Archive for March 2015
Random Thoughts On Blog Comments And Lack Thereof; and The Difference Between A Course Of Fire and a Neural-Based Training Embedded In Firearms Use
Seems there are some misconceptions about the neural-based shooting exercise I posted. Instead of answering e-mails individually I’ll just comment here. Your e-mails and names aren’t posted publicly when you comment here unless you choose to. Don’t be bashful about posting questions and comments. Most of the e-mail questions I get are questions other people might be interested in too. It saves me time and energy to reply once on the blog instead of multiple times via e-mail.
What I posted is not intended as a course of fire for competition, qualification or even a “practice” routine for developing a skill set (though it can be used as such, as long as we don’t lose track of what it was developed for).
It’s intended to take a number of practitioners with a common skill set (though they are at varying levels of competency with that skill) and take their BRAINS (i.e. neurological, cognitive, physiological including motor processes) through a series of activities (framed in shooting as that’s the desired end-state for the skill) intended to REWIRE the neural processes that support the skill of fluidly shifting handgun from hand to hand and engaging targets accurately and quickly while under stress.
1) I’ve been writing about this stuff since the 90s. There’s over 300,000+ words on various internet forums and that’s not even beginning to count all that’s on this blog. Go read if you want more detail.
2) There’s a big difference between writing (or talking) about changing brain-based processes, and actually doing it. My focus is on doing it. I design a process, you do it, you get the change and with shooting you can measure it: speed and accuracy are quantifiable. That’s why 25 years ago I started my research within the context of shooting. The outcome of that 100 round neural-based training process can be measured subjectively (the experience of fluidity or ease) as well as objectively (accuracy and speed). So just do it. It either works for you or it doesn’t. 100% of the people who do it get some measure of improvement. If I stick your head in a scanner or wire you up I can show you the brain changes. Since that’s not an option for you use the metrics identified above. If it works for you, keep it. If it doesn’t, throw it away.
3) On neural-based training for firearms: developing firearms training designed to not only work with the way the brain processes information best but to rewire the brain to use that training while under threat-to-life stress is an evolution. If you don’t understand where firearms training came from, or where it is today measured against the common standards of adult education, it can be hard to understand the jump in evolution or the significance of the approach. It’s not necessary for you to have any kind of intellectual understanding about neurology/cognition/brain physiology/anatomy to improve your performance; you work through the designed processes/exercises and you improve. Or you don’t. Period.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it and measure it yourself. The more stress you put yourself under the more your improvement will come out.
The next post:
Von Steuben and the 18th Century Pedagogy of Firearms Training vs. 21st Century Andragogy, or How to Teach A 21st Century Adult and Not A 18th Century Idiot Peasant (Even Allowing For Achy Men)
Who is training? A cranky one-eyed fat man, 60 years old, stroke damage to left arm/hand, various disabilities, advanced shooter; 50 year old female world class martial arts instructor, excellent physical condition, intermediate shooter; 41 year old executive protection professional and MMA fighter, excellent physical condition, intermediate-advanced shooter.
What is the goal of training?
- Promote the attribute of fluid transfer from hand to hand
- Promote cross-lateral neurological activity in the brain to increase the context of the experiential learning and promote greater retention under stress for embedded shooting skills
- Refine accuracy and speed
- Promote trigger control during multiple shots
Why are we training this specific goal?
Effective real-world use of the combat handgun requires the ability to engage multiple moving targets with either hand under stress. All three participants practice Dave Harrington’s Iron Cross drill, one of the best dry-fire/live-fire drills to promote ambidextrous firing of the combat handgun from non-standard (i.e. square range 90 degree fire angle range safety restricted) positions…these are the positions that one encounters in real fights in the world. We want to drill this attribute for it’s generalization to all aspects of integrated fighting.
What are the limitations on the training?
Public range: cannot shoot from holster, cannot move outside of the immediate booth, may not engage more than one full size target.
Financial limitations mandate no more than 100 rds (two boxes) of commercial ammunition.
