AAR: Lessons Learned from Watching 15,000 Gun Fights

On July 13, 2018, The Complete Combatant hosted Active Self Protection’s “Lessons Learned from Watching 15,000 Gun Fights” with John Correia.


John Correia of Active Self Protection (ASP) narrates videos of actual attacks and publishes them on ASP’s YouTube channel, providing valuable insight with lessons learned. Watching people rob, kidnap, assault, and murder each other, has led him to some conclusions, primarily what the average person needs to focus on during training. Patterns begin to emerge from these encounters, consequently forming a hierarchy of skill sets. The Pareto principle, which states, 20% of the inputs yield 80% of the results, is the main principle of John’s lessons. Training should cover core skills first, then the peripheral skills. The hectic pace of life makes finding time to practice a problem, therefore prioritizing what we practice is essential.


The lecture is an evidence based approach that focuses on the most important parts of self protection. It highlights the crucial lessons of the encounter and brings a visual clarity to the mistakes that are deadly to the good guys. At times, it is contrary to popular teachings, nevertheless, if we choose to ignore the data it may be at our own peril.

The Complete Combatant’s 1 day and 1.5 day course development is a direct reflection of information gathered from these accounts, subsequently many of the scenarios I run come from the Active Self Protection’s videos. When a student says “ it would never happen like this”, we can stop training and watch the video. Visualization is one of the keys to successfully developing plans and decisions in advance.

Granted, the videos show only one view of the incident (unless there are badge cams from multiple responding officers) but the basic patterns of violent attacks give us an idea what is important to focus on in our training. These videos provide real world examples of what can happen to any of us.


Entertaining and provocative, John blends truth and humor in his presentation , which is no easy matter with such heavy material. The golden age of video surveillance is upon us, cameras are everywhere, subsequently we can now have an evidence based approach to our training for self protection. To quote John C. Maxwell, “It’s said that a wise person learns from his mistakes. A wiser one learns from others’ mistakes. But the wisest person of all learns from other’s successes.” This a great presentation, full of actionable data, and I highly recommend it. Active Self Protection has made my life easier as an instructor, providing an endless supply of real life encounters. I am grateful to John and the crew at Active Self Protection for this invaluable resource and we look forward to hosting them again in 2019.


     Check out Active Self Protection and “cover your ASP”.

When was the last time you tried something new?

Hi guys its Shelley! Brian presented a good question in our The Complete Combatant Alumni Facebook Group and it inspired me to ask you all the same thing.

Brian asked “In the self-protection area, what is one thing you have changed your mind about? Or trying something new”?

I knew what my answer was immediately!! OC Spray (Oleoresin Capsicum/Pepper Spray) with a Grab Tab by Eve Hera!


I have always seen great value in carrying OC Spray as a non-lethal option but honestly, it would end up at the bottom of my purse 99% of the time because I never liked attaching it to my keys.  Obviously, using the OC Spray ended up being NO option as it slowly became “out of sight out of mind”. LORD KNOWS DON’T TELL BRIAN! HEEE! I thought “no worries, I have my EDC, tourniquet and flashlight at my fingertips”.  WRONG!

It really bothered me that I just accepted the fact that if I wanted to use it, I either had to think far enough in advance to place it in my hand/pocket or rummage through my purse to deploy if there was a threat. If you really think about it, I was relying on ESP to save me or that I could somehow “channel” The Flash and move at the speed of light to find it in my bottomless pit of a purse, get it out with the correct end up AND with the proper grip of course, use my voice, put up a frame with my free arm, spray the SOB perfectly in the eyes while turning to run like heck….all in under 3 seconds! Sure, no problem, I got this…..WRONG AGAIN!

I decided to be 100% committed to practicing with, and carrying, the OC Spray. So much so that I even bought 3 more Sabre Reds for a “girl’s trip” that I had coming up. I was very excited to surprise my sister (photo below), mom and daughter with their very own inert trainer for practicing and OC Spray. I had everything lined up with my presentation, videos and hands on drills to….in the words of Claude Werner…”set them up for success!” NOW WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!


