Firearms Training has become mainstream

Published June 27, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Competition, Equipment, Practice, Training

DSC_3985When The Art Of Manliness posts an article about attending the United States Shooting Academy and how to train with an airsoft gun, you know that learning how to operate a gun safely and effectively isn’t something for the military or mall ninja wannabes. Brett lists out some of the benefits of airsoft guns for firearms training, including… 

1:1 replica of your real gun. You can buy airsoft guns that look and feel like your real gun. They’ll fit in your holster. You can also add real-life tactical attachments to them. 

Provides near-realistic live-fire experience. Gas blow-back handguns do a good job simulating firing a real handgun. Great for practicing gun manipulation and drawing.

Low cost. This was the big selling point for me. A box of 50 real rounds can set you back $20. I can buy a bag of 3,500 airsoft BBs for $7. The low cost of airsoft allows you to experience a simulated live fire session for a fraction of the cost.

Safe. While you should treat an airsoft gun as if it were a real gun and take the same precautions as you would when practicing, you can rest easy that a BB won’t shoot through your garage wall and kill somebody.

You can do it anywhere. Instead of having to trek 20 miles to the gun range a few times a week, I can go to my garage every evening and practice to my heart’s content.

Provides opportunity for affordable, safe force-on-force training. If you want to practice real, force-on-force tactical scenarios, airsoft can help provide that experience. You can fire it at your buddy pretending to be a bad guy in your house and all he’ll feel is a sting (make sure he’s wearing eye protection though).

Awhile ago, I bought an airsoft replica of my daily carry gun, a CZ P07, and I found that practicing with it REALLY helped with practicing for practical pistol, and it was a great gun safety teaching tool for my wife and kids as well. If you’re hurting for training and practice because of the ongoing ammo shortage, consider purchasing airsoft replicas of your most-used guns and keep your skills up to date by practicing everything but the BANG with them.

Mind Frame

Published June 26, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Mindset, Self Defense

Hermosillo OrphanageI was a commercial advertising photographer for 15 years, and it always seemed that once somebody found out what I did for a living (usually guys) the next question would inevitably be, “Hey, so what’s a good camera for me” or “How do I take better pictures?”

My answers to these questions were true, but rarely pleasing. A good camera is the the one you currently own, as long as you have it with you and you know how to use it, and the secret to taking better pictures is taking LOTS of them and learn from your mistakes. “Well,” I’d say, “how many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”

Their eyes would glaze over, and you could see the gears of their mind slip as they grappled with the idea of shooting *a* roll of film a week just for practice, much less multiple rolls of film. For the record, my favorite camera wasn’t the Hassies or Sinars I owned, it was my little Olympus XA because I could carry it all the time and have it ready for when great photos happened right in front of me. Is there a connection between that and personal defense? You betcha. 

Craftsmanship and intent of purpose makes the difference between taking pictures and making a photograph. I’ve had some lucky shots in my time, but I’ve found that that the harder I work, the more great photos I take (like the shot that starts off this post).

Same thing with pistol shooting. When I mention to friends and acquaintances that my hobby is practical pistol competitions, I get asked “Y’know, I was thinking about getting a gun for home defense, and…,”(and yes, it’s usually guys that ask this question as well).

A pistol is not a talisman against attackers, just like buying the latest and greatest camera ain’t gonna make you Galen Rowell. Attitude, practice and dedication (and a whole lot of natural skill) are what make good photographers and good pistol shooters.

Being interested in defending your family against attack is a very good thing, but first start with the basics: Is the exterior of your home well-lit? Is there anything about your house that would discourage an intruder and send him somewhere else? Do you practice the Cooper Color Code or something similar when you’re out and about? No amount of firepower will make up for somebody getting the drop on you, and there’s not a pistol in the world that deters home invasions like an alarm company sign on your front lawn. 

The type of hardware you use is secondary (if not tertiary) to having the right attitude and state of mind, because the best gunfight is the one you DIDN’T get into. 

Stay safe. Have fun. And carry your gun, because it’s a lighter burden than regret. 

Another Reason Why This Website Exists

Published June 24, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, Competition, Equipment, Mindset, Practice, Self Defense, Training

If you've bought a gun recently, you're in a the majority.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation recently completed a survey of new gun owners and found that…

  • The majority of first-time buyers (60.3 percent) tend to be active, using their gun once per month or more, with one in five reporting usage of once a week or more.
  • Target shooting is by far the most popular shooting activity among first-time gun owners, with 84.3 percent of respondents saying they used their firearms for this purpose, followed by hunting (37.7 percent) and plinking (27.4 percent). Practical pistol shooting (17.3 percent) and clay-target shooting (14.6 percent) were shooting sports also enjoyed by first-time buyers.
  • First-time gun owners who have participated in hunting (53.2 percent), practical pistol shooting (46.3 percent), clay-target sports (44.0 percent) and gun collecting (42.4 percent) said they want to increase their participation in these activities.

If you’re one of the many, many people who has purchased a gun in the last few years, welcome, we hope you’ll find something you’ll find useful and enjoyable. 

Stick around, and we’ll both learn something. 

A Quick Start Guide to Practical Pistol Competition

Published June 20, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Equipment, Mindset, Practice, Self Defense, Training

As a relative newbie who still remembers his first pistol competition, I thought I’d jot down a few notes to help others get started. I ain’t Rob Leatham (yet), but I sympathize with those who want to get into practical pistol but don’t know where to start.

  • Shoot your daily carry pistol to start, but only if your daily carry gun is a compact 9mm or larger. If you carry a .38 snubbie or a compact .380, shoot something else. I started out with a CZ75 for home defence, and that’s what I still use in competition.
  • Don’t succumb to the temptation to lowball the holster. A $30 Fobus may look the same as a $70 BladeTech, but they’re completely different to use. One releases smoothly and easily every time, and the other can hang up and turn into an embarrassing, slow and potentially dangerous tug of war. I found this one out the hard way.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the other shooters. Even Brian Enos started out as a newbie.
  • Go to a match just to watch and learn the etiquette, safety routine and procedures of shooting before you compete.
  • Be sure to tell the scorer it’s your first time competing in a match: Chances are there will be a safety briefing you’ll need to go through before you compete, and that gives the scorer a chance to team you up with a more experienced shooter who can show you the ropes.
  • Practical pistol is a good way to learn how to shoot in a stressful environment, but it’s also a sport, so…
  • Relax. Be safe. Have fun.

Which is better: Outdoor shooting ranges or indoor ranges?

Published June 19, 2013 by
Filed under NRA, Practice, Training

Owning a gun is great thing, but owning a gun and shooting it on a regular basis is even better. Having a gun in your house isn’t going to make you safe anyomre than having a car on your driveway is going to get you to the corner grocery store: You have to learn how to use it safely and efficiently for it to do the job it’s supposed to do.

So what does it actually cost to shoot on a regular (monthly) basis? I visited some of the indoor and outdoor ranges near me to find out what a monthly practice session might cost a new shooter. My assumption is that you’ll go to the range and fire 50 rounds of ammo from a 9mm pistol at three different man-sized targets, which based on my experience is about what most casual shooters do on a typical day at the range.

Ranges: Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club (outdoors), Ted’s Shooting Range (indoors), Caswell’s Shooting Range (indoors), Phoenix Rod and Gun Club (outdoors), Scottsdale Gun Club (indoors) and Shooters World (indoors).
Lane Rental: One person for one hour
Ammo: 50 rounds of 9mm FMJ. For ranges without ammo sales (PRGC, Rio), I used the price of a box of 9mm at my local WalMart.
Gun Rental: A 9mm pistol for one hour. For ranges without gun rentals, I used the cost of a typical quality 9mm pistol ($540) spread out over 12 months.
Membership: One year’s individual membership. Range memberships at Ted’s is for 14 months not a year, so I reduced that amount for comparison purposes.

Just Visiting Lane Rental Ammo Gun Rental Monthly Cost Yearly Cost
Rio Salado $5.00 $13.00 $45.00* $18.00 $756.00
Caswells $15.00 $21.00 $7.00 $43.00 $516.00
Ted’s Shooting Range $14.00 $18.00 $9.00 $41.00 $492.00
Shooters World $15.00 $15.00 $10.00 $40.00 $480.00
Scottsdale Gun Club $15.00 $14.00 $14.00 $43.00 $516.00
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club $14.00 $13.00 $45.00* $27.00 $864.00

With Membership Lane Rental Ammo Gun Rental Monthly Cost Yearly Cost Membership
Rio Salado $0.00 $13.00 $45.00* $65.92 $791.00 $95.00
Caswells $0.00 $18.90 $0.00 $48.07 $576.80 $350.00
Ted’s Shooting Range $0.00 $18.00 $4.50 $44.17 $530.00 $260.00
Shooters World $0.00 $14.25 $5.00 $40.08 $481.00 $250.00
Scottsdale Gun Club $0.00 $13.00 $0.00 $44.67 $536.00 $380.00
Phoenix Rod and Gun Club $0.00 $13.00 $45.00* $71.75 $861.00 $165.00

* $45 / month reflects the cost of owning your own pistol, spread out over 12 months

So for just a couple hundred dollars more per year or so, memberships at Rio Salado or Phoenix Rod and Gun look like a real bargain, right? After all, that price includes a new gun, and they have long-distance rifle ranges as well.

Not so fast.

First off, they’re outdoor ranges. Not bad now that temperatures in the Phoenix area are leveling off, but that sucks when it’s 115 degrees outside or, for colder climes, if it’s winter and the snow is waist-deep on the ground.

Secondly, both outdoor ranges have a minimum distance that you can set up targets, about 8 yards or so. Not a big issue for some, but if you’re trying to train a new shooter it can get discouraging for them to shoot and shoot and shoot and not see decent groups on the target.

So which should you chose?

That depends on your needs. I use both on a regular basis. I’ve been a member at Rio for over 5 years. I like their public range, and I like the people. But I won a year’s membership to Caswell’s last year, and I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of indoor shooting and the convenience of reserving a lane in advance.

It comes down to what kind of a shooter you are. A public outdoor range membership is great for people who know what they want in a firearm and don’t need (or want) to try out new guns. However, indoor rental ranges are the perfect to get into the shooting sports: For less than $50 a month, you can try out many different firearms and find the one(s) that suit you best and lets you grow into firearms ownership at your pace.

Either way, there are no bad choices: The worst day at the range is still better than the best day in the office.


So you’ve got your concealed carry permit. Now what?

Published June 17, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Mindset, Practice, Self Defense, Training

So, you’ve got your CCW. Now what?

Years ago, when I took my CCW class, our instructor had us look at the student on either side of us. 

“Look right, then look left. On average, only one of you is going to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. This class is not enough to stay safe, and only about one-third of you will actually learn how to defend yourself with a gun.”

I knew I’d be in that third, because I was taking the necessary steps to protect myself long before I took that class. Such as…

  1. Paying attention to what you’re paying attention to.
    AKA Observational skills. The best fight is the one that didn’t happen because you were aware of your environment and didn’t look like a victim. Learn how to use the Cooper Color Code or something similar so you’re aware of your surroundings and what’s around you, doubly so if you are carrying. And make sure you have more than just a gun with you to deal with the other emergencies in life.
  2. Finding training.
    A CCW class is a licensing class: It is not a training class. Learn how you react in stress situations, and take classes to help you manage and direct your stress. I recommend something like the Fundamentals of Combat Focus Shooting class as quick way to help learn what to do when you’re caught in a bad situation.
  3. Training like you (might) fight, fight like you train.
    Practice with your firearm. Learn some good dry-fire drills and practice them regularly. Get a good holster for your gun. Go to the range as often as you can, and most importantly, practice shooting the gun in stress conditions. Learning how to shoot a perfect one-hole group in 20 minutes won’t do you much good if you have to draw, aim and shoot in only a couple of seconds. If you want to get a good idea of what stress shooting feels like, I recommend shooting an IDPA or IPSC match at least once (and you’ll probably want to do it more after you try it). No, it’s not “combat” training, but it does teach you how you react to complex situations with a pistol in your hand. 
  4. Relax. Be safe. Have fun.
    Deciding to get a concealed carry permit is a decision most people will never make and are probably incapable of making. You’ve decided that your safety is in your hands and not in the government’s, and that’s a good thing. 

Help for Home Defense

Published June 13, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, Equipment, Mindset, Self Defense, Training

shotgun and light

Or, what to have in your home besides your gun. 

Now that you’ve had some training in your home defense firearm and have practiced with it to be familiar how it operates, what should you have in your home for self-protection besides your gun? If you’re a new gun owner, all of this may seem a little bit paranoid, and I totally understand. Don’t be afraid, though, because the point of this isn’t to live in fear, the reason for all of this is to gain the confidence that IF something happens, we can deal with it. Fear and paranoia should not be our driving force, but rather the desire to live our lives with free from fear because we are ready for the absolute worst day of our lives. 

Okay now, what do you need in your home besides a gun? 

A Safe Room

If you’ve created a self-defense plan for your home and have strengthened your doors and windows, designating a “safe room” as a refuge place should be part of that plan. In that safe room, you should have … 

A flashlight or two

Ideally, more than one. There is endless debate in the gunblogging world whether you want a weapon-mounted light like this Streamlight or a handheld flashlight like this SureFire. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but my recommendation is get one of each. There is NOTHING handier for lighting up where you gun is aimed at than a weapon-mounted light, but sweeping the muzzle of your gun at everything just so you can see what’s there is not a good idea. Get one of each. 


There’s an old, old saying out there that “two is one and one is none”. If you’re relying on your landline for emergency communications, it WILL fail when you need it most. 

Now what? 

Well, for starters, have an old unused cell phone plugged into the wall in your safe room. Any cell phone with a SIM card in it can be used to dial 911, whether it’s on a plan or not. We have an ancient “candy bar” Nokia in the safe room that still holds a decent amount of charge as a backup phone, and it performs that job admirably. 


If (God forbid) you have to use your gun defensively, you’re going to be talking with the police, and that means paperwork, which you should have ready to go when you need it. Imagine that panicked feeling you get when you’ve been pulled over and you’re fishing around in the glovebox for your license and proof of insurance, but even worse. Have a copy of your driver’s license, gun permit (if needed), CCW license (if needed) and keep them handy. Those around-the-neck badge holders you get at conventions are PERFECT for this sort of thing. 

As for what you’ll say to the cops after a defensive gun use, that is another thing altogether. I am not an expert on this subject and my suggestion is do some reading on this subject and then consult with an attorney or a professional firearms instructor for more advice. 

First aid 

If everything has gone wrong and you’re in your safe room with your firearm, chances are, someone is going to need first aid, and a band-aid probably isn’t going to be enough. The infantryman’s first aid kit (IFAK) was created by the military for this sort of thing, and it’s a great way to keep everything together in one small package. Failing that, make sure there’s SOME kind of first aid kit in your safe room, and supplant that with an Israeli combat bandage or two. And if you haven’t already done so, get some first aid and CPR training as well. 

This may seem like a lot to think about, and in reality, it’s a lot more than most people think about their whole lives. I have good friends and family who don’t even have a hammer and screwdriver in their home, much less a first aid kit. How they hang a picture on their wall, I’ll never know. 

If you’re reading this, you’re not like them. You’ve realized that you and not the cops will be the first person to respond when something bad happens. The question isn’t IF you’ll respond, the question is how and with what. 

Planning Your Attack

Published June 10, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, Equipment, Mindset

3 Different Strategies For The Same Practical Shooting Stage 

All three of us shot the Memorial Day Tactical Rifle Fundraising match at Rio Salado last month. Because of our different skill levels and shooting styles, we all shot Stage 4 a little differently, and taking a look at what we did and why we did it might be useful for people starting to compete in the practical shooting sports. Although we all ended up at the same destination, the goals and planning behind the strategy were different for each of us. 

The Stage

Tactical Rifle Competition Stage


“My strategy was to begin the stage on the left side, so I wouldn’t twist myself into a knot while keeping the muzzle pointed downrange during the reload (reloading while moving to the left side of the stage would’ve made it very easy to point the muzzle uprange, endangering other competitors and disqualifying me from the match). I intended to take a step forward from the second shooting position and stomp the activator while shooting the static target, then engage the clamshell and Maxtrap target.

From the opening in the middle, I would hit the two close targets and the two static targets in the right array, so I wouldn’t lose time shooting around the “noshoot” swinging target. As I moved to the far right of the stage, I would reload, stomp the activator for the three swinging targets, engage the outside three targets while the swinging targets slowed down (making them easier to hit). I would then transition to the port and shoot the two “shoot” swinging targets. That was the plan, until the starting beep was heard.”


“Since I’m still getting my sea legs with the AR in competition, I tried to determine the the simplest way to shoot stage 4 by finding positions where I could shoot multiple targets, rather than trying to shoot on the move. I also chose to shoot the stage left to right, which made it easier to control the direction of my muzzle. 

My stage plan was pretty straightforward (shoot them as you see them). There were just a few things I needed to remember do at specific positions – shoot the right max trap first through the far left port, reload then engage the far right targets from the middle position, before the swinging no-shoots were in play and hit the stomp box for the swingers before engaging the right side targets.”


“My initial approach to this stage was to shoot the targets in order, moving left to right, but I modified that once I saw another shooter hit Pressure Plate 2 to start T10 and T13 moving, then shoot T14-16 and finish with the movers. Given my horrible experience with max traps and clamshells at the USPSA Area 2 Championship, I was worried about dropping hits on the no-shoots, so my initial idea was to only take one shot at each disappearing target which would mean I’d have to get center-mass “A” zone hits on each shot. However, I decided to go for it and take two shots at each, and managed to pull it off.

One thing I realized while writing this up is that I like to shoot on the move. My co-bloggers each planted in one place to shoot targets 1-4, while I shot T3 and T4 on the move, and put one into the no-shoot in-between them as a result.


I also reloaded in a different spot than either Jaci or Robert, choosing to pop in a fresh mag after I engaged the center targets because I wanted more rounds in the gun on the off chance that the swingers proved to be more trouble than they looked.”

The Result

Even though Jaci and I shot the match in .22LR, which meant we could recover from recoil and transition from target to target faster than Robert who was shooting much more powerful .223 ammo in his gun, Robert had the fastest overall time on the stage and beat us both. I might have beaten his raw time, but the time penalty I received for hitting that “no-shoot” target at the start dropped me into second place, with Jaci finishing third on this stage (a rarity, because she’s usually faster than Robert or myself). 


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