Saturday, September 5, 2020

Book Review: "Street Focused Handgun Training - Volume 2: Training" by Ralph Mroz

Book: Street Focused Handgun Training - Volume 2: Training by Ralph Mroz (104 pages) ($4.49 on Kindle).

Notice: I am not being paid for this review, but I did receive a copy of the book for free for purposes of review.

    This book is part of a three volume set of books. I reviewed the first volume, which discussed equipment issues, back in late July. Like the first book, this book is derived from blog posts and articles that Mroz has written over the years, organized by topic to provide an overall coherence.

    As an initial matter, this book is a meta-level look at training. To explain what I mean, it is probably best to think of an example. At a basic, real-world, non-meta level, if I spoke of a chair it would be a particular chair. It might be a Lazy Boy recliner, with a steel frame, plush cushioning, and an integral foot rest that can be actuated by a lever or a button. Or it might be a chair for a dining room made of wood with four legs, a straight back, no arm rests, and minimal or no padding. Or it could be an office chair, a mixture of plastic and steel, sitting atop a single riser that fits into a base with 5 or 6 rollers allowing for an adjustable height, adjustable arms, and adjustable back. Yet if we were to examine these and other chairs, we might be able to step back and extrapolate certain characteristics that would be a meta-level analysis. Armed with this knowledge we would be able to identify all sorts of objects as "chairs" because they have at least some characteristics that make them "chairs" instead of "beds" or "sofas" or "stools". 

    In this book, Mroz presents a meta-level explanation of training. That is, rather than telling you if an attacker does A you should respond by doing B, he instead talks about training more generally: what constitutes good training versus poor or indifferent training, how to examine your training and experience and identify deficits, and what you really need for self-defense in the street. Thus, as Mroz explains, "[o]ne theme running through these writings ... is that fighting, as it relates to individuals in a civilian setting, is a simple, direct, rough activity (although hardly easy), and that much of the training these days is over-complex and over-concerned with, in Grant Cunningham's great phrase, 'meaningless increments of precision'." In nutshell, Mroz makes the argument that we need to be training for fighting, not shooting.

    This doesn't mean that increased skill and precision is unneeded, but that there comes a point of diminishing returns on effort and investment versus usefulness, and unwarranted over-confidence in one's abilities to successfully negotiate a self-defense situation. (Something similar, he observes, from the person that places an over-reliance on the latest doodads or gadgets). For instance, Mroz writes: "After a point we tend to focus solely on the nerdy aspects of shooting--speed and precision[--]at the expense of higher payoff things because these are often harder to train, require significant physical effort, or conversely can seem too easy."

    One of the primary points--the primary point, in fact--of the book is that we need to understand that self-defense covers a spectrum of skills or knowledge that, together, allow us to avoid, or if that is impossible, survive a defensive encounter, including the legal aftermath; and, in fact, being a competent shooter is actually only a small part of this spectrum. Early in the book, for instance, Mroz identified a list of 25 things (in chronological order) necessary to avoid or survive a self-defense encounter, and yet most defensive training only focuses on element 8 ("You have to access your weapon in time") and element 13 ("If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG [bad guy], preferably COM [center of mass]"). Most of the rest of the elements deal with observation, orientation, understanding, communicating, first aid, etc., but, as Mroz points out, few trainers address the other elements, and many of them don't know that they even should. The problem with training focused around improving accuracy and speed with a firearm is that in the classic line of "give a man a hammer, and everything begins to look like a nail"--shooting becomes the default response.

    Mroz spends considerable time on explaining some of these other useful skills (are skill areas) and elements. For instance, he points out that our mindset or attitude in a defensive situation is generally more important than our weapons; and that we will need empty-handed skills more frequently than weapon skills. Also, use of force is not an on/off switch of not using/using a firearm, but it is a continuum. I would note that this is certainly not unique to Mroz as many other skilled defensive teachers have said or written the same thing.

    The consequences of this is that we also don't need to train to be SEALs or Delta Force. Mroz cites Claude Werner as stating that being a "sharpshooter" level of the NRA Defensive Pistol standards should be good enough to see us through almost every confrontation. "Once a person can shoot a pistol to a reasonable standard, it's time to move on to thinking about the circumstances of personal protection and becoming proficient at decision making." This includes being a safer shooter in a 360-degree environment, making sure your decisions are legally justifiable, and that your techniques are reliable under stress. 

    This doesn't mean that Mroz's book is all philosophical. He has many direct and practical recommendations as to training. For instance, he recommends that you train with a full size handgun even if you mostly carry a small handgun because it is easier to learn good shooting practices with the larger handgun and transfer them to using a small handgun, than to try to overcome poor shooting practices while training with a small gun. I don't take this as advice to never practice with the small gun--you do need to know how to operate it and where it is going to shoot--but most of the learning will be the larger weapon. 

     He recommends practicing at various ranges out to 25 yards. Not just because decent shooting at 25 yards will translate to better accuracy at 7 yards, but because shootings involving civilians tend to occur at longer ranges than those involving police.

    He discusses how competitive shooting can be helpful or teach bad skills.

    He discusses some bad habits at the range. One of these is people trying to catch an ejected round. Similar to this, and a problem I developed for a short time, was trying to watch where your brass fell to make it easier to collect it afterword. This is bad because both of these teach you to take your attention off a target or another potential attacker. Just let the brass fall where it will!

    Mroz also spends time on training to shoot around a vehicle, offers tips for training as we get older, whether to use "shoot/don't shoot" targets or hostage targets, whether you are shooting too fast (i.e., shooting faster than you can process what is going on around you), the importance of getting off your opponent's center line, what is acceptable accuracy, the importance of learning to reholster carefully, and a lot more.

    In conclusion, I found Mroz's book to be helpful of giving guidance on what elements or goals for which you should be training, the weaknesses and strengths of various types of training commonly offered, information that you can use to evaluate your training regimen and what type of practice or classes you should be looking for, and so on. The 25-point list is worth the price of the book.

    Basically, though, Mroz offers some common-sense about training for the civilian self-defender. I give the book two-thumbs up and would recommend it. 

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