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Combat Rifle Applications

We recently completed a Combat Rifle Applications course in NV.

Like every class I teach, I had the opportunity to pick up some great ideas during the AAR, for improving my presentation of the material, but it seems it turned out really well anyway.

The student body in this class represented a diverse range of skill and ability level.

The following review from one student seems to be representative of the experience in the class.

AAR of Combat Rifle Applications course, Nevada, April 2016

I have lots to say about the CRA course I completed a few days ago, but first let me outline my background, so that to the extent you believe me, you’ll understand my perspective and credit my views.

My military experience in the US Army and National Guard at their nadir in the 1970s was unremarkable and conveyed no bragging rights. I later served twenty years as an agent, trainer, training manager, and director of operations with a certain federal agency that requires a high level of firearms, small unit tactics, and CQB skills from its people – and in an inarguably good cause, for those of you who carry reflexively anti-government prejudices. I’m now retired and approaching the age of dirt, so if I ramble that’s my excuse. Indulge me. It also gives me a perspective on what John is doing with his courses.

My first big thumbs up to the man is for his presentation and how he runs his range. As a long-service veteran of the stultifying, safety-obsessed, over-controlled government approach to live fire training, I am a big fan of more informal methods and Big Boy Rules. John’s safety brief is thorough and complete, but he tells you up front that the old adage “all guns are always loaded” is a rule for children and raw beginners. His version places responsibility where it belongs: “know the condition of your weapon at all times.” His wrath is reserved for those who exhibit poor muzzle control, and that tracks precisely with my experience. All other rules may be violated (I’ve seen it again and again), but if the muzzle never “covers anything you are not willing to destroy,” everyone walks away, ego reduced but life and limb intact.

What many shooters and most observers will not understand is the level of effort required to run a class under these rules, in a manner that many of my classmates characterized as “laid back.” Can’t fool me. No matter how casual he appeared, there’s nothing laid back about John’s sustained awareness of safety and performance issues, and as should be apparent to anyone who knows him or has read his work, he doesn’t hesitate to put his boot up the ass (figuratively, in my limited exposure) of anyone who strays close to or across the line of safe gun handling.

Second point: content. This was an “intermediate” level class that assumed competence in the basics of rifle shooting and handling. Sounds simple, but we were a diverse group, and I’d estimate that no more than half had been through John’s basic rifle course. The rest brought foundational skills learned in several schools. As we all know, there are many ways to skin any particular cat, and John strikes an excellent balance between tolerating a broad array of differing techniques that work for different folks, and offering pointed criticism (and alternatives) where deserved. Experience again informs my opinion, that it’s indicative of a high level of skill that John was able to herd such a diverse group in the same direction, imparting choice elements of his preferred techniques and basic-level teaching without breaking stride, and pushing everyone toward the same critical performance standards. Let me reemphasize the “performance” part. He’s not teaching a secret, inner circle, proprietary JM technique that sets him apart from competing schools and instructors, a tiresome marketing-oriented approach that I could give a shit about, having seen too damn much of it over the years. He’s not browbeating students into copying his personal techniques, stance, grip, etc. If you’re safe, and effective at meeting or (for us old farts) approaching his performance standards, that’s good enough. If you’re struggling, he’ll show you a way to improve your game and leave you to apply it or not as suits you.

We spent a good part of our course perfecting our “snap” shooting ability to place good hits on target at ranges of 50-100 meters in less than one second from the standing off-hand position. That’s a demanding standard but it has changed my perspective on what counts in a rifle fight and on how to train and practice. Coming in, I couldn’t do it and wouldn’t have believed I could. I subscribed to the old mantra of get down, get more stable, and take the time required to maximize precision. I should have known better, and applied the advice I got years ago from a Marine colonel teaching operational art and decision making at the Naval War College: “Better” is the enemy of “good enough,” and “best” is the knife in its heart. This advice applies to combat rifle shooting too, and the way I balance speed and accuracy has shifted permanently thanks to John, a take-away that in itself justified the time and expense I devoted to this course. The first hit on target wins the fight, or at least sets the condition – slows the fucker down – so that a quick follow-up will resolve the issue.

The rest of our time was spent on drills that I won’t detail, all of which supported John’s focus on depth (mastery of critical skills) vs. breadth (nominal familiarity with a wide range of skills and techniques). I agree with this approach and was well satisfied. When the basic acquisition and firing stroke is trained to what an earlier instructor of mine once called a “semi-conditioned response,” it frees up critical time for decision making, which as John belabors again and again is critical in the context in which we may be employing a combat rifle. Choosing the right target and applying the basic tactical judgments involved in engaging that target successfully and not getting shot yourself in the process is obviously as important as good shooting. Neither one alone will see you successfully through the wicked and complex problem of a gunfight.

My only criticism of the course concerned the down time involved in the later, more advanced drills that were run by only one or two shooters at a time. In my training days, we spent a lot of time and effort minimizing down time for students by running ancillary activities for the folks that weren’t running a drill or exercise, or on deck for the next iteration. This will be a challenge for John, as a lone instructor at a hosted locale, but if this course was at all typical, a square range for dry fire practice and minimal live fire confirmation, with oversight by a student participant qualified to oversee such an activity safely, could have provided some added value to everyone.

