The Red Dot Club is a series of first-hand accounts of gunfights – shooting others and being shot (getting a “red dot”) told by police officers, mostly from Southern California. The accounts are very detailed, with emphasis on what the officers thought and felt before, during and after the incidents. It’s not a book that provides “lessons learned” or after action analysis, nor does it discuss tactics for avoidance or tactics for winning in the incidents.
The main theme of the book, if there is one, is to give the reader better perspective on violence and how it affects the participants – physically and psychologically. Author Robert Rangel served 13 years with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and medically retired after multiple on-duty injuries, working executive protection, bank security, and doing civilian investigation work for a police department. That varied career provided him many encounters with those that had been involved in shooting incidents, enabling him to compile their stories into this book.
When we discuss deadly force incidents, I comment to my students that I have never talked to anyone that’s been in one that said “that was exciting and fun and I’d like to do that again”. Their stories are much more like the ones in this book: darker with more regret. Since most of the stories are set in the Los Angeles/Southern California area, it also provides insight about the drug and gang culture of that area, from the police perspective.
The page at this link is our official COVID status page. Per new guidelines from Lee County masks are now mandatory inside the A-Zone classroom building. We have reduced the number of firing points on the main range to ensure students are 6 feet apart when on the line. We are running classes at 50% of normal capacity per state and county guidelines. We’ve added a second safe area to the main range to allow better social distancing between students and we have modified some courses to reduce indoor classroom time.
CLASSES ARE FILLING QUICKLY
Many of our classes through mid August are full or almost full. Weekday lessons are available with Karl for individuals, families, or small groups. Tina Maldonado and Sean Hoffman are available for weekday and weekend sessions in the NW Austin/Georgetown area, and Doug Greig is available in the Caldwell/Bryan/College Station and Conroe area. Training available is at any level, including LTC online completion. Contact us to schedule.
HOME DEFENSE TACTICS
Due to student requests we have added two sessions of our Home Defense Tactics course. This afternoon, all indoor, no live fire course uses “red guns” and other props to teach home-specific skills: how to do a security assessment of your home (lights, locks, windows, doors, cameras, alarms), and how to move indoors while armed (aka “house clearing”). The content of this course is different from Personal Tactics Skills (which is all about incidents in public). We have not offered the home defense in awhile. The course has no pre-reqs and is open to all regardless of shooting skill or experience.
UPCOMING CLASSES WITH SPACE AVAILABLE
We have added some classes to our July-September schedule. Want something not listed? Need DPS-3 to earn your challenge coin? Contact us and request it. We still have open dates in the coming months and want your input.
A KR Training Assistant instructor is selling some guns from his personal collection, located in the Austin/Georgetown area. Contact Karl and he will connect you with the seller if you are interested in any of the following:
Smith and Wesson MP AR 15 complete lower receiver assembly with Daniel Defense collapsible stock, $400.00
Sig Sauer P938 Scorpion Flat Dark Earth. NIB with 4 magazines, $700.00
Glock 21 Gen 4 NIB with 3 magazines, $550.00
Glock 19 Gen 4 OD Green frame. NIB with 3 magazines, $550.00
Glock 19X NIB with 3 magazines, $600.00
Sig Sauer Legion P226 DA/SA with 3 magazines NIB. Includes SIG Legion series soft case, Sig Legion challenge coin, and folding knife. $1440.00
Sig Sauer P320 X carry coyote tan with Romeo 1 optic. 2 magazines NIB, $750.00
Kel Tec KSG 12 gauge shotgun, $850.00
JUNE BLOG POSTS
If you don’t subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook, you may have missed these articles we posted in June:
Karl and Sean Hoffman recently traveled to Gunsite to attend a SIG Academy Pistol Mounted Optics Instructor certification course. Paul Martin attended the Defensive Shotgun class Tom Givens taught at the A-Zone. Doug Greig was #2 overall shooter at the Rangemaster Instructor course in Dallas.
We look forward to training you! Karl, Penny and the KR Training team
I finally returned to playing a few gigs as a musician. Here’s a video from a Facebook livestream where I do a solo piano version of a classic Pink Floyd song. There are many other videos on youtube.com/karlrehnmusic to enjoy.
The SIG Pistol Mounted Optics instructor class Sean and I attended was held at Gunsite. Gunsite is the root of the tree for defensive pistol training: where the modern era began. The Col. Cooper era, often called “Orange Gunsite” by its students, had basically ended before I had the money and free time and interest to make the trip to attend a class. During the 1990’s Gunsite was in decline and Clint Smith was teaching at Thunder Ranch in Texas, so Penny and I ended up taking a class there instead of Gunsite. In the 2000’s under new ownership Gunsite made a comeback and is once again one of the best schools in the country. As KR Training grew I was able to do most of my training by hosting traveling instructors rather than going to other facilities, so going to Gunsite – something that has been on my bucket list for a long time – just never seemed to happen, until June 2020.
Thanks to Randy W, a KR Training student and longtime Gunsite student, Sean and I got a tour of the Gunsite facilities from Ken Campbell, Gunsite CEO. That included seeing several of the shoothouses and many of the different live fire ranges.
On the advice of KR Training assistant instructor Justin G, who had trained at Gunsite in the past, we stayed at Mark Brougher’s C-Bar bed and breakfast. Mark shares my passion for the Old West. He’s written multiple books (available in e-format from Amazon) and I was able to pick up a signed copy of book #1 from him during our visit. Two of the books have been made into independent films also available for streaming online.
Episode 2, in Mark’s opinion, is a better movie.
During our visit to the C-Bar I ended up watching both movies in our down time. Here are some pics from the C-Bar.
Many of the structures at the C-Bar were rescued from a “ghost town” and relocated and renovated. If you ever travel to Gunsite to train, the C-Bar is a great place to stay. Two bedrooms, could sleep 4 comfortably, slept 2 very comfortably. 10-15 minutes from Gunsite’s front gate. Quiet, gun friendly.
We also found time to stop at the Phippen Museum in Prescott, AZ, which had current southwestern art as well as classic western art and historical artifacts. One of the docents gave us a personal tour with commentary, on a slow Saturday morning visit.
We also made a Friday night visit to downtown Prescott to dine at the famous Palace, where they claim Wyatt Earp and others gathered before traveling to Tombstone for the OK Corral gunfight. They serve drinks made Old Overton, Wyatt Earp’s favorite whiskey.
Friday in downtown Prescott during the summers they have live music on the courthouse square, and we got to enjoy a good local band, with a decent crowd of locals spending a nice summer evening outside.
If you are looking for a fun shooting vacation, Gunsite and the Prescott area have a lot to offer. If I had it to do over again I would have stayed an extra couple of days, done some hiking and other outdoor activities, and had at least one day just hanging out at the C-Bar relaxing after class.
On June 18-19, 2020, KR Training instructor Sean Hoffman and I attended a session of the SIG Academy’s Pistol Mounted Optics Instructor course. The class was a mix of private sector and law enforcement trainers. It was held at the famous Gunsite facility in Paulden, Arizona. I picked this particular session of the class to attend because it was a “double word score” on my training bucket list: visiting Gunsite and taking a class from the SIG Academy. Sean had attended red dot instructor certification courses from Modern Samurai Project, Centrifuge and Sage Dynamics in the past, so this course finished off his list of ‘red dot’ specific instructor classes.
I started shooting red dot sights on pistols in the early 1990’s, when they were mounted to the pistol’s frame. Here’s some pics of one of the Open division guns I shot during that period. And I came back to slide mounted red dots a few years ago when I ran an M&P Core with Trijicon RMR for a summer’s worth of weekly USPSA matches working my way up to Grand Master in that division. So I felt like I understood how to run a red dot (and had not been motivated to take a class from any of the red dot class specialist trainers), but the SIG class, mainly being oriented to instructors teaching transition classes for cops, interested me. I wanted to see the material they were using to bring moderately skilled shooters (average officers) up the learning curve.
Several years ago we did a 120 shooter study that essentially measured that learning curve for shooters of a wide variety of levels. What we found was that the lower the skill level of the shooter, the more difficulty they had finding the red dot under time pressure. Many red dot advocates complained that our results were not valid because we didn’t first provide all 120 people a 16 hour course so they could get familiar with the dot before being tested. We were more interested in how the typical shooter – the 99% that don’t seek out training unless the state forces them to – would or could do using the dot in a realistic drill.
By far the most common problem was bringing the gun up to eye level, seeing the target through the window, and not seeing the dot. Worse, having no visual information available to identify what to do to find the dot, usually resorting to wiggling their head and the gun around until they either ran out of time or found the dot or (most often) fired with no dot missing the target entirely.
A large chunk of the SIG curriculum addressed that issue, both in how to improve shooter index using a mix of new and old “point shooting” techniques (some going back to Fairbairn, others from Jim Cirillo’s book, and some specific to red dot sights). It provided instructors answers to the “‘what if” questions critics and skeptics of red dot sight have: what happens when you can’t find the dot? what happens when the dot’s lens is occluded?
These were our targets after a block of “no dot” drills shot from 3-7 yards, using the shell of the red dot sight, the back of the slide, and other very coarse alignment techniques for aiming.
The section on zeroing was very complete, including ballistic charts for 115, 124 and 147 gr 9mm loads, and discussion of how much class time can be wasted trying to zero pistols at 25 yards. They correctly observed all of these things: many shooters do not understand how to shoot from benchrest correctly, many shooters have never shot slow fire groups, and marching back and forth from the 25 yard line to the targets multiple times, as shooters fire slow fire groups and make sight adjustments, can be a very time consuming process.
They recommended doing the zeroing at 15 yards, and did a great job of demonstrating how to use an ammo can and Frank Proctor’s small sand bags for zeroing.
On day one I shot Sean’s Glock 48 with milled Holosun 507C, from concealment.
On day 2 I used one of the class loaner guns, a SIG 320 with Romeo 1 dot, to get some trigger time in with both the pistol and the optic.
The first thing we did on day 2 was shoot their 6 string standards course, cold, for score. Everyone else on the line was using the same gear they had used for 500 rounds of work the day prior. I did a few practice dry draws but didn’t get to do any live fire with the 320 before the test. Here are the 6 strings of the test, all shot on the SIG target, which has the same 8″ torso circle and 4″ head circle as the IDPA target. All strings are shot at 5 yards. The student notes say “5 yards between targets” for the two target drill, but that seems wrong and should probably be 5 feet which is about two lanes on a standard firing line. Shots outside the 8″ circle are considered misses. (I like this approach as it aligns with our concept of scoring hits as either acceptable or unacceptable.)
One shot from low ready, 1.25 seconds or less
Starting holstered, draw and fire one shot with two hands (open carry), 2.00 seconds or less
Starting holstered, draw strong hand only, fire one shot, transfer to support hand and fire one shot. 4.00 seconds or less
Starting holstered with only 2 rounds in the gun (1+1), draw and fire two rounds, emergency reload, fire two rounds. 5.25 seconds or less. (This assumes a 2.5 second slide lock reload. Most on the line had reload times of 3.00-3.50 seconds, and many were using the overhand rack method, rather than the slide lock lever, to run the slide. That’s slower. I could not reach the slide lever with my shooting hand thumb and used my support hand thumb to release the slide, which was faster than the overhand rack method.)
With exactly 6 rounds in the gun (5+1), draw and fire 6 rounds, emergency reload and fire one additional round. 6.25 seconds or less.
With at least 8 rounds in the gun, engage two targets as follows, one round each: body T1, body T2, head T1, head T2, body T1, body T2, head T1, head T2. 7.5 seconds or less.
I passed 5 of the 6 quals, only falling short on the first string involving a reload. That was because I tried to use my shooting hand thumb on the slide release, which didn’t work, and I had to immediately do the overhand rack to finish the drill, and only missed the par by less than 0.5 seconds in spite of that. (In my feedback to them after the course, I commented that reload speed has little/nothing to do with ability to shoot a red dot. The inclusion of two slide lock reloads in the standards, given John Correia’s observation from watching tens of thousands of incidents that reload speed really isn’t that critical a skill, is at least one too many. Sean shot the test from concealment, and was told later by the instructors that the par times were set for open carry. He shot the end-of-day test from open carry and was able to make the reload times.)
One of the students, Jim from ProForce LEO supply had donated a NightStick weapon mounted light as a prize to the top shooter in the day 2 morning “cold” test…which I won. Here’s the light mounted on my CoolFire M&P. My plan is to use the light for low light scenarios and dryfire work and class demos.
Day 2 was fewer rounds fired (about 250), with more complex drills requiring shooting on the move and more transitions, giving students an opportunity to work at finding the dot doing more than standing in one spot. In talking with students that attended a previous session of the course taught at the SIG Academy home facility, I learned that the version of the course they took also included shooting from cover, kneeling and prone. Our course, run in the summer heat at Gunsite, left the students fairly bronzed and baked in full 8 hour days on the range. Omitting the prone and barricade work was OK with us, as the work we did verifying that the sight has no parallax even when the dot is in the corners of the window confirmed to us that as long as we could put the dot on the spot we wanted to hit – even if the dot was not centered in the window – the hits would be on target.
In the end, everyone in the course performed well on the final run through their 6-string standard course. I passed all 6 and was top shooter in the class. Sean tied with several others with 5 of 6 passed for the #2 slot.
The course met its goal of teaching pistol instructors what they needed to know to coach competent shooters familiar with iron sights through a transition to red dot sights, and they provided us with solid drills and information. Sean and I teach another session of our “Red Dot Pistol Essentials” class in July 2020, and I teach a short version of it in August at Buck and Doe’s in San Antonio. Students in those courses will definitely see some of the material we learned in the SIG course.
During the Rangemaster Master Instructor Course, Tom Givens shared a police qualification course of fire with the class. The course was published in J. Henry Fitzgerald’s book “Shooting”, in 1930, but was in use in New York in the 1920’s. That book is available in print and e-book edition here. It’s one of the earliest, best collections of information about practical and defensive pistol shooting, and should be a “must read” for any pistol instructor or serious student of this topic.
The following course in practical police shooting has been used for many years by the New York State Troopers and is taught by the author at the New York State Police School. This organization was the first to use the Colt’s Silhouette target. When Captain Albert B. Moore and I visited all the barracks in the state and taught the officers this new course in the shooting, the valuable suggestions of Captain Moore were of great assistance in compiling the course, which has the sanction of former superintendent, Colonel George Chandler, and the present superintendent, Major John A. Warner. The Colt Silhouette target is used because it is the shape and size of target which must be hit in an emergency.
The B-21 target shows a 6 foot tall man drawing a pistol from his pocket with his right hand and arm. It has both K (kill) and D (disable) zones, with different K and D points associated with each zone. Note the zero zones associated with the edges of the target’s clothing. Also notice that the left arm, assumed not to be drawing a gun, has lower K and D points than the right (gun) arm. The center torso K5 zone goes all the way down into the lower chest cavity. Modern targets such as the current FBI-Q, USPSA and IDPA targets, no longer consider abdominal hits to be of equal value as high chest hits. The target is wider than the 18″ and 24″ targets commonly used today, because of the inclusion of both arms and the bent elbow of the right arm.
The original target did not include the center X ring, which was added later as more bullseye elements were incorporated into police training and qualification. The B21 was the first realistic pistol target mass produced and widely used for handgun training.
After returning home from the Master Instructor class, I shot the course of fire, using a S&W .38 revolver from a basic leather holster, using techniques common to that era, on the B-21X target, which is a variant of the Colt Silhouette target with an additional “X” ring in the center. I used Tom’s version of the drill, which only uses a single target. Fitz’s original version (shared here) uses 2 targets for some parts.
Course I: 6 shots single action, 10 yards distance, 2 Colt Silhouette targets used. 3 shots with right hand, 3 shots with left hand. Not timed, K zone to count. (Tom’s version has the distance at 25 feet fired on a single target.)
From the book: “The object of this slow-fire course is to familiarize each officer with sights, position, recoil, and general shooting instructions, also to teach him the use of right and left hand, a very important accomplishment for any officer. Two targets are used to determine proficiency with each hand.”
Course II: 6 shots double action, 15 feet distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target.) Position: Hands at side, revolver in holster. At command FIRE, draw and fire 3 shots with right hand at right hand target; change revolver to left hand and fire 3 shots with left hand at left hand target. K zone to count. Timed from command FIRE to last shot.
From the book “This course teaches quick draw, double action with right and left hand and shooting with speed and accuracy.”
Course III: 6 shots double action, 1 Colt Silhouette target 15 feet distance Stand, hands at side, revolver in holster. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot; return revolver to holster, arms at side. Without command, draw and fire second shot; return revolver to holster, hands at side. Repeat until 6 shots are fired. Timed from command FIRE to last shot. K zone to count.
From the book: “This course teaches quick draw with favorite gun hand and placing the first shot accurately.” In the video I am shooting one handed and shooting with pure target focus, not really trying to get a traditional sight picture, as was advocated during that era.
Course IV: 6 shots single and double action, 25 yards distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target.) Stand on 25-yard line, revolver in holster, hands at side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot, single action, at each silhouette target. Run to 12 yards (carrying revolver safely while running, finger out of the trigger guard, arm at side) and, holding revolver in both hands (place gun hand in palm of the other hand, closing fingers around gun hand), fire 1 shot at each target. Drop to mat and holding revolver with both hands fire 1 shot at each target. Timed from command FIRE to last shot. K zone to count.
From the book: “This course teaches twenty-five yard shooting, how to carry a revolver when running, to stop when firing, to steady a revolver with both hands after a run, and to drop to the ground when fired upon (making a target one-sixth the size of a standing man), and to fire accurately from a prone position.”
Course V: 6 shots double action, 10 feet distance. 2 Colt Silhouette targets (Tom’s version uses one target). Position: Revolver in holster, hands at side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at the center zone of each target; return revolver to holster, hand to side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at each head; return revolver to holster, hand to side. At command FIRE, draw and fire 1 shot at each right arm (bent arm). Each 2 shots are timed.
No hits to count except those in part of silhouette target stated in command. Body hit from bottom of center zone to separating line in neck. Head hit from separating line in neck to top of head. Arm hit from white line at shoulder to body at side. Sleeve zone marked 0 does not count. All hits count 5.
From the book: “This course teaches the quick, accurate placing of shots at short range and they are considered the six most important shots that any officer can perfect himself in. Two targets are used in the above courses to teach the officer the accurate placing of shots in two targets without loss of time or accuracy.”
When I posted the instagram videos I was working from Tom’s version of the course so the part numbers are ordered differently from Fitz’ original version. And if you watch carefully in the video where I run from 25 to 12 yards, I’m not running with my gun in the exact position they require, which probably would have been slower.
While Fitz’ book does not include the scoring system used, Tom’s research uncovered it. For this course of fire, it’s 30 rounds, 150 points possible. (Not truly possible since two shots are mandated to hit the right arm, where no 5 point K-zones are available.) Record all times and add them up. Subtract 1/3 of the total time from the point total for a score. Final score 70 or higher passes. My times for the video runs:
3 rounds dom hand only: 2.97
3 rounds non dom hand only: 3.62
6 one-shot draw/holster reps: 11.61 (buzzer to 6th shot)
25 yard, run to 12, standing/prone: 14.11
10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (body): 1.91
10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (head): 2.35
10 feet, draw and shoot 2 (arm): 2.10
Total time: 38.67. My total points for the video runs were 140/150. I pulled shot #2 from single action at 25 yards high/right over the shoulder and dropped a few points by hitting the right arm. By my assessment the actual highest possible point total is 146.
The scoring system is a rudimentary pre-Comstock approach that uses individual times, instead of fixed par times. One-third of my total time, rounded to nearest integer, was 13. 140-13 gives me a score of 127, far above the 70 required to pass. If I had shot 146 points in 30 seconds, that would have scored me 146-(30/3) = 136, which could probably be treated as the “high hit factor” (in USPSA language) for the course of fire.
Had I only scored 100 of the 150 points possible, and done so in 90 seconds (nearly triple my actual time), that would have been a passing score of 70. That means the standards were not particularly high, but keep in mind they were shooting 1920’s guns with rudimentary sights (not the target sights on my 1953 K-38), and shooting without hearing protection.
If you don’t have vintage gear or the B-21X target available, just try shooting the course of fire using modern gear and a USPSA or IDPA or FBI-Q target. You can use one handed ‘vintage’ techniques or modern techniques.
For safety reasons I suggest changing the six 1-shot draws into six separate timed drills, instead of trying to reholster on the clock, particularly with a modern striker fired gun.
The National Rifle Association recently released a major update to the Basics of Pistol Shooting book. This is part 4 of a multi-part review of the book. (Part 1 of the review is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.) Most of the book is excellent, with significantly better graphics and content than previous editions. However, because so many instructors and students will be using this book, I think it’s worthwhile to point out some of my concerns with the content.
This final review section focuses on the Guide to Concealed Carry holsters part of the book. As students check in on the range for classes, I and my assistants always check out their gear, looking for problems with holster selection, holster placement, and other little details that will either be a safety concern or just make drawing and carrying the gun more difficult. Unfortunately, many of the pictures in this section of the NRA book show the things we look for, but they are presented as “typical” or “acceptable”, not illustrations of what NOT to do. They are the sort of errors made daily by gun bloggers, marketing people, photographers with no gun training, and people selling gear at gun stores — all people who don’t have to deal with the problems the bad and wrong things they show or sell generate for trainers trying to teach people actual skills.
The photo below, to the untrained eye, just looks like someone drawing from an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. Look carefully at the way the grip is being established on the gun. The slide is lined up with the first joint of the thumb, not the web of the hand. In a proper drawstroke, there’s no “get the gun partially out, stop and fix your firing hand grip” step. But there will be for this person, unless they follow mistake #1 (bad grip on the gun with the firing hand) with mistake #2 (try to shoot with the gun recoiling over the thumb instead of the web of the hand). The fundamentals of proper alignment of the pistol with the firing hand have been understood since the 1930’s (at least) and are explained in the 1959 NRA basic pistol book.
Adding to the failures in this picture is holster angle. The gun is canted forward so that the barrel is nearly 90 degrees off from the natural angle of the arm bones (a common problem among those that buy holsters intended for behind-the-hip placement who wear them too far forward). That’s going to result in a draw where the wrist is curled under, at a very awkward angle, leading to an awkward draw. It appears the holster being worn by the model is a “sticky” holster that depends on friction, rather than a belt or pants attachment, to keep the holster in place. Many of those holsters don’t keep the gun at a consistent angle.
Here’s another example of wrong holster angle. Guns worn at the 3 o-clock position should be straight up and down, not canted forward. That holster is a duty type holster that would require a trenchcoat to conceal. There are plenty of outside the waistband holsters (most made using a pancake design) that are much better choices for concealed carry.
One problem with a holster like the one shown below for concealed carry is that if the gun is worn with a straight cant, the butt of the gun and grip will stick out behind the shooter, printing badly. But the “solution” to that problem is not to cant the gun forward so it’s awkward to draw. It’s to get a different holster and/or carry the gun in a different position around the hip.
This picture shows the classic “women trying to wear a holster made for male body geometry” problem, where the gun is angled into the body, poking against the rib cage, again making the draw awkward and difficult. And as with the earlier picture, this is a duty/open carry holster poorly suited for concealed carry.
The one piece plastic “easy on/easy off” belt clips work great right up until the gun hangs just a little in the holster, and then you get the gun and the holster coming out when you draw. This happens most often when people wear thin dress belts or the new thinner tactical belts. The plastic one piece clip works best with a double thick leather belt so there is more belt for it to grab. The model’s trigger finger position is excellent, and firing hand grip on the pistol is not too bad. The model is jamming her thumb all the way down on the grip, which isn’t necessary if the modern “thumbs forward” grip is being used. This video from Scott Jedlinski (start at 2:56) shows a better way to place the thumb when drawing. This works for AIWB and IWB.
And speaking of appendix carry, the picture below shows the most common problem (and safety hazard) that people trying to carry in the appendix position have. That holster sits too low relative to the belt. There’s no room between the frontstrap of the pistol and the belt and pants for the shooter to establish a full firing grip on the pistol before lifting it out of the holster. What those carrying in that way end up doing is palming the gun up and closing their fingers to establish grip as the gun rises. That’s inefficient, and worse, the fingers of the hand are closing AFTER the trigger is no longer protected by the trigger guard, dramatically increasing the likelihood that sympathetic movement of the trigger finger, as all other fingers are closing, could fire the gun. And while any negligent discharge resulting in self-inflicted gunshot wound is bad, shooting yourself in the femoral artery is extremely bad. Again as in the other pic, the plastic one piece belt clip riding on a thin dress belt is shown — a guarantee that the gun angle is likely not consistent. While I have no problem with students drawing from appendix carry, and I’ve carried that way (and taken multiple classes carrying that way), I won’t allow students in my classes to work from an AIWB holster riding that low. If they can’t establish a full firing grip on the pistol without lifting the gun up, it’s a no-go. (I have loaner holsters)
Aside: if you have one of those one piece plastic belt clips on your holster, you need the Discrete Carry Concepts monoblock. It replaces the plastic belt clip with something that has as lot of tension and prints less. It holds the gun and holster in place securely. Yes, it’s a little harder to take on and off, but not that much harder. (And you should not be taking your gun off and on all the time anyway. Pants on, gun on, as the saying goes.) The DCC clips can be used with or without a belt. I’ve had female students come to class carrying AIWB in jeans, wearing no belt, using the DCC clips on their holster, and the holster stays in place through hours of training and many draws at realistic speed. That endorsement is not a paid ad, but I like the DCC clips so much that I’ve replaced all the belt clips on every holster I use and several of the loaners in our class supplies with them because they are so much better than any other belt attachment.
This next picture is an absolute NO.
Here are some reasons you shouldn’t carry “small of back”. There’s no shortage of data proving that having the gun in front closer to your center line is fastest, and draw speed slows down as the gun is moved farther and farther around the hip. (Clearing the concealment garment gets more difficult as well.) So “small of back” draw is slow and awkward. On a firing line in a defensive pistol class, someone drawing from small of back is likely to muzzle others on the firing line, and possibly the instructor behind the line, as they draw. (Well, actually they won’t, because many instructors won’t let someone carrying that way on the firing line in the first place…) Those that specialize in “gun grappling” and integrated close quarters for concealed carry overwhelmingly prefer appendix carry. Defending a gun parked behind the spine against someone behind you in line at Walmart lifting up your shirt and trying to grab your gun is more complicated than blocking the same attack from the front. And falling backward on a hard surface is going to jam that gun right against bones and discs. Trying to draw the gun from behind your back, while lying on your back, is hard and awkward.
The list of reasons why NOT to carry small of back is what should have been in the NRA book. Whatever company made that holster probably makes holsters for other carry positions that could have been shown instead.
While the text that goes with the picture above is correct…but the mag pouch shown in the example is not the best choice. Most that conceal carry don’t carry a spare magazine at all, and many of those that do only carry one spare. And those that carry one spare choose a lower profile mag pouch or just carry the spare in a pocket, not on the belt at all. The giant, flat outside the waistband double mag pouch is the sort of thing people wear to training classes but take off before they leave the range, because it’s bulky, and doesn’t conform to the body’s curves. Even those that carry two spare mags often use two single mag pouches instead of a rigid double.
In the next few days I’ll be teaching an instructor certification course for the new NRA CCW course. Unlike basic pistol, that course includes specific instruction on holsters and drawing from concealment. The NRA released the CCW course without a textbook to go with it, using the new Basics of Pistol Shooting and the older Personal Protection Outside the Home books (both of them) as the textbooks for the course. The CCW course, with its modular design, is the right path forward for NRA training courses for beginners and carry permit holders. Hopefully some of the issues I’ve raised in my review of the Basics of Pistol Shooting rewrite will be addressed and improved in the CCW book, whenever it is completed and released.
The National Rifle Association recently released a major update to the Basics of Pistol Shooting book. This is part 3 of a multi-part review of the book. (Part 1 of the review is here, and part 2 is here.) Most of the book is excellent, with significantly better graphics and content than previous editions. However, because so many instructors and students will be using this book, I think it’s worthwhile to point out some of the flaws.
On page 103, this example of proper benchrest position is fundamentally wrong. Bracing the hands on sandbags does not eliminate the muzzle dipping or moving as the trigger is pressed.
The right way to benchrest a pistol, particularly when zeroing or making sight adjustments, looks like this:
Bracing the frame under the muzzle provides the steadiest platform for shooting, and minimizes the most common shooting errors.
This photo, showing a pistol with a red dot sight mounted, is also the wrong thing to be showing beginners.
What this picture shows is a pistol with a slide set up to accept a red dot sight, but still using the factory sights, instead of iron sights tall enough to co-witness. The use of red dot sights on pistols is becoming much more common – thus the importance of showing a gun properly configured. A beginner looking at this picture would easily get the wrong impression that co-witnessed iron sights are not necessary. (National level trainers specializing in red dot pistol classes recommend the co-witnessed irons, and most factory guns sold with a red dot come with tall sights as a standard option, except for Glock, who ship the gun with their standard sights, as shown in the picture.)
For decades the NRA’s basic pistol program encouraged students in the class to make adjustments to their iron sights, which makes sense if the class is being taught to Boy Scouts using target .22s with adjustable sights, and they are shooting from benchrest. But in the modern era, the typical student is a concealed carry permit applicant shooting a gun with fixed sights. The new book does an excellent job of explaining the differences in point of impact between heavy/slow and light/fast bullets, encouraging shooters to try different ammunition first before making sight adjustments, and it discusses both drifting sights left and right and replacing front sights as the correct method to getting a perfect iron sight zero.
In a section on common pistol shooting errors (a section presented in much more detail than previous editions), this graphic is shown.
This graphic is almost great. Problem #1 is color. The target is black. The rear sight is black. The target center is orange. The front sight is orange. This makes seeing the fine details of what is being presented very difficult. Problem #2 is scaling. If you’ve shot drills using the NRA B8 bullseye target, you probably noticed that the graphic doesn’t look like what you see when you aim. The sights are too small, the bullet holes are too small, even for a .22. The concept for the graphic is a good one, but a beginner reading the book may not understand what is shown.
In Chapter 17, “Selecting Pistols, Ammunition and Accessories”, gun fit is discussed in more detail, including definition of trigger reach…without showing frame-dragging or warning beginners that they should not twist the gun in their grip, out of alignment with their hand or arm, to reach the trigger in the first place. Twisting the gun so that it recoils over the firing hand thumb knuckle (instead of the web of the hand), and laying the trigger finger against the frame are the two most common problems instructors will have to deal with and two critical issues novices should understand when selecting a pistol. A few more pictures would have dramatically improved this important section.
On page 147, under the caption “Function Check your Firearm”, this picture is shown, which doesn’t show dry firing or any other action related to function checking.
In Chapter 19, “Pistol Shooting Activities and Skill Development”, USPSA and IDPA are mentioned in an official NRA book for the first time, along with Cowboy Action Shooting, and the NRA sanctioned matches (Action Pistol, Police Practical Competition and bullseye), but Steel Challenge and it’s junior-friendly offshoot, Scholastic Action Shooting, aren’t mentioned at all, despite both being more beginner friendly than any of the NRA match formats.
The review will conclude with part 4, where I dive into the section on holster selection and use.
The National Rifle Association recently released a major update to the Basics of Pistol Shooting book. This is part 2 of a multi-part review of the book. (Part 1 of the review is here.) Despite the review being full of complaints and criticisms of the content, most of the book is excellent, with significantly better graphics and content than previous editions. However, because so many instructors and students will be using this book, I think it’s worthwhile to point out some of the flaws.
On pages 48-49 the process of firing a semi-automatic pistol is explained. In step 2, the reader is told to move the decocker or safety to the fire position. That’s confusing, if the decocking lever is not also a safety, and could mislead novices into thinking they are supposed to decock the gun right before firing.
The best place for the thumb, when a shooter is firing a 1911, is on top of the thumb safety. This prevents the safety from unintentionally being engaged, and where the thumb naturally goes when the safety is pushed into the ‘fire’ position.
In the section on unloading a semi-automatic pistol, magazine ejection is shown with the gun canted sideways, instead of oriented straight up and down, so the magazine can eject most easily. (Gravity works up and down, not side to side). Canting the gun to eject a magazine is a common practice, often because canting the gun slows down the magazine ejection and makes it easier to catch the ejected magazine. But on some guns and for some users, canting the gun makes the magazine much more difficult to remove from the pistol.
This would have been an excellent spot to show how a left handed shooter might use their trigger finger to work the release.
The section on revolvers (both single- and double-action) is excellent, with great graphics and photos, including presentation of techniques for left handed shooters. Also, the section on ammunition is a major improvement over the old book, including discussion of how to dispose of “unserviceable” ammunition. In the caliber section, the ammunition shown for the .45 Colt caliber appears to be Hornady Leverevolution, which is an innovative round intended to allow lever guns to shoot bullets other than flat points safely. In the context of a basic pistol book, however, the presentation of this unique round as “typical” of what a .45 Colt round looks like, or what ammunition a novice might purchase is, is great product placement for Hornady, but the wrong information for beginners.
A traditional 255 grain lead bullet load would have been the right choice for that picture. In the limited time available in a basic pistol course, requiring the instructor to explain about the red tip on the round and get into the weeds about why lever action rifles require flat point bullets, all to accommodate Hornady’s product placement is unnecessary.
The section on grip is a big improvement over the old materials, but several fine points about the “modern” two handed grip are still off the mark. Forming the grip from the front strap, as opposed to joining the heels of the hands, often leads to the heels of the hands not connecting, with a large gap between the hands. Teaching students to join the heels instead of building the grip front-to-back would eliminate this problem. You can see that problem in the shooter’s grip in this video around the 1:29 mark.
In picture #5 below, the shooter’s thumbs are too low. The firing hand thumb should be at slide height, with the heel of the support hand cammed higher, so that the support hand is as high as possible on the frame. Many shooters use the low thumb grip, usually out of fear of their thumbs being injured by the slide, or to avoid the thumbs dragging against the slide to slow it down (which can cause malfunctions). But if you look at the way top shooters that use that grip technique grip their guns, the thumbs are higher.
The thumbs forward grip does not work for all shooters and all semiauto pistols. In some cases, the thumbs will press down on the slide lock lever, preventing the gun from locking open on the last round. Similarly, the forward thumbs can interfere or bump into decocking levers and other controls, depending on hand size and gun model. For subcompact guns with short barrels and shooters with large hands, it’s possible to end up with the support hand thumb in front of the muzzle (not a good idea). The modern thumbs-forward grip works great with duty-sized striker fired guns and 1911 pistols in the hands of shooters with 60 lbs or more of grip strength.
It’s very common, among shooters with limited grip strength, to push down hard with the firing hand thumb as the trigger is pressed, causing the support hand to be pushed off the pistol. The traditional thumb over thumb grip, as shown in the revolver picture, can be a solution for those that can’t stop “thumb pushing” when they try to use the thumbs forward grip.
A simple grip integrity test is to have a shooter fire 5-6 rounds, as quickly as they can work the trigger, at a large target at 3 yards. Observe their grip as they fire, and pay extra attention to how it looked before they started firing and what it looked like on the last shot. Have them do this drill using thumbs forward and thumb over thumb, and note which grip technique changes the last from first to last shot. It’s more important to have a consistent grip that won’t fall apart in rapid fire than to use the grip the “cool kids” all use.
On a positive note, the book now includes discussion of gun fit and trigger finger gap (aka “frame dragging”). This article from Tom Givens explains that issue in more detail.
The book is printed in a standard large paperback format of 6″ x 9″, but spiral bound on the short edge. So it will fit on a bookshelf with older NRA books, but is designed to open wide and flat when set on a table. I found it awkward to handle and read when held in the hands, seated in a chair. The cover is plastic, not paper, which will help the book hold up if stuffed into a pocket of a range bag, used on an outdoor range. The interior pages are also heavier glossy paper. The book was intended to be used and referenced beyond class day. These are big improvements and even though they likely increased the sale price of the book, they are worth it. Every page is full color, with good choices for font selection and font size, and the graphics are the best I’ve ever seen in an NRA training book.
For every minor issue that I will discuss, there are a dozen things that were done very well. I think it’s important for instructors that are using this book to know where the issues of concern are, so they can address them with students.
I’m not sure what this picture is supposed to show, in the “Safety Notes” section of the book. It’s impossible to tell if the model has her finger on the trigger or not, and this isn’t a way I want students holding their guns when on the firing line or anyplace else.
“Know your target and what is beyond” (page 15). Beginners often do not understand how far bullets can travel, or what can (or can’t) stop a bullet. In the sheriff’s weekly report in our small town newspaper, almost every week there is something about neighbors complaining about others shooting with concerns about safety. My sister-in-law had problems with a neighbor using an easel as a target stand, shooting with no backstop, with rounds impacting on their property. In my opinion, the book should explain this topic in more detail. Simply explaining that people need to shoot safely (as the book does) is not the same as explaining how to do it.
My biggest complaint with the book is the NRA’s new embrace of the “muzzle up” position for ready and reloading. At most ranges, muzzle up either points the gun at the indoor range ceiling, or over the outdoor range backstop, violating NRA safety rule 1: Always point the gun in a safe direction. While I know that the muzzle up position is widely used and popular with military personnel (and trainers coming from a military background), arguing that obeying the “keep finger off trigger” rule somehow mitigates violation of the safe direction rule (as defenders of that position have done in online discussions), is illogical. By the “it’s OK to violate one gun safety rule if you obey the others” reasoning, having finger off trigger would make it OK to point the muzzle in any direction (including at your own head or at other shooters) at any time.
The definition of “safe direction” that I teach and use is that a safe direction is one in which you know where the bullet will stop, and can accept the consequences of firing a shot in that direction. In the muzzle up position, the shooter has no idea where the bullet will land, and no way to assess consequences if a shot is fired.
The section on eye and ear protection – something beginners need to understand in depth, is far too cursory. Nothing is taught about Noise Reduction Ratings nor the pros and cons of over-the-ear vs. ear plugs, nothing about difficulties using earmuffs with long guns nor the higher noise levels that occur in indoor ranges.
On page 18, a muzzle up reload is shown, with a comment that competition shooting may require different techniques. At the outdoor range, members-only gun club that hosts most of the matches in my area, pointing a muzzle over the backstop is a match disqualification offense. It would have been more appropriate for the NRA manual to teach beginners a technique that is unlikely to violate range guidelines at most ranges (muzzle pointed at the backstop) than to teach muzzle up reloading, which could get them ejected from some commercial ranges and/or some matches.
One argument that’s been made for the muzzle up reload is that it prevents the shooter from looking down and losing “situational awareness”. In the picture in the book, the shooter is looking straight ahead and trying to reload using peripheral vision (or not looking at the gun at all). That’s not a technique a novice with no experience inserting a magazine into a pistol should be emulating.
It appears the technique being shown is a reload with retention, since the gun is not locked back and the model is attempting retain the partial magazine. In my opinion, that type of reload is not a technique that should be taught in a basic pistol course, to students just learning to operate a pistol for the first time. They should be taught to look at the gun so they can see what their fingers are doing, and work with one magazine at a time.
In the section on action types, the single action cowboy revolver is included but the traditional DA/SA pistol with a decocking lever is omitted. The typical student in the NRA Basic Pistol course, in the 21st century, is someone taking the course because their state requires it to obtain a carry permit. In 29 years of teaching carry permit and general interest firearms classes, I have never had a student bring a cowboy sixgun to a basic or carry permit class, but I have had many bring traditional DA/SA guns.
The Texas License to Carry shooting test requires that 23 of the 50 shots be fired starting at a ready position, and that those running DA/SA guns fire those shots in double action mode, decocking each time the gun comes back to ready between strings. It’s very common for beginner level DA/SA owners to have never used the decocking lever on their pistol, and to have avoided firing any shots in the DA/SA mode. I’ve had a few students with carry permits show up for classes carrying DA/SA guns “cocked and unlocked” with a round chambered, hammer back, with no understanding that the gun was not designed to be carried in that mode, and no consideration as to whether the gun was drop safe in that mode or not. Discussion of the decocking lever in this section is limited to a single sentence that does not address when or how the lever is to be used.
I’ll end part 1 of the review on a positive note: this section on how to load a magazine is well done with lots of detail. Better close ups of what the hands are doing would be useful, but this is a big improvement over the detail this topic was shown in previous editions of the book.
This video explains the mag loading process in even more detail.
John Daub and Jeff Edwards had attended a previous session of this relatively new course. John’s AAR is here. In order to attend this course, trainees had to have completed 40 hours of instructor training from Tom Givens: both the Instructor and Advanced Instructor courses in the Rangemaster program. With each level of instructor course, the shooting standards increase in difficulty, and the complexity of the topics covered increases as well. Those attending any level of Rangemaster instructor course are not guaranteed to pass. One student attending the Master instructor course had failed the previous session, and passed on his second time through the course, after making major changes in gear and techniques (and practicing a lot).
With no classes running during lockdown, Dave, Tracy and I practiced several days a week, working on the qualification courses listed in John’s AAR, particularly the Rangemaster Bullseye course of fire. Right before the class, Rangemaster put out their June newsletter. The drill of the month was the Rangemaster Advanced Bullseye course, which cut the time for the 25 yard shots in half, and added strong hand and weak hand strings. We practiced that a few times in our last sessions before heading to Mississippi.
The gear required for the course included: daily carry gun (semiauto), mags, mag pouches, holster. Mirror image holster for that gun (left hip). Medium sized double action revolver, with holster and at least one speedloader and speed strip. Snub revolver with holster and speedloader and speed strip.
The gear I used for class:
Glock 48 w/ Holosun 507C
Shield Arms 15 round G48 magazines
JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster
Comp-Tac mag pouches
Uncle Mike’s rigid plastic left handed Glock holster
Tom loaned me a G.D. Myers handtooled Tom Threepersons style holster to use with my K-38, instead of the Jordan duty holster
Colt Agent snub .38 (a gun I had won in a drawing at a Rangemaster Tactical Conference years ago – a gun from Tom’s personal collection that he said had been tuned up with action work and custom grips)
BobMac holster for the Colt Agent (also won in the prize drawing)
5StarFirearms speed loaders for both the Colt Agent and K-38
Tuff Products 6 round speed strips
Federal American Eagle 130 gr JRN .38 special ammo (for tests shot for score)
Armscor 130 gr JRN .38 special ammo (for drills)
Federal American Eagle 124 gr JRN 9mm ammo (for drills)
Atlanta Arms Elite 124 gr JHP 9mm ammo (for tests shot for score)
Why two different kinds of ammo? Because for the tests to be shot for score, I wanted to do as well as I possibly could, and accuracy was important, particularly on the bullseye courses. The difference between ammo grouping 4″ at 25 yards and ammo grouping 2″ could mean as much as 5-10 points out of 300 on the bullseye course, as I learned during our practice sessions.
I decided to run a red dot from appendix carry for this class, both to gain more experience running a slide mounted red dot and with appendix carry. And, to be honest, to pick up the small increases in draw time and accuracy appendix carry and the red dot would provide. Sean Hoffman and I are headed to Gunsite in a few weeks to attend the SIG Red Dot Instructor course, and I’ll be using the same setup for that class.
Because we spent so much time running the qual courses we expected to be shooting for score, I have a very good baseline of performance using appendix carry and the red dot. That means I could re-run those courses using strong side carry and iron sights to measure performance there, and assess how much I really gained from those gear choices.
The Boondocks facility was excellent. Multiple ranges, including a big square range with a metal range cover constructed without any center posts – something I would love to have at the A Zone. We were told that the range cover on that range cost $80K to construct, which is sadly far outside my annual (or 10-year) range improvement budget. The bay also had two giant fans mounted to the cover supports, and LED lights.
Tom started class with a lecture on the history of handgun training, going through a dozen or more influential figures and identifying their contributions. (I’m still working on my book on this topic, and Tom’s talk reminded me of several people and books that I need to dig further into.) The picture shows the Colt’s 1920 Police Revolver qual course designed by Fitzgerald, using the B-21 target (these are still available and in use by some agencies today)
Shooting this qual course with my K-38 (and blogging about it) is on my June to-do list.
The afternoon was spent shooting a variety of courses, including the Advanced Bullseye course, and the Rangemaster Master Instructor qualification course – all shot using our semiauto guns from our normal carry gear (from concealment, except for a few LEOs that were wearing duty gear and retention holsters.
The second day was all about revolvers. Some lecture material, then back to the range for a long day. We shot the medium sized revolvers first, working reloads using both speed strips and speedloaders, right handed and left handed (shooting and reloads), and finished up the revolver work shooting snub revolvers. The Rangemaster Revolver qualification course was shot for score.
The last part of day 2 was spent doing everything mirror image – draws, reloads, malfunctions, etc. two handed left hand dominant. Several years ago I took the entire Kathy Jackson “Cornered Cat” instructor class mirror image, and Tracy Thronburg had attended multiple Massad Ayoob Group classes where mirror image work was required.
The morning of day 3 included shooting the Rangemaster Master Instructor qualification course of fire for score twice (best score out of two counted), and a new Skills Assessment course of fire, shot on a new cardboard target from ShootSteel.com, turned around backward so no scoring rings were visible. The intent was to assess how well you could figure out where vital organs were without any guidance other than the outline of the target itself.
Tom explained that he liked this particular target because it had a neck (USPSA and IDPA targets do not), and ears on the head which help with understanding where to aim with no other guidance. It uses scoring areas very similar in size and shape to our own KRT-2 target. I liked these so much I ordered 300 of them for use in classes this fall and beyond.
We also shot Tom’s Casino Drill in several different variations: magazines loaded to different capacities (not the normal 7-7-7) and shooting the shapes in reverse order (6-5-4-3-2-1) instead of the normal 1-2-3-4-5-6.
Several courses of fire were not part of the pass/fail score for the class, but were separate challenge coin events. The top shooter on the Casino in this class ran it in the mid 11’s with no misses. (The par time for the drill is 21 seconds.)
Half of the 3rd day was spent having each instructor-student in class present and run a relay of shooters through a drill of their own design or selection. Each student in class got a copy of every other student’s drill, so we came home with a pack of 27 drills from our classmates. Some people used well known drills, others invented their own. The limit was 5-15 rounds, no movement, one target stand (could have multiple shapes on the target). Most in class were brief and chose drills that didn’t take too long to run. A few chose drills that were overly complex and slow to run (one shooter at a time or too many administrative steps to set up malfunctions or specially loaded magazines). Day 3 was particularly hot and by 4 pm, the “4 o clock stupids” as Kathy Jackson used to call them, were setting in.
In the course intro and in other materials Tom had mentioned that vehicle tactics and low light skills might be covered. Those topics did not end up being part of the class, so there’s leftover material for a future instructor reunion or instructor refresher course. While he didn’t discuss it specifically, something I’ve learned in nearly 30 years of teaching is that it’s always good to split the course content into the “must cover” and “extra” material, because weather, facilities and student behavior sometimes allow you to include lots of bonus content, and sometimes you have to run long to get through the “must cover” core material.
There was no written test for the Master Instructor course (there is for the 1st level instructor class), so the final classroom wrap up was mostly giving Tom feedback about the topics and amount of time spent on them. The consensus was that aside from perhaps putting more restrictions on the complexity and running of the instructor-student drills, the rest of the course was the right blend of topics and activities.
Tom sent these comments to the graduates:
I wanted to thank you again for attending our course this past weekend and for performing so well. In terms of student ability, this was the best Master class we have done. We had 27 students, from 14 different states. Thirteen candidates used an optic, while fourteen used iron sights. There were 18 Glocks, 4 M&P’s and a few other handguns (SIG 320, STI Trojan 1911, and CZ) used. Of the top three scoring students, two used optics and one had iron sights. Class averages: Master Instructor Qualification Course 96.7% Skill Assessment Course 98% Revolver Qualification Course 96.1%
I’m very proud of my team. Other than Rangemaster (aka “the mother ship”), KR Training now has more Rangemaster Master level instructors than any other school in the US: 5 out of the 65 certified so far (4 staff, one long time student), with 1-2 more planning on attending the next course in 2021.