Tactical Training Specialties


After the coldest April on record followed by the hottest May in the same year, it seems we have done a very Missouriesque thing again.  We skipped spring entirely and went straight to…well, heat.  (Yes, I was thinking of another word.)  This is just not my favorite time of the year, and being on the range when the UV index is 14 when no synthetic fibers on Earth will wick all the sweat away shortens my training sessions.  Fortunately, there are 3-liter Camelbaks for water, Gatorade G2, pop-ups for shade, SPF 50 and occasionally a breeze.  I’m glad my students come prepared with the correct gear and fluids, and there is always some to share.  I will be patient…October bonfires, hayrides, BBQ’s, smoke rings (friends around the campfire with cigars) and hard freeze warnings will be here in no time.  I need to get some more shorts while Tru Spec has them on sale!

Hey, our feature article The Parable of The Pocket Pistol is much longer than usual, but it was driven by a problem I am seeing in every class.  My intent is to inform and help purchasers make good selections, not chide those who prefer to carry small guns, but there are real limitations.  I welcome your feedback and criticisms…there are bound to be some!  Thanks, Todd.

The Parable of the Pocket Pistol

by Todd Burke

“A parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else. Jesus’ parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.[i]

So I now share my Parable of the Pocket Pistol knowing full-well that Jesus would do a much better job, but I’m going to give it a go anyway…

Once upon a time there was a man named Bubba who feared for his safety because of all the shootings in public places.  He went to his local gun shop and bought a Pocket Rocket .380 pistol that fit nicely in the palm of his hand and it was easy to carry in his thin, flimsy, floppy nylon holster.  It looked like a cell phone.  The next day, Bubba took his family to their favorite Burger Barn downtown.  As they were being served, a man wearing a zombie mask came through the front door and began shooting people.  Bubba sprang into action and reached for his Pocket Rocket.  In his fear-driven excitement he could not get a good grip on the pistol and as he pulled hard the cheap nylon holster ripped and came apart, causing the pistol to hit the ground.  The pistol discharged when it hit the concrete floor and the round struck the deep fryer behind the counter causing hot grease to pour out onto the floor.  The grease caught fire and flames quickly ran up the walls and wooden fixtures.  The panicking sheeple feared fire more than the attacker as they stampeded the front door trampling the zombie to death.  Three people would recover from their gunshot wounds, the zombie died at the scene (forever!), and the fire spread into adjoining buildings and offices causing a general alarm fire that took the fire department 12 hours to contain.  Ultimately the fire damaged an entire city block.  The moral of the story: a subcompact pistol should not be the primary firearm for a protector!

“You don’t know what you don’t know” is a quote we hear in every firearms course we teach and there is wisdom in this truth.  In today’s world where people carry a firearm for not only their own personal protection but as a means of protecting others, education regarding what you “don’t know” needs to happen before you select a pistol for protection and this includes the gear such as belts, holsters, magazines, and flashlights that go along with it.

This parable is not a traditional one; it is a compilation of many (true) stories and first-hand range experiences referenced together, with a touch of hyperbole, to illustrate an empirical fact.  That fact is that too many people are carrying “pocket pistols” or subcompact model handguns believing they have the proper equipment to defend and protect life in a deadly force emergency.  This is simply not true, and my coaches and I are seeing this problem across the United States in every tactical pistol class we offer.  Since April 2018 we have offered a new Tactical Applications of the Pistol for Church Protectors, or “TAP” in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Ohio.  (Coming before year’s end: California, Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, and Georgia.)  My experiences so far in delivering, as well as overseeing the management of these courses, is the impetus behind this article.  Our view: a subcompact pistol should not be the primary firearm for a protector!

First let’s identify three main categories of pistols relating to their size, purpose, and suitability for certain types of service.

1. Full Size – a large or full-framed handgun often referred to as a “duty” or “service” firearm.  This is a revolver or semiautomatic firearm that we typically see in the holster of a uniformed police officer.  It features a large grip that will accommodate all the fingers of the master gripping hand as well as all of the fingers of the supporting hand over the master grip.  The sights are large and well-defined and easy for the operator to see when

the pistol is brought to bear in front of their face.  The magazine capacity is usually a “double stack” configuration meaning there is an offset row of two columns with capacities in the 10-20 round range.  (Don’t settle for 10 round magazines in ANY full-size pistol; this isn’t New York!  Get the fuller and “more gooder” capacity mags from the factory.)  Pictured here is a Smith & Wesson M&P Full Size.  This is an excellent choice and this pistol comes in 9mm, 40, and 45.  While more difficult to conceal, it is a handful which means it is easy to gain a master grip, the controls are easy to access, and it is difficult to inadvertently get your fingers in front of the muzzle when manipulating it.  The M&P line also comes with 4 interchangeable grips to better fit and suit the individual.  This pistol is pictured without a slide safety where your right thumb would rest.  This is the configuration I recommend for a double-action-only pistol.  There is no need for an additional external safety even though some police departments such as Minneapolis specify that their semiautomatic pistol will have this feature.

