Archives for November 2012

4 Factors For Finding the Best Time of Day to Train

Photo credit: remind

Recently I changed up my writing schedule. For the longest time I was waking up in the morning and spending 30 minutes to an hour writing. At the time I thought that was the best way to operate. The time in the morning between waking up and heading to work was otherwise inefficiently utilized, and I figured I was fresher and more focused since I hadn’t been to work yet.

I was wrong. After hearing the last complaint I could possibly bear about my writing from my personal editing staff (my wife amazing wife) I decided to try writing after work when the morning haze is long gone.

The result? A much higher quality of my initial writing. You probably didn’t notice a difference because my wife can turn my crayon drawn scribblings into the work of Da Vinci. For some strange reason, being more awake had a huge impact on the quality of my efforts.

Why am I talking about why I changed when I write? Because like writing, when you train is important.

How do you decide when to train?

The quality of your time training is very closely tied to when you train. Just like being tired and unfocused had a profound negative impact on my ability to write, being tired and unfocused can have a profound negative impact on the value of your training time.

To get the most from your training, strategically setting aside time can have a huge impact on your training performance. Here are a few important points to consider when deciding what time of day to train:

1. When do you have time?

Sometimes the most important factor in deciding when to train is purely when you have time. If you can’t make your own schedule due to a strict policy at work or other obligations, sometimes just having time is all you can afford. Maybe you only have time early in the morning before the kids wake up, or late at night after they are asleep. Maybe a long lunch break works best for you.

Sometimes whenever you have time is the best time to train.

2. When do yo have the energy?

Second to having time, is having energy to train. If you work long hours and get home late, you might have some time, but if you are exhausted will you gain anything? Strength training when you are over-tired is an excellent way to injure yourself and stop your training altogether. If you are too tired to keep your eyes open or focus, will you improve your pistol handling skills? Maximizing gains in all arenas require laser sharp focus. If you can’t provide that, then getting some sleep might be more important.

3. When can you minimize distractions?

Sometimes you might think you have time, but really you don’t. You might not be occupied with anything in particular in the afternoon, but constantly receive phone calls, or have to watch the kids. If you are constantly breaking your focus to deal with another task, you are not in the optimum time slot for training.

Furthermore, for things like dry-fire, this can be extremely dangerous since you will not be constantly focused on your training and keeping your dry-fire area safe. Your best bet is to find time you can dedicate to your training to keep your head in the game.

4. When are resources available?

Aspects of your training require resources you can’t control. Want to go shooting at 3am? Unless you belong to a range that’s open 24/7 this might be a problem. The same goes for using a gym at weird hours.

It may seem obvious, but you will have to schedule aspects of your training that require these types of resources for times when they are available.

But don’t think that just because the range or gym is open, any time will do. Most public indoor ranges are packed on the weekends, especially in the winter. Your local gym probably has peak hours as well. If you can find an off time to train, you make your whole session more efficient since you aren’t waiting for resources to free up.

In a nutshell you need to find a time you can be efficient, but also focused.

If your body or mind isn’t focused on the task at hand, you won’t gain as much as you would if you were extremely focused. Similarly, if you train when you need to spend extra time waiting for equipment or to get on the range, you are wasting time and not being as efficient as possible.

Avoid inefficiency so you can spend more time benefiting from training instead of just “training.”

What time of day do you train and why? Post a comment and let us know.

How Not To Get Shot Training

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

Recently a negligent shooting occurred at a training event down in Texas. From what I can gather about the event, students were being brought one by one through a shoot house doing low light training. An assistant instructor was coaching a shooter inside the shoot house when the lead instructor for the class started going through the shoot house without using a light.

When all was said and done, the assistant instructor took two shots to the abdomen and one to the arm. Thankfully he was stabilized on the scene and last I heard was still alive.

This event was definitely a failure safety-wise on a number of accounts. First of all, no-light shooting isn’t really something you do (at least without night-vision or thermals). You are responsible for every round that comes out of your gun, therefore you must know your target and what is beyond. It’s a well known safety rule.

The other failing was in the organization of the event itself. Obviously the operating procedures for running that shoot house were either lacking or were not followed, and as a result someone is in the hospital.

While what happened is a tragedy, and the guy who was instructing that class should suffer the consequences for his irresponsibility, it is also a learning experience. What this class demonstrates is a failing of not only the instructor, but of the students themselves. Sure, the instructor pulled the trigger, but the students have a responsibility for their own safety as well.

Your safety is your responsibility!