Finally, I want to talk about John’s focus and audience. The civilian firearms training world is crowded with schools and instructors fighting for market share of an audience that ranges from serving law enforcement and military personnel, through gadget-happy “speed gun” hobbyists, fantasy warriors, preppers and survivalists of varying focus and seriousness, to the (in my opinion) toxic true believers in one extremist ideology or another.

This was my first John Mosby course. Even though he was recommended to me by a couple of associates of impeccable reliability and good sense, and although I’ve followed his blog and read his books for over a year, I was still not entirely sure what I’d find, both in John himself and in the self-selected students who would choose to train under him. My personal verdict, which I offer to my brothers and sisters in public service of all sorts, is that here is a man of impeccable principle, integrity, and courage who calls things as he sees them. What he sees in our near future – what we all see with variations based on our specific lenses, belief systems, and experience – is a time of increasing trouble, for which we all seek to train and prepare, for our own sakes, our families, and our communities.

If we believed that the old social contract, whereby we trusted the State to protect us from all threats, was going to hold, then we wouldn’t be training like this. To acknowledge the weakening of that contract, to observe threats mounting faster than a constitutionally-restrained government can address them, is not to welcome the change, but just to shed the blinders of normalcy bias and see things for what they are. Americans – a large fraction of us anyway – are unique among the inheritors of Western civilization in being well-armed and inclined toward independence and self-sufficiency in the face of a threat. My impression of John’s view – better stated in his own prodigious body of writing and in person – is that an armed man who lacks the skills, judgment, and responsibility that result from hard, realistic training is a threat to himself, his family, and his community; a part of the problem, and no part of its solution. I share that view and see in it no threat to anything I believe in; no threat to the oaths I’ve sworn or to my faith in the principles of our Republic or the value of the rule of law and the social consensus, now fraying, that supports it.

When a high pressure system pushes a hot, hard foehn wind down the lee slope of a mountain ridge and topples an ancient Douglas fir, the man who cries a warning and pulls his loved ones to safety is not a tree hater. He does not swing an axe or set a wedge to hasten its fall. He only reads the wind, the swaying of the half-dead crown, and the cracks of parting heartwood for what they are. Mosby is that guy.

John does not encourage, and by his speech and his manner, I rather suspect that he would not tolerate any of the toxic –ism’s of modern political discourse. If you have a problem sharing your air with people of another race, faith, or political viewpoint than your own, you’re going to have to keep that crap locked up tight or just stay away. Train elsewhere or – here’s a thought – don’t train. To paraphrase Kipling, just trust that your god will rouse you, a little before the nuts work loose. And the rest of us will be that much safer.

My thanks to John for the training I just received, and to my classmates for their dedication and good spirits and encouragement. It was worth every penny and every hour, and I recommend it to any serious person seeking to improve his skills with his primary weapon.

Review of “Forging the Hero”

Greg Ellifritz, at Active Response Training (, posted the review of Forging the Hero, as promised.

He does a pretty good job of describing the content of the book as well.

What is this Forging the Hero stuff?

I asked my good buddy, Greg Ellifritz, of Active Response Training, to be a pre-reader for the new book. He has promised a full-scope review in the coming days, but in the meantime tossed out this “blurb” for Sam to throw up on the FO Store site.

“Mosby starts his book with a chapter called: “Shit Just Ain’t Right.” It’s a feeling that many of us share, but few are working to resolve. Mosby, on the other hand provides some realistic solutions in his book Forging the Hero. Fixing societal problems requires community building…developing one’s self, one’s family, and one’s tribe to provide stability in the face of future uncertain times. Mosby provides a roadmap to do just that. He describes a process to build individual resiliency and construct a supportive network of family and friends to help you weather the hard times ahead. Our future isn’t in joining endless numbers of unorganized Facebook “prepper” groups for support. Our future is determined by the real world support we can build in our communities. Forging the Hero gives us the best strategies to build a community network providing for individual growth, financial support, emergency preparedness, and common defense. Reading this book and embracing the ideas within is a way to move forward and prosper in times ahead when only people with a well-developed “tribe” will prevail.”

Start the World

I sat down and had a conversation with Jack Donovan, for his Start the World Podcast, about the new book and the philosophy behind it.


Boys and girls, I am happy to announce, Sam has posted Forging the Hero, up on the Forward Observer store site:

For all of you who ask, “HOW do I build a tribe? How do I identify who is in my tribe? How do I make sure I’m not getting worthless fuckers in my tribe?” Here’s your answer. We’ll have some pre-reader blurbs to tell you more, shortly, but it’s available now. Notice also, there is an ebook package available, as well as just the hard copy edition.



(A reader posted a comment recently, asking for a description of the content of Forging the Hero. This article, while serving as a stand-alone, does a pretty good job of explaining the WHY of Forging the Hero. It’s about recognizing WHAT is going on, determining HOW we can best face the threats resulting from the WHAT, and then determining HOW to achieve that.

