Saturday, October 02, 2010

Words can kill.

Course Description: In this class, you will learn Spetznaz-developed techniques to hone your gunfighting warrior combat mindset. Prepare to open your mind as you leave the square range behind and enter the Real World. Big Boy Rules apply.
Translation: You're going to spend the weekend getting guns pointed at you by any IT guy who could swing the entry fee, all while under the casual supervision of an instructor who spent three years repairing trucks in the Air National Guard and had two years experience as a reserve deputy before discovering that some training DVDs plus an NRA Instructor certificate equals a lucrative side income.

Next thing you know, there's video on YouTube showing some MOLLE-encrusted chiropodist from the 'burbs pointing his picatinny-festooned AK clone at God and everybody as he puffs his way through some drill or another, and when someone points out that, you know, maybe he shouldn't be doing that, the owner/operator of our soi-disant gunfighting academy puffs up and spouts off with all kinds of stuff about warrior mindset and the illusoriness of safety bubbles and Big Boy Rules. Perversely, this winds up attracting as many customers as it repels.

I mean, hey, real warriors train by shooting past each other, and we shot past each other, ergo we're real warriors!

If you start competing in any of the action pistol sports, you will see stuff that will make you pucker if all you're used to is the sterile environment of your local range. For instance, you will see people running around with loaded guns in their hands. If you go to pretty much any tactical training course, there will be people behind you with loaded guns; if it's an "intermediate" or "advanced" course, those guns may be in their hands at some point, such as doing team drills. And everybody wants to be "advanced". This places a tremendous burden on the instructor, both to judge a student's abilities, and to monitor them constantly during the course. You'd better trust that instructor.

Many phrases have been repeated so often in the shooting world that their intended meaning has been lost or distorted: "Slow is smooth and smooth is fast," and "Another tool in the toolbox" both spring to mind. It looks like "Big Boy Rules" is about ready to be added to that list. Originally intended to convey that everybody there was supposed to be a "big boy" and capable of handling their firearm safely (with the unspoken corollary that, should you get called on a particularly egregious safety violation and bounced off the range, you should be a "big boy" about that, too,) it has instead come to be used by some as a blow-off phrase to excuse the lax and nonchalant handling of weapons that can and will kill you if you screw up.

After all, if high-speed low-drag operators use the phrase "Big Boy Rules", and we use the phrase, too, then we must be pretty high-speed ourselves, right?

This is compounded by another piece of jargon that falls off the tongue oh so casually: "Muzzle". On the range, we yell "Muzzle!" because it has a lot fewer syllables than "Stop pointing your %$^&ing gun at me, dammit!" but constantly using it as a substitute in conversation has robbed it of its original meaning. Don't let that meaning fade away: Every time you read "Joe Bob muzzled me at the range last weekend," your mind should translate it as "Joe Bob pointed his %$^&ing gun at me at the range last weekend, dammit!"

Lady Luck has been unbelievably good to the training industry thus far, but in a world where an ever-larger number of people who have access to a berm and a shirt with epaulets are hanging out their Flat Dark Earth shingles to cater to an ever-growing crowd anxious for the ninja operator experience, that's not going to last forever. It is incumbent on you to be an informed consumer and make sure you aren't on the range where it happens.


og said...

I get a lot of shit from yelling "MUZZLE!" but i do it anyway.

Had an RO yell "Muzzle!" once during a match and the shooter took that as direction to start his course. At least the muzzle-happy one got the message.

Anonymous said...

"Flat Dark Earth shingles" - Is it flat dark earth now? Not coyote brown? Damn, now I gotta buy all new stuff - I mean, tactical gear.

Tremaine said...

"gunfighting warrior combat mindset."??

Is that even a real phrase?

Wait, wait. I've got it. Shouldn't it read.

"Realistic elite tactical gunfighting warrior home defense combat kill with extra black!"

And my gear doesn't even match! I've got digital and woodland and real tree camo all mixed together.

Alan said...


Tam said...

"Is that even a real phrase?"

The words are like Legos; you can plug them together in an infinite number of ways.

pdb said...

Gun safety isn't something that can be jettisoned in an emergency. It's even more important to follow the four rules in a violent encounter!

Controlling your muzzle may mean the difference between being a hero and a murderer.

A ND during an encounter is dangerous not just to downrange spectators, but to you, as when you stand around befuddled wondering why your gun went off, someone's gonna cut your head off and put it on a pike.

