Wednesday, August 25, 2021

GunDude Robbie: Hunting with My Little Buddy


In November of last year I had a hunting license for an buck deer in unit 9 in Colorado. I was a bit hesitant to go because of a recent knee surgery, but my son had been asking me if I would take him out for his first hunting trip. Of course I couldn’t say no to him; he was so excited that he was big enough to go with me.

For the first couple of days, he and I would just glass around not far from the parking area, as I wasn’t able to do a lot of walking. After a little while looking through the binoculars, he would inevitably say there was nothing there and promptly fall asleep. After he slept for a couple of hours he would wake up and we would head home.

On the third day, after he said there was nothing out there I spotted a nice three point buck and he perked right up. After not seeing it at first, he finally followed my directions and was able to see what we had come to find. We slowly made our way to a good shooting location (me hobbling and him doing his best to mimic my movements) just under 300 yards from the deer.

As I lay down and got myself in a good shooting position, my son, Mikey, sat down against my left leg and was telling me exactly what the deer was doing. I asked him if he was ready for me to shoot, but he didn’t answer ( he was wearing ear plugs and ear muffs). I looked back and asked him again if he was ready, this time I got a big smile and a thumbs up. Now the pressure was on to shoot properly, ie a good heart and lung shot to make sure that the deer didn’t suffer.

I took the shot and heard him shout that the gun was so loud! I asked him if he saw the deer go down, and he replied that the shot had startled him and couldn’t say. I could plainly see the deer but Mikey was unable to find it. I told him that was ok because we would go to where we last saw it and look for signs of a hit or miss. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have seen that boy move faster in my life!

As I very slowly made my way up the hill side I was cheered on by my son a few yards away. After about 45 minutes of climbing I stopped and asked him if we were near where the deer was before the shot. To my surprise and delight he pointed to the rock that was behind where the deer had stood, and said it should be over there. 20 more yards of walking and my son started yelling that he found our deer.

After taking the required pictures of him and “his first deer” he grabbed the antlers and started to drag the deer down the hill. He tried his best but the brush was extremely thick and so I put two lengths of rope on it and helped him drag it the rest of the way down. Once down, I asked him if he wanted to help me field dress it. And of course he said yes. I told him to grab one front leg and one back leg and hold them up. As I was gutting it he was asking a lot of questions; what’s that, and what about that? And of course the inevitable what’s that smell? After it was properly dressed , he picked up a stick and started poking around the gut pile and going “oh that’s gross”, and I couldn’t help but laugh. After telling him what organs were each was, he pointed at the stomach which had blown up like a balloon and asked what it was and if he could pop it. I warned him that popping it would stink and it probably wasn’t a good idea, but he insisted so I let him pop it. He just looked at me and turned green. I’ll give him credit, he didn’t loose his lunch but the look told me that he understood why I told him that it wasn’t a good idea to do that.

On our way home he asked me if he could put the rack up in his room and when I said yes you would have thought I had given him the moon.

I must say, if you are ever given the chance to take a kid out hunting, DO IT!! There is no better satisfaction than to take a kid out into nature and show them the beauty of the outdoors while making memories that will last a lifetime for everyone.

Monday, May 10, 2021

DTI's Off-body Carry Instructor's Class

Due to the 'Rona, I got moved from DTI's February Instructor Development course to their Off-body Carry Instructor's Course. While I was disappointed to miss the chance to learn under both John and Vicki Farnam, I jumped at the chance to take Vicki's Off-body Instructor's course.

I don't think I've ever been the instructor who says, "NEVER carry off-body". I've always tried to be aware that there is a time and place for it, and that additional thought and training needs to occur. I'd been meaning to sign up for Vicki's straight off-body carry course, but hadn't gotten around to it. Getting moved in to the instructor's course was a happy side effect of catching Covid from Jay and having to miss the February class.

It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a completely different class than anything I'd ever taken before. Vicki runs her classroom range with a compassionate, but firm, hand. I've only previously trained under men before, and it was striking to see the difference between her teaching style and others. There was no hand-holding, or patting on the head. She set standards and held us to them. It was refreshing. If she had to lay the smack down on someone, she did, but it was never personal.

Don't hate me too much for this analogy, but the way she corrected people was very similar to the way a good horse trainer corrects a horse. The correction is concise and immediate, then it's back to business as usual. No personal judgements or feelings involved, just a mild correction (or not so mild, if the initial correction didn't take). Incidentally, Vicki's daughter is a horse trainer, and if she learned this correction technique from her mother, she's probably a very good horse trainer.

But I digress ...

While I learned about drawing from purses, my biggest take-aways were in how to teach. In my past life, I was Associate Dean of a career college, and spent fifteen years teaching professionally. The skills I learned teaching adults in a career college have crossed over nicely to teaching adults in the firearms industry. I'm a good teacher.

However, watching and learning from a great teacher was a gift. I've always been a believer in teaching "baby steps", but Vicki breaks it down a bit more. We started learning the skills with blue guns, then practiced with dry (unloaded and verified) guns, before transitioning to live guns. We took copious breaks that allowed us to decompress and discuss what we were learning.

Her co-instructor, Gloria, was a wealth of information regarding the Gun Tote'n Momas (GTM) bags, and which accessories worked best with them. Rather than telling us which bag was best and why, Vicki and Gloria gave us some things to think about, and then allowed us to come to our own conclusions about whether or not a bag was going to work for us and why. 

Research shows that we learn more from failing than succeeding the first time out the gate (or even the second or third time), so by letting us fail using the blue guns, and then trusting us to figure it out with some gentle guidance went a long way. Often, instructors (myself included) tend to jump in and "help" someone who is struggling instead of just letting them work through the problem. When I jump in, it's not because I don't think they can do it, but rather to keep the class on track. However, in doing so, I'm robbing the student of the opportunity to gain confidence in their problem solving abilities. And, as we know, being able to confidently handle a gun is one of the keys to using one successfully in a defensive encounter.

For years, I would have never considered carrying off-body. Yes, it was a choice, but it wasn't the right choice for me. However, after spending three days learning the ins and outs, I can now honestly say, it's an option I wouldn't have considered for myself previously. There are pros and cons to each method of carry, but I'm now confident that I can present a gun safely from a purse. Can I do it as fast as from midline IWB? Not yet, maybe not ever. But, there is an advantage to the urban camouflage of a purse. Also, there are a lot of things I just flat-out don't carry as part of my EDC load-out, because it's cumbersome. I usually have my gun and a knife with me. Should I have a spare mag, pepper spray, trauma kit, etc.? Yes, but I don't. There's just not enough real estate to store all of that, and girl jeans are stupid with stupid pockets. Most days, the gun and a folding knife are all I have with me.

But ... man, the advantage of being able to carry a full EDC load-out in a purse? Now that's worth thinking about. Since I don't carry a purse, I'm not in the habit of living out of one. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to just fill my purse with the trauma kit and pepper spray, and just leave enough room to throw my phone and car keys in. It might even make it more likely for me to have my gun with me for quick trips to the gas station or grocery store without having to put on my belt and holster and make a big production out of getting ready.

The beauty is that Vicki and Gloria allowed me to come to that conclusion all on my own. They didn't tell me I had to carry in a purse, they didn't tell me to never carry in a purse. They said, "it's an option, you need to know how to do it safely, and you need to make up your own mind about it" (obviously paraphrased).

By the end of the weekend, my head was swimming with new content and teaching tips, but my biggest take-away from the entire class was Vicki telling us:

Claim Your Own Magnificence!

I'm not a motto-type girl, I'm not one who needs daily mantras or any of that touchy-feely stuff, but I left feeling prepared and eager to claim my own magnificence.

 Thank you to Suzanne Freehauf of Ladyfire, LLC for the pictures.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Combat Pistol Class

In January, 2021, GunDude Mez and I packed up and headed down to Arizona to take Dave's Kinetic Combatives course. We met up with GunDude Drew, who flew in, and spent the weekend in absolute crap Arizona weather. I wish I was kidding about that.

