Many of our students shoot or want to shoot competitively or casually in some sort of pistol discipline. It can be a great way to get rounds down range under stress (timer). Regarding shotgun, many shoot trap or related clay sports either competitively or casually also. We do point out to these students that there is a very large difference between the shooting sports and defensive shooting, particularly when drawing from a concealed location.
Mindset is the first consideration. Yes, running against a clock with an RSO breathing over your shoulder is stressful. What is more stressful is being out in the open with no cover while a bad guy is shooting at you or a knife wielding psycho is 7 seven yards and closing. In competition, the participant gets to see the stage and walk through it with their finger gun. One typically doesn’t have that luxury in the real world. In trap, the shooter is loaded, gun mounted, and safety off before yelling pull. In the real world, the shooter just woke up, the room is dark, safety is on, and a round may or may not be in the chamber. Think one of those scenarios is more stressful?
We are not insinuating that the shooting sports should not be enjoyed or that they are not challenging. What we are saying is that if you are serious about defensive shooting, the sports need to be taken in context. A literal “switch” needs to be thrown prior to sport shooting. The shooter should remind himself that this is for fun and it has no correlation between the day’s activities and how the shooter trains for life or death scenarios. Remember that you will lose some of your ability to visualize “reality”. You’ll be sucked into the round or match and it will be all that matters to you for a while. You’ll be told when it’s your turn, how many shots to fire at each target, and in what order. In the real world, you will need to judge for yourself who gets what where and how may times. Two shots often won’t do it. There is no bonus for headshots in the real world. You may, however, get to live another day.
In our level one classes, I encourage students to wear OWB holsters and have plenty of mags and ammo on them. It is much safer when learning the draw. Many of our shotgun and rifle students will wear chest rigs and be loaded up with a luxurious amount of full mags. The reality is that if your guns are needed in a life or death scenario, the likelihood of you having this gear is slim. Your pistol may be a subcompact, IWB. Hopefully, you’ve listened to us and have a least one spare mag on you. However, in close contact distance, you may not have time for a reload or be able to execute one unless you’ve trained for it!
We encourage our intermediate and advanced students to come class with their real life carry gun and wear street clothes. Drawing from concealment and wearing jeans is much more realistic than sporting a drop leg, tight fitting shirt, and “shoot-me-first” pants. Take classes and train personally for reality. Know that it is not a game. For example, unless you carry extended mags on you daily, leave them at home. Remember that reloading behind good cover is tactically sound versus reloading on the run to the next station. Remember that smooth is fast and it doesn’t matter what your time is when in a gun fight. What matters is that you are still standing as the good guy.
So if you shoot in matches or at the trap line, enjoy. Have fun. But if you are serious about self-protection, delicate a much larger percentage of your practice time to it. Perfect practice makes perfect. Under the stress of a crisis scenario, you do not want to resort to your most practiced techniques if they are not advantageous to saving your life or the life of someone you love.
…until you’ve positively identified your target and you have made the conscious decision to shoot.
Lately, we encountered a few more beginning students than usual that just cannot seem to get that rule down and actually practice it EVERY time. During our classes or private sessions, we are relentless and adamant about the rule. We will not issue a student a certificate until they fully demonstrate complete safe gun handling from the draw and presentation, engaging a target, through to reluctantly re-holstering. We give positive reinforcement clear down to saying, "keep your finger..." rather than "don't put your finger on the trigger".
One of the keys is to find a spot on the gun to rest your finger. Not on the front of the trigger guard. Not on the trigger guard. Higher. Get comfortable with that spot. That is where your finger goes!
We always give our students homework and things to do at home -both on the range and dry fire at home. As far as dry fire at home, here are a few to practice. First, clear your gun. Double check it again. Empty all magazines and take your ammo into another room. Triple check there is no ammo in the room where you will practice.
Take your empty gun and walk around the room with it, pointed in a safe direction and keep your trigger finger off the trigger. Index your finger nice and high. Put your finger on the ejection port if you can reach it. Stay in the room, watch tv, do what you do while holding the gun and keeping your finger off the trigger.
Practice your draw in the mirror. Over and over until you can’t do anymore. Do it without putting your finger on the trigger.
