Before I start this, I should say:  If you are a shooter, please introduce other people to the fun of shooting.  Depending on the person, discuss self-defense, or hunting, or competition, or the crazy society of fun people who like to turn money into loud noises.  As people in the gun culture, the best way to help people understand us (and value the things that we value) is to take them to the range and make sure they have a safe and fun time.  An amazing number of people who are “against guns” really aren’t–they just don’t know anything, so their opinions are biased by what they see and read.  If you take them to the range and show them gun safety, plus they have fun—almost always, the gun culture gets a new convert.

Have you introduced someone new to shooting yet this year?  Not yet?  You might think of making that a goal—one new person every year.  If that seems too easy, try three new people per year.

It’ll make a difference, especially if we ALL do it.  That being said…

My last post (with the various range stories) also brought to mind one of my other perennial annoyances–namely, the number of people who attempt to “teach” other people how to shoot.  Badly.

“Teach” is in quotes for a reason.  I’m a teacher.  And when I say that, I don’t mean I happen to teach people (though I do), I mean that I’ve spent time learning about teaching modalities, about learning principles, about learning methods.  I’ve had education, training, and practice at effective teaching, effective communication, and encouraging learning engagement.  I’ve been getting paid for teaching SOMETHING since 1989.  I’m a science teacher, a martial arts teacher, and a firearms teacher.  I’m not just a trainer, I’m not simply an instructor, I’m a teacher.  (And whenever I’m in a class, I can’t help but critically examine the teaching ability of the instructor, separate from whether or not I’m getting anything good from his class.  I just can’t help it.)

So when I see some idiot who shoots incredibly badly themselves, who has no concept of firearms safety, and who has a completely inflated (and incorrect) view of their own skills and knowledge, “teach” someone completely new to shooting how to handle firearms, it drives me nuts–particularly when they set up the new shooter to be humiliated.

Which means I get driven nuts on a fairly continual basis.

Go to YouTube and do a search on “first time shooting a gun” and take a look at what people are being taught.  We get videos of people falling over, people screaming, people hurting themselves, pointing guns at other people—you name it, if it involves poor gun handling, you’ll see it.

Just a few examples, right off of that first page of search results:

— I love how at 0:38 he completely sweeps the camera person.  (Don’t tell me the gun was empty and locked back.  I don’t care.   And since he initially couldn’t even tell that it was locked back, it isn’t like we should trust him in the future to “only” flag people when the gun is “empty.”)  And he isn’t even the first-time shooter in the video!  (His grip is bad, too.)

Of course, then at 0:42 we find out that the first-time shooter was standing BEHIND HIM HOLDING A HANDGUN the entire time.  With a loaded magazine in it, apparently.  But I’m sure that someone will say “It was okay—there wasn’t one in the chamber!”

Hey look, she is holding a loaded gun with a teacup grip, no eye protection, and THEN he tells her how sights work.  Great idea!

After she jumps a lot, which is apparently really funny to someone, I love how “aim a little lower” means that she raises her head to look down the gun more.

None of this is her fault.  It is completely the fault of the people who are “teaching” her to shoot.  They did a great job of inflicting a completely horrendous flinch response into her shooting, that’s for certain.  “She’s flinchin’ less each shot!”  Yeah, right.  (Plus, you know, they are ignoring how her grip changes from bad to worse as time goes on.)

How about this one?

His comment in the description of the video:  “Like most she seemed pretty intimidated…”  —well then maybe you should have taught better, instead of just throwing a gun at her and saying “it’ll be all right!”

Or do people really think that starting by handing a loaded weapon to someone, and then telling about the controls, the sights, and how to pull the trigger is a good idea?

I also love how at 1:18, once he has the safety on, he puts his finger on the trigger as he is explaining the gun to her.  Even better, at 1:30 when she is getting ready to shoot, she holds it in an old-style revolver grip (thumb over strong hand) which will eventually give her serious slide-bite—and he doesn’t say a thing.

Even in the cases where the new shooter DOESN’T have a safety issue, they still aren’t being taught anything resembling decent technique.  Let’s take the first video that shows up in the search:

Starting with safety: no trigger finger discipline (it gets mentioned, but he isn’t doing it), no eye protection, no ear protection initially, guy in the background right on the 180 is oblivious to what is going on, kid given a loaded pistol before they have even been taught about sights, guy watching doesn’t seem to be wearing ear protection (and isn’t wearing eye protection)…

Technique-wise:  poor stance (looks like a combination of Weaver and rifle shooting, what with one elbow bent and the other stuck out sideways), poor grip (what is that? you can see he can’t hold onto the gun during recoil), trigger control isn’t too bad, but there is some jerking which is bad since he is shooting single-action already, so the trigger shouldn’t be that difficult–and he lowers the gun and looks at the target immediately after each shot.

None of that is the shooter’s fault.  And I’m glad that people are teaching him how to shoot, and how to handle firearms.  It would just be nice if people would teach them something RIGHT about how to handle firearms—both in terms of safety, and in terms of technique.

(That last one wasn’t nearly as bad as the others, I’ll note.  At least the kid didn’t feel like he was being made fun of, nor did he seem to feel scared of the gun.)

If you are going to introduce someone to the fun of shooting, please don’t start by making certain that they’ll be scared of guns for the rest of their lives, that they’ll feel humiliated, that they’ll feel like the whole thing was you playing a prank on them or making fun of them.  (For example, don’t do this: Woman gets hit in head with handgun. Yeah, that’s just hilarious.  Really.  That’ll teach her.)

Teach them gun safety.  Let them work with an unloaded gun, and get familiarized with the controls.  Start slowly and easily, to get them used to it.  Set up targets that are not “gimmes” that have no value, but neither should they be impossible ones—so that if they perform the fundamentals correctly, they’ll hit the target—and feel accomplished (as well they should) for doing it.

If you spend the time laughing at them, you will have made the gun culture an enemy.  Don’t do this.  If they are are laughing at how much fun they are having, and afterward they ask when they can come shoot again—you’ve done it right.

Do it right.

Because I’m curious—does ANYONE think that these sort of videos help our cause?

Collection of stupid people making girls look like idiots, and scaring them off guns forever

Yeah, that’ll convince more people to be on our side.  Well done.

If you are one of the people in the videos I referenced—I assume that you put them on the YouTube for the world to see. And the world being what it is, people are going to comment. If you feel like I’m criticizing you—well, I am. If you know guns, and you like guns, and you want other people to know and like guns, then please teach them correctly so that they don’t shoot themselves or each other, AND so that they can continue to get better and aren’t hamstrung by poor fundamentals.

I’m not saying you are a horrible person for not teaching correct gun safety.  I’m not saying you are a horrible person for teaching poor technique.  I AM saying, however, that you aren’t helping the person you are trying to “teach” if you show them poor technique and your practice lacks safety habits.  If you don’t agree—that’s up to you.  I can’t help what your opinion is, or whether it agrees with mine.

And, after all, I’m not the guy that demonstrates keeping his finger on the trigger when not shooting, nor am I the soon-to-be-deaf guy that shoots without hearing protection, nor am I the guy who swept everyone in the video.

My students don’t do those things either, by the way.  I wonder where they picked up those good habits?

Targets—size DOES matter…

This is not the post (referenced in the last entry) “in which I completely agree with [John] about how “chasing the timer” is a bad idea, and offer some suggestions for pistol shooters in terms of how to maximize their ability curve while using a timer.”

I’ll get to that one later.  In this case, I need to vent about something I saw at the range this past Sunday.  And have seen in the past…

John Wallace, in his series of posts on “Things to Consider Before Chasing the Timer,” started off by commenting about targets—specifically, that “If you train for these small presentations, or “worst case scenarios” then you are prepared for them, as well as getting sure hits on the idiots who stand in the open (giving you full presentations).

He also commented that a number of people practice on huge, open targets.

I was at the range the other day, and observed one male individual “teaching” a tiny woman  how to shoot a handgun.  He was there in his 5.11 pants and operator polo, full war belt (including multiple pouches and a huge drop bag) with a drop-leg holster.  (She was wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops.)  I’m not sure what the gun was as I was quite a distance off, but it looked like a regular full-size handgun.  (I hope he wasn’t teaching her on a .45 or a .40, because I could see that this was probably the first time she had ever held a handgun.  Of course, he wasn’t actually fixing anything about her stance or grip, so maybe it wasn’t her first time and she’d been shooting with the leaning-back stance and teacup grip that he had taught her for quite some time.)

The target was a full-torso, full-size silhouette.  It literally was larger than the woman.  And it was placed all of 5 feet in front of her.

A year or so ago, I was on a bay practicing my transitions, and monitoring a couple of people who were with me working on their basic accuracy.  A couple of guys drove up, and started to unload their gear on our bay.  There was a discussion about that, and after the RO had a talk with them, they decided to wait until we were done.  (They did say the famous line “You are doing that competition stuff, we are practicing for COMBAT” which they thought excused the fact that one of them swept all of us as he walked up to our firing line swinging his handgun in one hand.)

As we were leaving, I saw them setting up a target approximately 10 feet in front of the shooting table (in a 50-yard bay).  It also was a full-torso, full-size silhouette target.  As I watched in fascination, they began shooting slow fire (resting the gun on the table between each shot) while sitting at the table.

My personal favorite, however, is the guy who brought his girlfriend (wife? not sure) out to “teach her how to shoot” (I will explain why I keep putting those all in quotes in a different post).  He took one of the range barrels, placed it 12-15 feet downrange, and commenced shooting at it to (and I quote) “show how it’s done.”  (No, he didn’t staple a target to it.  The barrel itself was the target.  At 15 feet, tops.)

I wish I could give you that quote in the self-satisfied tone in which he delivered it.

We then had a little talk about shooting the range equipment, and he decided to stop.

Why do people think that shooting at huge targets helps them at all?

When I teach someone completely new to shooting, I start with a standard-sized paper plate at 15 feet.  Using a .22, a newbie to shooting can quite easily get all shots on a paper plate if they are taught correctly.  After that, we move to 12″ steel plates at 10 yards—which they can ALSO do perfectly easily.  (And everyone loves hearing that “ding” of a hit.)

The target is big enough so that with a modicum of discipline, they’ll hit it every time.  At the same time, it is small enough that they actually have to use correct fundamentals to get those hits, plus they can work on shooting groups smaller than their target.  (I realize they can do that on any target, but if the target is huge and irregularly shaped, it makes it harder for new folks to actually center a group in the middle of the target.)

Why anyone would start a newbie on a huge target at such a close distance that hits are meaningless is beyond me.

And as for experienced shooters—WHY?!

Yes, I do occasionally practice on open targets at 5 yards—but that is when I’m timing transitions (and shifting gears) from near to far targets.  Or working on correct gears for draws to close targets versus far targets.  Or working on shooting on the move and finding the correct movement speeds at different target distances.

But when I’m practicing 1) the fundamentals of accuracy in a direct, singular fashion, or 2) self-defense related drills and scenarios, a wide-open target at close distance simply doesn’t make me any better.

Sure, it is interesting to see how fast you can get your draw-to-first-shot from concealment.  But once you can do a consistent 1.0 second draw on the upper half of the lower A-zone of an IPSC target at 7 yards, there are other drills that will be more useful to your self-defense ability than working on cutting that extra .15 from your draw in a very unrealistic scenario.

Sure, in real life often you really DO get an open target in citizen self-defense situations.  However—sometimes you don’t.  And even if you do, a peripheral hit most likely won’t stop the attacker.  Using minute-of-IPSC-target as your accuracy level simply isn’t good enough.  And if you are disciplined enough to practice in the first place, perhaps you should practice on targets chosen to increase your skills.

I’m not saying you should only practice shooting dimes at 10 yards.  (Though it is true that periodically, working accuracy on 1-inch dots at 3 yards, then 5 yards, then 7 yards, then 10 yards if you manage it, REALLY teaches you the importance of front sight focus and trigger control.  Or it gives you practice at dealing with a lot of frustration.  Or both.)  But instead of open targets, overlay a credit-card-sized box on the head as a brain box, a 2-inch column from the brain box down to the upper thoracic, a 4″ square centered at the height of the top of the heart, and force yourself to hit it every time.  Have one day be a “headshot-only” day.  Put targets far away.  Turn targets at an angle, and add a line of tape showing where the hardcover blocks any hits below a certain point.  Make the target something that requires you to shoot well to hit it.

If all you do is practice on the easiest target possible, well—-at least you are practicing.  But if you have the discipline to practice in the first place, use targets that actually help you get better.  Yes, you should periodically use targets of different sizes and shapes, some of which should be full-size.  And yes, you should periodically use target distances of different ranges, some of which should be nearby.

However—for the most part, you should practice on targets that match (or slightly exceed) your current skill level.  So quit using easy simple targets that don’t help you get better.  You are practicing to increase your skill, not merely make yourself feel good about your 0.85 draw and 0.14 splits on a 3-yard open target.