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).

As instructors, we have a grave responsibility

I used to ride a motorcycle.

If I’m honest with myself – and I haven’t admitted this publicly until now – part of the reason I gave it up was I wasn’t a good enough rider. I wasn’t capable enough to handle the realities of riding a motorcycle, especially in town. While the fault is ultimately my own, speaking as a long-time teacher – and one that currently teaches people in dangerous activities – I can recognize and lay some fault at the hands of my riding instructors.

On the roads in Austin, there are just too many people engaging in distracted driving – like with their eyes on their mobile phone instead of the road. I had far too many close-calls with people simply not paying attention to their driving (almost rear-ended by a dump truck was particularly harrowing). That’s scary enough when you have a protective steel cage around you (like in a car), but it’s far worse when you’re naked and vulnerable on a bike. I just got tired of dealing with the constant fear and realities of too many close-calls.

Part of the fault was my own, because I didn’t have the skills and abilities I should have to successfully/defensively ride a motorcycle in town. I was too excited to get out on the open road on my awesome motorcycle, be a part of that lifestyle, and all the cool things that came with it. I was not prepared for the realities that came as well.

Let’s look back on my motorcycle rider safety course.

I did OK in the class. But the final test? I passed it on a technicality. The riding portion involved navigating a skills course. You lost points for mistakes, bigger mistakes losing more points. For example, if you laid the bike down – foot pegs touch pavement – you basically failed. I don’t recall the specifics of my run and points, but I was executing a tight S-turn, didn’t do it right, and started to go down. Since the bike was a Kawasaki Eliminator 125 (weighs 300 lb.) and I’m decently healthy and strong, I was able to easily save myself: I put my foot down and was able to keep the pegs from touching pavement.

I looked right at the instructor running the course. She said I was good and let me continue.

She shouldn’t have.

For all intents and purposes, I laid the bike down. I failed the skill. But because I’m strong and the bike weighs nothing, I was able to prevent the loss of points. Correct to the letter of the test, but NOT to the intent.

But I didn’t care. I passed! I could get my motorcycle license, get my motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure, and whatever comes my way!

The instructors said nothing to me. Beyond that look of “you’re fine, continue along”, then the handshake on the way out the door, nothing.

At the time, I didn’t know any better. I leaned on and expected if the instructors thought I was OK, then I was OK.

That was my naive mistake.

Because as I got out on the road, while I had no problem with most things, I just didn’t have the level of skill necessary for emergency action. I didn’t have the ability to do things like make tight turns, nor the confidence in knowing I could do such things if suddenly called upon. I look back and wish I had failed the test – or been failed – so I would have put more work into those skills, or at least not been let out on the road due to a technicality.

As I look back on my experience, I now think to myself that I don’t recall the instructors from the class actually caring whether we learned or not. Maybe they did, but I don’t recall any impression they truly cared. That they understood the gravity of what they were doing, and how what they were teaching may be that vital bit that could affect the rest of someone’s life. They seemed to just want to run the class, sign the certificates, and get paid.

Or maybe they did care, but after hundreds of classes they were jaded and/or complacent. Or maybe they thought failing people wasn’t good for business. I really don’t know why they did what they did. All I can do is learn from this and strive to do better in my own realm.

I know ultimately the responsiblity and fault is my own. But when you’re a n00b; when you don’t know what you don’t know; when you have to rely and trust the guidance of someone claiming to be your teacher – you hope they have your best interests at heart and will do right by you!

I’ve been a professional firearms instructor for 9 years. At KR Training we have classes that end in a test and require a passing grade in order to proceed to the next class. Sometimes the students squeak by, technically passing the test. But I and the entire KR Training cadre take the time to be straight with the student about their skills and abilities. We point out where they need work. We strive to put their skills and testing into perspective – even if it’s not fun to hear. Yes we want people to succeed, but helping a student feel good and get a gold star when their skills really aren’t where they need to be? That’s doing a grave disservice to the student. This is a time for honest assessment. We want true success, real success – even if today it means failure.

