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Granny’s Guerrilla Gun

The training industry, whether professional trainers, writers, bloggers, or the denizens of any tactical training forum, tend to be more than a little snobbish. I’ve been guilty of it myself.
“If you don’t carry XYZ pistol, and ZYX knife, you’re gonna get kilt in deez streetz, yo!”

There is an article going around social media right now, that I read the other night. I don’t recall the website or author, so I can’t link it, but it made a point that a number of other people, who specialize in criminal/predatory violence and personal protection issues, that resonated with me, again.

The point made was that, criminals, armed with whatever piece of shit gun they could steal, had a higher hit rate than police officers did (it also made the point that, while police officers should not be considered the pinnacle of firearms skill, they are probably more skilled than the AVERAGE concealed carry permittee).

I suspect the reason that this jumped out at me, this time, was because, half an hour after I read the article, a friend of a friend called me on the phone.

“Hey, John, Bobby suggested I call you. I asked him, but he said you were the guy to ask, so…if you had to choose between a S&W Sigma40 (I don’t actually recall what S&W it was, but I do know it wasn’t an M&P), and a Taurus, which would you choose?”

Now, my initial response was, “Fucking neither one of those pieces of shit. Get a Glock.”

“Well, I’d get a Glock, but I can’t afford it.”

“How much money do you have? Why can’t you save up the difference?”

He went on to explain that he had roughly $250, and with his income (barely above minimum wage), and with a wife and a school-aged kid, he really didn’t think he could save double that, without something taking priority before he saved it up.

“Well, in that case, I’d look for a decent .38 wheel gun.”

Now, that sounds like sacrilege to a lot of readers, and it sounded like sacrilege to him, because he’d been around me enough to hear me explain that ammunition capacity, when coupled with accurate fire, is never a detriment. So, I asked him what he wanted/needed the gun for. Home defense.

“Alright, dude. Here’s the thing…unless you are doing something that you think is gonna cause a crew of ‘bangers to come through your door, a revolver is probably gonna be more than adequate for home defense in our little town.”

I kept considering it though, after I got off the phone with him, and it actually really bugged me. I’m not rich. Economically, I’m probably not even upper middle-class. Nevertheless, I’ve got enough gear and weapons and preparedness supplies to outfit not just us, but a couple other families within our community. So, at a brief glance, it seems fair for me to tell people, “Exercise some self-discipline, save some money, and get a decent gun!”

But…I also recognize that not everyone shares my concerns and priorities. Not everyone makes even as much money as we do. Not everyone who makes as little money as we do has enough self-sufficiency to raise some of their own food, to reduce their financial burdens.

They should, but they don’t. And, that’s not the end of the world.

So, my point is, so what if someone comes to you and asks for recommendations on guns, and cannot afford the gun(s) you think “everyone” needs? Do you scoff and tell them to suck it up and get what you recommend, or do you offer them some ideas on which they should get?

The Armed Citizen column, at the end of The American Rifleman, the NRA magazine, and Tamara Keel’s relatively new column for SWAT Magazine, highlight the defensive use of firearms by normal, average Americans. Lots of them are elderly, or live in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It’s fair to guess—when we don’t explicitly know—that most of those guns used are NOT red-dot equipped, custom-stippled polymer frame guns with aftermarket triggers. They are old surplus 1911s, or .38 SPL revolvers, left over from Grandpa’s days walking a beat.

I don’t want to face down a home invasion with a .38 wheel gun. You know what I have never done? Anything that warranted me being worried about a crew of ‘bangers coming through my front door. Granted, I live in a very rural location, on the outskirts of a very small, rural village, but even when I lived in a shitty, ghetto apartment, in a large urban center, I never really worried too much about it. Most of the people you and I know probably don’t legitimately need to be worried about it either. If you do, fix your shit. If your friends do, reconsider your social choices, and fix their shit while you’re at it.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to trade out my Glocks for the ancient Harrington .32 caliber revolver sitting in my desk drawer, but at the same time, I have decided to peruse the counters of some of the pawnshops and gun stores in the closest larger towns to us, to see what is available, in different price points. That way, the next time someone calls me and asks for advice on what kind of pistol he should look for, when he only has $XXX to spend, I can actually give him better advice than I was able to this time.

At the end of it all, one of the things I’ve tried to express to readers, in this blog, and in my books is, when shit gets sporty, you’re probably not going to have a hand-picked crew of pipehitters with a decade of door-kicking experience under their battle belts. You’re going to have your friends and your neighbors. So, while it would be NICE if they were all equipped with top-of-the-line M4s and tricked-out Glocks or M&Ps, it’s probably not going to turn out that way. It’s going to turn out far more inline with typical SF CIDG/UW experience, where folks show up with everything from old bolt-action hunting rifles and single-shot, break-action shotguns, to pocket pistols, retired police revolvers, and whatever Saturday Night Special that Grandpa bought as a home defense gun for Grandma when they were in their twenties and just starting out. You’re going to have to do what SF soldiers and old-time Jedburghs did when that happened…roll your eyes, laugh at the ironic sense of humor of the gods of war, and drive on with the mission. So, get in the practice now. When someone asks you for the advice I was asked for, look at it as a training opportunity for yourself.

When someone shows up at the range, and they are sporting a gun you think of as a piece-of-shit, take the opportunity for what it is: a chance to a) familiarize yourself with a gun you’d probably have NEVER even touched, otherwise, and b) a chance to train a local G with their personal weapon, just like you will be doing as things get more desolate.

