Tuesday, June 29, 2010


There’s a well known saying, “Luck favors the prepared.” The Boy Scouts of America have the motto “Be Prepared!” We’ve all heard that we should be prepared, but what for, and what does being prepared entail? Preparedness is not necessarily about stockpiling years worth of MREs, or having weapons buried in your backyard, although there certainly could be situations that call for that. No, preparedness is about being ready to handle anticipated crises.

As we speak, Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Alex is approaching the Texas coast. With it will come power outages, severe flooding, high winds, and the potential for serious property damage. Preparedness ranges from having automobile and home owner’s insurance policies, to making sure that your family has an evacuation plan and bug out bag (BOB) in the case of such a disaster (see our article on assembling a Bug Out Bag.)

Being Prepared: What to Prepare For
The first step in being prepared is research. It is important to research what situations one should be prepared for. There are a myriad of disasters that could strike anyone at a given time, and it is almost impossible to prepare for all of them. That being said, it is possible to prepare for the most likely scenarios, and being prepared for those will inevitably help you to endure other less plausible disasters.

Not everyone needs to prepare for every possible emergency. What you prepare for may be very individual depending on your medical condition, the weather where you live, and what the political climate is. If you live near the coast, you may consider hurricanes a likely threat. In the Southwest, wild fires may be the primary concern. Residents of the Western United States may prepare for an earthquake or blizzard. People who live in the Midwest may be foolish not to prepare for tornadoes and floods. If you live in an area with an unstable government, you may prepare to defend your home from rioters and looters. Regardless of where you live, there are some disasters that are more likely than others. By preparing for one, you are also at least partially prepared for other possible crises.

Natural disasters or apocalyptic scenarios aren’t the only situations that one can prepare for. Mundane emergencies are much easier to handle with just a little bit of preparation. Your car probably has a spare tire and roadside change kit in it, but do you know where it is and how to use it? You probably have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance but, as important as that is, it is equally important to be prepared with items such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Even something as irritating and mundane as having your wallet stolen can be made much easier to handle if you have a small cash supply and copies of your credit cards and identification safely stored at home. Preparing for the zombie apocalypse with shelves stuffed full of MREs and an expensive solar electrical system does not help you one bit if you neglect to have a fire extinguisher to prevent a small kitchen fire from consuming your entire house.

Have a Plan
The second step in being prepared is having a plan for every situation. This may be as simple as thinking through various “what if” scenarios in your head (what if I lose my wallet or have a flat tire?), to something as elaborate as having a written escape plan and bug out bag in the case of a house fire. Have a family meeting to discuss the plans you make. Other family members may have ideas or concerns about your plans. Make sure that everyone in your household knows what the plans are for each situation, and share your plans with other friends and family so that they know where you are and what you will be doing in an emergency.

Air, Food, Water, and Shelter
In every situation, you have certain needs. These needs were first categorized by Abraham Maslow and are referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Clean air, water, food, and shelter are the most basic of these needs. Meet these four requirements, and you can live. Eliminate even one of these needs and death is imminent. You can live four minutes without air, four days without water, and up to forty days without food. Survival time without shelter depends on a number of factors such as temperature, humidity, sleep availability, etc.

Most disasters threaten one or more of these needs. Any disruption of power or transportation will quickly make food and clean water extremely scarce. Disasters such as fire, severe weather and earthquakes threaten to destroy homes and buildings, our shelter. Other disasters such as volcano eruptions and chemical or biological attacks can make the air itself unsafe to breathe.

The most basic requirement for survival is clean air. Gas masks or respirators, plastic sheeting, and duct tape are the most common items used to ensure that you have clean air to breathe. Respirators are the most basic form of protection, and are useful for filtering out 95% of contaminants as small as 300 nanometers. This is enough to filter most smoke, dust, and pollution particles, but not small enough to filter out individual viruses or airborne chemicals. Respirators also do not protect the eyes. Gas masks are able to filter almost all viruses and chemicals, and are full face masks that protect the eyes as well.

Proper fitment of respirators and gas masks is critical to achieve adequate protection. Gas masks should create an air tight seal around the face, and respirators should have a good seal around the mouth and nose. Respirators with an exhaust valve are preferred since that prevents moisture build up in the mask. In addition, the exhaust valve reduces the chances that rapid exhalation will cause the mask to “blow off” and break the respirator’s seal around the nose and mouth. Respirators should be discarded and replaced on a daily or even hourly basis depending on the levels of airborne contaminants, and gas mask filters should be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Duct tape and plastic sheeting are great for sealing up the doors and windows of your house. While it may not be a perfect solution, even this can stop the infiltration of smoke, ash, or other particulates into the air inside your house. Though it won’t stop everything, it’s still a good protection to take in the case of a chemical or biological attack, and, combined with respirators or gas masks, could make the difference between life and death.

Severe flooding or power loss can cause tap water to be unavailable or contaminated. Some people are lucky enough to have their own water well, but most of those still require electricity to pump the water up, and the ground water can still become unsafe to drink. If you are in the city, instead of having your own well, you may be limited to rainwater catchment systems or stores of bottled water. When planning how much water to store, plan on one gallon of water per adult per day. This provides enough for only the most basic needs of washing and drinking.

If you have access to water, there is still the possibility of contamination. Water from streams, rivers, lakes and ponds should always be treated as if it is contaminated. Always boil potentially contaminated water, or use water treatment tablets. Small amounts of bleach can also be used in an emergency. To treat water with bleach, use 5.25% – 6% plain bleach. Mix 1/8 tsp. bleach per gallon of water, stir in the bleach and let the water stand for 30 minutes. You may also consider investing in a water purification system. Katadyn manufactures a number of water purification and desalinization products that can be used to produce enough water for an individual or, with their more expensive products, enough for an entire household in an emergency.

You don’t need dozens of cases of MREs to be prepared for a food shortage. Most people are woefully unprepared should the corner burger joint be closed, or the local grocery store be empty. It’s simply amazing how many people have little more than leftover Chinese take-out and a bottle of mustard in their refrigerator.

By simply having a well-stocked pantry you can easily stock up enough food to last a month or so. Always remember to rotate food in and out of your pantry, eating the oldest food while placing newly purchased food in the back to be consumed later. Canned foods are inexpensive, easy to store, and can last 3-5 years. Dried foods have an even longer shelf life. 50 pounds of rice stored in a Mylar bag sealed in a 5 gallon bucket can last 20 years or more. Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and calories and, with a mill, can be made into flour. Of course you can always freeze foods, but in the event of a power outage that food will quickly spoil, so make sure that you have an alternate power source such as a generator to keep your refrigeration running.

Fire and severe weather can quickly leave you without a roof over your head. Being prepared may mean that you have alternative places to stay with friends or family, or it may mean having cash and a bug-out-bag so that you can evacuate to a safer location. Whatever your solution, should floods, fire, or high winds leave you without a place to lay your head at night, you should plan what you will do in the event that your primary residence is no more.

The Mundane Disasters: Financial Emergencies, Power Loss, Fire and First Aid
Not all disasters involve zombie hordes or the outbreak of war. Even mundane disasters such as house fires, bank holidays, or acute injuries require some planning to mitigate potential damage.

