DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) http://www.darpa.mil is, to put it mildly, an interesting place. It’s the Department of Defense’s Mad Scientist Asylum, the source of major conspiracy theory, and the fountain of much of the high-tech that we consumers take for granted.
I was recently invited out again to give a chat and meet with some folks. Our little company is way out in the weeds doing stuff that a lot of the major contractors and the various DOD customers are interested in.
The focus of this visit was DARPA’s new program, Targeted Neural Plasticity Training.
This is what’s most cool about DARPA visits…seeing what the current (unclassified) cutting edge technologies are. This program is actually doing what you see here in THE MATRIX:
Here’s what a certain hyphenate (author-aging gunslinger-CEO-researcher-bon vivant-shamanic practitioner-boon companion-shameless rake) had to say about one portion of the program:
I saw some amazing science on display, re-connected with some colleagues, and had a good time for a guy running a temperature from this virulent flu.
Interesting implications for the future of firearms and law enforcement training here. This program promises to field this technology within four years, by the way…
Imagine getting hooked up to a device and run through a training program that installs expert combat hand gun skills into a novice…in 1/6 the time usually allowed for BASIC qualification.
World’s changing fast….I wonder if firearms instructors, law enforcement and military instructors, and the administrators in charge are ready for that change?
I recently fucked up. Seriously. Not an unusual event in my life, but here’s the backstory offered as context — not as an excuse.
This blog attracts an eclectic demographic: international best selling authors to world-class cognitive neuroscientists to quiet armed professionals from many countries to (reportedly) some higher-end bad people as well. There’s significant representation from those in the profession of arms — both military and law enforcement — out protecting us from the bad people, and many many world-class trainers (as well as those who aspire to be). There are a lot of Americans who exercise their 2d Amendment rights, as well as international folks who for various reasons carry and conceal weapons. And I get much broader play than even I suspect sometimes – just this past week I was honored (and greatly surprised) by the deeply respected Ol’ Remus of THE WOODPILE REPORT with his inclusion of my random thoughts here: http://www.woodpilereport.com
While I’m just an old researcher and writer these days, I did spend a few years going in harm’s way with the requirement to carry and conceal various types of weapons. I count amongst the people I was fortunate enough to have equip me my late friend Bruce Nelson, Milt Sparks (Tony Kanaly’s first holster build after he was hired at Milt Sparks was a classic Summer Special for me, to house one of the first Sig P-220 Americans, as the magazine release version of the European Sig was called), Andy Arratoonian, Ken Null, Greg Kramer, and so on. If you don’t know who those people are or were, you’re either young, not in the biz, or don’t care about the history of concealed carry. That’s all cool. Stick around and hit the links below.
Back in the day (80s through early 2000s) you could find my byline or pen name in COMBAT HANDGUNS, SWAT, GUNS AND WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, and some of the other various gun rags. While my area of expertise was training and training research, I did gear reviews as well. At one point (in the 90s) I was probably one of the most prolific gear review editors in travel, outdoor, and the tacti-cool community – focused on hard and soft goods EXCEPT actual guns.
I’ve been (many times) in the last 30 or so years asked (either formally under contract or informally as a favor to friends) to advise on gear selection for various units and individuals. This ranges from pointing procurement officials at little known niche makers to doing my independent evaluation of name gear, and in some instances just purchasing (with Other People’s Money!!) X in X quantity for X people.
Like a Ronin S-4 (because I may ambush you with a cup of coffee if you piss me off), I run a heck of a supply room when I get going.
I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who works at a high level in the counter-terror business. He works in plain clothes and while conversant in the latest and greatest, often humors this old man by asking my opinion about various things.
My friend in deep cover, in a Non-Permissive Environment, armed with a locally procured knife
What he asked: “If you were equipping men who must work in plain clothes in a hot and non-permissive environment, who would you recommend they look at for deep concealment holsters and pouches?”
My answer: “I’d tell them Black Center Tactical for the IWB rig he makes, but with the addition of an extra-long Incog strut. Clean, simple and to the point. Elegant design, just what you need and nothing more. You don’t have to be an engineer to figure out how to put it on and adjust it. Easy on and off, in case you have to ditch or stow the weapons and holsters. Excellent retention and quite suitable for deep concealment.”
He said: “I thought you didn’t like their gear?”
I said: “What? Only stuff I’d use, were I the type to carry weapons.”
He said: “You wrote this blog post and said you didn’t like it.”
I went and looked and just about had my fifth heart attack, or my second stroke, or my second near-death-experience. I had, in fact, said in print that I wasn’t really impressed by the BCT IWB rig.
I’m going in and put a correction to link to this post, so it won’t be there by the time you look. If you must look, search for Random Thoughts On Cool Guy Gun Gear.
Here’s the truth with no excuses: I must have in some way mixed up my notes from the project I was working because what I wrote WAS NOT my experience (or that of my testers) with the Black Center Tactical rig. In point of fact, our experience(s) were THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what I wrote.
I could go into a long rambling excuse about old age, decrepit cognitive function, short term memory loss, carelessness with notes and in being in too much of a hurry to get something done.
But I’m not going to add insult to injury.
I apologize to Black Center Tactical and the owner John Bonnett publicly for my mistake. I screwed up. That’s all there is to it.
My personal choice in a rig: Black Center Tactical (it has replaced PHLster in my ranking for #1 in concealment Kydex).
My recommendation to elite operators who go in harm’s way? Black Center Tactical.
My recommendation to anyone looking for extremely high quality custom kydex work with a REASONABLE wait time (2-4 weeks) and REASONABLE prices for that work? Black Center Tactical.
My friend the Invisible Man has occasion to be armed in high-risk environments. Here is he is, off duty:
Here’s his extreme concealment high-threat load out (in Invisible Mode), built on Black Center Tactical gear:
• In pocket, Spyderco Assist with integral glass breaker http://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=634
• Belt: Boxer Tactical 1.75 inch http://www.boxertactical.com
• Holster: Black Center Tactical IWB for G19 worn appendix in line with inguinal fold. Modded with an extra length Incog strut (available as an option) to seat the pistol deep into the belt line.
