Dr. Strangegun or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the S&W M&P Family

One of my M&P 9’s this one is from the, “PRO SERIES,” and comes from the factory with an improved trigger pull, as well as a uniquely textured backstrap. This one is equipped with Trijicon HD nights sights (the older BIG dot variation). I have yet to try out the HD XR variants.

If you look at any of the regular gun blog or Youtube channels, you’ll notice the perpetual trend of the, “next best thing,” in carry guns.  This week, it is the Hudson H9…next week, who knows?  Funny thing though, is THAT marketing strategy works!  It’s a psychological ploy that truly fiddles with the casual buyer’s mind, and makes them think that their gun, whichever that might be, is somehow inferior, and upgrading to the, “latest and greatest,” is the right move.  So they pony up the bucks, and get the new gun.  Then they notice that their performance is either equivalent to the prior platform, or their performance takes a dive.  Either way, what’s gained?  Money changes hands, and the smart marketeers get more of your ducketts!

I’m a fan of the old Gen 3 Smiths. They work! While not the lightest pistols, even in their heyday, nobody can dispute that they were accurate and they ran. And in the PAC NW, they were reasonably rust resistant.

I’ve been lucky enough to largely dodge this phenomena, but merely by coincidence.  I have been a perpetual student for years, and a good portion of the 90’s and 2000’s cost me about $600,000 in tuition for three undergraduate degrees, my DDS and a residency program and that’s not even including my kid’s private school tuition.  UGH.  Thus, I could, “want,” the top hardware all I wanted, but the funds were already allocated to getting to the next semester.  I was also lucky enough to work for outfits that either required a specific sidearm (or a very narrow choice in sidearms G17 or G19) and thus it didn’t make sense for me to use anything else.

My first big foray off of service revolvers into semiautomatic pistols started with the Glock 19.  This was circa 1996, and the Gen 2 guns were the heat.  I got one, had a set of Trijicon 3 dot night sights pressed into it, and I hit the road with it.  Now, mind you this was 1996, and thus, I had 10 round magazines, thanks to Bill Clinton et al.  On the armored truck, I carried four magazines on my belt, one in the gun, for a total of 51 rounds on board, plus a Smith 649 on my ankle, with two speed loaders on my belt for that.  I carried the Corbon 115 grain +P+ 9mm loading, which Ed Sanow and Evan Marshall, and Mas Ayoob had spoken highly of.

After carrying that gun for about a year, both on and off work, someone introduced me to the Heckler & Koch series of pistols, specifically the USP in .45 ACP.  Since I was strictly saddled with 10 round Crime Bill magazines, I figured that the larger .45 ACP bullet would be, “better,” and thus I changed pistols.  The official, “change,” required that I log the make, model and serial number with my employer, and then shoot the state mandated sobriety test, er, I mean, “qualification,” course, which was 30 rounds, on a B27 silhouette from 3 to 25 yards.  Not a difficult course, and graded by the numbers.  I held the, “TOP GUN,” of my branch every year I was employed there (I actually won a number of belt buckles that stated such, but at the time, I wasn’t sentimental, and had no use for a belt buckle of the size that doubled as an umbrella, so I gifted them to my cowboy friends.  In retrospect, I wish I would’ve kept them to give them to my Son.  Alas, I digress).  So I was in the .45 business, and stayed that way until 2004/2005 when the Assault Weapons Ban ended, and I decided to go to the company issued Glock 22 (with 15 round magazines).  The gun worked well with the 180 grain hollow point ammunition (I think it was CCI Speer) but it bobbled with the 165 grain ammunition.  That was less than inspiring, compared to the boring reliability of the USP, and the, “Area 51-like,” accuracy the USP was capable of.  So, after a short stint, I hung up the Glock 22 and went back to the USP and ran it until I left the armored truck industry and went on to the next big adventure, which was dental school.

I don’t often carry conventional IWB, but when I do, I run a JM Custom Kydex #3, “TOM GIVENS,” style. Fixed loop, and a 25 degree cant makes the gun comfortable, but turns the grip in such a way that it is still very accessible while seated, but not uncomfortable. I have a #3 for K and L frame revolvers too, and they are a delight. If you have a bin full of holsters and can’t find the right IWB for you, give this one a try. The mag carriers are also the excellent fixed loops JMCK OWB model. They carry securely, and close enough to the body that you won’t feel like you’re walking around with an LVAD on your hip.

While in school, I worked as an instructor and medical program director for Tactical Response, which was strictly (at that time) a Glock 19 organization.  That was fine with me, and I ran the Glock 19.  In 2008 I purchased the, “Glock Killer,” known as the Smith & Wesson M&P in 9mm.  This gun was odd, and it was literally absorbed by the community with aplomb.  The guns became ubiquitous in classes and they really caught on.  Sure, there were some lemons that TRULY had accuracy problems, but in the several iterations of that pistol that I had, ran like tops, and had no accuracy issues that weren’t directly attributed to the idiot hanging off the end of the beavertail.  In short, I was pleased with my M&P, and owned a pair of them…one for carry and one for practice/competition.

How I EDC most days.  A JMCK Wing Claw 2.5 for the M&P, and a Bawidamann Uber horizontal magazine carrier.  I carry this combo under a tight fitting t shirt, almost everyday.  Sometimes, I wear a scrub shirt over it, and it disappears completely.  It is fast, accessible and quite comfortable.  

Unlike the Glock with it’s severe grip angle, the M&P hugged the belt line a bit closer, which made the draw slightly different, since I had to pry my hand all of the way under the frontstrap to get a full firing grip.  The gun was very slick in texture, which made it easy to move my hand into position rapidly before executing the draw.  Thus, although the M&P was a bit longer in both nose and butt than the G19, it was just as or if not more concealable.  I also like how easily the magazines came apart for cleaning, especially when they filled up with the Tennessee mud and fine, particulate sand.  I always felt like my OEM Glock magazines became weaker and weaker every time I took them apart!  I don’t know if this is a real worry, or if it just felt that way.  Either way, the M&P mags were easily disassembled and they held two more rounds than the G19 to boot.

The excellent metal clip holster from DARK STAR GEAR.  This holster is what I use to carry when I don’t have a belt on.  So gym shorts, or sweats.  Whatever you have, this will hold them securely without the embarrassment of skinning your pistol out and finding your form-fitting holster clamped firmly on the end of it.  They also do a fine job of keeping sweat off the gun AND keeping the sights (particularly bad in my experience, with the Trijicon HD sights) of eating the heck out of your skin or undershirt.  I included the LCR in the Ruger variant of the DSG holster for a size comparison…there is none.  Weight aside, who doesn’t want to carry a flatter, easier to shoot pistol that carries more BB’s?


After using the M&P in numerous classes to include Tactical Response, Rangemaster and Larry Vickers courses, I put tens of thousands of rounds through the guns, and probably five times that in dry-practice repetitions.  I felt really good about the M&P.  So much so, that I stopped thinking about it completely.  I knew, on a visceral level that there were other guns out there, that probably had better QC, mechanical accuracy and easier detail disassembly, but I didn’t care.  I felt confident in my skills with my pistol and I had amassed a collection of duplicate guns, holsters, magazines, and magazine carriers.  It was safe to say that I was fully invested in the platform.  Sure, carrying in cargo shorts and a t shirt in the summer required a bit baggier t-shirt to pull off, but it was no great feat.

Enter the S&W Shield 9mm.  FINALLY, Smith had done what Glock (remember, the 43 was just a pipe dream back then in 2012) refused to do for years.  Pull off a subcompact 9mm pistol, that was small enough to conceal easily, but just large enough to allow a skilled user to run the gun just like its larger brethren.  The Shield was just similar enough in grip angle, trigger geometry and feel to allow the full size pistol user to transition nearly seamlessly (with the exception of recoil control and front sight tracking…short guns are always snappier) which was cool!  So the niche had been filled, for a small pistol that could be carried when normally a J frame would have to suffice.  I’ve tried to carry my Shield on my ankle, and I have yet to find an ankle holster that works with it (although I have heard good things about the Wilderness Renegade and I just found out that Galco now fits the excellent Ankle Glove for the Shield).  So I still rock my 442 on my ankle.

My 2.0 full size.  Good to go, right out of the box.  Yes…some paint on the sights is useful, but unlike a Glock, the OEM sights aren’t made of plastic, and some even come with popular brand name night sights. 

In 2017, the M&P 2.0 entered the scene, and I bought one of the first ones to arrive in Nashville.  I’ve had nothing but success out of it.  The accuracy issue, that folks have talked about, hasn’t been a problem for me.  The function has been good, and with the exception of a Comptac paddle rig, holster compatability hasn’t been an issue.  I’m very happy with it.




Accuracy with the M&P 2.0 Compact is good.  This is 5 rounds at dude’s trouser button at 25 yards, with about one round per second.  

Striker-fired guns seem to be the gun of choice among the cognoscenti, as well as professional gun-handlers.  But don’t let that guide your decision making!  I always tell people, “Carry what works for you!”  The first rule of gunfighting is, “HAVE A GUN!”  And as I’ve talked about in other articles, nearly any gun will do, if you will do!  It really doesn’t matter, that much.  What DOES matter is that you carry a gun that works reliably, and allows you to accurately deliver shots on target, when you need to.  Most modern service and carry pistols are accurate…far more accurate than 99% of their users.  And don’t buy, carry or justify your decisions based on what, “ORGANIZATION X,” carries…if it’s governmental, there may be political pressure involved, or their organization may simply buy guns/issues guns that are complete garbage!  And who knows if the folks carrying those guns in that organization even like them…they may not!  There is a local PD here that requires their officers to carry a variant of the Springfield XD, in .45 ACP.  If you live in that town, don’t rush out and buy an XD because that’s what the cops there carry.  As John Correia from ASP has said, “XD’s are the McRib of carry pistols.”  Don’t invest any ego into your carry pistol.  It’s a machine…they fall apart and break, at some point.  Some, quicker than others.  You’re a civilian…you have a choice in what you use.  Just be smart about it, and make wise decisions like:

  1. Does the gun work?  If it is magazine or ammo related, that happens.  But your gun should be inherently reliable.
  2. Get a number of spare magazines.  I recommend eight (because that’s what my pistol rug carries, but the more the merrier).  Magazines are expendable.  They get beat up, dented, stepped on, and they wear out.  Plan accordingly.
  3. Make sure that your gun, sights and ammo shoot to the point of aim.  That means that your point of aim and point of impact should be the same!  Many folks walk around with a gun that doesn’t shoot to the sights, and that can be a really bad thing.  You want to hit what the gun is pointed at…not 6 inches below what the gun is pointing at.
  4. Your capabilities in MARKSMANSHIP and GUN HANDLING are far more important than your choice in carry guns.  Buy quality, buy once.

To quote my buddy Kirk, “Until they come out with a Star Trek type phaser, I’ll carry a Glock.”  I feel the same way…except I’ll carry an M&P.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. House





Don’t worry…I didn’t pack up and leave revolverscience to die in gutter somewhere.  It’s still here!  After the long drive home from the 2017 20th Anniversary Rangemaster Instructor Conference and Reunion, I had about ten hours to think about where I am currently and where I want to be in the future, in terms of professional development.

I really appreciate all of the faithful readers that subscribe to my feed here (thank you, all 50 of you!) and it was great to meet several of you in person this past weekend at the conference.  In the, “civilian self-defense,” world, I realized that I am known for a few different reasons:

  1. I am a dentist.  Not sure why, but people really like, “their,” dentist to be a gun enthusiast.  Maybe because of the precision involved, or due to the Hollywood gun-slinging dentist persona, people dig it.
  2. I wrote (my most popular essay) BECOMING THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER and then that essay got a TON MORE traction thanks to Tom Givens posting it on his Rangemaster Newsletter.  In the wake of the Antioch Church shooting here, in Nashville, in October 2017, I started teaching a 4 hour course for the layperson called, “CIVILIAN DEFENDER:  HEMORRHAGE ARREST COURSE,” and I needed a logo for my presentation, thus, the logo you see here was born.
  3. Revolvers, although they are making somewhat of an industry comeback right now, are far from, “state of the art,” for civilian (and certainly law enforcement) applications.  So while I think that it is a VERY important skill (revolver operation) for the well prepared Civilian Defender to have, I don’t think it should supplant a modern, self-loading pistol for everyday carry.  YES…I do carry a back up gun on my ankle and it is a revolver, but as soon as I find a semi-automatic pistol that is as reliable, concealable, and tolerates a good deal of exfoliated skin cells, leg hair, smart wool shavings and associated dirt and grime from walking about, a Smith J frame will be my ankle gun, and I will tell you about it.  However, much like my mentor Tom Givens, I firmly believe that if you MUST carry a revolver for self-defense, that you should carry two.  Despite what Herbert behind the gun counter will tell you, revolvers don’t have fewer controls, nor are they easier to shoot, nor are they more accurate, nor are they more reliable, nor do they, “jam less,” than any quality self-loading service or concealed carry pistol.  YES…they are more tolerant of oddly shaped ammunition (like wadcutters) and YES, they are more tolerant of neglect, but they aren’t a panacea.  Thus, it would be disingenuous of me to give the impression that I SOLELY think that revolvers are the answer for civilian self-defense.
  4. I am one of the two co-founders of the PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE, in remembrance of the late trainer, Paul Everett Gomez.  Dr. William Aprill and I designed the conference in the days following Paul’s death to raise money to support Paul’s three children.  We wanted to have a conference similar in format to Tom Givens’ Rangemaster Tactical Conference, but, like Paul, allow the instructors to teach the WEIRD skills, tactics, concepts or ideas that might not get covered in their regular curriculum, OR, go into further detail than their regular curriculum permits.  Thus, just completing its fourth iteration this past August, “PEP,” as it is known in the community, has turned into an interesting, thought provoking, welcoming and very fun event.  I present something odd at every conference, and the masthead always reads, “DR SHERMAN HOUSE/THE PEOPLE’S DENTIST/REVOLVERSCIENCE,” which seems to cumbersome and odd, and thus the simple, “CIVILIAN DEFENDER,” as a website, concept, and url is far simpler.  Correspondance stock (and Speedo) too.
  5. I am one of the few people in the industry with relevent experience gleaned from my pre-graduation days as a Shotgun Messenger on an armored truck.  If you’ve read any of my essays here at all, you’ve noticed that I’ve earned a few lessons from my time there.  It’s not a prestigious job, and there are many turds that work in the industry, like just about every other industry (including medicine and dentistry) but if you have a dollar bill in your pocket, thank an armored truck guy or gal for getting it to that bank, store or casino.  So, like the regular civilian CCW person, the armored truck crew is ALSO just trying to go about their daily life, the chief difference being that ONE: the armored truck crew has cash, precious metals, jewels or valuables that nearly everyone wants, TWO:  the armored truck crew travels about in an eponymous armored truck that has their contents, mission and contact info graphically described on the side of the vehicle.  There is no way to be a, “gray man,” in that job.  Thus, teaching or talking about the counter-ambush aspects of that particular job, and how they relate to the armed civilian are far more applicable under the idea of the CIVILIAN DEFENDER than they do for REVOLVER SCIENCE.
  6. I always thought the name, “REVOLVER SCIENCE,” was cool, and presented a neat idea.  However, many people in the industry have said to me, “I don’t read your page because I don’t like revolvers.”  Then I would say, “There’s more than just revolvers there!”  To which they’d reply, “I don’t care.  I don’t like revolvers.”  At first I thought that this was simply a sentinel event, but it wasn’t!  I hear it frequently!
  7. Dr. William Aprill was kind enough to mention me and my term, “CIVILIAN DEFENDER,” in his section of Massad Ayoob’s, “STRAIGHT TALK ON ARMED DEFENSE,” and thus, it has gained traction, and needs a, “home base.”
  8. I DON’T SOCIAL MEDIA!  Social media isn’t social…I much prefer to meet and interact with people the old fashioned way:  in person at classes and conferences, on the phone, or via email etc.  I think when we are talking about matters of self-defense, freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms, ALONG WITH the entirety of the Bill of Rights must be respected and adhered to.  Until there is a, “social media,” platform that allows unimpeded rights to the consumer, I won’t be on it.  So, welcome to the, “back corner,” of the exhibit hall.  This is the most punk-rock solution I have at the moment, and it works for me.  All the cool kids are here, and you should be too.

So, hopefully that explains the changes.  This will also let me post more content, since I don’t have to spin a revolver twist into it (which I don’t always do, but I do try and preach to my entire audience, not just the choir).

Thanks for hanging around.  Please subscribe, encourage your friends to subscribe, and share my work on social media if you like it.  If you have reader questions you’d like to submit, leave me a comment or hit me up at drhouse@civiliandefender.com

Thank You,

Dr. House


March is the PERFECT time to train in TENNESSEE!  Not freezing, and not ridiculously/painfully humid either!  I’ve trained with both William and John in the past and their fast-paced, multidisciplinary format is great for high-yield/short attention span learners (like me!).  So come train with us, and get your learn on!

REGISTER HERE:  https://www.fpftraining.com/products/the-effective-armed-citizen-nashville-tn


Dr. House

Be THE Weirdo…

PAULEPALOOZA 4, AUGUST 2017.  I do my best to train others or facilitate training opportunities, as frequently as possible.  If you can teach a person JUST ONE life-saving skill that they use, either personally or teach to someone else, your efforts can have FAR reaching effects.

LONESTAR MEDICS Remote, Austere and Tactical Medical Conference.  You are FAR MORE likely to need medical skills in an emergency than you are to need GUN skills/self-defense skills.  It’s just a matter of simple statistics.  If you spend anytime behind the wheel of a car, you’re bound to happen upon a motor vehicle collision.  Depending on the distance the emergency responders have to travel to get to the scene, YOU ARE THE FIRST RESPONDER.  Remember, like the Great John Farnam says, “When it’s least expected, YOU’RE ELECTED!”  So get out there and get some medical skills under your belt, and once you have them, refresh, renew, and review them at least annually.

What I was actually carrying as my primary sidearm in the first paragraph I reference in this essay.  A Smith 681 in .357.

What I WISH I would’ve been carrying in the first paragraph I referenced in the essay, but couldn’t afford at the time!  But I have one now!  (Smith Model 19…Bill Jordan approved).

About 20-something years ago, I was working as an armored truck guard.  I remember showing up on my first day of work at the armored truck company, complete with body armor, multiple speed loaders, back-up ankle-gun, and black ripstop BDU pants and steel toe combat boots.  In addition to being the youngest employee at my branch, I was also apparently the strangest.  The looks I got on the first day from the veterans, were not welcoming.  I had no pressed slacks, nor Chukka boots or Oxfords, nor six round cartridge slide.  No, I was there dressed for, what I thought,  work.  Armored truck work differs from conventional security work in many ways, chief among them the requirement to actually DO WORK.  Meaning, money (cash and coin) is heavy, and thus moving it from POINT A to POINT B requires brute strength, and sweat.  Thus, dressing like an armed mailman seemed silly to me.  Aside from the completely benign appearance, that, “pressed,” look didn’t seem extraordinarily ergonomic, nor easily maneuverable amongst the various lifting and loading tasks required of an armored truck crewman.  Thus, I was termed, “unique.”

My, “uniqueness,” ended one afternoon following the disarmament and subsequent robbery of a fellow employee.  Although my coworker was physically large, played college football, and generally kept his head on a swivel (if for nothing else than gawking at women) he got ambushed that day, and relieved of his weapon.  The robber didn’t know how to actuate the safety devices/retention devices on the guard’s Uncle Mike’s PRO3 duty holster, and thus he made the guard give him his sidearm, with the robber’s own pistol thrust smartly into the guard’s head.  When the distress/robbery in progress call came out on the radio, we all went into CONDITION ORANGE, and listened intently to the radio traffic exchanges.  The guard was lucky to get out of that nightmare alive…

When I returned to the truck base the afternoon of the robbery, everyone asked me where I purchased my security holster, my body armor and external carrier, the steel plates it carried, the spare magazine carriers, the ankle gun and rig, the medical kit (albeit crude) and the various other support/street survival equipment I carried everyday.  I was no longer the pariah…I was the weirdo who was ready.

Fast forward a number of years to when I was in dental school.  A number of students in my school had been carjacked and relieved of their vehicles.  A frightening number, in fact.  Of my class of 65 students, FIVE were forcibly removed from their vehicles and left shaking and afraid on the side of the road.  In my 4th year, a carjacker unsuccessfully attempted to carjack ME, and was promptly sent running in the opposite direction.  I had spent a fair amount of training and effort on vehicular ambush techniques, over a couple decades, beginning with my experience as a law enforcement student at the community college, through my armored truck experience, and honed it into a reliable skillset that allowed me to recognize a probable threat early on, prepare mentally and physically for the interaction, and then counter the robbery with a preemptive surprise response.  Of course, spending free time at the range running skill drills from a chair or a vehicle, and pre-planning tactics in my head made me strange to the casual observer…who does these kinds of things?

Weirdos do these kinds of things.  At the base of it all, lies the MENTAL AWARENESS AND MENTAL PREPAREDNESS that Mas Ayoob talked about WAY back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, that survival minded individuals employ to give them the competitive edge against any existential threat that they come up against.  You see, to the layperson, the WEIRDO looks like a fighting ant, with their bristled visage, guns, knives, medical kits, 4×4 truck and bail-out bag.  To the uninitiated, the WEIRDO looks like a gadgeted freak, and thus the tactical accessories of the WEIRDO seem like talismans that have the ability to ward off evil-doers, and help the wearer steer clear of environmental pitfalls.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth though.  The WEIRDO has simply undertaken the task of preparing their hands for the unexpected; the mind is already so equipped.  So when disaster strikes, and action is needed, they are ready.  For the weirdo, the acceptance of the, “NOT IF…WHEN?” eventuality is already completed.  One of my email taglines used to read, “IF YOU PREPARE FOR THE EMERGENCY, THE EMERGENCY CEASES TO EXIST!”  The weirdo doesn’t like emergencies, but they know that they occur and thus they find the study and preparation for countering emergencies, useful.  And lately, in our current times, emergencies seem to occur more frequently than in the past.  So, be a WEIRDO.  Encourage others to become WEIRDOS.  And maybe, someday, we can live in a world where the WEIRDOS aren’t in the tiny minority, and even seem (dare I say) NORMAL.




When I hear or read the word, “gentleman,” what I immediately think of is some Englishmen, with a handlebar mustache, a suit made from fine cloth, with a bowler hat, and perhaps a pipe.  Kind of a cross between Bat Masterson and the fictional detective’s sidekick, Dr. John Watson.  What I do not think of are the various rapists, robbers, home invaders, serial killers, active killers, jihadists, gang members, car jackers or other miscreants.  However, various news sources ROUTINELY refer to the aforementioned turds as such.  This politically correct and possibly, hyperbolic, “sarcasm-speak,” has trickled down into the self-defense industry, and I’m really tired of it!  If you possess the capability for sentient thought, you should be tired of it too.

The late Colonel Jeff Cooper referred to collective pack of miscreants as, “goblins,” (for all of you Lord of the Rings fans) which I like.  Also, the late Louis Awerbuck (of which I was, and am still a big fan, see HERE) called these wrongdoers, “cookie monster,” as in (insert South African accent), “There you are minding your own business walking to your car when the Cookie Monster pops up from behind a parked station wagon, gun in hand.”  I think that BOTH of these word choices are far superior to saying something that is quite antithetical to what we are trying to describe.  “Gentlemen,” surely these hoodlums are not.

When I treat my patients, I routinely tell them what I want them to do.  It is a physiological/psychological shortcut that actually works for me pretty well (I jokingly call it the, “Jedi Mind Trick”).  For example, I tell them, “You will feel me push on your cheek and then you’ll feel pressure in your jaw.”  What I don’t tell them is, “You will feel a puncture as I plunge this 27 gauge needle into your jaw, pass it through several sheets of muscle, knock it into the bone and then deliver 1.7 milliliters of anesthetic liquid into your tissues.  That anesthetic is not isotonic to those local tissues, and it will burn tremendously, but gut through it, as it will only last thirty seconds or so!”  By simply giving a relaxed person a simple verbal suggestion, I can shape what they experience.

In firearms training, as instructors we must also be cautious about what we say when we coach our students.  If I tell a student to, “Press the trigger, just like you’re pressing a button,” they will.  In their mind, they can visualize using their index finger to simply press a button.  It is an operation that each of us thoughtlessly execute hundreds, if not thousands of times a day.  So instructing a student to, PRESS the trigger delivers the desired result; a straight, continuous press to the limit of travel.  But if we tell the same student, “SQUEEZE that trigger,” the first thing that they see in their mind’s eye is SQUEEZING a lemon, or SQUEEZING a hand in a firm handshake.  They compress their entire hand, not just their index finger, and the shot they fire ends up going critically low, sometimes not even striking the target, even at close range.  That’s bad instruction, and bad advice.  Thus, SAYING the correct word with appropriate phrasing, is vital to communicate what we are trying to convey.

When you, or I, or the trainer you follow, or the news reporter you watch calls some law-breaking creep a, “gentleman,” they are accidentally and perhaps even involuntarily referring to the worst kind of person there is, in, “human,” terms.  Perhaps it is a psychological coping mechanism to deal with the totality of their actions, I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist.  I call these packs of losers, “Bad Guys.”  I don’t have any issue with doing that.  Someone is molesting a child?  They ARE a bad guy.  Someone is robbing a bank?  They ARE a bad guy.  Someone is randomly shooting innocent people in a mall?  They ARE a bad guy.  I would have no qualms about appearing in front of a judge and telling them that I was attacked by a bad guy…I was NOT attacked by a gentleman.  And neither were you, and neither were they.  So call them what they are.  BAD GUY is objective; it tells you exactly and in plain terms what you NEED to know about that person in question.  There are no active killers that AREN’T BAD GUYS.  And there aren’t any active killers that ARE gentlemen.

Go back through this essay.  I used every synonym for, “hoodlum,” I could think of.  I’m sure you can think of a few more.  Then, next time you hear the local news, a police officer, district attorney or whoever refer to human excrement as a, “gentleman,” correct them and remind them that the person to whom they are referring is MOST CERTAINLY NOT a gentleman.  WORDS MEAN SOMETHING, they aren’t there just a temporal space filler or to generate online, “content.”  So say what you mean, and mean what you say.




DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE WRITTEN TEST!  My lowest score in the course was on the written exam.  Although still an, “A,” by normal academic standards, it gives me something to work towards for the next time.  The two, “100’s,” I have refer to the both the FBI Pistol Qualification Course (Jan 2013) shot on the Rangemaster Q target, and the Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Qualification Course (Rev 3/15).  The shooting courses were quite challenging, but the written test was HARD.  And I have years (undergrad X3, DAT, professional school, residency, board tests) of formal, “testing,” behind me!  Don’t underestimate it!

If you’ve spent any length of time reading essays here at REVOLVERSCIENCE.COM you’ll notice that I hold the teachings of Tom Givens in particularly high esteem.  This isn’t arbitrary, or simply out of convenience.  Tom has made a career and a volume of life’s work geared specifically towards preparing the armed citizen for handling one of the worst days of their lives.  And Tom’s current record of success (in reported incidents…there may very well be other numbers that simply aren’t reported) is 63, “wins,” ZERO, “losses,” and three, “forfeits.”  Tom refers to the forfeits as such because on, “THE BIG DAY,” those unfortunate people were unarmed, and were murdered in street robberies for the contents of their pockets (the take-home lesson here being, “CARRY YOUR GUN EVERYDAY!”)  yet they had the skills to be able to provide an effective defense against an armed robbery, they simply lacked the tools.  The reason I continue to spend money every year on Rangemaster courses, is that Tom’s information and program works.  When I was in dental school, I had several volumes of textbooks devoted to anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and other basic medical sciences.  I also had what were called, “High Yield,” study guides, and these were books that condensed down all of the relevant information into what a practitioner would be most likely to need in, “the real world,” outside of academia.  For example, while I was required to study and dissect the human body from the scalp to the toes, the crux of my career and the board exams I am certified and licensed by, specifically pertain to the anatomy of the head and neck.  Thus, my High Yield study guide, at the end of the year, was dog-eared, food and enbalming fluid stained and well used…my gross anatomy textbook was (and still is) in, “like new,” condition.  Tom Givens’ Rangemaster classes are the, “High Yield,” knowledge and skills compendium required for civilian self-defense.

Tom described the need for EFFECTIVE AND COMPETENT self-defense instructors because of a number of recent developments in the United States:

  • there were 8 million to 12 million FIRST TIME gun buyers during the Obama administration
  • there were 47 million NICS transfers between 2015 and 2017
  • the MAJORITY of guns were purchased for self-defense (not target shooting or hunting)
  • a NEW RECORD was set in August of 2017 for NICS checks

Thus, as a self-defense instructor, you hold an ENORMOUS RESPONSIBILITY in your grasp…you literally hold your student’s physical life, their freedom and their family’s financial future in your hands.  Thus it is of PARAMOUNT importance that you provide the best, most useful and practical program of instruction possible to your students, and avoid the ballistic masturbation and, “enter-trainment,” experiences that are so common in the training market these days.

Tom described the role of, “Subject Matter Experts,” in the world of firearms instruction specifically geared towards self-defense.  He again illustrated the importance of knowing the WHY behind all of the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP’s) that are taught in a course of instruction.  Also, attribution is required because plagiarism and thievery sucks, but also because it helps explain the WHY of the specific TTP.  For example, many organizations routinely teach the, “tactical reload,” AKA the, “reload with retention,” with no earthly understanding as to why they teach it.  They know that it is used in IDPA, and that it is an old technique, therefore it’s important to know.  Right?  Sorta and not really!  The technique comes from Chuck Taylor, the 2IC at Gunsite in the 1970’s.  The ranges at Gunsite were covered in coarse, rough gravel, and since nearly everyone shooting there (with the exception of the weird revolver guy, or the 1/1000 Browning High Power shooter) was using 1911 pattern pistols with GI magazines, that were not high performance, rugged magazines, like the kind we have from Chip McCormick, Wilson Combat, or Tripp today.  They were soft metal, and dropping them on the ground repeatedly, over a five day course, meant that at the end of the week, your magazines were hashed.  Thus, the, “tactical reload,” was born.  It allowed the shooter to top off their pistol, pocket their partially loaded magazine, and go home without a duffle full of wrecked magazines!  Mission accomplished!  However, to the uninitiated instructor, and their involuntarily uninitiated students, they end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to learn a skill that isn’t vital and difficult for most people to master, since doing the magazine transfer at the gun, takes large hands with nimble fingers.  Doing the magazine transfer at the pocket, instead of at the gun overcomes the physical agility and hand size issue, but it doesn’t do much, as you end up with an unloaded gun dangling in space for a longer time then required.  Thus, Tom teaches two reloads, the emergency reload (slide lock reload) and the speed reload (top off, slide forward reload).

On its face, this course, “seems,” like it is simply a course to prepare the student teacher to be able to effectively formulate, implement and maintain their own course of instruction in effective self defense with a handgun, but it is really much more than this. If you are a fan of Tom Givens at all, you’ll know that he is quite the prolific author and that he has written many articles as a staff writer for SWAT Magazine, written for many of the other gun publications, and authored several textbooks on the subject as well.  Tom’s latest book is called, “Fighting Smarter,” and it contains a huge tome of amassed knowledge on the subject of fighting with a handgun for personal defense.  Like I wrote earlier in this essay, you could characterize this course as simply an instructor course, but, for the avid student of self-defense, I think it is more accurately described as, “FIGHTING SMARTER:  THE 3 DAY COURSE.”

Tom’s training differs from much of the available training (and I’ve had a fair bit of it…about 2500 plus hours in the past 27 years) in that it provides instant feedback into what the user needs to, “work on,” to improve their skills, but Tom also gives you the understanding and ability to put improved skills to work, immediately.    Unlike many of the classes available, Tom gives his students exactly what adult brains need to learn complex networks of skills involving immediate cognitive recognition, and utilization of physical skills and eye-hand coordination.  He does this through an adult teaching model consisting of:

  1. EXPLAIN-the student must understand what it is you are trying to convey to the them.  To understand fully, and to fulfill the mature brain inquisitiveness, you learn the, “why,” behind every skill and technique that is taught.  Verbal instruction provides an auditory roadmap of what is expected of them.
  2. DEMONSTRATE-any competent instructor should be able to demonstrate EVERY skill or technique they expect their students to learn.  Without demonstration, a student only receives, “half,” of the information they need.  The mirror neurons in the human brain allow the student to essentially, “mirror,” or copy what the eyes see, and thus a properly demonstrated set of skills or drill (a drill is a specific set of skills) allows the student to get a full picture of what is expected of them.  This segment illustrates the, “visual,” portion of the roadmap that was verbally explained in the first step.
  3. PRACTICE-despite the best verbal description through presentations, and the most skillful demonstration of skill, some students still won’t be able to do what you are asking them to do.  This is where practice comes in.  Practice under the tutelage of a trained coach’s eye is essential in reinforcing the CORRECT way to execute a particular skill.  Thus, correct repetition of the required skills in necessary to ingrain the correct mental and physical heuristic in the student’s mind.
  4. TESTING-adults learn, “best,” (meaning they retain the information learned) when they are tested to ensure retention of the learned information.  This is doubly important for students of the defensive arts, as it provides an additional layer of stress that will better replicate the stress of self-defense events that they may encounter some day.  Without testing, learning hasn’t really been effectively accomplished.

This course could literally be taken as an annual, “tune-up,” for one’s defensive skills and I don’t think you could ever walk away without learning something new.  I have taken several Rangemaster courses from Tom over the years, and without fail, I learn something completely new that I either overlooked the first time, or simply didn’t, “click,” on the first pass!  Tom issues each student a 200 page, spiral bound manual on the first day of class, that will serve as the student’s textbook and study guide for the written test on the final day of class.  Nervous about tests?  Don’t worry…in addition to the three tests on the last day of class (FBI Firearms Instructor Qualification Course, Rangemaster Instructor Course and Rangemaster Written Test) there are a number of impromptu tests that occur during the class on the range!  However, Tom does a superb job of indoctrinating you to the packet of skills that are required to pass the tests, and he introduces them in useful ways that aren’t overwhelming or discouraging.

A word of advice, come to this class knowing how to shoot.  I would estimate that an IDPA classification of sharpshooter/USPSA C+/B class or slightly better would be good to perform well in this class.  You should know how to hit a bullseye size target (8″) out to 25 yards, on demand, as well as draw from concealment, shoot with either hand, load and unload your pistol, and clear malfunctions.  If you can do all of these things, Tom can teach you what he wants you to know…and what he wants you to know are the skills and techniques that will be most useful in an actual fight for your life.  Tom’s curriculum isn’t static; the curriculum changes to reflect what is working with his students, in real life self-defense situations.  Nothing is theoretical or simply arbitrary.  This is gold in my opinion, as there exists a market segment that is aimed at preoccupation with inconsequential increments, and DOES NOT translate well into real world application.  Sure, it looks sweet on Instagram, but in the streets and parking lots of America, it is easily fouled.

Any good firearms class should start near the beginning with a thorough review of the, “Firearms Safety Rules.”  Anyone not familiar, here is a refresher:

  1. ALL GUNS are always loaded
  2. NEVER let your muzzle point at anything you are not willing to destroy
  3. Keep your FINGER off of the TRIGGER until your sights are on target and you intend to fire
  4. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it, and around it

Many classes cover the rules, but don’t go into tremendous detail on WHY the rules are important, why they occur in the order that they do, and what they mean to people who willingly choose to go about in the world with the, “armed lifestyle.”  Because honestly, this is a lifestyle.  Just like you weird crossfitters with your cultish WOD’s, and you, “eat every two hours,” fitness nuts, this is something that eventually becomes habit, but takes devotion and concentration to achieve.  If you pay close attention to Tom’s lecture on the 4 safety rules, you’ll notice he is talking about far more than just what happens out on the firing range.  For example, a defensive handgun has three places it should be.  The defensive handgun should either be:

  1. in the holster
  2. at the ready (Tom uses a variation of the low ready where the handgun is indexed with the arms outstretched, gun in hand, and pointed at an area near the ground in front of the target, in a position where you can plainly see the target’s hands and waistline, as that is where weapons are carried, and the hands are what they’ll bring those weapons to bear on you with)
  3. indexed on the target

Since you treat (1) all guns (as if they) are always loaded, and you (2) never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy and you (3) keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on target and you intend to shoot then you will understand the WHY of the three places your defensive handgun should be!  Makes sense!  We all carry a pistol because there exists a time when we may have to shoot somebody.  Thus, having a gun is important, and whether that gun is in the holster, at the ready, or on the target, the world around is in constant motion, and strict adherence to the Firearms Safety Rules are what allows us to operate it safely for everyone involved EXCEPT for the bad guy.

There is so much to cover in this class, I could go on for pages and pages, but I doubt most would read it.  I HIGHLY recommend this class to anyone who wants to be better at defensive shooting, and ESPECIALLY to those that want to teach the craft to others responsibly.  There are TONS of instructors on the training scene currently, both good, bad, and excellent (and recommended).  Knowing which is which is important, and thus building a good foundation of education and essential skills is crucial in being able to evaluate programs objectively.  Seek out and train with Tom Givens at every available opportunity.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here are some other salient points that I noted in the class, that don’t fit into my previous narrative that you may find utility in.

  • DON’T FIGHT YOUR GEAR.  There were many students in class that had inadequate holsters, holsters of poor design, or crap magazine carriers that they were hindered by it.  You can be the Cool Hand Luke of the class, but if you get hemmed up with a bad magazine change or a botched draw, your performance will suffer.  Also, only use a holster that allows you to get a, “FULL FIRING GRIP,” on your pistol.  If you can’t get a FFG, get a new rig.  Sell the old one on Ebay or better yet, throw it in the garbage or use it as a visual aid for, “what NOT to buy.”
  • PHYSICAL FITNESS HELPS.  I’m not nearly as fit as I would like to be, but I work on it everyday.  Classes like this are long, it’s hot out, and hydration is important.  I recommend that people start hydrating (if you don’t regularly) for these kinds of classes two weeks out.  If you aren’t adequately hydrated, and your cardio sucks, you won’t have a great experience because you’ll be sucking wind after some induced stress and minimal movement.
  • Bring a gun that is:  LARGE ENOUGH (to shoot well) DISCREET ENOUGH (to conceal well) and POWERFUL ENOUGH (to stop the attacker).  Many folks brought guns that were maybe a bit too large for them, and they had to crane unnaturally to reach the magazine release and/or trigger, or they ended up riding the slide stop because of a hand-size mismatch.  These are all things that can be addressed BEFORE coming to class.
  • BRING QUALITY AMMUNITION.  Tom warns people about this in the informational emails leading up to the class, but I’ll mention it again because people don’t listen or don’t heed his advice.  BUY QUALITY AMMO.  I brought 2000 rounds of 9mm 115 grain American Eagle brass cased ammunition.  I had ZERO stoppages in the class (that weren’t from dummy rounds, or from illustrative malfunction clearance drills) with that ammunition.  Others weren’t so lucky.  Remanufactured ammunition, isn’t terribly less expensive than premium quality ammunition, but people buy it anyway.  There was one student with remanufactured ammo that had FOUR rounds (the class called for 1000 rounds) that had primers loaded backwards into the primer pocket.  Many of these, “functionally inert,” rounds were discovered during the qualification phase of the course, and thus time was lost clearing malfunctions instead of delivering precise fire on the target.  Let alone the, “OH CRAP!” factor that an unexpected malfunction throws into your plan.  Save yourself the heartache, spend the extra $30 bucks and get quality ammo.
  • REVOLVERS ARE DIFFICULT TO SHOOT.  As Tom likes to say, “Revolvers are an expert’s weapon.”  They require a LONG time to master with specialized skills needed for trigger manipulation, malfunction clearance and reloading.  Instructors that recommend revolvers to beginners (outside of niche applications) are ill-informed, and may not be giving their students the best information.  Most people will find the softer recoiling, easily manipulated and easily reloaded semi-automatic pistol better suited to defensive use.  With a modicum of training (THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE THERE TO GET FROM YOU) NEARLY EVERYONE will be better suited with a semi-automatic pistol for self-defense.  Revolvers are still useful as a backup or secondary gun, but as a primary, you’re better off with a semi-auto pistol.  (I’m even questioning my 4 legged wilderness defense handgun choice…and thinking of changing from an N frame .44 to a USP .45 (my old duty gun) with Underwood ammo…but that’s another essay)
  • YOU MUST hit the target with every shot you fire!  “On the street there are no misses; there are only unintended hits.”  -Jeff Hall (Alaska State Trooper)
  • “DRIVE THE GUN.  DO NOT RIDE THE GUN.”  Just like in a car, if you are the driver, your job is to DRIVE.  The passenger (the root word of passenger is, “passive”) doesn’t have anything to do with the driving operation.  Thus, it is incumbent on you, the driver of the gun, to DRIVE it.  You tell it what to do, and it will do it.  Don’t let the gun beat you up and take you for a ride; you direct it to work for you and do the work.
  • Flagged thumb grip.  Over the past 10 or so Rangemaster courses and seminars I have taken with Tom, I’ve always admired his recoil control skills with the .40 Glock 35 he carries.  I’ve tried to change my grip to copy his, albeit unsuccessfully.  I always end up defaulting to a semi-thumbs forward grip that I have used for the past couple decades.  I intentionally made an effort to shoot with the, “thumbs up,” grip that Tom advocates, and it served me well.  So much so, that I ended up shooting the class best on the, “Casino Drill,” which earned me the, “Challenge Knife.” (pictured later in the essay).

    This is the, “flagged thumb,” grip that Tom uses.  It does a few things…it allows the user to fire and manipulate the gun with a locked wrist, which provides both weapon retention properties, but also recoil management.  Also, the trigger finger is able to manipulate (i.e. flex) in a straight line, which is more ergonomic.  The popular (and my default grip) radically thumbs forward grip’s inception was in the competition world, and it provides far less resistance to disarms and retention in real-world scenarios.  If we are training for, “end of our world,” scenarios, shouldn’t we use the strongest, most sturdy grip that will allow us to resist disarm attempts from emboldened or persistent attackers?  Also, shouldn’t we use the grip that gives us the firmest hold on the gun in situations that may have us frightened, agitated, unsure, or generally uneasy where dropping the gun may occur?  You bet, on both accounts!
  • SEE WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE.  I’ve heard people say this in classes since I took my first class back in 1992.  I never really understood what it meant.  Sure…I can and do shoot with my sights, “out of the notch,” at certain ranges, and would get acceptable hits, but I never really paid much attention to it.  Now, with the sights I use (Heinie or Warren plain black sights with the front sight painted a day glow salmon color) I know that if I see even a sliver of salmon on my initial draw and presentation that my shot will go true.  Couple that with getting on the trigger between the #3 and #4 positions, letting the slack out of the trigger, and you get a fast working shooting solution that is really helpful.  Also, fast follow up shots are faster, and more accurate if you unwrap the premise from your mind that you must always have a, “perfect,” sight picture with no wobbling.  As Tom says, “The gun will ALWAYS be moving.  ACCEPT IT!”
  • THINK OF THE SIGHT PICTURE AS A SIGHT MOVIE…It isn’t static.  As a follow on of the above point, nothing we do exists in a vacuum.  Yes, you must position the front sight in the notch of the rear sight (SIGHT ALIGNMENT).  But instead think of the optical relationship of the sights to the target as the SIGHT MOVIE.  It’s moving, constantly, and what you see, “NOW,” isn’t the same  movie as you see .25 seconds later!  So change your idea towards that concept.
  • Pistol rounds are notoriously ineffective performance-wise.  Plan for this eventuality and deliver multiple rounds as required, until the bad guy either disappears off of your front sight (because he’s down or he has run away).
  • KNEELING POSITIONS are important for tall lanky people like me because it makes me a smaller target, and allows me to get behind cover (at best) or concealment (if no cover is available).  However, kneeling positions should be stable but also easily changeable and dynamic, so that you can move from point A to point B rapidly if required.  Some folks don’t have the health, flexibility or prowess to pull off every kneeling position, so figure out what works for each individual.
  • Active shooters (non-elevated) tend to scan at their own eye level for threats.  Thus, lowering one’s silhouette (with a kneeling position) can give you a temporary reprieve from their scanning, and allow you to deliver accurate return fire to eliminate them.  Thus, get smaller and rounder, and behind cover whenever possible.  Dirt filled planters in the mall are great cover, as are fire hydrants.
  • Resist the temptation to eye sprint.  I dropped one round out of the head circle, but LITERALLY 1/32″ on one of the qualification tests because I didn’t follow through properly and darted my eyes to the target without getting an additional sight picture.  I immediately recognized that, and changed my game up to NOT do that again.
  • I used my preferred handgun, a Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm full size (Gen 1 V1.0) for the entire course.  I brought an identical piece but didn’t need it.  The gun I used is stock, other than the barrel and the sights.  The barrel is a Storm Lake drop in that I used to replace the OEM barrel after it had 45K rounds through it.  I also had a factory M&P Armorer go through the gun and replace the RSA and all the internal springs, to factory specifications, since this gun is my dedicated training gun.  Like I mentioned earlier, it has the Warren/Sevigny sights, plain black with the front painted salmon red/pink.  It is identical to my carry gun in all other respects.  My weakness as a shooter is left (off handed) drills.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in essays on this site, I’m missing about half of the palmar surface of my left index finger, from a metal sliver/staph aureus infection I got while working on the armored trucks, back in about 1997.  The resulting infection and serial wound debridements left me with a mutilated, and weakened left index finger.  I can flex it completely, but the distal end of the flexor tendon was so destroyed by the infection that I can’t often pull the trigger on the M&P under less than ideal conditions.  Being hydrated, outside in the heat and humidity, with tired hands, makes me default to using my left middle (AKA LONG) finger to fire the pistol, left handed.  It works great, but looks weird.  Most of my training partner/coaches, didn’t even notice until I told them.  But, I want to work on having a more solid grip in that position, for the days when my index finger isn’t cooperating.  Luckily, it doesn’t interfere with my surgery work, where my left hand is primarily tasked with holding a retractor, mirror or tissue forceps.  Small tasks, under low stress conditions, aren’t the issue.  A 6 pound trigger pull, under stress, while sweaty is!IMG_8856 (1)
  • “Your car is not a f****ng holster!”  -Pat Rogers.  This is particularly important here, in Nashville Tennessee, just two weeks from when the Antioch Church shooting occurred right down the road here.  Carry your gun, ALWAYS, and fully adopt the, “armed lifestyle.”  I’m not a psychic seer, and neither are you.  Neither were the three of Tom’s past students who were killed because they weren’t armed on their, “BIG DAY.”  Don’t be that guy/gal.  Commit to carrying, all the time.
  • REDUCE SKILL SETS to three or four steps.  “14 Step Drawstrokes,” or other ridiculously long heuristics or pneumonics aren’t helpful.  Keep it simple, Sherman.
  • Use anecdotes that have a direct connection to the material at hand.  Use examples from other people’s experiences.  My experience, although related to the topics I teach, is limited in that it isn’t all-inclusive.  By using the experiences of others, you can better illustrate your point without getting out into the weeds of war stories and tangents that waste time.
  • Use San Serif fonts, and black writing on a white background for PowerPoint presentations.  This will allow the best presentation for everyone in the room, even if they’re color blind.
  • A SCORED COURSE OF FIRE should be used!  You cannot tell if learning has occurred without them.  They build confidence and they allow you to inoculate the student with stress.  Scored evaluations also allow you to:
    • cycle through skills students don’t do well in
    • identify weak skill areas
    • verify progress
    • provide a historical standard to compare to past and future classes
    • induce stress
    • establish timing (i.e. how quickly can I hit THAT?)
    • demonstrate competence
  • DO NOT tell people what they shouldn’t do…tell them what you WANT THEM TO DO.  And choose your language carefully…say, “PRESS the trigger,” not, “SQUEEZE the trigger,” as this will induce a milking response in their grip, and cause them to send shots low on the target.
  • watch for blanching nail beds on the shooter’s hands.  If they aren’t blanched, they need to hold onto the gun more firmly.
  • If you forget ALL of the rest of the use of force lecture (how could you?), remember this:  “I will forget I have a gun unless it is needed to terminate an immediate deadly threat to my or to someone for whom I am responsible.”
This is the, “Challenge Knife,” I won for shooting the best score on Tom’s signature, “Casino Drill.”  I shot it in 14.75 seconds, clean (no misses).  According to John Hearne’s excellent lecture series on, “Human Performance Under Fire,” a sub-15 second Casino Drill is indicative of a high level of, “automaticity,” or the ability to perform skills without much thought.  Aside from the obvious (hitting the small targets in the correct order with the correct number of shots) the other skills that are required are drawing, reloading and transitioning from target to target in a non-linear fashion.  I don’t routinely practice, “just,” reloading, however I do shoot regularly, and thus I reload the gun regularly.  I do it the same way everytime, and that helps ingrain the skill.  Also, the last segment of the drill requires six, fast precise shots to a small target, in as short a time as possible.  I do not practice the Casino Drill in my regular shooting sessions, but I DO practice, “Bill Drills,” and I find that skill translates into success in the Casino Drill.  I shot a 15 second Casino Drill at Paulepalooza 4 (clean) last August, so I’m going to see how far I can push my time down while still shooting the drill cleanly.  I understand that Chief Lee Weems’ guys have this running clean in the 12 second range, and that sounds like a good goal for me to chase.




Hello Faithful Reader!  I’m very privileged to be a guest on tonight’s (August 2, 2017) edition of, “Civilian Carry Radio!”  You can watch at this link:

I am a regular listener of the Civilian Carry Radio Podcast and I think that Baraka, Karie and Allen do a great service to the CIVILIAN DEFENDER community by providing relevant, realistic and timely topical information from subject matter experts on topics related to personal defense!  Tune in!


Paul-E-Palooza 4:  “May the Fourth Be With You”

Every other year, on the weekend closest to Paul Gomez’ birthday (August 19-20, 2017), an eclectic group of individuals gather in the campgrounds, gravel pits, shooting ranges and sand lots of Northeastern Ohio to learn and hone a unique set of skills. If I had to choose a word to describe what kinds of skills are studied, I think that, “frontier skills,” best describes our interests. It’s not just, “gun,” classes, or, “knife,” classes, or even just, “medical,” classes. The skills studied encompass a myriad of subjects ranging far beyond what one might find at a, “normal,” self-defense, prepping, or tactical conference. By design, the conference was intended to allow instructors to teach students a variety of esoterica that lies often tangential, and sometimes separate and apart from conventional, “gun and knife,” training. We partake in this weekend of education to become what the late Paul Gomez called, “Agile thinkers, and capable doers.” Paul Gomez isn’t in attendance, but his spirit lives on through the teachings of his friends, peers and students, at an event we call, “Paul-E-Palooza.”
Paul-E-Palooza (Paul’s middle name was Everett) allows students to take a wide array of courses consisting of truncated versions of some instructor’s flagship classes (like Tom Givens’ “Combative Pistol or Dr. William Aprill’s “Violent Acts and Actors” or Chris Fry’s “Small Knife Skills”) or short format courses that covers a narrow band of the instructor’s range (Legendary Lawman Marshal Chuck Haggard’s “Between a Harsh Word and a Gun,” or Cecil Burch’s “Non-McDojo Kicking,” and Paul Sharp’s “Recoil Management for the Pistol”) and both formats allow the attendees to get a compressed, but meaningful taste of the instructor’s knowledge base, and allows them to find out, “how much they don’t know,” about any subject covered.

Paul-E-Palooza was conceived on the day I discovered that Paul had passed away. I had a vision to create a memorial conference where all of Paul’s friends from the multi-disciplinary community could gather, teach what we all love, and remember Paul. Although I’m a great, “idea man,” my execution, especially in endeavors with many moving parts, is extremely lacking. Enter Dr. William Aprill. I had known William as an attendee at past lectures and conferences of his, and through all of our interactions planning conferences, we have become good friends. William is a brilliant man and has always been the logistician behind all of the Paul-E-Palooza events.  
All of this learning and fellowship with like-minded individuals, while great, serves a larger purpose; Paul left behind three young children (Lilith, Spencer and Gabriella) who, like all children, desperately miss their Dad. Our kids had played together before, and I could easily envision my own Son being in the same position. Thus, the thought was hatched to have all of the facilities, labor, instruction and associated minutiae donated, and allow all proceeds of the conference go directly into a trust fund for Paul’s children.  
In the three previous iterations of Paul-E-Palooza combined, we have raised over $100,000 that has gone to pay for college tuition, Summer camps, orthodontia, healthcare costs, and everything else that a Father would normally provide for his children.
So join us, for two days of unrivaled quality instruction, a unique auction of both bespoke tactical weaponry and support equipment, as well as training vouchers for courses from most all of the organizations represented, plus many other national level tactical trainers. All proceeds go to support the Paul E. Gomez Memorial Children’s Trust!
Go to: http://www.paulepalooza.com for course descriptions, presenters, and associated information, as well as a link to purchase tickets!


Just yesterday, I had the fortunate break in my schedule to allow me to attend Andrew Branca’s, “Law of Self Defense Level One,” class at the Nashville Armory in Nashville, Tennessee.  I have been familiar with Andrew’s body of work for several years now, having first read his excellent, “Law of Self Defense,” book (now in its third edition).  Andrew is a legal consultant, now in his third decade of practice, with his practice limited to self-defense law consulting.  This puts him in a unique niche in both the legal field, and in the, “gun industry.”

I won’t cover the specifics of Andrew’s class word-for-word, because you owe it to yourself to personally take the course, if you carry a gun for self-protection.  I wrote, in 2016, about the importance of legal preparation in my essay on, “ BECOMING THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER.”  I felt strongly about the necessity of legal training then, and I still feel that legal knowledge among defensive firearm users is woefully inadequate.  Andrew Branca is changing the industry with his accessible training curriculum, and helping to legally redefine and clarify the, “rules of engagement,” for civilian self-defense.  I would recommend that you read the latest edition of Andrew’s book, which you can order directly from his site, so that you can enjoy the full benefit of the curriculum, without having to familiarize yourself with the terminology and basic framework that Andrew builds the curriculum on.

A few personal take-aways I gleaned from the course:

  1. Cameras are EVERYWHERE.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Good in that we (the good guys) rarely have a situation where there is too much good evidence…in fact, there is often a dearth of evidence, that leads to good guys ending up on the wrong side of the law.  Conversely, there are cameras EVERYWHERE and thus you must always be on-guard, and know that every word and action you speak or do, can be called into question at a later date, if the need arises for you to defend yourself.
  2. Avoidance is ideal, and really what you should, “shoot,” (pun intended) for.  We don’t carry guns because we want to use them (at least I don’t).  I carry a gun in the event of an emergency, where I have no other recourse and I MUST use the gun to save my life or the life of a family member or friend.
  3. Most people effectively live their life with their heads in the sand…literally.  People will either not see/detect obvious context clues OR simply notice them and pay no mind.  Paying close attention to the totality of the scene, especially when moving through transition zones, is important to success (READ:  not being a perpetual victim of crime) in today’s world.
  4. Thinking through the legal ramifications of your actions well BEFOREHAND is extremely beneficial.  Just like you (should be) thinking about your programmed, heuristic responses to violence against you or a loved one (i.e. winning the PHYSICAL FIGHT), you also need to think about your plan for LEGAL survival (i.e. winning the LEGAL FIGHT).  If you don’t plan your response, you may very well survive the physical fight, and then find yourself with no, “legal leg,” to stand on.
  5. The law is tremendously complex, and varies state to state…even the sharpest attorney that money can buy doesn’t know the entire letter of the law, verbatim!  As a regular person, but a Civilian Defender, you will be held to a higher legal standard than the average, “man on the street.”  Thus, it is to your benefit to commit Andrew’s algorithms he covers in, “The Law of Self Defense,” to memory, but also understand how they work in the real world, and in a dynamic, self-defense incident.
  6. Andrew’s scenario simulator training at the end of the class teaches valuable lessons.  I have used shooting simulators in my law enforcement training, armored truck guard training, and in the civilian training sectors, since 1991.  The technology has advanced, but the value gained in stress inoculation is priceless and indisputable.  You simply cannot replicate the stress of a self-defense incident without actually experiencing one…but you can come close.  I get just as much value from seeing how others react in their simulator run, than I do in my own.
  7. As an avid shooter, I don’t spend enough time shooting in live-fire and working in dry practice, from the low ready, or from a, “Sul,” type ready position.  Not muzzling everyone on-scene is a helpful way to a) not look like a nut running around with a gun, willy-nilly  b)  not shoot someone who isn’t a threat  c)  convey professionalism both during (and also importantly) after the incident is over.  As we all know, if we don’t practice it, we don’t own it, and thus we won’t use it when the time comes, so practice from the low ready and other ready positions is important.  I mostly just practice from the draw out of the holster.
  8. Attend courses with your significant other…especially if they also carry a firearm for self-protection.  You SHOULD be on the, “same page,” as your spouse or significant other in more ways than just how you will respond in a self defense situation, but this could literally be the difference between life and death.  Thus, it’s important to talk these situations out beforehand, so that you can anticipate how the other will act.  For example, my, “line in the sand,” as 6’4″, 250 pound rugby player will be quite different from the boundaries of my 5’4″, 115 pound gal.  That’s important to know, if you are on overwatch duty at an ATM kiosk, and you (or they) are attacked.
  9. STRIVE to be the, “Reasonable and Prudent Person.”  According to Andrew’s course, the, “Reasonable and Prudent Person,” should be Cautious (looks both ways before crossing the street and avoids trouble) Responsible (doesn’t leave the car running when out on errands, and ensures a high level of proficiency with their sidearm) Sober (may drink in moderation socially, never intoxicated) Slow to Anger (the guy that de-escalates conflict, rather than incite or escalate conflict).

Many folks don’t think of a legal continuing education class as a, “firearms training class,” but it should be seen as the foundation that all defensive firearms training is built upon.  Without it, you are all legs and no brain.  While you may reach the level of unconscious competence with your handgun, able to solve a myriad of shooting problems with a hail of gunfire, without the legal software running perpetually in your head, GUIDING your rules of engagement, you are a one-trick pony.  Sure, you might get lucky and survive the physical fight AND the legal fight, but wouldn’t you rather hedge your bets closer to the winning side?  I know I would.  I recommend Andrew’s class without hesitation, to everyone who carries a self-defense firearm.  Going about with a firearm in your holster AND Andrew’s algorithmic knowledge in your head, you are truly ARMED for both the physical fight, AND the legal fight that will follow!


To register for a course in your area, or buy a copy of Andrew’s book, go to




Shout out to Eric…and why some things, like sights and your choice in undergarments are highly individual, and PERSONAL!

I know it’s been awhile since my last, “real,” essay, and I apologize.  This website is about 99th on my list of priorities, and my family and my work precede its importance by several orders of magnitude.  And since I don’t make a dime off of any of these works, they are printed at my leisure for your infotainment.  Sorry if you’re signed up and expecting to get a daily, “blog,” post with me passively aggressively groveling about some issue in the community, or about how my pistol most recently puked in a simulated something or other.  I only write when I have something important to say, OR, when one of my friends asks about something.  This topic keeps popping up like an loosely nailed shingle, and also my LEO Brother Eric asked about it, so I thought it was time to dust off the draft, and get it out into the world.  So thank (or blame) him!

XS sights seem to be akin to the perpetual arguments on the internet about, “9mm versus .45,” and the old one, “Revolvers versus Semi-Autos.”  Meaning that it always stirs up an emotional response from the peanut gallery, with folks on either side saying, “They are the best sights for gunfighting!”  While the people that are against them say, “Nobody issues them!  That’s a sign!”  And all other manner of argument.

Here’s how I look at it.  Nobody looks at body armor and says things like, “What is the most comfortable armor to wear?”  “What armor will allow me to have the most mobility and freedom to do my job (whatever that may be)?”  Conversely, nobody asks the same thing about their underwear!  Why?  Because what you choose to wear under your clothes, while it may definitely affect your ability to move, and your comfort, nobody wants to talk about it.  They should!  As a rugby player, and former firefighter, I can tell you that what you wear under your uniform has an ABSOLUTE limiting capability on what you do on the field or on the fireground.  But, that isn’t a, “tactical,” subject.  Nobody wants to talk about it, because it’s awkward.  But we are talking about lifesaving equipment, skills, and utilization.  Is there any more topic that is MORE awkward?

I think that handgun sights are much the same.  Are there sights that work better than others, for everyone?  Nope.  Are there eyeglasses that work well for everyone?  No there isn’t.  What about eyeglasses for people that have similar (or the same) prescription.  There MIGHT be.  My point is, it is difficult to deal in absolutes (you Sith, you) when we are talking about subjective experience.  People confuse their logic and do (inaccurately) state their subjective opinions as FACT on a regular basis, though (Logical Fallacy:  Argument from Authority).  For example, SUPER INSTRUCTOR ZEUS says, “These sights are the ABSOLUTE best for gunfighting!  I know…I’ve been in gunfights!”  Well that’s all well and good for HIM, taking a narrow, experientially formulated opinion and offering it as proof of his argument.  But it doesn’t work.  What if the prospective buyer (who needs pistol sights) is color blind?  What if they are near sighted?  Far Sighted?  ALL OF THESE variables alter that person’s experience, and make it incomparable to that of our hypothetical expert.

With that thinking in mind, I thought that I would tackle a drill that I haven’t done recently.  I saw the great Ernest Langdon publishing his results on shooting the, “Hackathorn Standards,” and I thought that I would give them a go.  The order of operations for the Hackathorn Standards are as follows:








Seems simple enough, right?  I did the drills from the low ready, since the range I was at gets nervy when there are other people on the line, and people are drawing from the holster.  Thus, this drill requires the shooter to practice a number of skills, not the least of which include:

  1. Presenting the pistol from the draw/ready position
  2. Accurately (the bull is 1″ in diameter) place shots on the target in a time quota
  3. Follow the front sight through the recoil cycle, and attempt to return to the reference point (bullseye… i.e. where you want to projectiles to burrow into)
  4. Follow through with the trigger press on every shot fired

Still think it’s simple?  The par times seemed quite reasonable…until you stick that gun out there into space and start pressing rounds, and then realize that Father Time is moving, even when you aren’t!


I included an STI Spartan in 9mm, just to see if anyone is paying attention.  Also, another 34 with the awesome (but now discontinued) brass bead front, 10-8 sights, that I really enjoy.  Brass bead front sights were the premium pistoleros sight choice, back in the days before tritium came along and changed the pistol sight world forever.
Hopefully, you didn’t just skip ahead to this section!  If you did, shame on you.  If you didn’t, thank you for reading the preceding screed.  I used three guns for this experiment. The experimental group consisted of:

  1.  Glock 34 with Warren Sights, with the front sight painted red, like I talked about here.
  2. Glock 34 with Big Dot Sights

I took the slide off of the frame it resides on  (the excellent LONE WOLF) frame and mated the slide to a Glock 34 frame, with completely stock internals, and used the same frame for both iterations of the experimental phase of the test.

Basic Smith and Wesson M&P PRO in 9mm.  Trijicon HD sights.  Otherwise stock except for the Larry Vickers LAV/Tango Down Floorplates, which I find w0rk well for solving complex malfunctions like Type III’s (double feed) where the old magazine needs to be stripped out, with only one hand).  This particular pistol has a decent trigger pull (that’s why I picked THIS one, out of all of the others they had in the case) and it’s served me well.  Oh…about the Type 3 male’s:  I’ve never had any in this gun (in real life, the only time I’ve ever had a Type III that wasn’t induced was in the STI Spartan you see above, and that was because of a piece of lint that had worked it’s way from my pocket into the magazine.  So 1911’s won’t feed lint…BTW).
The Control Group consisted of my Smith & Wesson M&P PRO 9mm EDC, that I carry with me daily.  This is the pistol that I use the most, and thus have the most proficiency with.  It has Trijicon HD sights on it.

I used CCI BLAZER BRASS 115 grain FMJ in all three weapons for the tests, and OEM magazines of standard capacity (17 rounds).  There were no stoppages of any kind.  I used a PACT Club timer, set for the PAR times.


The results.  THIS drill is FAR more difficult that first glance would make you think.  The top target(s) are the FIRST STRING at 15 yards, and the middle is for the SECOND STRING at 10 yards, and the bottom is for the THIRD STRING at 5 yards.  Dimensionally, the entire bullseye target is 5 inches in diameter.  The psychologically deceptive component of this drill involves the par time.  When you get a, “good,” flash sight picture, and pull the trigger, you tend to want to speed up, Jerry Miculek style, and end at a faster tempo than you started!  And of course, as the distance to the target decreases, the par time decreases as well, which further adds to the psychological urgency!  It’s a challenging drill and Ernest Langdon himself said that he’s only shot it clean a few times!  I will be adding this to my regular practice drill armamentarium.

Sights are a personal choice (unless you are talking about plastic OEM Glock sights…nobody takes those seriously, so if you are one of those folks that absolutely HAS to use them because [INSERT REASON] at least find a metal replacement set.  You can probably find ones that have the same, “interesting,” sight picture but are just made of metal.  You don’t want to have the unfortunate experience of shoving your gun out in front of you on the worst day of your life only to discover that your sights have left the building without your permission.  So fix that.) and what works for your neighbor or your tactical guru might not work for you.  Don’t rationalize your choice with the subjective opinions of people on some web forum…gather hard data to see where you hit with them, and what YOU need to work effectively.  Can you improve with practice?  Of course you can.  But everyone has a natural baseline that appeals to their unique optical handicap constellation, and their own physiology.  What works for me, may not work for you.  But instead of reading through review after review after review, test it out, see what works, and then run that.  I have good results with XS Big Dots, and contrary to internet rumors you may have heard about them, I can shoot groups with them.  That has more to do with trigger control than sights, but that is another essay (another S.O. to Steve, “Yeti,” Fisher).  If you can, “see what you need to see,” with any sighting system, that will suffice for defensive purposes.  I have experienced the front dots of Big Dot sights spontaneously leave the gun, leaving behind the black, pedestal front, “blade,” that, if needs be, can still be used to great effect.  I’ve also lost the tritium vial out of Warren sights, and also out of the Trijicon HD, and I’ve seen the entire, “Orange Circle,” eject out of the Ameriglo product.  So no brand is immune from issues, and if you use your equipment regularly, it will wear and eventually fail.  So take that out of your selection criteria, and find something that works with YOUR eyes, and for your self-defensive application, and then, WORRY ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!

Thanks for reading!

Dr. House