AAR – Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions, October 19-20, 2019

On October 19 & 20, 2019, I participated in Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course hosted at my home range, KR Training.

Who is Gabe White?

Gabe White, talking and teaching

Gabe White

Gabe White is an accomplished shooter. You should check out his resumé so you can understand his skill and where he’s coming from. An aspect worth highlighting is Gabe’s a USPSA Master-class shooter – shooting his normal carry gear, from concealment. So basically, he’s up against other people and a classification system that rewards “gaming”, and he’s handicapping himself by his choice of gear and approach. Yet, he’s still able to play at an extremely high level.

Why would he do this?

Gabe’s interest is more in the “tactical” and self-defense world than gaming, but he finds gaming a reasonable place for one to put skills into practice, especially under pressure. As well, the gaming world is very interested in technical skill. High-levels of skill generally lead to better performance and chances of winning the game – so why shouldn’t there be such similar focus on technical skill in the tactical/self-defense world? Wouldn’t better performance in that area be more important?

Pistol Shooting Solutions is Gabe’s effort “to help established defensive handgun practitioners realize the next steps in their journey toward technical excellence to go along with the mindset, awareness, and tactics that form the foundation of self-defense with a handgun.”

The Class

Background

Gabe’s website provides information about the class and prerequisites. It’s important to note this is NOT a beginner class. For example, “You should be able to hit a 6″x 6″ target on demand at 10 yards”. There’s a lot more that goes into it as well, and I’d argue even a bit beyond what’s printed on the website. Gabe does assume you have not just a fair level of skill, but also knowledge about the problems and realities of defensive pistolcraft. For example, Gabe referred to the concepts of “ability, opportunity, and jeopardy” and “the doctrine of competing harms” – it’s not critical you know these concepts to get something from the class, but it’s evident Gabe (reasonably) assumes a particular level of knowledge in his audience. Making this assumption, requiring this of his students/audience, allows him to speak at a particular level and move the class pace and concepts in the direction they need to go.

Class was held at my home range, KR Training, hosted by Karl Rehn. There were 14 students, all were from the KR Training instructor cadre or KR Training Challenge Coin holders – that means a high level of skill across the entire student body (and no “that guy”). This sort of environment is weird. You’re friends with all these people, so it’s a very supportive environment. It’s also one that leads to being more challenging and  more pressure-filled because you know these people will push you, and you also want to perform at your best in front of them. But it’s also forgiving because these people know you – and they’re like you – because they too have similar successes and failures. When you blow a run, they’re not going to think you suck – they’re going to support you and help you get better. This makes for a great learning environment.

Class was LONG. Each day ran from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM – yup, two 10+ hour days. There are breaks, but the class is reasonably fast paced and keeps moving. I wouldn’t say it’s a highly physical class, but for sure some level of fitness helps. One interesting note is I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night. I woke up after just a few hours of sleep, I guess because I was somewhat amped from Day 1 and excited about Day 2. What’s more interesting was chatting with a number of my classmates Sunday morning and they too had abnormally less sleep. Take it for what you will.

My equipment was my normal carry gear, plus a few things for the range:

  • S&W M&P9 M2.0 4″ Compact
    • Always starting with a 15-round mag, but then reloads to my old “1.0” 17-round mags.
    • Only mods: Apex Tactical DCAEK (but stock trigger), Dawson Precision sights (serrated black Charger rear 0.125″ notch; red fiber front 0.100″ post).
  • Dark Star Gear Orion, with Dark Wing and clip. Worn AIWB.
  • My old Comp-Tac dual mag pouch (then 2 more mags in my left cargo pant pocket)
  • Federal American Eagle Syntech 9mm 124 grain (shot shy of 1000 rounds).
  • My Lone Star Medics prototype fanny pack IFAK.

No, I did not shoot the Sig P365 (more on that later).

Material

PSS is a highly-focused class. It’s about improvement of technical skill. Gabe structures things quite methodically. Class started in the classroom with Gabe’s safety lecture, and him discussing his background and philosophy. All good things to help establish the class, where he’s coming from, and where he intends to take us. After a couple hours inside, we headed to the range with a warm-up so Gabe could assess the student body, especially for gun handling and safety. Then a series of blocks were run to focus on specific skills.

