WYSIWYS.

Tunnel vision

“What you see is what you’re going to shoot.”

Steve Anderson.

While that quote is meant to apply to sight picture and accuracy at a match, it can also apply to the “tactical” world as well. Is knowing FOR CERTAIN that your sights were on target a good thing in a defensive shooting situation, especially if you (God forbid) have to go to trial?

I’d say so.

So tell me again how competition shooting is going to get you killed on the streets.

The Fundamentals Never Go Out Of Style

Had a fun little night-time training session with Jeff and Robyn from Step By Step Training last week. I learned a lot about my gear (memo to self: Get night sights for the Shield, STAT!), and talked with them about a bit about what drives their passions.

Me? I’m a gamer, with trainer tendencies. I’m concerned about my personal protection, but I’ve decided my path to mastery (or at least not-suckery) goes through learning to shoot for shoot’s sake.

An explanation.

Going back and looking at that match video from earlier this month, nothing there, by itself, is “tactically unsound”. Most (if not all) of what we can “tactical training” has to do with NOT shooting a gun. Getting a smooth draw, quick reload and fast, accurate hits is something at applies to training range and pistol match alike.

So why some people think that “competition will get you killed on the streets” is something I’ll never know.

Second Thoughts On Police Militarization

After the cops in Ferguson made almost-perfect fools of themselves by rolling out the heavy artillery to quell a bunch of marchers, there’s been a bunch of people (including myself) raising questions about how the police use their surplus military gear.

But.

If a half-dozen or so people roll up on me with full-auto AK’s and an RPG, I want a heavily militarized police presence. I fact, if I were a cop on that beat, I’d much prefer to be so heavily militarized there is little difference between my fellow cops and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

See this? I don’t EVER want to see a cop pleading for his life like this on the streets of America.

charliehebdocopkilled

The trick is knowing when to patrol in full battle-rattle, and when not to. It’s not that the police have military gear that is the problem; cops have carried weapons of war on the streets since the days of the night watch patrolling the city walls with a cuirass, halberd and short sword, the problem is how they are used, and when. One can be simultaneously against the indiscriminate use of force by the protectors of our society AND be for said protectors having the means they need to safely protect us and themselves.

Discretion, after all, is the better part of valor.

More than just a shot.

Tam resolves to take better pictures this year, and that got me thinking about my journey as a shooter, both with a camera and gun.

I had a photo-j teacher who had the most brutal method of critiquing student’s work I’ve ever experienced. He just asked “What did you want to accomplish with this picture, and did you succeed at doing it?”

That simple question would not only crush my soul, but at the end of each critique, it would leave me utterly convinced that should I give up my goal of being a photographer and give up seeing for all eternity by stabbing out my eyes like Oedipus Rex.

But I got better at it, and eventually made a living in the photo business for 10 years (more on that later). Having to defend my photos as more than just another pretty snapshot made me think about what I was putting into each shot. Why was I taking that shot? Why was I at a given location, and what did I hope to accomplish with my photos? Thinking about the shots I wanted to get before I even loaded the camera was a trick I could use when taking still lifes, portraits or even shooting the hectic pace of a pro basketball game.

It’s also something that I now do unconsciously. Even if I’m using my iPhone, I’m looking at lighting, background and composition to make them more than just grab shots. It doesn’t detract from the photo experience, but rather, pays off in photos that I believe capture the moment and will be a keepsake forever.

Now on to guns. As I said awhile back, I don’t just go shoot to have fun anymore, I go to work on something, be it draw time or getting rifle DOPE or a Dot Torture, and I accept that fact. I take guns seriously now, and that means changing how I use them. There will come a time, though, when time/money/effort will stack the deck against me, and I won’t be able to put in the effort to improve my shooting techniques. I’ll have to just roll with that I have at that moment, and while that is scary, it is is reality.

And the reality is, I wasn’t able to put in the time and effort needed to take my photography to a level needed to make a living at it. I was a *heck* of a photo assistant (the best in town, if I do say so myself), but I chose (and it was a choice) not to put in the effort needed to make the jump to tripping the shutter for a living. I could see where photography was going post-film, and I wasn’t ready to put in the effort to make it work.

