Posts Tagged ‘Defensive Tactics’

Both are lethal, but the gun gets taken more seriously.

Being a Credible Threat

At the end of last year, an eleven year old girl armed with a single shot .22 rifle faced off three intruders. The perps fled in fear, even though they probably could have won by a determined attack. The defender posed a credible threat and they believed it enough to retreat. What do you think the outcome would have been had she relied on pepper spray or an electric stunner or a baseball bat? When people argue in favor of improvised weapons or “anything but a gun,” they are greatly increasing the chance that a criminal would try their defenses. The sword has been a lethal military weapon for millennia, but would a modern thug take it seriously? For better or worse, people are conditioned to treat firearms seriously for two reasons: guns require minimal strength to operate and they work at extended ranges.

Empowering Those Who are Already Heroes

It isn’t every day that you get to meet real life heroes. CTD Martin and I had the honor and pleasure of meeting several heroes at the Warrior Cane Project event near Dallas, TX. The project is an effort to empower disabled veterans by training them how to defend themselves with a cane.

Cane Fighting

Thomas S. Forman, Valhalla Security Consulting

There are several advantages to this approach. You can literally take a cane anywhere. Airports and other controlled entry locations can’t take a person’s cane away. They also cannot legally ask you why you need a cane. Obviously, a person’s medical conditions are their own business. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning that a person could do any real damage with a cane, but after seeing the types of sticks these folks used for training, I quickly began to understand. Typically, canes nowadays are hollow tubes of aluminum, which are light and comfortable for the user due to padding around the curved handle. The fighting canes however, are hand-carved hardwood sticks with lethal grooves carved into the sides. Designers included this shark tooth pattern of grooves to tear skin off the bone should someone be so inclined, and getting smacked with a fast-moving wooden rod isn’t something  I want to be on the business end of.

Cane Fighting

A Warrior Holding His Donated Cain

The class took place in a pub in Dallas, TX. When we entered the pub, I wasn’t sure we were even in the right place. A large shadow appeared to my left and I no longer had any doubts. The instructor for the class, Thomas Forman, stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and would make most NFL linebackers look like sissies. He graciously introduced us to some of the warriors taking the class and we had a chance to chat before the class started. We met several people who were anxious to discuss a myriad of topics including the fading support for veterans benefits that is stemming from Washington. There are veterans out there having to pay money out of their own pockets to take care of wounds they sustained while fighting for our country. This situation is obviously unacceptable. Randy Stamm, an author and veteran with a laundry list of military accomplishments and decorations that I can’t fit into one blog post, explained some of the hardships that currently face veterans under the current administration. Randy spends one hundred percent of his time helping veterans get the benefits they earned while keeping our country safe. As a veteran myself, I was happy to meet him. I recommend reading his book, “A Soldier’s Dying Heart,” a documentary about the Gulf War.

By the time the class started, the room filled up with heroes like Thomas and Randy. They stood in a large circle where Thomas began to teach the basics of cane fighting. This style of fighting originated in Korea, and Thomas has a perfected version that veterans can use to help defend themselves against attackers. Criminals routinely target the disabled and elderly since they believe they are easy prey. The crooks typically don’t expect the disabled elderly person to be a former special operations soldier who is wielding a three-foot stick with sharp edges. As the class continued to learn, you could see that warrior mentality surface in the faces of the students. Empowering otherwise disabled veterans is what this program is all about.

Due to the success of the initial training sessions, the Marine Corps and the Army have requested Mr. Forman and Valhalla Security Consulting to teach Combat Cane sessions all over the United States, and train Wounded Warriors to become Combat Cane Instructors. These Wounded Warrior instructors can then maintain partial or full active duty service.

As with most programs, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Each hand carved cane costs $160.00. The program relies totally on donations, so help these troops become warriors again. You can donate here, and your contribution is 100% tax deductible as a donation to the Metroplex Military Charitable Trust, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.


Cane Fighting Thomas hooking the neck Cane Fighting Cane Fighting Cane Fighting Cane Fighting

Tactical Flashlights: Let There Be Light! Part One

Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

This rule of gun safety applies at all times no matter the circumstances. We need to see our targets to be sure of them, and in darkness that means bringing our own light (night vision and laser designators notwithstanding, for you military guys). Attaching flashlights to firearms isn’t a new idea. Now declassified photos of British SAS operators in the early 1980s show them using Mp5 submachine guns with big police-style Maglite flashlights taped to improvised mounts. In 1993 Heckler & Koch released their Universal Service Pistol, which included a compact Universal Tactical Light fitting underneath the slide and producing 90 lumens of light. Fast forward to 2011, and a dizzying variety of dedicated weapon lights ranging from very affordable to pretty darn expensive are offered for sale by a number of manufacturers. The latest generation of lights are smaller and brighter than ever. Nearly every new pistol design produced in the past few years features a rail underneath the barrel intended for a light. Light rails are being added to new variants of classic guns like the 1911 and Beretta 92. From SWAT teams everywhere to elite military door-kickers in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the local Sherriff’s deputy to pistols in civilian nightstands across the country, having a weapon mounted tactical light is becoming the rule, not the exception.

SAS Maglite

Old School: These SAS guys had improvised weapons lights almost 30 years ago.

Some will say, “I’ve been shooting my whole life and I’ve never needed a tactical light before, why do you think I need one now?” Allow me to answer that question with another question. How much shooting have you done in darkness, where correctly identifying your target meant the difference between saving your life and killing an innocent person? LAPD SWAT is the busiest SWAT team in the world, responding to call outs and executing high risk warrants on a daily basis in one of America’s toughest big cities, and they have been using weapon-mounted tactical lights for decades. When they enter a residence to apprehend a dangerous barricaded suspect, instantly they need to be able to identify the bad guy, the bad guy’s thug friend lurking around the corner with a baseball bat, and the bad guy’s innocent wife and kids cowering in fear in the opposite corner of the bedroom. Regardless of lighting conditions in their operating area, their weapon mounted lights ensure that they can discern friend from foe quickly and effectively.

The predictable response is, “Ok, fine, so SWAT needs tactical lights, but I’m not kicking anyone else’s door down. Anyone who comes into my home uninvited deserves to get shot and my state’s castle law says so.” It’s a bad idea to blaze away in the dark at people you can’t identify, but you don’t have to take my word for it; take the word of Glenn Mizell. Having been burglarized a week before, Mr. Mizell woke up to the sound of his dog barking frantically in December 2007. He grabbed his home defense pistol and got out of bed, convinced the intruders had returned. Having calmed the dog, he was coming back to bed when he suddenly saw a figure rummaging around in his kitchen in the dark. Taking careful aim, he fired a single shot, which struck his wife Deborah squarely in the chest, killing her. She had not realized why he had left the bedroom, and had gotten up to make a snack. Mr. Mizell’s story quickly became fodder for gun control organizations, which spread the story around as a cautionary tale for wives who so foolishly let their husbands keep a gun in the house. Be sure of your target and what’s behind it folks.

Some flashlight companies like to advertise their tactical lights as a “less lethal” option capable of temporary blinding and disorienting an attacker. The opposing school of thought claims that flashlights are just a liability, giving your position away to the bad guys and presenting a bright circle for them to aim at. In my personal opinion, neither of these extreme perspectives is entirely correct. I sometimes do a drill at night which is easy to replicate (the hardest part is finding a place that will let you shoot in total darkness; this is where friends with large farms come in very handy). Duct tape a cheap 120 lumen tactical light to the head of a standard IDPA type target. Face away from the target, close your eyes, and have a friend activate the “constant on” switch. The light is shining on your back, but you are facing away from it with your eyes closed. Have your friend grab you by the shoulders and spin you 180 degrees until you are facing the target and your friend is safely behind you. Open your eyes and suddenly you are exposed to the brightness of the light. Bring up your firearm and shoot a controlled pair at the center of the target. If you are like me, the light from the flashlight will dazzle you, hurt your eyes, and be a major annoyance for a second, and you will then drill the center of the target with two well-placed rounds. On the other hand, the sights of my gun have never been drawn to the flashlight itself. I’ve never been tempted to shoot at the flashlight itself, but this is also a function of distance to the target—I do this drill at a distance of 5 to 7 feet from the target, which is a very typical indoors “close quarters” engagement range. If I were 25 yards away from a bad guy pointing a light at me, you bet I would be shooting at the light source.

The purpose of the tactical light is to help you be sure of your target. Up close, it may additionally buy you a split second of confusion on the other person’s part, while you make a critical split decision on whether it is wise to start shooting. Don’t view the tactical light as a substitute for lethal force or as a foolish gimmick that will certainly get you killed. Instead, view it as a useful tool that can assist you in certain situations, when used properly. You must choose your light carefully and know how to use it.

Light choices and techniques will be covered in Part II, coming soon!

Night fight drill

This simple drill will disprove common misconceptions about tactical lights


What Makes a Folding Knife Tactical?

Sales of tactical folding knives have swelled in the past few years. Hundreds of different models are being offered and it’s rare to see a major knife manufacturer that doesn’t offer some sort of knife in this category. But what makes a folding knife “tactical,” and are they popular for a good reason or is this just a dumb fad?

