Cutting Edge Training

America’s Combatives and Liability Trainer Training With Real-World Impact

Product Review: “SIRT” Laser Training Pistol

by George on April 15, 2013 10:46

It’s no secret that ammunition is both expensive and scarce, negatively impacting law enforcement and civilian shooters—if there is no ammo or it breaks our budgets, there is no training.  But we still have to train, and, as instructors, train our officers.  In light of ammo problems, the question is how?  Dry-fire can be an answer, but traditional dry-fire with unloaded weapons has serious drawbacks.  Unintentional discharges are a real possibility.  Additionally, training scars occur in having to manipulate the slide following each trigger press (because when the trigger is pressed and a loud click is heard, the instant reaction should be tapping the magazine, not cycling the slide to reset the trigger).

The question remains:  how do we provide the training we need in a safe, economical, and effective manner?

The answer lies in the SIRT Laser Training Pistol by NextLevel Training (www.nextleveltraining.com).  SIRT stands for “Shot Indicating, Resetting Trigger,” and this training tool represents a giant leap forward in meaningful dry-fire training.  In the form and feel of a fully weighted Glock pistol (other common brands will soon be introduced), the trigger can be adjusted to match the weight and feel of your duty pistol’s trigger.  Depressing the trigger, there is a realistic take-up, resistance, and sear let-off.  The trigger then realistically resets, ready for the next “shot.” 

Each trigger press results in a highly visible laser dot on the target (available in a green laser for outdoors or red for primarily indoor use).  The shooter (and instructor) receives instant accuracy feedback on each trigger press regardless of whether you are target-focused or front sight-focused.  Using the SIRT Laser Training Pistol, powered by a standard CR123A battery, shooters maximize their training in trigger mechanics, grip, stance, and accuracy with a realistic weapon utilizing a realistic trigger. 

While ideal for individual training, all SIRTs have an additional built-in instructional function.  A toggle switch on the top of the non-reciprocating slide provides feedback from two lasers:  first, a laser “trigger take-up indicator” when the trigger finger takes up the slack, and the second laser shot indicator.  The take-up indicator’s laser dot is adjusted below the shooter’s line of sight, letting the instructor observe not only when the shooter contacts the trigger, but also if there is both proper sight alignment and sight picture before the shot. 

All of the fundamentals, including precise trigger mechanics, are reinforced by the instant feedback of the laser’s dot.  Trigger problems are instantly identified when the dot is off-target.  Forget diagnosing bullet hits on targets.  Incorrect trigger presses show up as “dashes” rather than “dots” on the target, requiring the shooter to focus on improving trigger manipulation, grip, and follow-through.  The direction of the dash shows the direction the shooter is pulling, pushing, heeling or otherwise moving the weapon during the shot.

There are three models offered, the “SIRT Pro,” and two “SIRT Performer” models.  The Pro model has steel construction surrounding the electronics (housed in what is normally the slide).  The Performer models are of polymer construction.  If I were spending scarce training equipment dollars, there is no question that I would go for the SIRT Pro’s solid construction and resulting capability to withstand abuse by officers. 

Far from being a toy, this is a robust training tool that will take the rigors of combatives training.  While anything can break, you’d have to work pretty hard at it with the Pro model.  In defensive tactics (only the Pro model is recommended for DT training), the green shot indication laser dot on the “suspect” provides hit feedback far better than a red shot indicating laser while the dual laser provides trigger contact feedback to instructors.  On the live-fire range, the SIRT can substitute for repetitions between live-fire (saving ammunition while getting trigger presses and accuracy feedback), as well as for safety rehearsals when moving.  In scenario training, there is no possibility of injury (the lasers are eye-safe) or damage to property, no clean up, and each trigger press is estimated to cost less than $0.0002 through the life of the $3.00 battery.

In the time I’ve taken to write this review, I’ve had instant visual feedback on no less than 40 deliberate trigger presses and over 100 rapid fire trigger presses on various targets strategically placed around my office (single targets, multiple targets, a hostage target, and targets behind simulated barricades, all at various angles, distances, and sizes).  On a normal work day, I get 150 to 300+ quality trigger presses with absolute safety because live ammo cannot be loaded into the SIRT and with no need to manipulate a slide between each shot to reset the trigger.  Gone are the days of dry-firing my “empty” duty gun at the TV (to my wife’s relief).  If this is not enough, I often get up to 50 magazine changes per day using the SIRT’s weighted magazines. 

After four decades of intensive shooting and teaching shooting, the SIRT has revealed some of my previously hard to diagnose problems (I’m evidently good at hiding bad habits, even from experienced trainers).  The laser is unrelenting in its feedback, even more so than live-fire because there is no muzzle blast, bullet, or hazard to worry about.  It is just the mechanics and the laser dot (or the dreaded dash).  There is no other explanation for the improvement of my shooting other than the time I’ve put into the SIRT.

