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Defensive v. Competitive Shooting.
A few months back I was having dinner with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in Scottsdale Az.
(Yeah.... I’m name dropping, but go with me for a second.)
Grossman in his seminars talks about developing hobbies that reinforce the skill sets that are necessary to prevail in a defensive shooting.
Such hobbies include hunting and competitive shooting.
(Golf... according to Grossman is a completely worthless endeavor and a golf course by definition is a willful misuse of a perfectly good rifle range.)
We were talking about my daughters deer hunt in October of last year and Grossman lit up.
He argues that hunting creates an automatic inoculation against some of the negative stresses of combat.
Since the hunter is being exposed to the “realities of life” in a positive environment, seeing those same “realities” in a post combat environment does not seem to create the same psychic scars many non-hunters experience.
While I’m not sure there is any empirical data to necessarily support this conclusion there does definitely appear to be a ton of anecdotal stories.
What about the other hobby: competitive shooting?
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At first blush this would seem like an obvious thing.
If you want to be a better shooter.... do activities that require you to... well... be a better shooter.
I am a huge fan of competitive shooting... especially long distance shooting, but we need to be aware of the types of training scars that can come of it.
If the only shooting you do involves standing static and facing down range, your default under stress is going to be to stand static and face “downrange”.
If you practice at a range with house rules that don’t allow Hammer Drills, or Combat Loads, guess what:You’re not training for muscle memory responses in Hammer Drills, or Combat loads.
If you are a dedicated competitive shooter that MUST follow very specific range rules and reload rules that mandate a methodology that scarifies efficiency for safety.
You need to be aware that you are developing training scars, and must take proactive steps to neutralize or minimize those scars.
Am I suggesting giving up on competitive shooting?
Of course not!
You just need to be aware of what is happening.
The advantages, both physical and psychological that comes from high intensity competitive shooting in my opinion far out weigh the negative training scars.
That does not mean that they don’t exist, and as such must be dealt with.
We had a competitive shooter in one of our recent CCW classes.
This guy was good.
His ability to put lead on target was consistent, and his fundamentals when it came to presentation, sight picture and trigger press were all top notch.
But his reloads needed work.
Since he cannot bring his gun into his workspace to effectuate a reload during a competitive match, he would not bring his gun into his workspace to do a tac load during our training.
Here is the thing:This was not a competitive pistol type class.
This was a : “Holy Crap! That dude is trying to kill me and I need to use this gun to stop him RIGHT NOW, and now I think I may have gotten him because he is not shooting back, but I better reload just in case he is still in the fight or he has friends and I’m not sure how many rounds I have left so I better keep this partially used magazine in case I need it later.” Type class.
He would try, to follow along but would constantly revert to his competitive shooting protocols.
The pressure of knowing that there were “eyes” on him forced him to revert back to the lowest level of training.
Read that as: the most used repetitive exercises.
If you are going to go to a range with specific non combative range rules, or become an active participant in competitive or recreational shooting, you must acknowledge what is happening to you, and take proactive steps to minimize those negative training scars.
Slowly each student took out their firearms from their locked cases.
This is always an interesting part of the class.
Each CCW trainee lays out their weapon, or weapons on the table with the actions open as our instructors and range personnel examine each firearm to ensure that it is cleared, and help the students fill out the paper work for their certificates.
It never ceases to amaze me the types of weapons that make their way into our classroom.
People begin the journey towards their CCW’s from differing starting points.
Many have been gun enthusiasts for many years, and as such have determined that one or two of their favorite pistols would be the best to carry around with them.
I get it.
They enjoy shooting them, and they feel that as target shooters they have developed a proficiency with their weapons.
Thing is.... this is not target shooting.... the purpose of carrying a firearm is for defensive shooting, and that is a whole lot different from target shooting.
Speed of reloading, conceal-ability, accuracy... and speed of reacquiring the target all must be factored into the equation.
That revolver that you just love that you’ve been plinking with since 1972 may not be the best fit for this application.
Others enter the world of firearms ownership with the intent on getting a CCW.
Often they come to us first to ask for suggestions on what their first gun should be.
Our response is usually a striker fire handgun.
