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 ]=-
In case you missed it, the biggest news event to come out of the NRA Annual Meeting and convention this last weekend came from an unlikely source: a seminar on home defense concepts by Rob Pincus. (Those who know Rob may say it isn’t all that surprising he'd make headlines, but with the election of a new and indiscriminately vocal NRA president intent on reliving the 1990s it was surprising the press would focus on Pincus instead. Probably just as well that they did.)
It all started when the Think Progress blog, which has a decidedly anti-Second Amendment position, snuck a stowaway into Rob's seminar and videoed a couple of minutes which they put on YouTube. The video is part of his discussion on keeping a spare gun - should you have one - in a quick-access safe in your kid's room. The idea is that, in the case of a home invasion, it's very likely that you'll head to protect your kids first - and wouldn't it be a good idea to have a defensive tool there in case you hadn't yet made it to your safe room and retrieved its armament?
Here's the clip they posted:
Of course the key here is that the gun is kept in a safe, the same as it would be in your own bedroom. As Rob took care to explain, the safe in the kid's room is no more dangerous than the safe in your room. If the kids know there's a safe anywhere (and any conscientious parent will admit that you can't hide anything from kids - they will find it), they'll play with it. The fact that it's in their parent's bedroom makes it no less immune to their tampering than if it were on the coffee table in the living room. Kids, as I'm told, will be kids.
That's why the gun is in a quality, tamper-proof safe that's securely bolted down. The gun is no more dangerous than it would be in a safe anywhere else in the house, but it is accessible in an area where it is plausible that it would be needed. Logical, no?
The story was quickly picked up by any number of knee-jerk blogs and websites, including the Huffington Post (whose editorial board is a staunch supporter of the Bill Of Rights, except the parts they find icky - like the Second.) The response amongst the prohibitionists was immediate, predictable and nearly unvarying: "Gun Expert Urges People To Keep Guns In Children's Bedrooms!"
Once there, the story-that-really-isn’t-a-story made its way into some a few of the more mainstream media outlets with similar results. It got even bigger play across the Atlantic, where both the Guardian and the Daily Mail expressed their dismay over the perceived craziness in the Colonies. (If Piers Morgan hasn't hopped on this story yet, he soon will.)
The story may get a bigger boost today: Rush Limbaugh's website featured the story this morning, and as I write this his live show hasn't yet started but I expect him to talk about it. (I don't often listen to Limbaugh, as I personally can't stand demagogues on any side of any issue, but I might make an exception today.)
What do you think: does keeping a gun in a safe in the kid's room make sense to you? (Feel free to post links to any mainstream news site which features this story!)
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'm going to to a bit of horn-tooting today, as the Personal Defense Network released their Top 5 list of the most popular articles (and videos) from 2012. Yours truly is the only person to have two articles in the Top 5!
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.
Even if I do say so myself!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Well, it appears my editor over at Personal Defense Network finally did some actual work! Rob Pincus wrote a great article about choosing a defensive handgun, and why you should look for certain characteristics.
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!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Last week Rob Pincus posted a photo on his Facebook page of him teaching Khloe Kardashian how to shoot. (I'll admit to the necessity of Googling the name to find out who she is. I am unabashedly unhip.) Though I'm not a fan of “reality” television (I studiously avoid “Top Shot”, for instance), I'm glad she took the time to find out about the shooting world from someone who knows it quite well.
There, I thought, it sat. Until this weekend, when Rob posted this:
"Gun People" chasing away potential new shooters with their Ignorant Behavior
I was kind of surprised at the number of negative comments that the picture of teaching a pop-celebrity how to shoot garnered earlier this week.
The fact is that, for all the TALK about expanding the ranks of gun owners and reaching younger people & more females, the kind of ignorant responses that some have offered aren't going to encourage a twenty-something year old girl who happens to follow the Kardashians or Justin Beeber or who will vote for Obama to come to a shooting range and give it a try. In fact, some of the comments might downright chase them away from even being open to trying shooting or wanting to be part of the 'gun community'.
The Biggest Offenders have actually suggested that I should have taught her to shoot herself and/or attacked her looks and/or suggested that it would've been better if she had been wearing a bikini in the picture.
Those types of retarded comments aren't going to anything to sway someone who is on the fence about going shooting to imagine that they will be welcomed with open arms at gun store or shooting club and, in fact, could push many people away.
Whose side are you guys on??
I went back and looked at the comments, and sure enough there was a lot of negativity. Instead of embracing another (potential) crusader for the cause, a certain segment of the shooting fraternity had already written her off. That's hardly a welcoming attitude!
During the RECOIL debacle I opined (either in print or on Doc Wesson's show) that the younger generation is not likely to embrace the NRA as it exists today. There are simply too many in that organization, and in some of our defensive training and hunter education organizations, who are intolerant of people who are different than they. Whether it's the guns these newcomers use or what their voting preferences are or the tattoos and piercings many of them sport, our community too often finds ways to make it clear to them that they're really not "one of us" and can't be, until they become just like us (“us”, of course, being a variable dependent upon the sociopolitical hangups of the individual doing the judging.) I think a lot of them are just going to say no, and may say no to shooting altogether. That would be a great loss.
I once asked someone who lived in a seedy area what it was going to take to clean his neighborhood up. He responded with “quite a few more funerals.” He didn’t mean that people needed to be killed; rather, he meant that attitudes tend to go with one to the grave and only the natural turnover in population with births and deaths would lead to the change he hoped for. Trouble is, we can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die off. If we do we’ll lose the people we claim to want to attract and possibly lose our political advantage over time. Yes, we need to encourage younger shooters - but we can’t do that if we’re sending out signals, both subtle and overt, that we don’t like them!
A single blog post by a single person isn’t going to change things, but if we can get more bloggers and people of influence aboard perhaps we can make some headway. If you agree with this, if you believe that we need to attract and hold onto the young guns, you can help: forward this to the blogs and forums you frequent, post it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and generally talk it up. Perhaps - if enough of us voice our support for the newcomers to the fold - we can bring the shooting world to understand that the next generation of shooters is ours to lose. Lose them we will, if we allow these inane and wholly inappropriate attitudes to exist.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading,
– JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
-=[ Grant ]=-
I'm on record, going back at least a couple of years, of not being a fan of open carry for political purposes. My stand is simple: you cannot open carry in an area where it's legal to "fight for your rights", because the right already exists. If it already exists, then it comes under the principle of exercising the right responsibly.
The rabid open carry advocates, those who carry with video cameras and actively seek conflicts with police officers, are not exercising their rights responsibly. I believe it's up to the rest of us to call them on their bad behavior, and not fall victim to some misplaced notion of brotherhood.
Rob Pincus is of like mind, and is calling on the normal, responsible, non-attention-seeking open carry practitioners to stand up and be counted. He asked me if he could post a short plea on my blog. Here's Rob:
Irresponsible Open Carry Activism Jeopardizes The RKBA
Guns should be carried for personal defense, not Activism. The best way to do that 99% of the time is Concealed Carry.
Even if people do choose to Open Carry, they shouldn't do it to provoke confrontation nor be uncooperative with the police while doing it. It makes gun owners look bad, turns cops against us, wastes their valuable time and certainly isn't going to make it more likely that people will think "oh, gun owners are normal people, not trouble makers."
Spread the Word. Most people have realized that the time for "solidarity" through tolerance of the guys carrying guns with video cameras has come and gone. Their bravado is jeopardizing our RKBA and should be seen as an embarrassment to responsible gun owners. When the OC Movement started, people carrying while going about their daily business to show responsibly armed people are part of everyday life, it made some sense... but, the extremists have spun out of control. Let's make sure that the firearms community is condemning this behavior.
I am not calling for a change in laws or for us to ostracize people who carry openly in a responsible, civil manner. Perhaps responsible OCers should be most concerned and the most openly critical of those who are using their guns to get (inevitably negative) attention?
Obviously, I am a proponent of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and do not want to to see OC made illegal, but I fear that will happen more and more often, in more and more places (as it already has it one state), if the confrontational actions of a very few reckless people continue.
- I.C.E. Training Co.
As you might have heard, the shooting industry suffered a terrible loss: Mark Craighead, founder and owner of Crossbreed Holsters, died unexpectedly on Friday.
Mark was an honest, upbeat guy who was not only a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but put his money where his mouth was when it came to educating people about guns, shooting, and self defense. I enjoyed our interaction during the relatively short time that I knew him, and I'm saddened for his employees and his family - which, from all accounts, were nearly indistinguishable. That’s just the kind of person he was.
Rob Pincus knew Mark for some time, and penned a touching eulogy over at The Truth About Guns. Please go read it in honor of a great friend to all shooters.
-=[ Grant ]=-
There is a strong tendency in the world of shooting to apply concepts and techniques from the military to private sector self defense. I've written about this concept of context mismatch before, and the upshot is that it almost always works poorly. Just because the military uses guns and we carry guns doesn't make the two worlds analogous!
One of those misapplications is the work of Colonel John Boyd, particularly his OODA Loop (also called Boyd's Loop or Boyd's Cycle.) There are a lot of scholarly works on his theories which I'll leave the uninitiated to discover on their own, but the OODA Loop has been applied to everything from fighter dogfights to football teams - along with defensive shooting.
The issue is that it's not a good fit. A defensive response to a criminal attack doesn't allow for the kind of maneuver-to-advantage thinking that the Loop covers. "Getting inside your opponent's Loop" sounds great and tacticool as all get-out, but when an encounter's duration is measured in seconds that's simply not realistic.
Some years back I started an email conversation with Rob Pincus, who at the time I didn't know but whose writing had impressed me. I was then studying the ideas of stimulus-response and their application to defensive shooting, and over the next few years - first by email and then in person - we talked about that. Rob, like I, was convinced that application of the OODA Loop was incorrect in the context of private sector self defense and the criminal ambush attack. As his understanding of the brain's processing of information and how it uses pattern recognition to make non-cognitive decisions grew, he evolved a different way of looking at the subject.
He just wrote a new paper called "Evolution of the OODA Loop", and it's a highly recommended read. (There's a ton of background information from the world of neuroscience that's implicit in his conclusions, and if you're interested in a readable layman's introduction to some of the topics, I suggest the book "Blink' by Malcolm Gladwell.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
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!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Those of you who've been reading my work for any length of time might have noticed that I don't spend a lot of time talking about calibers, stopping power, or any of that nonsense - especially as it relates to self defense. That's because I believe that there are more important things with which to be concerned, things beyond those trite topics which are the staple of gun magazines and online forums.
I approach teaching with the same attitude; I tend not to get wrapped up in learning some trendy new technique to show off to my students, but instead I spend time learning how to be a better teacher, how to communicate more effectively, how to bring concepts and ideas to life for my students.
Stan Kenton once said of Lee Konitz that he was someone who was in constant study; perfection was not enough, and he was intent on achieving even greater heights. Konitz is an inspiration to me for that reason.
A chance encounter a few years back put me into contact with people in the defensive shooting world who share those same ideals. One you know, and one you should: Rob Pincus and Omari Broussard. Their passion for teaching is infectious, and I'm lucky to be able to rub shoulders with them.
Several months ago an interesting email conversation started between us, and it’s a conversation that today is causing ripples in the defensive shooting community. Rob was intent on getting a handle on the slippery notion of what constitutes a professional in this field. He was interested in statements, in descriptions, in measurements of what a professional instructor believes and how he/she puts those beliefs into practice
He started the brainstorming session by offering up a few ideas. Omari and I gave our feedback and some ideas of our own, and before long we had seven statements that we believed described the essence of professional instruction. It wasn't just us, though - they were shared with some of the most respected and progressive people in the business, who each gave their own feedback (and sometimes justified criticism.) Soon those statements, through the oversight of many, had become principles - tenets - of defensive training.
I wrote in my SHOT Show recap that there had been an informal meeting of some of the training field's best and brightest teachers. It was at that meeting that these tenets were revealed for the first time to a large group of people, and I must say that their reaction was almost unbelievably positive. We had people who espoused many different positions on what they were teaching, but who quickly found solid common ground on how they should teach and on what an instructor should be. We all signed the same document that said, in essence, "this is what I, too, believe."
Last week, in an article over at Downrange TV, Rob formally unveiled the "Code of the Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor" to the world. If you haven't seen it yet, go read his article. Many people in the training community are now coming forward and saying that they agree with the rest of us, and that they too strive to be professionals.
This is just the beginning. More great things are coming, and soon.
I'm proud to have played some small part in what may be a seminal event in the defensive shooting world. We have agreement from a wide range of professionals not about guns or calibers or stances or reloading techniques, but rather the important stuff: how we teach, how we evolve, how we behave, and how we bring the best we can to our students.
As I said, go read Rob's article and the Seven Tenets. Then, for the next seven days, I'll be exploring each of those tenets here. I'll explain what I think about each one, why I thought it should be included in the Code, and how it affects what I teach and why I teach it. (That's right, seven back-to-back days of blogging - and you won't want to miss a single one!)
In case you got here from an outside link, here are the links to the individual entries (updated as each one is posted):
Tenet #1: “I am committed to the safety of my students, and hold that the expected benefit of any training activity must significantly outweigh any known or perceived risk of that activity.”
Tenet #2: "I believe that it is my responsibility to understand not just what I’m teaching, but WHY I’m teaching any technique or concept, or offering specific advice."
Tenet #3: "I recognize that defensive shooting skills, along with the drills and gear used, are inherently specialized and usually distinct from those of target shooting, competition and hunting endeavors."
Tenet #4: "I will encourage my students to ask questions about course material, and I will answer them with thorough and objective explanations."
Tenet #5: "I understand that Integrity and Professionalism are subjective traits and I strive to maintain high levels of both. I am capable of, and willing to, articulate the reasons for the way I conduct my courses and how I interact with students & peers."
Tenet #6: "I believe that it is valuable to engage my peers in constructive conversation about differences in technique and concept, with the goal of mutual education and evolution."
Tenet #7: "I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution."
-=[ Grant ]=-
In my SHOT Show recap, I mentioned that there was an informal meeting of movers and shakers in the defensive training field. Rob Pincus has posted over a DRTV about that meeting, and what came out of it. I think you'll find it interesting!
-=[ Grant ]=-
I received a couple of critical emails in regard to last week's post about the double tap and its applicability to realistic defensive training. The gist of both, and sadly predictable, was that I wasn't fit to polish the boots of Jeff Cooper, who was an advocate of the practice.
My reply: one can question an opinion without being insolent to the person who holds it. As individuals we should do so, but as teachers we must.
I then referred them to an article called "Respectful Irreverence" by Rob Pincus, which I first read in 2008 and which marked a turning point in my outlook on the training world. It's a classic that deserves a few minutes of your time to read.
Just because I happen to disagree with someone doesn’t mean that I don’t admire them or appreciate their contributions to the field. At the same time, I don’t engage in hero worship - it is not conducive to independent, critical thought.
-=[ Grant ]=-
As it happens, this year’s SHOT was a record-breaker: more than 61,000 attendees, with 2,466 of those being media (including yours truly!)
I'll start today with what I didn't see: any big introductions from the major revolver manufacturers. Smith & Wesson had a couple of Performance Center variants (I'd not seen the Model 647 Varminter before), Ruger was showing the previously announced four-inch SP101 in .38/.357 and .22LR (the smallbore having vastly improved sights), while Colt didn’t show any double action revolvers - and probably won't any time soon.
I had a great chat with Brent Turchi, the head of Colt's Custom Shop. He said that new revolvers weren't in the cards for at least a few years yet, and if they ever do release a new wheelgun it will probably be something like a King Cobra or Anaconda, or possibly a lightweight concealed carry piece based on the SFVI/Magnum Carry action. It’s all just speculation at this point, he emphasized.
The Python is gone for good, he said - too expensive to make, and they no longer have the skilled workforce to do so even if they could justify it economically. In fact, the people who today work repairing Pythons are nearing retirement, and when they go a lot of knowledge and skill will go with them. On the plus side, 2011 was a very good year for Colt as they were able to sell tons of 1911s. Of course.
The big handgun news at SHOT was the official U.S. introduction of the Caracal pistol. This is a new polymer striker fired pistol made in (of all places) the United Arab Emirates. Apparently the UAE has decided that even their large oil reserves won't last forever, and have decided to get into manufacturing firearms. Their first products are full-size (think Glock 17) and compact (Glock 19-ish) pistols in 9mm (.40 S&W versions will come later this year.) The Caracal is the brainchild of Wilhelm Bubits, former Glock employee and designer of the Steyr M series of pistols. His new design borrows some elements from the Steyr, but most of it is new.
I first heard about the Caracal when Rob Pincus went to Italy last year and found a couple of his students armed with this unknown handgun. Apparently it's been sold in Italy and a few other places for almost two years, and the reports he got from those students were glowing. The guns were used hard during the three days of intense training, and there were no failures. That says a lot about the design.
The Caracal is unusual in that everything inside the gun is modular. The fire control group in the frame, as well as the striker assembly in the slide, are modules that are quickly and easily removed for service, and just as easily replaced. The bore axis is very low, approaching that of an HK P7, while the slide mass has been reduced. The result, I'm told from those who have fired them, is reduced recoil impulse and muzzle rise.
Ergonomics, even for my small hands, are superb. The Caracal fits me better than either the Glock or the Steyr, and I can even hit the magazine release without too much contortion! The trigger is very smooth, very linear (once you get past take-up, of course) and has a nice, jar-free letoff. It's very impressive.
What is also impressive is the construction quality. The machining, inside and out, is superb - the underside of their slide makes a Glock look like a gravel road. Everything is polished, there are no tool marks, and even the plastic castings are perfectly clean. This is top-notch quality, an amazing feat for a young company.
Caracal was all over Vegas; all of the buses for the convention had Caracal banners on their sides, their booth was large and set up for doing lots of business, and their marketing materials were big-league. The folks behind Caracal have invested a ton of money into both the product and the marketing, and it's obvious that they intend to be a big player in this business. If the product holds up to its promise, I think they will be. (Oddly enough, despite seemingly being on top of every little detail they still haven’t gotten their USA website up - even though the URL is printed on all their materials!)
I'm impressed with the gun, and so was nearly everyone I talked to who'd seen it. I think this might be one of the top autoloading pistol choices for defensive shooting, particularly when the sub-compact versions come out later this year. Caracal is worth watching.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Tom Givens is someone you should know. Tom and his wife Lynn run Rangemaster down in Memphis, Tennessee, where they teach people to protect themselves with a handgun.
Now, Tom and Lynn aren't your average instructors; while you may not have heard of them, they command respect from the rest of us in the defensive training field because of the top-flight instruction they provide to their students. Rangemaster occupies a very interesting place in the self defense universe because their students have been involved in (at last count) over 60 self-defense shootings -- with stunning results.
Memphis, as Tom tells me, is a very violent city that exists inside of a strong self-defense gun culture. The result is that bad guys in Memphis very often come up against legally armed good guys, and if those good guys (and gals) trained at Rangemaster they almost invariably come out on top.
Tom has taken the time to interview those students who had to pull the trigger in self defense, and today has the best database of private sector defensive shootings that exists. He's very thorough in his debriefs, and because of that the rest of us have hard data on which to base our training.
Recently Tom sat down with Rob Pincus and produced a DVD in the Personal Firearms Defense series. Titled "Lessons From The Street", it details ten of his student's incidents with lots of detail and lessons learned. I recently got a copy, and it is definitely worth your effort to acquire.
The realities that he presents may change your perceptions of what actually happens in a fight, and can help you evaluate (and perhaps change) your own training to reflect the realities of a criminal attack.
Tom tells me that he’s still got a few copies left, and you can get yours for $14.95 plus postage. To order, get your credit card ready and give Rangemaster a call at 901-370-5600. It’s a terrific and unique resource that you shouldn’t be without.
-=[ Grant ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
On Monday, Rob Pincus posted a note on the I.C.E. Training Facebook page about his opposition to open carry (OC). This is one of Rob's personal 'hot button' issues, and he doesn't shy away from the debate. (Rob doesn't shy away from much, actually, but particularly so with regards to this topic.) It garnered a lot of attention, making the cut at both Gunnuts and Say Uncle (amongst others.)
Given my association with Rob and I.C.E., it wasn't terribly surprising that I should receive an email asking, in essence, if I agree with everything he says. Sometimes yes, sometimes a little less so, but not for the reasons you might think.
On the self defense aspects, I think OC when concealed carry (CC) is available (which is darned near all of the country these days) is silly. I won't debate that point of view at this time, but for now I'll just say that I don't believe OC has any advantage over CC from a tactical standpoint.
On the social and political fronts the situation is a little less clear. I often wonder if the civil rights activists of the 1960s and the gay rights activists of more recent memory would have made the gains they did without their open and sometimes controversial exercise of their rights. Just fifty years ago restaurants and theaters were routinely segregated; thanks to the confrontational activities of civil rights advocates, today integration is so normal that we don't even think about it. The same could be said for abortions and being openly gay.
Whether you agree or disagree with those subjects isn't important to this discussion - what is important is that what was normal was changed, thanks to people who were willing to stand up for their rights and risk ridicule and arrest to mold society's opinions.
To say that such activity was acceptable for them, but not for Second Amendment advocates, seems on the surface to be a little inconsistent.
OC activists insist they're doing the same things for the same reasons, and it would seem to be a hard argument to dismiss. I do think, however, that there is a big difference between open carriers and civil rights marchers: the rights being defended here are already well established (if not in fashion), and are subject to a different standard of comportment. It's called "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Rosa Parks was doing something that the law said she couldn't. Open carriers are doing something that the law already says they can. That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it is.
If OC advocates were carrying guns in areas where laws unjustly say they can't, then I'd support them fully. The problem is they're not, and in my opinion that removes the civil rights rationale from their argument. Carrying a gun openly in a city like Portland, where it is against the law, is advocating for change and pushing people to recognize other's civil rights. Doing it in an area where it's allowed, even if uncommon and misunderstood, is usually just grandstanding.
I understand the argument that rights which are not exercised are ripe for abrogation, and that OC is a strong exercise of Second Amendment rights. That doesn't mean one needs to do so from a posture of defiant confrontation, which seems to be the norm for open carriers. We already possess those rights, and it's incumbent upon us to exercise them responsibly and intelligently. Like it or not, that means not scaring the public.
Yes, people who are scared of the sight of guns are irrational. I agree. Yes, cops who don't know the nuances of the law are ignorant. I agree. Getting belligerent in public isn't going to change either of those. Want to advocate for actual social change? Open carry in a city where it's illegal; get arrested like the civil right marchers did, then use that to help publicize your case for the repeal of unjust and unconstitutional laws.
That's real political activism. Being a contentious loudmouth on YouTube isn’t.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Rob Pincus asked one of his favorite questions on the (members only) U.S. Concealed Carry forum last week: "what have you changed your mind about?"
It's a simple question, and it's amazing how many people couldn't answer it. The most common reply sounds like something from a cookie-cutter PR firm: "Of course the world is in a constant state of change, and the prudent man, woman, or transgender individual is best advised to take note of such change and incorporate that which is applicable to his or her current situation to prepare for the future." Reading some of the responses reminded me of the old joke about the politician talking about prohibition: "some of mah friends are for it, and some of mah friends are against it. I tell you here and now, that I stand forthrightly behind mah friends!"
The question isn't concerned about what's changed around you, but rather in what has changed inside of you.
We all make decisions and adopt opinions based on any number of inputs, including raw evidence, our emotional reactions to factual information, and (all too often) what someone else thinks about those things. The problem is that we tend to treat those opinions and conclusions as static even as the world around us shifts. At some point our original positions are likely to become outdated, and some will be downright wrong. It's whether - and why - we make a conscious decision to amend or replace those positions that's important. If we're observant and engaged, we change our minds about things. If not, we persist in beliefs and practices that may not be congruent with the current realities.
Prejudices are like that. My late father grew up in a time and a place where anyone with white skin was deemed to be of lesser intelligence, honesty, and motivation. ("Stupid, lazy liars" in the vernacular.) Over the years he would be put into contact with one ethnic group after another and be forced to change his opinion of that group. Unfortunately he wasn't able to extrapolate those experiences to cover all ethnicities, but he was at least able to find common ground with Japanese, Hispanic, American Indian, and Chinese people. He changed his mind based on his first-hand experiences.
That kind of change is hard for some of us because it means admitting that, in some way, we're wrong about something. That might be because we misinterpreted something along the way, or it might mean that new facts or evidence were uncovered. It might mean that we relied too much on others to shape our opinions for us, or it might simply mean that we've grown up. We might have been right at one point, but the growth of the rest of society rendered our original position untenable.
Whether we changed or the universe changed is irrelevant to this discussion; what's important is how we ourselves adapt to that change. Can we accept new facts and evidence, or are we going to bury our heads in the sand?
Case in point: for a long time I've held an opinion about Taurus revolvers that is now evolving, based on their increasing levels of quality. Am I ready to put them on the same level as the market leaders - S&W and Ruger? Not quite, but I am willing to admit that perhaps they are making headway in product quality. I'm revisiting my opinions in response to what's going on around me, and I look forward to the day when I can say I've changed my mind about them.
Don't assume that I'm talking only about physical things (people, guns.) I'm also talking about concepts. How and what we train is subject to the same dynamic of change. For instance, I used to practice and teach one-handed shooting with the gun canted strongly toward the centerline. The idea is that it straightened the wrist (which it did) and increased recoil control (which it also did.) The problem is that it's much harder for the eye/brain combination to correctly align the gun on target when both the x- and y-axis are in abnormal positions. This is especially true when shooting quickly, as it significantly degrades one’s balance of speed and precision. The increase in recoil control, which enables the shooter to get back on target faster, is negated by the increased time required for the shooter to recognize and apply the necessary deviation control.
My opinion was wrong because I focused on an overly narrow aspect of the shooting task. I changed my mind based upon a broader understanding of what I was trying to achieve, and as a result no longer teach or practice that technique.
What specifically have you changed your mind about? What do you consciously believe or practice today that's different than, say, a year or two ago? Why?
-=[ Grant ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
He discovers that maybe he didn't know as much as he thought he did. Great writeup of the NE Shooters' 2011 Summit over at The Tactical Wire.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Gosh, thanks for the tremendous response! I managed to divert a few more copies, so everyone who responded should get one.
Exactly a year ago I mentioned that I'd just finished a project with Rob Pincus, but I couldn't yet talk about it. Today I reveal all!
We collaborated on a DVD in his renowned "Personal Firearm Defense" series. Titled - what else? - "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", it features Rob and yours truly talking about and demonstrating a variety of issues related to the revolver in self defense. It turned out great!
