2020 Spring/Summer Garden Review

This mega-post will be a 20,000 foot overview of my gardening experiments from this year. I’m writing it as a single post that you can bookmark to remind yourself what you want to try next year (or even this winter). Early in March 2020, when my MMA gym closed, I needed to find something productive to do with my time and energy. I was reasonably sure we’d have supply chain distributions, and have always enjoyed prepping and growing my own food. This was just an excuse to dive into the deep end and see what I could do. As a result, I bought a few chickens, some seeds, and started researching gardening methods that I could try. This post is the culmination of 7 months of learning and note taking. This is only what I’ve tried, and doesn’t touch all available gardening methods.

My History of Gardening: I’m a relatively new gardener. I’ve only tried to grow food for a few seasons in the past and none recently. In fact, I only decided to try again this year when there were supply chain interruptions resulting from Covid.  I had a container garden when I lived in the city that did reasonably well. I live in zone 7b. This year I felt helpless in the world, and so I sought to control what I could physically touch and manipulate, because the rest of the world was obviously outside my control. As was always the case, this year just reminded me. I’ll break it down into sections which will include an explanation of the method,pros and cons of the method, and results. After all that, I’ll post a resources section that will allow you to dig in for yourself and find more details. Here we go!

Methods Attempted and Results


5 gallon, self-watering (bottom watered) containers

I’ve used these 5 gallon bucket self watering planters for about 10 years (off and on as I feel like growing some food). The basic premise is a container with a water reservoir below the growing media, along with an air gap that allows the roots to breathe. There is some sort of ‘wick’ made of either soil or cloth that allows capillary wicking of water up into the soil. You can see that I simply got a food-grade 5 gallon bucket, a 24” segment of PVC, and used milk jugs with holes drilled in it that the PVC rests in as the water/air reservoir.

They usually have a water overflow hole drilled at a level that preserves a given water level and an air gap to make it fool proof. They’re great for small spaces, patios, and for being able to move to find appropriate light conditions or when a frost is coming and they need to be covered or relocated. They can go quite a while without daily watering (up to 2 weeks in my experience) and the process is foolproof. You water into the pipe that passes into the water reservoir, and fill it until water flows from the overfill port.

I had reasonable success with cherry tomatoes, and good success with chili and serrano peppers. I think tomatoes do better with more space for the roots. I will be using this method for herbs and chilis next year, for sure. Soil nutrition is key. I believe the soil I used was lacking adequate nutrition and that held back my production a bit. My chicken composting system will solve that for next year.

Pros:

  • Ease of use/transport, you can follow the sun if you’re not sure how your light tracks
  • Resilient to negligence

Cons:

  • Not enough space for a tomato plant to thrive, does best with hot peppers and herbs.
  • Success depends on soil prep and nutrition.



Straw Bale Gardening:

This was a new one for me. It’s also simple. You get a bale of straw, and condition it with high Nitrogen fertilizer to begin the composting process and prepare it for planting. I failed to properly condition my bales, and it slowed down my production. 

In case you don’t know, the basic premise of composting is piling Brown stuff (carbon source) with Green stuff (nitrogen source, usually green colored plant matter/leaves) and it accelerates the rate of the process of aerobic breakdown of the materials.

With straw bale gardening, you’re buying a brick of carbon in the form of straw, and then watering nitrogen into it over a couple weeks, and then once the hot composting slows down, plant into them.

The relative failure of my straw bale gardening can be directly attributed to improper conditioning of the bale. I didn’t have the high nitrogen pelletized fertilizer (urea or similar), and just planted into the bale. This made for a poor outcome in my strawberries and okra, though my watermelons did well. I’ll give this another shot next year, probably with tomatoes and I’ll see how it goes.

Pros:

  • No permanent structure required.
  • Acts as a raised bed of sorts, keeping management easier.
  • Relatively inexpensive. No beds to build or buckets to buy.
  • At the end of season, you can compost the remaining straw and have rich soil for next season.
  • Builds soil. I planted right on top of my lawn and the soil has been tilled by the worm activity and nutrition has gone into the soil.

