Sunday, June 28, 2020

Home Defense Shotgun Qualification

Since I use a shotgun as a home defense weapon, I periodically fire qualifications with my shotguns. It is a good idea to demonstrate and document for record your competence with any firearm you might use for self-defense.

The claim of self-defense as a justification is for an intentional act, not for an accident or negligence. Demonstrating competence with your firearm can short-circuit the  prosecutor’s
potential tactic of arguing that you discharging the firearm was an accident or negligent act rather than intentional self-defense. 

What course should you use? There are several approaches you can take in choosing which course of fire to use to demonstrate competency. For the shotgun, I recommend the Department of Energy (these are the guys that guard nuclear weapons and facilities) Shotgun Qualification course or your state or local police qualification course. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) Shotgun Instructor Qualification I discuss below is what police firearms instructors must pass to receive TCOLE firearms instructor certification in Texas.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) Shotgun Instructor Qualification course of fire is actually fairly straight forward and requires ten rounds of buckshot or five slugs and five buckshot. Given the scarcity of premium buckshot at this time, I used the cheaper Fiocchi 9 pellet buckshot.

The TCOLE qualification is fired on the standard TQ19 target with all pellets counted as one point. The shooter must score 90% to pass at the instructor level. 

The Stages:

25 yards: on command chamber and fire 3 rounds

25 yards: on command chamber and fire 2 rounds

15 yards: on command chamber and fire 3 rounds

10 yards: on command chamber and fire 2 rounds


Click on the picture below for a video of the qualification:

TCOLE Shotgun Qualification
Texas TCOLE Shotgun Qualification

I fired the qualification twice, once using a target much smaller than the TQ-19 and once using a B27 target that is closer in size to the TQ19.

My Beretta 1301 is not a 25-yard gun with the Fiocchi buckshot and will have flyers as shown on the cardboard target. Although the wads likely took out evidence of a few hits, I could only account for 78 pellets which was not a passing score. The B27 target contained all 90 pellets which was a 90 or perfect score.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Java Gold—A Short Range Match Stage

In April 2010 security cameras recorded a violent attack at the Java Gold jewelry store in Houston. Three men robbed and beat the store owner and an employee. Police eventually caught all three attackers.

Mehmood Ghaznavi the store owner armed himself after this robbery and unfortunately was killed in a gunfight with Anthony Parks during an attempted robbery in a separate incident a year later on 6 July 2011. Police found Parks at the scene and transported him to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the right side of his forehead. A jury later convicted Parks of Ghaznavi’s murder and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

This is a video of me shooting Java Gold—a Short Range Match stage that replicated the April 2010 robbery. The scenario: String #1: Starting seated at P1with hand on holstered pistol (or retention ready), draw and engage all targets with at least two rounds. You may stand or move as you deem necessary. String #2: Starting seated at P1 remove pistol from the box and engage all targets with at least two rounds. You may stand or move as you deem necessary.




The Short Range Match stage design encourages people to use proper tactics and cover. The match replicates incidents such as the Java Gold robbery on a square range. The Short Range courses of fire seek to replicate real life scenarios where you are more likely to use carry-suitable handguns. The match's guiding principle is to improve concealed carry skills and shooters ideally will use a pistol they carry to shoot the match. All pistols may be loaded to magazine capacity; however, the match may have some reloads on the clock or some malfunction drills. Although this was a static stage, we typically practice a lot of moving to cover during the Short Range Match.

Over the years I have become convinced that the typical IDPA match encourages training scars. Training scars are bad habits, inappropriate, or counterproductive actions that don’t have a basis in proper tactics. Prior to the rule change several years ago, IDPA stages often required shooters to engage targets while moving. This resulted in shooter taking baby steps as they engaged targets. Obviously if someone is shooting at you, chicken walking in the open is probably not a good idea.

Under the current rules, competitors can also engage targets while standing in the open much like USPSA stages. If cover is available you should get to it as fast as possible. Several years ago, Active Response Training published the results of an informal experiment testing the benefits of static engagement, moving and shooting, and using cover. Although certainly not a controlled scientific experiment, the results are interesting. Defenders who remained stationary were hit 85% of the time with 51% hit in the torso. Defenders who moved were hit 47% of the time with an 11% hit rate in the torso. Defenders who rapidly moved to cover were only hit 26% of the time with a 6% hit rate to the torso—a significant improvement in survival potential. The full article is worth the read. Click here.

I’m not bashing IDPA or USPSA; however, if you are interested in improving self-defense skills training with scenarios like those we use in the Short Range Match help. IDPA, USPSA, the Short Range Match and similar contests do train us to shoot under stress and improve our speed and accuracy. The skills we practice most often are the skills we will use if called upon to defend ourselves so occasionally shooting a match using correct tactics is a good idea. You probably won’t win the match, but it will improve your odds if you are forced to draw your pistol to defend your life.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Accurate Shooting at Speed

Accurate shooting at speed does not just happen on its own. Learning to shoot fast is harder than simply learning to shoot accurately because by definition you are learning to go faster than you ever have before. As IDPA Distinguished Master Gregg Kratochvil once told me: "If you want to learn to shoot fast — you have to shoot fast." You must teach yourself faster trigger manipulation, to align the sights faster, and control recoil better.

Shooting fast while hitting the target requires a balance between speed and accuracy. Push one to the limits of your skill and you'll necessarily see the other suffer. If you shoot fast, you will miss sometimes, but that is OK because accuracy does catch up with continued practice. Learning to shoot faster means pushing yourself and getting a little (but safely) out of control as you find the limit of your skills — and then pushing beyond those limits just a little.

Steel stages in general, but stages like the Ultimate Five in particular can help improve your trigger preparation, trigger control, and transitions at speed. I have often heard the phrase "slow is smooth and smooth is fast." That never made sense to me and I noticed the typical person uttering the phrase was almost always shooting slowly. Most of the time, shooters saying this really do not understanding the underlying principles required to balance speed and accuracy. If you only practice slow, deliberate marksmanship, then the only skill you are developing is — slow, deliberate marksmanship.

In a video from a recent practice session I am shooting the Ultimate Five steel stage with a shotgun. Two runs with birdshot and two runs with buckshot. This is a stage we occasionally shoot during the Alamo Sport Shooting Club steel match and it requires pistol shooters to draw on the buzzer and shoot each target in any order. The stop plate is the last target hit. A typical steel run requires five to six shots assuming no misses.



The fastest I have seen this stage run was with a pistol caliber carbine at 1.95 seconds. The fastest with a pistol was with an Open Class race gun and the shooter fired it in 2.67 seconds from a draw—twice in a row. Likely there are pros who could shoot it faster.

Come out and shoot steel with us on the 1st Sunday of every month at Cedar Ridge Range in San Antonio. 

For more information go to the Alamo Sport Shooting Club website

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Still Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Caley Mason attacking Jason Luczkow
Texas: Brian Marksberry witnessed a domestic altercation and attempted to intervene. The suspect began running from the scene of the dispute and Marksberry began chasing him in an effort to aid the police. When Marksberry caught up with the suspect, the man shot and killed him.


Oregon: Jason Luczkow witnessed a woman berating the staff at a Taco Bell and he told her to “zip it.” The woman identified as Caley Mason left the restaurant but returned moments later with a knife and attacked Luczkow causing an 8-inch gash across his face and throat that required 100 stitches.*

We can only guess what Brian Marksberry thought about his actions as he lay dying. When we consider the situations described above (and dozens of others like these) questions arise: Should you get involved in someone else’s problem? As you charge forward do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?

I have written about the saying “Not my circus. Not my monkeys” and how it often fits into our day to day circumstances.** Unless someone is using or attempting to use unlawful force or deadly force directly against you or someone under your direct, personal protection is it worth the potential cost to intervene?

You must answer this question quickly and accurately if you are considering getting involved in someone else’s problem. Your financial future, freedom, and literally your life may depend on this answer.

A license to carry a firearm does not confer a public duty that would require a licensee to get involved in stopping a crime. However, we can all imagine witnessing an attack so monstrous that we just could not stand by and let it continue. A situation involving an active mass killer comes to mind.

If the situation is such that you believe you must intervene before police arrive, think of your own safety first. Can you confront the individual from a position of cover? Are there obstacles between you and the individual that will inhibit him from getting close to you? What if the assailant simply ignores your commands and continues the assault? Are you prepared to deal with these possibilities and the aftermath?

Your decision to get involved and try to stop a crime in progress is entirely up to you. The time to think about these potential scenarios is before you find yourself witnessing an incident unfolding in front of you. You will live the rest of your life (as short as it may be) with the consequences of these decisions. 

If you do get involved and the situation appears ended, do not drop your guard.  The criminal may not believe the situation is over and may return as in the Luczkow/Mason incident.  Maintain situational awareness and make the best decisions that you can based on your training and experience.

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* Investigators said the knife wound was millimeters from potentially severing an artery and possibly killing Luczkow.

** This apparently is a Polish saying (Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy) that literally translates to “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”