The Best Holiday

I have long maintained that the single best holiday of the year, and my personal favorite, is far and away Veteran’s Day.  I stand by that to this day.

When I tell people my position on the top of the holiday of the year, I am invariably met with initial derision.  People think I am crazy.  Nobody believes me and when they find out I am a veteran, they nod with a knowing expression.  Suddenly, my madness makes sense.  “Oh, okay.  Of course you like Veteran’s Day as a holiday,” they say.

Now, I will not deny that having served is a factor in my affection for the day, but it is a rather minor component.  There are other, more significant reasons that we ALL should love Veteran’s Day, whether you served or not.  Let me explain.

For those who do not know, Veteran’s Day commemorates American military veterans.  It was originally Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I.  At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns on the Western Front fell silent and the “War to End All Wars” ended.  In 1954, Armistice Day in the U.S. became Veteran’s Day, a holiday to honor all those who have served in the U.S. military.  This should not be confused with Memorial Day (at the end of May), which is a holiday to honor those who died in military service, and Armed Forces Day (also in May), which is a holiday intended to honor those currently serving.

Okay, so, being a veteran, the day appeals to me.  But its many additional features make it THE best holiday for everyone.

For most people, it is a day off from work.  Always a key feature of any good holiday.  It is not, however, a day off for everyone.  So most stores and shops are open.  This allows those who are given the day off (and those who just take the day off) to go shopping or run some errands if they like.  In many cases, those who do have to work get holiday pay, which is also nice.

Nobody comes to visit you for Veteran’s Day, nor does anyone expect you to come visit them.  No in-laws coming in from out of town for a few days, no need to pack up your own family and fly to Boise.  In fact, I would go so far as to say if you did visit family in another time zone for a few days over the Veteran’s Day holiday, they would be rather surprised.  Nope, you get to just stay home and chill.

You do not need to buy anyone a gift for Veteran’s Day, not even your spouse.  Think about this one for a second.  In a given year, you have at least two days requiring you to provide gifts for every person close to you: Christmas (or whatever secular or religious winter solstice holiday of your choosing that you observe or do not observe in the generally accepted calendar month of December) and birthdays.

When it comes to your significant other, well, damn, you have all kinds of days to come up with “the perfect gift” over the course of the year, don’t you?  Birthday, Christmas (see above), anniversary, and Valentine’s Day at a minimum.  Add these to the days included for everyone else and all of a sudden, you are tossing out gifts like it’s your job every time you turn around and hemorrhaging money like your wallet has been shot in the femoral.

But not on Veteran’s Day.  Nope, nobody looks at you expectantly on Veteran’s Day eve and asks what you bought for them.  No surreptitious trips to the mall, no dead tree in your living room, no time wasted wrapping presents and assembling a Radio Flyer at 0300 in order to surprise the kids.  At worst, your former Marine buddies will come by looking for a free beer and birthday cake while you sit around and watch a game. Even that is doubtful, because they are all probably still hungover from celebrating the Marine Corps birthday the night before.  Beyond that, there is zero requirement for any gift giving on this wonderous holiday.

You do not have to make a big meal on Veteran’s Day.  Unlike so many other holidays at this time of the year, there is no social convention saying you have to break out your great grandmother’s good china, roast a massive dead bird for half a day and cook enough additional food to feed a small Central American nation for a week.  Those former Marines who showed up for your beer?  Give them some of last night’s pizza and they will sing your praises for generations.  Otherwise, you are completely off the hook for food on Veteran’s Day.  And if you actually ARE a veteran, lots of places give you free food and say “thank you for your service” on this greatest of all holidays!

To sum up, Veteran’s Day is a day off.  A true day off.  A holiday.  If you have to work, you probably get extra money for doing so.  If you do not have to work, it is fantastic!  You do not need to travel anywhere, nobody is coming to see you, you do not have to buy anyone anything and you do not need to feed anyone.  You can go out and stores are open, or you can stay home and binge watch John Wayne movies.  If you do go out, and you are a veteran, you can get free food and people are nice to you.

Is there any other holiday that can make all of these claims?  I think not!  No longer do I appear to be a lunatic for loving Veteran’s Day as a holiday, do I?  Spread the word:  Veteran’s Day is THE best holiday of the year.