As instructors – especially instructors of skill that affect life and death – we all must remember the gravity of what we are teaching. Even if a student technically passes the test, we must speak with them honestly and work with them earnestly to help them have a true assessment of their skills, even if it injures the ego. Because if we do not give our students correct assessment of their skills and abilities, that could lead to them getting hurt or killed.

As instructors we have a deep responsibility, and we need to always remember that responsibility and live up to it.

When your past affects your future

Dude, that’s not just a funny bumper sticker about your weekend hobby. It’s also discoverable evidence about your mindset should you ever have to defend yourself.

Kathy Jackson, Facebook post.

Recently Kathy reposted it, and I privately messaged her about it. I went private because I didn’t feel like bringing it up in public. Kathy responded:

There are some excellent points in that, John. Wish it weren’t sensitive, because it’s the type of thing that needs to be said. Lots there to ponder. Thanks for sharing it with me.

So I thought about it, and I’m sharing it here. It is important and meaningful, just a little awkward for me to globally share. But that’s OK – if my experiences and my awkwardness improves things for the grander community. I’ve edited it slightly, for composition and presentation.

The Message

That post you just shared about the cute t-shirt, anger issues, discoverable evidence…

So back when my home invasion incident happened, my lawyer wanted my online presence to go dark (a reasonable thing). So blog went private, Twitter, etc..

As I looked back on it, I realized it wouldn’t really have mattered. First, the media already combed the Internets for everything they could – it was interesting to watch the things uncovered and reported about me in the hours immediately after the incident. So they had likely already exhausted my blog.

But that’s the thing – there was no dirt to be found. My blog isn’t full of stupid shit – well, except maybe for the Sunday Metal music posts. 😉 You read my blog and find that I like music, lifting weights, and when I do write about self-defense and guns and such, it may not be something you agree with but it’s not “crazy”. In fact, a lot of what I write is reasonable enough I felt it would help my case if in fact it did go to trial. It would be (then) 7-ish years of proof as to my mindset and stance on everything.

So yeah, it’s a good lesson in living your daily life. Because you don’t get to choose the moment your past becomes relevant to your future.

Understanding Lethality

…the intention of a person to do lethal harm to another may be key to understanding different outcomes, rather than the mechanism used (at least when comparing different types of firearms…)

For additional context, read his prior post: “Revolvers Kill! (May Be Even More Lethal Than Semi-Automatic Handguns)”.

Because people apparently love science and data, so here’s some.

Why not both?

Greg Ellifritz posted this meme to Facebook:

As expected, comments and sharing ensued.

Via another avenue, I learned about a share of Greg’s posting with sharer commentary. The sharer’s commentary said this was bullshit, that you don’t need to have physical fitness, beards, tattoos – you just need a determined mindset (and even better if it’s determination backed up by a gun). Of course the commenting on that went off the rails too.

While pictorial memes can be fun(ny) and useful, their problem is they cannot convey depth. They’re the modern equivalent of a sound bite. Remember what George Carlin said about that:

And so, on television news there is, oddly, very little emphasis on the present; on today’s actual news. The present exists only in thirty-second stories built around eight-second sound bites. Remember, “sound bite” is their phrase. that’s what they give you. Just a bite. No chewing, no digestion, no nourishment. Malnutrition.

Because here’s the thing: there’s a kernel of truth in what both people are saying. Reality is more nuanced than a meme or a share-rant can provide.

Let’s start with the original meme. The premise is to help in the decision to take tactical training. The creator/poster of the meme believes there are prerequisites to tactical training, such as having a reasonable level of physical fitness, and that maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve gotten punched in the face. On the points, the author isn’t necessarily wrong.

