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21st Century Shooting’s Arbor Press

Gear Review by Germán A. Salazar, Contributing Editor
Reloading at the range with an arbor press and Wilson dies is my preferred method of load development. I’ve had a chance to test and evaluate the Arbor Press from 21st Century Shooting. I have to say I’m very favorably impressed by it.

21st century arbor pressAn arbor press’ basic function is simple enough: exert sufficient downward pressure on the die to either size the case neck or seat the bullet depending on which die is in use. It isn’t a mechanically challenging function. So why do we use an arbor press and what should be look for in one? Consistent operation, sensitive feel, quality of design and machining are the hallmarks of a good arbor press and this one from 21st Century comes away with good marks in all areas.

For my initial session with the press, I seated 72 bullets in .30-06 cases, another 70 in .308 cases and neck sized a handful of cases (just for evaluation since I prefer to full-length size). The design of the actuating arm, which angles slightly away from the press was very convenient, allowing me to operate it with less jostling of the press because my fingers weren’t bumping into the press head as they sometimes do with my previous press that has the handle parallel to the press head. That’s a nice touch and shows the press was designed by someone who has used these things.

21st century arbor press 21st century arbor press

The press uses a relatively light return spring which materially aids the feel of seating pressure. I prefer this to a heavier return spring which would reduce the feel that I really look for in an arbor press. For someone who uses very heavy neck tension this might not be a big concern, but because I usually use 0.001″ to 0.002″ neck tension, the ability to detect small levels of variance in seating pressure is important to me.

High Quality Machining and Parts Finishing
Every part of the 21st Century press reflects careful thought and skilled machining. The knurled wheel for adjusting the height of the press head is a distinct improvement over the plastic hardware store knobs seen on many presses.

The aluminum press head itself is nicely anodized, the steel base well blued and the shaft nicely polished. Even the decapping base (photo at left) reflects careful design as well as precise machining. Overall, the press gives a look and feel of quality and is a welcome addition to my range reloading setup.

AccurateShooter Field TestedEditors’ Note: The designer of the 21st Century Arbor Press has decades of tool-making experience, and he has designed tools for many “big-name” companies. 21st Century stands behind the product with a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser. The Arbor Press is currently offered in two different versions, either with 3″ x 4″ baseplate for $85.99, or with 4″ x 5″ baseplate for $89.99.

21st Century Shooting
(260) 273-9909

This review originally appeared in in 2010. 21st Century Shooting Inc., a site advertiser, supplied an Arbor Press for testing and evaluation.

4Sevens Preon Li-Ion Beamshots – 200 lumens?

I had heard that using a Li-Ion 10440 cell in a Preon 1 could get close to 200 lumens of output, but I was skeptical. I had to try it for myself. While I have no way to accurately measure lumens, I can say that the claim is absolutely believable and I offer you some beamshots as exhibits. (All photos were taken with a Canon T3i set at 1/320, f/4.0, ISO 400)

Each of the following animated gifs shows 2 side-by-side beams from 2 different 4Sevens Preons on low/med/high and the caption below indicates which beam is which:


This is to be expected. The 4Sevens website states that the Preon 2 more than doubles the lumen counts of the Preon 1(70 lumens to 160).


 1-AAA NiMH/1-10440 Li-Ion

Again, this is to be expected. We are comparing a 3.7v battery to a 1.5v battery.


 1-10440 Li-Ion/2-AAA  NiMH

This is where I got excited. Not really surprised, but excited that a single cell could so obviously outperform the 2 AAA batteries.


In Conclusion:

My completely unscientific comparisons found the Preon 1 with the single 10440 Li-Ion battery to be brighter than even the Preon 2 with two AAA NiMH batteries. How much brighter should be measured with a scientific instrument, but I would definitely believe that the Li-Ion Preon 1 is 40+ lumens(25%) brighter than the NiMH Preon 2. It is pretty cool to have access to so many lumens in such a small package.

The batteries used in this comparison were AAA Samsung Eneloops and ICR 10440 350mAh batteries.

The 10440 batteries can be purchased from Super T Manufacturing.

The Samsung Eneloops were purchased from

Purchase the Preon 1 from for $35

This is not an endorsement for Li-Ion in the Preon and this is not recommended for an EDC setup. The Preon head heats up very quickly and could cause damage to the circuits. Your light will no longer be under warranty. 

Perimeter Security

Whe you have limited personnel to guard a given area, there are some tools that can act as extra eyes or ears for perimeter security.

Some may think that security systems are out of their price range, but there are simple tools that can aid in your personal security without breaking the bank.

The Skylink Long Range Motion Alert Kit lets you place motion detectors up to 800 feet from a base unit. Each of the individual motion detectors can detect motion up to 40 feet away. This system allows you to use up to 16 sensors that can be divded into 4 alert zones.

There are only 4 alert/indicator LEDs. The 4 sensors for each zone should be in relatively close proximity to each other so a zone’s LED indicator can allows you to identify a breach in a specific portion of your perimeter.

The base station and 1 sensor is going for just under $33 at

Each additional sensor costs $21.44

Warning: Be aware that range varies and manufacturers specify “up to X”. This means that you should not count on getting the full 800 feet of range. Give yourself a nice 20-30% buffer zone and you should be safe.

Hardcore Bargaining Tactics

I grew up bargaining at yard sales, but fell out of practice over the years. When we moved to Nepal, I had to brush up on my skills or go broke. Everything is bargained for here in Nepal. Most shops have no posted prices. You have to ask and bargain. It is expected. Every trip in a taxi starts with bargaining(“moltol”).

Here are a few tips for bargaining:

- Always have small bills or exact change. Nothing throws off a deal or sours a seller more than finishing a hard fought bargaining session by pulling out a large-denomination bill and asking for change. Sure, the price has already been set, but don’t expect to get another, similar deal from the seller and some sellers may go back on their deal after seeing the extra cash.

- Split your cash into bundles. As a final bargaining tactic, you can pull out an exact amount of cash(slightly lower than their most recent offer) and show them the money. A true statement like, “I have XXXXX rupees to spend on this.” may bring them down that last little bit to your desired price. This definitely doesn’t work if you pull out a huge wad of cash(more than the currently agreed upon price).

– One of the easiest ways to do this properly is by sorting your money into different pockets beforehand. You should have an idea of what you want to pay. Cut that number by 10%-20% and place that amount in one bundle in a certain pocket. In other pockets place combinations of bills that will bring you to different price points around the original number. Maybe 50 rupees in one pocket, 100 rupees in another pocket and 75 rupees in another. The amounts depend on the value of the item you are bargaining for. Don’t forget which pocket is which. At the right time, pull out the contents of 2 pockets: the large bundle with 80%-90% of the sale price and the appropriate smaller bundle that brings the amount up to your offer price.

- Be willing to walk away. Be willing to miss out on the deal. Remember there are other sellers. Also, you can always come back.

- Be willing to come back. Don’t let your pride get in the way. If you just walked away from a deal, then went to other shopkeepers and found much higher prices, simply go back to the original shopkeeper and tell him that you found out that he had a good price.

- Keep others away. Unless it is a coordinated effort planned in advance, bargaining should be done alone. One person should have both the cash and the authority to spend it. Glancing at your “bargaining partner” for guidance tells the seller that you are unsure or don’t have the authority. Sellers pick up on this quickly, especially if one person looks ready to pay and the other wants to keep looking for a lower price. Before bargaining for a taxi, I generally have my wife stand about 20 feet away while I go talk to the drivers. Yesterday, I had to talk to/bargain with three drivers before I found a taxi driver who gave us an acceptable price. I didn’t actually end up bargaining, but by trying 3 drivers, I paid 45% of the price offered by the first taxi driver. This way, my wife doesn’t have to keep walking away with me if the price is not good enough.

- Don’t get excited. When you find something you like, don’t show excitement or express too much joy. This simply tells the seller that you have a vested interest in this product and he has more hooks into you. When my wife calls me over to show me a piece of clothing she found that she wants to buy, the shopkeeper is watching. I generally looks at it disapprovingly, bob my head sideways as if determining if it’s worth purchasing, then put it back. When we move on, the shopkeeper loses some interest and we discuss the merits of the item. If we want to purchase it, we come back later and pick it up. This way the seller feels that he has to sell us. It gives us the advantage.

- Know when not to bargain. If somebody offers you a good price, don’t nickel and dime them. Sometimes paying a little more now will save you money in the long run. You may think that you can get a crate of eggs for 5 rupees less by bargaining, but by paying those extra 5 rupees, you may be developing a relationship that will allow you to get a very good price every time without bargaining. The problem with bargaining is that there are no guarantees. You may get a good price today and a terrible one tomorrow. You never know. Always be on the lookout for ways to establish a long-term relationship so you can get a good deal every time.
What tactics have you used successfully?

Dead Man’s Switch

We have all seen the movies where someone puts himself in an impossibly exposed and dangerous situation, but his opponents are not able to shoot or kill him because he has a dead man’s switch for an explosive device. If he lets go of the switch, the bomb will go off. 
Another variation is that some sort of compromising information will be sent to the authorities if he does not check in within a set ammount of time.
A dead man’s switch is essentially a protective measure that is typically used as insurance to make sure you remain alive, but there are other uses for such a setup.
Not all of us deal on a daily basis with people who intend to kill us, but in the event of an unforseen kidnapping a system that requires regular check-ins could release helpful information for searchers including last known location, daily schedule, or access to a tracking service.
I found a free service called DeadmanSMS that will send an email and/or SMS with a pre-specified message and recipient when a countdown hits zero. You are given a url where you can go to add days, hours, or minutes to the clock. Combined with a service like ITTT(if this, then that), the email can trigger a variety of actions or you can combine it with a gmail filter to send a different email from your own account. You could also combine it with a service like Dropbox to share critical files.
Anyone can use a dead man’s switch in a manner similar to a will. Share a master password, a personal journal, or your final wishes in the event of an unforseen emergency.
What would you use a dead man’s switch for?

Motivation and Variety When Working Out Alone

I recently visited a local gym and went to a free introductory cardio kickboxing class. I was really surprised at what a great workout I got in the class, but I’m not ready to dedicate the travel time, money, and gas that goes along with a membership there.
I looked at the class and said, “What can I do to emulate this at home?” None of the exercises we did during the class used any special equipment or more space than I have available to me at home. I already knew all of the exercises. Why wasn’t I already doing this on my own?
My problem was the monotony of working out. I got bored with the plan that I had set up for myself, so I began skipping workouts. I recognized the problem and introduced some variations, but then there was the added effort of planning each workout. It just became an annoyance and I fell back to the basics of pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and sit-ups. These are good exercises, but not really enough for where I want to be.
The class made it simple for me. I didn’t have to worry about which exercise I would do next. The leader told me. This was actually a bit disturbing to me. I don’t want to rely on others to think for me or motivate me. I pride myself on being self-motivated and choosing my own path. This spurred me to get my act together!
I made a list of the exercises that I wanted to incorporate into my exercise routine and put each exercise on a 3×5 card. I separated these cards according to the muscle groups that they worked out so that I can rotate through exercises for those muscle groups. It’s different for each workout and I don’t have to plan each individual workout. I just have to see what exercise is at the top of the stack for that day.
Variety is the spice of workouts and the stack of 3×5 cards lets you do it with minimal planning.
How do you vary and plan your workouts?

Free Online Medical Training Videos

Almost everyone knows the value and importance of medical training, but very few take the time to sit through a class and actually get the training. Sometimes it’s because your schedule never lines up with locally offered classes. Sometimes it is because finances preclude you from taking classes(although there are often free classes available).

In today’s internet age, I decided to see what kind of medical training you can find online. Books are great and everyone should have a section of their library dedicated to medical skills, but shouldn’t we be able to find something more visual in our multimedia centered Web 2.0(or is it 3.0?)?

It can actually be quite difficult to find said videos. This is very surprising in an era where you can often find hundreds of detailed educational videos dedicated to such esoteric subjects as underwater basket weaving. Why aren’t there more people making this information avialable?

Liability issues weigh heavily on many educators in the medical training arena, so most teachers want to be able to watch the student and make sure that they are comprehending and properly executing the skills. A teacher doesn’t want you to make a mistake and seriously injure or kill someone, then tell everyone that you learned the technique from Dr. XXXXXX on their YouTube channel.

There is no complete replacement for hands-on training, but online videos can definitely fill in some knowledge gaps and are often better than just reading about lifesaving procedures.

Here are a few sets of videos that I have found on YouTube:

Emergency First Aid  –

Basic First Aid Tips –

Medical Emergencies and First Aid –

Emergency Medical Care  –

First Aid –


What else have you all seen?

Increase Your Online Security With Lastpass

Are you still keeping track of your passwords using the built-in browser tools? If so, you are unnecessarily exposing yourself. Your passwords can be easily accessed by someone with very little know-how(like myself). 

I would like to recommend the password tracking service, Lastpass. I have been using their service for more than three years now and I have no complaints whatsoever.

Lastpass allows you to create numerous high-quality, secure passwords for different websites and access them with a single master password. Lastpass is like a part of my brain now. I can have great, secure passwords and I don’t have remember each of them. Just the master password.

My lastpass “vault” of log-ins and passwords has grown over the years to the thousands and each of them can be autofilled whenever I access a website for which the database holds login information. It can also remember multiple logins for certain sites with which you may have multiple accounts.

All of this is available for free, but there are some perks that come with a paid upgrade. The paid upgrade allows you to use mobile apps that will perform the same functions as the browser plugins. If you browse the web on a smartphone or tablet, this service is a Godsend. The paid upgrade also allows me to share access to a website with someone without actually giving them the password. That person has to have a Lastpass account and the browser plugin, but Lastpass will autofill your login information and they never actually see it. This is great for emergency situations where you don’t want to have to change all your passwords after you share them. It also works great for Virtual Assistants. When the task or emergency is over, you can rescind your shared login permissions.

Lastpass is a simple, secure, convenient tool that make it inexcusable to continue using the same password across the web just so you can remember it in your head. Make a simple upgrade and vastly improve your operational security with Lastpass.

