Concealed Carry: Understanding dry-fire

I don’t actually like to dry fire that much. The joke in the video about countless hours of mindless repetition is how I feel about it. But I also think it’s an incredibly useful tool for building “casual manipulation skills.” What are those?

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Why I went back to appendix carry

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post called “why I ditched appendix carry” which ignited a bit more controversy than I’d imagined it would. Fast forward to today, and I’m writing a completely different post about how I’m back on the appendix train. Interestingly, I still stand by that post from October 2014; because at the time I switched off AIWB my reasons for doing so were valid. Just like now that I’ve switched back to it my reasons are just as valid.

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The right approach to concealed carry

Last year I attended the excellent Rangemaster Tactical Conference held in the Memphis Police Department’s academy and range facility. As I wandered around the facility looking for the men’s room, I encountered the poster pictured above.

While aimed at guiding police officers in how they should approach their behavior off-duty, I think it has just as much application to the average citizen carrying a firearm for personal defense. The Washington Times published a story in July of last year reporting the results of a study that has tracked the incredible increase in concealed carry permits across the nation.

Since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25 percent drop, according to the report from the Crime Prevention Research Center…And the number of permits issued is increasing faster every year. Over 1.7 million new permits were issued last year — a 15.4 percent increase over 2013, the largest such single-year jump ever

I see this trend in my own personal experience. I’ve written multiple times in this space about people who have come out of the woodwork asking me about buying a firearm and getting a permit. In the last couple of weeks in totally non gun related conversations in a professional settings three people have volunteered to me that they’ve recently obtained a permit…people I would never have expected to have one or to be remotely interested in guns. In truth they aren’t really interested in guns as much as they are self defense and there’s no better implement of personal defense than a firearm.

As concealed carry becomes more common the challenge we face is ensuring that those who want to use a firearm for personal protection have reasonable guidance and access to solid information that will hopefully keep them from having to use the weapon they are carrying, or at the very least keep them from becoming a cautionary tale if they are forced to use it. Bad acts by people with permits create bad optics for the rest of us.

Greg Ellifritz penned a very thoughtful article that I think everyone should read and digest covering a relatively new NYPD officer who accidentally killed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. Greg makes the point that one of the largest police agencies in the world certified the convicted officer as being good-to-go with a firearm and issued him one to carry every day, but clearly did not train him adequately for that responsibility. (Most police training, as Greg and countless others will readily tell you, is woefully inadequate) The fact that the state gave him the stamp of approval to carry a gun didn’t matter worth a hill of beans when he screwed up and put a bullet into the wrong person. In other words, the fact that the government says you can carry a gun doesn’t mean that the government won’t go after you with gusto if you make a mistake with that gun. If you have the gun in your hand, you have the responsibility that goes along with it whether you’ve been adequately prepared for that responsibility or not. You are well and truly on your own.

You will find that your chances of a bad outcome diminish greatly with proper training and a sensible approach to the whole problem. The MPD’s off-duty credo provides excellent guidance to that effect.

I will not seek a fight, and if at all possible I will avoid one…

Having a permit doesn’t make everything your problem. Two dudes get into a shoving match in a Burger King? Not your problem. A couple of people cursing each other out in Wal-Mart? Not your problem. A couple in a screaming match in the parking lot of the Macaroni Grill? Not your problem. Minding one’s own business and not participating in other people’s drama significantly lowers your exposure to potential violence. If for some reason you are targeted by some idiot who indicates some willingness to do you harm, finding a way to leave the situation altogether is much less risky than any form of fighting.

…but if one is forced upon me, I will do whatever it takes to survive.

I’m the world’s biggest fan of de-escalation and avoidance strategies. I’ve employed them many times and plan to use them whenever possible in the future because I would really like to go through the rest of my life without having to do any level of harm to anybody. But the other guy gets a voteThe Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” because ultimately we have control over only half of the equation in a conflict. I can control my reactions and behavior, but I have little say in what the other guy(s) chooses to do. They could be eminently reasonable, or they could decide that they will attack me until one of us is dead. If somebody insists on playing for keeps, if they are determined to make it him or me…well…he’s gotta go. You don’t have to be seeking a fight to have one forced upon you.  If someone does force one upon you, odds are it’s one you cannot afford to lose.

My sidearm is neither a status symbol nor an emotional crutch. I will not reach for it unless out of dire necessity…

I’m not reaching for my gun because I want to put the other guy in his place. I’m not reaching for my gun because I feel a sensation of fear, unease, or intimidation about a situation. If I’m reaching for my gun it is to prevent or stop a serious act of criminal violence against me or an innocent third party. That’s it.

…but if I must use deadly force to preserve my life or that of an innocent person, I will use it skillfully and without hesitation.

Skillfully, and without hesitation. Do you know how that happens? Training. Investing the time and effort to bring your skill set and the judgement you operate on up to the level of the responsibility you adopt when you decide to carry the gun. When you have taken the time and effort to prepare yourself, it infuses your bearing and demeanor. You can make good decisions at speed even when looking down the barrel of a gun. You’ve worked against a timer and other shooters to develop the ability to deliver accuracy at life-or-death speed. You’ve taken the time to seriously visualize multiple bad scenarios and how you can potentially handle them. You’ve done enough homework to recognize a lethal assault in its early stages and can react immediately instead of standing there wondering what is going on.

If the other guy insists on a fight, insists on playing for keeps…he’s made the worst mistake of his life.  You have spent a great deal of time preparing for the day when this joker insists on ruining your life. He, on the other hand, expects a victim. Not a trained opponent intent on doing whatever it takes to win. You have prepared to meet him, but he has never in his worst nightmares foreseen anything like you.

It’s your responsibility to ensure that you use your firearm responsibly. If you take that responsibility seriously and through training and discipline seek to bring your skill up to the level of that responsibility it has the lovely added benefit of making you much harder to injure or kill.

I’m all for the increase in concealed carry permits, and I hope that the number of people who make the choice to protect themselves continues to break records. It is on us who have been at this a while, though, to encourage a high standard of personal conduct and development of relevant skill sets to those who are making the choice…for their sake and for our own.

UPDATE – I have since learned that the credo pictured above was generated by Tom Givens. Apparently firearms instructors from Memphis PD went to Rangemaster for some training, saw posters Tom had in the place with this credo on it and liked it so much that they decided to put it up at their academy.

FAST Drill with the Springfield Armory Range Officer

The RO is over 1500 rounds now, and after being generously lubed and politely talked to, it made it an entire range session without a malfunction. Although the pin I noticed walking on a previous test continues to wander around, which is quite annoying. Here’s me running the FAST Test with the RO.

With regards to training, I’ve been focusing lately on working from my actual concealment rig; which means AIWB with a closed front garment. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t practiced with this set up nearly as often as I should, and it shows in my training. My draws are nothing spectacular, pretty pedestrain 1.50s to a headshot, but oh my lord my reloads are ass. Just hot, wretched ass for days and days. The best reload I pulled today was a 2.26. Mind you, with an open front concealment garment, I could get sub-2.00 reloads all day long and when I was hot could even get in the 1.5s. But this closed front thing? It’s the worst. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m trying to reload a single stack without a magazine funnel on it, trust me I know.

I’ve wanted a FAST Coin for a long time. The last time I had a whack at one, I turned in a decent time in the mid-sixes, good enough for the Wall, but not good enough for a coin. Then it slipped from my focus for a while, and then I took all of last year off from shooting. Now I’m back behind the gun and training hard again, and it feels good. I’ve pushed my raw shooting skills back to where they were around 2011-2012 when I was at the peak of my game. With some more work I should be able to get consistent with my reloads from concealment again. Since Ernie Langdon has taken over the FAST torch from Todd, I might even have a chance.

