Web Blast: A Different Twist On Training

Connor’s List Of Recommended Reading

By John Connor

From The September/October 2008 GunCrank Diaries Column

The first of two related themes in dozens of your e-mails goes like, “Wow, do I envy you the training you’ve had!” Dudes, if you only knew how much I envy the training many of you have received.

See, like many others, I feel like I got shanghaied into being a trainer long before I was sufficiently trained myself, and then my duties became so esoteric and specialized so fast I’ve never had time to “back up and catch up.”

You could divide my working life into roughly four interwoven pieces: Military and law enforcement, with those two split into foreign and domestic. Ninety percent of the training I’ve done has been either “pre-school rudimentary” for “indigenous personnel,” or high-speed low-drag shock & awe stuff. For a while I was even an “appointed expert” on Soviet urban combat tactics. I taught those to both U.S. and foreign troops, adapting some for training American metro SWAT units.

The experience has left me qualified to teach ex-and-future goat herders the basics of sight picture and trigger squeeze, and team tactics on clearing stairways, stairwells and blindwells with smoke, gas, automatic weapons and novelty pyrotechnics.

Folks, this ain’t the kind of training you — or I — need for confronting a prowler in your kitchen or surviving an ATM stickup. If you go everywhere with three or five heavily-armed commando pals, I’m your man. If you want to serve bench warrants on felony fugitive gangbangers, I can help. Otherwise, well, read on.

Your second recurring theme tells of your lack of bucks and time to get away from home and business to attend appropriate training at a reputable facility. Many of you, up to your ears in kids, second jobs and coaching Little League can’t even get out to the range to pop some caps as much as you’d like. What to do, you ask? First, let me tell you, munchkin-wrangling, paycheck-earning and being a Solid Gold Spouse is the greatest, most honorable calling given by God or man, and then, be glad we’re living in the Golden Age of “remote training!”

Gun crank

Books & Movies

Clint Smith and I don’t travel in the same circles, but I’ve come to know and respect his training through both his articles and DVDs. My first “animated” exposure was when I picked up Streamlight’s two Thunder Ranch Illumination Systems — the TL-2 based handgun system and TL-3 based Urban Rifle setup. Both come with excellent DVDs on use of tactical lights, and now, his six double-DVD training sets from — guess who? — FMG Magazines, are even better. Find ’em here in this issue or go to American Handguner shopping cart. (click here)

I’ll first recommend his Defensive Handgun and Defensive Revolver sets. Then, only after you’ve soaked and steeped in those, go on to Defensive Tactics. Don’t skip; it’s important, like learning how to walk before mastering the tango.

If all you got out of these DVD’s was his “Mental Preparation and Logic” and “Loading, Unloading and Malfunction Clearance,” you’d be far better prepared for Socially Serious Situations — but you’ll get a lot more, believe me. Don’t look for flashy and fancy “experimental” crap here; look for logic — and reasoned, rational, even legally defensible techniques and tactics.

I like Clint’s style as much as I approve of his substance. In some ways his “one-on-one” manner of on-camera presentation can be better than a course at Thunder Ranch with the distraction of other students and their fragile or frictional egos — or, it will better prepare you for a visit to “Clint’s House.”

Gun Crank Book

The Other Kinda Cornbread

If Clint Smith is the armed Socrates, the gunners of Gunsite must be the Spartans and Hoplites. Building on the foundation of their iconic founder, Colonel Jeff Cooper, many of the world’s most talented and devoted practitioners of pistolcraft have contributed to Gunsite’s encyclopedic store of knowledge, mostly centered on what might be termed “The fighting use of the heavy-duty handgun.” Go to www.gunsite.com, click on “Training DVD’s,” and try not to get sidetracked by appealing titles like Defensive Walking Stick and Edged Weapons I, okay? Save those for later.

Tactical Pistol I is a solid starter, accompanied by Tactical Concealed Carry I. My Dad would have loved these guys, because like him, they obviously believe the three most important elements of training are fundamentals, fundamentals, and FUNDAMENTALS! Tactical Pistol I starts so rock-bottom basic you may be tempted to fast-forward. Don’t. The more you are reminded of essentials like stance, balance and grip, the better. Then the pace quickens through braced positions, barricades and corners, low light and more.

