The Secret to Setting up a Dry-Fire Area

I am obviously a big fan of dry-fire and dry-practice. I have proclaimed its usefulness, and how much it has helped me in my own pursuits to improve my shooting skills. What I would like to talk about today is one secret to getting the most out of your dry-fire practice: a well organized dry-fire area.

Setting aside a place in the house for dry-fire can simply make your practice safer, but it also allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time. With a designated dry-fire area, you can get far more out of your practice than a lonely wall might give you.

Improved Safety

Safety is one of the biggest reasons to set aside a place in the house for dry-fire. Ideally you need a backstop even without live shooting, because accidents do happen. Select a part of your home where you will have peace of mind knowing what is beyond your target.

Dry-firing against an interior wall is probably the riskiest thing you can do unless you live alone. Pointing a gun through a wall that might be the only thing between you and your wife, husband, children, or other loved ones is not a great idea.

Your best options would be something like a concrete wall (say in a basement) or an exterior wall with nothing valuable behind it.

Your dry-fire area should contain no ammunition. It is your personal responsibility to make sure no live ammunition enters your dry-fire area. If you have no ammunition, then the risk of an accidental or negligent discharge is significantly reduced.

Make use of good targets

Another advantage to a dedicated dry-fire area is being well-organized. When dry-firing you will want to make the best possible use of good targets. Scaled down targets of various shapes and sizes are great for practicing presentation of the pistol and transitioning between targets.

One of my favorites is this scaled down F.A.S.T. target put together by Todd Louis Green from Pistol-Training.com. If you are training more for competition than self-defense, scaled down IDPA or USPSA targets are also an excellent idea.

The advantage to your own dedicated area is that you can post all of these targets simultaneously. You can post targets scaled to different sizes (to represent different distances) and be able to do all your dry practice without needing to change targets.

Necessary equipment

A good dry-fire session might include some timed practice, so you should add a shot timer with a good par feature (or a PC application that can mimic the same thing). I use this flash application from predatortactical.com.

Barriers for good dry-fire

One thing that is missing from many dry-fire routines is barrier work. Do you dry-practice making use of cover? This can be difficult without good preparation.

My recommendation is to build yourself some soft lightweight barriers out of large pieces of foam board or cardboard. A lightweight barrier is easily moved into your practice area, or out of the way for storage.

In order to be best setup to use these tools you should consider a small table, perhaps an end-table or a small folding table. This gives you a place to put any electronics you might use, but also a place to stuff magazines.

Wait, did he just say stuff magazines?

Do yourself a favor and buy some snap-caps. If you are practicing pistol skills, not only will these give you a solid way to practice malfunction clearance (tap rack and bang doesn’t work so well on an empty mag), but it will also make practicing reloads easier.

Ultimately having a dummy round to chamber will allow you to practice moving as fast as possible, and verify that you are actually successfully reloading.

Space and movement

Practicing staying on the sights while moving is another skill that is often left out of most dry-practice sessions.

Make your space ideal for practicing movement by keeping an open and clear floor. Ideally you would have something like a 10ft x 10ft space to enable you to move in a variety of patterns while practicing keeping your sights locked on the target and dry-firing.

While we’re on the subject of space – another quick tip is to use a room with carpeted floors. Not only will the carpets protect your mags as you practice reloading, but it’s not as likely to be dinged up by them either. If you prefer staying out of the doghouse, avoid dropping mags on a nice tile or hardwood floor! I find my fastest practice sessions send magazines flying across the room, so keep fancy furniture and decor around at your own peril.

Dry-fire is a great way to develop firearms manipulation skills. You can improve your draw-stroke, trigger control, sight-alignment, reloading, malfunction clearance, shooting around obstacles, transitioning between targets, shooting on the move and a variety of other skills.

Set yourself up with a dedicated place to practice, and you should improve the benefits you gain from dry-fire.

Do you have a dedicated dry-fire area? How did you set it up?

What Everybody Ought to Know About Preparing for a carbine course

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

Next month I am signed up to take my first ever carbine course – a Carbine/Handgun course with Larry Vickers. I have great familiarity with how to get the most out of a rifle, but I really don’t have any true experience learning how to run a carbine properly.

I have taken pistol courses before, but there is a lot more going on in a carbine course. The equipment requirements are much more significant (we are after all running two guns), and the total number of skills that are involved is exponentially higher than just running a handgun.

Making preparations

When showing up to any class, it’s definitely worth investing some time upfront to make sure you arrive prepared. A three-day class like the one I am taking comes with a hefty price-tag, especially when you start adding up the ammo costs. Don’t waste the opportunity by coming unprepared.

Gear

A carbine class has much steeper equipment requirements than a simple pistol class. You need both a carbine and a pistol, some number of mags for each, a sling for your carbine, a huge pile of ammunition, a holster, and some sort of load bearing vest or belt.

When preparing for a class like this, there are four things you need to accomplish when getting your gear together.

1. Identify what you need

Scour the class listing and determine exactly what equipment is required for the class. The class instructor will generally list exactly what he or she expects you to bring. Don’t skimp on meeting these requirements.

It is also a good idea to read after-action reports and course reviews from other shooters who have taken this class in the past. Often another shooter’s insights into what they found to be useful or what they wish they had can save you a ton of pain. This also leads into the next point…

2. Research the gear

Once you have identified what equipment you need, it’s time to start selecting which products you will choose to meet your requirements. The number of holsters on the market, for example, is huge. Not all holsters are created equally so spend some solid time researching what is available and what will fill your needs perfectly.

Gear can be expensive and just adds to the already mounting cost of attending a course like this. Do your best to select items you only need to buy once. Better to spend a little extra money now than to find out your purchases were wasted on shoddy items that will need replacing. If you already have something that will adequately meet your needs, don’t buy something special just for the class.

3. Buy your gear

Now the fun part: spending money. Shop around so you don’t overpay, but definitely get your stuff on order sooner rather than later.

The last thing you want to do is to show up without your kit. The class I’m taking is in July, and I have just about everything I think I’ll need in hand and have had it in hand for a few weeks now.

4. Test your gear

Once you get your gear, make sure you set it up and test it. Don’t show up to the class and put all of your gear together for the first time.

The first goal of testing your gear is to make sure it all works from a basic level. If your gear won’t function together, or you can’t operate it, then you have a problem. Maybe something doesn’t work like you thought it would, or just doesn’t fit (for example a MOLLE mag pouch doesn’t work with the dimensions of your vest).

Once everything is on, you want to make sure the equipment is comfortable. Sure it must be functional, but remember that a three day class is a long time to be wearing uncomfortable gear. Maybe things are too heavy or just dig into you… make sure you identify and fix these issues now while you can.

Once you determine that your gear is comfortable, you want to spend some time trying to use it. Start off with dry fire/dry practice. Can you get magazines out of pouches and into your guns? Does your tactical sling work for you when you try transitioning to your pistol? Can you assume prone and kneeling positions with your gear on? All of these things matter and should be identified early.

The last thing you want is to be fighting your gear while taking your expensive class. You need to be a sponge ready to absorb all the instruction you can get. If you are distracted by failing gear, you won’t be getting the most out of the instruction you came for.

You also need to test your firearms. Don’t show up with a carbine and a pistol that have never been shot before. Put 500-1000 rounds through each and make sure they operate without issue. A semi-functional gun can do a lot to make your experience a crappy one.

Prepare your skills

Gear isn’t the only thing you need to bring with you to a class. You also need to bring some level of skill. Most instructors have a certain expectation of what you are bringing to the class. In any course beyond a basic pistol intro type class, you need to show up safe. If you can’t handle a firearm without putting everyone in the tri-state area at risk, then you need to get some help for that before you step foot on the range for your class.

Most instructors also have some basic expectations for skills. Try to identify what those skills are by reading class reviews and the class listing. Practice those skills before showing up and make sure you have them.

Don’t be that guy

Whatever you do, don’t be that guy who shows up to an intermediate or advanced level class with no skills and an inordinate need for attention and assistance.

Nothing frustrates someone more than having their expensive class squandered because some nitwit doesn’t know the basics or how their gear works.

Skills to be familiar with

Regardless of whether you have taken a class or not, you want to have some basic skills worked out. Many instructors will ‘test’ you to see what you brought to the show. Don’t be figuring these things out for the first time at the class, show up with some base level stuff:

  1. Drawing from your holster

  2. Accessing pouches

  3. Shouldering/shooting your rifle

  4. Operating your sling

  5. Adjusting your sights

  6. Malfunction clearance

  7. Any other topic that you expect to be covered in the class*

*This could be anything from low light shooting to shooting around barricades, etc. Be careful and tread lightly here. The last thing you want to do is ingrain a bad habit before taking a class. You do want to show up with enough competence to not slow the class down and have a good starting point to build from.

All of these things can and should be practiced dry, but also ideally in live fire as well.

Be prepared to enjoy your class

All of this adds up to one thing: enjoying your class and getting the most out of it. Three days (or two or one) is not a lot of time to learn a set of skills. Set yourself up to learn as much as possible and get the most from it.

You are paying for the class, why not take advantage of it?

What do you do to prepare for a carbine class?

Warning: IDPA Is Not Training

Photo credit: dagnyg

A little over a week ago, I competed in my first IDPA match at my local club. I have been more than a little excited to give the sport a try and see both how much fun it would be (spoiler: tons!) and how I stack up against the guys that compete at this sort of thing all the time.

I learned a lot about IDPA while at the match, but I also learned a lot about myself and training in general. I’ll be looking forward to shooting another match soon. If any of you happen to be in New Hampshire and want to meet up at a match, contact me, I’d love to shoot with you.

Here is what I learned…

IDPA doesn’t build skills

Quite a few people seem to be confused and state that IDPA is good defensive training. These people couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, IDPA is a game. All games have rules. Real life doesn’t.

More importantly, IDPA isn’t training because it doesn’t build skills. Efficient skills development requires repetition in isolation.

When you practice your draw-stroke, you train through consistent repetition. Every repetition works to ingrain the proper motions in your subconscious.

In IDPA you shoot a stage once.

One repetition does not give you a chance to make refinements to your technique. One repetition does not allow you to ingrain good habits.

What IDPA does do for you is to provide a good opportunity to pressure test what you bring to the table. I now know my weaknesses and which areas need the most additional practice. You can expect to discover the same things about your own training.

Any game with rules will deviate from real life

Since IDPA is a game, and has rules, it deviates from many of the realities that we train for. For example IDPA limits your magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

IDPA also restricts placement of your gear. Restrictions are placed on where your holster and mag carrier may be worn. If you have chosen to carry Appendix In Waist Band (AIWB), then clearly you can’t compete in the same way you normally carry.

This is a problem if you are using IDPA as a tool to test your skills. If you enjoy the sport, you are forced to either carry as you compete, or train two different skill sets, one for carry, and one for competition.

Marksmanship is key

The match reinforced for me how critical good marksmanship is.

The second stage of the match was essentially a skills test. Three strings were shot, and they all came down to marksmanship.

The first string consisted of 6 shots, with weak hand only, at two targets that were behind hardcover from the neck down (head shots only). The second string was 6 shots strong hand only from the draw at two targets placed a little farther out that had hard cover from center chest and below. The final string was shot freestyle at two targets even further back, no cover.

Watching the other participants, you could easily tell who really practices and who doesn’t. I shot with a group of shooters that were also new to the sport, and almost everyone had trouble making hits on the targets.

Do you think that this stage improved anyone’s shooting skills? I don’t think anyone who missed on that stage could magically make hits afterward. But they did gain an appreciation for one of the weakest links in their skill-set: marksmanship.

IDPA doesn’t really build skills on its own, but it does test them.

Everyone is a gamer

Another thing I noticed at this match was that I seemed to be the only person with an IWB holster using a t-shirt as a cover garment. Everyone else was shooting using some sort of vest or jacket combined with a belt-style holster.

There are two possible explanations for this: either everyone normally carries with a gaudy looking photographer’s vest, or everyone was gaming the match.

I’m going to assume the latter because I don’t see too many of those vests outside of a match.

Gaming in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can’t fault people for trying to be competitive. Why compete if you don’t plan on trying to win?

However, it is important to keep in mind that this type of competition can have its disadvantages. If you are gaming it, odds are you are sacrificing some of your training benefit. Remember the statement “Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train”? If IDPA were really training, you would compete like you carry, or carry like you compete.

A fun way to pressure test

In short, my take on IDPA is that it isn’t training, but it is a great way to pressure test your gun handling and shooting skills.

Shooting on a square range without movement and without pressure can only get you so far. Fighting is dynamic, so it makes perfect sense to test your training with a dynamic activity.

IDPA fits that bill.

If you want to test your skills and have a good time doing it, seek out an IDPA match. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you shoot IDPA? Share what you may have learned from the shooting sport by posting a comment below.

Do You Spend More Time on Specialized or Generalized Skills?

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Every defensive skill can be placed into one of two categories, specialized skills and generalized skills. General skills are skills that apply in many situations or are foundational in that they are used as a basis for the specialized skills. The more situations a skill might apply to, the more general that it is.

Specialized skills on the other hand have fewer situations where they can be used. The less likely it is to be used, or more specific the skill is, the more specialized that it is.

When we train we are constantly determining what skills are worth an investment, and how to divide our time between them.

The more likely a skill is to be used, the more time you want to invest

Generally speaking, the skills you are most likely to need should be trained the most. For example a normal two-handed draw stroke or emergency reload have a higher probability of being useful than say a weak hand only emergency reload. Even more likely to be used are verbal skills for defusing situations and dealing with unknown contacts. The more constraints you put on when a skill is used, the less time you should spend on that skill.

You cannot ignore the specialized skills

Just because you are less likely to need certain specialized skills doesn’t mean you can completely ignore them. You don’t want to be figuring out how to do that one-handed reload when you can’t afford a mistake. Instead make sure these skills make it into your training regime occasionally so they get some practice time.

Find balance in your training

Adding these skills into your training routine should be done somewhat scientifically. It is up to you to find your own balance between generalized and specialized skills.

Most general skills will help you with the specialized ones. For example, if I am going to use a firearm for self-defense, one of the most general things that comes to mind is trigger control. I learn how to squeeze the trigger to have the most accurate shot I can. Good trigger control will come into play regardless of whether I shoot one handed or two, strong side or weak. Manipulating the trigger occurs regardless of target distance as well – both long shots and firing from retention requires use of the trigger.

This means that I can easily justify spending a significant amount of time working on my trigger skills, but it also means that there are many more specialized skills that will also give me time working on the trigger.

Be smart about how you train, and take advantage of those opportunities to be more efficient. Spend more time on general skills, but don’t forget the specialized ones.

How much time do you spend on general skills vs specialized skills?

Are Long Range Skills Valuable For Self-Defense?

Photo by AMagill

Most people will readily agree that if you are using a rifle for anything other than defending yourself in relatively close quarters, then it is probably not self-defense. Taking a shot at 300 yards is not easily construed as self-defense except for the most extreme of circumstances.

The simple conclusion to take from this is that working on skills for shooting farther than what self-defense ‘dictates’ is probably unproductive for our goals of preparing for self-defense scenarios. This is mostly true, but I believe that there is still plenty to be taken from long distance shooting that can be applied to running a gun in a fight.

Long distance shots might be unlikely but not impossible

Most gunfights occur in relatively short distances. Everything from bad breath scuffles at point blank range to 10 yards or farther. It is logical to assume that training for longer range shots would be counter productive.

But just because we are not as likely to take shots with our carry guns at 25 or 50 yards doesn’t mean that those cases can never happen. Keeping distance between yourself and an attacker is a great strategy. If someone is shooting at you from those distances do you really want to get closer?

Pistols have drop too

Most of us will never get into a gunfight with a rifle at full-distance rifle ranges. Unless you are serving overseas, you are unlikely to be defending yourself from an attacker taking shots at long distance. So what is the value to knowing how to shoot at these extended distances?

One key to mastering your rifle is learning about trajectory and bullet drop. Bullets don’t fly flat, and as a result you need to compensate for the path of the bullet when shooting. You might not find yourself needing to apply these concepts with a rifle, but what about your pistol?

Most of us shoot our pistols at distances where any sort of drop is negligible, but when you push out to farther ranges you will experience bullet drop. If you want to be capable of using that pistol at all practical (and maybe some unpractical) distances, you need to understand the trajectory of your rounds. There is no better way to explore and understand this concept than long distance rifle shooting. When you understand trajectory with a rifle, you can apply the same concepts to learn what your pistol does at distance.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals

Finally, practicing at distance is a great way to practice your fundamentals and push yourself beyond your current limitations. Long distance shots require great sight alignment and excellent trigger control. If you can make a torso shot at 50 yards with a handgun, then making the same shot at 5 yards can only be easier.

