The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a ﬁve-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.
In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.
The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer ﬁre control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily ﬂuted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack ﬁnish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.
THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip ﬁts onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the ﬁre control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.
The ﬁrst thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.
The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.
I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.
I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.
I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then ﬁred for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All ﬁring here was single-action.
The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.
Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.
The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.
Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-ﬁre shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual ﬁring at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry ﬁre with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identiﬁed and compensated for the issue. At ﬁrst the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one ﬂyer that messed up an otherwise good group.
IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the ﬂagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.
The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.
The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ
STORY AND PHOTOS BY DAVE WORKMANRecent tragic events have forced a growing number of armed citizens to the realization that while it is still a remote possibility, the potential for ﬁnding one’s self in the middle of a terrorist action or a riot has gone up, as has the need for a defensive weapon.
After San Bernardino and Orlando, our comfort zones have shrunk, and for the ﬁrst time many of us can remember, some in law enforcement have changed their tune from “call 911 and wait” to “run, hide or ﬁght.”
Unfortunately, San Bernardino taught us that we may not be able to run fast enough, and Orlando showed us that hiding and waiting to be saved might not be a survivable option. That leaves the third alternative.
According to a recent report by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the notion of carrying a handgun for personal protection has inspired somewhere north of 14 million citizens to arm up, and the number is rising steadily.
I PREFER A DEFENSIVE HANDGUN because it can always be with me. But it’s just one tool in the box. If it should ever come to pass that something major happens, I’ll use that sidearm to get me to something with a little more horsepower: my Mossberg 500 pump shotgun.
Many of us have good pump guns in the closet for bird hunting or maybe home defense. Mine was purchased some 25 years ago, as a package deal. It has a 20-inch upland bird barrel with a vent rib, and a second 18-inch barrel with an open choke. I ordered it with a “Speed Feed” synthetic stock designed to hold four extra shells, two on each side, in spring-loaded slots. With the plug out, that gave me ﬁve shells in the tubular magazine and one in the chamber, plus four spares.
Recently I added something new, thanks to Tac Star’s latest entry in the Side Saddle lineup, the “Slimline” version. Made from a tough rubber compound with a metal backing plate, this worthwhile add-on allows the user to have six extra shells at hand on the left side of the receiver in the event one has to grab and run. What previously gave me 10 rounds now oﬀers as many as 16 shots, provided I start oﬀ fully loaded.
INSTALLING THIS ACCESSORY is a snap. First, make sure your shotgun is completely unloaded. Then, using the proper diameter punch, push out the pin on the lower rear of the receiver that holds the trigger assembly in place, being careful to keep the trigger housing where it belongs.
Tac Star provides a two-piece screw that inserts from both ends. One end features a beveled head that ﬁts into the corresponding slot on the Side Saddle Slimline. Two small hex wrenches are also included to tighten this screw from both sides simultaneously.
However, don’t tighten the ﬁrst screw all the way. Leave enough slack for the mount to rotate so that it can be fastened up front. Remove the interior slide screw with a screwdriver inserted in the open ejection port. Insert the replacement screw that goes through a corresponding hole up front on the Side Saddle and tighten it down. Then ﬁnish tightening the rear screw.
It’s also a good idea to use a drop of blue Loctite to keep both screws in place.
You can pray to all the Gods in the heavens to keep you safe and out of harm’s way, or you can follow the age-old advice of the Boy Scouts and “always be prepared.” Personally, I’d rather prepare than simply pray, except to pray that all of my preparations never have to be used. ASJ
There have been excellent gun safes on the market for decades, and many do their intended job very well. But until recently, gun safes were all about security and safety, not easy access.
That all began to change a few years ago, when technological advancements such as radio frequency identiﬁcation (RFID) enabled companies to think outside the big, steel box and develop products that could provide both security and access. One of these, Tactical Walls, has done an excellent job creating ﬁrearms storage products that “hide in plain sight.”
One of the things I like about these products is that every security item they produce is disguised as a functional piece of furniture or home décor. And once you’ve seen their product line in person, you’ll never be able to look at a bedroom mirror, decorative shelf or wall clock the same way again.
Several recent releases in the Tactical Walls line offer RFID locking mechanisms as an optional alternative to the existing magnetic lock. According to company literature, opening up a hidden compartment is as easy as swiping the preset RFID card in front of the locking mechanism. Each RFID unit comes standard with two key cards and one programming card used to match the key to the proper unit, and owners can order additional RFID cards if needed. If desired, a single card can also be set to open multiple units, granting access to each ﬁrearm staged throughout the home.
The new RFID-locking models also offer a programmable “tattletale” function that (when activated) will begin beeping when the unit has been left open for a designated period of time. This helps ﬁrearms owners keep guns from unwanted users by reminding them when the compartment is left open.
Finally, in addition to being excellent ﬁrearm storage devices, Tactical Walls products stand out because they are built to last. For example, their new riﬂe-length shelves are handcrafted in the U.S. using real hardwood, and are available in six different ﬁnishes.
MSRPs for Tactical Walls products are based on several factors, including lock type, shelf length and choice of ﬁnish, so contact the company or a dealer near you for more information.
Tactical Walls is based in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and is a family-owned and -operated business. To learn more, visit tacticalwalls.com. ASJ
Winchester is practically a living legend, although his humble demeanor would never give that away. In short, not only is he a passionate instructor who covers everything from hand-to-hand martial arts to ﬁrearms and edged-weapons handling, subjects such as critical management, threat assessment and ground control are among the plethora of other subjects he and his team cover.
Among many of Winchester’s talents and achievements, he was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the martial arts – now, how is that for an impressive background? – but he is the ﬁrst to say that Reality Based Training wouldn’t be as diverse and impressive without the team of instructors who are equally as passionate about self-defense and bring a wealth of knowledge from all facets of the industry.
Winchester sat down with American Shooting Journal and gave us some insight into what it takes to be the best in the industry, and why defense professionals from as far away as Europe and Israel reach out to him.
American Shooting Journal Hello, Brian, and thank you so much for your time. Can you tell us a little bit about Reality Based Training and what you oﬀer?
Brian Winchester We are a one-stop shop. This means that if you want to learn how to use a ﬁrearm, we can do that. If you want to learn hand-to-hand defensive tactics and martial arts, we can do that. We also cover threat assessment and intervention, medical and crisis management. What I feel sets us apart is that we can conduct the totality of training by pulling together mental and physical threats. We can do it all right here.
ASJ Why do you feel it is important to oﬀer so many options?
BW True self-preservation has much more to do with mental conditioning than what the general population understands. The physical aspect of training is great, but because reaction is slower than action, without training the mind to have a battle mindset, you will most likely be trying to play catchup with an adversary. It’s important to expose the clients to the diﬀerent aspects of personal protection, not just punching, kicking and rolling on the ground. Every action should be launched from a foundation of intelligence and knowledge, with meaning behind every movement.
ASJ What about your background. How long have you been training?
BW I’ve been training since the age of ﬁve. I started with self-defense and then moved my way through multiple disciplines, including mixed martial arts, private security, ﬁrearm and carry-permit instructor, range-safety oﬃcer, executive protection, medical training such as medic ﬁrst aid, CPR, AED, etc. In total, I have about 25 years of training and experience and have trained with military, law enforcement and private security operators.
ASJ We noticed that you have an impressive team of instructors who work with you. Can you share a little bit about their background and why they are so valuable to your regime?
BW Absolutely! Samson Ferrell comes from a military and private-security background. He is a combat medic and is adept at close-quarter combat, as well as thermal and mechanical breaching. Joe Reese is also former military, second-degree black belt in hapkido and is a kali instructor. Stephen Nuchols (pronounced knuckles) has over 24 years of martial arts experience and is a fourth-degree black belt (yondan) in isshin-ryu karate, second-degree black belt (nidan) in daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu and instructs Deprisa kali. Bobby Parker is our expert in all things Marine Corps weapons systems. He was an instructor at the military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) facility, overseeing thousands of Marines, and has an extensive background with ﬁrearms and military applications.
ASJ What skill level would someone need to have to train with you?
BW We teach everyone from age 14 to 90. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience at all or are a well-seasoned veteran. We have programs just for you.
ASJ So, you teach civilians?
BW Oh, yes! We teach the science of being a warrior. That’s what it is, after all, a science. Each individual has their own capabilities and limitations, and as educators, it is our job to help each person ﬁnd their perfect equation for survival and to help them combat the universal human phobia: another human being trying to harm or kill them. It’s our mission to help the community be a safer place by educating people to be ready to protect themselves and help their fellow neighbor when the opportunity arises.
ASJ What about the facility where you train?
BW Our 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility is ﬁlled with buildings, obstacles and vehicles to give the student a realistic setting. As students make their way through dynamic scenarios, we add sound eﬀects so more of their senses are engaged. We have classrooms, a lounge and a state-certiﬁed shooting range where we conduct move-and-shoot drills with all sorts of awkward obstacles to navigate.
ASJ What are some examples of courses you oﬀer?
BW Well, a few basic examples would be elite ﬁghting arts, ﬁrearm and edged weapon handling, medic ﬁrst-aid training, risk and crisis management, bomb incident management, ground control, the psychological aspects of combat, victimology – the list goes on.
ASJ What is your motto or mission statement?
BW Our mission is to provide some of the best and realistic personal protection training out there. When seconds count and help is minutes away, rely on your reality-based tactical training and always look left, look right and stay tight!
ASJ From what we understand, Brian, you do just that. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
BW My pleasure. Thank you.
Editor’s note: For more on RBTT, see realitybasedtactical.com.
♥ It’s not just a tool, it’s a close-combat weapon, and offers a curved handle that places the center of balance midway along its length. That makes this axe faster!
Overall Length 11.88 inches
Blade Length 4.89 inches
Blade material D2 Tool Steel, TiCN Coated
Blade thickness 0.30 inches
Handle material G10
Overall weight 24.7 ounces
♥ It comes with a fire-starter flint because yes, this is for those types. A rugged blade with a handle meant for gripping in the wettest and messiest of outdoor survival situations. Makes us want to go outside bearing it in our teeth and growl a lot.
Style Spear point
Overall Length 9.25 inches
Blade length 4.88 inches
Blade material 1095 RC 56-58
Blade thickness 0.160 inches
Blade width 1.25 inches
Handle material Green canvas micarta
Overall weight 6.2 ounces
Why we love this blade ♥ Designed by Joe Pardue. Clean, simple, ease of use. Not over the top. Only five moving parts on this Tactical-assisted opening mechanism
Style Drop point
Overall length 8 inches
Blade length 3.2 inches
Blade material AUS-8 steel
Blade thickness .12 inches
Blade width 1 inch
Handle material Zytel
Overall weight 4.5 ounces
Why we love this blade ♥ It’s all about the grip. The overmolded rubber give the perfect grip and spongy effect while still maintaining a hard solid frame. Just so we are clear, it’s the grip of the knife we are talking about here.
Style Spear point
Overall length 9 inches
Blade length 4.50 inches
Blade material 154CM
Blade thickness 0.16 inches
Handle material Polymer and overmolded rubber
Overall weight 4.77 ounces
Why we love this blade,…um, contraption
♥ It has a spring-assist opening, allowing the user to access and open it single handedly. That’s ridiculously brilliant!
One handed use
Twelve tools which include:
Blade steel type 420
Bolt grip channel
Medium flat screwdriver
Multi-angle needle nose pliers
Needle Nose Pliers
Why we love this blade ♥ With it’ simplistic design, this little knife is the perfect companion and at a great price, plus it looks super techy.
