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?

Let Me Introduce You To Your New Best Friend: Your Target

The best tool for improving your marksmanship is your target. Like your best friend, your target is always there and willing to help. But unlike your best friend, your target will not lie to you. Whatever you are doing wrong or right, your target will provide an immediate and unambiguous record. If you know how to read your target, there is a wealth of knowledge to be had every time you go shooting.

The principle is simple really. Just about every common shooting error presents in a predictable way on your target. If you make one of those common mistakes, your target will show it. Knowing how to identify these mistakes can help you easily self-correct and improve your shooting.

Learning to read (your target)

A variety of individuals and organizations have published charts to assist you in identifying your errors.

Using a chart to identify your errors can be straightforward, but if you haven’t done it before there are a few tricks to make it easier.

Step 1: shoot the target

Until your target has holes, there isn’t much it can do for you. Kind of like if your wife were to ask you if an outfit looks good on her despite the fact that you haven’t seen it. The question gets you nowhere except a trip to the doghouse. You can’t blame your target when you shoot poorly, but she still blames you if she doesn’t like your answer. Go figure.

Step 2: consult the chart

Once you have holes in your target, the fun begins. Now you can compare your target to a chart and identify your shooting errors. How you compare will depend heavily on the kind of chart you are using.

These charts come in two main varieties: shot group examples, and wheels. The shot group example charts tend to show pictures representing example groups. With this kind of chart, find the picture that most closely represents your target.

With the wheel charts, things are a little different. Here you need to compare your group position to an area on the wheel. Once you have found a group or a section on the wheel, you should now have a list of one or more errors you could be making.

Step 3: process of elimination

Once you have your list of errors you can start eliminating potential problems. For example the first chart below indicates that with the pistol groups hitting low left generally can be caused by poor trigger control or poor sight alignment.

In order to identify which of these errors you could be committing, you should start by posting a fresh target and shooting another group. This time focus on not making one of the errors you found. With the above example you might choose sight alignment. Make sure those sights are perfectly aligned for each shot. Did the issue go away? If not then repeat but try focusing on a perfect trigger squeeze.

If you go through all the listed options without fixing your issue, you have one of a few potential problems: you were unable to actually self-correct one of the issues, your chart is incomplete and you are committing another unmentioned error, or you are combining multiple unrelated problems which happen to combine to look like a different problem altogether.

Potential pitfalls

Before you head to the range and expect these charts to be your new savior, remember one thing: these charts are imperfect. The real world isn’t always black and white. It’s not impossible to be doing more than one thing wrong (sometimes they will even cancel each other out, masking the problems altogether).

Sometimes you might find new and exciting ways to screw up too, meaning your mistake might not be on the charts at all. Congratulations, have a cookie.

Charts

Not all charts are created equal. They tend to all have common themes and areas where they overlap, but some charts list errors that others don’t. The amount of information on these charts can differ greatly. Which one you use is up to you. When in doubt keep a collection of various charts – more information is never a bad thing so long as you can parse it.

There are many similarities between disciplines, but for the most part these charts are targeted towards one type of shooting. Below are some charts I have found for analyzing pistol marksmanship. If you are looking for a chart that covers rifle marksmanship errors, check out an Appleseed, they provide some great materials.

1. Target Shooting Canada:

This is a good fundamentals chart of the group examples variety. This is a great place to start, especially if you are just starting out.

2. NEShooters (Awerbuck):

This analysis tool caters more to the tactical/defensive shooting crowd. Personally I take exception to a few of the listed errors: in particular 9 o’clock shooting errors being caused by not resetting the trigger quickly enough. This is a good example of a more complicated wheel type chart presenting all of its information in one diagram.

3. Degrata Tactical:

Another good general fundamentals chart, similar in many ways to the first. While the first one had brief lists of errors, this actually provides advice on correcting technique.

4. Xavier Thoughts:

This chart is probably one of the best because it’s so simple. Unlike the other charts I listed, this one is a very concise and clear wheel type chart, but it does require a bit more knowledge to use.

Analyze your groups regularly to improve

Your target doesn’t lie. If you want to improve your shooting and don’t have the luxury of the oversight of an experienced instructor, the next best option is to look at your target. Let your target do the teaching. With the right materials, you can identify your errors and correct them yourself.