If this is in reference to the class I think it is, then what really irks me isn't just the safety violations, but the evidence destruction, blame deflection, name-calling, weasel words and complete evasion of any kind of self introspection or responsibility.

Negative feedback is the best kind of feedback, and an instructor worth the price will accept it gladly, consider your issues and find a way to make it right. Any instructor who considers himself above criticism and is not a student himself because he thinks he has all the answers is not an instructor you should be learning from.

Tam said...


"If this is in reference to the class I think it is..."

That was what initially got me off down this train of thought, yes.

Borepatch said...

"Big Boy Rules" seems a particularly useful phrase. Any time you see it in a training advert, stop reading and find a different training location.

If you want to play soldier, get into Airsoft. Or enlist.

pdb said...

Incimidentally, "big boy rules" with the guys I've trained with means "If you violate the rules, we throw your ass off the range and keep your deposit."

All the classes I've been to with them have been run on a hot range, incorporating movement and 360 scans and I've only seen ONE rule 2 violation that was immediately dealt with.

Safety and realistic training are NOT incompatible. It can be done if both are a priority to the instructor.

Anonymous said...

Strangely, that incident really didn't bother me as much as the ineptness of the other students. No basics what so ever. My first reaction was that it was a parody.

Tam, IIRC, you predicted this swarm of frauds several years ago. And here they are...

One thing I'd add - don't be hesitant about getting the hell out if stupidity occurs. I have blowout kits in my range bag and truck, don't want to use them.

Al T.

Grant Cunningham said...

"That was what initially got me off down this train of thought, yes."

Drop me an know where.

Steve Skubinna said...

I admit I'm behind, but is Flat Dark Earth the new Coyote Tan?

My real question is, how long for it to go full circle and all my old OD Green gear to be tacticool again? And when I say "old," well, Basic Training was in, uh, 1975.

Drang said...

They lost me with "spetnaz-developed"...

And I believe I covered the whole FDE/Coyote Tan thing in an earlier comment. ;-)

Tam said...

D.W. Drang,

"Spetznaz" and "Mossad" have replaced "Delta" and "DevGru" as buzzwords because not only are they HSLD, but they're foreign, too, and therefore exotic and better. Kinda like the Steyr AUG.

Unknownsailor said...

Even the Israelis have abandoned Condition 3 carry these days, and as an aside, their record of success lately isn't what it once was.
I rely on word of mouth from trainers I trust to decide if a school is worth my time and money.
Finally, the color of your gear doesn't matter unless you strap on ceramic plates for a living. It's how well you use said gear that matters, and flailing about fighting your gear should be your first clue that you're doing it wrong.
Besides, when it comes to carbines, you should be painting it anyway, so the color of your stock or pistol grip doesn't mean crap. :)

Keads said...

How about an IT guy that has the NRA cert (and has watched a few DVD s) and also trains?

I don't know of the incident you speak of, but I am well aware of my limitations. Live fire with 3 new students on a square range after a basic pistol class is about all my nerves can handle! There is no way on God's green earth I would have people downrange on a hot firing line!

Drang said...

When I hung up my soldier suit I discussed retirement careers with a counselor, who asked why I didn't open a range/gun shop. I pointed out that there were three different indoor ranges within ten minutes of his office, and a couple more training operations that ran out of other peoples' ranges.
I suppose if I had a different personality I might have attempted to capitalize on "20 years experience as an Intelligence Operator!" and hoped that no one would figure out that it was operating Intercept, Direction Finding, and jamming systems, which, while pretty High Speed, is hardly Low Drag.

Then there was the No Go, I mean, National Guardsman getting ready to deploy, who inquired what sort of training I was doing with my NRA ticket: "Retention drills? Ground fighting?"
Hint: If you ever want to see Drang speechless, ask him really, really stupid questions...

Ancient Woodsman said...

My instructor cert will expire upon retirement (next two years)and will not capitalize on the "20+ years experience..." I have no intention of hanging a shingle of whatever the color will be. For retired-guy LEOSA I can continue quals with my folks and that is good enough for me - student again.

Instructing for an agency has a disciplinary component that private ranges do not. We have the benefit of finishing the safety briefing with "failure to follow these will result in disciplinary action." That's an extra that does not eliminate foolish but sure helps.

Maybe if the private folks had a means of charging exponentially more for the screw-ups they could make a similar point but then some students & instructors would have to pay through the nose just to stay away. Stupid can't be undone. If stupid on the range doesn't ruin a life, it will at least ruin a day.

