Shooting a gun is not a natural human action. Even experienced shooters will often flinch trying a new gun or caliber. Recoil anticipation is the number one shooting error!
To add insult to injury, if you flinch and hit a bad first shot, your follow up shots will often be as bad, or worse as you do not have full control over your gun! For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton was right!
We are proponents of new shooters using larger and heavier hand guns to learn HOW to shoot. We are not saying it should be their carry gun, but larger guns are great to learn the mechanics on and gain confidence. We see far too many women shooters in our classes toting little micro pistols. Hubby isn’t even in class with her while their better half is getting punished by the latest cute little gun that he decided was appropriate! Ouch!
Recoil management is easier to learn on a larger gun. It helps soak up recoil with its mass. It later translates to a smaller one easily.
Grip has the largest impact on controlling recoil. We teach and utilize the thumbs forward grip. New shooters are easier to teach. Re-teaching older shooters and getting them to change their thumb-over-thumb or teacup grips is more difficult. We never “force” students to change but strongly encourage them to try “our” way for the duration of class. We have some good shooting students with funky grips. They are safe and perform well. No sense in force feeding them something that will not necessarily allow them to perform better. However, we do move them from their bladed stance to a square one.
The points of contact created by the thumbs-forward grip give most shooters better control of their sidearm. The heels of your palms should be in contact with the gun and with each other, the thumb of your non-dominant hand is pointing forward, resting against the frame below the other thumb. The result is skin covering just about 100% of the grip. No gaps. Think of driving your gun towards the target aggressively. Your thumbs-forward grip along with your locked wrists and elbows (elbows locked is optional) control recoil and allow follow-up shots more quickly. Many prefer to keep their elbows slightly bent which allows multiple shots more quickly. It also soaks some recoil up.
Your grip comes with a square-to-target stance, with your nose over your toes and knees bent. This is an athletic stance that allows easy movement in any direction. It also gives you less exposure to one single bullet from a bad guy taking out both lungs and your heart! Think of its as a fighter’s stance. Keep both of your eyes open and keep your pistol centered on your body. You are in a fight, fortunately you have a gun! A good fighting stance allows the shooter to drive the gun on target after each shot and to transition between multiple targets.
Your grip should be very firm. More firm than a brisk handshake. Keep relatively equal pressure with both hands and keep those thumbs forward. Your thumbs play a large role in mitigating recoil. This will cam your wrists forward as well, effectively locking them.
A right handed shooter’s left thumb ideally provides lateral pressure to the frame reducing the natural tendency for a righty to push the gun left when shooting rapidly.
Another element that is often overlooked is trigger control and reset. Keep your finger in constant contact with the trigger after firing the first shot. Release the trigger just far enough to feel and hear a click. Repeat as needed. Running your trigger in this fashion allows for faster shots and reduces the likelihood of jerking the trigger or other bad things to occur. Prepping and reseting the trigger is also a means of follow through. Driving your gun toward the target and having constant contact with your finger on the trigger is a main element of follow through. However, when transitioning between multiple targets we emphasis that your finger MUST come off the trigger and index high. Competition shooters game this to shave seconds off their time. In the real world you cannot have your finger on the trigger while possibly crossing an innocent bystander. In our higher level classes we also emphasize that the muzzle must also clear bystanders in conjunction with trigger finger index.
You can control recoil on any gun or caliber with proper grip, stance, trigger control, and follow through. Dry firing is great for many aspects of defensive shooting. To tame recoil though, you must get out and shoot! Join us in 2018 for a wide array of training courses!
If you are forced to employ your gun in defense of life, there is a very real chance that you may be injured. 80% of gun shoot shot wounds are survivable. There are ways to ensure that you are among that 80%. The biggest thing you can train is your brain. Your mindset to prevail and live another day is your best defense to a good offense. Once the fight for your life is on, you must believe that no matter what, you will prevail. It is important to interject here that the “end all” is not a dead bad guy. It is ensuring the bad guy stops doing bad things and that you and other “good guys” see tomorrow. You need to be willing and have the mindset that you will not give up.