Then we started to get into the meat of things.

When Gabe’s class is talked about, it’s often discussed in terms of the Technical Skills Tests and the resulting Pin awards. The class is so much more than that, but the tests and chance of earning a pin provide both structure and incentive to the class and students. Each “pin block” went something like:

  • Discussion of concepts, including Gabe demoing.
  • Dry work.
  • Live work, pushing yourself to where you’d like to be.
  • Live work, keeping it in the realm of your current capability (how you would shoot the test).
  • 2 runs of the test for time but not score.
  • 2 runs of the test for time and score.
  • A steel head-to-head shoot-off.

We worked up to 2 tests the first day (Bill Drill, Failure to Stop), with the other two drills (Immediate Incapacitation, Split Bill Drill) the second day.

While the work-up to the test was a large part of things, the head-to-head shootoffs were cool. Gabe would set up a short steel course with person on the left shooting one thing and person on the right shooting another. For example, left had a steel target 10′ away and started from concealment, with right having a steel 20 yards away starting from low ready. The go-signal was left-person starting their draw, and right-person having to react. Two different tasks, but of about similar difficulty. The course of fire was related to the testing block we just completed, and became more challenging as the class progressed.

Day 2 started at 8:00 AM sharp on the range (I deeply appreciate his on-time starts), with a quick warm-up and into material. Material continued with a logical progression, eventually discussing shooting on the move. Gabe took a track that isn’t often seen: moving and shooting at speed. It wasn’t the typical gaming “slow and smooth duck walk”, nor was it necessarily the “move OR shoot” approach. You can get an idea of how this worked by watching Lucky Gunner’s video review of the class (which is also a great overview and review of the class). This eventually progressed to the use of barriers, cover, and concealment, touching on the subject in facets and depth I’ve not experienced before. Gabe’s choice to keep the class fairly narrowly focused allowed him to go into great depth (and I suspect there’s even more going on in Gabe’s mind that just can’t fit into 21 hours of class).

Class wrapped up in a usual way, returning to the classroom for thank yous, certificates, awards, and pictures.

My Assessment of Class

In a word: transformative.

When I first heard about the class and the shooting tests, I took at look at them, appreciating the times and breakdown by shot and pin-level – I like numbers and data. I knew my skills were in the Dark Pin realm, but I also knew I had a key issue: my drawstroke. It’s two parts. First, getting out of the holster is a new issue due to carrying AIWB. It’s establishment of grip, and it’s also just that last bit of hesitation because screwing up (e.g. finger enters the trigger-guard too soon) leads to disaster. So while I can clear the garment and make contact quickly, I’m still finding my best grip and then ensuring it’s secure with no screw-ups. That winds up costing a bit of time. Second, getting the gun out, on target, and being able to accept the sight picture and break the shot – it may not be textbook perfect, but is it good enough for the current context? I still hesitate slightly from wanting “just that extra bit of on-target confirmation”. As a result, my draw-to-first-shot is slower than it could be. When I would push myself, I would wind up being too tense, or would just flub things.

Another issue is… 7 yards. 7 yards is this crazy, magical distance (at least for me). At 3 yards, things are close and sloppy tends to work out. 10 yards is where things start to feel far away. Even 5 yards still feels close and you can often get away with things. But 7… it feels close, but if you shoot it like 3 yards you’ll blow it, and if you shoot it like 10 yards you take too long. It’s far yet close, close yet far. So it’s a great distance to work at, because it messes with my head. Shoot aggressively like at 3, but shoot carefully like at 10, 15, 25.

My biggest issue (or rather, the one this class had the biggest impact upon) is how I’ve long been focused on the outcome. “I need to pass this test”. “Don’t screw this up.” “Did I hit it?” or any manner of focus on the result I need to generate. And what happens? Sometimes I generate it, sometimes I do not. If I’m working well within my capacity, I usually achieve the result. But when I have to push to  or get pushed to the edges, when I have to work under high-pressure, focusing (worrying?) so much about the outcome gets in the way of doing what needs to be done right now – I focus where I need to be, not on what I need to do!

