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

Holsters

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.

Power Athlete Episode 419: Packing Heat w/Jeff Gonzales

GUNZZ! If you’re following one of the Power Athlete Training Programs we know you’re packing heat in the ol’ humerus holster but what about your 2nd Amendment arms? Firearms expert, Jeff Gonzales [@jl_gonzales] joins The Crew to discuss some fascinating aspects of Force Science. Learn how to spot telltale characteristics or people who are up to no good and how you should react accordingly. Maintaining vigilance is not confined to those in law enforcement or the military. Jeff predominantly works with civilians who are seeking to refine their firearms expertise and build on their situational awareness.

The Beginner’s Curse

What Value Do You Offer Your Students

Over the years I have trained thousands of students. The most valuable skill I can offer is not some super secret or high speed technique, it is nothing more than the fundamentals and it is these fundamentals that create the beginner’s curse.

What Is Mastery

The biggest challenge any instructor has is in their efficacy for behavioral change in their students. Students bring a lot to class, they can be motivated, ready to learn and physically active. Or, they can be none of those. It doesn’t matter because your charge is to train them in whatever skill set and skill level they selected. When I look at the effectiveness of my curriculum I’m looking to see how well we produced the desired result. The best results have always come from our insatiable drive to focus on the fundamentals. While many things have changed over the years, this philosophy of minimalism has stood the test of time. When I reference a minimalism philosophy what I mean is strict adherence to mastery of the fundamentals and nothing else.

Don’t Do Things To Delay Mastery

Here is the hard part as an instructor. Sticking to your guns. If you believe mastery of the fundamentals is what the student needs, then deliver it in the best way you can. The problem is when the student who is nothing more than a customer wants something that might be considered excessive, unnecessary or down right silly. What i can lead to is weak fundamentals or what I consider the most overlooked key. Delayed mastery. Folks wonder why mastering something is so difficult. The act or skill itself may not be difficult, but the difficulty comes in the form of time. The time it takes to master is whatever it takes to master. There are no shortcuts. There is simply working hard to perfect the fundamentals. When a student gets wrapped up in current trends, new equipment or even sophisticated or overly complicated tactics or techniques they fall victim to the beginner’s curse.

Quality Over Quantity

Beginner's Curse 2
Discussing common mistakes with a student

Whether a beginner or elite, the fundamentals do not change. The steps that make up a skill are still the same. The steps did not disappear, they became effortless to the elite and that’s the difference. But, when you begin your journey it is easy to fall victim to the flash and hype to the beginner’s curse. It is human nature. You have identified a goal and now just want to get to that goal faster. I get it and have been there myself. The harsh reality is will take time, lots of time to master a skill. The secret to mastering the skill is wanting to master it in the first place. If you are not committed to mastery, you will never achieve mastery. I don’t think it is fair to state mastery will be achieved within a set time period. Whether it is 10,000, 1,000 or 100 hours what makes the difference is your dedication to the practice. I would rather have 100 hours of high quality practice versus 10,000 of low quality practice. If I can add a feedback loop to those 100 hours to help ensure each one is achieving the very best outcome that is even better. Then, take what I have discovered in my 100 hours of deliberate practice and share it with friends, families or peers. Being a “teacher” teaching someone what you discovered in your 100 hours is hugely valuable. What ties all of this together is those 100 hours were focused on mastering the fundamentals. Let that soak in because that is the most important sentence you will read.

I love the idea of mastering a skill, it is a drive that pushes me to be the very best. No matter the skill, mastering the fundamentals is the number one goal. Everything else is a distraction.

An Honest Look At Knives

The Untrained Knife Attacker

Do you understand the use of a knife from both the defensive and offensive side. Have you had an honest look at knives and how the are used against you in an attack.

A Better Understanding

There are many martial arts and specitilities within the edged weapon field. I’ve been fortunate and honored to have worked with many of them. Some to a simple familiarization and others to a more intimate understanding. The most valuable take away I can offer for all of them falls into two categories. How to implement the sharp edge of the blade in the most effective way and the human body’s vital anatomy relative to slashes and stabs. This mere knowledge has provided me with the means to select the best tool, the best method of carry and the best method of use to fit my needs. I enjoy carrying a knife, have since I was a young kid. I have been intrigued by them and their use, but it wasn’t until I was an adult I better understood them.