What are the presuppositions for the design?
- Participants are capable of safe handling of weapons
- Participants are aware of range limitations as to movement
- Participants have previous experience (martial arts, stick, knife, empty hand) with transitioning from hand to hand with a primary weapon; cross-lateral movements are embedded in their physical skill set and have been tested under stress both real-world application and high-stress training.
Course logistical requirements:
- Target hanger capable of being set at different ranges from 3 yards to 25 yards.
- 6 inch pie plates
- 3×5 index cards
- Sharpy Marker
- PACT timer/iPhone stopwatch
- Pistol, 3 magazines, 100 rounds of factory ammunition
START COLD, NO WARM UP.
Target is FLETC Transtar with a six-inch pie plate taped on the head and upper chest. In center of six inch pie plate is 3×5 card.
25 yards. From ready position with both hands, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either head or upper chest target. Mark target hits.
From ready position with right hand, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either target. Mark target hits.
From ready position with left hand, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either target. Mark target hits.
3 yards. Cloverleaf drill. With both hands fire one shot at target of choice. Transition to right hand only, fire one shot into existing hole; transition to left hand, fire one shot into existing hole. Fire as fast as you can while moving smoothly. Record time with stopwatch.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. Cloverleaf drill. As above. Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. From ready position with both hands, fire 3 shots in 2 seconds at target of choice. Goal is to keep everything on the pie plate, preferably on the 3×5 card.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. From ready position with strong hand. Fire 3 shots in 3 seconds at target of choice. Goal is to keep everything on the pie plate, preferably on the 3×5 card.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. Cadence drill. Both hands on gun. Fire 15 rounds in <11 seconds in this sequence: 1 to the head, 2 to the body, 3 to the head, 4 to the body, 5 to the head. Goal is to keep a steady cadence with no hesitation between shots. Record total time with stop watch or Pact timer.
7 yards. Transition from hand to hand. 3 magazines of 5 rounds each. Start with strong hand, fire one shot at target of choice, transition to off hand, fire one shot at target of choice, continue to transition and reload as needed (note if slide locks back in off hand, drop magazine with off hand and reload with strong hand; if in strong hand reload as necessary. Range does not allow holster work so stage magazines on booth shelf.) Record time and accuracy (all on pie plate, preferably on 3×5, total time elapsed, focus on smooth transition and no hesitation…flow drill)
7 yards. 15 round Bill Drill or Shaw NOW drill. 15 rounds < 11 seconds. As fast as you can on pie plate.
3 yards. Cloverleaf/head shot. For time – at beep fire both hands one shot, transition to right fire one, transition to left fire one, transition to both hands and fire one head shot. Accuracy and time.
TOTAL 100 rounds.
Write times/picture of targets in range training book/iPhone record
Note subjective impressions of
a) increased fluidity in transition from hand to hand
b) increased accuracy while increasing speed
Specific cognitive/neurological improvements:
Cross-lateral transitions of the weapon platform requires increased coordination between the brain’s hemisphere through the corpus collosum; promotes retention of the skill set while moving and in dynamic situation; increases stress inoculation due to pace/uncertainty; enhanced ability to engage with either hand while working in a 3-dimensional fighting environment. Enhanced/reinforced cross lateral processing of brain function generalizes to greater ability to utilize either hand in non-trained for events as well as promoting better whole body agility and proprioception.
Specific applications in:
CCW self-protection scenarios – allows for enhanced one hand use enabling flashlight, close quarters protection of weapon/weapon retention, control of pets or children that may require switching hands.
Executive Protection applications – allows for enhanced one hand usage so as to enable better control of protectee or penetrating crowds and clearing lines to engage targets,
I’m fond of knives. I’m half Welsh and half Filipino, which according to some of my witty friends makes me a maudlin drunken poet who sings beautifully in the shower and is given to violence, on occasion, with edgy/pointy things. Maudlin, yes; drunken, no; poet, on occasion; sings beautifully? I wish..; given to violence? Hardly. I abhor violence.