I realized this some time ago and have been working on it, especially in my shooting. Every time I’m here in the now and focused on what I’m doing right now at this moment, things go well. Focus on that draw, eyes glued to the front sight, and just do what needs to be done. Don’t worry about the holes right now while shooting, because they will be there when I’m done; stay focused on the work at hand this moment, trust the process and yourself, and the results will be there. After the gun’s back in the holster and things are safe/clear, THEN I can consider the result. And what’s great is if I shut up and trusted myself to do my part, then the result happens. It’s magical. 😉

There are things Gabe did in class that helped me address all of these things.

The 7 yards is easy: all tests are at 7 yards. How to get better at X? Generally speaking, do (more of) X.

The other issues tho… it’s things Gabe said, and how he did things. He speaks with great confidence, almost to an inspiring level. He spoke of being process focused, and something about his talk, his approach, made something click in my head. Maybe it just drove me harder to focus on the process, I don’t know for sure. But something Gabe said/did clicked and helped me break through.

Furthermore, the structure of the shooting drills helped. Length, detailed explanation of the drill and concepts within it. Demonstration of the drill, including commentary on his own performance. Then we would shoot dry drills, including a few rather unorthodox ones of his own creation, that would isolate a relevant aspect of the skill to be focused on. Next we’d perform live at a level of “what we want to perform like”. This is shooting beyond our bounds, out of reach, a 110% type of thing. This is great because you might find you can actually perform faster than you think, you just needed permission to go faster. Then you dial it back to what you can perform, then you perform. This approach is somewhat novel amongst classes I’ve taken. Typically you get a drill/skill, you shoot it “as is” a few times, then move to the next thing. But here, it’s 1 “thing to shoot” and shot in a manner to help your performance of that thing. It helps you find it, it helps you dial it in under a watchful eye. But note: you yourself need to have some level of self-awareness and ability to self-correct to get the most out of the class (Gabe can’t watch every run you do).

What is the typical response/solution to shooting in a manner that’s a bit beyond your skill? “Slow down”. But that’s not Gabe’s response. Gabe basically wants you to shoot at the same speed, but address whatever is causing your problem. This is not a beginner-level solution to problems, but it sure is a way to be able to do things faster. I’ve heard this before, but again, something about how Gabe presented it. So instead of me backing off when the wheels fell off, I kept the pedal down and worked to address the wheels.

Straight up? Lee Weems’ Deliberate Speed Pistol class contributed here too. I found myself applying Lee’s deliberate techniques, which would help me keep a locked-in focus on the front sight. That kept me “in the moment” and focused on the process. Watching that front sight, being able to call my shots (just about every shot I “pulled” I knew it the moment it happened).

Results

When I put it all together – it’s what enabled me to earn a Light Pin.

A Light Pin is: “An early stage of excellence in core technical skills of drawing and shooting”. I’ve been thinking about how to convey the significance of the pin to those who may not have the frame of reference, and I’m failing to find a way (open to suggestions!). Just know that this is well-respected amongst my peers, and is a big accomplishment.

Actually, there’s a post from Gabe on the Pistol-Training forums where Gabe not only explains the tests, but his philosophy in their design. One particular comment stands out:

One other quick comment – I think standards is the wrong word to describe these. To me, the term ‘standards’ refers to an obligated level of performance, and if you can’t do it all the time, then you are wrong. These are intended to be difficult goals to reach for. I specifically set the Turbo threshold to be difficult enough that almost no one would be able to easily walk through them at 100% without effort. I certainly can’t.

I feel like I broke through a plateau in my shooting skill. I was made aware of my performance, especially where my performance is inefficient, sub-optimal, and needs work. I also was made aware that I’m much better than I give myself credit for.

The last part feels funny for me to say. What it is is trusting myself.

