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Reactive Target Training

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 12.56.20 AMWhen I first started taking my son shooting at the range, it didn’t take long for him to get seriously bored with putting holes in paper targets.  I have found this to be true with many shooters once they get past the initial thrill of firing a gun.  There is certainly a benefit to shooting at a simple flat target, but it can also have some disadvantages. Boredom is one of them.

Boredom is certainly a major concern because it will eventually lead to a deterioration of skills because the shooter won’t be as inclined to practice once the thrill is gone.  But another issue with paper targets is that they aren’t as affective at teaching proper marksmanship as reactive targets are.  So it becomes a double whammy because the shooter practices less, and gets less out of the practice they do engage in.

It isn’t a surprise to anybody when I tell you that you will do a better job, be it shooting at the range or preparing reports for your boss at work, if you receive praise for a job well done.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that the negative feedback you receive for poor performance can also serve you in a positive way depending on how you react to it.  This is amplified when we are talking about a physical skill.

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Let’s take shooting a basketball as an example.  When you take your shot, you find out in relatively short order whether or not you have practiced good form resulting in a made shot.  You see the ball either go in, or miss, and you make adjustments from there for your next shot.  You don’t need somebody to praise you for using good form because making the shot provides instant feedback, as does missing it.

When we are shooting at the range, there are times, depending on how far the shot is, that we cannot tell whether or not we made the shot or not. And if you miss, you generally cannot see precisely where.  In our basketball example, you know if you miss high, or low, or left, or right.  Target shooting doesn’t always provide this type of precise feedback unless you are utilizing a spotter.

With a reactive target, you know either by sight, or sound, or both, immediately if you hit your mark. And it is scientifically proven that the more instant the feedback, the better from a standpoint of learning the skill.  When shooting, the feedback is usually received in less than a second.  And this positive feedback makes you feel good mentally which helps to ingrain the proper technique.  It also motivates the shooter to correct and then stay away from bad habits that result in misses.

So reactive targets will make you a better shooter, and, they will serve to increase the enjoyment of going to the range which will inspire you to go more often which will result in you becoming an even better shooter.  It’s a win win.

In my opinion, the best reactive target are steel. You see your hits and you hear them instantly.  Depending on where you shoot though, steel targets might not be available to you. So an alternative must be found if we are to receive the benefits found in reactive targets.

One very popular type of reactive target are the color changing targets.  Essentially what happens is that when the bullet passes through it, the area around the hole will change color to distinguish it from the rest of the target.  Let’s say the background of the target is black, when the bullet goes through it, the color will change to orange, or green or maybe yellow.  You will be able to see, even at some distance whether you have hit it or not.  You will not get an audable sound, but you will get instant visual verification.Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 1.02.52 AM

If you want something that is a step up from the color changing paper target, you can opt for a self-sealing plastic target.  These targets come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, even ones that resemble and work just like steel targets, but without the distinctive sound you get from steel.  Still, these self-sealing targets are a fun way to practice shooting and most outdoor ranges will allow their use.

So do some research on what is out there in the way of reactive targets and go with the one that best works for you and your situation.  I guarantee you will have more fun at the range and you skills will improve at the same time.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

Shooting on the Move

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 1.34.00 PMI have been talking recently about improving your shooting skills by utilizing targets that are more realistic and targets that are reactive.  I next want to address another important skill to master in order to come out on top after a gunfight; that being shooting on the move.

If you are faced with a bad guy with a weapon, any type of weapon, one of the worst things you can do is to remain standing in the same spot for the duration of the encounter.  You must be moving as much as possible to make yourself a harder target to hit and to be seeking cover and or concealment.  In fact, during a shootout, nobody is likely to be standing still for long.

If you are going to be moving, it might be a good idea to practice doing so while shooting.  Better put, you are going to have to practice shooting, while moving.  And if you have trouble hitting the target while stationary, hitting the target while moving is gonna be difficult at best, but it’s a skill that is vital to learn and one that can be mastered with some practice.

The most difficult part about moving and shooting is trying to keep the sights aligned to the target.  Even if you are moving in a straight line towards or away from the target, you will find your sights will be bouncing up and down in relation to the target because you will be bouncing up and down.  There is practically nothing that can be done to stop some movement, either up and down or side to side, but you can reduce it and or compensate for it.

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The first thing to understand is that you cannot take on a rigid profile.  Many people who are stationary target shooting try and make themselves as rigid as possible to minimize movement of the sights before the shot and to brace for recoil after the shot.  Being rigid while moving and shooting is the wrong approach.  As you move, your legs need to be acting as shock absorbers.  The knees have to remain bent and the legs flexible as you move. Next, you need to learn to walk heel to toe moving forward, toe to heel moving back and never cross one foot in front of the other as you move side to side.  This will help reduce the up and down movement of your upper body and keep you from tripping yourself.

Your upper body, in particular your arms also need to be more flexible while moving and shooting than they are if you are standing still.  You cannot reduce all of the sights movements with your lower body alone, your upper body, in particular your arms also have to take on some of the burden.  Image that the gun is floating in front of you on a cushion of air as you move.  Your elbows should be slightly bent and your shoulders acting as shock absorbers similar to your legs.

Trigger control is absolutely critical while moving and shooting. As you see the target appear in your sights, there will be a tendency to mash the trigger.  This will inevitably result in shots low on or missing  the target altogether.  It is important to practice good trigger control all the time, but while stationary, you can be slightly off with the trigger, while moving you cannot.  You should work on developing a rhythm in which you pull the trigger at the same point in your movements.  Generally a good rule of thumb is to pull the trigger while the heel of one foot is on the ground and the toe of the other is down.  This is usually the most stable portion of your movement.

Keep in mind that even the best shooters accuracy will suffer somewhat when shooting on the move.  Your grouping will not be as tight, and you should not expect it to be. But with practice, you will develop enough skill to put rounds on target consistently while moving.  The important thing to remember is you have to practice to get there.

Lastly, the best thing you can do in a gun fight is do your best to be stationary when you return fire.  As best you can you should try to move in between shots, either to cover or concealment and limit your shooting until after you get there. But as best laid plans of mice and men goes, that aint always gonna happen.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility. You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life. It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun. Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.


What’s the Real Threat?

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 3.08.38 AMWhen shooting, as it is when you throw a ball, it is critical to look where you want the shot to go.  This is especially true when point shooting, a procedure whereby the shooter doesn’t aim utilizing the guns sights, but rather by pushing the gun out towards the target and aiming by looking the gun into the target.  We will discuss point shooting in an upcoming article, for now, I want to focus on what it is you should be focusing on when engaging a target.

The target should be the bad guy, and not the tool he is employing as a weapon.  Remember the old adage, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?”  Well, this is more than just some outdated expression, it’s a fact.  The threat you should be concerned about, and the one you should focus on and engage is the person behind the weapon, be it a knife, bat or gun.  Eliminate the person and the weapon becomes useless.

Why distinguishing between the human threat and the target is important is because as stated above, you have to look at your target in order to hit it.

I can remember the first time I participated in a gunfight with another human utilizing simunition rounds.  In the scenario, we stood about 10 feet apart with our guns holstered.  At the command to fight, both of us drew and fired our guns until the magazines were empty.  The objective was to stay in the fight and on target despite the fact that you were taking rounds from the other person.  Yeah, they were essentially paintball rounds, but at 10 feet, they hurt like hell.  (I cannot recommend this type of reality based training more strongly)

During this training, I was surprised at how often I was hit either in the hand or the gun itself was struck by the sim-rounds.  I was also surprised by how often I did the same to the other guy, especially since I was point shooting and not using my sights.  The reason, because there is a strong tendency to look at the gun in the other guys hands.  And when you do, you tend to shoot it because your gun follows your eyes.

It can certainly end a gun fight should you shot the weapon out of the bad guys hand, or you disable the hand, but it is by far the least practical option. Let’s say the guy has a knife in his hand and it is held out to the side.  If you look at the weapon and not the bad guy, you will more times than not miss.  Same holds true with a bat or pipe that is generally held out to the side.  Missing your first or second shot will most likely give the bad guy time to close the distance and get to you before you can get off more shots.

Looking at the weapon can also increase your level of stress making it even harder to get off properly aimed shots allowing you to eliminate the threat before the threat eliminates you.  It is far more effective and efficient to focus on the threat, and not the weapon.

During your training, utilize targets that depict images of bad guys holding weapons and practice looking past or through the weapon at the bad guy himself.  Practice focusing on the real threat, the human being and not the perceived threat, in this case the weapon.  Train like you fight and fight like you train.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


It is also worth noting that in a conflict where you are unarmed and the bad guy has a knife or a blunt object, it is just as important to focus on the human being and not the weapon.  Don’t try to disarm the bad guy, rather, take out the bad guy which will render the weapon useless.  That’s a topic for another discussion though.

Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

Pick Your Targets Wisely

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.32.01 AMChoosing the correct target is extremely important both on and off the range.  It goes without saying why doing so is important during an armed encounter, but it might be a little more confusing when we are referring to practice.

