Handgun Drills: 25 Yard B-8 Practice

Watch this video from today’s Munich active shooter:

The photographer of this footage appears to be across an intersection from the shooter. I’d put him at 30 or so yards.

Now, put yourself in the photographer’s shoes. But you’re packing your carry gun. Can you reliably place accurate hits on important parts of a bad guy at that distance?

  • If yes, good keep carrying your gun.
  • If not, keep working on it.
  • If you don’t know if you could, then you need to find your maximum effective range with your carry handgun.
Munich 7/22/16

A drill to work during your next range trip:

  • Using a B-8 target. B-8 pdf (download a copy, and always print ‘fit to page’)

Start at 10 yards.

  1. Shoot target 10 times at 10 yards, no time limit, freestyle. If/When you can get 10/10 in the 8 ring or better, move the target away 5 more yards.
  2. Shoot the same drill at 15. Same Pass/Fail metric. Keep pushing back if you can.

… eventually you will hit your distance limit. 25 yards is the goal, but further is fine. You now know your maximum reliably effective range.

At this or future range trips… Work at the distance that caused you misses. Work it until you can shoot it clean, Then keep creeping back.

Modify it by doing 10 repetitions from the holster/1 shot on the bullseye. Or, set a time limit in which you’d like to make that shot, start at a 5 second par-time from a low ready, or 7 seconds from the holster.

A B-8 is head-sized at 25 yards, and simulates a high-center chest sized target as if it were at 50. The bad guys are out there, and need to be shot. Carry your gun. Do your part.

Stay Safe and Prayers Out to our Brothers and Sisters in Munich,


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Zen and the Art of Not Shooting

How often are you practicing not shooting your gun?

Before you close this article because “I practice not shooting all the time except when I’m at the range, hurr durr”, hear me out. We like to shoot. We spend lots of money and time on getting faster, competing, and shooting defense oriented drills. We want to draw fast and get that fast first hit. We practice rapid strings of fire to make sure we can rapidly stop a threat. We understand that the only time the gun should come out is when we will likely have to use it. But…

But life happens in the blink of an eye, and a situation can change in the time it takes to clear leather and drop the hammer. If all we’ve ever done in our shooting career is draw and shoot a known ‘threat’ target after a positive ID, and we realize we are creatures of habit, why should we expect to be able to halt the shot cycle before that round is fired? The VAST majority of defensive gun uses require no shooting. The introduction of a gun by the good guy and the apparent will to use it are enough to stop most criminal assaults.

This could also be the counterpoint to having to practice this. Since we are hesitant to actually shoot when it might be justified, maybe the problem will just take care of itself. I personally think practice is warranted, even if it is a very small portion of your practice.

If I’m ever asked in court, “Well, Mr. Mark, in all your years of gun training, have you ever practiced NOT shooting when gun comes out?” I’d like to be able to answer yes.

There are enough situations and real world examples that require the ability to be able to short-circuit the shooting cycle, either before the shooting starts, or after several shots.

When might we need to abort the shot, or shooting?

  • A sudden change of intent/ability/opportunity(jeopardy) by the bad guy upon seeing the gun presented. Verbalization and a show of force will probably solve most issues. But we shouldn’t assume this is the case. If we present the gun, we should only do so if we are certain we will need it. We have to consider several kinds of draws, too. A preemptive draw where you hear a bump in the night, or you draw to a low ready with a vehicle between you and the possible-shoot as you issue a verbal challenge. Or an emergency draw stroke, where there is an immediate need to shoot. All could require halting the shoot cycle or not shooting at different times, and for various reasons.
  • The foreground or background suddenly changes. If you realize your backstop is a playground, it would make sense to not shoot and change your orientation before shooting.
  • You have a righteous shoot, but then follow the injured bad guy and put one in his head for good measure. Then a good shoot becomes murder.


Pharmacist Convicted of first degree murder. This was a good shoot, until it was time to stop shooting. Ersland took it from defense to murder, and now pays the price.

The pharmacist, 59-year-old Jerome Ersland, fired a weapon after two young men entered his pharmacy, one of them waving a gun, in May 2009. Mr. Ersland’s bullet hit 16-year-old Antwun Parker in the head, Oklahoma County prosecutors alleged.

Moments later, Mr. Ersland shot Mr. Parker five more times as he lay unconscious on the ground, say prosecutors who had a security surveillance video to bolster their case.

I’ve found several anecdotes from Police officers and private Citizens who were able to abort their shot in light of a changing situation, and seemed quite relieved that they didn’t have to take a life, though they were fully prepared to. Here’s one.

98Z28 says:

I will also say that you might be surprised how quickly things can change and what you are capable doing in a short amount of time in a dynamic, dangerous situation. I have made the decision to shoot someone, started pressing the trigger, and wound up not firing a single round. This happened not once, but twice in my short seven years in LE. From talking to other officers, my experience is not unique

What are other trainers and practitioners saying?

Renowned trainer Grant Cunningham wrote a post about this topic as well:

There’s still, however, the need to train in how you actually decide not to shoot and how to use your gun when shooting isn’t (yet) a justified act. That’s what my students were doing: they were learning what to do with their guns when they didn’t need to shoot — and a little about why not shooting but still having their defensive firearm at the ready might be necessary. The stimuli were intentionally confusing, forcing them to think and requiring them to process the information I was giving them and making decisions about what to do based on their interpretation of that information.

Here’s a snip from a great interview of Marc MacYoung:

Then you come to skills. This is assessing the given circumstances. How do you mix steering, accelerating and braking, given the circumstances you are in, whether you are coming around a corner or whether someone is merging into your lane. What is the appropriate response? What is the combo? Those are the skills.

Take that into a shooting situation. As I said, you are not even thinking about pulling the gun. Once you’re there, you’re going, “Do I have to shoot?” So all your brain cells are in “shoot or don’t shoot,” assessing the circumstances.

What is really important about this model is that we think this way all the time. As a situation changes, our reactions change. Let’s go back to driving: You’re processing how to get through the curve as you’re driving, but once you get out of that curve, you have to change your behaviors. You are constantly doing these calculations. So there, you’re pulling your gun, you’re getting ready, and all of a sudden the guy turns around and runs away. What’s the important thing to do right now?

SouthNarc (Craig Douglas of Shivworks) had this to say about pointing guns at people before we are sure we will shoot them:

It’s debatable about whether one should or should not point a gun at someone before they initiate the shooting cycle. In a perfect world the muzzle stays off someone literally until a pistol is driving up or to the target and the round breaks. Real life is not that clean and motor skills are driven by decision making that may be changing quarter second by quarter second.

GJM to answer your specific question ideally we don’t point guns at people before we shoot them and our ready positions support not muzzling people AND give us the ability to see and discriminate information about the person we might be shooting in a split second. Also whatever “ready” positon we use allows us to break a fast and accurate shot on a low probability target. So there are three things that a ready position should accomplish.

Mr_White from Pistol Forum discusses how the legalities in your state might change how you think about this:

This gives rise to an approximation of the old and oversimplified adage ‘don’t draw the gun until you are going to fire immediately.’ There are situations where I might draw the gun and point it toward someone but not yet fire it, however, that span of situations is narrowed compared to what it might be in another state with a different legal situation.

When ready positions are legally weakened, the importance of a fast draw increases, but active awareness, and manipulation of environmental and interactive factors to allow us more time to evaluate the potential threat or give us additional or clearer information with which to evaluate the potential threat, or might even allow the luxury of disengagement, are still the most important (creating distance, using obstacles, adding artificial light, verbal interactive skills, recognition of threat cues, etc.)

It seems the majority of these incidents (either bad shoots or narrowly avoided shoots) are a matter of emotional control and data processing bandwidth (seeing more, and thinking faster) in the brain.

So how can we practice “not shooting”? Here’s a few ideas.

  1. Train Force on Force. This is difficult to arrange, and usually only gets the average guy a few exposures to testing these decision making skills in a given course. The scenarios need to be well thought out, with possible ambiguous outcomes, and experienced role players. This is not easy to find. The more of this we do, the less brain-lock we’ll experience the next time (in training or for real).
  2. Get a partner with a whistle, or a random par timer, and begin shooting a drill of your choice. When the random par timer beeps, halt shooting immediately. You are ceasing the firing sequence in light of new information. This can be done with courses of fire, or simple static range drills (Mr_White on PF described this)
  3. Target Discrimination drills which will allow you to practice taking in auditory and visual information and processing it before shooting.
  4. Threat management drills. These will engage your mind so you have to talk and coordinate the gun and possibly a flashlight, etc.
  5. Incorporate it into dry-fire. It doesn’t have to be any significant portion of your time, but consider getting a full firing grip, issuing a challenge, and aborting. Or presenting the gun, touching the trigger, and then not pressing the trigger. Or present the gun, and depress the muzzle to a low ready. You get the idea.

This post sort of got out of hand in length. I don’t honestly know how much worth this has, but it feels important to me. There are legal and moral repercussions that have to be considered. Sometimes it’s hard being the good guy and having to care about the ramifications of our actions. It’s our burden. I hope I got someone thinking.

Protect the Brood and don’t shoot unless you have to.

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Mundane Movements: Making CraigsList Transactions Less Murdery

They planned to drive about 200 miles from their Cobb County home to look at an antique car for sale. But the vintage Ford Mustang didn’t exist.

After four days of searching, investigators said Monday afternoon that two bodies believed to be the couple were found in southeast Georgia…


Craigslist can be a great resource to pick up used goods for not much money. But obviously, it has been used to setup many robberies and some murders. When high dollar items are involved, the other party knows you’ll either have a valuable item or a pocket full of cash. Scumbags can’t resist easy money.

This one happened near me, so I wanted to write my thoughts. It’s not difficult to find ‘how to not get ripped off on Craigslist’ lists out there. Here’s a couple:

This one deals with the electronic security side:


This one makes mention of the in-person, physical side of security:


Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe.

Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.

Be especially careful when buying/selling high-value items.

Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet some-one you contacted through Craigslist.

Take your cellphone along with you.

Consider having a friend accompany you during Craigslist purchases.

Trust your instincts.

This is good advice. It’s very vague and hand-wavy advice, but good. Since ‘be especially careful’ is completely non-actionable advice, I’ll try to get a bit more specific to guide you to safer CL transactions. I won’t pussy foot around. I will tell you the most secure way to do a CL transaction. It will involve carrying guns. This is probably something your local newspaper will fail to include in their article about CL security. Mine will augment and detail some of the points from the above list.

  • Tell a third party friend the time and place of the transaction, and give them the phone number that the CL buyer/seller gives you. The bad guy in the above article used a burner phone, but not all bad guys are smart like that.
  • Always take a friend.
  • Always take a gun and wear it concealed during the transaction.
  • Always make sure your friend has a gun too. Discuss your plan if something goes south.
  • When talking to the seller/buyer, have them describe their car ‘so you can spot them coming’. Whether you are early, or late, you can keep an eye for their vehicle and any extra passengers or vehicles.
  • Always plan to arrive 5-10 minutes late (or early) to the transaction. If you’re late, you can pull a quick surveillance run around the parking lot where the transaction will take place. It also will give you an excuse to get a description of the buyer/seller vehicle before you arrive. If you get there early, you have the advantage of monitoring all incoming vehicles to the parking lot and will be able see the number of occupants and if there is more than one vehicle making the same movements in the lot. Look for the number of people in the buyer/seller car and if there are any adjacent vehicles where people are paying attention to you.
  • Use Police Station’s parking lots when possible. If that’s not possible, pick the most public and heavily trafficked lot you can think of. Walmart, Mcdonalds lots, etc. If someone is asking you to meet them at 2am, it might not be a great idea.
  • When you make the transaction, take a page out of the cop’s playbook. Use a ‘contact/cover’ type arrangement. Average Joe won’t notice that your friend is casually leaning on your car or walking around in adjacent parking spots during the transaction. While you’re doing the deal, have your friend outside of the car feigning a phone call or just looking around. Here’s a photo I found of the police technique. One officer is the contact officer who deals with the person, and the other just sort of watches. Think of this when you run a high dollar CL transaction. (1/30 edited this section to clarify).
  • Helmets optional.
  • As you leave, remain aware of people or vehicles moving around your car. Also keep an eye on your rear view mirrors for a few minutes to see if any other cars are tailing you.

All of these steps add zero time to your transaction, take longer to read than perform, and will keep you much safer. I realize it reads like paranoia and like I think I’m a Mall Ninja. It’s hard to convey the tactics any other way, or I would. I realize the probability of you getting robbed/murdered during a CL transaction are very slim, but it’s trivial to add a few precautions that can help guarantee you prevail in the event of a robbery. Besides, statistics are a small comfort when you find yourself to be the rare exception.

Contrast the above story to the one that happened TODAY 1/30/15, also in Georgia.

Parish said the breeder, identified in the DeKalb police incident report as 40-year-old Walter Gonzalez, was initially hesitant to meet the buyer late at night at the home, but did so after the suspect offered him an additional $500.

When the breeder and a second Winder man, Salvador Burgos, arrived with the dog, they saw the suspect and another man standing outside by the garage.

“Mr. Gonzalez got out of the vehicle and met with the suspect near the vehicle,” the incident report states. “After Mr. Gonzalez showed the suspect the dog, the suspect drew his weapon on him.”

According to the report, the suspect, whose name has not been released, then demanded that Burgos get out of the vehicle.

“Mr. Burgos stated that as he moved over from the driver’s side to the passenger side of the vehicle, he drew his firearm and fired upon the suspect,” the report states.

Gonzalez and Burgos told police they left the scene because they were afraid that the other man that was with the suspect would return, but stopped a short distance away and called police.

Responding officers found the suspect dead in the front yard of the home.

So our good guy took a friend…with a gun…and didn’t get killed and put the bad guy in the ground.

Which story do you want written about you? Planning isn’t paranoia.

Stay Safe and go get a sweet deal on a used treadmill,

Defensive Daddy.

Note: Edited 1/30/15 with a new news story and clarification of the tactics I mention.

News Analysis: Home Invader Slices Throat, And Leaves When Shot At

Kaehne targeted the home because it looked like it did not have many occupants. He entered through a window, which he propped open with canisters, and stood in the bedroom of a man and woman for about 40 minutes before the man woke up.


Summary: So this psychopath breaks into this house after romanticizing (and journaling!) about how great it will be to kill this couple that he has apparently been surveilling. Bad guy comes in through a window, which was probably unlocked and without alarm protection, and watches them sleep for 40 minutes before making his move. He attacks the husband first slicing his throat. While they are fighting, the wife wakes up and gets a gun out and shoots at the bad guy, scaring him away.

What can we learn from this? Let’s make a list.

  • Random crime happens and psychopaths are walking among us. The first step is to reserve the space in your mind for the possibility that you might wake up in your bed and have to fight for your life as your eyes open. If you accept that this is within the realm of possibility, you can understand the need for preparing to prevent and deal with it.
  • Harden your home. More time to react is always preferred. Cheap window alarms, window locks, or a dog would have alerted the homeowners or possibly prevented the intrusion. Make yourself the harder target so the psycho will kill your neighbors instead.
  • The bad guy did some amount of surveillance before choosing this house. There is no telling how long he cased this house before he decided this was the right house. It could have been minutes, or days. In either case, understanding basic Surveillance Detection is a crucial skill. Whether it’s passive or active detection, it’s important to learn some method to see if you or your family are being watched or followed.
  • The man might not be the one who shoots at the bad guy. As is often the case, the bad guy singles out the man first, either because he answered the door or the man is perceived as the bigger threat. This is just more evidence that you need to assure your spouse is competent, confident, and capable of shooting whatever guns are at hand. My wife has a Ruger 10/22 with a white light and red dot that she is very competent with. She can operate any gun we own, but she prefers the .22. It’s her favorite gun to shoot, she shoots it most, she shoots it best, and so that’s her home defense gun. Not too complicated. This is an important point because…
  • There might be a ‘downrange friendly‘ shot. From the brief description here, it sounds very likely that the wife had to shoot with her husband downrange. Wouldn’t you like to know your spouse could make a shot with you downrange, under stress, in low light and on demand? I sure would.
  • When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk. The wife was under no obligation to give verbal commands. Let’s let Tuco from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly explain…
  • Sometimes bad guys will stop their actions without being shot. Whether it’s just the sight of a gun or the noise one makes, psychological stops happen all the time. We just can’t count on them. It’s still a positive outcome for the good guys. There’s no telling how many situations are diffused by drawing a pistol and not having to shoot.

Protect the Brood,