Which is ok, because my post-photography life is pretty awesome right now. Yes, comparing snapping pics to shooting a firearm is ridiculous in many ways (even Bob Capa never had to defend his life with a camera), but in any process of self-improvement, you’re going to get to a place where you reach the end of yourself and accept your limitations. Mine was that I was a good photo assistant, not a good photographer. I’ve yet to find the outer limits of my abilities as a shooter.

Should be interesting when I do.

Games without frontiers

Or, if looks could kill, they probably will.

Matt over at Jerking The Trigger had a good post on how we set our training priorities and how that affects the gaps in said training:

Why do so many shooters emphasize shooting courses and turn up their noses at combatives and first aid training? I suspect most people are more likely to need to know how to use a pressure bandage or throw a punch than to need to draw their handgun in anger over the course of their lives.

Yep. Backup irons become important if you train on a square range in the daytime. Take a night-shooting class, though, and those iron sights mean NOTHING compared to a good weapon light.

Also, think about how competition affects our gear and our training: Maybe one of the reasons why there is very little integrated combatives/firearms training for us civvies is because we haven’t found a way to make a game of it yet. The Greeks figured out 3000 or so years ago that if you make a game of war, you get better at war, and USPSA and IDPA are capitalizing today on what was learned on the slopes of Mt. Olympus long ago.

We’ve yet to apply those same ideas to combatives / firearms training for civilians, and when we do, then the idea that just having a gun won’t be enough will REALLY take off.

Let Me Tell You How To Save Your Life

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 

– 1 Corinthians 1:11-12, NIV

Grant Cunningham asked a great question last week, (as he is often wont to do).

What’s with all the infighting in the defensive shooting world?

Stick around the defensive shooting world for any length of time and you’ll discover partisanship that makes national politics seem tame. Where do these squabbles come from, and what can you do to avoid them?

His points were made about training in context, about law enforcement training versus military training vs. training for armed civilians, and his points are very, very valid and very insightful.

But.

I think there’s higher form of infighting going on here. As defensive firearms instructors, we are doing nothing less than helping people save their own lives and the lives of the people they hold dear on the absolute worst day of their lives.

As Marty McFly might say, that’s heavy.

A good instructor will understand what that means and integrate it into his training, and that level of seriousness will percolate down into other things. What once was a pastime can become a mission and a passion, and that can lead to a clash of egos.

I’ve seen this passion before, and it can be a force for good, or a force that destroys lives. I worked for a half-dozen years in the faith-based non-profit world, and I worked every day with people who were a) trying to save the world and b) felt they were called by God to do so.

To be fair, there is/was some amazing work being down by these people because of their passion: When you clean out the internal parasites in the population of an entire sub-Saharan country, that is nothing but a good thing. But that same drive, that same sense of a higher calling led to some EPIC clashes of egos that no amount of lip service to humility and “unity of the brethren” could heal.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Is your goal an informed, equipped and prepared student, or an acolyte and evangelist for your training? Are you selling your students a lifestyle, or a training plan? What is your goal, more people who think like you, or more people who can take care of themselves?

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us,on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

– 1 Corinthians 10:11-12

The dangerous trap of gear envy

Don Giannatti is a good friend who gave me my first shot in the photo world. He also gave me my first paying gig as a photographer, handing off a quick editorial job from The National Enquirer into my hands. That’s right, my first gig as a shooter was for the National Enquirer. I have my price, and it is VERY low.

I digress.

Read this bit from his post on gear envy and what it does to photographers, but where it says “camera” think “gun” and “photograph” think “shot”.

  1. If you cannot take a good photograph with an entry level camera and a kit lens, what makes you think your work will be better with a shiny new D760D-X NiKanon?
  2. If your pictures suck with what you have, they will most likely suck with a new camera, but now have the added fun of sucking after spending a boat load of cash.
  3. Perhaps it isn’t your camera, maybe you suck at making photographs.
  4. If your camera is not working ‘correctly’, it could be “user error”… just sayin’.
  5. Bigger file sizes means bigger file sizes. That’s it. (Bigger calibers mean bigger holes. That’s it. - K.)
  6. Yes, yes… that guru on all the awesome YouTubes shoots with some terribly expensive gear, and his pictures are awesomer than yours. Here is something to think about – give them your camera and watch them make the same awesomer shots.
  7. Camera manufacturers pay extraordinarily big money to make you think that their new wizbang will turn your pathetic throw aways into gallery ready pix. You let that crap take hold and you will never have enough gear… ever.

On a not-unrelated topic, here’s a (clickclick) shot I took with a 10 year old Nikon D70, a busted-up Manfrotto tripod and an iPhone. If I subscribed to the good gear = good photos theory, it should suck.

But it doesn’t. Think about THAT the next time you consider shelling out $$$ for some gadget to make you shooter better.

kel-tac_sm

File Under Zen, Moment Of.

zen

I’ve done more thinking about shooting and where I want to grow as a shooter/competitor in the last three weeks than I have done the previous three years. The interwebz are full of people talking about how to become a GM, but there is precious little about how to become B Class or IDPA Expert.

The fact is, if you cure your trigger jerk and stay awake during a stage, you can make C Class. However, B Class and above requires effort, both physical and mental, and that means a) discipline and b) awareness. When I lived in Arizona, I never was able to see where I actually was in the grand scheme of practical shooting because on any given day, I’d be shooting with Rob Leatham or Kelly Neal or Sara Dunivin or Angus Hobdell or another other top-ranked shooter.

It’s hard to get a grasp of your own abilities (or lack thereof) in such a rarified environment: You don’t know how good you really are because even when you shoot your very best, you’re on the tail end of the match results. C Class is supposed to contain the top 40% to 60% of the shooters in USPSA, but it doesn’t feel like that if you’re competing with the top 10% (or better) all the time.

Three things, however, have re-ignited my passion for improving my skill at the shooting sports.

  1. Having the chance to step back and become the local hot shot at the top of the leaderboard for any given match has given me the chance to put what I’ve learned in context with the sport as a whole. Being C Class in a world where almost everyone is A Class or above means you suck. Being C Class in a world of D Class (or worse) shooters means you’re the top gun.
    This can have a marvelous effect on your self-image. :D
  2. On a related note, taking a breather in the action has given me time to think about where I am and where I want to be, and more importantly, what I need to do get there.
  3. I’ve been playing around with a Sig Sauer light/laser combo on my P07 (more on that later). Having a laser on my dry-fire gun has significantly increased my passion for dry-fire practice, as it gives direct 1-1 feedback on how my muzzle is moving (or not) during the trigger pull.

When I first started this blog, it was called “The Quest for C Class” because that’s what my shooting goal was at the time. I’ve made that goal (and then some), but the quest continues.

Stay tuned.

Update: As I said on Facebook, one thing that popped up right way while doing dry-fire with a laser is how the gun moves during one-handed shooting. I’m finding that if I add a little more bend to my elbow and curl my thumb down a bit more compared to where they are with a conventional, thumbs-foreward grip, the gun moves MUCH less during the trigger pull, making for faster and more accurate shots.

Tracked and Targeted

mental_toughness“90% of the sport is mental, and the other half is physical.”

– Yogi Berra

Thinking a little more about this post on the mental game of the shooting sports:

  1. I’m fairly happy that I aimed for middle of the pack in my last major match. Based on my level of training and practice, I thought that a reasonable goal for the match was to place in the middle of the pack in Tac Limited, and doggone it if that wasn’t where I placed.
    What this tells me: I have a reasonable grasp of my ability and what I can do on any given day, which helps me set training and match goals.
  2. I’ve used my scores in the El Presidente drill as a way to track my progress in performing the basic skills of practical/tactical shooting, namely, target recognition, draw, follow-up shot speed, transition speed from target to target and fast reloads. My best score on this drill has plateaued as of late, but what’s interesting is that my bad times are now MUCH better than they were two years.
    What this tells me: I’m still not as fast and accurate as I’d like to be right, but I’m also more consistent and not so prone to bonehead mistakes.

Yes, I stole the title from new favorite political podcast.

Sue me.