If it still seems like you have a trigger magnet on your finger, get a training gun. Blue, orange, yellow doesn’t matter. Now you can walk around your house and yard with the dummy gun in your hand. Of course, you are keeping your finger off the trigger the entire time and keeping it pointed in a safe direction. Holster it. Draw it with it, clear rooms with it. Just keep your finger off the trigger.
Repetition, practice, and finding a spot to rest your finger will lead you to safe gun handling. Remember that just owning the gun isn’t enough. Nor is the ability to hit a target with it. Your sidearm will not do you or anyone around you any good if you cannot handle it safely!
I came across and article recently in a trade journal about the draw in reverse. For those of you that have attended our classes, it sounded like we wrote it. I figured it was a good time to jot down our thoughts on the matter.
Every time you go to re-holster, you have an opportunity to draw in reverse. I’m a firm believer in repetition when it come to defensive techniques. It drives the skill home and into our memory. Particularly during dry fire or laser gun training, re-holstering is the draw in reverse!
News flash - putting your gun back in the holster is not truly a part of the defensive skills required to win a defensive encounter! Many instructors will yell at you if you look down while putting your gun back in the your holster. Not us! Take holstering lightly, and you’ll end up with a hole where it doesn’t belong. During a class, the student may need to holster over 100 times in a day. This is the most dangerous aspect of training if not done with care. The fundamentals of safety and proper gun handling need to be maintained throughout the entire process. We all want to go home without any new holes.
We will go step by step.
Draw your pistol. During the draw, the trigger finger must be indexed and a full firing grip maintained on your sidearm. The trigger finger does not go on the trigger until you have made the conscious decision to shoot.
For discussion’s sake we will presume you had to engage the bad guy. Once the bad guy is no longer doing bad things to your satisfaction, your finger comers off the trigger. We teach going back to position three in the draw to ensure retention of the gun. Now you need to scan your surroundings. This achieves a two-fold purpose. One is to actually look for more threats. Criminals often run in packs. The second purpose is to break the tunnel vision that likely occurred.
There is no reason to hurry your gun back in the holster. This goes for training and in real life.
In a defensive encounter, you’d better be sure there are no other threats around before re-holstering and calling 911. In training, you are simply putting your sidearm away in order to start another drill shortly. Look your gun into the holster! Make sure there are no obstructions. Maintain your firing grip with your finger indexed! Do not alter your grip to re-holster. Remove your holster if it is soft or has collapsed and holster off body. If you carry appendix, lean back and ensure you do not muzzle your body.
Look your gun in to the holster! Make sure there are no obstructions. Maintain a firing grip and KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER. As we often say during class, reluctantly re-holster. There is no hurry. Don't forget to scan for more threats.
Stay safe and see you on the range.
Growing up, most gun folks had a glass front display cabinet to store the family firearms. Most were long guns assigned to hunting duties. The cabinets weren’t locked because the kids that entered the house or lived there had a healthy respect for the guns and other people’s belongings. We wanted to do the right thing because we respected life and wanted a chance to shoot the guns occasionally with supervision. There were consequences for disobedience such as grounding or a spanking. We wanted our freedoms as kids and crossing lines never entered our minds. In 2017 things are a bit different.
This is not meant as an educational on being a parent in the 21st century. It is, however, a primer on how to sensibly secure your firearms in this day and age. Fortunately, we have many options.
I’m asked how I keep my firearms secure being a firearms instructor and a gun retailer. The quick answer is: don’t raise ignorant spoiled brats. When your child is old enough to understand that matches burn and cars can run you over, they are old enough to learn that they are not to handle or touch guns without adult supervision.
As they get older, and every kid is different, you can introduce them to shooting. Don’t be the YouTube guy that hands his 8-year-old a 12 gauge. Start slowly and with a very mild caliber like 22LR. Rifles are generally easier for beginners than hand guns too. Set them up for success and begin and end every section with safety and safe gun handling. Air guns are a great introduction to rifles too. Many a kid took his first shots with a single cock Red Ryder. Teaching the child how to clean and care for the gun is also an important aspect to cover. There are great resources from the NRA and NSSF to supplement what the child learns at home. I often teach brand new kids to shoot because the parents don’t shoot. Often it becomes a family class so everyone is safe in the house and has an understanding of safe gun handling and protocol whether they shoot or not.
