STI Factory Tour

From assistant instructor Tracy Thronburg:

STI FACTORY TOUR

07 June 2019

By Tracy Becker Thronburg

The north and south Austin chapters of A Girl and A Gun were fortunate to get to tour the STI handgun factory on a recent Friday in June. There were approximately 22 AGAG members in attendance. Dustin Tackett, a regional sales manager for STI, led us on the tour.

STI is housed in two large warehouses in an industrial park in Georgetown, Texas. One warehouse fabricates slides, while in the other warehouse, located across the street, the frames are built and the gunsmithing done.

STI was founded by Sandy Strayer and Virgil Tripp. It should be noted that I am a die-hard 1911 girl, and for many years STI made a quality 1911s, however, much to my disappointment, STI no longer makes 1911s, focusing their production only on 2011s. I asked Dustin why STI no longer makes the 1911, and his answer was that “they” felt that the market was saturated with 1911s, so “they” decided to turn their focus to making modular 2011s. I told Dustin that I own three STI 1911s, all of different models, and that I am saddened that they no longer make the 1911. My STIs run flawlessly and I shoot them well – having shot them exclusively for both of Tom Givens’ Rangemaster instructor/advanced instructor courses and all of the advanced classes with the Massad Ayoob Group. My favorite STI 1911 is the Trojan with a short trigger and a slim magwell. Oh well, too bad for me. My options are a Staccato C (which is a single stack) or a 2011 with a short trigger put in it.

STI currently employs 69 folks to build their guns, with the employees being cross-trained on different aspects of building their guns.


I inquired as to whether or not STI still has their custom shop, because I recently noticed on their website that the custom shop was not accepting new orders. I was told that, in fact, STI does not have a custom shop anymore, and the two gunsmiths who used to build the custom-order guns were now working to help build their stock 2011s. So, the days of custom STI builds are of the past and you will have to send your gun to someone else for customization, should you so choose.

The grips for STI’s 2011s are injection molded, made at an outside facility, and finished in house. The bluing for STIs is also not done in house, although Dustin did mention that something is in the works to bring that process back in house. The magazines for STI guns are also not made in house.

We had the opportunity to look at several different 2011s in various configurations, including the Staccato C, the Staccato P, a DVC 3, a DVC S, and a DVC O. The DVC O, their race gun, was described by one of the ladies as looking like something out of Star Trek or Star Wars with the compensated barrel and frame-mounted red dot.

As we were finishing up our one-hour-long tour, one of the ladies asked if STI test fired their guns before shipping them out for sale. Dustin told us that yes, each gun is test fired in the CONEX behind one of the warehouses, and that three magazines of ammo are run through each gun. One magazine is fired slowly. One magazine is fired fast. One magazine is fired for accuracy.

For their guns that come with iron sights, I was happily informed that Dawson Precision is the exclusive provider of sights for STI. In fact, Dawson Precision has sold more STI products than anyone on the planet.

We had a great time on the tour and look forward to STI bringing out some guns for an event day with the local A Girl and A Gun chapters. Thank you, STI.

Student incident AAR

I recently received this email from a student, relating an incident involving a potential robbery in a Home Depot parking lot. He’s given me permission to share his original email and excerpts from our discussion of it, with his name omitted.

Well, I actually had to use escalation/de-escalation verbal and physical skills yesterday, skill sets I’ve actually practiced from your courses.

I drove over to a nearby Home Depot to pick up a few replacement faucets for our kitchen and bathrooms.  As I usually do, I prefer to park some distance away from the store entrance/exits (easier to get in/out of parking lot traffic and to avoid pedestrians) but not too far from the return cart receptacles.

Pulling up next to a green space, I noticed and man (mid 40s) eyeing me, smoking a cigar, and just loitering around as if waiting for someone; just seemed out of place.  After being in the store for 20 minutes or so, I’m on my way out.  I have to park the shopping cart in front of my truck as there isn’t enough room between it and the green space.  Then that same man comes jogging up to me as I’m picking up the boxes and placing them in my truck.

Immediately closed my door and punched the keylock.  Side stepped and extended my left hand with the a stop gesture.  He started feeding me lines of how he was a contractor and wanting to know what I payed for faucets all while slowly kept creeping forward and reaching into my cart and foundling my newly acquired property.  My cart is between me and him.  I’m about 10 feet away.  I gave him very direct verbal commands to back off, go inside and check things out yourself.  Feeding me more lines (can I take pictures of their part numbers…let me help you carry these) and not dropping my property, I went into position one while verbally ordering him to back off and to get away.  I quickly checked my six, noted a heavy set woman near my truck and in very hurried manner walking away.  I went right at the guy, I slapped the boxes out of his hands with my left hand – he got the message then and walked off.  Though I went to position one*, I never revealed my firearm.

