Richard W.

Richard W.

SMART Program

(School Management Armed Response Team)

SMART Program - Tactical RifleSince no one seems willing to put pen to paper in order to produce any worthwhile legislation that would actually deter school shootings, we at Shooting Strategies decided to take on that task. We are committed to the idea that the only way to defeat violence is with increased violence and we recognize that this is effectively and efficiently accomplished with the proper use of firearms.

Too many times we have seen massacres take place in “gun free” zones. Almost without exception- we have witnessed the unarmed be slaughtered by the armed and mentally deranged. The shooting only stops when someone else with a gun, usually the police, arrive to shoot back at the shooter. Unfortunately, the people with guns that are called in are usually off site, and in the precious time that it takes for them to arrive on scene, more and more victims are losing their lives. In order to combat this tragic delay, we have to have superior firepower available on scene. As it pertains to schools, this means that we MUST have capable firearms and capable people ON SITE who are ready to defend the students from harm.

Therefore, here we will outline our program, how it is funded, and how it is projected to be effective in preventing unnecessary violence…

First, this will require money. As with any program- it will not be free. However unlike most government programs, with this proposal I feel certain that we will be able to declare and justify the costs with ease. Each school in America will need to increase their budget to accommodate approximately one additional teacher. Here’s how it works:

Glock 43 LaserMax LightI think we can all agree that if you can't clearly see your target, you shouldn't shoot at it. I think we can also agree that it is very likely that a violent encounter will occur in low-light (or no-light) conditions. That is why, in my personal opinion, guns should come with lights. At least all guns designed for fighting and personal defense should come with lights... 

I have participated in multiple low-light training events where many of the experienced shooters suddenly realize how dramatically defficient they are at shooting in the dark. They don't have good experience or acceptable skills to be able to effectively manipulate their offhand light and their weapon at the same time. Their times go to Hell in a handcart, they fumble their basic weapons manipulations, their shots and follow-up shots are slow and inaccurate, and their light seems to act as a similarly polarized magnet to their front sight and pushes it off track. They focus on the center of their light's beam only to find out that their front sight is nowhere near the target. Then they correctly get an acceptable sight picture only to discover that their light is now pointed somewhere off in the distance. They repeatedly "paint" themselves and their location as they try to manipulate their handgun during reloads, malfunction corrections, etc. This foreign object (flashlight) somehow destroys their skill sets that they thought they had mastered.

Then there's the other guy... The guy on the line that is shooting at his usual pace, correctly manipulating his firearm, reloading at blazing speeds, etc. He's performing up to par, and he's scoring good hits in the process. The multiple people in the first group are wondering "How in the Hell is that guy so good?"  Then they look down to find that he has the difference maker... He has a weapon-mounted light. Yes, this guy who is performing within tenths of a second of his usual par times has a light mounted to his firearm. He makes only minimal adjustments to his grip in order to manipulate his light. He still grips the firearm with two hands. He isn't fumbling around with a flashlight and a magazine in the same hand during a slide-lock reload. He has the advantage

In a gun fight, why wouldn't you want this advantage?

G43 InHolsterYou have the option to employ a weapon-mounted light with a minimal additional investment. Instead of purchasing another "safe-queen" gun that you're going to fire 250 rounds through (total), make the investment to purchase a quality weapon-mounted light and a holster that will securely fit your firearm with the light. Is it a little extra weight? Yes. It is a little harder to conceal? Yes. Could it honestly make the difference in being able to engage your target effectively and not being able to fight because you never train with a flashlight in your hand? Absolutely. 

Note: this doesn't mean that you should neglect training your freehand flashlight techniques. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be very competent and familiar with weapons manipulations with a foreign object in your support hand. It simply means that in a gun fight, we want every possible advantage that we can get. Every firearm that I have that I plan on possibly using in defense of myself or loved ones will always have a weapon-mounted light, night sights, and plenty of rounds that have been through it during training. I recommend that you do the same.

Guns Should Come with Lights

Easily the most frustrating and common mistakes that I see shooters make revolve around an improper and/or inefficient grip. We have covered at length the advantages that a biometrically correct and ergonomically efficient proper grip will provide you, but we haven't really provided insight as to the common mistakes that people make. Let's take a look at some of these grips, and why they are insufficient and sometimes downright dangerous.

The Tucked Thumb Grip

Tucked Thumb Grip

This is probably the most common mistake that I see in regards to an incorrect grip. This is when the shooter grabs the grip frame of the handgun with their shooting hand, and has their thumb diagonally draped across the panel where their support hand should go. Inherently, this prevents the "meaty" part of the palm on the support hand from making maximum contact with the grip. This provides a path of lesser resistance on the side of the support hands, which results in a movement upwards and towards the support hand side during recoil. This negatively impacts the speed of front sight acquisition during the follow-up shots. Furthermore, since we don't have maximum contact with the weapon- we also don't have maximum recoil control. To compensate for this, we are left with the poor option of simply squeezing our hands harder. This can result in hand tremors which will negatively impact sight picture. Moreovoer, since you are having to exert more muscle and less technique to control the firearm, you will have a harder time gripping the gun consistently with this method. This means that you will have trouble producing repeatable results in regards to your point of aim/point of impact. In short, your grip sucks. Fix it!

The Tea-Cup Grip

Teacup GripAn outdated yet not dead grip brought about during the days of the snub-nose revolver's hayday, the tea-cup grip has been a long time Hollywood favorite. Basically, the shooter will place their support hand underneath the magwell and hold the firearm and shooting hand as if they were a "tea-cup" in a futile attempt to add stability to the gun. While I guess one could argue that this grip is more stable than shooting one handed, I would argue that it's only slightly better. You aren't doing yourself any favors in regards to recoil control or providing faster follow-up shots, and you aren't providing any advantage to basic weapon manipulations. In short, your grip sucks. Fix it!

NRA Basic Handgun Atlanta GeorgiaEvery year I spend a lot of time, energy, and money paying to go to other training courses. I try to identify areas where my skill set could use some improvement, and I seek out people who are better in that area for help. I consider myself to be a high-level shooter, but I also know that I am nowhere near the level of many other people out there. I likely never will be. But.....

Today's random rant is specifically for those people who make the argument that "they can't afford to train" or that "formal training is too expensive." This rant is not for the people who "don't need training because they already know how to shoot" but rather for those lost souls who will make the argument that formal training just costs too much. I am writing this rant more from the perspective of a student than an instructor, because the people that come to my courses are obviously not the ones that are complaining about the expense of formal training. No, this is for that special guy or gal who doesn't blink twice at a $120 bar tab or can justify why he "needs that new $800 rifle" but can't spare $150 to take a course. 

This guy, we'll call him Tommy Tactical, owns dozens of guns. He probably has relatively little ammunition on-hand compared to the massive amounts of firearms which probably don't have too much rhyme or reason to the collection. For instance, this guy owns one of every caliber "just in case" but can't tell you the muzzle velocity on any of his ammo. Tommy Tactical can tell you the latest and greatest upcoming products from any manufacturer (and his personal opinions) but he would need a gunsmith to clear a double feed malfunction. Ol' Tommy Tactical will likely even make the statement "why would I pay $350 to take a 2-day course when I could almost buy another handgun for that?" Oh, Tommy Tactical- when the excrement hits the rotating cooling device (sh!t hits the fan), how I hope you'll remain holstered and let those less ignorant than you defuse the problem at hand.

Yes, Tommy Tactical- the guy with the 10mm handgun who thinks that the body of a car is "cover" instead of "concealment," you sir are probably a liability to those around you. The problem with Tommy Tactical is that he really doesn't know how little he knows. Because he's never taken a course to see how much informtion is available to him, because he's never been to a competition, because he's likely never done any real training with shooters who are far better than him, he is largely ignorant to his own ignorance!

"I want to get a .40 caliber because it is has the advantages of the 9mm and the .45 ACP. Which .40 do you recommend?"

9mm 40 45I hear this question a lot. Every now and then it manifests itself in the form of the 10mm vs the .45 ACP, but the 9mm vs. .40 caliber is much more common. In my opinion, high pressure handgun rounds are a solution looking for a problem (.357 sig, .40, .45 GAP, etc.). Now before any of my ballistic nerd friends get their panties in a knot, let me explain...

To understand why I believe that the high pressure rounds are a solution without a problem, let's consider the origins of the most popular version- the .40 caliber. On April 11, 1986, two bank robbers armed with a 12 ga shotgun and a Mini-14, engaged in a shootout with eight FBI agents in Miami. At the time, the FBI was armed with 9mm handguns. During the course of this fight, one of the FBI agents was able to put a successful hit on one of the robbers by striking his shoulder. The bullet passed through the shoulder and into the chest cavity. This wound would prove to be fatal... However, as I regularly harp on- this shot was not incapacitating even though it was ultimately lethal. Though this would be the shot that eventually killed him, the robber was still able to continue fighting for a substantial amount of time. During the course of this fight, two FBI agents lost their lives and five others were wounded. During their investigations after the incident, someone at the FBI determined that the round which ultimately killed the robber (which struck him in the shoulder) should have done more initial damage. From here, the good idea fairy got involved... The FBI was in a tight spot. Their initial argument could have been that the agents should have been using the .45 ACP cartridges, but then they would be in a potential civil suit because they had armed their agents with a sub-standard round. Instead, they decided to request an ammunition manufacturer to come up with a round with more mass than the 9mm and yet a faster muzzle velocity than the .45 ACP. Thus, the .40 was born.

"That's all well and good, but why don't you like them?"

Sight Alignment

Sight Alignment is the process of lining your sights up for both vertical and horizontal equilibrium. Looking at the picture below, we see that the front sight post is lined up perfectly vertical with the rear sight, which indicates that the muzzle is pointed straight ahead. This ensures that the elevation (the "up and down" motion) of our Point of Impact will be correct.

Next, you will note that the distance on both sides of the front sides is equally spaced in correlation to the rear sight. This is how we can ensure that the Point of Impact will not miss to the left or right of where we intend.

In short, the red lines in the image below should be the "mental test" that the shooter takes before each shot. The top of the front sight post should line up in a perfectly straight line with the top of the rear sight post, and the space on the sides of the front post should be equally spaced on the left and right. This will ensure that the Point of Impact from our bullet can be reasonably controlled and predicted when accompanied by proper Sight Picture.


Sight Picture

Sight Picture is the joining of the Sight Alignment with the target in the intended area that we are trying to hit. In other words, it's how we join together our "Point of Aim" with our "Point of Impact" with consistent, repeatable results. The picture below demonstrates how the proper sight alignment should be placed over the target, thus giving us a good Shot Picture.

SightPicture Demonstrated


Assuming that our firearm is properly zeroed, our hits on target should be directly in the center of the bull's eye.

Once the proper Sight Alignment and Sight Picture are acquired, a smooth and steady trigger pull will allow us to break the shot without a disturbance in our Sight Picture. This will allow us to consistently control the relationship between our Point of Aim and Point of Impact.

Imporance of Trigger ControlIn virtually any of the Handgun Fundamentals & Safety classes that I teach, I will get a student who pays close attention to all of the 7 fundamentals of shooting and begins scoring hits on target. However through the course of their live-fire exercises, they actually start to degrade with their hits. They start racking up misses, and so they try to overcompensate and get some more hits on target. By doing so, they compound their misses exponentially. So what's going wrong?

There are multiple answers as to why you might be missing the target, but I've found one key culprit that is almost always at fault... If not the direct cause, I assue you it is likely among the causes of the problem for missing. That crucial fundamental is trigger control. Usually, students will become slightly less conscious of their trigger control and then will see more and more misses from the same distances where they were previously scoring hits consistently. Why? Because they step up to the line, get their grip and stance perfect, acquire proper sight alignment/sight picture, and then pull the trigger. I hate that term... "Pull the trigger..." Students have that engrained in their mind and they do exactly that- they pull the trigger instead of slowly/consistently pressing it to the rear. The result? They rush through the 4 steps of trigger control and they miss the shot. These shots almost always miss low, and often times they miss to one side or the other. I see this a lot when students are growing slightly tired after a fair amount of shooting, and they begin anticipating the recoil of the firearm.

5 Shooting Thumb Rests Handgun GripSince I began shooting, I have tried to find the right combination of instructions which would help simplify and clarify the most efficient ways to perform each task. It's not enough for me to just know how to perform a task. I also have an insatiable need to know why we perform that task in that manner. As I continued to search for the best way for me to control a semi-automatic handgun utilizing a proper grip, I began to look at how some of the other master shooters explained their preferences. While no two instructors explain their grip the same way, there were quite a few common threads of instruction that I tried to hone in on. Therefore, my grip (and thus my explanation of grip) contains a blend of styles from people such as Ken Park, Claude Werner, DR Middlebrooks, Travis Haley, Bob Vogel, and others. As I explain the way that I prefer to grip a handgun, please keep in mind that many of these concepts were first explained by one (or more) of these sources.

When considering how we should grip a semi-automatic handgun, we must first identify the goals of our grip and understand why we are gripping the pistol the way that we are. What is it that a correct handgun grip should accomplish?

  • Control lateral movement (minimize the amount of travel the gun experiences laterally)
  • Control rotational movement (minimize the amount muzzle rise/flip that we experience during recoil)
  • Minimize and mitigate recoil for faster follow-up shots (efficiently acquiring our front sight after each shot)

Weapon Mounted LightsHow often have you prepared to fight with your firearm at night? If you were attacked at night, would you have a way to illuminate and identify your attacker(s) so that you could engage them? If you did have a means of doing so, would you know how to operate your handgun and the light at the same time? As you have probably concluded from our previous rant, we believe that All Handguns Should Come with Lights as a weapon mounted light is by far more manageable than any off-hand lighting technique. With that said, sometimes you will need to be able to implement off-hand lighting techniques no matter how well prepared you were. Whether your weapon mounted light failed or you just weren't carrying one, you should be well-versed in how to utilize a flashlight with your other hand to be able to effectively identify threats and engage them at night.

There are a number of common flashlight techniques that can be utilized in combination with a handgun. The technique(s) that you utilize will depend largely on a number of variables such as:

  • Size of the flashlight / handgun / shooters hands
  • Operation of flashlight (is the button on the side of the light, or is it activated at the tail-cap?)
  • Environmental limitations
  • Direction of travel / navigation around barricades

With that being said, let's take a look at some of the common techniques and try to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Hard Edge 1There are times where we might find it necessary to manipulate our handgun while utilizing one hand instead of two. While this is not an ideal situation, we should be aware of how to get our gun back in the fight should we use all of our ammunition or experience a malfunction. We might need to perform these tasks when we have one arm that is injured but there is still a threat present, or when we are carrying something we can't put down (such as a baby or small child). In such a scenario, we would need to be able to continue fighting with only one hand and therefore should know how to keep our gun in the fight if we only have one hand with which to manipulate it.

In order to do so, we need to understand the functions of the firearm that require two hands, and come up with a solution for simulating that second hand during the required task. For instance, racking the slide is something that would generally require two hands. Likewise, locking the slide to the rear during malfunction correction is much easier done with two hands. Retrieving a magazine during a reload is generally done with your weak hand while your strong hand holds the handgun (opposite with revolvers). In order to accomplish these tasks using only our strong or weak hand, we will need two things: a stow point to place the firearm, and a ledge to rack the slide. Let's take a look at how we can utilize the resources at hand to achieve our goals.

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