My kids stared shooting with 22 rifles and revolvers at around age 9. By the time they were 12, they could safely and accurately shoot Glocks, 1911’s, and AR15’s and AK’s. Every kid is different. My daughter is a great shot, but doesn’t “love” it. I’m happy she has the skill set if she ever changes her mind.
The key is to take away the mystery or taboo aspect of guns by education and safe gun handling.
Regarding storage and unauthorized persons: I’m always armed. My sidearm is on my person unless I’m sleeping or showering. I’m not going to share the details just like I’m not giving out my social security number, but I have several methods. Nightstand safes are great. As your kids get older you can explore other options. I secure the bulk of my guns in a safe, in a safe room. I secure the ones I have for immediate protection differently, and only adults know how to quickly access them. We do not leave guns lying about the house. I trust my kids, but I do not know all of their friends personally. My kids know not to point a gun at anything that they are not willing to kill, destroy, or buy: but their friends probably haven't received that rule and other gun safety rules drilled into them. Locked and unloaded guns are of little use for home protection. Uneducated children in a house with guns is just asking for big trouble.
As an extra FYI: My guns are secured. As an FFL, I do not keep a lot of inventory by design. The inventory I do have is secure in a safe in a locked room. My personal "non go-to guns" are also secured in a safe. We have alarms, video surveillance, and dogs. I am also the township police commissioner and have regular patrols on my street. I do daily deposits on an irregular schedule. I am always armed and have additional firearms close by if needed. Just so you know...
At this time of year, between the holidays and cold weather setting in, it is natural to want to be in a giving mood. When encountering apparently homeless people or folks down on their luck panhandling, many of us would like to help. If you fall in to that category, do not let your guard down and be unobservant.
If you are reading this, you are probably a defense minded person to some degree. Maybe you carry a gun or some other form of self defense on your person. What you have on your hip will not make a difference if you are distracted and lulled into complacency - even if you have some training.
Here is how it can work. The seemingly benign homeless looking person is typically very kindly and gracious. He is often times exceedingly polite. Sir and Ma’am are likely used. The nicer the demeanor, the more likely an attack may follow. They do this to get you to let your guard down and get comfortable.
Another warning sign is when you are approached by a stranger and asked for something. How vulnerable have you become while you’re fishing for some change in your pocket? You are inattentive and if the person launches an attack, he will have a distinct advantage on you, whether you are trained or not.
“Do you have the time?” is another classic way for a criminal to catch you off guard. Criminals anticipate you raising your wrist, exposing the watch, and looking down. The other more recent anticipated move is digging in your pocket for your cell phone to check the time. The second one leaves you even more vulnerable than the first instance! When you do either, BOOM. That’s when the attack comes.
A safer way to give to needy people is through a reputable charity. If you feel compelled to give someone a few bucks on the street, keep in mind there are many “bad” people in this world that will kill you for what is in your pockets. Keeping your distance and your guard up is imperative. Don’t become a statistic.
We have students from all walks of life come through our defensive shooting courses. We see some interesting trends, particularly in our Level 1 classes. It is not unusual to see students that have never shot at life-like targets to shoot the weapons on the paper targets.
We teach early on that our eyes lead the way and the gun follows. We must identify the threat then we can point our gun. Once we identify the threat, our focus should go to our front sight as we were taught. Realistically, we know it may be impossible to not focus on the threat. We know that both of our eyes must be open to minimize tunnel vision. However, if you cannot help but focus on the threat, move your eyes to the vital zones. Determine where to send your rounds: center mass, head, pelvis then make the bad guy stop doing bad things. If you’ve taken our classes, you know we go over round placement in detail. As a responsible gun owner, this is how you must practice.
Target identification and discrimination is not just about identifying a threat, it is about identifying what vitals are available to you and ensuring items such as body armor are not in you way. We teach pelvis shots in our higher level classes for this very reason. It can be devastating but at a minimum it knocks the bad guy to the ground and gives you, the good guy, a distinct advantage.
Practice and reps are what we need to be proficient and automatic in our shot placement. Use realistic targets rather than bullseyes or blank paper.
Practicing with targets that you can change the weapon easily from a gun to knife to a cup of coffee is very useful. If you have a training buddy, turn your back to the target and have them change the item in the targets hand. When clear, turn and face the target and determine if a shots are required. To be clear: If threat is holding a cup of coffee, he doesn’t need holes in him. If threat has a knife and you’re 25 yards away he doesn’t need holes either. At least yet. Ensure your shots are going in the vitals. Think of it this way: if you were in a hand to hand fight, you wouldn’t punch your opponent in the hand, right? Along those lines, if you’re in a gunfight you’re not going to shoot the bad guy in the gun.
When you play the “what if” game either by yourself or with another like minded individual, remember that visualization is as important as proper practice. The more scenarios you play out, the better you will be prepared if things get pear shaped. Keep training!
Given the events of this past weekend, I changed my morning routine today while getting dressed. Those of you that know and train with me know I live what we teach at Cajun Arms. I arm myself as I get dressed and either dress around my gear or adjust my gear if I need to dress a certain way.
Today, I put on my outside the waistband holster. I draw and present my pistol much faster from the outside than from my inside the waistband holster. I purposely chose my Glock 19 today vs. my lower round count Glock 43. I put on two mag pouches today instead of my usual one or none. My flashlight went in my pocket as well. Sometimes I get sloppy and do not carry it. I was ready for whatever the day may bring with my light, my G19 and 46 rounds of HST on board. Lastly, I double-checked my blow out kits in my vehicles.
The bombings, attempted bombings as well as the stabbings in MN made me realize I have been a bit lax lately. You and I are accountable for our own protection and the protection of those we love. You must be ready for the fight if it comes your way. The days of me saying, “Every day is a good day to be a witness, we don’t live in Israel” may be ending. We can no longer ignore an abandoned backpack or briefcase in a public place. We can longer presume that the character acting strangely does not have a knife and would never use it.
This brings me to training. We have been fortunate to have hundreds of students successfully complete Defensive Carry 1. The class is a great start to learn the foundation of defensive pistol. Carry 1 prepares you for the use of your sidearm in a “controlled” defensive situation, such as things that go bump in the night. The class does not prepare you for complex tactical thought processes for an active shooter or self defense in public areas or social settings (nor is it designed to). Only about 30% of our students go on to take additional classes. You need a higher level of training and continued practice with your skills. For your own continuing education in self-protection consider attending our Defensive Carry levels 2 or 3. Level 1 is a prerequisite but you can take 2 or 3 in order or out of sequence. Our level 4 course rounds out the series. Your gun ownership is a huge responsibility. Our training is available to ensure you can successfully deal with the task.
In our classes, we preach to scan, then identify a threat. Then, and only then, does our gun follow. Remember the Universal Gun Safety Rule, “Never point your muzzle at anything you do not wish to kill, destroy, or buy.” Our eyes find the target, our mind assess the threat, then our muscles punch out with the gun if required.
The speed in which you look and scan should alway far outdistance the speed that you move your gun. When a threat is identified, your gun will drive out to the target, align your sights with your eyes, then press the trigger. DO NOT lead with your gun!
During reloads, it should become second nature to keep your eyes up and focused on threat or where you anticipate a threat appearing. This is why we practice mag changes (both fighting and tactical) until we can do it in the dark or with our eyes closed. You do practice your mag changes dry, right? It is imperative to keep your gun in your “workspace” close to position 3.
When shooting, we teach new and beginning shooters to focus on the front sight. This is important in order to learn form and accuracy. If you are training to become a defensive or reactionary shooter rather than a target shooter, your focus will shift to the threat as your skills progress. Let’s face it, you may not have a say on where you focus during a life or death fight. You may not be able to help but focus on the threat. We are not point shooting, we are looking through our sights to our target and producing a quick flash sight picture to confirm we are on target. (This is how you must focus when using a red dot optic) When practicing, focus on the intended point of impact, not the threat’s hands or weapon! Without practice and discipline, a newer shooter will find himself shooting at the threat’s hand or weapon because that is where their focus is aimed. Go to the range and practice on a good target. Try different area of focus. See where you shoot best! Upgrade your sights too. Makes sure your front sight pops!
