Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Combat Effective” Hits and “Combat Accuracy”

Target from Sentinel Concepts, taken during CHE course. One of the best targets out there.

The terms “Combat Effective” and “Combat Accurate” have been swirling around the shooting world for quite some time now. Their definitions however, are a gray area at best, normally used to describe less than ideal (also known as bad) shot placement by a shooter or Instructor. I have seen where an instructor was attempting to demonstrate how easy it was to get a 1.0 second draw at 7 yards and continually placed rounds in the D-zone of a USPSA target (I.e. Shoulder/arm/read as complete miss on an average sized human). Of the five reps, zero impacted the A-zone and none were a “close” C. His response every time was “It’s a combat effective hit.” Does a shot in the arm have an effect on someone? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I think it’s time we redefine combat accuracy and combat effective hits.

What we’ve seen thanks to a decade of war and individuals really putting in the time to study how gunfights happen scientifically, is that if someone is hit in the arm, leg, even chest at times, the only thing that stops them from continuing to fight is their own lack of will to fight. If we want to truly define “Combat Effective” hits, we’d be talking about the A-zone of a USPSA target or the -0 portion of an IDPA target. And even these would be considered somewhat generous by some instructors. If we really want to be effective, we’d be shooting 4×6 and 3×5 cards. Does a hit in the hand have an effect on someone? Sometimes. Does a shot to the face have an effect? Sometimes. But I’ll say this, the shot in the face has a much better chance of having an effect than a a round passing through the meaty part of someone’s hand. (No, I’m not saying immediately go for the head shot.)

When we’re running our Combative Handgun/Carbine or Practical Application of Concealed Carry (PACC) courses, we shoot almost exclusively on B-8 targets, 3×5, and 4×6 cards. We shoot a lot of cards in our other courses as well, but the accuracy standards for the combative courses are far less forgiving. We didn’t do it just to make the courses harder. We did it because it is the most accurate representation of what is needed when fighting with a gun. One thing we’ve learned (and relearned over and over again) is that shot placement is king. Statistically, caliber barely matters, capacity rarely matters, but making good hits in vital areas ALWAYS matters!

So let’s be a bit more realistic, and honest with ourselves. A-zones and -0’s are easy, and they let us go really fast. 4×6 cards and 2″ dots are hard and are a more accurate representation of what stops gunfights. So go out, buy a100 pack of 3×5 cards, glue them to your USPSA/IDPA targets, and get to shooting. Hold yourself to a higher standard.

Please follow and like us:

Believing Your Own Hype

Some of you are most likely familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, where someone of moderate or low skill believes themselves to be of a much higher skill level. Normally this manifests in the industry as “One second draws are easy. I carry with an empty chamber and I can easily draw, load, and fire under a second from concealment.” (That was an ACTUAL comment that was said to one of the guys I work with.) These comments generally come from the guy/gal that can be found shooting a couple times a year, or plinking in the middle of the desert at cans and televisions. These individuals are of little concern to me. They spout blatantly false statements on the Internet and forums, and often have an opinion about everything, and everyone, and anything that isn’t theirs is wrong. Again, while they annoy me to great extent, they are of little actual concern.

What does concern me greatly are those with moderate skill level that truly believe themselves to be HIGHLY skilled shooters. As much as it pains me to say, this is glaringly present within the tactical training community, and it stretches from the local instructor up to national level. One minute they will tell you how they are the greatest combat marksman that has ever been and if you didn’t come from their background you obviously aren’t worth shit. Three minutes later, they demo (if they demo) a draw from concealment at seven yards where they are unable to get a single hit within two seconds… Or perhaps they show you their sub-one second draw, to a D-zone or shoulder hit… Often the excuses of, “I’m on the road too much so I can’t practice” or “well, that’s a combat effective hit” comes out. BULLSHIT!!! What it comes down to is you’ve believed your own hype for far too long and have continued to make excuses for lack of skill instead of practicing, or practicing what you needed. I know very few truly skilled shooters who believe they are currently at the top of their game. They are hyper aware of their deficiencies and rarely make real excuses for them. They see and recognize things that are often not even apparent to a large majority of shooters. Things like how a 14lb recoil spring completely changes how a gun reacts in recoil vs. a 16lb recoil spring, or how a .010″ difference in front sight width completely changes the relationship between speed and precision.

