“What about .22′s for practicing?” (Referring to the .22 long-rifle.) This question pops up frequently during classes. “It’s good stuff,” is my response. For example, it doesn’t matter what you’re firing,youhave aim, hold, press, and follow through to score accurate hits. The same sequence applies for shooting while moving or engaging a moving target. With .22′s – even though right now even it’s difficult to find and more expensive than it used to be – you can get in more practice on the same skills for less money.
At one time practicing with a .22 meant using aweapon that was radically different from what you normally carry or shoot. Today you have the option of setting up your normal platform for .22′s with a conversion kit, or there are dedicated weapons built that are almost direct copies of what you normally use.
Since I’ve started carrying Glocks more often, specifically their 19, I purchased an Advantage Arms .22 conversion kit, a complete upper slide assembly that attaches to your pistol frame. (Two of my instructors had thoroughly tested these out so I knew it was a good piece of kit.) Installation is easy. Remove the slide and install the .22 slide. The kit lightens up the trigger pull slightly, but that’s no problem because we know to press the trigger until the weapon decides it’s time to fire, and then reset the trigger during follow through. With this kit the slide locks to the rear on an empty mag. Old mag out, new mag in, cycle the slide. And,it all fits your regular holster and mag pouches.
For AR training it’s hard to beat S&W’s M&P 15-22. This carbine gives you the same ergonomics as your standard AR; the only difference is the charging handle doesn’t cycle as far backas with a .223/5.56. These carbines come in several styles, and you can equip one to be a twin of your standard weapon. The M&P’s are affordable, and it doesn’t take much shooting to pay for it in the difference between the cost of 5.56 and .22 ammo. I’ve been practicing with mine a lot.
Learning how to operate a weapon requires repetitions. With a .22 setup like these you’re getting the same repetitions you would from your normal weapon. “But,” you ask, “what about recoil?” Useyour normal stance and grip, and then, just as with any weapon, concentrate on recovering from the recoilas opposed to trying to control it, which never turns out well. Your sight picture dictates your rate of fire; with a larger caliber it takes a fraction of a second longer to recover from the additional recoil to acquire your next sight picture.
.22′s are also a great way to introduce newshooters to firearms. We always have new shooters start with a .22 to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship and manipulations. There’s no loud noise to deal with. The reduced recoil means they don’t develop a flinch response in anticipation of the shot. After becoming familiar with these skills transitioning into a larger caliber is a piece of cake.
Success with .22′s is having good kit. Keep in mind .22′s are more sensitive to ammo than other calibers. For example Advantage Arms recommends specific ammo, as well as ammo not to use. Beneficial training/ practice relies on having everything set up as close to your normal gear as possible. Then, practice. It’s fun, affordable, and you’re developing skills you need.
There are two categories of manipulations required to operate a firearm- administrative manipulations and functional manipulations. Administrative actions include loading, unloading, or checking the status of the weapon. The functional manipulations cover the actions needed to keep the firearm operating. This category includes reloading when empty and clearing malfunctions should they occur.
A lot of people take the administrative manipulations for granted, but they are extremely important, especially if your anticipated use of the firearm includes fighting. Loading, unloading or verifying the status of your weapon is normally done in the home, or somewhere similar, so these actions need to be performed safely. Also, and equally important, these manipulations serve as the foundation for all the functional manipulations, so it’s important to learn them well.
Small details make a big difference. For example following the proper sequence is critical to performing the administrative manipulations safely and properly. The correct sequence always begins with the magazine, and ends with the chamber. The loading sequence begins by inserting and seating the magazine.
Next you chamber a round, then end the process by checking the chamber, visually or physically, to verify there is a round chambered and the weapon is ready for action. The chamber or press check is cheap insurance to ensure your weapon goes bang when you press the trigger.
Unloading begins again with the magazine, except now you’re removing it, taking away the source of ammunition. The weapon is cycled to empty the chamber. We teach cycling the action three times to be sure of ejection. The administrative unload ends by running a chamber check, visually confirming the chamber is clear. Again, starting with the mag and ending by checking the chamber is critical. Cycling the action, then removing the mag means you eject one round from the chamber but with the same action chambered another round. This has lead to many people having a negligent discharge with an “unloaded” weapon.
To verify the status of a weapon you run the same sequence. Confirmation of an unloaded weapon starts by confirming there is no magazine in the magwell. I stick the fingers of my support hand into the magwell for a physical confirmation that it’s clear. I cycle the action three times, which is consistent with unloading, and finish by visually checking the chamber for clear. To confirm the weapon is loaded I remove the magazine, making sure it does have ammunition in it, and then insert it back into the weapon. I perform a press check to confirm the chamber is loaded.
