KR Training April 2017 Newsletter

April is almost over, and it was another busy month, with Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin visiting to run a MAG-40, and Tracy Thronburg, John Kochan and I teaching multiple sessions at the national A Girl and a Gun conference, and full classes in our regular program.

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Deal #1)  Discounts on our Basic Pistol 1, Basic Pistol 2, and License to Carry classes on Groupon.

Deal #2) Defensive Pistol Small Gun and Skill Builder Long Gun – take both for $100 ($25 savings)

Deal #3) Bring-a-friend deal on any class in May.  Sign up with a friend, get 20% off on each slot.

For all deals – must pay in full in advance.

Register here.


Three basic level classes on the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Give one (or more) as a gift to Mom, or treat yourself!  Shooting Skills, Gun Cleaning and Maintenance with Karl, Basic Pistol 1 (Ladies only) with Tracy, and the Gun Selection Clinic with both instructors.

Register here.


Summertime often means carrying smaller guns, maybe in a belt holster, maybe in a pocket or other method.  Small guns are harder to shoot and drawing from a pocket or pack is slower.  Bring your summer gun to the 3 hour Defensive Pistol Small Gun class and train with what you carry.  This year’s version of the course will include a run in the shoot house with your small gun.

Don’t have a small gun but want to take the class? Loaner guns are available: semiautos and snubnose revolvers.  This article I wrote for USCCA has more information about the small gun course.

Register here.


Get more out of your small gun training day. Bring your favorite rifle or pistol caliber carbine to the Skill Builder Long Gun class. This new two-hour course is nothing but shooting drills to improve long gun skills.

Register here.


The first 3 summer USPSA match dates are May 24, June 7 and June 14.  These are Wednesday evening matches.  We will start shooting at 6 pm but you can arrive as late as 7 pm and still shoot the stages.  After everyone has shot for score, additional runs are allowed for fun and practice.  Follow this link for more information about the summer matches. Matches are limited to 18 shooters so they run quickly.  Register for the May 24th match here.


My talk at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference generated a lot of attention. I turned it into an 8 part blog series, and was interviewed by Gail Pepin for the ProArms podcast.


The full schedule of 2017 classes is here.

We’ll be adding more classes to the July-October schedule soon.



Over the past 18 months, Penny led a team that put together a new exhibit for the Bush (41) Library in College Station. It presents the history and legacy of Texas Ranching, including hands on exhibits, guns, ranching equipment, and dozens of video interviews with the families that have owned and operated the biggest ranches in Texas for generations.  I assisted with video editing and contributed some vintage pulp magazines from my personal collection to the exhibit.  More about the exhibit is in this blog post.  It will be showing until January 2018.

We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training crew

2017 A Girl and a Gun National Conference AAR

The A Girl and a Gun club started as a small group in Austin and quickly grew to a national level organization with members and chapters all over the country.  In April 2017 they held their 5th annual conference, a multi day event attended by over 300 women shooters and dozens of instructors.  Events included training for all levels of shooters, in all types of shooting activities, fitness, unarmed self defense, medical skills, emergency preparedness, and other topics related to self-reliance and personal safety.

KR Training was well represented this year, with Karl Rehn & Tracy Thronburg (Becker) teaching multiple live fire sessions and John Kochan presenting multiple courses on emergency preparedness.  Instructors that KR Training has hosted or trained with in the past few years were also there teaching sessions, including Caleb Causey 0f Lone Star Medics, Darryl Bolke of Hardwired TacticalJohn Johnston of Citizens Defense Research/Ballistic Radio and Jordan Smotherman of Atomic Athlete.

Tracy and I arrived a day early to teach an NRA Range Safety Officer certification course for some chapter facilitators.

Thursday was range demo day, including aerial shooting with HeliGunner.

This year I was asked to provide the pre-BangQuet entertainment, so I brought my keyboard & mic and performed a 45 minute set while the staff organized the prizes and set up the food line.   The solo set sounded a lot like my trio, except without bass and drums. Here’s a sample of a few trio tracks from my most recent promo CD.

Friday was the long day. Tracy and I taught Skill Builder, which is a short pistol skills course KR Training offers several times a year. It uses our custom designed KRT-1 target which you can buy from Law Enforcement Targets.

In the afternoon, we taught a new class on a topic requested by AG&G: Correcting Common Shooting Errors.  We had a mix of instructor-level and beginner/intermediate students learning how to recognize, diagnose and correct the problems we observe in every class.   Response to that course was strong, and I expect we’ll offer it both as a new KR Training catalog course and again at conference next year.

Saturday we taught Pushing to the Next Level, which was another new course I developed based on a request from AG&G. This course was for those ready to move beyond just shooting at club events, progressing to taking classes from top tier private sector schools, or competing in any of the pistol sports. The course covered how to plan and run dry fire and live fire practice sessions, how to measure and track performance, how to measure performance against known standards, and how to deal with performance and testing anxiety. It was a mix of lecture and live fire drills.  Like Correcting Common Shooting Errors, this course will likely become a KR Training catalog course and return at next year’s conference.

Sunday we taught Defensive Pistol Skills – Small Gun, a standard KR Training course specific to the carry and use of subcompact semiautos and snubnose revolvers.  I offer this course because I think it’s important for people to practice with the guns they actually carry.  It’s one of the least popular courses we offer, and response to the course at conference was no different. We had fewer students for this course than for any of the others we taught.  My theory is that people mistakenly assume that skills learned with their larger (easier, more fun to shoot) gun will translate completely to the smaller gun…and they don’t.  Small guns are hard to shoot and hard to manipulate: short frames you can’t grip with all your fingers, tiny controls, more recoil, tiny sights, shorter sight radius, triggers that are longer/heavier or just awkward to reach — all those factors affect performance.  Drawing a small gun from a pocket, a belly band, fanny pack or other non-holster method can be complicated and slow.

Thanks to these ladies who showed up for the small gun class.

While we were doing that, John Kochan taught “Creating a Culture of Preparedness”, a course that Paul Martin developed and presented at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference. It’s based on Paul’s book Pivot Points, which explores the topic in more detail.  John also taught sessions on Dealing With Emergencies at Home and In Case of Death.  Interest in John’s material was high. He was asked to do an additional Sunday afternoon session to accommodate the demand.

The event was held at Reveille Peak Ranch, a 1300 acre multi-use site with facilities for triathalons, mountain biking, trail running, scuba diving, camping, fitness training, all kinds of shooting events, indoor force on force area, a large outdoor pavillion/dining area, and many other features.  It’s being used for a few local matches, and will be hosting some major national shooting events over the next year. Down the road is the Canyon of the Eagles LCRA resort on Lake Buchanan, where many attendees and instructors stayed. This was the view at sunset one evening.

The AG&G team did a tremendous job this year, handling 300+ attendees, dozens of instructors and more than 30 different activities happening simultaneously over 4 days, including coordination of breakfast, lunch and dinner for the instructors and staff, and feeding everyone at the BangQuet Thursday night.  It’s an event as large as (and more complex than) a major Area or National level IDPA or USPSA match, run by a much smaller staff, who did an absolutely amazing job with logistics and support.  They deserve recognition and respect for the effort it took to make everything run so smoothly this year.

KR Training will be back for the 2018 conference.

Legacy of Ranching exhibit at Bush (41) Library

For the past year and half, my wife Penny has been working on building a new exhibit for the Bush (41) Library here in College Station.  The exhibit shows the history and legacy of ranching in Texas.  As part of the work, Penny and Dr. Russell Cross from the TAMU Animal Science department and a video crew from Frame By Frame visited famous and historical ranches all over the state, from the Panhandle to West and South Texas, interviewing the ranchers.  They recorded dozens of hours of interviews that I and others transcribed. Over the past few months I worked as video editor, pulling excerpts from the raw recordings into 39 three- to seven-minute videos that were incorporated into the exhibit.

The official opening of the exhibit is today. It runs through January 8, 2018.

More about the exhibit is in this press release from TAMU Agrilife.

The official website for the exhibit is here.  Our plan is to use the blog part of that website to share more video from the interviews and ranch location recordings, with articles about the people and places that were visited, both to get people interested in visiting the actual exhibit, and to share the work with those that can’t make it to Aggieland to see the full presentation.

I’ll be at the grand opening event tonight and will take some pictures to share here in a follow up post.

Beyond the One Percent (addendum)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8 for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.


I was interviewed on the ProArms podcast about this series. Episode 98 is here, for your listening pleasure.

I’ve had quite a few emails and other contacts from people who have read the series and had good ideas and comments.  Here are a few worth sharing:

Make it clear in your marketing and from your behavior online that your classes are welcoming to all law abiding people regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or political beliefs. The key word is “law abiding”.  It’s appropriate to require a carry permit for classes that teach skills beyond the state minimum.  Being passionate about the right to self defense and gun rights in general can be done in a professional way without demonizing those that are different from you, particularly those that don’t hold your exact political views on a wide range of topics.  If the goal is to get more people to attend your classes, the only reason to turn someone away is concern about potentially unsafe or violent behavior.

Understand that your reputation and image are a 24/7/365 effort, not just on class day.

Related to that, using the f-bomb like a comma in order to sound more tough, or street, or whatever you think it’s doing for you, is a bad idea.  If you want to be perceived as a professional, act like a professional.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, politicians, public speakers of all kinds – profanity and vulgarity is not part of their standard communication.  Can you use profanity as a deliberate tactic in communication with potential threats?  Yes.  But understand that in a world where virtually everything you do in public could be recorded and shared with the world by someone, whether you want it shared or not, language affects perception, perceptions affect juries, and juries may hold the fate of the rest of your life in their hands.  So using profanity should be done with the same precision and deliberation you apply to drawing and firing a gun.  Unless it’s essential, it’s more likely to turn off potential students, or students already in your course, than it is to impress them.

I got some updated numbers from the NRA regarding membership and instructor levels in Texas.  My estimates, gained by dividing national numbers by 10, based on Texas’ having 9% of the national population but high gun ownership rates, were actually a bit high. The actual membership numbers are around 400K members, (not 500K), and around 6300 instructors.



Beyond the One Percent (part 8)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6, and Part 7, for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.

Part 8 is the final part, full of suggestions as to how to make training more accessible to a wider audience.

I discussed the value of having loaner gear available in Part 7.

And a review of the reasons why having an inventory of loaner gear will benefit both the instructor and the student.

If you study the history of private sector training, you’ll find that it started with 3-5 day classes at fixed locations, like Gunsite, the Chapman Academy, John Shaw’s school, and the Rogers school.  Classes were often held on weekdays.  Those schools and many others are “destination” facilities that offer capabilities and training beyond what many local facilities can.

Instructors from those schools, and graduates of those schools began offering 2 day weekend classes, hosted at local and regional ranges.  Currently there are dozens of instructors offering hundreds of classes annually, all over the country, in this format, typically 16-20 hours of training for $400-800.

Most of the traditional NRA classes were 12-16 hours, offered locally.  As more states began passing concealed carry legislation with required training, the minimum hours for state mandatory training began dropping. For example, in 1996 Texas required 10-15 hours of instruction. Now Texas requires 4-6 hours. NRA revised their Basic Pistol course to an 8 hour format, and developed a Personal Protection In the Home course that covered many topics common to defensive pistol courses (except for drawing from a holster), also in an 8 hour format, in response to the national trend toward shorter training.

As I discussed in a previous part, training hours is an area where those serious about training and those passionate about gun politics disagree.  The 30-40 hour programs originally designed by the fixed location schools were based not on meeting state minimums, but to teach the skills they felt were actually needed by people training to use handguns in self-defense.  Opinions as to the standards of skill performance and the topics to be learned really haven’t changed much since the late 1970s.

The problem, as gun politics activists point out, is that the “best practices” standards of the big schools, if used as state minimums, would restrict the right of self defense to those with the excess money and time needed to meet those standards.  Often those people are at much lower risk of criminal attack than those with smaller budgets and lower incomes.

More than a decade I converted most of the courses that KR Training offers into 3- and 4- hour blocks designed as a series.  You can’t teach everything someone needs to know in a 4 hour class.  So the burden is on the instructor to prioritize skills in their course design.

There are a lot more people that can spend 4 hours, $100 and 200 rounds on a Saturday training class than there are people that can spend $500, 20 hours, and 1000 rounds on an all weekend course.

Those that study adult education understand that deeper learning takes place if it’s spread out in smaller chunks over a longer period.  Students that come to a 4 hour course, pick up some new skills or corrections on old skills, who spend the next month working on those specific things, and then return for another 4 hour block, tend to progress better, and maintain that improvement better than the student that spends their entire training budget for the year on a 5 day class at “Disneyland for guns”, and then does no practice for months afterward.  This is one reason why so many “level 2” classes in that format are disappointingly heavy on review of level 1– many of the “destination training” customers are the personality type that mistake passing level 1 (with no practice to maintain skills) makes them ready for another giant dose of new material a year or more later.

Using a half day format allows incredible customer-focused variation in what is offered.  State permit course a half day? Offer an afternoon follow on course teaching more gun skills.  Pair a pistol class in the morning with a long gun afternoon course.  Pair two classes that are back to back in skills progression together to make a full training day.  Offer a beginner class and an advanced class in the afternoon.  Offer a discount to advanced students to assist with the morning class to improve student/teacher ratio for beginners.

And perhaps the most important advantage: more granularity allows better matching of student and course.  Anyone that’s been to many classes has either been in a class where half of it was review, half of it ended up being remedial work taught down to the least prepared student, or showed up for a class only to discover it was way over their head.  Whichever end of that you are on, the class ends up being wasted time and money.

