Measuring long-term performance increases…

People who actually want to get better at shooting, AND have the self-discipline to put in the work, find pretty quickly that if they never shoot any diagnostic drills then they have no idea what they are good or bad at, which means they don’t really know what they should be working on.

It is really temping to just work on the things that you think are “fun” — but chances are, those things are both easy and also are things you are already good at.  Sure, doing that (and getting even better) isn’t a bad thing–but if that is all you do, you simply aren’t going to get much better overall.

It is important to understand where you are with regard to basic shooting skills, so you can work on removing weaknesses, and increasing overall skills.  There are a number of drill descriptions on the Internet that do a good job of being diagnostic–in other words, they allow you to rate your ability at certain skills.  Now, it is important to pick the diagnostic drills that monitor and rate the skills that are most important for you.  If most of your needs are for concealed carry defensive skills, using the 500-point bullseye test as a diagnostic isn’t going to be very helpful, or at least it isn’t going to be testing skills that are as important to you as a different drill might.

(That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do that drill once or twice sometime, because it’ll tell you something about a particular set of skills.  BUT….it is a much lower priority than other skills for your particular situation.)

So the first thing is to look at your main reason for having a gun.  Competition?  Concealed carry?  Bullseye precision?  What exactly is the most important thing you will need to do with your gun?

Once you have that, then you can figure out what specific skills are the ones you need to prioritize in terms of becoming competent, (and later, hopefully expert).

Here’s three good, short diagnostic drills, along with a list (in some cases, partial list) what skills they test.  This list is primarily focused on physical shooting skills that should probably be priorities in terms of skill-building for self-defense purposes.

  • Hackathorn 3-Second Head Shot Standards
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, accuracy at speed, accuracy under known time pressure, transitions
  • F.A.S.T.
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, accuracy at speed, appropriate speed for low-percentage versus high-percentage targets, slidelock (emergency) reload, shot after reload
  • 10 Round Assault Course
    Skills tested:  Draw to first shot, precision accuracy at distance, accuracy at speed, shot after movement, shooting while moving

Some reasons I like those three:

  1. None of them take very many rounds, or much time.
  2. You get only one chance to do it right, and you can’t fix mistakes you make.  There are no makeup shots, and no fixing errors.  Either you do it right, or it shows.
  3. Every single one puts you under time pressure of some sort.  Now, this isn’t important if your main focus is bullseye accuracy–you should be using different diagnostics for that.  But for a self-defense or competition focus, time is ALWAYS important.  Diagnostics that don’t include time pressure are ignoring an element of  primary importance for those foci. (And these three drills all include time pressure in different ways.)

Recently, Rob Pincus has continued his crusade to have people stop getting better at shooting skills by again claiming that using timers (and other tools used for actual skill-rating metrics) isn’t useful and will actually make you worse.

This, of course, is belied by the knowledge that every teacher/instructor/trainer of any physical skill knows, which is that if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work, you can’t actually get better in an efficient fashion.  Sure, there are plenty of self-defense skills that you can’t put on a timer.  (Or measure in an objective fashion.)  This doesn’t change the fact that keeping track of the physical shooting skills that you hold as a priority is important–because you can then look at what you do well, and what you need to work on.

What diagnostic drills do you like?  Why do you like them?  What skills are you tracking over time?



Marine Pistol Qualification

Let’s be blunt here—the vast majority of people in the military either spend very little time with a pistol, or no time at all. There are plenty of people in the military who have never shot, much less qualified with, a pistol. Of those that have, most engage in less than 100 rounds of practice (including qualification) every year.

It is certainly true that there ARE groups in the military that not only put in significant practice with pistols, but are demonstrated high-level experts in their use.  However, those groups are very specific and well-known, and contain a very small number of troops, for only a tiny percentage of the military as a whole.

As such, the comment of “I was in the military” is meaningless in terms of being any sort of indicator of pistol proficiency.  It is similar to saying “I’ve been a hunter for 20 years” — the information given doesn’t tell you anything about the person’s pistol skill level.

There are certainly military folks who are exceedingly skilled with pistols.  However, the vast majority of them didn’t get to that level because of the fact that they were in the military–they got there because they liked shooting pistols, and got as much training and practice as they could elsewhere.  (Again, outside of those few small groups that specialize in missions that require high-level pistol use.)

But what if someone qualified as “expert” in their branch of the military?  Recently, I was in a discussion where one person mentioned that their friend was really good, and his opinions about pistols (and defensive pistol tactics) should be believed because he had rated Expert in the Marines.

I didn’t actually know what that meant, so I looked it up—the Marine Pistol Qualification is available online, and you can take a look at its requirements.  It looked fun to shoot, so I decided to try it one day.  (Good article about the qualification and its history here:  Shooting the USMC Pistol Qualification: Combat Pistol Program (CPP).)


Shooting Areas

Important thing: I didn’t have any of the official targets. Official MPMS targets are 19.5 inches by 40 inches, and look like the graphic to the right.

I note that on the actual targets, a) the scoring zones are extremely difficult to see at distance (see the second target example), and b) the point values for the scoring zones don’t actually show.

Since I didn’t have any of these targets, I instead copied a graphic of part of the target, that could fit on two 8.5 inch x 11 inch pieces of printer paper.  It meant that when I was shooting I’d literally not have much of the target to shoot at (compared to the total), but I would have all of the 10-zone, all of the head, and part of the 8-zone around the chest 10-zone.


Shooting Areas

The parts I copied are shown by the red boxes on this second graphic. Like I said, most of the target wasn’t going to be available to me, but that was okay. It gave me all of the top scoring zone as a target area, and I made sure that the sizes of my targets matched the size of the actual targets exactly.

The qualification is 40 rounds, with twelve rounds taken from the 7, twelve from the 15, and the last eight from the 25.  Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points, for a total possible of 400.  Each string of fire had a par time.  Strings included drawing from the holster, shooting controlled pairs, emergency reloads, and precision shooting from the 25-yard line.

To rate “expert” you have to get at least 364 points.  In other words, you can only drop 36 points–less than one point per round.

Here’s what it looked like when I shot it:

So, my thoughts about the qualification itself…

  1. The par times are REALLY generous, particularly at the 25-yard line where you have 7 seconds to take one single-action shot from high ready.
  2. The overall target itself is REALLY huge, and while the 10-zone is fairly reasonable in the body section, the 10-zone for the head is just bigger than I think it should be (same for the neck area).  The 8-zone drops VERY low on the target.
  3. If you don’t have good fundamentals, you are going to drop a lot of points at the 25, and some points on the 15.  It isn’t about speed, given those par times, but the ability to properly perform the fundamentals.
  4. Anyone with good fundamentals should be able to get expert on this, and probably should be able to ace it or (ahem) drop only a couple of points.  I’m a bit annoyed with myself because the points I dropped were on controlled pairs at 15, and there was simply no reason for that to occur–I just rushed when I didn’t need to, and pulled the trigger badly.

The author of the article where I got the information about the qualification said that he thought the 10-zones were small, and that shooting this double-action from a retention holster with the safety on made the par times reasonable.  I personally disagree, because my draw time (from an ALS holster with a SLS hood) just isn’t that much slower than my concealment draw (that ALS is a great holster) and don’t they use their thumb to click the safety off as they get their initial grip on the gun?

I do certainly agree that this qualification seems much more appropriate to the needs of Marines than the old version.  If a Marine (outside of a specialty that uses a pistol on a regular basis) has a need for a pistol, that means things have gone VERY wrong and the action is both close and immediate.  While this qualification is very basic, in my opinion, it has a MUCH better grasp of important skills needed than the old qualification did, other than there really is no emphasis whatsoever on time.  Yes, there were par times.  But….

…when I shot this, I wasn’t in any particular hurry, since I knew the par times were really generous.  As such, the times you see in the video were what you’d expect when I was relaxing and simply taking plenty of time to relax and aim.  And yet…I still shot the entire thing in less than 40% of the par time allotted.  During most of the qualification, I shot it in a bit less than half the time.  (I shot the 25-yard line section in one-quarter of the time allotted.)  In other words—the par time isn’t a factor in how people do on this qualification, or at least it shouldn’t be.  (If it takes someone 5 seconds to draw and fire two rounds center-mass at the 7 yard line, there’s a problem.)

Overall, regarding the comment that someone who rated Expert in the Marine Pistol Qualification is an advanced shooter?  I’m afraid I disagree.  They MAY be an advanced shooter (just like any given military person may be an advanced pistol shooter) but in my opinion, the Marine Pistol Qualification, at Expert level, is simply a decent test of the basic fundamentals of pistol shooting.  Someone with solid fundamentals (in a bullseye fashion) should attain an expert rating.   Claiming more than solid fundamentals–is going to take more than that.

