Great shooting requires practice, and the CMP promotes that through their support of 5,000 local aﬃliated shooting clubs and state organizations that run CMP-sanctioned courses and competitive shooting matches across the country. That amounts to over 1,400 sanctioned matches a year attended by more than 10,000 shooters. The CMP codiﬁed the competition rules and trains and certiﬁes the range oﬃcers who run the matches. They also train and certify master instructors who teach thousands of new shooters each year using CMP course materials in more than 100 sponsored clinics nationwide.
Through their online Competition Tracker system, they maintain the match scores for every shooter in every CMP competition, as well as a listing of all upcoming matches, making it easy for shooters to ﬁnd out when and where they can compete, register for those matches, and track their progress up to the national level.
Reﬂecting its military roots, high-power military service riﬂe and service pistol competitions have always been a major component of the CMP. However, they are by no means the whole show. To paraphrase the American poet Walt Whitman, “The CMP is large. It contains multitudes.” Today, its 30 instructional and competitive programs also include air and .22 rimﬁre pistols and riﬂes.
AN EMPHASIS ON PRECISION marksmanship is the common element is all CMP matches. These are not running-and-gunning, action-style, three-gun, speed or steel matches. CMP competitors shoot traditional bull’s-eye targets at speciﬁc distances from established positions (prone, sitting, kneeling and standing), usually with iron sights. Sometimes riﬂe shooters can use a sling.
Not to diminish the challenges of other shooting sports, which often pose a high level of diﬃculty in other methods and techniques, but the CMP fosters in its competitors
a great deal of personal discipline and technical knowledge.
The CMP high-power riﬂe competition, for example, with its 200-, 300- and 600-yard stages, allows shooters the chance to develop their understanding of some of the most diﬃcult (and interesting) technical aspects of shooting. To put the bullet in the X ring, the shooter needs to understand trajectory, adjust the sights for the bullet’s drop, evaluate the wind speed and direction to calculate the required amount of windage compensation, and deal with any heat mirage that may blur the view of the distant target.
Akin to the “World Series” of shooting sports, the CMP holds their National Matches every summer at Camp Perry, Ohio. Bordering Lake Erie, the Camp Perry ranges are considered by many to be the largest and best in the county. Among the 6,000 participants from all the CMP disciplines, you will always ﬁnd America’s ﬁnest military and civilian marksmen.
The National Matches, a tradition at Camp Perry since 1907, also include top quality training seminars for novice and advanced shooters. A newcomer to competitive shooting could attend a one- or two-day CMP– USAMU (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit) Small Arms Firing School for riﬂe or pistol (or both) and learn the basics of ﬁrearms safety and marksmanship on the spot.
I HAD THE CHANCE TO TALK with CMP’s Mark Johnson to get the scoop on what accomplishments he was most excited about this year. Johnson is not the type of chief operating oﬃcer to sit behind a desk all day, evidenced by the fact that we talked by phone as he was driving back from a CMP competition in Oklahoma.
While he paid respectful homage to the National Matches, which he refers to as the CMP’s “crowning jewel,” it was the growth and success of the Junior Air Riﬂe Camp that he seemed to ﬁnd most exhilarating. These weeklong summer camps are held around the country with a goal to teach 9- to 12-year-olds safety and marksmanship lessons of universal value. Participants bring their own equipment and the fee is a nominal $285 per youth and $50 for their adult coach. As of this writing, 14 of the 16 camps are already full.
You might be surprised to learn that the most popular competitive shooting sport among precollege boys and girls is three-position air riﬂe shooting. Its growth shows no sign of slowing down, so this particular competition is helping to develop our next generation of marksmen.
But just because kids love it doesn’t make it a kid’s sport. The 10-meter, three-position (prone, kneeling and standing) competition is also an international sport and an Olympic event. In fact, those Junior Air Riﬂe camps that Johnson is so proud of boast multiple Olympian alumni, and two medalists, including 2016 Gold Medal winner Ginny Thrasher (see American Shooting Journal, September 2016).
The CMP actually sanctions two classes of air riﬂe competitions for juniors that diﬀer only in the equipment needed. Sporting Air Riﬂe competition uses basic target riﬂes that cost $105 to $525 and requires no specialized shooting clothing. Precision Air Riﬂe uses Olympicgrade guns that cost $850 to $1,275 and require the full complement of target shooting clothes and accessories. By the way, those prices are from the CMP online store and represent a discounted cost only available for qualiﬁed club members.
Apparently, kids are having some success convincing their parents to let them give the less costly Sporting Air Riﬂe a try (or perhaps it’s the other way around), as it has become a major entry point into competitive shooting for them. Three-Position Air Riﬂe can be a life-long hobby and college students can compete in NCAA matches or via Junior ROTC programs as well.
Another thing Johnson was really proud of was the CMP’s new Talladega Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Alabama. This is the third, and by far the largest, modern instructional range facility they have constructed, and it is the most technologically advanced in the world. The two others are 80-port indoor air riﬂe ranges at their Camp Perry, Ohio, and Anniston, Alabama, locations, where they also operate retail stores.
THE NEW MARKSMANSHIP PARK is huge, covering 500 acres, with riﬂe, pistol and shotgun ranges. At maximum capacity it could accommodate 3,000 shooters at once, and transportation around the ranges is provided.
The facility includes a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse with classrooms, lounge, and a Creedmoor Sports Pro Shop. Inside, visitors can follow the progress of competitors on monitors if the Alabama heat or humidity gets to be too much for them.
The park has an amazing combination 200-, 300- and 600yard riﬂe ranges, a 100-yard multipurpose range and a 50-yard pistol range, all equipped with state of the art Kongsberg Target System (KTS) electronic targets and scoring monitors which detect, record and display every round the shooter ﬁres. This means you can maximize your shooting practice time because you don’t ever have to leave the ﬁring line to change targets. You don’t even need a spotting scope. And, for fans of shotgun sports, there are trap, sporting clays and ﬁve-stand courses.
The facility plays host to the whole gamut of CMP Games and matches, including the popular GSM (Garand, Springﬁeld, Vintage Military) matches where shooters use as-issued historic riﬂes. The CMP knows there’s more to shooting than just the black bull’s-eyes, so you’ll also ﬁnd a wide variety of popular action shooting sports like 3-Gun, Steel Challenge and IDPA. Even better, Marksmanship Park is open to the public and charges only $20 to shoot all day.
Over the years, the CMP had often made surplus military riﬂes and ammunition available to qualiﬁed club members at reasonable prices. In fact, if you have ever heard that you could get a surplus M1 Garand riﬂe directly from the government, that’s part of the CMP program. At this point, however, virtually all of those M1 riﬂes and carbines, M1903 Springﬁeld and M1917 Enﬁeld riﬂes are sold out.
The good news is the proﬁts from the sale of those historic riﬂes funded an endowment that will keep the CMP in operation, training new generations of marksman, for the foreseeable future.
In light of the recent shift in political control since the last election, I asked Johnson if there might be some possibility of more M1 riﬂes turning up. He told me that had I asked that question six months ago, the answer would be no. But since then, one of the last great stockpiles of M1s, currently held by the Philippine government, just might be making its way home from the islands.
So keep your ﬁngers crossed, and get yourself involved with the CMPaﬃliated club in your area. Only qualiﬁed club members will be able to buy these riﬂes should they become available. “How do I qualify,” you ask? It’s very simple. Just join a CMPaﬃliated club and shot in a CMPsanctioned match.
You can ﬁnd vast amounts of additional information about the CMP and its great programs when you visit TheCMP.org. ASJ
STORY BY CRAIG HODGKINS PHOTOS BY THE RHODE FAMILYIf there is such a thing as “like at ﬁrst sight,” then Kim Rhode had me at “Hi.”
From the ﬁrst moments of our wide-ranging conversation (I can’t in good conscience call it an interview) at the Redlands Shooting Park, one of three Southern California ranges she uses for her daily training sessions, I felt like a member of the family.
Perhaps that feeling was enhanced because her mom, Sharon, had set up the meeting, and her dad, Richard, made our group a threesome, but the primary reason was her friendly demeanor and disarming personality.
Early on, we discovered that we were born in the same Southern California hospital, and that we both collect rare ﬁrst-edition children’s books. But just when I was starting to think we had a whole lot in common, I remembered that she is the one with six Olympic shooting medals.
RHODE WON HER FIRST WORLD skeet championship when she was 13, but her shooting passion – and skill – manifested itself long before that. Like many people, she got into shooting and hunting because of her family’s involvement. One year, the Rhode clan traveled to Yuma, Ariz., in early September to bag some birds.
“I was seven or eight years old,” Kim said, “and the gun was taller than me. I was standing oﬀ from my parents, but not too far … they still had control. A game warden came up, and he asked, ‘Who shot your birds for you?’ And I was like ‘I did.’ But he insisted, ‘No, no, honey. No one’s going to get in trouble. You can tell me. Who shot your birds for you?’ “No, really,’ I insisted. ‘I really shot these birds.’ And while I was in the midst of arguing with this Game and Fish guy, my dad yells ‘Over you!’ I turned around, took two shots and dropped two birds. The game warden said, ‘Have a nice day,’ and walked oﬀ.”
Competitions were the next logical step for the precocious pre-teen. When Rhode was 13, she entered a match where the winner would earn the opportunity to visit the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I competed in trap,” she said, “which was something I’d never done before, and I won. I was ecstatic, but after I got home I got a phone call that I wouldn’t be going because I was too young. They sent the runner-up instead.”
Later, the same venue held the world shoot in skeet. “I went and won the Open Women’s in skeet. The Olympic coach happened to be there, and he said ‘We’ll make an exception for you, if your mother will come with you and stay in the dorms.’”
It was her ﬁrst visit to an Olympic facility, but not her last. Three years later, she joined the Olympic team.
“I was 16 when I ﬁrst went to the Olympics, and I was really nervous. You go through a physical, and one of the big things they do is a gender test. The guys on my team were razzing me like crazy, and I was just terriﬁed (beforehand). I’m thinking the worst things possible, like, ‘What is a gender test?’ And I get in there, and the doctor says, ‘Open your mouth and let me scrape the inside of your cheek.’ All they did was take my DNA to check it. But I didn’t know that.”
With her gender oﬃcially conﬁrmed, Rhode went on to win the ﬁrst of her six Olympic medals, a gold in double trap.
“I remember after I won, I didn’t know what to do with the medal. And I don’t think I realized what it was I had done until I got home. When I started giving speeches and people were crying, I saw what an impact (the win) had been to other people and other families. It’s part of the reason why I always take the time to talk to people and to sign
every autograph. I realize what a diﬀerence it can make for a child or for a family.”
HER OWN FAMILY TREE BOASTS of two U.S. Presidents (John and John Quincy Adams), Morse code inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, and the lesser-known but fascinating George Ludwig Rhode, her great-great-grandfather on her father’s side, who served under General H.H. Sibley as one of 25 handpicked men chosen to attempt to rescue General George Armstrong Custer prior to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Although his troops were unsuccessful, Rhode fought his way through skirmish after skirmish following the main battle, and survived to keep his branch of the family tree intact.
Her grandfather and other relatives were born in Montana. A few years before the Great Depression, one member of the family developed rheumatoid arthritis, so the family sold their cattle ranch, bought new cars, loaded them up “like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies” and headed oﬀ south.
On their way through Wyoming, as the story goes, they got stopped at Yellowstone, where rangers at the main gate refused to let them pass if they didn’t plug their guns. These men from Montana were all working cowboys, and no one was going to take their guns, so instead of consenting to the rangers’ demands, they pitched their tents, camped out near the park gates and began to live oﬀ of the land.
About six months later, they had shot so many elk, deer and buﬀalo that the game wardens ﬁnally oﬀered to escort them through the park with all their guns fully loaded. When they reached the other side, they kept going until they got to California.
The Rhode clan’s determined self-reliance and the refusal to give up their guns is something that Kim remains passionate about even today.
“When you go back in history and look at where we came from,” she said, “kids were raised with respect and responsibility and discipline and focus, and shooting has taught me a lot about that. In today’s society, everybody is so reliant on other things or other people. Kids are losing the old-time values of pride in your work and your work ethic. When I talk to kids, I talk about never giving up. A sport isn’t always about winning. It’s what you do when you don’t win, how you pick yourself up and keep going.”
“I’ve been a member of (Safari Club International) since I was 10 years old, the year I went on my ﬁrst safari. SCI does a lot for animal conservation as well as hunting, but it’s really about the heritage and being able to pass it on to our kids. It’s the same thing with the (National Riﬂe Association). It’s a
great organization, ﬁghting for the Second Amendment and ensuring that those rights and that heritage will be there for our kids and our kid’s kids.”
Despite some obvious cultural shifts, Rhode remains upbeat about the future, one that she hopes will include her participation in additional Olympic games.
“I’m deﬁnitely going to go for the next couple Olympics, especially 2020. And if Los Angeles gets the bid in 2024, it would be amazing to have my family and friends there cheering me on, being able to see that you can achieve great things no matter where you come from.”
But even if she never participates in another Olympics, Rhode’s place in the record books is secure. As the only summer participant to ever medal in six diﬀerent games, she stands alone on that podium, a fact she acknowledges with a shrug.
“I never really thought of it as me being the best, and I never really grasped the fact that I was ‘number one in the world’ or anything like that. For me, it was just a competition; it was just for fun. I did the best I could, and it was going to be what it was going to be.”
And although her Olympic memories often blend together, that doesn’t lessen her joy.
“I’ve loved it,” she said. “I love competing head to head, I love being in that moment, I love the travel, the places, the people. (Between events) we’d go see the Coliseum or historical places in the world like the pyramids. We had camel races across the dessert.”
“I always say, ‘Nobody remembers what your score was.’ For me it was the camel races and the relationships and the fun times that made it what it is.”
BUT IN ORDER TO KEEP THE FUN times coming, an Olympic athlete needs to become self-sustaining, something that Rhode learned early on.
“When I was young and wasn’t allowed to visit the Olympic Training Center, I had to ﬁnd those resources locally, and that’s when it started with the sponsorships.”
Today, she enjoys sponsorships from Winchester ammunition Beretta, SCI and others. Another sponsor has joined Team Rhode more recently, and it was due to a well-publicized theft. In September of 2008, Rhode’s long-time competition shotgun was stolen from her truck.
“I was returning from doing a public service announcement,” she recalled, “and I decided to stop and get something to eat with my mom and do some shopping. I was in a store, and my mom came running back, ‘It’s gone, it’s gone!’ I remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach, and when the security people came out, to them it was no big deal. They were saying ‘Let’s sweep up the glass.’ And I said, ‘What are you doing? That’s evidence!’”
“It was from that situation that I sought out Truck Vault, because it was exactly what I needed. I always say it’s the trunk that I don’t have in my truck. But more important is the peace of mind it brings, and what Truck Vault meant to me at that point was just immense. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
When she’s not breaking targets, Rhode works hard at giving back to the sport she loves. That takes several forms, including speaking to a wide variety of groups and venues, from the Republican National Convention to the local Rotary Club. It is something she feels called to do, and for a very speciﬁc reason.
“After I’d won a medal at the 2008 Olympics, I ﬁgured the questions were going to be, ‘What is it like standing on the podium representing your country?’ But instead it was, ‘Can you comment on these tragedies that have occurred?’ It was then that I realized I need to do more, to voice more of the positives of shooting, because all you really hear are the negatives. You don’t hear about the high schools that have shooting teams, or the programs like Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) that have kids working as a team to earn bonds for their education and their future. There are so many wonderful things about the shooting and outdoor sports that you just don’t hear on a day-to-day basis. The reality is we try to reach out to everybody. Our sport is truly just a sport, no diﬀerent than any of the others. It just so happens that we shoot clay targets with a shotgun.”
If anybody can help keep the conversation currently swirling around Second Amendment rights moving forward in a civil tone, it’s Rhode. After all, this is a woman who built a 1965 AC Shelby Cobra, by hand, turning every bolt one by one … when she was in high school. She’s both patient and persistent, and everything she does communicates a charmingly tenacious philosophy of “Go big or go home.” It’s a trait she inherited from her father.
“My dad never did anything small,” she said. “When he got into something, he really got into
something. And I got that from him.”
And when the two get together on a project, things tend to take on a life of their own. One recent endeavor may serve as the best example of the Rhode raison d’etre.
