7 Apr 16

The “State of the Art!”

“There is nothing in this world in such dire need of correction as are other people’s opinions!”


Within my lifetime, our courageous progenitors, like Jeff Cooper, audaciously introduced us all to the “hot” range. He was ahead of his time! Prior to the “Cooper Era,” nearly all police pistol training took place on a cold range. In 1970, when I went to the Police Academy in WI, cold ranges were indeed the rule, and any suggestion to the contrary was heresy. Military ranges on which I had previously trained (prior to being deployed to Vietnam) were the same. Some of us young Turks discussed running a “hot” range, but only in whispers!

Today, hot ranges are the order of the day in most of the police training community. Frightening predictions that hot ranges were inherently unsafe proved erroneous.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few elite units, our military has still not updated, and due to an intense infestation of risk-aversion throughout the System, probably will not any time soon.

Another example of “cultural lag” are manuals that come with modern pistols. Many still recommend that the weapon never be loaded, nor carried, and remain locked-up all the time. Most lawyers who compose this literature don’t even own a gun, much less carry one for serious purposes, and the intent of these manuals is to legally benefit the manufacturer, not practically benefit the consumer. There has been some progress in this arena, but it is glacial!

My courageous colleagues, Mas Ayoob and Manny Kapelsohn, to whom manufacturers actually listen carefully (unlike me) have bravely moved this process forward, more so than nearly anyone else. As a result, many weapon manuals today are actually useful to the consumer, at least to some degree. They’re now spending time and pages honestly confronting real security issues, rather than just hedging their bet and endlessly declaring their innocense.

Most non-police/non-military commercial training and trainers have also embraced the concept of the hot range, at least for pistols.

Running a rifle training range “hot” is a newer concept, and many trainers, even enlightened ones, are still hesitant. Everyone is deathly afraid of NDs, of course!

I have become persuaded that we have to run serious rifle training hot, if we are to have any chance of legitimately preparing our students for individual victory in real fighting. My personal experience in genuine warfare has influenced me to take this stand, and this is thus the way I currently run all my serious rifle training, and have for the last decade. (I don’t do non-serious “recreational” training).

Military rifles with which we train (ARs, XCRs, PTRs, M1As, SIG 556s, AKs, SCARs, Tavors, et al) are all designed and built to be carried loaded, by soldiers, during active combat, regardless of what the manual says. Unlike pistols, all come equipped with a manual safety lever/button.

The big question is:

What is our training doctrine with regard to the use of the rifle’s manual safety?

“Safety” and “readiness” will ever be mutually antagonistic. As trainers and philosophical entrepreneurs, our goal is always finding a reasonable compromise.

Most modern pistols (Glock, XD, M&P, SIG320, Walther PPQ, H&K VP9, FNS, Ruger AA) don’t have manual safeties, yet we still routinely move with them in our hands during training exercises, relying mostly upon a strong “register” position of the trigger-finger to prevent NDs. Still, we don’t prevent them all, no matter how careful we try to be!

Can we do the same with our rifles, or do we insist students keep the manual safety in the “on” position except when in the process of firing intentionally?

My answer to that question is:


I accept it either way, but I teach the former.

Of course, I tell students that I want the manual safety “on” when the rifle is slung, and I want them to check it frequently. Scant argument there.

However, when the rifle is in their hands, the position of the manual safety becomes optional.

Even so, I emphasize that the position of the trigger-finger is NOT optional, and I want it in a strong, “register” position until/unless (1) sights on target, (2) the shooter intends to fire immediately.

I run a lot of drills where students, moving rapidly with their rifles in hand, are in and out of their sights quickly, suddenly, and often. Who try to put their manual safety into the “on” position every time the rifle comes out of the sighting-plane, then back “off” again as they come back on target (sometimes less than a second later), are visibly slower than those who just leave it “off.” In fact, with an AK’s manual safety lever, the foregoing is all but impossible. And, I see students who are trained to keep the manual safety “on” except when on-target and intentionally firing (which I don’t insist they change) attempting to fire with the safety “on” with monotonous regularly!

Yet, I am ever learning, and philosophically flexible. When I witness a rash of NDs, I may be compelled to alter my training doctrine. At least over the past decade, all those NDs have not materialized.

Of course, I don’t train people who don’t want to be there! Many have made the case of how big a factor that is.

I know the foregoing is controversial. I hope I’ve made a persuasive argument!

We are preparing students for the fight of their lives. We can never forget who is working for whom!

“Truth is… a streaming fountain. When her waters are not in perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.”