All that being said, you may need to fight through a major injury to ensure the ending is how you’ve pictured it. Mastering various techniques to overcome injury is a great step in this process, but that cannot happen without the proper mindset. Having the will and the mental fortitude to beat your opponent is the strongest tool in your kit.
When you are hit, your resolve must grow stronger, not weaker. Your focus must shift to launching a counter attack so fierce that your opponent will be looking for a way out. It doesn’t matter what your hit with. The mindset is the same. A switch needs to be flicked from defensive to offensive. You cannot lose.
Air soft or simulation training can help foster the proper mindset. If you get hit, keep going acknowledging the fact you have sustained an injury. Our training with SIRT laser trainers can provide a similar experience. The laser down’t sting, however. If you have never been hit hard with a a fist or a kick, take some open hand self defense training. Know how it feels to be stuck hard, even knocked out. Fight your way through the pain. It is better to experience such in a controlled environment like a dojang or kick boxing ring for the first time rather than on the street!
When on the range, practice shooting with your non dominant eye. It is possible to sustain various injuries to it during a defensive struggle. You will quickly see that it is a skill that needs practice. Tape over your shooting glasses so you do not cheat! Remember, practicing any solution to an injury while using a gun could be very dangerous. Many scenarios can safely be practiced at home using safe dry fire methods.
Practice one handed draws. Both dominant and off hand. Present and shoot various strings. In our classes we review the draw with the weak hand. Can’t reach your gun? Many folks re-think their carry position after practicing this. You will need to either use your knees or the ground to assist you in getting a grip on the gun. Again, practice this without ammo.
Ever rack your gun one handed? How about a one handed mag change? Try it using dry fire. Find a solution that works for you. Many of these scenarios are taught in our classes; some with ammo, many without. If you are looking to round out your defensive skill, taking a class under the close supervision of a professional teacher is a great and safe idea.
Shooting from the ground and other awkward positions are another area to practice. What if you can’t get up from the ground? What will you do? Have you practiced it? Have you even thought about it?
How about a compromised grip or one that is slick with blood? Can you still run your gun?
The reality is, if you need to defend yourself with a gun it will not go like you imagined. The bad guy will not be perfectly square and perpendicular to you. There will be obstacles. There may be injuries - including your own. Train for reality. Contact us for more info. Or better yet, sign up for a class!
So you’ve taken a defensive class or two, can draw form the holster quickly, and your mag reloads are pretty solid. Are you good to go? If one compares themselves to other gun owners, they would find themselves “ahead” of the competition. Have you shot while moving, from cover, from awkward positions, while under stress? If not, you will revert to your basic training under stress and not have the skills to rise to the occasion. Shooting from the ground should be in your training repertoire if serious about self defense.
After you learn it, you will see that fighting from the ground is a critical skill if you’ve been knocked to the ground. It also has tactical advantages in some situations by purposely getting down.
Being grounded offers stability and accuracy in shooting. However, it comes at huge cost in mobility. Let’s run through some scenarios from the top down.
Kneeling can be done high or low and on one or two knees. There are teachers that advocate taking a knee for reloads. We do not. We prefer movement, keeping your feet and heading toward cover or advancing your position. Advocates say it makes one a smaller target. True, but it decreases mobility and potentially exposes your femoral artery. Kneeling has advantages if trying to work a doorway by changing elevation. It also is sound if working from behind low cover. If you want to take a very stable shot, you can use your knee as rest. Be sure to keep bones off of bones and instead press muscle against muscle for the most accuracy. As in all of these positions, they are important to master in order to get yourself off the ground and into a standing position!
The seated position is perhaps the worst combination of stability and mobility. However, if you extend your dominant hand with pistol with a locked elbow toward the threat, you can use your off hand and legs to “scoot” away from an attacker to move toward cover while shooting. You can move rather quickly, spider-like, laterally or backward.
Prone is the most stable and least mobile of the positions. Depending on your cover, prone can be a great option as you make yourself a very small target. Shooting from your belly while prone can provide awesome support for a steady shot and offers very little exposure to the threat. Shooting under a car is an example. Curled up in a fetal-like position can provide advantages also. If you bring your knees in close to your body, you can use your knees to provide support to your hands for a steady shot around or under cover. If you find yourself flat on your back with the threat in front of you, a shot from a slight sit up position may be required. Decide during training if you want to shoot between your bent knees or with your legs and feet flat. Much of that decision will be based on your ability to do sit ups.
If you find yourself down, it is imperative not to rush to your feet. It may not be safe. Check your back and scan 540 degrees before changing elevation! It may be prudent to stay down!
Practice these positions at the range if you allowed and have the training. If not, come get the training from Cajun Arms! We introduce many of these techniques in our level one classes. You can also practice dry fire at home. Remember, you already know how to shoot. What you are learning and practicing is taking what you know to the ground and in awkward positions. The bad guy doesn’t always come straight on at a 90 degree angle!
Remember with all of these positions, you are vulnerable to skipped rounds coming from the threat. Know this and the ground you are on. If it’s grass, you’ll be ok. If the surface is pavement or hard pack dirt, not so much.
Have you ever observed a really fast competition shooter? Did you ever wonder how they got that fast? The re-loads were so fast that you hardly saw them? They must have practiced a lot to achieve that speed. What kind of practice you may wonder? Well, let me save you time and ultimate frustration by advising against practicing your reloads as fast as you can. You will suck. You’ll be fine if you are static and in a controlled situation, but introduce stress and movement and decision making - you’ll suck.
I’ve watched competition shooters as well as some of our high level students in class “game” an exercise, drill or station. Once they fumble, they are done. Sometimes they induce malfunctions in their guns because they bringing the gun back too early and do not provide enough resistance to the springs. Introduce a stove pipe during a re-load and really watch a shooter fall apart.
If your motivation is self defense, not a trophy, how does one practice? Perfectly. As cliche as it may sound, smooth is fast. Smooth is how you change mags. Smooth is what can save your life.
You need to practice perfectly. Do it in the mirror. (As always, observe safe practices before dry fire.) Your two hands need to work independent of each other. Your strong hand brings your gun into your workspace where you can see it in your peripheral vision while ejecting the magazine. Your off hand needs sweep smoothly to your spare mag, indexing the mag so you know which way is the front. Strong hand rolls the gun so the magwell is easily found without looking. Insert mag. Seat it firmly. In one smooth motion, bring your off hand to the top of the slide and rack it. Re-establish your grip and get your gun back in the fight. Of course you did this while moving unless you were behind solid cover. If you spent less than six seconds doing all of the above, you performed it incorrectly. What you need to do is perform slowly and perfectly. Speed comes with repeated smooth motion.
Just like martial arts, practice for running a gun in a defensive situation calls for many, I mean many, slow perfect repetitions. A new student in martial arts does not take a few lessons and then jump into the sparring ring. Many perfect reps are required before that day comes. And guess what? The speed required will be there when the day does come. The speed of reloads will be there if practiced perfectly enough times. If you learn it wrong or practice it wrong you will be sloppy. Repetition ingrains and programs your brain so a re-load can happen without conscious thought and makes those motions fade resistant. Remember, what you repeat you learn. What you repeat you will do when under stress. Do it perfectly.
So, practice. Practice some more. When you arrive at a live fire class, the instructor will love what they see. Need some help? Contact us for a private lesson or to review the basics with you!
We try not to get political or get involved with social issue debate, but the incident last week is just too much to keep quiet about. The BS meter is going off the charts. It is a complicated situation. We understand that. However, some of it seems very black and white.
As a firearms instructor that teaches the prudent use of force, we advise if your car is surrounded by a group of hostile humans in the midst of exhibiting violent behavior and causing physical harm to others, you are justified to shoot them to save your life or the life of your passengers. You are also justified in putting your car in gear and driving slowly but decisively away. If the angry mob that is intent on harming you, block your way and go under vehicle, so be it. Their death is on them, not you. IF, however, you say that it’s ok to ram your car full speed into protestors that are not putting you in ANY imminent danger, you are a liar and/or hold some very serious myths and misconceptions to be true.
If your are a “southerner” and you believe in state’s rights preserving history though the use of statues and memorials, fine. I hear you. However, if you protest the removal of such while sporting Nazi or KKK shirts, you are a fraud and a liar.
Conversely, if you are an Antifa chanting violent slogans and use force and intimidation to shut down others, you are a fascist and a hypocrite. Antifa leaders admit they're willing to physically attack anyone who condones racism -- as long as force is used in the name of eradicating hatred.
It also seems fairly easy to have predicted something undesirable would happen in Charlottesville. Why not stay home or find something else to do that day unless you were looking for excitement or trouble? Whether you hate our president or love him, there was fault on both sides in Charlotte. The nazi and KKK types have been quiet for a long time now. Antifa just gave them the platform they’ve been looking for to crawl out from their rocks. Unfortunately, the good folks that came out to peacefully protest or counter-protest were sucked into a nasty maelstrom.
Students often ask us the above question, particularly after a lesson or a class. We give “homework” to our students, providing practice drills and suggest areas to work on at the range. Simply blasting holes in targets is not training. The most important skill for the defensive shooter to focus on is mindset: mindset with visualization. The shooter needs to enter the range and train as if his or her life depended on it. Think about why you are performing each action and ensure that it translates into the real world. Your training and practice must have a purpose that is worth reverting to when under stress. As your skills increase, you will begin building stress inoculation, even if by yourself.
Once the foundation is set, it is time to move on to mastering advanced techniques involving one hand, shoot-don’t-shoot, and moving and utilizing cover. Unfortunately, many ranges do not allow such practice. Seek out a competent instructor and class to practice such skills. A good instructor will ensure you understand the skills taught before putting the student under too much stress. The act of performing in front of a class and instructor is often plenty of stress for many students. Remember, you must crawl before you can walk, and walk before you run.
Back to the proper mindset: mentally prepare before shooting any exercise. Visualize and imagine a scenario that could happen to you at home or at work. Do not lose sight that you not only must survive, but also win the fight! Imagine the drill you are going to run, and visualize the simple things such as your draw and presentation, your gun manipulations, and checking your back after the engagement. If you do it correctly, you can put yourself under stress by imagining it beforehand to check your performance. You will remember these practice scenarios running through your head and can draw on them if needed in a real defensive situation.
Another aspect to proper training is the physical nature of self-defense. You do not have to be in triathlon shape, but possessing the ability to run and move is important. So is the knowledge of what your body’ natural reactions are to high stress and working around it or with it. Tunnel vision and threat focus is why we have our students scan after the threat is down. Auditory exclusion can help preserve our hearing later, but remember to shout commands to loved ones or innocent bystanders. Remembering to breath while in a fight might sound silly to the uninitiated, but our rates will climb and it will become difficult to make good decisions without oxygen. Our gross motor skills will deteriorate rapidly under high stress. This is why we stress the importance of using gross or large muscle groups as much as possible while running our guns.
When things go pear shaped, will you be ready? It’s not the “if” that you are prepping for, but the “when”. You will not have the luxury of learning how to fight when in a real confrontation. These skills do not occur after taking a couple of classes or training every other month. You must do something every day: Visualization, playing the “what if” game, dry fire, and live fire. Train as if your life depended on it. Train until it becomes second nature. Develop the mindset and techniques to deal with and overcome the threat.
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...
Jim Benoit's thoughts on guns, gear, & training
CAJUN ARMS & TUSCARORA TACTICAL TRAINING
WEST CHESTER, THOMPSONTOWN, PA