My slot in this class was comped with the request that I write a truthful AAR for the P&S Network by John Johnston. Further prior to class I considered both John and Melody friends and folks I respect in “the industry” so I’m a bit biased. That said, the content and merits of the class are such that I would have been remiss in not bringing exposure to the work of Citizens Defense Research to the P&S crowd, and I’d have been writing the same AAR regardless of paying for tuition.
“Wait, what class is this? They know how you feel about kids right?” -My wife, upon hearing about the class focus.
Bottom Line Up Front– In a perfect world this would be the class attended in the course of getting ones CCW permit. It is contextually motivated, filled with pressure tested techniques, and leaves the student with useful skills and a laundry list of changes to incorporate to life and shooting.
Expectations– This class is touted as one of the most contextually relevant and important classes a person can take by many of those I consider mentors and trusted sources. The expectation was to learn techniques to better manage non-combative individuals of any age, during the course of a violent encounter, as well as delve into the unique pieces of victimization while supervising children. The class description is explicitly directed towards the “CCW” mission, and I was looking forward to really delving into the contextual significance of that explicit mission without exacerbating influence.
Instructors– John Johnston (Ballistic Radio) and Melody Lauer (Limatunes)
Block 1– Class started TD1 with an introduction of instructors (John Johnston and Melody Lauer) as well as the class. The purpose was to identify the driving factors for students, as well as the ages of their children as many of the techniques and particulars of victimization are driven upon age and correspondingly size. My half-assed joke during my intro “I hate children, please keep them away from me, but I spend a good part of my recreational time surrounded by intoxicated sailors and they’re just larger children with worse mouths.” may have sounded much like idle pleasantry and banter, but is absolutely a contributing factor in how *my gunfight* is likely to look.
From intros we quickly delved into the lecture, all of which hinges around the question “What if my loved one is with me during a violent encounter?”. This question is the foundation to everything AP/G seeks to cover, as we explored and defined the deeper context around that question. Isolation of the “mission” of the carrier, the gear/tools/capabilities we possess and the ramifications of their use, as well as setting the stage for solutions and responses all start to build the greater overall picture showing the solution to our problems. The main points hammered by Melody and John was that family and friends hinder our ability to respond, from properly assessing pre-assault indicators to our actual physical ability to respond without increasing the risk to our loved one. The lecture was accompanied by videos to really twist the knife of the points John and Melody made, showing exactly what made sense in the academic sense of the lecture playing out in past encounters caught on camera.
A routine element shown in their videos was the carte blanche given to anyone to approach children, and the ramifications of this in distance management as part of the management of unknown contacts (MUC). We saw this exacerbated as the lecture shifted to the specific types of violence perpetrated against children, namely abductions, indirect incidents where they’re a bystander, and direct assault. In the Shivworks MUC coursework the establishment of boundaries that leave the individual at an advantage is a major goal, the counter to this was hammered home that our children and loved ones should establish these same boundaries, though it is up to us to enforce them.
Repeatedly the class was shown that bystanders cannot be expected to react in any meaningful manner, and that the only assistance one can expect is from the trained responses of the family. Melody went so far as to lay out her approach to trained responses, namely how she has built age appropriate tools and skills for her children to both give them the capabilities to defend themselves and as importantly to enable them, if possible/age appropriate, to remove themselves from the situation so the adult can respond without impediment. A line used earlier in the lecture regarding bystanders again surfaced its face, that “we didn’t know what we could do.” and by developing our loved ones to be meaningfully engaged in their own defense we show them exactly what they can do, negating the need to craft a response on the fly.
The lecture continued onto the psychological elements of meaningful response, from danger reactions (fight, flight, freeze, fright, shield) in us and bystanders, to novel stimuli, to the motivations of those who would use children to insure compliance. As with the rest of the lecture, each teaching point had an accompanying video showing explicitly the point being driven home, as was the practical impacts should we find ourselves falling into a subpar response.
Shifting gears entirely John took the class through his mindset on “gear”, covering guns, OC, lights, and medical. The highlight of this portion was the line “The light and pepper spray solve a wider arc of problems. In a binary world I’d give up my gun over not carrying a light and OC.” which John delivered quite nonchalantly without knowing the significance of this statement to me. This line of thinking though I believe reflects reality and a deep understanding of the “civilian carry” mission, and to be delivered so off-handed without hesitation or thinking over the words as he said them shows true competence and knowledge. This deep level of understanding of The Problem though was consistent throughout the course, and while it runs counter to much of what the gun community may screech, is a truly welcome breath of fresh air and common sense.
We finished the lecture portion with a discussion on “The Law”, covering generalities and unique considerations due to the inclusion of loved ones in such dangerous events. Melody was an ardent supporter and advocate for deeper reading into ones local laws, and training with the greats in the legal side of the training industry, tying the need to understand the law into the ability to make an informed decision about what one is allowed to do, freeing up indecision, and helping to minimize the chance of a negative outcome after an incident.
I’ve largely intentionally left the meat and potatoes of the lecture out, as Melody and John do an outstanding job of articulating their content and I fear I would fail to do it justice. As a student I’m largely not a note taker, preferring to listen and be engaged, yet after four hours in the classroom I left with six pages of notes. The content is laid out in a remarkably organized and methodical fashion, meant to build upon lessons in the previous section while reinforcing the lessons learned. The last slide of the lecture though really hits on the kind of class act that both individuals are, with nothing but references and influences of other instructors who have influenced or contributed to the AP/G curriculum, with the admonition that all included are worth seeking out additional training under.
Block 2– A quick commute and lunch break had us congregating on the range for the first of the live fire component. Both instructors were quick to lay out the expectations for safety, and their expectations for students. The safety standards of the class are exacting, and while they exceed my own standards in such a context I don’t get to decide for John and Melody the level of risk they wish to assume in their class. The goal of Block Two is “Fundamental Concealed Pistol Skills”, working what would be considered building blocks towards unconscious competency. It was a welcome chance for me to knock the dust off, and there was significant amounts of one on one attention as the instructors assessed both our competency and safety. We covered the slew of topics, from the draw stroke to safe reholstering, and as both instructors got a feel for where the class was we were encouraged to push our speed and accuracy harder and perform at a higher level. Nothing in Block 2 was day and night eye opening as someone who has a smidge of clue, however the watchful eye and focus on performance was beneficial in speeding up getting me back up to speed after what has been a very very low round count and low performance year. For a newer shooter this block is perfectly tailor built to establishing the correct skills and baseline to pursue shooting at a higher level.
We wrapped up TD1 with range cleaning and breakdown, John admonishing the early dusk keeping us from shooting longer. His exacerbation was reflected in the crowd as we chomped at the bit for Block 3.
“They’re clearly crisis actors, no one is wearing pajama pants” – John commenting on an incident in walmart.
Block 3– The lecture was outstanding, and Block 2 a welcome refresher, but Block 3 is everything I was on the range for. Kicking the day off was a lecture on anatomy, covering just why we aim where we do, and prepping the crowd to understand the coming ballistics demonstration. The anatomy discussion also drove home the points made the day prior regarding stance and posture, as demonstrations showed the downside to blading off in the way most would initially think of as most effective to protect a child in your arms. Melody’s EMS background shined through this, giving anecdote and information to back up targeting explicit areas, as well as fielding off the wall questions such as the occurrence of “whiplash” in the event of shots to the cranium failing to penetrate. This played directly into a ballistics demonstration conducted by John, who covered the methodology and validity of the testing, and corroboration of testing data to real world use. John demonstrated .380, 9mm, .45, 5.56, and 12 gauge for the class, including FMJ and JHP rounds, in each case giving feedback to other testing he’s conducted and the practical differences between each rounds results.
The lectures concluded and we dusted off our guns to dive into single hand shooting, as it’s the starting point to the control techniques used to clear loved ones from the fight. This escalated to playing a rousing game of “hot potato” with a baby, focusing on clearing young children from the line of fire without causing brain damage from a drop to the head. The techniques changed as the age of the child changed, leg slide drops for infants, pinning the hand/forearm for younger kids, and complete arm levers to use on larger children and adults. The efficacy of these techniques were demonstrated by John and Melody, showing the adaptations necessary dependent upon size, and the efficiency of techniques even in the case of Melody with a “child” larger than she is. Breaks were taken, hydration conducted, and yet even with this we made a blistering pace through the course load. Lunch came and went in a haze of bad jokes and disappointing loads from ye olde M1 Garand, and back on the line we were to wrap up for the day.
The culminating evolution for TAP/G is an iteration of the FBI drill with incorporation of the control techniques taught. The drill is shot for time, with an accuracy standard, allowing an individual to conclusively show their competence should they ever be required to do so before a court proceeding. Target and shooter are documented with total score (FBI passing rate is an 80%) and after a day and a half under the watchful eye of both instructors not a single student failed despite having multiple “first class” students with little or no prior training. The lack of failures is indicative not of an easy qualification, it’s not, but of exemplary instruction to bring a shooter up to speed that fast.
“Dictator edict number one, everyone carries a tourniquet” – John, during the gear brief.
My Commentary– I’m going to reiterate what I said in my disclaimer, I like John and Melody as people. A lot. The course content is absolutely fantastic, and truly relevant to everyone regardless of children. They wear their influences on their sleeve, acknowledging those who have influenced them along the way, and that’s the mark of outstanding folks in a community quick to “acquire” instruction material and pass it on as ones own. The expectations I laid out to start this were met and then some, and the reach is far outside of the title of the class with serious increases in our ability to protect ourselves around other people regardless of their age.
As I said earlier in the AAR, the safety regimen mandated by both is above the level I find to be necessary for the setting, and I do feel that a class such as the one I was in could have made significantly better time in covering material should we have suspended some of the extra measures taken. However my disagreement doesn’t change the legal liability residing firmly with them and that’s their call. It wouldn’t deter me from taking further training with them in the future, and would absolutely be a selling point in recommending others take their training as I know that any unsafe actions will be very quickly handled.
The pacing of the class is very regimented, and if you’d prefer a slower pace and more time spent BS’ing this isn’t the class for you. John in particular will push for “7 minute break, be back and ready to go” which leaves folks scrambling for the restroom, or in my case like the filthy addict I am, to suck down some nicotine. This isn’t good or bad, just be informed and ready to stick to that pacing. I genuinely enjoyed my time on the range with Melody and John, as well as the outstanding students beside me. I look forward to the next time I can make it as a student under their watchful eye, and until then I’ll be pestering both to make a Sim/UTM variant of the class so we can use the skills taught engaged against an opposing force, while managing other “no shoots” around us.
If you’d like to read more of my writing I can be found amongst the memes at https://www.facebook.com/theobscenesailor