AAR: Point Driven Training – Saps and Jacks 2018

This was an eight hour course on the history, and contextual implementation of short impact weapons. It was hosted at The Complete Combatant in Marietta, Ga. This course was magical in several ways and is a must take if you really dig leather and lead self-defense tools. I loved it because it deals with an arcane, but extremely effective, self defense implement. Larry Lindenman is a friend and mentor to me, and I’ve been reading and training with him since 2008 or so. It also was full of great trainers and practitioners, including Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, who I also consider a dear friend. It was a hell of a Saturday. Here’s a breakdown.

What is a Sap,Blackjack, or slungshot?

I’m not a historian on these tools, but I can give you a quick rundown on their construction. Here’s a recently published book on the history of these tools and their use if you’re interested in that. They were first documented in the 1700’s as a sailor’s tool made of pigskin and stuffed with sand used for some sort of impact duty on a ship. I guess they also realized you could get in a drunken brawl with them and they would work well as an impact weapon. They were flattened out and became saps in the 1940’s. They evolved,were perfected, and used to good effect up through the 1980’s when they fell out of favor.

Unlike a knife, which deals no ballistic impact, a sap can deal a real immediate physiological stop. They also don’t cause someone to bleed their loathsome blood-borne pathogens all over you when used in a fight (H/T The Tactical Professor for that point)

Sap

A sap is a flattened lead weight wrapped in leather, often with a strap for retention. The sap is easily carried next to the wallet in the back pocket, with enough material outside the pocket to acquire a grip and access. It has the advantage of two impact surfaces. You can choose to hit with the flat, or the edge, giving options in severity of damage depending on targeting. Saps are my preference.

Jack

A blackjack is a cylindrical impact tool, usually with a spring running through the grip, and a lead weight cast onto the head, all wrapped up in leather. They’re harder to carry daily, but their sprung weight makes them extremely potent when striking.

slungshot

A slungshot is some sort of weight, with a rope-like handle. Think a handkerchief tied around the hasp of a padlock. You choke your grip right up next to the weight, and swing it like that. Otherwise it bounces all over the place and can smash your face after you strike.

The Contextualized Self-Defense Approach

I’m not ruining any of the magic of working with Larry (or any Shivworks instructor) because the magic isn’t in the information, but in doing the work. You’ll quickly notice themes in any Shivworks instructor’s material. This is by design, and for simplicity. A clear path, with simple rules and goals, yields a high retention and success rate. That’s the elegance of the model these guys use.

The instruction progresses in a logical manner, with each following phase resulting from some failure of the previous phase. The coursework progresses from the managing unknowns phase which includes verbalization, movement, and the use of the fence hand posture.

The “fence” position, as taught by Geoff Thompson

It then moves to a default cover position which is a non-diagnostic ‘helmet’ that helps you stay upright and conscious as a surprise attack is launched on you.

Here, Craig Douglas demonstrates the default cover position against Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives during the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. Photo Credit: Cecil Burch

Then comes the grappling phase, where some simple modifications to proven sport grappling techniques address the possibility of your opponent having his own weapons.  The goal is to get behind or tie up your opponent long enough to decide what to do next.

For this course, it was to access an impact tool and begin striking. It could also be accessing a pistol, a knife, or a throw to hit your opponent with the earth. The path is the same, no matter the tool you’re carrying. This is the power of this ‘system’ if you want to call it that.

After this worst-case scenario of having to access the tool in the fight, we worked on preemptive access, which is a whole lot easier.

Where and How to Strike?

While these are considered “less-lethal tools”, it’s really easy to deal a deadly blow with one, so some training is needed. The temple, base of skull, and possibility of a knock-out and secondary impact with the head bouncing off the pavement could certainly be deadly. We learned how to generate power through our hips and deliver blows in short arcs. The space needed to implement the tools is different than a blade or gun, so we worked those skills.

We concentrated on targeting large muscle groups, joints, clavicle, ribs, arms, thighs. We learned both broken strikes (think a piston pumping), and carry-through strikes (think slashes that set up strikes in the opposite direction).

Training Drones for practice

My New Foster Brother’s Sap

The Foster Brothers are the gold standard for leather saps and jacks today. I took a picture of one of Larry’s saps, and asked Todd to make one for me. It arrived yesterday and I’m very pleased. I don’t know what model sap it is, I’m glad I took a photo to send with my request. FOSTER IMPACT DEVICES

Tidbits

  • Don’t waste your money on a ‘coin purse’ sap. Everyone (TSA, cops, etc) knows what it is, and coins aren’t really dense enough to add meaningful weight for your strikes.
  • Why not brass-knuckles? Simply put, access. A blackjack can be accessed in-fight like a fixed blade knife and be put right into action. Knucks require you to put 4 fingers in 4 finger sized holes. Knucks are more of a pre-meditated and preemptive impact tool.
  • It’s legal for GA residents to carry an impact weapon, you should check for your state before you buy/make your own.
  • Quick and Dirty history of jacks and saps
  • The LAMB method full text document HERE
Great Success!
Me, Larry Lindenman, Greg Ellifritz


Craft Holsters Review and Holster Thoughts

I was sent this holster free of charge with the intent to review it honestly. I'm happy to check out your gear. Just don't be surprised if I let people know the good AND the bad.

A company called Craft Holsters contacted me about testing one of their holsters a few months ago. They boast 250 different holster options! I think what they do is have many holster makers under their banner. The holster I received even has another company etched into it. The Rep was kind enough to give me free choice of any holster on their website (including with monograms! ). I scoured the site and was having trouble finding anything that looked like it fit my criteria. I talked with their rep, telling them how several of their holsters seemed pretty close to sufficient, but all were lacking one or several requirements I had. I even wrote a list detailing what could be fixed about their holsters to make them useful for people who actually carry their guns.

I looked through their catalog with the hopes to find a leather 0-degree cant holster for my Beretta 92A1 that would work for appendix carry. I found one they make that most closely fit the bill. I mentioned to them that I wouldn’t buy this holster, but if they wanted me to choose one, this was it. I have been struggling with, I mean *using*, their holster all summer and here’s my thoughts.

My “Ideal Holster” Criteria

  • Must allow full firing grip (FFG) in holster
  • Must cover trigger guard and not allow trigger press through body of holster
  • Must allow one handed holstering (mouth of holster must not collapse under belt pressure)
  • Must retain pistol sufficiently for my needs. (if I can do some handstands without the gun falling out, I’m happy)
  • Sufficient comfort and concealment for my needs

The Good

  • Leather is more comfortable than kydex. So the material was a good choice. It’s also pretty, for what that’s worth.
  • Tuckable leather belt loop allowed the gun to move with my body. This increased comfort but made concealment poor.
  • Retained gun well. I was doing handstands, cartwheels, and chasing my son around parks all summer and the gun stayed put.
  • Reasonably good ride height. FFG was no problem.
  • Holster covers trigger, albeit “lazily”. A small flap of leather hovers over the opening, leaving the space behind the trigger open. Given time, sweat, and use, I fear it might create an unsafe condition. Like this guy’s leather rig.

The Bad

  • Uses a standard snap on the belt loop. There is no excuse for a holster maker NOT to use a pull-the-dot style directional snap. The ability to unsnap the holster as you’re clearing your cover garment is an immediate no-go. They need to fix this. I was accidentally unsnapping it during the draw in dry- and live-fire.
  • Poor concealment. I understand I’m spoiled with excellent concealment holsters, but the floppy leather belt loop allows the butt of the pistol to stick out from my body more than I’m comfortable with. The leather loop itself is quite thick also. I believe they could fix this with a hardware adjustment and perhaps integrating something like a Tuck-Strut into their design.
  • The mouth of the holster is single-ply, and consequently collapses when the gun is removed. This will only get worse with wear. At minimum they need a second ply of leather, but more ideally they need to sew in a steel or kydex band that will add structure to the mouth of the holster to allow one handed holstering. When a holster collapses, it requires you to use the muzzle to try to finesse the holster open, which often puts the muzzle in an unsafe direction as you rock it back and forth.

Conclusion

What does a good holster look like? Here’s an example of the Excellent JM Custom Kydex AIWB 2.5 holster.

I gave the Craft Holsters rig a fair shake this summer. I wore it daily and on a couple long road trips. I wouldn’t recommend it in its current configuration. I think it could be reworked into something useful, but it would increase the cost and complexity. In a world of uninformed gun owners, and being able to mass market easily to them, I don’t think most companies would be interested in improving their designs for people who actually carry a gun every day. To be fair, I haven’t given any feedback to Craft Holsters, so I’m not sure what they’d do. My guess is they’ll say ‘thanks for your time’ and go to the next thirsty blogger who wants free shit. I’ll update this post if they surprise me.

There are trade-offs in holster design. There is some sort of Speed, Comfort, Concealment, Safety, Robustness interaction chart that I haven’t worked out. But everything is a compromise.

This, kids, is how I remove myself from the list of blog gear reviewers that companies try to use to get exposure. I’m making myself irrelevant one review at a time! I’m sorry for my lack of posts, it’s been a busy summer being Daddy Day Care. I’ll be writing more in the coming months.

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Gear Review: 3M Hearing Protection with Bluetooth connectivity

I wanted to do a quick review of a really useful piece of kit that I bought just a few weeks ago.

There is nothing more useful for firearms training than amplified hearing protection like Peltors or Howard Leights. You can hear the instructor give range commands and speak without yelling to your classmates.

However, they were all but useless on indoor ranges when I practice on my own. I found that if I had them powered on, they wouldn’t detect and filter all of the shots in the range, and would actually amplify shots from distant lanes. I ultimately just turned them off, which means earplugs or plain muffs are just as good. Not to mention that I couldn’t hear the par timer on the Shot Timer app on my phone.

I had a small moment of clarity when I searched to see if there was standard hearing protection with Bluetooth connectivity. Sure enough, 3M has a set for under $50. I bought them and I couldn’t be happier.

  • They have good hearing protection
  • They are about the same size as regular muff-style hearing protection
  • They are USB rechargeable, with over a workday’s worth of battery life
  • They have a simple one-button interface
  • They allow me to use my phone apps and hear my par timer
  • I can play my own soundtrack while I shoot. I have been enjoying the 007 theme song… 🙂
  • They also allow me to rock out when I’m mowing the grass or blowing leaves

That’s it. Try these out if you often find yourself at indoor ranges with the unwashed masses and are frustrated with your tactical headphones.

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Guest Post: Progress, Stagnation, and Helping Your People

This is a guest post from my close friend Scott which was spurred by some conversations we had about stagnation, frustration, and moving past training plateaus. We have been discussing being truly helpful to those who come to us for advice and support. Scott is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a dedicated multidisciplinary self-defense practitioner. He walks the walk. He had great thoughts on the subject, so I just asked him to write something for you guys. Here it is.

 

A post shared by Mark L (@growingupguns) on

Negative Self Talk

Sometimes we get into our own heads. Sometimes we let people get into them who don’t belong there.

I recently was awarded my brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and even though most folks in the know would likely say that at this point I wouldn’t have a problem doing just fine in most jiu-jitsu schools, there are plenty if times when I feel like I have no business tying a jiu-jitsu belt on at all. This is me, introducing doubt that I know isn’t real but still takes a bunch of time to move past. The thing that helps me is talking to my coaches and training partners about these things and being reassured that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That’s how a team or tribe is supposed to behave. To support each other, particularly when a member comes to you basically saying “I need help.” Sometimes it’s just a 2 minute pep talk, and sometimes we need hands-on, direct assistance with an issue. I’ve been fortunate to have a great jiu-jitsu training environment that provides that type of support in spades.

YOU’RE NOT HELPING

Having given an example of the ideal situation, let’s examine its opposite. What’s really unfortunate is that this opposite is a common thing. If we’re really interested in seeing the people who we would consider our friends, family, tribe members, etc., grow then this opposite needs to be addressed.

If you’ve ever told someone to simply just –
Be faster
Be stronger
Squeeze harder
Lose weight
Read more
Suck it up

…or any variant of the above, with no offer of actual assistance to the person asking, outside of those “recommendations”, you are far more of a hindrance than help and you probably should have abstained from commenting. Captain Obvious doesn’t have a seat at the table here.

what you owe your peers

Most folks who would have read this far are on some type of personal journey towards betterment in any number of varied pursuits. If we mean to make our individual selves better, to be a greater service to the whole, at some point we’re going to need some help in one way or another. If we’re smart, we’ll ask for it. If our people are truly our people, they’ll offer up their help and make good on that offer. That last part can become a rarity. Life happens to all of us, but if you say you’ll be there, move mountains. Don’t be that guy. Honor and Loyalty are real things that actually hold weight with your peers. If you don’t take yours seriously, the ones who do will have a hard time taking you seriously.

Also, on helping people… If you know someone is working towards something, let them know that you notice that. Not with criticism or resistance, but with positive pressure. Proclaiming “that’s stupid” to someone who didn’t ask (outside of a safety issue) is pretty rude and inconsiderate. I don’t enjoy being rude and inconsiderate to the people that I trust and care about and I’d bet they don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of it. Particularly if they are doing work that you aren’t doing. Don’t like lifting weights? That’s fine, but don’t dump on someone who does or ask them to skip a workout for sit-around-and-do-nothing time. If what a person is doing is important to them and will lead them to being a happier person, you should be a borderline cheerleader for them.

Dressing up for the part is on you, but a text or phone call saying, “how was it this week?” can go a long way towards helping your people stay on track. This appears to especially be an issue with significant others. I’ve seen way too many times one person wanting to pursue a goal and the other half of the relationship putting the brakes on it through complaining or resisting the idea. If you do that, you are hands-down being a prick. Stop that. Your selfish tendencies are preventing what is supposed to be one of the people you care for the most from realizing their goals or seeking out their own happiness are absolutely zero help in what is very likely an already strained relationship. We can’t make each other happy, but we should get out of the way when one of our people are making moves to find their own happiness. If it’s a training partner that is thinking about picking up a new routine, going to a new gym, taking classes with a different instructor, reading a new author, or trying a different diet, support them. Let your people know that you support them. Confidence breeds competence, and in turn competence breeds greater confidence.

If you happen to be a winner of the genetic lottery, try to be patient with those of us who aren’t. That’s not to say that those blessed individuals aren’t working, but the fact is that some things come easier to some than they do others. Just because a person doesn’t have sub-.25sec splits on a shot timer, hasn’t lost all of those 50lbs, can’t run an 8 minute mile, or doesn’t have a 2.5x bodyweight deadlift doesn’t mean that they’re not working, either. If you want to help folks, volunteer to actually show up and help. Just giving one sentence’s worth of criticism over the internet doesn’t really help anyone at all and kind of makes you look like a douchebag to the rest of the readers.

If the goal is to grow your family, team, or tribe, making sure that they not only know that they belong there, but are made to belong there through the shared efforts of the group is a good idea.

If you are one of those people like the rest of us – keep plugging away. Don’t let yourself talk you into quitting and definitely don’t let outside voices lead you off course. Find good people who like what they do and are good at what they do to surround yourself with.

“It’s not the critic who counts….” – Teddy Roosevelt

Scott F.

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