Even if you don’t think long distance shots are likely to occur in a self-defense situation, there is plenty of value to be had practicing these shots. Whether it’s to be prepared for the unlikely event you need to take a long shot, or just to reinforce the fundamentals, practicing at extreme distances is a great way to push your limits and improve your skills.

Do you practice long distance shooting?

5 Reasons You Should Get Medical Training

Picture by UNC - CFC - USFK

When we train for self-defense we are often concerned primarily with the encounter. If you are smart, you train for everything leading up the encounter – handling the ‘interview’, taking a dominant position, and picking up pre-assault cues. You should also train for everything following the encounter, which may include surveying the scene, dealing with first-responders and bystanders, applying medical aid to those who need it, and possibly escaping if the scene is not secured.

Medical training is a huge part of dealing with the aftermath of a violent encounter, but it can even be useful during the event, depending on the scope of the encounter. It would be good to not bleed out during a prolonged shootout while waiting for help to arrive.

Getting medical training is a good idea for a number of reasons, here are 5 of them:

First aid skills are an asset in many situations

At the local gym where I teach karate, a gym member collapsed about a month ago after getting off an elliptical machine. Heart failure can happen anywhere, and so can a variety of other medical situations. You never know where or when your first aid skills might come in handy. Thankfully this woman survived thanks to the quick action of several staff members at the gym, and their CPR and AED skills. Even if you don’t ever need to defend yourself, basic first aid can be an asset.

You might be injured in an encounter

If you are ever attacked, your opponent might have the drop on you. Even with the best training we can get, there is still a good chance of becoming injured. We could get stabbed or shot in a fight. Being prepared to deal with these calamities includes being able to manipulate your chosen tools with either hand, and learning to operate them with a single hand.

You also want to know how to apply first aid to yourself. The goal is to keep yourself alive and conscious while waiting for first-responders to arrive on the scene. These skills can be the difference between going home to your family or not.

A friend or bystander could be injured in an encounter

When we prepare for a violent assault, we put great emphasis on making sure we don’t spray and pray. We make sure to know where our rounds are going to ensure we hit the threat, and no one else. Our attacker might not be so conscientious. This means that upon resolving a threat, we might have injured people that need aid.

While it may not be your responsibility per se to be prepared to help those around you who may be harmed by a violent assault, are you prepared to look into the eyes of your wife, husband, son, or daughter as they lay bleeding on the asphalt, unable to do anything about it?

Your attacker could be injured

If you are successful in thwarting an assault, it is highly likely your attacker is at a minimum wounded. You could say “screw him” and let him die (and in some localities this might be legally the best option you can take). I would like to think that if I used deadly force on another human being, I would also make my best effort to apply aid to that person if they needed it. Using deadly force is not something to take lightly, so having the ability to help someone and turn a deadly self-defense shooting into just a self-defense shooting is a good skill to have.

Injuries in training

In training, whether just a trip to the range or at an organized shooting class, injuries can happen. Put a bunch of new acquaintances in a confined area, give them weapons and have them move and shoot while under pressure. Accidents can happen. Gun shot wounds have happened at classes before, and I’m sure they will happen again. Be prepared for it, and reduce the risk that you have to watch someone die because you weren’t ready.

If you shoot alone this is even more important. Something could happen while you are alone, and you won’t be able to count on anyone else for aid. Knowing how to stabilize yourself while you wait for help to arrive could easily be the difference between this being your last trip to the range or just one of many to come.


*** warning: explicit language ***

Violence can happen just about anywhere. It goes without saying that injuries including gunshots, knife wounds, and even just heart failure can happen just about anywhere. Get some training, and be prepared for these occurrences so if they ever happen in your life, you’ll be ready for them.

What medical training do you have? Let us know in the comment section below!

How To Train Dangerous Techniques

Image by thefuturistics

Last week I sent an email to my email subscribers looking for some feedback on exactly what they were looking to get from Indestructible Training. One reader, John, asked to see more on “down and dirty street fighting”. This post is my take on an aspect of training for the street, especially those ‘dirty’ techniques that aren’t usually easy to train in a cooperative environment. If you have a topic you want to hear more about hop over to the contact page and let me know. Or be like John and subscribe to get updates via email and you too can receive exclusive content and special offers.

The street is a dangerous place. A place with no rules. When confronted on the street and your life is in danger, there is no need to hold yourself to some arbitrary set of rules designed for your safety. Your adversary certainly won’t hold himself to them.

Unlike competitive martial arts where rules dominate the competition, the street tends to get a little off the beaten path. Eye gouging, shots to the groin, spitting, etc are all useful tactics on the street. The problem with many of these tactics is the difficulty you might have in practicing them. It tends to be hard to find a cooperative partner who won’t mind you gouging his eyes out.

Keep in mind that these tactics don’t always work, and cannot be the foundation for your self-defense training. Cecil Burch wrote an excellent article about dirty tactics and grappling that outlines many of the misunderstandings about dirty tactics in grappling.

How do we practice these techniques?

Most applications that we train tend to be dangerous, especially for our attacker. Therefore it is dangerous to practice those applications with full realism. I can’t shoot my training partner, and he probably wouldn’t enjoy wiping my spit from his face.

This is why in just about any type of training there is a separation of training the technique with training the application of it. In shooting I spend time on the range and dry-firing at home to build my gun handling skills, but to practice the application of self-defense I use Sims or inert trainers with a partner. This is not a perfect solution since a blue gun can’t simulate recoil, but it is a lot safer than introducing live fire to close quarters fighting.

The same applies to things like eye gouging. You can spend time practicing these techniques with an inert dummy (like a manikin, not your pal with the lowest IQ). Getting comfortable with the technique at full speed and power is important to being able to use it when you need it.

However, training techniques without any application is short sighted. Being able to practice applications against a non-cooperative adversary is key to ensuring the skill can work for you in real life. There are usually two options for working these skills with a partner. You can train full speed and power, but not strike your partner, or you can train slower with less power, and stop before hurting your partner.

Full Speed and Power

Training full speed and power with your partner usually means stopping short, or striking past your partner. This works best for things like kicks to the fronts of the knees. The benefit is that you get the effect of practicing to deliver the strike without hurting your partner. The downside is you might build a bad habit of striking short or missing your adversary.

Low Speed and Power

The other option is to go almost to full extension without fully impacting your partner. For example with an eye gouge I can execute the technique to the point of being ready to apply pressure. This helps me work on targeting and finding openings, but without the mess. This too can build bad habits so must we consider carefully how we use this in our training.

The best bet is to combine both methods. Either method requires you and your partner to have a foundation of trust and good communication. Nothing is more fun than dodging a face punch to move right into the path of the punch. There is no ideal way to train some of the most dangerous techniques, but you can get most of the way there.

What dangerous techniques do you train, and how do you train them?

High Speed Low Drag…At the Gas Station.

Photo by xandert

Does the order in which we do things really matter? And how important is it to be efficient when we go about accomplishing everyday tasks? Sometimes order and efficiency won’t help you, but sometimes they can mean the difference between life and death.

The military drills into young recruits a specific order for getting dressed. The idea is to ensure preparedness by making sure the necessary items like pants and shoes get on first. These methods are ingrained in the minds of fresh recruits so when under pressure (say in a sudden attack) they make the right choices in getting dressed. Going into battle without your pants is probably a bad thing in most cases.

I would assert that this same principle applies to other facets of our lives. If not to ensure we are best prepared for a given situation, an efficient process will at the very least save time and energy.

Getting Into and Out of Vehicles

You might not currently think of them this way, but vehicles are a death trap. They confine you into a small area and, worse yet, you are often in less than ideal circumstances when you are getting into and out of them. Two things are very important with a vehicle: be able to get out of it quickly, and be able to get into it quickly.

Streamlining embus and debus (getting into and out of vehicles respectively) is important because we want to minimize the time that we are preoccupied with our vehicle instead of our surroundings. You can practice these actions until they are second nature, but we want to make sure they are quick.

For me getting out of a vehicle begins with my left hand across my chest, slipping under the seat belt. My right hand immediately goes for the belt buckle. This position should be pretty familiar to any shooter who practices their draw stroke. My goal here is to clear the seat belt quickly, and efficiently.

Once there I unbuckle the belt with my right hand while sweeping the belt away with my left. If the vehicle is running, my right hand goes for the keys while my left makes its way to the door handle. By doing this I enable myself to very quickly transition from turning the vehicle off to opening the door.

The car is turned off, and I remove the key while my left hand opens the door fairly aggressively. I secure the door with my left foot, followed by my left hand. Once the door is secured from moving I can lift myself out of the vehicle and step back from the door, closing it with my left hand.

This whole process is mirrored for the passenger side. Getting into the vehicle is similar but in reverse. If possible I have my keys in hand prior to arriving at the vehicle. My left hand opens the door, and then posts it open. I get into the car, closing the door with my left hand. My right hand engages the key, and I put on my seat belt once rolling.

Efficiency getting into and out of a vehicle is a life saving skill, and the order in which you do things certainly does matter. Ultimately you want to minimize the amount of time you sit in a stationary vehicle. Like getting dressed, the order in which we complete the tasks associated with getting in or out of a vehicle should result in us accomplishing that task quickly, while also preventing us from getting caught with our pants down. If you want to learn more about embus and debus seek out instruction from Southnarc, I cannot recommend his classes highly enough.

ATMs

You probably already realize that an ATM is a great place to get mugged. You withdraw some money, immediately making you a valuable target. I prefer to use an ATM that has a door that closes (and locks) to an exposed ATM. The order in which you should do things to access this ATM will not change a whole lot either way.

When you roll up to an ATM you want to make sure you have your card ready. Whether it is to gain access to the ATM building or just the ATM itself, you’ll need it. You want to minimize exposure, and having the card ready before you get to the ATM is a great way to do this. Stopping at the ATM and hanging out in your car is not a good solution. Every moment you are fixated on something other than being aware of your surroundings increases the likelihood of finding yourself in a bad situation.

If you arrive in a vehicle, getting out of the vehicle quickly and efficiently is key. Get the card in the machine quickly, and use the down time where it is getting ready to request a pin to scan the surroundings. If all is safe, punch in the pin and get it done. Any time the ATM is processing and you are waiting for it, take advantage of this time to keep checking your surroundings. Get that card back as quickly as possible, and don’t worry about putting the money in your wallet or your card away until you are back in your vehicle and out of there.

If you are going the safer route and using an enclosed ATM, your job is much simpler. Having the card out means you can get into the building quickly, and get the door closed. Once inside you have a safer environment to take your time getting your money. Make sure you check your route on the way back out of the ATM before leaving. When you do leave, don’t stop to do something (this is not the time to tie your shoe, answer a call from your mom, or trim your fingernails), get right back in your car or head to your next destination.

Using an ATM presents many minor challenges and risks. These risks are mitigated by the efficiency with which you act.

Getting Gas

When you stop to get gas the same principles apply. We have yet another opportunity to get out of the car quickly and efficiently. Again, having your card (or cash) ready helps to minimize how long we spend interacting with the pump and our wallets (and perhaps the cashier) and maximize the amount of time we can spend with our heads up and alert.

Getting back into the vehicle works the same way. Get in efficiently, and get the car moving ASAP. If you are like my wife and NEED to put the card and receipt away before you drive off, get the doors locked, the car on, and put the car in drive before you start fiddling with your wallet. If a bad situation arises, you are only a pedal press away from putting the car in motion.

You can apply this concept to many facets of our lives. We can usually create a better tactical situation by finding ways to do things more efficiently. Knowing how to streamline your efforts and take advantage of better efficiency can minimize your exposure to risk and give you a much better chance of making it through the day.

The Carpenter’s Tools

The past few weeks I have written some posts on the subject of why one tool is better or worse than another. More specifically, you may have noticed my low opinions of shotguns and revolvers. The arguments that are typically fired back in favor of these firearms (or any firearm as the ultimate tool above all others) are the result of flawed logic. The same is also true of the individual who argues that his high capacity pistol or his tricked out AR15 will solve all his problems.

Skills solve problems; tools only help you to solve them.

Take for example carpentry. Having a hammer doesn’t make me a master carpenter. I have a garage full of saws, drills, and hammers, but I am far from what one would consider a carpenter. Sure I can throw some scrap wood together or build myself a workbench, but the quality of my output doesn’t compare to that of someone who spends their career working with wood. I can buy all the best tools, but a top of the line saw or drill won’t make up for my limited skills.

The biggest difference between carpentry and self-defense is that a carpenter’s skills aren’t used in life or death situations. I could spend my time trying to become a master carpenter, but since I probably won’t have to rely on my carpentry skills to save my life, I prefer to train. Just like with carpentry, we have many tools at our disposal for training. What many people fail to realize is that in the end, training is not about the tools, it’s about you. The carpenter may use tools to get the job done, but tools have no value without a skilled practitioner.

Rather than fixating on finding the perfect tool to solve a problem, we must all invest time and energy into training the skills we will need. You must practice.

Shotguns can in fact miss, and revolvers aren’t really that easy to shoot. Semi-auto pistols, even high capacity ones, can require reloading or can malfunction. Even an AK47 can malfunction. The list goes on and on. No tool you can use is magical.

Before someone expects to go out and earn their living as a carpenter, they go to a vocational school and or spend time as an apprentice. They spend probably thousands of hours practicing before they put their skills to use to pay the bills. Even after these skills start paying the bills, through working every day a carpenter improves and gets better at his job.

Self-defense is somewhat unique in that the entire investment in skills may come down to be used in a single moment. We cannot choose when or where this moment will occur, or if it ever does occur. We certainly need to invest our time up front beforehand to be ready. We cannot rely on the use of our skills in our day to day life to necessarily improve them. Instead you must practice consistently.

The carpenter prepares in order to do everyday jobs, but he also prepares for the less common special requests a job might require. If he prepared only for the common tasks, he limits the opportunity to find other work.

Don’t rely on any tool, whether it is a certain type of pistol, rifle, knife, whatever. Take that tool, and learn to be effective with it. Master its use so that if you are ever called upon to use a weapon to defend yourself, you aren’t relying on the weapon so much as your training.

When Is the Toolbox Too Big?

Image by booleansplit

It is common in the training world to hear people refer to adding tools to their toolbox. This metaphorical toolbox contains all the techniques (and their variations) that you have acquired and carry with you in your daily life. Your toolbox may contain tools for your shooting, clinch work, knife fighting, stand up, you name it. People have bought into this toolbox metaphor so much that they brag about how big their toolbox is.

My question, however, is when is this toolbox too big? I like to have plenty of tools in my shed, garage, or workshop, but do I really need to carry around every tool I have ever owned?

Training is merely a matter of repetition. The more practice you get at a particular skill, the sharper that skill is. Continuing the toolbox metaphor, this means that whether we have one tool or two-hundred tools, we need to keep them all sharp if we intend to use them. The problem here is that in the modern age, time seems to be at a premium. Unlike your workshop tools, you can’t pay someone else to sharpen your skills for you.

The larger your toolbox, the heavier it is. It is hard work to carry around all those tools when you might only need a few. Every variation of a tool we carry adds weight to the tool box. How many different size Phillips head screwdrivers can you really use? Keeping only the tools needed to get the job done makes finding one in a hurry a lot simpler. If you need a screwdriver, how do you decide which of your Phillips head screwdrivers to use? It will almost always be the first one you get your hands on.

Violent confrontations are high pressure and high speed events. You don’t have time to select a variation of a skill – you need to know what you need and have it be instinctual. Like the screwdrivers, the more variations of a skill you have, the harder it is to recall and employ the correct one under pressure. You are more likely to simply employ the variation you are most familiar with, whether that is the variation you would consciously choose for the task or not. You will naturally default to what you have trained the most. If you train multiple ways of performing a skill, you risk either not having a clear default, or wasting your time training skills you cannot recall under pressure.

Hopefully we’re now in agreement that the size of the toolbox needs to be managed. If we are to shrink the toolbox how do we decide what to keep and what to leave at home?

Maximize coverage while minimizing overlap

We need the broadest set of skills that will cover every task we may need to perform while decreasing the overall size of the toolbox. When talking about actual tools, this can often mean finding tools that can perform multiple tasks. I don’t need to be fluent in twenty different methods of reloading a pistol. I don’t need to master every grappling system that exists, and I don’t need to be able to throw fifteen different punches.

Instead you should focus your efforts on keeping what works the best. When you find a better hammer than the one you currently own and use, replace your hammer. Save it somewhere, but only carry with you the best tools you have access to. Constantly train and refine, but rather than try to keep every tool sharp, pick the ones you really plan on using, and store the other ones. You should always be trying to find the best combination of tools for you.

WP Like Button Plugin by Free WordPress Templates