Monday, March 5, 2018

Are Standards just the standard way of cheating ourselves?

Are Standards just the standard way of cheating?

Standards exist to measure one’s proficiency. Technically, a standard is a set of rules that one must adhere to. The standard is either met, or it is not. In that vein, repeatedly practicing a standard drill does not mark true skill level. It marks one’s ability to meet a very narrow set of parameters. The core element of these standards is that if a shooter has attained a certain level of proficiency, he will be ably to call upon the few skills in his vast library of skills to pass the standard. When reality hits us, the standard has been published long before a student has attempted to pass it. The shortcut that we, as humans, will do is to only practice that tiny sliver of skills to maximize our ability to meet the standard. At no point is there a motivator to even begin to amass a large library of skills, we already know which ones will be needed. The problem is, in our shooting world, the standard being tested is just a small representation of a larger skillset one is assumed to have.
Precision Skills on display

Sometimes we perform this standard to show others that we meet the required skill level. The assumption on their part is all of the unused skills for that standard are at a similar level. However, shooters often game the system by focusing only on the ones they know they will be tested on. Now they are selling a false bill of goods. I see no reason why a student should know the specifics of a standard they will be performing beforehand. Sure, tell them that we are going to be doing some testing with pistols on Wednesday. Bring a guns, bullets and rig to wear it. And here’s the most important thing to bring...all the skills you have. Now, of the three-hundred thousand things a dude can do with a pistol in his hand, we can select a few and test him on those with a much better sense of his overall proficiency level.  We certainly don’t have time to test him on all of them on Wednesday, so this will give us a coarse picture of where he is and then we can decide if he is suited for whatever task we are testing him for, or to if he warrants making it to a further round of testing where we add more and more skills to the required tests.

What about when we are testing ourselves? I hope you all record your results when you practice the things you learned at training. This is how we measure our progress. If we learn some techniques at training, we should be practicing them. At some point we will test ourselves and measure that to prior results. Over time, this tells us if our practice regimen is working. Whether we pass or fail the published standard, it can be used as a yardstick.

However, if we know we’re going to time our El Pres the first weekend of every month, what to stop us from only practicing the 3 things an El pres measures? This is exactly why I can make a novice shooter an IDPA master class shooter in a weekend. He will lock up last place in every match he goes to because matches test an array of skills, but I can make him real good at the few needed for the classifier in a relatively short period of time. We might run the actual standard at the very beginning and at the beginning of day two to measure progress, but with the published requirements well known, it would be a cakewalk to pass it by the end of a quality 16 hours of instruction in doing so.
That's not quite an El Pres homie.

There are professional schools that train people to pass the Navy qual. Every block of instruction is focused around getting a student to pass it. When it’s over they are pretty damn good at a tiny number of things, and they often easily pass the qual. But is that a true measure of how overall proficient they are?

Wouldn’t  it make more sense to have a catalog of standards that are randomly chosen on our test date? Standards that test a wide variety of shooting skills. We go to the range 4 times a month (I picked that randomly). We practice the things we wrote down before we left the house. A few hours later, before we leave. We bust out one of those standards and perform it to our ability. We record that. That is our yardstick.

With a vast array of standards, we could easily choose a random one weekly so that in a moderate amount of range visits, we are back to ones we’ve already done and can track our progress. Assuming there are published requirement for pass/fail for these standards, we can even compare ourselves to those. If a student can pass that standard, cold, on-demand, with no advanced time to prep for those specific circumstances, then we can finally assume that he has a proficiency level equal to what we are asking him to perform on any given standard.
Your Bill Drill has a Mike

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Too Much Fundamentals?

The best instructors in the industry stress the firearms fundamentals as being the key to good shooting. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. It’s drilled over and over, even in the most advanced classes. Is it really that important?

Yep, sure is. There are a fair amount of advanced classes out there. The underlying theme of those? Different situations that apply the fundamentals of shooting. The most advanced classes simply refine all of the things that happen before and after applying those fundamentals. They are the foundry of everything else. Fundamentals are simply the underlying principles of making hits. Regardless of what techniques are applied to accomplish these principles.

Can you get too much of the fundamentals? Not likely. Can you get too many fundamentals? Maybe, let's take a look at it.

How many fundamentals are too many? Thats depends. How many are there? I had somebody once list me 11 fundamentals of shooting. I thought it was some type of parody. Similar to that video of the 21 step draw procedure. I saw an Army list of 8 fundamentals. Is that a bit excessive? I think so. Navy? 7. NRA? 5. Still a bit much. I’ve looked at these lists with a critical eye. Which of these is really a fundamental of shooting. At a recent class, Pat Mcnamara asked “ Is stance a fundamental of shooting?, I dunno. But you should probably stand”  I smiled widely.  We certainly agreed there. But do we need to stand to get hits? Of course not. While standing has some obvious benefits in a fight, we certainly don’t need to even be standing let alone any particular stance to get hits.

Before a bunch of competition guys talk about how a certain stance allows for better recoil management and faster follow up shots, I’m going to go back to what I was taught years ago by James Yeager : That is a technique that allows you to apply the fundamentals in a more rapid manner. Important? Probably. Awesome? Sure. Fundamental?...nah. You don't HAVE to do it to get hits.

For a number of years, I subscribed to a very common list of 4 fundamentals. Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Trigger Press and Follow Through. OK, those made sense to me. Do those 4 things, good hit every time. I went “all in“ on these. Then Rob Leatham said something that shook my faith in the system. The gist of what he said was “Grip the gun strong enough and your trigger press doesn’t matter” Holy shit! He was right. If I clamp a gun in a table vice, I can press the trigger with the full swing of a broom handle and the bullet will hit where it was aimed. So is grip a fundamental and not trigger press? Before I answer, let me say that I have made perfect repeatable bullesyes holding a gun with 2 fingers, upside down and pressing the trigger smoothly with an ink pen. Is it either/or? Grip or trigger press? Seems like doing at least one of the two is important. But what then is the underlying principle? I had to think on how I wanted to word that. Dont worry, I will before this is over.

Let’s take a look at the first couple on my original list. Sight Alignment and Sight Picture. These two are very closely related. Some people inadvertently lump them together. I’m going to do just that, on purpose, shortly. Barring some sort of mechanical error, the sights come from the factory already aligned on your pistol. Rifles may need to be zeroed, but then they too are mechanically aligned.  So let’s just go ahead and assume that the front and rear sights are mechanically aligned. We certainly won’t be out there turning knobs and drifting sights in dovetails between each shot. So we are essentially taking these two mechanically aligned points and aligning them to a third point, our pupil. Lining up these three things is considered “aligning our sights”.

Our sight picture is taking these three aligned points and aligning them with our fourth point: the target. So we are still aligning, we just add a fourth point to the mix. Ok, I’m down with that. But what if we are using a red dot sight? Are we no longer doing any sight alignment? Or is the alignment of the sight , the target and our eye the alignment AND the picture? I dunno how one wants to describe it, but now we have different fundamentals depending on the gear? Since a fundamental is an underlying principle to making hits, did the principle change with the gear? Or did we change the technique used to adhere to the principle? These were the questions I had to ask of my faith in my 4 chosen fundamentals.

What about Follow Through? Any disturbance of the orientation of the muzzle towards the target while the bullet is still in the barrel has a negative effect on accuracy. What about afterwards? Does excessive muzzle movement afterwards do anything other than make follow up shots slower? How do we know exactly when the bullet has left the muzzle? The easy answer is this: Keep the sights on the target before, during, and after the shot. If they move off the target, drive them back to the target. But if they move off, isn’t it already too late? Maybe. But in an effort to have a sight picture before, during and after the shot, we have a better chance of actually having an acceptable sight picture during, and that will affect accuracy. Sure, having one after is great for those follow up shots, but the crux of that is that the human mind cannot react fast enough to be able to determine the split moment that the we transgress from “during” to “after” the shot. By focusing on the before and after, we inadvertently sweep up the “during” as well. So the search was on to define exactly what the underlying principle was.

Instead of trying to rearrange words to get these thoughts to fit my predetermined fundamentals, I started from scratch. I approached the principles of making hits with a completely open mind. I decided that the underlying principles would be what I would call the fundamentals of shooting.

To the first two, I found the underlying principle was that we wanted to put the sights where we want the bullet to go. Sounds very simple and dare I say...fundamental. Literally that one phrase encompasses the entire principle behind aligning the pair of sights to our eye and the target, or even the singular sight to our eye and the target. It was that simple, put the sight(s) where you want the bullets to go. Eureka! I was happy with that and could move on to the rest of the principles to getting hits.

Down to three, I had to figure out whether it was grip or trigger press. Does it matter? No. Personally, I do both. Or at least I attempt to. So what was the message here? I am trying not to disturb the sights before the shot goes off. That was it, don’t disturb the sights before the shot goes off, but don't I also want to not disturb them during the shot as well? I can help accomplish that by focusing on a before and after “sight picture” but doesn’t that underlying principle directly tie in with not disturbing the sights?  I believe so. I am also not so naive as to believe I can eliminate moving the sights before and during the shot. My principle is to minimize moving the sights, while shooting. No need to differentiate, the before, during and the after. My eye/mind is incapable of differentiating the moment it slips from “during” to the “after”. So it boils down to “while shooting” and that’s what I was trying to do, boil them down to the underlying principles.
Now I had the other two of the traditional 4 fundamentals of shooting boiled down to one underlying principle. So that was it, I had started over with looking for the underlying principles of making hits on a target. Any target, doesn't matter what it is. You are only limited to size by your ability to apply these principles. These …..fundamentals. So that was it,  The TWO fundamentals of shooting:

1- Put the sights where you want the bullets to go.
2- Minimize the movement of the sights while shooting.

Do those two things and you will get a hit, every single time.
Want to know how to do that? Well there are scores of techniques to help you apply these two basic principles. Take a class. You could come out to one that I’m teaching or any of a bunch of other great instructors. They may word it differently, they may break these down to the techniques they recommend and mistakenly call that a fundamental. That's cool, just go out there get your learn on and don’t get too caught up in the semantics. Whether there are 3,4,5,7,8 or 11 fundamentals, we’re all trying to get the student to understand and apply these two principles.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Armed At Home or Home Arsenal?

I was having a discussion with some friends about the merits of always carrying a gun. Everywhere. All the time. No Metal Detector = carrying a gun. And I was hit with the following question….”What about at home?” At first I was confused, do people have metal detectors in their house? But the more we talked the more I realized that some people take their gun off when they get home. “Whew! Thankfully that is over” was the mindset I was dealing with. I can't say that is a mindset that is beneficial to survival at all. I asked them this question, and I pose it to you as well; where do 100% of home invasions take place? Yes, you are correct, the home.

As we discussed contingency plans for a home invasion there were three general schools of thought.
A: I’m home and I’m safe.
B: I have guns all over my house, there's always one within reach.
C: I carry a gun, at home.

“A” is a simple fallacy. If you believe this, you are wrong. I can't stress this enough. Outside of the “home invasion” scenario, which should be plenty of reason to be armed, 29% of all violent crime is performed by a household member. (US DOJ stats)
“B” certainly has some merit, but I find that most people seem to think having a handgun in their biometric safe in the nightstand counts as having a gun within reach. Which is partially true when one is in bed.
“C” is a great choice, but like “B”  it usually isn't as true as people believe it is. Going to the bathroom at 0300 is a time when most people don't grab their smokewagon on the way out of their bedroom.

There's only so much I can do from behind a keyboard to help, but maybe explaining what I do will spark some thought on things you can do to maintain being armed at home. It might not be the answer for everybody, but I found what works for me.

My first line is to carry my gun at home. Thanks to the awesome guys at NSR Tactical and Yeti Tac, my daily carry gear is comfortable and easy to carry all day long. If anybody reading this struggles with finding a suitable holster give those guys a look. Green Force Tactical, Viper Holsters and Galco make some fine choices as well.
A pile of awesomeness.

The upside of carrying your gun at the house is that I don’t need to plan further. If I am in the basement doing laundry, I have a gun handy. If I walk out front to check the mail, I have a gun on me. Mowing the grass? Already have a gun on me. It’s easy to see that we need to exert no extra effort, regardless of what is going on at the house to be armed. I have talked to many folks out in town that normally are armed that admit that after de-gunning when they went inside had neglected to re-arm before they ran to pick up some milk,or bacon, or beer. I don't want that to be me, I didn’t want it to be them, and I don’t want it to be you. The simplest way to assure you are armed is to remain that way all day.

I can hear what you are thinking. You aren’t going to sleep wearing your gun, or shower with it. I get it. Thats where we supplement our “Armed at Home” with the “Home Arsenal.” Like most people, I sleep in something other than what I wore all day. Shorts and a t-shirt are not the most conducive to carrying the same way I do normally. What I prefer to do is keep my carry gun handy beside the bed. But the devil is in the details. Instead of placing my pistol on the nightstand or one of those bedside holsters, I take off my pants and put them in the floor beside the bed. Very similar to how a fireman has his turnout gear staged.
I was once awoken to the sound of a car accident outside. There was screeching, the crashing. I immediately put my pants on and had a pistol, spare mag, flashlight, fixed and folding blade knives, car keys and most importantly medical gear. The only thing missing from my EDC was my phone since it had to charge at some point. I did grab it on the way out. I find this much better than dumping my pockets and then scrambling to get it all in an emergency. In the morning I will empty the pants to put the stuff in the new pants I’ll be wearing that day. If there happens to be a “noise in the house” and I just want the gun/light it’s no more difficult to get it from my holster on the floor than it is in a drawer beside my bed. My first course of action in this case is to grab the rifle from beside my bed. There is a suppressed SBR with a light and constant on red dot between my bed and my nightstand. With a redi-mag, I have 60 rather quiet rifle rounds at my disposal with a light attached. Far superior to a pistol in every aspect.

That leaves me with one glaring omission, the bathroom. Normally, if we are armed our gun will be with us in there. Even showering, if we take our clothes off in the bathroom, our pistol will likely be in its holster on the floor somewhere. “But Garry, I change in my bedroom not the bathroom” OK, that’s fine. This next idea works for that. It also works for those middle of the night trips to the head. Personally I’m trying to find the bathroom without turning on any lights or stepping on a lego. I always ignore both the rifle and the holstered pistol. So my solution to that was a shotgun in the bathroom.
Brian at Tacticool Guns and Gear hooked me up with a Mossberg 590 Mariner. I chose this model in particular. The 590 and the Remington 870 are reliable workhorses. I prefer the 590 to the 870. The Mariner is designed to be exposed to moisture. There is no exposed carbon steel. All nickel plated or replaced by polymer parts. I felt confident that in a room that is constantly humid, the gun would function normally. It has been doing this for a couple years with no issue. This is the same shotgun I train with, so it gets frequent checks and test to see if it holding up. I used to have some roommates that kept a S&W J-frame in the shower. The gun didn’t seem to be affected by the constant wetness, but the ammo was frequently a dud. They now keep an AK in the bathroom. While it does show some signs of surface rust, true to an AK, it keeps running.

These are the things that I do to keep my home better prepared. They may not work for everybody, but maybe we can get thinking about the things that will work for us at home. Not only should you approach how to be armed at home you should get some training on how to effectively do so. Get your family on board with your emergency plan and practice it. You will likely have mere moments to put your plan into action while help is many minutes away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

EDC Seminar - Vehicle EDC

Vehicle EDC

In the beginning of July I was invited by Jared Ross of Rockwell Tactical to speak at a conference he had arranged. The topic of the conference? Every Day Carry. My sliver to cover was EDC in a vehicle. I don't feel as though I was any more qualified than the other speakers for this particular subject, but it was all mine.

The day of the seminar my throat was about as sore as I have ever had , so of course I muscled through it. Its a good thing I had a microphone because my voice was giving out about 15 seconds into it. I cut short the time I was given because I didn't think my voice would hold out for long. I think I cut it down to 15 minutes or so. I told the participants I would put a list of things one should keep in a vehicle on the internets so they could at least see what is on my list even if they couldn't hear it. So without further ado, here is my list/notes.

Vehicle has 2 major advantages

All of this is dependent on what vehicle you have, what type of storage is available.

Storage- how will we utilize the extra storage to supplement our normal EDC?

Gallons from wally world, or a case of bottles , probably everybody here is not properly hydrated.

