Basic Range Equipment…

Recently I was asked for some suggestions regarding solid range-practice-level holsters and mag pouches, and it occurred to me that given the HUGE range of possibilities now available via the internet, it might be a good idea to actually quickly discuss “suggested” basic starter equipment for handgun technique practice.

Couple of comments, first:

  • The ones I’m about to suggest are not the only possibilities out there–there are PLENTY of other perfectly reasonable holsters and mag pouches by many perfectly decent manufacturers that would work fine.  These are simply ones I’ve found to be durable, reliable, and economical for basic solid range practice.  That doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t be good also.
  • The equipment listed here is meant for basic range practice–meaning that they aren’t optimized for carry, competition, military training, LEO duty carry, or anything like that.  The point is to get a solid reliable holster and mag pouch setup so that shooters can go to the range and work on their technique without either paying a ton of money, or having to deal with poor quality and unsafe equipment.
  • At some point in time, if you plan on getting good at competition shooting or plan on concealing well for carry, you are going to have to buy other equipment, and practice with it.  However, starting with basic range gear to get yourself competent FIRST is a good idea, hence this list of suggestions.

So, equipment needed for good technique practice:

  • Gun
  • Magazines
  • Eye/Ear Protection
  • Holster
  • Magazine pouch

Gun: up to you, though you might take a look at one of my prior posts about How Do You Learn to Shoot and my thoughts on appropriate firearm choice when you are trying to learn good technique.

Magazines:  Most guns come with 2 (though sometimes small guns only come with one).  Truthfully, you probably want to get yourself 5 or 6 magazines for any gun that you plan on shooting very much.  Because A) shooting one mag at a time gets very old, B) you should practice reloading and that is easier with more than two mags, and C) like any other physical object with moving parts, mags are subject to wear and tear and they give out.  (And if you have a revolver, get yourself 3 or so speedloaders.)

Eye/Ear Pro:  I assume you don’t like the idea of being blind or deaf.  ALWAYS wear eye/ear pro while shooting.  For ear pro, good electronic ear pro is now available for reasonable prices and it is REALLY handy to have on the range.  Dampens out loud noises but amplifies quiet stuff so you can shoot without damage and talk without yelling.  Regular glasses are not good eye protection (they don’t wrap around enough, nor do they normally cover high and low enough), and sunglasses normally aren’t much better–and certainly aren’t rated for impact.  Buy (and wear) actual shooting eye protection that has at least an ANZI Z87.1 rating.

Now to the parts that most people really care about:  Holsters, and magazine pouches.

With respect to basic range practice (actually everything, but especially basic range practice) I’m a BIG fan of kydex.  Thin, lightweight, durable, easily molded to specific firearms, if it gets dirty you throw it in the dishwasher—kydex holsters are simply the easiest way to get a solid economical holster for practice.  My top two suggestions for your first basic range practice holster:

CQC1) Blackhawk Standard CQC (Sportster) Holster:

This is NOT a SERPA holster.  Retention is passive only.  Normally comes with both paddle and belt attachments, left or right hand, large range of gun possibilities, covers the trigger guard, passive retention is adjustable—just a great range holster.  (And when I started competition shooting, I used one of these for several years.)

Note:  Link given is just so you can look at them.  Once you know if you want it, check around for the best prices.  However, $22.45 is hard to beat…

KydexPaddle2) Uncle Mike’s Kydex holsters:

Similar to the CQC above, comes with paddle and belt attachments, large range of guns available, etc.  In my opinion, not quite the quality of the CQC, but still a perfectly decent holster, and under $30 is a good deal.

Edited later to add:

3) Blade-Tech Revolution Holster:

Someone just pointed out to me that the Revolution holsters are good choices too, and I had missed that—I have a number of Blade-Tech holsters, but none from the Revolution series (and the other series cost more, so it hadn’t occurred to me). The Revolution ones, however, are excellent holsters and only a couple of bucks more than the two above. (Look on Amazon for better prices, oddly enough.) Comes with both a paddle and a belt loop attachment, like the two holsters above.

That’s it, really.  Sure, there are plenty of others out there—but most cost more money, and either don’t give you anything more than the above two, OR are for more specialized circumstances.    If you know what you want, that’s one thing, but if you are just looking for a holster to use for technique practice at the range, or are just starting to learn in the first place, the above two holsters will do everything you need in a reliable fashion without costing much.

One negative mention:  Don’t buy a Fobus holster. No matter how good of a deal it seems to be.  In my opinion, they are just about the worst holsters out there.  Material is substandard, connection from pouch to hanger (belt or paddle) is weak and breaks easily, retention is normally something that requires a winch to get the gun out of the holster, and I’ve never seen one that actually covered the entire trigger guard like it is supposed to do.  Truthfully, any time I see someone with a Fobus holster I assume they really don’t know what they are doing and have a weak grasp of firearms safety.  That may be unkind of me, but….it’s been pretty true so far.  (If your response was “Well, maybe they didn’t know any better!” I will agree, but if they have to full-arm-yank the gun to get it out of the holster and it doesn’t cover the trigger guard BUT THEY DON’T MIND, then their grasp of firearms safety needs work.)

Sorry if that hurt anyone’s feelings, but if you use a Fobus holster you should REALLY think about whether or not it is a good idea.

Now, that being said, let’s talk about magazine pouches:

351493For starter pouches, I think the Fobus mag pouches are some of the best deals out there.  Specifically, the belt (not paddle) basic double-mag pouches.

Generally, for under $30 you can get a double-mag pouch that will fit your magazine type, and it’ll work (and wear) perfectly well for standard range practice.  If you want single-mag pouches, or don’t mind spending a little more, Blackhawk makes decent double-mag pouches also.

For a bit more than that, you can get Blade-Tech mag pouches (double or single) with Tek-Lok belt attachments, which are nice.  However, those cost a little more.  (Similarly, Blade-Tech makes GREAT range/carry/competition holsters, but again, they cost more.)

For most folks just starting on draws/reloads/transitions–solid handgun technique practice on the range, I just normally say get a Blackhawk CQC Standard holster, a Fobus double-mag pouch, buy a good thick leather belt from Walmart or Target (don’t need to spend the money on a real gunbelt yet) and about 5 extra mags.  Plus a lot of ammo.

That’ll get you what you need to get better.  Later, when you ARE better and have a more precise idea of what you want/need for what you plan on DOING with your firearm (carry/competition/duty) then you can spend more money on something quality in that area.

Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part IV, The Reload

There are a number of different ways to perform a reload, and a number of different reload “types” that people perform.  Administrative reloads, speed reloads, emergency reloads, tactical reloads, reload-with-retention, slide-closed emergency reloads…

…in the end, they are all about getting ammo back in the gun and being able to shoot it again as fast as possible.  (Well, except for the admin reload. We are going to ignore that, however.)

There are already a number of videos out there that show how to perform various types of reloads, and we don’t need another one.  Instead, as is normal in this series, this video will talk about some of the most common errors people commit in their reloads, and show you how to fix them.

Don’t forget to keep your finger pinned to the frame or slide while performing your reload, and don’t put it back into the trigger guard until you have the gun pointing on target and you plan to fire.  Even if you screw everything else up, get the safety part correct.

Oh–and don’t reload sideways.  STAHP.

DON'T DO THIS!

DON’T DO THIS!

Posts in this series:

“Instructor Bob teaches a great class!”

Periodically on the web (whether on Facebook groups or internet forums) someone asks the dreaded question:  “Anyone know a good [various-firearm-topic] instructor around here?”  (It is just as much fun as when someone on a gun forum/facebook group asks “What gun should I buy?“)

…after which tons of people chime in with their favorite local guy.  Often, said chiming includes comments like “class was fantastic,” “learned so much,” “best instructor around,” “an awesome instructor who cares about his students needs,” and “they’re good people and know their stuff.

The question is, why are you trusting these people’s opinions?  Do you know them?  Are they knowledgeable about the topic, enough to be able to tell the difference between a good instructor and a bad one?  Have they had previous classes to compare to this new one?

Or is their opinion based merely on the fact that they enjoyed the class, or that it seemed really high-speed/low-drag, and it was cool?  Or that the instructor was really nice and personable?  He/she was convincing?  They had a really good line of talk?

How do you know that what you learned in the class was decent?  Was correct?  Was relevant?

Lately I’ve seen several unrelated people (I assume unrelated?) tout firearms training classes for a local group that is known to be unsafe.  Not merely slightly unsafe, but “not wearing shooting glasses while standing in front of the line as people are shooting” unsafe.

Actual “people pointing guns at each other’s heads in the classroom during dryfire practice” unsafe.

People are saying “These were great classes, the instructors are really knowledgeable, great material, learned a ton!” about these classes–and I think that from a safety perspective it is the worst class I’ve ever seen.  I have no idea what was taught in terms of technique (though from some of the shooting stances shown in their website’s photo gallery, I’m thinking they don’t teach anything well) but if it was on par with their safety training, I expect that their students will be missing the target by miles and shooting each other every time they are at the range.

If a person has nothing to compare it to, if they have no prior experience or information basis–then their opinion really doesn’t tell you anything other than whether or not the class was fun and they liked the instructor.

While those things are important, what is MORE important is whether or not the class curriculum, and the ability for the students to learn the curriculum, was any good.  Was it realistic?  Correct?  Based on facts, not opinion?  Taught in such a way that the student could internalize the knowledge and retain (and perform) the techniques?

“He teaches a great CCW class—I learned so much about shooting!”

…really?  In Nebraska, at least, what you should learn MOST in the state-required CCW class is about the LAW, specifically regarding use of force.  The class itself only covers the most basic elements of actual shooting technique–and if you only spend 6 hours on the whole class, you don’t have time to teach much more shooting technique than the basics if you want to do a good job covering the curriculum you are required to teach.

So the person may have enjoyed the class, and learned a ton of stuff–but was it the material they were supposed to learn?  Was it the material they actually paid to learn?

When asking other people for opinions regarding instructors, take pretty much everything with a SERIOUS grain of salt.  (Or more.  Like “the Dead Sea” more.)  You should pay most attention to people who have experience in classes of this type, with experience and information about the topic being taught.

The following picture was used as part of a slideshow on the CNN website about teachers who were taking CCW classes to potentially be armed in the classroom.

Poor Teaching Happened Here!

Poor Teaching Happened Here!

Considering the grip she is using, would any knowledgeable shooter think that the class she just took was any good?  Obviously not.  But I’d bet (considering this was her idea of a good pose for a picture after the class) that she’d say it was a great class.

You shouldn’t pay attention to people who gush “It was great!  I loved it!” because WHO KNOWS what that opinion is based upon.

And, of course, my personal favorite:  “This class was taught by the best instructor in the area!”  Really?  You’ve taken classes with every instructor in the area?  You actually have the basis for that comparison?  Have you even taken more than one class?

People who say stuff like that?  Please stop, at least until you have enough knowledge to make a comparison to a class that had a good curriculum and was competently taught.

People who are reading stuff like that?  You are going to want to disregard those, and look for after-action reports or class evaluations from people who actually know what they are talking about.

Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part III, Safe Gun Handling

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day.  My friend is a USPSA Chief Range Officer, and over the course of her time as an RO and CRO, she has run literally thousands of shooters through various courses of fire.

She said something that I agree with completely:  “Within a few seconds of them drawing their gun from the holster at Make Ready [when the competitor can draw their firearm, make ready, and prepare to start the course of fire], I already know how good they are going to be–and how safe they are going to be.”

Pretty much every experienced range officer in the action shooting sports will say the same things—the minute you touch your firearm, we can see what sort of gun handling safety habits you practice.

Or don’t practice, as sometimes is the case.gun-safety-training-stupid-gun-safety-training-demotivational-poster-1266003554Hence, this video:  the third in the series of Fundamental Gun Handling Skills, this time on SAFE GUN HANDLING.

I originally made myself a couple of notes about the four main things I wanted people to work on for safe gun handling, got in front of the camera, took some video, went home and edited it–and realized the video was almost 20 minutes long.  The more I talked, the more I remembered safety issues and EXCUSES I’ve heard over time from people attempting to justify their unsafe actions.

  • “This is the way I was trained!”
  • “It isn’t loaded!”
  • “It wasn’t really pointing at you!”
  • “I haven’t had any trouble doing that before.”
  • “No one ever said it was a problem!”
  • “My finger was off the trigger!”

…and of course my all-time favorite (and yes, I’ve actually heard this one) “I know what I’m doing, this is REAL self-defense training.”

I don’t know about you, but I consider self-defense training “real” when it also teaches me to NOT SHOOT MYSELF.

So I went back to the studio and tried to just pick the main things, the most important things, the things that will hopefully make the MOST difference in terms of safety.  And I managed to get the video down to 10 minutes.  It still is pretty long for a YouTube video with some guy just standing there talking at you, so I’m pretty sure most of the people who really need to watch it (and take it to heart) probably won’t do so.

But I tried.  So here it is.  It isn’t everything you should do, there are plenty of other things I could have said, plenty of other habits of good practice I could have included—but I tried.

Make safe gun handling something you do automatically, all the time, without fail.  Make it such a habit that if you do something UNsafe, it will feel strange and wrong, and you won’t like doing it.  That way, under stress when your brain isn’t working right—you WON’T do it wrong.

 

There is so much more we could say.  But if nothing else, if people would just keep control of the gun with their strong hand, keep their finger pinned to the frame/slide when not actively shooting, and control their muzzle, that would be GREAT.

ALL THE TIME.

Posts in this series:

Hey, Special Snowflake!

A little while back, I got sent a link to this article ( Why We Suck ) discussing beliefs, training, and practice.  It resonated with a couple of things I’d been thinking recently (based on someone telling me that since they’d been carrying for awhile they didn’t need a scenario-training class in CCW) along with some other articles by Claude Werner and the Defensive Daddy which resulted in this post.

So here you go.  Some truth you probably don’t want to hear:

You aren’t a special snowflake.

If you aren’t a competition shooter, then you probably aren’t as good at shooting as you think you are. (If you are a competition shooter, that doesn’t mean you are automatically good—but it DOES mean you probably have a pretty good idea of how good you are.)

If you’ve never done scenario training, then you probably aren’t as good at self-defense as you think you are. (If you have done solid scenario training, that doesn’t mean you are good at self-defense–but it DOES mean you probably have a pretty good idea of how you will react in stressful situations, and how quickly things can occur.)

Special Snowflake
For some people (a small small tiny few), this won’t be true. But for most people (and yes, this means you no matter how much you think you are the Special Snowflake that is one of those small few)–if you’ve never actually done anything that forced you to perform under stress and had that performance critiqued and compared to others, then you really have no idea how good you are.

And most likely, it isn’t nearly as good as you think.  Matter of fact, it’s probably pretty bad.

Don’t believe me?  Okay–actually put your Dunning-Kruger-ed self out there and find out.  Shoot a Steel Challenge match.  Shoot a USPSA match.  Take a scenario training class.  Take a force-on-force course.  Put yourself on a timer, and find out if that “fast draw” of yours is actually what anyone ELSE would call fast. Try to hit those 8″ steel targets at speed from 20 yards. What you learn will be important.

Maybe you’ll learn that you really ARE as good as you think you are.

More likely, maybe you’ll learn that if you want to actually be able to defend yourself and your loved ones, you’d better practice, because you aren’t nearly as good as you think you are.

And isn’t that something you’d like to find out BEFORE it becomes important?

Everyone thinks they are above average, everyone wants to be the Special Snowflake that really IS that good.  Well, chances are you aren’t.  And if you haven’t tested yourself, you have no way of knowing.

Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part II, The Grip

One of the things I tend to see quite often from people who “already know how to shoot” is a poor grip.  Whether that grip was “learned” from movies, TV, a family member, “this really good shooter I know” or whatever I have no idea, but often it is simply a bad grip.

Having a good grip is very important in terms of shooting well.  Sure, it is possible to be both accurate and fast with a poor grip.  However, it is highly UNLIKELY, and chances are you simply can’t do it.  And more importantly, you won’t be accurate when it is incredibly important such as when you are using a firearm to save your life.

The problem is, it seems so simple that many people don’t think about it–which means they simply do it wrong.  Now, there are a number of versions of a “correct grip,” and while in my video I suggest a specific one, I do talk about how there are several variations on it. As I say, the correct grip for you depends on your hand size, grip strength, firearm choice, and grip dimensions and shape.  The grip I suggest in the video can be easily modified based on those variables.  (And if you can’t make it work—probably that gun simply isn’t for you.  There are physical limits, and if the grip needed to be fast and accurate exceeds them, it simply isn’t going to work out.)

Outside of those variations, there are unfortunately a number of other grip types that are simply very WRONG–so if you are using a teacup grip, a wrist support grip, a grip (on a semi-auto) where your weak-side thumb is wrapped around the back of the gun, or a thumbs-locked-down grip, then I’m afraid that yes, you are doing it wrong.

DON'T GRIP LIKE THIS!

DON’T GRIP LIKE THIS!

The good side is that you will be able to increase your shooting ability significantly merely by fixing your grip.

 I meant to only have this video be a couple of minutes long, but the more I explained the details, I more I kept remembering all the questions, complaints, and “explanations” I’ve heard for other grips over the years, and I wanted to make sure I addressed at least some of those.

Having me just say “do this because I say so!” isn’t really convincing.  So, I wanted to talk about WHY a proper grip makes a difference, and why improper grips cause issues.  As such, the video ended up rather longer than I originally meant….hopefully it keeps your attention well enough to be useful.

(Note:  this video isn’t about your stance.  We’ll get to that one later.  This one is simply about how you are holding the gun in your hands.)

Posts in this series:

Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part I, The Draw

We’ve decided to start a series of short Fundamental Gun Handling videos on YouTube, with the idea of pointing out some of the most-common errors we see (and their fixes!) with respect to the fundamentals of gun-handling.

We posted the first video today, and it is about the draw–specifically, how to make sure you aren’t using a fishing draw or a bowling draw.  (Go to any range, and you’ll see numerous examples of both of these things.  Makes any competent shooter cringe.)

As is probably obvious, I shot this really quickly when I had a free 30 minutes before teaching a class, my voice isn’t working properly, and obviously I had no script and was doing it off the top of my head.  [sigh]  Hopefully, it still makes sense–and most importantly, I hope that the FIX for bowling and fishing draws is clear.

Don't go fishing!

Don’t go fishing!

No bowling!

No bowling!

It really is simple—snap your wrist up to point the gun at the target immediately after the gun leaves the holster.  That’s it.  So quit doing bowling draws or fishing draws!

Get that gun pointed at the target right out of the holster!

Get that gun pointed at the target right out of the holster!

More videos to come, with hopefully good content on fixing fundamental gun-handling skills.

Posts in this series:

Changes in PRT Classes, and the 2015 Schedule…

Well, it’s a new year, so of course we’ve got some new things going at Precision Response Training

First off, some good news: For the past couple of years there has been a lot of requests for more short seminars–so that’s what we are going to do.  We’ve started by scheduling three in the first half of the year, and we are planning on at least two more for the remainder.  The topics for the first ones are already set, but while we already have some ideas in mind for the last two, we will entertain suggestions–so if there is anything in particular you want to do, let us know!  (Seminar dates:  Mar 28, Apr 25, May 09.)

Second, as we’ve been teaching the Handgun Techniques and Shooting Skills courses, we’ve found that not only can they be taught at the same time, but also that the people who have signed up for fundamentals analysis (Shooting Skills) could have significantly benefited from some dryfire instruction on technique prior to the live fire section of the class like what happens in the HT course.  In many cases, we see that with a short amount of dryfire work prior to the range time, we could have shortened the time for the improvement process on specific fundamentals.   So—the Handgun Technique course and the Shooting Skills courses have been combined into a single 1.5 day course.  The initial evening will be dryfire in the classroom to work on specifics of fundamentals, and the next day will be on the range the entire time.  (This hasn’t changed for the HT students, but it does add some good dryfire work for the SS students.)

Third, we have put up the schedule of classes for PRT courses through May.  While we’d LIKE to be able to offer a CCW State course every month, we have a limited amount of time and we’ve decided that our other courses are more important–because you can find CCW courses all over the place (and if you can’t take mine, among others I recommend Chris Zeeb at Nebraska CCW Training) but you can’t find our Handgun Technique/Shooting Skills, CCW Lifestyle, or Defensive Tactics/CQT courses anywhere else.  (Though I have been amused at how several other trainers locally have added practical CCW courses scenario training and other aspects of the CCW lifestyle since I started teaching my course. And suddenly CQB-with-combatives have appeared, too. Hm.)

Lastly (here’s the bad news) due to changes in available resources and general costs, I’ve had to raise a few of my class fees.  Seminars are now $40, HT/SS is now $145, and the CCW Lifestyle and Introduction to Handgun courses are now $95.  For those last two, I kept them ridiculously cheap as long as I could (truthfully, $85 is a stupid amount for me to charge for a 1.5 day course in which I have to buy required student packets plus use a huge amount of equipment plus supply ammunition for all students) because I feel that people need VERY BADLY to take those classes.  And I haven’t changed the cost much–only $10 more.  But that SHOULD help me continue to be able to offer those classes because I’m not losing quite so much money on them.

So, get yourselves to the PRT Schedule/Registration page, and sign up for some classes!

Schedule for Jan 2015 – May 2015:

  • Feb 07:  CCW Lifestyle
  • Feb 28:  CCW State Course
  • Mar 13-14:  Introduction to Handguns
  • Mar 28:  Pistol Skills Seminar
  • Apr 10-11:  Handgun Techniques/Shooting Skills
  • Apr 25:  Competition Seminar
  • May 09:  Tactics Seminar
  • May 30:  CCW State Course

(I’ll be adding more details about the seminars later this week…)