This episode of Lessons Learned will argue that ‘At-Bang’ training is too late in the game. Further, I’ll discuss that your choice of training matters more than your choice of weapon. Finally, I’ll demonstrate that there is no “one size fits all” approach to preparing for a dangerous, threatening encounter.

Right now.

I guess I was more Van Heflin than Van Halen until Sammy Hagar came along. I’ve been taking my time reconciling the death a few weeks ago of Van Halen guitarist (and guy that was lucky enough to be married to teen idol Valerie Bertinelli) Eddie Van Halen. Valerie was my ‘older woman’ fantasy in 1975. Valerie was smart-alecky Barbara Romano; daughter of Ann Romano played by that firecracker 1970’s actress Bonnie Franklin onOriginal 'One Day at a Time' Episodes to Stream for Free on Pluto TV -  Variety the long-running, relatable series One Day at a Time. Rounding out the cast were Hollywood train-wreck Mackenzie Phillips (daughter of The Mammas & The Papas frontman John Phillips; half-sister of so-called musician Chynna and alleged actress Bijou Phillips) with Valerie’s building superintendent “Schneider” portrayed hilariously by Pat Harrington.

More string theory: I am writing this a week after our training outside of Indianapolis – and the opening credits of One Day at a Time were filmed in Indianapolis, complete with that snappy sitcom theme song “This is it”, sung by Polly Cutter. Character-mom ‘Ann’ supposedly moved from sleepy Logansport, Indiana to Indy to find a job so she could support the two daughters as a single mom.

In the beginning.

Eddie and Alex Van Halen in 1979. : vanhalenEddie and Alex Van Halen formed the eponymously named band Van Halen in 1974. Cool so far. Guitar-driven rock music was grateful, the world was a little better off – that is until David Lee Roth arrived. Roth alternately opened his mouth then his scissors kicking legs, first leaving, then rejoining the band time after time until our mutual savior Sammy Hagar showed up to right the ship.  I’ve had it out for Eddie Van Halen since 1980. That’s when Eddie married my virginal Valerie, forever shattering my teenage dream of being Val’s one and only. Oh, and PS, David Lee Roth is from Indiana, too. At least I get to see Valerie on ‘Valerie’s Home Cooking’ on the Food Network once in a while.

Eddie ‘Edward Lodewijk’ Van Halen died young from cancer last month. On my run tape this morning, I heard the Red Rocker (Sammy Hagar) belting out the song Right Now. Ever since Hagar replaced David Lee Roth in 1985 and until 1996 (when the dark lord of screech took over once again) I gained a new appreciation for Eddie and the band.  If you want to hear why Eddie is considered one of the top guitarists in rock history, stop reading this Lessons Learned and listen to Right Now. According to rock lore, Eddie wrote the instrumentals to Right Now in 1983. None of his band mates Sammy Hagar Says He Reconciled with Eddie Van Halen Before He Died |  PEOPLE.comwanted to touch it. One night while Eddie was jamming on the piano, playing the background to Right Now, Hagar, in the other room, working on lyrics to another song, couldn’t get Eddie’s piano chords out of his head. Hagar walked in and together he and Eddie created a dynamo of a song known to us as 1992’s Right Now, from the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Hagar and Eddie agreed that the song Right Now exceeded both of their expectations, fast becoming one of Van Halen’s (here, Van Hagar’s) hits and Eddie and Sammy’s favorite songs.

Regarding gear.

One of the most frequent questions I was asked from parents of Veterans who were serving outside the wire in Iraq or Afghanistan back in the kinetic days was ‘what type of gear gift’ to send their children. They wanted my advice as I had recently returned from one of the theaters and perhaps I had seen the gear gap first hand.

My answer was always the same;

1) Treat the brain. Always send them something that will remind them of home. Something local that they cannot get while in-country. A special food, sauce or snack. Remember, there aren’t many items that will fit that bill anymore. Almost anything that you would have fought for back in the day is now immediately available to our servicemen and women while deployed.

2) Binos are always a great gift. I believe that you should spend as much time and money on your optics in order to improve your vision and expand your visual field – both essential in sensing threats at greater distances. There is no better gift than The Gift of Time and Distance. A good pair of light binoculars with adjustable carrying straps are essential to any operator.

3) The gift of TRAINING. Training changes behavior. Pick a training course or agree to pay for a course for your deployed child or loved-one. Of course, I would suggest making it a course on Human Behavior Pattern Recognition & Analysis, but if that course was unavailable, any course on advanced critical thinking, emergency first aid or problem-solving will do.

You wonder why I didn’t add ‘shoot, move or communicate’ training. It’s because we as a nation have created bad habits about the training we covet.

Almost every course on the market today is geared for At-Bang.

“What to do if you are attacked by a (fill in the blank) _____-wielding opponent?” These courses might be great, taught by amazing instructors, but I live in the world of mitigation and de-escalation in order to prevent such attacks. The only place you cannot mitigate these types of dangerous, threatening attacks is in a war zone where the battle is still raging and its ‘kill or be killed’ and right now. Those types of combat engagements are virtually non-existent today. I’ll give you an example.

Appendix Carry.

I have a lot of “operator” friends who have since adopted the Appendix Carry for their off-duty weapon or for their hidden firearm when they are on-duty based on the recent training they have attended.

I oppose this manner of carry.

While trying to gather evidence to demonstrate my opinion I continued to encounter articles written about accidents and fatalities presumably where Appendix Carry was the culprit, yet I was unable to download or access these articles without a subscription fee. Hmm. I did find a written response from the NRA stating; “The Appendix Carry, in and of itself, is no more dangerous than any other carry technique when one is properly trained and armed with a handgun that lends itself to this method”. Well, thanks for that. I found that the “Cross-draw taped to my skull with a bungee cord” method of concealed carry is equally safe for the most well trained.

The question is WHY? Why would I want to bungee cord my Gat to my skull for speed and ease of draw in an emergency situation when an alternate method is readily available? One that WOULD NOT put my skull and brain in direct peril from a negligent or accidental discharge directly under my muzzle? 

Training for “one-handed shotgun reloading from the off-legged kneeling position from behind a car” is available. There’s a webpage. For less than a quarter of the cost of one-day of non-essential training, you could buy a great shotgun foregrip with a powerful tactical light – something that will be of much more use to you that laser-specific training for the one in a million times you might be on one leg conducting a tac-reload from a moving Toyota hatchback.

I would never knowingly choose to put a loaded gun holstered or unholstered where the muzzle was in almost direct contact with my genitalia and directed towards both of my femoral arteries. Just not going to happen. I’m also not going to spend my hard-earned money on training for “what ifs”.

Like the recent elections, even coming out against the Appendix Carry will cost me some readers. People are that violently in favor of Appendix Carry. That is the price I will have to pay and knowing that I really don’t have that many readers to lose is somewhat of a left-handed comfort.

Driver’s training.

Perhaps you’ve been interested in taking a driver’s training course so you can tear off like Joey Chitwood to escape during some future Road Rage incident. I would tell you that you’ll probably be fine without that training. Instead, focus on backing in your vehicle every time you park. This will assist you in a number of tactical ways. First, it will be easier to jump-start your vehicle if your battery is dead. If you do get shot at while exiting or entering your car, you can use the engine block as cover, or get in your vehicle and quickly drive away. The biggest bonus is that you are much less likely to drive over your own kids’ delicate skull while backing out of your own driveway. There are a remarkably high number of these unintended deaths each year. 

You can also practice, for free I might add, giving yourself greater distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when stopped for a red light. Being first ‘off the line’ after a green light could put you in the path of a carless driver late on his or her red light, creating the danger of a broadside collision. Technology has taken care of some of that worry. Texting drivers now linger at the green light longer than any other drivers in history. The other benefit of giving yourself an increased distance at the intersection while you are stopped; should an ambush occur; you will have room to negotiate the dense traffic and simply drive off unscathed.

Road Rage comes from out-of-control drivers. Here’s free advice. If you witness a careless or reckless driver, simply slow down, safely pull over, park in a populated parking lot, then call the police and report that driver. You don’t have the experience or bona fides to deal with them anyway and their choice of weapon (a three-thousand-pound vehicle with a V8 engine) trumps your defensive posture anyway.

Shooting training.

I remember getting spanked on the El Presidente shooting drill by Powderhorn Edge Master Gunsmith Bill Sunderlin then, shortly thereafter, by his wife and race-gun champion Judy Sunderlin. You conduct an El Presidente by facing away from three targets three yards apart ten yards behind you. You signal that you are ready by raising your hands in the ‘surrender position’ and wait for someone to signal your start. Generally, that is done with a timer that has an audible alarm attached to it so that your score (your total elapsed time minus your target misses) can be recorded.

