Although our blog has not yet been in existence for a full year, I thought it worthwhile to do an end of the year assessment about what my personal journey has been like this year as well where we might be going.
In terms of training, my goals this year were to start hitting some areas of relative need (knife and unarmed combatives), get some more “traditional” pistol instruction, and explore more “tactics-related” classes.
In the first area, I did take a knife combatives course, “Functional Disarming” with Tom Sotis of AMOK! Combatives (AAR here). Great class, but in my opinion and as I said in the AAR, if you don’t use the hand-to-hand stuff, you lose it much faster than you’d lose firearms skills. Tom was nice in setting me up with access to some of his online videos, and I do periodically watch them and practice on…no one! My wife is unwilling (for some odd reason she doesn’t consider it foreplay!), and I don’t have anyone else local to me who I can really train or spar with. My hope had been to do some more training in AMOK! during the summer when I had more time off, and then train again with Tom in the Fall, but my schedule was not as flexible as I’d hoped it would be. Despite all of this, I’d regard the class as a positive, and I’d definitely train with Tom again.
In the area of “traditional” pistol instruction, I took Combative Pistol Two with Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts (AAR here ). Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this class, and was probably kinder in the AAR than I might have been. The class had an incredibly high round count, to the point that I had to tape up my hands and also developed a flinch. Jeff’s a nice guy, if a bit standoffish, but I never got the “caring about his students” vibe from him. That might just be a personality thing, and might make him less compatible for ME rather than other people out there. I’ve spoken with others from the class I attended as well as a few who have taken other classes with him this year, and the consensus seemed to be that he spends too much time on his phone, doesn’t watch the students shoot a lot of the time, has the students shoot too much, and has nebulous standards which must be met in order to “pass” his courses. Maybe I had too high of expectations, as I’d always heard great things about Jeff as a diagnostician, but I found that he spent most of his time asking me what I was doing wrong, and I probably had not yet reached that point of enlightenment. I like his book, “Combative Fundamentals”, and I generally like his blog posts. But, for $525 I want–and feel I deserve–to be “wowed” by a class, and I was not.
In the area of tactics courses, I took two this year: Urban Defense Course with Paul Howe of Combat Shooting and Tactics (AAR here), and then the Street and Vehicle class taught by Mike Pannone of CTT Solutions (AAR here). These were the highlights of my training year, and I’m extremely happy that I took them. Although, at the time that I took each, I felt like some of the coursework was perhaps a bit outside of what I should be focusing on, all one needs to do is look at situations of civil unrest in various cities in the United States–as well as recent happenings in Paris and San Bernardino–for validation. John and I just discussed this recently, especially after I saw this:
People where I live can barely drive on a normal day, so the thought of the traffic jam that could ensue if terrorists start dropping pipe bombs off highway overpasses and then shooting the hapless, helpless victims trapped below, is a little scary. In such a situation, while marksmanship ability and weapons manipulation skills might be important, so too would be tactics around vehicles, which were covered in both of these classes. Paul and Mike are both top-notch instructors who are excellent at translating things they learned in Special Operations into a civilian context. I’ve now trained with each of them more than once. They’ve wowed me each time, and I will happily give them more of my training dollars in the future.
This year I’ve used my anti-Buy Once, Cry Once (see articles here and here) philosophy to acquire better equipment. I’ve also been able to get my AR-15s set up the way I want them (for now? You know how ARs are!), and all have a similar setup in terms of accessories.
I’ve also been more willing to make modifications to other gear, such as holsters (see here) and pistol magazine carriers (see here). Although I have not done an article on everyday carry gear, I have increased what I carry and changed a little in how I carry those items (more ammunition, knife positioning, medical equipment, etc.).
Through my classes and the blog, I’ve made new friends and expanded on existing relationships. For example, Dave Montana of Hunter Rifleworks, who works part-time as an assistant instructor with Paul Howe at CSAT, is someone with whom I now correspond regularly about gear, tactics, etc., to the point that he built me an AR-15 upper for a ridiculously low price, and then made modifications to two of my other ARs. He is an excellent builder and a great guy.
Likewise, I communicate with some of my other former instructors, especially Paul Howe, at least intermittently. I know I can email Paul a question about gear or tactics and get an answer in a timely manner. I’ve also developed a bit of a penpal relationship with another person I met in a class a few years back—who still works at the pointy end of the spear—who I’m able to bounce such ideas off from time to time. This has been invaluable in the development of my own mindset and in validating—or refuting—ideas I have had.
Finally, John, my blog partner, is someone I first met in a class over two years ago, but over this year our correspondence has been, on average, several times daily. With the blog as our baby, I no longer consider him an acquaintance, but a friend.
The blog and my presence on a few firearms forums has also presented me with a few opportunities in training. More on that in 2016!
My education in all areas is on ongoing process; I just like to learn. In areas connected with this blog, my journey will never be complete. In terms of formal training, I am already registered for two classes in 2016 with top-notch, highly respected instructors (Craig Douglas and Kyle Defoor), and I plan to add at least one more. I will also have some new opportunities this year, alluded to in the previous section. One thing I may explore is taking more single-day classes within reasonable driving distance of home. I’ve learned more about several instructors/schools nearby, and I am liking what I am reading about them.
I have several new bits of gear to try out (at least one gift wrapped under the tree as I write this), and I look forward to reviewing them for the blog as well. John and I may also do some reviews of media (videos and books) that would be relevant to the readers of this blog.
Finally, regarding the blog, it has been fun! It’s been fun to share the AARs, comment on current events, review gear, and then sit back and watch the stats. For me, it’s mostly been a fun exercise in that it forces me to analyze and then synthesize things that I’ve learned so I can then share that information with the readers. I also use the blog as a resource for me, as I regularly go back and read my own AARs to refresh my memory on things covered in the classes. Likewise, a few times I’ve asked John questions, and he has been able to ask things like, “Did you READ my article on blow-out kits? The answer is there!” I also just enjoy writing, something I don’t otherwise get the chance to do these days.
In closing, 2015 was a very productive year for my journey, and I’ve already been putting pen to paper to set up personal goals for 2016. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.