The phrase 'gunfighting warrior combat' stands for 'I don't know anything about guns, but did stay at a Holiday Inn last night'.

Anonymous said...

So who/what exactly is offering this? THis might be good for a laugh.


Anonymous said...

it has always amazed me why peaple who want to learn combat skills just didn't go join the branch of service they want to be a member of.why pay for training you can get for free? And if uncle sambo says your not good enough to be cannon fodder then why try to besomething you are not. Peaple it is not all you think it is. the skills you learn are not for everyday living here in the usa. They are if you live in the middle of a war zone. Just be glad you DON"T live in the middle of a warzone. Just thank a vet that has.

Rob Robideau said...

I take offense at the notion that breaking the rules makes you a cool big boy.

Does this mean that everyone that follows the rules is a little boy/girl?

Owen said...

could someone fill me in? I feel like I missed something.

Bubblehead Les. said...

A couple of years ago, my Nephew made it all the way through Navy Seal Training to the point where he was a couple of days from Graduating. They were in a Shoot House, and one of the Instructors thought he might have "Muzzled" one of his teammates. He had to go before a Board that day, and when they played back the tape, it was vague enough that they thought it was just a judgement call on the Instructors part. But the Instructor insisted my Nephew "Muzzled" his team mate. End result was my Nephew was dropped and sent off to join the Navy EOD teams (waste not, want not). They told him he could come back and try it again in a couple of years, but he recently told me that he is having more fun blowing stuff up.

Moral of the Story: Very few People on the Planet wear Bigger Boys Pants than the Seals. And if they don't tolerate "Muzzling", no half-backed Mall Ninja Master should either.

Of, course, it didn't help that a Seal Team was shot up in a Live-Fire training exercise with the result of there being several Dead Seals a few years back at some "Tacticool" Training School down South.

You want to play downrange? Do Paintball, Airsoft or Re-enacting w/blanks. Live ammo going past my ears? I'd better be back in the Military or resolving a situation that's threatening my life or my loved one's. Too dangerous otherwise. And too stupid.

John B said...

big boy rules, at either side of 400 pounds, I'm the biggest boy here, therefore I rule.

Subject to Tam's approval of course!

Will said...

Anon @ 3:01

Apparently the .mil doesn't want to spend the bucks to train soldiers in firearms use. At least not to a level that experienced grunts deem optimum, or anywhere close. That's why you will find some spending their own dollars to go to school, before shipping over to the land of two way gun ranges.

So, expecting to be well trained is not a good reason to join.

SordidPanda said...


There is no "advanced".

There is only repetition of the basics until you never fail.

"Practice the simple things hard, and the hard things become simple."

Whether Army Ranger, Spetsnaz, or Ghurka, it's all about the basics.

Anonymous said...

Tam -- Awesome post.

@Les, who said: "Of, course, it didn't help that a Seal Team was shot up in a Live-Fire training exercise with the result of there being several Dead Seals a few years back at some "Tacticool" Training School down South."

The incident in question resulted in the death of one SEAL, not several, and was caused by a fault in the the live fire shoot house wall not a mistake of any member of the team.

Boat Guy said...

One of the many things that impressed me about Clint Smith was when he noted that the "Four Rules" are "...not just for the range, they're for the fight too, they're for everywhere all the time" or words to that effect.
SOF will NEVER tolerate being covered by a muzzle; one of the methods I've observed when beginning to train folks to move with each other is to put a length of dowel into everyone's barrel; which gives you a pretty good idea of whether or not you're flagging somebody - or likely to do so.

randy said...

If you just gotta have the experience of hearing rounds go overhead without joining the armed forces, but suggest a few times working the target pits at a DCM match? Or is that not Mall Ninja Cool enough?

Anonymous said...

OMG I found a snake drill vid on youtube search STGarchives + snake drill. The cardboard cut outs are replaced by people? Who could think thats OK?

Sigman said...

I'm a 35+ year cop, firearms Instructor since the 80s, and have trained with many big name instructors. I teach basic handgun skills to civilians in addition to my in house work. There are no circumstances under which I would have people downrange (LE or civilian) while people behind them were firing. I'm sorry, but that just sounds STUIPD!

Anonymous said...

I took my basic training at Ft. Bragg in 1969. Part of the training was the "assault course" where there were about fifty lanes where two men to a lane leap-frogged each other while firing at pop-up body silhouettes with our M-14's. You learn to trust your buddies in a big hurry.