Principles of Armed Self-Defense – The Next Step in Learning to Defend Yourself

When I started in law enforcement 10 years ago I had my first experience with formal self-defense training. The training was great and I felt like I was prepared for anything. I was proficient in several weapon systems and I was proficient in fighting hand to hand; but I wasn’t proficient in fighting to my weapon, or fighting with my weapon in close quarters. My training just didn’t address the area where these worlds overlap. This training gap is even more prominent for the everyday citizen who doesn’t get hours of training every year, or deal with combative people on a regular basis.

While range and classroom drills are vital to learning to defend yourself they rarely go beyond mental scenarios and square range drills. Standing face to face with a stationary target is a great way to learn and practice the fundamentals of shooting but this will rarely translate directly to the real world. This isn’t to say these type of drills aren’t important; they just aren’t enough. The problem is that there is never enough time in these classes to cover everything that is necessary. Even if there were, your mind can only absorb so much information at a time.

For these reasons I began working with Darin VanRyswyk and CWR Firearms Training to develop a class that would address this training gap. The goal was to develop a course that would build a strong foundation on which a house of self-defense could be built. Principles of Armed Self-Defense is designed to build a reliable foundation upon which any weapon can be inserted. If you already carry a weapon this is the next step in the self-defense training progression. If you are just considering self-defense and you are new to training this is your chance to start with a clear lot and begin building good habits. While the course is primarily designed around the use of a firearm the principals are meant to translate to other self-defense weapons. Whether you carry pepper spray or a knife, or simply need to rely upon your hands & feet this course is meant for you.

In order to be efficient and effective in defending yourself you must learn to use your mind and body together. In this course we start with a 4 part concept for addressing potential, or actual, threats. This prepares the mind. The goal is to avoid conflict and deal with it efficiently if avoidance is not possible.

We then build a strong defensive stance and learn how to use the structure of the body to protect oneself without wasting energy. This is the foundation of the house and the structure on which the entire defensive process sits. Next, we add in footwork and principles of creating distance and angles. Think of this as grading the dirt around the foundation to protect it from damage.

Next we cover weapon retention so your weapon isn’t taken and used against you, or deflected off target making it ineffective. Where you carry your weapon, and how you present it, can have a major impact on the outcome of a use of force encounter. Finally we cover accessing weapons from a variety of positions and situations because it is never as simple during a real incident as it was on the range.

During this class you will build a strong foundation to protect yourself and efficiently access your weapon, if necessary, in a use of force encounter. It is truly the next step in learning to defend yourself whether you intend to use a weapon, or not.

For more information on this new course please contact [email protected].

Renewing your Iowa Permit to Carry Weapons

With renewals for the Iowa Permit to Carry Weapons fast approaching in the next year, we have scheduled a variety of courses to meet your training needs.  Most of our courses are 4-hrs in length to more easily accommodate busy schedules, additionally we also offer the live-fire re-qualification session which takes about an hour, as well as full-day courses for students who want/need more training.

The renewal permit requires that the applicant complete training or re-qualify – please read IA Code 724.9 & 724.11 –

Training or live-fire re-qualification must take place within 12 months of the permit expiring.  Furthermore, applicants must apply at least 30 days prior to the permit expiring – I recommend applying 6 weeks before your permit expires.  This gives you about a 10 month window to complete your training.  If your permit expires March 2, 2016 for example, complete you training prior to the middle of January, and consider applying for your renewal permit before the end of January. This will ensure that your renewal application is processed before your permit expires.

We will schedule additional courses and frequently run private training courses for our students.  For additional information about any of our training options we are just a phone call or email away and we look forward to answering your questions – [email protected] / 5l5-23l-3887

Sights, Sights, Sights – Thoughts on defensive sights

A student called to ask what my thoughts were related to sights for a home defense pistol.  He asked what I thought about tritium night sights, fiber optic sights, and gold bead sights for his pistol.  He planned to equip the pistol with a rail mounted light, which can be a very useful tool (see post on weapon mounted lights).  Fiber optic and brass dot sights are designed for competition shooting, which is traditionally held in a bright environment, though occasionally, there are low light defensive pistol matches.

Standard 3-dot hortizontal tritium sight
Standard 3-dot hortizontal tritium sight

For a defensive pistol, it is hard to beat tritium sights.  Small, tritium inserts which glow in the dark, help an armed officer or law abiding citizen acquire their sights under reduced light and no light conditions.  Clearly there are situations where a person will not use their sights (instinctive shooting), but tritium sights give you an option that traditional sights do not.  Made by several manufacturers, the two brands of tritium sights that I prefer are the Heinie Straight Eight LEDGE sight and the XS 24/7 Express Sights.

Heinie Straight Eight
Heinie Straight Eight

Richard Heinie makes some of the best sights on the market.  They are high quality, precise sights and are worth the money.  Having carried various pistols over the years, I‘m familiar with the traditional Trijicon tritium 3-dot sight. This sight requires the shooter to line up the 3 tritium lamps horizontally with the front sight dot between the two rear dots.  These sights work fine and are very common. The Heinie Straight Eight is a vertical sight.  There are only two tritium lamps in this design.  The shooter “stacks” the two dots to line them up, giving the appearance of an “8”, hence the name “Straight Eight”.  Heinie builds excellent target sights; the Straight Eight night sights are high quality target sights that have tritium inserts added.  Additionally, sharp edges that are common to match sights are not present on Heinie defensive sights.  This allows the shooter to quickly load, reload, and clear stoppages without the added risk of injury to the support hand.

XS Express 24/7 Sight
XS Express 24/7 Sight

Similar to the Heinie Straight Eights, the XS Sights 24/7 Express Sights utilize a vertical sight alignment.  The Express Sights incorporate a “Big Dot” Tritium or “Standard Dot” Tritium front sight with a vertical tritium “post”.  This is one of the best “flash” sights on the market for day light engagements, and an excellent setup for low light environments.  The Express sight also offers a low profile, snag-free design that reduces the likelihood of injuring the support hand, while allowing the shooter to use the rear sight as a slide-racker during incapacitation drills/incidents. Personally, I prefer the “regular” dot to the “Big” dot, but that is simply my preference.

Tritium Fiber Optic - TFO
Tritium Fiber Optic – TFO

One additional sight that I wanted to mention is the Truglo TFO or Tritium Fiber Optic Sight.  Years ago when fiber optic sights first hit the market, I put a set on a Glock 22 that I used for IDPA.  I loved how quickly I could acquire those sights. They weren’t quite as accurate as I wanted, but they were fast for the 5-10 yard scenarios.  My daily carry pistol back then was a Glock 23.  I had factory Glock Trijicon tritium night sights on it which were fine in low light, but I wanted the same “glow” that I had at night, during the day.  I discovered the TFO sights and quickly bought a set and mounted them to my G23.  They took a bit of getting used to, but they turned out to be good all-day sights.  The only drawback was the length of the front sight.  The design of the sight put a fiber optic rod in front of a tritium lamp.  During normal light the fiber optic rod would glow from ambient light.  During low light conditions it would transmit the tritium glow.  The issue was that the front sight was nearly an inch long, which meant that the effective sight radius was reduced by nearly an inch. On a Glock 23 that’s almost a 20 percent reduction in sight radius, which equates to a less accurate pistol.  This is simply a tradeoff.  You are trading the ability to shoot a little more accurately in one lighting condition for the ability to acquire your sights faster (or simply acquire them at all) in all lighting conditions.  To that end, I like the TFO sights; they serve their purpose well.

In the end, the sight you choose should be one that works well for you. Most factory sights are simple and get the job done, but leave something to be desired.  When changing a sight, it is important to have it installed by a competent gunsmith or armorer, and to benchrest the pistol to ensure the sights are zeroed for you.  Finally, it is very easy to get caught up in the “equipment race” trying to find that perfect sight that will prevent you from ever missing.  Remember most shooters need practice, not new equipment.  It takes a lot of work to develop the ability to out-shoot a stock defensive pistol.  Invest in good quality equipment and then safely practice with your equipment to develop this life-saving skill.