With all of the training benefits, the rugged construction, and the miniscule cost per trigger press, there is just no argument against NextLevel Training’s SIRT Laser Training Pistol.

For a 20% discount on the SIRT Laser Training Pistol, use discount code:  CETLEM

Why Do We Teach? Handgun Shooting Stances

by George on April 9, 2013 13:51

This is one in a series of "Why Do We Teach?" articles focusing on training subjects in police academies, in-service training.  Not just police related, these concepts and methods are often commonly taught.  The series details why we either teach that concept, modify it, or reject in favor of a more practical solution.  If you teach it, it must be defensible, pragmatic, applicable to real-life combat and survival, and lawfully justifiable. 

Handgun shooting stances are taught to shooters and reinforced through hours and years of training.  Creating a stable shooting platform, from the soles of the feet through the hands, is necessary to obtain the hits on the target or, more vitally, on the Threat.  Stances are performed with the legs comfortably bent, spine with a bit of a forward lean, with the arms either pushing and pulling, creating the dynamic tension for which the Weaver Stance is known, or pushing the hands forward symmetrically to form the Isosceles Stance.  It is important to focus upon a proper stance in order to be more successful in surviving shootings, right?

Well, no, not really.  Early formal stance training may be useful to a developing shooter.  However, concentrating on perfecting a stance is generally counter to prevailing in a shooting.  Most shootings take place in extremely close distances involving very large targets, are very abrupt, and extremely violent.  Many officers find themselves in awkward positions when the gunfight begins.  Tactics are much more relevant to your survival than your stance. 

Stances May Be Counterproductive in a Gunfight

The mere mention of a “stance” automatically causes the legs to form a solid, well-balanced base supporting the upper body as it fires the weapon.  Marksmanship requires a strong foundation.  However, accuracy, and thus marksmanship, is contextual.  In most gunfights, what the legs are doing is irrelevant to marksmanship needed to survive.  Training to stand solidly in the open and trade shots with a murderous Threat is a sucker’s game—every bullet fired in your direction may end your life.  While being a static target may theoretically have the possibility of increasing your accuracy, being a stationary target definitely assists the bad guy with his marksmanship and putting bullets through you. 

Standing still with bits of red hot lead zipping past while being thumped by muzzle blast generally decreases any shooter’s accuracy potential.  The more vulnerable you perceive you are, the less physically and mentally functional you are likely to become.  Accuracy is more a factor of being able to cope with and overcome your perception of immediate personal vulnerability.  While you are not likely to instantly affect the Threat shooting you (most bullets take time to cause the body to react), you can create a sense of more time that may increase your ability to lay sufficiently accurate fire on the Threat to save your life.  The tactical responses proven to likely increase your survivability is either sudden angular movement or moving to a corner and fighting from there.  Static stances have no place in this lethal environment when you are behind the Threat in the gunfight and need to stretch time to effectively respond.

Developing the capability for precise fire is a necessary skill for any shooter.  However, precision is rarely called for in an actual shooting.  “Combat Accuracy” is all that is necessary for survival.  Paraphrasing Rob Pincus, combat accuracy can be defined as “Any round disrupting the imminent threat to life.”  This may mean a bullet strike to the brain or spine, a hit in the upper thoracic cavity, the pelvis, or any bone.  Sometimes just simple “minute of human” accuracy to any part of the body is sufficient, but no single bullet can be counted on to stop the fight.

For the balance of this discussion, let’s assume that the legs are doing their thing independent of the upper body’s efforts—this may be moving, crouching, or kneeling.  Therefore, this discussion will be about a Modified Weaver or Modified Isosceles and their contextual usefulness. 

Modified Weaver

The position of the arms in the Weaver Stance, characterized by the push-pull tension of both hands on the grip of the handgun, arguably provides a very stable platform for accurate fire.  This shooting method was popularized by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper as the “Modern Pistol Technique,” permitting more precise shot placement at small targets at any distance.

Fundamentally, the body is bladed and the shooting elbow is locked straight, with the gun-hand pushing the handgun forward.  The support-hand’s palm contacts the shooting hand’s fingers, pulling directly back with the elbow bent and pointing downward.  Many have been taught to shoot with their shooting elbow bent and pushing forward.  This is an error.  Instructors attempting to mimic Col. Cooper’s shooting style are apparently unaware that a combat injury prevented him from extending his arm.  He taught others to straighten their gun-arms. 

The FBI’s “Violent Encounters” study (2006) revealed that more than 97% of shootings begin with the suspect shooting first.  A human’s “startle response” to surprise results in spinning to directly face the threat, hands up at face level and extended to protect the eyes and throat, with the spine forward in a semi-crouched position.  Problematically, human factors and the Weaver-hold are counter to the body’s reactions in a sudden shooting situation. 

It is a rare shooter trained in the Weaver method who does not react to sudden and unexpected gunfire by instantly moving into an Isosceles upper body (regardless of what the legs are doing).  In scenario training where there is no expectation of actual injury—with only minor pain penalties when hit by marking cartridges or Airsoft pellets possible—the sudden response to unexpected “deadly threats” by “Weaver-trained” shooters is almost invariably an Isosceles-type reactive response.  This is even seen on the range where there is no personal peril whatsoever.  Shooters tend to transition into the classic Weaver-hold apparently as they realize they are in the “wrong stance.” 

When wearing body armor, the Weaver stance also presents the non-dominant side’s arm hole to the Threat.  Because the Weaver can only be properly employed in a bladed stance, the strongest part of the body armor (center chest where the shock plate is located) is in an irrelevant position, with the unprotected armpit placed in the most vulnerable position.  Wounds from bullets traversing the body laterally through the axillary region, that is, from side-to-side through the armpit, are incredibly threatening to survival because they tend to pierce multiple organs and vital blood vessels of the upper thoracic region. 

The Weaver-hold is ideal when fighting from a corner.  With most of the body covered by the barricade, the stability of this hold is put to use making longer distance or precision hits.  Corners give you time.  Marksmanship is all about having the time to put the bullet on target. 

Modified Isosceles

The Modified Isosceles is a reactive “stance.”  The Isosceles (upper body square to the threat, hands pushed forward at eye-level, the legs doing what they do in that specific situation) reflects how humans naturally react when faced with a sudden close threat.  The upper body of the Isosceles mimics the natural startle response, as seen in video after video of officers responding to real-life threats by punching their handguns out in front of them.  It is a human instinct to put a weapon between you and the perceived threat. 

While generally not as inherently accurate at distance as the Weaver hold, it doesn’t have to be.  Combat effective accuracy requires only hits on target, preferably in most cases, with bullets impacting within three to six inches of each other, creating as much damage to multiple organs as possible.  At close distances where the Isosceles-style will likely be employed, a high degree of accuracy is generally not necessary for survival.  Hitting him well, quickly and often is more critical to winning. 

If wearing a ballistic vest, the Isosceles-hold keeps the center of your vest facing the threat, affording you maximum protection.  It also supports moving and hitting much better than its well-known counterpart. When the shooter moves in any angular or lateral direction, the Isosceles-hold supports hitting until the angles become too severe, forcing the shooter to transition to a one-hand hold. 

Not a Question of “Either/Or”

Either/or is not a question for warriors or trained professionals.  Paraphrasing Gabe Suarez, the context of the problem determines strategy; strategy determines tactics; and tactics determine the methods and skills employed to solve the problem:

  • Where’s the Threat?  Either close or far, big or small.
  • What’s his weapon?  Firearm, blade, or striking implement.
  • What’s he doing?  Charging you or standing.  Grabbing you or behind cover.
  • Where are you?  In the open, behind concealment, or behind cover?
  • Are you surprised or did you have enough time to prepare?  If you had time to prepare, you are likely behind a corner with a firearm in-hand.
  • Are you willing to shoot him right now or are you still frantically looking for alternatives.  Remember the old saying, “Once you’re in the fight, it is way too late to wonder if this is a good idea.”

These questions will likely not be answered so much as reacted to.  Realistically, this decision is not made as it is a reaction per your training to the situation suddenly erupting in front of you. 

Conclusion

All plans are made for flat terrain and sunny weather regardless of the ground-truth.  Having a rigid plan to engage in a gunfight with a certain weapon hold and stance is not realistic.  Training and expectations of “how it’s going to go down” may not match your immediate needs—especially so if dogma has any part in your decision-making.  Desperately clinging to a “style” or “method” may mean that you are attempting to drive a nail with a screwdriver in a life-and-death situation.  While a screwdriver is a fine and necessary tool, it cannot be applied in every situation.  The same is true of a shooting stance where dogmatic adherence to a “style” due to guru-worship or personal ego-investment may leave you confused, unable to effectively respond, and perhaps horribly injured.

If you’re suddenly attacked at close range and are purely reactive, you’re most likely to shoot (and hopefully move) in some form of a Modified Isosceles platform.  From contact to rock-throwing distances, movement is the highest initial survival priority—hitting him is a very close second.  However, if you are fighting from a corner, employing the Weaver platform is more likely to get the needed hits, especially if the Threat is at distance or behind his own cover.  Fighting from a corner creates the perception time, and if you have the time to make a precision shot, Weaver may help you obtain that hit.

The bottom line in any deadly force response is to interrupt the eye-target line with the weapon, and once the weapon is on-target, to fire repeatedly slowly enough to hit him as long as you perceive the imminent deadly threat remains.  How the body supports this is context dependent and based on the tactics you employ to survive.  The old bromide certainly applies:  “In twenty years, no one will care about which caliber or stance you were using in the gunfight.  All they’ll care about is whether or not you won the fight.”