And if you are a veteran, thank you for your service.  May the rest of your days be peaceful and serene.  You earned it.


Training: We Can Do Better

There are a lot of people “teaching firearms” in America, including your humble scribe. This instruction runs the gamut, in terms of just about everything.  Firearms instruction covers pistols, shotguns, carbines, rifles, and just about any other projectile launcher you can imagine.  What is being taught, as it pertains to firearms, also covers just about every aspect of them, from how to build and maintain them, to carrying them for defense, to legal offensive use, shooting clay pigeons, and all manner of other skills.  If my Google Fu was better, I could probably find a school on how to build and employ a trebuchet for home defense.


It is being taught by people who were (or are) police officers, soldiers, Marines, and sailors.  By people who never served in any capacity.  Men are teaching, women are teaching, gay/lesbian/transgender and questioning folks are teaching.  Competitive shooters are teaching, as are those who will never compete.  Tall, short, fat, thin, young, old, Republicans and Democrats, instructors come in all shapes, colors, sizes and affiliations are out there teaching firearms.

With the best estimates running to over 300 million privately owned firearms in the country, the fact that there are so many people out there trying to teach others to safely handle and use firearms is a good thing.  For those who are concerned and involved with such things, it is important to ensure solid firearms knowledge is advanced and propagated. 

For those of us “in the industry”, it is critical that we not only instruct others in the safe, appropriate and effective use of firearms.  We must do this to the best of our ability, teaching efficiently and effectively those who seek out our instruction.  We must strive to constantly improve, both our content and our instructional craft.

From my own admittedly non-scientific observations and conversations with others, the vast majority of people have similar experiences surrounding firearms instruction.  Certainly, there are exceptions, both in terms of those who carry firearms professionally and those who have not, but in general, it seems that we all tend to fall into a few buckets surrounding firearms instruction.

The large majority of gun owners, even those who carry them for self-defense, have absolutely no formal firearms training.  None.  Zero.  Zip.  The early experiences of most folks seem to start with a family member or friend taking them out to a field, quarry, or other range of some kind, running through some firearms safety rules and presenting the day’s instruction.  From there, they are off to the races.

Some folks attend concealed carry classes, either because it is mandated or voluntarily.  Those classes, usually with a curriculum lifted from the National Rifle Association or mandated by the issuing state, usually center on the applicable laws (insofar as they can be addressed in the short time available) and, occasionally, a demonstration by the student of basic skills with a firearm.  Rare are the examples where these classes able to present actual shooting instruction.

Should a person wisely desire to avail themselves of addition training, there is an industry full of instructors standing by to assist.  It is difficult to go far in this country without finding some level of professional firearms instruction.  In general, these classes break out into three types. 

There are usually one- or two-day long classes to be found at local ranges.  These classes are generally the aforementioned concealed carry course, as well as a smattering of day long instruction on a few topics, such as introductory classes (including some designed specifically for women), competition “how to” classes, and perhaps a “tactical” class of some kind.

Then there are the classes in which a range or a group brings a “big name” shooting instructor to town.  Lasting from a couple days to a week, these are classes delivered by people who have a degree of fame in the shooting community and some established bona fides as a practitioner.  These classes usually involve a higher level of professional instruction as well as a higher round count.  Students usually get to shoot a lot in these courses, with intensive, focused instruction from the instructor.  Tuition climbs here, plus the cost of the required ammunition, so that taking these classes asks the student to make a more significant investment in both time and treasure.

Finally, there are the shooting schools.  These are fixed points on the map where professional instructors have established a school that does nothing but provide classes by a cadre of full-time instructors.  Courses at such schools are typically a week long and are not usually within commuting distance for most folks.  As a result, prices for this kind of training rise.  Not only associated travel costs, but tuition, housing, and increased ammunition requirements drive the price for this kind of training up even more.

Certainly, there are variations on these basic themes, but this is a decent description of the vast majority of instructional experiences in America.  This works, as far as it goes, and has for years, so it has become the norm.  I would suggest that we can do better. 

Educational research provides us with a great deal of information that we, as firearms instructors, should make more use of than we do.  We can use this information to improve our methodologies.  And we should. 