Law enforcement and military personnel train using targets with images of real people on them, a practice that started sometime over the past 25 years.  Some of the images are of good guys holding groceries or a cell phone, and others depict bad guys holding weapons like knives and guns.  The purpose of these realistic targets is to not only improve a shooter’s accuracy, but also to improve their ability to distinguish between innocent civilians and bad guys determined to engage in violent acts.  It also serves to desensitize the officer or soldier to the horrors of shooting an actual person. It is a serious shock to the system when all you have ever done is shot at qualification type targets and then you are confronted with the need to shot a real life human being.  These realistic targets help by addressing that problem.  (If you want to learn more about desensitizing in this context, and why it is important during combat, check out Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, “On Killing.”)

Incidentally, simulators that use video with real life scenarios being played out on an interactive screen take it multiple steps further.  If you ever get a chance to train on a device like this, I highly recommend it.  But for purpose of our discussion here, let’s stick to paper targets.

Hopefully you can see the value in shooting more realistic type targets.  Not only do they get your mind accustomed to looking at another human being as you shoot, it also can aid in identifying good guys and bad guys and helping you with your shoot, no shoot decision making, and train your brain to aim for center mass, in the case of a human being, that being the upper torso area.

Check Out These Targets

Now, let’s take it one step further and make the targets even more realistic. One thing that even targets depicting people don’t have is texture and differing shapes.  A human beings body isn’t flat or smooth and they generally won’t be standing perfectly square to you if you should have to shoot them.  They might be running which means they are slightly bent forward.  Perhaps they are seated, standing bladed to you or are partially behind cover.  In any of those instances, the area of center mass you need to shoot at will not be squared off in relation to you and the target area will be smaller.  Believe me, if you start shooting at a bad guy, he is most likely not going to remain standing in front of you.  He will be moving to cover, just like you should be.Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.35.12 AM

It is certainly hard to simulate a moving target, especially one that shoots back using paper targets, and that’s why simunition training is so good.  But, you can manipulate a paper target in a manner that changes its shape and obscures part of it.

Most gun ranges and gun stores sell realistic targets depicting people. There are also plenty of places online that also sell these types of targets, even ones with everybody’s favorite bad guy, the zombie.  (Shooting should be fun, so don’t laugh too hard at the zombie targets)  Go purchase a variety “people” targets and then get yourself a piece of cardboard approximately the same size.  The cardboard will be used as a backing to apply your paper target to.  Now, staple or tape the target to the cardboard allowing the center to protrude outward just like a human being would if looked him from the side.  About 6 or 8 inches is sufficient.  Now, hang the target by the cardboard backing and begin training.  If you can, and I know if you go to an indoor range you are limited, but if you have the ability to do so, change the angle of the target so it’s bladed,  or lower it to depict the bad guy being seated or standing lower than you like on a hill or stairs.  You can get yourself a second piece of cardboard and set up a scenario where the bad guy is partially behind cover.  Get multiple targets and set up a multiple bad guy scenario and don’t forget to add in some good guys as well.  Remember, not shooting the good guys is more important than shooing the bad guys.  You should be practicing both.

Hopefully I have given you some ideas to use when making targets that are more realistic.  Get creative.  If your range allows it, you can even purchase life sized targets that you can dress up and which self-seal when shot.  These targets are a great option, but will set you back a few dollars more than a simple dollar paper target.  Whatever you decide, remember that the more realistic you can make your training, the better prepared you will be should the life changing event such as an armed encounter ever occur.  Let’s try to make it a significant life changing event for the bad guy, and not so much for you.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.

YOU Set the Example

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 7.24.39 PMAs a gun owner and active participant in your safety and security, you no doubt are aware that there are many out there, to include some in the political arena, who don’t particularly agree with your right to keep and bear arms.  While there is zero evidence to support their claim that more guns means more crime, it doesn’t do our cause any good for otherwise law abiding gun owners to do stupid things.  As a gun owner and concealed carry practitioner, YOU set the example for the rest of us and you must set a good one.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just go to Youtube and watch people doing dumb things with guns.  Trust me, there are numerous examples.  Not only do these people do dumb things, but they put it on the internet for the entire world to see.

Guns can be dangerous if not properly handled and they tend to be very unforgiving.  Accidentally discharge your firearm and bad thing are bond to happen.  If you are lucky you will only end up with a hole in your wall, if you are not, you may end up in the hospital or worse.  Even though there might not be a video of these kinds of things if they happen in your own home, there will most likely be a police report which is publicly available and if you go to the hospital, there is no telling who is gonna find out since the hospital staff no doubt will report to their friends and family how dumb you are.  You might as well have put it on Youtube.

I suppose there are all kinds of stupid things people post pictures of them doing, but if you get drunk and fall on your face, or you try to do a backflip off a diving board and fail, it usually just gets a laugh and nothing further.  But when you do stupid things with a firearm and post images or videos of it, it can have negative implications for not only you, but the rest of the gun owner in America.  That, and a gun isn’t a toy and should not be treated as one.

So, be cognizant of the fact that as a gun owners, you and I are under the microscope of people who would love to do nothing more than take our God given rights away from us.  Don’t think it could ever happen, don’t be so stupid.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Armed Citizen Stops Attacker at Home Depot

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 10.22.43 AMMarch 25, 2014 –  Roseville, Michigan – While trying to put a cordless drill under his coat, 26 year old Joshua Silva was confronted by a Home Depot security officer.  Silva began to fight with the security officer and during the fight, retrieved a syringe from his pocket and began to stab the officer.  An armed citizen with a concealed carry permit witnessed the attack and pulled his handgun and challenged Silva to get onto the ground.  The armed citizen held Silva on the ground at gun point until police arrived and took him into custody without further incident.

Roseville Police Chief James Berlin commented after the incident that he was putting the citizen “in for a citizens citation.”  I’m thinking a Home Depot gift card might also be in order.

This story illustrates two important points.  One, not every armed encounter ends in somebody getting shot or needs to.  Courts have ruled in the past that if you assault somebody with a needle or bodily fluid that is contaminated with AIDS, it is considered assault with a deadly weapon and the assailant can be charged with attempted murder.  It must be assumed in a case like this that the needle was contaminated with AIDS or Hepatitis making this a deadly force situation.  The armed citizen would most likely have been justified in shooting Mr. Silva, but made the choice not to.  In this instance, that was the correct decision.

And second, when seconds count, police are only minutes away.  Responsible armed citizens in the community, as illustrated in this example can do more than just protect themselves and their family, they can also provide protection for the community at large.  The odds that something bad will happen in the presence of a law enforcement officer are slim at best, but odds are significantly higher that bad things will happen when an armed citizen is around to respond.  The case is made in this instance that more guns make use all safer.

Don’t just survive, thrive!



Condition Yellow

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.03.30 AMI’m sure you have seen videos on the internet before like the one below (you know, when you are at work watching funny video’s instead of working) which shows a girl looking down at her cell phone and not paying attention to where she is going or what is going on around her.  Had there been a steep cliff in front of her she would have fallen off and not had a clue what happened as she fell to her death.  Fortunately for her it was just a fountain and not a cliff or a bad guy waiting to rape or rob her.

Too many people today walk around in an introverted manner trying to keep to themselves by listening to music, or texting or calling or reading an e-book.  It seems to be the nature of who we have become in our electronics driven world and I think with respect to our personal safety, it is detrimental.

During my firearms training classes, I harp on the point that the best way to get out of trouble is to not get into trouble in the first place.  If you want to survive a gunfight, don’t get into one, because when the bullets start flying, anything can happen no matter how highly trained and dialed in you think you are.   To stay out of trouble, you must be ultra-aware of your surroundings and to identify potential trouble before it happens.


On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace


What I am talking about is often referred to as being in a state of yellow alert at all times.  I equate it to defensive driving, a term that most of us are familiar with from driving school.  (And a practice that is certainly becoming a lost art based on the idiot drives I encounter everyday along the highway.)

Defensive driving means that you are always scanning for trouble so that you can react to it before it happens.  For instance, as you approach a busy intersection with a green light, don’t just assume that traffic on the cross street is going to obey their red light, or that the pedestrian waiting to cross will do so only after the crossing signal says it’s safe to do so.   By scanning you see the cars waiting to enter the intersection and you can prepare mentally for them to do so and formulate a plan should they do so before it is safe.  The same type of thinking needs to be employed during your everyday life, be it while driving down the street or walking to your car from the grocery store.

In the above example, you see potential trouble in the form of cars waiting to turn into your lane and you mentally prepare to take evasive action if they do.  As you walk out of the grocery store, you should be scanning looking for potential threats and prepare to take evasive action should you see it.  In most cases, just making eye contact with a potential bad guy will be enough to send a message that you are not the person he wants to mess with.  It sends a message to him that instead of trying to rob you, he should go rob the girl texting while she walks across the parking lot oblivious to the world around her.

Part of being an armed citizen is to be a responsible citizen, and paying attention to your surroundings and staying alert for potential threats is all part of the deal.  The same level of alertness should be assumed whether you are walking across a busy street or walking through a seemingly deserted parking lot.  Avoid a red alert situation by assuming a yellow alert posture and get out of trouble by staying out of trouble in the first place.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.



Gas Station Clerks Fight Off Armed Robber in Houston

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 9.58.41 AMMarch 21, 2014, Houston, Texas – A would be robber entered a Phillips 66 gas station hoping to relieve the store of some of it’s hared earned money.  After demanding money from the clerks, the bad guy was greeted with not one, but two firearms and the fight was on.  The robber exchanged gun fire with both clerks and eventually found himself retreating to the back of the store where he began throwing merchandise all over the store and a standoff ensued.  After an hour, the bad guy emerged from his hiding place and was shot by the clerks.  Before the police could take him into custody, the bad guy started a fire in the store, eventually causing about $100,000 in damage to the store.  Neither one of the clerks was injured and the bad guy was taken into custody without achieving his goal of robbing the store.


Retention and Concealed Carry

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.31.55 PMWith the enormous increase in individuals practicing concealed carry today, a direct result of high crime rates during the 70’s and 80’s leading many states to pass pro-concealed carry laws,  there is no shortage of holster options to choose from.  If a gun can be hidden anywhere on the body, there is a holster made to accommodate it.  (I give you the bra holster for the ladies.)

One of the most popular forms of concealed carry has become the inside the waistband, also known as IWB.  Essentially, an IWB holster is secured to a person’s belt and sits between the person’s body and their pants, instead of outside.  Because of this, a traditional retention device is not needed.

Many people take their cues from law enforcement or the military when it comes to deciding which equipment they will use.  This is not necessarily a bad idea, but in the case of concealed carry, it may not be relevant, as most military and law enforcement personnel don’t employ concealed carry techniques or equipment.  (This is to say that while on duty, traditional holsters are employed on the outside of their uniforms.)

Most police departments encourage their officers to carry off duty because cops are never really off duty.  Because of this, and because most duty weapons are too big to conceal comfortably, most departments require their officers to qualify with an “off duty” weapon and require them to carry off duty department approved equipment.  And because most departments have not yet caught up with the current concealed carry standards, they require the same type of retention with an officer’s off duty holster as they do with his on duty gear.  Apples and oranges.

I’m writing this article for the benefit of those of you who do take your cue from the standards set by most law enforcement departments.  In doing so, you look for the same kind of retention in a concealed carry holster that most departments demand that their officers employ.  Because you do, you are missing out on the benefit of some very good gear because it does not comport with that of your local PD.  (I’m also writing this for the benefit of department managers who aren’t up to speed yet on the latest trends in concealed carry gear.)

A retention system on an open carry holster, like those utilized by the police, is absolutely critical because the gun is literally out there in the open and at risk of being taken by a bad guy, or of falling out of the holster.  When it comes to a holster worn inside the waistband, this isn’t an issue.  If the bad guy doesn’t know it’s there because he cannot see it, he can’t take it.

Most good quality IWB holsters are made specifically for an individual firearms dimensions, and because they are, the gun is held in place via friction.  If you were to hold the holster upside down with the gun in it, it should not fall out if it has the right fit and is made correctly.  Not technically a retention device, but it does serve to keep the gun secure from bouncing out of the holster.

Next, because it is worn between the body and the pants and belt, the firearm and holster are secure, again due to friction.  Essentially the firearm is secured without the need for a retention device.  And because the device isn’t necessary when carried IWB, it will only serve to slow down the deployment of the weapon in an emergency situation.

The other factor that adds to an IWB holsters ability to keep the firearm secure is that clothing will be worn over top of the rig.  This clothing will serve to act as a barrier between the bad guys hands, and your firearm.  It also acts as a barrier between your hands and the firearm, but it’s a fair trade in my opinion to ensure that the weapon is secure.

I carry every day almost exclusively IWB and have never had any issues with the gun falling out or almost falling out because the holsters I use are of sufficient quality to retain the weapon in place.  While many tactics employed by law enforcement can be used by the general public, the mandate of a retention device on a concealed carry holster isn’t one of them.  Eventually management will come around, but for now they are unfortunately living two decades in the past.  But isn’t that typical for government at all levels?

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Carrying a firearm for personal protection brings with it an awesome responsibility.  You have the power to change a person’s world forever, and even the power to take their life.  It is you duty as a responsible gun owner to always obey the cardinal rules of firearms safety and to understand the laws where you live and travel with your gun.  Do your due diligence become educated on the use of force continuum and become proficient with your firearm before you leave home.