Friday, November 14, 2014

Functional Fitness

Functional Fitness

Crossfit. Gym Jones. Military Athlete. Combat Conditioning. RAW, MARSOC Prep: What do they all have in common? They all work in some fashion to be functional for survival of every day life with a focus on making you stronger. Certain programming sets will set you up for more Military/Law Enforcement specific fitness, others, general fitness.

What is functional fitness? This was best defined by the author/blogger “John Mosby” as:
“Physical conditioning training is only functional if it fulfills one simple performance criteria: will it help you improve your ability to do what you need to be able to do, for the duration of how long you need to be able to do, it on demand. If not, it's not functional fitness, it's... Retarded."

Functional Fitness will have buzz words you will hear that will be outside the normal weightlifting lingo, and the non fitness oriented worlds’ lingo.  I will use some of these terms throughout the post:

·      WOD – Workout Of the Day
·      Movement – Anything done on the workout. Weightlifting, Calisthenics, Gymnastics, etc.
·      Bodyweight Movement – anything done with only bodyweight – push ups, air squats, pull ups, etc.
·      1RM – 1 Rep Max
·      PR – Personal Record

I used to do the stereotypical “Monday is Chest day, Tuesday is arms day, Wednesday is Leg Day (Frequently skipped by the weak girly men in the world), Thursday is Back Day, Friday is something else day” workout plan. What I found was that I was spending anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours at the gym each day, which left me with no time to do any running, which is a personal relaxation tool. I noticed that yes, I did slowly get stronger on the typical workout routines, but that I didn’t have the same endurance nor did I have time for this important thing called life.

For a while, my goal was to switch to a “Functional Fitness” style workout routine and finally had no choice when my local gym shut down over 2 years ago. A co-worker agreed to set up a garage gym at his place and we bought equipment for it. Kettle Bells, Bumper plates from Rouge, squat rack, bar bells and some dumb bells. I quickly found that this was all I needed to do basic Functional oriented workouts.

In January of 2013 I had the opportunity to receive some basic coaching in Olympic style lifting from a couple, who had become close family friends. This helped greatly focus my workouts with more lifts being applied, and mostly proper form. A garage gym will allow you to slack off on form because nobody is there all the time to critique your form. This is a negative to a garage gym, but one you can work around by attending coaching sessions as well as videoing your lifts for critique. The form matters, not the weight or reps. The family friends would send us their WOD each day allowing us to have no choice but to do the assigned movements each day. This helped stop me from picking my workouts based on the movements I liked or was good at and skipping those I needed to work on.

As I progressed from a beginner, to more “experienced” with the WOD’s I realized my body was getting rapidly stronger. The WOD’s shifted from beginner level to more difficult. 
Example Beginner:
·      For Time:
·      21 Pullups (with or without rubber band assistance for those needing assistance)
·      21 Kettle Bell Swings (53# is usually the minimum men’s weight and 35# the women’s)
·      Run 400 meters

Example Current:
·      10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Front Squat. 
o   Work towards your 1RM if not set a new one.
·      Then
·      5 Rounds for time:
o   7 Muscle Ups
o   21 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls at 95#s.

There is a huge fitness level difference in what is required to push through the beginner level one and be on your back afterwards and sore for the next two days, and 12 months later doing the Second example and walk out the door a little sore and exhausted but ready to go to work.

Can you do “functional fitness” workouts when you do not have access to Kettlebells, Olympic Lifting Bumpers and Bars, Squat Rack, etc? Yes. You won’t get as much strength improvement out of it necessarily, but by being creative and utilizing your environment and what junk is lying around your house/yard/shop, you can find some weight to lift. To do pull ups, you can spend $20.00 at Home Depot and build a frame for a piece of scrap metal tubing to do pull ups from. Used large tires – tractor or semi-truck size – can be used for tire flips or attach a rope to them and do tire drags. Use of sand bags for one handed snatches or carries as well as weighted squats. Also you can do ruck marches or “rucking.” Plenty of resources available on that online.

I really have noticed the benefit from changing workout styles in the more physically demanding aspects of life. Especially telling was an incident where what was supposed to be a 6 mile trip in full kit (30-40#’s) turned into a 13.2 mile desert walkabout. Interestingly, those who do functional fitness styled workouts, were fine and kept going during this. Those who did the bodybuilding Arnold/Weider stuff, sucking wind and needing breaks frequently. A trip to the Harvard of Gunfighting, DARC, sure showed the benefits. There fellow students who did some variant of functional fitness, all were kicking butt thanks to a more intense training regimen as found in Functional Fitness.

How does one measure the results of their “functional fitness?” There are many ways to do this. Tracking the 1RM on various lifts, finish times in running to overall times for so called “benchmark” workouts (Fran, Murph, Grace, etc.). There is also the ultimate test of being able to do perform on demand. I found that Mosby put it well when he described this:
“It doesn’t matter how big your biceps are, or how fast you can run 26.2 miles; if you can’t get your self and your gear to the fight, under physically challenging conditions; and engage the enemy with well aimed rifle fire, then you are fundamentally, functionally useless.”

Hopefully all of my readers as well as myself will never have to run the performance on demand test, but if you do, you better be able to perform. It could be your life, the life of a family member or the life of an innocent victim.

For more reading:
Crossfit Football:
Ranger Athlete Warrior – RAW:

Monday, November 10, 2014

AR Pistol Grips: BCM Gunfighter MOD 1 and Magpul MOE SL

AR Pistol Grips:

BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 and Magpul MOE SL

One of the first things I swapped out on my first AR-15, was the A2 pistol grip. This was ditched for many reasons, chief among them that the finger grooves were nowhere near where my fingers, nor anyone else I have ever met, fingers are placed. At the time, there were about three aftermarket pistol grip options; Tango Down Battle Grip, Ergo Grip and the new Magpul MIAD. I had felt the Tango Down and Ergo Grip’s on friends rifles, and found them to thin for my liking with the same grip angle of the A2, if not slightly more canted with the Ergo. 

I went with a Magpul MIAD with the medium backer insert and no finger groves on the front. This combo was very popular with shooters and became the Magpul MOE grip. I ran the Magpul MOE for several years while seeing other options come out that didn’t really shock the market with problem solving. During this time I noticed that while standing with the rifle at a patrol ready hold or when shooting higher round counts I would feel some discomfort in my firing hand wrist. This was found in my issued rifle with A2 grip as well as personal MOE/MIAD equipped rifles. 

While browsing the internet, I read some discussion about the HK-416 pistol grip and how it was more vertical and solved the complaints that people had with the current options on the market.  At that point I started looking to test a replacement pistol grip option. Magpul released the “K” and “K2” grips, Tango Down the “Flip Grip” and the unobtainum KAC PDW Grip were on the market. As I was about to buy one of the afore mentioned, BCM released the “Gunfighter Grip.” The Gunfighter Grip came in 2 models – mod 0 and mod 1.  The marketing on all these grips indicated a more vertical alignment that was conducive to modern gun fighting stances as well as more time spent holding the gun vs. bulls eye shooting. 

I picked up and installed the BCM Gunfighter Mod 1 on my rifle as a trial, and fell in love. It was more ergonomic for my shooting stance as well as comfortable for long periods of holding the gun – barricaded subjects, long desert walks, etc.  It does maintain a similarity in appearance to the HK-416 grip; take that for what it is. After buying a couple $30.00 BCM grips to upgrade a few of my rifles, I realized that $30 grips to replace a $20 Magpul grip didn’t make a financial sense. Naturally if it makes you shoot better, that $30 investment is worth it. During this time I had one real complaint and that was it seemed slightly thick for my preference of a year round functional grip  - no gloves in summer, thicker gloves in the winter.

While loosely keeping an eye on the AR accessory market, Magpul announced the MLOK system and its upgraded MOE SL (slim line) line. In this announcement was the new MOE SL pistol grip. Magpul announced it as a more vertical grip than the standard A2 grips. Naturally I was interested by this, but could never find one locally to test. Long story, but Drake from Magpul sent me a MOE SL grip. I was very excited by this opportunity to get some literal hands on use of the grip. 

Upon receiving the MOE SL grip, I was first concerned that it would be similar in grip angle to the old MOE grip. This is definitely not the case and I found it felt like a slightly thinner BCM Gunfighter grip. I’ve run the MOE SL on my SBR since receiving it, and have found one complaint with it. No cover for the bottom, which is where I store my SBR paperwork. A simple fix was to place duct tape over the bottom of the grip. For $20, you can’t complain about that over the $10 more grip having a latch covering the bottom. 

BCM on Left, MOE SL on Right:

BCM on top of MOE SL:

MOE SL on top of BCM:

Grip angle of the BCM MOD 1 and MOE SL is by all appearances and feels, the exact same. You will also note the width difference. Without a pair of calipers handy, I cannot compare the width difference, but its noticeable when looking and holding the grips. 

Looking Down on grips, MOE SL on top, BCM on Bottom:

All things considered, either option is a good upgrade for anyone with an AR rifle, Unless you need to hold something like SBR or Suppressor paperwork in your pistol grip, the MOE SL at $20 is the best option, and really, an entire roll of duct tape is cheaper than $10 if that is something you need. I won’t be selling all my BCM grips just to get the new MOE SL grips, but as I finish building or replacing A2 grips, it will most likely be with MOE SL grips.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Retention Shooting Positions - Pistol

Retention shooting positions:

Before reading this, please refer to my posts on Shooting Stances and Ready Positions:

What is retention shooting:
            Retention is better described as “Shooting from Retention” and is found when you are shooting in more or less physical contact with a bad guy – i.e. fight to control your weapon, being bum rushed, etc.

Thoughts on the issue seem to range across the board mainly based on who you are trained by and what the trainer’s background is. The instructor who only carried a gun on a SWAT team or Military team doing what is most easily described as CQB – Close Quarters Battle – will give you a tactic designed for a team environment. An instructor who worked as an undercover operative (UC) in LE, MIL or Intel communities, will be a different tactic all together. Your tactic needs to be chosen for what you do. For a LE officer or Military member who works in both realms, you must be familiar with both techniques and know when to use which one. For ease of focus, this article is in reference to pistol retention shooting.

*Fairbairn Sykes*
WW2 era tactics where you shoot with your arm held in front of your hip at hip height. This was taught as point shooting, but has become mistakenly taught today as “retention shooting.” This is not retention shooting. If you can have your weapon un protected like it would be in this, you can bring the gun up to a both hands firing stance. Using the Fairbairn Sykes method will almost certainly get your gun taken away. Don’t waste time learning or practicing this. Be leery of someone teaching this as the way to do it as well.

CAR – Center Axis Relock:
            Generally regarded as foolish in most circles, even more so in groups where the instructors actually “DO” carry guns for a living. It has a bladed stance with a very compressed “modified weaver” style hold on the gun. For more reference on this see the following photo, then play that into real world situations. This is not a very effective method when you start to get realistic with things. Blocks way to much of your peripheral vision. Gives a “gangster” style sight picture, which fights every other bit of your training for no real advantage. This technique also puts you sideways, which is bad if you are wearing body armor, or need to move as you will move faster forwards or backwards not sideways. Plus, it doesn’t look cool which is half the battle (G.I. Joe guidelines – Looking Cool is half the battle, the other half is red and blue lasers). 

One handed retention:
            This method works with your most common shooting stances, as it comes from the draw portion of the gun presentation. It will work both from open carried – duty or tactical holsters, as well as the most common 3 or 9 o’clock concealed handgun. With some modification, you can work it with your AIWB concealed carry handgun as well. You already do practice part of this when you present your gun. If I am in a one handed retention fight, it is to protect my pistol. As such I will be twisting my gunside away from the threat and using my support arm to help block my head and body from the threat. 

Two Handed Retention:
            When your pistol is already out of the holster you can bring the pistol back to the “compressed ready position” where its held centerline of your body with muzzle oriented same direction as your moving. I prefer a slight muzzle up from this position, and can use my WML from here to illuminate rooms well. The advantage of the gun being held in close with both hands allows me to maintain control over the firearm as one’s center of strength his next to their chest, not at arms length. This position allows me to use my firearm if in a very close quarter engagement where moving to full extension with my arms is not possible. The gun in close to your body negates your shooting speed as well as accuracy.

Pick the best technique for what your using, and roll with it in the hopes you’ll never need it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tactical Reloads vs. Emergency Reloads in Training

Tactical Reload vs Emergency Reloads


Emergency Reload: A reload where the weapons chamber is empty (slide/bolt locked to the rear) and magazine/tube is empty. In semi-automatic weapons a fresh magazine is inserted upon dropping/removing the empty magazine. The slide/bolt is then sent forward and target is reassessed.

Tactical Reload: A reload only to be conducted in a situation where the shooter is “safe” as one can be considering they just used their firearm in a deadly situation. A fresh magazine is located, indexed and brought to the firearm. The partially used magazine is stripped and retained from the weapon in the same hand as the fresh magazine. The fresh magazine is inserted into the weapon and seating is ensured. The partially depleted magazine is hopefully stowed into the shooters preferred storage location – pocket, dump pouch, non primary reload pouch.

*If a threat appears during a Tactical reload the shooter can reengage during that time without worry as a loaded magazine is in the gun for all but the briefest of moments. *

This topic came up in discussion about magazine retention, specifically retaining empty magazines by stowing them after expending all the ammunition in them. This is something that can have a use, but not as frequently suggested by those who carry concealed.

Stowing an empty magazine in a statistically realistic CONUS CCW or LE shooting does not make sense.

Statistically, 1-3 bad guys, 3-5 yards, 3 to 5 shots per target, 80% of the time in low light no light conditions where one would be legally blind.

In the above described statistically likely situation (as with any lethal force encounter), time is of the absolute importance. Being able to speed up the “Act” phase in your OODA loop is a must. Hopefully a example can help. If my emergency reload is say 1 second from shot to shot, but my emergency reload with retention of an empty magazine is 1.2 seconds, then I’m .2 seconds behind in the fight. Is .2 seconds the difference between life or death? Maybe. I only have the rest of my life (.2 seconds?) to find out. I’d rather not have that slower reload that doesn’t offer any advantages for the most likely engagement.

The biggest issue I see when thinking about factors in using an emergency reload with retention of the empty magazine is the why factor. Why retain an empty magazine when statistically the fight is over in a split second. CONUS, I will be either waiting for LE to arrive to take control of the crime scene, or I will be leaving the scene in a “tactical advance to a safer location” aka retraining to a safe place and waiting again for LE. One situation, your tampering with evidence of a crime scene. The other, your in a fight for your life and won’t have time to worry about retaining empty mags and finding that magic ammo Sherpa or box of ammo to reload it from. If you have the time and where in a safe place to reload an empty magazine, you had time to get to a place where you had extra ammo (preloaded in mags) and hopefully other equipment staged for emergency use. That ammo had better be in magazines already.

In discussion with military combat vets as well as reading various books, articles, reports of ammo being re-supplied in combat, there were various things of note. The biggest thing was equipment resupply should be staged in what is termed “speed balls” or pre loaded magazines and other implements of doom and destruction in accordance with unit SOP’s. Several reports I read indicated that some calls for extra ammo led to ammo in bandoliers being dropped for resupply, instead of loaded magazines. Clearly this is an issue if you haven’t retained magazines. Of course this was completely avoided if proper pre fight gear staging happened.

This can be played out in a LE/CCW role as well by your staging of loaded magazines in 2nd and 3rd line gear as well as vehicles. A few examples of this “speed ball” concept would be extra duty/CCW pistol magazines, medical gear, M4 magazines, etc. stored:
·      In the door of your vehicle, ATV, etc. 
·      In a EDC backpack.
·      A magazine bandolier like the Blue Force Gear 6 pack along with medical supplies.
·      Stored in your office desk drawers (along with other supplies for emergencies).
·      Ammo can (along with extra M4 magazines)

Is the a scenario where your CCW/LE individual runs out of their standard carry load (1 fighting pistol – Glock 19 or bigger, with minimum of 1 full size reload if not 2-3 on body) very realistic or likely? Nope. As we see Islam carrying out terror attacks more and more in the Mumbai, Beslan, and Kenyan Mall style, you better believe that more ammo will be needed.