Check it out here!

What do you use for a password manager?

P.S. If you do click on the link and sign up for Lastpass, you and I both will get a free month of premium Lastpass service, so get to it!

Speed Up Your Podcasts and Take in More Information

I haven’t listened to a podcast at regular speed in more than a month now. My iPod Nano has the ability to play podcasts at 2x speed and I have been taking advantage of that fantastic feature. It also automatically adjusts the pitch so that it doesn’t sound like the host has turned into a chipmunk. Because it still has a natural tone, my mind speeds up to go along with the spoken words. Only rarely do I even think about the fact that I am listening to a podcast at double speed. When you get used to it, it sounds very natural.

Why? Why do people want to speed read? So that they can consume more information. Some people listen to podcasts just to fill their time. If you are one of those people feel free to ignore this feature. Go ahead and enjoy your podcasts at the original speed. In fact, you can even slow them down to half speed if you have a lot of time to fill. ;)

Personally, I can only listen to podcasts at certain times and I want to get as much information as possible. Double speed let’s me listen to podcasts that I would otherwise have to skip.

What! You only listen to one or two podcasts? Go find some more. There are lots of great informative shows out there if you have time to listen. Go browse iTunes and you will be amazed at what you can find.

I’ll try to put together a list of some of my current favorite podcasts, but in the meantime, speed your current podcasts up and make room for some more!

What podcasts are you listening to? Does anyone else listen at double speed?

Freezedrying Your Own Survival Foods

We all know how easy it is to dehydrate your own food for storage, but there are better methods of preparing food for storage. Freeze-drying food will help it to retain more taste and nutritional value for a longer period of time than other preservation methods.

This is all great, but freeze-dried foods can be relatively expensive, especially compared to foods that you can prepare and preserve on your own at home. A 72-hour kit of freeze-dried food from Mountain House is going for $55.60.

The real question is whether or not you can freeze dry your own foods at home to prepare them for long-term storage. I am currently researching this, but unfortunately, I have not found any cost effective options for home freeze-dehydrators. It seems to be a very complicated and stringent process that would be difficult to reproduce at home.

Have any of you done this before? Is this possible? Any advice?

Lots of interesting comments here

Shirt That Actually Lowers Your Temperature

I read about this in Popular Science and thought it was downright innovative. With everyone on facebook posting photos of their car’s thermometers to complain about heat, there ought to be a few people who will purchase this.

According to the Columbia website:

The specifically shaped yarns, when woven or knit together, create Omni-Freeze. The flat yarns increase the surface area of the fabric that contacts your bare skin, which transmits heat faster and feels cooler to the touch.

Ebay Auction Snipers

Love it or hate it, Ebay auction sniping is the most efficient way to get good deals on Ebay. I love Ebay because there are numerous items that are shipped directly from China or other Asian countries. This saves me time and money since I am already here in Asia. :)

The auction format can be addictive and cost people lot’s of money if they don’t know what they are doing. Before you ever place a bid, you should know exactly what the item is worth to you. Be willing to let it go if the price exceeds that ammount. Don’t chase runaway auctions. You will regret it.

When it comes to used items, I examine past auctions to come up with an expected cost and base my bid on that if it seems worth it to me.

Don’t forget to factor in the shipping costs.

Now about the actual sniping. Auction sniping is placing a bid in the final seconds of an auction so that others don’t have time to chase it with bids of their own.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this method. If your bid is lower than the actual(unpublished) bid of the current high-bidder, you can’t adjust and rebid, but you shouldn’t be doing that anyway. If your bid is higher than that of the current high bidder, they don’t have time to rebid(they may have less self control than you).

I can’t say with certainty how much money I have saved with auction sniping(who knows how much other people were going to rebid?), but I am certain that it is substantial. I often end up winning auctions for substantially less than I was willing to pay.

Personally, I use Bidnip. They claim to be the number one sniping service on Ebay and their servers somehow integrate directly with Ebay itself. My favorite thing about this service is that if you don’t win, you don’t pay. Even if it is just your fault for bidding too low.

They also have a free trial program that give you 5 free snipes with no obligation or CC information required.

I have used bidnip for several years and can’t recommend them highly enough. Go check it out:


P.S. If you sign up for the 5 free snipes through this link, I also get 5 free snipes, so get to it!

Washing Clothes on the Road

When I travel or go camping, I obsess over how light I can make my pack. It seems that I always end up carrying a ton of clothes. I just can’t get around it. I get dirty, sweaty, muddy and I need at least a few changes of clothes for the trip.

Enter the Scrubba Wash Bag!

This thing is a miniscule, light weight waterproof bag with a “washboard” texture on the inside to help you wash your clothes on the go.

This sounds like just the ticket for limiting the ammount of clothing I have to bring on a long trip, but it retails for a steep $40-$105 depending on the size!

Worth it? It depends on how obsessive you are…

Survival Tabs

I have been looking at my preparations for an emergency that might last several days and I was examining the food options. Anyone that reads this blog or listens to my podcasts knows my penchant for all things small and lightweight. Cans are note even an option. Freeze-dried foods are relatively light weight, but what if you could live off pills? Wouldn’t that be cool?

According to Survival Food Tabs, you can. 

They have been around for several years now, so I doubt they are ripping people off, but their claims sound more than a little fantastic. According to their website, 12 tabs per day will keep you going in a survival situation for 2 weeks with minimal weight loss.

The crazy thing is that each tab is only 20 Calories. In other words, the entire day’s worth of tabs is 240 Calories. They claim that with most food products, 30%-60% of the food is waste that your body can’t even use for energy, etc. If we go by the higher waste percentage number, we could inflate the 240 Calories and say it is equivalent to 600 Calories of wasteful food. This still seems pretty small to me. Efficient? Yes. Enough? Hmm…

I have heard very positive reviews from people that I trust and based on those reviews, I would be willing to try these out and do some test with weight changes, etc. Cope Reynolds of Southwest Shooting Authority and the Shooting Bench radio show used these exclusively for 2 weeks and had very positive things to say about them.

Here is an interesting review

Here is the cheapest price I have found

Overall, these look like something that would be a good base survival food source if space is at a premium(read: go bag/ Bug out bag). I would recommend supplementing with either more tabs or other food sources.

Individually Packaged Medical Kit Consumables

I’m working on putting together a good, customized First Aid kits for emergencies and the little boo-boos. I don’t want to be lugging around a suitcase, so I am trying to keep it as small and light as possible. I plan to stash kits in several places and bags and I don’t want them to become too cumbersome or get in the way. One of the easiest ways to cut down the size of your kit is to get rid of bottles, tubes, and containers that are larger than you need. Three small individual packages of aspirin are much smaller than even the smallest plastic cannister.

These individual packages are convenient, but they will cost you. Most of the time, you can only get individual packages on the brand names that already cost twice as much as the generic store brands. Then you add the convenience surcharge for the packaging. Then they sell them in containers that will contain far more than you actually need.

(TIP: Split the cost of a box with someone else to cut down on waste)

I decided to see if I could individually package these things myself. Somebody has to have done this before. Somebody has to have written about it on the internet. It turns out that I was right! (I love it when that happens)

I found a cool little article about someone packaging up Triple Antibiotic Ointment in a plastic straw and sealing it with a lighter:

What about vacuuming sealing or anything for the dry goods? Any ideas?

Long Time No Post

And I’m very sorry! I will definitely remedy this problem. I have been doing lots of research lately and I realized that it would be a shame not to be sharing the things I am learning. In the meanwhile, go check out my 4Sevens Preon Review posted over at

Pocket Pistol Considerations

Rob: You are listening to the Personal Armament Podcast. This is Rob Robideau. I have with me again today Mr. Dave Spaulding. Thanks so much for coming to this show here. We really appreciate it.

Dave has been very busy this last week. We were just talking about him being on Louisiana and doing some recording with Gun Talk. He told us that he was doing some recording, talking about what your concealed carry classes doesn’t actually teach you. A very interesting subject. We started asking him his opinion on these different things and I apologize some of the recording was not up to snuff. But we’re going to jump right into it. At least where the recording did start. Here you go. Thanks for listening.

Dave: They (criminals) may not be brain surgeons but they certainly have a PhD in street smarts. They will recognize the person who is going to posture or try to fake their way through by pointing a gun at someone. They’ll take that gun and they use it against them.

Rob: The people that come to your classes are a little bit of different genres of people because they are seeking out instructions. They care about it and they want to learn more. But of the people that you see that are trying to learn and are coming into this concealed carry world, carrying about personal defense, and carrying a firearm. How many of these people do you really believe have sat down and considered the fact that because they’re carrying a firearm, they are giving themselves the opportunity to take a life essentially?

Dave: In my classes, I don’t see basic students. I see people who are already law enforcement officers, military or concealed carry permit holders. I don’t see the person that’s just learning how to use the gun right off the bat and hasn’t given us any thought. That said, I am guessing I still see 10% maybe 15% of the people who really are not prepared to use the firearm to defend their life. In their mind, they still think that this will not happen to me, the gun is a fashion statement, or I got my permit because I have the right to do it. They really do not think that it can happen to them. I do the best I can to make them understand that it can happen to them. If it does, they cannot hesitate/dither. They cannot be thinking this is happening to someone else, this cannot happen to me. They have to understand that it is happening to them and they need to do whatever it takes to be an active participant on their own rescue.

Rob: These people are there and a few of them may not have considered it. When you present this information to them, when you try to bring this to mind that “Hey, this is a serious tool that you’re carrying. This does mean life or death.” People can take it one of three ways. They can continually live in denial. One say, accept the facts and say, “Hey, this is a serious tool. I understand what this is going to do and it’s worth for me to be able to defend myself and my family.” The third option is they could say, “Hey, I’m not ready for this.”

Of the people that are out there, that has not considered this previously. Once presented with this information, once they realized how serious this is. How many people do you think actually end up coming to that conclusion and say, “Hey, this is not for me.”

Dave: A sizable number of people that conclude that it is not for them. No matter what happens they cannot take a life. I even talked to a woman once who said that even if her kids were in danger, she could not take a life. It was just something foreign to her. She could not do it.

When you got a person like that, there is not much you can do to help them. You just hope that they never happen to cross paths with that person that is going to do them serious physical harm or death. However, I can tell you from dealing with criminals my entire adult life, which is exactly the person they are looking for. They do not want the person who will fight back or who is prepared to fight back. They want the person that no matter what happens, they will continue to remain a victim, and that they will do what they want and that is quite unfortunate. I suspect that we actually raise people that way.

I have actually seen people say, “If someone’s trying to rape you, just go along, and try to enjoy it.” What kind of crazy person says that? We are just doing people serious disservice. Rob, I am going to say something that may shock some people but there are people out there that need to be killed. If they need to be killed, you should kill them because if you do not, they will harm you or someone else and it comes down to that. I was a police officer my whole life and I am very just. I believe in justice and due process but there are circumstances and there are people that need to be stopped immediately and that are what it comes down to. Unfortunately, there are people out there that under no circumstances will they do that.

Rob: There are people out there that will not offer themselves up to the process of justice, law, and court system that are going to force themselves in some violent manner or force you to make a decision. It is not really a choice that you have. I think this person should. It is a completely different decision. It is a matter of protecting your family or yourself. It is a matter of life and death in most cases on your part.

Dave: You are a religious man, a minister. You have read the bible. You know that the bible is very clear that you do have the right to your personal defense. You do not have to turn the other cheek. You have the right to pick up the sword, protect yourself, and love ones. I just do not understand why people cannot grasp that basic human standard. You do not have to go meekly into the night and capitulate to somebody who is forcing themselves on you or trying to take the most precious commodity you have which is your life and the love of your love ones. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to feel bad about. You are doing what I believe is a God-given right.

Rob: No and of course it is a legal right and also given to us by our government. Secondarily, after being a God-given right. While we have digress on this subject have not we.

Dave: We have. I apologize.

Rob: No. It is nothing to apologize.

Dave: People should take care of themselves. It is no different than getting a flu shot. You are taking care of yourself so you do not get the flu. When you take a firearm, train with it, and build the mindset. You are taking care of yourself so that you will not be a victim.

Rob: Let me ask you one more question about solving the world’s problems. You mentioned that maybe we are raising people like this. Without being harsh or mean, how do raise your children in a mindset where they understand that taking care of your family and yourself is not a crime? It is not something that you should be ashamed of.

Dave: That is just it. You raise them in such a way that they understand that it is not bad to defend yourself. Schools have zero tolerance policies. It does not matter if the person that is being picked on is being picked on defending themselves. They are suspended too. That is the wrong message.

I made it very clear to my kids that they do not pick fights. If they pick fights, they will answer to me. However, at the same time, I told them that you are not to allow someone to harm you or to do something to you that would cause you injury. You have the right to fight back. You fight back and if the school or whatever, I will deal with that, I will take care of that. We need to tell our kids it is ok to take care of you, to protect yourself. It is hypocritical. We tell you wash your hands, don’t get near other people, don’t let them cough on you, take care of yourself, protect yourself from illness, But then we tell the same people that it’s not ok to protect yourself from someone harming you. Back to the rape counsel, you should just layback, take it, and do not anger the person. That is just a load of crap. You raise your children and you tell them that it is ok to defend yourself, to protect yourself. I do not care what the schools, the politicians, or anybody else says.

Rob: I am sure that having a father, mother or both that are actively searching out and learning about how to use a defensive tool and what situations, going to classes, and that sort of thing. Naturally, your child is going to understand the value that you place on that. They are going to place a priority on that also. It is going to be a natural thing.

Dave: We tried to do that. I taught my kids to shoot and everything and none of my kids are really into shooting. They would go and it was kind of fun to do but they are not really into it. However, I made them understand that to use that tool to protect themselves was ok. It was ok by God and the government. The government is kind of a funny thing because you never know what type of jurisdiction you live in. You should understand. Technically, it has been ok by the government.

Rob: At least they are out there joining and protesting with the CSGV and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and all these other groups. I think you did something right.

