BlueSheepdog Podcast 007 – Rob Pincus Interview

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Maybe I should have done James Bond music…

Regardless, here is the BlueSheepdog Podcast episode #007.  This week’s podcast is something special with an interview of firearms instructor Rob Pincus.

Rob took a lot of time out of his busy day to have a conversation about firearms training, how the body reacts under stress, the Combat Focus Shooting system, and if there is a place for the traditional range qualification in modern law enforcement.  I think you will enjoy it.

Useful links:


Richard:            Hi, welcome to episode seven of the Blue Sheep Dog Podcast.  I’m Richard and we’re back again for another week.  This week, I’ve got a real special treat for everyone.  What I’ve got is, I’ve got an interview with Rob Pincus.

Rob Pincus is a fantastic firearms instructor.  He is the founder of the Combat Focus Shooting style and method of firearms defensive shooting.  Rob has definitely taken the concept of defensive shooting, or as he calls it, counter ambush shooting and he just takes it to the next level.  To say that Rob is educated on the subject is clearly an understatement.  Rob has spent, as far as I know, more time than darn near anyone else studying the scientific research on how the body reacts from or under sudden, unexpected stress.

The human body – The human animal, if you will, reacts differently to stress, where you walk into it knowing it exists, versus when there is something sudden and unexpected.  For example, if you walk into a room and you know you’re buddy is in there and when you walk in there he’s going to punch you in the shoulder, and you know it walking in there.  You walk in there and he punches you in the shoulder, no big deal, right?  You knew it was coming.  As opposed to, you walk into a room, you don’t know he’s in there, when you walk in the room, he jumps from around the corner, pow! Smacks you in the arm.  You’re going to have a completely different physical response to that.  You’ll flinch, you’ll pull back, your hands will probably come up to basically, in front of your face, in front of your head, you’ll crouch down, roll your shoulders forward.  These are the instinctive things that you do when there’s unexpected danger to you.

Michael Bain, for those of you that listen, I think I mentioned him last week, talks about the monkey. The primate in you go all the way back through whatever our evolutionary ancestors may have looked like or may have been. We’ve got these very basic, primal reactions to sudden danger, and what Rob has done is Rob’s developed a shooting style or a shooting course that doesn’t work against that.  Rather, it works with that, and that means that you’re not necessarily going to be teaching a very rigid, upright weaver stance, because in a sudden, unexpected, violent encounter, your body is not going to naturally go to that.

Rob is, near as I can tell, like I said, probably one of the most educated guys on how the body reacts in combat.  Anyone that knows me or spent any time around me at the department, they’ve probably seen me carrying scientific studies on body alarm response or on shooting encounters or on vision, perception, all these different things for shootings.  It’s been somewhat of a – It started off as something that I felt like I needed to learn when I first got into law enforcement, but the more I got into it, the more I was just fascinated by the topic.

The unfortunate reality is, is most of the firearms books I pick up nowadays tends to refer to a lot of the same material that I’ve read.  It’s not that the authors don’t bring some new spin or some new idea, or they’re not producing anything valuable, because most of the time they are, but I don’t see anything that’s revolutionary or significantly different.

Rob’s book, “Combat Focus Shooting Evolution 2010″ just came out last year.  It’s an update to his previous combat focus shooting book.  In the first few pages of it, I was already writing notes on completely new books, studies, research scientists, folks I had never heard of, never even thought to look up.  I was just blown away by the new information that he was presenting, all very relative information. It’s not like he went and got some sort of extraneous information that has no real bearing.  He went and got information that’s out there, but just no one else ever thought to look for.  The information, as he goes through it, reinforces a lot of the things that I’ve witnessed on how people react. But then, some of it also kind of contradicts what I thought maybe was right or was true.  You know, hey, I’m open to new things, because let’s face it, what we’re doing now isn’t the best we could be doing.  Our hit ratios in law enforcement is maybe in one five in a violent encounter.  You know what?  We could be doing a lot better than 18 to 20%. If Rob has got something that can improve our hit ratios, improve the number of officers that prevail in violent encounters, we need to pay attention to it.

