Take Instructor Gun Recommendations with a Tactical Grain of Salt

If you go to any shooting classes at big named schools, you will likely hear a lot of chatter about guns and gear. The instructor will usually tell the students that they need at least X caliber with Y capacity and prefer you get Z brand. They will shake their heads at you if you carry your gun in a briefcase, or use a small J-frame or autoloader in a pocket holster. Many students will take this to heart and then help spread the word all over the internet. This is how the little training cults grow and spread.

A J-frame and a speed strip reload may be the definition of an optimist in a gunfight, but it might be the only thing most people are able to carry.

The next time an instructor or internet forum member tells you you’re an idiot for carrying a snubbie or mousegun every day, consider the source.

I’ve noticed a trend in the careers of those who are most ardent about how much gun/gear you should carry and constantly spout about how easy it is to carry a full sized guns if you ‘do it right’. Here’s the list:

  1. Tactical/Shooting Instructor
  2. Police/Retired Police
  3. Current Military
  4. Youtube personality/ Gun Industry person
  5. IT professional/Desk jockey
  6. Self Employed/Work from home
  7. Rural Job (Farming, etc)

Do you see a trend in those careers? What similarities do you see? The answer is they work in careers where there is NO PENALTY for (or no chance to be discovered for) having “enough” gun. Most of the folks in group 1 originated in groups 2 and 3. Minimal human contact and/or no penalty for being ‘made’ carrying a gun rounds out the rest of the list.

Edit: It was pointed out to me that since IT folks have a lot more access to computers, they are more inclined to be active on forums. This makes sense. They also interact with clients often.

These guys will say that they have home lives and when they go out with their families, they carry all the stuff they suggest to you carry. Sorry, still not good enough. Getting made at Mama Mia’s Italian Bistro doesn’t hold the same penalty as getting found out at your office.

They are ignorant to the realities that normal people working 9 to 5 in office buildings in urban/suburban settings face. Even if they can imagine what it’s like and tell you to ‘make it work’ anyway, they still have no real experience of being under constant visual scrutiny at the job that pays your bills and feeds your family. If they do have that experience, they probably didn’t have to wear tucked shirts or suits at that job. Also, they  have no skin in your game. They themselves face zero penalty if you get caught. It’s your choice, and your job and livelihood.

Photo: balloongoesup.com/

“The gun just disappears!” Discussing how concealable a gun is with a few staged photos showing lack of printing holds ZERO water against a few weeks of moving, bending, giving presentations, interacting with people, and generally doing your job.

So is it wrong to carry a tiny gun, if anything larger could get you fired and arrested? No. Are your instructors wrong to suggest that you carry a duty gun and 2 spare magazines, a blow out kit, and a 700 lumen flashlight? No, they’re not wrong, either. The instructor is setting you up for success based on their experience and if you get killed for not having enough gun, they can rest easy because they told you so. Being MIL or LEO puts you face to face with violence regularly. They know how bad it can be, and how quickly it can get that way. It benefits everyone to keep their risk profile, as well as penalty for being discovered, in mind when selecting carry guns and gear.

Don’t view this as a cop-out or an excuse to carry a small gun. I also think that most people could get away with more gun than they think they can.

While sub-service caliber guns aren’t always good enough in ballistics gelatin, they seem to work over and over in real encounters

What does having a sub-par gun as your primary mean? It simply means you need to get really really good with your little gun. You need to attempt to be able to use it as well as you can shoot a full sized gun. Use it in classes, compete with it, and generally hold your skill-set to a high standard.
Go to ex-MIL, ex-LEO instructors to learn tactics and how to shoot well against other humans, but take gear recommendations with a tactical grain of salt and think long and hard about those things for yourself. Learn from them what works, take it home, adapt it, and make it your own. The life (and job) you save could be your own.


AAR: The Complete Combatant

I was lucky enough to be able to attend The Complete Combatant 8 hour course at Fusion MMA in Marietta, Georgia this Sunday. The course was taught by Coach Brian Hill and several assistants. Brian has decades of martial arts experience and has trained and holds teaching degrees in Karate, Jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, Tae kwon Do, Mixed Martial Arts, Kickboxing, Pistol, Rifle, Precision Shooting, Sword and Edged Weapons. His relaxed and attentive teaching style and deep understanding of martial arts make him a competent instructor worthy of your training dollar. I’ll post a few pictures and share a few of my thoughts and impressions.

Coach Brian explaining the Thai plum and knees

This is a very ambitious 8 hour course. The topics introduced could fill a 40 hour training week. I personally think that the most valuable part of the day was Coach Brian’s morning lecture. A discussion of criminal actors, their disinterest in abiding by the laws of polite society, and how we can prepare and deselect ourselves as prey was the opening topic. A ‘meta-strategy’ was framed early, with a whiteboard discussion of decision making and options at each given point in an assault. As can be guessed, we have the most options as we are mobile and controlling interpersonal space, and quickly lose options based on our physical position, level of entanglement, and tools being used. Coach Brian also made the very good point the most problems aren’t shooting, stabbing, or fighting problems, but talking problems. He encouraged the class to avoid ‘the monkey dance’ of chest thumping and machisimo, and disengage at every opportunity. A battle avoided is a battle won.

Some standing grappling. The headbands were from a previous drill where both partners were blindfolded to learn to grapple ‘by feel’. Alternatively: we are Karate masters, you choose.

There was no shortage of physical drilling and practicing technique. I was sidelined and didn’t participate in most of it, but I had fun watching the students learn. It was very much drinking from a firehose in terms of the amount of techniques introduced in short order. There was a mix of MMA guys and gun guys in the class, and Coach Brian paced the class accordingly. I think the MMA guys learned some things about their gear, like how nylon holsters are a waste of your money, and the gun guys learned they should put in some time to become more physically fit and maybe get on the mats regularly. I’m sure all of the students took away something useful from the course. I did.

Retention shooting discussion


  • Introduction to the ‘meta-strategy’ of self defense
  • Discussion of each students daily carry and priorities
  • Dealing with unknowns and maintaining space
  • Basic standing and grounded striking and defense
  • Basic standing and grounded grappling in a weapon based environment
  • Edged weapon basics
  • Tourniquet use
  • Entangled standing and grounded firearm use
  • Scenarios
  • Others that I forgot, I’m sure
Using the guard to maneuver on the ground

Thanks to Brian and Shelley of Fusion MMA for letting me hang out. Now, get out there and train.



“Flipping the GO Switch!”

When I get mad, I just black out and start wrecking people. I don’t have control, I just start breaking things until the problem is solved.

-Paraphrasing some Douche on a forum in 2008

First, let me remind you that I’m a baby in this world of self defense. I’m also a resource constrained regular Joe who has limited time to develop myself as my families protector. I’ve only been taking formal shooting classes for 8 years or so. That said, in 2008, I had a few formal shooting classes under my belt. I started realizing that shooting was only a very small part of the puzzle, thanks to Shivwork‘s Total Protection Interactive forum. As I was piecing together the framework for how I currently approach the personal protection and family security game, I realized that I had a problem. Which turned out to be more than one problem, which I’ll get to.

So after a few insta-warrior (/sarcasm) pistol classes, I was pretty sure I had the shooting part figured out (I didn’t). I knew I need some combative/hand-to-gland training. At the time, without any reference point, I decided that I had unusually low aggression. That is, I take a lot of shit from people before I get angry. At the time, I decided that this was bad. I decided that it would get me killed in da streetz. I figured I’d let some hobo off his meds stab me in the guts and I’d apologize for bleeding on him. So I did what any neophyte would do; I asked the internet. I asked my question on Tactical Response’s forum GetofftheX, and basically innocently asked “How can I flip the angry switch?”. I wanted to know how to quickly bring myself to a ‘fight’ state and be ready for a fight for my life. This was my way of looking for an easy way out.  I guess I thought that in a state of rage and adrenaline, I’d somehow make good decisions and rise to whatever level of skill was needed to handle the problem. The responses poured in. Some people recommended having some anchor word that would ‘set me off’ emotionally, or that I should take Krav Maga (ughh), or that I should get punched in the face to really learn what mad was, or any number of other suggestions. I wish I could find the original post, but it was purged years ago. I’m sure I would have a laugh. I feel silly for having posted that now, but at the time I just had no idea.