He disappeared into the sea of parked cars.  I let a minute or so pass by before proceeding again with the normal load up the merchandise and go home routine.  Returning the cart, I caught eye of him again, this time sitting in a parked older junk Toyota sedan that has seen better days.  There is, I believe, the same heavy set women I had noted when I checked six o’clock.  There was two of them. Their body language, gestures, and faces informed me the she was emotionally upset and that he was very agitated. They both had that homeless person look about them, appearance, clothing.  The back seat of their old Toyota was full of junk and he just couldn’t get the engine to turn over.

Back to my truck, got out of there ASAP, made sure I wasn’t being followed.  I didn’t call the police because I never showed my firearm and he never acted aggressive.  I’m 99% positive he was trying to distract me, pull me into conversation so his lady friend could quietly snatch and grab the items I had just placed in the back seat.  My immediate actions of closing the door, hitting the key lock, side stepping, clear concise verbal and non-verbal actions, and the posture of position one all worked into my favor.  For improvement, I should have checked six sooner for a possible accomplice – his oddball conversation did distract and held my attention too long.  And I should have called the cops to make a report.

Living near and working within Houston, having a stranger approach you in a parking lot for a handout is about a twice per year event for me.  I’m going to see if I can get access to security recordings, if possible.

I can say that your training regimen, without doubt, added to my ability to handle the situation.

*Note: “position one” refers to the start of the drawstroke, where a firing grip on the pistol is established while the pistol is still in the holster.

When I’ve had similar incidents occur, as soon as I was on the road away from the scene, I’ve called the non emergency police number (which goes to the 911 dispatcher) and reported the panhandling / suspicious person to the police, with a description. My response to him included discussion of how pepper spray might have been another option. His response:

I purchased Sabre Red some time ago based upon your class recommendations.  However, I had it sitting inside the center console within my truck.  I’ll be keeping it on my person as it may have been the better tool for this situation.

I’m actually going back to Home Depot this afternoon to pick up more plumbing supplies; I’m taking my time stamped receipt and will ask for the manager to advise them of the experience.

Having a couple of days to evaluate; I was never nervous – I don’t believe my heart rate ever accelerated.  It just happened.  I did lag a bit in my responses because in my mind I was debating with the “is this really happening…it can’t be happening?” kind of thoughts.

Our upcoming Personal Tactics Skills course is suitable for both armed and unarmed individuals. It teaches management of unknown contacts and interaction with strangers in public places, including around vehicles. That 3-hour class is one of the required courses in the Defensive Pistol Skills challenge coin program. The class will be indoors (mostly) in air-conditioned classroom the afternoon of July 27, 2019. This incident is a great example of why non-shooting skills are important and how they can be applied.

KR Training May 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training May 2019 newsletter!

We’ve added more classes to our schedule through the end of the year and into 2020. Sign up now for any classes on the schedule by clicking the “Register” link at the top of the page. Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

Join Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics and Karl Rehn for 1.5 days of firearms and medical scenario-based training June 1-2, 2019. Test your skills and knowledge under pressure!

OPERATION ANALEPTIC

On June 1-2, KR Training and Lone Star Medics will offer a 1.5-day special event called Operation Analeptic with 2 instructors (Karl Rehn, Caleb Causey). This event integrates medical, firearms and tactics skills in scenario-based training. This event is suitable for those with training in holster use and a minimum of Stop the Bleed level medical training. Registration is open now. We have 5 slots remaining in this course. We’ve dropped the price to $325 since we scaled the event back to a 2-instructor, smaller class size event.

JUNE CLASSES

We have added a LOT of classes to our June schedule, including a new class, Top 10 Drills, that runs students through the 10 drills John and I identify in our book as an essential training set. The Top 10 drills class counts as elective hours toward your Defensive Pistol Skills challenge coin.

We are also hosting Hank Fleming to teach a 3-hour Glock Maintenance course.

June 22 we are running multiple sessions of Handgun Coaching, including two ladies-only sessions for those wanting individual attention, and a Texas License to Carry class. Having one or more family members get their carry permit and/or some handgun coaching might make a great Father’s Day gift.

SUMMER USPSA MATCHES

In addition to everything else we have going on this summer, we’ll be running USPSA format matches most Wednesdays through Labor Day. Anyone that has completed DPS-1 or other classes using a holster can attend and new shooters are welcome. Details and dates here.

