Saturday, February 15, 2020

Guns: Cumberland Tactics Tactical Handgun 101 - "Randy, I can't wait to take your advanced course"

I learned a lot from the Cumberland Tactics Carbine 1 course, so when I had the chance to take Tactical Handgun 101 with instructor Randy Cain a couple years ago, I jumped at it. Here are my notes of the class:


The first thing Randy emphasizes is that there are no "advanced techniques" - only fundamentals applied skillfully under pressure. The joke Randy gives is that people always want to take the "advanced course," but there is no such thing - the basics of getting a good sight picture and pressing the trigger smoothly apply everywhere, and will win gunfights on the battlefield or on the street with the right mindset.

The class starts with a detailed safety briefing on each of the Four Rules, including how they apply to the range's outhouse ("All guns are always loaded"...especially with your pants down):

Randy shows several ways of press-checking a pistol, which sounds trivial until the first time I duff a range drill because I forgot to load my gun before stepping up to the line. For the class, I use my full-size stainless steel Dan Wesson Valor 1911 in good old .45 ACP, Wilson Combat and Chip McCormick mags, and plenty of Winchester 230 grain hardball:

The first morning teaches gunhandling in a deliberate, systematic fashion. You learn little tips like touching the front of the top round in a magazine with your left hand to ensure that it's seated all the way back, using the end of your thumb (the bony part) to hit the mag release, and inserting the mag carefully one inch into the magwell, and then pushing it up fast the rest of the way.

Randy runs some diagnostic shooting demonstrations with the class, with the ultimate goal being the "compressed surprise break" and clear front sight picture necessary for good marksmanship. He tells a story of a shooting he was involved in, a "suicide by cop." The man was shot at 23 times (9 hits and 14 misses) by several police officers at conversation range, yet there were no Hollywood squibs and no big red bloodstains on his shirt. The moral of the story: the only indication of where the rounds are going is your sights, so you better see them when you shoot.

Randy goes through the ready positions, including why he doesn't like the center chest ready (sweeps too much) and why the "Sul" position is not a ready position, but a hack for Brazilian cops with no holsters.

We cover reloads, including the "tactical reload," as it's not a good idea to throw out mags with good ammo in them for no reason. You never know how long your gunfight will last (think Mogadishu). I find the relatively thin 1911 mags are easy to hold between the fingers and dump into a pocket for later use.

As the day wore on and we got more comfortable, we added movement, including the "step and slide" (sort of feeling your way on the ground with your feet) and shooting on the move (don't run, keep the knees loose, heel to toe, but not too slowly - if you're moving that slowly, you might as well stop and shoot).


Like Tom Givens and every other great trainer I've learned from, Randy emphasizes precise, surgical hits - either to the chest between the armpits, to the nose and eye sockets, or to the pelvic girdle.

Much of the day is spent teaching and refining the drawstroke. Randy teaches a standard 4-count stroke - 1) firing grip, 2) draw up to retention, 3) bring the hands together, 4) push out and take up the slack. We count out and back, again and again ("ONE! TWO! ONE!"), trying not to "porpoise" the gun. According to Randy, five minutes of drawstroke and dryfire practice at home per day will do more than hours of banging away rounds at the range.

We cover some prone pistol shooting, which is not something I get to do very often. Randy teaches Chapman rollover prone, where your left foot hooks behind your right knee, your hands are on the ground, your head is on your bicep, and your natural point of aim is centered on the target:

Speed reloads are covered briefly, and in on-the-numbers fashion - 1) finger on the release, left hand on the spare mag; 2) dump the mag in the gun while beginning to insert the fresh one; 3) seat the mag and reacquire the grip. The rhythm for the three steps is FAST-SLOW-FAST.

Randy covers clearing malfunctions, but says he hates teaching the subject since it's a bit boring. We cover the standard Type 1, 2, and 3 malfunctions using the standard tap-rack-ready method, but there are other types that you can't clear (a catastrophic parts failure, etc.). We end the day with a fun man-on-man plate rack competition.


Randy promised us to cover flashlight use, and he does so on the final day, including tactical reloading with a flashlight (you curl your hands like Spock) and the downsides of using a flashlight lanyard. We then move on to lateral movement and various cadences of fire, as well as shooting deliberate pairs (3 sight pictures), dedicated pairs (2 sight pictures), and hammers (one sight picture).

We cover shooting from retention, which Randy says is a "hammer solution" to a "screwdriver problem" (you are better served with close quarters empty hand skills). You either shoot in retention, or out of it, but not in-between, since you need a consistent body index point.

The last portion of the class is a mindset lecture, which is hard to capture in a blog post but probably the most important part of the class. Randy goes through an abbreviated version of Jeff Cooper's Principles of Personal Defense, sprinkled with some of Randy's war stories from his law enforcement career. Randy discusses eliminating the useless mental responses to a violent attack - "Is this really happening to me?" and "I can't believe this is happening to me" - in favor of decisive action.

Better to be the grandma in the Luby's cafeteria who made a half-assed plan to run than the war hero who froze behind cover. Above all, you cannot fight halfheartedly - what is it going to take to stop this guy, and remember that they will finish you if you don't finish them. Having confidence in your skills can help you maintain your cool, but you don't and won't react the same way in a future fight, no matter how many people you've arrested or how many fights you've been in.

All in all, it was a great class, and highly recommended for anyone interested in using a handgun for self-defense.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Miscellany: 2020 EDC

For 2020, I'm changing around some of my everyday carry tools based on the training I've received in the past year. For example, instead of carrying a spare magazine for my handgun (which is only useful in incredibly rare situations), I'm making a concerted effort to carry medical gear like tourniquets and hemostatic gauze.

From left to right:

Keys (with Leatherman Squirt PS4 multitool, Fisher Trekker Pen, and Maratac AAA flashlight) - I lost my Rambler to an overzealous security guard at Universal Studios, so I replaced it with the Squirt. It's more useful since it has pliers and scissors, but it's also quite heavy (2 ounces) and bulky.

SOF Tactical Tourniquet (Gen 3) in PHLster Flatpack tourniquet carrier - I think the C-A-T tourniquet is easier to use, especially with one hand, but it's too bulky to carry on the belt for me. In contrast, this setup fits in at about 10 o'clock, right to the left of my...

ShivWorks Clinch Pick in Dark Star Gear sheath - In my experience, extracting and opening a folding knife while you are grappling, either standing or on the ground, is unlikely.

GLOCK 43 in Blackpoint Tactical Mini Wing IWB holster - I usually carry appendix nowadays, but this gun and holster combo works too well to ditch.

Surefire E1D LED Defender - A discontinued model; if you want something similar, look at the EDCL1-T or the E1B Backup.

Leatherman Skeletool - Slightly duplicative of the Squirt (I never need two sets of pliers), but it's one of the few five-ounce mulitools with a pocket clip, so it gets carried a lot.