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The Parable of the Wooden Gun

The Parable of the Wooden Gun

wooden gun 1 smaller

Wooden, rubber band guns. Why do I use them? Let me count the ways…

At seminars, police or others, I have seen and organized a whole lot of “force-on-force” style work-outs these last 26 years and without exaggeration, all over the world. This “FOF” nickname became popular in the later 1990s. The majority of these FOFs were and still are done with “no-shoot,” classic rubber guns. I have always preferred to use guns that shoot something VERY safely so we can get many repetitions tallied and a whole lot of “external focus” experience in.

I am a true-blue believer in the motto that “YOU are not fully learning gun combatives unless you are shooting at moving, thinking people who are shooting back at you.” And of course with simulated ammo…you learn quickly, that it sucks. Never stop working on marksmanship, dubbed by experts like Force Science as “internal focus,” but never forget this “external,” sucky part.

I have decided to only teach the interactive, external part. And due to travel, locations, expenses, safety, logistics, etc, I mostly use wooden, semi-auto, rubber band guns that shoot pretty straight for about ten feet to experiment with. Remember, if you do use gas guns or official SIMUNITIONS? They can break eyes, skin, windows, mirrors, chip room paint, bust ceilings and blow out lights, ding and dent cars, etc., etc.

“I thought simulated ammo is supposed to hurt!” One military vet told me years ago. In certain training exercises yes, like room clearances and so forth. There is certainly a time and a place for painful ammo. But there is also a time and place for pain-free ammo. A whole lot of time and a lot of places. I use the wooden, rubber band guns…that shoot something. 

In the 1990s I was laughed at in national training circles and ridiculed for using “toys.” In fact, even Airsoft (popular then in Japan) was considered toys back then. In my defense I never used toy-toys. I used these wooden, rubber band guns that fired multi-shots. There was little available and affordable to simulate any close, interactive shooting back then. By about 2000 or so cops worldwide were seeing my drills and buying a lot of these wooden guns from me for their repetition training. Of course, citizens too.

Easy. Safe. Quick. Great for lots of short, realistic vignette experimentation with lots of reps, anywhere. Anytime. (I even had life sized M-16s that shot very well at about 30 feet.) 

OKAY! “No-Shoot” Rubber Guns, versus “Do-Shoot” Wooden Guns. When it comes time to draw these classic rubber guns under stress, or when just fighting over them for a draw, and when one person gets free of the other enough to successfully pull, point and theoretically “shoot” the pistol at the partner/bad-guy, – this is what I have seen for years – these two participating folks just freeze and look at each other. Once in a while someone might yell “bang!” But they frequently just freeze. It’s over! They act like the scenario is over, like the fake trigger pulling part and the wounding or killing part is automatically over. No follow-up action needed, taken or practiced. Just…just freeze!

What Happens Next? In my great collection of “Ws & H” questions, one of the greatest questions is “WHAT happens next? Then next? Then next? Of course, it’s not over with the classic freeze. It’s not. I mean what can happen? The other guy surrenders, or is shot and wounded, or even if he receives a mortal shot, he can still shoot back, stab, fight back a bit, or fall upon the good guy with a weapon like a knife in his hand. Even if the attacker “surrenders,” if they surrender, do citizens know what to say or do next? Orderly or disorderly escape? “Citizen’s arrest,” so to speak? Often this never enters gun instructor’s minds. What happens next? The fight is not over with the mere pointing of a rubber gun. The freeze is totally unreal, incomplete and inadequate training.

The Trainer-Actor’s Part. The scenario IS NOT OVER! If the bad guy is shot, he or she should act like they are shot – it’s he trainer’s job!  But it helps the trainer to know where they were shot, to properly act-out responses. Impossible with classic rubber guns and no “bullets.” You need something that safely shoots, tens or even hundreds of times to get the reps in. The trainer doesn’t have to win the Oscar, but act out in common sense.

Light Beams? Somewhat popular these last few years are the SERT guns. To say “popular” might be a “financial” misnomer. They are about $225 to $500. They shoot light beams. They are very real in look, size and wright. Everybody knows about them but few can afford them. How many people do you know will afford to buy one? If you teach seminars, how many people show up with one? In my many year teaching experience, very, very few show up with SERT guns. $$$! And here’s the training rub, when battling with CQC force on force, the attacker-actor almost never knows where the light beam landed so they can simulate a leg shot, hip or gut shot, or throat shot, whatever. They always see, feel where the rubber band lands. Okay, SERT is neat for solo practice, but almost useless for me in the type of hardcore, close quarters drills I do. 

When Suggesting the Wooden Gun “Route”…I have often said to folks:     

“You like those rubber guns, huh?”     

“Yes.”     

“Hey, what would you think about wooden guns?”     

“Wooden guns?”     

