Owning and Carrying a Handgun 101 Part Two

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

With an up coming “fundamentals” handgun course coming up soon, I decided to step back to the very basics of owning and carrying a handgun for self-defense reasons. Here is a very brief look at the very basics of this very important decision and topic.

This take on these basic concepts are geared toward Nevada state law. Please check the laws in the area that you live.

Safe Storage of Your Firearm

You must at all times take reasonable precautions to ensure that your firearm is kept out of the reach of unauthorized users.  The level of precautions is situationally dependent.  You need to look at your specific situation and identify potential risks involved inside your “reasonable precautions.” Situations vary dramatically.  The situation could be a lone home owner that rarely has any one, beside himself, in his house.  The situation could be a young couple with new born child.  The situation could be a house full of children.  The situation could be a family that has people inside of the house that may have drug, alcohol, emotional problems or violent tendencies.  The different situations are endless!

You need to tailor your safe storage around your situation and the inherit risks of your situation.  You must look at this from every conceivable angle.  It is not just about who lives in the house, but who visits the house.  Even if your family is gun smart and safety oriented, does not mean that your visitors are.  The crime rate in your neighborhood may also be an extenuating factor.  You may need your gun rapidly accessible when you are home and locked away securely when you are not.  You must carefully weigh and balance your self-defense needs with your safe storage needs.  There are many safe storage options available.  These options allow for specific levels of accessibility and security.  You must tailor your specific needs to your specific situation.  We must all be aware of the possible “criminal negligence” charges that we could be filed against us if our gun is taken or stolen from our house and used in a crime or involved in an accident.

Guns that are not going to be in use for a while should be unloaded, cleaned, lubricated, and locked up in an appropriate manner.

Children in the Home

There are very few things more devastating than an injury or death of a child due to improper safe storage or firearm education.  Any house hold that has children (whether they live there of just visit) need to have special precautions put into place.  Young children are naturally curious.  They will explore every nook and cranny of your home if they have the time or opportunity to do so.  The idea of being able to simply hide the gun is not a reality.  If you have children you must lock your gun away to insure “safe storage.” It is not just about your children, it is about every child that may visit your home.  Teenagers bring a whole new set of concerns to you safe storage tactics.  Peer pressure, rebellion, alcohol, and drugs are all too prevalent in today’s society.  Once again you must analyze your situation and make the moves that you need to make to insure that your firearm is not accessible to unauthorized people.

Children and Gun Safety Education

This is a very important tool towards keeping you and your loved ones safe.  Teaching your children a healthy respect for firearms early is time well spent.  Teaching them safety is only one aspect of this.  By teaching your children to shoot, you take away the “mystique” of the gun.  You get them past the “curious” stage which lowers their desire to touch “what should not be touched.” Teaching your children to shoot “watermelons” show your children the destructive power of the gun and makes them understand how dangerous it is to touch guns without parental supervision.

NRA Eddie Eagle program is a very good program for the education of your children.  The Eddie Eagle gun safety message is, “Stop, Don’t touch, Run Away, and Tell a Grown Up.”

Owning and Carrying a Handgun 101 Part One

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator Of Fight Focused Concepts

With an up coming “fundamentals” handgun course coming up soon, I decided to step back to the very basics of owning and carrying a handgun for self-defense reasons. Here is a very brief look at the very basics of this very important decision and topic.

This take on these basic concepts are geared toward Nevada state law. Please check the laws in the area that you live.

Firearm Safety

When it comes to firearms, there is no more important element than safety.  The decision to carry concealed makes this even more important.  As we begin to make carrying a gun part of our daily life, the absolute need for solid safety habits increases exponentially.  Safe gun handling requires solid knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  The knowledge of safe gun handling rules, the skills to be able to apply these rules, and the attitude that you will always make safety the first priority due to the inherit dangers of a firearm.

Fundamental Rules of Firearm Safety

Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.  This is the “golden rule” of safe gun handling.  So what is a safe direction? The priorities are to not point the gun at yourself or at anyone else.  The most likely person that you are going to “cover” (point the gun at) is yourself.  Do everything that you can to avoid this.  In turn it becomes common courtesy to do everything you can to not point your gun at anyone else.  If a gun is not pointed at you or anyone else, if there was a negligent discharge nobody would be injured or killed.  You should also never point your gun at anything that would be considered flammable or explosive.  We also want to consider “damage” into this equation.  Do not point your gun at things that could sustain substantial monetary damage.  What is a safe direction is completely situational.  For example, you would not want to point the gun downward if you are on the second floor or on a boat.  You would not want to point the gun upward if you had people living above you.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Always Keep your Finger Off of the Trigger until Ready to Shoot

The finger should be kept straight along the frame of the gun to prevent negligent discharges.  Many people have a very bad habit of putting their finger on the trigger as soon as they pick up a gun.  Hollywood has ingrained and perpetuated this dangerous habit in many people.  The trigger finger should be extended fully and solidly set along the frame, to prevent accidentally pressing the trigger even out of a startled response.  The grasp reflex out of the startled response has been the cause of many negligent discharges.  That is why you keep the trigger finger completely straight and solidly on the frame.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Always Keep the Firearm Unloaded until Ready to Use

A firearm that is not being used should always be kept unloaded with the action left open.  Self defense and concealed carry firearms are often carried and stored in a loaded condition.  So the importance of the first and second rules of firearms safety cannot be emphasized strongly enough.  As a general rule, whenever you pick up a firearm you should point the gun in a safe direction, keep your finger off of the trigger, and check to verify whether the gun is loaded or not.  Treat every gun as if it was loaded.

Additional Safety Information

In addition to the three basic rules of safety there are some other considerations.

Know your target and what is in line with your target, in front and behind.

It is imperative that you know your target.  Target identification is very important so that you do shoot an innocent by mistake.  It does not matter where you are shooting, make sure that you pay attention to what is in line with your target, both in front and behind.  On the range you want to make sure that there is an adequate back stop to stop and hold your bullets.  In self-defense encounters you want to make sure that there are no innocence in line with your target.

Learn How to Use your Specific Gun Safely

Before handling your gun, read and familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions on the safe operation of that specific model.  Learn as much about your gun as you can before you pick it up, including the nomenclature of the parts, the operation of the action, and the loading and unloading procedures. For firearms to work safely and reliably they need correct ammo and regular cleaning.

Maintain Your Firearm

Just like your car, if you want your gun to be safe and reliable you need to keep it up with the maintenance.  Cleaning your gun is one of the most important parts of this maintenance. Keeping your gun clean will prevent malfunctions, protect your gun from corrosion, allow you to inspect for damage. Safety is always a prime consideration before you start cleaning your gun. The first thing you need to do is carefully unload your gun.  Like a good mechanic for your car, you are going to need a good gunsmith for your handgun.

Only Use the Recommended Ammunition for your Gun

This information can usually be found on the barrel or the slide of your gun, in your manufacture’s owner manual, and on the side of the ammunition box.  Make sure that you cross-reference this information and guarantee that you are using the correct ammunition for your gun.  Using the wrong could have deadly consequences.  Just because a cartridge fits the chamber does not mean it is the correct ammo for the gun. As a general rule soft or hollow point, expanding bullets are more effective for self-defense.

Safety Equipment

Eye and ear protection should be used whenever possible.   The loud sound of gun fire can damage your hearing.  Gasses and debris can be emitted from the gun while firing.  This could cause eye injury.

Guns, drugs, and/or alcohol should never be mixed!

You need to be at the very top of your game when shooting or carrying your firearm.  Anything that impairs you mentally or physically should be avoided if you are shooting or carrying. Always refrain from drinking any alcoholic beverages while shooting!

Any Shooting, Training, or Carrying Endeavor Involves a Risk

Assess the risks involved in each activity and always practice solid common sense firearm safety practices.  When shooting at an organized event, make sure that you read and understand all of the rules of the range.  Obey all range commands.  Firearms safety is every ones responsibility, not just the range master or the instructor. When on a firing range, all firearms should have their muzzles pointed down range, unless they are in a gun case, in a storage rack, or in a holster. When anyone is down range all handguns should be unloaded, have the actions open, and should not be handled.

If you witness someone using a gun in an unsafe manner, you should tell the range master, tell the instructor, or politely inform the person that what they are doing is not safe.

The Fundamentals of Fight Focused Handgun Part Four

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

The Eye/Hand Coordination Draw Stroke

When everything else mentioned before is put in place, it is your draw stroke that gets you onto the targeted area. The sights are nothing more than a final 2%-5% verification of an already accurate aim, that came out of your draw stoke. The concept behind the eye/hand coordination draw stroke (EHCDS) is to lock in on a dime size focal point, right on the targeted area and use the very best eye/hand coordination and body mechanics to “drive the gun to the focal point.” The body goes where the eyes go and the bullet goes where the eyes go. Lock in hard on the focal point and use straight lines to drive the gun, in the most efficient and effective manner possible, directly to the focal point.

The EHCDS is a study of the perfection of the body mechanics in correlation to the perfection of your eye/hand coordination. We are looking at “the perfect balance of speed and control” out of the irrefutable law of physics call “economy of motion.” What this means is that we are looking to mitigate any wasted movement or disruption, while remaining as efficient and effective as we can.