Little did I know that the beautiful Eve Hera would walk into my life at Rangemaster’s Tac Con (March 2018) offering me EXACTLY what I was looking for….she had invented OC SPRAY GRAB TABS! PERFECT TIMING!

Eve Hera began shooting in 2011 when she ended a long relationship. She bought a gun because she didn’t want to live alone with only Chihuahuas and kitchen knives for self-defense. Eve bought her first gun and then realized she needed instruction on how to use it properly and safely. She took the NRA basic pistol course and that was it for her….she was immediately HOOKED. Eve sought further training and found Tom Givens and Lynn Given of Rangemaster and began a serious journey of improvement. From there, the Givens saw something in her and welcomed her into their Rangemaster Trainer’s Apprentice Program (RTAP). If you want Eve’s history of classes, please visit her website.

Eve asked me to be a “test subject” on her design and I gladly accepted. I was so enthused to try these out that I boldly asked for 3 more! She was excited to hear about the girl’s trip and gladly gave me 4 Grab Tabs.  When I got back to the hotel that evening I placed the Grab Tab on my OC Spray and looked forward to practicing. I worked with this combo for a couple of months practicing with it in my right and left pocket, purse, and even the console of my car and I really saw the value in them. I was so very happy to add Eve’s Grab Tab YouTube video to my list of videos to watch during our girl’s trip. The ladies were all on different self-defense levels with the use of tools and mindset but there was one thing in common…they all saw the value in the Grab Tabs attached to the OC Spray as well! WINNING!


My sister Stephanie said “I felt better prepared and it has enhanced my awareness. I practiced all the things that Shelley has already mentioned but I wanted to add that I really liked the idea of the “J” step/side step. Just one little step “off the train tracks can keep you from getting run over by a train” really resonated with me. I usually ride the MetroLink while in St. Louis and this is never something I look forward to. Even though I always ride it during the day and make myself as unapproachable as possible I still get approached by street people and was even the proud recipient of a FLASHER! My return trip home was different on Sunday. This time while riding the Metro I had my OC Spray in my pocket with my hand on the spray or the Grab Tab the entire time I was on the train. I felt like this time I at least had an “answer” to some unwanted “questions”.

My daughter Alex said that “my purse is more like a diaper bag with “little hands” constantly in and out of it so carrying OC Spray in there is not really an option for me”. She then said “since I work in an office alone it can be a bit unsettling when someone just shows up without an appointment. I have placed my OC Spray in a slightly open desk drawer with the Grab Tab hanging out. If a problem arises, I can get to it quickly. I am happy to now have OC Spray stationary at my desk”.

My mom Marla said “I like looking down at my purse and SEEING the Grab Tab hanging there because I know whats on the other end. It is accessible and I am not hunting for it. I feel that at least it is something to give me the few seconds that I may need to get away from danger”. 

I recently found out that Claude Werner aka The Tactical Professor and Chuck Haggard were also testing the Grab Tabs. Claude said “it’s a far better system than having to dig around in your purse when you need to react quickly” and Chuck said “I am not a purse carrier but I have played with the strap. I know that accessing carried OC is a bit of a problem for most people and I think it is a solid idea for assisting with access to one’s OC.”.


I think that OC Spray and Eve’s Grab Tabs are a good solution for both men (range bag, camping gear, back pack, gym bag, etc.) and women who want to have a non-lethal option at their fingertips. I am now even more excited that The Complete Combatant will be hosting Chuck Haggard’s LESS-LETHAL SYSTEMS in June 2019! BOOM BOOM BOOM let me hear you say way oh!

So, I will now ask you the same question that Brian asked The Complete Combatant’s Alumni Facebook Group…..in the self-protection area, what is one thing you have changed your mind about? Or trying something new?

