AAR: Pepper Spray for Non-Cops, Instructor Cert. by Agile Training

I recently attended a new offering from Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting. It’s his new 1 Day OC (pepper spray) instructor course for non-LEOs. I have been carrying pepper spray daily for about 6 years now, and wanted to be credentialed to pass on what I’ve learned. I jumped at the chance and don’t regret my decision to attend.

Safety

A note on force on force safety. The owners of The Complete Combatant, the hosts of the class, have a very robust and meticulous safety protocol to assure no live weapons make it onto the training area. It includes a group chat, and a group disarming, followed by securing live unloaded weapons in a box to be stored in another location, and a final pat down from the instructors and your neighbors in line. It’s these overlapping safety features that help keep force on force training safe. There’s a reason the book Training At The Speed of Life exists. There’s a lot of training accidents, and we have to be diligent about securing our training area.

History Lessons

Chuck is a career lawman and has unique experiences with testing and real-world use of less lethal technologies. As a result, and for context, the class opens with less lethal options, and an overview of less lethal chemicals that have been used over the years. Chuck’s reasoning for favoring OC over all the other available options is well reasoned and convincing. He frames the course in a civilian context, and his conclusions based of the civilian ‘mission’ make a lot of sense, and OC is very effective at the tasks it’s needed for.

He does an overview of the chemicals involved, the immediate effects of OC on the body, the lasting effects, the solvents used to carry the OC, as well as the propellant gases that companies can use.

Eyejab In A Can

The unregulated nature of the OC business requires that we know what to look for in a product before we trust it. The only quantitative measure we can currently trust is the MCC (Major Capsenoid Content) of the spray. If this isn’t listed, then you can’t trust it to be sufficiently hot. There’s even some companies that seem to overestimate their product. Chuck recommends anywhere from 0.7-2.0% MCC. Bear spray is 2.0%MCC and regulated by the EPA, while ‘human grade’ is not under such scrutiny. Apparently there’s lots of weak sauce formulas. So go off of the MCC and brand when possible.

This portion of the lecture was very valuable for me. Chuck gives an overview of spray patterns (Spray, Fog, Cone, Gel/Foam) and the best uses for each style of spray. We talked about best care practices for assuring the can worked when you need it, and how to not accidentally contaminate your car on a hot summer day. Shot distance capability, target zones, time to take effect, as well as the shortcomings of each.

He ends the lecture segment with decontamination protocols, which mostly amount to washing the face with baby shampoo under cool water in a well ventilated area and just waiting for the suck to end.

Force on Force Exercises

I’m at the point where I believe any quality training program should include some manner of force on force. Chuck didn’t disappoint me and the latter half of the day was exercises that built in complexity and layered the use of OC into the existing Shivworks MUC/PUC (Managing Unknown Contacts) style pre-assault strategy.

Chuck using the author to illustrate the ‘Default Cover’ arm position

While the time was compressed, I feel the students were able to grasp the basic idea of MUC with movement, vebalization, and a high/compressed ‘fence’ hand posture to preserve and make space and time. Failing that, the default cover position was taught. If you’re not familiar, this is a non-diagnostic defensive posture constructed of a lowered center of gravity in base, and a helmet formed around your head with your arms. This allows you to weather an unexpected attack without needing the attributes of a fighter to stay upright and conscious.

Photo Cred: TCC

After the students had reps, the OC was plugged in. We were able to try various inert training units of various sizes and spray patterns. We also were taught ‘failure drills’ where the OC didn’t take effect and we had to transition to a secondary force option. We also got some ideas on using a flashlight and OC in conjunction. Overall it was a great amount of force on force for such a compressed time frame.

I think this is a great class and I’m looking forward to doing some coaching on the use of OC at my home MMA gym here in Lawrenceville, GA. I recommend training with Chuck whenever you can.

Additional Info and Recommended Products

The Special Application 9mm Carbine for Home Defense – Part 1

If you read my posts on the Ruger 10/22 (part 1, part 2) that I set up for home defense, this post will contain echoes and similar logic to that series. That particular .22 now lives at my parent’s house as their home defense rifle. Since we had a gun-void, I sought to fill it.