I’m so focused on defensive shooting (vs. gaming). I care immensely about issues like unacceptable hits. As a result, it causes me to slow down, to confirm and confirm again. This is all good and I believe a right mentality to hold. But it also holds me back, and potentially that hold back could be costly. It’s evident I have some degree of unconscious-competence in this area, and I have to allow myself to operate in that way instead of inserting (potentially unnecessary) conscious thought into a time-critical event and risking problems and failure. When I stay “in the moment” focusing on the task at hand, everything about that moment is clearer. And since we know following this process does in fact lead to desired outcome, just… follow the process.

So it’s weird to say “trust myself”, it’s not really the right words. But there were things shown and behaviors reinforced by Gabe’s class that were positive and right.

What’s next?

Taking some time off because my hands need to heal up. But it’s giving me time to reflect, review class notes, and other useful things.

I see where I need to work. I want to solidify Light Pin performance. I have work on my drawstroke and “draw to first shot” to deal with. Continuing to be focused in the now.

Long term, I’m presently a B-class Production shooter in USPSA. A Light Pin can be thought of as a solid A-class performance (based off data from our book Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training). I’ve been wanting to get to A-class, because I feel that’s a pretty good level for someone that likes to shoot well but isn’t deeply interested in playing the game itself. Having broken that plateau, I feel this may be attainable now.

Remember my Sig P365 fail saga? Early on in evaluating the P365, I did think that if it passed muster and was in fact to be my daily carry, I ought to take Gabe’s class with it. I knew that was kinda crazy to do, but “train like you fight” and all that. Well, after the P365 went to crap, there was no way I was going to bother taking Gabe’s class. The replacement P365 ran 500 rounds with zero hiccups, but it needs needs to prove itself fully. Will I take Gabe’s class with a P365? Not currently in the cards, but I think when I get back to working with the P365 that I will shoot Gabe’s tests and see what I can do. Getting at least a Dark Pin level of performance with the P365 would be a nice start.

Other Stuff

The person-on-person shoot-offs were great. Tons of pressure, immense challenge, lots of shit-talking and fun amongst friends, a bunch of laughter and high-fives. Just great stuff. It provides a different dimension to the class, contributing to the lessons but also providing a change up. What’s great is I believe everyone won some and lost some (and I believe everyone did earn a patch). A great set of classmates to shoot against – we sharpen each other.

One thing I personally liked with the steel shoot-offs was the chance to experiment more. For example, on the running drill there are a number of ways you could approach the problem. The structure of the shoot-offs allowed me to try one approach, then another, go back to the first, try it again, try it one side, try it the other side, as many times as I was able to within the time allotted for the drill. Discussing this with fellow KRT Instructor Ed on the drive home, we agreed that such structure allowing you permission to explore was quite meaningful.

It was great watching Gabe demo. He would demonstrate every skill, and demonstrate it as he wanted us to perform it. In doing so, he “failed” often – his words. Now many of us would look at a Gabe White failure run and esteem to fail so well. 🙂 But Gabe knows his level and he felt this weekend’s shooting wasn’t representative of his best. But this shows a number of important things.

  1. Instructors should not be afraid to demo in front of their students, but only if they can actually do what needs to be demoed in the first place. Failure doesn’t mean you suck – it means you’re human.
  2. Getting up to demo, just like public speaking, takes a lot of guts. It’s pressure, and being able to perform under pressure is important. The more you subject yourself to performing under pressure, the better you will become at it.
  3. Gabe talked about a 25% performance tax. At KR Training we tell our Defensive Pistol Skill 1 students a lesson from Paul Ford that when the flag flies you’ll perform at about 70% of your worst day on the range. Gabe can shoot really well – then under pressure and other environmental factors, he didn’t perform to HIS level, but he still performed at a very high level.
  4. This is why it’s so important to train well above levels of minimum competency, so when the time comes and your skills will degrade, that degraded level is still high enough to get the job done.

Class dynamics were good. Gabe has spent time not only on his curriculum, but also how to run the class. I spoke with him about some classroom management techniques he used, and it’s evident he’s put a lot into managing issues of a traveling trainer (ranges will vary in what they provide), keeping the class smooth, efficient, on time.

