Amateurs, Dilletantes and Professionals

“Amateurs discuss tactics, dilettantes discuss strategy, professionals discuss logistics”.

– Anon

Thinking more about this throwaway line from my photography post last week

… gaffer’s tape, foam core and a-clamps, because let’s face it, when you get right down to it, those are more important than the camera.

… got me thinking. I assisted for a good number of photographers in my youth, both local and national, and while all of them shot with the same brands of cameras you could find in a decently good pro shop, the difference in their photos was in what else they brought to the shoot besides their camera.

For instance, for a typical on-location corporate or editorial shoot, we’d pack up the van with a big case of lights (3’x2’x4′), 2-3 strobe power packs, a stand bag as big as a big golf bag, a tripod, a grip case the size of a medium suitcase stuffed with cords, clamps and whatnot, a cooler for film (kids, ask your parents), and another case for the cameras.

Out of the seven or eight cases on the shoot, only one held the items to actually take the shot, the rest of the equipment was about getting the environment prepared to take the shot.

Even fashion shooters, who usually eschew artificial lighting, bring along an assortment of reflectors, scrims and umbrellas designed to produce the soft, open light they need for a shot. A pro knows it’s not about the camera in your hands, it’s about controlling the light and the composition. The actual tripping of the shutter is just the last step.

So what does this have to do with guns?

Think about how many wannabes out there are CONVINCED that all they for better pictures is a new camera or a new lens, when really, all they need to do is see the light and know how to turn it into something useful.

How many wannabees out there are CONVINCED that all they need to make GM is a new magwell and more grip tape and new sights and a new holster, when all they need to do is recognize how they shoot a stage and what they need to change in themselves?

How many wannabes out there are CONVINCED that all they need to secure their family’s safety is the latest Blastomatic3000 heater, when really, all they need to do is pay attention to their surroundings, don’t do dumb things with dumb people and carry their gun in a safe, secure holster on a good gun belt?

It’s not your gear that’s the limitation, it’s what you do with it and what you see that is holding you back.

As Dave Barry Might Say…

Florida Man“.

A Land O’ Lakes man faces a manslaughter charge after he allegedly tried to shoot a bucket from a man’s head — but missed, killing him.

According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the whole thing started Sunday evening outside the Rock Harley Saloon in Land O’ Lakes. They say Billy Lee McDaniel was undergoing an initiation into the Southern Sons Motorcycle Club — an act that apparently involved holding a plastic bucket above his head while club members threw cups and bottles into it.

That’s when, deputies say, Jeffrey Camarda tried to shoot the bucket from McDaniel’s head, but missed and hit him in the head instead.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

I should have read this four years ago, but I couldn’t.

Because, sadly, the tactical training community doesn’t think like this.

When I was just beginning this blog (and my journey towards the firearms industry, I noticed that there was a gap between what I was being taught and what I needed. In all my tactical classes, in all my competitions, in everything I could find about personal defense (unarmed or not), it was about me dealing with a threat, or me dealing with the after effects of dealing with a threat, or me doing something else.

It was all about me. The fact is, however, as a married man with a family, it’s not about me, it’s about my family. I have a blowout kit nearby not only for myself, but also because I want my family to survive the use of deadly force if (God forbid) I need to use it. I’m not doing this just because I want to live (I do), I’m doing this because this I want me AND my loved ones to live.

And I know I’m not alone in this. You’d think that tactical instructors would realize that their ideal target market (middle-aged professionals) are concerned about protecting all they hold dear and stress training that covers not just the person in the classroom, but the people they know as well.

And you’d be wrong. Finally, though, that’s starting to change.

Defensive training and practice typically involve one person alone against single or multiple assailants. But most of our lives, we are with other people. The difference between training/practicing alone and working with others leaves a significant hole in our capabilities until we practice to fill that void.

Critically look at how having a partner would alter your response to a defensive incident. “Partner” can mean any number of different people: spouse or significant other, a small child, or an elderly parent. Each type of partner can impose different considerations on your tactics, techniques and procedures.

Read the whole thing because it is, quite frankly, the first thing I’ve found that lays out the steps a family needs to stay safe, beyond just recommending both parents get a gun and train as a team. Arming my wife is just not an option for me right now, but now I have a path I can follow to help my family stay safe. It may have taken four years to get here, but at least I’ve arrived.

Competition Will Get You Killed On The Streets Of Iraq, Part Deux

First it was the Army, now it’s the Marines.*

The most dramatic recommendations from the fiscal 2015 Marksmanship Symposium at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, in October call for studying the overhaul of the Corps’ service rifles.

But those comprise only a small fraction of the overall approved and proposed changes that affect everything from ammunition to ranges and basic tables of fire used for annual rifle qualifications.

Some changes already have been approved, including revisions to the tables of fire for rifle training and qualification and the launch of three-gun style competitions for Marines throughout the fleet.

Parting thought: If you shoot 3 Gun with a service rifle, does it invalidate the “This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for fighting, the other for fun” rule?

* Yes, I know, the Marines actually started this kind of program before the Army did, but I wrote about the Army’s program first, Mr. Pedantic Know-It-All.

I’m not much of a hunter but…

I went to the local Safari Club International dinner over the weekend, and there was one trip up for grabs on the live auction that I would have bought in a heartbeat had I anything resembling the spare cash/credit to buy it.

A week’s hunting for Red Stag, accommodations included, on the Balmoral Estate of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.


No, you wouldn’t be staying in the palace. I checked.

Look, I get that there’s still a lot of reverse snobbery from Americans about the British royalty, but for someone Canadian-born like myself, the Queen is a BIG deal, she is the embodiment of the country, and to be anywhere near a) the Highlands and b) Balmoral is almost overwhelming for someone like me.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled American stuff.

Still got the shutter bug.

Even though it’s been at least a dozen years since I tripped the the shutter for a living (and five years since my last big gig), I can still pull out a good shot or two when needed.

Did a day’s worth of shooting for the day job over the weekend, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Naples Gun Range VIP shooting range in Florida The Alamo by Lotus Gunworks Womens shooting instruction in Naples

Gear for the shoot, if you must know, was this cheap-o Chinese lighting kit, a flex reflector and my old D70.

Oh, and gaffer’s tape, foam core and a-clamps, because let’s face it, when you get right down to it, those are more important than the camera.

No, really.

Things might have gone a bit smoother on the shoot if I had access to my old reliable Speedotrons, but hey, time (and gear) marches on. Besides, I picked up the entire new system for the price of one flash head from my old lighting kit. Granted, I now have four 200w/s monoblocks instead of 9600w/s worth of lights that can (and have) lit up a basketball arena, but what I have works for me, and that’s the way I like it.

Getting paid for what you know.

make_readyI had an idea while listening Ben and Luke talk about Apprentice/Journeyman/Master shooters during this week’s Triangle Tactical podcast. Would people pay to have their match performance reviewed/critiqued by a GM level shooter?

Imagine this: You and five other people pay $25 each to shoot on a squad with Rob Leatham or Shannon Smith or Mike Seeklander. Each stage would be filmed from both the shooter’s point of view and another camera. You’d get advice on stage strategy before and during the match, then a group debrief to go over the video a day or so later. As an added bonus, for $100 more there could be an hour long, one-on-one debrief where the match is dissected in detail. That’d put between $150 and $850 in the pocket of the shooter for two to eight hours work. Not bad.

If you’re a GM shooter, the trick would be, of course, to make sure that you provided valuable feedback back to your customers, something that is difficult if you don’t know how you provide feedback to yourself..

Competitive Shooting Will Get You Killed On The Streets Of Iraq.

Army Marksmanship Unit

Or, you know, not.

Master Sgt. Scott Satterlee is really good at shooting things. He’s a member of the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Special Forces Group based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. He’s also a nationally ranked competitive precision rifle shooter—and one of the military’s best marksmen.

Satterlee says he has learned a lot about firearms in the world of competitive shooting. It’s influenced how he shoots—and why he came to recognize flaws in how the military prepares soldiers for war.

He’s the operations sergeant at JBLM’s Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course. After years of combat deployments around the world, training soldiers and shooting at civilian weapon ranges around the United States, he thinks it’s time we radically revamp the way we think about firearms training.

Read the whole thing. Suffice to say that a bona-fide Tier One Operator got a wake-up call when he stepped into the box at a practical shooting match.

Hat tip to Phil Wong of Gator Farm Tactical for the story.