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

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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.)


Force Science class – more quick hits

This week I’m taking the 33 hour Force Science certification course held at DPS HQ in Austin. The course is attended by 80+ people from 40+ agencies, 10 states and 2 countries (one from Canada). Class kept me busy last week so my plan to write “quick hits” each day did not happen. I did post some pics each day to Facebook, so I’ll use those pics for a brief AAR of the rest of the week.

If this picture is rotated 90 degrees off, sorry. Word Press keeps turning it no matter how many times I edit and re-save it rotated properly. Looks fine in the editor and wrong in the preview.

I’m a big advocate of bringing science, facts and measurements to the discussion about deadly force. The presenters do the work and publish it in peer reviewed journals. There are very few funding sources for research into the areas that need to be explored. Part of the revenue generated from the Force Science classes is re-invested into funding new research. The course was the most expensive training class I’ve ever attended — but between the large staff of subject matter experts and the information provided from the research results, the value of the course, per hour, and per dollar, was very high.

Artifacts at the DPS HQ training facility.

The class was held at the Texas Department of Public Safety training facility in north Austin. I remember going there in 1995 for the very first Concealed Handgun License instructor course, and I taught there a few times during my decade with TEEX. The hallways in the facility used for class were filled with display cases showing guns, uniforms, and other memorabilia from the long history of DPS. I should have taken more pictures of these items, as it’s unclear whether that building is open to the public to see them during regular working hours.

Truth.

This quote opened a section on mindset and mental health. The first part is noteworthy. Most that walk around unequipped and untrained don’t believe that they will ever experience a violent life-threatening event. “It won’t happen to me” is the most popular self-defense and emergency preparedness plan used by the general population.

The good news is that those that survive the events may not be as psychologically damaged by them as “conventional wisdom” might lead us to believe. One of the instructors for the course described a program put in place after 9/11 that paid psychologists to walk around New York City, offering to talk to anyone that needed counseling. According to the instructor, there were plenty of psychologists willing to do this (and get paid by the gov’t to do it), but very few takers among the general population. Talking to peers (others with similar life experiences), friends and family were actually ranked as the most effective post-event coping mechanisms.

The FSI material on post-incident counseling centers mainly on using the counseling to explain the range of reactions that can occur that are normal. And their survey data indicates that for most, within a month of the incident, many of the worst psychological effects subside and continue to fade over time. Their data indicates that mandatory post-incident counseling had little to no impact on reducing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That position is not settled science, though.

How long does it take?

Another large chunk of the course explored movement times. How fast do different movements take? Draw times, shots from ready, turns, head movements, punches, steps (in street clothes and wearing duty belts), and many other actions. These things become very important when trying to figure out the exact timeline of a deadly force incident.

Another time issue relates to synchronizing sound in video. The farther the person recording the incident is from the action, the longer it takes the sound to reach the recorder. Anyone that shot steel targets understands this. Past 15 yards, certainly past 25 yards, there’s a noticeable delay between the shot firing and the “ding” of the bullet hitting the plate coming back to the shooter. This becomes important in cases where the accusation is “the cops shot him in the back”. In many shootings, shots are fired 3-4 shots per second, with split times of 0.25 on average. It can take less than 0.50 seconds for someone to turn in response to the first shot, or even as the gun is almost at firing level. In some situations, the sound can arrive late enough that it appears that the first shot isn’t fired until the person’s back is turned.

When multiple recordings of the same incident, from different positions, are available, it’s possible to correct sound-travel errors. The problem is that most videos uploaded immediately after an incident occurs are the raw feed — and the general public is completely ignorant of this basic science issue — and those most likely to view the incident through the most critical opinion are the least likely to be willing to consider the corrected recording as legitimate. Emotion and biases make rational discussion after a controversial incident almost impossible.

Block learning doesn’t work well.

