Why the Change in Focus?

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

This question was asked of me by a student, who sought me out to learn from the “point shooting/dynamic movement specialist.”

 My answer to his question was that my focus had always been on creating well-rounded and completely versatile fighters, but it was the truly reactive gun fight that had not been brought to its full potential. This substantial lack of study in this important piece of the puzzle left me in a very good position to make a name for myself while advancing  the art in a portion of the fight continuum that very few people knew well.

 I have done very well with being the “reactive gunfight/point shooting/dynamic movement specialist”………but I have never preached anything but a seamless integration of the reactive and proactive gunfight. My focus may have once been on the advancement of the art of the reactive gunfight, but it is now time to bring that same laser sharp focus to the proactive gunfight and the seamless integration of the two, into just one high quality system. The integration has always been there, but now we are looking to seamlessly combine our very high level reactive skill sets with a very high level proactive skill sets.

 When we look at the priorities of a typical civilian gun fight, the reactive skill sets are the most likely skills needed, that is if the bad guy does his job well. Concentrating on bringing these skills as far as we could take them made really good sense.

 But, times change and our situation has change.

 With the rise in terrorist attacks taking place in America and the definite reality of it simply getting worse, the need for high level proactive gunfight skills has never been as necessary as they are right now. I know…….I know the chances of one of us being there when an active shooter starts shooting up innocence is very small, but so is the need for reactive gunfight skills. Preparing for the worse, while hoping for the best is what training for self-defense has always been about. If we seriously looked at the odds of a law-abiding civilian needing high level gun fighting skills and worked our training off of those odds, we would not even need to own a gun, let alone know how to use one at a very high level. But, when your number is called and your flag goes up, the odds simply do not matter because your odds at that particular time is 100%. You are going to need these high level skills as much as you have ever needed anything in your life.

It is better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

 When we talk about an active shooter situation, we are most likely not going to be the sole individual targeted and if we are not being directly targeted our proactive skills are going to need to be at the highest levels possible.

 Fight Focused Handgun IV-Fight Focused Marksmanship (FFHIV) and Fight Focused Handgun VI-Advanced Fight Focused Marksmanship (FFHVI) are not just about creating courses that I have always wanted to create, it was also about creating a course that fits in with the circumstances that we face today. Sure the need for the reactive gunfight is not going to go away any time soon. But, in my opinion the proactive gunfight has begun to take on a much more predominant role than it has in the past, in regards to active shooters and terrorist attacks. That is what the FFHIV and FFHVI is all about. Fast and accurate sighted fire, surgical precision, positional shooting, use of cover and concealment, extremely high level controlled movement at distance, comparisons in your precision during controlled movement between the varying forms of controlled movement, and the complete study of movement in order to make the best decisions, on the best form of movement

 Everything has its place and if you do not get deep into the study, you really do not know what makes you as safe and as deadly as you can possible be. The time that I have spent of this study has shown me some very surprising things. Who would have known that I would be better shooting the “turret of the tank”, at 25 yards, with a non-dominant side two-handed grip, over that of the primary side one-handed grip? Who would have known that I was better at fast an accurate shooting at 30 yards using side stepping over the “turret of the tank” concept? Who would have know that “move-stop-shoot” at 30 yards, using the rifleman rule of three, was far better inside of FOF, than both of the last two options?

 There are still so many pieces of the puzzle that have not been explored to their full potential……so many situations where we have not nailed down what we need to do to be as deadly and safe as we possibly can. That is why the focus has changed! But, it has always been about creating the most versatile fighters that we can possible be. Being well-rounded means that you have an answer for whatever fight that shows up at your door step and only focusing on one portion of the fight continuum leaves you flat sided.

Fixing the Problem Shooter and/or Teaching the New Shooter

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

As an instructor, eventually you will run up against a student that is just not getting it. In the private sector this is not that big of a problem, but if it is your job to get a problem shooter to qualify for a professional position, it can be quite a predicament. When someone’s job is on the line, the pressure of overcoming this problem can really wear on the problem shooter. Most of the time, the problem shooter can be brought around with patients and a continuing effort of working on the fundamentals of marksmanship. For a very small percentage of problem shooters this continuing effort may still not be enough. Some students just need a different approach.

As the problem shooter, trying to fight your way through your problems can be extremely frustrating. This frustration leads to an inability to do what really needs to be done…. which is to remain calm. Once the problem shooter becomes frustrated it is very difficult to turn that around. If the student has lost their confidence, the instructor is really fighting an up hill battle. So it becomes clear that we need to do two things right off of the bat. We need the shooter to remain calm and we need to establish their confidence. By taking on a completely different approach, this breaks them away from “that same old frustrating failure.” This is a good start to “remaining calm” and a brand new clean slate for their confidence.

