I’d like to revisit a series I wrote some months ago about “Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol“.
After presenting the series at the 2nd Annual SDS Conference, I looked at how I did and coupled that with some feedback I received from an attendee whose opinion I greatly value (thanx, Sam!). His assessment and feedback reinforced my own thoughts on my performance, and with that, I figured it was right to revisit some things.
The presentation itself? I thought I could have done better. I realized as I was putting the presentation together that I had organized it well for serialized presentation on the blog, but that didn’t lend so well to a public speaking forum. Alas, I didn’t have time to revise the presentation, so I presented it with only minor adjustment. It went over alright, but I know there was structure I could have improved.
One of the biggest parts? I spent a good deal of time talking about defining minimum standards, but not enough on how one can go about achieving them. Again, this worked well for the serialized blog presentation, but wasn’t as engaging for a listening audience.
I also realized, I never explicitly defined a drill or other test that helps one assess meeting those minimum standards. I implied it to be the “3 Seconds or Less” drill, but as it stands now? Well….
On Minimum Standards
If you haven’t, go back and read the original article so you can be aware of the foundation.
In the end, I think “minimum competency for defensive pistol skills” lies with the ability to:
- Draw from concealment
- Perhaps with movement (sidestep) on the draw)
- Make multiple, acceptable hits
- In a small area
- From close range
- Think “within a car length” (0-5 yards)
- Using both hands
- Enables multiple acceptable hits, quickly
Skills beyond that (one-handed shooting, reloading, malfunction remedy) are useful but above minimal. And of course, both safety and etiquette are expected.
Remember: this is about “minimal”. Put it this way. You have a friend whose crazy ex is now stalking them, threatening to do them harm. They have the restraining order, but they know how useful that is so they choose to get a gun. You have an afternoon to get them some basic skills. What is most vital for them to learn how to do? That’s what I’m talking about.
So yes, I was figuring the “3 Seconds or Less” drill was a good answer to this question. But now? Not so much.
Karl has evolved the drill. One change was in the ordering of the course of fire, merely to facilitate running the drill (eased the ammo and reload requirements so you could more easily run it with semi-autos or revolvers). That sort of change doesn’t really matter towards answering the question, and frankly it’s a good revision.
But Karl also changed the content of the drill. For example, in the current version of the drill there’s a reload, some walking backwards while shooting, and a turning draw; none of these were present in the original version of the drill.
This is why I think this drill no longer answers the question: it involves skills that are above minimal. This makes sense for the context in which Karl uses it: as a core test for KR Training’s “Defensive Pistol Skills” course progression. However, it is doing more than minimal, so it’s not strictly the correct answer for “minimum competency”.
That said, I’ve maintained that minimum competency is not good enough. You need to work to a higher standard (that Paul Ford comment about 70% of your worst day). I would say the current “3 Seconds or Less” drill is a good “higher standard” to work towards. Other good “higher standards” would be:
But again, this is higher. We’re talking minimal.
A Possible Minimal Drill?
As much as I hate to say it, I think the Texas CHL test COULD be it.
But it needs work.
Here’s the drill:
- 3 yards
- 1 shot, 2 sec., 5x
- 2 shots, 3 sec., 5x
- 5 shots, 10 sec., 1x
- 7 yards
- 5 shots, 10 sec., 1x
- 2 shots, 4 sec., 1x
- 3 shots, 6 sec., 1x
- 1 shot, 3 sec., 5x
- 5 shots, 15 sec., 1x
- 15 yards
- 2 shots, 6 sec., 1x
- 3 shots, 9 sec., 1x
- 5 shots, 15 sec., 1x
Here’s how it could be changed to make it a better test of minimum competency:
- Needs to be shot from concealment
- Current test has you working off a bench, and shooting from a ready position. Unrealistic.
- Must shoot from concealment, whatever your chosen carry and concealment method would be. If that’s from a hip holster under your shirt, fine. Pocket carry, fine. If that’s from a purse, fine.
- Use a better target
- The B-27 is like hitting a barn wall. Furthermore, it’s not anatomically correct.
- Use a target like an IPSC or IDPA target. There are a host of such targets out there. The key is a target that provides a smaller “acceptable hit” zone, and that is anatomically correct.
- Make scoring more difficult. It’s “hit or miss”, “acceptable or unacceptable”. There is no graduated scoring scale, it either is or is not. If it’s on a line, if it’s questionable, score it unacceptable. 90% minimum score, or better, 100%.
- Do not adjust the listed par times.
- Having to shoot from concealment adds enough time to make the published par times more difficult.
- This could be debated, and probably debated per-string. Like the first string (3 yards, 1 shot, 2 seconds) is probably sufficient, but the last 3 yard string (5 shots, 10 seconds), should that time be lowered? Probably, but this is splitting hairs at this point. Keep it simple and keep the test as written. These other modifications are more important.
- The 15 yard strings are debatable.
- That’s a pretty long car…
- If I was using my above example of needing to get a friend some quick skills in an afternoon, I’d focus on the 3 yards, then on the 7 yards; I’d skip the 15 yards.
Shooting the TX CHL test with these changes (call it “TX-CHL++”, that’s “Texas CHL plus plus”) doesn’t make you any sort of bad-ass gunfighter, but I think it does a fair job at addressing the minimum requirements.
Remember: the intent of trying to establish “minimum competency” is because we, as humans, tend to overestimate our skills and abilities. We tend to think we have the skills, that we’ll handle ourselves just fine when the flag flies. It’s better to test yourself against standards such as these to see if you really do or do not. It’s better to have a dose of reality now, when you can afford it and can then work to remedy any shortcomings.
How to get there
So you’ve shot some tests and determined you need some work. How to get there?
After talking with Sam, I felt like maybe there should be a program to help you out. Like when doing all this weight lifting, a program like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is a great way to get going and address a lot of things. Could such a program be devised for shooting? I think so. Look at the books and DVD’s from Mike Seeklander. He takes a bit of a different approach, but that could certainly get you there.
I think in most regards it’s going to come down to the individual. What is your learning style like? Are you self-motivated? Do you have enough to be able to self-diagnose and improve? In the beginning, we all need good teachers, and there are good schools and instructors out there. Take advantage of those opportunities to have a teacher, a mentor. There’s a lot of DVD product coming out that can be a help for sure, but I’ve found that those tend to be most useful to folks that already have a clue. You don’t have a be a master, but a rank beginner is going to get a lot more from having a real instructor looking over their shoulder, that can see precisely what’s going on and offer ways to correct, improve, and progress.
You have to practice the things you don’t want to practice. You have to be willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone. And I think another key factor is having a tangible goal. You can have a lofty goal, then break it up into smaller milestones. Perhaps it starts with shooting the TX-CHL++ clean with no time limits. Then you work towards the time-limits. Then you pick a harder standard, like the Farnam Drill, with a 15 second par, then 14 second. As you work, you’ll find where your weaknesses are and use dry fire practice to improve those. And so on. Be willing to be patient, but work consistently.
In the end, the desire is improvement. That we understand what “minimum acceptable” is so we can ensure we’re at least that, but then work to exceed it. Set a new level, then rise above it. And so on, and so on.