Part of the course discussed how much material taught in large blocks was retained. The answer: not much. In the private sector training world, the same is true. There are people that will travel to “destination” schools, spend a week training, end the week at a high level of skill, and then check the box “done” for the year, doing no maintenance or refresher training beyond un-timed target shooting, usually at a range that does not allow holster use. That’s better than doing nothing, but by the time 12 months have passed, their return to the “destination” school usually means a lot of review and refresher just to get back to where they were when they ended the previous training. The same is true for law enforcement cadets. A better approach is what we do at KR Training – breaking up blocks into shorter segments, encouraging students to return for the next increment within 3-6 months, combined with structured dry fire and/or live fire practice to maintain skills. It’s the same approach FSI’s training indicates produces better results.

Why “the gun just went off”

This section looked into unintentional (a.k.a. negligent) discharges. Routine firearm tasks includes holstering and reloading.


One type of muscle co-activation I’ve noticed is “pinching”. That occurs when someone moves both thumb and forefinger when pressing the mag release button. Often this results in the trigger finger coming out of “register” (high and flat on the upper frame or slide) and ending up curled pressing straight into the frame, as the user “pinches” the frame to operate the mag release. This happens a lot more often than many realize. It happens because the pinching movement makes it easier to work a stiff mag release. But it puts the trigger finger perilously close to the trigger, pressing in a direction that could easily cause the gun to fire should the finger contact the trigger instead of the frame. Next time you press the mag release on your pistol, pause just before you press (or video the reload) and look at what your trigger finger is doing.

This picture shows an example of “pinching”.

Sample “public safety” questions

The conventional wisdom in the armed citizen world is that you should not say anything to responding officers. Police officers may have to answer questions like these, which are public safety related and time sensitive. In my opinion, this type of question is something an armed citizen might want to answer also, with the challenge being to keep the answers short and specific. About a half day of training was dedicated to sleep and memory, and research results showing that ability to recall details 48-72 hours after an incident occurs was better than immediately after the incident. The issue of whether someone involved in an incident should be allowed access to any recordings taken of the incident prior to giving a statement was also discussed. If the recordings were taken by witnesses, who are likely to upload (and monetize) them as quickly as possible, there may be no way to avoid that content.

Another issue related to that is the difference between what a camera sees and what an individual sees during an incident. According to FSI, we are only going to really pay attention to those details and actions that are critical to use in the moment, and our field of vision will likely be 3 degrees in sharp focus and at best 10-20 degrees of periphery. Wide angle lenses on body cams, and cell phone video taken from farther distances are going to show details that the people involved may not have noticed — and as with the issue with delayed sound, those viewing the incident with emotion and bias will be resistant to the idea that the individual actors didn’t see everything the camera did. The FSI team drew on research on driver and pilot performance, from research funded by insurance companies, car & plane makers, and gov’t agencies, as well as their own research running force on force scenarios involving participants with eye trackers, to explain this complex topic.

One of the best aspects of the course was a ‘study guide’ that had questions related to the key learning objectives for each module. During and after each module, we had to write down answers to the study guide questions (writing things down reinforces learning), and we reviewed the study guide questions and answers several times each day. This was important because there was a 75 question multiple choice/true-false test students had to pass in order to receive the certificate. The level and quantity of information was college level. Students in class were attentive – very few laptops open, very few people looked away from lectures at their phones. Lots of notes were taken. Most that attended were law enforcement or lawyers — and the topic was information essential to making better decisions under stress and (most importantly) being able to defend and explain those actions. So those that attended were highly motivated to learn. Instead of blogging I had to do homework each night studying the materials to be ready for the test.

This course should be considered essential for anyone in law enforcement or anyone in the legal profession involved with defense of deadly force cases. As with many other credentials I’ve spent “my own time and my own dime” to acquire (to borrow a phrase from Tom Givens), it’s a class that would be of great value to anyone teaching state level carry permit classes, were they motivated to attend. The Force Science website is here. They have more classes coming up all over the US, and an email newsletter you can subscribe to.