What I’ve got for you today is an interview with Rob.  The interview runs, I think, about 30 minutes or so, maybe a little bit longer than that.  But Rob took a lot of time out.  He’s a super busy guy.  He’s in demand in a lot of places and he took a lot of time out for us today.  We go over some of the concepts, some of what he does, talk a little bit about how the body reacts, but what I encourage you to do is, in today’s show notes at, I will have links to several of his websites where you can get additional information. Rob actually has a small group of trainers.  I say small, I think he said maybe about 80 or 90 trainers around the country or around the world, I guess, that teach this style of shooting.  And as Rob was very clear and very careful to point out, if you go to any of these instructors, you’re getting the same quality of training, the same level of training.  You’re not going to an instructor that is kind of coming up with his own take on Rob’s plan.  They’re either teaching all from the same books, so-to-speak. Just because you show up and say, “Hey, I want to be an instructor,” and you take Rob’s very intensive train the trainer or instructor level course, doesn’t mean you get to be an instructor.  Less than 50% of the people that come and take his instructor level course actually pass and then can go on or are certified to teach his course.

So even though Rob is one guy and he travels around the country and he tries to teach as many classes as he can, that doesn’t mean you can’t get into one of these classes and learn something.  There is starting to be a lot of police departments that are starting to use this information.  I know the SWAT guys at my department have had an opportunity to train with him at SWAT Round-Up in Orlando.  They’ve got nothing but good things to say.  Based on meeting Rob before, based on our conversation we had today and based on his book, I think there’s a lot that we can learn here.

As in the side, I am taking one of his basic classes, I think it’s the basic pistol or first pistol class, I forgot exactly what it’s called.  I’m taking that in September up in Saint Augustine, Florida area, looking forward to it.  After I take the class, obviously, I’ll let you all know what I think.  But anyway, let’s get to the interview.  Don’t forget, go to and get the links and let’s be careful out there.  Enjoy the interview.

All right, we’re welcoming Rob Pincus to the bluesheepdog podcast.  Thanks for being here Rob.

Rob:            Richard, it’s great to be here.  I appreciate the invitation.

Richard:            Absolutely. For those of you not familiar with Rob, Rob has a firearm shooting program he calls Combat Focus Shooting, which takes a little bit of a deviation from what a lot of traditional trainers have done.  Rob, before we get too deep, can you give us just a little bit of background about who you are and, I guess, kind of how you came to this?

Rob:            Yeah, you know, I’ve been shooting all my life.  My father was in law enforcement and my interest in firearms has always been more of a defensive “tactical,” if you will, nature.  I wasn’t really into target shooting, wasn’t really into hunting until later in life and took an interest in this study of, the development of defensive firearm skill.  Especially, what I’ve come to call and what is now known as counter ambush shooting situations, as opposed to more offensive in nature training, which I think it’s how traditionally, firearms training has really been approached.  Even though we’ve known the pistol, especially, as primarily a defensive tool, most of the training approach seems to presume a lot of control and a lot of anticipation, a lot of readiness, and a lot of what I consider really, really over choreographed mechanical technique.

Richard:            Definitely, I can agree with you on a lot of that.  Well, let me ask you this.  I just – I’ve been reading the 2010 edition of your book and I have to say that it’s probably one of the most researched books on the subject of firearms that I’ve ever come across.  I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of the books that are out there, unfortunately, I know exactly where a lot of the material’s coming from, because a lot of its recycled.  Frankly, reading your book, you’ve just – You’re going to make Amazon a lot of money, because there’s a lot of books I need to go pick up and read now.  I guess – how did you come to find all of this detail – all of this research that’s out there that no one else has really ever looked at hardly?

Rob:            Well, I think it’s the context of the shooting that really is what drives me.  I tell my students I  don’t really read “Guns and Ammo” or “American Handgun” all that much.  I mean sure they’re around, I’ll pick them up, students have them around class, stuff like that.  But where I run to the news stand where I’m really looking for new information is scientific American mind, or some of the online forums that discuss neuroscience and human reaction to stress and non-cognitive decision making and things like that.  Things that really underlie are reactions when we’re caught off guard and when we’re startled, because that’s really, what I and certainly the Combat Focus Shooting program focus on.

We tell students its three to five seconds after you realize that you’re gonna need to use a gun to defend yourself and that usually happens very suddenly and unexpectedly.  So I talk about, you’re in the mall trying to decide what kind of shirt to buy or you’re in a restaurant thinking about chocolate or vanilla and boom, that’s when it happens.  And the way we react to that is very, very predictable.  And I’ll go to conferences five, six, seven, eight times a year in the shooting industry, but I also try to sneak in a neuroscience conference as much as I can once a year and talk to those guys.  Because those guys – and the research you’re talking about and the books that are referenced in Combat Focus Shooting Evolution 2010 that usually aren’t referenced in the average shooting book, are books about a perceived decision making.  Our book’s about human reaction under stress.  Our books about the structure of the brain and how we can use – learn the responses more efficiently if we train them in context and we learn what the natural reaction – the instinctive reactions are going to be.

So that’s really, what Combat Focus Shooting as a program is.  It’s a study of what we naturally and how we can work well from position or with those reactions to be efficient in our response to the threat.  And quite honestly, if you look at the way we shoot in the Combat Focus Shooting Program, you just take a picture of it, there’s a video of it, and then you show it to somebody who’s completely unfamiliar with our program, they’re going to see stuff that makes sense.  They’re probably going to see mechanics and techniques that they’ve seen in other programs.  The difference in our program – and this is what I think makes the book stand out in all of our instructors – and one of the reason’s it’s so hard to become certified as a Combat Focus Shooting instructor is that we’re going to tell you why you’re doing it in a way and in ways that have nothing to do with, “because you can hit the target”; that have nothing to do with “because you can win a competition”; that have nothing to do with “because we saw it on a dash camera video.”  Even though we do see it on a dash camera video and you can shoot really well with these techniques.  The reason that we explain for those techniques all have to do with human anatomy, human physiology, neuroscience and the context of the counter ambush defensive shooting situation.

Richard:            If you teach somebody, why they’re doing what they’re doing, or why they should be doing what you’re training, do you think they come away with a better skill set?

Rob:            I think they come away with a better understanding of what they need to do to prepare for the defensive use of the firearm.  We’ll get a lot of guys who come through the class who have been through a lot of training.  Certainly, in law enforcement especially – everybody that comes through our class wearing a badge has been through training.  Probably been through several types of training that were closely related.  They get to our class and a lot of the things that we do are sort of out of left field in regard to the lack of acknowledgement that you might be prepared.

So I’ll always tell students, if you’re gonna ask a question about another technique or you’re gonna ask a question about why we don’t teach something, I want you to think about the pre-cursor to why you would want to use the other technique.  And if it starts with “if” – and the “if” is to your benefit.

For example, what if I knew I was gonna have to shoot more than one attacker?  Well if the “if” is to your benefit, we don’t calculate it.  We don’t figure it in.  Because we want to fight from a disadvantage.  We want to look at the counter ambush.  What about when you didn’t know there was a multiple attacker scenario?  How are you gonna react to following up and assessing your environment immediately after you’ve recognized that the first threat isn’t there.  Not the idea that you’re gonna be attached by a plate rack, with six guys duct taped together swinging from target to target.  That’s just not how human beings react.  If you watch the videos, you watch the surveillance camera tapes, humans that are caught off guard are designed to focus on one threat at a time.

We talk about the live and our visual [inaudible] vision, we talk about our auditory exclusion.  We are designed to focus on one attacker at a time and in the natural world that helps us out.   We get attacked by one bear, we get attacked by one lion, whatever it is – we fall off of one cliff towards the ground at a time we deal with one thing at a time.  We need to break that focus physiology and behaviorally to find another threat.  And that’s what we need to be training for, not some fancy steel challenge match swinging between two targets technique.

So it’s those if questions that are to our benefit that I think really screw a lot of people up in their training and that’s what leads the biggest question and answer period in our class.  The guys who would become attached to certain techniques that rely on certain knowledge and fine motor skill and complex motor [inaudible00:17:54] they’re cognitive decision making that we just don’t believe is gonna be accessible in that three to five seconds of the actual worse case scenario of counter ambush.

You know, as you mention this, a lot of this study for me – even though what I was doing in 1995 and what I’m doing in 2010 or ’11 on the range really looked very, very similar, those explanations are really what has grown.  And that’s why the 2006 book Combat Focus Shooting has been discontinued and we replaced it last year because the information every year we’ve gained through our instructor development team and through our own research and through everything that our students bring to us and the questions that are asked, really help evolve our answers and our explanations and our own understanding of why we teach what we teach.  So that’s why the new book came out.


And it’s important to mention that I’m not the only one looking in this area for combative information.  The fact is that a little over a decade ago, when I had almost given up on realistic unarmed combative training, because everything has seemed way to over choreographed and way too over thought.  I had the luck of bumping in to Tony Blower and learning about his spear system and his counter ambush program in the unarmed world and his articulations and his way of looking at things really inspired me to spend a lot more time researching all that neuroscience and all that stuff.  We certainly have worked a lot together over the last decade because our systems overlap a lot and we have a lot of instructors who are certified to teach both programs.  And there’s a reason for that.

We aren’t really concerned with what you would do on your best day, we’re both very, very concerned with what’s going to happen when you get caught off guard and you’re off balance.

Richard:            Makes total sense. Let me ask you a question that  –  And kind of playing off that  –  there is a tendency in police agencies to have instructors to specialize, either because of  –  maybe some needs of the department or maybe you’ve got somebody that wants to be a firearms instructor but they just don’t care anything about baton or pepper spray or something else. And I know that there’s been some other folks, Master, you being one of them that I could think of offhand, that have actually advocated for more of a holistic approach. In other words, you’ve got an instructor that is certified to teach all of the things, so you don’t walk into their class and here she is telling you, “Look, I’m gonna teach you about this weapon system and this is gonna solve all your problems.” Rather, you’re gonna have an instructor that’s gonna be able to teach kind of a continuity of response and it sounds like that’s kind of what you’re kind of playing on, there is this mixing a little bit of the spear system with the Combat Focus Shooting. Is that accurate or am I misreading that?

Rob:            Well I would say that, what I don’t – I don’t believe it’s necessary for one person to try to be all those things and be able to be the expert in all those areas. I do think it’s incredibly important that your training program has continuity and has a consistency from one program to the other. To have a combater’s program that is unarmed that doesn’t take into account the reality of the condition under which you’re probably gonna have to defend yourself in the worst case scenario, and have a firearms program like the Combat Focus Shooting program, you’re gonna end up having confused officers and you’re gonna end up – at some point there’s gonna be an argument in the locker room because the training sergeant from the off armed and the training sergeant from the armed are gonna be giving two different answers, and sooner or later the students are gonna say, “Somebody’s wrong, and somebody’s stupid.” You know how that’s gonna work.

Richard:            Absolutely.

Rob:            And the fact is, wrong and stupid would be inappropriate words because they probably were talking about different context. I mean, I remember when I went to the academy, it was control technique, we were learning control techniques. Well, as you and I – and everybody listening to this probably knows – those control techniques are only good when you’re trying to enforce your control. You have to be somewhat unbalanced and have to have some modicum of control in order to put that joint lock on someone. You’re not gonna – in the middle of some guy jumping at you to throw a punch. You don’t magically turn into Steven Seagal and throw that aikido perfect move, unless it’s by luck. So you can have control technique to reinforce cooperation once you have the guy under control and he’s not flailing at you. But when he’s flailing at you, you need counter ambush skills.

And when you’re the SWAT team kicking in the door to go look for bad guys, some of the mechanical target shooting, sport shooting, more dynamic practical shooting techniques absolutely are what you need. But when you’re the patrol officer on that fourth active domestic call on a Saturday night, you’re thinking about getting your report done, getting the arrest made, maybe getting home, maybe getting off shift, getting all the paperwork you gotta do, you’re not really thinking about needing to use your firearm to defend yourself in the moment, and that’s why it’s an ambush moment. So you need counter ambush shooting skills and you need to go to access – What a lot of people do every single day who are untrained is access to human ability to integrate with tools very, very well. And we have that ability, we decapitalize it, capitalize on it in our training and that’s why I said, we see a lot of things that look like Combat Focus Scooting on desk camera videos because I happen to think a lot about mechanical training goes right out the window. You’ll see guys who spend a decade in qualifications in the weaver stance actually get into a shooting on their desk camera and it looks nothing like what their qualification shooting did. It looks like extend-touch-press and in parallel with your line of sight with a crouch because your body naturally goes into that position. And if we know that we’re gonna see that, then we should be training that way. So we know, we say that – there’s that cliché about you’re gonna  –  You should train like you fight, or you fight like you train –  Well, what we’ve seen in a lot of empirical evidences out there that you will not fight the way you trained if the way you trained is completely incongruent with the human experience under stress.

Richard:             Absolutely. It’s refreshing to hear folks talk about that. I guess Michael Bain was probably one of the few folks I’ve heard talk about that. He talks about that – how does he phrase it – the inner monkey or the inner primate where you kind of fall back to these genetic responses almost. We have hardwired into our systems through years, or decades, and hundreds of thousands of years of evolution certain things and certain responses, like you mentioned, going to a crouch, moving your hands up to your line of sight, basically, and –

Rob:             Sure, yeah. If – the way I explain it to the student’s real simple or real easy – Three hundred thousand years ago, there were two cavemen, one cave made, they both got rocks thrown at their head. One of them put his hands up and blocked the rocks, the other one got knocked out, bled to death, whatever. The one that blocked his head got to make more babies.

Richard:             There you go, exactly. Let me ask you a question. How – Most police agencies out there still do the old square-range qualification – you have three seconds to draw and fire, two rounds at three yards, holster your weapon and that whole thing. Is there a place for that at all for demonstrating proficiency with the weapon or is that all just – I guess, just old thinking that we just need to break out of entirely?