NOTE: I can already hear the tacti-cool amongst you screaming “Must have full firing grip! Must have full firing grip!” I’m gonna digress here for a minute and share a little bit I’ve learned from people much more experienced and smarter than me over the last 40 years of being in and around this here bidness:
IWB concealment runs on a spectrum from deep in the waistband like this (much better concealment, slower presentation) to high in the waistband so you can get your full firing grip on the pistol in the holster (faster presentation, poorer concealment).
This guy sets his pistol up for this level of deep concealment because
a. He can hide ALL that gear under a light T-shirt at close quarters with people (and does so, regularly)
b. With his experience and skill set he can get that Karl Sokol http://www.chestnutmountainsports.com customized G-19 (grip reduction, beavertail, trigger job, innards polished, Trijicon HD sights, and the black stuff on the handle – truck bed liner. Don’t laugh, youngsters…works great when wet, much cheaper than other fancy finishes and you can touch it up yourself if needed with a $5 can from the local auto store) out of the holster and on to work with a clean Mozambique (at 10 yards instead of 7) from deep concealment in an average 2.0 seconds, though he has been known to go faster when frightened.
So back to the line up:
• Similarly modded mag pouch (Incog long strut) which contains a Dawson Precision +5 baseplate https://dawsonprecision.com/basepad-hicap-for-glock-extended-tool-less-design-by-dawson-precision/and spring on a Glock 17-rd magazine. This gives his back up magazine 22 rounds. So with 16 rounds in his G19 his daily EDC is at minimum 38 rounds of 9mm. He can pop an identical magazine and pouch rig right next to that one. Extensive testing of this magazine extension set up leaves him confident enough to run it daily. The Dawson baseplate includes a special spring as well as a baseplate which keeps it extremely reliable.
• A Boker Trigonaut http://www.amazon.ca/Boker-02BO280-Plus-Trigonaut-Knife/dp/B0037EZ0TC worn horizontally, rig modded with Raven Concealment 1.75 inch belt loops, and a Ranger Band http://www.gearward.com as an extra retention device should one find oneself engaging in fisticuffs with miscreants. Extremely fast access with either hand, the Ranger band protects it during scuffles or being brushed out of the sheath at close quarters by accident. The Trigon is much less expensive than a lot of the fancier knives, is a legal length in many jurisdictions (check your own local laws if you decide to emulate) and a fine working tool for EDC carry.
NOTE TO THE KNIFE PEOPLE: While my friend carries this knife as a daily work tool, if one were so unfortunate as to have to resort to it as a defensive means, it’s inexpensive enough where you won’t miss it (much) when it goes into evidence in the property room. Or in the river. Unlike some of the more expensive albeit nice custom knives built for the whole “mid-line access” role. YMMV.
Here’s a pic of the rig on the Invisible Man when he turned off his invisibility cloak:
So that’s an overview of a working professional’s rig for deep concealment in a dangerous environment. Notice it’s built around Black Center Tactical’s extremely high quality work.
Oh, and the Invisible Man assures me that the Black Center Rig is absolutely invisible — under a burqua.
Buy some rigs from Mr. John Bonnett and tell him I sent you. With my apologies.
The Invisible Man at work…..(wink)
Crowds frighten me.
There was a time, a long time ago, when I enjoyed the excitement of a crowd: concerts, packed movies, huge parties (my 18th birthday party had over 400 participants, a band, and enough drugs and alcohol to fund a mid-size cartel….) and even the odd political event before I grew disillusioned.
But not any more.
It was actually a concert that broke my enjoyment. Back in the 70s, I attended a benefit concert in San Jose CA for Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Union. It was a great concert: Santana, Taj Mahal, a ton of minor acts. And because it was a political fund-raiser, no police for security. Only the Brown Berets of La Familia providing volunteer security. This was the era of Altamont, where the Hells Angels provided security for the Rolling Stones, and there was violence there; there was violence here, too.
I was about three bleacher rows away from the first major fight. It was hot, people had been drinking and getting high all day in the sun, and several La Familia security were called over to intervene in an argument between a huge unaffiliated biker and a patch-holder from one of the smaller CA MCs. When it kicked off, it kicked off big.
I remember watching the fight flow like a ripple in a pond, getting bigger and bigger till it was a tidal wave: first two guys fighting, then four or five, then knives and chain belts (outlaw bikers used to wear the drive chains of bikes for belts as they made handy flails in melee combat along with the obligatory Buck Folding Hunters and fixed blades) and then easily one third of the bleachers that held over 45,000 people erupted into violence. Gun shots, knife fights, fist fights, people screaming…and the crowd and the fight nosing one way and then the next like a gigantic animal.
Me and my buddy couldn’t fight our way through and down, so we turned and did the opposite – we fought our way up the bleachers, and then climbed over the safety rail and made a precarious descent down the support structure behind and beneath the bleachers, and then climbed a high barbed wire topped fence to escape.
As I recall there were several hundred hospitalized after the mass riot, and the police couldn’t even get into the stadium.
I will never forget how fast the violence grew, how fast it turned, and how fast people got ate up in it. I’ve seen similar violence elsewhere since then, but that first impression has never left me.
So I avoid crowds.
But sometimes you can’t.
I am no longer an instructor. I’m a coach for instructors and a designer of training programs. I do get asked from time to time to lend my experience and opinion to problems. Like the problem in this video, posed by a woman who is a fine martial arts instructor who asked: “What can I possibly teach or say that would have helped this woman?”
Ugly. Raped and beaten so savagely she required surgery. Easy enough to say, don’t be there, or don’t dress a certain way if you’re going to be in a place like that. But sometimes we don’t get to choose, as Lara Logan, who was similarly attacked while doing her job, describes in this interview:
Some of the hard men who go in harm’s way talk about the shooting solution. While there are times that may be the solution, even the best trained and reasonably armed can be overcome and killed by the fast moving crowd. In this video, notice what happens when the shots go off…and what happens when the fire is ineffective and doesn’t continue…and when the shooter has the gun beaten out of his hands….
