The ability to learn is, in my view, about the most important of the many gifts God gave us. During my stint as a teacher, which continues as I homeschool my son, I got to study learning styles and the ways people manage to accumulate knowledge. Some of us best learn to do something by reading about it. Others best learn if someone tells them how to do it. Then there are those who best learn by seeing others do it, and finally there are those who can only learn if they do it themselves. While I remain convinced that the education establishment’s obsession with catering to learning styles is off task, I am convinced that learning styles do exist and that the best way to learn is to use them all. I also believe that if we don’t practice what we learn, we will forget it in short order.
Training, in my definition, goes a step beyond learning and requires active coaching by a skilled teacher and much practice. This pushes us beyond simply being learned and up to a level of being able to deliver performance on demand. I know how to do a number of things, but there are many I do poorly, and that is because I am not well enough trained through numerous repetitions under the eyes of a quality instructor, who can correct my errant ways. Learning may not require practice, but training certainly does.
Instructional videos are very useful tools in acquiring knowledge. We get to hear and see things we want to learn, and a skilled presentation by a quality instructor makes it all the more effective. As is repeated frequently in the videos I’m going to review here, instructional videos are not, however, a substitute for training. Good ones, however, can give us a basis that will save time and energy in the process of acquiring skills, and that’s why we should consider using them.
As much as I learn from videos, I don’t buy many, due to the cost. I suspect others are in the same boat. I recently got a press release about the videos Panteao Productions, LLC is planning to begin releasing in December on survival, and I thought it might be helpful to review a few of their current ones to get an idea of what we might have in store, in terms of quality in the upcoming ones.
Panteao is a South Carolina-based video production company that specializes in videos on shooting, self-defense, and documentaries on military events. They have been involved in making videos with the NRA.
I was grateful that their website explains that Panteao is a Portuguese word that means Pantheon. While it refers to the Greek temple where the pagan gods supposedly gathered, it has the additional meaning of being an influential group of people. Panteao has indeed gathered such a group of shooters and instructors to make a series of videos on weapons related topics. Some are competitive shooters, while others, such as the late Louis Awerbuck, Bill Jeans, and Freddie Blish, have roots in Gunsite and the practical use of firearms. There are also folks with reputations in law enforcement, armorers, and gunsmiths, as well as special operations veterans, such as Paul Howe. Massad Ayoob contributes with videos on legal issues, home defense, and concealed carry. I am leaving out a number of significant names, but these few should give you an idea of the quality they have brought to bear.
Panteao videos are available for purchase in DVD form or you can subscribe to their streaming service, if you have a fast connection. The subscription may be the best deal to experience as many videos as possible, though you can’t archive them, which is something I would want to do if I found one particularly useful. They offer monthly deals for $20 or yearly for $165. The subscription allows you to see all of the videos currently available. I did have problems with one hanging up a few times, but otherwise, they worked fine on a fiber optic connection.
Panteao was kind enough to let me view a number of their videos online for review as well as sending me a few disks. It was hard to choose which ones, but I picked a new one on optics and an older one on the use of the defensive shotgun, based on some knowledge of the two instructors.
Freddie Blish is a retired Marine Lt. Colonel who has worked for Aimpoint, LaRue Tactical, and Robar since he left the Corps. Aimpoint is the maker of some of the red dot sights that sit on many U.S. military weapons today, and a lot of those sights are in LaRue mounts. Robar is a well-known shop that refinishes firearms and performs custom gunsmithing on practical weapons. Colonel Blish also designed the combat optics tool that will work on the various controls and fittings on many of the optics found on defensive long arms. He is a Gunsite instructor and brings a lot of knowledge and experience to a video that focuses on what some might term close combat optics. These are primarily the increasingly ubiquitous red dot sights along with the low power Trijicon ACOG sights found on Marine rifles. Most of the time is spent on the AR-15 platform, but he delves into their use on handguns, shotguns and as backups on rifles with more powerful scopes.
What impressed me the most with this video was how much information is provided in one place. I don’t want to seem egotistical, but I did already know most of what is in this video, but I had to take three classes and spend many, many hours of reading and research to learn it. Here, you get it in a three-hour video, which is a pretty good deal at $40.00. Mind you, it isn’t the same as having a good instructor looking over your shoulder and correcting you, but I would have gotten a lot more out of my classes had I already stockpiled in my brain what is in this video. A number of dumb questions on my part could have been avoided.
As one might expect, Colonel Blish spends a fair amount of time discussing hardware. He goes over the various offerings from Aimpoint, EoTech, Vortex, Trijicon, and JP Enterprises. Despite his affiliation with Aimpoint, he seems to give all of the sights their fair due.
