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...
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!
Jim Benoit's thoughts on guns, gear, & training
CAJUN ARMS & TUSCARORA TACTICAL TRAINING
WEST CHESTER, THOMPSONTOWN, PA