I am writing this on Sunday at 35,000 feet. It is early morning as I make my way slowly across the country from Milwaukee back to Orange County, via an all too brief stopover in Denver.
For those of you, who have never been to Milwaukee… it is an interesting mini Gotham. Two separate time periods intertwine downtown. Romantic and perfectly maintained buildings with an Art Deco motif, gives you the feeling of a 1930’s metropolis. Soda Fountains… yes, they really have soda fountains, (evoke the image of the 1950’s). It is little wonder that Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley were based in Wisconsin.
The NRA also chose to host their first NRA Carry Guard Conference here in Milwaukee as well. From the moment it was announced, there has been deep speculation as to the choice of venue. Was the NRA firing a shot across the bow of USCCA which is based in Wisconsin? Was there a nuanced nod being given to Sheriff Clarke, the outspoken defender of freedom and contributor to the NRA? Or did they simply get a good price on the convention center? Perhaps, we will never know.
What they did get were crowds.
The attendance at the conference was huge. Frankly bigger than I was expecting. I am not sure if the attendees came for the seminars, the vendors, or just to hang out with fellow gun enthusiasts, but they were certainly there. (They even drew about a half dozen protesters that mustered in front of the Wisconsin Center with such erudite signs as “Guns are Bad” or Repeal 2A).
What really got me though… and I state this at the risk of sounding arrogant… was “me”.
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Its hard to state the exact number of show attendees, but it certainly was a few thousand. After walking the show floor and making mental notes on what vendors I wanted to spend more time with, I stumbled on the NRA’s virtual reality training program. This sounds far cooler than it ultimately turned out to be. Essentially, wearing VR goggles, I got to experience an interactive commercial for NRA Carry Guard. Still, there was a degree of training involved. In the scenario, I found myself in the middle of a convenience store robbery. After firing two rounds at a suspect that was preparing to shoot the store clerk, I pulled back my “gun” to a center chest retention position and began to physically scan search and assess… looking for additional threats and/or to find better positions to move too.
After the scenario was over, the instructor pulled the goggles off of me and asked me if I was a cop.
“Your speed to contact and the way your pulled to retention on your pistol while you scanned for additional threats.”
“No… I’m not a cop… I work with them… and I help train them… but I’m not sworn. How are the other show attendees doing on this?” “Most will shoot the suspect then just stare at him lying on the ground. They have no established procedures for secondary threat assessments. They don’t even think about retention methods.”
“What percentage freezes and does nothing?”
“About thirty percent”.
Later, I made my way to the UTM shoot-house. (For those of you who are unaware of UTM, these are rimfire ballistic training rounds at reduced velocity. They allow for indoor training opportunities without the threat of structural damage or the need for ear protection). My first evolution was with an AR-15 with a red dot. After watching me work the course of fire with the AR, the instructor took me over to the pistol area and said, “Ok.. well it is obvious you know what you are doing, so I’m going to change up the course a bit.”
After completing the course of fire, I handed back the firearm to the instructor and heard clapping. I had drawn a gallery of observers that had watched me do the course of fire. Apparently my performance was enough to garne an applause.
I decided to watch the next two participants.
Well… that explained the applause.
These guys clearly knew guns. From listening to their conversations… pretty intricate and nuanced discussions were taking place regarding calibers and firearms and their pedigree. Yet watching them shoot was like watching a train wreck.
They were certainly competent at hitting a target. Yet their posture, grip, speed to contact, engagement in follow-on shots, and practically everything else was a complete disaster. These good people were recreational shooters… not gunfighters.
Finally, I made my way to the Glock booth.
They had literally just revealed the Gen 5 Glock 17. I wanted to fool with it.
I waited as the Glock representative finished up with another show attendee. He was discussing the “feel” of the gun. As they thanked him and walked away, he turned his attention to me. Sizing me up and down he said, “You want to take a look at the Gen 5?”
“Yes, I was hoping to take a look at it.”
He started saying something to me as he handed me the firearm. I took the gun and held it with a firm master grip with my strong hand, trigger finger running straight along the frame. Finding a safe direction, I did a quick chamber check to ensure it was empty then I pressed out in a full draw.
The Glock rep stopped talking mid sentence.
“Ok… different spiel for you… you clearly are a professional.” “Excuse me?”
“I always like to get the gun in the hand of attendee first to see how they handle it. It sort of tells me how I should address them. Most here, it looks like are recreational shooters. I can tell by the way you handle the firearm you are not a hobbyist.”
I guess to an extent this recognition was somewhat flattering. But it was also a little disturbing. We, that have chosen to be ultimately responsible for our own safety must ensure that our weapons knowledge, weapons handling, and Mastery at Skill at Arms is unparalleled.
We must be constantly be training, training to the point where it takes conscience action to hold a weapon in a manner inconsistent with effectively putting lead on target.
We must train to such an extent that when we hold the weapon in our hand, it looks as though we have the command of the pistol, the same way a conductor has a command over a baton.
This convention served to some degree as a wake up call.
We must not allow ourselves to become lazy in the bearing of arms.
We must train… constantly, consistently, and with purpose to ensure that when called upon we can employ superior tactics and if ultimately necessary… lethal action against a determined and deadly assailant.
Receptive laziness, or the non purposeful handling of arms will ultimately translate to failure in combat.
This is a contest that none of us can afford to fail.