The Irony of Slow is Smooth

It seems in today’s world the term “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” will get you labeled as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or my favorite, “putting out dated information”. I generally avoid the subject, not because I agree with those who are opposed to this idea. I avoid it because the conversation requires a higher understanding of the idea in the first place.

An Origin Story

A good place to start is where did this phrase come from, where did it originate? The credit gets tossed around a lot, but it originated from the special operations community. The wet side, a long time ago. Those who have an opposing view don’t know the origin or the history. What is troublesome when you don’t know the history is how it was originally intended and applied. This concepts has far reaching applications, not just shooting. In the shooting world, it is typically applied from a single plane. There is either a lack of ability or experience to see it from multiple planes. It is not just a mistake thinking it is strictly one dimensional, it’s counterproductive.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

When moving at full speed, the top of the food chain make their actions look fluid and automatic. Mind you, I’m not just talking about shooting. If we were to shift focus to assaults, a chaotic and complex operation you might develop a deeper understanding and appreciation. One will see this carefully orchestrated activity be executed with incredible results in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable. There has been an extensive train up to allow for the chaos in the most efficient manner possible. We did not arrive at this ability simply by ignoring decades of development in the training. There is a meticulously executed training plan to build up to the ability to not only run at full speed, but make critical decisions in compressed time periods under enormous stress. The bigger picture.

Outrunning Your Headlights

CQB Shoothouse
The Proving Grounds

How does one accomplish this task? It is simple, but not easy. First, it doesn’t happen overnight. For these skills to be truly developed to an automated nature it takes time and making a lot of mistakes. When I was tasked to deliver this training I used simple ways to determine if the individual was outrunning their headlights. During their run, there were simple problems, almost too simple, where if the assaulter was moving beyond their capabilities would make a mistake. When debriefed and queried why they made the mistake most of the time it had to do with not “seeing” the problem. I cannot tell you how many times I would have to tell someone to slow down to avoid making the same mistakes again. To remind them making a mistake at this level is unacceptable, but more importantly avoidable. The mistakes were avoidable if, and this was a big if, they could see the correct series of actions and decisions before required to execute said actions or decisions. Those who made the most mistakes and repeated mistakes were easy to spot. They were moving way faster than they could prosecute the available information.

A Linear Progression Approach

The term, “crawl, walk then run” was often used in conjunction with “slow is smooth”. The assaulters needed to start off slow, like at a literal crawl pace in order to learn the techniques. When they could slow down and see their decisions being made in real time, learning was much easier. It was those who insisted on going faster their skill level that tripped over themselves, at times literally. So, how does this apply to the shooting world. Before you can be expected to execute any action or activity, it must first be flawlessly developed. The only way to accomplish this task is by slowing down so the end user can see the action required, to the level of precision needed to complete the task. Before you can expect to have a one second drawstroke, you must first understand and be able to apply the fundamentals of the drawstroke. You developed this skill by thinking your way through each step so you can apply the required level of precision to your movements.

Master the Fundamentals

I was asked a long time ago how to develop speed in shooting. My answer to this day remains the same. You minimize the amount of movement necessary, then perform said minimal movement precisely enough for the task at hand. You want to shoot faster, then master the fundamentals. The absolute minimal amount of movement necessary. When we look at shooters technique at the granular level it is often covered in dirt. It is not clean. All that dirt prevents you from moving as precisely as you can or as necessary as the shot requires. This to me epitomizes the notion of “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Because when trained properly, the thousands of work hours allows the observer a glimpse into the closest thing to perfection we can possibly attain.

The Forging Process

Flawless execution

There will remain flaws in our techniques. These flaws exist because for some reason we prioritized something else in the required action and performed them less precise than what the situation dictated. I preach the slow is smooth mantra anytime we are teaching assaults or tactics. But I also preach it when we are teaching shooting. It comes out of my mouth about a 100 different ways in class. Most of the time in the form of a question. Why is this shot not where you were aiming? I’m looking to see what the student can recall. What did they feel, and see at the moment the shot was fired. Most of the time they cannot recall. They cannot recall because they were moving faster than their capabilities allowed. When the student can slow their movements down it allows them to perfect their technique. This smoothing out of their technique then allows them to incrementally accelerate simply by being more efficient. They accelerate to the point of failure. When they can recognize this failure point they truly have arrived as a competent gunman.

Where Does the Smooth Come From

The standing order I give all students is only shoot as fast as they can guarantee the required hits. Those that have been exposed to the slow is smooth mantra have a higher success rate than those who have not. Starting slower gets you to your goal faster. You ingrain the proper neural pathways and therefore it helps to accelerate the learning process. When you slow down you can start to internalize the tacit knowledge. This knowledge is difficult to express or verbalize. It is more like intuition that is developed with experience and this is where the smooth comes from.

It’s About Making Fewer Mistakes

At some point we do want to be going fast, but fast without the proper building blocks is a sham. Anyone who tries to tell you anything different is suspect at best. When you begin to perform at the top levels and are producing excellent results, it is because you have followed a simple formula. You developed your technique or the mechanics to almost a flawless level. It took you slowing down to accomplish this task. Then you applied your technique over and over building competency through consistency. It is as this point you become efficient or smooth. Then you start to see your movement speed performed with fewer and fewer errors or overall time. The byproduct is you are faster. Not because you are moving faster, of course that is a byproduct. You are faster because you are making fewer mistakes at the granular level and producing results.

When I ask people if their goal is to perform whatever their skill to the subconscious competent level they invariably answer of course. When I ask them how they intend on getting there I get a response that reminds me of banging your head into the wall. The fastest way to see progress is by understanding there is a process; technique (slow), consistency (smooth) and then intensity (fast). When you come to this understanding, you improvements mean more and you start to understand what it means to festina lente.

Preparing For a Concealed Carry Class


Whether new to training or a veteran to the discipline, there are a few simple things to do in order to improve your overall experience. They are three areas you need to focus on when preparing for class. Notice how I said focus, there are other areas you should put some attention to, but these are the big ones. The first is to review the course information, paying particular attention to the required gear list. Then, go over your logistics. The when and where are what I’m talking about. Last preparation for the class is to double check your gear and plan for some contingencies.

Know the Course Material

Drawing from concealed in the real world

Every school is a little different, but they will all usually have some type of course description. Some students will use this solely as their criterion for decision. Others will have “shopped around” through internet searches or word of mouth. I encourage you to know what you need, not what you want. For instance, if you need a better understanding on the drawstroke. Find an instructor who is known for doing an excellent job on the subject. You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what you need, you don’t know what you don’t know and that is perfectly acceptable. Have a broader goal in mind, to expand your knowledge base for example.

Review the Gear List

Read through the course description, all of the available material. If there is something you don’t understand, then do a little research. If there are terminal objectives or goals of the class, do they meet your needs. A good course will be well thought out and have an agenda or curriculum. The curriculum will guide the student towards the terminal objective through enabling objectives. All the information is important, but probably the most important is the required gear list and in this case the importance of your concealment carrying system. A lot of times, students will think of this as a suggestion. It is not, it is a list of required gear to ensure you have the best chance of doing well in the class. Don’t convince yourself you do or don’t need something. Read the list, even print the list out and check each item to make sure you are good to go. Think of this as an IQ test, can you follow simple instructions. Then at class, it is nice to be prepared and of course to not be “that guy.”

Do a Map Study and Plan Your Route

Logistics are a big thing to me. The old saying, “amateurs argue tactics and professionals argue logistics” is incredibly accurate. Start by knowing where you are going and how you will get there. Give yourself a little fudge factor on day one just to cover your basis. Don’t just know where you are going, but know the surrounding area. For instance, are there eateries near by or are you going to be packing a lunch or snacks. Something else to consider is how long is the commute. After a long day of training I suggest you consider the drive home. Be extra alert when going home since the fatigue of the day can affect your situational awareness as you drive home.

Get Your Eyes On Everything

The final preparation for your class will be to review your gear, like literally lay it all out and get your eyes on them. It is one thing to go over the required gear list and say to yourself I have that in my range bag. Only to realize you took it out to clean, replace or repair and failed to return it to your range bag. Some items are less important, a flashlight is not essential to a day light course. But a magazine pouch can make or break your experience in the class. Go over each item and ask yourself is this ‘thing” good to go. Has it been cleaned, or maintenance recently. Are there fresh batteries in use or am I running on empty. The devil is in the details so really go through the list.

Have a Plan and a Backup Plan

Think about the essential items. Your handgun for instance. Even though I have done a good job of picking a reliable model along with routine maintenance, things do break. Having a backup on standby has come to the rescue on more than one occasion. Spare magazines are another example. If you have the minimum as prescribed in the gear list that is great, but what if one of them goes down or you leave it in the hotel. There’s a myriad of reasons, so planning is key. Contingencies can go beyond your gear to your plan. Any physical activity will take its toll on your energy level. If you are planning to get lunch nearby, but all the local places are packed and you have to make a decision between being late or skipping lunch you might consider packing a lunch or some snacks.

Holsters, Be Prepared

Weak Side Carry 2
Be prepared with good, quality holsters

When it comes to our Concealed Carry classes there are three main failures from the gear list. The first is not having an “on the waistband” or OWB holster. You may try to justify you don’t need it because you have an IWB holster. That would be a mistake. The purpose behind the OWB holster is to start from a known and safe condition. Before we dive into the deep end of drawing and holstering from concealed, we have to ensure you have well developed and safe drawstroke from the lowest risk condition possible. That would be open carry, on the waistband.

Bring All The Required Clothing

The second mistake would be in failing to have all of the required clothing. In this class, you will be forced to work from a variety of cover garments. Not your favorite or go to, but a wide array to ensure you are prepared. It never fails, there is always that one person who thinks they know better. Trust me, you don’t. Bring all the clothing listed. Even if you don’t have something on the gear list for whatever reason you can probably borrow it from a family member or friend. Most of the items are pretty normal, but if you don’t have a rain jacket and you don’t want to buy one, they ask around to get a loaner.

Have an Open Mind

Last mistake we see often is when students fail to have an open mind. It doesn’t matter what you think or know, be open to new ideas. If you say to yourself while reading the gear list I don’t need this or that you would be demonstrating someone who has a closed mind. Don’t be that guy. Instead it should pique your curiosity. You should be wondering what are we going to be doing with that and why. Curiosity is your super power as a student. It is the single greatest characteristic that leads to expanded knowledge base. Back it up by understanding the why you are doing something a certain way or why you don’t do things a certain way.

If you take the time to review the course material paying attention to the required gear list, you have the best chance of succeeding in class. Or at least you won’t be held up because you don’t have this or forgot to bring that. Knowing the logistics will help you ensure you are not late or miss any course material. Some instructors will not allow you to participate if you miss the main emergency and medical plan brief so don’t be surprised if you have to sit down initially why the rest of the class trains. Double check and even triple check your gear. Have a system so you make sure you have all the gear you need and it is centrally located so when you load out early in the morning probably in the dark you don’t leave that one bag on the work bench. These are not just suggestions, they are observations over decades of training to help ensure you as the student have the best chance of success in our training classes.

Low Powered Variable Optics

Evolution is a great thing. It produces success out of failure. What I mean, you either adapt or you get left behind. Such is the nature in the tactical market and in particular the low powered variable optic world. Before you jump down a rather expensive road, you need to know some things. The first thing you need to know is can you define the optic as a need or a want. Genuinely is there a need, of do you just want to keep up with all the cool kids. The reason I start with this has to do with your investment in truly understanding how best to exploit the new purchase.

