Fictional Story With Good Lessons

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From John Tate.

The story below has several important lessons.

(1) Note the lack of facts such as when and where. That’s a clue – because the story is false. (I challenge you to find them.)

(2) The “where” would be enormously important. If a constitution-hostile jurisdiction like New York (remember the 1984 Bernard Goetz incident), the fictional Miss Montgomery would be in jail. Same for New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc.

(3) Any sane jurisdiction recognizes the doctrine of proportionality. Here, an armed, single woman confronted by seven unarmed men may reasonably use deadly force because she (a) has been battered, and (b) may reasonably expect to suffer deadly force injuries unless she successfully defended herself.

I’d add a fourth point: Beware confirmation bias. A quick scan of the comments below that article indicates many people would really like this story to be true.

I’ve pointed out a number of times that many popular myths propagate because people continue to repeat nonsense without verifying if the claim actually ever happened.

This can happen with stories you might like as well.

Position Review with John Tate

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Look at the photos here. On those folks in a firing position, notice their right elbow. Notice only one appears to have his elbow well tucked into his side. (There are other images, not shown here, that make this more dramatic.)

Lesson 1. (This is far more important with a gun with recoil, e.g., 308 or 30-06.) Get that elbow secured as best you can. “Spray sticky” on the mat and elbow pad and even at the inside of your bicep; on soft ground, dig a pit with your elbow during prep (this is good during rattle battle where accessories like mats aren’t used), do what you can – because if this elbow slips, your position is dead.

Lesson 2. If you shoot some pop gun like an AR in 5.56, there is no appreciable recoil and you can have a pretty sloppy position and endure. (Some of the photos show these.) But, in doing so, you are making a habit that will hurt with a real gun. So make good habits no matter whether shooting .22LR or .30-338.

Example. I was shooting a match at Camp Pendleton. My offhand was, for me, a par, mid 90s; but my 200 rapid was a 199-9X. Then we went to 300. That damn Pendleton dusty sand ate me alive. EVERY SHOT SLID MY ELBOW. Needless to say, my day in the money was gone. A hard learned lesson.

Want to see perfect LEFT arm elbow position? Look at first photo, guy in brown jacket, no cap.

Lesson. Get that left elbow UNDER the rifle. (Magazine on wrist/forearm is a plus, but not a factor with a bolt gun and impossible with 30-rd mag.)

Other issues – note placement of right elbow.
(1) it’s off the rubber (possibly he gets better traction on canvas; can’t tell. But the purpose of the rubber on the mat is to provide improved purchase.)

(2) could be tucked closer to his side.

Ancillary comment – “size matters.” I’m 6’1 and wear a 16½-36 shirt (kinda long arms). I shoot an M14. My prone position is like this fellow’s, head forward, with nose up against rear of receiver. However, with an M14, my left hand is up against the sling swivel! Unless he’s a midget, I’m not sure how he has his hand immediately in front of the action.

Trigger Exercises with John Tate


For LEOs and fellow firearm instructors for whom I may in the future conduct firearms training. This short article was from an email I just sent to a fellow who is having trouble with trigger control to offer some exercises that work well for improving shooting skills.

A dissertation on trigger exercises. I’m assuming you know the basics, but I’ll give you one ‘cheater tip.’ Any iron sight shooter knows to focus on the front sight. That’s easy to say; but for some, hard to do. Go to ‘Dollar Store’ or some similar outlet and buy a pair of +1.25 diopter reading glasses. Put them on. YOU CANNOT FOCUS BEYOND YOUR FRONT SIGHT! So, by using these, you’ll make a habit and see the benefit of proper sight picture (sights aligned and in focus; target under sights, but fuzzy).

OK – one more. Some say determining your “strong (or dominate) eye” is crucial. I say BS. It’s much easier to learn to close one eyelid than to rebuild your anatomy. So IF you determine that your left eye is dominate, just put a patch over it until you learn to close it without squinting too much.


