Author: Lee Weems

Bakersfield Target

I first learned of the Bakersfield Qual from an article written by Greg Ellifritz.

Ken Hackathorn did the following video on the qual:

A viewer of the video sent the actual target dimensions to Mr. Hackathorn who shared them with me.

Here is a picture of the actual target:

I shared the information with John Hearne who created a file for printing on standard legal sized paper.

The course of fire is available on page 102 in Karl Rehn’s and John Daub’s book: Drills, Qualifications, Standards, & Tests.

Let’s Dispense with Some Nonsense About the Weaver Stance

You’ve probably heard many things about the Weaver Stance. Most of them are wrong.

The truth is that Jack Weaver simply put two hands on the pistol and brought it to the eye/target line. That’s it.

Here’s a quote from Weaver himself in a 2010 article:

“No thought was given to foot position, recoil control or pushing with one hand and pulling with the other,” Weaver wrote. “I found out all kinds of things about myself that I didn’t know until I read them in gun magazines. I had to go out and fire a few rounds to see if I really did push the right and pull the left arm–sure enough!”

Here’s a video interview with him:

Did you note that when Weaver demonstrated the Weaver that he didn’t do many of the things often wrongly attributed to him?

Did he make any mention of an injury forcing him to adopt a certain arm position?

I had the opptortunity to interview Jeff Cooper’s daughter, Lindy, shortly after writing this piece. I asked her about the injury myth as it is sometimes applied to him.

Here are her exact words as she wrote them,

“He smashed his right elbow in a fall on the ice while holding my sister when she was a baby. He went through some very painful rehab and had a dent in his right arm where the elbow bone normally resides.

This had NOTHING to do with the Weaver Stance. The Weaver Stance is what Jack Weaver used and he kept winning so Dad and John Plahn analyzed why this was so and came to the conclusion that an isometric balance is achieved when the strong hand pushes outward and the weak hand pulls inward…………….and this push-pull effect enables a shooter to better control recoil and regain his sight picture more quickly. That is it.”.

The bent support side elbow had nothing to do with an injury as is often interjected. The bent elbow didn’t come from Weaver. It came from Jeff Cooper and John Plahn as they codified the Modern Technique and added isometric tension as a means of recoil control. The bladed stance was an adaption by law enforcement agencies to integrate a popular interview stance.

Go to the 41:30 mark in this interview that I did with Jerry McCown who began a formal affiliation with Gunsite and Jeff Cooper in 1983 and who is a legitimate subject matter expert and a primary source:


When I trained with Larry Mudgett, he told me that “Jeff and Jack” got tired of trying to correct everyone about all of the Weaver misconceptions, and they just quit trying.

I probably should too.

Update:

After I wrote this piece, a video popped up in my YouTube suggested videos. It’s of Cooper explaining his version of the Weaver Stance. Please take note that he states that one should be square to the target. He also states a preference an unlocked stongside elbow,



FPS-3 Target

The large circle is 5.5″, which is the same as a the black on a B8 target. Inside the circle are 3×5 and 3×3 blocks (think Post-it note on an index card). This design was inspired by hearing Ken Hackathorn explaining that one method of scoring The Test requires all of the shots to be “in the black” and Dave Spaulding’s modified version of The Test. This target allows you to test yourself by either standard.

The dots on the bottom are so that you can also shoot Dave Spaulding’s Orange Dot Drill; the dots will just be gray instead of orange.

No-Loader Test

Click No-Loader Test to download the test in pdf format.

No-Loader Test

Philosophy:  The problem doesn’t change because you only have a five-round firearm to solve it.  This course is designed to evaluate basic revolver marksmanship regardless of whether the shooter is using a revolver as a primary or backup option.  There are no timed reloads using speedloaders, but they may be used to administratively load the revolver.

