Interview With A Madman: Louis Awerbuck

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics, and Training' started by Fred Fuller, Apr 4, 2009.

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  1. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC
    This has been around for a while, at least three years or so. It's been mentioned here on S&T in at least one other thread, as the search feature demonstrates, but I didn't find the full interview posted. I think it's worth reading, even though it isn't exactly 'new news.'

    Comments are welcome, mine will follow eventually, though I have to admit in advance they will be biased, as I am a definite fan...


    Jeff Cooper once told me that he considers Awerbuck one of the top half-dozen firearms instructors in the world.
    Cooper helped Awerbuck immigrate to the U.S. from his native South Africa 25 years ago, and he has been instructing high-level firearms classes full-time ever since. Awerbuck teaches at major firearms training centers around the country under the auspices of his own Yavapai Firearms Academy.

    After spending a recent week watching Awerbuck work during a defensive pistol class at Gunsite, I wanted to get him off the range for a few hours and ask him some questions. We met for dinner a few miles from Gunsite at the Little Thumb Butte Bed & Breakfast, a favorite retreat for Gunsite students, where owner/hostess Ann Harrington served us a wonderful home-cooked meal on a private balcony overlooking endless juniper-dotted hills with a river running through them.

    Among his other personality attributes, Awerbuck is a very humble guy. If there is a gulf between the way he thinks and the behavior and attitude of society in general, Awerbuck is willing to admit that maybe he’s the one that’s crazy. From what I’ve seen, however, it’s clearly the other way around.

    I asked him what the toughest thing was about teaching people to shoot.

    “For beginners, probably realizing it’s easier than they think it is. They tend to overthink the problem. For experienced people, trying to correct ingrained habits they’ve had for years. That’s much harder.”

    Q: A lot of guys can teach the mechanics of shooting, which is fairly simple, don’t you think?

    A: It is extremely simple. It’s sights, trigger, follow-through. That’s all it is, that’s all it ever has been. Once the firing grip, the stance, the shooting platform and that type of thing are worked out. The actual operation of sending a projectile downrange on a steady target is sights, trigger, follow-through. Most people try to shoot too accurately and overthink the problem. They try for 103 percent and wind up with 40 percent. My draw to the game is the psychology of it, the whys and wherefores. It always has been.

    Q: I just read your book, Tactical Reality (Paladin Press 1999), and you talk a lot about that. I especially liked your chapters dealing with heart and mind. That’s a pretty deep subject.

    A: It’s real deep for a young kid. But none of this is new. This stuff is 5,000 years old. It’s the same mindset as the Samurai, the Ninja, Genghis Kahn, the Romans, the Greeks, the Spanish, you can just keep on going back through the ages. It was always the same thing.

    Q: Why do some people not get it?

    A: Some of the people who don’t get it are highly professional, skilled people -– like a commercial pilot, a neurosurgeon, somebody who cannot afford to make the slightest slip in his normal occupation, so he overthinks every single thing when he’s firing a weapon. They’ll “what if” things to death. Other people who don’t get it are not really fighting-oriented. From what I’ve seen, I think it’s a societal thing. Let’s face it, in North America you can pretty much buy anything you want. So people tend to think that if you pay a certain amount of money to be taught how to do something with a firearm, the net result at the end of the day is that you will be able to do it. It’s like paying to have your brakes fixed, or paying for an appendectomy. They’re paying for a service and they expect it to be done. They don’t figure they need any ability themselves or that they’re going to have to put some of themselves into it.

    Q: What do the non-warriors do when they get in trouble?

    A: They will probably have their pistol taken away, because really and truly deep down inside they are not prepared to take life even in defense of their own. So they’ll probably have their pistol taken away, get shot with their own pistol, and then the crook will leave with their pistol and shoot another person with it.

    Q: A lot of instructors have told me that their toughest problem is that something like eighty percent of people are not capable of shooting somebody.

    A: Not looking into their faces, looking into their eyes from six feet away and doing it. A lot of people will go out and shoot Bambi in the Coconino Forest and not think twice about it but couldn’t bring themselves to do it to a human, who just happens to be an animal walking on his back legs.

    Q: Do you see any parallels between defensive pistol shooting and dangerous-game hunting?

    A: Sure, as far as the adrenal dump, the chemical cocktail. Bambi is just pipes, wires, meat, bone, gristle, blood, the same as the rapist in the back alley.

    Q: But I’m talking about dangerous game. The hunter is not afraid of Bambi.

    A: If I’m afraid of you, in fear of my life, I need to do something about it. But we’ve grown up in a society where other people protect us. We expect to make a phone call and somebody will be there. It’s like pulling the blanket over your head to protect yourself from the bogey man.

    Q: That reminds me of the story about a cop who draws his gun and empties it into the floor so the bad guy won’t take it away from him. What’s going on there?

    A: If you’re talking of the same real-life incident I’m thinking of, that was a gunfight from hell. The cop and his partner went to serve a summons, and this guy had had a problem with his wife the night before or got out of bed on the wrong side or something, and as soon as the two cops walked in he grabbed the woman officer’s gun and killed her with it, right off the bat. So then this gunfight from hell ensued. The officer wound up with two guns, both revolvers. And he drained one into the floor of the house so this guy couldn’t take it and use it on him while he was trying to reload the other one. He reloaded twice, in one room, in a gunfight, it went on for nearly two minutes. He shot the guy through the ribcage, contact work. The guy dropped and then he got up when the officer turned around. The guy got up and hit the cop with a two-by-four.

    If it’s the same incident, it wasn’t a case of buck fever. The thing is, in a gunfight you don’t know what you’ve done afterwards, retrospectively. You think you know what you’ve done, and you’ll backtrack everything to the premise to which you want to backtrack it.