So why do so many offer two day courses instead of the 4 hour format?  Reasons range from “everybody teaches 2 day courses”, “that’s not enough time to teach anyone anything”, and the ever popular “I need to make more money than that”.  I understand that instructors coming from out of town need to make a minimum for the trip to be worthwhile.  I’ve done my share of that kind of road work.  But as I showed in earlier parts, there are far more locally based NRA and state permit level instructors, and local clubs running matches, than there are traveling trainers.  So the 4 hour format is viable for a majority of instructors that are teaching in their own areas.

My advice to traveling trainers is this: design the first part of your program to be accessible to a wider audience, that can support a larger class size.  Sell that as a standalone short course that’s both part of the longer course and a separate item.  That will enable you to reach more students, including some that may take the longer course on your return visit, and generate revenue that may make a marginally attended longer course fiscally viable.

Depending on the capability of their local course hosts, traveling trainers could design a 4 hour certified pre-course the local host could offer, as a way to screen and prep students coming to the longer course. This could minimize problems with students coming to classes they are ill prepared and/or ill equipped to attend, by providing a path for them to get the necessary preparation and/or equipment ready prior to class day.

Blended learning, where online and in-person training are integrated, continues to increase in popularity.  I continue to increase my use of blended learning, sending students pre-class articles to read, videos to watch, to help them be better prepared for class. This is particularly useful when the class is only 4 hours and there’s little time to deal with remedial students or equipment problems.  Emails to students after class, and/or monthly newsletters, provide drills to practice and articles to read to keep the student interested in, or at least occasionally thinking about, the material they learned in class.

The NRA took a big step that direction in 2016, converting their Basic Pistol course to a blended learning format, over loud objections from a majority of active instructors, who felt left out of the decision process (because they were).  I wrote one of the few public in-depth reviews of the online course, from the perspective of someone that had developed both online and in-person training in my job at TEEX.

The NRA missed the mark, in my opinion, for all the reasons I’ve explained here.  The class was too long and too detailed, including topics irrelevant to the target audience. This goes back to a general reluctance in the training world to believe that anything can be taught effective in less than a full training day.

My experience has been that if thought is given to prioritization of skills, and re-use of technique for multiple tasks (for example, teaching a ready position that is part of the drawstroke and the position where malfunctions are cleared and reloads are performed), it’s possible to not only teach a useful subset of skills but build a foundation that makes progressing in later classes easier.

I have over a dozen different short courses in my program, grouped together into basic, intermediate, advanced and instructor level tiers.  I add 1-2 new courses to the program each year.  Response to my 2-3 hour Skill Builder class has been strong, as it provides an “accessible to all levels” course that provides the thing students want most: live fire shooting time, in a format similar to the amount of time they would practice on their own, with value added in the form of structured practice and instruction.

Like many trainers I do a monthly electronic newsletter.  I limit myself to one email a month to students, because I hate to drown in marketing email as much as anyone.  I confess to having an aggressive opt-in policy, which is that anyone that emails me about a class gets added to the monthly newsletter distribution.  People seem to find that less annoying than having a “subscribe to my newsletter!!” giant popup in their face every time they visit the site.

I use targeted emails for specific classes, both to encourage those that have taken class X to take class X+1, or those that took class X in the past to come back as a discounted price refresher student.

Breaking the idea that each class is a “one and done” thing, and that there’s no value in re-taking class as a refresher student – is one of my goals.  I see that occurring with Craig Douglas’ ECQC course. I’ve taken it 3 times and it’s common for people to talk about the number of times they’ve taken it.  Other than maybe the Rogers pistol course, there’s not really any live fire course that people see as a recurring training event.  Everyone wants level 2, or the same material from someone different.

There’s great value in going back through a class for a 2nd or 3rd time, as you’ll pick up details you missed the first time, or simply perform better. As a course host I’ve had the opportunity to take or audit many classes multiple times, such as InSights Street and Vehicle Tactics, Rangemaster Combative Pistol 1, Ben Stoeger’s 2 day competition pistol course, and MAG-20 classroom.


What do students want?  Here’s a chart showing which courses were most popular in my program over the past 12 years.  Demand for the advanced level pistol classes was the highest, driven by a small number of students who have taken dozens of classes that I’ve taught or hosted.  The least popular (despite my strong belief in their value and continued efforts to schedule and promote them) were force on force and unarmed classes.


Many people have limited interest. Remember the 99% are only going to do the state minimum and never come to anything else.  So the percentages of those returning are not surprising.

Step 1 in creating a customer that is going to come to more than one class is to get them to one class. The slide shows my list of people that might have interest in training beyond the state minimum, or in some cases, training to prepare them to meet the state minimum.

One reason I put the effort into putting this series online was advice from Ben Stoeger, who said “give away content online”.   I saw this first in the music business, as a performing and recording artist with multiple CDs of original music for sale in physical and online forms.  Nobody buys music anymore, but they will still pay to attend live performance.  Often the decision to go see the live show isn’t based on radio airplay, but on exposure to the performer’s content via free online services.

In the 1990s I put a lot of effort into adding content to the KR Training website, but didn’t migrate to other platforms (youtube, blogging) as the trends changed.  I did make that migration on the music side, with lots of videos from my own live shows up on youtube, but not as much on the firearms training side.

Start with “have something interesting to say” and then find a way to put it out there frequently enough that people get used to seeing your content.  Look at your output critically, because any tiny flaw in anything you put out will become the story and the focus of all the internet traffic.  Try to make your content as troll proof as you can.  I suggest disabling comments. Nobody reads the comments, and 99% of what is posted in the comments isn’t worth reading if you do take the time to read them.

I’ll be doing more of that myself, as I mine the last decade of Rangemaster Tactical Conference presentations and other material for blog content.

I ran my first Groupon deal this spring, with decent result, primarily bringing customers that had not trained with us before into classes. Groupon likes to promote particular types of deals: often 50% discounts or 2-for-1 deals, at lower price points.  So don’t think of Groupon as a primary revenue generator.  It’s value is in filling seats that otherwise would have been empty, and expanding awareness of your program.

The last few slides are the essentials.

The biggest thing I learned from putting this presentation together was a greater awareness of the divide between the noble motives most that attend training claim to have, and their actual motivation.  The types of training people seek out is rarely what a logical training needs assessment, based on realistic risk assessment, identifies.  Training competes with other purely recreational activities for customers’ dollars and hours.  Those offering training have to strive for a balance between the lengths and types of courses customers want, and what trainers would prefer they attend, in a perfect world.

Hopefully these ideas and thoughts will be useful to you as you continue in your own training, as a student and/or an instructor.

Update: an addendum with comments and info from people who contacted me after reading this series.

There will be more content coming over the next few months (and beyond) as I explore other topics in depth on this blog, so if you’ve made it this far I encourage to subscribe to the RSS feed or the email feed (the button is to your right on the page) or my monthly KR Training newsletter.

Beyond the One Percent (part 7)


The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6, for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.

Part 7 is about removing some of the barriers that keep people from attending training.

Some of National Shooting Sports Foundation’s market research identified reasons why people were choosing other activities over shooting.

Reasons included “offer more exercise”, “cheaper”, “fewer restrictions”, and “preferred by family and friends”.

The data is from a study of target shooters, and includes responses from currently active shooters, infrequent shooters and those that had done little/no shooting recently.

Time showed up as the #1 reason, which is not surprising, as it’s the most limited resource most people have.  This chart shows one set of poll data indicating how people spend their time.  TV viewing habits are changing, with streaming, DVR, Netflix, and other methods of viewing, but it still consumes a lot of time.  I’ve had the honor of being a Nielsen family twice. If your favorite reality show got cancelled, I’m sorry.  And if you can’t figure out how those animated shows like King of the Hill and Metalocalypse stayed on the air, you’re welcome.

Much of the current trend in training is for courses to be more physically demanding, particularly those run by younger male trainers coming from recent military service or active law enforcement duty.  The acronym OFWG (old fat white guy) has become a derogatory term used by some gun bloggers, but the demographics – not just NRA membership but also data from the Texas license to carry program – show that older people, of all genders, races, and body shapes, are gun owners.

The good news is that older people often have more time and income, because children are grown, individuals are farther along in their careers, or retired.  Often growing older also increases concern about risk of being attacked (motivation to train) and recognition that more physical options may have lower probability of success than use of a firearm.

With age comes reduced endurance and reduced physical capacity.  10 hour days on your feet in the hot summer sun or winter cold, or drills that require lots of getting up and down may appeal to eager 20- and 30-year olds, but deter 50-, 60-, or older students from attending.

NSSF data shows more reasons why people choose other activities.   Ex-target shooters identified costs and the range environment as two key areas that would entice them to return.  Unfortunately, to have a range that is clean and well run typically requires not only staff but high quality staff, who may cost more than minimum wage cash register operators.  And most of the costs are beyond the control of trainers and range operators, who have to cover the costs of being in business, with some profit to live on, from tuition and/or range fees.  Part of the cost of training is round count, and one way to lower the effective cost to students is to reduce the number of rounds fired in a class.  During the ammo shortage that occurred after Sandy Hook, we adjusted the curriculum of several classes to have less live fire, which made those courses more accessible to students.

Some issues were strong negatives with former target shooters, with “competitive shooting” being the least popular.  It’s understandable that those that haven’t participated in an activity in a long time not wanting their return to it to be a test against a bunch of people who are serious about it.  The low numbers for training look bad, until you realize that 38% of the ex-target shooters viewed access to training as a positive, same as the availability of loaner guns, or a family day.  Since we are trying to get more than 1% involved, a number like 38% is still a positive.

Some reasons people have given for not coming to the classes I run that go beyond the state minimum:

The gear issue is one I addressed by investing in loaner gear.  When I got serious about shooting I had gun club friends that loaned me gear to try and guided me toward better products.  And we’ve had so many problems with students coming to our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 course with unsuitable holsters, no mag pouches, insufficient magazines, ill fitting low quality hearing protectors, and other bad gear that we started doing a pre-class gear check for every student as they arrive, to head off problems before we had to deal with them on the range.

Good gear is expensive. To get all the gear you really need to attend the typical 2 day defensive pistol course can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on how rare/costly spare mags for your gun are, or how difficult it is to find the exact holster you want.  The 3-gun competition rig picture I used is the extreme end of the gear ladder, not what I recommend students wear to class.

And I do recommend students going past the state minimum invest in a shooting timer (I prefer the Pocket Pro I for its simple user interface), because having a real timer for dry practice is much better than a phone app. Having gear that makes it easier to practice makes practice more enjoyable, which means you’ll do more of it, and spending the money on the gear also motivates you use the gear you spend  money on.

Getting good gear is particularly challenging for left handed shooters and ladies, since the majority of what is stocked in big box retail stores and small gun shops consists of the lowest cost products for the most popular guns.  That typically means no left handed holsters and no dropped and offset style holsters.  Students that don’t have the right gear for class will sometimes rush out the night before to buy what they need, with the mindset that they don’t want to spend a lot on gear they are only going to use for one class.  That ends up being a terrible waste of money, often on gear we don’t even let them use on class day because they show up with mag pouches with snap flaps, “universal fit” nylon holsters, gimmick holsters, or SERPA holsters.  As I discussed in previous parts, students that get advice by choosing the most popular response to a question asked to a pool of untrained people also frequently end up with bad gear.

Over the past 15 years or so I’ve built up a collection of more than 50 holsters for the common guns we see used in classes, some purchased personally to test and evaluate, some purchased on close out/clearance deals, some traded to me by students in exchange for credit toward tuition in classes, and some purchased specifically to have as loaner gear.  For someone planning on teaching more than a few classes a year, particularly teaching people their first course past the state minimum level, loaner holsters are an excellent long term investment.

Comp-Tac recently came out with their Q-series of holsters that can be set up for right or left hand use, with or without dropped and offset belt plates, that fit multiple firearm types.  Safariland makes a universal mag pouch that fits a huge variety of magazines.

Other items we have in our loaner pile:  spare mags for popular gun models, 10 round mags for single stack 1911s, loaner hats, loaner cover garments, and loaner belts.  The clearance section of many online retailers: LA Police Gear, Cabelas, Brownells, Midway, Cheaper Than Dirt, and clothing vendors like Vertx, 5.11, Propper and Woolrich have all yielded deeply discounted items that went into the loaner bin.

Another big item: loaner electronic hearing protection.  I bought multiple sets of the Howard Leight “Impact” models after dealing with too many (often older) shooters that had difficulty understanding range commands on the firing line.  Any time I see NRR-19 rated, ill fitting passive ear pro on top of a head with grey (or no) hair, that person gets offered a loaner set of electronic ears.  As someone that is both a frequent shooter and a performing musician, I totally understand (and live with) noise-induced hearing loss, and appreciate being able to hear better on the range with good quality electronic muffs.

All of these loaner items benefit me and my staff as much or moreso than they benefit the student. All those items I listed were added to the loaner gear because providing that gear to a student solved a problem that was making it hard for the student to learn the material being taught, or made it safer for the student.

I strongly believe that the availability of loaner gear: the ability to come to class and see it and use it and ask questions about what to buy during class, as opposed to having to commit to buying good gear in advance of class has been a tremendous benefit to students, and has motivated some to attend that might not have otherwise come to class.  Those investments make sense if you look at students as long term clients who may attend multiple classes over many years, or who may generate word of mouth referrals that lead to new customers.   They make sense to instructors that may want to set up their own online store or stock an inventory of recommended products for resale to students.

