There is something pretty about a knife. Not sure what the attraction is exactly but I like them. I also know that I don’t like getting stuck with one and therefore I have much respect for them.
So, I’ve been looking for a new knife, something I could carry, and preferably a fixed blade knife. This of course has led to what seems like 100’s of websites and most all come back to knife fighting. Remember that is not where this started nor is it what I’m interested in, with perhaps the simple use of weapon retention. My concept on that subject has always been, if they don’t know you have a gun you won’t have to fight for retention.
Well I’ve found some beautiful knives but then I ran across KNIFE laws. Were you aware that there are laws regarding the carrying of knives? Concealed or open carry? The world has changed since I was a young man. Back then if you broke a law you were punished. Today it seems that if someone breaks a law the government wants to create a new law that punishes the rest of us . . . but that is the subject of another day.
These are very nice looking knives, I want one. They are from Dynamis Alliance, check their website.
During this search for knives of course I ran into a lot of blogs. I found this one, “Knife Fighting, A Reality Break” and the article struck me because I could apply the same thoughts to firearms training. Lots of good stuff to read at No Nonsense Self-Defense.
The source of violence is not poverty.
It is not gender. It is not race.
It is not lack of education. It is not society.
It is self-interest. And on this front,
the self-proclaimed pacifists are no less violent
than those who use physical violence… they
just use different methodologies and tactics. Marc MacYoung
As with guns if you choose to use a tool for a weapon there is a ton of things you must know. You must have the correct mindset. You must know the laws. You must take training. You must practice frequently. If you’re not happy with the “Must-dos” then don’t, carry them.
In the motor skills required to be effective with a gun often people overlook the very minor skills that allow the best to do what they do.
Using a handgun in self-defense really boils down to the simple action of drawing the gun, placing it on target and moving the trigger without moving the gun. Sounds very simple, right? Well it can be but we often think of the draw stroke as one skill when the reality is it is a combination of several skills all done in the correct sequence which allows for an accurate, precisely placed shot, accomplished very fast.
I always tell my students if you want to shoot fast and accurate you must first be accomplished at shooting accurately. If you cannot make the finite precise shot you will never be able to do it fast.
That is the starting point in eating this elephant; break it down into its basic component parts, practice, and master each one, commit it to long term procedural memory and then let the mind run the gun. So, let’s start with the first bite, shooting accurately.
Good shooters can often achieve a 15 MOA degree of accuracy when shooting at a target 100 yards away. Basically, it means you can hit a 15” circle at 100 yards with your handgun, assuming you have developed the skills required to grip the gun correctly AND move the trigger without moving the gun. Now let’s move this up much closer, say 7 yards. At 7 yards a 15 MOA equates to an extreme group spread of 1.1”. Few students can do that and often the simple reason is they believe they are so close that the perfect trigger press is not required, but it is. Many instructors teach that defensive accuracy is all that is required, that you only need to hit a 10” circle at 7 yards and then the student shoots faster than they are capable of. I believe that you want to have that 15 MOA skill ingrained in long term procedural memory as during a violent encounter you are going to go as fast as possible and if your mind knows that precise shot your accuracy will be far better than if you only attained the ability to hit a 10” target at 7 yards.
Work on finite precision, it can save yours or another life. Imagine your loved one is being held at gun point at 7 yards and your only shot is the critical tee (CNS) to save that person’s life. Can you make that shot?
That is one skill of the seven needed to put an accurate fast on target from the holster. So, let’s work our way back to the start. To make that shot we must place the sights on target with the least amount of movement. If you bowl from the holster, meaning you roll the gun out like a bowling ball you have wasted an enormous amount of time because you will not have sights on target until you’ve fully extended the gun to the target. You need to be pressing that trigger at that point, not searching for your sights or the desired point of impact. This is where all your misses come from. That distance from your chest to full extend is your accuracy zone, it is where you get the sights on target before you extend.
To accomplish this the gun must be moving in a straight line from your chest area to the desired point of impact. This means that the gun is moving upward and forward coming into line with your line of sight. The gun starts about chest high under your dominant eye, your shooting elbow, arm, and wrist are all in line with the target and you have joined your hands on the gun. It would begin approximately three to four inches from your chest and then you accurately move the gun to the target making minute adjustments to ensure the sights are aligned at the full extend position. The slide must be parallel with your line of site, not pointing up or down. If you were to press the trigger at that point the bullet should impact very close to where you want it to. This is a learned skill, it does not happen by accident and it requires practice. Learn to point your gun accurately.
To get to this retention position in front of your chest you must pull the gun straight up from the holster to that position and rotate the muzzle on to the target. Consistent placement will greatly improve your accuracy. If you do not put the gun in the same place every time in the retention position you will be inconsistent in your accuracy.
To get the gun out of the holster consistently you must grip the gun correctly with the shooting hand before you pull it from the holster. When observing newer defensive shooters, I often see a weak shooting grip right out of the holster at which point they either must adjust their grip or shoot with a weak grip. The result of not having that perfect grip shows on the target in missed hits.
And we get there by dry practicing over and over
So here we are, where we start. Seven skills, linked together in an economy of motion, performed by the mind with subconscious, procedural memory. If you want to shoot fast and accurate it is far more than just aiming, in fact often for a good shooter there is no aiming, they see a ghost image of the sights in the correct place on the target and the trigger moves smoothly to the rear without imparting any movement in the gun.
To commit this sequence to long term memory you must practice the movements, slowly, perfectly, and frequently, daily is best. It does not require firing a cartridge and can be accomplished in the comfort of your home with an empty gun. This is practice. Going to the range and punching holes in paper is called playing, it is not practice if every round is not measured either in score or score and time. If you have already formed long term memories from you range practice, there is a good chance you are doing it wrong and it will take MANY repetitions doing to correctly to erase the bad habits you have developed.
Almost three years ago, I took a class from a competitive shooter I know. I learned I was doing most things correctly but I was manipulating the trigger in a way that was costing me time on follow up shots. It took 10,000 plus rounds to correct that bad ingrained habit. I would suggest you learn correctly in the beginning, practice daily and follow up with your instructor to ensure you do not ingrain bad habits because it is far easier to learn it correctly than to repair a bad habit that could get you killed.
Often it is hard to get to a class where you can run and gun but you still need to get some trigger time to measure the effectiveness of your dry practice.
Clearly the key to placing fast and accurate rounds on target is to place accurate rounds on target and working on that extreme accuracy is critical in developing bullet proof neural pathway programming. One drill that will help you get there is the MOA Drill.
The concept is to be able to shoot within a certain degree of accuracy regardless of distance. All handguns that I’ve ever shot can shoot a 25 MOA so let’s start with that.
Standing at two yards away from a blank white target backer. Shoot one shot at a blank area and then try to hit that hole with two more rounds. Repeat this for five groups of three shots. You will find this challenging because you have no visual reference for your first shot. I got 80% yesterday, successfully making three one shot holes on four of the five efforts.
Second step will be shot again standing at two yards, using 5 of the ½” circles from a sheet of Shoot N C targets, place three rounds touching the dot on each of the 5 dots. Record your score. Yesterday I got 80% or I made three hits on four of the five dots. The score is not how many bullets hit the dots, it’s how many dots where hit with all three bullets.
Next step is standing at three yards, using five 1” Shoot N C dots repeat the drill, three shots at five 1” Dots. Yesterday I missed one shot of the 15 for an 80% or making the three hits on four of the five targets. This was easier than the first two steps. The one inch dot looked huge at three yards.
Now let’s move to five yards and repeat the three shots on five 2” Shoot N C targets. Again, the target looks huge and apparently it was because I made all 15 hits for a 100% score.
Moving back to seven yards, shoot five 3” Shoot N C targets, it was far easier because the target appears big.
Moving back to thirteen yards, shoot five 6” Shoot N C targets with three rounds each. Again, this was easy.
Had I started with the 6” target I believe the drill would have been psychologically more challenging but by starting with a blank piece of paper with nothing to aim at and having to hit that hole on demand, everything just got easier at each distance.
In essence the degree of accuracy from the tip of your muzzle to the target of each of these is ½” per yard or 25 MOA. When you get to where you can do this at 100% you can increase the challenge in several different ways. Set a time limit for each shot or increase the distances. When you can shoot this at 100% your confidence should increase dramatically and it will validate all those dry trigger presses you have been doing at home. Additionally, it can be done at any range, even indoors while it is pouring rain outside.
This is going to be quick and on point. If you want to shoot better, you first must know how well you shoot and then you must know how to improve on where you’re at. You cannot go from having never shot a gun to gun fighter overnight so don’t expect instantaneous success.
Other than a drill you shot with score and time do you really know how well you shoot? Probably not, most of the people I know just want to get better, they haven’t a clue on what and how to improve. Here’s the big secret, eat the elephant. The very simple act of drawing the gun and firing a shot is comprised of several linked skills not one giant movement and the only way you can improve is if you improve on each of those linked skills.
You might find that the simple act of gripping the gun in the holster with your shooting hand is beneath your level of concern because . . . well it is so very simple how could that be wrong. If so then you would be wrong. If not done perfectly, repeatable, and subconscious it can always be much better and you know what happens when you get the gun out there and shooting hand is in the wrong spot. You miss.
Does your shot cleanly break at the exact moment your arms hit full extension or just before OR do you then start trying to find your sight picture? You should have your sight picture complete in those last few milliseconds as the gun is approaching full extension and the shot should fire as soon as it is on target whether you’ve hit full extension or not.
At the compressed ready position where is your muzzle pointing? As you begin to push the gun towards the target if you need to make major adjustments to your wrist angle it will cost you time and often we see a corresponding miss in the direction of the angular change. The muzzle of the gun really should be on the desired point of impact at the retention ready position. Angular misalignment at the start is a problem that will only create more problems when you’re under pressure.
So how you figure this all out is to take slow-motion videos of your timed draw stroke. Place the target at least 5 yards away. You want the shot to be long enough so you must make a good solid hit. If you miss, erase it, and start over with the next video. Take video of at least five shots, more is better and then watch.
Do they look identical? It should look like you are watching the same shot over and over. If you see variation in each movement it simply means you have not practiced it sufficiently for it to be in your long-term memory and your neural pathways are poorly defined if at all.
Are there extraneous movements? The fastest way to do something is to eliminate unneeded movement. If you see the gun moving up and down all that is doing is slowing down the time needed to make the shot.
Is the slide right on your line of sight for the last three to six inches of the extend motion? If not, you must make an adjustment at the end of the extend which will cost you time and/or accuracy. Those last inches are critical in making that last final micro-adjustment to your sight picture.
Now if you wish to see what your draw stroke really looks like have someone video it while you are going as fast you can and still make the hit. Videoing your movements while going very slowly will not give you a lot of useful information, going slow was what you should have been doing during your dry fire practice. If you want to improve you must learn what you don’t know, in this case your draw stroke.
The next step, share the video with your coach or your instructor, dissect it to look for the large, obvious areas of opportunity and then go dry practice those changes and measure your progress with video and live fire monthly. Keep in mind it only takes about 300 perfect repetitions to ingrain a motor skill but it can take more than 3000 perfect repetitions to correct a bad, range habit.
Regardless of skill level, if you want to get better it will not happen in a vacuum, come see us and let us help you get there faster.
Some people have opined that Americans are lazy. Is it laziness or simply prioritization of our time?
In my life there are ‘have-to’s, things that have to be done, most likely now or very soon. On a second level there are the ‘need-tos’, things of a lower priority that could wait until later but yet still at some point must be accomplished. And then finally there are the ‘want to’s, things that I want to do, often these are lower on my priority list because there are too many of the others.
Whenever I teach a new student I always ask the simple question(s), what is your interest in guns, why do you want a CCW permit? I’m really more interested in what motivates them, if anything other than ‘want to’ and this is going to give me a lot of insight into how well that student will do. Almost all start with the standard answer, self-defense, yet when I dig further most have nothing more than they think it is wise to be armed, never having considered what the consequences are.
Fear is an awesome motivator, it is an emotion and often is not based in reality. With self-defense, emotions will almost always let you down and when they rear up they can literally land you in trouble.
I carry a gun much like I wear a seat belt. I’m not a bad driver but I realize that there are some very dangerous people out there that I could come across and I know the seat belt could save my life. With the gun, I’m not a bad person, I don’t go to places where I am exposed to those types but guess what, there are a lot of them and there is a chance I might come across one. Putting that gun on EVERY day is a must-do, just like putting on the seat belt. If you’re going to wear a seat belt might as well make it a good one.
When I was learning how to drive I was tentative, took my time even though I was young and to some degree reckless. As I got more time behind the wheel I became more comfortable and my skill set improved the more I did it correctly. I was actually learning how to drive a deadly weapon on the public streets with innocent people all around me.
Today I am still learning to drive my gun. I drive it a few minutes every day, I am very comfortable with it, meaning I seldom have to look at it during manipulations, I know it inside and out. I know what it takes to drive it safely and I am getting pretty good at driving it fast which is quite exhilarating. It has become a have-to need-to want-to kind of thing and for the most part takes priority over many other things in my life.
Someone asked if I felt safer carrying a gun. I responded with the question asking them if they felt safer wearing a seatbelt. Of course they could not answer that question because their intent was political, not to discover answers. I don’t feel safer; I feel secure knowing that should I run into a bad actor I have a good chance of surviving that encounter should I not be able to avoid it.
The reality of this, what makes me dry practice every day, do focused and measured live practice and measure my success with increasingly difficult drills. I don’t do it necessarily for me, I do it for those I love. I imagine and visualize what could happen to my loved one should I fail to perform if needed. That is my motivation. I have to admit, I don’t like dry practice yet I do it every day as I know without it I will NEVER rise to the next level of proficiency . . . and mediocre is not something I’ve ever hoped to accomplish.
As instructors we see all sorts of people. The majority of our students come to us because they are seeking the best training they can find. They want to learn to drive safely, some want to learn to drive fast and those are the ones who put in the effort, they turn their training and practice into a Have-To in their lives. They do not embrace wishful thinking, they do not believe that since they carry a gun they will be fine, they do not dismiss the need for continued training and focused practice.
As I’ve said before, we have the best students ever, they have their priorities set, they are motivated by logic and reason and understanding of reality and probably the only thing they wish for would be a few extra hours each day to accomplish more. Yes, we are lucky.
There is the old saying attributed to Wyatt Earp that “fast is fine but accuracy is final” and there is a lot of truth to that.
When faced with a deadly threat in a violent encounter we often say he who gets the most violent the fastest will prevail, that you need to embrace your inner violence however; one important key is missing here . . . making the hits. Wildly spraying rounds downrange will not accomplish the goal of stopping the threat. If when shooting at the range your target looks like it was hit with a shotgun rather than a rifle you need to take a step back and work on your fundamentals.
To stop a threat who will not be deterred by your shooting at them requires one of two things to happen. First you must cause rapid blood loss that will eventually (perhaps up to two minutes) cause loss of consciousness or your shot connects with the brainstem essentially severing any electrical impulses going from brain to body. The first target is much bigger; heart and assorted plumbing, lungs, liver and most are massed in the upper thoracic cavity. As the skull for the most part has greater strength than concrete there are really only two openings to the CNS, eyes and nose, which are very difficult to hit during the violent encounter. FYI, instant incapacitation seldom happens and most often the threat is psychologically defeated.
Today’s handguns have an amazing degree of accuracy built in to them. Although not widely advertised by manufacturers most handguns today can achieve a 4 minute of angle degree of accuracy. This means that without human induced movement the gun can shoot into a 4″ group at 100 yards. So clearly, handguns are way more accurate than the people who shoot them.
So the reality is, can you shoot accurately enough, fast enough to survive the determined adversary. Most people cannot, fortunately for them in most cases when a citizen presents their gun the threat turns and runs away.
In all of this it seems as if we are relying on the tool to make the decision for us rather than delineating the problem, forming a suitable solution and employing the correct skill to correct the problem, and often the gun is not the right tool. We in the business of firearms training seem to forget we should be teaching equally the use of the mind to solve the problem for as Abraham Maslow has been quoted, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
So back to the topic at hand, if you wish to shoot fast and accurate you must first be able to shoot accurately. Now given the constraints of the accuracy of the tool it would stand to reason that you should be able to stand at 3 yards away for a target and place 10 bullets touching, essentially one hole. The tool is also capable of doing the same at least out to 10 yards. Here’s the rub, virtually no one has that ability so what degree of accuracy would you consider acceptable? And how long does it take per shot to achieve that level of precision shooting?
