Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tales from the Gun Shop

Last week I was meandering through one of our local big box outdoor stores and as I wandered into the hunting department I noticed a salesperson going above and beyond the call of duty to help a couple of first time handgun buyers.  The sales person, who does not receive a commission on what he sells, was doing his best to download his knowledge and expertise however it eventually became clear that not much was sinking in.  I got the feeling that the novice buyers were just not listening to the great information that he was offering.  After the customers left I struck up a conversation and found that the salesperson, Karl Kirschstein, is the proprietor of Allied Tactical Defense (  and an instructor who teaches everything from basic firearms safety to tactical carbine.  Now I really felt bad that they two prospective gun buyers passed up the expert information that was being offered to them free of charge.

Upon further discussion I found that Karl and I share a passion for the .45 ACP and fine 1911 handguns.  Well, Average Joe wanted to give his readers the opportunity to get some of the information that the two customers passed up and Karl agreed to sit down for an interview so sit back, relax and prepare to hear the tales of the gunshop.

AJ: How old were you when you started shooting and what got you interested? 

KK: I was very young.  I must have been 7 or 8.  I still remember my first BB gun which was a Red Ryder.  I can recall my father taking me into town to the hardware store and putting my allowance towards the rifle.  My interest was sparked by living on the farm and wanting my own gun to shoot cans and small targets my father would set up for me.  Those are fond memories and still think of them often.

AJ: What shooting sports do you participate in? 

KK: I have competed in I.D.P.A. (International Defensive Pistol Association) it’s a great organization and wish that we had more chapters locally for shooters to get into the sport.  The chapter that I was shooting with is down in Fairbault MN and it is a big time commitment.  In addition I also teach Tactical Handgun/Defensive shooting and participate in it as well with a group of clients and friends.

AJ: What got you interested in becoming an instructor?

KK: I have always had a passion for shooting, firearms and their history.  I wanted to do something that I have a passion for and this is one of my several passions.  For me as an instructor, it is rewarding when the principles and techniques come together and I see my clients deliver rounds on target the way I describe. Also when I see them self correct their old habits while shooting and utilize the steps I have shown them I get that same feeling of accomplishment and reward.

AJ: As an instructor what is your passion? 

KK: My passion is gearing up for the range.  For me it is much like a fisherman when he has the boat loaded, starts the drive and gets out onto the lake and the motor roars to life to take them to their fishing hole.  My excitement starts when I lace up the boots and gear up whether driving to the range for training or heading out to the classroom.  I like to get the back stories of clients and why they are interested in training.  I like to watch as they become more and more familiar with their firearm and it starts become and extension of themselves as they move and operate with their firearm effectively.

AJ: Aside from being a long time shooter, what training have you had to hone your skills and become an instructor?

KK: I continue to train with other instructors to keep me sharp.  I have alliances with other instructors of all levels and we get together to shoot and train.  In addition, I keep my credentials current and strive to get additional credentials through the NRA.  Also I am a Diamond Lifetime Member at the Frontsight Firearms Institute and I frequently make the trip to the institute for ongoing training.

AJ: Working in the firearms retail industry what are the customers looking for these days?

KK: Many customers are very savvy.  The internet has really aided consumers in doing research and looking at reviews of firearms they are interested in.  I see many customers looking for pocket guns chambered in .380. Also compact single stack small frame firearms chambered in 9x19.  They are also looking for accessories and gear to complete their outfitting for the range.  I have seen a swing in many customers spending the extra money and buying one quality firearm.  Many who have been through my classes come in looking for 1911s, or higher quality imports.

AJ: Do you sell more handguns, rifles, or shotguns?

KK: Well depending on the season at my retailer, that will tell you what we sell more of.  Our sales are up over last year.  I have developed a very good following and several customers come in to purchase several different platforms to round out their collection based on what best fits their need.  There is a rise in sales for tactical shotgun, and long range rifles.  I have my own niche where I work part time.  Handgun sales continue to rise.  At last count that I checked, myself and other instructors in Minnesota are training between 600 to 800 students per month and the number of “permit to carry holders” continues to rise year after year.

AJ: When the first time personal defense gun buyer comes into the store what is the most common misconceptions that they have and how do you overcome them?

KK: I think the biggest misconception is that they come in and buy a gun and ammo and then think they are good to go.  Many of them have just obtained their permit to carry or permit to acquire and had little or no training and believe that they are ready to implement a firearm into their personal protection plan.  I cannot even tell you how many times I have been muzzled by customers in the store.  Safe handling of a firearm is rule one, loaded or unloaded.  There are some very good instructors in the market.  That said there is also a long list of subpar folks out there.  I urge customers and those thinking of getting trained not to go with the least expensive instructors in town.  Owning and carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility; get trained and spend the money with a quality instructor.  I say often “would you put your new born in a car seat that you bought for 10 bucks at a garage sale”?  Same thing goes for your training and who you choose to take you through the process. [AJ: Amen, and see my take on the importance of training:]

AJ: If they have no idea what they want, how do you help them make a decision? 

KK: I like to “UNPACK” their visit to the store.  What I mean by this is that I like to ask them questions and qualify them based on information and their knowledge.  I go over price of handguns, cost of ammo for what they are thinking, manufacturers and reliability of them, warranties, and past customers of mine who have purchased similar products.  Also I need to know what their budget is and how comfortable they are going over budget for something that is really going to be a better firearm in the long haul for them. 

AJ: Please take just a minute and tell the members of our audience who are looking to purchase their first personal defense handgun what they should consider before coming into the gun shop?

KK: There are a few things that I would urge them to think of.  The manufacturer and their reputation as well as reliability of the firearm they have interest in.  DO they have the proper permit to even purchase their firearm that day?  It happens frequently, some are still under the impression that they can come straight in and buy a handgun.  That is not the case.   The sales person is there to help and is a wealth of knowledge so let them help and educate you.

AJ: Do you give them any post purchase advice?

KK: Yes I do actually talk about post sale training.  People buy from people whom they like, and are knowledgeable.  Allied Tactical Defense is a full service company.  We take students from the infancy stage to whatever level they would like to get to.  We have decades of safe shooting experience.  We have trained professional athletes, both current and retired, news anchors, Law Enforcement Officers that need a tune up and the every person whom want to be proficient.  We develop a curriculum based on the customers’ needs and work with them to achieve their goals.  The biggest piece of advice that we tell folks is that if you are going to implement a firearm into your personal protection plan you better shoot monthly, and become good with it.  This does not mean just going to the range and pulling the trigger.  Working on the skills we teach you, sight alignment, sight picture target acquisition, breathing, trigger prep, pressing the trigger and lastly, follow through.   We also teach clients how to carry your firearm, where to carry your firearm, what laws apply to permit to carry holders, malfunction drills, multiple target engagement, and where you can’t carry a firearm in this state.  While we are not lawyers, we do teach the law and talk about how each state’s laws are different in carrying a firearm with states that have reciprocity with Minnesota.

AJ: Give us the complete menu of firearms training that you offer.

KK: Allied Tactical Defense offers Permit to Carry, basic pistol, tactical handgun, carbine and weapon transition training with pistol and carbine. Also we will teach you how to properly clean your firearms.  We have hourly training rates or package deals for our longer more extensive courses.   We are adding courses in the future and have plans for some pretty big things for the shooting community. 

AJ: What is the most common misconception or bad habit that novice shooters bring to class with them?

KK: Boy there are a lot of them ranging from improper stance, incorrect grip, poor trigger prep and reset, and unsafe handling of the firearm. 

AJ: OK, this is the second time you have used the term “trigger prep” and that might not be something that everyone is familiar with; please tell us what that means.

KK:  Certainly, “trigger prep” is taking up the slack in your trigger by pressing straight back.  Not pulling sounds the same but is not the case.  By taking the slack up in your trigger you get to the point where it releases and sends the round downrange.  After the round fires trigger reset is also very important and that is simply the point at which the trigger resets and is ready to fire again.  Most beginning shooters think you have to let the trigger all the way out as far as it goes in order for it to reset but that just isn’t the case.  For Glock shooters you can really feel it and hear as well.  As a 1911 shooter you don’t hear and the feel of it is much less noticeable but it is there and those are also the techniques that I work with my students on. 

AJ: Which flashlight technique to you like; FBI method, Neck-hold method, etc?

KK: I teach the offset body technique.  If you are in an engagement in the dark and you are holding your flashing in front of you the bad guys are going to typically shoot where the light is.  I want the light to be on target and not in front of me.  This is also why I am not a fan or lights and laser on firearms, or as I call them “trash and trinkets”. Learn how to shoot your firearm with the front sight.  Don’t rely on how to shoot your firearm with “stuff” that uses batteries, the time you might need to use your firearm to defend yourself the batteries may be dead.  You are not going to have time like in a video game to reset and figure out how to deploy your firearm. 

AJ: What’s the one thing we need to do to improve our shooting, aside from live fire practicing? 

KK: Snap caps are a great way of practicing.  Please remember not all firearms can be dry fired so check your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer.  Trigger control and trigger prep is a key piece of putting rounds on target effectively.   Also I will add that you should make sure that you rotate your personal protection ammunition about every 6 to 8 months. It is a big liability.  One great thing about rotating your personal protection ammunition is that you can see how your firearm and you react with these types of rounds.  Your personal defense round may be loaded to a different pressure and have a different bullet weight than the typical practice round.  This will usually mean that your defensive round will have different recoil and point of impact than the range ammo so you need to spend some time practicing with the defensive rounds that you carry in your handgun.

AJ: Any last words for our readers?

KK: Absolutely!  Carrying a handgun is a great asset and huge responsibility.  You need to know how to effectively and safely operate your firearm.  Find a good instructor and get lessons.  If the instructor has any merit he will give information and drills that you can work with at home with a safe, unloaded firearm.  This makes the best use of your training dollars and gets you ready for your next stage of training.  Get informed, get involved and join groups that support firearms and your right to carry.  I urge everyone to join the NRA and support our 2nd amendment right.  The last piece and most important thing I can say is “If you are going to use a firearm to defend yourself or your loved ones you better know how to use it.”  This is not a hobby for us at Allied Tactical Defense it is a lifestyle and failing to plan is planning to fail.  Be safe all!

I want to thank Karl for taking time from his busy schedule to talk to me.  As a bonus, Karl has agreed to let me fire and review some of this fine 1911’s and more importantly…he thinks he can fix my penchant to shoot low and to the left!


Al said...

A most interesting review-thanks for taking the time. You can always learn something new!

Al said...

Thanks for an interesting review!

Tim said...

I really liked your interview with Karl. I know Karl through church and I was really interested in hearing a bit more about what he does, and about his background. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

IN reading the last sentence of your article, shooting low and to left is what most shooters normally do. The man you intereviewed stated that he prefers the offset to the body light technique. I hope he realizes that a right handed shooter who shoots low ans to the left has a higher chance of making hits when he uses this light technique.