How to Eat an Elephant – The Draw

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.

Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training


What is Training?

There are a few universal drills, standards and qualifiers I use regularly. I go alone or with friends and students. As for training with others I’m not certain without an expert present that self-training can only lead to engrained habits of poor tactics and form.

There are a lot of terms used in firearms training, and often this can cause confusion. I like to think of training with four parts aligned with the Triad of Armed Self-Defense; knowledge, training, practice and measuring. Some of this can be done individually, some with friends but I’ve found it best to always have someone with expertise present.

12295317_1130868466932379_4071258422283863048_nKnowledge is learning about shooting. It’s a passive activity to a large extent. In a LCDT class this is where you will spend 75% or more of your time, being lectured on guns, technique and even to some degree tactics.

Training is where you take action and learn to apply the knowledge you’ve gathered. Ideally, you should have an expert who can make necessary corrections and instruct you on how to get to the point of competence more quickly. I’m not a fan of videoing my practice session but many use it to good benefit. Training is what you get from a professional instructor.

Practice is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you turn knowledge and training into actions you can execute unconsciously under stress. You can practice on your own or with a group using live fire and dry fire. But you want to make sure you’re disciplined about it. 10 minutes of perfect practice daily is way more effective than two hours of randomly throwing rounds downrange once a week/month.

IMG_1928Measuring your ability and the effectiveness of your training and practice is a critical element in learning, it is taking the test to see how well you perform over time and it will decidedly tell you what stage of learning you have reached. You can test yourself with a timer and a scored drill, with friends in informal competition and in formal competition like IDPA or USPSA.

There are four levels of competence in learning or mastering a physical skill; unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. We tell our students that by the end of a class they will be consciously competent but will lose it quickly if they do not practice what they have learned. We often see students a year or two later who have zero skills, just like the day they first came to a class because they had not practiced. Shooting at the range is not practice, it is simply measuring the effectiveness of your practice.

Unconscious incompetence is what we see at public ranges on a daily basis, where people don’t know what they don’t know. They believe they are practicing but in most cases they are only engraining bad habits and celebrate openly when they make one hit out of a magazine. 10% effectiveness is not success.

Conscious incompetence is where our students generally come from, they know they don’t know but want the knowledge and education.

Conscious competence is where we hope to have our students by the end of the first day of training, they have knowledge, and understanding and now know how to do something. They may to a large degree still have to consciously think about the individual steps to perform successfully. This can become the most frustrating stage of learning, because they may know what you need to do but have yet to have practiced enough for the skill to be unconsciously performed and often their technique will fall apart under the stress of performing on command. When we have students come back for additional training this is when the wheels fall off the bus, they know what they should do but have not committed the skill to memory.

Unconscious competence is when you can perform a skill without consciously thinking about it, while your attention is elsewhere, or under extreme stress. Driving without having a wreck is to a large degree an example of unconscious competence. Once you start the engine and engage the transmission your unconscious drives the process. If you were to actually try to cognitively recognize each visual and audible input and conscious plan a reaction you would have multiple accidents in one trip. When someone reaches this phase with a particular skill, it is generally called mastery, you can drive without endangering yours or others’ lives, hopefully.

DSC00218If your technique falls apart under stress, it’s a sign that you’re in the conscious competence stage and you need a combination of better mental control and more practice. If your technique doesn’t fall apart under stress, then it’s an indication that you have achieved unconscious competence and will want to gradually increase your speed and difficulty to stretch your skills even further.

Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training


The Triad of Armed Self-Defense

Whenever we talk to new shooters or people who are looking at guns for the first time there is often a huge disconnect between what they’ve heard from the myriad of experts versus the reality. We often refer to a lot of those stories as ‘Old Guys Tales’. Much like the proverbial old wives tales, Old Guys Tales are perpetuated generation after generation, sworn to as if it were the Gospel but are almost always factually wrong. Go to any gun forum on the internet, walk into any gun store in America, heck even take a class from an amateur instructor and it is virtually guaranteed you will hear one of these misconceptions within the first 15 minutes.

Everyone seems to want to focus on the gun in their search for the Holy Grail of gun fighting. I taught a student a couple of months ago, former military, who had come in to requalify for his CCW, clearly a person you would believe knew how to operate a handgun. Time and life however marches on, as had the skills he had 30 years ago. During the qualifying course of fire he barely qualified with two guns and failed with a sub-compact .45 ACP. At the time he stated he wanted to get a different gun and come back so he could add his new gun to the permit. A month later he came back with a sub-compact 9mm 1911 with the belief that this new gun was the solution to the problems he had with the sub-compact DAO. We set up the 15 yard course of fire and he goes to work . . . and fails to qualify. You see it was not the gun, it was the shooter. Certainly some guns will be easier to manipulate incorrectly and still make hits but in the end, accuracy comes from the shooter, not the gun.

The bottom level of the triad is the tool. A real shooter should be able to pick up any gun and make the hits. They might not make a perfect first hit but the remaining shots fired will all be practically perfect. I shot the aforementioned gun before my student tried to qualify, put seven rounds inside a three inch circle at seven yards rapid fire. It wasn’t that hard to do with the action of the gun.

Poorly Shot Target

The caliber argument can simply be resolved with ballistic gelatin testing using the FBI Standard. With the new design in bullets today the 9mm is as effective if not more as the other common handgun calibers. Some bullet makers are more consistent in terms of penetration through different materials without over penetration. In terms of lethality the correctly placed 9mm will do the job. The myth that the larger the bullet the better is bunk. If you are going to stop the bad guy there are only two ways of doing that if when you present your gun he decides to stay a fight. You have to hit the Central Nervous System or the organs such as heart and lungs that will bleed rapidly leading to the loss of consciousness. All of the records show, there is no such thing as stopping power from a handgun so the bullet size is to a large degree irrelevant.

So in selecting the tool keep in mind two critical points, pick a gun that will function flawlessly every time you press the trigger and pick as large of a gun you can conceal. Any criteria beyond that is simply handicapping yourself.

Skills are certainly more important than the tool. carrygunsAs mentioned, a shooter should be able to pick up any gun and shoot it fast and accurately. The smaller the gun and the heavier the bullet your accuracy and speed WILL fall off, that is a simple fact. Little tiny 1911’s chambered in .45 ACP require constant attention to the condition of the gun and a perfect grip. Any failure in grip WILL cause a malfunction of the gun. Any failure in the grip WILL cause inaccuracies during rapid fire. That is not to say that a highly qualified shooter cannot shoot these guns, but the average shooter stands no chance of doing as well than they would with a full sized 9mm.

Full size guns are easier to quickly obtain a perfect grip. Full size guns will not muzzle flip as much as the tiny gun. Lighter bullets have less recoil and muzzle flip. Those are factual statements proven in testing. Should someone see your gun by accident, it is not against the law. You do not have to carry a wee, tiny sub gun to conceal a gun.

Train under stress, regularly, either in competition or under physical stress that will increase your heart and respiration rate. Demand accuracy from yourself. When you shoot your gun do so in a manner that scores your effectiveness. DO NOT just go to the range and throw bullets at a piece of paper. Aim for smaller and smaller target placed farther and farther away. Analyze your errors, have an instructor analyze your errors and then GO HOME and DRY PRACTICE.

We stress dry practice. It is pretty darn boring. You can do it wrong which in fact makes it worse on you if you didn’t do any practice. Practice dry VERY SLOWLY. Dry practice programs your neuro-pathways so you remember on a subconscious level, how to grip, where to place the gun, how many pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire the gun, where to place the gun on the target so you can make ACCURATE hits FAST.


How will you learn these skills? From the YouTube video? How about gun mag articles? While certainly you can pick up some tips but real training, really learning skills comes from taking professional instruction. There are a ton of instructors in America today, so which ones are professional? How do you pick an instructor? A professional instructor teaches full time, it is not a part-time job done on Saturday and Sunday. There are several really good schools out there but of course that requires travel and time but after all you are learning skills that you are literally betting your life on so you would think some expense would be appropriate. Far more instructors teach GROUP classes rather than individuals. In group instruction you reduce your cost but you also reduce the contact time with your instructor, which is why you went to take training, to spend time with an instructor. Schools will almost always teach groups. Group classes are going to a large degree minimize the amount of material they present due to the sheer size of people they have to watch.

Skills are important, they have to be committed to subconscious memory so during stress you will perform as you have trained and practiced.

The Mind is the Weapon. What is the best way to win the violent confrontation? Don’t get into one. This is accomplished in a myriad of ways. Situational awareness simply means knowing your surroundings, who is around you and how can you get out if you need to. It does not require you have your head on a swivel, it is a simple act of being focused and not being distracted. Give this a try, get on a busy freeway and try reading a blog article on your phone. Virtually guaranteed being distracted will cause you to get into a violent confrontation with another car.