Fire Prevention and Mitigation
The most commonly neglected household emergency is the house fire. Do you have fire extinguishers? Are your smoke alarms tested twice a year (you do have smoke detectors, don’t you?) Little things such as a Carbon Monoxide detector, smoke alarms, and a fireproof safe for important documents can prevent a minor incident from becoming a major disaster. Draw up a fire escape plan, including a rendezvous point for everyone to meet at so that you can quickly identify anyone who might still be inside. Place emergency ladders in upstairs bedrooms so that you can escape a blaze that blocks the stairs. Make sure that everyone old enough to use a fire extinguisher knows their locations and has instructions on their use. Flashlights are also useful for navigating smoke-filled hallways.

First Aid Kits
For any household, a first aid kit is a must. If you do not already have one, you can build your own first aid kit or purchase pre-assembled kits such as the STOMP Portable Hospital Extensive and Intensive Medic Care kit. Inspect your first aid kit yearly and discard and replace any old, damaged, used, or expired items in the kit.

Don’t forget to include in the kit a supply of any prescription medications taken in your household, as well as materials to care for a sick or injured pet. If you have infants or pets, you may need to make sure that you have a supply of formula and diapers, or a stockpile of pet kibble for Fido. If possible, generate at least a 30-60 day supply of medicine over and above what you usually have on hand. This is especially important for critical prescription medicines such as insulin or heart medication. Most doctors will be willing to write a larger prescription, especially prior to hurricane or storm season, if you explain to them that you want to have a 60-day supply that you can rotate through. Your prescription insurance may not cover a large purchase like that, but it is well worth the money spent. Once your supply is established, continue to rotate new prescriptions through the supply using the oldest dated medicine first. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, burn ointments, and instant glucose are all examples of over-the-counter medications that should be considered for inclusion in your first aid kit. Over-the-counter Benadryl and an EpiPen can also be considered for inclusion in any first aid kit. These can be used to quickly arrest what might otherwise be a fatal allergic reaction.

It is important to address how waterproof your first aid kit is. If the bag itself isn’t waterproof, the individual containers in it should be. In an emergency situation, the bag may be exposed to adverse weather or moisture, and that can ruin many of the items inside if they are not properly protected.

Financial Emergencies
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a cash reserve. In this modern day and age we are becoming more and more accustomed to paying for everything with a credit or debit card. But what happens when those financial systems are inaccessible or nonfunctioning? Everyone should have a moderate amount of cash that is easily accessible in case of emergency. The cash should be in a safe, accessible place somewhere in your house, or apartment, not in the bank. In the event that there is an extended power outage that prevents you from accessing your money, your cash reserve will be there to allow you to purchase necessary goods and services.

When financial disaster looms on a national scale, the first steps are often the declaration of bank holidays. Consider what has happened in the recent past with the twelve month long corralito in Argentina. Banks were effectively shut down for over a year, and withdrawals from US dollar denominated accounts was almost completely prohibited. Just a little farther back in our own US history, financial institutions were shut down for four days during Roosevelt’s Emergency Banking Act during the Great Depression. Having your own cash reserve can minimize the hardships of such situation.

Power Loss
Much of what we consider hallmarks of a modern society are predicated upon the cheap abundance of electrical energy. But what happens when that electricity is no longer available? Many of us have been without power for a few minutes or hours. We’ve huddled around a battery-powered radio or played Monopoly by candlelight while we waited for a storm to abate and the power to be restored. Yet sometimes, it can take days or weeks for a power grid to be brought back online. Hurricane Katrina and Ike are two examples where the power was not restored to some areas for more than a month. Without electricity, refrigerators and freezers begin to defrost in a couple of days. Food that once may have been available is now rotten. Most gasoline pumps are non-functional without power, making fuel shortages a distinct possibility. Without air-conditioning the heat can become unbearable and even deadly.

Flashlights, candles, and a battery-powered radio are just the beginning of a power-loss kit. Food preparation is something else to consider. Without electricity, microwaves and electric ranges will not work. In some situations, natural gas may not be available to run a gas stove or oven. Barbeque grills are one option for cooking food, but they can only be used outside, and can require copious amounts of fuel to be used for extended periods of time. Propane ranges, Sterno kits, and white-gas camp stoves are a better alternative. These systems use fuel that is safe, easily portable, and very efficient at generating heat.

Generators are one solution to an extended power loss, but if you have a generator you must also have a fuel supply for it. Stored gasoline and diesel fuel can go bad in less than a year if left untreated. There are numerous products such as Sta-Bil for gasoline and PRI-D for diesel. Such products can extend fuel shelf life anywhere from 5-10 years depending on storage conditions. Other fuels such as propane and natural gas do not go bad, but can be more difficult to store. Propane and natural gas-fired generators are available too, but are usually larger, not easily portable, and meant for use as a standby generator.

Other solutions for power generation such as photovoltaics or windmills can be expensive and inefficient. In addition, such installations may not be permitted in urban areas. Cities often have maximum height limits on structures, and winds closer to the ground are weaker. Home owners associations also have strict rules that often prohibit wind generators or solar panels.

Preparedness is not just the domain of survivalists and people with piles of MREs still left over from Y2K. Everyone is prepared to a certain degree, but we sometimes neglect certain areas of preparedness. While one person may consider simply having a savings account their acceptable level of financial preparedness, others may see the wisdom in having access to cash in an emergency. Some people simply stop with a home owner’s insurance policy, while others religiously test their smoke detectors and keep fire extinguishers strategically placed throughout their dwelling. Preparedness also varies from place to place. A resident in Colorado would likely be wasting their time preparing for a hurricane, while a resident of Florida would be foolish not to. Whatever you need to prepare for, it’s not hard to do with a little research and a little planning. Just remember that preparedness is not something you do once and leave in the closet until a disaster strikes. Preparedness is a state of mind, of anticipating, planning for, and being ready for whatever life throws your way.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Rules on McDonald: 2nd Amendment Incorporated via 14th Amendment

The US Supreme Court today handed down a groundbreaking decision ruling that the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution applies to the States and local governments, prohibiting them from enacting laws which infringe on a person’s 2nd Amendment rights. In the decision, the Majority ruled that the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment does not allow a person’s right to keep and bear arms to be infringed upon without a trial. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented, along with Stevens who dissents for himself. Justice Alito was joined in the Majority opinion by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, with Thomas joining with his own dissenting opinion.

The notion that the Privileges and Immunities clause also applies was rejected, save for the dissenting opinion by Justice Thomas. In the Majority opinion by Alito, the court explicitly states that it will not reconsider the Slaughterhouse ruling, which essentially stripped any meaning from the Privileges and Immunities clause.

In summary, the court declared:

Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, this Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. Chicago (hereinafter City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens. After Heller, petitioners filed this federalsuit against the City, which was consolidated with two related actions, alleging that the City’s handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. They sought a declaration that the ban and several re-lated City ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Rejecting petitioners’ argument that the ordinances are unconstitutional, the court noted that the Seventh Circuit previously had upheld the constitutionality of a handgun ban, that Heller had explicitly refrained from opining on whether the Second Amendment applied to the States, and that the court had a duty to follow established Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-century cases—United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535— which were decided in the wake of this Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36.
Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

The court did not rule on what action must be taken by the city of Chicago, but instead remanded the decision to the Seventh Circuit court.

You can view the entire 204 page Supreme Court decision here. (*.PDF)

Caleb Giddings Discusses Competitive Shooting with Cheaper Than Dirt!

Caleb Giddings is a well known IDPA and USPSA shooter, and has made a name for himself with his performances shooting Enhanced Service Revolver in IDPA competition. He also runs a blog at Gun Nuts Media, and hosts a weekly podcast that is regularly downloaded by over 50,000 iTunes users. Recently he’s appeared as a contestant on the History Channel’s new show Top Shot. We had the chance to catch up with Caleb Giddings and sit down for an interview to discuss how he first got involved in competitive pistol shooting and gain some insights into practicing and training for IDPA and IPSC competitions.

