Fighting Smarter by Tom Givens

27-Jan-15 – 01:58 by ToddG

fightingsmarter-tomgivensFighting Smarter: A Practical Guide for Surviving Violent Confrontations by well known instructor Tom Givens has now been released in a new, updated 3rd Edition available from Amazon.

While students often judge instructors based on the number of gun battles the instructor has been in, it seems obvious that a better measure would be the number of his students who have succeeded in self-defense shootings. By that measure, Givens is quite literally perfect. More than 60 of his students have had to defend themselves with firearms and all of them — 100% — were the victors.

That’s 100% success. Those are students ranging from a little old lady (literally) to every other imaginable demographic. When they’ve been faced with a violent attack and used a gun in self-defense, they’ve won.

Every. Single. Time.

So if you are someone who may face a violent attack, and you are someone who chooses to have a gun for self-defense, Fighting Smarter by Tom Givens just might teach you some things that you’d find helpful. Just a thought…

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

All or Nothing: The Press-Out

21-Jan-15 – 02:50 by ToddG

As anyone who has followed me here or on has to know, I’m a big fan of a technique called the press-out. So following up on last week’s “All or Nothing: Unsighted Fire” I thought turnabout is fair play and so I’ll examine the pros and cons of this technique and why it’s the right choice for some uses and the wrong choice for others.

The way I’ve historically taught a press-out involves bringing the gun from the holster up to eye level and then doing three things simultaneously:

  1. extending the gun
  2. aligning the sights
  3. pressing the trigger

It basically moves in an upside down “L” shape. The gun moves in a straight line from holster to in front of the face, and then in a straight line to the target.

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This puts the sights between your eyes and your target as early as possible. It gives you a drawstroke that doesn’t rely on any practiced index and makes sure you don’t touch the trigger until you are absolutely certain that the sights are aligned exactly on the point of the target you want to hit. If you use a high ready position (as I do) it also moves the gun through that ready position, giving your practice a universal application whether you’re starting with the gun in or out of your holster.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is what I’ve frequently called the “index” draw. The index draw relies on a very simple principle: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Here is Ron Avery explaining and demonstrating the technique:

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The gun drives straight from the holster to a fully extended position at eye level. It’s arguably the absolute fastest way you can make an aimed shot. The most common objection to the straight line draw is that it won’t work if there’s a steering wheel or table or any other obstacle that you’d hit with the gun as you swing it forward.

There are two variants of that straight line draw. The first (which has been taught in defensive shooting classes since the beginning of defensive shooting classes) is to punch the gun out, then align the sights, and then make contact with the trigger to break the shot. Obviously, that’s a very slow process. Doing each of those things in sequence takes more time than doing them simultaneously (as in the press-out).

Making the straight line draw fast relies on a practiced index — meaning the gun goes precisely where you want it every time you draw, literally bisecting the line of sight without any visual reference before the gun is fully extended — and, more importantly, a willingness to get on the trigger before you see your sights. Advocates of this technique usually discuss it in a competition context when the entire down range area is safe. If you had to shoot over the heads of a crowd of children in, say, a school shooting you’d be pressing on the trigger as the gun was pointed at those children. And in a match, you have time to think in advance about what you’ll do if there is an obstacle blocking your draw.

The biggest challenge with the straight line draw is building up that perfect index. Plenty of people can do it to a big target like an IDPA or USPSA “A” zone at close range. Once you start applying the technique to lower probability targets (smaller, farther, or obscured targets) you see success requires a lot of practice. Otherwise, the gun is extended but not pointed exactly where it needs to be, taking time to get the gun and sights on target before the shot can be finished. Many of the people I see who can reliably hit the 3×5 card at 7yd during a F.A.S.T. run spend hours and hours every week practicing in dry fire on top of range practice. But if you can devote that effort to your skill building, and you can accept getting on the trigger before you see your sights, there’s simply no faster way to draw when you have the open space in front of you.

Somewhere between the L-shaped press-out and the straight line draw is a decades old technique first described in Brian Enos’s book Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals. It is essentially a J-shaped draw that moves the gun in a more direct path than the first option but gets the sights in front of your eyes sooner than the second. I think of it as rounding the hard edge between the “up” and “out” phases of the L-shaped draw.

The Enos “J” draw gets the gun high enough to see the sights in your peripheral vision to verify that it’s pointed at the target before you start pressing the trigger, but doesn’t take the time to bring the sights right into the eye line. It gets the gun up high enough to avoid obstacles and allows you to judge if/when it’s safe to begin pressing the trigger. The “J” draw is still a press-out by my definition, but it’s one that literally cuts corners to deliver the gun at full extension faster. Because the shooter’s eyes aren’t looking through the sights as early as in the “L” draw, it benefits from the same index building practice as the straight line draw.

After teaching and using the L-shaped draw for more than a decade, I am coming around to the J-shaped Enos draw. As a shooter, it allows me to avoid a sharp stop/start in my drawstroke, saving time as long as my rough index is good enough to get the gun close to where I need it before I see the sights. It also requires less bend in the elbow which is easier for me right now.

As an instructor, it’s easier to teach because students don’t need to change the orientation of the gun from a muzzle up angle to flat and level. This saves not just time but also allows the student to skip over a  conscious step that otherwise complicates the press-out technique.

So which is best? Examine the good and bad and decide which works best for you right now, and keep an open enough mind that you can examine it again in the future to see if something else works better for you down the road.

Train hard & stay safe! TPOG

New Raven Eidolon Modular Holster

17-Jan-15 – 20:06 by ToddG


I’m an AIWB (appendix inside the waistband) holster kind of guy and have been, exclusively, for many years.

Raven Concealment System‘s first foray into AIWB holsters (the ACR), was not a holster I liked. And I said so. More than once. Raven’s second foray into AIWB (the Vanguard 2), was not something I liked. And I said so. More than once.

Unlike many companies that get upset if you fail to endorse their products, Raven instead sent me a pre-release version of its newest AIWB capable holster, the Eidolon. They’re only available presently for Glocks but other models are obviously coming.

I say it’s AIWB capable because it is not specifically designed only for AIWB use. It is also capable of being set up as a standard behind/on the hip IWB. It will accept all current mini-Red Dot sights. It works with suppressor barrels. It works with most extended controls. It has a unique way of retaining the pistol that isolates the front of the trigger guard rather than the entire area of a gun. From an AIWB perspective it has wedges (first seen on the Garrity In-Victus) as well as a “claws” (similar to the wing on the 5-Shot SME) that can be used together or piecemeal to provide the optimum 3-dimensional position for concealment, comfort, and speed.

That’s the Eidolon (which I jokingly tell people is pronounced “LEGO” for apparent reasons).

If you stop by Raven’s booth at SHOT and mention my name, they’ll give you a free complete Eidolon kit plus $100.*

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

* note, stopping by Raven’s booth at SHOT and mentioning my name won’t get you anything but a quizzical stare and, possibly, a kick in the shins.


Accuracy Matters

17-Jan-15 – 01:41 by ToddG

The Burton 9mm Commander averaged 1.507″ five shot groups from a foam rest at 25yd. Ammunition is Federal 124gr +p HST. This is the best of the groups at 0.776 inches.


Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

All or Nothing: Unsighted Fire

14-Jan-15 – 04:10 by ToddG

Hackathorn’s Law: under stress you won’t try to do anything you’re not confident you can accomplish.

Lately I’ve seen quite a few discussion about sighted vs. unsighted fire both at and on Ballistic Radio‘s FaceBook page. And like so many internet discussions it seems to devolve into an all or nothing binary only my way works debate.

Ken1Coincidentally, last week I was talking to Ken Hackathorn about sighted vs. unsighted fire. Ken, as anyone could tell you, is an absolute tyrant when it comes to accuracy. That’s me in the red at Hackathorn class in 2009. Ken stresses accuracy above all else in terms of technical shooting skills.

So why does Ken have everyone tape over their sights during a major part of his class when students have to hit multiple targets while shooting on the move? That’s a question worth exploring, and one that gets back to the problem of seeing (pardon the pun) sighted and unsighted fire as two extreme and mutually exclusive skills.

Unsighted fire doesn’t have to mean you’re shooting with your eyes closed. It doesn’t have to mean hip shooting. It simply means you’re not focused on the front sight. The gun can still be up in front of your face providing a reference — both visual and kinesthetic — of where the muzzle is pointed. Let’s face it, even if your eyes are closed, the gun is still pointed somewhere. As people learn quickly during Ken’s drill, you can still get pretty good torso shots while moving even if you aren’t using the little bumpy things atop your pistol.

So, that brings us to the 800# gorilla in the room: most people won’t focus on their sights under stress. It’s something we all know (often from personal experience simply doing stressful practice drills) but many “serious” shooters want to ignore. We’ve all been taught “front sight, trigger press” as a mantra and it’s essentially a sin to do otherwise.

Reality, however, is different. Many folks simply don’t want to accept it.

So,” the unsighted fire advocates ask, “why bother practicing with your sights in the first place?

There are two main reasons. They’re both pretty obvious once you think about it for a little while.

First, there’s the kinesthetic benefit. The more you practice putting the gun in the right spot in front of your face, the more natural it becomes. Your brain and nervous system literally start building connections that turn that practice into habit until it becomes preconscious. Even with your eyes locked onto the target, the gun appears right there in line with your eyeballs because that’s what you’ve practiced time and time again. You may still be focusing on the target but you’ve gone through the motions so many times that you’re still putting the gun where it needs to be and, ideally, you’re still aware of the gun’s position to some extent or another.

ToddKbarrelSecond and most importantly, the only way you will ever reach the point where you can see the sights under stress is if you practice it. There was a long time between when I thought I was using my sights in force-on-force scenarios and when I actually saw my sights consistently. Since then, I’ve been very conscious of my sights in FOF training (and just as conscious the times I screwed up and didn’t use them). My performance in terms of being able to maneuver and get hits on a moving target improved dramatically, as did my ability to get good hits from awkward impromptu positions behind cover.

So there are three takeaways from this:

  1. Unsighted fire happens, and more often than we often like to admit.
  2. Practicing sighted fire helps improve your shooting ability even if you don’t focus on your sights under extreme stress.
  3. Practicing sighted fire diligently can maximize your potential to see and use those sights under extreme stress.

As I’ve said many times in class, practicing sighted fire will improve your unsighted fire, but it doesn’t work the other way around.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(photo of Ken Hackathorn class used without permission because the guy who took it has a stupid screen name on ARFCOM)

9mm 1911s Coming to a SHOT Show Near Your

13-Jan-15 – 15:40 by ToddG

Springfield announced last week that it would be adding some 9mm 1911 models to its regular lineup, 9mm Compact and Champion models.

More exciting to me are the new 80 Series models coming out of Colt this year. There will be a Lightweight Commander XSE, a Stainless Government Model XSE,  and a 1991. I know the 80 Series thing is unattractive to many, but as someone who carries aiwb it’s one more redundant safety that I’d rather have than not.

Other makers are also including or expanding 9mm into their catalogs. It’s a great time to be a 9mm 1911 buyers!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

The Heirloom Has Landed

10-Jan-15 – 22:12 by ToddG


And because I know someone is going to ask:

  • Retail price including base gun ~$7,500
  • Current wait time is 18-24 months

Call Jason Burton at 480-804-1911, mention the codeword “DeadOwl” and receive 95% off and delivery in one week. Though you may not get quite the same gun as the one pictured above.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(thanks to SLG and Julie G for the incredible gift)

Bill Wilson’s 5×5 Test

5-Jan-15 – 20:40 by ToddG

Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat posted another great skill test (the 5×5 Test) at last week and it has been added to the Drills page with his permission.

Check it out, give it a try, and post your results!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


29-Dec-14 – 17:24 by ToddG

It arrives. Oh yeah.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

One Size Does Not Fit All

26-Dec-14 – 04:28 by ToddG

After being offline for so long this year, I’d forgotten just how often people insist that there is only One Way when it comes to shooting. It’s not the guy who says “this pistol works best for me” that bothers me. It’s the guy who insists it will work best for everyone if they’d just give it a try. The same is true for techniques from drawing to reloads to pressing the trigger.

NoBlurb_atheists2For some crazy reason, there are enthusiasts out there who go from being shooters to being apostles. They’ll proselytize their One True Whatever to the point where they care more about creating converts than they care about stuff like, you know, shooting better.

It’s even worse when it’s an instructor trying to shove his personal favorite down his students’ throats. Hey look, if you love the Zippenfaster 9000, shoot the heck out of it and show your students how awesome you are with it. But if you spend more time bugging them about changing guns than you do teaching them how to shoot the ones they brought to class, you might be a moron.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your gun, your grip technique, your preferences are the same as someone else’s. Maybe your eyesight, your grip strength, your lifestyle is different than the guy standing next to you on the firing line. It’s perfectly ok to have your favorite. It’s awesome that you’ve figured out what works best for you. For you. But unless you really understand why it works for you so well and unless you understand why it might not be the best solution for other people with different gear and different priorities, don’t be so quick and so sure that it’s universally the best.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(cartoon from