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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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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