“We want to shoot as fast as we can guarantee hits.”  –Tom Givens

Broward County (FL) is home to one of the most modern indoor shooting facilities in existence.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t available, and our class was held at an indoor range built in the 1940s.  It made for a very interesting shooting experience. The class consisted of 12 students; all graduates of the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course (IDC).

Tom Givens

Tom Givens

The class began with a review of some of the material from the IDC particularly that we need to reject the notion of an “average” gunfight in favor of the term “typical” in that training programs should be designed around the things that we see occurring regularly.  Tom also stressed that shooting shouldn’t be a contest of a speed versus accuracy; it should be a blend of speed AND accuracy.  As he says, “There is a finite amount of time in a gunfight.  Misses won’t help you.  Misses are wasted time.”

The first range work consisted of some dry presentations and then quickly moved into accuracy and trigger control drills.  This was followed by some diagnostic drills, and then several runs on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course.  Posted below is the target from my best run, a 295 out of 300, with my other two runs being a 284 and a 288.  The 284 was my first run.  I had a good group, but it was clustered high in 8-ring and the 9-ring.  After that, I went with a “six o’clock hold) aligning the top edge of my front sight near the bottom the black, and this put the shots where I wanted them.

295 on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course

295 on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course

We finished up the shooting on day one by shooting the Rangemaster Instructor Qualification Course followed by a run on the ATF qualification course.  I really liked the ATF course.  My first run, pictured below was a 96.  The inner gray area as well as the white oval are scored at 2 points each.  The outer gray area is worth one point.  Anything outside of that is zero points.  The high shots are from the 15 and 25 yard lines.

The rest of the day was in the classroom.

96 on the ATF course.

96 on the ATF course.

Day two started with another run on the Rangemaster Bullseye Course followed by a run on the FBI Bullseye Course.

My target from the FBI Bullseye Course.

My target from the FBI Bullseye Course.

After that, the pace of the shooting picked up quite a bit.  We shot a drill called the 6-5-4 Drill that required the shooter to alternate between precise shots and shooting at speed.  I really liked this drill and will using it a good bit.  The target had three different sized targets on it.  Within a time limit, we had to put two shots on each target with only hits counting.  Following that, we shot the Parrot Drill, which is similar to the 6-5-4.  There were also several runs on the Casino Drill.

We did a classroom session on the evolution of low light techniques (and of flashlights) followed by a range session to practice them.

The final shooting portion of the class was another run on the ATF course.  I managed to pull a 100 this time.

100 on the ATF Course

100 on the ATF Course

The “Top Gun” award was based upon the two runs on the ATF course.  We had two shooters score perfect 100s on both runs, and they split the award.

The day wrapped up with some more classroom work covering target selection and design and scoring methods.

This was another great course from Tom Givens and was well worth the trip.  I picked up several teaching points and techniques and will be incorporating them into upcoming training.  I continue to be impressed with Tom’s teaching style and class organization, specifically, each of his teaching points is well thought out, researched, and explained.  There is no extraneous material.  Furthermore, he provides historical context on the development of techniques.  He also explains why there are things that he doesn’t teach and gives the context for that as well.  It is unfortunately rather common for instructors to merely parrot things they have heard elsewhere without understanding the whys and wherefores.  Tom is a legit source that not only understands what he is teaching, he knows exactly why he is teaching it.

Training Cake

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

I first became aware of Patton Oswalt due to his portrayal of the character “Constable Bob Sweeney” on the show Justified.  He is also a standup comic.

Before I go any further, I tell you now that he is an atheist, he cusses, and he discusses religion.  Don’t click on the link below if your sensibilities can’t handle it.  I also warn you that it is not safe for work.

Oswalt does a bit titled “Sky Cake” in which he discusses his theory on the origin of religion and religious wars.  He jokes that one of his ancestors, a weakling, convinced a bigger and stronger guy not to go around pillaging and that the reward for good behavior would be that when he died he would go to a magic city in the clouds where he would be served “sky cake”.  He goes on to say that this worked well until someone from another continent sailed across the ocean and mentioned the “sky cookies” that he had been promised as a reward for not pillaging.  This of course led to a war between the “sky cake” people and “sky cookie” people.