Glock, Smith and Wesson, and Springfield all make high quality, and fairly available striker fire handguns. There is a reason we strongly recommend them as a “first” handgun:They work well, and are far easier to master then other firearms.
We’ve learned this from experience.
We always have a few students who have brought in their recently acquired Beretta's or Sigs.
Make no mistake, I enjoy both.... and when I’m not carrying my 1911, I carry a Sig 239, still... becoming a master at these guns requires a heck of a lot more work, and if practice is done incorrectly you can develop negative training scars that are hard to break.
Striker fire guns allow for a greater degree of focus on fundamentals.. proper trigger press, sight alignment and trigger resets, all while allowing for a building of muscle memory around sound safety protocols.
Throw in a de-cocker, or a safety and for some reason the wheels come off.
When we chose a firearm for our Artemis guns we chose the Glock 22.
This was not a cavalier decision.
We wanted a fairly ubiquitous firearm, and one that would allow the trainees a base uniform level of training.
You see,... if you have the fundamentals honed in on a gun like a Glock, those skill sets will translate across the spectrum of firearms. With the focus on the four rules of firearm safety, proper presentation, and a development of good marksmanship the trainee develops a skill set that is transferable to other... more complicated guns like the 1911 or the Beretta.
This does not mean that one gun is “superior” to another. (Though many will be shocked that I’m not claiming the 1911 is a “better” gun than anything else... for the time being I’m trying to keep this academic). Each firearm has it’s unique characteristics as well as strengths and weaknesses.
Furthermore, the individual wielding the gun has certain biological limitations that make one firearm a better choice that another.
Still, for a basic self defense handgun. One that you can learn and master, I strongly recommend a simple striker fire.
Once a mastery of Skill at Arms has been achieved on that platform, then it is time to consider expanding your CCW armory to include more exotic guns.
That being said... my first handgun was a Sig Sauer. De-cocker and all.
I got it because that was what was available to me at the time, and frankly I didn't know any better.
I made a conscience decision to become a master of that platform and spent an inordinate amount of time doing dry fire and range work.
I took that gun with me to numerous tactical training courses and worked both it, and me hard.
To say that you MUST start with a striker fire would be a miss statement.
If you are dedicated to the proposition of becoming a master of that DA/SA Sig, Beretta, or similar handgun,... good for you.... rock on!
But if you are reviewing your options, and are looking for what I consider the most efficient pathway, I would highly recommend staying with the striker fire family.
Don’t worry though... your first gun will definitely not be your last... you will have ample opportunity to add a few exotics to your safe as well!
Imminent likelihood of death or great bodily injury.
On Christmas day an event took place in the town I grew up in.
A burglar, or a vandal, or a murderer, or mentally unstable individual... You take your pick... decided to alter the lives of a family forever.
Fortunately, no one died during this event, but the legal ramifications could be devastating.
The story has been reported as follows:
Bad guy targets a home for invasion, but is unsuccessful in entering.
Bad guy returns later, and through an open door, (the owner had left it open while he went to his car) bad guy makes entry.
Bad guy attacks homeowner with a wrench.
Homeowner retreats deeper into home and retrieves a shotgun.
Bad guy chases homeowner until he sees the shotgun and immediately makes a 180 degree turn and tries to flee.
Homeowner shoots at bad guy and wounds him.
Bad guy escapes from the house and is eventually apprehended.
Let us take the facts as they have been presented.
Most people know that if someone who is unauthorized gains entry to your home there is a presumption that they are there to use deadly force against you. Therefore the use of deadly force against them is justified.
Folks... that is not a license... it is only a presumption.
Presumptions can also be rebutted with empirical evidence.
You are NEVER NEVER NEVER allowed to use deadly force for the protection of property.
Armored car employees don’t carry guns to protect the money they are transporting.
They are carrying guns to protect themselves against people that would try to kill them in order to take that money.
If someone is in your house and making their way towards you and you use deadly force against them the presumption will probably hold and not be rebutted.
However.... if you shoot them while they are making their way to your front door, carrying your big screen TV the evidence of their movement, the broken TV, and the shots in their back will be enough evidence to rebut the presumption that you were in imminent fear for your life.
In our case at hand.... again, as the facts have been presented... it would seem to suggest that the homeowner was not in fear for his life: he shot the suspect as he was fleeing.
With the suspect in full retreat, the “imminence” element to the law does not exist and we have an unjustified use of deadly force.
Now... there could easily be reasons not articulated why the homeowner still felt threatened: The suspect was not leaving, he was merely heading towards cover, he was moving towards rooms where other family members were hiding, and the homeowner felt the suspect would put those loved ones in danger.... or the biggie: Situational Amnesia... the homeowner simply has gotten the facts wrong. Not that he remembers them incorrectly, rather the stress of the event has altered his perception of them.
Could the statements that he made to the newspaper be used against him in court?
Should he have refrained from making those statements?
Will those statements damn him to an indictment and a conviction?
Not necessarily, but it does potentially complicate matters.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. The homeowner is clearly a sympathetic character, and the suspect is,... well... kinda the reason people own guns for self defense in the fist place.
Will public opinion effect a decision to prosecute?
Again,.... we shall see.
A couple of weeks ago one of our Sheriffs lieutenants was instructing a handful of deputies on our VirTra 100.
He was “knocking the rust” off of their weapons manipulations skills.
To demonstrate a proper tac load he removed his Glock from his holster, (don’t worry folks it was unloaded and verified through a secondary safety check) and began to explain the various aspects of the reloading procedure.
I was leaning against the wall watching him and sipping on my coffee.
Something looked a little strange to me so I peered closer.
The gun looked... well... “small”.
“Lt. is that a .380?”
He looked over at me and had a sheepish look. “Yeah... but it is a real tac driver.”
“Yeah” I chuckled... “it is adorable”.
He grimaced... “Thanks”
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Those of you have have taken classes with me know that I give a lot of grief to .380 carriers.
Last weekend we had a CCW class and I know one of our students, Allen is still probably annoyed with me for all of the jibing I sent his way regarding his little .380.
Folks... I want you to know something and I want to make it absolutely clear: I would rather have a .380 on me than nothing at all.
(But for what it is worth I’ll stick with my .45 thank you very much)
Caliber discussions and debates have been going on since we first started making defined cartridges.
Smaller caliber carriers boast about ammo capacity and the ability to conceal their firearms.
Large caliber carriers talk about the mythical “one stop shot” with the howitzers they carry on their hips.
Each of these users are passionate about their weapons... and make amazing counter arguments to the perceived deficiencies:
.380 : “It is all about shot placement”
“I can carry more ammo on my body and deliver more fire power with less weight on my hips”
“If a single shot from a .380 doesn’t stop the threat the 20 more I am able to carry with me certainly will”
“I can tuck in my shirt, carry a gun and not look like I have a tumor on my hip”
.45 : “It is the only round powerful enough to stop a threat”
“One .45 drops even the most seriously narced threat in their tracks.”
“It is what the most elite spec opps teams use”
“Even though you end up carrying less ammo.. it is ok... with a .45 you need less ammo”
The fact of the matter is.... all joking aside... your choice of weapon is dependent on a variety of factors. What you wear... how you shoot... how you grip your gun..., are but a few.
Jack O’Conner was famous for only hunting with a .270.
He used that round on literally everything, from goats to dangerous game. He was a master of that rifle round and knew the limitations and made sure that his engagements were within the parameters of those limitations.
The same is true for the smaller caliber rounds.
Would I grab that .380 first if there was someone breaking into my home?
Would I grab that .380 first if I was going for a jog?
We make decisions each day about how we choose to dress and where where we choose to visit.
Both decisions dictate the type of weapon we will carry with us.
There are times when a .380 may very well be the best decision.
There is another value in the .380... like inter service rivalry, it makes for some good natured ribbing.
That lieutenant that I mentioned earlier... he is an absolute master of defensive tactics and weapons craft. Would I want him on my side if things went south?
You betcha..... even if he were only carrying that ”adorable” .380
A Drawer full of holsters...
So... you’ve finally decided to get your concealed carry permit.
After going back and forth on which guns you own to put on that permit you decided to use this as an opportunity to do what?
