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.

File under Zanshin, Moment Of.

Zanshin: A zen state when the mind is fully vigilant and aware of its surroundings; when the mind remains still without being attached to anything and is totally present during every moment and action in the here and now. In Budo, Zanshin means being aware of one’s surroundings and enemies, while being prepared to react and being unaffected by pain. It is a state of mind that takes years of training to develop. Through the practice of Zazen and Budo, little by little, this kind of alertness can expand to every action of one’s daily life, and in the end, one realizes that there are no ordinary moments.

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Nova Scotia Nazis. I hate Nova Scotia Nazis.

Chances of this kind of attack being successful in Canada? Pretty good. Chances of it being successful in Dallas, Tampa Bay or Phoenix? Substantially less so.

Nova Scotia RCMP Commanding Officer Brian Brennan says a 19-year-old man and a 23-year-old American woman from Geneva, Ill., had planned to go to a public venue in the Halifax region today “with a goal of opening fire to kill citizens, and then themselves.”

In a refreshing change from similar incidents, it wasn’t Islamic terrorists who were behind this, but plain ol’ Nazis, albeit Canadian Nazis.

The 23-year-old American woman who allegedly plotted to carry out a massacre at a Canadian mall on Valentine’s Day posted harrowing messages online for years before the plan was foiled.
Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, from Geneva, Illinois, posted about her admiration of Hitler, the Columbine killers and other murderers on her Facebook page, Tumblr site and forums, and even hinted at the deadly plan, writing last Wednesday: ‘Valentine’s Day. It’s going down.’
Two days after the post, she was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder after police received a tip. Randall Shepherd, 20, of Nova Scotia was arrested on the same charges.
A third suspect, James Gamble, 19 killed himself as police moved to arrest him at his home in Nova Scotia, and a fourth – a 17-year-old boy – has been released from custody.

They planned to shoot up a shopping mall in (largely disarmed) Atlantic Canada for a reason, and part of that reason was they could get away with it without be shot.

Carry your frickin’ guns, people, and stay awake when do.

Learning for a lifetime

Thinking more about yesterday’s post, what’s more important: Teaching techniques, or instilling the passion to learn how to stay safe?

It seems to me that tactical trainers get caught up in the superiority of the gun-fu they’re teaching and then forget that what they’re actually doing is *teaching* first, perfecting gun-fu second.

An example:

There’s a small husband and wife firearms training team here in Naples that could teach the big boys a thing or two about customer service and creating repeat business. They both have great training creds (Givens, Farnham, Suarez and others), and work well together. They have a weekly demonstration/lecture class at a local church and then host a “range day” on the weekend where people can practice what they learned earlier. Their clientele is both single men and woman, and more couples than I’m used to seeing in a firearms training class. They also have a lot of older, retired people in their classes, but you know what? That’s the market here in “Heaven’s Waiting Room”.

In other words, they create loyal customers by knowing their market and teaching to their market. They don’t teach advanced-level gun-fu, but they get people used to using their guns and stay aware of their surroundings. I’ve seen how they train people, and I know they’ve made an impact on the lives of the people they’ve taught.

And unsurprisingly, one of them is also a middle-school math teacher.

So it turns out that people who are good at teaching also make good firearms teachers.

Who knew?

A Lifetime Of Learning

Tam links to an interesting question posed to a group of seasoned professional firearms trainers: If you knew that your one-day class was going to be the only firearms training your students received, what would you teach them, and why?

A long (and frankly boring) discussion of sighted fire versus point shooting promptly broke out, and while I’m not anywhere near the level of competency of most of the people who chimed in, here’s my thoughts on how I would train a random schmo from the street, knowing it was going to be the only class he/she would have, ever.

  1. Mindset / Situational Awareness. Simply put, pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. The punch buggy / slug bug game is a great way to learn to watch your surroundings, and all that’s at stake is a sore arm.
  2. Safety. Not just the four rules, but get them used to touching and safely handling their gun. I’d make sure they knew how to load and unload their gun and get them used to the idea that guns are to used, not just owned.
  3. Draw. Not just a standard four-step draw, but (after much practice) close retention as well, with shooting from retention as part of that drill.
  4. Front sight / trigger press. We know how to point to something from six months on, but pressing a trigger properly is something most people have to learn. Better to put the bug in their ear sooner rather than later.
  5. Realistic target placement. 7 yards, max, with an emphasis on 10 feet right on up to bad breath distance. No 25 yard mini-poppers, ever.
  6. Cover. Cover = time, and getting the idea that getting things in the way of your attacker that reduce his/her chances of getting to you is a good thing because it reinforces item #1 up there.
  7. Moving targets. People tend to not like to get shot, and the tend to run away while returning fire at the people who are shooting at them. Something (maybe a target mounted on top of an R/C truck) that re-creates a person running away from his/her failure to properly select a defenseless victim would be a good graduation exercise.

Leaders who lead by example

Consider, for a moment, this picture of Jordan’s King Abdullah and Ed Head on the line at Gunsite.

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King Abdullah has vowed to personally bomb the ever-lovin’ crap of out of ISIS in retaliation for ISIS brutally executing of one of Jordan’s combat pilots.

Kinda nice to see a world leader who a) recognizes evil for what it is and b) is will to lead from the front (literally, in his case) and not from behind.

Which got me thinking: Rather than do some stupid, stupid photo op to show voters they’re concerned about gun rights, what if our prospective leaders did a couple of days at Gunsite or the Sig Academy or somewhere similar as part of the campaign trail? It’d show us proles that a) we matter and b) they’re learn that in today’s world, “gun owner” isn’t a synonym for “hunter”.

Match Report: SWSFA Handgun Challenge

I travelled up the I-75 Saturday to shoot the Handgun Challenge match at the SW Florida Sportsman’s Association. The match rules are a hybrid of USPSA and IDPA and are light weight, unobtrusive and make a lot of sense. The match was very low-key and laid-back, and started with something I’ve never done before, a man-on-man shootoff.

Yep, a half-dozen years in this sport, and I’ve never shot a shoot-off, mainly because I’d shot so long out at Rio, and no matter how good you’d do there, you’d end up shooting against Rob or Angus or Nils, and that was the end of that.

But at this match, I did pretty well. I ended up in the final round (there was about a dozen shooters there), but I had my @ss handed to me by a little kid who was much faster and better than I am.

Sigh.

stage

The other part of the match was one stage you could run through multiple times with multiple guns. I ran through it twice with the same gun: Once normally, and once REALLY concentrating on accuracy in order to go down ten points or less. Here’s video of me on the concentration run.

I had no presuppositions for this match. I’d never shot it before, I’d never been to this range before, I had no clues about divisios or rules or whatever. My pre-match strategy was literally “Ok, let’s see what happens and go from there”. In short, I was as close to the Zen ideal of a “beginner’s mind” as I’ve been in the last few years, and just relied on innate, unconscious shooting.

The stage design also encouraged this approach, as aside from headshot at the end, there weren’t any really tricky targets, and the course of fire was easy with no memory games needed.

What’s REALLY interesting is the time/score between the “unconscious” and the “conscious” run. 2 years ago, in order to shoot my best, I needed to concentrate hard on the A Zone/ Down Zero zone and get my hits, because that’s what I found led to success.

Today? Not so much.

Scorecard

I’m almost TEN SECONDS up faster on the stage running it with my unconscious mind and almost four and half seconds up faster with points down figured in.

Remember when I said I think I’ve reached the point where Brian Enos’ book can help me? I think I now have proof that I was right.

So what’s stopping me from shooting unconsciously all the time?

  • Stage Design: Anytime there’s multiple opportunities to shoot the same target from different locations or blow past a port, I need to think about things and that slows me down.
  • Precision Over Speed: I still slow down and *think* about hitting long-range or precise shots, and the time to think about slowing down takes as much (or more) time as focusing on the front sight and making the shot. I’ll still need that front sight focus as I progress, but I think I can shift mental gears quicker over time, improving my score.

Other than that, I’ve very satisfied with what I see and where I am. On to bigger and better things.

Update: Edited for clarity.