“Under stress, you have got to have skill… Situational awareness is the single most important skill.” –Ken Hackathorn

Ken Hackathorn

Eighteen shooters turned out for a rainy Saturday and beautiful Sunday of shooting with one of the foremost instructors in the business. Participants came from at least three states, and the class was a mix of private citizens, federal agents, and the Sheriff of a Georgia county.

We began with a discussion of common elements found in self-defense incidents. That was followed by a discussion of current trends in the firearms industry and the firearms that he is most commonly seeing coming through his classes now.

We then moved on to the live fire portion of the class and did some basic shooting and assessment drills so that he could see where we all were as shooters. The drills were pass/fail drills shot against a standard. We shot these as a mix of individual competition and the entire class shooting the drills altogether. We also shot some pivot/turn drills as well as some reloading drills. After a supper break, we had a low light session.

Sunday was a full day of shooting. The focus was primarily on shooting while moving. Added to that was some strong-hand-only and support-hand-only work.

Of note, we shot some point shooting drills. One of these drills involved a lot of movement and with our sights taped over. We then shot the same drill using sights. The evolution in which the sights were used had better results. Imagine that; that little bumpy thing on the muzzle end is actually there for something…. might as well use it. (Note: that is a poke at people that say you don’t need your sights inside certain distances. It is not a poke at the drill or the instructor.)

As for what he was packing, Mr. Hackathorn was toting a Hackathorn Signature Series 1911 from Wilson Combat. There was quite a bit of friendly banter back and forth on this issue as he is an unabashed fan of the 1911 platform.

Ken Hackathorn with his own signature series pistol.

I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a couple of days with someone as venerated as Ken Hackathorn. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth banter and all of the historical insights.

I don’t recall the exact dialog for this one, but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with Glocks and 1911s.

And now for a bonus science lesson:

Jason Fobart of Sight Picture Media. He provided some of the pictures for this article.

“Reactive shooting is shooting in the target’s time and not the shooter’s time.” –Bill Rogers

The Rogers Shooting School is one of the most prestigious shooting schools in the world. Some of the world’s most elite military and law enforcement units come there each year, and “The Test” is well known among the shooting community. I won’t go into a detailed explanation of The Test. Rather, click here to go to Todd Green’s site for an excellent break down and videos of each stage. A minimum passing score is 70 plates and earns a Basic rating. An Intermediate rating is earned by getting 90 or more plates, and an Advanced rating is earned by getting 110 or plates. There are 125 total plates possible in The Test.

Bill Rogers shooting a demo.

During my trip to Rogers, I was witness to a memorable event in shooting history. Now in its third decade of operation only two people had ever shot perfect scores on The Test. The founder, Bill Rogers, has done it twice, and the legendary Rob Leatham has done it once. In my class, two perfect 125s were shot. One was by Gabe White, and the other was by noted USPSA shooter Manny Bragg. If that wasn’t enough, Gabe White did it shooting from concealment.

Gabe White and Manny Bragg

I think the best way to describe Rogers is that it forces the shooter to maintain a strong mental focus. Any lapse leads to a cascading collapse of fundamentals and numerous steel plates taunting you as they drop out of sight.

I am happy to report that I earned an Advanced rating.

Shooting my Advanced run under the watchful eye of Sheriff Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell, Sheriff of Boone County, IN, and an instructor for Gunsite was a student in the class.

Participants in the class came from as far away as Alaska. We also had participants from Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Indiana, California and Florida. We had a full gamut of weather from short and t-shirt weather on Sunday evening followed by rain on Monday and Tuesday to freezing temperatures on Wednesday and a beautiful day on Thursday. We managed to finish on Friday before another round of rain hit.

Thank goodness for propane and propane accessories.

“You don’t have time to miss.”

I could stop right there and sum up the essential lesson from the class, but that wouldn’t make for much of an adventure through the blogosphere.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster brought his Combative Pistol I class to my proverbial backyard. He was assisted by John Hearne, Jeremy Younger, and the lovely and gracious Mrs. Lynn Givens. There were 24 students in the class, including one who came all the way to Georgia from Pennsylvania only to be topped by another student who came all the way from New Mexico. The class was a mixture of private citizens and peace officers.

Due to logistics, we did all of the classroom work on the first morning of the class. The classroom portion consisted of a safety briefing followed by discussions of several real world incidents and the lessons learned from them. We then moved on to a discussion of basic techniques.

After lunch, we convoyed to the range and began the shooting portion of the class. We began with warm-ups and then moved into drills all designed around specific teaching points.

Tom Givens giving instruction for a course of fire.

 

John Herne observing Ronald Dodd.

John Herne working with a student.

 

Day two consisted completely of shooting drills, and other than the initial warm-up, everything was shot from concealment.

Rather than going into the specifics of each and every drill, I’ll simply say that each drill had a specific purpose, they built upon one another, and they gave the students a structured way to practice in their own range sessions. We also shot several scored tests to assess our skills and our progression, and there were several drills where we shot on our own against the clock with everyone watching to kick up the stress factor.

Tom Givens demonstrating a technique.

 

Now I can move to the most important part of the class review:

The firearms training community is full of devotees to schools of thought who are not bashful about espousing their particular chosen sacred cow and then dogmatically defending it. Tom did a very good job of explaining why he teaches what he teaches, and he also explained many of the other schools of thought often including their origins and how they have been misinterpreted over the years. The focus was on efficiency and precision rather than such things as a Weaver versus Isosceles or  caliber debates. The pace was quick with students either shooting or loading magazines with no downtime other than a few short breaks, and the discussions were all brief and on point with the lesson at hand.

I’ve been in a lot of classrooms over the years between my academic pursuits and professional training, and Tom is absolutely one of the top teachers I have experienced. His lessons are more than proven. Over 60 of his students have successfully defended themselves in violent encounters. The very, very few that have lost failed to have a firearm with them when they needed it.

Below are my results on two of the tests:

 

 

Tom recommends using graphic targets in training.

Those whose  education on the use of force and the dynamics of a shooting incident is limited to the typical “western” movie or TV shows are indoctrinated to believe that shots in the back automatically make a shooting a bad shooting.  The fact of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case.

I highly recommend the articles found at the following two links.  They do an excellent job of explaining of how a good shooting just MAY result in shots to the back.  This applies not only to peace officers but to armed citizens as well.

http://www.forcescience.org/articles/forcescienceresearchcenter.pdf

http://www.forcescience.org/shotback.html

Sheriff Scott Berry and I appeared on Ballistic Radio.   We discussed gun control, confiscation, the change in public perception of Law Enforcement officers, as well as some of our notable hijinks.

I am not looking to get into a debate concerning road checks, roadblocks, check points, or whatever you want to call them.  That is not the purpose of this posting.  The purpose of the post is simply to provide the information as it was requested.

To download and read an article from the  Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia on the topic: click here.  The article goes over the history of the Georgia court’s rulings in this area as well as two recent case that expanded upon the requirements.  I’m not going to rehash all of it since it is readily available.

The short version is that here are the seven requirements handed down by the Georgia courts to consider a roadblock legal are:

1.  The roadblock was implemented pursuant to a checkpoint program that has, when viewed at the programmatic level, an appropriate primary purpose other than general crime control;

2.  The decision to implement the specific roadblock in question was made by a supervisor in advance, and not by an officer in the field;

3.  All vehicles that passed through the roadblock were stopped, rather than random vehicle stops;

4.  The delay to motorists was minimal;

5.  The roadblock was well-identified as a police checkpoint;

6.   The screening officers staffing the roadblock possessed sufficient training and experience to qualify them to make an initial determination as to which motorists should be subjected to field sobriety testing; and

7.  Under the totality of the circumstances, the stop of the defendant was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Again, I am not looking to get into a debate concerning roadblocks.

2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference

Posted: February 27, 2014 in Training

The 2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference was held on February 21-13, 2014, at the Rangemaster facility in Memphis, TN.  The three-day conference consisted of numerous presentations by an amazing collection of knowledgeable instructors.  Three different options were available at any given time to attendees, and a myriad of topics were covered.  While I did attend a few presentations on other topics,  I tried to attend those that dealt with what is known about what happens in violent encounters; especially what those who won the encounters did and how they prepared, and these are the presentations I will discuss in this piece.

Before I get to that, I would like to thank the folks Rangemaster for organizing and hosting this conference.   The chance to partake of that much collective knowledge was a wonderful learning opportunity.  There were times when it was difficult to choose which class to attend as the concurrent options were all equally appealing.  I took 24 pages worth of notes, and many of the takeaways from the sessions will be incorporated into our training program.

William Aprill’s presentation concerning how violent criminal actors (VCAs) select victims forms the cornerstone for this area of discussion.  It basically comes down to the VCA making a “go or no go” decision based on indicators by the person they have targeted.  This is really no different than a lion surveying a herd of lion food and picking which member of the herd will be dinner that night.

Shane Gosa, a fellow Georgia peace officer, presented “The Mental Trigger” based on Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense as well as other pertinent information.  Shane also addressed items such as mental awareness and winning the violent encounter rather than merely surviving it.

Tom Givens’ presentation on “Defining the Threat” was outstandingly well done.  Mr. Givens approached the question from the perspective of a citizen and not that of those in the military or uniformed patrol officers, and his breakdown if the information is the best I have ever seen.  His presentation (as was Chuck Haggard’s) on active shooters was nicely done, and quite frankly, I don’t understand how anyone could receive that information and then go about without the means to defend themselves.  As for active shooters, or active murderers as they should be called, every examination of the topic that have seen shows that the more rapidly force is brought to bear on the murderer the lower the body count.

Jim Higginbotham’s “Fire for Effect” presentation focused on accuracy in a critical event.  I found his illustrations of how many of the qualifying and competition targets actually reward high point values to areas that are not likely to instantly incapacitate a violent attacker to be quite revealing.  In my words, a fellow can kill you a whole lot if you give him 15 seconds to do it.

John Hearne did an outstanding job of debunking many of the myths and outright falsehoods that permeate firearms training.  I’m not much of a “science guy”, but his explanation of how the brain works was done in an easy to understand manner, and he makes a strong case for training to the point of “overlearning” (fancy scientific term) and building the proper mental maps and skill level as predictors for success in a violent encounter.

At this point, I would like the readers to take note that there is some commonality when both peace officers and private citizens are faced with a violent encounter, and overcoming the “initiative deficit” is imperative.   The difference here is that peace officers often initiate contact with the VCA whereas the private citizen is targeted; however, it is the response to that violence that must come swiftly and decisively, and the preparation shouldn’t begin at the point a person realizes there is a need for such.