My Filipino blood sings with steel, though. Maybe it’s because the first living thing I killed was with a knife, at the ripe age of 3, when my grandfather Eustachio (according to village legend, a man-killer times 14 with his knife) held my hand on the grip of his knife as he finished a big boar for our neighborhood pig roast. Or the many chickens I helped my grandma kill for supper. We were never romantic or idealistic about the knife; it was and is a tool — for utility or for killing.
Here’s an excellent link to a Filipino knifer and the real-world non-martial arts view of the knife as daily tool for work or killing, courtesy of Greg Ellifritz’s excellent blog at http://www.activeresponsetraining.net : http://forcenecessarytv.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-knife-is-for-killing.html
But I digress. Today is all about Spyderco and my friends Sal Glesser and the astonishing Joyce Laituri. A good friend and training colleague from the Israeli Naval Commandos sent me this picture today; it’s the Philippine Ambassador to Israel, Neal Imperial. He’s a knife practitioner, and at my request, Sal and Joyce sent a beautiful Szabo folder as a gift to the Ambassador to carry and use in his training.
My relationship with the Spyderco family goes way back. I think the first Spyderco product I ever purchased was the one I still use the most: a Spyderco SharpMaker. It is simply the finest, easiest to use sharpening set-up there is. I have dozens of expensive whetstones, files, hones, sharpening rigs, sander set ups, and there is NOTHING I’ve used in over 50 years of carrying a knife that is easier to use and keep a hair-popping edge with than a Spyderco SharpMaker. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=77
Shown here with the Michael Janich designed Yojimbo, an excellent Wharcliffe utility/fighter. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=707 I can’t wait to get the fixed blade version, the Ronin. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=49
In the 80s and the 90s, being a young gun-slinger on an erratic income, I shopped hard for the best quality for the best price in all things. One of my partners from those days opined: “Marcus, all you got in the world are fancy knives, fancy guns, fancy women, and a duffel bag of books.” Well, I’m not too fancy in anything these days, especially fancy women, but I always was fond of Spyderco for the combination of extraordinary quality coupled with a very reasonable price point…and the best customer service ever.
In the 90s, when I wrote regularly for mags like COMBAT HANDGUNS, SWAT, POLICE, POLICE MARKSMAN, GUNS AND WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, BACKPACKER, OUTSIDE, and other magazines, I was a go-to reviewer for knives, clothing, and outdoor gear. My long-standing relationships with various military, police and specialized security operations meant that I could (still can, on occasion) get good gear directly into the hands of people who would buy them in quantity to equip those who go in harm’s way. A recurrent feature at that time was the latest from Spyderco. Sal and Joyce, especially Joyce, the Goddess of Spyderco Steel, always made sure I got blades to review, and blades to put into the hands of those who went in harm’s way. Spyderco was always part of my load-out when I rolled to work, as you’ll see here:
I was young and foolish then, here with my brother-in-arms Dennis Martin of CQB Services, on the job in sunny Africa:
One thing Spyderco has ALWAYS done on their own, as well as when I requested, is support our serving military, especially our operators, as well as those friendly foreign operators, by sending knives to those who go in harm’s way. They did an amazing job of putting this logo on the knives below for some very good people:
These Scandinavian special operators appreciated the Spyderco blades Joyce and Sal sent with me on a training job:
In some Scandanavian Naval Special Warfare operators’ hands:
And being used in the real-world while rendering first aid:
A lot of my American readers/friends roll with Spyderco; this Naval operator sports an Ed Schempp Rock Salt quite well during deployments. Provided to him by Spyderco:
So what do I roll with personally?
Rescue knife: https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=12
Many thanks to Sal Glesser, for making great knives and supporting those who go in harm’s way, and to the amazing Joyce Laituri, who does the best job in the industry of getting those knives out where they need to be. Thanks, you two!
