Discussion in 'Shooting & Fireams Training / Skills' started by Expat, Jul 16, 2018.
......hey that's me..... once you are out of the Bone Yard talk to me about licencing and stuff.....oh and I hid a handcuff key in that apple I thew into your segro yard last night...just don't bite in too quick.
Have you HAD Training?
“You will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your level of training.” I’ve been hearing some variation of this expression since Slick Willie was busy making interns famous at a furious rate.
I understand the intended thought: one doesn’t just naturally become good at something during a critical incident. You have to train in that particular skill or technique in order to be capable of effectively employing it under stress. Unfortunately it seems we all too often use this statement to give ourselves a false sense of confidence in our ability. We act like because we went to a certain tactical school, we have checked that box and our ability at the end of that course is now our new minimum level at which we will not operate below. Like it’s automatically permanent. We say, “Oh, I had that training” and we don’t realize how accurate we are. Yes indeed, we HAD that training. But we no longer HAVE it. Because we did not work hard at keeping it, at mastering it, at ingraining it into our character, it has been lost. We have not made our payments on the skill and it has been repossessed by time and performance atrophy.
Several years ago I heard James Yeager qualify this statement to a point I believe we can rely on: “You will not rise to the occasion, you will default to the level of training that you have mastered.” Now we are getting somewhere. Here we have illuminated the issue: work. Permanence is not automatic. We have to put effort and sweat into owning skills. Certificates of completion can be bought with money; skills cannot. They are paid for in work, in sweat, in lonely, laborious hours of repetition. Yes, even when you don’t feel like doing it. Time is one thing you can’t buy more of, and mastering skill requires time. There is no way around it.
So, what is “mastery”? At what point are we competent enough? That’s a question only answered by each individual on his own training path. I would argue that we need to reach a level of ability where our training has us as much as we’ve had it. Where it is so much a part of us, it is difficult to separate it from our standard performance. A point where it becomes substantially difficult to do it incorrectly. Where we feel inordinately uncomfortable violating the principles of proficiency in that skill. In short, it needs to be hard to do it wrong. As an example, think of muzzle discipline. For those of us that have ingrained this safety concept into our very fiber since day one of handling a firearm, imagine for a moment how uncomfortable you feel if you notice someone negligently pointing their weapon at you. Now, imagine how uncomfortable you feel pointing your weapon at someone. It feels very unnatural; it is something you almost have to force yourself to do. It does not just happen. And no doubt you are acutely aware of what you are doing the entire time. You are always aware of where your muzzle is pointing. If this example strikes a chord with you, then that is an indication that you have mastered this level of proficiency and there is a good chance that you will not operate below this level, even under periods of stress. Congratulations. Not everyone has arrived at this point, as all of us could recount experiences of an unwanted glimpse of lands and grooves from the business end.
So it then becomes a question of standard. As gun owners, as protectors of those around us, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. It has been said that amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. While we will probably never reach perfection (we all have at least one or two more misses left in us!), we need to strive for higher standards. And one that continues to get higher over time.
That requires work. So, get out there and work. Get some good training and ingrain it into your character until doing it wrong is a rare and uncomfortable occasion.
IN THE NAME OF SAFETY: A Case for the Fundamental Four
I’ve been carrying a gun for a living in some form or fashion since Slick Willie was busy making interns famous at a frenetic pace. Suffice it to say, I’ve seen a few rounds go downrange.
I’ve also been there when the bullets were flying in anger, and with intention. In the real world. Where there is no “downrange”. Or everywhere is downrange, depending on your perspective.
One of my main complaints with the majority of defensive firearms training (be it law enforcement or private) is that in general (painting with a broad brush here, I know), it does not train you in, and thus does not prepare you for, the elements of the typical gunfight. Those elements include: time constraints, surprise, movement, communication and 360-degree awareness. That is not to say that some of these elements are not addressed. Many times they are. But that is where we really start to get at the crux of the problem—they are ONLY addressed, not practiced. And they are certainly not instilled to the point of mastery. We preach 360 degree awareness, yet we automatically are thrown off the line if we violate the 180 degree rule. We spout, “Train like you fight!” then have range rules not allowing us to draw and fire from the holster. Or to shoot more than one round in a second. Or to keep your weapon hot. Or…name your contradiction.
So if we know where our training is lacking and we know what to address, why don’t we do it? If we are teaching some sort of defensive pistol, why don’t we seek to honestly prepare students for that dreaded gunfight? After all, that’s why they’re in the class in the first place, right? My opinion is we do it in the name of safety. We sacrifice valuable, practical training on the altar increased perceived safety. Firearms Instructors and Range Masters like control and order. We like to look down a uniform, straight line, with little to no movement. Unfortunately we operate to our student’s detriment in many cases. In fact, students can often be falsely trained: trained enough in an artificial environment to think they are prepared for the real thing, only to find out the hard way.
With precious few exceptions, my professional firearms “training” has consisted of standing in my assigned square—my lane on the range, in line with those to my left and right. Weapon pointed downrange, (downrange always being defined as toward the target). Move around on this line, even six inches forward or back and a Range Safety Officer is there to make sure you get special attention. However, undoubtedly in the lecture portion of the firearms training there will be some discussion regarding the importance of moving to cover, moving off the line of attack, etc. Often, it is emphatically addressed.
The daring and radical question that began gestating in the distant recesses of my mind as some twenty years ago was “Why are we specifically kept from practicing what we are supposed to do in a gunfight? If cover and movement are so important, why is it the least rehearsed?” Throughout my path, as my training continued (but not necessarily advanced) this question has grown from a whisper to an all out scream—WHY DON’T WE TRAIN PROPERLY?!
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our students. We are not training them properly in how to fight with a firearm. And we are doing so in the name of safety. We have taken safety, an important component of training, and elevated it above all others. But safety is not the most important goal in firearms training. At least is shouldn’t be. Yep, there, I said it. I’ll say it again in the interest of clarity: Safety is not the ultimate goal, nor should it be. If it were, we would be “pew, pew, pewing” all day with our finger guns. One at a time on the range. Under the eye of three RSO’s. After all, it would be safer than using real weapons, that shoot real bullets, right? Maybe in our advanced courses, we could Barney Fife everyone 1 bullet. You know, just in case of an emergency?
The point is that I can make a range so absolutely 100% safe that there is no training value to be had whatsoever. We can come up with enough range rules that not even an intentional suicide could be performed. We’re becoming pretty good at that these days with our formula of a risk-averse populous combined with lawyers aplenty.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that safety is not important, Not in the least. But, I am saying it’s not the mostimportant aspect. There has to be a balanced approach to training. There has to be a certain acceptance of risk if one is going to actually be prepared for the unwarranted attack. And, yes, it’s going to involve drawing from the holster. It’s going to involve moving. And it CERTAINLY is going to involve being able to operate in a 360 degree environment.
So, what do we do? Where do we draw the line? How much risk is acceptable? Who’s going to bear that risk? In periods of uncertainty, it is often beneficial to go back to the fundamentals. In this case, I think we would be well served to go back to day one of each of our firearms training: the 4 rules.
My contention is that the four rules are sufficient. Reduntantly so. If those 4 rules are obeyed, we will eliminate negligent discharges, negligent shootings, etc. And there would be no need for pistol rugs, and rules against picking up a magazine you’ve dropped on the range.
For the sake of review, they are (in my particular order of importance):
Treat all weapons as if they are always loaded. Clint Smith said we should have just stopped at this one. I tend to agree.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and have made a conscious decision to shoot.
Never let your muzzle cross anything you’re not willing to destroy.
Be aware of your target and what’s behind it.