The Mission:

Find a carbine that my entire family could confidently use for self defense in the home, be willing to train with despite being recoil/muzzle blast-sensitive shooters, and keep at a reasonable cost. The ultimate goal is to build shooters with sufficient skill to make high pressure shots with no-shoots downrange on low probability targets. The only way to get there is if shooting isn’t a chore or abusive to the senses.

The Resource Problem:

Ammo costs and availability are a factor. We have a limited income, so a more affordable caliber makes sense for us. In my experience, less expensive caliber doesn’t mean spending less annually on ammunition, it means buying more ammo for the same price. More ammo means more practice, which means more proficiency.

We also don’t have $1200 for an AR-15 pattern 9mm carbine. We have a cost ceiling that we need to stay under. I have a pile of Glock pistol magazines that largely go unused since I’ve switched to Double Action Pistols. Using Glock magazines would be a nice bonus to save on support gear.

We have a time limitation. I need to maximize the training time, and blunt the learning curve by picking a platform that lends itself to quick proficiency. We rarely get time together, period. So finding time to go to the range is exceedingly rare. I have to strive for efficiency. Rifles are easier to shoot well. Four points of contact with a rifle beats two points of contact with a pistol. A red dot sight makes the learning curve easier for getting hits.

The shooter consideration problem:

For the shooters in my family, I need to be very considerate of recoil, and muzzle blast. My wife is quickly turned off to shooting a 5.56 rifle at indoor ranges due to the chest thumping concussion and flash that an AR-15 gives. She’s good for maybe 30 shots before she’s done. If concentration and focus is gone after one magazine, then competency will be impossible given the rarity of our range trips.

My wife isn’t a shooter. She wants to understand and be able to run all of our guns, but she doesn’t love shooting like I do. I have to be considerate of her time and pick something that she might enjoy more than an AR or shotgun.

I’d wager that many of you might be in a similar boat. It’s really time to bump the obsession with terminal ballistics down the list and keep context at the top. Despite what the ‘5.56 AR-15/ 00 buckshot or nothing’ crowd says, it’s more important that all the shooters meant to use a firearm can achieve a certain level of competency. If that means a .22LR, then that’s what it is. I wanted to give a 9mm carbine a chance, so here we are.

The tactical problem:

This is the reason we want a rifle that anyone in the house can use. My greatest concern is the shooting problem of a home invader with a downrange no-shoot. Not that it needs saying, but in the real world, it is very likely that there will be no-shoots forward of the ‘180* range safety line’. In fact, it’s quite common in home invasions for a husband to answer the late-night knock on the door, only to be overrun by bad guys. If I’m downrange, I want to make sure my shooters are competent enough to shoot them well, and not shoot me. It’s a self-preservation thing.

Story time to drive the point home. One of Tom Givens’ Students had to make a difficult shot with her husband down range:

A struggle ensued, during which the homeowner was shot in the thigh by one of the suspects. The homeowner’s wife was at the front door to greet her husband, and saw the attack. She ran upstairs, got her handgun, opened the bedroom window and engaged the suspects with several shots from the window.
She hit one suspect, and both fled.

Here’s another:

As the husband neared the front door, he heard the dogs growl and ran back to his bedroom, arming himself with a can of wasp spray, the records say. A man charged him in a hallway, and the husband sprayed the wasp spray in the intruder’s face, but it had no effect.

“The fight was on,” the records say. Both men tumbled to the floor, and the wife ran out with a baseball bat and struck the intruder with it until it broke, according to the documents.

After about three minutes, the husband yelled to his wife for help, “not knowing how long he could hold out in the fight,” according to the records. The wife “ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed the suspect several times until he quit fighting.”

These instances are not rare.  That’s reason enough for me to want good shooters in the house.

