1160 Oak Grove Rd. Harrogate, TN 37752


The Problem with Pay-to-Play July 01, 2017 07:00

The Problem with Pay-to-Play


Perhaps you remember the infomercials from the 1990s that began with the disclaimer: “Warning!  The Following is a Paid Advertisement!  It does not reflect the views or opinions of network x.” At this point the viewer understood that the advertisers were paying for their slot on the television channel, and that the “commercial” was in fact not factual but conditional.

The days of the television infomercial are surely waning, but what about the internet, specifically products related to firearms?  How can a person trust and know that the “reviews” are genuine and honest, much less scientifically verifiable? These are important questions, and I would like to take the opportunity to address some highly troubling observations about potentially influential individuals that speak with a level of knowledge they have yet to attain.


I own and operate Valor Ridge, which is a company dedicated to education about American heritage and training in the art of firearms, as well as medical preparedness.  The purpose of Valor Ridge is to ensure that each student gains competency, confidence, and ability upon graduation.  All members of our cadre have real-world experience in either the medical, military, or law enforcement arena.  Many have experience in more than one of those areas.  We have first-hand knowledge of carrying weapons into harm’s way, treating trauma, and instructing both adolescents and adults professionally.  In short, neither I nor any member of my cadre sell anything other than our knowledge and information.  We are not sponsored by anyone in any capacity.  We do not receive anything pro bono, nor do we receive compensation from any of the companies we recommend. 

Influence and the Ramifications

The internet has allowed information to be transmitted at a pace never before seen.  There are countless articles, videos, and news streaming available to an individual at the click of a button.  Regarding firearms, information is abundant, but wisdom is scarce.  There are a few individuals that provide quality information, but how does anyone know the wheat from chaff? 

First, look at their credentials.  Were they in the military, and if so, what branch, active or reserve?  What is their MOS (military occupational specialty)? Were they trained in combat arms, or in non-combat arms?  Next, if they are/were in law enforcement, look at their department size.  Was it a town of 400 people, or 400,000+?  Do they have any shooting accomplishments?  If so, was it a match with their friends in a field, or an internationally recognized entity?  These are all important questions to ask, and you should ask them critically.  Be selective about the information—and from whom you derive that information. 

The next criteria should be to determine the relationship between the individual reviewing a product and the company providing the product.  Is there a monetary arrangement compensating the reviewer?  Is there an agreement between the reviewer and the company that provides free or no cost product to the reviewer in exchange for exposure on a media platform?  These should be clearly known to viewers. 

Take gun magazines as an example.  I have yet to read an unfavorable review of a firearm in any gun magazine.  That would mean a loss of advertising revenue.  It is in the magazine’s fiduciary interest to make and maintain a profit, often through means of advertising. 

When it comes to information found on the internet, you could go to the company’s website, with the understanding that it is in their interest to sell their product.  Every AR-15 company is the “best” in innovation, reliability, and performance.  Just ask them.

Regarding those with social media platforms, your discernment is absolutely required.  Many individuals make a living on social media, and many of them receive monetary compensation as well as “the bro hook up” in the industry for promoting sub-par foreign and domestic products to their trusting viewers.  Did anyone ever stop to wonder why the same products keep ending up on reviewer’s channels at the same time, with the same talking points, often during the same week?  In short, some channels peddle influence when lives are on the line in order to promote their status at industry parties and social events.  It bothers me a great deal that those who others depend on for information have compromised their integrity for improved access to movers in the industry, as well as financial and tangible benefits 


Be extremely cautious about the information you receive.  Many reviews are in fact not reviews but are simply one individual doing his or her “buddy” a favor in the industry.  Their relationship is unknown, and viewers take it as honest and sincere “torture testing” and valid reviewing.  I can assure you that this is not the case in many of the instances.  Be very wary of these snake oil salesmen.  A given channel will test ONE rifle and claim the results of their extremely limited sample size to be scientifically valid or the final word.   A sample of one is not a sample.  On the flip side of that coin, the same channel will test a different rifle, furnished by their industry friends and cherry-picked “testing” for great results.  The same brand rifle has failed miserably in our 900 round count class on more than one occasion.

Since my channel and company have begun years ago, I have been approached by dozens of companies and individuals seeking promotional access to my students and viewers, and their hard-earned money.  These companies range from well-known manufacturers of rifles to ammunition, to parts and accessories. We only recommend products that we have personally purchased and used on an extensive level.  Additionally, we do not accept any products for free, nor any monetary compensation from those companies.  We form our opinions and spread information based on thousands of samples, provided from students who bring every conceivable rifle, pistol, ammo, holsters, slings, and optic combinations imaginable. 

If you would like to see what brands we recommend, you can view them HERE.  I want you get honest, reliable, and credible information.  We use not only our personal and professional experiences, but draw from a literal living laboratory of students and equipment.  Take it from someone who has spent a vast amount of money on products that did not work as promised.  Often the gear “cure” does not even have a disease to remedy. 

“The lessons that we learn are written on the tombstones of others.”



Concealed Carry Considerations--June 2017 June 08, 2017 14:17

Considerations For Concealed/Everyday Carry


The Reality of Concealed Carry

Carrying your firearm is your responsibility.  As lessons continued to be learned—and relearned—by soft politicians as well as citizens, a few things are readily apparent.  One, evil people will continue to hurt others.  Two, gun control does not prevent violent crime, and actually encourages mass killings by psycho/sociopaths.  Given these parameters, when the time comes to defend yourself or your family, you will need to be armed without exception, at all times.  Nobody is clairvoyant, and since none of us has the gift of prophecy, we do not know when we will need our pistols.  What we do know is that when you need a gun, you will reap what you sow.  Those of you that sow preparedness such as a martial attitude, skill at arms, (marksmanship) and have a purpose in your heart will do well.  Those of you that choose to take days off, gaff off your duty, and bury your head will not.


The Tools of Concealed Carry

Your mental framework is vital to concealed carry.  Is your mind prepared for violence?  Is your practice—both dry and live—recent, relevant, and realistic?  Have you drawn your pistol from the holster in the last 12 hours?  If you had to stop and think about any of those points, start to rethink your mental preparation.  Once you have that, then proceed to what follows.



You will need a good belt if you wear normal clothing.  The belt needs to be sturdy, rigid, and durable.  High-quality nylon or leather is a must.  I recommend Ares Gear HERE.   I have worn my Aegis belt every day for years and it still feels brand new.  The buckle is flat, easy to tighten, and the material is so stiff it cannot be bent.  Regarding leather, Milt Sparks is high quality, and durable.  They are a custom shop so be prepared to wait a while. 



You will need a good holster.  At this point people usually ask if I prefer leather or kydex.  It does not matter.  A good holster is a good holster.  Whatever you find the most comfortable is what you will carry.  I have worn both leather and kydex holsters and both give great retention, comfort, and ease of carry.  A drawback to leather is that is tends to “sweat” in hot months, especially inside the waistband.  Your pistol will have beads of sweat on the exterior.  Carry either appendix or at your side, either inside or outside the waistband.  Some people can carry appendix just fine, while others express discomfort.  Your body and lifestyle will dictate that.  You should be able to hold your pistol upside down in the holster, give it a hardy shake, and the gun should stay put.  If it does not, you will need to tighten your retention screw and secure it with blue loctite if there is one, or get a better fitting holster if there is no adjustment option.  I recommend High Country Holsters, Bladetech, and Dale Fricke.     


If you need deep concealment, go with SmartCarry.  This holster is 100% concealed under you pants.  This holster works great for nurses, business professionals, and any other occupation that requires special or dress clothing.  For women, the Can-Can holster HERE is a wonderful choice and can be used across a wide variety of clothing considerations such as skirts or dress slacks.



A quality handgun is obvious.  This is not the piece of equipment you want to try and save money purchasing because the guy at the gun store who is trying to sell his middle-eastern companies and their attempts at modern firearms.  I like my pistols to have the same trigger manipulation each time.  I also do not like safeties on my pistols.  That is what the holster is for.  I recommend Glock pistols in 9mm.  A G19 or G26 is a fine choice for just about anyone.  A G17 is a good choice as well, but can be difficult for some people to conceal.  I also recommend Smith and Wesson M&P pistols in 9mm.  The full size or the compact work great, and come with a sturdy set of sights.  The Sig 320 is another quality option.  You will notice that each one of these pistols holds double-digit round counts.  You will also notice each has the same trigger manipulation each time. 


Sometimes people will ask about revolvers.  Any gun is better than no gun, but in 2017 if you choose to carry a revolver as your primary option you are severely limiting yourself.  Revolvers carry less ammunition, are harder to reload, and have a much longer as well as heavier trigger than modern semi-automatic pistols.  Sights are little, not ideal for one-handed manipulations, and not readily replaceable.  At best a revolver offers six rounds.  This may seem fine against a single attacker.  Against multiple attackers this is not a good thing.  People tend to forget that once semi-automatic pistols became available, military and law enforcement ditched their wheel guns.  The myth of revolver reliability being much greater than semi-autos is just that, a myth. A watch mechanism is not infallible from malfunction, and that is essentially what a double-action revolver is.  Couple that with the precise alignment of six different chambers and you start to see the point.  Additionally, once a revolver locks up, it is unusable.  And I have seen them do so, many times.   

Since I don’t do caliber debates, carry whatever you want, but understand that the bigger the round, the more difficult it is to shoot, and more expensive.   If you want to save yourself the time, as well as the hearsay anecdotes and bravado of the .40+ club, read the FBI’s rationale for their duty ammunition choice. 



Speaking of ammunition, this is another area in which you will want to carry the most effective, reliable, and performance-oriented equipment possible.  Federal offers a great round in the HST series.  Speer Gold Dot is another great choice.  Both of these rounds have extensive, professional testing results in both the laboratory as well as actual shootings.  Both of these brands and rounds meet well within the FBI requirements for duty ammunition.  You will also need a spare magazine.  I carry a minimum of two spares.  This is not because I am afraid of running out of ammunition.  I carry a spare magazine because a large cause of stoppages in a handgun is magazine related.  You will need a magazine holder to put the magazine in place.  Your reload needs to be in the same spot every time.  Simply putting the magazine in your pocket is a recipe for disaster.  Not only will it move around, but it will also collect lint, dirt, and other particles that make it less reliable.   



A white light separate from your pistol is another essential piece of equipment.  You should learn and apply a few techniques for using the flashlight in your support hand.  As a Marine and as a police officer, I had both a weapon-mounted light and an independent flashlight on duty.  I used the flashlight countless times.  The weapon-mounted light was rarely used.  When I point my hand-held flashlight at people, I can see their hands and their identity, and it’s not considered deadly force outside of California.  I carry and have carried Surefire, Elzetta, and Streamlight.    



This is often the most neglected part of everyday carry.  Medical equipment is essential.  In fact, I have used medical equipment to help others in non-shooting situations.  At a minimum, carry a tourniquet.  These can easily fit in a pocket.  The CAT HERE or Softt HERE are the best.  These brands have been proven over the decades to save lives, and continue to do so up to this very day.  Other newer tourniquets that have come to market are much too thin to stop arterial bleeding effectively.  Other medical equipment to consider is a pressure bandage such as an Israeli bandage HERE, and gauze from Quick Clot HERE for your pocket trauma kit.



Keeping your pistol and equipment ready is mandatory.  Make sure all screws on your holster and mag holder are tight and held in place with blue Loctite. Make sure your pistol is securely held in place in your holster.  Constant use will cause it to loosen every now and then.  Keep your pistol rust-free, and keep it clean and lubricated.  Depending on your location, climate, and usage, you will need to clean and lubricate your pistol a few times a month.  I used to work with a guy a few years ago.  When we went to the range to practice, his trigger mechanism would not move.  It was frozen in place, unusable.  His pistol was so filthy that the internals of the pistol literally stopped moving.  This was on a Glock.  He said he could not remember when the last time he cleaned it was.  He did not do dry practice, weapons maintenance, or live fire unless commanded to do so.  This is a recipe for disaster.  If he would have needed his gun, it would have been useless.

On pistols, I recommend either Wilson’s Gun Lube HERE or Slip 2000 EWL HERE.  Lube your pistol on the areas instructed per the manufacturer.   You should change your carry ammo a minimum of once a year, with twice a year preferred.  It is only your life.  Keep in mind that your ammo in your gun and your spare magazine is exposed to sweat, heat, and constantly changing humidity from outside conditions to inside conditions.  It will deteriorate.  


A quality mentality along with quality equipment goes a long way to concealed carry.  Carrying your gun on your body during waking hours is what will save lives, both inside and outside the home.  Regular dry practice, along with live-fire verification of your dry practice pays dividends.  The armed citizen needs to keep his skills sharp, his draw deliberate, and his equipment ready for action.  Take all the guess work out of the equation by buying quality the first time.  Then practice with it on a frequent basis.  The lessons passed on in this article are from years of experience, along with learning from the mistakes of others.  Your life is important to your family.  Their lives are important to you.  Treat it as such.


Thoughts on Rifles for Home Defense--May 2017 May 24, 2017 13:05

Modern Criminal Trends

We take for granted that a man is responsible for safeguarding his home, family, and himself, but noting the ever-changing paradigm of criminal tactics and equipment, armed criminals invade private property on a daily basis in this nation as well as abroad.  The purpose of this article is to address the topic of rifles in the home as the most effective tool for single or multiple attackers, who are increasingly employing pseudo-military tactics, weapons, and strategies.  You will not be facing the masked burglar spooked out of the house upon your arrival while looking for your family jewelry box.  These are violent people who know you are home and want your property.  They also want your body and the bodies of your family for their entertainment.  They are home invaders, not simple thieves.

Per Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a home invasion is defined as:  the crime of entering a dwelling and committing or with intent to commit a crime (as assault) while armed and while another is lawfully presentCurrent criminal practices include multiple assailants and take place both day and night.  Expect fast entry, chaos, violence, and extreme duress.  In these circumstances, a rifle is the most effective tool to thwart a home invasion. 

Advantages of a Rifle

The rifle I recommend most for home defense is a quality AR-15 chambered in 5.56 with a 16” barrel.  A standard 16” rifle with a white light attached is highly utilitarian and practical.  An AK can be used, but I would recommend one in 5.45x39 as opposed to 7.62x39 in urban settings.  Rural settings are much less densely populated and therefore an AK in 7.62x39 would be more practical, but you must still be aware of your target and what is beyond it at all times.  

Compared with a pistol, the rifle is a superior weapon for home defense.  The first advantage is magazine capacity. Many police departments in urban areas are reporting home invasions that include seven or even more aggressors.  Yes, you read that right, seven armed criminals inside of a house.   A modern, magazine-fed rifle holds between 20-30 rounds, two to three times the amount of ammunition of most pistols.  Against multiple attackers, this ammunition may be required to end hostilities.  That six-shot .357 or seven-shot 1911 doesn’t sound so great against those odds, does it?  Since it is up to the individual whether or not to obey laws that violate every aspect of natural rights, I will not even address unconstitutional states that restrict standard magazines 

Another advantage of a rifle is incapacitation.  Given a lethal hit, rifles will incapacitate attackers far more effectively than pistols.  Higher muzzle velocity, projectiles that either fragment or expand in flesh, and tissue damage mean greater damage to organs and/or the central nervous system.  There is no debate that rifle rounds are much more lethal than pistol projectiles. Emergency room data across the nation bears this out.  Most people shot with pistols live.  Most people shot with rifles die.  It’s that simple.  

Another advantage of a rifle is that of accuracy at speed.  An individual can fire faster with a rifle than with a pistol, and do so more accurately.  A rifle is fired with at least four points of contact: support hand, firing hand, cheek, and shoulder. Comparatively, a pistol is fired at best with two points of contact, firing hand and support hand.  Many incidents have proven that despite training, people resort to one-handed fire under pressure, even when the support hand is unoccupied. You want to try an experiment?  Go out to the range, set up three separate targets, and fire 3-4 rounds per target.  Only count hits to the vitals or central nervous system.  Do the course of fire with a pistol, count and tape your hits, record your time, and then do it with a rifle.  Then repeat the course of fire while moving. The rifle will be far and away more accurate and faster, without exception.  Multiple targets, at speed, where only hits count--the very conditions of a home invasion.  Then do the experiment in low light.  With the rifle, you have the ability to mount optics as well as white light, and the ability to operate the white light with both hands on the rifle. Enough said. 

The last advantage of a rifle over a pistol for home defense is the issue of over-penetration.  AR-15 rifles penetrate LESS inside of structures than pistols.  Expect pistol rounds to exit your house, even with a hit on a criminal.  Pistol rounds tend to go through people and things.    Numerous studies, including the FBI’s Firearms Training Unit at the request of the Bureau Tactical and Special Operations personnel indicate that 5.56 is far more effective on soft targets than any hollow point pistol rounds.  In addition, 5.56 exited structures LESS than pistol rounds.  That means the possibility of a round exiting a house, apartment, or condominium is minimized with 5.56 over a pistol of any serviceable caliber.  Ammunition for 5.56 rifles tends to stay put inside things.

Why Not the Shotgun?

The shotgun is a firearm that had its place in time.  It is still a versatile hunting option for deer, quail, turkey, and other game.  For self-defense, could it still be useful?  Sure, just as the revolver can still be useful.  Would either be a first choice?  Absolutely not.  Clearly better options are available in terms of accuracy, ease of manipulation, and yes, even reliability.  Shotguns have less magazine capacity, more recoil, and more difficult manipulations than a rifle.  Additionally most shotguns are pump-action, which means the shooter must use the support hand to work the action to manually extract and eject the spent shell as well as chamber a fresh one.  Doing this at speed against multiple attackers is far from ideal. I have seen dozens of students jam up their “unjammable” pump shotguns in training because they either failed to eject the spent shell or short-stroked the action.  If it doesn’t work on the square range with no stress, it will not work during a home invasion with maximum stress.  Semi-automatic rifles take that entire issue out of the equation. 

At this point someone usually says, “But they make semi-automatic shotguns too!” With semi-automatic shotguns, one must consider that not all run reliably with various brands or loads, even within the same brand of shotgun.  Of the loads that do run, over-penetration is a serious concern, even with buck shot and especially slugs.  Couple that with the price tag, and there are no real advantages of a shotgun over a rifle, only disadvantages.

I don’t want to hear, “You only gotta shoot ‘em once with the ole’ twelve gauge.”  Perpetuating myths and sabre-rattling does nothing for the individual whose life or whose family will be reaping the consequences of such folly.  To avoid over-penetration, some people have claimed to use a very light load of buck shot, or even bird shot.  One, the smaller the buck shot, the less likely you will hit the enemy’s vitals or central nervous system.  Two, if you go too small, the shell is useless.  Bird shot is for shooting rats with wings, not human beings.  It will only aggravate a criminal if you shoot him with bird shot.  With larger buck shot or slugs, you will have over-penetration.  In fact, 00 buck shot and slugs are the farthest penetrators of all, as well as having the most recoil.      


Despite decades of testing by numerous law enforcement agencies--includingthe FBI, old myths still make their rounds.  Internet commandos, gun store gurus, and self-professed gun range experts still spout off that they would never use a rifle for home defense because of over-penetration and collateral damage.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Modern ammunition such as Black Hills TSX, Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Winchester Solid Bonded Base, Black Hills MK262, and Speer Gold Dot are highly effective against armed criminals yet still generally penetrate through structures less than pistol rounds, and certainly not any more. 

You are free to choose whatever firearm you want to defend your home and loved ones.  You have literally three choices: a pistol, shotgun, or rifle.  My first choice is an AR-15/M-16 with quality ammunition.  I base this on my experience serving with the rifle in virtually every climate in the US Marine Corps, during times of chaos in law enforcement, countless studies as to the superiority of 5.56 over pistols in almost any situation, and as a professional instructor who has trained thousands of individuals from across all spectrums of careers, experience, and uniforms.  Make your decision accordingly.