Red Dot Study – Key Points

In 2015 & 2016 KR Training partnered with the Texas A&M Huffines Institute to jointly fund and conduct an academic study comparing shooter performance using iron sights, green lasers, and slide mounted red dot sights (with and without backup iron sights). This blog post summarizes the key findings from that work.

My motivation for doing the study was that I was one of the early adopters of frame mounted electronic red dot sights in the early 1990s, as a USPSA Open division competitor, and I had observed the benefits of use of a red dot sight in my own shooting and in the overall trends in scores at USPSA and other pistol matches. I also spent 23 years doing research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) on Navy-funded programs at the University of Texas at Austin, including writing and conducting tests comparing commercial equipment against mission requirements. I’ve been a firearms trainer for 26 years, teaching weekly classes, and the number of students showing up with both lasers and slide mounted red dot sights has increased over the past 5 years. I wanted to learn more about both so I could make recommendations based on data, not anecdote, sales literature or even my own experience using that gear. We received no funding from any vendors or manufacturers, and KR Training sells no laser- or red-dot specific training courses.


Over a two year period we collected data on 118 shooters, male and female, novice to Grand Master (top 5% in USPSA) level, from 18 to 76 years old, during KR Training classes, local shooting events, and the national A Girl and a Gun conference.

We used S&W M&P CORE pistols, one with iron sights,one with a Streamlight TLR light/laser mounted on the rail,one with a Trijicon RMR and no backup irons and one with an RMR and backup irons

We designed the test based on the most likely defensive use of a pistol: effective first shot hits at 5 and 10 yards, using both hands or dominant hand only. Many advocates of the slide-mounted red dot sight point out that the real value of the RDS is beyond 10 yards. Our concern was in measuring performance gains or losses for the common case, particularly if optimizing gear for the 25 yard shot would cause significant performance degradation for the 5-10 yard usage.

Each trial involved starting at a ready position. One shot drill on an IDPA target in 1.5 seconds. We used USPSA points-based scoring because we wanted to study points and time separately. Actual first shot time was recorded. Late shots were scored as zero points.

The full data set and analysis is in a lengthy study that is still in review and will be submitted to a referred academic journal.  I’ve presented the data at the 2016 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, at the national A Girl and Gun Conference, and to a MAG-40 class. The audio portion of my presentation to the MAG-40 class was recorded for a ProArms podcast episode.

I’ll show the highest level results here with some discussion of issues of more interest to shooters that won’t be in the academic paper.


Did shooters using the slide mounted red dots shoot better than those using irons or lasers? No.

Many, regardless of experience level, had a hard time finding the dot on initial presentation of the pistol from ready, with the most difficulty occurring when no backup iron sights were available.

Those using the green laser (in bright daylight, much of it during summer months in Texas) had no trouble using it to shoot scores very close to what they could with iron sights.

There was not time in the testing to give participants significant training time to learn the red dot or the laser. They were allowed 10 or less dry fire presentations before testing began. Red dot advocates insist that finding the dot on presentation improves with training, and I found that to be true during summer 2016, when I put in the time to earn a Grand Master ranking in USPSA’s Carry Optics division.

The high hit factors for USPSA classifiers in Carry Optics, relative to those in Production division, are typically a few percent (less than 10%) higher, indicating USPSA’s own assessment of the value gained by adding a red dot sight. By comparison, high hit factors for Open division, where the red dot sights are mounted to the frame, can be as much as 20% higher than the Production scores.

(An example: a shooter that can run a 6 second “El Presidente” drill, hitting all A’s, would have a hit factor of 10.00:  60 points divided by 6 seconds. In Production division (iron sights), that score would be 97% of the high hit factor, a Grand Master level score. In Carry Optics division, that score would be 93% of the high hit factor, which is only a Master level score. And in Open division, that score would be 84% of the high hit factor, which is an A class score.  Another way to look at it: to shoot equivalent scores in Production takes 6 seconds, in Carry Optics 5.76 seconds, in Open 5.21 seconds assuming 60 points on all runs.)

Those that want to explore this issue farther can do so using this classifier calculator site, where you can put in a hit factor for any classifier and find out how it ranks, relative to the high hit factor for that course of fire and division.)

A frequent “talking point” for those selling and promoting red dot sights is that they are better for older shooters who cannot focus on the front sight easily. Our data did not show that to be true.

Those with more experience and skill with firearms were able to use the laser and red dot more effectively, with those at the instructor level having the most success with the red dot sight and slightly more difficulty using the laser (likely because it requires a target focus). Those with moderate skill were able to use the laser as effectively as iron sights, indicating that the learning curve for the laser is much shorter than for the red dot.

In a 2016 article, Paul Howe observed that no one has yet passed his pistol standards using a slide mounted red dot sight, and in a recent podcast, Mike Seeklander (another trainer, USPSA Grand Master and experienced Open division competitor) advised listeners that the red dot sight was not an advantage inside of 10 yards, with some disadvantage associated with finding the dot upon presentation of the pistol.

Those observations track with our study results. Adding a slide mounted red dot sight typically doubles the cost of the pistol, providing at best a 10% gain for those at already high skill levels.  For those not already at the USPSA B class, IDPA Expert, 80% on FBI qualification test or higher skill level, particularly those that do not dry fire regularly and do not practice getting the gun from ready (or holster) to target under time pressure, adding a red dot sight to the pistol in an attempt to buy skill with equipment will likely not produce the desired result. Trying to go the cheap route and removing the rear sight, replacing it with a red dot sight, leaving the user with no backup iron sights is particularly poor decision. That configuration produced significant performance losses in all users in our study.


The biggest takeaway for me from the study was the value of the green laser (not the red dot sight).  There are far more people carrying laser equipped pistols than there are using red dot sighted pistols as carry guns, and in classes I’ve seen older shooters with limited ability to focus at front sight distances gain more capability from the laser than the red dot sight. I shot the 2016 Rangemaster Tactical Conference match using a Viridian light/laser, never getting a traditional sight picture on any target, placing 7th out of more than 150 shooters.  Shooters running lasers in my low light shooting classes have done very well.  New light/laser combo units from Crimson Trace, LaserMax, Viridian, and others are smaller than red dot sights, and can be added to a carry pistol in a way that traditional iron sights can also be used. The rail mounted units allow momentary ‘on’, similar to lights, which solves the “always on” issue associated with lasers activated by gripping the pistol.

The failure of both of the practical/defensive pistol sports, IDPA and USPSA, to allow the use of lasers in their matches makes no sense to me. USPSA, in particular, has tried to maintain Jeff Cooper’s original ideal of being the testbed where all types of innovations in gear can be used and evaluated, to the point of going beyond his original concept of testing street-worthy gear. So frame mounted red dots, magnets worn on belts to hold magazines, and many other gadgets only relevant on match day are OK, but lasers are not.  Given their practicality, and actual use by people who carry, lasers should be the obvious choice for IDPA to recognize in any new “carry optics” division.


My advice to those considering the investment in a slide mounted red dot sight on their pistol is:

  1. Baseline your current performance level.  Use the IDPA classifier or the FBI qualification test as a thorough assessment of what you can do with iron sights. IDPA Expert or 80% on the FBI qualification test are good goals.
  2. Analyze your skills (part 1).  If you can get the gun aligned with the target and are missing because of poor trigger control or grip problems, spend your red dot sight money on training or other gun modifications (trigger upgrades, for example), and invest some time in dry practice. Purchase a SIRT pistol, Laserlyte pistol, dry fire mag, or other dry fire training gear.  Purchase of a red dot sight will help you aim at longer distances a little better. It will not make your draw faster nor will it fix any other problem with your fundamentals.
  3. Analyze your skills (part 2). If your primary challenge is difficulty getting a sight picture, I would look for opportunities to try a laser and a red dot sighted pistol before spending money. Many (most) of the highest skill level shooters I know and have trained with use a solid black rear and narrow fiber optic front sight, like these from Dawson Precision. A narrow front sight provides more light around the notch, and only having a dot on the front sight, as opposed to dots on front and rear, makes it easier to maintain front sight focus.  A cheap way to try this is simply to black out the rear dots on your existing rear sight and replace the front sight. I don’t recommend the fiber optic sights sold at retail stores, as they are all standard width (.125″) and generally not as rugged as the pro-grade sights that can be ordered from online vendors. Get a front sight that is .100-.115 in width. Switching to monovision glasses (dominant eye corrected for front sight length and non-dominant corrected for vision) is another option that can work not only on the range but for everyday wear. All of my glasses are set up for mono vision. That made a big difference in my scores after I turned 50.
  4. If you want to explore the slide mounted red dot sighted pistol, configure your gun with tall backup iron sights, and commit the time in dry and live practice to getting your skill with the red dot pistol up to the level you measured with iron sights (or beyond). Spend time getting the dot sighted in at 15 and 25 yards, and check that zero at 5, 50, and 75 yards, so you understand how the dot and the trajectory of your carry or match load align at those distances. Closer than 15 yards your bullets will strike lower than the dot, similar to holdover with a red dot on an AR rifle.
  5. Evaluate your skills. After you’ve put in the work to learn the dot, retest yourself using the same drills you ran in step 1.  If the scores show improvement using the dot, keep using it. If not, either put in more work, try other sighting options (laser, different irons, different glasses) until you find what works best for you.

