Firearms Training: The 9-Hole Barricade

In combat, or in any armed confrontation for that matter, you may find yourself unable to stand flat-­footed and launch rounds willy-­nilly as you have practiced at the range. Getting shot at will wake you up if you are lucky enough to survive the first volley.

The smart person seeks cover or concealment as fast as they can, but the fight isn’t over. You must get back into the fight, quickly. This is where the Viking Tactics (VTAC) Barricade comes in as a training tool.

The VTAC Barricade was designed to give shooters an easy, range-­worthy, training tool that can be used frequently to help develop the ability to return fire from awkward, nonstandard positions.

The barricades are made from wood, so accidently shooting a hole through it won’t be the end of the world, but failure to maintain muzzle awareness will be rewarded with a blast and a hole in the barricade.

All safety rules must be adhered to with reverence as you use these devices to enhance your survivability and combat effectiveness. These barricades are here to ingrain good practices and to help you learn and adapt to potential situations.

A quick history of the VTAC Barricade: I stole this idea from Bennie Cooley, a fellow shooting instructor and good buddy of mine. He had a great barricade design, but I didn’t think it was quite hard enough to shoot through. So, we added more holes that were more restrictive and at some crazy angles. So, there you have it; very simple. So, how can we use these barricades to enhance our abilities?

9-­Hole Drill

The 9-­Hole Drill is an easy exercise (ease is relative) that can be used to teach a few things to our shooters. You will take the VTAC barricade and fire one or two rounds through each hole in the barricade at a piece of steel positioned at 50 to 100 yards away.

For close-quarters-battle (CQB) distances out to 25 ­yards, paper targets work great if you want to score close-range engagements from cover. Normally, we use steel for quick feedback as well as ease of training. I prefer to have the steel at a minimum of 50 yards but 100 yards separates the best shooters from the pack.

Using AR500 steel helps shooters get several repetitions in quickly on the barricade drill. The immediate feedback will get you moving in the right direction without the need to reset anything down range.

When used correctly, shooting steel is a great facilitator to speeding up the amount of time on the gun. Some would lead you to believe you don’t have to shoot a lot to become a good shooter. I disagree with this view. I believe repetition builds habits, good and bad. However, with live fire, shooters can see what works and what doesn’t. That ring of the steel (or the lack of) as well as the numbers on your timer tell the story. Neither will lie to you.

What are we trying to accomplish? 

First and foremost, we want to find the positions that work for you. I want students to experiment with different positions to see what works. You can also change the difficulty of the drill by adding support side shooting on the last low hole or shoot the entire drill from the support side.

Another goal with this drill is to get shooters to call their shots. With the act of calling shots comes speed in movement from hole to hole.

As we squeeze the trigger, we watch our sights. If the sights lift from an acceptable area of the target, which means you have a hit, quickly pull the firearm from the hole and get moving to the next position. I cannot emphasis the importance of this enough. Only those that can make this happen will get a good overall time on the drill.

With steel at 50 yards, I want everyone to shoot this drill in under 60 seconds. More than likely, a shooter won’t make it on the first attempt. I have seen some students shoot one shot per hole (with good hits) and complete this drill in under 30 seconds. That is a smoking run.

I push shooters to move the firearm from hole to hole quickly. With a carbine, this translates into pulling it up over your shoulder, then driving the gun to the next target. If you leave the carbine on your shoulder and move your entire body to get to the next hole, it is going to be slower than driving the gun from port to port. This applies directly to movement inside of a vehicle, a confined space or around cover. Ensuring that your safety on the carbine is engaged before moving to the next hole. (Safety first.)

As you work your way around the barricade with the carbine, ensure that your barrel doesn’t touch the barricade. This will have serious accuracy and impact effects on even a stiff-barreled carbine. If you are shooting around the barricade with a pistol, use positions that don’t rest on the barricade. If you must get extra support to make a longer pistol shot, use your thumb or knuckles on the barricade for support. Do not use the dust cover or slide of the pistol.

The VTAC Barricade can also be used for simpler drills to increase speed and comfort shooting from the support side. Transitioning from strong to support side seems easy, but when you have to go back and forth from side to side, changing knees etc., it can become a workout. This is exactly why we practice. When you are feeling wore out, it is a good way to see how strong your position is. Smoothly moving from side to side is key.

Huffing & Puffing

Running from barricade to barricade during a scrambler is an eye opener. Once you are winded, you can stabilize your carbine or pistol to make that perfect shot by taking a deep cleansing breath as you come into the position and use body parts with the barricade for stability.

What I like to do on the front of the gun, is to make a simple “C-­clamp” effect with my hand. The rear of the carbine will be stabilized by keeping the my back knee up. This may be different than you have previously been instructed, but take the time and try it, you might just like it.

If this seems all too easy, wait until Beginning Morning Nautical Twilight (BMNT), otherwise called “last light,” “sunset,” or “nighttime.” Now try the drill again.

You may have to use paper to see the targets since they will need to be a little closer for use with gun-mounted lights. If you are issued night vision goggles, the drill will teach you even more. With lights or infrared lasers, it isn’t only about the shooting, it is about how to activate these devices as you get into and out of positions, or how dust effects the ability to see with your devices. Learning how to deactivate the light or laser when you are moving from port to port could mean life or death in a real fight.

In the end, these drills build much needed combat confidence. Once you are comfortable with the VTAC 9-Hole Barricade drill, safely increase speed and difficulty. Try using the barricade as cover and stay behind it. Increasing the levels of difficulty is really the only way to get better. So, get out there and train!

From Guns and Ammo

Homemade Grass Suit Erases your Visual Imprint.

Your visual imprint is anything that differs from the environment you are in.

Hunters, Military and Spies, all try to hide their visual imprint.

But I believe nothing can erase your visual imprint, like what only the most elite sniper uses.

You can’t buy it.

But it completely erases you.

Josh shows you how to make it right here.

So you can become invisible if you need to.