Other skilled people talk about driving away or through. Great in principle but sometimes fails in practice, as Reginald Denny can testify:
And sometimes the crowd isn’t spontaneous, but planned:
What might an instructor want to convey to a woman (or a man) who might have to consider a mass attack like these? I don’t have any hard and fast answers. I have some general principles. The crowd is a dangerous beast, and the crowd mass attack is the most dangerous beast of all.
My random thoughts on principles:
• Don’t be there if at all possible. Avoid crowds, especially crowds of young men, and especially of young drunken men.
• If you’re in a crowd by choice, pay attention to your intuition and your feelings (the atmospherics or situational awareness) of the energy/mood of the crowd. When I was young and getting my first professional fighting chops as a doorman, I could literally feel the energy in the bar shift when things were about to go bad. Everyone feels it; and most can recall it after the fact if they survive. This presupposes, of course, that you are sober enough to notice.
• If you’re in a crowd by choice, have a partner or several friends. Don’t be alone and don’t allow yourself to be isolated in the crowd, especially as a woman surrounded by men. Look for other women or men who will stand with you or stand up for you and ask for help.
• If the crowd gets ugly, get out as fast as you can. The earlier you sense the change and the faster you move, the less likely you are to get caught up in it.
• If you become a target, keep moving. Move away, don’t stop and don’t let yourself be stopped.
• If you are grabbed, you must have previously made a decision about what to do and act instantly on it. A fast decisive attack may dissuade, distract, or delay others for you to get away…or it may incite even more violence. If you are fighting bare handed against a mob focused on beating and or raping you, it’s like fighting a tidal wave. Look at those videos above.
* The greatest challenge(s) are:
a. Knowing the spectrum of violence and recognizing when attention turns into the intention to harm you – the earlier you sense that the more effective any pre-emptive action (escape or preemptive strikes) will be.
b. Being violent enough early enough to stop the first key individuals moving on you to create space to escape.
c. Being able to ride out the panic of being overwhelmed by a crowd bent on hurting you, which is one of the most terrifying experiences any human can feel, and work a plan or improvise one. Which presupposes that you have a plan for such an event, which presupposes you’ve thought about it, and that you can improvise a different plan if your first one fails contact.
For the shooters in the crowd, notice what happens in the IRA mob killing video. The initial shots scatter the crowd…except for a few key individuals who continue their attack focused on disarming the operators. Then the crowd returns. Shots fired, most of the crowd retreats…except for the hard core. Have you thought about what you might do in such a circumstance? Would you fire warning shots and hope to scatter the crowd? Would you shoot to kill the main players in the mob?
As for driving away or through, notice what happens both in the IRA video…what happens when you stop? Even you stop and are blocked in, you are faced with the decision to either run over or through a crowd – have you thought that through and decided in advance about what you might do in that instance? Reginald Denny stopped…
In the Lara Logan interview, pay attention to what she says about the change and the escalation in the language and atmospherics in the crowd. Can you pick up on a point where she might have left? Can you see it or feel it?
The only hard and fast solution to this problem is not to be there. The principle of staying away from crowds works (unless you’re hunted by one, as in the gloating trophy video) but dealing solo with a mob attack gone violent is like swimming with a hungry great white shark. The mob usually wins.
There are many more qualified voices (than me) out in the wilderness of the Error-Net on what constitutes “good” (whatever that means, specifically) training for the civilian gun-toter (and even more for police specific training).
Some especially good ones are:
• Greg Ellifritz, Active Response Training: http://www.activeresponsetraining.net
• Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor: https://tacticalprofessor.wordpress.com
• Ralph Mroz, The Street Standards: https://thestreetstandards.wordpress.com
* Massad Ayoob, Massad Ayoob On Guns: http://backwoodshome.com/blogs/MassadAyoob/
There are thousands of blogs and forums where the tacti-cool Error-Net Community can weigh in and pundit-ize from their keyboards (not withstanding that there are some EXTRAORDINARY voices out there; they just tend to get drowned out in the background noise, which is why I no longer participate in forums and the vast majority of blogs etc. except as a mostly passive consumer of good information).
One topic that’s getting a lot of digital ink is how, dadgummit, should us civilians be prepared to fight terrorists in the streets of our home cities?
It’s an interesting question for a bemused observer on the sidelines, which is me most days. I had an interesting series of dialogues in recent weeks with several of my mentors and some other colleagues. One of them, my long time friend and mentor Ed Lovette, now (unfortunately) retired from active training, said this: “You know, there’s really nobody that’s out there that is doing a good job of preparing the average civilian (responsible) gun owner for dealing with the significantly higher threat of aggravated assault, armed robbery, mass attacks (whether criminal or terror motivated) and terrorism that we’re seeing now.”
I think there are, but at least from my view on the sidelines I see the endless Balkanization of “firearms” or “tactical lifestyle” or whatever: over here you can learn the latest and the greatest in pistol manipulation from open carry on the range; over here you can run deep concealment pistol; over here you can learn how to fight in the hole of 0-3 yards; over here you can learn to deploy your knife to defend your gun or sneak up on an ISIS operator and score a knife kill, blah blah blah.
Not much in the ways of an integrated carefully thought out and designed program.
Since that’s kinda sorta what we do at Accentus-Ludus, I thought I’d share some random thoughts here.
One of my dear friends and long term students Guro Diana Rathbone came to me and asked for my help in designing a “training walkabout” for her; i.e. an extended professional reboot/upgrade to take her world class martial arts skills and accomplishments and use those as a platform to launch her into the world of defensive firearms with a focus on female civilians. So here’s a break down of what we sketched out and what she’s already done and is doing.
I based this loosely on the post-Basic and In-Service training a federal agency involved in counter-terror did. After Basic Firearms and Specialized In-Service Firearms qualification, there were three “outside” schools that were considered to be finishing courses to prep operators (or whatever we were called in those days, agents/officers/ninjas, I’m old, I forget….):
Cooper-era Gunsite pistol curriculum – to refine and install the basic manipulation skills.
Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute curriculum – to get the legal piece down, so we knew when we were justified in shooting the bad people;
Bill Rogers’s Shooting School -to get manipulation, accuracy, speed, and decision making honed in the crucible of the man vs. machine set up that remains one of the best tests of combat marksmanship ability.
That’s not a bad sequence of classes, albeit expensive (but not if your Agency is paying, LOL) and follows a pretty good conceptual base: basic manipulation and known distance marksmanship and holster skills, followed by intensive legal grounding in when to shoot, followed by intensive testing at fusing those concepts together.
But things change, sometimes for the better (says an old curmudgeon) and we’ve learned an awful lot about how the brain works, how the legal landscape has evolved (especially for civilians) and especially the threat matrix for shooters. I’m going to confine my comments to the armed civilian context here, as there are better qualified folks to comment on the high end tactical piece, though I do occasionally get to consult with those type of folks, at least according to the e-mail I get here at the Old Fogey’s House.
Here’s the conceptual sequence I set up for Guro Diana Rathborne for her transition into the world of defensive firearms:
Situational Awareness, Environmental Manipulation, Pre-Violence Indicators. (The Fight Before The Fight).
• Some Old Guy In Minneapolis (perception enhancement, cognitive-neurological training to enhance situational awareness and accelerate learning of motor skills, other stuff)
• Matt Graham, Graham Combat, ARAINDROP (Environmental Manipulation/Situational Awareness)
• Greg Ellifritz and William April, UNTHINKABLE (violence pre-cursors, psychology of violent offenders)
Firearms Training Specific to the Needs of the Female Shooter:
• Louann Hamblin, LOUKA Tactical
Specific training focus on enhancing manipulation/shooting skill:
• Claude Werner (3 days private training previously, 1 1/2 days recently)
• Dave Harrington (3 days private training in pistol, 3 days on carbine)
• Rogers Shooting School, Intermediate/Advanced Pistol w/Carbine add-on
Mental Aspects and Seeking Wisdom from the Sage Elders
• Ed Lovette
• Bob Taubert
Other Training Aspects and Visit With Highly Advanced Young Guns
• A former student visiting as a guest instructor for the FBI HRT (Special Operations Command Combatives Program)
Combatives and Different Martial Arts (she set up most of this herself as she’s an in-demand instructor for advanced and beginning martial artists, a regular law enforcement trainer and presenter at IALEETA, etc. etc.
• Nick Hughes, French Foreign Legion Combatives
* Pat Tray, USA Combatives, renowned SEAL operator and instructor
• Various martial arts schools
Some training she’s scheduling right now:
• Massad Ayoob’s latest evolution of his legal material.
• Washington State Police Training
• Various classes at the Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson Academy
• Visits with Burt Duvernay, Ralph Mroz, Karl Sokol and a few who shall remain nameless.
That’s a pretty good curriculum to accomplish in a few months, and a significant expense in time and money. But if you figure that you’re looking to get a graduate level education in a new field in a compressed time frame, may as well as go the distance, and the total expense is significantly less than a 2-4 year degree in something else and a hell of a lot more practical.
So what’s the flow, or the big pieces that add up to at least one definition of a good education in gun-fighting?
Soft skills. The stuff that’s not sexy (or maybe it is, if you’re a neuroscience geek like me) like learning pre-violence indicators and predator behavior, tweaking your own cognition and neurology so you learn faster, retain more of what you learn, and can apply what you learn under life and death stress; manipulating your environment (including those around you) so as to enable you to move safely through chaotic situations/circumstances and events; what to do if you’re captured or a victim (including some escapeology); stress management pre-fight in-fight and post-fight, mindfulness/meditation/visualization technique to support all of the above. Generating and maintaining an attitude of humility and gratitude and service to others.
Unarmed skills. Diana’s way ahead of most, having 30 years of full time martial arts training and instructorship, and having a wall full of hard-earned certificates from every major component of the Inosanto JKD Universe and others. Basic skills to consider – me, I’m a big fan of basic military combatives like the evolution of the WW2 stuff made famous by Fairbairn and Sykes. Simple, robust, easy to retain, serves in 80-90% of the circumstances you’ll run into. Boxing is great, but any vigorous martial art is better than nothing. SPEND TIME EXPLORING HOW TO INTEGRATE THOSE SKILLS INTO ARMED SKILLS. For that I highly recommend the Filipino systems as the concept of fluidity and flow translate well to armed combat with knives as well as guns, in my experience.
Intermediate armed skills: Contact type weapons including pepper spray, knives, sticks, and improvised weapons, including environmental evaluation and use (walls, door handles, doors, bar rails, chairs, etc.)
Firearms skills: Basic safety and manipulation of handguns. Progress rapidly from that into a solid defensive oriented handgun course that addresses concealment and realistic application of the handgun. Right now it appears that the best there is in terms of track record is Mr. Tom Givens at RangeMaster, though there are a great many people out there providing quality instruction. An advanced handgun course (from guys like Paul Howe, Dave Harrington, Claude Werner, Bill Rogers, etc.)
A necessary skill set is the application of the extreme close range gunfight which includes grappling, striking and clearing a fouled weapon. Craig Douglas at ShivWorks pretty much set the bar (I found over 200 e-mails from him dating back to the early 90s when we were kicking around his concepts while recently archiving research material!) though Greg Ellifritz does an excellent job with that as well.
The legal piece gets way overlooked. Training with Massad Ayoob is a must while he’s still around. There is no one better. Period. There are good books, and a good lawyer is a must.
Scenario training: a must have. You must test your skills force on force under the supervision of a SKILLED instructor who knows how to set up scenarios and run them properly. The gold standard is the legendary Lou Chiodo of Gunfighters LTD http://www.gunfightersltd.com out in CA, whose focus on force on force firearms training revolutionized forward leaning law enforcement. Gabe Suarez also teaches and presents a significant amount of material on force on force training.
That’s a hell of a lot, isn’t it? And way out of most everybody’s investment range in both money and time unless you are a full time training professional (who can write the entire investment off).
If you’d like to contact Guro Di or follow her journey on Facebook, here’s her contact info:
Diana is on Facebook and LinkedIn
Her direct contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
So how does Joe Six-Pack and Sally Suburban, new to the world of defensive firearms, approach their training in a time and cost efficient fashion? I assume that they are serious in approaching this and are self-motivated….
Here’s some ideas:
• Read through the four blogs I listed above. Read a LOT. There’s a huge amount of material archived there. Identify the themes and names those four mention as quality trainers.
