Too Hot To Shoot!

In many parts of the country, it really is too hot to shoot much of the time these days. And then, of course, there’s always the problem of scarce ammunition. What to do? How do you keep your skills sharp under those conditions?

Practice – General guidelines for dry fire exercises:

CAUTION: All of the safety rules must be maintained during these exercises. Remove all live ammunition from the room. Eliminate all distractions as much as possible. Establish specific times and places for exercises. Check to be sure gun is unloaded EACH TIME you begin a dry fire exercise. Exercises done on the range, live fire, should be done with a qualified instructor or experienced mentor and conform with all standard and range specific rules and safety precautions. Ask an instructor for schedule of live fire sessions available or to arrange for one.

What is “dry fire?” This simply means that you use an unloaded gun, dummy ammunition or gun simulation for practice and drills to learn new skills and practice them to a desired level of competence before you shoot live ammunition at the range. [Make sure your gun would not be damaged by dry fire (empty). You may need to use a dummy round or “snap caps.“ Check with manufacturer.]

Why dry fire? Believe it or not, dry fire is far more important for building good skills than live fire. You don’t have the recoil to deal with, and it doesn’t cost anything. The only way to build “muscle memory” is with many repetitions of a PERFECT action, so taking the time to learn things and practice them CORRECTLY from the start will save you countless hours. It takes about 300 repetitions to learn a habit, but at least 10,000 to UNLEARN one. Therefore, if you are not confident that you fully understand the operations called for in an exercise, wait to consult your instructor before you proceed. You’ll save lots of time and money in the long run.

Make specific plans for place and time to practice. If you make and stick to a schedule, you will benefit the most and create safe habits. In the ideal world, you would practice at least 10 to 15 minutes every day. Most people who are serious about self defense manage this about three times a week – at least in the beginning. Your choice.

Choose one place in your home, garage, patio or other for your dry fire exercise. Do not engage in this activity anywhere else except on the gun range. This helps form good habits and reduces risk of accidents. Evaluate the area for hazards such as appliances, fire sources and anything that would make the actual discharge of a gun a danger to you or anyone else. Eliminate those where possible. Choose a “safe direction” for your dry fire and keep your gun pointed in that direction as much as possible, depending on the drill.

Unless the drill calls for it, do not allow anyone else to be in the room. Do not use anything but simulated guns if others are present. Never point ANY gun at another person unless you are being attacked. Use an actual target.

Remove ALL live ammunition from your dry fire area. Check to make sure the gun is unloaded before entering the dry fire area and before EACH exercise. This may seem excessive or redundant, but it is a vital safety habit. The first thing said in most negligent (accidental) discharges is, “I thought the gun was unloaded.”

Maintain the three absolute rules each and every time you handle a gun. Muzzle and trigger control, along with frequent – even obsessive – checking for an empty chamber will go a long way towards guaranteeing that nobody will ever get hurt unless they attack you.

Eliminate distractions as much as you can. Turn off TV or radios, unplug the phone and lock the doors.

When you come to the end of your dry fire session, review what you have done and consciously END your session before you leave the area. Be very aware of what you are doing before you reload and store or holster the gun. This is the point were many unintended discharges occur. Do not reload in your dry fire area under any circumstances.

The above is from my book, “I Am NOT A Victim.” It’s available free to anyone who sends me an email and requests it. Follow the link to find contact information at the bottom of the page.

Next, we’ll look at some specific dry fire drills. I’d love to have comments on the drills you use and find helpful.

Awareness and Exertion in the Backcountry

20130304-104540.jpgYes, I admit it: That is my oversized butt hiking up the side of that valley. I spent the weekend backpacking with friends, although we stayed in a campground (of sorts) this time. But we did go for a hike in Sunday morning. It was my first REAL hike, so we did things semi-easily for me: I didn’t carry a pack, and we kept the distance relatively short and the pace relatively slow. We hiked about two miles down the side of a valley, made lunch atop a slab of limestone at a flat spot in the trail, and hiked back. Round trip, including lunch, was maybe four hours.

Notwithstanding all of that, the experience was an eye-opener for me on a number of levels, and I came away from the experience with a number of lessons that I think apply to armed citizens as well as they do to new backpackers.

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Backpacking and Common Sense Prepping

20130213-210443.jpgLet me start out this post with a disclaimer: I’m using the word “pepper” here, but I don’t intend it to mean what a lot of people think it means. I’m not stockpiling guns and ammo against the coming zombie apocalypse. I don’t think the earth’s magnetic field is going to suddenly flip on its axis, and I doubt the UN troops/BATFE/black helicopter guys are going to be landing in my back yard without some advance warning that they’re coming. When you see the folks on the TV show Doomsday Preppers, digging underground bunkers to wait for whatever apocalyptic catastrophe they think will bring about The End of the World As We Know It? That’s not me. I don’t own a tinfoil hat, and I don’t expect an unannounced apocalypse tomorrow.

However, this is what I do believe: It is probable that at some point I could experience a crisis – be it natural or manmade – that would have the potential to disrupt my life for a period of time, and being able to function autonomously and to provide for my basic needs will help me through that crisis.

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Deadly Force Aftermath: A Conversation With Dr. Alexis Artwohl

20130130-074252.jpgAlexis Artwohl, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized behavioral science consultant to law enforcement as a trainer, researcher, and author. During her 16 years as a private practice clinical and police psychologist, she provided consultation and training to multiple agencies throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as traumatic incident debriefings and psychotherapy to numerous public safety personnel and their family members. Dr. Artwohl is co-author of the book DEADLY FORCE ENCOUNTERS and other publications.

It was my great pleasure to talk with Dr. Artwohl recently about the lessons armed citizens can learn from her research and how they can better prepare themselves for the emotional and legal aftermath of a lethal force encounter.

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Experience, Mindfulness and Gun Safety

GALs1159_zps256b745aI was at the range all day Saturday, teaching in the women’s shooting program that our range runs. The program began as a quarterly thing with 20 or so shooters, and has now grown to a monthly event with many more students, many more instructors and a long waiting list.

I was there, and teaching, despite the fact that I’d been sick all week and my throat was raw. It didn’t hurt too much, but when I talked it sounded roughly like someone had stepped on a bullfrog. Oh, well.

One thing I’ve noticed as that as we’ve been doing these clinics, we’ve gotten better at it, and things went much more smoothly this time. I did, however, notice one thing I wanted to talk about today, and it’s a lesson which goes right to the heart of Safely Rule #1.

The lesson is simply this: Just because you’re holding a blue gun, a SIRT pistol, or a gun with a training barrel doesn’t mean you get a free pass on where your muzzle is pointing.

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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

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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Circle Back to the Basics

20121124-211956.jpgNo matter how many fancy guns we have, no matter how much tacti-cool crap we bolt onto the accessory rails, and no matter how much we spend on trigger work, super-duper Titanium strikers, and “precision” replacement parts for our guns, our skill with a gun ultimately depends on our ability to execute the fundamentals – sight picture, stance, grip, and trigger control – with precision and on demand.

I was reminded of this truism while at the range this evening for a “Ladies Night” event, the tail end of a longer day of shooting and teaching stuff. We had a great turnout, over a dozen women with all manner of pistols, revolvers and a few rifles. I even saw a specialty scoped .22 LR rifle that looked like some sort of weird hybrid between a Ruger 10/22 and a Steyr AUG. Its owner told me it was a custom weapon for steel silhouette shooting.

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Risk Assessment: Frequency, Stakes & Cost

20121118-175227.jpgI was talking with a family member recently about why I choose to live a lifestyle that includes armed self-defense. “Surely the risk of becoming a murder victim is vanishingly small,” he said, “so why spend all this energy preparing for it?”

In trying to answer his question, I began thinking about how we assess risk in our lives. The way I make these decisions is to consider three aspects of any potential emergency: frequency, jeopardy and cost.

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