So you want tactical training, so you carry a gun – why? Ostensibly because you want to save lives, to preserve life, etc.. If such is the case, then physical fitness will do more for you. The reality is violent crime and other situations whose answer is “using a gun” are few and far between – they are rare events. Death from heart attacks? obesity, and obesity-related matters? Quite common. You are more likely to die because of that extra 100 lb. you’re hauling around than from a violent crime. So you better believe that physical fitness will do more for your life in general. If you care about protecting life so much, start with your own personal health.

I see it in classes all the time. People who cannot keep up with even a small bit of physical exertion. I mean, our classes at KR Training may not all be the most physically demanding, but there is a lot of walking that goes on. You will be on your feet all day. You will be in the hot Texas sun all day. It WILL take a physical toll on you. And if you bomb out of the day for those reasons, then it was a lot of your time and money wasted. That $400 for a weekend class may be better spent on an annual gym membership.

But do you need to be able to run a marathon? Do you need to be able to squat 600 lb? Do you need to have 5% bodyfat? in order to take a training class? Probably not, tho that would vary depending upon the class (an Intro to Marksmanship class vs. a Shivworks ECQC do have rather different requirements). So to need to be “physically fit” is certainly relative. As well, should we deny a frail elderly person, or someone with physical handicaps/limitations (including simply being obese) from being able to receive training in self-defense? Nope. But of course, there may be limitations in terms of the training one can receive.

So the original meme has a kernel of truth, but reality isn’t as plain as the meme tries to make it. The sharer’s calling of “bullshit” on the meme has some ground.

And on the sharer’s side they speak of the importance of a determined mindset. There’s no question that is important. We hear the countless stories of people receiving superficial (and totally survivable) wounds and falling over dead because they gave up. Then other people who are put through literal hell, but are so determined to fight and win they do and live to regale us with their battle stories. Determined mindset cannot be discounted, and we all work to teach and imbue that in our students.

What’s interesting is the sharer gave examples like “what do they teach in Army Basic Training”, and allusions to military groups of yore. That those groups are just all about determined mindset. But you know what all those groups received?

Tactical Training.

And you know what’s part of that training? Physical fitness. By pleasant coincidence John M. Buol, Jr. just posted the 2018 Army Combat Readiness Test. How do YOU score on that test? If the US Army thinks physical fitness is an important part of combat readiness – that’s what we call a clue, that physical fitness is an important component and possible prerequisite.

So maybe the original meme has some ground too.

I know we now live in a world of absolutes. Where what I say and believe is right, and what you say and believe is wrong. Where Truth only exists in meme or Tweet-able form, and anything “tl;dr” (like this article) is… well… too long and no one’s going to read it. But no matter how you believe reality to be – reality is what it is, regardless of your belief. And often that reality isn’t as simple nor as black-and-white as you wish to make it. Instead of trying to be right, work to seek Truth. Work to see the other’s point of view, because maybe there is a sliver of merit. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Beware Simple Answers

Beware simple answers. They are reassuring but may not achieve the desired results given our framework of government, practical realities, and the flawed nature of human beings.

I’ve been following David’s writing and research for some time. It’s compelling and interesting.

The Gringo Pistolero

Andy Stanford performs “The Gringo Pistolero”

Seriously, this is some epic storytelling. Highly entertaining.

I learned about this during the Historical Handgun class.

Concealed Handgun Licensing: Asset to Texas

My friend, researcher Howard Nemerov, just published a  new paper: Concealed Handgun Licensing: Asset to Texas. The abstract:

Collating conviction data reported by Texas Department of Public Safety, crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and census data, it’s possible to determine relative criminality of handgun carry licensees to their equivalent non-licensee population. This paper analyzes Texas carry licensees versus non-licensee Texans over age 21 to determine relative criminality, and also cites research enabling a comparison between police officer malfeasance and carry licensees.

For the tl;dr crowd: license holders are overwhelmingly more law-abiding than non-license holders (as a group/demographic).

A few points from 16 years of data:

  • Non-licensees committed FBI major crime felonies 20 times as often as carry licensees.
  • For all non-FBI crimes—other felonies and misdemeanors—non-licensees committed crime 11 times as often as carry licensees.
  • Since 2006 (last 10 years) non-licensees committed non-FBI crimes 14 times as often.

Why might that be? Howard’s paper discusses it, and it’s something I wrote about over 8 years ago, because to hold a carry license in Texas says a lot about a person.

Everyone seems to worship facts, at least when facts suit their cause. Funny thing about facts: they continue to hold when they don’t suit your cause. Give Howard’s paper a read – it’s full of facts.

AAR: Historical Handgun, September 2017

Historical Handgun: Karl Rehn, KR Training

I have not had this much fun in ages.

I participated in Karl Rehn’s first offering of the Historical Handgun (1-Day) course at KR Training on September 16, 2017. The half-day version was offered this past summer, but I was unable to make it due to prior commitments. There was no way I was going to miss this one.


FBI 1945

As one of Karl’s assistant instructors, I’ve been hearing a lot about this course. Karl spoke to me about it frequently as he was working on it, and I was happy when he got things done and could finally offer it as a class. You see, I didn’t grow up with guns. Oh sure, they were around me to some extent or other, I played cops and robbers as a kid, watched The Lone Ranger, and all those things. And in my almost-decade working for Karl, I’ve learned a lot about the development and history of handgunning. But I know there’s still much to learn, especially about the earliest of days.


And let’s be frank. As one of Karl’s assistants, I ought to know and have taken every class KR Training offers. 🙂


Army 1935, part 1

Karl is able to offer Historical Handgun in 3 formats: half-day, one-day, two-day. The content is basically the same, just when you have more time you can get more content and dive a little deeper into topics. Another twist on the class is striving to replicate the time periods. You shoot drills, qualifications, and standards from the eras, and you can shoot them with somewhat period-appropriate firearms. You could shoot the course with one gun, or you could shoot with a revolver, a 1911, a DA/SA semi-automatic, and a modern striker-fired gun (different guns for different courses of fire, as appropriate for the time-period). It’s a really cool twist and puts a different spin and challenge into the class.

Army 1935, part 2

Material was broken up by decade, starting in 1930 (if I remember correctly) and working up to today. Karl would point out significant events of that decade, things that were pivotal in the history of handgunning, affecting and influencing where we are today. Karl also pointed out significant people of that decade and what they did that earned them the right to be enshrined in the history books.

Karl would lecture in the classroom about a couple decades, then we would go outside and shoot. The courses of fire we shot came from those time periods, and if you had an appropriate firearm for the time period, you could use it to shoot the course. After we shot a couple courses, we’d go back inside. That was the rhythm of the day.

Gunsite 250

Weather was good, but a bit hot. Class had only four students, which was a shame. Y’all missed out on tons of fun.

Range Time

Gunsite 350

Two of the four students had taken the half-day class, and two of us (including myself) were first-timers. Three of the students opted to shoot the 4-guns. Me? I stuck with my M&P 2.0 9mm all day. I don’t own a DA/SA gun (I own the others), and while I could borrow one I opted to just keep it simple for the day. I actually think doing that gave me some good perspectives, which I’ll talk about later. I did shoot from my IWB holster, but there’s no concealment drawing in class so I tucked in my shirt.

We shot 9 courses of fire:

  • FBI 1945
  • Army 1935
  • Gunsite 250
  • Gunsite 350
  • FBI 1986
  • Marine (Advanced) Combat Pistol Course 2013
  • A local police department’s qual
  • FBI 2013

FBI 1986

Ran through about 400 rounds of ammo.

What Did I Learn?

This is not a class for learning how to shoot – this is a history class. You’re here to learn history.