Safety Starts With You

Here is a major take away from all that knowledge, someone is going to get cut. If you play with knives enough you will probably get cut on accident or worse intentionally. It’s important you have a healthy respect for their damage the same you would with a firearm. Statistically, more people are injured or killed with an edged weapon of some sort than firearms. Some are accidents, others are not. Like firearms, safety begins with you. Don’t draw your knife unless you intend to use and don’t use a knife when another item will do a better job. Be mindful of your surroundings and familair with the knife, how it opens and closes or is sheathed.

The Typical Path Of The Blade

In a self-defense setting we will more than likely be in a reactionary mode. Meaning, we will be responding to our attacker and thus be behind the power curve. A drawn blade is going to be faster than trying to draw a blade or any other tool. You have to recognize the danger of this situation. What and how do you need to prepare. Simple things like how is your attacker holding the knife? Is it point up or point down? This can go a long way towards understanding how they will attack. The vast majority of knife attacks are stabs or thrusts, generally to the midsection. This is very valuable information  since it tells us the general direction the pointy end will be traveling. No matter how much knowledge you have with knife training if you try to exchange stabs for parries or blocks, you will eventually get cut or worse stabbed. Many stabs are quickly recocked and perfomed in rapid succession multiple times. Your best option is to be outside the range of the contact weapon or at the very least place an object between you and the attacker.

Signal Of Impending Attack

Another conern you must be aware of for the previous tactic to be valuable is a high percentage of attacks occur where the attacker will acquire a grip on you with their free hand. This grip, whether your arm, hair or clothing makes it hard to break contact, but it also gives us a heads up on their intentions. While the knife may be drawn, it is the grasping with the free hand that can signal the impending attack. All the more reason to stay out of range. An honest look at knives means not letting them grab you. It will go a long way to not getting stabbed. At some point you begin to apprecaite footwork and quick footwork at that. Moving is critical to your surviaval.

One And Done

What if you cannot move, what if you are channalized or in a confined space. Don’t let them grab you for one. Block all those attempts first and foremost. Eventualy, you will need to confront the live blade. It is by no means simple or easy. Any thrust or stab will come at you fast and if you cannot move your feet, then at the very least try to move your torso. At the same time consider the same side hand defenses. If they are using their right hand, then your left hand would be same hand. Inward parries combined with outboard movement of the torso can create empty space in the knife’s path. But, here is the kicker or small print. You will probably only get one attempt.

Incapacitation Is The Goal

All of those words to say this. An honest look at knives would be produce two options. Don’t be there, so if you can escape it would be your go to move. If not, then moving your vitals away from the blades path would be your next. So, how do you end the attack if you are not attacking, what is your secret weapon? Incapacitation. You have to get it in your mind you have to deliver rapid and accurate blows to soft targets. Injury is good, but incapacitation is the goal. If you parry with your left, then a cross with your right might be all you got. Where do you aim? The chin, the jaw, the throat? What will genearte the most likely outcome you are looking for – incapacitation?

It is going to be ugly, watch any of the hundreds of CCTv videos if you need convincing. Once you get past some of the first obstacles you quickly realize your best defense is not to be in that situation in the first place, but if you are then a few simple tips might make the difference.

Access To Your Firearm Under Pressure

Winston Churchill

The Bad Guy Gets A Say

There is a belief that all you need is a fast drawstroke to stop a threat at close range. There is truth in this view, but it is also less than half the story when you realize access to your firearm under pressure is not nearly as quick as you might think.

It’s All About Balance

One of the great fortunes of being involved in combatives from an early stage in my career was I didn’t have any illussions about what worked and what didn’t work. Playing both good guy and bad guy were almost required to truly understand the balance. The balance I’m referring to is when your opponent is off balance, they have very little success completing their origianl task. This didn’t matter what role you were playing, it was something equally experienced by both sides. This is a huge take away, it says that you must maintain your balance at all times and work to disrupt your oppenents balance with every move.

Action Versus Reaction

Most folks are thinking, how can knocking someone off balance be so valuable. What I’m referencing is not soley about your equilibrium, or the distribution of weight. The balance I’m referencig has a lot to do with your thought process. When we look at one of the most dangerous situations we could face, it would probably look like an ambush at close range. Even worse, would be extreme close range. Sometimes words don’t help paint the picture and we need to assign some measurements. Close range to me is defined as any conflict where the opponent(s) are within five yards. Extreme close range is within a double arms interval. That means if both the good guy and bad guy extended their arm forward the finger tips would touch. At this range it is not about how fast you can draw your gun. It might seem that way, but no matter the situation as a private citizen you will always be in a reactionary mode. Meaning, the bad guys is going to say when.

You Can Touch Them

Why is this important? Because no matter how fast your drawstroke, at this range it is a low probability outcome action when access to your firearm under pressure. Meaning, the liklihood you will be able to out draw his action of drawing a gun or thrusting a knife is often not realistic. Add to the equation, that each sitaution will be different and it makes it far less realistic. Instead, you need to consider how to disrupt the balance to shift the reactionary gap to your side. In my experience, the best way to do that is injury or incapacitation. At the extreme close quarters you as the good guy have one advantage, if they can touch you…you can touch them.

Further Disrupting Their Balance

Striking is not your only option of course. You can attempt to jam up their drawstroke, either through fouling their firing grip or locking the gun in the holster. Both of these are sensible options, but a lot of times to be effective you will need two hands. A natural reaction from your opponent is a reflexive counter. Nothing fancy or taught, just a recognition their action is being impeded and they must do something. That something is simple, use the other hand. So, while this action can sometimes open up a window it is not a guarantee. When both hands from your opponent are occupied trying to complete the original task, you now have the option of disrupting their balance through strikes. Think of it this way, you want your first strike to be effective. If it is effective, you have an even better chance of recocking and landing additional strikes, each further disrupting their balance.

Think of disrupting someones balance not the mere act of shifting their weight, that is a huge part. Disrupting their balance is also about knocking their cognitive weight out of alignment.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England

Being A Monster

Being A Monster

The Good Side To Being Dangerous

Years ago, I participated in a conversation with some truly amazing men about being a monster. In this conversation, the goal was to describe a being so terrible nobody would every choose to confront them or if they did, pay seriously for their choice.

Men Need To Be Dangerous

Years later I would discover the renowned author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Having read most of current literature one passage that always resonated with me was his discussion on being a monster. The idea is men are dangerous. They need to be dangerous to protect their families, to provide for them to mentor them into adulthood. Men need to be dangerous. Dangerous is often associated with negative connotations. I choose to look at dangerous in a positive light. It has been a central tenant to my being since as long as I can remember. It has driven me to be competitive, to be tenacious, to take risks, to fail and fail often with the explicit purpose of trying again and again…to never quit.

The Razor’s Edge of Control

I like this metaphor, but there is a down side to all the glory that comes with being dangerous. The ability to be in control. To live on the ragged edge of control. It is inspiring and horrifying at the same time. But, this razor’s edge is the precise reason mankind has continued to be the dominate species on our planet. It hasn’t always worked out in our favor. It has produced war, crime and violence. These are the negative by products to being a monster. But, it takes a monster to defeat a monster. It is when you lack control, when you react rather than respond. When you allow feelings and emotions to govern your being you are not in control.

You Need The Monster

Being A Monster
We Need Monsters To Fight Monsters

A growing trend in our country is the taming of the monster. It comes in all forms, from the cancel culture’s male toxic masculinity to male shaming to lopsided court systems. My response to these and other attempts at taming the monster is simple, pack sand. These types of agendas are driven from one source; fear. It is fear, cowardice and timidness that drive these and other stupid agendas that aim to tame the monster. I say this loud and clear, you will never tame the monster. You need this monster, you want this monster for the simple reason evil exists. You are so afraid of this evil that you must drag others down to your level because you know one thing is for certain. You are an easy target of evil and that scares you to death. If you can bring more would be targets into the field you stand a better chance of surviving.

The World Needs Monsters

Right now, more than ever we need monsters. Monsters who are in control at ever corner. Monster who are dangerous and know it, but yet still live life peacefully. We are the best at defending our way of life, our beliefs and our families. When it comes to defending liberty the monster is your ace. We have tried to soften the monster, by feeding it vegetables, body shaming those who are muscle bound, trying to take away our claws (guns & knives) and telling us we are wrong in our thought process, that our sound strategic and tactical thinking is wrong. They will attempt with their shrill words to emasculate the very nature of monsters because it benefits them. We need monsters to raise monsters, strong, kind and virtuous young men to protect our way of life.

The truth is and shall always be we need monsters. Terrible, ferocious and unrelenting monsters that love, teach and ensure our species will survive (the monster species).

Three Subcompact Shooting Tips

Shooting Subcompact Pistols

Shooting A Subcompact Pistol Hard & Fast

I love shooting demonstrations in classes, especially with subcompact pistols. I typically share three subcompact shooting tips to help improve your performance on this tiny blasters.

Get Stronger, It Fixes Most Problems

Shooting Subcompact Pistols Well
Heavy Farmers Carry

Nothing in this world is free. You have to pay in some way, shape or fashion. If you want to shoot subcompact pistols well you will have to improve your grip strength. There is no getting around this through equipment or after market modifications. There is no averting this fundamental truth, just get stronger. Grip strength is one of those subjects talked about a lot, but not often in a manner that produces results. Avoid any flexing and extending exercises for high repetitions. Instead, you want exercises focusing on isometric tension. Since this most closely resembles shooting when applying and holding a crush grip. The biggest mistake I see in shooters who want to develop their grip strength is relying on hand grip strengtheners as their sole means of improvement. While they can help to build the strength in your overall grip, we want to hold onto to something with a powerful grip for an extended period of time. My personal favorite are heavy farmers carry, but with a twist. Pick up something with a handle, then point your trigger finger straight down. Carry the item for distance, then switch hands or carry two at the same time. Over time, this will help you to clamp down on your grip versus milking your grip.

Get As Much Friction As Possible

While most subcompact pistols barely fit into the average size person’s palms you still need to obtain a solid firing grip. Start by identifying the five points of contact, then ensure you occupy as much surface area as possible. Using an in-line thumb grip gives you the best access to the pistol’s surface area. Your goal when shooting subcompact pistols is to create as much friction as possible through your grip. With the short frames many are tempted to use pinky extensions or extended magazines. Using these for your reload magazine is no problem. Part of the reason you are carrying a subcompact is the reduced profile for optimal concealment. Adding length to the frame produces more you need to conceal. Instead, curl your pinky finger underneath the base of the magazine. Take it one step further and press the tip of your pinky finger into the palm of your hand while applying your crush grip.

Take It Slow, Concentrate More

The last thing to do is slow down. These subcompact pistols are not as forgiving as their full size counter parts. The extra weight and size of larger pistols allow the average shooter to get away with less than ideal technique. Not the case with the subcompacts. You need to concentrate on slowing down in two major areas. The first has to do with obtaining the optimal firing grip. If you take a little bit more time in the beginning to ensure the best grip it will pay dividends when shooting subcompact pistols in rapid fire mode. Then slow down your shooting. Take more time to align the sights. Many subcompacts come with a poor sight system so sighting errors can be compounded. Slowing down your trigger management will also allow you to work with the suboptimal triggers usually found on the subcompacts.

Practice Drills For Peak Performance

When it comes down to performance evaluation I typically run two drills. The first drill is a Bill Drill where I fire six rounds total in rapid fire mode. I fire these from the 7-yard line as prescribed, but I do it versus a six inch target with six second par time. My goal is to be sub-par with 100% accuracy. To do this drill well you have to focuses on a solid, crush grip. Decent recoil and trigger management will net you a passing score. Then for accuracy, I take the subcompact pistol back to the 25-yard line and run a TRICON bullseye qualification. This is five rounds in ten seconds for score versus a bullseye target with 80% as passing. Both drills allow you as the shooter to gauge your skill level and focus on where you need the most practice.

I love shooting subcompact pistols and they offer many people who would not normally carry concealed the option due to their size. With a little practice shooting them well is easily achievable.

Dry Fire Effectiveness

Dry Fire Practice

Have you ever wondering the effectiveness of dry fire practice.

Like many people these days I have implemented a more dedicated dry fire program to augment my live fire training. In this process, I have discovered a few positives and a few negatives about dry fire effectiveness.

Does Dry Fire Really Work

First, let me tell you about my experiment. I dry fire a lot already, but to be honest I haven’t thought to evaluate whether it has a positive effect on my live fire performance. It became obvious I would need a means to validate my belief dry fire is helpful. I have talked about dry fire in the past and I know it is heavily recommended to many shooters of various skill. The real question is has anyone done anything to provide tangible results on this recommendation. How do we know it really does produce results.

What About Those With Skills Already

Dry Fire PracticeMy approach was pretty simple, but not easy. As I mentioned, I currently dry fire practice a lot. What is a lot, how do I define a lot. It averages about 100 minutes a week. Family and travel can impact my weekly quota, but in general its really close. One could argue that I already perform too significant an amount of dry fire to evaluate whether it has a good or bad effect. This could be true, but one other element to consider is sustainment. Does dry fire work at sustaining current skill level. Is is an effective replacement to live fire training for the maintenance required to sustain your skills. With an already establish routine I can say it did make it somewhat easier, but I still needed a method to measure and track my progress.

A Battery of Tests To Evaluate Dry Fire

There are a few commercially available dry fire tools you can purchase. Many of them claim to be the answer to your shooting problems, but at best they are only one piece of the puzzle. The question is how big a piece of the puzzle. This question will revolve around your perceived return on investment for dry fire effectiveness. For this experiment I purchased the Mantis X dry fire module. Then I needed a means to measure live fire performance. I could have picked a single shooting drill, but to do so would have been too narrow in scope. Both for this experiment and in real life. No single shooting drill is an adequate measurement of overall skill. Instead, I used a battery of drills to test and evaluate on a much broader scale. I shot them all cold and recorded the scores before I started. I took all of them, seven in total and averaged them for my overall score. Having so many measurements seemed good, but it also opened the door to a single poor performance having a negative effect on the overall score. But, isn’t that why I’m dry firing in the beginning.

Breaking Down My Experiment

In an effort not to jade my live fire results, I did not practice the selected tests during dry fire. Aside from it being very hard to do this, I did not want to show bias to these drills. I have been conducting this little experiment for a while now. Here are some initial observations. I say initial because I don’t think I’m ready to complete this experiment. I feel like more time is needed to gain any useful information. However, here is what I can tell you now. Yes, it does help. I started out establishing my baselines then put my professional development on the back burner.  I wanted any live fire training to be evaluated for this experiment. That was harder than expected for a lot of reasons. Performing demonstrations in classes is live fire practice, however I do it in a manner than is not 100% authentic. Meaning, I explain the drill as I’m shooting the drill or illustrate high points for students. Then there was the aspect of worrying I would let my skills degrade too much. Since I had no idea if this would work, did I want to risk loosing too much of my skill set. I feel and the results show I’m at the very minimum breaking even.

Dry Fire Observations

After the baselines, I took a hiatus on my professional development for six months. The only live fire I completed was for this experiment. I then performed dry fire only for the first three months. This gave me a chance to let the dry fire routine get established and what I hoped was enough time to allow my live fire skills to be more authentically evaluated. The last three months I went to the range to retest my baselines. My score for the first month was a 3% decrease from my baselines. Then the second and third month I saw 5% and 4% increases respectively. Not the huge numbers I was expecting, but it does lend credibility to my notion as a valuable tool for sustainment. I’m thinking I will do another three months of live fire retesting then take the final three months off and perform dry fire only. See if there is anything significant to report.

Overall, I’m happy with these results and while 5% may not be a huge return on my investment it is at least safeguarding my investment. I will look forward to seeing the results at the end of another six months.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Sometimes, the barrier to progress is you. The ability to self-sabotage is way more prevalent than you might think on the firing line.

Know Thyself

It is always interesting to take the 1,000 foot view approach in classes. You have the opportunity to observe a group of people all participating in the same evolutions, following the same instructions and performing to the same standards. Yet, we have varying degrees of outcome. There is no such thing as equality of outcome when it comes to physical performance. There is the ability to learn and apply only. The better you learn, the better understanding of the actions required. However, the real challenge is not in understanding the task at hand, it is understanding yourself.

Avoid The Dark Path

All things being equal, it boils down to ego, failure to follow instructions and the inability to choose success. Many times I see students who are graduates of other formalized schools show up with terrible skills. The notion goes something like this; I attended this school, I observed my performance amongst my peers and I was near the top of the class. Ergo I must be a good shooter. If this notion is not challenged early on it leads to a dark path. One where the shooter doesn’t put in the work, will make excuses for poor performance and fails to hold themselves accountable.

It’s Good To Be Hardheaded

Humility is one of the most important traits one can have in any high risk endeavor. Respect for how little you might actually control or the realization you don’t control as much as you thought. If one can see this, then one can see the importance of recognizing what is within your control. Which really is just you, your tools and your preparation. This level of understanding can be quite liberating. It can create a sense of intense purpose or determination.

Being Ready to Learn

I have seen students with virtually no formalized instruction make huge gains and those with a fair amount stagnate. A major difference is how well they can follow instructions. When an error is discovered the action is the result of doing something wrong or not right. You can park yourself on the shooter’s shoulder and tell them over and over, but until they can follow the instructions for correcting it may be an effort in futility. In these situations it might prove more valuable to identity the error through the rounds on the target. I explain to the student when they see rounds in this sector what the probable causes are and what they should do instead. After having heard me say it to them a few times they often can start to see the error in real time. Then I typically will step back. I allow the student to experience the corrective strategy first hand because now they are better prepared to “see” for themselves. They become the custodian of their skill development.

It doesn’t happen as quickly as I would like sometimes, but it does produce results. Something as simple as following instructions at the cellular level can be challenging for the majority of us, myself included.

Trident Concepts
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