No matter what course you take, whether it is a very simple firearms safety or self-defense seminar, or the latest and greatest high-speed, low drag class, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself to keep you safe.

A good instructor will make sure things are safe and implement good safety protocols to prevent or mitigate an accident, but you can never trust them 100%. Second guess everything, because if you don’t you might just take two to the chest.

Do not assume the instructor knows what is best for safety

Last year I took VCAST, an excellent course put on by Southnarc that is geared specifically towards operating in and around vehicles. Craig (Southnarc) is one of the most safety conscious instructors I have had the pleasure to learn from. His safety briefings are second to none. Some of the shooting evolutions he puts his students through are far from textbook. You shoot in confined spaces with classmates in close proximity.

Despite this I have never felt like I was in any serious danger because the exercises were well thought out, and always under his direct observation. That was until I got to VCAST. My group was the second to go through VCAST with Craig, so some of the kinks just hadn’t been worked out.

One of the exercises involved us shooting inside the confines of a vehicle, unbelting, unholstering, and shooting out a side window. As there were 10 students in the class, Craig had us line up 5 vehicles end to end with 2 shooters per car, each getting a turn.

Before we started I noticed something that made me very uneasy. When going from the holster to the shooting position, the muzzle ended up pointing forward such that unless you were in the rear most car you had a chance of being muzzled. Not cool.

Did I suck it up and go along with it? Follow “big boy rules”? Hell no! My safety is important. Being well trained doesn’t help me if I’m dead or crippled. Instead I spoke up and called him out on it. Instead of taking everything Craig says as gospel, I provided a friendly suggestion. Instead of end to end, the cars could be lined up staggered such that you had a clear 90 degree space to point your muzzle. Problem solved. In fact, if you take VCAST, that’s how Craig does it now. If you get a chance, ask him about it – he’ll tell you it was me.

Don’t assume that the instructor knows what’s best safety-wise, we’re all human, and therefore can all make mistakes.

Do not assume your classmates are competent

I probably don’t need to go into much detail here. Every class I have been to has had at least one guy who is so unsafe they probably should not be allowed out of a padded room. Every one. You need to keep alert and aware of your surroundings 100% of the time, from the moment you get near the class until you get well clear of the facility.

You never know what some moron might be playing with in his car or what another student might do. At the Larry Vickers course I took this summer, there was an incident where someone managed to point their muzzle 180 degrees from the main berm towards the parking lot. With two side berms he still managed to find the worst possible direction.

Just because you are in an advanced class doesn’t mean your classmates are even remotely competent. Watch your surroundings, and be ready to be vocal about it. If the situation is minor or it’s after the fact, be polite but firm. But if someone is pointing a muzzle at you or being a doofus, be that jerk you always wanted to be (warning: language). Safety always needs to be the first priority.

Your safety is your responsibility. You almost always sign away your rights to sue when you show up at a class. That means you need to make sure you’re safe. Even the best students and instructors make mistakes and can do stupid unsafe things. Please don’t assume that someone’s credentials will keep you safe. Some people advocate body armor for taking classes, instead I recommend you bring the same attitude and awareness you bring with you every day in the real world. It will keep you far safer.

Do you have an experience from a class to share? Please comment below!

Its Not Over Until The Ref Calls It

Photo Credit: Dan4th

Sometimes in training there is a tendency to get wrapped up in the training environment. Exercises begin and end on someone’s say so or some arbitrary and artificial win condition that does not reflect the real world. This is evident in the occasional tournament fighter who lands what seems like a good blow to only let their guard down and get knocked out.

On the street things are never quite so simple and clear cut. Regardless of the caliber you carry, most people don’t immediately fly backwards or crumple when hit with a pistol round. There are also numerous cases of someone being stabbed repeatedly to continue fighting, only realizing later that they were being stabbed not punched. Nothing is guaranteed to end a fight immediately.

It isn’t over… until it is over

In the real world, how do you determine that the fight is over? Pretty much the same way you might in competition. When the referee shows up and calls it. If you are assaulted and defend yourself, you can’t let your guard down just because you think you solved the problem. That problem might have friends (or you didn’t really solve the problem). In these situations you need to stay vigilant and ready until help arrives or you are far from the situation. In effect when the referee calls the fight.

Avoiding bad habits

Since the fight doesn’t end when you successfully tag your opponent or make a single hit, you need to avoid this behavior in training. Don’t get me wrong, every effort you make should be made like it could end the fight, but don’t get tricked into thinking it will.

When you train for fights in the real world, there are a number of bad habits you should avoid in your training. Here are a few tips for making sure you don’t develop some of these habits through training:

  1. Never play gun or knife tag with ‘one hit kills’.

  2. Don’t drop your guard immediately after scoring a hit (or after the match is called). Wait until you determine everything is safe.

  3. In training exercises have a third party determine when the fight ends (and avoid the forcefields phenomena).

  4. Work after-action routines into any part of your training that you can.

If you make an effort to avoid bad habits you’ll be much better off if you ever need your defensive skills. Good training is about consistency. Train with a consistent and realistic end point.

Consistently practice after-action skills like scanning and assessing your environment.

Remember, don’t get fooled into a false sense of security thinking that your knife or gun might stop the fight immediately and decisively. They theoretically can, but more likely you will be struggling for a while. Don’t let your guard down until the scene is secure. That means either putting distance between you and the scene, or relinquishing the scene to the authorities. The fight isn’t over until the refs call it.

5 Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Photo Credit: christgr

Living in New England means that when winter rolls around a lot of things change. The days get shorter and colder. Snow tires are installed and snow blowers come out of storage. Gloves and hats become a normal part of our wardrobe. Winter has a profound impact on our lives.

Winter also has a profound impact on your defensive posturing. In many cases the pocket guns that are so popular in the summer spend the winter in the safe to make room for full framed service pistols. The wardrobe changes associated with winter allow more concealment options for these larger guns.

Just like you winterize your car, wardrobe, and choice of armament, you must also winterize your training.

Why Winterize

The justifications for winterizing your training can be divided into one of two categories: objectives and methods.

Objectives

One major reason to winterize is that your objectives in training change due to the changing of the season. You might wear different clothes in the winter to deal with the changing environment, you might carry a larger gun because you can now conceal it, and the environment in which you might find yourself in a gunfight can be very different than the rest of the year.

The cold temperatures of the winter months often force you to bring out the heavy winter coat. Concealing and accessing a pistol under a winter coat is much different than under your t-shirt or in your shorts pocket.

The scenarios you face might also change as your environment will not be the same as it was in the summer.

Training

The other major justification for winterizing your training is the training itself. Training outside in the winter is not quite as simple as during the summer. You might seek out the indoor public range in the winter, but you might be far safer braving the elements. If you do train outside in the cold, that doesn’t mean that your fighting environment will change. Personally I live and work primarily indoors. Regardless of the season, I am more likely to encounter a gunfight indoors while wearing a polo shirt and jeans than an outdoor gunfight. Are you likely to be defending your home in full winter gear? Probably not. You might want to consider training for both outside and inside carry in the winter.

Some Tips For Winterizing Your Training

Wear a warm but thin base layer

If you want to continue practicing using your indoor carry methods despite the weather, you want to wear a warm base layer like Under Armour’s compression ColdGear to make sure you can keep warm at the range. Even if you do find yourself preparing for carry under your heavy jacket, I don’t think you’ll mind the extra warmth.

Bring thin gloves

If you are training outside for prolonged periods of time, your hands are bound to get cold. Cold hands don’t move quite so well, so keeping your hands warm and toasty should be a priority. I strongly recommend a pair of warm but thin gloves. If you can still shoot your gun while wearing the gloves, great. Remember though if you don’t often wear gloves like these you should still spend at least part of your time training bare handed. You don’t have the luxury of putting on gloves prior to an attack.

Practice in your winter wardrobe

You should always be training in whatever wardrobe you are currently wearing day to day. It doesn’t make sense to train in your shorts and hawaiian shirt in the middle of the winter, nor your heavy coat in the summer. Even though I personally put priority on preparing for a gunfight indoors during the winter since I spend more time there, I will still put some reps in wearing my winter garb.

Practice with your winter gear

If you change up your carry gun for the winter, then please train with it! Don’t shoot your pocket gun all winter long unless it still resides in your pocket. Train with whatever it is you are carrying.

Be ready for whatever winter might throw at you

In general the winter is not very hospitable. If you are going to shoot in the winter months, I strongly recommend coming to the range prepared. Have first aid supplies handy for cold weather mishaps, bring warm clothes, and be prepared for a snow covered range. Being uncomfortable will not help you stay focused and safe.

Winter Training Is Great…

I love training in the winter because the crowds of the spring and fall disappear. Few people want to brave the cold to train. Take advantage of this time of the year to get some training in without being crowded. Leave the fools to their public ranges and make the most of the season.

A little bit of preparation to winterize your training goes a long way to ensuring you get the most benefit of your time in the winter.

What do you do to winterize your training?

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