Range Master Conference 2017: John Farnam “Let’s Not Shoot Ourselves”

John Farnam of Defense Training International gave a great presentation on gun accidents and safely living with guns this year at the Range Master Conference. I made it a priority to attend the old guard’s presentations (Ayoob and Farnam in particular) because I don’t want them to retire before I’m able to hear them lecture a few times.

Mr. Farnam has forgotten more about shooting and tactics than I’ll ever know. It’s a privilege to hear him speak. This topic is of great interest to me, being a protege of Claude Werner, the negative outcome guy. I’ve come to find out that Farnam got Claude thinking about this topic way back in the 90’s. So it was great hearing this material from the source.

I’ll type up my notes in shorthand bulleted form. All material is the property of Mr. Farnam, and I’m only sharing it to hopefully keep someone from negligently shooting something they don’t want to.

  • We are the most likely person to hurt ourselves with our guns. Why? Because we’re there.
  • Yes, guns are dangerous. Like a chainsaw. We accept that danger because it’s a useful tool.
  • We need to get rid of the word ‘safety’. It’s not the word, but the implication of the word.
  • “What can I do so nothing bad will ever happen to me?” What planet do you live on?
  • In times of change, learners will inherit the earth. Be a learner.
  • Once something is written down and canonized, it’s hard to change
  • From The Walking Dead (which John doesn’t watch)
    -you KNOW how I feel about guns!!
    -guns don’t care how you feel…
  • Into the ER ~75% are accidental self inflicted wounds. ~25% are suicide and attempts. and only ~1-2% are between two people on purpose.
  • Risk attaches itself to guns, our job is to manage that risk. Understand that risk also attaches to NOT owning guns.
  • In the end, the bacteria win anyway…
  • Good tactics doesn’t mean taking NO risk, it means minimizing and taking the best risk
  • There are two times we touch our guns:
    -Administratively- At least 2 times a day, It must be adequately secured 100% of the time. Don’t let your gun get into unauthorized hands. If your gun is stolen and used in a crime, you can be held liable if you failed to secure it properly.
    -Tactically- Using in defensive situation
  • The best place for your gun is on you and in your direct control, and it’s also the most useful place for it to be. When it’s not on, it must be secured.
  • “adequately secure” is an educated guess. John prefers to keep his pistol on the floor of the hotel room. No children in the room, and safer than on the night stand where you could paw at the trigger while half asleep. Have to evaluate your own situation.
  • Industry standard for trigger weight is 5-7#
  • Trigger too heavy? No practical accuracy (see NY2 12# triggers. Story: 2 cops shot 9 bystanders)
  • We don’t live in a nation of laws, but a nation of agendas. What control do we have? We must work within the agendas (laws) to make the most of it.
  • HOLSTERING is the MOST dangerous thing we do with our guns.
  • Appendix has distinct advantages, but be very careful holstering. Bow hips forward, look muzzle into holster mouth
  • Have a strong trigger finger register on the pistol frame.
  • Watch for students who have sloppy fingers. Not just the trigger finger, but middle and ring fingers during holstering.
  • Scenario based training has inherent safety risks, but it is so valuable that we accept those risks and try to have robust safety protocols.
  • Biggest safety issue is ‘condition based gun handling’. “Oh but this gun is unloaded” (as he muzzles everyone in the room). Treating guns differently by the ostensible condition of the gun.
  • Safe ranges are bullshit
  • Cooper- Guns are guns, we don’t do condition based handling.
  • Notes on the fundamental rules
  • “All guns are always loaded” \
  • Guns have to be pointed somewhere, choose the best thing to catch a bullet that’s around. Take the best risk
  • “only place your finger on the trigger when you are prepared to shoot” or “Only touch the trigger when your sights are indexed on the target and you’ve made the decision to fire… right now”
  • “be sure of your target…” Being SURE will never let you get anything done. You probably will point the gun at innocent people, despite your best efforts
  • “The onion field shooting” 1960’s LAPD
  • Deadly Sin – Relaxing too soon. End the drill on the link, come off the trigger, end ready to shoot more.
  • You’re at training to fail
  • Always wear glasses around guns. Story of guy who took a manually ejected unfired AK cartridge to eyeball at the end of the training day.
  • What causes Negligent Discharges?
  • Poor Procedures (clearing barrels… Rack charging handle, remove mag, press trigger in barrel… boom)
  • Distractions and Interruptions, turn off tv, stop conversations, if you’re interrupted start from the beginning.
  • Unnecessary gun handling. (instagram, anyone?)
  • The implications of the hot range. Always start and finish with a loaded gun. When you leave tell me how you want your gun. Don’t let them leave with empty gun in holster or in the hand.

 

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Picking Your Carry Gun Based On Shooting Metrics

In the interest of practicing what I preach, as well as giving me something to do, I have decided to pick the ‘best’ carry pistol for me from my current small collection. This journey is mine alone, but I encourage you to think about what you value in a carry gun, do some research, and then shoot your short list side by side with a few drills that highlight the skills you’re likely to need.

Rather than rely on changing fancies over different guns and brands, and to avoid the collector trap (which I can’t afford), I want to pin down what is ‘best’ based on actual numbers, and then go with that choice for a while.

Like Chris at LuckyGunner, I’m going to start compiling my own scoreboard of guns by shooting the same few drills and getting comparison numbers. This is something I talked about in my youtube article.

If you’ve been with me for a bit, then you know that over the last couple of years, I have had a shift in priority for my carry guns. To quickly reiterate, my priorities are, in order:

  1. Not shooting myself
  2. Not shooting what I don’t want to shoot
  3. Shooting what I want to shoot

Mechanical Requirements and Features

I’ve spent a lot of skull sweat weighing the relative importance of shooting the gun accurately, shooting the gun at speed, day to day handling, threat management, one handed manipulation ease, weight and carry comfort, concealability, magazine capacity, accessory and magazine cost and support, and company reputation.

I’ve taken a honest hard look at the number of negative outcomes from things like NDs (negligent discharge) from sloppy administrative gun handling, trigger checking in high stress situations, sympathetic hand movement, and support gear failure/wardrobe malfunctions. It became apparent that I should acknowledge that I’m probably not as good as I think I am, and that leaning on a mechanical feature to add an extra layer of safety isn’t a sign of weakness.

A post shared by ENDO (@everydaynodaysoff) on

 (ouch for this guy. Keep an eye on your gear)

Here’s a short list of what I currently value in a carry gun, all things considered.

  • Reliability. I use the ‘2000 round challenge‘ that TLG outlines. Though an initial 200-300 round break-in and subsequent testing with carry ammo is a good start down that road.
  • No manual safeties. No extra buttons to get the gun into action. I’m not against guns with safeties, I just have chosen to go down the path buying guns without them. I like decocker only for DA/SA guns.
  • Ability to monitor the trigger with the thumb while holstering via either an exposed hammer, tactile striker indicator or Striker Control Device (The Gadget) on a Glock
  • Double Action Only. I was on a DA/SA kick with the Beretta PX4c, but I decided that I favor the shot-to-shot trigger consistency of a DAO. The long deliberate trigger press helps with people management and mitigates a few of the possible negligent situations mentioned above. I also feel like I pay more attention to my sights through the longer trigger press, which I realize is a personal problem. Claude has mentioned that this phenomena is not unique to me, however.
  • Overall concealability for my current living situation and needs.

The Drills

I chose three drills. One is pure speed, one is pure accuracy, and the last is an integration of speed and accuracy at varying distances and is used by the LAPD. Claude Werner chose and modified the LAPD course to rank some guns and I glommed on with him.

The drills are:

  • The Bill Drill from a Low Ready at 3 yards. 6 shots from a low ready on an target I can’t miss allows me to find my split-time/speed limit with that gun. The low ready starting point means I don’t have to have support gear for the gun I am testing and can shoot at a range where drawing from a holster isn’t allowed.
  • 25 yard, 10 shots slow-fire on a B-8 bullseye, unsupported. Calculating the score. Pure accuracy. Sights and Trigger.
  • (TacProf modified) LAPD Combat Course (Page 11 of this PDF). This one includes various ranges, par times, emergency and speed reloads, shooting from cover, drawing the gun, shooting from a low ready, target transitions, and some headshots. It’s a challenging course of fire that is scored for points, so there is some scoring resolution at the higher skill levels.

The Guns

  • Glock 19 (My ‘control’ firearm that I’ve carried for 9 years). Striker fired, 15 round magazine. .120″ Ameriglo fiber optic sights, 3.5# connector and 6# Trigger spring.
  • Sig Sauer P250 Compact with a medium-subcompact grip module. 12 round magazine. Double Action Only with a trigger like a smoothed out revolver. Ameriglo Orange front sight.
  • H&K P30sk with V1 “Light LEM” trigger. This is my newest pistol. 10 round mag. Double action only. The LEM trigger has long light travel up until you get to a 6lb or so trigger break. It feels like a marriage of the weight of a Glock trigger with the trigger travel of the P250.
L to R: P30sk 10 round, Sig P250 12 round, Glock 19 15 round. I don’t know how HK can’t fit 2 more rounds in their mag, but who am I to ask questions?

The Results

Ammo: Freedom Munitions 124gn reloads.

  • Glock 19

Avg. Split Time: .25 seconds

25 yd B-8 Scores: 48/100, and 60/100

LAPD Combat Course:*

  • Sig P250 Compact

Avg. Split Time: .29 seconds

25 yd B-8 Scores: 46/100, and 70(1x)/100

LAPD Combat Course:*

  • HK P30sk

Avg. Split Time: .228 seconds

25 yd B-8 Scores: 76(2x)/100, and 76(0x)/100

LAPD Combat Course:*

*I haven’t had an opportunity to shoot the LAPD combat course yet, but will add to the post when I do.

The Conclusion

I really don’t have a logical explanation for why I could shoot my new sub-kompact HK better than a pistol I exclusively shot and trained with for over 9 years. The only excuse I can think of is that I shot the Glock early in the session, and as I warmed up, my scores improved. Alternatively, I simply shoot this HK better than my G19.

If I go strictly by the numbers, the HK gets the nod. If I go by what features I have the warm and fuzzies about, the Sig or HK get the nod. I’m glad my perceived needs aligned with my test scores.

I’d admit that the results are close enough to probably not matter. It’s really a wash. I also realize I have a slow trigger finger. I’m also not a high volume shooter, with most of my practice coming in the form of dry-fire. Ultimately, my visual and mental processing speed and decision making ability will be the speed limit of my shooting, not the physical manipulation of the gun.

As a result of my findings, I’ll be strapping on the P30sk in the morning for the foreseeable future. The Sig will get a X300U and a Safariland ALS Holster for House Gun Duty. The Glock19 will cry in the safe.

I encourage you to do similar testing for yourself. You won’t know which of your guns you shoot best until you run the numbers. Don’t get married to specific gun based on ego, time invested, stubbornness, or blind trust in an instructor’s recommendation. Also, don’t change guns with the wind. Consistency and dedication to the grind is the key. Almost any gun will do, if you will.

Thanks,
Mark

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If It Is Important, Do It Everyday

“If it is important, do it every day, if it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

-Olympic Gold Medalist Dan Gable

This year my primary goal is to work on my discipline. The way I’ve chosen to practice discipline is to pick several tasks that I will do EVERY DAY, whether I feel like it or not. I’ve dabbled in daily habitual practices, but I never would sweat it much if I missed a day or ten. This year is different.

Technology To Keep Me On Track

To help keep me on track, I’m using a simple service called NAGBOT. It texts you a reminder every day at a chosen time and asks if you’ve done whatever your daily goal is. It uses humorous responses depending on your answers. I have mine set to remind me of my tasks at 7pm, so there’s still enough time to do everything in case I forgot.

I’m getting used to having a robot nag me into doing work.

What Am I Doing Everyday?

I’ve chosen four tasks:

  1. Keep A Journal of daily events and martial arts training notes.
  2. Do 100 pushups every day.
  3. Do Dry-Fire practice every day.
  4. Actively practice Stoicism every day.
Why Journal?

I did a lengthy post on this recently. Check it and see if you think it’s worth doing.

Click to be routed to a nice 2017 Journal to start your record keeping journey.

Why 100 pushups?

My sport is Jiu Jitsu, which I train three times a week. It involves a lot of pulling muscles and flexibility. I’m still technically recovering from a stem cell transplant, so I have limited energy and recovery power. So I chose to do a daily ‘pushing’ exercise to compliment the ‘pulling’ that Jiu Jitsu gets me. Here’s Coach Dan John talking about the fundamental human movements. So far this year I’ve done 2,500 pushups. They add up quickly. 36,500, here I come!

Stoicism and Dry-Fire go together like peas and carrots… or something…
Why Dry-fire?

Dry-fire, while boring to some, is a great way to maintain and improve aspects of your shooting for an extremely low cost (read: free). I also find it meditative. Here’s The Tactical Professor explaining how to avoid “Grabastic Gunclicking”. I subscribe to his method of concise limited duration dry-fire, then I get on with my life. It is (in theory) never more than 24 hours since I’ve seen a sight picture and pressed a trigger. There is no downside to that in my eyes from a defensive shooting perspective. It’s about how recently, not how much you last practiced.

The Dry-Fire range is hidden behind a painting. There is a brick fireplace behind this wall. Set it up, practice, and put it away.
Why Daily Stoicism?

Ever since I read A Guide To The Good Life (link to my book review here), Stoicism has been on my mind almost daily. I have lacked the discipline and guidance to have meaningful study though. One of the key aspects to practicing is daily reflection. Luckily, a book exists that helps provide a short daily quote from a Stoic’s writing and paragraph to reflect on. I don’t know enough about Stoicism to prosthelytize, but I know it resonates with me fundamentally, so I’ll study it daily. The book is The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living.

Completing these four tasks every day is something that has become very important to me. I know there will be days when I don’t feel like completing those tasks. It is in those moments that I force myself to that real growth happens.

Discipline equals freedom.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you’re doing to develop  your discipline.

Mark

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The Worthless Youtube Gun Review And My Proposal

I take issue with how most popular youtube firearms channels conduct their gun reviews. It’s like the hollow, superficial gun magazine reviews have bled onto the internet in long form video. I get it. Guns are guns. They’re generally boring and you have to pretend there’s something fancy and new about this specific gun you’re reviewing to fill time and have something to post every week. However, I think it could be done better. Reviews in gun magazines when I was reading them in the early 2000’s went like this:

  • “This pistol well balanced and feels good in the hand”
  • “Ate all 100 rounds I tested flawlessly”
  • “Here’s a shot grouping with XYZ defensive ammo”
  • “Innovative features” that are minor variations of features on all other guns
  • …more drivel…
  • The End

The blatantly bought and sold gun reviews in print media became the laughing stock of the internet. Fast forward to the mid-2000s and we saw independent folks started having a voice with forums, blogs, and eventually YouTube. Once Youtube took off and people realized they could monetize views, we started to see these semi-professional independent gun reviewers gain popularity. Arguably, today these folks are the most recognized people in the industry at large.

Good for Plinkin’, but completely lacking in substance

Tips for Spotting Useless Information

Here’s some things to keep in mind if you’re relatively new to guns and are watching one of those YouTube gun celebrities review a gun on their home range with all the steel targets and soda bottles.

    • “Feels good in the hand” is completely subjective and is totally dependent on the person holding the gun. It also doesn’t matter what it feels like at the gun shop, it matters how it feels while it’s being shot. Some guns that feel good, shoot poorly. For instance, a very comfortable framed gun can be like a bar of soap in recoil that has no index points when establishing grip in the holster. This results in inconsistent presentations on target. Some that “feel blocky” in the hand, actually allow a more repeatable hand index and presentation.
    • “Follow up shots are really fast!” Show me a timer. Show me a grouping on paper. If they don’t have a timer and corresponding holes in a target, you can safely disregard that comment. Here’s a clip of Ernest Langdon talking about his ‘lie detector’ (Shot Timer):

  • “The Trigger is great!” Another subjective comment. More useful information is the method of operation, trigger weight, length of pull, and a description of the feel of the trigger press throughout the shot cycle.
  • “This gun is really accurate” For me, watching someone shoot a 10″ piece of steel at 10 yards isn’t proof of accuracy. Most guns are mechanically more accurate than the shooter. I’d like to see benched 25-yard groupings, which show mechanical accuracy, as well as off-hand 25 yard groups which factor in trigger, sights, and operator ability all together.
  • “This gun is a hoot to shoot!” Maybe. All guns are. I personally am after reliability and performance. Does this pistol allow the reviewer to do something better, worse, or the same as he can do with any other pistol. What? Why? How? This is what I want to know.

Without quantifiable data, you’re just shooting bottles of soda. Look at it as entertainment, not an actual review. Subjective reviews have certain limited value, but numbers matter. Only Performance counts.

What Does The Perfect Gun Channel Look Like (to me)?

If I ran a youtube channel, one of the main features would be to start a performance board similar to how the BBC Show TOP GEAR would review cars around their home track, and rank them on a chart. Think of all the possibilities for quantifying a gun’s attributes! I would pick a few drills that I decided would best demonstrate all important attributes of a gun’s operation by removing outside variables as much as possible, put them on a timer, and rank them by the numbers. The shooter’s ability doesn’t have to be world class, it just needs to be the same shooter for all the tests (me in this case). The viewer would have a direct comparison between any guns I ran through that battery of tests. Scores, Times, Weight, Size, Caliber, reliability are all quantifiable. There would be some subjective input, but I’d keep it minimal. I realize that might be boring to the casual gun person. It’s probably a dumb idea. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to watching Hickok45 shoot steel rams and chuckle at the *GONGGGGG*.

 

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