In our SDS classes we work on this topic in our series called Time on Target (ToT). How fast and accurately can you shoot was the premise. If you consider that in the citizen involved violent confrontation from the first shot fired to last you have about 2.5 seconds to survive . . . or not.
What we determine is how fast can you shoot when accuracy is not an issue; point gun at the berm and fire a shot on the start signal. Most students do this in about 0.25 seconds. The second measurement is how fast can you fire a string of shots, assuming the split times between shots could equal your single shot time. Most students take over three seconds for an 11 shot string, essentially due to recoil control they have to slow down but still 11 rounds in 3 seconds is pretty fast.
Next we add in a degree of accuracy required. In the first scenario you are 3 yards from the threat, at the start signal you draw and fire as many rounds as you can in 2.5 seconds. An arbitrary objective was determined, you were required to get four hits in a 6″ circle in the upper chest or one hit in the critical tee box (CNS) on the face which encompasses the eyes and nose.
During the first go through with the ToT exercises a few people were able to make the four heart hits. Interestingly no one tried to make the CNS hit. The assumption was it was too small to hit but after a series of exercises starting with extreme precision shooting, then adding in speed and precision 75% plus of the students were making the CNS fast. One student was able to get 8 rounds in the CNS box in 2.5 seconds. This degree of speed and precision occurred by programming the mind to repeat a series of movements and then getting out of the minds way and letting it run the gun.
So we know people have the ability to shoot very fast and very accurately. It comes from quality programming aka training, coached and focused practice and then letting go trying to consciously run the gun.
This series of classes are held regularly and we have some students coming to every session, so much so we are having to add additional dates. Obviously a successful program as the market has dictated.
Eye protection is always required for our students. In most instances the purpose is to simply prevent dust and firing debris from hitting the eye. After a day at the range we always recommend you wash your face and hands before rubbing your eyes as both seem to be covered with fine particles.
In over 1500 classes taught we have never had a spontaneous disassembly of a firearm. This is when the gun fails under pressure of firing and metal and plastic fragments go flying with enough force to cause serious injury including your eyes.
Today we are awash with quality and attractive looking eyewear that meets the standards needed to deal with forceful impact. Every maker of products are trying to grab a piece of the firearms market but, you want to choose eyewear that exceeds the simple impact standard of ANSI and instead go for glasses that meet the military specification.
ANSI Z87.1 Standards
Shooting glasses that comply with ANSI 287.1 standards simply means they’ve been tested to offer impact or non-impact protection against hazardous objects such as fine dust particles, mist, optic radiation, liquid droplets and splashing.
U.S. MIL-PRF-31013 Standards
The minimum requirements of shooting glasses that meet U.S. military standards are such that the protective glasses must always be able to withstand a 5.8 grain, 0.15 caliber, projectile with a T37 shape, traveling at a velocity of between 639 and 661 feet per second.
Lenses are made of plastic which started out years ago being cheap with poor light control and easily scratched. I have an old pair of Maui Jims, not cheap at the time, which were scratced before I even got them home. Today there is new material that gives UVA/UVB protection, has great Light Transmission and with specialized coatings to minimize the risk of scratching.
Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is the most commonly used material in shooting or tactical glasses. It is an unbreakable, lightweight lens material and is available in Clear, Tinted, Polarized or Transitions. The strength of Polycarbonate is partially derived from its flexibility.
Trivex: Trivex was originally developed by the US Military as an improvement over polycarbonate. Trivex is the most durable lens available. Trivex has a higher Abbe Value than polycarbonate, so there is less Chromatic Abrasion in a Trivex lens (less peripheral color distortion). To get a Polarized Trivex you can order SR-91 lens material.
A few of the companies today that meet the U.S. MIL-PRF-31013 Standards are listed below. Keep in mind that all make glasses that do not meet the standard so you will need to check. They meet the need for style for many and literally could be worn every day. Currently I use Wiley-X and Oakley and am very satisfied with those two products.
