NRA Practical Pistol Coach, Jan 8-10 2018 AAR

The NRA has started up a new program, the Practical Pistol Coach certification, that focuses on the NRA’s Defensive Pistol training Module, taking Basic Pistol level instructors and developing their skills to coach shooters through skills such as drawing from concealment, reloading and malfunction clearing.

In the past use of the Defensive Pistol Module was restricted to NRA Advanced Pistol instructors, a rating that earned by being certified in NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home and providing NRA with proof of completion of private sector training beyond the PPOTH level.

One challenge the NRA is trying to address is the disconnect between the skill level and proficiency required to pass law enforcement instructor courses and private sector instructor development courses, such the excellent Rangemaster Instructor Development course KR Training is hosting in April 2018.

To pass the PP Coach course, participants must re-shoot the NRA Basic Pistol instructor course of fire and the Defensive Pistol module course of fire, and pass both.  The Defensive Pistol course of fire, by standards of the typical 2 day “tactical pistol” courses offered by the private sector, still has generously long par times for drawing, shooting, reloading and malfunction clearing, but is much more challenging than any state’s carry permit qualification course of fire.  Compared to what it takes to shoot a 100% score on an USPSA classifier stage, the Defensive Pistol Module requires roughly 40% (USPSA low C class or IDPA Sharpshooter) level shooting.

Class attendees interested in being considered for a new national Practical Pistol coaching team have the option to shoot a more difficult qualification course of fire that requires higher skill to pass, probably around 60% of GM/low B class/IDPA Expert level based on my subjective impression of it.  Both that course of fire and the Defensive Pistol course of fire use the NRA D-1 target, which is a neutered, lawyer-safe target with 4″, 8″ and 12″ scoring rings. The FBI Q “bottle” target can also be used, providing a more humanoid shape and more realism, but we didn’t use that target in our course. The target below was my target from the advanced coaching qual. I had a good run with very few shots outside the X ring and was told that I “super-passed” the qual. The requirement was all 20 shots inside the 8 ring. The advanced qual included 15 yard shooting.

The Class

I attended a session taught at NPSI in San Antonio, using their classroom and the Bullet Hole range.  There were 15 students, coming from as far as Alaska, Washington State, Florida, and Arizona, every corner of the country, to attend.  This was only the 3rd time this course had been taught, and as were told, the material is still in development and under revision.

Two days were spent in the classroom, with lecture material heavily derived from traditional athletics coaching instruction and generic “how to coach an athlete” information.   The 3rd day was spent on the range, first shooting the qualification courses of fire and then in exercises coaching others through drills from the Defensive Pistol Module.

Many attending the course were experienced instructors with 15 or more years involved with the NRA pistol training program. A few were new instructors just meeting the 5 years experience requirement to attend the class.  After my experience at the November 2017 Rangemaster instructor conference, where the level of shooting by attendees was uniformly high, I was disappointed to see a surprising number of those attending this course struggle with the shooting drills, including some that did not pass.

My Opinion

I do a lot of coaching, both in private lessons, answering email questions from students, and in classes.  I’ve learned how to train others to coach by developing my assistant instructors on my training team to recognize and correct gunhandling and shooting errors. I’ve written about common gunhandling errors. I’ve developed a block of instruction for the A Girl and a Gun national conference teaching their facilitators how to identify and fix shooting problems.  This course contained no material similar to that, which is the core task a pistol shooting coach does.  It doesn’t improve attendees’ ability to be better at coaching pistol skills on the range.  It does a fair job of certifying them to teach the Defensive Pistol module.

For a basic pistol-level instructor wanting to get certified to teach the Defensive Pistol module, this class is appropriate.  For someone wanting to learn how to coach shooters better, it’s not useful, at least in its current level of development.  It needs significant revision, replacing a full day of classroom material with a day of additional range and dry fire activities, to cover the kind of material I’ve used (and developed) to train others to coach effectively.

I wrote my recommendations and am providing them to the NRA E&T department for consideration.   If I’m invited to be on the national coaching staff for this program, I may be involved in making those improvements.

If you plan to attend the course

Practice before you go. Make sure you can shoot 20 shots out of 20 into the 8″ circle on the NRA D-1 with no time limit.  Make sure you can draw from concealment and hit the 8″ circle of the D-1, from 7 yards, in under 3 seconds (preferably 2 seconds).  Make sure you can reload your pistol in under 3 seconds (preferably 2 seconds) and clear a failure to fire malfunction (tap rack assess/bang) quickly. Don’t invest money and time attending the course if your skills aren’t up to par, just to get another rating or certificate or patch for your vest.

Be your own coach

Step 1 in being a good coach is to coach yourself.  Learn how to analyze your own performance, how to plan practice sessions designed to achieve measurable performance improvements. That means using a target and a timer. Buy a shooting timer if you don’t have one.  Record video of your performance and analyze it. Study what top shooters do and how they do it. Study how they train and practice. There’s no shortage of high quality information available today for self-study.

Those wanting to get better at pistol shooting or coaching others should seek out Ben Stoeger’s dry fire books and manuals, and Mike Seeklander’s pistol program book and Annette Evans’ new dryfire book. Take a course from a top tier instructor and pay attention not only to what they teach but how they teach it.

School Safety/Active Shooter Dec 27-28 2017 course AAR

Back in 2013, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize teachers at K-12 schools to carry on campuses, if they passed a special training course and met higher standards for proficiency. Under the Act, teachers would receive training on best practices for the protection of students, how to interact with first responders, tactics to deny an intruder entry into a classroom, and accuracy with a handgun under duress.  This enhanced training is voluntary and only available to teachers who already have a license to carry.

In 2017, the Texas Department of Public Safety began offering a 2 day course to certify License to Carry instructors in the new course.  Three KR Training instructors attended sessions of the certification class, and we held our first session of the new course on Dec 27-28, 2017. The course was developed by the Texas Department of Public Safety with input from the ALERRT program, to align it with material being taught to law enforcement officers nationwide. Both of the DPS trainers that taught the instructor course I attended were also ALERRT instructors.

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 than other un-certified courses offered by private sector schools.

DPS guidelines require the course to be 15-20 hours long. It includes classroom lecture, video from actual incidents, roleplaying scenarios and range work.  In order to pass the course, students in it must pass the Texas License To Carry shooting test with score of 90% (225 points) or higher, the morning of the first day class.

We were told at the instructor course that we could add material to the course, as long as we did not extend the total class hours beyond the 20 hour maximum.  Prior to delivering the first KR Training version of this class, Paul, Tina and I prepared some supplemental material, to be used if time was available.   Some of that additional content included discussion of medical preparedness, hands-on training in tourniquet use, and audio from actual 911 calls.

I added two additional live fire qualification courses:  the shooting test from the NRA Defensive Pistol class, and the annual qualification course of fire used by a major Texas city’s police department.  My decision to add these optional qualifications was to provide graduates of the course additional documentation that they meet a national standard higher than the Texas License to Carry class (the NRA test), and a standard equivalent to what a typical responding police officer in our state has met. The video shows a portion of that qualification course. The photo is of the NRA D-1 target used for the Defensive Pistol Test.

We also used photo-realistic targets from the Action Target scenario collection for some range drills. Use of photo targets was allowed under DPS guidelines.

We ended up using all of the supplemental material, completing the coursework within the 15-20 hour limits, because the students in our pilot/beta session of the course were eager to learn, and performed very well on the shooting drills.

Because the shooters in that session were performing well, I added a “walkback” drill where students shot an 18″x24″ rectangle steel plate, moving back a few yards each time, to assess the maximum range at which each student could hit that plate with their carry handgun.  At each distance, the student got one opportunity to hit the plate.  Only those that hit the plate could move backward to the next distance and attempt from there.   All students were able to hit the steel from 50 yards, and 3 were still hitting it when we ended the drill at the 85 yard line, including one student shooting a factory stock M&P Shield subcompact.  That same group of shooters fired an average score of 89% on the major metro PD qualification, with all students passing the course well passed the minimum 70% score the department requires.

Student AARs

Several students in class sent me their own AARs, to include in this writeup.

(Student #1) With the current Texas laws and as a teacher for higher education; I was in search for a course that could allow me to learn new skills including a deeper understanding into this subject matter. Before registering for this course, I had spoken to Karl via phone and also by email that also included various other aspects of the handgun world. There’s certainly an appreciation for an instructor who takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to you not only about the upcoming class but also other avenues for additional training and knowledge. Also his attentiveness to details is very welcomed. An example is when he sent an email about a week before class that includes the class time, range location with directions and maps, what to bring, class agenda, and even additional links to help you prepare for the class such as draw and reloading techniques. I found this very refreshing as I’ve been accustomed to a specific training methods prior to this class. One has to remember that as student, I am here to learn to what can make me better then must have an open mind to concepts that you are not comfortable with.

To disclose, I am educator but also a health care provider. There is a relation to new developments in the medical field from procedures, diagnostics, drugs, or discoveries which also hold true to the gun culture. Karl does an excellent job of not only instructing you but also explaining the reasons of their importance. Additional credits goes to out to Paul Martin and Tina. Both brought their knowledge, personal experiences, and perspectives. While the course was developed by Texas DPS, these three brought additional elements that reinforces the learning objectives of the course. It’s not only about instructing a technique but more importantly to actually teach someone to acquire the knowledge, access our progress, identify our strengths / weaknesses to make necessary modifications for improvement, and broadening our mindset the multiple facets of this arena.

Some eye openers of the class include topic matters of the various characteristics of the active shooter which can be or not even typical as highlighted in today’s media. Another is the human response of both physiological and psychological including various methods to handle stress from a gun fight. Also covered are the importance of your medical kit, medical treatment to oneself and others around you, other everyday items that could be used for self-defense, physical health & how it effects your ability, logistics of your facility, safety plan to include regular and reverse evacuation for individuals and groups, various types of hardware to deny entry, types of defensive ammunition, importance of practice both live and dry-fire, simulations, and the 911 call during and after math. Let’s not forget the live fire portion that includes drills and proficiency exams from various departments. Taking notes does help to review the vast amount of information during this 2 day class.

When reading the description of this course, one can easily conclude that it is aimed to “teach employees of a school or district or open-enrollment charter school…” and is “…applicable to anyone defending any facility (church, office, school, or home) against an active shooter threat”; I would also stress any part of the course content is applicable in all aspects to one’s daily activities. Folks, if you haven’t taken this class or sought out classes from KR training; it would serve in your best interest and especially your love ones as there’s a multitude of classes to choose from. Much appreciation to Karl, Paul, and Tina for teaching this class.

(Student #2)  The material as presented (with bonus material) covered the topic quite well. The videos provided a nice accompaniment to the lessons.  One bonus video demonstrated movement and room clearing in a easy to follow format. It worked well as a primer before Paul and Tina’s roleplaying exercises. The additional medical videos related to risk of death from rapid blood loss were very informative.  Watching the multiple active shooter videos from different sources provided more depth than a single source could convey. The in-class portion was engaging, thought provoking and informative.

The range portion was both fun  and revealing. The extra qualification shoots were great for revealing areas that need work. The walk back drill was good for me personally. After hitting the steel at 85 yards I know my hits at 50 should be better. It was an eye opener.  The red gun scenario of shooter in the mall worked well for demonstrating the difficulties of finding a clear shot in a crowd. Honestly had you not told me it was a Beta class I would not have known. Everything flowed well, the curriculum was well presented and cohesive.


We’ll be offering this course again.  More than half of the material is classroom and “red gun” only, not requiring a range and can be presented in any meeting room.   Our plan moving forward is to offer the classroom-only portion as a traveling course that could be taught for churches, businesses or other groups, with a range day completion class offered at the A-Zone for those that want the complete course (and associated state certificate). That will make the lecture portion of the material more accessible to a wider audience, including those that may not have carry permits (yet) and may not be able to pass the more rigorous shooting requirements of the course (yet).  The traveling lecture only part of the training will be available on weekday evenings, as weekends are generally reserved for live fire classes held at the A-Zone.

Contact me for additional information if you are interested in attending a future session of the full 2 day course or want a 1 or 2 weekday evening lecture version of the classroom material.


Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 4

KR Training assistant instructor Kelli Kochan presented this material at our 2017 Preparedness Conference.  With our new Preparedness Level 1 and Level 2 classes coming up January 6-7, 2018, this information might be useful to those thinking about attending, or wanting to motivate a spouse to join them.

This is Part 4. Part 3 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 1 is here.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 4:  When You Meet Resistance

Sooner or later, you’re going to cover all of the common ground, and all of the ground where your spouse can be persuaded to see your viewpoint.  Your goals are going to start pushing up against her boundary lines, and you’re going to get resistance.

Lesson 6.  Don’t try to counter an emotional argument with a rational one.

Just don’t.  If it has any effect at all, it will be to increase the emotional level and make her dig in and throw up fortifications around her feelings/beliefs.  If you don’t believe me, just try to talk politics or religion with someone on the other side.

When John talked me into joining the local Volunteer Fire Department, he thought I might have some difficulty getting accustomed to the face mask and air pack, so he brought one home so I could experience it for the first time not in front of the whole department.  Good thinking, as it turned out.  The first time I put the face mask on, I immediately had a panic attack.  I stood in the living room, hyperventilating, while saying over and over, “I can’t breathe”.  John could have explained to me, calmly and rationally, that in fact I was perfectly able to breathe, and he could have gone on trying to convince me of that right up until I passed out from too much air.  Wisely, he chose instead to help me unfasten the mask and remove it, because I was far too emotional to be receptive to rational explanations.  Once the mask was off and I calmed down, we could talk about my reaction and I could accept John pointing out that I was breathing the whole time I was in the mask, which really helped when I put it back on again.

Be aware that emotion is going to underlie at least some part of everyone’s motivations and boundary lines.  The extent depends on the person and the particular boundary line.  Sometimes you just have to let a situation cool down and talk again when your spouse isn’t so emotional.  Sometimes, her whole perspective about a particular topic is built on emotion; in that case, you’ll find a counter-emotional argument to have any chance of persuading her toward your viewpoint.

Lesson 7.  Work around/over/under/through.

When you can’t move straight from point A to point B, you need to look for alternative ways.  If you understand your spouse’s reasons for reluctance, can you find a way to ameliorate them?  If her motivation is fear, is there something you can do to help them build confidence or find ways to ease her fears?  If the problem is lack of resources, can you build up some extra resources?  Note that I’m not talking about just financial or material resources.  John and I are increasingly finding that our time and effort influence our plans more than money and the stuff we can buy with it.  Can you find ways to make change easier or more rewarding for her?

Can you accomplish the same goal with a different motivation?  I didn’t get into gardening or canning for the food production and storage.  I got into those things because I enjoy sharing the hobby with my mother; the prepping benefit just makes it more rewarding.  Remember the camping vs. no-utility weekend that I mentioned above?  That also works if your spouse thinks you’re nuts because tell her you want to have a no-utility weekend.  Instead, maybe you can just take her camping – not backyard camping, but actual camping, at a campground, somewhere different that she doesn’t see every day.  Present it as being about having an adventure together instead of prepping.

Or take for example the lady Paul mentioned, who did not want to hear any talk that the economy might crash.  If you’re partnered with someone like her, you don’t have to tell her that your intent is to prepare for financial collapse.  Maybe you’re just interested in funding a better lifestyle in retirement.  Maybe you’ve decided that you want to collect coins for a hobby and the various Mints are making some really neat coins in gold and silver and other metals.  I’ve seen some nice designs; being a horsewoman I particularly appreciated one I saw commemorating the Chinese Year of the Horse.  The Perth Mint in Australia offers a platinum platypus that makes me giggle every time I see it.  I know someone who has been collecting the old silver dollars, trying to get a certain number for each year they were minted.  It’s not the most efficient or cost-effective method of investing in precious metals, but if it’s a route that works, it’s a route you can use.

I’m stealing one of John’s suggestions here:  If all else fails, invoke the Zombie Apocalypse!  Seriously, pick eventuality that you want to prepare for – you can cover it by preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse.  Forest fire, flood, hurricane, crop failure, job loss, economic collapse, death… all plausible effects of being overrun by zombies.  As long as you make a game out of it – and don’t convince your spouse that you’ve gone bonkers and actually expect a zombie outbreak – you can make preparations without talking about topics that are uncomfortable to your spouse.

Lesson 8.  Sometimes, what you want isn’t going to happen.

Sometimes, no matter how well you understand and communicate with your spouse, and no matter how much you try to work around, she has drawn a line that is not going to move.  Sometimes, the reason for reluctance is so strong that there is no easing it.  Learn to recognize the lines that don’t move, because you only have 2 options there.  I strongly suggest option 1:  Accept those lines as the way things are and quit pushing on them.  Option 2 is to keep pushing or just do what you want anyway, and that’s going to create more resistance and damage your relationship, maybe irreparably.

Well, there you have it:  what I’ve learned about working together with your spouse, as applied to easing her reluctance toward a preparedness lifestyle.  As John Daub pointed out to me, these lessons can also be applied to other relatives, friends, co-workers, etc.  Questions and comments are welcome.

Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 3

KR Training assistant instructor Kelli Kochan presented this material at our 2017 Preparedness Conference.  With our new Preparedness Level 1 and Level 2 classes coming up January 6-7, 2018, this information might be useful to those thinking about attending, or wanting to motivate a spouse to join them.

This is Part 3. Part 2 is here. Part 1 is here.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 3:  Cooperation and Making Changes

Continuing from the last post, now that you understand (at least somewhat) your spouse’s motivations and you have identified the lines you absolutely can’t cross, how do you go about moving those other boundary lines?

Lesson 3.  Start on common ground. 

You’re not looking to pick a fight.  You’re in a partnership and the idea is to work together, so you want to start out on the same side.  When it comes to preparedness, figure out what preparations you both agree are acceptable.  What actions are you both prepared to take in support of those preparations?  Do some team building!  Encourage a spirit of cooperation!  Synergize a new paradigm in your relationship!  Oh, wait – wrong speech.  Where was I?  Oh, yes – at least communicate, identify the steps you can agree on, and start there.  Even if it’s something small.  Your eventual goal may be a pantry fully stocked to last the family for six months, but if she is agreeable to buying a little extra food on each shopping trip, that’s a start.

Sometimes you can agree on a particular goal, but the common ground you need to find is a way to implement it that works for both of you.  When John and I were first married, we lived at the end of the road and the end of the electric line, so if anything caused an interruption anywhere on the line (which happened pretty regularly), we lost power for however long it took the power company to effect repairs. We agreed that we needed a portable generator, and that there needed to be a way to plug it into the house.  So we bought the generator and John wired a plug to connect it to the house.  The problem was that he was also traveling – a lot – for his work, and I needed to be able to run the generator.   He walked me through the process, but I know me, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t remember it, especially under stress. I do much of my day job – lab work – with SOPs (standard operating procedures), so I asked him to write up an SOP for me.  He did – about half a page – and I walked through the procedure with what he wrote, and then asked for a bunch of clarification and details.  He added that, and I walked through it again, and we repeated the process until I had a “book of the generator”, a dozen or so printed pages with pictures at each step with labels and arrows and such, as well as text; a procedure that was clear to me.

Even though we both agreed that the generator was a necessary item, to be effective it had to be accessible to both of us.  If I hadn’t asked for the SOP, he might have been satisfied with just showing me once and expecting that I got it.  Or, if he had recognized that I wasn’t likely to remember, he might have insisted that I practice consistently – which would probably have led to friction between us and possibly mistakes on my part from his not being around much to coach me.  In either case, my outcomes in the event of needing to use the generator might have ranged from “Yay, I did it!” to “Argh, useless hunk of metal that I can’t make work!” to “Oh, crap – fire!”  If he hadn’t been willing to spend the time and effort to make the SOP… same possible outcomes.  As it happened, I used the “book of the generator” on more than one occasion, successfully, which made life easier for both of us.

Lesson 4.  Progress in increments. 

Remember, change is uncomfortable.  It can be scary.  A lot of it at once can be overwhelming.  If your spouse is a little reluctant to begin with, and you’re jumping in with both feet, it’s understandable if she reacts negatively.  Even if she is on board with some prepping, too much too fast can turn that around.

