A Caliber and Capacity Post

Seriously. As crazy as it seems, I had this bright idea for a firearms related post. Particularly firearms a multidisciplinary practitioner would likely carry.


So of course I thought, how about one on caliber and capacity? I will preface this by saying I take a pragmatic approach to this subject.


Let’s dive headfirst into caliber. I’m not sure what caliber an ice pick might be but that caliber has wrecked a whole bunch of people. Same can be said for the screwdriver caliber. It seems that when one person introduces an icepick or screwdriver into another person’s aorta or brain, bad things follow. This isn’t always a life stopper, yet it’s effective enough often enough that simply googling the words ice pick death or screwdriver stabbing death yielded 4,810,000 results in 0.85 seconds. I realize this isn’t a very rigorous scientific study, yet despite this lack of rigor there might be something to it. Maybe it’s safe to say, within reason, where the hole is placed is as important as how big the hole might be? I don’t carry or recommend anyone carry anything smaller than a 9mm, particularly since M&P Shields, and Glock 43’s are tiny while still giving the user 6 – 8 rounds of 9mm in a super compact package. However, lots of folks are comfortable carrying smaller calibers such as Smith & Wesson revolvers in everything from 22LR to 38PL, or a Ruger LCP in .380. My absolute favorite pocket pistol is a Beretta 21 A Bobcat.  Regardless of what caliber one chooses just make sure it’s housed in a reliable, and accurate gun. You need the rounds to go where you intend for them to go, every time you intend for them to go there.


How much capacity is enough? In general I follow Tom Givens of Rangemaster advice which is to carry a pistol that has at least ten rounds on board the pistol. I’ve also spent quite a bit of my life carrying a single stack 1911 also known as God’s Gun which gives me 8 rounds on board the gun with several 10 round magazines in mag pouches on my belt. If we look at the data compiled by Tom Givens, the FBI, and DEA as well as the the NRA Armed Citizen we find when rounds are fired the average, (if we can call a life or death event average), defensive gun use involves between 3 – 5 rounds. In quite a few incidents the presence of the gun is enough to deter the criminal assault which means neither capacity nor caliber mattered when no shots were needed. Although my opponents unwillingness to fight isn’t something I’d want to bet the life of my loved ones on, it still gives credence to something James Yeager has been known to say which is; carry your damn gun.


Essentially I don’t think caliber or capacity matter unless you think it matters. We can find passionate, and convincing argument from both sides. I don’t think it’s possible to find a gun forum on the internet or a gun store counter that hasn’t been the site of a heated 9mm versus 45ACP debate. Everyone wants to believe they are carrying the magic bullet. However, it seems that whether the gun you choose has 5, 7, or 15 rounds of 22 LR or 45ACP on board isn’t as important as actually having the gun on you when you need it. Followed closely by the ability to put holes in your opponent’s vital areas specifically the upper chest, and/or the brain.


So if I don’t think caliber, and capacity are overly important what do I think is? Skill and will. Know the limitations of your chosen weapon then train, and practice to circumvent those limitations to the best of you ability. Sometimes those limitations are imposed by our work environment. A large framed male working outdoors in an environment where he can wear loosing fitting clothing versus a small framed female in a closed environment where she wears scrubs will have to make choices based on challenges faced. A few resources I know, and have turned to for solid training, and advice regarding adapting to, and overcoming the challenges of small guns are; Claude Werner, thee Tactical Professor, Dr Sherman House, Legendary Lawman Chuck Haggard, and Chris Fry of MDTS. Each of those guys can get you up to speed on carrying, concealing, and running a full sized gun as well. 

Train intensely.

Train intelligently.

When the time comes be willing.

Everything else, including caliber and capacity, is supplemental. 


Verification versus Validation

One of my favorite training tools is reactive targets. Anyone that has run a few plate racks will agree it’s a lot of fun. Reactive targets are also an excellent learning tool. Instant verification; I executed the fundamentals at speed correctly or… I didn’t. I emphasize to trainees, (as well as myself), that any drill we run is a verification not a validation. This keeps us in the correct mindset of a learner. Every time I mount the gun a learning opportunity presents.

During a recent REV Pistol course, I shared with the trainees my approach to coaching which has been heavily influenced by the book; Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. My good friend The Bastiat Blogger recommended this book to me when it was first published. Sebastian has never steered me wrong, and this was no exception.

One of the key points I emphasize when coaching is learning versus non-learning. Every rep is an opportunity to collect data. If a trainee has this mindset then there can’t be a failed drill, or unsuccessful attempt. There is only learning. There is data collected. There is growth. We have to disconnect failure or success from our approach to training, as well as competing, and replace those words with learning or non-learning.

In grappling, even though it’s a highly competitive arena there is also an understanding that there’s no win/loss record in practice. I’m in the practice room to work on my game. This might involve quite a bit of what appears to the uninformed to be failure however, learning is taking place. I’ll leave that practice a better grappler than when I arrived because learning occurred. (Sometimes I’ll drive home from practice with a bag of ice on my neck because I learned so much…). I encourage you to take this same approach to your shooting skill development. Unhook success or failure from your practice or even matches. Make it about learning. If we learn every time we mount the gun our progress as a shooter is guaranteed.

Vehicle Based Problem Solving; Intro

Some folks asked about vehicle based tactics, and my approach to the problem. I thought I’d share a few thoughts in this series of posts on the subject. For much of this endeavor Einstein’s recommendation to make things as simple as possible but no more simple is the best advice. This is really important when studying the subject of violence, particularly criminal violence. It’s easy to go off the rails, and down into the weeds wasting time, energy, and money. Worst case we set ourselves up to fail when we need our training the most.


First let’s look at some data. The US Department of Justice has compiled the following stats regarding car jackings in the US. Take a few moments to click the link, and read through this. It’s only three pages however, it contains solid information relevant to this series. Here is some of the most relevant data; a majority of the incidents involved one victim, within 5 miles of their home, more than one attacker, and the attackers were almost always males. A majority of the attackers were armed yet despite this we find the victims usually resisted. Good on them.


There are also a host of videos from various sources that show us real time carjackings, (also referred to as vehicular hijacking in some states), as well as armed robberies, and other violent crimes which occur in and/or around a vehicle. These sources give us a starting point from which to realistically begin to solve the problem. In this series we’ll cover some counter assault tactics that are realistic, and relevant to the private citizen.


What I won’t cover are things I’ve learned, and used as part of a tactical team in Law Enforcement. I have had the opportunity to receive a lot of training in vehicle takedowns, interdictions, and counter assault tactics. I’ve also had the opportunity to apply this training on the job in law enforcement as well as on protective details. The reason I won’t bother to share any of that training isn’t because of some operational security concerns. It’s because while all that stuff is a rush there is little carry-over from team tactics to the needs of a private citizen. I tend to think all that training is virtually useless when it comes to my needs as a private citizen going about my day. All of the training, and application was in a team environment with the focus on taking offensive action. Extensive planning, and rehearsal with all contingencies covered, geared up, and every tool necessary available to me. Contrast that with driving through my neighborhood with the only plan being to get to my house without incident, and the only tools I have are at most a standard issue concealed carry setup. The only team mates I have are whatever dog jumped in the car as I was leaving the house or maybe one or two of my kids. Sometimes I’ll have another an equally trained and equipped friend or two riding with me but not often.


So… with all that in mind you’ll better understand my approach to the problem as we get started. Nothing super sexy, no ninja rolls, no bounding, no rolling out of the vehicle with a rifle, no covering fire as our  partner drops back to gun up with the rifles in the trunk. Just simple, easily applied concepts, and principles to help us solve the problem of a criminal assault in and/or around a vehicle.

It’s Never The Tools

In the trades there is a saying; It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools. We find this to be true in the realm of self protection as well. If I were to be completely honest with myself I would have to admit quite a few of the firearms I’ve purchased have been an attempt at buying performance. For several years I would practice with a pistol, rifle or shotgun up to a point of frustration. I would plateau, and rather than just keeping my shoulder to the wheel I would wrongfully assume if I just buy a different, better model all things will be right with the world. My performance will take off again, the frustration will go away, and I will be one with everything.


Not even close. 


The cycle would simply repeat with a different tool. I was caught up in blaming my tools rather than the guy wielding the tools. Could there be times where our tools are holding us back? Sure. However, at this point in time I think it’s safe to say that any firearm from a major manufacturer will be more than adequate. In other words, if I do my part the gun will do it’s part. My search for a better tool was purely a distraction from the real work of perfecting my craft. I didn’t need to buy new gear, or read a different book, or watch a new video, and maybe I didn’t even need to take another class.


I just needed to work really hard on the things I already knew, with the tools I already had, and trust the process. 



Swing For The Fence, II

In the first post of this series we talked about some fundamental technique. In this post I want to expand upon some of those elements. In the first post I wrote about techniques that work well if we have a bit of distance between ourselves, and our opponents. This time I want to share with you a tactic that works well when we want to keep our opponents off of us, and maintain striking distance particularly when using a shorter impact weapon.


The challenge in impact weapon fighting aka stick fighting has always been to keep our opponent in that sweet spot, that perfect range where we can apply the most force to our target. Hitting them at the peak of our swing so they experience the joy of that pain train crashing up their spine, and into their brain, shutting them down or at least making them want to quit. Every shot we can land of that order is a deposit into the making-them-quit bank account. However, on the receiving end we are looking to crash through that range or stay outside of that range while pot shotting their lead arm, and leg.


Enter Piston Striking. This is a simple tactic that keeps your opponent right there in the sweet spot. Think of how a piston works. If one piston is up, the piston on the opposite side is down. Watch this if you need a mental image. Even if you don’t need help understanding how pistons work, watch this because it’s pretty cool. You’re going to mimic this action with your arms. Your non-weapon bearing arm comes out in a straight shot essentially stiff arming your opponent, keeping them off of you, while the rotation of this shot cocks your weapon bearing arm by rotating your weapon bearing arm back. Fire the weapon bearing arm striking your opponent with the impact weapon while retracting your non-weapon bearing arm. The movement is still on the X so your firing a 1-2 combo however, in a rotational path due to the nature of the impact weapon. This is a non-stop salvo. You want to be firing lefts-rights repeatedly, one after another. Non-weapon bearing arm popping your opponent off of you, and keeping them off of you while the weapon bearing arm is landing clean shots with the impact weapon.


For a simple training progression I would suggest starting on a heavy bag in what would usually be boxing or striking range. Practice slowly throwing a jab with your non-weapon bearing hand then throwing a strike with your weapon bearing hand similar to a cross as you retract your jab. Begin with 5-10 rounds to work on your sense of range, and timing. This is where having solid Boxing mechanics comes into play. There is a lot of carry-over from throwing hands with bad intentions to striking effectively with an impact weapon in this range. After some time on a heavy bag, it’s time to work this tactic using Thai pads. Have your training partner feed by trying to slowly crash the range, making you work to keep them off of you with straight shots with the non-weapon bearing arm while landing shots with your impact weapon. Again, work 5-10 rounds a session, getting a feel for the timing, and distance now with a live feeder. Once your good to go with a feeder it’s time to add some more resistance. Using soft sticks agree with your training partner to stay in this range. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a full on sparring session. If you crash the range have a set time to work to get yourself unentangled. If you can’t get unentangled, break clean, and restart. Have your training partner simply work to crash, so you can focus on keeping him or her off of you, and in that sweet spot where you can land clean shots. Use your imagination and continue to add resistance until you go to integration phase where you incorporate this tactic into full sparring to test your ability to apply this against full resistance.


Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it, and how it works for you.

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.


D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.


A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.


Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.