“Yeah, using wooden guns shaped like your real guns, or shaped like your rubber guns?”     

“I guess that would be okay.”     

“Now, what if I told you…what if I told you that these wooden guns could shoot something? A safe something? Wouldn’t that be cool? You could do all the stuff you are already doing, and – you could actually pull the trigger shoot something and see if you could successfully, actually shoot the gun, hit your enemy while fighting, standing or on the ground. And multiple shots like a semi-auto. You wouldn’t have to stop when you pointed the gun. You could actually exercise pulling the trigger and aiming under stress, explore the next events. Anytime. Anyplace.”     

“I guess that would be smart. But we do that with Simunitions.”     

“How often?”     

“Oh, about once every two years.”     

“Two years?”     

“Sometimes more years than that. Some people never do it. ” 

“I know. Because you need special gear and a special location that won’t be destroyed by the Sims. Lots of set up and gear. Sometimes the setup and expense just pushes the workouts off and off. And who wants to be shot with Simunitions 30-40 times in one hour when working on an important scenario? What if I told you could use these wooden guns – which cost about 15 bucks each – anytime, anyplace, aiming, shooting with no safety gear, easy experimentation with moves and problems. You can get a lot done, safe, and cheap.

“I guess that would be okay.”

“I am talking about using wooden rubber band guns. I am not talking about giving up routine live fire. I am not talking about never using electric, gas or Sims again. I am not saying throw away your rubber gun. It too has uses. I am just talking about the potential of wood over rubber. I am talking about the easy, safe study of moves & shooting. I am talking about more access to important experimentation and reps. You are already using rubber. Why not wood? Why not wood that shoots something? Did I mention the wooden gun cost about $15?”

And a Safety Idea. Sometimes these gas guns look really real. Horrible switch mistakes can happen, especially after lunch (another long story) and they, rarely thank goodness, get into the classes. And, with wood, within the class, everyone can see instantly see that each other has a safe, light-colored, wooden, training gun. 

I can travel the entire world with a box of wooden guns without breaking ANY laws in any state or country. Can you with a suitcase full of gas guns? Sims guns? Easily? Effortlessly?  One more point for traveling practitioners and instructors, these wooden guns weigh almost nothing in your luggage.

In my External Focus Gun seminars, or regular mixed seminars of hand, stick, knife and gun, you will probably be shot 30 to 60 or so times a day as you work out with a good-guy or bad-guy partner in different situations. And very close up in standing, seated and ground situations. Battery powered guns will not damage the facilities (and will not hurt cars) but you still need some thick clothes and face protection. And I still can’t outfit all, half, or even a quarter of attendees with these guns and safety gear, and furthermore protect their walls, lights, windows and cars. Out come the wooden guns.

Don’t let your custom fit holster stop you from doing this training. I hear this complaint or excuse. Just get a real cheap “ol bucket,” universal holster for this type of training. The emphasis is on interactive goals about movements and fighting, and many skills more important than exactly how your replica pistol fits perfectly snug your custom fit holster. Rubber training guns don’t always fit into your custom holster, either. Yet people have persevered for decades with rubber gun training stuck in bad-fitting holsters. 

Where ever we are, lets move the ball downfield every chance we get. I know what folks are saying about Airsoft, that it is superior training in versatility. There are two kinds, 1) gas and, 2) electric-battery. With Airsoft, you still need eye protection and the pellets can still sting. (gas hurts more.) When you do a combat scenario like this one in the photo above, 10-15 times, then 3 more scenarios in the hour, you are shooting your friend, or being shot 45-70 times in just one or two hours. Close-up. Then add 4 or 5 hours to that. This becomes a “pain in the neck,” especially with Airsoft gas guns. Everyone in the whole room must have at very least eye protection but some people wear more and more safety stuff. Even with electric-battery Airsoft, this becomes a logistic-gear-expanding training endeavor. (I like to use electric-battery Airsoft around cars because cars will not be dented or hurt.) The higher quality sims gun? The less reps your people can stand for the basics. The more pain, less reps means way less experimentation and “muscle memory.

In Summary  Pain is not the only reason to have safer, ammo shooting gun. Not by a long shot, ducking pain is part of the training.  I would like to use the best gear in the best locations were we can ignore the destruction of people, buildings and vehicles. But that dream is both impractical and expensive for most of the places I travel to teach. I do the best I can, with what I can at the moment to move the learning ball down the field. A wooden pistol that shoots something and safely is better than a rubber gun that doesn’t. The wooden rubber band gun. It utterly harmless, still shoots semi-auto style and you get to see where your shots land. Totally superior to no-shoot, rubber gun. I ditched the rubber gun for a wooden one that at least shoots something. Why have a “shoot-less” rubber gun, some cost $50 or more, when you can get a wooden one for $15 that shoots something? 

And this is why I use them a lot. I think I have counted the ways.

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