Dave: Individual jurisdiction is probably a pretty good idea that you understand how your local prosecutor feels about firearms, personal security or to self-defense because we all realize that a prosecutor can dictate a turn of grand jury. You need to have that kind of understanding. That dynamic and prepare for it.

Rob: Let us jump into today’s subject. We talked a little bit about jumping into this, this week. It is funny how you go onto these gun forums. In fact, you walk into any gun shop or club and you are bound to find someone arguing over the merits of their caliber. How the 45 is the best cartridge ever invented. It would be good enough for Jesus if he were here. People are here with the 40 caliber, 10mm, even the 9mm. I personally prefer the 9mm for several reasons but its funny how all these people sit there arguing about this. They will spend hours discussing the merits. They will shoot through all their ballistics. They will run all the numbers and talk about exactly how they load it up this ammo. You are asking what do you have on your purse and what do they have? It is a pocket pistol right?

Dave: Right. It is. I am not sure who said this but I hate to not get attribution but I am not sure who exactly said it but it is true. We talk 45s. We shoot 9mms but we carry 38 or 380s.

Rob: It’s relatively recent trend moving to these little 380s. Tell us a little bit about your thoughts on these pocket pistols and where is this trend going? Is it something good?

Dave: It used to be snobby 38s. The first off duty that I got when I got out of the Academy was a snub 38. They are still very popular and they are a good choice for personal security. I think the 380 really came onto the market when Ruger introduced the LCP. The Kel-Tec was actually here before that and the other was North American Arms. There was a number of little pocket pistols or pal-size pistols but it was Ruger and their LCP that really rocketed the whole package to the forefront. People could not get enough of them. Ruger still makes those things left and right. If you go to SHOT Show or any of the large trade companies, the pocket pistol or little 380s are still one of the most sought-after, interesting items out there.

Rob: The tabloids were around before the iPad but when Apple started making that iPad, they popularized it. They put it in a package that people wanted and it is kind of, what Ruger did with the pocket pistol. Let me ask and be as diplomatic or I know you do work for Ruger. What are your opinions in general of these pocket pistols? Is this a good trend to be going that small? Is it something that people really need to consider exactly how low power these is and adapt their techniques to fit in?

Dave: Let us be honest Rob. It is going to be a matter of individual commitment. People will stick an LCP in their pocket when they will not slide a Gloc 17 into their waistband. The most diminutive pocket pistol is still far better than empty hands. I think the pocket pistol is a good trend. Do I think it is going to be an effective weapon if they are attacked by a committed assailant? Probably only if they can like shoot then in the eye sockets because I do not think several shots to the torso will be instantly incapacitated. Unless something like the heart or one of the major, blood vessels or the spinal column is severed. Even then, these bullets are fairly underpowered to be quite frank.

Rob: It is a very small cartridge. Many people look at it when they get it and say, “Man, these things are tiny.” However, the truth is nobody wants to step in front of it. It is still a firearm. It is still shooting a piece of lead or a projectile that is not fun to be hit by. People are developing better ammunition for these things all the time too.

Dave: I do not want to be shot with any of these calibers. Anything that perforates your body has the definite potential of causing you serious physical injury or death. In the 30 years, I was involved in law enforcement and all the years that I studied the topic of handgun stopping power. I even wrote my Master’s Thesis on it while I got my Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration. There was a very definitive line that seems to occur right around 38 Special. That seemed to be the line. The 380 is kind of a ghost cartridge that goes both ways but definitely 380. There are just so many instances where people have been shot and do not know they have been shot versus the 38 Special on larger where people tend to notice that they have been hit.

Rob: It is no 380 in size for sure but there are plenty of good 38 revolvers out there that are getting smaller and smaller. Obviously good reliable. We are talking about Ruger LCR. We have Smith and Wesson Bodyguard and there are many more that are in development, coming out or out there that I do not know about. There are many good small 38s too.

Dave: The 380-pocket pistol, people like it because it is light and flat. However, I think if you are going to go with a pocket type pistol you are better off with the 38 snub. Getting one of those really lightweight aluminum, titanium or scandium, the material is out there and loading that with one of the more proven hollow point cartridges. I really think you are going to end up with a pocket package that is going to be far more effective when you need it than one of the little flat guns. The little 380s are very flat. You can slide them into places where even the 38 snub will not fit as well. Again, I come back to it. It is certainly better than empty hands.

Rob: I do not want to reiterate the point. However, seriously, it is better than nothing. It is good to see people at least dropping something into their pockets.

There are two issues I want to address with this. Number one, when people have the option of a pocket pistol, do you think that most people just have that as a backup? Do they slip into their pants when they do not feel like carrying their main firearm? Do you think that is something that most people commit to and say, “Hey, this is what I want to use as my primary firearm.” What do you see most people doing in that respect?

Dave: I do not know what the exact sales figures are for Ruger’s LCP. I know it is hundreds of thousands of guns. When you sold that many guns, I just find that hard to believe that many guns were sold strictly for backup purposes. There probably are people who are carrying it for a backup gun. Any of that genre, that flat 380-32 would be a good backup gun for law enforcement, armed citizens or military to escape an evasion, gun, and kit for military special operators. You do not sell that volume of guns just for backups. There are many people out there that are carrying those guns for primary.

Rob: That brings me to my main point. I see in some cases maybe or someone might say, “Hey, today I’m just not feeling like carrying a heavier gun. I’m going to go with the 380.” Whereas tomorrow when they are dressed differently, they might end up wearing their primary firearm. When I say backup, I don’t’ mean as a secondary gun on your person. I apologize. I was kind of leading you the wrong way there but what I am wondering is when someone is alternated between two firearms. We have talked about the importance of using these act same techniques and getting some of the stuff drilled into your brain. That doubles the amount of training and work that you need to do to ingrain the draw, all the other aspects of handling a defensive firearm. That doubles the work that you have to do to prepare.

Dave: We are talking human physiology here now. Primarily sports physiology, the human motions. Anytime you deviate from the norm, you are going to create what we call lag time, which is the amount of time that takes to perceive, and react to danger.

If you are normally carrying your Gloc pistol in a strong side, hit holster and now you go to an LCP, an appendix carry, or hit pocket carry. You will create a certain amount of lag time because if you practice and practice with your primary gun and your belt holster when crisis hits, when a threat presents itself, you will automatically default to going to that position. You will realize that it is not there “Oh wait a minute. I’ve got it here.” and you are going to have to divert that muscle memory, ability, or familiar task transference to the new location and now you are talking about seconds in a situation that only lasts seconds. Not having that particular firearm in your primary mode of carry. Not having adjusted your brain to doing that is a very serious problem. The only thing that I can tell people is if they are going to vary their location because it maybe they are going to the beach or it is just a darn hot day. All they can do is a tank top and a pair of shorts is before they head out that day, unload that gun, put it in that carry location, and do five minutes of draws. Try to temporarily anchor that into their motor skills for that day and maybe that will be enough to get him through. Just add a little bit of repetition and if it pops up, they will go there. It certainly not guaranteed Rob.

Rob: The fact of the matter is you are stepping down a little bit in effectiveness of the cartridge and you do not want to lose even more in your skill. It really puts you at not necessarily a disadvantage but it does not give you as much of an advantage as with a primary firearm of a larger caliber.

Dave: You are absolutely correct. You could have said it better.

Rob: The way that we are going to sought the world’s problems again. The advice that I would give here then is if you are going to carry a pocket pistol, give yourself a lesser advantage with a smaller caliber. At least make sure that you are practicing with it and that you are not going to have that lag because you have not practice with it. Spend some time and make sure you get in there. I do not want to delay the point with that.

My other question to you was about pocket pistols. Once you get down to these smaller firearms and I know that these companies are coming out with some great designs but some of these smaller guns, they are harder to shoot right?

Dave: I am sorry. They are harder to what?

Rob: Harder to shoot because of the way that your hand grips them.

Dave: Absolutely. You have a smaller gun. There is more diminutive grip on it. You do not have the larger grip surface of a 1911 or Gloc. You have this little tiny bit of grip that your shooting hand has probably totally encased, totally wrapped around it. You have no exposed grip surface to really get a supporting. You are really supporting is gripping your shooting hand. That will help some but when you got these little tiny guns, you got a one-handed pistol. If they malfunction or you need to do a clearance on them, there is less surface to manipulate. Somebody told me once that you really cannot manipulate these little guns and that is just not the case. You can manipulate these little guns. You can tap rack, you may have to adjust your grip, and do a few things. They can be done. You should know how to do that. Whenever you have got a smaller package, you are going to have less to grab a hold of, and that is going to be a potential problem. It is nothing that cannot be overcome in a solid training program.

Rob: On the flip side of this, you are shooting a small package when you shoot a 38 revolver, also a very small and light package. You do have less recoil. Do you think that gives you a little bit of an extra advantage? Do you think it is negligible when you are shooting that small pocket pistol and it is a 380 versus a 38 Special? Do you think that is going to allow you to get more shots off? What is your opinion on that?

Dave: You really do not have less recoil. You are shooting a 380, it is a small, and light as an LCP. It has got some recoil. If you were shooting a 380 and a wolf 33k which is all steel. That is a little bit different but some of these small guns have some unnoticeable recoil, nothing that cannot be overcome. I think the chief advantage of these small guns, which are more than likely going to be used in very close quarters is that there is no leverage advantage to your opponent. What I mean by that is if you are a double arm’s length, your opponent grabs hold of the barrel and the slide; they actually have the greater leverage to strip that gun out of your hand. Something small like a snobby or an LCP, they do not have that leverage advantage so the small gun will actually be easier for you to retain in a scuffle than a larger more powerful pistol. If you want to look at the advantage of these smaller guns, it would probably be their ability to be used very well in close confines.

Rob: An interesting concept. I really did not think of that but you are right. Your hand will be covering more that is available to them to grab and leverage against you.

Dave: If you are using these guns at what we call bad-breath distances, the power factor is not going to be as great or the power disadvantage is not going to be as great because you are probably going to be pushing it up against their chest cavity or sticking it up against their neck. In those close confines, these little guns can give a very good accounting of themselves. If we are looking for advantage that the advantage would be that, these would be good little guns to have in close confrontation.

Rob: Let me move slightly off the whole pocket pistol unless there is anything you need to go back to and ask you when it comes to pocket pistols, what are your thoughts on lasers?

Dave: Lasers probably are a great deal sense on some of these small guns because the sight is you probably see Rob, are not very big. At close confines or maybe you’ve been knocked down and you’re trying to get the gun up, it may be sideways in orientation, coming right out of your pocket, you’ve just knock the guy’s arm out of the way, and your snap shooting him. That laser, that little gun can be very valuable. Not that they could not be valuable on larger guns. But when you’ve got a gun that you’ve got one one-hand grip onto, maybe using it at very close distances, very fast shooting, and it also has very diminutive sights on it. I think the laser can be a really good tool on that gun.

Rob: It looks like there are a lot of companies but people are working together with manufacturers to make sure that these things are coming out of the factory. In some cases with lasers or at least there are aftermarket lasers that fit these things well with holsters. It seems like people are really recognizing that a laser compliments these small platforms very well.

Dave: But I will make the caution and maybe on a limb here. If the laser is not intuitive to operate and what I mean by that, if you cannot wrap your hand around the gun and you cannot activate it in a traditional shooting grip or shooting manipulation. If you have got a supporting and reach, out near the switch or the trigger finger has to do something that, my experience is it will probably will not come into play. If the laser is not engaged and operated as you wrap your hand around the gun in a traditional shooting rip but doing it normal deployment then the laser probably will not be a factor in the fight.

Rob: Are you saying most of these newer lasers that are out for these things have been deployed in practical and effective ways.

Dave: Some of the lasers are pretty good. As soon as you wrap your hand around them, you engage them, which can be a problem because it could be on when you do not want it to be. Some of the lasers require your support hand thumb up and pop a button. A situation like that it probably will not come into play because you may not have the ability to reach up and hit that switch. The point of making is if the lasers cannot be activated in a normal wrapping of your hand around the gun, it probably will not be a factor in a close pandemonium filled fight. By the same token, if it is that easy to turn it on then you can also probably turn it on at times when you do not want it to be on. Like anything else Rob, there is bitter in the sweet.

Rob: There you go people. We are not even helping. You make the decision. You are absolutely right.

Dave: Each person has to decide what is important to them and what is not.

Rob: Are there any other aspects of the pocket pistol that you wanted to address today?

Dave: Just do not ___ because you drop a pistol in your pocket, you are ready to go. “Ok. I am armed. I’m good.” There are a lot of people that think that. I had a person that said “I’ve got my pistol right here in my front pants pocket. I am ready to go. All I got to do is reach in here and get it.” I said “Ok. Sit down.” He sat down. I said “How do you get it out?” “Well, I never thought about that.” See? You got to think about those kinds of things. You have got to practice so your pocket pistol in your real world of work and play. If you are sitting down a lot in your car, your trousers have tightened up across the pockets. Probably above where the pocket pistol is. How do you get your hand in there without doing some kind of spastic-looking motion while you straighten your leg out so you can wiggle your hand into your pockets?

Pocket pistols can be convenient and easy to carry but they can also be hard to access. When you are doing this kind of stuff, think about your real world of work and play and practice in that fashion, and find out if it is really the mode of carry for you.

Rob: Sounds like some good advice. Thanks again for coming on here and talking with us. I am sure we appreciate it. I am sure that our listeners appreciate you giving them advice on this subject.

Dave: I do not mind coming on here and talking to your listeners but I am not going to guarantee that they are always going to agree with what I say.

Rob: We love to hear you go out on a limb and tell us that people need to kill and all that stuff.

Dave: I will never lie to people, at least not about this stuff. It is too important.

Rob: No, we appreciate that Dave. Again, if you want to check out Dave’s work, his classes, and the things that he does. Head on over to or Those are the correct addresses right?

Dave: That is correct sir.