When it comes to instruction having a positive impact on student out-comes, the literature is clear that long-term, continuous instruction and practice is far more effective than “burst” training.  We as instructors want the information we present to be useable in the moment and for that to happen, it must be retained, perhaps for years until it is needed.

Lecture retention rates, especially for adult learners, are terrible.  Hovering generally around 10%, the idea of using lecture to improve firearms skills is close to ridiculous.  Happily, the majority of firearms instruction currently available is experiential, in the “practice by doing” realm.  Here we see some real dividends, with retention rates running about 75%.  Coupled with the fact that we are talking about physical skills that are better taught by doing than by discussion and you see that our current methods are not BAD, per se.  However, they can be better.

Pick just about any other sport or physical activity and you see that they are taught through coaching.  Martial arts, tennis, golf, yachting, baseball, hockey, you name it.  By coaching, I mean that the students are presented with instruction and structured practice, under the mentorship of a skilled coach, on a regular basis for extended periods of time.  As in weeks, months, and years.  Students pay a monthly fee and attend regular practices.  Often, these regular practice sessions are occasionally augmented by a visit from some big-name practitioner or instructor in a seminar format, the lessons from whom are then incorporated into the continuing coaching long afterwards.  Competition with other practitioners is also a regular part of such a program.

If we are really, as a profession, interested in creating and fostering student excellence, we need to alter the current paradigm and move in this direction.  Of course, student excellence is not our only concern.  Most of us are also trying to make a living and the overhead involved in creating something like I describe can be daunting.  It is easier (and more fun) to move around as an itinerant instructor, dispensing firearms knowledge on the move, or enjoying the benefits of economies of scale when creating a nationally known shooting school. 

Creating a local shooting school, offering regularly scheduled classes and practice sessions, week after week, is not glamourous.  It would be a difficult path, one that would be hard to build and maintain in the long run.  It would not be likely to make one wealthy.  But it would do wonders for student learning and improvement.

And after all, isn’t that the point?




Thespians: Always Research Your Role

I miss the days when people just said what they meant.

Or maybe I am glamorizing a by-gone era by assigning to it a positive characteristic that never really existed.  Whatever.  I do know that I prefer the company of those who say what they mean and do not try to “tap dance” around a topic in an effort to be seen as reasonable or to appeal to a wider audience.

I just read an article ( wherein the writer tries to spin actress Jamie Lee Curtis’ position on gun control.  It seems that Fox News published an article noting the disconnect between her calls for further gun control and her habit of making movies in which her characters use guns ( 

In the spin article, Ms. Curtis gets a chance to state her perspective more clearly.  The article quotes her as saying, “I fully support the Bill of Rights.  And fully support the Second Amendment.  And have absolutely no problem with people owning firearms…”  Grammar issues aside, this reads as pretty unequivocal and clear.  She is almost tautological in her statement.  I’m onboard.  She has made a clear avowal of her position.  Then she goes on to explain and the wheels fall off.  At least for me. 

Her last sentence above goes on, “…if they have been trained, licensed, a background check has been conducted, a pause button has been pushed to give time for that process to take place.  And they have to renew their license just like we do with automobiles – which are weapons also”.

Oh lord.

I had hope, if only for a brief moment.  Then it was dashed.  While I believe that these quotes are likely to represent sincere beliefs on the part of Ms. Curtis, I also think she does not fully understand her subject matter and is simply trying to satisfy as much of her constituency as she can.  I do not blame her for trying.  She has to eat, after all, and losing ticket sales to people who disagree with her (on either side of the issue) is a good way to impact her living going forward.  Especially these days, when Hollywood icons are dropping left and right for all manner of sins.  So, go ahead and try to split the baby.  Just do not try to pass yourself off as being reasonable, logical and informed in your position while doing so.

During my career, I worked for a time in the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, a job which centers around the FBI’s relationship with Congress.  While there, I was exposed to a graduate course in how to talk for hours and not say anything, as well as how to never set out a solid opinion or position, despite seeming like you did.  Professional politicians in our nation’s capital are absolute masters at this sort of behavior, regardless of party affiliation.  It’s fascinating to behold as a mere spectator.

