Thursday, August 27, 2015

Re-Thinking Situational Awareness

Recently several events came together in a synergistic way, causing me to re-think Situational
Awareness.  One of these was interviewing Melody Lauer, Central Iowa Defensive Training, and
discussing her teaching technique focusing on Threat Assessment versus Situational
Awareness.  Many instructors talk about Situational Awareness, but in a way that leaves the
student thinking they need to be looking everywhere at once and processing everything.  Who
can deal with that much sensory input?  Not me!  I don’t try, either.  Like Melody, when I’m
scanning, I am also assessing the people and situations I see to gauge the risk.  In the following
paragraphs I will describe the model I developed to replace my Situational Awareness training
module.  I still believe in Situational Awareness, I’m just taking it to a more approachable level.

Recognize - Prepare - Act

The first step in RPA is to Recognize a potential threat.  Being aware of your surroundings,
taking time to scan with your eyes and with your gut, quickly ranking what you see so you can
focus on the most likely threat(s).  This ranking can, and likely will, change as you move from a
place of relative security, such as a store, into a place of significant risk, such as a parking lot. 
That’s ok, just look for the highest risk.  Don’t spend time trying to memorize every detail or
identify the colors of all the cars.  Instead, see who is within your Safety Circle (the 21’ diameter
around you), who is coming close, who is exiting.  If you are in a parking lot, take note of any
oversized vehicle parked next to your vehicle that could hide someone or pose a threat to you. 
Do you see anyone acting in a way that feels wrong?  Does someone seem to be paying too
much attention to you?  Is someone moving directly toward you with their hands in their pockets
while they are glancing side to side as if checking to see who else might be around?  Do you
see a young Mom with several children, juggling packages on the way to their car?  An elderly
couple shuffling toward you slowly and holding hands?  A teenage boy in a hoodie with jeans
down around his hips?  A man in a suit chattering into a Bluetooth device?  Ok, putting it like
this, it is easy to say “Likely” or “Un-Likely” to be a threat.  But that should tell you something. 
You can assign a threat value, even if it is 0 or 1, with very little information, in less than a
second, WITHOUT overwhelming yourself.  Does this mean you don’t need to remain aware? 
NO.  Circumstances change, and you need to recognize the change and reassess, but it does
help you focus on the more likely threat and gives you a chance to Prepare.

Prepare means that you are considering “what ifs”.  What if the person who seemed harmless
suddenly turns and walks straight toward me, what will I do?  What if I identify someone on an
interception path to me?  What will I do about getting into my car with the large panel van
parked next to it?  Do you need to prepare a response for the elderly couple walking toward
you?  Probably not, except maybe a polite smile.  This lets your brain think about what to do if
the potential threat becomes a real threat.  It lets you Prepare to Act.

Act is taking whatever action you can to avoid (always a good first choice) or respond to (when
there isn’t another choice) a threat.  It may mean turning around and going back into the store,
crossing the street, or hurrying to your car.  It may mean bracing for a direct confrontation, and
doing what you need to, within your skill level, to survive. 

Stay Safe!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Political Correctness in the Shooting World

There has been a lot of press recently about political correctness, defined by Wikipedia as “an ordinarily pejorative term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society”.  Given the nonsense attributed to Political Correctness, the definition appears to offer a much more narrow view.

It got me thinking, how does this apply to shooting? 

What about the term “Bad Guy”?  Are we singling out men as being the aggressors or criminals? Why not “Bad Girl”?  But, that has another connotation. 

How many times has someone referred to their firearm with a feminine pronoun, as in “She shoots sweet?”  Why not “he”?  Oops, that could be misconstrued, too. 

How many “bullets” are in your gun?  The same as the number of cartridges, I hope, since I shoot semi-auto.  Granted, bullets aren’t people, but they have feelings, too.

Admittedly, “Bad Ass” has become a gender neutral term.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Concealed Carry Training On-line versus In-Person

Currently 20 states allow you to apply for a Concealed Carry Permit after completion of an on-line safety class and test. Many of these states have reciprocal agreements with other states, which makes the number even larger.

Think about this. No live instructor. No live fire qualification. No question and answer options.

While I do not support suppression of 2nd Amendment Rights, I do support demonstration of competence, safe handling and an understanding of ammunition before allowing someone to carry a concealed firearm.

Most of these on-line classes take less than 90 minutes to complete, plus the test. Can you imagine giving someone a Driver’s License after they watch a video and take a 20 question test? No, they must go through training, practice and demonstrate understanding and proficiency first.

Not all states are so lenient. There are still a few where it is nearly impossible to obtain a Concealed Carry Permit. There are states that require a specific curriculum, that includes as several hours of training and live fire, with minimum scores. Texas has very clearly defined requirements, but they also have reciprocity with states that have very lenient requirements.

For now, it is up to the armed citizen to follow the law in obtaining a permit, seek competent training and practice, practice, practice.



Thursday, July 30, 2015

When the world turns upside down, you don’t really fall off

Lately my world has been a little wobbly.  Lots going on, busy with a new book, writing for another publication, building friendships and dealing with some personal issues.  Then…the bane of women over 30 everywhere.  My birthday is one month away.  For me this is a really tough birthday, some say it is a reason to celebrate.  No, it isn’t a 0, but it does mean I’ve lived longer than nearly all of my family.  Genetics, geography, bad luck…my Father’s side of the family fell to all kinds of things, mostly cancer.  Not just one kind of cancer, lots of different ones.  We used to joke that if nothing happed by the time you were 35, Cancer would get you before 55.  That was pretty much true.  I’m the last of the line from two generations worth. 


Birthdays always make me reflect on my life and what I’ve accomplished, or have yet to accomplish.  This one especially.  I feel like I owe it to my passed family members to leave a mark.  Writing is one way, I get enough comments to know that occasionally something will resonate and make someone think.  Teaching is another, there is so much meaning in seeing a student develop confidence and find the joy in shooting. 


My bucket list is pretty short.  I’ve managed to do a lot of things in my years here.  Some ordinary to others but special to me, some pretty cool, actually.  Thanks to the jobs I’ve had, I’ve seen all but 6 states in the U.S. and been on 4 continents.  I’m horrible with languages but know how to bow in 4 different countries (yep, all different), and a smile goes a long way no matter where you are.  I was moved at being able to touch a piece of history that I didn’t think I would ever get to see, the Great Pyramid at Giza, over 3,000 years old.  I was in awe at the structure, the meaning and the age.  I’ve touched the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, back when they let you.  That was pretty overwhelming on its own.  I’ve met true heroes, shaking hands with John Glenn was a highlight in my life, barely remembering listening to the Mercury space mission coverage. 


Reflecting on what is past, dreaming of what may come, somehow makes today seem better.  I know I’ve had the honor to touch a few hearts and others have touched mine.  I only hope I can continue to do so.  Making a difference is about the little things more than the big ones.  For touching the life of one person makes it worthwhile. 


Thank you for following along with me on this journey.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Practice makes...Perfect?

By guest blogger Jim Bogle

We are all familiar with the adage “Practice Makes Perfect”, but what if you are practicing something with poor technique?  You are reinforcing that poor technique by repeating it and building the muscle memory.  It is a lot more difficult to modify a learned behavior than to do it correctly from the beginning.


Depending on the source, it can take from 50 to 2000 repetitions to form a habit.  The one thing all the sites agreed on was it takes 2-3 times that many to break the habit.  What does this mean for a shooter?  Ammo and time are precious.  So we need to make the best use of our practice time.  This includes the serious drills, focused on a particular skill, and the days when you just want to plink or make holes in paper.  If you are using poor technique, even when just having fun, you are reinforcing that habit.  Everyone has a bad day from time to time.  If you're at the range & find that you are having a "bad day". Pack up your gear & go home or some other happy place, but don't keep "practicing" bad technique & reinforcing or creating bad habits. Your future performance will be the better for it!


Next time you are at a range, glance around you at other shooters.  I’m not advocating staring or even offering “friendly advice”.  Just a quick glance and you will see a multitude of poor practices on any average day.  People leaning backward instead of forward, someone who is so tensed and hunched up their shoulders are almost touching their muffs, the tea-cupper, the person who fires and adjusts their grip…repeat.  These are habits and many people, unless they are working with a competent instructor, don’t even realize they have formed these habits. 


If you aren’t sure, go back to your fundamentals and work from your feet up.  I was shooting with a friend who is usually a pretty good shot.  She was consistently shooting low.  We talked, she went back to her fundamentals.  She knew shooting low usually means anticipating recoil.  Talking it through we recognized she was recovering from tendonitis and was skittish about aggravating it.  Once she realized what she was doing, she was able to correct and start getting better shot placement.  But had she not stopped and talked it through, the anticipation could quickly become habit and be very challenging to break.


Enjoy your shooting time, don’t over think, but remember, you will do what you practice, so if you practice poor technique, you will have poor technique.  If you aren’t sure what you are doing, an hour with a good instructor can be a great investment.  Small changes can be worked in improving your technique, your shooting and often your physical comfort.


Shooting is fun, practice smart and enjoy it.