Hey! Welcome back, I'm glad you made it. I've been doing a lot of interviewing this past week, and I noticed something about my sports jacket that kind of disturbed me. Now when I bought it I made sure I worked with the people at the men's store to be sure it would conceal my holster well while still looking good. Surprising? It really shouldn't be. With the number of people who have cancelled carry permits on the rise, many of the better stores are more than willing to work with you though they may ask you to unload your weapon as a safety precaution.
What concerns me though is that the sleeves have become rather tight around my biceps lately. Not sure if I've started to put some fat on my upper arms or if my efforts to get back in shape after all the health problems I've had over the past year is adding muscle to my arms. It sure hasn't done anything to shrink my stomach yet! But the point is that I was concerned that the jacket might bind my arms at the wrong time; so I went down to my favorite range for a little tactical practice and sure enough, and sure enough I couldn't draw with my holster in it's normal position and still put the first round on target smoothly!
Now admittedly I don't wear suits very often so this might not seem to be that big a deal to some of you. Especially since I can change guns and holsters to overcome the problem, but if I hadn't stopped by the range I would never have known just how bad it really was! If I had needed to defend myself I would have been in some serious trouble and would never have known it until it was too late. Which brings us to the whole point of this ramble.
If you are going to carry a gun for self defense, you absolutely must practice your shooting skills regularly. I don't care what someone else may tell you, shooting a gun is NOT like riding a bike! If you don't practice then you'll fumble things badly when the adrenaline kicks in, and one of the things you need to practice is drawing and registering your gun. In fact as my little story shows, you need to practice while wearing any style of dress you might find yourself wearing. So you can draw rattle snake quick when wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Fine. I'm proud of you. What happens when winter comes and you're wearing a heavy coat? If you're wearing a suit? Or even worse, a trench coat over that nice suit? Believe me, Murphy will bite you hard if you don't practice in every combination of clothes you may find yourself in; and he bites harder than a pissed off pit bull!
"But my range won't let me do that!" some of you are saying. Yeah, that can be a bit of a problem, but it doesn't mean you can't practice drawing from the holster. Contrary to popular belief, it's actually perfectly safe to dry fire most modern center fire hand guns; and even if that isn't true for yours, they make a product called "Snap Caps" which are basically rounds with no powder or primers. So find a safe place in your house where you're not going to break something, unload your gun, and get to it. In fact many experts (including the man who trained me) recommend doing this at least 10 times a day in addition to live fire practice at the range. In a surprisingly short period of time this daily practice will have you moving as smooth as, well, Wyatt Earp. Which brings up another point to keep in mind.
According to legend, Wyatt Earp, one the most respected as well as feared gun men in the old west reportedly once said that it's not who shoots first that wins but the one who shoots accurately first. You can be faster than Jerry Miculek, but if your first shot tends to hit the 7 ring on the range then sorry to say you probably won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside when the chips are down. So take your time and practice doing it right. When your first shot from the holster is consistently hitting the x-ring, then you can start trying to up your speed. Until then just concentrate on the basics.
In the meantime though, it seems I've done it again with the chapter length rambles. So until we meet again in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own you take care of yourself and your family. And as always, remember. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
Gather round friends and listen to a story of a home invasion that could have gone very, very wrong. A week or so ago one of my friends who happens to be a a fourth degree Black Belt had some idiot try to force his way his house. The would be home invader kicked in the storm door but failed to get through the front door, possibly because my friend's no fool and had replaced the screws in the strike plate and dead bolt with longer screws. Now admittedly most home invasions happen in poorer neighborhoods, but my friend lives in a very nice area making this attempt kind of unusual. Add in that my friend probably could have tied the would be crook in knots, and the fact that the guy took off when he failed in his first attempt to force the door was a wise decision.
So how could things have gone wrong? Easy. Being no dummy, and not having any troubles with the thought of him or me, the first thing my friend did was grab his gun and make sure his wife and child were out of harms way. But then he made a very bad decision. He went out the door after the idiot who had tried to commit home invasion. Now admittedly my friend is a great martial artist. Indeed in all honesty he's better than I will ever be; but no matter how good you are, no form of karate will make you bullet proof! If the intruder had been armed then my friend would be pushing up daisies instead of running a very successful school. So what should my friend have done?
For starters, in addition to making sure his family was in a safe place, he should have instructed his wife to call 911. Now in all fairness, I can't imagine him not doing exactly that; but he didn't mention it when he was telling me the story so I have no way to know one way or another. But once that was done and he had his gun in hand, he should have immediately found some form of cover! In my friend's house he could have ducked down behind a couch or darted into the kitchen. Either way he'd have had plenty of cover and a clear shot at anyone coming through that front door. In my house I'd have had a lot more choices, including two stairwells, the kitchen, and, if I had time, the front room where I'd be behind them as they entered. I could also have ducked into the powder room right off the entry way, but then I would be trapped if anything went wrong, and it never pays to discount Murphy's law. It'll bite you in the ass every time!
