Goal setting for CCW focused shooters

Yesterday I talked about the importance of goal setting when measuring performance, and I approached the subject entirely from a competition shooting standpoint. Now while we’re big advocates of competition shooting here at Gun Nuts, I also accept that there are some shooters who simply aren’t interested in matches, but still want to get better. For the ccw-focused shooter, what are good ways to set goals and measure performance?

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The best drill for concealed carry

None of carry a gun because we’re optimists, that much is a fact. However, it’s taken me years to accept the fact that most people who carry guns aren’t going to invest the time and energy into becoming a proficient shooter. I don’t like that, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Most people would rather dink around with chrome plated Mausers or carry six different guns a week than buy one gun and learn to shoot it really friggin’ well.

So what should those people practice? I’ve longed believed (and still do) that the Bill Drill from concealment is the best choice for the average joe. For the newbs, a Bill Drill is a time 6 shots from the holster at either an 8 inch circle or a USPSA A-zone. The most common distance used is 7 yards, but you can practice them at any distance. I like to shoot 25 yard Bill Drills when I’m training up for Bianchi.

Let’s break this thought process down a bit. Assuming (I know, I know) that the “average” self-defense scenario involves a single assailant surprising their target, a drill that focuses on belting a relatively large number of rounds into their thoracic cavity as fast as possible seems to make sense. 6 rounds of 9mm in the chest is going to change your plans for the rest of your life, and definitely make you rethink whatever it was that made you decide to do crimes. There’s also the shock factor in case bad guy one has friends; which we shouldn’t rely on, but still. If you and Pookie were out doing crimes together and all of a sudden some dude ninja’d a gun into his hands and dumped half a mag into your best friend in 2 seconds, maybe you’d decide you had somewhere else you needed to be, like yesterday.

The real talk though comes down to the fact that Bill Drills focus on one thing: getting a lot of lead on target as fast as possible. There’s no guarantee a badguy is going to stop after the first, second, third, or even fourth shot. That’s the other reason I like the Bill Drill so much, because it trains you out of shooting controlled pairs or double taps or whatever you want to call them all day long. You need to work the trigger to shoot a fast Bill Drill; and to shoot one under 2.00 you need to get everything right, from the draw to your sight tracking and your trigger speed.

What do you think? Is the Bill Drill the best choice for the novice CCWbro to practice?

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Be like Pat Mac

I don’t have trainer goggles – I’ve never really bought into the whole “cult of personality” thing that you see with a lot of “name” trainers. You know what I’m talking about: dudes getting into internet slap fights about how my sensei can beat up your sensei because they’ve decided that one trainer is the be all and end all of trainers.

That being said, if there’s one trainer I absolutely want to take a class from, it’s Pat Macnamara. That’s because while other trainers are busy getting into internet purse fights, he’s off in a corner being a BEAST.

Plus, he always seem to be having fun in his videos, which is nice. But I’ve never seen him get drawn into the silly internecine infighting that seems to be so common in “name” instructor circles. I wish he’d get back to posting more videos of his crazy shooting drill/workout combos.

You keep being awesome, Pat Mac.

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.

HK VP9 shooting USPSA Limited Minor

Matches and good classes are really the best place to test out your gun. Once you’ve established that a pistol is reliable enough for a match or a class, take it to an actual event and shoot it at speed. You’ll learn stuff about the gun that can’t be revealed in dry fire or single lane training. As an example, in this USPSA video featuring the VP9 is that at speed, even with a solid grip, the gun tends to have a lot of muzzle flip. It’s nothing that can’t be controlled, but at the same time it was a lot more bounce than I expected from a 9mm. It actually flips the muzzle more than my .45 ACP 1911, which is odd.

So take your guns to a class or a match. You might be surprised what it tells you.

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.

Training for the changing threat

A couple of posts popped up on my radar today that both hit on the same subject – how we’re training and what kind of threat we’re training to fight. First up is Todd at Pistol-Training, talking about the emerging active shooter/terrorist threat:

While there are still muggers and rapists and thieves aplenty in our society, this year has seen a rise in organized, trained, well armed, and fearless teams of ne’er do wells who are all too happy to kill their victims. Murder for them is a goal, not an inconvenience.