What Plane Do I Choose

The first thing you need to consider is what focal plane, first or second. I could go into detail about the benefits of each, but suffice it to say you want a first focal plane scope. The biggest reason has to do with shooting holds. If you are using a low powered optic it is implied you will be doing work probably in a dynamic environment where the scenario may not provide you time to adjust your scope to the target distance. Instead, you use a predetermined “hold” to place a portion of your reticle on the target. Thus, compensating for the distance that differs from your zero. As you adjust the magnification up or down, your reticle increases or decreases, but your holdover values will remain the same. This simplifies your firing solution and reduces the computations you would have to do otherwise.

All The Magnification

1-8x is the newer and more popular scops

The next big question is magnification and how much. There is such a thing as too much magnification. What it translate to is weight. Yes, cost will increase as you go up in magnification, but it is really about weight. In today’s market you can find LPVO’s in the 1:8 range. These are great force multipliers, but the weight can turn them into a con. Again, it is implied your use will be in an urban defensive rifle setting and as such you will probably not be in a prone position. While you may obtain a supported position, you cannot count on it so holding the rifle to make a long shot will be a requirement. If the weight starts to become a hinderance it doesn’t matter how much magnification. Optimally, you should try to keep the scope under 22 ounces; which includes the mount.

Double Duty In Daytime

Since we will be employing the scope in an urban setting, the range to target may be close. The scope will need to double as a red dot or reflex sight. Those that come with day time viewable illumination are preferred. A word of caution though, if you are in very bright daylight such as mid day with no cloud cover many of the illuminated reticles are washed out by the sun. If you are going down this road, you want the dot to be bright. An observation I’ve made over the years is if the scope doesn’t have at least six or more intensity settings it probably will not be bright enough. As a reflex sight option you want it to be fast, the contrast of the illuminated dot or reticle is what makes that happen, but only if it is visible in all lighting conditions

Don’t Forget A Good Mount

Whatever your scope choice, it will only be as good as the mount. If you spend a lot of money on your scope, but try to cut corners on your mount you will see poor performance. Think of a mount like tires for a sports car. If you put crappy tires on your super fast car, how much speed will you really be able to exploit. The real question is quick release or no quick release. That depends on your backup sight system. If you are using foldable iron sights then you will want a quick release. If you are mounting a mini-red dot sight to the scope or rifle then it doesn’t matter. If you run the MRDS remember it will add weight overall. Once you pick a good mount, the next issue is to properly mount the scope to your rifle. You will want to make sure you it is installed properly to the best image for performance. When I say properly it means secure, but also level. Take the time to ensure the diopter adjustment is properly set to ensure the reticle is in sharp focus. Most LPVO’s do not have adjustable parallax. They are typically fixed at a set distance. The diopter adjustment basically focuses your eye to the reticle. If you scope has a diopter locking ring, make sure it is secure and if not consider using a witness line. This is a very common mistake for newer shooters; using a blurry sight picture because the diopter is out of focus.

Read The Users Manual

Once you have the scope properly installed you next need to learn how to use it and that means being familiar with all the features. The most common features in an LPVO are magnification, illumination, reticle turrets and the reticle. There may be a few other features, but these are the big ones, so break out the user manual and study. The magnification and illumination are the easiest to learn. They are often marked on the scope itself. Know how your power ring works and if it has a device for rapidly adjusting magnification. Those can be a knob, fin or an extrusion from the scope itself. You will want to get in the practice of always resting your magnification to 1x. Make this a habit, so if you ever have to snap a shot at close range you are not fighting your magnification. Depending on your situation, I recommend leaving the illumination set to a day time view for the same reason. Where things get really complicated is learning your scope turrets and reticle.

Pay Close Attention To The Turrets

When it comes to scope turrets, you will either have capped or exposed. Don’t get wrapped up in which is better, know how to use which ever you have. The one benefit to a capped turret is not worrying about the settings. With capped turrets they cannot accidentally be turned throwing off your scope settings. The bad news, if you want to make adjustments quickly you still have to remove the caps. It is not often you have to do this and for an urban rifle the possibly is infantile. You will really see this when learning your scope on the firing line and dealing with wind. While you will use holds for the majority of engagements, you may find yourself dialing in for some specific situations such as shooting in high winds. It is much easier to eliminate one variable such as your elevation and focus on making the best wind calls. You do want to know the unit of measurement for your scope. Are you using a MIL, MOA or BDC based scope.

What Type of Reticle Is Best

What type of reticle should you go with

Referencing MIL, MOA or BDC is related to the type of reticle. There was a time when I only shot BDC scopes. They were the best in that setting, but things changed. Better ammunition that differed from the BDC rendering it less effective. BDC stands for bullet drop compensator. As the bullet travels in flight, gravity is pulling it to the ground. To hit targets at distance we aim high, how high depends on many factors. The BDC scope eliminated the need to do math and know most of the factors. All you had to know was the distance to the target. Great if you are shooing on a known distance range, not so much in the real world. Now a days, MOA is seeing less and less popularity. If you are using a MOA scope you are not at a disadvantage, but you will have to work a tad harder. MIL version reticles are the most popular and for good reason, they are easier to use. I know easier is subjective, but I find them to be easier these days and I have a lot of hours under my belt with MOA scopes. The big thing here is knowing the unit of measurement. Are you running a 0.1 or 0.2 MIL scope or do you have a ½ or ¼ MOA scope. This references what I call the corrective value. Part of your formula for making corrections. Yes, the smaller measures will be more precise, but they will also be more expensive. Again, as a LPVO do you really need the ultra precise. Only you will know the answer.