Overall length 5.75 inches
Blade length 2.25 inches
Blade material 3CR13 steel
Blade thickness 0.12 inches
Blade width Unknown
Handle material 3CR13 steel
Overall weight 2.3 ounces
Why we love this blade ♥ Sweet hidden little dagger for all those special moments
Style Double edge spear point
Overall length 5.47 inches
Blade length 2.50 inches
Blade material 440C steel
Blade thickness 0.125 inches
Blade width 1 inch
Handle material Vinyl coated tang
Overall weight 2.32ounces
Why we love this blade ♥ Built by special forces and ultimate outdoor Grizzly Adam’s types. This knife is totally for the tough guys and has a glass breaker, because that’s what you need.
Women are not a minority in America, gentlemen. There are some 6 million more of them than us – perhaps even a few more since 2010’s census, where that stat comes from. Many female shooters are interested in the shooting sports as well as personal defense. If you are in a gun-related sales field, you would do well to treat them well. If you are a professional trainer, you must be alert to the nuances and differences of the female thought process. To ignore this significant portion of the shooting fraternity/sorority is a disservice to all concerned.
I am going to gloss over the psychological differences between men and women, as they are vast and touched on elsewhere this issue. What I will focus on are a few things I have found interesting during my 20-plus years in law enforcement and instructing people from all walks of life. Women make interesting choices. They are often very independent, don’t have ego problems and progress very quickly.
I do not live and breathe gunpowder smoke, but it is certainly something I love. When the opportunity comes to indoctrinate a young shooter in the proper use of a firearm, I am always ready, and a large number of these shooters are females. In the basic NRA Course, most of these students are interested in obtaining a concealed-carry permit, while others simply want to learn how to use a firearm safely; few are interested in filling a gun safe. When it comes to firearm instruction, I highly suggest turning them over to a qualified trainer. A father or spouse interested in a female’s shooting progress often diminishes the value of the instruction. I sent my own daughter to driving school, money well spent, in my opinion.
I have been to gun shops where even I have been offended and I can only imagine a female traveling to one of these alone; it can be a disastrous encounter. The good-old boys could sometimes use a Dale Carnegie course. As an example, one of my daughters, who is a very capable shooter, an NRA-certified firearms instructor, and purposely drives a truck because she had been told all her life what type of cars women should drive, went into a gun store and was automatically presented a pink-handled woman’s gun by a gun-store clerk who was very condescending. Now, putting aside the fact that she actually likes pink guns (my other daughter doesn’t care and the clerk couldn’t have known that), these are exactly the problems women are facing.
Men and women alike make the same mistakes. When many purchase their first gun they find out later that it’s too big to carry concealed. Others might purchase one that is too small for personal defense, and still others might choose a low-quality option. Only with good education and a bit of study behind them will they be able to make a choice that is beneficial.
As an NRA instructor I teach the basic handgun course. Often I find that females in my class have no one in their family who is a “gun person.” It’s all new to them, and perhaps that is for the best because they are starting out with a clean slate. Oftentimes, a well-meaning person has taught the shooter bad habits, and those are very difficult to shake. The ladies I have seen – from fledging attorneys all the way to 17-year Army reservists – have impressed me at every turn. One thing I have noticed is women do not care to maintain their firearms as diligently as men. Men are more likely to tinker with what isn’t broken.
It also seems that the most motivated shooters are those who have been a victim of an assault. Confidence in the handgun and a concealed-carry permit, as well as a good working understanding of the handgun, go a long way toward aiding these women to defend themselves, if need be. If you are the right kind of trainer, you should never let the female student’s ability to pay decide if you take them on as a student. Many of these good girls are financially distressed for a number of reasons. When I was in law enforcement, I saw a number of young girls and elderly women who were robbed, beaten and assaulted in my city. I wish they had been better able to defend themselves. Sometimes, though, you hear about the occasional assailant who made a poor decision when choosing their victims. The results are gratifying to right-minded people.
The choice in handguns for females comes up a lot, and often the choice is made before the owner takes a class, which is a shame. The .38-caliber snub-nose revolver remains an excellent all-around choice for most female shooters, but perhaps the worst performance I have seen from them is when they are armed with some type of .40-caliber subcompact purchased by a well-meaning parent or spouse. These guns are just too much; the same goes for the snub-nose .357 Magnum. Even tough men have problems with these handguns. In my opinion, a shooter’s first handgun should be a good quality .22 caliber. The Ruger Standard Model is close to perfect, but even the aforementioned .38 is difficult to argue against for many reasons. A smaller caliber, such as the .380 ACP, has merit when used as a nasal inhaler for the bad guy, but is lacking the requisite balance of penetration and expansion. If you cannot control a 9mm automatic or a snub-nose .38, I would skip the rest and go straight to the .22 Magnum. A revolver may create a bulge on a woman’s hip like a boa that has swallowed a possum, but the nice thing about it is you can place it against an attacker’s chest and pull the trigger repeatably. It will not jam in the worst-case scenario. Think hard about the choices.
There are commercials that depict criminals breaking into homes, and when the alarms sounds, the criminal runs away. This may be true of the intruder who is only motivated by profit or startled by the sound, but a criminal who is abusive or violent will not be deterred by an alarm. Even in the best situation, police response is about 5 minutes, and a lot of damage can occur in that time.
When many of us began shooting, we were hopeless. But if the student has the will to learn, male or female, they will. ASJ
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
Story and Photographs by Tatiana Whitlock
Every day, women become less of a minority amongst American gun owners. The trend data shows that women feel responsible for their own protection and are taking the necessary steps to ensure it.
Even more interesting is the quietly growing number of females who are participating in self-defense firearms courses that go beyond the basics. What these courses offer are aspects of shooting that relate directly to real life. Spatial and situational awareness as well as firearm manipulation techniques are just a few of those concepts.
The combination of these skill sets begins to introduce a new shooter to thinking outside of the gun. They learn what the gun’s role needs to be depending on the wide variety of potential situations, and there are a number of ways to incorporate this into your home and range practice. By combining real-to-you environments, distances and manipulation techniques you become better prepared for the world outside of the range. After all, the reason so many women carry and have home-defense firearms is to be prepared if they must use them. Aim to transform your plinking time to reality-inspired training by designing a training plan that builds mental and physical proficiency in your daily life.
To obtain a concealed-carry permit, people must pass proficiency shooting requirements. Those vary from state to state, but most have a minimum standard of 3 to 10 yards. Much of this comes from the self-defense magic number of 7 yards, or 21 feet. Though it does establish a baseline, 7 yards is rather limiting and often becomes a comfort zone that many shooters fail to train beyond. Rarely are the circumstances such that a deadly force encounter occurs at a nice, neat 7 yards, and more importantly, there are other distances that more accurately relate to your unique living situation and are worth considering when building your training regimen.
Grab a measuring tape and reintroduce yourself to your home. What is the shortest, average and longest distance from which an intruder could attack you? For example: The average American bedroom measures 120 square feet and is required by building code R304 to have no less than 7 linear feet in any direction. Translation: The distance from your pillow to the bedroom door could be as little as 4 feet. A stairwell comprised of 16 steps measures roughly 13 feet from the first step to the landing. For some, the longest distance in your home may exceed the 21-foot distance where so many of us are comfortable shooting.
No one knows your home like you do. Commit to memory a mental snapshot of your view from each engagement area. These measurements now translate to real environments filled with furniture, fixtures, lighting and sounds. The values may be uncomfortably close and personal or surprisingly farther than you expected. Transferring each to the gun range gives you real, scenario-based distances that are applicable to your home.
For those carrying concealed, it is worth repeating this exercise for other places and spaces you frequent. A long aisle at the grocery store could measure 46 feet or more. What is the distance from the parking garage floor entrance to your regular parking space? Translate these distances into your personal training plan. Set your targets at distances meaningful to your everyday life and bring an element of reality into the artificial training environment of the square range. While it is our hope that we are never faced with a situation requiring us to take that long shot, it is our responsibility to be proficient at all relative distances.
Set your target at your closest, middle and longest distance and practice each one. Working your longest distance first will force you to slow down and focus. Close your eyes and visualize the environment, the sounds of your home, what it feels like to be in that space. Now get into character and imagine: There is an intruder brandishing a weapon and making threats to your life as they menacingly advance towards you. Choose to be confident, calm, focused and in control. Open your eyes and maintain this mental image and mindset as you draw, acquire your sight picture and alignment, press the trigger and follow through.
Complete the sequence of fire with a visual scan and assess as you visualize, searching the area around the downed intruder to confirm they are no longer a threat to you and that they didn’t bring friends. Look around and behind you, maintaining muzzle awareness at all times, and keep your firearm pointed down range at your imagined threat. Where are your kids? Where is the dog? Just because rounds are fired doesn’t mean your job is done. Breathe. For the sake of practice, re-holster, reset your mind, your gear and your target distance for another round.
Top athletes use this mental rehearsal technique to connect the psychological and physical components of a performance or event for optimal results under stress. The more vivid imagery you choose, the greater confidence and control you will have under stress. Those training with personal protection in mind fully expect that critical life-saving moment will be an extreme and stressful experience. Build in the necessary survival mindset into every dry-fire and live-fire training session.
Breaking away from training at comfortable distances and areas where you already excel can result in less than ideal-looking targets, initially. Become less focused on making targets worthy of bragging rights and more concerned with spending your time and ammunition working on perfecting the tough stuff. With a little planning, you can make your next trip to the range a more meaningful one by working on the scenarios, real-world distances and life-saving mindset to hone your shooting skills even further.
You just may find that a measuring tape could be the next accessory you add to your range bag! ASJ
The Karambit knife is becoming more popular in the U.S. thanks to Doug Marcaida as one of the pioneers to spearhead the knife through training law enforcement with various government and local agencies.
In this segment Doug demonstrates the use of the Karambit to control by using the hooking motion to trap and counter with a strike or maintain control. In the Filipino Martial Arts style of training once a technique is learned, it is then applied to a flow drill such as the hubbad.
This drill is used at the close quarter range. This segment Doug highlights the function of using the karambit natural blade curvature to hook (capture), deflect a limb and using the point on the top blade for pressure point in joint locks control. The pressure point control demonstrated in this video is used to temporarily control to get the arms out of the way, its not meant to hold the attacker in their place.
For more info on Doug Marcaida go to Doug Marcaida Facebook
The karambit is a small Southeast Asian hand-held, curved knife resembling a claw. The origin is believed to have originated among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra where, according to folklore, it was inspired by the claws of big cats. As with most weapons of the region, it was originally an agricultural implement designed to rake roots, gather threshing and plant rice.
This claw knife is similar to the sickle that Okinawans used on their rice field, also known as the Kama. The karambit made its way into the Silat martial arts of this region which later spread to nearby countries.
Filipino Martial Arts instructor Doug Marcaida a military contractor in edge impact weapons systems demonstrates techniques using the karambit.
Holding the Karambit – The karambit is held with the blade pointing downward from the bottom of the fist, either curving forwards or backwards. While it is primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion, karambit with a finger ring are also used in a punching motion hitting the opponent with the finger ring. Some karambit are designed to be used in a hammering motion. This flexibility of striking methods is what makes it so useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes it difficult to disarm and allows the knife to be maneuvered in the fingers without losing one’s grip.
Source: Wikipedia, Doug Marcaida
Rob does an excellent job of breaking down things that needs attention prior to actually going for your pistol. Though this demonstration does not go into the details of controlling the aggressor, this would take another article in itself to cover. Rob does advise this is an important phase that must be tackled at hand.
Once you have maintain some form of control on the aggressor you can go for your pistol. That particular space we’re referring to can be a foot to more depending on you and the aggressor size.
Once you’ve had a chance to practice this sort of drawing and shooting at close range. It’s time to take this to another level, now go don on your protective gear with simunitions pistols and play out the scenario and actually execute the technique in real live settings. You’ll find defending to get to your sidearm is intense. The position that you find yourself in will not be the same as when you’re out on the gun range.
Last we like to present another video from Don Gulla of WA Arrestling organization. Don’s a Sergeant with WA King Co. Sheriffs Dept/Special Operations Unit and has much experiences getting into the scuffle then having to draw his sidearm. Something that you will see is that no technique rules at controlling the aggressor, the concept is fighting for the control.
Basic Principles are:
-Your focus must first be on Controlling the Threat.
-After clearing the initial attack, access your firearm.
For more reading on weapon retention see our past articles:
This is Nathan “Mad Duo Nate” experiences while attending Matt Graham’s course on ARAINDROP Environmental Manipulation course. With further ado here’s Nate.
Trade craft. We’re not talking about all the skills and knowledge Robert Scott used to get the President’s daughter back or all the methods Edward Lyle used to stay off the grid. We’re talking about things you can and should do – and know, and practice – daily.
That can be summarized by the tenets represented by the acronym ARAINDROP.
I find myself sitting in the class room, in this case a hotel suite in Arlington Virginia. Matt Graham begins to speak to the class.
“Everyone wishes to learn the tricks of the trade, I say why not actually learn the trade?”
He’s not referring to pulling triggers or kicking doors. He’s talking about this concept as something that encompasses our entire life. In all avenues, all aspects, we look for the short cut, the path of least resistance, the “Cliff Notes for Life”. We as a modern civilization desire to learn the “secrets” of complex tasks, but demand they be provided in a summary memo. As day 1 of Graham Combat’s Environmental Manipulation /ARAINDROP kicked off, my mind was already racing with questions. Like that rare, chance conversation you have with an interesting stranger at a party, the subjects being discussed were unexpected, stimulating and mind opening.
I had first trained with Matthew Graham a few months before, having attended the Graham Combat Handgun course with many of my fellow Breach-Bang-Clear writers. Held at a very impressive private range near Virginia Beach, the facility featured a fleet of beater cars, various driving courses and a sprinkling of fired MK-19 casings littering the ground. Training in, out and through vehicles during the course was a rare luxury, but for far more reasons than that the instruction left a lasting impression. I left the course shooting at damn near my own pinnacle, with core fundamentals strengthened and principles reenforced. I had also learned a lot of new techniques, rather then just a handful. In short, it was a great learning experience. As we wrapped up that course, Matt had briefly discussed his ARAINDROP course coming in the Fall.
The mnemonic was short and simple, and that alone was intriguing. When I asked him to explain each aspect further, Mr. Graham smiled and simply stated that he couldn’t do it justice in the span of a few minutes. He wasn’t trying to be coy or disingenuous, he was being honest. By the end of the first hour of his Environmental Manipulation / ARAINDROP course now a few months later, I was beginning to fully understand why.
The email I received confirming my course enrollment provided instructions to where to meet. It instructed me to wear what I wear everyday. This is not a shooting course, nor one requiring a parachute kit bag full of gear. Just street clothes and a notebook. Instead of “tactical” cargo pants, cool guy T-shirt and Velcro covered ball caps typical to most at similar training, I decided to wear real people clothes in form of trendy outdoor shoes, jeans and a button down short sleeve.
I retained my EDC items in form of pistol, spare mag, knife and flashlight attached to my key chain. Since Arlington is full of “Young Professionals” in form of athletic, body-conscious, fashion savvy, white corporate types, I wanted to look as much the part as my own vanity would allow. The curious thing about prepping for this course was the amount of thought I was putting into it. Since I had a slight inkling what it would be composed of, I was removing as many “target indicators” and “greyman” items as possible. Since I wanted to look like “Joe Shit the Ragman” for the course. I quickly began wondering how certain items had crept into my wardrobe in the first place. This notion was later reinforced by things I picked up at the Graham Combat course.
Matt Graham opened his period of instruction by talking briefly about himself, but not by going down the standard bullet-point biography. A former cop and Federal air marshal, he has since moved on to serve as a civilian defense contractor for the DoD as a full-time firearms and tactics instructor. Personally, I don’t really care much about an instructor’s personal accolades. I care about their honesty, subject knowledge, relevant experience and ability to teach. Since Matt had displayed a solid base of these at the handgun course, I was excited to train with him again.
We started out discussing what it means to be a student (this isn’t as simple as it sounds, and it’s very important) as well as what it takes to learn and how to maximize your ability to process information. This starts with being “present” to the here and now, and how that applies to all things in life. People as a whole are reluctant to embrace change, and often we find ourselves quick to judge that which we do not understand. The ARAINDROP class is as much an environmental course as it is an inner look at yourself. Your own boundaries, reservations, fears and misconceptions in daily life keep you from processing threats that are right in front of you.
A simple example would be walking into a glass front 7/11 gas station that is currently being robbed. You visually saw what was going down before walking in, but you might not have been present enough to be aware of what you had just observed. The medium of glass creates a mental boundary of “this is outside” and that is “inside”. This isn’t a joke, this exact situation has happened many times to people, to include off duty soldiers and on duty cops. The course covered many principles that I have been taught over the years and many that I had never seen before. Although similar to some training I have received in the military and certain private sector courses, ARAINDROP is the first time that all of this diverse information has been consolidated into a memorable, easily grasped format.
As a kid, my grandfather use to say that there are 1,000 ways to skin a cat, but they all start with a sharp knife. This thought resurfaced in my mind as Matt covered the DROP portion of the mnemonic, which covers breaking contact with those that wish to ruin your day. Having exercised due diligence, avoiding the threat and creating distance it might cross your path again anyway. DROP focuses on defense and exercising a more permanent solution to the problem. In a deadly force encounter, regardless of the type or location, violence is the “knife,” the constant to the range of different “cats.” This is my own mental connection, not a Graham analogy. Graham analogies tend be more relatable to everyone, like going to Starbucks or driving a car. They are often as hilarious as they are spot on. It’s his ability to explain concepts in such an easy way, with a mix of seriousness and humor that makes him such a charismatic instructor.
The ARAINDROP course is a hard one to do justice in a single article. I think that I could write 5,000 words and barely scratch the surface. The course is heavy on mindset, but not “combat mindset.” It focuses on awareness as a whole, not “situational awareness.” It includes a lot of old school trade craft, thinking outside the box and being fluid to the situation. The course doesn’t follow a cookie cutter pattern full of buzzwords and regimen. The observational exercises we conducted in public were eye opening, even for those of us with that type of background. It’s been a long time since I have learned so much in a 48 hour block of time, and it was enlightening to have a lot of long standing questions answered.
This summary is necessarily inadequate because of the subject matter and how it’s learned, but believe me, ARAINDROP is an extremely unique class with value to a wide spectrum of individuals. Based off the longer course Graham teaches to the government, it would answer a lot of subject related questions I hear discussed by military and police as well as switched on civilians. In a way, it’s a sort of “worst case scenario” course for life. The concepts extend into every aspect of your own daily routine. I personally gained so much from ARAINDROP…I cannot recommend it highly enough. Check out Graham Combat here, and let us know in the comment section about your experiences with the company.
by Mad Duo Nate
About the Author: Nathan “Mad Duo Nate” is a former USMC Sergeant who recently transitioned to being a nasty civilian. He lives largely on nicotine, whiskey and hate and can be frequently found orating Kipling poems to frightened hipsters. A graduate of the Camp Lejeune School for Wayward Boys, he was a Marine NCO, Infantry Platoon Sergeant and Scout Sniper team leader. He is a fully qualified American Jedi, handsome badass and world-renowned field barista. He has numerous deployments to the Middle East and Africa and is something of an idiot savant when it comes finger-fucking stuff to make it work better. Nate drinks every day and only chain smokes when he’s drinking. We reckon he is probably best described as a sociopathic philosopher with vestigial cutthroat (though poetic) tendencies. Thus far Murr’s writing has appeared in such places as here on Breach-Bang-Clear, on Military.com, in field shitters and portajohns on at least 3 continents, in RECOIL Magazine and of course Penthouse letters.