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Defensive Mindset

The internet is awash with articles that talk about having a defensive mindset. Many of these articles have pretty good information, some are outright wrong but most are somewhere in the middle, mixing some good information in with lots of bad.

The most common problem with many of these articles is that they advocate a type of aggressive mindset that is rarely appropriate. These instructors might be reacting to a general trend toward passivity in modern society but end up swinging the pendulum too far the other way. Although I agree that society is filled with more sheep now than ever, nevertheless the one and only time unrestrained aggression is appropriate is the singularly rare instance that someone is actively trying to kill you. At other times, restrained aggression may be necessary, but more often than not results in unnecessary criminal charges.

Fight For Your Life

It is appropriate and necessary to train for unrestrained, fight-for-your-life aggression against the time that this mindset is needed for survival. When we train this way, however, we also need to learn to switch the animal off when we leave the training environment. I also believe that we must train, not to be passive in the face of aggression or danger, but rather on how to apply restraint. We need to be somewhere in the middle – looking to avoid danger but willing to deal with it if it comes to us.

Possible indicators of an overly aggressive mindset advocated by some instructors are terms like “tactical”, “warrior”, or “combative” mindset, but because there is no standard definition of “tactical mindset”, this alone is not a surefire warning to steer clear. There may be instructors who use the “tactical” term to apply to a completely appropriate and prudent attitude toward training and personal defense.

Rather than “Tactical Mindset”, the term I prefer to use instead is “Defensive Mindset”. I may be splitting hairs over terminology, but I believe that having a defensive, and NOT offensive or combative attitude is critical. The reality is that if we train to defend ourselves, potentially even using tools such as a firearm to do so, this manifestly requires that our level of patience with others is exponentially increased. The last thing I want one of my students to come away from class with is a twisted justification about use of force that simply turns them into a bully, or worse, a criminal.

In the past, representatives from law enforcement have counseled members of the public, when faced with an armed criminal, to simply “give him what he wants” and “your wallet is not worth dying for”. While it is true, a wallet is not worth dying for, your wallet or your car may not be what the criminal wants. I do not believe that this overly passive mindset of appeasement is appropriate – certainly not for those who choose to carry a concealed firearm.

Defensive training encompasses far more than merely learning how to squeeze a trigger. A lot of focus is spent on honing fundamental shooting skills such trigger squeeze but far less is spent on learning the proper mindset. However, training to have an improved defensive mindset is critically important, probably even more so than shooting fundamentals themselves, certainly far more important than the “cool guy” stuff that a lot of the overly aggressive instructors tend to market their classes with. Nevertheless, no amount of training can prepare a student with exactly what to do for every situation. Instead the instructor can provide solid principles to follow, and empower the student to think for him or herself.

What does a Defensive Mindset look like when confronted with an attacker? I believe a good way to distill the concept down to simple principles goes like this:

  • Comply with the attacker’s demands
    • Only as much as is necessary to end the attack
    • Only for as long as he holds the tactical advantage
  • As soon as he loses the tactical advantage, resist the attacker
    • Only as much as is necessary to end the attack

Ultimately, the goal of the Defensive Mindset is to End The Attack.

Of course, it is necessary to be able to intuitively judge what “Tactical Advantage” means.
Color code
For most people a good deal of estimating advantage will come naturally based upon the human instinct for survival. Furthermore, tactical advantage needs to encompass the level of perceived threat. For example, the threat of losing a wallet is very different from the threat of kidnapping, rape, or murder.

The ability to quickly judge tactical advantage relative to perceived risk can be augmented with training. Col Jeff Cooper’s Color Code of Mental Awareness is a good to place to start, and is included as part of many defensive courses. It is a useful framework to begin understanding a Defensive Mindset and it sets the stage for a deeper discussion on the subject. Other topics that should follow on after an introduction to the Color Code include:

  • Recognizing body language and other cues that indicate imminent aggression
  • Avoidance strategies and de-escalation tactics
  • Learning how to leverage natural physiological and psychological reactions to become more efficient in your response to aggression

My hope is that students who are interested in adopting a Defensive Mindset will apply a very strict filter to all the various opinions available on the internet. We cannot allow ego or an over-active sense of justice to become vigilantism. A concealed carry permit is not a super-hero card. The Defensive Mindset inherently requires restraint, to attempt to avoid trouble at all costs, and also includes an obligation to set the best example possible.

Training For The Day We Hope Never Comes

Range Training

Do you carry a Concealed Firearm? Do you keep a firearm in your home for Home Defense? (Home Defense is a term I do not like). I prefer Personal Defense in the Home. After all, it is yourself and family you are defending. They cannot be replaced but property can.

Are you really trained and capable of defending yourself, family and others with your firearm? I teach Utah CFP classes. At the end of every class I always ask, “if they feel they are now trained and capable of using a concealed firearm in a self-defense situation”. The answer, except for a few who have had additional training or military experience is usually a “NO”. They realize that taking the class has qualified them, by Utah Law, to obtain a Concealed Firearm Permit, but also realize they are not really trained to effectively carry and use a firearm in self-defense if needed.

In this age of high speed internet and smart phones, they may do some research on YouTube to find some training and drills. There is some good advice on YouTube and there is bad. How does an inexperienced shooter know what is good or bad? Perhaps they will go home and order some books from reputable and knowledgeable experts. Either way, watching a video or reading a book still lacks one important factor in training. You don’t have that experience/knowledgeable person there coaching you, to make sure you train safely and properly. I believe the best training comes from knowledgeable and competent instructors who are there for your benefit.

We need to expect to be questioned about a shooting by the police. Have you trained to have the confidence going in, that you did everything properly in accordance with the laws of your State or jurisdiction? Do you know what you should and should not say when being questioned by the police? Will you really remember exactly what just occurred? Do you know and understand the psychological and physiological affects you may experience during and after a self-defense shooting?

Many concealed firearm carriers and gun owners think all they need to do is carry their firearm every day or have it available at home, without giving professional training a lot of thought. They many try to accomplish it on their own. I know for some, paying for that training could be an expense they are not really wanting to spend money on. There are many things we would prefer to not spend our money on. Car, home owner or renter’s insurance. Life, medical, dental, vision insurance. I believe the expense of training is similar. It is an expense we pay for that and hope we never need to use it.

Training gives us a big advantage over the criminals that mean us harm. In fact, their biggest fear is coming across a victim who is armed and knows what they are doing with their firearm.

Shooting is a perishable skill. Going to the range and firing hundreds of rounds without a clear objective for that range trip is also not training. Plan it out. Write it down. Review it before you start firing. Evaluate yourself during and after the session.

Lou Santoni

So, where and how do you get additional training? Talk to the folks at your local gun store. Check the NRA web site. Search the internet. There are companies across the states who offer training. I am always looking for training opportunities.

There is one thing I can honestly say about the training I have attend. I always learn something new. Keep an open mind anytime you attend a firearms training course. I encourage you to continue training. if you carry a firearm or keep a firearm in your home for personal defense. Never stop training. We are not ready to protect ourselves, our family members or others if we do not train properly and seek opportunities to improve our skills and knowledge. Just as guns don’t shoot people, your firearm will not save anyone if you are not properly prepared to use it.

The Gun Is A Tool Of Last Resort, Not The First

We frequently see reports in the media of sad stories when mistaken identity leads to the injury or death of a loved one. Here is one example:

and here is another:

The narrative is all too familiar. A family member or roommate enters or attempts to enter the house at an hour that was not expected, usually late at night. The startled person living inside assumes he or she is under attack and fires a gun in the dark. It is only after the damage is done that identification is made as a friend, not a foe.

From a legal standpoint (note, I am not a lawyer) I believe most state laws generally follow the principle of reasonableness when it comes to fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death. In addition, most states include provisions commonly referred to as “Castle Doctrine”, where a duty to retreat inside one’s home is not required. Based on this kind of legal footing, many instructors and pundits in the shooting sports community inadvertently leave the impression that it is good tactics to “shoot first, ask questions later”. In fact, I have heard bellicose rhetoric from some in the community to just that effect, that as soon as a concealed firearm carrier feels threatened, he or she is justified to shoot and therefore SHOULD shoot.

But is that really the case? Just because we are legally justified to use potentially lethal force, we automatically should? Even if it is legal, is that the moral thing to do?

Every defensive situation is different, and no set of axiomatic laws will cover exactly what to do in every situation. However, one of the well accepted axioms of firearm safety is to know your target and what is beyond. Sadly, in each of these unfortunate examples of mistaken identity, the shooter pulled the trigger without having positive target identification and/or having non-targets in the near vicinity of the attacker. In addition to this tried and true rule, I suggest the following three additional guidelines when carrying your defensive tools:

  1. If there is time, reach for the phone first. Calling 911 is a valid recourse in an emergency situation, but so is using the camera.
  2. If there is space, try to get away first. There is little point in “Standing Your Ground” just for the sake of your ego. A fight avoided is a fight won. Obviously, if you are in your home options for getting away are limited. Nevertheless, taking the shot to protect a flat screen TV may not turn out to have been worth it if what you thought was a burglar turns out to be a family member.
  3. If it is dark, reach for the light first. Besides a firearm, other defensive tools I always carry include the phone and a flashlight. In a darkened parking garage, a high-lumen white light in the eyes can often be as effective as a firearm. At home, it need not be a flashlight, but a light switch. Most intruders want their nefarious actions to remain in the anonymous and hidden in the shadows, and will therefore run from the light, just like scattering cockroaches. Don’t worry about “giving away your position” – you are not setting up an ambush of Taliban fighters in the Hindu Kush. Your attacker already knows you are there, or if he does not then a flashlight beam in his eyes will surprise and startle him just the same.

Here is another great discussion of this problem of mistaken identity in defensive shooting situations.

Ultimately, every concealed carrier must accept the basic principle that in any confrontation we may face we cannot be the first one to escalate to potentially lethal force. We need to practice de-escalation, and only reach for the gun as a tool of last resort.

I am reminded of something noted defensive legal scholar Andrew Branca teaches. He points out that when some people strap on a concealed firearm, their attitude becomes something like “Because I am armed, I don’t have to take guff from anyone”. Contrary to what these people may want to believe, the exact opposite is true. Because you strap on a concealed firearm, you DO have to take “guff” from everyone and anyone, all the time, in every circumstance EXCEPT the one circumstance when that person is threatening imminent serious bodily injury or death. Except for that one case, we HAVE to reach for the gun as a tool of last resort.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Firearm Permit

Firearm safety instructor Utah

I was teaching a Utah Concealed Firearm Permit class for friends and family a few weeks ago. The course was being taught in an office building after business hours in one of their conference rooms. It was a class of about 10 or so new concealed carriers and I was the only instructor.

Respecting the property owner’s policy against bringing firearms in the building, we taught the classroom portion of the course in the conference room, and then moved to the parking garage to provide students an opportunity to safely have a “hands-on” experience. I had an empty revolver and semi-automatic pistol in my car, and some dummy ammunition to practice with. We never handle live ammunition unless we are at a range conducting live fire, and never in the classroom, ever! I feel it is important for students, regardless of their experience, to have this hands-on dry-firing experience as it helps to cement the safety concepts we have been discussing into their minds. It also gives me a chance to evaluate their comfort level and better tailor the rest of my presentation to the students needs.

Our hands-on experience was taking place at about the same time that the custodial staff was emptying the garbage from the 6 story office building, and one sweet little cleaning lady noticed the semi-circle of students around the trunk of my car passing firearms back and forth. Everything was done in a safe manner, treating each gun as if it were loaded (although they were not), keeping them pointed in a safe direction (toward a bare concrete wall in the garage), and specifically practicing keeping our fingers out of the trigger guard area at all times. However, this concerned woman was observing what was happening from outside our group and was not aware of it being in a safety class.

She nervously approached us and asked how long we were going to be there. I responded that we were teaching a class and still had perhaps a couple of hours to go. I did so in a very friendly voice and tried to reassure her that, yes indeed, this was all legit and approved. I usually dress business casual, but on that day I was particularly dressed like a professional instructor should be, including a tactical-style shirt and pants, with patches identifying my role as an instructor. Dressing the way I do I often get mistaken for a police officer.

She evidently did not believe me, because about 30 mins later, after we had reconvened in the classroom, we were visited by 3 cops. They had been called on a report of a disturbance with firearms. The officers were totally cool; they had little doubt about what was going on and nothing at all came of their visit, but they were obligated to respond to a 911 call and dutifully checked it out. We had a good laugh, and I am confident that I’m not the first concealed permit instructor to have the police called on him due to some misunderstanding. It retrospect, the whole experience is actually kind of hilarious.

But there is a lesson to be learned as well. I don’t fault the sweet lady, possibly an immigrant in a land where the language is not her native one, just doing her job when she saw something and so she said something. No problem there. The lesson is that firearms are so easily associated with something evil and the reason, I feel, is a lack of education. Just look at this lovely custodian and her crew who (apparently) have little experience, or perhaps negative experiences, with firearms. Combined with a lack of information, or outright misinformation, it was enough to make someone nervous.

I have taught many students who felt differently than I do about firearms, but almost without exception they still walked away from my class having had a positive experience and newly armed with factual information about firearms, how they work, and how to handle them safely. I strongly encourage everyone to take a class from a knowledgeable, reputable, and safe instructor. The class could be a concealed permit class, an NRA basic shooting class, or a merit badge. Make the choice to become informed, but be prepared if you do because you may actually find you like it!

It’s a New Year Coming

The new year 2017 is rushing into our lives much too soon. This is the time of the year when everyone starts thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. If you are having a hard time deciding what your resolutions should be then come take a little journey with me and I will give you some ideas for some to make and keep for 2017, that can be a lot of fun as well as providing you with skills and knowledge that you may very well need some day.

The year is 1950, the place is Tripoli Libya Africa. It’s a warm summer day in the open desert. I am 6 years old and alone with my father. He had purchased a 22 caliber single shot rifle for me. Today I was going to experience something that would influence me for the rest of my life. At first I was frightened and had doubts about handling a gun because all I had been told in my 6 years was “do not ever touch a gun because they are very dangerous.” But, after a few minutes to consider the idea of actually being allowed to not only touch but shoot this dangerous gun, my 6 year old curiosity got the best of me.

My dad had been in correspondence with the NRA (National Rifle Association) about a program they had where gun enthusiasts could get targets from the NRA. Once we had shot the targets we could then send them into the NRA for scoring and then receive different awards in marksmanship from the NRA based on how well we were shooting. Later, as a 7 year old I was in seventh heaven with awards hanging on my bedroom walls.

The NRA’s current program, very similar to the one I was using when I was 6 years old, is the Winchester/NRA Marksmanship program. This program is designed to allow all ages to shoot on their own with all types of firearms and earn awards and patches that recognize their accomplishments. Generally awards are bestowed on the honor system, and the program offers many skill levels for you to participate in.

Once I had a family life of my own, I made sure that all of my children were deeply involved in firearm shooting sports of all kinds and to this day they remain involved in one way or another, with one son also certified as an NRA instructor. We hunted as they were growing up but we now get more enjoyment out of non-lethal shooting and assisting other people to develop a love for safe firearm shooting sports.

I am still shooting for the NRA awards and patches along with many other shooting activities I enjoy. There are many ways to get involved in firearm shooting sports for the whole family and at the same time have the opportunity to be trained for the protection of your family and loved ones. You can find more information about the program here

I am currently a Firearm Instructor with the Beehive Defense Team based in Utah. “Beehive Defense strives to be Utah’s Choice for firearm instruction by providing high-quality training courses, being positive role-models in the shooting sports community, and becoming friendly, caring mentors to shooters of all abilities.” Those who are intimidated to learn something new in the presence of others will be glad to know we also offer personal one on one instruction and coaching. There are many websites that cater to hard core gun enthusiasts, but Beehive Defense teaches firearm safety and personal protection in a family friendly environment, free from intimidation. You will gain confidence in your ability to keep you and your family safe and discover a new and exciting sport to be involved in.

Through my experience as an instructor I have discovered that there are many people of different age, gender, nationality, experience & interest that are rapidly getting involved in the wonderful sport of firearm shooting on all levels.

With the frightening destruction and lethal criminal acts taking place all around us right now in our own neighborhoods, to be able to protect and defend our freedom and safety is rapidly becoming a more demanding issue for personal defense skills for all age groups.

As a suggestion for you, why not set a New Year Resolution for 2017 to get yourself involved in the sport of firearm shooting and make one of your desires to get trained in Firearm Defense to protect you and your loved ones. Go to http://www.beehive to find out all the ways we can assist you in these goals. Our goal is to help others learn the joy of SAFE firearm handling and enriching your life in fun activities for the whole family. We offer a staff of highly skilled and certified instructors in all phases of firearm instruction and are excited to assist you in every way.

Good Samaritans and Concealed Carriers

It may not be a coincidence that I have seen multiple news items recently that relate to a third-party, concerned citizen acting as a Good Samaritan and intervening when they witness what appears to be an attack or act of violence (Scientific American – Should You Intervene in a Bias Attack?). When you factor in issues regarding concealed carry of a firearm, this moral conundrum becomes even more pronounced.

A long time ago I found myself in just such a situation (albeit far less dangerous). In the former Crossroads Mall in Salt Lake City, I was eating in the food court alone one afternoon. A mother with a couple of small children was also there, and she had her hands full. The younger child – really just a toddler – was quite fussy. Another adult man took issue with the crying child and started berating the young family, telling the mom to “shut that kid up”. As much as my heart had compassion for the distressed child and its mother, it quickly turned to indignation toward this unnecessary verbal attack, and I intervened. Turns out all it took was a few stern words from me to chase the other guy away, but I am well aware that if this man had been more than just angry bluster, I might have ended up creating a greater danger for myself, the mother, and her children.

Utah law justifies the use of force in defense of a third person, but allows force that is potentially lethal only if the unlawful attack could reasonably cause serious bodily injury or death to the victim (Utah Code 76-2-402). In simpler terms, one is allowed to use potentially lethal force ONLY in order to PREVENT potentially lethal force. But whether or not you are carrying a firearm for personal protection, and even if the law would probably justify your actions, is it still the smart thing to do, to intervene in what appears to be an attack?

Very often, as concealed firearm carriers begin to gain confidence in their ability to prevail against an unlawful attack, so does their sense of invincibility. This is a dangerous temptation to succumb to. In my classes I make a point to say “a Concealed Firearm Permit is NOT a super-hero card”. A simple internet search quickly confirms that for every Jason Falconer (CNN – Man who ended Minnesota mall attack a reluctant hero), there are many more Isidro Zarates (A Good Samaritan – Isidros Story).

Beehive Defense strongly recommends the approach taught by Rob Pincus (PDN Good Samaritan Checklist). Have a checklist ahead of time. Rob’s list includes:

1. Do you really know what is going on?
2. Are you confident your involvement will make things better?
3. What is the least you can do?

I strongly encourage you to read the article referenced above for a more detailed discussion of each of these point. A Utah Concealed Firearm Permit class taught by a Beehive Defense instructor will also discuss similar issues.

There are some individuals, maybe some who are even well known instructors, who vociferously advocate for intervention. I definitely empathize with a desire to protect others. However, I wonder if there isn’t a self-serving motivation that aims to rationalize their own delusions of grandeur. While respecting that the decision for intervention is a deeply personal one, Beehive Defense strongly encourages extensive training that extends far beyond mere gun handling and marksmanship, before ever suggesting an individual consider injecting themselves into a potentially violent situation.

Good Instructors and Bad Instructors

When a person begins their journey toward firearm ownership and eventually toward everyday concealed carry of a gun for personal defense, they will naturally look for guidance. Any rational person will recognize that carrying a firearm is a significant responsibility and will want to take steps to ensure that they are able to do so safely. Surely, one of the greatest barriers to people feeling confident enough to make this serious decision is a difficulty finding an instructor who they trust.

Gun advice is readily found at the sporting good store or at a gun store and range. Usually these retail employees do have some very useful experience and information. Other common sources of advice are friends who are firearm enthusiasts who possess plenty of experience but nevertheless are not dedicated instructors. “The guy at the gun store”, the “friend of a friend”, or “the guy who used to be a cop” are all good guys, I’m sure, but maybe they are not necessarily really good instructors. Perhaps this is one reason why there is so often such bad information that persists around the shooting community.

A good instructor is, first and foremost, a good instructor. That sounds terribly redundant, but it really is true. A concerned citizen wishing to learn more about firearms and carrying concealed needs someone who actually knows how to teach. Describing a good teacher is difficult but surely includes characteristics such as professionalism, good communication skills, is organized, is prepared to teach from a strong curriculum, and is willing to be personally invested in the whole growth of the student. In other words, a good teacher cares about stimulating positive change in the student and not merely just checking off topics in a lesson plan.

It may seem counter intuitive that I say the most important quality for a good shooting instructor is teaching ability, not shooting ability. But the reason is actually quite simple. Shooting is merely the application of certain fundamentals, and really good shooters just have really good application of those same fundamentals – nothing more. There is no magic voo-doo to becoming an expert shooter. There is no secret body of knowledge that is only entrusted to a worthy few. Obviously, a good shooting instructor needs to know those fundamentals and presumably has spent signficant time honing them. A shooting instructor who has personally walked the path that he is leading others to follow will have much more to offer, but even if he possesses only moderate skills, he should still be able to effectively teach them to others.

On the other hand it is much easier to describe a bad instructor – and trust me, there are many. Warning signs to look for include:

  • Poor Professionalism. The individual changes or cancels classes frequently, has poor communication leading up to class, or just generally does not dress, act, or speak in a way that is appropriate. Frequently the unprofessional behavior just generally becomes obnoxious bluster. It could be tempting to settle for the loudest guy, most bombastic and strongly opinionated, but in any other areas of our lives we generally avoid such individuals. Choosing a firearm instructor should be no different.
  • Lapses in Safe Practices. This may be hard to judge before registering for a class for the first time, but if there was ever a past incident of a negligent discharge, or reports of weak safety practices, or if there is even a hint of a weak attitude toward safety, this should be a warning sign.

    I make it a point of taking at least 1-2 advanced classes per year from a variety of instructors, and I can say from personal experience that some instructors are NOT to be trusted when it comes to safety. You can easily search the internet for “instructor negligent discharge” or “shooting close call” and find tons of examples where an instructor allowed an unsafe situation to develop into a hazard.

  • An “I know it all” attitude. One crucial characteristic of a good instructor is being a good student. There is always more to learn. If an instructor presents him/herself as being the ultimate expert in all things that go bang, you can be assured that this attitude is blinding that person to new opportunities for growth. My advice, steer clear.

    In the same vein, ask your potential instructor “what shooting practices have you changed your mind about over the last several years”. In other words, what is one practice that this person used to teach that they now recognize is not a best practice going forward? If they cannot name one, then this instructor maybe is still doggedly teaching the same principles and practices that dominated the industry during Vietnam. The world of shooting has progressed, and your potential instructor should be keeping abreast of the latest innovations.

There could be many more factors to consider when choosing your firearm instructor. I’d like to think that each one has their heart in the right place, but in every circumstance, if you were to compare two or more instructors, one will always be a better choice than the others. This short list of things to look for will help you make the smarter choice.

Make Your Training More Effective


Most people who carry a firearm for defense understand that merely taking a class is not enough to adequately prepare ourselves for an emergency. We each need to invest time on a regular basis to keep our skills sharp. This is vital, not only to maintain or improve our ability to defend ourselves, but also to avoid becoming a hazard to others!

Unfortunately, investing time for training too often is reduced to simply visiting a local range, standing at the end of a lane and carefully perforating a large sheet of paper gently hanging 5, 10, or 15 yards away. I’m sure many people who do this regularly get pretty good at poking holes in paper. But do any of us really believe that this translates into a viable defensive capability?

Usually, we end up choosing the triviality of square range training because of convenience. As a rule these ranges do not allow drawing from a holster, movement while shooting, or transitioning between different targets. Indoor square ranges do fill a need in our busy lives, but we should be aware of these limitations and take steps to minimize their damage to our defensive capabilities.

One of the best ways to break out of the square range mold is to dry fire practice at home. Dry fire has limitations as well, but there is no better way to encode proper shooting form into muscle memory than dry practice. Proper shooting form includes things such as the draw, the trigger press, and the scan and assess. This type of practice is possible – and worthwhile – regardless of the availability of facilities that allow more advanced live fire drills.

Whenever possible, seize the opportunity to train at a facility that does allow drawing from holsters, movement, and 180 degrees of fire. Perhaps this is only possible when done in conjunction with a course supervised by a shooting instructor. However, if your training is confined to the square range try to keep these tips in mind:

Have a friend load dummy ammunition in your magazines. This way, you won’t know when, or if, a shot will simulate a failure to fire and provoke an immediate malfunction drill. If you are flying solo, load several magazines with a dummy loaded at random positions, and then shuffle your mags around so you will be less likely to predict which shot will be the dead round.

When you shoot at the target, visualize yourself in a defensive situation, and shoot strings of fire of differing lengths. One of the worst habits to get into is training our brains to always fire two shots to the chest. In the real world, two shots may not be enough… train to shoot until the threat has stopped.

Don’t over-choreograph your training. Obviously, you should arrive at the range with a plan, but don’t plan so meticulously that every drill is carefully scheduled and every string of fire is two shots. If you do, then you may as well be choreographing a dance routine – much like a competition shooter competing in a given, known stage.

Ultimately, your training should NOT prepare you for competition shooting. Competition is a fine skill but has limited application to real world emergencies. Choreographing your response ahead of time will not be possible in a real world defensive situation. Training to effectively increase our defensive capability should engage the brain more than the body.

Lesson Learned

Lesson Learned


At the young age of 18, I was already moving up in the world of adults. I had a partnership in a horse and cattle ranch in Northern California. We were located up in the mountains east of Sacramento. Our nearest neighbor was 5 miles away and the nearest town of El Dorado was 15 miles away. This made a perfect setting for my favorite method of leisure enjoyment. I loved shooting all the different firearms I had but I was especially smitten by being able to quick draw and shoot from the hip hitting 12 gauge shotgun shells 25 feet in front of me. As you probably guessed I was spending all my leisure time practicing. Over a time period of 3 months I had shot roughly five thousand rounds with this pistol, and soon became very accurate with my shooting. I had been doing this same practice routine every day with this same pistol and it had always operated flawlessly. I was well pleased with the way things had been going and with being successful at reaching my goal. Then guess what;

One bright sunny morning I was out practicing again and all was normal until all of a sudden I drew my pistol, and you guessed it, it went off and the bullet passed through my right foot. Luckily for me it was a 22 rim fire pistol so the damage was a small hole and a shattered bone that it passed through. And of course it put a hole through my favorite pair of cowboy boots. There was no instant pain so I managed to walk back to the ranch house which was about 1000 yards away. However, by the time I arrived I was very aware that I had messed up and was starting to pay the price for my ignorance.

This little incident led to a trip to the hospital and then back to the ranch again where I spent some amount of time being very uncomfortable. I had plenty of time to sit around feeling sorry for myself so I decided to try and figure out what had gone wrong after so many times of doing the same thing daily without any bad things like this happening.
What does this have to do with the title “Lesson Learned”?

I soon discovered that the pistol had been completely worn out. Being a single action revolver I had to cock the hammer each time I fired it. This last time as I attempted to cock the hammer I got it half cocked then it slipped from under my thumb before I got it completely cocked. This spun the pistol to a pointing down direction as it swiveled on my finger in the trigger guard and then it fired.

The lesson I learned from this incident was that I had neglected to clean and maintain my pistol over those 3 months of heavy use and had prematurely worn out the action in this pistol.


Carelessness and ignorance when it comes to firearms will cause a negligent discharge – sometimes with very deadly results. I was young and stupid and very lucky. Owning and using firearms comes with a responsibility to learn to properly care for our firearms and to always follow the rules for safe handling of all firearms and ammunition.
I have all the aches and pains of age now but I still manage to do a lot of shooting, but I can say I have never had another problem like this one when using my firearms. I learned my lesson and have kept each of my firearms in good working condition ever since.

Easy Mistakes To Make When Carrying Concealed

Firearm safety instructor Utah

Carrying a firearm for personal protection is a choice that comes with some hefty obligations. Some of the greatest of those are associated with carrying your firearm safely and responsibly. Doing so requires learning some new habits and then actively maintaining them. New carriers will need to obtain and adjust to these new daily habits, but even experienced carriers can become complacent and let their once sharp habits become routine and sloppy.

The following is a list of things to think about:

Training. Merely purchasing a gun and an inexpensive holster does not make you a qualified and safe concealed firearm carrier. Good quality training is required, to learn how to properly draw, shoot, reload or clear malfunctions – that is only the beginning. Low light training, active shooter response, effective use of cover, and especially (especially!) situational awareness are all topics that demand ongoing training and practice.
Practice. When I was young I played several musical instruments. Put one of those instruments in my hands now and will I be able to make some sounds? Sure thing, but truly perform music like I once was able to? No way. Of course, the reason is lack of practice. Shooting, like music and a host of other skills, is perishable. Maintaining your shooting skill requires accommodating some time your schedule to practice. And this includes dry practice!
Printing. A concealed firearm should remain concealed, and this oftentimes limits fashion choices. Warm weather seasons in particular can be challenging. Every concealed firearm carrier needs to check the mirror before they head out for the day in order to guard against printing.
I was in a popular outdoors retailer a while back and noticed two men who were barely concealing their strong-side, OWB holstered firearms at all. They each wore a T-shirt with an unbuttoned casual shirt over the top. The open front and flimsy material did absolutely nothing to disguise the handguns on each of their hips. My first reaction was a positive one, that others were also taking responsibility for their safety, but that quickly turned to something close to horror and embarrassment as I observed their behavior. I don’t think they gave a moment’s thought to concealment but rather seemed to be trying to bolster their own egos by displaying their cool little “toys”. This is not the right attitude to have.
Not Carrying. On the other side of that spectrum is choosing to not carry at all. Our culture needs people who are willing to take responsibility for their safety and others. There are times when fashion necessities make carrying difficult – you aren’t likely to be armed while swimming! My “friends” from the retailer were at least willing to take this step, and were dressed in such a way that effective concealment absolutely could have been possible had they given it more attention.
Adjusting. Finding an effective concealment option for you also includes keeping the whole system secure and intact. If a concealed carrier is frequently adjusting a belt, a strap, pulling a shirt down, etc. it greatly diminishes the concealment effect.
Keeping up with the law. Of all the obligations that accompany carrying a firearm for protection, practicing fundamental safety is the greatest, but a close second is keeping up with the law. Justifiable use of force and firearms laws in general need to be top of mind for a concealed carrier. Just as staying fundamentally safe with a firearm is a moral and ethical duty, so is staying within the law.
It is easy to become complacent and lose one’s focus. Unfortunately when complacency involves a firearm, the consequences can be disastrous. If you are a concealed firearm carrier, or you are considering making that choice, please keep this list of items in your mind and practice good habits to maintain your proficiency and discretion while carrying concealed.