Shoulder holsters: Modern gear or yester-year?

A number of articles have recently come out by prominent firearms writers regarding the shoulder holster. Most of them relegate the shoulder holster to someone emulating English spies or reliving the glory days of 1980s buddy cop shows. But is there a place for the shoulder holster in modern times with modern carry methods and modern firearms? Let’s explore that and see.

The first thing we should do is define of the objectives and what we are actually looking for. Obviously a holster contains the firearm and makes it accessible when needed and safe when not. It is a balancing act between accessibility and concealability.

Secondly, the firearm, holster, location of carry, and clothing work together to make the ‘system’ of concealed carry. Our practice with that ‘system’ helps bring effectiveness. The ‘system’ stated above must serve the individual through needs of concealability, needs of access, and needs of range of motion.

Third, the ‘system’ should be judged stand-alone to fulfill needs.

Spectrum of concealability and accessibility

An ankle holster is quite concealable when carrying a small firearm. The pant leg is generally out of direct view, not an area that commands attention, and at a body location that sees regular, but consistent, manipulation (strides with movement). But getting to the firearm in this position requires a significant posture change. The wearer must kneel or bend over, or bring the leg up and supported to get the gun. The shooter will be very vulnerable and the draw will be very slow. Kneeling or leg-up is inherently unstable, and moving one’s hands from the upper-body ‘vitals’ area is a defensive risk.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is outside the waist open carry. Getting to the firearm can be incredibly quick, but concealability is nonexistent. The hands remain in the upper body protective zone and can defend against incoming strikes. Additionally, the very fast draw time means that even if the hand is out of defensive zone, it is out very briefly.

Ultimately, we are looking for reasonable concealability in our lives according to our comfort levels and the environment’s weapon permissiveness, balanced with immediacy of access.

Range of motion

Range of motion is the sum of movements that are a part of our typical day. Someone sitting in an office pushing a mouse around has a very different range of motion than a tree cutter or construction worker.

Where the firearm is staged on one’s body can affect the range of motion. Appendix carry inhibit bending forward. 3 o’clock or 6 o’clock carry can inhibit leaning to one side or the other. Any of these can inhibit reaching up for something and possibly exposing the firearm because the concealing garment shifted.

Next is actual range of motion needed on a job. The firearm strapped to one’s waist as they are on the ground changing oil is sure to get in the way. A professional driver sitting all day with appendix carry gets old. Every position and movement needed throughout the day needs to be evaluated from the paradigm of the firearm being present there. As an example, how many articles are there about public restroom use and waist belt carry? Dozens and hundreds.

Range of motion is usually a root factor in where we choose to carry the firearm. It is why we choose 3 o’clock carry, appendix carry, or something else. Especially when balanced against the needs of concealability, range of motion is important to keep the gun from printing or otherwise being exposed.

The reality for many people in real life is that if the firearm cannot be concealed it will probably be left at home; or worse, in a vehicle. Some firearms ‘absolutists’ (usually keyboard warriors attempting to claim a ‘no compromise under any circumstances ever’ faux mentality) would call this a “software failure” because the person chose to be unarmed instead of finding another solution, but the reality is for many people that if the gun prints, they will suffer some form of consequence. A lost client, disciplinary action up to loss of a job, having the police called on them for no reason, or other result from the firearms presence being known. This is a reality of life.

Stand alone comparison

Another measurable is meeting the needs versus comparing to something else. Most of the recent ‘shoulder holsters are archaic’ articles and writers evaluate shoulder holsters from the standpoint of “I like appendix carry and if shoulder holders are not superior to that then shoulder holsters suck“. This is not a true measurable. It may be their measurable, and it may be their bar for adopting it, but it does not mean that shoulder holsters are without merit. There is a difference between something meeting someone’s requirements and being the optimal way for them to carry for someone else. This is an important distinction.

In one YouTube video, a very well respected instructor even got the shot timer out for a comparison between appendix carry and shoulder holster carry. To his credit, he did practice with the shoulder holster for a couple hundred rounds and a few dozen draws before making the comparison. However, this instructor has on the order of 100,000 rounds down range or more, as well as thousands of appendix carry draw strokes in his experience. When the shot timer is within 1/10 of a second it is hard to take that difference in time seriously. The difference in time being portrayed as “conclusive” is not intellectually genuine given the disparity in experience between the two draw stroke styles. What would the difference be against an everything-else-equal shooter with the same experience in shoulder draw?

In short, the evidence of “I can do Draw A better than Draw B, therefore Draw B sucks” is not valid evidence for the carry method. It is evidence only for that individual at that point in time with that set of user needs. With additional training and additional experience, those results are subject to change.

Actual experience

These are basically our user needs. How concealable we need it, and how accessible we need it. Other factors, such as concealing garments the type of gun carried and the extent at which you will practice with this particular system are all factors.

To prepare for this article, I have been wearing a shoulder holster exclusively as my means of carry for four months. I started carrying shoulder holsters in cooler months when I had over garments to cover it, as well as had a number of work things to do around the homestead where belt carry was more problematic to my range-of-motion needs.

My user needs are pretty much average. I need the firearm to be concealed, not to print too much, and to be as readily accessible as it can be. My daily carry is a Walther PDP Compact with a Trijicon RMR site. Because the shoulder holster was not going to be primary carry when I bought it, and was for evaluation purposes, I did not go crazy with a custom holster. I got the AlienGear Shapeshift shoulder holster. (I am not a fan of AlienGear in general, and consider their waist holsters to be meme-tiered gear. In this case though it was a reasonable choice since it was one of the most modern shoulder holsters made and had availability for my primary carry.)

In reality, it isn’t that bad. It has a little bit of flex for upper body movement and is not restrictive as leather-strap-only shoulder holsters would be. It also has an anchor point at the belt, making the holster a bit more fixed when drawing the firearm. I think it is a reasonable modernization for this carry method. I would like to try a traditional shoulder holster in this role, but I’ll save that review for a later date.

