The Community of Gun People

20121114-181605.jpgI’ve talked before about how we gun folks are a community, a supportive and nurturing group of people. In my experience gun folks are some of the most genuine, warm, giving people I know, and I’ve developed many friendships in this community. With them, I’ve been encouraged, supported and challenged to grow and evolve, to become more than I thought I could be. I’ve met some amazing people, and feel privileged to be able to call them my brothers and sisters.

Well, today, I had the chance to meet one of my online friends in person. The inimitable Ben Branam, the host of the Modern Self-Protection blog and podcast (and sometimes co-host over at the Handgun World podcast) was in my part of the country for vacation. Luckily, he and his wife had room in their schedule to get together, and we were able to find a good halfway point to meet for lunch.

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The OODA Loop and the Analysis Paralysis Trap

I was listening to Ben Branam’s latest Modern Self-Protection podcast. In this third episode, Ben talks about the OODA loop and its implications for self-defense and training. He has lots of great stuff to say, and I’d encourage you to take a listen, but I wanted to touch on an aspect of the OODA loop Ben didn’t talk about.

The OODA loop is a model developed by US Air Force Col. John Boyd to understand how we react to circumstances in our environment. The four stages of the OODA loop are: We observe an event unfolding in our environment, we orient ourselves to what’s happening and place it into a mental context based upon our cultural conditioning and training, we decide how to respond, and then we act. The reason the process is described as a loop is because the outcome of our action – or our inaction – can trigger a new circumstance, which then starts the loop over again.

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Modern Self-Protection Podcast

I wanted to pass along a great new resource: Ben Branam over at Modern Self Protection has joined the world of podcasting. If you do the whole podcast thing, you owe it to yourself to check out his show. The first episode is about mindset, and it combines a lot of good information with Ben’s no-nonsense straightforward style.

Check it out at

“Stop-n-Rob” Safety, and Risk Assessment

Ben Branam at Modern Self-Protection has a great post up about avoiding robbery at convenience stores, which he refers to as “Stop-n-Robs”. This is not far from the truth – “convenience store worker” is consistently among the more dangerous jobs out there. Especially for night shift workers. I know a woman who used to work in such a place who was raped and stabbed by a would-be robber early one morning. Robberies are commonplace, and I know of at least one shooting locally that took place in such a store.

I especially liked Ben’s suggestion to play the “what-if” game.He explains:
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Shooting Safety: The “Hot Brass Dance”

If you’ve been shooting long at all, chances are this has happened to you: You carefully align the sights on the target, squeeze the trigger. The gun goes “BANG!” and a shell casing is ejected from then gun. You start to bring the gun back on target, and then…YOW! The (hot) spent shell casing has landed not on the ground, but on some part of your body. And those little buggers sting!

The burning pain might come from your neck, as happened to my friend Ben Branam during a CHL class today. You may catch the projectile with your arm or in the bend of your elbow. If you’re female and unlucky enough to be wearing a top with a low or loose enough neckline, it might be coming from somewhere more…sensitive. (See the photo; although this is a re-creation, I have had both pistol and rifle brass land there even when wearing high-necked T-shirts.)

If you’re even more unlucky, and/or not wearing enough safety gear, a spent casing could land between your safety glasses and your face, a truly unfortunate and potentially dangerous occurrence.

When this happens, it’s not unusual, especially for new shooters, to jump around, scream, flail about, and the like. This is okay, except for when the hand that’s flailing around is still holding a loaded gun. That’s how safety rules get broken. That’s how accidents happen. That’s how people get hurt.

Now, if you’ve been shooting for any length of time, you’ve probably had this experience at least a few times, and you can deal with the situation without freaking out. You know that, although uncomfortable, it’s unlikely the hot brass will be dangerous. And you know that panicking, when holding a loaded weapon, surely will be dangerous. In fact, the last time this happened to me, I calmly engaged the safety on the Beretta I was shooting, set it down on the bench, reached inside my shirt and fished the 9mm casing out from inside my bra while my (male) shooting companions looked on and gaped. But for new shooters, who may not be able to muster up the composure to respond calmly, hot brass can indeed be scary.

Here are some tips to help new shooters with the “hot brass dance”:

  • Check clothing before going to the range. A low-cut top like the one in the photo above is probably not a good choice for a new shooter on her way to the range. High-necked, long-sleeved tops, shooting glasses, and baseball caps can all help keep errant brass out of sensitive spots.
  • Check the new shooter’s choice of firearms, especially if they’re shooting one of your guns. An M1911 is a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, but the ones I’ve fired all scattered brass every which way over a wide distance. In fact, at a recent IDPA match where I was scorekeeping, I was standing about 15 feet to the right of and about 10 feet behind the shooter…and I still managed to catch a .45 casing in my jeans pocket! Although flying brass is something of an occupational hazard (unless you’re a revolver shooter), selecting a weapon that tends to eject brass along a predictable trajectory is a help for newbies.
  • Explain the problem to new shooters, and remind them of what to do. I usually say something like, “Sometimes, when the gun ejects the spent shell casing, it’ll land on or in your clothing. This can be uncomfortable but not dangerous. If it happens, set the gun down on the bench without pointing the barrel at anyone, and then you can retrieve the brass.” When we get to actually shooting, this is one of the things I watch for. Knowing what to expect, and knowing that hot brass isn’t dangerous, seems to help.

And if you DO end up with a burn, like Ben did, remember that it’s just the gun’s way of giving you a little kiss to tell you it loves you. No? Not buying that? Well, it was worth a try. But anyway, remember that a hot shell casing is much less dangerous than an armed, panicking woman (or man). Stay calm, safe the gun, and then retrieve the brass. A burn might hurt a bit, but I guarantee it won’t hurt nearly as much as a bullet wound.

Surviving in Weapon-Free Zones

One of the challenges I face in my day-to-day life is an activity which takes me, once a week or so, into a location where weapons are prohibited. Not just firearms and blades, mind you, but pepper spray, mace, batons, and a long list of other things. And, although there are armed security officers at some of the entrances to the complex, the parking lots and a lot of the interior space are either unprotected or, at best, well outside the “help could reach you in 30 seconds or less” distance.

Needless to say, this is a place where my situational awareness radar is on heightened alert.

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Guest Post: Flashlight Self-Defense, with Ben Branam

I’m delighted today to bring you a guest post from Ben Branam of Modern Self-Protection. Ben’s a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a former armored car driver, so he has plenty of excellent battle-tested combat advice to share. In addition to his blog, he’s a periodic co-host of Bob Mayne’s Handgun World podcast and a firearms instructor in Texas.

Ben joins us today to talk about using a flashlight for self-defense, a topic of particular interest to me because one facet of my life takes me regularly into a location (court complex) where carrying weapons is prohibited. I’m grateful to Ben for sharing this with me and my readers, and I hope you’ll find his suggestions as useful as I did.

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IDPA: Gaming vs. Training

As I mentioned yesterday, I noticed some definite differences at my first IDPA match between those people who were shooting it as a sport/competition vs. those who were shooting primarily for defensive firearms practice/training. I’ve been thinking about this topic anyway since Bob Mayne‘s excellent Handgun World podcast recently in which he and Ben Branam discussed this issue in the context of the Aurora shooting.

In my view, IDPA can be just a fun game you get to play out on the range, or it can be a supplement (though not a replacement; more on that in a moment) to your defensive firearms training regimen. If you’re going to treat IDPA as training, though, you’re going to make some different decisions than if you’re playing as a game. Here are some of the things I think make IDPA better training:
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