Similar to how saying “I was in the military” is not a meaningful phrase when attempting to justify someone as an advanced pistol shooter, saying “I rated Expert at the Marine Pistol Qualification” does not mean anything other than at one time, the person speaking had a solid grasp of the fundamentals of pistol shooting.

Ralph Mroz liked my article!

Ralph Mroz liked my article about expertise, where I discussed some of the things Tom Givens said about who is qualified to have an opinion in a technical field.

…and he and Tom Givens made some interesting comments as followups, too.    In particular the important question: “What constitutes “experience” in a civilian context?”

This is one of the things that I’ve talked about before, regarding military or law enforcement “experience” when talking about people who are qualified to teach citizen CCW courses–which Tom Givens discussed also, and I mentioned in my original article.

Mr. Mroz brings up an important point also, which is:
“No one has had enough statically valid experience, accounting for all the variables, in lots of different kinds of environments.  Therefore, no one’s experience is universally extrapolateable.”

…in other words, if your instructor is telling you “this is how it is, because it happened to me like this” then he’d better be talking to you ONLY about a situation that matches exactly what happened to him.  Chances are, if he is talking that way, he’s actually trying to generalize based on his experience—and that may not be germane to your situation.

There’s a reason why paying attention to the current research in the field is incredibly important—it is the only way to get a large enough dataset to actually draw supported conclusions.  (Put it this way:  If your self-defense instructor has been in enough self-defense situations to create a large dataset, do you WANT to do what he’s doing?  Why in the world has he been in so many self-defense situations?!)   This doesn’t make it EASY to draw conclusions (sometimes the research doesn’t cover what you need it to cover, so their conclusions aren’t valid for what you want), but conclusions drawn from large datasets are simply more robust in terms of removing the “we succeeded due to luck or incompetence on the part of the criminal, but we think it is because our technique was so good” responses.

I’ll note the “this worked for me once, so it is the right answer, and it’ll work for you” occurs a lot in unarmed self-defense classes, too.  Unfortunately, sometimes concepts taught for that reason can also catch on and become well-known, because most people will never NEED to find out if it’ll really work.

I personally hope that none of my students ever have to test whether or not what I’ve taught them is going to work.  At the same time, though, I try to make VERY sure that what I’m teaching them is as effective, realistic, and as practical as I can make it–because if they need it, it is going to be IMPORTANT.

Ignorance and the Internet, Part II…

In the continuing saga of “people making things up, assigning them to other people, and then attacking them for the things they’ve made up and assigned to other people” along with the serving of “making comparisons that people don’t make, and then saying those comparisons are wrong” we have yet another person attacking competition shooting as something that will get you killed.    (This article also showed up on, which should also tell you something.)

As before (in Ignorance the Internet Part I), the original article will be in italics, and my words will be in standard font.  As as before:  I don’t know “Shaun A” who is the author of the nonsense I am responding to (though I do know a bit about what he does currently to pay the bills, but I’m going to leave that out of this) so I don’t know his skill level, what he is like as a person, etc.  I’m just responding to what he said in his article.  I note also that I’m quoting his article directly, so any typos, grammatical errors, etc, are what he wrote.

“Competiton shooting vs the two way range:”

If you are going to be attacking something, you should probably at least spell it right.  Ok, I won’t make any more snarky comments about typos.  (Since I’ll probably make some myself.)  But seriously, you should at least be able to type your title correctly.

“A disturbing trend has recently developed in the tactical world.  Sequenced matches against a shot timer have started to set the bar for how gunfighting is taught.  As the 3-gun sport starts to evolve, the art of gunfighting is being lost.”

The problem shown here (and the main problem throughout his ENTIRE ARTICLE) is that his premise is simply wrong.  I can’t think of a single trainer (literally, none) who think that drills on a timer does anything but teach shooting skills, and none of them think shooting skills = gunfighting.  In a similar fashion, I can’t think of anyone (trainer or competitor) who think that 3-Gun (or Multigun) competitions teach gunfighting.  As such, any changes to those sports make no difference to any aspect of gunfighting.

Matter of fact, as those shooting sports evolve (and include more people) it means that the number of people who spend more time learning gun handling skills and shooting skills, and learning to shoot with speed and accuracy, increases.

Now, that isn’t the same as gunfighting–but since those same people before didn’t study gunfighting AND couldn’t shoot quickly and accurately, I’m not sure how increasing their shooting skills is a bad thing.  It certainly has nothing to do with changing anything about gunfighting.

Matter of fact, in his premise here he has two qualifiers that he never clarifies:  “recently”, and “evolve“.

Recently what has changed?  What evidence is there for his contention that recently “sequenced matches against a shot timer have started to set the bar for how gunfighting is taught“?  What trainer does this?

What about 3-Gun has evolved?  That is relevant to the way trainers teach gunfighting?

Watch for the answers to those two questions in the rest of what he wrote.  If you can’t find them, then his premise is undefined in addition to being flat-out incorrect.

I’m am all for speed and proficiency with any firearm.  Reloads and all Immediate Actions should be done fast and smooth with the end result to get accurate fire down range fast.  Competing against other sport shooters does induce stress and is valuable training to build the basic mindset required.


This is training and it should be emphasized as just that – training. 

What, what?  A competition isn’t training—it is a test of training.  Shooting in a match is a test of your shooting skills, your match ability.  It is where you find out if your shooting skills training was any good.

But…even if I agree with him that matches were training (and I really, really don’t) what he just said was that competition shooting was good training for speed and proficiency with a firearm, and to build the basic mindset required.  But then…

Gunfighting isn’t just about speed it’s about awareness.  He who is most aware of the environment around him the fastest, wins.


The layout of the 3-gun matches and how they are sequenced help competition sport shooters become lighting fast. 

Certainly true in terms of the top shooters.

They sacrifice awareness for speed. 

Hm.  Assumption–and not supported.  Now, had he said “in competition, their awareness is focused on specific things for speed purposes, and they aren’t maintaining full situational awareness” I’d agree with that.

But…that isn’t what he said.  He said they sacrifice awareness for speed, with the previous assumption that this is training for gunfighting.  And if someone is training for gunfighting, sacrificing awareness is a bad idea.

The problem is:  This isn’t training, it isn’t training for gunfighting, and they are sacrificing full situational awareness and focusing instead on awareness within a stage.

As such, his entire point (that this is a bad thing) actually is meaningless.  If you aren’t training for gunfighting, then doing this isn’t bad for your training for gunfighting.

We have all seen videos of 3 gun shooters running and gunning with incredible effecinecy and speed. What allows them to be so fast and accurate is the fact that it’s a sequenced range.  With pre set targets and a set number of rounds to use on each target, transition and move to the next. 

Hm.  “A set number of rounds to use on each target” isn’t actually right.  I can’t tell if he didn’t know what he was talking about (truthfully, that’s my belief) or instead he simply didn’t word it well.

It is certainly true that on any particular paper target, a certain number of rounds are scored.  This is separate from how many rounds you can use on each target–so rather like in a gunfight, you need to be aware of whether or not your rounds are hitting where you need them to hit, and if they aren’t, add more until they do.

I’m glad he thinks that competition shooters have incredible efficiency and speed.  On the other hand, he then damns them with faint praise by saying that it was only because it was a “sequenced stage”.

This is of course ridiculous, because the same people will ALSO be incredibly efficient and quick on blind stages compared to other people, because their shooting skills are high.

Put it this way:  If they are so much faster than you on stages where you both know where the targets will be (in other words, you have the same advantages they do) why would you think it would be any different when you both are at the same disadvantage?

Little tactical awareness is required, you can train for and memorize the range.  No different than a ski racer training for the Olympics.  Your awareness is not being tested.  Your proficeny and speed are.  The one who has the best mental preparation and reaction time that day wins.  

And also the best shooting skills.  But sure, little tactical awareness is required.

That’s because it isn’t training for a gunfight.  Nor is it supposed to be.  Nor is it treated that way.

A gunfight is a completely different world.  The only factors that you can control are that of ammo you currently have and yourself. Everything else in this environment is now as random as rolling a pair of dice in crap shoot.  

I’m pretty sure that his absolute state of “everything else is…random” is incorrect, but okay.  If you can control your ammo and yourself, it is certainly true that having high level shooting skills (high speed and efficiency) will help you there.

Saying it is a “completely different world” is both true and misleading.  In both competition shooting and gunfights (whether combat or self-defense, and those are NOT the same thing) having high-level shooting skills means an advantage.

This is not a competition where everyone goes home at the end of the day.  If you are slower or have an “off” day it’s not really a huge deal in the sport shooting.  In this world of gunfighting second place takes home a casket not a silver medal.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.  What’s the point?  How does this have anything to do with your premise?

Here you would be a fool to assume your enemy is not equally if not better trained than you.  He has watched the same YouTube videos and run the same ranges you have. 

If his training is from YouTube videos, my enemy is not better trained that I am.  But…what’s the point?

His weapon proficiency and accuracy is likely just as good as yours. 

Didn’t you just say that competition shooters have high accuracy and speed, and incredible efficiency?    But again, what’s the point?

Like you he understands the concequence of losing this fight and is motivated to be the winner just as much as you are.  Bullets travel 2 ways here, only winners walk away from here.  Let’s make no mistake this is a gunfight someone will die and there is a possibility that will be you.

Again—so what?  The author’s premise was that recently, evolving 3-gun sports have changed how gunfighting is being taught, and that the art of gunfighting is being lost.  As so far, he hasn’t come up with any sort of support of any trainer doing anything like this.

He hasn’t given any examples of how gunfighting is being taught, he hasn’t shown anything regarding how gunfighting training has changed, and he’s been wrong about how matches are training.

Not only in this complex world, are you having to find the threat and engage but also identify if it is a shoot or no shoot situation. 

Yep, in general that isn’t done in competition matches, or rather, people do that before the stage starts.  So?  (I’ll note that some Multigun matches actually have stages where the target layout isn’t know, and you follow the trail and engage as you see them.)

Add the distraction of communicating with your team and finding cover. 

I find that since most people don’t have a “team” this is less of an issue.  But hey, if he is talking about the military, I’d REALLY like to see ANY information he’s got about how 3-Gun has changed military team training for the worse.

Your awareness becomes so crucial here because regardless of your plan before its guaranteed to changed as soon as bullets start flying.  In order to gain the initiative and win this gunfight you need to have the awareness coupled with the instinct and ethics of a professional warrior to ebb and flow with the fight.

Ah, it wouldn’t be an anti-competition screed if it didn’t summon the spirit of the “professional warrior.”

Hm.  Ethics of a professional warrior?  I’d really like to see how he works that into a gunfight.

I’d agree, though–in a gunfight (whether combat or self-defense situation) awareness is important.  What does that have to do with the subject of his article?

Unlike 3 gun competitors your barricades and cover are not standardized. 

I take it he’s never been to a 3-gun competition?  Sure, there are a couple of things like Bianchi barricades that are pretty standard, but….mostly, Multigun competitions pride themselves on new and unique shooting problems.  As such, claiming they are “standardized” is about as far wrong as you can be.

The layout and the room your cover will provided as well as the state of the ground are completely random.  Sometimes cover is man made, some times it’s based on terrain.  You have to adapt and make things happen here. 

Well duh.  And here I thought that I could just sit there and magic would happen.

Couple this with potential driving rain, humid desert heat, or snow and ice.  There is no well maintained clear of trip hazards range environment. The dynamics of this environment are complex and completely random.  Your enemy is not a clock, it’s a human trained just like you in the art of warfare and gunfighting.

Again with the completely random–and yet, that’s not really how it happens for most people.  Or do soldiers not train for room entries, pie-ing doors, etc, in the same fashion until they get it right because they know they’ll run into doors and rooms?

And…what does this have to do with the topic of the article?

The equipment you carry isn’t designed for competition speed either. 

Huh.  And yet, several of the things that are currently in use in the military (red dot optics, for example) came literally out of the competition world.

But as has been said before….what does that have to do with the topic of the article?

It is designed for practicality.  The IR lasers, lights, and optics are not with you to be tacti-cool.  They are there for a tactical and practical application of violence.  

Yes, because competition shooters carry extra crap for non-useful purposes.

Non-relevant to topic.

Holsters and magazine pouches are designed for retention.  They need to retain your ammo and your sidearm from the shock and intensity of exiting an aircraft and in the chaos and unpredictability of a gunfight. Let’s face it you are potentially crawling in mud, rolling around in sand, or trudging through knee deep snow.  You are not moving through a range where saftey is the number one concern not survialbility.  Where speed is more important than retention.

