New Range Kit from Brownell’s

If you are looking for a solid range kit that will last for years – please check this out:

Brownells NRA Student Range Kit

There are a lot of cheap cleaning kits & range bags out there; I’ve gone through my share of them over the past 20 years.  I generally focus on training more than gear, however this is necessary gear to help you focus on training, plus a portion of the proceeds from sales of these kits goes directly to the NRA Endowment Fund.

Defensive Pistol 1


Our Defensive Pistol series courses are designed to help students develop their “gunfighting” skills; clearly not with the intent of being in a “gunfight”, but with the hope that if not able to avoid such a conflict, they prevail.  In truth, “gun-fighting” is based on solid fundamentals; regardless of age or gender, these skills are rooted in the basics of marksmanship coupled with basic principles of “fighting” – posture, breathing, relaxation, and communication.

This 1 day, range only class is for students who want/need to develop these strong fundamentals.  Initially focusing on the 7 elements of marksmanship – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press, breathing, and following through – students will develop reliable, combat accuracy.  From there students will build solid, fundamental skills in the following areas:
  • Draws
  • Reloads
  • Malfunction clearance
  • Movement
  • Use of cover & concealment
  • Verbalization / Communication
The mission of CWR Firearms Training is to train our students to continually master the basics.  Defensive Pistol 1 provides responsible citizens with a excellent opportunity to further develop reliable defensive skills and continue on the path of mastering the basics.
Student should bring a reliable center-fire handgun with three magazines or speed loaders, 250 rounds of practice ammunition, strong-side holster, magazine pouch, concealment garment (coat, jacket, vest), cleaning equipment, and eye & ear protection.  The course is limited to 12 students. Cost of the course is $150 and pre-registration is required.
This course is not a basic/introductory marksmanship course; students should be comfortable shooting defensive caliber handguns and have the ability and experience to follow the NRA’s Three Rules for Safe Gun Handling – safety violations on the range will be grounds for immediate dismissal from the course.  Good examples of preparatory courses / experience are the NRA First Steps or Basic Pistol Shooting class, participation in an IDPA/USPSA/Steel Match, or Instructor Discretion.
To learn more about this course please email Darin –

Shooting the new FN striker-fired FNS pistol

About 2 months ago I received an invitation to test and evaluate FN Herstal‘s new FNS series pistol.  After viewing some of the basic information about the pistol, I was excited to say the least.  Having shot several polymer guns competitively and carried striker-fired pistols both on and off duty, I wanted to get first hand experience with the latest in this class of defensive pistols.  I’ve always liked FN firearms, so the FNS held promise for me.

The sample I received was a 2-tone, 40 S&W with three 14 round magazines and night sights. Also included were interchangeable back straps (flat or arched), the owner’s manual, and a cable lock.  I read through the owner’s manual and noted the safety precautions along with the dis-assembly procedures.  Dry firing the pistol a few times, I liked the trigger reset length and the thought the “weight” of the trigger was reasonable – without putting it on a scale, I’d estimate it was about 5.5 pounds.  The take-up was about 1/4 inch, with the travel to break about 1/8 inch, which is also the reset length.

The gun weighs about the same as a Glock 22 or M&P40 with clean lines and an appropriately sized beaver-tail to protect meaty hands from hungry slides.  The angle of the grip also lends itself to establishing a quick, high grip with the shooting-side hand.  The controls were all appropriately sized, though the model that I tested had a manual safety similar to that of a 1911 series pistol, however thelever was fairly small.  I’m not a big fan of small buttons, levers, or controls on firearms; under stress these are difficult to use.  The plus side of the safety was that the safety, along with the polymer mold around the slide stop, blocked my thumb from riding the slide stop down during strings of fire; several slide-lock reloads and the slide locked back each time.  The magazine release is large and easy to hit – with either hand.  This pistol is truly ambidextrous – right out of the box.  I encourage my students to practice shooting with both/either hand, this pistol will make those transitions very easy.

The sights are good factory sights.  Anyone that spends much time with me, knows how much I like Heinie Straight 8 night sights, so if the Straight 8’s are an “A” sight, I’d give these a “A-“.  The rear sight notch (aperture) has a rounded bottom.  The human eye is very good at centering a square in a circle or a circle in a square, but it struggles to center a square in a square, so this sight favors our eye’s natural tendency.  The front sight has a tritium insert wrapped in a very noticeable white sleeve.  The white sleeve almost works like XS Sight’s Express (Big Dot) sight, which is another excellent combat sight.  In the end you have a robust sight that is easy to pick up quickly.  This is not a “target sight” by any means, but it doesn’t need to be one and it serves well as a combat sight.  The rear sight does have the “ramp” that so many manufacturers use; I fail to understand the benefit of this design; I know that it is a limitation that does NOT benefit the shooter during incapacitation drills.  If I buy a FNS to carry, you can bet I will square the rear sight before I leave the house with it.

Okay, so enough about the design of the gun – how did it shoot?

It shot well – enough said…

Marksmanship – I rested it at 20 yards and ran 3 groups of 5 rounds on 4 different factory loads by Winchester, Federal, and Speer.  The pistol consistently shot groups around 3.5 inches,. with some groups around 5-6 inches.  The pistol loved the hard-hitting 155 grain Winchester Silvertips.  From the rest, this pistol was able to put 15 rounds in a 3 inch group at 20 yards (again 3 – 5 round strings), that was the best group of my accuracy testing.  The pistol & magazines functioned properly with each round fired.

Combat Drills – Using the Hackathorn Standards as a basis for my 1st combat test session, I was please with my performance on a pistol that I had bench-rested. Using a Safariland 6360 designed for a S&W M&P40, the FNS fit very well, however the ALS did not lock, but that was to be expected.  Establishing a solid grip was effortless, the sights were easy to find, and followed my eye as I tracked from target to target, as well as during quick strings of fire. The ambidextrous magazine release was easy to hit as I worked through various reload drills, and the slide stop worked well as a slide release, as did power stroking the slide on combat reloads.  The magazine found the mag well easily due in part to the beveled mag well.  Another advantage of the ambi-mag release is for those shooters with smaller hands, who find they have to rotate their grip to hit the release with the shooting side thumb.  With the ambi-mag release, smaller-handed shooters can use the trigger finger or middle finger of the shooting hand to release the magazine, without having to re-establish their grip after the release/reload.  Combat accuracy was acceptable, shots grouped in about a hand-sized circle (8″), with the exception of the few rounds that I pushed elsewhere…. I also ran drills while wearing various gloves and found the trigger guard was sized appropriately for wearing winter gloves – a huge plus during cold weather.

Competitive Evaluation – To round out the evaluation, I ran the gun at my local IDPA club’s January match.  The FNS40 ran flawlessly and caught the eye of several competitors; a few suggested that the gun appeared to be “made for me”.  On a quick run & gun stage, I was pleased with the trigger and the large white dot on the front sight which helped me keep my shots in the A-zone.  On the skills drills, the magazine release was easy to find; the robust, metal magazines dropped free of the magazine well quickly; and the grip’s ultra-aggressive texture helped me control the quick 6 round dumps on “Bill Drills”.

To add a little variety to the match, we had a zombie stage that required moving laterally, while engaging zombie heads with two rounds per undead threat.  The sights are well suited for this accuracy requirement, which along with the well-designed, consistent trigger helped me avoid the painful challenge of not defeating the horde of attacking zombies!

Final thoughts – the FNS is a solid pistol – I love the grip of the pistol, it has a decent trigger, and the ergonomics are excellent.  About the only complaints I have are the 14 round magazines and the ramped sights.  In a full-sized duty pistol, the standard for capacity has been 15 rounds for many years, FN should beef up the magazines to hold 16 rounds, if they want to aggressively fight for the law enforcement market from Glock and S&W.  Additionally the small, manual safety works well enough when consciously thinking about disengaging it, but under stress, deactivating the safety lever might prove inconsistent, which is not a good attribute for a defensive pistol.  That being the case, the manual safety is an optional feature and one that this pistol simply does not need, so for me I’ll just order one without the manual safety and look forward to an aftermarket base pad that adds 2-3 rounds to the magazine capacity.



What was that noise…?!?!?!

A while ago a friend of mine sent me an email asking what type of firearm she should consider for home defense.  I was a bit surprised by this request because we had never had a conversation about firearms or self-defense, but I continued reading her email.  The night before an intoxicated male entered her house around 2am while she was home alone.  The windows and doors were open to let the house cool off, it had been a warm day, but was a very nice evening.  Her husband works odd hours and was at work.  She heard the screen door open and close, wondering if her husband had come home for some reason.  The person did not say anything to her and she became suspicious.  She turned off a few lights and peeked out of the bedroom, where she had been reading a book.  She saw a man standing outside the porch on the front steps.  She quickly ran to the living room, closed and locked the door and shut off the lights.  She wasn’t sure what else to do, so she called her husband at work.  When I spoke with her about her decision to call her husband, she said that she was very scared at this point and that was the only thing she could think to do.  Since her husband works very close to home, he jumped in a truck and drove home immediately.  The suspect had stolen a pillow off the couch and curled up in the bushes to fall asleep. Her husband and his co-worker confronted the man who wasn’t able to answer many questions; he wasn’t even sure of where he lived.  They said he smelled like alcohol, but he must have been on drugs too.  They told him to go home and let him go; he wandered off.

I asked why they did not call the police.  They said he was just a drunk college kid and they didn’t want him to get into trouble.  We discussed where he might have gone, if he entered someone else’s house and scared them, if he stepped into traffic and got hit by a car, if he fell into a body of water and drown, or he if ran into a less forgiving crowd and got beat up / seriously injured.  They said they hadn’t thought about those things.

We discussed why they felt a gun was the right idea.  Having been a firearms instructor for 15 years, I have my own reasons and thoughts on the subject, but I wanted to hear their ideas.  She said she was scared and thought a pistol would help her feel a little safer.  Her husband said it would allow her to protect herself.  I asked why she didn’t call the police when she realized this man had entered her house.  She said he was probably just a drunk college kid and she did not want him to get into trouble.  I drew the distinction and cautioned them on “labeling” problems.  First I pointed out that shooting him would put him in more jeopardy than calling the police, she agreed.  I pointed how he had gone from a “potentially violent intruder” to “just a drunk college kid” in the same brief discussion.  Our conversation illustrated the importance of simply taking the facts at hand and trying to NOT rationalize, irrational behavior.

I explained how dangerous it could be to either the subject or to you to try to rationalize their behavior / actions.  For instance, years ago another friend arrived home one morning after working an extra shift, arriving at his house around 4:30am, he saw a strange man, he’d never seen before, walk from his neighbor’s house to a van that was parked on the street with a large bag, enter the van, exit the van and walk to his front door, entering the porch.  My friend worked as a security guard and immediately thought the person was committing thefts, he ran to his front door, shouted at the individual who reached into the bag, my friend drew his pistol and challenged the subject.  The subjected screamed at my friend that he was delivering newspapers.  My friend forgot that his roommate had recently subscribed to the sunday paper.  His assumption that this was a burglary led to him drawing a gun on a paper delivery man!!  That’s a tough one to justify.  Needless to say, the paper man called the police and my buddy had to explain himself to the police and learn a tough lesson.  It would have been just as easy for my friend to call the police, report the license plate number of the van, and let the police handle the situation or at the very least, maintain distance, not rush in, and make verbal contact at a distance to avoid creating a situation where a physical assault could occur.