“In my city,” she said, “they have a competition for the best decorated house for Christmas or Halloween. I thought, I’ve got all the lights, but it would be amazing if we could make the ghosts or Santa Claus ﬂy around our yard. So I took sewing machine motors and ﬁshing line and made things ﬂy around. I showed my dad and he said, ‘That’s too small.’ So the next thing I know, we’ve got 5- or 6-inch pipes that go up 15 feet that have a motorcycle wheel attached and engineered with motion sensors with a pulley system. We had to level the yard and pour concrete and set these suckers. I could probably ﬂy on it myself and scare little kids that come up to the door. And I had to get the ‘light-o-rama’ to top it oﬀ so the lights would (blink) to the music. When we went into the junkyard to ask them for the motorcycle wheels they asked, ‘What are you going to do with these again?’”
Her wide circle of friends and family has grown to include her husband Mike Harryman and their son Carter, whom she was pregnant with during the 2012 London games. And while her life may be complex, her approach is simple.
“I like to have fun,” she said, “and shooting is still fun for me. You have to keep it that way. But training is not fun. The fun part is the travel, the places, the people, the competition… those are the fun things. But it all comes down to what you want to do in life, and for me, I wanted to see the world, and be able to enjoy the outdoors. I love hiking. I like camping. I love hunting. I love ﬁshing. I love spending the time with my parents and my family. Those were things that were important to me, and shooting allowed me to do all those.” ASJ
Once you’ve scheduled the trip, let the new shooter know what to expect. Discuss how to dress for the range, and why they should avoid low-cut tops and open-toed shoes. The “hot brass dance” is never amusing to the one getting burned, and trying to clear trapped brass with a ﬁrearm in hand can be dangerous.
Review the standard safety rules ahead of time so they can process them in a calm, quiet environment. You’ll reinforce the rules later at the range. I prefer the NRA’s “Three Rules of Gun Safety” but “Cooper’s Four Rules” also work.
Explain the importance of using eye and ear protection at the range, and make sure you have enough of both on hand for everyone. Have the new shooters “double up” hearing protection by wearing foam earplugs underneath ear muﬀs. This will reduce anxiety caused by the noise of shooting.
It’s not enough to recite the rules. You have to go over how they work in context by explaining what a “safe direction” is at the range, how keeping the ﬁnger oﬀ the trigger helps prevent accidental discharges, when the gun should be loaded or unloaded on the line, and why these rules still apply even to “unloaded” guns.
You should also explain that “Cease ﬁre” means “Stop shooting now!” and review other range commands if you’re using a supervised range.
Remember that the students will model their behavior oﬀ of the example you set, so make sure to follow the best safety practices yourself.
WHILE SHOOTING CAN BE a fun social activity, it’s easy to be overwhelmed if you are overseeing too many new shooters. If you are teaching by yourself, try to limit the trip to one or two newbies, if possible. Even then, work with them one-on-one and have the person not shooting observe so they can be better prepared for their turn.
If you have a friend assisting, you should be able to handle additional new shooters if you split them between you. Remember you are there for them, not for your own shooting practice, so focus on giving them the best possible range experience.
Also, whenever possible, split up relationship-paired couples among diﬀerent mentors so each half of the couple focuses on what they are doing instead of trying to “help” the other.
A ﬁrst trip to the range isn’t the same as a full NRA Basic Pistol class. Keep your instruction focused speciﬁcally on what they need to know to safely handle and shoot the ﬁrearm and hit the target. Leave the more technical stuﬀ for later. Draw them a diagram of a sight picture and make sure they understand how the drawing corresponds to the front and rear sights on the ﬁrearm.
HAVE THEM PRACTICE HOLDING and dry ﬁring the unloaded gun, and correct any problems with their grip or stance. Enforce the “trigger oﬀ the ﬁnger until the sights are on target” rule with dryﬁre so they’ll get in the habit. Avoid using the term “trigger squeeze” as it can cause new shooters to tighten their entire grip as they ﬁre. Instead, explain that their grip should be ﬁrm and consistent the whole time, and that the trigger should be pulled
straight to the rear in a deliberate, smooth motion.
Since you’ll likely need to recock the ﬁrearm to reset the trigger during dry-ﬁre, make sure they understand that once the gun is loaded it will automatically reload and recock itself when they shoot for real. (This is obviously not the case for manually operated ﬁrearms such as bolt- or lever-action riﬂes).
The best ﬁrearm for new shooters is a .22LR, bar none. Whether it’s a riﬂe or pistol, the low recoil and relatively quiet report of the rimﬁre make it ideal as a ﬁrst-time gun. If you don’t have a .22LR available, go for the lowest recoiling ﬁrearm you do have. For handguns, a full-size gun ﬁring standard-pressure 9mm or .38 Special loads should be easy enough to manage. For riﬂes, a pistolcaliber carbine or a .223 AR are good choices. This goes double for ARs with adjustable stocks that can be resized for smaller statured shooters.
For aerial shotgun shooting use loads appropriate for the sport. If you are shooting stationary targets, use light loads or reduced recoil “tactical” loads. Whatever you do,
avoid the temptation to have a laugh at someone’s expense by giving them “too much gun.” It’s not fair to the new shooter, can turn them oﬀ the sport, and is actually unsafe.
The best targets are those that react to the hits. Nothing is more fun for new shooters than watching their targets explode, fall down, or spin around. Plate racks or portable swinging or spinning targets are good choices. Just make sure to keep to minimum safe distances when shooting steel.
You can also improvise with cans, plastic cups ﬁlled with water, clay birds set up down range, or anything else that is safe and doesn’t violate range rules. Even if you are limited to paper targets, many ranges will still allow you to tape small balloons to the targets or use the brightly colored Shoot-N-C targets.
TEACHING KIDS TO SHOOT has its own challenges and rewards. Some kids learn best from their parents, while others pay better attention to unrelated adults. If nothing else, a parent should always be present whenever a child is shooting. Make sure the ﬁrearms are suitable for the physical size of the child. I prefer using bolt-action or lever-action riﬂes over semiautos when working with kids so the shooter has to manually work the action to load the next round. Pay particular attention to their energy level, as their attention and safety consciousness can start to slip as they get tired. While it’s important to stay positive with any new shooter, that goes double for kids. Start and end critiques with positive statements and focus on the fun.
Now that you’ve learned some tips on taking new shooters to the range there is no better time to do so than right now. The NRA Mentor Program oﬀers additional resources to help you promote the shooting sports by taking new shooters to the program. Whether you are a NRA member or not, you can help grow our sport by mentoring a new shooter.
For more information about the program, visit nrapublications.org/mentor. 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.
After unexpected losses of US aircraft by enemy interceptors during Operation Rolling Thunder during Vietnam, the Pentagon looked for ways to increase American pilots’ ability to survive and prevail during a close-in fight. The US Navy started what was called the Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) made famous by the movie TOP GUN. Now every major air force uses a version of this kind of force-on-force or reality-based training. Why? Well, it works! After graduates from DACT were deployed in Vietnam, the Navy’s kill-to-loss ratio against the opposing MiGs between 1965 and 1967 rose from 3.7 to 1 to a whopping 13 to 1. Interestingly, the US Air Force, which had not yet embraced DACT, had its kill ratio worsen during a similar time period. The Air Force finally realized that if they could get a green pilot the equivalent of ten combat engagements using force-on-force training, their odds of surviving a tour of duty went up dramatically, so they started their own DACT program that was included with their world-renowned Red Flag exercises (an advanced aerial combat training) — which has probably saved more pilots than any other combat training offered.
THE USE OF REALITY-BASED scenario training (RBST) is as effective with defensive shooters on the ground as it is with the US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) — more popularly known as Topgun — graduates who now rule the skies. The biggest question, as was faced by Topgun and Red Flag organizations, was how do you realistically challenge someone without actually using live ordnance and drawing real blood? While the Navy and USAF used various kinds of aircraft — including acquired MiGs and other bad-guy equipment, a ground-based gun fight simulation posed a different set of problems.
One of the first solutions was the MILES System used by the military which is basically slaved laser projector mounted on a rifle, machine gun or tank cannon, with related sensors on the opposing force vehicle or personnel that registered appropriate hits and alarmed if the target was disabled or dead. Law enforcement used the FATS system, which is a realistic computer-controlled projected image tha create shoot-don’t-shoot scenarios. The images reacted by appropriately responding to the student by surrendering or collapsing if hit. However, neither system gives much negative feedback beyond a noisy alarm or critique by an instructor.
For many decades competency with firearms was determined by demonstrating accuracy from a static stance with the only variable being the distance to a paper target. Although useful for showing basic firearm competency, it did not provide any simulated stress of dealing with reactionary feedback in a shoot/don’t shoot decision-making situation.
Without a doubt the value shooting at paper bullseyes or silhouettes on a conventional range helps shooters verify their firearms’ accuracy, reliability and enhances the shooter’s proficiency by repetition of correct fundamentals. There is nothing better to make a shooter comfortable with their firearm than by practicing a consistent sight picture and the repeated proper hold so that your muscle memory will perform when needed. But this kind of training does not exercise the shooter’s critical gun-fighting skills to continually evaluate and respond to what is happening around them, challenge their situational awareness or make deadly force decisions rapidly and correctly. Most people revert back to their training when under stress and will perform what they have practiced. If al lof a shotters training was consuted on a static range, then behaviors such as not seeking cover, administrative reloading and not maneuvering to lessen the threat will be a struggle in a life-or-death situation.
ERICK GONZALEZ, with 30 years of military and law-enforcement experience, noted that “reality based scenario training is the answer!” He went on, “RBST is designed to force students to make decisions under stress, and then regardless of right or wrong, good or bad, discuss those decisions and the actions afterwards during an honest critique. It is much better to do that during a scenario, to learn by doing and make your mistakes in a training environment than fail when it is real!” He went on to tell why he decided that range-based training did not sufficiently prepare him to prevail in a gunfight; “right after Hurricane Andrew there was widespread lawlessness, almost anarchy in Miami. As we were pulling up to the scene of an active shooter, my seasoned partner told me matter-of-factly that we would be in a shooting. Sure enough the situation ended up being my first gunfight.” Erick went on, “Almost immediately I realized my standard police department training did not completely prepare me for what I was experiencing; I was trained on maintaining a sight picture and focusing on the front sight, but I couldn’t help but keep my attention on the shooter! Then I remembered my military training when an old E9 told me to keep my pistol slide centered on the middle of the target which I did and won the fight. In addition it seemed that the event took forever, at least ten minutes while in actuality the fight was over in seconds.”
AFTER SURVIVING HIS FIRST SHOOTING Erick questioned himself and his actions; “why couldn’t I concentrate on my front sight, or even hear the person firing next to me or why the shooting seemed to be in slow motion? That’s when I learned about time dilation and the effect of threat-based tunnel vision, and I realized that I had been taught how to shoot at paper but not how to prevail in a gunfight!”
Erick continued to reflect on how that event led him to improve defensive gun fighting for citizens and law enforcement, “I realized that training in a real-world environment, against opposing forces with the same level of performance, or better, would provide our officers with a unique perspective, which allowed for the development and improvement of tactical performance. After witnessing several good, law-abiding individuals in legal troubles due to poor and or inadequate training, I decided to start EMG Training & Consulting, Inc., and bring the many benefits of RBST to legal gun owners.”
TO ACHIEVE THE DESIRED REALISM and high level of knowledge retention, both the role players and students use less-lethal impact weapons and ammunition to provide kinetic feedback. Airsoft pistols (for role players) and plastic pellet projecting weapons (for the students) are used allowing a complete 360-degree experience. The primer-powered pellets are accurate out to common gunfighting distances, and leaves behind a splatter of paint to identify where the pellet hit. While impacting with a respectable force the plastic pellets do not penetrate, but reliably cycle the firearm, and can be loaded and carried just like duty ammo. The plastic pellet training rounds are available in various major service pistol and rifle calibers, and usually can convert a firearm by simply exchanging the slide, bolt and magazine. Once converted, the training firearms can no longer chamber regular ball ammo, but can be reverted at will. That means that a user of a common service pistol can use the exact same model for training so that their sight picture, trigger control, recoil management and even reloading muscle memory can be enhanced instead of confused with a different system
This training also emphasizes the need for the student to respond to hostile fire, even when one of the shots from a bad guy connects. When a student feels an impact, they learn not to look at the nearest coach, observer or trainer and ask, “Am I dead?” Why? Because when it is for real, staying in the fight and putting the bad guy down is the priority while stopping mid-fight to focus on if and where you were shot might have deadly consequences.
Recently in Ohio, a shooter emerged from a vehicle during a routine traffic stop firing an AK-type rifle at the two deputies who were in the unit parked behind him. During the brief exchange, one officer was hit in an extremity that was undoubtedly painful but not an incapacitating or fatal wound. The first officer immediately dropped out of the fight to concentrate on his individual trauma and took no further defensive actions, although the assailant was still actively shooting, eventually expending thirty-seven 7.62x39mm rounds towards the two officers. The second officer who had sustained some minor injuries did not concentrate on his wounds but continued to engage the shooter with aimed pistol fire, fatally wounding him, which ended the rampage. The second officer was the perfect example of staying in the fight, even while bloodied, until the threat was neutralized. That is the desired result of RBST.
Erick explained that the EMG training curricula. “Our RBST is a complete training methodology. It begins by familiarizing the student with their specific defensive equipment which includes their handgun, holster, gear and choice of outerwear. Then the student is walked through the dynamics involving use-of-force in a self- defense situation, emphasizing that just the display, let alone use of deadly force will most assuredly have legal consequences.” Erick continued, “The student then performs live-fire drills designed to test their gear and equipment, and once the student feels comfortable he or she is introduced to real-world scenarios.”
THE USE OF APPROPRIATE and enthusiastic role players ensures that every interaction is responsive to the performance of the student, and that there is no preconditioning, so the student will not have any idea what their desired response will be before a scenario begins. Erick has a portable, multi-room shoot house that he uses for on-site training that allows defensive shooters a real-world experience of being confronted with various decision-making, shoot/don’t shoot situations. Erick further explained; “The scenarios are exceedingly realistic because the role players might or might not threaten or pose a deadly threat but just be annoying or intrusive. That is to ensure that a CCW holder will not be preconditioned to solve every problem by using a firearm.” Just as with every kind of simulator training the post-scenario discussion is key for a successful training experience, Erick noted, “the student’s response and actions are discussed during the follow-up critique so they can justify and explain their actions. Why did you shoot the guy that approached you shouting with only a cell phone in their hand? Why didn’t you engage the guy with a knife 10 feet away who kept yelling threats and wouldn’t heed your commands to stop? Why didn’t you seek cover that was just 2 feet away? Every student is evaluated during the scenario for performance under stress, the ability to maintain his or her situational awareness, their use of effective communication skills and finally demonstrate the ability to perceive and identify threats and follow through by applying the appropriate level of force.” Erick went on to discuss what his classes have shown him, “during our courses of instruction, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals of varying levels of training and experience. Some of the students with extensive range experience seem to struggle with the most basic of dynamic engagements. One of the most common issues I see is the inability to effectively draw the handgun from concealment once a role player is introduced into the drill. I’ve observed students stay flat-footed in front of the role player as they exchange fire just a few feet away from cover. That may be an unintended consequence of shooting thousands of rounds on ranges where hits count but movement is not allowed!”
Erick and his EMG Training cadre teaches combat gun fighting in threat-based controlled scenarios so that when shooters revert back to their training it will save their life, not respond like they are squared on a motionless, harmless silhouette. Instead they learn to move and seek cover while effectively placing rounds on target in response to real-world, life-threatening situations that have become all too common place where we live, work and play. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information on Erick Gonzalez and EMG Training Consulting, you can visit them at emgtrainingconsulting.com
The ominous and almost haunting realization that it’s the last day of the season hangs over your head as you make one last hike up to your glassing perch with hopes of catching a glimpse of the animals that have been so elusive in the preceding days. Hours pass, and in the fading light you glass across the sage into the glare of the sun. Catching some movement your eyes focus on an ear flick; low and behold it’s a shooter buck. He’s far, but your heart is soaring with the hopes of success as you range him before he feeds out of view into the dark timber just a couple dozen yards away. At 460 yards, your .300 WSM is more than capable, but you can’t lay down in the high sage, and the only shooting support you have is your pack and a set of Stoney Point sticks that you’ve used only once or twice. You know you can shoot that far, but only from a bench or prone. That elated feeling quickly drains as your gut tells you “No, you can’t make that shot,” and you watch what you thought was your buck walk away.