• Look those people (quality trainers) up on YouTube or online and JUST READ. Generate a list of questions, but JUST READ. Don’t get sucked into the black hole that is Error-Net Gun-Dumb.
• Post your questions at one of the four blogs above. There are other good ones, but those four are extremely high value and very conscientious about answering questions.
• Read some good books. DEFENSIVE LIVING by Ed Lovette and Dave Spaulding, THE TRUTH ABOUT SELF PROTECTION by Massad Ayoob are two very excellent overviews on the whole spectrum of personal protection. Read Gavin De Becker’s THE GIFT OF FEAR and Joe Navarro’s WHAT EVERY BODY IS SAYING to get a good jump-start on soft skills. If you find that interesting, read UNMASKING THE FACE by Paul Ekman. Those five books will put you way ahead of most “gun people.”
• Consider taking a good quality self-defense program if you don’t have any martial arts background. Good quality is short, simple technique that you can validate on a padded opponent immediately. Check out martial arts schools.
• Based on “high quality” information, make a decision about what kind of firearm you’re looking for BEFORE you go to the gun store. Armed with information, go in and get your hands on one.
• If you are required to take mandatory training before you can purchase (like CCW etc.), take the cheapest/fastest/closest training – and compare what you’ve learned from your previous research with what you may be shown/exposed to in such a class. It may be wise to just keep your mouth shut and your head down and get your ticket punched. Don’t expect much.
• Once you have purchased your weapon, then look around for a local basic class. The NRA Instructor referral board is a good start. Asking around, and relying on your perception of “quality” training as formed from your due diligence on the internet with reliable sources, pick a basic class and take it. This class should cover gun safety, basic legal familiarization, holster skills, weapons manipulation, basic marksmanship in a range context.
• If you can’t afford a more advanced class after a basic introduction class, consider pooling together with like-minded potential students and hosting a class. Many top tier instructors will travel to you if you can get 6-8 students together to spread out costs. There are also some good schools regionally.
• Build a training/practice plan and a training budget. Claude Werner’s Pistol Practice Program is as good as it gets, a very reasonable investment in a DVD with a plan, targets, and MP3 timed coaching tracks. $40. Make a training budget. You need ammo and range time (and you should budget for accessories like holsters, belts, eye and ear protection etc.) A bare minimum would be one box of ammo once a month, coupled with a daily dry fire routine. A better would be twice a month, 50 rounds each time for a total of 100 rounds, coupled with a daily dry fire session of no more than 10-15 minutes. A serious high-end commitment would be once a week for 150 rounds, with a 15-30 minute daily dry fire routine that encompassed tactical movement, etc., and a once a year 3-5 day training class.
• Work on stress management, visualization and mental rehearsal. It’s cheap. Work on integrating your unarmed skills with your armed skills and test it in scenarios, classes, whatever. You can find a few other like-minded people and have a training group that is fun and beneficial. Those other people could also pool resources to bring in “name” instructors if you want to up your game without traveling.
So there’s some ideas. As always, these are my opinions based on my experience and training and my professional work as a designer of training programs. Don’t take anything I say (or anybody else) on face value till you have measured it against your own experience and needs.
EDIT FROM E-MAIL: Hey all, don’t be bashful about posting comments. It’s a way to share your insights with the significant audience out there. I do moderate comments to keep off the idiots and the Achy Man Haters https://marcuswynne.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/repost-achy-man-on-corruption-reply-to-the-haters-and-chapter-two-of-threes-wylde/, LOL, but reasonable posts and disagreement welcome.
From Evan Hill of Hill People Gear: He points out a glaring hole in the plan, i.e. TCCC or tactical medical care. Yes, treating gunshot wounds, your own and others, should be part of a comprehensive education, and first aid including trauma management should be part of any adult’s skill set. Thanks Evan!
There are a great many much more qualified (than me) commentators on the tactical implications of the Paris attacks for armed professionals, law enforcement, and the private citizen. For a very good compilation go here http://www.activeresponsetraining.net to my friend and colleague Greg Ellifritz’s excellent blog.
Since we are mental software type people, I thought I’d share a few observations from that perspective.
So in no particular order, some random points and implication.. As always, nothing I say here is more than my opinion based on my experience and training, so let your own experience/expertise/training/opinion be your guide as to its value
The axis of the attack
One way to take this is that the insertion of the operators along a north south axis utilizing primary avenues of approach and egress into the heart of the city was purely a matter of chance, or convenience for whatever support element MAY have assisted…of course they could have just taken the bus, subway, or private car.
A result of coordinated attacks taking place along that axis is that it creates a series of interlocking traffic stoppages/grid lock into the heart of the city. If one refers to the timeline/sequence of events, near simultaneous and in rapid succession, one result is to tie up traffic and responding units into tight little balls, and subsequent units and follow on help will end up being tangled, slowed, distracted…vulnerable.
For LE/professional responders/EMS etc.: You may be cut off and diverted out of the usual way to a particular scene. You may be unable to drive directly to the scene and have to dismount some way off. If so, are you physically able to move from your vehicle carrying all your gear (rifle, plates, spare mags, blow out kits, EMS gear, whatever)? Do you have a plan for alternate communications in the case you dismount? What if your comms go down? (for instance, in a more fully integrated attack that simultaneously hits the power grid and the radio network and fiber optics that run many public safety VOIP communications? Imagine responding to a mass shooter event in a blackout and with no communications….)
For us regular folks: You may not be able to get to your vehicle, if you have one, or take public transport out if you use that. Do you have good shoes to walk all the way from a downtown venue to your home if you had to? Back in the early 2000s when NYC was hit with a major blackout, several friends of mine had to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn. That’s a long hike in strappy Ferragamos, as one of my lady friends said. Do you know how to get back to where you need to be on foot? Do you have downloaded (on your actual phone drive) maps of your local areas in case phone/GPS goes out? Could you navigate blacked out city streets without a GPS or paper map? Do you have a flashlight with you in case you have to read street signs in the dark? Can you figure out which way is north or south or east or west? A little button compass might be useful then.