AAR: Ladies-Only Basic Pistol 1 & 2, March 30, 2019

By Becky Dolgener

KR Training hosted two ladies-only classes March 30, 2019 at the A-Zone Range. Basic Pistol 1 and Basic Pistol 2 are generally taught as co-ed classes, but this special offering gave ladies the opportunity to train in a special class. The curriculum was the same as that used in co-ed classes. Basic Pistol 1 incorporates and expands upon NRA Basic Pistol instruction and serves as the range portion of that class. Basic Pistol 2 builds on that knowledge and lays the foundation for KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills 1 and subsequent courses with more target presentation and trigger press work.

I co-taught the classes with Tracy Thronburg. It was the first time either of us had taught this curriculum at KR Training. We began the day in the classroom with seven students who showed up with open minds and specific goals that carried a common theme: they wanted to be comfortable enough with their skills and safety to carry a defensive firearm.

As graduates of the Cornered Cat Instructor Development program, that theme wasn’t unfamiliar to Tracy and me. In our preparation for the class, we discussed key points of instruction we agreed were crucial to setting the stage for the students’ continued success in progressive defensive pistol training:

  1. We couldn’t overwhelm them with information.
  2. We had to make it fun (for women, that involves lots of talking and questions).
  3. The techniques had to be transferable to subsequent training.

The Morning: Basic Pistol 1

Basic Pistol 1 is a class for brand-new shooters. The goals include the students understanding safety rules and the fundamentals of safe gun handling and accurate shooting. While it sounds simple enough, this is a lot of information to impart to new shooters in just four hours. Students have the option to expand the coursework by taking the NRA Basic Pistol online class, which none of our students had opted to complete before the class.

The classroom portion of the morning went well. Our students had a few preconceived notions we addressed within the framework of the class, but we also added some discussion specific to women. We found that the majority of our seven BP1 students had been given bad advice about safety, gun handling, and buying their first gun. None of this came as a shock to Tracy and me; as women ourselves, we shared our own experiences facing unsafe practices and advice offered by well-meaning but ill-informed people. The ladies appeared both surprised and relieved to learn that their experiences weren’t unique, but are some that all women share.

On the range, Tracy and I took a different approach to allow all the women to try all of the loaner guns Karl had provided, plus my own Sig P320F 9mm with a small grip module. We started at 3 yards with guns on barrels and the NRA Basic Pistol targets. Working with one gun, the ladies incorporated the fundamentals we discussed in the classroom and had practiced with blue guns in a set of dry-fire drills. We then worked on loading sequence, then on to one-shot drills, then 5-shot drills in a 4-inch circle. Each woman on the line had the opportunity to experience shooting a variety of common semi-automatic carry pistols in the most popular calibers. Pocket pistols typical of women’s first gun purchases were excluded from the lineup, since we wanted them to have a positive shooting experience and small guns are difficult for new shooters to handle safely and shoot accurately.

Big Take-Aways

Gun selection was huge with this class. We discussed that the concept of gun fit was one not readily embraced by a male-dominated gun culture, and that anyone of any gender working a gun counter was most likely not well versed in gun fit or felt recoil. One student had hands the size of a 10-year-old child and showed up with a Glock 19. Another student with very long fingers walked in with a Glock 42. A third mentioned she had a revolver at home that she hated—a story that’s all too familiar to everyone who has ever trained women shooters. The students appreciated the opportunity to try out all of the different guns on the line, even though doing so put us behind schedule about 20 minutes.

Overall, the morning was a success. We saw women go from shaky and insecure to loading and firing multiple firearms with confidence. The extra repetition of the entire process helped Tracy and me work on areas that proved challenging for some of our students:

  • Filling magazines, which is difficult for weak hands “in the workspace.” Many older students had a hard time loading magazines with tight springs. The S&W Shield 9mm was a predictable culprit. We didn’t offer UpLulas because we wanted the ladies to try techniques that work with larger muscle groups and make it less of hand strength issue.
  • Establishing a proper dominant-hand grip from first contact with the gun. The students tended to try and pick up the gun one of three ways: with a pincer grip, with a fist around the grip, or with a finger on the trigger. We spent a lot of time going over Tom Givens’ admonition to “get all the grip you’re ever going to have on the gun” from the first contact.
  • Gripping the gun hard. This was evident when students had to readjust grips and consistently dropped shots low. Long fingernails and weak hands weren’t as much of an issue as the comprehension of how hard they really needed to grip the gun, a challenge all new shooters face. Those shooting guns with grip safeties learned this lesson multiple times: if you don’t grip it hard enough, it won’t even fire.
  • Racking the slide. No surprise here. Racking the slide is a concept that seems foreign to most beginners, but particularly women who aren’t inclined to be forceful with their movements. Through repetition and more than a few feed issues, they learned to sling-shot the slide and stop helping it forward. Locking the slide back also requires a study in ergonomics for women. Men can lock a slide back while working inefficiently due to greater hand strength. Women need a little more coaching in positioning to work the slide-lock while also moving the slide and remaining aware of safe muzzle direction and trigger finger discipline. The students agreed that the Shield and Glock 42 were the most difficult slides to rack and lock back, while the Shield EZ was a crowd favorite.

While a cold front blew in wet and angry at the end of our time on the range, we still saw lots of smiles and an ever-increasing cadence of questions and “A-ha!” moments. Our debrief at the end of BP1 was full of comments about increased confidence and “I can’t wait to show my husband/dad/boyfriend” some specific skill or safety procedure.

The Afternoon: Basic Pistol 2

After a quick brown-bag lunch in the range classroom, we reconvened with 6 students, two of whom were new to the training day. Basic Pistol 2 classroom time includes a recap of the safety and fundamentals elements of BP1, with additional general information that relates to the students’ specific guns like ammunition selection and cleaning. BP2 applies the concepts of BP1 within the scope of defensive firearms carry, culminating in a Texas DPS License to Carry live-fire qualification. Half of our afternoon students already had their Texas LTC, but only one regularly carries a pistol. All 6 women passed the qualification while shooting in bitterly cold (for Texas) and windy conditions that required the use of every target stand weight available.

Ladies at the March 30 Basic Pistol 2 class work on filling magazines while Tracy Thronburg runs the line.

Student Physical Discomfort

Every instructor knows that the most dangerous time of any training day is about an hour before the end of class (or, the “4 o’clock stupids,” according to Kathy Jackson). That’s when instructors and RSOs know to be on high alert for students who are tired or otherwise uncomfortable becoming lax on safety.

Two of our all-day students were ladies nearing 80 years old. Paired with the blustery cold front at our backs, the long day took its toll on our students and their targets. We took frequent breaks despite the class running long to preserve sanity and safety. We dealt with falling targets at inopportune moments. I sent one student inside to warm up because she could no longer feel her fingers and was shaking violently. She insisted that she could continue to shoot, but the safety concerns here were a no-brainer. Five minutes in the classroom helped her finish the LTC qual with a passing score, a feat she was proud to tell her whole family about.

Another elderly student was having a hard time with low ready. She had learned compressed ready earlier in the day, so she chose a spot somewhere between the two and squinted at her EZ, which refused to fire because her grip fell apart in the T-Rex ready position that had become her default. When we spoke about it, her hands and arms were tired. Her eyes were tearing up due to the cold wind, and she couldn’t see the front sight when fully extended to target. She managed to eke out enough strength and determination to pass the shooting qualification, a goal she was proud to have met despite her physical discomfort.

Why Ladies Only?

These two classes were a case study in why it’s important for women instructors to offer classes just for women. While Tracy and I regularly attend co-ed training classes across all disciplines and think nothing of it, there’s no way these ladies would have sought training without the promise of an all-female class. They told us as much.

While the class was forming, we had a gentleman request to observe the class because his female friend would be attending at his urging. Tracy and I declined to allow the observer. In our experience teaching new shooters for more than 16 years (combined), what we’ve found is that women who sign up for women’s-only events or classes expect no male interaction. The presence of a man changes a class dynamic for the women taking that class. When women are in a beginner-level class with men, they stop themselves from asking questions for fear of looking like a “dumb girl.” It’s not that the men don’t have the same questions, it’s just that they’re mostly unwilling to reveal that they don’t already know the answer.

Women need a lot of information to make informed decisions. While they may share learning styles with men, they thrive in a setting where interaction and discussion are encouraged. Yes, women like to talk! It’s because of their highly social nature that women who are just learning how to shoot will most often seek out ladies-only classes and events, like the ones offered by A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League (of which Tracy and I are both members, and I facilitate a chapter in Temple). This class day gave 10 women who would not have otherwise trained the opportunity to learn gun safety and accurate shooting fundamentals in a woman-friendly environment. Both classes ran long. Instructor time management can address some of that overrun, but it was necessary for our students to talk through their nervousness, ask lots of questions and share stories that helped them connect with each other and with us. That connection builds trust, and women have to trust that they are safe before they’re able to do something intimidating and a little scary like learning how to shoot.

At the end of the day, that’s just what they did. Despite the cold, despite the wind and rain and tears and sore feet, they persevered and learned new skills that will serve them well at the gun range, in future training classes, and as armed citizens. I’m grateful to Tracy and Karl for offering this opportunity, and I hope to schedule another ladies-only class day soon at KR Training. We’ll just add another hour to the class schedule for Q&A.

Force Science class – day 1 quick hits

This week I’m taking the 40 hour Force Science certification course held at DPS HQ in Austin. The course is attended by 80+ people from 40+ agencies, 10 states and 2 countries (one from Canada). Class is taught by 4 PhD’s, 2 MD’s and one “KdC” (as he described himself, aka a “knuckle dragging cop”).

The course opened with the DPS major who was hosting the course advising attendees to “avoid Dirty Sixth”. When cops tell other cops to avoid a part of town, pay attention.

The big focus of the course is explaining human behavior (physical and psychological) using results from research studies, to assist in understanding, explaining and training others in topics related to deadly force incidents.

Day 1 of the course included a session on anatomy from an MD, and presentation of a lot of material on measuring how long it takes to perform various skills, including

  • ready to target, finger on frame, on slide, at base of trigger guard (turns out all are within a few hundredths of a second)
  • gun to target from various ready positions (high, low, extended, compressed)
  • gun to target from seated and prone positions
  • gun to target from different angles
  • time to turn 90 and 180
  • time to take 1-6 steps with and without the extra weight of duty gear

All these time breakdowns are of great interest to me as they align with the time breakdowns documented in my recent book, and time breakdowns for movement that I’ve observed breaking down USPSA stages where movement was required.

As part of the course we are doing an in depth case study of an incident. Materials provided to the class include the full suite of reports, drawings, interviews, video, etc. that would exist for any incident investigated properly in the modern era.

KR Training March 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training March 2019 newsletter!

April and May 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.

The training season is in full swing at the A-Zone Range. More info here.

KR Training Standards Book Now Available

KR Training instructors Karl Rehn and John Daub recently wrote the book, “Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training.” It’s available by ordering directly from KR Training (signed copies are $20, paypal to rehn@krtraining.com) or through Amazon, and is also available as an e-book. Find out more and order your copy today!

Karl discussed the book on the Civilian Carry Radio and Guardian Nation podcasts in March, and he’ll be on the American Warrior Society podcast in April.

Welcome our newest team member!

Sean Hoffman has officially joined the KR Training team, sharing his decades of military and law enforcement experience and passion for training with us. Some of you have met him when he assisted or attended spring classes this year.

APRIL CLASSES

Defensive Pistol Skills 2 & 3

Space is still available in the April 20 Defensive Pistol Skills 3 classes. The April 6 Defensive Pistol Skills 2 has sold out. These are mandatory courses in the Defensive Pistol Skills program. Earn your challenge coin by signing up for these classes soon. Our summer training schedule is filling up, so we won’t offer these classes again until the fall.

Dynamic First Aid w/ Caleb Causey

Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics returns to the A-Zone Sunday, April 14 for his one day Dynamic First Aid class. This course is suitable for all levels and all ages, teaching a wide range of first aid skills from basic to trauma care (tourniquets and other ‘stop the bleed’ skills).

