Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

Preparing For Training – Part I

Like any art, learning to fight with firearms requires studying under knowledgeable instructors and teachers, which takes time and money – precious commodities for most of us. To get the greatest return on your investment you need to focus on 3 areas – preparation for the class, participation during the class, and post-class follow through.

Preparation includes selecting your class, making travel plans, and acquiring the necessary equipment. Your anticipated use of your firearm and current abilities should dictate the class you attend. If you’re interested in self-defense you don’t want to attend a class on competitive shooting.

Choosing an instructor or school is important for both beginner and experienced student. For a new student the training should be a gratifying experience and get you started in the right direction. For the “gun-school-junky” the instruction should fit the fighting doctrine you already have developing. A great source of info on instructors and schools are firearm forums on the Internet and reviews in magazines.

After researching a school, contact them to talk about what you are looking for in instruction. When discussing your training be careful about overestimating your current abilities. The majority of defensive instruction is based on you knowing the fundamentals of marksmanship the basics of how your weapon functions. Without this knowledge you’ll start out behind, quickly become frustrated, and won’t benefit from the instruction.

Get detailed information on the registration process. Most schools require applications, copies of CCW permits and such, and partial or full payment. Please, send in all the required paperwork. Don’t just shove a check into an envelope and mail it in, even if you have been to the same school 12 times before. After a week or so confirm your registration.

Now that you’ve booked your class it’s time to make travel arrangements. Wait until the last minute to book flights, hotels, or rental cars and you may discover a jazz festival the same weekend of your class and everything is booked solid. When booking a flight check the airline’s policies for flying with firearms. Normally you’ll need more ammo than you can fly with, so buy and ship ammunition in advance, with time to confirm its arrival prior to the class. If you are driving to a course check each state you pass through for their laws on transporting firearms.

Use the time between registration and the class to physically prepare yourself. Fighting “bad guys” for a few days is physically and mentally demanding, especially if you normally sit behind a desk 40 hours a week. Go for long walks, use small dumbbells to exercise your arms, and work on stretching out and developing some flexibility.

Every class I’ve ever attended had an equipment list. And I can tell you as an instructor a major source of frustration is students showing up without the proper gear. In part II of this series we’ll look at gear you’ll need to make your training better.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Preparing for Training - 1, 2, 3 | Leave a comment

Training, Part II – Gear

Every class I’ve ever attended had an equipment list. If it’s on the list bring it. You don’t want to be “that” guy in the class that everyone remembers for the wrong reasons. I normally start gathering and packing gear at least two weeks before a class. This insures you have everything you need, and that it packs up compact enough to fit your travel plans.

Part of training is about evaluating your equipment, discovering how to operate it properly, and its advantages and disadvantages. But don’t go to class with new equipment that hasn’t been tested. With a new weapon you need to fire it enough to insure it’s functioning properly, which means at least two or three hundred rounds. At the same time you’re also confirming your ammunition and magazines are working properly. I’ve seen people come to class with ammo they never tested, and they didn’t discover it wouldn’t function in their weapon until the class started. With anything that can break or fail, carry a spare.

Don’t try to do a two-day course with three different weapons. You’ll have plenty to think about without trying to remember which pistol you’re shooting. Using one type weapon allows you to focus on the important lessons, plus it cuts way down on the amount of gear you have to carry.

I use two range bags to pack my gear. I have a large bag that holds gear I may need. This is where I carry my rain/cold weather gear, elbow and kneepads, spare mags, cleaning gear, batteries, and small tools. I also keep a little snack in this bag. You tend to work up an appetite shootin’ bad guys. A spare holster, belt, pouches and notebook with pens also go in the big bag. Anything that might be affected by rain goes into plastic zip-lock bags.

I have a small range bag that I actually carry with me on the range which fits into the big bag. The small bag holds stuff I know I’ll need such as eye/ear protection, flashlights, sight tools, lights, and a first aid and trauma kit.

If you’re a regular guy or gal training to defend your family don’t show up for class decked out in yards of Velcro and black tactical gear. When you’re attacked in a dark parking lot you won’t have that tactical vest and thigh-rig holster. Armed professionals should train with the gear you normally operate with. During class don’t hesitate to ask other students about their gear. This is an opportunity to get opinions from people actually using the gear before you buy something.

Electronic earmuffs should be considered mandatory. Earplugs don’t really protect your hearing; the area right behind the ear is where a lot of damage can occur. Regular muffs protect this, but you can’t hear commands. The electronic earmuffs are affordable and recommended.

In part III of this series we’ll discuss the class itself and post-class actions, where the learning really starts.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Gear, Preparing for Training - 1, 2, 3 | Leave a comment

Training, Part III

You came to class to learn, not to just do things the way you’ve always done it. I ask students to work with new techniques or tactics during the class, then after giving it a chance they can make an educated choice. Don’t cop-out with “this is how I’ve always done it and I can’t change it now.”

You can do anything if you put your mind to it, which means slow down and focus on what the instructor is asking. After all, it may be a better technique or tactic, and if lives depend on your performance wouldn’t you want to be as good as possible? On the range stay focused and don’t let your mind wander. Shut your mouth, open your ears, and pay attention.

Don’t get caught up competing or comparing your performance with other students. It’s good to observe other people performing, this is one of the ways we learn, but what they can do on the range won’t really matter in your fight.

When the instructor provides you with corrections during a drill it’s not the time to get into a lengthy debate. Hold your questions until a break and then get clarification. After all it’s your class, and you shouldn’t leave with any questions unanswered. Other students will also have questions so don’t hog the instructor’s time.

I highly recommend taking notes during your class. There will be a lot of information presented, too much to try to remember, at least for me. I have training notebooks from all my classes. During class I make notes, and at the end of the day I recount the training in detail. “The Book of Two Guns” is actually my main notebook covering ten years of classes.

During class do not participate in anything unsafe. There are plenty of ways to induce stress into training without increasing risk. Everyone on the range, including you, is a safety officer. If you see something unsafe you need to correct it immediately. Training safely is paramount.

After class is when the real work begins. Training, the introduction of new techniques and the reason you attend class, and practicing, when you actually learn and refine your skills through repetition, are two different things. Without practice you won’t actually learn, you won’t see any improvement in your skills, and they’ll deteriorate over time. A little work will maintain your abilities, but improvement takes regular practice. Practice is also the time to experiment with new or modified gear.

When you decide to invest in training you are entering into a contract. For the school to do their part you have hold up your end of the deal. You can book a class with the best teacher in the world, but if you’re not prepared physically, mentally and with the right equipment you’re wasting both parties’ time. You can always make more money, buy more ammo and gear, but time is a precious commodity. Spend it wisely.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Preparing for Training - 1, 2, 3 | Leave a comment

Team Tactics

You and your wife are at a rest area off the interstate when a man with a knife steps out from around a corner. While answering a domestic call shots are fired. In a few minutes there are officers from three different agencies on the scene. You’re at the mall with the kids when you hear shots and screams echoing. People are running in every direction. You and your team are in a fight.

It’s hard to predict when we’ll get into a fight. Think car wreck; they are normally surprises. And in a fight you’ll never know who will be with you. It may be an armed partner you are used to working with, or it could be officers from another agency. You may be partnered up with two twelve year olds. Team tactics are a necessary skill for fighting, but we need to think outside the box and consider that we can’t always choose our teammates, and that “team” doesn’t mean everyone is armed or capable of fighting.

The fundamentals of fighting are the same for teams as they are for an individual: move, communicate, shoot as necessary and use cover when possible. The problem is that working these skills in conjunction with other people becomes exponentially difficult. Working in a team can be a disadvantage, in the “you have kids with” department, but not a problem that can’t be solved with prior preparation. Having partners that can assist you can create exponential advantages, even if they are not armed.

When you are teamed up with those who will require assistance – kids, elderly, or those who have no clue what to do in a threatening situation – you’re required to deal with the problem while taking care of others. As with any fighting skill this means working on techniques specifically suited for your particular situation. You might not want to take the kids to the range for this one, but a large carry bag with weight in it can simulate the same situation.

With armed partners it still takes training and practice to execute team skills properly. If possible it’s a good idea to set up some practice shoots where you can work with officers from surrounding departments. Another factor to consider is when working with others is that somebody has to take charge, evaluate the team, and direct their responses. This may not necessarily concur with rank, and you may be the one best suited to make these assessments and decisions.

Even an unarmed partner can assist you, again if you’ve thought about how this is done in advance. An extra set of eyes and ears means visual contact with a larger area of your environment. Remember, in the real world danger can come from any direction, and in three dimensions.

Team tactics can be practiced without going to the range and shooting. With kids explain to them what may happen if a “fire” breaks out. For adults who may not be tactically inclined you’ll need to work out a response plan in advance. With armed partners you’ve got to practice to exploit the advantages of a team. Expand your thoughts about “team tactics” so that you’ll be prepared when the time comes.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment

SHOT Show

One of the best things about the SHOT for me is getting to see and actually talk face to face with people. I meet the media people I work with to discuss future projects, I get the lowdown from the guys that make the gear I use on their new products coming out, and I get to see quite a few Shootrite alumni and catch up with them.

After the “hello and how are you?” with students the next thing that occurs is their confession about not having practiced since they last came to a class. “Ammo is expensive,” they explain. “My range won’t allow me to practice tactical stuff,” they tell me. “I just haven’t had the time,” they say, shaking their head. My reply is always the same. “Dry practice,” I patiently explain, “is the easiest, most affordable, and very best way to work on the skills necessary to fight with firearms.” I’ve said it in the past, I’m saying it now, and I’ll keep talking about it until I find something that works better.

Shooting is a small part of fighting, and the other skills required – manipulations, movement, communication and the use of cover – can be practiced dry without having to buy ammo, travel, or deal with the range regulations. With dummy weapons and ammunition you can work on all your fighting skills, including marksmanship, getting the repetitions necessary to truly learn these skills.

Load up a mag with dummy ammo, then set the pistol up with an empty mag in it and the slide locked to the rear. For ten to fifteen minutes practice empty reloads, and only empty reloads. The next time you practice a different skill, such as drawing, obtaining a good sight picture on the light switch in the wall, and smoothly pressing the trigger. Each practice session is short sessions and focuses on only one skill. Specifically focusing on one technique helps you actually learn that particular skill. A “learned” skill is performed at a subconscious level.

Once your individual techniques work well and feel good you start performing dry drills that combine multiple skills. Using dummy ammo you set up a Type 1 malfunction and holster your pistol. (Type 1 malfunctions occur when there’s no round of ammo in the chamber, usually because the mag isn’t seated properly, or it can be a defective round.) You present your weapon while moving, press the trigger, and get a click. Immediately you tap to seat the mag and aggressively cycle the slide, continuing to move to cover, in this case a bookcase in your hallway.

There are a lot of reasons for not shooting at the range. There is no excuse for not practicing your fighting skills. You can even just pretend you’re using a weapon, performing the mental and physical steps of the various skills. A few short sessions a week, every week, will give you reflexive skills. When it is time to fight, there won’t be any time for excuses.

(Note: Your number one consideration when dry practicing is safety!)

September 19, 2010 Posted by | General Training | Leave a comment

Cold Weather Training

Alabama winters are usually mild, even in the northern part of the state, but this last week we were blessed with cold weather, down into the ‘teens, and even a little bit of snow, which around here closed everything down for a couple of days. I say we were blessed with this weather because it was a perfect chance to get some practice in under less than ideal conditions.

When it comes to training and practice everyone wants to shoot in nice comfortable weather. Let’s face it, if it’s cold, raining, or both, that sucks all the fun out of shootin’. But there is a world of difference between shooting and fighting. And when it comes time to fight, the weather and surrounding conditions will be whatever it is. By not training in bad weather, and in the appropriate clothing you’re cheating yourself, and kidding yourself about truly being ready to face a threat.

Let’s look at drawing your weapon as an example. If all you do is train with your weapon exposed, but when you carry the pistol is concealed, then when faced with actual trouble and you need your weapon and need it quick, you’re going to fumble the draw, because you haven’t practiced clearing your sweater and jacket to access the pistol.

Manipulations are another factor. The clothing thing pops up again when you go for a spare magazine. To acquire a fresh mag you’ll have to clear your clothing just like you do when drawing your weapon, except using the support hand. Performing reloads and clearing malfunctions will be a completely different thrill when you’ve got cold stiff hands or while wearing thick winter gloves.

What about movement? You cannot fight effectively if you don’t have physical and mental balance. With snow and ice covering the ground, or even water on slick concrete, you’ll want to move carefully to avoid losing your physical balance. Finding yourself flat on your back in the middle of a fight makes it difficult to create distance or gain cover. When you’re moving and your foot slips on the ice it’s going to distract you, physically and mentally. There is practically no way not to be distracted in your mind when this occurs, and in a fight you cannot afford to be diverted from the task of defeating your opponent.

The point of all this is that when the weather makes you want to hit the couch with a good book, it’s time to head to the range. Train and practice under adverse conditions, and then if you do get lucky and fight in great weather you’ll be ahead of the game. Remember we’re talking about skills that will be necessary to defend your life, and when the fight starts is not the time to figuring out something you should have already known.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | General Training | Leave a comment

Faith and Fighting

A man without faith is a man who has nothing to lose, and therefore nothing worth fighting for other than himself. To fight effectively you have to believe in something, and be willing to risk your life fighting for that belief. Those who have nothing to fight for sell their life too cheap.

In my younger days I looked at Christianity as a crutch for weaker people. Thankfully this viewpoint changed, and over time I began to see religion as an unlimited source of strength and power. Your pistol may fail, a rifle can stop working, and your best dog may bite you. I know in my heart I can put my full faith in my Lord, and that I serve a power that is beyond anything else that exists. This provides me with peace and security. No matter what may happen my Lord has prepared me for it. Having this mindset, which is completely at rest, allows me to fight effectively.

Belief in a higher power provides one with confidence. To fight you must acknowledge that you may have to die. We will all die someday. A warrior knows that when called he will give his life for a higher purpose, but he will never let it be taken from him. A warrior also understands that they may be put into a bad place to fight against evil, and no matter what happens their actions will be true. The end results are unknown to me, but to fight properly I must move beyond thoughts of winning or losing. If you’re concerned with the outcome of the fight, you won’t apply your skills properly; you’ll hesitate when the time comes. Where victory already exists, and by victory I mean the will of a power that controls all things, I am not concerned about the possibility of loss. Being a Christian provides me with a belief system that allows me to totally focus on the task at hand. I can concentrate completely on the process of fighting, without worry of injury, defeat, or death.

The samurai of feudal Japan were taught to fight as though already dead. Only after accepting death could they fight, and win, against overwhelming odds. This is the way of a true warrior. And you don’t have to be a “death-dealing-ninja” to be a warrior. Just think of all the men and women who have given their lives to further a cause greater than themselves. The warrior is the one who fights, without weapons if necessary, without hope of living, and with assurance that their sacrifice will further the goals of a higher authority. This is the path to true victory.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment

Combat Vision

We are visually oriented creatures, with eyes in the front of our head. We rely on our vision to inform us on what is happening in our environment; 90% of our environmental awareness is gained through sight. We need to visually assess a situation in order to determine what our response should be. The problem is our natural instinct to intensely focus on the source of trouble. Our field of focus narrows, mentally and visually, concentrating on the immediate danger. To fight effectively, especially with firearms, you must train and practice to overcome this natural reaction.

You’re walking through a parking lot when you cue in on possible trouble. You keep an eye on the potential threat, but at the same time you need to be looking for an escape route and objects you can use for cover. You also should be scanning for other threats, because as Clint Smith says, “Bad guys travel in packs.” And not all the bad guys are dumb, so they may not all be bunched together. Check your flanks and rear for accomplices.

Maybe the situation degrades to the point that you must shoot to stop the threat. You’ll probably be armed with your pistol, which has iron sights, so you have to shift your visual focus from the threat to the front sight, to the degree necessary required to make the hits. While firing, although focused on the sight, we still have maintain awareness of our environment. What are the people around us doing? Pay attention to any other possible threats that may be present. If there are bystanders in the area you must keep an eye on them as well. You don’t want to injure someone who decides to run between you and the threat while you’re shooting. And yes, this does happen.

Once the threat is down or gone, you’re moving and scanning for other threats. Remember every time you take a step, moving to cover, creating distance, or withdrawing from the area, you’re point of view is changing – in a 360 degree arc. Your head should be on a swivel, with the eyes quickly scanning anywhere that could contain a threat.

Our visual skills, just like any other fighting skill, can be improved with practice. For example you can look at one object, and still pay attention to your peripheral vision. It’s like those 3-D pictures, where you have to un-focus your eyes to actually see the object in the pattern. By looking at nothing, I see everything. It’s also important to pay attention to reflective surfaces. Next time you’re out somewhere, look at all the shiny stuff around you and you’ll be amazed at what all you can see without even turning your head.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Concealed Carry, Defensive Mindset | Leave a comment

And Another Thing About Dry Practice

I’ve said it before, I’m talking about it now, and I’ll say it again, “dry practice is the very best way to learn the skills needed to fight with a firearm.”

To get results from practice you need to focus on the skills you need, under conditions that are similar to the environment you’ll be fighting in. You need to be able to manipulate your weapon at a subconscious level. This requires thousands of repetitions, and the only real way to get this much practice, unless you live on the range and have an unlimited ammunition budget is through dry practice.

The same is true of moving and using cover. You can this at home, and you don’t even have to use a weapon. Pretend you’ve got a weapon in your hands, move tactically down the hallway to the couch, which is your cover. Pick out an aiming point, put your hands up, use a thumb for your front sight, and move while keeping a sight picture on target. These repetitions are important for becoming familiar with the skills, both mentally and physically.

If you work at a desk all day, then every time you get up, physically, or if necessary mentally so you don’t attract the attention of co-workers, practice how you would draw while working up to your feet and getting cover or making your way to the exit. When you’re imagining this, try to instill as much realism as possible. The same applies to vehicles. You want to know how to fight inside your auto, working on things like clearing the seatbelt and drawing without covering yourself or passengers with the muzzle.

On the range we normally work from a standing position, but we know most fights go to the ground. So this is how you practice, but you can’t do it at the club range so you have to work on it at home. Eventually your wife and kids will get used to you flopping around on the carpet. When working on this type stuff I would recommend doing it with your pretend pistol, or with a dummy gun. I highly recommend actually dry practicing with a live weapon, because there is always the chance of making a mistake, which with firearms is extremely dangerous.

So after thinking about what I haven’t done, I believe I’ll focus on what I can do. I need to get more practice with the AR, which I’ve been neglecting lately. Tomorrow I think I’ll practice empty reloads. What are you going to work on to prepare yourself for a fight? Remember, you can never be too prepared, and every day presents opportunities to practice.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | General Training | Leave a comment

Confidence

Confidence is essential to success in combat, unless you just happen to get lucky. If you don’t have confidence in your abilities you won’t perform well under stress, no matter how much you train and practice. When faced with a confrontation you say, with confidence, “I knew this could happen, and I am prepared to deal with the situation.” Without this belief in yourself, you’ll probably go into the “Ohmygosh I can’t believe this is happening” mode. All you’ll be doing is reacting to what’s being done to you. This makes it difficult to win the fight.

You must have confidence in your weapons and the skills to operate them properly. This includes marksmanship – if you can’t hit ’em you ain’t stopping ’em – manipulations – when your weapon runs empty or malfunctions you have to know how to reload or clear the weapon at a subconscious level – and the tactics to employ your weapons to their full potential.

Having confidence allows your conscious mind to focus on winning the fight. You remain calm while all hell is breaking loose around you and someone is trying to kill you, a partner, or member of your family. With confidence you take control of the situation, and use your skills determine the outcome.

This belief should be present regardless of your skill level. No matter where you are in your ability level you focus on what you can do, not what you don’t know or can’t do. But, at the same time it’s important to know your limitations. By recognizing your limits you don’t make mistakes, which create opportunities for the threat to counter attack.

Having confidence also projects an image to would be predators that you will not be an easy victim. The majority of our communication is non-verbal; it’s our physical presence and actions that tell people the most about us. People are attacked because they look like a victim. Bad guys are looking for easy prey they can take with the least amount of resistance. You volunteer to be a victim by staring at the ground while walking, talking on the cell phone, or daydreaming. A person who is assured walks with their head up, shoulders back, and eyes constantly scanning.

Verbal communication is also important. When verbally engaging a potential problem I use the loud voice of authority. There is no doubt that I am in control, I’m issuing commands, and they should comply immediately. You cannot afford to show any signs of weakness.

In a confrontation you can never be sure what will happen. But you can never be in doubt about what you are doing, how and why you’re doing it, and what you will do next. Apply your skills with confidence. This is true in every aspect of life.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Defensive Mindset, General Training | Leave a comment