Both the book, and this article, are going to cause a metric fuck-ton of butthurt in the preparedness, survival, and “Liberty” communities. Tough shit.)

One of the mantras I had drilled into my head as a young NCO in the special operations world was, “think strategic, plan operational, fight tactical.” That’s something I’ve mentioned, probably in passing, on this blog before, but it’s something that really needs to be emphasized far more often, in preparedness planning. The lack of strategic thinking and planning, including the development of a basic strategic goal for preparedness, is something that is all too often, tellingly absent in prepper planning and actions.

The Oxford Dictionary defines strategy, first among several definitions, as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” Thus, in order to “think strategic,” we need to develop a plan of action or policy that is designed to allow us to achieve our overall aim. What is your overall aim?

For many in the preparedness world, the simple, primary answer is, “I want to survive!” Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve got a newsflash for you: that is a dead-end, no-win goal. The one thing I can say, with absolute certitude is, “you’re going to die.” I’m going to die. My kids are going to die. Their kids are going to die. The one sure bet is, we’re all going to die. We need a far larger goal than “I want to survive!” We need a greater—more important—goal than simply, “I want to survive!”

Some will instantly latch on to the “I want a return to the Constitution!” argument. That’s cool. It’s completely ignorant of history and reality, but it’s cool. Who gets to define what the Constitution says? You? What if I—and the rest of America—don’t agree with your definitions? What if you and I agree, but no one else does?

Perhaps we should allow the Founding Fathers to tell us what it means? I hope you’re not using their definition of “freedom” and constitutionality to oppose the “militarization” of police and the arming of tax collectors though… After all, George Washington used the Army of the United States to crush a tax revolt, less than three years after the Constitution was ratified. Or, perhaps you understand what the Constitution was supposed to mean, better than Poppa G?

Or, maybe you think the Constitution says you should be able to grab a bunch of your homeboys, gun-the-fuck up, and go stage an invasion of another state, to force a return to Constitutional law? Obviously then, you know more about what the Constitution is supposed to mean than they did in the 1790s, when at least a dozen different, state-commissioned militia commanders from Kentucky County, Virginia were prosecuted by the State of Virginia (under governors like Henry Lee…who fought in the Revolution…) for leading their forces outside of the borders of the state, in pursuit of hostile Indian forces, without the specific authorization of the governor or the President…

We could argue that “I want a return to the Constitution!” is a valid goal for preparedness and survival, but again…by whose definition?

I would—and have, and do—argue that the goal of preparedness, in the midst of the ongoing decline of the American Empire, should not be a “return” to the Constitution, nor survival of the individual(s). Rather, the end-game goal of preparedness should be the survival of the cultural values that you hold dear and sacred. The problem with that thesis, of course, is that the cultural values you hold sacred may be not only different, but even diametrically opposed to those I hold sacred, or someone else holds sacred. How do we define whose cultural values get to survive, and whose get kicked to the curb?

The simple answer is the correct answer, according to the greater part of the collective human experience, over the last 200,000 years of anatomically-modern human social development: it’s about your community. Quit worrying about other people’s values, and focus on the survival of the values of your friends and family. Quit trying to impose your beliefs and supposed moral superiority on other people, and teach the children of your community what you believe are superior moral values. If you’re right, it will prove out in the end, by the success of your community, and others nearby will start looking at why your community is successful, and will follow suit. Voila! Your moral supremacy wins out in the end. If you’re wrong? Then your community will fail, because your morality was unsustainable in the real world. The people within your community will look elsewhere for cultural values that work for them, and will go there.

If we define our strategic end-game goal—our “major or overall aim”—as “the survival of my community/tribe/church’s cultural values,” then we can begin developing a strategy for achieving that goal. Or, you can stick to “I want to survive!” or “I want to return to the Constitution!” as your strategic end-game “major or overall aim.” Regardless, in order to have a strategy, you have to have that end-game goal.

How Do We Achieve It?

For the sake of argument—and because it’s my fucking blog—we’re going to look at the very sensible, very achievable “my end-game goal is the survival of my community/tribe/church’s cultural values,” for this article. How do we achieve that?

The standard response in the preparedness community seems to fall along the lines of “gun up, talk about getting training, and be ready to shoot people!” or “Bitch and whine about how the government is not protecting us from the incursion of foreign values!” to the perennial favorite, “everybody wants a revolution, yeah! Everybody wants to change the world!” (I probably dicked up those lyrics. Not my music or my band…).

Let’s look at these, and then let’s look at a sensible, historically proven model…

  • “gun up, talk about getting training, and be ready to shoot people!” Valid….ish… One of the common characteristics that history and archaeology tell us that the decline of civilizations and empires share is, the increase of violence. Whether by the imperial power, in its grasp to maintain legitimacy, or the rise of aggressive, militant new powers, or the internecine struggles of groups within the collapsing empire, trying to control things around them, violence just…is. While your ancestors probably dealt with this with swords, spears, and archery tackle of one sort or another, the rifle is the spear of today, and the pistol is the modern man’s sword.

    We should be armed, because if we aren’t, we’re subject to the whims of those who are. That means, their cultural values survive, and ours don’t. While it’s commonly believed that “all men are created, but Sam Colt made them equal,” that’s really only partially correct. Sam Colt, like the Constitution, didn’t make men equal. He provided them with equal opportunity to be lethal. To grossly misquote the late Jeff Cooper, “Owning a gun doesn’t make you a gunfighter, anymore than owning a guitar makes you Jimi Hendrix.

    HH6 and I used to know a dude with a safe full of guns: expensive guns, like custom 1911s and match-grade M14s, and a .338 Lapua Magnum from Surgeon Rifles that I’d have given up a testicle to own. I got to finger-fuck his Surgeon Rifle one day. When I mounted the gun to my shoulder, you know what I saw? The mounted scope was canted somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. I turned and asked him if the rifle was zeroed or not. “What? What’s that? I’ve never even shot that thing! You know how expensive that ammunition is!?”

    I hope of course, that anyone still reading this blog IS shooting, and training, regularly, with any firearms they own, but…I’d be surprised, if I had the ability to do so, if I peaked in on everyone and saw that every single one of you reading this was actually doing any sort of training with your guns. So, yeah, lots of people talk about getting training, but I know for a fact that most don’t. I don’t teach a lot of classes. I’m not interested in teaching a lot of classes. I have other, far more important things—from the perspective of my tribe—to do. I talk to a lot of trainers in the industry though. If all of you were training regularly, or even just training once a year and practicing the rest of the time, we’d know. We’d see it in your performance at the classes you do attend, and every class any of us taught would be turning away prospective students. That’s not happening, because people talk about getting training (for the record, in 2015, I attended training courses under three different instructors, so I’m not just talking shit).

    Finally, shooting bad people in the face is an important ability to have. Unfortunately, in the course of the decline, we’re going to spend a lot more time not shooting bad people in the face than we are going to spend doing so. If your solution to the survival of your community’s cultural values focuses on that, you’re either a) sociopathic, and need to be put down for the betterment of the world, b) are living in some sort of first-person shooter video game alternate reality, or c) are 12 years old and have no experience in the real world.

    I’m a lot more impressed with the prepper that brags to me about how successful her garden is, than the dude who brags about his tight shot group—although I’d rather she bragged about both, honestly. I’m far more impressed with the young couple who is raising 90% of the food they consume, while he works a full-time job outside the home, and she works a full-time job at home, raising and educating their kids in their cultural values, than I am the corporate wage slave who sets aside XX% of his income each month to buy stuff that he hopes will help him survive. The difference? In both cases, the smart people are living life now, rather than thinking about living life in some dystopian future that is actually already occurring around them.

  • I want to return to the Constitution!” There’s really nothing wrong with this goal, on the surface. I love and adore the values enshrined in the Constitution. Limited, representative government, individual liberty and responsibility, etc. I’m all for it. Unfortunately, too often, those who voice the loudest cries for this have apparently never even read the goddamned document, let alone the surrounding documents. As historians, we have two basic sets of resources we can utilize, primary and secondary sources.

    Primary sources are actual documents and records that have survived from the era of study. Examples include letters, books and magazines, artwork, tools and equipment, and clothing, among others. Secondary sources are accounts retelling what happened, often written long after the events occurred. Reading a modern historian—or worse, politician or activist—writing about the goals and aims of the Founding Fathers is not as legitimate, from the historian’s perspective, as reading the actual documents written by the Founding Fathers.

    At the same time however, we have to recognize that the culture of colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary America, was considerably different than the culture of modern America. Our understanding of the precise meaning of words can be aided through the use of a primary source such as a contemporary dictionary, but our actual understanding of the contextual meaning of the words needs to be developed through developing an understanding of how the Founding era USED those words.

    The fact is, most of what passes for “Constitutional Scholarship” in this country, is intentionally polemic drivel, from both sides of the false political dialectic. Worse yet, it’s just not important.

    The Constitution of the United States of America is a piece of parchment with some ink stains on it. Period. Full-stop, end-of-story. The Constitution is not important.What is important, regardless of which side of the contemporary dialectic you fall on, are the values embodied in that document.

    That sounds pretty fucking heretical and unpatriotic, but it’s true. If some Mohammedan jihadist detonated a “dirty” bomb in the middle of the National Archives building tomorrow, and the physical Constitution was destroyed, the spirit of that document—the values enshrined in it—would still hold merit, right? So, it’s not the Constitution we value—it’s the values enshrined in it. That’s what is awesome about the Constitution…it’s simple, which means it’s actually pretty robust. Anyone of average intelligence can memorize the exact verbiage of the entire document, including all twenty-seven amendments, in a week or two of devoted effort (I know this for a fact. An entire class of thirty students was required to do so for a school project, when I was in the eighth-grade. Not a single one of us failed the examination. None of us were stupid, but we weren’t MENSA members either.).

    The secret to the survival of the cultural values of the Constitution is not some American Re-Revolution. The secret to the survival of the cultural values of the Constitution is for people to start LIVING those values again. If you focus on your local community, and I focus on my local community, and John Smith focuses on his local community, guess what? In our communities, those values will survive.

    In Forging the Hero, the explanation I offer for this is pretty simple. If you vote for Mayor Smith, he knows he’s accountable to you, the voting public. If he fucks up too egregiously, he knows he can be reached. If Senator Sam goes to Washington, DC, and fucks up, chances are, none of his constituents are going to drive to DC, track down where he stays in the District, and cause him physical pain. Mayor Smith though? He knows he can be reached. Whether that’s him getting voted out in a recall election, or some pissed off ol’ boy curb stomping him on the steps of City Hall, before the local police can restrain him, or it’s some random voter hiding in the shrubs next to the Mayor’s driveway, and emptying a 12-gauge in his ear, as he parks his car at the end of the night, the Mayor knows he can be reached. He’s got to stay accountable—as long as the people in his county make sure he knows they’re going to keep him accountable.

    That’s the problem with focusing on your community though; it makes it too real. It can work, but in order for it to work, you’ve got to be willing to do, and that requires dedication and effort. If it can work, then people might actually have to make it work, and that is scary. It requires effort. It’s easier to scream at the cable news commentators who are bloviating about how your presidential candidate is going to fix the problems POTUS created, using the exact same methods you’re pissed off about POTUS using. It’s easier to scream about “Constitution!” than it is to actually read the fucking document, and think about how it is supposed to actually work (I’ll give you a hint…the President is supposed to “preside” over the executive branch as it “executes” the “legislation” that the legislative branch passed. The executive branch may create regulations regarding how that legislation is executed, but the President really isn’t supposed to DO much to change a damned thing.)

    If you want a “return to the Constitution,” politically, I suggest focusing on your local community government first. If you want a return of the values enshrined in the Constitution? Then start fucking living them. If you want “freedom of religion and expression?” Then practice your religion, and say what you want to say…but be ready to let others do the same. If you want the freedom to keep and bear arms? Then fucking keep and bear arms. If you don’t want people peering into your documents? Then use fucking encryption on your email, and quit posting your personal details all over fucking Facebook and social media. Etc, etc, etc.

  • Everybody wants a revolution, yeah! Everybody wants to change the world!” One of the most common refrains I read on the Internet, and hear in classes, is “people are sheep! Nobody is aware! It’s hopeless!” I’m here to tell you, that’s bullshit. Everybody—EVERYBODY—knows “shit just ain’t right.” From the Social Justice Warrior, college kid, to the middle-aged socialist utopian dreamer, to the farmer at your local feed store; everybody knows the system is falling apart around them. They may not know the solution—and a lot of them that do have a solution, have a really fucked up, demonstrably wrong solution—but every-fucking swinging dick KNOWS that shit is coming apart around them.

    The problem is that everybody is still stuck in the false dialectic of the modern political system. “Oh, if we can get our guy elected, he’ll fix it all.” “Well, I’ll vote for this guy, ’cause he’s the lesser of two evils, and if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch!”

    Point the first: It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché precisely because it is true: voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. If you vote for evil, you really have no excuse for being surprised when the guy you voted for turns out to be a douchecanoe.

    Point the second: “If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch” is a bullshit meme, created to keep people supporting the false dialectic. If you vote, you’re giving your consent. You’re saying, in effect, “I recognize the legitimacy of this process.” If you vote, you’ve got zero legitimate reason to bitch. You played the game and you lost. You got stuck inside their box.

    One of the biggest issues I see among people today, is the fact that they’re stuck in this trap and don’t even recognize it. Even otherwise smart people, bitching about Progressives and Socialists…This shit is not new or novel. It didn’t originate in 1917. It didn’t originate in 1848 (publication of The Communist Manifesto). Every empire in the history of mankind has gone through the exact same issue. The Romans had their Conservative and Progressive party as well, and they bickered and fought over the exact same issues ours do.

    You know which party survived the decline of the Roman Empire? Neither fucking one. It was the dudes who didn’t give a shit about what they were doing in Rome (and later, Ravenna, when Rome was no longer the seat of political power in the Empire), but focused on the situation in their local communities. The people and the cultures that survived the decline of the Roman Empire didn’t revolt against Rome…they existed outside of the Empire, even when geographically, they were in the middle of the Empire.

Too many preppers focus on the short-term. They want to learn tactics, which is fine. If you don’t have tactics, you can’t execute your strategy. The problem is, strategy drives operations, and operations drive tactics. In The Reluctant Partisan, Volume One: The Guerrilla ( was discussed, in brief, before we started discussing tactics. In Forging the Hero, I returned to this, in more detail, before discussing the strategy of ensuring the survival of the cultural values of your community of friends and family.

You need to develop a strategy, before you can even begin to understand what operations—and thus, what tactics—are relevant. If you don’t have a strategy driving your operations and tactics, you’re pissing in the wind, and playing Whack-A-Mole. If you’re playing Whack-A-Mole, you’re probably the mole, even without recognizing it. For those unfamiliar with the game, that means, you’re waiting to get smashed in the fucking head with a big club. I’m no expert on getting hit in the head—wait a minute, who am I fooling, yes I am. Let me try again…I’ve been hit in the head a lot. It hurts. I don’t recommend it. If you want to avoid it, and learn from my mistakes, don’t get hit in the head.

Determine what your strategic end-game goal is, and then you have the tool to begin developing a strategy. When you know what your strategy is going to be, you can determine what operations will best help achieve that strategy (chances are, it’s not going to involve nearly the amount of gunplay that most preppers believe it will, although even a little suggests the importance of getting training, right?). Once you know the operations you will need to master to achieve your strategy (I’d suggest self-reliant living skills/homesteading skills, even in the city, would be a really swell place to start), then you can determine what tactics will allow you to complete those operations (determining WHAT type of crops and livestock will survive in your backyard, and what materials you should stockpile to expand into the neighbors’ yards, when they no longer have jobs, and cannot afford their mortgages, so they move in with mommy and daddy. I suggest rabbits. They’re quieter than chickens, and provide a metric fuck-ton of meat—pun certainly intended).

Developing a Practice Program, Part Three

Up to this point in this series, we’ve discussed the overall scheme of developing an annual training program, and we’ve covered some basic fundamental marksmanship drills for practice. In this installment, we will be covering basic Core Skills, and the drills we use to practice them. Core skills can be defined as those tasks that are fundamental to effective gun-handling and shooting that—along with marksmanship—are CORE to prosecuting a fight with the firearm. For the purposes of this installment, we will briefly cover reloading and other malfunction clearances. These are the skills that—programmed properly, as part of your training and practice—will allow you to fire each shot as a deliberate, conscious action, fast enough to solve whatever shooting—or non-shooting—problem that you find yourself confronted with.


A malfunction can be defined as any situation where the gun does something unexpected, or does not do what is expected. Generally speaking, the malfunctions we are concerned with are those that occur—for whatever reason—when we attempt to fire a round, and the weapon fails to do so, for whatever reason.

With contemporary fighting firearms, in my experience, the single most common reason for “click instead of bang,” is a simple one…the gun is not loaded. Whether that is a result of not having loaded it properly at the outset, or because you have run the gun dry, is irrelevant.

The second most common reason for malfunctions seems to be simple operator error (which is not to say that failure to fully seat a magazine or chamber a round is not operator error). In this regard, I am specifically considering things like an inexperienced shooter—or an experienced shooter who is an inexperienced fighter and suddenly finds themselves in an actual fight—fucking things up. The reality is, shooting and gun-handling are relatively complicated tasks, when executed properly, and require higher order intelligence to manage. When you’re scared shitless though, and your “reptilian” brain amygdala is screaming at you, it’s entirely possible to fuck up even simple tasks like walking or chewing bubble gum.

Fortunately, over the last century-plus of semi-automatic weapons design and use, there has been enough experience accumulated in the practical shooting community (I’m using the term here to specify people who shoot for practical applications, like smoking bad guys, not for the shooting sport, although considering most of the skills advanced practical shooters use originated there, or vice versa, the two may as well be synonymous in this context), to have ready solutions to both of these issues.

Loading and Reloading

Administrative loading of a rifle or pistol of the semi-automatic variety SHOULD be reasonably straight forward. For our purposes, I’m going to limit myself to describing the methods I use to load my Glocks, my AR-variant rifles, and my Kalashnikovs. If you develop a set ritual for loading your weapons, then you KNOW, every single time, that you’ve done it the exact same way, every single time…


Loading the Glock pistol is the height of simplicity.

  1. Ensure there is no magazine seated in the weapon. Lock the slide to the rear, and visually inspect the chamber and bore for obstructions.

  2. Seat a full magazine in the magazine well, and slap it home firmly, with the heel of your hand. You should feel it click into place, but whether you do or not, grasp the baseplate of the magazine and tug it firmly to ensure that it is fully seated, and locked into the magazine well.

  3. Reach up with your support-hand thumb and release the slide lock lever, allowing the gun to go into battery under the recoil spring tension. DO NOT “SLING SHOT” THE SLIDE!!! (Invariably, when I see people do this, they “ride the slide” forward with their hand. This may induce a failure, if it prevents the round from seating fully).


  5. There are a couple of options to ensure that a round actually seated. The first is to use the loaded chamber indicator, sticking out of the ejection port side of the slide. That is, after all, what it is designed for. Theoretically, it is possible for this to get gummed up and not function properly. I’ve NEVER seen that happen, but… The second is to perform a “press check.” To perform the press check, simply pull the slide back, far enough to visually inspect the chamber and see the brass of the seated case. Allow the gun to go back into battery—under it’s own power—once you’ve done so. If you’re worried about the round not seating…with an AR-variant rifle, a) lube your gun better, and b) use the forward assist. That’s what it is fucking there for. With an AK, slap the dog-piss out of the back of the charging handle. With a Glock, I make it part of my pattern to tap the back of the slide with the heel of my support hand, to ensure that it is fully seated, after doing my press check.

  6. Voila! Your gun is fucking loaded, and you KNOW it is loaded. Now, safely—looking the gun into the holster, go ahead and holster your gun. If you work with an instructor that tells you, “Never look at the holster when you’re holstering your gun,” I want you to do two things: a) dick punch him for being an idiot, and b) when he’s done crying, ask him “why not?”

    Generally, the reason given for this is “There might be other threats that you need to address.” If that is the case…WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU PUTTING THE GUN AWAY?” Another reason I’ve heard is, “Well, I need both hands to secure the detainee!” You should not be putting the gun away until you have physical control of the detainee anyway (something I cover in detail in classes and in The Reluctant Partisan) anyway, and if you have that control, you can take a second to look at the holster. Not looking is a really good way to shoot yourself with your own gun, when a piece of your cover garment gets caught between the trigger and holster.

AR-Variant Rifles

Loading the AR is also simple.

  1. Lock the bolt-carrier group (BCG) to the rear. Insert the magazine firmly, feeling for the “click” as it seats.

  2. Grasp the seated magazine and pull firmly, ensuring that it is seated. Failing to do this critical step is the single most common cause of malfunctions I see in students, period, bar-none.

  3. Press the “ping-pong paddle” bolt release and allow the gun to go into battery.

  4. Using the charging handle, pull the BCG back far enough to visually inspect that there is a round in the chamber. Tap the forward assist to ensure the gun goes back into battery.

  5. Close the fucking dust cover (Honestly, probably not the end of the world, but it drives me bat-shit crazy).

  6. Your rifle is now loaded.


Despite the simplicity of the weapon, loading an AK is actually slightly more error-prone, in my experience.

  1. You can’t—on most variants—lock the bolt to the rear.

  2. Insert the magazine, being sure to insert the front portion of the magazine first, and then rock the magazine up and in, seating it firmly. I watch this get fucked up ALL THE TIME. People that hate the AR15, because “it’s too finicky,” end up not seating the front of the magazine properly, or they end up not rocking the magazine all the way in and seating it. In either case, they almost invariably end up spending way too much time fucking around with getting it seated properly.

  3. Once the magazine has locked into the seated position, try and tug it in the reverse direction, ensuring that it is, in fact, locked in.

  4. Use the charging handle to pull the bolt ALL THE WAY TO THE REAR, and let it go. Allow the gun to go into battery under the tension of the spring. Then, grasp the charging handle and perform a press check.

  5. Congratulations, you loaded an AK.


There are two basic categories of reloads in “combat shooting:” the “speed” or “emergency” reload, and the “tactical” reload, or the “reload with retention.” Speed reloads should be utilized any time your gun runs dry in a fight. This is—again, in my experience—the single most common “malfunction” you will face, using most modern weapons, manufactured by reputable companies.

Tactical reloads, and reloads with retention, are done “when there is a lull in the fight.” Often, you may have to induce that lull yourself. If your partner is providing suppressive fire, and you are getting ready to move, or have just moved, take the time to perform a reload, if you feel you need to.

You are NOT going to know the exact number of rounds you’ve fired. Anyone who tells you that you will is either, a) a fucking savant, or b) full of shit. I’ll let you wager your life on which one is more likely.

What you CAN know is a rough estimate of “I’ve fired more than half my magazine,” or “I’ve fired less than half my magazine.” If you think you’ve fired more than half? Take the opportunity to top off, if you’ve got it. If not? Hope you finish the fight before the mag runs out, or that you’ve mastered the speed reload.

For most of us, the chances of needing to speed reload are pretty slim, as a result of “I shot my gun dry.” This is especially true with “normal” CCW pistol work. Nevertheless, there are two considerations here:

  1. We’re not just talking about “everyday” CCW encounters here. You get ambushed by a crowd of bad guys, or are dealing with a herd of cannibalistic San Franciscans, post-SHTF, it is entirely plausible that the 18 rounds in your Glock 17, or even the 30 rounds in your AR or AK are not going to be adequate.

  2. Shit happens. Whether you miss a lot, or the dude you shoot just takes a lot of killing, or your magazine shits the bed after a round or two, there are reasons to practice and master your speed reloads.

Malfunction Clearances

I don’t know how many times I’ve had students in a class—even a more advanced class, ranging from CQB and patrolling classes to vehicle classes—that had a malfunction and suddenly realize they are not qualified for the class they are in because they don’t know how to clear the malfunction. Sometimes, they’re legitimately under-qualified. We back them off, and have them run some of the more remedial aspects. Other times though, they know HOW to do the corrective action, they just don’t KNOW how to do the corrective action—under stress. Their brain just shits the bed, and everything falls apart.

Whether you use SPORTS, TAP-RACK-BANG, or transition to your sidearm (which is fine, if you’re close enough for your sidearm to be more efficient than corrective action), this is something that has to be practiced until you don’t even think about it. The only way I know to do that is to set up malfunctions and drill them, over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over. Sorry, but “Oh, I did 10 reps of Tap-Rack-Bang last year, in a class,” is not going to cut it. You will shit the bed when you have to do it under pressure.