A Girl and a Gun Conference 2019

Multiple instructors from the KR Training team will be presenting training at the annual A Girl and a Gun national conference in April. Karl Rehn, John Kochan and Tracy Thronburg will each present sessions at this year’s event.

RANGEMASTER EVENTS

Rangemaster Tactical Conference 2019

I attended and presented at the 2019 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, finishing in the top 5 in the main match and making the top 16 shootoff. The sessions I attended and other information about the event can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

The event is open to all. It’s not just for trainers to attend. It’s a 3 day buffet of short courses from dozens of national level trainers – the best training deal in the country each year. Follow Rangemaster on Facebook or subscribe to their newsletter to make sure you get the early announcement when registration for 2020 opens. It sells out quickly.

Rangemaster Classes

KR Training is hosting Tom Givens of Rangemaster April 26 for Defensive Shotgun and April 27-28 for Intensive Pistol Skills. These classes are almost full. If you’ve taken DPS-2 or higher classes, Tom Givens’ Intensive Pistol Skills will push you to the next level. It’s not a repeat of DPS-level material. It may be several years before we host this particular course in his program again. If you haven’t trained with Tom but you’ve heard us talk about him, this is an excellent opportunity to train with him.

Rangemaster Instructor Reunion

On the first weekend of May, we are hosting the annual Rangemaster Instructor Reunion. This (sold out) event is limited only to Rangemaster-certified instructors.

MAY CLASSES

May 11 – Basic Pistol 2 (8-12p) – Daub, Hoffman
May 11 – Defensive Pistol Skills 1 (1-5p) – Daub, Hoffman
May 18 – Handgun Beyond Basics (8-12p) – Rehn
May 18 – Intro to Competition Pistol (1-5p) – Rehn
May 25 – Defensive Pistol Small Gun (9-12) – Rehn
May 25 – Skill Builder Pistol (1-3p) – Rehn

More info is available on the KR Training website.

BLOG-O-RAMA

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

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Sixgun/Fast Draw book reviews

My ongoing research related to my Historical Handgun (Evolution of Handgun Training) project has been quietly continuing in the background, even as other projects like the Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training book were pushed to the front.

I have a large stack of books that have been read but not reviewed on the blog. One book, “The Fastest Guns Alive: the history of Fast Draw”, by Bob Arganbright, proved to be unobtainable in the used book market. It was a small volume that wasn’t widely distributed. I was able to finally get a look at a copy because the Library of Congress had one. Penny has been working in DC this year, and during a recent visit there I was able to get a Library of Congress reader’s card. I requested that book from the archives, and after a few hours’ wait (the LOC building is a great museum with guided tours with permanent and temporary exhibits), I was able to read it and even scan some of the pages from it.

Even better, I was able to get in contact with Bob, who is writing for American Handgunner and still serving as the unofficial historian of that sport. Here’s an interview he did with Howard Darby that gives a quick overview of holster development. The most popular holsters used in USPSA competition in the 1980’s, before kydex holsters were introduced, were mostly from holster makers with a background in fast draw holsters.

More about the history of fast draw can be found here. In addition to holster design, the popularity of fast draw drove the development of electronic timers. Bob’s book included many references to other resources, such as magazine articles and books. One of those books, which I was able to find, was a 1969 volume titled “The Saga of the Colt Six Shooter” by George Virgines.

The book has several sections: Colt History, 1873-1940, covers the origin of the Colt Peacemaker, the different types, variations, cased, presentation and engraved models. The Historic Colts section is detailed information about distinguished guns and guns used by famous Western actors and actresses.

The final section, Postwar Developments, covers production of the sixgun from 1940-1965. Models, variations, copies, commemorative guns, and a final section on fast draw games and gun tricks. It’s really of greater interest to gun collectors, since most of the content is heavy on lists and dates and descriptions of specific guns. The section on fast draw is nowhere near as complete as Bob’s book. It was an interesting read, though, and will get added to my shooting bookshelf.