Mindless devotion to Jeff Cooper is stupid

Dr. Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement – so spoke the poet Eminem, using the metaphorical murder of one of the icons of hip-hop to signal the changing of the guard to a new generation of rappers. Unfortunately, no one ever wrote a similar line about the late Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, and such whenever discussions about “stopping power” or “DA/SA” or even AR15s come up, someone will always drop into the comments, genuflect towards Prescott, AZ and say “but Jeff Cooper said” blah blah blah.

Now before you burn my house down, Jeff Cooper has contributed more to the art of modern pistol shooting than I could in 5 lifetimes. Without Jeff Cooper and the Modern Technique, we’d probably still be still stuck with Applegate’s point shooting nonsense, and that would be awful. Furthermore, I still recommend Gunsite as my first choice for someone with no pistol/CCW experience to attend, because the immersive environment of a 250 goes much further beyond “just a pistol class.”

But not all of Jeff Cooper’s ideas were great. He was unequivocally wrong about 9mm, the AR15/.223 cartridge, and DA/SA autos. While as a young man he may have been an innovative, outside the box thinker; in his old age he became a bit of a hidebound traditionalist. Which is fine. I aspire myself to be a crotchety old man, sitting on my porch complaining that these dang laser guns with their electronic triggers can never stop a man like a good old 9mm.

That’s not what I’m talking about, thought. I’m talking about people whose knowledge of defense shooting and tactics starts and stops with the light colonel’s ideas. Look, the Modern Technique was awesome, but we’re way past that now. We’ve fought two enormous wars with poodle shooter rifles and crunchenticker pistols, and when our elected leaders let our warriors do their jobs, we actually did pretty well.

So what’s the point of this simple rant? Open your mind. After you read Jeff Cooper’s book Principles of Personal Defense, read something else. Read Your Defensive Handgun Training Program by Mike Seeklander and learn to shoot better than you ever could have using just the modern technique. I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect Jeff Cooper’s contribution, but at the same time we should apply some critical thinking. Just because he said it, doesn’t make it right.

Please don’t burn my house down.

Post-ignition recoil control vs. pre-ignition flinch

I guarantee one of the first comments on this video will be “nice flinch” – which was the entire reason why I posted it. This post is targeted more at new shooters than our experienced readers, so please feel free to share it with the filthy casuals new shooters in your life.

First, let’s take a look at both terms. What is flinch? To put it simply, flinch is when a shooter, for various reasons, attempts to compensate for the gun’s recoil before the gun goes off. The most common reason for this is fear of recoil/muzzle blast, and the result is usually to drive the shot low and to the left (for right handed shooters).

qualification target - you suck

Post-ignition recoil control is exactly what it sounds like. The gun has gone bang and you’re now using your body to control the recoil to bring the gun on target for the next shot. What creates confusion is that to an untrained shooter who is just learning the fundamentals of marksmanship, what I do in the video looks exactly like the flinch that they’ve been told is bad.

To put it simply:

Flinch: trying to control recoil before the gun goes off, bad.
Recoil control: controlling the recoil after the gun goes off, good.

In the video I posted, what happened was I was working on running the gun at speed from the holster. My brain tells my index finger to pull the trigger, and then tells the rest of my body to prepare for the loud noise that is supposed to follow. When the loud noise doesn’t follow, there isn’t enough time for my brain to say “don’t worry about it” so I act to control the recoil, causing the muzzle of the gun to dip. Doing this correctly is an essential skill for running a gun fast. If you spend time watching youtube videos of top pros, you’ll see that in the rare cases when they have a malfunction, their muzzle does the exact same thing.

With new shooters, what you’ll see is the opposite. As they’re pressing the trigger, they preemptively drive the gun down in recoil which causes the aforementioned missed shots. The best way to train this out is to train in dry fire, to get used to pressing the trigger and keeping the gun flat. Then as you get used to shooting, it’s time to start working on speed. Hopefully this post has helped you understand the difference between flinching (bad!) and controlling recoil after the trigger pull (good).

