Friday, September 29, 2017

Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Conference 2017

2017 Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Conference Review- 
Day 1
I thoroughly enjoyed Rob's updates and explanation of the state of CFS,USCCA and other ventures. Its always good to communicate several levels down so everyone knows what is going on. Not to be too military about it but knowing the "Commanders Intent" is key for an organization to be successful. I think ICE does a good job in getting that message out. 
Day 2
The DFC update and discussion and chance to revisit concepts and drills from CFC where solid gold for me. Day 2 was probably the day I got the most value from. I definitely liked the ability to bounce ideas off other instructors and solidify or validate my instruction in the Carbine. Day 2 was a success
Day 3.
While not as satisfying as day 2 , Day 3 was also a success for me. Continuing on with discussion of DFC concepts showcased what ICE is exceptional at. That is evolving and employing best practices. There was some very worthwhile and sometimes heated discussion but ultimately agreement on the path we should follow. It is always good to see folks passionate about a subject exhibit that passion. I was also given a chance to do some instruction on medical considerations on the range. I hope folks found that useful as besides firearms instruction, medical skills for the public is something I am also very very passionate about myself.
Day 4
Was somewhat of a wrap up. I got exposed to the Two Person Armed Defense curriculum which was fun and also informative. The debrief was very productive. Again I appreciate the intellectual honesty exhibited by the senior staff. They don't just talk the talk but they walk the walk when it comes to addressing concerns or taking compliments. The debrief is not just a formality but a thorough and sincere attempt to keep the program moving forward. I appreciate that, it is that attitude that sets us apart from other established programs. I also got the opportunity to film an impromptu video segment for PDN. Wether it airs or not it was a good experience.
If time and circumstances allow I will probably attend CFSIC 18 as the overall experience at CFSIC 17 turned out positive and valuable.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Its been 16 years. A day that changed the history of our country. Never Forget

Friday, August 25, 2017


Image result for special forces assessment and selection (sfas)
I was on a closed Facebook Group I belong to the other day and another member posted a picture of excavating equipment tearing down the berm walls of the old rifle range at Camp Mackall NC. Camp Mackall was a very busy auxiliary base of Fort Bragg during WWII and housed 3 Airborne Divisions. Its claim to fame since then is that it is the location for various parts of  the US Army Special Forces Training. SERE,SFQC and the Special Forces Selection and Assessment Course are all held, at least in part at Mackall.

And this is why that picture had such an impact on me. It was like seeing your childhood home or your elementary school demolished. Nostalgic and sad. That rifle range was the location for an event in my life that I will never forget. When my life flashes before my eyes I will see this moment. In 1990 I was a Ranger Qualified E5 Sgt from the 10th Mountain Division trying to make the big leagues. I had already survived the land navigation/PT portion of Selection and had moved on to "Team Week." During Team Week candidates were grouped into small units of 10-15 and given tasks that seemed insurmountable. Usually these tasks involved moving something heavy over long distances. 

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Candidates carried,pushed,pulled or dragged these items for unspecified distances for an unknown length of time. At all times the candidates also carried the proscribed packing list of at least 50 lbs in a large ALICE pack and a "rubber duck" replica of an M16 rifle. To be out of arms reach of these items at anytime were grounds for dismissal. For each task a Team Leader was chosen. The Team Leader was supposed to organize the team and accomplish the task as efficiently as possible. Since no standard other than "Do your best" was ever given everything was done at maximum velocity in fear that the standard would not be met. Of course the Cadre were looking for those that could work as a team under physical and mental stress. They were also looking for those that folded under pressure and didn't shoulder their fair share of the burden. They were looking for those that bickered and did not pitch in. Those individuals would be weeded out before they ever got to a team room.

So that brings me to the "SandBabies". The task was simple, move an unspecified number of sandbags up and over the steep side berms of three rifle bays to the other side of the range complex. The berms were probably 20-25 feet high mounds of dirt. They were steep and time had covered them with grass and trees. Something like this:

Image result for rifle range berms
We had to fill the sandbags until there was no more than a fist of space between the sand and the top of the bag. A few entrenching tools and a pile of sand were provided on one side of the range complex. We needed to move sandbags quickly and efficiently to the other side. If they were not full enough we were to carry them all back, dump them out and start over. We started with a team of 13.

Initially I filled 4-5 sandbags and threw 2-3 on my ruck and carried one in each hand. Up and over the first berm and my heart was in my throat. This was going to suck. Down the other side, a crossed the adjacent range and over the next berm and the next and the next until we came to the other side and placed the sandbags on the ground at the Cadre's feet. Not full enough take them back. Back a crossed the berms to the other side were the bag were dumped out and refilled. So it went for what felt like an eternity. Honestly I still don't know how long we moved these sandbabies but it was hours at the very least. Back and forth sometimes we were allowed to drop our bags and trudge back over the berms with just our ruck and weapons. Quite often though we were sent back to dump them out and try again. Always we had the spectre of the "standard" looming over our head. Were we to slow? Not enough sandbags? When could we stop?

Sometime over this course of this torture by sandbaby we were told that 3 of our fellow team mates had DRO ( dropped on request). They had quit. The standard was the standard however. We still had that unknown time to move that unknown number of bags from point A to point B. Being 3 men short was irrelevant to the mission. Over the minutes and hours. My shoulders,hands and legs cramped. I negotiated with myself numerous times that quitting wouldn't be so bad. I could go back to my unit and just ease into my old squad leader job. Things would be good. I would quit at the next opportunity. But when those opportunities came I talked myself into just going for one more trip. Just one more, that was it, then I would quit.

Trip after trip, time became a blur. A blur that is seared in my mind. I can still smell the leaves and pine needles. I can still see the sun blinding me as I looked skyward in an attempt to reposition my rucksack.  4 months  prior to Selection I had undergone tendon surgery on my left hand. It had not fully healed and was betraying me when I needed it most. I could no longer carry a full sandbag with that hand. It was reduced to balancing the bags a crossed my back. And I was forced to carry 4-5 sandbags on top of my rucksack to make up the difference.

And then it was over. As I dropped my load of sandbags, Cadre told me to join the others against the treeline. I wobbled over to the break area pulled out a Meal Ready to Eat and did the rucksack flop with my teammates. Ham Slice had never tasted so good. We ate quickly and re-hydrated, the next task and new Team Leader would be assigned soon.

They can tear it down but the old rifle range will always be part of my life. 

CVO Gun Talk Episode 020

Friday, August 4, 2017

Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT)

Image result for Alerrt photos

I was recently afforded the opportunity to attend the two day 16 hour ALERRT course with some other officers from the department I am a Reserve Officer for. ALERRT advertises itself as the "National Standard" for law enforcement response to active shooter situations. 

The instructors were experienced LEO from departments in LA,TX and IA. They all had SWAT or tactical team backgrounds however this is not a tac team course. ALERRT is for the patrol officer that may respond to an incident of this type and often may work with 1 or 2 other officers with whom they have never trained . There is a potential for even a single officer to engage. The context was very appropriate to my situation, as my department is small with only a few officer's on duty at one time. Our back up potentially could be delayed based upon geography.

I won't go into specifics of training as this class was for LEO only. I want to talk about my impressions however. On day 1 our head instructor made a statement which instantly won my respect. He stated that ( I am paraphrasing) "LEO are not adequately trained." My first thought was YUSH!!! I am on the same sheet of music here!! I have long maintained that many LEO and more specifically anyone who carries a firearm for self defense do not take training seriously enough. There is a responsibility we have to the community to be the best trained individual we can be. And not just with our weapon. We need to be familiar with  pre assault cues, grappling, trauma management, communications, de escalation, physical fitness and a myriad of other subjects. We need to continue to advance our abilities without the attitude "They aren't paying me" or " It won't happen here". It is unfathomable to me why this class did not have a waiting list. It wasn't even completely full and that is a problem that needs to be corrected.  I will make mention however that my department had the single biggest contingent and we acquitted ourselves well during the training. 

This course also validated many other things that I teach during my own instruction. Although if I didn't believe in it I wouldn't be teaching it, it is satisfying to get independent validation. Primarily how the body reacts under stress and how these reactions affect our ability to engage a threat. For instance I teach kinethestic alignment of the shooter and the fact that you will not need your sights or find them particularly interesting when the threat is inside 9-15 feet. This point was validated when during a room clearing sequence I was ambushed by an unexpected second gunman. I recall lowering my center of gravity, squaring towards the threat, punching my weapon out until it stopped and pulling the trigger as fast as I could. What I don't recall is ever looking at my sights. I was looking at the chest of the gunman as they fired back, my weapon was vaguely in my line of sight somewhere between us. I achieved 3 center mass hits acrossed a standard class room. This information was extremely valuable to me. 

I enjoyed this course and am glad I had the opportunity to go. Any of my LEO friends that haven't gone need to get themselves to the next available course

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thanks Iowa City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Here is a note I posted to the student group at the BJJ Academy I train at
Tonight marked the start of my second year training at ICBJJ. Doesn't seem like it has been that long. I started training for purely selfish reasons. I had a hole in my self defense plan. I have always been a gun guy, I whole heartedly think every one should know how to manage basic trauma but I hadn't done any close contact training for years. Contrary to popular belief Green Berets don't get taught special ninja shit. You learn basic hand to hand techniques and move on. Anyway I digress. I tried Krav Maga for a year but even though they claim to be realistic when I tried the techniques against a motivated attacker they were not effective. ICBJJ was recommended to me through a circle of common friends. My first few months were a blur as nothing seemed to sink in. I still struggle chaining moves together and often find myself in the middle of a roll trying to remember that one move we learned that would be perfect for this situation and failing. But in the last year I have met some great, open, friendly and committed people. ICBJJ is truly a place you can safely fail with no judgement. It is only through putting yourself in uncomfortable positions that you harden your will and cultivate mindset. I just want to thank you all for kicking my butt. Smash,pass,mount choke it's that simple

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

MAG 20 6.24-25.2017

This past weekend I attended Massad Ayoob's MAG 20 Armed Citizens Rules of Engagement. Take some time to read Mas's bio. I won't repeat it here but he is the foremost expert on civilian use of force and self defense shootings in the United States. He has 43 years of LEO experience and expert witness testimony. He has also written several authoritative texts on the the subject. I have been trying to attend this course for several years so was glad I finally had the opportunity

MAG20 stands for Massad Ayoob Group 20 hours. This course was all of 20 hours. 10 hour days with 10 minute breaks after every block. Lunches were working affairs eating with one hand and taking notes with the other. It was definitely a grind. I wrote at least 20 pages of notes over the two day course. 

There were about 15 people in the class from all walks of life. I won't get into specifics of the course as much of it is proprietary and I don't want to inadvertently post something I shouldn't. I will say however there was lots of information that will take some time to digest and I will definitely need to reread my notes to aid in my comprehension.

Mas is not considered the Subject Matter Expert on this for nothing. He constantly interjected cases by name to illustrate his points. Looking up and researching all of them will be a class in itself. If you carry a gun or anything else to defend yourself or others if needed, you would be negligent not to get this information.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Advanced Pistol Handling 6.22.17

As part 3 of my personal June 2017 training tour and my second Personal Defense Network Training Tour course for the year I attended Advanced Pistol Handling taught by Jamie Onion. I previously attended this course in September 2015 and wrote about it here. From experience both teaching and attending I.C.E. courses in the past I knew that no two classes were alike and the curriculum was based on student ability and application of skill so taking the course again would be like taking a course that was more than likely different than the previous iteration.

The day was perfect for training and the class was small. Four of us attended and as one student said it was almost like one on one instruction. The day would show that none of us were novice shooters. We progressed quickly through the standard Combat Focus Shooting drills of Extend-Touch-Press, Up Drill, The Balance of Speed and Precision, and Presentation From The Holster. Lateral Movement and Assessment were added in fairly quickly as well as Multiple Target Engagements. All this took roughly an hour with adequate break time to hydrate and reload magazines.

After every one established basic competence we moved on to multiple unorthodox shooting positions. Knowing what I know I brought some knee pads as my left knee was recovering from a previous injury. We shot from kneeling, sitting, prone , supine facing the target and suping facing away from the target. We incorporated assessment and presentation from the holster in all positions. As Jamie said the context was not that these were good shooting positions, but that you can not guarantee what position you will be in when you shoot and this course was about exposure to these unorthodox positions. From every position we would work our way back to our feet. Reloads were done in context as the stimulus of slide lock was experienced. We then conducted a "flow drill" where we moved continually through every position and reacted appropriately when given the stimulus to do so. I paced myself and moved slow and my knee held up fairly well although it did bark at me a bit. After the Flow Drill we did some strong hand shooting with strong hand only reloads.

We then took a lunch break and after lunch we came back and warmed up with another session of BoSP. We continued with strong hand reloads and then moved to weak hand shooting and weak hand only reloads. These drills reminded me that I probably need to rethink my reload placement. The chances of a CCW holder needing to reload is small and the chance you will do it weak handed only even smaller but Primary,Alternate, Contingency, Emergency is the way I live my life.

About this time it started to pour rain and flash lighting. So we moved inside for about 30 minutes and continued to work on some unorthodox positions dry fire. After the rain was done we went back outside and moved back to the 75 yard  line and did some work from 3 different positions firing at extreme distances. My best hit ratio was actually from my normal kinesthetically aligned stance. I hit the target 4 out of 5 shots.

We then moved up to more probable self defense distances and practiced malfunction clearing using the Non Diagnostic Linear Malfunction method. This method shows that you don't have to look at your gun to clear a malfunction or reload. The method is as follows. Once you recognize the stimulus of a malfunction you Tap ( the magazine) Rack (the slide), if that doesn't resolve the issue you Reload, If that doesn't work you Lock ( the slide to the rear),Rip ( the magazine), Clear (by racking the slide several times) and Reload again. We ran this drill blindfolded and strong side only. The blindfold was very effective and disorienting. I feel like I did adequately during the drill and dealt with all malfunctions correctly. I forgot to mention malfunctions were induced by randomly placing expended brass in the magazine amongst the other ammunition. We all had to reload and/or correct malfunctions at least 3 times during the drill.

Lastly we worked positions from our knees and chairs so we could transition to drawing and firing in a vehicle both weak and strong side. Once we had the techniques down we fired individually from a vehicle and exited the vehicle seeking cover after unseatbelting. 

The day as always was concluded with a good debrief that gave you the chance to make comments or ask questions. I had another good day. Found some things I need to improve on and reinforced some skills that I needed to reinforce. Looking forward to the next time Jamie is in town. 

Armed Defense Around Vehicles

My own personal training tour for the month of June 2017 continued with the Armed Defense Around Vehicles Course taught by Rob Pincus. This course was part of the 2017 Personal Defense Network Tour. I try to catch a PDN Tour event every year when they come to Iowa. This course was not a skill development course per se but a science experiment in ballistics.

This course was designed to show the effects or lack of effect of different ammunition and firearms on a typical automobile. Throughout the day we fired handguns in 9mm, .40 and ,45 as well as Rifles in 5.56, .308 and .300 Blackout. 12 ga slugs and 00 Buck was also used.

Initially we fired through the windshield from the interior to show the deflection or the "inconsistent predictability" of rounds as they exited. I found that you could with a certain degree of accuracy at least guess where a round may go initially. There were always outliers and WTF moments however.

Next we attempted to skip rounds off the hood of the vehicle to explore the different angle and trajectories this produced.

We moved on to shooting different portions of the vehicle exterior with the above mentioned rounds to test penetration. After every round the interior of the vehicle was disassembled to attempt to track the bullet path. We discussed loss of momentum,spalling and probability of penetration. What I learned was you could assume the vehicle was cover for a bad guy and assume it was not cover for you.

We talked about the results as they related to not "crowding your cover" and other tactics. We learned the best places to obtain cover using a vehicle and what areas may only afford concealment. I learned a huge lesson about what ball and hollow point ammunition can accomplish as well as typical rifle cartridges. The day went by quickly and time was well spent.


As a bonus at the end of the day I got to shoot the new PD10 prototype from  Avidity Arms. Sweet gun. Single stack 9mm designed with all the defensive bells and whistles we advocate in the Combat Focus Shooting Program. Check the course out if you get a chance


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Extreme Close Quarters Concepts

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Extreme Close Quarters Concepts class taught by Craig Douglas AKA SouthNarc. I have been wanting to attend this class for two years and finally my schedule worked out. Mr. Douglas did not disappoint. First I want to say Craig Douglas is a class act. Knowledgeable,professional but encouraging and approachable. That's a great mixture for an instructor. ECQC is described thusly at the Shivworks website:

The Shivworks Extreme Close Quarters Concepts (ECQC) course is a two-and-a-half-day (20 hour) block of instruction that offers a multi-disciplinary approach to building functional,combative handgun skills at zero to five feet. The course is designed to instill core concepts of seamless integration and provide a platform for aggressive problem solving during a life or death struggle at arm's length or closer. We emphasize the common body mechanics that apply across different skill sets. That way, all combative software is reinforcing. Once student skills sets are ingrained, they will be stress inoculated with force on force drill using marking cartridges and protective equipment.

