Category Archives: Personal Defense

Tactical Reloads In Context

There’s been some chatter on the gun internet about how tactical reloads might be you killed in “the real world”.

First off, a brief primer on what a tactical reload is, and why might want to learn this skill. I’ll let Steve Gilcreast from the Sig Sauer Academy do the heavy lifting in that department with this video.

So a tactical reload is something you perform during a lull in the fight to top off your gun and prepare for what’s next. Is that a useful skill to learn? Probably. Is that a necessary skill for all of us who are armed and don’t wear a uniform and a badge to work?

*thoughtful pause*

First off, let’s acknowledge the fact that we are not cops, and it is not our job to go out seeking bad guys, it’s our job to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm. If we do that by stopping a threat to our lives with our CCW gun, great. If we do that by not being around such people, even better. We are not there to look for trouble, we are there to survive the trouble until the authorities arrive and take over.

Secondly, if (God forbid), we do run into trouble, it’s because of something the bad guy did, not an intentional act on our part. At some point, the bad guy made a huge error in the victim selection process and is now (figuratively and possibly literally) fighting for his life. Unless it’s an active shooter situation or there is a personal element to the encounter like a stalker or an abusive relationship, the goal of the bad guy is to get what he/she wants and then quickly move on to enjoying his/her ill-gotten booty.

Combine those two things, and we see that a) the only pause in a gunfight that we “civilians” will probably ever see is after the threat has been eliminated or is running away and b) at that point, our job is over and the job of the cops begins, tactical reloads then become part of the after-action drill, and not something to be done as part of a continuing engagement. Useful, necessary and definitely NOT something that will get you “killed on the street”, but not a #1 priority for training, either.

Update: I forgot about this.

“Private citizens reload in approximately 1/2 of one percent of shooting incidents (3/482). 
If the defender fires any shots, most likely it will be 2 rounds.” 

Not exactly something that’s a pressing need, then.

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry – Secret Number Seven

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

Only Draw Your Gun When Not Drawing It Would Be Worse.

There’s a healthy and robust debate in the firearms community right now over the role of the armed citizen in society, specifically when it comes to intervening in events where we are not the target of the bad guy. Do you get involved in a store robbery if you’re not the one being robbed? Do you draw in response to an active shooter? What happens when your home is being robbed, but the robbers aren’t threatening you with lethal force?

To be honest, I don’t have a “one size fits all” answer for each those questions, because the actual circumstances we may be facing can vary widely, and since a violent encounter is by its very nature a chaos situation, where things are changing by the second (if not microsecond), having a set response to an unsure situation is a recipe for disaster.

I look to the reasons why I decided to carry for guidance here. I’m not a “sheepdog”, a phrase that has become popular to describe the role of armed civilians in today’s world, because a) a sheepdog is not part of the flock and b) a sheepdog has the shepherd’s best interests in mind, not the flock’s. To stretch the metaphor to the breaking point, I am, at best, a ram that has horns and knows when and how to use them. My reasons for carrying aren’t to protect “society” as a whole, they’re to protect my loved ones and myself, period, full stop. That means that my priorities in a bad situation are going to be the safety of my family and myself first, and then, if they are safe, the safety of others. Maybe. Depending on the situation. As always, I’m not a lawyer, and neither are my coworkers, so please, don’t take what I’m saying as legal advice.

Why We Carry
We don’t carry a gun to make others feel intimidated or to save the world, we carry a gun for that horrible day when using your gun would be worse than NOT using it. What will the circumstances be when that day comes? No one can tell, but having awareness of your surroundings and a defensive firearm with you gives you many more opportunities to NOT be a victim and come out on-top than if you are unaware and unarmed. That’s what carrying a CCW gun will give you: A way to survive the worst day of your life.

Secret #6: Concealed Means Concealed. Unless it’s not.

Secret #5: Learn To Defend Yourself Without A Gun

Secret #4: Become A Peacemaker Without Ego

Secret #3: Know How to Operate Your Defensive Firearm and Train With It Regularly

Secret #2: Don’t Make A Lifetime Commitment To The First Gun You Carry

Secret #1: Make the Commitment to Carry Whenever and Wherever You Can

Will Competition Get You Killed “On The Streets”?

My friend Kathy Jackson had an interesting post on Facebook this week. She’s one of the pre-eminent firearms trainers out there today, specializing in training women on the safe use of firearms, and I take her opinions very seriously.

In some parts of the shooting world, it is popular to say that competition shooting “will get you killed on the street.” You know what will really get you killed on the street? Not knowing how to effectively draw and use your gun! 

When competition encourages you to practice important gunhandling skills that your range otherwise won’t allow, like drawing from concealment or shooting very fast or shooting multiple targets, and also lets you test those skills under time and performance stress, it is a good thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

(Nuance: just be sure you are practicing techniques that are also friendly for self defense and not *only* appropriate for competition. And remember that in both venues, you must know the rules of the road before you drive the gun.)