LEE WEEMS VISIT

Lee Weems is part of the Rangemaster team of instructors, and he’s also Chief Deputy for his home county’s sheriff’s department in Georgia. Four of the top 5 scores on the Rangemaster Casino drill have been shot by deputies in his department who train with Lee on a regular basis. I’m hosting Lee to teach two classes at the end of June.

Social levergun/pump shotgun can be taken with either a lever gun (rifle or pistol caliber) or a pump shotgun. Manually operated guns are still popular, widely available, and will likely survive any future “assault weapon”/semi-auto long gun ban. Understanding how to run these guns well is a useful skill for any shooter. Trained shooters often end up coaching less trained or untrained friends and family to use these guns, so learning the best techniques is good information to have. If you have one of those guns in your own closet or gun safe and haven’t gotten to shoot it in a while, this will be a fun class with an entertaining and very smart instructor. Join us Saturday, June 29, for this class.

Deliberate Speed Pistol is a one-day pistol class teaching how to “shift gears” (similar to my Beyond the Basics course). Most people fire every shot with the same quality of sight picture with the same speed of trigger press. That is NOT what top shooters do. They do less sight picture for close/big targets, and more sight picture (slower, more precise) for longer, harder shots. Lee’s class is a full day developing that essential skill. We have a few slots left in that course scheduled for Sunday, June 30.

ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING

In response to multiple recent active shooter events, I have scheduled a 2-day session of the state-certified Active Shooter course for July 13-14. I am certified to teach the ALERRT Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event (CRASE) lecture course. That lecture material is part of the full 2 day DPS course. Those who only want the lecture course without state certification are invited to attend the FREE lecture on Saturday, July 13. The lecture course is appropriate and relevant to both armed and unarmed individuals. Stay after the CRASE course for a FREE Stop The Bleed course.

PRIVATE TRAINING AVAILABLE

I am available for private lessons on weekdays. Contact me to schedule.

BLOG-O-RAMA will return in a future newsletter. The easiest way to keep up with the articles we share each week is to follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter to see those links as we post them.

If you aren’t already a subscriber, to receive this newsletter each month, subscribe here or follow this blog (right) for more frequent posts and information. You can also follow and interact with us on Twitter or Instagram.

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

Book Review – “A System of Target Practice” (Henry Heth, 1858)

The book “A System of Target Practice”, written in 1858 by Henry Heth and published in 1862 by the War Department, is cited as the US military’s first marksmanship manual. Heth graduated from West Point in 1847 and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The full text of the book from archive.org is here. A scan of the book’s pages can be found here.

The book is basically an instructor’s guide on how to teach others the skill of shooting muzzleloading rifles in combat. It includes “modern” concepts such as benchrest shooting, dry fire (using caps and blank cartridges), and use of reactive steel targets. The author claims that in 1856, using the no-live-fire training methods described in the book one unit produced a 300% improvement in shooting skill without firing a single ball.

It discusses long range shooting (at 200 yards, aim at the head, at 150 aim at the throat, 100 aim at the chest) as well as volley fire and shooting in relays.

While the book doesn’t specifically address pistols, all the concepts of marksmanship apply, from the detailed instructions on how to teach trigger press to explanation of aiming and trajectory. The book defines some very basic standards (Heth’s version of “minimum acceptable”) for soldiers, and defines a rating system where awards can be given for good scores.

Most of my research into the history of handgun shooting technique is focused on 20th and 21st century material, but this book was an interesting short read and a reminder that the basic concepts and methods of firearms instruction have been around for centuries.

KR Training April 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training April 2019 newsletter!

May and June classes are filling quickly. We’ve added more classes to our schedule through the end of the year. Don’t miss the opportunity to sign up now for any classes on the schedule. Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

MAY CLASSES

On May 25 we are offering multiple FREE sessions of the Stop the Bleed course, in honor of May being Stop the Bleed month. Come out for one or both of the shooting classes, and attend a Stop the Bleed session before or after the live fire class at no additional cost. Thanks to Levi Nathan for volunteering to offer this training.

FREE SEARCH AND RESCUE COURSE

On Thursday May 30 and Friday May 31, we are offering a session of the DHS-funded FREE class: Search and Rescue for Community Responders. This class teaches skills you would use as a volunteer assisting professional search and rescue teams. It’s 1.5 days, finishing up at Noon on Friday. From 1-3 p.m. that day immediately after class, Paul Martin will offer a FREE Stop the Bleed session. Click here to register.

