Welcome to our New Website!

By Ron Avery · Comments (0)

It was time for an upgrade! I am looking forward to putting up new content and making this site more interactive with our customers, friends and fans!

Thanks for your patience as we switch over from the old site to this one watching trips. We will be adding photos and videos over time and looking for ways to improve the site.

We welcome suggestions for improvement and look forward to your participation.

Thanks all!

Ron Avery

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From my Column: The Firearms Corner

Warrior! The word has caught on in everyday speech and has been applied to sports figures, articles of clothing, martial artists, military personnel, cops, and even various figures involved in peaceful activities. But, what is a warrior?

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Warrior: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.

I believe that almost all cops, military personnel, and others would agree that we are definitely engaged in a struggle — both to maintain our nation and societal order and to actively suppress criminal and terrorist activities that threaten that order. Having established that, we next need to define our mission.  

For most agencies, the words “Protect and Serve” are somewhere in a well-written mission statement. They define what we do.

• To Serve: To give service to or meet the needs of others
• To Protect: To keep others from harm.

Again, definitions that broadly define what we are supposed to do. Why then, is there such a disparity of opinions with regard to mindset and what we should be doing with regard to mission, training, and everyday activities?

Belief Systems and Values
To begin, I offer the following questions for you to ponder:

• For what or whom are you willing to fight, risk your life, and, if necessary, die?
• Is it fair to ask you to do that if you’re a cop who is charged with protecting and serving your community?
• Do you consider your status as a police officer a job or a calling?
• Is this a 24/7 commitment or an 8-12 hour shift commitment?
• When you swore your oath as a law enforcement officer to uphold, defend, and protect the constitution and the laws of your state, was it conditional in your mind or was this an absolute act in terms of service?
• How do you interpret the word ‘duty’?
• Is it fair to ask you do the above if you are off duty, don’t have any family with you, and you have your tools with you?
• Is it fair to ask you to carry your tools with you off duty even if you are not being paid to do so?
• Can we define a code of ethics, values and belief systems that we should be following?

Have you ever said or done the following:

• They don’t pay me enough to do this ______!
• My number one priority is to go home every night.
• Recited the police officers creed, “never get wet, never go hungry.”
• I’m not going to train on my day off unless they pay me to do it and give me free ammo…
• Shown up second or third on a call so you didn’t have to do the report?
• Avoided or held back on a call or failed to act because it was either a nuisance to you or you were afraid?
• Beat the crap out of someone during an arrest because “they deserved it”?
• Decided that something wasn’t worth doing because no one appreciates your efforts anyway?
• Put down a fellow officer because they pay for training on their own time and their own dime?
• Put down a rookie for being “too gung ho” about doing what he perceives to be his job. (Not talking about doing bad things here, just the attitude of total commitment).

Rank these in terms of Value to you:

• Country
• Family
• Friends
• Fellow officers
• Citizens
• Yourself

There is no judgment on my part in the above questions or statements. They are designed to help you clarify who you are and where you are heading. They are based on my own observations and experiences over the last 30 years, both as an officer and as a professional trainer.

Altruistic Behavior
There is a type of behavior that is manifested among those who serve selflessly which is called “altruistic behavior.”

From Wikipedia, we have the following explanation:

Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness. Altruism can be distinguished from feelings of loyalty and duty. Altruism focuses on a motivation to help others or a want to do good without reward, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual, a specific organization (for example, a government), or an abstract concept (for example, patriotism etc). Some individuals may feel both altruism and duty, while others may not. Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need.

Pay particular attention to this behavior as it is fundamentally different from doing your duty and defines the differences in beliefs and values in individuals.

On a personal note, I believe that altruistic behavior represents the highest expression of warrior virtue. I also believe that society feels the same and that is why altruistic behavior is considered a virtue.

Enter, the Merchant
Again we refer to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “merchant” is “One whose occupation is the wholesale purchase and retail sale of goods or services for profit. This many also include barter where money is not exchanged but a profit or equal value is made in terms of value.”

As one progresses in a career, there is a tendency to get what I call “creeping cynicism.” You realize that many people don’t really appreciate what you do, they just put up with you. Many don’t like you. You may feel that you are at odds with your administration or with your fellow officers. You burn out a bit; maybe a lot. You start to lose your enthusiasm for the job. Maybe your faith in humanity or doing the right thing is being eroded.

You gradually start to slip into the “merchant mentality.” As you go about your job, you subconsciously start to weigh risk versus reward or benefits versus hazards. You may become unwilling to give more of yourself because you feel that you’ve given enough or that people are asking too much of you. You may have some resentment when the department or your trainers ask you to train without compensation to you.