Tell us a little about yourself, did you grow up in a shooting family or did you get involved with firearms later in life?

I got started in the shooting sports when I was 8 years old. My father was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy for 20 years, and on my 8th birthday he asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday. Instead of choosing a more traditional past time like mini-golf or going to the bowling alley I said I wanted to go shooting. That was pretty much the start of my involvement in the firearms community and the shooting sports.

So, how long was it before you found you had a knack for shooting? When did you really decide to start doing some competitive shooting?

When I was in college at the Coast Guard Academy the collegiate pistol team had open tryouts, and I went down, knowing I liked guns and shooting. So I took the opportunity to do the tryouts and I shot well enough to earn a spot on the team. From there I won some competitions, I won some of our practice matches, and then I started winning a little bit more. I realized “Hey, I like competing, I like winning, and I like guns, this makes a pretty good combination.”

So basically you’ve been competing ever since you got out of the Coast Guard?

Actually yeah, I started when I was at the academy when I was 18. I’ve been competing on and off for the last 10 years, and then in the last 3 years I’ve really started competing seriously again. It was kinda here and there for a while but really in the last 3 years I’ve really made it, I don’t want to say full time, but I would say I’ve made it a serious pursuit in the last 3 years.

We’ve really seen you come up through the ranks recently with some of your recent wins such as the Indiana State Championship, some of your ICORE performances have been pretty impressive, and you recently shot another competition this weekend, the USPSA Area 5 match. How did you do there?

You know I was a little disappointed with my performance at Area 5, even though it was only my second major USPSA match. I felt going into it that I had a really good chance to place in the top 5. Unfortunately I finished 8th. My shooting, I’ll say that looking at the match critically that my shooting was good. My execution of the plan that I had going into each stage was generally pretty good. My planning before the stage was what was flawed. I didn’t treat the stages aggressively enough and I didn’t take opportunities on them that I should have taken. So, I hurt my score doing that. But, overall, it’s been two major USPSA and two major lessons learned.

You had mentioned that you were going to take a different mental approach going into this match, a little bit less planning and a little more focus on being smooth and fluid and just “going for it.” Do you think that affected your score?

That was what I wanted to do going into the match, and then for whatever reason when I got there I started over analyzing the stages and trying to finesse my way through them. When I looked at my scores afterwards, the stages where I stopped thinking about it, didn’t worry about it, and just went for it were my best stages of the match. The ones where I over-thought it were the ones that really hurt me.

Speaking of getting hurt, it looked like your ego and your performance weren’t the only things that got hurt. Tell me about your calf and what happened there.

I was actually being a little foolish. I was taking some pictures of one of the shooters who was running a .38 Super open gun and I was standing at about a 45 degree angle from a steel plate that was one of their targets. Now, I wasn’t down range of the muzzle, I wasn’t in any danger of getting shot, but just unfortunately the shooter’s position, my position, and the bullet impact resulted in me getting a hot piece of jacket from her .38 Super embedded in my calf, which was really actually quite surprising.

I guess that’s a little reminder to pay attention to the action that is going on and to pay closer attention to those steel plates?

Yeah, absolutely. But I got a great picture of the shooter so it all balances out in the end.

You’ve been getting a lot better at shooting recently. Do you have any role models, anybody that you are trying to learn a lot from, or that you base some of your shooting techniques on? Who is someone that you look up to within the shooting industry?

When it comes to revolver shooting, there is really only one name that everyone says. Jerry Mikulek. Everyone’s goal is eventually to beat him, or at least be as good as him. And while that’s about a million years of practice away from me, a lot of the stuff that I do is because I saw him do it and looked at it and I adapted it to try to fit my style, my speed, and my mechanics. He’s definitely the guy in terms of revolver shooting.

And then, in the actual shooting community, I had opportunity recently when I was a contestant on Top Shot to meet JJ Racaza and Blake Miguez who are both USPSA Grand Masters. JJ is a multiple-time Steel Challenge champion, Blake is a National champion and has won lots of area titles. It was neat for me to meet two guys who are the same age as I am, who are young like me, and yet who are competing at the top level in the sport and to talk to them about their practice and what they do to shoot at that level.

So what do you do to shoot at that level? Talk to me a bit about your training. We see you all over the place, I can’t imagine how you manage to get in range time and training on top of your podcast and your blog. Give me an idea of what one week’s worth of training looks like for you. What does that consist of?

The most important thing that I’ve discovered about training, and this is from talking to people who do this for a living, people who are very good at this, is that the amount of time spent training isn’t as important as the quality of training that you do in that time. It’s much better for me if I have a dry fire practice session, which is huge by the way. I spend more time dry firing than I do shooting actual rounds down range. But if I have a dry fire practice session that is only 50 practice reloads or 50 presentations from the holster, but they’re 50 good presentations from the holster, that beats a 200 repetition practice session where I feel I’m trudging through it. It’s better to have 20 minutes of good practice than an hour of average practice.

So, let’s get down to the details. We get these questions a lot from people who want to get good at shooting competitively. If you’re going to set up a training schedule for somebody are you going to do 5 days a week of dry fire and 1 range session? Walk me through some details.

Sure. I’ll give you what I did this winter during the off-season. During the winter it’s cold here in Indiana, I can’t shoot unfortunately unless I want to go to an indoor range. What I did this winter was, at the end of the year I was an Enhanced Service Revolver Sharp Shooter. So, I went into the winter and I said I was going to dry fire at least two days a week. And I’ll make sure it’s good dryfire, so I’ll practice my trigger control. It doesn’t matter how many repetitions I do, I just want to make sure I have good practice that starts on a good note and ends on a good note.

So for dry fire practice what I’ll do is I’ll hold the gun out in my firing stance and cover the screw on a light switch. So, your average light switch has two screws, one top and one bottom, and I’ll use one of the screws as my point of aim. I’ll try to dry fire as many times as I can without the front sight wobbling off that screw, and it’s difficult, but it really builds up that ability to manage the trigger on a revolver. So I try to do that one night a week. And then another night I would practice reloads. That would be just having the gun out, opening up the cylinder, ejecting a moon clip of snap caps, and then reloading a moon clip of snap caps from my belt. And again, try to do that one night a week.

Then, since this is the winter, in lieu of going to actual matches I put up reduced sized targets in my workout room. So, I have paper targets pinned up on the walls in my workout room, and I would do simulated courses of fire with dry fire. You know, 10 or 20 round courses, where I would have to shoot 6 rounds at three different targets, reload, and shoot 6 more simulated rounds at targets.

That was what I did all winter. I did that from November until February. Then, in February I went out and shot the IDPA Classifier with 2 inches of snow on the ground, and I shot the best Classifier I’ve ever shot with any gun. I shot in the Master Class for the first time in IDPA, and it was primarily because I spent the winter learning to manage the trigger.

My summer time practice is pretty similar. I do two nights of dry fire practice a week, and then if I’m shooting a match that weekend I will try, sometime after the match, to get at least 100 rounds of practice on one of the fundamentals. Whether it’s a reload drill or a transition drill, whatever it is, I try to get 100 to 200 rounds of practice working on a basic fundamental skill.

That’s pretty important to be able to get all of that practice in. I know most of us don’t have thousands of rounds of free ammunition to practice with, so those are some great tips. I know you’re starting to pick up some semiautomatic pistols and work with those for your Quest for Master Class series that you’re doing. How well do the skills gained from these dry fire exercises and training cross over into semiautomatic pistols?

It’s a 100% transition. The only difference between shooting a revolver and dry firing a striker fired semiautomatic pistol like the Ruger SR9C that we’ll be using in the Quest for Master class is that with the Ruger I have to cycle the slide manually in between trigger resets. If you’re shooting a traditional double action auto like a CZ or a Beretta, then you can just use that double action trigger pull.

I actually recommend for people that if you want to practice dry firing, and all you want to work on is your trigger management, go buy a used Smith & Wesson Model 10 or Model 19. They’re still really cheap, you can get a used double action revolver for $150 to $250. If all you want to practice is trigger control that is the perfect gun for it. If you can manage a double action trigger on a revolver, when you go back to shooting your 1911 or your Glock or whatever gun that you’ve got, the trigger will feel like it’s not even there. It’s amazing what that does for your ability to manage trigger pull.

So you don’t think that transitioning from a double action to a light weight single action has any negative impacts?

No. I honestly don’t.

One of the things that I learned from my experience on Top Shot is that shooting is shooting. It all comes down to sight alignment and trigger control. Everything else, you know how reloading a semiautomatic pistol is different from reloading a revolver, that’s just repetition and practice. The most important thing that you can do is get your sights on target and pull that trigger cleanly. If you can do that well with a double action revolver then you can certainly do that well with a semiautomatic pistol.

So, do you do any physical conditioning? How much does it play into your performance as a competitive shooter? How much time do you spend exercising and how do you feel it affects your shooting?

I usually work out 5 to 6 days a week. The schedule that I work out on is, I try to workout 3 consecutive days, take a rest day, work out for 3 consecutive days, and take another rest day. That rotates the rest day through the week so that I don’t get into a set pattern. And it’s difficult when you’re traveling and shooting matches and working full time to get the workouts in. But a minimum of 4 workouts a week is what I try to do, that’s my low acceptable level.

I really believe that being in good physical condition helps you shoot better. If you look at the top shooters, especially in USPSA right now which is such a physical fast paced game, guys like Dave Sevigny and Ben Stoeger, they’re all in great shape because they’re athletes. The ability to do 50 pushups means that you can hold your arms out longer than someone who can’t. It means that you can move that gun faster from one target to the next target than someone who isn’t in that good of physical condition.

So, while it’s not as important in the shooting sports as it is to be in good physical condition if you’re a basketball player or a football player, it definitely helps your performance. It speeds things up just a little bit.

So, in addition to all of the physical aspects of shooting, it’s also quite a bit of a head game. How do you maintain mental focus, and is there a way to practice that so that when it comes time, when you’re under pressure and when the buzzer sounds, you’re focused and quickly and easily able to maintain the mental discipline you need to be fast and be accurate?

The big thing that really does set the top level shooters apart is that they are able to make a plan, stick to the plan, and execute that plan almost flawlessly. I’m not anywhere near their level as was evidenced by this last match. I had some serious mental errors that were what really cost me a better finish at the match.

So what type of training gives those guys the ability to do that? It’s the little things. It’s trying to stay focused on the minutia without being so focused on it that you lose sight of the big picture. Me personally, I like to play mind games. Brain teasers and puzzles. Things that make me think and look at problems from other angles. That kind of mental exercise absolutely applies when you’re shooting a stage. If you can look at a crossword puzzle or a brain teaser and analyze it and break it down and solve it you can analyze a course of fire and break it down and solve it as well.

If there was one thing you’d tell an aspiring shooter to focus on to shave a few seconds off their time, what would it be?

If someone was looking to shave a few seconds off of their time in one of the action disciplines such as USPSA or IDPA, I would say the biggest thing you can do to cut that time down is, don’t think about your reloads, but practice your reloads. Practice your reloads until it is a fluid motion. If you look at pictures of people like Dave and Bob and other top level shooters, you’ll see on their reloads that the empty mag, the mag that they’re ejecting, is still falling to the ground by the time they’ve got their reload inserted into the gun. That’s the kind of speed that can really help cut time off of your stages because that reload is the only time when the gun is down. You’re not shooting when you’re reloading. So that’s a big way, at least in my opinion, to cut some time off of your stages.

The other thing that I might say that actually might be even better advice would be to practice seeing the targets. What I mean by that is, when you’re looking at your sights, and you have an array of three targets in front of you, the best way to get fast is to look at your sights, shoot the shot you need at the first target, look at the next target, move the gun to it, look back at your sights, shoot it, look at the next target, move the gun to it, look back at your sights, and shoot it. The ability to “see fast” is what will make you faster on the course of fire. And that’s something you can only do with repetition.

So, sight picture, being able acquire that sight quickly, is that what you’re talking about?

Yes, absolutely. It’s hard to explain “seeing the whole field,” if anybody out there has ever been a high school football quarterback they’ll really understand what I’m trying to express.

I think I get the picture… What you’re trying to say is that you’ve got to be able to have a mental image of what is going to happen before it actually happens. You’ve got to get that sight picture, quickly and then transition to the next sight picture without hesitating, without having to stop and focus. Does that sound right?

Absolutely. You want to see sight picture, target, sight picture, target, sight picture, target, and you want to be able to do that as fast as possible.

So maybe practice using dry fire using targets set up, much like you have them in your workout room, that would be a good drill.

Yes, that’s one of the dry fire drills that I did over the winter.

Well, I appreciate you taking the time to give us some tips and insights into training and practice.

No problem, hope to see you on the range sometime!

Images courtesy of Gun Nuts Media.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

S.W.A.T. Magazine TV Begins Second Season

S.W.A.T. Magazine TV, winner of a 2010 People’s Telly award, has been picked up for a second season, and the first new episode from season 2 premiers on June 30th on the Outdoor Channel during their Wednesday Night At The Range lineup. Season 2 is sponsored by Cheaper Than Dirt! along with, GunVault, Blackhawk!, LaserLyte, and Cross Breed Holsters. Cheaper Than Dirt! is proud to continue to be the primary sponsor, supporting the extensive instructional segments.

Rob Pincus commented on the upcoming shows in the second season: "In the first episode of the new season, John Chapman will be teaching officer rescue techniques to members of the Pinal County Regional S.W.A.T. Team and then he’ll apply the same concepts to the problem of needing to assist a family member who has been injured during an active shooter situation. A new theme for Season Two is the idea of “Always a Student,” a concept that I tried to exemplify last season by jumping in on many of the training blocks at the end of the show. Often, during these scenes, I would find an opportunity to learn or identify a failure point with our guest instructor. We received some great feedback on these true learning moments over the past six months. This time, we are going a step further by having our guests instructors take advantage of the opportunity to train with each other and show their dedication to remaining Always a Student. In fact, the first new Question of the Week segment will focus on this topic."

The show format will remain largely unchanged. Topics covered in season 2 will include active shooter response, officer rescues, and using weapons one-handed. Guest instructors from some of the top training facilities in the United States include "Top Shot" star Mike Seeklander from the US Shooting Academy and "Super Dave" Harrington from Combat Speed.

S.W.A.T. Magazine TV brings you information latest gear and tactics, along with some of the top instructors and shooters in law enforcement and military training. Watch and learn how the tactics and gear that they use can apply to personal and home defense. Rob Pincus, host of S.W.A.T Magazine TV, is a professional trainer at the I.C.E Training Company as well as an author and consultant. He graduated from the Military College of Vermont after which he served as an officer in the US Army Reserve. Rob has worked as a law enforcement officer and executive protection agent and continues to work as a Training Officer at the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office.

S.W.A.T Magazine has been providing relevant industry information for over 25 years. The new S.W.A.T. Magazine TV provides the same valuable information in easy to follow high definition video. S.W.A.T. Magazine TV airs at 7:30PM, 6:30PM Central on Wednesday evenings on The Outdoor Channel.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shelter In Place

A couple of weeks ago we discussed hurricane preparedness and briefly touched on sheltering in place. Obviously, if you’re in a structure that is vulnerable to high winds, such as a mobile home or travel trailer, or if your home is in a storm surge or flood prone area, it is always going to be advisable to evacuate when a hurricane threatens.

Even if you feel your structure is sound, if your local authorities recommend evacuating you should heed the advice and seek shelter outside the path of the hurricane. When an evacuation is called for, it is not just for your safety but also for the safety of the emergency services in your area. In a situation where the evacuation order is given, police, fire, and medical services will not be able to help you during an emergency if you refuse to evacuate. If you remain during an evacuation, you are well and truly on your own. Always evacuate when the order is given. The best way to avoid a disaster is to not be there when it happens.

If you do make the decision to shelter in place and ride out the storm, you will need to be adequately prepared. This preparation is even more important when a sudden emergency happens and there is no time to evacuate. When sheltering in place, it helps to have a “bug-in-bag” with all of the supplies you will need to endure a hurricane, tornado, or other disaster. Prior to the need to shelter in place, make a checklist to help ensure that no supplies are forgotten and that all necessary actions are taken.

When the time comes, you will need to move to a safe room that you have previously identified (generally a room near the center of the structure on the ground floor). Grab your Shelter In Place Kit or bug-in-bag,personalized first aid kit (including prescription medications), a radio and cell phone, as well as your Bug Out Bag in case you are later forced to evacuate (you do have a bug out bag, don’t you?).

What supplies do you need in your shelter in place kit? The basics should start a 5 gallon bucket, which can be found at most hardware or feed stores. This bucket can be used to carry all of the contents of your shelter in place kit. It also doubles as an emergency toilet. Inside the bucket you should keep duct tape, plastic sheeting and heavy duty garbage bags, MREs, energy bars, or canned food and a can opener, respirator or gas masks, moistened wipes and hand sanitizer gel, radio and flashlight along with spare batteries, scissors and a utility knife or multi-tool, a deck of a cards or some form of entertainment (especially important if you have children), ziploc bag of chlorinated lime (calcium hypochlorite), and (if your local laws allow) a self defense weapon. You should also have bottled water prepositioned in your safe room, as it would be impractical to store this in your bucket. Plan on having a little more than one gallon of water per person, at a minimum. Post-Katrina, many individuals have added hand axes or hatchets to their shelter in place kit so that they may be able to chop through the ceiling and roof of their shelter to escape rising floodwaters inside their home.

But, you say, what is all of this equipment for? The radio, food, water, flashlight, and self defense are all pretty self explanatory; but why the duct tape, plastic sheeting, and other items? If you are sheltering in place, it’s highly likely that you won’t have access to running water. Since conditions are unsafe outdoors, you will need some way to handle human waste. That’s where the bucket and the chlorinated lime come into play. You can use the bucket as a makeshift toilet, but there is the problem of foul odors. Sprinkling in a small scoop of lime (about one Tablespoon) after each use helps tame the smell. Next, let’s focus on the duct tape and plastic sheeting. Duct tape has many uses, but for our purposes here, we’re concerned about sealing off doors and windows; not from a hurricane, but in the case of a toxic chemical spill or other disaster that results in airborne contaminants (smoke, poisonous gas, or dangerous airborne biological hazards).

In the case of an airborne contaminant emergency, you will need to seal off doors, windows, and air vents using the plastic sheeting and duct tape. Be aware that with doors and windows sealed up that the oxygen level in your safe room may only last 8 hours before CO2 levels begin to become toxic. Any sign of headache, sleepiness or disorientation may indicate that CO2 levels have become unsafe, and you will need to find a way to get fresh air.

When putting together a first aid kit to keep in your shelter in place supplies, don’t neglect any special needs of individuals in your household. For diabetics, it may be necessary to include glucose tabs or even a cooler that you can fill with ice to keep insulin cold. Asthma sufferers may need rescue inhalers, and elderly family members may have other needs as well.

Plan ahead so that your shelter in place kit and your first aid kit both have enough of the proper supplies. Make a checklist of actions that need to be taken and items that need to be grabbed in an emergency. Stress makes it hard to focus in the face of an emergency, but by planning ahead and having a written checklist and course of action, you will be ready when disaster strikes.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How To Use A Compass

It’s a traditional skill often passed down from father to son. You can get a merit badge for learning it in the Boy Scouts. But how many people really know how to use a compass? Many folks mindlessly include it in their backpacking supplies, and it is frequently seen as a necessary item in a bug-out-bag. Yet, if you found yourself in an emergency situation, needing to navigate to safety, would you know how?

History of the Compass

The earliest evidence of any sort of compass being used dates back to around 1,400 – 1,000 B.C. with the discovery of an Olmec hematite artifact. If this recent discovery bears out to be accurate, it would predate the Chinese discovery of lodestone (the mineral initially used to make magnetic compass needles.)

Military Lensatic Compass
Military Lensatic Compass

The earliest Chinese compasses likely had very little to do with navigation. More than likely they were used for feng shui. Feng shui would have made use of the compasses to harmonize the environment of a building to be in certain principles of flow and design.

References to an iron “south-pointing fish” that floated in a bowl of water are first recorded in a book from the Song Dynasty that dates to around 1041 A.D. Later in 1088 A.D. there is reference in a book written by Chinese scientist Shen Kuo of magnetized needles that are hung from a single silk strand. Apparently not having knowledge of magnetic polarity yet, Kuo noted that the needles always pointed towards the north or the south. A mere 35 years later there is the first documentation of what we would consider the modern compass, where it is described by author Zhu Yu as being used by sailors to navigate waters in the dark or when cloudy.

In their earliest incarnations, compasses were marked simply with only markings showing magnetic north, or later the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west.) Later the Chinese divided these into 24 points on the compass card.

The compass did not come to Europe until sometime shortly before 1269 A.D. when Petrus Peregrinus wrote of a floating needle compass to be used for astronomical purposes. By 1290 A.D. the compass was found on sailing ships, allowing for a longer shipping season through the normally cloudy Mediterranean winter, although it was not until around 1410 that the compass was normally used as a steering reference.

In Europe, the divisions on the compass card were increased into 32 equally spaced points. Later, the 360-degree system became popular. Then, in the 1800s some European nations decided to use the gradian system. In this system, the compass card is divided into 400 points, with each right angle being composed of 100 gradians or “grads.” These gradians could then be divided into 10ths to give a total of 4,000 decigrades around the compass.

Magnetic Declination and Deviation
The Earth’s magnetic axis is slightly offset from its rotational axis. This means that a compass usually does not point to true north. Magnetic north is approximately 1,000 miles away from the geographic North Pole. In addition, the magnetic field of the earth is not the same everywhere. It changes depending on latitude, altitude, and the composition of nearby rock formations. There are two corrections that must be made to compensate for this difference: declination, and deviation. Deviation is the effect that local magnetic fields from ferrous objects and electrical circuits have on the magnetic needle of a compass. The declination (also known as the variation) is the angle between true north magnetic north. Most modern maps have the declination angle for the area they cover printed on them. Areas with no correction necessary make lines known as agonic lines. These areas exist in three places in both the eastern and western hemispheres.