He also tells us about mounts, focusing on the sight maker mounts as well as some aftermarket ones. More importantly, he goes into the issue of co-witnessing in a very clear manner. Co-witnessing is how the dot in the red dot sight relates to the iron sights on the weapon. In the early days of red dot sights, we worried a lot more about sight or battery failure. Shooters wanted to keep their iron sights available in the event of some failure to the optical sight. If the optical sight is co-witnessed to the iron sights, the front and rear sights are at the same point in the view through optical sight. That causes a lot of clutter and interference to our seeing the target unless we are able to fold down the rear sight, which we didn’t want to do as they provided instant backup in case of sight failure. That problem lead to the 1/3 co-witness mount, which places the red dot sight a bit higher, so the irons are in the bottom third of the window of the optical view and not in the way when we use the red dot sight. Should the optical sight fail, we just drop the head a bit and use the iron sights. Today, since red dot sights are so robust and the battery life has stretched to as long as seven years on some, we may not have to worry about optical sight failure, so leaving the rear folded and out of the way is not a problem.
One of the most important things he does in the video, in my view, is showing the effect of various zeroes with the AR-15. Watching a trained professional go through the zero process at different ranges was very illuminating to me. I always suffer a lot of angst over what range to zero at and whether I am doing it correctly. Colonel Blish helps a lot on that note, taking us through 100-, 200-, and 300-yard zeroes. By actually firing groups at distances out to 300 yards with each zero, he shows us what to expect in real life. I had already decided on the 200-yard zero and will stay with the decision, but seeing how the others performed helped convince me I had made the right choice for my circumstances.
The next thing I was really happy to see explained is the effect of the mechanical offset of the sight. The straight line stock of many modern long arms forces the sight to be higher over the bore than on traditional rifles. This means that we have to allow for more difference between the point of aim and the point of impact of the bullet at close range. Colonel Blish explains and demonstrates this clearly. Getting it wrong can result in the death of the wrong person.
I noticed that he drops the magazine of his AR after chambering a round to verify that a round fed. If your weapon has a double row magazine, you can do this by noting which side the round is on when you insert the magazine and then checking after running the bolt. If a round chambered, the top one will now be on the other side of the magazine. It is a good trick to perform and one I have trouble remembering.
The good Colonel sees miniature red dot sights as the future for handguns, noting that ten years ago we didn’t trust them on carbines but now we do. As they get more rugged, he feels they will become what we expect to have on handguns. He does like having iron sights along with the red dot, as it helps us index the weapon as we present it. I have so little red dot on handgun time that I can’t say much about it, but I suspect I will need to spend a good bit of time to get it to work as quickly as irons. Since my eyes no longer want to focus on the front sight, the concept is still appealing for when I need a very precise shot.
There is much more on the video that is worth knowing, but I hope I have given you enough of a taste to judge whether it could help you. I found it a superb review of the information I had to work hard to gather on my own, and seeing and hearing it greatly reinforced my notes from classes, the books, and articles I’ve collected over the years. Additionally, I really enjoyed his direct language and some of his expressions, like “Marine math” and “applying some group tightener” to his shooting.
The DVD is still in the pre-order state on the Panteao website, but I was able to stream it online.
As a disclaimer, I have paid good money to take a class from Bill Jeans, and he has been gracious and kind enough to answer a number of moronic questions I have written him. He is an avid reader and a keen student of history, who served four years as a combat Marine, twenty-one years as a street cop, and ten years as an adjunct instructor at Gunsite under Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper, who then hired him for a seven year run as the operations manager of Gunsite. He left Gunsite after Col. Cooper sold it and formed his own on-the-road training company– Morrigan Consulting, in 1998. Unfortunately, he decided to retire recently and that makes the world a less well versed place. Despite his best efforts to appear otherwise, he is a warm and kind individual who works hard to keep us from making fools and worse of ourselves. That said, I wouldn’t want him as an enemy.
One of Jeans’ favorite things is the shotgun. I am really sorry I only took his carbine class. Friends who took the shotgun class speak of it with awe. That’s why, when I spotted the video on the Panteao site, I decided I had to review it.
While it is a far cry from sitting in class with Jeans at the front of the room, the $40.00 video does capture more than I expected. The man has a way with words, which would do merit to the book he won’t write, and it comes across in the video. Among my favorite quotes are:
“We have a name for people who stand still in gun fights; we call these people casualties,” as he addressed the need for movement.
“Get it right, then get it fast,” when he spoke about how we all too often attempt speed when we still don’t know how to do something properly.
And perhaps my favorite, as he discussed slug loads, “Slugs are wonderful things; I love them– great, big, flying door knobs of death.”
The shotgun is an interesting arm, one that Jeans calls the “thinking man’s” weapon and one which is often misunderstood. This is because it has two forms of ammunition– shot and slugs. Furthermore, shot loads come in a variety of sizes and they perform differently as the range changes. Jeans likes the gun for its devastating power and versatility and tells us that it allows a bit of a fudge factor on the marksmanship level, though not as much as many think.
