Are you playing ‘Operator’ too much?

So I know of a guy that has a training group organized (a training group is not a class, it is an organized practice session; I’ll write on that later). They get together and run every couple of months or quarter year for a couple of days at a time. Last three or four sessions they’re worked with rifles and a lot with team tactics drills – coordinated fire and movement and the like. Pictures of the group afterwards show me a lot of smiling faces and full ‘kits’ – load bearing vests and chest rigs and war belts with magazine pouches and IFAKs and secondary weapons and support and the like to run the ARs and AKs they’re all holding.

Then there’s the range I teach at and am beginning to host a yearly training group session at and where I do the majority of photo work for my books at. Very nice place. They have or did have a nice video of the training going on there with a student talking about how good his particular class was and how much he got out of it. And in the video they have snippets of the class in progress which included both LE and non-LE attendees working in and around vehicles. And
everybody has full kits and full-size pistols, many with weapon lights, or rifles with all the fixins’ on them.

So I’m thinking about this and how very, very often I seen this – believe me I’m not picking on these guys and places and this is not an anomaly or at all unusual thing to see in class writeups and photos and the like – and I keep wondering how many of them wear the load-bearing gear and carry rifles to work. And I wonder how many of them will have that rifle in their hands and/or that load-bearing gear on at the moment a thug starts their approach or an active shooter opens up on the front of the building they’re in.

I keep wanting to get a show of hands, you know? Okay, all of you that will have all that stuff you have on in the pictures and the videos when you’re not on the range, raise your hands! Okay, thanks, now let me count…hmmmmm…

I’m betting I don’t see a lot of hands in the air. In fact, unless I’m taking tally of a military unit or a dedicated LE Tac/SWAT/HRT unit, I bet I don’t see a single one.

So, if the chances of you having all that gear and the rifle on when you’re attacked is about the same as the chances of you winning the state lottery (if you have one) with a single ticket purchase, WHY ARE YOU SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN TRAINING AND PRACTICE WITH IT?

Because I doubt that you are currently so good and so very excellently up to speed with your carry pistol from concealment that you don’t need to focus on that for a while.

Playing ‘Operator’ is fun. I get that. But is it really what you need to keep you and yours alive in a fight? Is it really what you need to be spending so much time on getting good at doing?


Be honest with yourself about this.

It’s time to get away from the idea of “Combat Accuracy”

COM–Center Of Mass–a roughly eight-inch diameter circle, the top of which would be around the base of the throat–was fine for a while as a standard of fighting accuracy. A lot of people have used it, a lot of good guys have stayed alive shooting to it. They still will.

Hit COM and everybody will say you’re “Combat Accurate” and call it Good. And, actually, it probably will be.

Unless the attacker has a bomb vest on. Or unless the attacker has body armor. At that point, COM is too big. You have to go smaller.

Besides that, putting a majority of your training time into COM shooting conditions you to be comfortable with any hits within that larger area. That actually doesn’t work well even for COM because you can still put hits inside that eight-inch circle that don’t affect the attacker’s ability to kill you, especially shooting from an angle.

You have to go smaller and you have to go higher sooner to be sure. You have to be ready to go for the head.

Even that isn’t enough if you’re content to hit anywhere on the head. Certain places, certain points, are better than others. MUCH better. And those places, those points, are all small.

You want the best chance of hitting the place that will stop the attack quickly, right? And for most of us our groups will open up once we realize somebody out there is really trying to kill us.

So ditch COM in practice and training. Make yourself shoot to smaller areas and smaller targets. Do not be satisfied with that eight-inch circle any more. Start with four. Then two. Then one.

That way, when the target is a point, you can point-shoot it even using the sights. Train to do that. Train and practice so that when the groups open up you’re still shattering their hearts and blowing their minds.

Don’t be content with COM. Because the bad guy may not be content with just a t-shirt next time.

Lessons Are Where You Find Them

I found out that Amazon Prime has the first three seasons of ‘The Vikings’ available for free and have been rolling through them for the last few days. Among other things I found a lesson among the episodes so far viewed.

The lesson comes from a scene that takes place during the second Viking incursion into Northumbria. The king there has called his brother in to take command of his forces and go smite the heathens as you would expect kings of that time and place to do. The man goes and checks out the camp the Vikings are making and then goes to where his men have set their own camp. That night the Vikings raid the camp. So far, nothing to be noted.

The king’s brother is asleep at first–sleeping in his armor and with a weapon in reach, which seems prudent given the circumstances. The attack on his camp wakes him up and, being an experienced fighting man, he knows immediately what is happening at which point he rolls off his bed, picks up his sword–

–and kneels down to pray to God for strength and victory.

Understand, now, that I have no beef with him asking God for strength and victory. What I do have a beef with is that he took so long with his prayer–even continuing when one of his men came into the tent to tell him they were under attack–that the Vikings had time to take the camp and cut the lines to his tent, collapsing it on him so that he could be taken prisoner. He was eventually killed when the king tried to turn a ransom payment into a surprise attack.

Here’s the lessons from that scene: When it’s time to fight,


. Don’t waste time doing something else when the fight is on.

Here’s another lesson from that scene: Prepare for the fight before you have to fight. Physically, mentally, and spiritually–do what you can to get ready


, not at the moment, the fight begins.

If you have to do something to get ready the moment the fight starts you’re probably going to be in a lot of trouble.

Such is the lesson from an unexpected place. Here is one not from there:

As much as you can, be open to learning from


. Don’t turn down learning just because the source of it is not what you’re used to learning from.

On to the next episode…

Fundamentals are hard…to describe

Last night I finished the first draft of the text for the next non-fiction book I hope to release by the end of this year. It’s the hardest non-fiction project I’ve done so far because for this one I had to get away from concepts and principles such as I focus on in my “Gunfighting, and Other Thoughts about Doing Violence” book series (number four of that series is next in the project list, by the way) and focus on describing nuts-and-bolts here’s-how-to-do-this subjects.

There is a benefit to making myself do this the same way there is a benefit to me teaching classes to beginners or covering really basic shooting and gunfighting subjects in a class, though. Remember that bit about we learn by teaching? That’s it right there. And it works even if you’re teaching the same thing you’ve been teaching and working on teaching and thinking about teaching for over a year as I have. Better than that, it still applies to things you already know very well and things you are very competent doing.

Want to make sure you really-for-certain know how to do something? Teach it to someone else so that they can be as good as you are with it.

(The book, incidentally, will be titled Bare-Bones Gunfighting and covers the material in written form of the course I teach with the same name. I’m looking at a release date now sometime in November. Actual release of each format depends on how much processing I have to pay for to get the pictures right for the Kindle version. As for the books I have available already, do an author search on Amazon and it will list everything I’ve got so far. Forth volume of ‘Gunfighting…’ series should be expected early in the third quarter of 2016.)

Two Comments

“Anyone who studies the matter will reach the conclusion that good marksmanship, per se, is not the key to successful gunfighting. The marksmanship problem posed in a streetfight is ordinarily pretty elementary. What is necessary, however, is the absolute assurance on the part of the shooter that he can hit what he is shooting at – absolutely without fail. Being a good shot tends to build up this confidence in the individual. Additionally, the good shot knows what is necessary on his part to obtain hits, and when the red flag flies, the concentration which he knows is necessary pushes all extraneous thinking out of his mind. He cannot let side issues such as fitness reports, political rectitude, or legal liability enter his mind. Such considerations may be heeded before the decision to make the shot is taken, and reconsidered after the ball is over; but at the time, the imperative front sight, surprise break must prevail. Thus we have the paradox that while you almost never need to be a good shot to win a gunfight, the fact that you are a good shot may be what is necessary for you to hold the right thoughts – to the exclusion of all others – and save your life. This may come as a shock to a good many marksmanship instructors, but I have studied the matter at length and in depth, and I am satisfied with my conclusions.”

Jeff Cooper
From Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries
Vol. 5, No. 1
January 1997

Now frankly, I think you can become a good shot one of two ways: Either by using “the imperative front sight, surprise break” of Cooper’s Modern Technique of the Pistol or by using any of a group of point-shooting systems available for current study. My preference is to be as good a shot with both as I can be and able to as necessary and desirable move from one to the other system seamlessly whenever the situation dictates that.

That’s what I want to be able to do and what I strongly recommend that all of you work to be able to do.

Not Complication, ORGANIZATION

I have an entry on Short Barrel Shepherd’s blog:

Masterpiece Arms 30DMG and the Weapons-System Concept

What’s most important to me about this entry is not the gun and accessories I evaluate. What’s important to me is the concept I introduce in the first the paragraphs of the entry: The idea of the need to think of Weapon’s Systems and not just guns. I think even non-military/non-LE gun-carriers should do this consciously to avoid getting tripped up with things they don’t need and have to replace down the road and things that lessen their ability to fight for life.

What I want you to understand here is I am not for a moment over-thinking the process of getting a gun or accessories for that gun. Even when I subdivide Weapon’s System into Gun System and Transport/Carry System I’m not doing that. What I’m doing is organizing my thinking and reducing the complexity of the process of getting and equipping a counteroffensive firearm. Outlining whether on paper or screen or just in my head is a time-honored method of organizing items so that they are easily referenced and remembered and taken care of in the best and most efficient order. It’s taking a process that too many people start doing on-the-fly and systematizing it.

And systems are what we study when we want a coherent whole that fits together more. Systems are what help us come up to speed and obtain competency most efficiently and quickly.

Unarmed combat systems – a way to organize and structure the weaponless fight.

Shooting and gunfighting systems – a way to structure and speed up the process of being able to fight effectively with a gun.

Weapon’s Systems – a way to organize and structure the planning for getting and then setting up a gun that saves money and time and gets the gun ready to fight effectively and efficiently with.

Simple as that.

Contemplating Rules

So we have the shooting in Chattanooga at the recruitment center a while back. One of the characteristics shared by that shooting with others is that it took place at a location and among personnel that did not allow anyone to have in reach or to carry firearms that could otherwise have been used to respond to the attack with.

Two things to note first:

There have in fact been such shootings in places and areas where people were allowed to carry. So being in a place or area like that is still not guarantee that someone won’t select it as a target. (Don’t let that blind you to the overwhelming difference in locations between can-have and can’t-have targets, though.)

Even if they had guns available in Chattanooga (or wherever else these have occurred) the probability is that the shooter would still have wounded or killed one or more before they could be engaged and killed. (Don’t let that blind you to the fact that casualties are far lower where shooters are taken under fire early on, though.)

So I wonder again about breaking the rules. I’ll admit right now that I don’t break them where I work for now. What I do have is:

Items that I have designated for use as weapons including items that can be used at distance that are not formal ‘weapons’ according to the rules.

Some (maybe not enough) plans for what to do if something happens where I am.

Redlines such that if I were to get certain information or see certain signs of high(er) threat level/probability, I would be more likely to break the rules despite the associated risk involved if the rule-breaking is discovered.

Continued consideration of ways and means to conceal and obscure such rule-breaking if it ever took place.

If you are in a similar situation to mine and you see situations where you will break rules of your own, start thinking now and periodically review the ways you can conceal your weapon(s) more than you normally do, including finding hiding places or carry systems both on and off-body and camouflage methods for those weapons you decide to break the rules with.

Also, make sure you understand the risks and the penalties you will face if you are caught. These are not always insignificant and what rates as insignificant and not is different between us. If you can’t in honesty deal with the penalties, you may, frankly, be better off not trying.

All of this is, of course, up to you.

Not saying that everybody should definitely start breaking their rules here. Not saying that. Probably never will as a blanket recommendation. Just want to remind you to think about it and what you can and will do before you decide or have to do it.

That’s my thinking on this right now.

Getting Comfortable With Chaos

In the upper right corner of this blog:

(Which blog, by the way, I recommend to you as a resource for information that could be useful to you for awareness and help with threat analysis.)

is a quote space titled “Words to Chew On…”.

…in which one day the following quote appeared:

“You must train in chaos in order to thrive in chaos”. -Hock Hochheim

I think this is true. I also think that if it is taken too much to heart it will get you in trouble.

The reason is that I have come lately to differentiate more than I used to between training and practice. They are not really the same thing. Training takes place when you are learning a skill or skill-set or acquiring some kind of knowledge you didn’t have or didn’t have a lot of before. It can also be training when you are reviewing and refreshing a knowledge or skill-set you already know. Practice is where you apply what you have trained as or in an exercise. You do repetitions of the skill-set or application of knowledge to make it more natural and automatic and to check your level of competency and what you have learned during the training. An example often debated is the use of shooting competitions to someone who focuses primarily on fight shooting. The fight shooter can use competition as a medium to practice subsets of fight shooting that he has previously trained in. They cannot use that as training, however, because no skills are taught in competition.

Training requires a pattern and/or structure to be most effective. The student, especially during first exposure to a given skill or skill-set, needs a progression from part to whole, from simple to complex, from basic to advanced, from single step to combinations of steps performed simultaneously. If you don’t give them that, you don’t teach the right and they don’t learn well and maybe not at all.

It’s easier to become comfortable with Chaos if you have first learned the Patterns properly.* It’s as simple as that in concept, though the practical application of that concept can be quite difficult. (Doesn’t have to be, but it can be.)

For these reasons I would, if I were making a quote about this, change the sentence to read:

“You must practice in Chaos in order to be able to thrive when you encounter it.”

That, I believe, is a better way of saying it.

*I have a chapter in the first book of my “Gunfighting, and Other Thoughts about Doing Violence” series that considers the learning of Patterns in preparation for encountering Chaos in more detail. (All three volumes to date combined here.)