In my personal training I’ve gone more and more away from practicing a “tactical reload” and more to speeding up my emergency reloads from EVERY SINGLE MAG POUCH I wear. A tactical reload is only slightly different than an emergency reload, yet the emergency reload is all the more likely to be needed. I practice the tactical reload every time I make ready, so its familiar in its simplest form. 

In the training scenarios I went through at DARC in 2013, I conducted countless emergency reloads. During that time, I conducted two planned emergency reloads with retention. I had pre planned to do them, taking into account two factors:
1.     Training scenario where after it was completed I would need to pick up my magazine. During the majority of the class this was not an issue as it was conducted in a shoot house. During this stage I was moving through waist high grass. Finding a magazine, no matter the color or lighting, would have been near impossible.
2.     Distance. If I needed to reload in the area that the grass was this tall, I was not shooting at the moment, but moving. Knowing when to shoot, communicate and or move is a must. If I needed to reload it was while moving between points of cover or in the “I’m up, he see’s me, I’d down” timing. If you can’t do a tactical or emergency reload in that time frame, its time you spend hours doing dry practice of basic weapon manipulation.

Hopefully I was able to get some thoughts across in not to muddled of a fashion.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dark Angel Medical DARK and Pocket DARK

Dark Angel Medical D.A.R.K. and Pocket D.A.R.K.

I met Kerry Davis aka “Pocket Doc” at SHOT Show in 2012. Got a brief chance to discuss his new to the market product with him and was intrigued by the concept. Taking the standard IFAK contents but vacuum sealing the contents into one item making it more compact while maintaining the same contents your familiar with and minimal costs associated with packaging.

I picked up a Pocket D.A.R.K. in Fall of 2012 upon its release. The Pocket model really filled a niche I had at the time. For work I was carrying (and still do carry) a full size TQ in a belt pouch centerline and a “Cinch Tight” H bandage in my cargo pocket. This gave me the ability to handle some emergency medical needs by me or my buddy following TCCC guidelines, but not very many.

Switching to the Pocket D.A.R.K. in stead of the Cinch Tight bandage, gave me at the time the following:

·      4” Israeli/Emergency Bandage
·      Combat Gauze LE
·      SWAT-T Tourniquet
·      Pair of Gloves

This was packed in a small vacuum sealed package of the above items in their packaging that was then secured in a slick nylon pouch made in the USA by First Spear. Having the pouch “slick” in construction was strange given my familiarity with smoother “quiet” nylon found on most tactical gear. The pouches slick material makes it easier to remove from my pocket as it doesn’t catch.

I carried the Pocket DARK with the first released version of the Pocket DARK for over 1 year on duty as well as off duty. This would have me pulling the pouch out of my pocket 2-4 times a day all week. In Jan 2014, I completed a medical preventative maintenance check and pulled the vacuum sealed portion out of the nylon pouch. I observed that after over 1 year it had finally worn through the vacuum sealing and damaged the outer seal. This was immediately resolved by emailing Kerry Davis who swapped out the old insert for a brand new insert. This has been used off duty since then as I was doing a T&E on another manufactures pocket kit during the 2014 time frame.

February of this year I picked up a full sized DARK for use on a LW Plate Carrier. Kerry had updated the kit with the addition of a Mylar Space Blanket in accordance with the latest TCCC updates.

When I first saw the DARK, it was a custom made by pouch by Eggroll of Extreme Gear Labs in Colorado (formerly free USA). This has been updated twice since then with both new generations of the pouch being made by First Spear for Dark Angel in the USA. Just as with any good company, Dark Angel was constantly innovating and updating their product based on use and feedback. The Gen 3 pouch I received showed all that.

I currently have added to mine a needle for chest decompression, combat sheers as well as a mini roll of duct tape. Last week Dark Angel announced they are now going to offer the chest darts for those qualified to use them.

For placement I like to place my IFAK’s forward of my left arm, final placement sometimes dependent on PALS webbing placement and quantity on said vest. With the DARK on its current vest, a Crye JPC, it stores as shown. It is slightly taller than a double M4 mag pouch in height but approximately the same size otherwise. I have conducted several range sessions in the vest since setup as well as multiple workouts. Never have I noticed the pouch to get in the way.

There are many good options out there for medical gear, if not more than enough at this point. Some companies stand out above others, Dark Angel is one of them.