    It’s like if you advocate what’s colloquially called point shooting and you tag somebody -– you’re in a deadly force situation and you fire one round and hit him right between the eyes at thirty feet -– you are going to convince yourself that you point-shot that round. You may have used sighted fire. You don’t know.

    Colonel David Hackworth had a real good expression to the effect that your perception in battle is only as wide as your battle sights. If you take five people involved in one incident and separate them straight after the incident, you’ll get five different stories of what happened. We have no perception of what’s happening when it’s happening.

    I’ve seen a guy with a bolt rifle drain four rounds out of it, just running the bolt never pressing the trigger, not understanding why the springbok didn’t fall over. There are people with a semiautomatic in a fight who never press the trigger, run the slide, never press the trigger, run the slide and jack out eight or fourteen live rounds on the floor. It’s called buck fever. That fascinates me, it’s the psychology, it’s all mental.

    I’m not God’s gift to shooting, but what does it take to hit a target? A static range target. Sights, trigger, follow-through. So why does somebody go out there and shoot ten rounds and miss after forty years and Lord knows how many millions of rounds? Something goes askew in your head, you just do something stupid like yank on the trigger or don’t follow through with the sights.

    There is nothing to taking a neophyte and teaching him how to shoot. The best-shooting pistol class you will ever see is a dozen fourteen-year-old females who have never touched a pistol. Are they gunfighters? I don’t know, but as far as mechanical shooting goes you can’t ask for anything more. A class of fourteen-year-old females will turn out amazing pistol shooters. They don’t have an ego, they haven’t got the prior mistakes, so they don’t know how to miss.

    Q: Shooting under pressure -– training or competition –- is as close as we can get to real life. Why does that pressure clarify and speed up the minds of some people but scramble the brains of others?

    A: Everybody has a button. The bottom line is, you cannot put pressure on me if I don’t allow you to do it. If I want to subjugate myself mentally to allow you to do something to me on a range that will affect the basic mechanical operation of what I always do, then I’m going to scramble my brain. If you give me a drill, the drill sinks in and I understand what the drill is and I churn it out, that’s what Gunnie Hathcock called “getting in the bubble.”

    Jeff [Cooper]’s “Flying M” (a man-on-man shootoff drill) is still being used today. I don’t know when he first used it, but I’ve been with him twenty-five years so I know it’s been around a quarter century. Every Friday afternoon in a 250 class at Gunsite, you have one so-called winner, who’s usually pretty good, and the rest are “also-rans.” But you don’t really have a winner, you have people who beat themselves over and over. The winner of the Flying M is hardly ever somebody who was better than three-quarters of the class, he just kept his feces coagulated, that’s all he did. It’s a three-round draw, bang, bang, speed load, bang, that’s all it is. It’s something ninety-five percent of the people in the class are capable of doing Wednesday afternoon. But at the end of the class, there’s a needle in the head. It’s all a mind deal.

    Everybody keeps saying the gun is just a tool. The bottom line is, the gun is just a tool. It’s a piece of metal. How many times are you going to let a two-pound piece of metal and plastic outwit you? We’re not talking about flying a Tomcat here, this is not brain surgery. But it is psychology.

    Q: Do you still get a kick out of instructing?

    A: Absolutely. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. If I’d wanted to make money in my life, I would have done something else. Because you can’t do this job right and make a fortune out of it. If you make money your priority, or ego your priority, you’ve got a problem. And there’s lot of that, it’s become rampant in this game in the last ten years.

    Q: Why the last ten years especially?

    A: I have a theory, it’s a personal theory. It’s probably wrong. Once concealed carry came out, pretty much anybody could teach it. You’re teaching it out of a book, it’s primarily law. You go to Gunsite or Thunder Ranch or Blackwater or any of the big-name schools, you take a class as a student and all of a sudden you open your own school and you’re a firearms instructor.

    To decide that you know everything about firearms and tactics is about the most pompous thing you can do. A doctor’s got to go to university, an auto mechanic is going to be out of work if he doesn’t get updated training on all this technology in cars today. A weapons instructor just says, Hi, I’m a weapons instructor and I know all about guns and training and tactics and strategy. You look at instructor resumes, and they’ve taken all the classes, but what have they done? They’ve taken everybody else’s lesson plans and put them into a program of their own and they’re teaching it like a parrot.

    Q: There’s definitely a proliferation of so-called firearms academies, some of them run by IPSC guys who win a couple of titles and open a school.

    A: IPSC guys are very good shooters. Obviously, IPSC has changed from the early days, from what Jeanne-Pierre Denis and Jeff [Cooper] and the original guys set out to make it. The P was meant to stand for practical. The arguments went on in the 80s and very early 90s about whether it’s practical or it isn’t. Finally, IPSC got to a stage in the early 90s where they said, No, we’re not being practical, it’s a sport. But the bottom line is, if you get somebody like Rob Leatham, Jerry Barnhard, guys like that, they’re tremendous mechanical shooters. And if they open a school and teach mechanical shooting, which a lot of them do, I think there’s nothing wrong with that.
  2. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC
    Part II

    Q: But is mechanical shooting what is needed by most people who get their concealed carry permits and want to protect themselves?

    A: How many people who get concealed carry permits do you think are serious about it? How many do you think want to punch a piece of paper so they can legally have a firearm if one day they might need it. Most people buy a gun, take a concealed carry class, buy a box of fifty rounds of ammunition, and the firearm and fifty rounds of ammunition are found in their estate thirty years later. In a drawer somewhere.

    Q: Those people need to initiate a thought process more than they need to learn how to shoot well.

    A: I pulled a pendulum clock apart once, stripped the entire thing down and couldn’t get it back together again. Don’t you think that a clockmaker would have said, Why is this guy pulling this clock apart? Like we’re saying, Why is this guy carrying a gun, why isn’t he serious, why didn’t he go through a thought process? With us it’s firearms strategy and tactics, with somebody else it’s a clock.

    The only difference is, survival is instinctual. It’s not a learned habit. And these days –- I’d say since the early 90s in North American and now it’s starting to spread worldwide -– something strange is happening. Look at a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old kid today, he was raised in a world of political correctness, not hitting back, turn the other cheek, he’s lost his self-protective instinct. Look at 9-11. People said, This is terrible, somebody’s bombed these buildings, this is absolutely horrific, somebody needs to do something about it. Who somebody? I don’t know because I can’t do it, I’m busy right now. Self-preservation is being bred out of us. It’s cyclical. Every hundred, two hundred years it happens. Today, if somebody has a power failure for an hour you’ll get stampeded to death at Safeway for a run on candles. You can’t last an hour in the dark in your own house.

    War has always been the solution. War has always solved all the problems. You reduce the number of mouths to feed. Everybody’s got a job. Instincts are reinvigorated. That’s why there’s continuous war. When man lit the first fire and figured out how flame works, he said, Now who can we go burn?

    And the world is getting smaller, no question, because of technology. At an amazing pace. We’re losing the ability to think. Do we need the ability to think? Right now yes, but we may not need the ability to think in forty years time. Once technology is perfected, you may not have to think for yourself. If you’re in a car that drives itself to work on a GPS and your grandkids are going to the moon for a weekend vacation ...

    Q: So why do a growing number of people still think they need to learn to shoot?

    A: Because the gun still represents the equality of power. Whether it’s a little old lady from Pasadena or a muscle man, with a gun they can deliver equal power from a distance, whether six feet or sixty yards. Some people are realizing the glory days are gone. The world is pretty much hell-bent for destruction, because we’re in for a worldwide religious war from hell, this is going to make the other world wars look like Sunday picnics. Right now you have laws, you can’t carry a gun here, you can’t do this there, you can’t spit on the sidewalk, these may be fine in a peaceful society. But when you’ve got a society that’s gone mad, worldwide, the law of the jungle supercedes all other laws.

    Q: Is pop culture and the mass media leading this or following it?

    A: I think it’s self-feeding. When I first came out here there were all the standing jokes about the National Enquirer. You know, I don’t buy it, I don’t read it, but the national media is pretty much the same as the National Enquirer now. The media is a lot to blame, but if people are going to blame the media and it’s self-feeding and you’re going to buy this to read it, of course they’re going to give you what you want. If there’s no market, there’s no seller. It’s like drugs. You can bomb Colombia till it’s a parking lot, but if you don’t stop the person in Phoenix, Arizona from snorting the stuff up his nose there will be a market. Somebody will make the stuff. If the person in Phoenix, Arizona doesn’t snort the stuff up his nose there is no market, there is no point in manufacturing it because you can’t sell it to anybody because nobody wants it. It’s as plain and simple as that.

    Q: You wouldn’t think this country would have got so soft so quickly, would you?

    A: You would and you wouldn’t. Something like 9-11, yeah it’s a tragedy, but it’s not like this is the first time something like this has ever happened in the history of the world. People over here wonder why somebody sitting in South Africa or Germany may ask, Well, what have we been saying for thirty years? What are you getting so excited about? It’s a tragedy, absolutely it’s a tragedy, but all of a sudden now it’s a worldwide problem. It’s been a worldwide problem for thirty or forty years. Everybody’s been telling us that, but it’s been so warm and cozy here. Now we say we’ve got to do something about this, we need to call somebody.
    I have a buddy in California whose daughter’s boyfriend just got suspended from school. In California it’s a big deal to get suspended from school. With all their political correctness, you’ve just about got to murder somebody. This kid is a really good kid. By today’s standards, it’s almost bizarre what a good kid he is. The reason he was suspended is because he grabbed another kid by the shoulder and told him to cut it out because that kid was walking around the school grabbing girls’ boobs from behind. So, for doing what clearly needed to be done, he was suspended.

    I love dogs, but if one comes here and he’s jumping at me with all his teeth showing and white foam around his mouth, he hasn’t just been brushing his teeth with Crest. He’s rabid. As much as I love dogs, I’m going to have to kill him. The problem is people standing there saying, Maybe he’s just a clever dog who can brush his own teeth and forgot to rinse his mouth. And then they’ll start discussing fifteen brands of toothpaste. They just miss the point entirely.

    Q: You’re the only guy I know who carries both a 1911 and a Glock.

    A: I’ve got my reasons. I don’t want extraneous levers and things on my back-up weapon (a Glock 19). I won’t call it a back-up, it’s an alternate weapon because you may not be able to get to the primary. Using different weapons is just mindset. The minute it hits your hand you start thinking longer trigger pull, shorter trigger pull, double action, not double action, whatever. I used to run a .44 Special revolver and when the Glock came out I figured eleven rounds of 9mm in an easier-to-shoot weapon of the same size is a good trade-off for five rounds of .44 Special.

    I firmly believe a .45 is better than a .44½, and I think a Tomcat fighter is better than a shotgun. Unfortunately, I can’t get a Tomcat or a shotgun in a holster, so rule number one is to hit your target. It does no good to miss the target, but people are missing. The 9mm has been out for a hundred years, the .45’s been out for a hundred and fifty years if you include the British Webleys. They’ve always got the job done.

