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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Memento Mori : Negative Visualization Practice

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff

Here’s another non-firearm related post on this firearms blog. I’ve been going through some hard times and this stuff is on my mind. I’m writing it out to share what has worked for me, and I’m hoping if you work through this post, you might come out more joyful.

This post is the result of watching my social media feeds, and constantly being in awe at the lack of perspective that I see people have regarding what real problems are. My ‘real problems’ scale is pretty well adjusted, and it’s one of the gifts that having cancer gave me at an early age. I understand pretty well what real problems are, and day to day life struggles don’t trouble me too much.

That lesson is irrelevant to you unless I can help you put your things in perspective to calibrate your ‘real problems’ scale without giving you a life-threatening disease or injury. I’m going to attempt that with this post.

I’m hoping this post will help you understand a few things for yourself:

  1. Things aren’t that bad
  2. It can always get worse (but it’s currently not)
  3. Create a distilled understanding of what makes you, you.

We throw around terms like ‘first world problems’ when we talk about our Wi-Fi dropping while we’re watching a movie or Starbucks being closed when we’re looking for a cappuccino. The issue I see is that people generally have so few real issues, that they confuse their day to day hiccups as real problems, and don’t realize how well things are actually going (even when some things are going a bit bad). So let’s work a two step process and we can calibrate ourselves.

Distilling down your identity

This is a useful thought experiment that Dr. William Aprill discussed with me when I was beating myself up while I was having trouble walking and using my hands from Chemo-induced neuropathy. I was feeling sorry for myself because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to shoot guns again and certainly wouldn’t return to being athletic by any definition of the word. He asked me to figure out what, “makes Mark, Mark.” So I did what he suggested and thought through what, at minimum, I am. What would I have to lose before I would no longer identify as Mark. Here’s how that thought experiment looked.

Am I still me if I lose…:

  • my 500 lb deadlift?
  • my successful career?
  • a flush bank account and investments?
  • my ability to train in combat sports?
  • my family?
  • my ability to stand up for more than 30 minutes before I hurt too much?
  • my ability to consistently remember where I left my keys?
  • my ability to breath without mechanical assistance?
  • my functioning organs?
  • my ability to remember my families faces/names?

You get the idea. I ultimately identified my line in the sand. Your homework is to think through a list of things you generally self-identify with, and pick out the line past which you will no longer be yourself. This is not easy, and might be uncomfortable. Spend a minute to do that now.

You now have the lowest rung in your ladder defined. You have looked past the walls your ego puts up to define yourself and dug down to what you actually are. What makes you, you. If you’re going through some trouble in life, as long as you haven’t been pushed past that line, you still have your identity. You can still be you.

Negative Visualization

The second part of this post will take a page from the Stoics. The technique is called Negative Visualization. It’s the practice of spending a small block of time imagining scenarios where you undergo profound loss of things you value most. The goal is to put yourself in your nightmare scenario for a short time (3-10 minutes), then when your meditation time is over you may realize that everything in our lives is ‘on loan’ and worth cherishing. Even the mundane things. It will brighten your heart. It will also teach you that things could definitely get worse, but they aren’t at the moment. That’s another thing to celebrate.

If things are currently going rough for you, spend your mediation time thinking about how it could be worse. You’ll find you can always imagine a way to make it worse, and you’ll be thankful that it’s not that bad yet. Our constant adaptation to our circumstances can trick us. This exercise will force perspective in a powerful way.

Here’s some examples:

  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a house
  • Loss of a child
  • Major health crisis
  • Major health crisis of a loved one
  • Loss of bodily function
  • Breakup of a family
  • Your own death

The only thing you have absolute control over is how you think about your circumstances. Everything else includes an element of chance outside of your control, and letting that ruin your mood is wasted energy. This is, of course, easier said than done. It’s a constant process of course correction.

Everything, up to and including our ability to breath, is a fleeting magical gift from infinity. If something is taken from you, be thankful that you had the opportunity to enjoy it. We’re going to be OK.

Thanks,

Mark

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The Keychain Flashlight and OC Combo

I’ll go on a limb and say you have people in your life who you love and who don’t want to be victimized, but they won’t carry a pistol (or pocket a flashlight, or Pepper Spray, or a knife, or Medical gear, etc). What do you do for these people? Explain their inevitable victimization in a WalMart parking lot and wish them luck? Write them off because they have a different moral compass, or because they’re lazy, or have a different lifestyle that precludes being inconvenienced by extra ‘stuff’? Would you write off your family if they wouldn’t follow this path exactly as you have?

I hope not. I hope you treat your friends, families, and clients as individuals and respect their lifestyle and moral decisions. I have several of these in my life (most of my people in meat-space in fact) who either can’t be bothered, lack the confidence in their skills, or are too lazy to carry a firearm or individual self defense tools. Even if I can get them to drop a light and OC in their purse, I know for a fact that they don’t have both of them out while they push their shopping cart through a dark parking lot.

I couldn’t write my people off because I was dealing with my mom, sister, and wife. They all understand and practice ‘mindset’ skills like avoiding task fixation in public, identifying alternate emergency exits, work M.U.C. skills in roll play to preserve space and get deselected, watch hands, and on and on. I only mention it to prevent someone saying, “No tool in an unwilling person’s hands will do a bit of good.” My girls have that.

I have two paths I can follow: Convince them to organize their life around cumbersome gear, or use clever gear to make it so they don’t have a choice. The first option requires that several things line up in a way that I’ve failed to do in 13 years or so. The latter only needs me to find the right gear that meets my needs of effective, reliable, and usable.

The Ideal Tactic (as I see it)

As you are about to push your cart out of the front doors, stop and:

  • Get your keys out of your purse/pocket
  • In your off-hand, palm your self defense light
  • In your strong hand, palm your Sabre Red Pepper Spray (OC)
  • Look out through the front glass to observe the space you’re about to enter
  • walk out the doors, and do a 3-5 second halt to scan the parking lot and along the building to the corners
  • Proceed to car, look into the car  and around the car
  • Load Groceries, taking a break every few bags to lift their head and do a quick scan to see who’s new, and where people are moving
  • Return cart to corral
  • Get in car, start car without delay, and get in drive (no instagram updates)

The Compromise

So that’s basically fantasy land for me. So I’ll use cunning to not give them a choice about having their tools at hand. Here’s my current best solution for my people:

  • The NITECORE TINI 380 Lumens. Rechargeable, Bright, Keyfob light. A super floody light that is only just bigger than those little disposable pinch LEDs. It’s not combat grade, but it’s not cumbersome and puts out enough light to see hands and beltlines at WalMart parking lot distances. It’s also $30.

  • The Sabre Red Gel key chain flip-top unit with inert trainer and target. This give you a robust and more leak-proof flip-top thumb activated unit in a key-chain size. It’s a bit bigger than those spitfire units that are now discontinued, but the spray quality is much higher on this unit. Sabre Red is HOT at 1.33% MCC (more on OC here). The Gel formulation has its advantage in semi-confined space like vehicles, or in buildings where you don’t want to flood an HVAC system with aerosol pepper spray. It takes a little longer to start burning, and can’t be aspirated as easily, but it still has a place. They also make stream configurations in this package, which I’m interested in.

PRoblem solved, problem staying solved

Now we’ve attached a seeing tool, with a force option, with the keys. We spent less than $50. If we can convince them to dig this mess out before they leave the store, there is no reason to be task fixated digging for keys in front of a locked car, there won’t be a panic at someone emerging from a dark corner to cause trouble, and there will be an option to take away an aggressor’s will to fight by impairing their vision and breathing. That’s enough to make the bad guys look for greener pastures. That’s a win.

Training

The great thing about the Live/Inert combo pack I linked above, is that it gives you a paper target to practice with the inert spray. So take your loved one through some basic MUC exercises. Practice footwork, the fence hand posture, verbalization and their verbal tape-loop, up to painting the guy orange. They get a feel for realistic range and the need to aim and how to aim.

How to convince them to buy?

Sometimes you can’t. I’ve been slowly outfitting my family with useful self defense skills and items. When it’s my birthday, I often give my family a shopping list of useful items I want them to buy for themselves as my present. This is the only way I can get them to invest some money in this stuff. Otherwise I just buy gear for them when they’re in town.

Mother’s day is coming up and it might be worth outfitting your mom and/or wife with something other than a card and some chocolate.

PS: These are the same principles I use, but with a handheld light and key-chain OC. Gun folks should have intermediate force options as well.

Thanks for taking the time to check in,

Mark

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