Once upon a time, I spent a fascinating afternoon with John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, the famed “profilers” that’ve provided grist for fictional mills from Thomas Harris’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to TV’s CSI. I asked him, as a parent to a parent, what had changed for him after spending so many years studying the minds, behaviors, habits, and hunting methodologies of serial offenders. John is a genial, intelligent and articulate man with a surprising gentleness in his behavior for someone who’s devoted his life to hunting the most evil of humans.
There was nothing gentle in his face or voice when he snapped, “I NEVER let them [his children] out of my sight.”
I made the point that it’s impossible to keep our kids under 24/7 surveillance, especially when they hit their teen years, and he eased back a little and agreed. The emotional response rose out of his unprecedented experience in talking to so many agonized parents…and sitting across from malevolent beings who preyed on children.
It’s a good question, isn’t it? Whether as a parent or a good-hearted responsible human being, how do you teach children to recognize and react appropriately to danger/Evil when there’s no parent around? It’s very easy to say, well, never let your kids out of your sight. And any parent reading is this is going to know…you cannot always be there.
And more to the point, sooner or later those children we love will grow up and be out in the world — do you want them emerging from under your protective wing WITHOUT the skills to recognize and react appropriately to danger? Wouldn’t that be a grievous failure as a parent as well?
Interesting dilemma, yes?
I thought I’d share some techniques here that I’ve found useful in providing children as young as 5-6 the baseline foundational skills in recognizing bad intent. I don’t have all the answers, but these techniques, drawn from neuroscience, cognitive therapy and my own training design evolutions have been found useful by parents in quite a few high-risk environments. They’re simple to teach, use, implement and reinforce — and more to the point, they don’t scare kids the way that heated fear-driven lectures on what to do and not to do might.
I’ve used these with kids as young as 4, but 5-6 is probably the best place to introduce the skill set, especially since that’s when they will most likely be going off to school, and their rapidly growing brain is at the appropriate place to accommodate this particular cognitive-neurological change.
Set up a relaxed, casual environment. I like to think of setting the stage for this learning as similar to “Come here and sit, I want to tell you a story…”
Don’t preface with a lecture. Their brains aren’t ready for that. Tell a story, ask questions, get simple answers.
Start with this: “Can you think of a time when you were really, really SUPER happy?”
Watch their faces. If you know your kids, you’ll see a change that shows they are remembering that time.
Then say, “Where in your body do you feel that SUPER HAPPY feeling…show me! Put your finger on it!”
And then they will do so. It will be different for each kid — probably their belly, or their heart region, or maybe somewhere in their face/throat. But it’s individual to each kid.
Have them PLACE their finger on that spot.
Then laugh a little bit, talk about what they remember.
Then ask this questions, “Can you think of a time where you were really, really scared? In a movie, or in a story, or something you saw?”
And carefully watch their faces, because you want them to remember an incident, but not go too far into the memory…and when you see their face change, ask “Where in your body, right now, do you feel that SCARY feeling?”
And have them put their finger on it.
Then put your hand on that spot and say, “Okay, let’s remember a happy feeling again!”
And have them put their finger on the happy feeling spot.
Hang out in that for a little bit.
Then, if you’ve taught them not to talk to strangers (unless mom or dad SAY it’s okay, and these days most switched on adults will know to ask a parent if they can speak to their child…) give them this additional protocol, “If someone comes to you that you don’t know, ask yourself ‘Do I feel something in my Happy Place…or my Scary Place?” Role play it a little bit, but gently. It doesn’t take much to introduce that. What they need to internalize is a very fast intuitive feeling: “Is this a good person or a scary person?” And ACT.
If they feel the Scary Place/Person, give them the response/plan they need to ACT: Run away, scream for help, find a grown up they know.