Unlike my classes in 2020, which Drew kindly gifted to me, I actually paid for this class. In fact, I loved the Adaptive Pistol class so much, that as soon as I finished up, I started looking for open slots in Dave's 2021 schedule. I tried for the Kinetic class in Laramie, WY, but that already had a waiting list (and it's not even scheduled to run until September of this year), then I found a class in Arizona that still had space. My plan was to drive down and stay at my brother's place. Mez missed out on the Adaptive Pistol class, but I managed to talk him into joining me for Kinetic Pistol.

I was excited for January in Arizona; I thought I'd get out of the Colorado cold and enjoy a few days' worth of shooting. Winter chose to visit Arizona that week, and we were cold and wet for the entire class. Luckily, I am a Colorado girl, and while I bitched about shooting in shitty weather, I've done it plenty of times in the past.

The skills learned in this class were different from the Adaptive class, which makes sense, since Kinetic means movement. We did a lot of learning to move with and around our guns, how to divert our muzzles as we moved, actual pivots to check our 360. 

We started with dry runs of the drills, so that corrections could be made by the instructors, before we went live.

Draw, move, shoot. (Dry running it)

Dave broke everything down into bite-size pieces, so that we'd get a handle on one skill before we moved onto the next. I love learning in "baby steps" like that, and often teach my classes the same way. From moving and shooting, we started in with explosive movements. This is where I am lacking. Between the Adaptive course and the Kinetics course, I'd lost about 20# and was in much better shape. However, I'm still not fast. Some people are high speed, low drag. Me? I'm more no speed, all drag.

In fact, the feedback I got from Dave was that I could shoot okay, but man was I slow. Yep. Gotta work on that speed thing. The good news is, that I am getting better, more explosive off the line in any direction.

Despite the small setback I had in the Adaptive course with my holster breaking and having to change to an entirely different set up, I found the Kinetic course much more challenging. Certainly the caliber of student was much higher in the Kinetic course than in the Adaptive course, so I had to work harder to hold my own. I mean, when the class is headed up by Dave Spaulding, and assisted by Rich Nance, you're gonna attract a different caliber of student than a regular class. It was like the who's who of the shooting world for the weekend and I was just honored not to be run off the range.

With Dave retiring next year, I'm glad to have been able to take at least two of his courses. He's doing only two classes in 2022: one at his home range, and one in Colorado. I've got my money set aside ready to enroll the second that class opens up in June. It'll be worth every dime (and with the cost of ammo, it's really a big investment).

Gratuitous class photo dump:

The biggest surprise of the week came on the trip home. As we were headed up through Payson, Arizona we got snowed in!! 22" of heavy wet snow delayed our trip home by three days.

Our three day delay wasn't quite long enough. While I was in Arizona with Mez, Jay was at home suffering from Covid. His symptoms came on after we left for Arizona, and peaked the day I got home. If we'd been delayed just one more day, I would have missed his infectious period and been able to attend the class I had scheduled two weeks later.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Dark Angel Medical's Direct Action Response Training (D.A.R.T.)

Another class I was lucky enough to have gifted to me from GunDude Drew was Dark Angel's Direct Action Response Training. I had been coveting this class for years. You all know my passion for getting TQ training to the masses, but the class I teach (Advanced Bleeding Control through American Safety and Health Institute) is like kindergarten compared to the grad school-level education that Dark Angel offers.

The Dark Angel curriculum is fast-paced, but very well laid out and easy to follow. Though I've spent 30+ years working in the medical field, fifteen of that teaching in the medical field, I still learned a lot, and honed my skills. Back in 1989, I took my EMT-B course. It was a semester-long course, so about sixteen weeks, and I learned the basics of life-saving. In 16 hours with Dark Angel, I learned the same. Now, we didn't learn how to auscultate blood pressures in Dark Angel's course, but we learned the nitty-gritty of saving lives. I loved every damn second of class.