If you care about our nation and the direction it is going, watching those people massage, twist and spin the truth was truly horrifying.

As for Ms. Curtis, if she really did “fully support the Bill of Rights” and the Second Amendment (a bit redundant, is it not?), she would understand that such a position is incompatible with the conditions she would emplace.  To mandate such restrictions is to infringe upon the rights of the people, which is specifically prohibited by the very amendment she claims to fully support.  It is also in direct violation of the meaning of the Bill of Rights as a whole, which she also claims to fully support.

Her demands sound reasonable, of course, but let us take a deeper dive into just what she is demanding in her call for “…common-sense gun control and gun safety”, as she says elsewhere in the same article.  She wants training, licensing, a background check, a “pause button” to be pushed in the process and for licensure renewal “…just like we do with automobiles – which are weapons too”.

I have to take the low hanging fruit first.  People are certainly not licensed to drive as some kind of weapons permit, as Ms. Curtis appears to suggest.  Automobiles that require civilian licenses are not weapons.  They are transportation devices.  Do not take my word for it.  Contact any automobile sales outlet or manufacturer you care to and ask them.  I am certain that Ford does not claim to make any weapons for the civilian market.  They make cars.  Can cars be used as weapons?  Of course.  Almost anything you can think of can be weaponized if a person puts their mind to it, but that does not make the item a weapon until a person gets involved and makes it one.  For which they are, individually, held legally liable.  

Automobiles, by the way, kill more people in an average year in America than firearms.  Yet I do not read anywhere about Ms. Curtis calling for cars to be the subject of additional “common sense” regulation.  This also despite the fact that there were approximately 40,100 traffic related deaths in 2017 across the U.S. (, which outstripped all firearms related deaths in the U.S. during the same time period by about 9.4% (37,638, including suicides and justifiable homicides)(  Let’s not muddle our sound bites, however.  Calling for limits on Second Amendment rights is cool in her social and professional circles.  Calling for common sense limits on cars, on the other hand, is just anti-American. 

When it comes to her other demands, she is light on details while trying to erode the Bill of Rights she fully supports.  Start asking who makes the rules she wants to impart, how they are implemented fairly (assuming that is how she would like them implemented), whose “common sense” we are going to rely upon for the gun control she advocates, just what a “pause button” is and how it is put in place and the reality of life in our country comes crashing into her flippant call for regulation.

As someone who actually DOES fully support the U.S. Constitution, and has served our nation for over 32 years as both a soldier and a civilian, I see any erosion of ANY of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution as a threat to ALL the rights.  Perhaps a thought experiment might help illustrate the point here.

Imagine replacing the amendment under discussion by Ms. Curtis.  Change it from the Second to the First.  Now, replace the right to bear arms with the right to speak freely.  How does her argument sound now?  She would then fully support the Bill of Rights and freedom of speech, as long as those who would speak freely were “…trained, licensed, a background check has been conducted, a pause button has been pushed to give time for that process to take place.  And they have to renew their license just like we do with automobiles…”

Ludicrous, right?

I summarily dismiss the idea that words cannot be used as weapons, that they are not capable of leading to the injury or death of another person.  From bullying to religious intolerance to the rise of fascism and violent theocracies, words have long been far more deadly than any of the small arms available today.  Yet I suspect that Ms. Curtis, and many of those like her, who make their living protected by the umbrella of their right to free speech, might take a very dim view if they had to have governmental permission before being able to make a movie (or eleven movies) filled with violence, gore, grizzly murder scenes, foul language and other scenes which might offend local, state and federal regulators.  I do not enjoy horror movies, but I do no demand “common sense” limits to the First Amendment in order to stop people from involving themselves in them.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) certainly would take umbrage to such a call for limits on free speech, as their website prominently proclaims their “…longstanding and continued commitment to the First Amendment…”.  Any calls for controls and limits on the freedom of speech, particularly by a talented award-winning actress, could be expected to run head first into MPAA’s traditional efforts to resist calls for government censorship and dedicated efforts “…to guarantee that all forms of storytelling are protected and empowered”.

Therein lies the true issue here.  The Constitution regulates the government.  It delineates what the government is allowed to do and specifically tells the government that it is not allowed to do more than what is listed therein.  This protects us all from governmental over-reach, from the erosion and destruction of our fundamental freedoms.  I imagine this was of little concern to Ms. Curtis under some federal administrations.  Perhaps she believes that her government is not a threat to her under any circumstances, that only the rights she does not care about were ones that might be lost.  If so, I wonder if she still feels that way?

What happens to us if a government is elected that decides to limit or abolish some civil rights?  Well, if it is “gun rights”, perhaps some feel that is alright.  They were not using those rights anyhow.  The people who are using them are deplorable, right?  If I do not care about freedom of the press or religion or assembly, then why should I raise a hue and cry when somebody wants to put some common-sense limits on my ability to freely exercise these rights? 

Because our freedoms stand and fall together.  Our system works because it is a system, one that has stood for centuries against all manner of threats, both foreign and domestic.  The same verbiage one uses to attack the Second Amendment can easily be adapted to attack the others.  To not recognize this simple truth is to be shortsighted and naïve.  You cannot casually trim one freedom without concern for the welfare of the others.

All governments, everywhere, must be granted some authority over the governed to function.  Yet that authority must be limited in order to prevent totalitarianism.  This is why our Constitution is such an amazing document and our form of government such a rarity in human history.  Many people I speak to of late fear the rise of a autocratic system in America.  Those on the political left fear some form of a “right wing dictatorship” while those on the political right fear “progressive fascism”.  What prevents this and protects us all is the Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights and ALL of its amendments.

Including the one you want to erode and limit with your full support, Ms. Curtis.


Open Carry: I love those guys!

I was attending a course recently with Mr. Mike Seeklander, co-founder of the American Warrior Society, ( and several of us went to lunch at a nearby chicken place.  The restaurant was busy and there was a line at the counter.  While we were all sitting and chatting over our food, I saw a couple enter.  The first thing I noticed was that the gentleman was openly carrying a large handgun on his strong side hip (Good weapon, crappy holster choice, cheap cloth belt.  Why is that a thing?).

Now we were in Tennessee, so I was not alarmed.  Many people in this part of the world carry firearms, openly and otherwise.  Contrary to many media predictions, this has not resulted wholesale slaughter of the innocent in such jurisdictions.  I did, however, take a moment longer to watch the gentleman.  He was wearing a bright orange t-shirt with the symbol of the local university sports team (college athletics is a very, VERY serious thing in the south), which he had bunched up over his holster in order to fully expose it.  He did not appear to be paying much attention to his environment beyond pondering his order and chatting with his companion. 

I quietly made note of his presence to my own companions and we continued our lunch.  Nothing else of note occurred and everyone left as healthy as when they arrived.

This did start me to thinking about open carry versus concealed carry, however.  To start with, I am a huge fan of open carry laws.  Huge.  For a couple of reasons.  With that said, I would never carry my sidearm openly and go to great lengths, if necessary, to keep my own firearm concealed.  Paradox?  Perhaps.  Hear me out on this one.

My appreciation and affection for such laws starts from a philosophical place.  As a big fan of the U.S. Constitution (I often self-define as a constitutional absolutist, but that’s for another day), I chaff under any law, rule, regulation, policy, whatever, that curtails what I see to be Constitutional guaranteed rights.  All of them.  The power of the state being used to limit a citizen’s right “…to bear arms”, in my opinion, is an infringement of that right and, therefore, unconstitutional.  I grant you that many legislatures and judicial opinions disagree with me, but hey, this is still America and I can have my own perspective. 

I vote accordingly.

As a result of this position, I feel laws that ban open carry of a firearm are constitutionally offensive.  I know, I know, when guns are openly carried, it tends to frighten the sheep and they can stampede.  We were once made of sterner stuff hereabouts.  However, just because something scary or offensive, we must not, CANNOT, afford to make it illegal for that reason alone.  Not in America.  When taken to their logical, if extreme, conclusion, such laws lead you to enacting others.  Once it is illegal to openly carry a firearm, it is only natural to be upset when a concealed firearm “flashes”, by which I mean becomes momentarily “unconcealed”. 