Smith & Wesson M&P

Smith & Wesson M&P

Tactical knives certainly don’t look like your grandpa’s folding knives. His pocketknives featured thin blades that are extremely sharp, and usually included more than one folding blade contained in the handle. That handle was traditionally made of wood, or sometimes ivory or animal horn. The tactical folding knives are different, with a single thick blade sometimes featuring aggressive serrations, and grips made to fit the hand rather than look pretty. These knives look scary on purpose, reflecting the huge “tactical” trend that has defined the past decade and continues to grow.  But aggressive looks—blackened blades and grips made of plastic, zytel, or simply more raw metal—don’t make a knife “tactical.”  Some of the most aggressive, scariest looking knife designs aren’t tactical at all, falling instead under “fantasy” knives.  If the intended purpose is to slay dragons or protect the Klingon Empire, its not a tactical knife at all.

All Tactical Folders Have a Blade Lock

One feature all tactical folding knives have is a blade lock to hold the blade firmly in place until the user operates a lever or button to allow the blade to fold closed. The lock is a must because the tactical folder is intended for harsh tasks, where the user’s hand will be wrapped completely around the handle and gripping tightly, and where the blade may be pushed in different directions. A knife that unexpectedly collapses back onto the fingers holding is definitely an unsuccessful design!  The most popular lock type is the liner lock.  When folded inside the handle, the blade is surrounded on each side by a metal “liner.” As the blade reaches its open position, one of the liners acts like a leaf spring and jumps into the space in the middle of the handle, holding the blade open until the user pushes it back into place, allowing the blade to fold. The liner lock is simple to incorporate into a knife design with minimal cost, but it has been criticized as lacking in strength. This reputation isn’t helped by the fact that many of the cheapest knives use poorly executed liner locks, giving the design a bad name when they fail. Some tactical knives dispose of the liners entirely and use only a lightweight, skeletonized “frame lock” performing the same function. High quality knife makers often incorporate more sophisticated locking designs such as Benchmade’s AXIS lock. The AXIS lock uses a spring loaded button passing all the way through the frame, fitting into a notch cut in the back of the blade, locking it into place with great strength. The design of the lock is largely personal preference; the quality of the parts creating the locking system separates the contenders from the pretenders.

Tactical Folders Usually are Partially Serrated

Tactical folders often incorporate serrations into their blades. These little teeth aggressively saw through hard to cut materials. Serrations can add a lot of versatility to a knife—if half the blade is serrated then tough tasks which would abuse or dull the straight edge can be tackled by the serrated section of knife, saving the rest of the blade and getting the job done quickly. The disadvantage to serrations is that they dull relatively quickly and take special tools and a lot of time to sharpen. Blades without serrations are usually intended for “fine” slicing work, and blades that are totally serrated all the way down are usually intended for heavy, coarse use where no finesse is required.

5.11 Tactical C.U.B. Master 2.0

5.11 Tactical C.U.B. Master 2.0

Blade Shapes of Tactical Folders Must be Efficient

Tactical folders feature a wide variety of blade shapes. To describe all the tantos, drop points, bowie styles, clip points, and hawksbills would take a whole separate blog post (and maybe I will write one sometime), but regardless of the exact shape, the blade shapes are all intended to be used as competent self defense weapons. This is what separates a serious tactical folder from a traditional pocketknife or a fantasy knife. Personally, my first rule of knife fighting is to bring a gun, but there are many places where concealed carry of firearms is still very restricted. Yet folding knives with blades of ordinary length are often specifically exempted in state law definitions as not being “weapons” at all. Tactical folders are carried easily without scabbards, using clips that hold them at the ready in a pants pocket, and they are unobtrusive and lightweight. It’s easy to forget that you have one with you until it is needed. But once employed as a fighting knife, all the features of the tactical folder come together to benefit the user—the thick blade, the blade lock, the aggressive blade shapes and the ergonomic non-slip grips all combine to maximize efficiency. A high quality tactical knife is a better fighting knife than a plain pocket knife, easier to carry everyday than a decorative fantasy knife, and practical enough to be used for all the mundane chores that it will be asked to do in the course of ordinary life.

Ultimate zombie combo

Last week, Ruger announced the launch of the new Ruger 77/357, which is a bolt action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum.  I got to thinking about this gun, and despite the fact that it only has a 5 round magazine, when paired with a revolver also chambered in .357 Magnum such as the Smith & Wesson 686 you have yourself an almost perfect “zombie combo”, or more accurately you’ve got a great rifle/pistol combination for the woods.

BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP

The Ruger 77/357 has all the desirable aspects of a great “bug out rifle” – it’s light, coming in at only 5.5 pounds, can readily accept modern optics (and would probably be a pretty sweet pairing with an Aimpoint), and it’s chambered in what is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges in existence.  .357 Magnum is available in pressures from mild cowboy action loads at 1000 FPS with all lead bullets all the way up to 200 grain bear-killing hardcast bullets at ungodly velocities.  However, for a good “general use” round it’s hard to beat a 158 grain JHP, like this one from BVAC.  The BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP is cruising at around 1200 FPS from a pistol, which means from a rifle you should see a velocity increase of around 100-200 FPS at the muzzle.  That’s plenty of bullet to deal with many of the 4 legged dangers you might encounter during a rural bug out situation, and of course the .357 is well proven as a fight stopping projectile for two-legged danger.

I honestly think that pairing a .357 bolt gun with a revolver makes more sense as a bug out gun combo for 99% of the popular than an AR15 pattern rifle and a hi-cap 9mm.  I like that you only have to carry one kind of ammo, the revolver isn’t dependent on magazines to keep it in action, and while the bolt gun does feed from magazines in an emergency it can be used as a single shot rifle if you lose the magazines.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have an AR and a Glock with 400 mags for each gun, but if you’re on a limited budget, it makes more sense to me to drop $650 on the new Ruger 77/357 and another $460 on a Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum than it does to go out and spend the money on an AR and whatever other pistol you need.  .357 ammo is relatively cheap, with lead practice ammo running about the same as .40 S&W and less than 5.56 ammo.  A bolt gun in .357 and a good revolver in the same chambering will solve 99% of the situations I can imagine getting myself into during a short term survival emergency!

Dividing your Practice

Caleb shoots the weak hand only string of fire on The Practical Event

Most of us are never going to get in a gunfight. The few of us that do have to draw our firearms in defense of our lives as civilians will probably not have to fire a shot. Those that do have to fire will probably only have to fire less than seven rounds. Now, we all agree that practice and training are important, because if you have accepted that the aforementioned scenario could happen, you want to make sure that you fire only the rounds you need to fire and that they all hit their intended target. So we’re going to assume that “training” is something that you want to do.

With that in mind, how do you divide your training? Obviously, it’s important to practice things that you’re not good at, such as weak hand only shooting, or long range shots, or reloads. Whatever your weakness may be, don’t give in to the natural human temptation to neglect it and just practice the stuff you’re good at. That being said, it’s also important to practice the “high probability” stuff. For example, if you need to use your gun in a defensive situation, there is almost a 100% probability that you’ll have to draw it from a holster. That would mean that practicing the drawstroke is something very, very important to practice and master. On the flip side, there is a fairly low chance of you being wounded in your strong side arm and needing to reload your pistol one-handed, weak hand only. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how to perform that skill, but mostly that it should be lower on your priority list than “drawing”.

I will usually spend 5 to 10 percent of my practice sessions on strong hand and weak hand shooting. I should probably spend more time on it, but at the same I see a better value in practicing my reloads from concealment. In any IDPA match, there will usually be a stage where I’ll have to shoot strong or weak hand only. One stage, maybe 6 rounds out of a 100 round match. The guy that’s an absolute ninja at shooting SHO will do well on that stage. However, if you’re shooting CDP (which I am) you’ll need to reload from concealment 1-2 times on every stage. That adds up to a huge amount of time if you’re good at reloading and a big advantage.

Practice is important, whether it’s for IDPA or self-defense. Practice your weaknesses…but not at the expense of high percentage gains.

The Cradle of Pistol shooting

Smith & Wesson M&P with Crimson Trace Lightguard and Lasergrips

Next week, I’ll be at Gunsite Firearms Academy with Crimson TraceS&W, and Galco.  We’re going to be playing with the new Crimson Trace Lightguard for the M&P pistol, pictured at left from SHOT 2011. Galco has a new holster that’s designed to fit the M&P with the Lightguard attached, which we’ll also be trying out.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. Today, we’re talking about Gunsite Firearms Academy, the cradle of pistol instruction.  I’m not old enough to actually have taken classes at Gunsite when Jeff Cooper was teaching, nor do I “remember” in the strictest sense the great rift when Col. Cooper sold Gunsite, then eventually reacquired it. What I do remember is sitting in the Coast Guard Academy pistol team’s ready room reading Cooper’s Corner in the back of Guns and Ammo and actually thinking about pistol shooting as more than just a sport. You see, without Jeff Cooper and Gunsite, we wouldn’t have our modern shooting culture. 99% if all not of the modern training schools owe their origins to Gunsite in one way or another; trainers came from there, added their own techniques and knowledge to the Modern Technique, and pistol shooting grew as a martial art across the nation until we have what you see today.

