Category Archives: Training

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.

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.

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

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.

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry – Secret Number Three

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

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

There’s a cliché in firearms training that goes “When your life or the lives of people you care about are on the line, you’re not going to rise to the occasion. You’re going to fall to your lowest level of training.”

Yes, it’s a cliché, but clichés don’t become clichés because they’re untrue. A gun isn’t a magic talisman of self-protection: It confers no special abilities of marksmanship onto its possessor and grants no ability to protect a life beyond the will of it’s owner and his/her capabilities. Owning a gun doesn’t actually make you safer any more than painting racing stripes on a car makes it go faster.

Knowing how to defend your life or the lives of your loved ones isn’t a skill we’re born with, but it is one you’ll need to acquire if you own a defensive firearm. You didn’t acquire the skill of dealing with rush-hour traffic during your driver’s license exam and you’re not going to acquire the skill using your gun as a defensive weapon at your CCW class either.

Volumes and volumes have been written about what makes “good” firearms training, and making the decision with whom to train can be confusing. Heaven knows there are a lot of bad trainers out there (and I’ve trained with a few myself…), but in general, a instructor who is accredited with a national organization like the NRA would be the first thing I’d look for. Beyond that, I would suggest getting a small amount of training from a diverse amount of trainers before making the commitment to a week-long school or similar course.

Why? Three reasons.

Variety. I’ve taken classes that are rooted in the Modern Technique of the Pistol, which dates back to the mid-60’s, and I’ve taken classes that offer the latest in cutting-edge pistol and rifle instruction, and none of what I’ve learned in those classes has stepped on or diminished what I’ve learned in other courses. “Tools in the toolbox” is another cliché, but having a wide selection of skills allows you to adapt to a wide variety of situations.

Legal. Every person who trains you is a potential witness for your defense if you have to use your firearm and wind up going to trial. Think back to the George Zimmerman trial: Mr. Zimmerman had only one person testifying as to how well he was trained with a firearm. Would you rather have one person testifying about the extent of your firearms training, or twelve?

Cost. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and the cost of a week-long class in ammo, fees and time off can be intimidating. Making a week-long commitment to a class that ends up teaching you little of value is a waste of time and resources.

Beyond that, learn how to use your gun. Don’t just go to a range and punch holes in a paper target, but consider all the steps needed before, during and after the shot. Does your gun have a safety? How easy is it to use? Can you easily reach the safety without looking at your gun or shifting your grip? Is your gun a double action/single action semiautomatic that has a different trigger pull for the first and second shots? How easy are the sights to acquire after each shot? Do the magazines stick in the gun when the release button is pushed?

These are just some of the details that make little differences on the range but make a big difference when your life is on the line. 

In addition to this, consider going to at least one practical pistol match. Nothing will teach you how you deal with stress like a Range Officer saying “Shooter ready? Standby!” and having a timer buzzer go off in your ear. What should be easy (“Walk over there, shoot two each holes in those two targets, then walk over there, shoot two more targets”) suddenly becomes a nigh-impossible task under a massive adrenaline dump. In addition to the adrenaline inoculation, shooting a practical pistol match will quickly teach you how well your gun and gear works under stressful conditions. A practical shooting match like USPSA or IDPA isn’t the “real thing”, but it’s the closest that 90% of us who don’t carry a gun for living will ever experience to the real thing. Because of that, and because they’re really fun to shoot, it’s an eye-opening experience for anyone who owns a gun for defensive purposes.

The bottom line is, you want to survive a violent armed encounter, and your loved ones want you to survive a violent armed encounter as well. Owning a gun is just the first step; mastering its use is the journey.

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 Two

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

2. Don’t Make A Lifetime Commitment To The First Gun You Carry

In part one, we talked about the importance of having your gun near you at all times, because having a concealed carry permit and not having your gun with you is like having a drivers license and a car but always asking your friends for a lift.

So let’s talk about the gun you carry. First, the bad news: There’s a good chance your first choice for a concealed carry gun won’t be quite right for you. Now, the good news: That gun can be used for something else.

Back in 2006, I did extensive research before I purchased a CCW gun about what I thought was the best gun for me. I tracked down features and prices, weighed in size and power, and after weeks and weeks of research, I bought what I considered to be the be-all and end-all of concealed carry guns; a pocket-sized, 10 round 9mm handgun from a new manufacturer that cost less than $300.

And I made a bad choice.