The job of the instructor is to get the shooter inside of their comfort zone and establish the shooters confidence. Once the comfort zone and confidence is established the instructor needs to keep complete and absolute control of that comfort zone and confidence level. Over the years of dealing with problem shooters, it became perfectly clear that this method of teaching was not just good for fixing problem shooters, it was also very good for teaching new shooters.

I really like starting people off with a nice solid Modern Isosceles. In my opinion it is a much better stance for the newbie shooter. There is much less tension in this position over that of the Weaver stance, so the problem student does not tense up and tire as quickly. It lends itself to good recoil control and it gives an excellent center-line. The basic geometry of Modern Isosceles allows the shooter to make hits without even using the sights. The grip needs to be firm and with full purchase on the handgun. The two-handed thumbs forward grip gives us both of these qualities. The goal is to point in at the targeted area and press the trigger to the rear, without coming off of the targeted area. Then recover from the recoil in a consistent  manner. A good stance and grip facilitates this perfectly. A poor stance and grip does not facilitate it at all.

Many of the problem shooters of smaller stature have a problem with remaining extended at line of sight for long periods of time as they work on their fundamentals. This leads to tension that is completely opposite of the remaining calm that we are looking for. We need to understand the shooters comfort zone and keep them from tensing up. Some ways to do this is by teaching and allowing a relaxed/lazy ready position. The first ready position to work with should be a relaxed/lazy low ready. The gun is safely lowered to the 45 degrees and the upper arms are resting on the shooters body. This allows safety, relaxation, and the ability to rest in-between strings of fire. Keep inside of the students comfort zone and they will be more relaxed, less tense, and tire less quickly.

OK, we have the Modern Isosceles, the thumb forward grip, and we have a relaxed low ready. Next, put a focal point on the upper thoracic cavity of the target for the student to focus on. I nice bright red neon sticker the size of a quarter is perfect. Have the shooter start at two yards. All the shooter is going to do is focus/lock in on the focal point, bring the gun up from the low ready till it intersects the line of sight and immediately take the shot. No transition of focus, no hesitation. Just bring it up and take the shot. Then recover back down to the relaxed low ready and rest. As the instructor, watch the hits. Remind the shooter to focus on the spot that the shooter wants the bullet to go. If the shot is low or high make sure the shooter is pressing the trigger right when the top of the slide intersects the line of sight. If the shot is off to the side make sure they are bringing the gun up in front of their dominant eye. If the shooter is right-handed and everything is off to the left, watch the wrist articulation and make sure that it is appropriate for the Isosceles. Repeat until the shooter simply can not miss. Add in controlled pairs, then burst of 3-4. Repeat until the shooter can not miss.

Watch carefully for recoil anticipation (low and to the right on right-handed shooters) and the shooter attempting to aim with the sights.

WHY?

This is the question that will always be asked! Why does it matter if the student is target focused, over being sight focused? This all comes down to gross motor skills over fine motor skills…..being globally focused over being locally focused…..using natural ability over conditioned skill sets. This takes pressure off of the student. It dumps the “conditioned response” of sighted fire and accepts the “instinctive response” of threat focused shooting. This allows the body, eyes, and mind to do what they do thousands of times a day. It is simply more natural! Natural leads to relaxation, which leads to remaining calm, which leads directly into confidence. Hard focus on the front sight while trying to get a perfect sight picture, during the inevitable infinity pattern, can be a major stumbling block for a problem shooter. They often mash the trigger at the point that the sight picture passes over the point of aim. The old mantra “front sight, front sight…….press” is often followed up by the inevitable “NOW!” which is one of the main causes of mashing the trigger and recoil anticipation. If you give the problem shooter the time to think about the recoil anticipation…..you are going to get recoil anticipation.

The next step is “driving the gun.” Teach the student a safe/relaxed/lazy compressed ready (count three of the four count draw stroke or as soon as the hands come together.)  I have a compressed ready that just rests the gun at my mid section, with the wrists and the inside of the forearms laying against the rib cage. No tension, no exertion, totally relaxed. We are now going to have the student drive the gun to the focal point. Remember that “driving the gun” is a controlled move. We have the ability to accelerate out and decelerate to extension. Drive the gun to the focal point, take the shot then recover back to compressed ready. Repeat until the student can not miss. Add in controlled pairs, burst of 3-4, and repeat until the shooter can not miss.

Remember to keep absolute control of the students comfort level and confidence level!

Time to “drive the gun” from the holster, make sure that the student is using a nice four count linear draw stroke. The focal point, the linear draw stroke, driving the gun, and taking the shot with no hesitation……these are the key factors.

At this point you should be seeing some decent success. The student should be relaxed and feeling pretty good. It is time to start moving back. The pace for moving back is up to the instructor. Remember you have now established the confidence…… you must remain in complete control of it! Moving back slowly will keep you in control. Work the low ready, the compressed ready, and from the holster as needed.

