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.

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.

Ed Head’s Practice Drill

A little while ago, Karl and I went out and shot a drill from Gunsite Instructor Ed Head. It’s a good drill in our continued study of Minimum Competency.

Here’s a video of us demonstrating it:

And here’s Karl’s analysis. Karl has a few suggestions to make it a stronger standard, and how you can use the drill in your own practice to improve your skills.

More Perspectives on Minimum Competency

Four years ago I wrote about Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol. Since then, I’ve had additional writings on the topic. I’m not the only one that cares about this topic. A couple of days ago I saw a summary of a presentation from John Corriea of Active Self Protection and was going to write on it, but Mark Luell over at Growing up Guns beat me to it!

In fact, Mark’s write-up is even better, so I’ll just link to his article: Meta: Critical Skills and Goals for Personal Protection.

In his meta-article, Mark examines the findings from various trainers:

What’s good to see is the overlap. People who study and research this area, and what their conclusions are – and while we do different work, how we tend to reach the same conclusions.

As Tom Givens would say, “That’s what we call a clue.”

Much of this data isn’t new to me, but sometimes seeing the same data presented in a new manner helps you view the data in a new light. Mark’s post did that for me.

Reading Claude’s findings really helps to hit home what is and isn’t important in the context of self-defense firearms skills. For example, retrieving the handgun is a pretty important skill, so however you carry/store your firearm, you better be able to retrieve it successfully. Reloading? Not so much (it’s arguable since you have to load, reload, and unload a firearm just to use it, so long as you do that in a disciplined manner that’s all you really need).

I always love watching John’s videos and analysis. It’s one thing the magic of CCTV, security cameras, camera phones, and YouTube (DailyMotion, Worldstar, etc.) has brought to us: real fights, real incidents, and we can see how they work, how they unfold, how brutal they can be, the realities of what happens, and what we can learn from it. I think John’s collection has done a lot to dispel false notions and beliefs about what goes on, and really give people a good dose of reality.

I regret missing an opportunity to train with Darryl and look forward to that opportunity. There’s a lot of good and unique stuff in Darryl’s notes, but one that stood out to me is the split times. I’ve wondered about doing a long block of training forcing myself to shoot to that standard and seeing what it did for me. I think it would be quite insightful.

John Hearne is becoming the E.F. Hutton of the firearms training community: when he talks, you should listen. His examination and study of human performance is a higher-order topic, but a vital one towards really understanding and working to maximize performance. It helps steer training, both as instructors with curriculum and individuals determining what skills to focus on. I especially like the last point about training emotional control.

Give a read to Mark’s meta-post. Seek these people out. Read what they write. Take classes from them if you can. You will be better for it.

As seen in The Tactical Wire

Looks like my series on Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol got featured in the July 25, 2017 issue of The Tactical Wire.

As well, a nice nod to my two primary mentors, Karl Rehn and Tom Givens.

Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Addressing Assumptions

I’d like to revisit my Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol series. And just like my “Revisited Again” was inspired by Claude Werner, so too is this revisiting – Addressing Assumptions. As well, it comes from some recent work we’ve been doing at KR Training with curriculum revision.

The original article series was primarily focused around gun and shooting portion of the equation. That was a reasonable focus, but if you look a little deeper into the conclusion you can see there are precursors/prerequisites that are assumed or taken for granted.

This would be things like basic gun manipulations: how to load a gun, how to unload a gun, how to load and unload a magazine (and that it’s a “magazine”, not a “clip”), basic range etiquette, how to practice effectively, how to seek out good training and instruction.

One thing I admire about Claude is how he often focuses and finds ways to work with people in less than ideal circumstances. For example, many gun ranges do not allow people to draw from a holster, or it may be impossible to use a shot timer due to noise levels. Claude often works and formulates curriculum and drills to work within these constraints.

In a recent discussion on minimum competency, Claude structured a drill with a loose structure like:

  • Load 7 rounds into the magazine
  • Load the gun
  • Shoot 6
  • Unload the gun

While at first glance it seems odd to enumerate the steps of loading the magazine, loading the gun, and unloading the gun – and some may desire to gloss over those steps – they’re actually quite an important part of the drill. They are giving the student practice at loading and unloading, they give the instructor a chance to observe the student performing these operations to ensure they are doing it correctly and safely.

When discussing a topic like “minimum competency”, it’s important we mind our assumptions so we do not overlook the complete set of skills necessary for competency.

Minimums aren’t enough

A permit class isn’t training…a permit class isn’t practice.  A permit class is the bare minimum information that state bureaucrats think you need to be able to safely load, unload and carry a pistol, in legal locations, in the state in which you reside.  If you want to actually LEARN how to use that gun, you’re going to need training.  You don’t have to look far on this site to find great places to train, that will actually prepare you for what you will really encounter on the streets and parking lots of America.  Even if you think you, “know all there is to know,” about defensive pistolcraft, shooting under the supervision of a competent instructor who can see things you cannot, relative to technique, is invaluable.  I highly recommend you seek out competent instruction…getting the, “paper,” is just a legal hoop you have to jump through!

Dr. Sherman House

Practicing by the Odds

When I read “The Bell-Curve: Shooting Practice by the Odds” over at the Growing Up Guns blog, it bore a striking resemblance to the article series I wrote last year on “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol“. Just shows that great minds think alike. 🙂

We took similar approaches: look at the realities of private citizen gunfights (vs. military or law enforcement engagements, which are a different context), see what actually happens in them, and thus what has the highest probability of happening. Based upon that, it makes sense for those of us with limited training budget (time, money) to at least initially focus our skills in those areas. I mean, if no encounter ever uses weak-hand-only behind-the-back while hanging from the rafters shooting skills… is that really something you should spend 90% of your practice time on? Instead, if 90% of encounters involve being able to draw from concealment, get acceptable hits, in a small area, from close range, quickly, with both hands… maybe that’s where you should focus your training time.

It’s not to say other skills should be ignored, it’s just a matter of prioritization due to the fact we are all limited on time and money. So, spend that time wisely.

We arrive at some slightly different conclusions, and provide a different set of drills (tho we both started with Gila Hayes’ drill). But ultimately we’re saying the same thing in different ways.

I encourage you to give the DefensiveDaddy’s article a read. It’s further perspective on this important topic.

Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol – Revisited Again

I just re-read an article from Claude Werner on “Practice priorities for the Armed Citizen“. (h/t Greg Ellifritz). As I was reading it, it reminded me of my article series on “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol“. I did revisit the series a few months back, but Claude’s article gave me a few more things to think about, and perhaps revise/refine in my suggestions for practice and skills progression.

Claude speaks about a progression, a “where do I go from here?” sort of thing. Claude offers his own suggestions, like the NRA Defensive Pistol Qualification. But what really got me was pointing out a key problem most people have when it comes to live fire practice:

Most people have to limit their livefire practice to indoor ranges where drawing from the holster is not allowed. This presents an issue to those who carry pistol in holsters. There are solutions, though.

Indeed this is a problem. I’ve gotten quite spoiled at KR Training and with the host of good ranges around Austin where you can do things like practice drawing from a holster. Of course, there are still those people that go to one of the local indoor ranges that have these restrictions, and of course others around the country tend to have these restrictions as well. I overlooked that reality. Claude offers:

Like many of my colleagues, for a long time I said the hard part of the drawstroke is establishing grip. I’ve changed my opinion on that. The hard part of the drawstroke is getting the pistol indexed on the target enough to get a good hit with the first shot. John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, clued me in to this many years ago. Note that I didn’t say a ‘perfect’ hit.

Indexing the pistol to the target (presentation) is easily practiced from a high ready position starting at the pectoral muscle of the body’s dominant side. Starting this way is not generally a problem at an indoor range. And since I recommend practicing one shot per presentation, the ‘no rapid fire’ limitation at many indoor ranges isn’t an issue either.

This is one of those smack your head because you wish you could have had a V-8 sort of moments. What Claude writes is so true. The press-out, the presentation, whatever you want to call it, it’s the hardest part and such a vital skill. When you draw? You then must press-out. After a reload? You must press out. Clear a malfunction? You must press out. The press out is such a vital skill (it’s a key thing stressed in so many of the KR Training courses). And yes, you can practice this at the indoor ranges. You can start from that high, compressed ready position (step 3 of the 4-step drawstroke), and press out and break one shot. While you might end up eventually moving fast in doing this, your single-shots will still be “slow” relative to each other (i.e. you’re not double-tapping) and thus no range rules broken. So so so true, and so important.

Thank you Claude for my “V-8 moment”. Regardless if you take a progression like Claude recommends or I recommend, the underlying issue remains the same: that you’ll use some particular course of fire (e.g. TX CHL test), assess your skills, then focus on improving the areas you identified as weak. For example, my last live-fire practice session I shot numerous drills not so much to shoot the drills (i.e. throw lead in a semi-organized manner), but to exercise the fundamental skills I consider important and identify what I was doing well and what I needed work on. I saw I needed to move faster, and doing a lot of one-shot draws are in my future. So yes, working that press-out is in my future.

Another thing Claude touched on.

…to get a good hit with the first shot…. Note that I didn’t say a ‘perfect’ hit.


What I like about it most is that it is a 100 percent standard, not 70 or 80 percent like a qualification course. We need to accustom ourselves to the concept that if we shoot at a criminal, ALL the rounds we fire must hit the target. That’s being responsible.

These remind me of my concept of “(un)acceptable hit“. I just prefer that phrasing over “good hit” or “miss”, because like Claude said, it’s not necessarily a “perfect” hit. It’s also understanding that all the rounds must hit what we need it to hit; we must make acceptable hits.

Thanx, Claude!

Standards of Performance

Karl emailed the following to me. He said:

I put this together for Kathy Jackson to use as part of her talk at
the AG&AG conference next week. If you want to use it on your blog, go ahead.

It’s going to become part of a larger article I’m putting together based on my slides from the Polite Society talk.

I asked what the greater context of this was, given the percentages. Karl said:

Kathy is trying to show the AG&AG Facilitators (club leaders) some points along the path to instructor level skill, or at least reasonable competence.

So with that, here’s what Karl provided (reformatted for presentation). Karl’s stuff is blockquoted, and I added some additional comments in between.

A reasonable skills progression to recommend:

0. Purchase a shooting timer. The Pocket Pro I is the ‘best buy’ on the low end of timers, and the easiest to operate. Without a shooting timer, you can’t fully measure performance.

Note that there are some cheaper options too, in the form of “shot timer” apps for smartphones (both iPhone and Android). Your mileage may vary with them however, just due to limitations of the hardware microphone being able to pick things up. IMHO it’s not an unreasonable way to start, but long-term you’re going to want to pick up a dedicated and proper shot timer.

1. 100% on the Texas CHL test shot using an IDPA or IPSC target, not a B-27. IDPA/IPSC has a smaller A-zone. Shooting 100% on Texas CHL is basically 25% of GM.

Note: when Karl gives “percent of GM” he’s referring to IPSC/USPSA Grandmaster-level. This isn’t to say you need to shoot at that level, but it gives you some idea of where things lie along the continuum.

2. Learn to draw from an open carry holster and be consistent i your shot to shot timing.

Bill Drill = par time of 5 seconds at 7 yards with all A’s on IPSC or IDPA target. That’s a 40% goal.

Aside: just a few weeks ago, Bill Wilson himself (creator of the “Bill Drill”) discussed a new version of the Bill Drill, called simply enough “Bill Drill 2“.

3. Learn to do a speed reload. Practice “Four Aces” with a par time of 7 seconds, which is 37%.

4. Learn a slide lock reload. Practice the FAST drill. Set a par time of 12 seconds, from open carry. This is a 40% goal.

5. Learn how to draw from concealment, practice shooting one handed. Shoot a perfect score (100 points) on “Three Seconds or Less“. That’s a 50% goal.

6. Learn how to clear malfunctions. Practice the “Farnam Drill“. Set a par time of 15 seconds, which is around 50%.

Finally, shoot the IDPA Classifier (also found here) with a goal of shooting at least 160 seconds (162 is 40%, 130 seconds is 50%).