(you can also hit the red subscribe button on the youtube video page, then the bell, to get all our self sufficiency videos for free, the second they are published)

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Stay Prepared,


P.S. You can use materials you have right at home…

… and it won’t cost you a single penny to be able to disappear instantly.

Check it out here.

Why You Need Dry-Fire Practice

Do part of any defensive firearms training and you can almost hear a listener’s brain turning off and his eyes glazing over. If pushed to explain this lack of enthusiasm, sooner or later they’ll say, “It’s boring.” Well, yes, there’s definitely no sizzle to clicking an empty pistol at an improvised target or blank wall. Also, there aren’t any of the things that make live fire enjoyable: no loud noise, no recoil, no downrange results with which to congratulate (or criticize) yourself. No shooting the breeze with fellow handgunners about the great merits of your choice of gun and caliber. No discussion of shooting tips, nor any help in rationalizing your poor performance. Dull.

Two of the reasons offered for not dry-firing are that it can damage the gun (in particular, the firing pin/striker could break) and without live fire you don’t learn to control the recoil of the firearm. While there’s some truth to firing pin damage, with modern firearms this is only a remote possibility. One top shooter I know dry-fired his Glock about 80,000 times before the firing pin started to wear down. (It didn’t “break,” however.)

It’s true you don’t learn how to control the arm in live fire. But recoil control should supplement dry-fire. After all, if you can’t hit anything due to lack of trigger control, there’s little reason to shoot.

On the positive side, the strongest argument offered for dry-firing is cost savings. I’m not talking just about ammo here, although with today’s supply and demand situation that’s certainly a big one. There’s also the time and money spent for travel to and from the range, along with costs associated with using the range.

While most everyone agrees that dry-firing is the best way to learn trigger control, “boring” appears to trump everything. I’ve done both live- and dry-fire but, early on, most of my practice was live fire thanks to the U.S. Army and as a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service—along with a lot of free GI .45 ACP ammo. By adding reloading to 10,000 rounds of hardball, I spent my practice time at a range. I got better, but I also ingrained some bad habits that were masked by live-fire and bedevil me even now, some four decades later.

Dry-fire practice is invaluable in that you can focus on one thing at a time without the distractions of live fire. If you’re concerned about damaging your handgun—although, as mentioned earlier, most modern handguns will stand up to more dry-firing than most any of us will ever do—buy a dozen or so snap caps. These are inert, visibly marked dummy cartridges to cushion the firing pin strike. You want to buy at least a dozen, because more is always better, and you will certainly lose or misplace some. They’re great not just for dry-firing but also for gun manipulation drills such as malfunction clearing and mag changes.

As to where to start dry-fire practice, some basic questions arise, but the first order of business is safety; dry-fire does not also include “dumb-fire.” All of you know the “unloaded” handgun may well be the most dangerous gun. I have a general impression that accidental discharges happen more with “empty” rather than loaded guns. How many times have we all read or heard, “I didn’t think it was loaded,” right after the “bang”?

Anecdotally, I think that “dumb-fire” mostly destroys wall light switches, TV sets and full-length mirrors. (Mirrors get it when practicing draw-and-fire drills.) And yes, there have been fatalities.

So you must begin with a verified safe and empty handgun, ammo separate from the gun and preferably put in another room. Next, you need a location where you will not be interrupted by anyone. Once established, most of your “downrange” area must be able to stop an accidental live round.

Finally, have firm time limits that are not exceeded for any reason. If you then want to load up, do it in the location of your ammo—not in the dry-fire area. Wall switches, TV sets and full-length mirrors are most often nailed after formal practice, usually a case of “just one more.”

Begin with the most basic method, which requires only a safe and empty handgun and a wall for the Wall Drill, which means using a wall that is light-colored and is a backstop more than capable of stopping a bullet from penetrating or ricocheting. There is no target; the drill is simply to bring the gun up, align the sights and press the trigger, while observing the action of the sights as the sear releases. (George Harris, formerly of SIG Academy, is the one who dubbed this the Wall Drill.)

Here you learn trigger control, which is 90 percent of effective firearms shooting. You can see how your trigger press affects sight alignment, along with how you must maintain your sighting even after the sear releases. Jerk the trigger and the front sight dives or snaps to the side and down, out of the rear sight notch. Boring? Yes. Worse still, you have no good excuse for this, although blaming a too-heavy or rough trigger pull is common.

There are no simple tricks. Problem is, there’s no way to excuse what you see your sights do when you jerk rather than pull the trigger. Sure, you can rationalize and claim you really need the ubiquitous “trigger job,” but this excuse lasts only until get the work done and find your front sight still disappears when you pull (read: jerk/yank) the trigger.

You can have a change of pace by modifying the drill with an eraser-tipped lead pencil and a sheet of paper for the “pencil drill” or design your own. Hang your target such that your gun muzzle is almost touching it. When the pencil is launched, its tip will dimple or mark, forming a pattern of your efforts. WARNING: Do not fire the pencil at anyone or anything! Depending on the gun’s firing system, the pencil point will break skin.

Dry-fire a dozen or so times while paying attention to only one thing at a time. If you try to correct multiple errors, you can’t know which correction worked on a particular error. Start with observing how your trigger press affects sight alignment. By the way, if you’re not seeing this, you’re closing your eyes just as the sear releases.

Dry-fire practice is the foundation on which you build shooting skills. Did I say dry-fire is boring? Add this: It is also indispensable.



On a recent ShieldWall Network trip, it was found that two of us were carrying the same model, caliber, and generation of Glock .45, with very similar holsters, which caused some momentary confusion during gear transport. This article describes the importance of marking your magazines, as well. 

This past weekend I helped to orchestrate an epic shootfest for a buddy’s bachelor party and it provided a great example of why you should mark your magazines. More about that in a bit.

I hope Dave’s marriage is way more fun than we had at the range, but I gotta say, that is gonna be a challenge. The day was glorious and contained everything from real training to fun with guns, .22lr to .50BMG, single shot to full auto, and paper targets to time on the Roger’s range.

All of that fun meant lots of magazines! In my case, marked magazines. I like my gear. I invest a lot in my gear. Even though I enjoy allowing other shooters to use my gear, I actually want that gear back! I bet you feel the same way.

That means that like me, you might want to consider taking the time to mark your magazines.

Mark Your Magazines: Why you should mark your mags.

Tuesday morning rolled around. That meant it was time for me to reorganize after a three day weekend of firearms instruction. When it comes to teaching guns, it seems there is at least as much work that takes place off of the range.

As I started to work through the boxes of gear, I came across lots of mags. With the exception of two of those mags, they were all mine.

I knew that the mags were mine because they were marked with my name, my company name and a number. You see, after years on the range, one thing I know is that a GLOCK mag looks like a GLOCK mag and with the amount I invest in magazines, it makes sense to make certain that I get my gear back.

If you are reading blog posts here at GunMag Warehouse, you know how important mags are to your shooting and you know that they are a significant investment. You want your mags back after a weekend of shooting and that is why you should mark your mags.

If it gets mixed in with someonelse’s gear or gets misplaced or left behind a marked mag is much more likely to be returned.

How to Mark Magazines.

mark your mags

Over the years I have found that the best way to mark magazines is with a simple paint marker. I make sure that the marker is a contrasting color to the magazine, white works well in most cases, but if you like some other color go for it as long as it will allow you and others to see who the mag belongs to.

When it comes to the actual marking, make sure to follow the directions that come with your paint marker. Since guns and oil often go together, pay particular attention to the cleaning instructions.

It makes sense to test out your paint marker on something that isn’t valuable before you start marking. Making sure to have the right amount of paint in the tip can help to ensure your mags look neat and more importantly that your markings are legible.

When I mark my mags I like to mark them in multiple places so that if one marking wears away, another may still be visible. I also like to be able to see the mag I.D. from multiple angles. I ALWAYS mark the body of the mag as that is likely to be the most easily seen, and I often mark the baseplate as well. This helps me keep parts together in the same unit and prevents someone from simply replacing a baseplate and making the rest of my mag “theirs.”

Finally, make sure your mags have some drying time before they get used.

What markings do you need?

Lots of folks have some kind of a unique mark they like to put on their gear to I.D. it. I’ve seen officers use badge numbers or people using a neat display of initials or a personal mark. All those ideas are groovy, but they may only have meaning to the individual or a small group. When you are at a training course of a dozen or more people or you leave your gear at a public range, those unique marks may not be enough. While unique is cool, it may not help your mags to get back to you.

I recommend making sure to mark your mags with your last name. If you have a last name that is common, consider first initial and last name at a minimum. Last name helps an instructor or range worker be able to cross reference paperwork and your mag and facilitates them getting your gear back to you.

While you are at it, make sure to add a unique number to each mag so you can track its performance over time. When you experience a malfunction knowing what mag was being used can help you to track down the source of the malf. After all magazine reliability is important!

I typically use a 2 digit number identifier such as “01” or “18”. I can’t think of a single firearm I own that has less than 10 mags to go with it and I like that consistency of seeing 2 digits. Yeah I guess I am a bit “type A” about some things.

Final Thoughts

Shooters need mags. Lots of mags and that necessitates an investment. Taking the simple step of marking your magazines is an excellent way to protect your investment and keep your gear for years to come.

Marking your mags helps you to identify the magazines that belong to you. It helps others return your gear to you when they scoop it up by accident or when you leave it behind. Marking your mags with a unique number can also help you keep your gear functioning at its best. These reasons really make the idea of marking your mags a no-brainer.

mark your mags

Now, I need to track down the owners of a well used HK VP9 magazine and a brand new FDE Hexmag, both unmarked!

How do you mark your mags?

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range.

Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA’s students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

Learning To Parent the Next Generation

Eric R. Poole

“Daddy, I hit it!” my daughter exclaimed as she came off the rifle having fired her first shot. Perhaps I placed too much pressure on myself before that moment, but I felt relieved afterwards. Before I had kids, I was sure that I’d start teaching them how to shoot when they were four years old. After all, that’s when Dad started teaching me. Like my own memory, I wanted to make the experience special and positive, but I became uncertain when my kids would be ready.

I procrastinated these last few years and let my responsibilities at work and home get in the way of the effort to make time for my family at the range. I often thought and debated with myself about how I would introduce my children to firearms, and I grew less confident in my abilities as time ticked away.

It became obvious that anticipation was building. Surprising to me, it was my daughter (and not my son) who first asked that I take them shooting. At the end of every day, she watched as I routinely unholstered my carry pistol before securing it in one of our home’s Tactical Walls. I often remind her not to discuss guns (or Daddy’s job) with friends at school, the NRA safety rules and to never touch a gun without my direction and supervision. I’ve been in awe of her maturity and obedience, and have been encouraged to begin teaching her.

Selecting the rifle wasn’t as challenging as I expected. I knew that I wanted a bolt gun, preferably a single shot with a short length of pull. There are other options available — some more affordable — but I decided on a Savage Rascal in .22LR long before ordering one. Years ago, I had taught another boy who had difficulty pulling the bolt to cock the firing pin. He needed to take the rifle out of his shoulder after each shot to charge the action. Then I saw another girl on a range shoot a Rascal without the struggle. She benefited from a consistent position behind the sights and focused exclusively on shooting tight groups.

I wanted my daughter to feel the pride of ownership, so I ordered a Rascal wearing a stock molded in her favorite color. Then, I had her name engraved on the barrel. Though the Rascal comes with iron sights, I decided to make aiming easier and save sight alignment instruction for later by mounting a red dot on top of the receiver. To do this, I discovered that Evolution Gun Works (EGW; makes a Picatinny rail scope mount specifically for the Savage Rascal, and they only want $30 for it. With that installed, I attached a Bushnell Trophy TRS 1x25mm red dot sight. Though the MSRP is north of $100, I found that most stores offer the TRS-25 for $65 or less. It proved to be a great choice on my part because she hardly every misses hitting a target.

Not too long ago, I found a an old box of steel silhouette animals for use with .22LR only. Sure, there are fun reactive targets that you can buy from Champion for not a lot of money, but these pieces of steel brought back memories of plinking with my family in the Mohave desert. In fact, I continued using them to practice ahead of placing first in my class during the 2005 NRA Lever Action Rifle Silhouette Championships. When a bullet strikes, they spin or flip off their post and provide the shooter instant gratification, and that’s exactly what they’ve given my daughter and I.

As I write this, I’ve just returned home after competing in my first Rimfire Challenge event ( The youth participating were incredibly talented, and the support they received from every parent was inspirational. I couldn’t watch other fathers, mothers, sons and daughters support one another without imagining my family and our pending future at the range. It was another reminder that we shoot to protect the future of their gun rights.

What To Do When Your Gun Fails

When your pistol malfunctions during a range session, do you stop and look at it, dumbfounded? Do you set your pistol down and raise your hand for assistance because you aren’t sure how to remedy the problem? These are common reactions for a new shooter, but if you’re going to carry a pistol or keep one in the home for defensive purposes, you need to be your gun’s emergency roadside mechanic. After all, lives may depend on your ability to fix your gun and get back in the fight.

When pressing the trigger of your pistol produces a “click” instead of a “bang,” it’s time to employ the immediate-action technique, also known as “tap, rack, assess.” There are a few ways to accomplish this, but they all share some common traits.

The first step to clearing most malfunctions is to release your grip with your non-dominant hand and use your palm to slam the bottom of the magazine. The rationale is that the malfunction may have been caused by the magazine not being fully seated in the magazine well. “Tapping” the magazine will help ensure it’s locked in place.

Although this is an important first step, merely tapping the magazine won’t enable you to fire the pistol. You need to cycle the action to ensure any obstruction in the chamber is cleared and a new round is fed.

To facilitate this, reach over the pistol and pinch the slide between your fingertips and the heel of your palm. Be sure to grip behind the eject port so your hand doesn’t block the ejection port and induce a double-feed stoppage.

Grip established, rack the slide forcefully to the rear. Racking the slide is easier with the momentum generated by a quick, aggressive cycling action. To ensure the slide travels completely rearward and therefore has the most spring tension to drive it back into battery, at the same time push forward on the grip with your dominant hand.

When you release the slide, allow your non-dominant hand to strike your chest to confirm you don’t ride the slide as it travels forward. Riding the slide decelerates the slide’s forward movement and could prevent the pistol from going back into battery. A popular tweak to this technique is to rotate the pistol to the right—toward the ejection port—so gravity will help clear the spent casings or bad rounds from the pistol.

After tapping the magazine and racking the slide, quickly assess the condition of your pistol and the threat. If you cant the pistol slightly to the left, you’ll be able to see if the slide is completely forward. If it is, your gun should be ready to fire.

At this point, it’s time to determine if firing your pistol is an appropriate response. Does the assailant still present an imminent deadly threat, or has he fled, taken a hostage or given up? Remember your response must be based on the current actions of the assailant. Just because he presented a deadly threat 10 seconds ago doesn’t mean it would be legally justified to shoot him now.

When I was a new police officer 20 years ago, we were taught to clear a malfunction while keeping the arm extended, with the pistol oriented to the threat. This was intended to prevent your adversary from recognizing your pistol was not operational. Also, since your muzzle was still pointed at the threat, it was considered faster to aim your pistol when the stoppage was remedied.

Today, most pistol instructors advocate keeping the gun close to the body while clearing a malfunction. After all, a seamstress doesn’t thread a needle with fully extended arms. Doing so would be quite frustrating and time-consuming. While sewing may not be an urgent endeavor, clearing a malfunctioned pistol certainly is.

In the modern version of the immediate-action technique, bring the gun toward your body and orient the magazine toward your non-dominant side. This positions it perfectly for a firm palm strike to the bottom of the magazine to ensure it’s fully seated.

Rather than racking the slide as described earlier, instructors like Dave Spaulding advocate a different technique. Rather than grip the slide with your fingertips and hand—thumb facing toward you—turn your hand over, thumb facing away.

Grip the slide with your thumb and as many fingertips as you can fit onto the slide. This is a more natural motion than gripping with your thumb facing toward you.

With this method, instead of rotating the pistol to the right—toward the ejection port—rotate the pistol to the left. This may seem counterproductive, but when you consider you are rotating the gun until the top of the slide is in about the seven o’clock position, it’s easy to see that gravity will still help clear the ejection port of spent casings or unfired rounds gumming up the works.

Again, rotating the pistol inward is more natural than rotating it outward. Many equate this to pouring out a beverage. You would almost certainly invert your cup by rotating it inward. It’s easier to turn the cup upside down this way. Your pistol is really no different.

Double Feeds

The immediate-action sequence won’t clear a double-feed. If you’ve already performed the sequence and the pistol still won’t fire, or if you recognize that your pistol has a double-feed before executing immediate action, here’s what you need to do.

First, you must remove the magazine from the pistol. Depending on the pistol and magazine you’re using, you may simply be able to grasp the bottom of the magazine firmly and strip it from the pistol. However, on certain pistols and with certain magazines, this won’t work. In these cases, you will have to first lock the slide to the rear by pressing up on the slide stop while fully retracting the slide.

How will you know whether you can get away with not locking the slide to the rear? Practice with your carry gun and magazine. This is something you need to know before you’re fighting for your life.

My police training taught me to drop the magazine after stripping it from the gun. After all, the magazine could be the culprit. But police officers typically carry at least two spare magazines.

What if the magazine you strip from the pistol is your your only one? When the magazine in your pistol is all you’ve got, secure it under your shooting-side armpit until you’ve cleared the malfunction.

After removing the magazine, invert the pistol and cycle the slide until the chamber is clear. Most instructors recommend racking the slide three times. Once or twice may not be enough, and if the third time isn’t a charm, chances are neither will subsequent attempts. If you see the spent casing eject after the first time you rack the slide, you can move on.

At this point, you have an empty pistol. If you have a spare magazine, load it into the pistol, but don’t forget you still need to rack the slide to chamber a round. If you had only one magazine, retrieve it from under your arm, load and rack the slide. This is not a particularly complicated process, but it must be practiced extensively because it needs to happen ASAP.

Speaking of practice, have you considered that an injury to your hand or arm may require you to clear a malfunction one-handed? If you understand what needs to occur mechanically to fix your gun, the technique for one-handed malfunction clearing is really no mystery.

The immediate-action sequence can be performed by tapping the bottom of the magazine on your knee, hooking the rear sight or ejection port on your belt, holster, boot or other solid object and racking the slide. No big deal, although it’s something you really need to practice.

Safety First

For safety, this technique and the following one should be practiced initially with dummy rounds. You must be mindful that your muzzle isn’t pointed at you or anyone else. Only when you are proficient with these techniques using inert training rounds should you even consider practicing them with live rounds. When you do, start slowly, with safety always being the most important consideration.

The next technique deals with clearing a double-feed with only one hand. For a right-handed shooter executing a right-handed-only double-feed clearance, hook the rear sight or ejection port on your belt, holster or other hard object while pushing up on the slide stop with your thumb and racking the slide completely rearward.

With the slide locked open, hook the magazine on a pocket and press the magazine release then rip the magazine from the pistol. If that’s your only magazine, you will need to pick it up because it’s kind of important.

With the magazine ejected, hook the rear sight or ejection port on something and cycle the slide as previously described to clear the chamber. Holster the pistol. Insert the magazine. Draw the pistol and hook the rear sight or ejection port on an object to cycle the slide and chamber a round.

As you probably guessed, clearing a double-feed left-handed can be more difficult—especially for right-handed shooters but even for lefties, since few guns offer ambidextrous slide locks and you have to deal with controls on the other side of the gun.

The pistol doesn’t care which hand you use to clear it. As far as the pistol is concerned, the same thing is happening.

To lock the slide back with the left hand, you’ll need to apply upward pressure on the slide stop with your left index finger rather than your right thumb. Similarly, you’ll need to press the magazine release with your left index finger while stripping out the magazine with the help of your pocket.

From there, cycle the slide until the spent casing is ejected. If your holster is on your right side because you’re a right-hander, you’ll need to place the gun between your knees or kneel and secure it behind your bended knee (with the muzzle facing away from you). Insert the magazine. Hook the slide or ejection port and rack the slide to chamber a round.

And remember that if you’re dealing with a malfunction in real life while facing a deadly threat, if “tap, rack, assess” doesn’t address the problem, running to cover is an excellent second step when such a move is possible.

Guns malfunction. Murphy’s Law dictates this will occur at the most inopportune time. That’s why it’s important to have an immediate and reliable solution to clear any type of pistol stoppage.

When your handgun malfunctions in the middle of a fight, don’t contemplate it—fix it.





Hand To Hand Combat Refresher

A punch is thrown, and the officer moves to deflect and redirect it. In a flash the assailant is on the ground with little understanding of how they got there.

Just as quickly the officer is on top of them, applying handcuffs. While this has a modern-day feel to it, this episode could have taken place almost anywhere on earth for the last several thousand years. There is an undeniable link between modern defensive tactics taught in police academies, military bases and security institutes and the ancient dojo.

While the modern police academy defensive tactics room looks little like a martial arts dojo, the lessons remain the same. Training gi’s are replaced with T-shirts and sweats. The sword is now an expandable baton, and the warrior wears a badge instead of a family crest. The techniques are taught in a slightly different manner, but the lessons remain the same. While possibly an oversimplification, these lessons can be broken down into five sections. First up is striking.

Strike Through It

The idea of striking an adversary seems to be a simple matter. They attack you, and you throw a punch in reply. This is an oversimplification of effective technique, however. Senseis and drill instructors teach the same thing: If you are going to hit something, strike through it. To make contact with the surface and stop will result in a less-than-effective strike. By striking as if you are aiming at a point beyond your initial contact, you will get much deeper penetration into your target. Additionally, you are taught to strike with your entire body. A relaxed body concentrated behind a punch or kick allows the transfer of much more energy into the subject. This is essential for those who may not possess great strength or size.

Lock It Up

Another essential skill in any combatives program is joint locking and manipulation. All officers must have the ability to manipulate a subject’s joints in order to not only control them but also to handcuff them as well. The world of joint manipulation is vast and complicated, yet pieces can be cut out for those wearing a badge. The primary principle behind joint control is moving a joint against its normal direction. This is accomplished by moving the joint away from the subject’s center to weaken it, then using your entire body to turn and control the joint.

The most common control points are the wrist and elbows. Used correctly, these controls can provide pain compliance and, more importantly, mechanical compliance. They can incapacitate an assailant and keep them from causing any further injury. A unique aspect of joint manipulations is their dual application nature. These controls allow an officer to control a subject, but if need be, they can break joints as well. If an assailant continues to be dangerous, an officer can damage a joint to a degree that the subject cannot utilize it in a continued assault. While not preferred, the option is available.

Combative Grappling

In many cases, combative events end up on the ground. This, coupled with the huge popularity of MMA and the belief by many assailants that they are the next UFC champion, makes strong grappling skills a must. The difference, however, is that combative grappling is not a sport. There are no tap-outs or referees. The main goal in combative grappling is to either disable the assailant quickly or to get back onto your feet. The opportunity for the assailant’s friends to kick an officer in the head while they roll is very high. Even after an officer or soldier does disable an opponent, they need to get to their
feet as quickly as possible.

Using Weapons

The world of weapons in our context goes be-yond firearms. A student of combatives must have both offensive and defensive skills with a variety of weapons. The two most common are edged weapons and impact weapons. Edged weapons are extremely dangerous in that they are easily concealed, easy to use and silent. Traditional disarming techniques follow three components: Get off the line of attack, control the weapon and then control the assailant. The introduction of an edged weapon also elevates the event to a deadly-force incident. If the person is willing to take your life, then they should be considered a deadly, dedicated adversary. A kinetic response to the attack must be swift and overwhelming.

Much of this applies to the introduction of an impact weapon as well. The flipside of this coin are skills that allow an officer or soldier offensive skills with these weapons. Training with impact weapons is common and for the most part is adequate. Offensive edged weapons training is almost non-existent, however. Without going into too much detail, the use of blades in traditional training is based on stopping the adversary. The most effective way to do this is to stab. Slashing does damage but is not nearly as effective as penetration into internal organs. This is a lethal-force option when a firearm is not available.

Survival Mindset

Of all the relevant training that has flowed from the dojo to the training room, focusing the mind is the most important. Samurai would dedicate years in training their mind to stay focused and calm during conflict. While the methods of mental training have changed, the lesson remains the same. A calm mind allows for more options to present themselves. Panic and overwhelming fear can cause irrational behavior and less-than-effective responses to threats. There is a Japanese phrase that sums up the most critical lesson in mental training: dochu-no-sei or “calmness in action.”

In the end, there is little that differentiates modern students of combatives from ancient ones. Society has advanced to a great degree, yet there will always be those who wish to do harm to the innocent. Those who stand as guardians of the weak will always be the product of warrior training. They have been and will always be the product of sweat, pain and mental focus.


How SEALs Train Tactical Fitness

ShieldWall Network Editorial note: Even if you have a physical labor job, but especially if you do not, many of us may not be ready for this, yet. Tactical fitness can begin with normal every day activity which gets you moving to add flexibility and exercise your muscles and cardiovascular system. For example, bending from an upright position to pull up weeds and grass to feed to the chickens, or picking up limbs on your property, is just as effective as doing a “touch your toes” exercise. Walking, doing outside chores, and being active is exercise, itself, and a great place to start when building up to higher levels of fitness. A hanging punching bag in the front yard and a basketball goal in the back are great inducements to improve your physical health, too! 

Navy SEAL veteran Stew Smith defines tactical fitness and breaks it down into three stages.

If you’re kicking down doors, jumping out of planes, or pulling people from a burning building, you’re probably more concerned with tactical fitness than with being ripped like Channing Tatum or Hugh Jackman.

For those preparing to enter an operational field within law enforcement or the military, or for veterans who want to maintain some level of athleticism, there are practical fitness workouts that prioritize functionality over aesthetics.

Task & Purpose spoke with Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL officer who has written numerous books and articles about tactical fitness over the last 17 years. When it comes to tactical fitness, Smith explains that you shouldn’t be concerned with having six-pack abs or how big your biceps are.

Instead, “this training is going to make me better at inserting six miles with 60 pounds on my back or jumping out of an aircraft,” said Smith. “Your workout should be focused on answering those questions.”

In essence, tactical fitness comes down to practicality, and it’s still valuable to those outside of operational jobs or careers because its foundation is built on survival skills and survival fitness, explained Smith. Being able to perform in a dangerous or high-risk situation, like being strong enough to pull an injured co-worker to safety during a fire, or to swim to shore if you fall overboard on a boat, are all elements of tactical fitness.

Smith breaks tactical fitness down in a tiered system that builds upon three stages, which Smith categorizes as:

To: which gets you in shape to perform for a test or during training
Through: which is what happens during the training
Operational: which is doing the job itself
Each stage — to, through, and operational — has its own benchmarks and goals that are ultimately determined by what the participants want to get out of their training, explained Smith.

Getting to the training or event

This is what you have to do to make it to a test or course, explained Smith.

If you’re training to be a Navy SEAL and you’re a strong swimmer, but lack endurance and power, you may want to start lifting and doing flutter kicks in the sand while wet. Those who are built likes trucks, but lack stamina may want to work on their endurance, explained Smith.

“This typically means you have a fitness foundation from athletics or whatever, but you specialize a little bit and focus on the fitness test to get you into the training,” he said.

Getting through the training

Once you’ve gotten to the event — whether that’s a training course like Ranger School or you’ve made it to your Tough Mudder — your training takes on another level of specificity, Smith explained.

“Depending on what you’re doing, you need to focus on those tasks you’ll be tested in,” Smith said, adding that during the “through” phase, you need to identify the key aspects of your training and work on those.

If you’re preparing for an intense obstacle course with flaming tires and barbed wire awaiting you at the finish line, you should throw some agility training into the mix.

“You have to build a strong foundation so you can do that,” added Smith.

Getting through the operation or mission

When you’re training for an event you may find that “you’re almost a triathlete with some strength,” said Smith, but once you’ve reached that stage, which Smith describes as the “operational side,” you may not be doing as much cardio, strength training, swimming, or running as you were previously.

For Smith, who cycles through all three phases annually, his operational phase, “is just a fancy way of saying my weight training phase,” and involves lifting, rucking, swimming with fins, and building up strength.

“As an athlete you don’t necessarily have to be good at everything, but great at one thing,” explained Smith, adding that a swimmer may not need to be great on land, or a sprinter may not need to do a lot of endurance training.

But for tactical athletes, “you have to be good at every element of fitness. … You need to have endurance, speed, muscle stamina, agility, strength, and power.”

The key difference between tactical fitness and other forms of physical training is that the latter focuses on versatility rather than specificity.

“You don’t need to be an A+ in all of those, but you need to be a good B student at everything,” said Smith. “Tactical fitness is all over the map.”

Once you’re in those operational commands, it becomes a matter of maintenance, explained Smith, who said that you should cycle back to the to, through and operational elements of your training.



