Training, and how to get the most out of it.

One component that many people overlook is their need to pursue legitimate firearms training. By legitimate training I mean formal instruction (not to be confused with the practice of plinking, which has its own individual merits.

One major problem of informal practice is that it lacks critical assessment of your performance. This assessment can be used to correct bad habits, unsafe acts and in the end make you better. Also, practice makes it far too easy to work exclusively in your comfort zone, which is detrimental to improvement.

Too often I have meet people who believed that past experiences are sufficient replacement for actual proficiency. I can say my firearms training in the Army applied very little towards the skills I needed later on. Another problem with that mindset is that it completely ignores the fact that skill sets are perishable. Experienced shooters and even athletes will attest to becoming ‘rusty’ overtime if when they neglect their skills.

Picking a Class
Civilians have incredible access to a wide array of firearms training, ranging from concealed carry classes to helicopter operations. Choose classes that will help you accomplish your goals and best apply to you.

The internet gives some great opportunities to review training schools and check various testimonials. Like anything take these reviews with a grain of salt. Some schools may use negative reviews as a means to tear apart their competition.

No schools in your area? Fear not, the best instructors travel to every region and will likely be available in your area.

Being a good student Prior to going to your class ensure that you have all of the required equipment. Many schools will provide a list of both required and suggested gear for the course. Always opt for function over looking cool. I assure you won’t be booed off the range for not being ‘tacticool’ enough.

Stay ready, there will be plenty of distractions. Make sure you and your kit are good to go at all times. Jaw-jacking when you should be loading magazines will cost you valuable training time. On the topic of jaw-jacking, don’t get too wrapped up in side conversations; you get distracted from the class. After all, you didn’t pay the other students to teach.

Always maintain a positive attitude, even if the instructors are making you shoot drills you don’t like or the weather is shitty. You’ll not only ruin your experience but your classmates as well.

These are just a few suggestions to help you on your way to getting some decent training. As always have fun with it and don’t take yourself too serious.

Please comment and make suggestions for future posts you would like to see.

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A Sickening Reality

One chilly Spring day I took my car into the shop with my two oldest boys ages 4 and 2. As I sat down in the lobby and corralled my boys, I noticed an older man there wearing a Korean War veteran hat. I was stationed in Korea for a year and I have an immense amount of respect for the men who fought there. I was also happy for the opportunity for the boys to meet one of the warriors who gave so much for a country most people had never even heard of.

I get the boys together and asked the man where he was in Korea. With a look of disgust and bewilderment he scoffed, “I wasn’t in Korea.” I became utterly confused at that point and cocked my head to the side. Comically the only response I could muster was “But the hat?” Realizing the source of my enquiry the man went on to explain that he served during the Korean War but remained stateside. I immediately felt my blood get hot and slowly shook my head at him. I calmly suggested he ditch the hat. It took me a couple of minutes for my blood pressure to subside and I suppressed the urge to make an ass out of myself.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t be proud of his service, but he shouldn’t be riding the coattails of others. Apparently by his logic I can claim credit for everything any service member did from 1999 to 2004 anywhere in the world. That would be one hell of a hat. Unfortunately this type of thing isn’t uncommon.

According to the FBI there’s approximately 300 fake Navy Seals for every living one. (Shipley) In addition to that fun fact, according to Don Shipley’s article Stolen Valor Navy Seal Imposters Part 1, a 2000 census revealed 4 out of 5 people who claim to be Vietnam vets are not. That statistic is absolutely appalling. Don is a retired Navy Seal and he exposes frauds as a matter of community service. Check out Don’s videos on YouTube were he puts these frauds in a headlock of truth for your viewing pleasure.

Shipley, D., Stolen Valor Navy Seal Impostors Part 1,www.navyseals.com http://navyseals.com/2408/stolen-valor-navy-seal-imposters-part-one/ (accessed 8/6/14)

Picture was pulled from http://foxtravelandtours.com/old-ref/New%20Folder/Hotspot%20Korean%20War%20Memorial.htm

Holster Selection

I jokingly say that tactical gear is a lot like selecting a romantic partner. People like what they like for both practical and impractical reasons. One guy likes blondes another brunettes, tall, short, etc. But in the end we need to pick who works for us.

Regarding holsters there are literally thousands of options. Think first about what your goals are and what best fits your lifestyle.

Basic holster types:

Duty Holsters
These are holsters worn on a duty belt commonly worn by police officers. These holsters are characterized by their varying retention levels.

If you need a duty rig, skimp on everything else before you buy a cheap duty holster. They’re going to get banged around a lot. Also, consider that you may find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to strip the weapon from your holster. You’ll want every damn stitch to be made of tungsten steel if that happens.

Blackhawk, and Safariland make some pretty good holsters that are reasonably priced. I have had a lot of good luck with both brands.
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Outside the Waistband Holster/OWB
Like their name implies these holsters are located outside the waistband of your pants. These holsters are normally designed for concealed carry and are made typically made from either kydex, leather or both. Personally I prefer a kydex or hybrid holster. They make reholstering your weapon significantly easier and weather abuse better.

An OWB can be concealed by wearing a coat or a loose button up shirt.
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Inside the Waistband Holster/IWB
IWBs are a very popular option for concealed carry as they have capability to hide even large framed pistols. A nice characteristic during the warmer months when wearing bulky clothing isn’t an option.

One downside of an IWB is that they require some extra room around your waistline, so you may want to either buy larger pants or lose a few pounds to carry comfortably. I run a Firewall Holster and I really like it. Otherwise Google IWB Holster and pick your poison.

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Drop Leg Holster
Drop legs are purpose built tactical holsters. Their purpose is to drop the pistol lower than the rest of your tactical gear such as chest rigs and plate carriers to facilitate a clean unobstructed draw. They also work exceptionally well for guys/gals seated in vehicles.

One downside of these holsters is that they tend to bang around and droop. I recommend your raise them up to their highest setting. It will allow your pistol to clear your ninja force five gear and stay readily accessible. I run a Frankensteined Blackhawk drop leg and I haven’t had any issues.

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Niche Holsters
Shoulder holsters are common in pop culture and but have become less popular in the firearm community. They make a lot of sense for someone who sits in a vehicle and can’t wear a drop leg.

Another niche item is belly band holsters. It’s a strap with slots to retain a pistol and some spare mags. To me it works better for carrying mags than is does the pistol. There’s not much for weapon retention and reholstering your weapon is problematic. I also had issue with my gun constantly wanting to slip out. The mags stayed in just fine, and re-securing them isn’t a problem. That’s what pockets are for.

Ankle holsters have a multitude of benefits as they solve a lot of the comfort and light clothing issues. The main problems are that they only facilitate the carry of smaller compact pistols and that they require a unique counterintuitive draw.

Personal Horror Story
So I came across a really slick holster called the INCOG appendix carry holster from G Code. G Code is an awesome company and the holster was highly reviewed. I bought the holster and strapped it on. The appearance and craftsmanship was second to none and it fit my pistol perfectly.

I practiced and practiced my draw and felt extremely confident with it. After a range session I was convinced that the holster was crafted from no less than a God of War. Everything went fine until the day I wore it to meet a friend for lunch. As I munched on wings it became apparent that there was a problem.

For those that don’t know appendix carry places the pistol precariously near your junk. Standing was fine, but when sitting down the holster was cramming my downstairs business. The car ride was fine on the way there, but the extended muzzle stamping of my testicles slowly became unbearable. I excused myself and secured my pistol in the car. My junk ached for a day afterwards.

Some of my gun toting friends were eager to hear my review. I sheepishly told them that I didn’t care for the INCOG. To that I met a few puzzled looks. I told them what happened and they offered suggestions like wearing bigger pants and moving it to the side. I just shook my head. I had tried all of that to no avail.

The purpose of the story isn’t to talk about my tenders but to illustrate that even with the best product quality and research on my part it just didn’t work for me.

Parting Words

Before you wear the holster out in the world, practice your draw. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll otherwise perform flawlessly. Personally when I buy a new holster I will practice 1000 perfect draws in a row before I’ll wear it outside my home. If I fumble a draw the number resets. This insures that an appropriate amount of muscle memory is established.

When it all shakes out buy the best holster you can afford that fulfills your needs. If something doesn’t work sell it or keep it as a backup.

What holsters are you guys and gals running? What do you like and what do you hate?

Personal Load-Outs Simplified

There are a lot of different philosophies regarding personal load-outs, from full on warfighter set-ups down to low profile concealed carry. Wading through all of the available options can be confusing to say the least.

To aid you in making critical decisions regarding your set-ups, I offer the following considerations.

Objectives
This is where you need to consider what you need to accomplish. Aimlessly acquiring tactical gear will result in a full closet of kit and an empty wallet. By thinking critically you can focus your funds towards gear you will actually use.

Weight
A Drill Sergeant told me years ago, “Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.” Over the years I have come to realize that many guys see gear as a kind of security blanket (aka ‘woobie’. ) The more magazines, admin kits, med kits, knives, the better. The only problem is that all of the equipment gets heavy and can greatly affect your ability to react. To put it simply, fatigue sucks- and it will make you do really goofy things.

Maintaining a modest level of fitness helps to mitigate the stress of carrying all of that gear but in the end, why bear the burden if you don’t have to? Think about how much faster, more focused, and comfortable you’ll be with a manageable weight. Comfort is extremely important, especially regarding equipment involved with concealed carry. Uncomfortable holsters result in pistols and spare magazines being left at home. Likewise, uncomfortable gear is left behind.

Flexibility
Your equipment should be easy to add on or take off. It should also allow to easily move in and out of various positions such as kneeling and prone. There’s nothing like finding out the hard way that a set of buckles grinds into your ribs, or a strap pinches your “tenders.” You may find situations where your kit is keeping you from getting the job done. We must always remember, this gear is to enhance our capabilities- not hinder them. In a future post I’ll demonstrate an enhanceable load-out.

Cost
A lot of elitists will tell you money is no object when it comes to life saving gear. Yes and no; but buy the best you can reasonably afford. Upgrade when the budget allows. Two things you shouldn’t cheap out on are belts and holsters. Cheap floppy belts can make a really good holster run terribly, and shoddy holsters can result in failed retention of your smoke wagon. Your pistol could come loose from vigorous activities such as running, or someone ripping it off you. Either one results in a bad day. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, hunt the reviews and pick your poison.

Form Educated Opinions
By running your gear at the range or in training you gain a two-fold advantage. You will establish what works as well and establish muscle memory such as weapon reloads with your actual kit. The worst case scenario is you will tear something up, but that’s a good thing because you’re part of the minority that actually uses the stuff! Just buy another one or upgrade to a more robust model/brand. You ever notice most reviews are ‘out of the box?’ That’s because for those guys it’s about being a gear collector.

Conclusion
Make sure your having fun with this, otherwise you’re doing yourself a disservice. Figure out what works for you and rock it.

But… Who are you?

Preparedness has more or less been a hobby of mine since around 2006. Zombie movies were the first initial trigger that made me question how I would care for my family if things went bad and no cavalry was on the way.

This interest led me to start researching the various aspects of preparedness. I wouldn’t consider myself a prepper but simply a responsible citizen. By being self-reliant I can not only give my family the best assurances possible, I’m reducing the amount of burden my family could place onto others.

I went through the typical ‘oh shit’ stage when I came to grips with how fragile society really is. My job as a police officer only enhanced this feeling as I was routinely introduced to real life boogeymen. My initial fear-based mindset gave way as I become more educated and better prepared, which eventually led to pursuing a more sustainable life on my little farmstead. Panic led me to preparedness, which led me to increased self-reliance.

Just a little bit about the background I have; 6 years as a Patrol Deputy in the Denver Metro area, Defensive Tactics/Ground-fighting Instructor, certified armorer, and 4 years Active duty Army as a 13M MLRS crew member, (Korea, Iraq 2003).

Currently I’m a Tactical Response Team Member at a nuclear power plant which has given me opportunities I would previously have never dreamed of. I’ve also obtained a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security and an undergraduate certificate in Sustainability. I guess that would put me in the strange warlike hippie category.

I brought up my background not as a stroke to my own ego but to help in some way better express how I’ve developed many of my opinions. I also believe it is important to establish somewhat of an identify with the reader in hope of developing a healthy exchange of ideas.

So if you’re reading this, let me know what kind of stuff you’d like to read about.

How Convictions Take Hold

The day that my life changed forever started like any other day.  Most nights I commuted almost an hour to the core of the Denver metro area, where I worked as a Patrol Deputy.  With about fifteen minutes left in my commute a lightning bolt of emotion struck me.  It wasn’t anxiety, not anger or fear, but a crystal clear realization that I no longer wanted to do what I was doing anymore. To further explain the situation perhaps I should provide a little bit about what happened prior to that April night.  

I’m originally from a small town in southwestern Michigan, a town who had seemingly left its greatest accomplishments in the past and was losing a battle to stave off eventual desolation.  An environment like that is a perfect breeding ground for young men to either bury themselves in self destruction, or immediate evacuation.  I chose the latter and enlisted in the Army.  I see now that it is natural and steeped in tradition for young men to have a set of ‘warrior years’.  A time where they step out of the protection of their tribe and carve something out for themselves.  The military took me places far away.  I experienced the cold of Korea and the blistering heat of Iraq.  I left the Army and was grateful to do so.  Many soldiers are not as lucky as me, to leave the service more or less intact, let alone with a beautiful wife and daughter.  

Denver seemed like a natural place to start my new life.  It’s economy was strong and everyone seemed to be making a good living.  It didn’t seem to be tainted by the rusting defunct factories and impending layoffs prevalent in my hometown in Michigan.   People often wear their town on their faces.  Most people I met in Denver seemed to be happy, good looking and hopeful.   Like many new families my wife and I started out in an apartment.  After bouncing around to a couple of jobs I decided to pursue my second goal in life and become a cop.  I put myself through the police academy and I was hired by a large metro agency and began working in the jail.  After paying some dues and jumping through some hoops I finally worked my way into patrol.  

With my career in full swing and a growing family we needed to move out of our small two bedroom apartment.  Even though I made a decent wage and worked a hell of a lot of overtime, we always struggled financially.  Always making enough to scrape by but never enough to put money away.  It was a combination of poor decisions and debts that many young people chain themselves with.  At the time modest homes in the Denver metro area were in the 225k range.  Lenders were more than happy to give us the money but I knew that we never would be able to make the payments on such a big loan.

We lived in Colorado but strangely enough we chose Michigan as the place to vacation.  My wife Cheryl and I came to really enjoy these trips.  It was a reprieve from the traffic and general hustle and bustle of the city.  I also also enjoyed the escape from my job; obviously law enforcement is a stressful field.  Cheryl and I started entertaining the idea of moving to Michigan.  But ultimately my career and the presence of my wife’s family in Colorado won out and we decided to stay put.  It had taken me two years to get where I was at the Sheriff’s office and I wasn’t ready to let that go.  

Instead we moved to a little town outside of the metro area where I was able to find a home that was affordable and we settled in.  I was stuck in the belief that the ‘American Dream’ was a home in a subdivision and commuting to work, paying my taxes, voting, and paying bills.  The funny thing I found about dreams is that they can rapidly become nightmares.  

Cheryl and I slowly became interested in homesteading.  It started with the gateway homesteading skill of canning.  The next thing you know we had chickens and we poured over homesteading and gardening books. Cheryl desperately tried to transform plots in our backyard into productive sources of sustenance.  Most efforts fell flat due to the poor soil and Colorado’s austere climate.  Every year on our annual vacations we stared in envy at the green fields of Michigan, wishing we had the same soil and the seemingly endless supply of water.  

As the years wore on so wore the glamour of Colorado.  I had come to resent the keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle, where someone’s worth is measured in their home’s square footage or the car they keep in the driveway.  It’s the land of home owners associations, and soulless subdivisions bought up by people without the means to afford them.  In some ways I guess I started my path of disconnection.  I saw what modern society had for me and I didn’t like it.  All it promised me was that I would spend the majority of my life trying to impress people who didn’t matter.  

 Don’t get me wrong, I have many found memories of Colorado.  I simply grew out of what it had to offer me and my family.  What I realized that night in April, was that waiting until I was 65 years old to live the life I wanted wasn’t acceptable.  I abandoned my life in Colorado and so far I have no regrets.  Sometimes I miss police work, but I understand that some sacrifices were necessary.  Today I’m living the life I want on my own terms and providing my family with all of the things they need.  I found a niche professionally where my background helps and I still get to play.  My advice to anyone considering leaving the rat race behind is to stop talking, stop banging your head on the wall and start riding the tiger.