KR Training May 2017 newsletter

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Deal #1)  Beyond the Basics and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 – Houston area June 17 $160 combo (plus $20 range fee)

Deal #2) Basic Pistol 2 and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 – taught by John Daub June 24 $160 combo ($200 value)

Deal #3) Defensive Pistol Skills 2 (June 10) and Defensive Pistol Skills 3 (July 8) $160 combo ($200 value!)

For all deals – must pay in full in advance.

Register here.


Recent events in Manchester once again draw attention to the value of medical skills in situations where response from uniformed personnel may be limited or delayed. The upcoming Medicine X Every Day Carry taught by Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics, (June 3-4) is suitable not only for armed citizens but “non-shooter” students, who can learn the skills and learn how to act in a crisis situation whether they are armed or not.

It’s 2 days of medic skills (for armed citizens), combined with live fire and Force on Force scenario training where you apply your shooting, tactics, communication and medical skills in realistic simulations of defensive gun use situations.

You don’t need prior medical training to attend.  The only pre-reqs are a carry license and completion of a class or match where you have drawn from a holster, because you’ll be doing that in the scenarios.

Hsoi’s AAR from a 2012 session of the course tells you more about the class.

Can’t afford the time or money for both days?  Take the first 4 hours for $100, or the first 2 for $200. If you’ve taken it before, refresher slots (1/2, 1 or 2 day) are available at 50% off.

I have over 2000 hours of firearms training, but so far in my life I have used the medical training more times than I’ve used anything I learned in pure shooting classes.

Register here.


June 10th I’ll be teaching Defensive Pistol Skills 2, and on July 8th Defensive Pistol Skills 3.

DPS-1 was not “everything you need to know about defensive shooting”.  DPS-2 and DPS-3 review and refresh key points from DPS-1, with lots of additional material: shooting from cover, shooting on the move, armed movement in structures, malfunction clearing, one handed shooting and gun manipulation, much more.

Taken them before? Refresher slots available for 50% off.

Register here.


I’ll be offering Beyond The Basics: Handgun and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 at the Orange Gun Club east of Houston on June 17th.  If you have friends in that area, please let them know.


Advanced Training 6 – June 10th, 2-5 pm

Basic Pistol 1 & Gun Selection Clinic – June 17th, 9-12 and 1-3, taught by John Daub

Basic Pistol 2Defensive Pistol Skills 1 –  June 24th, taught by John Daub


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


As an NRA Training Counselor I’m certified to train others in a long list of NRA courses, and I’ve hosted non-NRA instructor training courses in the past.  If you are interested in adding more instructor certifications, or getting certified for the first time, please take the survey and select all the courses you are interested in. That will help me decide which instructor classes to offer in the future.


The full schedule of 2017 classes is here.

We’ll be adding more classes to the August-October schedule next month.


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

Defensive Pistol Skills (Small Gun) and Skill Builder Long Gun May 20 2017 AAR

Small Gun Class

Every year I offer a special 3 hour session of our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, with drills modified specifically for small guns, pocket guns, and guns carried in anything that’s not a belt holster.