Magnetic Deviation
Magnetic deviation is the response of the magnetic needle to local magnetic fields or the presence of ferrous materials.

The Earth’s magnetic field is not uniformly consistent. It varies greatly in intensity and inclination depending on latitude and altitude. Compass needles are specially balanced during manufacturing to compensate for differences in the magnetic field. Each balance design is intended for use in one of five zones on the planet, from Zone 1 which covers the majority of the Northern Hemisphere to Zone 5 which includes Australia and most of the Southern Pacific and Indian Oceans. Balancing the needles in this fashion prevents the needle from dipping too much and sticking.

Compass needles are also affected by nearby metals such as steel and iron. This problem is most common on ships where there is a large amount of metal. To correct for the magnetic deviation compasses on ships are housed in a binnacle and surrounded by large chunks of iron and magnets that are positioned in specific locations as compensation. These measures alone do not completely eliminate deviation however. Natural formations within the earth cause slight magnetic deviations which, while not enough to significantly alter the course of a hiker, can throw off ships by dozens of miles over a the course of a thousand mile journey.

Magnetic Declination
Magnetic declination is the difference between the magnetic North Pole and the geographic or “true” North Pole. The Earth’s magnetic axis is offset from the geographic rotational axis by a few thousand miles. This means that the indicated or magnetic north on your compass may be off as much as 10-20 degrees from geographic or “true” north.

Most maps have the declination adjustment printed on them. The declination can change rapidly from year to year as the Earth’s magnetic field fluctuates, so it is important to have an up to date map with the most recent declination adjustments. In the absence of a map, you can take a manual measurement of the local declination by measuring the difference between true north as indicated by a sundial or the North Star and the indicated magnetic north of a compass.

If indicated on a map, declination is usually given in the format of “10 degrees west” or alternatively “-10 degrees.” When reading declination adjustments, if given in the latter format, remember that negative numbers indicate west, and positive numbers indicate east. When adjusting the azimuth on a compass reading, it is simple to just add the compass reading with the declination to get the correct heading; e.g. with a 10 degrees west declination, and an indicated reading of 245 degrees, the corrected bearing would be 235 degrees.

When traveling by foot, you rarely have to take multiple declination readings. Unless you are in an area with heavy mineral and metal deposits, using just one declination reading is usually fine for hiking.

The Modern Compass
The most common modern compasses are the hand held lensatic compass, such as the US Military issued lensatic compass with tritium inserts, and the protractor compass. The lensatic compass is a military design initially developed to quickly direct mortar or artillery fire. Most military forces have adopted the “mil” system for measuring the compass dial. The milli-radian system uses 6400 units or “mils” per circle. The mil system was developed as a valuable method for measuring one meter at a distance of one kilometer (one mil = one meter at 1k) allowing for artillery fire to be precisely directed.

Lensatic Compass
The lensatic compass in its modern implementation is comprised of three basic parts; the cover, the base, and the lens. The base and cover are both square on one side ruled. The cover, in addition to protecting the lens and compass when closed, also has a slit, a sighting wire, and tritium dots or phosphorus dots for use in navigation. Lensatic compasses do not have needles. Instead the dial itself is magnetized and floats in a bezel ring in the base.

The base of the compass is outfitted with a sighting lens with a slot in it, a thumb loop, the bezel ring and of course the floating rotating dial. On the dial itself are two glowing letters indicating east and west, the directional arrow indicating north, an outer black scale in mils and another inner scale degrees. The inner scale indicator is in red color. The bezel ring around the dial is able to be rotated around, and has a ratchet that has 120 positions in a full 360 degree rotation, allowing for accuracy of 3 degrees when positioning the index line. The index line is a short luminous line in the glass face of the bezel. Also attached to the base is a thumb loop used for handling and stabilizing the compass.

The defining characteristic of a lensatic compass is, of course, the lens. The lens is set in a piece that folds over the compass face. This lens, in the open position, is used to read the floating dial. The lens also has a sighting slot that is used in conjunction with the sighting wire in the compass cover to sight landmarks. When used in this method, the user lines up the landmark in the sighting wire and the sighting slot, then glances down through the lens to read the bearing off of the compass dial. Opening and closing the lens also serves to lock or unlock the compass dial. In order for the compass dial to spin freely, the lens must be open a minimum of 45 degrees to unlock the clamp that holds the dial when the compass is closed.

Protractor Compass
Protractor compasses are probably the most common commercial compass, as well as the simplest to use. This compass is usually set in a rectangular clear plastic baseplate and is designed primarily for use with a map. One of the first things you will notice when looking at a protractor compass is the direction of travel arrow marked on the clear plastic baseplate. The edges of a protractor compass are generally ruled in various increments to aid in measuring distance on a topographical map.

The bezel of the protractor compass includes a transparent bottom compass housing which turns with the bezel, independently of the needle or the compass baseplate. Marked on the bottom of the bezel is a orienting arrow. This orienting arrow is lined up with the magnetic needle when taking a bearing, and compared to the direction of travel arrow inscribed on the compass baseplate.

Using a Compass Without a Map

Taking a Bearing
There are two main types of compasses, protractor and lensatic. Let’s address the protractor compass first. When using a compass without a map, you naturally will already know the general direction you want to travel. For example, if you are lost in the woods and you know there is a river a mile to the east that then leads north to a town five miles upstream, you may want to take a bearing heading due northwest. To take a bearing (also referred to as an azimuth) using your compass, turn the bezel until the northwest is on the direction of travel arrow. Next, holding the compass in your hand with the direction of travel arrow pointing away from you, turn your body until the red part of the needle points to the N on the bezel and is aligned within the lines on the bezel. Once the needle is lined up, you are facing the proper direction of travel. Pick a landmark that lines up with your direction of travel and use that as your guide; don’t keep the looking back at the compass. Once you reach the landmark, then take the compass back out, take another bearing, and repeat the process.

To take a bearing with a lensatic compass, you can use either the compass-to-cheek method shown to the right, or the center-hold method shown below. The method is largely the same as with a protractor compass. First, open the cover of your compass so that it is 90 degrees to the base. Open the eyepiece so that it is at a 45 degree angle to the base. Use the image on the right as a reference. Next, place your thumb through the thumb loop and form a steady base with your third and fourth fingers, while keeping your index finger along the side of the compass base. Use the hand not holding the compass as a support for the hand holding the compass. While keeping the compass level, bring both hands and the compass up to your face and position it so that the thumb going through the thumb loop is against the cheekbone. Again, use the image as a reference. Move the eyepiece until the dial below it is in focus. Align the sighting slot of the eyepiece with the sighting wire in the cover and turn until your target is lined up with the sighting wire. While keeping the wire on your target, look down through the lens and read the bearing under the index line.

The center-hold method, shown to the left, is not the preferred method, but it can be easier and faster to use when accuracy is not extremely important. To use the center-hold method, open the compass so that the cover is completely flat with the base. Move the lens of the compass out of the way. Place your thumb through the thumb loop and use your third and fourth fingers to form a steady base while keeping your index finger stretched along the side of the compass. Place the thumb of your other hand between the eyepiece and the lens with the index finger of that hand placed along the other side of that. Wrap the rest of the fingers of that hand around the fingers of the first hand. Finally, pull the compass in tight by tucking your elbows firmly against your sides.

Taking an azimuth is similar to taking a bearing, and though it is faster, it is not quite as accurate. Using the center-hold method, orient your body toward the target and point the compass cover in that direction. Glance down at your compass to read the azimuth beneath the black index line. On compasses equipped with tritium inserts, this method can also be used in darkness. Azimuth readings are most useful when actively navigating terrain, as the user can quickly pause to check the azimuth and confirm that they are still heading in the right direction. By lining up objects in the desired direction of travel, it is a simple matter to move from waypoint to waypoint by simply taking an azimuth reading to the next landmark and continuing in that direction.

Modern Protractor Compass

Using a Compass With a Map
Using a compass with a map is easiest with the use of a protractor compass, thoughlensatic compasses also have a straight edge ruler incorporated into the body to aid in use with a map. To take a true bearing or map bearing (one taken in reference to true north instead of magnetic north) place the compass on the map (layed out flat and level) with the edge of the compass parallel to the direction-of-travel arrow so that it makes a line between your current location and the desired location. Next, turn the bezel until the orienting lines are aligned with a marked line of longitude on the map. Make sure that the edge of the compass does not move on the map as you turn the bezel, or your bearing will be off. The map bearing is the number that is at the direction-of-travel line. Add or subtract the magnetic declination indicated on the map for the magnetic bearing.

You can use this bearing to navigate to your waypoint without the map by checking your azimuth as you travel in the manner described earlier in the article. Depending on the distance you are traveling, it may behoove you to stop periodically to confirm that your bearing is still accurate. If it is not, make a note of the corrected bearing and use that as you proceed along the azimuth toward your destination.

To navigate with a map using a military style style lensatic compass, open the case and place it on the map. Orient the compass on the map with the case cover to the north, thereby placing the black index line to the north. Orient the map by rotating it and compass until the declination marks on the map match the of the needle on the compass and the black index line. To then find the bearing needed to navigate to your target destination, without moving the map lay the ruled side of your compass along a line drawn from your current location to your destination. The bearing read on your compass ring is your heading.

Never Be Lost
With a compass and a map, you’re never truly lost for very long. The basics of compass navigation aren’t difficult to understand, but to truly become skilled at land navigation, you need to get outside and try it yourself. Pick up a lensatic or protractor compass and some topographical maps and try it out yourself. You’ll find that you’re soon able to navigate with ease in nearly any situation.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews History Channel’s “Top Shot” Contestant Caleb Giddings

Caleb Giddings is a well known IDPA and USPSA shooter, and has made a name for himself with his performances shooting Enhanced Service Revolver in IDPA competition. He also runs a blog at Gun Nuts Media, and hosts a weekly podcast that is regularly downloaded by over 50,000 iTunes users. Recently he’s appeared as a contestant on the History Channel’s new show Top Shot. We had the chance to catch up with Caleb Giddings and sit down for an interview to discuss his role in the show and get some behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the series.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Hi Caleb, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I know you’re very busy. You’re a cable TV star now on the History Channel, seen by millions of people once a week at night in their homes. Congratulations on making the show!

Caleb Giddings: Thank you.

I know we can’t talk a lot about because there are still episodes coming up, but tell me about the episodes that we’ve seen so far. You’ve kind of been in the background, but I think that’s probably a good thing since it means that you haven’t been put up for elimination yet.

Absolutely. You know, it’s funny, the first two episodes that you’ve seen, you don’t see a whole lot of Blue Team. The second episode you see a little more of Blue Team, the team that I was on, but I’m definitely in the background and I don’t have a problem with that because so far my television existence has consisted of me making two tough shots under competition, and generally not being the nail that stands out. And like I said, I’m okay with that.

There is a lot of content on History Channel’s website which is http://www.History.com/Shows/Top-Shot, a lot of behind the scenes stuff features Blue Team, and I’ve got actually a pretty good amount of screen time in the “Anatomy Of The Shot” series that they have where we break down Blue Team’s first two wins.

I actually had a chance to go on line and view those, and there is definitely some good content there.

You’ve got the Gun Nuts Media blog and your Podcast, obviously you’ve been around media for a while, and firearms as well. Was this just the perfect storm that you decided that you just had to apply for Top Shot? What was your motivation for going through the application process and taking 30 days off of work to go and try to do this? What prompted you to do all of that?

Well, what’s funny actually was that I got an email from Michael Bane who produces TV shows for Outdoor Channel and also is producing The Quest for Master Class for Downrange TV, he sent me an email of the press release from the production company that did Top Shot and said “Hey, what do you think of this? I think you should try out for it.” I will be 100% honest, my thought process at the time was “Oh yeah, that sounds cool.” I sent off the preliminary application which was essentially a blurb about “why I’m so great” along with some pictures and a video of me shooting a 6.5 second El Presidente drill. The casting crew called me back and we did the formal application process. I ended up in California for the interview and the next thing I knew they called me and said “Hey! We want you to come on the show.”

Did you ever actually expect that you’d get picked?

Actually, I never did. I never thought that I was going to be one of the guys that they would pick. My wife thought I was, which is funny because she’s the smart one. But I never really thought that I would be one of the final 16 contestants chosen out of literally thousands to make the cut for the show, and I was honored and a little humbled by it when I saw the assembled cast of characters.

How intimidating was it to show up there and see who you’re up against, to see Mike Seeklander and J.J. Racaza and some of the other competitors there? I mean, there are some serious names on the show, including USPSA Grand Masters. How intimidating was that and how did you deal with that?

Well, I will say it was nice to see that Blake and J.J. were going to be on my team. That definitely helped with the mental aspect of having to worry about them in terms of competition. You know, it’s an individual competition eventually and it always will come down to one on one. At the same time, after the first challenge, where we shot the World War II era rifles, and it wasn’t like anything that we were used to, and after subsequent challenges which you’ll see in upcoming episodes, I wasn’t worried about it anymore. What I realized was that I came to this show to compete in a shooting competition, to compete in a competition of my athleticism and my marksmanship skills, and that I would much rather stand up head-to-head against any one of these guys, whether it was Blake or J.J. or Iain, or any of the competitors on the show, and test my skills against them whether it was with a pistol or a tomahawk or a bow and arrow. That’s what I came there to do. I came to test myself against the best, and if the best aren’t there, what’s the point?

On some of the promo shots we saw you with a slingshot, and I know on one of the upcoming shows you’ll be shooting a bow and arrow. Did you have any indication going into the show that this would be more than just firearms?

We knew going in that it would be different. The last night before the show the producers had a meeting with us and said that they wanted to remind us that this wasn’t going to be like anything we had done before. This was their shooting competition that they had designed, and so it wasn’t going to be a USPSA match, or an archery match or a High Power rifle match. So, I think that helped us realize that this was going to be something unique.

And yet, we still saw some USPSA style stages like in the last episode with the Berettas they had the zip-line on the Iron Man inspired elimination match. Were you or some of the other competitors not up for elimination disappointed that you didn’t get to enjoy some of these stages?

You know, when we found out about the zip-line, I know I wanted to shoot it, but at the same time I was glad that I didn’t have to shoot it. It’s that battle, because we’re all competitors and we want to go out and compete and we want to win. We want to stand on the line, and just speaking for myself, I know that if I ever got called for an elimination challenge I wanted to stand on the line and take that opportunity to prove my skills. So yeah, I wanted to shoot it but I was also glad I didn’t.

I also have to say, I’m really glad I didn’t have to shoot 600 yard rifles against Kelly.

He definitely impressed a lot of the older shooters with his skills, I think he was dismissed early on. How did that change the dynamics when he came back the winner and Seeklander, who’s a very experienced High Power rifle shooter, got sent home?

I think the biggest change in the house dynamic was, after that we realized that this was going to be a head to head competition, and that it didn’t necessarily matter that J.J. was a USPSA Grand Master because I might throw a tomahawk better than he does, and it doesn’t matter that I was an IDPA Master Class shooter because Kelly shoots a better rifle than I do. That, I think, was what really cemented in our minds that anyone could win this competition. It wasn’t just going to come down to the USPSA Grand Masters or the law enforcement guys or the Marine Corps guys, that it really was anyone’s game.

So, going into this, did you do any special training?

Before the actual competition, I can’t say that I did. I did actually work out more. I knew that the competition was going to have a physical element. So, I actually spent a little bit more time on physical training and conditioning than I did on shooting. I actually ended up gaining some muscle before I went on the show so I felt pretty good during the show, I felt pretty strong. That was the bulk of my training before the show.

Many people have talked about the show, referring to it as “Survivor with guns.” Did you come in with any strategies for the social aspects of the game, such as for when it came time to vote someone into an elimination challenge? What were your social strategies for making friends, making alliances, and that sort of thing?

My social strategy in terms of making friends was to make friends with people I would have been friends with outside of the show. I ended up forming good friendships with Blake and J.J., just because they were guys my age and we had similar interests. That was kind of a natural relationship for me. As far as the Survivor-esque aspect of it, because of my personality and because of who I am I do have a distaste for the Survivor type politics. I won’t hide from that.

What I decided was that I would stick to the saying “You are only as good as your last performance.” If we ever got to an elimination challenge I would vote for people who did one of two things: who were either hurting our team dynamic and hurting our ability to win, or who had the poorest performance in that challenge. I wasn’t going to vote for people because I didn’t like them, or because they smelled bad, or because they drank the last drops of milk out of the fridge. To me it was always a shooting competition. And if I had a poor performance in a challenge and I got voted into an elimination challenge, I welcomed that as an opportunity to shoot my way out of it.

How were things behind the scenes? It seems like there was a lot of down time in between shooting stages. There’s so much going on there that we don’t get to see; tell me a bit about that.

As much as I can tell you, there is a lot of fun. You put 16 people in a house and you’re going to see personalities and you’re going to see shenanigans. For example, the dart league. They gave us a dart board as recreation, something to do in our down time. Problem was, nobody knew how to play darts. We didn’t know the rules for darts. So, we just took the dart board and decided we’d score it like a USPSA target, with the outer ring being a D hit worth 1 point, the inner ring was a C hit worth 3 points, and then the bulls eye was worth 5 points. We played a lot of darts. We even had the first official tournament the night of Mike’s elimination, and we called it the Mike Seeklander Memorial Dart Tournament. So, it was a real neat experience and showed the creativity of some people finding ways to amuse ourselves during the down time. A lot of fun was had.

One of the things you don’t really get to see on the show, unfortunately, that you only get a snippet of in the second episode, is when we hung up Mike’s jersey. I really wish they had spent more time on this in that episode. That wasn’t staged. That wasn’t something where the production staff told us as the contestants “oh yeah, go get his jersey and hang it up.” That was something that we came up with that we wanted to do to honor, not just Mike, but anyone else that would be eliminated from the show down the road. And you’re going to see that theme repeated, of the integrity and character of the people on the show throughout these upcoming episodes.

That’s one thing I found interesting about the show is that, shooters by and large are a very generous, kind, and upstanding lot. I’ve been to competitions where somebody had gun that had broken, and fellow shooter stepped forward to loan them their own gun, just so that they could compete and have a chance to beat them, or be beaten by them, fair and square. That seems to be a theme among the shooting sports I’ve noticed. How did that affect the drama and interpersonal conflict on the show? Do you feel that there was less drama and conflict on the show due to how upstanding most participants in the shooting sports are?

I will say that one of the things that I like about the show is that it does show that shooters are people. You’re going to see personality conflicts. I’m a normal guy, I get mad, I get in arguments with people, and I can make mistakes. You hear from gun control people all the time that “guns are dangerous and somebody with a gun is going to go crazy and kill people.”

But what is really interesting about the way we act is that, even on the show when tempers got high and when personality conflicts flared up, there was never any violence. It wasn’t like Ultimate Fighter where people were punching each other or throwing each other through walls. We understand that as angry as you get, violence is not the answer to a personality conflict.

Yeah, people get a little fired up. But the way that we conducted ourselves showed the character that we had.

And yet, the drama that was there still brought a mass appeal to the non-shooters in the audience. Talk to me about that. You do a lot of media, and I’m sure you have some motivation for bringing firearms into the mainstream and normalizing firearms once again. How do you think the show is going to affect that and what motivation did you have for that to participate in the show?

One of my biggest motivations for the show was to treat it as an extension of Gun Nuts Media. My mission statement with Gun Nuts Media has been to create a place where the shooting sports are like ESPN. That’s ultimately what I would like to see, USPSA coverage on ESPN, and part of my desire to go onto Top Shot was to take a step towards that goal. Because it’s presented in a Survivor-esque format of people living in a confined space, and the voting and the social and political aspect of it appeals to people, and yet they are still watching a shooting show. My liberal friends are now watching this shooting show, and they’re enjoying it partly because there are compelling people on this show.

We’ve only seen two episodes so far, but one thing that has struck me is that we haven’t seen any “evil black rifles” or iconic “assault rifles”, they have been mostly historical or widely accepted defensive weapons such as the Beretta 92F and the Mosin Nagant… Did the production staff make a conscious decision to leave out any potentially offensive rifles like that?

Well, I can talk about this because it’s actually in my bio video. If you watch my biography video on History.com/shows/top-shot you’ll see footage of me shooting an AR-15 rifle wearing my Blue Team uniform, so the AR definitely is going to make an appearance in an upcoming episode, and it’s a pretty cool challenge when we get to see that AR.

I don’t think History was shying away from anything for politically correct reasons. I think that their overarching concern was to make “cool” TV. They realized that lots of people, not necessarily in California, but lots of people have bought these rifles and it’s not a weapon of “mass destruction” for people who own them, it’s like a golf club. When you see that episode with the AR-15 I think people are going to be really pleased with how that episode is going to turn out.

Do you think the production staff or the History channel has a stance one way or the other on gun rights or how they portray it, or was this just TV for TV’s sake and they just happened to choose firearms as their venue?

I really believe that after working with the production staff, the people who were actually filming us and working us on a day to day basis, many of whom had never been exposed to firearms before and they came away from some of the experiences thinking guns are cool, which is a net win for us. I really believe that the idea behind this was that someone realized that guns are very popular, and they wanted to do a reality TV show and they were like: “Well, Survivor is cool, let’s do Survivor with guns.” And that’s actually a good thing, I think that’s a phenomenal step in the right direction for us when firearms are treated in the mainstream media as no different than anything else. When you turn on your TV and watch Top Shot and you see a challenge where people are shooting the standard service sidearm of the US Military through glass filled tubes, and that’s the challenge and that’s treated in the same light as people crawling through the mud and eating bugs on Survivor, I think that’s a good thing because that’s a mainstream acceptance of what we do.

Regardless of what anyone says about it being “Survivor With Guns”, that’s actually a great thing.

You can watch Caleb Giddings on new episodes of Top Shot every Sunday nights on the History Channel at 10pm Eastern, 9pm Central.