"A fast-paced course designed around the thought, 'What if my children are with me when I get into a shooting?'”. That is the first line in the course description of Citizen Defense Research's Armed Parent/Guardian. As someone without children, this class was on my radar, but a low priority. Then things changed.
Now a married man, I have nieces and nephews to worry about, along with plans to start a family of my own one day. I'm confident and capable with a firearm, but safely managing concealment along with potential threats, around children, is something I haven't put much thought toward. With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to fix this blind spot. Even better, my partner asked to join me. Having trained with John Johnston twice, and met Melody Lauer repeatedly, I knew we were in for something great.
Class was held at the Lead Valley range in Deer Trail, Colorado. This is a massive facility with several pistol/rifle bays, multiple areas for trap/skeet/sporting clays, and more. Indoor portions took place inside a medium size trail converted to a classroom. Staff were kind, and the surrounding area is beautiful. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.
The one complaint I have is the lack of bathrooms. We were limited to a single port-a-potty (though it was clean), which we also shared with other range patrons. There was a second bathroom about 100+ yards away, which largely went unused. Throwing down a second would've saved us serious time on breaks.
Weather was pretty good for class, though the threat of rain was constant throughout the weekend. Temperatures ranged primarily from the low 50's to the mid 60's, being chilly to decent. A jacket was a must for me the entire time. Wind was fairly low, and cloud sheltered us from the sun for most of the weekend. Rain from days prior made for a somewhat muddy range that dried over time, making some regret their choice of footwear.
Throughout class I used my a gen 4 Glock 19MOS with a Holosun 509T using a CHPWS v4 plate. This was carried in a KSG Armory Halcyon, with spare magazines in Esstac Kywi 45 degree pouch and my back pocket. Magazines were topped with extensions from Hyve Technologies, Springer Precision, Strike Industries, Zev, and ETS.
Students had a wide variety of gear. One swapped between a Browning Buckmark and a Canik TP9. There were a variety of Glocks from 26 to 34 lengths, a Walther PDP, some S&W M&Ps and Shield, a CZ P-09, a couple additional Canik TP9's, a SIG P365, and a Springfield Hellcat. Optics include Holosun 507c and 507k, Trijicon RMR, SIG Romeo0. For holsters I saw two using the PHLster Enigma, a PHLster OWB floodlight, several generic leather holsters, Safariland ALS, a couple sidecar rigs, and more.
This was a fairly large class, shrinking slightly after the classroom-only portion. We began with 21x students, 15x of whom proceeded onto the shooting portion. This is the largest percentage of female shooters I've seen, with 10x students being women. We had 3x couples, one of which brought their 16 year old daughter who fully participated in class.
Experience ranges from USPSA and 3 Gun competitors, former LE and military, several women from the Denver A Girl and A Gun chapter, and more. A few students were fairly high level shooters, but many were your average shooter, still learning the fundamentals of using their firearms.
Day one begins in the classroom, as students have the option of only attending the half day at a reduced tuition. The hosts had provided a plethora of snacks, from fruit to donuts and coffee, free of charge. This portion is done via lecture and PowerPoint.
The day starts with John Johnston and Melody Lauer giving their introductions, then providing the schedule and expectations for the day. Everyone in the audience gives a brief background of themselves, along with why they're attending class. This leads directly into context. Context of our roles as civilian defenders, guardians of children, and more. How our equipment selection and training plays into this, granting us certain strengths and weaknesses.
The Face of Evil
From here we must define the types of problems we may be faced with. Melody does this with video footage of violent encounters. This is done to provide realism to our problems, helping drive home the danger we could be faced with. Many students, particularly those who are already parents, find these difficult to watch, resulting in some not-so-dry eyes. This allows us to see pre-assault indicators, as we break down each video to see what went wrong or right, and how to mitigate issues that arise. Once we know what we're looking for, John discusses goals of the class, and moves into common reactions to danger. We dive deep into this topic, explaining potential downfalls of each response.
After this the class goes into mindset, regarding both normal people and violent criminal actors. With this, we look at how threats select their victims, and how to be aware of approaching danger. This is more than the typical "keep your head on a swivel 24/7", with specific looks at tactics and techniques often used in the lead-up to violence. From here John and Melody discuss legalities of lethal force, as well as what to expect after a defensive encounter. These are subjects which are far too often neglected, and were a wakeup call for many students.
The classroom-only portion of class ends, and a handful of students leave for the day. Everyone else breaks for lunch before heading to the range.
We begin the range portion with a standard safety briefing, along with John and Melody's additional safety rules. They contextualize these regarding the use of firearms around children to help reinforce their importance. Guns start empty, going over adminstrative and ready positions, stance and grip, sighting methods, and safe holstering techniques. One student has to swap their Blackhawk Serpa holster for my spare Raven Concealment Eidolon, as Serpas are banned in class. Our last dry practice includes drawstroke to first shot, as well as making decisions not to fire.