First – DRY FIRE! For hours and hours. When doing so, give extra attention to follow-through. Watch this video.

You should notice that when Keith’s hammer falls, you see no other movement of the pistol. This comes from trigger control.

Second – DRY FIRE! For hours and hours. When doing so, CALL YOUR SHOT! State exactly where the sights were when the hammer fell. There are many reasons for calling your shot. One is simply attention to the sights, optical and mental focus on the sights.

Third – DRY FIRE! The ration should be ~ 1000:1 dry fire to live fire rounds. Why is dry fire so good?
You can dry fire anywhere. No need to go to the range.
Dry fire costs nothing but time. If you’re not willing to spend that, you don’t want to shoot better.

In dry fire, you exercise every aspect of shooting except recoil, noise, and recoil recovery … the last of these will still be minimized by the firm grip you practice in dry fire.

Due to the lack of distractions of recoil and noise, dry fire allows you to concentrate an those crucial aspects of shooting: stance, grip, breath control, sight alignment, sight picture, TRIGGER CONTROL, and follow through.

Finally, graduate school: The McGivern trigger exercises.
Get a copy of Ed McGivern’s Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting.

ISBN-10: 1-60239-086-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-60239-086-7

For his trigger drills, see pages 120 – 122 and, to a lesser degree pp 174-175. (There may have been some embellishments in my version, below.) See in particular the last line on page 122: “The trigger should be allowed to go forward as the same rate of speed as that at which it was drawn back, whether quickly or slowly.”

Also, I respectfully draw your attention to this quote from page 175: “Trigger control is the “mystery” underlying all of these seemingly
marvelous performances, and nothing else can ever take its place for successful results in double-action revolver shooting.”

Here is a quick and dirty of the McGivern trigger drills. The drills are to be conducted with a nice, heavy, double-action revolver. (E.g., S&W 686.) If you cannot find a good revolver, a FULL double-action semi-auto pistol will do. (E.g., Beretta 92F, S&W 3900, 4500, or 5900. A Glock is NOT a double-action pistol.) The drills, listed below are executed as follows: master each step before you move to the next.

1st. Single action, Two Handed, Strong Hand on Trigger. Go through all dry fire sequences. Your goal is having hammer fall without any sight movement. First, very slowly. Then, with time and mastery of keeping solid sight alignment, faster and faster. Faster and faster until satisfied that you’re snapping as fast as you can. One very important element: move the trigger finger back and forth at the SAME speed; slow back => slow forward; fast back => fast forward. The idea, of course, is to make the trigger finger move independently of the other 4 fingers and the hand itself.

2nd. Single action, Two Handed, Weak Hand on Trigger.
3rd. Single action, Strong Hand only. As above.
4th. Single action, Weak Hand only. As above.
5th. Double Action, Two Handed; Strong Hand on Trigger; then as above.
6th. Double Action, Two Handed; Weak Hand on Trigger; then as above.
7th Double Action, Strong Hand only. As above.
8th. Double Action, Weak Hand only. As above.

Full disclosure:

As you might imagine, I still occasionally do some training. When I do, I expect to be required to shoot a bit myself … and I really don’t want to give an inept performance. I have a S&W 629 with 6½ barrel; it’s a fairly heavy gun. I use that revolver to polish my technique … by using McGivern’s step 8 above.


Sure, there are other tools that will also help. Buying a nice air gun and shooting in your house, down your hallway is one. But straight dry fire is by far the best practice … and you cannot do it too much.

Slow Motion Pistol Shot

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Sent in from John Tate.

Not mentioned is the shooter during the slow motion portion is practical competition shooter Travis Tomasie

Cracking Computerized Sniper Rifles

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I had a chance to shoot TrackingPoint’s first system when the company initially released it. The company was founded by personnel that had previously worked on computerized targeting systems for big military projects. This offering was different as it was first offered to the civilian market with the internals based on readily-available commodity hardware and open source software. Literally, the interfaces, accelerometers, processors, WiFi transceiver, and Linux-based embedded operating system found in a TrackingPoint rifle are very similar to those in modern Android cell phones and the like.

The company had various problems, as many small businesses do. Still, this news is interesting (and not really surprising.)

From John Tate

All the hoopla about the new scopes that actually calculate all the windage, elevation bullet drop, temperature etc. are vulnerable to hacking or being turned off remotely. Bet the military is scrambling right about now…those systems are big bucks.

There’s a reason the Navy still teaches how to use a sextant.

Corollary: Once when I was in London, I wanted to take some photographs. The battery in my camera had died, so the light meter didn’t work. However, I remembered the classic, base shutter-aperture formula: aperture at f/16 and shutter at the ASA of the film. (By base, I mean this is for a normal, daylight environment). The photos came out properly exposed.

Lesson: Carry a lighter, but never forget how to rub two sticks together to start a fire.

M1 Garand Resources


From John Tate

Here are some M1 info links. Some are appropriate for pure beginners; some a bit more advanced; none are very advanced.

Rifle Marksmanship with the M1 Garand Rifle

This is an excellent video for those who would like to know more about M1 Garand Rifle shooting. They are great for both the beginner and the expert who needs a refresher. The series focuses on the M1 but the techniques can be applied to any rifle. part one covers sling usage and shooting positions.

M-1 Garand Tips & Tricks series:

M1 Service and Maintenance

Call Your Shot: Range Stories


Learn To Call Your Shots
by John Tate


Wind Strategies for Long Range Shooting


Sent in from John Tate. I guess we’ll file this one under “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” If something is “wrong”, but the results are there, then it isn’t wrong. The great thing about competitive shooting is providing objective, empirical measure to sort out what idea(s) actually work.

Connecting with the Wind Or Surfing F-Class
by Larry Bartholome

The range I shoot on allows me to shoot out to 1,000 yards, but it has NO flags, no pits and I don’t even try to read the wind. I let the bullets go where they may while testing, but I try to test in good conditions. I am mainly concerned with the elevation of loads. Since I don’t get any practice and shoot few matches I haven’t developed the habit of watching flags, etc.

So….what do I do to win as much as I do? As I wrote before, I basically chase the spotter. I try to connect with the wind since I know I can’t read it. I use the word “connect” because when I am connected (i.e. in the zone!) I can see mirage changes pretty well. If I become unconnected due to a distraction of any kind I have lost the wind connection and usually points.

Of course I am watching what indicators I can while “chasing”. I try to note what the mirage looks like and file it away in my mind’s eye. Of course here comes that old memory problem, da. I keep my eye in my rifle scope as much as I can while the target is in the pits. I don’t use a spotting scope and I don’t plot shots. That is too distracting for me.

Read more:

Why Practice?

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Why Practice?
by John Tate

Why should we practice manual skills like defensive tactics, draw, reloading, etc? Why is it crucial that police practice DefTacs, cuffing, draw, reloading, etc?



Technical use of force / excessive force / 42 USC 1983 case

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Technical use of force / excessive force / 42 USC 1983 case
by John Tate

((Prefatory comment. This case presents an interesting extension to several other police-shooting-at-car-in-self-defense cases. [1]))

It is the facts of Havens v. Johnson [2] that make it interesting, because the case itself deals with a somewhat minor, legal technicality.

The Facts.

Darrell Havens was the intended target of a sting operation; he was to deliver a stolen car to an informant in exchange for money and drugs. Additionally Havens had been identified as having “had outstanding warrants for robbery and weapon possession, had previously fled from law-enforcement officers, and had associates known to carry weapons.”

When Havens arrived with the stolen Audi at the appointed meeting place, police cars boxed him in.