I will restate the classes are very long. I do wonder if the classes might be too long. People were pretty spent by early-afternoon on the 2nd day, and once the last test was completed a number of people flat out stopped shooting – myself included. Heck, I barely made it through the fourth test (Split Bill Drill), intentionally dialing it back because my hands just couldn’t take it any more.  My hands were raw, blistered, and got to a point of major tenderness in my right palm (as if bruised). Shooting nearly 1000 rounds with a grippy-gun, a hard-clamp grip, aggressively driving a gun on every string of fire for 2 days – it takes a toll. I didn’t want to stop shooting, but I had to stop early. As well, I – and I know others – were just so spent towards the end of class that it was difficult to focus on his instructional block about cover/concealment and movement tactics. It was extremely informative, but I just had a hard time staying focused on his lecture and I know I didn’t register as much as I would have liked simply due to exhaustion. My feet ached, my hands were beat-up, my brain was drained, it was hot, sweaty, tired – just not a conducive environment to learn in.

Plus, I wanted to go out to dinner with Gabe one evening, but I just couldn’t. Having to wake up at 4 AM, not getting home until maybe 8-8:30 PM (then shower, supper, maybe a smidge of family time), and repeat – there was just no way (especially since I am making fixing my sleep issues a priority, even if I have to miss out on stuff). Granted, we’re not attending class for social hour, but I know I and often other intermediate/advanced students like to go out to supper with a visiting trainer – few were able to go just due to schedule.

I guess it just means I have to take the class again. 🙂 Not just because a Turbo pin would be cool, but there is so much material it would be great to hear it all again.

And yes, you should portion your training budget to train with Gabe. I cannot recommend him enough.

“Be mentally composed and focus on completing the task at hand.” – Gabe White

What are you entrusting your life to?

What is more important? Your ego or your life?

I’ve been giving the Sig Sauer P365 a trial. You can read and see about my exploration on my Instagram feed. There’s my first thought, my first live fire session, second live fire session (including a little fun). But what was more telling? I opted to shoot it exclusively during the 2019 Rangemaster Instructor Reunion and Conference. That’s no small potatoes. You know you’re going to be shooting tough courses. You know you’ll be shooting and the eyes of a few dozen top instructors will be watching you (because you will shoot The Casino Drill solo in front of everyone). And there’s Tom Givens – a man who commands the highest respect, and you don’t want to let him down. There’s a lot of pressure to perform well – so is it really the right place to shoot a small gun? an untested gun?

I can’t think of a better place!

I am considering this gun for personal protection. I am wanting to bet my life on it. If it – and I with it – cannot perform in high pressure situations on demand? Then it’s no good.

You can read about the aftermath in 3 parts: part 1, part 2, and here’s part 3:

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Sig P365. A turn for the worse. Part 3 of 3. . For the Rangemaster Instructor Reunion & Conference 2019, I shot the Sig P365 as a part of vetting the gun. . What's the verdict? I'm happier with Day 2’s performance. . For me, I stopped thinking about the gun and just shot; be in the moment of this shot now. I forced myself to shoot slower: I cannot shoot theP365 as fast as my M&P9 M2.0 4" Compact. After the BUG drill I looked at other targets and had better grouping than others – dedicated work with the small gun pays off. That's a clue for you who carry small guns but rarely/never shoot them. . The gun? 3 malfs out of 1200 total rounds to date, all failures to extract. Could it be the ammo? Signs point that way, but can't be certain; there was no time to stop and diagnose. I didn't like the magazines not falling free. Confidence in the gun IS shaken. Part of me wants to take the gun to at least 2000 rounds before I pass a verdict – certainly some additional testing against the first ammo. However, it's going to have to wait. Ahead for me is Gabe White's Pistol Shooting Solutions, and the first ever Rangemaster Master Instructor course. Thus it's time to go back to my M&P and get where I need to be for those. I will still carry the P365 now and again when I truly need that gun, and I am going to keep up dry and live fire with it, just not dedicated. There's a sick little part of me that wants to take Gabe's class with the P365… 😈 . It's not the result my ego wanted (I wanted it to be problem free and awesome); but it actually is precisely the result I truly wanted. I wanted to shoot the P365 under tough circumstances to ensure I could entrust my life to it. This is one big value of meaningful formal training classes: it will stress you and your gear unlike anything else, and provide you with important information and guidance. Yes, my ego didn't want to do it, but my head and heart knew it was best; I'm happy I did it. . Video of my 3M Test run. I’m in the black shirt. . . . . . #gun #guns #sig #sigsauer #sigp365 #p365 #edc #smallguns #pocketguns #rangemaster #rangemasterinstructorreunion #krtraining #2a #concealedcarry #rkba #darkstargear #freedommunitions