When did these rules become insufficient? When did we determine we need to add extraneous flotsam and jetsam such as “No more than 1 round fired per second” or whatever other ridiculously contrived rules are tacked up on the range house walls in the name of safety? Why do we insist on weapons pointed downrange? A concept that does not exist where we live. Think about your favorite restaurant getting robbed—where’s the downrange? What about a trip to the shopping mall where you encounter an active shooter and hundreds of citizens running in different directions? Where is downrange? Where is the 180 degree line? How do you search for threats around you without pointing your gun at everyone? If you haven’t trained in an environment where muzzle discipline is required around multiple people and in multiple directions, what makes you think you’ll instantly be able to safely do so when it counts?
Quit making up useless rules and start making your training beneficial!
Unchambered Means Unprepared
New students often express uneasiness at carrying their handgun with a round in the chamber. When asked why, they generally respond with some variation of the excuse that the gun is dangerous if carried like that. To this I respond (probably a bit too sarcastically) “Well, I certainly hope it’s dangerous! After all, that’s why we carry them!”
But I have to stop and remember that I was there at one point myself. When I became a student of the gun 25 years ago, I completed some outstanding firearms training programs. (At that time, I didn’t have enough perspective to appreciate just how good that training actually was—thank you, Sgt. Avery!) Digging back through the cobwebs, I can distinctly remember what I started with back then—The groundbreaking man-stopper, destined to immediately and permanently end the caliber debate once and for all. A brand new Smith and Wesson 4046. It was basically a boat anchor that was also capable of throwing .40 cal. bullets really fast. But more germane to our discussion, it had no external safety. I was no stranger to firearms at the time, having grown up hunting. I had not however, had any proper self-defense training with firearms and there is a world of difference. If you flub the safety on your shotgun in the snowy Pennsylvania woods, the worst that can happen is you don’t fill your buck tag that winter. If you flub the safety in a gunfight, your spouse is left shopping for flowers and a black outfit, while she does the life insurance-turned-Range-Rover math in her head. Thus began a pathway of learning how to carry a defensive handgun in the proper, i.e. dangerous, condition.
The question arose among us ballistic neophytes that since there is no safety, should we carry the weapon unchambered? Trust me, our instructors made my above sarcastic remark seem positively Hallmark-like in comparison with the answers they so generously provided us. Unless cleaning the weapon, handing it to someone or dry practicing, we were instructed to always, always, always carry a round in the chamber. This felt strange, even scary at first. Over time and with training, I realized that they were 100% right and soon, NOT carrying a round in the chamber felt scary. Because I came to know the truth—unchambered means unprepared.
The underlying fear and uneasiness with carrying a chambered is a result of a lack of knowledge and a lack of training. The lack of knowledge comes from not understanding how the firearm functions. The lack of training generates a lack of confidence which gives rise to fear. The solution is not to carry your weapon unchambered, the solution is to increase your knowledge and training. So, let’s get to it.
One of the more common fears is that if the gun falls out of the holster and hits the ground, it’ll go off. By and large, this is false. Most modern handguns have safeties built into them, even if there is not an external safety switch. Some, I would argue, are all but useless. The trigger “safeties” commonly found on weapons like Glocks fall into this category. If something catches on the trigger, it’s probably also going to catch on the small piece designed to keep the trigger from being depressed, meaning the gun will, in all likelihood, fire.
However, there is another safety that is very useful, and understanding how it functions greatly improves our confidence in the firearm: the drop safety. It is so called because if you “drop” the weapon, the safety prevents the gun from firing. How this occurs is simple: there is (depending on the model and manufacturer) a bar or other piece of metal that sits somewhere between the firing pin (or striker) and the primer of the chambered round inside the firearm. This blocking piece prevents the firing pin from making contact with the round, thus keeping it from firing. Were one to hit the rear of the weapon, whether from an impact to the weapon, or from the weapon dropping and impacting the floor, the firing pin will hit only the metal bar or blocking device and not move forward to hit the round. It simple terms the pin can’t reach the round. And I have gone to arguably unwise extremes to test this.
