Saturday, December 21, 2013

Western Whitetail article: Basic Gear for Precision Shooting

The new issue of Western Whitetail has been released (Winter 2013), and on Page 46 you'll find Glen's column called "Make The Shot." In this issue he discusses the basic gear that you'll need to get into precision shooting. You can read the article in full by clicking here.

You can also find an advertisement for Independence Training on page 19.

And right now, until Dec 31, 2013, Western Whitetail is giving away FREE subscriptions to their magazine. A subscription consists of 4 issues - Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter - plus access to back issues. Get yours now before the New Year comes and you have to pay for it! Get Your Free Subscription.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Training vs. Practice: are you creating good habits?

Every day, people complete training courses of all kinds, from shooting to sewing. Where many of them miss the boat, however, and end up wasting time, money, and energy, is when they fail to practice what they learned in order to create good habits. Training courses merely give you a foundation to build on and knowledge to work with - they expose your weaknesses and show you what you need to work on. If you don't practice what you learned, to the point of unconscious competence, then all you really had was an experience, an "adventure" so to speak, and you'll be left wanting when the stressful times come around.

Over on the Loose Rounds blog, they had a guest writer named Mark Stanfill who wrote a really good article on shotguns and home defense (one of our favorite topics), and towards the end of his short article he really sums up what we're trying to say here (Read the article in it's entirety here: "Also remember that one class will not teach you how to win a gun fight. The class will merely give the foundation and basics of what you must continually practice once you leave the class." 

Watch our video below to learn about the difference between training and practice and how to avoid the common mistake of reinforcing bad habits!

 Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel:

Stay Safe, Stay Aware, and Train Hard.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shotguns and Buckshot Patterns for Home Defense - dispelling the myth about "you can't miss!"

The shotgun is an iconic firearm in American history, and if you were to go door-to-door in your community with a survey about firearm ownership, you would likely find that most of the homes that have firearms have at least one shotgun. It's a versatile and powerful firearm, and certainly one of our favorites here at Independence Training, but like firearms in general there are many myths and misconceptions about it. One of the most common is that the shotgun is a "can't miss" firearm - just point it at what you want to hit and you'll hit it. Too many are the husbands that give their wives a shotgun and tell them "just point it at the door frame honey and you'll blow the bad guy away." Not only is this not true, but it's dangerous misinformation, as it won't stop the threat and may in fact put others in harm's way. This myth is likely based on those who have only ever used their shotguns for bird hunting, with birdshot and choked barrels, where "point and shoot" is the name of the game since you're dealing with large shot patterns. But in the world of buckshot and self defense, against two legged adversaries, the shotgun performs much differently. Check out the video below to see more!

And whatever you do . . . . don't use birdshot for home defense!

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Practical Everyday Carry (EDC) - stay away from magical talismans!

Everyday Carry, or EDC, is a topic that is discussed, argued, and basically beat to death on every firearm and training discussion forum as well as video websites such as YouTube. Everyone has their own opinion on what is good and what is not, and here at Independence Training we're no different - except that we don't believe that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer. Based on our experiences and training, however, there are some things that every member on our team carries around. John and Glen were on hand to discuss their specific EDC and why they carry what they carry.

Regardless of what you decide to gear up with, make sure that you maintain a high level of proficiency with it through professional training and consistent practice!

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Western Whitetail article: Practical Precision - Reticles

The new issue of Western Whitetail magazine is available, and that means that Independence Training Head Instructor Glen Stilson's "Make The Shot" column is ready for you to read!  This issue's article is entitled "Practical Precision - Reticles" and is about how to effectively use both standard duplex and mil-dot reticles to engage targets at various ranges, as well as range targets at unknown distances.

You can read the article in full by clicking here: You can also find a full page advertisement for Independence Training on page 27, which features photos of many of our amazing students!

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Use of the IFAK - a Student's Perspective

For this month's Journal of a Sheepdog, we asked one of our students, Ben, to write about his use of the Individual First-Aid Kit (IFAK) that he carries with him everywhere he goes. A college student and overall regular guy, Ben has made emergency response training a priority in his life, and it has paid off in spades. From here forward, we'll let him tell you his story.


Ben's Everyday Carry (EDC) bag, which contains his modified IFAK.

Ever since I have taken the IFAK Life Saver course with Independence Training, I have been put to the test multiple times as a simple citizen with no military or law enforcement background. Everyone invests so heavily in firearms training, but often the medical portion is ignored. Training to deal with serious and traumatic injuries is something that everyone should pursue, simply because the chances of using these skills in day-to-day life is highly probable. If you can effectively deal with someone who has a life-threatening injury, then you can quickly manage a minor injury. 

Ben using his IFAK and emergency response skills on 
a shattered ankle while in a remote location.

Over the last two years since I initially took the IFAK Life Saver course through Independence Training, I have used my IFAK more times than I can count on a single hand. The first injury I dealt with was an ankle injury at a very remote location in Arizona called Fossil Creek. This location requires a 45 minute drive on a dirt road plus a mile trek through some rough terrain to a cliff jumping area, meaning an ambulance will not be able to reach you if you get injured. I was the only one in our group, and the only one present on scene with a medical kit when a member of our group jumped off one of the cliff jumping areas and shattered their ankle on a rock. The individual fell 30+ feet and bashed their ankle against a rock that was just below the surface of the water. I was on shore at the time when I noticed everyone crowding around this individual who had been injured with the panicked expressions that you would expect from a movie. No one had any idea what to do, and simply kept restating the common phrase "are you okay?" which is of little help when you are obviously injured. I calmly grabbed my IFAK, not knowing what to expect and broke the circle of awestruck bystanders to find an individual who had not sustained any injuries that were life-threatening. Having trained to first evaluate a casualty for life-threatening injuries it made my job that much easier when none were present. As I went through the list that had been engrained in my head during training, I got to work with the materials that I had. While my kit was outfitted for catastrophic injuries, I could use the materials provided to mend the shattered ankle. I immediately improvised with the compression bandages that were provided in my IFAK that Independence Training had supplied and moved through Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (R.I.C.E.). Following this, I used the training I had received to make an improvised stretcher, or Casualty Evacuation device (CASEVAC) to help move the individual through the treacherous one mile hike without further injuring their ankle. Without this IFAK and training I would have been another bystander that was only able to ask questions instead of act, leaving them to wait for over an hour while EMS attempted to reach them. 

A view of the hand injury that was sustained while hiking - 
notice muscle/tendon is visible in bottom picture.

During new student orientation at my university I have carried my IFAK for the last two years, always with people asking the repetitive question of "why do you carry that?" In a span of one week I had to use my IFAK three times for injuries that I considered minor. Anything that is not life-threatening is a minor injury - because I have been trained to deal with catastrophic injuries, anything else seems minor. You're not going to die? Good, now lets see what I can do to make you comfortable. The first injury was during a daytime hike. A member of our group was jumping across an obstacle and tried to brace their fall on a log. This log had a five inch stub from a broken off branch sticking out of it, which the individual happened to use as their brace. This caused the stub to impale itself into their hand. Again, I was ahead of the group when I heard my name called out because "someone had been hurt." I had told the people in my group that I was carry an IFAK and it was easily accessible at the top of my ruck if anything should happen. I calmly approached the individual, checking the scene and identifying the mechanism of injury. The individual had a hole in his hand that was free of any major foreign objects. I decided to flush the wound with the extra water I had brought and then proceeded to plug the hole with gauze and antibiotic. Following this, I bandaged the hand and used tape to create a seal around the wound to prevent any foreign contaminants to enter it before we could get the wound stitched. Again, everyone was sitting around watching and wondering while I calmly went about my business, after all, this was not going to kill him if not treated immediately.

The second injury was a simple fix because, again the mechanism of injury was immediately known. Another person in my orientation group had their stitches break causing a wound to open that had been closed during surgery. I had modified my kit after asking Glen, my instructor from Independence Training, what I should add to it. I had put a suture kit in, separate from my IFAK portion, just in case I ever needed to close a wound. If I did not have this, I could have easily used a HALO seal from the trauma portion to seal the wound. I sutured the wound and kept the individual from having to incur any further medical bills from another doctor's visit. 

Properly bandaging a knee injury is simple when you 
have the appropriate tools and training.

Finally, the most recent injury was from an individual that was running during an orientation event at night, and happened to run into a ditch at full sprint causing damage to their MCL on the inside part of their knee. I happened to be walking by when I noticed the oh so familiar circle of confused bystanders. I nudged my way in and noticed that while their were plenty of people their, none of them could help her. I assessed the scene and immediately started asking the standard questions to determine the mechanism of injury as trained in class. After establishing what aid was needed I applied a SAM splint and compression bandages to keep the leg in a position that did not cause shocking pain to the individual using R.I.C.E. from training. After I had finished applying the bandages, the supervisor came to me and said "I had no idea what to do, I could only stand here. Thank goodness you were here, I may have to take that IFAK course." I have heard this many times as well as "If I ever get hurt I hope you're around to help me." Every time I hear this, I can only say that in the end, you are ultimately responsible for your safety. Even when crowded by people, you may be the only person who has the training necessary to fix the problem. The IFAK training I received allowed me to treat individuals with minor injuries calmly and effectively since I had been trained to deal with catastrophic injuries that required precise and immediate treatment. I have also been called upon to treat individuals who have had injuries that did not require IFAK materials, but could be mended with a simple use of tape and gauze. These have included minor cuts resulting in capillary and veinous bleeding, pulled muscles, and an individual who managed to spike a nail through their hand. IFAK training is something that everyone should consider since you may be the only one who is able to help in situation where you or someone you care about is in need of medical attention when seconds count and help is minutes away. If you're prepared for the worst, everything else is easy to deal with.

(click the photo above for more information on the course)
Sept 22 - Kearny, AZ
Oct 26 - Prescott Valley, AZ

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Western Whitetail article: Triggers - Keep Them Under Control

Glen recently became a staff writer for Western Whitetail, and will be writing a section in each issue called "Make the Shot." His first article is in the Summer 2013 issue, and is titled "Triggers: Keep Them Under Control" - it is, of course, about trigger control. While the bulk of Glen's articles will be about how to apply shooting techniques to hunting situations, the fundamentals are the fundamentals no matter how you apply them, so there should be a few things to learn from the article even for defensive and competitive shooters.

You can read the article in full by clicking here: You can also find a full page advertisement for Independence Training on page 25, which features photos of many of our amazing students!

Coming up for the next few issues of Western Whitetail will be a multi-part article about precision shooting titled "Practical Precision", which will outline how to make the most of the equipment that you already have. We'll post it up here on Journal of a Sheepdog when it becomes available.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Open Carry: a real-world perspective

I remember when I first started carrying a handgun on a regular basis: I was like many other handgun neophytes, struggling to find a comfortable holster and trying to decide which method of carry was the best, open or concealed. I was always naturally drawn to concealment (we'll come back to this), and chose that method of carry from the start, but I recall a conversation I had with a more seasoned handgun shooter shortly after I began to carry a handgun everywhere with me. He told me, "If you carry it in the open, then everyone can see it, and that in itself is a crime deterrent. Yes sir, carrying my firearm this way has kept me from some trouble, I'm sure of it." It sounded like good logic, but over the years I have come to a realization about open carry, brought on through my own experiences and lots of training. This realization ties into the popular concept known as "the magic talisman", and it can be a dangerous way to think. A firearm is not a magic talisman that through mere presence alone keep bad people at bay.

How people initially perceive you can affect their interaction with you.

Before we get any further, a quick word on the definition of open carry and concealed carry. First, before you consider applying anything in this post to your life, be sure to check the laws in your state and any states you may travel to in regards to carrying a firearm. If you live in Arizona, as I do, then you're blessed to enjoy the full liberty of being able to carry a firearm as a law-abiding adult with few restrictions. Second, when I reference open carry I mean that part of the holster and/or firearm is visible in such a way that the casual observer would notice that you have a firearm. When I reference concealed carry I mean that the firearm and holster, or whatever method of containment you are using, would give no indication to the casual observer that you have a firearm. There are many products out there that can make large firearms effectively 'disappear' on even small framed people (I do it everyday), so seek out the appropriate gear for your lifestyle. If you want more info, check out some of the reviews on our other blog, Equipment Reviews, or come and take some courses with Independence Training.

Let's start with the most commonly referenced advantages of the open carry of firearms, probably the greatest of which is that it provides easier and faster access to your firearm. With no clothes to pull out of the way and nothing to get hung up on, draw speeds can be faster than with concealed carry, and less likely to get tangled up in a shirt or coat. Open carry may also be a deterrent to people with nefarious intentions, as they want to choose a time of attack that favors them the most and you the least, and the presence of a firearm in the hands of a law-abiding citizen may sway their frame of mind as to who has the advantage. I have also heard that open carry is important because a 'right not exercised is a right lost,' and we can certainly see how that has played out in other locations across the U.S. as well as around the world.

Now I want you to stop reading for a minute and take some time to change your mindset; that is, I want you to view open carry from the perspective of an individual who is anti-gun, or at least uninformed about firearms, and I also want you to try and think like a bad person, or at least someone who does not think that obeying laws and having good ethical values is the path for them. Let's start this exercise with the photograph below.

What's the first thing you think of when you see this?

My first observation is "stop looking at the cheap bread, it has enriched flour in it and that's bad for you." My next observation is that she is carrying a 1911 handgun in condition 2 (hammer not ready to fire), possibly condition 3 (empty chamber), and that is a bad idea for that particular firearm if it has to be quickly put to use for self-defense. But as an anti-gun person, whether just uninformed, irrational, or a hoplophobe, you are not going to view it as positive. Imagine yourself as a shop owner who has recently been robbed or assaulted at gunpoint, and someone carrying a firearm just walked into your shop. Do you think they're a bad guy just because they have a gun? Hopefully not, but how you perceive them initially may not be very optimistic. Often times the open carry of firearms can be seen as bully tactics or even just 'showing off ', especially if you are in a location where the carry of firearms is not common place. Stories abound concerning law-abiding citizens who had to explain their carry of a firearm to local law-enforcement following a call from a concerned citizen, and while they were within the scope of their legal rights, they still had to give up time and energy to have that conversation. And don't forget that depending on how the conversation with law-enforcement goes, a charge of disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct is not entirely unheard of. While open carry may give you the opportunity to educate some people about laws concerning the carry of firearms and the use of legal self-defense, this is an exception and not the rule. Regardless, in my experience anyone who can have their opinion so easily swayed while standing in a checkout line at the grocery store can just as easily have it swayed back the other way at a later time without some serious research and/or training.

As for discouraging bad behavior, it very possibly could, but again that is from the view of a law-abiding person. You may look at the lady pictured above and say "Holy cow! Big gun for a little lady, I don't want to mess with her!" Of course you don't, because you didn't want to mess with her in the first place - but you are not a bad person and do not think like one. Remember that locks just keep honest people honest, and the same concept applies here. In fact, the presence of a firearm in some situations, such as road rage and similar confrontations, has only served to increase the level of hostility in the participants. Imagine that you just cut someone off in traffic, perhaps by accident, and then drove to the store. The person you cut off is following you, enraged by something already going wrong in their life and now further enraged by your actions. As they follow you, they are simply getting more and more angry, and as you pull into a parking space and exit your vehicle, this person pulls up behind you, blocking your escape route and leaping from their vehicle amidst a hail of profanity aimed at you. Upon seeing your openly carried firearm, they fly into an even greater rage, asking you if you feel extra tough with that gun on, and mocking you for having to carry it in the first place. The chances of de-escalating this situation with some verbal judo have diminished greatly just due to the presence of a firearm, and your options are limited with your 'ace-in-the-hole' exposed and known. Again, don't think of how you would react upon seeing someone carrying a firearm; think of how someone with less ethics and value to life would think. Now let's take a look at at even greater threat: the gun grab.

Are you ready to respond if someone makes a move for your firearm?
Do you have the necessary defensive skills to react and turn the tables in your favor?

Massad Ayoob, renowned lethal force instructor and expert witness whom I have had the pleasure of training with, had this story to tell concerning gun grabbers: "The guy who reaches for your gun may be more than a show-off, and much deadlier. A Midwestern gun-shop owner chose to wear a Colt .45 ACP, in hopes of intimidating potential robbers and preventing bloodshed all around. The day came when a man entered the store and asked him for a box of ammo on a shelf located behind the shop owner. As the gun dealer turned to reach for it, the man deftly snatched the gun out of his holster from behind. The merchant turned to see his own pistol pointed at him by a man who was pulling the trigger. What saved the gun dealer's life was that he carried cocked and locked, and the bad guy hadn't yet realized that he needed to release the safety catch before he could shoot. The store owner dove for a concealment revolver under the counter, and by the time the bad guy had figured out how to operate his stolen gun, the good guy was already returning fire. This incident had a happy ending, but you can imagine how much uglier it could have been."

If that doesn't make you think about the reality of gun grabbers and how random people may perceive you, check out this video:

Just because you are big and tough, or wear cool Tapout shirts, or even carry a firearm, it does not mean that bad people won't try and take what you have. They are interested in a pay day, of various kinds, and if you have what they want then they are coming to take it, at a time that favors them the most and you the least. If you don't think that bad people think like this, then you are already one step behind them. Take a look at that picture of the lady in the grocery store again. You know what I see looking through the eyes of a bad guy? I see an older woman carrying a gun, which means that physically overpowering her is likely for me. I see that she does not have the hammer cocked, which means that her confidence and her ability to use her gun is likely low, and that retention holster will probably further impede her ability to react when I attack her at arms length. If I can occupy her right hand I can keep her from drawing that firearm while I draw it instead, because I practice with retention holsters (in this case, a SERPA) for the sole purpose of knowing how to take guns from people. Remember: bad people often use ambush tactics, and practice on how to take your gun away from you. If there is going to be an ambush, I'd rather that I be the one doing the ambushing, and open carry more often than not will rob me of that opportunity.

Here's another video showing an example of how things can really happen. This video is a compilation from a 3 day Shivworks Extreme Close Quarters Concepts (ECQC) course that we hosted back in April 2013, and it deals specifically with weapons retention and defensive tactics at arms length. Watch what happens to those who chose to open carry, specifically at 1:14 and again at the 2:10 timeframes in the video. As a side note, I concealed carry during these exercises and was not disarmed at any time during the class, but rather was able to draw and deliver shots on several occasions when the opportunity presented itself - two of these instances can be seen at 1:28 and again at 2:20. Doesn't mean I always stopped the attacker with bullets, but I was never disarmed and was able to shoot until my gun was empty or malfunctioned.

When there are no rules, you need to stack the deck in your favor. 

Am I saying that open carry is wrong? Not at all, and even do it myself when I feel it's appropriate. I don't want to generalize this, so let me give you some personal examples. I open carry when I am hunting, hiking, camping, driving in a vehicle, and also any place where it's legal for me to open carry but not legal for me to concealed carry, such as the state of Nevada with my AZ CCW. When I open carry, however, I work very hard at not drawing attention to myself. I am a clean cut person who does not wear "loud clothing," I do not speak loudly or do things to make myself the center of attention, and I guard my gun side and try to avoid making my firearm an object of attention. That all being said, let's take a look at the following pictures, again through the eyes of the anti-gun person and the criminal:

Look hard at these pictures until you see the firearms 
that are present. Hint: you won't.

Thinking as an anti-gun person, do you see anything that would make you call the cops, take the opportunity to "prove a point", or generally make you worried, scared, or upset? As a criminal, do you see anything that would make you target these people specifically, such as the presence of a firearm? Both of them are carrying firearms in these pictures and have easy access to them, yet they have them hidden, out of plain sight, and out of the reach of others. Keep in mind the Firearm Safety Rule of 'Have control of your firearm at all times.' When you are carrying a firearm open or concealed, are you in complete control of it, no matter what happens? If you get knocked on your back or someone makes a move for your gun, will you still be in control? This brings me back to the beginning of this post, where I mention that I have always been drawn to concealed carry. This is because I feel that concealed carry gives me the chance to decide whether to get involved with my firearm or even get involved at all. It's my ace-in-the-hole, and no one knows I have it until I am using it. I also train with it constantly, drawing from concealment with multiple types of cover garments, from t-shirts and dress shirts to jackets and heavy coats. I know how to retain my firearm if someone sees it and makes a move for it, and I can employ other techniques using my hands and other tools to assist the bad guy in changing their behavior. This confidence did not come easily or quickly, but rather through the pain of learning, mostly with trial-and-error and even some real-world experiences.

Is open carry or concealed carry the best choice for you? Only you can decide, but do so based on and intelligent and logical look at you own situation and lifestyle, and not the opinions of those who may or may not be as well-informed about how things work in your world.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leaving Right Now - what do you have ready to go?

At the time of this blog entry, the 'Doce Fire' in Prescott, AZ is burning less than 20 miles from where Independence Training is based. It has consumed well over 3000 acres since it started about 8 hours ago, and more than 300 homes have been evacuated, most of those within the first few hours. Livestock have been hastily moved, family shelters have been quickly setup in school gyms and meeting halls, and there are approximately 300 firefighters on the ground with a half dozen aircraft battling it from the skies. The smoke plume is currently blocking out the sun and stretches for many miles to the north and northeast. No injuries have been reported and no structures have been directly threatened as of yet, but with red flag wind warnings forecast for tomorrow and a reported 0% containment level, those who are fighting this blaze have a lot of rough work ahead of them.

The smoke plume around 1pm on June 18, 2013, shortly after the fire started.

One of Independence Training's favorite airframes, 
the CH-47 Chinook, doing some air assault on the Doce Fire.

So what does this have to do with the Sheepdog Lifestyle? Let's approach it from this perspective: you are at home on another beautiful summer day, just like today, when suddenly you get a reverse-911 call and the dispatcher tells you that you are being forced to evacuate your home due to a wildfire that is burning dangerously close to your neighborhood. You have a very short time to get what you need - but what will you take? Consider that you may never see your home again; or if you do see it again it will be a pile of ashes. What if the evacuation comes because of a flood? The local Sheriff's Department is outside waiting, but you only have 15 minutes to get the most important things in your life - survival necessities, family photos, vital records, irreplaceable heirlooms - and you have to be able to carry it all with you, because driving out isn't an option. You can see where this is going: do you have everything that is vital to your survival, and the survival of your family, in an easy to carry setup? And for whatever you can't carry, can you fit it into that large fireproof and theft proof safe that you own? Wait - you do own a safe like that, right?

They are called by names such as Bug Out Bags (BOB), 72 Hour Kits, and Emergency Kits, and while a lot of people are familiar with this concept, few actually put one together for every member of their household and then regularly update them. Even worse, many will go out and purchase the "magic talisman kit"; that is, they will buy a pre-made kit that is generally not suited to their situation and typically filled with cheap, poorly designed items that often fail when put to use in the real world. These kits are almost more dangerous than having nothing, because at least if you have nothing then you know you have nothing. But if you have a cheap "magic talisman kit", which was just another checkmark off the ol' "emergency prep" checklist, then when you need it you'll think you have something, and quickly find out that you still have nothing. Remember that these kits aren't put together because they are the best option for you and your family - they are put together with bulk high profit margin items in order to sell you something and make someone else some money.

Pre-made emergency kits or "survival kits" often won't fit your 
real world needs, and are usually made up of cheap items that may 
fail you when you need them most.

Building your own kit is always a better idea, and here are some thing to consider when doing so. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, nor is it all that we recommend putting into an emergency kit, but rather it is a list to get some ideas rolling. Kits should be size appropriate for the age of the person who will be carrying it as well as their physical fitness level. Your 8-year-old daughter is not going to carry a 30lb pack for very long, if at all, and neither will the 40-year-old man who is woefully out of shape. In this case, less is usually more, especially if you are on foot or limited by authorities on how much you can take. Focus on multi-purpose items and lightweight options.
  • Sturdy pack designed for carrying large loads for long distances
  • Sleeping equipment, include a shelter or shelter materials of some kind
  • Extra footwear, already broken in and similar to what you are used to wearing
  • Full change of clothes
  • Gallon of water, small water filter (Lifestraw!), and water bottles or other containers
  • Medical kit, including any needed medications
  • High energy snacks and meals for at least 3 days - canned goods and MREs are useful here
  • Eating utensils, small pot or metal cup, small stove or heating unit
  • Tools: knife, small shovel, rope, multi-tool, etc.
  • Flashlight (2 is better than 1), extra batteries, candles/chemlights
  • Survival supplies: fire starters, compass, mirror, whistle, whetstone, etc.
  • Hygiene items (hotel hygiene items are a good option and you can get all you want at the hotel desk)
  • 2 way radios and extra batteries, or even better a HAM or CB radio
  • Family photos and important documents scanned and put onto a USB flash drive
  • Picture IDs for everyone in case ID is needed for shelters, evacuations, missing persons, etc.
  • Personal items: books, note taking gear, toys for kids, diapers for babies, etc.
Now that you've put something together, remember to check it on a regular basis - we recommend a minimum of at least once a year. Medications will expire, food will lose it's nutritional value or become dangerous to your digestive tract, and whoever has stashed clothes in that kit may grow or lose weight and need to change out a few items. We once had a student show us their kit and they pulled out diapers for their now 10-year-old son! And of course we have to mention training here, as emergency kits are not "get and forget" gear. They need to be practiced with and used regularly enough so that when the time comes that you have to use them in an emergency there will be nothing in your kit that you are unfamiliar with or pulling out of a package for the first time. Take them camping with you, or better yet plan a camping trip around using only your kit and its contents. Plan a night in your home where you are not allowed to use lights, natural gas, or anything from the pantry or cupboard and use only what it is in your kits instead. Make it a fun adventure with your friends or family, but keep it serious enough that you realize what needs to be changed out or rotated from your emergency kit.

So now let's switch things up a bit. What if you are in your vehicle, traveling home or perhaps you're even way out of town, and find out that you will be stuck wherever you're at for an extended period of time, or perhaps will be unable to go home since the fire/flood/tornado/hurricane is in your neighborhood wreaking havoc? Perhaps you will not be able to get to your home in time to save anything - so what do you have on you when you are not at home?

The answer is simple: basically the same things you would have on you if you had to leave your home! We call it the Get Home Bag, and it's come in handy for several of our instructors on several occasions, from natural disasters keeping them away from their homes to simple vehicle breakdowns or travel delays. Your Get Home Bag (GHB) should stay in your vehicle or travel with you wherever you go, at least in some configuration, including in rental cars, traveling with other people, on airline flights, etc. Some extra things that you may want to add to your (GHB) include cash and silver coins or other currency (in case you need to purchase something when the electricity is out or similar situations), gloves, some kind of optic (binocular/monocular), extra ammunition if you normally carry a firearm (where legal), a firearm if you don't normally carry a firearm (where legal), and wet weather gear. In your vehicle you should also consider having extra food, water, medical supplies, flashlights and other light options, sleeping bag or blankets, jumper cables or booster pack, and vehicle related tools and spare parts, among other situation-dependent items.

Our head instructor, Glen, keeps this 'Get Home Bag' 
and other emergency items in his truck at all times.

The moral of the story is this: good people are forced into tough situations every day. Based on what we typically see at the sites of many disasters and shelters, most of them are terribly unprepared for it. While you can't prepare for everything, you can prepare for a lot of things, so don't get caught unprepared when all it takes is a few minutes and a few dollars to put some good kits together. It will be time and money well-spent.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Having 'the talk' with your kids . . . . the gun talk, that is.

As parents, we hope that our children always make the best possible decisions when faced with a tough choice. Right vs. wrong, relationships, drugs, college, and careers - these are just a few of the decisions that we hope and pray our children choose the correct path with, and their decisions are often partially based on the information that we've shared with them. One of the paths of life that our kids also need assistance with is the safe handling of firearms, since we live in a gun culture and youth are very likely to come in contact with firearms at some point. Even if their household has no firearms, there's a good chance that someone in their circle of friends does.

Whether you were raised with firearms in your home or not, and regardless of your choice of firearm ownership now, it's vital that you get the kids in your life trained properly so that they know what to do if they find or see a gun, whether in your home or someone else's. We recommend getting them into a professional training program, whether through the NRA, Hunter's Education, or a private training organization like us (Independence Training). The benefit of this, even if you as a parent are an accomplished hunter or shooter, is that your kids will get to hear someone else reinforce what you've been probably been teaching them already, and trust me - they'll get more out of it. Professional firearms instructors tend to have great experience with safety and what happens when the rules are broken, and can pass on additional information to your kids that you may not know about. In fact, taking a course with your kids is a great way to not only spend time with your kids, but you may learn something new yourself! Even as professional instructors, we still get other instructors to train our kids when they reach a certain age. There's no such thing as too much training, especially when it comes to our kids and safety.

One of our future instructors learns the ins and outs of the M32 MGL.

Now that you and your kids are on the same page with safety, what about their friends? What do you know about the safe storage of firearms at the locations where your kids spend time? Often times we talk with the parents of our kids' friends about video game limitations, food allergies, or swimming pool fences, but we leave out asking about firearms in the home. While the question of "Do you have guns in your home?" isn't a question that most of us would normally answer if asked by someone not close to us, if a concerned parent who had a child in your home asked it, you should be happy to tell them about the safe storage methods that you employ to keep your firearms secured from unauthorized access. It's also important to rememeber that there are kids out there who have parents in the traditional sense of the word (mom and dad) but those parents may or may not be taking an active role in the raising of their children, such as teaching them about safe habits. Even parents who are actively engaged with their kids may not own firearms or be familiar with them, and even some of those who do own firearms do not know much about safely securing them. Don't be afraid to ask!

So now that your kids are properly educated, and you know that firearms are secured in your kids' most common hangout spots, how do you remove the mystique and curiosity surrounding firearms? Remove the mystery - it's what we teach to our students, and practice with our own kids. In homes where the guns are a "never touch" kind of issue, or "hidden" or explained as "dangerous," the kids are more likely to try and get to them. It's a curiosity thing, plain and simple, so remove the mystery. Not only should you talk with your kids about firearms safety, but also allow them to handle properly unloaded firearms while teaching them about safe handling. Show them how the firearm and ammunition work mechanically, then explain simple ballistics. Talk to them about the history of firearms and the Second Amendment, and why firearms are an important part of American culture. If they ask to see your guns, set some time aside to show them in a safe manner, and if they ask to go shooting, set time aside to do that, too. Make sure to cover what they should do if they see a firearm in someone else's home, or are asked by their friends to play with real firearms. To sum it up: Don't Touch and Leave the Area! Be sure to practice what you preach, however - if you do unsafe things with firearms, your kids will follow suit. But if you teach that a firearm is simply a tool, albeit a powerful tool, and not some dangerous killing machine, then your kids will start to see it as just that - a tool for certain jobs, nothing more.

While accidental shooting deaths amongst children are more rare than the media hype would have you believe, they do still happen, and to this date we haven't read or heard about one where the firearm was toally secured or the child educated before the accident. So regardless of how old your child is, or what their experience level with firearms is (video games don't count!), please talk with them and those that they spend time with about firearms safety. Feel free to use our "THINK Safety" firearm safety rules document below (the same thing we teach in all of our courses) to help you accomplish having "the gun talk" with your kids.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Outdoor Training vs. Indoor Training - a look at the pros and cons of shooting ranges

There are many different types of shooting ranges where you can train and practice your firearms proficiency, and they all have their pros and cons in regards to setup, construction, and location. They really only break down into two different categories, however, and those are Outdoor and Indoor. Based on my experience with both types of facilities, I've found that each one has a kind of "following" - in other words, those who train outdoors rarely train at indoor ranges, and those who train indoors rarely venture into the outdoors to train. Based on my discussions with our students, I believe that this is largely due to people becoming accustomed and comfortable with their surroundings, especially those who are fairly new to shooting, and they don't want to change anything for fear that it will alter what they are capable of accomplishing. There are a number of reasons that we, as a training organization, prefer to train and shoot in both types of ranges, and as Sheepdogs, you'll want to train at both types of ranges, as well.