I do this because of this silly idea I have that people should train with the guns they actually carry.  It’s not a popular idea, apparently.  This has been a better than average year, though.  In the past few years, interest in the course was too low for the course to make.  This year, I ran a full session at the 2017 A Girl and Gun conference, and a session at the A-Zone this past Saturday.

Despite a weather forecast threatening 1″ of heavy rain, most of the students showed up. And the tiny amount of rain that fell did not disrupt class at all.

Class included some drills accessing the pocket gun from a seated position, which can be difficult and slow.

Part of the class includes having students shoot our Three Seconds or Less standards drill with both their pocket gun and a larger pistol carried in a belt holster.  A few students chose to use the same gun for both drills, changing their carry method for the second run.   As noted in the Three Seconds or Less drill page, those carrying in a pocket or using any method that allows getting a firing grip on the pistol without breaking concealment were allowed to do that rather than start from “hands at sides”.  That’s because the reality of pocket carry is that it’s slower than drawing from a belt holster, and the only way most people can make the 2 second par time for the draw required to pass the test is to start with hand on gun.

I’ve been keeping records on small gun/large gun performance differences for almost a decade now. The class average with small guns was 70%, and class average with the large gun was 75%.  The historical average for the small guns, including data from this class, was 80%, and 87% for the large gun.   The average difference for this group was 5%, not far from the 7% historical average.

A few students that shot worse with the large gun, and a small sample set skewed the data somewhat. Most students dropped 7-10% from large gun to small gun, with outliers at -17% and +4% (better with the small gun).   We had been shooting the small guns for 2 hours before taking the test for score with both the small and large guns.  As with every group, scores with the small guns would have been lower had we tested at the start of class instead.

The biggest change in this year’s group was consistency in gun choice. Almost everyone had a small gun that was similar to their large gun. One student started class with a lightweight .38 snub revolver and put it away after the first 30 minutes, choosing to take the rest of the course with an XD-S instead.  Gun weight, poor factory sights, long heavy trigger pull, low hand strength and general inexperience at shooting were all factors in the student’s decision to switch guns, and switching guns produced an immediate and significant improvement in the student’s ability to get acceptable, timely hits.

If you are a gun shop employee, gun dealer, untrained forum-advice-giving gun owner, blogger, gun writer or trainer that continues to recommend or sell lightweight .38 revolvers to new gun buyers, please stop.

We live in the golden age of gun design. There are dozens of semiauto models on the market in .380 and 9mm, all easier to shoot than any of the balsawood .38 snubs with tiny sights and a trigger pull that’s 500% of the weight of the gun.  All the lowest scores in my records of small gun testing were shot with .38 snubs, with only two shooters making a passing score of 70%.

As a special treat to those that braved the weather and the challenge of shooting the small guns, everyone got a bonus run in the shoot house, using the 3D reactive targets and our new rolling “Rubber Dummy” target.

We’ll be offering the course again in late July.  Don’t have a small gun because you always carry your Glock 19? We have loaners. Try something new.

Don’t need training in the small gun because you are awesome with your 5″ full size match gun and you are positive your skill will translate down to that DA/SA .380 you carry daily and haven’t shot in the past year?  Skip that July match, where you would standing around for 7 hours spending most of the day taping other people’s targets, and come to my class instead.  3 hours, 150 rounds, done by noon. The only targets you tape are your own, and we only tape hits outside the A-zone. So if you shoot good enough, you won’t have to tape at all! 

Many years ago I wrote an article about this course for the US Concealed Carry Association magazine. For more info about the course, that article is still online.

Skill Builder Long Gun

I paired the small gun class with a new two hour Long Gun Skill Builder course, intended to appeal to those that have taken our Defensive Long Gun Essentials course, or any other carbine class or rifle match.  It’s mainly intended as an AR, AK or pistol caliber carbine class, but I beta-tested the drills using a lever action .45 Colt cowboy rifle for fun the day before class and was able to just barely make the time limits and hits, so it could be taken with a lever or pump action rifle if desired.

Most of the small gun students stuck around for the long gun class. The weather forecast caused several that had signed up only for the afternoon class to bail out, missing out on what is probably our last not-too-hot training day until September.

The class focused on lots of reps of low round count, 10-20 yard drills shooting 1-2 targets that were 3-8″ in size, mostly from standing or working around barricades with lots of emphasis on quickly getting the rifle from ready to target with a fast, accurate first shot.

This was the first time we’ve offered the course, and based on student feedback, it will stay in rotation alongside the popular pistol Skill Builder course, as a way for students interested in both pistol and long gun to get some trigger time with both in a single training day.  We’ll offer it on July 29 paired with the Defensive Pistol Small Gun class.


observations from NYC concert trip

Over the past weekend I made a trip to the NYC/New Jersey area with old friend Andy Wimsatt, who has interesting Twitter and Instagram feeds.   We went to two shows: Opeth/Gojira/Devon Townsend at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey, and Japanese Breakfast/Slowdive at Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn.

It was my first trip to NYC, so I hit as many tourist attractions as possible, and posted a bunch of pics about that to my Facebook feed.   The only attraction I really wanted to get to and didn’t, was Troma headquarters.

The most important thing I learned on this trip was the secret instructions that sound engineers use to mix sound for opening bands.  The process is this:

  1. Turn up the bass drum until it’s the loudest instrument, regardless of genre of music.  When the PA speakers start to break up, boost the 30 Hz another 6 dB and leave it alone.
  2. Turn up the vocal until it’s almost as loud as the bass drum.
  3. Roll off everything below 60 Hz on the bass guitar and turn it up almost as loud as the bass drum, so the bass is a muddy mess with no discernable pitch.
  4. Roll off any part of the guitar and keyboard frequencies that provide pitch information and mix them 20 dB below the bass drum and vocals.
  5. Only turn up the guitar if it’s a solo, then turn it back down.
  6. If there are backing vocals, mix them 20 dB below the lead vocal so you can sort of tell that someone else is singing.

For the headliner, actually try to do a good job.

I found myself watching the staff and crew at the Starland Ballroom as much as I was watching the show.  It’s a 2500 seat place, extremely well run.  The pre-show slides included an IHOP ad that caused everyone to cheer wildly each time it cycled through (Andy captured on Instagram) and a venue map that showed where all the exits were for evacuation.  Because it was a metal show, there was moshing and crowdsurfing.  Their staff did a great job handling crowdsurfers.  They had one security guy designated as the “dismounter” (call him Bigfoot) and whoever was surfing would get passed that direction.  “Bigfoot” would help the person down and send them out a cleared path back into the pit.  At one point someone’s phone was dropped and recovered, held up and passed back to staff.  During lulls in the mosh, staff were using SureFire or other “all the lumens” lights to check status in the pit making sure nobody was down.  They had on bright orange shirts, radios, bright lights, very visible presence but behavior was much more safety than security.

After particularly intense songs, the crowd would chant Holy Shit! Holy Shit! like they do in WWE.

After the show, the staff did a great job of getting people out. Big signs, staffers directing people to multiple exits.  When I worked for TEEX I managed a couple of the  “sports and special events” courses and took several classes in that series.  The operations at the Starland would make a great case study for one of those courses.

By comparison, the show at Brooklyn Steel showed the newness of the venue and the staff.  Safety/security types were hard to identify, much less active, and crowdflow problems, such as the merch line blocking access to the bathrooms, happened.

As for the music: Devon Townsend is a great singer, would have enjoyed a longer set. The crowd loved Gojira, but the horrible sound mix made it hard to enjoy.  Opeth sounded great and was everything I expected.  Japanese Breakfast suffered from opening band sound mix problems.  Slowdive had a great light show, and was well received by the large crowd.  To me it seemed like every song basically had the same sound and same tempo, and at one point the female singer was at least a quarter note off key. As Andy pointed out, when the tonal instruments are drowning in reverb it can be hard to find the pitch.

Due to a timely post on Bill Crider’s blog about unusual sights to see in Manhattan, we made an unplanned stop at the Houdini Museum which is a tiny little place with no signage outside the building it’s in.


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.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog.


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.