Do Targets and Ranges Affect How We’re Training?

Published April 29, 2013 by
Filed under CCW, Equipment, Mindset, Practice, Self Defense, Training

Is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others…

One of my bugaboos right now is there is little, if any integrated training right now for “civilians” that combines firearms and empty-hand techinques into a cohesive whole. I can go the the range and practice and train with a gun, and I can go to the dojo and learn to take (and throw) a punch, but there are precious few trainiers out there that are bringing the two together and teaching it in a way that is replicatable outiside of the dojo/range. Part of the problem, I think, is what we’re using to train ourselves. How can we in the “civilian” world talk about integrating guns and empty-hand techniques in a “force continuum” when we don’t have a target system that allows for a variety of responses? We shoot at IPSC, IDPA, etc and practice with our firearms shooting at paper targets, and then throw punches and kicks at an entirely different type of target in the dojo.

Maybe we need a one-size fits all target, something that can respond to punch or a kick like a heavy bag and at the same time take a pistol or .223 round without requiring major surgery. Something like that will allow us to judge our responses by the target’s threat (or not) and not by what the target is made out of. We’re training ourselves to shoot paper and punch heavy-duty PVC, we need to think in terms of threat itself, not what the target is made out of.

Use of force continuum

Thinking more about things, the place where we do our training influences also what we’re learning. I know going into the dojo that I’m going to learn punches/kicks/throws and the most we’ll deal with firearms is maybe a blue gun or two. I know walking onto the range I’m going to work on solving lethal force threats with a gun, and for safety reasons, I’m not probably not going to do anything physical while I’m armed.

What if we didn’t know what we were training for until we got to the training site?

What if a range was set up so that people could train with airsoft and/or empty-hand in one side, and safely practice live-fire on another side? How would that affect how we integrate concealed carry and empty-hand defensive techniques? What are your thoughts? Is what we’re using for practice targets and where we’re training affecting our approach to armed and unarmed self-defense? 

Training Review:

Published April 25, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Self Defense, Training

Online carry training reviewAdvantages: Qualify for an Arizona Non-Resident concealed carry permit anytime, anywhere there’s an internet connection

Disadvantages: Basic information only, no interaction, no re-watching 

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The guys over at reached out to me and asked me to review their product, which was fortuitous, because I’d been thinking about online firearms training for awhile now. Online education has become quite the thing since I took some online classes back in 2002, and I was curious to see what their course was like and if it was a viable alternative to real-live people classes. 

The verdict? Sorta. It depends not on what they’re teaching, but rather on what you want to learn.

A little about my firearms training background. At this point, I’ve got about 100 total hours of gun-related training under my belt, some in big classes, some of it one on one. I’ve gone through the NRA Instructor class and USPSA Range Officer training, taken classes from a bunch of different local and national schools, and I’ve got Massad Ayoob’s MAG40 class and an Appleseed event on my training horizon. I’m not Todd Green, but I’m not Gecko45 either. 

The class is simplicity itself: A fifteen minute video, with a short test afterwards. Pass the test, you’ll get a get a certificate that says you took the class and qualify for a CCW permit. A note of caution: The video covers the basic information you need to know to safely use a semi-automatic pistol: It doesn’t cover the operation of revolvers at all. and what it teaches about pistols is short and to the point. Grip, stance, sight picture, all the things that my NRA First Steps class covered, but it’s covered in less than an hour, not half a day. Take notes. No, really, take notes, especially if you’re unfamiliar with firearms. There’s a lot of data packed into this class, and unlike a class with a live person, you can’t get more help if you need it. 

To be honest, I missed being able to ask questions, but then again, I have a curious mind and I learn what I want to learn, which may or may not be what’s being taught. I’m always “that guy” in the class that just can’t sit still and listen to the lecture and always has to ask questions, and there was no opportunity to do so with this class. 

As for what’s taught, the course is comprehensive, but short. It’s pretty much the standard NRA stuff about sight picture and gun safety, but taught via video and not by a person. The product values are first-rate, and the presentation was easy to follow. Due to my training and experience, the test (for me) was easy, but I was a little quick on the clicker and entered two wrong answers due to errant mouse clicks, ending up with a 90%. 

Sue me. 

As an Arizona resident, I wasn’t familiar with what an Arizona Non-Resident permit gets you, but it’s not bad. Complete this course successfully, and you get to carry in… 

  • Alabama
  • Alaska*
  • Arizona*
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Vermont*
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming*

*These are “Constitutional Carry” states. You don’t actually need a permit to carry concealed in these states, but in my opinion, it’s a good idea to have one anyways. 

As I said, not bad. If you live in a state without reciprocity for those states, this course is a pretty good deal for you. 

So, was it worth it?

Well, that depends on what you’re trying to get out of it.

If you actually want to learn to use your gun defensively, you’ll definitely need more training than this course, and to‘s credit, they mention this fact a number of times throughout the class. This course is a painless way to get the government’s permission to accomplish the “Carry” portion of “Carry, Compete, Practice, Train”. Nothing more, nothing less. 

However, if you want an easy way to qualify to carry in a bunch of states quickly, it’s worth your money and time to enroll. Set aside an hour, have some note paper handy, turn your computer speakers up, and get your CCW. It’s as easy as that. 

Technology. Gotta love it! 

Backup Plan

Published April 23, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Equipment, Mindset, Self Defense

Boker assisted openingWith all the endless varieties and kinds of knives out there, you’d think that someone would have made something specifically designed as an off-hand carry knife for people who carry a CCW gun on the strong side. 

And you’d be wrong. 

All I want is a knife that’s…

  • Small, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room in the pocket, yet have a decent blade (2.5″+) blade length.
  • Inconspicuous, so it doesn’t scream “Hey, I have a REALLY SCARY KNIFE ON ME!!!” (I work in an office).
  • Tip down carry, or ideally, reversible for strong or weak hand carry.
  • Assisted opening or something similar so I can get it into action if my other hand is on my sidearm. 
  • Cheap-ish, so if I lose it, I’m not out $100+. 

Right now, as part of the four things you should carry every day besides your carry gun, I have a Boker AK74 on me. The Boker is 3 1/2 of those 5 items (it’s a tip up, and is a tad bigger than I like), but it’s not quite what I want in a backup knife, and neither is the CRKT Pazoda I carried before that. I want something that I can get into play rightthisverysecond if someone tries to grab my sidearm and will help convince said person that trying to grab my gun was a very bad idea. 

I know a knife like that is out there somewheres, and if you’ve seen something like that, leave a link in the comments. 

It’s ok not to be tactical.

Published April 10, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Competition, Mindset, Self Defense, Training

Shooting Shirts and stuffCraig “Sawman” Sawyer (who I met this week) has some thought-provoking words on the differences between combat and competitive shooting

Because there is no sudden, inter-human violent confrontation, civilian competition shooting simply is unlikely to present such stress on the shooter. If the shooter experiences this level of stress shooting in a civilian sporting competition, I’d have serious concerns about his ability to perform to any degree, whatsoever, in a real life and death confrontation. Conversely, just because someone has performed well in combat, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily do well against experienced competition shooters in their environment. Someone who trains extensively for perfect conditions will absolutely become very good in those conditions. We all adapt to the stimulus we’re challenged with most often. 

I agree with what he’s saying for the most part. I compete in USPSA Production, IDPA SSP and 3 Gun Tac Limited, which means the guns and equipment I use in competition are pretty much like the guns I use to protect my family. In the case of IDPA, they are, in fact, the exact same equipment as what I carry. Unlike a lot of competitors in that sport, I use an IWB holster and draw from an untucked t-shirt, rather than use a “shoot me first” vest and speed rig to gain a competitive advantage. I want the training and the practice I get ON the range to match up as closely as I can to what I’m likely to face OFF the range.  

I also agree with Craig in the futility of emphasizing “gun solutions” in practical shooting competitions. Competition, and most firearms training classes as well, tend to teach that gun solutions above all else, rather than a tiered response to different threats (or lack thereof. Gun guys teach that every personal defensive problem has a gun solution. The dojo teaches that every problem has a punch, kick or throw solution. Very few people are teaching people not in uniform how to integrate the two . 

The one thing I’d say about Craig’s article is the need for more understanding on the “tactical” side of the aisle about what we “civilians” need to know. We probably won’t experience combat, and we’re perfectly ok with that.

I don’t want to know what it’s like to lay down cover fire or call in an airstrike; that’s the military’s job, nor do I want to form a CQB stack and clear a room like a SWAT team. All I want to do is keep my family safe in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world. Nothing else is like combat: I accept that fact 100%. I didn’t serve in the military, and I know my limitations. I’m fully aware that competitive shooting doesn’t equal actual combat in terms of danger, stress level or having to dealing with chaotic situations. 

But I still want to keep my family safe. 

I wasn’t a smokejumper and I don’t know how to run a 3 inch line from the hydrant to the fire, but I still have a fire extinguisher and a fire escape plan. I’m not an EMT or a trauma surgeon, but I still have a first aid kit and field bandages nearby at all times. And I didn’t serve on the front lines as Craig and millions of other brave men and women did and are doing, but I still keep my eyes open and have the will and the means to deal with a violent threat near me at all times.

I know enough (I hope) to keep my family safe in case something unexpected happens. You do what you can, not what you should.

I fully understand that what I’m learning in the dojo or on the sparring mat isn’t actually a bar fight or a mugging. But it helps. I know that an IDPA stage isn’t really a violent robbery attempt. But it helps. I know a Figure Eight drill isn’t dealing with an active shooter. But it helps. 

Along with millions of other people, I’ve realized I am my own first responder. How I’ll respond in a crisis remains to be seen, and quite frankly, I hope I never find that out. But if it happens, I’ll do what I can to keep myself and my family as safe as possible. 

Todd Green, who has a history with Law Enforcement and is one of the top pistol trainers out there, says it a lot better than I can

Possibly the biggest benefit of competition is that it is often the most stressful shooting many people will ever be exposed to. While obviously not the same as being in an actual gunfight, shooting in a competitive event in front of peers and strangers will do a great job of showing you just how easy it is to make mental mistakes under stress. Learning to stay focused on the task at hand and building experience fixing mistakes under pressure both have legitimate real world payoffs. 

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to competition shooting for the ‘defense-minded’ shooter. But, the pros are pretty universal and the cons are really only cons if you let them be. Because whether you stay true to your original purpose or give in to the dark side and become an absolute gamer, you’re still getting more time on the range and more experience shooting complex problems under stress. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that winning at a game makes you an honorary gunfighter, competition is a fun and effective way to become a better shooter. 

Oh, and one more reason to shoot IDPA or USPSA: They’re outrageously fun sports to participate in and the people you shoot with are some of the best people on earth. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you find a range nearby and give them a try. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself and your equipment. 

Static ranges are boring

Published April 9, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Competition, IDPA, Self Defense, Training

If you’re wonder why we here at TeamGunblogger endorse the idea of competition as a logical follow-on to getting your CCW, this video pretty much explains it all. 

Shoot Outside. 

Shoot On The Move. 

Stay Safe.

Have Fun. 

What Is A Safe Room?

Published April 2, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Equipment, Mindset, Self Defense

So in my last post I casually mentioned I have a safe room, specifically, 

“I have a Mossberg 500 in my safe room loaded with #4 buckshot, and I have a pistol (usually one of my CCW guns) on or near me at all times. The shotgun is for defense of the safe room, and the pistol is there to move around the house if needed. On my shotgun, I have a shotshell holder with extra buckshot and a few slugs. I figure 13 rounds or so rounds of #4 buckshot, a couple of slugs plus the content of my CCW pistol(s) will be enough to stop most threats outside of a rampaging bungalow or at least enough to hold them off until help arrives.” 

It occurred to me later that new gun owners and people new to the idea of personal self-defense don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “safe room”. Let’s explain it quickly and easily. 

A safe room is to personal protection
what a home fire escape plan is to fire prevention. 

And just like a home fire prevention plan, a safe room and a plan how to use it comes down to what’s important to you and how your home is set up. 

safe room home security planNow there’s probably more than a few people out there saying “Look, this is a bit much. I have a gun in my home so I’m safe, so why do I need to think about this sort of thing?” 

Let me ‘splain. 

At Cub Scouts a few years ago, my son and I were tasked with creating a home fire escape plan in order to earn a merit badge. We wrote out what we’d do in case of fire, how to tell if the fire’s outside your door and how to move through smoke. Good things to learn, but what are the chances of a deadly home fire versus the chances of a deadly home invasion? If you live in the Phoenix area, as I do, you hear stories on the news every week about home invasions. Deadly house fires? Not that often. 

Alright, so how DO you secure your home? Let’s look at a floor plan for a typical home in my area (your mileage may vary). X’s represent potential points of entry for bad guys such as windows or doors, and arrows are possible home invasion routes (1: Front door, 2: Garage, 3: Back door). To secure this house (or any other home) would take three steps. 

1. Secure the exterior
2. Strengthen the interior
3. Prepare a refuge

1. Secure the exterior

You know that old joke about the two hikers running from a bear and the one turns to the other and says “I don’t have to run faster than the bear, I just have to run faster than YOU!”? 

That’s what the outside of your house should look like. You don’t have to live in Fort Knox to be safe, you just have to make your home appear a little more difficult to break into than the home next door. If someone REALLY wants to get into your house, they’re going to to get in, but any casual burglar is going to look for the easy mark and not the bank vault. I know this from experience: My first house was a town home, and the house at the end of our block of houses DIDN’T have a security door while the rest of us did. Guess which one was broken into? You betcha, the one on the end.

Some quick and easy ways to secure the exterior of home are: 

    • Exterior lighting: You don’t need to light home your home like a prison yard to make it safer. I have a simple, cheap decorative yard lighting system in the front that makes my house look really snazzy and it also has a few spotlights in strategeric areas that light up otherwise dark corners. It makes my house look great and it makes burglars consider going to the house down the block which forgot to leave their porch light on.


    • Bushes and shrubs: One of the nice things about living in the southwest is there’s a whole lot of bushes that have pointy bits on them that can be planted beneath accessible windows. Now I’m not saying you should plant jumping cacti under your kid’s bedroom window, but a pyracantha bush looks great and HURTS when you get stuck in one (ask me how I know this…). 


    • Animals: Got a yappy dog? Good. Got a “Beware of the dog” sign? Better. 


  • Signs: I am not a big fan of the “I don’t dial 911, I dial .357!” type of sign: Why advertise to crooks there’s a highly desirable prize for them (a gun) in your home? And just what are you saying to a prosecuting attorney with such a thing on your front lawn? If you’ve got a burglar alarm (more on those later), advertise it. That gives crooks one more reason to move along. 

We’ll talk about burglar alarms next as part of how to…  

2. Strengthen the interior 

Ok, so the bad guy has decided the risk of breaking into your home is worth the potential reward. What can you do to make it harder for him/her? 

    • Get a burglar alarm: No, seriously, get one. Yes, the cops will not show up in time, we know that, that’s why we own a gun. And no, the alarm noise probably won’t scare the burglar off. But who’s watching over your stuff when you’re not around? What happens if there’s a fire when you’re not home? You can’t watch over your house 24/7: Get an alarm, because it gives you more time to get your plan into action, keeping you safer. 



  • Windows: Are they locks on your windows? Are you using them? Why not? 

3. Prepare a refuge 

Okay, so NOW your dog is barking and your alarm is going off and the bad guy is in your home and is not leaving.

This is pretty much a worst-case scenario.

Your job at this point is to get you and your family to a safe place and keep them there until the threat ends and/or help arrives. Your job isn’t to defend your big screen TV: It’s to keep you and your family alive. If the plan for a house fire is to get your family OUT of the house as quickly and safely as possible, the plan for a home invasion or armed burglary most likely be to get your family IN to your safe room as quickly as possible. Just as a good house fire escape plan as two escape routes for every family member planned out in advance, a good home defense plan has a plan and a backup plan in case that first one fails. 

Where should your safe room be? Depends on the home. Remember, time works for you, not him, so your safe room needs to be somewhere you can get to AHEAD of the bad guy. Also consider where you spend the most in your home: if 90% of your time is spent in the kitchen, family room and bedrooms, designating a safe room that’s near to all three of those rooms is a good idea. Let’s go back to that earlier floor plan. The three most likely entry points for a bad guy are, in order, the front door, the garage entrance and the back door. Most of the time spent in this home will be probably be spent in the bedrooms, kitchen/nook and the family room. Given all of this, I’d look at using the master bedroom closet in this house as a safe room because it’s got one entrance to cover which is REALLY easy to defend. The difficulty with this location will be getting getting any family members that are resting in the other bedrooms into the safe room before the bad guys get to them. That’s where a dog and/or an alarm come in handy: They both give you more time to react and get your plan into action and get your family safe. 

What should your safe room look like? Simply put, it should be more secure than any other room in the house. Make sure the door to the safe room locks, and reinforce the door with a heavy-duty striker plate at the very least. Consider putting some decorative bars on the window(s) if allowed by the HOA/landlord/zoning regs. Safely store a loaded firearm in the room and team it up with a first aid kit, flashlight and a charged cell phone (any cell phone, in a service plan or not) can call 911. Realize that “Panic Room” was just a movie: If someone REALLY wants to get into your safe room, they will, and at that point it will be up to YOU to stop the threat. 

Sobering stuff, I know, but it can happen to anyone. If you’ve accepted the fact that your house may catch fire so you have smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher, also realize that your house might be targeted for a violence and plan accordingly. Accidents (and crime) happen: It’s what we do to prepare for them that determines a successful outcome.