The Making of Tactical Barbie

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Training with Massad Ayoob

By Dara Humphries

From the moment I walked into the class, I knew I was in for a complete shooting makeover. It was apparent from the introductory session that the course was packed with the training I craved and knowledge I needed to become an informed armed citizen. I wanted this makeover and like most who carry a gun for defense I needed it.

Massad Ayoob’s presence was immediately palpable; almost like after lighting has struck and the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention. Mas is all business when it comes to his training course and the information, his deep voice bellowing and his unique personality shining through as he addresses students.  And on the other hand, he can crack a joke with a straight face and bring the whole room to tears laughing.  Still, I thought he’d be taller.

My shooting career began with the NRA basic pistol course, which is a fantastic foundation, but left me feeling, well, empty. I aced the written exam, was only given the opportunity to shoot six rounds and was sent on my  way with a certificate to bring to my local police department to start the process of obtaining my “permit to carry a pistol or revolver.”  Connecticut is so odd.

The type of person I am, immediately I realized that this was only the tip of the iceberg in knowing enough to carry comfortably, so I sought out private instruction. A rush of questions flooded my head: Which firearm? What stance? Hold my grip? What holster and conceal it where? For a man, it is easier – surrounded by friends to help the process along. As a woman embarking on this journey, it can be very frustrating when you do not have like-minded female friends. I have seen this industry come around more and more catering to the needs of women, which is awesome, but now it is my turn to help things along. So begins the journey of Tactical Barbie.

I researched available training in my local area and immediately was drawn to the MAG-40 course by Massad Ayoob and the Chuck Taylor ASAA three-Day Defensive Pistol course. The courses are facilitated by Frank Cornwall of Defense Associates at Blue Trail Range, Wallingford, CT.

The Taylor course was an intense program that systematically built my foundation of defensive shooting. The course is suited for shooters of all experience levels and teaches techniques developed by Chuck Taylor to fight effectively. Various stances and positions are the mainstays but the heart of the course is drawing from the holster and high-speed shooting to stop your threat. So that sounds easy, right?

The course (and Frank) drill into you malfunction clearance training, failure to stop drills, tactical and speed reloading – all done within seconds, yes seconds. When you have a threat, you do not have minutes but seconds.

I could not believe how quickly I went from fumbling with my malfunctions and loading to smooth effortless transitions … oh and of course drawing from my holster and popping my target in the chest and head. This course truly cemented a solid foundation of effective and comfortable handling of my weapon and quick reaction should I be faced with a situation requiring deadly force. It was a great three days.

The next phase of my boot camp makeover was with Massad Ayoob’s MAG-40 course, which, described as a lethal force management course, is the puzzle piece I needed to complete my foundation in defensive shooting.

Some of you knew Massad when he started the Lethal Force Institute (LFI). Well, he has branched out with a philosophy in training called The Massad Ayoob Group (MAG). The main difference between the two entities is the focus of the MAG classes is on the “Court Side” versus the “Shooting Side”. Students will receive different handouts, updates to the lecture videos and the live-fire training. The MAG-40 course is a combination of 20 hours of live fire and 20 hours of classroom. This is not your typical shooting course, but a lethal force management course in the rules of engagement for the armed citizen and the use of defensive handgun under extreme stress.

The live-fire module is based on a police-style qualification course. Students engage in drawing from concealment, shooting from cover, one- and two-handed shooting stances, speed reloading and shot placement.

The Massad Ayoob Group created The Stress Fire shooting system. This is a proven combat handgun shooting technique that every shooter should learn. It includes power stance, high hand grasp and crush grip on the pistol, front sight focus, and smooth roll of the trigger. Using these elements, shooters learn they can put rounds on target at typical combat distances even under the extreme stress of a deadly force incident.

The classroom module is aptly named “Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement” and emphasizes legal issues, tactical issues, and aftermath management. Topics included interacting with suspects, witnesses, responding police officers, threat recognition and mindset, management of the social and psychological aftermath of being forced to use lethal force in defense of self or others, and preparing beforehand for legal repercussions and minimizing exposure to them. Situations in the home, at the place of business, or “on the street” are all covered.

Some of the most important facets of lethal force management, and Massad engrains this into you, are the interactions with the investigating officers, witnesses and responding officers. This course will prepare you should you find yourself involved in the use of lethal force.

The classes teach you what do to and even what to say, as you need to adequately articulate the reasons for the actions you take. Doing so correctly will keep you from being thrown into the legal meat grinder that surrounds deadly force events. The Massad Ayoob Group has a proven methodology that takes you mind, body, and soul into an incredible pool of knowledge based on training, laws, and emotions. Every armed citizen should attend this class whether or not you have a background in the field. That’s because your training serves as discoverable evidence in the inevitable investigation that will arise after a defensive shooting. Every armed citizen should enroll in MAG-40 and know the rules of engagement.

Mas recommends that before enrolling in his courses that the student should have had a firearms safety course and be comfortable with the manipulation and mechanism of their pistol.

The MAG-40 class brought me to a level I never expected. It was the most intense class I have yet attended and I now feel I have a strong knowledge and training base to make responsible decisions when it comes to carrying a concealed weapon and the us

e of lethal force.  I now have more information than I could have ever imagined on the decision-making process and the laws of lethal force. I also got a small taste of the stress I will be under if I have to fight using my gun.

These are all things anyone who carries a gun for self-defense should know.

This article appeared in the September 12, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

To learn more about the Massad Ayoob Group Click Here.

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