Oh, and don’t be a dick, by telling them they’re dumb for buying a piece-of-shit. You don’t know their circumstances, so roll with it.


More on books.

My tech guy is way smarter than I am. He got the site up, so all that have been emailing and asking about where to find the books now, say thanks to my tech guy (his name is Bobbie).


He’s good, but he isn’t perfect. Books show as back ordered, but are not. We have several cases of each volume.


I have been getting a LOT of emails, asking about the books, now that Forward Observer is no longer carrying them. We are working on a store website, but being the knuckle dragging technotard that I am, I was failing dismally. I have a guy working on it now. Hopefully it will be up within a week or two.

In the meantime, and for those who do not want to use a credit card to order online, we can still take orders the old school way. For ordering info on that, please contact HH6 at



Advanced Skills

My buddy, Paul Sharp, of Straight-Blast Gym—Illinois, and proprietor of Sharp Defense, posted the following on Social Media:

When people start talking about advanced techniques my eyes cross. There are no advanced techniques. There are fundamentals honed to perfection through conscious effort. Then there is the application of those fundamentals against ever increasing challenges. The mechanics don’t change, our understanding grows so we’re able to apply the technique against higher and higher levels of resistance. As we advance we face greater resistance and better opponents which causes our understanding of the hows, when’s and why’s to advance. The mechanics remain the same. We become advanced.

Sugar Ray Leonard’s jab wasn’t magically different. His ability to hit anyone he faced at a world class level with his jab was the difference between basic and advanced.

During his seminar JJ Machado taught us all the same guard recovery technique. A guard recovery technique I had been taught my first month of jiujitsu. His ability to apply that technique against the best grapplers in the world is the difference between basic and advanced.

Bruce Gray presented my duty pistol, (a DAO S&W 4586), from a duty rig and hit the A zone of a target that was 25 yards away in a little over 1 second. He used the same draw stroke, mount, and trigger press he had been teaching me. He didn’t teach an advanced drawstroke or trigger press. His ability to make hits in those times with less than optimal equipment was the advanced understanding and application of the technique.

The point is; there is no secret sauce aka advanced techniques. There is advanced application and there is only one way to get there. High level coaching, and practice.

This is something I’ve discussed in rifle and pistol classes for a long time now.

One of the hardest things for me as a teacher is expressing to people that the “basics,” or “fundamentals” we are doing ARE the advanced, high-speed shit. I can demonstrate a drill, in exactly the way I showed the students how to do it, and explain, step-by-step that I am doing it exactly how I just demonstrated and explained it. Invariably, someone will then ask me to show them what I did different…

For fuck’s sake, dude….

There are four basic aspects to using a gun in the anti-personnel role:

  1. You need to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response.
  2. You need to be able to get the gun into the fight soon enough to make a difference.
  3. You need to avoid shooting anyone or anything that is not doing anything that warrants shooting.
  4. You need to be composed enough to make good, appropriately correct decisions, in order to achieve 1,2, and 3.


There are no secret squirrel techniques to running a gun. Anyone that tries to sell you that shit, like some bad, 1990s TRS full-page magazine advertisement, needs to be beat about the head and shoulders with something dense and damaging.

In the example above, what I did different, is that I have performed the skills of that drill hundreds of thousands of times over the last three decades. I’ve done it in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night. I’ve done it refreshed and well-nourished, and I’ve done it after parachuting into the darkness, and then humping a ruck for 15+ kilometers, through the woods, to get to the range.

The difference is not in the technique. It’s in the practiced application thereof.


Let’s look at how we develop the four aspects above.

  1. You need to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response.

    At a very basic level, this is what basic marksmanship training and practice is about. If you can’t hit an appropriately sized target, you’re not going to achieve #1. I’ve seen a lot of “instructors” and “experts” who considered any hit on a silhouette as “adequate.” Thing is, it MIGHT be. If you are confronted with an uncommitted mugger, at conversational distance, even one hit might be enough to stop him from doing whatever he is doing that warrants you shooting him.
    In the acid-rain washed, dystopian future that we are living in however, that may not be adequate. What if the bad guy is wearing a Semtex waistcoat, shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” and shooting up a shopping mall? Your one hit on his silhouette may very well hit that vest and blow it, him, other bystanders, and you to Hell. That is what some would call a “bad outcome.” In a case like that, what you are going to “need to hit” is his brainbox, to shut him down, before he can trigger the bomb.
    Or, the bad guy may be a drug-fueled berserk that spent the last five years throwing around heavy pig iron in the pen, and your one round in his silhouette hurt him less than his former cellmate ass-raping him did, so he isn’t going to stop. Now, you need to either centerpunch that dude’s head, get a lot more than one hit on him, or get ready to give up your virginity.
    You want to be able to hit what you need to hit, in order to elicit the desired response, as many times as you need to hit it, in order to elicit that response? You need to be able to get precision hits, at varying distances, under any conditions. Above, I mentioned being able to run a particular drill under any circumstances. That’s what needs to happen. Too often, when I discuss dry-fire practice with people, they bitch about not having time, or how their wife nags them when they take the time.
    That’s actually beneficial. You think your wife stresses you out when she bitches at you? Try staring down the muzzle of a gun, and listening to rounds zip past your head. Use that stress to add value to your dry practice. Get up twenty minutes earlier and do it. Oh, you’ll be tired? Great. That makes it MORE effective. If you can do it tired, doing it well-rested is cake.
    You were going to go to the range today, but it was snowing, and -20F? AWESOME! Get your ass to the range! You think bad shit only happens in fair weather?
    There is nothing advanced about marksmanship. It’s simply being able to execute basic marksmanship and gunhandling, under any circumstances.

  2. You need to be able to get the gun into the fight soon enough to make a difference.

    You want a super-reliable, fast, resilient draw from concealment? Take twenty minutes a day, and grab the timer. Set your par time, and beat it for twenty or thirty reps. Every. Single. Day. For the next year. And then do it again, for another year. Then repeat.
    In a Clandestine Carry Pistol class, almost invariably, everyone manages a sub-1.25 second draw to first round hit (and the ones that don’t get it within 1.5 seconds) to an index card, at 10 meters. You know how big an index card is? Roughly the same size as the “instant incapacitation” zone in the center of the human head. It takes most classes about half an hour to get there. And, by half an hour, I mean something like 200 repetitions of the draw, on the timer, getting faster and more efficient.
    You want to master the carbine? Don’t go take ANOTHER class. Take what you’ve already learned, from a reputable trainer, and practice it. You’re solid in your positions, and can consistently get hits out to 600 meters? Great! Now, work on getting into position faster, and getting your hits sooner. One of the things we work on in my carbine class is going from “standing ready” to getting a hit, on a reduced silhouette, from the prone, at 100 and 200 meters, from the prone…in less than 2.5 seconds. You know what? Something like 95% of students manage it within twenty minutes.
    Of course, in that twenty minutes, they’ve done well over 100 repetitions on the timer. I don’t need to add silly shit like burpees to “get their heart rate accelerated.” It’s already a smoker. You know what though? They also learn, quickly, that they can hit that metric, even when they are physically exhausted.

  3. You need to avoid shooting anyone or anything that is not doing anything that warrants shooting.

    I’ve heard a lot of shit in recent years about “Big Boy Rules,” from would-be tough guy trainers. They seem to think that “safety” is a range issue, and could form training scars. Fucking retards, the lot of them…and I say that as a guy who once questioned a team leader on left and right safety limits, on a range.
    “Gee, Sergeant, it seems like in a real fight, we would be more worried about where the enemy is, and less about where the left and right limits are. What if the enemy maneuvers over there?”
    “Hey, Ranger Mosby. Who is over there right now?”
    “Third Platoon, Sergeant.”
    “That’s right, Ranger. Where do you think Third Platoon would be, if this was a real fight, and those were bad guys, instead of cardboard targets downrange?”
    “Over there, Sergea…..Oh.”
    “Yeah, dumbass. Oh. Safety is even more important in combat than on the range. Let’s make it harder for the enemy, not easier.”

    You know what “Big Boy Rules” are? They are understanding—not just “knowing,” but UNDERSTANDING–the fundamental safe firearms handling rules, and adhering to them in a mature, reasoned manner, no matter what. And yes, they apply in real fights, just like they do on the range, at the gun store counter, and in your living room. Don’t be a fucking idiot.

  4. You need to be composed enough to make good, appropriately correct decisions, in order to achieve 1,2, and 3.

    This is where “advanced” skill comes in when we are talking about shooting and gunfighting. 1, 2, and 3, above are basics. They are no different for experienced, “expert” shooters and gunfighters than for the new guy at the range, with his very first gun, and his NRA Basic Safety Course certificate tucked into his range bag.
    The difference is that the dude with 100,000 rounds downrange in an organized, planned, developed training regimen, has the ability to execute those three aspects without putting a lot of conscious thought into the process. That gives him the brain space to think about other things, like what is happening in the battlespace around him. THAT, in turn, allows him to make good decisions, in regards to 1, 2, and 3, and the synergistic relationship between them.

    “Shit, that dude needs to be shot, right now…but…I’m armed only with my pistol, and he’s 100 yards away, with an AK….I can’t make that shot on demand…I suppose I could try anyway…but there is a family with kids huddling under that table, on the other side of him…if I miss….okay, fuck it, I’m going to maneuver over there, behind that aisle of shelves, and then sprint up closer to him…that will give me a safer angle, and I KNOW I can make that shot from there. Let’s roll!”

    Having 1, 2, and 3 well-developed, allows 4 to happen. It can range from the rather extreme example above, to simply making the decision that, “Hey, this dude might need to get shot here in a sec….I’m gonna go ahead and get my hand on my gun, just in case…” It might even be…”That dude might need to be shot here in a sec…but I know my limits and my capabilities, so I don’t need to go to guns just yet. Let’s let this play out for a minute and see what develops…”

There are no advanced techniques, but, as Paul pointed out in his comment, “…there is advanced application.” You’ll know you’re advanced when you can do it without trying so hard. You’ll know you’re advanced, when you’re thinking about what you’re going to do, three steps ahead of where you are now. You’ll know you’re advanced when you no longer worry about being advanced.

Quit looking for the “Secret Scrolls of Knowledge of the Sect of Secret Squirrels,” and follow Paul’s suggestion: “Do the work.”

Clandestine Carry Pistol Review/AAR

I taught a Clandestine Carry Pistol class in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, a few weeks ago, hosted by John Meyers, one of the writers over at ZeroGov. ZG published John’s review/AAR of the course today, which I am sharing here, because “marketing, blah, blah, blah,” which pretty much everyone who knows me, tells me I suck at, because, well, I really just don’t give a damn.

In it, John mentions my absence from the blog over recent months, and his reply to people asking him about it, by explaining to them that I am too busy living what I teach, to be writing about it. In the short term, he is absolutely, balls on, correct. My family is in the final stages of a major project (the nature of which has to remain undisclosed for PERSEC), in our personal, private life, which has stretched and strained us, nearly to the breaking point, on numerous occasions, over the last 18 months, even as it has been fun, educational, and inspirational, to both us and others. Even in the midst of it, for the most part, I managed to write an occasional article, but as we have neared the final stages, and set a hard stop deadline for completion, we have pushed ourselves, starting before the sun comes up, and not stopping until the sun goes down, every day. Until that deadline is beat, sometime in the next 60 days, we are pushing against time and financial constraints that have to—HAVE TO—take precedence over the blog, finishing the three new books that are in the works, and everything else, outside of my personal life.

Some friends, who are both real world friends, and readers of the blog, have suggested asking for donations to complete our undisclosed project, in the interest of getting it complete, so I can get back to writing. We are not doing that. Instead, the purpose of this article is to simply share John’s review of the coursework, and to share why I’ve been so absent from the blog for so long this time. If you DO feel like contributing to our “Oh So Secret Project,” order a book, or all three. If you already have copies, order more and give them as gifts.

I have a list, in my daily journal/notebook, of about thirty article subjects to write, when I cut free of this project, and I have three books outlined, and at least some of the content of each book done. Hopefully—no promises, because every time I set a publishing/release date for a book, I end up missing it by a month or two, at least—we will have at least one of the new books in print, and up for sale, by the holidays. That’s one of my goals. We’ll see…

In the meantime, lift heavy shit, run fast, far, box and wrestle, shoot accurately fast, and spend time with your kith-and-kin, building traditions and customs that enshrine your cultural values, to prepare your tribe’s children and grandchildren for the collapse that surrounds us.


Upcoming Special Class

I have/had a private Clandestine Carry Pistol course in western NC coming up. The host’s local folks have come up short for some of their slots, and asked if we would be willing to cover opening it up to a few open enrollment students.

Because this is last minute, and because we don’t have that many slots available, we are going to reduce our normal class price to $400. Dates for this class are 25-27 AUG 2017 (that is Friday-Sunday). I am assuming this is going to fill rather quickly, since we only have a couple of available slots, so if you East Coast folks want in, I would suggest contacting HH6 as soon as humanly possible.



We are still waiting for deposits from a couple people interested in the Idaho classes in October, but we also have two or three available slots unspoken for. Those will be Clandestine Carry Pistol and TC3. Get hold of HH6 at

Establishing Hard Standards

One of the subjects we discuss in this blog, a lot, is the importance of having quantifiable metrics of performance. A large part of that is what I call “soft standards,” i.e. “I did better than I did last time,” and “I performed the drill/skill correctly.” On the same hand however, there is a time and a place for “hard standards.”
“Hard standards” are simply a published set of metrics that a given group of people are expected to be able to achieve, on demand, without specific preparation or warm-up. As individual practitioners of…dare I say…the “Heroic Ideal,” soft standards really should be more important to us than soft standards, but hard standards do have a very important role to play as well.
In the first place, it allows us the confidence to accept fate stoically. “What is, is.” If I have met a hard standard, on demand, without preamble or warm-up, then I know–without doubt or uncertainty–that I am capable of achieving that. I don’t have to go into a disturbing situation wondering, “Gee, I wonder what I am capable of today?” I can simply plan my fight, however briefly, around that standard.
This ties into the second place where hard standards are important. If I am planning something that requires more than just myself to achieve, I need to make my plans predicated on the known, quantifiable capabilities of those on my prospective team. If I don’t KNOW that Joe Snuffy can hit a given rifle shot, on demand, every single time, then I cannot make Joe Snuffy making that shot, the locus of my operation. Sure, he MIGHT make it, and everything might turn out alright. He is just as likely however, to NOT make the shot, ensuring failure.
If you are part of a group: whether a local prepper group, a “militia,” or a police department or military unit, and you don’t have hard standards in place, you’re not serious about being able to accomplish your mission.
The Issue With Establishing Hard Standards
The problem with establishing published hard standards, especially within the parameters of this blog or my books, is why I have been hesitant to do so. That is, those standards are dramatically subject to our own experiential cognitive biases. As a guy who went to war in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, and then spent the better part of the last decade and a half living in the wide open spaces of the Rocky Mountains, where “300 yards is rock-chucking distance,” I have a considerably different perspective on what are “acceptable,” “realistic” rifle standards than say, a guy who spent 20 years working patrol and SWAT for NYPD.
Additionally, we are subject to the cognitive biases that arise from our own abilities. I am a big, strong, athletic guy, who shoots for recreation as much as for personal protection and preparedness. I have competed in IDPA and IPSC (albeit not at a particularly elite level). We have a dude in our local clan that is a sergeant on our local, small, rural police department. He has never competed, and considers the state and department qualification standards to be not only adequate, but “challenging.” I think they are a joke (seriously, four seconds to draw and fire two rounds, at nine feet?)
For me to tell him that his standards are inadequate, when he has almost twenty years on the job, and has survived, would seem unreasonable to him…even though he has never fired his service weapon in the line of duty. At the same time, he considers my personal standards “absurd, unrealistic competition bullshit.”
Even if we take two guys with the same background–let’s say, two SF dudes, both of whom deployed as 18B, to Afghanistan–if their current situations and environments are different, may come to different conclusions as to what is “enough.” If one guy teaches a bunch of meat-eating, alpha male types who eat barbells for breakfast, and juggle kettlebells for lunch, before rolling for a three-hour jiujitsu session for dessert, and his counterpart trains geriatric housewives to pass their CCW/CHL course, they are going to come to some pretty divergent opinions on what is “good enough,” aren’t they?
So, who is right? How do we overcome that discrepancy?
To be brutally honest, I’m not sure. I know it is hard for regular readers to believe that John Mosby doesn’t think he has all the answers, but it is something that I struggle with regularly, as a teacher, and a writer. I know what I use for standards, but I also know that my buddy on the local PD cannot, even on his best day, hit those standards, without a lot of remedial training and practice (and I know it, because he has tried, and failed).
Common Methods
There are three common approaches to determining standards of performance in the firearms training world, in my experience, each of which has benefits and drawbacks, from our perspective, here on the virtual frontier of a dying empire.
The first of these, that I first heard of when I was a kid, is to use your local law enforcement agency’s table of qualification, whatever it may be. The benefit to this is that, if you have to use your weapon, and end up in front of a jury for some reason, there may be some value in being able to say, “I can pass the local police department’s qualification. I am suitably trained.”
I have a couple of MAJOR issues with this approach however. To begin with, let’s get the obvious out of the way: cops, generally speaking, are shitty shooters. Like the example of my clansman, they may believe they are somehow specially gifted with a firearm, by virtue of their commission, but the reality is, quantifiably, the vast majority of police officers in this country are relatively unskilled amateurs when it comes to shooting performance.
The second issue I have with this is tied directly to the first: while law enforcement agencies, as the enforcing arm of imperial edicts, are not going to go away any time soon, I do recognize that we are going to see a reduced police presence in most places, and less interest in law enforcement, in dealing with many situations. I suspect it is already happening in many parts of many major metropolitan areas, but I foresee an increasing amount of investigations into shootings resulting in a case of, “Meh. So a bad guy got shot, by an unknown shooter, and his body was dumped in the street. Chalk up a win to the good guys.”
This however, will not be the case when the unknown good guy, in the process of shooting at the bad guys, performs on par with police, and smokes a half-dozen innocent bystanders in the process. At that point, the local constabulary really doesn’t have any choice but to investigate and look for the shooter.
(On an unrelated note, this is tied to a conversation I had with some friends the other day, in the industry. I pointed out that if I lived in town, like they do, my home defense gun would be a suppressed pistol. If someone breaks in, in the middle of the night, it might be expeditious to simply shoot them, drag the body to the garage, toss them in the trunk, and dispose of the body in a ditch a town or two away, never even bothering to involve law enforcement. In your house, with a quality suppressor, and subsonic ammunition, there’s a pretty solid chance that nobody in the neighborhood is even going to know anything happened. I don’t need to do that. I regularly shoot four-legged predators on the farm, at all hours of the night, and the neighbors ignore it, as the norm. Shooting a two-legged predator isn’t really going to evoke any different reaction from them, unless I make it a big deal, such as calling the Sheriff’s Department.
