Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part IV, The Reload

There are a number of different ways to perform a reload, and a number of different reload “types” that people perform.  Administrative reloads, speed reloads, emergency reloads, tactical reloads, reload-with-retention, slide-closed emergency reloads…

…in the end, they are all about getting ammo back in the gun and being able to shoot it again as fast as possible.  (Well, except for the admin reload. We are going to ignore that, however.)

There are already a number of videos out there that show how to perform various types of reloads, and we don’t need another one.  Instead, as is normal in this series, this video will talk about some of the most common errors people commit in their reloads, and show you how to fix them.

Don’t forget to keep your finger pinned to the frame or slide while performing your reload, and don’t put it back into the trigger guard until you have the gun pointing on target and you plan to fire.  Even if you screw everything else up, get the safety part correct.

Oh–and don’t reload sideways.  STAHP.

DON'T DO THIS!

DON’T DO THIS!

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Gun Defenses and Disarms

I recently participated in a discussion regarding gun defenses, which started from a video by Polenar Tactical regarding how little it takes to cause a handgun’s slide to not function correctly.  It surprised me that many people didn’t know how easy it is to cause the slide of a semi-auto to not cycle correctly.  Merely putting a thumb on the rear of the slide is enough to stop the slide, and no, it doesn’t hurt your hand at all.

It led into a discussion about (after off-lining the gun) what to do when defending against a firearm:  perform a disarm at distance, use the body to control the gun, or enter while jamming.  For awhile at the beginning, there was some discussion as we all attempted to make sure we understood exactly what the other person meant by phrases like “jam the gun” or “use the body to control the gun.”  (Which was good, actually, because sometimes in discussions like that people don’t bother to make sure they are all talking about the same thing, and it goes downhill from there.)

It caught my attention a bit during the discussion about whether or not it was a good idea to close with the attacker and jam the gun, primarily because in my experience (which is limited to observations of training and force-on-force evolutions, not people actually being shot because having a large amount of experience at this is something I don’t want to gather) whether or not the defender should close is often highly based on the relative sizes of the attacker and defender.

Another way of saying that is if the attacker is bigger than you, closing with him isn’t a good idea unless you have no other choice.

Now–opinions vary on this.  Other people in the discussion had closing/jamming being their primary reaction.  (My response was “I bet you are a pretty big guy” because that would be an excellent choice for a big guy, though not necessarily for others.)

Here’s a little video showing the various conceptual choices you have regarding gun defenses.  In general, you can offline the gun and move outside, move inside, or you can offline the gun upward.  After that, you can perform a disarm/attack at distance, you can use your body to control the gun at distance, or you can close/jam the attacker.  Effectively, pretty much every gun defense (that doesn’t include weapons) is one of those things.

The video doesn’t include what to do after those points, and it definitely doesn’t include information about how to offline the gun in the first place.  You want to know how to get the attacker to miss the fact that you are removing yourself from harm’s way?  How to mis-align the attacker’s weapon so you don’t get shot?  Take a class.  Making it clear how to do that in public seems a great way to educate attackers, and I don’t really see a need for that.

The point of the video is to understand the common choices of entry, and then the pros and cons of the various followup ideas that are possible from that point–and there are certainly strengths and weaknesses for each.

In the video, I didn’t discuss at all what you can do with weapons of your own–such as having a gun and the ability to draw it quickly one handed for close-range shooting or having a quick-access blade for close-quarter work–because that changes things significantly.  It doesn’t make “not getting shot immediately” any easier, nor does it automatically make you safe or let you “win” if you think about it in that fashion.

But it does give you more choices.  For example, if you are moving in close to jam the gun, stopping the other person quickly isn’t easy to do, and you BOTH are effectively equal in terms of capabilities at that range, depending on your relative size.  If, however, you have a knife in hand, ANY strike you do can be significant. (That isn’t the same as debilitating, though.) Similarly, if you are able to jam the other person and simultaneously draw your own firearm and place shots into the attacker, that’s a big deal.

In those last two cases, size isn’t nearly as important a factor as it would be if you didn’t have a self-defense tool (read:  weapon) available to you.

There’s a lot of gun disarm/gun defense videos out there.  Many are pretty cool looking, some have solid technique.  Unfortunately, many are also pure nonsense in terms of actual effectiveness, much of which is because the technique itself is Hollywood-style crap that looks good but only works against someone who isn’t actually resisting.

When looking at gun defenses, bear in mind:

  • If the offline doesn’t work, you are dead.  It has to work against a resisting attacker.  The cool-looking gun strip at the end means nothing if you’ve already been shot in the face getting your hands on the gun.
  • If the technique is a distance disarm using arm strength that won’t work against someone who resists and can move, then it isn’t a good technique.
  • If the technique is a body-on-body gun jam that requires you to incapacitate the attacker while jamming the gun, then body size WILL make a difference unless you are lucky or catch the opponent by surprise.  (Because after that point in time your attacker has just as much chance to making a debilitating strike as you do at that range.)
  • If the guy teaching the technique won’t ever show you what it looks like versus an active attacker using a gas AirSoft gun and face/throat protection (or something similar, even a laser designator), he doesn’t think it’s any good either.
  • Different techniques are most effective for different people.  All techniques will not work equally for everyone.  Make sure you understand which ones fit your strengths best–and which ones you only try if you HAVE to do so.

Take this picture shown below, for example.  This is a promo picture from a certain training school/organization specifically for a gun defense seminar–and yet, looking at it (as a static picture, maybe a video would be better but I doubt it) it seems to violate several important things.  The direction of the gun is not controlled–the attacker can turn their wrist fairly easily as you can’t clamp very hard that way.  If the elbow strike by the defender is not significant, then the attacker is not particularly off-balance and the situation will effectively be on an even footing–except he has a gun that you don’t control, and he does.

What is stopping the attacker from simply turning his hand and shooting you?  Even by mistake?

What is stopping the attacker from simply turning his hand and shooting you? Even by mistake?

I realize that the picture makes it look as it the attackers are off-balance, but that is completely a function of the elbow strike.  If the elbow strike doesn’t work, is blocked, jammed, or off-target, the off-balance will not happen from that technique.  Stepping in, binding the arm but not the weapon, and relying on a striking technique to stop the attacker sufficiently so that even by mistake he doesn’t turn the gun into you and fire is just NOT A GOOD IDEA.

How about this picture?

Yes, because gun attacks look exactly like this.

Yes, because gun attacks look exactly like this.

Oddly enough, even though this picture by itself contains much contrived “let’s make it easy on the instructor by being completely non-realistic” derp, the YouTube video it comes from is actually not bad, and is one of the few I’ve seen that does a good job of describing how to make an upward offline technique work.  However, it still is a low-percentage technique for offlining in the first place–even though it LOOKS like it works really well in the video, it only looks good  because the gun is pointed so high in the first place that merely hunching the head down is sufficient to take it offline, and apparently no attacker ever pulls the gun downward by jerking the trigger.  (I’ll also note that the technique as taught piece-by-piece isn’t the technique the instructor uses at speed.)

Practicing versus a partner who is just holding the gun out is necessary in the beginning, as you need to practice the specifics of the technique in the beginning.  However, once that is solid, a GOOD instructor will have the students start training with increasing levels of resistance–and perhaps set up verbal interactions also.  However, since many schools/instructors don’t do this, many students are convinced that their techniques will work even if they have been taught poor technique.   As I said, if the guy teaching the technique won’t ever demonstrate it in a force-on-force situation where there is an actual consequence for failure (and gas AirSoft guns STING like you wouldn’t believe), then that’s a Bad Sign.

Force-on-force testing is a wonderful thing.  Failing a force-on-force test doesn’t automatically mean the technique is bad—nothing is foolproof, and you may well be doing it wrong.  However, if someone can easily shoot the instructor repeatedly, well…

….quit listening to that instructor.  He’s going to get you killed.

“Instructor Bob teaches a great class!”

Periodically on the web (whether on Facebook groups or internet forums) someone asks the dreaded question:  “Anyone know a good [various-firearm-topic] instructor around here?”  (It is just as much fun as when someone on a gun forum/facebook group asks “What gun should I buy?“)

…after which tons of people chime in with their favorite local guy.  Often, said chiming includes comments like “class was fantastic,” “learned so much,” “best instructor around,” “an awesome instructor who cares about his students needs,” and “they’re good people and know their stuff.

The question is, why are you trusting these people’s opinions?  Do you know them?  Are they knowledgeable about the topic, enough to be able to tell the difference between a good instructor and a bad one?  Have they had previous classes to compare to this new one?

Or is their opinion based merely on the fact that they enjoyed the class, or that it seemed really high-speed/low-drag, and it was cool?  Or that the instructor was really nice and personable?  He/she was convincing?  They had a really good line of talk?

How do you know that what you learned in the class was decent?  Was correct?  Was relevant?

Lately I’ve seen several unrelated people (I assume unrelated?) tout firearms training classes for a local group that is known to be unsafe.  Not merely slightly unsafe, but “not wearing shooting glasses while standing in front of the line as people are shooting” unsafe.

Actual “people pointing guns at each other’s heads in the classroom during dryfire practice” unsafe.

People are saying “These were great classes, the instructors are really knowledgeable, great material, learned a ton!” about these classes–and I think that from a safety perspective it is the worst class I’ve ever seen.  I have no idea what was taught in terms of technique (though from some of the shooting stances shown in their website’s photo gallery, I’m thinking they don’t teach anything well) but if it was on par with their safety training, I expect that their students will be missing the target by miles and shooting each other every time they are at the range.

If a person has nothing to compare it to, if they have no prior experience or information basis–then their opinion really doesn’t tell you anything other than whether or not the class was fun and they liked the instructor.

While those things are important, what is MORE important is whether or not the class curriculum, and the ability for the students to learn the curriculum, was any good.  Was it realistic?  Correct?  Based on facts, not opinion?  Taught in such a way that the student could internalize the knowledge and retain (and perform) the techniques?

“He teaches a great CCW class—I learned so much about shooting!”

…really?  In Nebraska, at least, what you should learn MOST in the state-required CCW class is about the LAW, specifically regarding use of force.  The class itself only covers the most basic elements of actual shooting technique–and if you only spend 6 hours on the whole class, you don’t have time to teach much more shooting technique than the basics if you want to do a good job covering the curriculum you are required to teach.

So the person may have enjoyed the class, and learned a ton of stuff–but was it the material they were supposed to learn?  Was it the material they actually paid to learn?

When asking other people for opinions regarding instructors, take pretty much everything with a SERIOUS grain of salt.  (Or more.  Like “the Dead Sea” more.)  You should pay most attention to people who have experience in classes of this type, with experience and information about the topic being taught.

The following picture was used as part of a slideshow on the CNN website about teachers who were taking CCW classes to potentially be armed in the classroom.

Poor Teaching Happened Here!

Poor Teaching Happened Here!

Considering the grip she is using, would any knowledgeable shooter think that the class she just took was any good?  Obviously not.  But I’d bet (considering this was her idea of a good pose for a picture after the class) that she’d say it was a great class.

You shouldn’t pay attention to people who gush “It was great!  I loved it!” because WHO KNOWS what that opinion is based upon.

And, of course, my personal favorite:  “This class was taught by the best instructor in the area!”  Really?  You’ve taken classes with every instructor in the area?  You actually have the basis for that comparison?  Have you even taken more than one class?

People who say stuff like that?  Please stop, at least until you have enough knowledge to make a comparison to a class that had a good curriculum and was competently taught.

People who are reading stuff like that?  You are going to want to disregard those, and look for after-action reports or class evaluations from people who actually know what they are talking about.

Fundamental Gun Handling Videos: Part III, Safe Gun Handling

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day.  My friend is a USPSA Chief Range Officer, and over the course of her time as an RO and CRO, she has run literally thousands of shooters through various courses of fire.

She said something that I agree with completely:  “Within a few seconds of them drawing their gun from the holster at Make Ready [when the competitor can draw their firearm, make ready, and prepare to start the course of fire], I already know how good they are going to be–and how safe they are going to be.”

Pretty much every experienced range officer in the action shooting sports will say the same things—the minute you touch your firearm, we can see what sort of gun handling safety habits you practice.

Or don’t practice, as sometimes is the case.gun-safety-training-stupid-gun-safety-training-demotivational-poster-1266003554Hence, this video:  the third in the series of Fundamental Gun Handling Skills, this time on SAFE GUN HANDLING.

I originally made myself a couple of notes about the four main things I wanted people to work on for safe gun handling, got in front of the camera, took some video, went home and edited it–and realized the video was almost 20 minutes long.  The more I talked, the more I remembered safety issues and EXCUSES I’ve heard over time from people attempting to justify their unsafe actions.

  • “This is the way I was trained!”
  • “It isn’t loaded!”
  • “It wasn’t really pointing at you!”
  • “I haven’t had any trouble doing that before.”
  • “No one ever said it was a problem!”
  • “My finger was off the trigger!”

…and of course my all-time favorite (and yes, I’ve actually heard this one) “I know what I’m doing, this is REAL self-defense training.”

I don’t know about you, but I consider self-defense training “real” when it also teaches me to NOT SHOOT MYSELF.

So I went back to the studio and tried to just pick the main things, the most important things, the things that will hopefully make the MOST difference in terms of safety.  And I managed to get the video down to 10 minutes.  It still is pretty long for a YouTube video with some guy just standing there talking at you, so I’m pretty sure most of the people who really need to watch it (and take it to heart) probably won’t do so.

But I tried.  So here it is.  It isn’t everything you should do, there are plenty of other things I could have said, plenty of other habits of good practice I could have included—but I tried.

Make safe gun handling something you do automatically, all the time, without fail.  Make it such a habit that if you do something UNsafe, it will feel strange and wrong, and you won’t like doing it.  That way, under stress when your brain isn’t working right—you WON’T do it wrong.

 

There is so much more we could say.  But if nothing else, if people would just keep control of the gun with their strong hand, keep their finger pinned to the frame/slide when not actively shooting, and control their muzzle, that would be GREAT.

ALL THE TIME.

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