OPERATION ANALEPTIC

On June 1-2, KR Training and Lone Star Medics will offer a 1.5-day special event called Operation Analeptic with 4 instructors (Karl Rehn, Caleb Causey, Dr. Sherman House and Eli Miller). This event integrates medical, firearms and tactics skills in scenario-based training. This event is suitable for those with training in holster use and a minimum of Stop the Bleed level medical training. Registration is open now.

JUNE CLASSES

We have added a LOT of classes to our June schedule, including a new class, Top 10 Drills, that runs students through the 10 drills John and I identify in our book as an essential training set. We are also hosting Hank Fleming to teach a 3-hour Glock Maintenance course.

June 22 we are running multiple sessions of Handgun Coaching, including two ladies-only sessions for those wanting individual attention, and a Texas License to Carry class. Having one or more family members get their carry permit and/or some handgun coaching might make a great Father’s Day gift.

SUMMER USPSA MATCHES

In addition to everything else we have going on this summer, we’ll be running USPSA format matches most Wednesdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Anyone that has completed DPS-1 or other classes using a holster can attend and new shooters are welcome. Details and dates here.

ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING

In response to multiple recent active shooter events I have scheduled a 2 day session of the state-certified Active Shooter course for July 13-14. I recently got certified to teach the ALERRT Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event (CRASE) lecture course. That lecture material is part of the full 2 day DPS course. So those that only want the (shorter, cheaper) lecture course (with no state certification) are invited to attend the FREE lecture on Saturday July 13. The lecture course is appropriate and relevant to both armed and unarmed individuals. Immediately following the CRASE course will be a Stop The Bleed course.

KR Training Standards Book Now Available

John Daub and I published a book in March. Signed copies are available at the A-Zone for $15, or we will ship you one for $20.

A Girl and A Gun Conference 2019

Multiple instructors from the KR Training team presented training at the annual A Girl and A Gun national conference in April. We posted reports from the conference here and here.

PRIVATE TRAINING AVAILABLE

I am available for private lessons on weekdays. Contact me to schedule.

BLOG-O-RAMA

You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter to see our favorite blog content from other authors as we post it. Want to see articles we’ve shared? Follow KR Training on Facebook where we post the links when they are fresh and current.

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

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

The “Reloading Pause” Fallacy

Since the 1990’s, gun control advocates have insisted that reduced capacity magazines (limited to 10 rounds) were “safer”. The most recent set of talking points relate to active shooter incidents. The claim is that by requiring the active shooter to reload more often, this creates an operational “pause” in which untrained, unarmed people can rush and disarm the shooter.

In the Force Science certification course I just attended, they shared a lot of time measurements made on various movements. Their numbers track the numbers we put together in our recent book, and timing values common to shooting qualification courses. I decided to evaluate the “reloading pause” concept using the FSI information.

Summary

Time to reload an empty gun and fire one shot at 20 feet (approx 7 yards): 2.0-5.0 seconds, for average to novice skill level.

Time for a standing person to move 20 feet with no obstructions: 1.4-2.0 seconds.

Time to get up from a sitting, prone or crouched position and move 20 feet around obstructions: 3.0-5.0 seconds.

Time to draw and hit a target at 20 feet: 1.5-3.0 seconds, depending on skill level. Times are even faster if the gun is already in hand.

Hit probability: 77% or higher depending on skill level.

Conclusion: drawing and shooting is as fast or faster than the tactic of an unarmed person trying to charge at an active shooter during a reload.

Notes: The draw-and-shoot response can occur immediately. If the defender has to wait until the active shooter is reloading, the possibility of more deaths and injuries increases. If the defender shoots from a position of cover at a distance from the active shooter, the odds of the defender being shot are much less than the risk they will be shot at point-blank range if the defender completes the reload before the defender can close distance and attempt to disarm them.

Discussion in depth

How long does it take the average person to reload a pistol from slide lock? Here’s a video from our range safety briefing, showing a basic old-magazine-out, new-magazine-in, rack-the-slide reload. As part of our Three Seconds or Less test, we require students to seat a magazine, rack the slide and fire one shot at 7 yards in 3 seconds. Most complete this task in the 1.5-2.5 second range.

The actual reload process begins when you realize that you need to reload. In FSI terminology, response time is reaction time plus movement time. So reaction time is 0.3 seconds, maybe longer. Call the typical “slow” reload from slide lock 4 seconds total – maybe 0.5 second reaction plus 3.5 sec to complete the task. Skilled shooters can easily do this in half the time (1.5-2.0 seconds).

On the defender side: they have to realize that the shooter is out of ammo and then decide to take action. The absolute best case reaction time is 0.3 seconds, assuming the defender is waiting for that pause and has already made the decision to act.

If we assume the person is standing up (unlikely), they can cover 20 feet (essentially 7 yards) in 1.4 seconds. That means someone standing up, poised and ready to pounce, could get to the shooter in under 2 seconds, before they complete their reload. What do they do when they reach the shooter? None of the “training for unarmed people” programs promoted by government teach weapon disarm skills beyond a vague “fight any way you can” directive. Maybe the unarmed defender did some weapon disarms in their karate class a few times, against an opponent that wasn’t resisting (since many techniques can cause serious injury if performed at full power against a resisting opponent). Unless the training was recent and/or was performed enough times to make the skill automatic under stress, what’s likely to occur is the “technique of no technique”.

That timeline is an extremely optimistic best case scenario that assumes every possible advantage is available to the defender. Starting from a seated, crouched or prone position is going to add as much as a full second to the response time – before a single step forward to close distance is taken. Add the typical array of furniture and possibly other people that might have to be stepped around or over, and the time to move that 20 feet could easily double. That means total response time could be as long as 0.3 (reaction) + 1.0 second (get up) + 2.8 seconds (move around obstacles). That’s 4.1 seconds–slower than the 4 second “slow reload for an average shooter” time.

The typical active shooter spends significant time planning his special day, studying prior events, buying gear, and in many cases putting in range time. If a potential active shooter knew he was going to be limited to 10 round magazines, learning how to do a faster reload (by watching youTube videos) and putting in some time to practice that skill would likely be part of their pre-event work. So assuming that the active shooter will have a 4 second clumsy reload is an extremely unrealistic assumption.

For any of these scenarios to end with a successful defense requires some unarmed person in the room to be mentally prepared and committed to action. Adding any amount of hesitation prior to movement only increases the chance that the shooter will be able to complete the reload and fire on the advancing defender before they can reach him.

Why not just shoot back?

If we assume that someone in the room has the mindset and is willing to act, why not look at alternatives that solve the problem faster with lower risk to the defender? Another common talking point from the gun control movement is that a carry permit level armed person will be incapable of making a 7 yard shot under life threatening stress.

FSI’s study on the “naive shooter” shows that hit probabilities for “novice” shooters, in the 1-5 yard (3-15 feet) zone, are as high as 77%, increasing as skill level increases. Texas requires carry permit holders to shoot at 15 yards (45 feet), and armed teachers must pass the carry permit shooting test with a score of 90% or higher. In 20 years of observing thousands of gun owners shoot the Texas carry permit test, complete misses on the target at 7 yards are extremely rare. The Texas carry permit course includes NO additional range time improving handgun skills, and most taking that course have had no prior formal handgun training. In this video, the Texas LTC course is shot (and passed) blindfolded.

Shooting across a room, from cover, minimizes the risk that the defender will be shot. Will they have time? If a committed defender can be poised and ready to pounce when the active shooter starts a reload, why can’t the armed defender have drawn and be ready to fire, gun in hand, as soon as the active shooter is within range — BEFORE the shooter has fired the rounds necessary to empty the magazine and create the “pause” for the unarmed defender to counterattack?

Typical times for a carry permit level shooter to bring the gun from ready to target and get a hit are anywhere from sub-1 to 3 seconds. The Texas carry permit test uses one shot in 3 seconds, and two shots in 4 seconds at 7 yards as standards. Most students shooting the test are done firing before the time limit is reached. In our Three Seconds or Less test, students have to start with hand on their holstered gun, draw and fire 3 shots in 3 seconds at 7 yards.

FSI’s own studies show that someone with a gun in hand, from a prone position, can get the gun on target and fire one shot in under 1 second.

If you watch any of the thousand-plus videos of actual armed encounters on the Active Self Protection youTube channel, you’ll notice that a very common reaction to being shot at is to run or move to avoid being shot (or shot again). Even if the active shooter isn’t struck by the first shot or shots, the likelihood that they will break off their attack on occupants of that room is very high.

If the armed defender doesn’t begin to draw until the active shooter has started to reload, a 2 second draw to first shot from concealment is not difficult for the average person to perform. In our 4 hour Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, the vast majority of students are able to meet that time standard. Starting with hand on the gun (concealment garment out of the way) can cut draw time in half, down to under 1 second. So even if the armed defender takes no action until the active shooter starts to reload, drawing and shooting back is going to a faster response in most cases — and more effective.

The real advantage of the draw and shoot back response is that is does NOT require a “reloading pause” and can be done immediately.

KR Training assistant instructor John Daub wrote about this issue back in 2016. His thoughts on this topic are relevant and worth a read.

Hopefully this analysis will help you understand (and explain to others) the time factors involved in the “reloading pause” fallacy. Allowing (and encouraging) armed response, not reducing magazine capacity, is the solution most likely to bring an immediate end to an active shooter’s mass killing. The idea is difficult for those with limited or no experience with firearms or tactics to accept – particularly those that have a confirmation bias toward gun control. The ‘reloading pause’ fallacy comes up as a talking point each time the idea of magazine capacity restrictions is advanced. Perhaps this analysis will be useful for those arguing against those restrictions.

Book Review – Violence of Mind (Varg Freeborn)

Through all my experiences on both sides of the tracks, I have accumulated the widest range of violence experience and training that I have ever heard of anyone having for the narrow lane of civilian criminal violence.

Freeborn, Varg. Violence of Mind: Training and Preparation for Extreme Violence . One Life Defense LLC, Varg Freeborn. Kindle Edition.

I bought this e-book based on Greg Ellifritz’ recommendation. According to his website, Varg Freeborn is an author, self-defense and gunfight instructor, lethal force educator, fitness coach, a father and a family man.

Varg’s written an excellent book on mindset and human behavior, sharing his observations and perspective on violence and what it takes to be prepared for a violent situation. It’s presented in blunt, plain talk. No acronyms, no cool phrases, no sheepdog/military/cop lingo.

The first section of the book is all about “mission”. What is your mission, and how it can change in various situations. Understanding your limits, responsibilities and universal legal concepts. He writes about prison from the perspective of an inmate. Most books on self-defense ignore or downplay the possibility that use of violence in self-defense could lead to jail time. The typical armed citizen is unlikely to have firsthand (or even secondhand, through a friend or family member) prison experiences like the ones Varg writes about in the book.

He closes the first section with a chapter on risk assessment. One of the concepts he emphasizes is learning to look for, and react to, abnormalities — something you notice that seems out of place. Learning to see those things and change your behavior in reaction to them is important for avoidance as well as survival.

The second section is all about training. Principles, skills, standards, techniques, tactics, testing, and validation. He emphasizes the value of “woodshedding” (putting in lots of practice out of public view) to develop skills and encourages people to turn off the ‘selfie machine’ that drives many to concentrate more on getting a perfect take to post on Instagram than on actually improving during a practice session.

He includes a long section on how to choose an instructor, discussing the different types of backgrounds and mindsets instructors can have: not just the usual mil/LEO/competition split, but the differences in individual performance, whether they train with others outside their primary expertise, whether they continue to develop their own skills, and other elements. His opinions in that section closely match my own thoughts on that topic.

The final section on “Conditioning and Orientation” covers physical and mental conditioning. It starts with the usual “spend more time in the gym so you are harder to kill” material and progresses to a discussion of mindset and mental preparation. The final chapters deal with concealment and daily considerations – how to be armed and prepared without being an abnormality when you are out in public.

It’s a book full of well presented, solid advice, and ideas that align with and sync up with what the best of the trainers I’ve studied with over the past 30 years have taught– no matter what path they took to get to those ideas. If someone asked me tomorrow for advice on how to be a well rounded, well prepared armed citizen, I could hand them a copy of this book and tell them: “learn what this book teaches, take the actions this book recommends.” Or to quote the author:


Violence ruins lives. It changes things forever. It can take away loved ones, freedom, opportunities…changes that last a lifetime and oftentimes from which there can be no recovery, ever. Some of us know this all too well. Be ready, but don’t glorify it in your mind. Practice the things I have talked about in this book, and focus on living a strong, happy, productive, and protected life.

Freeborn, Varg. Violence of Mind: Training and Preparation for Extreme Violence . One Life Defense LLC, Varg Freeborn. Kindle Edition

.

You can order the book in print or digital format from Amazon.

A Girl and a Gun 2019 Conference AAR – part 2

Team KR Training is back from the 2019 A Girl and a Gun National Conference, held at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas, April 2019.

Saturday morning started off OK, but by 11 am, all the sessions were stopped and the “seek shelter” message went out over the radio. We stayed at our bay as heavy rains came, turning the range into a soggy mess. Temperatures dropped 20-30 degrees. Elsewhere in Texas, a tornado was hitting the small town of Franklin.

