Paper Targets: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2013 by blackshepherd

Problem #3: Paper targets train shooters to target the wrong places.

Problem #4: Paper targets are two-dimensional instead of three dimensional.

I am going to discuss both of these issues together because they are interrelated. There are only two reliable ways to incapacitate a human with a gunshot. Shut down the central nervous system directly, or shut off the supply of oxygen to the central nervous system, by causing a massive drop in blood pressure. To do either of these things we must put holes in the brain, spinal cord, or the major vascular structures (heart and major blood vessels) that supply oxygen to the brain. The three targets most likely to achieve this goal are located in the head, the upper chest, and the lateral pelvis.

I am going to discount the lateral pelvis right off the bat. Proponents of this target claim that properly placed shots to the pelvic region break down skeletal structure, making an attacker immobile, and have a high probability of striking large blood vessels and nerves. This MAY be the case for a rifleman facing an opponent wearing body armor. However, we are talking about using a handgun in self-defense scenario. As previously discussed, bullets do funny things and pistol bullets in particular may break bone. Even if they do, an immobile attacker can still be a threat, as discussed in Part 3.

Acquiring the necessary point of aim is also problematic. Attackers are (probably) wearing clothes and (most likely) moving. It is not that difficult to identify an attacker’s chest or head. It is difficult to identify the pelvis depending on what a target is wearing and how they are moving. There are simply too few external landmarks to quickly and accurately place a shot. Finally, limiting our prospective targets increases response time (Hick’s law) and makes the most of potentially limited training time. Stick to the head and upper chest.

The highest percentage target is the central portion of the upper chest. This area contains the heart and the major blood vessels above the heart (aorta, vena cava, pulmonary vessels, etc). If you place a bullet in this area, it is very likely to damage one of these vital parts of the anatomy, causing a drop in blood pressure to the brain. This target area is a rectangle roughly bounded by the collar bones at the top, the breastbone at the bottom, and the nipples on either side. On the average male this makes a rectangle of roughly 9-10 inches wide and 7-8 inches high. For training purposes a 5’x8′ card pasted just below the neck of a cardboard silhouette is a good expedient. An index card is easy to see and is quickly replaced when it is too shot up to be of any further use. Another approach to visualizing the target area is the “cardiac triangle.” This is an imaginary triangle formed by drawing a horizontal line across the nipples and from each nipple to the neck just below the Adam’s apple. Use whatever method is the easiest for you to visualize but ensure that you are shooting at the target’s vital area.

With a head shot the intent is to disrupt the central nervous system by putting a hole in the brain. This does not mean simply shooting someone in the head. People think of a head shot as being instantly fatal but this is not borne out by history. There are innumerable incidents of people being shot in the head and not being seriously injured. The skull and face are made up of multiple hard bones with complex curves. Sinus and nasal cavities, upper and lower jaw bones, and even teeth have been known to deflect bullets, especially pistol bullets. This does not mean that someone shot in the face may not be horribly disfigured, but our intent is to immediately stop a deadly threat. To do this with a pistol we have to place a shot inside of a rectangle that goes from the lower outside edge of each eye and extends to the outside of the forehead. This rectangle is approximately 3’x5′ which makes a 3’x5′ card stapled to a target backer a convenient training tool. This is not an easy shot to make on a static target. It becomes much harder on a moving target. In addition the head is not static on top of the body. Watch a boxing match or MMA fight to see how quickly someone can move, turn, and bob their head when under stress. Know your skill level before planning to take a head shot in a deadly force scenario. It is your life, if the time ever comes, you had better be as good as you think you are.

The problem becomes that many paper targets teach us to aim “center of mass,” and are scored accordingly. Take a look at the some of the most common law enforcement and military targets:

le 1military 1

 The highest scores result from shooting the targets in places that are not necessarily vital, or are not the most preferred areas for shot placement. The vital areas in the head are also not clearly delineated and often do not indicate proper shot placement.

Many shooters do not take this into account and simply shoot at the highest numbers that are printed on the target. This is training us to repeat poor shot placement. Frankly, these targets are dangerous and could get you killed.

We must learn to shoot quickly and accurately, but if we are aiming at the wrong portion of the body then even accurate shooting will not be as effective. We have to know what our actual target is before we can shoot it.

Targets such as these are a better answer:

better 1

However, one does not have to break the bank to get decent targets. I construct targets similar to the ones above with scrap cardboard and a template that I made from scrap plywood. The template, a utility knife, and a marker and we are good to go. We need effective targets but we also need money for training ammo.

Problem #4: paper targets are two dimensional, people are three dimensional. This seems fairly self-explanatory but many shooters have never thought it all the way through. We are not training to shoot at a point on the outside of the human body. We are shooting through that point, to place holes in the actual targets which are the vitals inside of the body. If the shooter is offset from their attacker, or the attacker is turning away from the shooter, then the point of aim must be adjusted to achieve the correct shot placement. This is extremely hard to visualize on two dimensional targets. However, if we use even a rudimentary 3D target, the correct shot placement becomes much easier to visualize. As below:

angle views

Imagine that our shirtless friend is a threat. Notice how his orientation to your line of fire will effect your point of aim to get the desired shot placement. Another very effective way to visualize this is to use a training partner. Have them stand at arms length from you and slowly turn in a circle. Stop them intermittently and then reach out and touch the exact point on their body where you would aim to get an effective pistol shot. This is kind of eerie when someone does it to you but it is a highly effective drill for visualizing shot placement.

Finally, shoot 3D targets. One can purchase relatively inexpensive mannequin type targets. Or we can make 3D targets out of anything that we can coax into a relatively humanoid shape of the right dimension. Cardboard, plastic, and duct tape are your friend.

Whether you are using 2D or 3D targets, ensure that you are delineating the actual vital areas of the body and not simply “center of mass.” Many shooters may initially find themselves drawing to a natural point of aim, that is indexed on the middle of the target, because of long habit. This is a training fallacy that must be addressed and remedied. Initially, delineate the vital areas on your target. Practice getting shots into the vital areas as fast as possible, with no regard for shot groupings. If all the rounds are in the box, shoot faster. Once rounds start to impact outside of the lines, slow it down and make your shots. Shooting outside of your comfort zone is what makes you better, push yourself.  Once you can reliably make fast and accurate shots to the vital areas, it is time to remove the reference lines and shoot at a target that looks more like an actual person. Draw in only the landmarks that exist on a clothed person. Eyes, nose, Adam’s apple, neck notch (it is actually called the suprasternal notch but it is simply that dip in your neck right above your collar), ears, whatever landmarks you can spot on everyday people. These become reference points for finding our target areas. Unfortunately criminals do not wander around with a dartboard painted on their chests. Learn where to shoot.


Colorado is Pissed: Part Five

Posted in Colorado, Firearms, freedom with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by blackshepherd

Three different but inter-related stories are going on. Colorado is still pissed off:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. As has become usual in the case of tragedy, the vultures are circling. The Michael Bloomberg sponsored “No More Names,” tour is in Aurora reading names of those killed in “gun violence,” during the last year. Unfortunately for them, their list includes the names of one of the Boston bombing suspects and other criminals legitimately killed by both police and citizens in self-defense situations. The anti-gun rally is expected to garner “dozens,” of supporters. So, at least 24 people. Gun Rights Across America and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are holding a counter protest.

The fifty-five Colorado sheriffs who filed a lawsuit against Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, concerning recently passed gun laws, are continuing their lawsuit. However, on the 10th of July a federal judge declined to grant a preliminary injunction against the portions of the law concerning magazines that are “readily converted,” to hold more than 15 rounds. The law as originally written would have made any magazine with a removable base plate, virtually all magazines, illegal.

Using a savvy political move, the Governor avoided the injunction by directing the State’s Attorney General, John Suthers, to issue clarifying “technical guidance” concerning the laws. The guidance included a much more restrictive interpretation of what “readily converted,” means. Regulations were also clarified for grandfathered magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Originally, loaning the magazines was only permissible as long as the borrower stayed within “continuous physical presence” of the owner. Under the new guidance that is no longer necessary.

Both sides of the debate are claiming victory. The Sheriffs by celebrating the favorable clarification of restrictions. The anti-gun legislators by touting the lack of injunction against their laws as tacit approval. Personally I believe that both the Sheriffs and the people of Colorado would have been better served by an injunction against these immoral laws. However, the Sheriffs are continuing their lawsuit in federal court by challenging the constitutionality of these laws.

Links: Colorado Sheriff’s position paper

In better news, the Governor set Sept. 10 as the date for the state’s first-ever legislative recall election after a judge rejected a lawsuit aimed at stopping the recalls of two anti-gun state legislators, Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron. Denver District Court Chief Justice Robert Hyatt ruled that the recall may proceed.  He stated that the right of citizens to recall officeholders outweighed the technical objections to the petitions brought by the constituents and lawyers of Morse and Giron. The recall election is going to attract an inordinate amount of out of state attention and money. Things are going to stay interesting in Colorado.

Paper Targets: Part Two

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2013 by blackshepherd

Problem #2: Paper targets do not drop when they are shot.

At first glance this seems to be a simple problem, but it is not. When you draw a pistol and fire it at a person, you can bet that they are going to react. One human reaction to danger is to move (both fight and flight require movement), whether you shoot them or not; as discussed in Problem #1. Another possible reaction, again whether you shoot them or not, is to fall down. Hollywood has taught us that gunshot wounds cause people to fly backwards in a theatric fashion. Not true, but the psychological conditioning will cause some people to fall down, even if they are not actually hit by a gunshot. That seems to make sense, but let’s think it through. We have to talk about some basic scenarios before we can make informed decisions about our training:

Scenario 1:  An armed threat approaches a seemingly unarmed victim and initiates an attack. Suddenly the “unarmed” victim produces a handgun and points it at the attacker. A natural reaction for many people, including prospective criminals, at having the muzzle of a gun unexpectedly pointed in their direction, is to back up. When people start to back up quickly, they have a tendency to fall over. Now we have an uninjured and still armed attacker who happens to be on the ground.

Scenario 2: The same as Scenario 1, except this time the “victim” shoots the attacker in a non-vital area and he goes to the ground. We have a slightly injured and still armed attacker on the ground

Scenario 3: The same as Scenarios 1 and 2, except this time the attacker is shot in a vital area and goes to the ground. We have a seriously injured but still armed attacker on the ground.

Scenario 4: The same scenario, but this time the attacker takes lead and is obviously DRT (dead right there). We have a seemingly dead but still armed attacker on the ground.

We have four separate scenarios. How do we properly address each one? We have no idea which scenario we are in so initially we act in exactly the same manner. We do not know which scenario we are in for two reasons. Firstly, it is very hard to detect bullet wounds in moving people that are wearing clothes, especially dark clothes or several layers. (I will talk more about this in later posts.) So, we are not entirely sure if, or where, we have shot someone. The fact that an attacker falls down when we fire a gun does not guarantee that they have been hit. It certainly does not guarantee that the fight is over.

Secondly, bullets do funny things, as do people with bullets in them. Some people can receive a non-life threatening gun-shot wound and immediately drop to the ground. Conversely, there are literally thousands of anecdotes concerning people being shot more than a dozen times, shot in the head multiple times, or hit with something truly nasty like a .50BMG round and still continuing to fight. Some of these people have survived truly horrific wounds and not stopped their attacks. As I have said before, a gun is not a magic wand that makes a bad guy disappear, and shooting someone does not necessarily end a threat. There are many credible resources that discuss the effects of firearms on people. I recommend starting with the seminal FBI report, Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness.

Our initial actions for all four of the above scenarios are the same: We identify a deadly threat and make dynamic movement, preferably towards cover, while drawing our gun. As we present the pistol we stop, set our feet, exhale hard as we extend our arms, and find the front sight post. Once we have the correct sight picture, we break the trigger and continue to fire: front sight-fire-front sight, until the target goes to the ground. The front sight follows the threat to the ground and then we assess the threat. Shoot him to the ground. Then look at the hands, they are where danger emanates.

In the above Scenarios 1-3 above, the threat could still be aiming a gun at you or trying to aim a gun at you, keep shooting and then re-assess. Repeat as necessary until there is no threat.

With the same Scenarios 1-3, and Scenario 4, the assailant may have decided that he does not want to fight anymore, or is physically unable to continue the fight. Again look at the hands. If he is actively getting rid of a weapon, raising his hands to surrender, or not moving at all, stop shooting.

For all of the above scenarios, if the attacker was armed with an impact or edged weapon it is up to you to determine the level of threat based on range and capability. With these weapons, as long as the attacker stays on the ground, he is not likely to remain a threat. Stop shooting! If he starts to get back up and renew his attack it is time to start shooting again.

Once the initial threat is reduced, breathe and examine your surroundings. Exhale and inhale purposefully, practice this on the range. If you stop breathing your body starts to die and the fight is not necessarily over. As you breathe, bring your weapon back to retention, high in your chest with both hands on the pistol. Start to scan your surroundings. Deliberately look over your left shoulder, come back to your initial threat, and then deliberately look over your right shoulder and come back to the threat. Also practice this on the range. There is no guarantee that there is only one attacker. You also need to be aware of the potential for intervention of police or another armed citizen. You do not want to survive a deadly threat, only to be killed or injured by the good guys.

Some dynamic movement is probably also in order at this point. There is no reason not to move to cover, or to a position of advantage, while breathing and scanning. A moving target is harder to attack.

At this point in time the deadly force portion of the attack is over, it is your call how to proceed. I do not give legal advice; I am a shooter not a lawyer. Just remember you are responsible for every round you have fired. I highly recommend calling the police. I also recommend getting your pistol back in the holster before they arrive.

How do the above scenarios inform our training? It tells us that paper targets behave like paper targets, and not like people. So, we may be training to fight paper targets. How do we correct that?

We shoot targets that can move and drop whenever possible. Even if they are unavailable, we train to follow a sequence. If we are on a range that does not allow movement, we can train certain factors of the correct sequence.

Identify a threat; make dynamic movement (if possible) while drawing your weapon. Once the gun is out plant your feet, exhale hard while presenting the pistol and make your shots. Imagine your attacker going to the ground and follow him down. Assess, breathe, scan, assess (while moving if you can).

Even on a static target do not get into the habit of only firing two rounds and assuming that the attacker is down; fire iterations of rapids, two, three, four or five at a time. This gets us out of the “two rounds and stop,” mindset and will help to identify problems with our draw stroke, grip, and sight picture. If you are making good shots for the first two or three rounds, but sliding out of the vital areas for subsequent shots, then your grip may not be strong enough. You may also be coming off of the front sight post, or shooting faster than you can reacquire it. Remember: front sight-fire-front sight-fire-front sight, as necessary. Do not get trapped into the bad habit of firing on a certain cadence, fire as soon as you reacquire the front sight but not before. This may not look or sound as cool, but you will shoot much better.

A good training tool is a partner shouting instructions as you shoot. You draw and fire until your partner shouts (down!) then you proceed with your scan. Your partner may then indicate the necessity to reengage the target during your scan. This trains us to act based on external stimuli which more closely simulates actual conditions. There are multiple variations of this idea. Your only limitations are your imagination and the resources at hand.

There are some great targets out there which will drop when shot in vital areas. Some steel targets can also be rigged to drop after a certain number of hits. Several of these targets are very expensive, but others are relatively cheap or easy DIY projects. Here are some ideas but there are many more out there:

Use your imagination and tailor your targets to fit your training objectives. Do not make your training fit your targets. To be continued…

Paper Targets: Part One

Posted in Concealed Carry, Firearms with tags , , , , , , on July 14, 2013 by blackshepherd

I have received several questions generated by, “What Are You Training For?” Most of these questions were about ways to improve personal training and how to make the transition from training to shoot, to training to fight. In the next couple of posts I will write a bit about how we can both improve from, and be limited by, our training.

Most of us think of our local range as our training area, but every range has its range-isms. “Range-ism” is the term that many professionals use to refer to the limits placed upon our training environment by safety, level of assumed risk, range construction, convenience, and cost. Simply put, a rang-ism is any discrepancy between how we must act during training and how we would really act in a real scenario. It is a generally accepted fact that the closer our training mimics the real world, within the bounds of safety, then the better it is.   Range-isms are a necessary part of any training environment (not just stereotypical gun ranges), but we must be aware of them and understand how they influence our training and mindset. As one of my associates is fond of saying, in contravention of a corporate aphorism, “You have to know where the box is before you can start to think outside of it.” However, sometimes we do not realize self-induced constraints until someone else points them out to us. I intend to talk about multiple types of “range-isms,” and how we can get outside of them, starting with targets.

Firstly, shoot targets that look like humans or are reasonably humanoid in shape. If you have a gun for home defense, or carry a gun for self-defense, you need to spend the majority of your time shooting at targets that look like people. Training is the art and science of preparing yourself for eventualities. The most likely eventuality necessitating the use of a firearm, is a two-legged predator. Prepare your mind and body for that situation. Even when shooting at small or colorful targets of varied shapes, I staple them to a backer that looks like the outline of a person. This trains the brain to be ready to shoot people, should they make it necessary. If you are uncomfortable with that idea, don’t own a gun for defense. Be a shooter if you like, but unload the piece before you leave the range. Don’t depend on your firearm as a tool for the defense of yourself, or your family, if you are incapable of shooting another human.  Take a martial art, buy pepper spray, or get a rape whistle. Just don’t depend on a gun for your life if you are unwilling to discharge it at a person who means you harm. Enough on that for now…

One of the most ubiquitous range-isms is the use of paper targets. By paper targets I mean any target printed on cardboard or paper that is two dimensional and affixed to some manner of target stand. Lest I be labeled a hypocrite, I will admit up front that I do about 70% of my personal training with paper targets. Every new and novice shooter I work with starts on them. Paper targets are convenient, cheap, easy to transport, easy to store, easy to use, and easy to replace. They are so easy that the vast majority of shooters only shoot at paper targets. However…

There are five main drawbacks to paper targets and I will discuss each one in depth in this series:

They do not move.

They do not drop when they are shot.

They are two-dimensional instead of three dimensional.

The teach you to shoot at the wrong places.

They make it too easy to identify bullet holes.

Problem #1: Paper targets do not move. Their lack of movement tricks us into not moving.

This problem sounds simple but it is in fact multifaceted and can cause several issues with our response cycles during a dangerous situation. Think about how other people move, in relation to you, during your everyday life. At the basic level, people going about their business move towards and away from you (depth), from side to side (width), up and down (level) and at different speeds (velocity). In addition to these dimensions of movement, people typically bob their heads, swing their arms, and talk with their hands. People also turn their bodies in relation to their direction of movement (orientation). Imagine for a moment how odd it would be if people only moved about their daily business with their shoulders and torso oriented towards you. Bizarre is it not? Yet, this is what most paper targets teach us about our relation to a threat.

 In the real world, if your produce a firearm, potential threats are going to run away from you or towards you, from side to side, or change their level in relation to where you are. They may also strike out at you, throw their hands up as if to ward off a blow, or attempt to get a weapon of their own into action. Normally they are going to perform several of these actions simultaneously, or in direct sequence. What is guaranteed, is that they will not be directly facing you the whole time that they are doing these things.

Legally we are required to use the requisite amount of force to stop a threat and no more. However, just because a threat initially ducks and runs away from you (changes in level and depth), or turns their back (orientation), does not mean that they cannot subsequently turn with a weapon in hand, and injure or kill you. Paper targets cannot imitate or simulate this.

The lack of locomotion inherent to paper targets also precipitates our own lack of movement. Think about how many times you have stood in front of a paper target that already had a “gun” in its hand, calmly drawn your own pistol, fired one or two rounds, and then re-holstered. Would you really do this in a life or death scenario? I hope not! The only things that will save you in that situation are divine intervention, the bad guy’s terrible marksmanship, and movement. I don’t try to predict the deity (I think he may have pulled me out of a few scrapes already, I don’t want to wear out my welcome) and I don’t want to bet my life on someone else’s ineptness. The best option is movement.

Every fight, with any tool: empty hands, knives, improvised, impact, or projectile weapons; is a time and distance equation. Our survival depends on our ability to deploy and employ a given weapon before our enemy can do the same; to do unto others before they can do unto us. The time that we have to do so is determined by several factors: our speed of weapons deployment in relation to our opponent’s, the difference in our weapons, the distance between us, and the number of opponents. The problem is that attackers, by definition, have the tactical advantage because they have chosen the time, place, and method of attack. This means that anyone defending themselves or others, is automatically at a tactical disadvantage. So how do we circumvent this disadvantage? We must steal time from our enemies. Time equals movement and movement equals time. We must force our opponents to move (with our own actions) in order to create time for ourselves.

How do we do this? The not so simple answer is: lateral movement, movement in depth, and level change, or a combination of two, or all three, at the same time. These movements cause your opponent(s) to drastically change their fighting stance, weapons posture, effective range (for impact weapons), lose their sight picture or miss (projectile weapons) and get in one another’s way (multiple opponents). The goal being to provide yourself time. Time to: produce your own weapon, seek cover, end the fight (stop the aggressor by injuring or killing him) or conduct a tactical egress (run like hell). The most efficacious methods of tactical movement are determined by distance and the perceived abilities of our attacker. Again, our goal is to steal time from our opponent but there are no constant answers. This is a case by case proposition. You must be familiar with some concepts and then make your own choices. It is your life.

Assume a place that is flat, empty, and level; like a football field. You are standing in the end-zone, with your pistol already in your hand, but not yet ready to fire.  If a man who stands 5’9” (the average height for a male in the United States) rushes straight at you from the 50 yard line, how long does it take for you to get a correct sight picture on him? While you aim your pistol at the vital organs in his upper body, as he rushes straight at you, how much is it necessary to move the pistol to make an effective shot? Not very much. As he comes at you, he appears to get larger within your pistol sights. This requires you to adjust your front sight post a few millimeters, something quickly and easily accomplished by changing your shoulder angle a few degrees. In other words, the amount of distance (time) between you and your opponent is fairly large, while the amount of time required for you to deploy your weapon and accurately adjust the sight picture is fairly small. In gunfight math, the odds are heavily stacked in your favor.

What if the same man rushes laterally, or at a diagonal to you, while you aim your pistol? When you finally line up the sights, he suddenly goes to a knee, dropping entirely out of your sight picture. How long will it take you to recover your sight picture and fire? How much more time has he created for himself than in the original scenario? What if instead of a football field, we are on a city street, in a parking lot, or inside of a convenience store. Now there is a much greater chance that our imaginary man is hiding behind a car, a building, a merchandise display, or has simply turned a corner (sight line) and is running away as fast as his feet can go. If he has a pistol, there is a decent chance it is already deployed (in his hands) and may have already been employed (he is shooting at you).

Now the imaginary man is you. Your attacker has the advantage and you have to create time for yourself with movement. You must get your weapon into action. You need to get to cover because you do not know how many people may be attacking you, or what their threshold for action is (What action on your part can make them stop their aggression). You have to move or die. Please understand, I am not advocating running, or even moving, while shooting. What I am talking about is, taking the best advantage of the time available, depending on the situation. Making dynamic movement in the direction of best tactical advantage, while accomplishing a simultaneous task related to deploying or employing your weapon. Draw while moving, (pistol, knife, baton, pepper spray- whatever you have, you must get it out) close the distance if necessary, (every weapon and operator combination has a range that works best, I cannot knife someone from 10 meters, conversely “far away” is sometimes the preferred range) plant your feet and go to work. If there is an issue with your weapon, (failure to fire, combat reload, anything that causes you to stop fighting) move while you are fixing it, or get the hell out of Dodge. Just remember that no fight is a static event and real-world ranges cover 360 degrees. I am going to talk about this later but always look 360 degrees by turning your head!

 Because paper targets do not move, they train us not to move. We have to recognize this and train as if a paper target is an actual moving and thinking enemy. We have to move. This is understanding the box that we have created for ourselves and alleviating the ways in which we allow it to limit us. How do we fix the lack of motion inherent to our targets and subsequently ourselves?

If you propose running around and shooting at most firearms ranges, the folks that own or insure said range will start doing cheetah-flips. Find a range that will let you do so. You may have to travel, you may have to pay some instructors, but find a place to get the experience. I can hear people now, “That’s great mister “expert,” but I have to work. I have limited training time and even less money.” I’m with you brothers and sisters. We all have to make the most out of the training time and budget that we have available. We do that by cutting expenses, not corners, and getting the most bang for our buck out of our range time.  So what are some things that we can do to prepare for better training experiences?

Firstly, learn to shoot. As I said previously, I do all of my new shooter training with paper targets. If we cannot safely and effectively shoot an unmoving paper target, standing directly in front of us, in the location of our choosing, during the daytime, then how can we trust our skills enough to progress? Shot placement is key.  Before anything else, be able to make your rounds go where you want them to go. Once you can do that, do it from the draw. Very few honest people begin a fight with a gun already in hand, learn to deploy your weapon. Once you can do that, offset the target from your line of sight. Move it left or right, as much or as little as your range will allow.

 I will discuss this later, but keep in mind that paper targets are not three-dimensional. A center of target hit, if the shot is taken from extreme angles, may miss everything that you are actually shooting at (vital organs and major blood vessels). Think about the areas that you want your bullets to impact and make the requisite adjustments to point of aim. This exercise alone will teach you how your point of aim changes with your spatial relationship to the target. This lesson is not to be discounted. I would wager that 90% of civilian shooters have only addressed targets that are directly in front of them. Do you think that this is realistic?

Remember that all training is a progression. Whenever you add a new skill or drill start dry (without ammo). Ensure that you can complete the drill safely with an unloaded gun. Once you have done that, start slowly with ammo. As you get better speed it up and add complexity.

 If your range will allow, start changing your level as you draw (many ranges will let you do this, but not let you move in width and depth). Drop to a knee or a squat as the pistol comes out of the holster. Keep in mind that this also changes your angles in relation to your target and your desired point of impact will also change. Please keep in mind that changing your level limits your immediate ability to move in width and depth and is something of an emergency reaction, unless you are dropping behind cover. It does teach you to move while performing a simultaneous action and to focus on your target and not what you are doing with your weapon. Obviously full movement is best but if your training area is not allowing you to train for a fight, then something is better than nothing.

So we have covered our movement, what about that of our opponent. In order to train for shooting moving people, we have to shoot moving targets. The best way to do so is an actual force on force scenario (real people) using simunitions (actual pistols using actual rounds loaded with a reduced powder charge and a detergent filled plastic cap, instead of a bullet: Sims website ). Simunitions allow us to get as close to the reality of a fight as closely as possible, which is what we want from our training. If you give two guys simunitions and let them face off, you will see some things you have never seen on any range.  However, the safety and financial implications of simunitions make them beyond the reach of most people, outside of a professionally run training course.

Paintball guns are an option, but they obviously limit our draw and weapon’s handling techniques. This makes them much less valuable as a training aid but they do force one to think through tactical scenarios.

Airsoft guns have made massive strides towards realism in recent years and can be an interesting training tool. My real problem with airsoft, is that they do not hurt enough for role players to tell if they have been hit through clothing. Simunitions sting badly enough that most people really do not want to be shot with them. This causes people to act as they would if someone were actually shooting at them.

Aside from force on force scenarios, our options for moving targets are limited only by our imaginations. Other targets train us to shoot at moving targets, not fight them. But, we have to learn to shoot before we can fight so this is a logical progression.

 There are targets that spin, flip, and swing. The only real problem with these, is that they are usually static until you shoot them the first time. Have a partner shoot them first so that they are moving, then go to work. Get an RC truck, tie a helium balloon to it, and put a sadistic operator at the controls. Not an easy target. There are other, usually expensive, systems that will “run” targets in any direction you chose. There are also multiple DIY ideas on the internet. Get out there and come up with something. Start shooting at moving targets. Remember that all training is a progression. Get better than where you are now.

We will continue the next article by discussing the fact that not only do paper targets not move when you are drawing and pointing a gun at them, they do not move once they have been shot…

Colorado is Pissed: Part Four- “A Farewell to Arms”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 30, 2013 by blackshepherd


Tomorrow, 1 July 2013, is going to be a sad day for Colorado. The rights of the citizens of this great state are about to be infringed by unconstitutional laws, passed by the State Legislature. This is a state where it is legal to smoke pot, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Colorado is the birthplace of the Libertarian Party. However, we are about to lose the freedom to own any more than a fifteen round magazine or transfer weapons without a government background check. I previously discussed how ridiculous and ineffective magazine restrictions are when it comes to keeping people safe. Limits on freedom must be offset by a proven and overwhelming benefit to society. Neither proof, nor benefit exist when it comes to magazine restrictions. I have also discussed the problems inherent with the background check system. These laws will not reduce crime, nor increase public safety. They will erode freedom in Colorado, a place that was remarkable for its personal liberties. After tomorrow, Colorado will be less than what it was. My hope is that Coloradans will not stand for it, but will take back Colorado.

Mrs. and Baby Blackshepherd were out of town for the week, leaving me in a temporary bachelor status. Sadly enough, for me that consists of reading until early in the morning while having one too many homebrews. I know, party animal. In addition to the raucous reading, I elected to make the drive up to Glendale to attend the Free Colorado and Magpul “Farewell to Arms,” event on Saturday evening. This was a unique event, despite cribbing the title of my least favorite Hemingway novel.

 To be frank, this was one last flip of the bird from Magpul to the politicians in Denver before the July 1st magazine ban goes into effect. Magpul donated over 20,000, 30-round magazines to the event, with the proceeds from sales going to Free Colorado’s efforts to fight the new gun laws. I went in order to support the company, check out the scene, and contribute my presence and money to the one-finger salute directed at the Denver state house.

There was a line of people about 800 meters long waiting to get into Infinity Park, which is incidentally the nicest rugby pitch I have seen in America. Local news sources estimate the crowd at around 5,000 people, which sounds about right. Ages seemed to range from eighteen to eighty and there were a lot of families with children. There was lots of pro-gun apparel, people open carrying pistols, and probably many more that were concealed carrying. Once the event started people queued up to buy magazines, Magpul swag, and to join Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The stands selling barbeque, burgers, and beer also did a booming business. The whole thing had the air of tailgating a sporting event before the game starts, except with guns.

A helicopter flew in to deliver several additional cases of magazines and the keynote speaker, Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host. I had not heard of her before this event but she has been banned from Piers Morgan’s show so she is doing something right. Other speakers were: Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon, State Senator Greg Brophy, radio personality Michael Brown, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, and State Senator Ted Harvey. No one had anything particularly earth shaking to say, it was mostly preaching to the choir. I did particularly enjoy listening to Sheriff Cooke who was representing the other Colorado Sheriffs that have filed a lawsuit against the magazine restrictions.

I think I am quoting him verbatim when he said: “These laws are unconstitutional. These laws are unenforceable. These laws hinder our rights, they are knee-jerk reactions. Therefore, since they’re unenforceable, I will not enforce them.” I thought this was the most cogent and strongly worded statement of the evening. It certainly played well with the crowd.

It was an entertaining evening and well worth the drive. Surprisingly, for you gun control advocates not a single person was injured. Despite thousands of armed people milling about the same venue, not a single pistol leapt from its holster and started shooting bystanders. There were no shootouts over parking places. Despite its obvious suitability no duels were fought on the rugby pitch. In fact, people were respectful, polite, and seemed to be having a great time. Weird I know…

Here are a few websites for further perusal: – Again, worth visiting just for the photos and quotes

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners – Organization promoting firearms within the Rockies – Grassroots effort to put magazine capacity restrictions on a Colorado ballot

Gun Control Debate: Part Seven- The Ridiculous

Posted in Concealed Carry, Firearms, Gun Control Debate with tags , , , , , on June 29, 2013 by blackshepherd

I just don’t like guns.

That is OK, it is absolutely your right not to like firearms. My problem with “I don’t like guns,” is not what people say, but what they mean. Think about the last time that you heard someone say this. What was their body language? Typically they put their hands out in front of them as if to ward off a foul smell and make a face like they have just seen a rat on the kitchen floor. When the sentence “I don’t like guns” comes out of someone’s mouth what they often mean is: “I am afraid of guns and find them objectionable.” Or “None of my friends own guns and I don’t understand why anyone would want or need a gun.” or “The thought of having an armed stranger near me scares me.” These attitudes are OK too, except for the fact that they are often based on nothing more than ignorance and fear. Many people who have these attitudes have no experience with firearms other than what they see on TV, in movies, or on the nightly news. Others may have had a negative experience with guns, or gun owners, in the past and have never gotten past it.

 It has been my experience that many people in the “I don’t like guns,” camp are highly educated. The kind of people that will lecture others about the negative aspects of emotion on the decision making process. Often these are people that would not allow ignorance to color their attitudes in regard to any other aspect of their life. They would never presume to judge someone based on race, gender, sexuality, or age. However, when you ask them why they don’t like guns you typically get a well thought out and rational response like, “I just don’t like them!” From that point, it is a short step to describing gun owners as ignorant bumpkins or bloodthirsty paranoids.

If this describes you, shame on you. You owe it to yourself and your fellow citizens to do better. Educate yourself! Walking around with an irrational fear of an inanimate object is no way for a thinking adult to go through life. Find a reputable instructor or knowledgeable family friend and learn about the things that you claim not to like. You do not have to become a gun owner or lifelong shooter but you will learn something about yourself in the process. At a minimum, your opinions will no longer be colored by ignorance. You will no longer have to form your opinions and cast your votes about a fundamental right bereft of facts. Have the intellectual honesty to admit ignorance and do something about it; educate yourself.

Here are some good places to get started:

Guns are fetish objects.

Anti-gun individuals are fond of tossing this argument around because it sounds vaguely indecent and has connotations of deviant sexual behavior. Many of them are seemingly unaware of what the word “fetish” actually means and that it applies to them far more than to individuals who have actual experience with guns.

Fetishism is the attribution of inherent value or power to an object.  A fetish object is something believed to have supernatural or extraordinary powers, specifically power over other people, animals, or objects.

I occasionally admonish fellow gun owners because some do fail to keep in mind that a gun is a tool. A gun is not a magic wand that can be waved to make bad guys go away and it is not a totem or lucky charm whose presence makes you immune from danger. One must have the competence, expertise, judgment, and willingness to use a firearm correctly in order for it to function as intended. Just owning or carrying a gun will not make you intrinsically safer. Even expertise with firearms is not an ironclad guarantee against crime or tyranny. However, it is much preferred to the alternatives, ignorance and dependence.

My occasional soapbox moments with fellow gun owners are typically just a gentle reminder to train harder and smarter. Gun owners as a whole are well aware of the responsibilities and lifestyle changes that they have assumed by providing for their own defense. They know that potentially life-threatening situations are not something to entertain lightly and they have thought long and hard about the mental, financial, legal, and moral implications and repercussions of such an encounter. For them guns are tools, not fetish.

It is actually gun-control advocates who view guns as fetish objects. They imbue inanimate objects with all manner of evil intent and capability. They often claim that good, rational people will become blood thirsty killers because they have access to firearms. Simply look at the hysterical opposition to concealed carry laws. Anti-gun debaters will claim that if law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry guns then public spaces will turn into the Wild West. They imagine a dystopian de-evolution of society where citizens shoot one another in arguments over parking spaces. This is not reality. Good people do not change their character because they are armed. There is no malevolent spirit residing in firearms. They are simple machines. Gun-control advocates are the real believers in firearms as fetish objects because they blame inanimate objects for violence instead of people.

I leave this argument with the words of the immortal Col. Jeff Cooper:

“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”


Gun owners are compensating for small penises.

I almost refused to acknowledge this particular argument but it is fairly pervasive, in certain circles. It is usually the snarky final response of a gun-control advocate who is losing an argument based upon logic and reason. As infantile and stupid as this argument is, some people seem to actually believe it. Interestingly enough, those that subscribe to this particular fallacy rarely have the cojones to say it to someone’s face. So who is actually compensating?

My AR-15 is surely not a phallic symbol, if it were it would surely be a much larger caliber. My carry pistol is certainly not a compensation for my penis. If it were, I would have selected something with more than a 3” barrel. So where is the basis for this argument?

If you believe that gun owners carry firearms to compensate for small genitals please get in touch with me. We will go the range, shoot some guns and talk about real world experiences. After all that, if you still think gun owners are compensating I will be happy to take the Pepsi challenge.

Early 1980's U.S. 12 oz. "Pepsi Challenge...

Early 1980’s U.S. 12 oz. “Pepsi Challenge” promotional can, plus promotional button given for partaking in the challenge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colorado is Pissed: Part Three

Posted in Colorado, Firearms, freedom with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by blackshepherd

Yesterday, 24 June 13, the Colorado Secretary of State certified that there are enough valid petition signatures to recall State Senator Angela Giron of Pueblo. The recall effort originally submitted 13,466 signatures. Following review by the Secretary of State’s office, 12,648 signatures were certified, exceeding the required number of 11,285.

Pueblo Freedom and Rights, the recall organization, is a grassroots organization headed by brothers Victor and Adam Head, both of whom are plumbers and union members. The organization did not use any paid petitioners. Instead, they relied on local volunteers who are furious that their representatives ignored the will of the electorate in order to advance a personal anti-gun agenda. Citizens feel that legislators are ignoring the people and are overstepping their bounds. Hence the recall.

In accordance with Colorado law, any eligible elector can file a protest with the Secretary of State within fifteen days in order to challenge the validity of the petition. Following the fifteen day time period, barring a successful protest, the Governor must set a recall election date within thirty days. I absolutely expect a legal protest to the Giron recall.(Update: A protest was filed to the recall petition shortly after certification of the requisite number of signatures. The protest is almost identical to the one filed in the Morse recall and also hinges on the language used in the petition. The protest was filed by a voter from the district, S. Douglas McMillan. A date for the hearing before the Secretary of State has yet to be set.)

A protest has already been filed in the Morse recall. Moments after the Secretary of State’s office validated the necessary 10,137 signatures necessary for the recall, Morse supporter Catherine Kleinsmith submitted a legal protest to nullify all of the signatures. The crux of the legal argument is that the language on the petition did not specifically demand the election of a successor for Morse. The protest argues that omission of that language invalidates every petition signature submitted to the state. The protest will be heard by the Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, on June 27 at a public hearing in Denver. The decision from that hearing could be challenged in the Denver District Court and possibly appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Thus far two candidates have filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office stating their intentions to run in the recall election. Republicans Jaxine Bubis and William Herpin must gather 1,000 signatures from voters within the district in order to have their names added to the recall ballot. In the coming weeks several more candidates are expected to announce that they will compete for the seat. If challenges to the petitions are unsuccessful, it seems likely that both the Morse and Giron recall elections will take place in late August or September. The recall elections should make Colorado pretty interesting for a while. We’ll see what happens.