The importance of positive phrasing

One excellent tip he provided was to think of keeping the gun pointed AT something in a safe direction rather than trying to keep it pointed AWAY from things I didn’t want to kill or destroy. Having a more proactive mindset in this respect has helped me since.

From David Yamane, during his range trip with John Johnston.

Words matter. Phrasing matters. The right words, the right phrasing can do wonders for understanding and mindset.

Long ago I observed adults seeing children running when they shouldn’t be (e.g. on the wet floor around a swimming pool). A parent would yell “DON’T RUN!” at children, then the kids would start skipping or hopping. The parent would get mad because, in their mind, the child was disobeying as the parent intended for the child to walk. However, the child was following the given directions: they were told not to run and they did stop running. Since the child was given no direction as to what TO do, they made their own (unguided) choice that to them was acceptable but to the parent it was not. Because of the parent’s choice of phrasing, relative to the message they intended to send, well… everything broke down and communication was not successful.

It’s the same with gun rule-sets. Often rule sets tell you what not to do, like “never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.” Certainly there’s truth in that statement, but what it doesn’t do is then tell you what you SHOULD do? Should you start pointing it at things you ARE willing to destroy? That could be open to some terrible interpretation, because maybe you’re willing to destroy your ex-spouse or your boss. That’s not good.

This is why I (and the rest of the instructors at KR Training) prefer rule sets like the NRA’s. Their phrasing is clear and positively stated so you can know what TO do: “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” That not only covers the desire to not point the gun at things you don’t want destroyed, but it also tells you where to actually point the gun muzzle.

It’s important to tell people what you want them to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean the phrasing has to be “positive”. For example, if a child is about to touch a hot stove, to say “Don’t touch the stove!” can be acceptable phrasing, because not touching the stove is precisely what you want them to do. Granted, phrasing in a more “positive” manner may be better (e.g. “Stop!” or “Put your hands behind your back!”) – the key is to clearly convey to people what you want them to do.

Proper phrasing goes a long way towards helping people learn, and establishing a stronger mindset for success.

Improving Grip and Recoil Control

I’ve been having a chat with a student about improving grip strength to help with recoil control.

There’s no question a strong grip aids in recoil control. Improving your grip strength will help because of the physics and physiology involved – the gun simply cannot move as much because you’re able to apply a greater counter-force.

There are different exercises one can do to improve grip strength, and the ones most applicable to recoil management are those which strengthen the crush grip, as opposed to extension, flexion, pinch, etc.. What sorts of exercises can you do? Anything that works to improve both your general gripping strength, as well as your grip endurance. If you’re the gym-going type, exercises like farmers walks, deadlifts, dumbbell bench press, anything that requires you to grip hard and hang on for a reasonable period of time. If you’re just looking for specialized grip training, one of the best is the Captains of Crush grippers. They are high quality, and come in a variety of resistance “weights” so you can start where you are and progress as you get stronger. I’d suggest picking up an array so you can practice different ways. For example, pick up a heavy one for low-rep (3-5) sets to build strength. Then pick up a lighter one for holds (10, 20, 30 seconds). Note, when doing holds, strive to increase your grip pressure during the hold time. Naturally your muscles tire so your grip will loosen, but that’s not what we want nor need! If you strive to increase your grip pressure throughout the hold, it will take you further and you’ll see greater gains that should pay off in your recoil management. FWIW, while I own a bunch of CoC grippers, I don’t regularly train with them since I regularly lift weights. But I am able to close a CoC #1.5 (167.5 lb), which is more than is necessary for recoil management, but IMHO there’s also no downside to having a strong grip.

But recoil management doesn’t just come from pure strength. It also comes from technique. Watch this instructional video from Mike Seeklander. While Mike does use strength, he’s really using some excellent technique to take recoil management to the next level.

Effective recoil management is a component of good shooting technique. Through a combination of grip strength and shooting technique, you can step up your game.

Are you sufficiently self-confident?

What is Confidence?

The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. A feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

Confidence is something we all want to have, especially in areas important to us. When we are confident, we have the ability to perform under pressure – instead of crumbling. It doesn’t mean we won’t be nervous or scared, but it does mean we know we can and will perform.

There are numerous ways to achieve (a higher level of) confidence. One is to ensure a solid grasp upon and ability to apply fundamentals – the necessary base or core.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

– Michael Jordan

There’s really no super-secret ninja tricks. The best out there are just the best at applying the fundamentals – and they are supremely confident in their ability to do so.

Note this requires not only having the skill, but KNOWING you have the skill AND knowing that you can apply those skills, on demand, under pressure.