Traditional Vs. Technical Reticles

The last and probably the most important thing to consider is your reticle. There are so many, but the new crop of technical reticles are awesome. Think of a technical reticle as a Christmas tree like pattern below your crosshairs. Traditional crosshairs are minimalist. Usually having subtends for holding elevation and windage only. While these are very valuable, they also get really challenging fast. If you have no reason to shoot past 500 yards then maybe you can stay with a traditional crosshair type reticle. If you are going beyond 500, then they are almost required. Even still, the technical reticle excels at close ranges. For me, the biggest advantage to a technical reticle is wind. If I’m at a distance different from my zero, then I will be holding. Add wind and now I’m holding for elevation and wind. With a traditional crosshair scope I’m literally holding in space, using a guess to be as precise as possible. With the technical reticle, I scroll down to the proper hold for elevation, then scroll over to the proper hold for wind and I have a precise aiming point. I’ve made shots out to 1,000 yards using this method and the only reason was because of the technical reticle.

At the end of the day, choosing a scope is a challenge. You first want to identify your budget. how much are you willing to spend. Then, decide on the features such as first or second focal plane. How much magnification I want. The type of measurement and how precise I need along with capped or uncapped turrets. Traditional crosshairs or the newer technical reticles that will most likely be illuminated. All this in the smallest and lightest package possible. You are probably seeing the challenge, but I promise you it will be worth the effort when you push out side normal close ranges. A rifleman is someone who can willfully and repeatedly place a projectile where they want. This includes the mid ranges, what I consider to be 0-500 yards.

Preparing For A Mid Range Rifle Class

There is no mistaking my love for rifles, all things rifles. I started pushing the standard issue M4/AR15 out at distance way back in the day. It was important I learn how to exploit distance to my advantage, being able to reach out and touch people. It didn’t take long to figure out I would need to adapt my gear to better exploit this capability. Relying on gear alone is a mistake, fundamental skills become even more important as we extend the ranges. The dirty little secret folks don’t discuss has to do with weight. The heavier the rifle, the harder it will be able to hit at distance when not in a prone position. So, the goal becomes finding a balance between your mission and your ability.

Choosing The Rifle

A good rifle is your first step

It all starts with the rifle and we are not talking about a high end match grade rifle. We are talking your general purpose rifle from a reputable manufacture that values, reliability first, accuracy second. These rifles will be more than adequate. It is easy to pursue extreme capabilities from your gear, but they move you out of a generalist and into a specialist. Our goal is to stay within the realm of being a generalist and do it better. I get asked the question all the time, how accurate should my rifle be when looking at distance. It makes sense to consider the capability of the rifle, but it’s your ability that matters. If you have a rifle capable of 2MOA that to me is plenty good. Theoretically you would see a 10″ group spread at 500 yards; which is probably the extreme distance for a GP rifle. What really matters is the barrel length and weight. I recommend 14.5″ with permanently attached flash hider or 16″ at a minimum. Rifle weight naked should be around the 5.5lb mark.

Aftermarket Additions to Consider

Things you can do to accurize the rifle begin with the trigger. Investing in a good aftermarket two stage trigger that allows for precision at distance and performance at close range. Hands down, this is the most important thing you can do to the rifle. Ammunition and optics come later. The next piece of gear is an adjustable sling, usually a two point design. These slings allow for improvised support position when stability is necessary, but traditional support unavailable. They can also be used to improve stable shooting positions and important for any rifle use in general. I go back and forth with a quick detach lightweight bi-pod. On my standard issue AR15 I carried one and it was great, but it added weight. So, for all the traditional roles, I was carrying extra weight. When I needed it though, it was awesome! For all your prone zeroing and range familiarizations I recommend them. Lastly, a smaller capacity magazine. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but it is helpful for when zeroing since it allows you to get a lower prone position.

The Optic, Dot or Scope

Tough choices, define your mission

The second most asked question has to do with optics or scopes. This is your training so use what you feel comfortable with or can afford. We’ve had people come through this class with both red dot sights (RDS) and low powered variable optics (LPVO). They discover the limitations in each and either work within them or move to another option as a result. The bottom line, define your mission. If this is a general purpose rifle designed to fulfill multiple roles then consider both of these options and realize they each have pro’s & con’s. From an entry level point, RDS will be cheaper and lighter. The biggest con is as distance increases their performance decreases. We see performance drop off around the 300yd. line. That is not to say a good rifleman cannot get the job done further, it means it is harder. If you are going to go down the RDS road get the smallest dot available, usually around 2MOA. Consider adding a magnifier, while not the same as an LPVO it really gives you options. I love magnifiers and at times will use them as a monocular if not on my rifle. With a 3x magnifier, you have the possibility of extending the range to maybe the 500yd. On the flip side, a good LPVO is going to cost you. Generally, starting at about twice as much as an RDS.

Closer Look at LPVO’s

I could spend hours talking about LPVO’s, but here are some simple tips. First, figure out how much you are willing to spend. I mean, really figure out your budget. Most top end manufactures will make something starting out at the $1,000-1,500 range. From there, you are off to the races. The more premium the features, the higher the cost. Should you go with a first or second focal plane? I suggest first focal plane for this mission. Realize though going with a first focal plane will generally be more costly. I have both, but prefer first focal plane for this mission, particularly with the need to be fast at close range. I suggest a technical reticle if available, but an improved duplex reticle will get the job done. The most important thing to remember is learn your reticule, understand how to use all the features. With the popularity of scopes in Milliradian or Minute of Angle it would seem hard to choose, but Mil scopes are increasing in popularity. My only recommendation is to ensure your reticle and turrets are the same. Meaning, avoid a scope with a MOA reticle and Mil turrets. Trust me, you don’t want to do any extra math. Because we need this LPVO to do work at close range you need to strongly consider how good the red dot feature is of the make/model. Let’s face it, the likelihood you will be legally and morally justified in taking a shot greater than 100yds. is all but wishful thinking. But, using the rifle inside the 25yd. is way more likely. Using the red dot as your primary, then dialing in magnification is more the norm. Both the size of the dot and brightness need to be considered. Realize, it will do a good job, but at the end of the day it is not a RDS. While training can help close the gap, the gap will still exist. The real question is how much magnification. Again, this is tied to dollars and ounces. The more magnification, the more expensive. The more magnification the heavier the scope. There is a new breed of 1×8’s that are doing great and pretty light compared to other comparable options. I consider length a close third, but I’m flexible with this feature. There are other features to consider and probably the biggest is do you go with capped or exposed turrets. Given the mission of this scope it is far more likely you will be using holds to engage targets at distance and unknown ranges. But, dialing up will still be more precise so it really depends on your preference. I do recommend some type of zero stop. Throw levers are another nice feature to aide in adjusting magnification. Lastly is how precise the corrections. Again, this is tied to dollars so the more precise, the pricer the optic. At a minimum I would go with 0.2mil or ½MOA.