Rob: You can check out his blog at DaveSpaulding or you can learn about the classes and what he’s doing at the HandGunCombatives course. Also, if you want to help support the podcast and the show here, you can check out our book that on or on our website is The Practical Guide to Everyday Carry Gear. You got two chapters in there from Dave talking about the defensive use of a flashlight and also some of the questions surrounding the defensive use of a knife which we’re going to cover more of here on the podcast later about whether that’s a fantasy or fiction that’s a good effective self-defense tool but you could also read about his thoughts on that in The Practical Guide to Everyday Carry Gear.

Thanks again Dave. I’ll talk to you again next week.

Importance of Combatives

Rob: We have both had a ton of stuff going on in our lives for the last year but let us try and… I do not want to take a whole lot of time and bore people with the details. But why don’t you take five minutes and tell people what changes you have made and how things are different in your world this year.

Dave: Frankly, I got tired working for the government after doing almost thirty years for a county sheriff’s office. I took a job working as a contractor for a federal government, did that for about seven, and just got somewhat tired of doing the whole government thing. My wife worked at me one day, she said, “You know, you’ve kind of fooled around with this instructing stuff kind of hit/miss and here and there and yet I always wanted to know if you could do it so why don’t you give it a try?”

Just right before thanksgiving, I enlisted the help of my kids who are a lot more computer savvy than I am and setup a website, the Facebook page, and all the things that are related, all of that. Kind of, put out my shingles and the firearms training business and so far so good, because it seems to be taking off for me really well.

Rob: I said it is your electronic shingle nowadays right.

Dave: Hahaha. There you go.

Rob: Can you tell us what kind of classes are you offering right now?

Dave: The name of the website and the name of my company is Handgun Combatives LLC and that is a direct take from the book that I wrote which I think since we last talked is in its second edition. I got the opportunity to redo it and I was glad to do that because I think it is much better. I took the name from that and opened my shingle and I am totally focusing on the combative application of the handgun.

I am not going to be doing carbine classes frankly Rob. If you want a carbine class especially with the AR-15 platform, one of the former military guns, they are just going do a lot better than me. I am just saying the handgun has been the primary weapon of law enforcement for centuries. Law enforcement instructors do that very, very well. So I feel like I have a lot to offer in the combative use of a handgun. That is where I am directing it.

Rob: Well I appreciate you obviously avoided the areas that you know yourself that you do not know well. Take what you know and teach it and I am sure you will do well with this. Sounds like you have been busy with it too.

Dave: It has taken off well. I could do the carbine and stuff but frankly, while I was in SWAT, it was the MP5, the HK53, and those weapon platforms are just too expensive to get. I can do a carbine class, I have done them, but people will do them better than me so why kid myself. Teaching with a handgun is working out well for me. I have got about 20 classes scheduled so far for 2012 and I have openings for more if people are interested. Let us face it; some of these classes will not go because when you are doing classes on the road, the single most important factor is the hose. The point of contact on the ground through is drumming up the local interest. If you get a point of contact or a hose through just as an interested in doing anything with it. It is just like trying to get a free class then the course probably is not going to go because listing it on my website alone is not enough. You have to have somebody there locally beating the drum for you.

Rob: I’ll skip over to me and give people a quick update at least on what’s going on here and why there has been an essentially thirteen almost fourteen month hiatus on the Combatives Podcast here. I am actually recording and calling Dave here from Nepal, the capital city of Kathmandu. It is actually a local village just outside of Kathmandu.

We have many changes in our life. I am over here doing missions work and some other stuff. I was staying very busy and when we first moved over here, we had twenty hours a day of power outages. And if you do the math that obviously means we only had power four hours a day. That is because they have a dry season and most of their power comes from hydroelectric. It is something that happens every year. We came over here; there is no way I can make sure that four hours exactly lines up with interviews. Let alone doing editing and the other stuff that goes with the work on the podcast here so I literally had to put that on the back burner for a while. Now we have battery backup. I have a computer over here that I am able to use to do that in an office. Its things that gotten to the point where I’m able to do this so I am back and hopefully we can get this going again with the same passion, the same great information.

I know I am a poser now. I told Dave. I am firearm-less, I have no firearms over here because of the walls and the rules. But hopefully I can still ask the same questions… the right questions. Get some information out of Dave here that people listen to the podcast that can enjoy… that can help make you safer.

What I like to do… I know there are probably many people that are going to be joining us that have not been able to listen to any of these things in the past and I do not want to rehash things that people might be bored with but truth is it has been thirteen months. We can use a refresher. I could use a refresher myself. What we are going to do, we are going to start out talking about the purpose of this podcast and while we call it the combatives podcast versus the defensive podcast. Many people have different names for their books, classes, and defensive handguns. But Dave, that is not the route you have gone with this. In fact, you were the one that choose this name originally. Tell us why combatives?

Dave: It is a matter of being verbally, visually descriptive. As an instructor, I think an instructor who can make a statement to their student and that student can get a visual image on their brain of what I am trying to get across. I am just going to be able to teach that student so much better. I am very particular in the words I use. If you look at the word defensive, it means to defend and what defend means is kind of… picture a group of people in a fort and they’re trying to keep an outside army from coming over the walls. They are merely defending. Someone attacks you on the street, they start throwing a volley of punches at you, and you just stand there and kind of fend the punches off. At some point, you are going to be overwhelmed unless you become offensive. We heard it from many coaches over the years the best defense is a good offense. The only way to defend is to be offensive. If you look at the word combative and forget all the combatives programs; and forget the things that are going around you and look at the root meaning in the dictionary. Combative means ready and willing to fight. Recently, I saw it in an updated dictionary where it was ready and eager to fight. I am not sure if eager is a good word but ready and willing is certainly appropriate. It does not mean you are looking for a fight. As a matter of fact, do not fight. Every time you enter a conflict, you run the risk of losing. That is a fact, there is no way you can get around it, get away from it, avoid it, or evade it. Then being ready and willing to fight is a good thing so I choose the word combative.

Rob: As you are talking, I go to my default dictionary, Google. I look up the word combat not combatives and they give you their definition right at the top without the need to have to go and see it. But for the word combat they give us here to take action, to reduce, destroy or prevent and I’m sure you’ve heard this used. We are trying to combat extra illnesses in our group or we are trying to essentially stop/reduce/to prevent so combatives has also more meaning than just fighting or extending yourself or being effective. It also has to do with stopping or preventing something that you do not want to happen.

Dave: Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. That is the bane we are trying to get into here. Does not mean you are looking for conflict but if conflict comes your way and you cannot get around it, you cannot avoid it then you are ready and willing to take it on. Like what you have said, it could be the one drugs or whatever the case maybe. You are willing to fight back.

Rob: One of the things that we are going to be talking about in our series here of podcast is willingness versus avoidance because those are two sides of the same coin. You have to be absolutely and fully ready to use the skills that you have. Stand up and do what you need to do but you should also be absolutely dedicated towards avoidance and combatives totally works with both of these concepts.

Dave: Absolutely. If you’re going to be a truly prepared individual, someone who’s ready and willing to fight, you must understand that conflict is it all possible, can be avoided because anytime you enter conflict whether it’s war or an attack on the street, you run the risk of losing. Anyone who is followed or war on terror knows that our nations’ best warriors, our seals, delta force operators, Special Forces, terrorist jumpers, recon pro. They are killed all of the time by lesser skilled fighters nearly by half instance; some comstream shoved a rifle up over the edge of the fence or hill. One loosed a volley of 762 and killed one of these people strictly by luck. Luck is a factor in this. Anytime you are in a conflict, you are in a risk of losing. If it is all possible, do not do it.

Rob: Let us go back to the average person on this tree. We all think of combat, at least I do, I think of a soldier out on harm’s way fighting yet someone who’s an enemy of our country. That is what comes to my mind. But combatives is just as important for the regular Joe citizen walking down the street. Why is that so important for just the average citizen even?

Dave: An attack is an attack and I had this conversation here a while back with… I call him the gun form gomers, people who on the gun form, and can hypher a good game but they do not have practical experience and this individual basically stayed at that.

Law enforcement officers, they do not face the same threats as someone in the war on terror and I agree on that. Where I disagree with this person’s assertion is that dead is dead. There is no degree of dead. It is not like killed by an insurgent versus a drug dealer or killed by a terrorist or a rapist robber in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. You are still attacked and you are still dead. An attack is an attack and it can occur in any time. As a society, we all know where the bad ends of town are, the bad areas are. We try to avoid those areas and that is good. But those that would prey upon us, those criminals that live in our society, they also know where the money is. They know the people who have the money, they know the people who are attacking, robbing, and raping, and they know where they are located. That is where they will hunt, that is where they will seek their prey. Walking across the parking lot in the shopping mall, the attack could come out of nowhere. You need to be ready and willing to repel that attack. That type of mindset is important to anyone who lives in our society and to think that is not, to think that you are protected because you live in a nice neighborhood or that the police are going to be there to save you is naïve at best and stable at most.

Rob: If you are anything like me, I am sure you have some family that comes and look at what you do and what you basically dedicated the tensest times in your life towards helping people with and they say what is the big deal? I do not see the threat, I do not see the danger, and I do not see why this is so important to me. Why do you spend so much time in this? We see this; we see the importance of it. We see what could happen if we do not prepare. We see the value of covering these hypothetical situations and trying to make sure that our families are safe and we can protect what we love but what do you offer up to these people? If somebody on the street that you have no emotional contact to, what do you care? But what do you say to someone that you love? Someone that you care about who does not see the importance of this combative mindset?

Dave: I have had that in my life with my own family especially with my kids when they were young. They did not see the threat or when their mother and I would be concerned when they were going out. Be safe and be careful: “Aww dad, we don’t need that.” There is no way in the world we could verbally tell them, get them to understand the threat of living in our society. They never did understand that until they moved out and they went out into the working world themselves and they actually saw the world the way it really is and that there are threatening people out there. There are people who are willing to hurt and kill them for nothing more than the possessions they have with them at a particular time. The individual who has no desire to know what the world is really like, I am not sure you can help them. The person who is not sure then you can certainly show them the way just by looking at the nightly news in your area. For those people who have truly lived in the world that really does not pay much of an effort to make them understand that the society we live in is potentially dangerous.

Rob: There is a balance also. You really do not want to… I do not know about you but I do not watch the evening news. I do not want to spend time focusing on these things that are going wrong, the things that are happening, and people that are being hurt and all that stuff. It is not really, what I want to focus on. It is not want I want to spend time watching. But you still need to understand that that stuff does go on and you did not need to understand how it relates to you and let that be a motivator for you to get out there and protect your family and prepare in the way you need to. There are people that just do not care. Those people, they do need to spend a little extra time reading the paper. Read about the things that happened, how violent people can be, what our world is actually like. Think about what you can do if most of the time even if you are a single person, it is not just about you. There are people you hang around with that you want to protect, that you do not want to see hurt. There are number of good reasons that you should at least prepare in some way.

Dave: There is a reality and there is a harsh reality. So many people do not want to deal with the harsh reality but it is there. If they choose not to see it, I am not sure there is much we can do. The fact of the matter is that how do you say this? Sometimes you just have to make people understand the threat they face and it may not be something they want to do. It may not be something you want to call their attention to but in the end, you may be doing them a favor.

Rob: As a preacher, I totally understand that whole concept. Calling people’s attention to sin of the punishment for and there are aspects of the bible in God’s words that may not seem pleasant at first glance but obviously I see it as important enough to still bring those things up, to still teach those parts, to bring people’s attention to it. It is the same way with combatives and people’s mindsets and getting them prepared for violence and the possibility of an unpleasant encounter. It may be unpleasant to bring people’s attention to that scene of violence, that unthinkable wanted act of destruction that we saw on the newspaper or on the TV. But if that gets them to prepare and maybe it saves their lives, maybe keeps their children from being hurt in some way. It is totally worth it.

Dave: So be it. It is the way it is. Some people will require a higher level of harshness to reach than others will. That is why I call it the harsh reality.

Rob: If we were to get back to the completely good old days, we could talk about how the movies, violent video games, that sort of thing. I do not think that these things need to be outlawed. Do not get me wrong people, I am not saying that, but what it does is it does harden people’s minds to violence. When you see it on a video game over and over again, when you see it on a movie that you watch every week, when you see it on the TV news, and you read about it on the paper, it doesn’t have that shock effect anymore.

Dave: We can certainly anesthetize to violence because there is so much of it. We live in a 24/7 electronic society where anything you want is within a few clicks of a mouse or remote control. You can go on YouTube and click in on crimes in progress, all-out fighting, and all these stuff. It becomes shocking and entertaining and that is distance.

Rob: Right. I think we will leave this subject off for this week. We have talked a little bit about combatives versus defensive and that will tell you a little about the action or direction that we are going with the podcast. We have a lot of great ideas and concepts. We are going to talk about mindset. I will leave that to Dave but we are getting into even some of the specific skills of working with the handgun in this roam and using it to its most effective means. I am really looking forward to continuing to talk with you. This is going to be a weekly podcast. We are going to try to get something out every week for you and continue this line of discussion.

Dave: Sounds like a plan Rob. Whatever we can do to help good guys and gals out there. I think it is worth the effort.

Rob: Absolutely. If you get a chance, we just put out here at the Personal Armament Podcast. A book that does include two of the combatives podcast. If you check this out, it is on It’s called The Practical Guide to Everyday Carry Gear. It is a $10 book. Half of the proceeds or profits that we get go to several different charities including and also some charities here in Nepal working with homeless people.

In my opinion, it is a great book. It already has four 5-star reviews in there. Make sure you check that out. That will help us out here at the podcast and help us keep this podcast going. Make sure you also check out Dave’s book Handgun Combatives like the one he mentioned. He has the second edition out. I have read it and it is a great book. Totally recommended and if you get a chance, head over to his website and checkout some of the courses he offers.

Dave: I also try to write a regular blog. It is at and it is attached to the website. I try to update as often as I can and it’s nothing else but I have some guest bloggers to me didn’t do it and I’m trying to do like we’re doing with this podcast. Spread the word for folks that look for that kind of information.

Rob: The people that are looking are the good people. We would help them as much as we can.

Dave: Absolutely.


Rob: You’re listening to the Personal Armament Podcast. This is Rob Robideau. We are proud members of the Gun Rights Radio Network. I have with me a special guest today, Fred the PhotonFanatic. Thanks for coming on the show here today.

Fred: Thanks for having me Rob.

Rob: Why don’t tell us just a little about your background to start out with. First of all, what you do and how you got into it?

Fred: What I do now is mostly a hobby but it’s also a kind of job too, full-time. I got into making flashlights through a sport called “orienteering.” Orienteering is a sport where you run around with a map and compass in your hand trying to find controls that are located in the woods. It’s a time-competitive event that led me to another sport called “regaining” which is a 24 hour orienteering event, which means that you have to run through the woods at night. That requires fairly good lighting.

When we were first starting to do that sport, there weren’t very many choices out there so I spent a lot of time looking at batteries and lighting possibilities. Most of which back then were halogen type of lights. But that eventually led me to planning high-brightness LEDs, lithium ion batteries, and before I knew it, I was buying and selling these components to other flashlight makers as well as for my own needs. After I’ve done that for about a year or two, I was fortunate to find an LED online that looked quite interesting. Never having LEDs before, I read up about it as much as I could and ended up buying it online and I’ve been delivering ever since then. I only know how to be a machinist.

Rob: It’s interesting how different people get into flashlights in different ways. The average person walking down the street that don’t carry flashlights don’t even think about it. But different circumstances get people interested in flashlights and most of the time it’s a need of some sort. Maybe they work in an environment where they need to use it on a regular basis; Maybe they’re in a sport like you, or maybe they’re out backpacking a lot. It’s interesting hearing to different sports to different things that bring to the flashlight enthusiast world essentially.

Fred: I agree and to be honest, this may sound a little strange coming from a flashlight maker. I don’t carry a flashlight with me unless I’m going to some event where I know that I would need it. I do keep one in the car so if there’s an emergency, i would have backup. but the rest of the time, most of my activities are done in the daylight and i don’t really need a flashlight on my body.

Rob: That is interesting to hear. The important thing is that you have it when you need it. Sounds like you have it in place for that.

Fred: Right. I do.

Rob: Let’s talk about what you’re getting into. It is not exactly what a first time buyer or first time purchaser is going to necessarily go after this sort of work that you’re doing. What led you to it and what kind of steps that enable you to progress to where you are now and your taste in flashlights?

Fred: A large part of my flashlight interest was shaped by what I saw on Candlepower forum. The custom makers were building lights way back then. Some of who are very smart electronic gurus as well as being able to design and produce flashlights. Some of them have gone the way of becoming mini producers, self-design light to a limited production run and don’t actually work on a machine anymore. For me, I really enjoy creating something with my own hands, my own design; and my taste in design tends to be too simplistic and I try to be not really artistic but I try to make something that’s simple but useful. what’s Very important to me is the way it actually fits my hand. If The light doesn’t feel fit in my hand, I’m not going to use it. I spend a lot of the time and attention to the little details of the flashlight that I produce.

Rob: It sounds like you’re trying to combine the form and function to create a light that works in both areas.

Fred: Yes. I like to have a light that’s functional but I am also quite concerned with how it looks and how it feels in your hand. If it’s not comfortable in my hand, I’m not going to use it. I think that a lot of people are feeling the same way. They want something that feels comfortable when they’re carrying it in their hand or in their bodies. In my mind, that eliminates my ever making, say a mag-size flashlight that is just in my repertoire. I make small handheld flashlights and I try to make them as nice-looking as I can.

Rob: When I think of a custom flashlight, I think of having exactly what you want because that is why you’re going with a custom flashlight because there’s something/nothing that’s out there that’s going to meet your needs or at least even just your style at that point, right?

Fred: The funny thing that with LED flashlights nowadays is that if you just say I want a light with 300, 500 or 600 lumens. Somebody already makes it so I find that people that are attracted to custom-made flashlights are a different buyer from people that are buying mass produced flashlights. They want something that stands out from the rest of the crowd. They want it done in a manner that they are involved in it, which is where you are coming from, and saying that I want it exactly as I want it. The funny thing is they are not concerned with the numbers of LEDs. It might be concerned whether it has got anodizing titanium or whether it is gold or silver. They have their preferences and they want to make sure that I would hear it and take care of it. It is one of the interesting things with me and my client is how much time I spent communicating with them. Going back and forth, I spend a lot of time listening to what they want and then I sit down and model the light. I send then drawings and renderings of what I think the light would look like and we go back and forth until it is as just as what they wanted. As I am making the light, I also spend considerable amount of time photographing the build process so that they understood the work and time that went into the light. Also gives them a history for their own records of the process of building the light. If they ever want to sell, it might help them sell it too. It is a personalized buying experience. Sort of like going to the old specialty shops where you could walk down into your neighborhood and buy something specific to your needs; and get personalized service from the owner of the store. That is hard to find in today’s world especially on the internet.

Rob: No doubt. When you have people coming to you about these custom flashlights, they want you to make something for them. Do most of these people realize all the decisions that they are going to have to make, all the options that are available to them?

Fred: No. It can get very confusing because majority of my customers do not know the difference between a light made by a single person using a manual lay versus something that they may have seen that which created the CNC LED. I cannot cut certain things on a flashlight that a CNC LED cannot. We have to go back and forth. We have to explain anything from how O-rings work to how a certain sized battery is going to lead to a certain sized light. Sometimes things that people have no clue as to how these pieces go together to make a useful flashlight.

Rob: It sounds like you enjoy that essentially education process with these people.

Fred: Yes and I must admit that I learned an awful lot from my customers too. I am constantly feeding myself, things that other people are doing. These customers I have seen, they come to me and want to know if I can do it. Often times, it is a long learning process for me. Going out and be able to replicate what other people who are making flashlights do. It is a learning experience for both parties.

Rob: You may think this is stupid but for myself, I would love to have custom flashlight at some point. However, when I think about custom flashlight, I think of one to have something that is exactly what I want. It is something that I almost do not want to mess up because it is something that you are going to have with you for a long time. At least you should if you are going to put all this effort and money into it. I am just wondering when people do this; do you have many people that start and get right into it? They want to get a custom flashlight right off but they do not know exactly what features or interface features or details they want on it. What they want as far as the style and look of the light.

Fred: I think many people come to me with an idea in terms of what they want. In terms of lumen output, roughly the size of the light and the size of the reflector. What people may not realize is how cramming all that into a small handheld flashlight is going to work with different things like thermal issues. How are you going to carry it? Things like do you want a split ring on it? You want it in a holster? Do you want a titanium clip on it? How are you going to be using it when you are actually using it? What kind of lighting situation will it be in? Sometimes people are asking for lights that are too bright with what are they going to use them for. Other people have no clue whatsoever. They just want a custom light. They have seen something that I have made that interest them, wise, and stylistically and they just want something that is going to look nice.

Rob: Let us go back to one thing that you just hit on that. I want to hear your opinion on it. The thermal issues with some of these small flashlights with all the energy that people are putting into these high powered LEDs. The form factors are getting smaller and smaller. You hear about thermal issues. It almost sounds like a dark science. Are there ways that you can calculate in advance and know exactly how much heat these things can handle? How does that work for you when you are creating brand new flashlights?

Fred: There are ways to do that with thermal imaging and thermal sensing devices that you can use. To be honest, the real simple way is through experience. If you take a high brightness LED when you drive it at the 2.8 amps and the flashlight gets too hot to hold then it is probably not the right combination. The other thing is many of the materials that I use are rather exotic in terms of what material I might be using to make a flashlight.

For instance, if somebody wants a very durable flashlight, I would suggest extremely titanium or stainless steel. Both are very durable but there not very good at wicking away the heat from the LED. You are going to have to compromise. You are going to have to say “Ok, I like the looks, I like the feel, I like the price, but it’s not going to last very long.” Always compromise.

I do not really think that everybody needs to have a really very, very bright flashlight. Most of what we use the flashlight for is within anywhere from 5 feet to about 50 feet. It is where we are going to be focusing and looking because beyond that they typed in specialized search light type of thing. Something with a much focused beam. Firefighters, police officers, they might have something that needs a special beam and brightness to get through certain atmospheric conditions. However, the average flashlight user does not fit in that category.

Rob: You had to remind all the time that for a while we substituted candles or torches. We can do with these with lower lumen lights but it does not matter. Everyone still wants to go for those higher lumen counts. Eventually they are going to try to get something higher.

Fred: Yes and that is, fine. I see nothing wrong with that. However, unless it is a company specializing in thermal control, willing to make larger-sized lights and is very well heat-sinked, I would not expect to find that from your custom light build.

I have already said I have limited my sphere to handheld and by handheld I mean something that really fits in the size of my hands or a little bit bigger. However, I do not want to pick up a flashlight and have it extend beyond my hand and 2 feet or one foot even. A couple inches are fine for me. After that, I am just not going to use it. By needing something that big, I would probably buy it but I do not need it right now, so I do not buy that. I think chasing the high lumen thing is a great way to push things forward. I do not think judging anybody doing that. However, in terms of usefulness and might being able to sell a light to somebody who is going to use and want to keep. I am not going after the high brightness trophy.

Rob: Many enthusiasts follow a progression. When they first get into the lights, they are amazed at what is possible and just going to see how far they can take it. However, after they get to that point maybe they have clogged it some of the higher lumen count, very bright flashlights. They kind of settle back down to find something a little bit more practical and trim it down to find out what meets their needs. People are coming to you for a custom light have probably gone through that progression and have a better idea of what is actually necessary for them and what they are looking at. That compromises not really too difficult for you to put on them or at least not something that catches them by surprise.

Fred: I agree with you one hundred percent. The people who have been, generally speaking, have been in the flashlight-buying mode perhaps for two to five years or longer. It has gotten to the stage were as with all collectors, eventually you get rid of the jones. Can you keep the jones? They have been able to perhaps thanks to their financial abilities. They were able to narrow it down to a handful of great lights. They are good-looking or well made. Combination suits their needs. They are not going out and buying everything that comes down the road. As you said, they have been all over the game in terms of buying high brightness keychain lights and everything in between. After a while, they just have their own style and that is what they will settle on.

Rob: Alright. Let us talk about some of the works that you have not done. People should head to your website, that is and see some of these beautiful lights up there. I am sure that is not all of the works that you have done right?

Fred: No. Unfortunately I have a number of lights I should be updating my website to show some lights that I’ve made recently that hasn’t gotten up there. Unfortunately, I just do not have time to both build the lights and update the website. There are some good examples there of stuff that I have done. It is only a base that we are looking at.

Rob: Even with your limited time that you are able to do with both of them. You are still going to put out some amazing threads on the Candlepower forum with some of the background behind your lights and I have to say it is some pretty amazing stuff and I love seeing behind the scenes. I am sure many other people do also.

Fred: The work in progress rather is very popular and they are also good for me because they are sort of a history of how I actually did something. Sometimes I forget. I go back and read my own thread. People like to see how we do things and I think it is good for the general readers on Candlepower forum or somebody who is really interested in buying a custom light to see what work goes into it and what their options are. They may see something there that they had not thought of and all of a sudden, “You can do that? That is great. Let’s do that on my light too.”

Rob: It is not just a publicity thing. It is almost like a journal for you also.

Fred: It is. I really enjoy taking photographs of lights and how they are built. I probably should get into making some videos on how some of my lights are produced but I just have not gotten into that. It is a fascinating thing and it is a great hobby. It is one that I have encouraged other people to try to enter, and there are more custom light builders popping up. However, it is not an easy hobby to get into and to do well. It takes a long time, at least it took me a long time to learn how to machine. It is a dangerous operation and it is very fascinating. Your mistakes are heartbreaking when they happen. However, the work in progress is rather a good way to get people excited about doing that.

Rob: Steep learning curve is a lot of what separates artists from all the other people that want to try to get into it. When you see amazing artwork, they have great craftsmanship that is done well. You can say “A lot of it looks simple but it is because of all the time that went to it. All the practice that came beforehand and you’re absolutely right in that respect.”

Fred: Yes. I agree completely.

Rob: I want to talk to you about some of the trends that you have seen Let us start out with size, which I am sure, is one of the decision factors that you start with your customers. What kind of sizes do you see most of your lights that people are wanting these days?

Fred: In terms of physical size and dimensional size, anything from a one inch light which would be a keychain light, up to about 6 or 7 inches is about somewhere in the range that I end up making custom lights in. The diameters might be as small as 5 or 7 inches up to about an inch and a quarter, maybe an inch and a half. Most of them are near 3-quarter inch diameter and about 4-5 inches long. That fits nicely in the palm within the hand and almost can be invisible when you are holding it.

Rob: The most common batteries that you see are what? 0, 1, 2, 3s, something in that range?

Fred: The RCR-123s and now the 18650. It is a great size flashlight I think. Combinations near that. The 18350 is becoming a popular size. What is interesting in double A is always an exceptionally popular size because of the ready availability of double A batteries around the world and whether you can get primary rechargeable. They are cheap; there are many good recharging kits out there. I try to make lights that use rechargeable batteries as much as possible.

Rob: Very interesting. We talked about the size, what about interfaces? Where do you see people moving with this or how have you seen it change as you progressed through different lights and different customers?

Fred: There has been a proliferation of multi-mode drivers or LED flashlights. Originally, it started off with things like just somebody putting a resistor and a tail cap to create a two-level light. Using inefficient resistor basically. It went into fire modes with multiple memories, strobes, and S.O.S. Phone home to Mars. All sorts of modes, which people became enthused about. Then after you try to use them, you learn that they are a pain in the ass.

Rob: You learn again, what you need and what you actually want in your life.

Fred: Right. For most people, I would say that what we are coming down now are the three mode flashlights. A low, medium, and a high. Even just a high and a low but I get to find the good nature of somebody just putting put a nice constant current driver that would just produce a high and a low reasonable level or user resettable levels. That is where I think if I had that type of a driver, I would probably be using that all the time. In the meantime, the three level drivers without strobe, S.O.S signals is I think the most popular choice that people as me for now.

Rob: When you are talking about an entirely custom light, do people have certain levels that they are specifically looking for that they want to make sure that they have in their interfaces? Can you come up with custom interfaces? How does that work if somebody has a specific request for certain low-light levels that they want to have or certain types of modes?

Fred: I tell them if they find me the driver, I will put it in their light for them. I am not an electrical engineer. I do not manufacture drivers. I am very limited in that regard. Some of the other custom builders may be able to make you a driver or indoor customize one. I just do not have the expertise. I tell everybody that upfront so they know it.

If you look around, you can find what you want. If the customer finds it, we can buy it, and it goes into their light. It is usually just a nice low-low, fairly decent medium so you can use the light without draining the batteries and then a nice bright for when you need the wild factor. You just want to show everybody you got a bright light. You shine it in their eye and you are done.

Rob: You are right. That is what those high Moser mostly use for.

Fred: I think so but…

Rob: We talked about the size and the different interfaces. When you send people off to find the different interface or tell them what you are able to do, does that usually result in them coming to a compromise or are they normally able to find out there driver in some way that is exactly what they want?

Fred: The only compromise that my customers seem to have to me is the thermal issue. They may come and say “Oh I see, the XML can put out 500 or 600 lumens and I want one of those in a handheld flashlight and I want it in titanium and I want it in…” “We have to go over this a lot. You can’t do that because you’re going to kill the other LED.” That is where they have to compromise.

However, in terms of actually finding a driver that give something what they want, that is usually easy nowadays. There are a lot of enters out there. There did not use to be but there are now many places to buy drivers from. There is some interesting stuff coming out of places like Russia. There is a guy over there that is doing something fantastic. Drivers, LEDs, custom lights. He sold some stuff to other people so I can take his boards, interface, and use it on my lights too. There is no shortage of drivers and LED.

Rob: It sounds like people can get what they want. Going to the thermal issues that you mentioned again. Getting these high-powered modes because you are not really changing the LED necessarily but at least what you are allowing it to do. Do you see how much time does it take at a high-level normally to get one of these small lights very hot? Is this something that you could put in there to show people for the wow factor so long as they are not leaving it on for several minutes?

Fred: You can certainly throw some of these high-brightness LEDs with high preference to small handheld flashlight and turn it on for anywhere from 30 seconds to couple of minutes and not kill the LED. It is not a smart thing to do and I would not do it because the higher issue is quite important.

Rob: How long does this normally take for it to heat up to that point where it is actually dangerous?

Fred: Depends on the driver. It could be anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 minutes. Some of those could be hot enough to actually be dangerous because you are putting up too much of a stress on the batteries or just because the temperature alone is getting excessively hot.

I do not know if you saw the news today. Target, which is one of our large discount stores in the United States here, is recalling thousands of LED flashlights, which were manufactured in China. The reason was that they were overheating. Some of them were high brightness LEDs were put into plastic cases. Plastic is terrible thermal conductor. The manufacturer or customer wanted bright. They made them and disaster happened.

Rob: That is terrible and a very stupid move when you talk about a mass-produced light, something that is going to end up in a big box store like that. My question is, obviously, there are some aspects of it that could be dangerous if this thing is turning on in your pocket accidentally and it would access as high mode. It could be something that could heat up, burn you, or become uncomfortable or if people are planning to leave these things on for a long time or if there is a chance that it could be left on and are messed up. However, for most people that are looking at these custom lights, these are people that have been around for a little while and know how to use the light. Do you see some of the people that at least want the option there?

Fred: Yes. Right. There are plenty of people that would make or modify a light for them. There is a whole another group of people who do modifications. Somebody came to me and said “I want 600 lumens in a four inch piece of metal.” I would say “Well great. Why don’t you go talk to XYZ and he’ll make one for you.” I will not make a light like that. It is too dangerous; there is too much liability on my part. I am willing to push the envelope a little bit but there comes a point that you just have to say no. I am not the only one that says no by the way. McGizmo who is a very popular builder is probably one of the first to have come out and said “Look, these are titanium flashlights that we’ve got here and I’m not going to put something in here that doesn’t fit well with the material.” I gave Don a lot of credit for doing that. I tried to emulate that to some extent. A lot of it is just common sense. How often do you need a light that’s just going to wow somebody versus needing a light that’s going to be something that you can use, something which if you leave it lying around the house, your kid picks it up, starts playing with it, leaves it on somewhere could potentially lead to a problem.

Rob: Are most people really going to notice the difference between 300, 400, or even sometimes 500 lumens? Is it really worth it?

Fred: No, it is not worth it and the eye does not see it. The scale of the way it goes up is such you are not going to notice the difference that much between 300, 400, or 500. We would see that strangely a difference between 300 and 700, but even if there is a high percentage brightness difference, it is not that big of a difference in terms of usefulness.

Rob: We have talked about the gutsy internals, drivers, some of the aspects with that. However, your specialty is more the artistry on the outside of the light or actually making the case itself. What kind of trends or areas do you see yourself heading or things you enjoy when you are making these lights lately? Some of the decorations, patterns, etc.?

Fred: I have certainly gone off on what I have been using for materials. I have been exploring stainless steel Damascus, Malcolmgani, and my next area that which is very similar but quite different result would be something with carbon Damascus, which is a Damascus that you can heat color. If you get the right type of Damascus from a builder then you can have some very interesting patterns on it. Most Damascus lights are somewhat somewhat boring because the way they make these bars is they layer 2-3 different layers of steels together. To get a round shape, they actually just twist the bar. We cut down, twist, and end up with the round bars. It is the square bar that is twisted and then cut into a round. However, the patterns are all the same and it is somewhat boring.

I have a fellow now that making a carbon Damascus bar for me. I was doing some testing on that the other day and I am very excited by it because it can be heat colored to a fantastic blue purplish color. There is some bright silvery metal between the different types of carbon steel. You end up with a very brilliant pattern. It is very exciting. I lie awake at night dreaming of this flashlight that I am working on because it is so different from anything else that is out there right now. Some people have done it with pens. They use the caps on the end of the pens with Damascus but I do not think anybody has made a really nice-looking carbon Damascus flashlight. There was one many years ago that Mr. Bolt on CP up made but it was like a three pound flashlight. At that time, he really did not stress the fact that it was a carbon Damascus and that means that if it gets wet it rusts so that created a few problems down the road.

Rob: This carbon Damascus, what makes it special is the fact that it is able to actually be used to color?

Fred: Yes. I can actually color it through a process of heat treating/heat tollering as it’s called. You can do it in a furnace or do something called nitro-blowing which there are a couple different methods of doing that. One’s using just a molten salt bath. Then there’s another one that uses a hot solution. A lot of this stuff comes from other makers of things like knives and guns. A lot of what I have been learning recently comes from the realm of knife-making and gun-making. These people have been working with metals for centuries so there’s a lot to be learned on how they do things and what their materials are. I’ve also experienced things like sterling silver. I’ve made a couple lights out of sterling silver. I would do it out of gold if they weren’t so damn expensive.

There are people that want something new and exciting. The thing about titanium that I’ve found interesting was the fact that you could anodize it many different colors on it so that was fun. Malcolmgani can be its 3 different colors of metals to start with but there’s many different ways of finishing it. You can flame color it, you can etch it with materials that darken it, you can flame heat it. You just have to experiment. Much of what I come up with is sometimes an accident.

Rob: You talk about dreaming about this stuff at night. How much time did you spend on your own, not at the request of the customer, just playing with your lace trying to figure out what is possible and what you can do?

Fred: I hate to say this and my customers are probably going to be pissed off but I experiment on their lights. I don’t’ have time. I have to crank out some lights and I do it because nobody has asked me for a carbon Damascus throughout. Somebody has asked me for it but this is an area I’ve explored on my own. You got your hands full Rob.

Rob: You were mentioning the patterns in some of these Damascus and how it’s different for lights. There are different patterns in knife-making. It sounds like you cannot necessarily get with lights. Is that just because how the stock is made originally?

Fred: Yes. Right. If you look at like a Damascus knife, the patterns are very clearly delineated because they take these, what they call mosaic Damascus. Its little layers of silver. Its nickel silver I believe and some sort of silver steel but they just fill in the spaces between these patterns with powdered steel. They heat it up and it becomes solid. They will fold that over and create other interesting follow-on patterns from a simple pattern that they start with. However, they’re always ending up with flat stock. The patterns come through the flat stock the best. If you then try to make that into a round bar, they can’t twist it very well n=because it tends to separate which is the nature of the bars. According to the eyes that are making this stuff in the forges, some of them are able to put a couple of pieces together. That’s what I gotten in my hands is a piece of round bar that looks to be just two pieces wielded together in the forge and then turned into a round shape. The pattern is almost in four parts that seems where they’re two pieces that come together and then the other side is 1800 opposite that which have most of the pattern that you would see on the knife blade will show on the inside of the flashlight. It’s not going to be identical to a knife blade in terms of its appearance but it’s very fascinating. They’re just gorgeous.

Rob: With the knife blade they can pick what angle is going to show off the pattern the best and cut it so the majority of the knife is angled in that way. Sure, there are curves and grinds in a knife but for the most part, it’s going to exhibit a certain one single angle through that cut.

Fred: The real beauty of the Damascus maker is how he makes the pattern and how he is able to through the process of folding it in that deformation come out with a pattern that he can repeat and then offer a variety of these patterns to the knife makers. When I get a bar though from one of these makers, I can sometimes do something similar to what the knife-makers do in the way I decide to put in my bruise, flutes or scallops or whatever I put on the outside of the light. Sometimes enhance the waviness of the pattern and make it stand out a little bit more.

Rob: By digging in deeper, you can make the pattern look a little bit different you mean?

Fred: A little bit different. I’m not changing it much but I can make it look a little more interesting sometimes, not always. This piece that I’m working on now, this one material, one couple bars that I have of it is just so gorgeous that I’m making as simple light as possible I can. It’s just going to be a twisty light so it’d be easier to turn on and off in the hand but it’s as gorgeous as it is. Just a round piece of stock would look tremendous also without anything cutting into it.

Rob: I live hearing you talk about these different materials and your passion for what you’re able to work with and what you’re able to create.

Fred: Thank you. Its fun and I always have something. I’m trying to push myself into learning new things. One of the things I’m working on and I don’t know if it will come for wish in or not but I hope it will. I’m sure you’ve seen something called Geo Shapes, which is done on watches; watch faces, watch packs, pens. It’s a pattern of engraving. It uses repeatable patterns that you go around or radiate from the center of like a watch face. I’d actually had a, what they call a straight line engine turning machine that I bought a couple years ago. I’m just getting to the stage of putting it together. I cleaned it up and I hope to somebody be able to put some Geo Shape on a flashlight which should be another new thing to learn.

Rob: Those patterns are amazingly complex. I’d love to see what you could come up with that.

Fred: That’s mostly due to the pattern bars that they use and I put them together and they are incredibly complex looking. Although the actual making of them isn’t that hard to do.

Rob: Don’t give away all your secrets here. You want everyone to think they’re still really difficult.

Fred: that’s true.

Rob: I’m going to put you on the spot here. If you didn’t have to worry about money, if you didn’t have to worry about what it costs, just dealing with the materials on hand. What you can do to yourself, drivers, etc? Tell me about what would be your ultimate flashlight.

Fred: I don’t really have an ultimate flashlight because things change and you run into new materials. I supposed I could sit here and tell you I’d build a nice five inch long gold flashlight but that’s useless. It’s too soft, it would be gorgeous, it would be expensive, it would be prestigious to own but it’s not reusable. To me, my ultimate light would be one… When you look at it, you’re going to want it and the price be damned. You’ll just want to have that flashlight in your hand because it whether looks or feels so great or preferably both. When you turn it on, you’ll be quite happy with the way it produces light etc. You’ll go away a happy customer. That to me is the ultimate light. I keep trying to do that. I’d say I’ve probably produced 4-5 lights that come out that way. I wanted to keep them. I didn’t want to sell them after I have made them but that’s rare. You just don’t get that good.

Rob: I’ll let you slip out of that. I won’t hold you to any of the details of it. Let me move on to a harder question then. How do you come up with that sort of light? Does this just happen by accident or because obviously it’s not accident when you look at the time that you spent working/perfecting your craft. but does this happen? Just when you happen upon a combination of techniques or how do, you end up with a light like that? Can you even quantify or plan it in advance?

Fred: For instance, I think this carbon Damascus light that I’m working on. I’m trying to plan that in advance but I think that the important thing for somebody who’s wants to be… I’m not an artist. I’ve never had any fine arts training. I’ve never taken any classes like that. I have my own thing that I’ve liked over the years. But what drives my flashlight design is my interest in what other people do and how other people do their designs. You learn from others.

I’ve made lights after Rennie Mackintosh. A very simple light that I made called the Mackintosh Killer. It was just a light that just the way the lines went on the light were very nice-looking because of Mackintosh. I did some Mondrian flashlights where I tried to replicate some of the squares and coloring that he used in his paintings. I think you just have to be inquisitive and curious about designs. The same thing is true about materials and techniques. I hate to say this but the laid is somewhat a rather limiting machine to use to make a manual flashlight. It would be much better if I could afford a CNC and it was a wizard that modeling in 3D but I don’t have it so I work with what I have. I do spend a lot of time looking at tools that are out there and trying to think what can I do with this tool that would be different from the way it was meant to be used. I’m fortunate the LED that I have can do some milling work so I can turn the light perpendicular to the spindle of the axis of my LED. I can put cuts in that a lot of people would need two machines to do. I can do it with my one machine. I don’t sleep well at night because sometimes I’m thinking so much about a particular design or how I can improve a design or how to use the tool in the way that I happen to use the tool.