The Result:


I decided that I wanted to try the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm. It checked a lot of the boxes that I had for this purpose. There’s a lot of reasons I went with this over some of the other options out there. I’ll make a quick list of the big ones:

  • In 9mm. A caliber that all of my handguns shoot. I have plenty on hand, and one caliber streamlines things. It’s also the most affordable ‘duty round’ caliber.
  • Easily takes an optic on the section of picatinny rail on top of the receiver.
  • Takes Glock magazines. From 10-round to 33-round happy sticks.
  • Similar ergonomics to the Ruger 10/22. The rifle that my wife has the most time on.
  • Affordable. I got mine for $425 on Brownells. That’s extremely reasonable for a rifle.
  • Adjustable length-of-pull with included butt-pads
  • A section of rail that can be used for a weapon mounted light. I always try to have a light on long-gun.
  • Has the ability to break down in half for transport and storage (not necessary, but a nice feature)

Next up will be some details on running it faster, optimizing the setup, and designing a training program.

Thanks for reading,

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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Meta : Critical Skills and Goals for Personal Protection

I am VERY fortunate to have had the opportunity to train with and listen to some of the brightest minds and greatest thinkers of the personal protection game. Over the last few years, I’ve listened to several of these well respected trainers and researchers present skills they believe really win gunfights based on their personal experiences and research projects. After hearing 4-5 of them, I started to pick up on the overlap. If 5 people from separate backgrounds are saying the same things, that’s a clue that those skills might be worth prioritizing in our training. The first two segments are summaries of regular people’s documented fights, whether reported to the NRA or on CCTV. The remainder of the summaries are  lessons taken from actual gunfighters and the training of successful gunfighters. I think there are very powerful lessons when we observe the overlap between the real incidents with what high-level trainers are teaching their students. Here we go.

Realities of Real Gun Fights – Statistics and Lessons

Photo Credit: Claude Werner

I’ll start with my friend and mentor, Claude Werner – The Tactical Professor. Claude annually compiles the skills that private citizens needed to succeed in their confrontations from The Armed Citizen reports. Here’s his list of needed skills from the first half of 2014:

  • Average number of shots needed 1.43 (most – 2)
  • Retrieve from Storage (handgun) 32%
  • Move safely from place to place at ready 22%
  • Draw to shoot 20%
  • Challenge from ready 15%
  • Intervene in another’s situation 15%
  • Draw to challenge 12%
  • Engage from ready (handgun) 12%
  • Hold at gunpoint until police arrive 12%
  • Retrieve from Storage (unknown) 10%
  • Shoot with non-threats downrange 10%
  • Draw to ready (seated in auto) 7%
  • Engage multiple adversaries 7%
  • Challenge with non-threats downrange 7%
  • Shoot menacing animal 7%
  • Shoot in midst of others 7%
  • Draw to ready 5%
  • Struggle 5%
  • Retrieve from Storage (shotgun) 5%
  • Draw pistol from wife’s purse 2%
  • ID with flashlight 2%
  • Shoot animal from grounded position 2%
  • Shoot with shotgun 2%
  • Retrieve from Storage (rifle) 0%
  • Reload 0%

Photo Credit : ASP

Next in the list of great analysts, is John Correia of Active Self Protection. He has made a business out of analyzing and watching CCTV gunfights and robberies. He has watched over 10,000 incidents on video and recently made a presentation on it. Short Barrel Shepherd did a summary about it here. I’ll drop some bullet points to summarize below.

  • Most gunfights aren’t entangled. Once the gun comes out people tend to separate. Pre-firearm access, empty-handed skills are critical
  • Attacks happen in transitional spaces (parking lots, cash registers, ATMs, upon entering or exiting building or vehicle, etc)
  • Lack of awareness (task-fixation in public) creates big problems
  • 1/3 of the incidents have multiple attackers, with usually only 2 getting shot at before the rest scatter.
  • Whoever lands the first shots, wins
  • In a gunfight, the pistol has to be ready for action NOW due to time pressure (no empty chamber)
  • Cops initiate contact-Criminals start fight vs. Criminals initiate contact – Citizen starts the fight. A plus for us citizens.
  • Tom Given’s ‘car length’ gunfight distance seems to be the norm, though some have been as far as 22 yds.
  • Multiple shot strings are needed to get bad guy to stop
  • Lots of one handed gun usage (for better or worse)
  • After the gun comes out, people move
  • People tend to use concealment and cover interchangeably, and people don’t seem to shoot at what they can’t see, even if their bullets could easily penetrate
  • The desire to close distance with an adversary is hard to resist
  • Malfunctions happen
  • Knife attacks are brutal and rapid, and don’t take skill to pull off.
  • Weapon Mounted Lights haven’t played a significant role in the documented shootings

