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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Review: Combatives For Concealed Carry: Clinch Fighting Volume 1

I’m always looking to improve my grappling. I do my Jiu Jitsu and get together with training partners and integrate grappling with weapons whenever I can. However, it’s very difficult to find instructional media that deals with grappling in a weapons based environment. Justin White of Mad Science Defense has a series of DVDs about this topic.

In case you don’t have time to read this: I recommend this DVD.

Chapters and Topics:

  1. Introduction – An explanation of why we might need to deal with a standing contact range fight with weapons.
  2. Dummy Guns
  3. Weapons Access- Discussion of accessing a weapon while in an entangled fight. Discussion of a universal draw stroke.
  4. Posture/Angle/Level- A solid discussion of the fundamental requirements to have sharp grappling.
  5. Clinch from Strikes – Achieving the clinch from a Cover and Crash or off of a striking blast.
  6. Clinch from Grabs – Front, side, and back
  7. Offside Underhook – Options for when your weak arm has an underhook
  8. Strongside Underhook – Options for when your strong arm has an underhook
  9. Overhook – Options for when you can’t achieve an underhook.
  10. Skill Development – Drills to work at home. 1-2-3 dominance drill, slo-mo drill

Extras:

  • Choosing Dummy Weapons
  • Using a Training Dummy
  • Striking With a Handgun
  • Scenario Training

Things I loved:

Expert grappling instruction. It is obvious that Mr. White is a talented grappler and instructor. His teaching progression is logical and starts with the fundamentals of posture, angle, and level and he then introduces techniques that will allow you to close distance and achieve a clinch. He progresses from a solid clinch (underhook and far-side wrist control) to either a tie up, or taking the back of your opponent. He finishes the progression with accessing weapons from these dominant positions.

His details cleared up a few sticking points I have been having while standing. I’ll be taking them to our training group. His emphasis on doing the work was much appreciated. He urged the viewer to seek training and emphasized that this stuff won’t just happen if you don’t practice it. He even gives some exercises to work with a partner to get better at this stuff at home.

Good stuff.

Minor Gripes:

I don’t envy anyone who has to try to cram a topic as dense as standing weapon-based grappling into an hour presentation. There just isn’t enough time to mention all the details. For the person who hasn’t seen this material before, I would have loved to see a brief discussion on why the clinch is such a viable fighting platform for an extreme close range problem. Why we don’t want to get in a speed draw contest with our opponent at close range. Mentioning the importance of monitoring hands while in a clinch to prevent the other guy from getting his weapons, as well as a discussion of why underhooks are such a dominant position just in case the viewer doesn’t glean that from the instruction. But of course I understand why it was omitted, those ideas were inferred in the material and we only had an hour.

The other gripe I have is in one of his tie-up positions from an overhook. He advocates shooting from this position while pointing his gun at himself (43:00 of video). I know (from simunition experience) that it’s easy to shoot yourself if you’re not super careful about your muzzle-target line. I talked with Mr. White about this and he recognized that it was a bit of an oversight. This was the only flub like this I noticed.

In conclusion:

This DVD would be a solid buy whether you have experience grappling or not. If you have trained with any of the Shivworks collective, this will be a good reminder of your options in the clinch. If you haven’t, you’ll get an idea of what this topic is about. I hope I get to train with Justin one day, as he has a lot to teach. I need to pick up his ground fighting DVD next. Recommended.

Be Safe,

Mark

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Order of Operations: The Safest Unloading Procedure

One Simple Trick to Never have a Negligent Discharge when Unloading Your Gun!

(Why the Order of Operations Matters)

If you’re like me, you are regularly administratively loading and unloading your firearms. I usually discourage people from excessive administrative handling of guns (e.g. gun selfies, pocket dumps, moving gun from belt to some car holster contraption), however sometimes it’s necessary. Whether it’s for nightly storage, cleaning, or for daily dry practice, I seem to be constantly unloading/loading my guns.

Better at hashtags than guns.

There is no shortage of people who have had negligent discharges (ND) while unloading, usually while cleaning guns that require pulling the trigger to disassemble. It goes like this (or a similar variation):

  1. Be distracted
  2. Remove magazine to remove source of bullets
  3. Be about to rack the slide to clear the chamber when something interesting comes on the TV…
  4. Pull down take-down levers and try to remember if you racked the slide, decide you probably did.
  5.  press trigger…*ears ringing*…Whoops…

Order of Operation Matters

I never gave much thought to the process of unloading. I’d just take the magazine out, rack the slide a few times, then look for an empty chamber and empty magwell, and I was done. That had worked well for me for a long time because I try to not be complacent. Then Claude Werner asked me a question.

CW – “What is the source of ammo into the gun?”

Me – “the… magazine?”

CW -“Everyone thinks the magazine feeds the gun. It doesn’t. The chamber does. Until the chamber is rendered safe, the gun is loaded.”

Me – 

Unload and Show Clear

As a small aside, I have also adopted Claude’s method of marking the bottom of my chambered cartridges after unloading with a sharpie. A single line next to the primer. Rotate a cartridge with 5 marks to the bottom of the magazine. When the whole magazine has cartridges with 5 marks, shoot that magazine. This allows 80 unloadings in a 16 shot gun. This technique will prevent projectiles from pushing into the case from countless chamberings and keep your defensive ammo more reliable.

A small alteration in technique can pay dividends over the course of your shooting career. I’ve made the switch to this more robust and foolproof method.

Let me know what you think. Thank you for reading.

Be Safe,

Mark
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