The point here is that while a firearm may “make someone feel safe“, its the ability to think rationally, and weld that firearm with wisdom and skill that actually makes someone “safe” (or at least safer than without it).  Please remember that a firearm is just a tool, having a gun doesn’t make a person into a gunfighter anymore than having a hammer makes someone a carpenter.  Training and practice are necessary.  Please don’t trick yourself into simply “owning” the gun, learn to shoot it well, and learn to defend yourself properly.


Mindset, Skills, Tactics…

Learning to shoot a firearm accurately is a skill….
Learning to employ a firearm as a self-defense tool is a tactic…
Having the will to fight and the self-confidence & freedom of thought under stress to make critical decisions quickly is mindset…

With the recent adoption of the right to carry language in the new Iowa Permit to Carry Weapons law, many citizens are exercising their rights and obtaining their permit to carry.weapons.  Our goal with training students is not to encourage or discourage citizens to carry firearms; that is a personal choice that involves many responsibilities and possible consequences.  Our goal is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and attitude needed to avoid dangerous confrontations when possible, and to prevail in a life-threatening encounter when necessary.

To that end please understand that when you learn to shoot you are developing basic skills.  The skill to safely handle a firearm, the skill to manage the fundamental elements of marksmanship in order to accurately hit a target.  The more ingrained these skills are, the faster a shooter is able to successfully apply these skills.  We call this rapid application of basic skills.  When you have the opportunity to watch a master shoot, they are simply applying the same skills that any other shooter must develop, however their focussed practice has allowed them to push much of that skill set from the conscious mind into the subconscious mind allowing them to perform much faster with an incredible level of accuracy.

From a defensive standpoint, being able to rely on the subconscious mind for activities such as keeping the muzzle a safe direction and keeping the finger off the trigger until on target and the decision to shoot has been made, as well as having the subconscious mind to manage the fundamentals of marksmanship, allows the defender to be able to utilize the conscious mind to apply tactics to the situtation.  For instance, if a person has to concentrate to ensure they have the proper grip or that they are pressing the trigger correctly, they are less likely to think about verbalizing with the suspect or to search for and move to cover.

Having the proper attitude toward training and skills development, benefits the shooter through proficient, proper practice.  By taking the time to develop efficient movements, with proper manipulation, grips, sighting, trigger press, following through, etc, the shooter develops excellent foundational skills.  This is the focus of CWR’s training program – the Crawl, Walk, Run methodology. Our goal is not to see how many students we can train, but to see how well we can train our students.  If you have questions about training please let us know.

Best Regards!


Individual Firearms Training Available

Learning to shoot involves various simulanteous actitives. Many new shooters (I was one of them many years ago) develop remedial deficiencies without proper guidance to help them early in the learning process. Our instructors have extensive experience guiding new shooters to help them develop solid, foundational skills from the start. If you are interested in personal firearms training, please call or email.


Ouch!!! Points on Safety…Training…Equipment Selection

This video was forwarded to me by one of my students.  It is an amazing video that brings up various points related to equipment selection, training, and of course safe gun handling.  My comments are not meant to belittle or ridicule the individual in the video (Mr. Grebner).  As a point of training it is essential that we shed our egos if we truly desire to move beyond remedial issues and mistakes.  Mr. Grebner demostrated this through his willingness to share his experience so those who can learn from others’ mistakes have that opportunity.

Safety…Training…Equipment Selection

The first issue with this incident is directly related to the NRA’s rules for safe gun handling:

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction

2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shooT

3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use

The 3rd rule also supports the ideal of “always treating all firearms as though they are loaded”. 

Clearly this incident would not have happened if the pistol was not pointed at his leg or if his finger had not been on the trigger, ok so that’s pretty clear so what’s my point?  Training – plain and simple.  As a person seeks to develop useful defensive skills with a firearm, s/he needs first understand the duality that exists between speed and accuracy and then develop those skills at an appropriate pace to both push their speed & accuracy, while still maintaining (and further ingraining) their safe gun handling skills (again this is not an assessment of Mr. Grebner’s skill or ability – this is in reference to the skills possessed by the readers of this post.)  It is important to push your skills, but at the same time it is essential that you only operate as fast as you can “control” your actions.  This is not to suggest that you can never miss the target in training, but you should strive to hit the target and you are ALWAYS responsible for the rounds you fire, they must impact the berm/trap and be fired when you intend for them to be fired.

If your objective is to increase your presentation speed, a great method of decreasing your time, while increasing your skill is to practice this skill set dry before going live.  At first it might seem a little silly to “dry practice” at the range, but that feeling goes away quickly.  As in the video, if the objective is to draw quickly to the retention position, practice the draw to retention and the trigger press 10 or 15 times with an unloaded/empty pistol, slowly pushing the speed each time on the draw and presentation, but maintaining control over the safety and the orientation between the trigger and trigger finger.   A good tool for this type of practice is a shot timer.  By setting a par time, you can After you are comfortable with the mechanics of the draw, go live, but DON’T start out at full speed.  Start out slow and work your times down from there.  This issue is at the heart of this training company…crawl, walk, run…

An issue brought forth from the video was related to equipment selection, specifically focused on holsters, it also mentioned moving from one pistol to another.  I’m not endorsing brands of equipment, but would like to make a couple of points on the issue of equipment.  The first is that all of the gear mentioned in the video is quality gear, the bigger issue is moving back and forth between holsters and pistols.  I strongly recommend that if your objective is to be good with a pistol, then train with that pistol and that holster.  Don’t play the “gun of the week” game, or let yourself get bored with your holster and switch from day to day.  I have two holsters that I work from on a regular basis – a duty holster and a plain clothes holster.  On occasion, I have the need for a different mode of carry, but that is the exception and in those instances, I take about 5 minutes to work my draw/presentation with an empty gun before leaving the house.  Of course, I’d like to swap out pistols regularly, but I stick with the full-sized or compact duty pistol depending on my assignment that day.  While I am a big fan of 1911’s, I will challenge new shooters to take it slow and master the thumb safety and trigger finger positioning on the 1911 before practicing intermediate or advanced skills.  1911’s are great, accurate pistols, but part of that is due to triggers that are not forgiving of mistakes.  I’ve seen plenty of skilled shooters put rounds in the dirt 3 feet in front of them because they were trying to index the trigger like they were used to with their Glocks or Sigs, but the 4 pound, 1/8 inch trigger won’t allow for that kind of sloppiness.

Finally as Mr. Grebner said, if you are not a member of the NRA please consider joining and thanks to those who serve this country – God Bless.

Thanks for visiting our new site!!

Crawl…Walk…Run – CWR – that’s the philosophy behind our training program. Much like people learn to walk, swim, or ride a bike, learning to shoot requires patient, competent instructors and a positive, inviting environment. Our training begins with basic shooting courses and permit to carry classes, where students are exposed to a large amount of new information. Due to the nature of these courses, the focus is on developing safe gun handling skills, increasing knowledge of firearms & ammunition, and determining what role firearms plays in your life.   After our basic courses, we offer our ‘defensive’ series of classes.  These are designed to provide our students with solid operational skills to avoid a physical conflict if possible and to win the fight if necessary.  We offer classes for that will challenge a wide variety of skill levels. Our training is based on the principle of total participant involvement. Although some knowledge can be gained during lecture, much of the time we’d prefer to have you experiencing the training, rather than sitting through it. We try to balance the cost of our classes and the amount of ammunition shot in the class to develop a course that provides a good balance of learning and skill development without breaking the bank. From basic pistol shooting courses to defensive carbine classes, CWR can provide you with quality, reasonably-priced, local training in the central Iowa area.