The course was being held at a large range complex west of Faribault Mn. It was about a 4 hour drive from where I live in Iowa and I planned on car camping at the range. The first half day started on Friday evening so I left about 1200 to drive up and make the 1800 start time. Upon arrival I checked in and waited. Shortly after my arrival others joined me. Craig showed up shortly before 1800. There was another pleasant surprise as my friend Michael Anderson of Shoot The Gun  would be co instructing. I have helped Mike as a role player during his phenomenal Landing The Plane course on multiple occasions and knew him to be a top notch instructor.

The first evening was devoted to developing our skills in managing unknown contacts, Due to previous reading and courses such as Landing the Plane I was familiar with many of the techniques but putting them into practice was not always as easy as expected. Craig said our goal was to remain on our feet and remain conscious. De escalation and avoiding confrontation are very necessary skills to accomplish this mission. We also talked about body positioning. One of the drills we had to do was, from what I gathered, a right of passage in this course. I gather this, because out of all my friends and acquaintances that have taken this coursework not one person mentioned it! This drill was called the Billy Goat drill. The purpose was simple, go forehead to forehead with another student and using only the leverage from your head gain a dominant position. This will definitely teach you balance and squaring up your base. The other thing it does is give you a large raw spot that turns into a huge scab on your forehead. I will be wearing a lot of hats the next few weeks.

Day 1 ended about 2200 and I retired to my Jeep to sleep until the 0800 showtime next day.

After a decent yet hot night of sleep I woke up and brewed some instant coffee and ate a few PBJ for breakfast. Day 2 would start with range work.

We spent the morning shooting in close proximity to the target. We worked on the adaptive presentation of the firearm. The thumb pectoral index and appropriate extension based on distance from our attacker. The drills enforced the need to not "float the gun" and to place shots relative to our distance from the target.

The afternoon consisted of the unarmed skills and in fight weapons access. Craig uses wrestling and jiu jitsu as the "operating system" for this instruction. As I am familiar with both I felt I caught on to the material well during this phase. We talked about and drilled, under/overhooks, wrist/bicep ties and infight weapons access. The afternoon was incredibly hot and very physical. We took frequent short breaks for water. Despite this we had one gentleman that dropped from the course due to heat related issues. At the end of the day we experienced our first "EVO". These are designed to pressure test the techniques learned in a force on force environment. Despite my comfort with the material I found putting it into action against a motivated attacker half my age was not easy. This EVO was very instructive in showing me what I can expect to accomplish in an environment such as this. If you don't want to rely on magic fairy dust and rainbows you need this kind of pressure to validate your techniques and choices.  I retired to my spacious accommodations tired and sore at the end of the 11 hour day.


Day 3 dawned bright and early for another range session. We worked on Vertical and Horizontal shields. These reminding me of my training in Krav Maga. We also incorporated techniques from the day before in a more fluid fashion.

In the afternoon we worked weapons disarms and retention. We culminated the day with some 2 vs 1 Evos, which required you to combine all the elements of MUC and the techniques we had learned earlier. These were not scripted and turned out how they turned out. Some ended in gunfights some ended in wrestling matches. Some like mine ended peaceably. At the end of the day we used a vehicle as a platform to use these techniques in a cube or restricted environment.


A thorough debrief was conducted with Craig thanking each and every student for their attention and attendance..classy. Here is what I took away from this course:

1. I will definitely attend again at my earliest opportunity and will recommend to others. If you carry a gun or any other tool for self defense this training is essential.

2. Accessing weapons during a fight isn't as easy as it sounds. I got exactly one shot off during my evos. Timing is everything. If you are someone that counts on that gun as a magic talisman then when you are denied its use what will you do?

3. You need to train until you can fight and problem solve at the same time

4. There are some great people in this world that take responsibility for their own safety. So be nice to people you never know who can kick your ass. 

5. Never camp in MN in June. I am springing for a hotel next time

There ya have it. Get to a Craig Douglas class if you can.