Default Settings.

Once people figure out that you’re a “gun person”, the question will inevitably arise, “Hey, so I was thinking about getting a gun for self-protection: What do you recommend?”

When I got gear questions when I was a photographer, I knew what they were looking for was a quick fix to taking better pictures. The real fix was shooting a lot more film and analyzing their mistakes, but every once in a while I’d talk to someone who knew what they were doing and had reached the limits of what their camera could do. At this point I’d usually recommend a Nikon FM, a 35mm f2 and Tri-X. Because old school. 

So what do I recommend for a pistol? Shockingly, not a CZ. I really love my CZ75 and my P07, but the fact is a double-action trigger is a hard thing to master, and the time and bandwidth needed to reach a level of comfort with such a trigger is better-spent elsewhere for a beginning shooter. Don’t get me wrong, I think double-action triggers are just peachy, it’s just not a place I’d start with a beginning shooter. 

When people ask about a self-defense gun for beginners, unless they talk about a need for concealability or easy shooting, I usually end up recommend the Smith and Wesson M&P series for first-time shooters.


Shocker, I know. 

Ok, why? 

  • I’ve gained a new appreciation for the M&P after owning and shooting my Shield
  • It’s easy to find accessories for
  • It’s an easier transition to other pistols than the Glock
  • It’s striker-fired so there’s only one trigger pull to learn
  • It’s easy to shoot
  • 9mm is (theoretically) common to find

Ok, so was my thinking out of line? What would you recommend?

Home Is Where The Lockdown Is


Schools have fire drills.
You have fire drills.
Schools have lockdown drills.

You have… what? 

As part of his first year in Cub Scouts, my first son and I created a home fire drill plan for our house. We sketched out our house and figured out how we were going to get out quickly and safely in case of fire, and then we turned around and created a home invasion response plan focused around our family going to our safe room inside the home rather than leaving the house.

And out of the entire troop, we were the only ones to do do. Our scout troop is smack dab in the middle of a very conservative and gun-friendly area of a conservative and gun-friendly state (which has had more than it’s share of home invasions), and we were the only ones to face the reality that violence was/is a greater possibility than a house fire.

Having a fire drill plan for your home is a great idea, and it’s an accepted part of society that every family should have one. I’ll never know why, then it’s considered “paranoid” to have a plan and the means to deal with physical violence, something that is far more likely to occur.

The most overused word in guns today is…

… “tactical”. 


I’ll admit this conversation has been happening for longer than I’ve been blogging, but as it’s still going on and this Fabebook post has gotten some play on teh internets, I thought I’d chime in. 

One of Webster’s definitions of “tactical” applies very well, I think. 

“of or relating to tactics: as (1) :  of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose (2) :  made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view.”

Well, yeah, that sums up armed self-defence quite nicely. If (God forbid) I’m staring down the muzzle of a goblin’s gun, I care little about the socio-economic circumstances that caused he/she to the point where armed robbery was a viable course of action. 

Don’t. Care.

If you’ve decided to threaten my life or my family’s life with violence, the why of how this happened is of no importance to me. I’ll worry about that stuff when it comes time for me to write my monthly check to Streets of Joy, not when faced with violence.

I’m ok with the word “Tactical”, when used to describe the methods need to complete the task at hand (i.e. saving my life). I’m NOT ok with it being used by civilians as the military does, i.e. small unit tactics, i.e. CQB, suppressive fire, calling in airstrikes, all of that. I have no idea how to do that, and more importantly, I don’t WANT to know how to do that sort of thing, because I’m not in the military, and it’s their job to know how to do that stuff, not mine, and the situation is even more complicated by the fact that a copy of the IDPA’s magazine, “The Tactical Journal” is sitting on my kitchen counter as I write this, adding in a third way that “tactical” pops up in the life of an armed citizen.

Hence the problem: The same word (“tactical”) is both appropriate and NOT appropriate to how I protect my family.

So do I use it or not? 