The goal is to get the shooter to easily hit everything inside of seven yards, to give them a pattern of success, to give them some confidence, to take some of the pressure off of them. You still have to work on the fundamentals of marksmanship outside of seven. But now hopefully, you have a more confident shooter, someone who now knows that they can do it. Also, someone who has built up some upper body strength due to the repetitions and someone who has learned to remain calm and not tense up. As you work on the fundamentals, as soon as the shooter gets frustrated, bring them forward and let them succeed with some threat focused shooting.

Working a problem shooter through the fundamentals can take some time. By having “inside of seven yards” down cold, this may give you the time that you need. Remind the shooter of the “importance” of inside of seven yards and how they have “the most likely” covered. Let then understand that they already have an important piece of the puzzle and the next piece (fundamentals of marksmanship) will follow as long as they remain calm, confident, and put in the work.

As instructors it is our job to help people overcome their problems. These problems do not mean that the student is anything more than someone with a problem that must be overcome. There may be events in their past that have left them recoil sensitive (a lot of shooting with a 12 gauge shotgun as a very young child, an electrical explosion in my hands, and thirty years of working a tool, where the trigger was pressed with the whole hand instead of one finger were some of my issues.) Reprogramming can be a tough job for an instructor. Here are some “less known” tricks of the trade that can make this reprogramming of a problem shooter and the teaching of a new shooter much less of a burden.

Remain calm and relaxed

Establish a pattern of success

Develop confidence

Solidify that confidence by maintaining absolute and complete control of that confidence at all times

After Action Drills

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

To quick check or to not quick check……that is the question?

The quick check is a quick look to the left and to the right after you have shot them to the ground, while still pointed in on the downed adversary. It is explained as a way to break your tunnel vision and to quickly see if there are any additional threats in the forward 180 degrees.

When done correctly the quick check is solid. But I have seen then done so badly in the past that we use to call it “the California twitch.” It all comes down to doing them at a level that allows you to actually see something while you are checking.

What say you all, do you like the quick check when it is done correctly?

Here is where I am at right now when it comes to the after action drills (AAD’s) that I am teaching.

1) Shoot them all of the way to the ground and point in at the downed adversary/adversaries.

2) While pointed in (not compressing to contact ready unless necessary) quick check left and right (while actually seeing), then return to down adversary (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three…..total time to have returned to down adversary/adversaries)

*In the real world, this of course is where you would probably be moving to cover, or to a position of tactical advantage, and doing much of what follows during that movement or after you have reach your position of advantage. In reality, these may be time compressed due to urgency, but they should not be time compressed during you training. I cover these real world movement AAD’s extensively in FFH V and FFH VI.*

3) Scan forward 180 using the third eye principle (two eyes + one muzzle = third eye principle) while looking for other potential threats, identifying their hands, and checking high and low.

4) Drop into Sul and check the rear 180. Step forward into known spaces using the best direction that you prefer balancing out your retention and marksmanship concerns. Check the hands of every person behind you to train yourself to actually see.

5) Re-evaluate down adversary/adversaries

6) Proactive reload (with retention)

7) Tactile (using the racking method) and visual medical check, done in halves or in quadrants. Wetness and color check on hand before moving to the next half or quadrant.

8) “Is this really over?” and reluctant re-holstering doing whatever needs to be done for a safe re-holstering.

Most of you guys know me……I’m a concepts guy and I see after action drills as a concept.

It is not a check list that has to be done just so, it is training in a repetition of things that should be covered. The concept is clear, but how we get there needs to be situational dependent.

If there are two adversaries, I am not shooting one to the ground before I pay attention to the other. If I am at slide lock, I am not going to quick check or scan before I have reloaded. If I am hit in an artery and I only shot 2-4 rounds, I am not going to reload with retention before I go to my tourniquet.

If I am in a public setting with innocents around I will also change my “pointed in” forward 180 scan. Since we are concept guys, that deal in situational dependent matters, I will not necessarily cover innocents unless I feel that it is the very best thing to do.

As a overly conscientious person, I realize that winning a gunfight is not just about going home. It is also about being able to live with yourself. Knowing me, if I killed an innocent, that would stay in the forefront of my thinking for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I would survive that.

If we are talking about zero dark thirty out on the streets, I have no concerns with pointing in while looking around. It is when there are innocents present that my “pointing in” will turn to Sul…….which was trained in to me during my AAD’s that I practiced on the range.

Concepts = fluidity, adaptability, and the ability to improvise on the fly, no matter what the situation is.

What say you all?

Eye/Hand Coordination, Confidence, and the Path to its Discovery and Refinement

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

Whatever you prefer to call it….. point shooting, instinctive shooting, index shooting, reactive shooting, threat focused shooting, contact shooting, blah, blah, blah……it really does not matter. The bottom line is that it is the use of ones natural eye/hand coordination to puts hits onto a targeted area. It is the ability to make the bullets go to the exact point that your eyes are focused on, from any angle or any position. Eye/hand coordination is simply a teaming up of the eyes, the mind, and the body. The mind simply directs the body to align the gun so that the point of aim intersects the line of sight at the focal point. This is easy to understand, but not all that easy to make happen on your own.

