Saturday, October 25, 2014

Retention Shooting Positions - Pistol

Retention shooting positions:

Before reading this, please refer to my posts on Shooting Stances and Ready Positions:

What is retention shooting:
            Retention is better described as “Shooting from Retention” and is found when you are shooting in more or less physical contact with a bad guy – i.e. fight to control your weapon, being bum rushed, etc.

Thoughts on the issue seem to range across the board mainly based on who you are trained by and what the trainer’s background is. The instructor who only carried a gun on a SWAT team or Military team doing what is most easily described as CQB – Close Quarters Battle – will give you a tactic designed for a team environment. An instructor who worked as an undercover operative (UC) in LE, MIL or Intel communities, will be a different tactic all together. Your tactic needs to be chosen for what you do. For a LE officer or Military member who works in both realms, you must be familiar with both techniques and know when to use which one. For ease of focus, this article is in reference to pistol retention shooting.

*Fairbairn Sykes*
WW2 era tactics where you shoot with your arm held in front of your hip at hip height. This was taught as point shooting, but has become mistakenly taught today as “retention shooting.” This is not retention shooting. If you can have your weapon un protected like it would be in this, you can bring the gun up to a both hands firing stance. Using the Fairbairn Sykes method will almost certainly get your gun taken away. Don’t waste time learning or practicing this. Be leery of someone teaching this as the way to do it as well.

CAR – Center Axis Relock:
            Generally regarded as foolish in most circles, even more so in groups where the instructors actually “DO” carry guns for a living. It has a bladed stance with a very compressed “modified weaver” style hold on the gun. For more reference on this see the following photo, then play that into real world situations. This is not a very effective method when you start to get realistic with things. Blocks way to much of your peripheral vision. Gives a “gangster” style sight picture, which fights every other bit of your training for no real advantage. This technique also puts you sideways, which is bad if you are wearing body armor, or need to move as you will move faster forwards or backwards not sideways. Plus, it doesn’t look cool which is half the battle (G.I. Joe guidelines – Looking Cool is half the battle, the other half is red and blue lasers). 

One handed retention:
            This method works with your most common shooting stances, as it comes from the draw portion of the gun presentation. It will work both from open carried – duty or tactical holsters, as well as the most common 3 or 9 o’clock concealed handgun. With some modification, you can work it with your AIWB concealed carry handgun as well. You already do practice part of this when you present your gun. If I am in a one handed retention fight, it is to protect my pistol. As such I will be twisting my gunside away from the threat and using my support arm to help block my head and body from the threat. 

Two Handed Retention:
            When your pistol is already out of the holster you can bring the pistol back to the “compressed ready position” where its held centerline of your body with muzzle oriented same direction as your moving. I prefer a slight muzzle up from this position, and can use my WML from here to illuminate rooms well. The advantage of the gun being held in close with both hands allows me to maintain control over the firearm as one’s center of strength his next to their chest, not at arms length. This position allows me to use my firearm if in a very close quarter engagement where moving to full extension with my arms is not possible. The gun in close to your body negates your shooting speed as well as accuracy.

Pick the best technique for what your using, and roll with it in the hopes you’ll never need it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tactical Reloads vs. Emergency Reloads in Training

Tactical Reload vs Emergency Reloads


Emergency Reload: A reload where the weapons chamber is empty (slide/bolt locked to the rear) and magazine/tube is empty. In semi-automatic weapons a fresh magazine is inserted upon dropping/removing the empty magazine. The slide/bolt is then sent forward and target is reassessed.

Tactical Reload: A reload only to be conducted in a situation where the shooter is “safe” as one can be considering they just used their firearm in a deadly situation. A fresh magazine is located, indexed and brought to the firearm. The partially used magazine is stripped and retained from the weapon in the same hand as the fresh magazine. The fresh magazine is inserted into the weapon and seating is ensured. The partially depleted magazine is hopefully stowed into the shooters preferred storage location – pocket, dump pouch, non primary reload pouch.

*If a threat appears during a Tactical reload the shooter can reengage during that time without worry as a loaded magazine is in the gun for all but the briefest of moments. *

This topic came up in discussion about magazine retention, specifically retaining empty magazines by stowing them after expending all the ammunition in them. This is something that can have a use, but not as frequently suggested by those who carry concealed.

Stowing an empty magazine in a statistically realistic CONUS CCW or LE shooting does not make sense.

Statistically, 1-3 bad guys, 3-5 yards, 3 to 5 shots per target, 80% of the time in low light no light conditions where one would be legally blind.

In the above described statistically likely situation (as with any lethal force encounter), time is of the absolute importance. Being able to speed up the “Act” phase in your OODA loop is a must. Hopefully a example can help. If my emergency reload is say 1 second from shot to shot, but my emergency reload with retention of an empty magazine is 1.2 seconds, then I’m .2 seconds behind in the fight. Is .2 seconds the difference between life or death? Maybe. I only have the rest of my life (.2 seconds?) to find out. I’d rather not have that slower reload that doesn’t offer any advantages for the most likely engagement.

The biggest issue I see when thinking about factors in using an emergency reload with retention of the empty magazine is the why factor. Why retain an empty magazine when statistically the fight is over in a split second. CONUS, I will be either waiting for LE to arrive to take control of the crime scene, or I will be leaving the scene in a “tactical advance to a safer location” aka retraining to a safe place and waiting again for LE. One situation, your tampering with evidence of a crime scene. The other, your in a fight for your life and won’t have time to worry about retaining empty mags and finding that magic ammo Sherpa or box of ammo to reload it from. If you have the time and where in a safe place to reload an empty magazine, you had time to get to a place where you had extra ammo (preloaded in mags) and hopefully other equipment staged for emergency use. That ammo had better be in magazines already.

In discussion with military combat vets as well as reading various books, articles, reports of ammo being re-supplied in combat, there were various things of note. The biggest thing was equipment resupply should be staged in what is termed “speed balls” or pre loaded magazines and other implements of doom and destruction in accordance with unit SOP’s. Several reports I read indicated that some calls for extra ammo led to ammo in bandoliers being dropped for resupply, instead of loaded magazines. Clearly this is an issue if you haven’t retained magazines. Of course this was completely avoided if proper pre fight gear staging happened.

This can be played out in a LE/CCW role as well by your staging of loaded magazines in 2nd and 3rd line gear as well as vehicles. A few examples of this “speed ball” concept would be extra duty/CCW pistol magazines, medical gear, M4 magazines, etc. stored:
·      In the door of your vehicle, ATV, etc. 
·      In a EDC backpack.
·      A magazine bandolier like the Blue Force Gear 6 pack along with medical supplies.
·      Stored in your office desk drawers (along with other supplies for emergencies).
·      Ammo can (along with extra M4 magazines)

Is the a scenario where your CCW/LE individual runs out of their standard carry load (1 fighting pistol – Glock 19 or bigger, with minimum of 1 full size reload if not 2-3 on body) very realistic or likely? Nope. As we see Islam carrying out terror attacks more and more in the Mumbai, Beslan, and Kenyan Mall style, you better believe that more ammo will be needed.

In my personal training I’ve gone more and more away from practicing a “tactical reload” and more to speeding up my emergency reloads from EVERY SINGLE MAG POUCH I wear. A tactical reload is only slightly different than an emergency reload, yet the emergency reload is all the more likely to be needed. I practice the tactical reload every time I make ready, so its familiar in its simplest form. 

In the training scenarios I went through at DARC in 2013, I conducted countless emergency reloads. During that time, I conducted two planned emergency reloads with retention. I had pre planned to do them, taking into account two factors:
1.     Training scenario where after it was completed I would need to pick up my magazine. During the majority of the class this was not an issue as it was conducted in a shoot house. During this stage I was moving through waist high grass. Finding a magazine, no matter the color or lighting, would have been near impossible.
2.     Distance. If I needed to reload in the area that the grass was this tall, I was not shooting at the moment, but moving. Knowing when to shoot, communicate and or move is a must. If I needed to reload it was while moving between points of cover or in the “I’m up, he see’s me, I’d down” timing. If you can’t do a tactical or emergency reload in that time frame, its time you spend hours doing dry practice of basic weapon manipulation.

Hopefully I was able to get some thoughts across in not to muddled of a fashion.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dark Angel Medical DARK and Pocket DARK

Dark Angel Medical D.A.R.K. and Pocket D.A.R.K.

I met Kerry Davis aka “Pocket Doc” at SHOT Show in 2012. Got a brief chance to discuss his new to the market product with him and was intrigued by the concept. Taking the standard IFAK contents but vacuum sealing the contents into one item making it more compact while maintaining the same contents your familiar with and minimal costs associated with packaging.

I picked up a Pocket D.A.R.K. in Fall of 2012 upon its release. The Pocket model really filled a niche I had at the time. For work I was carrying (and still do carry) a full size TQ in a belt pouch centerline and a “Cinch Tight” H bandage in my cargo pocket. This gave me the ability to handle some emergency medical needs by me or my buddy following TCCC guidelines, but not very many.

Switching to the Pocket D.A.R.K. in stead of the Cinch Tight bandage, gave me at the time the following:

·      4” Israeli/Emergency Bandage
·      Combat Gauze LE
·      SWAT-T Tourniquet
·      Pair of Gloves

This was packed in a small vacuum sealed package of the above items in their packaging that was then secured in a slick nylon pouch made in the USA by First Spear. Having the pouch “slick” in construction was strange given my familiarity with smoother “quiet” nylon found on most tactical gear. The pouches slick material makes it easier to remove from my pocket as it doesn’t catch.

I carried the Pocket DARK with the first released version of the Pocket DARK for over 1 year on duty as well as off duty. This would have me pulling the pouch out of my pocket 2-4 times a day all week. In Jan 2014, I completed a medical preventative maintenance check and pulled the vacuum sealed portion out of the nylon pouch. I observed that after over 1 year it had finally worn through the vacuum sealing and damaged the outer seal. This was immediately resolved by emailing Kerry Davis who swapped out the old insert for a brand new insert. This has been used off duty since then as I was doing a T&E on another manufactures pocket kit during the 2014 time frame.

February of this year I picked up a full sized DARK for use on a LW Plate Carrier. Kerry had updated the kit with the addition of a Mylar Space Blanket in accordance with the latest TCCC updates.

When I first saw the DARK, it was a custom made by pouch by Eggroll of Extreme Gear Labs in Colorado (formerly free USA). This has been updated twice since then with both new generations of the pouch being made by First Spear for Dark Angel in the USA. Just as with any good company, Dark Angel was constantly innovating and updating their product based on use and feedback. The Gen 3 pouch I received showed all that.

I currently have added to mine a needle for chest decompression, combat sheers as well as a mini roll of duct tape. Last week Dark Angel announced they are now going to offer the chest darts for those qualified to use them.

For placement I like to place my IFAK’s forward of my left arm, final placement sometimes dependent on PALS webbing placement and quantity on said vest. With the DARK on its current vest, a Crye JPC, it stores as shown. It is slightly taller than a double M4 mag pouch in height but approximately the same size otherwise. I have conducted several range sessions in the vest since setup as well as multiple workouts. Never have I noticed the pouch to get in the way.

There are many good options out there for medical gear, if not more than enough at this point. Some companies stand out above others, Dark Angel is one of them.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adaptability and Versatility in Gear

Adaptability and Versatility in Gear

Unless you’ve completely ignored Soldier Systems Daily (, you’ve noticed that one of the current trends in the gear industry is to make something more adaptable for multiple roles/applications. This can be for a variety of reasons, budget, various missions, necessity to switch roles/assignments frequently (sniper to assaulter to grenadier), going from lo-pro to full assault mode, etc. Out of this somewhat new phase, have come a lot of very slick gear options.

Most familiar to most readers are the adaptable mag pouches from Blue Force Gear’s 10 Speed line and the HSGI Taco line. Ability to go from AR-15 mags, to AK mags, to Flashbangs, to Multi-tools, to iPhones, to Tourniquets, etc. without swapping pouches out is awesome.

I first saw this concept with the classic Paraclete zip on back panels back in the mid 2000’s. I’m not sure which came to market first, the Paraclete version or the Crye Combat Chassis version, but they both seemed similar. Ability to zip on and off back panels based on your mission – assaulter, medic, remove for vehicle ops, etc.

On the market at the moment, I’ve observed the following options to stand out (in no particular order):
·      LBT Plate Carriers
·      Blue Force Gear LMAC and 10 Speed Pouches
·      Honor Point USA “ZOT” packs
·      First Spear 6/9 with "Missing Link" belt adapters
·      SKD Tactical “Systema”
·      Crye Precision AVS
Extreme Gear Labs "STUFFIT"
·      HSGI Tacos
·      Raven Concealment “Moduloader” frames with HSGI Tacos and Blue Force Gear 10 speeds or various holsters on the new Pocket Shield
·      Mayflower/Velocity Systems Plate Carriers with the Mayflower, Velocity, and LBT “Placards” as well as the EGL VOCR chest rigs and their spawn, the D3CR made for Haley Strategic.

Personally I love the Blue Force Gear 10 Speeds for about everything pouch wise, and prefer the pistol variant on the Raven Moduloader’s over the HSGI Tacos due to lack of bulk and my experience with things such as “tactical reloads.”

Classic "Basicload"rig with a basic load of Red Bull

SR-25 double mag bandolier holding 1 M-4 mag and 1 Glock 17 mag with Arredondo extension and 1 CAT Tourniquet

The classic Blue Force Gear “Basicload” chest rig has worked for me when I felt the need to carry extra rifle ammo, as well as would packing essentials in a low profile rig. The ability to stick just about anything I would need in a 10 speed single M4 mag pouch is a great versatile resource. In this rig I have L to R, 1 Celox Guaze roll, 1 CAT TQ, 3 M-4 mags, 2 Glock 17 mags with Arredondo Extensions. 

This is the "STUFFIT" from Extreme Gear Labs. It is also available as a standalone MALICE mounted pouch as well as part of the EGL VOCR chest rigs and the EGL designed D3CR chest rigs. This pouch is very nice for the ability so swap out what it carries with the tightening of some shock cord. I can go from carrying 2 chemlights in the EGL chemlight loops, to carrying 1 GPS, 1 M-4 Mag, 2 M-4 mags, 1 Radio to my choice canned beverage of the moment - Kill Cliff or Red Bull. 

Probably the 2nd most common "modular" pouch on the market is the HSGI "Taco." I personally find this pouch is the worst to mount due to its design, but is easier to mount on a Raven Concealment MODULOADER frame than anything else. I run a single rifle Taco on a 5 finger frame for slightly heavy concealed carry or for low profile overt carry where I don't need a full duty belt. The rifle Taco gives me alot of modularity, as seen in the following pictures.

Having the ability to swap out weapon magazine types, covert to overt, and load out levels (1-3 magazines to 6+) is very nice. Thankfully the industry has been focused on this recently. There are lots of resources that go into depth on this as well as more new pieces of gear that are adaptable coming to market on a weekly basis.