On Instruction and Risk Management

1156423_19045308If you’ve taken training classes, or spent much time at a range, you’ve doubtless seen instructors – or gun owners who are teaching newbie shooters but who aren’t actually trained instructors – do stupid and potentially dangerous things. I know I have.

I’ve seen people pointing muzzles at themselves or putting their hands in front of the end of the gun. I’ve been swept with the muzzle of a gun in a training class. I’ve seen negligent and unintentional discharges that ended up in the berm rather than the shooter’s leg because of accident more than intent. I’ve seen guns malfunction in potentially dangerous ways, including an AR-15 with a malfunctioning trigger group; bumping the trigger while the safety was on would cause a round to discharge when the safety was subsequently disengaged.

I get it – accidents happen, and novice shooters don’t always have the experience and knowledge to know what’s safe and what’s dangerous. But I’ve also seen instructors who do careless, stupid, or even outright reckless things with guns and think that, because they’re the teacher, the safety rules don’t apply to them.

This is my public service announcement to you: Get with the program. You are responsible for your students’ safety, and for managing the level of risk they face. If one of your students shoots themselves, or someone else, saying “they didn’t follow the safety rules; it’s not my fault” isn’t going to be nearly good enough.

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Buying Little Guns

20130112-223457.jpgAs those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I was at a Ladies Night event at my local range today. Two female friends of mine decided to go with me, and one of them wanted to show off a new gun her husband had bought her recently.

“D. said ‘It’s so cute!'” my other friend reported she’d said. I smiled, but inwardly I had a sneaking suspicion about what was coming. “D. said she wants you to look at it before she shoots it, because her husband got it used, and she also wants to know how to clean it and what kind of ammo to get.” I promised I’d take a look before the Ladies Night.

When we gathered at the appointed time to drive up to the range, D. produced a cardboard box. Carefully she opened it up and removed her new firearm. “See, it’s cute!” she said with a smile, handing it to me.

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Of Skills Drills and Negligent Discharges

20130105-204706.jpgDon’t worry, the negligent discharge wasn’t mine…but it brought home a lesson I had underscored at the range today.

As those who follow my page on Facebook know, I shot the IDPA Classifier today for the first time. (Side note: If you aren’t following me on Facebook, I invite you to join the discussion there; I share lots of stuff that isn’t large enough to warrant its own blog post.) For those who don’t do IDPA, the Classifier is a standardized 90-round course of fire that tests many of the common skills needed to compete in IDPA: drawing and re-holstering, shooting on the move, shooting from behind cover, and reloading your firearm quickly. Whether IDPA skills translate to real-world lethal force defensive encounters is a subject of perennial debate, but in my view of things, anything that makes you more accurate and confident in your gun handling skills is a good thing.

In any event, I had a great time, and came home from the range with a bunch of lessons, both good and bad, bouncing around in my head.

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A Free eBook for MWAG Readers

1382561_47291255A friend and regular reader who calls herself MamaLiberty, made a generous offer in a comment to my post the other day about training and “unusual attitudes”. I wanted to call out her offer here for those who might have missed it.

Here’s what she wrote:

I want to make sure all of your readers know that they can have a free copy of the entire book just by sending an email to mamaliberty at rtconnect dot net – replace the at and dot with appropriate symbols and eliminate the spaces. Put “self defense” in the subject line to send it to the right filter for fastest reply.

The book, “I Am NOT A Victim” contains the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life, and all of the exercises I use to ensure that I am prepared as much as possible never to be a HELPLESS victim. :)

I’ve read MamaLiberty’s book. It’s a great primer and an easy, compelling read, and her story illustrates that trouble can, and does, find us anywhere, even in the places we think we’re safe. My heartfelt thanks to her for making this generous offer to my readers.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Why We Make the Choice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s funny, sometimes, how the most ordinary of moments can remind you of the most profound truths. It was New Year’s Eve, early in the afternoon, and I’d been invited to a friend’s house for a potluck. When I arrived, my friend had gone to the store and her teenage daughter, “T.”, was home washing dishes and watching her young brothers.

T. is a sweet young lady and someone who, like her mother, matters very much to me. Although I know this is so, I don’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about it. Both T. and her mom go shooting with me sometimes, and when we’re together we have an easy, comfortable relationship. They’re definitely people I consider family, despite not being blood relations.

When I arrived, T. greeted me with a broad smile and a hug. I stowed my contribution to the potluck in an overfull fridge and grabbed a dishtowel. T. washed and I dried, and then she tidied up the living room while I grated a block of cheese for enchiladas. I made a bowl of ravioli for her brother, she tidied up a stack of videos and XBox games. We didn’t talk much, merely enjoyed each other’s company while we worked.

And then, it seemed as though the zoom lens of life shifted focus, and I experienced the strangest sense of crystal clarity, almost vertigo-like in its presence. It felt like looking up at an IMAX theater screen, somehow impossibly large and disorienting.

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Training and “Unusual Attitudes”

20121231-112334.jpgI’ve been thinking lately about the way some of us practice our defensive skills: We draw from our holster (which rides exactly at our preferred spot) with our strong hand. We aim at a target placed chest-high at a range of 7 yards or so and put our shots downrange. We re-holster carefully. Then we do it again. When we dry practice, we exercise the same skills – some of us do it until we can get a blazing fast draw, because that helps us in IDPA.

And, as far as it goes, this kind of repetition is hugely important. There’s no question that these fundamental skills do need to become automatic, actions we can perform without having to consciously think about them, because seconds count in a lethal force encounter. Sometimes tenths of a second count. And it takes hundreds or thousands of repetitions to ingrain those automatic movements.

But there’s something else I think we ought to be practicing, and I’m labeling it with an aviation term I learned recently: We need to drill our responses to “unusual attitudes” too.

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Gear Review: Soteria Leather “Kratos” IWB Holster

20121224-155636.jpgI don’t know about you, but I appreciate gear that isn’t just functional, but that also looks good. Function is definitely important, but so are aesthetics and workmanship. I’ve never been excited by plain black Kydex holsters – they do the job, but I’ve yet to find one that qualifies as beautiful.

For that reason, I was excited to try a handmade leather holster from Soteria Leather. Soteria, the brainchild of Portland, OR-based entrepreneur and craftswoman Cerisse Wilson, produces custom-fitted leather holsters to fit just about any gun, with a dizzying array of thread and material colors and several holster styles. Cerisse’s holsters are definitely functional, but they’re also beautiful works of craftsmanship. I had high hopes for my holster after reading about them on Cornered Cat. Even still, what I got vastly exceeded my expectations.

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Deciding When to Carry

20121220-214104.jpgIf you’re new to firearms, shooting, and the consciousness of self-reliance and self-sufficiency about personal safety, you’ll probably need to make a decision at some point about whether, when, and how you want to carry a firearm for self-defense. Close to 40 states are “shall-issue” jurisdictions for concealed carry permits; that is, their laws mandate that the authorities MUST issue a permit to any law-abiding citizen who applies and meets their requirements. The lone holdout state with no provision for permitting at all (Illinois) has just been ordered by a court to create a permitting process.

This post isn’t going to be about the “how” of carrying a concealed weapon. Rather, it’s going to be about one of the decisions we make when we decide to carry. When, we have to decide, will we carry our firearm? I’m going to advocate a simple answer, and then explain why I feel that way: Once you have a concealed weapons permit, you should carry your firearm everywhere you legally can do so.

Why do I advocate such a blanket rule? Here are some reasons:

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Humiliating New Shooters Isn’t Funny

If you’ve been shooting very long, you’ve probably seen this happen on the Internet or at a range: Someone will take a new-shooter or non-shooter to the range and hand them a big, powerful gun. Usually this is guys giving a female friend or relative a weapon, but I’ve seen guys do it to other guys, too. I’ve never seen a woman do this to a guy, but I’m sure that happens too. Anyway, they’ll put the gun in the new shooter’s hand, not offer any instruction or training on stance, grip, and the other fundamentals, and then laugh their asses off when the new shooter fails. Or falls on her/his butt, knocked over by the uncontrolled recoil.

Sometimes, they’ll even film the incident and upload it to YouTube.

Mary of GatsAndTats posted a video yesterday with her thoughts about such behavior. I’d like to share it, because I wholeheartedly agree with what she had to say, and then I’d like to add a couple comments of my own.

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Mechanical Safeties Don’t Guarantee Safety

20121216-162659.jpgAs December mornings go here, it was a beautiful one to go to the range with friends. It was a bit damp and misty, but the air was fresh, crisp and cool, and after several days of rain it felt lovely to get outside. We did some pistol shooting – my friend got a Glock 27 she wanted to put through its paces. Afterward, we moved over to the long range steel targets (200-600 yards) and she uncased her AR rifle.

She shot a couple magazines of ammo, and I got a chance to try out the rifle, landing a few hits and a few more near misses on a 150-yard steel plate. I handed the rifle back to my friend when I was done, and she reloaded. She put six rounds downrange, then engaged the safety and set the rifle on the bench to talk to someone for a few moments. When she was done, she took my seat at the bench, lifted the rifle to her shoulder, re-adjusted the bipod and stock, and flipped off the safety lever.

Ka-BLAM! They say the loudest sounds a shooter hears are a CLICK when she’s expecting a BANG, and a BANG when she’s expecting a CLICK. Despite the presence of ear protection, the report of that shot seemed deafening, and I’m sure mine wasn’t the only heart that was racing.

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