2. Compact – this is generally a design that began as a full-size gun which was trimmed or modestly reduced by shortening the barrel or slide an inch or so and shortening or trimming the grip.  A full grip can still be gained by the operator, and sometimes this is facilitated by an extension or “toe” on the magazine that allows the user to grip with their pinky finger.  This pistol still fills the hand

completely, but it has a smaller or thinner profile which aids the owner in carrying more discretely.  This pistol may be a double or a single-stack.  Pictured here is the Smith & Wesson M&P Compact.  It has a shortened barrel, shortened grip, and the magazines can be purchased with or without the “toe” that gives the feel of its larger brother.  I do not consider this type of compact pistol to be a “pocket rocket” if you can still involve all of the fingers of your master gripping hand to be involved.  This is a good choice for an operator who has smaller hands, shorter fingers, or who feels that a full-size pistol is just too much to manage.  Note this pistol does have the slide safety, the lever at the back of the slide on the left side of the frame.  These safeties can do more harm than good.  My T&E pistol from Smith & Wesson 10 years ago was a full size 45 and during recoil, my thumb would inadvertently activate the safety!  This safety is not like traditional Colt 1911 safeties; the M&P safety has a lower-on-grip profile and the angle of inclination is less.  If you maintain a proper grip on your pistol with the web of your hand high on the backstrap – which you should do – you are likely to accidentally render the pistol ON SAFE in the middle of a fight for your life!  Bad mojo.  Even if the compact pistol fills your hands, caliber selection is still important.  Watch this video of a student who has a Kimber Compact 45 acp which is still too much to handle size and power-wise:  Video: Kimber Compact recoils.

3. Subcompact – these pistols do not fill the hand and the pinky finger of the master-gripping hand has nowhere to go; it simply floats at the bottom of the magazine well.  A two-handed grip feels unusual if it can be obtained at all.  Manufacturers call the sights “low profile” or “snag resistant” which means they are so small you have to look first look for them and FIND THEM before you can line them up on target.  Keeping with the Smith & Wesson theme, the pistol pictured here is the Bodyguard.  This pistol will fit in the palm of my hand.  The trigger travel is about a mile, and when I take a two-handed grip the knuckles of my supporting hand are too close to the muzzle for my liking.  Also note the slide safety at the back of the slide.  It is a stiff and recessed switch that is not intuitive.  At least half of the students who bring this type of pistol to my CCW class are unable to activate or deactivate this switch with a proper master grip in place.

This is the Sig Sauer P238 Micro Compact.  I strongly warn novice and intermediate shooters away from this pistol – and micro pistols of this type – unless you have much better than average skills and you are willing to practice often.  This pistol retails above $700 and with the name “Sig” you expect quality.  The quality IS there but the functionality IS NOT.  The many people who have brought this pistol to class and had an exceptionally difficult time with it is one of the reasons we have banned the .380 and this type of pistol from our protector training courses.  You may still bring it to a CCW class, but not to an upper-level class.  Many women show up with this gun.  They quickly find that the slide is too short for them to lock it to the rear even using both hands (we have to show them how to overcome this, and most have continued difficulty with it), it must be carried “cocked and locked” which is NOT a suitable carry condition for novices – particularly in a purse or off-body carry mode, and too many find their hands, fingers, and body parts drifting in front of the muzzle which is absolutely not acceptable at anytime!  This pistol and those like it are a coaches’ nightmare with novices!  Watch this video of a student firing the Sig P238 in 9mm.  She is able to keep both hands on the grip (unlike the Kimber 45) but the trigger is uncertain, she is pulling low in anticipation of the snappy recoil, and the sights are so small she loses track of them between the first and second shots – watch the up/down and side-to-side muzzle wobble after the first shot:  Video: Sig P238 recoils.

colt mustang used by student in CCW1 by Todd Burke Tactical Training Specialties Hallsville Missouri at Green Valley Rifle & Pistol Club, subcompact and micro pistols are too small for use as a protectorAnother example of “too small.”  Here is another quliaty pistol in the subcompact or micro category.  This is the Colt Mustang chambered in .380 that I am holding in the palm of my hand.  Again, the cartridge is acceptable but the pistol is not.  The owner of this pistol came to my July CCW class after she and her husband recently suffered a burglary at their rural Missouri home.  They decided to ramp up their personal preparations to include firearms training. Ruby (not her real name) had never fired a pistol before but she was an open-minded and enthusiastic learner.  After our customary 30 minutes of dry technical work and pistol familiarization, we prepared for our first live drills.  Even during dry fire practice, Ruby had difficulty locking the slide to the rear without getting her hands on the front 50% of the slide and near the muzzle.  The slide safety was also a chore.  She overcame these issues but it continued to be a struggle.  Her first 20 shots from the Mustang were a foot high and a foot left on the IDPA target at 7 yards!  She wore bifocals so she was tipping her head back just to find the sights, and when she found the front sight it was almost impossible to see and align with the rear sight.  Look at the photo here – the rear sight is small, but the front sight is barely perceptible.  As a result, Ruby was taking 10 seconds or more to fire because finding and aligning her sights was so difficult.