Buy another gun.
In fairness,... putting one of your pearl handled .45 long colt single action six shooters might seem like a cool idea in theory...
In practice though it might be hard to satisfy that whole “concealed” thing.
So you’ve opted for a Glock, or and M&P, or a Sig.... something semi-automatic that will allow for a decent “closeness” to your body so you can easily conceal.
Now it is time for a holster.
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Get ready to start spending money... and don’t be surprised if what you end up liking has in inverse relationship to price.
Most of us will go through a slew of holsters and different methods of carry.
Our “holster drawer” can attest to this.
Also, differing body sizes will alter your carry position, and the second you alter that carry position the holster you loved may not do the deed anymore.
A brief note on that last sentence.... I’ve written before that if you are going to carry a firearm, you need as a goal mastery of “skill at arms”. This is a holistic endeavor. One part of which is making sure that your primary weapon system... YOU... is up to snuff.
This means if you have... let’s put this delicately... a fair amount of “tactical padding” overlaying your muscle tissue, you may want to seriously consider body smithing yourself into more of the classical warrior physique.
This also means that over the next few months your body is going to go through some fairly dramatic physical transformations.
The holster you wear today may not be the holster you wear tomorrow.
Most of us... though not all of us too be sure... wear our firearms on our hips.
Some prefer IWB or “In the waist band” holsters. These mount inside the pant waist band and use the pants themselves as part of the concealment garment.
Many report them to be unbelievably comfortable, they allow for a greater degree of clothing options, and come in a variety of sizes.
I hate them.
I own three or four, and for my unique body type they seem to be overly cumbersome and uncomfortable.
Honestly... it is not them, it is me.
The type I wear is an OWB or “Outside the waistband”.
These are your traditional holsters that you see exposed on the belt, and are concealed using a cover shirt.
Remember though folks... it is not just about carrying the firearm... you better have a system to carry that extra ammo too!
This is usually done with mag pouches carried on the support side waist to allow easy access with your support hand when doing a combat or tac load.
Oh yeah... you gotta conceal that too!
I’ve owned everything from $200 custom leather holsters to $40 kydex jobs. There is no rhyme nor reason to the comfort or efficiency of the holster... each one is what it is.
I currently use zzz custom holsters (www.zzzcustomholsters.com).
I like them... they are high quality and they are able to effectively conceal that full frame 1911 I carry.
Here is the thing...As you fret on what type of holster to buy, having multiple web browsers open and comparing and contrasting five different brands...remember: The odds are that in a few months you will be putting that holster in the drawer and getting another one anyway.
You have to experiment until you find the one that works for you... and the only way to really find out is to wear it for a while.
Diversity of Training.
“Ok... we’ve spent a lot of time in this class talking about the need to continue your training, here is a list of other schools we highly recommend you take classes from.”
“Bob... you have a question?”
“Yeah... don’t you offer other training classes besides the CCW class?”
“Of course... we have a number of different training programs.”
“Then why would I go anywhere else? You guys are great and you are close to my home.”
There are not many industries that highlight the fact that it is a necessity for a client to frequent other vendors.
Weapons training is different.
We encourage our students to take advantage of as much training as they can afford.
While we might love the idea that we could capture all of a clients training dollars that is really not the point.
Our goal is to assist our students on their journey towards mastery of skill at arms.
This is by definition an unattainable goal.
The value is in the process not the product.
Like any endeavor of this magnitude... an endeavor that has as its fundamental goal the survival of the student and their loved ones... it is essential that they acquire and be exposed to varied forms, theories, and teaching styles.
From the ultra tactical, to the more realistic and practical, every school has their own unique style, methodology and yes sometimes contradictory dogma.
Some schools are personality driven, others curriculum driven.... all have value.
Tim... one of our LEO instructors once told me that his goal for any course he enrolled himself in was to walk out with at least one new idea... one new concept... or at the very least an opportunity to practice.
I find this mindset intellectually open and helps explain why he is not only such an excellent instructor but also extremely confident in his understanding of his craft.
We’ve talked about the Hegalian concept of Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. (From a single idea we have a competing idea that so fundamentally alters the original that a third... more excellent concept emerges.)
John Stuart Mill in his work On Liberty drives this point home:
His discussion on freedom of speech can be viewed as a metaphor for a broad exposure to different training styles.
He said that when you are dealing with a competitive ideology you are awarded a benefit for simply being exposed to it in the first place.
You either realize that your original orthodoxy was correct in the first place, and the new concept is inferior in quality. Your original orthodoxy was partially correct, but by incorporating aspects of the competing ideology it is improved... or your original orthodoxy is flawed beyond repair and you adopt wholly the new system.
Regardless of the outcome, you are better for the experience.
So yes... take classes from others!
Expose yourself to as much varied and rigorous training as you can find.
Some will be better than others... that is kind of baked into the equation... but you will invariably find that you learn something from every class you take.
Weapons Craft by Keeping Quiet.
I grew up in a non-shooting family.
Actually to be truthful it was probably worse than that.
As a young jewish kid growing up in 1970‘s and 80‘s suburbia the thought of having guns in the home was the equivalent to having a couple of rocket launchers and claymore mines lying around in the kitchen.
A memory I chuckle about now, happened when I was about nine years old.
We had gone to Knotts Berry Farm and I happened to find a Lone Ranger Six Shooter cap gun and holster set screaming my name in one of the gift shops.
I mean come on! Who would not want that?!?
My mom laid down the law... “we are not having THAT in our house”.
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So... my weapons training was going to have to come later on in life.
Years later, as I started to forge my path in the world of firearms I knew that I needed both raw knowledge as well as practical experience.
Those of you who have been around guns for a while will understand, obtaining the raw knowledge component would prove to be exceptionally easy: gun people love to tell you what you need to know...
whether they know what they are talking about is usually irrelevant to their confidence in their knowledge.
As a younger student of the “way of the gun” I consciously made a decision to approach all that I met with a high degree of humility.
This proved to be a massive benefit in more ways than I could have imagined.
I already knew a fair bit about firearms from books and my time outside the home through a joint effort between the Boy Scouts and the NRA.
However some of the more arcane concepts, nomenclature, and certainly tactics remained elusive.
When I bought my first rifle at a California Walmart (yes... Walmart still sold guns to Californians at the time) I started rutting around the ammo section looking for .270 ammo to shoot through my rifle after it was released from its 10 day state enforced jail sentence.
I was shocked at how much it was going to cost to buy a box of 20 rounds!
(Now, in fairness, the only ammo available at the time were higher end hunting rounds and match grade ammo that doesn’t come cheap under the best of circumstances).
An older gentleman was shopping alongside me and asked me what I was shooting.
I told him I was just getting into shooting and the cost of ammo was probably going to force me out of the sport before I had a chance to really get into it.
I did not try to hide the fact that I was new to this game... I let him know up front that I was a novice.
He was immediately a wealth of info. He started giving me dicta on aspects of shooting that I could not possibly have understood... but it made him sound like an expert.
Maybe he was... I’ve forgotten what he told me. He did however give me a little gem:
He told me about a local reloader and gave me his phone number and address.
I showed up at a store... well “store” maybe a little too nice of a description to describe the dilapidated shack this guy was operating out of.
“What do you want?”
He grunted as I walked through the screen door and saw a troll of a man working a reloading press, wearing cammo fatigues and sporting a 1911 on his hip.
“Ummm... I want to buy some ammo for my rifle I’m getting at Walmart, and your name was given to me as a source.”
“What type you need?”
Now I knew I wanted 130 grain cheap ammo for zeroing my rifle and target practice. But rather than disclose this, I chose a different tact:
“Actually I’m not sure.... I used to shoot .22 rifles with the boy scouts long ago but I’m just in the process of getting into centerfire rifle shooting. Frankly I’m not even sure where to begin or where even to shoot. Can you help me?”
The flood gates of info broke open.
The fact that I was not challenging him. Not questioning his knowledge, skills as a reloader, or walking in with a bravado of “yeah pal... I know it all... just give me what I want and I’ll be on my way” paid off in spades.
Over the next few months I found a mentor to help me with my shooting. A source for shooting information... sometimes more information than I really wanted... and access to “insider” deals I never would have had if I been more arrogant when I first met him.
This approach has served me well throughout my shooting career.
There is a Hegelian process of philosophical advancement that applies to shooting: Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis.
We have way of doing things... we are exposed to a challenge to that process and we either discard our original protocol in favor of the new one... blend the two together... or discard the new one altogether, with a greater appreciation and understanding of the superiority of our original.
The thing is... we need to be open to the “Anthesis” in the first place... and ego and bravado can forestall the exposure to competing theories. The only way for us to grow... to fully travel the path of the “way of the gun” ,(or really any path for that matter)...is to remove ego as a barrier to growth.
Wow... what a week it has been!
For those of you that have been thinking of getting a CCW... or for those of you that are in the process of going through the application gauntlet... we have good news for both of you!
As you probably heard from our email blast last week, as well as our Facebook page, the Artemis Defense Institute is now officially sanctioned by the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. as a training facility.
This means that you can now take your state mandated 16 hour course through us and qualify with your pistols for your CCW.
We are proud of our program, and honored that the Sheriffs dept. recognizes the quality of what we have to offer.
For those of you that are not domiciled in Orange County, stay tuned.... we are planning on becoming a certified training center for other Sheriffs depts. as well.
Now... as for other CCW developments:
For those of you that are unaware, and are looking for a little legal background on the whole CCW thing, and why this Peruta case keeps cropping up in the news, please go HERE for a historical background recital.
The two critical developments recently are:
Lets take this one by one:
The turning of the Senate is very important. Up until now democrats were less than exuberant about passing a national reciprocity bill.
Reciprocity for a CCW is essentially the same as reciprocity for your drivers license.
From a constitutional perspective, each of us is entitled to “privileges and immunities” that are to be recognized from state to state.
My wife and I were married in Las Vegas... (yeah... I know what you are thinking)...
California did not require us to re-marry when we got back home. When we go back to Las Vegas and enter Nevada our drivers licensees are recognized as legitimate documents that allow us to drive.
Many people that were issued CCW’s in their home state have fallen victim to the fact that their CCW is not recognized by a neighboring state.
This is especially true with New York and New Jersey, where their draconian laws have landed good law abiding people in jail.
Some of them for doing nothing more than boarding a flight to a “friendly” state and having that flight diverted mid-air into the “unfriendly” state.
Since some states allow for non-resident CCW permits to be issued, successfully passing a national reciprocity bill will essentially turn the entire US... including California into a Shall Issue state.
Since a resident of Los Angeles or San Francisco can apply for a CCW in Utah, a national reciprocity bill would force Los Angeles and San Francisco to recognize that Utah CCW.
I have to be honest.... I kinda like this.
The other development was the denial of intervenor in the Peruta decision. Make no mistake... this battle over Peruta is not over. Ms. Harris still has a couple of avenues she could pursue in an effort to overturn Peruta, but she is spending a lot and loosing a lot.
The political capital that she needs to expend to pursue her agenda in light of a turned congress might be a bridge too far.
Only time will tell.
In the mean time if you live in the OC our Sheriff has agreed to live by the guidance of the Peruta decision... and has been doing so since it was first issued in February.
For those of you that want your CCW and the ability to exercise your fundamental right of self defense.... all you need to do is make an appointment.
You can do so at the sheriffs website at www.ocsd.org.
Skill at Arms
When was the last time you bought a new car?
You’ve been driving for years. Your skill at piloting a vehicle is passable, if not down right exceptional.
Of course as you slide into the drivers seat of your brand new luxury, flex fuel, intelligent sensor, Lifescanner 3000 you feel intimidated and daunted about the sheer magnitude of buttons, gizmos and voice commands you need to understand a master.
Not to worry... you have a teenager at home that can help you work through it.
Still you have no serious worries about actually driving the damn thing back home.
You have a universal skill set of driving that has hopefully been mastered that will suffice for the immediate time being.
The same goes for Skill at Arms.
You have heard us preach at Artemis that YOU are the primary weapon system. The gun you happen to be holding is merely a tool. Intimate knowledge of your firearm is a must... but knowledge of how to properly wield that weapon is somewhat transcendent.