Just that little bit, gently installed, and gently reinforced, might help your child (or somebody else’s child) on the day when the Wolf comes, and there’s nobody else there.
ps: for the lurking cognitive neuroscience types, Google somatic markers, preconscious processing, accentusludus accelerated learning and stress inoculation, DARPA, Office of Naval Research, NASA, if you want to dig into the hard science. I focus on techniques that a 3-6 year old can learn immediately and apply. Strangely enough, I find that approach works quite well with people that work under extreme stress…if they’re willing to learn.
pps: for the lurking writers/readers, I put this in THE ACHY MAN, as a technique a crippled man teaches to a 5 year old child threatened by Achy Man and his goons. It’s a good first step to help protect children from sick cowards…though sometimes the best way to protect young lambs is to simply kill the Wolf. Jus’ saying….
A little birthday tribute to one of my faves…
Here’s my FIRST professional published article (1983, kiddies…what were YOU doing then?) which is all about Chuck Norris and his Mental Training:
I spent a fair amount of time (off and on for 40 years) going in harm’s way on behalf of others. I often had the need to conceal various tools on or about my person. I’m fortunate to have had the counsel of friends like the late Bruce Nelson, Greg Kramer (when he was still a postman), Tony Kanaly (the first holster he built after starting at Milt Sparks’s shop was a Summer Special for a Sig P220 – for me), and the legendary Andy Arratoonian. Many wise and experienced Elders of the Tribe — Lofty Wiseman, Dennis Martin, David Scott-Donelan, Gary Wistrand, Evan Marshall, Dave Spaulding, Ed Lovette, Ralph Mroz, Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Bob Taubert, Louis Awerbuck — were generous in sharing their hard-earned experience and expertise with me. I’ve benefited from the New Generation as well, men like Craig Douglas, Greg Ellifritz, Shane Gosa, Jeff Bloovman, who’ve all shared their insights, experience and knowledge about the art and science of concealed carry.
I recently had to sort through 40 years worth of old leather and other tactical accouterments (original Bruce Nelson! Old School Milt Sparks! Ken Null SMZ! Andy Arratoonian shoulder holster! Original Jack Ass Rig from MIAMI VICE! A Seven Trees OWB for a Walther PPK!) to find something I could use for research on my most recent writing project, THE ACHY MAN.
In this book/script, the protagonist (a retired intelligence operator) runs afoul of some corrupt cops who pursue him into another state. They throw everything at him: falsely outing him as an informant to drug traffickers, hiring hit men, making several attempts themselves to kill him or intimidate him into silence with a Keystone Cops mélange of crooked cops, crooked private investigators, hired thugs and drug-addled street snitches.
The protagonist has to “gun up” to deal with the daily threats which grow more fervent when the Keystone Cops Gone Bad discover the good guy has had several of his military and intelligence buddies counter-surveil them, document their activities, hack their computers, and tap their phones – and delivered all of this in a keyword locked Iron Key to the top 25 media outlets in the country.
Panic ensues and violence escalates.
So what should the Good Guy wear?
The Ares Gear Ranger or Aegis gun belt rocks socks. It does all the work a good gun belt is supposed to do, and is solid enough to wrap around a log and drag it if need be. Why is that important? A good belt is the most overlooked accessory for a gun-toter. The belt needs to support the weight of the various tools and support items carried, and be rigid enough to lock those items in the same place so that the gear doesn’t shift around. The Ares Gear products do this in spades. The owner is a rock-solid man, and I happen to know that there are several Tier 1 Unit members that wear his belt in harm’s way. Highly recommended.
The Zenith gun belt is an excellent belt as well. It’s slightly wider at 1.75 inches than the Ares Gear, but it’s more flexible while still retaining sufficient rigidity to support multiple weapons etc. due to a kydex insert within the belt. Almost as flexible as a good leather belt. Billy at Boxer is a good guy, and at short notice shipped belt(s) to some Tier One operators rolling into harm’s way. However it’s hard to find his belts right now; the only distributor he was using was Amazon and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any available on their site.
After much testing, Jon Hauptman’s designs at PHLster take first place.