I’ve never felt that competing in practical pistol or 3 gun has interfered in any way with my tactical training. If anything, it’s made me a better student. Every single stage in a competition is a new challenge: There is no “Ok, I got this, I can stop learning now” moment in competition, because you will lose if you try that during a match. You are always watching your hits, thinking about your movement and trying to plan what to do next during a stage, and that same mindset comes in very handy when learning a new self-defense technique.

Plus there is the element of stress inoculation. Every self-defense class I’ve been in has had an element of competition, be it directly as in a one-on-one shoot off, or indirectly, to see if you can deliver the shot when needed. 8 years of competition has pretty much made me immune to the stress of having to deliver the shot when needed in a class, but will that same immunity show up if, God forbid, I need it on the street?

Dunno, and I hope I never find out. I do know I’d rather go into such a thing with a measure of confidence and the ability to adapt quickly than without such things.

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry – Secret Number Six

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

Concealed Means Concealed. Unless it’s not.

Don’t brag, and resist the tendency to show off your gun.
First of all, let’s be honest: Carrying a gun on your person is an empowering act. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t improve our chances of coming out on the winning side of a lethal force encounter by carrying a gun. Duh. However, that empowerment isn’t equipped with an on-off switch: There will always be a temptation to use that power unwisely, and brag about carrying a gun or show it off to others.

There’s at least two reasons why this is a bad, bad idea.

Unless you’ve done something wrong and are in a bad place at a bad time with bad people all around you, the only people who should know you’re carrying concealed are the people who saw you dress that morning. You’re not carrying concealed to let others know you’re carrying concealed, you’re carrying because you want to be safe on the worst day of your life.

Leave the bragging and showing off for the playing field and the hip-hop stage, your job is to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and that job is not enhanced by you bragging about your gun.

Know more than the law, know your community
There is a big difference in how carrying a gun is perceived in rural Arizona versus downtown Portland, Oregon. While it may be perfectly legal to carry in Portland (and if you CAN carry there, do so), how people will react when they find out you are carrying may be different than if you were in other, more gun-friendly climes. Which bring us to the very touchy subject of open-carry.

As a comparison, let’s roll back the clock a few decades and talk about custom motorcycles. Owning a tricked-out Harley used to be the exclusive realm of outlaw bikers, but today, bank presidents and accountants ride bikes that wouldn’t look out of place at a Hell’s Angels convention. What moved custom motorcycles from the realm of “scary thing to own” to “Hey, my Dad has one of those” wasn’t laws or government edicts, it was the actions of people who rode those motorcycles.

Seeing the connection to open carry yet?

If we want to make the carrying of firearms (concealed or not) to be as common-place as the owning of a Harley, we need to not only meet but exceed the standards of politeness for our community. The reason for this is simple: A jerk with a pistol on his (or her) hip makes guns (and gun owners) seem scary, but a polite and smiling person who just happens to have a sidearm visible makes people treat gun owners like the nice people we really are. If you can carry openly in your community, and are comfortable doing so, do so. If not, don’t. Nothing more needs to be said.

Next up: To draw, or not to draw, that is the question.

Secret #5: Learn To Defend Yourself Without A Gun

Secret #4: Become A Peacemaker Without Ego

Secret #3: Know How to Operate Your Defensive Firearm and Train With It Regularly

Secret #2: Don’t Make A Lifetime Commitment To The First Gun You Carry

Secret #1: Make the Commitment to Carry Whenever and Wherever You Can

Gross Out

I’ve pretty much had it with the phrase “gross motor skill” as it applies to firearms training. The original idea behind this phrase was that “gross motor skills” are more natural and therefore easier to use correctly in a stressful situation like a gunfight. Unfortunately, this has morphed to where “gross motor skill” is shorthand for “What *I* teach is useful in combat, what others teach isn’t”.


You know what a “gross motor skill” *really* is? Running. Making a fist. Flinching. Raising your arm. Anything else, anything that involves manipulating your gun and putting accurate fire on the target is a complex motor skill. You can train your gross motor skills like the dickens, but if you jerk the trigger off-target when it counts, you miss the shot, period full stop.

Furthermore, I’ve found that the chatter about gross vs. complex motor skills to be pretty much confined to the “tactical” training community. I’ve found that competition shooters rarely talk about such things, and I think that’s because that the artificial stress of competition teaches what physical skills work well to deliver the shot, and which skills don’t, and trying to label those skills as “complex” or “gross” to be a waste of time.

Part of this is because no one is shooting back at a practical shooter during a course of fire, so we don’t need to worry about being injured with a gun in our hand, but part of that is also because we’ve learned that a breakdown of ANY of the physical tasks required to deliver the shot on-time and on-target, be they gross or complex, results in a missed shot. There is no dividing line of skill types, there is only targets that are shot quickly with hits on target, and targets that are not.

So enough of the distinction of muscle skills, and learn to see quick, accurate and effective defensive shooting as an integrated process and not jumbled, confusing mixture of physical skills.

What Makes A Good AR-15?

What's a Good AR?

The popularity of the AR-15 has zoomed to new levels in recent times. From the buying sprees brought on by worries of new legislation to the rise of shooting sports like 3 gun, the AR now has has a permanent home in America’s gun safes. If you’re one of the thousands (if not millions…) of people who have purchased an AR in the past few years, you know how easy it is to re-configure an AR to your specific needs. But what makes a good AR? What makes one rifle stand out from the others?

1. Function
The AR is built from the ground up to be flexible and expandable. An AR lower is a blank slate and can be turned into an almost limitless variety of guns. If you’ve got an AR that has been sitting in the gun safe unused, maybe it’s time to give it a makeover and turn it into something that gets taken to the range or out into field more often. Thinking about hunting? A .300 Blackout or 7.62x39mm upper is a good choice for deer hunting, or stretch out your reach with 20″ heavy barrel and take a look at long-range varmint or predator hunting.

Maybe you see your AR as a defensive tool, a task for which it’s almost ideally suited. A laser, rail-mounted flashlight or red dot scope can turn a plain-jane AR into a rifle that’s set up to defend your life and the lives of the ones you care about.

The introduction of the Sig Sauer pistol brace has brought on a renewed interest in AR pistols. A short-barreled AR pistol makes an excellent gun for close-range self defense, and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to shoot as well.

Creating an AR that’s suited to your needs is just half of what makes a good AR: The other half is making sure your AR is up to the task.

2. Form. 
If you’ve gone car-shopping recently, you’ve noticed that cars are starting to look pretty much the same. The same platform that Chevy uses for its small cars is pretty much the same that Buick and Cadillac also use for their cars. Same is true of many of Ford and Lincoln cars, or many other brands as well.

While the mechanicals make look the same, the fact is, those cars drive very differently. Each manufacturer tweaks the basics of the car to meet their audience, sometimes with cosmetics, sometimes with performance tweaks that turn a plain-jane family car into a snarling beast.

The same is true with AR’s. You can buy great AR’s for a very reasonable price that work day in, day out, or you can pull out all the stops and buy something that’s built to handle the worst that life can throw at you. A $700 AR and a $2000 AR may look the same, but the care that’s taken to build those two rifles will show up under stressful use. There are other differences besides fit and finish, of course: A gas piston action (one that uses a pushrod to move the bolt) usually costs more than a direct impingement (DI) system that uses the propellant gases to cycle the action. Piston action AR’s, as a rule, can go longer in between cleanings than gas guns can, but direct impingement guns have served in the U.S. military for decades, making them a very viable choice for almost every potential AR owner.

A well-built AR is like a budget AR taken to new levels. A high-end AR like a Patriot Ordnance Factory or LWRC gun are built to satisfy the needs of demanding customers like America’s most elite military and law enforcement units and represent the state of the art in AR’s. They’re not for everyone, but if you demand a little bit more from your rifle, they may be right for you.

When it comes right down to it, what makes a good AR is up to you: Only you know what your budget is, what your needs are and what level of craftsmanship you demand, and that same flexibility and adaptability is a big part of why the AR is so popular. The AR platform allows you to build the gun of your dreams, and then change that gun when your dreams change. For that reason, (and many others) the future of the AR is bright indeed.

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry – Secret Number Five

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

5: Learn How To Defend Yourself Without Your Gun

One of the things that law enforcement officers learn is how to respond to varying levels of real or implied violence. This response used to be called a threat matrix and it had specific responses to specific actions, and while such things have fallen out of favor with the police and been replaced with more flexible concepts, the idea that your response should be tailored to the perceived threat, is pretty much absent when it comes to “civilian” (i.e. non-uniform-wearing) gun owners.

I spent a few years in the dojo learning Wado-Ryu karate. Karate taught me that the appropriate response to a threat was a punch, kick or block. When I’m in a firearms training class or shooting an IDPA match, I’m learning that the appropriate response to a violent threat is a gun. Very, very few instructors are integrating the worlds of armed and unarmed threat response for, and those that do are teaching it as an advanced course to be taught after their students have learned other techniques like accurate aimed fire.

However, let’s look at how an armed violent encounter progresses. In his ground-breaking and well-respected study on defensive firearms usage, Dr. Gary Kleck of Florida State University broke down what happens when firearms are used to defend a life.