So what should you do? Well for starters you need to look at your own home right now. How might an intruder try to force his way into your house or apartment? Admittedly most home invaders go for the front door. After all their whole strategy is to smash their way in, grab whatever they can, and get back out again as fast as possible; and hang the damage to property or people. But not every crook is going to go for the front door, so look at every possibility and try to figure out where you can get good defensive cover and still have a clear shot at any intruder coming in that way. At the same time try to figure out your line of retreat if things start to go south. Next you need to find a safe place for your family to retreat to where they won't find themselves in the line of fire, yet at the same time there needs to be a line of escape; so an upstairs bathroom with only a tiny little window that no one could possibly get through probably wouldn't be an ideal choice. At the same time your family really needs a reliable way to call the police. After all, you're likely to be too busy to do it yourself, so get them used to having their cell phones with them at all times. And finally, try your damnedest to figure out a way to get the hell out of dodge before the bullets start flying. It may be a cliche, but the best fight really is a fight avoided! Things can be replaced, your life cannot; and no matter how good you may be, there's always someone out there who's better or luckier. So get a good insurance plan with a replacement value rider and let the bad guy have your things if you can safely get out of there.
Now comes the hard part. My friend had done all of that. He even practiced it a few times, yet he still went out the door after the intruder instead of following his plan. Why? Because when things get real, we as human being will instinctively do one of two things. We'll either attack, or run away and hide; it's simply the way we're wired! That's why police departments, fire departments, ambulance crews, and hospitals have so many disaster drills. That's why the military trains their recruits to tears. The only way to keep from falling back on that instinct is to practice our plan time and time again. Indeed, you need to practice it till your family starts muttering about white jackets with extra long sleeves since it's obvious you've become paranoid. Admittedly it's as boring as hell, but it's much better than being another statistic in some police report.
Of course there are all sorts of things you can do to make your home a much less inviting target, many of which I covered in an earlier ramble. And who knows, I may revisit that ramble again; but I think it's time to bring this one to an end. As always I hope I gave you something to think about, so until we meet again in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own I wish you well. May the sun be always at your back and may the road rise up to meet you. And as always, remember, if it's worth doing then it's worth doing with attitude!
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of people who buy a gun "for defense" and then toss their new gun in a drawer and forget all about it. Ask them even the simplest thing about it a couple of months later, and the answers are so predictable you have to wonder how much leaming is in their DNA make up. How many rounds does your magazine hold? I dunno. Does it have an external safety? I dunno. How's it shoot? I dunno, never shot it. Really? Then how do you know if it even will shoot? Leave it that drawer long enough and I can almost guarantee that it won't, and at that point the only thing it will be good for is throwing it at an intruder and hope it hits him! Could have saved yourself a few hundred bucks and just pick a drawer full of rocks from the garden. At least they'll throw well which a gun probably wouldn't! If you're going to have a gun for any reason you need to take to the range on a regular basis and practice with it.
Still just plain target practice is only going to take you so far. Oh sure, it'll do you plenty of good if all you plan on doing is having fun or competing in Bulls eye competitions, but if you plan to carry for self defense then you really need to do something a bit more. Something to help prepare yourself to be something other than a target, which is exactly what you'll be if you just stand there in fight like you were just having another day at the range and your gun is sitting on a bench waiting for you to pick it up. On the other hand, there are some ranges where that's the only thing they'll allow you to do, in which case it's better than not practicing at all.
The first thing you really need to practice is drawing and then reholstering your weapon, especially if it has a retaining system of some type. Believe me, you do not want to be fumbling with it when you need your gun right now! But if you don't commit it to muscle memory then that's exactly what you'll find your self doing. In fact you don't even need to be at the range to practice this, just make sure your weapon is unloaded first. I know this sounds ridiculous, but when you first try it you'll find it really isn't as easy as it sounds. For example, if you count on a jacket to conceal your weapon then you'll need to find a quick, easy, and natural movement that will let you flip you jacket back out of the way of your draw and quickly release the restraining system your holster uses all before you can even start your draw, and then when you go to reholster your weapon you need to be sure that your coat tail doesn't end up inside the holster along with your weapon. I can almost guarantee that if you don't make this an automatic reaction then sooner or later your coat tail (or shirt tail) will end up tangled around the trigger and you'll end up shooting yourself in the leg or foot! Don't believe me? Then check out this video. That's exactly what happened to the police chief shown in it.
Once you're comfortable with drawing and reholstering your weapon, you'll want to try and find a range that will let you practice firing from the holster. Some will while some won't, and most of the ones that will let you will want you to either take a class first or insist you do so under the supervision of a range master (at least for the first time any way). Once you have, if you've no or little experience drawing from your holster and shooting, just spend a few sessions just drawing and shooting one or two rounds. Don't worry about accuracy at this point, just practice drawing, shooting, and then reholstering until it feel completely natural to you. Speed and accuracy will come with time.
Once firing from the holster and reholstering feels as natural and smooth as walking, now it's time to start working on accuracy. There's several ways to do this. The simplest way is to just use the common silhouette targets just the same as if you're doing normal range shooting. Or you can up the ante and cut a hole in your target. The idea here is that when you shoot, you want all your rounds to go through the hole you cut. If a fair number are making their own holes then you need more work. If the majority are going through the hole you cut, then next time cut the hole a little smaller. The trick is that when you're shooting for self defense, you really don't care if all your bullets are making a nice 1 inch group; you just want them to hit something vital that will stop your attacker from hurting you or your loved ones.
Another drill you can try will let you work on both speed and accuracy at the same time. With this drill you'll need either a shot timer or a buddy with a stop watch (or at least a second hand on his watch). The idea for this drill is that you take a preselected amount of time on each of your shots so that you can work on muscle memory and technique. So when the shot timer (or your buddy) says go, you draw your weapon to the count of say five, then aim to the count of five, then fire using the best trigger control you possibly can to the count of five, then reholster again to the count of five. All in all, this should take you about a minute. After you've practiced at this rather slow speed a number of times, then you speed things up doing the same thing but at a count of four. Then three, then two, then one. Since technique is the best way to guarantee accuracy, this drills that technique into your muscle memory better than any other drill I know; and when the chips are down, muscle memory is what will keep you on track and hitting what you're aiming at.
"But wait!" I hear some of you saying, "I thought you said not to stand still! Yet these drills are doing just that, aren't they?" And you're right of course. So far everything I've rambled on about does involve shooting from a static position. The trick is that if you can't hit what you're shooting at is you're standing still, you probably won't be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside when you're trying to move and the adrenaline is pumping through your system like water from a fire hydrant. So work these drills first to get that all important muscle memory going since that is what will allow you to hit your target under pressure. Get to the point where you can do it right every time without thinking about it. Then, and only then, you can change it up just a little bit. When these drills are instinctive, start taking a step to either the right or the left as you draw. That's all. Just a simple step to one side or the other. It sounds absurdly simple, but it's actually much harder than you might think. I can almost guarantee that the first time you try it you'll find your aim is so far off that you'll be wondering what went wrong. Nothing did actually. It's just that unless you have a background in some form of the martial arts or are just naturally gifted, you aren't used to working your upper body and your lower body at the same time that way and it's going to take some practice to get used to it. That's part of why I want you to get to the point where the motions of your upper body as you draw, aim, and fire your weapon are programed into muscle memory; because once it is you'll be able to concentrate more effectively on making your legs do what they're supposed to do. It won't take long, but it is something that needs to be learned, not just done. Then, once you can move to either side easily, start stepping on the diagonal. Forwards and to the right at the same time, or backwards and to the left. Mix it up. Try doing it at home using a squirt gun or even a stick in your hand instead of your handgun. I know, I know. It sounds dumb, and you'll feel even dumber doing it; but it really is worth it in the long run. Hell, every martial arts instructor I've ever had would spend the occasional class just having us do front cross overs and rear cross over forwards and back. Yes, even the advanced belts would be out there with us; and I'm talking the truly advanced belts. Second and Third degree Black Belts would be out there right along with White and Yellow belts looking as stupid as hell, but it works. It teaches you how to move and keep your balance. Even more, it teaches you how to move and keep your concentration on the other guy, the one trying to fill you with holes. And before very long at all, you'll be able to draw, aim, fire, and move towards cover all at the same time without even thinking about what you're doing; and at that point you'll truly be ready to defend yourself.
Now don't get me wrong. All of this is hard work, and it sounds as boring as all get out; but it doesn't have to be. Get your friends together and make a game of it. See who can hit the smallest hole. Or maybe see who can work their way to the shortest time on the shot timer with everyone starting with a five count on each step and working your way down almost like a twist on the game of horse. Or maybe you can find a range or club in your area that has IDPA tournaments! There can be a real rush to competing in an IDPA match, and to win you'll have to use everything these drills are designed to teach you. Plus, you'll probably meet some people who can teach you even more drills you can use to train yourself with without getting bored with the same old same old every time. Hell, maybe we'll even meet and you'll have a drill I don't know that you can teach me. I'm always looking for new drills and new tricks. After all, the day I stop learning is the day some one should push me over and burry me where I fall 'cause I failed to notice I'm dead.
But for now, as always, I've reached the point where I'm starting to write a chapter in a book instead of just rambling on for a blog. So go out and have some fun this weekend. Fire off a couple of boxes of ammo, and maybe, just maybe, try one of these drills. Either way I hope to see again soon in this little corner of cyberspace I call my own. And as always, remember. If you're going to do something, do it with attitude!