Saturday, April 22, 2023

Practice Update -- The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time

This is an update to a post I published in 2018 that reflects some of the techniques and lessons I have learned in the last few years. The journey continues. 

The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time. My students tell me that my mantra is often the one thing that really sticks in their mind. I tend to repeat it over and over during the course of a class. To shoot well you must do the same thing, the correct way, every time.

So what does that mean? Particularly for beginners, you must have an acceptable foundation upon which to build your shooting stance.  The next time you are at the range, take a moment and look at how most untrained pistol shooters are standing — you will see every variation imaginable; most are not optimal.

The correct shooting stance is an aggressive stance with feet approximately shoulder width apart, while your knees are flexed (bent). If you're doing it correctly, you'll feel tension in your calf muscles. One foot may be in front of the other as in a slight karate-style front stance. A stance that's too wide will inhibit your ability to swing to shoot multiple targets and your ability to move.

A common problem I often see is beginners literally standing with their heels in a line perpendicular to the waist. While this gives the illusion of a stable stance, there is no lateral stability. A too-narrow stance can cause you to lose your balance as the pistol recoils.

Bend your upper body slightly forward with shoulders slightly in front of the waist, ears in front of shoulders. Your spine should be relatively straight. This posture puts the majority of the body weight slightly forward and uses the body's mechanics to help control recoil.

Grip the gun as high on the frame as possible with the shooting hand indexing against the beavertail and making full contact with the rear of the frame. If your hand size permits, extend both thumbs toward the target along the slide or frame while exerting inward pressure with the palms of both hands.

The shooting hand squeezes the gun from front to rear; the support hand squeezes the shooting hand from side to side. This creates a clam-shell effect that generates four-way, equal pressure on the pistol. Having the proper pressure balance on every side allows the gun to track more consistently in recoil and then return to the target quickly and consistently. 
Use 100% of your grip strength. Some instructors advise using 60-40 or some other percentage--I do not.  If you are using 100% of your grip strength (what ever that might be), by definition you cannot increase your grip pressure when you press the trigger. This helps prevent you from moving the pistol out of alignment when you press the trigger.

Aim--Align in the Middle. Ensure you have a proper sight alignment and sight picture.  Sight alignment and sight picture are often confused, but they are not the same. Alignment refers to the relationship between the front and rear sight; the sight picture is the relationship between the aligned sights and the target — what you see the instant the pistol fires.

Alignment is correct when the top of the front sight is the same height as the top of the rear sight blade, and there is an equal amount of light showing on either side of the front sight. With optical sights, alignment consists of seeing the dot in the window — regardless of where it appears.
You must focus on the front sight (or dot, etc.) to fire an accurate shot. The human eye's physical characteristics preclude simultaneously focusing on objects at multiple distances. Focus on the front sight, not the rear sight and not the target. If you are using a dot, focus on the target and super impose the dot on the spot on the target where you want the bullet to hit.
Finally, you must simultaneously do all the above while pressing the trigger to the rear.  You can have the perfect sight alignment and picture, but if you move the pistol out of alignment when you press the trigger it does not matter how you press the trigger. The shot will not hit where you want it to.

I did not do this as I was shooting the lower target in the picture 5x5 drill picture. My friend Steve and I were shooting the standard version of Gila Hayes' 5x5 drill (not the IDPA version). I was using my P320 with an RMR. I had a great group going until I moved the pistol as I pressed the trigger on the last two shots. I failed to grip the pistol and THEN press the press the trigger correctly two times.

The group on the upper target was the same pistol with the RMR turned off and using the iron sights. A bit of a drift to the lower left (I’m right handed) indicating that I did not have a perfect 100% grip every time on this run either.

The Same Thing, The Correct Way, Every Time.  Back to the range for more deliberate practice!

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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Store Owner Shoots Armed Robbers -- A Short Range Match Scenario

In the video linked below a store owner reacts to three thugs attempting a robbery. The thugs enter the store and immediately threaten the owner and customers with firearms. The thugs are committing aggravated robbery and threatening the use of unlawful deadly force—both acts are serious felonies. (see video)

At one point the store owner has retreated and a thug is on the counter threatening him with a pistol. The store owner cooperates until he has the opportunity to retrieve his pistol. We next see the store owner after he has returned to the front and grabbed a pistol from under the counter. He opens fire on the three thugs and at least one returns fire as they scramble to escape out the front door. 

The thugs then exit the store and the owner pursues. Pursuing the thugs is a bad decision as this creates a second event distinct from the earlier aggravated robbery. The owner is now using deadly force against the thugs who arguably no longer pose the threat of unlawful deadly force. As of this writing, there is no indication that the store owner has been charged. 

The store owner’s pursuit of the thugs however, does provide a prosecutor the opportunity to charge the store owner with aggravated assault. If he had not pursued the robbers into the street, the prosecution would have faced an almost impossible burden in attempting to disprove any claim of self-defense or defense of other innocents (there were at least three customers in the store). This would have made the store owner extremely hard to convict and prosecutors do not like taking cases to trial that are hard to convict. Do not chase escaping thugs. 

We used this incident as a basis for a Short Range Match stage. The Short Range Match safely replicates real-life incidents on the range which then allows competitors to solve the problem. All threat targets have a visible weapon or full mask distinguishing them from the non-threats who have no visible weapon and their face is not covered. In this particular stage, we had the competitors fire the stage three times (strings of fire) beginning from three different start positions: hand on pistol, hands at sides, and hand in surrender with wrists above shoulder. 

Eric Shooting the Short Range Stage
Eric Shooting the Short Range Stage

The stage is set with two non-threats in front of the threat targets and one threat standing on the counter as you will see in the video. My string for the stage shown in the video is with me using a P365 (I am an IDPA Master with the Back Up Gun) and starting with my hand on the pistol. My draw time measured from the instant I initially moved at the start signal until I fired the first shot was 0.63 seconds. This measurement does not include my reaction to the buzzer. As a point of interest, the buzzer’s “beep” lasts 0.30 seconds and I reacted to the onset of the beep in 0.20 seconds. My draw from concealment starting from hands at sides was 1.77 seconds and my draw from surrender was 1.67 seconds. 

Another IDPA Master shooter using a Carry Optic measured in the same manner resulted in a 1.10 second draw with hand on pistol, from hands at sides was 1.30 seconds, and his draw from surrender was 1.60 seconds. 

I’ve collected data on literally thousands of runs comparing these starting positions and (depending upon the shooter’s skill) starting with the hand on the pistol saves 0.50 – 1.75 seconds or more over starting with your hand on the pistol versus starting with the hands in another position. Clearly, if you see a potentially unlawful deadly force incident developing, placing your hand on your pistol can save significant time on your draw.

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Friday, March 24, 2023

Massad Ayoob Group MAG 40 After Class Review

We completed the Massad Ayoob Group MAG 20 live fire and MAG 20 Classroom in March 2023. It was a great class with learning all around.

I instructed the live fire portion and Massad Ayoob taught the classroom portion. Together, these courses constitute the MAG 40 and provide the student with the tools to effectively use their pistol to defend themselves; to interact with suspects, witnesses, and responding police officers; to develop a solid mindset, recognize threats, and manage the social, psychological, and legal aftermath after having been forced to use deadly force in defense of themselves or other innocents.

We had ten students for the live fire portion and the class average for the qualification was an impressive 293 points out of a possible 300.

Students in the MAG 20 live fire shoot the Standard Speed Qualification course of fire as follows: 

From the four yard line: 

-- Starting with the pistol aimed at the bottom of the target: Six rounds with your support hand in 8 seconds 

-- Starting with the pistol holstered, hand on pistol: Six rounds with your primary hand in 8 seconds 

From the seven yard line:

-- Starting with the pistol holstered, hands at sides, using your preferred stance: Six rounds, reload, six rounds in 25 seconds

From the ten yard line: 

-- Starting with the pistol aimed at the bottom of the target: Six rounds using the cover crouch, reload, six rounds from high kneeling, reload, six rounds from low kneeling in 75 seconds. 

From the fifteen yard line: 

-- Starting with the pistol holstered, hands at sides: Six rounds using the Weaver Stance, reload, six rounds using the Chapman Modified Stance, reload, six rounds using the Isosceles Stance in 90 seconds.

The MAG tradition is that if a student or staff member ties or beats Massad’s qualification score Mas signs a one dollar or five dollar bill indicating that you have beaten him at his own game. I have eight signed five dollar bills and hope to accumulate enough of them to buy a good bottle of bourbon.

I shot my P365 for the qualification and used factory equivalent reloads. I shot a 300 and  managed a 3-1/4 inch group which was 1/8" larger than my record group of 3-1/8 inches.  Its always that one shot that causes issues and in this case that one shot added 1-1/8 inches to my group size. I would have been very happy with a 2-1/8" group.  Sigh.

This is my 10th year as a Massad Ayoob Group Staff Instructor. The MAG 20 Live Fire program continues to provide outstanding instruction in the use of the handgun under stress and the MAG 20 classroom provides the absolute best instruction on the armed citizen’s rules of engagement that you can find anywhere in the United States.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

My Performance on a Police Use of Force Training Simulator Pt 2

Virta Simulator File Photo
This article is the second in a series discussing my experiences training on a sophisticated police use of force training simulator or PTS.  During the training session, I completed several law enforcement-themed scenarios including domestic disturbances, drug-related incidents, a robbery at a convenience store, and several active killer incidents.  It was an interesting experience and I was satisfied with my performance overall since I did not get shot in any of the scenarios.  However, in some of the scenarios I did not act quickly enough to stop the perpetrator from other harming others.


One scenario involved a dispute between two neighbors who lived in different houses across the street from me.  Since these scenarios were LEO-focused, even though I was at home, I was acting in the role of a police officer.  When the scenario begins, I hear loud yelling coming from across the street and go to investigate.  As I step around the blind corner of a garage leading to an area between two houses I see a man holding a shotgun at his waist and pointed at a woman.  Both individuals are loudly arguing about something.


I draw my pistol, point it at the man, and command him to drop the shotgun.  He immediately complies and places the shotgun on the ground, steps back, and raises his hands.  I lower my pistol to low ready and that was the extent of my actions in that moment.  The woman continues loudly yelling at the man and he becomes more agitated.  Thirty seconds or so pass and suddenly he lunges for the shotgun, picks it up, aims at the woman, and shoots her in the chest. A soon as he aims it toward the woman, I shoot him—he goes down; however, I was not fast enough to prevent him from killing the woman.


As I completed several scenarios, I did not hesitate when the threat was directed at me.  However, when I was not immediately threatened, I experienced an instant of hesitation deciding whether I should act. My hesitation resulted in several people being “killed.”  As I reviewed my performance after the training, I realized I was approaching the scenarios with a private citizen mindset and not the mindset of a police officer. The last time I wore a police uniform was 1983–almost 40 years ago—so in retrospect I guess this is not surprising. Over the years I have given careful thought to what situations I will and will not get involved in and in all but extremely rare occasions, stay out of other people’s business. 


Practicing reactions to deadly force scenarios or other emergencies increases our confidence, and increased confidence lowers the stress response of our bodies when we actually face dangerous situations. Our field of vision is not as narrow as it might be otherwise, and our tendency to fixate on a "fear object" or other distraction diminishes. Because our brain is in a more relaxed state, it is more able to dedicate resources to creatively addressing new challenges (for example, incoming gunfire from an unexpected direction).