Caleb Area 3 with Colt 1911

Next is a post from American Handgunner, where Ralph Mroz talks about how he’s changing his training focus from extreme CQB (inside 3 yards) to more short/intermediate range training; reasoning that the data from recent civilian and LE shootings shows most fights occur outside the “phonebooth” envelope.

We now have the only good data set on civilian defensive uses of guns (Tom Givens’ data published in Handgunner (Sept./Oct. 2014 edition) which indicates most civilian deadly force encounters happen at about 5 yards, at least in his data set. This means we definitely need to train at that distance — plus or minus a couple yards, so say 3 to 8 yards. Further, the astonishing success rate of Tom’s students suggests we need to pay attention to Tom’s fairly traditional training too — sighted shooting with two hands on the gun.

I have always advocated that self-defense training should be focused on making difficult shots under tight time limits, with the simple reasoning that if you’re capable of making a pair of head shots on a 3×5 card under 2 seconds from concealment at 7 yards, a wide open torso at 3-5 yards is an easy shot. Or to put it another way: “No one rises to the occasion, you default to the level of your training.”

It’s sort of like the zombie apocalypse joke: if you’re prepared to survive a plague of the undead sweeping across the land, a tornado is just an inconvenience. I’m not saying that everyone should immediately run out and take a carbine operator course, rather that people should take an honest look at the self-defense skills you have, identify weak areas, and then train to make those weaknesses go away. The mere act of carrying a gun for self-defense means that you acknowledge the possibility, however unlikely, that you may need to actually use that gun for self-defense. If you’re mentally capable of realizing that, it then follows that it’s in your best interests, and the interests of those around you, to be prepared for the most extreme situation in which you could use that gun. Because if you’re training to make 25 yard head shots on moving partials, you’re going to be able to make the easy shots.

But what does that look like? How can we go from “not ready” and find the road that leads to being ready for an unthinkable day?

  1. Evaluate your gear. Step one is simple. Look at the gear you’re carrying right now. I understand some people can’t carry in the workplace, so look at what you can carry. If you can and do carry at all times, what are you carrying? A j-frame? A Glock 19? Is your equipment, be it holster, belt, or gun itself a limiting factor in your ability to make hard shots at intermediate ranges? I would casually suggest that if you can’t make an untimed headshot on an IDPA target at 15 yards with your current gear, you might want to look into changing it up.
  2. Evaluate your skills. Can you make an untimed headshot on demand at a 15 yard target? What about hitting a 2 inch circle at 5 yards, or a 3×5 card at 7? There are a ton of drills available online that you can use to benchmark your skills, whether it’s a good old fashioned Bill Drill, the FAST test, the iHack, whatever. Find some drills, test yourself, and see where your weaknesses are. If you’re good at bill drills shoot a drill you’re not good at.
  3. TAKE A FRIGGIN CLASS. Once you’ve found out where your weaknesses lie, take a class from a reputable instructor to have professional adjustment made on those skills.
  4. Pressure test your skills and training. Once you’ve received that professional instruction, you need to pressure test what you’ve learned in the white hot fire of the furnace of the crucible of motorsport competition. Weird things happen to people’s skills when you put them in front of other people and on a timer.
  5. Practice. Once you’ve done all these things, you need to set up a repeated schedule to practice and continue to build speed and efficiency. It doesn’t do you any good to learn new stuff and pressure test if after that you just sit around for 2 months waiting for your next match. Dry fire. Even if it’s just for a little bit. Go the range and train.

The bottom line is that once you’ve accepted that the world is a dangerous enough place to warrant carrying a gun every day, the only logical extension of that thought is that the danger is significant enough that you should be training to kick its ass.

Taurus PT1911 Torture Test Part 4: Reload practice and other drills

In part four of the torture test, I simply had a straightforward training session. I shot 48/50 on Dot Torture at 5 yards, I worked on draws to a 3×5 card at 7 yards, and I worked on reloads with 4 shots at 7 yards. I captured the end of the reload training on camera as seen above.

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