Friday, July 13, 2018

Double Vision

One has to change with the times, especially with those areas of technology that can improve our lives.  The question is does that technology actually improve our lives and what is just a ploy to liberate funds from our wallet.

The only true answer is try these things out, preferably on someone else’s dime.  Of course you need to reciprocate and let others try your new toys so they can decide if it will really improve some aspect of their lives.

With this in mind I’ve taken advantage of any offers to try someone’s miracle blaster with reflex dot.

Reflex sights aren’t anything new.  They were invented in 1900 and didn’t see much use in WWI.  During the Second World War they were used on attack aircraft as well as tanks and other heavy weapon systems where the operator needed to engage fast moving targets.
Early pistol and rifle models had drawbacks, chiefly power consumption.  The Weaver Quik-Point attempted to get around the battery problem by relying on sunlight, but you had to depend on perfect weather conditions for reliable performance.  Despite these problems Bull-eye shooters quickly adopted the dot.  After all, everyone was already lugging a telescope around in their gunbox, so what’s a few extra button batteries? 

And it was worth it!  When I shot bulls-eye Aimpoint and Tasco were leading the charge and simply using one added 10 points to your average. 

The original dots were big and bulky, but the discovery of light diodes changed things.  Today's small reflex sights could be mounted on defensive pistols.  These dots are durable and hold their zero very well.  Some of the early ones were set up so the dot would come on when you drew the gun and stay on until you turned it off.  Just a battery saving option.  The new ones sip electricity and run continuously for over a year.  Give yourself a button battery every year for Christmas and you never need to worry about turning your sight off.

So when my friend Rich offered me a filled magazine and his new pistol with a dot, damn straight I shot it.

The first couple of shoots worked like a charm.  Put the red dot on the target, press the trigger and get a resounding BONG! from the steel.  After two rounds I got cocky.

Starting at the low ready I brought the gun up, place the red dot on the steel and proceeded to shoot over the top of it.  Let’s try that again.

Up, dot on steel target, press trigger and shoot the backstop over the top of it.  Must be jerking the trigger.  Do it over.

Up, dot on steel target, carefully press trigger and shot the backstop again.  This isn’t going very well.
reflex sight,
There it is.  A red dot as clear as day and centered in the reflex housing.  Or is it?

And then I figured it out.  Rich has a red dotted front sight and I was holding the gun so the front sight was centered in the reflex sight while the red diode dot was over the top of the target….Haaa!  I got it now.

reflex sight
The lower red dot is the front sight while the upper dot is the true aiming point.  No wonder I was shooting high!

The rest of shots were rewarded with a clang.

Rich tells me that using a suppressor front and rear sight (they are taller) will be coaxial with the red dot.  This makes using the dot easier to find.  Rich also tells me most competitors don’t use the suppressor sights as they fill about a third of the reflex sight.

I got to admit I use a dot on my rifle as it makes hitting easier, and I’m likely to add a dot to one of my larger carry guns.  I just got to find the right one.

Now for something completely different!

I’m also prepping for Greenport Tactical Association’s single stack classic.  It’s open only to 1911 .45 acp single stack pistols.  I replaced my old grips for a set of Magpul MOE grips and I think this will give me a better grip.  We’ll see. 

I suspect the groove will also assist you reaching the mag release, but I like locking my thumb into it.
One thing for sure I’m using one of Ricky’s kydex holsters and mag carriers in that match.  Ricky makes very nice holsters and he’ll work with you to get it right.  Check his facebook page for more.

Ricky's kydex holsters
I like the way he's curved the mag carries so they hug you waist better.  The workmanship is excellent!

I spend about an hour and 100 rounds, practicing magazine changes from slidelock.  I also threw in a little drawing and remembering to take the safety off and I don’t think I’ll embarrass myself too much.  The purpose of shooting matches, besides the fun, is dealing with the stress.  It’s good practice.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


We, and I include myself, talk about CQB or CQC, but few of us understand its origins.  The origins of modern close quarters combat as well as many modern police tactics start with the policing methods pioneered by Assistant Commissioner William E. Fairbairn in Shanghai in the 1920s.

At the time Shanghai was acknowledged to be the most dangerous port city in the world.  The heavy opium trade run by the Chinese Triads and the Chinese Civil war in the background made corruption and crime a world class sporting event.  Policing was almost impossible.

