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


Becoming a Better Shooter

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. Precise and AccurateYou 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. maxresdefaultThe 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. over-compensating-over-small-penis-ever-gun-demotivational-posters-13337522591

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. dbcgp

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. dsc00233Keep 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.

Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training
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How Many Rounds?

Working part-time at a gun store gives you an opportunity to hear some really silly misconceptions. A couple came into the store and the woman wanted a little .380. I questioned her about her choice and she stated that her gun, Sig P320C, was too big to carry. I explained the various ways to deal with it but she would not consider anything other than the little gun. I explained about the lack of ammunition capacity and effectiveness of the round to which she pronounced six rounds were plenty. I asked how she would deal with three assailants, to which she walked off to go look at a shotgun.Don_Knotts_Barney_and_the_bullet_Andy_Griffith_Show

My initial thoughts were she did not know what she didn’t know, to effect unconsciously incompetent, believing she had all the answers in her mind. I don’t know everything, never will but I do know that I carry a gun and I want to be able to deal with the various possibilities that carrying may present me. In the end I realized she was not serious about self-defense, it was something that was cool to do and she did not want to put in the effort to carry safely. My question today is why bother, don’t carry if you’re lazy. No one said it would be easy and the gun manufacturers are certainly going to sell you a gun even if it is not going to provide that safety net you thought it would.

Honestly, your gun is not a magic talisman and the bad guys will not always run away when you show them your little .380.

In the headlines of shooting reports daily we hear; Two Deputies fire 33 rounds at suspect, A gun-toting Brooklyn bandit dodged more than 80 police bullets early Friday, Officers fired a total of 54 bullets, Two officers who confronted suspect fired 16 rounds injuring nine civilians. Not only did it take more than six rounds to stop the threat, it took more than one shooter. Clearly accuracy was an issue as well as ammunition capacity. And training and practice.beat the odds

Clearly when the bullets start flying your accuracy will diminish and in particular when you add in movement and stress. Most qualifying course of fire are designed for the lowest common denominator, so everyone passes the test but does that really insure competence? So how are you going to be able to shoot accurately, fast when the melee starts? No certain guarantees but if you want to shoot fast and accurate start with shooting accurately, essentially perfectly, on a square range with zero stress or movement until it is hard wired in your brain.

This is going to require your mind knowing exactly how to move the trigger without moving the gun, quickly evolving to where you can do this without conscious thought. There are two steps to accomplishing this, dry fire practice AND live fire measurement of the effectiveness of your practice.

How is your grip? Is it perfect? Do you have total control of the gun during the firing cycle? If not that is clearly a good starting point as your grip is the sole contact, you have with your gun. Weak grip equals inconsistent results and lack of control. Add your grip to your dry practice regime. Do it very slowly until it is perfect every time then increase your speed, constantly stretching your ability.Grip

So now we have worked on our perfect trigger press at home where every time we press that trigger the front sight does not move at all prior to the trigger breaking. We have picked up or drawn the gun repeatedly until our hands are in the perfect position every time and the required pressure comes from the strong support hand. Now let’s go test the effectiveness of our dry practice.

Print out a few of our LFT-QUAL1 targets and give it a shot. Take your time, focus on strong grip and sharp focus on the sight and press off your 25 rounds and see how you do. If you’re new to this strive for 75% hit ratio and then keep setting your goals higher. In the end you should be able to get 100% every time eventually working to a target with one large gaping hole in the middle. Our students call this the Circle Drill. We call it the One Hole Drill. You should be able to do this cold, on demand, every time you take your gun to the range. It is a test of accuracy, placing your shots in the desired place and precision, placing every shot in the same place. Precise and AccurateClearly this is not something you would strive for in the violent encounter but being able to do this on demand will greatly improve your accuracy under fire.

So now we are back to the premise of the article. How many times did you reload for the drill? If it was three or more, you have an ammunition capacity limitation. Now think about doing this under stress, with movement and the inherent inaccuracy that brings with it. Imagine three armed adversaries and none of them run in fear when you pull out your gun. You will have to reload your gun, of that there is no doubt.

If you are going to go armed don’t put the odds in the favor of the bad guy, know how to shoot accurately, know how to shoot fast and accurate, know how to reload fast and furious and know how to do this all while moving to a position of cover. When you have all of these committed to unconscious memory you now have the odds in your favor.Thumbs Up







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




Self-Inflicted Injury from Negligent Discharges

We know it happens. What we don’t know are the specifics because there are no records of how many people shoot themselves accidentally each year.

What we do know is this; had the gun been pointed in the safest possible direction no injuries would have occurred and had something not pressed the trigger to the rear there would not have been a discharge. The Primary rule of Safety #1 is simple, point the gun in a direction where no one would be injured if the gun is discharged. So how many times have you pointed a gun at yourself or others, intentionally or not? If you say never I’d have to call BS because it happens, and the more you handle guns the greater the change you will. We never do it on purpose but it happens nonetheless.

glock_01[1]This man felt his gun rise in his holster as he sat down in the car so he gave it a good firm push to reseat it in the holster. He had oiled his holster so it was nice and flexible and soft. Holsters are not intended to be soft, they are meant to be firm so the trigger is guarded at all times. The gun discharged and hit his buttock/hip area and he was very lucky. Negligence? I would say so. As the story originated it was discovered that the man tried to sue the gun maker, Glock, for negligence.

Unfortunately for Glock they do have a feature that can place an inattentive operator at risk of the results of negligence . . . not Glocks negligence however. To field strip a Glock you have to uncock the gun first and the only way to uncock a Glock is to release the trigger, and this is when things can go crazily wrong even for the most experienced handler.

Glock Unintended Discharge
by a U. S. Marshal, author unknown.

Well….I’ve always heard it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

My number came up and I paid a hefty price.

Last Friday I was preparing to go shooting the next AM with a buddy of mine.

I had just put a new a-grip on my Glock, and was going to clean it after my wife and I finished our movie. Crash is an awesome movie BTW.

I put the weapon back together and inserted the mag. I did not pipe a round because I knew I was going to strip it later. I went upstairs and put the weapon in the tool box in the garage.

About and hour later (mid-night or so), I returned to the garage to finish cleaning and getting gear together for the morning. I picked up the Glock, dropped the mag and prepared to remove the slide. I done this literally thousands of times in the last fifteen years, but this times things were a little different. I grabbed the slide getting ready to push the take own pins and pulled the trigger……BANG!!!!!

Apparently I DID pipe a round an hour prior. My shooting bud attributes it to force of habit, but why the hell didn’t I check the chamber before pulling the trigger? Should that be force of habit too?

Not only did I set off a .45 in my garage, but it passed right through my left hand……Yep….I *******ing shot myself point blank. I’m still having a hard time getting my head around what I did. I was SO angry at myself.

I have always been uber safe with any firearm, but one lack of procedure changed everything. I’m really taking this hard, and all the “it could have been worse”, “accidents happen”, and “thank god you didn’t lose your hand statements really don’t help. I guess I’m getting over it, but it still seems very surreal to me.

Here are details….I know you all are morbidly curious, and I don’t mind telling…it’s kinda like therapy for me. I DID NOT hear the shot (nor did my ears ring afterwards), and it felt sorta like catching a fastball right in the palm of your glove. I have a very clear image, and suspect I always will, of the hole in my hand…perfect .45 diameter not bleeding….yet. I took a few seconds, and then the arterial arch in my palm cut loose.

Blood like you wouldn’t believe. I think the fact that I was a Paramedic in a former life helped me out here. I walked into the laundry room and grabbed a towel to wrap it up, call up the stairs for my wife to come down. I remember thinking “if I go get her, I’ll mess up the carpet on the stairs”. No lie.

She came down half asleep and kind of grumpy, and I told her “I just put a bullet in my hand”. Said she was calling 911 and according to her I responded “That would be a good idea..” My wife is neo-natal RN, and can remain cool as a cucumber. This helped me out too I think.

I went back into the garage, put my blasted hand on the floor kneeling on the towel and proceeded to open my ever present jump-bag with the other.

I opened a US issue trauma dressing with my teeth, and proceeded to wrap my hand. Those dressing are the schiz nit by the way. My wife later told me it was very “Die-Haredesque”……I do remember cussing at myself the entire time…I have never been that angry before…..

Four cops, the shift sup., a pumper truck and an ambulance later I was off to the ER. I didn’t feel any pain until I got in the ambulance. The endorphins shut down and it hurt like nothing you can imagine. No tickets from the cops, but did have to ask which weapon I did it with.  My garage looks like an arsenal pre-range trip.

The bullet (a Black Talon no less..) shattered my ring finger meta-tarsal, and ‘removed’ two others. It destroyed the flexor tendon of my ring finger, almost separated my pinky tendon, and exited the right side of my wrist just above my watch band. There was a definite exit hole, but the blast force blew the side of my palm WIDE open about three inches in length. I didn’t even see the exit wound until I removed my watch for the FD. Anyway, nine hours of surgery, three screws, a tendon graft from my forearm and about two-hundred sutures later I was put back together. My surgeon said if anyone has to get shot in the hand, this was how to do it. No nerve damage….whew. Physical therapy twice a week for God knows how long, and the surgeon expects at least 80% function back.

I’ve included a pic of the round. Snap-On tool boxes are quite literally bullet proof. The jacket separated from the slug when it hit the box, that’s why the slug is flat on one side. If the mods permit, I’ll post pics of my hand too…’s pretty burly, and will drive the point home.

Thanks for listening. My wife thinks I’m crazy to post this, but it really does help me feel better. Remember….check the chamber twice, then check it again.

And it continues to happen over and over, this one from 2009. Wound Exit Macro  332






Seriously people, how hard is Rule #1 to follow? This ER picture is from 2014.







Another ER pic, this one a Border Patrol agent stripping his gun in 2013. Exit







Glocks are good guns although this is a design weakness in that it assumes that the user will not be stupid, complacent or lazy about the Rules of Safety.

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

Training to Fail

In our instruction we often refer to the level of learning/training of people we train as Consciously Incompetent, they know they don’t know and come to us to learn. Most have been to ranges or have seen others shooting and observing the Unconsciously Incompetent in those venues often prompts them to take training. As a student of shooting and armed self-defense I seem to live in a constant state of Conscious Incompetence but striving for progress always keeps me moving forward to learn something I don’t know.

If your target resembles this . . . get some training.

Where are you on the scale with your shooting?

Unfortunately those we see at the range who are not taking classes suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect.

“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias manifesting in two principal ways: unskilled individuals tend to suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate, while highly skilled individuals tend to rate their ability lower than is accurate. In unskilled individuals, this bias is attributed to their meta-cognitive inability to recognize their ineptitude. Skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks that are easy for them are also easy for others.”

Dunning had read an article about a bank robber who scrubbed his face with lemon juice BELIEVING it would make him invisible to surveillance cameras.

“When psychologist David Dunning read about Wheeler’s story, he was intrigued by one facet: Wheeler was so confident in his abilities, despite his stupidity. Could other people have similar blind spots about their incompetence? Dunning and his colleague Justin Kruger conducted some experiments: they tested their students on humour, grammar and logic, then asked them to estimate how well they had done. The pair found that, like Wheeler, the poorest of performers were also the worst at judging their own abilities accurately.

This became known as the Dunning-Kruger effect: in short, incompetence shields our self-knowledge of incompetence. Or more bluntly, the stupidest person in the room doesn’t feel that stupid, because their ignorance also dampens their awareness.” – Stupidity for Dummies

Often in firearms training we observe unconscious incompetence and when you talk with these people you realize they seem to actively practice the Dunning-Kruger effect, and most likely live their lives oblivious in many areas yet believe they are on top of their game.

Do you know what you don’t know? Are you actively seeking training to learn what you don’t know? Or are you of the belief that you are a great shooter even though it is never tested? If you come into a situation such as crossing the path of the Methed-out Samoan will you perform at the level needed to survive this monster or will you perform at the level you falsely believe you have?

Failing to train IS training to fail.


The Grip: your only connection to the gun

Consistency is the key to success in any endeavor and the grip is your only connection to your tool, the handgun. To be effective and consistent in engaging the target we not only need to score hits with the first shot but subsequent shots as well, and a weak or inconsistent grip will prevent those subsequent shots from connecting where you need them. The correct grip will help eliminate the many causes of error in marksmanship and give you a better platform from which to perform perfect trigger control and almost all inaccuracies stem from the shooting hand doing things it should not.

Although there are a few variations on a consistent two hand grip it is critical that; the grip aligns with our natural point of aim in essence functioning as our pointing finger so when the gun comes on target the sites are already in very close alignment, and the grip provides for good recoil control so the gun comes up and returns to the same point of aim with the trigger reset and ready to fire subsequent shots.

Grip Basics

Your shooting hand must be high on the backstrap to allow perfect alignment of the bore with the hand and forearm. With handguns with a beavertail the web of the hand should be somewhat compressed against the beavertail more or less forcing the hand into the correct position on the gun. This additionally aids in controlling muzzle flip and recoil.

The middle finger of your shooting hand should be tight against the trigger guard where it connects to the grip of the gun ensuring minimal movement of the gun in the shooting hand.

The support hand will support the weight of the gun and aid in controlling recoil and muzzle flip. It should start with the butt of the support hand filling in the space on the grip panel that the firing hand does not cover. The forefinger should be held perpendicular to the upright axis of the handgun and tight to the underside of the of the trigger guard. In most instances the middle joints of the support hand fingers will lie on top of the middle joint of the shooting hand fingers. I recommend you start here and adjust as needed.

The amount of pressure applied by the hands should be enough but not too much, sounds simple right? I have found if I think of the gun grip as a small animal or bird that I want to control but not squish it seems to give me the correct amount of pressure. Additionally you need a decided fore and aft pressure on the grip, pushing the gun forward with the butt of the shooting hand and resisting that movement with the fingers of the support hand in essence creating an isometric vise on the grip decidedly limiting muzzle flip. If you see your support hand slipping off the shooting hand when firing you clearly do not have enough fore and aft pressure on the grip.

While certainly comfort plays a role in shooting, and a new grip style will in the beginning feel uncomfortable we really cannot afford to give up a solid performing grip for comfort at the expense of accuracy.

Lastly, those pesky thumbs. Obviously both thumbs should be pointing forward except when using a revolver, the support thumb will be clearly forward of the shooting thumb and should lay against the frame just above the trigger guard. The shooting thumb should be resting on top of the base of the support thumb. In revolvers due to the location of the trigger guard and the gap between the cylinder and the forcing cone the thumbs should be bend in a downward manner at the top knuckles. Assuming the correct position of both hands, there will be skin to grip contact all the way around and the thumbs almost become superfluous to the actual gripping of the gun.

So, the key points are:
Shooting hand high on the backstrap with some noticeable pressure between the beavertail and the web of the shooting hand.

Middle finger of the shooting hand should be high and tight to the base of the trigger guard.

The butt of the support hand filling the exposed grip panel left between the shooting fingers and the butt of the shooting hand.

The side of the support thumb in contact with the frame just above the trigger guard.

Shooting is a complex combination of multiple skills that some individuals pick up rapidly, while others require time and patience to achieve the goals they set for themselves. If shooting fast and accurately every time were easy, everyone would be a top-ranked competitive shooter and nobody would miss an enemy combatant or attacker during a self-protection related encounter. No matter the skill level, understanding, refining and possibly improving upon the combat grip will aid in becoming a better precision shooter and/or faster and more accurate combative shooter.

Below are a few pictures of HOW NOT TO DO IT . . . your comments on these would be appreciated.

Do yourself a huge favor, learn to shoot from a high quality firearms instructor. You will learn faster and do better . . . and you will look great while doing so.

Remember, 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