What group analysis resources do you use in your training? Post a comment and share!

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.

4 Factors For Finding the Best Time of Day to Train

Photo credit: remind

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

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

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

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

How do you decide when to train?

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

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

1. When do you have time?

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

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

2. When do yo have the energy?

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

3. When can you minimize distractions?

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

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

4. When are resources available?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving Your Training With Skills Assessments

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

What is the biggest challenge in training? Some might argue that it is determining exactly what to spend your time on. It can be very easy to practice mindlessly, but to get the best results for your time you need to know exactly how to stage your training.

When you undertake your training you are trying to reach some sort of goal. Achieving a singular, simple goal can be easy, just practice until you succeed. Balancing your training to reach a complex set of goals on the other hand is where things get difficult. How do you manage these kinds of goals to achieve them all in a finite set of time?

Drive your training with assessments

One method for balancing your training and determining exactly what you will work on is a progress assessment. The concept is simple: measure your progress against your goals, and re-balance your training plan accordingly.

Sometimes dividing all of your time equally among many activities has the downside of diluting your efforts to the point of ineffectiveness. Redirecting your training based on a set of assessments has the benefit of allowing you to determine exactly what needs the most work so you can direct the most effort to that area.

How do you assess?

The biggest hurdle in driving your training with these assessments is determining exactly what and how to assess.

Some things are easily assessed. Weight lifting provides a simple example. You know exactly how many reps you did, and how much weight you are lifting.

Other areas are not quite so easy.

Shooting is a great example of this. Unlike weight lifting, every training session doesn’t measure progress in itself (unless you have a lot of money and a range in your backyard). Dry-fire is much harder to measure than live fire. You can improvise in dry-fire, but you need expensive equipment to avoid sacrificing the accuracy of your measurement.

Make the most out of each range session and devote at least some of it to measuring your progress by recording hits and times on a consistent course of fire. Personally I use the F.A.S.T. and Dot Torture to measure my own progress.

Some things can be even harder to measure than your ability to hit a target or the amount of weight you can lift. Take for example some fairly subjective things like your fighting techniques. What are you struggling with the most? Kicking, punching, or maybe footwork? There is no completely objective way to measure these skills. If you can’t be objective (or even if you can) you might want to ask a training partner or an instructor on a recurring basis to determine exactly what you need the most work on. If neither is available, consider video recording yourself, it might make self-assessment easier.

Taking your scores home

Once you have a good idea of exactly how you are performing, you need to take those numbers and turn them into an adjustment to your training plan.

Weight lifting naturally lends itself to self-adjustment. If you are working to improve your bench press, you might choose some weight and attempt to perform a number of repetitions. When you can successfully complete that number you increase the weight.

Shooting on the other hand might not be as obvious to adjust. One method to use here is to take your scores from your shooting assessment and compare them against your goal.

Personally I’m trying to improve my F.A.S.T. When I look at my resulting time breakdown, I can see exactly how I performed. Since my goal is for an overall time I compare my component times to what I know are good times. How does my draw, reload, and follow up shots stack up against David Sevigny’s (or some other master class shooter)? I know my reload time is the component furthest from my goal, so I emphasize my training towards correcting that weak spot. When my assessment indicates that my reloads have improved, I will refocus onto my next weakest area.

Why base your training off of assessments?

When you train without a defined purpose, or without clearly measurable goals, you are destined to not hold yourself to a real standard. Measuring your progress allows you to confirm that what you are doing is really working. If you find yourself expending lots of effort for little gain, it might be time to try something different.

Your goal in training should be to improve your ability as a whole, but also to round yourself out. The shooter with the best draw in the world but the worst reloads isn’t the best shooter in the world; instead, the shooter with the best balance of skills will always be better. The same goes for just about anything. If you only train what you want to train, or what you are good at, you won’t really be improving yourself because these big gaps in your overall abilities will remain. Using methods to assess your progress and logically determine what to work on takes your ego out of the loop and allows you to work on what you really need to work on.

How do you assess your skills and determine what to train?

Do You Spend Too Much Time Reading About Training?

Photo Credit: ugaldew

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that there are a lot of people who spend time reading about and researching training. They might spend a lot of time figuring out what to train, or how to train it, but spend very little time actually training. Reading about training and training are two different things… and more of your time should be spent actually training.

Reading about training has its benefits

Reading about training has quite a few benefits. You can spend a lot of time hitting the books and scouring the internet for ideas on training. For example there are a ton of sites targeting MMA fighters and weight lifters talking about topics such as periodization, program building, and various exercises or drills you might want to add to your own training regimen.

When you hit up forums, you can find like-minded individuals and share ideas or compare notes on training programs, ultimately giving you a way to validate your ideas, theories, and training plans.

What’s the problem?

The problem here isn’t that you shouldn’t read about or discuss training regularly, it’s that spending more time talking about training isn’t going to make you stronger, faster, or a better shot. There are plenty of armchair generals (and fighters for that matter) that would rather talk about it than do it. Do you really want to be in that crowd?

Spending too much time reading about training can lead to over-analyzing the problem… analysis paralysis as some people say. Rather than spend all your time planning out how you are going to train, I am going to recommend you follow the advice of General George S. Patton:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

Stop over-analyzing and spend some time actually training!

Finding the golden ratio

Since there is benefit to reading and discussion, you don’t want to toss it completely. Instead you are really looking for that perfect ratio of training to study and planning. How exactly do we find that perfect ratio?

I really don’t know. All I can do is provide you with some concepts to help you narrow in on the perfect ratio for you. Firstly, if you add up all the time you spend reading about your training, you will find that amount of time is probably more than you thought. Ask yourself if you could use a little of that time for additional training. If you dedicate time to reading about training, you should probably not be spending more than 10 – 20% of the time you spend actually training.

If you happen to be fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your perspective), you might have downtime throughout the day when it may be inconvenient to train, but you can easily read and discuss online. Those of you with a long train commute can’t exactly use that time to dry-fire, but pulling up a reader program or a good book is a great way to make use of your time.

If you are recovering from injuries, read away while you are healing. Keeping your mind focused on training despite your body’s pleas to stay off the mats is a great way to minimize the time it takes for you to get back up to speed when you recover.

There is a ton of information out there on training. It would be a travesty not to tap into that knowledge to make your own training more efficient and effective. It would also be a travesty to ignore your training altogether just to think about what you want to do next. Sometimes it’s better to get off your chair and away from the screen and just train.

Do you spend too much time reading instead of training? What ratio of reading to training do you use?

You Don’t Have to Be an IDPA Champion to Benefit from Incremental Improvement

Photo Credit: mai05

Occasionally you might compare yourself with the top competitors and experts within the field in which you train. This can be daunting as their abilities seem far beyond what you have achieved, and getting there seems impossible.

What separates them from you? Incremental improvement.

What can be hard to realize is that the best way to get better at something is simply making the effort. Sometimes the gains measured from a single training session are miniscule. Add a week’s worth of training sessions and you might have something really measurable.

The problem is that every day you go without training your skills fade just a little bit. If you go a whole week without training, you have lost quite a lot, and a whole month? Even more. The longer you go between training sessions, the more rapidly you lose the gains you have made. In order to minimize this degradation of your skills, you must train consistently and often.

Showing up really is half the battle.

Incremental improvement in every session is good; it means you aren’t getting worse.

One common problem I have seen is the desire to train in fewer but longer sessions. If you measure your training sessions in arbitrary chunks of time, each chunk of time you spend training after the first garners less improvement than the one before it. Instead of spending all of your time training on one day, spread it out over the whole week and you increase your capacity to improve.

Since the length of time since your last training session seems to directly correlate with the amount of skill lost, it just makes sense to train more often for shorter amounts of time. Don’t assume that long training sessions will compensate for a sparse schedule. The epitome of this is the weekend warrior who takes several high priced classes in a year. Is he better than the guys who don’t take many classes but train regularly? Absolutely not. He isn’t benefiting from incremental improvement.

Long story short: keep your sessions shorter and more frequent and you should improve faster by avoiding deterioration of your skill set.

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!

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?

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