The Cornered Cat
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Think while you shoot – FAS Level 4 Handgun (part 1)

Spent the weekend playing in the new iteration of the Level 4 Handgun class at the Firearms Academy of Seattle. Orignally signed up to shoot in the class as a student, but had an issue that kept me from shooting (rats!) so instead I enjoyed watching and participating from behind the line. As I watched, I found many learning points to think about.

First things first: Level 4 Handgun is an advanced class that combines elements of pure shooting, gunhandling, and practical skills alongside decision-making and role playing exercises. It’s a hybrid class that takes students through three solid days of hard work, and it’s also a boatload of fun.

Days 1 and 2 of the class comprise the bulk of the shooting instruction and skills refinement, while students enjoy role plays and scenario exercises on Day 3. The third day of the class also offers students an opportunity to pass the very tough Handgun Master Test, a skills assessment that has been part of FAS in various forms since the early 1990s. FAS director Marty Hayes considers that this test provides a brief but reasonably complete overview of a student’s skill with the pistol, and says it is analogous to passing a black belt test in other martial arts. He’s quick to point out that the test is “somewhat arbitrary” in its details, and that there are many other valid ways to test one’s skill with the defensive handgun. The test checks students’ draw speed, accuracy, one-handed skills, reloads, multiple target transitions, low light skills, and ability to hit moving targets. Distances range from 4 yards (for one-hand skills) out to 15 yards (for accuracy), with a majority of the work taking place at car length distances.

The class isn’t about the test, though. The test is simply one component of a well-rounded package of shooting and gunhandling skills. These skills, when mastered, form the backbone of being prepared to think about other things while using the gun quickly and effectively.

It’s the “thinking about other things” that matters, you see. For people interested in self-defense, that’s where all shooting instruction and practice in smooth gunhandling is supposed to lead: being able to solve the problem without worrying about whether you’d be able to physically do the skill that solving the problem might require. Being able to solve it without consciously thinking about the tool itself or how to use it, because your mind needs to focus on other things.

Instead of using up all our brain cells in remembering how to draw the gun efficiently, hold it safely, see the sights appropriately and manipulate the trigger effectively, we could be using those same brain cells to think about the appropriateness of using the gun to solve the problem:

  • Is there another way to solve this problem that does not involve gunfire? If so, what is it and how can I implement it?
  • Do I have to shoot? Do I have to shoot right now?

We could be thinking about the people around us:

  • Where are my loved ones? Are they out of the line of fire?
  • Can I or should I move in order to change the angles and reduce the risk to other innocents? If so, which direction should I move?
  • Does the attacker have an accomplice? If so, where?

We could be thinking about the surroundings:

  • Where is a position of advantage that I could move to? Do I have time to create distance or get behind cover? Can I do so without increasing my exposure and risk?
  • Is there somewhere a second attacker could be hiding? What can I do to reduce my risk from that direction?

New and untrained shooters often must use every bit of spare brain power just to remember how to hold the gun without getting a thumb awkwardly behind the slide, or how to get the gun out of the holster without fumbling and dropping it, or how to be sure that the gun is ready to fire with external safeties in the appropriate position. Even those who are well-practiced in calm conditions on the range may find themselves suddenly needing to think their way through these actions when they’re in a hurry and under stress.

Fortunately, students who have invested in themselves and in their families’ safety by attending professional training classes such as the FAS program will have much more leeway in tough situations. They’re better prepared to make good decisions and shoot effectively, because they’ve engrained both their shooting and their gunhandling skills to the point of automaticity.

Just as a beginning driver might find herself thinking about nothing else other than the mechanics of driving the car, a beginning shooter often has little attention to spare for tasks other than simply running the gun. This can be a problem for both when a crisis looms.

Lots more to say about this excellent class, but this post is already too long. More tomorrow!

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Gotta fight for your right to potty…

Today’s Fb post apparently struck a nerve. Over 100 Likes and more than 30 comments in less than one hour. The post?

“When I talk to women about their shooting experiences on outdoor ranges, the subject of disgusting, horrible, cramped, crowded, smelly, and did I mention disgusting porta potties almost always gets a mention. If you are a member of a range that wants more female shooters, or a member of a club that is trying to increase its female membership, the single best thing that your club or range can do to increase female participation is to improve the potty situation.”