While I do not suggest trying this at home or around impressionable police officers or Glock customer service reps, I once tested this safety in a rather unorthodox evaluation. I took a standard Glock 26, a tent peg and some hard, Key West campground dirt. Using the slide on the Glock, I proceeded to hammer the tent peg into the ground (careful to make sure muzzle was pointed in a safe direction). Although taking repeated hits, the gun of course did not go off. Each swing of the Glock was much more force than what would have been generated were it simply to have been dropped. Further inspection of the round in the chamber showed no indication that the striker had ever made contact with the primer, even slightly.
I have also been in class where a well-known firearms trainer famously drops his carry weapon on the ground from 6 feet to illustrate this internal safety. This is done to the horror of some, and to the envy of others-namely, the 1911 crowd. (You can just see the wistful, far-off look in their eye as they imagine one day having the fortitude to throw caution to the wind and drop their precious freedom maker.)
There are some makers who approach this internal safety issue from a slightly different way. Kel-tec is one. They have bars that block the hammer, not the firing pin. Force cannot be applied to the hammer unless the trigger is depressed, and moves the bar. This accomplishes the same thing—the hammer can’t slam into the firing pin, pushing it into the primer. It just does inserts the blocking device in a different place in the supply chain, so to speak.
We need to understand how something else works inside the gun to increase our confidence from a knowledge perspective. Except for some models like 1911’s and 1911-styled (Browning Hi-Power and the like), modern handguns are carried with their hammers “at rest”. Meaning that the weapon is not carried cocked, or with the hammer back. When one pulls the trigger, the firing pin or striker must first load up with energy, or be cocked. This is why these weapons are referred to as double-action handguns. Pulling the trigger generates TWO actions: it first makes the firing pin, striker or hammer go rearward (cocking) and then makes the firing pin, striker or hammer fall forward (firing). This is true for both semi-automatic weapons as well as double-action revolvers. (Some semi-automatics will stay in a position of single-action, i.e., cocked, after the first round is fired. But since no reputable instructor or agency recommends carrying the weapon in this condition, it is irrelevant to our discussion.) In fact, it is easier to illustrate this action with a revolver that has an external hammer. Many of today’s modern semi-automatics are internal, striker-fired weapons and may be difficult for the new shooter to observe these functions.
When one pulls the trigger on our revolver example, one can see the hammer move back to the rear. This action is loading up energy in the hammer. Physicists call this potential energy. Once the hammer and trigger travel far enough, the hammer is released (the aforementioned drop safety is disengaged), the hammer then falls forward with enough appropriate force to strike the primer on the chambered round and fire the gun. Physicists would call this forward motion kinetic energy.
What this means for our discussion is that there is no way that the gun will just “happen to go off” while we are carrying it in our holsters. It physically cannot happen because the gun is at rest, it is not cocked. The physics terms used above were intentional. When the gun is at rest and uncocked, there exists no potential energy. Therefore there exists no potential for the hammer to fall and fire the gun—the hammer is already forward.
Many times new shooters feel uncomfortable because they think the gun has the potential of firing spontaneously while they are driving down the road, sitting in church, or watching a movie, as if it is some sort of ballistic Sword of Damocles. Rest assured it does not have this potential. Think of it in terms of another firing device—the bow and arrow. Hold a bow in your hand and place an arrow in the appropriate firing position (nocked) but don’t draw the bow back. Is there any potential of the bow to just “happen to go off”, launching an arrow? Of course not. It is at rest. The bow has to be drawn back first. Your carry gun operates in the exact same way. There is no potential energy until pressure is applied to the trigger.
Training. Proper training instills the confidence that allows a person to carry the weapon properly, aka chambered. A thorough study and a steady diet of training in the four safety rules will overcome fear and bad habits.
Employing the logic that chambering a round might cause a negligent discharge means the shooter is focusing on the symptom and not the disease. If you have habits that are resulting in unsafe gun handling, then carrying an unchambered weapon is not the answer. Ingraining proper safety techniques is. After all, eventually you are planning on chambering a round at some point, right? If you are operating unsafely and improperly without a round in the chamber, chambering a round will never make you automatically more competent. It simply will not happen, particularly under stress.
Some say, what’s the difference? I’ll just chamber a round when I need to. I would argue you’ve garnered too much training from television and not enough from real-world, been-there, instructors. If you are carrying your weapon for self-defense, you should be training for that ill-fated day you are called upon to exercise deadly force to save a life: the gunfight. A gunfight is quick and dirty and chaotic. More than all of that though, it is a FIGHT! Someone is fighting you, most times at close range. And we are on the reactive end, meaning we are already behind. They have initiated the fight and they have a plan. Time is not our friend. We may have to move a loved one or a cover garment out of the way. We may have to defend ourselves with our support hand. Or extricate ourselves from behind a table. Or any number of things. It is simply not wise for us to count on having the luxury of time and two hands to chamber a round once we are already in a fight. To say nothing of the potential for inducing a malfunction at the worst (and possibly the last) moment of your life.
The Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s victory strategy was often quoted as, “the firstest with the mostest”. I think that translates rather nicely to gunfights. It implies to win, you not only need the firepower, you need to employ it faster than the other guy. Working the slide to chamber a round provides no advantage whatsoever.
Think of it this way: If we could interview the bad guy and ask him how he wants us to come to the fight, chambered or unchambered, what do you think he’d say?
Surprised you didn't include the Cooper 10 skeet shots with rifle?
I've got more coming. Believe it or not, even sticker magnates have to work sometimes. I can't support myself fully yet just by posting here.
Expat...have you tried decaf?
You don’t have to credit those guys Yeager,
Smith or Cooper they can be plagiarized. Always good to to give Forrest credit, even dead, he should probably still be feared.
I think it is good to have fun. I do not call myself training any more. I only shoot once a week but I do timed drills on head plates or steel silhouettes but should work more with the rig I carry. After 40 years of shooting it is hard to get enthused about anything usefull as I am beyond jaded.
Good writing, you should get it printed in one of the rags.
I wrote for SWAT magazine for years. Yet another thing that went by the wayside as I got busy creating the best stickers on the planet.
Now I just count my money and dream of falling quail over a double gun....
You should recount your experience as a sticker tycoon...especially getting measured for your bespoke pair of doubles from Purdy.
Ahhhhhh SWAT Magazine... I got into a back and forth with the Editor via email in 2001. They published a story on "the guns of the Australian SAS" that was absolute gibberish but they were backing him 100%...LOL Yeah...sure...Aussie SAS CT using 7.62 Galils as the go to sniper rifle...yep...sure...no worries at all. That was just one of the clangers...sorry...i just enjoyed that little trip down memory lane...
Who wrote it? Leroy Thompson? That seems like something he’d put out. @bearthedog and I have had more than one laugh over his articles.
I always thought Galils were quite popular in Austria.
No, Austria doesn’t like anything Jewish.
...no not Leroy (he gave me lots of laughs as a teenager with his writings in Combat Hanguns etc). I will have to look and see, I think the author may have been Israeli and the name was new to be....but they insisted he was "connected" as as not "Official Spokesperson" would be interviewed he knew best....
I stopped reading that stuff when Skeeter Skelton died. You don't have to be Robert Roark or Capstick but I need to be entertained to be interested.
Does anyone remember Jimmy Cirrillo? He was the only person Jeff Cooper would allow to talk.
Yes, even here Cirrillo was a legend. And what a sad end for him as well
We worked in the same place but he left before I got there. I know some really funny stories about him from his coworkers.
I knew Jim Cirillo. He gave me a great piece of advice I’ll write up and post here.
There are some good instructors out there but to some extent or another, they are standing on the shoulders of these pioneers. Jim was working out what worked on gunfighting during the day by actually gunfighting at night.
Today “innovation” consists of straightening the support arm and putting the thumb over the top of the barrel. I’m old enough to remember when it was the exact opposite. Support arm was as far back and tucked in as much as possible. I’m sure that will come back in the near future as the “new improved way” of shooting.
We lost a good one when we lost Jim. Amazing. All those gun fights and he gets killed in a car accident.
Typing this brings back some good memories.
Roark is my favorite
Capstick my second
Not sure who would be third. Not clear.