    The sorry truth is, my brother got killed with one round from a .32 S&W revolver. Stone dead. It hit him in the head and he’s dead. No matter what you carry, your primary objective is hitting the target. You cannot turn a handgun into a big-game rifle, I don’t care what you do to it. And if you did, it would be unmanageable in a gunfight. So people are not hitting the target, and it comes back to training.

    I’ve got a problem with flat, non-representative targets. We’re talking about shooting people, and if the target is an 18 by 30-inch piece of flat paper, this has nothing to do with reality. All males from the shoulder line to the waist are the same height, whether it’s me or a basketball player. And from nipple to nipple they’re all nine inches wide. So in a full frontal shot, if you’re out nine inches here you’ve got nothing. And if people are going to be kind enough to stand like that, why are you shooting them? They’re probably twisted in like this with an AK or a blade and you’re down to three or four inches of target.

    But you’ve got to start somewhere. If you’ve got a neophyte you’ve got to teach him the basics. The problem is, what is an advanced gunfight? There is no advanced gunfight. I’m running with curved targets, graphic targets, angled this way and that and everything else. But you’ve got to start somebody off with flat paper, explain this is the trigger, these are the sights, this is the follow-through, get them to shoot a group on a piece of paper. You can get an organ grinder’s monkey to shoot a group on a piece of paper, he can take his paw and pull the trigger back and he can shoot accurately. That’s all there is to it. Has this got anything to do with shooting people, when the target is that big and three feet away from you and is about to turn you into a little brown spot on the ground?

    People are very, very hard to hit because a lot of shooters cannot transpose the angles of a biped as opposed to a quadruped. You were talking about dangerous game earlier on. What comes at you like a human? Maybe a polar bear, that’s about it. Everything else runs on four legs, but a human is usually on his hind paws most of the time when you have this problem. People have trouble transposing this concept into a vertical instead of a horizontal problem. I bend one piece of cardboard, interstice it into another and then staple a target over that, then I angle them some way or twist them or turn them. Now you’ve got to start thinking about going into the ribcage, side of the head, simulating a flight of stairs. If the guy is lying in a bed, say the head’s facing you and the feet are away, you have to go in real high, because if you shoot at the chest and miss by five degrees you’re going to miss him entirely.

    If a shooter cannot look somebody in the eye at six feet away and be prepared to take a human life he shouldn’t be carrying a gun. A lot of people think they’re prepared to do it, they can whack Bambi in the Coconino Forest, but when it comes to looking you in the eyes and delivering rounds, they can’t do it.
    I think it’s a function of being dumbed down as a society. My God, somebody’s about to shoot and kill me, let me get on the cell phone and call 911. Law enforcement will magically materialize and interstice themselves between me and this guy eight feet away who’s coming into me with a 12-inch knife.

    It’s the noise in your car engine. If I turn the radio up, the noise in the engine goes away. No it doesn’t. That motor’s going to blow up. Get the engine fixed now or you’re going to be stranded on the side of the highway with your fancy radio. Every silver lining has a dark cloud. I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.

    Q: You’re approaching the age when a lot of guys retire. Have you thought about that?

    A: When my reactions slow down to where I miss your hand when I’m grabbing for it, I’ll quit the next day because I’d be running an unsafe range. I don’t want to sound supercilious, but I’m getting like the humble martial artist who finally realizes that he needs another four hundred years of this. I’m at base level, I’ve finally got a little bit of knowledge, now I’ve got to start climbing the tree.
  3. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC
    And a bit more, from Pat Goodale's PFT by way of S.W.A.T. Magazine.


    Training: SWAT Magazine excerpt

    "Firearms Academies: What to Take / What to Expect"

    By Patrick A. Rogers (March 2002 SWAT Magazine excerpt, reprinted with permission)

    Training has always been a complex issue. For those employed by law enforcement organizations, training is mandated by court decisions and usually conducted in house or at a central location where several agencies may share facilities. The quality and quantity of training provided is situationally dependent on many issues; staffing, budget, and what is often the big one, management’s attitude toward training. It may be geared more to liability reduction than ensuring that their officers win a gunfight….

    …For those legally armed who are not cops or members of the military, training becomes more difficult. Many carry on without any training at all—an invitation to legal, moral and financial disaster. Though the need to receive professional training is obvious, many refuse to seek it. Time and money are the issues most often cited, but some people will always be just too "cool" to train. So, where to go? A cottage industry of sorts has sprung up throughout the country in the last five years or so. It seems like everyone who has ever been to a school, worn a uniform of any type, shot competitively or can recognize a gun two times out of three, is hanging out a shingle and proclaiming that they are possessors of the only true knowledge.

    Yeah, right.

    To be sure, there are a number of talented individuals who can be found locally. And there are some very good itinerant trainers who may come to your area to conduct classes. As a rule, those who do it for a living are generally a lot better than a part-timer whose day job is computer programming. It is an issue of credibility. Louis Awerbuck vented splendidly about posers in the July, 2001 issue of S.W.A.T., and I’ll leave it at that….

    …For very basic gun handling, you can contact the NRA. Do not expect anything resembling serious defensive training though….

    …Established formal schools have much to offer but, like all else in life, are compromises. The down side, of course, is expense. Travel, food and lodging costs must be added to tuition and course supplies. Two additional days are necessary for travel, further impacting on staffing or vacation day issues at your place of employment. The positives outweigh the negatives by a wide margin. Instructors at an established school will generally be very experienced and working from established doctrine….

    ...I work for Gunsite, but have been fortunate to have attended a number of schools and trained under a large number of very good instructors. What follows is a generalization, but is viable for many schools.

    So, you have acquired the money, decided to spend your vacation learning how to be competent with your particular blaster, and made travel plans. What will you expect to happen? What are you going to bring? Start with a positive attitude. While it is the instructor’s job to teach, it is the student’s job to learn. The instructor cannot make you do anything—he can only give you information. How you process this information is entirely up to you. Keep an open mind. You are attending a particular school to learn their doctrine, not necessarily to re-hash what is taught at your agency, unit or by your favorite gun magazine. Use the techniques that they teach at the school. If at the end of the week you like it, place it in your toolbox for future use. If you don’t like it, discard it and go back to another method. Additionally, while on the line, stifle any need you might feel to tutor another student. He’s paying good money to learn the school’s doctrine, not yours. Be a sponge. Listen carefully, and if you don’t understand something, ask. Ask that question right now, before you lose your train of thought. You need to be able to learn from any training, even if it is negative.

    …Leave your prejudices at home. If you are a cop who believes that no citizen can actually shoot, you may be surprised. If you are a citizen who believes that all cops are fascists who want nothing more than to trample your rights, you too may be surprised. Be realistic in your expectations. If the school gives a graded certificate, make sure you understand that you are there to learn, and not to receive an ego massaging piece of paper to hang on the I-Love-Me-Wall. If you get a high grade, consider it to be a treat, and not the main course. If you get a low grade, rather than blame the instructor, reflect on your overall performance during the entire class. Accept criticism. The instructors are there to teach you and correct mistakes. There is nothing at all personal in this, but understand that if you don’t at least attempt to make it right, you are wasting your money and the instructors’ time… Your fellow students are a big part of this training. You may meet people who work in jobs that you have only read about. Socialize with them, and you may be surprised at what you can learn. Friendship comes easy at class if you allow it. Part of it is the shared misery that promotes bonding. The other is the fact that you all have several things in common: guns, a quest for training, and the desire to have some control over your destiny. Learning comes a lot easier if you are having fun.

    If you carry a firearm, whether for a living or for personal defense, you have a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to make sure you have the skills necessary to use it properly. Acquiring professional training, and following it up with training on a recurring basis is not a luxury. It is a necessity...

    I’ll recommend the sources listed below based on personal experience. There are others of course, some probably very good and some not, but I have personal experience with those listed below (excerpted list):

    Gunsite 2900 W. Gunsite Road Paulden, AZ 86334 (520) 636-4565 Gunsite is the oldest fighting school in the world. It is the Grand Daddy, and many in this business (including many of those listed below) got their start there.

    Practical Firearms Training, 6111 Kanawha Trail, Covington VA 24426 (540) 559-4151 e-mail: [email protected]. Pat Goodale is a real-deal guy, and has a wealth of operational experience. He has a good facility and also takes his show on the road.

    Hornady Academy (800) 338-3220, ext. 200. Giles Stock teaches several Precision Rifle and Tactical Carbine classes in Nebraska. Aside from being uncommonly knowledgeable, Giles may host the only school that includes shooting ballistic gelatin. If there were no shooting at all, his ballistics lecture would be worth the price of admission.

    Insights P.O. Box 3585 Bellvue, WA 98009 (415) 378-7750 Greg Hamilton and his crew provide excellent and relevant instruction both at their home site and on the road.

    Rogers Shooting School 1756 St. Johns Bluff Rd. Jacksonville, FL 32246 (904) 642-7810 Bill Rogers has a very intense and fast-paced school, which exactly matches his personality. His training methodology is different from many other schools, and it works.

    Yavapai Firearms Academy P.O. Box 27290 Prescott Valley, AZ 86312 (928) 772-8262 Louis needs no introduction. If you speak to him, ask him about the class voting.

    [Biography: Pat Rogers is a nationally and internationally acclaimed instructor who has been a Rangemaster at Gunsite since 1993. He is the owner of E.A.G., providing consultation to both governmental and non-governmental organizations.He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected] ]
  4. possum

    possum Member

    Oct 12, 2005
    Concord, N.C.
    thanks for sharing. I have only read part one so far, but i will keep reading. i have never trained with Louis but i would like to do a shotgun course in the future.

    one great thing that i like about him is the fact that he seems to be frank and to to the point and dosen't stand for bs, he tells it like it is. i have read tactical reality as well, great book and i can't wait to check out more tactical reality later down the road.
  5. floods

    floods Member

    Sep 2, 2007
    Great articles, thank you for sharing them. :)
  6. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC

    Gunning Through Gunsite

    Some students approach a shooting exercise as though they were trying to win a giant stuffed mouse to improve their living room decor.

    Some others draw their guns with the concentrated intent of getting good enough before the end of the week to blow the stuffing right out of the big rat. The difference is mindset.

    The only interior decorators this week were gone after three days. The ones who stayed were more substantial in character. There was the lady from the East Coast who was being stalked and threatened by a vicious former boyfriend. A bright young cop from California who was assuming responsibility for his own firearms training since his department provided little of quality. An undercover federal agent was here as R&R for an undisclosed job well done. Several shooters were taking the course for the second or third time, gradually improving their already considerable skills. There was a martial arts master over from the U.K. just to get a fresh breath of lead-and-powder-scented air because his own country prohibits him from even owning a gun, as it prohibits him from defending himself and his family with his well-trained hands. There were pairs of best friends, mates, brothers, fathers and sons, all come to taste one of the original crucibles of humankind.

    Course 250 at Gunsite Academy, Basic Defensive Pistol, is an intensive week-long training regimen dedicated to the tactical deployment of powerful handguns that prepares students to handle, manipulate, control, shoot and think more effectively than any standard law enforcement or military course of training provides. Gunsite is not the only such celebrated firearms school –- there’s TFTT, Thunder Ranch, Yavapai Firearms Academy to name some of the other top schools –- but Gunsite was the first, founded by Col. Jeff Cooper himself.

    This looked like a particularly good class. There were 20 students, 20 guns, half 1911s, half Glocks, with the exception of one each agency-required Beretta and Sig. The team of six instructors was led by Louis Awerbuck, world-class shooter, thinker, writer and instructor, veteran of the bloody and tragically concluded revolutionary wars in Rhodesia and southern Africa. Each of the adjunct instructors was fully capable of leading the class on his (or her) own. Michel Rothlisberger, who looked fresh out of high school but is a colonel in the Swiss Army and head of Switzerland’s vaunted handgun training program. Il Ling New, a delicate beauty of no more than a hundred pounds who grew up helping her father guide big game hunters in remote wilderness areas all over the country and who could undoubtedly take a grizzly bear apart in three seconds flat. Steve McDaniel down from Alaska, Doug Day, Alice Rogers. Quite a team.

    The first order of business on the first day was a brief classroom session where the rules were laid down. Awerbuck held up a toy pistol which reminded me of my Dick Tracy model from days gone by. He explained that he would sometimes appear to break the ironclad gun-handling safety rules with this gun-shaped object in order to make a point and he wanted everyone in the room to be satisfied that it was indeed a toy, not a gun at all. He asked if anyone wanted to inspect the plaything to be sure. No one responded, and that was lesson number one.

    “Never ever again take anybody’s word that the thing he’s holding in his hand that looks like a gun is harmless,” Awerbuck told the class. The black plastic thing was then passed around to all the students, everyone dropping the little magazine designed to hold soft plastic BBs, racking the plastic slide back and forth to clear any BBs that might be lurking inside, sticking their fingers down into the action to make sure, watching their muzzle control, treating the thing as though it might be loaded with invisible 45-caliber Black Talons. Good lesson.

    The shooting started right away. At distances from three to 25 yards, students drilled in the drawstroke, fast and accurate fire, reloading, clearing malfunctions, shooting from different positions. Under the quiet direction of Louis Awerbuck and with personal attention from the other five instructors, each shooter started gradually pulling together the three elements of Jeff Cooper’s Combat Triad. Mindset, the ability to control a dangerous environment. Marksmanship, accurate fire delivered under pressure. And gunhandling -– as Awerbuck stressed, it is not bad shooting that gets people killed so much as it is the lack of good gunhandling skills. Awerbuck never let an opportunity pass without reminding students that losers in gunfights most often come in second (that is, dead last) because “most people beat themselves.”

    “Your weapon is your mind,” he said more than once. “Your gun is your tool. A lethal confrontation with firearms is about strategy and tactics, not just shooting.” Awerbuck knows of which he speaks.

    As the hours and days wore on, shooters moved from the square range to the outdoor simulators or “jungle walks” to the nerve-wracking indoor simulators and house-clearing exercises. Targets changed from the plain tan IPSC-style that encourages focus on the front sight, to camouflage patterns that challenge recognition of center body mass, to realistic depictions of criminals, hostages, innocent bystanders and little old ladies with sawed-off shotguns to force target identification and accurate shot placement, to reactive steel Pepper poppers of both good-guy and bad-guy varieties. Shooters fired their weapons under stress in the light and heat of the high desert sun, in the treacherous glow of twilight and the dark of night. There were man-on-man “duels” that tested speed of the draw, accuracy and follow-through, the smoothness of reloads and the sheer nerve of the contestants.

    Col. Bob Young told me that, before he became Vice President of Operations at Gunsite, he used to train special Security Force Marines here and that after four-and-a-half days and 500 rounds of ammunition a Marine could draw his 45-caliber 1911 from his tied-down GI flap holster and shoot an adversary twice at seven yards in two seconds or less. After five days and almost 1500 rounds of ammo, most of these students could do the same, and their confidence showed. They could not be out-shot, even by a well trained Marine. But, as Awerbuck pointed out, the danger was that if they didn’t use their heads they might very well be out-thought.

    “The teacher must first of all know ‘why,’” Jeff Cooper had said. Louis Awerbuck never directed a student to do anything without explaining the real-life reasons behind it. The lesson-filled anecdotes he had to tell were alone worth the price of admission to Course 250.

    Stereotyping or “profiling” is a natural human trait and can be very useful. If you follow your initial instincts you will likely be right. And sometimes you will be wrong. A local sheriff responded to a major shoot-out between a gang of scruffy bikers and a bunch of guys in suits. Immediately joining in the gunbattle on the side of the guys in suits, the sheriff personally killed two undercover federal agents and helped a gang of well dressed armed robbers escape.

    Dry-firing has always been a staple routine to aid rapid sight acquisition and trigger control. The head of a major law enforcement agency was practicing dry-firing at a target on the wall in his office. He had no sooner finished practice and reloaded his .357 Magnum revolver with high-velocity hollowpoints than the phone rang. After a long and heated telephone conversation he went back to what he was doing, dry-firing into his office wall. His second-in-command, sitting at his desk in the office next door, caught a bullet in the brain, the shooter’s brilliant career in law enforcement came to a sudden halt as well, and he went on to become one of the most famous gunwriters of all time.

    There are signs in all of the restroom facilities at Gunsite explaining the “why” of certain necessary procedures. For instance, you are expected to close the door when you leave because, if you don’t, some wild desert critter is likely to seek shelter in the protected space, find itself trapped, and unintentionally set up a terrifying ambush for the next person entering. The restrooms are not meant to be simulators and are not equipped to withstand gunfire.