John and Melody's instructional technique is one I'm a big fan of. First they verbally explain the upcoming drill or process. This is followed by one of them demonstrating in live fire in front of the class. Next, each student fires individually, with one of the instructors by their side for individual feedback. Finally, everyone performs the drill again, simultaneously. With a large number of students, we're broken into two relays. One group shoots, while the other watches, then we swap places. This allows students to reload magazines, hydrate, and rest throughout the day.
Live fire begins up close, establishing fundamentals for all shooters. This includes 8 inch circles and 1 inch squares at three yards on an LTT-1 target. Next we work on target transitions, hitting multiple parts of the LTT-1, performing pseudo-Mozambique drills, and firing on the numbered circles. Throughout class John and Melody work their way up and down the firing line proving tips and making slight adjustments for students.
The day closes with us picking up our spent brass from the ground, ensuring our host range is clean for tomorrow. After this, we hold a debriefing of the day, discussing highs and lows, and special notes. One issue we need to rectify is the excessive amount of sidebar conversations students are having on breaks and between drills. It is because of this that class runs long, and some material is cut out of the day. As a note to potential students, it's okay to chat, but make sure you're not stealing time from each other with casual conversation. You've paid to be here, the focus needs to be on the learning environment.
Day Two of the The Armed Parent/Guardian
Day two exclusively takes place on the range. We gather round as John and Melody begin the day with more lecture. The first topic of the day is shot placement. They cover differences between psychological and physiological stops, along with the effects of putting rounds in different parts of the body. Several students are completely unfamiliar with this subject, and the information is an excellent refresher for those more experienced. After this we get the day's safety brief, reiterating the words of the previous day.
Shooting begins at slightly increased ranges from the day prior, with Mozambique drills on Q-PT targets. From here we flow into stoppage clearance drills, with words on the tap and rack. After this we work substantially on one handed draws and shooting, both with our dominant and support hands for the latter portion. Several students have never fired with a single hand on the gun, and the results show it. This is an important technique to practice considering we're likely to dedicate a hand to holding our children if they're present in a defensive encounter.
After primarily shooting at close ranges, we begin increasing the distance from to 10, 15, and then 25 yards. This practice is important, as each student runs through an FBI shooting qualification. I personally score a 97%, with two misses at 25 yards, giving up my grip on follow-up shots. Not my best performance, but nothing to be ashamed of either.
Baby Saving Time
With shooting skill baselines established, we introduce children to the equation. Or at least our stand-ins for our children, baby dolls and child size backpacks. The introduction of children also introduces some unique problems for our defensive encounter, making some traditional techniques a danger to the child. We speak to prepping triggers, the validity of separating from the child versus retaining them, blading bodies to threats, and more. This includes shooting and reholstering while carrying our not-a-baby, with a focus on visual and physical indexes on both the child and firearm.
Not everyone responds the same way to danger when carrying a child. Some death-grip their offspring, bringing them along for the ride. Others yeet the child into oblivion, making space to deal with the threat. Everyone has expectations for how they perform under stress. Expectations don't always align with reality. To test this we run some unarmed drills, which remind me a bit of ECQC mixed with a Tueller drill. Nearly everyone reacts differently than their expectations, opening eyes to many considerations.
My biggest takeaway was how my instinctual thumb pectoral index for closing threats is not ideal with a child attached, potentially flagging their limbs in the process. Always pressure test your training.
Training for Older Children
Many parents have older children, and the next section of class is dedicated to those people. We cover several ways of safeguarding children who are capable of standing on their own two feet. This includes ways to pin the child to you, restricting their movement to keep them out of danger, as well as ways to get children out of the line of fire. We drill these movements with partners, both in live fire and unarmed practice. The techniques taught by John and Melody work even with adult size, non-compliant subjects (I was personally used in some demos at over 6' tall and 210 pounds). If Melody, at a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter, can move me without issue, then we have no worries regarding moving children.
Our final event is a summary of all the things taught throughout the day. Starting with our not-a-child in our arms, we practice safely separating from them, creating distance, and firing repeatedly at a mid-range target. Many students find their accuracy suffers here, a result of task overload and loss of emotional control. John and Melody give tips on how to manage these issues, reminding everyone about the seriousness of missing your target.
The last bit of lecture is a discussion on safety around vehicles. Melody speaks in-depth about ways to safely get children in and out of vehicles in public. This seems fairly simple, but many students have "ah-ha" moments in this portion. Both criminal threats, as well as the threat of accidental vehicle strikes are covered.
After our final lecture, we pick up brass, clean up our trash, and tear down targets. We wrap up the day with a round-robin debrief. Students provide their takeaways of class, while John and Melody provide everyone with individualized feedback.
Final Thoughts on Citizens Defense Research The Armed Parent/Guardian
As John says, "this is not a basic pistol class, or a tactics class. This is a thinking with a gun in your hand class." If you find yourself around children, and are armed or someone around you is armed, take this class. I learned more than I could've imagined in the course of two days, and I plan on signing up again because I'm sure I missed some things. If you're hesitant regarding the shooting skills portion, I assure you that you will be fine. At the very least, take the half-day, lecture only portion of class.
You owe it to the young ones in your life to get this training. Check out Citizen Defense Research's site >>HERE<< to sign up for a class.