I signed up and flew from Denver to Milwaukee to attend the inaugural conference. I made it home, today, and decided to write up some thoughts on the conference: What was good, what was not so good, and what really needs to be included in the future. I did not take advantage of the concert or the simulators, so I can’t speak to them. I also didn’t attend any of the seminars that required additional payment. Of course, it wasn’t possible for me to attend every seminar, but I will address the ones that I did attend. The following are the good, the not so good, and the WTF sections and then alphabetic by subject within each section:
All Things Appendix – Jeff Gonzales
Jeff did a great job explaining the benefits of appendix carry, and how to be safe while deploying a defensive gun in an appendix holster. We have all heard the Internet Ninja Operators talk about how it is a horrible concept, but the tide is turning, and it is turning for good reason.
Appendix Carry: Carry with Confidence – Matt Jacques
I attended Jeff’s session before attending Matt’s, but there was not a great deal of overlapping information. Sure, there were some basics that overlapped like using a quality belt and a quality holster, but they both did a great job of explaining the benefits and how to be safe when using appendix carry. I hope to see Matt, again, as he has a wealth of knowledge, like Jeff, to share with us.
I always enjoy spending time with the different vendors and learning about their products. Some of them have great value. Some of them are crap products. Overall, this was a good group. I had a chance to ask lots of questions and to see several guns, holsters, flashlights, knives, and so on, and ask questions about each. I ended up making a few purchases. I was disappointed that I didn’t see Sig on the Exhibit floor. I understand that they were present in the simulator area, but they were not on the floor with the other major vendors. I would like to see more exhibitors, but this was not a huge conference like others.
Handheld Flashlights: Their Role in your Personal Defense Plan – Jeff Gonzales
I have to admit that I have never really grasped all of the value in a good handheld light. I know there is lots of value, but I have always downplayed the value of the blinding/stunning affect that they can have. I really enjoyed his conversation around the lumens that are really needed, and what isn’t needed. I always thought the strobe was a bit gimmicky, and Jeff addressed why there are issues using a strobe. I walked away with a new appreciation for a good bright light.
Lessons Learned from Analyzing Thousands of Defensive Encounters Caught on Video – John Correia
John was amazing, and I could sit this session several times and continue to learn from it. He did a great job of explaining what he has seen, in video evidence, of what does and does not work in defensive encounters. I have always enjoyed his videos and his analysis, but when he put statistics around them and explained what works, and what doesn’t based on that stats, it made a great deal of sense.
NRA Trainers Update
There are some upcoming new programs that sound fantastic, including the new Pistol Coach. My main takeaway from this session, is that the NRA Education & Training Division is looking for new and innovative ways to help the community of defensive gun users. I would like to note that this group has no control of the new Carry Guard Training program, though, so don’t hold my upcoming WTF entry about the Carry Guard training against the Education & Training Division.
The Aging Defender – Dr. Joe Logar
I went to the first session, which was standing room only. I noticed, as I walked by, that the other two sessions were also completely filled. Joe did a great job of explaining the challenges associated with aging and how we can, sometimes, take steps to mitigate the impact. The subject is an important one, as many look to a defensive handgun as the equalizer in situations where we just can’t hope to use strength or athleticism to defeat attackers.
The Most Important Skills You Will Need In a Gunfight – John Correia
This session was not like the other session that he presented, but it also leveraged what John has learned by analyzing so many defensive encounter videos. I can’t wait for him to send out the slides, like he promised, to those that attended the session, so I can steal (with proper citation) some of his information.
Women Focused Seminars
There were several excellent seminars that were focused on women’s needs, but they were also very applicable to men, especially pistol instructors. The challenges women face are clear to some, and not very clear to others. For example, I know lots of men that think they understand what the women in their lives need for a defensive gun. They don’t. There are also several concerns for women that are under addressed. For example, women’s fashion several restricts how they can carry and deploy defensive guns, and we can’t forget their smaller hands and the smaller bodies (and differences in their bodies) have to be considered when looking at guns that fit for them. I was impressed with all of the women’s sessions, but I have to admit the one that was most impressive was the one that was published in the latest version of the NRA magazine: The American Rifleman Ladies Pistol Project. I highly recommend every one, male or female, read through the article. They do plan on publishing more details.
The Not So Good
Fashion Show – So much could be better presenting in multiple smaller sessions, and a great deal of the same information was also available in one of the women’s seminars. While it was a nice change of pace from the day, it just didn’t click with me. Of course, I am a guy, but I tried to be open minded.
Identity Smarts: Identity Theft Vulnerabilities and Best Practices – Paige Hanson
While much of the information was valuable, it was way too much of an infomercial with the intent of selling LifeLock insurance.
Personal Protection Strategies and the “Other Tools” of Self Defense – Larry Pope
There was a great deal of good information presented here. However, I believe that, as presented, there was too much focus on use of non-lethal force. That sounds odd, I know, but I can see too many times when people will be confused about when to use what, and they will find themselves too far behind the curve in the defense to use their handgun, and it will be too late by the time they make that decision. Don’t get me wrong, it was great information, and there are too many times when we can’t carry and have to resort to other tools.
Meet the Celebrities/Autograph Sessions
Why? Why? I would rather see these same people present seminars and use their great knowledge to help everyone by sharing that knowledge during the conference.
Carry Guard Training
As an instructor, and even as a student, I see way too many issues with the training program.
First, what is the tie to the insurance? There are no discounts for those that attend the training for the insurance program, and there are no discounts for those that have enrolled in the insurance program for discounts for the training.
Second, there is the training. The training, from what I have heard, really isn’t any better than what can be purchased from the existing market. Of course, the bigger issue here is that they don’t even tell you what the course will include. What topics are covered? How much time will be spent in lectures vs shooting? What scenarios will be discussed and presented in exercises. Hey, how about a simple outline of the course? I can’t even find one on the website.
Third, there are the trainers. The trainers, ex special operations people, really don’t check the box for me, either. As somebody that played in the same role in my years in Central and South America, I can tell you that I very rarely trained with a handgun, and even then, my experiences do not translate to the defensive gun needs of our citizenry. While I have always said that there are exceptions, I just don’t see that having former special operations personnel teaching these classes is the right resource. All of my training as a defensive handgun user and instructor, has been during my civilian life. In my civilian life, I have full control of what training I can attend, how much time I can devote to my training, and how much I can practice. As a member of the military, that kind of control was never there. Instructors that are fully capable of understanding the needs of their students and having the ability to transfer knowledge and hands-on skills to them are what is needed. Yet, every bit of the advertising around the courses focuses on the leadership (special ops) and not on the content of the course and what students will learn.
Fourth, as a defensive pistol instructor, the leadership of the program has been totally disconnected. By that, I mean, they are completely separate from the NRA Education & Training Division and do not interact with them, well. They are also non-communicative. They say that they will have an instructor program, and they were supposed to start sending out email responses to instructors on the program back in June, two months ago. Yet, nothing. Even at the conference, trying to get answers from them was like pulling teeth. I get the feeling that they have no desire to open it up to other instructors to teach, and that they are not seeing the demand that they thought existed for a three day course at $850 per student.
I got their message, loud and clear: They do not intend to be inclusive.