Knowing the law is a must. If you cannot articulate the four basic requirements of when you can use deadly force most likely you should not be carrying a gun on the streets. In almost every state where I’ve reviewed their laws it boils down to four things, the bad guy has to have the ability to cause you or another grave bodily injury. The bad guy has to have the necessary proximity to the victim to employ that ability and it is imminent. The bad guy has to have shown the intent to cause said injury. You have no way out, all other options have been explored, using the gun is the last res AND a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstance would agree that deadly force was required to stop the threat. Not that difficult until we start running scenarios with photo realistic targets in a threat recognition exercise.

Just because you have to present your gun does not mean you have to shoot. It is not against the law to present the gun if you believe it is going to happen. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SHOOT! Bear in mind however that should you present your gun the three criteria still have to be in place. Pulling your gun to get some guy to move away from your car is a guaranteed ride to the police station for brandishing.

We use threat recognition exercises, using photo realistic picture designed to force you to quickly make that Shoot/Don’t Shoot decision. We provide you with plenty of cover to get behind which could increase the time you could take to make those decisions. If you have to shoot we make certain your gun will fail. The entire intent of the exercise is to drill home, under great stress, when you can use deadly force. It is a mental exercise with some shooting involved because in the end the Mind is the Weapon and it is the most important aspect of the Armed Self-Defense Triad.


Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training




What’s In Your Pocket?

One of the instructions I give CCW students before they come to our range day is that they should bring a gun they are comfortable with shooting 500 rounds. My reasoning is simple, many people permit a tiny little sub-compact or revolver yet they never shoot it, in particular they never shoot it 500 times in one day. A second reality, most people never shoot any gun 500 rounds in a day in practice. Those realities don’t make a lot of sense and even I find myself leaving the house and quickly grabbing my Sig Sauer P938 because it’s light and thin although I do not shoot it regularly in practice.

What do you practice with? Working a trigger is working a trigger but . . Most of my students come to the range with their full size or compact guns, lots of ammo and spare mags but these are not the guns they carry every day. While certainly triggers are triggers and if you’re good at working one you should be reasonably proficient regardless of which gun is in your hand.

The problem comes from manipulations. The grip is considerably smaller than your full size. Often your grip is not as strong on these tiny guns. When was the last time you just sat and practiced pulling it from a holster and slapping a perfect grip on the gun? Over and over and over, so it is just like breathing, you do not even think about it.

How do you practice? Concealed? Moving? Point shooting? Long Range? If you ever need to draw your gun you will not have the time to get your grip just perfect and then begin firing and honestly your survivability in the violent encounter to some degree requires having an effective grip that allows you to get accurate rounds on target . . . FAST.

What about clearing your gun from concealment? When you go to the range do you work from concealment? What about at home? You walk around every day with your gun hidden. The skill and ability to get it out and into action FAST is critical to your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones. If you are struggling to get that garment out of the way, or if your gun snags something on the way out it could all be over right then as the Bad Guy bowls you over onto the ground.

I read this somewhere and it took a moment for the real meaning to sink in. NEVER DRAW YOUR GUN FAST . . . while standing still. Movement is a critical aspect of surviving a violent encounter. Moving away, moving to cover, ducking, running . . . something! Anything! Just MOVE! This should be so engrained that you have to consciously remind yourself to stand still when drawing your gun where you cannot move such as at an indoor range. Going for your gun and stepping off the line should be as normal as breathing . . . if you wish to continue to breath.

What about those close encounters? Hand to Hand with the BAD GUY? How often do you shoot without aiming? Merely rotating the gun to target without extending your arms and put effective rounds on target? If you are attacked most likely it will come at very close distances, your ability to simply point the gun is a critical skill. I cannot think of anyone I know who practices point shooting from the hip.

How many rounds can you place consecutively in an eight inch target from fifteen yards? Can you make that long shot from cover, or on your knees or from behind cover? Some of the most “frightening” shooting I see are from little revolvers and sub-compact semi-automatics from distance. It is not unusual to see students completely miss the Two foot by Three foot target at this distance. To deny that this shot is going to be required is like denying you need to wear a seat belt while driving.

For the sake of argument let’s just say you shoot that little pea-shooter pretty well but can you reload it fast? In interviews with citizens who have been in gunfights EVERY single one of them ran out of ammunition BEFORE the Bad Guy went away. In over 1,000 classes I’ve only had one student who could reload a revolver in a reasonable amount of time. In fact in all of those classes I can count on two hands the number of people who have even been able to qualify with a five shot revolver and reloading has consistently been a major weak link. For the sub-compact folks if you have to use two hands to remove your magazine you might want to consider a lot of practice and or modifications because every wasted second could be reducing your life expectancy. Your reloads should be fluid in motion, no wasted movements and FAST.

The key to success will be practicing your skills until they are running on pure sub-conscious memory. Practice them until there is no thinking required and then measure your effectiveness running drills. Keep track of your times and scores so you can monitor over time how well you are maintaining these critical skills. Run a scenario putting them all together. Include movement, shooting while moving, reloads, point shooting and long range shooting, make it fun and track your progress.

What’s in your little gun? What kind of ammunition are you betting your life on? What is the terminal ballistics for that ammunition using a little gun? There can be a substantial reduction in velocity using the same ammo in a two inch barrel versus a four inch plus barrel. Will it penetrate fifteen inches, deeply enough to reach internal organs? Will it open significantly on impact and will it retain its weight? With a reduction in velocity come a reduction of penetration and the bullet will often not open fully.

On an almost daily basis I come into contact with people who believe they need a tiny gun in order to conceal it and that belief is sorely off the mark. I have many students who carry a full size gun daily and there is no way you can see it. Those people realize what they shoot well, what they will practice with and are willing to do what it takes to carry a gun they KNOW will save their lives if needed. The concept of “I need a tiny gun” because I am going to carry really needs to stop AND should you be stuck in that track then you need to step up and shoot that little tiny gun only. To do otherwise is foolish and it will get people killed, either YOU or the Soccer-Mom down the street because you’ve not practiced with your pea shooter and cannot hit the side of a barn. Where there is the will there is a way.

I enjoy shooting but I enjoy training and practice more. I enjoy measuring my performance while constantly striving to improve. I like pushing it until the wheels come off for when they do I learn and that knowledge and expertise gives me the confidence to carry a gun . . . that should it ever be needed to save a life I know I will perform effectively.

Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training

You’re Not Wyatt Earp and this isn’t the OK Corral

While scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed this morning I saw a couple of posts about “which gun should I” get/recommend/suggest. This is nothing new, I see these all the time, and then there are a hundred or so responses about each persons favorite toy, the obligatory argument over glock versus 1911, “get a .22 because you can shoot it more easily”, and really just an enormous amount of silliness about equipment.

On the last one I commented with “I suggest you find quality instruction first”. Of course no likes on that comment because NO ONE seems to even consider training. Why is that? Why do people think you can just pick up a gun and then magically you know what to do with the tool, and what to do in the violent encounter.

The gun is really my last consideration when it comes to self-defense. My training and practice revolves around tactical solutions to a violent encounter. In those frightening moments at the start of a confrontation I do not want to fall back on square range marksmanship training because it WILL get you killed. In that instance when the decision is made to use extreme violence to save your life or another, certain things must occur to give you the tactical advantage such as instantly moving to cover/concealment, moving yet again to a more favorable position all the while sending effective rounds into the target, FAST.

I guess my point, I find it excruciatingly frustrating that people worry more about the latest and greatest toy gun, or dogmatically sticking to the “Old Guys Tales” rather than focusing on training the mind to function in extreme stress.

I’m a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. They send out an eJournal each month which often has great interviews. This months offering “Lessons from Newhall Shooting Applied to Armed Citizens Today”. If you’re not a member I suggest looking into it as often the eJournal is worth the price of admission alone.

For those not familiar with the Newhall shooting, you should be if you carry a gun for self-defense.

Remember, failing to train is training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training


What is the perfect gun for your EDC?

What is your first decision factor in choosing a Concealed Handgun?

What is your first consideration when selecting a concealed carry handgun?
Action type
Trigger Reach

Poll Maker

Liberty Firearms Training


The Defensive Use of Guns and Training

Before discussing the use of guns in self-defense it is important to try and put things into perspective. There are 300,000,000 guns in America owned by some 100,000,000 million plus law abiding citizens and despite would some would think, you will never be able to eliminate that and this means bad people will always have access to guns.

It is important to note that for many in the media today they honestly believe that guns can be eliminated and that only law enforcement and military should have ACCESS to guns. This ideological position inevitably leads to a bias in the news reporting.  What this means to you is when you hear about someone being sued by the criminals family that this is a statistical anomaly, it just never happens. When you hear on the news about someone killing a large number of children in a school that it is a statistical anomaly, it just does not happen. These fear tactics are intentionally put out to the public to foster fear of the gun in the hopes of legislation that will restrict a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. Pretty much anything you hear in the news about guns will be slanted in a gun negative manner, which is a statistical certainty. Not to start a debate in this post but, the Second Amendment is the shortest in terms of words, is the clearest written with no ambiguity AND is the Second only after the First for a very specific reason.

Depending on your sources, the governments or independent investigation there are somewhere between 110,000 to 2,000,000 plus defensive use of guns (DUGs) in the USA annually. Since there is such a large disparity in those numbers please consider the sources, one is a government study, one is by a professor who is arguably a 2nd Amendment supporter. So, for the sake of argument let’s split the difference and say there are 1.1 million DUGs annually. In those numbers the people who would talk about their experience state that they believe the gun saved their lives. These are significant numbers when you consider the criminal use of guns, so I believe the argument that guns save lives is valid and easily proven.

Given the millions of DUGs you have to wonder why there are no criminals left standing. The reason is simply this, criminals fear citizens with guns more than they fear Law Enforcement or the Court system which of course could lead to the debate that the latter two entities have failed to stop crime. The reality of this numbers is however much simpler to explain and understand. Criminals are easily defeated psychologically.

In 92% to 98% of the times a citizen presents a gun, armed or not the predator often screams in fear and runs away. This is a great thing, it means that criminals can easily be stopped statistically speaking. This is a bad thing however because it means that many Americans falsely believe the gun to be a magic talisman against evil, that you merely show your gun and the criminals quiver in fear. Subsequently the majority of American gun owners do not feel the necessity of taking training and practice in the defensive use of a gun (please note Range Shooting is marksmanship practice, not defensive use practice).

The hardest number to find is the actual number of times a citizens fires their gun in self-defense. Records of these are not kept or at least not compiled in a manner accessible. In 2010 there were 326 deaths from the justified use of a gun in self-defense. This does not mean that people were prosecuted, it does not mean that is how many times guns were fired, it simply means that is how many aggressors were shot and succumbed to their wounds. By simple extrapolation you can see that there had to be MANY more times that shots were fired. When the shots were fired did the wound stop the aggressor or did the aggressor give up psychologically?

In the 2% to 8% of the time the aggressor fails to flee when a victim presents a gun the victim is going to have to shoot. At some point one of two things will quickly happen, a violent gunfight will ensue to the end of one of the other participants, or the aggressor gives up and runs. We just have no way of knowing the numbers but it is easy to draw the correlation between miles driven and the rate of lethal accidents. The odds of you having to shoot are very similar to the odds of you having a fatal injury accident in your life.

In those instances when you do have to shoot and the aggressor does not run in fear after you fire the gun what is going to happen next? You are going to have to shoot until the aggressor is defeated physiologically; meaning until he is paralyzed by a hit to the Central Nervous System or he loses oxygenated blood to the brain. How many rounds does it take to stop this type of aggressor? This is what we call the determined adversary. Who knows; which of course makes magazine size restrictions one of the most ridiculous laws in this country.

In our training programs we focus on the aggressor who will have to be stopped physiologically and the analogy we draw to emphasize the importance of that type of training is like not putting your seatbelt on in the morning after deciding today you will not be injured in a traffic accident. We emphasize the importance of being able to shoot very fast with an acceptable degree of accuracy while moving. It requires someone to teach you the skills and it requires you to practice regularly to maintain on a subconscious level those skills. DSC00234

If you believe you do not need these skills I would offer up the test, you are good driver therefore quit wearing your seatbelt. I kind of doubt anyone would stop wearing their seatbelt, I just cannot grasp why a gun owner would choose to not take training and practice.

Liberty Firearms Training


Ten Failures in CCW continued – Substantial Caliber

In the first part of this blog I addressed some points made by a firearms instructor on the failures people make in CCW, they were addressed to some degree by importance; what I see happening most often.

#2-Failure to carry a gun of substantial caliber.

I have for the past month or so been working on one of my days off at a friend’s gun store and there have been many interesting observations that have come of that. Most of the people who work in gun stores are what we might be call gun cranks; they like to shoot, have shot for most of their lives, know a lot about what they like and view themselves as experts in all facets of guns. Now this will most likely piss off any of those types who are reading this but being a very busy firearms instructor I know one thing to be a fact, being a gun crank does not make one an expert in anything except their hobby and it most definitely does not qualify them as a firearms instructor. Where I am going with this is simply this, when a woman comes into a store and the “guy”, it’s always a man, tells the woman she needs a revolver or a striker fired gun because they are simple . . . they have just seriously insulted that woman by effectively telling her she is stupid. Secondly that “guy” never asks what is the purpose of the gun and instead leads her to the tiny, lightweight guns in a sub-caliber like a .38 or .380, perhaps even venturing up to the 9mm. I call them sub-calibers because they are, but will defer that discussion to later in this post.