I was late coming back to the appendix carry, though I did so back in the 70s and 80s with 1911’s and various revolvers. It was Jeff Bloovman of Armed Dynamics and “One Man Army” fame http://www.armeddynamics.com/about-us.html who introduced me to Jon and PHLster. The PHLster is the most easily adjustable and more to the point, comfortable, appendix carry I’ve ever run. The attention to detail in the design contribute to that, as does Jon paying attention to feedback from users and innovations in the field. I just ordered some of his accessories to upgrade the rig I have right now. http://www.officer.com/article/11363743/phlster-and-boxer-tactical
A word on comfort, concealment, and appendix carry: I’m no longer any kind of tactical pundit, but I do have opinions based on a not-insignificant amount of training and operational experience when it comes to carrying tools concealed. If your rig reduces you to tears at the end of an 8 hour day and you can’t wait to get it off, it’s not a good rig. There’s several factors to consider – on one end of a sliding scale is depth of concealment, on the other end is speed of access. A constant that runs alongside that sliding scale is comfort. My test for a rig, back in the day when I carried concealed in business clothes in over a hundred foreign countries and more than a few non-permissive-environments, was to keep the rig on for no less than 72 hours. Three days – on the can, in bed, in off-duty clothing, in on-duty clothing. If you can’t sleep comfortably or go through an entire 3-days worth of normal activities with a rig on, then you need to modify it or get a different one.
So back to the PHLster rig: what I like about it is that you can choose where on the scale of depth of concealment to speed of access you want to be. Properly set up, you can conceal a Glock 19 under a light, tight fitting T-shirt so that only a focused bump frisk will turn it up. Same thing with his concealment pouches. Jon is a fussy artiste when it comes to his work; I appreciate that borderline OCD in a craftsman/artist working on life-saving support gear. It shows in the fine nuances of design and refinement, and his continual evolution with his limited line-up of holsters.
Some other holsters:
http://keepersconcealment.com — Spencer is a rocking dude, and an excellent holster designer. I found his holster to be on the “speed of access” end of the scale for me. Extremely fast, but didn’t conceal well on me. I gave it to a DEVGRU operator who loves it.
http://nsrtactical.com — Ralph Mroz turned me onto these guys. I may order one of their leather/kydex hybrid holsters down the road. In the interim I got several of their concealment pouches for magazines. While reasonably priced and quick to ship, the ready to ship versions I found had way too many sharp edges for an IWB carry and even with significant modifications on my part I couldn’t get the mags to seat deep enough for the level of concealment I wanted. Again, I understand that getting a good grip on a magazine helps to reload faster; however, as I said before, there’s a sliding scale between depth of concealment and speed of access, and I prefer to set my own place with that. Worth looking through his site, especially at the IWB rigs with two struts to firmly seat it inside the waistband while allowing significant adjustment leeway as to cant/depth.
And what does the Good Guy carry as a main tool?
He’s a Marcus Wynne fictional hero, dude – he carries a Glock, customized by Karl Sokol, one of the only remaining Old Skool Gunfighter/Gunsmiths, LOL. A Glock 19 with a grip reduction that duplicates the ergonomics of a Sokol Custom High Power, with a Grip Force Adapter melted in to make a beavertail, and the real “Sokolized” work up on the innards: extractor tuned, trigger job, replacement/fitting of all innards, solid recoil rod, Trijicon HD sights…what sets Karl’s work out from many others is his uncompromising commitment to FIGHTING guns…they are reliable, accurate, unpretentious and in the holsters of gunfighters from Tier One Special Mission Units, FBI, DEA, DOS, CIA, and every other alphabet soup out there, as well as many serious armed civilians.
And since this is a Gear Guy post, yes, he modifies his magazines with Wolff springs: http://www.gunsprings.com/index.cfm?page=items&cID=1&mID=5#148 and Pearce +2 magazine extensions http://www.pearcegrip.com/Products#GLOCK
So that’s the latest – keep an eye out for ACHY MAN!
Ps: I will be re-releasing e-book versions of WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS and BROTHERS IN ARMS as well as THREE’S WYLDE in the next few weeks…stand by for that. Thanks!