Tactical Vs. Regular Fitness

During the past decade, a new fitness genre has been developed.  Fitness programming comes and goes over time, but rarely is an entire new category created.  This new type of fitness training is now called Tactical Fitness.  What we once called Military, Police, Fire Fighter, and Special Ops Fitness programs is now categorized into the ever-growing group of Tactical Fitness.  Even major strength, conditioning, and personal training associations like the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has a program with a peer-reviewed journal and certification program for Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC).  So, I do not see this genre losing ground like some overused concepts like boot camp workouts and functional fitness.


Tactical Fitness is not about workouts, it’s about work. It is not about working out to get good at working out, it is about creating programs that carry over into real life movements like lifts, carries, crawls, runs, rucks, swims, and mobility, even analytical and creative thinking. It uses non-traditional equipment to lift and carry loads that are not equally balanced.

Tactical Fitness is about choosing a profession where your fitness may one day be the difference between life and death for you, your buddy, or someone you are trying to help.  Not only does your health and fitness need to be developed, but your ability to react as you have been trained and think clearly under stress is an absolute must.

Knowing how to be a team player is critical too.  Find workout buddies with like goals and play sports to learn how to be part of a team.  Your workout today must make you better tomorrow in your job.  This means not only having a healthy heart, blood pressure, sugar levels, and weight, but your workout must help you with the following elements of fitness:

  • Speed and Endurance – Run and ruck farther and faster.
  • Strength and Power – Lift equipment, gear, and people too.
  • Flexibility and  Mobility – Move easily over uneven terrain and in between obstacles.
  • Muscle Stamina – Move yourself and gear up, over, under, and through space.
  • Old Man Grip – Hold gear, climb rope / mountain, grab things and people without tiring.
  • Skills – Swim to save a life, to cross a river, meet up with a ship or sub for extraction, and to be effective on 75% of this planet.
  • And more – Anything and everything in your job.


It is possible to achieve excellent results with each of these elements of fitness.  You will be naturally stronger and enjoy certain routines, but you will also have weaknesses.  You have to determine what these weaknesses are in order to fix and improve them.  When you are a Tactical Athlete, training for all of these elements will not make you the strongest or fastest person in the country, but you will be well above average in both strength and endurance, stamina, and other areas.

It is very common for an advanced Tactical Athlete to be strong enough to do 20 pullups and dead lift two times his bodyweight of 200 or more pounds and still be able to run a six-minute mile pace for several miles.  Those are excellent numbers, but a cross country runner will beat you by a minute in a mile run, but likely fail at strength events.  The strong man will almost double your lift weights, but take a bus when the mile run is tested.  The Tactical Athlete’s definition of optimal is different than the normal single-focus athlete where certain fitness elements do not matter.  They all matter to the Tactical Athlete.


There are specific stages for the Tactical Athlete in training.  As a recruit or candidate, you have to score competitively to enter these public service professions on what many refer to as the entrance exam. These are your typical fitness tests of pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups, 1.5 mile runs, and maybe a sprint or swim test depending on the service you are training for. Training to get to these boot camps, academies, or special ops selection programs is one thing, but training to get through them is another.


The post -training and active-duty worlds of a Tactical Athlete’s profession are even more different.  Your training year will require you to prepare for job specifics, and that may require you to run and ruck more, swim and dive more, or lift and sprint more. It all depends on what your mission skills will be.

Maintenance should be programmed in a way where you systematically stay strong, fast, well-conditioned in cardio, and flexible with periodic growth and peaking zones through the year. Learning about periodization is key to arranging workouts to help you with your job requirements in-country, overseas, and seasonally in your community. It also keeps you healthy and injury-free.

From Tactical Training Tips

Leadership Tips For An Expert

This is especially important for anyone who wished to become a regional coordinator for the ShieldWall Network and develop your own franchise.

I am a strong proponent of the United States Marine Corps Leadership Principles and Traits. I have multiple copies of this list and read it daily.

Although I strive to apply these to my daily leadership responsibilities, I have adapted these principles to my duties as a firearms instructor. I would like to share these, as well as some other principles and traits I have learned.


Before you step into the classroom or range, you must know yourself and seek improvement. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you doing to fix your weaknesses and build upon your strengths?

One great way to hold yourself accountable is to always provide and promptly review course critiques and evaluations. Of course, you can’t make everyone happy, but if you review class critiques with an open mind, you will learn instructional traits – both positive and negative – about yourself you didn’t know.


Leadership also starts well before the training. You must formulate solid lesson plans and courses of fire that are not only challenging and effective teaching techniques, but also address case law and agency expectations.

The majority of your time should be spent during the preparation phase. You must clearly articulate the learning goals and objectives of the training with the other instructors, as well as the methodology of instruction and your expectations.

Any and all lesson plans or materials should be disseminated to all involved instructors in advance of the training. This will help you earn credibility and respect from the other instructors by keeping them informed. Ask for feedback on your lesson plans well before training occurs. Make sure your vision of the training outcome has transferred over to the written word of your lesson plan.


Whatever you are teaching, you must know the lesson plan and how to perform those techniques upon demand. As an instructor you must be tactically and technically proficient.

If an instructor is repeatedly asked questions and does not have the answers, the students will go elsewhere to find their information and the uninformed instructor will develop a poor reputation. If you are not clear on the lesson plan, ask.

This not only goes for the facets of the Combat Triad of marksmanship, gun handling and combat mindset, but it holds true to instructor methodology, classroom and range management as well as administrative functions. As unromantic as the administrative tasks are, you must be proficient.


One failing that I have as a lead instructor is giving up control. I am very particular when it comes to my lesson plans and content and I have a specific plan in my head on how things will look. I need to learn that by giving up control, you actually gain control.

To develop responsibility among the assistant instructors, I ask which sections of the lesson plan they would like to be responsible for instructing. I usually ask instructors to teach something they need to develop more expertise. This forces them to know themselves and seek improvement.


From time to time you may need to make sound and timely decisions. These decisions could range from when to take a lunch break to the prioritization of the content, or when to remove an unsafe shooter from the range. Decisiveness on the range must be prompt, so make the decision. Improper judgment in regard to an unsafe shooter or even inclement weather could be devastating. Have the ability to weigh facts and possible solutions on which to base sound, informed decisions.


Setting the example is where we get the most traction. Appearance goes a long way and command presence does exist on the range and in the classroom. An instructor that shows up wearing a uniform that their cat slept on the night before will instantly lack credibility. Whereas the instructor that has a pressed and creased uniform with shined boots will develop a leader/follower relationship much faster than the “Soup Sandwich.” If you are instructing in an academy setting you should meet and exceed the academy uniform and appearance standards that the students must adhere to.


An instructor should also wear the same equipment as the students. This means duty gear and body armor, anything less is lazy and demonstrates an aura of entitlement. Wearing an off-duty rig when teaching students who are wearing duty gear can drive a wedge in the leader/follower relationship.

The students aren’t stupid and know that you will be faster with off-duty gear, and a student may challenge you on it. Don’t put yourself in the position where you would need to defend yourself. Wearing the same equipment in the same conditions as the students builds credibility.


The firearms instructor should also demonstrate the courses of fire. You must ensure that assigned tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished. Conducting demonstrations is better than telling the students. Students must truly understand what you are requesting of them.

Some instructors refuse to demo drills. They feel that if they don’t shoot well they will lose credibility.

As an assistant instructor at a fairly big name shooting school, I did so poorly demonstrating a specific course of fire that it still bothers me to this day. I was trying to go too fast and impress the students, but failed miserably. I lost a lot of credibility and respect from the other instructors and students. I lost the credibility because instead of seeking and taking responsibility for my actions, I gathered the pieces of shattered ego and slinked off the line. If I would have explained that I was trying too hard and shot it again, I may have been able to repair my credibility and ego.


When setting the example, you are never too important to do the menial tasks. You should be shagging ammo, setting up the range, hanging targets and most importantly, cleaning up brass. I hate it too, especially as I get older, but I don’t care if you didn’t fire a round. Setting the example means brassing with the troops. Getting dirty and then showing up the next day in a pristine uniform will also build respect.


A good instructor knows the nuances of every group of students. Every group has a specific “temperature.” Are you instructing an understaffed graveyard team that was working a late high-priority call or academy cadets who have a certain expectation of how they should be treated?

Conduct a little recon before class to help you adjust your teaching style. The lesson plans must stay the same, but the delivery should be altered to fully benefit the students.

Make sure you give the students sufficient breaks to warm up or cool down. I understand we should be training in poor environments, but sometimes you will figuratively lose the students or the conditions can become unsafe.


Do what you say you will do, both for students and other members of the instructor cadre. This means getting to the venue early and leaving late. Have the training venue fully prepared and ready to begin training at the scheduled start time. Range or classroom set up should never occur on student training time.


You must be unselfish and professional. As you know, there is a lot of arrogance and negative ego in this industry. There are instructors who think they are better than the students and the rest of the instructor cadre.

Being a firearms instructor is not about you. It is about the students. If at any time you think you are better than anyone else or hold yourself above the training mission and the students, you need to pack your stuff and get off my range.

Smart aleck remarks and speaking in movie quotes can create a positive learning environment as long as it stays professional. It is very easy to take a joke too far on the range. Keep it fun, but never degrading or demeaning, because you can lose a lot of students very quickly.


Be faithful to your agency philosophies and mission. Have faith in the lesson plans and the methodologies you are teaching. If you put down anyone or anything in your agency, it is unprofessional; you may lose the student’s respect.

Be loyal to the cause publically, even if you don’t agree with everything. If you don’t agree with your agency’s decision or direction, don’t complain about it. Be part of the solution and make positive changes that benefit everyone.


It takes a tremendous amount of courage to disqualify a member of the command staff or even a friend. If you don’t appropriately address those issues and others see or hear about it, you will lose integrity.

Courage can also mean staying late with a problem shooter so they don’t leave the range with a negative performance issue gnawing at them. It can also mean helping someone that you may have personal unfavorable feelings toward.


Working the range can be physically and mentally taxing. Have the mental and physical endurance to withstand the pain, stress and hardships of the range. After you check your students and other instructor’s welfare, make sure you check your own. Be sure you are snacking and drinking water. By satisfying your needs after your students, you help your endurance.


I also conduct an instructor debriefing after a training session and cover what the instructor cadre could improve upon, including me. If you are the lead instructor, surround yourself with assistant instructors that will call you out and hold you responsible.


I love to teach and I am very passionate about it. I believe my enthusiasm spreads to the students and other instructors. Physically exuding your excitement about the lesson plan and courses of fire has a contagious effect. So have fun out there, the majority of your students will follow your lead.


The biggest violation of initiative I see as a lead instructor is the assistants doing nothing. Standing behind your four shooters and not interacting with them is not teaching. Interact with them. There is usually something that can be done.


You should have a common practice for reward and punishments. Justice is administering those rewards and punishment in a tactful manner. I like to stop everything to acknowledge successes.

Punishments are different depending on your audience. At in-service, I speak to the individual alone, using tact. I am firm, fair and, most importantly, consistent. Things change at an academy level. I am still firm, fair and consistent, but the cadets pay the penance as a team. I will join them for minor infractions that are deserving of push-ups on the range.

I do not participate in disciplinary tasks at the academy level for major infractions. For the major infractions, we send them on runs. This is the opportunity for the cadet formal and informal leadership to take charge, and own their mistakes and develop a sense of responsibility. If the cadets do not own it, their peers will usually help them understand.


All of these traits and principles are inconvenient, because leadership is inconvenient. All of these principles and traits come from lessons learned. Some are from positive experiences, but more often they are from negative experiences. I did not say failure because as a leader you are either successful or you learn. Learn from your mistakes. See everything as an opportunity to learn.

If you habituate these 20 traits and principles, you should earn credibility and respect. Having the rapport and respect of your students will help you deliver the content much more effectively. In doing so, you allow your students to accomplish great things and that is the truest form of servant leadership.

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