  • Sub-compact or “mini” 9mm’s aren’t known for their shootability and aren’t a good choice for a first-time concealed carry gun.
  • Its small size made recoil unpleasant and it was full of rough edges and sharp corners that physically hurt my hand after fifty rounds.
  • To make matters worse, because the manufacturer had just started making guns, my gun was unreliable and broke often.

I bought a “pocket sized” 9mm because I thought I was getting the best of both worlds: A pistol that I could easily conceal but that still gave me 10+1 rounds of 9mm when I needed it. I still have that gun, but it’s a tertiary weapon for me, at best. After that experience, rather than try to find one gun that “does it all”, I’ve settled into a rotation of three guns for concealed carry:

It’s important to remember that my choices are just that: Mine. Would I be happier with, say, a SIG 938 or an XD-S instead of my Shield? Maybe. The truth is, however, we are living in a Golden Age of handguns. Almost *any* pistol from *any* reputable manufacturer these days is up to the task of defending your life, and it’s up to you to find the one that works best for you for price, accessories and features.

When it comes to concealed carry guns, buyer’s remorse is no big deal: Unless you’re used to carrying the equivalent weight of one or more cans of soda around on your waist, carrying a gun every day of your life will be a learning process, and part of that learning process is learning which gun works best for you. This is even more true about holsters: You are going to buy more than one, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better. You don’t have one pair of shoes for dress and work and sports, and you’re going to have more than one holster for your gun as well. Don’t chase fads, but don’t put up with something that is uncomfortable, hampers a smooth draw or does not carry your gun in a safe manner. 

Next up in Part Three: Know the limitations of your gun and yourself.

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

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry – Secret Number One

The Seven Secrets Of Concealed Carry

1. Make the Commitment to Carry Whenever and Wherever You Can

Congratulations, you’ve made the decision to carry a firearm and protect yourself and your loved ones from the threat of deadly force. Carrying a firearm is the most adult decisions you will ever make, because by carrying a a self-defense sidebar you are taking responsibility for your own self-protection. You have realized (as many people before you have realized) that there WILL NOT be a policeman near you when you need one the most, and have chosen to become your own first responder.

However, having a gun nearby means rearranging your lifestyle and wardrobe to accommodate your gun, and that requires effort and commitment because thankfully, chances are you won’t need to use your gun, and that’s a very good thing indeed. A good analogy would be the smoke detectors in your home: No, you probably won’t ever need to use them, but if you do, they can save your life.

Because carrying a gun requires you to make changes in your routine, it can be tempting to only carry your firearm when you “feel you might need it”, like when driving through a dodgy part of town or going on a long trip. The fact is, though, that we don’t get to decide when we’ll need to use a gun to save our lives, that choice has been made by the criminal who decides we are prey.

Carrying a firearm for self-defense isn’t like owning a firearm for hunting: There is no “open season” on bad guys. We don’t decide to go looking for trouble, it’s trouble that (regretfully) finds us. Therefore, carrying a gun only when you “feel you need it” is like owning a fire extinguisher only when you’re planning on cooking creme brûlée or some other flammable dish: You don’t get to decide when to have a house fire or not, and you don’t get to decide when you might be mugged (or worse).

Making a commitment to owning and carrying a defensive pistol is just that, a commitment. Fortunately, today’s holsters and pistols are designed to be easy to wear and easy to carry, so the changes you’ll need to make to your routine are very minimal and soon you’ll be carrying your gun wherever and whenever you can.

More on that in Part Two of this series.

Competition is not training, which is not real-life


Jim Glennon has a thought-provoking article on

Think about what many officers do when it comes to range practice. They begrudgingly report to the range, take off their jackets, maybe their body-armor, stretch their arms, put on their “ears and eyes”, get themselves in the right frame of mind, maybe practice drawing and aiming, and then finally, when physically and mentally prepared they raise their hands and say “Ready.” Which is exactly how real gunfights happen.

I shoot USPSA and/or IDPA at least two times a month, and I’ve had over 200 hours of firearms training at this point in my life, and I was “Ready” for every single shot I sent down-range.

There’s many good reasons why this happens, and safety is the biggest. Chaotic activity is the norm in a violent encounter, but chaotic activity on a shooting range tends to get people killed. This is where airsoft has been such a boon to “civilian” firearms training:, allowing us to safely use force-on-force training to practice and prepare as close as we can to the “real world”.

If all you do is punch holes in a paper target, consider shooting IDPA or USPSA. If you compete, why not mix in some “tactical” courses to break you of the double tap habit? If you train, expand your horizons with some force-on-force or a friendly airsoft duel.

The life you save may be your own.