When it comes to defensive pistol skills and concealed carry, there is without question a need – a requirement – to have confidence in one’s abilities. You carry because you acknowledge the possibility you may have to defend your life or the life of someone else, so this is a realm where you must have a strong self-confidence. Anything else could put your life – or the life of someone else – at risk.

Step back and think about it for a moment.

You probably think you can handle these things just fine. And maybe you can.

But do you know this for certain?

In December 2017, Karl Rehn and I were on the Handgun World Podcast and discussed 10 drills we think make a good baseline set of drills handgun shooters can use to maintain and develop skills. It’s part of our ongoing study on minimum competency.

Can you shoot and pass these drills?

Or let’s make it simpler.

Going back to my 2013 article that started the minimum competency exploration I concluded:

So have I been able to define “minimum competency” required for defensive handgun use?

Maybe, maybe not – I’m sure there will be folks who take issue with what I’ve written. It seems when we look at what unfolds in a typical incident and what needs to be done to handle that typical incident, you get:

  • drawing from concealment
    • And perhaps moving on that draw (like a side-step then stop; not shoot-and-move)
  • getting multiple hits
  • in a small area
    • 5″ circle? 6″ circle? 8″ circle? consider human anatomy
  • from close range
    • Within a car length, so say 0-5 yards
  • quickly
    • 3 seconds or less
  • using both hands, or maybe one hand (or the other)

That’s what you need to be able to do – at a minimum.

So let’s just look at the “Bill Drill” (#4 on our list) because it’s a short and simple drill that basically covers the above 6 points.

If I walked up to you and asked you to shoot a Bill Drill, right now, in front of me, could you do it? How does the thought of that make you feel? Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you feel butterflies in your stomach? Do you know for a solid fact you could shoot that cold, on-demand, and rock it – or are you not certain?

If the thought of this makes you feel even one iota of uncertainty, then you do not have the confidence you need.

If you feel confident, then shoot it. Can you shoot it to an acceptable level? And can you do it again?

Or maybe you don’t feel anything, and you just admit you don’t know. Then well, you need to know.

If you don’t have the confidence you need to work to gain it. If you don’t have the knowledge, then you need to shoot it and gain that knowledge. And once you’ve acquired that knowledge, now you have measured and quantified knowledge of your performance, which not only gives you an articulable and tangible expression of your ability, but also the confidence in knowing your level of performance.

This is one reason why we at KR Training have our Basic Pistol 2 and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 classes. These classes are not just core curriculum, but are the two most important classes we teach, as they provide the student with the necessary fundamentals for defensive pistol use. We provide you with the knowledge you need, help you establish your skills, and provide you with a quantified measure of your skills (via the “3 Seconds or Less” test).

I’ll state again: if you don’t have the self-confidence to shoot and pass “3 Seconds or Less” right now, you have work to do and knowledge to gain. This is not a time for believing you’re “good enough” with no factual basis to back it up – do not let your ego get you killed; this is not a space where you can “fake it ’til you make it”. Your life, and the lives of those you love are on the line. You need a true, honest assessment and knowledge of your skills and abilities – and the confidence that knowledge brings.

Have that confidence. For when the flag flies is not the time to wonder if you can – you must already know you can.

AAR: Use of Deadly Force Instructor, February 2018

From January 31, 2018 to February 4, 2018 I participated in the Use of Deadly Force Instructor class offered by the Massad Ayoob Group in conjunction with the Firearms Academy of Seattle, hosted by KR Training. The event was held at the Giddings (TX) Downtown Restaurant, which provided a large and comfortable meeting room, as well as most excellent lunch (and coffee/drinks) catering throughout the event.

About the course, from the MAG website:

Taught personally by Massad Ayoob, this one week 40+ hour course of instruction is offered by the Massad Ayoob Group in conjunction with The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc. to teach and certify self-defense firearms instructors in the complicated and nuanced discipline of teaching the legalities of use of deadly force in self-defense. Teaching how to shoot is the easy part. Much tougher is teaching people when and when not to use force, including deadly force, in self defense. In addition to learning what to teach and how to present it, students will also learn how to take their expertise to court, to both serve as a material witness for their students, and perhaps an expert witness in other self-defense court cases. Course content includes:

Justifying use of deadly force in self-defense
Use of non-lethal force in self defense
Understanding the affirmative defense of self-defense
Physiological phenomenon involved in deadly force incidents
Criminal law and self-defense
Dynamics of violent encounters
Mock courtroom exercise
Issues from actual self-defense cases (case studies)
Classroom presentation

Students will be expected to prepare for this class by researching their own state’s laws on use of deadly force, along with their own state’s case law, and bring this material to class. Additionally, students should be prepared for instruction to go into the early evening if necessary on some days, in order to cover the vast array of material which needs to be covered.

Pre-requisites: Instructor credentials or membership in the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc.

As you can see, it’s quite an in-depth and intensive class. Officially, the class is 40 hours of instruction, but I reckon we totaled about 50 hours due to extended discussions, Q&A, and a large number of student presentations (I believe the student headcount was 32).

Class Content

I cannot go into detail about the class content: you need to come to class yourself. But there are a few things I can say.

Class started with Massad teaching solo; Marty arrived later with Mas and Marty co-teaching the last three days.

If you have previously taking LFI-1, MAG-20 (classroom), or MAG-40, a fair portion of the material will be redundant. I have MAG-20 classroom and MAG-40 certificates, so for me there was redundant material. Sometimes it made it hard to sit through class, but I actually appreciated it. Why? Because redundancy fosters learning. Let me repeat that: redundancy fosters learning. To hear this material again was a good thing. As well, when you hear the material in MAG-20/40, you’re hearing it from the perspective – both as it’s being taught and as you are consuming the information – of the student. When you hear that material in this DFI content, it is being presented and you are consuming it as that of an instructor. The context shift makes a difference in the material, how it’s presented, and how you consume it; so it’s actually a good thing to hear the information again.

After Marty’s arrival, content of the course shifted from use of force knowledge and information to more about courtroom matters. Issues of defense, of concept articulation, of expert witnesses, and how court and trial proceedings work.

The highlight event was the moot court exercise. The intent of the exercise is to show what a trial can be like (if you’ve never had exposure to one), how proceedings work, how direct and cross happen, and then how you – as a possible material or expert witness – will operate. Due to the fact we only had one day for the exercise, the ground was laid by watching an interesting movie that left a lot of questions. We treated this as evidence, because in a real trial all of that information could come out but it would take 2 weeks to do so; since we didn’t have 2 weeks, this was a fair device for the exercise.

We had only one actual lawyer in class, so he played the judge. Marty prosecuted, Mas defended. Particular students were tapped to play certain characters. Other students directly participated as expert witnesses, generally playing themselves. For example, Marty used me as an expert witness, and I played myself as an expert on martial arts, firearms, and weapon disarms. (Aside: during cross, Mas posed a hypothetical to me – which was a little personal and stunned me that he would “go there”, but was brilliant in delivery, execution, and context; it made his point so well, and it demonstrated Mas’ keen senses and abilities. Bravo, sir!). The remaining students were on the jury, and after much deliberation? We resulted in a hung jury (we were told in past classes that juries have found both guilty and not guilty – so it’s far from a canned experience!).

Every student in class was required to give a 5-10 minute presentation on a topic, which was assigned by Marty prior to class. This allowed each student to demonstrate presentation ability (it’s an Instructor class, after all), but it also provided each of us with 30-some solid articles and references directly relevant to use of force, expert witness knowledge, court proceedings, case law, and other topics to really expand the information provided by this class. I believe Karl will be posting student presentations (of those who wish to do so) over at the KR Training blog in the coming weeks.

If you’ve been to one of Mas’ classes before, you know a portion of the material is provided by watching videos – which provides consistent, documented, and easily reproducible content. But then there was a great deal of live lecture, presentation, Q&A, and discussion as well; this is why class would run later.

My Take-Home

I thought the class was fantastic.

There’s a huge amount of information provided on the issues of deadly force, and how I, as an instructor, not only have to work to convey such matters to my students, but then how as an instructor I may be called to be a material witness or could offer my services as an expert witness. I know of no other program that provides this vital information.

While the lecture was good, the moot court exercise was great. Asking some other students, and they too felt the moot court was the best and most valuable portion of the class.

I think it’s important to consider the prospective students of this class: people who instruct in the use of deadly force. You don’t need to be a prior MAG graduate. In fact, I got the impression a fair number of students were folks who just taught things like their state CCW course or maybe the NRA basic courses as a side-gig. Consequently, they may never have had the exposure to the courtroom, to trials, to other things Mas teaches. This class is a great resource for breaking that ground and being able to do so through the eyes of instruction.

While for sure the class was biased towards firearms (tho there’s no shooting in the class: it’s 100% classroom), this is the sort of class that ANYONE teaching “self-defense” should take. Do you teach women’s self-defense courses? even those that are just about awareness, palm strikes to the chin, and knee to the groin — there’s still use of force matters to be aware of. Pepper spray classes? Traditional martial arts? If you are in the business of teaching self-defense, under whatever mantle, you need this knowledge. As I think about it, it generally seems that only firearms folk cover such legal matters, but it really needs to be anyone teaching self-defense.