Fire discipline displayed by shooters
At each of the restaurant/café/street side shootings along the way, police recovered approximately 100 shell casings. With two shooters, that adds up to about two magazines of 30-rounds each. That’s discipline and experience. Shooters debuss from the vehicle, empty two magazines into the crowded streetside venue, jump back in and drive away. What does that fire discipline tell us? Training, rehearsal, experience. Most of all experience. These are seasoned, i.e. they have killed before, shooters who can remain cool and keep track of their ammunition expenditure, who display fire discipline, and continue moving along their pre-determined route to hit either targets of opportunity or (more likely) carefully pre-scouted venues that provide the most access from the street combined with the largest number of people.
LE/armed professionals. These are seasoned killers. That doesn’t mean they’re particularly superior tacticians or gun handlers, but their big advantage is simple, robust tactics coupled to (most importantly) not only the willingness to kill but experience in killing. And they’re not concerned about getting caught or dying. So facing an opponent in that fashion requires moving to kill, not to arrest. The vast majority of LE are not trained or supported in training to kill in this scenario – and that’s not normally the job of the police. However, there is no question that if you are armed and you engage with or are identified by operators like this in a scenario, you will immediately come under fire and be engaged until you are dead. So that’s a good motivation to keep in mind.
The armed citizen. A very good reason to pre-think decision making. A handgun against a long gun at the distances involved from the street to a sidewalk café, especially in a lone handgunner against a seasoned fire team with long guns is not an optimal situation for the handgunner. Moving to cover, shooting from ambush, understanding and knowing what one’s baseline of performance under stress, having sufficient ammunition to sustain an extended fire fight and knowing/understanding that in this scenario suppressive fire with a pistol to cover your own or other peoples evacuation might be a viable tactic.
Trained in that lately? Against resistance? Against dedicated attackers who mean to fix you in place and kill you?
If you are unarmed in this instance, it’s best to channel Monty Python and run away, run away, run away. Going empty hands against seasoned killers with long guns is a non-starter unless you are within arm’s reach, which requires motivation and a skill set that is not common in most.
Sophistication in IED manufacture, i.e. bomb vests/belts.
Contrary to popular fiction and film, you don’t just gin these up in your basement. Building vests/belts that go off when they’re supposed to, and yet are comfortable enough (or at least non movement inhibiting) to wear while fighting requires a sophisticated skill set, expertise, and specialized equipment. And of course explosives. On a recent visit to Israel, some operators shared with me details of a particular bomb/shooting operation: the female bomber was wearing a bomb vest that had been built off a cast of her torso; at visual examination it looked like a pregnant belly, but was a sophisticated device with safety triggers (and possibly with a remote detonating capability with encrypted cellular as a back up, but I’m not sure). The team included 4 active shooters equipped with long guns and pistols, whose job was to make sure she got into the venue and detonated the device and then they were to engage responding units and civilians till they ran out of ammo or were killed.
They didn’t get to do that, because the very hard guys got to them first, but it’s a good example of what is not just possible but standard operating procedure. It also means that serious professional bombmakers are involved somewhere, and so those devices are not of the pressure cooker type (though those may be around too). Higher level of sophistication in IED.
Professional responders: You must plan for bombs and explosives as a given. If there’s shooting, there will be explosions. Whether hand grenades or IEDs. What is your level of knowledge on handling IED in THE STREET FIGHTING ENVIRONMENT? Not render safe procedures, or bunkering and waiting for the robot to water cannon the package, as in running to and into a fight where there may be IEDs on the targets you’re shooting, or in the bags around them, or in the grenades they throw your way? Will you anchor a downed shooter so they don’t detonate their vest and kill you and your fellow officers? Do you have a procedure to back people away to a safe distance? Do you know what the safe distance is for an IED bomb vest/belt/grenade? If not, who are you going to ask for that information and how will you remember it/train it?
Us civilians: Remember Monty Python. Run away, run away, run away. Rule of thumb: move far enough away from a downed shooter/suspect package so that when you extend your arm full length, you can hide from your view the shooter/package scene behind your outstretched thumb. In the event of a blast or if there are grenades, etc. being flung in your direction: Ass to the blast. Turn away from the device. Get behind cover if you can in 1-2 steps. If not, get down flat on your belly, ass to the blast, cross your feet at your ankles, press your elbows to your sides and press your hands to your ears and open your mouths. If you have a child/children, shove them underneath you, compress their heads under your chest with your arms squeezed against your side so that their ears and head are protected; squash them flat under you. They will probably be screaming so their mouths will be open. Try to cover your ears as well if you can. Same if you have a loved one who’s too slow or doesn’t know how. Press them as flat as you can and cover them.
If you are injured, self assess: can you keep going to get further away from the scene, or are you truly too injured to proceed? Other folks write at length about the need for medical training; really first aid is an essential life skill and you don’t need to be an expert on trauma management to save a life including your own.
If there’s one explosion, there’s two (or there will be). When you run, pick your direction and consider, if you are able to in the moment, that you might be herded along the most likely avenue of escape into another explosive killing zone.
A lot of what I’ve read lately on the Error-Net focuses on gear and what you, Joe Civilian or Mary First-Responder should be carrying. I like gear, don’t get me wrong, and I’m fully on board with having the right stuff when you need it. I’ve been toting myself, weapons and gear in harm’s way since the 70s, and here’s a few pithy things I’ve learned from people smarter than me:
*Training trumps gear.
*Specific real-world experience trumps generalized training.
*Knowledge derived from experience and supplemented by training allows quantum leaps in improvisation.
All that being said, yes, it’s better to have a t’quet instead of a belt, or a table cloth; yes it’s better to have an Izzy or some other pressure dressing; yes it’s better to have an airway instead of a safety pin…
There’s a balancing point between what you can reasonably (i.e. comfortably, have immediately available, concealed if that’s a concern, if off body in a every day carry sized bag) have with you and what you would actually WANT in a full blown low probability high risk scenario like what happened in Paris. There’s lots of other people opining about that who are much better qualified to discuss the latest and the greatest than me.
Here’s a couple of things a friend of mine whose experience and training is significant suggested:
*Have a weapon and a concealment system. Preferably high capacity with a minimum of one high capacity magazine.