Everything in context: Fighting with a firearm is different than competing with one, but shooting is shooting. The gun doesn’t know the difference. If you cannot perform a skill in isolation, such as drawing to an eight inch circle at seven yards and getting a hit under two seconds, how can you EVER think you will be able to do it within the context of a fight! If you really think you will “rise to the occasion,” I have some really bad news for you. So, let’s all be realistic about our skill levels. Understand that we can always get better. There is no end to this game of leveling up as it were. Something that is apparent amongst all the champion shooters I have dealt with, studied, and spoken too: they are always trying to get better. Some are trying to get faster, some more accurate, some are seeking both, but they are always trying to get better.

Let’s not believe our own hype, and remember that “The way is through training” (Miyamoto Musashi). We are all deficient in some area of shooting. Let’s get to shooting, dry firing, competing, and start forge welding some of those chinks in our armor.

Please follow and like us:

The Fast Folley

The magazine is caught by one of the feed lips due to missing the mag well.

We all want to go fast. Whether we are driving a car, running, or shooting, we can’t help but try to go fast. And shooting is no different than anything else, if we push too hard we’re going to crash and burn. Most of us are guilty of what I call “The Fast Folly.” In a nutshell, we go too fast too soon.  I’ll give you an example: You switch guns from your Glock 17 to CZ P-09. You figure, no big deal they are both in 9 and full size guns. You get about 200 rounds into the gun and then it happens. “I should totally be able to hit the same speeds as I did with my 17.” WRONG! I know very few great shooters, let alone the average/above average shooters, that can make a major gun/caliber switch and shoot both equally as well with no practice. Something is always taking a back seat to something else. If you are focused on precision, your speed suffers. If you focus on speed, precision suffers. I am not of the belief that one can practice both speed and precision at the same time. I can maintain my level of precision while working on speed, but I cannot improve it.

So where does “the Folly” come in.  Generally, we all run too fast too soon. We feel we have obtained an acceptable level of precision, so it’s time to push the speed. Next thing we know, we’re dropping 70% of our shots outside of the A-Zone (or 8” circle). Then, we really mess ourselves up: we start making excuses for it. Things like “well, its combat accurate” or “well, it’s still a good hit factor.” In some cases, you may be right, but I prefer to err on the side of precision. The Folly always seems to plague me when it comes to reloads, especially coming off of an easy to reload double stack gun like a Glock or 2011 onto a single stack. My hands can move faster than I can accurately perform the technique.  This is where I start to see dropped magazines, missed mag wells, and overall bumbled reloads. I recently switched back to my 1911 in .45 ACP from my 2011 in 9mm. Day one of dry fire, “the Folly” bit me hard. As my buddy Frank Proctor has said, “You went all Ricky Bobby on it!” Truly, I did. I did maybe 20 slow and deliberate reloads, and then pulled out the timer and set the PAR for my average (after weeks of practice average) reload speed. Instant crash and burn. It was a glorious failure. I reset the PAR to a speed I knew I could guarantee a solid reload, and restarted from there.

Some right now may be thinking “Got it, go slow to guarantee the hit/reload.” That’s not what I’m saying. We NEED to go fast, but we have to put in the time to get there. I don’t believe you can master a technique in 10 minutes. You won’t be doing 1.5 second reloads after 10 minutes of deliberate practice. It takes work to get fast. Generally speaking, that work is deliberate and methodical, not simply “go fast.” (Sometimes it is, but not in this case.) Ease into it, it will save you heartache when timing really counts.

Please follow and like us:

The Oversimplification of Technique

A.J. practicing speed reloads. Notice the focal shift to the magazine well.

A.J. practicing speed reloads. Notice the focal shift to the magazine well.

Once again it’s time for me to address a “trend” becoming popular in the shooting/training community. It’s become fashionable for a growing portion of “Instructors” to over simplify shooting techniques that have no business being simplified in the first place. If running guns fast and accurately was so simple, a student would be able to walk away from a two day class shooting like a USPSA Grand Master!  News flash: IT’S NOT! I’m talking about the instructor who’s whole block of instruction on Slide Lock Reloads is: “Dump the mag, put a new one in, and send the slide forward. It’s that simple.” NO, IT ISN’T! I get it, Keep It Simple Stupid, but we have to draw the line somewhere. When I see an instructor teaching like this, two thoughts occur to me. First off, the instructor in question undoubtedly reloads his gun about as fast as a snail ties it’s shoes, often citing consistency or reliability for their lack of speed. Secondly, the instructor himself either doesn’t know how he’s actually doing the reload, or absolutely knows, because he’s been taught, but isn’t going to give the student the nuances right away.  Now, I’m all about the tiered, guided self discovery approach, but often there is little to no more information given. Now, I see this most often with the reload, but it is not exclusive to it. From the holster presentations, sighting the gun, even the grip has been dumbed down so that there is no semblance of any actual technique or skill left. Don’t get me wrong, shooting a gun is simple at its core, but running one fast and accurately is not. Techniques don’t need to be complicated, but they don’t need to be Cro-Magnon simple either. World class shooters like Mike Seeklander and Rob Leatham certainly don’t just “dump the mag and put a new one in really fast” when they are doing a reload. There are nuances like index points, visual patience, even magwell direction that all play into the efficiency of the reload. If you are an instructor doing this, you are not doing your students any favors by dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator for everyone in the class. Anything worth teaching a student is worth teaching properly.

Please follow and like us:

The Safety Engaged Reload: ILE

A.J. teaching carbine for potential PSD members

A.J. teaching carbine for potential PSD members

by Seth M. Blair

If you know me, you might be shocked to know that I have been running my AR as of late rather than the AK. I’m shocked myself. I started to run it due to demands from work. I’ll never tell anybody, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Particularly the ease of the reloads.

Reloads on the AR are like taking candy from a baby after running the AK for so long. In the hopes of making it even more of a walk in the park, I installed a BAD Lever from Magpul on my gun. The BAD Lever extends the bolt release down and through the trigger guard to the right side of the gun. This allows the bolt release to be manipulated without having to shift your hands. This means I can lock it open during a malfunction (although the Daniel gun hasn’t had a single one in close to 5,000 rounds) or drop the bolt with my trigger finger. Dropping the bolt for the reloads is nice, but the real draw I have to it is the ability to lock the bolt open with my trigger finger.

Reloads with the BAD, are quite smooth. By working the release of the bolt with my trigger finger, rather than my support side thumb, I am able to send my support hand back to the end of the gun a split second sooner. This may not seem like much, and it isn’t when it is looked at alone. We must remember that running a gun well is nothing more than faster times to good hits. Whether it is in competition, or combat. If I can shave a tenth of a second from my reload, I’ll take it, especially if I am able to shave a tenth off of other skills along with it. A tenth here, a tenth there and now you’re saving a second. Side note for the combative side of things: There are some instructors who say: There is no timer in a gunfight. I’ve gotta call bullshit on that one. There is absolutely a timer. Except instead of a beep/buzz for your par time, it’s the report of a gun. If his goes bang sooner than yours, you don’t make the par. Chances are, you’ve been shot. You were not accurate enough, fast enough. Okay rant over.

The first range session I did with my Daniel Defense, AJ encouraged me to activate the safety before I initiated the reload. I of course scoffed at this, and continued to not do it. It seemed like an unwanted step in an already relatively slow process. We discussed this idea at length over the next couple days, and I began to come around to the idea.