US Marines (Advanced) Combat Pistol Course 2013

There’s no time spent on teaching you how to shoot, correcting your problems, or other such things. You need to come to this class already knowing how to shoot. But if you’re not awesome that’s OK – come anyways, because shooting the drills is really more about the experience and having a tangible aspect to the history lessons. If there is any “skills teaching” it’s to teach skills of the time period. For example, we spent some time with SIRT pistols to learn the proper FBI “hip shoot and crouch” position. We also did some dry work on the Weaver stance, not so much to teach it, but to help overcome our ingrained use of Isosceles. So again, you’re learning history.

When it came to the classroom portions, it was chock full of information. Yes I recognized a lot of events and names, but then it was cool to hear about some pivotal person and have a “Oh, so that’s where that came from!” moment.

One especially cool thing? Seeing how much “the times” affected the state of handgunning. Like developments in printing (magazines), or the advent of home-video, and how those cultural and technological changes outside of the gun world ended up having a big impact on the gun world.

It was also cool to see how one decade fed into the next. How things like cowboy quick draw gave rise to IPSC, and why the Gunsite Standards put so much emphasis on fast draws and fast shooting.

In fact, that was a neat thing to observe in terms of the courses of fire. You could see why a qual was developed as it was. Where emphasis was placed (and where it wasn’t). Seeing the qual in its (historical) context gave deeper understanding of the qual. Then to see how quals changed over time, especially since we shot three versions of FBI quals.

As for shooting…

Local PD qual

Those guys back in the 30’s and 40’s could shoot. You had to! They were shooting double-action revolvers, they were reloading from loose rounds, and were shooting at 25 and 50 yards under tight time constraints and tough scoring. You had to move quickly, and be highly accurate.

That’s where I had some interesting insight in shooting my M&P. When we were shooting at 25 and 50 yards, of course I was going slow. When it was time to reload I would do a reload, but of course mine was much easier than reloading a revolver from loose rounds. Even still, I’d find myself feeling the pressure of the timer. I found myself thinking that here I am with all this modern convenience and still feeling it, when those guys had double-action revolvers, loose rounds, and then even less time to get things done. And they managed to do it. It’s some tough stuff!

Pictures of the targets afterwards and simple point scores don’t tell the complete story of my shooting. No problems out to 15 yards. But 25, 35, and 50 yards? That’s where I lost points. I am happy for the time I’ve spent in the past year on longer distance shooting, because I finally figured out what I need to do, what I need to see, and how to do it — I just need to do it more consistently. So I was pretty happy with a lot of my longer distance shooting, I just have a lot of room to improve.

Another good thing? The work I put in towards my USPSA classification paid off with my drawstroke. I can get the gun out of the holster pretty quick, then slow down and shoot. The quick draw gives more time for slow shooting, y’know? Or in the case of something like the Gunsite standards, the quick draw just lets you do the course of fire.

FBI 2013

When looking at my performance, we were joking that I came into my own around the 1970’s. Seems about right. 🙂

What didn’t I like about the class? It’s too short. Karl could really only touch lightly on some topics, but that makes sense. I mean, covering almost 100 years of history and there’s only so much you can do. Some things got missed, and Karl made notes to himself about people and events to add. Some things we’d start going down a rabbit hole on, but Karl’s pretty good about time management and would cut things off and keep things moving. The one-day format is good, but I know the real gem is going to be the 2-day version of this class.

Karl also provided us a list of books, which he’s going to continue to expand. My reading list is pretty backed up as it is, and now it’s got even more in the queue.

Really folks, this was a fun one. Most other times when I take a class there’s some point or purpose. I’m trying to gain a certification, or I’m trying to focus on getting better at something. But here? It was just fun. The history was fun. The shooting was fun. The whole day was just so much fun. Nothing but smiles from everyone there all day. Even when we were stinking up the joint, it was so much fun. It was great to just get out and shoot, and gain some deeper knowledge about the history of handgunning.

What’s cool? Karl’s taking this course on the road. Stay tuned to the KR Training website, Facebook page, and get on the mailing list to know when it will be coming to a range near you.

My scorecard. Shot my M&P 2.0 9mm (full size). 25yd, 35yd, 50yd shooting is hard (for me).