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Here’s the thing.

I have been shooting that P365 exclusively for a good while. I have been doing daily dry fire, and then a few live-fire sessions. I had about 800 rounds through the gun before the Reunion, and total around 1200 after. Frankly, that’s more rounds than many people shoot in a year, and some guns/people see in a lifetime. That weekend I shot with a lot of people of high skill, and you can see how I performed – and with the P365.

What I found interesting was when on Sunday morning everyone switched to their small gun, I saw that I continued to shoot about the same but I watched many around me degrade in their shooting skill. The take-away?

Shooting with small guns is hard.

Even for highly-skilled people, it’s harder to shoot a small gun than a big gun. (this is not new news: see the article Karl Rehn wrote back in 2012 on this very topic)

I see it time and time again. People come to class with a big gun and a fancy rig to carry it in. I ask them if that’s what they normally carry and the answer is no, they carry a tiny gun in a pocket holster. The follow-up question is why they aren’t shooting the class with the gun they carry. And there’s lots of reasons, some I might accept and most I won’t. Whatever the specific reason is, if you peel back the layers it often comes down to a simple thing:

  1. they know their small gun is hard to shoot
  2. they don’t want to look stupid or incompetent in class struggling to shoot the small, difficult gun

I get it. My ego wasn’t happy with how the Reunion weekend went. I felt a little ego-bruised because there were a number of people I respect seeing me shoot for the first time… and this was to be their impression of me and my skills. And here I am, shooting at my home range, as the Senior Assistant Instructor of KR Training, just published the “Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training” book, all this ego investment.

So trust me – I get it.

And when the weekend and gun and my shooting didn’t go as great as my ego wanted it to? Oh yeah, I felt it.

I get it. I really do.

But here’s the thing.

What I got out of the weekend (in terms of the gun and my shooting it) was PRECISELY what I wanted to get out of the endeavor. I wanted to see if it would perform, and how I would perform with it. And I got that.

  • I feel the gun needs a little more time before I can feel the hardware is as flawless as a human-created machine can get; and that I can trust it
  • I learned I have to put in a LOT of dedicated time with it (more than I anticipated), and that I cannot (yet) shoot it to the same level as my full-size gun.

But I also got that when I put in the time, the payoff is good.

Frankly, all of the time and investment I made in shooting the P365, including shooting it during the Reunion, gave me more knowledge, more skill, more ability, and more confidence in not just the hardware, but me. I cannot stress the importance of knowing your equipment – and knowing yourself, not just your capabilities but your limits too. If an instructor is going to embarrass you, belittle you, or laugh at you because you can’t shoot – they’re not an instructor, they’re a jerk. The fact you are coming to class is acknowledgement you don’t know and you wish to learn, that you admit your shortcomings and want to improve. If anyone’s going to make you feel bad about that, they can fuck right off.

This is a clue for you folks that carry a small gun but rarely practice with it. Or that come to class with a bigger gun to “game” the class.

To what are you entrusting your life?

Is your ego more important to preserve than your life?

Set your ego aside. If you’re going to entrust your life to something, make sure you are skilled and confident in that something.

Answer, but don’t open your door

A couple nights ago, about 9:30 PM, there’s a ring at the front door.

It’s a young woman, holding her head, vocalizing about “being hurt” and “being in pain”. From what we could see through the peep-hole, there was a small child with her.

Oldest answered the door.

Actually, Sasha (our 100 lb Kuvasz) answered the door first.

BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK (in a most unwelcoming tone).

After we got her calmed down.

“Who is it?”

“I need help. I’m hurting.”

“Sorry, we cannot help you.”

I was fast asleep. Wife woke me up and quickly briefed me. By the time I got to the door, she was gone.

Wife mentioned seeing a car just up the road, that drove off shortly thereafter.

Yeah… it looks like someone targeted our house for burglary. Don’t know why, doesn’t really matter why.

But it’s a typical attempt.

Use a woman. Because no one would suspect a woman of being a criminal. And in this case, having a small child with them (which is particularly despicable).

Have a ruse. Something to gain sympathy. Something to cause you to open your heart and your front door. When you open the door, if they don’t rush in, at least they will survey all they can to determine if it’s a good target.

This is why it’s critical you ANSWER your door. It’s important to let them know someone is home. That’s why they are knocking – to determine if someone is home or not.

BUT this does NOT mean you have to OPEN your door. In fact, do NOT open your door (this doesn’t mean open the main door and leave the storm door locked — open NO door, so they cannot see inside and you keep as many barriers between you and them). You can speak just fine THROUGH your door. If you have one of those new video/audio doorbells, use that and speak through that. If you don’t, just project your voice and speak THROUGH the door. There is NO need to open it: answer it, but don’t open it.

You don’t need to have a conversation.

“Who is it?”

Even if you determine it’s someone to bother with, be certain of that before you open your door. If you have doubt, take precautions. Delivery people don’t need to come in. Were you expecting a pizza? Does this person have a pizza? Did they come from the place you ordered from? If you’re still in doubt, call the pizza place first and ask them who the driver is and if the person at your door matches.

Yeah, some might call you paranoid, but it’s your personal safety here. Do what you need to satisfy yourself.

If the person says “I need help” you can give a simple response:

“I will help you by calling the police to come help you.”

I reckon if someone is truly in need, they might be annoyed but will accept the help (tho of course today just about everyone has a mobile phone and could call the police themselves if they needed it). If they aren’t in need, I reckon they’ll decline and be on their way.

If needed, call the police anyways.

Don’t threaten that you have a gun. Don’t say anything about shooting. Keep things calm and polite (but firm) – don’t escalate until it’s evident it’s time to escalate. It might just be some annoying person wanting you to sign a petition (and that doesn’t understand that “No Soliciting” doesn’t just mean selling wares), and such escalation could cause you more problems.

Just be polite and firm. Answer – but don’t open – the door. Work to determine if it’s a conversation to have, and if not, break it off firmly, including an offer to call the police if needed.

 

A willingness

It quickly became clear it was something else. Bullets shattered the restaurant’s windows. A man collapsed onto the floor. Servers ran. A young man whom Mr. Shaw had seen minutes earlier, silhouetted in a pickup truck, was gripping an AR-15 rifle. He was squeezing the trigger, and squeezing it again as he moved toward the building.

Then the firing paused. Mr. Shaw could see the man reloading his weapon just after entering the restaurant.

He sensed a moment when he could fight back.

“I acted in a blink of a second,” Mr. Shaw said. “When he reloaded his clip, that felt like 30 minutes. I looked at him, and he wasn’t looking at me. He just had the barrel down. It was like, ‘Do it now. Go now.’ I just took off.”

He scuffled with the man, whom the police later identified as [I refuse to reprint his name], a 29-year-old construction worker with a history of brushes with authorities. Mr. Shaw managed to seize the rifle and hurled it over a countertop.

Full article.

If there’s a name worth remembering here, it’s that of James Shaw, Jr.

He saw a moment. He acted – decisively, swiftly.

I’ve been seeing some things going around about this incident countering the “what stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” trope by crossing out the “good guy with a gun” and replacing it with “good guy with bare hands”.

I get it.

It’s worth understanding a few things.

Mr. Shaw was lucky. Not every event receives such a pause, nor has a willing person in such a position to act when that pause occurs. This isn’t to say I’m not thankful for what Mr. Shaw did; just we must realize that this was a tactic from opportunity, not from planning.