Cons:

  • Improper conditioning leaves the straw devoid of nutrition, thus stunting your plants.

Instant Garden/Lasagna Garden:

This one was a big surprise. This method was second best from a production standpoint, and totally free to set up. The process is as follows. Get some discarded cardboard from behind a grocery store or from FB marketplace from someone trying to get rid of moving boxes. Remove tape and labels and lay it down DIRECTLY on top of your existing lawn. On top of that, pile up whatever organic matter you have available. I used magnolia leaves, mulch, grass clippings, and whatever else I could find. Make it about 4-10” thick all the way down and cover it so you can’t see any cardboard.

The cardboard is a biodegradable weed barrier, and the mulch holds water and keeps the plants watered. This also is inviting for worm activity, which leaves worm castings (poop) that is like super fuel for plants. When you’re ready to plant, scrape a little hole in the mulch, punch through the cardboard, and plant your plant. You can drop some rabbit pellets or compost in the holes to give the plants a little early nutrition.

I’m planning out how I’ll do this next year on a larger scale. I don’t have an HOA, so I may turn my whole front yard into a production. I couldn’t believe how well this did. I was able to grow 5 monster okra plants and several squash varieties. All within a 2’x15’ row.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive (free)
  • Simple setup. A 20 foot bed took about 30 minutes to lay out, and that’s because I had to rake leaves for some of that time.
  • Builds soil over time. The compost and cardboard breaks down and the worm activity aerates and feeds the soil.
  • Effective. My front yard here in GA is nothing special, and all of the plants I planted did very well. Your mileage will vary, but I’m confident this will beat opening up a bag of potting soil and planting into that.

Cons:

  • Since it’s on the ground, there’s a lot of pest pressure. I had vine borers kill the squash plants before they were done producing.

Raised Beds:

Raised beds are good for several reasons. They are a clear demarcation for your planting area, allowing easy care and weeding. They are higher so you can service and harvest easily from them. If your soil sucks, you can customize and amend the soil in the raised bed however you want to accommodate what you’re growing. I used garden corner bricks I bought at Lowes. They stack on each other, and allow a piece of rebar to be driven through them to keep them in place. You use untreated 2×6’s cut to desired length to form the beds and then fill with soil. I also encourage you to put cardboard under the bed to discourage weeds. I planted malabar spinach and squash in mine and they have done amazingly well.

Pros:

  • Depending on chosen material they can be reasonably affordable, but you can spend as much as you like.
  • Easier servicing and maintenance due to height
  • Easier garden demarcation
  • Less ground insect pressure, but bugs will still find it

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Easier to do on flat property, my backyard has very few flat sections, otherwise this would probably be my primary method.



Felt Bag/Container Garden:

This method is pretty standard. Buy a bucket (or felt bucket) with drainage holes, fill with soil and compost or nutrients, and plant. I’d say this is sort of the gold standard of gardeners in the suburbs. I also used this method for sweet potatoes and potatoes this year. I even grew corn in a felt container. Herbs and peppers also do well. It’s very similar to the bottom watered (self-watering) 5 gallon buckets, they just need more care because they don’t hold as much water. As with all methods, nutrient and soil health is the biggest key.

Pros:

  • Easy to find buckets and containers
  • No dedicated garden space needed, can be done on a patio or driveway
  • Easy to move or organize

Cons:

  • There can be drainage problems, depending on how you fill the containers
  • Often containers seem to stunt the growth due to lack of root space
  • They dry out much faster than other methods because they’re exposed to the air on the top and sides


Hydroponics (Kratky Method): 

Hydroponics can be expensive and complicated. This method  is decidedly NOT those things. The method was devised by a professor in Hawaii named Dr. Kraky and is as follows. Use a complete hydroponics nutrient blend and fill up an appropriate sized bucket (between a mason jar for lettuce, or a trash can for tomatoes) with the properly mixed solution. Plop a net pot with a seed or plant so that the nutrient just touches the roots. As the solution is absorbed and evaporates, the root structure will grow and ‘chase’ the solution downward. The air gap provides the oxygen so the plant won’t suffocate. No pumps required. It can be done in batches where no additional solution is needed, OR you can create simple float valves to replenish the solution if it gets too low. I didn’t bother with float valves this year, but I may next year.

You can do this method inside or out. I set up a greens growing station in my basement and can sustainably make more lettuce/chard/spinach than my family can eat. All winter long. I also used a tomato sucker in a 32 gallon trash can and it has done extremely well.. I’d say that the kratky method really excels at leafy greens, though.

Pros:

  • Only requires a container, nutrient solution, net pot (or similar)
  • Hands off other than monitoring water level. If you size container appropriately, you won’t need to add any water over the grow
  • No pumps or complicated electronics
  • Indoor or outdoor friendly
  • Small space friendly

Cons:

  • Not sustainable like gardening, because you need nutrient concentrate
  • Not resilient. If the water level goes too low, the plants will die within a couple of hours.
  • Not ideal for fruiting plants without additional components


Check Log Terrace Garden

This is the most recent experiment. Basically, my backyard is very sloped. I wanted to find a way to plant on the hill without renting heavy equipment to build retaining walls, or spending thousands on brick to make terraces. Instead, I drove a series of wooden stakes and rebar every 2-4 feet along the contour line, then rolled a length of 4-6” diameter logs against those stakes. I then backfilled with soil, and then added another stack of logs and backfilled again. Now I have a wooden terrace that I can plant into. I intend to establish perennials like strawberries and biennials like asparagus that will keep the hill from eroding, as well as a rotation of potatoes and garlic over the winter.

So far it is working wonderfully. Once again I am learning the importance of soil nutrition. I filled the beds with the wood chip/chicken poop compost that my chickens have been working all summer. The vigorous growth of the potatoes is showing me how rich that soil is. Thanks chickens!

Pros:

  • If you live on a wooded lot, you can cut logs and the materials are free. If not, check FB marketplace for people who are offering free logs and limbs , and take what you need.
  • Allows planting on an aggressively sloped yard

Cons:

  • Eventually the logs will rot and need to be replaced.

That’s the big overview of 2020’s gardening season. I intend to further break down each method in its own post and share the sources I consulted, as well as the equipment I needed for each. I’ll likely start with the Kratky Hydroponics systems, because you could grow greens in a spare room or basement all winter long.

Thanks for reading!

The Efficiency of Inefficiency for Fat Loss

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently as I begin a new phase of my strength and conditioning. Usually, in sport, we abide by the SAID principle when preparing for an event. The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand principle says that if you want to get better at throwing, you should throw. If you have a power lifting meet, you should be practicing the three lifts. You will specifically adapt to the demands you place on your body. It’s a miracle of evolution and part of why we survive as a species.

This is why when you see a runner run, they look like a gazelle and have perfect control of their breathing and heart rate, but if you put them on a bike, they are uncomfortable and struggling to breath. Runners run, cyclists bike. That all makes sense.

But can it ever be a bad thing? I believe it can. Specifically in the realm of exercise for fat loss and cardiovascular health. If you’ve spent any time in commercial gyms, you have seen it. Think about the chronic cardio folks who endlessly do the elliptical machines and never make progress. They have decided which cardio equipment they prefer, and within about 90 days, their body adapts to the demand, becomes efficient at the motor pattern, and thus requires less metabolic output to maintain a given resistance or speed. This is not preferred for metabolic conditioning.

I notice this when I do a Maffetone LSD (long slow distance) block of training with a heartrate monitor. His protocol is for building a cardio base which will stretch the chambers of the heart and provides more stroke volume per beat of the heart. This will lower your resting heart rate and improve your health. Read more about that here. When doing this kind of training with one kind of cardio, I notice that within a few weeks I have to drastically increase my perceived output to keep my heartrate in the proper zone. This is an observable adaptation. It makes the work less pleasant, more monotonous, and more fatiguing. But there is an easier way!

The answer is inefficiency.

That is, select a novel stimulus every few weeks. Or even several in the same session. By having a long list of options available, you are avoiding adaptation and maintaining novelty. This is inefficient. This is what we want. We want to be the runner who is trying to swim or ride a bike. The person who is interested in general physical preparedness wants to be “bad” at the movement they use for cardio.

So if you feel yourself in a cardio rut, or notice that you aren’t moving towards your goal, might I recommend something you suck at?

Incomplete list of cardio options:

  • Heavy Hands Walks – Using 3-8lb dumbbells in your hands, and some 3-5lb ankle weights and just go for a walk. You might have heard the wisdom that “every pound on your feet is like 5 pounds on your back”. In this case, that’s what we want.
  • Ruck Marching – Put a 10-25lb plate in an old backpack, or get a weight vest and go for a walk.
  • Cycling
  • Walk/Jog/Run
  • Swimming
  • Jump Rope
  • Hitting a heavy bag
  • Kettlebell work/weighted carries
  • Stationary bike
  • Airdyne
  • Stair mill/Stepper
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Shadow boxing/grappling
  • Ground work/ crawling
  • ETC.

This post is specifically about cardio, but the same goal of inefficiency can be extended to strength training too. By the end of completing Dan John’s 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge several years ago, completing the 500 daily swings became ‘easy’. SAID at work. I think that having access to many lifting implements, and rotating their use in a timely way (while avoiding chronic program hopping) will lead to better general conditioning over the long term. Coach Dan John agrees. I can’t recommend his work and programs enough for the generalist athlete. In a similar vein, Louis Simmons’ Conjugate/Concurrent method also leans heavily on this concept.

If you are just getting started in cardio or strength training, then everything you do will be inefficient. Enjoy those noob gains. Everything works, until it doesn’t. Understand your plateau is just a result of millions of years of evolution. Then find something efficiently inefficient to do.

If you need me, I’ll be training for The Fall.

Being inefficient with a 65# weight vest.

Yours in Inefficiency,
Mark

S&W Shield VS Sig P365XL – By the Numbers

I’ve owned a Smith Shield since they were released in 2012. The shield was a game changer and huge upgrade from the other single stack 9mm guns on the market. My Shield replaced the Kel Tec PF9 that I carried in my engineering job in some manner of deep concealment. In the subsequent years, the micro 9 class of guns exploded and many competitors were introduced. None of them really tickled my fancy enough to justify spending my own money on ‘upgrading’.

Enter the Sig P365XL in June of 2019. It offered features that no other micro 9 had been able to deliver on, and features that I qualitatively perceived as worthy of the upgrade. This post will be sort of an evaluation and comparison in features, performance, costs, and a discussion of the intangibles. I’m basically just trying to justify the purchase to myself and you’re along for the ride.

A day of shooting some tests quickly cuts through “feelings” about how a gun performs.

The Guns

The guns I’m comparing are different states of ‘upgraded’. The Sig P365XL is bone stock. The gen 1 Smith Shield has been incrementally upgraded over time and I’ll catalog those upgrades here.

The Sig comes with excellent 3-dot tritium night sights, good grip texture, a usable thumb safety (can be had without), a flared magwell (minimize pinching on mag insert), a flat faced trigger, a factory 15(!) round magazine, and has an optics mounting plate. I paid $525 for mine locally. Most of the online vendors have it for full retail of $575.

SIG SAUER P365XL 9MM OPTIC READY | Brownells

The shield has several upgrades that I have chosen over the years to make it more usable for me. The stock shield is currently $300 if you’re patient or $400 on any other given day. I added some Ameriglo Pro-Glo sights ($73 currently), APEX sear ($40), TALON grip panel ($20) to aid in the bar of soap feel of the gen 1s, Mag Guts +2 spring/follower upgrade gets me 10+1 in the gun ($32). I feel like all of these upgrades get the shield on par with the P365XL. I, of course, paid full MSRP when it came out in 2012, but I wanted to compare these two guns at current pricing. The grand total is $565 ($465 if you’re patient) in 2020. So we have a gun with similar features, a similar size, 68% of the ammo capacity with aftermarket spring and basepad, and costs $10 less ($110 if you find a deal) than the P365XL. So is it worth saving $10 once we look at performance, features, and ergonomics? Let’s see.

S&W M&P Shield 2.0 9mm Pistol With No Safety, Black – 11808

Performance

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I put a lot of weight into numbers. That’s the mechanical engineer in me. It’s also what creates my disdain for most gun reviews. I wrote about that here. When I was doing my Hot-Rod J-frame project, I wanted a good way to quantify the performance improvements that various components would deliver in small revolvers. I wanted a way to compare the important attributes of defensive shooting, at realistic self-defense distances, with enough resolution to see trends.

I wanted to look at several aspects of ‘good shooting’ when it comes to my testing. I’m interested in pure accuracy, without the pressure of time. Pure speed, without a strict pressure of accuracy. Lastly, a blend of speed and accuracy/precision. I wanted to use targets that I could print on my printer. I also wanted to keep the total round count under 50 rounds because ammo is expensive and time is limited.

TEST 1: Pure Accuracy Test

10 shots at 15yds on a B8, no time limit

TEST 2: “5 yard Roundup”

four strings of fire, all at 5 yds, shot on B8, each with a time limit of 2.5 seconds.

Scoring is by the rings on the target for the ten shots, equaling a possible 100 points. Hits off of the ten-inch repair center minus ten each. Late hits are five points are deducted per late shot.

String 1: One Shot From the Holster (I used muzzle on table, support hand high on chest. Copying hand position of the draw since my range doesn’t allow holster work)

String 2: Four Shots From the Ready

String 3: Three Shots From Strong-Hand-Only Ready

String 4: Two Shots From Support-Hand-Only Ready

TEST 3: “HITS SUPER SNUB TEST” – B8 repair center, all shot from low ready

10 Yards – 5 shots in 8 seconds. Two hands

5 Yards – 5 shots in 5 seconds. Two hands

3 Yards – 5 shots in 3 seconds. Strong hand only.

TEST 4: As Fast As Possible – Snubbie Bill Drill

5 shots, 5 yards, on full piece of paper, take average split time.

B8 repair center for you to download:B-8 (1)Download

Results

“Virtually Identical” – Mike Goldberg

I couldn’t ask for a more evenly matched set of scores. For this to be more meaningful, I’d run the tests at least three times, and with at least three different shooters. But I’d wager that we’d see the scores fall very close to each other after all that. Besides, I don’t have any friends to ask to shoot the tests. So let’s just agree that they are *very* similar when it comes to performance. And it’s no wonder as they have a similar sight radius, similar sight picture, similar grip length, and similar trigger feel. They are similar enough that there isn’t much difference in the performance output.

Optics Ready

I’ll be honest. I’ve been waiting to jump on a red dot equipped pistol for the last few years. I was stalling because of rich pricing on the RDS that were quality enough to trust, and because it seemed only full sized striker guns were coming equipped to accept them. I’m not really a striker guy anymore. Nor am I a full sized gun guy much anymore.

This 365XL is sort of a compromise. I’m not happy that it’s a striker gun. But at least it has a usable thumb safety. It is a slim 9 that can be carried in gym shorts. It is an optics ready gun which several companies are making custom slim footprint optics for. It does punch above its weight class in ammo capacity and ‘shootability’. It’s a bigger gun masquerading as a smaller gun. And for me, that was worth trying it out.

As an aside, did you guys hear that SCCY is releasing an optics equipped DAO small 9mm? I hate that I’m interested, but I’m interested.

This soon to be released HOLOSUN 507K is just brilliant and pushed my purchase.

New! Holosun HS507K Red Dot Sight , Color: Black, Battery Type: CR1632, 15% Off w/ Free S&H

Pistol Access – Building Grip Minutia

This is going to be a look inside my head at the stuff that keeps me interested in shooting techniques. I’m going to describe two general schools of thought (as I understand them) about building a self-defense grip on the gun in the holster. Then will have an argument with myself, attempting to make a case for one over the other and address each point of contention. First I’ll describe the general concepts.

The Two Angles of Attack.

The first is a ‘downward draw’/Full Firing Grip made in the holster before the gun moves. This is usually characterized by making a U shape out of your hand and funneling the backstrap/beavertail into the web of your hand until it rides as high as it can go and stops, and then curling the three fingers and flagged trigger finger into position. The thumb can do a number of things. It can be flagged straight, it can wrap to the otherside of the gun and form a one handed shooting grip, or it can be used to cover the hammer or rear of the slide to facilitate building a two-handed grip later on. Once this FFG is built, the gun starts its vertical path in the presentation. You can spot this draw by seeing the gun move down just before it starts moving up. This is, in my experience, a more robust grip build. Though it is not faster.

Here is Paul Gomez demonstrating the downward/hand web index

or

The second is an ‘upward draw’/’claw’ draw. Using the three little fingers to initiate building the grip and finalize the grip either simultaneously or once the gun is moving up and out of the holster. This type of draw requires very accurate finger placement and very repeatable gear setup and position. It can be spotted by looking for the gun to immediately lift once the grip is built. Usually the hand marries the gun fingers first with an upward or directly inward motion. The index point is often the distal joint of the middle finger finding a spot on the pistol frame, or the vertically flagged thumb looking for the inside edge of the rear sight.

Here is Jedi from Modern Samurai Project showing his version of the hook.

Origins of the downward draw/hand web index

I don’t know exactly who/where it came from (can someone like Karl Rehn help me out?), but here are Col. Cooper and Louis Awerbuck demonstrating pistol handling and you can see the web meet the back-strap downward every time they draw. This is a great historical video and still very informative.

Origins of the upward draw/claw/lifting index

Without a doubt, this lineage of grip has its roots in competitive shooting. You can see Rob Leatham and a host of early IPSC competitors using this in this clip. It also is where you see the ‘straight line’ presentation where the muzzle moves on an escalator from holster to eye line and stops as the shot breaks. Efficiency and complete rounding of all the corners and wasted movement. This is pure speed. A whole lot of competitive shooting technique has come over to the defensive world and that’s a really good thing.

Gear placement, Stance (Stupid Human Tricks)

If you want to go as fast as possible, the crucible of competition has shown us that this lifting or claw style draw is faster. Bar none. John Johnston of Citizens Defense Research calls these blazingly fast techniques ‘Stupid Human Tricks’ in his class Tests and Standards (which is a fun and competitive class that I found productive to attend). He shows the class some of these ‘hacks’ for more rapid gun access. It’s a non-contextual purely mechanical shooting class. Here’s a clip.

Here is a competitive shooter demonstrating his draw on the timer. Note how his feet and hips are indexed exactly towards the target so he’s not fighting his body alignment for the shot. Also note how he touch-checks the pistol just before the timer goes off to build a kinesthetic reference point so his hand knows just where to go. You often see really fast self defense guys bumping their forearm on their gun before the timer for a similar purpose. It’s a small rehearsal.

So being fast doesn’t matter? So you think competition skills are not useful for the streets?

No, I’m not saying either of those things. I use a timer literally every time I go to the range and in nearly every dry-fire session. There is a timer in every gunfight, you just don’t know when it beeps. I also love competing and working out kinks with gear and to have some time and peer pressure to increase performance anxiety. If you have the mechanical ability to shoot .15 second splits, then shooting .3 second splits will feel slow. If you can do stupid human tricks and break your first shot from concealment in .80 seconds, then taking 2 seconds will feel like an eternity. The nagging thing in my mind are the little intangibles that a downward draw affords you that a lifting draw doesn’t. Those things, though not easily quantifiable, are important enough to make me personally stick with a downward draw.

The Intangibles

  • Training time and skill maintenance. I’d bet that all of the guys who advocate the hook/lifting draw would also tell you it takes a lot of upkeep to maintain their ability to do it quickly and without bobbles. All of those folks LOVE shooting and as a result they do it a lot. I don’t LOVE shooting. I shoot because I know it’s a skill that I need to have. I treat it like taking medicine. Shooting is only one of several skill sets I’m pursuing simultaneously. I don’t have time to keep shooting as sharp as I’d wish it. Given the smaller amount of time I have, I am forced to lean away from speed, and more towards foolproof. I believe the downward grip is more foolproof.
  • Gear shifts around. The draw’s reference points might move around by over an inch depending on whether you’re standing, running, sitting, driving, etc. I’d argue that it’s easier to miss your claw’s reference point (rear of slide or under trigger guard) with a lifting draw. If, conversely, you make a funnel out of your thumb and trigger finger, that wide V can find the backstrap and slide high behind the slide and the other fingers are now indexed to wrap the front strap. I find this more repeatable under pressure.
  • The downward draw works on basically all pistol sizes, shapes, and mode of carry. My carry gun changes depending on what I’m doing. Some days it’s a clipdraw J-frame in some gym shorts. Another day it’s a Beretta in some jeans. It also might be an LCP in a fanny pack. The wildly varying grip size and shape differences create an issue for reliable access if I try to hook it out. You’ll also notice that the people who advocate the lifting draw usually carry bigger (G19 and up) sized guns and have very rigid holster/belt setups. That’s not an option for everyone. For my modes of carry, I find downward to be pistol universal.
  • Finalizing the FFG once the gun is moving increases the chance of a bobble and makes it harder to recover. I would like to see more high speed video, but I’d wager that some of the super fast guys are simultaneously finalizing the grip and moving the gun. If you miss a downward draw, you can fish around with your hand funnel and find the backstrap. I’ve seen video of competitors slinging their guns out of their holsters at the beginning of a stage, and I believe there’s a larger chance of this in a lifting/claw grip. So the trade off seems to be speed for probability of success. Though we’re talking small degrees of each.
  • The entangled problem. Having watched and participated in a whole lot of force-on-force with T-guns, I’ve seen a whole lot of guns dropped or the drawstroke fouled as the gun was being drawn. Usually this is the result of a panicked draw and failing to acquire a FFG before the gun starts to move out of the holster. The gun can be easily stripped by the wearer’s T-Shirt if the grip isn’t fully built. Again, I prefer robustness over speed, even if the differences are marginal.

I think the allure of the timer and having numbers is very important for tracking progress and meeting standards. I also think that choosing techniques on time alone might be missing some of the picture. Defensive gun uses are almost always task loaded events. That is, your attention and processing power are divided among many tasks simultaneously. Therefore, I feel obligated to choose the method I feel has the highest probability of success over the greatest range of circumstances. I don’t have the time to refine a drawstroke for every circumstance and frankly I don’t think I could decide quickly enough in the moment. I’m just not that good.

How do I practice?

The same way as the fast guys, just on a different technique. I use par timers, shot timers, or sometimes no timer. Sometimes I go as fast as I can until the wheels fall off and I bobble, then I work on reliably learning to draw in that time. Other timers I work for perfect reps with no timer. I work from a variety of positions and postures, with my hands in several places (in pockets, at waist, surrender position, in the ‘fence’). Sometimes I just get a grip, other times I draw to a shot, other times I draw to a low ready. I spend about 5 minutes a day in dry-fire and I concentrate on draw in most of those sessions. I just accept that my draw will never get faster than it would be if I did a deep dive on mastering the claw/lifting draw. Then I get on with my life.

If you made it this far, congrats. You’re a nerd too. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. How do you do it?

Some of my fast fast friends and people I know.