In the previous episode, Daniel visited with Brandon Bridge and Taylor Crabtree about their work with Average Joes Training Group, the value of teamwork, and more. Well, once they were done recording they decided to turn the microphone back on for their candid, stream-of-consciousness conversation. In this episode, the conversation covers everything from the influence of good instructors to training techniques and mentality to the importance of incorporating first aid training into firearms classes.
Host: Daniel Shaw
Guest: Brandon Bridge and Taylor Crabtree
Introduction/Timeline: Stephanie Kimmell
Good People Make a Big Difference
0:39 Jeremy starts out by expressing the benefits he has received by meeting and learning from people in the firearms industry. He’s been able to study some of the most top-of-the-line shooters that ever existed, which, a lot of what we know is based on their work. With more opportunities to “get behind the wheel,” so to speak, he has been able to learn more about actual manipulation and been exposed to different schools of thought.
Brandon points out that social media is the biggest catalyst to the whole industry, whether firearms or training in general. He’s been doing the social media thing since 2012 both in the green and later in the blue uniform—posting gun stuff and following people in the training world. Something he’s noticed is a lot of regurgitation of the big stuff that has no place in the civilian world. But then, there are also those instructors who don’t regurgitate military stuff, but who talks about performance-based learning styles. He tries to mold himself after those people, the ones with a grounded approach to training without bringing their ego and personal history into it.
One of the instructors they talk about is Ben Stoeger. Brandon says his approach to training is grounded, with a performance mindset. It’s about the principles and applying them to the situation.
Scott Jedlinski, otherwise known as “Jedi,” is another instructor that these guys respect. Brandon recently attended Scott’s RDS course. Largely self-taught, Brandon says, “I can make hits and I think of myself as a competent, or “fast”, shooter.” Before attending the class, he had been shooting RDS pistols for years, starting from the first time he threw an RMR on a pistol in 2013 and wanted to throw it away in frustration, to now, when he’s helping spearhead and give insight to his department’s RDS program. As he puts it, “An RDS pistol class is nothing more than a pistol class… Yeah, there are some nuances you talk about in regards to finding the dot and sight acquisition, tracking your dot during recoil, pattern shooting — but it’s no different than a pistol class.”
But something really clicked for him when he attended Jedi’s class. Between the methodology of training mixed with Scott’s eloquent description of all the processes happening while sighting and shooting, “I’m like, Holy sh*t! I’ve been doing this but what he just said makes sense. I’m going to apply it and I’m going to get faster.”
Did he truly get faster? Yes he did. “Because somehow he eloquently explains what you’re already doing and, Boom. Flipped my head upside down.”
Daniel says he likes Scott a lot, and calls him ‘good people.’
5:29 Talking about Scott Jedlinski moves the conversation toward training techniques.
A couple of months ago Daniel put up a video about trigger reset. Scott sent him a message saying, “Holy sh*t, this was spot on!”
Daniel says he stopped teaching the trap technique many years ago. He still explains it, but considering the physics, there is no argument that resetting during recoil is not faster. He can prove it with math, on paper, with the amount of movement that has to happen. Some people still push the trap technique as the technique, but it doesn’t make any sense, and it proves out when you put those people in a combat-focused pistol class. They intuitively reset the trigger in-flight because they’re trying to shoot fast in a combat-oriented environment.
Brandon compares it to training wheels that people don’t want to take off. To brand new shooters, pinning the trigger gets them acclimated with what a gas pedal feels like. Through a controlled methodology between handling and gripping the gun, they’re taught sight acquisition, sight picture, and sight alignment. And with that, they try to be as accurate as possible by decreasing movement within the trigger. “But that in itself is a hindrance to further learning. All they want to do is now pin the trigger.”
Daniel doesn’t even teach beginner shooters sight alignment. “We might go a whole handgun class, 16 hours straight, and I never even talk about sight alignment. It depends on what I see on the target. If I see groups that look like they understand how to align their sights, but these groups are indicative of moving the gun during the trigger process, I’m not going to stop and draw pictures and talk about sight alignment.”
If you think about it, people intuitively align things. In western culture, we align everything from our shoes to how we park our cars next to the other ones in the parking lots. So, if a student in one of Daniel’s classes is doing something weird, he investigates to find out why. “…every once in a while they’ll but the bottom of their front sight in the top of their rear sight. Or they’ll put the top in the bottom of it. Just not quite perfect, but sight alignment is almost never the issue with the shooter.”
Brandon says it’s not sight alignment that’s the issue. It’s not sight picture and how much time they’re spending on the trigger trying to get that perfect shot. Daniel agrees, “They screw up the ‘making it go Bang’ part. You could spend five hours and have the best sight alignment ever — [but] if you move the gun when you press the trigger, you just wasted five hours. So they need to understand trigger press before we can even start caring about sights.”
9:37 Good enough sight picture is where it’s at because it’s all about trigger.
Daniel explains it further. “You can’t hold still. You’re going to have a wobble area. Place the center of your wobble in the center of your aiming area, and make the gun go bang without moving it. There’s nothing more that you can do. It’s all about trigger.”
There are things that help keep the gun from moving, like a good grip, good position, and minimizing the nervous response, but things are often overcomplicated. “I think a lot of instructors want to sound smart – they’ll write an article for a publication and they’ll put 2,000 words down, not trying to transfer knowledge, but trying to show how smart they are.”
Brandon agrees, saying that all instructors need to self-realize. The best thing to teach people how to shoot — is shooting.
Turn Your Learning On
11:50 When it comes to moving shooters from one class on fundamental to an applied course, how do instructors deal with shooters that already know too much or are not receptive to learning?
It can be a problem with most human beings, but with some people, you can show them nine times out of ten what they’re doing wrong, but they don’t fix it. Specifically, this is a question about the students who don’t have the right mindset. You can always work through the problems with students who are confused, as there are different ways to teach everything.
Brandon and Daniel both say they don’t have that issue come up very often as it’s more likely to come up in more advanced, niche operator classes. Daniel says that when he does get that, it’s usually because “Chief made me come. I didn’t really want to train.”
Daniel builds his class around what a shooter is most likely to need to know how to do in a fight. So, for example in his carbine class and handgun class, he frontloads the highest priorities toward the beginning, while making sure they’re ready for those priorities. “You have to build them up to that — weapons handling, understand carries, transports, ready positions.” He covers all of that before students really start presenting to the target.
And he also structures the curriculum toward functionality. “Yeah, you may not care about the high ready, but there’s a reason why it’s popular — not because it looks cool. But because it’s functional in a lot of ways. It’s not the answer to every question, but it’s the answer to some.” Some people don’t buy into that, but later with more reality-based flat rang drills, they need more than just low-ready tools or just a high compressed ready with a handgun. When it comes to drills with movement, working in close proximity with a partner, even if they didn’t buy into it early on in the class, he keeps correcting them.
Humility is another important part of the equation. “I tell students at the beginning of class, I’ve been wrong about so many things in my life, I’m probably wrong about something today. Things that I thought for sure that I knew and had it all figured out in the gun world, that later on I found out that I didn’t have anything figured out.” As new information becomes available, he may change how he does things. That’s called growth.
Using a layered approach, Daniel teaches by first explaining what he’s doing, then demonstrating it. After his demonstration, he has his students replicate it and he coaches them as they do it. After he feels like they understand where it fits in reality, how to do it properly, safely, and how to replicate it on their own time, he moves on to the next thing. “None of this stuff goes away, just the next thing gets layered on.” So if a student didn’t buy into a concept at the beginning of the class, they’re probably going to as more things get layered on, “because there’s a damn good reason why it’s in there.” Eventually they pick it up.
Another effective method is to put a really switched-on shooter next to those guys to show them what a high-level shooter looks like. Basically, it’s a peer-pressure kind of thing. “Whenever I demonstrate, I’m going to do what I refer to as ‘Demonstrate Hard.’ I’m going to show them what a high level of proficiency looks like. So, if they’re not looking like me, or they’re not looking like Brandon, they can think whatever they want, or say whatever they want, everybody in the class but them knows that they should probably do this thing.”
18:16 Brandon illustrates that point by telling a story from back when he was just getting started in his department.
After graduating from the academy, his department had a 15-week in-service. Part of the in-service includes a couple of weeks shooting on the range. The rangemaster for the department, at the time, was the stereotypical rangemaster for a PD. You’re probably thinking of a character that’s a little bit angry, a little bit crusty, kinda stuck in some of the older ways, and cusses a whole bunch on the range. That was him.
“Firearms week comes up. It’s me and four other recruits, and I’m the only shooter in the group…. So we’re all at the range, 25 yards out, simple 25-yard, six-lane, indoor range is what we have access to. So we’re shooting and in comes this 6’3” bald, big goatee, skinny guy probably in his early 50s. There are pictures of him on the wall holding an MP5 wearing just a jacket and a ballcap in the 80s doing SWAT for this department.
“The guy is like a legend in the department. He could say the sky is purple, and the sky is purple. He was a shooter. I’m talking twenty yards, stacking bill drills on an index card. The dude is a tac driver — hell of a dude — a tac driver. Old school SWAT. Dude could shoot the wings off a gnat with an MP5. And he’s next to me and I’m like, “who is this dude?”
“He outshot me. I’m sitting there like, “focus, quit dropping shots.” This guy is outshooting me left and right. He’s doing everything a little bit slower. At that time it was, “Mag in. Over the top.” There was no ‘slide, lock, reload.’ He was doing all that and it was super basic stuff. That dude didn’t miss. It was like he only shot that target once, and we just shot like a hundred rounds, at various distances.
So, why did the department have the rangemaster come in? Brandon’s friend in the department reminds him that it was, “To check you. You got through the academy, you took top PT. You took Top Shot at the academy. But you need someone to check you.” What’s the takeaway? “Wherever you are, you need someone to check you. Definitely got checked that day!”
22:33 Keep a balance between humility and arrogance.
Daniel says this is a fine line. Having humility, whether as an instructor or a student, will go a long way. But, to be truly great at something, such as a SWAT officer, a great guitarist, or whatever, there has to be a level of arrogance to push you to the next level.
Brandon makes the point that having the confidence to do the right thing isn’t what everybody else thinks it is. When he made the transition from military to law enforcement, it took him some time to figure out the different roles. His previous experience in the military was far less surgical, compared to what he does in law enforcement. “There was a time when I thought this probably isn’t the place for me because apparently, I’m moving way too fast. Because it is absolutely surgical.”
Daniel continues on that thought, saying that when you get to that level you’ve got a strong baseline of your capabilities with surgical precision. Since you’ve achieved that strong baseline, you can subtract from and trade — precision for speed or speed for precision.
“Maybe you don’t need to shoot the button on a guy’s shirt, maybe you need to get the upper thoracic. So you know what it takes to shoot the button on the shirt which also tells you what it takes to get it somewhere in the chest area. Practicing perfect is something I believe very strongly in. Going out and shooting fast—and hope is part of your shooting process? Hope doesn’t work.”
But if you practice precision and discipline yourself to practice perfection, you’ll get faster at perfection. You’re also going to establish that baseline understanding of what it takes to be perfect. And when you don’t need to be perfect, you know exactly how much speed you can trade.
Mindset and Application of Training — Drills
28:23 Exposure Drill
One of the drills that Brandon did at the first few Average Joe’s range days was what he called an exposure drill. He did it to see where everybody’s mindset was, on training. Several people would stand on a line facing downrange, load, and make ready. He had them turn a 180, then he went downrange about ten yards to put up a realistic photographic target of a classic Hollywood hostage rescue.
“All you have is this low percentage shot at ten yards, plus, the image is reduced on the paper so it’s like a 15-yard hostage shot. You’re talking like a 6×6 maybe 8×8 at most around the head. We just wanted to expose people and see what they did. So without giving them any instructions, without telling them a course of fire, round count, anything, all the instruction they got was, “On the sound of this buzzer, you’re going to turn, scan and assess, engage whatever you see with whatever appropriate amount of firepower you deem necessary to end the threat.”
That’s all they had. For safety reasons I told them not to move, just turn, stay static, and engage. More than half the group missed the shot. The other half of the group that did make the shot, probably fired like four rounds. We had to bring them in and we had this kind of mindset discussion.”
Those who turned and engaged by firing rounds either smoked the hostage or completely missed. So, at that point, they needed to focus on actually training — manipulations on a weapons system and what this actually does.
Those who hit at the target, or even missed, but fired four rounds needed to reevaluate their training mindset. Why? What happens to meat when a bullet hits it? Typically it moves. So when all you need to do is turn and engage, would you fire multiple rounds? Either the last three rounds were sent into dead air or the hostage that was just set free is smoked.
This illustrates a fundamental mindset in for the average shooter — they’re forgetting the real-world application of training.
31:46 Alphabet Soup Drill
Before we talk about this drill, we need to understand one of Daniel’s personal safety rules: be sure of your target and ensure that it’s foreground and background remain clear. “Not just that they’re clear right now, but that they remain clear.” So, if this is a gas station or mall situation, or whatever it is, there are a lot of people out there. Bad guys don’t care about people in the back or foreground, but it is the responsibility of an armed citizen or law enforcement officer to care. Further, it’s not just if the foreground and background are clear right now, but when people are running for exits, dropping to the ground in the absence of cover. When there’s a lot of movement happening, it’s a lot for the bad guy and a lot for you. It’s just something to be constantly thinking about in a populated environment if a firearm must be used.
Daniel goes through protection of third party, teaching the students strategies on how to protect others, like moving in front of them, getting online with someone so they don’t cross the line of fire — simple close protection techniques.
For the Alphabet Soup drill, he puts up a bunch of targets all over the range and steel targets along the back berm and different areas. He also includes hostage targets, staggered strategically. Toward the end of the day, final drill, he might have somebody — say a big buy who likes it a bit rough — get pushed a little bit when Daniel calls a number or a shape. The students are supposed to find the best place to engage that target from. They have to communicate with the people around them and get online with the target that they have to shoot close to. A lot of movement happens there. Nobody is downrange for the drill, but it gets the students moving and thinking.
Problems with the Flat/Square Range Mentality
33:50 What you don’t see on Instagram.
The square range mentality has gotten more popular than ever and Daniel thinks there’s a lot missing from what we see on Instagram. For instance, there isn’t just one bad guy out there all the time. And, square range practice doesn’t really incorporate reality-based stuff. “What you’re talking about it decision making. Not every target requires a shot. I might call a number that’s not even out there. And they shouldn’t draw their gun. Instead, they should investigate, talk, think, and even ask. If there’s no target and you’re just waving the gun around, you’re doing a really good impression of an active shooter or murderer.”
There is a lot to think about and consider. Movement. Movement with a gun. If you’re moving with your gun concealed in a holster, you can do whatever. But if your gun comes out, you need to handle it with proficiency in a way that doesn’t look like you’re endangering the people around you. You need law enforcement officers to recognize you as a trained ‘good guy,’ and you need to have ‘good guy’ verbiage coming out of your mount.
36:15 Training Scars
Brandon agrees on the flat range mentality, saying that people can learn more training scars from a flat range than they can with real-world applicable tactics and shooting. For instance, if you have an active shooter at the mall, you’re going to keep your gun holstered until you find the threat, seek cover, find the most advantageous position, and then draw when you actually have a threat. Or maybe you’ll do a super low pro concealed. But the whole social media cool-guy image that somehow converted to ‘this guy is the knowledgeable person is inaccurate. The guys that Brandon respects and seeks instruction from are actually the guys who have no social media — but they’ve actually done it.
And then, you have to consider the background (or your environment as a third-dimensional whole). Ultimately, you are your own first responder. Average everyday shooters are dealing with massive backgrounds (as opposed to a berm interrupting your line of fire), fleeing people, and basically — absolute chaos.
Brandon illustrates his point by describing his experience at a Dallas BLM riots a couple of years ago.
“I have been shot at. I have shot at people. Done some wazoo sh*t in my life overseas. I will absolutely say that that was ..the most… the city’s, proverbial — on fire. Buildings are on fire. Vehicles are getting smashed into, and flipped over. Vehicles are on fire. Downtown Dallas—beautiful part of downtown. Nice restaurants, nice streets. The city was absolutely on fire, it was wild.
“They called in state troopers, DPS (Department of Public Safety), every surrounding agency got called in and had some type of ‘on the ground’ presence during that because it was just absolutely wild. My department, my team and a couple of other teams were called up and we did kind of a like a roving QRF (Quick Response Force).
“So during that whole night, we were out there for like nine hours. During that night, when something would pop off in one area, one of our teams that was close to it would just go ahead and work their way through the city to that area and try and handle it as best they can.
“Case in point… the Whole Foods is being broken into. They’re smashing windows, yadda yadda… our team moved through the city — I’m talking, like, moving around barricades, trying to go through alternate streets because Google maps is worthless because everything is blocked off. There were cars stacked up, crowds that wouldn’t let you pass throwing cinder blocks at your vehicle. Trying to get through all these problems, it was weird.
“Like I said, I’ve been shot at, I’ve shot at people, demolished buildings with hand grenades, seen what thermobaric grenades do to buildings, seen rockets launch.. all of that stuff overseas was cool. It was kind of — normal — desensitized to it. That environment in downtown Dallas a couple of years ago, was wild for me. At any minute, if some shot rings out from a crowd if some shot comes from the top of a building — which, we were just rolling around in Tahoes, where is it coming from? There are thousands of people out on the street, all saying “Fu*k the police.” “Death to the Cops.”
“You want to talk about, like, Holy Sh*t backstop? I have like, no target indicators, I was sitting there like, this is going to suck! How do we react to this? We’re going to be getting shot at from something, very limited cover in the middle of the streets.
“Now we’ve got to move to positions of cover around pillars and buildings and whatnot. The communication was all over the place because every agency was working on a different radio channel. It was not war, I will give you that, but that was weird. If a shot rings out, we’ve got to realistically — we’ve got to respond to it and move towards it. But dude, the backgrounds are insane. You have to truly get on top of wherever this threat is as best we can. We aren’t going to have a shot until we are right on top of this dude. That’s wild.”
42:38 Change in Thinking
The riots in Dallas and all over the country changed the way Daniel looks at a lot of things, especially how he advises people on what to do in a self-defense situation. He relates the riot situations to the Three Block War concept. The riots were like that and they changed a lot for the armed citizen. “It’s changed my thought process on my immediate response.” He says it also changed how we look at mob violence. It’s a very dangerous thing. And being exposed with no cover is a scary thing. You know it’s coming, but where is it coming from?
Brandon says that a lot more people need to start thinking about the principles and processes of what they’re doing. Ultimately, always be thinking about the implementation of it. You could get really good at shooting, but you also need to start thinking about how good are at tactics. “Life preservation skills, in an actual “Oh, sh*t!” environment. I don’t think a lot of people are doing that.”
Incorporate First Aid in Training
45:44 Do you know how to stop a bleed?
Daniel started incorporating bleeding control in his handgun. It has surprised him how much people don’t know. He asks, what is the most likely thing to happen, that you’ll need to protect yourself and loved ones? It should be knowing how to control bleeding, how to do CPR, and all manner of first aid skills. That’s the first line of defense.
The second line of defense is to carry and defend yourself with a firearm. Later, get a rifle, and eventually get armor. With this hierarchy, you start by covering the highest-likely scenarios and go on to cover the least likely scenarios.
Brandon says this is a topic they’ve gotten into as well. They get a lot of questions from people who are just starting out on their journey about higher-level medical care than what will usually be needed in an immediate situation. Such as, what is the best gauge needle for needle compression or whether or not they need saline locks. He encourages them to try and think about realistic scenarios. “The biggest thing you can do is know how to accurately and confidently return fire and end a threat. Maybe control some bleeding while you’re hopefully already between those two and on the phone, or having someone on the phone with 911. Getting EMS to you and maybe stopping bleeding enough for EMS to get you to the hospital that’s maybe 5-10 minutes away.”
49:14 One environment in which the EMS can’t get in right away is in the event of an active shooter in a school. However, SOPs for this situation have changed across the country, with triage teams and second-responders going in, which has done a lot of good.
Sometimes people worry about losing a limb from a having tourniquet in place for too long or developing pneumothorax from using a chest seal for too long. But, after the Boston Marathon massacre, the American College of Surgeons determined that the best way to reduce loss of life in a mass-casualty event is to have on-scene responders who know how to control bleeding. That’s when they started the Stop the Bleed program and started making Stop the Bleed kits. What are the basic skills?
- Pack a wound
- Apply a pressure dressing
- Apply a chest seal
- Use a tourniquet
Brandon follows that list up by mentioning a cell phone. Which, obviously, you’ll need to call emergency services.
With all of this in place, you could be a force multiplier, and save a lot of lives
50:34 Be willing to help.
Taylor had an experience at the gym a couple of months ago, where he had to jump in to stop a bleed. A man hit his head on a steel bar, which caused a heavy bleed.
“He’s bleeding. He’s got such a hard impact he’s concussed on the ground. He’s awake but concussed on the ground. I’m in there with one employee and three other guys. Everyone is just staring at this guy and I’m like give me that towel.
“I asked the guy that was working there, “Do you have a first aid station somewhere?”
The guy said, “That’s a dirty towel.”
“I was like, it doesn’t matter — this guy is bleeding out of his head! So people hear the commotion in the cardio room and they come in and all of a sudden you’ve got 20 people in there and I found out, later on, there was a nurse in there and she was still just in there to watch.
“I just knew I needed to stop this guy’s blood from coming out of his head and talk to the dude. And I’m sitting there and I’ve got a bunch of people standing there just watching. It blew my mind, especially when you see people just fumbling through their gym bag for their cell phone!”
Later as Taylor was going home and processing everything that had happened, he was glad he jumped in to help.
53:03 What if it takes a longer time for EMS to get there?
Some people worry about losing limbs from wearing a tourniquet too long or developing pneumothorax from having a chest seal in place for too long. Daniel offers reassurance on that. In the worst-case scenario, an active shooter, might be in the structure for an hour, maybe two. In that amount of time, you’re not going to lose a limb to a tourniquet.
“We’ve greatly exceeded that and proven that you’re not going to lose a limb. It’s not life before limb anymore, that’s BS. Same thing with needle decompression. Maybe if you’re planning for an apocalyptic type environment where we don’t have trauma centers anymore… We talk a lot and don’t train enough.”
Be Wary of Division
53:53 Attitude is important.
Going back to the subject of social media, Brandon recognizes that it brings us many positive things, like friendships and unity. But it also often puts the wrong things in the spotlight. “And look at the media. Trauma sells.”
Political division is another thing that Daniel sees. People who agree with each other politically, geopolitically, on firearms and everything else can turn on each other too easily. “… if anybody says something different than the fake news that we refer to as fake news, over the past two or really six years, they are being called communist sympathizers. I’ve seen that in our community right now and that’s a bad, bad thing that’s happening because that’s exactly what the other side wants. We see the same thing in training and it’s annoyed me for a long time.”
Another thing he has noticed is the perception that the individual who gives zero f*cks is the most awesome. “We’re cheering on our people being assholes to each other. I think a man is measured by how many f*cks he gives, not how many he doesn’t give… We’re glamorizing a lot of the negative things in humanity because they somehow pretend like they’re masculine or tough. I think it’s poison.”
54:54 It’s about who you surround yourself with.
Taylor is part of a group chat with a bunch of shooting friends and Average Joe’s guys. “We talk about everything under the sun, from crap that doesn’t matter to I’m having a bad day, y’all cheer me up. We get positive, we get negative, but at the end of the day, we are each other’s accountability people. If I’m wrong, Brandon’s going to tell me I’m wrong. It’s the best part of our group. We are able to check each other and still go out… and learn from each other.”
The opposite of that can be seen in high-level politics. People surround themselves with others who encourage them no matter what they’re doing. They’ve never been held accountable for their problems and the things they’re doing wrong. As Daniel says, “They’ve just been cheered on, ‘it’s not your fault, it’s somebody else’s.’ If they’re constantly told they’re amazing, we see it in celebrities, too.” We all need somebody around us to keep us accountable.