He pointed out the known issue of the AR sometimes slam-firing as the bolt drops onto a fresh round. I was aware of this, but figured it wasn’t that big of a deal because I follow gun safety laws. One of them being: Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy. He then brought up the idea of working in a multi-level structure. Let’s say I’m on the bottom floor, and I have unknowns upstairs. Or friendlies. I perform a reload, it slam fires! Or, more likely, during the reload my finger slips off the BAD lever and I land on the trigger. I just put a round through my ceiling, their floor. Oops. Sorry innocent bystander/buddy. Now, it is not a guarantee that the safety will prevent it from slam firing, but it sure can’t hurt. Even after all of this deliberation, and appeal to my sensibilities, I was still unsure.

I decided it was time to put it to the test under dry fire. I got set up for some rifle drills, and began my research to see if I could run the safety and still have a respectable time. After the warm up, I got the old timer fired up. First string on the timer, I rushed myself. Timers have a weird way of making it seem like the world depends on this one drill, and this is especially true when there is a par involved. In my rush, my finger slipped from the BAD Lever. Can you guess where it went? The trigger. The bolt had already closed by the time my booger hooker mashed the bang switch, and I heard the click of the hammer.

Boom. That settled it. I was a convert. Right then, right there. Since then, I have been running the safety when I perform a reload. Is it as fast as it would be without the safety? Probably not. But, I now have less concern about sending a round to a place it shouldn’t be. This is something I highly encourage all of you to incorporate into your skills. It isn’t easy to break old habits, but sometimes they are worth breaking.

Seth M. Blair

Please follow and like us:

The Squatch!!!


Here’s a new drill for you guys to shoot this week/weekend. In honor of one of our instructors, and the inventor of this drill, “Sethsquatch,” I give you… The Squatch!!! Here’s what it looks like:

Distance: Starting at 10 yards (Increase for more difficulty)

Target: USPSA or IDPA

Drill/Exercise: Draw and fire one round to the head, two rounds to the body, one round to the head, perform a reload (slide lock or speed, shooters choice), then reengage with one round to the head, two rounds to the body, and one round to the head.

PAR: 6.00 (Decrease/Increase PAR as necessary for your current skill level)

And there you have the “Squatch” drill. This one forces you to switch gears and focus points throughout the course of fire, drawing to a smaller hit zone, moving to a larger zone, and back and forth. To get your time and your hits you really need to be moving on this one. Take it out to the range this weekend, play with it, and tell us what you think! Now, grab your gear and go shoot!

Please follow and like us:

PPT Interviews Frank Proctor!

As those of you who follow us on Facebook (Practical Performance on Facebook) know, I (A.J.) had a chance to head down and shoot with my buddy Frank Proctor a few weeks ago. It was a good weekend, one day of carbine and one day of pistol. Frank graciously filmed a short Q&A video with me about performance shooting and training as he saw it. There’s a lot of good information in this video, some of which is very subtle. You can find it on the PPT YouTube Channel and while you’re there go ahead and subscribe to it! There are tons of new videos coming, to include an awesome Q&A with my good friend The Yeti, Steve Fisher. Stay tuned for a bunch of new content as well as some info on courses and guys joining the Practical Performance team. Now, grab your gear and go shoot!

Please follow and like us:

Shot Show 2016!

Shot Show 2016

Shot Show 2016

We’re packing up and heading to the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas! We’ll be bouncing around the floor from Tuesday until Thursday. If you see us, say hi!!! Door all those going, have a great show!

Please follow and like us:

Willing to bet your life on it?


Press checking, sometimes called chamber checking, has been coming up a fair amount lately so I figured we should talk a bit about it. Let me start by saying that I am a HUGE proponent of press checking, as well as checking the magazine capacity in certain instances.

