Book Review – American Pistol Shooting (Maj. William Frazer, 1929)

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that effort has been seeking out and reading old books on shooting, purchasing copies signed by the authors when possible.

In 1929, Major William D Frazer published this book. He was a member of the US Army and recipient of the 1922 Distinguished Marksman Badge. He participated in the 1924 Olympics in Paris in the pistol shooting competition, placing 11th overall.  He is also related to current NRA national secretary John Frazer, who recommended this book to me.

From the author’s foreward:

The main objective in mind in writing American Pistol Shooting was to provide a means of instruction in all forms of pistol practice in America today.  When the Author took up the sport more than 20 years ago he had to learn it much as he did swimming and skating as a small boy, without instructors or the aid of books of any kind, and this handicap was keenly felt at times.  It resulted in slow progress and many discouraging hours because of the necessity for correcting bad habits formed by lack of proper coaching. 

His book is one of many published in the late 20’s and 1930’s, each providing written instruction in pistol skills.  I’ve reviewed many of them in previous blog posts.


Like the other books of this era, it covers all the standard topics, with more emphasis on competition shooting than other books I’ve reviewed:

  • Origins of pistol shooting & history
  • Types of pistol shooting (military, police, recreational, competition, defensive, hunting)
  • Pistol and holster selection
  • Pistol shooting fundamentals
  • Shooting Against Time
  • Aerial Practice & Exhibition Shooting
  • Defensive Shooting and Quick Drawing
  • Police Handgun Training
  • Shooting Psychology
  • Competition Shooting
  • Coaching and Teamwork
  • On Instructing Ladies
  • Game Shooting / Long Range shooting
  • Ammunition and Accessories
  • A Few “Don’ts”

Target Design

He provides detailed dimensions for the military “L” (slow fire), “E” (rapid fire) and “M” (mounted) targets, as shown below.

and specs for the Standard American Target (50 yard) and its smaller cousins, the International target and Standard American 20 yard target.

Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s, pre-printed targets were harder to obtain than they are today, and many readers of these books may have had to make their own targets, drawing circles to the correct dimensions.

Handgun Shooting Tips

After one has fired ten or more shots rapidly with the .45 caliber Service Automatic pistol or its contemporary .45 revolver, he may find that the repeated shock of the heavy recoil on his pistol hand has caused tremors in it, and this, exclusive of any nervousness due to mental agitation, makes steady holding more difficult and is conducive to flinching.

He would probably be amazed at the modern trend of 300-500 round per day intensive handgun skills courses. Then again, back in 1929 they were shooting mostly one-handed without hearing protection.

Foot position and shooting stance was an obsession with competition shooters of the bullseye era, with books devoting dozens of pages to photos showing the different form of top shooters.  Maj. Frazer’s book provides a detailed engineering drawing of his concept of perfect foot position.

Frazer’s book contains the first reference to what we call “frame dragging” (as explained in this article from Tom Givens) that I’ve found in the old books.

You will find that you have a natural tendency to press against the right side of the trigger and the pistol frame.  Now move your finger to the right until no part of it rests against the frame; then any pressure you may exert will come on the face of the trigger.  Squeeze with that part of the finger that rests on the trigger naturally and enables a squeeze straight back.

Advice on Rapid Firing

1. Every movement of pointing and aiming must be made in the quickest and most direct manner. (KR note: This universal concept still applies.)

2. In rapid aiming the shooter should first establish his line of sight by fixing his master eye on the aiming point of the target, and then bring the pistol sights into this line of sight.  To attempt to align the sights first and then, by moving the pistol, to align the sights and the target is the wrong procedure. (KR note: in the modern area this problem occurs when shooters are trying to get a sight picture when the gun is in a ready position, rather than bringing the gun to the eye-target line as part of their presentation.  The concept applies both to bullseye shooting and to defensive shooting.)

3. In all rapid firing care should be taken to release the trigger fully after each shot. (KR note: the idea of pinning and slowly releasing the trigger is widely taught, and I taught that technique for many years myself.  I stopped teaching it because my observations agreed with many others, particularly top tier USPSA competitors, that found that students would often concentrate too much on pinning and slow release, but still jerk the trigger when actually firing the shot, and using pin-and-reset for anything other than slow fire group shooting severely limits the speed at which the pistol can be shot.  Trying to hold the trigger back or not fully release it, for very high speed shooting, often causes ‘trigger freeze’. So his advice, while intended for bullseye shooters, is valid for all speeds of shooting.)

Aerial and Exhibition Shooting

Shooting pistol bullets at aerial targets was something that people seemed to think was perfectly OK as recently as 1960.  The book devotes a chapter to shooting of aerial targets, with zero discussion about safe shooting direction or any concern as to where the fired bullets might land.

Exhibition shooting was more popular and common than it is today, and early exhibition shooters would engage in what Major Frazer calls “William Tell” stunts trying to hit objects held by, or placed on an assistant’s head.  Frazer wisely advises against this, listing several cases where assistants were injured.  His chapter on exhibition shooting provides guidance on a wide variety of trick shots involving mirrors, guns fired upside down, splitting bullets on axe blades, and more.

Exhibition shooting has made a comeback, thanks to youTube, with many creative shooters re-creating classic trick shots and coming up with their own variations.

Since it’s almost Christmas, this example of modern trick shooting seems appropriate…


Frazer offers 4 essential tips to minimizing flinching:

  1. Keep the nervous system in a normal healthy condition by sensible exercise and diet.
  2. While firing, concentrate on aiming, holding, squeezing and calling the shots until the habits become mechanical.
  3. Do not fire many shots at each practice period while learning the game or until the muscles and nerves become thoroughly accustomed to the noise and recoil.  Too much shooting is conducive to carelessness and flinching.
  4. Know your pistol, especially its cocking action and trigger pull and avoid treacherous and uncertain triggers and actions.

Competition Shooting

A large portion of the book is advice specific to those training to attain a high level of skill specific to bullseye competition. Advice is given on how to train, how to work with others on a shooting team, gear, diet, fitness, and many aspects of the mental game of shooting.  Compared to other shooting books of this era, this book covers those topics in much more detail, with more sophistication than the others.

Instructing Ladies

All of these quotes from the book made me smile, for various reasons:

Most women have an inherent dread of firearms and the sight of them will at once arouse nervousness and sometimes bring on hysterics.

The author has taught over 300 women to shoot, most of them university students.  Girls learned more quickly than the boys..and with the rifle the young women did better work than the young men. The big majority (of the boys) had done some shooting at an earlier date and felt that they knew how to do it. They invariably showed the lack or absence of proper instruction and had acquired enough bad habits to require a lot of correcting.

After a few trying experiences with the first classes of young women, in which one had hysterics, another fainted, and a third almost shot an instructor, the necessity for very close supervision, individual coaching, and a carefully thought out plan of instruction was an absolute necessity if accidents were to be avoided and confidence and enthusiasm developed in the pupils.

The thrills a girl got from seeing her shot in the bull’s-eye were often enough to cause her to turn quickly about with the gun in her hand and acclaim her success to her neighbors on the firing line or to the rear of it.  This could not be tolerated.

There have been some very fine pistol shots among women.  The pistol and revolver championship of Texas was won by a woman using the .45 Colt Automatic pistol a few years ago.

1911 Advice

Terrible advice regarding handling of the 1911, from the book:

It is perfectly safe to carry this pistol so charged (full magazine and loaded chamber) with the hammer down, and is safe than to carry the gun with a cartridge in the chamber and the hammer cocked and locked. 

Sadly, this advice is completely wrong and dangerous.  In Frazer’s era, double-action revolvers were rarely shot double action, as slow fire bullseye shooting was all done in single action mode.   1911 pistols of Frazer’s time all had a large spur hammer, much like a cowboy sixgun, so the idea that the 1911 could be thumb-cocked when drawn did not seem as wrong as it does today.  It wasn’t until 1983, when the Colt Series 80 line was introduced, that any 1911 maker acknowledged that carrying the gun in Condition Two (loaded chamber, hammer down) was inherently unsafe without the firing pin safety the Series 80 guns added.

This may be the worst two handed grip I’ve ever seen in a book.

Other advice was better, as the book contains a good photo of correct and incorrect alignment of the gun with the hand and arm. In the left picture, the gun is recoiling on top of the thumb knuckle.  That’s a frequent problem with modern shooters, who often buy guns that are too wide/fat for their hand, and twist the gun in their grip to compensate. That’s not an appropriate fix. The correct solution is to grip the gun properly, and choose a narrower gun if the trigger cannot be reached at all, or can only be reached with “frame dragging” when the gun is oriented properly in the hand.

Frazer’s Reading List

For those wanting to go farther down the Historical Handgun trail, Frazer’s list of recommended “older” books on shooting, referenced in his book, are:

The Art of Revolver Shooting, Walter Winans

Firearms in American History, Charles Winthrop Sawyer

Pistol and Revolver Shooting, A.L.A. Himmelwright

The Long Shooters, Wm. Brent Altsheler

The Book of the Pistol, Capt. Hugh B.C. Pollard

Pistols and Revolvers, Maj. J.S. Hatcher


American Pistol Shooting is well written and would have been very useful to any serious pistol shooter when it was published, particularly those interested in being a serious competition shooter or exhibition shooter.  Skyhorse Publishing reprinted this book in both print and e-book format, and good condition used copies of the print edition are fairly easy to find online and at used book stores.

The 9 round 9mm M&P Shield (Farnam class review)

On Dec 2, 2017 I traveled to El Paso, Texas to take 1 day handgun class with legendary trainer John Farnam of Defense Training International.  I used the class as an opportunity to train with my M&P Shield, running all the different magazine configurations I’ve been evaluating for the past few months.  There are many ways to turn an M&P Shield into a practical 9+1 round carry gun.

Shield 9 round 9mm Magazine Options

The standard comes with a 7 round flush fit magazine and an 8 round magazine with a plastic sleeve that provides a little more room for all your fingers on the frame.

There are a number of magazine basepad alternatives and replacement spring and follower kits available.  I purchased several of them and have been using them all in practice, and during the Farnam class.  This picture shows all of them, sorted by overall length.

The shortest one is the factory 7 round mag.  This is handy when I pocket carry the Shield.  With all the other variants, the grip of the gun is just too long for practical pocket carry, even in pants with large pocket openings like my favorite Propper pants. (I like the Propper pants because they are 4-pocket pants that can be worn anywhere dress pants or khakis can be worn, without the extra pockets that cargo or tactical pants have.  They have larger pocket openings that make pocket carry of guns, larger phones, tourniquets and other stuff much easier.)

Another way to make a 9 round Shield magazine is to put the MagGuts +2 kit on a 7 round magazine. This option creates the slimmest 9 round magazine of all the variants I’ve been working with.

Next shown is a Glock 19 magazine for comparison.  The Shield with an 8 round factory mag is basically the same length as a Glock 19, which holds twice as many rounds and is 0.8″ longer in barrel length but wider (thicker) than the Shield.

One of the first aftermarket solutions was the Plan B base pad made by the Safety Solutions Academy. It goes on the 8 round magazine and is a better option than the factory plastic sleeve.  On SSA’s owner Paul Carlson’s recommendation, I purchased a MagGuts +1 spring/follower kit, making a 9-round Plan B magazine.

The Plan B magazine is basically the same length as the factory 8 round mag, which is shown to the right of the Plan B magazine.

Taylor Freelance makes a +1 base pad that uses the factory spring. It works on both the 7 and 8 round magazine.  I put one on an 8 round mag, making another 9-round Shield 9mm magazine.

Next in line is a full size 17 round M&P magazine.

ProMag makes a 10 round magazine for the 9mm Shield.  I bought a few of these thinking they might be handy to use as training mags in classes or loaner mags for students bringing Shield guns to classes designed for higher capacity guns.  The first batch of 3 mags I got had feeding problems and I could not reliably get 10 rounds in them.  The replacement mags I got back from ProMag were incredibly difficult to get 10 rounds in, but run reliably with loaded with 9.  These mags are longer a full size M&P 17 round mag.

Running the 9 round mags in class

I had originally been scheduled to take a 2 day vehicle defense long gun class with John in Victoria, Texas in October 2017, but Hurricane Harvey disrupted my plans, and everything in Victoria.  The hotel and the range were both damaged by the flood.  John was returning to El Paso in December to teach a one day basic/intermediate pistol class, so I decided to divert my tuition to that course, which would give me an opportunity to see John teach the kind of students I frequently work with on the range.  I’ve known John for years, as he’s attended and observed my sessions at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conferences, and I’ve attended his classroom lectures.  I had never seen him present his live fire curriculum, and as part of my Historical Handgun course development, I wanted to go to the “root of the tree” to see it the way he teaches it, rather than just reading about it in his books.  John’s been a trainer for 40 years, and his ideas have been influential on many in the training industry.

The range was actually in New Mexico, just across the Texas/New Mexico border, and the US/Mexico border, not far from a large Border Patrol station.  It was a public range out in the desert, with fine sand on the ground, so any mag dropped to the ground was likely to get sand in it.  Because of that, John encouraged people to do reloads with retention. Mostly I let my mags fall to the ground to see if the sand would cause malfunctions.  To my surprise and delight I had zero malfunctions in almost 500 rounds fired that day.

The class included a mix of drills shot on paper and rotating reactive steel targets.

The rotating steel targets were more challenging for those of us with lower capacity guns, as they often took more than 7-8 hits of 9mm to generate enough kinetic energy to rotate the target all the way around.  The rotators are a standard target used in DTI classes, but I had never shot that particular target type before.  Spinning the flipper requires accuracy and timing, as you have to assess the correct time to hit the plate, when it’s moving the correct direction.  The mental challenge of target assessment this target provides was great, and I may get one of these for my own range.

Signed Books

In preparation for training with John I picked up copies of several of his books to add to my library. I collect signed copies of books written by firearms trainers, and this was my opportunity to get John to sign all of his books for my collection.  One of the books I got (a 1st edition copy of his Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning) had already been signed by him.  It appeared to be a signed copy that had at one time belonged to his mother, based on the inscription.  I brought the book with me to class, and he agreed that it likely was a copy he had given to her that had been sold in an estate sale.  I gave the book back to him and he’s going to replace it with a signed copy of the most current edition.

He’s well known for the excellent content in his DTI quips column, which he’s written for more than 20 years.  A collection of Quips from the late 90s and early 2000’s was collected in a book, Guns and Warriors, Vol 1.   His wife Vicki is frequently a co-instructor in his classes, and has been an active trainer for many decades. Her book (co-written with Diane Nicholl), Teaching Women to Shoot, remains an important and useful book for those teaching defensive pistol skills.


I’ve shot my Shield a lot, but never 500 rounds in one session.  The Farnam class required drawing, shooting on the move, lots of reloads, one handed shooting — a good test of usability and reliability of any defensive firearm.  All the guns used by students in class worked well (a few SIG DA/SA guns, many  Glocks, one Beretta APX, my Shield), and I had no malfunctions or problems with any of the magazine configurations I used, each providing 9 round capacity in the little Shield. By far my favorite for carry is the 7 round mag with the Magguts +2.




Even more knowledge from the 2017 Rangemaster Instructor Conference

On Nov 11-12, 2017 I attended the Rangemaster Instructor Conference held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 49 instructors, out of the more than 800 graduates of the 3 day Rangemaster Instructor program, spent 2 days shooting and learning.  I wrote an AAR about it after I returned.

Highlights from another presentation at the conference:

John Correia – Lessons from Watching 12,000 gunfights

John runs the very popular Active Self Protection youTube channel, and he’s been kind enough to reference my Beyond the One Percent material in several videos recently.

Tom invited John to present on lessons he’s learned from watching more than 12,000 videos of gunfights.  John has posted over 1100 videos of actual armed encounters on his channel, narrated with analysis.  He estimates for every video he’s posted, he’s viewed at least 10 to select the video of the day.  Two decades ago, a channel like John’s could not have existed, but as security cameras in facilities, car and body cameras on police officers, and cell phone cameras became omnipresent, the amount of video available from incidents has increased.

John had many lessons in his presentation. I’m going to share a few of them, with commentary.

The Pareto Principle

John explained that 20% of the skills taught in the typical defensive shooting course are all that are necessary in 80% of the incidents he’s viewed.  The 20/80 rule is often called the Pareto Principle.  As applied to firearms training, it means that roughly 20% of the exercises and habits have 80% of the impact and the trainee should not focus so much on a varied training.  John pointed out that 80% is a “B”, and that for most, having a “B” grade in gunfighting is a practical “passing score”.

His list of 20% skills aligns pretty well with our thoughts on minimum standards as well as what has been taught in defensive shooting courses for the past 20 years or so.

Empty handed skills –  From John’s presentation: “Empty handed skills are important for the 80% of assaults that don’t rise to the level of deadly force response.”  Pepper spray is a frequently ignored, rarely carried tool that can fill the gap between physical skills and deadly force skills, and (like a firearm), its use requires less training and less fitness than true empty hand skills.  Pepper spray is not the ideal solution in all situations, particularly enclosed areas, though.

Getting the First Hit Usually Wins – This observation is nothing new, going back to the days when point shooting was taught because the fraction of a second necessary to raise the gun to eye level and use the sights was considered “too long”, and the standards for what was an acceptable hit were lower.  One of the biggest deficiencies the typical “I met the state minimum” permit holder has is zero concern about the critical skill of drawing from concealment and getting a realistically effective hit.   Most ranges do not allow practice of that skill, because of the high probability an untrained person will injure themselves trying to practice a skill they have no training in and have not done the slower speed dry practice necessary to master the safe execution of that skill.

If there was one thing I could fix or change about the gun culture, in its present state, it would be greater awareness or concern among those with carry permits about the importance of a quick, effective presentation of the gun from concealment, which would bring with it motivation to carry using better holsters, carry in methods that facilitate meeting realistic standards for draw to first shot times, recognition of the importance of training and proper practice in that skill. This video shows how a slow draw from off-body carry works, but just barely.

This video shows why carrying on an empty chamber is another way to be too slow. Empty chamber is not taught or recommended by modern law enforcement trainers nor any private sector school, but remains popular with untrained permit holders, because they consider it ‘safer’ than loaded chamber carry.  Often I see a sequence of bad decisions that cascade resulting in empty chamber carry, like this:

1) Start with a lack of understanding of the importance of draw speed in a defensive encounter.

2) Add some Dunning Kruger effect, causing the person to believe their draw speed is “fast enough”, despite never having measured that skill with a timer, or taken any training, or done any practice, in that skill.

3) Add some basic cheapness and/or obsession with “comfort”, causing the person to have no willingness to spend additional money on a quality holster to carry the gun and/or general unwillingness to carry using a belt holster, instead seeking any and all alternatives to avoid using the one carry method that offers the most advantages in incidents where the gun is actually needed.

4) This results in bad choices like choosing to pocket carry without a holster, just stuffing the gun in your waistband, gimmick holsters (Versacarry in particular), or having a loaded gun flopping around loose in the console, glove box or map pocket of the vehicle.

5) Mix in some lingering concern that those choices might actually bad if a round was chambered, leading to the wrong solution of choosing to carry on an empty chamber. (Because, as you recall from #2, their untimed, un-practiced draw speed will be “fast enough” thanks to Dunning-Kruger).


Follow Up Shots Are Often Necessary – Training that teaches students to expect a one-shot stop is unrealistic.  We teach a minimum engagement, per threat, of 2-4 rounds, and John’s evidence based approach to defining skills supports that approach.

Trained Skills That Are Never Used

John gave a list of skills that are taught in many classes, including our own, that he’s never seen used in any incident video (so far).  That’s useful data when defining minimum standards, making decisions about what gear is truly essential for every day carry, and setting training priorities.  For those that have time and interest to go beyond the minimum, learning those skills can be interesting and challenging.  Many of those skills are taught because there are examples of them being used in incidents that weren’t captured on video.

One handed gun manipulation – John says one handed shooting is common, not because the other arm is injured, but because the shooter fails to drop whatever is in his/her hand, or is doing some other task with the other hand.  So if/when malfunctions occur or a reload is needed, both hands are available (and are used).

Strong hand to weak hand transition – Normally when one handed shooting is taught, the assumption is that the other hand is injured and is not longer available for use.  Even in USPSA competition, requiring a strong hand only to weak hand only transition is not allowed because of the implausibility of that skill being relevant in a self-defense situation.  The only time I’ve seen that skill required was in square range drills designed to improve one handed shooting.  Having the shooter draw with strong hand only is simpler/faster/safer than requiring a weak-hand draw, and doing a strong hand to weak hand transition is just a lazy way of including both types of one handed shooting in a drill. So I’m not surprised this purely training-drill skill doesn’t occur in real fights.

Gun dropped and recovered in a fight – One workaround to doing weak hand only draw practice is to start with the gun on the ground (as if it were dropped when the strong hand was injured), and pick it up and resume shooting, firing weak hand only.  I’m unaware of any actual incident that inspired that drill, which I’ve seen used in multiple handgun courses (with the strong hand injury presented as justification for the drill).  Running that drill a few times can check the “I’ve done that before and can do it if needed” box, but the skill itself is not so difficult that someone needing to do it in a fight couldn’t succeed at it having never “trained” in it.

Use of the gun for a muzzle strike – Generally if someone can get the gun out in a close range fight, they want to use it for its intended purpose.

Backup guns used in any capacity – Despite many of the videos John uses coming from law enforcement sources, and carry of backup guns being much more common in law enforcement than among carry permit holders, those backup guns aren’t being used, even when malfunctions occur.

Reloads – Just as Tom Givens observed in the data from his student involved shootings, reloads are incredibly rare in defensive incidents.  Fights are won and lost with the ammo that’s in the gun when it’s drawn and fired.  Reloads, if they occur, typically happen after the fight is over, to top off the gun, as shown in this video. John estimated that fewer than 8 of the 12,000 videos he’s viewed included a reload that happened during the fight that had any bearing on the outcome.

Weapon Mounted Lights on handguns aren’t useful outside the home – Just as Tom observed in his student data, when armed citizen incidents occur at night, they typically occur in urban areas with sufficient ambient light that negates any value a weapon mounted handgun light might provide.


As someone that has taken a science- and evidence-based approach to training, from prioritization of skills & gear to setting training standards, I appreciate John’s approach of using a statistically valid number of trials to draw conclusions. Some of his conclusions conflict with “doctrine” taught by many well meaning trainers, particularly those with heavy law enforcement or military backgrounds, whose priorities and programs were often shaped by the different context of their uniformed work.  As the database of gunfight videos grows over the next few (or 5, or 10) years, his efforts to archive and collate these incidents will continue to be important in shaping the direction and content of training programs.





More knowledge from the Rangemaster Instructor Conference

On Nov 11-12, 2017 I attended the Rangemaster Instructor Conference held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 49 instructors, out of the more than 800 graduates of the 3 day Rangemaster Instructor program, spent 2 days shooting and learning.  I wrote an AAR about it after I returned.

Highlights from another presentation at the conference:

John Hearne – Who Wins, Who Loses and Why

This information-rich slide from John Hearne’s excellent presentation “Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why” explains a lot about setting training priorities.  He defines 4 factors you can control: emotional control, level of learning/automaticity, fitness and gear, with their relative importance shown by circle sizes.  Unfortunately, those priorities are mostly inverted from the concerns of the average gun owner that’s not in the 1% that are serious about their training and preparation.  Gear reviews are typically the most popular topic on youTube channels and blogs, with articles on tactics typically less popular.  Fitness – another area that many gun owners do not emphasize in their daily lives – is more important than gear but not as important as the top two:  Emotional Control and Level of Automaticity.

Automaticity comes from practicing a skill enough that you can do it without conscious thought.   This requires doing more than the state minimum to get your carry permit.  This article provides some data on how many repetitions may be required to reach that level.  It’s more than what is required to do the task one without error.  Probably double or triple that number of repetitions, with additional repetitions performed frequently enough to keep that skill at that level.  The way to achieve that level with a handgun has been understood since the 1930s (or earlier): dry fire practice.

Emotional Control comes from learning how to manage stress.  Putting yourself in stressful situations, for example doing Force on Force training, where you interact with live opponents, using low impact training rounds and other gear that allows simulation of gunfighting and physical fighting, can teach the emotional control necessary to prevail in an actual incident.

Things you can’t control (much)

All the other factors are things you have limited control over.   You can avoid places, times, people and behaviors that put yourself at high risk, but unfortunately there are plenty of examples of incidents that happened when the odds were very low.  How many attackers there are, how high their skill levels are, where the attack occurs — all those elements are controlled by the attacker(s).

The best you can do is to put as much weight on the side of the scale that tips in your favor: whether it’s improving your fitness (and diet), getting back to regular dry fire practice, attending more training, or making a bigger effort to carry your gun, put your phone down and pay more attention to your surroundings when in public.

John will be presenting 8 hours of material at the Northwest Regional Tactical Conference put on by Rangemaster, coming up July 27-29, 2018 at the Firearms Academy of Seattle.  (I will also be presenting my Historical Handgun material at that conference).


Rangemaster’s 10 principles of teaching

On Nov 11-12, 2017 I attended the Rangemaster Instructor Conference held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 49 instructors, out of the more than 800 graduates of the 3 day Rangemaster Instructor program, spent 2 days shooting and learning.  I wrote an AAR about it after I returned.

One of the presentations covered Rangemaster’s 10 principles of teaching.  They answer the question “what does it mean to be a Rangemaster-certified instructor?”  The Rangemaster program has been a significant influence on the way we do things at KR Training.  Here are my thoughts on how we apply those principles in our classes:


Understanding the limits of your own knowledge and skill are important.  Early in my engineering R&D career I had a great boss who advised me (and others) that “I don’t know” is a better answer than fumbling your way through a half-guess, half-informed response just to avoid saying “I don’t know”.  And I had a high school government teacher that would give students partial credit on exams for writing “I don’t know yet” and showing up at the first class after the test with answers they had looked up.

Understanding what you don’t know, and what you need to know, is incredibly useful in setting training goals, choosing trainers, and designing practice sessions.

It’s also important to have confidence in what you know, in those areas where you’ve put in the work, and gathered enough experience and expertise to be able to explain specifically why a particular kind of holster or gun manipulation technique or tactic is a bad choice.  “Because my guru does it this way” doesn’t answer the “why” question as well as understanding the reasons behind the guru’s decision, or (better) your own decision based on your analysis and testing.

I teach what I know, and the topics I’ve put the most effort into learning.  I host instructors that are expert in topics outside my lane, or have expertise beyond mine in topics I also teach.  That’s been my approach since day one of offering classes.

Contextual Grounding

I don’t own a plate carrier, a chest rig or a battle belt.  I’ve never taken a class where that gear was required.  As a professional musician that plays over 100 shows a year in restaurants, bars, festivals and special events, and during the 30+ years I spent working in R&D and training for the state of Texas, I’ve had to focus on practical, every day carry gear, often in non-permissive environments, sometimes with the only firearm legally accessible to me locked up in a vehicle.  That’s the same context many of my students “operate” in.  It’s not the same context someone carrying openly in a uniform, with body armor and armed friends a radio call away has.  That’s why I offer small & pocket gun classes, unarmed, knife, medical, tactics and legal classes in addition to firearms training, and why we want students to bring their actual carry gear to classes.

Front Sight Focus

For the past several years I’ve been doing deep study of historical handgun techniques.  For decades the conventional wisdom, repeated in book after book, was that there wasn’t time to aim, and all shooting had to be done with the gun at hip level, or with some form of “point” shooting.  Some instructors continue to promote those ideas, citing evidence that those in gunfights do not see their sights, so we should not try to use them.  Much of that evidence comes from analyzing performance of law enforcement officers that shoot less than 100 rounds a year, who do not dry fire on a regular basis.

Much has been learned in the past 100 years about being fast and accurate with a handgun.  Those that have performed well in actual gunfights, for example the 60+ students Tom Givens has trained (who have a hit ratio over 90%), or the officers of LAPD Metro division (hit ratio over 85%) were trained to use a front sight focus.

Additionally, a basic understanding of geometry, applied to shooting, clearly shows that the likelihood of hitting the intended target increases as the gun is aligned more precisely with it. Sights – the front sight specifically – are the key to achieving that alignment.  It can take less than 0.1 sec to read a sight picture and confirm that it’s aligned properly with the target.  Part of our program is to teach shooters the relationship between sight picture quality (precision in gun alignment) and speed.  As the target gets closer and larger, less perfect alignment is required – but seeing the front sight is still essential.

Logical Progression

Unlike many schools that offer their curriculum in 2-day, 3-day or longer courses, we’ve broken our curriculum up into 1/2 day blocks, to make them more accessible to a wider audience. Many people have limited funds and time to train. The courses are organized in a logical progression, with the most important skills trained first.  We often offer multiple classes on a single day or over a weekend to provide 2- and 3-day blocks of training for those able to invest more time and money, but many students complete a sequence of 16 or more hours of training over many separate classes over months or years.

Broad Application

The principles we teach in classes are generic to a wide variety of handgun action types, calibers, carry methods and human factors.  Our defensive long gun class is unique in the training industry, because it can be taken using any long gun (AR-15, lever action rifle, pump shotgun, semiauto shotgun, pistol caliber carbine, even a .22 rifle).  The curriculum is derived from how the gun will be used in a defensive incident. The targets, the time frames, and the type and quantity of hits required are the same, so that course teaches students how to use what they have effectively.

Understanding Violence

Most people that are not working on the front lines of law enforcement or the military have very limited life experience with violence.  John Hearne’s studies into overcoming the “freeze” response show that those that have experienced violence (for real or in force on force simulations) are less likely to lock up in an actual incident.  We’ve offered force on force (FOF) training courses for more than 20 years, pioneering the use of Airsoft guns as lower cost training tools for FOF, offering force on force scenarios as part of the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference for more than a decade.  We include FoF scenarios in many courses in our program, to provide opportunities for students to experience full context scenarios.  Several of our force on force graduates that have been involved in defensive incidents have commented to us afterward that they had “I’ve seen this before” moments where the situation reminded them of scenarios they had participated in.

Reluctant Willingness

Using force on force scenarios as part of our training allows us to teach skills beyond simply solving all problems with deadly force.  Force on force training provides opportunities to “win” a scenario with avoidance, effective communication, posturing, and threats of deadly force, as well as appropriate use of deadly force when the situation requires it.  In live fire shoot house training, photographic targets are used to require students to make shoot/no-shoot decisions.  These approaches to training teach use of force decision making. For some students this involves restraining an over-eagerness to use deadly force, and for some it involves getting students over a natural resistance to using force at all, to get both to the reluctant willingness mindset that limits use of deadly force to a last resort, but allows full commitment to that action when no options remain.

Effective Assessment

Influenced by the Rangemaster program, we developed a simple “3 Seconds Or Less” shooting test suited to our short course format, with escalating standards for each course in the progression.   In more advanced courses, and in the Historical Handgun course, we use longer, more complex shooting tests to evaluate student performance.  Standards are useful for setting training goals and evaluating skills, not only for instructors but for any shooter seeking any level, from minimum competence to mastery.

Respect for Students

Early in my development as a shooter, I traveled to a major national school, spending thousands of dollars, to take a 3 day course.  Despite being a Master class level USPSA competitor with several hundred hours of ‘tactical’ pistol training from other schools, I (and others enrolled in the course) were told we could not take a level 2 class because we had not taken that particular school’s level 1 course.

The class had 15 students; 13 of which were over qualified for the course, and 2 well-equipped but completely inexperienced students that would have benefited from a locally run NRA Basic Pistol course before attempting to take a tactical pistol course.  The course pace was taught down to the level of the 2 beginners, with significant down time for the other 13 students as we shot remedial drills and then sat around for 4 hours, on the final day of class, as we each got a single run in the facility’s multimillion dollar shoot house (the reason I had attended the course).  During that run I “cleared” 4 rooms and shot 2 targets.

What I learned from that experience shaped several components of my program.  I gather enough information from students to recommend the right class for their interests and their skill level.  We developed a detailed list of questions specific to our Basic Pistol 2 course that’s guided many that thought they did not need that course to take it prior to attending Defensive Pistol Skills 1.  One-at-a-time drills in the shoot house or force on force scenarios are combined with other drills run by an assistant, so that students have no significant down time.  I use enough range staff, particularly on lower level courses, that students needing remedial work can be taken to a separate shooting berm and given the attention they need, while the rest of the class continues learning the material in the course.  Sometimes the remedial student rejoins the class after a short coaching session; sometimes the remedial student ends up getting a private version of a lower level course, bringing them up to the level necessary to attend a future session of the course they wanted to take.

The other area of respect we focus on is professional behavior. That means making the presentation of our training no different from any other adult education course. Throughout the history of KR Training, we’ve tried to make our classes inviting to everyone, regardless of politics, gender, or any other characteristic.  We keep politics out of the classroom and do our best to treat students the way we want to be treated not only in firearms training classes, but as customers of any business.

Lifelong Learning

Every instructor on the KR Training team attends some type of professional development training every year: taking classes, shooting matches, online training or self-study of books, videos, and other sources.  Every year the team discusses changes in curriculum, making small adjustments to improve the content or the presentation, and we develop or review complete courses on a regular basis.  We host traveling trainers every year, and each year I bring it at least one trainer new to KR Training to provide the team and our students access to a wide variety of credible information.


Over the past 2 decades the Rangemaster certification has become one of the most respected instructor credentials, because of their commitment to high standards. KR Training will be hosting the 3 day Rangemaster instructor development course again in April 2018.   Anyone that teaches firearms, even informally to friends and family, would benefit from the material taught in the class, and raising their own level of shooting skill to the standards required to pass the course.

Book Review – Pistol and Revolver Shooting (A. Himmelwright, 1930 edition)

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that effort has been seeking out and reading old books on shooting, purchasing copies signed by the authors when possible.

In 1916, competition pistol shooter Abraham Lincoln Artman Himmelwright published his “Pistol and Revolver Shooting” book. Himmelwright did a significant revision of the book in 1928, and it was reprinted again in 1930.  His credentials included a term as president of the United States Revolver Association, and serving as captain of the Americas Shooting Team.  He wrote a earlier book called The Pistol and Revolver in 1908.

You can download a free ebook here.  My copy is a fancy reprint from Palladium Press.

The concepts in this book are the same as are repeated in the many books from the 1930s that I’ve reviewed in previous blog posts.

Of pistol shooting, he writes:

It is a healthful exercise, being practiced out of doors in the open air.  There are no undesirable concomitants, such as gambling, coarseness, and rough and dangerous play.  In order to excel, regular and temperate habits of life must be formed and maintained.  It renders the senses more alert and trains them to act in unison and in harmony.  Skill in shooting is a useful accomplishment that should be cultivated by every patriotic citizen.

About 90 pages of the book is discussion of specific pistols and revolvers: military arms, target arms, pocket arms, arms for home and shop protection, arms for hunting, and shot pistols.  His advice on home and shop protection? He recommends a 4″ barrel, .38 special DA revolver, Smith and Wesson or Colt.

His opinion on pistol sights:

The front sight should have a rear face or tip of some light colored metal… Such a front sight forms a conspicuous contrast against a green, drab, brown, grey or dark background and consequently can be seem more distinctly and can be “picked up” much more rapidly than a black sight, under normal field conditions. 

On competition pistols:

One match for pistols known as the “Free Pistol” match, in which there are no restrictions whatever, and the result is that competitors frequently develop and use arms with such radical modifications as to make the weapons absolutely useless and impracticable for any other purpose except competition in that particular match.

As someone that shot USPSA during the late 80’s and early 90’s – the era before there was a Limited division and typical competition guns changed from single stack iron sighted 1911’s drawn from leather holsters to red dot sighted, compensated, high capacity 2011’s, his comments about the arms race and “gamer guns”, written at the turn of the century, sound exactly like what gunwriters were saying in the racegun era. Nothing is new.


Himmelwright recommends that someone armed for personal defense should practice every 2-3 months, firing at least 15 rounds, at 20 feet, using a 20 yard bullseye target with a 2.72″ center.  A more modern equivalent would be firing at a 3″ dot at 7 yards.

He includes specs for the American Standard Target, which was a very common target prior to WW2.

He lists shooting scores, from 1886, where 100 rounds were fired on this target, using a .44 S&W Russian revolver with a 2.5 lb single action trigger pull, at 50 yards (one handed, of course), with the highest score recorded 914 out of a possible 1000 points.   100 rounds, at 50 yards, with the majority striking inside a 5.5″ bullseye (the 9 ring), with many hitting inside a 3.5″ 10-ring is an impressive feat far, far beyond the abilities of all but the very best modern day shooters.

Himmelwright uses the term Practical Shooting to describe both handgun hunting and shooting for pleasure, by rolling cans on the ground or shooting at objects floating in a stream.

He describes the 4 courses of fire commonly used by the US Revolver Association:

Marksman Course

(Slow Fire) 10 shots at 10 yards.  60 seconds for each set of 5 shots (2 minutes total). 90 points to pass.

(Rapid Fire) 10 shots at 10 yards.  30 seconds for each set of 5 shots (1 minute total).  80 points to pass.

Sharpshooter Course

(Slow Fire) 10 shots at 20 yards.  60 seconds for each set of 5 shots (2 minutes total). 90 points to pass.

(Rapid Fire) 10 shots at 20 yards.  30 seconds for each set of 5 shots (1 minute total).  80 points to pass.

Expert Course

(Slow Fire) 10 shots at 20 yards.  30 seconds for each set of 5 shots (1 minutes total). 90 points to pass.

(Rapid Fire) 10 shots at 20 yards.  15 seconds for each set of 5 shots (30 seconds total).  80 points to pass.

Quick Fire Course

Face target, arms at sides, weapon in pocket or holster. Distance of 5 yards.  At command “fire”, draw weapon and shoot.

10 shots, 1 shot per string, double action.  Record time for each shot. (1 shot draw)

10 shots in 2-5 shot strings double action. Record total time for each string.

These drills are clearly the precursor to modern defensive handgun drills.  No recommended par times are given.

Himmelwright quotes Col. R.R. Raymond (“well known writer and authority on small arms”):

The quickest draw for a right handed man is from a holster on the right thigh at such at a height that the hand falls naturally on the butt.  Quick drawing can only be acquired only by diligent practice, grasping the butt from various positions, and putting special thought upon smooth movement rather than speed.  The thing to be avoided in practice is too much haste, resulting in a fumble.

Raymond’s observations about holster position can be seen in the modern cowboy fast draw holster.



  • Introductory and Historical
  • Arms
  • Ammunition
  • Ballistics
  • Hand-loading Ammunition
  • Sights
  • Shooting Position
  • Targets
  • Target Shooting – Historical
  • Practice Shooting
  • Revolver Practice for the Police
  • Pistol Shooting for Ladies
  • Clubs and Ranges
  • Hints to Beginners
  • Appendix 1 – US Revolver Association
  • Appendix 2 – NRA matches
  • Appendix 3 – War Department Target Practice
  • Appendix 4 – War Dept Tests of Automatic Pistols
  • Appendix 5 – Colt Automatic Pistol
  • Appendix 6 – Powders for Pistols and Revolvers
  • Appendix 7 – Priming Compositions and Effects
  • Appendix 8 – Stopping Power
  • Appendix 9 – Gunsmithing
  • Appendix 10 – Directory


It’s a long book, filled with plenty of technical information.  The level of detail is at the ‘serious gun nerd’ level, particularly those interested in the mechanical engineering, chemistry and physics of shooting and the history of pistol competition.  In its day, it was probably the most complete collection of information about all aspects of handgun shooting available, and remains an excellent historical record of what was known about the topic prior to 1930.

Six Reasons You Aren’t Agreeing to More Gun Control

(November 19, 2017)

This article from The Federalist, listing 6 reasons why “Your Right Wing Friend Isn’t Coming to Your Side on Gun Control” has been getting shared by many of my gun owner and trainer friends. The clickbait title was cleverly written to appeal to gun control advocates as the target audience.

The points the article makes are valid but fall short of hitting the X-ring of a clear explanation.  Here are the key points from the article, with my additional thoughts on each:

We Rarely Get to Come to the Conversation in Good Faith

The article correctly points out that when gun control advocates tell gun owners their opposition to new gun restrictions means that they “don’t care” about the tragedy and loss of life, it’s offensive.  After each tragedy, gun rights supporters point out the linkage between gun-free zones and mass killings, and provide examples of incidents where immediate armed response from an individual saved lives.   Both sides have their preferred policy solutions (eliminating gun free zones and national concealed carry reciprocity, on the pro-gun side), and both come to the issue with a desire to save more lives.

A true compromise on gun policy would be if gun control advocates were willing to trade support for national reciprocity, for example, if the pro-gun side would agree to universal background checks.  When gun control advocates use the word “compromise”, they want you to agree to give up some rights, but not as many as they would like to take away, offering nothing in trade.  It’s like a mugger taking all the cash in your wallet and your phone but leaving you your credit cards and ID.

The definition of good faith is “honesty or sincerity of intention”.

Gun control advocates have a long-term “truthiness” problem – a lack of credibility. Whether it was Bill Clinton knowingly lying when he claimed the AR-15 was the ‘weapon of choice of drug dealers’ (when FBI data showed that handguns, not so-called assault weapons, were the weapons of choice of criminals), Barack Obama saying “we don’t want to take away your guns” one day, and wishing for “Australian-style gun laws” the next, or random Bloomberg-funded spokespeople claiming that the “gun show loophole” is the primary way criminals get guns (when BATFE agents and interviews with jailed violent criminals show otherwise), gun control advocates have a terrible track record of using lies and deliberate deception to make their case in the press and with voters.

This recurring pattern of deliberate dishonesty goes back well into the 1990’s, when gun control strategy was specifically to exploit the ignorance of the masses to build support for gun bans.

Awareness of this ongoing pattern of disinformation is widely known within the gun culture, as examples of technically incorrect information, prejudicially selected data, and gun control movement “talking points” are repeated without verification by media outlets whose editorial boards all support any and all new gun restrictions. (Media bias against gun rights is explained in depth in John Lott’s book The Bias Against Guns.)  

This excellent article explains to gun control advocates what they need to do to gain credibility to engage in an actual ‘national conversation’.  (The phrase “national conversation” is of course a focus-group tested propaganda phrase that actually means “People who disagree with me on a specific issue should listen to what I have to say, realize that I’m right, and address it in the way I want.“)

The ‘Blood on Their Hands’ Attacks Are Offensive

The article’s point #2 is the same as point #1.  The majority of mass shooting incidents have occurred in “gun free” zones.  Gun control advocates resist the idea of allowing more people to be armed in more places, claiming “more guns leads to more violence”.  Yet gun shops, gun shows, and shooting ranges, where almost everyone present is armed, are not locations where mass killings occur, and in those rare occasions where violence starts, armed defenders quickly end it.

From a pro-gun perspective, it is those that insist on disarming victims through implementation of gun -free zones, and laws making it difficult/impossible to get carry permits in states such as California and New York, who have the victims’ blood on their hands.

The Loudest Voices Are Often the Most Ignorant

In the mainstream media, and even in the “conservative” media, the number of actual gun owners, who carry on a regular basis, or associate with anyone who carries, is near zero.  Sean Hannity (FOX news, Sirius XM) and Andrew Wilkow (Sirius XM) are gun owners and shooters, but those that typically speak for the gun owner side of the debate in panel shows are coastal elites living in areas with the nation’s most restrictive gun laws, working in a business in which gun ownership and daily carry does not exist.  Former FOX news megastar Bill O’Reilly’s views on gun control leaned closer to his pal Michael Bloomberg’s than to Wayne LaPierre’s, and he frequently used his top rated show to spout misinformation and technically wrong facts about guns and crime.  Gun control advocates that claim that the pro-gun side of the discussion is being heard because there are conservative media outlets or because some right wing pundit was on a panel show are wrong.  Most of the conservative websites and old school publications, like National Review and the Weekly Standard, are also run and written by coastal elites as isolated from the gun culture as their friends at CNN, NBC, Time, Newsweek, Slate, Salon and other media sources are.   The NRA’s new team of spokespeople, Colion Noir for example, would do well if given the opportunity to speak for the gun culture, but are largely ignored by mainstream and “conservative” media alike, as they just keep featuring the same insular group on show after show.

The list of errors the media publishes on firearms is long, with the most recent being the USA Today info graphic showing a chainsaw bayonet as a popular accessory to the AR-15.  A recent Houston Chronicle editorial discussing a “gun surrender” policy for domestic abusers included a stock photo showing a revolver, with a single stack 1911 magazine sitting next to it.  Stock photos automatically linked to news articles on Facebook seem to always find the derpiest pictures showing the worst examples of handgun carry and handgun shooting technique available.

Some in the media are starting to wake up to this problem, but none in positions of power to actually get the details right.

David Kopel’s recent article on The Hill hit the ball out of the park, listing all the major components of existing gun law.  The overwhelming majority of gun control advocates do not understand existing gun laws, or how guns operate. That widespread ignorance makes it nearly impossible to have any kind of conversation on the topic, as most of the pro-gun person’s time is spent attempting to bring the anti-gun person up to a basic level of competence on fundamental issues, with the anti-gun person refusing to believe what is being explained out of an emotional confirmation bias driving them to reject anything a pro-gun person says as “NRA propaganda” that cannot be true.

This is why many that are the most informed on the pro-gun side simply walk away from discussions of the issue, and why so many will no longer bother to be interviewed or talk to reporters at all.

The Most Prominent Policy Ideas Have Nothing to Do With the Tragedy

In incident after incident, analysis reveals that existing gun laws were broken, or the guns were purchased legally by someone that would not have been prevented if measures favored by gun control advocates were in place.  Despite this, the same ideas continue to be promoted as “common sense” solutions by gun control groups, even though many that study the data discover that those ideas haven’t worked and are unlikely to work.

We are past the tipping point for gun laws in the US.  The majority of gun laws passed after Sandy Hook have been met with widespread disobedience from gun owners: magazine capacity bans, assault weapon registration, and universal background checks are essentially being ignored.  Law enforcement in states that have passed those laws are not enforcing the laws, and in many cases have taken legal action to oppose them in court.

Technical and tactical ignorance of gun control advocates is a factor yet again, as their belief that banning particular types of guns or magazines would change the outcome of a mass shooting situation is pure fantasy.  Shooters using 19th century mechanically operated firearms are capable of firing with significant speed and accuracy.

The other common fantasy that is promoted by those seeking to ban magazines based on capacity is that unarmed people can rush an attacker during the time he or she is changing magazines. The gun control advocates believe that untrained people can succeed in that highly dangerous, unlikely-to-succeed tactic but are unable of doing something even easier, drawing a pistol and shooting back, during that same time window.  A typical handgun reload time for a moderately trained shooter is under 2 seconds. Similarly, the typical handgun draw time for a moderately trained shooter is 2 seconds.  Skilled shooters can draw and reload even faster.

There can be no rational discussion of what policies can prevent mass killings when one side of the debate lacks any expertise on the realities of armed and unarmed self defense, particularly the abilities (or lack thereof) of the typical armed citizen.  When gun control advocates insist that the typical armed citizen is incapable of successful armed response, or  warn that ‘It just makes sense that if people are walking around armed, you’re going to have a high rate of people shooting each other.‘ (which did not occur when dozens of armed citizens fought back against the UT tower sniper)– opinions the speakers have no experience, expertise or data to support – gun owners turn off, turn away and drop out, (to paraphrase Timothy Leary).

A new trend in the Left is to pout that the public no longer takes advice from “experts” on policy issues (in books like The Death Of Expertise).  They accuse the Right (and Trump supporters specifically) of ignoring data and science and verified experts on topics where the experts favor left-wing policies–while engaging the same exact bad behavior themselves when it comes to gun violence. Actual subject matter experts in firearms, tactics, criminal behavior and any other relevant topic whose opinion did not align with the narrative have been systematically excluded from the policy making process for decades.

We Seriously Don’t Care About Gun Laws in Other Countries

Gun control advocates frequently cite the gun violence rates of European countries, with the implication that if the US had EU-style gun laws, we would have EU-style violent crime rates.  There are two basic flaws with that approach:

  1. The pro-gun person does not believe that EU style gun laws will reduce their risk of being attacked with a firearm.  States with strict gun laws, particularly Illinois, California and Maryland, have terrible violent crime problems that their neighboring states with more gun freedoms do not have.  It would take house to house searches and mass confiscations to reduce the number of guns in circulation in the US to EU levels.  If that occurred without starting a civil war (unlikely), the same network that brings in billions of dollars of illegal drugs into the country each year could easily supply (and already does supply) criminals with illegal guns.
  2. The pro-gun person believes that EU style gun laws would increase their vulnerability to injury death by criminal attack. When a pro-gun person imagines themselves being a victim of violent crime, the scenario ends when they present a firearm, use it, and the attack ends – regardless of what the mode of criminal attack is: gun, knife, or physical attack.  In many cases simply presenting the gun is sufficient to stop the attack, as noted in this Obama-era CDC study.  The CDC estimated that more than 500,000 defensive gun uses happen each year, exceeding the 30,000 gun deaths (only 15K of these were murders, the rest were suicides and accidents) by a factor of more than 10.  A simple cost-benefit analysis of those two data points shows that the net benefit of allowing citizens to have defensive firearms far outweighs the potential negative outcomes.

If you believe that EU-style gun laws won’t make you safer, statistics don’t really matter.

We Really Do Consider Owning Firearms a Right

Self defense is the most fundamental human right.  The concept of that right goes beyond the 2nd amendment of the Constitution, all the way down to the 2nd of Maslow’s human needs: safety and security.    Both gun rights advocates and gun control supporters are motivated by concerns about their individual safety and security. As these Pew Research poll results show, the divide between them is very broad, because their core beliefs are so disparate.   The history of the US is one of ever expanding freedoms and rights: from the abolition of slavery, to granting women the vote, to protections against discrimination, overturning the national ban on alcohol, and more recent Supreme Court rulings expanding both concealed carry rights and gay marriage to all 50 states, as well as state level legalization of marijuana.  Culturally, from left to right, those standing on the side of “more freedom” tend to win on their issues over the long term.


Jack’s Rules to Live By

The 2017 Rangemaster Instructor Conference was held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, OK.  On the counter at the store, they had a stack of handouts listing “Jack’s Rules To Live By”, written by BDC owner Jack Barrett.

It’s a great list, particularly his #1 rule:

Be Kind and Generous to All — Our world, our nation, our state, our community, our families and our own lives will be better if we show more kindness and more generosity to everyone.

Concealed Carry

ALWAYS carry your pistol – It does you no good at home or in your car.  Never leave a gun in your vehicle. Thieves look there first.

Carry a good pistol – Why trust your life to a piece of junk? Quality does not have to be expensive.

Get a good holster – Anything is better than nothing, but kydex or reinforced leather carried IWB or AIWB is best. Do NOT open carry.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Get more training and practice – Shooting skills do not come naturally and are perishable.  Formal instruction and frequent practice are necessary to maintain proficiency.

Carry/Learn other means of defense – You can’t shoot everyone.  You can pepper spray just about anyone! Carry it always.  It isn’t magic, but it will get you three steps towards the door.  Learn some empty hand skills: punching, kicking and separation techniques (how to get hands off you and get away). Having something sharp and stabby is useful, too.

Mind your own damn business – You are not a cop.  You are not a super hero, nor an arbiter of right and wrong.  You are an armed citizen. Nothing good can come from you butting into someone else’s problem, even if you save the day.

(KR note:  When the situation is conflict between a few people, none of which are known to you, his advice is good.  In an active shooter/mass killing incident, the decision to act should be based on the totality of the circumstances of that specific event, as doing anything other than what is necessary to protect yourself and those near you will likely place you at much greater risk.)


(KR note: Jack uses a variation of the classic 4 Cooper rules, which aren’t my favorite version of the gun safety rules. But his explanations and commentary on them is worth sharing.)

All Guns Are Always Loaded – Before you can clean it, tinker with it, or show it to a buddy, you must clear it first.  If you want to shoot it, shoot it. If you want do anything else with it, clear it first.

Never Point a Gun At Anything You Are Not Willing To Destroy – Keep up with where you gun is pointed at all times.  The gun will either be in the holster, at the ready, or on target, period.

Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger And Out of the Trigger Guard Unless Your Sights Are On the Target  – Pressure on the trigger is what causes the gun to fire.  Keep your finger indexed well away from the trigger unless you want the gun to fire.  Gun on target = finger on trigger.  Gun OFF target = finger OFF trigger.

Always Be Certain of Your Target and What is Beyond and Around It – Know what you are shooting and why.


2017 Rangemaster Instructor Conference

On Nov 11-12, 2017 I attended the Rangemaster Instructor Conference held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 49 instructors, out of the more than 800 graduates of the 3 day Rangemaster Instructor program, spent 2 days shooting and learning.

The event included live fire time on the range, shooting the most challenging qualification courses in the Rangemaster program, from the Rangemaster Bullseye course to the Casino Drill, with two drills shot for score Sunday.

The level of shooting proficiency of attendees was very high, with most shooting 90% or better, and many shooting 95% or better, on all the scored courses of fire.  At one point Tom asked for a show of hands of those that were top shooter in their instructor class, and many of those present raised their hands.


Tom didn’t do most of the teaching.  In his opening remarks he observed that many of the pioneers, founders and key figures of the private sector training industry were slowing down, retiring or had passed away.  Part of his efforts over the past two decades of his instructor program was to mentor other trainers that can carry on the great work of the previous generation.   Tom started the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conference to provide annual professional development opportunities for everyone in the private sector training industry. The model was law enforcement training conferences, where new ideas could be shared and peers from all over the country could network and compare skills and training concepts.  The impact of the conference (and Tom’s instructor training program) on the curriculum taught by trainers all over the US has been significant.

On the range and in the classroom, Tom provided opportunities for younger trainers to gain experience teaching their peers.

Tiffany Johnson, John Murphy, Lee Weems and John Hearne presented a long block discussing the ten principles of Rangemaster training doctrine.  I’ll summarize that presentation in a separate blog post.

John Murphy (in the picture above) will be visiting KR Training September 2018 to offer a two person team tactics course and a vehicle defense course.  I’ll be visiting John’s school, First Person Training, in Culpepper, Virginia, in October 2018 to offer a session of my Historical Handgun course.

John Hearne’s section included some of his excellent material analyzing gunfight successes and failures.

Lee Weems presented some excellent material on interacting with police, including an in depth discussion of 4th amendment issues, McFadden stops (commonly known as Terry stops) and the history of “Miranda rights”.

Warren Wilson, from the Enid, OK police department, presented on criminal gangs and the armed citizen, providing advice on how to recognize members of organized gangs (colors, tattoos, clothing, other behaviors).  Several instructors present at the conference were also K-12 teachers, who shared their own experiences dealing with teenagers (and younger children) with gang affiliations in classes.

John Correia of the Active Self Protection youTube channel gave a long presentation on 21 points learned from his observation of more than 12,000 videos of gunfights. I recently became an ASP-affiliated instructor, so I’ll be using some of John’s 1100+ narrated videos of actual incidents in classes.

Shooting Competition

The end of the range session Sunday was a two stage match. One stage was a 60 round qualification course of fire based on the Rangemaster Instructor qual test. The other was the casino drill.  The casino drill was scored using “time plus” (penalties added 1 sec for each shot outside any shape).  The field was tightly bunched together. Only those that shot a perfect 300 on the qual course and had zero penalties made the top 5.  I pushed for speed on the casino course and had 3 hits less than 1″ outside the shapes and ended up 12th.  Dave Reichek only had 1 hit outside a shape and ended up 9th. Spencer Keepers won the match with solid runs on both courses of fire.

John Correia did a poll of what guns and ammo the attendees carried, and reported the results in a video on his channel.


The BDC Gun Room was a terrific host for this event.  Their indoor range area was clean with a fantastic air handling system. Multiple classrooms, an archery range, machine gun rentals, inventory of guns, ammo, clothing, accessories, and store dogs – the 3 Givens dogs plus two that belonged to one of the BDC employees (who was attending the conference).


The Rangemaster instructor family is full of great people: highly skilled shooters committed to providing high quality, relevant, life-saving training.  It’s always a pleasure to be around them.

Those that attended got copies of all the powerpoint presentations and videos.  I’ll share some highlights from that content in future blog posts.

KR Training November 2017 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training November 2017 newsletter!  Upcoming classes include AT-7 More Scenarios Nov 18, Tac Medicine Every Day Carry Dec 9, Street Smarts Knife Dec 10, License to Carry Dec 16 and a special session of the DPS-certified Active Shooter/School Safety course Dec 27 & 28.

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list.

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November special on gift certificates:  Get a $100 gift certificate for $80 (20% savings).  Contact me to purchase.


AT-7 More Scenarios scheduled for Saturday Nov 18, is similar to our AT-2 course.  4 more hours of scenarios using ‘red guns’ indoors and Simunition outdoors in the shoot house. Many of you asked us to add this course.  Please get registered ASAP if you plan to attend!

Tac Medicine Every Day Carry, Saturday, December 9 is a one day class teaching skills that might be needed to keep someone alive before professional medics arrive, for example after a car accident or shooting incident.

Defensive Knife Street Smarts, Sunday, December 10, is a one day teaching fundamentals of knife defense, that can also be taken as a refresher for those with prior knife defense training.

Our last License To Carry class of 2017 will be December 16th at the A-Zone.


On December 27 & 28, KR Training will offer a session of the new DPS-Certified School Safety course. Karl, Paul Martin and Tina Maldonado attended training at the DPS Academy this year to become certified to teach this 2 day class, developed by DPS to train K-12 teachers (with carry permits) the skills necessary to defend against an active shooter threat.

This course content is general enough that it has value to anyone interested in active shooter response, and as a state-certified, state-developed course, the training it provides will be more legally defensible in court.

We are offering special pricing for this initial offering of this course: $50 for any K-12 teacher, and $150 for all other students.  Students must have a Texas LTC to attend.  Payment in full in advance required to register for this course. 

Register here.


Karl and Dave Reichek will attend the Rangemaster Instructor Conference in Oklahoma Nov 11-12. Karl will travel to El Paso to take a one day handgun class from legendary trainer John Farnam in December, and Tracy Becker will attend the MAG-120 with Massad Ayoob in Florida in December.  I’ve recorded several episodes of Handgun World Podcast, filling in for Bob Mayne as guest host.  One episode interviews John Holschen about force on force training, and one is a roundtable with John Daub and I discussing our top 10 drills for maintaining handgun competency.  You can also hear Tracy on the Polite Society Podcast every episode.


On January 7-8 we are replacing our annual Preparedness Conference with a two-day event at the A-Zone, offering a mix of classroom and range training.  It’s broken up into 1/2 day blocks so you can register for whatever part of it interests you.  Full details are on Paul Martin’s blog.   Here’s the details on Preparedness 1 (Saturday) and Preparedness 2 (Sunday).

Register here.


KR Training is hosting the only session of the Massad Ayoob Group Deadly Force Instructor class scheduled for 2018, on Jan 30-Feb 4. This 5 day course covers the legal aspects of Deadly Force at a level far beyond what is taught in the DPS License To Carry instructor course, and is highly recommended for any LTC instructor.  Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network members and graduates of MAG-40 are eligible for discounts on class tuition.  If you plan to attend, please get registered ASAP.  

Register here.


We have updated the KR Training schedule with most of the classes we plan to offer in Jan-March 2018. Registration is open in all of them.


New Gen 4 Glock 19 with upgraded sights, trigger and mag release – $580

Used Springfield 5″ XD with upgraded sights, trigger and slide release, with 5 magazines and holster – $450

New CZ75 SA-B 9mm with upgraded trigger – $450

Remington 1100 12 gauge shotgun, VangComp upgrade, ghost ring sights, extended mag tube, oversized safety, other internal work – $1000

Used 1911 Airsoft gas blowback pistol w/ 2 mags – $50

Used 1911 Airsoft gas blowback pistol w/ 3 mags – $50

Used STI-style Airsoft gas blowback pistol w/ adjustable sights, 2 mags – $75

New V-line Deskmate Locking gun box – $150 (cheaper than Amazon price!)



As many of you know, another thing I do is perform music with bands.  I’ll be in the house band at Santa’s Wonderland, performing every Tue, Wed, and Thu from Nov 14 through Christmas.  Santa’s Wonderland is a multi-million dollar facility, with a trail of lights with over 2M lights and Santa’s Town, which has shops, food, live music, and many other activities.   It’s a state-level attraction drawing visitors not just from the College Station area, but from Houston, Austin and other Texas cities.

Another reason to come visit College Station: the Legacy of Ranching exhibit at the Bush Library, curated by my wife Penny, is still open until January.  I assisted with video production and contributed some pulp magazines from my personal collection to a display about Texas ranches in pop culture.

If you are looking for a fun day trip this holiday season, come visit the Bush Library and Santa’s Wonderland. If you come on a weekend, odds are good I will be performing somewhere, since I have 35 gigs booked between now and New Year’s Eve. My full music performance schedule is here.

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