Monday, August 22, 2016

Gun Skool Thoughts, Part II

So, when talking to folks who have never been to formal training that did not involve everyone wearing the same clothes and addressing others as "Sergeant" or "Sir", I've found some... odd ideas.

When you are reading the course description, make sure you read the part that says what to being with you.
Yes, they expect you to provide your own ammunition.
  • Some schools will provide it for you -- read "sell it to you" -- if you make prior arrangements, but usually the only ones that provide ammo are also providing guns. 
  • Check the expected round count and take extra. 
  • Try to figure out what works best on your gun(s), don't just go for the cheapest bulk pack. 
  • Ask me how I know that last...
One colleague at work was outraged at the thought that he was paying all this money for a class and had to provide his own ammo. Of course, usually Uncle Sam had been providing his ammo...

There are several reasons for this:
  • Logistically, less for the school to worry about.
  • Liability; if your gun blows up with your ammo, it's on you(r reloads?), not them.
  • What if their preferred load doesn't work reliably in your gun? 
  • If it's a defensive oriented class, you should be use the load you use for defensive shooting.
  • Ditto competition.
Other required items include
"Eyes and Ears":
  • They will probably call for "wrap-around eye protection". In Washington state, any prescription glasses sold here are suppose to meet minimum safety standards, but just because your friendly local indoor range lets you get away with your stylin' frames doesn't make it a Good Idea. Hot brass stuck between the lens and your eye is not a Pleasant Experience...
  • You can probably get away with "just" foam earplugs at your class, but they probably recommend electronically amplified/dampening muffs instead. They work great, and are fairly cheap, especially compared to the cost of a class. They really help you hear range commands while shooting is going on.
"Why do they insist I have a cap with a bill or brim?"
  • Because "Hot brass stuck between the lens and your eye is not a Pleasant Experience." I have had brass find it's way between my glasses and my eye. 
"Why do they care if I wear a shirt with a low neckline?"
Some of these are as much to protect the other people on the line while you deal with hot brass in unpleasant places.  I was told that, after I got that bit of brass down my back and was doing St. Vitus' Dance, everybody was watching me, and apparently one thing I did right that day was keep the muzzle downrange at all times...

Speaking of which: Know the range rules.
  • They probably use the Four Rules of Gun Safety, although if it is an NRA class at a club they will be using the Three Rules of Gun Safety. (About which, more here: Safety First!)
  • They may also have "local rules" intended to deal with local issues. For example, "No shooting over the berm", "no ammo of x type", etc.
  • (EDIT TO ADD:) Is it a Hot Range or a Cold Range?  That is, are all guns left unloaded when no actual firing is going on? If they don't say, don't assume, ASK!
  • At MAG40, after completing a course of fire, we were instructed to "Unload and show clear", at which point the range staff would verify it, and tell us "slide forward, hammer down, and holster." Once our pistol was holstered, we were required to "stand at parade rest", i.e, hands clasped behind out backs. This was intended to make it easy to identify who was done and clear. (I managed not to point out to anyone that what we were doing was not "parade rest" but "at ease", because I realized that this would have been what Mas calls "Combat Semantics".)
 General rule:
  • Avoid being "That Guy". Ask questions, but do so in a manner which is obviously to improve understanding, not challenge them. Also, if it just applies to you, don't take up everyone's time.
  • Also, if it does not come up, ask about a policy re: photos and/or videos.
    •  Some people taking this class might be in a personal or professional position where having their photo on Facebook would be a Bad Thing. 
    • Recording of the class may also violate confidentiality and/or copyright.
Back to equipment:
  • The school or course may specify what kind of holster to use, i.e., In Waist Band (IWB), Out of Waist Band (OWB), etc. 
  • It may give description of required features, i.e., "covered trigger guard", "retention feature".
  • There is a very good chance it will specify holster styles that are banned: Shoulder holsters are almost never allowed, nor are holster purses and fanny packs, or pocket holsters. "Appendix" carry might or might not be allowed. 
  • Specific brands or models might also be named, such as the Blackhawk! Serpa, which is... controversial. (Full disclosure: I have two. I stopped using them.  In a practical sense I am more worried about them "jamming" than my finger slipping into the trigger guard during the draw, but I have become convinced that that is a potential problem.)
  • See my post Note to self... 
  • You want lots. The course requirements probably call for 3, and a belt pouch that will hold two, but you want more. 
  • How many is enough?
  • More!
  • And probably a magazine loading device, too. I will note that the Maglula brand "Uplula" has a 1911 adapter, although I haven't really needed it. 
If you're shooting a revolver, you will want speedloaders.
  • These can be cheap, or expensive. 
  • The cheap ones may not be very sturdy.
  • Not sayin' the expensive ones are...
  • Speed strips aren't very speedy.
  • You may also want to look into a loading block designed to quickly load your speedloaders. 
Go back and read the course description carefully. Is there anything special it includes?
  • Knee pads are sometimes useful, and if you're going to be shooting from the kneeling position, on a range that may be covered in gravel and spent brass... 
  • How long is the class? Is there a break for lunch?  Or a "working" lunch? Most ranges do not have restaurants...
  • How about other amenities?  Hot and cold running water, flush toilets?
    •  If the range is out in the boonies, the owners (or club directors) may have made a decision to keep costs down by avoiding these.
    • Most soldiers (and probably Marines) these days carry some sort of Wet Ones/baby wipes for a reason. Maybe you should, too.
    • Some form of cleanser to remove heavy metal residue is also a good idea. (Like these.)
  • Sun protection. If it's an outside range...
  • Water. Aside from whether you need to provide a lunch, you will want to stay hydrated. 
  • Tools. You probably won't need them, but  maybe you should play it safe. A good multi-tool, at least, depending on what gun(s) you have.
  • First aid/trauma kit. Get training first!
Before you go, test all your "stuff".
  • If you had any work done on your pistol, make sure it works, and you know how to make it work.
  • Test all your magazines. 
  • Test the ammo you're going to use.
  • Put fresh batteries in your earmuffs, and any other electrical devices, like flashlights, lasers, or optic sights.
    • Also, "two is one, one is none." Have spares of the devices as well as batteries.
    • Especially take  more than one flashlight to a low-light class!
  • Make sure you how to use any accessories, like magazine loaders.
Things to avoid:
  • Instructors who claim they're teaching you The One True Way. 
  • Instructors who claim they're teaching you secrets of some elite military unit.
    • The key word here being "secrets."  
    • I've lost track of which elite units are supposed to be the elitest this week.  SAS? Spetsnaz? Devgru, AKA SEALS?
    • Or maybe just "I could tell you, but then you'd have to be a training aid...."
  • Instructors who do unsafe things and justify them with phrases like "Big boy rules."
    • If they have your partner stand next to the target and have you bust caps in that direction, just walk away.
  •  Instructors who spend time bad-mouthing other instructors. 
    • It's one thing to say "I prefer this technique to the other guy's technique", but if he can't keep it professional, what else is he doing wrong?...
    • Exception: If the entire Internet has become aware that Instructor Schmuckatello did a Stupid Thing, acknowledge it and move on
    • Or even better, acknowledge it, point out things Schumkatello did and does right, and then... move on.
What about...
  • Instructors from  a military background versus a law enforcement background?
  • Does it matter how many gunfights my instructor has been in, or how many people he's killed?
See Kathy Jackson's post "Different Domains"
Thought the first:
  • What is it you are trying to learn? 
  • Or, what is it he's trying to teach you? 
  • Is it something that is unique to the military or law enforcement?
  • If not, does that background make him uniquely qualified to teach it?
  • As I pointed out in comments to that post by Kathy, my Army career did nothing to "qualify" me as a "gun fighter", but it did give me a solid background in teaching a class. 
    • Which most retired NCOs can say
    • Although I will be the first to agree that for many of them, they may be good at the logistics of conducting training but not so much at writing a course.
    • Add to the "Things to Avoid" list: Death By PowerPoint.
  • As for gun fights... As Tamara is wont to say, "Fortuitous outcomes reinforce  bad habits", and I want to know why he was in all those gunfights, and how it applies to me.
  • What is the relevance of what either Officer Friendly or Master Chief Faceshooter is teaching you to your life? 
    • If you're a law-abiding citizen with a carry permit, do you really need to learn how to serve a high-risk warrant? 
    • Or kick down a door to take down the Tangoes?
    • Because I want to live far from you.
    • OTOH, some of those techniques may come in handy some day. 
      • Good sign: The instructor says "The odds are you'll never need this, but just in case, we'll practice doing it right..."
    • As was said several times in the course of the Urban Defensive Tactics class I took.
  • But if it's a more-or-less generic "Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Defensive Pistol" class, I see no reason why a computer programmer or a die maker for an aviation company can't teach it as well as Officer Friendly or Master Chief Faceshooter. (Depending on the computer programmer or die maker, of course.)

Finally: How do you know you learned anything? I mean, it's cool that you can say you went to Cool Guy Gun Skool and hang the piece of paper on the wall, but what did you learn?
  • View From The Porch: You can't improve what you don't measure.
  • Some classes, especially those oriented to defensive handgun use, will have a qualification.
  • Some classes will have a written test.
  • Some classes will simply wrap things up with a competition, often based on a scenario that uses whatever you learned (or were supposed to) in the class.
  • But if they simply say "Go forth and do good things", how do you know you learned anything?
  • Maybe hit the range before-and-after and shoot the same drills to compare results.

Try to have fun. Do so safely. If I'm ever in a position to blog about you in the future, please, please, please let it be because I'm blogging about the email you sent saying you found this and other posts useful (or, for that matter, disagreeing because you ignored me and it worked for you. I'm not perfect.)
Or maybe because we ran into each other and had a beer.


Old NFO said...

Oh yes, ALWAYS read the fine print!!! And at least 200 rounds extra, just in case... sigh

NotClauswitz said...

Thank you for all that detail! Wearing glasses as an absolute necessity can result in frames that don't and cannot comply with the "wrap-around" requirement, as edge-thickness increases exponentially even with high-index lenses, depending on your Rx.
Mas has the MAG40 class scheduled for late November down at Sac-Valley.

Drang said...

Having just "upgraded" to trifocals, I'm pretty much screwed when it comes to actual "wrap-around" specs.