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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants February 05, 2018 15:54

Intro

As I sit here writing this, I am grateful to the men of the past whose experience, patience, and character has made modern training possible.  Without their writings, without their advice, and without their foresight to share their insights, the knowledge of the past would have been all but lost, leaving us to repeat the same mistakes, failed theories, and experimental nonsense that has cost many lives.  They sought to preserve and pass on to posterity their knowledge, in order for Americans of the future to become better marksman, as well as gunfighters.  Many trainers of the past were true educators, patriots, and selfless men who sought the improvement of others, often at their own expense.  In times past, real experts had actual exploits on which their training and advice was based.  Information was credited to the proper source if borrowed.  It was a different time.  They represented a time of professionalism, poise, experience, and knowledge that must be upheld by the next generation of instructors.  Although there are a handful of experts still with us, the gap of the last generation to this one is alarming.  If this body of knowledge is to continue, the right people, for the right reasons, must take up this profession of firearms instructor.

 Real Experts of the Past

 Author’s note-- The individuals mentioned in this article represent a shift in thinking, technique, and influence regarding the use of firearms.  I am not purposely omitting any names, as there are many others in the past who have contributed to the body of work we now have the luxury of analyzing.  No disrespect is intended to anyone not mentioned. 

 In my library, there are many books containing knowledge about the use of firearms.  The advice and techniques shared by those of the past have been proven in combat and deadly force.  Unlike today, there is nothing theoretical about the men or the books.  Their experience ranges from law enforcement to military operations.  

The “old guard” experts of the 20th century—and I use this term in the most reverent manner possible-- served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and in law enforcement in places such as Shanghai, China, New York City, and the US Border Patrol.  Men such as Capts. Fairbairn and Sykes, J.B.L Noel, William Reichenbach, Bill Jordan, Jim Cirillo, and Jeff Cooper possessed a vast amount of working knowledge.  Each brought invaluable aspects of gunfighting to the forefront of the puzzle.  Each has been influential to our craft today. 

 

All were extremely competent marksman who were more than capable of demonstrating the techniques they taught.  Every one of them had shooting accomplishments, and every one of them was involved in combat in one form or another.  It was said that Bill Jordan was so quick that he could hold a ping-pong ball in his support hand, drop it, draw his pistol, and hit the ball before it hit the ground.  That is lightning quick!

 Fairbairn and Sykes gave us the concept of training with the pistol for gunfights at extremely close range, rather than slow-fire bullseye shooting.  Their book, Shooting to Live, incorporates training methods much different from their societal status quo. Rapid hits early on in the sequence was their emphasis.  Their techniques came from hundreds of gunfights in Shanghai in the early 20th century. 

 J.B.L.Noel was one of the original officers in the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in 1914.  Later in the war he was attached to the machine gun corps, where pistols were carried by the men as the weight of the WWI machine guns all but precluded the carrying of rifles for each member.  In the trenches he found the pistol to be quite a useful weapon in close quarters.  In his book, The Automatic Pistol, Noel’s definition of a crack shot was six hits to the chest at 15 yards in 3 seconds, with a 1911.   Noel was able to see his methods put into practice in two world wars by the British Army.  One of his best quotes is, “If you are a good pistol shot, you will have nothing to fear from any man in the world.” 

William Reichenbach was a WWI veteran and highly accomplished revolver bullseye shooter.  Ironically, he was one of the earliest American proponents of the automatic pistol over the revolver for civilian use.  Emphasizing both speed and accuracy, Reichenbach despised caliber debates, as is evident in his work, “Automatic Pistol Marksmanship.” He emphasized a foundation in fundamental target shooting, and then moving to combat shooting.   He also emphasized training while under physical stressors such as running, fatigue, and unknown distance targets. 

Bill Jordan’s landmark book, No Second Place Winner provides an old lawman’s perspective on speed, proper drawing, and close quarter techniques.  Especially valuable are his tips on combat shooting and gunfighting. Jordan emphasized a first-round hit every time, as well as a never-quit attitude.  Like Reichenbach, Jordan emphasized training on the fundamentals first, then working on speed once the fundamentals were well-ingrained in the shooter.

Jim Cirillo was a police officer in New York City.  He volunteered for a special unit called the Stakeout Squad. The unit was involved in countless gunfights with armed criminals, having never lost.  What is even more impressive is the unit’s marksmanship, having never hit an innocent bystander despite being in the crowed confines of New York City.  It is from Cirillo’s real-life gunfight examples that we can glean a vast amount of insight, knowledge, and perspective from a true modern day gunfighter. In his book, Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights, Cirillo gives his techniques that enabled him to survive and win several armed conflicts with violent criminals, including multiple head shots.  He emphasized the importance of sighted fire, practice, consistency, and proper training in advance of conflict.   

Jeff Cooper, along with Jack Weaver, Elden Carl, John Plahn, Ray Chapman, Thell Reed, Al Nichols, Bruce Nelson, and Leonard Knight, brought us the two-handed, sighted fire method of the pistol.  The Bear Valley Gunslingers deemed it the “modern technique” and to a large degree much of what they taught is still with us today.  Although there were undoubtedly others before who had used aimed, two-handed fire, Cooper managed to organize and teach the method as a systematic technique.  In addition to marksmanship, Cooper stressed gun manipulations and combat mindset in preparation for violence. 

 

 The Torch was Passed

As the “old guard” passed away, the next generation of experts took the torch and contributed to the body of knowledge.  Men such as Clint Smith, Paul Howe, Bill Rogers, Louis Awerbuck, Pat Rogers and Tom Givens took up the mantle.  Although some of these men are still teaching as of present, we do not know for how much longer they will choose to do so.  The late Pat Rogers and Louis Awerbuck passed relatively recently, and they are not replaceable.

Clint Smith served in Vietnam in the USMC and later in law enforcement. He went on to teach with Jeff Cooper at Gunsite and later started his own company, Thunder Ranch, which continues in operation as of 2018. His landmark contribution is Urban Rifle, which emphasizes the use of the rifle at various distances, to include close quarters use of the rifle.  Clint recalibrated the paradigm by shifting away from slow-fire, known distance use of the rifle to realistic combat use up close, where even today the vast majority of rifle gunfights happen, especially in the USA. 

Paul Howe served in the US Army for 20 years, many of them with Special Operations.  He has also served in law enforcement.  Paul currently runs Combat Shooting and Tactics (CSAT) where his brand of battle-proven fundamentals, techniques, and weapon manipulations buck the trend of modern day flashy, theoretical techniques.  The consummate quiet professional, Paul teaches tried and true applications and stresses simplicity over sizzle.  His ability to teach material so others can easily understand is second to none. 

Bill Rogers started his professional career in the FBI.  Although initially trained in point shooting at the FBI Academy, a short time later Bill was introduced to two-handed, sighted fire by another highly influential man named Ken Hackathorne.  Convinced of the superiority of sighted fire over point shooting, Bill pitted sighted fire against the FBI’s point shooting champion Rollie Swanson in 1980.  The demonstration was so convincing that a year later, the FBI revamped its point shooting pistol program to the sighted fire techniques Bill used in his demonstration. Advocating sighted-fire at reaction speed, Bill has proven time and time again that sighted fire is just as fast as point shooting, but far more accurate.  Bill runs the Rogers Shooting School, largely considered one of the most challenging courses of fire in the world. In addition to his contributions to shooting, Bill has fundamentally changed the way law enforcement carries firearms, as his holsters are in use worldwide.

Louis Awerbuck was a South African expatriate who contributed a great deal to the body of knowledge. During his time, he ran Yavapi Firearms Academy.  His greatest contribution was his ability to analyze what was being taught, question the methodology, and differentiate between range and reality.  His emphasis on movement during training remains a testament to his understanding of deadly force.

Pat Rogers was a veteran of the USMC as well as law enforcement.  His company, EAG Tactical contributed largely to the manipulations and maintenance of the AR-15 rifle.  Pat wrote many articles and passed his knowledge and perspective on to others willingly. 

Tom Givens has a law enforcement background and many shooting accomplishments. He runs Rangemaster, based out of Memphis, TN.  Tom has written several articles, books, and presented at numerous conferences around the country.  His emphasis on two-handed, sighted fire has proven successful, as dozens of his students have prevailed during deadly force using those techniques. 

 

Present Day

There are some good trainers in the present day.  What is troublesome to me is the vast gap of credibility and knowledge from the last generation to this one.  One can count on less than two hands the credible places to train.  Long ago there were not hundreds of places opening every week to bilk people out of their hard-earned money with failed techniques based on theory made up in the owner’s mind.  

Sadly, in our internet culture the status of expert is ascribed to certain individuals whose only qualifications to teach are a video camera coupled with questionable credentials at best and cult following at worst.  There are people teaching others about topics in which they have no working knowledge. To the uninitiated or naïve, some of these present day “experts” may appear competent or authoritative.  They are the opposite of the men of the past who carried and passed on the torch of knowledge of the true martial art of gunfighting.  Many do not understand the heritage, lineage, or concepts of the past.  Many are nothing but posers. Many seek endorsement deals and sponsorships to bolster their relevancy, image, and status.  This is the opposite of the men who came before.  It used to be about passing on knowledge, not stroking the ego.   

 

Conclusion

Before training with someone, you need to ask yourself if the individual has all of the following:

 1) the ability to teach others in a manner that is easily understood

2) experience in combat and/or dealing with violent criminals

3) shooting accomplishments

4) the ability to demonstrate—on demand—the techniques taught to students

5) focus on student’s improvement, not the instructor’s status.  In other words, lack of ego.

Those are the traits that make an expert.  In these times, it is simply standing on the shoulders of giants. 


Training, Practice, and Proficiency December 14, 2017 10:16

Often times, the words of the title: training, practice, and proficiency get confused with one another. The purpose of this article is to differentiate between the terms, and highlight the benefits of each.  Frequently in firearms-related discussions, improper or inaccurate definitions are used, diluting the discussion, or worse, hijacking the original meaning or intent.

 

Training

Training is instruction, whether formal or informal, done under the watchful eye of a competent instructor.  The purpose of training is to teach a student techniques, tactics, and markskmanship, and how to practice them.  This can include classroom, range, and force-on-force situations.  Military personnel attend training frequently, and police officers do as well, though this seems highly dependent on their department attitude towards such.  By the way, a fifty-round qualification once a year is NOT training. That is a course of fire anyone should be able to pass at any time, cold. 

Commercial firearm training is for the most part voluntary, and students are mostly motivated to attend class. Students are taught what and how to practice when they return to their homes.  In short, training provides you with a "shooting workout plan" to go home and practice every time you go to the range, as well as dry practice. Additionally, during training instructors provide feedback to students on improvements, and provide corrections when students improperly perform a task.  You cannot get that from a video or book.

 

Practice

Practice is the correct repetition of the techniques, principles of marksmanship, and proper tactics learned while attending training.  In short, practice is putting in the WORK.  There are many individuals out there who want to be good shooters, yet a small percentage of them are actually willing to put in the effort and work required to be such.

This includes dry practice, which involves the use of an empty firearm, as well as live-fire practice.  The purpose of practice is to ingrain the PROPER repetitions required to build proficiency.  The most improvement happens with dry practice. Truly great shooters do more dry practice sessions than range sessions.  When performing dry practice, focus on proper form, presentations, and perfect repetitions.  Dry practice needs to be performed frequently, at least a few times per week.  Live-fire confirms your dry practice has happened properly, and does not require hundreds of rounds per session.  You should be able to have a great range session with 100-200 rounds maximum. 

Reading and watching firearm-related material in books or on the internet is great, but is in no way a substitute for putting in the work needed to become a proficient and competent shooter.  In the end, you will have to present your firearm properly, see your sights, and manipulate the trigger to ensure a hit.  Watching someone else do as opposed to performing this yourself does not achieve osmosis.  You cannot "fanboy" or buy your way in gear out of this reality. You have to put in the work.  

 

Proficiency

Proficiency is defined in Merriam-Webster's dictionary as: the state of being well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge

Proficiency with a firearm takes time to achieve.  A shooter achieves this by seeking out the information, applying it in practice, and then measuring their progress.  How proficient an individual is depends on how well they process and correlate information, as well as how frequently he/she practices.  Did you listen to the instructor in class?  Have you performed dry as well as live fire consistently?  One cannot expect proficiency if he/she has failed either of those. 

To track progress, we have to measure accuracy AND time.  We have to measure both for proficiency.  Anyone can learn how to hit the target. It is a simple task of geometry.  Line your muzzle up with the target and the rounds will hit. If it takes you five seconds to do so, that is too long in most situations.  You are not proficient.  If you practice a few weeks and can achieve the same accuracy, in half the time, you are making progress.  To measure proficiency, a shot timer is the tool I recommend. You can look at ones I recommend HERE.

How can anyone say that it doesn't matter how long it takes to hit, as long as you do?  That's like saying that it doesn't matter how long it takes for you to qualify for the olympics in the 100-yard dash, as long as you do.  Well,  there IS a qualifying time, as well as other people trying to beat you, but in a race for your life!  If you do not practice at speed, you will not perform at speed, and gunfights happen VERY fast.  Objective data is readily available, as is dash cam and surveillance footage. Rarely do these incidents take longer than a few seconds, hence the qualifying time. They are short, violent, and require fast, accurate hits to stop the threatening behavior. We have to shoot on the bad guy's time, not ours.  Waiting for a perfect sight picture is time-consuming, and time is the most valuable resource we have in deadly force. Those that can decide, shoot,and hit more quickly and more accurately than their opponents will be more effective during deadly force.

We have established that time does matter.  So how do you know if you are proficient, or how you can become more so?  To start, you must obtain a baseline of your skills from which to measure and track improvement.  A timer is great tool to use for that purpose.  Why is a timer important for measuring proficiency?  One, it gives you a starting baseline of where you are currently.  Second, you can use it to measure your progress as you continue practice.     

Start with achievable goals short-term.  A good baseline to start is to be able to draw and shoot an 8" circle from 7 yards in 2.00 seconds,from concealment. Once you can do that and reliably hit, then shave off 10% of the time, and continue to shave off tenths of a second as is warranted.  Once you feel comfortable, try our Valor Ridge Standards.  They are achievable, practical, and challenging.  They provide a good benchmark to measure proficiency and life-saving skills.  You can watch me demonstrating them HERE

 

Conclusion

Training, practice, and proficiency work together to improve your performance and knowledge.  All three are necessary to improve.    Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can no longer get it wrong, and masters never stop practicing.  Learn, practice, and measure.  Then repeat.


Keep Your Gun Loaded and Within One-Arm's-Reach November 08, 2017 12:48

I keep hearing those with supposed authority on firearms and training advocate for keeping guns unloaded until they are ready for use.  Use for what?  The shooting range, competitions, and plinking are not deadly force.  In the carefully scripted worlds of competition shooting, military ranges, and training environment, an unloaded firearm has no real consequences other than to serve as an insurance policy, a lower score, or slight embarrassment.  Yet there are many "instructors" out there who continue to sell this notion that an unloaded gun is "safer" than a loaded one.  This mentality is costing people their lives. 

 

First and foremost, firearm handling rule #1 is, "Treat all guns as if they are loaded."  If we are going to treat them like they are loaded, then they should be loaded, especially if the gun is one you use for self defense.  Police officers do not go out on duty with unloaded pistols, knowingly anyways.  Military personnel do not go on patrols in combat zones with unloaded guns.  Likewise, concealed carriers need to have their guns loaded.  That means a round in the chamber, charged magazine properly seated in the firearm, and the firearm within one-arm's reach.  On your body is best, and if you are in the house with children, this is especially true.  If you get disarmed by a child, you probably have other things to worry about than a firearm.

 

When it comes to rifles, the same thing applies.  Your long gun designated for home/neighborhood defense needs to be clean, loaded, and lubricated.  The magazines need to be charged and locked into the rifle with a round in the chamber.  Despite the reports, the church shooting in Texas recently would have had far fewer casualties if the individual who eventually exchanged rounds with the active shooter had simply kept his rifle loaded.  As his rifle was unloaded, it took an extremely long period of time before he was able to make his weapon ready for fighting.  I am not taking anything away from the plumber who saved lives by shooting the bad guy.  He bravely ran toward the sound of gunfire and got into the fight.  That is commendable. 

 

What spurred this article is that once the shooting in the church began, the citizen had to retrieve his rifle from a safe, charge his magazines, load the rifle, and then engage the suspect.  How many lives could have been saved if his mags were already full and rifle loaded?  Once again, how many of you does this hit home with realizing that your gear is not ready?  

Realize that when deadly force happens it does so quickly.  You need every advantage you can take, and stuffing mags full at a time when people's lives are being taken is not the time to do it.  Keep your mags charged, your guns loaded, and your mind and body ready.  There is no reason not to have this done, right now. 

 

Keep your guns unloaded until ready for use? The lessons that we learn are written on the tombstones of others.     


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

The Problem with Pay-to-Play

Intro

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.

Disclosure

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 

Conclusions

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.”

 

Reid

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.

 

Belt

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. 

 

Holster

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.

 

Firearm

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. 

 

Ammunition

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.   

 

Flashlight

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.    

 

Medical

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.

 

Maintenance

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.  

 Conclusions

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.      

Conclusions

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.