Into this hell hole fell Willian E. Fairbairn who joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in 1907.  Over the years he had studied fighting in a variety of forms: boxing, wrestling, savate and Kodokan judo in which he gained a 2nd degree black belt, as well as a loose umbrella of techniques called Chinese martial arts.

After the May Thirtieth Movement riots and its police massacre, Fairbairn was charged with developing an auxiliary squad for riot control and aggressive policing.  He was charged by the British with essentially cleaning up Shanghai.  One can almost hear the old blue nose at the club saying “By the by Willian, old man, could you solve our Shanghai problem in a fortnight?”

To accomplish this he needed to develop a CQC system he could quickly teach his men to give them an advantage in the deadly raids to come.  He condensed these arts into a practical combat system he called Defendu.  This form had both grappling and striking techniques, but little if any blocking techniques.  These skills also included pistol craft, the genesis of the much confused “point shooting.”

CQC, close quarters combat

This combat system was simple and could be learned and mastered by recruits relatively quickly as compared to the years required of traditional martial arts training before you can “...snatch the pebble from my hand…’.  It was as brutally effective as possible. The method incorporated training in point shooting and gun combat techniques, as well as the effective use of more unconventional weapons such as chairs or table legs.

Simple, direct "dirty fighting"
He and his police team field-tested these skills on the streets of Shanghai effectively in over 2000 documented encounters, including over 600 lethal force engagements.

During the Second World War, Fairbairn was brought back to Britain, and, after demonstrating the effectiveness of his techniques, was recruited to train the British commandos in his combat method.  It is difficult to imagine the need to emphasize that combat was not a gentleman’s sport and that these techniques were gutter fighting designed to cripple and kill effectively.  Many of the social elite of the time still saw combat as a chess game played with real men and that gentlemen never cheat.

Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife
Entry from rear next to spine, out on opposite side of windpipe and push all the through.  Nothing sporting about it.
During this period, his 'Shanghai Method' evolved into 'Silent Killing Close Quarters Combat method'. This became standard combat training for all British Special Operations personnel.  He also designed the pioneering Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, which was adopted for use by British and American Special Forces. In 1942, he published a textbook for close quarters combat training called Get Tough.

Dirty Fighting
I'm sure the photo is posed, but the knife's use is well documented. 

 U.S. Army officers Rex Applegate and Anthony Biddle learned Fairbairn's methods and adopted the program for the training of OSS operatives.  Applegate published his work in 1943, called "Kill or Get Killed" and I have a reprinted copy of this classic on my bookshelf.  During the war, this training was used by British Commandos, the Devil's Brigade, OSS, U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders.  Some of this remains the basis taught to CIA, FBI and police officers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


One of the few blogs I try to read regularly had an entry on pain.  Matt points out that pain is outside of our traditional training. 

Experiencing pain
Hurts to think about it.

 We can measure speed, accuracy, response time, bullet penetration into “jello” and so many other parameter, but cardboard targets don’t feel pain.

This is unfortunate.  Ammunition manufacturers could advertise their product as “Gun dropping painful!” as a way of promoting a “safer” round.  This would be turned around by lawyers claiming “… wanted to shoot and punish someone several times so they used a less painful bullet…”

Pain is also not a component of the holy grail of self-defense, stopping power.  A motivated person could soak up several rounds without too much notice even when they die later.  The 1986 FBI Miami Shoot-out demonstrates that.  Both Platt and Matix soaked up an impressive amount of firepower before dying.

Pain, like all sensations, is perceived by the brain.  The thalamus, part of the primitive brain, receives the nerve impulses and communicates this to the thinking part called the cerebral cortex.  Its here that pain is interpreted and emotions like fear, anxiety and pleasure are experienced with a wide range of responses.

Instructors try to approach the concept by attempting to increase anxiety and fear hoping to vaccinate the student against the paralytic effects of these emotions.  Massad Ayoob used to take students one at a time to the range after frightening warning them about the effects of being zapped with a stun gun on their backside.  Of course he’d first do this to his line officers.  I remember getting zapped, jumping while screaming in fake pain, hitting the ground and then drawing my gun to complete the course of fire.  

This of course produced the desired effect in the students who were told to stand behind a berm and not to watch as it was too terrifying to witness.  Of course all of them found some location to take in the range theatre.

Even training in normal attire (no armor) with Simunitions, being tagged doesn’t approximately the pain of being shot. 

