- The speed reload. You either need to get your gun reloaded ASAP, or the fight is over; there’s not much in between. See post below.
- Not using the slide lock to release the slide. Yeah, I know that for years we taught (I sure did) that you used the off hand to slingshot the slide, but really: both work if they are instinctive for you. I do both unconsciously now. BTW – Paul Howe agrees; I rest my case.
- Shooting too fast. I can actually get hits at close distance with .17 splits (and I don’t know if I can actually pull the trigger on my M&P any faster than that), but discovering that was an experiment; it’s not something I train to do. I doubt you can assess what’s going on in front of your muzzle any faster than 3x/second (.33 splits). I can’t. For real you’ll shoot faster that you train, so ingraining anything faster than .33 splits seems to me to be a great way to set yourself up for jail. Shooting too fast, and shooting without assessment, can be a training scar.
- Looking good on the range. Sure, I want to look competent in front of onlookers as much as the next guy/gal/personage/xerson/whatever-these-days. But every now and then you need to spend a session drawing that j-frame from your ankle holster, or whatever your actual carry method is – and yeah, I’m looking at you Mr.-1911-bigot-who-actually-carries-a-j-frame 🙂 . This can be done at home with dry fire if you prefer, but do it you must.
- Isolating movement. It’s a maxim of competitive shooting — and of too many “tactical” instructors — that a shooter should keep their entire body still when presenting the handgun except for the necessary movement of the arms alone. No “dipping”, no twisting, no head lowering, etc. This is certainly true and proven in the competitive world, but over emphasized in fighting courses. You should be moving anyway as your default in a real situation: to cover if possible, or to shield an innocent, and in any case laterally. In the context of such movement a little dip of head lowering is irrelevant. The time spent on draw movement isolation is better spent on learning appropriate body movement tactics and technique.
- Too light a trigger. Everyone can definitely shoot faster and somewhat more accurately with a very light trigger. But it’s a poor shot that can’t shoot acceptably well with a eight or ten pound trigger, even if that ten pounds travels over the long pull of a double-action revolver. Less than four pounds is street-unsafe, while more than eight pounds if perhaps unnecessary. (Which is what makes the 1911 and other SA pistols — including DA/SA ones — a true expert’s gun if they are to be street-carried at all.) Most real-world trainers recommend about a six pound trigger on a modern striker-fired pistol. You want to shoot the trigger in practice that you carry, so getting a fancy after-market trigger replacement can be street-unwise, and can even hurt you later in court.
Our friend, Michael deBethencourt, likes to refer to himself in his classes as “el Bobo” (the fool). Because he takes himself as unseriously as he takes seriously the material he teaches (which is a whole heap-load). And el Bobo has some of the greatest advice I’ve ever heard for other instructors.
He asks them, “Do you have a whole lot of books and videos on firearms (or whatever they teach)?” They of course respond in the affirmative. He then asks, “How many books and videos do you have on business?”
Like a hog lookin’ at a wristwatch, they are.
If you teach for money, then you are in business. You have to run that business effectively if you are to succeed. Most firearms instructors don’t, and one major reason is because they are unskilled at business. Which there’s no excuse for. After all, there’s hardly a shortage of books, videos, and websites on how to run a business.
The related thing I like to ask is, “What have you studied or done to make yourself a better teacher?” Because if I’m attending your course I don’t give a damn what you know or how skilled you are. I do, on the other hand, care a lot about what you can communicate to me. Most non-big-name “instructors” I’ve seen, and even one or two of the big names, are piss-poor teachers and communicators. Their value to you, their students, is therefore close to nil, regardless of their accomplishments, backgrounds, or skill level.
My friend Greg Ellifirtz recently noted what all of us writers have long known: posts about gear get like 10- times the clicks that posts about much more important things get.
Sad. Don’t know what to say. But hey, a brother’s gotta move with the times and go with the flow. KnowwhatImean?
Truth is, there actually is some gear that will make you a better shooter and better fighter. Without further delay:
- Ammo. OK, suckered you here, but a case of ammo (and practicing with it) is probably a better investment than almost any piece of gear that you are contemplating acquiring.
- A proper holster. You can’t draw reliably with good technique without one. You can’t throw a spent casing anywhere in this country these days without hitting a half-dozen Kydex folders. Many are good; some are really good. Invest in a really good holster.
- A proper belt. You can’t locate and hold that gun in it’s holster on your body effectively, nor conceal it well, without one. You’ll need to experiment a bit with several to find one that has that Goldilocks stiffness for you – not too stiff and not too floppy. I’ve used a Wilderness 5-stitch Frequent Flyer belt for almost 20 years, and recently bought another.
- A timer. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. I have advocated elsewhere here not getting too hung up on tenths of a second, but you still want to know if you are hitting a street-effective window of time with your technique. With smart-phone timer apps costing a couple bucks, there’s no excuse.
- A zeroed gun. I explain elsewhere here why I zero my handguns at 25 yards, with my practice ammo. Zero at 25 yields one inch low at 7, which is a good trade-off in that that one inch is irrelevant, while a 25 zero lets me practice at distance, which is a real skill builder. You have to know if you are missing or your gun is. Investing in a sight set that gives you a distance zero lets you participate in distance practice, or take a distance shot for real.
- Real targets. You can’t just show up at the range and plink at whatever you find that’s been left behind by someone else. I often use just large sheets of blank paper (cheap art pads, the reverse side of cheap targets) onto which I staple various sizes of brightly colored paper to work on fundamentals. Works fine.
- A Blue Gun. You have to actually engage in scenario training to prepare for the street – all the target skill in the world isn’t enough. As much as I like airsoft, running an airsoft (or Simunations, or whatever) scenario requires that you know what you’re doing. Very few people know how to run a force-on-force simulation properly. Repeat: Very few people know how to run a force-on-force simulation properly. Don’t chance it unless you have been actually certified – you simply don’t know what you don’t know. And of course using real but ostensibly “unloaded” guns is sheer stupidity. Blue gun scenarios provide about 75% of the value of airsoft training, and can be run much more safely. Their real advantage over finger guns is that they fit your holster perfectly. One costs about half of what a 500-round case of practice 9mm rounds cost. Make the investment…and seek out really good training with it.
This post has nothing to do with the subject of this blog, but is posted in the hope that it will be of use to someone. If you are planning on a knee replacement, or know someone who is, you may find this document (linked just below) that I wrote on the subject after mine, to be useful.
There’s this hour before bed when I’m done with TV and too tired to do anything intelligent, so I mostly surf. Been reading a bunch of men’s style blogs and websites lately (none of your damn business, but short answer: I’d like to dress a little less like a schlub). Turns out there are a number of them run by masculine men who carry concealed (and have tips on doing that stylishly). This guy, Tanner Guzy, one of them, has a rant that will set you to cheering and put into words a few things that you probably already feel. His description of real men vs. what we too often today call “gentlemen” is is apt to too many gun geeks as well. Seven minutes:
For decades I’ve said that we have to train in bad weather (for all the obvious reasons), but that it’s hard to learn in bad weather. I never wrote an article about it, and Grant Cunningham has beaten me to the punch. Good piece – give it a read. The logic here is similar to the logic of developing skill with a full size gun even if you carry a smaller one, as I wrote about below.
Chris Baker over at Luck Gunner has a nice post up discussing the reasons favoring a revolver…and the reasons that don’t. Please read the whole thing – a nice, short, insightful summary of the argument. The money quote from Darryl Bolke:
“Revolvers are what 90% of armed people in the country should be carrying because most people can’t even do a chamber check on a Glock”.