0.99 Second draw from a retention holster

While working on draws the other day with my Safariland ALS 1911 holster I spent some time working on raw speed, trying to get the gun out as fast as possible. I managed a few 0.99 draws; this one happened to be my very first rep. Mobile users view the video here.

The point of this kind of practice is that it’s part of a progression. I don’t do a lot of single shot draws because it’s easy to cheat your grip or other things in the hopes of going a little faster if you’re chasing a number on a timer; however there are times when you need to chase that number. Last night’s practice session I was working on 2 shots to the A-zone at 10 yards, and my draw was consistently a 1.40-1.50 on the first shot. In order to get faster, I needed to go faster. So I moved the target in to 5 yards and did a few of these one shot reps just as fast as I can move the gun. Consistent times in the 0.99-1.05 range, but accuracy was awful. After a few reps, move the target back out to 10 yards and then apply the same “go faster” mentality but allow myself enough time to pick up the sights and make good hits. All of a sudden my first dropped to the 1.15-1.25 range from the retention holster.

Whenever you do “max speed” work like this, it’s important to remember the point. Pushing sub-1 second draws is where my accuracy starts to really suffer, but if you don’t sometimes push your speed to the point where the wheels fall off, you’ll never be able to go faster.

2016 training goals

Yesterday, CJ had a post up about setting realistic training goals; which is an excellent thing for people to do. One of the issues I’ve encountered in the past is I’ve set goals which appeared realistic when I set them in January or February, but then life happened and by the end of the year they weren’t so realistic any more. For example, I’ve set the goal of making USPSA GM a couple of times, and it hasn’t happened. So this year I wanted to take a realistic look at my training goals and try to do something that I can accomplish, then if I’m successful, move forward and set new goals from there.

Shooting Goals

Again, the goal here is to keep things realistic. I don’t want to set a goal of getting my GM card and shooting 15 major matches like I did back in 2011 where my primary job was “be a sponsored shooter.” That’s not my primary job any more, and basing performance expectations of what I could do when I had unlimited range time and ammo isn’t smart. So, let’s keep it simple for 2016.

  1. Make Master in a division: It looks like the best bet for that will be Single Stack, since I’m spending a huge part of the year working on creating an extensive catalog of 1911 reviews. I’m currently B-class in SS, so I’ve got a lot of work to do there.
  2. Shoot at least 3 majors: The two most likely matches I’ll shoot are the Great Plains Sectional and Area 3, and the third is open for guesses. I’m dialing back match travel and participation a lot this year and trying to focus on skill building instead of shooting matches for matches sake.
  3. Attend at least two advanced shooting classes: I really, really, really want to take a class from Ernest Landgon, because everyone I know who has taken one said it’s awesome. And ENPS is bringing Manny Bragg in this year for a class, which would be high on my to do list as well.

Now, shooting goals are great. But you guys know me, and you know I’m about more than just shooting here on Gun Nuts. One of my big focuses is fitness, and we have goals for that as well. I will sacrifice dry fire for gym time any day of the week, because uh duh, lifting is awesome.

basement gym

Fitness Goals

Again, we want to keep these goals realistic and based of past performance abilities. I can’t just go out and say “I want to deadlift 400 pounds” if I’ve never lifted a day in my life. So, realistic goals are important.

  1. Maintain sub-15% bodyfat: I’ll be honest, my diet has gotten worse since I came back from training over the summer. As it turns out, living a spartan life of training, exercise and not drinking is pretty good, since coming back I’ve gone up about 10 pounds to 155, and most of the weight hasn’t been good weight. I don’t mind my weight fluctuating, what’s a lot more important is the % body fat.
  2. 100 consecutive pushups: my current PR on uninterrupted pushups is 62. I figure I can tack on another 38 somewhere.
  3. 20 consecutive pullups: I struggle with pullups, I always have. PR here is 10, and that was when I was at 145.
  4. Bench 225: I have never ever benched more than 185 for reps. I suck at it, it’s my worst exercise, and it has constantly flummoxed me.
  5. OHP 135: Current PR on OHP is 125, which I feel I should be able to get back to pretty easily. OHP is my favorite lift, and unlike bench I’ve always been pretty good at it.
  6. Squat 315: Squat PR before I started trying to cut weight to attend training was 250.
  7. Deadlift 405: This one would be huge. My max deadlift was in 2012 where I hit 350. This is by far the most difficult goal I have on this list, shooting or fitness. 400+ DL is no joke.

Yes, those goals are all in increments of 90 pounds, which seems like a fairly reasonable progression to me. Of the training goals I have, the weights are where I’m most willing to make adjustments, as I know I’ll have to go through a plateau and de-load cycle on each exercise at least once or twice. I also need to bear in mind staying in shape for my AF PT tests, which means I’ll have to mix running in there as well; which is rough for the Gain Train. One of the reasons I’m trying to cut back travel this year is because traveling really interferes with training. It’s hard to dry fire or hit the gym when you’re on the road for 100 days out of the year.

But there it is; simple, achievable goals for the 2016 season. I’m going to bookmark this post and see what I can come up with during the year. Which reminds me, I need to check the dates for the GP Sectional and Area 3 and make sure they don’t conflict with work.

Concealed carry buyer’s guide

Here’s an uncomfortable fact: a lot of gun stores are pretty terrible. The problem is that most gun stores are started up by gun people, not business people, which means that things like “customer service” frequently aren’t a priority. There are exceptions to this rule, and whenever I find them I make sure to patronize them. However, that’s not what we’re talking about today, because we live in the future. You see, you can actually buy a complete CCW set-up (except for the gun) off Amazon. So here’s how to do just that.

1. Holsters


There are plenty of styles out there as well, so long as you carry a relatively common gun. If you’re rocking an M&P, a Glock, or a 1911 then you’re in luck. Safariland probably has a holster on Amazon for it. The model 27 is just about as generic an IWB holster as you can get, but it’s a much better choice than those awful nylon pieces of garbage. The ALS OWB holster is an absolute must-have if you plan on OC at any point. It’s a proven retention system that has saved people’s lives, and doesn’t really sacrifice a ton of speed. It’s also popular with 3-gun shooters because it offers excellent handgun retention during movement.

2. Belts

Tactical: Casual:

A lot of time belts get overlooked as a piece of carry gear. People often will throw their gun and holster on to whatever crappy wal-mart belt they have, and the results are predictably terrible. Above I have two solid options for carry, one is a Blackhawk rigger’s/instructor belt, which I have several examples of and have used extensively. It’s a good choice if you’re not concerned about looking “tactical,” as it supports all sorts of guns very well. The Galco option is what I’d recommend if you need to actually look like a grownup – assume you’re going to be seen with your shirt tucked in and don’t want people to think you’re some kind of a tactical hobo.

3. Ear protection

If you don’t need electronic ears and will primarily be shooting outdoors, get the Peltor Shotgunners. They’re great earpro, I have a pair that I’ve used for years.

The shotgunners will work on an indoor range as well, but I’d strongly recommend doubling up and using some foam plugs under the shotgunners to really make sure your ears are protected.

4. Eye protection

You’ll need two kinds of eye protection. I have sunglasses for outdoor, and clears for indoor/cloudy days of outdoor shooting. Here I’m just going to post what I use because it’s easy.

Boom. Get your eyepro.

Now you’ve got your holster, your belt, earpro and eyepro for the range. There are a lot of pieces of ancillary gear we could get into here as well like magazine pouches, range bags, we could have a really long discussion about which kind of eye protection is best. The goal of these buyer’s guides is to give new shooters/CCW permit holders/competition shooters the ability to “one stop shop” for the basics that they need to get started.