    The thought processes underlying what some first-time students had previously considered the simple act of pulling the trigger tell you that it would be a good idea to prepare yourself by reading not only Jeff Cooper (and Awerbuck’s own book, “Tactical Reality”) but by studying the works of Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz as well. Sun Tzu reveals such kernels of Chinese wisdom as, “All warfare is based on deception.” The great Prussian soldier and writer Carl von Clausewitz presents you with ideas such as, “In war everything is uncertain and variable, intertwined with psychological forces and effects, and the product of a continuous interaction of opposites.”

    These philosophical axioms of combat see practical application at Gunsite. They are important things for you to know before you strap on a .45 and sally forth into the real world.

    Many students, especially law enforcement types, are surprised to look at house-clearing exercises the other way around. No one, not even a cop, will likely ever face the prospect of entering a house alone where one or more armed adversaries are known to lie in wait. It is quite possible, however, that you could someday find yourself inside a house suddenly containing such threats and have to fight your way out. The necessity for “cutting the pie” and other techniques practiced in the 360-degree simulators now come into stark focus.

    Some are surprised, as well, when they realize the fastest reload or malfunction clearance is often a second gun. Malfunctions in this class were few, however, and jams nonexistent, even among the tightly fitted “match” guns that are frequently plagued by reliability problems. Awerbuck himself is known to routinely carry a 45-caliber 1911 as primary and a 9mm Glock 19 as backup, perhaps the best of both worlds.

    A truism among African dangerous-game hunters is, “It’s the dead ones that kill you.” This wisdom comes from not uncommon experiences such as shooting an elephant in the head with a big-bore rifle, missing the brain by a fraction of an inch but delivering a Mike Tyson KO punch that lays the giant pachyderm out flat, dead to the world until you climb up on top of it so your PH can take your hero-picture, at which point the elephant suddenly wakes up in a foul mood indeed; or blowing the heart and lungs out of a Cape buffalo, sure of your shot, watching it fall, feeling victorious until the buffalo decides he wants to get even more than he wants to die and, drawing on that mysterious reserve life-force that seems capable of sustaining African buffalo even when all mechanical life-support systems are destroyed, he gets back on his feet and comes for you.

    The same truism applies to human beings. Many are the good guys who’ve shot the bad guy dead center, watched him crash into the furniture Hollywood-style, holstered their weapon, turned and walked away only to catch a bullet in the back of the head.

    These are things you learn at Gunsite too, at least you do if Louis Awerbuck is instructing.

    So, a week and a lifetime after you enter the raven gates of Gunsite, you leave. But you’re likely to find that, sometime during that week in the country, your DNA shifted and recomposed in some subtle way that you didn’t notice. The world you are now reentering is not quite the same world it was just a few days ago. Something has happened, either to the world or to yourself, and nothing will ever be quite the same again. You feel you’ve left something behind at Gunsite. And the odds are, you’ll be back.
  7. taprackbang

    taprackbang member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Very valuable information. Thank you for posting..
  8. sidheshooter

    sidheshooter Member

    Dec 30, 2007
    One more round of thanks. Saved to the mind-set file.
  9. D-Day

    D-Day Member

    Jun 3, 2008
    Northwest Ohio
    That sounds incredible. I hope I can afford to make it to Gunsite one day.
  10. AllAmerican

    AllAmerican Member

    Dec 9, 2008
    East Coast of Florida
    Wow that was a really good read. Thanks for sharing.
  11. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

    Dec 31, 2002
    Good thoughts. My take on the world's worst way to "learn" SD shooting is to read the worthless opinion pieces in the gunzines.

    I have posted this before, but figure there are some newbies who might get a chuckle out of it.


    It was this way, Pete...

    Like you probably know already, I read Pistolman magazine and really think it is the greatest, so I try to follow all the good advice they give on combat shooting. They have a lot of real experts who really know their sh... I mean, stuff, let me tell you.

    Well I got all the equipment those guys say you need to be a great combat shooter, and I practiced a lot, then I got a concealed weapons license, and I felt ready to take on the world.

    Maybe you don't think much of that, I mean the business you're in. Oh, you say you used to carry concealed yourself? I guess I remember reading about that - your boss really didn't care for the idea, did he? But I guess that is another story.

    Anyway, one day - or rather evening - I was downtown in the city, and I see this young guy coming along and he looked like one of those punks, I mean really bad, and he walked up to me, or really sort of swaggered, like they do, and said, "Give it up man, all of it." Well he didn't even have a weapon showing, but I could see the bulge in his jacket, so I knew he was armed, so I did all the things I read in Pistolman about combat shooting.

    First, I put on my custom shooting glasses ($300 from See-em, Inc., Blotz, GA) and then my custom fitted ear protectors with the smart circuitry that blocks the sound of shots but lets you hear a pin drop at 200 yards ($500 from Muff-em, Inc., Klotz, NM). Then I pulled down my Pistolman cap with the gold braid. Then I had a problem because I didn't know whether to use an isosceles stance or a Weaver stance. Finally, I decided on the isosceles stance, and assumed a perfect position.

    Then I drew my custom super accurized .45 ($6000 from Slick-em, Inc., Flotz, AZ) from its custom made, perfectly fitted holster ($700 from Draw-em, Glotz, IL). And I took a perfect two-hand hold, facing the punk squarely, and got ready to fire.

    One handed? No, I never heard of shooting a handgun with one hand - I never saw anybody in Pistolman do that! Standing? Of course, I was standing, and right out in the open, too. I could have maybe ducked behind a car or a building, or even dodged to one side, but that wouldn't be macho and in Pistolman, no one ever takes cover. Pistolman readers aren't cowards, no sir!