As for concealability and accessibility, It carries in such a way that it is not generally noticeable. If I am wearing a zip down hoodie, the firearm is undetectable. If I am wearing an over shirt with a T-shirt underneath, and the over shirt is mostly unbuttoned, the firearm is barely noticeable. Someone would have to be purposely looking. A button down shirt with an undershirt is not unreasonable, or carrying with a shirt and a heavy or light jacket depending on the weather. In these cases, the holster-firearm combination is not detectable.

With concealability needs met, accessibility needs were evaluated. I am fortunate enough to have access to a private range where I am able to draw from holster, including shoulder holster. I spent a significant amount of time dry firing the draw and then live firing the draw, in a mixture. This helped to ensure that the dry fire application adopted was validated along the way with live fire results. In all cases, I was able to get shoulder holster draw within 15% of in the waist draw on a shot timer. Considering I had decades of from-the-waist draw, this was a very reasonable achievement. If someone were to adopt shoulder holster as their primary means of carry, they could probably achieve similar results to waist draw.

Keep and Bear LLC has a course called ‘Positions and Transitions’. If you have a martial backgrounds, it is effectively a “breakfalls and bullets” course that trains in going from standing to kneeling, prone, supine, and urban prone, and back up again. The purpose of the course is to allow the trainee to not only conform to any cover or concealment that is available to him and retain the ability to proficiently respond, but also to proficiently respond if they are knocked down or find themselves in a violent altercation from a position other than standing. The course employees a great “library” of shooting positions and was therefore used to evaluate the shoulder holster from these positions.

The advantages in accessibility to the firearm in the shoulder holster were stark. Because the torso area is basically the fixed point of the body which other parts are reference to, the draw stroke from the shoulder holster remained remarkably consistent. Whether standing, kneeling, supine, or urban prone, the draw stroke was the same. This had distinct advantages over the 3 o’clock carry position because to access a 3 o’clock carried firearm, one’s elbow has to extend past the back plane of the body. This requires rotating to the left in the supine position.

Side of body carry had advantages when drawing from prone. Because the shooter is on his stomach, he can access the 3 o’clock position rather easily. It was more difficult to access the shoulder holster firearm from this position, but with training and practice it was achievable. Drawing from appendix carry in the prone position was problematic, but was achievable when using the support arm elbow and knees as a bridge to create the room to access the firearm.

You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!

A common criticism of the shoulder holster is the premise that to draw the firearm, the wielder must sweep his own arm or people to his left (assuming a right handed shooter). I reject the notion that the shoulder holster cannot be drawn from without sweeping your arm or those around you. This is a falsehood uttered by either bias, inexperience, or an inability to train properly. When one grips the firearm in the shoulder holster and gives the initial pull to deholster, the support arm should be squeezing the holster in place if possible. It isn’t absolutely required, but does add a modicum of rigidity. Immediately after that initial pull, the support arm comes up slightly in a chicken wing. It doesn’t have to be a very high up because the shooter should be drawing the holster up into a Sul position, not sweeping through a sideways arc to achieve a full extension position. Evaluators that are using a full sweeping motion like that appear to be either stacking the deck against the shoulder holster application, or they are not truly “expert“. Yes, I said it.

Once the primary hand and firearm are in the Sul position, extend the firearm out normally with the support hand quickly following and meeting up with the handle to achieve a grip. The firearm can be fired during the extension single-handed, and eventually double handed like most people shoot with an isosceles grip. This movement should be akin to shooting movement most have practiced extensively.

When drawn this way, the muzzle does not sweep the entire side arc of the person. The muzzle was at the 6 o’clock position and downward, rotated to the ground position, then swept at the ground as it was pulled around the body through the 9 o’clock to the 12 o’clock position. Sweeping to the side is amateurish and unnecessary.

Conclusion

The major benefits of a shoulder holster, are not really in concealability or in deployment. They are in range of motion and comfort. And by comfort I don’t mean comfortable, I mean that it frees up a significant range of motion library for the wearer. In reality, we all have various ranges of motion we go through during the day. Whether we are denizens of the cubicle, with sit down stand up and run to the vending machine actions, or like a friend of mine who repairs restaurant equipment and is always reaching for things while on the ground, range of motion is very significant. This is something that needs to be considered in a carry strategy, and there is no universal correct answer. There is only correct for you. For me, the range of motion with a shoulder holster was met. Occasionally laying down and fixing some thing around the homestead, the shoulder holster took the gun out of my waist where a bunch of weight is normally distributed, and put it out of the way. Driving, it took a “bunched up feeling“ out of the equation entirely as the gun was up on my upper body. As a left-handed person sitting at the wheel, to deploy my firearm I would have to lean to the right since there’s no room for my elbow when making a waist belt draw. The shoulder holster allows me to literally draw from the holster with no upper body movement required for this. This is a significant advantage. For people who drive a substantial amount of time, and for people who have a lot of movement in their waist area or up and down and the like, a shoulder holster has considerable merit.

After the tragedy

We watched the Oxford High School shooting coverage with sadness, as well as interest. Recently, the NYC shootings. In these horrendous events, we see the heroics of people as they protect others in the face of evil, all the while recognizing these heroics should never have had to be displayed. Our concern and our heartfelt prayers are offered to the families of the victims, and those survivors who must overcome the violence visited upon them. We feel resolve that something must be done.

In a sad testament to our political state, these events are swooped upon by various news outlets and politicians to predictably use the incident to advance their agenda. They deceitfully use a veil of illusory compassion to push gun control. They don’t ask an open ended and inquisitive “What can we do to prevent this?”, they instead state “How do we take away the guns?” They don’t partner with gun safety groups, ranges, and education providers, they vilify them. If education is the key to understanding, why is education shunned for this topic? Agenda. Fear drives this agenda, and since education replaces fear, education is vilified.

After these events, I go through my IM conversations. I read my friends’ posts and the conversations with others. I recall the phone conversations that I’ve received because I am an instructor.

Some of these conversations want technical details… The gun used, the capacity, reload time, how easy it is to shoot. I tell them that the firearm isn’t really the issue, but answer their questions that the pistol is a reliable one, does what it was designed to do, that reloading can be accomplished in about 10 seconds with practice, and about 15-20 seconds for the relatively unfamiliar, and that the capacity averages about 15 rounds per magazine. I try to emphasize that the police, law abiding and peaceable people choose and use this firearm or one like it, and that it is the will of the user that determines the outcome of the machine’s use. There is no mind-control chip in the bill of materials for any gun.

Most want information on ownership safeguards… The ownership process. Background checks. Waiting periods. “You can buy a gun in 15 minutes!”, I hear. I explain how there are many, many disqualifying civil and criminal convictions that preclude ownership. I explain the NICS system (a national database of disqualified owners) and how it checks for these. I explain that just because a check is ‘instant’ does not mean that it isn’t thorough. If you run a filter in a spreadsheet, are the results more legit if the program takes longer to show the filtered results? I just googled “hovercraft” on Google. The top line tells me: About 12,600,000 results (0.55 seconds). Would my results be more legitimate if it took 2 minutes for the same results? Three days? A week? If I cracked open the Dewey Decimal System from the local library archives? I ask why the NICS check is different. I ask what a waiting period here would have done. I ask why it is referred to as a “cooling off period” as one friend put it. I ask why they think this terminology is used. Agenda.

Like this last point, many of the statements I’ve received were the typical “I’ve been programmed” and ask why the NRA exists, why the Second Amendment exists (my favorite is “It applies to muskets!”), and the general malaise of “rights-elimination for everybody is OK because I don’t value that right”.

The majority of the questions I field are lumped in to two categories:

  • Should we have guns?
  • Should the guns be so ‘usable’?

This is the part that perplexes me, and honestly frustrates me a bit. Why are some people so willing to blame a machine rather than having the moral fortitude to blame the shooter?

Why are some people so willing to blame a machine rather than having the moral fortitude to blame the shooter?

It boils down to a single, solitary concept: Personal responsibility. Some people are very consensus-driven. The “we” is their moral and ethical compass. Where the herd goes is correct. The type of person who immediately attributes their wrongdoing to “It wasn’t my fault…” or “Yeah but they did….”. For many people, their personal responsibilities are shirked onto the State. Social security instead of saving for retirement. Dependency on handouts instead of seeking employment. Demanding government pay for college. Or whatever else.

This ‘shirk mentality’ is so alienated from the thought of personal responsibility that those with it cannot even ascribe the casualty-event to an evil doing person. The gun becomes the easy scapegoat, free of personal consequence, and happily reinforced by an agenda-driven media who view disarmament as a virtue and believe that a disarmed people is somehow elegant and sophisticated. The gun is some form of sponge, soaking up the universe’s evil, and if we could just somehow melt them all down into steel ingots, that evil would dissipate into the ether and the world would be shiny happy people holding hands.

Now let’s answer “Should we be allowed to have guns?”. Ownership of arms is a freedom all people have. The right to defend one’s self is the right of all living things. That defense may be in the form of biting, poisoning, hiding, camouflage, flight, or even a high proliferation rate from a species stance. We humans are tool users. We are thinkers. We can choose some of these options, AND can choose to use tools. As our capabilities for tool use becomes more sophisticated, so does our tools.

The low-information set of people that believe the Second Amendment protects our right to own muskets miss the point. Defense is a universal right (and any person or government infringing on that right is despicable, and their authority over the individual should be thrown off). It isn’t about the tool, it’s about this basic right of the living.

The very nature of the question is insidious from the standpoint that it pre-supposes that “we” have the right to decide for “us”. “We” do not. I have the right to decide for me. You have the right to decide for you. And if you think you have the right to decide for me, and attempt to enforce that decision, I have the right to defend my rights from your illegitimate authority. This is a vigilance we need to strengthen. We will not tolerate your proposed infringements any further. And certainly not become some evil cretin chose to be evil.

The vilification of training

This is the newest anti-gun agenda item. The vilification of training. Those who train in the proficient use of firearms are somehow concerning. The ‘gun culture’ is to blame.

Every year there are tens of thousand professional and amateur shooting sports enthusiasts practicing marksmanship, practicing the effective wielding and operating of the firearm, practicing moving defensively. And yet the shooting sports community is not responsible for crimes, and members of this ‘culture’ are not the murderers in instances like this.

I had one friend decry on her facebook page the villainy of training. Stating the apparent skill of the shooter, and the proficiency in shot placement. At least she wondered about the state of mental health of the shooter (in an instant message to me) and that mental health needs to be a higher priority, but in the same breath she also opted to infringe on gun ownership through more stringent background checks (which would have failed in the Oxford incident because the father was the purchaser).

The news has likewise been rife with ‘journalists’ (translation: Preformed opinion holders needing a photo op) taking gun training for the sole purpose of criticism. Overlooking every facet of a class instructing safety, justifiable use of force, responsibilities of ownership, etc., for that one potential nugget of something that wasn’t quite right for them to hyperfocus all their preconceptions into.

In November, a guy in Waukesha WI drive his car into a crowd, killing 5 and injuring approximately 25 more. Yet the same people decrying the vilification of firearm training did not vilify the driver’s ed program. They did not suggest making cars harder to buy.

In actuality, the lack of training injures or kills far more people each year. Alec Baldwin, who opposes gun rights, squeezed a trigger and killed a movie worker. If your first instinct was to say “Ya but the armorer was supposed to..”, do us all a favor and read the part about personal responsibility again.

  • Alec did not treat the firearm with the respect due it (as if it were loaded).
  • Alec did not prevent his muzzle from sweeping things he was unwilling to destroy.
  • Alec did not keep his finger off the trigger. (Yes Alec, you DID pull the trigger. Stop lying.)
  • Alec was not aware of his target.

Had Alec not been so agenda-driven, not been so opposed to TRAINING, had taken a single class in gun safety, then Halyna Hutchins would still be alive.

We need to do better as a society. We need to shrug off the fear-driven Agendites. We need to get gun safety back in schools. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and those in our circle. Me. You. As individual people. If Uncle Dave ‘aint quite right’ and buys a gun, we need to confront him on that, as his family unit. We need to store our guns safely. And most importantly, we need to retain the right to defend ourselves against evil, and be able to act to protect each other.

Out with the old…

In October, Don became a USCCA Instructor for the Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals course. This course is accepted by the State of Michigan as suitable to obtain a concealed pistol license. The switch was made for a number of reasons, including more up to date and relevant information, better informational flow, and more support from the parent organization to run classes to assist instructors and students alike.

We have been running the NRA’s Personal Protection in the Home (PPitH) course for almost a decade now. Honestly, it’s a good course, and covers what it intends to rather well. The State of Michigan asked for a few things as training standards, including justifiable use of force education, at least 30 rounds downrange, and basic protective strategies. The NRA PPitH course covered these, and the State chose it as an acceptable course for a CPL.

The noticeable gap the state created here was that an in-the-home intent course was being used to cover beyond situations. While many of the strategies taught in PPitH were equally applicable in either paradigm, more could be done to help bridge that gap. We continue to respect theNRA PPitH course for what it is intended. It is a solid course. The state simply misapplied it.

When we made the choice to switch to the USCCA curriculum for a CPL, it was done with a few measurables in mind:

Must emphasize SAFETY repeatedly.

Both courses do this well, but the USCCA uses the better updated Jeff Cooper rules of gun safety (and a modern application of them). The reason the Cooper rules are better is that they apply ‘going forward’ into much more advanced training. The NRA rules are more than fine for the average Joe, but we’d like to ensure our students have the opportunities to experience “well above average” Joe.

The NRA Rules of Gun Safety

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction: A solid rule. In fact, it is repeated in the Cooper’s Rules
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot: Again, a solid rule, and also repeated in the Cooper rules.
  • Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use: When storing a gun, it should most definitely be unloaded. Clarification needs to be added that when it is holstered and being carried protectively, the gun ids “in use” and should be loaded.

The Cooper Rules of Gun Safety

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded: A VERY important concept that the NRA rules miss. Always having the same respect for the firearm regardless of its state of load is a very important training and mindset consideration.
  • Never allow the muzzle to sweep anything you are not willing to destroy: A slightly more detailed version of the NRA rule, with the connotation of added consequence.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and have made the decision to fire: Again, a very similar rule to the NRA rule, with added purposefulness and emphasis on the deliberate.
  • Be aware of your target, what is behind it, and what is in front of it: A very important extrapolation of “Never allow the muzzle to sweep anything you are not willing to destroy”. But instead of focus only on the target, it forces a consideration of everything along the potential cone of effect.

Ultimately, both sets of rules are adequate. NRA advocates will argue that their rules set is general enough to encompass everything in the Cooper’s rules, and they’re probably right.

Should safety be ‘general’, though?

Must emphasize conflict avoidance and violence-as-last-resort

Both curriculums do this, and both do it well. Both stress that lethal force is an absolute last resort tool, and the need for such a tool is a life-changing consideration.

I am admittedly a compartmentalizer. Things need to go in their spot. And the NRA’s curriculum is very neatly done. As such, the stress on these concepts appear in a couple spots in the class. Definitely in the first module discussing force and survival, again in the legal portion, and here and there throughout.

What I liked about the USCCA class is that these concepts of conflict avoidance and last-resort are mentioned throughout the curriculum. It is a repeating theme. It is visited and revisited at least 10 times in various areas of the curriculum. Circling back to these fundamentals through all the various facets of personal protection strategy shows a maturity of thought in how the curriculum is ordered, and better serves the student.

Must prepare the trainee for concealed carry*

….. *as much as 8 hours allow.

This is where the USCCA curriculum outpaces the NRA curriculum. And honestly, it’s no fault of the NRA curriculum, it’s what the State of Michigan decided to use. The NRA PPitH is IN THE HOME. No holster work. No real out-and-about strategies (you can extrapolate the in the home strategies to beyond the home). The NRA has an outside-the-home course that is well regarded. The USCCA curriculum is intended for concealed carry. Out-and-about strategies are a part of it. Holster selection is a part of it. Use of force continuum is a part of it.

The truth is that 8 hours isn’t enough for mastery of these topics. And if that fateful day ever befalls us, mastery is what we will wish we had. 8 hours is the minimum set by standard. So it comes down to one simple question:

I have 8 hours with my trainees. What do I instruct them to maximize their survival while minimizing their risk?

If I start with a blank 8 hour canvas, what would I put there? In short, the USCCA course puts more of what I think it’s important to cover. Both courses have some decent stuff, but slide-for-slide, topic-for-topic, ther USCCA curriculum is more relevant overall.

A better use of our 8 hours together.

Conclusion

Both are great courses. Berge and Don absolutely stand behind every minute of every hour of every class we have instructed. We pour our knowledge and energy into each course to maximize trainee benefit. And while no two courses can ever be exactly alike, we maintain the highest standards of information and safety ewe can possibly achieve. We believe that, going forward, the USCCA curriculum positions us more able to continue to achieve this.

Tactical Homesteading: Your space and its use

This article is part of a series discussing if Homesteading is right for you, and the advantages and disadvantages of more rural living.

In the last post there were several considerations about the location of your homestead. Commuting and telecommuting, distances you can tolerate, a more isolated lifestyle, infrastructure needs, and risks and resources. In this segment, let’s consider what we can do with our property and how we can put the land to work for us.

Available resources

The first thing to assess is the resources already available on the land. What foliage exists, and what types of flora might be beneficial to invest in. When I purchased my property, the original owner had planted many apple trees. The advantage is I have abundant apples, but years of neglect have destroyed many of these trees and bringing them back to health has been a chore.

Additionally, we’ve found very large sugar maples, and made maple syrup for the first time. There are abundant blackberries. We found a large patch where morel mushrooms grow in abundance.

We have countless deer, rabbits, and cranes visit our yard regularly.

The natural woodland one would expect is a bit missing on my property; the previous owner having cleared much of it away for an orchard. I heat with firewood, and there is limited standing timber to harvest.

