Archives for September 2012

5 Tips for Getting Your Wife to Love Shooting

It never ceases to amaze me how many guys out there seem to be unable to get their wives to the range. Shooting is an incredibly enjoyable sport that has the ability to turn just about anyone into a convert.

Getting some range time with my wife.

What I see instead is a bunch of people going about it the wrong way. It’s not hard to get someone interested in shooting, but many of you are simply doing it wrong. You may be shooting yourself in the foot if you aren’t careful about the way you try to convince someone to come to the range.

When I first got into shooting about 5 years ago, I recall a conversation with my then girlfriend (now amazing wife) when I told her I was going to try shooting. We were en-route to our dorm at college when I brought the subject up, and in less than five minutes she started crying, She thought I was going to die, because clearly all firearms are bad and only hurt people.

Flash forward 5 years, and not only does she own her own guns, but she teaches men and women alike how to shoot rifles. While she probably isn’t the most dangerous person on the planet when you’re up close, if you’re 100 yards or further away you better have hard cover.

I didn’t do anything magical to make her interested in shooting, I just didn’t goof up and make any stupid mistakes to turn her off from shooting. These tricks shouldn’t be a secret to anyone, but sadly they are.

Have Someone Else Teach Her

You may have been shooting for a million years and be the best instructor on the planet. Odds are if you’re married (or dating) she doesn’t want to hear it from you. The best thing I ever did when I brought my wife shooting the first time was to have an instructor at the range teach her. He showed her all the basics of safety and operation, then coached her on making good groups. I hung around for moral support, but this allowed her to hear all the basics from a neutral third party.

Whether we intend to or not, all guys seem to exude some sort of mystical aura that makes the women in our lives hate us when we try to teach them something. It’s not necessarily your fault, and you might even be the exception, but why take the risk?

My wife enjoyed her first visit to the range, and as a result she kept coming back.

When You Do Bring Her, Shoot Fun Targets

I didn’t really follow this one very well myself because we used to shoot indoors, but if you want a new shooter to enjoy themselves, shoot something easy and enjoyable. Clay pigeons, jugs of water, or anything else that might explode when you shoot it can’t hurt the acclimation process. The first time out, very few people will really enjoy shooting tiny targets. Bulls eyes can be great for competition, but how exciting is that?

On the other hand, provide ample opportunity for your wife to smash things down range and she’ll be hooked for life.

If she is taught well, she’ll probably be better than you

My experience has been that women shoot better than men. For some reason they are more stable, have better trigger control, and can align those sights better. As a result your wife, if trained properly, will be shooting better than you before you know it. You may rest easy knowing that your tactical training and high stress shooting will probably always put you at an advantage, but she’s going to be more accurate.

This isn’t a bad thing, but try not to be too much of a chump when it happens. If she produces better targets, don’t cry about it. Or at least don’t cry too hard about it. If she feels like she’s doing well and can match or beat your performance, that should probably help her own enjoyment level.

When it comes time to buy her a gun, don’t pick it out for her

How many guys end up trying to pick out a gun for their wives? It’s usually some tiny revolver with pink grips or some other rainbow colored pocket gun. STOP!! Don’t assume you know what she wants to shoot. My wife is the exact opposite. She shoots a full-framed Beretta 92FS and has her own AR-15, not a bit of pink furniture in sight.

Is she the exception or the rule? Does it matter?

What really matters is that she picked them out. When it comes time, don’t bring her to the gun shop and try and guide her to what you think she wants. Do help her avoid some really bad decisions (if she wants a Hi-Point please guide her to something…. more better).

Let her come into her own

Finally, let her develop into her own shooter. This means two things: don’t force her to come with you to the range or shoot something she doesn’t want to. Make it enjoyable so she wants to shoot, and she’ll make sure she’s with you when you go to the range. And also don’t be condescending. Guess how I learned that tip. You may know more or be more skilled (for the moment), but don’t try and hold that over your wife. As soon as she feels like it’s no longer fun, you are on your own.

The downside: buy more ammo

Once she starts enjoying it, be prepared to go through ammo twice as fast. Getting your wife enthused about shooting can be great for your relationship, but remember it will hit you where it hurts: the wallet.

Toss the Sandbag, Rest, or Bipod

Photo credit: UK Bench Rest Shooting

Recently the club I belong to opened up a 200meter range that used to be for rimfire shooting only to now allow center-fire rifles. As a part of this process, they now require shooters to qualify in order to use the range with a center-fire rifle. Since I love me some long range shooting, I jumped at the chance to qualify. But…

What really disappointed me when I made it to one of the qualification sessions was that everyone was shooting off of a bench. Maybe I’m some sort of rifle marksmanship snob, but shooting off a bench rest or bipod doesn’t really seem like a demonstration of skill to me. I can lock my rifle in a vice and prove my rifle is qualified to shoot on the range, but I would rather demonstrate my ability instead of the rifle’s.

Shooting off the bench seems to be the norm these days. So normal in fact that the requirement for qualification was a 5” group at 200 meters, roughly a 2.3 minute of angle group. Most skilled shooters with a rack grade rifle and surplus ball ammunition should be capable of a 4 minute of angle group (that’s 9” at 200 meters) without the need for a bench (try prone with a sling).

If shooting from a bench was the requirement for use of the range, I think this expectation would be perfectly acceptable. Instead since prone is allowed once you have qualified, it just reinforces the fact that most people just can’t shoot a rifle these days. The majority of people qualifying showed up with some sort of .223 with a high-power scope and a bipod or shooting rest. Partly because that’s what people do these days, and partly because the requirements made it so most shooters who normally could pull off a 9” group at 200 meters from the prone position with a sling were concerned about qualifying.

Rather than play their game of shooting a scoped rifle off a rest, I took my M1 Garand. I got into a solid prone position, adjusted my iron sights based on my zero and understanding of trajectory, and proceeded to put a qualifying group on paper. I say this not because I want to show off (though I am really proud of my group!), but because I think it highlights what is wrong in the shooting world right now. To further rub it in, my wife then used the same rifle and qualified from the seated position… with a better group. I doubt that the majority of the bench rest qualifiers could achieve the same. Many seemed to have enough trouble getting a 5 inch group with their fancy rest and high-power scope.

Once, America was known as a nation of Riflemen. It was said that you would find one behind every blade of grass. Do you really think a Rifleman would need to shoot off of a bench rest? I don’t.

Want to really prove your marksmanship skills with your rifle? Do it without the rest.

Improve Your Training With This Simple Trick

Photo credit: pontuse

How specific are you about the techniques you use? Can you describe the process of drawing your pistol in extreme detail? Or how about your grip?

Some of you will respond with a definite yes. The rest of you are either very early in your training journey or just aren’t committing a whole lot of time or energy to exacting practice.

Whichever category you fall in, there is a solution to make it easier to identify exactly what it is you are doing, and even better, document it.

I call this solution the ‘codex’.

What is the codex, and what does it contain?

The concept behind the codex is a document that describes everything you are training. It should describe the equipment you are training to use, and the reasoning behind your equipment selections. It should describe in great detail (and justify why you do them the way you do) the various skills you use: draw-stroke, reloads, and even the fundamentals like grip, stance, and how you work the trigger.

Why should you write a codex?

Documenting these details forces you to think about the skills you might currently take for granted, and it should help explicitly define what you do. The problem for a lot of people who are working on training these skills is that they practice without focus.

A great deal of the skills you use should be describable in a precise and clear manner. Sure, some speed and efficiency comes from pure repetition, but we all need a place of reference to make sure the technique we are practicing is a good one. What exactly is your technique, and what makes it good?

When you train specifically, you are going to make skills gains far more quickly. And being precise means less time relearning or fixing broken skills.

Who should write a codex?

You should! Anyone who trains any skill would benefit from thinking about it enough to precisely describe it on paper. Thinking precisely about your technique should help you discover efficiency you didn’t know was there. This is the same as the concept of learning by teaching. Making yourself understand a concept well enough to communicate it has enormous benefits.

How do you write a codex?

Start with what you already know and put it on paper. Break down all the skills and tactics that make up your personal defensive doctrine and start describing how you do them.

This may be easy for you. If it isn’t, the most likely reason is that you haven’t invested any time thinking about how instead of what. If this is the case, start with one skill at a time and break it down. This process of rediscovery should help you grow in your training and will be well worth the effort!

When to write a codex?

Right now! Start chipping away at writing down all the skills you train regularly. Set aside a few minutes every day and you should get through everything in no time.

If you are just starting to train, writing down what you think you know should help you break past the common problem of oversimplifying the process associated with a skill.

For those who have been training for ages, finally writing down what it is you are doing might be the assistance you need to finally fix some bad habits and make some significant gains.

Just because you write your codex today doesn’t mean it’s finished. A document like this should be living, meaning it is constantly changing as you change. Attend a class or make a discovery that causes you to change how you do things? Update your codex. Even better, keep the old versions around and you can compare your growth as time moves forward.

By spending the time to write a codex, you will stop the cycle of haphazard training. Be specific about the skills you use, and reap the rewards.

Do you want to see an example of a codex? I’m in the process of writing mine. Subscribe to the email newsletter and I will send you a copy when it is complete. Have questions or need assistance writing yours? Post a comment below or hop on over to the contact page and drop me a line.

Have you ever written down how you perform your basic skills in detail?

Does Real Life Experience Make For a Better Trainer?

Photo Credit: anja_johnson

If you seek training with an instructor, you will find that there are two main categories of professional trainers to choose from: some have military training and experience, and some don’t. For the purposes of this post I’m going to consider paramilitary police training and the like in the former category as well. Some people flock to those that have had military training, touting the “been there, done that” factor. Others don’t really seem to care. There are plenty of instructors in either category, but is one category definitively better than the other?

The Pros of military experience in an instructor

Military experience definitely does provide some benefits. Nothing validates your training and combatives methodologies like the two-way firing range. There is a lot of validity to saying that you have ‘done it for real’. Even older, potentially out-of-date experience can be an asset as trainers in this category have a bank of knowledge and experiences that can be applied as they consider new techniques and methods.

The military does spend a significant amount of money and time training its members, especially the elite special forces units. A trainer with experience from one of these units likely has a vast background of training, which adds to what they bring to the table.

Counterpoint

On the other hand, just because a trainer is switched on, high-speed, low-drag doesn’t mean they were blessed with the ability to teach. Often times I have found that the best doers are not necessarily the best teachers. The instructor’s ability to teach is the most important asset when selecting an instructor. A good teacher can make challenging concepts easier to understand, which ultimately determines how much you learn from a class.

A lack of real world experience also doesn’t mean that an instructor isn’t knowledgeable. Instructors who lack time on the two-way firing range often have a diverse and also deep training background. Seeing a diverse set of training material can give an instructor good perspective not only on what works, but also a larger set of ‘options’. A good trainer should help you find what works best for you. Just because an instructor can do something one way, doesn’t mean that you can or should.

Unless you are training for the military, a military instructor might not be the best option. A background of amphibious assault and helicopter insertion tactics probably won’t be the best fit for me when I’m defending my home and family. Many aspects of military training just don’t align well with the realities you and I might face.

Ultimately, experience can help. The validity of pressure testing techniques in the real world is hard to match. At the same time, a good instructor could have learned their skills from someone who has had that experience and yet be a far better teacher. Sometimes it’s not the capabilities of the individual as a fighter or combatant that matters the most, but instead the ability of that individual to convey knowledge. You pay an instructor to teach you, not to fight on your behalf.

Military training and experience: does it help? Yes. Is it necessary for an instructor to be effective? No.

Does the instructor’s life experience matter to you?

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