Our instructor, Ross, was funny and knowledgeable as he lead us through the basic anatomy and physiology of the body and its responses to trauma. Not one boring second, and everything he had to say was immediately applicable to the subject at hand. I had talked GunDude Mez into taking it with me, and as my rocket scientist friend, he has a basic knowledge of the body and how it functions, but not nearly the same background as I. Because the curriculum is laid out so well, and Ross was so informative, Mez was able to follow along pretty easily and pick up on some pretty tough topics.

This was not your basic Stop the Bleed class, it was, as I mentioned earlier, the grad school version that took us from the body's alarm responses to safety and situational awareness to assessment and treatment of various injuries including: bumps and bruises, fractures, blast injuries, gun shot wounds, blunt force trauma. Like I said, it was essentially a basic EMT** course taught in sixteen hours. 

We spent enough time doing hands-on activities that we all became comfortable with using the equipment provided. It's one thing to hear about how to use a piece of equipment, but completely different to actually use said equipment.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was having so much fun in class that I didn't think to take any pictures. I will say, though, if you're on the fence about dishing out the money to take this class, just do it. It's amazing and you'll learn so much. In fact, I believe I'll budget for it and take it a second or third time.

**My words, not theirs. Don't want anyone getting in trouble for false advertising.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Dave Spaulding's Adaptive Pistol Course

A huge thanks to GunDude Drew, who gifted this class to me. He hosted Dave and knew how much I wanted to do this training. I don't know that I've said much about GunDude Drew yet, but he's our "training whore", and the newest member the GunDiva/GunDude family.

In July, 2020, GunDudes Drew, Double Tap, and I spent the weekend training under Dave Spaulding. It had been a while since I took a shooting course. The last one I took was my POST Handgun Instructor's course in 2018. I wasn't sure what to expect, except that it would be "awesome" according to Drew, who has taken all of Spaulding's classes.

To my happy surprise, I was not the only female in class. There were three of us: one had trained under Spaulding before; one was game, but in way over her head; and I was new to Spaulding, but able to hold my own. Since Jay bought me my Mantis for my birthday, I'd done a bit of dry fire training with that prior to Dave's class; between training with the Mantis and all of the Dot Torture I shoot, I was fairly confident I could shoot decently.

This was an excellent class to help refine some things I learned long ago, and to brush up on skills I haven't used in a long time. It was also an excellent way to pressure test my gear. In fact, by noon the first day, I'd already broken one holster trying to rack my gun off it. I didn't have another holster that fit my 43x with the rail on it, so at lunch, I switched to my M&P 2.0 and my duty belt.

This drill, right here, killed my first holster.

At first, I was disappointed in having to change gear. I felt like my 43x and I were really clicking well and getting to know each other even better. I'd already been happy with how we got along, but spending the morning doing remediation drills (one and two handed), shooting strong and "stupid" handed, really reinforced that the 43x was the correct carry choice for me.

Like I said, changing to the M&P was a bit of a disappointment, but by the end of the day, I was happy I did, because I learned some things I could take back to my reserves. The most surprising thing I learned during our "Around the World" drill was that I couldn't shoot from the right fetal position while in my duty belt. The kydex holster (made by Long's Shadow, and an excellent holster) prevented me from being able to roll up onto my right hip. Now, someone with longer arms, who could leverage themselves up, or someone using a belt kydex holster instead of a big duty retention holster wouldn't have had the same problems.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the fetal right position.

I liked the "Around the World" drill so much, that I took it back to my deputies and made them shoot it during our Q3 training. If you've not done the drill, it's shooting from various positions: standing, one knee kneeling, two knees kneeling, sitting, supine, fetal left, fetal right, sitting, two knees kneeling, one knee kneeling, standing. 

The other big, for me, thing I took away from class immediately improved my one-handed shooting. I felt like I was pretty good one-handed prior to class, just because I practiced so much, but by taking Dave's advice and moving my thumb up from the standard thumb-forward position was a game changer.

By angling my thumb upward, it forces the gun deeper into my hand, making it easier to manage recoil and get back on target more quickly.

Just like spending the morning shooting the 43x solidified that I'd chosen the correct EDC gun, being forced to finish out the remaining day and a half of the class shooting my M&P was good for me. I could always shoot it okay, but I wasn't in love with it. I'm still not deeply in love with it, but I can shoot it much more competently than I could before and I'm far more comfortable. Since I bought the M&P so that I would be working with the same gun as most of my reserves, I am thankful that I spent so much additional time with it. The last time I shot the M&P that much was during my POST Handgun Instructor's course.

I came away from the Adaptive Pistol class with a lot more knowledge and skill for my own use, and that I could pass on to both students and my reserve deputies.

Additionally, I came away from the class with a determination to continue taking classes. I read voraciously, but it's not the same as getting out there and rolling around in the dirt, putting what you learn into practice.

Gratuitous class pictures to follow:

2XTAP family picture with Dave: Drew, Ben, Dave, me, DoubleTap

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Snowy Day Activity

Putting together/updating Get Home bags, and hiking day packs has been on our to-do list for quite a while, so it seemed appropriate for us to do it while a big storm was raging outside. Nothing like inclement weather to provide incentive to get other "preps" done. 

We've spent the last couple of weeks making a list and assembling everything we wanted in our Get Home bags and hiking day packs. Not surprisingly, a lot of the items overlapped.

I had a little Get Home bag in my car that had a boo-boo kit, an oh shit kit, extra magazines, utility knife, flashlights, extra mags, etc. I found I've been stealing that bag out of my car when I was overseeing students at the range, because it was easier to carry around than my range bag.

I also had a Go Bag with stuff in it for my Posse duties. The contents were much less: my slicker, hazard vest, blanket, some snacks, flashlights, and the like. Both of my bags got an overhaul.

Jay got to build his Get Home bag from scratch, which is always fun. It's tempting to try to think of every scenario you might come across and try to pack for those, but then your bag gets incredibly heavy, so we tried to go bare-bones.

Our Get Home bags have first aid kits and medication (Stop the Bleed kits are on order), supplies for fire making, extra magazines, assorted knives, food, collapsible water containers and life straws, lights, pens/paper, a small solar panel for charging devices, and the most important thing - TP! There are a few other lightweight things in there that I forgot to list, I'm sure. We tried to keep in mind that these are not Bug Out Bags, they're Get Home bags. We might have to walk quite a way to get home, so we had to balance the equipment we wanted against how much weight we could carry for extended distances.

Even keeping that in mind, our bags weigh in at right about 12#. There are a couple of other things we're waiting to have delivered, but I think we'll manage to stay less than 15#. To make sure we can haul them around when we need to, we'll start wearing them on walks around the farm road. That way, we can address any rubbing or weight distribution issues in advance (in addition to building the muscle strength required to carry that weight for extended distances).

Our hiking day packs were a lot easier to pack, but had some very similar supplies: first aid kit and meds, Stop the Bleed kit, blister care, food, toilet paper, plus cheap rain ponchos, and a water bladder.  We don't expect to spend more than a few hours on the trails, so we cut back on the "survival" gear, though we do each have solar blankets in case we have to hunker down. The water is going to be the heaviest part of our hiking packs, so just like with our Get Home bags, we'll wear those around the farm roads to check for rubbing and to make sure we can carry them easily.

The little Get Home bag I mentioned earlier got stripped down and will be my dedicated range emergency kit. I moved a lot of supplies to my "big" bag, and kept just the boo-boo and oh shit kits, along with extra magazines, and a "get back" knife. With its decreased weight, it'll be a lot more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time on the range. It'll still live slung over the passenger seat in my car, within easy reach, but its primary job is now for the range.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Baloo Update

 I decided my new bow needed a name, so Baloo Bear it is. Now let's see if I can manage to not sing "Bear Necessities" every time I take him out for a range trip.

Just being generous and sharing the ear worm. Enjoy :)

Anyway ... let's get back on track.

Before the storm arrived over the weekend, Jay and I went to the archery range. I wanted to get Baloo sighted in, and Jay wanted to dress his bow up. While his bow was getting his accoutrements, I did my best to get my bow sighted in.

It's opposite of sighting in a rifle, so I had to think a bit each time. I was told to "chase the arrow", so after my first three shots were down and to the right, I had to move my sight to the right. Still seems backward to me. 

It didn't take too long to get the windage correct, by just moving the sight a bit at a time. As long as I paid attention to my form and release, I did okay, but there were times when I screwed something up and had a flyer.

Bottom left arrow? Flyer.
Holes in the black and blue? Flyers.

I'd like to say that the ones in the yellow were intentional, but I think that was dumb luck, as I was just beginning to adjust elevation. I didn't do a ton of shooting, only about 20 at this point, but shoulder fatigue was starting to set in.

I wanted to dial in elevation just a touch more, so let fly another few sets of three. One set was freaking awesome! Unfortunately, it highlighted that I might be consistent, but not accurate (yet). 

I couldn't duplicate this if I tried! Love me some beginner's luck. About that time, Jay's bow was ready and my arms were shaking, so I thought it'd be a good time to wind up. I'm not sure if my elevation is correct or not. There are some decent shots in the yellow, and I felt like I was pretty steady on those three, but could have been dropping them due to muscle fatigue.

One more trip to the range with fresh shoulders should get us dialed in. 

I'm excited to join Jay at some of the nearby outdoor ranges this summer!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

I Adopted A Bear

Sort of. 

It's a Bear Cruiser G2 compound bow, but still.

A few years ago I bought GunDude Jay a bow for his birthday and kind of played around with the idea of eventually getting one of my own. Yesterday was "eventually" and we went to an amazing place, Rocky Mountain Archery in Fort Collins. The staff was incredible, not only with me, a complete novice, but with the kids who were in and out. There were so many families and children in the store and the range. Every single employee who interacted with a young 'un treated them with respect, looked them in the eyes, explained whatever they didn't understand, and never once seemed impatient. They treated the kids the same way they treated the adults, they did not talk down to them, or talk around them. The kids were their customers and were treated as such. Even if I hadn't planned on buying anything yesterday, I would have, just to support such a great company.

Speaking of treating people with respect and showing patience, the gentleman (I think his name was Colin?) who helped me spent a lot of time helping me to not only find the bow that fit my needs, but he took the time to *literally* fit the bow to me. I am a rank novice with archery. The last time I played bows and arrows I was in Girl Scouts some 40 years, and I used a recurve bow.

He didn't just help me find a bow and send me on my way, he took me to the range and gave me a quick lesson on how to stand, how to draw, etc. My only criteria was that my new bow couldn't be pink. Yet, one of two that we thought would work for me was pink, so I sucked it up and tried it out.

It did match my lavender shirt, though.

Unfortunately, the not-pink bow wasn't going to work. He couldn't adjust the pull weight low enough (safely) for my wimpy arms to draw it. I started to try to talk myself into the pink bow, but before I'd convinced myself to just suck it up and buy it, a co-worker reminded him of a different bow that might work.

That's when he broke out the Bear. Not only not-pink, but adjustable enough to fit me. As I get stronger and more comfortable with my bow, we can increase the pull weight if necessary, but we didn't have to decrease it so much that it became unstable like we would have with the other not-pink bow.

Once we decided the Bear was going to work for me, he then spent time helping adjust the peep sight and explaining how it worked. He explained everything thoroughly, from how to adjust my sights, to caring for my bow strings, to arrows (sticks) and tips. 

Sadly, I've never had such great customer service in a gun shop. And, sadly, while I thought I gave good customer service when I worked at the shop, I was nowhere near this good. We're talking Chick-Fil-A level customer service.

I still have to figure out how to actually sight in my bow, but I know if I go back and use their range to do so that they'll help me out and not make me feel stupid for not knowing.

I'm excited to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new skill. And I'm not gonna lie, something about my new Bear makes me feel like a total badass.

(Oh! I almost forgot! I can mount my Mantis to my bow and it can help analyze what I'm doing right or wrong - I think it'll be helpful to have a coach in my phone.)

Monday, February 8, 2021

KORE Essentials belt

 A little problem back in December had me looking for a new belt. The problem? I'd lost enough weight that when I put my usual belt on, the tongue overlapped too much and I couldn't tuck it in under my magazine carrier. Normally, I don't wear an external magazine carrier, so hadn't noticed my belt had gotten too big. Luckily, that day, my velcro under-belt for my duty belt stepped in and saved the day.

I knew I'd have to buy a new gun belt, but had no idea what I wanted. I have a couple from GunGoddess and I love them, but they're Western-styled and I'm not always about wearing my Wranglers and boots. I wanted to find a quality gun belt that I could wear with regular jeans and tennis shoes. As I was whining to Jay about it, he told me he'd just ordered a belt from KORE.

Now, as you know, I'm hardly a girly-girl, so the fact that it's KORE Essentials For Men didn't bother me one bit. All I needed was an EDC belt that didn't look like my old 5.11 training belt. While I like my 5.11 belt, it is not for every day wear. At least not for me. I looked through the options and found a belt that looked like it would work. I don't think it's overly "manly", and it doesn't really scream "gun belt" to me.

I had Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Pistol class looming and knew I needed a good quality belt for class and that my current belts weren't going to work, so I placed my order.

Weirdly (for me, at least), you don't order the belt by size. You choose the belt and the buckle you want and they send it to you, and it's up to the customer to cut it to size. They include instructions for determining the correct length to cut it down to, dependent on whether you are planning to OWB or IWB. 

This might be fairly straightforward for men, but it was a little trickier for me. Women's pants are stupid. Some ride just below the waist, some ride just above the hips. And I'm not talking just jeans, even my 5.11 pants ride differently. One pair is at my waist; one pair just above my hips. Depending on a woman's build, the difference between the waist and hips can be inches. Because of that, finding the right length to cut the belt down was difficult. It took me a couple of tries to find a length that worked with all of my pants, OWB and IWB.

I managed to get it cut down to the right size a week or so before I left for Phoenix, for Dave's class. I knew using the belt in a two-day class would make or break it for me - by the end of class I was either going to love the belt, or hate it.

One of the cool things about it is that there aren't any holes for a belt buckle, so you can adjust it in 1/4" increments instead of the traditional 1" increments. It makes finding "just the right" tightness easier. I'd worn the belt for a few days before class and knew it was comfortable and that I liked it, but was looking forward to putting it to the test in class.

For two days, the belt remained comfortable and distributed the weight of the gun and extra magazine very well. I did find that if I wanted to wear my mag carrier as close to centerline as possible, that I had to clip it onto my pants first, and then run the belt through it, but that was an easy solution. It probably had more to do with the tight clasp of my mag carrier than the belt.

Before I got my KORE belt, when I wanted to IWB appendix, I had to almost wear my gun in a cross-draw position. The larger belt buckle of my go-to gun belts meant that I couldn't easily carry my gun on the right side (about 12:15) and ended up having to carry it on the left (about 11:45). That wasn't super comfortable, so I was extremely excited to be able to move my gun back to where it was most comfortable. 

Prior to taking Dave's course, I'd worn the KORE belt with an OWB holster in class to teach with, and was pleasantly surprised that when I had to use the bathroom, the holster didn't slip. With all of my other gun belts, as soon as I buckled to unzip, the weight of the gun would pull on the belt, threatening to flap over. With this belt, the holster and gun didn't even think of moving. It was like magic. 

As far as EDC belts go, this one was worth the money. It's sturdy enough that if I had to rack my gun off of it I could do it without a problem. It's comfortable enough to wear all day. And it's adjustable in 1/4" increments, so if it becomes necessary to loosen it, it's easy to do. And I've mentioned that with OWB, I don't have to worry about my gun/holster flapping around.

If you're looking for a good EDC belt, and you're not worried about finding a belt for women, this was a great investment.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Mantis Blackbeard

I feel like I should just remind everyone that with very, very rare exception, everything that we review on this page is something we've purchased ourselves. This allows us to be very honest in our opinions. I think the last free item I received for review was several years ago, and - oh boy, did I upset some people. When I review something and I love it (or hate it), I really do love it (or hate it). We make no money running this blog and our views are not "bought".

Now that that's out of the way - the Mantis Blackbeard ...

Jay really opened Pandora's box when he got me the X10 Elite for my birthday last year. He knew I was a training junkie, but neither of us realized I was also a data junkie. 

At the end of December, we had an "Instructor Development" day with our ARs and after only three hours I was gassed. I can shoot a pistol all day long, but shouldering that rifle took more work than I'm used to. I vowed to do more dry fire with it at home so I could build up the core muscles needed.

I did follow through on my vow to practice dry fire. For one session. I mounted the Mantis to the rail and got to work. Turns out that having to cycle the bolt after every shot was as tiring as mounting the rifle. Probably really good for building muscles, but frustrating and time-consuming. 

About that time, I started seeing ads pop up about the Mantis Blackbeard. I didn't really know what it was about, so last week I decided to go to the website and dig into it. I watched a couple of videos and became more intrigued.

An system that auto-sets the trigger? A system that doesn't require me to cycle the bolt and have to re-shoulder the rifle after each round? Oh, hells yes!

I sat on it for about a day before I decided to just give them my money. I initially intended to buy the one without the laser, because my plan was just to put my Mantis X10 on my rifle and use them together. However, the system with the laser was only about $20 more and gave me the option of utilizing their Mantis Laser Academy. I have no idea what the Mantis Laser Academy is, but since I'm in love with all things Mantis, I'll probably find out sooner rather than later.

When I placed my order there was a warning that because of a large volume of orders, mine might be delayed up to 30 days. I sighed, but with ammo what it is, I figured I could wait another 30 days. Imagine my surprise when it arrived on my doorstep less than a week after I ordered it!

I immediately pulled the "magazine" out of the case and plugged it in to charge. My plan was to use today to try out the system. It is as easy as they say: remove your charging handle and BCG, replace with the system's polymer one, slap the 'magazine' in and you're ready to rock and roll. In seconds, my rifle went from a fully functioning, live-fire rifle to basically an inert training gun.

Since I didn't plan on using the laser, I left it alone and didn't bother zeroing it in. However, since it is set to fire with every trigger press, I can see that it is pretty well zeroed right out of the box. If you do intend to use the laser with your training, remember height over bore when you're zeroing it.

It took me exactly five rounds to fall in love. I didn't even hook up the Mantis, I just put the system in my gun, aimed at my 3"x3" sticky note on the wall and pressed off five quick rounds. Holy cow! Not having to cycle the bolt after every round is so lovely.

Jay had purchased some Runner Mounts a few months ago and was kind enough to put one up for me. Our rifle storage is a bit ... cluttered ... and hard to get to, so being able to slip my rifle onto one of the mounts when I'm not using it is handy. A word of caution: the Runner Mount is not secure storage and will not protect your rifle from unauthorized users. However, since my rifle is inert and incapable of firing live rounds right now, having it readily accessible for dry fire training is wonderful. Since we don't have young kids around the house, I'm comfortable with this 'storage' solution for us.

With the rifle accessible for training, I slipped the Mantis on the rail and put the Blackbeard magazine in my gun. I only managed about a hundred rounds and can immediately see that I've got work to do.

The work I have to do is not only with my trigger manipulation, but with building my core strength. After only 100 rounds, my right SI joint is sore. Sadly, I see planks in my future, along with really focusing on having a good, solid stance. 

My first impression of the Blackbeard is that it does work as advertised. It does take only seconds to install the system. The automatic trigger reset is awesome (and it makes a cute little noise with every reset that makes me giggle), and I love being able to practice with the same gun I shoot with. After 100 rounds, I'm in love with the system and give it two thumbs up! It is well worth the $219.00 (+ S&H and tax) I spent on it, and it'll pay for itself in about another 100 rounds.

Side note: one thing I noticed was that when I changed my settings in the Mantis app to rifle, it opened up a whole new file of different training options, specific to rifles.