Thoughts on the CoolFire

A couple weeks ago I was at KR Training assisting in the running of a demo/evaluation event involving Walther Arms & the CoolFire Trainer. The goal was to beta-test a possible new research study on the benefit of the CoolFire Trainer vs. live fire, for shooter skill development.

Karl Rehn was host, and has posted his write-up of the event. To understand the event – see the preliminary results – and to understand the context of my comments, you do need to first read Karl’s write-up.

Background

I was working the event as an assistant and Range Safety Officer. Given the nature of the event, there was no teaching/instruction provided to students – it was a beta-test for a study, and we needed the live-fire vs. CoolFire to be the only variable. I was paid by KR Training for my time, but I’m always paid by KR Training for my time teaching and assisting (I’m Assistant Lead Instructor @ KR Training). I have no direct relationship with CoolFire, Walther, Al Dvorak, Dr. David Paulus. I’m not getting anything out of this (e.g. there’s no free PPQ or CoolFire here). My opinions are my own.

As a result of my participation and role in the event, I was able to watch a number of people, of varying skill levels and abilities. I also got to spend some time talking with Al Dvorak (inventor of the CoolFire) and he showed me a lot about the system.

I have to say that before the event I was skeptical. After the event, I’m genuinely curious.

Thoughts

There are a lot of training tools out there. Like there’s a dummy magazine that has a mechanism that provides a basic trigger reset – so now every trigger press feels more like a real press, and there’s some sort of tactile and auditory (click) feedback. There’s the popular SIRT Training Pistol. I think the SIRT is an indispensable classroom teaching aid (I use one almost every time I teach to help show and explain concepts to students), but I personally do not find it useful in my own training (I get too laser/dot focused; and if I’m not looking to the dots for feedback, what does this tool offer me in my own training?). YMMV.

Here’s the kicker.

We promote the value of dry fire. It’s well established that dry fire is the true secret to success – just ask folks like Steve Anderson or Ben Stoeger. While we can do most everything in dry fire that we can in live fire, we agree there’s one thing we cannot do – recoil management.

Well, the CoolFire looks to be a way to close that gap. Maybe not a complete closure, but it’s a step.

The first time I fired a fully-charged CoolFire, I was surprised at how much kick it had! Sure, it’s not the same as a pistol firing real ammo, but it was quite ample. A little bit of noise, a little bit of blowback, hey – this is something!

It’s easy in dry fire to forget to focus on your grip. Now, not so easy to forget.

You also have the opportunity to reacquire your sights, since the CoolFire’s recoil will disturb your sight picture.

I think that’s pretty cool.

I also liked how the laser attachment only fired as a result of the air pulse – more like an actual shot. It lets you know where your shot actually went, vs. a continuous-on laser where when you finally perceive the laser it may be where you moved to to after the fact.

I do think there are some downsides.

If you don’t have a lot of hand strength, it may be difficult to operate. Look at the size of the CO2 bottles we used. They’re a bit heavy, especially when you consider you have to hold them upside down, by the nozzle end — it can be difficult to balance. Furthermore, you have to push the tank nozzle into the CoolFire’s port — that takes some oomph to do. Most of the event participants had no problem with any of this. However, as luck had it, a participant on the end of the line next to where I was stationed just didn’t have the hand strength to hold and depress/insert the canister, so I had to refill her CoolFire throughout the event.

There are only so many shots, and each subsequent shot is a little weaker than the prior shot. This is just the nature of the beast. The dropoff isn’t huge – you can get through “a magazine’s worth of shots” before things start to feel too weak to continue. But it’s still there. And if you want to use the laser? You have to unscrew it, recharge, then reattach the laser – cumbersome. CoolFire does sell an adapter that has not only a built-in laser but then a side fill-port AND extra capacity for like 50 more shots. That’s great, but adds to cost (tho you can always buy the attachment later) and will make the gun longer and a little more front-heavy. I didn’t get a chance to try out that attachment so I don’t know how it affects handling (tho I’m sure it affects holstering and drawing due to the increased length and bulk).

The up-front cost. It’s a lot of money to dish out up front. But Karl’s write-up provides a break-down of how that cost actually pans out vs. live fire. When you look at the cost over the long-term, there’s net savings – but it still doesn’t take away the up front sticker shock that many people initially feel.

Aside: PPQ

I didn’t get to spend a LOT of time working with a PPQ. They have shown up in classes, they’ve always worked fine. After the event was over, I spent a little time shooting one. I’ve dry fired the trigger before and found it quite nice for a factory trigger, and live firing was consistent with prior experience. I personally find the gun’s profile a little large for my tastes, but it was comfortable in the hand (I know a lot of people find this an important quality…), easy to get to and work the controls, nice factory trigger, and shot well. Didn’t like the 3-dot sights, but if it were my own gun I’d be changing them to Dawson Precision sights anyways. We also had to disassemble and reassemble the guns to work with the CoolFire; that was very easy to handle (tho the require pressing the trigger) and I was surprised at the plastic guide rod. Still, seemed a decent pistol in the short period I spent with it.

Conclusion

I can’t say the CoolFire will make you a better shooter. I can’t say that CoolFire is a worthwhile and cost-effective training aid for you. I think the results of the beta-test event are encouraging, and I think Karl provides a good and reasonable analysis of the event and the product. I do hope a more full-blown study happens.

Me? Most of the other dry fire training aids have been curious, but not motivated me enough to plunk down my own money for. But after this event, I’m giving serious thought to the CoolFire. I’d at least like an opportunity to spend more time with it.

Beware the emphatic holster

Handling a gun can be dangerous.

A lot of “accidents” happens during administrative gun handling; that is, not when shooting a gun, but when taking it out, putting it away, or otherwise fiddle-farting with the gun.

One of the more dangerous parts of administrative gun handling? Putting the gun back into a holster.

Why?

The motion is “pushing the gun forward”. When this happens, if anything comes in contact with the trigger, the gun itself is able (continues) to move forward — but the trigger does not. The trigger stops and basically is moved backwards, and that then causes the trigger to do what it’s designed to do – and the gun fires.

That’s not good.

So why might this happen?

A number of reasons.

Clothing moves and finds its way into the holster.

I’ve seen spent brass eject, bounce off stuff, and land in holsters.

Sometimes debris from the berm (bits of mud or small rocks) can fly and land in strange places.

Gremlins.

Who knows. And really, it doesn’t matter exactly why nor exactly what. The reality is, stuff that shouldn’t be in the holster DOES wind up in the holster.

And that could cause you a world of hurt.

I see it more often than I care to. People emphatically slam their guns back into the holster. They were upset about their performance on that drill. They were really happy about their performance on that drill. They were in a hurry. It really doesn’t matter why nor what, but they just slam that gun back into the holster.

It’s a recipe for disaster.

If you slam the gun back into the holster and something is in the way, you’ll never know. Check that. You will know – when you end up with a round in your body and a trip to the hospital.

I’m sure you don’t want that to happen.

Instead, go slow.

Look.

There’s little reason to 1. not LOOK at the holster while you are holstering the gun, 2. move slowly. OK sure, there may be some times in some contexts when this is required, but those are extremely rare – and exceptions do not prove the rule.

When you holster the gun you should look at and in the holster. Look first. See if there is anything in the way. If there is, move it, fix it, clear it. If you cannot look at the holster, figure out how to make it so you can. If you must move anatomy out of the way, do so. If your holster is in a place where you can’t look (e.g. small of the back), maybe your holster needs a better place to live. Look. See. Strive to ensure the holster is safe and clear for you to place the gun into it.

When you put the gun back into the holster, MOVE SLOW. When you slowly holster, you’re able to feel if something is wrong, if something doesn’t feel right, if something might be in the way that might cause the gun to fire. This is important information! Because if you feel something it wrong, you can STOP IMMEDIATELY! I hope you can see how this could prevent something undesirable from happening.

I know it’s hard. We get into the moment and our emotions can get the better of us. But we must be better than that. We must work to control our emotions. By choosing to carry a gun we also carry a grave responsibility. We may not be perfect at it (we are human, after all), but we must strive to do better. We must work to be aware of what’s going on, and work to ingrain the habit to a level of unconscious competence so when we holster our gun, it’s always done in a safe manner.

The emphatic holster has no place in safe gun handling. Holster by looking, holster slowly. Be sure, be safe.

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.

 

Training with Spencer Keepers – May 2018

I finally had the opportunity to train with Spencer Keepers, taking his Appendix IWB Carry Skills course on May 26, 2018, and his Essential Handgun Skills course on May 27, 2018. It was a fantastic weekend full of learning, challenges, and fun.

Spencer Keepers

Spencer is probably best known as the man behind Keepers Concealment, crafters of some of the finest holsters out there – especially for AIWB. What is AIWB? Appendix Inside the Waist Band. That means instead of carrying on the side of your hip, you’re carrying in the front. To carry there is a different approach and methodology than carrying on your side, and Spencer is known for not only making some of the best purpose-built AIWB holsters, but also for his shooting skills (he of course carries AIWB). If you watch any of his videos, if you look at his track record at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference’s shooting match, it’s undeniable Spencer is an accomplished and talented shooter.

I’ve known of Spencer for some time, and have been Facebook friends with him for a while too. When I heard he was coming to my home range of KR Training to teach, I immediately signed up for both classes.

I’ve been AIWB-curious for many years (I’ve actually been working on an article about this that I intended to post before the class, but I wasn’t able to finish it – it’ll be published eventually). But there was always something that held me back from going all the way with it. I figured the more I could learn, the better off I could be. Even if I didn’t wind up carrying AIWB myself, that we have a growing number of students showing up at KR Training carrying AIWB, it’s good to have as much knowledge as possible to best care for students.

Class General

The classes were held at KR Training. The weather was clear but hot – I read that Austin set a record high temperature on the 26th (99º). So things were overall good on the range, but very very hot.

AIWB class was held on Saturday and sold out. Handgun Skills were on Sunday and almost a full class – a number of folks in AIWB said they would have loved to have taken both classes but as it was Memorial Day weekend they could only afford one day away from the family. Class was primarily adult males, but there were a few women in Sunday’s class (and I know one was enrolled for Saturday but had to drop last minute).

I’ll say up front that with the heat, Spencer did a fine job of managing and pacing class. We took numerous breaks to get out of the heat and ensure hydration. He stayed aware of the students and their needs, so that people could focus on learning. In fact, the breaks were great learning opportunities, because they all turned into Q&A sessions with Spencer.

My equipment:

  • S&W M&P9 M2.0 Compact (with Apex DCAEK and Dawson sights)
  • Keepers Concealment “The Keeper” holster
  • The Wilderness original instructor belt
  • Parabellum Research ammo (Value Line, 9mm 124gr)

Mid-way through the second day, I noticed my front sight had come loose. Karl was at the ranch and worked to repair it for me; meantime I used one of his M&P9 1.0’s to finish out the class.

AIWB Skills

First and foremost, this is not a shooting class – this is a class to help you learn about AIWB and how to “life that lifestyle” (for lack of a better term). Yes there is shooting, but that’s more because it flows naturally, not because it’s a focus. The class requirement was 350 rounds; I don’t know how many rounds I shot, but it was no where near that. Thing is, I’m good with that, because that’s not the focus of the class.

The class started in the classroom, with Spencer talking about his background and how he got to where he is today. One thing that’s clear from the onset? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who has put as much thought and study into holsters as Spencer. That’s an important consideration. So many people today think they have a heat gun and a sheet of Kydex and viola, they can make holsters. Well, maybe they can make buckets, but like so many things in life there’s a difference between a “thing” and a “well-crafted thing”. It’s all in the details, in the fine points, and it’s very evident Spencer has spent a great deal of time and energy in consideration of what makes for a high-quality holster.

And so, the morning was spent conveying some of that knowledge to us. Note: this class is not an advertisement for his holsters. Granted, his holsters do represent the pinnacle of his thinking and research on the topic, but it’s not about his holsters – it’s about giving people the knowledge on how to understand holsters and how to be able discriminate between good ones and bad ones. Folks: these few hours in the classroom talking about holsters and theory was the real money part of the class. My only wonder? Would the class still flow correctly if this part was moved to the afternoon? Given the extreme heat, I wonder if we could have done the range work in the cooler morning and the classroom during the hotter afternoon.

Then we did hit the range. We of course learned draw technique; in fact, we learned two approaches to drawing AIWB. Interesting that what shooting we did was geared towards extreme accuracy (we shot a lot of 2″ dots at 5 yards), and accuracy at speed (e.g. 2″ dots at 5 yards with 0.5 second splits). Again, shooting wasn’t the focus of class, but what shooting we did was held to a high standard.

One cool part was showing seated draw. We sat behind a table with someone crammed on either side (think having to sit in the middle seat on a small airplane – that sort of crammed). Drawing from that position? From sitting in a car? AIWB makes it easy.

We had a couple tests in class. If you’re curious what they are, go look for Spencer’s videos (Facebook is a good place). High accuracy and speed. In fact, on one of the tests, Spencer demoed it and shot his best time ever (captured on video, that’s me running the shot timer). These tests are a great challenge, and a ton of fun to shoot. And despite their apparent simplicity, they aren’t.

The one thing I didn’t think about until after class? I’d like to have talked about the disadvantages of AIWB. Again, the class isn’t evangelizing  for a particular thing or product, but rather about a conveyance of information so people can make informed and reasoned decisions. I would have loved to have gotten Spencer’s take on the downsides/weakness of AIWB. Another time perhaps, over some good bourbon. 🙂

Handgun Skills

This was a shooting class (class required 500 rounds and I’d say we shot around that many rounds). Spencer comes from more of the defensive school of shooting than competition (tho he has the skills to hang with the likes of Mike Seeklander and Rob Leatham). As such, that’s what this class was aimed towards.

While there was no formal prerequisite that I’m aware of, I would say that one should be at least  a graduate of KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills 1 in order to manage the class (it will challenge you).

What you get in this class is not the basics, but the fundamentals. There was focus on grip – because that matters. There was a lot of focus on trigger manipulation. Of course draw, presentation, cadence, reloads, target transitions, all covered.

I think anyone could benefit from this class, because there are no advanced skills, there are no s00per-sekr3t skills – just fundamentals applied better. Yeah, maybe you’ve seen and heard these things before, but I guarantee you’ll get something out of this class.

My Take-Homes

I am so glad I spent my time and money on these two classes.

First, I’m really happy to have finally gotten to meet Spencer and spend time with him. He’s a solid man. I know there are some that might look at his online presence and write him off because sometimes his posts have typos and grammatical errors. So? If you’re going to judge this fish by his ability to climb a tree, you will miss out on the depth and breadth of knowledge he possesses. For sure, Spencer may not be a hoity-toity instructor, he may be a “good old Oklahoma boy”, but that does not take away from his abilities. He’s a top-notch shooter, and he’s a solid instructor.

One thing I’ve found as a hallmark of a good instructor is the ability to improvise. That is, you know the goals of the class, you know what the students need to walk away with, and you know that every class and every student is going to be different. As a result, you are able to read the class and change up the specifics of the class to provide these particular students with exactly what they need to achieve the goals of the class. I watched Spencer work. It was evident he had a lesson plan, a typical path to take for the class. But during the class? He was watching the students, their performance, their abilities, and he absolutely changed his approach to match the needs of the students. That’s the hallmark of someone that knows their material, that knows their goals, that knows the various roads to get there, that has the depth of knowledge to accomplish things. Seriously folks, Spencer’s got some of that unquantifiable goodness that few instructors have.

There are a few things that really hit me.

Grip.

Spencer made a great comment about grip: drive the fingertips into the palm. This is one reason I like taking “the same class” from another instructor: because I am likely to hear the same thing, but said in a different way. Grip is a big deal to me, given all the time I spend in the gym lifting heavy things. But take a moment and think about his phrasing: drive the fingertips into the palm. Try it. Make a fist or grip something the normal way you do. Now think about taking the tips of your fingers — not the pads, not the fingers as a general notion, but the tops, the tips themselves, and drive them into the meat of your palm. It’s a different notion, a different approach, and creates a MUCH stronger grip! Heck, the couple days I was in the gym after class, I gave myself this cue and found myself gripping the weights in a VERY different manner, a more effective manner. Yes, it’s more tiring, it’s harder — but only because I’m not used to it. It’s a better grip tho, so I’ll keep at it.

Get nervous.

Spencer mentioned his training with Rob Leatham (if you don’t know who that is, punch it into Google and learn why he’s called “The Great One”). He said something to the effect that we need to learn to shoot in that mode – to learn to shoot nervous. Get nervous! Get upset (if you will)! When you step up to the line to shoot, it’s not a leisurely walk in the park. If it’s competition, or if it’s someone trying to harm you, you won’t be standing there casually – you’re going to be a little ramped up, a little nervous, a little upset, a little wired (or maybe a lot). So when you step up, allow yourself to be this way; allow yourself to go into that mode — and learn to function IN that mode.

I thought that was gold, and probably one of the best things that came out of the weekend for me. Mindset is so important. Part of training is a conditioning, a preparation for events. We know the environment is artificial, so it’s easy to slack off – but we can’t, and we shouldn’t. If you’re not sure if you can perform under pressure? Then put yourself under pressure.

Case in point. During the AIWB class we did a 3-2-1 drill: 3 shots on the 8″ circle, 2 shots on a 3×5 index card, 1 shot on a 2″ circle. One time while shooting it, I missed the 2″ circle. It so happened Spencer was watching, and it was a moment to introduce a technique. So everyone was told to gather around — see what’s happening? All eyes on me. Spencer had me unload and do a bunch of dry practice to work out the flinch/yank in the trigger. Then load up and shoot again – with everyone watching. No pressure, right? 🙂  But I did it, and cleaned it. BIG SIGH OF RELIEF afterwards. 🙂  Having to perform in front of others is FAR more stress and pressure than you can imagine (many folks have said it’s more stressful to shoot in front of the class/peers than to be in a gunfight!). But you need to be able to perform in such a situation; and when you can, that helps a great deal.

High standards.

Throughout the weekend, Spencer worked us to a high standard. Things like shooting 2″ dots at 5 yards under time pressure? That’s a high standard.

Why shoot to a high standard? Because when the flag flies, your skills will degrade. There’s debate as to how much, but Spencer threw out 50%. So think about that. If you can make shots on a 2″ circle, then if your skills degrade and now it’s in a 4″ circle? That’s still quite acceptable! But if you started in an 8″ circle and now go to 16″? That’s not acceptable.

Improvement Areas.

First, I need to get back to regular practice, especially dry practice. I hate to admit that I’ve been lax and it came through in my performance. I’m not happy with myself, and I’ve already been working to take a few minutes before I start my day to do some dry work. It’d probably be good for me to do more, but I gotta start somewhere to regain that discipline.

Second, a standard I’m going to work on is concealment draw to a 3×5 card, 3 shots. Distance doesn’t matter: start at 3 yards, go to 5, then 7, then 10, and so on until I’m up against the gun’s mechanical limits. Work to get under 3 seconds. I think this would help me a great deal in many areas. One thing that’s been hard for me is faster draws to smaller targets – I just take too long to get the sight picture and make the shot. We were doing draws to the 2″ circle and Spencer was watching me. He told me I was taking too long so we did it again and he said “I’ll tell you when you’re ready/steady enough, and when I do make the shot”. And so I did. It was far sooner than I would have chosen, but he was correct – I remember the sight picture when he said “go” and it was where it needed to be. That told me something important, and gave me something to work towards.

Third, of course I need to work on my AIWB draw. It’s a new skill. So new that during class I got a nice case of slide-bite because doing the “slap” technique I landed too high. 🙂  Just needs more practice.

End

I’m glad I took these classes. I learned a great deal and have homework ahead.

The more I carry AIWB the more I like it. Given my past struggles with it I didn’t think I’d end up liking it this time around, but it’s growing on me. There’s still some kinks to work out, but so far so good.

If you have an opportunity to train with Spencer, I recommend it. He’s a man with a great deal of knowledge and a strong desire to share it with others. You don’t have to be an AIWB person to learn from him, and for sure if you want to learn about AIWB he’s going to be a great resource towards that end.

Spencer, thank you for coming down and spending the weekend with us. I look forward to more range time with you.

Addendum

Spencer and I spoke and he responded to a few things. The easiest way for me to do this is to just copy/paste his response from pistol-forum.com:

Thanks for the write up man!!! It was a pleasure to spend time on the range with you.

A few reasons why I do the lecture first in AIWB Skills
1, I normally have folks use loaner hostlers so I want to talk about them before folks use them so they will have an idea of the why’s
2, It gives students a chance to adjust their holsters better if needed before we shoot
3, It lets them see the theory and how it applies to the shooting part.

Down sides of AIWB, I kinda mention them but don’t have like a segment on them per se. 1. done improperly it’s very uncomfortable, folks that try a strong side holster in the AIWB position for example.
2, If you don’t use proper re-holstering procedures you will cover yourself. (that’s why we spend so much time on hips forward) 3 AIWB isn’t for everyone; some body types will not be able to make it work well for them and that’s OK.

Next time let’s do this in like December…. LOL

In teaching, don’t criticize, condemn, or complain

In a recent class we had a scary incident.

A student got hot brass down his shirt and did the “hot-brass dance”. Unfortunately, in this version of the dance he turned 360º and muzzled everyone on the range.

Some of you aren’t going to like how I chose to handle the incident.

Thankfully one of my assistants was right on top of him, physically restraining him to stop and control the student – and his muzzle. It looked a little harsh when it happened, but it was the right response. Sorry you’re getting burned, but muzzling everyone cannot happen. Get that under control, then we can deal with the hot brass.

Yes, it sucked this happened in class. No, I’m not happy it happened on my watch. It was a scary moment for sure.

At the end of every class, we go around to each student and ask them to tell us one thing they learned. When I got to this particular student, I forgot his exact words but it was something to the effect of “no one likes having a muzzle pointed at them!”. We all had a bit of a chuckle (stressful situations can bring out odd humor), but everyone also realized the seriousness and gravity of what happened – most of all, the one student.

My response to the student was straight from Dale Carnegie:

“And I know you won’t do that again.”

And I firmly believe that. He is a young man, and I am certain this incident is going to be a bright and vivid memory in his mind for the rest of his life. He was shocked, embarrassed, apologetic, and completely fathomed the gravity of his actions.

If you haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, you should. What I did came right out of chapter one. This website summarized a story in that chapter:

Dale Carnegie knew that any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most fools do—but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.

Carnegie liked to tell the story of Bob Hoover, who was a famous test pilot and frequent performer at air shows. Hooper was returning to his home in Los Angeles from an air show in San Diego. Suddenly, both engines stopped in mid-flight on the aircraft that Hoover was flying. Using his skills and some deft maneuvering, he managed to land the plane, but it was badly damaged. Thankfully, neither Hoover nor the two passengers that were flying with him were hurt.

Hoover’s first act after the emergency landing was to inspect the airplane’s fuel. Just as he suspected, the WWII propeller plane he had been flying had been fueled with jet fuel rather than gasoline.

Upon returning to the airport, he asked to see the mechanic who had serviced his airplane. The young man was sick with the agony of his mistake. Tears streamed down his face as Hoover approached. He had just caused the loss of a very expensive plane and could have caused the loss of three lives as well.

No one would’ve blamed Hoover for ripping into the mechanic for his carelessness. But Hoover didn’t scold the mechanic; he didn’t even criticize him. Instead, he put his big arm around the man’s shoulder and said, “To show you I’m sure that you’ll never do this again, I want you to service my F-51 tomorrow.”

Next time you’re prone to condemning someone, try to understand him or her instead. Try to figure out why the person did what he or she did. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. Remember…”To know all is to forgive all.”

I could have yelled at this young man, scolding him in front of everyone. I could have expelled him from class, or maybe allow him to continue to participate but with a fake/plastic gun.

I didn’t because it was not an act of malice. He had shown a solid aptitude and willingness to learn all day, and had progressed well. The dance was a horrible mistake.

What good would have come from criticizing, condemning, or complaining about his behavior? This is a beginner/intermediate-level class, where people admittedly don’t know and are coming precisely to learn and become better. We can not expect them to be “perfect” by the very definition of the class. And yes, that sometimes (tho thankfully rarely) means the classes have a high pucker-factor; you do all you can to mitigate it but you simply cannot eliminate it. I didn’t condone his behavior; I wanted to respond in a manner where he and the other students in class would take home the proper lessons and remember those for a lifetime – because if I handled it like an asshole, that’s all they would remember.

Claude Werner often speaks that instructors would gain a lot more spending a weekend in a Dale Carnegie course than another shooting class. I’ll say it in my best Morgan Freeman: “He’s right, you know”.

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.

on “Waiting for José”, and Harel Shapira

In “Bowling Alone”, [Robert] Putnam’s diagnosis of America’s decline is rooted in the loss of civic engagement and the decline in associated life. What America has lost, Putnam argues, are institutions – ranging from churches to book clubs – in which people can come together and do things as a part of a collective, as members of a shared community; what America has lost are Americans who seek institutions; what America has lost is the spirit that is at the heart of our democracy. It is the spirit that Alexis de Tocqueville noticed in the eighteenth century and claimed as the source of America’s strength. The Minutemen agree. And the Minutemen have that spirit. What they lack is not a democratic ethos. They are what people like Putnam and de Tocqueville and our whole liberal democratic political tradition want out of citizens; engaged, active, concerned.

From “Waiting for José” by Harel Shapira.

I met Harel about a year ago. He was a student in a class I was teaching at KR Training. As far as I knew, he was just another student. Turns out that’s not quite the case. 🙂 He’s also an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.

Harel’s sociological interest is in guns, gun culture, firearms education, the culture of armed citizens, and the people within. He wants to understand why people join social movements, and a large part of that is the “doing” of those movements – and so, he seeks to immerse himself in the movements and “doing” them as well. He’s still an observer and tries to remain as such, but yet he must also participate. It’s quite interesting.

Harel wanted to speak with me (beyond class) on some topics. In part because of my role as Assistant Lead Instructor at KR Training, and also in part because of the incident I was involved in on January 5, 2015. More recently, we’ve started talking again regarding phase 2 of his research (which I don’t believe I can disclose at this time, but it’s a logical progression of his research). I have maintained I will always speak about that incident, because in doing so others can learn and perhaps the world can become a little wiser, a little better. We’ve had a few long lunches, talking at great length about all manner of things (and I truly enjoy our talks). But that’s not why I write today.

Harel’s PhD dissertation became a book: “Waiting for José – the Minuteman’s Pursuit of America“. Harel gave me a copy. On a long flight to Seattle I was finally able to read it – and I’m so glad I did.

The book is thought-provoking. It caused me to reflect. It made me think deeper, not so much about The Minuteman movement or guns and gun culture – but about modern society, and our humanness. For this alone, I think this book well worth reading by anyone, and hopefully they too can step back from the specific subject matter and consider the grander implications of modern society in the USA as well as that strange thing we call “human nature”.

The Minutemen

Briefly, the book chronicles a lengthy period of time Harel spent with the Minutemen. These are people who volunteer to sit at the US-Mexico border, watching for “José” to cross illegally, and work to assist the Border Patrol in their capture.

In the pages of everything from local to international newspapers were photographs of camouflaged men prowling the desert, seemingly a moment away from committing violence. You have probably read these articles and seen these images. The liberal media describes the Minutemen as “sorry-ass gun freaks and sociopaths,” while the conservative media characterizes them as “extraordinary men and women… heroes”. In some accounts these people are patriots; in others, they are lunatics.

One thing is certain, these men and women, whatever their given labels suggest, have come to play an enormous role in our country’s debates about immigration. The problem is that our standard judgements, whether damning them or praising them, sidestep the complex dynamics of who these people are and what they do on the border.

Liberal media accounts suggest that when it comes to immigration, what the Minutemen and their supporters lack is sympathy. If only they understood the plight of the people coming across the border, they would change their minds. But if we are to understand the Minutemen, we need to understand how anger and sympathy can coexist.

Harel writes direct from his experience – he’s the one telling the story. He tells of his experiences: his first arrival, his getting thrown out, his return and initial gaining of trust, the times going out on patrol, sitting in the comms room, and other stories of his experiences with these men and women. He works to analyze and understand why these people do what they do, and become the people they become as a part of this movement.

For example, he tells the tale of Gordon. Gordon was a man without the same background as so many other Minutemen – no military, no law enforcement. Just someone who felt a pull to the movement, had no idea how to participate, but had a burning desire to do so. Then how seeing Gordon over the course of two years, how Gordon grew, how he changed, and how being a Minuteman defined his life and gave him solid purpose.

It becomes very easy to dismiss these people because they are different from you. It’s not a movement you’d join, and it seems a little weird, right? So that must mean these people are weird too. And so, they are dismissed as weirdos and written off.

But what Harel works to do? To find and show their humanness.

Because they are human, just like you.

They want to belong. They want to feel worthwhile. They want to contribute. They want to make a difference. They want to be meaningful.

Just like you.

Sure, the specifics will vary – and they even vary within this grouping. But what I found compelling about Harel’s research – and remember, that Harel is very much an outsider in almost every way – is his desire to understand. Sure, he can’t totally remove his own bias, his own filters, but it’s that very lens that makes the book the worthwhile read. Harel is naive, green, ignorant of this world, with his own preconceived notions. Sure it’s interesting to read the picture painted about The Minutemen, but it’s also worthwhile to watch Harel’s own evolution through this experience.

For me, it was especially interesting to watch because the Harel I met and know is not the same Harel as in the book. So for me, it was neat to see that further backstory to enable me to better understand where Harel is coming from, and where he’s trying to go to with his continued research.

It all boils down to a simple thing: to understanding. Why people are as they are. What makes us human. And you will find that they may not be like you, yet you are more like them than you could ever imagine.

Beyond José

To that, Harel’s latest research (as of this writing) has been published in the March 2018 issue of Qualitative Sociology, entitled “Learning to Need a Gun”. I was a participant in the research, I’ve read his paper, and while sometimes it was a hard read, I felt it was an accurate picture. Hard read? Because there are aspects of modern gun culture that are hard to accept, but to me that just means there’s work ahead towards improving how things are.

If you want to go forward with Harel, I suggest you go backwards a bit. Here’s an interview he did with the UT Sociology department back in 2013 that explains a lot about where he’s coming from.

And for the record, there’s a number of things Harel and I do not agree on. But I’ve found him to be fair and honest, and earnest in his research. I’ve also found that I really enjoy our lunches together. He’s engaging, thought-provoking, and open. I greatly enjoy talking with him, even if we may not agree (what a concept these days, eh?).

I know a lot of people are into the work of David Yamane and his “Gun Culture 2.0” research. Harel and David know each other, and Harel presented at Wake Forest back in 2016. If you dig what David is doing, you should also be following what Harel is doing.

And a great place to start? Reading Harel’s book, “Waiting for José“.

AmmoToGo’s Gel Tests

AmmunitionToGo recently published the results of a pretty big gel-test.

109 loads of popular self-defense pistol calibers (.380 Auto, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) through a 4-layer barrier into ballistics gel. It’s just a portion of the full FBI testing protocol, but it’s still some good information across a lot of brands of ammo. Because no — all ammunition is not the same. They make a good point about this when it comes to switching calibers: that your favorite brand in 9mm may not perform the same in .45 ACP. It’s worth knowing and testing — and AmmoToGo did a lot of testing for you.

That said, this is just one data set. There are others out there that have done testing of ammo. Whatever you might be researching, I encourage you to seek out as much information as possible to make the most informed decision possible.

Disclosure: I heard about this test via a direct email from AmmoToGo. I received nothing in exchange for posting it — I posted it simply because I think it’s good and useful information worth sharing. I have been a customer of AmmoToGo for some time, and for many years they’ve been a go-to source for me because they have great selection and sometimes carry hard-to-find stuff that no one else stocks. Again, I’m sharing this because it’s useful.

 

Ernest Langdon on efficient presentation

A fantastic video from Ernest Langdon about efficient presentation (h/t Spencer Keepers)

Back in 2012 I wrote about how to “go faster without going faster“. In trying to find that post, I came across something I wrote in 2015 about “sooner, not faster” (and I’m glad I did because it was a good reminder that I’ll try to use going forward). And not quite a year ago I wrote a meta-article on the topic.

It’s all about what Ernest demonstrates towards the end of the video: how performing actions simultaneously, with efficiency, might look slower but accomplishes things faster sooner. This is the sooper-sekret ninja trick.

What I also liked about the video was it gave me some thoughts on how I can improve my presentation and discussion of the topic.

Give the video a watch. There’s good stuff to learn.

The importance of positive phrasing

One excellent tip he provided was to think of keeping the gun pointed AT something in a safe direction rather than trying to keep it pointed AWAY from things I didn’t want to kill or destroy. Having a more proactive mindset in this respect has helped me since.

From David Yamane, during his range trip with John Johnston.

Words matter. Phrasing matters. The right words, the right phrasing can do wonders for understanding and mindset.

Long ago I observed adults seeing children running when they shouldn’t be (e.g. on the wet floor around a swimming pool). A parent would yell “DON’T RUN!” at children, then the kids would start skipping or hopping. The parent would get mad because, in their mind, the child was disobeying as the parent intended for the child to walk. However, the child was following the given directions: they were told not to run and they did stop running. Since the child was given no direction as to what TO do, they made their own (unguided) choice that to them was acceptable but to the parent it was not. Because of the parent’s choice of phrasing, relative to the message they intended to send, well… everything broke down and communication was not successful.

It’s the same with gun rule-sets. Often rule sets tell you what not to do, like “never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.” Certainly there’s truth in that statement, but what it doesn’t do is then tell you what you SHOULD do? Should you start pointing it at things you ARE willing to destroy? That could be open to some terrible interpretation, because maybe you’re willing to destroy your ex-spouse or your boss. That’s not good.

This is why I (and the rest of the instructors at KR Training) prefer rule sets like the NRA’s. Their phrasing is clear and positively stated so you can know what TO do: “ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.” That not only covers the desire to not point the gun at things you don’t want destroyed, but it also tells you where to actually point the gun muzzle.

It’s important to tell people what you want them to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean the phrasing has to be “positive”. For example, if a child is about to touch a hot stove, to say “Don’t touch the stove!” can be acceptable phrasing, because not touching the stove is precisely what you want them to do. Granted, phrasing in a more “positive” manner may be better (e.g. “Stop!” or “Put your hands behind your back!”) – the key is to clearly convey to people what you want them to do.

Proper phrasing goes a long way towards helping people learn, and establishing a stronger mindset for success.