The desire to achieve excellence

I spent this past weekend at the Rangemaster Instructors Conference & Reunion in Watkinsville, GA. This annual event is hosted by Tom Givens and Lynn Givens and having passed the instructors course is mandatory to attend. These 2 days were split between shooting in the morning and presentations in the afternoon. Lee Weems, John Hearne, Tiffany Johnson, and John Murphy delivered a course on the “10 principles of Teaching the Rangemaster Doctrine”. There were also a couple other individual presentations. Lee Weems also presented “Police-Citizen Contacts” and John Correia presented “Lessons Learned from Watching 12,000 Gunfights”. All of this was valuable information for professional instructors.

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Tom believes that his Rangemaster certified instructors should be able to shoot at least 90% on all qualifications. In fact, Tom would prefer we shot 100%. The shooters that attend the Rangemaster Instructors Conference & Reunions are top notch and every one of us strive to live up to Tom’s high standards.

There is an air of community and professional competition on the range. We all are striving to be excellent shooters and teachers. Below are the four qualifications we shot (along with my scores).

  • Rangemaster Qualification (298)
  • 5 Yard Round Up (95)
  • Casino Version 4 (19.34 clean)
  • FBI Course (100%)

I dropped 1 shot on the Rangemaster Qualification, I dropped 5 points on 5 Yard Round Up, my Casino Drill was slow from riding the slide release, and the FBI Course was perfect. The interesting part is while these scores were very good, they were not high enough to make the top 5. The competition was incredibly good and I was very proud to be in the company of such committed and professional instructors.

People accuse me of being competitive, as if this is a bad quality. While it is true, in the generic sense of the word, but to me the only competition that matters is my own performance compared to my past performance while on the line with outstanding shooters. Competition energizes me to improve.


In a competitive environment, pressure creates mistakes & malfunctions. Even your concern with the outcome of the match can lead to a broad spectrum of experiences.

  • Can I perform under the pressure relative to my skill?
  • Can I overcome adversity?
  • Can I stay focused on the present?

This weekend answered all of those questions for me and helped me forge faith in my image of myself as a shooter.

My only concern is that I perform at the skill level I have earned in practice. Practice earns skills. Skill begets performance. Performance develops excellence.


When people accuse me of being competitive, I smile and nod in the affirmative, and I know that we are thinking about 2 different meanings of the same word. Yes, I want to be outstanding and to perform well. This is why I train at Rangemaster……to be held to a higher standard. I encourage you to be competitive and to seek excellence.


One thing at a time

brainpuzzleIs it possible to improve several skills at once or learn new tasks together? The answer, unfortunately, is no. One thing at a time.

The first thing I do, when working with clients, is ask them “what do you want to improve”. Usually, they will list 3-5 areas of improvement with each area requiring hundreds of hours of mindful practice to achieve. I understand the message, which is “I care about my skills and I want to perform everything well”.

The mind is not a multi-tasker, instead we store “skill sets” in our subconscious, which allows them to be performed without conscious thought. Mastery of a skill requires a singular pursuit of fundamentals. We need to perform each “skill set” in isolation until we deeply understand the mechanics and can execute them on demand. We have to be able to isolate the weaknesses in our performance and set a training regimen that allows us to address one thing at a time. This is pattern I use to improve my areas of weakness.


Pick one movement to improve, gather information from several trusted sources and begin to experiment.

  • Break the movement into subsets of skill.
  • Work each subset alone, until you have the most efficient movement, which allows you to do things sooner. This practice must be mindful, and we must stay on task.
  • Work through each subset in isolation until you can perform that skill well.
  • Put all of the movements together, slowly at first, with care to perform each movement with as much detail as possible.
  • Speed is next, go faster until it begins to fall apart, recognize the area of weakness, and then practice the failure point until it improves and you can execute it at greater speed.
  • Finish with a slightly slower movement with attention to what you are seeing and feeling.

This practice will take dedication to staying with your goal, maybe for several months at a time, and that is perfectly fine!