Press checking is the act of pulling back on the slide or bolt of a firearm slightly to see whether or not a round is chambered. There are many different variations of the press check, some grabbing the front cocking serrations of the slide, some the rear, some touching the brass of the cartridge, etc. Many have merit, and some are just stupid and unsafe (the “Steven Seagal” method). Generally, it seems most instructors are either all for it or totally against it, with no middle ground in between.

The guys that say “Don’t do it” often flock to the flawed logic of “you should know the condition of your weapon.” While as professional shootists this sounds good and all, but it’s not a reality. While I sleep, my carry gun sits loaded in the drawer next to me. When I wake up, I take a shower and then get dressed. From the time I go to sleep to the time I get dressed, the gun is essentially out of my control. There are others that live in my house who have access to my firearms if needed. When I get dressed, I don’t just pick up the gun, take for granted it’s loaded and has a full magazine and go about my day. That seems like a less than smart move to me. I want, no, I NEED to be sure of what’s going on with this gun. Saying “you should know the condition of your firearm” in this instance is silly and I don’t buy it.

“But when training…” I normally hear this argument/phrase on the range. “When you’re training, you should know the condition of your firearm.” If I’m about to shoot a drill or exercise, I like to press check (I also almost always include a mag check as well). There is little training value in a six round exercise if the gun goes to slide lock after the second round unless I’m practicing unknown slide lock reloads. When you’re shooting, practicing, going from live to dry fire all day, it can be pretty easy to walk up to the line, draw to fire that six round drill and get a click, only to realize that while you had a full magazine in place there was no cartridge chambered. It happens, and it happens often and to everyone at some point. Anyone that says otherwise either doesn’t practice much or probably underestimates the usefulness of dry fire.

There are times however, that press checking is inappropriate. I have been on ranges where press checking became overkill. Ex: I was once told that after a slide lock reload, I should press check to make sure the round chambered and then engage as necessary… Definitely does not pass the common sense test. This was a new instructor who appeared to be regurgitating information, hopefully incorrectly. After a tactical reload with time and opportunity, maybe, but definitely not after a slide lock (also known as EMERGENCY) reload.

Another argument against the press check I have heard on multiple occasions is that it will cause malfunctions, specifically out of battery malfunctions. Ummm, no. Improper press checking may cause a malfunction, just as improper finger placement while re-holstering may cause a negligent discharge. To me, a proper press check ends with ensuring the slide/bolt is back in its locked position. Don’t crucify a technique because you execute it incorrectly or in a less than ideal way.

“So when should I press check?” Great question! I am almost thinking of doing an entire segment on this, but here’s some quick guidance:
– When administratively loading the gun, whether right before a stage or carrying for the day
– After a tactical reload, given time and opportunity and if you see value in it
– Any time the gun has been out of your control (gee, it’s almost like there’s a safety rule in there somewhere…)
– Any time you are unsure about the condition of the firearm (Common sense test applies. If you loaded the gun in the morning, put it in your holster, and carried it all day, its condition has not changed. No need to press check in the bathroom of Taco Bell.)

Proper press checking is an asset, not a detriment to a shooter. When you strap that smoke wagon on in the morning, you are betting your life that it is loaded and ready to use if needed. For me, I’m going to make absolutely sure it’s got a fully loaded magazine and a round in the tube. It’s only your life or the lives of your family, so choose wisely. Now go grab your gear and get practicing!

Please follow and like us:

Compete to Improve


25 May 2015 271

The question of using competitive shooting to improve your combative shooting abilities comes up a fair bit in conversations and classes. The main questions tend to be which is more realistic and which is better for practicing for the “real” world. The answer: None…and all. Let me briefly address some of the thoughts.

“IDPA is designed for proper concealed carry and will teach you what you should do in the real world.”