Several people commented that putting in flush toilets may not be environmentally or financially feasible for some ranges. That’s true — but improving the potty situation does not have to involve running water. It can be as simple as:

  • Cleaning the facilities more often.
  • Keeping the facilities in good repair: no cracked seats, no broken toilet paper holders, no broken latches.
  • Cleaning the facilities on Fridays (immediately before the weekend rush) as well as on Mondays (immediately after the weekend rush).
  • Providing handicap-sized stalls instead of standard ones, so that users have enough elbow room to deal with multiple layers of clothing and gear without bumping into wet urinals.
  • Providing a nearby safe area, with a good backstop, for those who need to remove some of their gear before they use the facilities.
  • Putting a trash can inside the same building as the toilet (see “handicap-sized stalls,” above). There are few things more annoying than trying to deal with a used sanitary pad when there’s no place to throw it away discreetly, and no place to even set it down for a moment when you need to pull up your pants with both hands so that your holsters and mag pouches and other gear doesn’t slide into the slime on the floor.

Other suggestions?

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Carry — where?
  • “Oh, I only carry in bad neighborhoods.”
  • “If I felt I had to carry at home, I’d move!”
  • “I just carry at night or when I’m alone.”
  • “Why would I carry to the grocery store? Or to the hairdressers, for crying out loud!?”
  • “Nothing bad ever happens around here.”

If I had a dime in my savings account for every time I’ve heard people say something like the above, I could probably retire and live off the interest.

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of trying to talk people into stuff they don’t feel comfortable doing. If you don’t think owning a gun is right for you, I’m not the person you want to ask about it — because I’ll just agree with you. Guns don’t belong in the hands of people who don’t want them. If you aren’t interested in learning more about self defense, I’m sure not going to argue with you about that. It’s your life and you’re a grownup. Go live the life you want to live, and enjoy it.

But these comments don’t come from non-gun owners. Or from people who don’t care about their personal safety. They come from people who do intend to protect themselves in the face of violence, but who also honestly, truly believe that bad things literally cannot happen in places where they personally feel safe.

“Is this true? And is it okay that I feel that way?”

Sometimes, people ask me what I think about what they just said: “Is this true? And is it okay that I feel this way about not carrying my gun all the time?”

Let me get the second question out of the way first: Yes. It is okay that you feel however you feel. Although it mystifies me that anyone would need my permission to live their own life, of course you can choose your own actions! Go ahead, do what you want to do, based on whichever of your feelings you choose to embrace. It’s your firearm and your life and you get to live with the consequences of whatever you choose to do with those things. I’m certainly not going to judge you for making your own decisions about your own life. Live  however you want, and be happy.  :)

But the first question… that bugs me. It bugs me a lot. Because I’m not going to lie to you, and I don’t like it that you asked me to do so. Bad things do happen in good neighborhoods. They do happen in places where we don’t really expect them to happen. Violent crime absolutely can — and does — hit good people when and where they least expect it.

Unexpected paradox

There’s no way around this paradox:

The only possible way we can be prepared to deal with an unexpected threat is to be prepared even when we don’t expect a threat.

Here’s the news story that got me thinking about this. It was (apparently) an attempted mass murder in — of all places! — a craft store. Police say a man started shooting inside the store and then officers shot him. The witnesses were reportedly “terrified after what should’ve been a normal shopping day.” Well, yes. Because who really expects trouble while they’re just buying a hot glue gun and some ribbon?

Bad things can happen in a craft store, though, as the story shows. They can also happen in a beauty salon. (And how many of us would feel ridiculous carrying a gun to get our hair done?) They can happen at home, even in broad daylight, even in good neighborhoods. They can happen at the grocery store and at the pharmacy. You know, we might run into any one of these places while running normal errands on a normal day during a normal everyday life.

In fact: last week, one of our sons asked for a ride to the drug store to fill a prescription. As we pulled into the store’s parking lot, we spotted a dozen police cars parked haphazardly at odd angles all around the front of the building. Think something bad might have been happening, inside? So did we, and thus went elsewhere.

So to sum up:

  • Bad things do happen even to good people, even in good neighborhoods, even during broad daylight and even on otherwise normal days.

Do whatever you like with this truth, except deny it.

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Holsters and danger

On a firearms discussion board, a new participant asked for instructions how to draw a gun. During the discussion that developed, one of the more clueful participants pointed out that a simple drawstroke, when done wrong, could result in shooting one’s own hand.

Skeptically, someone asked, “Did people shoot their hands off before [the drawstroke] began to be taught?”