If you carry a gun how good do you believe you need to be? World Class Competitor level? Competition level? Handgun Enthusiast level? Law Enforcement level? Public Range shooter level? How about I own a gun and that is good enough level?
1. BEYOND FAIL
6. Very Good
7. Scary Good
10. The Best
In improving it is really, really easy to go from FAIL to Mediocre. Taking those next steps to get to Good takes most people YEARS and YEARS of self-learning. Do yourself a favor, get a professional instructor to shorten that by YEARS.
I’m always shocked when I review the firearms industry as a whole when I look at how much money is spent on guns, ammo, gadgets and training. According to NSSF less than 1% of dollars spent goes to professional instruction.
Some folks will spend $2,000 on a new gun believing it will make them a better shooter yet they never take any training nor follow any kind of structured practice regime. How about a $500 reflex site and a machined slide to hold the site? Is that going to make you shoot better? If I buy that $350 green laser that will certainly make me shoot better right? If I get a gun with a different action, won’t that make me shoot better?
Pretty much the answer to all of the above is NO, none of that equipment will make you a better shooter. I always tell people when you hear someone giving an empirical statement about guns and shooting you can pretty much just raise the BS flag right then because there are very few that hold true.
Want to become a better shooter? It really is easy. This is the shooting EMPIRICAL, learn how to manipulate the trigger without imparting movement to the gun. That is the essential truth to accuracy and speed. A new gun will not do that for you, neither will new sites, lasers or a different action type. What can make it happen is training with a professional instructor, tons of dry practice, focused live fire practice AND follow up training . . . then repeat. Decide where you want to be, what has to improve to get there, work on it and track your progress every time you test your skills.
Buying a Stradivarius will not make you a concert violinist, what it takes is a lot of perfect practice, learning what is not working and make changes, monitor your progress and constantly stretch yourself to do better. Basically it’s called it’s dressed in coveralls and is called work.
I just finished my 1300th class yesterday. That is a lot of teaching and from each of those students I learn something that I can pass on to future and existing students. With all things about guns and self-defense I look for commonalities, things that are consistent usually mean they are working. In the case of teaching the commonalities I look for are failures. What is not working and why.
There are some consistencies in the inability to not hit the desired point of impact quickly that we can all learn from. I’m going to start from a different direction this time, rather than starting with our feet I’m going to start at the target and work back.
Why do we miss? Generally speaking, it starts with the trigger press. Notice I did not say trigger pull or squeeze. Words have meaning and when learning if we use words with the wrong connotation we end up learning something wrong. Press is a gentle action as compared to SQUEEZING or PULLING. This is not to say that you cannot press quickly but you can program your mind to press the trigger without jerking the gun all over. Check out the Wheel of Misfortune.
If your trigger breaks at precisely 6.5# if you program your mind to know what exactly 6.5#’s feels like when you need to press your mind can instantly apply those 6.5#’s, no more, no less. So here’s the question for you. How do you program your mind to know at what pressure your trigger breaks? I will give you a hint, it does not work if there is a round in the chamber. Too much pressure all at once, like shooting the gun and your rounds will go low and left if you are a right handed shooter. The absolute surest way to bullet proof your trigger press is to DRY press that trigger hundreds if not THOUSANDS of times. In this programming you MUST go as slow as you possibly can. You MUST have the front sight close to a wall so you can see the slightest downward movement of the front sight before the trigger breaks. If your sight dips before the trigger breaks you ARE applying too much pressure. Want to shoot more accurately? Program your mind to know your trigger PERFECTLY.
Challenge yourself, go shoot the Qual 1 target once or twice, record your score and then dry fire your gun for 10 minutes a day for thirty consecutive days. Go extremely slow, work hard to preclude any movement of the sights during the trigger press. In thirty days go back to the range and shoot the circles again. I guarantee there will be a marked improvement.
What I’ve learned in those 1300 days are people do not press the trigger correctly, they do not have a solid, strong grip AND they focus on the target rather than the front sight. Start small, work on the trigger until you can do it reliably accurately, fast . . . and excruciatingly slow dry fire is the only way you will program your mind correctly. Next time we will move on to your grip.