Reader Survey

Photo credit: yarranz

Readers of Indestructible Training: I need your help!  In training we use feedback to help determine the effectiveness of our efforts.  Similarly I’m looking for some feedback for my efforts here on the blog.   I’ve put together a little survey to help me get a better idea exactly who you are so I can serve you better.  All I need you to do is head over to the survey and answer my questions to the best of your ability.

 Take the survey here.

Thank you in advance!

-Nick

Reader Question: How Proficient Can I Become With Dry Fire?

Robert Vogel won the SSP Division of the IDPA Nationals: dry-fire makes up the bulk of his training.

A couple of weeks ago I received an excellent question from a reader. This post is essentially a response to that question. If you have a question you would like to see answered here on Indestructible Training, please head over to the contact page and drop me a line.

Jack writes:

I am trying to train myself to be proficient with multiple types of firearms, but I just don’t have the money for the level of shooting I am aiming for. Can I get to this level with dry fire?

Jack, great question! In order to answer the question accurately, we need to determine what your definition of “proficient” is. If you are looking to achieve levels of skill comparable with the top national shooting champions, you are looking for something more than being able to hit your targets on demand.

No matter what you are trying to achieve with firearms, some live-fire will always be necessary. Do you need to shoot every day? No, but you will need to shoot enough to verify your skills and acclimate to recoil. If you are looking for an extraordinary level of expert proficiency, you will likely need to spend more time live firing than you might need to spend in order to achieve a base level of proficiency.

When you think about it, dry-fire is really better than live-fire for practice anyway. You take away the variables that tend to build bad habits, allowing you to focus on building good ones, all from the comfort of your home.

A great example of the effectiveness of dry-fire is Bob Vogel, the recent SSP champion at the IDPA Nationals. Bob has been shooting at a high level competitively for a while, but I know I had heard somewhere that he didn’t do much live-fire (relatively speaking) to get and maintain his skills.

I found a great interview from a few years ago that demonstrates that point:

Between being married and having a full-time job, finding time to practice is as hard for him as anybody. “I very rarely live-fire more than once a week, and I dry-fire about four times a week. If you’re serious about getting better at shooting, dry-firing is the way to go. A lot of people don’t want to do it because they’re all about having fun and going blasting, which is fine, but you’re not going to get better if that’s all you do.”

So if you want to get proficient and don’t want to expend thousands of rounds a week, dry-fire is the perfect solution. Some live fire is always going to be necessary, but you can stretch that training budget a lot.

Personally I have stepped up my own dry-fire significantly over the past year and have seen significant gains in my own abilities. For me getting to the range even once a week is difficult with my busy schedule, but dry-fire practice 3 to 5 times a week is definitely possible.

For me heading to the range for some live-fire is more a validation of skills than for skills development. I use live fire to make sure I’m on the right track with my dry-fire training and I’m keeping potential bad habits in check. It is very easy to compromise technique for blind speed in dry-fire. Live-fire forces you to demonstrate the skill with a measurable outcome. It works or it doesn’t.

Find some good resources on the subject of dry-fire, come up with a training plan, and log your progress. I think you’ll likely see significant improvement, with much less of the cost.

If you have a question you would like answered on Indestructible Training head over to the contact page and send me a message.

Course Review: Extreme Close Quarters Concepts

The ability to shoot in confined spaces is critical to self-defense with a handgun.

One of my first forays into firearms training was a few years ago. I attended a summit here in New Hampshire put on by a group called NEShooters. This summit brought together a handful of instructors across a wide variety of disciplines. The benefits of a training opportunity like this are obvious: train with a variety of trainers in multiple skills and identify who and what to seek out to train on your own. Of these instructors one in particular impressed me head and shoulders above the rest.

This one instructor, Craig Douglas (Southnarc as he goes on the internet), taught a module called MUC or Managing Unknown Contacts. Not only was the material well thought out and expertly taught, but it was more contextually relevant than most material I have experienced. Four years later, I’m now on my fourth class taught by Craig. Clearly his material speaks to me.

This past weekend I attended ECQC: Extreme Close Quarters Concepts. ECQC is Craig’s flagship course, and the foundation for everything else. Theoretically this weekend was my third time taking this course, but more accurately it is my first. The same NEShooters group that invited him to instruct at the summit has brought him up regularly for years. The two other times I took an ECQC-like course it was actually a combination of modules covering slightly more material.

Day 1:

The first day was a short one, lasting only four hours. The course started very simply by characterizing criminal assault. As always Craig brings his diverse experience to the table. Once the weekend was framed, we started with the same material that drew me to Craig’s instruction in the first place: MUC.

MUC consists primarily of dealing with an encroachment problem. An unknown person approaches and you need to deal with that through verbal skills, identifying pre-fight queues, and regaining initiative if the unknown doesn’t stop encroaching. If initiative can’t be regained, you have a big problem.

Craig focuses on non-diagnostic responses. Unlike traditional martial arts that have a decision tree a mile long to come to the ideal solution to a given problem, Craig prefers the simple solution: a single default position to handle an incoming blow. The goal: stay conscious and stay mobile. If there is any one piece of material everyone should study and be exposed to, it is MUC.

After MUC we started working on grappling skills, starting with Craig’s famous “mountain goat” drill and a few other center of gravity and body posturing drills. Everything Craig does follows a gradual building approach: crawl, walk, then run. This was no different. Craig’s lineup of drills and exercises all work toward one unified goal.

Day 2:

Day two began on the range. Craig started with what always impresses me as one of the most thought out safety briefings I have ever heard. He really makes those safety rules his own. What stands out the most is his interpretation of the trigger finger rule. Rather than the negative of keep the finger off the trigger, he uses the positive: keep the finger on a hard register. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes a huge difference in the mindset around the rule.

Once we got shooting, we started with a diagnostic drill so Craig could gauge where the class stood, followed by work on the draw-stroke. Craig is a strong proponent of a linear four count draw-stroke. It is linear because instead of coming straight out of the holster and driving the gun forward, the gun comes up high before driving forward. This is important because it supports shooting in a confined space.

We also worked on ‘shooting from the 2’ or shooting from the second position in the draw-stroke (indexed at the pectoral) with your head on the cardboard backing of your target. This isn’t the first time I have shot this way, but getting more reps in is great for correcting deviations that have occurred since the last time. We also shot at various positions between the third and fourth counts of the draw-stroke (three is prior to extending and four is at full extension). We practiced this by moving backwards one step/shot at a time and shooting from appropriate extension for that distance.

Shooting in a compressed position like this is vital for close quarters gun fights. Fully extending the gun towards the target is great when the target is far away, but up close you are basically giving the gun to the bad guy. Appropriate extension isn’t always full extension.

Overall the work on the draw-stroke was great for me. The past few months I have been playing with my draw-stroke a lot after going through various iterations of changes trying to find the optimal solution. The height of count 3 in Southnarc’s approach corrects some of the challenges I have been facing, so it will be great to take this new insight home with me and start working on it with a timer.

After shooting we broke for lunch. After lunch we got right back to working on various grappling skills starting from where we left off Friday. Craig added some more tools for gaining and maintaining a dominant position in the standing clinch. To help reinforce these skills, we used FIST helmets and sims guns to help add pressure to the problem.

Next we went to the ground. On the ground your goal is the same as when you are standing: stay conscious and stay mobile. Craig taught techniques to make encroachment by a standing adversary more difficult and some methods for dealing with someone who does get within arm’s reach. Just like with the standing clinch work, skills were covered for controlling our opponent’s hands to help prevent them from accessing and employing weapons, while we practiced accessing our own.

Craig likes to use ‘evolutions’ as a method of pressure testing the skills he teaches. Just because something works with a consenting partner doesn’t mean it will work on the street when things aren’t quite so cooperative.

Saturday’s evolution? Basically what we were just doing with one guy on the ground and the other trying to engage him – but both of us had FIST helmets and the defender got a sims gun. In my evolution I managed to mostly prevent my opponent from limiting my mobility but couldn’t get the dominant position I really wanted. Despite this setback, I was able to secure him with my legs, allowing for a fancy behind the back draw and a left-handed 2 position mag dump into my opponent.

Then we swapped roles. During his turn things didn’t go as well for me. One moment I seemed to know what was where, the next he was shooting me and we were wrestling for the gun.

Day 3:

Day three started back on the range. We worked on some more shooting from appropriate levels of extension as well as shooting from two fending positions: a vertical elbow shield and a horizontal elbow shield. We put these new fending positions into use while getting additional practice at shooting from appropriate extension.

After the shooting we took a break and went to lunch. When we came back, Craig had us jump right into a 2 on 1 evolution. In this evolution the participant was armed with a sims gun, and one other guy would advance while role-playing some sort of scenario. A third guy was held back by Craig and inserted later. He could have been a concerned citizen, the potential bad guy’s friend, or just about anything else.

These evolutions really drive home two things for me. Firstly, how important MUC skills are. It really sucks to have two other guys trying to take your gun from you and whacking you over the head. If you can avoid a violent encounter like this, then do it!

The second is the discovery of how ambiguous real life can be. It can be pretty hard to piece together what is happening during one of these scenarios as it unfolds, and even harder to really take charge and escape. Thankfully training should be harder than real life in a lot of cases, but I really don’t want to end up in these kinds of fights.

After the evolution we worked on firearm retention, both in and out of the holster, as well as techniques to disarm. We practiced these skills with partners before a final evolution.

The final evolution was the infamous car evolution. In this evolution two people start in a vehicle with the FIST helmets and sims guns. The driver has his in the holster while the passenger usually keeps his under his leg. The passenger at some point pulls his gun and holds the driver at gunpoint. Then it’s on.

This is a great evolution because it really emphasizes how everything turns sideways quickly in a car. After doing this in the past, I have become a lot more conscious of not wanting to drive places with people I don’t know. Wrestling in a vehicle is totally different than wrestling on the ground, while at the same time being exactly the same.

Conclusion:

This was my third time taking this type of class from Craig, but even so I learned a lot from it. Craig says the class is in many ways an audit of your skills, telling you what you need to work on – and he is definitely right.

One thing I do notice is that, for the most part, veterans of the class do better, but no one dominates someone just for being an ECQC vet. I’ve done this three times and I still got tossed around by first timers. At the same time, it was obvious that repeated exposure to this material greatly increases your comfort level in dealing with these situations. If you can attend this class more than once (perhaps annually), then go for it. If not then one exposure to the material will definitely have a profound impact on your ability to defend yourself if that day ever comes.

Ultimately this was a great class, and I would recommend it without reservation for anyone who has the opportunity to take it. Craig knows his material, and he knows how to teach it. He is a warrior scholar in the truest sense.

Have you experienced ECQC? Post a comment below!

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?

Is Specializing Your Skill-Set a Mistake?

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

Should you be training generic or specialized skills when dealing with firearms? What exactly does this mean? I’m talking about determining the benefits of learning the best way to run your gun vs the best way of running any gun.

An example: there are several methods of executing a reload. You can use the overhand (aka “slingshot”) method, use your firing hand thumb on the slide release, or use your support hand thumb on the slide release. All three options have advantages and disadvantages. Do you decide which method to train based on the features of the gun you use most, or based on what is most applicable to any gun you might encounter?

The overhand method is perhaps the most generic. Not all guns have slide stops or have slides that lock back. Additionally the overhand reload skill works exactly the same as our tap-rack-bang malfunction clearance. On the other hand, this method is the slowest of the three options if you do have a slide release due to the huge amount of movement required to handle an otherwise simple task.

The firing hand thumb is the fastest method provided the slide release is positioned such that you can reach it with this thumb. You are moving your thumb less than an inch to perform what requires movement of an entire hand when using the overhand method. The downside is that the same muscle memory can theoretically cause you to inadvertently stop the slide from locking back.

The third option, using the support hand thumb, works across a variety of handguns that have a slide release, though you may have issues if you have trained specifically with guns that position the slide release in a specific spot. This is almost as fast as the firing hand thumb but is slightly more generic.

I have seen top tier trainers advocate all three methods.

Why is generic better?

If you intend to be shooting a variety of guns, generic skills are better. If you carry a pocket pistol in the summer and a duty pistol in the winter (or perhaps carry a pocket pistol when not working, etc.), you want a set of skills that translates to both weapon systems easily.

Special forces and high-speed-low-drag operators might need to work with a variety of firearms to operate with indigenous weapon systems to perform their missions. Some people just don’t get to choose their tools.

Why is specialized better?

Performance. If you know you will be operating a specific firearm all the time, adapting to that firearm means you can get the most performance out of it. Being faster and more efficient can be the difference between life and death, so maximizing performance should improve your chances greatly.

Personally I carry either a Glock 26 or 17 depending on wardrobe. Both pistols have the same control in the same place. I choose to specialize and use the firing hand thumb as it is the fastest and most reliable for me. I’m most likely to use my guns to defend myself. I don’t mind my reload performance suffering a bit when using my ‘range toys’ if it means I can have maximum performance when using the tools I carry.

Being generic without a need only hurts you

For me, generic skills would reduce my performance with the tools I am most likely to use in favor of tools I am unlikely to use. Does that make sense?

Are you really expecting a ‘battlefield pickup’ to be your tool for survival? Most of us will never live the plot of the Die Hard movies… prepare yourself to use the tools you carry every day.

Customization of your tools

Extended magazine releases, extended slide stops, and improved triggers are commonly used to improve pistols. Oddly, the people who make these customizations can often be proponents of generic skills. If you want to be able to handle any firearm, why make your pistol specialized? Logic would dictate that keeping your pistol as stock as possible makes it easier to transition to another of the same model, if not a completely different pistol.

Changes to your gun to maximize performance are very similar to changes to your skills for the same purpose. Make sure you are at your best with the tools you are going to need the most.

Counterpoint: long guns

One counterpoint I must mention: generic skills might be an advantage with a long gun. I’m far less likely to use a long gun in a violent confrontation. For most people that will use a long gun, there is a far greater chance they might be using one that isn’t theirs than with a pistol. The proliferation of AR-15 type rifles means that a ‘battlefield pickup’ is probably an AR-15.

Learn to run your AR-15 with stock controls (lose the BAD lever or ambi firecontrols). Unless your unit or department standardizes on these upgrades, you are far more likely to pick up a gun without them.

This all boils down to one simple concept: if you are training to use the tools you carry, then optimize your performance around them. If you train to be proficient with any tool you pick up, then generic skills are justifiable.

Ultimately generic skills are great, if you have a need for them. Otherwise they just hinder your performance with the tools you are likely to use. Carefully weigh specialization and see if it helps you.

The Secret of Training: Train to Suck Less

Photo Crddit: DrJimiGlide

I have recently come to a conclusion in my own training. Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t many ways to do something right, just many ways to do something wrong. Countless individuals strive to get it right thinking that there are many right answers. But in many cases, that simply isn’t true.

I’ve found that rather than trying to perfect a skill, we are all really just trying to suck less at whatever it is we are doing. Perfection is impossible to achieve; after all, how do we define perfection?

Most skills are subjective, and even measurable skills have no clearly defined upper bounds. The fastest shooters in the world right now might be able to draw onto a certain size target and get x number of hits in y number of seconds. Who can say whether that is “perfect”?

With a little more training they could probably beat their best.

The continuing theme in training though is the constant fight against the downward slope that inactivity causes. If you train every day you might improve, if you train a few times a week you maintain, and if you train less you get worse.

Anyone at the lower levels of a given skill set look up to the best of the best and can say that their actions look effortless. The truth is that these individuals really are expending a huge effort just like the rest of us when we try and push ourselves to the edge of our game.

Despite what you think you are training to do, you are really training to be slightly less bad at whatever you do, not to achieve perfection. Improve the consistency with which you perform, and you make your best days as well as your worst days better.

Every instructor might have their own ideas about a given skill, so of course there can be more than a single “right way” of doing something. But my point is that these “right ways” are really just less wrong than the alternatives. Don’t look at the training spectrum as a multitude of right answers and even more wrong answers. Instead we have an infinity of wrong answers in training, some are just less wrong than others.

Examining My Load-Out

Recently I took a pistol/carbine class taught by Larry Vickers. As this was my first foray into this kind of training, I had a lot of equipment to acquire. Before filling in the gaps and buying equipment, my first objective was to come up with a goal (or theme) for the equipment I was buying.

My mission profile

The gear people tend to bring to carbine classes ranges from a couple AR15 mag pouches on their belt to full on chest and belt rigs including rifle plates and just about anything they could imagine. Most of the people in a class like this don’t have a specific mission in mind. How a cop prepares and trains will differ greatly from how a civilian or a U.S. Marine prepares.

When a civilian comes to a class decked out to the max, it really makes you wonder what exactly they are thinking. Is their equipment logical for the situations they might encounter, or are they in the class to play fantasy camp?

When I set out to prepare my equipment, I started with my mission profile. I’m a civilian and unlikely to be paroling or engaging in any sort of prolonged engagement with a rifle. If I need my rifle it is to fight off armed home invaders or, slightly less likely, to deal with an active shooter situation. In either case what I need differs greatly from what I would need if I was planning on marching off to war.

To meet this mission profile, my goal was to set up my gear in a way that I could easily throw over my existing CCW gear. If it takes me more than 30 seconds to be ready to go then I am doing something wrong.

My gear

This is my rifle

My carbine for the class was a custom build (as are all my AR-15 type rifles). This one was built on a matching set of Essential Arms receivers, Essential Arms LPK, and Daniel Defense Barrel.

Here are the specs:

  • 16” Daniel Defense Mid-length Barrel

  • BCM Full-Auto Bolt Carrier Group

  • Collapsible Stock

  • Magpul MOE Midlength Handguard (green)

  • Troy BUIS

  • Aimpoint Pro

  • MOE Rail VFG

  • VTAC Sling

  • GG&G Sling Thing (Rear)

I found this rifle to be very reliable, running quite well even when it was drier than it should have been.

The VTAC sling got the job done for a quick adjust sling, and it worked fairly well for switch shoulder drills. A few times I missed the adjustment lanyard, but for the moment I’m attributing that to my own inexperience with it. The GG&G Sling Thing makes a great rear attachment point, providing a slot for a QD sling swivel on a standard collapsible stock.

In general the rifle handled very well, and the MOE Handguards I ordered would probably remain on the rifle if it wasn’t for the Troy rail already being bought and working well for me.

Glock 17

For a pistol I used my 2nd generation Glock 17. They sure don’t make them like they used to. This pistol has been through a lot and keeps ticking. The only problem with my Glock is the sights. It still sports the stock sights, and I’m seeing more and more why this is a problem. I carried it strong side in a Comp-Tac belt holster with a spare mag in one of Comp-Tac’s numerous pistol pouch options. I’ve always been a big fan of Comp-Tac, and every holster I have from them does the job well.

The rest of my gear

In order to fulfill the quick gear-up profile, I went with the BCM 03 MSF split front chest harness. This worked well for me for two reasons. Being split front it’s very easy to put on, just like any vest you might wear. It also fits in such a way that my pistol carried in my IWB holster is still readily accessible. If I had to put this on in a hurry all I need to do is tuck in my shirt and I’m off to the races.

On the front of the harness I mounted a pair of Maxpedition pistol mag pouches, one each of single and double mag. These seemed to work fine and mounted pretty easily. The mags are not super easily accessible, but my intent was to use them to back fill my belt pouch – a role they performed superbly.

I’m also a fan of keeping medical gear on the body. I still haven’t found a good way to mount a small kit, but I definitely wanted a tourniquet that I could access easily. I ended up trying the 215 gear tourniquet holder to hold my CAT-T tourniquet. It held the tourniquet well all class without losing it. Experimenting at home, the holder works well for quick one handed access to the tourniquet.

For a dump pouch I tried the Maxpedition Rollypoly pouch. This pouch folds up to be not larger than a fist. I have a few complaints about this dump pouch. To place the pouch where I wanted it, I needed to wear it on my belt. This means I’m unlikely to get it on quickly. I suppose I would just dump my mags or use my shirt or a pocket if I needed to retain them, but it would be nice to be able to throw a pouch onto my belt without taking the belt off. When it is folded up, the pouch doesn’t take much space, and it is almost small enough to really consider for wearing all the time. Unfortunately it is just large enough to be very uncomfortable when seated in a car in the position I like to wear it: 7 o’clock behind my mag pouch.

When wringing out the rifle before the class, I noticed some heat and a few scratches on my hands so I figured I would try out some gloves. I bought some Mechanix “Original” gloves. They worked well and gave me good grip on everything I handled. Like most gloves they made some very fine motor skills difficult, but it wasn’t a huge problem for me. My biggest disappointment was when I realized early into using them that they were already damaged. The seam on the right hand palm near the thumb came unstitched. The gloves still did their job, but I expected more from a 20 dollar pair of gloves. Walmart gladly replaced them, and I have not seen a repeat of the issue on the new ones just yet.

What went right

Some equipment stands alone, but ultimately for a class like this, it’s how different pieces of equipment interact and work together that matters. Did the equipment I selected meet the mission profile I was trying to fill?

For the most part, yes. Everything was placed such that it was accessible. The split chest harness was not very bulky, and I felt like I could move fairly freely with it on. It was also pretty easy to quickly don.

What went wrong

I did have a few minor problems. The placement of my tourniquet caused it to pick up dirt from the range whenever I shot from a prone position. This in itself was a minor problem that became worse as I stood up. My Aimpoint pro sat at just a low enough position when slung that this dirt then would drop off the tourniquet and onto the rear aperture.

Not good.

A little bit of attention solved the problem (knock the dirt off prior to letting the rifle stay slung), and I’m not sure the issue was serious enough to warrant moving my gear around.

The dump pouch was also a huge pain as I had to run my belt through it. Would I really need the dump pouch if I were to ‘grab and go’? Probably not, but I would still prefer some easier attachment for the dump pouch. I’m still on the lookout for a suitable replacement.

Conclusion

My equipment got me through the class and looks as though it will work in the conditions I want it for. I was disappointed that the gloves would start falling apart so soon, so I’m hoping that was a fluke.

Other than the gloves, everything else held up to the class and functioned flawlessly.

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