Do You Have Range ADD?

medium_3031432841Have you ever been to the range with more guns than you can carry in your arms in a single trip? Do you switch guns between strings of fire often? Do you shoot the same target for the whole range session or with multiple guns?

If so you might have Range ADD.

A few weeks ago, I went to the range with a friend and former coworker for some social shooting and to catch up. While we were there shooting on a common firing line with other members of his club, I noticed that everyone on the range appeared to have a case of what I consider range ADD.

Now maybe everyone was there for a social outing and only wanted to throw lead with their friends. If that is the case, that’s fine, I’m as much for enjoyment of second amendment rights as the next guy. You don’t need a rhyme or reason to be at the range shooting, and Americans enjoying their liberty is always a great thing.

That said, I’m also a huge proponent of making every round down range a learning experience. Ammo is too expensive and hard to find these days to throw down range with no return on investment. Even if I shoot firearms that I know I’ll never use to defend my life or home, I still make efforts to use the opportunity to practice fundamentals. Learning and improving on fundamentals requires consistent practice and feedback. Range ADD prohibits both feedback and consistency.

Three Ways You Can Avoid Range ADD

Bring Fewer Guns

The first symptom of range ADD is bringing too many guns. Do you need to only own one or two? Absolutely not! Owning more guns is never a bad thing. But you don’t need to bring them all every time you head to the range. I like to bring between 1 and 3 depending on my plan for the range trip. If I’m working on pistol skills and I feel like bringing more than one gun, I might bring my carry gun, a .22 pistol and a ‘fun’ pistol that might be part of my historical collection.

I would start with the carry gun to practice defensive skills before transitioning to the other pistols to continue working on marksmanship skills. I am still enjoying my “toys” while also making the trip a worthwhile training experience.

Plan Your Range Day

If you are heading to the range without a plan, you are almost guaranteed to get less out of your day than you would with a plan. Do you need your plan to detail how every round will be shot? No. But knowing which drills you plan on working on is a good start. Maybe you start every trip with a diagnostic drill and then choose drills to work on your weakest areas that day. Your plan can be flexible as long as it has some logic behind it.

Rotating through guns with every string or shooting at random is going to make it harder to improve on fundamentals.

Use Good Targets

No matter what you are shooting, make sure you change or paste targets frequently enough to get solid feedback, and use targets that help you learn. Shooting your target to swiss cheese with your entire collection makes it difficult to see where your shots went, and therefore removes the target from your feedback loop. If that’s your plan, why use a target at all? At least you might see where your hits land on the berm. If you don’t want to head down range as often, hang more targets, or use reactive targets like clay pigeons or steel. Feedback is necessary for improvement.

So do you have range ADD? Please share your opinions and experience in the comments below!

photo credit: dagnyg via photopin cc

How To Carve Out an Ideal Dry-Fire Space In Your Home

Dry-FireI’m a strong proponent of dry-fire. Dry-fire is far cheaper and frankly more effective at developing skills related to shooting than live fire. Spending time at home dry-firing can improve your skills and requires far less time and commitment than heading to the range.

The key to being effective with dry-fire in your training is to make sure it becomes a consistent habit. Habitual training is far more valuable than sporadic and uncoordinated training sessions. Want to make dry-fire a habit? Find a space and designate it for your training to help eliminate excuses and make dry-fire easy.

What makes an ideal dry-fire space?

There is definitely an ideal setup for dry-fire. It can vary a little from person to person, but some aspects will always remain universal. You can’t always mimic this ideal dry-fire space in your own home, but the closer you can get, the more safe and effective you will be.

Remember that safety is paramount in dry-fire. Anytime you pick up a firearm and pull the trigger you need to be conscious of the potential repercussions of doing so. When mishandled, firearms can be very dangerous.

Remove all ammunition

The first rule of dry-fire is to remove all ammunition from the practice area. If you want to set up an ideal dry-fire space, you can take this a step further by banning all ammunition from your dry-fire space at all times. If you are using a gun that normally remains loaded, you want to load and unload away from the dry-fire space (and equally important you will only dry-fire in your designated space).

If no ammunition enters your dry-fire space, you can have a reasonable expectation that your gun will remain inert.

Have a good backstop

The second safety rule that often comes up in relation to dry-fire is to have a safe backstop. Some people use body armor behind their target or dry-fire at a book case (from the side to force any negligent discharge to travel through your reading material).

I find this approach a little over the top. After all if you are diligent about removing all ammunition why would you need a backstop? That said, caution should still be taken in choosing the location and direction of your dry-fire. Instead of a formal backstop, I prefer to guarantee that no person or thing will be in the path of my muzzle when I dry-fire. Dry-fire at your wife’s cat? Not a good idea. Dry-fire at a wall at the back of your home that has miles of state forest behind it? A much better idea.

Have a good floor

You wouldn’t immediately think that the floor would be important for dry-fire, but I think it is. Effective dry-fire covers more than just squeezing the trigger. You should be drawing, reloading, and even moving. A really hard floor can spell disaster if you drop your expensive mags or pistol on it.

Ideally you would have a thick and durable rug or carpet to provide cushioning. Realistically this isn’t always possible. There are alternatives such as a padded box to catch things like mags that you intentionally drop.

Work space can be key

When I dry-fire I tend to take notes about what I do and will often have a written plan beside me. I also like to have space to stow my magazines and pistol while I’m rearranging my gear. Finally, my laptop almost always gets involved, providing a cheap par timer. For me this means having a good work surface available. This could be the edge of a bed, a desk, table, or even some other improvised surface.

What to bring to your dry-fire space?

Once you have a designated dry-fire space you need to make sure you bring the right equipment to make the most of your dry-fire. The right tools make any job easier, and that applies to dry-fire as much as it does to building a shed or fixing your car.

So what do you really need for dry-fire? A few things are crucial:

  1. Your firearm – unloaded. If you have one, an inert dry-fire barrel can further improve the safety quotient, but it will hinder your ability to practice some things.

  2. Spare magazines – you will need magazines if you intend to make your dry-fire dynamic. The more magazines you have, the less often you need to bend down to pick them up. I usually use 6; your mileage may vary.

  3. Timer – shot timers are very helpful when your goal is to work on your speed. I generally use a timer in par time mode since most timers will not pick up dry-fire shots. Rather than mess with my range timer I tend to use my laptop and this great app.

  4. Notebook – Recording your progress allows you to measure yourself against past performance.

  5. Target – you definitely do not want to forget a target in dry-fire. My preferred dry-fire target gives me a variety of things to aim at and is scaled to take best advantage of the space I have.

A few other things help further improve your experience:

  1. Snap caps – these allow you to see that a reload actually worked (when a snap cap round ends up in the chamber), or they can be used for malfunction clearing drills.

  2. Weighted magazines – can allow you to practice certain manipulations more realistically. Some large capacity polymer framed guns handle significantly differently when full compared to empty.

  3. Video camera – recording yourself can be a very helpful tool for diagnosing shooting errors. Going back to the tape can help you see why your reloads fail or how to shave time off your draw-stroke.

Some example setups

Over the past year or so I have had two different dry-fire spaces. Originally I used my bedroom for convenience and comfort. This works great when you only spend time dry-firing at times when your spouse will not be in bed. If he or she is sick, good luck.

More recently I moved to the basement in anticipation of the incoming baby. Getting away from the main family spaces allows me to dry-fire in the morning before work or any time I don’t want to disturb the wife and kid.

Bedroom Setup

My bedroom setup was convenient for a variety of reasons. The carpet protected my mags, and my bed was correctly spaced from the wall to provide a good distance from my target and serve as a surface for my equipment. The nearby dresser also provided a great place to conveniently store all of my mags and my notebook between sessions.

As mentioned before, the big down side was that I was limited on when I could use the space. My wife isn’t a morning person and has been home for the past 9 months cooking up a baby, so trying to dry-fire in the bedroom before 10am noon isn’t really a great option.

 BedroomArea

Basement Setup

The basement setup is less ideal in some respects, but it allows me to train when I want. I have an additional safe in the basement, allowing me to keep a pistol and all of my training gear stowed near my dry-fire space. In the short term I have been using a stack of styrofoam shipping containers as a temporary work surface, which will be replaced by my workbench when complete.

The floor in the basement is definitely not ideal for dry-fire. Concrete and magazines is a recipe for eventual disaster. To mitigate this I took a cardboard box (thanks Ikea) and cut the top off. I filled this box with bubble wrap to provide ample cushioning.

 MagBox

I move the box around as necessary to catch my mags. While I usually manage to miss the box a few times per session, I find that dropping a few mags a week on concrete is far better than dropping each one on concrete 30-50 times per week.

BasementArea

Dry-fire is a great, inexpensive way to improve your shooting skills in the comfort of your home. Just how comfortable is largely dependent on how much thought goes into your dry-fire area. A well designed dry-fire area results in safe and efficient training.

Now it’s your turn. How is your dry-fire area setup? Please let us know in the comments below.

If you would like to share pictures and a please send them them to nick <at> indestructibletraining.com, I’d love to see how you train.

Things I Learned At My Last IDPA Match

Shooting in cars is fun.

Shooting in cars is fun.

I have mentioned before and will likely mention again that I think competition definitely has value from a training perspective. Competition itself is not training, but competition can and often will help to pressure test your skills and point out what needs improvement.

Last week I shot my first ‘real’ IDPA match of the season (not including the classifier a few weeks ago), and I found that it helped me identify some serious weak spots in my own training. Looking back I really should have had a better idea that I needed to work on these skills, but context often helps to highlight what we don’t want to see.

The match also helped point out things that were really working for me. Hopefully I can pass on some of the lessons I learned from this match to help you with your training.

Cars Are A Special Problem

The match I shot was at Pioneer Sportsmen in Dunbarton, NH. These guys definitely know how to put on a great match. This is the second match I have shot there, and both times they have had a car as part of a stage. As you may know, I’m a proponent of training in and around vehicles. This match helped to show why training around cars is so important.

The car stage was straightforward – you started in the driver seat, hands at 10 and 2, and the pistol started loaded on the passenger seat. On the start you picked up the pistol and engaged 6 targets through the passenger side window with a round in each before making sure each target got a total of 3 rounds.

Watching the other competitors highlighted how uncomfortable many people are with shooting from a car. Some people shot one handed for lack of better positioning, and others had trouble getting the targets far to the right because of their position relative to the door column.

When you think about it, this stage was actually really simple. No seatbelts or holsters were involved, you didn’t have a passenger, and you didn’t need to debus the vehicle. All things that would make the stage even more complicated.

Lesson learned? Get some training relative to vehicles. I would recommend SouthNarc’s VCAST.

Low Light Training is a Necessity

The next lesson learned was a bit more personal. Besides having a car, the other great feature of this match was an indoor low light stage. This was actually my first time shooting in low light. While I didn’t totally bomb the stage, I did find that my low light skills were severely lacking.

I was slightly unprepared to light the targets with my pistol. I used a jaw index for my flashlight as that is how I have been practicing, and what is most natural for me. The problem with this is that holding the flashlight on my left while taking right hand corners, means that the light cast a shadow and didn’t properly illuminate my targets. Not only did the walls reflect a good amount of light back, but without good light it took me a lot longer to properly engage my targets.

To add insult to injury, my manipulations of the pistol with flashlight in hand were less than stellar. I should have turned the light off when reloading to hide my position, but I didn’t. Either way incorporating a flashlight occasionally into my dry-fire is in order, as is turning out the lights.

Using Appropriate Speed For Each Target

I did a fairly good job at not rushing the long shots, but on the other hand I probably could have engaged close targets faster than I did. Each target requires a different amount of time to engage based on its distance and position. Smoothly transitioning from close targets to far targets and vice-versa can be challenging.

I recently started spending more time shooting farther targets after my performance at my last classifier, but this match has made it clear that adding transitions between targets at a mix of ranges should also become part of my normal training routine.

Improving Confidence

The last thing I learned was that I need to work on improving my confidence at speed. I shot a relatively low number of points down, which is great, but it also means that I can probably speed up. If I can shoot a 0.3 second split on the 8” circle when shooting the F.A.S.T., then I should also be able to manage those splits on an IDPA target at a match.

This is a case of mindset and routine. I spend plenty of time drawing to low % targets like the 3×5 box on the F.A.S.T. but spend far less time drawing to and shooting 8” circles or targets at various distances (see above). The big lesson learned here is that spending time with different targets and working on pushing my limits is critical to boost my confidence so I can shoot faster.

These are the lessons I learned recently at my match. Have you competed recently? What did you learn?

Are Classes The Best Bang For Your Buck?

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Over the past few years as I delve deeper and deeper into the world of training, I have noticed a pretty obvious trend: attending more classes does not necessarily mean more skill.

Despite this trend I can’t help but to notice how many people seem to hope for the converse. Time and time again I see well-intentioned students of the gun who are in the constant cycle of bouncing from class to class.

On one hand I must applaud these guys for doing what most gun owners don’t have the stones or smarts to do: get training. But on the other hand, I can’t help but to scratch my head when I see these guys fail to improve despite spending thousands on training from top tier instructors.

Classes Does Not Equal Improvement

Quite frankly most trainers can’t make you improve by all that much… at least not in a single day or weekend class. Instead a good class should give you the tools and techniques you need to improve yourself on your own time. Receiving instruction is never a replacement for old fashioned hard work.

When I compare myself to some of these “class junkies,” I can’t help but realize that with only a few classes under my belt, I tend to fare better when it comes to skills. On a good day, I can shoot the F.A.S.T. in 6-7 seconds, and when I shot the IDPA classifier a few weeks ago I was less than 4 seconds outside of SSP Expert (I really bombed stage 3). While neither of those are amazing feats, I find that there are a lot more people who can’t match that performance than there are people that can beat it.

Guess how many classes I went to in order to get to that skill level?

The grand total of my pistol training comes down to several 2 hour blocks taken at a tactical conference a few years ago, several Southnarc Courses (ECQC and VCAST) which contain very little actual shooting time and next to no work on the fundamentals, and the pistol work at the Larry Vickers course I took last year. And quite frankly none of those courses immediately offered huge bumps in improvement at my next range session.

Compare my abilities and quantity of training with some of these guys who go out to Front Sight every year or do multiple shooting classes a year, and you’ll find that the thousands they spend on training doesn’t offer any significant improvement over where I am. So why spend the money?

Money Better Spent On Ammo

Rather than drop $500-1000 a year on classes, spend that money on more ammo. Or even better yet, just dry-fire! Work up a training routine for yourself that includes dry-fire and live-fire, and keep at it. You’ll notice more improvement than you ever would just taking expensive classes.

When you do consider taking a class, keep in mind that a solid class has two purposes. The first is when you have no skill set at all. Learning to safely draw from the holster and learning good technique for running your gun is critical to get your training off to a good start. The second is when you have been at things a while and hit a plateau. If you can’t improve yourself, it’s time to have someone else help you. Let someone else look at your technique and offer alternatives.

Ultimately it takes consistent, focused dedication to the task at hand to improve. There are no easy answers or shortcuts, just effort and time.

What’s the ratio of classes to individual training that you use? Please post a comment!

How Much Use Do Your Snap Caps Get?

My snap caps have seen hard use.

About a month ago, as I came back from the dead so to speak with my own training, I found my trusty training tools on the brink of their own demise. My snap caps are probably the most used tool in my training arsenal. They get used every day I dry fire, and they have seen thousands upon thousands of repetitions through my guns.

As I tried to clear one out of my Glock, I had some difficulty with extraction. Upon inspection I found that the snap cap rim was beginning to tear off. If I had owned these for a few days or weeks, I would say that the product was faulty. But after almost a year of daily dry-fire, these snap caps have held up great.

Best uses for snap caps

Using snap caps during dry-fire can be a great way to protect your firearms from unnecessary wear and tear caused by dropping the firing pin on an empty chamber. While this benefit alone is a great reason to use snap caps, I find that their value goes far further.

Malfunction Drills

Snap caps are excellent for malfunction drills. You can easily create double feed and misfire scenarios with your snap caps for practice clearing them.

When combined with live-fire, snap cap utility is fairly obvious. A snap cap can represent a misfired round. When randomly loaded into your magazines, they can create unexpected malfunctions.

In dry-fire sessions the snap caps can take the place of both the malfunction rounds and fresh ammo. When performing a malfunction clearing drill, always make sure a follow-up round gets chambered properly, validating your technique. Create double-feeds by placing a round in the chamber before easing the slide forward on a full magazine.

Reloading Drills

Snap caps are excellent additions to emergency reloading drills. Fresh magazines with snap caps allow you to ensure a round gets properly chambered. Dropping the slide too early during a reload can be a disaster, forcing you into an immediate action drill. Training with snap caps keeps you honest about the timing of your reloads and ensures you don’t drop that slide too soon.

How much use do your snap caps get?

I obviously use snap caps quite a bit in my own training, to the point where I would consider them disposable short-term-use items. Personally I keep a package of spares on hand for the next time the rim breaks off one of my snap caps.

How often do you use snap caps in your training, and what do you use them for?

Don’t already use snap caps? I use and highly recommend the snap caps from A-Zoom. Support small business and Indestructible Training by ordering yours from our friends at WTBGU. (Disclaimer: the preceding link is an affiliate link, and I will receive a commission for anything you buy through this link).

3 Less Than Obvious Benefits to Using a .22 for Training

I don’t think there is a single capable shooter who would claim that the .22LR cartridge doesn’t hold any training value. Just about everyone agrees: the .22 is excellent for training and provides the extra benefit of being great for introducing new shooters to the shooting sports.

Most of the justifications for using a .22 are obvious. Limited recoil means that you are less inclined to develop a flinch, allowing good practice for follow through and trigger control. No matter what round your centerfire is chambered in, .22 is going to be cheaper. The cost advantage is hard to ignore. Ultimately when these two factors are combined, they allow you to build good habits through many solid repetitions.

Beyond the obvious

What may not be so obvious is that a .22 allows for some good training that might not even be possible with a centerfire firearm. When you consider the limited facilities you might have available to you, the .22 opens up even more options.

Trajectory

If you shoot rifles, trajectory is one of the key skills you need to master to really consider yourself a capable Rifleman. If you have a 500 yard range in your back yard, you might be able to practice compensating for trajectory on your centerfire rifles (and if that is available to you, definitely do it!).

For most people getting beyond 100 or 200 yards at their local club is a little hard.

Take for example the average 5.56MM round out of an AR15. With a 300 yard zero, at 500 yards this round might drop approximately 3 feet. At 200 yards the same round is actually about 6 inches high. At 100 yards you are still pretty close to 3-6 inches high. Inside of 200 yards the round requires relatively little compensation.

A .22 at 200 yards on the other hand might drop anywhere between 3 and 7 feet depending on the exact load you are shooting.

In this case a .22 can be a great tool for learning how to compensate for bullet drop. Even better if you can place steel at multiple or unknown distances out on a range. Learn how to measure range to the target with your reticle and compensate to hit the target.

Wind

Wind is also hard to practice compensating for unless you have a lot of wind and a range long enough for it to really have an impact. Your .22 rifle will be impacted far more by wind over a shorter distance than say your .308.

At 200 yards in a 10mph cross wind a .308 round would only get pushed about 4 inches off target. Your .22 on the other hand might drift 15-30 inches in a similar wind. This provides for another great opportunity to practice advanced skills without the heavy burden of an expansive range.

Steel

Reactive targets are certainly fun, but they are also great for building decision making skills under pressure. Unfortunately steel can splash back pretty badly, so it requires more space between you and the target. Paper can be shot at safely with the muzzle on the target, but that is not the case with steel.

A centerfire round, especially a rifle round, will have far more energy than a .22 and therefore it requires far more distance to the target to be shot safely. It is generally not a great idea to shoot steel with a centerfire rifle inside of 100 yards. Shooting steel closer can decrease the life of the steel and increases the likelihood of splash back. A .22 on the other hand can be safely fired at steel much closer. Steel at 7 yards with a .22 is both safe and great for training.

When you also consider that rifle-grade steel is much more expensive than .22-grade steel, you can start to see why a .22 is beneficial. Ever been to a range that doesn’t allow rifles to be shot at their steel? It’s because that steel is too soft to handle repeated hits from a centerfire rifle. These rounds will damage the steel and make it unsafe as ricochets will become both common and unpredictable.

If you have a .22 that mimics your carry pistol or duty rifle, you can practice engaging steel targets safely and far less expensively than you would if you were to do so with your carry pistol or duty rifle.

If you don’t already use a .22LR for training it might be time to start. The benefits of training with a .22 are numerous. You can easily enjoy more practice for less money, and more importantly, you can expand the types of training you can do by taking advantage of the limitations of the .22LR cartridge and treating these limitations as strengths.

What do you use a .22 for in your training?

What Would You Do With More Time To Train?

I’m not sure about you, but I find myself always wishing I had more time. All through college I thought I would finally find a little more of it when I got into the working world (I did a dual engineering major – perhaps I was a little sadistic). But now that I am there, I relish the memories of my college years when I had that occasional free moment.

Since I am always busy, my personal training is always a limited subset of what I would really like to do. I keep dreaming about what I would do if I got the chance, hoping that somewhere around the corner I’ll find a way to make it happen.

Grappling

One of the biggest weaknesses I know I have in my own skill set is grappling. I have some natural ability, but courses like ECQC tend to point out that I could use some real formal training in this area.

Adding some grappling – say some jujitsu or judo to my training schedule would be nice, but dedicating a minimum of 3-5 more hours a week to a regular commitment just isn’t in the cards with my current schedule.

Edged Weapons

Another area I have been interested in for years is edged weapons training. Knives are a common threat that can be very dangerous, but they are far easier than a gun to carry. I can’t remember the last time I went without a knife, but yesterday I couldn’t carry my gun. Being capable with a bladed weapon makes a lot of sense for this and many other reasons.

Finding formal knife training is a little more challenging than finding a good judo or jujitsu school. I haven’t had the time (noticing a theme?) to even look for knife fighting classes in the area, but I’m willing to bet I’d be spending some time driving to get to one.

More Shooting

If it hasn’t been obvious with the amount of content geared towards firearms training on this blog, I like to shoot. Right now, if I’m lucky, I might get two weekends in a row where I make it to the range. Other times I might get there (like last week) only to find no space on the range to shoot.

If I had a lot of free time, I would definitely invest some of it heading to the range. Pistol training on the range is best if I can make it at least once a week. I also would like to really start working carbine and general rifle skills more often.

Fitness

Right now I’m getting by fitness wise. Two to three days a week I do a short functional body weight strength training workout. I’m noticing small improvements, but spending less than an hour a week on fitness is pretty weak.

If I had more time, I would definitely spend some of it strength training. More time lifting, more body weight training, and some sandbag training to round myself out.

I would also love to spend some time on other areas of fitness like sprinting and some ruck sack marching/hiking. Both would do great things for my overall fitness and help round out some of my weaknesses.

Karate

I have been training in karate for a long time. It has been a passion of mine since childhood. For better or for worse, the past 8 years or so have been spent focused on teaching it. I love to teach, but of course when time is short something has to give, right? As a result my own training suffers.

Developing my own skills has dropped in priority compared to developing my students. I would definitely continue teaching regardless of my schedule, but being able to invest even a few more hours a week in my own training would be huge.

Odds are you are probably like me. You have some time to invest in training, but probably not enough. Day to day life takes a huge amount of our time. I’m always short on time, and I don’t even have kids yet: the ultimate time suck (or so I hear).

If you happen to have come into some free time to train, feel free to steal any or all of my ideas. Let me know what that elusive free time feels like. If not, then write a comment and tell me what you would do if you came into some more time to train. Maybe there is something else I need to add to my list.

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!

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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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.

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