Once the Audi was blocked between the Blazer and the blue pickup, it began ramming the Blazer in front of it and the blue pickup behind it.1 Sandy drove his white pickup into the passenger side of the Audi and pushed it sideways toward a snowbank against the east wall of the alcove. The Audi stopped moving and Johnson stepped out of the passenger side of the white pickup with a Taser in his hand, planning to arrest Havens. Sandy also exited the pickup and broke the front passenger window of the Audi with a wrench. The Audi then maneuvered to push the pickup backwards, pivoting on the right front bumper of the truck, and continuing to move down the truck’s passenger side. Johnson was in front of the Audi wearing a police badge and a jacket that said “Police” in reflective material. He drew his gun, ordering Havens to stop and put the car in park. Meanwhile, Beauvais had driven the Jeep Liberty behind Johnson. Johnson fired nine times, hitting Havens three times and rendering him a quadriplegic. [3]
The critical factual issue is what was going on when Johnson fired at Havens. Johnson’s post event testimony varied over time as to whether Havens’ car was touching him or approaching him and whether Johnson was some feet away from Haven’s car or was leaning over it. There was a hand print on the hood of the Audi indicating Johnson had, in fact, been leaning over the hood; but it is not clear when this print was placed there.

The statements of officers other than Johnson indicated that the Audi was moving toward Johnson when he fired the shots.

As for Defendant Johnson’s [final] version, he testified at his deposition that while the Audi accelerated down the side of Sandy’s pickup, he backpedaled, Havens turned the steering wheel, and the Audi struck him. Thinking he was about to be crushed by the Audi, he fired his gun nine times into the windshield to stop Havens. After he fired the shots the Audi was temporarily pinned by the Intrepid; but its engine was revving and it started coming at him again. He pulled out a new magazine, dropped it, picked it up, reloaded, and got back into position to fire again if needed. No more shots were fired. [4]
The State of Colorado charged Havens with multiple offenses; he pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree assault of Johnson (among other things).

In the case at bar, Havens brought an excessive-force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Johnson in which Havens denied any wrongdoing. Instead, he asserted that he at no time attempted to resist arrest, claiming that the officers, by crashing their cars into the Audi, caused Havens “to lose control of the vehicle which resulted in the vehicle lurching forward under its own volition.”

The Law.

Two areas of law are here significant: Johnson’s justification for use of deadly force, and the effect of Havens’ guilty plea on his subsequent recantation and civil rights suit.

Regarding the former:

The “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” The use of deadly force is justified “if a reasonable officer in [the defendant’s] position would have had probable cause to believe that there was a threat of serious physical harm to [himself] or to others.” “Thus, if threatened by [a] weapon (which may include a vehicle attempting to run over an officer), an officer may use deadly force.” [5]
Resolution of whether Johnson’s use of force was justified never reached because of a legal technicality from Heck v. Humphrey. [6]

The Heck rule is beyond the scope of this review. It’s details are available at the link to the reviewed case at note 2. In essence, Havens’ Alford plea served as a guilty plea for Heck purposes and thereby foreclosed his ability to later claim Johnson’s use of force against him was unjustified as excessive.


[1] Read and contrast State v. Morales, 2002-NMCA-052; Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012 (2014); State v. Mantelli, 2002-NMCA-033; Fancher v. Barrientos, 10th Circ. #12-2114 (2013); and Martinez v. City of Albuquerque, 184 F.3d 1123 (10th Cir. 1999).

[2] 10th Circ #14,1118, 15 Apr 2015)

Click to access 14-1118.pdf

[3] Ibid. at page 4

[4] Ibid. at page 6

[5] Ibid at page 10. Internal citations omitted. Emphasis added.

[6] 512 U.S. 477 (1994)

CAVEAT LECTOR: These materials have been prepared for educational, andragogic, and informational purposes only. They are not legal advice or legal opinions on any specific matters. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between the author and you. Any views expressed in this introduction and the summaries are those of the author alone and do not express the views of the any New Mexico authority or law enforcement agency. No person should act or fail to act on any legal matter based solely on the contents of these materials. Anyone finding fault with the representations of this analysis is urged to promptly notify me for appropriate corrections.

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