I do, and I don’t worry about it too much. I own two pieces of 5.11 gear (both of them hats) nothing in Multicam and exactly one bag with MOLLE straps. There is furniture in Craig Sawyer’s house that is more “tactical” than I am, but I still frame how I think about defending my loved ones in terms of “tactics”. I’m not a fan of “Operator” training for people not in the military and I definitely not big on confusing military training with competition, but preparing for the possibility of the worst day of my life is a long-term plan for a short-term problem, and that’s tactics. 

So there.

You are not alone.

I really need to to do this

“While *I* had plans, procedures, and safety checks… I hadn’t made her aware of them in enough detail. With her not being a shooter, I had covered a few basics, assured her ability and judgement where safety is concerned, and left it at that.

My mistake, and one rectified as quickly as I arrived home. The noise? Some critter in the night perhaps, but never a threat or bother. She was just being careful. You can be assured… I announced myself before I walked in (g).

What I hadn’t explained well enough to her was this; In my ‘home defense weapon’ plans, every pistol available (without unlocking something complicated) is in the same condition.”

I am guilty of the same thing: My wife can shoot, and shoot well. What she doesn’t know (and solely due to my inaction) is how the home defenses are set up. This is not good, and it will be rectified immediately.

Customer-Focused Firearms Training

Not For CCW

As a semi-professional firearms student, I think Todd’s on to something here

“When one of these non-shooters, whether he’s a MLB star or Joe Sixpack, comes to class and clearly demonstrates no desire to train regularly I don’t bother talking about sights or how to press a trigger. We talk about safety… a lot. Then we hit the range for some simple drills to get used to the gun making loud unpleasant noises. I want the student to get comfortable with a gun going off in the hand, and then build his confidence in an ability to point the gun toward a humanoid target and hit it in the chest (or thereabouts) with some degree of rapidity.” 

Honestly, my first take on this was “Why, that’s just silly, a firearms teacher needs to instill the fundamentals of marksmanship in a student in order to start them off right!”

But then I realized that the training model that worked in the past might not work today. How much of what we “know” about pistol training is based on bullseye shooting and PPC matches? How much of it is based on what we “know” about Weaver stance and The Modern Technique? 

And how much of that is relative to someone who just got their concealed carry permit and wants to feel competent with their handgun of choice? 

Note: I said “feel competent”, not “be competent”. If a trainer insists on teaching his/her students something that is difficult for beginning students to accomplish, like rapid sighted fire, that trainer is setting his students up for failure. He’s also extinguishing the desire for further training because his student will see something that looks simple (shoot accurately AND quickly) and not be able to accomplish it. 

Both the NRA trainers I’ve worked with and the Combat Focus Shooting classes I’ve attended do just that, but from opposite ends of the spectrum. Combat Focus Shooting is all about the act of putting hits on a target that work in defensive situations want teaches safety in that context, while an NRA class teaches safety, safety and more safety and then works in trigger press and gun handling. One compliments the other, and I’d recommend both to new shooters looking for a way to feel confident about carrying a gun. 

Another Gun Lock Test

This time, it was a GunVault BreechVault and my Mossberg 500. Jaci had some issues with gun handling on the shotgun after the lock was opened, so now I’m looking around for another storage solution for this gun, and I’m leaning in this direction right now.

And no, leaving it loaded and unlocked is something my wife and I are not comfortable with right now. Yes, my kids know the Eddie The Eagle mantra by heart, and yes, because they’re around them all the time, guns are not tempting to them. 

Don’t. Care.

The odds of them mishandling a gun are 10,000 to 1. But the consequences of that one time are so devastating to me, they negate the other 9,999. 

The Marketing of Firearms Training

Don Giannatti is one of my best friends and one of the few people who really understands what digital media has done/is doing/will do to photography. He left this as a Facebook comment on how digital media was re-shaping the photography market, but I thought it also might have some implications for firearms training. 

One of the saddest trends I see in photography is that being ‘good’ or ‘ok’ is no longer enough. Everyone caught up to the middle grade photographer. Technology wiped out the ‘average joe’ product photographer and is taking its toll on the ‘so-so’ commercial photographer.

People expect to keep doing the same as they have been doing, and that is not working anymore. They become fearful and protectionist and lose perspective of what they have already gained, wasting that gain with despair and “why can’t it be like it was” laments. 

Event photography, seniors, babies, maternity, horses, ice skating… that may no longer be a market for a professional photographer. Change doesn’t care, it just changes. (emphasis mine)

I don’t have the answers, that road is shrouded in mist… but the road to the edge of the cliff is easily navigated: blame change, blame circumstances, give up, never change… done.

There are additional social trends as well. 10 years ago, only photographers had cameras, now everyone does. 10 years ago, it was not easy to get big prints made, now anyone can get them at Costco. 10 years ago, ISO rendered anything in less than brilliant sunshine to be terrible, now even iPhones can shoot a decent ISO 800. 10 years ago, photographs were still somewhat special. Today, phones, P&S, websites, blogs, instagrams, flickrs and such are full of images.

Add to this the social aspect of ‘tribes’ and it becomes a very interesting social view. There are few men doing workshops who can bring in weekend fees of $2500 per person, but in the “moms with cameras” and the budding wedding photography world, women who have been in business for less than 3 years are charging that and more and FILLING workshops. I recently read about a workshop that was a one day event from 9am to 5pm, and focused on natural light children photography. The cost was $1800 and the photographer had filled the workshop (20 attendees).

To say that makes no sense to me is an understatement. I just read where David Jackson (a wonderful lighting guy) cancelled his one day workshop (8am to 8pm) for non enrolling and he was only charging $325.

Social trends are not easily understood when we are in them, and far more easily understood when we can look at them from a distance. Consumer photography is in deep trouble if it is not connected to a very, VERY high level of uniqueness and being seen as a premium.

If you are not a premium brand, and not unique and positioned as such, it will get far worse for you sooner than later.

What are the “premium brands” of firearms training out there? Are they preparing themselves to deal with the realities of Gun Culture 2.0, or are they stuck in a 1911/Weaver/.45 ACP world? When it comes to firearms training, I’d argue that “dads with Glocks” are equivalent to “moms who want to take cute baby photographs”, so do we concentrate on the low-hanging profitable fruit of “tactical” training and leave women out of the picture? 

I sincerely hope not. One thing I have noticed is that very few trainers take advantage of social media and the ones that do so are flourishing.

Your students are talking about their experiences in your classes on social media: Are you a part of the conversation? Are you even listening to what they say? If you’re not, you should be, because change doesn’t care, it just changes.

I don’t want to take a tactical training class. Ever.

Not all that tactical, reall

Looks REALLY tactical, doesn’t? Actually, it’s not.

Paul Carlson linked on Facebook to my review of his class with the caveat, “When you read, keep in mind this course isn’t a course in tactics.” 

It wasn’t, and if you reader got that impression, I apologize. I don’t ever want to take a “tactical” course, (especially something like this), because a course in tactics means you are learning a planned response to a pre-planned scenario, much like a kata in the martial arts. Kata is good and necessary, but kata is not sparring and sparring is not combat. I’d much rather have the tools to build a self-defense plan that I can adapt to the chaos of the worst day of my life than a “if this, then that” series of preprogrammed responses.

The APH class expanded the range of tools I have at my disposable, but it didn’t mandate a given response to a given situation, which that is a very good thing. The closest I want to get to a class in pre-programmed responses is something like Fred Mastison’s executive protection classes, where I can learn some techniques I can use to protect my family when I am carrying a firearm. 

An example: Last week I spent two and a half days in the world of Combat Focus Shooting, training for self-defense with a firearm. There wasn’t a timer to be seen nor a pre-planned course of fire and yet I had a blast. Later that week, I shot a USPSA match at Phoenix Rod and Gun club, where there WAS a timer and a pre-planned course of fire and nary a peep about “getting off the X” or volume of fire.

The skills and mindset transferred over, though. There were several long shots at that match that required a greater degree of skill and concentration than the close targets, and I put an extra round into those targets to make sure I “got my hits.”

See where this is going? Rather than learn something that is applicable only on one range, the training I had with Paul and shooting a USPSA match I shot at night combined to strengthen each other and increase my confidence to defend my life and the lives of my loved ones with a firearm.