    Well, to make a long story short, the punk pulled out a cheap, chrome-plated Yorkin .380 ($39.95 from Throw-up, Inc., Plotz, CA) and put three slugs in my head, and so, here I am. And he didn't even use the proper stance! I guess he doesn't read Pistolman, because he didn't play by the rules and you just can't respect that kind of guy, no way!

    But I don't know what I did wrong, Pete. I followed every rule I saw in Pistolman about combat shooting. I just don't understand.

    You say that maybe I was a little too eager to get in a shootout, but defending yourself is OK? So I can go in now? Thanks a lot, Pete, I mean Saint Pete.

    By the way, is there a combat range up here? And can I get Pistolman forwarded? It's really a great magazine.

  12. boalex207

    boalex207 Member

    Mar 24, 2006
    Middle Tennessee
    Somebody let me in on the joke....what's the class voting on ?
  13. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Wichita, KS
    I've been giving this bit a lot of thought lately, but kinda from the other end.

    Over the years I've done a lot of soul searching and ruminating and have come to the conclusion that I would have no problem putting another human down in a self defense situation. I doubt there would be any hesitation or guilt (well if there is any hesitation it will be along the lines of "am I SURE I won't get in any trouble for this?" which in and of itself is not good, I know, but I'm working that out).

    Now as for the 4 legged creatures ... I've never hunted. The closest thing I ever came to hunting was when I was a kid on my grandmother's farm trying to hunt rabbits with a bow. Never saw any rabbits. Not sure I'd have shot one if I had.

    I keep telling myself I should just go hunting sometime. Maybe I'd find I like it and if nothing else its a skill that might come in handy someday, but the reality is I know I won't be able to easily kill a poor dumb animal (especially something fluffy). Yeah, I can hear it now, all the good ole boys bitchin' about how many of us are all citified, sissified, and Disneyfied and how its taking us as a culture to hell in a handbasket.

    I don't necessarily disagree with that assessment, but the simple fact is I like animals and see them as innocents. They don't know any better and their actions are without malice or guile. HUMANS on the other hand are often vile, evil, malicious and despicable creatures that DO know better. Maybe that's why I don't think I'd have a problem killing one of them in self defense, but I'll second guess killing an animal and eating it (still doubt I'll be able to eat an animal I kill ... thing is I really like venison and elk).

    A deer or elk or even prairie dog never harmed me, but plenty of humans have.

    This has come up a lot lately because one of the reasons I carry while hiking is in case we come across a feral dog (or otherwise loose and aggressive dog). While I doubt I'd hesitate to shoot a dog that was a threat to me, my wife or our dog, I don't think I'll feel all that good about it afterward. Afterall, its just a dog out doin' what dogs do. Its not the dogs fault he was dumped in the wild (or simply not secured in a yard).

    But another punk [] sticks a pistol in my face and demands so much as the time of day, I'll have no problem sending him straight to hell and my only regret will be that I didn't do it to the last one (Jesus, its been over a dozen years and typing that last sentence STILL ruined my mood for the day).
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2009
  14. CoRoMo

    CoRoMo Member

    Sep 21, 2007
    Californicated Colorado
    Lee, many thanks. I've been wanting to attend a class by Louis for a long time. It is my New Year's resolution of sorts, to make it happen this year. We'll see.

    Elk hunting changed my life in a lot of inexpressible ways. I wish I knew of some way to illustrate or recreate those experiences for others. You just gotta try it. And not the 1st class, fully outfitted, private ranch "hunt".
  15. Zundfolge

    Zundfolge Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Wichita, KS
    Yeah, Justin keeps trying to drag me out to hunt Elk (mmm ... elkburgers).
  16. cambeul41

    cambeul41 Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Southeast Michigan
    Jim Keenan said,
    So without reading the rest of his post, I Googled the magazine -- nothing. Then I read the rest . . . . Got me!
  17. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    Mar 26, 2004
    AL, NC

    Must be an old joke- it hasn't come up in class in the last three years that I know of.


    Hunting has been considered a useful preparation for individual combat for thousands of years. In some cases it might still be thought to be so. I wouldn't over-think the whole thing if I were you. You are better fitted to know what you need to do than anyone else.

  18. Old Guy

    Old Guy Member

    May 28, 2005
    That's true enough, the bio on so many individuals tells of classes taken.

    A good question to ask your instructor (no not in front of the class!) how many fights have you been in as an adult. Not the be all and end all question, just a question.

    Once drove Mr. Awerbuck to a range in DC with my Son, Louis was not impressed with my driving that Caprice at all, at all. Nice guy.
  19. Deltaboy1984

    Deltaboy1984 Member

    Nov 21, 2008
    Johnson County Texas
    Great read!
  20. JohnnyOrygun

    JohnnyOrygun Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    Southern Oregon
    Excellent Reading and thanks for posting. As of right now I am physically unable to take one of those classes (had my left hip replaced in Jan and having my right hip replaced in May and I am only 39:fire::banghead::banghead:, but I am learning to walk right again) but I plan on taking one of those classes, I would like to take a Gunsite course, but I am not sure about the funding, but perhaps one of the other closer courses might be an alternative. This thread brings out the importance of mindset and training, realistic training, not just punching paper targets at 7 yards.

    I had a dream one time, in this dream someone came in through a door in my bedroom and I was reaching for my 357 and trying to yell, but my voice was gone and the trigger must have weighed 500 pounds. It was a very intense dream, made me think though. I believe that if someone were threatening a loved one or myself, that I could use deadly force. I don't relish the idea, but I believe I would act. Mindset, mindset, mindset.

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