A question starts to intrude on your thought processes: “What’s in it for me?”

Many times, administration tends to overpromise what the department can reasonably do and stress out officers with increasing workloads with no increase of pay or benefits.

Service is a Voluntary Commitment, Duty is Not
I will not speak for others when I define my own values and beliefs. I also do not put myself above others or consider myself morally superior when I do speak out.

I think it is helpful to clarify your values and beliefs and prioritize them. Then you can make clear choices to better negotiate the path you choose in life. You can also determine your own levels of altruism, duty etc. and if cynicism is creeping into your life and undermining your values.

For me, being a warrior is a 24/7 commitment. This is my choice and my belief. It is independent of the job or the affiliations I may have. It colors my decisions on what I do, what I wear, how, when, and with what I choose to arm myself, as well as how (and how often) I train.

I train continuously. I try to carry what I consider to be an adequate firearm and sufficient ammunition with me at all times.

Though I would like others to voluntarily join with me in this belief, I cannot hold them to this voluntary standard. Again, this is altruistic behavior vs. the obligation of doing one’s duty. If they are doing their sworn duty while in uniform, that is what they are being paid to do and I cannot ask them to do more than they are willing to give.

Therefore, I also choose not to put myself on a higher moral plane or be disparaging of them if they do not choose to follow the standards I impose on myself.

To protect and serve means to put others needs ahead of my own self. I do not expect any reward for this service. If I could find a means of being paid elsewhere, I would protect and serve without pay. My sworn duty — when I was a police officer — was to uphold the constitution and the laws of my state, county, city, etc. It was to enforce the law, preserve the public order, and protect the citizens of my community.

To me, this means at any given moment of crisis, when life and death is on the line, my country and the lives of citizens or fellow officers have more worth than my own. This “gets me through the door.” Hopefully my skills will get me back out again. A sense of obligation to duty will also get one “through the door.” A merchant mentality will hesitate, hold back, and be indecisive.

These beliefs and values are not conditional or transactional on my part; they are absolute and still are to this day. When I train law enforcement and military in my academy, it is the needs of the citizens they protect as well as well as their own that I keep in mind and is why I will never lower the bar and let someone get through who cannot perform to standard.

One may talk about “warrior values” or “warrior beliefs.” Fundamentally, a warrior serves his country or his community, not just himself. What should you expect to receive in return for your service? If you are driven by altruistic behavior, you expect nothing. The reward is from the service that you gave. If you are driven by a sense of duty, you feel obligated to do your duty. You may only feel obligated to do so while you are being paid to do so. That is most certainly a choice.

Though we do need to make a living and most officers are paid to do the job. A warrior is expected to give service, risk life and limb, and do battle for his community and peers …with not even a “thank you” in return most of the time.

For those driven by an altruistic drive, this is all part of the job. They get their reward from doing the service and don’t expect anything in return. This is directly at odds with the merchant mentality of getting more than you give or bartering for equal compensation for your acts.

For those driven by a sense of duty, it is also part of the job but you may feel that you are giving more than you are getting in return at times.

If you feel the need to be appreciated or thanked all of the time for what you do — or feel you “don’t get paid enough to do this _____” — then you are sliding into the merchant mentality
It is helpful to separate your identity and the associated values as a warrior from your job at times. You train and you risk your life when necessary because YOU CHOOSE to do it, because that is what you believe in and what you value. This is not a merchant transaction where you feel you should be compensated in equal measure to the risks involved. You may never go in a room and take on a gunman if you value your life more than you value doing your duty or protecting another person, no matter what your technical skill level may be.

I’ve seen officers who look good in training but freeze up when confronted with their own death. It is total commitment to the values of duty and service that helps move us forward when others may hesitate or fall back.

A warrior serves his country and its citizens, period. It’s not a transaction, it’s not a self-serving commitment. It’s a code of honor that you voluntarily commit to, whether from an altruistic perspective, a sense of duty, or both.

For the leaders, take care of your people, protect them from overwork, shelter them from abuse, set the standards and live by them.

For the warriors, may God bless you and protect you as you go about your duties. Thank you for your service.

For the merchants, heed what I say. I will not judge you, but the people you serve (and serve with) will.

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Adam Casanova getting ready to rock!

Working on "The Plan" for how to shoot this stage

Yesterday, we held  a special fund raising class to help raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk that my wife, Kathie and other lady shooters in Colorado, such as Carol Klesser, are involved in.

We would like to honor them here for their contributions that help this important research move forward.



Colorado Shooters support Avon Breast Cancer Walk!

Honor Roll                                                                           

Blair Hanson

Conrad Holland

Charlie Perez

Tom Spitzer

Todd Snyder

Brad Olson

Roger and Patti Sorge

Bruce Kuhn

Adam and James Casanova

Mark Passamaneck

John Beazley

Special Thanks to:                 Irv Stone from Bar-Sto Barrels

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A couple of years ago now, I did a seminar with my good friend, Ara Maljian, a police officer and school resource officer in Cheyenne, WY. He organized a school safety summit and Dave Grossman was the featured speaker at this event. His words were powerful and stay strong long after the event.

Here my good friend and editor from, talks about attending a seminar with Dave Grossman about school violence and what needs to be done.

Editor’s Corner
with PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie


Lt. Col. Dave Grossman to cops: “The enemy is denial”  Preventing juvenile mass murder in American schools is the job of police officers, school teachers, and concerned parents — but cops are on the front lines

Editor’s Note: Today we bring you the first in an occasional series of articles stemming from an extraordinary daylong seminar presented by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. In coming months we’ll discuss Grossman’s thoughts on the use of autogenic breathing, surviving gunshot wounds, and dealing with survivor guilt following a gun battle. We begin with violence among and against children in our schools. We would like to extend our special thanks to Gary Peterson, Mike Elerick, and the men and women of the California Peace Officers Association (Region II) for their warm invitation to this remarkable talk. On Saturday, May 8th, CPOA is holding its annual Memorial Run and Family BBQ, honoring California officers who died in the line of duty in 2009. Additional details are available here.

“How many kids have been killed by school fire in all of North America in the past 50 years? Kids killed… school fire… North America… 50 years…  How many?  Zero. That’s right.  Not one single kid has been killed by school fire anywhere in North America in the past half a century.  Now, how many kids have been killed by school violence?”

So began an extraordinary daylong seminar presented by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a Pulitzer Prize nominated author, West Point psychology professor, and without a doubt the world’s foremost expert on human aggression and violence. The event, hosted by the California Peace Officers Association, was held in the auditorium of a very large community church about 30 miles from San Francisco, and was attended by more than 250 police officers from around the region.

“In 1998, school violence claimed what at the time was an all time record number of kids’ lives. In that year there were 35 dead and a quarter of a million serious injuries due to violence in the school. How many killed by fire that year? Zero. But we hear people say, ‘That’s the year Columbine happened, that’s an anomaly.’ Well, in 2004 we had a new all time record — 48 dead in the schools from violence. How many killed by fire that year? Zero. Let’s assign some grades. Put your teacher hat on and give out some grades. What kind of grade do you give the firefighter for keeping kids safe? An ‘A,’ right? Reluctantly, reluctantly, the cops give the firefighters an ‘A,’ right? Danged firefighters, they sleep ‘till they’re hungry and eat ‘till they’re tired. What grade do we get for keeping the kids safe from violence? Come on, what’s our grade? Needs improvement, right?”

Grossman’s talk spanned myriad topics of vital importance to law enforcement, such as the use of autogenic breathing, surviving gunshot wounds, dealing with survivor guilt following a gun battle, and others. In coming months, I will present a series of articles addressing many of these subjects, but violence among and against children was how the day began, and so it is in this area I will begin my coverage.

Johnny Firefighter, A+ Student
“Why can’t we be like little Johnny Firefighter?” Grossman asked as he prowled the stage. “He’s our A+ student. Denial, denial, denial! Look up at the ceiling. See all those sprinklers up there? They’re hard to spot — they’re painted black — but they’re there. While you’re looking, look at the material the ceiling is made of. You know that that stuff was selected because it’s fire-retardant. Hooah? Now look over there above the door — you see that fire exit sign? That’s not just any fire exit sign — that’s a ‘battery-backup-when-the-world-ends-it-will-still-be-lit’ fire exit sign. Hooah?”

Walking from the stage toward a nearby fire exit and exterior wall, Grossman slammed the palm of his hand against the wall and exclaimed, “Look at these wall boards! They were chosen because they’re what?! Fireproof or fire retardant, hooah? There is not one stinking thing in this room that will burn!”

Pointing around the room as he spoke, Grossman continued, “But you’ve still got those fire sprinklers, those fire exit signs, fire hydrants outside, and fire trucks nearby! Are these fire guys crazy? Are these fire guys paranoid? NO! This fire guy is our A+ student! Because this fire guy has redundant, overlapping layers of protection, not a single kid has been killed by school fire in the last 50 years!. But you try to prepare for violence — the thing much more likely to kill our kids in schools, the thing hundreds of times more likely to kill our kids in schools — and people think you’re paranoid. They think you’re crazy. They’re in denial.”

Teaching the Teachers
The challenge for law enforcement agencies and officers, then, is to overcome not only the attacks taking place in schools, but to first overcome the denial in the minds of mayors, city councils, school administrators, and parents. Grossman said that agencies and officers, although facing an uphill slog against the denial of the general public, must diligently work toward increasing understanding among the sheep that the wolves are coming for their children. Police officers must train and drill with teachers, not only so responding officers are intimately familiar with the facilities, but so that teachers know what they can do in the event of an attack.

“Come with me to the library at Columbine High School,” Grossman said. “The teacher in the library at Columbine High School spent her professional lifetime preparing for a fire, and we can all agree if there had been a fire in that library, that teacher would have instinctively, reflexively known what to do. But the thing most likely to kill her kids — the thing hundreds of times more likely to kill her kids, the teacher didn’t have a clue what to do. She should have put those kids in the librarian’s office but she didn’t know that. So she did the worst thing possible — she tried to secure her kids in an un-securable location. She told the kids to hide in the library — a library that has plate glass windows for walls. It’s an aquarium, it’s a fish bowl. She told the kids to hide in a fishbowl. What did those killers see? They saw targets. They saw fish in a fish bowl.”

Grossman said that if the school administrators at Columbine had spent a fraction of the money they’d spent preparing for fire — if the teachers there had spent a fraction of the time they spent preparing for fire — doing lockdown drills and talking with local law enforcers about the violent dangers they face, the outcome that day may have been different.

Rhetorically he asked the assembled cops, “If somebody had spent five minutes  telling that teacher what to do, do you think lives would have been saved at Columbine?”

Arming Campus Cops is Elementary
Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article called Arming campus cops is elementary. Not surprisingly, Grossman agrees with that hypothesis.

“Never call an unarmed man ‘security’,” Grossman said. “Call him ‘run-like-hell-when-the-man-with-the-gun-shows-up’ but never call an unarmed man security. Imagine if someone said, ‘I want a trained fire professional on site. I want a fire hat, I want a fire uniform, I want a fire badge. But! No fire extinguishers in this building. No fire hoses. The hat, the badge, the uniform — that will keep us safe — but we have no need for fire extinguishers.’ Well, that would be insane. It is equally insane, delusional, legally liable, to say, ‘I want a trained security professional on site. I want a security hat, I want a security uniform, and I want a security badge, but I don’t want a gun.’ It’s not the hat, the uniform, or the badge. It’s the tools in the hands of a trained professional that keeps us safe.

“Our problem is not money,” said Grossman.  “It is denial.”

Grossman said (and most cops agree) that many of the most important things we can do to protect our kids would cost us nothing or next-to-nothing.

Grossman’s Five D’s
In the next installment of this series, I will explore what follows in much greater detail, but for now, let’s contemplate the following outline and summary of Dave Grossman’s “Five D’s.” While you do, I encourage you to add in the comments area below your suggestions to address, and expand upon, these ideas.

1. Denial — Denial is the enemy and it has no survival value, said Grossman.

2. Deter — Put police officers in schools, because with just one officer assigned to a school the probability of a mass murder in that school drops to almost zero

3. Detect — We’re talking about plain old fashioned police work here. The ultimate achievement for law enforcement is the crime that didn’t happen, so giving teachers and administrators regular access to cops is paramount.

4. Delay — Various simple mechanisms can be used by teachers and cops to put time and distance between the killers and the kids.

a. Ensure that the school/classroom have just a single point of entry. Simply locking the back door helps create a hard target.
b. Conduct your active shooter drills within (and in partnership with) the schools in your city so teachers know how to respond, and know what it looks like when you do your response.

5. Destroy — Police officers and agencies should consider the following:

a. Carry off duty. No one would tell a firefighter who has a fire extinguisher in his trunk that he’s crazy or paranoid.
b. Equip every cop in America with a patrol rifle. One chief of police, upon getting rifles for all his officers once said, “If an active killer strikes in my town, the response time will be measured in feet per second.”
c. Put smoke grenades in the trunk of every cop car in America. Any infantryman who needs to attack across open terrain or perform a rescue under fire deploys a smoke grenade. A fire extinguisher will do a decent job in some cases, but a smoke grenade is designed to perform the function.
d. Have a “go-to-war bag” filled with lots of loaded magazines and supplies for tactical combat casualty care.
e. Use helicopters. Somewhere in your county you probably have one or more of the following: medivac, media, private, national guard, coast guard rotors.
f. Employ the crew-served, continuous-feed, weapon you already have available to you (a firehouse) by integrating the fire service into your active shooter training. It is virtually impossible for a killer to put well-placed shots on target while also being blasted with water at 300 pounds per square inch.
g. Armed citizens can help.  Think United 93. Whatever your personal take on gun control, it is all but certain that a killer set on killing is more likely to attack a target where the citizens are unarmed, rather than one where they are likely to encounter an armed citizen response.

Coming Soon: External Threats
Today we must not only prepare for juvenile mass murder, something that had never happened in human history until only recently, but we also must prepare for the external threat. Islamist fanatics have slaughtered children in their own religion — they have killed wantonly, mercilessly, and without regard for repercussion or regret of any kind. What do you think they’d think of killing our kids?

“Eight years ago they came and killed 3,000 of our citizens. Do we know what they’re going to do next? No! But one thing they’ve done in every country they’ve messed with is killing kids in schools.”

The latest al Qaeda charter states that “children are noble targets” and Osama bin Laden himself has said that “Russia is a preview for what we will do to America.”

What happened in Russia that we need to be concerned with in this context? In the town of Beslan on September 1, 2004 — the very day on which children across that country merrily make their return to school after the long summer break — radical Islamist terrorists from Chechnya took more than 1,000 teachers, mothers, and children hostage. When the three-day siege was over, more than 300 hostages had been killed, more than half of whom were children.

“If I could tackle every American and make them read one book, to help them understand the terrorist’s plan, it would be Terror at Beslan  by John Giduck. Beslan was just a dress rehearsal for what they’re planning to do to the United States.”

A future feature will focus solely on the issue of the terror threats against American schools, but for the time being consider this: There are almost a half a million school busses in America — it would require every enlisted person and every officer in the entire Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps combined to put just one armed guard on every school bus in the country.

As a country and as a culture, the level of protection Americans afford our kids against violence is nothing near what we do to protect them from fire. Grossman is correct: Denial is the enemy. We must prepare for violence like the firefighter prepares for fire. And we must do that today.

Hooah Colonel!

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Time for a brain teaser and performance tip to get your creative minds going and help increase your performance.

From my last personal training session and part of our new training programs.

Attention with Awareness

The best performers are able to maintain their attention on one thing while maintaining a conscious/sub-conscious awareness of other processes or environmental factors. Dr. James Loehr, Canadian Sports Psychologist calls this type of awareness a “Level 1 Awareness”.

A level 1 awareness is very different from subconsciously doing something yet not remembering it later. It is one of the hallmarks of higher levels of mastery, be it shooting, driving, martial arts or whatever.

Your challenge is to pay attention to what is important (conscious focus of the mind) while also monitoring the other processes and things that are going on at the same time without trying to control them with your conscious mind.


On one training stage, I need to really “read” my sights as I am shooting but also be awareness of my body movement and trigger finger at times.

Paying attention to the sights occupies much of my conscious mind on this particular stage as they are difficult shots and have to be executed precisely. While I do this, I must also focus my awareness on correct choreography so that I complete the stage in minimum time.

I also monitor what is going on with my trigger finger in terms of placement, tension etc. and adjust as needed “on the fly”. The position of a mover or turner will also register in my awareness without distracting my attention on the sights in relation to target etc.

A higher plane of execution, awareness and understanding of processes leads to higher, more consistent performances.

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Back in the mid 1990’s, I had the opportunity to work with Dutch shooter,  Maurice Drummen, when I was in the early years of my academy. He became a top shooter as well as a good friend of mine . Later, he decided to not shoot competitively for a number of years due to increased workload etc. at his shop. Maurice is a master gunsmith whose family has been in gunsmithing since the 1800’s. He builds custom firearms for all kinds of shooters in Europe and has a thriving business selling reloading components, holsters, guns, gear etc.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to reconnect with Maurice at the SHOT Show while I was doing some work with one of our sponsors, Berry Bullets.  Maurice told me of his desire to become a Senior World Champion in Open Class at the World Championships next year after a long hiatus from shooting. He had been doing well but felt that he needed some serious training if he was going to reach his goals.

We set up a training date and Maurice came over from the Netherlands to train with me here in the Rocky Mountains. While he was here, we had to chance to renew our friendship and talk about everything under the sun that pertains even remotely to shooting.

He brought with him a custom made,  left hand eject, 1911 Open class gun;  built in a high capacity Caspian frame. He put a sideways mounted C-More scope on it to aid ejection . I had a chance to shoot it and it is a really nice gun! Good dot tracking and handling characteristics.

We spent three VERY high intensity days of training. Starting at 7 am and going some evenings until 10 pm. Then we spent two additional days training and going to 2 weekend matches to test and validate the principles, training concepts and skills learned along with the mental training program I shaped for him. We then spent a few more days together as we waited for the Volcano in Iceland to subside so flights could resume. We did additional training, including some fitness training and specialized grip exercises and dry fire program while we waited.

Maurice impressed me with his shooting abilities as well as his great personality and friendship.  I believe that Maurice definitely has what it takes to become not only the top Senior World Champion at the World Shoot next year but also one of the top Open shooters in Europe overall. He is very fast, both in shooting and in movement and is very physically fit as well as being very motivated.

After a consult with the rest of my PSA PRO SHOOTING TEAM, comprised of Kathie Ferguson-Avery, Ara Maljian and Keith Garcia, I decided to invite Maurice to become part of our PSA PRO Team. I believe that he has what it takes to not only be a top flight shooter but is also a good sportsman and representative of the values and ideals we cherish here at The Practical Shooting Academy.

I will have a bio and picture of Maurice up shortly on the website.

For now, WELCOME Maurice Drummen, our newest PSA PRO Team Member!

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Congratulations are in order for PSA PRO TEAM Member Keith Garcia! Keith went down to Arizona to compete in the Superstition Mountain 3 Gun event. He did very well there, finishing 6th overall. This qualified him to compete in the 3 gun nation shootoff, a separate event featuring some of the top stars of 3 gunning. Keith took down all comers, including 10 time multi-gun champion Michael Voight and won the event! 

Keith earned a $5000 paycheck from this event! 

Congratulations Keith! I know the preparation you put into this event and it looks like it paid off for you! 

We use competition as a way of improving our performance both on the range and out in the field. The same skill, drive and dedication to excelling at what we do makes us better performers when it counts. While the prizes are a nice touch, being able to deliver, when it counts, is priceless!

Keith shooting the handgun portion of the 3 Gun Nation shootoff

Keith also won a check for $5000! Gotta like that! Way to go Keith!

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From our partners at comes a story of an attack on an officer by an offender that led to the officer having to shoot the offender, even when he was unarmed. One of our advisory board members, Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Institute, offers expert advice about this type of situation. You can end up on the short end of the stick very quickly if you don’t know what to do against a “weaponless” adversary. Read More→

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By Ron Avery – For

Your heart is pounding rapidly in your chest, your palms are sweaty and cold and your breath is coming in a short, in and out rhythm. The adrenaline is pounding in your system. You open the door, drawing your weapon as you move. Your eyes sweep the room, and you see, THERE, threat; as you shoot two rounds in rapid succession at the threat, you glimpse a movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn to see two threats swing out simultaneously from around a corner. You fire into each threat as you smoothly transition through the room. As you approach another threat area, you make a dynamic reload so that you will have a full magazine. Moving quickly now, you step across a threshold and you now have 3 threats in rapid succession. Your finger is pounding on the trigger now as you try to engage them as swiftly as possible. You continue to move through the area, scanning for threats, engaging when you first see them, Your gun seems to be kicking all over the place and you don’t remember seeing your sights too clearly as you try to go as fast as you can. You feel jerky and out of control as you come to the final area that needs to be taken down.

Sound like a nightmare? Not at all. It’s a stage in the finals of a competitive shooting championship and you are going for it, giving it all you have.

Competition is woven into the very fabric of our lives. From a very young age, we are competing for resources, status in our peer group or community, the opposite sex, grades in school, jobs, promotions, and in a lethal force engagement, for your life. This is completely opposite what is taught in school where they try to treat competition as something unhealthy. The idea that there will be winners and losers in situations and in life is not deemed acceptable. This does not prepare one for the real world where competition is a very real force.

The fact is your whole life is shaped by your competitiveness or the lack thereof. Those who are not willing to compete for what is theirs may lose what they have worked so hard to achieve. The history of ancient man shows competition and the survival of the fittest at work. Here in North America, the most warlike tribes controlled the best territories, forcing lesser tribes into less ideal environments or assimilating them into their culture through conquest. Our whole system of government is based on capitalism which is nothing more than competitive trading for advantage and gaining market share.

Competition represents the willingness to compete against your fellow man for something of benefit to the individual or group. There are a variety of reasons to compete as we have talked about earlier. But there is something more fundamental about the competitive drive. It is also the ultimate test of self. How you fare and how you deal with it can be critically important to the direction of your life. The drive to be the best you can be, to win, to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals is rooted in the competitive drive.

Contrast this with shrinking from challenges that you face. Officers who are afraid to qualify because they are unsure of their ability to do so. A firearms instructor who won’t shoot in front of his students because he is afraid of making a mistake, a departmental qualification that is too generous in terms of time and accuracy because those in positions of authority don’t want anyone to fail.

Ironically, many of these qualifications are rooted in competitive shooting, such as PPC. The difference is that the target area shot in that type of shooting and the time limits given are for the 10 and X ring and the shots are being fired out to 50 yards. Now, the scoring area for a “good hit” has been increased to a far larger area and the time has not been reduced to represent a more realistic encounter.

You can run from competition but you can’t hide from it. As a law enforcement officer, you will deal with it almost every day on the job.

The key is to use competition to bring out the necessary mindset that it will take to prevail in a situation. While this is linked with your personal survival it is also linked very strongly with the will to win the conflict. You should be able to visualize yourself as the victor, handling the situation, taking control of the conflict and winning. This is linked directly with the competitive drive. Then you must take the next step. You must engage in activities that promote and test your will to win. Armchair visualization will not cut it.

Bringing competition into the firearm training environment will lead to increased performance among the majority of those who participate in it. There will always be those who shrink from it and will make excuses. This is no reason to get rid of competition. On the street, you don’t get to pick the competitions you will engage in, they will happen to you. If you are not constantly feeding the drive to win on a regular basis, you will not have the skills, confidence and will of those who compete on a regular basis.

As a professional firearms trainer and researcher, I can verify that skilled competitive shooters are in a class by themselves in terms of performance with arms over their peers in law enforcement, military establishments or the civilian sector.

Having been involved in competitive shooting for 30 years now at a national and world class level, I can honestly say that I would probably never have achieved the levels of speed, precision, mental clarity and calmness under pressure if I had not competed. I would definitely not have understood shooting at the level I do now.

Another fact that is obscured by those who think that competitive shooting is not practical or is “gamey” is that world class competitive shooters have been responsible for the vast majority of shooting technique and training that has gone on for the last 50 years or more.

Since the late 1970’s, a small handful of world class shooters have been responsible for nearly all the shooting techniques that are being used today. That’s right folks. World class competitive shooters trained nearly everyone. US Navy Seals? Delta Force? Marine Corp? DEA, FBI, US Secret Service, Dept. of Defense? Yep, did em all and a lot of others for the last 20 some odd years and continue to do so today. The Weaver Stance and later, the Modern Isosceles and its many variants were all developed and validated in competition and then taught to everyone.

That process continues today, although there are many others out there muddying the waters who have never competed, do not understand the techniques and their proper application and yet feel qualified to teach them.

While you can derive benefits from all kinds of competitive events, you will get the most from competition that is relevant to your job. Martial arts competition, competitive shooting and the like are among the best for law enforcement.

I will focus on competitive shooting and talk about what it can do for you.

Competitive shooting recreates many of the stress responses that are found in high stress or deadly force situations as our shooter found out in the beginning of this article. Learning to deal with the stress of competition and focus on the tasks and mindset associated with superior performance will serve you well should you ever get into a deadly force situation.

Here are some of the other benefits of properly structured competition.

Develop the will to win

This is one of the single best things that competition shooting will do for you. When you have to go against the best on a regular basis, peak performance becomes a way of life. You have to be ready to take on all comers, to develop the toughness of spirit to risk failure while striving to do your personal best. Learning to walk the tightrope between too fast and not fast enough. You have to be able to do what it takes to do as well as you can without shrinking from the possibility of failure. Feed your will!

Strengthen Character

If you learn to conduct yourself in an ethical manner while competing you will become stronger mentally. Performing well in an ethical manner will make you tougher. You won’t need “props” to help you win.You will develop a strong sense of self worth, which will help you when the going gets tough. You won’t need excuses why you didn’t do as well as you can but will instead examine your mistakes and come up with solutions to problems you are facing. Honest feedback will yield true skill.

Superior Gunhandling and Shooting under Stress

Having worked with both competitive and non-competing people in our various tactical programs over many years, it is a fact that proficient competitive shooters operate at a far higher level of proficiency than their peers when it comes to shooting under pressure. This translates into superior hit probability. It also translates into superior control, speed, processing, movement skills, and a host of other beneficial skills.

Situational Awareness, Multi Tasking and Task Focusing

Being able to observe, orient, decide and act quickly and decisively is what will give you the edge in a lethal force situation. Competitive shooting represents a superb way to increase your mental processing speed and ability to task focus under high stress conditions. Imagine driving a race car around a complex track at speeds varying from 120 to 180 mph. Now imagine how much more awareness and control you will have when you return to more “normal” speeds.

In the sport of International Practical Shooting (IPSC) competitors “race” with guns. Competitors routinely have to multi-task during competition. High speed mental processing and situational awareness while being able to focus on the task of hitting targets precisely and extremely fast is one of the many benefits that can be yours.

This will help you on the street when you are faced with a tough situation that requires mental agility and the ability to focus on tasks under pressure.

Safe gun handling both on and off the range

Competitive shooting practiced under the rules of the  International Practical Shooting Confederation are among to safest in the world. Here shooters may perform high speed draws, engage multiple targets, negotiate complex courses of fire, shoot on the move, open doors with gun in hand, grab guns off of tables, load and shoot rapidly, reload extremely fast; all under uncompromising safety standards

This type of shooting ingrains a keen awareness of muzzle control. Finger on or off the trigger at the correct time are rigidly enforced and become ingrained responses. Competitive shooters rarely have to be reminded of safety with firearms.

Stress Acclimatization

One of the biggest benefits of competition comes from developing your skills in dealing with stress. Competition is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Putting your ego on the line can be a threatening experience. Overdoing things and making big mistakes by trying too hard is also a common experience.

Through regular participation combined with proper coaching, competition will help you deal with your biggest competition and that is YOU.

I can tell you from personal experience that the stress I dealt with in National and World level events was far greater than the stress I felt when engaged in actual deadly force situations. Other peers and friends who have been in lethal force events as well as engage in competition say much the same thing.

Competitive shooting, where you may anticipate the event over a period of weeks, months or even years, generates its own kind of stress. Prior to and during the event, your perspective of the event will trigger emotions that will in turn release stress hormones that can work either for or against you.

Emotional and mental management is a key component of successful performance.  The human body will not be able to distinguish between the hormones released during a competitive event or a lethal force engagement.

Learning new techniques and testing and evaluation of new techniques and equipment

No less of an authority than Jeff Cooper remarked that IPSC was a testing ground where one could evaluate successful technique and equipment of the best shooters. That remains true to this day. While gunfights may vary according to the nature of the fight or the skill of the opponent, competition is structured in a way that pits man against man where the rules are the same. The best will rise to the top.

Competition is not tactical training. It will not replace proper tactics and teamwork. On the other hand, the mental and physical skills you develop will definitely aid you should you need to use those skills to win the day.

The biggest problem with competitive shooting comes with what you bring with you. If it is just a game to you and targets are merely targets and you don’t really care how you finish then you won’t get a lot from it.

If you treat it as something that is important to you and you know that you might have to use those skills in the real world then good progress can be made.

The ancient test of man vs. man has been going on from the beginning of mankind’s existence. Competition represents a means of measuring yourself against others and being able to walk away with a better understanding of yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.

There will always be positives and negatives in any type of training. Force on force training can teach bad habits to; like hiding behind barriers that won’t stop a real bullet. Force on force is also very time intensive as well as being expensive to do on a regular basis. Draw upon the positives and recognize the negatives.

A well-rounded program will focus on different aspects of training. Competition belongs in a well rounded program. Nothing can take its place. Whether you compete within your peer group or reach out into the wide world for more, competition will make you stronger and better prepared to focus on the task of winning when it counts.

For more information on IPSC you can go to For courses and training with The Practical Shooting Academy, Inc. go to

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It is with a deep sense of loss and sadness as well as a genuine sense of appreciation that I pay tribute to a man who embodied the truest aspects of a modern warrior and police officer as well as a very strong competitive shooter.

Eddie Rhodes and I go back 30 years to when we were students at Dan Predovich’s Rampart Range Academy, which was an affiliate of Gunsite Academy.

Eddie was a fierce competitor, and I knew him for his fiery style and take no prisoners approach to shooting. Like me, he viewed competitive shooting as a way of getting ready for the serious business of gunfighting as a law enforcement officer. We competed against each other in countless matches over the years and he was always a pleasure to have around.

He loved to work on the street with his cops and was a real leader; not just a paper pusher. He was always looking for ways to improve his shooting without giving up the street practicality of his gear or his warrior mindset. He helped his officers prepare for the street, often in the face of an administration that didn’t always appreciate his efforts on their behalf.

He embodied the truest aspect of the warrior code: to give of himself to others without expecting thanks, to risk his life for others without looking for a reward and to train unceasingly for a moment that might never happen, but to be ready nonetheless, should his skills be called forth.

He died, unexpectedly, while on a training run and we are the poorer for his passing.

Eddie Rhodes was one of the best American gunfighter cops in the nation. God Bless you, Eddie Rhodes.

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