Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Sparrow Defense wishes everyone a happy and joyous holiday season, regardless of your personal, religious, or political beliefs. 2020 has been a rough year for many people. It is our sincere hope that in the days to come, common ground and good will can be found again.

Unfortunately, criminals usually target vehicles and outbuildings during the holiday nighttime hours. They know that the family is home or might return to the home during daytime hours, which makes the daytime burglary less likely. However, your vehicles and sheds are easy pickings during the nighttime hours when most of us are asleep. Homes left empty because the family is traveling for the holidays are vulnerable to criminal actors. We've broken down some helpful tips for avoiding criminal activity for you.

In response to the Athens-Clarke County PD Shooting (July, 2019)

In response to the Athens-Clarke County PD Shooting (July, 2019)

I made the mistake of reading things on the internet. Apparently you’re making the same mistake.

There are few enough reasons to be a cop these days. Low pay, rotating shifts, subpoenas interrupting off days, missing family time, an ever-increasing list of demands and duties, and on and on. I’m thirteen years into this profession with a Master’s Degree, over 3,500+ hours of training, just about every instructor certification Georgia officers, and I’m still making less money than I did at my first pharmaceutical tech-writing job out of college. Despite that, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Law Enforcement has given me thousands of opportunities to help people. I love those moments, regardless of whether it’s changing a tire, stopping an abusive partner, providing medical aid on an accident scene, or speaking with an at-risk youth. Most of the people I’ve worked with throughout the years have been in this business for the same reasons. Personally, I find the most emotionally taxing part of working in law enforcement to be the constant after-the-fact review by the court of popular opinion, usually made up of people who are under or over-qualified. One group is viewing events based on what television tells them that cops do, i.e.: “just disarm the knife like all cops are trained to”. The other group has been on the job for so long that they have forgotten all the mistakes that got them to where they are.

Rifle ZERO and Mechanical Offset

Rifle ZERO and Mechanical Offset

WHAT IS A RIFLE ZERO?

Everything you do with the rifle is based upon your zero. I once spent multiple hours with Dave Harrington as he highlighted the importance of the zeroing process and its cumulative effect on your effectiveness with the rifle. Understanding my zero and the difference between my optic's height in relation to the muzzle has proven invaluable when shooting from unstable and non-traditional positions. If you train with folks like Chase Jenkins and William Petty, you'll appreciate knowing this information before their courses, as you'll be shooting through, around, and under anything they can think of. With that said, many people tote a rifle around for work or play without a basic understanding of how to zero and map the external ballistics (bullet path) of their firearm.

Point of Aim (POA) / Point of Impact (POI) will change due to distance to the target, orientation of the weapon, your choice of ammunition, mechanical offset, and other factors. So - a few things to ask yourself:

  1. What are the two distances where your bullet will strike the target in the place your optic or sights are centered? (And there are two).
  2. How well have you learned and documented how your rifle will perform closer or farther than your zero distance?
  3. How does the bullet path change when you have the gun turned on its side or at an odd angle, as might happen when you're using cover or forced into a position of necessity?
Course Review: Gabe White / Pistol Shooting Solutions

Course Review: Gabe White / Pistol Shooting Solutions

In April, I attended a two-day course with Gabe White of Pistol Shooting Solutions.

Prior to registering for this course, I hadn’t heard of Gabe White. I don’t spend much time on forums, and Gabe is based out of Clackamas, Oregon. Lee Weems had met him at The Roger’s Shooting School when Gabe shot a clean run on the test from concealment. Worldwide, only four folks have ever had clean runs on the Rogers test, and none of them have been wearing a concealment garment except Gabe. Along with that achievement, Gabe has trained with well-known instructors and apparently puts a bunch of useful documentation and training theory up on the internet. For more information on Gabe’s background and company, you can visit his website, here.

During the class, I ran a stippled and grip-reduced Glock 17 equipped with a SureFire X300 Ultra out of my Veil Solutions appendix holster and IWB magazine pouches. My concealment garment was a t-shirt since it was already hot and humid down in Georgia.