Rob:            Well, I’ll tell you what I think it is. I think it’s a bureaucratic necessity. I don’t think we’re gonna get away from qualification tests and I don’t think there’s gonna be a city council or a  mayor or a group of county commissioners that are gonna accept a qualification test quote-unquote that yields a 40 to 60% hit rate from our officers and our deputies. So I think we’re gonna need for the bureaucracy and for the administrative regions –  we’re never really gonna see those pass-fail, or the 80+%, 90+% type controlled target shooting test go away. I think it’s important that our training departments get past the idea that that’s your annual training or that’s your quarterly training. Let’s do the qual and move on.


And there’s probably some things we can do with the qualifications that will help. One of them –  real easy –  get rid of the time limits. And when I say get rid of the time limits, this is something we’ve tested empirically, we had the opportunity at the training organization to run qualifications for several relatively small departments that still – several times have been tested. Well, we don’t tell the officers what their time limit is, we’ll tell the officers what their scoring requirement is, what area they need to hit, in other words, and we’ll tell them what their course of fire is, you need to fire 4 rounds on the buzzer. We’ll tell them they need to do it as fast as they believe they can and what we see overwhelmingly is much faster total times, total gross times on the course of fire. Now obviously, up close, there isn’t much time to be gained but when you start getting that past 5 yards, 7 yards, 10 yards, if you go out with that to 20 or 25 in some qualification courses are still way back there with pistols we’d be dramatic increases in time, and at the end of the day that’s what this is all about. We’ll set a standard, 80% let’s say, and if that’s the standard then officers need to achieve their goal as quickly as they can because on the street that’s certainly what we want to do.

We want to train officers to achieve their goal of stopping             that threat to them or others in their community as quickly as they can. So that’s             the first thing you do, the next thing you do is you integrate a startle-flinch response. Anytime that you’re not in a staged position, in other words, hand down a gun or at a ready position gun out at a holster, integrate a startle response. The hand cuff could come from the side to above the belt and in front of the body prior to reaching for the gun because that’s what we’re most likely to do in the middle of that real ambush is our hands are gonna come up to that position and after redirect that again using spear terminology of that to convert that flinch into a drawskirt. And then the third thing, don’t stage your reloads. Once you get rid of the time limits on each individual, [inaudible] focus on the time limits. At each individual stage, let the officers run out of ammo whenever they happen to run out of ammo, that way we’re training response to slidelock on demand instead of a staged choreographed reload that happens to come exactly when you know it’s going to come, after firing 6 rounds or whatever it may be. I think those are the 3 biggest things that every agency should be able to integrate relatively easily that’s gonna make their qualification test a lot more valid in terms of evaluating their officer’s ability to apply even those target shooting skills truly on demand and truly with urgency.

Richard:             Fantastic. Let me ask you a question ‘cause I know you’ve got other things to do. Have we got a few more minutes or do you need to go?

Rob:            No, I’m pretty good. I’m pretty good.

Richard:            Okay. In the book, I know you talk about instinctive shooting and intuitive shooting. Can you explain a little bit of the difference by what you’re talking about intuitive vs. instinctive.

Rob:             Everything we’ve been talking about in terms of the genetic responses, or the inner primate, or the instinctive reactions that we have, those are hardwired. You come with those, they’re part of the instruction manual as a human being and if you’re an accountant or if you’re SWAT cop or you’re a special operations military guy you’ve got those. The important thing to remember is that, those really aren’t gonna change. We can change how quickly we sort of recompose ourselves once those things are initiated. And through awareness and visualization and good training, we might even be able to anticipate certain things coming that hurts that we don’t get as caught off guard. But to some extent, those reactions to a startle are always gonna be there.

If you go back 8 years ago, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, you’re gonna see things I wrote about instinctive shooting or instinctive responses and talking about learned techniques or learned shooting styles like the extend-touch-press that we teach at the beginning of the Combat Focus Shooting course. That was a misuse of that word and I think that word has been truly misused a lot in our industry in the training industry, intuitive and instinctive have been used overlapping. Intuitive, we very simply defined in our program as something that works well with what the body does naturally. And whether it was learned or you just figured it out on your own, that’s how we define intuitive. There’s a really complex definitions of intuitive and intuition in the neuroscience world, in psychology, and in the behavioral sciences. So for our purposes, works well with what the body does naturally in the context of the fight is the best way to describe an intuitive skill. So intuitive skills use as little time, effort, or energy and sort of start from the base that we’re given, from those natural reactions.

The reason I talk about instinctive shooting at all is just to point out that we would never want our shooting to be instinctive. Instinctive thing, to how many of you who have been listening and you yourself Richard I’m sure, have ever flinched when you didn’t really need to. In other words, your kid comes running around the corner or you realized somebody was standing close to you and you didn’t notice that you gave a little flinch and then you realize the other person is not a threat or if your kid or your dog runs around the corner. When you flinch, your brain flinches because the amygdale is filtering all of the sensory that comes through, looking for things that in the natural world represent a threat, and proximity, speed and things like that have a lot to do with that. So the brain says, “This could be a threat.” You put up your defenses then the cognitive part of the brain, the moderator of all part of the brain, recognizes that it’s your kid or your friend or whoever it is that’s in your space and you relax, you kind of call off the defend/attack, that flight or fight reaction, you call it off. Well, if shooting ever became instinctive, the theory would be that when your kid ran into the room and startled you and you’re wearing a gun, you’d reach to your gun, fire a shot, and then cognitively start processing whether or not that was a good idea, and certainly, we shouldn’t want that.

Richard:            No.

Rob:            So even if we could make shooting instinctive, it’s never really gonna be – it’s a             complex learned skill. The best we can ought to do is learn to shoot in a defensive situation in a way that it’s congruent with the reaction, the physiology of our body under that stressful moment.

Richard:             Makes perfect sense to me. One other thing that I’ll bring up and –especially when we’re talking about instinctive shooting –  I know that’s not what you’re teaching, but a lot of people have thought that instinctive shooting is non-sighted fire or at least an alternative sight picture anyway, more of your point-shooting type thing. Where do you fall with Combat Focus Shooting on sights vs. non-sights vs. alternate site pictures?

Rob:             Well, let’s – What we teach, first and foremost, we start – when I instructed about that course – when we start talking about the mechanics for shooting, I’ll ask the instructors, “What would you teach someone you knew and cared about who had a loaded gun and a bad guy coming though the door – dark bedroom, bad guys banging on the door, you have 30 seconds to teach that person how to use that gun to defend himself that’s already loaded. What are you gonna teach him?” And after – usually it’s a very short discussion – we get to extend-touch-press, stick the gun out in and parallel with your line of sight. I don’t give them the benefit of “I’d put a laser on it” or “I’d put a flashlight on it” or “I’d put some kind of special sight that you could see at night on, night sights, whatever it may be”. We don’t give them the benefit of that, it’s any semi-automatic pistol, what are you gonna teach him? You don’t know what kind of gun it is and it comes down to extend-touch-press, stick the gun out in and parallel with your line of sight, feel the trigger and then press the trigger.

In other words, don’t slap the trigger ‘cause trigger controls the one important fundamental mechanical skill that we do have to teach at some level of control and complex motor skill. So when we teach that, we figured that’s gonna –  Looking at the data, looking at what officers face, looking at Tom Givens at Rangemasters, looking at his incredible collection of data about real concealed or home defense shooting. And looking at the data, we’re looking at 10 to 12 feet may be 15, multiple shots at extension. Even when the shots are taken close the, shots are still usually fired with the gun at extension so that’s the usual place for a human animal to put the gun any way in and parallel with our line of sight. So that’s how we teach the response shooting at the immediate ambush moment. Put the gun out in front of your eyes, with both eyes open focus on the threat  –  which is where they’re gonna be focused anyway –  again, that’s part of the human reaction, touch the trigger, press the trigger.

We’ve been very quickly in a course where I find that –  to include sight alignment and sight picture because we know there are gonna be times when you’re gonna need more deviation control than just shooting a human size upper chest at 10 or 12 feet. So we start using the impact, we just put out a new target – we finally, after a decade to do – and that’s put out our own target called the Balance of Speed & Precision Target and it’s got a couple of areas that are at high area chest sites including the one rectangle inside of that silhouette and in it got smaller shapes around the outside and use the FEV target from law enforcement target company.

Those smaller shapes are where we start using the sights, and then of course we build in the headshots when appropriate. So very quickly in that program, we do include a good sight alignment sight picture and I’d support a notch and blade, traditional sight good front blade, good rear notch and then if you gonna put your three dots, or your dot on a tray, your dot on a post, whatever it may be on those to give you a medium-level sight alignment sight picture instead of a hard even across the top equal amount of light on the either side, that’s great. What I don’t ever do and if you’re ever afraid to use, it’s teaching alternative sight picture and I don’t know exactly what you meant by that ,but a lot of people o will talk about silhouette sight picture, or flash sight picture, or a subconscious sight picture, I think it’s my favorite one –  cannot teach. If you’re seeing your sight in your subconscious, I don’t care and I don’t even want to debate whether or not you are.

All I care about is what you’re focusing on, where your perception is, what you’re looking for, what you’re extending your time, effort, and energy to focus your eyes on. We know it starts on  –  will your eyes gonna be on the track, well if your eyes are on the track then we wanna make sure that we keep our eyes on the track unless we need, unless we perceive that we need –  based on our prior training experience –  to get sight alignment sight picture, and that’s where we go back to the sight alignment sight picture – so no silhouette, no flash, no subconscious, it’s either sight alignment sight picture to control deviation at a certain level, or it is keep the gun out in your line of sight control, recoil, keep both eyes focused on the threat and we rely on that exposure that comes in training to different realistic possible shooting scenarios, possible distances, possible target sizes to let the person start to be able to recognize exactly what they need to do and recognition – I’d pause on that word ‘cause that word is really a powerful word in our program – and we recognize that as the key to the Warrior Expert Theory. And the Warrior Expert Theory says that the more frequently and realistically you train, the more efficiently you will be able to respond during an actual fight, and that’s because of having a pattern or template that you see that says, “Oh, I need to use my sight here,” to you and there’s a –  I don’t wanna get too technical but there’s a structure in the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex that sort of connects that inner primate with the learned responses that you have in the higher more evolved parts of the brain and can access that information very, very fast when you’re dealing with something you recognize, especially if it’s a high priority, if you trained it a lot. And we say that recognition is the method of the expert, that’s the reason that –  if you’re a patrol officer then I’m pretty sure you can tell me off the top of your head in your state, what the code section is for a DUI. If you’re a patrol officer or a deputy I think you could probably tell me what the ten code is for an active fight.

If your agency’s still using ten codes you certainly can probably what the code section is for a domestic abuse charge. That’s because you’re an expert, you’ve been exposed to that information so many times that it’s right there right on the top of your head. Now, you challenge me to tell you what the code section is for DUIs in North Dakota, well I can find that out, I’ll go to Google or I’ll go find the Code Book in the public library and I’ll be able to tell you but it’s gonna take a lot more time because I haven’t been exposed to that piece of information over and over again the way someone is trained or had to find that information 3, 4, or 500 times in their career is gonna know it, and that’s the difference in recognition and figuring it out. Certainly, in a middle of a fight, we wanna recognize what we need to do not have to figure it out.

Richard:             Makes perfect sense. And just if I may – Just kinda clarify what we’re talking about like an alternate site picture vs. your sights. So during the extend-touch-press  –  basically my focus is on the assailant. We’ll say he’s enclosed in the 15th theater – so my focus is on the assailant, how we’re naturally gonna react. I press out or I extend out my firearm and the firearm when I extended it out that’s just basically breaking my plane of vision, I guess. It’s kind of almost in the periphery coming into my vision, I’m still focused on my threat.

Rob:            Well, it’s right there, yeah. The idea is – again we talk about the way the human animal works the way we’re designed – that your hands in the  middle of fight in the natural world  the untrained person, the monkey, whoever, throws their hands up being in their line of sight to protect them from rocks coming at their head, punches being thrown, whatever it is and because of the way our eyes are designed, the way our eyes are set in the front of our head, we have binocular vision, both eyes focus on something at that 8, 10, 12, 15 foot range see right around, literally, the left eye and right eye are taking two different paths to that being that we’re looking at, in this case the threat. And our hand, being out there in front of us, doesn’t truly block our vision because we have our left eye open and our right eye open, we’re getting two different visions and our brain sort of reconciles and it knows the important thing to look at isn’t our fingers the important thing that we look is the threat. And in the case of putting a tool in our hand and that gun just ends up there in that same place and naturally both our left eye and right eye, one of them are gonna be able to see around the gun.

And while we’re on the topic, the one that can’t see the gun around as well, that’s your dominant eye and your brain knows that. And for all the people out there who get all hung up about their eye dominance and their pistol shooting ‘cause I just got another email the other day  –  somebody sent the email – my friend is left-eye, dominant right-handed shooter, or what should she do. What she should do is not worry about it because the very test for eye dominance whether you use the triangle or your thumb blocking the thing or whatever it is – and to those of you who are familiar enough to know what I’m talking about that experienced this – that test proves that eye dominance doesn’t matter when it comes to a pistol at extension in front of your face. And a lot of instructors don’t like to hear that but eye dominance is an issue when you have a bead sight and a shotgun. It might be a little bit of an issue if you really have a skewed set of eyes – one eye is significantly stronger than the other with any kind of rifle shooting because of course your face is attached to the gun when you get your cheek [welt] with a pistol, your brain puts the gun in the right place just like it puts your hand in the right place when you do the eye dominance test, in the first place. So that’s another thing you probably just need to get over and stop confusing people about ‘cause it really does get inside the shooter’s head because if the instructor said it was important you’d be – I just find out there’s some people still to this day in 2011 trying to get left eye dominant pistol shooters to switch to being left-handed shooters in law enforcement capacity, and that just blows my mind.

Richard:             That’s definitely a little shocking to me as well. I mean, not that I’ve ever had an             issue with it, but I’m right-handed left eye dominant and I can shoot with both eyes open and it’s never caused me any issues whatsoever.

Rob:            Now it’s amazing – the brain in the body working at it really, really well and if you stick a tool in there, and we get some experience with it, then that doesn’t really screw the system up very much at all. Once you understand the tool and you get some experience using it, of course, that’s what the wild fire range practice is all about. People try to make it a lot more complicated than it is sometimes – and maybe they don’t try to make it more complicated – but traditionally, the shooting instruction has been very complicated. The fact is it doesn’t have to be if we stick to really what we’re gonna need in that counter ambush fight. It can be relatively simple and then it’s all about getting practice, more reps, more actual executions of the techniques, live fire reps so that we’re feeling recoil, and we can actually hope that we’re gonna see something on the desk camera video that looks like the way we trained as opposed to what we see so often which is incredibly divergent from the target shooting techniques we use to qualify.

Richard:             All right. Let me ask you real quick ‘because I know you do have other things to do. How can people get more information if they want to come take one of your classes?

Rob:            Well, the best thing to do – and honestly I need to say that I get a lot of attention as an instructor. You invited me to be on the show, and I loved that, and that’s awesome. I do the TV shows and I write the books and I do the articles and all that stuff and it is an honor to be asked to do all that. But there is an incredible team of Combat Focus Shooting instructors. We have certified a little less than 50% of the people that have taken the instructor development course since 2004. We had about 80 or 90 people who are actually certified. About 30 of them are active in the private sector a lot of them are military guys or law enforcement agency guys, they don’t teach in the private sector. We got some incredible success inside of law enforcement academies and law enforcement agencies in Europe and in the U.S. for – well they’ve adopted the Combat Focus Shooting Program as their exclusive training methodology. But in the private sector, there’s a whole group of guys out there that are just really doing great things and it’s important for people to understand this is a program and it’s a well-researched program that is a team effort in development and a team effort in –  certainly, in teaching. And you don’t have to train with me to get this program by any stretch.

If people go to, that is the new website that we just actually opened up last week, will show them everything they need to know about the program, the calendar of courses that are being taught all across the country. Some courses already posted out in the 2012 and they’d get to meet this team of instructors, when you click on the instructor link you’re gonna see an alphabetical list of 30 to 35 guys. I’m sure I’m in there somewhere but I’m sure that every guy on that list is worth training with. You do not get certified as a Combat Focus Shooting instructor simply by paying the fee, there’s some work involved, we don’t test their shooting ability, we test their knowledge of the program and their teaching ability and that’s how people get to – to get on that website and be able to teach the course under our program. So is the best way to find a course and an instructor near you, of course, any search engines – throw my name in there with the topic you’re looking for – flashlight, low-light, shooting, holsters, favorite gun, courses, whatever.

You’re probably gonna find a video, something, an article I wrote, a post in a forum, the I.C.E Training Company has a website, that’s my company personally. And, I  got to throw a plug out for that, we are 1-year old we opened in January of 2009 – I’m sorry – 2010. We were planning in 2009, we opened up in January 2010, and we’re 1-year old and we just recently had our million video put – million video view under And there’s, again, another team of great contributors there including Tony Blower who we’re talking about earlier. So there’s a lot of resources out there in the internet and hopefully I’ll get to see some of your listeners on our range but either way if they get with any of our Combat Focus Shooting Team, they’re not gonna be sorry.

Richard:             Fantastic. And to get your book, go to Amazon or –  where do you suggest?

Rob:            Amazon or – is a store that has books, DVDs, all of the training videos, the training logbook, and there’s a lot of really good stuff there in the store and that all – it’s handled directly by my company. Of course, we are on Amazon as well, so that’s more convenient for some people.

Richard:            Rob, thank you very much. I  –  As you know, I’m taking one of your classes in September, and I very much look forward to it, and I very much appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.

Rob:            Richard, I really appreciate being here. I look forward to seeing you down in Florida and any of your listeners, anywhere we could get on a range together.

Thank you very much, sir.




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Publisher at BlueSheepdog
Richard Johnson is a gun writer, police trainer and really bad joke teller. Check out his other writing on sites like Human Events, The Firearm Blog and Police & Security News.

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