  • Fifty-four percent of the defensive gun uses involved somebody verbally referring to the gun
  • Forty-seven percent involved the gun being pointed at the criminal
  • Fourteen percent involved the gun being fired at somebody with intent to stop the threat
  • The offender was wounded or killed in only 8 percent of incidents studied

All that range time, all those classes, all those IDPA matches have a 14% chance of being useful. Tactical and self-defense trainers tend to poo-poo the idea of verbal warnings and using a gun as an intimidation tool, but the fact is, criminals are lazy, and prefer easy prey versus hard targets: Nothing says “failure in the victim selection process” like a 9mm pointed back at the crook. Learning how to use the POTENTIAL of violence is as much a part of self-defense as the actual violence itself, as is learning to AVOID the potential violence to begin with.

A personal note: I lived for 30 years in the Phoenix, Arizona area and developed a passion for Mexican food. The best tortillas, the best carnitas and the best salsa weren’t to be found in the Phoenix suburbs that were full of transplanted Midwesterners, they were to be found in the cocinas, barrios and bodegas in the west side of town.

However, because of number of events such as our porous southern border, you were also likely to find yourself in the middle of a violent gang war in those areas during the dinner hour. So what did I do? I didn’t go to the west side at night, and put up with lousy Mexican food instead.


“Don’t go to stupid places to do stupid things with stupid people” should be your mantra, as it negates the overwhelming amount of opportunities you might need your gun. After all, the easiest fight to win is the one that didn’t happen.

Next Up: Carrying Concealed Means Carrying Concealed. Unless it doesn’t.

Secret #4: Become A Peacemaker Without Ego

Secret #3: Know How to Operate Your Defensive Firearm and Train With It Regularly

Secret #2: Don’t Make A Lifetime Commitment To The First Gun You Carry

Secret #1: Make the Commitment to Carry Whenever and Wherever You Can

The Seven Secrets of Concealed Carry – Secret Number Four

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

Secret #4: Become A Peacemaker Without Ego

Carrying a firearm means giving up the luxury to be angry. If you carry a sidearm, you have to consider the results of your actions and reactions a whole lot more carefully than if you don’t.
What are you getting in return? You’re getting the ability to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones on the worst day of your lives.

People want to know what changes they will need to make in their lives when they decide to carry a gun for self-protection. The answer I usually give out isn’t about new clothing or new equipment, it’s about a new attitude. Specifically, you can’t get angry when you carry a gun.
Ever. Let me say that again in another way: Carrying a gun means giving up your right to be angry at the actions of others, no matter how unbelievably stupid those actions may have been.

An example.

A friend of mine was cut off in traffic. Words were exchanged, and both cars pulled over to the side of the road. Both drivers exited their vehicles in an angry, fighting mood, however, my friend walked out of his car with his gun in hand. After determining the other driver was unarmed and was backing down, my friend drove off, believing the incident to be over.

The other driver called the cops, claiming my friend had pulled a gun on him, which, in reality, is sorta what happened, even though the gun was never pointed in the direction of the other driver. My friend had a long legal journey that only recently came to an end with a satisfactory (but not exculpatory) conclusion.

What if he had just walked away and not stoked the fires of anger? What if he gave up his “right” to express his anger at that @#$! who just cut him off at traffic? Would he have had to worry about that other driver being armed? Would he have faced a mountain of legal bills and the possible loss of his right of armed self-defense?

Probably not. His problems didn’t start with drawing his gun, they started with his reaction to a relatively minor event, and snowballed downhill from there. Carrying a firearm means giving up the luxury of being angry. If you carry a sidearm, you have to consider the results of your actions and reactions a whole lot more carefully than if you don’t.


Secret #3: Know How to Operate Your Defensive Firearm and Train With It Regularly

Secret #2: Don’t Make A Lifetime Commitment To The First Gun You Carry

Secret #1: Make the Commitment to Carry Whenever and Wherever You Can

New From Smith&Wesson – The M&P22 Compact

Smith and Wesson has introduced a new pistol into their popular M&P line, the M&P22 Compact.

First impression: If you’re one of the many people who own and carry the popular M&P Shield in either 9mm or .40, this is the perfect gun to have as a training gun/practice gun/plinking gun. While the dimensions of the M&P22 Compact aren’t exactly the same as the Shield, the new gun feels like a Shield in your hands and would make an excellent gun to help newer shooters accustomed to smaller guns. The MP22 is longer than the Shield and is slightly wider, but the grip and ergonomics feel 100% like a Shield.

The safety is larger and easier to operate than on the Shield, and the trigger weight on the gun we tried was about 8 pounds or so, with no stacking, a crisp break and decent resent. Sights were the standard 3 dot style and the accessory rail on the front of the gun is longer than the Shield.

If you’re looking to get more practice with your carry gun or want a gun that’s fun to shoot without the snappier recoil of a mini 9mm, the M&P22 Compact should be on your shopping list.