A common belief is that the shotgun is a street sweeper and you don’t have to aim it. Jeans makes it clear that you need to aim, but he also shows that if you are off a bit, it will still work. You just can’t be off by too much. The shotgun is extraordinarily useful at night, which is when, as Jeans notes, the creeps come out. If you are using shot, he explains, the pattern can “make up for the shakes”. He also points out the intimidation factor and that “the slide being run is a universal communication tool” and that TV gives us the impression that if hit with a shotgun we will “burst into flames”.
There are a number of different loads available for the shotgun. You could use birdshot for a close shot, which would limit penetration so that you don’t endanger as many people on the other side of a wall; you could use buckshot, which has more penetration, or use a slug, which will just keep on going and going as well as give you the accuracy to make solid stopping hits at 100 yards.
Shotguns are limited in ammunition capacity, but Jeans argues that the shotgun is decisive and the “power factor is such that we get very few failures to stop”. One of the solutions for this problem is to always replace any rounds we shoot. If we shoot one, load one; if we shoot two, load two, and so on.
There are certain things we need to do to maximize the potential of our shotguns. Better sights are one area of concern. The gold bead, according to Jeans, is fine for close range, but we need something better to take full advantage of our weapon. He likes the ghost ring aperture sight on the rear, with a post on the front. A sling gives us a way to carry the gun when we need to use our hands, and he shows the types we could buy and how to use them. He also considers lights to identify targets and how to carry extra ammunition on the gun to help make up for that limited capacity.
When we are carrying ammunition, Jeans points out how critical it is that we keep it straight. Slugs and shot loads have very different characteristics, and using the wrong one can have horrible consequences. He tells us about a police officer who meant to use a slug and got a buckshot round by mistake for a long shot. Not only was the bad guy not hit hard, a stray pellet killed another officer.
Gunsite developed the concept of the A, B, and C zones for the shotgun, with shot loads, and they are well explained on the video. The basic concept is in the A zone; you are basically shooting one projectile as the shot has not had a chance to spread. The B zone is the sweet spot for shot loads, as the shot has spread some but not too much. We can be off a couple of inches and still do the job well. It does not mean we can just point the gun down the hall and let fly. The C zone is where the shot has spread so much that you might not get enough into the center of your target to do your job. At this point, we need to switch to slugs. Complicating this is that each shotgun varies in how it patterns any given load, so these distances with vary. The only way to be sure is to go to the range and try your gun and ammunition.
Then there is the recoil issue. They have it, but Jeans mentions a five foot one inch tall, one hundred pound woman who had no problems. A lot of it is psychological, and there are big hulking linebacker types who are turned into Jell-O at the mere thought of a shotgun. Jeans likes to point out that “if you are uncomfortable in the back of it, think about the guy in front of it.” Making sure it fits helps a lot. Most stocks are too long. It is far easier to deal with a stock that is too short than one that is too long. Recoil pads can help and also keep the gun from sliding about on the shoulder. Forming a pocket on the shoulder helps with recoil as well as with shooting effectively, and Jeans shows how to form one and fit the shotgun into it.
How we stand when we shoot is important, and the more recoil we have, the more important the stance becomes. Jeans advocates that we form a box with our feet, arguing that this is a fighting stance rather than a shooting stance. We can move or fight. Some stances work well for shooting but prevent movement. I recently saw a range safety officer push a woman shooter to use an extreme stance that did provide good recoil control, but it would have prevented her moving to cover or pivoting to another threat. Jeans shows that our feet should be shoulder width apart and the support side foot should be forward with the heel about even with the front of the firing side foot’s toes, forming a box. We then should push weight forward onto the support side foot and tip the spine forward. The position allows good control of the weapon as well as movement.
As we move, Jeans advises that we should maintain this position as “things are going to go haywire soon enough; there’s no point with helping that situation by lunging around and getting your feet out of sorts any sooner than you have to.”
There is a lot more on this video, but the most important section, and the one that should have been first, is the one on mindset. I have heard several instructors give these, but Jeans’ is the best I have experienced. I never got to hear Colonel Cooper give his in person, but I can’t think of anyone besides Jeans who could substitute for Colonel Cooper. I’m going to buy this video so my son can hear it, since he won’t be able to get it in person. I got to hear Jeans give a lot of it on a cool and crisp morning as the sun came up while waiting for the range to open. We were gathered with a group of kindred circled around him. I will never forget the time. The video is good, but it is a pale version of what I was lucky enough to get. Even so, it is better to experience it vicariously through video if that is all you can get.
If the survival series comes up to the caliber of these two videos, they should be worth a look. Again, subscribing and watching all of them is probably the best deal. If you see one that you want to be sure to have for all time, then you can buy a hard copy.
– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie