Jason Harris My father, Bob, and I started R&J Firearms in
March 2012 as a simple home-based 01 FFL, primarily as a way to make a little side income. I’ve always had an interest in shooting and ﬁrearms in general, and this seemed like it could be a fun venture.
One thing we quickly noticed was how many folks, especially ﬁrst-time buyers and women, were afraid to ask questions. They had likely either had a bad previous experience or were afraid of sounding uneducated. We make a ﬁrm point to make sure our customers are not afraid to ask any questions so they can be educated and make proper decisions. Many are buying their ﬁrst ﬁrearm, which may be the only one they’ll purchase. We want to make sure that they are getting a great match and feel comfortable when they leave our shop.
As the business quickly grew, we constantly found ourselves in a position where we were either limited or unable to purchase many ﬁrearms, mainly AR-type riﬂes. At that point we decided to change over to an 07 manufacturer’s license and see how well our brand would sell. I’ll admit, it has been a ton of work, but now having control of our own product is incredible!
We have partnered with some great businesses in the industry and are, in my humble opinion, producing amazing products at a great price point for consumers. Because we are not a large-scale producer, we are able to place more attention to details, ﬁt and ﬁnish in our ARs. Each R&J AR is assembled from start to ﬁnish and test-ﬁred by the same person. This allows us greater attention to detail. The only time I want to see one of our ARs come back to the shop is for some sort of upgrade and not for repair. We are completely family-owned and operated.
GK Do you specialize in something that sets you apart?
JH While we offer ARs in 5.56, .300 Blackout, 7.62X39 and .502 T-Sabre, the .502 is probably a standout caliber. As for a specialty riﬂe, our 7.62X39 ARs are really popular. We build them to be as reliable as a 5.56, with an enhanced stainless ﬁre pin, performance hammer spring, proper feed ramps and quality magazine. We build the gun to run the caliber. They have no problem eating up steel-cased surplus! They are a great .30-caliber option and cheap to feed!
GK That .502 Sabre looks like it delivers quite a thump. Can you tell us a little about it and why it is a good option?
JH The .502 T-Sabre is a fun round to shoot. Cloud Mountain originally developed it around 2000 or 2001. Not too many were produced – maybe less than 50. We bought the rights to the branding, all of the available .502 T-Sabre Starline brass and barrel inventory. After about a year of toying around with the platform, we have it where we are pretty happy with it! The riﬂes retail for $1,599. They feature a 16-inch stainless Lothar Walther 1:19 barrel. They now come with a thread protector or the R&J Mega Keg brake for $99, including a 10-round mag. Five-round hunting mags are available and recoil is pretty civilized. It’s about the same as a 12-gauge pump shotgun. We currently offer three loads: 330-grain hardcast slugs at 1,875 feet per second, 325-grain JHP at 1,650 fps and 300-grain FTX at 1,775 fps. Ammo costs start at $1 per round, which puts it as one of the most affordable bigbore ARs on the market.
GK What are most of your return customers saying when they come back to you and what else are they looking for?
JH We have some of the best customers in the business! Many travel several hours to come out to us. It’s very humbling to hear how happy people are with their purchase, especially when it’s a product we produced. Many times they are returning for some sort of upgrade(s) or to expand their collection, or to just come in and say hi!
GK Where do you see your company going from here and which area would you like to grow?
JH I hope to see us continue to expand and grow the R&J Firearms name. We currently have the RJ-10 platform in the works and will be offering them in a .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor. We have also discussed producing our own suppressors, as that market has really boomed – bad pun – in the past couple years.
For more, visit rjﬁrearms.org. ASJ
Almost everyone has been to Las Vegas, and if you have not, there is an excellent chance you will some day. Las Vegas attracts millions of people each year, some willingly, some not and some subject to business conferences that they must attend. Wherever you sit on this continuum, if you are shooter or even if you’re not, everyone – including visiting aliens – should stop by The Range 702. “Why?” You ask. What makes this range different from the one down the street? Read on.
THE RANGE 702 is the largest indoor shooting range in Las Vegas, and we all know that everything in Vegas is big … or is that Texas? It doesn’t matter. Everything in this town is epic, and this range is no exception. The owners have created a place that truly delivers the ultimate shooting experience.
When I first walked in, I stepped into a vast, clean open pro shop, complete with a concierge who quickly addressed my needs. Everyone who worked there said “Hello” as they walked by and made sure I was taken care of – although my request for a martini was not fulfilled. This level of attention is not commonly found in many places, and gun ranges are no exception. Walking among the displays, guns and gear, they offered anything and everything I might have needed for shooting if I had, by chance, left my gear behind, which I would never admit to here. Anyway, one of the standard services they offer is a private chauffeur to and from the range for no fee at all. How is that for dedicated customer service?
This over-the-top range offers 16 lanes and four specific VIP lanes, an on-site gunsmith, and many other amenities, but the thing many people flock here for is the heart-pumping action this team puts together. These packages are what The Range 702 calls shooting experiences, and they boast titles such as Area 51, Femme Fatale – not sure what is involved here – Adrenaline Rush and Judgment Day, to name a few.
The lanes and space are state-of-the-art, with reverse airflow in brightly lit, clean and open shooting ranges that ensure shooters breathe in comfort, and don’t walk out smelling like they have just been to war – come to think of it, maybe that is not a good thing.
For the discerning shooter, their VIP lounge definitely caters to the non-masses by offering a private hostess, bar, restaurant, LCD TVs and pool table. These high rollers even have their own private restroom facilities. The VIP route is literally the ticket to an unforgettable pampered shooting experience.
This area includes:
• Four private 25-yard lanes;
• Leather couches;
• Kitchenette with complimentary soft drinks;
• Viewing window from their suite into the range;
• Did we mention the private bathroom?
All in all, not a bad setup.
No range would be worth its weight in gunpowder if it didn’t offer a standard regime of courses for new and expert shooters alike. Courses such as concealed weapons permit classes, intro to handguns, women-only courses, even personal one-on-one instruction is available. These are just a few of the options this range offers.
There are many options for memberships, although you do not need to be a member to shoot there, and they even offer special law-enforcement and military rates. We at the American Shooting Journal appreciate anyone who supports our brothers in blue and military ranks. Other memberships include rates for individuals, family, family plus, corporate rates and as we mentioned earlier, the VIP membership for those who need their own special place to pee.
Memberships include: unlimited use of shooting range; priority placement on range; The Range 702 T-shirt; free use of eye and ear protection; discounts on select merchandise; free machine-gun rental on your birthday; five guest passes per year; discounts on training courses; one free FFL transfer; shooting league discounts; two free handgun rentals; and one free gun breakdown and cleaning, among a few other benefits.
These services alone make the low monthly fee worthwhile. Speaking of fees, they vary, so I would suggest you check out their website at TheRange702.com. ASJ
Bullets.com is excited to announce new Bald Eagle gun safes! These solid and stately gun safes have been made specially for us, and we think you’ll agree they’re one of the best around!
The plush shelves can house an impressive 22, 39 or 51 long guns (depending safe size) and the safes include an adjustable top shelf for storage.
Small (shown here) 60″ x 30″ x 24″ NOW! $725
Medium 60″ x 40″ x 24″ NOW! $975
Large 72″ x 42″ x 28″ NOW! $1,195
Know that your firearms will be secure with heavy-duty 1-1/4 inch chrome- plated door bolts and a Securam heavy-duty digital lock. Securam is a well respected name in digital locks for reliability.
The safes are is fire resistant for up to one hour, so you’ll never have to give another worry to your gun’s safety. Five spoke chrome handle partnered with an attractive red powder coat finish makes for a striking piece.
Story by Danielle Breteau • Photographs by John Johnston
When I first heard about something called Ballistic Radio, which doesn’t sound like two words that go together, I did what anyone would do: I Googled it! One of the first websites I landed on was for the Ballistic Radio Youtube Channel. The description? “A channel that is dedicated to making the Internet cry by destroying popular gun and shooting myths.” I immediately needed to know more.
“I don’t want there to be any stupid gun owners.”
John M. Johnston is the owner and host of Ballistic Radio. Johnston may not be what you would think when you visualize a guy in a radio station, sitting behind a DJ’s microphone. Johnston is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 250-pound man, with lots of tattoos and a shaggy beard that conjure up images of a cave man crossed with an ornate Aztec warrior. Maybe that is what he is going for, but my interview with him proved to be something more than a discussion with only grunts and sign language. Johnston is actually quite brilliant and has a diverse background in psychology, real estate office management and fashion photography, to name a few. Ballistic Radio seems to allow Johnston to express his deep-seated passion for bringing gun-industry news, tactics and concepts to the world in a very intelligent and sometimes humorous manner.
Ballistic Radio is a syndicated weekly radio show that covers topics about self-defense, firearms and training without politicizing it. “Stereotypes of gun owners have nothing to do with politics, and how you feel about guns is not a point to be made when someone is kicking down your door,” Johnston threw out during our conversation, making a very poignant point. After listening to multiple podcasts of the show to get a feel of the conversations, subject matter and demeanor, I found that they refreshingly incorporate industry experts with intelligent conversation and a good dose of humor to top off the content. I think this is great, since the average age of his audience is younger than you might expect, around 32 years old. It seems to be doing well so far, and as of this issue’s press deadline, they are on their 101st episode, with plenty more content yet to cover.
I asked Johnston what he was trying to do with his radio show. He said, “I don’t want there to be any stupid gun owners. I would like to see people understand that there is more to self defense than just having the gun. It is not a magic talisman that wards off evil just by existing. You’ve got to have the knowledge of how, when and why to use it, as well as familiarity with local laws, which can make a huge difference in how a gun owner can react in a bad situation. I feel like there are lots of different sides to this vast topic, and I am able to help breach the language barrier between them. I love being able to talk to people from all walks of life, and have even received an email from a couple who fall into at least six minority/specialty groups combined and are professed liberals. They own guns and said they felt like I wasn’t alienating them by talking about things outside of the self-defense topic, and that is why they love the show.” Johnston went on to say that he felt that we as a community are fighting against the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological phenomenon where people without knowledge, experience or expertise pass along bad information as fact, while ignoring and arguing against accurate information. He feels he runs into this quite often, and almost seemed defeated when he said it.
“I do product torture tests, not dumb ones like shoving a ham sandwich into the action and seeing if it will fire, but realistic ones”
The start of this radio show was a combination of luck and good timing. After a rough divorce, Johnston found himself working in a gun store. Johnston said he often heard gun store clerks say things around him that he simply couldn’t believe. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a clerk at a store suggest something like a Smith and Wesson J-frame .357 magnum (subcompact revolver) as the perfect self-defense gun for a woman because it’s small. The problem, of course, being that they’re incredibly uncomfortable to shoot and almost impossible for a new shooter to shoot well. Can you imagine trying to train with that if you have never shot before?” Johnston went on to explain that there are everyday questions that inspire him to want to help the industry. “I’m probably strange for enjoying this, but I like having conversations with people who say things like, ‘I don’t need to have a flashlight handy because I have night sights on my gun.’ Having to explain the importance of knowing what you are shooting at before you shoot pushes me to try and help educate gun owners.”
The gun store where Johnston was working was given an opportunity to have a radio show on a local station. He ended up running it and tailored it with his personal ideas and topics. That show subsequently became very popular locally and online, according to Johnston. “After some time I offered to buy the show from my boss and he agreed to sell it,” Johnston said, and that is how Ballistic Radio started.
Among Johnston’s hobbies, and much to the entertainment of many, he spends a great deal of time destroying guns through hard use, then documents his efforts. “I do product torture tests, not dumb ones like shoving a ham sandwich into the action and seeing if it will fire, but realistic ones,” he emphatically states. As an example of what he calls a test, he took a Salient Arms International MK25 Tier 1 Prototype and shot 25,000 rounds through it in 18 days in the middle of winter, a test which he himself barely survived physically.
Another of Johnston’s gun-torture tests involved practically submerging a Wilson Combat 9mm 1911 in the mud, and immediately after rescuing
it, demonstrating a successful firing sequence. You can see videos of some of his torture tests like this at ballisticradio.com. His next victim will be the LWRC Tricon MK6 with a SilencerCo suppressor. Johnston says this will be the first public high-roundcount test of a suppressor ever done.
You can find Ballistic Radio on multiple radio stations to include: 1100 KFNX in Phoenix, 55KRC in Cincinnati, 820 WWBA in Tampa, among several others, with 20 to 30 more on the way. If you are more of a podcast person or mobile-app type, there is a Ballistic Radio podcast and you can listen via iTunes, or you can catch the live stream Sundays at 7 p.m. EST on iHeart Radio (55KRC channel). You can also check out Ballistic Radio at ballisticradio.com to keep up with all the latest action in the gun industry, as well as gun and shooting experiments, AKA “torture tests,” that are quite entertaining. ASJ
Editor’s note: When I explained to Ballistic Radio show host John Johnston that I would need some photos to share with our readers, even though he is a former fashion photographer, he couldn’t imagine what I wanted. I flippantly suggested a photo of him geared up in camouflage, covered in mud, holding a gun and radio microphone would be a good start. Well, you get what you asked for, and this is just another glimpse into Johnston’s level of effort and humor, which we applaud.
Posted in Editor's Blog Tagged with: 1100 KFNX, 1911, 55KRC, 820 WWBA, 9mm, ballistic radio, Danielle Breteau, educational, Evaluation, Firearms, Gun expert, guns, Iheart Radio, J Frame, John Johnston, Podcast, Salient Arms International, Silencerco, Smith and Wesson, T&E, talk show, Testing, weapons, Wilson Combat
When it comes to who is the better shooter and why, men or women, the iconic Irving Berlin duet from Annie Get Your Gun immediately springs to mind. “Anything you can do I can do better! I can do anything better than you” is sung while Annie Oakley and Frank Butler prepare for the climactic sharpshooting contest in the classic Broadway musical. For an object as functionally gender-neutral as a gun, why is it that each of the sexes assumes they are better adept at mastering it? Any quality instructor will tell you the real weapon is not the gun. The educated mind that controls the gun possesses the real power. Therefore, do men and women learn and process information differently especially with a gun in hand?
“men are quick to act and apply aggression in a dynamic self-defense scenario”
There is still much uncharted territory when it comes to the human mind. The scientific community offers studies of both children and adults that prove more similarities between the sexes than there are differences at the biological level. Painting with a wide brush can lead dangerously down a path that reinforces gender-specific stereotypes and hinders learning down range. That being said, touching on some of the salient points that make men and women unique is worth investigating.
From an instructor’s perspective, new male shooters tend to learn better when introduced to a concept or technique by presenting the mechanics of the skill first and then putting that activity into context. Women tend to learn the same skill best when introduced to the context of when and why that particular skill is important and then taught the mechanics of putting it to use. The result is the same: the student learns both the action and the application, though from opposite perspectives. Both are fully capable of executing the skill set with precise fine and gross motor skills, regardless of gender, and put it to use when and where appropriate in the real world.
Male and female brains have a number of well-documented structural differences that illustrate how men and women process information. One major difference is in the grey and white matter of the brain and how the sexes use it all to process information. The female brain utilizes more white matter (the connective network that links the information and action processing centers of the brain) by a multiple of 10, and that may be why women are considered better at making social connections, observational connections and are better at multi-tasking than men. By contrast, men utilize seven times more gray matter (the information and action centers that are localized in different regions of the brain), which is largely why men are attributed with being good at task-focused activities, having tunnel vision or a “one-track mind.”
“Women often need to be taught how to tap into that aggressive and competitive part of themselves”
New firearm students offer the best opportunity to see these differences in action, especially in a high-stress environment like their first force-on-force class. Students often break down into two categories that display these brain behaviors without prejudice. Women can be observed as seeing and processing a wide range of critical information, yet they often hesitate to take specific action, while in a first-time force-on-force scenario men can be observed to identify one specific problem and focus intently on it missing other threats entirely. This isn’t to say that both aren’t guilty of making the same beginner mistakes, nor does it mean that these mistakes can’t be corrected with proper instruction.
The male and female brain differ at a chemical level as well. Women produce more oxitocin and seratonin than men. These two chemicals are associated with an ability to be calmer and have more relationship and bonding behaviors. Men, on the other hand, produce more testosterone that is associated with varied levels of aggression and impulsiveness. Both men and women produce these neurochemicals, but to varying levels. The very nature of self- and home defense require a realistic preparation for an uncomfortable level of violence. Women are the largest growing demographic in the firearms community largely because of an interest in being able to protect themselves and the ones they love. The fact that they are taking ownership and personal responsibility for their safety rather than deferring to their male counterparts for protection proves that they are capable of flipping the chemical switch to face violence head on. Not only are women making the retail investment of the gun and the gear, but they’re also investing in their continued education on how to use them in context with their lives.
“Mankind has proven time and again that such defining traits are not exclusive to either sex”
Joining a firing line with a dozen bearded, molle-covered, tactical hipsters is out of the question for most women new to shooting. Women generally prefer to begin their journey into the world of firearms by training with other women. This birds-of-a-feather model is successful in part because it appeals to a woman’s inclination towards social interaction and community.
Men represent the predominant student population of run-and-gun, tactical-ninja, and gun-camp courses. These courses are generally physically intense, mentally taxing, and speak directly to understanding violence and how to counter it in kind. This isn’t to say that women don’t also enjoy the athleticism and aggressive nature of shoot house, force-on-force or vehicle close-quarter battle training, but it is typically not their initial launching point for learning. While men are quick to act and apply aggression in a dynamic self-defense scenario, they often need to be taught how to slow down and take in the details so they can take appropriate action. Women, by contrast, often need to be taught how to tap into that aggressive and competitive part of themselves to apply that same action.
Mankind has proven time and again that such defining traits are not exclusive to either sex. We didn’t attain apex-predator status without a brain that made us adaptable problem-solvers. For all of the differences that have been observed between the male and female brain there is no evidence that one is more optimized for firearms use than the other. Having an understanding of these types of gender-specific tendencies helps instructors build curriculums and better communicate with students. A desire to learn and a commitment to personal development down range is the only differentiating factor between the Annie Oakleys, Frank Butlers and everyone else in the shooting world. The gun allows us a unique opportunity to meet at the firing line, cast off societal stereotypes and engage in friendly competition to prove just how alike we really are. ASJ
I really hope you enjoy the variety in our Women’s Annual June 2015 issue. We are featuring extraordinary women from all facets of the shooting world, and I’m sorry that I don’t have a thousand-page magazine to highlight more amazing stories.
Hailing from multiple shooting arenas to include top huntresses, SWAT chicks, mounted-shooting champions, girls in practical shooting competitions and sporting-clay trailblazers, these ladies are seriously bad to the bone!
Among our feature stories, we had an exclusive opportunity to interview and see inside the home and workshops of Frank and Lally House, creators of fine contemporary long rifles and Native American-inspired porcupine-quill embroidered gun straps and slings. No matter where in the gun industry you plant your passion, the work of these two Kentucky artists is not lost on anyone. Our team is proud to bring this story and images of the Houses’ amazing works to you.
Our cover feature should inspire some questions. Why in the world is that guy holding a gun to a microphone?!? My thoughts exactly, but our interview with John Johnston of Ballistic Radio on his sadistic tendencies towards guns and sharing the results with his listeners is quite revealing.
Looking ahead to our summer issues, next month is our patriotic and beginner’s guide, followed by the long-range shooting and working dogs issue in August.
For July, I am reaching out to you, our readers, to ask, “What does freedom mean to you?”
We plan on compiling some of the best phrases and comments from around the nation and will share them with you in that star-spangled issue. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please share them with me at
Story and photographs by Scott Haugen
She’s been offered hosting jobs on major TV networks; approached by country music and NASCAR celebrities to cook and launch private-label food lines; and looked to for her expertise in co-authoring books. But she has turned them all down.
“The timing just wasn’t right,” shared Tiffany Haugen when asked about these offers. “My priority isn’t my career it’s my boys, and I don’t want to miss a minute of their growing up. I’m gone enough as it is, and there’s a limit,” she added when asked about some of the challenges she faces.
Tiffany is a
big promoter of
eating what you kill
“I love hunting and fishing with the family and enjoy speaking around the country, but if we can’t be together as a family, then it’s not as rewarding.”
For Tiffany, hunting and fishing are about family and putting meat in the freezer. “Our family lives on wild game and fish,” she says. “It’s what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only are these meals nutritious, but gathering the meat, butchering and preparing it as a family offers quality time that’s hard to get any other way.”
Tiffany grew up in a family of hunters and anglers, and her grandfather, now 102 years old, still eats wild game. She isn’t about seeking the spotlight. “I do not care if people know who I am; I just want them to get the most of their hunting and fishing experiences and have the confidence to butcher, fillet and cook their meals. The outdoor industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years; it’s gone so much toward bling and in-your-face entertainment that people are losing sight of what hunting and fishing are all about. It’s about education and should not be considered a contest or entertainment; it’s promoting the game, fish and other opportunities that we’re so blessed to have in the US.”
Tiffany is a big promoter of eating what you kill. She’s been filmed for various hunting shows over the years – most currently on The Sporting Chef and Cook With Cabela’s, where she serves as a guest-host. She is all about making it simple and attainable.
“Cooking fish and game isn’t like cooking store-bought meat, but that doesn’t mean it should be a big challenge,” Tiffany continues. “When (I was first) married, we moved to Alaska’s Arctic where we lived a subsistence lifestyle. Being immersed in this way of life is where I really learned to master cooking wild game. Now that our family makes a living in the outdoors, we eat game and fish year-round. Our boys love it and usually question the quality of meat when we go out
and trying new things is easy
Having traveled and hunted in over 30 countries and throughout much of the United States, Tiffany says this is where she gets much of her inspiration. “Travel and food go hand-in-hand,” she smiles. “AlI I want to do is share it with people, show them how easy it is and that they can do it!”
“Africa was great, not only because the whole family hunted together and ate what we killed, but because we exposed our sons to several cultures. Seeing them gather 50 pounds of toys just to share with African children in villages and orphanages was amazing. These are life-changing occurrences they might never have experienced had it not been for hunting.”
“There was a time Braxton sat for 43 hours in a blind over the course of five days, in temperatures dipping into the teens, before he arrowed a big mule deer; he was 12 years old,” she reflects. “If that’s not a testimony to what hunting teaches youth, I don’t know what is.”
“Kazden, at 9, overcame hunting in a cold, driving rain to take his first Columbia blacktail deer,” Tiffany adds. “He and his dad gutted and skinned that buck, we butchered it as a family and canned most if it, per Kazden’s request. Last spring he shot an axis deer in Texas right at dusk. He and his dad stayed up butchering and wrapping that deer until 2:00 a.m., just in time to grab a bite to eat and go hog hunting at dawn; that’s dedication!”
Tiffany’s biggest cooking tip is “don’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes. That gets old for everyone. Changing recipes and trying new things is easy, and that’s what I’ve devoted the last 15 years of my life to doing, turning people on to intuitive cooking methods.”
Prior to entering her career in the outdoor industry, Tiffany was a school teacher for 15 years. Between juggling her writing, national speaking schedule (she delivers over 50 seminars a year), filming cooking segments, running the family business and home-schooling both of her boys, she doesn’t want any other responsibilities. “I’m in a happy place right now. I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made or opportunities I’ve passed up, because life is too short.”
As a hunter, author, speaker and TV host, myself, I couldn’t be more proud of my wife and what she represents. She’s held her ground when challenged by anti-hunters, eloquently defended our family when confronted with verbal assaults on how she could let her kids shoot guns since the age of two, and stuck to her morals when asked to be part of contrived outdoor reality TV. I have utmost respect and love for this woman. After all, we’re celebrating 25 years of marriage next month, and each year keeps getting better! ASJ
By Danielle Breteau
Most people who pick up this magazine or read this blog might have actually handled a firearm, maybe even twice. At some point, you might have had training, whether it was formal i.e., law enforcement academy/military training or a bit more relaxed such as plinking with friends or family, on a range. Either way, there are cardinal rules one must always follow. These rules are usually touted in the same manner that we use to recite the pledge of allegiance in the classroom. It is doctrine. Let me refresh your memory:
1. Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
2. Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire.
There are various versions of this, usually much longer but these four rules are always part of the program. I draw your attention to number four. When an instructor is working one on one with a student, it is usually clear when the student has inappropriately placed their finger in the trigger guard or is not handling the firearm in a safe manner but what if you are teaching many people at once. It is not always obvious when someone might have slipped their finger into the trigger guard, even to the new shooter, who may be uncomfortable or busy considering the other 57 rules they must learn when on the range or handling a firearm.
Lets look at the training aspect here. What can you do to train in a safer environment until the students get it? I know, blue guns (or red, whatever, a plastic molded gun)! Blue guns are great for training people how to hold a firearm, holster it, handle it, deal with it, etc. This was a great idea and another excellent use of those plastic dolphin-molding machines.
Moving on to the 21st century, and the adage “necessity is the mother of invention,” there are products out there that address some the shortcomings of current training tools. Western Shooting Journal recently had the opportunity to interview Mike Farrell, owner and founder of Smart Firearms. Picture a smart blue gun. A training tool that will tell the instructor that the student has let their finger drift into the trigger guard or onto the trigger, at an inappropriate time. This training gun is designed to set off an audible alarm when this “faux pas” happens, but get this … It is smart enough to know when you should and should not be on the trigger. There is an infrared sensor that knows when your finger is inadvertently accessing the trigger or when you actually intend to be there. There is an algorithm set to calculate these actions and unless you are a rocket scientist or electronics engineer, let’s suffice it to say that it is a “smart” tool.
What many do not realize is in the training environment, many bad habits start forming in the blue gun stage. Instructors across the country have adopted the idea that they will simply correct the trigger invasion once they are hot on the range. The problem with this, and one of the reasons it is extremely important to handle any firearm, including a fake one, as if it were loaded, is you build muscle memory every step of the way. I used to think it was ridiculous, when I was in the police academy, that the instructors seemed to overreact when someone muzzled (pass the muzzle of a blue gun over an area not intended for destruction) a fellow cadet. I remember thinking “Surely the instructor knows it’s a piece of plastic.” Having now instructed many students, I have all the respect for that concept and have seen many negligent discharges from new and seasoned shooters.
Another common aspect to training is the “notional” training. The area in training where you do not actually “do” a specific movement but verbalize that at a certain point, you would go through this or that motion. There have been countless times where the notional action has caused a vast amount of confusion between the student and the instructor, much to the exasperation of both. Scientifically, it has been proven that if you do not properly conduct the movement in training, you most likely will not do it when you need your skills the most. The more realistic the training, the more profound the muscle memory and this is where intelligent training tools, create a more realistic environment from the beginning and thwart bad habits.
Smart Firearms is currently distributing their second generation and is already working on the third. Their progressions are directly related to the feedback from law Enforcement agencies nationwide who originally had the units for testing and evaluation purposes. The original algorithms were based on two to three sensors and are now calculating over 121 different feeds. All of that calculation for one movement of the trigger finger.
While talking to Mike, who hails from an in depth pilot background, hence highly technical and subject to perfection, he was passionate about the process and the goals for the unit. There are currently over 42 law enforcement agencies and security companies – nationwide and beyond – which include Dougway Proving grounds and the Phoenix police department who use this device. Mike says the proof is in the returning customer. Most, if not all of his clients who purchased a few to “see how things go” have returned to purchase even more and have fully integrated the Smart Firearm into their curriculums.
When I asked Mike what drove him to start creating this training aid, he said, “We, as a society, ask a lot of our police officers. I believe officers should be provided with nothing but the very best in training equipment if they are to be held to very unforgiving standards. The consequences, for the officer personally, the agency they represent and the citizens they serve, are frankly too high to risk getting it wrong through the use of substandard, outdated training equipment.” Mike went on to say, “We also believe that a PHD level of knowledge exists in the Firearms Tactics/Defensive Tactics units which is, for the most part, completely ignored at the chief level. Our device aside, the answers to most of the use of force issues, confronting police departments around the country, are being answered daily in these units. I have talked at length with hundreds of instructors from all over the country and it is a common theme that most police officers are simply not given enough repetitions in critical functions to properly build correct muscle memory. Muscle memory becomes very important to an officer in a stressful situation. When the heart rate goes up, fine motor function and executive reasoning all starts to suffer. That officer is left to fall back on the training they have received to see them through the day. If a function was not done enough to become ingrained as a gross motor memory, the odds are it will not be carried out correctly.”
We could not have said it better ourselves. I am always open to new concepts and ideas and try my best to see the possibilities in anything I find. What may not be perfect now is possibly a product that is on the way there. We think the concept of this product is fantastic and it appears that agencies that have it, use it and are on the cutting edge of the ever-progressive training standard. – Danielle Breteau
What is safer than fishing?
A) Hunting with a firearm?
B) Exercising in the gym?
C) Bicycle riding?
Hint: Not B or C
Editors note: Information sourced from the NSSF Intelligence Report