Too many people are selecting, or are having selected for them (as in the case of a well-meaning husband for his wife), a pistol that is dangerously small and fraught with inherent problems for the user, such as:

  1. The pistol grip is too small for all fingers to participate in a true master grip;
  2. The grip and slide are too small, and the mainspring is too stiff, for the user to lock the slide open using the slide stop and keeping the muzzle in a safe direction (this is terribly frustrating for novice shooters and frightening to those adjacent them on the line!);
  3. If a master grip is established, the supporting hand’s fingers can be dangerously close to the muzzle. (During a 2-day pistol class in May 2018, we stopped a student who was found to have a blackened left knuckle on their index finger because their support hand grip placed that finger in front of, albeit below, the muzzle of the pistol, and the muzzle blast was marking their finger!)
  4. The mechanical functions such as the slide stop, the slide safety, a decocking lever, etc. are so small they cannot be utilized safely by most operators (a common response is the handler turns the muzzle in an inappropriate direction as they fight the pistol);
  5. Some pistols do not have a slide stop at all, so the only way to lock the pistol open for inspection or maintenance is to insert an empty magazine then lock the slide back.  (I strongly advise against this type of pistol, even if you inherited one);
  6. Loading, unloading, and reloading are difficult since the magazine well does not extend below the user’s grip, and the handler winds up using their thumb or curled index finger to push and seat the magazine instead of the palm-heel of their supporting hand driving it into battery forcefully. Many who try to seat the magazine by correctly driving it home with the palm-heel pinch their palm of the master grip between the bottom of the magazine well and the base plate of the magazine, and they get one heck of a blister or even draw blood.  This creates hesitation and fear and ruins some training days;
  7. As mentioned earlier, sights are too small which makes this pistol a “point and shoot” device rather than a precision tool. The effective range for this type of pistol in the hands of a novice is five to ten feet, not yards…FEET, and with minimal accuracy;
  8. The trigger mechanisms are poor! The travel of the trigger can be so long that the user pulls their sights off to the side and/or down before discharge, and this contributes to the accuracy problems.  Pressing a long-travel trigger changes their grip (“milking the grip”) and control of the firearm.  (The original Ruger LCP’s were notorious for this, the second generation triggers are better, but this subcompact pistol should not be the primary firearm for a protector!

So with all of these problems, why do people carry these things?  For this discussion, “pocket pistol” includes all .22, .25, .32, .380, and S&W J-frame sized .38 specials.  Note that the .380 and .38 Special rounds are respectable rounds from a ballistic self-defense approach.  The problem is the size or configuration of the launching devices they come from, the too-small pistols.

Well-meaning folks may not have the knowledge, experience, or context for making a proper selection considering what they may be zombie target as example for CCW1 Todd Burke Tactical Training Specialties Hallsville, MO Green Valley Rifle & Pistol clubusing it for.   They don’t understand how it needs to perform for them, and many don’t understand that a pistol is supposed to be fitted to a person, not the other way around.  A salesman or retailer may or may not be a credible resource.  “So, you want something small, light, and easy to carry…here you go…have a pocket rocket!  You don’t even need a holster, you can just drop this in your pants pocket!”  Some accept the feel-good response of having just acquired a gun, and they fail to fathom they have no experience performing with it under duress.  Most do not truly conceptualize what happens in an armed deadly force encounter nor do they know how to prepare for one.   Others do not understand the surgical precision and background awareness necessary in a public place nor are they practiced enough to pass the final exam when it comes.  They are simply content with a small, lightweight pistol they can put in their pocket or purse that they have been to the range with once or twice…and it seemed to work fine.  They can point-and-shoot at a 38″ by 44″ zombie silhouette and they figure “good enough.”   They have not yet been tested by reality-in-their-face which may be the panhandler imposter with a “homeless and hungry…God bless” sign or a junkie going from car to car in the parking lot of Wal Mart in broad daylight.  One of the most valid and safest learning experiences I can provide for you is standing next to you on the firing line and coaching you to “run your gun.”  For example: load and come to a ready position, (horn indicates fire rounds), continue to focus on your sights, reset your trigger, follow your threat to the ground, check right and left, communicate what is happening and instruct others to call 911, tell the attacker not to move, index your finger OFF the trigger, engage your safety, keep your gun up, keep your head up, (horn indicates fire MORE rounds), you are jerking the trigger in anticipation, slow down, breathe, index your finger OFF the trigger, scan your environment, you have a stoppage-fix it, look UP not down…  Quite simply, there is alot going on in a gunfight and you don’t want to preoccupied with minutia that occupies your right brain, and you don’t want to be fighting your gear!  Fight then enemy, not your equipment!  Part of learning these techniques involves more than just situational awareness, it involves learning to prioritize what is important NOW and what is important NEXT and to prepare for the arrival of the authorities and additional responders.

example of poor holster with no retention features Todd Burke Tactical Training Specialties inside the pants holster for micro pistolsThe Dangers of the Wrong Holster.  Most of us have seen the “alarming video of the FBI agent whose gun went off” on the dancefloor of a Denver nightclub.  This quote according to the talking head on Good Morning America. Lady, it did not “go off” or do anything by itself…the agent grabbed it, put his finger in the trigger guard, as he was rushing to regain control of it, he fired the pistol!  Watch the video here.  The agent does a handstand and then, oops, his service pistol falls out and hits the deck.  Then, in a horrible hurry, he grabs for the pistol putting his finger inside the trigger guard, presses it, and shoots another patron in the leg!  In a future issue we can talk about holsters, both on-the-belt and inside-the-pants, and the pros and cons of each.  Whatever the case, your holster must generously cover most of your pistol and it must cover and protect the entire trigger.  The envelope of the holster MUST NOT COLLAPSE or pancake on inself when you draw the pistol from it.  This is to ensure that you do not have to reach across your body with your other hand and use fingers to pry the collapsed holster open so the pistol can be replaced.  This generally leads to “flagging” one’s own hand in the process.  The holster must be form-fitted to the particular pistol you are carrying and either have at least one retention feature so that it does not accidentally fall out, even when you are inverted on the dance floor.  Many kydex (injection molded plastic” holsters and hybrids accomplish this with a friction fit or a molding that allows the pistol to “click” into place.  The example shown here may be of quality leather that is very comfortable, but it is a generic sized envelope, not form fitted to a particular model, and when the pistol is removed the leather will collapse flat.  I am a fan of Crossbreed Holsters from Ozark, MO.  They are a friendly, Christian company who love to help you get the right gear: link to Crossbreed Holsters.

Todd, You Offend Me!  Yes, I know.  (Notice that I did not apologize?  If you open your mind I might save your life!)  I am frequently approached by folks who tell me that they can drive their subcompact pistol such as their “micro” Sig P238, or “Baby Glock” 26 as well as a full-size pistol.  I say, “That is excellent, good for you, and keep up the good work!”  What I also see frequently are these folks who know how these pistols operate and can shoot excellent groups when they are standing still with no duress or time limits.  When the “tactical applications” for the pistol are added that require movement, problem-solving, clearing stoppages, and other movements common to prevailing in a gunfight, their experience changes.  It can be a humbling experience if your ego is in the way, but it is important to learn that a subcompact pistol should not be the primary firearm for a protector!  The same goes for holsters.  A gentleman called in advance of a training class to argue with me about my statement in the pre-course materials regarding Fobus or Springfield XD Pistol Pak holsters (and any like them with rivets holding two holster-halves together) being strongly discouraged because the rivets fail and then the pistol falls on the ground.  He said in all his years on the range he had never seen anything like this.  I replied that in all MY YEARS on the range I had seen this happen several times and that was the reason I was warning people in advance!

Different Applications.  There are different approaches or reasons people carry.  One is the person who is carrying primarily to protect themselves and they want a gun to stop someone at bad-breath distance.  Sights are not even used; they only point-and-shoot.  You must understand the limitations of your tiny pocket pistol and accept those risks in exchange for the lighter weight and easier carry.  It is your right and choice.  But another person chooses to be a sheepdog or protector, a person who accepts the responsibility to be vigilant and watch over the flock and does so in a formal or official capacity.  This is the person who, like the police officer, should not settle for anything less than a quality, name-branded firearm capable of surgical precision at 25 yards, and that pistol must fill your hands so it can be deployed and operated like the life-saving tool that it is.  A full size or modestly trimmed compact pistol allows you a better opportunity to successfully:

  • Maintain a master grip with sweaty or bloody hands;
  • Correct stoppages or malfunctions with the a) tap-rack or b) lock-strip-work-reload sequence;
  • Use the gun like a hammer to the head, face, neck, chest, or joints in CQB or when firing a round is not yet appropriate or you are under physical attack and have to resolve that problem first (distract, off-balance, redirect, stun, create space, etc.);
  • Draw from and recover to the holster with one hand without looking, without your holster collapsing closed, and without your flagging yourself with your own muzzle;
  • Change hands to correctly address corners and “other side” tactical problems;
  • Work with a flashlight in low light.

A protector should be able to do the following things with their service pistol, and a good practice target is a 10-inch paper dinner plate.  All fired rounds must strike the paper plate.  Fixed distance of 21 feet and 50 rounds total.  5 points possible per shot, a perfect score is 250.  80% (200) is considered an acceptable score for a citizen carrying a pistol.  90% (225) is considered the minimum score for anyone acting as a protector.

  1. With the pistol in your hands in a rest-ready, two-handed position, fire three rounds in 3 seconds.  This should be done with the right hand supported and then the left hand supported.  (Repeat both sides once for a total of 12 rounds.)
  2. With the pistol in your right hand only, fire three rounds in 4 seconds.  Change hands and perform the same drill with the left hand only.  (Repeat both sides once for a total of 12 rounds.)
  3. With the pistol in your hands in a forward-ready, two-handed position, fire three rounds standing followed by three rounds kneeling from the right side in 6 seconds.  Switch and do this on the left side.  (12 rounds total.)
  4. With the pistol in your hands in a forward-ready, two-handed position, fire three rounds, perform an emergency reload (drop magazine on ground), and fire 3 more rounds in 8 seconds.  Switch and do this on the left side.  (12 rounds total)  [Safety Note: reloading on your “other side” is a drill that should be extensively practiced dry before doing it live.  Novices can drift their trigger finger into the trigger guard when reaching for the magazine release button causing an unauthorized discharge.  Novices may switch back to their dominant hand for the reload if they wish.]
  5. Beginning with the pistol drawn and in position SUL, execute a pivot (180-degree turn) and face the target.  Fire 2 rounds to the head-sized target.  A miss is -5 points per for each “head shot” missed after the plate is scored.

Note: practice these skills from the ready position first, and before you work from the holster.  Remember that caution and skill must prevail in all drills, particularly those when you begin working from, and recovering to, the holster.  Muzzle awareness and finger discipline are paramount.  Start slowly and work on your form and motor skills.  Don’t worry about times initially.  When you are smooth and competent with the above 4 drills, work from your holster in a concealed position and add 2 seconds to each stage.  Don’t become over-excited or rush your draw, and do not put your finger on the trigger until you have aligned your sights on the plate and have made the decision to fire.  Rushing and becoming over-excited are the times when dangerous errors are made and people get hurt.

Training?  One of the fallacies that reinforces a false belief that a person has the right tool for the job is their practice and training regimen – if they have one!  In the past six months we have had students arrive for a class and take their pistol out of the factory carton for the first time.  Other than in the gun store, this was the first time they had ever held this pistol and they have not yet fired it.  The pistol had not been fitted for their hand and they were unfamiliar with what the controls were or how they worked.  And this was not happening in our basic CCW classes, this has happened in our more advanced protector’s courses.  So how about you?  When was the last time you made 5 minutes to even handle your pistol?  Even if you don’t shoot, you must handle your gear every day!

Some Can, but Most Cannot!  There are some who are quite proficient with small pistols and who can perform the tasks and standards listed above.  However, it is my experience that those folks are the minority and they have made a great effort to train often.  It is also my experience that many people who are excellent marksmen or target/bullseye shooters have no experience at all performing with their pistol while under duress, while short of breath, with bloody or slippery hands, or in a chaotic environment when they must process information and make critical decisions.  To be a valid and credible protector, you must:

  1. Be of a mindset and constitution able to control yourself while under duress;
  2. Possess a level of fitness that makes you more of an asset than a liability;
  3. Possess a quality and properly-sized pistol and be able to demonstrate a level of proficiency with it;
  4. Purchase quality gear (holster, mag pouches, high intensity LED flashlight, CAT tourniquet);
  5. Participate in a professionally-led training program that puts you and your pistol/gear through the paces and standards;
  6. Practice, handle, work their firearm every single day! (You may not live fire every day, but you had better handle, unload, holster and draw, simulate clearing stoppages, etc. EVERY DAY to develop and maintain critical subconscious motor skills that are perishable!)

It’s simply a fact that most folks have not had to face the specter of mortal combat.  Having prevailed in an actual gunfight, or even participating in force-on-force training in a professionally-led session is not in most people’s life experiences.  However, it is easy to safely induce duress by running 50 yards up to the firing line and then shooting or putting some vegetable oil on your hands to make your hands slippery.  Caution: do this with a training partner and in a very controlled environment.  If you drop a firearm on a public range you will likely be asked to leave!

I am encouraged by the increasing number of people who are clinging to their firearms and their bibles.  Difficult and uncertain times punctuated by evil acts have pushed more good people to stand up, train, and prepare.  With clear minds, cool heads, and proper planning and training we can manage this.  “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” (Psalms 144:1)  I hope our discussion here has helped you to understand that a subcompact pistol should not be the primary firearm for a protector!

[i] https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-parable.html

What Does “Certified” Really Mean?

by Bill Stephens

A frequent question arises about certification.  With the possible exception of a unique person who just wants education or training for the joy of learning something new or to get better at something, the most frequently asked question by a person attending an educational or training course is, “Do I get a certification for this training?”  Or, he or she will ask the same question in this format – “Is this course certified?”  A trainer or educator has heard these questions often.  They could be generated by a well-intentioned individual, or they might have been prompted by some manager in the trainee’s agency.  A lot of the time the person asking the question (or whoever prompted the question) does not know what is being asked or what the question means.  It isn’t a difficult issue to discuss, but it does take some thought to understand it.  So, let’s talk about it.

Todd Burke Tactical EMS School Camp Ripley Minnesota firearms familiarizationLet’s start with a dictionary entry overview [AudioEnglish.org.].  What does certification mean?  Certified, used as an adjective, has four (4) senses or meanings:  (1) Endorsed authoritatively as having met certain requirements; (2) Having quality of payment or delivery guaranteed; (3) Fit to be certified as insane (and treated accordingly); and (4) Holding appropriate documentation and officially on record as qualified to perform a specified function or practice a specified skill.

Meaning #1:  Endorsed authoritatively as having met certain requirements.  An example would be a certified law enforcement officer, a certified public accountant, or a certified paramedic, etc.  Similar terms include: certifiable (meaning capable of being guaranteed or certified); or certificated, credentialed, or documented (meaning documented from “some” official source).  The antonym would be uncertified (meaning lacking the requisite official documentation or endorsement).

Meaning #2:  Having (possessing) quality or payment or delivery guaranteed.  Examples would include things like certified milk, a certified check, or certified mail.  A similar term would include “secure” (to be free from danger or risk).

Meaning #3:  Fit to be certified as insane (and treated accordingly).  Synonyms include certifiable and certified or insane – not the question usually being asked in this situation.

Meaning #4:  Holding appropriate documentation and officially on record as qualified to perform a specified function or practice a specified skill.  Synonyms include qualified or registered.  If you’re registered you are officially listed or recorded somewhere.  In most discussions about certification, we are talking about meanings 1 and 4.

Certification provides an independent verification of a certain level of expertise or proficiency in a particular area.  Basically, it means you have completed the steps “required” to receive some specific designation.  But this simplistic definition has a built-in weakness in some organizations or areas – in some cases, individuals can become “certified” merely by paying some membership fee or by attending some “pre-blest” seminar or training course.  These “entitled” courses could offer good, quality programs or they could be a complete waste of your time and money.

Certifications that really mean something are about learning (behavior change) that demonstrates to you (or others) that you are (indeed) more knowledgeable and more capable after the training than you were before the training.  And, it means that whoever provided the educational program or training will stand behind the training (and you) should that be necessary.

If you work in a profession (and there are thousands of them) that requires its members to receive “certified” training as an educational requirement, each year or within some specified time,  then that profession will provide you with the exact criteria to get and/or (likely) where they want you to get it.  But, if you are attending training for your own personal benefit and want to spend your money and time wisely, then you should do your homework.

Ask questions and do your research before you enroll.  Ask – who are the instructors and what are their credentials?  What is their track record in the area they will be instructing?  What is in the curriculum I’ll be taking?  Is it determined by the program developer or instructors (or) is it determined by some outside private or governmental agency?  What equipment will I need to perform successfully?  How physically or mentally intense will it be?  Tell the point-of-contact about any conditions, illnesses, or disabilities you have and ask (up front) if this would make it difficult (or impossible) for you to successfully complete the training or course.  If there is a minimum performance standard to get “certified” or to meet a “successful standard” you want to know what that standard is.  Even if there is a certification standard maybe you’d want to take the training anyway for the benefit of learning new knowledge or skills, even if you don’t expect to meet the minimal requirements (learning for the sake of learning instead of acquiring another piece of paper).

And, finally, whether some agency is giving some “official blessing” to the training, or it’s a private person providing the training, what’s really important is what they will do for you after the sale.  Will the program provider be there for you afterward to answer your questions, to give you additional training, and to support you if something occurs that could cause you to answer to your agency, organization, or even the legal system?  Will the provider be there after he, she, or they have taken your money?

There is nothing wrong in asking an educational or training provider if the course is certified or if you will be certified having taken the course.  But to be fair to yourself and to the provider you need to understand what you’re asking and why you’re asking it.  Will you be satisfied just to pay a fee to become certified, even if the training is not good?  Will you attend outstanding training and improve your current skills (or learn new ones) even if the course doesn’t offer a “certification?”  The choice is often yours, but you won’t know either way if you don’t do your homework.

Good Luck!  Good Training!  Stay Safe!

Historical Perspective

by Dale Roberts

Will America Survive? Gettysburg July 1–3, 1863

As I write this column for Todd’s newsletter, I can’t help but notice today’s date:” July 1st.
– The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in US history and often described as the war’s turning point.
– On November 19, President Lincoln went to the battlefield to dedicate it as a military cemetery. As we sit here, in 2018, with a Nation divided over so many issues, Lincoln’s words from 1863 are still pertinent today:
– “… our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
– What can you do? Well, elections have consequences. Get involved in the process, donate money, donate a few hours of your time, put up a yard sign, and get out and vote! Do what you can to support the candidate that believes in your vision for our republic. Elections are won by those who participate. And, the winner will write our laws, and decide our court cases.

June 26th – Another date we should never forget!  This past week I took notice of the date: June 26th. On that date, exactly 10 years ago, the US Supreme Court issued its decision in the case District of Columbia v Dick Anthony Heller. This was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment is an “individual” right! (And, basically, has nothing to do with the militia.) The case was argued and won by a good friend of Todd’s and mine, DC Attorney Alan Gura. Alan was only 35 when he won this case and it was his first time before the Supreme Court. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about the case entitled “How a Young Lawyer Saved the Second Amendment.”Alan Gura and Dale Roberts second amendment Todd Burke Tactical Training Specialties Heller vs. DC case 2008

Immediately after winning the Heller case Alan Gura filed a petition in Otis McDonald v Chicago. That case also went to the US Supreme Court and, again, Alan won a tremendous victory for the Second Amendment. In a nutshell, the McDonald case made it so the Heller decision was mandatory/binding law in all 50 states. “But wait” as they say in the Ginsu knife commercial “that’s not all!”

Thereafter, Alan Gura filed a case in Illinois now known as Moore v Madigan. This was the case where the court decided Illinois must allow its citizens the right to conceal carry. With that victory, Alan had won the right to carry in the last holdout state, and conceal carry was now lawful in all 50 states!

These were each remarkable victories, funded by the Second Amendment Foundation (not the NRA!) and won by Alan Gura. But, there is more to the story than just the rights Alan won for us before the US Supreme Court and elsewhere.

As a result of the Heller decision, the law students are now being taught about the Second Amendment. This is huge. When I was in law school the Second Amendment was never even mentioned! It is now taught in the students’ course on Constitutional Law, but in some school such as the University of Missouri School of Law, they actually have a separate course on Firearms Law. In addition, there are now questions on the Second Amendment on the Bar Exam. Every new lawyer must now learn about the Second Amendment and it is all because of Alan Gura’s stunning victory in the Heller case!

So yes, I celebrate June 26th and my own Second Amendment Holiday. It is “Alan Gura Day!”

Alan Gura and Todd Burke's sheepdogs Second Amendment

Todd and the Coaches with Alan Gura after our Dinner at the Holiday Inn several years ago.  After a long day of presenting, Alan took the time to give us a personal course and update with the goings-on up to that time.

Coming Soon!

CCW2: Principles of Personal Defense

Saturday, July 14th, 0800-1600, $175


practical pistol skills at hallsville baptist church on january 20, 2018 all handling and no live fire

This dynamic and skill-oriented class addresses the realities of combat and the skills necessary to effectively fight and defend yourself with a firearm. We use a building-block approach to ensure that participants learn safe, proven, and tactically sound methods of handling and manipulating their firearm, and they are comfortable with how their firearm operates. We ensure that this occurs through repetitive drilling with constant positive and constructive feedback.

Tactical Rifle Camp 2018

Friday & Saturday, November 2nd and 3rd , 0800-1600, $350


This two‐day camp will help you build skills, tactics, and the ability to communicate and problem solve under duress. This is not a beginner’s course. You should be able to safely manage your equipment in a controlled manner while on the firing line with others and you must have a conscientious command of safety skills. This training involves moderate physical activity so participants should be in good cardiovascular health. Drills include walking forward, backward, and laterally with a firearm indexed in the “up” position for short periods of time. Participants with orthopedic issues will not be required to kneel. Operators will benefit from our excellent coach‐to‐student ratio and a wide array of skills, drills and scenarios geared for real‐world.

CCW3: Prevailing In Low Light

Saturday, October 20th, 1300-2200, $175


CCW3: Prevailing In Low Light Todd Burke Tactical Specialties live fire with flashlights Hallsville Missouri

This is not a beginner’s course.  CCW2 is a prerequisite. We will address the realities of combat and how to fight with a firearm in the low light environment where, according to the U.S. Justice Department, most gunfights occur.  We begin in the early afternoon and work well into the evening to take advantage of the natural low light environment. Since the majority of firearms encounters occur in the low light environment we will prepare for, and drill in, that arena! This is dynamic and skill intensive evening of training!  Click here for a 50 second clip from our 2017 class: Low Light Live Fire

CCW1: Carrying a Concealable Firearm

August 3/4, September 1, October 6, December 1, 0800-1600, $100


Not only will this program qualify you to obtain your endorsement for carrying a concealed firearm according to Missouri State Statute, it is the “starting blocks” for anyone who is looking for a basic firearms safety class or the person who wants to learn or refresh skills with the fundamentals of marksmanship.  This is the perfect class for novices wanting to learn about handguns even if you do not plan to pursue obtaining your CCW permit.

This is a quality-driven course that will absolutely exceed your expectations!  While the State of Missouri only requires participants in a CCW class to fire 40 rounds, we maintain our 100 round requirement.  You will learn-by-doing in at least six separate exercises that connect the fundamentals of marksmanship with basic tactical principles.  This class is particularly applicable for folks who have not purchased a pistol yet; we will teach you the dry fire drills that will help you select the right firearm for you!

Folks We Trust and Do Business With…and You Should Too!

ADVERTISING – THIS IS HOW WE ROLL…Many have asked how much it costs to advertise in The Shooting Times.    The answer is ZERO.  I don’t currently accept paid advertising.  The folks you see in our newsletter are people I know and trust and do business with myself.  They share the good word about me and I do the same for them.  Same kind of barter thing that helped get our country going.  Still works today.  So when you see an ad, a business card, or a referral in The Shooting Times, they didn’t pay for it…they earned it!  Thanks everyone!

Custom Hearing Protection

What Ya Say custom molded hearing protection by Cathy Ergovich preferred by Todd Burke tactical training specialties and Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club

Columbia’s Indoor Firing Range

Target Masters columbia missouri preferred indoor range by todd burke tactical training specialties

A Columbia Tradition

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Carhartt, Liberty, YETI, Luminox, Surefire and more!

500 East Broadway, Columbia, MO 573-443-2565

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Columbia’s Indoor Archery Range

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We Would Love to Hear from You!

Take a minute to respond to what you have read, learned, agree or disagree with.  At the bottom there is a “leave a comment” section that is easy to use.  The authors, staff, and coaches who offer our training and education services value constructive feedback.  We invite you to share your thoughts with us!

Comments From Our Graduates

Most folks fill out an evaluation about their experience training with us at the end of the program.  However, on occasion, someone will send a separate note or e-mail afterward when they have had a few days to think about their experience.  And an “experience” can a very powerful thing!  It is important to us that you have a positive learning experience and in only 8 hours on the training ground, with your positive mindset and willingness to learn, you can have a life-changing experience!  Here is what two of our recent graduates have to say.


I wanted to send an email to you concerning the concealed carry class I took part in yesterday.  I know we wrote reviews, but I was so cold you might not have been able to read it.

You did a super job on the classroom part.  I really gained a lot of knowledge and have a greater appreciation for law enforcement officials.  Also, you spoke about why a class like this is important and it is up to the individual to see how much they want to be engaged in conceal carry.  Some might want to carry all the time.  Some might choose to carry only at certain times.  And some might want to just keep and know their firearms at home and how to be safe with them and how to get the most out of them.  Thank you.

Also, the gun instruction on the range was terrific.  I learned so much there and saw a lot of improvement on my marksmanship from what I do [when I go to the range].  Although, later in the day I was shivering so much it was hard to hold steady!

My wife has conceal and carry, and now I do too.  We feel good about that.  We want to be responsible and safe gun owners and operators.

My only suggestion would be to spend a little time on gun maintenance.  It would have been nice to see how to clean a gun, how often to do it, and basically how to take care of it.  That might be a nice addition to the training.

Again, thanks a lot.  My life has changed, and for the better.  I found what I learned to be empowering.


Todd J.

Good morning Todd,

I just got your follow up email for Rifle Camp, and I just wanted to say thank you again for providing these classes. Your instruction is excellent & trustworthy and your experience invaluable. In the two classes that I have been a part of so far, I have observed that you have the ability to bring some of the best coaching staff together from the military, law enforcement and civilian realms. From my perspective, this is just as critical to the success of your classes as your own instruction and curriculum. These guys know what they are doing, create an excellent student to instructor ratio, and keep the range safe. As a bonus, I got to meet many more like-minded folks.

The class really hit home this week for obvious reasons. The shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, as well as several in the more distant past, serve to underscore that being armed is important. Like I said in class, I have carried a pistol nearly every day since your CCW1 class a couple years ago. Since that is what I will likely have on me, it will have to do the job in most cases. However, after this escalation of premeditated violence, having a rifle handy at all times is now a priority for me. While I went into your class with the understanding that the AR platform was not as familiar to me as my hunting rifle, I was quite surprised at how much I didn’t know. I have been working to make permanent the skills that I acquired in your Rifle Camp, and I look forward to reviewing the After Action and Student Manual that you have provided. I think that this is a class that I could take again, and I certainly wish to attend some of your other classes in the future. I am constantly pleading with my wife to take your CCW1, so that she is educated and confident to carry her G43. It is my hope that we can take the more advanced pistol classes together.

Thanks for providing a fantastic class and thank you for your Sheepdog mentality. Thank the other coaches again for me too.

Very best,

Daniel M.

Parting Shots