Can a BB gun kill you? Absolutely, when the projectile is placed in the correct place you can die from almost anything. How about a rimfire .22? Again the answer is absolutely. Where we are going is this, the purpose of the gun used in self-defense is to stop an imminent lethal threat; TO STOP A THREAT.

How that is achieved occurs in a few ways. Predators come in several forms, most are gutless cowards looking for an easy target but in the end they are cowards and once a person presents a gun those cowards hike up their skirts and run off crying for Mommy. They have been psychologically defeated by an armed person, all of sudden that easy target just became deadly. There are some, still cowards, that have actually been shot at and so the sight of the gun does not make them turn and flee and you as the potential victim may have to actually fire a shot. Normally once that shot is fired the coward realizes he is being shot at and does exactly what the first example did, turn tail and run off.

Finally there is the predator that has been shot at and hit and little things like bullet holes do not frighten them. They are determined. That determination may be targeted at you, like wanting to kill you for whatever reason and the sight of your gun and even the sound of gunfire are not going to deter them. This type of predator can only be stopped physiologically, either by a central nervous system (CNS) injury or through rapid blood loss leading to the loss of consciousness.

So here we are we have to present our gun in self-defense, the predator continues in their attack and we fire a shot . . . and nothing happens, the attack presses on. We quickly come to the realization that perhaps we missed and need to shoot more or you could find yourself thinking about all those invites to take training that you skipped for whatever reason. You are facing a deadly predator whose intent is to end your life and you now are going to have to physiologically stop this person. This person may have on a leather coat and leather vest, your projectiles are going to have to penetrate all of that with enough energy left to penetrate deeply enough to cause major injuries.

You could then try to put your little pea shooter round in his eye or ear in the hopes he drops like a sack of rocks but of course you are shaking like a leaf so your aim is a little off and all you have done is bounce rounds off his skull and in the process turning him into a raging lunatic who is going to make you hurt a lot before he kills you . . . or you could proceed to pour round after round into his boilermaker, that imaginary 9” circle on his upper chest where if you have a substantial caliber in your gun you know you will be hitting vital organs that will cause him to lose blood rapidly.

Which leads to a great question to ponder? If you sever someone’s aorta with a bullet how long will it take for the blood loss to cause him to cease to be a threat? Depending on the Doctor you ask the answer will be 30 seconds or more, clearly more than enough time to do you some serious damage before he finally ceases his attack.

So what is a substantial caliber? For us it begins with a .4 . . . either a .40 S&W or a .45 ACP. There are subtle differences between the two and statistically in the OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) database the .40 S&W is statistically better in persuading bad guys to stop. In selecting a caliber it becomes a dance between mass (weight) of the projectile, velocity and the ability of the bullet design to penetrate and expand to significant diameter. With the exception of the .357 Magnum, none of the calibers smaller give me a margin of error I am willing to bet my life on. The .357 has its own problems such as the platform it comes in that makes fast effective rounds down range an issue . . . and then there is the reloading issue.

There are a million arguments against what I just said, after all everyone who owns a gun is a firearms expert. We have heard all of them, more than a few times but before I move on I want to address just a couple of them, particularly as it applies to women.

Many women have been exposed to shooting by going to a range with a friend/relative who shoved a .44/.45 in their hands, told them to point it that way and squeeze the trigger. When that round ignites all hell breaks loose, there is a loud roar, the muzzle jumps up violently into the air almost hitting the poor lady in the noggin and she almost drops the gun. What a great way to develop a sense of confidence in a new shooter, scare the crap out of them and then laugh hysterically.

If you know a woman who shows interest in shooting or one you feel needs the ability to protect herself do her a real favor, do not take her to the range and instead find a DSC00112bingprofessional firearms instructor who will show her the correct way to shoot and will introduce her to the effective calibers in a sensible manner.

In our beginning class we talk a lot before we shoot; Rules of Safety, revolvers, ammunition, semi-automatics and Fundamentals of Marksmanship, during which the student is handling all sorts of gun sizes and action types. They load and unload them, learn the correct method for manipulating the slide, and most importantly perfect trigger control. After all of this we begin shooting starting with a .22 barrel and slide mounted on a full size DASA gun, moving gradually up by caliber, firing several different action types (SA, DAO, DASA from sub-compacts to full size) in the same calibers all the way to the S&W 629 in .44 Magnum. When that beginner finds they can put round after round into the head of the target from 30 and 45 feet away with the hand cannon the .40 seems like a .22. In the end the student gets it, they know on a conscious level what to do and they know exactly what gun works best for them before they ever consider going to the store to make their first purchase. Bottom line, any woman can shoot ANY gun a man can and often better.


Ten Failures in Concealed Carry

I read a post by an instructor who has an online radio show, he titled his post the Top 10 Failures of the Concealed Carry Crowd and I want to comment on a few of his points.

#5-Failure to understand the fundamentals of marksmanship and firearms safety.

This is a biggie. If you do not have these basic concepts committed to memory on an unconscious level I’m really not all that comfortable with you walking the public streets carrying a loaded gun. I watched a video this morning of a shooting in Oakland where they mentioned that a 7 year old boy was wounded in the crossfire. A man walking down the street was shot at by some others in a car, he drew a gun and returned fire (although carrying illegally he is still justified in using lethal force in self-defense regardless of his criminality). The video did not state who fired the shot that wounded the child but had either party been trained and knew the fundamentals of marksmanship and safety there is a much better chance that the kid would not have been wounded.

Now before you get up in arms about criminals being trained, WE DO NOT PROVIDE TRAINING TO CRIMINALS, my point is that if the person who returned fire was carrying legally and had been trained the chances of an innocent being injured goes down to essentially none. People who are trained and practice would have either not taken the shot or would have hit what they intended.

If you cannot quote verse and line the Rules of Safety and the Fundamentals of Marksmanship YOU need to go take a basic class.


#7-Failure to Train.

Another BIGGIE in my book. I was self-taught for most of my adult life and until I made the decision to become a professional firearms instructor I had essential no formal training. Keep in mind, the defensive use of a handgun is not remotely similar to what you learned in the military with the exception that there are guns involved.

We hear from people on a daily basis that they want to take a CCW class or an Advanced CCW class but they have had no formal training. In other words they are self-taught in the basics and because they spend days on the public range standing motionless, shooting at a fixed target that somehow that makes them trained. All you accomplish in this is to commit to memory poor skills and fundamentals. These people when willing to accept professional training are often the hardest to work with because they have SO many bad habits that must be corrected first before moving on to more difficult skills.

This is going to hurt . . .

Bottom line on this one, you cannot train yourself correctly in the defensive use of a handgun.


#8-Failing to Practice.

Like #7 we see this far too often. Students who have made the serious investment of time and money to take our training classes fail to practice so that what they learned becomes unconscious competence.

Shooting like many things in life is a perishable skill. Navy Seal Operators fire thousands of rounds monthly to insure their learned skills can be performed under high stress situations like incoming fire so they will not have to think how to respond, it just happens on an unconscious level.DSC00210

Poorly Shot Target

If your target looks like this consider professional instruction . . . you need it.

All of the instructors at LFT take continuing training annually. We want to have the latest and best knowledge available that we can impart to our students. With that annual training comes the follow up practice so we can perform without thinking. Perfect practice makes perfect . . . and practicing crap makes you a Crap Master.

With each class we teach we always follow up with some practice suggestions, ways the shooter can go off on their own and commit to memory the skills they have been shown. So know the question . . . how many rounds do I need to shoot to maintain my skills? It is not necessarily the number of rounds you shoot, it is the perfect repetitive action of a physical activity of a very specific physical action and depending on your level of competence much of the practice can be done dry in the comfort of your own home.

Drawing from a holster does not have to be practiced with live fire, in fact you will become better if you do not have the distraction of target, gun and recoil impacting your mind. Performing a perfect trigger press can be developed at home with an empty gun and often those who do this greatly improve their learning curve. Clearing a malfunction . . . at home. Emergency reloads . . . at home.

Live fire is just a measurement of the success of your practice. You have learned at home how to hold the gun steady while moving and pressing the trigger smoothly to the rear without moving the front sight from your intended point of impact.