The DVD has been released through the NRA's Personal Defense DVD Collection, and perhaps one other venue as well. I hope to have them for sale here at grantcunningham.com after the first of the year.
-=[ Grant ]=-
P.S.: Those who know me, or have seen pictures of me, may be surprised that I'm not wearing my glasses in this DVD. The director's first question when setting up the lighting was "do you need those glasses for anything?" "Well, only if I want to see..." Apparently that wasn’t sufficiently important, and I ended up spending two days thinking "don't squint at the camera, don't squint at the camera!" Such is the price of stardom, I’m told.
The Outdoor Channel hosts a variety of shooting shows these days, and here's our chance to encourage them to show more!
Every year they have a contest, called the Golden Moose Awards (I know, I know) for the fan's favorite shows. Visitors to their site can vote in several categories, including Best New Series, Favorite Series, and Favorite Host. I encourage everyone to vote!
Why? (Other than the chance to win some cash?) Because the staple of most outdoor programming is the old fashioned huntin' and fishin' show. They dress them up with different hosts (why oh why do they always have southern accents?) but the format remains the same. It appeals to a specific demographic, one that despite a lifetime of hunting and fishing I just don't fit. (Fishing on television is substantially more boring than golf on television. Hard to believe but true.)
Outdoor Channel has taken some gambles by lessening their dependence on the blaze orange crowd and putting on some general shooting shows: American Shooter, Impossible Shots, Shooting Gallery, and more. The last couple of seasons they've taken bigger risks with dedicated tactical/training shows: SWAT Magazine TV, The Best Defense, and American Guardian. It's time to show them that we appreciate their programming!
The Revolver Liberation Alliance endorses specific candidates in the Golden Moose Awards. Please go to Outdoor Channel's voting page and cast your ballots for the following:
Fan Favorite Best Overall Series: The Best Defense
Fan Favorite New Series in 2010: S.W.A.T. Magazine TV
Fan Favorite Hunting Series: - No Choice -
Fan Favorite Fishing Series - No Choice -
Fan Favorite Host(s): Rob Pincus
You only get one vote (even if you do live in Chicago), so make it count!
-=[ Grant ]=-
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.
The 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 ]=-
I haven't done a Wednesday Wanderings post for a while, but since I took the holiday off what would have been posted Monday got shuffled to today.
So, what's going on in the world? Well, Tam continues her slide to a greener lifestyle. She's almost to the point where she could move to Portland and lobby for more bike paths to further clog traffic. (I'll bet she's developed a taste for tofu, too.)
The Firearm Blog recently posted a great old television commercial for the Mattel "Tommy Burst" gun. Someone I knew as a kid had one of these, though for the life of me I can't remember who it was nor do I remember the commercial. I do, however, remember the sound the bolt made as it was pulled back. Fun toy that would cause apoplexy of sold today. (Readers of a certain vintage will recognize the voice of the narrator and the face of the bad guy as both belonging to Hal Smith, the great character actor and voice artist.)
Gabe Suarez recently posted an interesting article of the value of simplicity in training. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but his point about not having unlimited time to train is spot-on. That point alone deserves an entire article.
As if the Judge phenomenon couldn't get any sillier, I give you the Tactical Judge. Make of it what you will.
Rob Pincus recently returned from a teaching stint in South Africa, where he made this video of a Glock suppressor that he (and I) didn't even know existed. Square (of course), made of plastic (what else?), and disposable (!!), it fits on a special barrel that Glock also sells.
Cool stuff, but why in 'repressed' South Africa are these things freely available, but here in the 'free' United States are they demonized and heavily regulated?
Happy Wednesday, everyone!
-=[ Grant ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
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 ]=-
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 range...no, 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 ]=-
A while back I shared my concept of the shooting stance, about how it was really a type of scaffold - a device by which one can build skills, and of limited utility past that point.
Well, it turns out that I'm not alone at the Blessed Bovine Abattoir - Rob Pincus has a new video up at the Personal Defense Network giving his take on the concept of the stance. Watch it with an open mind.
-=[ Grant ]=-
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.
That situation is about to change: the Personal Defense Network has gone "live"!
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.
-=[ Grant ]=-
AN ADVENTURE: Spent some time last week working on a project with Rob Pincus. You'll have to wait a while to hear the details, but a good and educational time was had by all. (Yes, Rob, it's still raining here.)
LUBRIPLATE COMES THROUGH: Got an email from Alex Taylor, a District Manager at Lubriplate. They're now selling the superb SFL #0 grease in consumer quantities in their online store! Comes in a 14oz can for $23.01, plus shipping. Glad to see them recognizing the firearms market; now let's see if we can get them to sell their FMO-AW oil in small quantities too!
THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN EVERY DAY: Remington recently announced that they've produced their ten millionth 870 series shotgun. I knew they were popular, but ten freakin' million? I would never have guessed anything close to that. The shotgun, it appears, is alive and well in America.
THIS IS JUST WRONG: I'll take some of what I just said back: certain shotguns are alive, but not well. Apparently trying to out-silly the S&W TRR8, Stoeger recently announced the availability of the Double Defense - a tactical side-by-side shotgun. Yes, a SxS with a fore-end rail. Black, of course. (Folks, I couldn't possibly make up something like this. It takes a marketing department to do so.)
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: A University of Alabama prof has claimed to have invented a revolutionary sighting system that promotes "intuitive aim." Knowledgeable readers will recognize the concept as being eerily reminiscent of the Steyr "trapezoid" sights as used on the 'M' and 'S' series pistols, which have been available for a decade now. Hmmm...
-=[ Grant ]=-
A few weeks back, I took some flak for suggesting that a working knowledge of cognitive science - especially neuropsychology - was a valuable instructional tool. Such knowledge allows an instructor to better serve his/her students, and gives the students the tools they need to self-correct aberrant behaviors. Some apparently don't believe this, or perhaps simply don't understand why.
Some years ago I was having a specific shooting problem, one which I had a great deal of difficulty solving. During a course I approached my instructor, a person of some renown in the business, with the issue. I was hoping to gain an insight as to what I could do to solve the problem, but the response was a curt and dismissive "dry fire." I countered that I had done quite a bit of that, and it wasn't helping. "You need to do it more," was the conversation-ending reply.
As it happens the problem couldn't have been helped by any amount of dry fire, but it took me quite some time to figure that out. In retrospect it was obvious, but only because I'd gone to a great deal of trouble learning how the brain works (without which I'd never have found the solution.)
Why was dry fire not the answer? Well, Rob Pincus recently wrote a terrific piece titled "Dry Reps can lead to Poor Performance" which answers that question. Rob is one of the few people in this field who has a good grasp of how the brain interprets information and makes decisions, and he's applied that knowledge to his Combat Focus courses.
A little close observation will support his contentions; for instance, I notice that even relatively new shooters have no problem learning how to reload their autopistols. Push the button, the magazine drops out, insert new magazine, release slide using whatever method one prefers. Easy, right? Physically, yes.
The issue comes when it's time to reload during a string of fire. When the gun goes empty, the student usually try several times to shoot again, only slowly realizing that there is a problem. They tip the muzzle up and observe that the slide is locked back, then stop for a second or two while their mind confronts the situation: "Oh, I need to reload!" The physical manipulation of the reload proceeds smoothly and quickly, compared to the awkward moments before the decision to reload was made.
Dry reps will not make the situation better, but rather will reinforce this behavior. Rob explains why.
(Interestingly, I've observed the same phenomenon among some "experienced" instructors. They may have practiced slide-lock reloads dry, but since that practice lacked context they never developed the reflexive sequence of recognizing an empty gun and reloading it efficiently.)
Read the article carefully, as there is some terrific information to be gleaned.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Lots of linking to avoid thinking on my own!
Xavier recently posted a letter from - and his response to - one of his readers. The exchange (and the comments that follow) bring up important issues in the area of Second Amendment activism. It isn't always black-and-white.
When you've finished reading Xavier, pop over to Breda's place and read this related article she posted about a month ago. (I realize it's a bit late, and I'd meant to bring it up earlier, but just kept forgetting.)
Rob Pincus is one of the more thoughtful trainers working today. He's got a great post up on the Breach-Bang-Clear blog about putting techniques on pedestals. Highly recommended read.
Speaking of Rob, I discovered that he has a blog of his own. Good stuff.
Not just techniques get put on pedestals; equipment does too. There are the 1911 people, the Glock folks, the "any caliber as long as it begins with '4' " crowd, and so on. I suppose one could accuse me of doing the same thing with wheelguns (retro pedestal?), but I'm on record as saying - more than once - that the revolver isn't the perfect tool for everyone and every purpose.
For example, a number of years ago I was engaged in an activity of some risk. For that, I forsook my beloved revolver for a Glock and all the high capacity magazines I could fit under a suit coat. I believe in picking the right tool for the job; it just so happens that, for some jobs, the revolver is at least one of the right tools.
Rejoice! Tam has finally posted a new article over at The Arms Room. (I was beginning to think she'd given up writing about guns...)
-=[ Grant ]=-