Written by Greg Ellifritz
Ever since I started training people in the fighting arts for a living, I have kept very meticulous records. Not only is it important for potential future legal action, it’s a great marker for tracking progress and improvement.
Each year at this time, I do a review of what I did in the previous 12 months and how I want the next year to look. It’s a very useful exercise that I would encourage everyone to do. No one will make continued, structured improvement unless he has a plan of action. Here’s what I did last year and how I need to improve upon it in the future…
Personal Firearms Training
Last year I shot exactly 6,269 rounds in training, just a little bit less than the year before. I spread those rounds over 44 different shooting sessions. It’s less than previous years, but that is to be expected. When my police department got rid of my training position and moved me to the street, I lost a lot of practice opportunities that I would usually get while demonstrating drills for students.
It’s interesting to note that only 620 of those 6269 rounds came from police “training” provided by my department. That includes shots fired from rifle, shotgun, duty handgun, and all my off duty/backup handguns. I know a lot of you cops reading this would kill to have a department that provided almost 600 rounds a year for training. Many departments only provide enough ammo for the 25-round annual state qualification test. 620 rounds may seem like a lot, but it is less than 1/4 of the amount that officers fired when I was the full time training officer. When budgets are cut, training suffers the most. I can see a steady decline in my fellow officers’ shooting skills after training was cut. I barely made improvements after shooting 6,000 additional personally-purchased rounds.
Officers who don’t supplement their department provided training with their own efforts will not be adequately prepared for a lethal force confrontation. Shooting one to four times a year just isn’t enough to sustain a high level of competency. All you police officers out there need to be doing some more shooting, even if the ammo costs have to come out of your own pocket.
I exceeded my goal of shooting at least 500 rounds per month. My skill levels with the pistol have remained high and are continually improving.
In 2018, I’ll be keeping my live fire shooting to around 500 bullets a month. I have to admit that I absolutely hate dryfiring and there hasn’t been anything that can motivate me to do it regularly. More efficient live fire practice is my personal plan for improving shooting performance.
Professional Training and Education
In 2017, I took 117 hours of professional training from other instructors. I met my goal of getting at least two weeks (80 hours) of training in the books. I took the following classes:
- Rangemaster Tactical Conference.
- AGI Glock Armorer’s Course
- Spirit Quest Sanctuary Andean Plant Medicine class
- Paul-E-Palooza Memorial Training Conference
- OTOA “Active Assailants” Conference
- OPOTA- Update training videos on “Blue Courage,” “Missing Children response,” and “Trauma-Informed Policing”
- Three other video training sessions on Tactical First Aid, Computer Information Security, and Response to Violent Extremism
- And 28 hours of in-service training provided by my agency on a variety of topics
I know many of you think that 80 hours a year isn’t enough training for a professional. It really depends. Earlier in my training career, I averaged more than 300 hours a year of professional instruction. As I progress, I see less and less benefit obtained for each hour of training conducted. After completing nearly 5,000 hours of professional training in my career, I’ve already seen a lot of the good stuff out there! Taking a week-long class to get just one new technique isn’t a productive use of my time. I’m going to maintain my 80-hour training commitment in 2018 and focus my efforts on attending classes that are outside my skill set and will help me grow as an instructor.
I will continue to share what I learn in my training classes with all of my readers on this site. Even if you can’t attend some of the cool classes I go to, you can still get some quality knowledge by reading regularly.
I believe self study is even more important than taking classes. I learn A LOT from reading books. It seems to be a losing battle getting Americans to read more, but I don’t think there’s a better way to get smarter about any chosen topic. In 2017 I read 152 books. All but 20 of them were non-fiction. That met my goal of increasing the number of books I read (133 last year). My 2018 goal is to read at least 120 more books. Reading ten books a month gives me a significant amount of new knowledge.
If you want to read more, get rid of your television! I got rid of TV in my house almost six years ago. It was a great move, giving me much more free time to read, write, and live.
In 2017, I taught a total of 24 days of classes on my own and four more as a co-instructor at TDI. I had a total of 491 students in my own classes and an additional 31 at TDI. I made an effort to book slightly fewer classes in 2017 as compared to 2016. I ended up teaching the exact same number of days than I did in the previous year. Despite no increase in class numbers, I taught 3% more students than I did in 2016.
I’m happy with that level of activity. Teaching 30 weekends a year combined with writing all the articles for this site, working on a book, and having a full time cop job is more work that I really want to do. I’m cutting back a bit even more for 2018. My full 2018 schedule is available at this link. It looks like 26 days of classes for 2018. I’m hoping that by cutting back a couple classes, I will not have to fight as hard to keep my sanity. I hope to see you in one of my upcoming training classes.
I also presented at two national professional training conference, The RangeMaster Polite Society Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas and the Paul-E-Palooza memorial training conference in Ohio.
This met my goal of teaching 20 classes and presenting at one major training conference.
This year I plan on maintaining approximately the same number of training classes as last year. I have 24 classes already booked and am working on finishing up the details for a couple more, so it looks like I’ve already exceeded that goal.
I put up this website in March of 2012. In six years’ time it has far exceeded my expectations. I’m averaging close to 100,000 unique viewers and 300,000 page views a month.
For the first time since I put the site up, my total number of unique users and pageviews decreased. My total annual page views decreased by 30% last year to 3.8 million. I had 893,000 unique viewers, a decrease of about 3% when compared to 2016 levels. It’s puzzling to me that I am seeing fewer visitors as my business seems to be wildly successful by all other measures. I did write about 20 fewer articles than in 2016, so that may provide an explanation for some of the drop off. On the days when I don’t post new articles, I get dramatically lower page views. That might explain some of the loss, but it’s doubtful that writing two fewer articles a month can leas to a 30% drop in page views.
I read quite a bit about how “blogs are dying.” With people getting all their news off of social media, fewer and fewer people read blogs like mine these days. Another factor is that 55% of my readers are accessing my site on their mobile phone. My site is mobile optimized, but I write some really long articles. I would honestly hate to read some of my stuff on my phone.
I originally started writing the blog to publicize my training classes. Now it’s a money-generating project unto itself. I doubt I can control the future of blog reading in this country. I will just continue to do what I do, provide quality content for my readers. If that doesn’t bring in the audience, I’ll just have to start teaching some more classes. We all either adapt or perish.
In May of 2017, I monetized the blogs by adding in-content and sidebar ads through a media company. This has been a good strategy and has yielded surprisingly few reader complaints. Writing for this site is a second full time job for me. I’m glad to be finally making some money for my efforts. I’m happy to report that my ad and affiliate sales revenues provide a monthly income that would allow me to live a comfortable middle class lifestyle in a third-world country. I’m not getting rich from the site, but it’s nice to know I have a backup plan if this whole police/teaching gig doesn’t work out.
In 2017, posted 208 different articles containing 205,807 total words. For what it’s worth, the average novel is somewhere around 100,000 words. The articles on my website are the equivalent of two full novels’ worth of writing last year! I wrote most of the articles myself, but I had three articles written by guest writers. I had planned on publishing about three articles a week. I was an overachiever and averaged more than four articles per week. Goal accomplished!
Special thanks to all my website referrers. Web traffic would not be nearly as high without you spreading the good word. You’ll be interested to note that almost 61% of my web traffic comes from Facebook. Thanks to all of you who share my articles on your pages!
After social media sites and search engines, the following referrers generated the most traffic for me. Each were responsible for more than 500 new unique viewers. Go check out their sites. They have lots of great information!
- The Firearms Blog
- Says Uncle
- Backwoods Home
- Lucky Gunner
- Recoil Gun Magazine
- Commander Zero
- Defensive Carry
- Get Off the X
- View From The Porch
- Grant Cunningham
Magazine and Print Writing
In 2017, I did not publish a single article in print gun magazines. Overall, I think print gun writing is a dying vocation. I won’t be focusing my efforts there in the future. The return on investment just isn’t as high as with my writing on this site.
I had 18 articles reprinted on various websites including Buckeye Firearms’ site and Breach Bang Clear.
I had planned on getting my third world travel safety book out in 2017 as well. That obviously didn’t happen. I ended up with a couple of unexpected difficulties that have delayed my publication. The first is that Amazon.com changed the terms of its affiliate arrangements with authors last year. They no longer allow affiliate links in books. In the e-book version of my travel safety book, I had sprinkled Amazon links throughout the text. I’m in the process of pulling all those out again and re-writing those sections.
The other, more difficult, factor is that there have been tremendous changes in technology between what was available back in 2012 when I started writing the book and what is available today. I am in the process of a final edit to get rid of all the outdated technological information in the book and ensure that it is up to date and current.
I have two more chapters to complete and about 1/3 of the remaining book to re-edit. I expect to finish the rough draft soon.
With regards to my writing, another side project has been taking up a lot of my time. Growing ever frustrated with my police career, I’ve decided to write an non-fiction expose on the police and governmental corruption I’ve witnessed in my career. It will also describe the endlessly frustrating bureaucratic inefficiencies that good cops have to deal with on a daily basis. I’ve been spending quite a lot of time writing this one. I’m almost 35,000 words into it. I plan on releasing it as a free e-book on my police retirement date (May of 2020). A lot of folks are going to be very unhappy when all this information gets out. I can’t wait.
I also have five other books that are in their infancy. They should be finished in the next couple years as well.
Although it isn’t directly related to training, I think travel is extremely important. I’ve learned far more about dealing with people (aggressive or otherwise) in my world travels than I ever have at a formal training class. Travel also teaches adaptability, which is a critically useful survival skill.
My long term goal is to spend about six weeks a year outside the USA. Last year I came close to achieving that goal, having spent 39 days outside the country. In my travels, I made it to six foreign countries: Mexico, Iceland, Grand Cayman Island, Peru, Chile and Antarctica. In Antarctica I visited territories claimed by Chile, Argentina, Russia, and Great Britain (I don’t really know how to count those on my country life-list). Of that list, three were new countries for me. Overall, I racked up 34,000 miles of recreational air travel.
I started out the year with a visit to Iceland.
I then went to Grand Cayman Island for a short relaxing beach holiday.
In July, I visited Peru for the third time.
We made another short beach trip to Mexico last fall.
Finally, we did an epic expedition to Antarctica (with stops in Chile and territories claimed by Argentina, Russia, and Great Britain).
If you don’t currently travel, I would highly recommend taking a trip someplace fun. There’s a huge world out there to see! What good is developing your ninja-like tactical skills if you don’t ever go anywhere to put them to use?
How did you do in 2017? What are your goals in 2018? Think about it for yourself and WRITE IT DOWN!
I wish you all the best in the new year.