Here we are in 2015 and I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and a good amount of flight time coming to terms with my personal demeanor, developing my skill-sets, my abilities, and my outlook. I’ll make a list which applies to me, but if you feel like you’re surrounded on the forums by steely-eyed killers who pretend they can summon the spirits of Valhalla on demand, maybe it will give you some comfort and guidance.

  1. It is actually a non-issue to be timid. Being non-confrontational allows me to sidestep and deescalate situations that a hot-head might not allow himself to. The key is being non-confrontational and having the ace in the hole of a skill-set that has been forged through hours of sparring and pressure testing. For me, it’s about having the skills and a set of rules for when to use those skills. No purposeful emotion, just calculated response.
  2. For me, as far as I can tell, there is no “go” switch. There is the integration and implementation of skills, rules, and judgement which I’ll have to rely on to get me out of a tight spot. I’m not the type to “black out” and when I come to, the room is full of dead bad guys. I’d wager you’re not either. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking we will somehow rise to the occasion riding pure aggression. That’s a recipe to being a worthless wet noodle in about 30 seconds, not for winning a fight.
  3. My feelings of ineptitude were well founded. I KNEW I didn’t know anything, so I started seeking knowledge from trusted sources. Find a group of friends. If they don’t emphasize ‘alive training‘ against resisting opponents, find a new group that does. You’ll need a relatively strong bullshit filter because often the guys who suck the most think they are the baddest dudes around. Look for the guys who rarely post on the forums because they are too busy actually doing instead of writing about it on the internet. This is key.
  4. It’s important to be honest with yourself and realize the only way to develop a skill-set is through years of dedicated training. Be it medical, interpersonal, martial arts, or shooting. There is no weekend seminar that will give you all of the answers. You will suck for a long time, and the more you realize you suck the better off you are. You do suck. We all do. The incremental confidence is earned in the sweat you leave on the mats, in the jabs you catch from letting your hands drift down, the -3’s on the targets at the match, and from the SIMs rounds you take in the small of your back. It just takes time. The way is in Training. Here’s my friend and mentor Paul Sharp’s take. You should take his word for it, he’s been doing this stuff for a lifetime.
  5. Prepare yourself to lose. Over and Over. For years at a time. If your ego can’t take that, I know a good Krav Maga school down the street…
  6. WWII combatives and systems like Krav Maga don’t work for me. They have tremendous appeal to the neophyte because they promise rapid results and instant tough guy status.The seminar method just simply won’t allow you to gain any level of proficiency. I find they are usually a money grab similar to the shitty McDojos with afterschool programs that get you a black belt in 2 years. These systems probably wouldn’t work for you in isolation.  The crux of it is that you rarely (in most krav schools) spar against resisting opponents. The lack of opposing will cheapens the training and you will leave with a false sense of confidence in what you can do. If the school says you can’t perform a move on a real person because it’s too dangerous, RUN. Don’t walk. There are things you can take from these schools, but they always work better with a solid athletic martial arts base in something like boxing, muay thai, judo, or jiu jitsu.

    Beware the one finger death touch.
  7. Become inoculated to the fear of being in bad positions and being hit. Once again, this is ONLY possible through sparring and rolling against a resisting opponent. It’s scary to be on the bottom with someone smashing you from on top. It hurts to catch a straight punch to the nose. It hurts to get tossed on your back. But the more times you are there, the easier it becomes to think and problem solve. Once you realize you won’t vaporize if you get punched in the nose, you’ll start to gain confidence and you are free to come out of your shell.

    Resisting Opponent
    Resisting Opponent
  8. Have a line in the sand. For me, I intellectualize it to such an extent that I need to literally have the rules in my head. I use Craig Douglas’ “Ask, Tell, Act” when dealing with unknowns to protect interpersonal space. I literally imagine a circle drawn in my mind around myself and say “if he comes inside this ring, it’s time to throw a cross”. Or for pistols, “If this guy robbing this store points his gun at the clerk again, I’m going to shoot him in the ear hole”. You get the idea. Work it out before hand, and practice it.
  9. Losing control and wildly punching doesn’t allow you to fight longer than 30 seconds flat out. Any combative that has you go fully anaerobic against an opponent for the sake of overwhelming him with strikes is probably silly. You’d be better off doing a cohesive boxing blast and running him over in an intelligent manner. Composure and keeping your head is much preferred to hulking out and soon gassing out.
  10. You will suck… for long time. But…

I think that’s it. Dive into a martial art that emphasizes sparring. My suggestions based on lots of trusted friend’s opinions are Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, and Judo. Gain confidence. Get your ego in check. Admit that there’s a lifetime of learning to be done and start the journey. It’s the best decision you’ll make. Not only will you realize that the “GO switch” isn’t necessary to develop, it will become a non-issue.

Protect the Brood and Stay Dangerous,


Hardening the Home: Front Door Pepper Spray

This is the first in a series of short posts about specific security projects I’ve completed over the last few months upon moving into my new house. Some are simple projects, while some are slightly more involved. This will be a simple one.

Many home invasions start with an innocuous knock on the door and the home owner blindly opening the door  like a gracious member of society should for another person. The bad guys count on this and will then force their way in (Example one, two, three). We can upgrade our home’s security and spend a small fortune on cameras, locks, doors, alarms, and guns, but if we bypass all of our security from the inside when we open the door for any Random who knocks, it’s all for naught. The same goes if we leave our doors unlocked. Here’s the Mighty Greg Ellifritz with some information on that topic. Lock your doors. Don’t open the doors unless you’re expecting company. Have a peephole. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t let people in your home to borrow a phone if their “car has a flat”. Let them know you’ll call the police so they can help. All of the stuff you already know.

All that said, I know you’re a good person and you want to help. You might find yourself opening the door from time to time. This post is for you.

If you read The Babysitter Home Invader Plan post, you know that having a large can of pepper spray in your safe room is a pretty good way to create a very uncomfortable gauntlet for the home invaders to navigate to get to the safe room door. I was thinking about the likely scenarios that would result in a home invader getting inside when I’m not home. Considering that my mother and wife are home with my son (when I’m out) on occasion, and they are not as distrusting as I am, there might be an occasion where they answer the door to an unknown person. We’re in the suburbs now so there are plenty of Jehovah’s witnesses, gutter cleaning services, and possibly home invaders probing for easy marks. So my wheels were turning and I decided to stage pepper spray at each of the doors that people would logically knock on.

Instructions for Use

Edit: I have since learned that the 3 in 1 can be problematic for decontamination due to the C.S. component. It is better to get Sabre Red (Pure O.C.) because it’s just pepper extract.

If you’re going to open the door, the hand that will be behind the door will grab the pepper spray from the door frame and keep it at a ‘covert ready’ (behind the door or casually hanging behind the thigh) and a foot acting as a door stop a few inches behind the door. If things go south, you can quickly actuate the safety and spray him (them) down while forcing the door shut. I realize this isn’t ideal, but it beats having to go muscle to muscle against a possibly stronger person on the other side of the door. If it’s nothing (pizza’s here!), you can just as quickly and covertly stow it on the door frame. That’s it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Pepper Spray of your choice. I chose SABRE Red Pepper Spray. It’s an effective formula, and the price is right.
  • Adhesive backed hook and loop strips. I had Velcro Industrial Strength left over from a previous project. Use whatever you can get for cheap. Make sure the adhesive is holding up over time, because having your little kid find a pepper spray can on the ground and accidentally discharging it would make for a lot of nights sleeping on the couch. You could staple the velcro to the wood to assure it stays in place. The industrial quality velcro’s adhesive is very durable, in my experience.

All you need to do is cut a 2″ strip to wrap around the can, and a 1″ strip to adhere to the door frame. Stage it wherever makes sense. I put mine on the hinge side of the door on the door frame.


I hope this is getting your wheels turning. This is a cheap way to get some peace of mind if you have caretakers at home with your child while you’re out.

Protect the Brood and resist the urge to pepper spray Jehovah’s Witnesses,

Defensive Daddy

More Reading on how to behave around doors: