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Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

Dear Gun Manufacturers: Make Me A Gun!

I love that gun manufacturers are starting to really give us little people what we need.

With concealed carry booming and available in all fifty states of our union, with national reciprocity of some sorts on the horizon (it’s going to happen, people!) and the continued surge of female carriers and shooters the need for full-size, double-stack combat pistols is going to be met by the need of compact pistols that people can carry concealed but also shoot well.

Ahh.. shoot well.

There it is. The operative phrase.

Shoot. Well.

Let’s not mince words, there are hundreds of compact carry pistols on the market. I could go to a gun store today and pick up a P3AT or an LCP or a S&W Shield or Bodyguard or a Kahr PM9. I could go even smaller if I wanted to cut caliber or more capacity and potentially increasing my displeasure at the range. I could also go slightly larger and find a far more comfortable shooting gun and struggle with concealment.

The problem is (and well known) that many of the best carry guns are notoriously hard to shoot. Okay, the Shield isn’t bad (it’s actually quite good), but there are still people who do not find it easy to shoot.

We NEED a missing link. I’m stressing need here because I’m going to be addressing the needs of many people (men and women) all over the industry.

I am a small female and I’m not the only one. I’m also not the only one who has small hands or prefers single stack firearms. There are thousands upon thousands of women and men, like me, who have been begging and pleading for smaller-framed firearms that fit better in the grip and hand. You have answered the call by making single-stack 9mms! Thank you!

But for some reason you’ve assumed that means we have to have short barrels, too. That’s not necessarily so.

We all know that the lighter and more compact the firearm the more recoil the shooter needs to control and absorb. For individuals who already have lesser upper body strength, small hands or disabilities like arthritis this makes compact pistols intimidating and hard to control. Even if they love the gun for its size they shy away from shooting it or muscle through it for the sake of training to end up with sore elbows and wrists and arms. Not to mention we all know that longer sight radii help with accuracy.

Where are the small-frame, single stack, long-slide firearms that don’t come in the form of 1911s or also have long grips?

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Glock 43 vs a S&W Shield

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my Shield. It’s a great carry gun and the best compact 9mm I’ve ever shot. I will likely end up with a Glock 43 in my arsenal as well. I might even carry both. At the same time!

But I (and others) would pay good money for a S&W M&P 9mm Shield with a 4″ barrel (particularly threaded so that I might be able to add weight to the end for better recoil management, but I’ll start with a standard barrel, thankyouverymuch). I would also love for the grip to remain the same length but with options for larger/longer magazines. This way I could still carry the 4″ model if I wanted to (because it’s the grip that is hardest to conceal, not the barrel) but I could still compete and practice with a 9 or 10 round magazine.

Glock, if you’re listening, how about a 44? Please? A G19 length barrel with a G43 frame… that’s all I’m asking (oh, and larger capacity magazines with sleeves but baby steps).

Pretty Please? I would rock that.

Forever Yours,
Melody Lauer

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force

In my overview of the 2015 Rangemaster Tactical Conference I said that I was focusing on “action based” blocks of instruction. Having taken time off to have yet another baby I wanted to use my time at the Tac Conference to gauge what I’m retaining, what I’m learning, what I’ve overlearned, what I need to work on and where I need to focus my training efforts going forward. It’s hard to do that without action-based assessments.

Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey’s Low Light Force-On-Force was not only an assessment of low light tactics but also incorporated medical scenarios. Being an EMT I was excited for the opportunity to practice and be assessed in some of the trauma skills I have been trained in but blessedly don’t have much opportunity to use.

I’d heard a lot about both Karl Rehn and Caleb Causey from other instructor friends but this was my first time meeting or training with either of them. Karl has extensive experience running force and force and Caleb is a veteran combat medic who now teaching civilians the principles of providing trauma care in hostile environments.

This would be a new experience for me. The few traumas due to violence I’ve responded to in my capacity as an EMT have all been secured prior to entry by law enforcement. The only potential criminals I’ve treated have been in handcuffs with a sheriff’s deputy standing over both of us. I’ve never had to provide both security and medical treatment or to pick priority between the two.

The class could only take 15 participants but we snuck a 16th under the door because he was a local officer who brought his own airsoft gear. The class opened with introductions and then Caleb asked how many of us carry medical gear with us everywhere we go. There were a few people who said they keep it in their car but as far as I could tell I was the only one who professed I carried it with me everywhere.

I don’t think Caleb believed me. He told me he wanted to see my bag and how I carried it and I welcomed him to do just that. In fact, I was hoping to get his take on my kit anyway to see if there was anything I needed to add or change. I can now proudly say that my med kit is Caleb Causey approved!

Karl ran the make up of the scenarios while Caleb ran the medical portions. All of the scenarios would be blind but with the same basic scene. The scene was set up as though there were a massive power outage. You were exiting your place of work into a parking garage that had automatic locks so you couldn’t retreat back into the building. Cell phones did not work and at the end of the parking garage was your car and the street. Karl would pull out a few people, take them aside and give them instructions, turn off the lights and the welcome the participants into the scene, usually in groups of threes. Injuries were indicated with strips and pieces of bright orange duck tape. Not all participants were armed and not every scenario was a fight or shooting scenario.

Those not involved as roll players were allowed to stand aside in a predetermined area in the room and watch but could not interfere in any way.

The first group of three walked into a pitch black room where four individuals were fighting. As soon as they came in, two of the individuals ran off and what was left was a man lying on the floor, unmoving, and a woman running around frantically screaming for help for her loved one.

Two of the participants had recently gone through a tactical combat medical class and while not entirely versed in the concept of triage, did quite well with their assessment and treatment of both the man on the floor and the woman who, it was later discovered, was shot in the chest.

The scenario brought up concepts like triage and focusing treatment on outcomes you can change and allocating resources and making advanced decisions about getting help vs staying and treating. When it came time to move the patients it became quite obvious to many that moving dead weight humans is a lot harder than most people anticipate and deciding to move someone vs calling in help may be an important advanced decision to make.

The next scenario had three individuals walking into an ambush. All three of them were shot–one in the upper thigh, one in the strong hand and one in the belly. Their med bag was stolen and they had to clear the area.

Had this scenario been real life it wouldn’t have boded well for any of them. None of them had medical training and clearing the room to find their med bag was difficult due to a lack of tactics and application of using lights and cover. When they did get their med bag they had to take the additional time to attempt to read the instructions on the back of packages on how to use the medical gear, all with injuries and while one of their participants bled to death. The scenario was ended early to walk through how it could have gone and to drive home the lessons of seeking training in medical skills and movement and off-hand shooting.

This scenario was designed to show the need for a security priority but also to use everyone for that means of security. We also talked about setting up a secured location where even the wounded can provide security and using cover and concealment.

When it came time for “my” scenario I was told that I’m walking to my car with my two friends. Neither of them have medical training and neither of them are armed but they both know that I’m armed. I sighed. I pretty much knew what was coming.

I was told my med kit was in the car and we were sent into the room.

Right away one of my companions blasts out ahead of us to “the car” while myself and my other companion are taking our time. Just about the time we come to our first corner, I hear her get into a tussle. She’s yelling, and there’s some popping from the airsoft guns and I push my companion behind me and into a nook behind cover, turn off my flashlight and draw my gun.

I hear, “Oh Shit,” ring out from the darkness.

It’s completely dark for a few moments. There’s no sound and no movement and I’m trying to take some time to think about what to do next. In many of the scenarios, once the initial violence was done the bad guys ran off. The bad guy could have run off or he or they (I didn’t know how many there were) could be waiting for me. My companion could be shot or hurt and needing help. Either way, help and rescue are forward and I have to move out of my relatively good position.

I step out from behind cover and turn on my light again and the moment I do the officer who brought his own air soft gear flies around the corner and shoots me in the leg while I shoot at him. I don’t know if I got any hits on him.

Caleb pauses the scenario and says, “Ok, well you weren’t supposed to be doing this so well so let’s just fast forward this and just say you are up here by the car,” he moves me into position, “and shot here” he puts a piece of tape on my left arm, “here” on my left upper thigh, ” and here” on my left upper chest. “You are having difficulty breathing and cannot stand. Go.”

I lay down on the floor, take a moment to collect myself and tell companion number 1 to go for help. He leaves to do that while I ask companion number 2 to bring me the med bag and I start walking her through treating me in order of importance. Apparently because I was helping too much Caleb then decided that I’d also been shot in my upper right arm and tells me that I now cannot speak for 20 seconds.

I’m lying on the floor, spread eagle, not able to talk or use any of my limbs and my companions are supposed to have no medical training. Goodbye, cruel world.

When Caleb told me I could talk again I had her put the med bag on my chest and show me everything in the bag one item at a time. When I identified what I wanted I talked her through applying it to include putting a tourniquet on my leg, a chest seal on my chest, searching my back for any exit wounds, putting a pressure bandage on my right upper arm and holding pressure on my left arm until help arrived.

At that point I was pretty thankful for the loads of “bystander” scenarios we did in EMT school where we had to direct clueless bystanders.

This scenario was supposed to illustrate the short-sightedness of people who say things like, “Well, my friend is armed,” or “My friend is a medic, if anything happens, we’ll just let you take care of it.” If your armed medic goes down, you might be up a creek without a paddle.

The scenario was also meant to illustrate to me the difficulty in “treating through a barrier” which is a medic having to direct someone else in providing care vs doing it themselves. In a high stress environment, trying to explain to a frightened individual what to do and get them to understand things they’ve never had to do before can be quite challenging. Placing a tourniquet or even identifying a tourniquet or defining what a windlass is can be maddeningly frustrating. It’s frustrating enough without real blood and pain and nerves. It can be fatal otherwise.

I hadn’t heard her but when my companion ran ahead of me and was accosted by the bad guy she had screamed out, “She has a gun!”

Going dark when I heard the commotion was exactly the thing to do but I exposed myself and gave away my position when I turned my flashlight back on and that directly led to me getting shot.

Flashing and moving or staying behind cover and flashing and moving to another piece of cover would have been far better for me. I need to work on my movement between cover and concealment and using my flashlight.

The next two scenarios were more along the lines of teaching wound priority and just because someone is making the most noise doesn’t mean they are the most wounded and not everyone who needs help is a good guy.

Each of the scenarios were built to illustrate a vital point and not a single one of us went away without having learned something very important from the experiences.

My biggest take-aways were security priority, maintaining that security throughout treatment and using that light to your advantage. Scene safety is drilled into anyone who attends EMT training but it means something entirely new when you are in a hostile environment that doesn’t include police officers standing by.

Another thing I found interesting was how fixated we all got during treatment to the point where guns were being completely forgotten. Some of the scenarios would end and people would be left looking around for the gun they were supposed to have during the scenario. I had lost mine because I’d been told I was shot in both arms and to drop it but others would put theirs down to treat, move and completely lose track of them. With security being a priority, keeping track of that firearm is pretty important.

I liked both Karl and Caleb. In addition to being knowledgeable they were both edifying and constructive in their criticisms. It can’t be easy teaching a class with participants from all ranges of skill but they pulled it off nicely, challenging those who needed to be challenge and instructing those who needed instruction and inspiring everyone.

I look forward to taking more training from both Karl and Caleb in the future!

AAR: Insights Two-Day General Defensive Handgun Class

This After Action Review (AAR) was originally posted on on Oct 2, 2007. It was my very first defensive handgun class and I still remember many things about that class. To go back and read this review was a fantastic glimpse into how far I’ve come in the last seven years. I remember the level of stress I felt taking this class and to think back on it makes me almost laugh but also reminds me what new students face and it’s an important reminder not to look critically at people who are taking their first baby steps into a new world. To read the original draft, click here. Enjoy.


When it comes to training someone to defend himself (lethally if need be) there are as many theories, techniques and idea as there are shooters. It can be like math, or it can be like history.

Some training is as simple as two plus two. There are simple rules that need to be applied, such as grip, stance, the draw, and so on. These things are fundamentals that can be built upon and used to solve more complicated problems later on. Other instructors may encourage their students to go about those things a different way but the principle is entirely the same: do what you need to do safely and efficiently so you can save a life.

However, there is also another side to firearms instruction and that is made up of ideas, constructed within laws, facts and other ideas. Who do I choose to protect with my firearm? When is the appropriate time to draw? How do you deal with the police? What should I do after an encounter? One can instruct on these matters within the law, based of personal experience and ideas, but it is up to the individual doing to learning to decide what they will accept and what they will not and what I may glean as true and right may be what another shooter rejects. This is neither a good not a bad thing. It’s evidence that we are individuals with individual minds, beliefs, ideas, and morals that we want to individually adapt and morph. It is up to us to decide what consequences we will accept for those beliefs and ideas.

As evidence to this fact, my husband and I both took the two-day, General Defensive Handgun Class provided by Insights Training Center and if he were to write a review of the class it would probably be a lot different than mine. While the company is based out of Washington State, they travel the country providing more localized training. This particular class was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and cost 300 U.S. dollars per student.

Day One:

Day one started with introductions of the instructor, Greg Hamilton, and the participants of the class, of which I was the only woman enrolled. After we got through firearms safety we went on to what I like to call the arithmetic of shooting, the basic rules to be built upon to make them an advanced shooter: grip, stance, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, follow through and so on. Some instructors may disagree on certain techniques, but the result is the same: kill him before he kills you.

A number of these “basics” were not new concepts for me, but were modified slightly or explained and shown to me the way no one had been able to do so before. What I knew in theory finally became practice.

Finally, the instructor imparted on us poor souls the key to being a successful shooter. The principle is simple, yet profound, and it is that you never miss. You will always hit what you are aiming at, and you’re bullet will always go where it is pointed. The principles of stance, grip, sight alignment and picture and follow-through are all in place to help the shooter aim sure, putting the front sight where needed so that the bullet can follow.

We then learned the priorities of survival:
1) Mindset
2) Tactics
3) Skill
4) Equipment

We’ve all heard, dozens and probably thousands of times that mindset is the most important part of self-defense and I don’t think that anyone would argue that point. The idea is that without the will to live and to fight and to survive, it doesn’t matter if the person has a bazooka in their hands. There are little old grandmas who defeat attacks from much more able-bodied attackers just because they had the mindset that said they would not be victims. Mindset is the first priority.

Second, is tactics. Some tactics can be learned, but some are born out of the necessity of the situation. The people who are unarmed, but have the mindset to survive and to prevail will improvise their tactics to succeed, no matter what is required.

A person can be born with a measure of skill, but usually skill is learned. However, someone does not need to be skilled to survive and that is why it is more important to have mindset and tactics than it is to have skill. The little old grandmother with her bare hands can be just as effective as the skilled, training shooter, as long as she has the will to get going and the idea that sets her will in place. However, skill can help and be built upon and keep you alive longer and healthier than the lack thereof.

It’s also news to no one that a gun is not necessary to defend one’s self. In the absence of a gun anything can be used whether it be a knife, hands and feet, a fork, a chair or a gallon of milk. Those who choose to carry a gun for self-defense are a step up on the equipment scale, but a $3,000 gun will never mindset, tactics or skill, nor should it.

Then we were lectured on the two Principles of Personal Defense
1) Awareness
2) Decisiveness

You can have all the things necessary to survive a confrontation, but if you are unaware of your surroundings or undetermined as to whether you should act, you are as hindered as though you have nothing.

He also talked about expectations in a gunfight, which I found to be very helpful to me. He expressed that it is true that more than likely only a few rounds are necessary to end a fight in a personal defense situation, don’t expect that. My favorite phrase of the day was, “I expect to shoot through the entire magazine in my gun, my entire spare magazine, jump on top of him and beat him with my empty gun and then cut his head off with my knife, because everyone knows the fight isn’t over until his head is not at least three feet from his body.” It was a very unique way of looking at the situation.

Finally, after lunch we got to do some shooting. The first moments on the firing line were as terrorizing, as they were stressful, intense, confused and aggravating. Our instructor had said stress management was a key to being a good defensive shooter and that one of the ways to ensure you do not act prematurely under stress is to make sure that your practice is as stressful or worse than the real thing. He had told us he was going to make our practice stressful and he was right.

He was screaming, there was gunfire, brass was flying, the brain was going a million miles an hour trying to remember everything he just said, he was behind you, screaming, and you’re trying to act, all at the same time. Luckily there were no dropped guns, but there was a lot of cursing and startled faces. The worst part of the first few moments on the firing line was the fact that we weren’t doing very much. We weren’t drawing, we were moving, we weren’t doing anything but extending our firearms from the ready position, finding our sights, pressing the trigger and tactical reloads. Looking back I’m sure there’s not a one of us who doesn’t feel silly for how panicked we all felt in those first couple of minutes, but it was a stepping-stone to greater things.

Finally, we did get to doing some drawing, then more work on sight alignment, and we went back in for more lecture on the difference between justifiable and criminal force before we all went home to prepare for the next day.

Day Two:

On a personal note, I was sicker than a dog for the start of day two. We assembled in the classroom but started our day immediately on the range. I was sick enough to have to run to the bathroom a couple times, but determined to go on despite the pain in my gut, the nausea, and chills, and the desire to curl up in the fetal position and die. Amazingly enough, that morning while doing accuracy drills, I kicked everyone’s butt, but hardly cared at the moment. I wanted a painkiller and a bed.

From accuracy drills we moved right on to firing from the ready position, drawing and firing and rapid firing. After which we went inside for more lecture.

I sat at the table curled into a ball, clutching poor JD’s leg, trying to distract myself from the agony I was feeling in those moments but still listening intently.

Now we went into the Defensive Condition Color Codes of Awareness:
White (Unaware)
Yellow (Relaxed Alert)
Orange (Specific Alert)
Red (Fight Imminent)
Black (Fight Confirmed)
“Triggers” (Situationally Dependent)

Then we also went into the ready positions for the Color Codes of Awareness.

We also discussed guns, holsters, and other useful equipment like OC spray, flashlights, cell phones, knives and in what situation we might decide to use one over the other and how those tools can be used as deterrents so that one may never have to escalate to using a gun.

It was lunch before we went out to do more shooting and I was starting to feel a little better, so I did order a sandwich, only to regret eating it later.

I was again, in agony, while we did “identifying the target” drills.

We went back into class to discuss ballistics, gunshot wounds, shooting through the pain (which was a very appropriate lecture for me at that moment) and the aftermath of a shooting—everything from psychological, physical and legal.

We also discussed a little bit more about expectations and where to fire and to keep firing until the threat was down. And even then we should still be reloading and preparing ourselves for more while searching for secondary targets. He also warned us never to get into the idea that just because a threat is running away or on the ground the fight is over. One can still be running away and firing, or just running to cover to return more fire. He can still be on the ground with a gun. One should fire until the threat has stopped doing whatever he was doing to start it all in the first place.

When we went back out again, we did speed reloads and clearance drills. Loading up our magazines with snap caps and live ammo and going to town while still identifying out targets, drawing, firing, following up and scanning the area.

By the time we moved on to practicing the three zones of fire—the chest, head and pelvis—I was finally starting to feel like a human being again. My energy and good nature was returning and I wasn’t feeling so ill. It was a good thing too, because now we moved on to moving and shooting while doing everything we’d mentioned before. Finally, we added in communication to the mix: screaming commands to the attacker and to by-standers both before, during and after the shooting, to make sure everyone knows what’s happening and what to do next.

During that string of fire I saw a piece of brass enter my field of vision just before it clocked me a good one on the nose, bounced and hit my glasses and then left my field of vision as I kept shooting. My nose was stinging like crazy but I didn’t stop. I felt something sticky after the firing was over, turned to the instructor and asked if I was bleeding and he said I was. I now have a nice cut on the top of my nose from a piece of angrily wielded brass from the .40 caliber next to me (at least that’s where I assume it came from). I was not having a good day as far as my health was concerned.

We pretty much ended the class on that note and all went away with smiles on our faces.

When the instructor asked us if we all felt we learned something, everyone was nodding and telling their stories of what they learned. Because I was still feeling poorly and not very talkative, I was keeping to myself when he pointed at me and said, “I know you learned something.”

I was a little shocked and asked what that was and he said that by the end of the class he could see I had much better control of hands and body and more fluid control over the gun. I took that as a pretty big compliment as our instructor only gave out about six compliments the entire class. It wasn’t that he scolded people; he just spent more time moving people forward than congratulating them on what they did. He made sure to tell us to congratulate ourselves however.

What Did I Learn?

I learned that my expectations were a bit skewed and while they were not incorrect I was looking at them from a different angle.

I learned to put into practice things that I knew were correct in theory but never had anyone to instruct me on.

I learned to get angry and act when threatened (not always lethally, of course) instead of getting afraid and indecisive.

I learned that someone could bleed a LOT before they die and it can be nasty but it’s necessary to continue the fight, even if wounded. If you’re alive enough to realize you’ve been hurt, you’ll probably still be alive when you’ve returned fire and help has arrived. Even death is a lousy excuse for not fighting back.

I learned practices for better situational awareness and ways to manipulate my surroundings, even my attacker, to my advantage.

I’ll probably be figuring out all of the stuff I learned for the rest of my life and I hope I never stop learning from that class. I would strongly recommend it to anyone.

Cornered Cat

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