Some students use the loaner gear and never invest in their own gear, particularly those that take our first 4 hour class that do not return for the higher level courses.  But even in that situation, they gained an understanding of what good gear is, learned how to use it, and came to at least one class beyond the minimum, all of which is a win.

The final part will present the remaining solutions and suggestions for making training more attractive and accessible to a wider audience.


Massad Ayoob Group MAG-20 Range AAR

On Thursday and Friday (April 6-7, 2017) I attended the MAG-20 range class, taught by Massad Ayoob, assisted by Gail Pepin, Tracy Thronburg, and Greg Taggart.    It was part of the full MAG-40 (classroom and range combined) that I hosted at KR Training.   I’ve hosted Mas several times over the past 3 years, including multiple sessions of the MAG-20 classroom course.  I had missed out on taking the MAG-20 range course last year, and wanted to complete it, because finishing the full MAG-40 is required to take the MAG-80 course I will be hosting in May 2018.

Mas and I had recently spent time together at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I attended his presentation on being an expert witness, and we shared a table at the instructor’s banquet.  Mas shot very well at this year’s conference, placing in the top 10 out of more than 200 shooters.  One thing that I greatly admire about him is that he continues to stay an active competitor in an era where many ‘celebrity’ trainers find excuses to avoid shooting for score. His schedule is as busy as anyone’s, his practice opportunities are often limited to shooting demonstration drills in classes, but he continues to compete and perform consistently well.

I’ve taken a lot of 2 day defensive handgun courses over the past 30 years.  They all cover basically the same material: safe gunhandling, marksmanship fundamentals, presenting the gun quickly from ready and from the holster, two handed shooting, one handed shooting, malfunction clearing. Many of them have some type of graduation course of fire that must be passed with a minimum score.  MAG-20 has all those things too.  If you’ve never taken that type of 2 day course, MAG-20 is a good choice.

If you’ve taken similar courses from other trainers, here’s what I found interesting, unique and/or noteworthy about MAG-20:

Ayoob’s been teaching firearms courses since the 1970s, through that key period in history when pistol technique evolved from one handed point and bullseye shooting, to the two handed Weaver stance, Chapman’s variation on Weaver, and different forms of Isoceles.   His Stressfire handgun book should be essential reading for any serious student of the pistol, particularly instructors, not only for its content but its historical value as a document of best practices and techniques that were dominant or emerging in the mid 1980’s.

As part of the MAG-20 course (and the shooting test) students are expected to use the Weaver, Chapman, and Isoceles stances. While Weaver and Chapman are less widely used or taught, learning them has value, particularly for instructors.  This winter I developed some tendonitis in my left elbow that’s still not fully healed, and the most painful movement with my left arm is going to full extension.  So while I normally shoot a fully extended Isoceles, using Weaver and Chapman, both of which don’t require full extension, was less painful during the 500 round class.  And it’s always better to be able to recommend one technique over another from the position of having used the technique personally than simply dismissing it on the grounds that your favorite expert or guru doesn’t like it — whether you are an instructor or just a shooter.

Mas shares my interest in applying science, not just anecdote, to technique.  His presentation on techniques for one handed shooter was excellent, with some great observations about the effects of sympathetic movement on grip strength – particularly the value of making a tight fist with the hand that’s not holding the gun, which produces an increase in grip strength in the gun hand.  That effect occurs in two handed shooting as well, which is yet one more reason for people to grip the gun as hard as possible with the non-dominant hand.

Drills started at 4 yards and worked back to 10 and 15 yards, incorporating a wide stance cover-crouch position, single and double kneeling positions, and reloads.

All the material taught in the course showed up in the MAG shooting test, which is shot at standard speed in MAG-40.  In higher level courses, the par times are cut in half.  I had shot the test in practice in years past.  The aspect that was absent from my practice runs was the pacesetter, shot by the instructors.  Mas and the other instructors all shot the test for score in front of the students, with Mas and Tracy Thronburg shooting perfect 300 scores.  Everyone that ties Mas’ score gets a signed $1 bill, anyone beating his score that day gets a signed $5.  In the event of a tie, smallest group size wins.

So in practice, I was happy to hit all A’s on the IPSC target – but to beat Mas’ I was going to have to shoot all A’s with a group no larger than 4.5″ to match his impressive run.  For this class he was using the new Wilson Combat EDC-X9 that he was evaluating for an upcoming article.  Several of us got to handle and shoot the gun during the course, and he took some pics and collected some comments that may show up in the article he’s writing about it.

In the end, I shot a perfect score on the test, with a group that was 1/4″ bigger than Tracy’s, placing me 3rd overall. So she and I got signed $1 bills, and I got a gold MAG challenge coin as the top scoring student.

Class scores were excellent, with many scoring above 290 (96%) and everyone passing, well above the 225 minimum.  He divided the class into two relays, each person putting $1 in the pot, with the top shooter getting the pot.

Relay 1’s Joel A (a KR Training grad who shot a very respectable 298 on the test) hands over the money, which I re-invested in the gatorade and soda fund to keep the fridge at the range stocked.

As part of the class, Mas had me present a short version of the results from my 2014-2015 red dot / green laser / iron sights study, which Gail recorded for an upcoming episode of their ProArms podcast. On Saturday, KR Training assistant instructor John Daub spoke to the class about his home defense incident, which Mas had written about for American Handgunner.  Gail interviewed John for the ProArms podcast, and then on Sunday, she interviewed me about my Beyond the One Percent presentation, available in multiple parts on this blog.  So there will be a lot of KR Training content coming up in the ProArms podcast over the next few months as they release those episodes.

I’ll be bringing Massad and Marty Hayes back winter 2018 for their Deadly Force Instructor course, and a MAG-80 in late spring 2018 also.  KR Training will also offer a session of the two day MAG 20 range course prior to the MAG-80, so that students that have taken the MAG-20 classroom but need the range portion to complete the full MAG-40 can do so and be eligible to attend MAG-80.

If you haven’t had a chance to train with Mas, I encourage you to find a class and take advantage of his significant depth of knowledge, not just about shooting technique, but about every aspect of armed self defense.


Beyond the One Percent (part 6)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.

Part 6 is about Derp.


One problem that has increased over time, as more people enter the training business, is the difficulty students face in looking at credentials to choose an instructor.

As my assistant Tom observed, the average gun owner doesn’t understand the difference between NRA Basic Pistol instructor (2 days of training) and NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home instructor.  The PPOTH cert, by itself, takes 30 hours, not counting the hours spent getting the Basic Pistol and Personal Protection Inside the Home ratings that are pre-reqs.  So someone with the PPOTH instructor rating probably has 55-60 hours of instructor training, which is 3-4x the training the other NRA instructor has.

Some private sector instructor ratings are relatively easy to get. Others, like the Rangemaster and CSAT instructor certifications, require shooting at IPSC B-class or higher level in addition to meeting other standards.  And even someone that accrues all those instructor ratings may not have a lot of experience teaching actual students, until they start offering classes.

Just as with selection of plumbers or any other service provider, name recognition, recommendations from others, and online presence matters, typically more than credentials do.  So there are lower-tier instructors who have become Grand Masters at social media and increasing their name recognition, top-tier instructors that have clunky websites with limited (or no) social media and YouTube video content, and a wide mix of those in between.   Those not already interested in training are probably not reading the blogs or on the forums the insiders and “serious shooters” frequent.  So as a trainer, if you are trying to reach those that don’t currently train, you may have to become more active putting content out that likely customers will see.

One manifestation of this can be found by watching a process that occurs daily on forums frequented by those at the state-minimum or no-training level.  They will ask advice on a topic, and orient to the response that is most popular, with little/no concern for screening those answers based on the expertise of those responding.  That often results in recommendations for low cost products that are widely available from big-box outdoor and discount online retailers – products generally not recommended by mid- to top-tier trainers or by those serious about shooting and defensive handgunning.

One thing I am going to start doing (or do better at) is making my responses to frequent questions I answer into blog posts that I can simply post links to.  That will make it easier/faster to respond to those questions, in more detail than a few lines. I’ve also observed that blog posts and YouTube videos are perceived differently from personal responses in forums.

The term Derp has grown in common use, to refer to products & training that have features or characteristics that are considered to be bad, unsafe, stupid, or dangerous by the serious shooter/professional instructor community.  It’s far more common these days to find “instructors” spending far more time on producing videos and social media content than putting in time on the range, taking courses from established trainers, pressure-testing their own skills (in competition and/or force-on-force scenarios), or any other form of professional development.

During his instructor development course, Tom Givens made the comment in the slide above.  The data supports that claim.  If 10% of US gun owners decided tomorrow that they all wanted to take 16-40 hours of high-quality pistol training from someone at the IPSC B-class level of skill or higher, who had training in how to teach others to draw from concealment, shoot from cover and other defensive pistol skills, there probably aren’t enough people capable of running those classes, nor enough facilities to support them.  The growth of USPSA and IDPA competition is similarly limited by the size of the pool of facilities and people capable of putting on safe matches and working with new competitors.

A topic that’s come up several times in the past few years at the instructor’s banquet at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference is the need for some sort of “mark of quality” that would aid students in identifying which instructors are recognized by their peers as competent.  One model that was considered was how the American Pistolsmiths Guild works.  To become an APG member, the applicant’s work has to be evaluated by a certification board.  A similar process for instructors would require certification reviewers to attend a course taught by an applicant instructor.

The problem with this system is brand recognition.  A decade or two ago, awareness of the APG was higher than it is now, mainly due to frequent mention of it in articles about custom guns in print gun magazines.   Gunsmithing work was mostly 1911 and revolver work that required more attention to detail and machining skills than many AR parts assemblers and polymer frame dremelers have.  That’s led to a situation in the gunsmithing world identical to what has occurred in the instructing world: quantity of social media content and name recognition matters more than quality of work.

Many (most) of the experienced instructors I know avoid online forums, except for closed groups or specific sites that are derp-free.  That results in derp propagating unchallenged and unquestioned in the broader community.  In order to change the culture, the narrative has to be challenged and improved.

I think the narrative that needs to be promoted avoids getting into derp debates about which holster or which caliber or which gun.  If the “conventional wisdom” is changed from “meet the state minimum,” to training to a real standard, dry firing weekly, with at least one live-fire session monthly, and attending at least one class per year, changes in holsters, and calibers, and guns, would occur as a natural consequence of pursuing that higher level of skill.

It needs to be an incremental raising of the bar – something that is possible for most gun owners.

One challenge facing the training community is that the narrative from trainers conflicts with the narrative from the gun sales and gun politics communities.  The message from the sales world is that new gear is the solution to everything, and the items people want most are what get produced and promoted.  The message from the gun politics activists is focused on eliminating restrictions of all kinds, including elimination of mandatory training for concealed carry permits.  Trainers, by comparison, focus on negative outcomes, want people to carry larger guns, and train to higher standards, or risk being killed on the streets.  All of the things trainers want students to do are harder than carrying the tiny subcaliber pocket gun in the $20 nylon holster or open carrying freely with no training requirement.

It’s not an easy message to sell, particularly when reports of armed citizens failing are not common, nor are they widely discussed when they do occur, because they don’t support the most popular narrative.

Another challenge trainers and those seeking to raise the bar face is the typically poor quality advice given to gun buyers by employees of ranges and retail stores.  Retailers and ranges often work on low margins, which keeps wages low and limits investment in training and development for staff.  Time spent in training is time away from the range or the sales floor.  And often, to keep customers happy requires going along with their existing bad ideas, selling derpy products or tolerating sloppy gun handling in order to make the sale or risk losing their business to a less principled competitor.  Unfortunately when the sales person or range officer nods their head or looks the other way, that creates a perception that the idea or behavior is acceptable, making the trainer the “bad guy” who has to explain not only that the idea or behavior is bad, but also that the others that went along with the derp are part of the problem.

It goes back to Dunning-Kruger.  No one beyond the total beginner will admit their gun handling is unsafe, whether they can define standards for safe gunhandling or not.   Sales people and range officers don’t want to appear uninformed, so they will attempt to provide answers rather than say “I don’t know.”  In the absence of professional level training or serious study, they repeat what they’ve read or heard as definitive truth.

It’s not just the range officers and sales people that need to do better.  In many cases, students that take their first class from me took their state mandatory carry permit class from another instructor, most commonly someone that stopped their own training after they met state minimum instructor standards.

Twenty-three of the 50 rounds fired in the Texas License to Carry shooting test are supposed to be fired double action by students that bring DA/SA style guns to the course.  The LTC instructor course teaches that students are required to decock each time the gun comes back to a ready position.  Yet I continue to have students that show up for classes who have passed the LTC course who have to be constantly reminded to decock, and some (too many) that admit that their LTC instructor allowed them to shoot all their shots in single-action mode.  I’ve had a few that show up carrying DA/SA guns “cocked and unlocked” (in the holster, round chambered, hammer back) who did not learn that their gun is not safe to carry (or drop safe) in that mode from their LTC instructor.  LTC instructors and NRA Basic pistol instructors are part of the front line of experts advising the 99% of gun owners that don’t train beyond the minimum.

Part of changing the narrative or changing the culture has to be improving the knowledge level of that front line.  Within the instructor community, promoting the idea that every instructor needs to attend one class annually for their own professional development should be the goal.

In part 7, I’ll discuss removing barriers that makes training beyond the minimum more accessible to a wider audience.





Visit the KR Training website to learn more about me and the courses we offer.

Beyond the One Percent (part 5)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.

Part 5 is all about long term trends in gun culture.


Culture can, and does change.  It’s changed in many years since I first got seriously interested in handgun shooting back in 1988.

One example: this data on willingness to use a gun in self-defense.  The highest numbers on the chart are for women against a male aggressor.  That’s a change from what was the “conventional wisdom” that women are less likely to use deadly force in self-defense.

There’s been steady growth and cultural change related to women and guns over the past 20-30 years.  In the 1990’s the NRA’s Refuse to be a Victim program started as a women’s-only course and expanded to a wider audience.  The Babes with Bullets program paired the top female USPSA competitors of the day with other women who were either active competitors or interested in competition.  Women and Guns magazine started in the 1990s and is still being published, outlasting other mass market gun publications.

The Second Amendment Sisters organization shut down in 2015, but was very active in the 2000s, promoting the idea of gun rights (and armed self-defense) to women.   The larger cultural changes of the mainstreaming of concealed carry and AR-15 ownership increased the appeal of shooting to a more urban and self-defense oriented audience.

In the 2010’s, particularly in Texas, growth of women-oriented shooting clubs like A Girl and a Gun, Sure Shots, Pistols and Pearls and many others has been significant.

Women, particularly those that are Gun Culture 2.0 people not raised around firearms and starting an interest in firearms from outside the gun culture, seek out training, often provided by these women-oriented or women-only clubs.  The carry permit (and self-defense) remains a key motivator.  I put an asterisk by the term “professional” because in many cases those providing training at the club level are often NRA basic pistol instructor level or state carry permit level or similar part time/volunteer level.  The important trend is that within that subculture, the idea of attending a course is more common than with gun owners in general. NSSF survey data of national “A Girl and a Gun” club members showed interest in activities at higher levels and with different priorities than the data in previous parts of my talk indicated for all gun owners.

They take more classes.

And they plan to take more classes in the future.

Many cultural changes occurred over the past 50 years.  In the 1970s, all the gun magazines were about hunting and gun collecting for the most part.  NRA training was all about target shooting and bullseye competition.  In the 1980’s, concealed carry and USPSA competition started to grow, to the level that a national network shooting show that showed USPSA, Steel Challenge and other modern pistol sports, American Shooter (now called Shooting USA), was reaching a national audience.

In the 1990s, significant expansion in concealed carry laws occurred.  The political drama over the assault weapon and high capacity magazine ban caused a lot of gun owners that had no interest in those guns to take an interest and purchase them.  And growth of the shooting sports continued, as IDPA started and began to attract gun owners that were interested in USPSA-style shooting but had a more concealed carry focus. The idea that people needed to attend training to be prepared to carry in public and to be proficient with carry guns really took root during this decade.

In the 2000s, 9/11 occurred, which dramatically changed the country’s risk perception.  Suddenly everyone realized that something bad could happen to them, and they needed to do something about it.  Growth of the internet, and increased access to information produced by and about gun owners that provided a realistic view, as opposed to the consistently anti-gun editorial bias of the mainstream media, began to be available and accessible to a broader audience.  The growth of realistic war and shooting video games increased interest in real firearms as well.  The impact of this was the rise of Gun Culture 2.0. a term coined by gun writer, competition shooter and TV producer Michael Bane.  He didn’t coin the term until 2012, but the trend was happening in the 2000s.

I consider myself a Gun Culture 1.9 person, because I grew up in a house with guns, but I didn’t do anything with them, because they belonged to my father who had passed away when I was very young.  It wasn’t until I reached college age that I decided to learn about them (and shooting in general). At that time there were no firearm classes.  Finding training of any kind, as a firearms novice with no friends or family that were “gun people”, was very difficult.  The largest gun club in town (Austin Rifle Club) had no training program and appeared to be a closed group with no phone number.  One local range owner pointed me at the USPSA club that shot at his range, and a few of their members offered to teach me.  When others in my social circle learned of my interest in guns, they wanted me to teach them, and I found it difficult to find an NRA instructor training course. I ended up driving to Corpus Christi for a class, where an NRA Training Counselor that didn’t follow any of the NRA materials certified a group of 10 us in 3 different disciplines in 6 hours.  A few years later, to get certified as an NRA Training Counselor, because there were no classes offered in Texas, I had to fly to California to take the course.

The growth of my own business, KR Training, follows the arc of Gun Culture 2.0, as I created a website back when Mosaic was the only browser, writing the website in HTML 1.0 in a text editor.  So as far back as 1995, much of my marketing was internet based, via a website and posts on USENET gun forums and local Austin online forums.  Just as others were setting up their training businesses to teach the newly-required Texas Concealed Handgun License course, I started offering post-CHL classes, hosting national traveling trainers and got certified as one of the few “civilian” Simunition instructors back when that required attending a multi day in person training course.

During the 2000s as mandatory training for concealed carry, and in the 2010s as it became easier and easier to start up Last Name Tactical and Latin Word Tactical training businesses, and as a result of my efforts training hundreds of NRA instructors in my area, training at all levels is now widely available to people that want it — a massive change from what existed in 1988.

The 2010s were the Obama gun buying years, tremendous growth in sales and demand for training. After decades refusing to consider the idea of training “civilians” to draw from a holster, (while lobbying in every state to get concealed carry laws passed) the NRA finally puts out its Personal Protection Outside the Home course and begins certifying its own instructors to teach the same skills the private sector had been teaching since the 1970s.

By this time, gun magazine (and online content) has shifted completely from hunting and bullseye shooting to nothing but practical, action, defensive oriented, high speed, run and gun content.  The NRA magazines begin covering 3-gun.  Back in the 1990s our local IPSC club attempted to build a private range and got sued by adjoining landowners.  The representative the NRA Range Design sent to help us was someone with no pistol experience who had never seen a USPSA match.   The idea that people could draw loaded guns from holsters, shoot in directions other than straight ahead down their tiny assigned firing point, and move while shooting was completely outside his comfort zone, and was too ‘extreme’ for NRA HQ to support.  As culture has changed, the NRA has slowly caught up.

The main point to this section is that culture can change and is changing.  Just because low numbers of existing gun owners currently don’t see any need or value or even any fun in competing or training doesn’t mean those numbers will remain at those levels.  In 1992, the number of gun owners interested in the AR-15 was tiny.  Now it’s the most commonly purchased rifle.  Same for the numbers of people with carry permits, and the numbers of people who carry daily.  The high level trends are positive for the future of both training and practical/defensive type competition, if for no other reason than the increased numbers of gun owners.  If only 1% attend training, 1% of the pool of gun owners today is a larger number than it was 10 years ago, or 20 years ago.

Culture change doesn’t occur on its own.  The messages people hear and the examples high profile people set affect opinion and behavior.  Sometimes ideas that start in a quiet corner spread quickly because they are the right idea at the right time.  At this point in history there are a lot of voices, on many different platforms, all being heard by gun owners and pro-gun voters, so potential exists to affect the gun owner opinions that influence their decisions to attend training.

In Part 6 I’ll discuss the current state of the training business and changes that could occur to make it more accessible to those not currently coming to classes.


Beyond the One Percent (part 4)

The Beyond the One Percent presentation explores the topic of how many people train, why they train, what courses they choose and why, and ways to possibly motivate more than 1% of adult gun owners to take training beyond their state minimum.  It is based on my presentation at the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, for those that need the links.   If you’ve haven’t read them, start there before reading this part.


Perspectives change as students progress in their training.  The questions in the slide are the ones we think should matter to beginners: What classes do I need? What minimum level of competence do I need to carry? To have reasonable odds of surviving a deadly force incident? To be ready for the legal and psychological aftermath?  But those questions are rarely asked of us of those in basic, license to carry, and even the first level defensive pistol course.

This slide defines the default attitude many gun owners, and most with carry permits, have about their readiness for a defensive gun use.  Everyone that carries regularly believes their skill level is “good enough”.  That’s based on one of two definitions:  the minimum for their state license, or “however good I shoot”.  Neither of those standards is based on analysis of incidents or the recommendations of trainers that teach more than the state minimum course. There’s no shortage of standards and drills available online that someone could use to evaluate their skills.  Most of them require skills that can’t be performed at many ranges: drawing, firing faster than one shot per second, movement.  Running the drills usually requires a shot timer, which used to be a big hurdle in that it required buying a $100 gadget.  That’s no longer an excuse, since there are shot timer apps for IOS and Android, and many drills are run using par times, which can be done with a stopwatch app.

The real reasons people don’t include measurement of skill using standards in practice are not range limitations or gear limitations.  Shooting standards are like taking tests, and nobody likes taking tests. Particularly tests you don’t feel prepared for or expect to do poorly on.

Advocates of Constitutional Carry frequently point out that it’s rare, almost unheard of, to find an example in which an armed citizen had a negative outcome as a result of being too slow getting the gun from holster (or drawer, or purse, or …), aimed at the target and fired. Similarly, failure to get effective hits is rarely the cause of a negative outcome, because simply being threatened with deadly force, or being shot at and hit anywhere, does stop the attack much of the time.

How much improvement does training actually provide?  In 2014-2015 we ran 118 shooters through a series of shooting tests, using iron sights, green lasers, and slide mounted red dot sights (with and without backup irons).  I presented the results at the 2016 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, but formal publication of the university-funded study is still slowly winding its way through campus review.  One result is relevant here:

The test was simply “one shot on target”, starting from a ready position, using an IDPA target at 5 and 10 yards.  That’s somewhat harder than the “one shot in 2 seconds at 3 yards” required by the Texas license to carry course, but as the data shows, most of the shooters that were at CHL (Concealed Handgun License) level or higher had no trouble getting 0-ring hits.  Past the carry permit level, additional training didn’t make a big difference in that skill. Had we decreased the time limit down to 1.25 or 1 second, we likely would have seen worse performance relative to training level.  So training will make you faster.

Where training (and more importantly, frequent dry fire practice) really makes a difference is in the speed of drawing from concealment., which we didn’t measure in this test.  One of the biggest benefits of training is improved gunhandling.  The level of gunhandling considered acceptable at most gun shops, gun shows, commercial ranges and other places where untrained/CHL level trained gun owners shoot is lower than what is expected at most post-CHL level courses.  Meeting that higher standard significantly decreases the likelihood that a muzzle will be in an unsafe direction or finger will be on trigger when it really shouldn’t be.

Training creates competence which leads to confidence, which leads to more frequent carrying, as the student begins to believe in his/her ability to carry in public safely and make legally defensible and tactically correct use of force decisions.  It can reduce many of the negative outcomes that can occur.

The biggest problem goes back to “I shoot good enough”.  Right up until the negative outcomes happens, most gun owners will insist that their gunhandling is “safe enough”.  And many that could not pass a baseline defensive handgun skills test like our own Three Seconds or Less drill, carry in public with great (untested, unvalidated) confidence in their skills.

It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.  The 99% of carry permit holders – the ones that will not come to a training course that goes beyond the state minimum – are usually at the top of “Mt. Stupid”.   They aren’t stupid, though.  I think many of them don’t want to take the next step because they see the giant cliff that lies beyond it.

The cliff, marked as the “Program Termination Zone”, is not a happy place.

Once someone becomes aware that their skills are not at the level they should be, that causes a loss of confidence.  Regaining that confidence will require effort: training and practice time.    Going from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious incompetence” is not fun.

If you know people that you can’t motivate to go shoot a match, or take a class, the issue of “denial in defense of the ego” may be involved.  As Dr. Aprill has noted, the desire to protect the ego (against poor performance in front of others) often overrides the desire to gain the larger benefit, which is improvement in survival odds.  That desire to seek out those activities that have a higher probability of success (carbine courses with 7 yard targets), vs. those activities which may be more challenging (force on force scenarios or unarmed courses for the non-martial artist), is definitely a factor in class selection.

A good post-CHL training course will get students past the Valley of Despair and move them to the Slope of Enlightenment, where confidence begins to return, as they gain “conscious competence”.

We all have noble motives.  Turning interest into action is harder.  Anytime I am having a conversation with someone about my training business, or get a contact from someone that tries to coordinate a group class, the divide between “interested in it enough to say they might go” and “willing to commit a deposit and to a specific date” is wide.  Many never get past the “I should do that someday” step.

On one of the Facebook forums I’m on, my standard response to “what kind of new gun should I buy?” is “spend that money on training, range time and practice ammo with the gun you already have, or at least spare mags, better sights, and good quality carry gear for the gun you carry most often.”   That response is never well received.  There’s a sizable chunk of the armed citizen community that will spend $500, $1000 or more on a new gun that will not spend a dollar on training, and the new gun they wanted will spend 364 days a year in the safe alongside all the other New Guns that were briefly interesting also.

John Holschen (West Coast Armory/Insights Training) has been in the training business for more than 30 years.  His analysis matches my own experiences as a student and as a trainer.  Many bloggers have observed that gun reviews are the most popular articles on their sites.

Students coming to training just past the carry permit level are interested in techniques.  After techniques can be executed with competence, then concerns about tactics follow.

A popular activity online, among those with higher levels of training, is to criticize the gear used by the less trained, particularly with regard to guns, holsters and carry methods.  Most of the time, that criticism is valid, but very poorly received by those with the bad gear.  Choosing bad gear based on poor assessment of equipment needs is not unique to the gun culture as noted in Burson’s paper.

So here’s a summary of all the bad news I’ve presented thus far:

To those of us trying to offer classes that take gun owners to a realistic level of competence, past the state minimum, these represent the hurdles we have to overcome to reach more than the one percent.

In the next few parts I will present recommendations to address these issues.

Update: Part 5 now online.

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