I have wetland on my property, and a small lake only 50 yards off my property line. A cordial neighbor agreed to water access and fishing rights.

Our first full jar of maple syrup! Tag added for fun!

Accessing the resources

Once the resources are identified, it makes sense to ease your ability to get to them. Whether making a path through the overgrowth, turning a section of overtaken orchard back into ‘yard’, or even installing a dock, getting at needed resources is very important.

When I was clearing some overgrowth with my tractor, I noticed a gap between the trees. The grass was easily 5′ tall in this area. I put my front end loader near the ground. This not only beat down the grass and prevented my tractor’s radiator from becoming loaded with debris, but it acted as a handy probe in case of rocks or stumps. The rear of my tractor was equipped with a rotary cutter, able to mow down all manner of foliage and even saplings up to 3″ thick.

As I followed the new trail, I realized it must have once been the access road for the orchard. It circumnavigated the entire orchard area, and finally doubled back to the central area I had built my house.

This trail now provides important access to the wetland, the maple trees we tap for syrup, and out to the corners of my property.

Start grooming the land

Similarly to utilizing the resources already at hand, start grooming the land for expanding its capabilities to meet your needs. For me, that was putting in a gun range. It was also clearing back much of the overgrown grapevine and Asian Bittersweet that has invaded the property.

Depending on how much land you have and the amount of work you want to do, you may leave some land overgrown and natural. It’s fine.

Importantly, LEARN TO GARDEN AND BUILD A GARDEN. This is the one thing I wish I had gotten to earlier. It doesn’t take much to install one, and garden maintenance can be one a few hours a week. The self sufficiency gained is very important as you get real, tangible results after only your first season.

Look over your garden and revel in the self sufficiency it will one day provide. No HOA Member telling you the tomatoes are ‘unsightly’, or the sunflowers are bringing too many bees to the area…

A 16′ x 4′ raised bed garden

Assess your needs

Now that you have something started, grow into it. Trying to feed a family of 4 with just what you grow, and hoping to accomplish that right away, carries a high chance of failure. Weeding the garden is hard at first. What is food and what is unwanted. How hard is it to tell? Why does my back hurt? You definitely have the energy for a smaller garden, and can work your way up as you gain experience.

Within a couple season, you’ll have a great idea of what your family likes and dislikes, what you might be able to sell, and what grows best in your area. Use that knowledge and focus on it; just don’t focus to the exclusion of other things. You family has dietary needs, both nutrients and caloric intake.

After a couple years is the time to truly start to assess those needs and expand for them.

Building infrastructure

Whatever you add, you will likely need equipment to upkeep it and make it thrive. IBC totes allow you to store water for the long haul. This is great for gardening.

If you are making syrup, a network of tubing and a way to route it might need to be thought up. Trees might need pruning while you know what branches are healthy in the summer.

I built a small shed for my gun range. No more lugging targets, pylons, staple guns, and other equipment every time I go out there.

Find the experts who KNOW each topic. Trade them your knowledge or pay them.

This is a marathon!

Remember, you will not achieve self reliance and sustainability overnight. It will take a couple of years just to feel like you’ve gotten started. A few more to feel like you’re thriving. Along the way, you are getting better. More knowledgeable. Wiser. You’ve worked, and know what works. Things go from a “That’s impossible!” to “Gimme 5 minutes” pretty quickly.

Tactical Homesteading: Location

For more on this series, see the intro, here: https://keepandbearllc.com/2021/02/28/tactical-homesteading/

Homesteading is basically using your land and skills as a resource to achieve some type of resiliency. To begin with, “your land” will have a location, and that location should be based on your needs. To determine your needs, be realistic with yourself and your family about what is important in your lives, and don’t give in to fantasy or flights of fancy about your wants and needs. It may sound romantic or refreshing going completely off grid 40 miles from town, but if hitting the bar or the yoga studio is one of your major solaces, then that 40 miles will begin to be a barrier to your happiness. Let’s look at some considerations when choosing a location.

Commute?

If you commute to work, you have to consider the drive distance and drive time to get there and back. It’s no secret that bigger land requires a more rural area in general. Just how far are you willing to drive? Moreover, how crowded are the roads that way? Will you be able to achieve a sense of peace and solace if you have a 45 minute bumper to bumper stop and go headache twice a day?

An easy way to reduce this concern is to telecommute. Thanks to the pandemic, employers have really opened up to this possibility, with some employees contributing more than ever since they no longer have a drive time, and are interrupted less than having a presence in the office. Have a legit conversation with your boss. What does the job allow for? What are the boundary conditions? Are there any measurables that can be put in place to evaluate the possibilities?

Other distance concerns

Other commuting concerns are distances to stores, hospital, emergency response, night life, etc. What are your vulnerabilities as far as needing outside help or resources? If you’re the type that goes to Lowe Depot 8 times to finish a project, the distances might become formidable. Alternately, if you buy stuff for projects once, are handy and adaptable, maybe the distance is acceptable.

Telecommute/Infrastructure?

If your job allows for telecommuting, your next step is to choose a location where the infrastructure supports the activity. If you’re so far out that only satellite internet is available, you’ll need to really ascertain if the bandwidth and data caps prevalent in these plans will support your work. Satellite internet has earned its lackluster reputation. High ping (the amount of time a signal takes to get to the destination) makes it horrible for any computer gaming, and can create awkward and unnatural pauses in videoconferencing.

Likewise, movie streaming, gaming, uploads and downloads, and other internet activity can be severely hampered if you’re too remote and the infrastructure to support your needs isn’t there. Ping kills. Ascertain if your lifestyle allows it. Again, don’t give into some notion that life will be simpler and Little House on the Prairie when you are an avid gamer. You like what you like. Support that.

For many, unlimited cellular data plans strike the balance between remoteness and connectedness. Evaluate if cellular data speeds are adequate, and which providers cover that area. Take a hotspot or use your phone as a hotspot and test by watching YouTube or the like.

Community

If you’re the type that prefers to have friend over all the time, and thrive in a busy community, homesteading may not be for you, or you may have to settle for a smaller lot closer to urban and suburban areas. We’ll be discussing distances from these areas in the next article. This article is really creating zones of area one can look for when considering a rural move with preparedness in mind.

Risks and Resources

If you are lucky enough to have the entire country to consider for a job, consider the threat scenarios you’ll inherit by moving there. If you move to a trailer park in Kansas you had better prep for tornados. Likewise, if you move to California, Nevada, or Arizona, you will need to contend with drought and possibly wildfires.

Likewise, areas have their own inherent resources. The heartland has vast farming capability. The Great Lakes region has an abundance of water and woodlands. Finding the right risk versus resources balance is important.

In the end, location is vitally important, and will be a continuing theme for the remainder of this series. The considerations here are just to provide an overall list of considerations. Actual threat reduction comes next.

The Mindset of Initiative

A number of protection ideals I’ve learned through my career as a student and an instructor have tied together in interesting ways. While each of them are individually worth their own article, I’ve come to realize they are facets of the same quality: Initiative. In the context of use here, initiative is ultimately the mentality of self ownership, willingness to act, and having a plan to enable.

These lessons are:

  • Action vs Reaction
  • Control the Encounter
  • Never Give Up

Action vs Reaction

The truth of a protective mindset is we are usually reacting to threat. A great many instructors say “act, don’t react”, but acting first is usually considered aggression. A peaceable people will not initiate violence. We may be forced to react to it in some way, and we may have enough heads up to preclude violence entirely (escape and avoidance). We may have trained diligently for the situation and can easily handle neutralizing the threat in some way, but nonetheless we are reacting to the presence of the threat. So where does “Action, not reaction” come in to play? The best way to characterize this is “Now that I am dealing with this situation, I’ll work MY plan, not theirs”. If my plan for dealing with someone attempting to grab me is to throw punches and make distance, I’m going to enact MY plan to do so because that’s what I might be better at. Bad Guy is still a contributor to my actions because he poses a threat, which can vary (he could start by shoving then pull a knife), but my mentality is one of “I am in charge of me, and now you must react to the violence I am visiting upon you.” This ties very closely with controlling the encounter.

Control the Encounter

Once the determination to enact the plan is made, controlling the encounter is priority. The first step is to never, ever, ‘surrender’. We cover this in some depth in our Concealed Pistol course because it is so very important.

Surrender is different than ‘submit’. If Bad Guy completely gets the jump on you and demands your wallet at gunpoint, remember, YOU are in control of the encounter. You may likely choose that giving him the wallet is the best choice for you at the time, and you may submit to the request and do so, but your mindset must never enter a state of surrender where you think “he has a gun so I have to do what he says”. Once you’ve mentally surrendered, and if things turn worse, you must now overcome your own compromised mentality as well as the threat the bad guy imparts. For instance, once you’ve handed over the wallet and he follows up with “and get in the trunk”, the last thing you need to be doing is regaining mental control over yourself and the situation.

Despite Greedo having the jump on Han during their altercation at the cantina in Mos Eisley, Han controlled the encounter and ultimately prevailed.

By maintaining a mindset of controlling the encounter, you continuously ensure you are mentally in charge, despite the odds of the scenario. It matters.

Never Give Up

Our bodies can push on far longer than our brains think. Continued training reinforces this, and so many endeavors have been decided on willpower over skill.

From a protection standpoint, in general the defender does not need to defeat Bad Guy, merely outlast him. Bad Guy need anonymity, concealment, and quick action to carry out Bad Guy things. Once enough phones are recording him and the sirens can be heard, Bad Guy’s time doing Bad Things is limited. Often, defense is merely outlasting.

Even if rescue is not imminent, Bad Guy knows the risks in doing Bad Things. He’s looking for quick and easy. Once the defender demonstrates he is not an easy target, and especially if the defender exhibits control of the encounter, Bad Guy realizes he isn’t getting what he wants and moves away quickly. In this case, it wasn’t being exposed, or imminent police arrival, it was Bad Guy’s lower resolve that ultimately ended the controntation.

An Example

I use this example in our Michigan Concealed Pistol class for a few reasons. Primarily it is to convey that not all altercations are physical or lethal force encounters, but just as importantly, to Act, and to Control the Encounter.

I work on the west side of Ann Arbor, MI. There’s a Meijer there, and I was pumping gas into my Jeep. The CPL class teaches to Make a Plan, Practice the Plan, etc., and I had taken that to heart years earlier by envisioning various scenarios. One of which was being approached while pumping gas.

A rather dumpy looking guy was hovering near the front of the convenience store there, and I had made a note of him because it was an odd place to just loiter. He wasn’t smoking , leaned up against the wall casually, or anything that suggested he was just waiting for someone inside. While pumping gas I kept an eye on him.

I noticed him look around, and his eyes swept the 6 or 8 aisles of pumps at the station, then he turned back to the pump near me. He approached a guy on the other side of the pump and got right in his face demanding money so he could get some gas. He was not extremely loud, but very forceful, and clearly attempting to intimidate the guy pumping gas.

While this was going on, I performed the couple ACTIONS to better my position. I assumed that Bad Guy would come to me next, since he surveyed all the pumps being used, I guessed that he wanted to surprise and intimidate as many people as he could (hence the not-very-loud voice used). I also assumed he’d take the quick way from pump to pump, around the side near the store.

  • Action 1: I unzipped my coat so I had access to my holstered and concealed firearm. I guessed that because this guy gave up on the first gas pumper that he wasn’t really going to attack, but I wasn’t leaving it to chance.
  • Action 2: I repositioned myself so I was on the opposite side of the gas hose, and could quickly get around the corner of my Jeep for concealment in a single step.

Bad Guy did indeed come around the front of the pumps, and with a very belligerent look said “You’re going give me some money”, as he started advancing towards me. He was met with me, very loudly and forcefully, commanding “STOP. NOT ANOTHER STEP!”.

He literally stumbled backwards just at the strong verbal commands. After regaining his composure somewhat he advanced again saying “I just need some….”

“THAT’S FAR ENOUGH!” I again strongly commanded. The look of hatred in his eyes would be comical if I wasn’t worried how he’d react. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU A THING. GET OUT OF HERE!”

By now, other motorists were watching at other pumps. He realized he was not in control of the encounter with me, and moved to the next aisle of pumps, where a lady in her late 30’s was pumping gas. She looked absolutely terrified as he started towards her.

“I DON’T THINK SHE HAS ANYTHING FOR YOU EITHER.”, I forcefully stated. He turned to me (I had concealment from my vehicle and was watching his hands more than anything else) and the look of hatred was palpable. He ended up giving me a gesture, and walked into the store. The look of relief and thanks the lady gave me was something I’ll remember forever.

Again, I use this example because I don’t want my students thinking the firearm is the answer to all their problems. This was not a physical or lethal force incident, but the potential for it was there. I didn’t know what Bad Guy was armed with or what he might do.

But most germane to the topics at hand are that even though I was reacting to Bad Guy’s presence and actions, I enacted my own actions to ensure my safety. When Bad Guy rounded the corner and engaged me, I controlled the encounter. He was unable to enact his attempts at surprise and intimidation, and realizing he had lost control of the encounter, gave up dealing with me.

A more subtle lesson here is Never Give Up. I didn’t know the lady in the aisle next to me, but in the moment I included her in my protective sphere (the people we will choose to protect). By not giving up, and extending my control of the encounter past immediate threat to me, my resolve in the situation outlasted his and he stopped (at least, until I was gone).

The Mentality of Initiative

The aspects of acting and not merely reacting, controlling the encounter, and never giving up form an overall mentality of initiative. The mindset to act, take control, and prevail. This mentality of initiative is a paramount mindset to instill in yourself. In all your endeavors, train with diligence, be in control mentally, and persevere in your effort, and you are training the mentality of initiative.

In defense of life and property

This week in St. Louis, a couple found their home surrounded by an angry mob marching though the neighborhood. I don’t know the particulars of the mob’s demands nor their purpose. Its not relevant to this subject.

What is relevant is the nature of response by the couple. They came out loaded for bear. The husband with his AR-15 (was that a 20” barrel and fixed stock?!?) and the wife with her PPK. Now, much fun has been poked at these two and I would say it is wholly undeserved. These people were thrust into a potentially violent situation that would have most people quaking in their boots. They felt threatened and they reacted.

I’m quite certain that if you had asked them last year what they would do if an angry mob showed up on their doorstep the husband would chuckle and remark that’s why he has his rifle and that would be the extent of the planning and training he undertook to prepare for that event. He probably thought the idea so far fetched it would be nothing more than a joke to him. We now know it wasn’t so far fetched.

Now my point is not that everyone should be training and prepping for an angry mob to show up at their doorstep. No, my point is that you need to train for the likelihood of having to use your firearm and that means understanding how to use it and when to use it.

This couple came out of their homes, firearms in hand and ordered the mob off their lawn. I want to be clear: They did nothing wrong and were well within the law to do so. I don’t know the particulars and I am not going to armchair quarterback their action. What I do want is to try and give you a couple more option to think about as you prepare your plan of action in the event of the threat of violence (you are preparing a plan, aren’t you?)

A firearm is a tool of last resort. Once it comes out of the holster, once its unslung from the shoulder, once it is leveled at another human being, the world changes very quickly. You are now in a gun fight. The very real possibility that a life will be taken is now on the table. You need to prepare mentally for this and decide now how you are going to act in such a situation.

Tactically speaking, keep a barrier between you and the aggressor. Communicate to them to leave at once in a stern (read loud) voice. I have no doubt profanity will be used. In the case of this couple, no one appeared to approach them and they were outside but I didn’t see them make use of cover. In a situation like this cover is useful not only for protecting from incoming fire but also to allow them to conceal their arms till they need to make it know. It may be that introducing a gun in the situation prematurely could escalate the situation, keeping it hidden but ready to use may be the best course of action.

If the gun needs to come out, don’t delay. Get on target and order the aggressors to leave at once. Keep an eye on your avenues of escape, on how many attackers you can see, on your surroundings (don’t get tunnel vision, move that head!) and how close you are going to let your aggressor get to you before you engage. You have to draw a mental line in the sand and yell out that if they come closer you will be forced to shoot. If they get too close and you don’t act you could end up in a fight over the gun and that is never good thing.

I want to stress that I am not advocating for the use of deadly force in protection of property, this is not permitted, but deadly force in the protection of life and limb is! As for this couple, they have an affirmative defense of acting in protection of their lives. They can articulate that they did fear for their lives, an angry mob could cut through them like a hot knife through butter. They did a service for the rest of us in their actions.

We can see what they did learn from it and take the good and leave the bad. As much as we teach to our students that being aware of your surroundings will keep you out of a fight most of the time, in these odd days its is entirely possible the fight will come looking for you as it did these folks. Plan now so you don’t have to plan as you go.

Stay frosty.

Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership

With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.

Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.

Identifying fear

For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.

At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.

Education

Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.

When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.

For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.

That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.

Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.

Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.

When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.

Controlling access

The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.

Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.

The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.

The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.

An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.

Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.

Training

This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.

Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.

The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.

Develop safe practices

If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.

If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)

Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.

Ongoing vigilance

You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.

So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.

Communicate

This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.

You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.

Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.

Protection training during Stay-At-Home

Most of the USA is now closed for business. For many of us, we have lost access to martial training and firing ranges. This doesn’t mean we should be putting our protective training on hold, though. Here are a few ways to adapt or develop new training methods.

Strength and cardio training

There are honestly thousands of books, videos, and other sources out there for this training. For protection, a definite balance between strength training and cardio is needed. Look for strength-increase and flexibility-increase videos, not just “bulking up” exercises. The same with cardio.

Strength and cardio training by “definitely not me” and “also not my wife”.

If you don’t happen to have any equipment at home, add “no equipment” to your google searches. There are still many exercises that can be done using body weight resistance, as well as stretches!

Practice the basics you DO know

There are a number of martial arts apps out there that show applications you can do from your screen. We advise against these because there is no instruction or critique to break you from a bad habit or incorrect movement. Without this, imperfections (vulnerabilities) can become ingrained and need to be relearned.

But, if you happened to have trained well before this self-distancing, AND if you know some moves well enough to have not been significantly corrected on, continue practicing them!

I can honestly say that when troubleshooting trainee technique at the dojo, most of the trainee issues stemmed from improper positioning caused by poor footwork. If your training includes footwork patterns or routines, do them over and over, taking care you are doing them well.

Punching bags and artificial targets

Percussion training is kinda hard to get wrong. With some basic combinations under your belt, train them, and train them hard. Work them into a cardiovascular workout. If you have the means, a torso target allows you to work on target selection far better than a punching bag, but be prepared to load it up with sand (they leak a bit, don’t use water) to make it stable.

Physically striking is far superior to “punch into the air” martial movement. there is no substitute for actual striking to ensure your fists or chopping hand strikes are resilient.

Another great tool are the Cold Steel line of melee training weapons and the Rings Blue Gun line of firearm training weapons. These can allow for great weapon manipulation and movement training. If your martial skills involve breakfalls and rollouts, practice going into prone, supine, and urban prone. This will not only improve your ability to obtain cover/concealment, but the large movements will improve cardio.

Dry fire dry fire dry fire

When practicing dry fire, set up a place that you know is safe, and keep it that way. The rules of gun safety are not suspended while doing this; they are more important than ever.

Safety steps:

  1. Pick a dry-fire location in the home free from others, including pets or important valuable. Establish that this sectioned area is an ammunition-free zone.
  2. Ensure the area you will be dry ‘firing’ into is safe, and what is beyond it is safe and will trap a bullet if all else fails.
  3. Read your owners manual and confirm that firing on an empty chamber is not detrimental to your firearm. Most modern semiautomatic and revolver firearms are able to handle dry firing. 22LR pistols are a notable exception.
  4. In a separate area, remove all ammunition from your firearm. This includes the magazine and chamber or the cylinder for most modern pistols. If you have a training barrel for your firearm, install it here. Confirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  5. Move to your dry fire location. Ensure it is free of obstructions and people.
  6. Reconfirm the firearm is empty through sight and touch.
  7. If for any reason you must pause this training and leave the area, perform all safety steps over to ensure the firearm and training area are in known states when resuming training.

Dry fire for sight alignment and trigger congtrol

A training program I took emphasized that most firearm issues can be resolved with sight alignment and trigger control. After spending a full 8 hours on these two factors alone, I am in complete agreement.

Fortunately, these two factors can be practiced without ammunition. When dry firing, you can work on maintaining sight alignment and picture while manipulating the trigger. These items are the very fundamentals of superior marksmanship, and it can be done for FREE.

  1. Perform all safety steps noted above.
  2. Practice dry firing by squeezing the trigger while maintaining sight alignment/picture on a target fastened to the wall.
  3. Pay special attention to any movement in sight alignment that trigger actuation provokes. Correct it. There is no rush here, and each trigger pull can take as long as needed to perfect.
  4. Repeat until your trigger actuation does not affect sight alignment/picture at all. (This can take years!)

Dry fire for draw and acquiring target

Once the fundamentals of sight alignment and trigger control are well understood, it’s time to bring the drawstroke into play. Using ALL the same safety steps shown above, AND all the sight alignment/picture and trigger control exercises, practice drawing from holster, presenting the firearm, and getting on target with a proper sight alignment and trigger actuation.

Remember the fundamentals of a good drawstroke:

  1. Using support hand, remove concealing garments from the holster area.
  2. Primary hand acquire a solid grip on the firearm with thumb-forefinger webbing lodged firmly in the tang of the handgun and fingers in a solid grip. Trigger finger must be extended.
  3. Draw the firearm deliberately to the pectoral index point. Support hand comes to the chest.
  4. Rotate firearm to the front. Shooter may need to engage from this position and firing from this position should be practiced for close quarter engagements.
  5. Extend the firearm forward with a “punching out” movement. Support hand should naturally acquire a proper grip on the firearm during this extension. During extension, begin to acquire sight alignment and sight picture. Shooter should be able to put rounds on target during the extension action for close quarter engagement training.
  6. Once at extension, finalize sight alignment and sight picture.
  7. Actuate trigger during the drill at the appropriate time determined for your practice.

Dry fire with moving and shooting

Using ALL the above steps, and adding in objects, navigate to cover/concealment, move around obstacles to get on cover. Add partial cover to your target… the list is endless what you can do here, and it all builds in movement familiarity with the firearm.

By now it should be apparent that there is so much that can be done with dry fire. In fact, the only thing missing is recoil management and the assessment of shot placement.

Train the mind

Internet research costs little, and finding good sources doesn’t take that long. Train the mind with good information. Justifiable use of force, the laws of protection and firearm ownership, the anatomy of violence, and so much more. Go for depth, not breadth. Find a subject and truly deep-dive it. Surface smatterings of many topics are easily obtained. Focused knowledge in one thing leads to much more understanding.

Training beyond stay-at-home

Of course, ALL of this must be reinforced with this most paramount of paradigms: You are NOT PLAYING. This isn’t a tactical LARPing exercise, Mr. Wick. You MUST do all the above training as if it is a live-fire exercise, with the exact same mindset for training and consequence. Do not train in poor muzzle discipline. Do NOT train in a bad drawstroke. If needed, record your training and play it back and scrutinize as if it were someone else’s Facebook post that the world will nitpick into oblivion. You could even send it to your instructors for their review, or a close group of training friends operating in an ego-free way.

Most of us have been ‘gifted’ with extra time on our hands. Whether it be working from home and no commute time to actually being furloughed. These times are hard, and they will get harder before it’s said and done. In desperate times, the worst in some people comes out, and the best in others comes out. It’s up to us to ensure our best is greater than their worst. Train hard, train focused.