Feeding Your Rifle

Ammunition is another subject we could spend hours discussing. The hard part is finding good ammunition in sufficient quantities. In our classes, you can expect to shoot somewhere between 500-750 depending on your skill. On rare occasions we get close to 1,000 rounds. The biggest consideration is bullet weight when attempting to reach further ranges. I prefer the 77gr. projectiles for the simple fact they do better in high wind conditions. Not to mention they appear to have really nice terminal performance. I don’t much care what brand you go with, but if you are going with a 77gr. projectile it will probably be of some open tip match type or OTM. Trust me, selecting a high quality round will make a huge difference. I occasionally get asked if we allow other calibers than 5.56mm. The answer is of course as long as it will not damage our steel targets we are game. I’ve seen 5.56mm, 6.8SPC, 7.62x39mm (poorest performer) and 7.62x51mm. If I was being honest, the 6.8SPC has done the best, but the cost and availability are the wild card. Whatever round you choose to go with consider purchasing twice the round count. This will give you plenty of ammunition for the class, then plenty for your continued professional development. Along with having a decent chance being close if not part of the same lot. You don’t have to shoot these high dollar rounds for the entire class. You can bring FMJ ammunition, but just realize you will be staring out behind the power curve. I suggest at a minimum 50% of the OTM type, then the remaining of the FMJ type. This will ensure you have plenty of OTM ammunition to zero and familiarize at the different known ranges. Then use the FMJ for all close in work where precision is less of an issue. One thing I strongly suggest is knowing the muzzle velocity for your rifle with the preferred ammunition. While manufactures will provide the tested muzzle velocity it is unlikely it will match your rifle, the most obvious being barrel length. There are some decent online references to help narrow it down. In a pinch, you can use as a rough estimate of a 25fps decrease of for every inch decrease in barrel length. The last thing to consider if you bring different ammunition is the shift in point of impact. Know where each projectile will impact at certain distances. If you use FMJ for the close range drills be familiar with the shift in point of impact. They can be marginal and depending on the target demand have little impact.

Math is Hard, Calculators Help

While not mandatory, a ballistic calculator or application is strongly suggested. There are a couple of good ones and I’ve been using iSnipe for over a decade. What these apps allow you to do is develop a more precise understanding of your rifle’s characteristics with all the variable you will face. Being able to exploit the information to better understand your maximum point blank range is integral part of being a rifleman. Because we are looking at a 300yd. and in learning your holds is important. Luckily they are not too extreme and a good technical reticle will be hugely valuable. If any variable changes you can see how severe the change will affect your ballistics. Whenever I travel to a new location the first thing I do is input the conditions to see how much it affects my zero. With my rifle zeroed and confirmed at home I can get insight into how the new conditions will affect my performance. In particular is the maximum point blank range. I’ve learned that some locations have had little impact on my PBR, while others I had to re-zero to ensure the best performance.

As you get ready for the upcoming class or just want to better exploit your rifle consider the information outlined in this article. It all starts with a reliable and accurate rifle. A 2MOA capability is plenty, it will always rest with the shooter’s marksmanship. From there consider aftermarket accessories to improve precision such as drop in triggers and good slings. Decide whether to use a RDS or LPVO and which ever one you use opt for the smallest dot for day time or close range shooting. If you are going to invest in an LPVO make sure you understand all the features available and make sure they meet your needs so you are not paying for something you don’t need. Ammunition will be your next biggest investment and invest you should. Go with the heavier bullets of an open tip match design. Then purchase as much as you can afford. Keep the surplus in a cool dry place and confirm your zero every chance you get. Start playing with ballistic calculators to become more familiar with ambient conditions that can adversely affect your performance. At the end of the day, shooting at distance is costly. I find being able to hit at extended distances a huge asset and I’m willing to pay the toll. Hopefully you will find the same satisfaction I feel when pushing myself and gear to the extreme.

Performance Degradtion


Going Down Hill…Fast

How much time off does it take to see a meaningful degradation to your developed skills? How much can you get away with before the detrimental effects cost you in performance?

Hard Work Pays Off

Practice, practice, practice

Something that is not often talked about is performance maintenance. Specifically how much maintenance needed to sustain your current skill level. Whatever the skill level it will require effort proportionate to the skill level. Consider these two parts to this equation. The first and hardest part is acknowledging you will have to continue to put in hard work. This is sometimes difficult to convey to the masses. Nothing is free and if you worked hard to develop the skill, you will have to work equally hard if not harder to sustain the skill. The second part is how hard do you need to work to sustain the skill. I often associate this with what is the intensity and frequency of my practice needed to sustain a specific level.

Forced Time Out

I voluntarily took some time off from training recently. All training; shooting, lifting, grappling and striking. I wanted to enjoy the holidays and figured I deserved some time off. Then I got ill and that added more time off than I expected. It was about six weeks off completely before I got back to the range for some live fire training. The results were more than disappointing. They were shocking. At least to me. I saw a noticeable increase in my failure to meet minimum standards on baselines. These are simple drills used to evaluate a battery of skills. Every now and then I will fail a baseline drill, but the failure is a rarity. In this case, I failed on over 70% of the drills I shot.

