5 things I learned from Aaron Cowan at Sage Dynamics

hqdefault2A few weeks ago I got a chance to take an outstanding training course from Aaron Cowan, owner and operator of Sage Dynamics.  I live in Colorado but have been following Aaron’s Youtube channel and Instagram for awhile.  My impression from what I saw is that he is the kind of guy who works hard at his craft and really knows what he is talking about, and also that he cares that what he teaches actually makes an impact on his students.

Sage Dynamics is based out of Georgia and I was resigned to the fact that the only way I was going to be able to take his classes was to travel to Atlanta to visit UrbanArmed.  My budget doesn’t usually stretch that far so my chances were slim.  But not to fear, Instagram came to the rescue.  Aaron was advertising a class right in my neck of the Eastern Colorado plains.  After promising my wife the moon, I packed my gear and joined 7 other local guys for Aaron’s Defensive Handgun Fundamentals and Defensive Handgun I classes.

My goal over the last several years is to take at least one handgun training class a year.  The last class I took left a lot to be desired, both in the skills we focused on and frankly the personality of the instructor.  I won’t waste time with details but I left that class feeling like I had wasted my time and money.  Based on what I had seen of Sage Dynamics, I was hoping for a much better class.  I was not disappointed.

5 Guns That Make Zero Sense

I’m not a firearms expert.  Not even close.  But like all modern Millennials, I have opinions.  My opinions are my own and I realize that they mean about as much as that silly trucker hat you wear to impress your equally worthless peers.

The firearms market has exploded in the last 8 years, thanks in part to a rise in unfounded fears of a zombie apocalypse and more importantly, very well founded fears that our sacred right to bear arms is in danger of falling within our lifetime.  It’s been said that Barack Obama is the firearms salesman of the year, 8 years running.  It’s hard to deny the impact a liberal presidency has had on the growing firearms market.  At the same time, the sunset of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 reopened a stagnate market for both gun sales and firearms innovation.

This is where my worthless opinion finds it’s genesis.  Some of the designs spawned by this golden age of the gun culture can only be characterized as red headed step children (no offense to the soulless gingers out there).  I’d like to take a moment to recognize these bastards of the gun family.  These are guns that exist for no other reason than that perhaps we have run out of good ideas, or because the principle that the more it costs the more people want it, even if it’s ugly and serves no useful purpose.

Number 5:  Keltec KSG 12  

Yet another failed bullpup

Yet another failed bullpup.

Never has a gun been so disappointing after it’s initial hype than this plastic double magazine shotgun.  A bullpup design is a challenge for any platform, but it also very appealing if it can be done right.  Moistening the wet dreams of home defenders everywhere, the KSG promised a compact and ergonomic design that packed enough firepower to kill the bad guy and all his relatives without having to reload.

Pick the one right tool – Buying and using the right gear for the job

One of my favorite movies of all time is No Country For Old Men.  I’m not a critic and I’m not going to try to be one by describing the movie with nerdy terms that I don’t understand.  I just really love the movie.  Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, a murderous psychopath with a very protestant work ethic.  He will not stop until he feels the job is done, which basically means killing just about every one on the cast list.  There is one scene where Chigurh is questioning the management decisions of his employer and he says something that has stuck with me ever since the first time I saw this movie. “You pick the one right tool.”

You pick the one right tool for the job, and the job will get done right.  Now I am all about improvisation.  Under pressure I’ve put together some truly imaginative solutions to problems that I probably wouldn’t believe if someone told me.  But improvisation should only ever arise from necessity, from shit actually hitting the fan, from the moment at 2am on the side of a remote highway when your radiator hose has split open and all you have is a sock, some bubblegum and a condom.  Masters do not rely on improvisation.  Masters pick the one right tool for the job.

How does this apply to guns?  Well there are many directions this could go from whether my .308 is suitable for home defense to whether or not I need the best powder measuring system for reloading my target 9mm loads.  But what I want to talk about is choosing the right gun for defensive carry and choosing the right holster for that gun.   I have counseled more people than I can count on buying a defensive pistol and usually a holster to go with it.  These are some of the common scenarios that I encounter.

I want a gun that I can carry concealed but that I can also take backpacking in case I run into a bear. Unless you are planning on carrying an 8 inch .44 magnum in a shoulder rig, this is just not going to work.  You’re going to have to make a choice about which is more important to you, carrying a gun designed for four legged predators or carrying a gun designed for two legged predators.  There really isn’t an in between.  The amount of power required to stop a bear is quite a bit different from the power you are going to get from a gun that is designed to hide inside your waistband.  That is to say nothing of the significant weight of the hand cannon you are taking with you “backpacking”.  If you are buying a gun to carry every day, you are not going to be using it for everything else.  It’s a tool with a specific purpose.  Pick the one right tool.

I bought this holster at the gun show.  It doesn’t exactly fit my gun but it was a great price.  Most gun owners I know have a drawer full of unused holsters, most of which were a “great deal”.  I have coached/instructed my fair share of new shooters on the range and one of the primary impediments to them learning how to draw from concealment and shoot effectively is a crappy holster.  A bad holster will affect retention, comfort, practicality, and ease of draw.  A good holster isn’t cheap.  But neither is buying 5 holsters that you won’t end up using or that don’t work well enough to deserve to be used.  If you are serious about your personal protection, then buy a serious holster.

One of two drawers of holsters I have.

One of two drawers of holsters I have.

After buying and using more than 20 holsters, I now use the Incog holster by g-code.  I was fortunate to get to try this holster for a week before I bought my own.  It’s not the only option out there, but it is a good one and I can say after carrying with it almost exclusively for the last 2 and a half years I have no plans to replace it.  Pick the one right tool.

I don’t really need a training class, I get plenty of good information on Youtube.  I love youtube.  I have learned a lot of great things from guys who really know what they are talking about.  I even have my own channel that I’m working on producing content that will help people with basic firearm skills for carrying defensively.  But there is no substitute for getting face time on the range with someone who knows what they are doing, and also knows how to relate that knowledge and those skills to you.  Youtube cannot take you to the range, watch you work and correct your mistakes.  Youtube cannot see your limitations and give you valuable pointers on how to compensate for them.

The two biggest barriers that people say get in the way of them and training is cost and time.  I get that.  The two things that there are never enough of.  But people put their money and their time where they see value.  If you are serious about carrying and using a gun for the defense of yourself and your loved ones, then there is serious value in getting good training.  Even one class a year will make you a better shooter and better prepared to use your gun to save your life.  Pick the one right tool.

There are more ways that this rule applies, but these basic areas are a great foundation for learning the importance of this principle when it comes to carrying a gun.  Pick the one right tool, it will save you many headaches, probably a lot of money and possibly even your life.

A serious proposal for reducing gun violence in America

After the “town hall” hosted by CNN on Friday, January 8th, I had many thoughts.  Most of them were not kind.  But one thought has been stuck in my head since before gun control has taken hold of the headlines thanks to the tragic events in San Bernadino.  How do we take practical and effective steps to reduce gun violence?

Most of my allies in this subject have only one answer, more guns!  That is a piss poor solution.  First of all, it misses the point of addressing the sorrow and grief felt by the families and friends of victims which in turn prevents the kind of discussion that can actually reach some kind of solution.  Second, after spending a lot of time working with new gun owners and teaching them how to safely use a handgun it becomes obvious that while these peoples’ hearts are in the right place, the number one thing they lack is proper and sufficient training.  I am an absolutist when it comes to my support of the 2nd Amendment and my fundamental belief that more liberties are far less dangerous to our Republic than more government.  But I also understand that just putting a gun in the hand of a citizen doesn’t automatically make us all safer.  Case in point.

But I do think there is one political issue that both Republicans and Democrats could come to an agreement on that would drastically reduce gun violence not only in this country, but in other countries as well, including Mexico where tens of thousands have been gunned down in horrific violence over the last several years.

End the War on Drugs.

What much of the Left likes to call “gun violence” is not gun violence, it’s drug violence.  It’s the result of an unregulated and highly profitable market left to criminals which enjoys extreme profit margins that CEO’s around the world would kill for.  The ultimate paradox of the Drug War is that the more difficult you make it for drugs to make it to their ultimate consumers, the more profitable the trade becomes which in turn makes the stakes that much higher, compounding the capacity for violence.

I present to you, the chicken and the egg.

I present to you, the chicken and the egg.

As a microcosm we should look to Chicago, a brutal exhibition of what gang violence can do to a city.  Let’s examine the common rhetoric on both sides of the gun debate and where they fall short in explaining the true nature of the problem.

Pro gun people point to Chicago as a perfect example of the end result of extremely strict gun control.  Remove the good guys with guns and the bad guys take over.   That argument falls apart with just a few simple questions.  First, who are the good guys and are they being shot?  For the sake of this basic simplification, let’s just say that the good guys are the ones who are not dealing, buying or using drugs.  Let’s say we arm a “good guy”.  Is that good guy going to march into the ghetto and use his gun to stop a drive by shooting?  No.  Is he going to use his gun to prevent a drug deal from going bad?  No.  Is he going to strap on his iron and end the massive gang wars that are going on in the neighborhoods of the city?  Absolutely not.

Second, if for all intents and purposes you pretty much can’t buy a handgun in Chicago, where are all these guns coming from?  They are coming from less restrictive areas of the state, or nearby states.  That is a cold hard fact.  Increasing the availability of guns in the city isn’t going to magically make these gangs stop shooting at each other.

Third, and most importantly, why are these people shooting at each other in the first place?  Is it because their “victims” are unarmed?  With the amount of gunfire going on in that city, I’d bet that’s not the reason.  It’s because they are fighting over drug money and drug territory.  It’s business, and business is booming.  Heroin in Chicago, as in many other parts of this country, is seeing a huge resurgence from where it was even just a decade ago.  As an aside, we have untreated prescription opiate abuse to thank for that little gem.

So the typical pro gun arguments for why Chicago is suffering fall far short of explaining the issue, and the pro gun “solutions” stand little chance of slowing the violence.

The Democrats point to guns as the problem, completely ignoring the motivations behind hundreds of young men killing each other in the streets every year.  Is there an epidemic of people snorting or mainlining Glocks?  Can you go down to the street corner and watch hundreds of people spend $4 on a balloon of Ruger?  As gun owners like to say, guns are just tools.  The reasons the tools are used is the real issue here.  Obviously banning the tools isn’t affecting the drug trade.  If anything the War on Drugs is making those tools essential hardware for protecting one’s business.  After all, are guns not the tools of war according to our dear leader?

What would happen if instead of focusing on guns as the problem or the solution, we turned our attention to the failure of the War on Drugs?  What began as a crusade to protect our children from the horrors of Reefer Madness, Go Ask Alice and celebrity overdoses has turned into one of the longest, most expensive and bloodiest wars in history.  And it hasn’t worked.  At all.  Drug use per capita has risen since Nixon first declared this shameful war in 1971.  Drugs are generally of a higher quality and cheaper than they were in 1971.  And the violence that we were trying to avoid has come anyway with a ferocity that no one could have imagined.   What good has this war accomplished?

Reducing gun violence is something that furthers the goals of 2nd Amendment lovers, because it sucks the air out of many of the anti gun arguments.  Reducing gun violence is supposedly a goal of the anti gun crowd so addressing the faulty public policy of the War on Drugs serves their interest as well.  Colorado has experimented with a small segment of this issue and has had enormous success.  The tax revenue in Colorado from marijuana sales alone should be enough to get both Democrats and Republicans to take a hard look at the potential for a change in drug policy.

The problem is that it truly seems that neither side is really interested in solving any problems, including the problem of gun violence.  Solving problems doesn’t raise nearly as much campaign money as pointing out the faults of your opponent and promising to fix those faults.

God bless America.