When they countered with, “Yeah, but you’re in the right, Castle Doctrine, etc…” I had to point out, even if I end up being exonerated, the costs of being involved in a typical defensive shooting are going to be ridiculously expensive, financially and morale-wise. It would be a lot more affordable to be, oh, I don’t know…self-reliant…when we can get away with it?)
Another common method of using external standards for local qualification is to look at something like the IDPA Classifier as a metric of performance. I’ve done this in the past. The first time I used the Classifier, I shot Master, even doing my reloads out of a pocket. There is some value in this, I think, and certainly more value than using your local police department qualification table.
The major drawback to using the Classifier, or a similar, long course-of-fire, is the fact that it is extremely ammunition–and time–intensive. That doesn’t even get into the logistic support needed. You won’t be running it, by yourself, on your local range. Even running it by myself, for myself, it takes me a solid half-hour to 45 minutes to get all the way through. With a group of a half-dozen to a dozen shooters, I’ve seen it turn into an all-day event.
Taking an entire day to run a qualification is fine, when you are running an infantry company through, and everyone is “on the clock,” and the taxpayer is paying for the ammunition. It is something else entirely when everybody has day jobs, family commitments, and budgetary concerns other than buying ammunition…things like diapers and groceries cost money.
The third method I’ve seen a lot of, is taking a statement about the statistical norm, within defensive shootings among citizens, and building a qualification drill predicated on that. For example, Karl Rehn, down in Texas, has his “Three Seconds or Less” Drill, that I like, a lot, and actually incorporate into my own qualification tables. It is based off the statistical norm of “3 shots, inside 3 yards, in 3 seconds.”
The problem with this approach, in my mind, is two-fold: 1) basing your training around the statistical norm is great, until you discover yourself in a situation that is a significant outlier. 2) Because statistics are accrued over time, anything based on a useful statistical norm is going to be based on old data. We see an increasing number of attacks occurring that are so far outside the statistical norm that as soon as we incorporate them, they are going to skew the norm drastically. Together, these combine to make–in my opinion–the statistical norm approach only marginally useful, at best. After all, what are the statistical probabilities that some dumbfuck will show up at your softball practice–where there are on-duty police officers pulling security–and start shooting the place up with an SKS? That may seem like a pretty extreme stretch, but that is exactly the point: we shouldn’t be training to deal with the statistical norm. The statistical norm says I won’t ever need to shoot someone in self-defense. In that case, simply having a gun would be the most I needed. Hell, I don’t even need to load the damned thing, right?
Thus, as we can see, even when we look at the common approaches, there are some pretty significant drawbacks to them. So, what is the solution?
Again, I don’t fucking know. I do know what MY solution has been, and it seems to be working pretty well. I know, when we meet the standards I have set for my people, they don’t seem to have much trouble hitting any of the above example standards either, so perhaps it is a matter of making sure you’ve encompassed the skills that make up the above methodologies, and have accounted for foreseeable potential outliers.
One Approach
I decided that, within my local training group, I would provide quantifiable, hard standard performance metrics in three areas: clandestine carry pistol, combat rifle, and physical fitness. In addition, each of these three areas would be divided into levels of accomplishment. Not that anybody gets any special awards for achieving any of the levels, but they do notice that they get lots of compliments from others within the clan (one of our guys came to me a couple weeks ago, and mentioned that he had gone out shooting with the police sergeant. He was told, “Man, I can tell you’ve been doing some training! You’re shooting better than me!” He was rather elated at the recognition, even knowing that cops are shitty shooters, as a rule).
Rather than come up with some cute labels (which I will undoubtedly do for the next book) for each level of performance, we simply call them Level One, Level Two, Level Three, and Level Four. The guys and girls that come out and train regularly know why they are training, and they want to be Level Four, or–at the very least, even for the self-admittedly lazy ones–they want to be at Level Three, across the board.
Clandestine Carry Pistol
Level One Qualification: The Level One Qualification is what I demand out of our people if they want to come use the farm’s range, unaccompanied by me. It tells me they are capable of being reasonably safe, and I can rest assured that they will probably not damage any livestock or infrastructure on the place. It is simply passing the qualification for their state-issued CCW/CHL.
Level Two Qualification: For Level Two, I played it safe, and used Karl’s “3 Seconds or Less” test. I can consistently hit this, on our weekly range days, with no problem, and most of the regular attendees achieve it pretty easily, after only a couple weeks of attendance. As I was writing the rough draft of this article tonight, I realized I hadn’t run this in several months, so in the midst of writing this, I went out to the range, right before supper, and shot it. There was no warm-up, I wasn’t “ready” to go to the range. I simply stood up, grabbed my ear protection and shot timer out of the range bag, and walked out to the range shed. I set up a silhouette, and shot the drill, without even particularly trying very hard. Seriously, I almost deliberately went slow, and I felt like I was moving through a vat of molasses.
This test includes the following:
“3 Seconds or Less”
range: As described in stage descriptions.
target: standard IDPA
Phase One: At 3 yards.
Stage One: Hands at side, weapon concealed. On the signal, step left, draw, and fire three shots to the A-Zone, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (My time was 1.99 seconds.)
Stage Two: From the Ready, fire two shots to the head, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (My time was 1.2 seconds.)
Stage Three: Hands at side, weapon concealed. On the signal, step right, draw, and fire three shots to the A-Zone, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (My time was 2.04 seconds).
Stage Four: Take a step forward to the two-yard line. Place hand on holstered gun. On the signal, draw and fire two shots to the A-zone, SHO, while backing away, in three seconds or less. (I felt like this was particularly slow, at 2.21 seconds, even though it really probably wasn’t. I don’t ever practice shooting while moving backwards, for a number of doctrinal reasons, and honestly, I probably don’t shoot SHO as frequently as I should.)
Phase Two: At 7 yards.
Stage Five: Start with loaded magazine in support hand, weapon in strong hand. On the signal, insert the magazine, rack the slide, and fire one round to the A-Zone, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (Again, this is not something I would ever practice, outside of a speed reload, and then I use the slide lock lever to send the gun back into battery. I’ve heard that Karl included this stage to cover those folks who, for whatever reasons, do not keep their weapons loaded, in the home. That makes sense to me, on that level, but it is still nothing I would ever incorporate into my own practice. My time, despite that, was 2.68, so I had time to spare.)
Stage Six: From the Ready, finger off the trigger, fire one shot to the head, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (My time was 1.5 seconds.)
Stage Seven: Face 90 degrees to the Left, hand on the holstered gun. On the signal, turn, draw, and fire three shots to the A-Zone, two-handed, in three seconds or less. (My time was 2.62, and I know I was taking my time. I can typically make a 180 degree turn, and still get a first shot hit on a smaller A-zone, in less than 1.5.)
Stage Eight: Hand on the holstered gun, draw and fire two shots to the A-Zone, SHO, in three seconds or less. (My time was 1.95.)
Stage Nine: Start with the gun in the support hand only, aimed at the target. Fire three shots to the A-Zone, in three seconds or less. (My time was 2.73, and again, this is something I just don’t do. The only time I do anything WHO, is when I am fucking around, or demonstrating the fundamentals of solid grip and sight picture).
Summary: This is a pretty low round count drill, and it took me a whopping five minutes to shoot it, even accounting for setting up the target and recording times myself. It is not going to do much to prepare the shooter for the statistical outlier, but it is a solid test of being prepared to protect themselves in the “typical” self-defense scenario.
Level Three Qualification: The L3 qualification is what I would consider a minimum for a community defense force participant, in a grid-down scenario. Beyond that, if I couldn’t hit these standards, despite being able to achieve Karl’s “3 Seconds or Less” standards, I wouldn’t personally feel qualified to carry a weapon every day.
I have three courses-of-fire that make up the L3 qualification for my range. The first is a simple 5x5x5 drill. This is five shots, from five yards, in five seconds or less. It is graded on a simple Go/No Go score. Either you got five shots into the A-Zone, within the time frame, from concealment, or you did not. Period. It’s not a particularly challenging drill, but it is a solid breakdown of some fundamental skills involved in the combative use of the pistol.
I hadn’t run the 5x5x5 in a year or so, when a friend in the industry mentioned that he had just shot it, and it took him two tries to get it, a couple weeks ago. I walked out to the range, and hit it in 4.32. Last week, one day, I started my live-fire with it, and hit 3.74.
The second drill I include in the L3 qualification is Kyle Lamb’s Viking Tactics 1-5 drill, completed in less than 10 seconds. This is not a particularly challenging time for this drill, when you are warmed up, and in the mood for shooting. If you can hit a 1.5 second draw to first shot, followed by consistent half-second splits, it will take you less than nine seconds to complete.
On range days, I can pretty regularly hit between 7.5-8 seconds, and have managed to drop it as low as six seconds. On demand, tonight, immediately after running the “3 Seconds or Less” drill, I hit this in 8.4 seconds. So, even on a shitty night, this is a decent standard. The reason I included this is because I don’t believe single target qualifications are legitimate in today’s world. You NEED to include a multiple target table within the qualification process. The industry standard, for a long time, was/is “El Presidente,” but I think this is a more effective standard in today’s world, for two reasons. Number one, we don’t shoot “double taps,” or even “hammers” or “controlled pairs.” We shoot–or at least the people I know, who know what the fuck they are doing–shoot until the most dangerous threat is no longer the most dangerous threat. This drill helps keep us away from building the motor pattern of firing two and moving on. Second, I don’t think the reload is as critical, in a world of double-stack pistols. My G19 is sitting on the table beside my chair with 16 rounds of 124-grain Gold Dot in it. That is a lot of hate to share, before I need to worry about reloading. If someone carries a single-stack or a sub-subcompact pistol, they are not going to make the sub-10.0 standard, but that’s their issue to deal with. The fight is going to be what the fight is going to be. It is what it is. Deal with it.
The third table in the L3 qual is to fire 10 rounds, without time constraint, to the A-Zone of an IDPA target, at 25 yards. It is graded Go/No Go as well, with a requirement of at least 50% being in the A-Zone, and ALL shots being within the C-Zone or better.
Level Four Qualification:
The Level Four Qualification, or L4, is what I consider a pretty solid level of expertise with the pistol. It includes three tables of fire.
The first table is Ken Hackathorn’s “Wizard Drill” test. This drill has a pretty solid reputation within the industry, as a tough one, as well as being a really good measure of the ability to achieve the needed results in a real-world fight. Combined with Ken’s reputation as a trainer, I was really comfortable relying on this drill as the foundation of my L4 qual. While not technically shot “cold,” I ran this one tonight, after the other quals, and have included my performance times in parenthesis.
Hackathorn “Wizard Drill” Test
range: as per stage description
target: standard IDPA
start: from concealment
Stage One: at 3 yards, SHO, head shot in 2.5 seconds or less (My time was 2.2 seconds, which is pretty typical. Looking at the last three times I’ve shot this drill, my times have been 1.98, 2.1, and 2.03)
Stage Two: at 5 yards, two-hands, head shot in 2.5 seconds or less (my time was 1.8. This was S-L-O-W for me. I normally spend 80% or more of my pistol practice at 5 yards these days, using a 3×5 index card for my A-Zone, and am consistently between 0.97 and 1.2 for my draw to first shot at this distance. I *think* that, in addition to feeling particularly slow anyway, because I knew this was a qual, rather than practice, I took the extra time to make sure. It felt slow, even before I looked at the timer.)
Stage Three: at 7 yards, two-hands, head shot in 2.5 seconds or less (my time was 2.2 seconds, interestingly–see Stage One notes above, what are the chances–and this too, is particularly SLOW for me, since even out to 10 yards, my first shot from concealment, typically arrives in less than 1.5, even on bad days.)
Stage Four: at 10 yards, two-hands, two rounds to the A-Zone, in 2.5 seconds or less (my time was 2.37. Again, abysmally slow, even with the second shot.)
PRA 1-5
Although I have told folks in classes, on a number of occasions, that the PRA 1-5 wouldn’t make a particularly good qualification table, the more I’ve thought about it, and looked at my own records, within my journals, and realized, with some constraints, it can be used as such. For the elite level shooter, in the real world, I believe the ability to exercise high order cognitive function, on demand, under time constraints, is as important as pure shooting ability.
Range: 5-10 yards, targets spaced no more than 10 yards apart outside left to outside right.
Target: six (6) standard IDPA
start: from concealment
standard: the standard is to achieve a clean run of the PRA 1-5, with all A-Zone or head shots, within 12 seconds, at this distance.
The third table in the L4 qual is to fire 10 rounds, from the ready, to a reduced steel/ A/C zone steel, at 50 yards, with at least 80% hits, in 12 seconds or less (in the interest of intellectual integrity, I picked 12 seconds because I found that was about as fast as I could run it, consistently, and get 100% hits). One of the major failures in combative pistol training that I have witnessed, is the lack of time spent even acknowledging that shooters might need to reach out, with their pistol, beyond “pistol” distances. It’s not impossible. It’s not even particularly difficult, with proper training, and a little bit of practice. We might “prefer” to grab a rifle, but that’s not always–or even mostly–a realistic option in defensive shooting scenarios, when we are equipped with a clandestine carry pistol.
Getting Better
I feel obligated to point out that, you don’t *practice* these tables, as such. It won’t do you much good to go out and shoot the Wizard every week, hoping to master it. You will probably see some improvement on it, but the real key is to practice the individual aspects that make up each drill. You need to determine what the individual skills inherent and explicit to each drill include, and then incorporate those into your regular training, using the qualification standards drills only occasionally, to measure and see that you are getting better, when you put the individual skills together, into a holistic package.
This is why we don’t use standards such as “draw to first shot in 1.xx seconds,” or “consistent 0.xx split times between shots.” It doesn’t–ultimately–matter what you can do on an individual subskill. It matters what you can do when you put all those skills together.
And yes, before anyone asks, there is a great resource for getting a handle on the individual skills that make up the qualification standards tables; in fact, I can think of three: 1) The Reluctant Partisan, Volume Two: The Underground, which includes not only the skills, but an entire program-of-instruction for learning them. 2) My upcoming Clandestine Carry Pistol course, in Idaho Falls, ID (or a private or open enrollment at your location…) 3) a combative pistolcraft course from any of the reputable trainers working, around the country, every weekend, trying to pass this information on to good folks.
A Note on Splits
One of the common criticisms I see, across the industry, and outside of it, is people complaining about the application of split times, between shots, in training. To a degree, they are right, what your split times are just don’t matter. You need to take as long as you need to take, to be sure you are going to get the hit you need to get.
At the same time, there are guys out there, insisting on sub-0.3 splits, if you want to be “lethal in a real gunfight!” I would argue, there is a happy median. Split times have their application, but I tend to think a lot of people either ignore them, thinking they don’t matter, or they place too much emphasis on them, looking for people to shoot faster.
The ideal split time depends entirely on the shooter. If you need to take 0.75 seconds between shots, to be confident that your rounds are going to go exactly where you send them, and to give yourself time to make sure the shot you are about to take is a legitimate shot, then by all means, you should be taking 0.75. I just want you to be consistent in that time. ALL of your splits should be between say, 0.71 and 0.79.
On the other hand, if you can process the feedback loop from the target and your sights, think your way through the problem, and still hit sub-0.3x splits, awesome! Good for you. I cannot, and most really good shooters find, in my experience, that as soon as they run into a Force-on-Force shooting scenario, one of two things happens when they are used to hitting really fast splits: either a) they slow WAY, WAY, WAY down, or b) they end up with bad shots, by which I mean they end up shooting the wrong person, or they have a lot more misses than you would expect.
I’ve heard more than one person in the training industry refer to this as “outrunning your headlights,” and I think that is an incredibly apt description. You are simply relying on your expectation that everything will be fine, and you can put the hammer down. Then, a deer jumps out into the road, and you are in a wreck, because by the time you recognized it, you were already on top of it. I’ve done this in training, and on the highway.
When my oldest was still an infant, I was cruising down the highway in Wyoming, at 80MPH. Deer suddenly appeared in the road, and I was going way too fast for the available light from my headlights. I managed to process what was happening fast enough to avoid swerving, and hit her with the center of the bumper, but the grill on the truck was jacked.
On the range, in a shoothouse, live-fire exercise a couple years ago in Wyoming, (as some readers who were in the class may recall), I let the students set the targets up, in a problem solving, cognitive load drill. I went in to clear. I shot a legit target, that should have been shot, but they had set it up in a way that was a little tricky. I started blazing away, and halfway through my string of fire, the entire class heard me cuss them, “FUCK! YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!”
Even then, recognizing that I had fucked up, it took me two or three more rounds, to stop shooting, because I was–at the time–specifically focusing my personal training on getting down towards 0.25 splits with my carbine, and it just took my brain that long to catch up.
I’ve also come across some references that claim the FBI HRT unit looks for about a half-second split in their training process. This makes sense to me. That seems inordinately slow, at first glance, to a seasoned competitor, but a) that’s not necessarily the split I’m looking for in my daily training. That is the split I am looking for when I run a qualification table, and/or a drill that requires cognitive loading, such as the PRA 1-5, or Frank Proctor’s Third Grade Math drill.
Ultimately, what your splits are, are not as important as whether or not they are consistent. I explain to students that what I am really looking for is the split between shots, whether on the same target, or on a transition, to all be within about 0.05 of the split to either side of it (this is subject to some modifiers). This, combined with meeting the stated accuracy and precision goals, tells me that you are consistently doing what you need to do to get consistent hits, and not relying on luck.
Last week, I was working some multiple shot strings, at 5 yards, on a 3×5 index card for the A-Zone. My splits were anywhere from 0.98 to 1.26, according to my notebook. I remember being really torqued off that I was being so slow, but I was more miffed that there was such inconsistency. I stopped, took a five minute break, and then got back to it, focusing on my rythm and timing. My first string, coming back off the break, I took my sweet ass time, focusing on consistency, above all. My five shot string, all splits were between 1.26 and 1.29. That is, SLOW!!! But, it is also consistent, so I was able to pick up the pace. Next string, I was consistent at 0.69-0.74. Third string, every split was between 0.42 and 0.44. That’s a pretty typical string for me, on a relaxed practice run. It’s not really where I want to be, on a simple rythm drill, but it was fast enough, and it was consistent. By slowing way down, first, and focusing on the consistency, I was able to quit dicking around, and get back to where I needed to be.
Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on how and why we run the hard standard qualifications (for the pistol) we run, as well as giving you an idea of the “why?” behind the selections. In the interest of brevity, I didn’t include the carbine quals or the fitness quals. Those will probably come in a follow-on article.