We all know that the basics of point shooting has been broken down and taught into specific positions and stances (much like the four count draw stroke.) These specifics help facilitate in the teaching of basic point shooting and are a very important key to unlocking the door to your eye/hand coordination. But, we need to understand that these are only the basics. It is my opinion, that if you were to stop there you have only glanced at 10% of this piece of the puzzle. To get the most out of point shooting you need to break away from this basic breakdown. Point shooting is not a stance, grip, position, or angle dependent skill set. It is a fluid, well-rounded, and completely versatile concept.

But, the basics are the basics and they are a necessary part of the learning progression. When we look at the basics, we usually look at the basic geometry of the body position. We teach to square up to the target with the nose and toes pointed at it. We teach to put the gun on our center-line and to hold the gun parallel to the ground. This basic geometry is virtually fool-proof and it is nearly impossible to not get hits when the basic body geometry is put into place.

It is my opinion, that there is another part of the basics that have been ignored by some of the old timers. I believe that this is done because most of the older books just deal with the absolute basics. Once you move outside of the basic body geometry and take the skills into fluid and dynamic FOF, you find that another very important basic piece of the puzzle comes into play. This would be the visual input of the eye/hand coordination equation. Brian Enos and many other firearm instructors saw the importance of visual input to facilitate making the shot at varying distances, difficulty levels, and under time constraints. I firmly believe in the concept of integrating the old with the new, in order  to become the very best that you can be.

With that said, I firmly believe in the teaching of alternative sighting methods. These methods fall squarely into the “see what you need to see” concepts. By using gun focused skills such as hard focus on the front sight, flash sight picture, front sight only, along with threat focused skills such as type two focus, aligning down the slide, and metal and meat you are teaching your brain to see what it needs to see and laying a solid foundation for your eye/hand coordination and the seamless integration between eye/hand coordination shooting and sighted fire. As I have said many times, just having the knowledge of these alternative sighting methods, your brain will know which part of this information it will need to make the hits. That is what eye/hand coordination is all about.

Once we drop the gun to below line of sight, the visual input of the shot takes on a whole new meaning. We are now working with our peripheral vision outside of our line of sight. Once again, this is something that is completely ignored by some of the old timers, but let us face the facts. When it comes to eye/hand coordination, when your mind takes in the peripheral vision information from the eyes, the mind will attempt to align the body, hand, and focal point off of that information…… whether we want it to or not. That is simply the way that the human machine works. To understand and accept this peripheral vision verification, as fact, is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing. This understanding and acceptance just leads to more confidence.

When it comes to eye/hand coordination shooting…..confidence is the king!

As we push the movement continuum with our point shooting skills, we eliminate more and more of the basic body geometry, to the point that it is almost non-existent. We can no longer rely on our center-line due to the fact that it is just too limiting to our movement options. We now have to work off our visual center-line with our eye/hand coordination. Therefore, any direction that we look gives us our basic geometry. Add to this our line of sight alternative indexing methods and our use of peripheral vision verification below line of sight and we have an amazingly versatile eye/hand coordination aiming system. This system is as simple as can be, works off of the subconscious mind under the typical physiological reactions to a life threatening encounter, and also has the advantages of absolutely excelling with dynamic movement.

A few hours of conscious thought and discovery will lead to a level of confidence, in the subconscious minds ability, that will truly amaze most people. Once you have put in the requisite amount of work at the conscious level, you may never have to visit this level again. You will have a good understanding of your eye/hand coordination and you may never again have to ask yourself what you need to see to get the hits. You will just instinctively get the hits that you need, within the correct context of the fight.

And things will never be the same!

“Only You Are Responsible For You”

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

This phrase is mentioned often inside of my safety lecture at the beginning of a class. These are not just words! It should be the very core to your gun safety philosophy. It does not matter what you know or where you learned your safe gun handling habits. It does not matter where you train right now, only you are responsible for your own safety habits.

This means that you need to look at what you have been taught or what you do and decide if it is really good enough. Remember, the most likely person that you are going to shoot IS YOURSELF!

“How good is good enough?”

Is your gun handling safety habits really good enough? When it comes down to putting unexpected holes into vital areas of your own body are you really doing the best that you can to mitigate this possibility, all while still learning to be combat effective?

Gun fighting is dangerous! Training to gun fight is also dangerous. The reality of the matter is that the more advanced that you get inside of your training, the more dangerous your training becomes. When we look at the reality of the fight and the likely issues that will arise inside of a fight, it is clear that we need to learn a lot more than just the optimal skill sets for the optimal situations. The reality of the reactive gunfight puts us in sub-optimal positions that require our safety habits to be the very best that they can be. We need to understand that the whole competition based safety habits simply may not be good enough inside of a fight or inside of fight focused training.

We all should be at the point where we at least know the Four Basic Rules of Gun Safety.

(1) Treat every gun as if it was loaded.
(2) Do not cover anything that you are not willing to destroy
(3) Keep your finger off of the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until you have made the conscious decision to shoot.
(4) Know your target and what is in line with your target, behind and in front.

But these are very general rules that do not nail down specific safety habits.

The point of this article is to talk about overlooked liabilities and bad habits, more so than rules. It is the overlooked liabilities and bad habits that really define your personal safety level. The mitigation of liabilities and bad habits are what allow you to proceed into advanced levels of training, all while keeping yourself as safe as you possibly can. I will be covering the top five overlooked liabilities and bad habits that I see inside of my courses.

Overlooked liabilities can be fixed inside of a two-day course, but as an advanced instructor teaching advance students advanced skill set, I should not have to constantly babysit people through their safety awareness. I should not have to constantly point out that safety issues are being over looked. These are all issues that should be taken care before the course by wrapping your head around the safety concerns involved with overlooking basic concepts. Sure I will remind you, but really, shouldn’t this be something that I should not have to remind people of. The whole “You know that you are jeopardizing shooting yourself because you are overlooking some very basic concepts” conversation gets very old, very quickly.

Top Three Overlooked Liabilities

Loose Garments Around Your Holster

This is by far the most commonly overlooked liability by the students. It feels as if I could spend an entire course reminding people to tuck in their loose garments around their holster. Getting a loose garment caught inside of the trigger guard while re-holstering will but an unexpected hole in you. Why would you risk such a thing over something so simple as keeping your under garment tucked in tight and your over garment clear of the holster? All of my under garments fit tight and tuck in a good 12” past my belt line to insure they do not come untucked and end up in my holster or trigger guard. When I re-holster, it is seen as an administrative process that is all geared toward a “Don’t shoot yourself stupid” mindset. My over garment is cleared completely before any re-holstering is done. I have zero concern for speed or coolness factor, such as seen on so many training DVD’s. If I need to look, I look, because it is just administrative. It is my opinion that every time you head back to ammo up, you should take a look at your garments around your holster. A couple of seconds of cheap insurance mitigates your risks substantially. If your under garment is coming untucked, tuck it in. Furthermore, take that lesson to heart, go home and find a garment that will not come untucked. It is not brain surgery or rocket science, it is basic common sense! This is something that an advanced instructor should not have to point out!

Why do under garments come untucked?

They come untucked because of the “elbow up” portion of the draw stroke and the pivoting during “the turret of the tank” concept. “A” shirts and Under Armor type garments work very well for me. They are tight, tuck in deep, and deal with the manipulation of the shoulders, without coming untucked.

Dress around your gun and test your garments before you show up in a course. An instructor should not have to show you how to dress.

Untested Gear Inside of a Course

When you show up for an advanced course, it is all about the skill sets and the corresponding mental aspect of the fight that are being taught. Your entire focus should be on these two things. Heck, that is what you paid for, right? This is not the place to try out untested gear! This is not the place to “try this and try that!” This is not the place to experiment! This is the place that you show up with what you know best and put it to use inside of the framework of the course. It is my opinion that you should plan on working with the one set up that you know the best, plan on working one gun, one holster, and one ammo supply method that you know the best. This is not the place to try out four different guns or four different set ups. You are there to learn what is being taught. Take that knowledge home and dry practice with all of your other gear. Inside of a course, where the learning curve is steep, concentrate on the course…..not your gear. Some of the most unsuccessful students that I have ever had were hardware focused and not software focused. While everyone else progressed rapidly…..they struggled to keep up. While struggling to keep up, their safety levels suffered. An advanced course is a challenge all in itself. Do not make a difficult and dangerous endeavor even more so, because you are hardware focused.

Some will read this and think that it is contradictory to the whole “Mirrored Setup” form of training inside of FFC’s most advanced courses. That would be a huge misconception! It has been written out many times to not show up in an advanced course expecting to go dual appendix unless you are absolutely ready for this type of training. These courses are not where you learn to go dual appendix, they are designed to take your advanced skill levels to the next level. You learn to go dual appendix in your dry practice, your air-soft training, and inside of the basic courses. If you are not ready to hit the ground running, do not participate in these advanced applications. Just because some students in the course have prepared themselves appropriately, does not mean that you have. And if you have not prepared yourself appropriately, deal with that reality and learn what you can without needless putting yourself at risk by biting off more than you can chew.

Having the intellect to say to yourself “I am not ready for that” is a positive trait. I will never force you to do something that you are not comfortable with. We want to challenge our advanced student base, but even more so, we want you to go home with the same number of holes that you showed up with.

Watch for and get rid of any gear that might impede with your draw stroke. There should be nothing above your holster that could cause a snag on the gun or the hands. Take the safety lessons that we learned about chest rigs in conjunction with CCW holsters and apply the same concepts across the board.

Untested Skill Sets Inside of a Course

The last topic touched on this issue. It is very common to learn untested skill sets inside of a course. The vast majority of the time this is not a safety issue. The vast majority of time that is perfectly alright and acceptable. It is when we get to the advanced training and the increase safety concerns that these issues need to be looked at more closely. This is the point where we (the instructors) need honesty from our student base. This is the point that we need the student to be honest with themselves and with us on what they are truly and safely capable of.

Everything that we learn should be run through a natural progression. This natural progression is what keeps us safe and what keeps us from biting off more than we can chew. Let’s look at one single skill set and take a look at the progression that should be involved to reach the advanced levels of the skill set. Let’s look at “Completely Ambidextrous” with the handgun skill sets. This is not something that you look at for a couple of minutes and then plan on jumping into an advanced handgun course to put into action. That would be very unwise for everyone involved. Even if you are an advanced student, there are skill sets that require you to step back to the basics, to nail down the skills that will allow you to be safe. I went through a very specific progression to be at the point that I am comfortable with my skill level, to head into completely ambidextrous shooting with a handgun.

Here is what I would recommend.

Step back to the basics and run a “secondary hand” Basic Handgun course. Run the whole two-day course with your off-hand. All manipulations, all draw strokes, and all shooting with your secondary hand. Take those skill sets and bring them home and dry practice them until you have it down cold. Have the ability to run your secondary hand at, at least 80% of your primary hand. Take a “secondary hand” intermediate level course and do the same thing, including the dry practice. Only then, after you have put in the time, step into an advanced course that runs dual appendix. We all need to recognize that it is secondary hand draw stroke and the uneducated secondary hand trigger finger that makes the dual appendix training a very high skill level skill set and high safety risk.

Put in the work and never bite off more than you can chew!

Inside of an advanced course is not the place to try to figure this all out!

Top Two Bad Habits

Slamming Your Gun Back Into Your Holster

In the past, I have covered in-depth my concerns with this epidemic. I’ve trained a lot of places and proportionally my student base is the most squared away group of students I’ve ever worked with. But even some the very best have ingrained slamming their guns into their holster.

Ingrained “slamming your gun into the holster” is not something that I can fix in two days.

The solution to the problem is not going to come out of taking a course with an instructor. The only solution has to be made by the person that has ingrained such a reckless and dangerous habit, to reprogram not just the way that they re-holster, but to reprogram the way that they think.

The slamming of the gun into the holster comes across like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. It’s like the final emphasis put on something explosive.

The thing is, that our explosiveness of the draw stroke, our movement, and our fast and accurate hits needs to be separated from the re-holstering process. The “reluctant re-holstering” process begins with our after action drills. We need to ingrain the fact that we pulled our guns out for a reason, in defense of life. We need to take that thinking and realize that you never want to re-holster until you know for a fact that the confrontation is over. “Have I stopped the threat?” “Is there anyone else engaging me right now?” “Are there additional threats to the front?” “Are there additional threats to the rear?” “Do I need more ammo in my gun?” “Have I been injured?”

And the most important question of them all…….”Is this really over?”

This process allows us to change gears from the explosiveness of our initial response, to the slow, methodical, administrative act of re-holstering the gun safely.

Let me make this clear. I am reminding myself just as much as I am reminding everyone else. As an instructor, when I am giving demo’s, it is possible to think so much about the technique that I am teaching that I do not run through the after action drills as much as I should. But it is the after action drills and the mental aspect attached to them that allows for the down shifting the will dramatically cut down on the desire to slam that gun back into your holster.

IMHO, there is no way to over stress the dangers of slamming your gun back into your holster.

Murphy is a ruthless SOB. He will jump up and pound you mercilessly if you are not careful. I do not care if you have slammed your gun in the holster hundreds of thousand times without a problem……eventually Murphy will take his pound of flesh!

Non-Robust Trigger Finger Index

This is my new pet peeve and the real catalyst for this article.

I am seeing all kinds of trigger finger indexes that would be considered all well and good inside of “The Four Rules.” But once again, this is not about target shooting holes into pieces of paper…..this is about preparing for a fight! How robust your trigger finger placement needs to be during target shooting is completely different from how robust it needs to be inside of the reality of the fight. This in turn, is simply not good enough for advanced fight focused training.

It is my opinion that your trigger finger should be indexed completely straight and up as high as possible/reasonable on the frame/slide. Indexed inside of the ejection port facilitates and very nice “shelf” that leads to a very robust trigger finger placement.

trigger finger index 002

If the trigger finger is straight, it is less likely to be effected by any sort of impact, jolt or jostle.

If the trigger finger index is up as high as possible/reasonable, this leaves us a larger “margin of error” if the gun is snagged on something during the draw stroke. This snagging, which could be due to an unwise gear choice or a Murphy moment on your garments, can lead to the gun feeling as if it is going to be ripped out of the hand. At speed, the gun feeling like it is being ripped out of the hand will probably lead to a convulsive gripping/tightening of the gun hand, which can lead to a non-robust indexed trigger finger ending up inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger.