The same is true for competition shooting as well – without Jeff Cooper, there would be no IPSC, and without IPSC we wouldn’t have IDPA, Steel Challenge, USPSA, and 3-gun. Just like in those early days, competition shooting still continues to drive innovation in the combat shooting arena. When Rob Leatham and Brian Enos started shooting modern Iso instead of a Weaver-ish stance, it was a huge breakthrough. Now modern Iso is the industry standard, with only a few schools still teaching Weaver.

J-Frame gear Part 2: Ammo

On Tuesday, we looked at the first essential part of carry gear for your J-frame or other compact revolver – holsters.  Today we’re going to look at the 2nd most important part of the equation, and that’s ammo.  It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to remember to carry your J-frame if you’ve got it packed with ineffective ammo.  While any ammo is certainly better than no ammo, there are some loads that are optimized for the short barreled revolvers.

One of my personal favorite defensive loads for short barreled revolvers is the Hornady Critical Defense round.  In .357 Magnum, this load has reduced recoil compared to other .357 loads and offers guaranteed expansion by using a polymer tipped bullet.  This is one of very few .357 Magnum cartridges that I’ll carry and shoot in my compact revolvers.  My usual recommendation for carry ammo, even in guns that can handle .357 is to use .38 Special +P loads.  For short barreled revolvers, there are some great options in the .38 Special chambering.

The gold standard for .38 Special carry ammo is probably the 125 grain +P Remington Golden Saber load.  This round has been around for years, and it’s still going to be one of the best choices for personal defense in your compact revolver.  However, in recent years there have been some challenges to the Golden Saber.  The Cor-Bon DPX Solid Copper +P load offers controlled and reliable expansion as well as a high muzzle velocity out of a .38 Special revolver.  There are quite a few options out there for your defensive ammo in a .38 Special, so make sure you try a few out to find one that you’re comfortable shooting and can get reliable hits with.

One of the things that I try to do is make sure that my carry ammo is same grain as my practice ammo.  If I practice with 130 grain ammo, I’ll try to be as close to that weight as possible, which means my carry rounds are usually 125 grains.  If I practice with 158 grain ammo, then I’ll try to select a carry round in that weight.  The reason is that this keeps my point of impact consistent between guns.  Whether I’m shooting practice ammo at the range, +P ammo at a match, or using my gun to defend myself, I’ll have the same point of impact for all of my rounds.

On Thursday, we’ll take a look at the final two pieces of the compact revolver puzzle – sights and reloads.  While ammo selection is important, it’s just as important after you’ve picked your defensive rounds to be able to get those rounds in the gun when you need them and make sure they go where you want them to go.  That’ll be this Thursday, so make sure to check back in.

J-Frame carry gear Part 1

Last Tuesday, we talked about some of the accessories you’ll need if you choose to carry a pocket sized .380 ACP pistol. But what if you’re one of the old school guys that carries one of the jillions of S&W J-Frames out there? I still carry a Model 60 when I need to conceal my firearm, and have never felt under armed with 5 shots of .38 Special +P in the chambers. There is plenty of gear that you are going to need though if you do make the decision to tie on a wheelgun as your defensive firearm. The first decision of course being “what kind of holster should I get?” On the blog yesterday we had a great look at inside the waistband holsters, which are probably the best option for concealed carry for a compact revolver. Another option of course are pocket holsters; however these will only work if you have large pockets and choose to carry one of the superlight aluminum framed guns or the polymer framed Ruger LCR.

The J-Frame and Ruger LCR are best carried in an inside the waistband holster like this Bianchi Holster pictured.  The small size and weight of the gun can be concealed even on the hottest of summer days under an untucked t-shirt, and unlike the equivalently sized .380 ACP pistols, the DA revolver offers the option of .38 Special rounds or hot .357 Magnum rounds for personal defense.  Admittedly, a small revolver isn’t the best choice for everyone, as the DA trigger is difficult to master.  They require practice and training to be used to their full potential, but once you do reach that level you’ll find that your little J-frame is an incredibly accurate and powerful defensive firearm.

Next Tuesday, we’ll continuing looking at essential J-Frame gear, with the focus being on methods for getting your little gun back in the fight after you’ve depleted your five rounds.  This is one of the most critical skills to work on if you carry a roundgun, so make sure you check back next week for more!