During Q2 of my annual training plan, I limit the amount of repetitions I do of my snap-firing and drawstroke drills. I just hit 10-15 dry-fire drills and then move immediately on to working my reload drills dry-fire. When I do live-fire range work, I intentionally download my magazines, randomly loading 5-10 magazines with anywhere from 3-10 rounds. Then, I randomly grab the magazines and stick them in my mag pouches and gun, so I cannot be certain what load is in the gun at any given time. This incurs a “surprise” factor when the reload comes up.

Dry-Fire Speed Reload

Ben Stoeger has written that he likes to see speed reloads in less than 1.1 second. I’ve witnessed guys hit speed reloads—during drills—in less than one second. I generally aim for the actual reload to run just under 1.5 seconds. For most people, for most purposes, anything less than 2.5 seconds is probably adequately impressive. It’s not like you should be standing still, not moving in the middle of a fight, to conduct the reload. You should be moving to a position of cover—if you’re not already there—and then executing the reload. Ideally, of course, your reload should be protected by your partner providing cover, so in either case, 2.5 seconds is more than adequate—as long as it’s legit, and you can hit that time, under stress, without fail.

To set this up, I’ll set a par time on my shot timer that is my current training par time. I will then execute speed reloads, dry fire, consistently hitting 10-15 repetitions under the par time. Then, I’ll drop a hundredth of a second, until I can beat that. When I hit a time that I can’t beat for 10 repetitions in a row, that becomes my new par time for the dry-fire training week.

Dry-Fire Tactical Reloads

First off, I don’t advocate or really even teach—let alone practice—the old fumbling two mags in one hand method of tactical reloads. What I teach and preach and practice is what has become known as the “reload with retention,” that I learned as a cherry private in the Ranger Regiment, with an M16A2. I will drop the partially-expended magazine into my support hand, and stow it away. Then, I will grasp a fresh magazine and insert it into the weapon. It’s demonstrably faster and less error-prone, whether with rifle or pistol.

I don’t really “practice” tactical reloads much anymore. That’s probably not something I should admit to, but it’s true. I’ve got hundreds of thousands of repetitions of performing them, and anytime I change a magazine in a weapon, outside of speed reloads, I get practice in anyway, so I’m not too worried about it. I’ve yet to have it cause a failure.

For novices learning though, setting the tactical reload up, sans ammunition, is pretty simple. Empty magazine goes in the gun, bolt forward on an empty chamber. On “GO!” drop the mag into the support hand, and stow it. Grab the fresh empty mag from your pouch and seat it. Bring the gun up. Done.

Dry-Fire Malfunction Clearances

I legitimately don’t know a way to practice malfunction clearances dry-fire. Nor do I have any reasonable suggestions for time hacks to aim for. I can hit tap-rack-bang in less than two seconds. I only know that because I’ve seen the split occur when it has happened during shooting more complex drills.

What I typically teach guys to do for dry-fire of tap-rack-bang, is to seat a magazine, with dummy rounds, and simply do snap-drills, through the whole magazine of dummy rounds. You WILL master the instinct to tap-rack-bang when you feel the click. That only works for failure to seat and fail-to-fire malfunctions though, of course.

For more complex malfunctions, I like to set up the Three Little Kittens drill that SGM Kyle Lamb teaches (there’s a YouTube video of it, I believe, or you could avoid being a cheap fucker, and order his videos…). This is three different rifles down range (good excuse to get to shoot your buddy’s pimped out rifle…), each with a different malfunction set up. On “Go!” you move to the rifles, clear the malfunctions, and fire one round (To be honest, I haven’t watched the video in a while. That’s how I set it up).


Successfully hitting your target with your weapon’s fired projectile is the single most crucial skill in combat shooting—or shooting, period. Unfortunately, achieving that is not the total sum of all combat shooting skill. You need to be able to keep your gun in the fight, throughout the duration of the fight. That requires learning and practicing gun-handling core skills as well.

Go forth and do good things. Who does more is worth more.


  1. The new book, “FORGING THE HERO: Who Does More Is Worth More, A Tribal Strategy for Building Resilient Communities and Surviving the Decline of the Empire” has gone to the printer. I waited an extra week, because the cover art got hung up. It still hasn’t come through, because the artist had scheduling conflicts and didn’t get a chance to get it done. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make it a poster in support of the book, or something. The design is AWESOME!
  2. Sam Culper and Forward Observer also have the artwork for a t-shirt that will be produced for MG, in support of the book’s message. So, all of you who have been bitching about getting your hands on some MG swag…it’s en route.
  3. Finally, Gadsden Dynamics has the MG Underground Chest Rig in stock and available. I designed this because I couldn’t find a single rifle mag pouch set up that could be worn “concealed.” This is not going to work for “non-permissive environments” under a t-shirt. It was designed for “underground” urban work though. Think, “I’ve got to roll through a really shitty ghetto, and I’d really like more than one magazine for my rifle, on my person.” This, thrown on under a light jacket or button-down, untucked shirt, conceals really well, from as close as five feet away. It’s pretty slick, and they did a good job refining my design, and producing it.(In the interest of intellectual integrity, I get no percentage from sales of the product. I just wanted a piece of kit that would be useful to people, and I couldn’t find one that fit the bill. The guys were willing to design it and manufacture it. Go thee forth and procure one!)

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