Full disclosure: I was tired and burned out at the time of this course. Saturday morning, I woke up and considered just blowing it off. I’d been on the range for almost every weekend of the prior two months, and after some negative experiences, I’d gotten to the point where I needed a break. I eventually dragged myself to class and ended up enjoying myself.

Tactical Medical Instructor at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Glynco

Tactical Medical Instructor at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Glynco

Last week (March 7th-9th, 2017), I had the opportunity to travel to Glynco, GA to participate in the Basic Tactical Medical Instructor training program. The course cost and all materials were paid through a Federal grant, which set aside money to train state, local, and tribal law enforcement on TCCC programs. This was my first trip to a FLETC facility, so I had no prior knowledge about the facilities or resources available.

My initial (and continuing) impression is that FLETC has the nicest training facility I’ve ever seen. The classrooms are well maintained, the equipment and props are top notch, and the training areas are separated into specific geographic areas on the campus. Once you know where you’re going, it’s easy to navigate from one area to the other. In my classroom alone, there were a host of extremely lifelike wound trainers that could be used to simulate traumatic amputations, gunshot wounds, stab wounds, airway obstructions, junctional arterial bleeding, and a host of other injuries. The human-sized wound trainers weighed 200 pounds and cost $50,000 each. Those trainers move, spray blood, and breath on their own to add realism and give the correct stimulus to the students. They also had wound packing stations, and a number of objects that measured the constriction of tourniquets applied to a “limb”. The mock houses that we were using for scenario testing were actual fully-furnished houses. The Federal Government didn’t spare any expense and it shows.

Course Review: Sheriff of Baghdad - 2 Day Vehicle Tactics Class

Course Review: Sheriff of Baghdad - 2 Day Vehicle Tactics Class

On March 4-5th, I hosted John McPhee, “The Sheriff of Baghdad” for a Vehicle Defense class. I'd trained with John on two prior occasions. I attended his Video Diagnostic Rifle / Pistol classes in Americus in 2016. I then brought him up to our location later in the year for a second run at it to get feedback on running an optic-equipped pistol and expose some of my instructors to his video diagnostic process. John’s Video Diagnostic courses are excellent. The small group setting and the focus on individual skill development makes for a long but excellent training session. It was during his trip to our Watkinsville location that he noticed one of the cars from training I’d hosted there and stated that he had a similar program. I was excited by the prospect of getting another perspective on working around and from cars.

The round count for the class was given as 400 rounds each for the pistol and rifle. There were three vehicles that we obtained for the class.

In reference to prior training, this was the sixth class I’d taken specifically dealing with vehicle defense / counter-ambush. Three of those previous courses were specifically geared towards instructor development and how to research and create a vehicle defense program.

Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor with Centrifuge Training / Daniel Defense

Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor with Centrifuge Training / Daniel Defense

On February 21st, I attended the Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor taught by William Petty of Centrifuge Training. Daniel Defense hosted the course in order to provide free instructor development training to law enforcement. Also on hand were Chase Jenkins of Talon Defense and John Johnston of Ballistic Radio, who acted as adjunct instructors throughout the course. There were hundreds of applications for the 20 or so slots in the course. I was lucky enough to be offered a slot. I traveled down there with my friend Matt, who has been through a number of courses with me in the past and is a solid shooter and problem solver.

I’d previously met Will through his friend and step-dad, Chase Jenkins. Will is an approachable and easy-going guy. Humor is a big part of his teaching method, but if you don’t like mom jokes you may have your feelings hurt. His program has developed from watching thousands of videos of gunfights occurring around vehicles, studying the structural makeup of all types of vehicles, and shooting them to see what stops or deviates rounds. What he’s looking for are trends, or statistical probabilities. The class opened with the following information:

·        60% of law enforcement shootings occur in / around vehicles

·        Engagements last an average time of 8-10 seconds

·        Engagements are generally high intensity and characterized by sudden violence at close range

ALERRT Training: Observations

ALERRT Training: Observations

This week I attended the Level 1 ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) class for the second time. ALERRT focuses on tactics accessible to the average law enforcement officer responding to an Active Killer event. Ideally, any officer having gone through the training should be able to function when thrown in with officers from neighboring jurisdictions. By design, ALERRT puts officers of varying skill levels and technical proficiency together. A "contact team" of responding officers may include a school resource officer, a SWAT officer, a plain clothes investigator, an administrator, and a beat cop.

The ALERRT program plugs into a larger framework, and allows for scaling of resources based on the nature and extent of the threat, the resources at hand, and the need to communicate with and deploy resources such as fire services, medical services, hostage negotiators, SWAT, and bomb squads. I recently went through the DHS / FEMA Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM) course, which uses the standardized tactics and language found in ALERRT. ALERRT is the gateway into that system, and defines a common language and set of tactics.

C-2 (Tactical Combatant Casualty Care) with Talon Defense and Ditch Medicine

C-2 (Tactical Combatant Casualty Care) with Talon Defense and Ditch Medicine

On February 3rd, 2017, I met Hugh Coffee of Ditch Medicine for the first time. Hugh met me on the range to set up his “trauma theater” for the C-2 Tactical Combat Casualty Care the next day. I had heard great things about Hugh from Chase Jenkins (Talon Defense), and various other people in the medical field said that he was an excellent instructor. I’d seen pictures from C-2 courses that Hugh and Chase had taught together in the past. I noticed that everyone was covered in fake blood and had tape all over their arms. As Chase has been known to throw everything from rocks to fire ants on people, I assumed that all the unpleasantness was due to him. Hugh Coffee has the face of your kindly uncle; he set off zero warning bells in my head. I’m usually not fooled by folks, but Hugh snuck by my radar.

C-2 focuses on the use of the pistol for defense under any conditions. For instance, you might be upright with perfect stance. You might be lying on your side behind a barricade for cover. You may also be kneeling on someone’s femoral artery to get stop gap pressure and slow the bleeding, having carried a 300 pound person ¼ mile out of the woods on an improvised stretcher, while shooting with only your support hand, trying to clear a double-feed malfunction, with fake blood streaming into the only eye that hasn’t been taped over to deprive you of your normal range of vision – all while your buddy attempts to get a tourniquet on and stop the bleeding.

Combative Pistol with Kelly McCann / Kembativz Brand

Combative Pistol with Kelly McCann / Kembativz Brand

On October 22nd, Shane Gosa and I attended the two-day Kembativz Brand Combative Pistol course taught by Kelly McCaan. Kelly retired as a Major from the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1980-1990.  Among his other achievements, he standardized hostage rescue tactics and equipment during his time in service. After leaving the USMC, he founded the Crucible, which provided training to military and law enforcement units. After 20 years at the Crucible, he founded the Kembativz group in 2012 and began training a civilian market under that banner.

I hadn’t trained with Kelly prior to this class, but was interested for a number of reasons. Kelly has been running red dot optics on his pistols since they were created. He has more time behind an optic-equipped pistol than anyone else I’ve trained with.  It was an excellent opportunity to run and evaluate my own RMR-equipped Glock 19. Kelly also blends combative skills such as edged weapon work, batons, pepper spray, and empty hand techniques into his shooting. Many instructors treat the firearm like it exists in a vacuum. Everything is a shoot scenario that occurs with a perfect sight picture well outside intimate space distance. That training fails to address confrontations in which you’ve been ambushed, or in which you’re not legally justified in using deadly force. The Combative Pistol course gave students use of force options to use as the situation warranted.

Course Review: Super Dave Harrington / Combat Speed, LLC - Integrated Weapon Systems

Course Review: Super Dave Harrington / Combat Speed, LLC - Integrated Weapon Systems

"Everything matters and everything is important. It's up to you to decide the who, what, when, where, and why of this." - Super Dave Harrington

On September 2nd through 4th, nine of us signed on to train with Super Dave Harrington of Combat Speed, LLC. If you don't know who Dave is, Google him. His list of accomplishments is long and storied. He also actually has the distinction of having literally written the book on shooting, or at least the original working SOP for Range 37 - D/2/1 at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That seems pretty close. I'd trained with Dave before in Americus, Georgia for his Combat Speed Pistol program. Having thoroughly enjoyed myself during that course, I approached Dave about putting on a class in the Watkinsville area.

Dave is pretty easy to speak with over the phone, and is invested in making the course as professional as possible. We discussed the goals for the class, I sent range dimensions and pictures, and we arrived at his Integrated Weapon Systems course as the subject for instruction. More than any instructor I've worked with, Dave set out to tailor the class with specific training points with the range boundaries and resources in mind. Due to the fact that most people attending the class were instructors at their law enforcement agencies or had training companies on the side, the course eventually turned into an instructor development workshop. When you work with Dave, his interest in helping his students succeed is obvious. He'll take you as far as you can go in the time he has, and doesn't ever seem to be satisfied with the gig for lack of getting more information out there. He even offered to write an information brief for my agency to inform the firearms training program.

Talon Defense - "Gunfighter" (again)

Talon Defense - "Gunfighter" (again)

In August, we were happy to have Chase Jenkins / Talon Defense back for a second Gunfighter course. Having taken the course as a student, I helped to instruct this time around to get some local law enforcement students through the class. Chase is a high-energy instructor with a well-rehearsed program. I was eager to understand how his teaching process had shaped my experiences as a student.

As with the first course, we spent the first day working on weapon manipulations and finding benchmarks for student performance under stress. Chase's range safety briefing departs from the normal "Four Rules" talks and focuses on applying those rules to a combat mindset. In his words, the training area is not a safe environment. The shooter needs to be safe by staying on task and manipulating their weapon in such a way that no one is swept with a muzzle. Many of the drills require two shooters to work in close proximity to each other, often at different heights, or moving behind or in front of each other during live fire exercises. Muzzle direction is dictated by the location of the other shooter and the staff on the range. The exercises during Day 1 highlighted the importance of mindset and keeping on task. "You can be safe, or you can spectate" was the rule of the day.

Course Review: Sheriff of Baghdad Revisited

Course Review: Sheriff of Baghdad Revisited

After having a great experience with John "Shrek" McPhee (The Sheriff of Baghdad) in December, I decided to host him at the Watkinsville location. I wrote a lengthy AAR after my first training classes with John in Americus, Georgia. In the 15 years that I've been attending training through law enforcement and civilian trainers, John is the first who has used video to diagnose and correct issues with students' form. As an instructor, I immediately appreciated John's "modern sport-coaching" model.

John was booked for multiple 1-day video diagnostic courses in pistol and rifle. June 18th was Pistol, the 19th was a Rifle course, and a second Pistol course was scheduled on the 20th. It was scheduled purposely over Father's Day weekend as my parents were visiting and my dad was turning 70 on Father's Day. We both audited the classes on the first two days together and did some shooting. Sharing that time with my dad, who first introduced me to shooting 30 years ago, was an amazing experience. While dad didn't shoot, watching the 8 students get video critiqued and seeing the common mistakes in form helped him correct a number of issues he's been having on the range. He made a measurable improvement in his own shooting just from watching the courses and seeing what most people need to improve upon. The subconscious is a powerful tool, which is one of the themes of John's training.

Instructor Development: Range Master - Firearms Instructor Workshop

Instructor Development: Range Master - Firearms Instructor Workshop

Andrew Still and Clark Sparrow attended (and completed) the Range Master 3-Day Instructor Development Course.  As you would expect from the name, the course content focused on methods for critiquing and correcting any problems with the student's form as it dealt with concealed carry firearms manipulations.

This Range Master course highlighted the skills most important to the citizen (non Law Enforcement or Military personnel) who carries a concealed firearm.  The shooting  exercises focused on speed of presentation and engagements within "three steps, three seconds, and three rounds".  The statistical information taken from the 66 civilian shootings in which Tom's students have been involved have driven hand guided his lesson content.

In order to graduate the course, students must shoot 90% on both the FBI and Range Master qualification courses.  They must then complete a written test measuring knowledge of the course content with a minimum of 90% accuracy.

Andrew Still and Clark Sparrow both completed the course.  Andrew shot very well with well above a 96% accuracy on both shooting tests.  Clark Sparrow took the Top Gun award with 100% accuracy on both shooting tests and 97.6% on the written test.

This will be the fourth entity through which Clark is certified to instruct.  Prior to this, he was certified through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (GA POST) Council, the NRA, and John Farnam of Defense Training International.  Andrew Still adds the Range Master certification to his prior NRA Instructor certification.

Sheriff of Baghdad: Video Diagnostics

Sheriff of Baghdad: Video Diagnostics

It’s been a few months since I attended the Sheriff of Baghdad video diagnostic Pistol and Rifle courses.  I’ve used this time to evaluate what I learned.  When I attend a class, I’m evaluating the training from the viewpoints of a student as well as an instructor.  I focus on improving my skill set as a shooter, but I also look for teaching methods or tools that will allow me make my own instruction more effective.

I knew almost nothing about John “Shrek” McPhee prior to attending this class.  Shane Gosa had booked him, and I’ve come to trust his judgment on instructors.  I knew that John used the Coach’s Eye software to a video review of each shooter’s technique.  That intrigued me, because I’ve never attended a course that used video or photography in that way.  A search of student AARs for John’s courses generally made a statement to the effect that I would fire “the best four rounds of your life.”  Andrew Still accompanied me to the classes, so we had most of the Sparrow Defense staff on hand.

Talon Defense - "Gunfighter" Vehicle CQB Course

Talon Defense - "Gunfighter" Vehicle CQB Course

It's taken me almost a month to get this AAR up on the Vehicle Gunfighter course I hosted in June. I had never trained with Chase Jenkins prior to this course, but a number of friends and co-workers had. I had the following information available when I began talking with Chase about coming to Watkinsville:

  1. Chase was going to teach me how to shoot at things from inside and around a vehicle

  2. My weapon manipulation and malfunction clearing skills would be tested (heavily)

  3. I would learn the limitations of my equipment and of my shooting skill

  4. I would most likely want to hurt Chase by the end of the course

That was a ringing endorsement from some people I respect in the shooting community. I also took the time to listen to an hour-long interview that Chase gave on Ballistic Radio, during which he talked about his training philosophy and how he came to develop the Gunfighter course. If you know me, you'll know I'm not a podcast kind of guy, but I managed to make it through the entire thing and it confirmed that this would be a great opportunity to add to my toolbox.

Combat Speed Pistol, with "Super" Dave Harrington

Combat Speed Pistol, with "Super" Dave Harrington

On June 6th and 7th of 2015, I had the opportunity to attend "Super" Dave Harrington's Combat Speed Pistol course in Andersonville, Georgia. Over the course of two days, the eight students fired between 1900 - 2000 rounds. It was, without doubt, one of the best courses I've ever taken.

Dave's focus was to develop the ability to effectively operate a pistol with either hand (preferably equally well.) Topics covered included precision shooting, combat marksmanship, dynamic drills and exercises, positional shooting, low light, and team/partner tactics. Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to be staying at the same place with Dave, so I had the chance to do some brain-picking over some high-end coffee. All in all, I took twenty pages of notes during the course.

Training with Dennis Martin / CQB Services

Training with Dennis Martin / CQB Services

In April of 2015, I was fortunate to attend training with Dennis Martin and Slacky of CQB Services.  Dennis has an extensive resume in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  He’s trained people in some of the most dangerous and anti-law enforcement theaters in the world, then vetted his techniques in the field.  He teaches what he does because the instinctual nature of his techniques makes them rapidly accessible to students, and also because his stuff is brutally effective.  As citizens of the United Kingdom, Dennis and Slacky aren’t allowed to carry firearms, knives, or weapons of any kind.  Liverpool, their home, is one of the most dangerous areas of the UK, so effective combatives techniques are a necessity.  Dennis generally makes the pilgrimage from the United Kingdom to Georgia on an annual basis so that he can get some trigger time and see old friends.  He’s very pro law enforcement, and restricts some of his material to active duty law enforcement employees.  There were three courses offered by Dennis this year: 

  • EPIC (Enhanced Performance in Confrontations)
  • HRP (High Risk Personnel)
  • Officer Survival (LE Restricted)

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