I still remember the Houston GRB gun show where I first met Austin Davis. Austin possesses a refreshing mix of presentation and people skills that blend perfectly with his expertise. I walked out of the show with a Kangaroo Carry Air Marshal 3 and have worn that holster nearly to threads
Austin is also an avid trainer. I’ve reviewed one of his CD’s on Texas Gun Show Review and I was honored to attend Virtual Tactical Academy in December of last year. You can read the Virtual Tactical Academy review here.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Austin about VTA and firearms/self-defense training in general. I hope you enjoy this interview.
TGR: I suppose when most people think of training, the image that comes to mind is firing at paper targets in an indoor range. What benefits and what drawbacks do you see from that training model?
Austin: Shooting paper in a well-lit and well-controlled environment is great training for shooting paper in a well-lit and well-controlled environment. Unfortunately, there is very little cross over to real world conflict. Few people want to believe “it will ever happen to me” so they don’t train as if it could very easily happen to them. I think many CHL holders (not all, but many) feel they will either never really have to use the handgun or will wave it like a magic talisman and the bad people will melt away. I truly hope both options pan out, but recommend you hope for the best and train for the worse.
TGR: A lot of people think that qualifying for a CHL or taking one or two basic ‘how to shoot’ courses prepares them for actual self-defense situations. Again, what are the problems with that mindset?
Austin: Fighting mindset is an infinitely valuable perspective that not all CHL holders possess. There is a serious lack of understanding that it is all about fighting, and the gun is just a tool. If you don’t have that tool, there is still a fight. It is easier for a CHL holder to buy another gun rather than learn to use the one they have to a very high level. People need both the willingness and ability to be able to dial the fight up and dial the fight down appropriately. Without reality-based training, most people will be unprepared for sudden surprise violence.
TGR: How did get the idea for Virtual Training Academy?
Austin: I built Virtual Tactical Academy to test Kangaroo Carry holsters in as real an environment as possible. After a few friends tried it out, word of mouth grew the demand for this type of training and made me give it a title and open the test environment for actual business. Our three-level program is just a continuation of the classes I have been running since 1996, but with the addition of absolute state-of-the-art virtual gear.
TGR: So much of self-defense hinges on mental attitude and combat mindset. How does VTA prepare people mentally for an actual self-defense encounter?
Austin: I’d invite everyone to research “Warrior Expert Theory”. We all tend fail at the limits of our training. Unless we are exposed to similar circumstances, we will not rise to our expectations. We all have difficulty identifying patterns that quickly lead to solutions without prior exposure to similar situations in similar context. The human mind has a very difficult time separating a real and carefully imagined event, so with our virtual tools we can replicate many of the important parts of a conflict in a pretty risk-free environment.
TGR: Is VTA a good place for those who want an introductory shooting course?
Austin: Absolute beginners who never shot a gun before are the easiest clients we have! Without any former habits, new skills come effortlessly through our logical training progression. We start with platform and build one skill at a time, carefully adding on as each new skill is grasped. It is amazing how fast we can take a new shooter and bring them up to speed. So, please give us a call and book a course!
TGR: Can people do low-light training at VTA?
Austin: I personally believe low-light training is the most overlooked skill set in self-defense. An estimated 80% of all conflicts happen in low, altered, or failing light. Low-light fighting is just doing all the other stuff well in a reduced-information environment. So, if you can not or do not perform well in bright light, your problems are not going to get any easier in the dark! We only offer low-light training on a third visit to the academy. We have a carefully structured progression and really can’t teach low-light until we are sure you have a solid grasp of FISH (Fighting Inside Structure or Home) from level two. We can’t teach FISH until we know you have solid mechanics of shooting as well as the ability to effectively separate good guys from bad guys and deal with unknown guys from level one.
TGR: It’s easy to see how law-enforcement needs practice and training at clearing a room or even an entire house. What are the benefits of this training to civilians?
Austin: Civilians will most often be operating as a one-person unit. We always advise to never clear structures since it is a dangerous activity. Even so, you may not have the luxury to wait for LE when others are separated in the home or active penetration of your residence. We learn these tactics as a way to do inherently unsafe things as safely as possible. Learning to fight inside your residence is a likely needed skill set. The common advice – too dangerous to try to do it alone – is great unless you are some day forced by circumstance to clear alone and time is life. At VTA, we cover all the options of fight, flight, and freeze inside a structure.
TGR: What has been the perception of VTA to date from women?
Austin: The women who have come through have (so far) had universally positive reviews and are the quickest to send friends and their daughters to us!
TGR: What happens immediately after a shooting can be just as critical as dealing with the self-defense situation in the first place. How does VTA help students in this regard?
Austin: We practice 911 calls after every shooting scenario. 911 calls are another neglected area in defensive training. Your 911 call is being recorded, it can be used against you in court, you most likely won’t have a lawyer present, and you are jacked up after a life threatening event. It is important to understand that you can’t amend or alter the call, and few if any ever practice the process. I wonder why this leads to so much real world disaster? In the shoot-house, we practice dealing with responding officers for similar reasons. This is so important because of the all too real risk of getting shot by LE due to confusion by yourself or the officers.
TGR: I really like the Bruce Lee line, “Boards don’t hit back.” Of course, static targets and even video don’t shoot back. What type of advance training does VTA offer to allow students to train with some element of risk?
Austin: Good question! We use a stress vest and shock knife in place of simunitions, paint ball, or air soft. These tools allow us to adjust the pain level to the student so we can get you very concerned about getting shot or cut, but take away the obvious injury risk from launching projectiles. We find the use of electricity for pain is a far safer way to experience the physical and psychological effects of combat-induced stress. We use just enough pain to get you experienced in the effects of combat stress. So, if you are ever in a situation where eye sight is limited, or you experience auditory exclusion or loss of fine motor skills, we hope you will think “yeah, this sucks but I have already experienced these effects of stress and know I can operate though it!”
TGR: Do you provide handgun training only or can people work on clearing a room with a shotgun if they prefer that for home defense?
Austin: We have blue long guns and freely allow you to use the long gun in our shoot house to see if that works for you or if it is just as quickly taken away. It is very EYE OPENING how much harder a two-handed long gun can be for most people to manipulate inside a structure. But, we are all too happy to have you run the house with long gun and a handgun and decide what works best for you.
TGR: Everyone seems to think bigger is better. Can you explain the benefits of training in a more confined space?
Austin: We intentionally kept the footprint small at our school. We train with a maximum of three people and prefer to do just two at a time. If you have too big a facility, it turns into a game of laser tag or paint ball. A smaller shoot house forces quicker and closer engagements. This means less down time and more realistic action. By limiting training to three people, we provide more one-on-one time and can adjust the program to an individual’s progression level.
TGR: If you had only one sentence to describe the value proposition for VTA, what would it be?
Austin: Tactical confidence though competence.
TGR: Thanks a lot for your time, Austin. I’d like to encourage anyone interested in expanding their self-defense and firearms skills to visit the Virtual Tactical Academy web site and call them about booking a course. It’s truly 700 square feet that can save your life!
- Diligencia, Vis, Celeritas