This is also not a tactic suitable for all people. Mr. Shaw is a young strong man. I think about one of the students I had in class this past weekend: she was elderly, small, frail, and not strong. Are you suggesting she should go hands-on? I’m sure you’re not, but then what would you suggest she do as a means of personal protection (since I reckon you’re unable and/or unwilling to be her round-the-clock bodyguard)?

Do you know what this act demonstrates?

That sometimes violence is exactly the answer.

Violence in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It’s how that violence is applied, in what context, towards what end, that determines if it is good or bad.

Mr. Shaw made the decision to respond with violence – and thank God he did.

When a woman gouges out the eyes of someone attempting to rape her, when she kicks and punches and bites and claws her attacker – she is responding with violence. Preventing rape is quite the good reason to hit someone.

People who choose to carry a gun or simply choose to own a gun for personal protection have come to accept there are evil people in this world. They have come to understand that sometimes the right and only response is a violent one.

This doesn’t mean that a gun is the answer, always the answer. Nor does it mean that violence is always the answer.

But sometimes it is.

And it’s necessary to have the willingness to apply it.

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.

Austin’s Increasing Crime and Increasing Police Response Times

I was sitting in the doctor’s office yesterday. On the waiting room TV was the local Spectrum News talking about Austin’s uptick in violent crime.

  • Murder — same as last year
  • Rape – up 4.6%
  • Robbery – up 37.3%
  • Aggravated Assault – down 12%
  • Total violent crime – up 1.7%

They also went back 5 years and looked at the total violent crime index:

  • 2017 – 4414
  • 2016 – 4288
  • 2015 – 3536
  • 2014 – 3608
  • 2013 – 3135

That’s pretty much a steady increase in violent crime in Austin.

The TV was on in the background. I was sitting and checking email on my phone, and a notice from NextDoor came in, with someone posting this article on how over the last 7 years APD response calls are significantly slower:

The Austin Police Department is releasing new numbers comparing response times between 2011 and 2017. In 2017, response times for P0 and P1 priority calls are nearly a minute and a half slower.

For P2 priority calls, officers responded about four minutes behind times in 2011. As for P3 priority calls, or those that are the least urgent, police reached callers more than sixteen minutes later.

Michael R. Levy, Former Chair of the Austin Public Safety Commission says he’s been watching public safety in Austin since 1976 and it’s never been this bad.

When you need the police, it’s taking them even longer to get to you. A lot of bad stuff can happen in a minute and a half.

What made seeing these two reports at the same time interesting was this quote from Mayor Steve Adler:

But he says doesn’t believe Austin residents are at an increased danger. “I certainly don’t think the public should just be looking at response times because Austin as we know is one of the top 4 safest cities in the country when it concerns violent crime. Property crimes are at a 20 year low.”

Top 4 safest cities in the country when it comes to violent crime.

Mr. Mayor, did you not see your own police chief’s latest monthly report on violent crime? I guess not.

Take this data however you want, residents of Austin.

Me? I suspect it’s going to get worse. Austin’s population continues to grow rapidly. It’s a tough time to be a cop, and fewer people want to get into the profession. And you can also see from Mayor Adler’s comments that there’s a bunch of waffling regarding budget. Not a recipe for success.

Folks: Austin’s still a nice city. But the hard reality is, things are getting worse. And you just cannot count on the police to be there – immediately or in a reasonably timely manner – to protect you.

Updated: Paul Martin discusses this article and topic in episode 25 (Feb. 25, 2018) of The Situation:

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.

Once again, unarmed does not equate to harmless

Then, less than a minute after Falce and the driver first walked toward each other, the man returns to Falce and punches the [70-year old man] in the head.

Falce immediately falls to the ground; he never regained consciousness.

Full story. (h/t Shivworks)

I have written about this before (here, here, here, here, here). There are more, but those are what I could find from a quick search of my archives.

Just because someone is “unarmed” does not mean they are not dangerous. An unarmed person can certainly inflict fatal damage upon another.

I wish people would stop believing in the fallacy that an unarmed person is never and cannot be dangerous and inflict fatal harm.

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.

Aftermath.

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.