My brain didn’t equate mastery of the El Presidente with actual combat shooting practical application so try as I might, I was unable to beat these two pro shooters. I in turn spanked each of them on the combat shooting range drills, but that was hollow succor compared to their fast-shooting antics.

Jeff Cooper ‘s legacy will never be forgotten. His message was clear, often evidenced by his amusing quotes. For example, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician”, in other words you have to practice and dedicate time to creating your ability. Or; “The first rule of gunfighting is bringing a gun”. In other words, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. However inspiring, I will invoke the NRA defense, as long as you are trained – you have nothing to worry about. What bothers me is that almost everyone in the world is less trained than you think.

Only 7 percent (actually less than that but I can’t do fractions) of United States citizens are active military service members and only 1 percent (again, slightly less) of Americans have ever served in the armed forces. Only 0.25 percent of all Americans are in Law enforcement – and remember, much of those personnel are employed in direct support of street cops, rather than actual gun-toting knuckle-dragging trained professionals.

Most security (specifically armed security) have little of the essential training they need. That leaves just you being responsible for your safety. Just you. Ask yourself a serious question. Should you spend your hard-earned money on increased range time and more ammo to blast downrange, or rather, predicting the next (if ever) violent encounter you might face and learning how to de-escalate or mitigate it?

Martial Arts. 

Martial Arts training (when learned, practice, and rehearsed correctly) is the epitome of The Gift of Time and Distance, coupled with prevention, mitigation, and advanced situation awareness.

I have a dear, completely lost friend who always tells me that “he hasn’t signed on to a dojo in Colorado because there are no Krav Maga instructors near him”. There are other certified, vetted Martial Arts schools in the vicinity but no ‘Krav Maga’.

This goes back to the famous ‘pro or con’ fight regarding the benefits of revolvers or semi-autos, resulting in Guns & Ammo making a ton of money on magazine sales, but no real winner emerged. Fact, shot placement trumps reckless speed. Fact, your ability to shoot accurately and safely trumps the cool designer skin on your new Glock. Fact, avoidance is preferable to a full-blown gunfight in the street.

Personal preferences.

Personal preference sometimes takes precedent overtraining. Training changes behavior, therefore having a couple of martial arts moves that you practice often, basic knowledge and proficiency of driving coupled with basic firearms skills and safety will do a great deal to keep you and your family out of trouble without breaking your training budget.  

You have to find some training methods that you are comfortable with and more importantly that you will stick with! Training takes time, money, sweat and commitment. Spending all of your time on At-Bang, muscle memory training drills will not move the bubble one iota towards improving your survivability when compared with AVOIDING the incident in the first place.

The other Van.

Condolences to Eddie Van Halen, now playing in the heaven-band. Shout out to Van Heflin. Van, born Emmet Heflin, like me never had a chance with Valerie either. Van died back in 1971, 3 years before Valerie’s big break. He was a remarkably gifted actor and Academy Award winner (best supporting actor for Johnny Eager). I especially liked his performance in Shane and 3:20 to Yuma. While I’m not the biggest fan of westerns, I am a fan of the moral and ethical behavior portrayed by actors in various roles.

In conclusion.

I’ll give you another reason to love General Jim Mattis. His commitment to relevant training. He proposed and then carried out a plan to rid the US Military of lame, check-in-the-box, “required” training. The same ‘required training’ that was trying up all of a military unit leader’s build-up time. Mattis cleaned the slate and replaced irrelevant training with germane, essential training that would equate the upcoming combat conditions his troops would face.

You don’t have to emulate Jim Mattis. You have The Gift of Time and Distance. You have the luxury of time to prepare well in advance of any dangerous threat.

It’s essential to remember that you have to be a fan of the training approach that you are planning to adopt. If you don’t rehearse often, if your family doesn’t take your ‘build-up’ and rehearsal seriously, if you don’t sweat in the gym, you are just flushing your training budget down the toilet.

Taking your personal safety, your family’s safety and the general safety of your community seriously takes a sober commitment to seek out relevant training and be ready to unburden yourself of those training opportunities which won’t likely help you in a true emergency.

Training changes behavior.


  • Greg



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