for encounters that happen beyond, say, two arm's reach. Inside that space, however, the handgun is probably not the correct first choice. (It may come into play at some point, but immediately going to guns within reach of the assailant is generally not a good initial response.) Empty hand skills come into play when you're in a non-permissive environment (no weapons allowed) or the incident occurs within two arm's reach. If we examine our lives and habits closely, I think many of us will recognize that those are very common situations - and that we've not done much to prepare for them!
Head over to the Personal Defense Network forum and check out the discussions on 'realistic' training. Feel free to jump into the discussion, as this is a topic which is important to all defensive training.
My latest article for the Personal Defense Network has just been posted! This time I detail a malfunction drill for the revolver.
It's fair to say that severe malfunctions with a revolver are much less common than with autoloaders. Balancing that out is that fact that the malfunctions that can occur are often more serious, in that they can tie up the gun enough to make it non-functional for the duration.
In the Friday Surprise for the 6th, there were two bonus questions. A couple of people came close, but didn't get all the details. The Leopolds referred to in the title were Leopold Mannes and Leopold Godowsky, friends who happened to be professional musicians and amateur photo chemists. Their work in color film led directly to the invention of Kodachrome. The connection with Rhapsody in Blue? The song's composer, George Gershwin, had a sister named Frances - who was married to Godowsky.
It seems odd to me, but I get lots of inquiries about where to buy targets. My favorite source is Law Enforcement Targets, which carries a huge line of paper and cardboard products. For defensive and "tactical" training, their stuff is the best. My other source, which carries more traditional targets (NRA, IPSC, and IDPA) is Alco Target Company. I've done business with both for years, and have never had a reason to complain.
I've mentioned this before, but do check out the forums over at the Personal Defense Network. There are some great discussions there, and the only thing missing is YOU!
Though I’ve made reference to each of these in the past, it’s about time I actually plugged some of the people & organizations that have value to those interested in defense of themselves or their loved ones.
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association's purpose is to educate responsible armed citizens. Members have access to their full website, online forums and one of the best "gun" magazines published today. If I were forced to recommend a single resource for the person who carries a gun for self defense, it would be the USCCA. (Disclaimer: I do write an occasional article for their magazine. Since it's only available with membership, you can't read them if you're not a member!)
The Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network started a couple of years ago as a sort of "union" for gun owners. I've heard of many a self defense shooting in which the defendant was facing huge legal issues, and often wondered how they were going to get through the legal process and put their life back together. You've probably seen such cases in the online forums, accompanied by requests to donate to some legal defense fund. The ACLDN serves to pool member's strength to protect one another when one of them comes under scrutiny of the legal system. It's a unique organization, providing a unique service worthy of your consideration.
The Personal Defense Network aims to be the premier source of self-defense videos and articles on the 'net. Less than a year old, PDN is growing rapidly and already has a lot of great content available. The forums are dedicated to self defense issues, keeping the clutter to a minimum. (Disclaimer: I also write articles for PDN.)
The ProArms Podcast continues to have some of the very best in-depth interviews with people in the shooting world, usually focusing on self defense and training issues. If you missed their recent interview with Chicago cop Bob Stasch, a veteran of 14 gunfights, go listen. Now. It may be one of the best they’ve done.
It seems that every time I turn around I’m recommending Kathy Jackson’s website The Cornered Cat. It deals exclusively with women, guns and self defense, and is the very best resource on the ‘net for women who have chosen to arm themselves. I’m not exaggerating when I say “the very best” - there is no other site I’ve seen which even comes close to Kathy’s creation. If you know a woman who is interested in self defense or in firearms in general, but is a bit apprehensive and doesn’t know where to go to find other women with the same interests and concerns, send her to Kathy.
Finally, my interest in shooting and self defense has allowed me to meet some of the best (and most interesting) people. One of them is trainer Robb Hamic, who writes an interesting blog dealing with a wide range of self defense issues. In a recent post he had this gem, one I think that everyone with an interest in self-defense should take to heart:
“I walk around with a smile and I try to be happy but if someone crosses my path that wants to do me, my family or a person that I choose to protect harm; I will do whatever is necessary to keep us safe, based on my perception of danger. Up to and including taking another person(s) life. If it is the only option, I will exchange my life for my wife or children’s life. If I have to fight, I will use every once of aggression, decisiveness and intelligence in my body to overwhelm my attacker(s). ”
A LITTLE RECOGNITION - Many people have asked about the site's redesign. The site is built in RapidWeaver; the theme is from Nick Cates Design. Last week I received an email from Nick, who said he was impressed how I'd used his template. He asked if he could feature grantcunningham.com in his Showcase, and of course I said yes! You can see it here.
HOUSEKEEPING - You may notice that the tag cloud has changed a bit. I wasn't happy with how I'd handled the tags, so I erased them and started over. Hopefully what you see now is an improvement in usability.
This week is dominated by SHOT Show news, and in the midst of all the shiny new goodies it's hard to remember that self defense isn't just about hardware. Guns and ammo are easy to write about, so that's what most people concentrate on. As a result, you find lots of sites that deal with hardware, but precious few with the software so necessary for survival.
PDN is the new source for self defense articles, tips, and video lessons on the net. Rob Pincus, the Managing Editor, has gathered some of the best authorities from around the country to staff PDN, with a simple goal: PDN aims to be the leading destination of high-quality, personal defense content online, as well as a no-nonsense gathering place for those serious about arming themselves for defense in every aspect of their lives.
This isn't the same old "9mm vs. .45ACP" stuff you find in the magazines or on the gun forums - the information at PDN is at a higher level. You'll learn some new techniques, some refinements of your existing skills, and some vital topics that other sites just won't touch (check out "Dealing with a Gun Shot Wound During Training Class".)
It isn't all about guns, either; self defense is more than simply shooting people, and PDN delivers vital information to help you expand your hand-to-hand and less lethal skills ("Don't Bring A Gun To A Knife Fight" is a great introduction to why the gun isn't always the right answer.)
There's lots more, from fitness to legalities to tactics, all written by some of the best people in the business. You'll hear from master trainer Rob Pincus as well as such renowned experts as Tony Blauer, Michael Janich, John Brown, Marty Hayes, Andy Langlois, Kent O’Donnell, and Paul Haberstroh. (Oh, and some guy named Grant Cunningham - anyone know who he is?)
Check out the site, watch the videos, read the articles, and join the forum. Check in often, as there's a lot more great content coming at PDN.