Many people love to make a big deal out of “muscle memory.” But the reality is that muscle memory is an entry-level concept that will eventually need to be moved past, for the more advance concept of eye/coordination. Eye/hand coordination is how we do things in our every-day world and it is much more valuable than muscle memory because it makes us much more well-rounded and versatile. This versatility allows us to improvise, adapt, and overcome inside of the fluid dynamics of a fight. It also allows us to take our God-given abilities into the most advanced possibilities. Muscle memory is mildly interesting…….but eye/hand coordination is King!

Eye/hand coordination allows us to make a free throw, throw a pitch, make a three-point shot, pass a football, shoot a long bow, drive a car, and countless other endeavors. It is how the amazing human machine works! This is why that it is a fact that it is your EHCDS that gets you on target at logical distances.

Whether we are able to get to the sights or not, due to the dynamics of the fight, we all need to understand and accept the correlations between sighted fire and point shooting. It is all “just shooting” and the only thing that matters is if we win and no innocents get hurt. The EHCDS facilitates this at logical distances.

Inside of the Fight Focused Handgun courses that I teach, sighted fire and point shooting are taught at the very same time. Because it is all just about getting the hits inside of the situation that you are dealing with. I talk non-stop about the correlations between the two forms of shooting. They are taught these four fundamentals, all while discussing the realities of the fight, and the correct context of the fight. But, the bottom line is that the first few live fire drills run inside of this course are run before we have even covered the fundamentals of marksmanship and the use of the sights. The first few drills are all about the EHCDS and driving the gun to the focal point. This approach sets the stage because it covers what we do at the beginning of the draw stroke……not what we do towards the end of the draw stroke.

Once the EHCDS is put in place, teaching somebody the fundamentals of sighted fire is actually much easier because the use of the sights is just something done at the end of the perfection of the body mechanics and the eye/hand coordination.

Let me ask all of you a couple of questions.

What percentage does your body mechanics and eye/hand coordination get you on the targeted area?

Mine gets me about 98% of the way there.

If this is so, why would it not be best to start the training with what we do at the beginning of the draw stroke instead of what we do towards the end of the draw stroke?

The Fundamentals of Fight Focused Handgun Part Three

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

The Grip

The grip is one of the most important of the fundamentals!

Without a good grip, all else suffers.

In the beginning of my training progression, I took around forty-five Modern Techniques courses and the “Weaver” is the way that I was originally taught to shoot. While there is nothing really wrong with the Weaver, it is not the way that I prefer to shoot now. As I grew in skill and knowledge, my focus changed to being fight focused. This change in focus lead me to understand the extreme importance of one-handed shooting and I found that the one-handed methodology of the Modern Techniques was not up to par with some of the combat proven methodologies of the past. As I looked at the work of Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate I began to see that the two-handed Modern Isosceles was much more in line with the reality based aspects of fighting with your handgun.

When it comes to my two-handed grip, I basically use what is used by most of the top competitors and operators in the world, the thumbs forward grip of the Modern Isosceles.

The Master Grip (please make sure your pistol is unloaded)

The master grip is your starting point, it is the grip of the firing side hand. It remains the same no matter what else inside of your grip needs to be adjusted to the situation. It allows for fast and accurate shooting with a full two-handed grip, a modified two-handed grip, and the one-handed grip. This is all about getting high on the handgun for recoil control, proper cycling of the slide, and aligned with the forearm to give skeletal structure behind the handgun. The web of the hand is as high up on the back strap and under the tang as possible. The middle finger as up as high as possible under the trigger guard. The thumb and the trigger finger are both pointed forward as if the handgun was nothing more than an extension of your pointed finger or thumb. The grip pressure is that of a man shaking another man’s hand.

All of these things add up to a high and firm grip, with plenty of structure behind the handgun, that will allow the handguns slide to cycle as designed, and for there to be a good level of recoil control. This is a great foundation for one-handed and two-handed shooting. If you are going to use one-handed shooting you may want to supplement your grip by tightening your grip and adding tension to the full length of your arm.

The Support Hand Grip

The support hand grip is all about achieving as much purchase on the handgun as possible. From your master grip examine the portion of the frame that is still exposed around your master grip. The concept is that of using your support side hand as a jigsaw puzzle piece to fill in the exposed portion of the frame of the gun. Remember this is all about the amount of purchase on the handgun? If we just grab the handgun with our support side hand, you see that there is still a good deal of frame exposed. The only way to get as full of a purchase as possible is to cam the support side hand, with the thumb moving significantly forward, along the frame and under the slide. When viewed from the top of the gun, the support side thumb should be extended forward near the same length as your straight trigger finger. The support side index finger should be as high as possible under the trigger guard. This is the thumbs forward grip and is very different from the high thumbs grip of the Modern Techniques or the thumbs locked down of the revolver shooters.

The strength of the support side grip is once again….”how a man shakes another man’s hand.”

The isometric tension is not the “push/pull” of the Modern Techniques (like placing the front strap and the back strap in a vise.) The isometric tension is in the full purchase of the firm grip, with nearly equal pressure on all four sides of the frame of the handgun. Along with the full purchase the support side hand in it’s cam like positioning, it is applying rearward cam like pressure to the lower portion of the front strap. The ring finger and the pinky (especially the pinky) are very important in recoil control and fast and accurate follow up shots. This cam like pressure at the lower front of the grip, combined with a the firing side web of the hand high under the tang, leads to the very best recoil control as possible. The recoil does not just snap the upper rear portion of the handgun rearward, it snaps the lower front portion of the grip forward, The cam like pressure of the support side hand mitigates the lower portion of the grip from snapping forward.

Both arms should be nearly straight with a decent level of tension. The cam like pressure may leave the support side arm actually higher than the firing side arm. Round it out with a stable fighting platform and with a good fighting structure and we are ready to move on to the draw stoke.

Questions are more than welcome.

“Question everyone and everything!”

The Fundamentals of Fight Focused Handgun Part Two

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

The Fighting Structure

In the last article, we discussed the stable fighting platform. If you noticed, I did not go into The Weaver, The Isosceles, The Modern Isosceles, or the Fairbairn and Sykes Combat Crouch. The reason for this is because each of these methodologies have their place inside of the reality of the fight. I am not here to tell you that what I advocate is the only way to do something, there are many ways to skin a cat and I am just discussing the things that I prefer and why I prefer them.

As we work up the body, from the fighting platform, we need to look at the fighting structure before we begin to discuss the grip.

Inside of most self-defense applications of the handgun, there are very specific reality’s that effect our physiological responses. These responses are dictated by your position inside of the reactionary curve. You are either going to be ahead in the reactionary curve, at equal initiative, behind in the reactionary curve, or way behind in the reactionary curve. This reality on whether we are proactive or reactive is paramount. There is no more important factor than this one issue! This is the genesis from which all of our responses originate from! It leads us to something that I call “the balance to hit and to not be hit.” This balance is huge when we discuss our platform, structure, and grip. The level and direction of the pressure that you are dealing with effects your physiological response, your necessary retention considerations, and your corresponding structure.

“Nobody wants to be 6’4″ when bullets are incoming.”

This is a reality that most of the target shooting based methodologies do not consider. The physiological desire to make yourself smaller when there is incoming fire is well documented. The bending of the knees mentioned in the last article is only one method of making yourself smaller. Another method is the dropping of the head and the hunching of the shoulders in order to protect the head. This is commonly called “turtling” inside of the Modern Isosceles circles. While some people believe that this is not the most appropriate way to shoot a handgun, it does make a lot of sense when we talk about the reality of the fight and the corresponding physiological effects of not wanting to be shot.

The fight focused world is a 360 degree world and we need to have the ability to fight in every direction on the clock, while moving (controlled or dynamically) to any direction on the clock. Planting yourself in the kill zone, on the line of attack, and using a default, high pectoral, linear, two-handed draw stroke may not even be close to the best answer to the problem, especially when behind in the reactionary curve. Our fighting structure needs to be a fluid structure that allows us to be as deadly as we can possible be, all while keeping us as safe as possible. One handed skill are just as important as two-handed skills. It is your hands and your grip that limits your movement. When we are looking to dodge the adversaries attack/aim we cannot have our movement limited in any manner.

The amount that the situation allows us to project the handgun towards the adversary is something that is often missed by the pistol-vs-pistol crowd, that does not train for attacks by edged or blunt weapons. The retention concept is a fight focused concept that understands that it not always pistol-vs-pistol and that projecting a handgun toward an edged or blunt weapon attack is a fools mistake. The fluid structure of the retention concepts allows us to make the hits at whatever retention level is needed to keep us as safe as possible. This fluid retention level requires us to make changes to our structure in order to recover from recoil in the most efficient manner possible and have enough structure behind the handgun so that it functions correctly. Full extension has skeletal structure behind the gun (long straight bones) but the more we break down the skeletal support, inside of the retention concept, the more we have to bring muscular support to the fore front. A tight grip is not enough to insure good recoil control and the proper function of your handgun. This requires building a structure behind your handgun that starts from your feet, continues up through the body, and down the arms. The stable fighting platform, the aggressive forward lean, the turtling, that ability to fight in every direction on the clock, the use of the skeletal structure, the necessary tension of the muscular structure inside of the retention concept, and your grip all add up to your fighting structure.

Next article will be on the specifics of the grip.

Questions are more than welcome!

“Question everyone…..question everything!”

The Fundamentals of Fight Focused Handgun Part One

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

This is going to be a multiple part article that takes an in-depth look at the fundamentals of the art of fighting with your handgun.

We all know that the fundamentals of marksmanship (FOM) are very important, but they are not the “end all be all” that some would lead you to believe. While I teach the FOM, I teach them within their correct context, meaning I let you know the how, where, when, and why and the common sense behind these factors. I also teach much more in regards to the context of the fundamentals of fight focused handgun (FOFFH.) The FOM are relatively easy to teach and learn, but the FOFFH are much more involved, much more in-depth, and allow us to cover the reality of the fight in a much more efficient manner, due to how well-rounded the methodology is. The FOFFH leave us in the position to be extremely versatile, with the ability to improvise and adapt to the very wide spectrum of the reality of the fight. I call this wide spectrum of possibilities “The Fight Continuum.”

The reality of the fight is determined by the vast number of situations that you can possibly run into. Since the bad guys are the ones that initiate the fight, “the fight will be what the fight will be.” It is our job to take what has shown up on our door step and turn it into something that allows us to take back the lost initiative and turn the fight into the fight that we want it to be. This is of paramount of importance to the FOFFH! As good guys we do not dictate the way the fight starts, all we can do is take what is given to us and turn it into something that is as advantageous as we can possibly make it. When we look at all of the ways that we can be attack, it is very clear that the FOM are only a small part of the knowledge and skills that we need to have.

“Situations dictate strategies, strategies dictate tactics, and tactics dictate techniques.”

Techniques are nothing more than a very wide range of fluid concepts, that you have ingrained in through your training, that allow you to plug them into the specifics of the situation that has presented itself to you.

Versatility such as this is not simple, it requires knowledge, training, reflection, and repetition. But on the flip side of the coin, it is not complicated. When you study the reality of the fight, this versatility is as fundamental as it can possibly be. For a recent example of how fundamental this is, all you have to do is look at the Mixed Martial Arts of Ultimate Fighting. The only way you can compete is to be well-rounded, versatile, and have an answer for whatever your adversary brings to you. Believing that all you will ever need is awareness, mindset, and the FOM is nothing more than wishful thinking.

With that said, let’s get started.

The Stable Fighting Platform

Newbie’s like to talk about “stance,” but that is usually coming from the world of target shooting. Advanced students of fighting prefer to deal in terms such as stable fighting platform (SFP.) The advanced students understand that a “stance” is nothing more than a starting point from which their SFP starts. For the SFP we are looking for something athletic, (because fighting is an athletic endeavor) something that facilitates good balance, something that gives you good stability, and something that allows for and facilitates quality movement options. Balance is usually about how wide (side to side) your stationery foot placement is. I find that my best stationery balance is when my foot placement is just to the outside of my shoulders. My movement based balance comes from the study and training of quality athletic/fighting foot work. The very foundation of quality movement based balance comes down to the lowering of the base, by the bending of the knees, which lowers the center of gravity. This type of lowering of the based is also very beneficial inside of number of aspects of movement, well beyond just balance.

Stability is all about creating a robust platform that helps control recoil, helps deal with your adversaries forward drive, and helps keeps your gun lock in on the targeted area while moving. Stationary stability comes from one foot being positioned forward and one foot being positioned rearward, much like a typical boxers stance. This is also very good for movement since it is an athletic position. It is also very helpful to have an aggressive forward lean. Standing with your feet on or near the same horizontal line, standing straight up and down, or leaning back leads to very poor stability. Stability starts from the ground, but it continues up through the entire body, and out to the very grip on the handgun. This stability has a lot of influence on your recoil control and you ability for fast and accurate follow-up shots. During movement , whether controlled of dynamic, having the ability to stabilize the handguns index on the targeted area requires a perfect balance of tension and relaxation, dependent on the situation and the necessary speed of you movement.

Good athletic balance and stability, positively and directly affects your ability to facilitate quality movement. Whether you are using controlled movement, so you can get your sights or dynamic movement with your point shooting skills, having good balance and stability puts you in the best possible position to get off of the line of attack.

When extreme precision is needed, skeletal support is always better that muscular support. Straighten out the legs to take the muscles out of play and rely of the straight bones to give you the most stable fighting platform that the situation will allow. If possible, use braced positional shooting to further stabilize your fighting platform.