I take it he’s never seen a retention holster in use in a Multigun competition?  Ah well, considering what he has said before, this isn’t surpring.

And still non-relevant to topic.

The encumbrance of your equipment is incredible.  Ballistic armor, helmet, ammunition, water, radios, batteries, night vision, more batteries, IFAK, grenades the list goes on and on.  The weight is distributed as best you can however it’s not even.  The physical demand here is huge.  Your fitness level directly effects your awareness here.  If you are not fit here you die.   War fighters train with all this weight in their training environments.  Train the way you fight is your mantra.    This makes fitness a huge key in how aware you are.  It’s the dertmining factor on wether you live or die in the combat environment.  Fitness is not an option here it is life.

Ok.  And your point is?

3 gun sport Shooting and gunfighting are completely different worlds about the only the thing they have in common is accuracy and proficiency with a gun. 

Indeed so.  You see, the problem here is that the author of this nonsense is the only one attempting to claim anything different.

Remember, HE is the one who said that matches are training, that 3-gun matches are evolving, and that their evolving is change how people train for gunfights.

And yet—NO WHERE has he shown that being true.

As a armed professional it’s your responsibility to train the way you fight.  Increase your awareness by realistic training with your team.  Discussing real world situations and recreating them in train environments. Your range training needs to simulate your fighting environment.  Train in the rain in the snow and in the suck.  Remember when you are not practicing someone somewhere is and when you meet them they will win. For us that stand in harms way this type of training, mindset and awareness means living or dying.  It’s not a medal or points on a 3 gun circuit.

Well, duh.

So here we are at the end of his article, much of which was non-relevant to his topic, parts of which were factually incorrect—and NONE of which actually supported his premise.

If you are going to claim:

A disturbing trend has recently developed in the tactical world.  Sequenced matches against a shot timer have started to set the bar for how gunfighting is taught.  As the 3-gun sport starts to evolve, the art of gunfighting is being lost.

…then somewhere in there you need to show that ANYONE trains gunfighting the way you say it has changed to (which no one does), and you need to show that 3-gun sports have made that difference (which since it hasn’t occurred, obviously 3-gun isn’t why).

In other words, here again we have an article written by someone who has no experience with the shooting sports, making up random nonsense.  He might be better served to read my article about What Makes An Expert? and pay particular attention to the fact that if you don’t have education, experience, or training in a particular field, then you aren’t qualified to have an opinion that anyone should care about for that field.

Not only does the author (Shaun A, who you should REALLY look up in terms of what he does for a living) seem to have no experience with competition shooting, he also should work on his ability to use logic.  If you state a premise that isn’t supported in any way (literally every single sentence in his premise has no support) then your article itself is going to be demonstrating ignorance.

Retention Holsters


Awhile back, I got into a discussion about retention holsters for open carry.  In between hearing/reading shouts of “I can carry like I want!” and “He thinks that if you don’t use a level 9000 retention holster it doesn’t count!” I realized that not only do many people not understand what the term “retention holster” means, they also don’t understand that 1) there are differences in quality between various holster types, and 2) there are differences in choices for optimal use between different retention holsters.

There are a number of different types of retention holsters out there (ones with active retention, that is):  Safariland ALS, Safariland ALS/SLS, Galco Matrix, 5.11 Thumbdrive, Uncle Mikes Reflex, SERPA (and the other companies that functionally copied the SERPA design), plus probably several others that I’m forgetting…and there simply are significant differences between them.

In some cases those differences are in reliability, durability, and quality. In some cases, they are based on design flaws that increase the risk of negligent discharges.  But some of those differences also mean that holsters themselves (even with roughly equivalent quality) are best used for different purposes.

As always, a video for some explanation:

I’ll note in the video, my draw speed there was not “as fast as I could go” or “trying to see what the maximum speed is”–it was what felt to me to be a comfortable speed to get all A-hits on a metric target at 5 yards from the draw.    And as it said, I don’t practice with the ALS or ALS/SLS holsters, so obviously people who practice and use those regularly can go significantly faster than I did.    What is interesting to me about that comparison is that there is only a tenth of a second difference between concealment and the ALS retention (much of which, I think, is because of the cant on that ALS holster—if I would ever wear it for some reason, I’d fix that), and the ALS/SLS combination was only a tenth slower than that–from a holster with significantly more retention.

To sum up:

  • Most holsters have some sort of passive retention, many of which have adjustable passive retention.  We still don’t call them “retention holsters.”
  • “Retention holsters” are ones that have an active retention system, requiring you to do something to release an active lock on the gun so that you can draw it.  There are a number of different kinds of active retention systems, and one thing I didn’t get into was the different “levels” of retention, primarily because people use THOSE terms with different meanings depending on who you talk to.  Suffice it to say that the ALS is one level, and the ALS/SLS/hood guard combination is a level higher.
  • In my opinion, the SERPA holster (in addition to its known reliability and durability issues) has a problem with its basic design that causes the chances of an ND to be higher than when using other holsters.  (Numerous national-level trainers plus the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center think so also.)  I don’t know why anyone would use a SERPA holster when a Safariland ALS holster (much higher quality, withOUT that design issue) is available for only $5-$15 more.
  • In my opinion, for open carry (and certainly for duty carry), the ALS and ALS/SLS holsters are a much better idea than the GLS or Uncle Mikes Reflex holster, because the latter two can still easily be pulled out of your holster by someone else–the retention system is easily unlocked from any angle.  The ALS and ALS/SLS versions are much harder to unlock for anyone who is not wearing the holster.
  • There’s a reason why the most-used retention holsters for law enforcement across the U.S. are from Safariland.
  • The GLS holster is fantastic for a situation where you don’t want the gun to come out of the holster no matter what sort of movement you are doing.  (In other words, you need retention not to stop others from getting the gun, but because you are worried about what YOU are doing knocking the gun out of the holster.) With the belt attachment adjustment kit, the GLS is what I’m using for Multigun starting this year because the gun is perfectly safe in the holster no matter what I’m doing, and literally isn’t slowing my draw stroke at all.  (This video was the first time I put the GLS on the clock, and my times with it were almost exactly what I got with my competition rig.)

Now, none of this goes into WHY I think you should use a retention holster for open carry.  (Truthfully, I think that should be self-evident, but apparently it isn’t.)  That’s a topic for a different blog post, though.  But at least (hopefully!) the next time I get into a discussion about retention holsters, we’ll all be starting our discussion with a better understanding of what we are talking about.


(I don’t work for any holster company, nor am I affiliated with any holster company in any way.  And no, there are no links in this article where I make money if you go buy something.  And yes, I know, I kept saying “ALS system” and “SLS system” and “GLS system” which means I was saying “system system” all the time. I know. I’m sorry.  I don’t know why I kept doing that.)

Nebraska State CCW Course…

If you wish to apply for a concealed carry permit in Nebraska, you first need to take the official state CCW course, taught by a Nebraska State Patrol certified instructor.  The instructor is certified because they have submitted a curriculum to the NSP that has been checked and deemed sufficient to follow and teach all of the required points of the official state-mandated curriculum, and includes the requisite live-fire parts which list specific types of shooting practice and the official firearms qualification.

The NSP makes available a PDF copy of the rules and regulations pertaining to concealed carry in Nebraska here:

This is handy for many reasons, but in particular it tells you exactly what topics should be covered in your CCW course, and exactly what the firearms qualification should be.  (Section 027 is all about the requirements for the class–look at 027.03 and 027.04 for specific details.)

Why is this important?  Because if you don’t get taught what you are SUPPOSED to be taught, and your instructor gets audited, it is entirely possible that your class certificate will be declared invalid–and thus, your ability to apply for a CC permit or your ability to KEEP your CC permit will be withdrawn.  (And the instructor will lose his/her certification, though for you that is significantly less important than your certificate no longer being valid as proof of training.)

Some examples:

If your class didn’t use an FBI Q target, the range qualification isn’t valid.  These are Q targets (NSP doesn’t specify color):


These are not Q targets:


Your range qualification must use the official target, or it isn’t valid.  (Even if the instructor says he “is holding you to a higher standard!” by using a different target.)

If, in your class, they didn’t actually talk about use of force laws for both lethal force and less-than-lethal force, they didn’t do their job.

If, in your class, they didn’t talk about where you cannot carry by law (whether posted or not), they didn’t do their job.

If the class description says “bring 30-50 rounds for the range portion” then they aren’t doing their job, because the NSP won’t approve a curriculum unless you are shooting at least 50 rounds in the practical exercises portion of the class, and you’ll need 30 more rounds on top of that for the qualification.

Lots of people are certified as instructors.  Make sure the one you get is actually teaching the class correctly.

What makes an expert?

(Third in the series about thoughts spawned by attending the Rangemaster Instructor Development Class with Tom Givens.  The first time, the post was about something that hadn’t occurred to me.  The second time, it was about something I already knew, explained in a different fashion.  This time, it is about something that annoys me greatly on pretty much a weekly basis.)

“He’s a great self-defense instructor, he learned it in the military!”

“That firearms group is the best for CCW training, because they all have law enforcement experience.  That guy TEACHES other cops!”

“He has 25 years of firearms experience–he knows what he is talking about!”

The first two statements above are flat-out wrong.  The third is a non sequitur.

And yet, people KEEP saying things like that.

If you go to the Instructor Development Class with Tom Givens, at some point in time during a lecture he’ll discuss valid opinions, and who has them.  His slide will look something like this:


…which apparently many, many people don’t seem to understand.  There’s something about current society where people seem to think that they are all entitled to opinions of their own, AND that said opinion is equally as valid as everyone else’s opinion.  They do this to doctors, lawyers, law enforcement–and it certainly appears in the firearms training world.  Who hasn’t run into That Guy at the gun store who is the World’s Foremost Expert about guns, who will endlessly pontificate to some poor person about “the right gun for a woman” or “the best caliber for self-defense” or “you won’t be able to use your sights under stress” or some other such nonsense?  And if you actually contradict him, citing actual research, his response is “well, that’s just your opinion” or something like that?  As if his opinion and the actual research are equal in terms of importance!

Do you have an opinion about something in a technical field?  (And believe me, shooting skills and self-defense training are two very technical fields.)  In that field, do you have actual education (at a high level), formal training (by a recognized expert), or experience that directly relates to the topic at hand?

No?  Then shut up.  Your opinion is meaningless.  Seriously.  Meaningless.

You might be right—but it isn’t because you actually know, it is because you got lucky.  The next thing you spout might be equally lucky, but it also might be pure nonsense because you don’t actually have any rational basis for your opinions.  (Hint:  reading opinion articles on Internet is NOT education.  Having your friend show you how to shoot and then practicing on beer cans is not training.  Getting into a drunken slap-fight once while in college is not experience.)

Example:  Military training is effective for military purposes.  It isn’t self-defense training. Law enforcement training is effective for law enforcement purposes.  MOST of that is not self-defense training.  And very importantly, the general goals which define principles which drive tactics  in MIL and LEO training are very different from citizen self-defense.  As such, MIL or LEO training and experience does not automatically qualify someone to have a valid opinion about citizen self-defense.  (Or shooting skills, for that matter.)

Having owned and shot guns for 25 years is meaningless, because plenty of people out there SUCK at shooting and have no safety habits instilled, but simply have been lucky not to shoot themselves thus far.  (Most people who say “I’ve been shooting for 25 years and…” don’t actually shoot that much, and they aren’t very good, either.  If they were, that wouldn’t be the support for their opinion that they’d provide!)

There are plenty of MIL, LEO, and shooters-of-25-years who are VERY good instructors of self-defense and shooting skills.  However, the fact that they are MIL, LEO, or have shot a gun for a number of years isn’t WHY they are good.

If you are looking for an instructor in a particular area, if that instructor does not have education, training, or experience (or some combination of the three) in THAT AREA, then their opinion about it is as meaningless as….That Guy in the gun store.

Which, I’ll note, is why we have big-name instructors who say that dryfire isn’t a good idea, that you won’t be able to see your sights while under stress and should use point-shooting, that “fine motor skills will degrade” such that you can’t activate a slide release under stress, and that putting yourself on a timer to test your shooting skills will cause training scars sufficient to get you killed “on the street”—-all of which statements are flat-out wrong.

Anyone can call themselves an instructor.  That doesn’t actually mean they know anything.

Your opinion is NOT necessarily as valid as everyone else’s opinion.  The same thing is true for instructors.  Every instructor out there who says something should not have their opinions considered equally important, because many of them have education, training, or experience in fields that sound important but are actually unrelated to the area in which they are expressing an opinion.

If you want to actually learn something, make sure your instructor has education, training, or experience IN THAT AREA.  If they don’t—then their opinion isn’t any more valid than yours.