Putting a hand in front of the muzzle during the drawstroke feels fast and natural. It's also very dangerous.

Putting a hand in front of the muzzle during the drawstroke feels fast and natural. It’s also very dangerous.

My answer: Yes. Many of the lessons taught at modern gun schools were written in the blood of good people who were teaching themselves what to do, figuring it out on their own because, “How hard could it be?”

The most common place that people shoot themselves is either in the right leg or the left hand. That would be because many right-handed shooters have no idea how to safely draw the gun, safely reholster it, or safely handle the firearm without getting their left hand in front of the muzzle. 1

As an instructor, I spend a lot of my time pointing these things out to good people who honestly don’t realize what they have just done dangerously. People put their hands in front of the freaking muzzle all the time without realizing it. When someone else points it out, they are often bewildered, and then grateful.

That’s one of the primary benefits of going to a good class: we learn how to not repeat the bad habits of people around us, and we get a trained set of eyes looking at what we  actually do. Our brains don’t always give us an accurate report from the inside, so having well-trained eyes looking at what we’re doing from the outside can become a hugely valuable resource.

The injuries from shooting a hand range from surprisingly mild — a simple through and through of the meat — to lifelong and crippling. “Degloving” is such a wonderfully descriptive word.

Claude Werner addressed this topic some time ago on his Tactical Professor blog. So did I, here and here. In one of those earlier posts, I wrote this:

Putting a loaded gun into a holster is the single most dangerous thing anyone ever does in a professional firearms training class.

It’s also the most dangerous thing most people ever do with their firearms, and all too many of them do it without any understanding of the dangers involved.

For information about this, one could Google for unpleasant images using these keywords:

  • shot myself in hand holster
  • shot myself in leg holster
  • shot myself handgun

Learning to use a holster is perfectly safe when done properly under the eye of a competent observer who knows how to correct problems before they become dangers. Although using a gun safely is not rocket science, a firearm can cause terrible injuries when used incorrectly. 2

Stay safe!

Notes:

  1. The pattern for left handed shooters is reversed: they shoot themselves in the left leg or the right hand. But those injuries are less common, because only around 5% of shooters shoot lefty. Roughly 12% of people are lefties, but more than half of those choose to shoot right handed for various reasons.
  2. The firearm depicted in this post was disabled using a Training Barrel. It could neither hold a round of ammunition nor launch a bullet.
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Love

In an email to a friend a few days ago, we were discussing ways to develop new firearms instructors via the apprenticeship model. I was talking about my own experience of learning from some of the best defensive handgun trainers in the world after the class was over:

“As much as I’ve learned on the range in formal classes over the years, I’ve learned far more sitting in [my mentors’] living room on weekend nights, chattering over dinner… Listening to the guest instructors explain the nuts and bolts behind their own programs, in a casual setting where they weren’t on stage and were simply talking among friends. Finding out what makes the good ones tick, and beginning to understand what motivates them, and finally coming to see the beating heart of love that drives the truly greats in everything they do, the angry and desperate love that hides behind the gruff exteriors of crabby old men who’ve seen too much death and carnage and never want to see it again.”

It’s love that drives a good instructor — love for the student, and not for himself. The best of the best aren’t the stars of their own movies. They’re humble, down-to-earth, practical people who look for ways to make others shine. They’re driven by a kind of selflessness that strives to protect others and give them the tools to protect themselves. Because of that love for others, they get a lot of their energy from deep wells of frustration and yes, sometimes even rage, at anything that would harm their students or prevent their students from being able to protect themselves.

As a learner on this journey, from watching these men and women I’ve come to realize that for anyone who wants to become a truly excellent firearms instructor, we have to be driven by the same kind of selfless love that fuels them.

It’s love that forces us to do the work that needs to be done.

It’s love that keeps us up late at night making sure our teaching plans are solid and built on good principles, our ranges well prepped for the students, our safety protocols carefully considered and ready to go, our techniques the best we can possibly offer, our shooting skills solid enough for students to imitate… and on, and on, and on.

Anyone can grab an audience without having the heart, but it’s love for the students that separates the good from the truly great.

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What does training cost?

I’ve written before about the value of training: here (and here, and here, and lots of other places).

And I’ve talked, in general terms, about its cost: here and here.

For those trying to put together a training budget, though, it’s probably helpful if we simply talk real dollars and hard numbers from time to time. A few weeks ago, doing some research of my own, I went looking for class costs from a variety of places, just to be sure that Cornered Cat’s prices are in the right ballpark. (Answer: they are. For excellent, personalized training from a nationally known trainer, Cornered Cat classes are a bargain!)

Defining our terms

If you’re not already familiar with the firearms training world, some of the prices below may shock you. That’s because there are a million places in America where you can find a shadetree instructor (sometimes with a current certification from a franchise or sponsoring organization, sometimes without one) who’s happy to donate his time or charge very small fees to show people which end of the gun the bullets come out and other basics of gun ownership. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking classes or teaching at this level of instruction. It’s a good place to start.

But it’s also not what we’re talking about, here.

What we’re talking about is roughly two levels up from there. We’re talking about the class(es) that we take after we already know how to pull a trigger and after we’ve taken the brief, state-required course that lets us apply for a carry permit. This type of training, which is optimized for self-defense, is where every person who takes her personal safety seriously should end up.

Yet very few do. And part of the problem is sticker shock.

Sticker shock

Learning which end the bullets come out — in the simplest, lowest level  class — can often be done for free or on the cheap. Sometimes it costs just a $20 donation toward the price of ammunition. Many times, you’ll find that even a formal, well-taught class at this level costs less than $100, or  a bit more than that if the instructor supplies written material.

The class for a carry permit usually costs more than that first class, though not always a ton more. The bulk of the cost of getting a carry permit will usually be found in the paperwork fees that go to the state, not in what we pay the instructor who teaches the state required class. Depending on the state, 1 a simple concealed-carry class rarely costs much more than $100 to $150, and it usually takes less than a full day.

So when we move up to the next level of classes — the ones intended to help us learn how to save our own lives, the cost of those classes can be shocking because it’s often double or more the cost we’ve paid for any previous classes. And (double whammy here) defensive handgun classes often come in 2-, 3-, or 4-day formats, which means they also require a much larger investment of time and other resources.

By the numbers

Ready for some hard numbers? Here they are.

  • DTI (John Farnam) Defensive Handgun – 2 days, 16 hrs, $675 ($337/day)
  • MAG40 (Massad Ayoob) – 4 day, 40 hrs, $800 ($200/day)
  • Firearms Academy of Seattle Defensive Handgun – 2 day, 18 hrs, $385 ($192/day)
  • Rangemaster Combative Pistol – 2 days, 16 hrs, $425 ($212/day)
  • Handgun Combatives (Dave Spaulding) – 2 day, 16 hrs, $400 ($200/day)
  • FPF Training (John Murphy) – CC:Foundation, 1 day, 10 hrs, $175 ($175/day)
  • TDI Ohio – all classes cost $200/day, add $25 fee for classes with night shoots
  • ECQC (SouthNarc) – 3 days, 24 hrs, $500 ($167/day)
  • KR Training (Karl Rehn) – 4 hr segments @$80 each ($160/day)
    KR Training – 4 hr carry permit classes $150 ($300/day)
  • Shootrite (Tiger McKee) Defensive Handgun – 2 day, 16 hrs, $400 ($200/day)
  • Insights General Defensive Handgun – 2 day, 16 hrs, $450 ($225/day)
  • Thunder Ranch 3 day handgun, 24 hrs, $980 ($326/day)
  • Sand Burr Gun Ranch – Basic Compact Handgun (BUG) – 1 day, 8 hr, $185 ($185/day)
  • Claude Werner/Tactical Professor – Basic Threat Management – 3 hr, $150 ($300/day)
  • Greg Ellifritz Close Quarters Gunfighting – 1 day, 8 hrs, $175 ($175/day)
  • Gabby Franco – 1 day, 6 hrs, $225 ($225/day)
  • Babes with Bullets (competition shooting for women) – 2 1/2 days, $775 ($310/day)
  • Cornered Cat (Kathy Jackson) – 2 day, 16 hrs, $400 ($200/day)

Of course, there are many other schools and franchises that offer this type of training. It sure isn’t an exhaustive list, just a sampling. The numbers above were pulled at random as I wandered around the web thinking of names to check. They aren’t in any particular order and I’m neither endorsing nor failing to endorse any name on the list.

Note that the fixed-facility classes generally cost a little less than what the traveling instructors must charge. There are exceptions.

So that’s what training costs.

As for its value, allow me to quote Melody Lauer in an excellent post she wrote earlier this week: “… I’m investing in my ability to effectively defend myself in a time of need. That’s something I must do. The stakes are too high. And because I must do it I will find a way to pay for it.”

Notes:

  1. There are exceptions!
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Road maps, being cute, and Facebook rants

Something I posted on Facebook yesterday:

I’m not a superstar. But by golly — if any woman new to the gun world has looked online for information about women’s concealed carry, she has almost certainly seen my website. The old school gun culture doesn’t know who I am, but women new to shooting do know me.

I’m not flashy, but I am competent. I talk only about stuff I directly know or have completely researched. If I haven’t researched it, I won’t write about it.

My website features my own original writing, not thinly-disguised reworked material stolen from others and rebranded as my own. If you see writing elsewhere online that looks like mine, it probably *is* mine — or at least it was mine, before the thieves sanded off the serial numbers and called it theirs.

I’m not a childless person pushing my overnight expertise about kids and guns out to the world just because that’s what the market wants right now. I’m a mom, and my husband and I raised five sons in a house with firearms in it. Issues surrounding children and firearms are dear to my heart and it makes me crazy when a non-parent pretends to any level of parental expertise. It’s every bit as offensive as when a non-gun owner pretends to having expertise about owning firearms or storing them at home.

I have carried almost every day of my life for more than 15 years and have a deep suspicion of “defensive shooting instructors” who don’t even carry a gun on a daily basis. If you can’t figure out how to discreetly carry a gun for yourself, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother — well, what *else* are you telling your students to do, that you’re not willing to do yourself?

I refuse to do “reviews” that are little more than product endorsements or fangirl squees. I write reviews only of products I’ve actually used, and used hard enough to have found the potential failure points. In the case of holsters, I write only about ones I’ve worn daily for an extended period of time. I don’t understand the popularity of YouTube “gun reviews” that consist of little more than opening the box and describing its contents to the camera.

I’m not another chirpy young thing pretending to expertise I don’t have, while wearing exhibitionist clothing that would shame my mother. I’m a serious professional instructor who has worked at my craft for more than a dozen years and learned a few things along the way. Sexy I am not.

It makes me crazy when some upstart brands herself as an instructor while she’s still scary-new to shooting, when she doesn’t yet know what she’s talking about or even understand just how much she doesn’t yet know. Truth, here: the less people actually know about a given subject, the less they think there *is* to know about that subject. If you think the defensive handgun world isn’t a big field with lots of things in it that you still need to learn, that’s a huge red flag that you’re actually still just an untaught child pretending to know stuff you don’t yet know.

It makes my heart hurt when a half-taught ‘instructor’ gets a ton of attention and glory from people who don’t know what competence looks like, but who do know what sexy looks like. I don’t resent that theoretical upstart’s youth or her use of sexual energy to sell her brand … but I deeply, deeply resent that, with no malice whatsoever in her heart, a charismatic but badly trained ‘instructor’ can cheerfully lead people to their deaths simply because she’s sexy, untrained, unskilled, incompetent, and unaware of her own incompetence.

If any of that sounds cranky, I regret the emotional impact and wish it were otherwise. There’s no road map for a lot of this stuff.

You want to be an instructor? You recognize yourself in any of the above? Again, I regret the emotional impact. Now: Pay your dues, do your homework, learn and grow. Those of us who’ve been in the field awhile are desperate for more colleagues that we can respect.

Backlash?

Not going to walk back even one word of that, because I meant every single word of it. I did think, briefly, about not posting it at all because of the potential of being misunderstood. I was afraid that people would hear me saying something I don’t believe, something like “don’t trust anyone else,” when that’s a very far cry from what I do believe and wanted to convey.

But I posted it anyway, because it needed to be said.

A little bit to my surprise, the overall reaction to my rant was very, very positive. Most people seemed to understand what I was saying, and why. They understood that the rantish parts of that post were not aimed at any one person or school. A few of them may have even recognized my ongoing theme about the Parade of the Dancing Bears, and most definitely understood that I wasn’t telling people to sit down and shut up: I was telling them to keep going, work hard, learn their material, and take their ethical responsibilities toward their students very seriously indeed.

Sadly, I did receive some push back behind the scenes. Not a lot, but some. So I’m going to add a few things here that I believe also need to be said.

We need more instructors.

Some people apparently suspected that I was trying to keep new instructors out of this field. That’s nonsense. I’m a big fan of new trainers and a big part of what I do is help new instructors get the tools they need to do their jobs well.

There are approximately 11.1 million people with concealed carry permits in the United States, of which approximately 1.7 million are women. If every single permit holder wanted to take just one class from existing firearms trainers, some of them would still be in line for their class 450 years from now. Think about that for a long moment.

This means that whenever I see low-level instructors squabbling with each other over what they perceive as a limited pool of students, it just makes me kind of sad and weary. The truth is, we in the defensive handgun training community have not even begun to touch the pool of potential students who so desperately need the skills and mindsets we have to offer. Once we do begin to change that part of our culture, we will have nowhere near enough qualified trainers to meet the crushing need.

We need more instructors.

We need more women instructors.

At least one person suspected that I was trying to keep other women out of the training community. Again, no.

As I’ve written many times before, there’s a strong need for many more women-specific firearms training classes taught by competent and qualified instructors.

We do need more women in this field… lots of them. The industry has suffered, and suffered badly, from the lack of female participation in years past. That lack has too often shortchanged female students, and, in the past, it scared away or crushed the excitement out of a certain number of women who should have become today’s leaders but who went off and did other things instead. To avoid repeating the firearms training industry’s past mistakes, we need more women in this field.

A big part of what I do is help other women get the skills and training they need to turn around and help others. It’s the part of my job I’m most proud of and excited about. That’s because

… more than that, we need more competent people in this field. People who are willing to take themselves and their training seriously. People who feel the full weight of an instructor’s responsibility to her students, and who willingly shoulder that burden because it needs to be borne. Honest people who never pretend to be more than they are or to know more than they do. People who will do the hard work that it takes to get where they want to go. People who will not cheat new shooters who happen to be female, by being too afraid of their wimpy female nature to teach them what they need to know. People who take the job, and their students, seriously.

We need more competent women teaching firearms classes.

“Skinny shamer!”

That was the accusation: that I was shaming other women for their body types. Again, not my thing even though on the reread, I can understand how — in this American culture where every female body type gets equally shamed by different groups — even the mere mention of different body shapes might lead someone to believe that I’d intended an insult on that score.

Let me be very, very clear here: I’m a big fan of beauty in all its forms. As I’ve said before,

Would the world be as beautiful, if it weren’t so varied?

And wouldn’t it be awful if every beautiful place you’d ever loved, actually hated its looks and wished to look like some other place?

What does all this have to do with self defense? I’ll tell you: a big part of my job involves watching body language while people learn to shoot. I watch body language to help people stay safe, so I can anticipate what they’re going to do next, so I can figure out what questions they might be about to ask, or whether part of my message to them didn’t make it through.

You can’t make a study of body language without becoming aware of bodies. How many different shapes and sizes and colors they come in. And how utterly beautiful most people are, when they let themselves relax and just be.

Because I try to be a good teacher, I’m usually watching what people say with their bodies when I tell them that they are worth it. That their lives are beautiful, valuable, worth defending. And it breaks my heart, every time, when I see a beautiful woman who wishes she had another woman’s type of beauty, or who thinks herself ugly because she doesn’t meet someone else’s standard for what pretty “should” look like. It breaks my heart when I see someone shake her head in denial (“Not me!”) when I tell the class that every one of them deserves to live, deserves to stay safe, deserves to go home to the people who love her.

But it’s still true.

You are beautiful, just the way you are.

Your life is worth defending.

No, really: Skinny shamer!

You want to know what I really think about thin, cute, young women  getting involved in this industry and becoming prominent in it? Let me tell you about three specific friends of mine. There are many (many!) more women out there who fit this general mold, including several that I’m quite close to, but here are three that came  immediately to mind as I thought about people I respect in this community.

Annette Evans blogs at Beauty Behind the Blast, where she sometimes talks about the hard work she has done and is doing as a competition shooter who’s also interested in self defense. Annette  competes as a member of Team SIG SAUER, along with having landed sponsorships from several other companies. She brings hard work and fierce determination to the table, and helps her sponsors succeed in their goals too.

She’s also little and cute and physically attractive, and I’m sure there are those who think she’s gotten her sponsorship slots for those features rather than for her shooting. But this woman has hand callouses and sometimes blisters from her dry fire routine, for crying out loud. Every day, Annette Does. The. Work. of being a serious competitive shooter.

Shelley Giddings is another woman I respect deeply for her work ethic and commitment to excellence in the things she does. She’s a tiny, vivacious redhead who looks like a high school cheerleader. She’s also a determinedly competent person and an excellent editor for the gun magazines she’s headed up. Every day she works in the firearms industry, she has to prove her competence over and over again, just because she’s unbelievably cute in a button-nosed, all-American kind of way. She might be able to get put on a pedestal for her looks, but she Does. The. Work. anyway, every single day. More power to her for it.

Then there’s Melody Lauer. Known online as Limatunes, she’s happily married and the mom to three little ones. She’s also well on her way to being a well-grounded, well-rounded firearms trainer — someone to watch in the next few years for her practical style, down to earth approach, and determination to really test everything she teaches before she teaches it. She’s invested a lot in her training 1 and her skills, and that shows.

As for her physical size and attractiveness? Let’s just say that Melody literally weighs half of what I weighed a few years ago, and comes in about three inches shorter than my own shorter-than-average height. Good things come in small packages. Again, she Does. The. Work.

One of the reasons I deeply respect all three of these women is because all of them have the genetics and lifestyles and ages that would let them coast by without doing the work, if that’s what they  wanted to do. But they’re doing the work anyway. They’re shooting and writing and editing and teaching, every day — and every single day, each of them strives to learn more and do better. That’s impressive.

It takes a lot of good character to do, when people are willing to put you on a pedestal just for being.

Road Map

For those who want to teach and are excited about showing others the path to defensive handgun use, there are many ways to become a competent and skilled instructor. You can find the one I recommend right here, in an article I wrote some time ago.

No matter where we are on that path — at the beginning or further along the trail — what I wrote then still applies today. And here’s the bottom line:

If you want to teach others how to protect themselves, take your own training seriously and never skimp on it.

When you become a defensive firearms instructor, you’re literally asking students to bet their lives on the quality of your material and on your ability to help them learn that material. You owe it to them to learn as much as you reasonably can, and to keep learning to be sure your knowledge is always up to date.

For defensive firearms trainers, human lives are on the line every time we teach a class. People expect us to have the skills to keep them safe as they learn. They expect us to clearly explain what we know. They expect us to have the knowledge to teach relevant material and the wisdom to avoid wasting their time or bogging them down with irrelevant nonsense. And they expect us to teach them how to stay safe some dark night when the skills we give them will literally stand between them and their worst nightmare.

If that weight of responsiblity doesn’t scare us down to our toenails every time we step up to teach, we’re in the wrong business.

Do. The. Work.

Notes:

  1. Go read that link. If you read nothing else here, read that one!
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AG&AG Conference 2015

Whew, finally home again after a couple of weeks on the road. Might as well admit it: Texas hill country with the bluebonnets and other wildflowers in full bloom is a thing to behold. Yet another instance of finding beauty everywhere — only more so. Lovely part of the world this time of year.

Worked with a lot of beautiful people over the almost-a-week at the 3rd Annual A Girl and A Gun training conference. That gave me an opportunity to work alongside some wonderful teachers and shooters as we all did our best to provide a wide variety of excellent learning opportunities for the 250 women who attended.

During the pre-conference events, I had the lovely opportunity to spend some time with the facilitators and leadership team. On the range with the newest facilitators, my teaching topic was “How to run a safe firing line.” We discussed the logistics of teaching large-ish groups of students on outdoor ranges, and ran through some practical exercises to help everyone develop their teaching skills in that situation. In the classroom, I gave them a road map to personal improvement as instructors.

My private goal (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone) is to turn every female instructor I know into a training junkie — but with this group of women, that’s almost a redundant goal. They are moving out into the wider world of shooting and getting lots of good instruction as they go. It’s awesome to watch that happen!

During the conference proper, I taught segments that included shooting fundamentals for beginners, shooting from downed positions, holster selection and secrets of concealed carry, and purse draw. I also had an opportunity to work with a group of women who had some specific physical challenges and help them problem-solve on the range. That was enjoyable and eye opening.

My enjoyment of the week wasn’t hindered at all by getting an opportunity to shoot a rifle from the back seat of a helicopter. That was a blast, and now I can recommend the Heli Gunner gang as being safe, competent, and fun to work with. 1

Notes:

  1. Is shooting while hanging out the door of a helicopter a practical skill for my own world? Nope, not so much, since I’m not a hunter and also don’t live in a part of the country where feral hogs are a challenge for property owners to solve. But did I mention that it was fun? Here, let me mention it again: it was fun!
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