Acceptable Levels of Failure

Honestly, I was expecting a little dip in performance, but I definitely wasn’t expecting such poor results. It wasn’t only on my first trip back to the range, but the next couple before I started to see my skill level normalize. When you see performance drop after an extended absence what can you expect? Well, at the very least the same if not worse. The hard part is being able to put some concrete numbers in place to help people appreciate this situation. When you take time off for whatever reason it will have negative effects on your performance. Again, the question is how much and is that still within acceptable limits.

A Journey of Discovery

This means you first have to establish some baseline standards. I suggest at least a half dozen different drills. Drills of various tasks, under various conditions to various standards. You need a broad scope to truly appreciate your hard work. From there, you want to experiment. What happens when you take two weeks off, 3 weeks off and 4 weeks off from training of any kind to include dry fire. If you are still able to pass your battery of baseline drills with up to 4 weeks off that signifies you have a well adapted set of skills. Truthfully I see that in a very small segment of the shooting population. The vast majority will see poor results within 2 weeks of no training.

The Hourly Evaluation

Something to think about is the details of your journey measured in hours. The more hours of formalized training/instruction you have under your belt, the more likely you are to sustain longer droughts. An example would be if you are an elite level shooter, then with 6 weeks off due to an injury or illness you can probably expect to shoot at the advance level when you return to training. Most would agree that advance level shooting is more than adequate to meet many of shooting standards and therefore not a significant penalty (other than to the ego). Now, if you were to consider a basic level shooter who takes off 2 weeks can probably expect their shooting skill level to be at the beginner level when they return. Which is one of the reasons we see so many students who fail to break the basic level.

Experiments Are Fun

I conducted an experiment where I took a 12 month period and partitioned it into 30 day segments of training. The first 3 months were a combination of dry fire and minimal live fire. The next 6 months were dry fire only and the last 3 months were back to dry fire and minimal live fire. When I say minimal it was no more than 50 rounds of ammunition. What I discovered was dry fire did indeed help me not only sustain my performance, but actually improve by a few percentage points. The reason I bring this up is if you are not going to routinely live fire train, then at least setup a consistent dry fire routine. The benefit of investing in a consistent training plan is to help bridge the gap when life makes it hard to practice. Most take for granted the challenges of sustaining their hard earned skills. Don’t be complacent or at the very least acknowledge your likely skill decline.

The next challenge is in trying to assess the different skill levels, not by achievement alone, but by how hard to maintain. What I have discovered is that

The Importance Of Failure

Failure 1

Failure Is Sometimes An Option

Don’t think for a moment that I haven’t failed, whether in life or on the firing line. Believe me, I have learned the importance of failure since I have failed more times than I can count.

Understanding The Lesson

I’m okay with the vast majority of my failures because I choose to look at them as lessons. The hard part is really listening to what the failures tell us. When I’m coaching students during diagnostics the first question I will ask them is “what did they feel.” I’m not asking about their emotional condition, I’m asking them to listen to their brain and body to understand the importance of failure. What did they tell you about the last shot or evolution. This is probably one of the hardest concepts to get across to students. That it is okay to fail and in fact we should fail often. As long as we are willing to look deeply at the failure and try to understand the lesson.

Fast Failures

We place a high premium on repetitions to help students learn new skills. I ask students to move at a speed they can think their way thorugh the drill. When we approach the target, I ask what did they feel. My hope is they were paying attention and can gleam something as a result of their slowed processing speed. This doesn’t come easily to many so my philosphy is to fail fast. What I mean by this is the faster we can fail, the quicker we can learn. It boils down to being able to perform the same drill or relatively the same drill over and over to the point you start to pick up on the micro level details. By quickly getting to the failure point we are able to make a mental jump to the learning point.

Healthy Risk Taking Is Good

Failure 2
Failing fast and failing forward are good

With the idea of failing growing more comfortable, we start to shift our mental focus to more about how does this failure lead to success. That leads us to a failing forward mentality. This allows students to embrace their own learning cycle. Some will learn faster than others, requiring less mistakes. Others will take more mistakes to truly begin their learning cycle. Nothing in this world will be achieveable without a little risk taking. There is a balance we all need to seek, right at the point of healthy risk taking. You have to be comfortable taking these risks so you can experience the lesson they provide you. There is a big differnce between letting loose in a semi-controlled manner to complete choas and unsafe.

It Boils Down To Failing Often

Adults learn differently. They have several self-imposed barriers that prevent them from reaching new levels. Failures impact us twice as much as successes. Which is why as humans we are happy staying in our comfort zone. The thrill of victory pales to the agnony of defeat. There is little gained by staying in your comfort zone. Life is best experienced on the edges. In our classes there are standards all must achieve. What so many students don’t learn until it is too late is the importance of failure. To fail early, fail fast leading to failing forward. My biggest advice to new students or even returning students is to go slow and fail often. These are the two most vaulable traits a student can bring to a class.

Getting to the point of getting comfortable being uncomfortable has taken me years to master. But, I feel the most alive and accomplished when I’m outside my comfort zone.

Weight And Its Effect On Performance

Light Is Right

There will always be a tipping point, where too much of a good thing can be bad. One scenario I have paid more attention to is with rifles; their weight and its effect on performance.

It’s Always About The Ounces

Ever since I can remember, there has always been an association with lighter being better. Again, not a blanket statement you can easily make when you factor in durability and reliability. The lighter option may not have the ability to take higher use. I saw this first hand in my military career when we were always trying to shave ounces off our gear. Having to carry the weight is one thing, having to fight with the weight is a completely different story. You feel its effect most often in a negtive manner. But, there was always the need to have a high reliability on the gear we used so it still had to be tough. Flash forward to modern times and you can still see a similar trend.

If You Know, You Know

We have a rifle weigh-in at the beginning of our rifle classes. What we are doing is collecting metrics to compare with performance. Do we see a trend of heavy to light weight rifles effecting shooting performance. By shooting performance we are talking about scores and overall final grade. Generally speaking the lighter the rifle, the higher the chance of passing the class. There could be a lot of different reasons for this trend. Maybe it has more to do with the end user understanding the idea of minimizing his loadout to the bear necessities. Someone with this mindset, might already have the prerequisite skills to be an above average shooter. Their marksmanship skills are tied to the idea of understanding performance.

