Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting Right in My Mind

I've been home from Gunsite for two weeks now, and I am STILL processing information. I'm not sure if that means that I am obsessive, or just thorough. Actually, don't tell me - I kinda don't want to know - LOL!

As I learned that week, the solid base of the three sides of the Gunsite Combat Triad is Mindset. Probably because Mindset is the most important aspect, and it informs everything else, this is the aspect that is taking me the longest to process. And there is a process to this processing. I'm realizing that this isn't a "learn it once" kind of thing. Mindset is more of a skill that is slowly acquired.

One of the most important personal revelations I had while at Gunsite, is realizing that I am NOT a weirdo for playing "what if" games with myself. This was such a relief to know, and it provided some much needed encouragement for me. I'm glad that I'm not strange if while standing in the check-out line at the fabric store, I wonder what I would do if somebody walked in the front door waving a shotgun. Not that your average fabric chain is often targeted for armed robbery. But the place IS full of women, who can be perceived as easy targets. Also, violent husbands in the midst of domestic disputes do exist, and domestic disputes don't always stay domestic. Sometimes they spill over into the workplace or other public locales. It COULD happen. Acknowledging that possibility to myself is at least part of the mental challenge of Mindset. As Jeff Cooper stated in the video lecture we saw, you have to be able to say to yourself "I thought that this might happen" in order to be prepared if it does happen. (I bought the DVD of that lecture, so I can keep reminding myself of this)

                                  Fabric and Firearms - two of my favorite hobbies

I also am glad I'm not weird for (again while waiting in line) noting the location of the back hall exit in the local sandwich shop, and wondering if the lunchmeat counter could be considered cover or just concealment. Because another important point I learned, was to not forget about the "Nike Defense". There is a saying that goes, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". But in this case, the tool is a gun, so everything should NOT look like a target. Discretion and discernment are important skills. Oftentimes, just getting the heck out of there is the best thing you can do in a bad situation. But you can't do that if you don't know where the exits are; and you won't know where the exits are if you haven't even thought to look for them; and I only rarely thought to look for them before now.

Before Gunsite, I was worried that all of this "what if" imagining meant that I was paranoid. But then I realized that when I leave the hospital after making sure a newly admitted patient is "tucked-in", I often play similar games with myself. I make sure that I have a back-pocket plan if the patient's recovery doesn't go the way I expect. So then, what is the difference? Planning is planning, right? Having a Plan B and even a Plan C should signify careful planning and forethought - not paranoia or pessimism.

But for some reason in our "Don't Worry, Be Happy" society, imagining that terrible things might happen is perceived to be paranoid. Especially when it involves firearms. One is thought to be "spoiling for a fight", or "looking for an excuse to shoot someone". For me, nothing could be further from the truth. I don't carry a trauma kit because I WANT someone to be hurt.  But if I don't at least THINK about the "what ifs", how can I possibly be prepared for what to do if something does happen? Now that I've started down this self-defense training road, I've realized the importance of having a back-pocket plan for my day-to-day life. The beauty of it all, is that I can use this strategy even if I'm not armed.

Don't get me wrong - I do still spend a fair share of my time in Oblivious-ville. It's a nice, comfy place, after all. But at least now I'm realizing that a comfy place isn't always the safest place. I need to work on getting out of there more frequently. And as Kathy Jackson observes, there is a whole world out there to notice while I'm doing it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Gunsite Experience

You may recall my recent post, here outlining my struggle with whether or not to carry a concealed firearm on a regular basis, despite having a permit for several years. You may have also read here the excellent response and encouragement I received from Kathy Jackson of The Cornered Cat. Kathy's advice really helped clarify for me what it was I wanted, and that I definitely did need some instruction specific to self-defense. Unfortunately, the existing dates for Kathy's Cornered Cat classes did not coincide well with my schedule.

Knowing myself the way I do, I decided that I needed to strike while the motivational iron was hot, and get signed up for self-defense instruction before I got cold feet. Thus, I found an open slot in the 250 Defensive Pistol class at Gunsite Academy, and grabbed it. 

Those of you who are familiar with Gunsite know of its stellar reputation. For those of you that don't know, Gunsite is among the premier (if not THE premier) firearms training facilities in the country. 

I was initially a bit hesitant, given their reputation. I was afraid that I might be placed in a class full of law enforcement or military, and be in over my head. But a few emails back and forth with Karen, the class coordinator, eased my mind. I may have a few years of IDPA and USPSA pistol under my gunbelt, but this 50-year old out-of-shape female pediatrician can in no way be mistaken for an "operator" LOL! I also do not function well in an adversarial environment. I don't always need actual hand-holding, but I don't learn well by being barked at, either. These fears were also eased by the emails with Karen. She assured me that this training experience would not be "boot camp", and I did not need to be Tammy Tactical. With those concerns thus assuaged, I signed up. 

Given that Gunsite is in Arizona, and I am in an Appalachian state, I knew I was going to have to fly with my firearm. Information and planning were in order, and I only had 3 weeks to do it. The class was to be 5 days long, and I knew the amount of ammo I was going to need would exceed the airlines' pound limit, so I solved that problem with a credit card - I bought Gunsite's ammo package, and erased that worry from my mind. That was easy.   

The next issue was to decide which gun to take to class. Gunsite does offer rentals, but I wanted to use one of my own guns that I was already familiar with. I would have loved to take my Glock 42, but the caliber was too small for class, and it only came with two magazines. (Though it looks like Gunsite does offer a separate class for pocket guns, that I may consider for another time). I also did not want to take my S&W M&P "match gun", as that is a full-size 9mm, and has had some extra work done on it. I wanted to train with a gun that was going to feel similar to what I wanted to carry. So, I settled on my Glock 19. She was my very first gun, and I knew she was reliable and comfortable to shoot. I also knew that Gunsite has an on site gunsmithy that is available if students have a mechanical issue while they are in class. That was reassuring.

Since my Gen3 Glock 19 was still an out-of-the-box gun, and has had several thousand rounds through her over the past five years, I decided to give her a facelift before we went to class. I ordered an extended magazine release, and a new trigger - both in pink - from , and a friend from the club who is a Glock armorer, installed them for me.

It was actually an education watching him work, because apparently there are places that I can't reach when I'm cleaning that really needed to be cleaned after those thousands of rounds. Eeek!

I had the gun and ammo all lined up, but I needed a refresher on flying with such things, since I’d only done it once before (to Louisiana for Babes With Bullets), so I printed out the TSA guidelines, and also the guidelines for my airline since they aren't always the same. 

And here is a traveler's tip that I realized was the best idea I had all week. I had the brilliant idea of packing my range clothes in 2 gallon ziplock bags - one bag for each set/day. I was rewarded for my brilliance when the TSA guy had to move everything out and around as he swabbed the inside of the suitcase. The ziplocks all stayed organized and fit right back into place when he was finished. No underwear strewn all over the security table! Yay!! Trust me - nobody wants to see that.

Before I start talking about the class itself, I should point out that this experience was booked and paid for by me personally. I took this class strictly out of a desire to improve myself. I have no sponsors, and I am not beholden to any advertisers. I just had such a great experience, that I wanted to share it, and let other women (especially women my age) know that this IS something that you are capable of, and will gain a great deal from. I took the 5 Day 250 Pistol Course, although they do offer a shorter 150 level Ladies Only class as well. 

This was a self-defense with a pistol course. It was NOT a competition or "game" course, and it was exactly what I needed. Although the training simulations could be considered a "game", the goals were completely different. I discovered this to my chagrin in the shoot house. I have become conditioned by USPSA and IDPA into shooting virtually every target, and those that I'm not supposed to shoot are either a different color, or have "surrender hands" painted on them. It was a completely new and educational experience to encounter targets that I shot - only to realize that it was a finger or other object pointing at me and NOT a gun -- Sobering. But I suppose I learned more by making those mistakes, than if I had just breezed through with a perfect evaluation. Education was what I was after, and education is what I got. And as a bonus, I enjoyed myself in the process.

Not only did we reinforce the basics in this class, but we were introduced to some “cool” stuff too. I already mentioned the shoot house (indoor simulator), but there were outdoor simulators too. Additionally, there was shooting by moonlight, and an introduction to shooting with a flashlight. I had never done any of that before, and it was a little intimidating, but also very exciting. 

Now, I don't want to give the impression that just because I enjoyed myself, that this class was "easy". It was not. It involved a great deal of hard work, repetition, mental concentration, dust eating, sore muscles, gatorade, a willingness to let go of old habits, and a desire to push my personal comfort zone. But it was worth every ounce of effort, and I was positively reinforced and encouraged at every turn.

Up until this point, my firearms have been "sporting equipment" to me - a tool I used to play a game. After this week, I feel much more confident that if called upon, I could use that tool to defend my life. I haven't had that feeling before now.   

They run a "hot" range at Gunsite, so I had to get used to the habit of walking around with the gun on my hip being loaded and ready to go at all times - unlike what I have been used to at “cold range” matches these past 5 years. This is exactly what I needed to learn if I'm going to carry a self-defense weapon. Arizona being an open carry state, by mid-week I was driving to the range and back to the hotel with the loaded gun on my person in order to acclimate myself. Some people were even gunned-up at breakfast in the hotel, but I wasn’t quite ready to go that far yet. LOL

I absolutely need more training and ongoing practice to continue to reinforce my new skills, but I feel much more comfortable with the idea of daily carry now than I did only a week ago. In fact, I went shopping fully armed on Sunday when I got back, and I’ve never done that before. 

I can recommend Gunsite unreservedly to any woman who wants to be sure she gets world-class firearms defense training. The instructors have outstanding credentials, and even more essentially -- teaching skills. 

And in case this is important to you ladies -- there are even flush toilets! :-)

                                              ... and gun pegs in the bathrooms!

Thanks so much to everyone at Gunsite, but especially my instructors Ken, Joe and Scott, (and Mike in the Funhouse) from whom I learned an incredible amount in a very short period of time. I'd also like to flash the "Gunsite Gang Sign" to all of my classmates, who were such a great group to learn with. It was a pleasure shooting with you. Even though I’m still not Tammy Tactical, I will definitely be back!

                      (These two photos courtesy of Gunsite Academy - thanks Jane Anne!)

Edited for Font change