I know some of you are thinking, “460 yards off of sticks is too far, anyways; you shouldn’t take that shot even if you feel good about it.” How far is too far? The truth is range is just a number for a shooter who practices regularly. It’s as simple as “range, dial, hold for wind, and press” for someone who is confident with their rifle and, most importantly, their ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship in field conditions.
I routinely see students successfully and consistently hit targets at greater distances than the above scenario with a little bit of instruction and training. Now, let’s be clear; there is a big difference between training on steel targets that are stationary and a living, breathing animal. It’s OK to miss steel, but as hunters, our quarry deserves the utmost respect with a quick and humane expiration from a well-placed shot. With animals we play for keeps, and staying inside of your limits with a rifle afield should be our primary concern. So, how can we extend our comfort zone? How can we push those limits with confidence so we don’t have to see those bucks walk away? It’s going to take dedication and lots of time on the range. Here are some pointers on how to do it effectively:
The first thing we should identify right off the bat is what our rifle can do under ideal conditions. Spend a day with your rifle shooting it at distance and record your data. If you’re using hold-overs, that’s fine, make sure you write down the range to the targets and the hold you used to get center hits. If you’re dialing your turrets, record the turret settings it required to hit center. Ideally, you should do this from the prone position to remove as much shooter error as possible. This raw data you’re gathering is what you’re going to use to make your drop chart. It’s also going to build your confidence with the rifle, knowing that it’s going to do what you tell it to do, under ideal conditions. If you have the space available, this is also a great opportunity to push the limits of distance. You can do this safely knowing that misses are only going to result in creating a little bit of self motivation and not a wounded animal.
Once we know that the rifle is doing what we want it to do in a general sense and we’ve established that confidence, it’s time to get ourselves out of the prone and into field-shooting positions, and I mean a lot of different positions. We want to focus on the fundamentals of marksmanship, and accept nothing less than perfection.
The fundamentals in a nutshell are: creating a solid body position relying on either bone or artificial support, aligning our sights and aiming, proper breathing, getting a natural point of aim, trigger control and follow-through. It’s a lot to remember, but if you go about it in a systematic way by applying all those items in that order, your shooting will improve drastically.
The main thing to really focus on in field-shooting scenarios is establishing a natural point of aim. This is where the rifle wants to go in any given shooting position while the shooter is relaxed. Relaxation is key; we can’t relax without bone or artificial support, so make sure you’re honest with yourself when you build your shooting position. If you close your eyes, breathe and relax, the crosshairs should be right where you left them before you closed your eyes. If they’re not in the same place then you don’t have a natural point of aim, and you need to adjust your body to get the rifle to go where you want it to go. It takes lots and lots of practice.
When you head out to practice, focus on the tools you’re taking afield first, such as your shooting sticks or a tripod. Shoot from them in as many different positions as you can think of so you can identify your weaknesses and your strengths. Once that’s comfortable, move on to shooting off of weird things that could mimic field scenarios, like stumps, logs, branches and fence slats. You’ll be surprised at how effective you are after a little focused practice. You don’t need long ranges or steel either. If your range only has 100 yards, that’s fine, just shrink your target size. Start with 6-inch rounds or squares, then reduce the size as you gain confidence and proficiency. A good standard is a 3-inch target from 100 yards. If you can consistently place shots into that size target, you’re in good shape and are applying the fundamentals.
Putting everything together and building confidence in your rifle will translate into building confidence in yourself. It’s a great feeling going afield knowing that you’re prepared for a wide variety of conditions. Something else to consider is looking for outside instruction from a reputable and professional organization. Having a second set of eyes watching you and offering constructive criticism will pay off in a big way when you head off on your own. You’d be surprised what a couple days of instruction will do for your shooting. Training for field-shooting positions is easy and a fun challenge. Use your imagination and be creative. Bottom line: enjoy yourself! ASJ
Posted in Tactics & Tips Tagged with: Caylen Wojcik, CORE Training Center, Field Positions, Jake Blick, long-range shooting, MACKENZIE CRAWFORD, Magpul CORE, Precision shooting, Richard Mann, training
“C’mon, hop in … C’mon,” Meyer kept enticing the pups in his calm voice as he and the other dogs continued paddling. Soon both pups were having their first swimming session, part of the training Meyer initiates in the spring and throughout the summer.
“The key is not to force them, but make it fun,” smiled Meyer as he pulled the canoe ashore. The training session lasted nearly two hours, and all five dogs did great, even the pups. During that time, Meyer didn’t raise his voice once.
Now is the time to be training your dog for the upcoming hunting season. As is the case with hunters, dogs need to be in shape for the hunt too, and just because summer days are hot doesn’t mean dog training should be delayed.
Good training starts with clear communication. Meyer, who I’ve been working with over the past year, has been training dogs for over 40 years. For 25 years he was a professor of animal breeding and genetics at Oregon State University, and watching him patiently work his dogs is something to behold. His willingness to help me, a first-time hunting dog owner, speaks a lot of what kind of man he is. His eagerness and dedication is addicting, and his passion to see dogs succeed is admirable.
“The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize you don’t need to holler at a dog to get it to do something,” shares Meyer. “They just need to know what you’re expecting of them. If they don’t respond the way I want them to, it’s likely due to miscommunication on my part.”
I’ve been on several training sessions with Meyer and never once heard him raise his voice towards a dog. They always respond to him no matter their breed or age. Patience and keeping it fun and positive are key elements of Meyer’s training foundation, and a good starting point for all dog owners looking to build a better dog.
Swimming is one of the best ways to get a dog in shape so they don’t overheat.