(He likes a G19 with a flush 15 round mag, and as a back up mag a 17 rd mag modified with a Dawson Precision +5 baseplate and spring, which gives him a minimum of 38 rounds. He has been known to slip two back up mags in his waistband. He conceals it with a system that consists of a Boxer Tactical belt, a Black Center Tactical holster modded with an Incog extra long strut, and a couple of mag pouches similarly modded for deep concealment.)
*A strong knife. Pocket knife is fine, or a small legal sized fixed blade, like the Boker Coye Razorback in a good sheath.
*Breaching tool. Not a big-ass tacti-cool one, but something with glassbreaker capability like the superb Spyderco Rescue Knife, or a small ti pry bar, etc. Or even the key chain mounted ones. Breaking a window is harder than it looks, and having the capability to break hardened glass to get out of somewhere is vastly under rated.
*A flashlight, preferably with high lumen and a strobe or signal capability (MiniMag Light with SOS signal in it is just fine).
*A bandana (to dab his fevered brow, or improvise as a blood stopper)
*iPhone 6+ with several specialized apps installed that work WITHOUT cell or wi-fi signal. These apps include OsmAndMaps, which allows the user to download detailed maps onto the phone so in the absence of cell/wi-fi you have detailed maps to navigate with, and Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival app. The feature of the SAS app he likes best is the built in (not dependent on wi-fi/cell) Morse code communication app. You can type in a plain text message, the program translates it into Morse code and then uses the built in smartphone flashlight (or the screen itself) to transmit the message. No doubt someone is laughing at sending Morse code these days; however given a major event and the amount of aerial and satellite coverage dedicated to an in-progress event, synchronized flashes whether recognizable as Morse code or not (and they are to the computers, kiddies, the algorithm sorts it….) can show location (like trapped in a rubble pile) or convey useful information to the Fed computers who can translate that for the tacticool knuckle draggers (3 T long gun, 2 ied ne entrance, roof clear) if one were playing mouse in the wall.
Anything else is nice to have, if you have the time and wherewithal to lug stuff around. These days I see people lugging backpacks stuffed with trauma bags spare magazines and AR pistols to go to the coffee shop; there’s so much just in case gear in there you can’t squeeze a laptop in. All cool with me – just have a plan to use it and be cool about it.
Note about the AR pistols: It’s a “thing” to have an AR pistol in one’s backpack or whatever. Great tool for those who know how to set it up, zero it, and run it. Those that know how to do that are familiar with the ballistics and how your particular round choice (300 Blackout or 5.56) will be affected by the different barrel length, and zero accordingly. Most of the people blasting away with them at public ranges have never zeroed them and have no idea where their rounds will hit past 7 yards, much less at 100 yards or more (very easy inside of any mall and many schools). Yeah, having a rifle caliber in a compact package is awesome up close – assuming you can deploy it and hit with it. A 10.5 inch barrel AR pistol zeroed at 50 meters gets you easy center of mass hits out to 200 meters; up close you have to account for offset if you want precise head shots, but keeping it in the body is not hard. An extremely experienced friend counts kills at 500meters using a MK-18 with an ACOG – 10.3 inch barrel.
If you’re going to carry stuff, know how to use it and what the capabilities are. And yours.
Since the brain responds best to focused questions, here’s some to consider when you mull readiness and preparedness. Think about these as a way to create a foundational neural net to build your mental rehearsal on:
How are you mentally prepared? Do you have relevant experience and or training? Do you have skills to improvise weapons and medical equipment? If armed, what is your real skill level as opposed to your training day skill. How far can you engage accurately under stress? What is your performance when tested cold to establish your real baselines? Do you have any previous experience with threat to life stress? Do you have sufficient ammo to SUSTAIN an engagement against automatic carbines/rifles at close range? Can you do suppressive fire with a pistol against carbines/rifles? (Harrington Drill: empty 3 15-rd mags as fast as you can at 7, 15, 25 – all hits on a pie plate.) Can you engage when surrounded by injured panicked innocents? Can you kill? Do you have a plan not to get killed by responding units or other armed citizens? How do you respond? What’s the decision tree? Are you alone or with someone you must be responsible for? (Kids, family, friends who are NOT fighters or armed?) Are you injured? Are you armed? Do you have a cellphone and is it functioning? Are you pinned down or herded into an environment conducive to hostage taking (killing)? Can you engage? Are you able to engage without being immediately killed? Can you hide and wait, even if you must see horrific things (children killed, women raped, etc.) while you are waiting? Can you wait till the right time? Would you recognize the right time if you saw it? Can you realistically feign compliance to achieve a superior fighting position?
There’s some food for thought (actually a feast for thought, but then I’m a cognitive neuroscience enthusiast…)
I’m at the age where the death of a friend isn’t unusual. It was when I was younger. Now between the vicissitudes of age and the attrition that comes from having a peer group that is either retired from or still out on the hard edge, I hear at least monthly news of a friend who’s fallen or passed.
I spend Memorial Day
And Veteran’s Day
Remembering my friends. No e-mail, no phone calls, no chit chat. It’s my way of honoring them.
I stopped writing memorials and obituaries earlier this year, when a bad few weeks left me with a double-digit body count of friends lost to warfare, cancer, and suicide.
But today I’m going to remember a friend who was one of the best. One of the best I’ve ever trained. One of the best in the field. One of the best MEN in a time when the Old School meaning of that term gets denigrated. A man with a great heart, full of courage and love for those he protected and those he fought beside.
On Veterans Day I got a message with the blunt news: “Oi, mate. Conrad’s dead. Bought it in Jordan.”
At the International Police Training Center in Jordan, where he was working as an instructor, passing on his formidable skill set and experience.
I sat with that for a while. It’s one thing when you see the attrition of age and the things that come with that: disease, old injuries, slowing down and catching one out on the hard edge that you might have ducked if you weren’t past your prime…
It’s different when it’s a young man in his prime. Especially when it’s an old man remembering.
Of these five men, from left to right, two are dead, the next two died and come back to life (as Near Death Experience survivors), and the last one will most likely kick Death’s ass back to Hell when he comes and tries to collect him.
That’s good company.
Conrad, like Rich Smith, (https://marcuswynne.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/richard-smith-1957-2012/) believed and practiced the Old Way, of Wotan/Odin. When I heard of his death, I looked out my window and two ravens flew by, calling as they went: Huginn and Munnin, the Eyes of Odin in the Middle World. I had a brief vision then, of Conrad being ushered into the Hall of Valhalla by Rich and other friends.
My friend K, who knew Conrad as well, was kind enough to send me this poem by the famous World War 2 Norwegian poet, Nordahl Grieg. K has read it over all of his fallen brothers in a unit awarded the highest decoration for courage under fire the US can give to a foreign military unit:
“Det er de beste som dør.
De sterke, de rene av hjertet
Som ville og våget mest;
Rolige tok de avskjed,”
Humbly translated by K to:
“It is the best who die.
The strong and clean at heart,
Who wanted and dared the most,
quietly they said goodbye.”
Thanks for sharing that, K. Conrad would be honored and appreciative.
God bless you and keep you, Conrad. We’ll see to your girl. See you on the Other Side.
This video clip discusses a fundamental principle in accelerated learning and neural based training design: multiple encoding of new information in the student’s brain.
What does that mean?
Let’s look at a specific example drawn from firearms instruction. The example is teaching the draw stroke from concealment.
One traditional method of firearms instruction might call for the instructor to:
• Describe what he’s going to teach and why it’s important (verbally)
• Demonstrate it to the students (visually)
• Take students through the draw stroke (visually and verbally)
• Have students repeat the draw stroke with remediation along the way (visually and verbally coaching)
• Have students demonstrate their retention of the material in a dry fire and then live fire context. (Experiential for the student and coached by instructor)
So…how many ways is the information presented to the student and how many learning modalities the student engages?
• Visual (the student watches).
• Auditory (the student listens)
• Kinesthetic (the student does the technique)
Are there other ways to present information to the student? And why is that important?
Without going into a long technical dissertation about state-based learning and the transference of a motor skill learned in a static environment to the application under stress in a 3-dimensional gunfight, here’s a short answer:
The more ways you encode life-saving information in a student’s brain, the more opportunities that student’s brain has to retrieve that information when under severe stress.
Another specific example. Take a tennis ball. Tack a piece of cord to it. Lob it to somebody and tell him or her they must catch it only by the piece of cord. Not easy. Now tack three pieces of cord. And do it again. Easier? Now tack nine to ten pieces of cord to the ball and lob it. Easier?
The ball is the critical information that must be caught. Student modalities engaged in learning are the cords.
Add more cords = better retention in the real world.
So how do we do that?
Going back to the previous example of the draw stroke, what if the instructor, in the same amount of time, followed this approach instead of the one initially discussed:
• Brief discussion of the material to be presented.
• Demonstrate the draw stroke.
• With minimal intervention by instructor, have students IMMEDIATELY practice the general movement for 3-5 reps.
• Then break students down into pairs, and for only 3-5 reps, observe and coach (parroting the instructor) the elements of the general movement (as in don’t refine the fine points, just get the big chunks down).
• The instructor then models/demonstrates refinement.
• The students immediately work on their own for 3-5 reps.
• Then break into groups of three: one observes, one is the “student”, the other is the “coach.” Observer observes, coach coaches per the instructor’s model, student does the motion. Rotate positions/duties after 3-5 reps till all have been a coach, an observer, a student.
• Students break into pairs. For 60 seconds, one student is the speaker, the other is the listener. Then rotate. They talk about what they have learned/are learning about the draw stroke, sharing what they have seen and experienced as a student, coach and observer.
• Take a break and students write down their notes and/or sketch/draw insights
• Return after break and then as a group the instructor facilliates discussion of learning thus far.
• Instructor models/refines the refinement of the motion.
• Instructor walks around and checks each student individually.
• Move to dry-fire/live fire.
Does this seem like too much work? In real time it takes less than it does for “traditional” instruction where the instructor talks talks talks and the student listens (or doesn’t) with multiple mechanical repetitions.
This approach frees the instructor from much of the “menial” work of instruction and focuses on higher order class management; it also provides multiple modes of encoding for the student brain – and the novelty of the approach makes the learning faster and more fun as well.
What kind of encoding are we seeing in addition to the previous three identified in the traditional approach?
• Visual (watching the instructor)
• Auditory (listening to the instructor)
• Kinesthetic (moving like the instructor)
• Coaching (taking new material and applying it to another)
• Observation (of others doing the technique)
• Listening (to others discussing their experience and interpretation of the material)
• Talking (articulating what they’ve learned and what insights they have about the material)
• Writing (taking information and writing it down on paper)
• Drawing (sketches of movement or diagrams)
• Collaborating as a team of three to refine the technique
All of this second series requires novel engagement by the student’s brain and provides additional “cords” to grasp the material when needed.
And it frees the instructor up to manage the learning environment and ensure that maximal learning is taking place.
None of this compromises safety when executed by a competent instructor; the biggest risk I’ve found is to instructor ego when they find they have to talk less and watch more, and that they are not the only essential component of the student’s learning – this is andagogy, learning for the adult brain, where the instructor shares responsibility for learning with THE LEARNER — not pedagogy, as in teaching down to ignorant peasants. Many firearms instructors don’t realize that most of the commands and principles for firearms instructors were set down and codified in the 1700s…and are still taught in military academies to this day.
We’ve come a long way since then, and most of us are not engaged in training illiterate peasants.
By the way, most of the approach has been heavily validated since the 70s in accelerated learning and adult education, and has been adopted as an approach by many many Fortune 500 companies as the most efficient way to train adults http://www.alcenter.com/whatisal.html .
My small contribution is to add the Accentus-Ludus spin on accelerated learning and simultaneous stress inoculation to this approach, with results you can examine on our web page, http://www.accentusludus.com.
As always, don’t take my word for it. Go and try it yourself. If it works for you, keep it; if it doesn’t, feel free to ask for clarification, or just bin it.
Stay safe, and remember that if you’re training life-saving skills, you have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide that training in the best possible fashion to ensure retention in the real world. Science and training has come a long way since the 1770s.