I didn’t know diddly-squat

The shotgun is a weak spot in my training. Fortunately, Lee Weems of First Person Safety offered the perfect opportunity for me to train in Defensive Shotgun (close to my home) by hosting Tom Givens of Rangemaster at his range in Athens, Ga. Opportunity and preparation equals my lucky day.

The morning started in a classroom setting with a historical background and development of the shotgun, which was fascinating. Tom is a masterful expert of all the details. The dawning realization that most of what I thought I knew about the shotgun was incorrect, a myth, or just plain wrong. Tom covered safety, nomenclature, accessories, ammunition, shooting techniques, maintenance, and patterning. I could not type fast enough. I was really wishing I had a DVD of this class ( #7).


Off to the range. I was shooting my Beretta 1301 Tactical outfitted with a new Magpul stock, thanks to Adam Roth and Aridus Industries, which allows for the adjustment of the length of pull and riser height. I have Sig Romeo 5 Red Dot sights which is an affordable entry-level optic. I was happy to get a spot in Tom’s class because I did not want to miss a chance to check the red dot’s durability and function in this punishing environment. To complete my upgrades, I also added a Nordic components MXT extension kit and Aridus Industries quick detach carrier, adding a total of 12 rounds onboard.

The shotgun is a fight stopper with the correct ammo, but it has a unique manual of arms that requires practice. Thus the primary focus was on mounting, operating, and reloading. We shot roughly 300 rounds of Birdshot and Buckshot, along with dry fire practice to develop the fundamentals. Shooting a couple hundred rounds had a less than desirable effect on my shotgun. Despite using red loctite on my stock, rail, and barrel clamp, all of them came loose. The stock started wobbling, the optic rail was flopping, and the barrel clamp was sliding, which made for an interesting shooting experience. Giving Beretta credit where credit is due, the gun still continued to function. Every break, I ran to the truck, tried to tighten everything up, and hustled back to the line. This definitely added extra pressure to the experience. I had to remove my optic to tighten the rail, which changed my zero to the left. After 1 shot, I made a quick adjustment, 10 clicks to the right, fixing that problem. The shotgun patterned well with Federal FliteControl 00 buck. At 25 feet, all 8 pellets stayed in the FBI Q target. We had a “man on man” competition on steel, fire 2 , reload 1, further demonstrating the need to aim. The pressure of competition and small poppers induced quite a few misses.


Takeaways from this class:

  1. Train with someone both knowledgeable and competent, always.
  2. Remove unnecessary equipment per Tom Givens’s recommendations, or in my case it will just fall off.
  3. The optic worked, but the rail failed. The red dot is definitely an advantage for quick target acquisition, however, I cannot attest to its durability yet.
  4. Loctite everything, and bring the right tools.
  5. The shotgun is now the home defense gun.
  6. Pattern your ammo.
  7. Tom had a DVD, which I immediately bought, so now I can practice.

I want to add one more thing. My wife Shelley has zero experience with a shotgun. After Tom’s class we discussed its value and how I would like to introduce the shotgun as the main home defense gun. This means we BOTH must train and practice. She is excited to start her “shotgun journey”.

I highly recommend this class. Tom Givens changed my mind about the role and use of the shotgun.


Jacks & Saps with Larry Lindenman

Why do you need a sap or blackjack?

  • If they are legal in your state, these useful weapons are a great addition to your self-defense options.
  • Saps and blackjacks are a versatile weapon, targeting muscle and/or bone to stop an assailant in their tracks.
  • Larry believes that the impact weapon is a fight stopper, and I concur.
  • Modern tactical doctrine often recommends carrying a knife as a secondary weapon, however some people are hesitant to carry a knife for personal protection. As a practitioner of edged weapons, I know that it takes a certain type of personality to wield the blade, which may not be a good fit for every person. An aversion to edged weapons should not leave you defenseless so an impact weapon may be a good secondary tool.
  • With practice, the sap is easy to carry and easy to deploy. These 2 points alone should be enough to consider adding this to your EDC.

On August 18th & 19th, 2018 The Complete Combatant hosted Jacks & Saps with Larry Lindenman of Point Driven Training and the Shivworks Collective. Larry’s Jacks & Saps class came highly recommended by Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor . When Claude said “you should consider hosting Jacks & Saps”, we said “YES SIR”, and called Larry the next day.

As we soon found out, this type of training was very sought after and well received. We had originally scheduled Larry’s one day Jacks & Saps course on Saturday, August 18th but that SOLD OUT in just a couple of months. There is a resurgence of interest in this style of impact weapon, so much so that we added another class on Sunday, August 19th so more training opportunities were available.

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I always appreciate any class that starts with a historical overview of the subject at hand and Larry did just that. Saps and blackjacks have had a unique place in history, and have been highly effective tools, especially in law enforcement. I feel that knowing the history gives me the development process of the weapon/tool and the context in which it was applied.  Larry also displayed several different jacks & saps which opened the discussion of the relative benefits and weakness of different types of impact weapons/tools. Having all of these jacks & saps available to handle, compare and ask questions about allowed the students to make a better, and more educated choice on one that may be most suitable for their purpose. The format and progression of this class was well structured and informative, with pressure testing of each module.

I think that Claude Werner, Greg Ellifritz and Chris Sanchez all wrote excellent AAR’s so take a look at these for detailed accounts of Jacks & Saps.

Jacks & Saps AND Timing – Part 1 by Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor

Point-Driven Training Saps & Jacks Class by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training

AAR of Saps & Jacks by Christopher Sanchez

Larry used trainers made out of flip-flops and tape, allowing everyone to train in a live manner with resistance. The hallmark of a great instructor is to explain, demonstrate, drill, and then test each module of instruction. This is of great importance because it allows the students to solidify their understanding of the curriculum, and gain proficiency in the long-term. During the participant’s “end of class evolution” I saw a few “timing issues”, where students reached for the sap a little to soon, but ultimately I saw few problems deploying the weapon and people were accomplishing the task at hand…..to effectively defend yourself. These individual “evolutions” proved that jacks & saps can be a good choice for people of all ages, sizes and levels of self-defense commitments.

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Between Larry, Claude, and Greg, there was a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, which enhanced an already excellent training experience. Claude Werner shared a great idea for a cheap holster design to keep the weapon oriented for quick deployment, greatly increasing the efficiency of the presentation. It is always great to see well-known trainers working together to improve their skills and knowledge.

Claude Werner explains the background of his “Sap Holster”

I’m certian that most people will find jacks and/or saps a good fit for their everyday carry. Taking Larry’s Jacks & Saps class and practicing on your own would prepare most people to use the sap in a proficient manner.

I enjoyed this class as a student, and it was a pleasure to host such an excellent instructor. If you get a chance to train with Larry, please do so, I highly recommend it.




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

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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.