The roads down to our bays were difficult for many vehicles to traverse (the picture looks better than actual conditions), and our Saturday afternoon session only drew about half the registered participants. Tracy taught a bonus session of Kubotan under the shelter of the main pavilion Saturday afternoon, and others taught make up sessions in nearby hotel lobbies and conference rooms, where many attendees had retreated to get dry and warm.

The sun came back out, and Saturday night’s instructor dinner was well attended.

Sunday morning included one final session, in sunny weather, to an overflow group that included some that had missed out on our Saturday sessions.

Observations

Every year the conference gets better and better. This year over 425 women attended, with trainers from all over the country. Dozens of events running in parallel, spanning the entire spectrum of shooting and self-defense topics. The scale and scope of the event is as big as most major national shooting championships, supported by a much smaller, very hard working staff. The 2019 conference faced difficult challenges on Saturday, with hazardous weather and muddy, rough roads to the shooting bays.

Each year I see fewer and fewer problems with participants attending with problematic gear. We had no major holster issues with any students this year – everyone had quality holsters, and almost all had them set up at angles and positions that needed no adjustment. I brought both of my new Glock 48 handguns, and my S&W EZ380 to have on hand as loaner guns. We did encounter 2-3 students in each session that discovered that the skinnier single stack guns fit their hands better than the double-stack guns they had brought, but in most cases the gun fit of the guns they had was decent aside from some frame-dragging. (This article by Tom Givens explains that aspect of gun fit.) On average, though, we had fewer problems with gear than we see in a typical Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class.

The instructor invitations to teach at the 2020 conference, planned for Grand Junction, Colorado, April 30-May 4, 2020, have not been issued yet. Hopefully I and others on the KR Training team will be a part of that event – the first AG&AG conference held outside Texas.

A Girl and a Gun 2019 Conference AAR – part 1

Team KR Training is back from the 2019 A Girl and a Gun National Conference, held at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet, Texas, April 2019.

The first presentation by the team was on Wednesday, when John Kochan presented on preparedness, specifically on water collection, storage and purification.

Tracy Thronburg taught Kubaton/Persuader – multiple sessions all weekend.

Bluebonnets were in bloom everywhere. The Burnet Bluebonnet Festival was happening the weekend of the AG&AG conference.

Tracy attended Spencer Keepers’ AIWB session, and won both challenge coins as top shooter in the session.

On Friday, John Kochan and I ran two Skill Builder sessions.

more in part 2 to follow…

The 16x16x16 drill

The 16x16x16 drill: 16 rounds at 16 feet within 16 seconds, onto a KRT-1 Target.

To set up, divide 16 rounds between two magazines; it does not have to be 8 and 8, in fact it’s encouraged to have an unknown and varying round count between the two magazines. Load the gun with one of the magazines, and holster. Stand 16 feet from a KRT-1 target, gun concealed, hands relaxed at your side. Par time of 16 seconds.

KRT-1 target available from letargets.com

On the signal, shoot each numbered shape on the target. The shapes marked “1”, shoot with 1 round. Those marked “2”, shoot 2. Marked “3”, shoot 3. Shoot 3 rounds in the A triangle and 1 in the B triangle. Whenever the gun runs empty, reload and continue until you’ve shot at all the shapes with the required number of rounds.

Your score is your time plus 1 second for every miss, and 1 second for any procedural (such as failing to shoot the right number of rounds for the drill, or right number of rounds on each shape). Total score under 16 seconds is good. Times below 12 seconds are excellent. While I haven’t run it with my competition gear yet, I think times in the 10’s or maybe lower are possible.

Note: the KRT-1 is an 18″ wide target you can buy from LETargets.com. It’s intended to be put over a USPSA or IDPA cardboard backer. If you print the image on 8.5″x11″ or even 11″x17″ paper, the target will be the wrong size, and the drill will become MUCH harder. Scaling matters.

Development

During a brief moment of “down time” at the 2019 A Girl and A Gun national training conference, John Kochan and I started thinking about how we could use the KRT-1 target in a drill similar to the Rangemaster “Casino” Drill.

Tom explains the Casino Drill

Sample Run

I ran it with a Glock 48, from concealment, shooting at a comfortable pace, in this video. If you watch carefully you’ll see the gun fail to lock open (my support hand thumb was riding heavy on the slide lock lever), and I actually take one ‘dry’ shot, realize the gun was empty, do the reload, rack the slide and resume shooting. All that extra work probably added a full second to the run time, which was 13.65 with all hits.

Randomize it

In-the-moment decision making is a skill that’s not tested by most formats of competition shooting. To do well on match day, typically what is required is the ability to quickly put together a stage plan, memorize it, and execute it without conscious thought in an automatic sequence. If all you want from this drill is to discover the fastest possible time you are capable of, you can plan out a sequence to minimize target transitions, and carefully load your mags so you can reload between two large shapes. But taking that route doesn’t provide all the training you could get from the drill if you run it in a less structured way.

To get maximum value from this drill, randomize it. If you practice with a partner, have that person load your mags for you, so you don’t know how many are in each one. Have your partner call a color or a shape or a number right before starting the timer. Then you have to shoot all the 2’s, or all the triangles, or all the blue shapes first. Or they can give you a full sequence by calling these items in any order:

  • 1,2,3, triangles (or) 1,2,3,A,B
  • circle, square, diamond, triangle
  • red, yellow, blue, triangles (A, B)

Each of those lists calls out all 8 shapes on the target using a sequence of 4 or 5 items. I think only giving the shooter one item to start, and tasking them with the job of figuring out how to finish, is harder — and a more realistic decision-making task.

No partner? Make a pile of 16 rounds and don’t count when you load the two mags. Take some index cards, mark them with 1, 2, 3, circle, square, triangle, diamond, red, yellow, blue. Shuffle the deck. Draw a card and use the shape pair identified by what’s on the card as your first pair to shoot.

Your times will be slower. Decisions take time. Reacting to the surprise of the gun locking open takes time. The drill, in a small way, can be used to build decision making speed, making choices between a small number of options in between sequences of 1-3 shots per target.

Not hard enough for you?

Load your magazines with 16 rounds and one dummy round. Add reacting to a surprise malfunction to the tasks to be performed. Add elements of the 3M test to it. Move on the draw, move on the reload, move on the malfunction. Move the target farther back. Lower the par time.

Variations for all levels

If the full drill with all the tasks in the 16 second par time is more than you are ready for, here are things you can do to simplify the drill and still get value from it.

  1. If the range won’t allow drawing, or you have no training in how to draw, start the drill from the ready position. Any ready position that keeps your muzzle pointed at the backstop will do. Muzzle at your feet or the range floor is too low; muzzle pointed at the ceiling or over the backstop is too high. The safest ready position, particularly for shooters with less training or experience, is simply to point the gun just underneath the target with arms at full extension, with finger OFF trigger, laying against the slide. (Finger resting underneath the frame, against the trigger guard, is a bad technique that can easily deteriorate to finger on trigger. Finger on slide is just as fast and much safer for general gun handling.)
  2. Run the drill with no time limit and just work on hitting all the shapes with no misses. If you can’t shoot the drill “clean” with no misses and no time limit, keep working on that until you can.
  3. Once you can shoot the drill clean with no time limit, use the timer or a stopwatch to figure out how long it takes you. (No par time. Just look at the time recorded for the last shot when you are done.)
  4. Set your own par time by cutting your “clean” run time down by 10%. Work at that until you can shoot it clean. Then knock another 10% off and keep working.
  5. Skip the reload. If your magazine holds 16, use one magazine. If your magazine holds less, shoot one round per shape, or shoot fewer shapes.
  6. If you are close to making the par time and need a little help, move the target closer. Try it at 12 feet (4 yards) or 9 feet (3 yards).
  7. Pro tip: don’t aim at the middle of the shapes. Cover up the numbers or letters with your sights. The top edge of your front sight is usually 2-3 bullet diameters above the center of the barrel. Point of aim won’t be exactly the same as point of impact. There is holdover. That means at close range (16 feet) your bullets are likely striking 1-1.5″ below the top edge of the sight. On a 3″ dot, aiming at the center and doing everything right could result in a hole down at 6 o’clock on the shape itself. Covering up the numbers/letters will move your aiming point above the center and move your hits to the center of the shape.

As part of a longer practice session

I suggest running it cold, as the first drill in your practice, with as little pre-planning on sequence and magazine capacity as possible. Your “cold” performance is the best indicator of actual performance in an incident or a match. After you finish the drill, stop and assess. Write down your score, make notes about which shots you missed, or anything else that’s important about that run. Scroll back through the times for each shot. Look at splits, transitions, draw time, reload time. Identify 1-2 things you can do better. Use the shapes on the KRT-1 to work on those skills. When you get down to the last 16 rounds you plan to shoot in practice, run it again. Score it, analyze it. Use those 1-2 things you need to improve on as the “to do list” for your dry fire practice before your next live fire session. (Then actually DO the dry fire work before you spend time and money to go back to the range and shoot live fire again.)