Outdoor Ranges

We train at outdoor ranges all over the southwest, and from well-developed square ranges with full service facilities to simple private ranges with a mountain as a backstop, training outside offers several major advantages:
  • The ability to shoot in several different directions, not just straight forward.
  • Training in adverse conditions (hot, cold, wind, etc.) stresses fundamentals and allows for a true test of your skills.
  • Firing lines can be bigger with more capability for movement and alternate shooting positions, such as fighting from the ground or shooting from a vehicle.
  • Lower cost, especially in locations where public land is available for training or shooting.
  • Shooting to extended ranges as far as the eye can see.
  • Utilizing different types of targets, from traditional paper to steel and exploding targets.
  • Being outside and breathing fresh air is good for you!
Anytime that you get something, you give something, however, and that is certainly true with outdoor ranges. Here are some potential downsides to training outdoors:
  • Weather is a major contributing factor, and while some of us enjoy training in adverse conditions, it can be a real challenge to teach the fundamentals of shooting to a new shooter in 30 degree weather while a 15mph wind blows across their face. Keeping a full firing line of shooters engaged for 8 hours in 100+ degree weather can also be a challenge.
  • Target frames and target systems at outdoor ranges are largely static, meaning that while the shooter can move, the target cannot. While some ranges have moving target systems available, this is not common nor is it inexpensive.
  • Learning how to shoot and move in low-light/no-light conditions, a skill that is absolutely vital to the armed citizen, police officer, or military member, can only be done once the sun goes down. Depending on the time of year, this can limit the amount of training that can be done due to time and temperature.

Indoor Ranges

We have recently started offering our training at an indoor shooting range, specifically the Copper Star Indoor Shooting Range, located in Camp Verde, AZ. This is a top-notch facility that is very modern and very capable of allowing you to do things that wouldn't be possible at an outdoor location. Unfortunately, not all indoor ranges are created equal, so be careful about which one you choose. Ask about their safety policies, who they allow to use the range and under what conditions, the quality of their air filtration systems, and when the last time they had a firearm-related accident was. That being said, here are some important advantages that indoor ranges have:
  • They are not weather-dependant, so regardless of what's happening outside, you can always be training outside. And just because they aren't weather-dependant doesn't mean you can't add some adverse conditions inside. Want to train in the heat or the cold? Just adjust the thermostat.
  • Due to the nature of the range, shooting at an indoor facility very realistically replicates what it would be like to fire you weapon inside of your home or other building. And while this may seem obvious, it's something that most shooters don't consider. If you plan on using that firearm in self-defense, you should know what it sounds and looks like when it's fired indoors, 'cause that's a whole new experience.
  • Want some low-light conditions or darkness to train in or test gear with? No problem - just turn out the lights. You can also add different types of lights, such as red and blue flashing lights for law-enforcement training.
  • Target carrier systems indoors are capable of doing things that it's very difficult to replicate outdoors. Want your target to charge you at adjustable speeds, or turn from a shoot target to a don't shoot target and back again? No problem.
  • When checking point of aim/point of impact (POA/POI) or zeroing a firearm, it's easy to send the target out to an exact distance and then change that distance on the fly.
  • Indoor ranges often have a selection of rental firearms, from the normal to the exotic, and they always have ammunition, hearing and eye protection, and other accessories available for purchase.
Just like an outdoor range has its downsides, so does an indoor range, so here's a few of the limitations you may experience:
  • Shooting indoors is LOUD, much louder than outdoors. It's best to wear ear plugs and muffs, preferably electronic muffs.
  • There's only so much room, meaning that you may have to wait to shoot, and once you get in there, you'll usually be paying by the hour if there are other people waiting for you to finish.
  • That limited space also means that there are some types of training and shooting that you cannot do, such as moving and shooting, shooting in multiple directions, shooting from certain alternate positions, etc.
  • Lead contamination is an always present factor, and regular soap and water isn't enough to wash up with. Use deleading soap or deleading wipes on your face and hands after each range use, especially if you are going to eat something. If you are in there for an extended period of time, make sure to wash your clothes and take a shower as soon as possible, and don't wear the shoes you were wearing in the range inside your home (especially if you have little kids who may crawl on the floor).
How Our Training Differs Based on Range Location

The differences between outdoor and indoor ranges mentioned above have an effect on the training courses that we offer, and while the concepts that we teach in each course stay the same, the skills that are taught vary. There are even some courses that we simply cannot teach at an indoor range, and some that we cannot teach at an outdoor range. If you've taken one of our courses indoors, you've had a different experience than if you would have taken it outdoors, and vice versa. This is simply because of the benefits and the limitations of each location. As an example, in our Defensive Handgun course, we utilize a lot of movement on the student's part while they engage steel targets of various sizes when this class is taught outdoors. This can cannot be done indoors, however, so we instead utilize the forward, backward, and turning movement capabilities of the targets themselves, which have been pre-programmed beforehand, and use full-size 3D torso targets wearing clothing to teach the same concepts.

Any student who takes the same course but at different range locations will have a slightly different experience, and have the opportunity to build different skills. This is part of the reason that we offer all of our students a chance to take the same courses over again as a refresher for only 50% of the normal course cost. Many of our students take advantage of this, even training at the same locations just to reinforce what they have already learned and to refresh what they have forgotten since the first time around.

As always, there's no such thing as too much training, and there's no such thing as someone who knows everything about anything, so take advantage of every chance you have to shoot and train in a new location, whether outdoors or indoors, as each experience will offer you new opportunities to expand and increase your skills as a Sheepdog.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Am The Bullet

In light of recent events and the discussions and arguments surrounding the merits of gun ownership in our Country, I wanted to share with you an article that I have considered to be one of the best on the topic since I first read it in SWAT magazine years ago. It was written by the great Louis Awerbuck, creator and director of the famed Yavapai Firearms Academy. Please read it thoroughly, as Louis pulls no punches with the messages he chooses to deliver.


Reprinted With Permission of S.W.A.T. Magazine, Copyright 2005.
As seen in S.W.A.T. DECEMBER 2004 - Page 98

I am the bullet — and I have no conscience. You will treat me with respect because once I leave, you have no control over my actions. Once I’m gone I will do as I please, governed only by the laws of physics. And the next time you see me I will have done my work, bringing on your life a potential gamut of emotions ranging from pleasure, satisfaction and exhilaration to anger, pain, grief and regret. Use me wisely and with discretion, for I can snuff out the flame of a king’s life as easily as I can bring delight to a ten-year-old’s face by recording for posterity a first bullseye on a humble paper target.  

It took the fire of a crucible to conceive me, but now I’m no longer molten metal — and therein lies the deceptiveness of my power. When I was cast in the mould of hot lead you knew I was dangerous, but now you underestimate me as I lie in the womb of the cartridge case, a solidified metal teardrop the size of your fingernail. Beware, for the day I’m born I will go from womb to tomb in the fraction of a second. For me there will be no childhood, no puberty, no adulthood — just a nano-second of flight before I find my terminal resting place.  

You must be mother, father, teacher, and priest, because you will guide me on my short life’s path. I am but an emotionless, inanimate object with no heartbeat and no conscience. Once the hot gases of propulsion give birth to my destination, they will also signal my death knell, for I will have no childhood, no puberty, no adulthood. Instant birth to instant rest, with but a momentary tick of the clock of time to bring pleasure or pain. The responsibility for my actions rests squarely on your shoulders. You conceived me, you entombed me in a cartridge case with my brother primer and sister gunpowder, slaves to your bidding. If you didn’t cast, size, lube and load me yourself, you bought me just like you bought Mister Gump’s box of chocolates. But unlike the box of chocolates, with me what you see is what you get. I am the corked bottle encasing a quiescent genie. Once the genie is free, you know exactly what potential can be unleashed — but you had better choose your three wishes wisely.  

The acquisition of firearms and ammunitions is sequential, one way or the other. Rarely does one initially have a vast supply of ammo of a specific caliber and subsequently acquire a firearm to use or expend this supply. While people often buy a secondary or tertiary weapon for this reason, usually one purchases the gun, cleaning equipment, accessories, and a storage unit — be it a case, bag or gun safe — before any thought is given to what ammunition is going to be obtained and used in the weapon. And after spending a king’s ransom on all this equipment, you head for the local gun emporium and spend a pittance on a case of the cheapest garbage military surplus ammo you can find.  

Then when you miss, you blame it on me. When you accidentally discharge a firearm because you neglected to extract me from the chamber, you blame it on me. When I plow my way through bone and muscle, and fail to incapacitate a madman, you blame it on me. But when you achieve the result you wanted, then it’s because of your masterful ability, and I’m forgotten — used, expended, and spent.  

Such is my lot — Man’s ingratitude and lack of respect for the humble bullet. Because you paid for the ammunition, I become your possession; but you don’t own me — I own your soul. I will make you or break you in my short lifespan. The slightest marksmanship error on your part and I will embarrass you in front of your peers. The slightest lapse in concentration while manipulating a firearm and I will take an innocent life. I will ricochet off a windshield, a belt buckle, or a baseball cap bill when you’ve been told I should have penetrated the material — and I will just as easily over-penetrate an apartment wall and forever snuff out the future of a defenseless child.

Doctor Mann spent a lifetime trying to find out why I didn’t always perform as external ballistics would demand I do — and he went to his grave with my secret intact. But you insist on imbibing alcohol and firing bullets into the air in a puerile Yuletide celebration, understanding nothing of the physics of my flight path — or my power to change your life forever. 

You will spend endless hours discussing the merits and demerits of my size and velocity, but when all is said and done, it really doesn’t mean anything. The truth of the matter is that once I depart from your gun muzzle you no longer have control over me — and I, too, no longer have control over my own destiny.  

The next time you see a humble un-fired bullet remember that without me your gun is as useless as fingers on a rooster. And once loaded, I can be as dangerous as a drunk in rush hour traffic. Once my power is unleashed, there can be only two results — delight and satisfaction, or disaster and horror. And this will reach fruition in the blink of an eye, for I have no childhood, no puberty, no adulthood.  

Treat me with respect, for I am the bullet — and I have no conscience.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.