Any criticisms of the event? I think the only thing that actually bothered me during class was at times Q&A could go off the rails. Some questions felt like personal questions that should have been asked during break vs. taking up class (and everyone’s) time. And sometimes it just ran long. On the one hand, it’s understandable because the topic is interesting, engaging, broad, and deep – so it’s very easy to “get into it”. On the other, when you’ve been sitting in a chair for days, drinking from the firehose, sometimes you just need the firehose to be shut off for a little bit and get to break sooner rather than later. Again, I don’t necessarily fault folks here (I’m guilty of time management issues myself), but if I had to mention anything that I didn’t like, it was that. But it’s a minor thing.

One other thing I liked about the event? The non-classroom stuff. I made a few new friends, got to meet Dr. H. Anthony Semone, PhD (Google him), and spend some informal time with Marty Hayes. If you know some of my past, I am thankful for some things Marty has done. We’ve spoken here and there (including recording an episode of the Polite Society Podcast mere days before this event), so it was great to finally meet him in person, have supper a few times, and sip some bourbon together. Oh, and I got to introduce him to Buc-ee’s. We’ve got a small world, and our industry here is even smaller – events like this, to meet and work with like-minded folks, are precious.

Mas and Marty don’t teach this class that often. So when it becomes available, make the effort to take it. It’s some of the most important training you can receive.

I’m a guest on the Polite Society Podcast

Episode 437 of the Polite Society Podcast was just released, containing an interview with myself and Marty Hayes of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.

I was invited to the podcast to discuss my incident of January 5, 2015. What made this particular discussion interesting (compared to my retelling/Q&A on the ProArms Podcast, and interview on Ballistic Radio) was what was to be a general discussion with Marty and I as guests turned into Marty actually doing a lot of the interviewing/questioning of me on the incident.

You see, Marty and I have never met in person – we only know each other through ACLDN, and I believe my first actual interaction with him was when I called him needing The Network’s services. We spoke a couple times since (and I spoke in-depth with his wife, Gila, for the January 2017 ACLDN Newsletter), but generally brief and just to get some details handled. So this really was the first time we’ve been able to speak more freely and Marty asked me a lot of questions that have been on his mind about the incident. I learned a few things as well.

The podcast is available wherever podcasts can be found (e.g. iTunes), or you can find a direct link here.

I’m actually going to be meeting Marty in person (finally) in a few days. Looking forward to it.

No! No! 1000 times No!

A man was shot at after he said he flipped off another driver on the highway in Travis County, deputies say. Meanwhile, that suspect driver told them he believed he was allowed to fire a “warning shot.”

Read the whole thing. (h/t KR Training)

Everything is wrong here.

Driver 1 gets cut off in traffic, so he gets pissed and flips off Driver 2.

Driver 2 gets pissed off and pursues Driver 1.

Driver 2 pulls out a gun and shoots at Driver 1.

Driver 2 gets followed by police. Police observe an occupant of Driver 2’s car throw marijuana out the window.

Driver 2 gets pulled over. Admits to what he did.

“Ernesto [Molinary-Garcia] stated that he did so because he was under the belief that he was allowed, as a Licensed Handgun Carrier, to shoot a ‘warning shot,’” the affidavit stated. “Ernesto claimed that [the victim] was purposefully merging into his lane while on the on-ramp after the near-collision incident.”

WTF? There is no where in Texas statute that permits this (reference: LTC-16, the official document published by the Texas Department of Public Safety that contains the relevant portions of statute for license holders). And if his LTC Instructor taught him this, that instructor needs to have their credentials pulled immediately. However, I suspect he wasn’t taught this and is either bullshitting or a dumbass; maybe both.

Everything in here is wrong. Both parties made poor choices. Both parties are paying the price for their poor choices.

Learn from this: do NOT do what either party did.

Exercise is self-defense

I’ve said it before, and Dr. Sherman House said it again:

My point is, it does you or anyone else in your charge little good if you’re a real-life Paul Kersey, but you stroke out after the fight in the immediate aftermath.

I’ve phrased it differently when I said it, but it was Sherm’s phrasing here that spurred me to write.


About 3 years ago I was involved in a self-defense incident. I’m happy to have been in good physical shape, as I believe it made a difference in not only managing the incident itself, but the aftermath.

I lost 6 pounds of bodyweight that day.

The stress on the entire body, the heart, the lungs, etc.. It’s tremendous, and sudden. Look at yourself right now: do you think your body and internal systems can handle the volume suddenly being turned up to 11?

Being in good physical shape helps with keeping calm, with just enabling the body to function under greater stress, because it’s already used to “greater stress”.

And let’s step back from “self-defense” and just consider something.

You chose to carry a gun to protect and preserve your life, right? Your life is that valuable, that precious to protect – to keep yourself alive.

So, why not do something that will have far greater impact upon your ability to live? Clean up your diet. Get some exercise. Stop smoking. Lose weight. Try to get your body healthy so you can get off meds/drugs.

That’s a far more impactful and daily-impactful defense of your body, your self.

Discussing Minimum Competency Drills

Karl Rehn is guest hosting the Handgun World Podcast, and in Episode 443, he and I discuss a topic near to our hearts: Minimum Competency, and drills for them. You can listen to the episode here, or anywhere you can get podcasts (like iTunes).

Karl came up with a list of 10 drills, arranged by scale. I added a couple more. It’s a good corpus of drills you can use to assess your level of defensive handgun competency, as well as use to maintain and improve skill level.

If you don’t have time to listen to the episode, you can read Karl’s write-up where he lists the 10+2 drills.

On my phone, I keep a PDF of drills that I like to run. Doesn’t mean I’m a master at all the drills, just they are ones I consider to be important to my skill and practice. In there I have drills like the 5×5, 3 Seconds or Less, 3M Test, various Rangemaster tests (Instructor, Core Skills, Bullseye), FBI qual, BAFTE qual, The Test, Super Test, Walk-Back, Gunsite 250 & 350. I also keep some in there for metrics and reference, like Gabe White’s Standards, MAG-40/LFI, and the TX LTC test.

Start making your own collection. Strive to put in a good variety that covers the depth and breadth of skills relevant to your context. Put in ones that push you, that expose your flaws and weaknesses, and that can be used over time to help you measure progress.

Monsters exist

Hayes and Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted 11-year-old Michaela. The pathologist who conducted the autopsies testified that both suspects’ DNA was found in semen recovered from Michaela’s rectum. Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the little girl on his cell phone, then provoked Hayes into raping the mother, Jennifer. Hayes raped her on the living room floor. Hayes then strangled Jennifer with a piece of rope, then doused her lifeless body and parts of the house, including the daughters’ rooms, with gasoline. While tied to their beds, both daughters had been doused with gasoline; each had her head covered with a pillowcase. A fire was started, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. Hayley and Michaela both died of smoke inhalation, but only after suffering extensive 2nd and 3rd degree burns on their feet and legs as they lay bound to burning beds.

What’s worse?

The police remained outside the Petit home for more than half an hour, taking these preliminary measures, while the assailants were raping and murdering the women inside the house. The police made no effort to make the assailants aware of their presence, choosing to remain out of sight in an extended perimeter around the home.

You can read the full article in the December 2017 Rangemaster newsletter.

Yes, it’s heinous.

Yes, it makes any human with a shred of decency shudder – but you need to read it –especially for the 6 lessons Tom provides.

You need to understand there are malevolent people who exist on this Earth.

You are more than welcome to hate guns, to wish them gone. You can think violence is a terrible thing and “never the answer”.

But it won’t make evil people disappear.

It won’t stop evil people from inflicting their will upon you.

Ignorance and denial doesn’t make evil things go away.

Monsters exist.

The Civilian Defender

Dr. Sherman House recently rebranded as Civilian Defender. (yes I’m a little late on this… been busy).

I’m very happy to see him embracing this mode, because it’s a great mindset and we need more people not just like Sherm, but doing what Sherm does. Promoting this mentality, this approach, it’s great stuff. If you haven’t read his essay on Becoming the Civilian Defender, you should. It’s a comprehensive look at a topic, and even if you don’t agree – well, that’s a great opportunity to continue the discussion! Because I guess the bottom line is simple: most people enter this “world” because guns, but alas most people never go beyond that thinking.

I think about some Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics points out. He’ll ask his class how many people had been in a gunfight or seen a gunshot wound in the past year – typically no hands go up. Then he asks how many people had seen a car accident – and hands always go up. Medical skills are useful to everyone, and you’re far more likely to need medical skills in your lifetime than a gun.

And that’s a facet in the comprehensiveness of Civilian Defender.

Check it out. Again, even if you don’t agree, hopefully some thoughts are provoked and you can be spurred into action, into self-improvement in some manner.

We’re approaching that time for New Years Resolutions – so, how are you going to improve yourself in 2018?

(And as an aside, I’m with Sherm about the M&P family. Currently enjoying my M&P9 M2.0 Compact… which I’ll write more about eventually).