Meyer regularly swims his dogs all summer long. “Swimming is one of the best ways to get a dog in shape this time of year so they don’t overheat,” he notes. “You can’t get this kind of conditioning by repeatedly tossing a bumper into the water. In fact, when I’m training with a bumper, I’ll only toss it in four or five times – that’s it.”
Meyers’ swim training usually lasts a couple of hours. He’ll paddle the canoe to one shore, let the dogs get out to play and warm up, then do it again … and again … and again. He ends every training session on a positive note, with the dogs wanting more and this includes swimming.
Jess Spradley, trainer and owner of Cabin Creek Gundogs, offered this advice when asked about summer training tips: “Get the dog’s feet in shape. Just like a human’s, a dog’s
feet have to be in good condition for the hunt.”
Spradley’s favorite training surface is gravel followed by pavement. This time of year, do it early or late in the day when temperatures aren’t overly hot. Be sure to have plenty of water for the dog to drink. Shaving their coat this time of year will also help keep them cool, as will pouring water over them during training sessions.
“Don’t mix play and work,” Meyer advised me. “When training a dog for the hunt, make sure they know it. When playing with them for fun, make sure they know the difference. Don’t use training bumpers as fun toys or vice versa.”
Spradley points out that pointing breeds need to be regularly exercised, while Labs are happy with a stroll down the street. Spradley prefers to train dogs that have been exposed to at least one season of hunting and were taught basic guidelines by their owner. “When they bring a dog to me, I ask what they’ve done and they often say, ‘Nothing; we didn’t want to screw it up.’ That’s valid, but not a good idea as the pup’s gotta learn some basic guidelines in order to achieve a higher level of training.”
This summer, make time to start building a good hunting dog. Practice patience, clearly communicate your expectations and make it fun for your dog. When those elements are solid, everything else will fall into place. ASJ
Author’s note: You can visit Howard Meyer with Chipewa Kennels at chippewa-gsp.com, and Jess Spradley with Cabin Creek Gun Dogs at cabincreekgundogs.com. For amazing Pudelpointer’s visit talltimberpudelpointers.com.
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: Cabin Creek Gun Dogs, Chipewa Kennels, Dog trainer, Gun dogs, Howard Meyer, hunting dogs, Jess Spradley, Oregon State University, Pudelpointers, Scott Haugen, Tall Timber Pudelpointers, training
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
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
In addition to attending the basic course for federal agents at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Federal Air Marshals receive specialized training designed specifically for the situations in which they may have to employ their weapons.
One of the first thing air marshals learn is where not to shoot. The old myth that depressurization by bullet hole is the greatest danger. Normally, this is not the case. The pumps/compressors that keep a cabin pressurized can normally deal with a couple of small bullet holes.
A far greater danger is hitting hydraulic lines or electrical wiring. Which is the reason why, trainees learn where critical systems are located, so a shot may be placed without hitting them. Of course, the most important system to avoid shooting is the pilot or co-pilot. As a result, shot angles and ammunition type must be considered. (Glaser rounds)
In the past using stretch ribbons through the interior of the aircraft in which to simulate the location of electrical and hydraulic lines. For scenario-training wax bulleted primer-powered loads were used. To protect the eyes agents wear goggles, but those wax bullets still hit hard enough to leave a painful welt. Trainees certainly remember if they were hit, this system allows them to train in a real aircraft.
Today’s U.S. air marshals also train in aircraft cabins, but use Simunitions ammo in weapons just like their issue handguns, but specially set up for this dye-marking round. By allowing force on force dueling, Simunitions grant great realism in creating situations an air marshal might face in the air.
Strong marksmanship skills is paramount. The ability to shoot at relatively long range, for example, could be critical should a shot have to be taken down the length of the cabin. Air marshals practice moving down the aisle while maintaining their shooting base so that they can close the distance to a potential threat, but a shot may still be necessary at 25 yards or more.
Tactics Used While Seated
Aircraft seats create problems, it’s difficult to pull yourself out of one. Under the stress of a hijacking, this can be even more difficult. Air marshal must train to take a shot while seated. He/she must also train to take a shot as he levers himself up out of the seat. One tactic is to choose a seat on the aisle and on the left side of the aircraft looking forward if you were right-handed (on the right side if left-handed). This allows you to take a lean-out shot while seated. Much attention and rehearsing of drawing the handgun discreetly from the seated position is just as important as shooting, drawing the handgun undetected is emphasized.
A lone air marshals must be able to engage multiple hijackers quickly. Reportedly, in training, U.S. air marshals must demonstrate the ability to engage three opponents quickly. Since a hijacker might well have grabbed a flight attendant or passenger as a shield, the air marshal must also be capable of making a head shot. Normally, a center-mass shot is preferable as the bullet will more likely stay within the chest cavity. Special ammunition (Glaser round) will, however, minimize the danger of over-penetration.
Monitoring of passengers prior to boarding and while in flight is another factor in identifying any problems. This skill is an art in not only observation of body language, but also being able to social engineer. In other words being able to socialize with passengers in your surroundings is vital in gaining intelligence. Air marshal emphasizes “we’re not stereotyping, but monitoring behavioral”. Recognizing behavioral that affects public safety is the priority.
Training in non-deadly force is just as important as using a firearm all dictated by the “Force Continuum”. There is a time when the objective is not defending the flight cabin but on subduing an agitated aggressor. Air Marshals receive optimum hours of training on physical controlling a subject utilizing physical apprehension techniques. Defensive tactics includes one man, two man tactics to physically control an individual, also includes:
These are the many skills required to perform air marshal duties. The other side to this profession is the law enforcement side which addresses the logistics and investigative functions.