Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From Ferguson Missouri to a Little Range in Arizona

The Blog-o-sphere is alive with comments and self–proclaimed experts on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Google search comes up with 170 million hits.  Some of my favorite bloggers have waded in on the subject and generated huge responses.  I’m not going to be so controversial.  I don’t know what happened or how to educate the public, or what the civic community should do, but I will say I find it interesting that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson always seem to be where the television lights are.

From a tactical perspective one of the best comments came from Tom Gace, that unarmed is not the same as harmless.

To be clear most of this discussion applies to the armed civilian, the CCWer and not LEO.  And we are clearly talking about non-projectile weapons, like knives, fists and feet or library books, but not guns.

The expression 'unarmed' is often used by people not familiar with disparity of force.  Many people insist an assailant is armed only when they have a firearm or a knife at spitting distances.  It’s especially misunderstood in terms of the Tueller Drill.  Thanks to Tom, I found the original article Dennis Tueller wrote detailing his findings.

Dennis Tueller documented that a person can run 21 feet faster than most LEOs can draw and fire a center of mass shot.  He never talks about the type of weapon.  The reality is the assailant’s weapon is disparity of force and only the assailant can decide he has a weapon.  But if he assaults you, you should accept his demonstrated belief that he has the superior weapon even if you can't see it!

But you get to apply tactics to diminish the disparity of force any time!  You can use tactics so the response to the Tueller drill never has to happen.

The Tueller drill suggests a de-escalation tool, namely getting something between you and the potential assailant.  That object can be increased distance.  (Remember under CCW we have no obligation to close on a potential danger.)  It can be an object like a lamppost, car, a bicycle; anything that prevents inhibits the attacker.  I’d like to prevent, but I’ll take inhibit.  The more time I have to respond, the more time I have to run my OODA loop, to refine my actions and control my escalation.  All of which may prevent a lethal encounter.

Being chased about your car by a man with a knife while you call the police may seem silly, perhaps cowardly, but:
            A: Your assailant may decide this is a bad choice and leave;
    B: You can still escalate to lethal force if needed;
            C: Juries like knowing you tried to de-escalate;
            D: Nothing good ever comes out of the barrel of a gun.

Read more at:

Speaking of nothing good…

What kind of fool lets a 9-year-old child shoot a full-auto Uzi?  I don’t carry if the parents signed 100 waivers.  Charles Vacca is dead.  Somewhere there is a hole in a family and community that can never be filled.

As an instructor you’re supposed to use your knowledge to override the ignorance of your student.  You need to keep them and yourself safe.  I don’t care what the parents thought was cute, or what the range owner told you, you’re there and you’re responsible. 

Would you let a 9-year-old run a table saw?  Drive a Camaro Z28?  I hope not. 

I would have let the child shoot a .22LR pistol or rifle off a sand bag one round at a time.  Maybe I’d let them pull the trigger while I held the full-auto gun.  Maybe I’d talk to the owner about getting full auto air soft for children. Maybe I simply tell her parents nicely to get stuffed, that she needs another year or two of growth.  But I can tell you one thing, she would not be shooting full auto under my supervision.

I’m not going to tell you the shooting community gets a black eye from this.  That’s too trivial.  One man is dead.  Did he have a family, children, wife, all of whom depended on him?  A 9-year-old will grow up knowing she accidentally killed a person.  Her parents must accept some responsibility for this as well.  The range owner will probably lose his business and knows he’s to blame for allowing this activity atrocity.

I’ll going to stop typing now.  I’m speechless.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

More Lessons from the Damned

White Detroit-area man charged with murder of black woman                                                    Reuters Headline

Theodore Paul Wafer is fighting for his life.  The evening of Nov 1 2013 he thought it was going to be an ordinary night.  At 4:30 the next morning everything changed beyond his and our ability to fix.

I pulled the following information from several news websites.  I’ll try to keep their text in italics.  I don’t know what will happen to Mr. Wafer at trial.  (…guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter Thursday afternoon 7 Aug 13)  I do know he is a victim of poor or non-existent training and will be forced live with the death of a young woman, Renisha McBride, on his soul.  I’m asking a series of rhetorical questions and statements, but think about how they apply to your worst day possible.  Tactics isn’t always about the holster or the flashlight or even pieing a corner.  Sometimes it’s actions done the least stupid way.

Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday to second-degree murder charges in connection with the November 2, 2013 shooting of Renisha McBride.

Wafer told police he didn't know his gun was loaded and said he shot the unarmed teen by accident.  Later he admitted he knew the gun was loaded.  How does one shoot a gun by accident?  Somebody had to pull the trigger or does Wafer want to claim the gun was defective?  That might be even worse, painting a picture of a ticking time bomb that would discharge deadly force on its own.  No, he told the police a lie.  It may have been a face-saving lie or one to sooth his conscience about taking a life, but it’s a lie.  And the police and the jury must wonder “What else is he lying about?”

"I didn't know there was a round in there," he tells McManmon on the recording. (I assume it’s a police recording) "I don't get it. Who's knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang -- somebody wanting in."
Put yourself in his shoes.  You’re at home.  It is early morning and the sun isn’t up; it sounds like someone is trying to break in and not being able to find his cell phone, you can’t call the professionals, AKA the police.  So, with help not in the picture or arriving shortly, you go to investigate what you assume to be a violent criminal offender trying to break down your door, with an unloaded gun.  Tactical nonsense and I’m sure it made the police itchy.

Authorities say he shot McBride from behind a closed, locked screen door.”  I’m sure it was dark.  I’m sure Wafer was scared.  But I can’t help wondering why the entrance to the house had only had a locked screen door?   Wouldn’t you have a closed and locked storm door in the early hours of a cold November morning?  Did he open the storm to see who was out there?  Could he see who was there?  Did she say anything? Or do the papers just have the facts wrong?  I don’t have an answer to these questions, but I hope Wafer can answer these questions to the jury’s satisfaction.

Almost every news article played the race card hence my opening line.  Wafer is white and the dead girl is black.  Newspaper and news media aren’t about fairness.  The story isn’t about a scared man who shot a young woman on his porch.  It is about selling advertising and nothing sells like conflict.

During the trial the prosecutor shows a stockless shotgun and plenty of pictures of the lifeless, mangled body (McBride was shot in the face, falling on her back, with her feet facing Wafer's door).   I’m sure there’s a photo of her at high school graduation or a class photo for contrast.

Wait a minute, you tell me.  Doesn’t it matter she was high and drunk?  (…friend of McBride told the court that she and the victim had been playing a drinking game with vodka and smoking marijuana the night of the shooting.)

It only matters if Wafer knew this before he pulled the trigger.  What you find out afterwards has no bearing of your act of self-defense.  She is portrayed as a 19-year-old girl (not a woman which carries the notation of responsiblity, but a teenage girl)  who was drunk and high and should have been perceived as harmless.  I’m sure that was not lost on the jury.

Ah, what about the Castle doctrine?  I’m not a lawyer, but she was on the outside of a locked door.  Wafer isn’t claiming he saw a weapon.  You may not have a duty to retreat in your castle, but you still have to demonstrate your reasonable belief that the danger was immediate, present and life-threatening. 

Wafer shotgun held by pregnant prosecutor
Stockless shotgun held by pregnant prosecutor.  Was an expectant mother chosen for jury sympathy?  Yes, I am that cynical.    
In my opinion, Wafer harmed himself by using a stockless shotgun.  It screams thug.  If it was a normal, three-round duck and rabbit hunting shotgun it would not be so sinister looking.  Remember, court is theater and the jury decides who has the better song and dance.  So what does your self-protection weapon look like?

He took the stand in his own defense.  Some of his testimony contradicted what he told officers when they arrived at his house minutes after the shooting.
Wafer metaphorically shoots himself twice in the foot.    I don’t advise not cooperating with the police, but do so with moderation and circumspect.  Point out that you were forced to defend yourself.  Point out any evidence supporting your claim and then insist on speaking with a lawyer.  Stop talking!

Everything you say to the police, under the burden of stress or fear and emotional upheaval will be used against you.  The presence of button video cameras worn by many police officers and the ubiquitous cell phone  means your appearance and actions will be studied and used as well.

That was actually the second time he shot his toes off.  The first was not calling the police at the beginning.  He couldn’t find his cell phone, he claims.  Maybe.  I lose/misplace mine all the time.  But there’s always one in my bedroom every night.  That phone is my and my wife’s lifeline to the police.  At the very least the call to the police demonstrates you tried to resolve the problem without violence.  Juries like that.

I am a Second Amendment supporter.  I see the right to bear arms as a political statement recognizing the God-given right to self-protection and self-determination.  But I've got to say, with every right goes specific duties.  Frankly, spending 4 to 8 hours in class learning about those responsibilities is an inexpensive insurance policy.  Just ask Mr. Wafer. 

Mr. Wafer was convicted of the murder of Ms. McBride.  The judge, unmoved by his statement, sentenced him to at least 17 years.

Reflect on this grasshopper. 
One has to wonder what the outcome would have been if he said nothing to the police other than "I was in fear for my life and I acted to defend myself.  I want to speak to a lawyer before I answer any questions."  

Of course, think how much better it would have been if he had his cell phone and simple dialed 911.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Long Pants

Ankle holsters fill the bill for several functions.  

small 5 shot back up revolver
Typical backup gun

The CCW crowd needs to carry concealed but other than practice seldom draws and fires.  For them the ankle holster is easy to conceal, comfortable to wear, and still relatively accessible with a little practice.  It absolutely shines when you have to draw from a car seat or in a booth in a restaurant.

For the police, faced with greater danger, it serves as a great backup weapon in uniform and off-duty.  Again, it’s easy to conceal, comfortable to wear, doesn’t fall out if you have to run, and for special circumstances, like off-duty or plainclothes, it is perhaps the only concealable weapon you can carry.

To introduce shooters to ankle carry and to motivate them to get a little training, we set up a three stage fun course just for ankle guns.  We scored it like IDPA and offered to loan holsters and equipment out.  All the strings were limited to 5 rounds max, no reloading.

First String involved remaining seated at a table and engaging two near targets with one head shot each (don’t hit the no-shoots) and then stopping the target at three yards with two center of mass hits.

seated at the table engage the shoot targets
String One

Shooter has engaged the first two targets and is now shooting the third, more distant target under the watchful eye of the SO.

String Two had shooters drawing and engaging the three-yard target with one head shot and two center-of-mass hits to each target at four and six yards.  Again, don’t hit the no shoot.

shooter has drawn and is engaging the three shoot targets
Shooter has options of standing or kneeling, depending on their draw.

The shooter can stand or kneel as they see fit.  I found remaining kneeling to be the fastest.

String Three was different.  Three shoot targets stretched out over 9 yards.  The shooter moves between the targets shooting at least one with a head shot and the others with two to the center of mass.  The shooter picks distances to shoot at based on their abilities and confidence levels.

draw from ankle holster and engage one target with ahead shot, the remaining with two body.
String three.  A simple set-up but with surprising results.

Most shooters chose to advance on target 3 after shooting target 2 instead of shooting from there.

All of these courses of fire reflect my paradigm that using an ankle gun will be a relatively up-close and personal thing.  I suspect you will not be taking sniping shots at a target 20 yards away.  The five round limit forces you change your typical response of double-tapping everything.

What did we find out?
The right pants are a requirement!!!  Jeans and slacks with form-fitting legs, including some 511s, took more effort and gave more trouble than looser pants.  I had Tru-Spec on and had no trouble. Just so you know, the Tru-Spec people don’t know I exist.  I just like their pants!

There are few graceful ankle draws, so get over it.  The draw is slow and looks off balance with one exception.  Drawing from a seated position can be done so smoothly nobody realizes you have a gun in your hand.  In a car or restaurant while seated, the movement is almost undetectable.  The holster comes up to the dominant knee while the shooting hand slips under the table, pulls the pant leg up and accesses the gun.  Of course, the right pants make all the difference.

Not all ankle holsters are created equal.  You want to avoid those holsters that secure the weapon with a strip of Velcro attached to the outside of the holster.  Avoid holsters that take two hands to unsnap and the draw the gun.  Some holsters cant the gun to better conceal it or to insure you don’t need to roll your pant leg up to the knee.  Your preference, unfortunately, must be found out by trial and error.  I prefer to have the gun parallel to my tibia.

Several people didn’t want to kneel to draw.  I do.  With one knee down you’re more stable, your head is upright and scanning for more danger.  You’re a smaller target, but in any case, you are less mobile and you should consider moving to a different location.  If you need to shoot immediately you can; you don’t have to straighten up.

If you choose your spot right by using cover and concealment, you could become significantly less visible.  Done in the open, you’ll stand out from the rest of the people no matter what you do.

We also saw that pushing the gun out and onto a target 18-30 inches away works fine.  This is a specific form of point shooting.  Both front and rear sights are visible in your vision, but you are more pointing than aiming.  This is not the elbow-on-hip point shooting that Bill Jordan is famous for but the style of shooting that Bill Fairbairn developed while cleaning up the Crown colony of Shanghai before WWII. 

With increased distance it becomes important to use your front and rear sights, but the quick transition from point shooting to using both the front and rear sights was difficult.

Several people used a laser to find their aim point.  It was slow and time consuming especially since most laser dots at that distance were hidden by the bulk of the gun.

The limiting factors on all the strings appear to be the speed and smoothness when drawing from the ankle holster.  This is governed by the equipment and your skill level.  Practice, Grasshopper.

String three caused most shooters to run up to the target and shoot it.  This was unexpected behavior.  The COF specified all three had contact weapons, so perhaps violence of action would have worked.  What I had in mind was a balancing act between the time to takes to cover a distance and time spent not shooting.  Understand? 


I played with a lot of numbers, made assumptions and when I finished, still had nothing I would want to pass along other than a concept. 

If the targets were real bad guys they would experience and react to the passage of time just as the shooter does.  The .38 Spl covers 9 yards so fast both you and the target are essentially frozen in time the instant the bullet leaves the barrel.  Taking two or three steps may make the shot easier, but it gives the last target/bad guy time to utilize lethal force.  Perhaps the optimal solution is superior marksmanship with the weapon at hand.  

The decision to waste time to gain an advantage on a target at 9 yards distant is completely negated by being able to hit at these distances.

You cannot argue that fast, accurate shooting has no relationship to survival in a lethal force encounter, period.  If fast time is related to survival, then a second faster makes a difference.

And then again, as one shooter said “If I was the bad guy and just saw our victim (you, the good guy) step up and shoot my buddy in the head, turn and start shootin’ the other guy, I’d get my ass out of there!”

Drawing from the ankle holster.
The first and most obvious step is to get the pant leg out of the way. Grab the fabric on both sides below the knee.  If one hand slips off the fabric the other hand insures getting the fabric out of the way.  The knee should be straight.

Pull the fabric up as high as possible. 

White sock not required!

If Cole Porter thought a glimpse of stocking was something shocking, you want to blast them with a lot bare leg

Now you need to let go of the fabric with just your shooting hand and grasp the gun. Let the non-shooting hand hold the fabric out of the way.  You need to pop open any retention devices.  I kneel for this because I can shoot from the kneeling position.  If I bend over, I need to straighten up first.  In any case it is import to get your best possible grip, because you may not have time to change it.

Get your shooting grip before your draw.

Pop the gun straight up out of the holster.  Remember, you have been in this position for several seconds making yourself a fixed target for incoming rounds.  Consider moving to a new location, even if it is just a step.

Since the holster goes under the sock, some people find wearing the holster against skin abrasive.  You have to be truly dedicated or slightly kinky, to continuing doing something that becomes painful.  

Note liner sock under holster and concealment sock over holster.

One trick is to double sock it.  Wear a thin liner sock under the holster and then your normal one over the holster.