Some other things to consider is an impact that you or your handgun made take while running behind or diving behind tight cover or when an adversary is trying to foul your draw, even something as simple as a grasp reflex, out of the startled response, can allow one to blow right through a non-robust trigger finger index.

This is something that I lecture on at the start of every course. But it is also a habit that I will simply not be able to reprogram out of an advanced student inside of an advanced course. The proper robust trigger finger index is something that needs to be ingrained before the student ever arrives inside of an advanced course. The more advanced the training is, the more important a robust index is. When we are talking about speed of the draw stroke, speed of the movement, versatile drawing/shooting positions, and possible awkward drawing/shooting positions we need to make sure that we are mitigating our risks. One of the very best things that you can do for yourself is to ingrain a robust trigger finger placement.

As it stands, I have not sent anyone packing from inside of my courses. But this one issue (robust trigger finger index) may change that very soon. If you think I am making sense here, great! Show me your robust trigger finger index inside my courses. If you strongly disagree and plan to show up to one of my courses with a non-robust trigger finger index, please do not be surprise if I send you packing.

Remember, shooting yourself affects more people than just you!

If your overlooked liabilities and bad habits look as if they might negatively affect your safety, the other students, myself, or Fight Focused Concepts……and you cannot get them straightened out………I will ask you to leave.

Becoming Completely Ambidextrous and Dry Practice

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

I remember back in 2002 when I made the decision to work to become ambidextrous. At first, I felt “inept!” I was slow, clumsy, weak, and inconsistent. I refused to accept that feeling as my reality!

Right off of the bat, I knew that I was going to have to get squared away on my own, through dry practice. The reason for this was not just about getting over my ineptitude but to get past the significant safety concerns. I had an ignorant left-handed trigger finger and an ignorant right-handed thumb. In comparison to my educated right hand trigger finger and my left hand thumb, the differences were astronomical.

I did not want to show up to a live fire course feeling inept and having major safety concerns. I did not want to be “that guy!” When I did show up to the live fire course, the instructors watched me like a hawk to make sure that I was ready…..and I was.

The time that I spent on my left-handed dry practice may have been the most valuable dry practice that I had ever put in. My right-handed skill set were never “inept,” They were just ignorant. But my left-handed skill sets did start off at “inept.”

The Stupid Trigger Finger

Make no mistake about it, until you have educated your secondary hand trigger finger……it is stupid……and stupidity can get you killed! You need to bring the level of “educated trigger finger” to the point that it is ingrained at a purely automatic level. This is an absolute “must have down cold” portion of your dry practice.

The Stupid Thumb

This is not so much a “life and death issue as it is a “don’t hurt yourself” issue. The thumb of your primary hand must learn its place when it becomes the support hand during your two-handed shooting. It must learn its “thumbs forward grip” position to keep you safe from the slide coming back and smacking the stupid appendage. That thumb is used to “wrapping” around the back strap and that is what it is going to want to do unless you train it to do something else.

Why Am I So Inept?!

This is temporary and can be moved past very quickly with dedication. “This too will pass” is the mindset that you must have. Once you get past this period of ineptitude…..it will never come back. I went away from my “mirrored set up” for a good six years. When I came back to it, it was as if I had never left it. Right now I am at about 90% of completely ambidextrous. If I did not have significant problems with my left wrist. I would be at 98%. This was not a hard level to reach. But, it had to be reached initially, through dry practice.

The Learning Progression

Dry practice until you are past being inept and unsafe.

Dry practice to the point that you acquire the skill level that will facilitate not making a mistake that could be painful or deadly.

Step back down to the fundamental courses and run them secondary hand only.

Acquire the confidence in your well-earned ambidextrous skill sets through live fire.

Step back into dry practice and practice your intermediate skill level skill sets.

Begin to work past the fundamentals and start working fluid, well-rounded, and versatile skill sets.

Take these skill sets into the intermediate live fire courses.

Step back into dry practice and work your advanced skill sets.

Take those skill sets into the advanced live fire courses.

This is the progression that I took and it is the progression that I would recommend to all of my students. Do not be “that guy!” You know what I say about “that guy”…….he can get somebody dead real quick!

Got Completely Ambidextrous? (New Article)

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

From Fight Focused Handgun III, to Fight Focused Handgun V, and Beyond

To the vast majority of trainers and students out there, my flagship Fight Focused Handgun III – Point Shooting Concepts (FFH3) course would be seen as an advanced course. Those that train with me know that in reality, it is actually nothing more than an introductory course to the true realities of fighting with your handgun. The course is perceived as being advanced due to the fact that we do not accept that the fundamentals of marksmanship are the “end all be all” to fighting. While they are important, they are just one piece of the overall puzzle. To be as deadly as you can possibly be, while fighting for your life with a handgun, there are many more pieces that need to be added to the puzzle.

I remember the very first FFH3 course that I taught and how before it was even over, the students were asking me “where do I go from here……what is next?” This is a very important question and one that needs to be answered. I could have just created another course that had a few more advanced drills in it and continued to ride the wave of success…….or I could do what I believe to be right and create a course that actually is more advanced and does prepare my student base at a higher level, inside of the matters of “life and death.” The easy route for my students and I, would be the first option. The problem with the second option is how it required me taking a good number of my students and pushing them outside of their comfort level and their belief system.

From the very first, I felt that the Fight Focused Handgun V – Advanced Point Shooting Concepts (FFH5) should be heavily focused on becoming completely ambidextrous. I still vehemently feel that way today!

To become completely ambidextrous, the most efficient and effective training requires mirrored set ups, consisting of a holster on each side of the body and a magazine pouch on each side of the body. We are not talking about becoming partially ambidextrous. Handing the gun over to the non-primary hand is entry-level as far as being ambidextrous. To become completely ambidextrous means, that you can and that you do, everything on the non-primary side that you do on the primary side. About 50% of my student base shows up to the FFH5 course with mirrored set ups. I would say that another 25% wished that they did and end up showing up the second day with a mirrored set up. It is the remaining 25% that this article is aimed at.

The most common reason that I hear for not wanting to train with a mirrored set is “I do not carry that way, so I do not believe that I should train that way.” Guess what? I do not carry that way either! For me, this is not about training for carrying in a mirrored set up. Sure, I could do it at a very high level if I wanted to and if I was planning on just hanging out in Detroit or some other God forsaken part of the country . But I do not hang out in Detroit, so I do not carry in a mirrored setup. Training with a mirrored set up is about much more important things than carrying in that manner. It is about training to be completely ambidextrous, totally well-rounded, thoroughly fluid, and without any weaknesses or chinks in my armor. It is about training to have all of my “most likely” covered to the very best of my ability. You see, needing to be very good with your non-primary hand is not a luxury…….it is a necessity.

For those that have taken force on force (FOF), how many times were you shot in your primary hand or arm? How many times have you heard about people in gun fights being shot in the primary hand or arm? This is a reality that we have to face, but it is not even the most likely reason that you need to be good with your non-primary hand. How many times have you heard of shooters who injury their primary hand or arm in completely unrelated (to guns) accidents? How many times have you heard people admit in despair, when they realize that they have not taken the time or put in the work and now they have to carry a gun without the proper skill level. On the other hand, how many times have you heard the glee in a person’s voice when they find themselves injured and find themselves prepared for that injury due to having the skills to overcome their problem. Now this is the most common of situations where you are going to wish that you had trained with a mirrored set up!

Being completely ambidextrous is like knowing how to point shoot. You all have heard me say this hundreds of times…..”It is not about point shooting, it is about what point shooting allows you to do.” On the same token……..”It is not about being completely ambidextrous, it is about what being completely ambidextrous allows you to do!” Overcoming injuries is marginally interesting! The real benefits to being completely ambidextrous do not even show themselves until you are at the upper echelon of your advanced training. We have the obvious skill sets where you benefit such as shooting around cover and shooting on the move, but that is nothing compared to your abilities inside of CQB and structure clearing. In my opinion, this reason and this reason alone, is not only the number one reason to own completely ambidextrous skill sets, but the most important reason to own ambidextrous skill sets at an exponential level. If you are clearing structures using your primary hand only, you may as well tie the other one behind your back. It is my opinion that you are handicapping yourself to a level that borders on insanity.

Clearing structures should flow like water. A right-handed corner needs right-handed skill sets and a left-handed corner requires left-handed skill sets. The transfers should flow without any thought and the ambidextrous retention concept should be as fluid as your movement. All of the things that you need to do to keep from being seen and shot, while fluidly keeping the handgun in the most advantageous positions as possible is not going to take place unless you have taken the time and put in the work to acquire completely ambidextrous skill sets. Training with a mirrored set up is the beginning of this path.

I do not sell holsters, magazine pouches, or handguns. I am not telling you all this to sell gear. I am telling you all this because it is what I believe, what I have experiences, what I have seen, and what I know to be the very best information that I can find for my student base. If you trust me to teach you the very best information that I can find…….trust me on this!

In the last two FFH5 the student base safely reached a completely ambidextrous skill level that was simply amazing. We did this in a very safe and methodical manner through dry practice and repetition. The experience from those two course and those two groups of students, has solidified my resolve to continue on this path of excellence. It had such a profound effect on me that I have now introduced a new course called Fight Focused Handgun VI – Advanced Fight Focused Drills (FFH6.) This course is going to pick up right where we left off in the FFH5 course. It is going to be heavy on completely ambidextrous while running the most advanced of the drills that have ever been seen inside of any of the Fight Focused Concepts courses.

If this is a skill that you would like to improve on, come on out to Vegas April 25-28, 2015