AMMO  There is a tiny chance you will ever need it to save yourself. It’s just not a necessity. Of course, I have 3K in there right now. Unlikely you will need it, but it does make for a great opportunity for an unplanned range trip

Med Gear
EDC should include med gear. The vehicle offers a chance to carry medical gear for yourself or more advanced medical care. More blunt trauma gear instead of bleeding gear. You don’t need to know how to use it, someone else might.
You will have a much better chance of being a hero with some medical gear than a gun.

Rifle? - #1 question. Should I , shouldn't I ? Personal choice. I cant answer that for you. Not everybody even wants to, but I carry a pistol when there is a 0.00% of a gunfight. If I feel it gets up to 1%, I’m bringing a long gun. If you are someone inclined to keep a rifle or any gun in your car LOCK IT UP!  I keep an AK and a chest rig locked under the rear seat.

Bug Out Bag/ Get Home Bag - That’s a whole different class, but keeping a backpack in the car in case you need to travel on foot is free.

Comms - A CB radio or a HAM, cell phone chargers

General Purpose -
Flashlight/ headlamp (lithium batts)
Toilet paper
Shop towels
Garbage Bag and or tarp
Road Atlas
Wool blanket or similar/ space blanket
Change of clothes (BOB) footwear for business and women
Cordage (paracord)/ bungee
Sunscreen and DEET

This is usually the reason we even own a vehicle. We need to carry the stuff to keep it mobile.
Biggest thing here is fuel. I don't recommend carrying a gas can inside a vehicle. A pickup truck has some advantage here. But don't run your car until empty. A good rule of thumb is to fill it at the halfway mark. You could opt to carry an empty tank in the trunk.

Jumper cables, I shouldn't have to point this out we have all been on one end of a jump start.

Fluids - if your vehicle uses more trany fluid or oil, keep some in it. (Like a Chevy) Otherwise, you are likely fine

Spare tire and tools, check them and make sure they all work. Upgrade the jack and wrench if you like. When you air your 4 tires up, check the spare at the same time.
Tire repair kit, fix a flat.
A 12V air pump to go with that kit.

Duct tape
Extra fuses (especially for a VW)
Snow chains

Tools - A small toolbag with some open end/closed end wrenches, a pair of adjustables , screw drivers, pliers and a socket set would be a great start. Going further to a 3 lb hammer, some high temp liquid gasket and a variety of hose clamps. Like medical gear, you may not know what to do, but somebody else might.

Fire extinguisher!
Road flares, signage.
Tow strap- for someone to tow YOU out
E tool
Hand saw , folding , wood, Chainsaw if you have a locking toolbox in a pickup

Seat belt cutter/ glass breaker, resQme central or individual.

Most importantly is get training in how to use the things you are carrying. Sure I said some things you might not know how to use but somebody else will. But that’s no excuse to ignore getting those skills. Put that stuff on your list of shit to learn.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Trijicon MRO - Best on the Market?

I was asked after I put up my video on this optic if I thought it was an Aimpoint killer. I chose not to answer simply because I believe Aimpoint is the Aimpoint killer.  My experiences with the PRO left me wanting a different optic before I knew what one I was going to get. Now mind you, I have a T1 on my AK that runs fine so I’m not here to trash them as a whole, I just haven’t had the same experience that many others have had.  
Back in September I was at a Sentinel Concepts class hosted by MIdwest Industries and Steve Fisher had an MRO on his demo gun. I had seen the Travis Haley video announcing it, but that was all of the prior knowledge I had. So Steve let me check out the sight and I was sold. I had to get me one. They were just starting to trickle in to some local gun shops but not in large numbers. A Tactical Response Alumnus contacted me and told me his buddy just got a pair of them in at his shop. A few phone calls later and it was a done deal and he was bringing it to class that weekend.
My initial impression was very good. I only had the really really low mount that comes from the factory. I was surprised, that it actually was usable on an AR. Far from ideal but usable. At that time mounts were difficult to locate but my good friend Brian at Tacticool Guns and Gear sourced a couple of ADM mounts and graciously hooked me up. I had also talked to Pete at Midwest Industries and he told me that their first batch of mounts were finishing up in a few days. After using both of them, I prefer the throw lever on the Midwest mount, its much lower profile. Otherwise both mounts are rock solid and either will perform as expected.
As for the optic itself, let’s look into the things that set it apart. First the front lens is larger than the rear lens. This is brilliant (pun intended). When we look at things, the further away they are the smaller they are. So anytime you look through a tube, the hole in the far end appears smaller than the close end. Obviously the longer the tube the more pronounced this is. With the shape of the MRO, which certainly fits in with the style of an ACOG, this effect is nonexistent. One of the first comments I hear when I hand it to others to check out is “Wow, the field of view is huge”. When comparing the field of view to a more traditional tubed 30mm red dot, this sight seems much more clutter free even though it has a 25mm front lens and a 20mm rear lens. The engineers at Trijicon had a few other tricks up their sleeve to facilitate this as well. The main brightness control and battery compartment was moved to the top of the sight, moving out of the shooters lateral field of vision. In addition this makes the control ambidextrous which is always a plus. The next thing they did to make the body of the sight less obtrusive was to use a different type of adjustment for zeroing. The adjuster are flush and internally sealed, This removes the need for protruding caps to keep the watertight integrity.

As long as I am talking about those features, let's look into them with a little more detail. With the brightness control there are fewer options for brightness than I am accustomed to. But this has yet to present me with any issues. the control knob goes OFF, n, N, 1, 2, OFF, 3, 4, 5, 6.  The addition of the OFF position in the middle is very clever. If for some reason you like to turn your optic off this keeps you one click from a usable setting as opposed to running it through all of the low ones to get to the one you want. Personally I use setting 2 at night when I go to bed, it works fine in a dark room. 3 is usable for outside although depending on the lighting conditions, I use 4 often as well. I found this refreshing as I had been using my Aimpoint PRO and it just never got bright enough on a sunny day to pick it up quickly.

The adjusters, as mentioned, are flush and have no caps. The integrally sealed unit mens we are not relying on the O-rings in the cap to maintain waterproof qualities. It also means my dumb-ass won't lose the caps. Trust me, it's a known issue with me. They are your typical ½ MOA adjustment that is the industry standard. Any flat item can be used to make adjustments. A screwdriver, of course, a coin or a rim of a shell case all work great. This holds true for the battery cap as well.

Let’s move on to the part that sold me on this optic. The dot. It’s a rather standard size of 2MOA. But where it really shines (yet another pun) is its roundness and crispness. For years I bemoaned the dot on the micro series. I always wanted to know what sacrifices were made when Aimpoint made the micro series. I have seen a whole host of shapes for those dots, oval being the most prevalent, all the way to jellybean. The comp series doesn’t seem to exhibit this. Although I will say that Trijicon sure did close the gap to EOTech when it comes to crispness. This was one of the areas that L3 far exceeded the Swedes and it looks like another American company did the same.

The stated battery life is listed in years. I can’t vouch for this since I’ve only had it for a few months. It has outlasted my last PRO so it’s certainly on the right track. They do say on setting 6 it will last for about a month. Note to self:  if I’m shooting at the sun (the only place I’d need to turn it up that far) it will not last but a handful of weeks. With all the talk of battery life, in my limited experience, the big players are all close enough that I pay it no heed.

After I released my video, I got some questions about my comments on magnification. I wasn’t sure if it had it or not and I managed to convince myself that it both did and didn’t. All I could determine was that it was not 1.1 like a Nightforce. With some further digging, I find that Trijicon has it listed as 1.05 magnification. They say the optical engineers did this to make the dot the most crisp and obtain a better focused image through the lens. That’s all above my head but that's what they get paid for.  As I am told by sources in the industry, this level of magnification is standard in a non magnified optic. Aimpoint does the same thing, it has been reported that the micro series is 1.025 so the numbers to seem to support this claim. All in all, any talk of this minor magnification is irrelevant in my eyes, it’s a non-issue.

At the end of the day, the MRO is not what I would call perfection. If physics did not apply to red dot sights, I would have a list of features that I would want and I would pay more than a fair price to have them. But until the point where that list is feasible from an engineering standpoint, I will choose the Trijicon MRO over all the options currently on the market.