Define The Mission

When we see rifles weighing more than normal, does it help or hurt the student’s performance. In general, weight and its effect on performanceit has hurt their ability to score high or achieve a passing grade. While we have only been collecting the rifle’s weight and its effect on performance for about three years, it does illustrate a belief that I have had for as long as I can remember. Having a light weight rifle with the minimum gear necessary to complete your mission should be your top priority. This goes further into defining your mission, specifically the mission of the rifle. Here is where we see many folks make mistakes. Without having a weight metric to include with their decision making matrix this very important point is left out. When you start to get into the weeds you have a better chance of identifying your needs more clearly.

Needs Vs. Wants

Define the mission for your rifle. For the vast majority, the rifle will fullfil an urban defensive mission. The range to target in these self-defense shootings will be close. What you need, versus what you want are two different subjects. When you start adding up all the accessories are they offering you advantage, a force multiplier. Or are they just there as a decoration. I refernce decoration for a lot of add on’s because most truly have no real need for some items. But, just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean you don’t add them on to the rifle. If you do, how will it affect your performance. Rather than tell you what you need, I will provide you some observations as it relates to the overall weight of the rifle unloaded.

What Is The Magic Number

Rifle Weigh-in 2
Nice, optical weight

I have found if you can keep your rifle to 8 pounds or less you are heading in the right direction regarding weight and its effect on performance. While I’ve seen rifles much heavier in our classes, the scores were also lower. I’m not saying don’t add to your rifle, but before you do ask this question. How will this positiviely and negatively effect my performance. If the added weight is going to push you over that 8 pound mark then you have that information in advance and make a more informed decision. Does the percieved advantage outweight the added weight…literally. Here is what we typically see on rifles in our classes that come in at the 8 pound mark. They are a light weight rifle to begin with, with some type of optical sight, usually a red dot sight with back up iron sights. They are all equiped with a sling and some have a weapon mounted white light. We will see short barrel rifles come in much lighter and when we add surpressors they typicaly come in a bit heavier. If you can combine the SBR with suppressor you get the best setup regarding weight.

Of course, you can still use a heavier rifle. You can build up a tolerence to the extra weight and to some extent bring balance to the equation, but always consider if it is a want versus a need.

The Sloppy Shooting Grip

Not Every Drawstroke Will Be Perfect

At some point, everyone will experience a drawstroke that produces what I call the sloppy shooting grip. The purpose of training is to develop the skill to produce an optimal shooting grip during the drawstroke, but what do you do when it doesn’t.

It All Begins With The Grip

For as long as I’ve been carrying a handgun I’ve preached about the importance of obtaining a crush grip. The crush grip begins with the handgun in the holster. Regardless of the holster’s location on your body, it is imprerative the grip on the handgun while still in the holster be the final firing grip when on target. There are a lot of variables at work durning a drawstroke. Such as, are you open or concealed? Are you standing or sitting? Are you dynamic or static? Every one of these variables can negatively impact the precision with which you grip the handgun. The more precise you grip the handgun, the more likely you will be precise with your aim, with your trigger control and with recoil control.

There Is No Doubt

The question about what to do when you get the sloppy shooting grip is the one we try to answer with redirects or avoidance. What I mean is when you get a sloppy grip the response in turn is “don’t do that” or “grip it correctly”. While I agree those are correct, they don’t deal with the immediacy of the situation. Should you be called upon to use your handgun in a defensive situation and you get a sloppy grip what have you done to prepare. Like anything in the world, if something can go wrong it will go wrong. If the possibility exist you can get a sloppy grip as a result of some of the variables discussed earlier then we need to have a plan. The plan is more about how to deal with the sloppy grip in real time.

You Might Want To Take A Split Second

When we talk about the sloppy shooting grip I break it down into either a catastrophic or workable. A workable sloppy grip means it is something I can improve. I can take a split second to adjust my grip or improve it’s positioning over its current state. It may not be perfect, but it was better than it was when I started. This happens a lot during the drawstroke with subcompact handguns. It is already hard to get a good shooting grip on the smaller handguns because they lack surface area. Add a little speed, concealment and or pressure and it can go sideways real fast. What I have discovered is that by developing a master shooting grip with my compact or full size handguns it has taught my body and specifically my hand how to grip. Over the years, my fingers and thumbs just move to the correct position and apply pressure. When I get the sloppy shooting grip with a subcompact handgun it is usually as I attempt to clear the holster. From there, my hands naturally want to adjust and I just let them. The result is an improved shooting grip that is more than adequate for the scenario.

Dirt Diving Is Fun & Beneficial

Things are a little different with a catastrophic sloppy grip. This means that I will not be able to improve the grip without taking additional remedial action. It could be a result of clearing the cover garment. The hand gets snagged requiring you to adjust your grip completly to free your hand to obtain your shooting grip. Another example might be bobbling the handgun during the drawstroke. It may actually slip or partially slip from your grasp. If you are injured and physically cannot obtain the normal shooting grip I would also consider this catastrophic. Our goal should be to avoid the catastrophic grips and adapt to improving the workable grips. Sometimes working through a few possibilities is all it takes, we call this dirt diving. You discover simple, yet effective ways to avoid or manage through this process. They are taught as contingencies in our curriculum.

While a slopping shooting grip is not ideal, it is not the end of the world. There are little things you can do to adapt and still achieve the desired outcome, effective fire to stop the threat.

3 Tips For Shooting Snubby Revolvers

Shooting Snubby Revolvers 2

Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute To Practice

The trick to backup guns is being competent enough to use them well when you need them the most. That takes hard work and discipline, but using this 3 tips for shooting snubby revolvers well will speed up the process.

Shooting Snubby RevolversThe Close Range Pickle

The first thing I discuss with anyone considering carrying a snubby revolver is do you plan on training. If you don’t, that’s cool, but it might not be the saving grace you thought. On the one hand, they are easy, but on the other, they are hard. What I mean is should you resort to drawing your snubby revolver, chances are you are in a pickle, but it is a close range pickle. So, marksmanship requirements may be less stringent. Plus, the added benefit of contact shots with a revolver can sometimes be reason enough to consider. This by no means is a pass on your shooting skill, you will still need a high degree of controllability to continue to deliver effective fire. It is controability you should put the lion’s share of your training for shooting snubby revolvers.

Perfecting Your Firing Grip

The first tip is to really look at your grip. While it is very possible you can retrograde a semi-automoatic grip to work with a revolver, you would be wise to avoid this temptation. If you are thinking it helps maintain continuity it really doesn’t. What you get is added exposure to injury and poor grip mechanics. While there are some that can shoot these well using their auto grip, they are anomiles and not the norms. Positioning on the available real estate is critical. You have to take up as much useable space, beause you don’t get that much. From there, it’s all about the friction. The more friction you can achieve the better it will help control recoil. I use an over thumb grip, but I do it slightly different than most. I literally point my thumb’s tip downwards. Most don’t get a fully downward pointing thumb, it is more angled. Not terrible, but it doesn’t allow me to take advantage of tip number two for shooting snubby revolvers well.

Shooting Strong Hand Only Provides Gifts

I subscribe to a reverse thumb grip. It is reverse in the sense, my weak hand thumb rests on top of my strong hand thumb. Because I pointed the tip of my strong hand thumb downward there is somewhat of a shelf formed by the second digit. This shelf allows me to rest my weak hand thumb more securely allowing me to apply grip pressure more evenly and consistently. Speaking of grip pressure, I apply inward pressure with my pinkies of both hands. It is very similar to my auto-grip, but not with the same grip force. I make up for it a little by applying pressure downwards from the weak hand thumb. This process produces a firm and secure grip capable of rapid fire. The bonus is when you shoot strong hand only, pressing the thumb down and pinky inwards produces great results.

Downward, Not Rearward

The last tip is the direction of the trigger finger’s movement. Contrary to the norm, I squeeze more downward than rearward. It seems odd, but the curvature of the trigger makes me change the movement direction slightly. Since it is nothing more than a lever and I want maximum leverage making this change helps. As the trigger moves rearward, the angle of the trigger’s face changes. I want to press more downward than rearward once it reaches the apex of it’s movement. It is subtle for sure, but it has made a difference for me.

I do value what a snubby revolver offers me in the form of a backup gun. I carry them more frequently currently than I have in the past partly because I have made huge strides in shooting them well using this tips.

Seeing The Sights…For Real

Eye dominance

Don’t Worry About Cross Eyed Dominance

I have talked about this subject in the past, but the whole cross eyed dominance thing is not a thing. Don’t worry, when you close the other eye, your dominate eye is the one still open.

Cross Eye Dominance

Disparity in Eye Strength

Too many times I will get the question about eye dominance. Most of the time people are surprised by my answer. While some people make it out to be a thing, it really is not. I get why people have been lead to believe it is an issue. It sounds a little scary when someone says you might not be able to see your sights. Even then, the only reason someone might suggest you continue to shoot with the other eye is the same reason we use to tell people they need to move the gun to the other side. I know many students who back in the day were told to learn how to shoot on their other side when the instructor found out they had a disparity in their eye strength.

Red Dots On Rifles

We have come a long way with so much innovation in equipment. Now, we have some pretty cool sight systems. When red dot sights first came into the picture on rifles so many cross eye dominate shooters were cured. The moment they could look through the optic their brain was able to see the dot and everything was good to go. As I studied why so many shooters were finding it easier to see the dot with the rifle on their right side it occurred to me the majority were right handed. It was more comfortable to shoot on their truly dominate or strong side. As more and more red dot sights showed up in rifle classes we saw this phenomenon more and more.

Unnecessary Movement Under Stress

The problem was compounded with handguns because we didn’t have red dots on them or for defensive use. They were still not on the radar. The traditional sight picture was confusing the brain and mixed messages were being created as a result. The solution was to shift the handgun to align with the left eye and point the chin at the crock of the strong side elbow. This technique would basically shift everything so the shooter could see their sights with their “dominant” eye. This worked wonders for so many people, family members included. The problem was how unnecessary all this extra movement was on top of the precision you needed to perform this extra movement. With these added variables it meant the likelihood one or more not meeting a minimum performance standard. When they failed to meet that standard, the chance of you not seeing the best sight picture was higher.

Simple Solutions To Complex Problems

Unless you are placed in this situation it is really hard to understand the challenges. Again, I totally get what people say when they express their frustration. I am not cross eye dominate, my right hand lines the gun up in front of my right eye. How is it I can speak with such authority on the subject then. Simple, when I shoot on my weak side I am now a cross eyed dominate shooter. Or maybe not. Because I believe it is essential any firearm instructor be able to demonstrate from both their strong and weak side it was something I had to over come. How did I overcome the cross eyed dominance issue. Simple. I closed my right eye. This allowed the gun to line up on my left side in front of my left eye. Problem solved.

What Happens In Reality

Some will mention there is a hole in my theory. You cannot expect to close the non dominate eye in a gunfight. Yeah right, but you think you will move the gun to the opposite side and turn your head away from the threat. Doesn’t make much sense when you think of it this way. When you can keep the gun in front of the eye on the same side as the gun you will be much better off than the alternatives. I continue to work off my weak side and I continue to apply this technique. It works, and is so much easier than the alternative. You may struggle closing the eye at first and if so, I suggest investing in a second pair of shootings glasses. Cover the weak side with painters tape to obscure your vision. While not the best solution it gets you going in the right direction.

There are plenty of challenges many new shooters experience when first starting out. Don’t overly complicate or confuse them with unnecessary technique.

Trident Concepts
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