In the end, I think 200 or 300 rounds once a month of live fire is enough for a person who carries a gun on their person, assuming that live fire was performed with the whole package and that means YOU MUST practice in a place where you can draw from the holster, engage multiple targets, move while shooting and rapid fire. If you do not have a place like this GO FIND ONE now because public range practice will only help you learn to move the trigger. In a defensive use of the gun that skill is important but you must also do other things physically at the same time and this is much like rubbing your tummy while patting your head. In the gunfight there are a few absolutes . . . you must always be shooting, running for cover or reloading until the fight is over . . . and time, distance and cover are your friends, you want as much of these as you can possible get.

One of my instructors told me that he did not teach THE WAY, he taught A WAY and I have tried to keep that in mind throughout this career as a professional full time firearms instructor . . . and just like this blog, it is one person’s opinion . . . the opinion of a very busy firearms instructor.


How You Train is How You Will Perform, Reviewing Tuller

There is a HUGE critical difference between training and practice. Training involves focused work to achieve a specific physical movement such as being able to draw your handgun and place it in the transition position in the fastest and smoothest manner.  Practice is focused work that seeks to achieve a neural pathway programming (NPP), i.e. being able to perform the movement you trained in without consciously thinking about it. If you have not been shown (trained in) all of the subtle nuances of the move and perhaps have only seen the movement in its beginning and ending positions there is a good chance you have practiced that movement over and over, erroneously and have engrained NPP that will take way longer to correct than would have if you had only been trained or coached in the correct motions.

In 1983 Dennis Tuller wrote an article “How Close is Too Close”, the inspiration for the article was a question by a student on how close an attacker with a contact weapon could be before the use of lethal force was justified. Since that time this has morphed from the Tuller Drill to the 21-foot rule and so forth yet none of those descriptors are adequate in answering the question.

If you want to know the answer try this simple drill, stand motionless on the seven yard line and draw and fire two rounds into a 9” circle on a silhouette target. The time it takes to accomplish that is essentially the distance that is too close for you. If you can do this under 1.5 seconds 21 feet might be the right answer for you. If it takes you 7 seconds you would need 98 feet . . . and if you start shooting at people who are 98 feet away I am guessing you will find yourself in a court of law defending your actions.

Liberty Firearms Training PH1 target

Liberty Firearms Training PH1 target

So to add a touch of realism to this exercise, because we ALL know we should be training for real life events, do the same drill while moving off the line, either sideways or away from the target. The movement will to a small degree mimic the movement that would occur in real life. Again if you are still impacting good hits under 1.5 seconds consider yourself well trained and practiced . . . if not, consider taking some training, and then practicing this drill until you can do it because this is reality.

People do not seem to realize just how quickly things happen in a violent encounter, if you are one of them you are at risk. Coming to the realization that this can happen is your first step in awareness that can save your life.

So just how do you accomplish this drill in that amount of time?

First you have to be able to get your gun in the retention ready position in 0.5 seconds or less, muzzle on target, trigger at the hard spot and front sight in your peripheral field of sight. This is a dry practice exercise, do it in front of a mirror, do it a lot and do it until you can get the gun ready to drive out towards the threat. That means you have to be able to position the gun correctly, obtain a correct grip, go on trigger and be at the hard spot ready to fire. This is the first step. Going to the range and practicing this while missing the target or doing it sloppily and taking too much time is only going to engrain bad habits. Once you are at that point you are ready to go hot.

Step two is to learn to drive the gun from the transition position to the target while steering the front sight and at the end of this extension smoothly press the trigger straight to the rear without moving the front sight. In essence to be at this point you will have already mastered the fundamentals of trigger control in a double action mode of fire. To test this ability, stand 15 yards from an 8” circular target, we use steel plates for the instant feedback, and from the transition position ready to fire, extend smoothly towards target while performing a double action trigger press. When you can do this 10 times in a row without a miss, move back to 20 yards and work up to ten times consecutively at this distance. What you are learning to do is how to move the gun towards the target, steering the sights into the correct position while pressing the trigger to the rear.

Okay, so now we can get the gun to the transition position and are ready to fire in 0.5 seconds.

Next step, extend the gun smoothly and fire one round double action into that 9” circle in 0.75 seconds. When you are able to do this every time it is time to combine this with the draw stroke and put rounds on target in 1.25 seconds.

After that we will add in how to fire a double shot in 0.25 seconds . . . and then add movement from our position.

564730_10150662883331139_1054759514_n Training is fun. I love to learn new techniques. Practice can be boring because it is simply repeating the same movement perfectly over and over until the mind begins to take over and you can do it without even thinking about it . . . and this is how you will perform in a violent encounter, exactly as you have trained and practiced.