Friday, April 25, 2008
The Gunsite class is the second in a series of annual classes the UtahPolite Society is sponsoring. Last year we partnered with Self DefenseSolutions to bring Suarez International to Salt Lake for two classes, this year we are sponsoring the three-day pistol class presented by Gunsite Academy. We hope to sponsor at least one class from a nationally knowntrainer each year in the future.
The June Utah Polite Society Event is going to combine our usual pistol exercises with the first in a series of carbine exercises. We have the use of the range for the entire day. This will allow us to start off withour usual pistol exercises and then transition into some basic carbine instruction and exercises. If you’d like to improve your carbine skills, plan on participating in the carbine series starting in June.
If you don’t have a black rifle, bring your .22, or your lever gun. If you don’t have a rifle at all, just show up and someone will loan you one to shoot the exercises with.
Dave also mentioned he’d like to organize a work day or two sometime inthe next couple of months, and would very much appreciate any volunteerhelp anyone is willing to provide. He’d like help with some major maintenance issues like resetting the roof over the safety area on the fifty-yard range, and with several smaller cleanup and maintenance projects. We haven’t set a date for this yet, but it will likely be sometime in May and involve free food. If you think you might be willing to help with this, please reply in the comments.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit
Our first exercise this month gave people a chance to practice drawing and shooting while seated. You start off on a bench, facing a target about four yards away. While remaining seated, draw and fire until you've neutralized the target. After the first string, we rotate the bench 90 degrees to the right, so the target is to your left, and you have to draw and fire on it again. After turning the bench around so the target is on your right, it's time to shoot one more time.
After a safety briefing that emphasized not sweeping your legs when drawing (particularly when the target is on your support side), we got started. Perhaps the most consistent thing I noticed people doing on this drill was when we turned the bench sideways, a lot of people decided they really wanted to sit on the end of the bench nearest the target, rather than in the center. Everybody's looking for an edge, I guess. One yard of range really doesn't make that much difference for this drill, but I think scooting down to the end changed the drill in another way. Folks who sat at the end of the bench tended to swing their legs around to face the target before shooting. Folks who shot from the middle of the bench ended up shooting across their bodies when shooting to the support side and shooting one handed to the strong side. Facing the target makes things easier, but it may not always be possible (in a restaurant booth, for instance).
Our next scenario put you in that restaurant booth, with an armed robbery occurring at the cash register a few yards away. This was inspired by an armed robbery that took place at a restaurant a few blocks from my house. I've eaten there occasionally, so it inspired me to think about what I'd do in that sort of situation. To complete the booth effect, we put a table in front of the bench and put a sitting height target directly across from you simulating your dining partner (a friend or significant other). Downrange there were 2-3 assailants and at least one no-shoot target (simulating the cashier). A pair of barricades delineated the entrance to the kitchen, marking one possible exit. You could also exit by going directly downrange past the cashiers station. The target stand with the dining partner was loose, rather than clamped tight, allowing you to grab the target and drag them to safety.
When I was explaining this scenario I asked Harold Green to give his "Who are you willing to defend" spiel. He didn't know I was going to do this, so I kind of ended up putting him on the spot (sorry Harold). This is a complicated issue, one deserving of a blog post of it's own, but it boils down to this: are you willing to put your financial future, your freedom, and your life on the line for the clerk in a convenience store? How about for a casual acquaintance? For a close friend? For a family member? This is a complicated issue, and the answers are going to be different for different people, but the important thing is to think about this and make your decisions beforehand. The worst possible decision here is not to consider the issue. You do not want to start weighing the pros and cons in the middle of a holdup. This led to about 15-20 minutes of very good discussion among the people there, and while it delayed our getting started I think it was really worthwhile.
After getting everyone pondering their moral and ethical obligations to their fellow man, we got started with the scenario. The scenario started with me yelling the robbers demands. To simulate what we'd just been talking about I generally escalated the robber's threats from just being against the cashier to threatening everyone in the restaurant.
We had a fairly high number of new shooters this month, so I noticed a lot of typical new shooter mistakes. The number one new shooter error we see is shooting too low. We use our own custom scoring zones on targets. They're based on the "golden triangle" principle and are located quite a bit higher than the zones on typical IPSC or IDPA targets are. There is a 5 point zone about the size of a fist directly over the heart and a 4 point zone about a handspan across around it. This is where the important stuff is in a human body (heart, major arteries). Hits anywhere else in the torso are only 1 point. This means that hits that would be in the A zone of an IPSC target or one point down on an IDPA target are only worth one point on ours. Since nine points are required to neutralize, low hits aren't really going to get you anywhere. To make thing even more difficult we cover the targets with t-shirts both so you can't see the scoring zones (bad guys don't come with bullseyes) and so you can't see whether you've hit it. New shooters, used to targets that let you hit them a lot lower, often shoot a nice tight double tap in the sternum, for a grand total of two points.
That double tap brings up the second most common new shooter mistake, which is failing to shoot the target enough times. The combination of small scoring zones and the t-shirt makes neutralizing one of these targets a pretty demading task. Even excellent shooting skills won't necessarily save you, since the t-shirt means you have to guess where the "X" ring is. Again, bad guys don't come with bullseyes on their chest. New shooters generally put 2-3 rounds into each target. Folks who have been shooting with us for a while average 4-5. I generally get no more than three targets out of the 14 rounds in my Glock 21, and I've been known to burn through an entire mag on just two. This, of course, is one of the reasons we use small scoring zones and t-shirts in the first place. Pistol bullets are not good stoppers and one or two hits probably aren't going to immediately physically incapacitate an assailant. The challenging nature of our targets is intended to ingrain the habit of shooting more than once or twice.
Aside from the usual new shooter mistakes, most folks did pretty well. With one exception, nobody shot their dining partner. A great many people probably deafened them (at least temporarily) by shooting past their head though. Some folks ran off without their spouse or used them for cover (I sense a divorce in their future). One of our more experienced shooters did shoot his dining partner, but he had a good excuse. Someone decided to have a little fun at his expense and hung a threat indicator around the wife's neck (it wasn't me, I swear). He'd shot all the other targets and was dragging her off when he noticed the cardboard gun. He seemed a bit puzzled, but decided to put a round through the target for good measure.
For a couple of people we put a cardboard sheriff's star on one of the targets along with a threat indicator, simulating an officer responding to the robbery. As usual, a few folks ended up shooting the cop. Again, it's important to pay attention to what you're seeing, not just to look for what you're expecting to see (in this case, a cardboard gun).
7 O'clock Rock
Our other drill involved getting off the X away from a threat. This is something a lot of us learned in Gabe Suarez's class last year, but we've gained a fair number of new shooters since then who have never done it (and the rest of us could always use a refresher).
When facing an assailant armed with a contact weapon like a knife or a baseball bat, you want to create as much distance between you and them. Optimally, you'd like to stay out of arms reach entirely, but barring that, you want to give yourself as long as possible to stop them with your handgun. It might seem like the logical thing to do is to run directly away from them, but it's not. Running directly away makes it difficult to get your gun on target and it simplifies the pursuer's task. Running away at a slight angle makes your job easier and the assailant's a little harder. If you imagine a clock face, with the assailant at 12 o'clock, you want to run in the 5 o'clock or 7 o'clock directions.
I've used the word run so far because that's exactly what you want to do. In some action shooting competitions you see shooters moving (including backing up) in a shuffling sort of half crouch. This provides a very stable gun platform, but it's not going to do much to keep you away from a charging assailant. You also don't want to be backing up. Trying to run backwards is an invitation to trip and fall, which will leave you lying on the ground with the assailant about to run over you. If you hit the back of your head hard enough, it may even leave you unconscious on the ground at the mercy of your attacker. Instead, you want to point your toes in the direction you're going and move as quickly as possible. The key here is quick, explosive movement.
If you're a right-handed shooter, shooting while moving in the 7 o'clock direction is fairly simple. Just point your feet back and to the left and twist your torso around to shoot one handed. Shooting right handed while going to the 5 o'clock direction, on the other hand, is almost impossible. There's just no way to get your upper body twisted around enough to shoot with the right hand. If you have a choice it's easiest to go to 7 o'clock (or 5 o'clock if you're left handed) but sometimes that may not be possible because of some sort of obstruction.
If you have to go to the other direction, the best strategy is to transfer the pistol to your support hand and shoot one handed from that side. We demonstrated a technique for transferring the pistol smoothly and quickly while minimizing the risk of dropping it.
I was busy running the other drill, so I didn't have a chance to shoot this exercise or see anyone else shoot it.
The 21 Paw Rule
The 21 foot rule is a rule of thumb that's taught to police officers. Anyone within 21 feet armed with a contact weapon can be on you in less time than it takes to draw and fire a pistol. The Tueller Drill, created by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller, is intended to demonstrate this. A moving target is placed 21 feet away and is pulled towards you. The goal is to get your pistol out and engage it before it reaches you. This scenario does essentially the same thing, except we used a simulated dog rather than a human looking target.
Harold put together a pair of rolling targets in the shape of a dog. Some folks thought they looked more like ducks or sheep than canines, but I think he did a really nice job.
We gave each person at least two chances to shoot it. The first time you stand and deliver, remaining still and just concentrating on drawing and firing as quickly as possible. The second time, you apply the get off the X technique from the previous drill. This gives you considerably more time to engage the simulated canine.
The dog really does come at you fast. The first time through I had both my cover garment and a jacket on and I wasn't able to get my gun out before the dog blew by me. I wasn't alone in this either. One guy kicked the dog as it went past. Once I discarded the outer jacket, I was able to engage the dog before it got to me, but I only got one round into it before it got too close. When I switched to getting off the X, I was able to get two hits on it before it reached me (one of them right through the head).
Shooting the dog is a lot harder than shooting a human sized Tueller target. It comes at you faster and it's a lot smaller and lower, making it harder to hit. Couple this with the fact that an aggressive dog is likely to continue attacking even if he's hit and 21 feet starts to seem awfully close.
I was a bit worried that the dogs would get all shot up, particularly the wheels. Since they're so much shorter you're shooting a lot closer to the wheels than on the Tueller target. Cujo held up pretty well though, at least until Robin Hood decided to try the drill with a shotgun.
Overall I think this month was really successful. Things went smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy both the restaurant and dog scenarios. I also think the new shooters learned a lot, and I hope some of them will be back in June.
Speaking of June, just a reminder that our May event will be preempted by the Gunsite class. Our June event is going to be an all-day affair, with pistol practice in the morning and the first session of our summer rifle series in the afternoon. I'm really looking forward to doing some rifle work.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
There was an exercise in April's Utah Polite Society event that simulated an assault that takes place at a restaurant. As with most of the simulations we run, the number and position of threats were changed for each participant, and it was up to the participant to determine who to shoot first (if anyone), and when to start shooting (if at all).
One of the folks new to our events raised the question, "how do you know when to start shooting and how do you know who you should shoot?" He wanted to know how he was supposed to figure this out in real time as a defensive encounter unfolds. The individual running the exercise started to explain this, and then called me over to talk about my personal take on the subject.
At first I thought, "Oh great, how am I going to explain this in a way that will make sense to him?" As I started to try to explain this to the fellow who asked the question and the rest of the folks queued up to run the exercise, it occurred to me that all I had to do was explain how my personal rules of engagement worked and how they could develop a set of their own.
As I started to explain this, the other folks participating in the event stopped shooting their exercises and came over to join the discussion. Pretty soon, I found myself talking to a large group of individuals who all wanted to know how this should work. As this was of such interest at the event, I thought it might be worthwhile to post an article here that covers the high points of the discussion.
What are personal rules of engagement? In a nutshell, your personal rules of engagement are a set of guidelines you develop that will help you decide when you should use deadly force, and who you are willing to use deadly force to defend.
Why do you need a set of personal rules of engagement, and why should you prepare them in advance of having to use them? The situations in which you may have to use a firearm to defend you and yours can develop very quickly. You just won't have the time or clarity of focus to sort out the legal, moral, and personal issues in real time. You will be taxed to the limit to just formulate and execute the tactics needed to survive the situation. Everything else - the moral, legal, and ethical stuff - needs to be sorted out beforehand.
Everybody's different. Each of us has a different set of moral, financial, and personal priorities, as well as different physical abilities and limitations. Some folks may place a higher, or lower, priority on protecting others. Some may be better, or less, able to bear the cost of legal representation. Some may, or may not, have small children they need to protect. Some may be young with the fast reflexes and agility of youth. Others may be older and slower, or have their mobility limited by physical disability. Each of us has a different set of considerations to weigh when developing the personal guidelines we'll use in determining when and how to use deadly force. One size definitely does not fit all. One person's rules of engagement will always be different than the next person's. This is because each of us has a different set of circumstances that need to be considered when our personal rules are developed.
With that out of the way, let's get down to what a set of rules of engagement actually are. Someone once told me that I'm a gearbox kind of guy. I tend to break things down into their constituent parts and then figure out how all the individual pieces mesh. That's the approach I took when I figured out my personal rules of engagement, and that's how I'll present their development here.
So, what components do you need to take into consideration when developing your personal rules of engagement? The first thing I considered when I developed my rules was, "who am I willing to defend with deadly force?" For me, this is a very short list, so I started referring to it as my short list. The next thing I considered was, "what kinds of events are serious enough to force my use of deadly force?" Since these are things that would trigger my use of deadly force, I decided to call them triggering events. In thinking about triggering events and how I should respond to them, three distinct categories of actions came to mind. The first are pre-triggering event actions. These are actions you can take when you see a situation start to develop that can put you and yours in a better tactical situation to deal with a threat. The second are the actions you should take when a triggering event happens. And the third are post-triggering event actions. These are actions you should take after you've had to use deadly force.
Before we get into actually developing your personal rules form these building blocks, let's talk about deadly force for a bit. What we're talking about here is taking someone's life. This is not something that should be taken lightly. The use of deadly force will not only bring someone else's life to a very permanent end, it will likely bring profound consequences to your own life as well. Even if you do everything right, you'll likely end up in court defending yourself against a civil suit, and may even find yourself defending against criminal charges. In a best-case scenario, this could cost you several tens of thousands of dollars and the stress you'll have to live through will likely take a heavy toll. If it's not a best-case scenario, it could cost you your home, your marriage, and even your freedom. If you do not prevail in the defensive encounter it may cost you your life and, as we've seen in many of the simulations we've run, there is no guarantee you will prevail. You also run a real chance of accidentally shooting an innocent bystander. This has happed more than infrequently in the simulations we've run. Using your firearm for defense equals employing deadly force. Employing deadly force means potentially taking someone's life and, irrevocably, changing the rest of your own in some very dire ways.
OK, now that we've set the context for all of this, lets talk about the steps involved in putting together your personal rules of engagement.
Develop your short list. Your short list is the list of folks who you are willing to defend with deadly force. When you develop this list, you should ask yourself if you are willing to suffer the consequences of using deadly force for each and every name you include on this list. Is the person associated with each name on your list important enough to you that you are willing to take someone else's life in their defense, and live with the consequences of that action for the rest of your life? If there are individuals on your list who's safety is not very, very important to you, you may want to reconsider if you are willing to irrevocably change your life by coming to their defense.
I wasn't sure whether or not to include this next point in this article, as it always generates some heated debate whenever I bring it up in discussions of this topic. I decided to include it with the following proviso. If you disagree with my opinion, keep in mind that it's just a personal opinion and you are more than free to develop a differing opinion. Remember, one size doesn't fit all.
So here's the controversial point. Each and every adult in our society who is eligible to hold a concealed-carry permit and carry a gun for self-defense, has made a conscious decision about their personal defense. I've chosen to have the means and skills to defend myself, if need arises. Most folks in our society have chosen to not carry a gun for their own defense. So, if they have chosen to not use deadly force in their own defense and find themselves in dire straights, should it be incumbent on me to defend them? My personal opinion is, in the vast majority of cases, it is not. If they are not willing to defend themselves, why should it be incumbent on me to irrevocably change my own life by using deadly force in their defense? You may, or may not, want to consider this when you develop your own short list.
OK, so what's next after you've developed your short list? You need to decide what actions - triggering events - rise to a threat level that will require you to use deadly force. I can probably best address this by using an example that I've often used when discussing this topic.
Here's the setup. You, and some of the folks on your short list, are in the local neighborhood Seven-Eleven store when you see an individual pull a gun on the clerk and demand money. You and yours are out of the robber's immediate view, and may be able to take cover or escape without being noticed. What do you do?
The first question to ask is, "is the clerk on your short list?" Are you willing to use deadly force to defend the clerk? In my case, let's say I'm in the store with my grand kids and their mom to get a slurpee. Is my first priority to protect my family or to protect the clerk? My family members are on my short list, but the clerk isn't. For me this is pretty straightforward. Someone pointing a gun at the clerk isn't yet a triggering event. I'm going to focus on the things I can do to protect my family.
As things have developed so far, one of my personal triggering events hasn't happened yet. Doe's this mean I do nothing? It doesn't mean that at all! Remember the pre-triggering-event actions I mentioned earlier? This is when they come into play. I'm going to get my family members out of harm's way as best I can. This may mean doing something like getting them to an exit or to cover without being noticed by the robber. But I need their cooperation to do this effectively.
This brings up another issue that should be considered in the development of your rules of engagement. You need to include the folks on your short list as active participants in your plans. You need with talk to them about potential threat situations and the actions you would like them to take when these situations arise. More on this later.
OK, let's say I've gotten my family members to cover, but we haven't been able to exit the store. Let's also say the robber starts to turn around and says, "Everybody get in the back room!" For me this is a triggering event, because there's no way it's going to end well. It's time for my triggering-event actions to come in to play.
In this case, I want two actions to happen simultaneously. I want to shoot the bad guy before he shoots me, and I want my daughter-in-law to get the grand kids away from grandpa. Why do I want her to do that? Because grandpa just turned into a bullet magnet, and I don't want the kids to collect any stray rounds that may have been meant for me. Do I have time to tell her to get the kids away? No, she needs to know that and do it instinctively. She needs to be part of the plan.
At this point let's say I was successful in shooting the bad guy before he shot me. What do I do now? I make sure he's no longer a threat, and that he doesn't have any friends near at hand before I do anything else. I make sure I'm ready to address any additional threats that may turn up if he does have friends close by. Then I make sure I'm OK and my family members are OK. Once this has been done, I make sure all the witnesses and evidence stay put and are available when the police get there. I call the police, and then I call my lawyer. You do have your lawyer's number in your wallet, don't you? There are a few other things I may do after the triggering event, but we won't get into those here.
When we were discussing this at the April Utah Polite Society Event, the issue of exceptions came up. Should you allow for exceptions to your personal rules of engagement? One of the fellows commented on how the Trolley Square shooting had made him revisit his own set of rules. As his rules stood before the Trolley Square shooting hit the news, he would have gotten out of harm's way unless personally confronted by the shooter. After considering all the people who had been killed, he decided he wouldn't, in good conscience, be able to let this happen. So, he made a mental exception to his rules of engagement. In this case he would have gone after the shooter. Exceptions to the rule aren't necessarily a bad thing.
The Seven-Eleven scenario we've use here is just one of many possible scenarios that could take place. When you see news stories like home invasions, mall shootings, car jackings and the like, use these as aids in developing your personal rules of engagement. Identify the triggering events, the pre-triggering-event actions, the triggering-event actions, and the post-triggering-event actions you would have to consider if you found yourself in these situations. Incorporate these into your personal rules of engagement. You should be constantly revising your rules as you take more possible defensive situations into consideration.
OK now that we're this far in developing a set of personal rules of engagement, there are a few more things that need to be mentioned before wrapping this up.
Your rules of engagement should be a set of personal guidelines, not hard and fast rules. You need to allow yourself the latitude to adapt to unexpected situations, because you'll not be able to anticipate every eventuality in any set of preconceived rules.
Once you've developed your initial set of personal rules, you should adjust your practice, training, and personal carry gear to work with them. When you consider your personal gear, you may want to evaluate things like how you carry, how much ammo you carry, or if you need to incorporate other options like a home-defense carbine into training regimen. You should continually test your personal rules, and the other components of your self-defense regimen that go along with them. Make sure they work together. This is precisely why we run simulations at our monthly Utah Polite Society events, and why we include carbines, shotguns, and other options in our simulations. When you shoot these simulations with us, use them to test your rules of engagement, and everything else that goes along with them.
One last thing, once you've developed your personal rules and lived with them for a while, you may want to reevaluate whether or not you are actually willing use deadly force in the situations you've considered and if you are willing to deal with the consequences this may bring. This is not a choice that should be taken lightly; it deserves serious thought and consideration.
So, in general terms, here are the steps involved with developing your personal rules of engagement.
If you take the time to develop these rules of engagement in advance, it'll be that much less you'll have to process in the few seconds you'll have when crunch time comes. It may just allow you to concentrate on dealing with the threat well enough to survive a life or death encounter.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
There’s a Utah Polite Society event at Hendricksen Range Saturday, April 5.
We plan to have five courses of fire at the April event, all using defensive sidearms.
The first exercise at this month’s event is a simulated defensive encounter that has you respond to an attacking dog running straight at you.
The second exercise is skills drill that practices getting off the X and away from the threat while engaging the threat with live fire.
The third exercise is a repeat of exercise one, but incorporates the movement concepts practiced in exercise two.
The fourth exercise is a skills drill that practices drawing and engaging threats from various directions while seated.
The fifth exercise is a simulated defensive encounter that has you use the skills practiced in exercise four in responding to an attack in a restaurant.
Please bring your handgun (and related equipment) at least 70 rounds of pistol ammo
(bring extra, if you would like to shoot additional handgun exercises or shoot steel after
Set up starts at 8:00 a.m.
New shooter orientation starts at 8:30 a.m.
Registration starts at 8:45 a.m.
Shooting exercises starts at 9:00 a.m.
Event fee is $12.00.
In May, our regular event will be superseded by the three-day, Gunsite pistol class the Utah Polite Society is sponsoring. The class is full, but Gunsite has started a waiting list for those who would like to fly standby.
In June, we plan to start a series of carbine exercises that will run through the summer months. These will start with the basics and then build on them over the succeeding months. The carbine exercises will be done in addition to our regular pistol exercises.
Here’s what we have planned for the carbine series in June:
Safety: Establishing a working zero (the shooting part of the day); the pros and cons of zeroing at various ranges with the caliber of one’s choice; problems created by a high line of sight over bore line ; manual of arms for AR, AK, and M1. The intent is to help someone, even if they are starting from scratch, to get their rifle up and running.
Here’s what we’re planning for July:
Marksmanship: Basic skill drills (the shooting part of the day). The other subjects I would like to cover here are support systems: slings, mags, mag carry system, sights, and maintenance. On day 2, a person can use the sights that came on the rifle, a simple web, no sling, and load from a back pocket. However, from here on, one needs to start building a support system.
In the succeeding months:
Future subjects: Transition to pistol, low-light, the effects of cover on various calibers, operation of a carbine with one hand only, and whatever else the group would like to cover.
Keep in mind the carbine exercises aren’t exclusively for those with “black rifles.” If you have a Ruger 10-22, a lever-action 30-30, or even a bolt-action rifle that you would like to learn how to use defensively, bring it to the event in June.