Like our automotive analogy earlier: I can teach someone in a classroom the mechanics of a new car and how the buttons work. They might not even know how to drive... still, they can learn how to turn on the car and work the gizmos.
Likewise, I can take someone into our classroom and teach them how to operate and the functional workings of a 1911 autoloader pistol... it is quite another thing to know how to wield it.
The other day we had our first live fire range day at Artemis.
We did this in conjunction with Ben Ito-Smith of Artifex Consulting.
Those of you that have met Ben know that while it was clearly important to us to have the invaluable expertise of Ben’s British Special Warfare experience as a resource... we really just like to hear him say “Shooters make ready!” with that upper class english accent.
While I was there watching our combined schools work through our course of fire, I noticed that we had “observers” that had migrated down from their own shooting bays to see what we were up to.
Well... turn about is fair play, and while I had a few minutes I walked down to the other range to watch them.
These shooters clearly had a basic understanding of marksmanship. But they were decidedly sloppy in their approach to the discipline.
Think of a magnificent Samurai practicing with his sword.
Now think of a twelve year old flailing about with a cardboard tube from a empty wrapping paper roll.
You get the idea.
One is elegant and displays a respect not only for the practitioner, but for the discipline, the weapon, and I dare say the potential adversary.
The other one is just some kid playing with a tube.
When we practice with our weapons we are honing a skill.
We are acknowledging our commitment to a discipline.
We are developing a craft that is transcendent of the singular weapon that we might own, and is at an instant, transferable to the tool that is at our immediate disposal.
While we may not be experts with the unique weapon we have in our hands, our training with weapons generally... our Skill at Arms... gives us the basic foundations needed to be successful.
We must constantly be mindful that our manipulations of our weapons while at the range speaks to who we are.
The short hand for our dedication to our training is how we handle our firearms.
We must be dedicated to the proposition that the mastery of our discipline comes with rigorous and continues practice.
A bad day of marksmanship can be forgiven, and is without question an unfortunate inevitability.
However, a sloppy presentation, poor muzzle discipline, or magazine manipulations that lack the elegance of refined practice, speaks volumes about the shooter and their true commitment to their craft.
It is our obligation to be masters of Skill at Arms.
Digilentia Vis Celeritas
Accuracy, Power, Speed.
Col. Jeff Cooper came up with this phrase with his characteristic academic flare.
He saw students struggle to get lead on target as quickly as possible.
Bigger calibers translated into bigger guns with greater weight. All of that cumbersome architecture must surely translate into slower draw strokes.
At least that was the thinking among the uninitiated.
Cooper articulated a phrase: “You cannot miss fast enough”.
This about sums it up.
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Speed as an “end all goal” is a recipe for disaster. The end result is chaos.
Speed as a byproduct of smoothness and efficiency is a far more satisfactory and repeatable achievement.
Our range and dry fire practice is like Tibetan sand art. The final picture is interesting, but inherently transient.
The goal is mastery of the process, not the product.
We drill and we drill and we drill so that we learn the methodology necessary for the most efficient application of our movements.
Then we commit those movements to muscle memory.
Efficiency is defined as the least amount of movements necessary to perform an action.
We study our movements and discard all superfluous aspects of our presentation, refining our draw to the most basic of elements. Through this distillation of efficiency we begin to arrive at the first inklings of true speed.
The irony is that the smoother we become the slower we feel we are.
Those around us see our draw as a mechanized blur... but we feel that we could always move just a little bit faster.
It is here that we find what is perhaps our greatest challenge: Allaying the desire to push our speed, and a re-dedicated effort to perfect our smoothness.
Those that are able to find this maturity are the ones that become the truly “fast”.
The caliber of the firearm, the size of the gun, all of the variables associated with gadgetry and technological advancement will not in the end translate to repeatable increases in speed.
That only comes with a mastery of the fundamentals.
Our first goal must be to hit the target each and every time (Diligentia).
For our defensive gun use, we need to assure that we are using a caliber sufficient enough to stop a threat (Vis).
Finally, we perfect our smoothness and we find that we have increased our speed.... the last component of our triad. (Celeritas)
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