Or does it?  

I’ve gotten spectacular bruises from Simunitions which were painful hours later, but all I remember of the hit was impact and not the pain.  I met a fellow in one class who had been shot with a .45 ACP while in the service and his description had more to deal with fear of death than pain.

We have anecdotal evidence that pain is blocked out when the survival of the organism is at stake.  The zebra that can’t ignore the lion’s painful clawing and bite isn’t likely to survive the attack.  While the animal may die later from complications, immediate survival depends on escaping.

Read the parable Matt starts his column with.  It’s insightful.  The carjacker doesn’t talk about pain as much as he talks about:
  • Fear
  • Paralyzing effects of fear
  • Not having a plan.

We know that fear and pain have a relationship.  As teachers and students, at best we can only introduce levels of discomfort.  Few CQC courses would prosper if most of the students exited the class with torn rotator cuffs and broken fingers.  The same applies to firearm courses.  Shooting students through the ass, or an in-out through the bicep will land you in civil court at best.

But fear, we can learn to deal with that.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Basics 8

The use of cover and concealment can be confusing, especially in light of the difference between definitions and reality.

Cover:  Bulletproof,
Concealment: Invisibility.

It seems simple until we parse it a bit. 

Let us examine cover.  The key question is how bulletproof and for how long?  Take for example, a telephone pole.  You can’t get all of you behind the wooden post, but it’s what you got.  A bullet striking one inch from the edge has 6.6 inches of wood to penetrate.  That maybe enough protection for a handgun, but what about rifle?  In any case that inch effectively reduces the width of your bulletproof shield to 10 inches.

Stone block?  How many rounds before the block shatters?  I’ve seen cinder blocks fail after as few as 2 rounds of hardball .45 ACP.

What do you see as bulletproof and /or invisibility?
Concealment is often qualified with the adjective ‘total.’  It’s funny in the movies when someone’s hat is visible on top of cover, but in real life it could be fatal.  Few of us would be comfortable taking concealment by stepping back into inky black shadows, where you’re only a hand full of photons from being revealed.

The prudent take a little extra time and explore and mentally map out exits at home, work and your favorite play areas.  It quickly becomes apparent there is very little that is truly bulletproof, but much of it can be considered concealment.  If you can’t be seen, you are less likely to be shot, so concealment isn’t without value.  There are even a few locations that are both bulletproof and provide invisibility.

One of the new paradigms: Engaging a shooter while moving to cover is a waste of ammo and time, just run like hell. 

The metal flowerpot filled with dirt?  The tree?   MAYBE using the street side of the park cars to move to a better location or simple get out would be the best option. 

Maybe, just give it some thought.  It echoes the thoughts of many shooters who wonder why they would advance in to gunfire protected only by a hail of their bullets.

tactics  internal stud position
Typical interior construction under the drywall in your house.  Despite TV, does that look like cover or concealment to you?

Here are a few simple rules.
  • Unless forced to, never leave cover for a new location unless the new location offers significantly better advantages.
  • Never leave cover with a weapon without placing the least empty magazine in your weapon. 
  • Use concealment to invisibly move to an area of better advantage.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Meditations on Violence: A review

I just finished Rory Miller’s “Meditations on Violence.” 

If you’re serious about self-protection, you should read this one.  It’s geared to open-handed fighting and gaining a better understanding of the assumptions and limitations of martial arts or fight training.  It is also of valuable to the firearm self-defense community.

Miller is veteran corrections officer who has been practicing various martial arts since 1981 and teaches as well as designs use of force and tactics courses.  He is a man who typically has a fight every working day.

There are several lessons foremost in my mind:
True predators are unpredictable.  They will cheat in profound ways.
Assumptions are those things you believe to be true without really considering them. 
Most of what we think is true is a story we tell ourselves.
Most instructors are telling their students stories they have been told (especially in the martial arts).
Do not try to understand the chemically altered mind (alcohol, drugs, adrenaline) from the context of your normal one.
NYPD stats (1994-2000) show trained police officer’ handgun hit ratio from zero to two yards of 38%. From 3 to 7 yards the ratio drops to 17%.

When I apply these concepts to my personal training I begin to see some of the assumptions passed on to me, i.e. I’m re-examining how I think an assault would start, or my belief that accuracy is more important than speed.  I think about the response I get from other shooters in response to potential knife attacks.

Look at his information and reverse it.  Fleeing from a spree shooter or ‘disposable’ terrorist makes more sense in light of the NYPD stats.  What other gemlike reversals can you find?

Much of his messages have been disseminated by trainers, authors and bloggers.  Sargent Miller would be the first to urge you to read his book with a cynical eye.  Even so, it represents the point of view from a man whose professional business is violence.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Dead End Street

It’s been a year.  A year of holding your breath, prepping for the worst but praying for something better.

William Knight shot and killed Keith Johnson in what he claimed was in self-defense of himself and others.

The jury didn’t believe him.

Like most trials, it’s a story of opposites. Johnson is black and was young, Knight is white and 64.  Johnson was in possession of a stolen dirt bike, Knight was a law abiding citizen assisting in the recovery of the bike for the rightful owners, his daughter and son-in-law.  Knight thought he was innocent and shooting was justified, the state proved he was wrong and therefore guilty.

I wasn’t at the trial.  I’m extracting all my information from the Akron Beacon Journal, not always the most exacting source of information.

What happened?


Knight’s son-in-law (Curtis) was searching a neighborhood in Akron’s Goodyear Heights when he received a cell call that in the next block over, Keith Johnson had the stolen dirt bike.  Curtis appears to have called his father-in-law, William Knight, to bring his pick-up truck over, as Curtis had no room in the back of his truck to transport the hopefully recovered dirt bike.

At some point Curtis attempted to get the Akron police to accompany him, but this fails to happen.  Curtis proceeds without police support.

The prosecutor stated Knight “tactically” parked his truck a few doors down.  Danmead Ave comes off north of Eastwood Ave. and after a few blocks dead ends into a line of trees and bushes which edges the Metro hiking trail, Freedom Trail.  I assume Knight parks so that his truck is a few houses south of the future crime scene and north of Eastwood Ave.

Knight appears to have stayed with his truck.  His son-in-law establishes proper ownership of the dirt bike and Johnson tacitly agrees the bike is stolen and attempts to ransom it back to the owner.

At some point the problem escalates and Johnson attempts to de-escalate by riding away on the stolen dirt bike.  Curtis tries to pull a plug wire or reach the kill switch on the handle bar.  Johnson knocks Curtis to the ground and drives away.  Curtis’s wife, Knight’s daughter, makes a 911 call requesting police help.

It gets a little cloudy on what happens next.  Did Johnson attempt to drive south to Eastwood and found Knight getting out of his truck?  Did he turn around and drive north planning to escape on to the Freedom Trail hiking path? 

Knight claimed he thought his daughter and son-in-law were in danger of being struck and killed.  Knight drew his .357 (revolver?) and fired a warning shot into the air and seconds later followed up with shot that struck Johnson in the head and killed him.  At this point all gun fire stops for the rest of the incident.  The sound of his shots are captured by the police dispatcher.

Knight is originally charged with involuntary manslaughter.  This excites members of the community who feel it is another example of black lives mattering less than white lives.  The Grand Jury later charges him with two counts of murder and two counts of felonious assault.

Knight is now faced with 18 to life in prison.

Observation and Lessons

What went wrong?  Now I’m not a lawyer and I didn’t consult with one, but I have a few thoughts.

Knight had a CCW license for two months at the time.  Did his training fail him?  What did his training tell him about the justified use of lethal force?  I hope your training covered it in detail.

Did the warning shot fired in the air have anything to do the outcome?  The America justice system generally considers every discharge of a firearm as an application of lethal force.  I suspect that’s why two counts of murder and two counts of felonious assault were applied.  Firing a warning shot into the air, in an urban or even in a rural environment could be a textbook definition of careless and indifference to human suffering.  Reckless is another word I might use.  Does this paint a picture of a Knight as a man who doesn’t give a damn?

Not spelled out, was Johnson ridding away from Knight when he was shot?  A dirt bike would be considered a contact weapon, so moving away from you would not put you in jeopardy.  It’s possible a self-defense shooting could result being shot in the back, but your attorney must be able to explain this to the jury.  Did the head shot speak of an execution to the jury?  I suspect that needed to be explained in a manner that is supported by physical evidence.

Was the second shot accidental?  Knight might have been attempting to pull the gun down from recoil, and pulled the trigger a second unintentional time?  I’ve seen shooters accidentally fire a second round on the range because of that.  Again, did his training fail him?

Somehow Knight thought his family was in immediate danger and the jury didn’t see it that way.  At the very least he needed to remember you cannot use lethal force to protect property.  Knight and his family would have been better served by waiting for the police.

Changing the legal charge isn’t unexpected and you should expect it too.  The police need a charge to hold you and start the process.  The prosecutor will research the evidence and interview witnesses and convene a Grand Jury.  The prosecutors will select those charges they feel they can get a conviction.

Knight was appointed two attorneys, Kerry O’Brien and Jaclyn Palumbo.  O’Brien is a criminal attorney and Palumbo is a probate attorney.  I have no doubt they did their best.  But ask yourself, how many truly innocent men have they represented? Most criminal attorneys have criminals for clients and not innocent men and women.  You may have to suggest things to them.  Have you read the gold standard, “In the Gravest Extreme” and its follow-up, “Deadly Force” by Massad Ayoob?  They should be read and on your bookshelf.

Just to remind you of the theater that occurs in these cases, the prosecutor said Knight parked tactically, whatever that means.  The newspaper emphasized Knight “…carried a loaded .357 with him along with additional ammunition,” as if a reload is somehow sinister!  Who would carry an unloaded gun for self-protection?

The community held up a petty criminal as a rally point in our continuing efforts to deal with race.  I wouldn’t know how that affected Knight and his family.  The death of Keith Johnson is a tragedy to too many families. 

So, what are you, in the split second that seems to last an eternity, going to do?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let's Rock!

Epsilon Aurigaiese for  LOL?

Are crop circles really just emojis for little green men?
Do vampires get fang abscesses?
Should we arm students?

It has been said an idle mind is a blogger’s best friend.

Dr. David Hill, Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Blue Mountain School District, want to arm students. 

With rocks.

He wants to put a 5 gallon pail of river stones in each classroom so the students can throw rocks at an armed shooter.  River rocks are relatively small, smooth and easy to throw.

I suppose you could substitute golf ball, assuming the students did steal 'em for a quick round.

I don’t think he goes far enough.  The kids need practice.  Once a week at gym class they should spend a little time throwing rocks at a plywood cut out.  I’d start with a 16 inch hole at 15 feet, just throw it through the opening.  The kids that have trouble get a little extra coaching and attention.  Then narrow it down to an 8 inch hole at 10 yards.

The final goal is of course a life size 3D cut-out of an armed person. 

Who knows what this might grow into?  District rock throwing field events?  Precision throwing events?  New interests in field geology?

You think I’m writing tongue in cheek, right?

I’m not.

Dr. Hill is at least proposing something concrete that might work.  Not some pie-in-the-sky, hairball idea which is not feasible.  Ideas, like banning guns, making everyone submit to a psychiatric examination to find and treat anti-social personalities, more police stationed at every school, building schools like some kind of fantasy James Bondian fortress castle with tank pits, laser beams and metal detectors on all doors, windows and random hall locations, will not work.  These ideas include some FBI/NSA super computer scanning emails, cell phone calls and all of social media looking for a thousand and one key words and phrases that might indicate a problem.  His idea is better because it is what you can do, not what some anonymous they should be doing.

Let’s get real.

Assume there is a gunman in your school shooting students.  What are the options?

Call the police.  Great start, but what’s their response time?  Was that another gun shot?
You can barricade the doors to the classrooms and/or cafeteria.  Not a terrible idea.
Arm the teachers who want to be armed and give them additional training. I like it, but it’s not received well in many sectors of society.
You could hide under desks and tables and hope he doesn’t shoot you.  Terrible idea!  That’s like standing in front of an open box of candies and wondering which one you should take first.
You could fight back, couldn’t you?  That might not be as wacky as it sounds.

I wouldn’t want to face 4 or 5 people throwing rocks at me while I tried to engage them.  (That’s competition talk for shooting them.)

An informal study of spree shooters indicates they stop shooting when met with force.  Often they take their own lives.  Even the Federal government’s training videos indicate that attacking armed terrorist with improvised weapons (fire extinguishers, broom handles and cups of hot coffee) is an extreme but viable option for trapped potential victims.

I would prefer to read that Dickless Asshole pulled a gun and was shot dead by someone at the door of the school.  Barring that, I’d rather read that he was attacked by 4 or 5 people throwing rocks that kept him from killing anyone else until someone with a gun ended him.