Start Position:  Those working from a pocket may begin each holstered string with their hand in the pocket and gripping the revolver.  If working from an ankle rig, the shooter may begin holstered strings in a kneeling position.  Otherwise, it is suggested that the shooter vary their hand positions between holstered strings (hands by side, hands defensively in front, etc).  Concealment is strongly suggested unless using duty gear as applicable.

Unless otherwise specified, the standard, administrative load for this course of fire is (at least) five rounds.  This will be specified simply as “load”. 

Shooting is freestyle unless otherwise specified.  Ready is defined as the revolver being in the shooter’s hands with the shooter being prepared to fire but with the muzzle not covering any part of the target or the human it represents (no muzzle covering meat).  The shooter may vary ready positions.


Target:  8-inch circle with a 3×5 vertical box in it,  FPS-1 body, or Handgun Combatives Chest Cavity Target.  The 3×5 box is the primary scoring zone.

Scoring:  This is a 100% accountability course of fire.  Any shot outside of the primary or secondary target zone is a failure for the entire course.  To pass with distinction, 20 rounds (80%) must be in the primary scoring area.  Any string over time is a failure.  The course of fire is shot individually on a timer.

Round Count:  25

+P Version:  If/when your skills are to a point that you are consistently shooting the course to a “pass with distinction” level, add a 3×3” Post-it to represent a headbox and shoot the third shot of all three-shot strings to the head (failure drill).  The shot(s) must hit within the 3×3” box.

Three Yards (10 rounds)

1: Draw and fire 3-rounds in 3-seconds.  Go to ready.
2: From ready, fire 2-rounds in 1.5 seconds.  Load and holster.
3:  Strong hand only, draw and fire 3-rounds in 3-seconds.

Transfer revolver to support hand.

4: From ready, support hand only, fire 2-rounds in 2-seconds.  Load and holster.

Five Yards  (Five rounds, 15 aggregate)

5: Draw and fire 3-rounds in 3-seconds.  Go to ready.
6: From ready, fire 2-rounds in  1.5 seconds.  Load and holster.

Seven Yards  (Seven rounds, 22 aggregate)

7: On command, draw to ready and give a verbal command.
On the beep, fire 3-rounds in 3-seconds.  Go to ready.

8: From ready, fire 2-rounds, manually reload with only 2-rounds, and fire 

2-rounds in 15-seconds.  Load with three rounds and holster.

A speedstrip may be used for the manual reload.

10 Yards (Three rounds, 25 aggregate)

9: Draw and fire 3-rounds in 5-seconds.

Down the Practical Hole: Part 4

Well, 10 months have passed since I wrote the first installment of Down the Practical Hole.  It was a fun exercise, but ultimately, I convinced myself that my original conclusion was correct and that the AR platform is the most practical platform currently available.  In fact, I picked up a brand x upper in 6.5 Grendel for use in critter getting.  The smart play would be to stick with what I have, but much like Henry Fonda wanting that fourth carrier (shame be upon those not getting the reference), I still find myself wanting a turn bolt rifle.

It didn’t help matters that somebody who brought his latest practical rifle project to the range this past week…

Erik Lund of AllFire Dynamics shooting his practical project rifle

It’s only fair as I got him started down this path with my ramblings.

With the aforementioned 6.5 Grendel upper in hand, my thoughts have wandered to the Ruger American Ranch rifle in 5.56 caliber.  The reason for this consideration is the straight-up compatibility with AR mags and ammo.  With 10-round mags, it would be legal in most states but scavenged mags could be used in a pinch (pandemic thoughts, you know).  Heavier ammo, such as the Barnes 70 grain TSX rounds would give it more punch; however, I concede that it wouldn’t be as much punch as originally desired.  I’m still annoyed that the rifle isn’t available with a compact stock from the factory.

Ruger American Ranch

 

Then again, along comes an interesting contender in the Remington 700 CP:

 

While it probably doesn’t have the reach as initially envisioned, it is intriguing.  For now, the beat goes on.

A Study of Ready

So there I was… a cadet in the police academy, on the firing line during range week and having paid due attention to the safety briefing and wondering why they told us to never point a firearm at anything we had not decided to shoot, but I was pointing my firearm at the target in a “low ready” giving verbal commands which were indicative of my not having decided to shoot. I was flummoxed.

Along the line came one of the instructors; so, I posed a question to him: “Sir, if we are not supposed to point our gun at something we have not decided to shoot, why are we pointing our guns at the target while giving commands?”

His answer was an emphatic, “Stop jerking the trigger!!” because that was the only response he had for any question that might arise on the range.

Low ready, **in that class**, was presented as the firearm being pointed at the threat with the muzzle being depressed low enough so as to be able to see a suspect’s hands. Follow on training from the same doctrinal source presented the low ready in the same manner.

**That** definition of low ready is arguable.  The term has numerous definitions with each entity being convinced that its particular definition is correct.

In a recent conversation with John Hearne, he pitched the concept of safety positions and ready positions.  He defined the terms as the following:

Ready position – placement of the gun in a manner that a shot can be immediately delivered once the decision to shoot has been made. The muzzle is diverted just enough to gather the information necessary to make a decision. A full firing grip, especially locked wrists, is maintained on the weapon.

Safety Position – with the caveat that the safest place for the gun is in the holster, a safety position intentionally “unplugs” the weapon from the fight in order to facilitate close proximity, typically movement by or movement past, to a non-threat. The ideal two-handed shooting grip is compromised by breaking the wrist, removing the support hand, etc. Safety positions should be viewed as temporary with the ultimate goal being to return the weapon back to a ready position as soon as safely possible.

Dave Spaulding uses similar terminology.  He told me,  “I look at the definitions of the words: Ready: prepared to act or take action. Prepare: to make ready.”  He further stated that he sees them as levels.  Furthermore, he stated, “I think of ready as the gun between you and the threat and the muzzle averted.  Preparatory positions are like Sul and the like.”

My position, and my teaching, on the issue is that any definition of a ready position must include that the muzzle must not cover any portion of the target/threat.  In my classes, students are evaluated, coached, and tested on muzzle discipline.  The reasons for this are to one, reinforce the lifestyle rules of possessing a firearm, and two, documentation for court purposes.  

Since the “Sul” position has been brought up already and will be discussed again in the other videos, an explanation of the position from one of its co-originators is in order:



Dave Spaulding explains his “Arc of Ready” concept:

Paul Gomez discussed Positions for Muzzle Aversion:

Do We Taste Like Chicken?

According to numerous reports, firearms sales are at an all-time high due to the pandemic. My friends in the firearms sales industry tell me that many of the current buyers are first-timers. Unfortunately, the current situation also greatly reduces the training opportunities for these new gun owners. They have the tools, but they don’t know how to use them.

Chris Baker is among those who have stepped up to provide digital content in an effort to help such people as much as possible given the limitations of the format. I applaud Chris for his efforts.

I know Chris personally. We’ve crossed paths on the training circuit numerous times. He is extremely well trained, and he puts out very good content.   Here is a video that he put together for new shotgun owners:


I posted the video in a few places where it would be seen by supposedly experienced gun folk so that they would have a readily available resource to provide to friends, family, colleagues, etc, who may reach out to them for help.

What followed is all my fault as I should have known better than to post anything to the internet and expect it to be received as intended..,

For example, one individual who possesses not one iota of Chris’ training and experience seized on one minute portion of the video and has embarked on a crusade against it. A few of the other responses have been complete misinterpretations of Chris’ content. Yet another opined, “I sure would hate to admit that I learned to shoot from a video.” I hope that his actual accuracy is better than his point-getting.

I will further accept responsibility in that I should have known better than to try to converse on the topic with such people. Apparently, it is wrong to seek to ascertain the training and experience of those commenting so as to judge the credibility of their assertions.

For the record, Chris has roughly 100 hours of formal shotgun training from names such as Tom Givens, Randy Cain, Rob Haught, Tim Chandler & Ashton Ray, and Daryl Bolke. I’ll be blunt: if one does not know who the aforementioned people are and/or one has not trained with them or their peers, one simply is not qualified to form an opinion on the topic of defensive shotgun usage much less offer it with any credence.

I shall now climb atop my soapbox and begin the sermon portion of this particular pontification:

Circumstances have resulted in large numbers of gun owners who may never have been gun owners otherwise. We, as a so-called community, and we, those of us in the business of training, should be embracing these first-timers. Unfortunately, the nitwittery that may confront them as they search for information is likely to be a turnoff.

I mentioned the above to long time friend who happens to know his way around a shootin’ iron, and his response was, “We eat our own.”.

I wonder, do we taste like chicken?

 

Does Firearms Instructor Equal Church Security Instructor?

At the time of this writing, we are just a few days removed from the church shooting incident in White Settlement, TX. Google will get you all of the details, but the short story is that a firearms instructor serving as a member of the church’s security team took out the murderer.

Caveat emptor.

I submit that the mission encompasses much more than shooting skills. Furthermore, firearms instructor certification programs are not created equally. The NRA Basic Pistol Instructor course, for example, does not even involve drawing a pistol from a holster.

In considering a training source for a church security program, training and experience in the following areas are something you should look for in the prospective provider’s background:

  • Event security & planning
  • Physical security
  • Threat assessment
  • Crowd dynamics

All of the above in a church environment would be a plus.

Two sources that readily come to mind for such training are Palisade Training Group, LLC, and Strategos International. Both of these companies were offering church security detail training before it became an opportunistic topic.

***Update:

Noted trainer Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives read this piece and offered some worthy commentary that I am adding below:

Chief Lee Weems makes an excellent point here, does a firearms instructor equal a church security instructor? The answer is, it depends. It depends on the DEPTH of the instructors back ground.

I consider myself a firearms instructor, but I am capable of much more. If you consider what goes into a truly prepared church security team member, it is SO MUCH more than just having a gun. This person’s skill sets should include:

– Pre threat identification
– Pattern recognition
– Medical Skills
– Non-verbal communication including hand signals
– Electronic communication (including capability)
– Movement to the threat including evasive movement
– Movement during engagement
– Weapons manipulation skills including muzzle aversion
– Concealed draw and precision shooting skills
– Elimination of cross fire situations (more movement)
– Non threat awareness capability (non hostiles/scanning)

and on and on…

It is much like Dignitary Protection Operations, something I have extensive experience in. You see, I have further training and experience…”depth” as it were…in related fields. I can also teach carbine, sub-machine gun, shotgun, room clearing (CQB), OC Spray, multiple baton disciplines, combative mindset, weapon retention, SWAT Principals, Raid Techniques, Vehicle Combat and other related subjects. I can even do a fairly good job with basic hand to hand combat, but others do it better…which is the case with many subjects. I have the “depth” for many things…

“Dave! These are great topics, why don’t you offer classes in them?” The answer is simple…I don’t want to. Leaving specialize subjects like church security to others makes more room for folks who want to get into the training business. I like to focus on combative pistolcraft…the EDC, personal security application of the handgun. While it is not the most effective small arm, it is the one that most everyone can…and should have…with them at all times. The combat application of the handgun IS SO MUCH MORE than just accurate shooting. Watching many of the videos on line make me question just hw many people grasp this fact.

And you know what? I’m going to be a bit arrogant here, but I do it really, really well!

“Depth” is important when teaching life saving skills and I believe taking another instructor’s course and recycling the information into your course is not enough. Some would call it plagiarism. You need to truly understand the application of the skills and actually having applied them in the real world certainly would not hurt. It offers perspective…

 

The Trigger Reset Question

As I have mentioned in other posts, I attended the academy in the waning days of the revolver roaming the earth in duty holsters. One could still find “semi-automatic transition courses” in various training catalogs.

My own agency had transitioned from the S&W Model 64 (K-frame .38 Special revolver) to the S&W 4006 only a few years prior to my arrival. The 4006, now out of production, was a “traditional double action” (TDA) pistol meaning that the first shot was fired double-action with the reciprocation of the slide in recoil cocking the hammer thus making subsequent shots fired in single-action mode.

Here, Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives discusses the training of that era and teaching people to “shoot to reset”:

My experiences very much mirror what Dave describes in the video. The only problem was that I was never told that the pinning of the trigger was an intermediate step in the learning process. I discovered it on my own while participating in the “reactive shooting” portion of a course. I remember going back to my agency and telling some of the guys, “Hey, did y’all know that you can let the trigger reset during recoil?” receiving only a tepid reaction.

The state qualification course is shot against very generous par times, and quite frankly, one has plenty of time to shoot, let the sights settle, then let the trigger reset, and then press another shot. Most of coworkers and colleagues just didn’t see the need to be able to shoot faster because “I shot a 98” was thought to be “good”. It was later when I dipped my toes into the competition world that I realized that there was another level of “good”, and it wasn’t until I dove into the open enrollment world that I developed any real consistency.

Here are two short videos from Ernest Langdon of Langdon Tactical discussing trigger reset and the problem with teaching shooters what he terms as the “interim step”.

Going back to Dave’s video, somewhere along the way I saw the demonstration that he describes in which one shooter grips the gun while another shooter smacks the trigger with a pen. Yes, it worked.

After seeing that demo, I concentrated on grip, and yes, I found that with a very firm grip I could smash the trigger and get hits. Well, I could get hits provided I was shooting at something like an eight-inch circle at distances inside of 10-yards.

In late 2018, I attended the Applied Fundamentals course with OpSpec Training. I signed up for the course based on other things in the description, but what I received was a rewarding (while at times frustrating) three day class on trigger control. Two key components in the class were prepping the trigger and resetting DURING recoil. This class came at exactly the right time for me as I had hit shooting plateau, and I was trying to work through some issues.

Trigger reset can be done by either letting the trigger out only to the reset point, or the trigger can be let out past the reset point and then prepped again. Both of these can be accomplished during recoil. The latter method does help avoid trigger freeze.

I personally believe that either of the above described methods are superior to the trigger slapping method advocated by some. I am aware that many high level competitive shooters utilize trigger slapping, but they are very small segment of shooters capable of doing such.

UPDATE: I am updating this post to include the following video from Dave Spaulding covering reset in recovery. I want to be clear about what he is teaching. I chose the video above because of the historical context that he explains.

The Reliability Question

Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, raised the issue of asking the proper questions in personal protection in the midst of interweb hullabaloo concerning revolver reliability. I addressed that fracas in Six For Maybe and Six For Maybe, Part 2. I have asked both Claude and Darryl Bolke to produce materials on keeping the revolver running in a training environment.

Speaking of proper questions, trainer and AIWB holster maker Spencer Keepers posed an excellent question via text message, and I will paraphrase it below:

“How do we balance revolver reliability as in ‘It will get you though five or six rounds and a reload if you start with a clean gun alongside the high round count torture tests for semiautomatics with shooters stating that they won’t carry a gun if it has a single malfunction in that arbitrary round count.”

I personally don’t buy into such high round arbitrary standards. In fact, I intentionally keep the actual live fire round count on my actual duty/carry pistols low.

I carry a Glock 19 as my daily carry/duty pistol. When I first obtained the particular sample that I carry, I ran a few hundred rounds through it to make certain that it functioned. Since then, I run it through a qual-course a few times per year. I maintain it. Otherwise, it rides in a holster. When I am attending or teaching a class, I swap out to a “training” Glock 19, and it has thousands upon thousands of rounds through it, but prior to leaving the range, I swap back to my carry/duty pistol.

Machines fail. Pushing a large number of rounds through a pistol (a machine) is pushing it towards inevitable parts failure. Your mileage may vary.