With other lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise, the people who are successful at it usually don’t change everything at once.  They make one change that they can stick with, and then stick with that until it becomes routine, then either ramp it up or make a new change.  The same is true with prepping, and it applies to you as well as your spouse, especially if you’re coming from a non-preparedness background.  So when you’re making goals together, pick 1 thing to do or change, and then allow time for that thing to become normal.  Or even make 2 or 3 small changes at once, if you’re both amenable, but then let those become the new normal before making the next set of changes.

I went from 24 square feet of garden space to 1200 square feet, and from 2 crops to over a dozen – over the course of 4 years.  Then I started canning, 4 pints of beans at a time.  As I got comfortable with each addition, I added something more, until I found my limit.  What we have now is as much as I can handle, and I wouldn’t even be doing this much without John’s help, but I’m enjoying it.  However, if I had started with the big garden, I probably would have given it up the first year as being too much to learn and accomplish all at once, too much work and not enough fun.  If we had started with this much garden, I don’t know if John would have gotten on board at all, or we would have ended up arguing about what to plant and how to maintain it, since neither of us knew what we were doing when we started.

If there’s something in your preparedness plan that can’t be done in increments – like a major renovation to your house – don’t make that your first change.  Take your time and make sure that you’re both fully on board and that what you’re getting is what you both want.

Lesson 5.  Make it fun.

If work isn’t rewarding, it’s drudgery.  Preparedness is work, and sometimes so are the ways of getting past reluctance.  Find a way to make it fun instead.

Spending a whole weekend without utilities for practice or to test your level of preparedness might draw groans and protests from your less-enthusiastic spouse/family.  So call it “backyard camping” instead.  Include games, ghost stories around the fire, s’mores, all the campy camping stuff.  Or if you can’t make the process itself more fun, then have a reward at the end for going along with it.  Treat the family to a nice dinner and a fun movie, or give your spouse a night at a swanky hotel with all the amenities.

If I want to take another shooting class – and I do – I’m going to have to get past my fear of failure/fumbling/doing something stupid.  I’m going to have to raise my confidence.  Pushing hard to train is not going to accomplish that, so I’m not training.  When I go out to shoot now, I’m doing it without any goal other than having fun, enough fun that I want to keep doing it.  John knows better than to push me, too.  He won’t mention that I haven’t been to the range lately, or suggest I should go.  Occasionally, he invites me to go with him when he goes, but when we go together he also focuses on having fun.

He hasn’t found a way to make HAM radio fun for me yet, but he’s a clever man and he’ll come up with something eventually.  As it is, he sneaks in small teaching moments by having the radio on while we’re driving.  He knows I’ll get curious about something he does or says while talking to a contact, and when I ask about it, he gets a chance to explain it.


Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 2

KR Training assistant instructor Kelli Kochan presented this material at our 2017 Preparedness Conference.  With our new Preparedness Level 1 and Level 2 classes coming up January 6-7, 2018, this information might be useful to those thinking about attending, or wanting to motivate a spouse to join them.

This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 2:  Communication and Miscommunication

In this I’m going to talk about understanding your spouse’s reluctance and your goals to reduce that reluctance.  To be clear, I’m not a psychologist or a marriage counselor, and I don’t play one on TV.  On the other hand, John and I have been together for over 18 years and married for almost 17, and you don’t miscommunicate with someone for that long without learning a few things.  These are some of the things I’ve learned, and I’ll illustrate with examples from our life.

Lesson 1.  Listen.

The experts will tell you that the foundation of communicating is to actively listen to the other person, to really hear what she is saying.  On the face, that sounds like a straightforward task, though it takes a bit of work.  It’s not always that simple, though.  Sometimes you think you’re listening, but what you hear is not what she said.  Once when John and I were dating, in the midst of a conversation – what it was really about, I don’t even remember – but in the middle of it, he said, “I’m looking for a woman who is strong enough to take care of herself when she needs to, weak enough to let me take care of her when I need to, and smart enough to tell the difference.”  I replied, “That’s great, because I’m looking for a man who is weak enough to let me take care of myself when I need to, strong enough to take care of me when I need him to, and smart enough to tell the difference.”  And we were both happy with that and went on with our conversation, and lived happily ever after.  Well, except that we’ve been fighting negotiating aggressively ever since about where that line really lies, about which of us takes care of me at what time, because even though we both said the same words, we meant two completely different things and we each interpreted the other’s comment in light of our own positions.

In fact, we’ve butted heads or talked past each other about a lot of things over the years, and even though we’ve come to understand each other much better in that time, we still miscommunicate and misunderstand each other, because our life experiences and perspectives are so different.  Early in January, we had a cold snap.  We carpool to work, and on the drive home the evening before, as the weather was closing in, John was acting worried.  I asked him about it and he said, “Houses around here aren’t built to withstand extreme low temperatures for long periods of time.”  John grew up down here.  I grew up in Montana.  To me, “extreme low temperatures” are well into negative numbers, and “long periods” of such last several days to weeks.  The predicted freeze was supposed to be one night, down to about 26-27°F, and John was talking in general terms – “houses around here” – so I really didn’t see what he was worried about.  I found out the next morning, when our water pipes were frozen inside the wall of the house, thanks to the thin layer of insulation between the outside wall and the pipe.

So the first thing is to listen, actively.  And then stop and ask yourself, What is your spouse really saying? Their words may make perfect sense to you in your own head, but do you know that what you heard was the intended meaning?  Encourage her to explain what motivates her reluctance, and work to understand that.  Often, it’s not a matter of all or nothing, but of degrees.  Putting up an extra shelf for food storage may be fine, but throwing away the knick-knacks or spending the retirement account to fill every nook of the house with food may be not so fine.  Extra food and medical supplies, emergency cash and a portable generator may be OK, while an underground bunker is not.  One of Paul’s examples was a lady who had no problem with preparing for natural disasters, but did not want to hear any talk about the possibility of economic collapse.  Find out what and where your spouse’s boundary lines are.

Lesson 2.  Examine your own motivations. 

Your spouse is only half of the communication equation.  Ask yourself:  What are you really trying to accomplish, and why?  What are your reasons for prepping?  That is, what events are you preparing for?  What are your reasons for wanting her to be involved?  And to what degree?  Do you just want her to accept your prepping activities without grousing about it, or do you want her to whole-heartedly jump with both feet into the bunker with you?  When you know what you really want, ask yourself what you’re willing to accept.

While you’re at it, consider this.  Just as you’re asking her to do something she’s not really willing to do, there may be things that she would like you to do that you are reluctant about.  Not necessarily prepping-type things, but something.  What are your reasons to be reluctant?  Where are your boundary lines?  Are you willing to overcome that reluctance or at least give some ground, as you’re asking her to do?

Once you understand (at least somewhat) where your spouse is coming from, and where you are coming from, you can start finding ways to work toward your goals and move some of those boundary lines.

Part 3 of the series is here.

Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 1

KR Training assistant instructor Kelli Kochan presented this material at our 2017 Preparedness Conference.  With our new Preparedness Level 1 and Level 2 classes coming up January 6-7, 2018, this information might be useful to those thinking about attending, or wanting to motivate a spouse to join them.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 1: Introduction to Reluctance

What follows in these four posts is the gist of the presentation that I gave at Paul Martin’s Preparedness Conference back in January.  Why the long delay?  Well, Karl and Paul asked me to write this up as soon as the conference ended.  I said, “Sure, but I have this deadline at work and I’m not doing anything else until I get that done.”  Then I let that one thing lead to another.  You know how that goes – there’s always another thing – so, no excuses, I kind of blew it.  But, I finally got it finished, and I hope you’ll still find it useful.

The idea for this presentation started at Paul’s Preparedness Conference a couple years ago.  We were chatting as we were packed up afterward and he mentioned that in the feedback comments someone had asked about a talk on getting spouses interested in prepping.  I thought I might have some ideas about that, and I bounced a few of them off John on the drive home, but at the time, the Conference was formatted around one-hour talks, and I didn’t think I had enough ideas for that, so I let it go.  The topic came up again last year, so I spent some more time thinking about it, and with the option for a 30-minute talk, I told Paul I was in.

A note on pronouns:  I’m going to use she/her throughout as a pronoun for “your spouse”.  Please don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t mean to imply that it’s only women who are reluctant or don’t want to be preppers, nor to offend anyone who prefers different pronouns.  It’s just that I’m a “she” and I’m speaking from my own point of view, and it’s less cumbersome to stick with one.  Please read she/her to be any pronoun that fits your personal circumstances.

When I saw Paul’s blurb about my talk, that I was going to speak about my journey from reluctant spouse to prepper, my first thought was, Who said I was reluctant?  I’ve been right alongside John this whole time!  I’m glad he wrote it that way, though, because it changed the way I was thinking about both myself and my approach to the topic.  Yes, I’m an enthusiastic prepper – about some things.  Less so about others.  And that is true of all of us – we’re all reluctant about some things, even as we are enthusiastic about others.

John is a tinkerer with electronics, and has been for years.  As part of that, he’s been a HAM radio enthusiast, and since we’ve started prepping, he’s gotten much more involved in it, both as hobby and as part of our emergency preparedness.  He would love for me to get my technician’s license, and occasionally reminds me that it would be good if I were at least legally allowed to use the radio for communication in an emergency.  I have zero interest in HAM as a hobby, and although I know on a rational level that it would be good for me to have the license, I am reluctant to put in the effort for something that doesn’t interest me.

I have a garden.  I didn’t get into it for prepping.  Mom had a garden when I was growing up, and now that I have space for one, it gives us something to talk about and brings us closer together.  Over the years, the garden has grown and last year, I started canning some of the produce.  John is mildly interested and likes a few of the veggies, so he started helping out.  Last fall we attended a canning seminar given by a woman who is an extreme food saver.  She has an entire room in her house, where most people would have an office or game room or library, full of shelves that are full of food.  She stores food under beds, in closets, on top of cabinets.  She said of knick-knack shelves, “You don’t need knick-knacks; you can store food there!”  You can bet that if I ever suggested that John get rid of his historic railroad lantern collection so that we could store food on those shelves, he would develop a sudden and strong reluctance to food storage!

We’re all reluctant about something, at some point.

So, how do you get a reluctant spouse interested in prepping?  By understanding, as I came to do, that it’s not about the prepping.  It’s about the motivation underlying the reluctance.  It’s about real communication with the other person to find and understand that motivation. It’s about learning to work with that.

Reluctance is just unwillingness to do something, and it can range in intensity from something like, “Meh; don’t wanna,” to “Oh, hell, no!  Not gonna, and you can’t make me!”  It presents as anything from procrastination and other avoidance behaviors to outright refusal, depending on the situation.  Sometimes we’re reluctant to do something but eventually acquiesce because the consequences of not doing it outweigh our reluctance (e.g., we get tired of being nagged, or we don’t want to lose a bonus, or our health gets to the point that we must see the doctor or end up in hospital anyway), and sometimes we manage to avoid the thing until it goes away or we do.

Why are we reluctant?

  • We are avoiding fear.

It can be fear of a happening or event, or just fear of failure.  We avoid walking on dark streets at night because we fear getting mugged.  We don’t go to the dentist because of the noise of the drill, and the discomfort of holding our mouth open for ages.  We don’t try out for the band or apply for the awesome job because we are afraid we will blow the interview and everyone will know we’re not good enough.  And when it comes to prepping, we don’t make a will because we are afraid of death and don’t want to have to think about it.

I am a decent shooter.  I used to shoot competitively, and I can brag (modestly, of course) that I have taken a revolver that I hadn’t touched in 2 years and shot a perfect score on the CHL test. Even so, when I haven’t been practicing routinely, you couldn’t pay me enough to make me attend a shooting class, because I avoid the fear of slipping up and doing something dumb in front of my friends or the instructor – who is also my friend and who I don’t want to think less of me.

  • We are avoiding change.

Change is uncomfortable and can be scary even when the change itself is positive and beneficial.  We don’t put in for that promotion because it would change the dynamic between us and our coworkers, or it would mean moving to a new and unfamiliar city where we don’t know anyone.  For anyone who didn’t grow up in a culture of preparedness, getting into prepping requires two changes that can be monumental: first a change of mindset and then a change of lifestyle.

  • We lack resources.

We’re reluctant to go back to school and get that degree we’ve always wanted, that would help us get that promotion, because our job takes most of our time and energy, and if we quit the job, we won’t be able to afford it.  We’re reluctant to start saving seriously for retirement because we have a mortgage and a car payment and we don’t want to have to eat beans & weenies or Ramen noodles every day.  We’re reluctant to start prepping because we’ve seen what all the cool preppers are getting and we don’t have the money to buy all that stuff.

  • We lack interest.

This is the root of my reluctance with the HAM radio.  I have no interest whatsoever, not even in learning it purely for the knowledge.  Without interest, the learning would give me no immediate reward.  This also ties into resources – our time and energy are finite. The time and energy that I would have to spend to learn the subject and study for the license exam, and then to continue to practice so that I could actually be effective if I needed to communicate on the radio, is time and energy that I instead choose to spend on things that interest me and are more immediately rewarding for me.

In the rest of this series, I’ll present eight lessons that I have learned that might be useful for reducing your spouse’s reluctance toward prepping.

Part 2 of the series is here.

KR Training December 2017 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training December 2017 newsletter!  Upcoming classes include Preparedness Level 1 and 2 (Jan 7 and 8), Basic Pistol 1 Jan 13, Basic Pistol 2 Jan 20, and MAG-20 range Jan 27-28.

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

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.


In recent classes I’ve mentioned posts I’ve made to the KR Training blog or on the KR Training Facebook page, only to learn that very few in class were aware they existed and had not been following them.

I post something to the KR Training blog every week, usually articles too long to include in the newsletter.  I post something to the KR Training Facebook page (and associated Twitter feed) almost every day, usually links to articles I found interesting.  The Blog-O-Rama section of the newsletter curates the most interesting of the content from the blog and Facebook page, but if you want to see that information when it’s freshest, subscribe to the blog (there’s a subscribe button on the right hand side) or follow us on Facebook.


John Daub and I were each interviewed for upcoming episodes of Ballistic Radio, to air in early 2018.

I was guest host for 3 upcoming episodes of the Handgun World Podcast.  The episodes feature interviews with John Holschen and David Yamane, and a discussion with John Daub about selecting handgun drills for training.

Here’s the link to the podcast, and the associated blog post with info about the drills we discuss.


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.

Just want to shoot? Come for the morning sessions each day. Three hours of drills for pistol and long gun.  Just want to be inside learning?  There are four different half-day sessions available. Attend any single session for $90, any two sessions for $150, all 4 for $260.

Full details are on Paul Martin’s blog.   Here’s the details on Preparedness 1 (Saturday) and Preparedness 2 (Sunday).

Register here.


For that friend or family member with a new gun, or making a New Year’s Resolution to get some firearms training. Or for you.  50% off refresher slots.

Saturday January 13Basic Pistol 1 (9-12), Gun Selection Clinic (1-3), Shooting Skills, Gun Cleaning and Maintenance (3-5).

Sunday January 14 – License To Carry (12-5)

Saturday January 20Basic Pistol 2 (9-1), Personal Tactics Skills (2-5)

Register here.


The MAG-20 range class is a two day, 500 round defensive handgun course suitable for anyone at the Basic Pistol 2 level or higher. Draw from concealment, two-handed stances, shooting from cover, one-handed stances with either hand, speed reloading, and more are taught with an overall emphasis on fast, accurate shot placement.

We will be hosting Massad Ayoob in March 2018 for his MAG-80 course.  That 40 hour course includes handgun, long gun and weapon retention training.  To be eligible to attend the MAG-80, students must have completed both the MAG-20 classroom and MAG-20 range class.   We’ve hosted both parts (combined they are known as MAG-40.)  Anyone interested in attending MAG-80 in March that only attended the MAG-20 classroom needs to complete the MAG-20 range to meet pre-requisites.

The MAG-20 range in January will be taught by Tracy Becker, who is a MAG-certified instructor and graduate of MAG-30, MAG-40, MAG instructor, MAG-80 and MAG-120.


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-May 2018. Registration is open in all of them.


New M&P Shield (1.0 version) 9mm with Dawson sights, Apex trigger.  Configured the same as my personal Shield.  $420.

Used Springfield 5″ XD with upgraded sights, trigger and slide release, with 5 magazines and holster – $400

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 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 just finished up 21 shows at Santa’s Wonderland, a multi-million dollar trail of lights, with shops, food, live music, and many other activities.   Here’s are some video samples of our holiday cheer.



The Legacy of Ranching exhibit at the Bush (41) Library, curated by my wife Penny, is still open until January 7th.  I assisted with video production and contributed some pulp magazines from my personal collection to a display about Texas ranches in pop culture.

Both the ranching exhibit and Santa’s Wonderland will be open until January 7th. Santa’s is open every day, the Bush Library open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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

Handgun World Podcast – top 10 drills, plus 2

In the Dec 24, 2017 episode of the Handgun World Podcast, John Daub and I discuss 10 drills we think make a good baseline set of drills handgun shooters can use to maintain and develop skills.

I classify the difficulty level of drills by comparing the speed and accuracy requirements to what is required to shoot a 100% score on courses of fire used by the US Practical Shooting Association for national classification.  To be a Grand Master, you have to shoot scores that are 95% or higher. The 100% level isn’t the absolute maximum skill level a shooter can attain (those at the national and world champion level are capable of shooting 110% or more of the USPSA 100% level), but because there are so many classifier stages with known 100% levels, it’s possible to come up with baseline values for draw time, reload time, split time, target transition times, etc. that can be used to evaluate almost any drill.

For those interested in how to analyze drills for difficulty on this scale, I’ll address that in upcoming blog posts as a separate topic.

Minimum Acceptable (25% of Grand Master)

The first three drills emphasize basic marksmanship and shooting at a moderate pace.

Most state carry permit qualification courses of fire and beginner shooting program drills fit into this category, and all these drills require skill no better than 25% of GM to shoot perfect scores.

1) NRA Basic Pistol Qualification

The 2017 version of the NRA Basic Pistol courses uses 4″ circles.  Shooters must put 5 shots into a 4″ circle, at a minimum of 10 feet.  Those able to pass the minimum level can repeat the drill at 15 feet (5 yards) and 20 feet (almost 7 yards).  NRA Pistol instructors are required to be able to put 16 of 20 shots into a 6″ circle at 15 yards.  These drills have no time limit.

2) Texas License To Carry Test

The Texas LTC (formerly known as the Concealed Handgun License) shooting test has been in use since 1995, with well over 1 million shooters meeting this standard.  It uses the B-27 target, counting the traditional 8, 9, 10 and X rings all as 5 points, with the 7 ring scored as 4 and anywhere inside the humanoid shape and outside the 7 ring counted as 3 points.

This adds the skills of bringing the gun from a ready position to the target quickly, and firing the required shots within a time limit, to the basic marksmanship tested by the NRA Basic Pistol qualification.

The test is:

3 yards, 20 rounds

  • 1 shot, 2 seconds, 5 times
  • 2 shots, 3 seconds, 5 times
  • 5 shots, 10 seconds, 1 time

7 yards, 20 rounds

  • 5 shots, 10 seconds, 1 time
  • 2 shots, 4 seconds, 1 time
  • 3 shots, 6 seconds, 1 time
  • 1 shot, 3 seconds, 5 times
  • 5 shots, 15 seconds, 1 time

15 yards, 10 rounds

  • 2 shots, 6 seconds, 1 time
  • 3 shots, 9 seconds, 1 time
  • 5 shots, 15 seconds, 1 time


To give you a sense of scale, a perfect score (250 points) on the Texas License To Carry shooting test equates to roughly 25% of the USPSA Grand Master level).  That means a Grand Master, starting from a ready position, could shoot a 5 point (center mass) shot in 0.5 seconds, instead of the 2 seconds allowed on the test.

3) The 5×5 drill

This drill, originally created by Gila Hayes of the Firearms Academy of Seattle, starts at the ready position. 5 shots into a 5″ circle, at 5 yards, in 5 seconds. This video shows the version modified by Claude Werner.

Start Shooting Better Episode 2: 5×5 Drill – Lucky Gunner Lounge

The target can be printed out here.

This drill is more challenging than the previous two.  It requires shooting at a one shot per second pace, similar to the fastest parts of the Texas LTC test, but at a much smaller target.  (Based on what I’ve seen teaching the Texas LTC class for more than 20 years, Texas LTC holders that shot less than 90% on the state test would have a difficult time passing the 5×5 drill.)

Reasonable Level (50% of Grand Master)

When I looked at the difficulty of many different law enforcement academy and police department qualification standards, most of them required being able to draw, reload and clear malfunctions, with speed and accuracy requirements in the 40-50% of GM level.  We chose some widely used and well known drills and defined some par times roughly aligning with that difficulty level.

(4) Bill Drill – draw and fire 6, USPSA or IDPA target, 7 yards, 5 seconds (from concealment).  All hits must be within the A-zone or 0-ring.

In the video, Bill gives a 3 second par time (from open carry) as a goal for a good shooter.  In his book, Practical Shooting, Brian Enos uses a goal time of 2 seconds (from competition holster) as a Master class benchmark.   We chose a par time of 5 seconds, assuming a 2 second draw from concealment, and 0.5 second split times between shots.

(5) F.A.S.T.

The Fundamentals, Accuracy and Speed Test (FAST) was created by late trainer Todd Green. It tests concealment draw, slide lock reload, and the ability to shoot at two different speeds – a slower speed to get two hits in the 3″x5″ box, and the faster speed necessary to get 4 hits in the 8″ circle.  Typically the split times (shot to shot times) required in the 8″ circle are twice as fast as those required for the 3″x5″ box.

Todd considered runs under 5 seconds to be Master level. We chose 10 seconds, from concealment, as our goal time for those training to the 50% level.

(6) Three Seconds or Less

The drill we use most often in our Defensive Pistol classes is the Three Seconds or Less drill. It’s 9 strings, each 3 seconds long, requiring a variety of shooting skills on a USPSA or IDPA target at 3 and 7 yards.

In addition to the skills tested by the Bill Drill and F.A.S.T., it adds one handed shooting, turning draws, and shooting while moving, in a series of 1, 2 and 3 shot strings.

A score of 90% or higher, working from concealment, requires roughly 50% of Grand Master skill.

(Those seeking to make the test more difficult can decrease the per-string par time down to 2.5 seconds, and change the start position for every string to “hands at sides”.)

(7) Farnam Drill/3M Test = draw, reload, malfunction, 15 seconds

John’s written extensively about the Farnam Drill/3M Test in the past. It was originally developed by John Farnam for use as a qualification drill in his classes. It requires drawing & moving, reloading and moving, clearing malfunction and moving, all in one long drill.  The linked article contains the full instructions, including the evolution of the drill to the current version used by Tom Givens of Rangemaster.

We recommend a par time of 15 seconds (midway between Farnam’s beginner student par of 18 and slower than his instructor par of 12 seconds) as the 50% skill level goal.

More Challenging (70%+ GM, or IDPA Master)

These three drills are well known, widely used and very popular with high skill level shooters.  My review of qualifications for national level instructor programs that use scored shooting tests for instructor certification (Rangemaster, Massad Ayoob Group, Paul Howe, FBI, many law enforcement programs) indicates that skill at the 70% GM (roughly IDPA Master level) is a common threshold.

(8) “The Test”

This test is shot using an NRA B-8 bullseye target.  10 yards, 10 seconds, 10 rounds.  90 points or better to pass.  Made famous by Larry Vickers but often attributed to Ken Hackathorn.  There are many variations with more strings at different distances, working from the holster instead of ready, for those that want more challenge from this type of drill.

(9) FBI qualification test (current version)

The current version of the FBI qualification test is also used in several national training programs.  It has multiple strings at distances from 3 to 25 yards.

(10) Dot Torture

Dot Torture was developed by David Blinder.   Like the NRA Basic Pistol test at the top of this test, it has no time limit and is purely a test of marksmanship.  It uses small dots and requires two handed, and one handed shooting, reloads, drawing, and other skills.


Two bonus drills we discussed in the podcast.


The Walkback drill was documented on Todd Green’s Pistol Forum site. I’ve seen variations of it used in several classes I’ve taken.  The common theme is to work at maintaining constant accuracy (keeping 5 shots in a 3×5 card, for example), as you move backward. Some variations include a time limit – 3 shots in 3 seconds, working backward 1 yard at a time until you cannot keep all 3 shots on the card.

Rangemaster Core Skills test

The Rangemaster Core Skills test is similar to the FBI qualification course of fire.  Multiple strings, multiple distances, many skills.  It can be used as the basis for practice sessions, or to verify skills are maintained at an acceptable level.


Any shooter, at any level, can use these drills as a guide to measure, maintain or improve skills.

Book Review – Officer Down, Code Three (Pierce R. Brooks, 1975)

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.

“…officer down, code three” was recommended to me by John Farnam during a pistol class I took with him in December 2017.  John referenced this book as the first significant book on police tactics.  The book Street Survival was published in 1980 and was more widely used and better known than Brooks’ book.  Brooks was the detective in the famous “Onion Field” incident, which was documented in a book, and dramatized in a 1979 movie.

The book is mainly a series of case studies, with the actual names of the officers changed, describing ten deadly errors Brooks identifies as common mistakes cops make that get them killed.  I’m going to go through the list and comment on them from the perspective of an armed citizen, since they are as relevant to personal defense of an armed citizen as they are to law enforcement officers.

1. Failure To Maintain Proficiency & Care of Weapon, Vehicle and Equipment


I covered this topic in detail in one part of my Beyond the One Percent blog series.  In part 4 of that series I discuss the Dunning Kruger effect, where people with limited ability perceive their skills as better than they are, and how that causes the typical armed citizen to (1) mistake meeting state minimums as “enough training”, (2) be unable to define realistic standards of skill appropriate for personal defense and (3) fail to schedule and structure their own practice sessions to re-evaluate their skills and maintain them to a practically useful level.

The correct approach every armed citizen should take is:

1) Take the state mandated training and get a carry permit.

2) Identify (or research) the set of skills and standards that a majority of private sector schools, particularly top tier trainers, or major national programs, use as their standard for “acceptable skill to be reasonably well prepared for armed defense”.  (Those standards, regardless of source, are always going to be higher and include more skills than any state minimum carry permit program.)

I and my team have written extensively on our thoughts on minimum proficiency levels and readers of this article are encouraged to dig into those articles as part of their research.  Our Three Seconds or Less shooting test is a simple 20 round drill that many find useful as a baseline practice drill.

3) Confirm that you can meet well chosen standards using the gear you actually carry, including shooting the exact ammo you plan to carry. Not practice ammo.  20 rounds of the exact brand, caliber, bullet weight, and power level that you have chosen as your carry ammo.

4) Re-test yourself against those standards once a year, and do additional practice (dry or live fire) as needed, to keep your skills to a practical minimum level.

This is the same process law enforcement agencies apply to their officers, who have to qualify annually, at a minimum. Many departments now require officers to fire a minimum number of rounds in practice every month, because shooting skills are not a “one and done” thing.  They require frequent repetition to maintain.


Keeping your vehicle in good working condition is also important. Regular maintenance, gas and fluid levels, tires, lights.  You are higher risk of dying in a car accident than from criminal attack.  Your vehicle, like your firearm, is life-safety equipment and should not be neglected.  Distracted driving, particularly use of cell phones while behind the wheel, is particularly risky and should be avoided.

Other Equipment

Flashlights, tourniquets, knives or any other item carried daily should be periodically inspected.  Batteries lose power, edges dull, belt clips, hinges and screws on folding knives and holsters can rust, loosen or even come off.  Sweat, grime, dust, rain and day to day carry can cause wear. The time to be aware of those problems is not when you need the gear for its intended life-saving purpose.

2. Improper Search and Use of Handcuffs

In the book, Brooks recounts several incidents where those taken into custody, who were not properly handcuffed or searched, produced or obtained weapons and killed officers.  In October 2017, a Texas Tech University campus police officer was killed in an incident just like the ones Brooks describes in the book.

In the unfortunate event that an armed citizen’s interaction with a police officer includes being handcuffed and searched, perhaps following their involvement in a justified shooting, it’s useful for the armed citizen to understand why the officer is doing something that the citizen may feel is not necessary or appropriate.

3. Sleepy or Asleep

The medical and law enforcement professions both suffer from an institutional attitude that overtime is expected, and personnel are frequently required to work long shifts or additional shifts.  Despite significant research showing that fatigue can lead to the same level of poor decision making that chemical impairment can, there are still many people in both professions on the job making life or death decisions, sometimes with a body jacked up on legal stimulants (energy drinks, caffeine, nicotine) supporting a brain in desperate need of rest.

The same problem exists for armed citizens, without the qualified immunity those in uniform may be granted, should a questionable decision or action be made in a sleep-deprived state.

A criminal skilled at victim selection will likely notice sluggish behavior, inattention and other indications a person is tired.

4) Relaxing Too Soon

Earlier this year we had a student attacked while sitting in their vehicle, in their driveway.  The individual was sitting in the vehicle, watching a video someone had sent to their phone, instead of waiting until they were in the house to view it.  It’s very natural and normal to feel safe once you get back to your own property, particularly if there’s no one visible as you pull into a driveway.   In this case while the student was distracted, this provided opportunity for an attacker to walk up the vehicle, open the door and attempt to pull the student out of the vehicle.  The student fought back with unarmed skills and pepper spray and was successful in driving the attacker off.

5) Missing the Danger Signs

This video shows quick examples of many different pre-attack cues. The sooner you observe those behaviors, the more space and time you will have, which can avert the situation or provide you the advantage you need to win, should the situation escalate.  There are many good videos on youTube on many channels pointing out these types of cues in footage of actual incidents.

6.  Taking a Bad Position

Distance and cover are good. Standing in the open is bad.  If your training and practice does not include shooting from cover, and learning to move to cover while shooting a threat, that’s something you should move to the top of your “to do” list. We teach those skills in our Defensive Pistol Skills 1, DPS-2 and DPS-3 courses, among others.

7. Failure to watch their hands

Hands hold weapons. Weapons are what harm you.  Action is always going to beat reaction. If two shooters are equally skilled, the one that starts first is going to win, because even someone waiting on the ‘go’ signal typically takes 0.25 second to react to the stimulus and start acting.  Reaction time increases when the stimulus is not expected. Draw time decreases when the person starts with a grip on their gun.  So in the worst case scenario, if an attacker already has a grip on a gun in their pocket or waistband, and you don’t being to draw until you see the already out, that person may be a full second ahead of you, if the situation is a contest of nothing but draw speed.

In a potential attack situation, watching the hands decreases reaction time, because the decision to draw, pending observation of the ‘go’ signal, has already been made. The decision to fire should be separated from the decision to draw, to prevent shooting someone that moves their hands quickly but ends up grasping something that’s not a weapon.  This happens more frequently to law enforcement officers than armed citizens, but still an issue to be concerned about.

8. Tombstone Courage

One of the most common problems we see in force-on-force scenarios is a desire by armed citizens to move forward to the threat, to pursue or to get closer when confronting a potential attacker, or trying to stop an attack in progress.  This happens because of proxemics.   Moving closer to be more intimidating is a natural response – but it’s not always good tactics.  The best way to learn and practice use of good tactics is scenario based training against live opponents.  The building blocks can be learned in live fire drills, but interaction with other people, in real time, as they react to you, cannot be simulated by any kind of live fire drill.  Here’s a real world example of bravery and good intentions ending very badly for the armed citizen.


9. Preoccupation

Brooks defines this as “Worrying about personal problems while on duty”.  Substitute “while in public” and it applies to armed citizens.  The biggest modern preoccupation is obsession with the cell phone.  Jeff Cooper called this Condition White.    There are tasks that require full attention.  When you have to perform those tasks, having additional layers of security: locks, doors, distance, other eyes/ears watching (human or canine) can be used to mitigate the risk of being lost in thought, unaware of your surroundings.

10. Apathy

“It’ll never happen to me” is not a self-defense plan.  Whatever reason someone has for not carrying a gun, or not carrying pepper spray, or not getting training to be prepared to fend off an attack, I probably have a student incident counter example. If I don’t, other trainers do.  Age, gender, neighborhood, physical appearance, race, time of day, gun-free facility, and any other factor you can think of. None of them are guaranteed to reduce your risk to zero.

Leaving your gun in the car is not “carrying”.  Taking a class one time and never practicing the skills you learned in class is not “being trained”.  Target shooting (standing still in one spot shooting with no plan and no time pressure) is not “practice” for defensive pistol use.

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, when people make resolutions to do better the next year. Mostly those resolutions are forgotten or abandoned within 30 days.  But even if you do one dry fire session, or get in one real practice session, shoot one match, or take one class, while you are motivated, that’s better than no effort at all.  The boost in skill you’ll get from even one focused session will stay with you longer than it will take to gain back the weight you’ll lose on that diet you’ll fall off of by spring.

My signed book

In many cases, particularly with older and out of print books, the signed copies that are available were originally signed to someone else, and often there’s a story that goes with the signed book.

The copy of Officer Down I purchased originally belonged to Robert Posey, who was Dean at the Eastern Kentucky College of Justice and Safety Technology when the book was published.  Posey now has an auditorium named after him, and many other honors, as noted in this history of that college.


Nothing is new.  All 10 of Brooks’ factors are as relevant today as they were in 1975.




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.