I draw a parallel to this bit and the respective groups in the firearms training community.  Students pick their favorite guru and only the techniques taught by their guru are correct and everyone else is wrong.  If it stopped there it wouldn’t be so bad, but as Oswalt said “sky cake only tastes good if other people can’t have sky pie”.  It’s fairly common in the training community, which is a very small community, for the members of one camp to try to tear down members of another camp.

At times, the criticisms are legitimate.  There are “trainers” out there who put out a bad product or otherwise engaging in behavior that rightfully earns a flag.  As my friend Tom Givens says, “I learned something in every class I ever attended.  Sometimes it was how not to do things.”  Unfortunately, there are plenty of instances in which the criticisms that readily rampage about the interweb are driven purely by personality rather than legitimate discussion and evaluation.

Recently, I had the opportunity to review a set of videos by a noted trainer.  The trainer demonstrated his method for performing a particular task.  His method is different than the technique taught by my chosen guru.  The first thing that flashed in my mind is, “That’s wrong.  That isn’t how ‘my guru’ teaches to do that.”  I almost stopped the video, but then I laughed at myself and thought, “You want training cake, and he is serving training cookies.”  I backed the video up and watched the segment again.  There was one part of his method that caught my eye, and after a little bit of experimentation, I was able to refine what I was previously doing while not abandoning my technique.  It made what I was already doing better.

It was like having training cake with training cookie crumbles on top.

If I had completely shut out everything he had to say because his method wasn’t my guy’s method, I would have missed what actually became to me the most valuable portion of the video.

Entering a Residence

Posted: January 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

At the time of this writing, a few days have passed since the Sentinel (OK) police chief and several deputies from the Sheriff’s Office went to a residence in response to a bomb threat at a local day care.  It was believed that the threat originated from the residence in question.  The chief and the deputies made entry into and began clearing the house.  A resident of the house opened fire striking the chief four times.  The chief survived due to the fact that he was wearing a ballistic vest.  It should be noted that the entry was made in the very early morning hours.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has announced that charges are not being brought against the resident who fired the shots.

I have read several articles concerning this incident, and there is one glaring omission in each of them, and that is that no mention is made as to whether or not the peace officers involved had a valid search warrant to enter the residence.

There are four legal means in which to enter a residence.  As outlined in the 2-3-4 Rule, they are: consent, a search warrant, hot pursuit, and exigent circumstances.  It is pretty obvious that they didn’t have consent.  They also didn’t chase anyone into the house; so, there goes the hot pursuit exception.  That leaves only exigent circumstances or a search warrant as legal means of entry.

A simple explanation of exigent circumstance would be a situation in which immediate entry was required in a situation in which there was a immediate risk to life, such as an officer hearing calls for help or officers arriving to a call of domestic violence and hearing what appears to be a violent physical encounter taking place.  In such instances, the circumstances would make it extremely unreasonable for the officers involved to obtain a warrant prior to entry.  For instance, it would be completely unreasonable for peace officers to not enter the scene to stop a stabbing in progress.  Another example would be to prevent evidence destruction.  Readers are encouraged to seek out more information on exigent circumstances beyond this brief attempt at an explanation.

As to the incident at hand, I suppose one could make an argument for exigency; however, I would need much more information than is provided in the various articles.  Does a reported bomb threat for a daycare that was not currently open an occupied constitute exigency?  Was there some information that led the officers on scene to believe that they must enter immediately to save lives or prevent the destruction of evidence?

Again, the information provided in the articles is lacking, and second guessing officers on the scene when not having all of the information they had is not a practice in which I readily engage.  After all, they may have had a warrant with such just not being mentioned in the articles.  I simply saw this as an opportunity to discuss the legal requirements for entering a residence, and this article is by no means intended to imply wrong doing on the part of those involved.

I read an online rant by a guy claiming to have been arrested for “standing up at a football game.”  I’m not familiar with the laws in every state, but I was fairly certain that no state, especially Alabama, had a law making it illegal to stand up at a football game.  I contacted the arresting agency and requested a copy of the incident report.

The truth of the matter was that the guy bought a general admission ticket.  During the game, he moved to the reserved seating area where he stood directly blocking the view of other fans. Those fans complained to the event staff upon which time it was discovered that he didn’t have a ticket for that area.  He was asked to return to the general admission area, and he refused.  He was subsequently arrested for Alabama’s version of what we in Georgia would call criminal trespass.  The element of the crime was that he was in an area for which he didn’t have a ticket and refused to leave that area.  It wasn’t for standing up at a football game.

The story above was to illustrate what is a frequent occurrence of the misreporting, intentional or otherwise, of a police-citizen encounter especially when there is a sensational outcome.

At the time that I write this, the news media is buzzing with a story about a man in New York City that died after a confrontation when police there attempted to arrest him supposedly for selling cigarettes on the street.

Some pundits and social media users are making such statements as “he was killed for selling cigarettes.”

Such is absolutely not the case.  Force was not used by the police officers on scene until the man began to physically resist arrest.  Therefore, force wasn’t used for selling cigarettes on the street, it was used due to a lawfully arrested person resisting arrest (obstruction under Georgia law).  Had the man not physically resisted the arrest, the incident would not be a news item.

Nothing in the above should be construed as to supporting the existence and enforcement of such laws dealing with the street vending and taxation of cigarettes.  Nothing in the above should be construed as advocating the use of any particular tactic.  All I will say in regard to the tactics used is that if a person is able to say anything, especially repeatedly, then they have not been “choked out”.  If you doubt this, go by your local mixed martial arts gym and request someone there put you in an actual choke hold and see if you are capable of speech.

I urge you to look past headlines and emotional appeal of a situation and drill down to the actual facts of a case.

Grand Jury Process in Georgia

Posted: December 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Since grand juries have been such a hot topic of late, I considered researching and writing an article on the subject, but then I found a handbook published by the Hall County District Attorney’s Office on the topic.  Click here to access a .pdf copy of the handbook.

“If you are going to take the time to look, take the time to see.” -Erik Lund on scan processes

This was my third formal class with Erik Lund having previously taken his Dynamic Fighting Rifle and Performance Shotgun courses.  Erik was assisted in this class by Tod Lit.

Erik Lund

Erik Lund

 

The class consisted of 11 students and began in the mid-afternoon and went well into the evening.  We began by practicing various handheld flashlight techniques in conjunction with our pistols.  We then practiced handheld light techniques with our rifles.  All of this was done while we still had daylight so that we could focus on the techniques.

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Erik demonstrating the Harries Technique with a pistol

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Erik demonstrating the Harries Technique with a rifle

Of note, Erik recommends having some sort of retention device on a handheld light to aid in weapon manipulations.  He personally used a lanyard and would simply drop the light, perform a reload or malfunction clearance and then retrieve his light.  Another option demonstrated by Tod Lit was a light with a ring on it.  I didn’t have any such devices; so, I put my light back in the holder on my belt during manipulations initially, but later in the class I switched to stowing it under my arm.

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After we had practiced the techniques, we broke for dinner and then had a lengthy discussion on different low light technologies available including lasers, night vision and thermal.  The discussion included demonstrations of all of these technologies.  Some of this stuff is a language all of its own, especially for a guy that still runs iron sights on his rifles.

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Infrared seen through night vission

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Pistol fire seen through night vision

night vission

The author and Erik Lund

 

After the demonstrations were concluded, we moved back into a live fire segment using the same progression as in the beginning of the class.  After each of the handheld light techniques were used under live fire, we were allowed to begin using our weapon mounted lights.

The final live fire portions of the class involved shooting at 50 yards first to see how accurately we could place shots.  Then we ran a few evolutions in which we had to negotiate a barricade and hit partially obscured targets.  It is important to note that seeing the targets and making the shots was not difficult at all.  However, and this is a key point, true target identification at that distance was difficult.  Had the drills been judgement drills, I wouldn’t have taken the shots as I couldn’t definitively determine that they were “hostile” targets.

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My equipment:

I shot my issued shorty Colt M4LE carbine.  It is equipped with a YHM-9670 handguard.  I received and installed the handguard earlier this week.  I recently met the owners of YHM thanks to my friends at Sight Picture Media.  I like the feel and profile of the product and think it is a good addition to my carbine.   My lights were provided by Jamie Wiedeman of Surefire.  On my rifle was an older Surefire Scout light, and for my handheld, I tried two different versions of the Surefire Peacekeeper (dual output and the tactical).  I’ve been running the Scout light for several years, and it has been on more than one bad guy hunt.  This was the maiden voyage for the Peacekeeper lights.  I preferred the dual output light due to the “click on, click off” tail cap switch.  With the tactical version, my thumb came off the switch a couple of times during recoil; thus, the light turned off.  The tail caps can be switched, and I will play around with the clickable switch on the tactical version.  Thanks to Jamie for setting me up with the lights.  It was “almost like cheating.”

Thanks to this guy for the night vision pictures.

Thanks to this guy for the night vision pictures.

Walking in Their Shoes

Posted: November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

You all know the old saying about not judging a person until you have walked in their shoes.

This weekend a horrible tragedy played out in Cleveland, OH.  The common thread among the media reports are that two officers from the Cleveland Police Department responded to a call of a young male waiving around a gun.  As the officers approach, one tells the young male to raise his hands.  Instead, the young male draws the pistol from his waistband at which time the officer fires.  The boy was killed.

The gun turned out to be an air-soft (fires plastic BBs) replica of a model 1911 pistol.

Some reports claim that callers mentioned the possibility of the gun being fake, but it is not clear whether this is accurate or if that information was relayed to the responding officers.  In the end, if this is indeed the case, it will certainly add more fuel to the angst fire, but it really doesn’t change the situation to any large degree as this information may certainly be taken into account by responding officers as it couldn’t be accepted as 100% reliable either.

Now for the walking in their shoes part…

I was working midnight shift on patrol.  Other units responded to a reported shooting, and they put out a look out for a very distinctive vehicle that passed by at the exact time of the shooting.  A short time later, I was dispatched to a fight in progress call.  As I arrived on scene, I see the vehicle described as being at the scene of the earlier reported shooting.  It was in fact the very same vehicle.  The vehicle was being chased by several people on foot who were running after it.  I told the people chasing the car to stay back; I caught up to the vehicle; and I initiated a stop on the car keeping in mind that it was very likely connected to the reported shooting.

As the vehicle stopped, the passenger immediately jumped out of the vehicle and turned toward me.  Light from a streetlight glinted off of what appeared to be a silver, metal object in his hand.  I drew my old S&W 4006 out of a Safariland 070 duty holster, and as I type this, I can clearly see the image of my Novak front sight superimposed over the center of his chest.

The object in his hand was a cell phone.

Had he made any move that looked threatening after I saw the light glinting from the object, I would have fired.  I have no doubt of this.  It all happened in split seconds, but the event plays over and over again in slow motion in my mind whenever I think of it.

In another instance, I almost shot a college student who swept back his jacket to show me that the gun that he was carrying was a toy gun.  He saw me, freaked, and turned towards me sweeping back his jacket.  In his mind, he needed to show the cop that he didn’t have a real gun.  All I saw was a guy spin toward me while sweeping his jacket out of the way and reaching for what appeared to be a pistol in a holster on his belt.

The only reason I didn’t fire was that I saw and recognized the power chord coming out of the butt of the pistol.

Yup.  He was carrying the pistol from his video gaming console.

The individuals in the car in the first incident had by pure coincidence driven by the scene of the reported shooting as it occurred.  They made the mistake of pulling into a fraternity parking lot to park their car.  The members of the fraternity took exception to this and the result was a fight.  The two guys jump back into the car (after one of them unleashes a can of pepper spray) and leave the parking lot with the fraternity members chasing them only for me to arrive at the same time.  In the second incident, the individual was a college student on the way to a costume party at a bar.  We happened to wind up in the same parking lot at the same time, and he freaked thinking the cop saw that he had a “gun”.

Both of these incidents could have easily resulted in “Cop Shoots Teenage Holding a Cell Phone” or “Cop Shoots College Student Armed with Video Game Pistol” headlines.

The decisions in those incidents were made in less than a second each.  It turned out that I was right both times.  The irony is that I could have been wrong and still been right.  I also could have been wrong and ended up dead.  That is the pure truth of the matter.  Life and death decisions made instantaneously, in real time, and without the benefit of slow motion replay to see if the ref blew the call.