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Appendix Carry’s True Strength

When I get asked for my opinion on appendix inside the waistband (IWB) I enjoy sharing my experience and observations. Many times, the students are surprised by my answer.

It’s Not New

This method of carry has been around for a long time, probably longer than most could track. It’s a common response, albeit with some cool pictures of civil war soldiers wearing their single action revolvers in a similar position. Let’s start there, I know this is obvious, but if you can see it then it is not concealed. Carrying in this mode concealed is somewhat new to the concealed carry community. How new, maybe a couple of decades, but again it is difficult to track. Then there are those who will chime in regarding safety. Many are quick to retort with comments along the lines if you can’t handle it then don’t do it or teach it. The problem isn’t the safety concerns, but the outcome should safety be neglected or an accident occur. Then there are those who will say it is faster than any other method. These types of comments are largely regurgitated from other sources who regurgitated them from some other source. I hope everyone is sitting down for this, but it is not really faster and here is why.

Baseline Study For Some Data

I got tired of hearing this comment as a Hail Mary pass to prove their point. These comments can be very subjective so we needed something objective like a study to help truly understand the benefit to appendix IWB. I conducted a study and encourage people to conduct their own so I wanted to share my framework for the study. First, you have to go into this without expecting an outcome. If you want to be objective you start by being neutral, someone in search of knowledge. I honestly expected a different outcome so I kept my thoughts neutral. I did everything the same, put in honest work on all fronts. This study was also fun and very beneficial so there is that as well. In this study we need some control measures to keep everything on an even playing field. I eliminated drawing from concealed and performed all these drills with IWB holsters that were carried in an open condition. This wasn’t about concealing, this was about which drawstroke was faster. Then to eliminate any bias regarding poor posture (see earlier article, Mobility Restrictions) I started each drill with my hands on my head. These control features allowed me to look at each without any bias.

Following Baseline Protocols

The drill was pretty simple, but rather than measure a one round drill; which is often not the best indicator of a skill it was a three round drill. The drill was fired from the 10 yard line versus a 6″ target. The distance and accuracy standards helped to ensure the shooter was skilled enough to have valuable input. The study was conducted following standard baseline protocol. The interval between sessions was approximately 7-10 days to ensure the best cold bore experience. Baseline protocol of 10 attempts to achieve seven clean runs was followed. Then the fastest and slowest times were eliminated to average out the remaining five runs. If in the session I was unable to achieve seven clean runs within 10 attempts the whole session was a wash and I would wait for the next opportunity. The point behind the baseline protocol is to measure performance in it’s purest form. The truth of the matter is many struggle with baselines; which makes it easy to see bias in opinions. This is not an easy endeavor, this takes time to complete properly. I started early fall of 2018 and finished recently. Because I wanted to reduce as much favoritism as possible I opted to use different firearms and holsters. I shot the baselines with Glocks & Sigs from various holster manufactures.

The Tie Goes to the Runner

My results surprised me, what they showed me was there really isn’t much in the way of speed advantage for carrying appendix IWB. I performed these baselines ten times each or 20 total baseline sessions and recorded the first shot and last shot for each. My first shot average for strong side IWB was 1.8 seconds and my first shot average for appendix IWB was also 1.8 seconds. Let that soak in for a little bit. My last shot for strong side was 3.1 seconds and my last shot for appendix IWB was 3.0 seconds. So, if you wanted to declare a winner I suppose you could say by a tenth of a second appendix pulled ahead. For me it only confirmed one thing, it is not about the perceived speed advantage. It is about the ability to conceal better for a lot of people. So, there it is and I’m sure there are plenty who disagree; which is why I posted the study. Feel free to take a shot at it and share your experience.

The point of the study wasn’t to declare a winner, it was to reinforce a major benefit of appendix carry. Whether it is right for you is another story along with your mileage varying.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Shooter Diagnostics

A major factor in students continuing their education is having a positive experience. Loosely translated, this means hitting the target on demand.

Stick to the Program

I love seeing students come through classes and achieve excellence in their performance. Many times this was associated with passing the class. Passing was associated with a positive outcome and I get that, but what is more important is a positive experience. If the student has a positive experience, they are far more likely to continue their education. If they stay on the path, it is more likely they will see improvements over time. The key is consistency, something I have spoken on many times in the past. Shooting seems easy; align the sight and pull the trigger. We all know it is more complicated than that so to ensure students stick to the program having the positive experience is a major objective in our training.

The Killer Commando Complex

Through the years I have developed a system of corrective strategies for helping students improve their shooting. I have discussed this system at length in various classes and anyone how has attended our intermediate or advanced classes has gained exposure to the process. The most important piece to this puzzle is understanding the subtle forces at play. Each of these forces can have a positive or negative impact on the outcome. There is nothing quite like shooting at distance to help isolate these forces to properly evaluate and if necessary correct. I joke in classes how everyone is a killer commando at the close ranges. For the most part they cannot hit because of poor technique and reinforced with no accountability. Either through misguided direction about deadly force encounters or training with sub-optimal instructors. They lack the skill as a result, but more importantly the guidance on how to improve.

Corrective Strategies

Lacking the skill as a student is not that big a deal. A major reason we are so good at diagnostics is there is no short supply of students who need help. When students don’t have the guidance on how to improve it becomes an impediment to getting better. The corrective strategies I’ve created over the years is nothing more than an in-depth trouble shooting guide. Contrary to popular belief, shooting bully-eye targets is not the solution. It is a measurement and nothing more. Being able to identify what you are doing correctly and what you are doing incorrectly requires a bit more skill.

The Secret Sauce

The process is broken down into major and minor categories of errors. Then, each category is subdivided into simple or complex. Each subdivision is further broken down into levels 1, 2 or 3. I am not going to lie, it is challenging to work with students in this corrective strategy process. Not because of the errors themselves, but because of their inconsistency or in ability to repeat the same action or problem. I don’t care if it is a “wrong” action if they repeat it over and over it is correctable. Often they are the easiest. During the diagnostic drills we tackle the minor errors right away. These are typically all in the simple range. Examples can be better understanding of their sights and or grip.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Once we get past this stage, what I sometimes call the low lying fruit we typically focus on the major issues. A big difference between these two is the degree of error. Another problem is when a student has a complex error; which usually is the collection of more than one simple error. These are tough to solve, but the process works.  Many times we see immediate results leading to the positive outcome. This system has been developed over decades of making mistakes. People ask me why I am so good at not just identifying the errors, but correcting them. The best answer I can give is I have at one point or another made the same mistakes we see in classes. I haven’t always been a good shooter. I made up for my shortfalls in other areas while I continued to work on becoming the shooter I am today.

As I look back, I’m grateful for the experience because I can relate to the student in a way many cannot. I was in their shoes and felt their pain.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Getting to a Ready

Keeping aware of your surroundings will hopefully provide you advanced warning of bad things coming. This advance warning can be used in one of three ways; to quickly draw, to quickly moving or combination of these two.

The Quick and the Not Quick

A pattern you might notice is doing these actions quickly. All to often we put too much emphasis on speed in the beginning of our training journey. If speed was the most pressing condition, it might be easier to quickly move. It is unlikely you need training to perform this action, but training can certainly help. When it comes to a quick draw something we overlook is the importance of drawing quickly to a ready position. Not every event will require quickly drawing and engaging the threat with deadly force. If you pick up on the advanced warning and you feel justified in drawing your gun to a ready position it may be your best option.

Ready Positions, One Less Obstacle

This is where some folks get lost in the weeds. If you heeded the early warning you create more options. Having more options than deadly force may not happen all the time. What we do know is if you are not looking for it you won’t see it when the time comes. As you pay more attention to quickly drawing to the ready position you start to see it’s importance. Yes, there are plenty of ready positions and bastardized versions off these main ready positions. Regardless of which one you gravitate towards spend time working on delivering a quick, first round lethal strike. There is the possibility if you have the opportunity to draw to a ready, the situation may diffuse itself. It may not, and if it does not you are one step closer to delivering effective fire. The point is if you don’t practice this skill it is hard to expect it to be available.

A Sign of Shooting Competence

Of the three main ready positions; high, low and retention I encourage most folks to practice from the low ready. In addition, I encourage this practice to be from the a deeply depressed low ready. Ideally, it should be depressed below 45 degrees. Elevating the pistol from the low ready is more challenging than pressing it out from the high ready or retention. You want to ensure the front sight moves and stops at the exact strike point you wish to hit. If you are practicing from the low ready, delivering one round consistently is your first step. Then working to a three round drill is step two. When you can perform a five round drill on demand its a sign of shooting competence and time to add to your plate.

Move With A Purpose

Moving quickly was another skill I mentioned. This can be a stand alone skill to your shooting development. Can you move quickly and with purpose at the sign of trouble. When I say move with purpose I mean moving to cover, away from danger or even towards positional advantage. Danger does not have to be directed at you for this skill to be valuable. If you happen to be in a situation where bad things are happening to other people it might be advantageous to move. Moving alone is a good tactic, combine moving and drawing your gun become the next step. When you can reliably move quickly, then draw quickly to deliver first round lethal strikes you do more to increase your survival than any piece of gear you find attractive.

When you combine quickly moving with quickly drawing your gun it offers an excellent response to most danger close encounters. Don’t overlook the importance of your quick draw being drawn to a ready position in anticipation of bad things.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

On the Mark…or not

I get asked what I carry on a regular basis. I try to deflect the question or ask it back by getting to know their needs.

The Good, the Bad and the Bullet

At some point the conversation will evolve to defensive ammunition. For self defense, whether in the home or out in public you will need to consider some type of high performance round designed to fit your needs. When we define our needs, we narrow the field of options. More importantly, you identify what is important. What you should focus on, to the point it is a “go/no go”. If it doesn’t meet certain performance objectives you look for better alternatives despite all the hype or “celebrity” endorsements.

The Return of the 9mm

We have seen the ammunition world evolve big time over the last couple of years. First, when the FBI announced they were going back to the 9mm service wide. It didn’t take long for just about everyone else to follow suit. There are still hold outs here and there, but they will come around with time. Of the current selection of high performance defensive rounds; which ones best fulfill the average citizen. Most defensive ammunition is designed for law enforcement who’s mission or needs might differ. The possibility of penetrating intermediate barriers is very unlikely so do you need a round that excels in this capacity, but gives up ground on other fronts.

Possible, but not Probable

For the average citizen defending his person, loved ones or home it may be possible, but not probable they will have to shoot through an intermediate barrier such as a car door, interior wall or safety glass. One thing to remember is you will have to justify your actions for using deadly force. While you might have chosen ammunition that performs well here, was it the best choice. I am far more likely to recommend looking for a defensive round that reliably goes bang every time you pull the trigger and penetrates to a minimum depth of 12 inches. The often overlooked piece to this puzzle is our ability to hit the target with the defensive round.

Trust, but Verify

While you might have selected the most awesome defensive round currently available what if you fail to hit the target. Will it really matter how cool the box looks or a clever marketing slogan. Probably not. Yes, you will have to train and train hard to have reliable skills for deadly force encounters. This includes knowing the performance of your defensive ammunition selection. I encourage you to buy enough of your intended selection so you can test it yourself. Maybe not elaborate gelatin testing, but you can test for reliability and functionality through your chosen defensive handgun. If it doesn’t feed reliability or function in your handgun, you need to look hard at your choice.

What’s Point of Impact

Once you start shooting the defensive rounds you may notice something different. Typically they will have more felt recoil due to the rounds be loaded for higher velocities; which should equate to improved terminal performance. You may also notice less flash since most use powder with flash retardant properties. The most interesting attribute you may notice is a difference in accuracy. While most defensive rounds are built to be more accurate they are still not match grade. The biggest difference is the shift from point of aim/point of impact between your training round. It is not often you see these two sync up so the best solution is to shoot them enough you understand the difference so if you need to take a high percentage shot you know precisely where to aim.

Nothing is free, you cannot expect much from your gear if you don’t know the gear’s limits. Take the time and make the investment to learn not just about the performance, but where the performance ends.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Muscle Recruitment

When I’m working with new students there is so much to cover it can be overwhelming. A subject most folks don’t spend time exploring is muscle recruitment and its importance on shooting.

One With The Gun

Once the bullet leaves the barrel there is nothing you can do to help. If you didn’t have your technique installed before hand it won’t help that round as it hurls downrange. Most everything we do is going to be applied prior to the round being fired. There are the traditional subjects such as sight and trigger management along with grip integrity, but how do you put it all together. How do you become one with the gun. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing athletes. Professional to Olympic, in all shapes and sizes. The advantage they have is a higher understanding of their body. How to make it do the work in the most efficient manner possible.

Use What You Have

This was so clearly illustrated when working with some female professional athletes. Their ability to will their body, to take advantage of what God bestowed to them was down right impressive. The key was in understanding what muscle groups to activate and how to maintain tension during the requirement activity. As I explained the subject, such as shoulder recruitment it was truly impressive to watch each of them work at flexing and engaging the various muscles of the shoulder region. They understood so plainly how we were stacking joints, ligaments, tendon and muscles so they performed at peak levels together.

Midline, You Are Not an Apple

Regardless of the sport, it is hard to perform at high levels without having a strong midline. I will see some folks who have super rigid upper torsos, but their midline is jelly and you literal watch the recoil wave rippling through them. Keep the midline engaged is not that difficult, but it is also something you want to make sure does not produce negative results. The best way to express this process is by trying to move your belly button towards your spine. Don’t just tighten your abdominal region, that is a half measure. When you follow this tip, you not only tense the midline, but you help stabilize your whole body. More importantly, you are preparing it to support the other muscles optimized for shooting.

Neutral Position

Your shoulders are the next region and they play a huge role. Keeping your shoulders in a neutral position is the key. You do not want them rounded forward or overly retracted rearward. You want them in their strongest position; which is neutral. Those who suffer from bad posture will obviously benefit from paying more attention to their shoulder position. This also ties into the tight midline mentioned above. Keeping the shoulders in this position further connects the kinetic chain. Once you have your shoulders in the right position with the proper tension they will connect with your lats. While your shoulders can be developed, they will not have the same strength capacity as your larger muscle groups such as your upper back region. Once this is connected it produces an amazing platform.

Crush Grip…Again

The last step in this chain is your grip. I have discussed this in several previous blog articles so I will summarize. Applying force to the bottom of the grip is the ideal location to optimize leverage. Gripping high on the gun does not produce the results most think. To optimize leverage you will want to be further away from the fulcrum, not closer. The real challenge is engaging your pinky fingers, literally applying pressure inward on the frame. Then pressing your heels together to close it all off. The last step is to lock your wrists. Combine all of these steps together and you will have a bomb proof technique.

You don’t need overdeveloped muscular structure to manage recoil, it helps, but is not a requirement. You need to learn how to use what you got to obtain the results you want.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Your Equipment Doesn’t Matter

That’s a bold statement, but it is true from a certain point of view. I see so many new shooters start down the wrong path by looking to solve their shooting problems with equipment.

Define Your Mission

When I have the opportunity to guide a student towards their first gun purchase I start by asking them what is the reason for the purchase. Why do they need a gun? I’m not asking them to justify why they want to buy a gun, I’m asking them to tell me what is the mission for the gun. Are they looking for gun to carry concealed, for home defense or strictly for sport. There really isn’t one gun that will accomplish all those missions well. There are a few that can do a good job, but they also may not be the best starting point for a first gun. Here is a harsh reality for many new gun owners, you will probably buy the wrong gun. You may do some research, talk to some knowledgeable sources and even try before you buy and still end up with the wrong gun.

It’s Always the Indian

To be honest, which gun your purchase won’t really affect the outcome as much as the training you invest in with said gun. Without the training it is nothing more than a good luck charm. Without training you will lack the insight into what really works for you, what you truly need. The other harsh reality is most who invest into training learn the original gun purchase may not be the best for their newly developed skills. As you train more, you learn more. You learn more about what you need. Can a nice gun help with the learning process, of course. It is not a requirement, it is only an enhancement.

Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

When the shooter invests in their training, they will by proxy see improvements in their skill. It wasn’t the platform as much as the hard work they put into learning. The first gun purchase becomes a stepping stone towards what will probably be many purchases. The problem becomes avoiding buyer’s remorse and realizing you don’t have to keep working with something that is suboptimal. You can find it a new legal home through a variety of methods. Don’t feel compelled to sale the ship into the rocks for the sake of staying on the ship. It’s okay to acknowledge a poor choice, don’t beat yourself up about it because you didn’t know then what you know now.

Out of the Box

As a first time gun buyer, don’t feel like you have go hog wild to update, improve or enhance your new purchase. Learn how to use it, develop skill with it and if you discover the new gun works for you then great. The flip side is there will come a point of diminishing returns. A point where you will drop more money into equipment with the expectation it will improve your skill. Yes, there is some truth to this notion. However, I caution you on using this as an excuse not to train or improve your skill. You may see some skill improvements, but do those improvements come at the sacrifice of other skill deterioration. At some point, you will find a gun you can perform well with under a variety of conditions. It is reliable, durable and accurate enough for you and your skill level plus the mission at hand.

I rarely see someone out shoot a gun out of the box. Don’t look to the gun as the source of the problems, look at your skills or lack there of and do something about them.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

The struggle is real

There is a lot of buzz over some of the new micro & subcompact handguns designed for concealed carry. This a great time within our industry to see so many products marketed to the concealed carry consumer, but what is the tradeoff.

Little Blasters

I am all about encouraging as many people to take personal responsibility for their own personal safety. This comes in many different packages. An obvious start is a handgun and obtaining a license to carry. Many new to the market will see a handgun in a small, compact package and assume it is ideal for carrying concealed. It very well can and does this mission well. The problem is many of the new shooters are not privy to the challenges these little blasters bring to the table. By the same token, with quality training and the proper equipment these are great for the selected mission.

Rapid, Accurate Fire

Recently I decided to have some fun with these little guys. I put each of my sub-compacts and micros through a test designed to measure pure marksmanship. The first challenge is the reduced size equaling less grip surface. A lot of times people run out of space for their pinky. An easy fix is not to worry, just curl your pinky finger under the magazine base pad and it will greatly improve your performance. The other complication is the less gripping surface equals a greater recoil impulse. Plinking on the range can leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Trying to perform rapid, accurate fire at extended ranges will challenge the best of shooters.

Statistics Don’t Lie

A justification many will use is how most self defense shootings are close range in nature. There may be some truth in this statistic, but let me lay something pretty heavy on you. If you fired your gun in self defense you are already a statistical anomaly. Making an excuse why you’re not shooting at distance does not make for a good plan. Pushing these baby blasters at extended ranges was not only eye opening, but fun. Yes, they are plenty accurate for the task at hand, but their inherited challenges do force the shooter to have their skills fully developed.

Training Junkie & Ammo Whore

What I recommend is to improve the sight system right away. Nothing out of the box is really that good, but when you are pushing the envelope already every little bit helps. What prompted all this fun was breaking out my Glock 26 and upgrading it with some fiber optic type sights. Thin and plain allowed me to see them better and and perfect my aim. While the other blasters had different types of sights, I noticed the difference immediately. Performance was still good, but not good enough for me. I literally walked off the range and immediately ordered replacement sights for all, but one blaster. I cannot wait for these upgrades, as if I needed an other excuse to practice. They will all get more trigger time and more exposure in our classes.

I’m all for options, for being able to select what best fits your needs. Don’t forget nothing is free and you will have to know your limits as well as your equipment’s.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

The Two Confidences

It happens all too often, you start off real slow and before you know you are some sort of ninja. Well, at least in your mind you are a ninja, the reality is a little different.

Finally Tuned Machine

In our instructor courses I talk about the importance of developing the two confidences. The first is skills confidence. What you need to technically be proficient at the skill or skills. This is where you put the hard work into your development as a shooter. You learn the basics, drill them over and over. Start to fail, learn why you fail and work to improve. Then fail again, repeat as necessary. At some point, you have developed your skills to what I call command performance level. That means, at any given time, in all manner of conditions demonstrate your skill to a minimum standard.

The Truth Hurts

It sounds easy, truthfully it is pretty easy. The hard part is patience and discipline it takes to get to the level where you can now push into situational confidence. The mistake made is trying to jump right into the situational confidence arena. It may not be bad, you learn really quick how ill prepared you are and well worth the price you paid. You walk away realizing, well that didn’t go according to plan. It can force you to work harder, seeing your failures in all their glory. Or, it can do the opposite. It can solidify the notion of not wanting to be put in that awkward and uncomfortable position…ever again.

Baby Steps

Situational confidence is about taking your proven skills confidence; which is typically void of realism and applying them in realistic settings. These don’t always have to be in force on force scenarios, even just role playing with unloaded or even prop guns can scar someone. The importance of situational confidence is huge, but it is also part of a linear progression philosophy. One where you build from one level to the next, only advancing when you have developed a level of proficiency or meet a standard.

The Unknown

This is where the rubber meets the road, where you want to spend a good amount of your training resources. The reason situation confidence is so important is because it both familiarizes you with an unknown as well as inoculate you to the unknown. The more you dabble in this field the more gaps you bridge; which allows you to better react in real time. A major problem this solves is critical decision making under stress.

Rehearsals & Looks

Trying to perform any task under duress is challenging enough. Trying to do it without ever having been in the situation can be Herculean. We call these “looks” and a major reason we spend so much time doing rehearsals. The insight was ridiculously valuable, but it was only available if you were willing to see it over your ego. You had to recognize you made a mistake, try to understand why you made the mistake and then work towards changing the behavior that lead to said mistake. It is a process and no amount of good intention can replace the skill needed to take advantage of the benefits.

Put the work in to build your skills, hone them to a razors edge. Then test, test them until the fail, then test them again.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Mobility Restrictions

When I was younger I can remember when someone asked me if I was going to warm up before a run. My comment usually was “sure, I’m just going to run slower in the beginning.”

High Mileage Athlete

As I get older and the high mileage starts to show my body recovers slower. Nothing should be earth shattering about this fact, pretty much a no brainer. What I have noticed more recently is how its affecting my performance. This week has been brutal on the body, doing “2 a day” workouts. It doesn’t help that my lifting sessions have been centered around Olympic lifts. These explosive lifts are great for my training plan, the fit in quite nicely. The down side is the days after I have reduced range of motion. Yes, there is a little soreness, but what does the soreness mean. For me, it means my muscles are tight. When they are tight they have reduced their overall range of motion. Normal everyday movements are minimally impacted.

Economy of Motion

What I notice is how my drawstroke is affected. My dry fire and live fire is a mixture of the various carry conditions. Both open and concealed conditions as well as strong side, appendix and ankle carry positions. What I specifically noticed was how I had to accommodate with either extra or altered movements. One thing I try to emphasize in classes is not to add anything unnecessary and to do the minimum work necessary. If you are interested in being fast the natural response is to move faster. Simple enough. The first thing to do is clean up your technique so it has the minimum movement required for the action performed with a high level of precision. Having limited range of motion effected my movements. I liked discovering this, since my lifestyle has extensive periods where my range of motion may be suboptimal it reminds me of the importance of my mobility work.

Limited Mobility

I have a mobility program I consistently follow. A prime directive in my strength programming is injury prevention. It includes both pre and post workout. It has significantly improved not just my recovery, but my workouts and my quality of life. What I see as a common dilemma in our classes is students who as a result of injury, lifestyle or not knowing any better have terrible mobility. I see this easily demonstrated in posture. I joke about this in class, but if you grew up in Texas and had a mother like mine who constantly scolded you for not sitting up straight it left a mark. Among many things in my childhood she was right. Probably the two biggest posture issues I see involve shortened hip flexors and rounded shoulders.

Adapting to the New Norm

The shortened hip flexors will pull on the front part of your hips. I had this pretty bad when I was younger. Once the muscles and tendons shorten, it is difficult to get them to return to their normal position. Trust me on that one. My lower back continues to send me flowers ever since. To be honest the rounded shoulders were the least difficult of the two to correct. They both had a negative impact on my shooting. They affected my shooting mainly in recoil management, but other areas as well. When I corrected them I saw the positive impact in my shooting. At first in small dosages, but with time big changes. The human body can adapt and accommodate to many different conditions, but that doesn’t mean it is a good thing. When on the firing line I’m looking at the student’s posture to help identify potential problems.

If the shoulders are rounded and the hands rest in front of the hips realize this is not natural. It may have become the new norm, but it is not natural.

Author: Jeff Gonzales

Death & Safety

I have been pretty lucky over the years to have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people. I was saddened to learn the loss of a friend and student recently.

Not As Bright

I am constantly reminded how short and fragile our lives are on this tiny blue planet. You can do everything right and still be hit by a drunk driver, be the subject of a medical malpractice or die accidentally. It is hard to cope with the loose. There really are no simple ways to get through grief. There is only the realization the world is a little less bright without these people in our lives. After loosing a close friend of mine several years ago, I vowed I would make it a part of me to communicate my gratitude, my appreciation for those who have come into my life. To let them know they had an impact on my life. It is one of my prouder moments. I enjoy sitting down to pen and paper, sharing a few memories.

Ground Rush

When it comes to gun handling there is the critical understanding of the lethality of guns. How they are simply a machine, willed to action by the human behind the trigger. I feel it is important to review why we have safety rules in place. While we can never eliminate the danger of a gun, it is our responsibility to manage it and will it to do our biding. Complacency is a killer, it is ninja like how it entangles in our lives. We take so many things for granted, often times going through the motions. I can remember watching a video prior to my first free-fall jump so many years ago. We watched in amazement these jumpers performing all manner of jumps. I can remember the rush of knowing shortly I would be doing that, doing all those cool moves. Then the awkward feeling something should have happened by now, realizing the ground is rushing up. Making out objects on the ground as it speeds into your view and then nothing.

Recognize Danger

We were told the video was from an experienced sky diver, someone with more jumps than most can ever hope to achieve. They had decided to skip the last jump of the day, but were talked back into filming the exit only. As the familiarity of the jump takes hold and the jumpers prepare to exit so too does our cameraman…without a parachute. Choosing to film the exit only, he had left his parachute on the ground. While we were briefed on the multitude of failures that day, the glaring point to me was how comfortable we can become with danger. Years later I would be dressed down by a mentor for not recognizing danger. Placing myself and a teammate in grave danger as a result. I have strived to improve my ability to recognize danger. For new shooters we express upon them the importance of understanding the gun does not care. It is an emotionless, thoughtless piece of engineering.

Respect and Humility

When you are handling firearms never presume to above reproach. Above error. That bullet does not care. Instead, approach firearms handling with respect and humility. Recognize and admit you are fallible and can make a mistake so put in place steps to help you minimize those chances. Realize the intention of the safety rules is to work together, in an overlapping nature. That should one rule be broken, the hope is the others will survive to safeguard your actions. Live by these rules everyday, whether you handle firearms daily or not. Make it a point to review the rules and hold yourself accountable to living them and set the example for other to follow.

In the end, that is the best we can hope for, that we set the example for others to follow. That we live each day knowing how fragile it is and how we must act to protect life.