Knowing how to manipulate your weapon safely and efficiently begins by learning the proper techniques to load and unload it. The key is consistency, manipulating the weapon the same way every time regardless of the circumstances. The way I unload is the same on the range during training or practice, inside my home when I’m clearing the weapon for storage, or during a fight, using the same actions to clear a Type III malfunction.
Humans are visually oriented creatures. The majority of input on what’s going on around us is obtained through sight. We scan to discover and avoid potential problems, formulating a response prior to trouble. In a situation when we are forced to confront a threat, scanning is mandatory for a variety of reasons. And, just like other fighting skills, we must practice scanning otherwise under stress we will not do it.
Scanning is simply using your eyes to look around, visually checking the environment for important information. What you scan for depends on the situation. When driving you’re constantly scanning the road, using your mirrors to check sides and rear and watching other drivers. Scanning helps avoid being in a wreck. Scanning while walking through a parking lot allows you to spot potential trouble and initiate a response to avoid a confrontation. It also tells any bad guys out there you’re aware of your surroundings and won’t be an easy victim.
If forced to fight, scanning is a part of the response. After the primary threat is down or gone you begin scanning. The firearm stays pointing towards the last known threat or other area of concern. You twist the head so the eyes can scan for any additional threats; in over fifty percent of violent confrontations there are more than one threat. They won’t all be lined up in a nice row in front of you. While scanning you are ready to react to the initial threat or any other threats that appear.
You scan to locate family, friends, or partners and determine what you need to do concerning them. Are they ok or down and injured? You scan to identify cover to get between you and a downed threat or additional threats. If you’re behind cover you scan for better cover. In most situations, unless you’re an armed professional, you need to scan to discover what direction to tactically retreat to a safer area or an exit to escape through.
Scanning also breaks us out of the “tunnel vision” that occurs under stress. The instinctual response to danger is to visually laser focus in on the threat. It’s like holding a cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels up to your eye and looking through it. To break this tunnel vision we need to look somewhere else and focus on another object at a different distance than the threat. Scanning also breaks you out of the mental lock we tend to get into during stressful situations.
Scanning, like any other technique, must be practiced. You can always choose not to scan, but if you don’t make it part of your standard response you won’t have it when you need it. When scanning you don’t look to see if everything is O.K. That attitude will cause you to miss something important. Scan like you know there is something out there to find.
God gave us excellent visual capabilities. Take advantage of this gift. Our vision allows us to make it through every day life safely, and during a violent confrontation scanning is an essential element of victory.
It’s a simple task. Stop by the store to pick up the items on your list. Walking through the entrance of the super-store you accidentally bump shoulders with a guy going out trough the in door. You glance over, say “‘Scuse me,” and walk on. Nothing big.
The man has a little alcohol and a bad attitude ’cause his “old lady” is giving him grief. You hear him ask the woman in a loud tone if she saw what just happened. You start paying closer attention because this simple thing could develop into something more complicated. In the reflection off the glass door ahead you see him stop, point at you, and say a few words to the woman, some which you have no problem lip-reading. You continue walking, keeping in mind that things may have just gotten serious.
From the magazine rack you can keep an eye on the doorway so you stop by to check out the gun publications. Maybe it was nothing. After a few minutes you head deeper into the store to complete your purchases.
You scan as you exit into the parking lot. The first thing you notice is the woman who was with the man is now standing near the first set of cars in the lot and acting anxious. Movement draws your eye. From around the corner steps the man. Held low and against his leg is a knife. This is complicated and serious. He moves towards you, his intent clear. You present your pistol while moving to create distance. “Stop, drop the weapon now!” He ignores the command. The knife comes up and he continues advancing. The distance between the two of you is decreasing rapidly.
At this point what was a complicated situation suddenly becomes simple. You’ve exhausted every option in an attempt to avoid it, but the only solution to the problem – and a fairly easy one to execute as long as you’ve practiced – is shooting to stop the threat. Mentally and physically you cycle through your mantra, “Front sight press, front sight reset.” The threat reacts to the first shot immediately. He clutches his side, turns and begins running away. The woman follows.
The threat is gone. The last twenty seconds occurred in slow motion, but now it seems like time is speeding up. A lot of things are happening at once; your senses overloading as they attempt to compensate for lost time. You’re glancing around. A crowd is gathering. You hear voices and realize the sirens in the distance are growing louder each second and that the pistol is still in your hands. The situation is becoming complicated, again.
During daily life we constantly flow back and forth between simplicity and the complex. Sometimes a dramatic shift occurs. A completely unexpected and complex situation takes on lethal qualities. Success in life relies on the ability to flow between the simple and complex, the known and unknown, constantly maintaining the correct balance between the two. Victory demands this.
One of the first things people notice when they begin low-light training is exactly how much smoke is created when you discharge a firearm. The amounts are magnified when firing high-velocity rifle rounds. Plug a flashlight into the equation and the smoke becomes even more apparent from all the reflection created by the light. Depending on what type ammo you’re shooting and how many rounds you fire the smoke can become dense enough it starts to limit your vision, which drastically affects your capabilities.
There are a variety of different ways to deal with this problem, and as always the situation determines your best option. An easy, quick technique to apply is simply stepping off line from where you were firing. Taking a step or two laterally away from the location you were firing puts gives you a different view of the area without having to look through as much smoke. The circumstances determine whether you leave the light on, maintaining visual contact with the threat as you move, or turn the light off so it doesn’t attract fire from any additional sources you haven’t located yet. When you have a good covered position or the situation doesn’t allow you to move then after firing a few shots you may need to turn off the light, let the smoke clear, then turn the light back on to see what’s going on downrange.
Even with a weapon mounted light there are a lot of reasons to have a hand-held with you. For example after firing using the weapon mounted light you can use a hand-held light, holding it off to the support side like the old F.B.I. technique so the light is shining from a different angle and isn’t creating as much reflection off the smoke and penetrates more into the environment. A capable partner works really well in low-light situations. They can light the threat from another location while you fire, or you can light the target up, fire and cut your light off. As you kill your light they turn their light on to keep a visual on the target. Obviously this takes some planning, practice, and communication.
There are all type tricks or techniques for dealing with the fog of war that results when you start firing off rounds in low-light environments. For example you may figure out that while your red-dot works great on setting “X” for using the flashlight once the smoke pops it needs to be a little brighter. The key, as always, is to figure out how to use your gear properly what techniques work well in advance so it’s not a distraction when you have to deal with it for real.
Since we know that the majority of confrontations occur in low light environments it’s up to you to make sure you’re ready. The only way to get this experience is to hit the range for live fire practice, in the dark, using both hand-held and weapon mounted lights.
The higher you climb on the training ladder the more important the fundamentals become. For example we begin by learning the basic skills required to perform a certain task, say the fundamentals of marksmanship. These basic techniques are then bundled with other skills in order to execute more complicated tasks – shooting while moving, communicating and using cover. The more elements you add to your performance the more critical it is to be able to perform the fundamentals at a subconscious level. This means you can apply them without conscious thought. Regardless of what all else is going on, to get good hits you still have to apply the fundamentals.
In the beginning you learn how to apply the fundamentals of marksman – aim, hold, press, and follow-through – to fire one accurate shot at a time. There is no time limit or stress; you take as much time as you need to insure the trigger press results in an accurate shot. As you get the fundamentals down the target size decreases and the distances increase, forcing you to truly apply the fundamentals to score a hit.
The next step is to start applying the fundamentals to combative marksmanship. You learn that a perfect sight picture isn’t necessary to hit the chest from three yards, which is good because at that distance you better be able to get those hits outbound quickly. A smooth trigger press is always mandatory, but you learn how to achieve it over a short span of time. At twenty-five yards a more refined sight picture is required, and a steady smooth press on the trigger insures hits.
In a confrontation chances are high you’ll need to be moving. You move to create distance or get off the line of attack, to get behind cover or obtain a clear angle of attack. There’s also a possibility you have to shoot to stop the threat(s) while you’re moving. You move smoothly, maintaining a stable platform, and learn that those same fundamentals of marksmanship still apply, except now they’re even more important. At this level of training/practice, or application in an actual confrontation, the marksmanship skills are performed at a subconscious level. If you have to think about shootin’ accurately you can’t be thinkin’ ’bout what direction or how far you need to move.
At some point in your training and practice you start addressing moving targets. The threat(s), just like you, are not going to be stationary, standing there while you shoot them. When you start shooting moving targets you get a big refresher course in the fundamentals of marksmanship. Our visual, and mental, focus is attracted to the moving target. You have to remember that when the target is moving it’s extremely important to focus on the front sight. (Assuming you’re using iron sights.) When the target is moving the follow-through – recovering from the recoil, reacquiring a sight picture and resetting the trigger – are mandatory for good hits. You have to constantly be tracking the target with your sights. Follow through is also the key to making multiple hits efficiently. If you don’t continue to track the target you’re always trying to play catch up on the next shot. Eventually the target is moving, you’re moving and shooting accurately.
Clint Smith drilled into my head that “fundamentals win fights.” While this may sound simplistic, the more training and practice you perform the more you appreciate how true this rings. Responding to a violent threat is all about applying a lot of different fundamentals at once. Practice now, because while it may seem simple that doesn’t mean it won’t be complicated.
The majority of confrontations occur in low-light environments, which exist twenty-four hours a day. In the dark you have to use a light to locate, identify, and if necessary engage threats. How much do you use the light? The light is used as little as possible or as much as necessary.
Since lights are sometimes bullet magnets you use the light as little as possible. In a lot of situations there is enough ambient light to work corners, travel down a hallway, or clear your way around various objects such as buildings or vehicles using your light as little as possible. When you locate potential trouble you light it up to assess, making quick decisions on your next actions.
Even though there may be ambient light there will also be shadows creating darker areas. Every shadow can contain a threat; you illuminate the area to insure it’s clear — again, using the light as little as possible.
In an environment where it’s so dark you can’t see you’ll have to use the light as much as necessary. In unfamiliar terrain the light may be necessary to navigate. Cavemen carried torches so they didn’t step off into an abyss. The same thing applies for us. Falling down or tripping during a search is not cool. It makes noise and puts you in a position enemies may attempt to exploit. Depending on the situation if you go down it may be better to hold on the ground in a ready position in case anyone does try to take advantage of your predicament as opposed to immediately trying to get back up on your feet, which can limit your ability to respond to a threat. Then, when you feel it’s safe to do so you work up into a standing position.
When it’s really dark you’ll have to use the light as you slice or pie corners. While it’s not ideal to turn the light on it’s much better than taking a few steps around a dark corner, then turning on your light only to discover you’ve exposed yourself to three threats standing ready. Working a corner in pitch dark is like coming to a bad intersection where you can’t see traffic. Punching the gas and hoping there’s no oncoming traffic probably ain’t a good idea.
Working in lowlight situations is a lot more complicated than just turning the light on and off. You have to know how and when to use light. The cool thing about learning to work lowlight situations is that you can practice without going to the range. Take a light and play in your house or yard, practicing on working corners, moving shadows around by repositioning the light, taking the mystery out of being in the dark.
Think about it this way, if you’re comfortable and proficient with working in lowlight and your opponent(s) aren’t this gives you an advantage. In a lighted environment everyone is on equal footing. In the dark you control the light. Make ready now, so when the time comes you have the skills you need.
For survival, especially self-defense involving aggressive attackers, flashlights are mandatory. For everyday survival flashlights are handy. A common byproduct of natural disasters such as ice storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes is the loss of power. When you can’t flip a switch multiple sources of alternative lighting make life a lot easier. For situations involving violent attackers light is a necessity, especially considering that most violent encounters occur in low-light environments.
For home defense it makes sense to have a light attached to your weapon. Mating two tools into one package makes responding to a threat simpler; defending against an attacker in your home will stressful enough without adding to the process. Today there are a variety of pistols manufactured with rails to attach lights. With the light mounted on your pistol you are ready to locate, identify, and if necessary engage a threat.
Carrying a light on your pistol, especially concealed, is a little easier than it used to be. At one time there were only a limited number of holster options available. Most of those were bulky outside the waistband holsters that are difficult to hide. Today a variety of manufacturers produce holsters for pistols with lights, and there are even inside the waistband holsters available.
As with all fighting skills and related equipment training and practice is necessary. It’s not as simple as snapping a light onto the weapon and calling yourself ready. Manipulating a pistol in the dark is completely different from a lighted environment. Using the flashlight properly is an ability that requires a good education on low-light principles. You also need to insure that attaching the light to the pistol doesn’t affect reliability of both light and pistol.
Just because you have a weapon mounted light doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to use hand-held lights. While the LED lights of today are much more reliable than the older incandescent models they can still go bad. When your light goes out you better have a spare. Carrying a hand-held allows you to perform tasks that don’t require you to draw your pistol. A hand-held provides a little more versatility, allowing you to keep the weapon indexed or pointing in one direction and the light in another.
There are more people than ever seeking out training for self-defense, which is a good thing. The problem that we see is very few students ever progress into low-light training, which is a bad thing. Documentation shows over seventy percent of violent confrontations occur in low-light environments, and keep in mind low-light environments exist twenty-four hours a day. There are always areas in buildings and structures that have shadows or are not lighted. This is compounded when you step into them from sunny, bright daylight. It’s daytime, but the power goes off. You need to clear a closet in your house, but it’s probably a bad idea to step inside it to turn the light on.
Once you get up to speed on your daylight fighting skills it’s time to move over to the dark side. Unless you’re prepared to face conflict in the dark you ain’t really ready. Flashlights, and the skills to use them, are mandatory. Don’t get caught off guard.
The big secret to winning a violent confrontation is that there is no secret. Successfully defending you, family or friends/team-mates against an attacker takes plenty of training and practice. It also never hurts when luck favors you.
In books and movies the story often begins with the hero sadly lacking in the skills necessary to defeat the antagonist. They seek out a teacher for training. At some point in their transformation they experience a mystical revelation, learning the one true secret that allows them to defeat their rival in the final showdown. Real life ain’t “The Karate Kid.”
There are no shortcuts or secret techniques. To fight effectively, regardless of whether we’re talking firearms, knives, or unarmed techniques, you have to train and practice until the point where the necessary skills become learned. To learn something literally takes thousands of repetitions. To apply what you’ve learned under stress, when someone is actually trying to put the hurt to you, takes even more practice.
It is true that as you study the art of firearms there are revelations. For example it’s a great thing to see a student pick up on the proper way to press and reset the trigger. You actually see them smile when they figure it out. As you progress the learning curve begins to flatten out; the revelations become less frequent but no less important.
Sam Sheridan, in “The Fighters Mind,” mentions a study done on musicians that discovered that the more musicians practiced the better they performed. The musicians began playing at around age five with roughly the same amount of talent. “But when students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge.” Those who began practicing more outperformed their classmates. “(B)y the age of twenty they were practicing … over thirty hours a week.” These were the ones who would go on to be famous performers. Everyone started out more of less with the same talent. Eventually what separated them was the amount of practice. There were no naturals, or students at the top.
The martial art of firearms is truly one of the only arts that allow almost anyone, regardless of size or strength to easily defeat a much stronger, bigger opponent. But there is no substitute for training and practice. Through practice you fine tune and polish your skills, becoming more efficient and effective. You get to the point where very few mistakes occur, and when they do you fix ‘em immediately. As long as you practice you can be a good fighter.
Few of us have thousands of hours to devote to practice, but luckily it doesn’t take that to become proficient at using firearms. While the mechanics are fairly easy, in the beginning it does take time and repetition. At some point the key becomes more about frequency than quantity. Anyone can schedule ten minutes a day to dry practice.
There are no secrets. The bad guys are out there getting practice on the job. They are ready and willing. Are you?
Studies have shown that the more organized a person is the less chance there is that they become involved in stressful situations. This applies to work, home-life, and every aspect of owning a firearm.
Purchasing a firearm, depending on where you live and at least for right now, is an easy process. Once you own a firearm is when you have to get organized. Step one, especially if you own a weapon for self-defense, is learning how to operate it safely and efficiently. This is going to mean making time to obtain training, and more time for practice so you can truly learn the required skills.
You have to be organized so that when you have the opportunity to train and practice you’re getting the maximum return from your time and money. When training, attending an organized class to get exposure to new skills, it pays off to insure you have all the necessary equipment and that it functions properly. Nothing sucks more than arriving with everything you need only to discover that your new magazines don’t feed rounds into your carbine. During practice, repeating the same skills over and over until you truly learn them, you need to have an organized, structured plan. Otherwise you end up expending large amounts of ammo and not learning anything.
It’s also your responsibility to insure your weapons are safe and secure. The only way to achieve this is through organization, developing and practicing a routine that the only people who have access to any weapons and related gear are those who are qualified.
Being organized also helps avoid becoming a victim. Prior to taking a trip, I check my weapons to make sure everything is good to go. I also confirm the truck is gassed up, the tires are good, and everything is road worthy. This helps prevent being stranded in the middle of the night in an area that may be known for its high crime rate. Everything you do should be thought out and performed in a manner that reduces your risk of being involved in anything other than what your intentions and plans are. At the same time though you have to be ready for any surprises that may pop up.
If you’re forced to become involved in a violent confrontation it definitely pays off to be organized. You have to know what your response options are, and able and ready to do what’s necessary to defeat the threat. While you can learn the skills needed in advance, you better have your mind organized to make ‘em work under stress.
On a larger note if we don’t get organized we may all suffer restrictions on our rights to own firearms. While you’re buying as much gear as you can, find take time to contact your representatives, at all levels, to let them know your legal right to bear arms should not be infringed because of criminal activity. Start the year right; get organized.