AAR: Immediate Action Combatives, February 2017

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

If you step back and think about it for a moment, so much self-defense training starts from an ideal position. It doesn’t really matter the context, “ideal” is where a lot of training starts from. Gun classes are on the square range, sunny weather, solid ground, and we know what’s going to happen and what we need to do next. A lot of martial arts work starts with two people agreeing to square off in the air-conditioned dojo.

What’s worse? People work to deny they could find themselves starting from a shitty situation. That term, “situation awareness” and how it’s treated like this almighty god-ability that one must possess and emit constantly, always being in “condition yellow” with mah “head on a swivel”. That THEY never fail in their situational awareness, they are always aware of everything, and if anyone happens to show less than 110% ninja-fied situational awareness, they are looked down upon as a tactical failure and need to turn in their Operator’s Beard and Tatoos™. I’m sorry, but I sleep – I go into condition white. I have a job that often requires intense focus – so I’m condition white. I’m human and sometimes life distracts me – and I’m in condition white. I’m sure you’re better than me and this never happens to you, but then I’m thankful there are people like Cecil Burch who humbly acknowledge these things happen to us mere mortals and provide training to help us cope if we find ourselves starting from a shitty situation. If you are willing to acknowledge you are one who could find yourself in a bad situation, where your self-defense incident could possibly start from you in a deficit, and you want to know how you can work out of that hole, read on.

Cecil Burch

First, who is Cecil Burch?

You can read his full resumé on his Immediate Action Combatives website. But briefly:

  • Lifetime martial artist, including 23 years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals in the BJJ Pan-Ams and American Nationals
  • Boxer
  • Firearms
  • A member of the Shivworks Collective

So… someone that might know a thing or two. Someone that may well be worth training with in this area. 🙂

But, what IS this area?

Immediate Action Combatives

The seminar work Cecil provides aims to contend with the “worst case scenario”: those times when you were caught off guard, or that old bastard Murphy laid down the law. Things like “the knockout game”, or maybe your self-defense incident started ideal, but then you slipped on some gravel and now you’re on the ground about to get boots to the head. What Cecil is aiming to do is provide you with a way to work to survive and overcome those situations so you can get back to a point where you can fight. As was constantly brought up over the weekend: Don’t lose — because if you aren’t losing, you still have a chance of winning; but if you lose, you can’t win.

There are actually two, 1-day seminars.

Immediate Action Pugilism was the first full-day seminar; this covered working from a standing position. Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu was the second full-day seminar; this covered working from the ground. The way the seminars were presented and structured, you certainly could take only one day or the other. While both seminars had common threads, they were distinct and did not depend upon the other. However I believe you will get the most out of it if you can take both seminars, either back-to-back, or eventually (as time and money permits).

Regardless of which seminar, they both have the same goal: to provide attendees who have limited training time and resources with solid survival and escape fundamentals geared toward the increasingly violent weapon based environments they may live, work and/or travel within. 

Think about that.

Limited time. I suspect most of us fall into that category.

Limited resources. I suspect most of us also fall into that category.

Increasingly violent and weapons based environments. You watch the news.

And for sure, the techniques are solid and survival-based. This is not going to make you into the next UFC star. You won’t become a great boxer, you won’t become a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). But you will come out with a solid set of skills that will allow you to contend with “the suck”, survive, and improve your position such that you can then deploy whatever your preferred skillset might be (martial arts, knives, guns, running away, whatever). This coursework aims to address the realities almost one else in any area of the “self-defense industry” addresses.

I admit the classes weren’t quite what I expected, but I’m quite happy I took them as while they maybe weren’t what I wanted,  for sure they were what I needed.

My Experience

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I'm on far left, ground.

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I’m on far left, ground.

The classes were held February 18 (Pugilism) and 19 (Jiu-Jitsu) 2017 at my home-range of KR Training. This is the first time Cecil has come to our facility, and honestly I’m disappointed the classes were not sold out. Mainly because I think skills like this are so important for people to possess. But I’m still glad Cecil came down, and honestly on a selfish note, the smaller class was a benefit to me because there was certainly more personal time and attention given, and the class was able to move at a faster pace. That said, I’d rather see sold-out classes in the future – so be sure you attend next time he’s here. 🙂

What was my motivation for taking this class?

In early 2016, my 2017 training goals were to further my gun skills. I’ve made USPSA “B” class, and I want to get to “A” class (still do). And some other things along those lines. But then, in Fall 2017 I took a new job that has potential for me to travel – and those travels could take me to places where I can’t carry a gun, or knives, or pepper spray, or anything other than my hands and my wits. I knew I needed to change my training goals. It’s been many years since I did any serious empty-hand martial arts work, and the moment I saw Karl was bringing in Cecil Burch I signed up for the class. I knew of Cecil and knew training with him should not be missed.

That’s the notable thing: I wanted to take these classes because I wanted an opportunity to train with Cecil Burch. It didn’t really matter what he was teaching, I wanted to learn from him. Oh sure, I read the class description and it seemed in line with my goals; if the class was about needlepoint, I wouldn’t have signed up (even if it was Cecil). But I admit what I expected from the classes compared to what I got from the classes was different.

For example, I expected the standing class to be about “fighting from a standing position”. So I expected we’d cover more about strikes, punching, elbows, some footwork, defense – basically a balance of offense and defense. But as well – and I can only articulate it this way post-mortem – that it would all start from that ideal self-defense situation. I did not expect the class would be about starting from the worst-case scenario, and how to survive and dig out of that hole.

But I’ll tell you straight up, I’m deeply appreciative of what the class did provide me with. I’d actually say it’s more important, because most of us likely get enough of the other stuff, and not enough of what Cecil provides.

Overview of the days

Classes ran from about 9 AM to about 5 PM. We worked the standing seminar outside because the weather was nice and working outside gave us a lot of room to work. We did the ground seminar inside on mats because of rain.

Class size was modest, and the students ran a decent cross-section. We had young, old, and middle-aged. We had some people quite fit, and others not so much. All male (ladies, don’t be afraid – it’d be arguable that you’d benefit even more from such training, especially the ground seminar). Some had a depth of martial arts experience, others were n00bs. Cecil’s curriculum allows you to come at whatever level and fitness you might be, and work at the level you are able. Oh sure, you will be pushed – if you aren’t, how will you get better? But you are always in control and able to keep things at a manageable pace.

Cecil would start each seminar with a small lecture to explain where he was coming from, to frame the work. Then we would pair up and begin to work. He took an incremental approach to the material. Introduce a small concept, work it for a few reps. Then another concept, work it for a few reps. Then another, and a few reps. Then go back and work again, this time incorporating all that we’ve learned so far. Then let’s do it all again, but this time we’ll up the pressure a little bit. Then take a break. Then lather, rinse, repeat. It wasn’t that robotic, but it was methodical and incremental. I appreciated this because it made the material easier to digest, plus by the end of the day you got a LOT of reps on the initial material, which winds up being much of the core/foundations. That is, if there’s anything worth remembering, it’s what you get at the beginning and that gets (re)iterated throughout.

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is an excellent teacher. It’s easy to find good teachers, it’s easy to find people that know material, but it’s rare to find someone that’s both a good teacher and knows  the material AND that can convey the material well. It’s evident he’s put a lot of thought, study, and refinement into the material and presentation of these seminars. It’s difficult to find a simple set of skills that people can pick up on quickly and then retain with minimal practice (vs. someone that studies a martial art exclusively, going to the dojo 3+ times a week). Then to be able to convey it in a manner where you can pick up on the concept, retain it, apply it, build upon it – yet accept that there will be a lot of information by the nature of the program so you have to keep everything as tight and controlled as possible to avoid information overload? That’s tough! I think Cecil did a fine job, and it’s a tough job too. For sure by the end of the day your knowledge cup is at the brim and just starting to overflow. I felt Cecil was able to read the class/students well and know when to move forward and when to pull back.

Plus, he’s a really nice guy, humble, friendly, focused. 🙂

One thing I appreciated about Cecil? Minimal “war stories”. There are some instructors that love to tell stories. While it’s always entertaining, it often causes class to drag and sometimes you wonder if the instructor is here to teach or brag/reminisce. I think it was Greg Hamilton from Insights Training that made a sound point: that stories are good and really should only be used if they contribute to the curriculum and will help the students learn and retain the information. Cecil told only a few stories (within formal class time), and when he did those stories were relevant and worked well to reinforce the lesson. I appreciated that; it goes back to my comment about Cecil’s focus.

Another aside about Cecil. One of the students/helpers in class was a gentleman who is an excellent shooter. After Saturday’s class Cecil asked me if they could go out and shoot for a bit, because he said that even 15 minutes of instruction from this guy would be a boon. This spoke volumes to me. That despite being a top instructor himself, he was still seeking ways to continue to improve himself. He may be the teacher, but he’s still a student. I dig people like that.

Back to class…

We would work and build, work and build, work and build. Everyone was able to work at their pace, and all students were good training partners helping each other to learn and not pushing just to push hard. By the end of the day, we were going at a pretty decent clip and pressure-level, putting it all together. Yes, pressure-testing is important.

I liked something Cecil did to add “pressure”. Let’s say you’re playing the “good guy” and your partner is “the bad guy”. Your partner is to ask you open-ended questions, or at least questions that make you think. For example, “do you like ice cream?” isn’t a good question. But something like “what are your 3 least favorite flavors of ice cream?” is a good one. Something that makes you have to think a little bit, to put a little cognitive load and distraction upon you. Then your partner should see the moment the wheels start turning and attack, and now you have to defend. Is this really all that much pressure? Of course not. But you’d be amazed at how it adds more than enough load and really messes with your ability to perform. I thought it was a fantastic teaching aid.

While the stand-up class didn’t have a “graduation” exercise, the ground class did. Basically you and your partner, middle of the mat, in front of everyone. Your partner could use any approach to attack you (ground work, punches, weapons), and it was your job to survive, defend, escape, and get at least to a neutral position. It brought everything together and was a great way to cap off the weekend.

My Experience

First, I’ll be straight with you: training like this isn’t always the most fun. I found myself a little anxious, a little nervous, a little intimidated. I have an ego, just like you, and I don’t relish getting my ass handed to me all weekend long. But that’s part of why I do things like this. I have weaknesses, and they will never become strengths unless I work on them. It’s not always fun to address your weaknesses, let alone admit you have them, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and work to improve. It’s important to put the ego in the backseat and make yourself better. Think about it: when do you want to address your weaknesses? In a seminar with a kind and knowledgable instructor like Cecil Burch, where you will make many mistakes but you will learn and be able to not repeat those mistakes? Or when you get jumped in a parking lot, and that gang member shows you no quarter for all the mistakes you make?

I’d rather get my ass handed to me and my ego destroyed in an environment where I can learn and become better, stronger.

Anyways…

I think my wife summed it up pretty well. You see, I came home pretty bruised and banged up, but that stands to reason for something like this. So her reaction?

Looks like Cecil Burch took you to school then wrote a lifetime of lesson plans all over you. Come to think of it, I don’t know that you’ve ever come home looking quite so educated

I LOL’d. 🙂

And that’s compared to my prior martial arts days, and even a round with Southnarc.

The thing that I fear in writing that is it’s going to scare people off from taking the class.  I’m mixed on that.

Part of me is fine with it, because it’s a bit of a filter so that the people who will come to the class will take the class seriously, know what to expect, willing to work hard.

But part of me wants to put it this way: yes, it’s hard. Yes it was physical (tho in part, that’s because I was willing to work at a very physical level; again, Cecil structures the seminars to allow you to work at your level). But I look at it this way: do you really think that someone intent on beating your head in is going to be an easy situation? Use the pressure today to learn how to work under pressure, so your first time isn’t when your life is on the line, y’know? It allows you to learn how to work under pressure, so you can have grace under pressure. It serves as inoculation.

Some of the course material wasn’t new to me because of my prior study with Southnarc. But it was like Craig presents you a few things but then has to move along because there’s so much more he has to teach. Whereas it felt like Cecil’s classes took those few things and really expanded upon them: an in-depth exploration and study of a few concepts. I came out understanding them better, and having more skill in applying them. One student said that Cecil’s classes are a good pairing with ECQC, basically if you have Cecil’s skills you’ll likely do better in ECQC. That’s what we call a clue.

I did find the amount of information good and well-presented by Cecil, but for sure by the end of each day I was at my limit. In fact, around 2-3 PM on Sunday I was totally brain fried. Cecil would demonstrate something new, then I’d get down in position to try it and totally have no idea what I was supposed to do: I couldn’t brain any more. This is my own fault. The reduced calorie diet was not conducive to the weekend. My diet works for my general level of activity, but the 2 days of more intensive physical work was of course a much greater level of activity. I was hoping to keep at my normal diet level, but alas I could tell on Sunday it wasn’t working. I had a couple foot cramps, and then my abdominal muscles started to cramp right after I did my turn in the graduation exercise (and continued to cramp on and off until I went to bed). I gassed out a couple times Sunday afternoon. So this is pretty simple: nourish yourself well, and well in advance of class. If you’re on a restricted calorie diet, unless there’s medical reasons (and if there are, you should take that into consideration in terms of participating in the classes), then I’d say break the diet a couple of days beforehand, get your glycogen stores topped off, eat well throughout the classes (fast carbs, water, electrolytes). You can resume the diet after class.

As for my performance. You win some, you learn some. Heck, I learned many. 🙂 Cecil said I did a good job in class, so I’ll leave it at that.

I will say that the class reinforced some things about “being big and strong”. Namely, it’s a pretty nice advantage. I’m in good shape. My resting heart rate is in the low 50’s. And while I don’t consider myself all that strong, I’m certainly stronger than many. And I’m heavy – which one fellow student explicitly said was an interesting situation for him because with me and my weight fully on his chest restricting his breathing, that was tough and a bit of a panic for him. He said he was thankful for it tho, because he was able to learn about that now, in the safe confines of schooling, than letting the first time be “for reals”. Nevertheless, it’s evident being bigger/strong(er) remains an advantage. There were guys in class who were way more technically sound, and what helped me work against them was being bigger and stronger. Of course, they were able to whup me pretty good in the end, because they had greater skill. There’s much to consider here.

For sure, I still have a ways to go. If I have another opportunity to take these classes, I certainly will. The repetition and reinforcement will be good, and I’m certain I’ll get more out of it the second time around.

One bit of feedback for Cecil: be a little clearer on equipment requirements. Clothing was listed as “loose, comfortable, but durable”. I’d like that to be expanded to address coverings. For example, on both days I wore my typical gym clothing of a no-sleeve shirt and gym shorts. Very comfortable, loose, durable. While it worked well for the stand-up work (apart from me being stupid and forgetting sunscreen), it was terrible for the ground work. I lost a bunch of skin off my knees, and they became pretty raw and tender. Knee pads might have helped, but I suspect they would have just rode down my legs. Just having longer pants probably would have been a help. I’m not sure how to phrase it, especially since I’m sure it varies based upon facility amenities. But that’s the one thing that I wish I had done differently as it would have saved me a little pain.

But hey, it’s just a little pain. Shake it off.

Thankful

It was a long and tiring weekend, but I learned a great deal. I am thankful that Cecil teaches these classes. I am thankful he came down to my home turf to teach them. I am thankful for the solid group of students in class, who were all there to learn and help each other learn. I am thankful for the cooperative weather, and for Snow’s BBQ lunch. 🙂 I am thankful for my generally good health and fitness, so it enables me to learn and participate at the level I desire. And I’m thankful to have gotten to know Cecil. He’s a great guy, and I truly look forward to seeing him again. I hope he’s able to come back again, and I hope to see you there.

Why aren’t you training with Cecil Burch?

This coming weekend (Feb. 18-19, 2017), KR Training is hosting Cecil Burch for 2 1-day courses:

Cecil Burch will offer two 1-day classes in his Immediate Action Ju-Jitsu program. Day 1 will teach skills relevant to standing up conflicts. Day 2 will teach skills relevant to ground fighting. Students can attend either or both days. Completion of Day 1 is not required to attend Day 2.

The objective is to provide attendees who have limited training time and resources with solid ground survival and escape fundamentals geared toward the increasingly violent weapon based environments they may live, work and/or travel within. And all techniques/concepts are from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and are combat proven over the past 80 years by thousands of practitioners, including the U.S. Army.

The Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu course is designed to give the layman a realistic and functional set of concepts, techniques, methodologies, training drills and experiences that will prepare them for a worst case “ground-fight” scenario. All techniques and concepts are high percentile applications which span a wide spectrum of confrontations. Training consists of presentation, drilling and Force-On-Force evolutions providing attendees with immediate feedback regarding the efficacy of the skills learned.

If you don’t know who Cecil Burch is, click through to read his lengthy resumé.

Due to some life changes back in Fall 2016, I made it one of my 2017 goals to get more training in “other” areas. It’s been some time since I did any formal empty-hand study, and when I saw Cecil on the guest instructor list for 2017 I couldn’t pass up the chance to train with him.

Why aren’t you signed up for the class?

If it’s because you’re out of shape, do you think your need for these skills is going to wait until you are in shape?

Karl’s also offering some sign-up deals on the class. And note that it’s 2 1-day classes: you can come for one or the other.

Sign up now!

And see you this weekend.

A little more with the M&P 2.0

So more live fire work with the new M&P9 M2.0.

Again, I’m generally pleased with it. It’s performing well. There is less felt recoil. It’s consuming whatever ammo I feed it. Accuracy of the gun does appear better than my 1.0, but it’s still a factory mass-produced gun with looser tolerances. I did notice some additional hardware differences vs. the 2.0: the barrel profile is a little different, and the ejection port seems to be opened up a little bit.

But all in all, it’s good.

What’s not good is my own shooting. For sure I got rusty during the winter break. I’ve been shooting my normal host of standards and drills for comparison of my own progress, and some things are better, some things are worse. One thing that I’ll be curious to see is how some of the distance shooting changes once I change the trigger innards to the Apex Tactical parts. While the factory trigger isn’t bad, for sure I feel that weight and “heavier break” when I’m shooting at longer distances and attempt a little more finesse. So getting an improved trigger ought to help a little bit. Still tho, most of the suck is on me, not the hardware. 🙂

To that, I do have the Apex Tactical kit and some Dawson sights. I’ll work to put them on soon. Then some live fire with them to see how things fare. Then I reckon I’ll put this gun into regular duty.

KR Training 2017-02-04 – Lone Star Medics Dynamic First Aid Quick hits

Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics returned to KR Training on February 4, 2017 to put on his Dynamic First Aid course. I like to describe Dynamic First Aid as “First Aid 102”. That is, First Aid 101 is things like dealing with cuts and Band-Aids and such first-aid fundamentals. Dynamic First Aid continues from there talking about dealing with severe bleeding (tourniquets, pressure dressings), shock, burns, splinting, scene safety, and the like. It’s a great course and I think one everyone should take.

Yes, everyone.

In one of my first interactions with Caleb years ago he made a great point. He asked the class how many people had seen a gunshot in the past year? No hands go up. Then he asked ho many people had seen a car wreck in the past year? Hands go up. Don’t you think that’s a situation that may warrant first aid skills?

And think about simple things like cuts, or nosebleeds – solving those are first aid skills! The preservation of life isn’t just about “self-defense”; first aid is very much a part of that, and essential skills for all people to possess. Because we ALL encounter such issues at some point in our lives.

Something else to think about? There are people that believe when things go pear-shaped they will rise to the occasion. That may happen, but in a first aid situation? Explain to me how you will rise up and suddenly have the knowledge of how to stop severe bleeding? or administer CPR? You won’t. These skills and knowledge will not just come to you: you must have taking the time to acquire them beforehand.

I made it one of my 2017 training priorities to get more non-gun skills, like medical training. But this class became a little different for me: I wanted my family to take it. And yes, Wife, Oldest, Daughter, and Youngest all attended and participated in the class. Yes, Dynamic First Aid is suitable for children, but within reason. For example, part of first aid has realities of body parts; so if there are issues with words like “penis” and “vagina”, they may not be ready for the class. That’s something I admire and respect about Caleb: he called me before class and wanted to check on all of this. His sensitivity towards his students is part of what makes him a great teacher.

Class

Class ran well. A good and motivated group of students. Caleb balances the class well. There’s a time for lecture, a time for demonstration, and then a time to have everyone practice and try it for themselves.

What’s especially good? The class culminates in some scenario training. This is invaluable training, because it not only forces you to put your knowledge to work, but it adds some pressure and realism to make you have to think.

I also find scenario work to be a good source of inoculation, so when problems happen you don’t freak out but instead can handle the situation with some degree of aplomb. For example, in one scenario Wife was a resucer and Youngest was a victim. When Wife saw Youngest, she was truly shocked and broken up at the sight, but went to work because that’s what Momma has to do. Afterwards, Wife told me how it was hard for her to see it, but I told her it was good because now if something does happen to Youngest, instead of emotions taking control of her, she can know that she’s seen it before, that she’s got the skills to address the problem, and she can get to work.

That’s why such training is so important, and I’m so thankful that Caleb puts a high value on scenario training in his classes.

Get out and do it

Get the knowledge, get the skills. You don’t know when you may need first aid, but I feel safe in saying that you will at some point in your life – you just don’t get to choose when, so it’s important to have that knowledge beforehand.

My family is one of the most precious things to me. I’m willing to put their well-being in Caleb’s knowledgable and proficient hands. If you get a chance to train with him, you should.

Thank you for teaching me and my family, Caleb. Drink water.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 – Live Fire

Previously I had written about my “first impressions” of the new Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0. Those impressions were from bringing the gun home and doing some dry fire work with it, along with some other general exploration (e.g. equipment compatibility).

What people really want to know is: how does it shoot?

Live Fire

At this point I’ve put about 1000 rounds through the gun across 3 range sessions. Mostly Freedom Munitions 9mm 124 grain RN New and Reman, but also some Speer Gold Dot 9mm 124 grain +P.

I shot numerous drills, such as: Three Seconds or Less3M Test, Rangemaster Bullseye. I also shot a lot of steel.

My goals were to put a lot of rounds through the gun, to break it in and just see if it runs without problems. To assess how it shot, how it felt, accuracy, reloads (especially the whole auto-forward issue), etc.. Just see if it really addressed my gripes with the 1.0 or not.

tl;dr Answer

I’m happy.

Details

The first thing I noticed was less felt recoil. I was surprised at first, so I switched back to my 1.0. Did some back and forth between the two guns, and no question: there’s less felt recoil. It’s not some huge difference, but I noticed it.

It also appeared to be less muzzle flippy. Is this because of the steel frame inserts? Or maybe because of the aggressive grip texturing? Probably both. Bottom line is I found myself back on target faster.

Functioned just fine. There was one failure to fire, but it was the ammo and not the gun. Things went bang. Extraction and ejection was fine. I did clean and oil the gun when I first got it, haven’t cleaned it since then. I don’t plan on cleaning it for a while (tho I may add a little oil now and again).

I don’t find the factory sights great, but as far as factory sights go they’re not the worst I’ve seen. For sure I’ll be switching to some Dawson Precision (0.100″ red fiber front, 0.125″ serrated Charger rear).

Again, the trigger is serviceable. It’s not too bad for a factory trigger. Main place I noticed was doing 25 yard group shooting, and there I did feel the pull weight. But even  tho it was a little heavy, it was workable. Yes, I’ll be switching to a Apex trigger, because it will be better.

To that, I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I wish I had this gun during the Rangemaster Advanced Instructor course some months back. My first range session with this gun was actually my first live-fire in some time due to the holidays and such. I know I had to shake a little rust off. That said, if I had shot 25 yard groups like this during the Instructor class, I’d have been thrilled (all shots inside the 9-ring @ 25 yards, consistently – and again, with the factory sights and trigger and FM’s reman ammo). I did some further accuracy (group) shooting from 5, 7, 10, 15, 25 yards. Just drilled things. I know how I shoot. I know how my groups normally look. There’s no question the hardware simply improved things. Is that tho a statement of how well the 2.0 shoots? Or how horrible my 1.0 shoots? Probably a little of both.

Grip texture really got in my way during my drawstroke. Clothing snagging, hand dragging. I’m sure I can adjust, but I just normally don’t shoot with a heavily textured grip. That said, the more I use it, the more I like it – from a shooting standpoint. From a concealed carry against my skin standpoint, not so much.

The auto-forward. This is the curious part. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to auto-forward. I put the mag in the gun, locked the slide back, and HAMMERED the gun on the bench repeatedly with a great deal more force than one would normally use to seat a magazine. The slide never dropped out of battery. Great! And for the most part, every (re)load I would do, never a drop. But, there were a couple times where it did! That was curious, and a little bothersome. I’m trying to figure out why it happened. My current hypothesis? The slide stop wasn’t fully engaged to begin with. The new design requires explicit force to engage and disengage (vs. just spring tension and pushing). It may be that the stop wasn’t over the little metal “hump”, so it’s easy to slide back down. But that’s just a guess, and of course the next question would be: why isn’t the stop then going fully over the hump? Again, this is all a guess right now, as this is something that’s difficult to catch and notice before it happens so you can know to pay attention to why it happened. But at this point I don’t consider it a showstopping problem. I mean, when I can smack my 1.0 and have no problems getting it to autoforward, but I can beat on this and autoforwarding is rare. I’m going to keep my eye on this, but so far I’m not going to sweat it too much.

What troubles me more is that it revealed I do have a training scar from contending with the auto-forward issue for so long. I stutter on my reloads because I’m diagnosing the issue. Well there isn’t any more issue, but still I stutter. Just means lots of dry practice on reloads to overcome this. Just how it goes.

Where to next?

At this point, I’m pretty happy with the gun. Happy enough to go ahead and press it into service.

I’m going to order an Apex trigger kit, Dawson sights, and work on the grip texturing a bit. I know it’s a hot topic about having to change the sights and trigger, like it should just be awesome right out of the box no changes needed. I can see that, and again I think for many people the gun will be just fine out of the box. On just about any gun I would buy, I would be changing the sights and trigger because it’s rare the factory trigger and sights will be awesome (and I’m talking mass-produced guns, not hand-crafted custom pieces or really high-end like Wilson Combat or Nighthawk Custom).

Once I get those in and installed, I’ll be making this gun my primary.

We’ll see how things go over time. It may continue to live up to expectations, or it may fall from grace.

Time will tell.

KR Training 2017-01-29 – BP1/SB Quick Hits

It felt good to be back out on the range teaching at KR Training. We take a quasi-haitus during November & December as a nod to our neighbors during deer hunting season. And 2017 is hitting the ground running.

Since Karl is now retired, he’s able to pour a lot more time into KR Training. One thing we’re trying out is more class times, such as offering classes on Sunday. This was one such class, and we had a good turnout for both classes.

Basic Pistol 1

Another change for 2017 is acknowledging a gap we had growing into our curriculum.

For many years we had Basic Pistol 1, which was a handgun selection, safety, and basic fundamentals course. The next step would be Basic Pistol 2, which worked on foundational marksmanship towards gaining the skills needed to pass the Texas CHL/LTC live fire test. Early on we had time in class to cover a host of little – but important – things, like how to load magazines, explaining the different action types on guns, and so on. Over the years things like that faded from class, not because we intentionally dropped them, but we’d find areas of greater importance to address and as time went on and class duration didn’t change, something had to give and we found some of these important things not always being covered from lack of time. Consequently, we acknowledged a growing gap on our curriculum and over the past some months have been evaluating means to address it.

What we landed upon is essentially this: what was Basic Pistol 1 (gun selection) is now a new course called “Handgun Selection”. Basic 1 is now about safety, range etiquette, basic technique, gun functionality (loading magazines, (un)loading the gun across different types and styles of guns from single action cowboy revolvers to DA/SA’s with decockers to 1911’s to Glocks), and then some live fire range time working on basics and fundamentals. Basic 2 remains what it always has been, a Defensive Pistol Skills Essentials class.

What’s nifty is the new Basic 1 is essentially based upon the new NRA Basic Pistol course. We found that what we needed to offer dovetailed well with the NRA course. That means you can register to take the NRA Basic Pistol online, then our class works for the live-fire portion of the NRA course. We will submit your records so you can also receive credit and a certificate from the NRA for the course.

As for the class itself, it ran great. We had a great set of students and fantastic weather. Everyone was open, engaged, and I saw noticable improvement across the board. We had a mix of students, including one teenager that was a little nervous but I could tell by the end of class she had a great time.

As it was my first time with the new approach, I was generally happy with it. I’ve long appreciated some of our “buffet-style” approaches in beginner classes. For example, having women shoot an airweight .38 snub-nose revolver. Not because we recommend it, but because precisely we don’t. But the sad reality is there are too many sales people behind the gun counter that think an airweight snub is the ideal gun for a “little lady”. (rolleyes). I like to have women (and men) shoot one just once, because that gives them the ability to look that salesman right in the eye and say not just “no” but “hell no”. An educated customer is the worst thing for a salesperson. 🙂  And so in this class, adding in the buffet of gun types and actions to have everyone load and unload them, yes it’s time consuming but it was quite educational. For example, small semi-autos must have very tight and strong springs, and thus the slide is harder to rack. Putting an M&P Shield in someone’s hands, then putting a full-sized Glock in their hands and watching their eyes open with relief when they see how easy the Glock is to work, that sort of knowledge and education is important at this student level.

That said, one thing we will need to work on is timing and class rhythm. For a first run it went really well, so it’s just small refinements. But that’s something I like about working at KR Training: we are constantly working, constantly evolving, constantly examining what we do to ensure it’s of highest quality. And if you have feedback for us, we always want to hear it.

Skill Builder

The afternoon was our Skill Builder course. This is always a fun and challenging class, no matter your skill level. We had a good group of students, including a good number of repeat students. It’s great to see people working hard to improve their skills.

All in all, a good day. I’m happy to be back out on the range. Tho I have to say, if the weather is this great in January, I’m afraid of what it’s going to be like come July and August. 😉

Thank you all for coming out and training with us. We look forward to seeing you again.

 

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 – First Impressions

This is my Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Background

I’ve carried and shot an M&P9 (version 1.0, if you will) for a number of years now. Thousands upon thousands of rounds downrange. It’s what I’ve taught classes with, took classes with, hours of dry fire. I’ve got a lot of time behind that M&P.

But in all of that time, I’ve not been entirely happy with it.

It started with accuracy issues – or rather, lack of accuracy. When I first bought the gun the accuracy was horrible. I wasn’t the only one nor the only gun experiencing that problem. I did put in a KKM barrel and that addressed things to an acceptable level.

But the most annoying part was the auto-forward “feature”. Seat the magazine and the slide will automatically drop and go into battery. Or not – it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes when it would go forward, it failed to chamber a round. And during the Rangemaster Advanced Instructor class back in September 2016, it auto-forwarded right into a double-feed (don’t ask me how, but it happened). My frustration with the gun was at the tipping point and I was about to leave the class and head to the store to pick up either a Glock 19 or a SIG 320. However, at the time a little birdie told me that Smith was working on a major revision to the gun that worked to address “all the problems” AND would maintain compatibility.

See that’s the big problem with switching: it’s expensive. You buy the one gun, add better sights and better trigger. Well, now you need 2 guns (with sights and trigger) because redundancy is important. Then you need holster and mag pouches, well really two sets of those as well. I’d want at least 2 dozen magazines. And the cost of switching platforms just rises fast. So I figured I could wait a few more months to see what this “next gen M&P” would be like. If it fixed things, great; I wouldn’t have to invest in anything more than the gun (and sights and trigger). In fact, I’d be in no rush to get a second gun because I could always fall back to my old guns for redundancy if needed.

And a few weeks ago, the M&P9 M2.0 was revealed. I purchased one as quickly as I could.

Note: this is my own private purchase of the gun. No sponsoring, no T&E, no nothing. This is all my money, my experiences, my opinion.

First Impressions

Looks like an M&P.

I of course had to start dry. Bought the gun, brought it home, looked it over, a little dry work.

Here’s what came from that time.

Grip

Holy crap! That is some majorly aggressive grip texture.

I have to wonder who’s idea this was, and what market is S&W trying to hit?

I mean, it’s really good grip, but very abrasive. I would love this for competition shooting, because you don’t shoot much but when you do you shoot hard. Such an aggressive grip is great for that.

Shooting 2000 rounds in a weekend class? That’s going to get old really quick.

EDITED TO ADD: Based on some comments I saw, I want to clarify the above. I’m not trying to say anything about competition vs. self-defense type shooting. It’s merely a statement of shooting volume. That is, if your time shooting the gun is short, like a 30 round stage, plinking in the back pasture, or other things where it’s just a short amount of time spent with the gun, lots of rest/breaks, etc. then the texturing is likely to not be a problem. In fact, I’m sure it’s going to help because you will be able to grip the gun better. But if you’re shooting with a lot of volume: long practice session, weekend classes, etc., the texturing is going to wear on your hands. It’s just a matter of abrasion and how long your hands can handle it.

And concealed carry? I have no idea how that’s supposed to happen. Maybe I’m supposed to build up a callous on my torso? I wear against my skin and it took all of a couple seconds to know this is a no-go for me. Plus clothing snags way too easily.

If this gun pans out, I’m going to take some sandpaper to the grip to reduce the aggressiveness of the texturing. I didn’t mind the original texturing at all, but then I also have a strong grip so YMMV.

One thought I did have was to see if I could be judicious about where I smoothed it down. I may smooth down the sides but leave some aggressiveness on the front and back straps. TBD.

As for the backstraps, there are now 4, adding a “medium-large” to the mix. I’m still playing around to see what works for me. In the 1.0, the large is too large for me, but medium was workable tho always felt a little small. So I’m currently trying out the medium-large and so far it feels alright. I’ll continue to switch around a bit until I land on what works for my hands, and before I start sanding things down. The more size options are nice.

Another change to the grip is the removal of the extended beavertail. So far I’m good with this. I have other M&P’s, including M&P9c, which also lacks the beavertail. I haven’t really noticed any issues – shooting or comfort-wise when holstered – and I actually wonder if I’m able to get slightly higher up in my grip now. It feels like it, but it’s hard to measure.

Accessory Fit

I checked to see how accessories would work.

Existing magazines? No problem. I saw a few things online that gave the impression there’s a new “2.0 magazine” out there, but unsubstantiated. To my eye there’s no difference between the old and new mags. Or even if there is, the old mags worked fine with no problems I could determine.

Existing holsters? YMMV. I tried in all my M&P holsters and had no problems. I did notice a couple had a slightly tighter fit, but just barely. I saw someone measured and found the 2.0 is just a hair thicker than the 1.0, so it is possible you may have fit issues with your particular holster. But as well, since many holsters have tensioning screws, likely a slight adjustment will address fit issues. So I see no major problems here.

It does look like Apex Tactical has new/different parts for the 2.0. I’ll look into these at a later date.

I’m going to guess that aftermarket sights will be the same as the 1.0.

Trigger

I’m quite impressed. For a factory trigger, this is pretty good.

Measured the pull weight around 6 lb., but it does not feel like a 6# trigger. Karl tried it too and agreed it feels really good. I did notice during some later live fire that during some 25 yard slow-fire bullseye shooting I did think to myself “OK, this is a 6# trigger”, but overall not bad.

There’s a little travel for sure. You do get a good tactile reset. Some have asked about grit and I don’t feel any in mine, but I’ve seen some YouTube videos showing some – so again YMMV. I expect as the gun breaks in the weight will drop maybe to 5.5# and of course things will continue to smooth out.

I am finding the factory trigger to be quite usable. Oh I do expect I’ll get an Apex kit because there is room for improvement. But honestly? This is a gun where I don’t feel any rush to get an improved trigger.

Sights

The same Novak’s S&W has been putting on the M&Ps for a while now. I don’t find them all that bad; pretty good for factory sights at least. I did of course take a Sharpie to the dots on the rear sight and blacken them out. Only mod I’ve made on the gun.

I’m sure I’ll change these to Dawson Precision at some point.

Magazine Release

The mag release button is all metal. I’m not sure if this was to address some sort of problem, but it’s no big deal to me either way.

One thing I will be curious about is long-term. I noticed over time that my 1.0’s mag release got sluggish. I would disassemble and clean and it’d be fine again. I wonder if the added weight of an all-metal button might help with that. We’ll see.

Slide Stop

This is probably the most interesting and most-talked about change on the gun.

The engineering is different, and unlikely anything I’ve seen. I asked Karl if he’s seen such a thing before and he hasn’t. I’d be curious from any of the real gun-history buffs out there if this is truly a new approach or something rehashed from before.

Basically there’s a piece of metal “embedded” into the frame, and the slide stop lever folds over it. It’s a bump. So this bump now physically holds the lever up. It takes intentional force to push the lever down vs. in most guns where spring tension just returns the lever downwards. Building upon that, the slide stop’s notch in the slide is very small and shaped like a triangle. Why? Because retraction of the slide doesn’t just release friction and the stop drops. Instead, the front-edge of the notch is angled so retracting the slide applies force to the stop and pushes the lever downwards.

It’s an interesting solution to trying to keep the slide from auto-forwarding.

I’ve banged on it a bunch of times as hard as I could, harder than one would normally hit. The slide hasn’t fallen.

That’s great.

Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. Because there have been a couple times when the slide has dropped on me. I’m not sure why. My wild guess is perhaps the slide stop lever didn’t fully ride over the little metal bump, so it was on the windward side of sliding down anyways. But just a totally wild guess.

What I wonder? How robust is this solution?

You now have 2 pieces of metal in constant contact, riding over each other with tension and friction. Directly that means wear. But as well, the way the metal is folded over for the slide stop lever, every time it goes over the bump the metal has to flex a bit at the “hinge” point. How long until that breaks?

I would guess from the design of things if the slide stop tab did break off the gun would continue to function just fine – just no tab for your thumb to flick. Still…

Only time will tell.

Dry Fire

Working with the gun in dry fire was generally positive.

One hard part is again the aggressive grip texture. My draw technique apparently has me coming in contact with the grip and sliding my hand around the grip to achieve a proper hold. This is almost impossible with all that texturing; well, at least if I want to keep the skin on hands. 🙂

Trigger feels good.

Overall weight and balance feels good. S&W impregnated some metal into the frame of the gun, apparently to make the frame stiffer. Can’t comment on the stiffness in dry fire, but it doesn’t feel like the gun has become front-heavy. Some of the cosmetic changes to the front-end may have been to remove a little bit of weight to compensate for the addition of the stiffeners.

I’m not used to the factory sights (all my other guns have Dawson Precision, with 0.100″ red fiber optic fronts and 0.125″ serrated black rear Charger sights). But that’s no big deal.

Working the slide, slide-stop, etc. feels a little different, but the manual of arms is unchanged. It just feels stiffer, a little more work to do things, but when you’re working at speed you’re unlikely to notice. However, those of you that like to drop the slide by flicking the slide stop lever? That’s going to be harder to do with this gun: it’ll be interesting to see if S&W loses or gains ground in IDPA and USPSA competition with this 2.0 model due to that issue.

Live Fire

I’ve done some live fire with the gun, and while results are generally good, I’ve had some things that have given me pause.

I’ll be having another live fire session soon, and hopefully that will solidify what I’ve seen so far: either for good or for bad.

I’ll report on that soon.

Overall First Impressions

In general my first impressions have been positive.

The aggressive grip texture is the big negative for me, but because my primary context is concealed carry and that grip against my bare torso all day just isn’t going to happen. I can’t expect the average Joe to sandpaper their gun’s frame or even realize they could.

In terms of my reasons for buying and trying a 2.0? So far so good. But the jury is still out.

KR Training January 2017 newsletter

The January 2017 KR Training newsletter is out.

We’re offering a bunch of specials and deals, in addition to the usual news and guest instructors.

Come train with us in 2017!

See you on the range.

Life lessons from a weekend hunt

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going hunting with an old friend, Charles Coker of TacticalGunReview.com. We were able to harvest 2 whitetail does and a feral hog. From the 48-ish hours together, I took a few things from it.

Sometimes you have to be a little impulsive if you want to succeed in life.

I’m a planner. Deer and hogs don’t care about your plans. They’ll be here one moment, then gone the next. You may only have a few seconds of opportunity, so sure… plan so you’re ready when the opportunity comes, but the moment the opportunity presents itself, you better jump on it.

But on the same token, if you’re not totally certain, let it go; rushing in can lead to failure.

Suppressors are good things.

Suppressors, silencers, whatever you call them. They have this stigma of being some bad evil thing that must be banned or at least heavily regulated.

Why?

You know what a suppressor is?

A muffler.

Next time some dude on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle blares by you with his loud-pipes and rattles your dental fillings loose – those are straight pipes, no muffler. That’s how loud engines are, and why mufflers were invented. That’s how loud your car would be if you didn’t have a muffler on the exhaust.

See why mufflers are nice and desirable things?

Same with suppressors.

Good friends are those that put up with your shit, and still want to hang out with you.

Charles has invited me out hunting on numerous occasions over the years, and most of the time I have to say no because I’m busy (day job commitments, or KR Training weekend commitments). He gives me some friendly and well-deserved ribbing about it, but he understands. And despite all my turn-downs, he always keeps the door open and keeps asking me.

On top of that, he was a top-notch and most-generous host.

Those are the sort of people you cherish in your life.

Thanx, Charles for everything.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0

So it finally came in…

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0

Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0

I’ve done some dry work with it. I’ve done some live work with it.

Report to follow…