  • Pressure test with drills and competition, to see if you are improving or if you need to refine your practice.
  • You must always be mindful, and not endlessly practicing without paying attention to the information you receive from your practice. It helps to write your results down or use video to breakdown your movement.
  • The most important part is your relationship with the truth, seeing yourself clearly is absolutely essential for improvement.
  • Your improvement is relative to the amount of mindful practice you perform daily. Example: 10 minutes of focused practice is better than 1 hour of distracted practice.

Let go of tension and your expectations, and practice to improve with clarity of focus and precision. Confidence is relative to the quality of our practice, which allows us to perform at the level of our current mastery.

The Greatest Teacher

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

winston churchill

There is no way to train and avoid failure. Speed of execution, complexity of the task or the combination of both can lead to failure. Pressure and stress make the simplest task difficult. Fatigue and poor nutrition can degrade our abilities. All of us will fail, and it is good that we do. The greatest lessons are built upon failure.

The only power we have is HOW we react to failure. Learning is passionate, but not overly emotional. Simply performing incorrectly teaches us. If we choose to listen without becoming angry, embarrassed, or disappointed there is power to learn and improve. Mastery requires pushing the limits of performance and knowledge. We need to know where our capabilities begin to falter. This discovery should be greeted like an old teacher, with respect and a renewed determination to improve.


Explorers are always excited to find new horizons, whether they are external or internal in nature. We are conquering our own limitations. We will rise to the level of our practice, not our expectations. Always train with people who push your limits, and never settle for being “good enough”. This road never ends, but it does lead to competence and contentment. Allow our greatest teacher, failure, to show you the way to improve and then fill your heart with gratitude. Always thank the teacher for such a valuable lesson, otherwise we are doomed to repeat it.


“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it”.                  Seneca (On The Shortness of Life – Chapter I)

seneca_on_the_shortness_of_life_it_is_not_that_we_have_so_little_timeTime, it is the only thing we have, and as Seneca points out, we often waste it. Teaching takes time, and learning takes time. Discipline is the key component for acolytes in the temple of knowledge. Wasted time is often the rule, but our recent Pistol Essentials class was a unique exception.

On a beautiful spring morning in Dahlonega, GA, every student showed up early for class. They all pitched in to help set up the range and the class started 30 minutes early.  Administrative duties were done quickly, and time for training was significantly increased. The students had spent time practicing prior to class, were ready to train, and it was apparent in their shooting skills. Due to the “saved time” we were able to run extra repetitions of the drills. Questions were answered in great detail.  The discipline of this group allowed class to flow smoothly, while still meeting and even exceeding the coaching goals and the lesson plan. Everyone treated time very precious and valuable.

As a coach, I follow a strict time table, class starts on time, the lesson plan is followed and the class ends on time. I respect time, both my own and others. It is too valuable to waste. The timeliness, discipline, and respect of this class showed that every moment is important. The dedication needed to improve is a significant investment of time. Show up early and be prepared to train. Accept the discipline of learning.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0171.JPGThis blog is dedicated to my April Pistol Essentials class. Thank you for following the advice of Seneca. It was an honor to spend our most valuable commodity with you all.



Definition of courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.


The Complete Combatant attracts a wide range of people, of all ages, shapes, sizes and gender. Often, The Complete Combatant is the first time for many to attend a professional training class. They are a bit apprehensive because they have no idea what to expect when they show up for class and sometimes they have never used the equipment they plan to train with, much less carried it on daily basis.

The world of the “self protector” is a foreign place to them but they summon the fortitude and determination to challenge themselves to learn. The courage it takes to decide “I will learn something new” is marvelous and fascinating to me. To immerse yourself in class, trying to absorb the torrent of information, and then perform it under the watchful eyes of the coaches and their peer’s takes courage.


In a short amount of time, I watch the bewildered expressions change to dawning knowledge when using the practical application of their new skills. Failure becomes victory and doubt becomes excitement while performing multiple tasks that no longer seem out of reach.

Watching this transformation is one of the great pleasures of teaching. Fear is a part of life, but learning to preserve under difficult circumstances is courage.  I want to thank everyone that courageously comes to training classes and learns the skills of the self protection. We can learn anything if we just take the first step, and then another…..