Training to Dominate Your Gunfight

John Daub of KR Training and his HSOI Blog made a great post about this as well. Here it is. He did an EXCELLENT and well reasoned summary on this very topic as it pertains to ‘average trainees’. I’ll repost his summary below. Take the time to read that full post.

  • drawing from concealment
    • And perhaps moving on that draw (like a side-step then stop; not shoot-and-move)
  • getting multiple hits
  • in a small area
    • 5″ circle? 6″ circle? 8″ circle? consider human anatomy
  • from close range
    • Within a car length, so say 0-5 yards
  • quickly
    • 3 seconds or less
  • using both hands, or maybe one hand (or the other)

Next I’ll cover Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs of HiTS out of Texas. I had the pleasure of listening to their presentation What Really Matters at the Range-Master Tactical Conference this year. I wrote about it here. I’ll recap below.

  • “Train for maximum efficiency at an assessment speed on an acceptable target” -HiTS. The speed at which you can see, interpret, and choose where to hit a target. Asking yourself, “Is my target still there? No? Stop Shooting. Yes? Keep shooting”
  • Acceptable target- Is a target about the size of a grapefruit (The black of a B-8 bullseye target) Heart and brain are both about this size.
  • Always be thinking you’ll need a failure drill (ending with a headshot) and practice with that in mind.
  • Draw but don’t touch the trigger until you have a good sight track. This isn’t good for shooting, but it’s good for people management.
  • Don’t touch the trigger until you have satisfied these three. Target ID, Objective reason to shoot, and your firearm is aligned with that shoot target.
  • Train what is hard (50 and 100 yd pistol shooting, for instance)
  • Train to an accuracy standard, not a time.
  • You WILL be able to see movement of your target peripherally while maintaining a hard focus on your sights. Use your sights.
  • All you REALLY need in a carry gun is sights I can see, a usable trigger, and reliability
  • LAPD trains to a .5 second split time, their shootings are shot WELL.
  • If your splits are faster than .3 seconds, you’ll fire unintentionally until the signal to stop makes it to your hands. (force science)

Lastly, I’ll cover John Hearne’s excellent lecture Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why: Understanding Human Performance When Death Is On The Line. He presented this at Paul-E-Palooza in Ohio this year (and will again at next year’s Tactical Conference at DARC) John’s research has lead him to a summary list of necessary skills for dominating wins in gunfights. I’ll give the synopsis.

  • Our goal should be to remove novelty, if we have seen it before, we will be able to act more quickly. Always seek exposure to novel stimuli, and war-game scenarios.
  • Build valid mental maps, develop emotional bookmarks to positive outcomes, Force On Force, video simulators, thinking and shooting, address physiological effects of stress
  • Develop robust motor programs. Break tasks down into steps, start slow, build speed, find failure points. Build new pathways in mind for motor programs (myelination)
  • Primary Pistol Skills – Failure drill from holster, failure drill from ready, moving off-line, minimal reloading
  • Secondary Pistol Skills – Type 1/2 clearing, one handed shooting, precision work
  • Tertiary Pistol Skills- Type 3 malf. clearing, shoot and move, one handed malf.
  • Allocate resources based on probability of need, focus on primary skills until overlearned
  • Keep skills and mental maps refreshed. It’s about recency over volume. (dry-fire at least weekly, life-fire at least quarterly)
  • Make People Think with a gun in hand.
  • Train emotional control via books, visualization, combat sports, rock climbing, talking with gun-fight survivors, etc.

In Closing

This post is plenty long, but it should be pretty clear which skills are needed often, work well, and are worthy of your precious practice time. I hope you found this summary of summaries worthwhile.

 “The Path” Tshirt. Check them out.

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