The differences between the training DVDs from Thunder Ranch and Gunsite are like the difference between sweet yellow and salty white cornbread: texture and the nuances of flavor. You’ll note some variation in drawing presentation and a few other details, and absolute consistency in emphasis on safety, accuracy and speed built on smoothness. I’m comfortable with either, and happier with both.

Note: No book or DVD is a comparable substitute for personal training. But while an entrenching tool ain’t a substitute for a pistol, either, it sure beats an empty hand. Wait a minute! Books?

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Gunsite’s Defensive Pistol Training Handbook: rock-solid basics and more.

The GunCrank’s Training Library Recommendations:

You’re going to www.Gunsite.com to order a DVD or two already, right? While you’re there, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of their Defensive Pistol Training Handbook. Every pistol class taught at Gunsite includes and builds on the material found in this spiral-bound small format (8.5×5.5″) 72-page manual. As you’ll find in their training DVDs, the Handbook begins with basics, but please don’t skip over them. Only a fool can fool himself into thinking he’s too advanced to frequently review the essentials of weaponcraft.

I’m not saying this just because it’s the correct thing to say, folks. Going back over the basics of process; of achieving initial grip, the mechanics of stance, the movements of presentation and on into all the mechanical and neuromuscular activities of what we might call the “stationary-to-engagement cycle” on a regular basis; giving each of them time for thought and reflection is important, indeed vital if you want to fight for your life and win.

It’s not enough to learn it once, even if thoroughly. It’s not enough even to learn it, practice it, and repeat it to the point of being able to “run on auto-pilot.” There’s not sufficient room here for me to treat this subject in depth — I’m trying to put it into a book for you — but until then, here’s an analogy:

You learn to look both ways before crossing the street, so that you won’t step out in front of oncoming traffic and be killed, right? Time after time as a cop I dealt with situations where pedestrians were seen looking both ways before they stepped off a curb — and then they stepped directly into the paths of vehicles. Many died and others were badly injured. As a Marine and a professional soldier, I’ve seen individuals take a proper stance — on the wrong ground, or without proper consideration of the nature of that ground; seen trained combatants assume schoolbook-correct positions — when they shouldn’t have, and it got them killed. I’ve known thoroughly trained people to go through all the motions of assuring a firearm was unloaded, right down to that quick look into the chamber — and the arm was in fact loaded — sometimes with deadly results. The worst mistakes you can make with guns occur (a) when you’re under zero-pressure; situation is normal and routine; you have no reason, you think, to concentrate and focus hard on what you’re doing, and (b) when under lethal-threat stress, or in the immediate aftermath of an engagement, when “adrenaline bleed-off” rules your system. Review the basics regularly AND reflect on their purpose, okay?

When I recently re-read the Defensive Pistol Training Handbook I had a couple of very unpleasant flashbacks of some of those incidents. I don’t want any of you to “star” in one.

There’s far more to the Handbook — positions, malfunction drills, even “homework.” Get it, wear out the covers, mend `em with tape, and wear `em out again.

Gun Crank Book 3

Bill Murphy’s Concealed Carry Survival Guide is a best-buy for any citizen who packs hidden heat.

The Concealed Carry Survival Guide by Bill Murphy with Eric Magness. Bill is a full-time senior patrol officer, SWAT member and Use of Force instructor with a coastal California police department. He runs his own professional training group, serves as a top instructor with SureFire, consults with a variety of governmental agencies, and the list goes on. It doesn’t necessarily follow that he is a thoughtful, insightful and streetwise warrior, but he is, and his book reflects that. This is an excellent reference for anyone who is considering concealed carry or who’s been carrying for years. You’ll find a lot of the same basics as in other good manuals — and I hope I’ve already convinced you of the value of refreshing them — followed by coverage of equipment selection, carry techniques, “reading your target” to correct grip or trigger control problems, shooting on the move, low light techniques, a brief no-BS chapter simply titled “Gunfighting,” and some very valuable after-action advice.

Bill’s book is available from several sources. Just Google it by title, make sure of the author’s name, and get it on the way.

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Ed Santos adds psychology and physiology to sound tactics in Rule the Night – Win the Fight.

Generalities are exactly that: generalities — and while you may be guided by them, you must avoid being trapped by them. The average police or armed-citizen gunfight, for example, may only last an average of four seconds or less, but you’d better be prepared for one that goes from one-half second to half an hour. That said, generally speaking, it’s most likely that if you are involved in a gunfight, odds are it’s going to be fast, close, full of movement, and dark; from low-light to pitch-black. One guy who knows that latter environment well is Ed Santos, a retired U.S. Army career soldier who operates an outstanding gun shop, range and training facility in Post Falls, Idaho.

Ed’s book, Rule the Night — Win the Fight is one of the best treatises on low-light gunfighting available. In addition to Ed’s expert advice on equipment, style and technique you’ll find a wealth of information on both the physiology and psychology of operating under low-light conditions. Ed puts the package together well and then leads you through live fire training and Force on Force to his modestly-titled but valuable “Final Considerations.” You can order it on-line at www.tacticalservicesgroup.com, or contact Tactical Services Group at P.O. Box 2487, Hayden ID 83835.

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In his book Tactical Pistol Shooting, Erik Lawrence thoroughly covers subjects others miss completely.

Erik Lawrence, founder and Director of Training at Blackheart International, spent over a decade with the 1st and 19th Army Special Forces Groups (Airborne), during which time he amassed considerable experience training U.S. and foreign military units, focusing on counter-terrorism and the most advanced techniques for combating highly skilled and powerfully motivated opposition. If that long sentence gives you a hint about his orientation on training and the kind of material you’ll find in his book Tactical Pistol Shooting: Your Guide to Tactics that Work, great; it will save me a lot of words. Erik isn’t a stylist; he’s an operator, and his book is all business.

Yes, there are – again – lots of basics, but you’ll also get info rarely found in other guides, like a graphic representation of various “flash sight pictures” and how far off they will actually put your shots at seven yards, plus chapters on “Shooting While Wounded,” “Left Hand Dominant Shooter,” and more – overall, an excellent book. For a copy, go to www.bhigear.com, click on “Training Publications,” and bust out the plastic.

The contents of the Gunsite handbook are a distillation of the collective skills and experiences of past and present instructors there. Ed Head, the Director of Operations, wouldn’t let it go out the door if it wasn’t a product you could bet your life on. I know all three authors of the other books too — Bill Murphy, Ed Santos, and Erik Lawrence — and I can tell you this about `em: They’re not money-driven; they’re mission-driven. What their literary efforts may lack in smooth is made up for in substance. In a world full of spin and flash, these guys are solid and serious.

You don’t have to gather a wall full of books to gain a head full of knowledge, folks. I think it would be in your best interest to eventually put together a complete training library, but in consideration of the competing interest of your bank account, and in order to concentrate as you should on the material presented, it’s just fine to get `em one at a time.

I suggest you read any of the books once through without stopping to make notes or do any re-reading of individual portions you find of interest. Best to get a broad and general grounding first in the material offered. Then read the book for a second time, noting or highlighting pages, paragraphs or even phrases which strike you as important or of critical interest. Then read it all the way through a third time, modifying or adding to your highlighted parts. On your fourth reading, read only your designated highlights. I think you’ll find this a valuable technique. Remember, you’re not cramming for an exam and a letter grade. You’re studying to save your life, and perhaps the lives of your loved ones. Bad grades won’t kill you. Slugs will.

Use much the same technique in viewing training DVD’s. If you’re fortunate enough to have some like-minded friends, watch them with your pals. Everybody keep their yaps shut and just watch, without comment, the first time through. A general discussion, whilst enjoying a refreshing adult beverage, may follow. Maybe a week later, watch it for the second time, with everyone making personal notes on specific subjects while the DVD’s running, then discussing them afterward. What strikes one person as important may be completely different from another’s perspective. Third time, appoint a “remote controller” to stop, rewind, and pause while you discuss individual points.

And save some money for ammo, okay? Just as books and DVD’s cannot be a wholly comparable substitute for one-on-one professional instruction, reading and dry practice ain’t a replacement for the feel of recoil and the heady aroma of burnt gunpowder. Connor OUT.