In Massachusetts, for example, if a person sees that you are carrying a concealed firearm because it flashes, the person carrying the firearm becomes liable for potential criminal charges, including assault.  Even if the weapon was never touched by the bearer’s hand, never left the holster, there was no associated threatening statement or behavior.  It was merely glimpsed by the “victim”, gentle snowflake that he/she is.

That is stupid policy.  It is, to my mind, a surreptitious route to gun control and unworthy of either side of the “gun control” debate.  Stake your position, make your case for or against, then move on to the vote.  Sneaking around, fighting a never-ending guerilla campaign might be fine in some venues, but this “death by 1,000 cuts” garbage is embarrassing and exhausting.

From a tactical perspective, I find open carry of a firearm, for me, to be a very bad idea.  Surprise is a weapon all by itself.  To deliberately give that away is, to my way of thinking, bad tactics.  Yes, uniformed law enforcement officers carry openly when working, but they do so as part of a system.  They do so for several very good reasons, trading one tactical advantage for others.  They have extensive dedicated resources designed to support them in their efforts that are not available to the average citizen.

For the citizen carrying a firearm, it represents options the unarmed do not have.  Namely, the options surrounding armed resistance to those who would do them harm.  If you have a concealed firearm, you still have all the options the unarmed have in any given situation.  Having a firearm just gives you more.  Having a concealed firearm allows you to employ an armed response from surprise, which is a huge advantage.  Open carry removes that option while at the same time running the very real risk of making you the first, thus likely surprised, victim when an assailant opts to open festivities.

 I would rather do the surprising than to be the one surprised in such an event.

I have heard the arguments of those who openly carry surrounding their reasons for doing so.  Most of those I have talked to do so as some kind of statement I generally file under what Mr. Lucas Apps at Triangle Tactical podcast ( calls, “My rights!  My rights!”  I happen to agree, philosophically, and wish you well.  I like my rights also.  I just do not feel like having some misunderstood miscreant start a murder spree by killing me first so that I can declare my position.  I choose a different venue.

While I carry a firearm every day and have for the last couple of decades (usually two when I was a working LEO), I do not open carry.  I will admit that, rarely, it happened when I was working, such as on those occasions when I removed my suit coat around the office or on the scene of a bank robbery, perhaps.  As a general statement, however, I did not carry openly.  As a retired fed, I never carry openly.

Yet again, even from a tactical perspective, I love open carry laws.  Sure, I would never do it and find the idea of doing so tactically foolish.  But I love it when others choose to do so because it draws attention to them (which I have found is often a reason people choose to open carry, but I digress).  The attention they may want, I absolutely do not want.  If someone is of ill intent and chooses to start something, it is fair to say that someone who is openly carrying runs a higher than average risk of being the first to find out.  The hard way.

In that regard, I look at them as tactical minesweepers.  They are out front, setting off any explosions before I trip them.  For that, I salute those who open carry.  With apologies to the old series of beer commercials, “Here’s to you, Open Carry Guy.  You do a dangerous job that I will not and I am grateful”. 

Despite my ambivalence.

And so it begins.

Blogging. A word that did not exist when I was a kid and now, it seems, I am doing just that.

Sigh. A blogger.

I’m conflicted about this. The idea of being so simply defined grates. I am, like anyone else, so much more than the stereotype conveys. A father. A husband. A veteran. A retired Fed. An author, a writer, an academic (of a sort). And a bunch of other stuff, some good, some less so.

When one writes anything for public consumption, it is a risky endeavor. Will anyone read it? Who knows. If anyone does read it, will they care? Happily, I am at a point in both life and career that allows me not to worry if others are annoyed by what I say. Retirement from federal service gives me my freedom of speech back and I plan to make full use of it. Beyond that, I hope this will be read and I hope some will care. It is my fondest hope to put out helpful information, things that some will find informative and that I can contribute to a wider conversation.

This was a struggle for me when I first began to write for publication, the idea that I had something of value to say. I’m still not completely convinced I do, but I am sufficiently certain to continue to speak. Let the chips fall.

The topics to be found herein will be, with luck, diverse, but will generally focus on areas I find interesting (it’s my thing after all) and occasionally on things I have some level of expertise with. I invite any who stick around to comment as they see fit.

So, more later, at what can most charitably be described as “on occasion”. I hope you will find it worth your time.