Our eyes need be up and on threat during the draw. We teach a four step draw for this reason. We are under control the entire process and just because we are mid-draw does not mean we must shoot. If the threat suddenly complies, we can keep our gun on him but choose not to press the trigger. No “flyfishing” or “digging” during the draw! Position 3 of the draw is truly the most important part of the presentation. I’m sure some of my students will never forget the reps they were required to do until they truly “got it”. Position 3 or Compressed Ready is where we join hands to present a two handed pistol grip. Remember to drive the gun straight to your line of sight from the chest!
Lead with your eyes and place as many shots on threat as needed to neutralize it. Look at threat, look at your sights, but look at nothing else until there are no more threats! Including you magazine and mag changes! Keep your muzzle in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger until your eyes have confirmed there is a threat that requires engagement. When one threat is down, keep your head on a swivel and look for more threats! There is no rush to re-holster after the all clear…
Many of today's bearded tactical sensations believe they invented appendix carry (AIWB). It's funny because it's been around for years. Back in the day it was called Mexican Carry when done without a holster. Folks that lived near the Mexican border that traveled back and forth over the border did it as to not call attention to themselves. Back then, being caught with a handgun didn't necessarily land you in a Mexican prison as it does today.
Just in case you weren't sure, appendix carry is a means of carrying a holstered pistol, inside the waistband, strong side, forward of your hip, but not centered. Find the spot that works for your build from approximately 12:30 to 2:30 if you're right handed.
Appendix Carry is NOT for everyone and many consider it dangerous, particularly for new gun owners. In this brief summary we will weight the pros against the cons and you can decide what is right for you.
AIWB is first and foremost very FAST on the draw.
It conceals great on just about everyone. Typically a Tee shirt is all that is needed as a cover garment. Human nature is such that we do not typically stare at each other's privates. As a result, a gun hidden near your crotch will never be as noticeable as one on your hip. If you don't believe me, the next time you meet someone new, stare at their jimmy or hoo ha and see how that goes.
AIWB aids in the retention of your gun. It is close to your center where your core strength lies and would be extremely difficult for someone to snatch it from you. You also will not bump into door jambs and such as you may with hip carry.
AIWB can be very comfortable, particularly if your belly isn't too big, your chest is bigger than your waist, and you have a longish torso. Many women find it very comfortable too and find it conceals better than other conventional belt carry methods.
Once you have a gun with a muzzle that is not too long, find that "sweet spot" position to carry it, and adjust the cant properly, Appendix carry is very comfortable for both sitting and standing. You can actually reach it while seated unlike a kidney carry. While seated in vehicle you can also reach it (however we maintain that your carry gun be secured in your vehicle within easy reach instead).
The gun size limit for AIWB is about a Glock 19. I carry my G19 with an RMR often in a Crossbreed appendix holster. In the summer, I carry my Glock 43 in a Blackhawk ARC holster when wearing shorts.
The drawbacks have vehement detractors. The big one is that when holstered, your gun is pointing at Jimmy or your hoo ha OR your femoral artery. Remember though, your gun is holstered in an appropriate holster. Keep your finger off the bang stick and it is not dangerous. My biggest concern is re-holstering during training. Let's face it. If you need your gun in a life threatening situation, re-holstering is not a major concern. There's no rush to put it back. However, during training and doing reps from concealment is where you may get sloppy. DON'T! On re-holster, bend your knees, lean back a bit and thrust your pelvis out. This way you will not muzzle yourself during the re-holster. There is no rush!
We teach students at all levels of proficiency. We meet folks that at first do not want to carry with a round in the chamber. Good instruction and practice gets those folks comfortable to see that carrying with a round in the chamber makes good tactical sense. In a similar fashion, many folks new to concealed carry wouldn't be comfortable carrying AIWB at first. That makes sense. We encourage most new students to carry outside the waistband around 3:00 until they become proficient with their draw. It is simply safer while training and learning the draw - particular during the re-holster process. We do not permit AIWB during most of our group classes simply for safety's sake because of the need to re-holster hundreds of times during class!
AIWB, is it for you? As always, contact us with any questions or comments!
Jim Benoit's thoughts on guns, gear, & training
CAJUN ARMS & TUSCARORA TACTICAL TRAINING
WEST CHESTER, THOMPSONTOWN, PA