Rob: It’s interesting. I guess maybe I should be asking the people that you’re making the lights for because every person is going to be different in the way that they look at the lights. Your job is not necessarily to put together lights that you are happy with. But things that stun and amaze other people, your customers.

Fred: A lot of times, my customers are the ones that come up with something I would not have thought of on my own. They might have seen little bits and pieces of lights that either I’ve made or other people have made and they want them combined together. I just never thought of that combination. The same thing can be true of a material and a way to finish it. I’ve tapped a lot into the light making community recently for some ideas on metals, finishes, and materials. It’s good to look outside of your own little sphere on concern basically.

Rob: Can you tell me about in your estimation, I don’t expect you’d have the numbers thing beside you and maybe you do. How many flashlights do you think you’ve personally made?

Fred: Probably well under 200.

Rob: That’s still quite a few flashlights.

Fred: It is a few flashlights because it takes a long time to make one.

Rob: We’re not talking about mass-produced stuff where you design it on, sell your work, and send it off to China to be produced or even CNC. You’re talking about something that you’re making by hand. I just want to remind people when you see all these beautiful work, remember that. I’m sure you see at the bottom of your webpage here. I see this lovely quote by Samuel McCord that “Try as hard as we made for perfection, the net result of our labor is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility and being able to fail in so many different ways and I know that you have no illusions about creating only perfect work but I bring up the amount of your work” and all that just to say to people that are out there. A lot of what you’re able to produce does come from practice and learning through your work right?

Fred: Yes. Learning through my mistakes.

Rob: I was trying to put it nicely.

Fred: That’s quite alright. It’s up there actually, because as soon as I saw that, I said “This guy knows how I learned.” I’ve been a hands-on; learn by doing type of guy when it comes to learning how to machine flashlight bodies. I love it, it’s very frustrating at times, but when you get it right and you turn on a light, people go gaga over. You just feel like its all well-worth in time.

There haven’t been in terms of lights that I wished I had kept no more than 4 or 5 or half a dozen at most. In the meantime, a lot of the lights have been either quite nice and I’m quite happy with then but there’s almost always some mistake in every light that I make so I live with it.

Rob: You’re willing to admit it.

Fred: You have to admit it. When I say mistake, I mean it could be something of like one of my dimples is off at tenth of a millimeter. You’re going to spend a long time finding it but it’s still there. Nobody’s perfect, not when you’re doing something by hand. That’s the other thing I will mention is that a lot of what I do is not done on the blades per say. It’s done in hands finishing right afterwards. I’m not one of these people that likes to see the machining marks left by my tools on the flashlight. I like those gone. I like a nice, smooth surface. That means it’s got to be sanded down, buffed, polished, and anodized. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into a flashlight that is not done on the blade. It takes hours to do.

I’m making some stainless steel Damascus light right now and there’s etching involved, heat treating to harden them. They come back and you still have to clean them up. I spent hours today just polishing these little flutes that I had on the bottom of the light by hand with five different grades of sandpaper wrapped around a little towel. As I’m doing it, I’m saying to myself “Fred, do not ever design another light with these flutes.” That’s the stuff that people don’t see and then they wonder why the flashlight cost as much as they do.

I like to sell my lights for profit or at least a decent wage. It’s not a decent wage I can assure you but it feels like it is when I sell a light for $700 to $1000. I know that’s a lot of money for a lot of people. I’d want to make sure that if I were spending that kind of money that I’m getting my money’s worth of it too. I hope my customers are.

Rob: How many hours do you think you spend on an average project? I’m sure that everyone varies. How much would you estimate?

Fred: From the time, somebody contacts me and I do all the modeling, solid work, back and forth, actual machining, and finishing. It’s probably close to 15 to 20 hours per flashlight.

Rob: It’s a lot of time. The finishing and all the other stuff that goes into it also.

Fred: Right and the materials, tools, and some of these materials will chew up your tools in a split second. You can’t believe how expensive tooling can be sometimes. People don’t see that because it’s not in their…

Rob: They’re not in the industry. They don’t know what goes into it.

Fred: I like to do work in progress thing because it shows people what you’re actually using and how you do it and they can envision that something might go wrong or doesn’t work out when I’m making these things. The time is something you like to get paid for but I really just want to make a nice-looking light and have it a customer be happy. Over half of the lights that I’ve sold, I’m not making any more than about $5 an hour. It’s a labor of love, not for money really.

Rob: Thank you so much for taking the time here to come on the show and talk about what I can obviously see is your passion and I appreciate it.

Fred: Thank you Rob. Enjoy. Take care.

Rob: head on over to and check out some of these beautiful lights. Is there anywhere/anything else you want to send people to?

Fred: Candlepower forum is where I have a sub thread there where I do post my work in progress and I also do some posting on custom knives and guns website but that’s about it. I think Candlepower forum is probably the best place to go to see what I’m working on.

Rob: Sounds good and thank you so much.

Importance of Awareness

Rob: Today, we are going to talk about awareness and things that you can do to heighten it [awareness]. We are going to listen to Dave while he tells us some of the most important aspects. I know for myself, it is relatively easy to be caught up in the things that you do. Whether work or just things are going on because most people have a lot going on, especially in today’s society.

You drive down the road, you look over every once in a while and it’s scary. However, you look over and you see people texting while they are driving, cross the street and all those other things. I am not just getting on the people that do texting. I mean, there are so many other things that distract us and keep us from being aware of our surroundings; and being aware of our surroundings is very important. However, there is even a more specific aspect of it and that is being aware of your safety. That is what I want to focus on today Dave. First, what tactics can you tell us to make sure that we are staying aware?
Dave: The first thing you have to understand is that there are different types of awareness. The word aware means to be conscious, knowing, and alert. That type of situation. However, what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the combative application is situational awareness.

Situational awareness is location or instance specific. It is the awareness of the moment. It is what you were talking about earlier with the people that are texting when they’re driving and all kinds of stuff. The situational awareness for that particular moment should be what is going on around your car at any particular time. Probably, the most basic lesson that we’ve all been taught about situational awareness is when we were children, we were told to look both ways before we cross the street. That’s because what we’re looking for in that particular instant is a specific danger that’s related to a situation that we are currently facing. Therefore, I think it’s important that your listeners understand that situational awareness is certainly a subsection of awareness. We’re talking about specific awareness for specific circumstances

Rob: So in other words, let’s just say that you’re in a specific situation. Maybe you’re walking down the street, what should you be doing? I mean, obviously, we can be aware. You’re looking out for several different things: you need to make sure that you don’t trip while you’re walking; you need to be looking out to make sure there’s a bunch of different things we need to be aware of. However, when it comes to our safety, what should we be looking for?

Dave: You should be looking for anything that’s out of the ordinary. Probably, the best way to think of awareness the way I try to remind myself because as we go through our daily routine, what we do in a day-in, day-out basis is mundane. Therefore, it’s easy to fall into a sense of complacency because it’s the same thing repeatedly. What I try to do to is remind myself of the level of awareness that I need to be in. I think of situational awareness as if it’s a light switch. You either switched on or you’re switched off. When you’re switched on, it’s bright, easy to see and easy to look around you. It’s much easier to know what is happening. If you’re switched off, it’s dark and dank, it’s hard to see what’s happening; it’s hard to make decisions and it’s hard to make judgments. So as I go through my daily routines and I feel myself kind of’ slipping into the mundane. I’ll visualize a light switch in my head and switch that light on. I’ll start taking notice of what’s happening in a 360-degree loop around me at least a 30-foot distance. By doing that, you take note of what is going on around you specifically, the things that other people are doing around you. It’s very possible that you could be walking down the street and the proverbial piano could be dropped on you. However, what we’re talking about here are about threats from either humans or animals. So by being aware of what other people are doing around you in that 360, 30 foot radius, you give yourself a bit of time to know what’s happening. In addition, if something’s coming in your direction that’s a potential threat, then you can act upon it.

Rob: Going back to what you’re saying, about slipping into complacency and becoming complacent. Would it be safe to say that awareness of your surroundings starts with your awareness or monitoring yourself?

Dave: Absolutely. You’ve got to be aware of where you are at. Let’s say you’re walking down the street or say you’re just driving down the road and you’re not noticing where you’re at. All of a sudden, you’re in a battle of a bad neighborhood, maybe some kind of gang turf area, or something like that. Someplace you’re not supposed to be. If you had taken note of what you were doing then you could have avoided that situation. You have to be alert of what you’re doing as well as what other people are doing around you. I realize it’s a very, very tall order but in this new millennium with the threats that our nation face. I just don’t see how you cannot be “situationally” aware.

Let me give you a little scenario that maybe a little closer to home for most people. Because awareness is something you need to have with you all the time and it doesn’t just necessarily mean combative applications. You’re sitting in your home or maybe you’re in a restaurant or something like that. You had a big meal, you’re sitting there, and then all of a sudden you feel your stomach start to churn. Maybe you’ve eaten some bad fish or the onslaught of flu is coming and you just keep yourself. You jump up and run down the hall. Then, you go into the men’s or ladies room and you go into a stall and you sit down to take care of that urgent need. Then you happen to look over the toilet paper roll and notice that the necessary piece of equipment is not there. That is something that many of us have faced and I really don’t want to’ know how people solved it but if you were “situationally” aware at that particular moment, you would have developed a contingency plan and dealt with it. Because you didn’t have the situational awareness of the moment, now you got a real problem you got to’ deal with. Can you see how situational awareness can benefit us throughout our lives and doesn’t necessarily have to be an attack? It’s just something that we should have as kind of a lifestyle commitment.

Rob: Because it makes your life a whole lot easier, that’s for sure.

Dave: Yeah, it gives you less surprises coming in your direction; coming in your life.

Rob: Dave, let me take you back one more time to what I was saying because I think this is something very important. Does a retarded person know that they’re retarded? The answer is probably “No.” In addition, does a person that’s not aware necessarily know that they’re not aware, not unless they are monitoring?

Dave: They don’t know they’re not aware until it’s too late.

Rob: Exactly. You said when I catch myself becoming complacent; when I realize that I’m letting my guard down; then you go ahead and you visualize the light switch. You throw that switch and you turn on that special, higher level of awareness. However, what about that whole process that leads to that? Is there a certain time of day or certain trigger that we may use to self-monitor or to realize, “hey, I’m not at the point or I’m not at the place that I need to be. Now I need to make sure I kick it up a notch and turn on that light bulb.”

Dave: Now you’re talking about self-awareness. It’s much like an alcoholic or a nicotine addict. The only way you can quit that addiction is to choose to do so. If a person is naïve enough that they don’t realize they’re in potential danger; they’re not going to understand the importance of maintaining situational awareness. Unfortunately, all too often, people come to realize the importance of situational awareness only after something has happened to them. A person that doesn’t understand its importance, I’m not sure that you can make him understand it’s important. You kind of’ see what I mean?

Rob: Right, but what I’m thinking of… most of the people that are listening to this show… they do care about it. They want to be… They want to do it so it’s not that they don’t care, but what can we do or set in their way or in their paths or what can they do as triggers to give them an extra reminder that “Hey, you’re not at the level you need to be”.

Dave: War-gaming. As you go through your daily routine and you’re staying switched on to your surroundings. You are game. Ok, you’re walking down Main Street. You come to an intersection. You’re getting ready to cross the street. You’re looking around. You’re not in danger but you tell yourself “What if all of a sudden a truck turned a corner and come speeding at me? What would I do?” You’re walking to the bank and everything is fine but you say, “What if I walked into this bank and it was being held up? What would I do?” By war-gaming those scenarios that are much more likely in your daily routine. It reminds you of the state of awareness you need to be in.

Now, you got to’ keep it realistic. You can’t say, “Alright, I’m on an airplane at 35,000 feet when 7 terrorists with AK-47s jumped up and take control of the plane. What will I do?”
Well, I can tell you what you’re going to’ do. You’re going to’ sit down, zip your lip, and not do anything. You’re going to’ try to keep people from noticing you. So, you got to’ kind of’ war-game these situations in your head to those things that are likely or at least possible in your lifestyle. Just by doing that kind of war gaming, you can actually increase your level of awareness and remind you where you want to’ be.
Have you ever go on a trip with your parents on a vacation and you played that game when you were a kid? The first person that saw a stop sign or a particular mailbox or the first person…

Rob: Or the license plate… or yeah.

Dave: Exactly. What you just did was played an awareness game. Because in order to be the first person to find that particular item. You had to switch on your awareness level very, very high. Well, you’re doing the same sort of game but you’re putting a more… I hate to say threatening, but a more threatening aspect to it. You’re making it relevant to your personal safety by war-gaming things that could harm you. And by doing so, you reiterate to yourself the importance of staying alert so that danger does not sneak up on you.

Rob: So it’s a big kid’s “what if” game?

Dave: Yeah, exactly. You know, we’re not really “what if.” I hate to say “if” then. I like to say “when” then. When this happens, I will do this because there’s a big difference between “if” and “when.” The concept of visualization is so important because the brain really doesn’t know the difference between something that you visualize intensely and something you actually experienced. So if you think of a potential threat when this happens, I will do this. You are much more likely to respond effectively and more quickly by thinking “when” than thinking “if.” If you kind of’ get my drift.

Rob: In other words, you’re actually visualized it when you say “when” but when you say “if” it’s something that’s just a distance, something that may happen.

Dave: If he visualizes as when this happens to me, then it’s more of a reality.

Rob: Plus, it forces you to “actually decide” what you’ll do. If you say “if,” it’s almost like it is something that may never happen. And for that reason, you don’t have to have that decision made. But if you say “when,” it’s a “this will happen in your mind” and you have to have that decision made.

Dave: Absolutely. And by doing that when-then thinking, by doing that intense visualization, you actually enhance your ability to perform in a moment’s notice because one of the biggest impediments to being able to be an active participant in your own rescue is what we call lag time. Lag time comes from being startled. There’s no way to train startle out. If there’s a large beam or something happened and you don’t expect that your hands are going to’ fly up in your head, your shoulders are going to’ hunch up, you’re going to’ bring your head down, you’re going to’ bend up the knees… We’ve all done it. And then you’re going to’ turn your head in a 3600 spin to see what exactly… Whatever that was… A loud noise, whatever the case may be. Well that startle will create a momentarily lag in time and again, you can’t train out that startle. But what you can train in by doing this when-then thinking, enhancing your level of awareness is that you can reduce that lag time to a minimum, which will give you a real jump, and your reaction response time.

Rob: Because what happens is “when” that happens, when you go into that startled mode, your mind is trying to match what’s going on to a scenario in your head. And correct me if I’m wrong, this is what it seems like it’s happening to me at least. And if you have prepped your mind and have those certain scenarios like you said. War-gamed out that when this happens, I will do this.
It’s almost like those scenarios are at the head of the line and it brings it to your memory… to your mind much quicker.
Dave: You have basically hit the nail right on the head. What you have done is you have pre-programmed a response into your psyche. And even though you may be startled, you’re probably more likely to recognize that unexpected explosion as a gunshot or maybe that unexpected explosion as a bomb and if you thinking then you’re going to act accordingly because due to your intense visualization, you’ve already been there done that.

Rob: Wow. So in these different situations, you’re walking down the street, you’re walking from your car into work, you maybe go out to eat with your family. You need to be visualizing these things and imagining what would go wrong. What would you do in that situation?
Now, let’s go back to what you started into earlier and I kind of’ dragged you off subject. But you were talking about separating different threats and evaluating different threat levels.

Dave: Not sure, I follow your question.

Rob: Okay, I’m sorry. Earlier on, you were talking about the proverbial piano that may fall on your head…

Dave: Oh, ok.

Rob: Obviously, that’s not realistic. What is realistic is maybe an animal or human attacker at that point. And you were going into evaluating the likelihood of different things happening.

Dave: Sure. Absolutely. You’ve got to visualize those things that are more likely in your environment. And again, if you live in an inner city environment, it’s not very likely that you’re going to be attacked by a wolf. I mean it could happen I guess but it’s more likely that be attacked by a wolf if you live in a rural area in which wolves are in residence. So what you want to’ to do is visualize a threat that is more likely and most of our cases, being attacked by a dog is certainly a possibility.

Rob: Right.

Dave: I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner my whole life so I have dealt with the dogs forever. And I have come to the point now where I have had dogs come at me so many times and tried to bite me that I actually recognize the pattern of their feet coming up behind me. As soon as I hear this (sound), I know it’s a dog, a dog’s coming up behind me, and dogs are very, very quiet so I just know. I turn, I face the dog, I give a verbal command that the dog lunges at me, I smack it at the side of the head, and it has happened to me numerous times. So that is something that I pre-programmed and before I did it and then when it had happened I’ve actually been able to use that pre-programmed response and what that has given me, at least when it comes to running and dealing with dogs, is peace of mind. When that comes to me, I can deal with it.

Rob: So in other words, if you’re out jogging every morning, you don’t need to be war-gaming if aliens come to abduct me. Maybe you’ve been reading too much science fiction or something. You need to be figuring out what the logical threats or what you may have been threatened with in the past. That’s a good place to start, something that’s happened to you in the past. Figure out those things that are most likely first and war-game those out.

Dave: Exactly.

Rob: Correct me if I’m wrong, once you’ve gotten those most realistic scenarios war gamed out and you’ve gotten yourself so that you’re looking for that all the time then you can move on to some of the less likely things that are still possible.

Dave: Yeah. We all live, work, shop, and basically exist in the same geographical area. We do take vacations and trips that the majority of our life is spent in locations that we are very familiar with. We live in a home, we drive a path to work, we shop at the local mall, we have favorite stores, and we kind of know what is normal in our areas. We also, if we paid any attention at all, we know what is likely as far as threats and crime. Like you said, instead of war-gaming an alien abduction, you may war-game walking into the local 7/11 into a middle of a robbery. By pre-programming responses to those things that are likely for the environment in which you live and work, you’ll be better prepared.
Now are you going to’ hit the potential situation you may walk into exactly through visualization? No. So you got to’ kind of’ visualize in general term but you can come pretty close and I’ll give you a case and point. I had a war man who worked late in a downtown area in a parking garage. This parking garage was her place to park. She did it every day. She parked there in the morning, sometimes she stayed late at night. She realized that her potential threat was going to come probably working late some night in this parking garage. So what she started doing in order to prepare for potential threat on those days she worked late she didn’t wear a skirt, high heels. She had flak, running shoes, or flat shoes that she could actually protect herself in. Finally, one day, it actually happened to her. She was walking to her car; a guy came out from two cars in the middle of the parking garage. She went low below his grasp, she drove her foot into his knee, and she said it was exactly like she imagined it and she had no hesitation whatsoever. As soon as she nailed the guy, she fled the area, called the police, everything went perfect. She told me, she says “You know, if I hadn’t pre-programmed that into my psyche, he could have taken me off guard, he could have created a startle reflex and I may not have done anything. I mean I froze.” By visualizing things that are more likely, you can actually make yourself ready as if you’d actually been through it.

Rob: And we talked about how it moves those scenarios to the front of your mind to match up more quickly and those few seconds, those milliseconds in recovering from that startle mode are so important that’s where the advantage is gained in any fight.

Dave: Exactly. You’ve got to’ understand, if we look at the patterns of encounters for law enforcement officers because until the best of my knowledge I’ve never kept the kind of gunfight stats on armed citizens. But for law enforcement officers, they’ve been doing it now for over 50 years. They have come to realize through studying these particular situations that armed confrontation are over very quickly. They’re very, very close in a couple of seconds. Either one or both of the participants are down. If it takes you three, four, five seconds to realize what’s happening to you then you’re probably not going to’ be an active participant. You’re going to’ be overwhelmed before you realize what’s happening.
Many people, they’re listening, they have heard of the OODA. The Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act responsibly the creation of Colonel John Boyd who had studied the fighter pilots during the Korean War. A lot of people have misunderstood what Colonel Boyd was doing. They all think that they got this nice cycle that they circle through. They’re going to’ observe, they’re going to’ orient what’s happening, they’re going to’ decide, and then they’re going to’ act. That maybe the case as you go through your routine. However, what Colonel Boyd made very clear that in a situation of high threat like a dogfight with jet engines travelling a hundred of miles an hour, you have to orient to the situation you’re facing, you probably won’t design that. As a matter of fact, he understood that you implicit guidance and control which was advance training. You could go from observation to action without having to actually orient and decide. Again, orientation takes in a lot of factors, it takes in your previous experience, it takes cultural or heritage type backgrounds, and all of these things. Denial of what’s happening to you. Orientation to an incident or at least to a critical incident is probably going to’ put you so far behind the power curve that you’re not going to’ be able to catch up and you’re probably going to be seriously injured if not killed.
Rob: It’s those few seconds, they are so important. You’re absolutely right. Making that decision ahead of time gives you that advantage.

Dave: Yes.

Rob: So we’ve talked about evaluating the threats, we’ve talked about realism, that sort of thing. There’s one other thing that you mentioned earlier. I don’t even know if you’ve mentioned it or if you realized it, but you talked about watching for something that’s out of place. Because sometimes you’re not going to’ be seeing a person and deciding does that person look like they’re a threat to me or they’re acting like a threat to me. Sometimes it’s not going to’ be as obvious as “Yes, that’s the situation that I envisioned.” Sometimes there’s just going to be something that’s slightly wrong. You mentioned most of the time you’re traveling in spaces or in places that you are familiar with. What is the best way or what would you say to someone would be the best way to put their mind in a position or in a set of readiness where they would spot something very quickly and easily that’s out of place?

Dave: First of all, I don’t want to’ kind of’ spook your listeners but I do believe that we all possess a sixth sense and I’m not talking about dead people or anything like that. I think we all…

Rob: That would really make this show interesting if we could work that out.

Dave: Yeah, wouldn’t it though. I believe we all have a woman’s intuition or that hair on the back of your neck or that gut feeling. We know that something is out of place and I don’t want to’ get into too detailed of an explanation because that was just not what the listeners want to’ hear. The best way to describe this is that we do live in a consistent environment like we said. We live, work, shop at the same place. It’s almost as if we exist in a certain frequency that things kind of’ go along, we know what normal is, we know how our neighborhood should be, and all of those kind of’ things. Then there’s that instance, that situation, that frequency is kind of’ out of whack. It doesn’t look right. I’ll give you an example. I went down to a convenience store late one night to pick up some ice cream for my daughters because they were watching a movie and wanted a particular flavor. I pulled up in front of the store and I looked through the big windows, I notice that there was no clerk. Now that’s not normal. I mean there was no clerk, there was nobody in the store, it didn’t seat right with me. I didn’t just go draw my gun and charged in. I actually backed-up across the parking lot and I sat and watched through the front of the store because sometimes the best response is to do nothing, to just sit and watch. Well, within a minute or two, the clerk came from the back room and walked out and ok I felt better. But that frequency was out of whack and quite often, the response to this is maybe just “do nothing. “ Just back off and watch. That I truly believe that there is a sixth sense. Do we have time and like tell another story?

Rob: No go ahead. But hang on. Just before you go and tell another story, I want to’ say you probably didn’t have in your mind a scenario if the clerk is gone then this. You weren’t looking for that clerk whether or not he was there. It was just something that happened to be out of place. Right?

Dave: Right, without a whack. It wasn’t normal for what I expected. I expected to pull up to the store, there’d be a clerk there to go in and sell me the ice cream that I wanted, and there was nobody there. That was not normal to have a store that’s open, lights are on that there’s no one in there. That is not normal. Many people will just kind of’ flop that off. How do you know you’re not walking into a robbery? Sometimes the best thing is just to step back and watch. I’ll give you an example. Another woman that I had met through a self-defense class that I once taught, she had worked late in her building and it was a downtown high-rise office. She had gone to the elevator and she pushed a button to go down. Well, she was waiting, the elevator opened and she said that on the elevator was a guy that looked like a biker. He had long kind of’ greasy hair, a beard, a t-shirt with kind of’ of a potbelly, a leather jacket, and he just looked dirty. And she said and this is a quote “Everything in my being told me, don’t get on the elevator.” But she did, you know why?

Rob: Why?

Dave: She didn’t want to’ offend him. I mean she wanted to be a nice person. She gets on the elevator and sure enough, the guy attacks her. The only thing that saved her from what was probably going to be a sexual assault is that someone else had been working in the building, had pushed the elevator button, it stopped in another floor, the doors opened, the guy fled. But here we have perfect example when she said everything in her being told her not to get on the elevator and she didn’t listen to it. What would have taken for her to just say “Oh geez, turn around like she forgot something.” You know what she said when I asked her that. She said “I had never thought of that.” Well, you know what, maybe if she had pre-planned, done some visualization, maybe she had a thought of it before it was too late.

Rob: Wow. That’s an amazing example of what happens if you don’t do what we’re talking about here with the pre-planning and all that. In closing, let’s break all this down and kind of’ give a simple outline for what we’ve talked about that people can do to increase their awareness. First of all, make sure that you’re focusing on being aware. Turning on that light switch like you mentioned. Next…

Dave: Yes. If you look in the dictionary under the word aware, it means conscious. You’re conscious of what’s going on around you. So yes, you have to be conscious that you’re being aware.

Rob: And then the next thing that you want to’ do is make sure that you’re aware but while you’re aware you should be running it when it happens. Excuse me, I’ll get this right. It’s kind of’ like the combatives versus self-defense, I’ll catch on to this stuff one time. But when this happens then I’ll do this. That you should be running that in the back of your mind all the time.

Dave: Right. When-then thinking. I mean you can war-game. Now here is a situation, you’re on a city street, crossing it, and you’re trying to avoid cars and all that. You don’t want to be when-then thinking at that moment. If you’re just going through a normal routine then yeah, you can be doing some when-then war gaming.
Rob: And then the actual awareness itself as far as watching, evaluate threats, evaluate their realism, you should be looking for things that would be realistic threats in your area, and then of course, always just be looking for what might be out of place.

Dave: Right. You need to be switched on to what’s going on around you. And if something doesn’t look right, if you get that gut feeling, listen to it. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to respond, it doesn’t mean you have to do anything. It means that maybe you just want to stand back and watch or just leave the area. If this store doesn’t look right to you, go to another store.

Rob: One of these days Dave we’re actually going to get some actual stories on here. We’ve got plenty of them, in fact, it’s almost like there’s too many of them for me to decide which ones to bring on the show. One of these days, when we have more time, we’re going to take some of these stories and we’re going to look at them and say this situation could have been prevented or downplayed or de-escalated if this person had been more aware of their surroundings and altered it, whatever the situation may be. We’ll look at some specific examples and go through this for our listeners some time also.

Dave: Sure. And in closing, let me throw something out to you about awareness that your listeners can use. Awareness is not just about the situation at hand, it’s about a lifestyle commitment, and last week we talked about being combative and willingness. I had kind of’ mathematical equation that I use to remind myself and my students of the state of mind I need to be in that I call the NESS brothers. Mathematically, it’s Awareness plus Willingness equals your ability to prevail. And of course, awareness means a lot of things. Being aware of what’s going on around you. It also means that being aware of what is normal in your community. A case of point, many others lived in neighborhoods where many of the houses are like and similar. If a house got broken into, three doors down, doesn’t make sense for you to find out how that happened so it doesn’t happen to you.

Rob: You’re right.

Dave: Yes. Awareness is also about gathering intelligence. Intelligence just isn’t for the military or the spy agencies; it’s a good thing to know. It’s a good thing to have this is intelligent information because information is power.

Rob: So if we covered willingness last week and we covered awareness this week that means everybody should know everything they need to know then right.

Dave: They have just taken the first step in a long journey. I’ve been working on this now for three decades. If I still don’t have it alright but you know, they’ve taken the right step. If they’re working on being aware, they’re working on being a willing. Then they’ve got a nice step up on the journey but it still a long road ahead.

Rob: Alright then, well thank you for joining us for this combatives edition of the Personal Armament Podcast. We’ll see you all again next week.