FALSE! IDPA is a game. Yes, when IDPA was founded it was based in somewhat realistic scenarios with somewhat acceptable ideas (as was IPSC). Then the game took over. The game had to be fair, so they made all guns that could carry more than ten rounds downgrade their magazines to carry 10+1 rounds (other than 1911’s in .45). Guns became plastic, wheel guns and 1911’s fell out of fashion, so they made more divisions with more rules. Some of the founders believed their way was/is THE way, which means all shooters had to carry their guns and mags the way THE FOUNDERS said was right. Competitors had to use what the founders believed were good tactics, even if they didn’t pass the common sense test. And with the most recent evolution of the rule book released earlier this year, these well intentioned though misguided rules continue to be implemented. Here’s a nasty secret: Gunfights have no hard and fast rules. The best shooter doesn’t always win. The best mindset doesn’t always win. You don’t always need cover. You can reload wherever and whenever you want, whether it’s smart or not! And sometimes, speed IS your security. IDPA has far to many “Our way or no way” rules to be considered remotely realistic. But, it does have some merit as well. Without the major and minor scoring systems present in other sports, you can be extremely competitive with your carry 9mm without being behind the curve to those shooting .40 or .45. The accuracy standard (heavy time penalties for hits not in an 8″ circle) I find to be far better than the point system used by USPSA, where at distance it may be more beneficial to shoot fast and sacrifice an A-zone hit for some less than ideal hits. (NOTE: This does exist in IDPA, where it can be better to shoot fast than accurate, but it appears to be more prevalent in USPSA.) While I do like the USPSA target better, there is much to be said about the standardized time scoring of IDPA. The risk vs. reward of shooting a less than ideal hit seems far more prevalent in IDPA. At the lower to middle level of shooter, this is extremely noticeable in the cadence of fire and overall times of the competitor. At the higher levels, not so much as they are generally not only the fastest but also the most accurate (a common misconception amongst many IDPA purists). The higher level shooters didn’t get to that level by being fast alone.

“That IPSC/USPSA stuff will get you killed on the streets!”

FALSE! One of the best things about USPSA is that it leaves almost all of the stage planning to the shooter. You generally can reload where and when you want to, shoot from where you want to, and move when and where you want to. You don’t have to shoot the gun to slide-lock, but you can. You don’t have to use cover, but you can. You don’t have to use a concealment garment, but you can. That’s the beauty of USPSA, it’s all up to you as the shooter! I have, on more than one occasion, shot USPSA from AIWB under a polo with my carry gun. I used cover where it made sense, shot to slide-lock where it made sense, shot on the move when it made sense. It’s all what YOU make of it. I also have to applaud USPSA for picking up where IDPA failed, with the addition of the Production Optics Division. There are a fair number of individuals carrying Glocks, M&P’s, and 1911’s with mini-red dots (MRD’s) on them. Glock, FN, and S&W are all making production guns capable of accepting slide mounted MRD’s. Whether you like them or not, it’s a viable thing and needs a place outside of “Open” division to compete. IDPA had the opportunity to add it, someone said “I don’t feel those are a good tactical choice” so they are accepted no where in the sport. This is unfortunate. But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for USPSA either. It is easy to start shooting USPSA with combative techniques in mind and quickly get wrapped up in the game. If you’re going to shoot the game then shoot the game. If you’re there to shoot a match to test your combative pistol techniques, then make sure you keep that in mind. It may not sound like it, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for IDPA. It was the first shooting sport I ever took part in. I hold multiple Master ratings in it, and will continue to shoot it regularly. It’s a good time with generally well intentioned individuals, though sometimes strongly misguided (we’ve all seen them and they’re in every aspect of the industry, though their presence is strong in IDPA). That all being said, if I had to choose one sport that was available almost everywhere, where I could really test my combative application of the pistol, it would have to be USPSA. This has just been a brief snippet of the two most prevalent sports. Later on, I’ll share some of my ideas with you on some lesser known sports, what they’re good for, and even some ideas on how to set up your own combative shooting sport. Now, go grab your EDC gear, some ammo, and get out there and shoot!

Please follow and like us: