Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on ARs and Mindset

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

In part two of our conversation with Chris Costa, we talk about his training philosophy at Costa Ludus and how to set up an AR properly. More importantly, Chris discusses the importance of the combat mindset and the big picture he feels many of us may not be seeing.


In case you missed part one where we talked about the legacy of The Art of the Tactical Carbine and Costa’s role in its production, be sure to check that out here.

Chris Costa on Training with Costa Ludus

Q: Chris can you talk about Costa Ludus and how you run your training classes?

Chris Costa:  Each Costa Ludus class is going to teach something different.  Carbine 1 is a fundamental class on how to run your rifle, how to shoot a really good tight group, and how to balance speed and accuracy.

Years ago, I used a shot timer in these classes, but now I just use what I’m seeing.  Each person is different, and moves at their own speed.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Chris Costa:  If someone would ask me “what am I good at?” I would say I am good at making people better.  I am good at seeing and understanding how to get into their brain and fix them.  Now there’s onus on them.  They have to put in the work, but I can give them the information and help them skill wise to have something to build on.  

“Pay for me not to be there”

So what people pay me for, they pay me for me to not be there.  And what I mean by that is: I will teach you everything that you need to know and I will help you skill wise so when you leave a Costa Ludus class, you can go practice on your own and you have the ability to self correct. 

You will have the ability to fix yourself without me being there.  I don’t have to be over your shoulder to tell you what you’re doing is wrong or right.  You will know what right is.  You will know what wrong is.  And you will know how to make wrong right again.

So, that’s what I focus on in the classes, along with mindset across the board, which is use of force/deadly force, mindset on things that you need to consider when engaging somebody on the mental side, and then, of course, we’re skill building along the way.  Because the rifle is just a tool.  It’s just a matter of how I use it.  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Distance Buys Time

The great thing about the rifle as a tool is I can get into a close conflict with that gun, but then I can also engage targets at distance, which keeps people and bad things away from me. 

Distance, which is what the rifle gives me, buys me time.  Time is very, very important.  So the further away I can keep you away from me, the better off I am going to be, and the more skills you need in order to get me. 

But if you’re 10 yards away from me, you don’t need much skill to hit me.  For me with a rifle, my focus is how do I get a bullet from point A to point B at distance?  And we’re just talking red dots.  We’re not talking scoped guns or anything like that.  Because if we do that, then we can reach out and touch people even further.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Q:  Can you talk a bit about your philosophy of what gear should be added to a rifle?  

Chris Costa: The first thing that people need to know how to do is learn how to shoot, and then they can build the accessories around their shooting style.  I will never compromise the way I am going to shoot the gun. 

What I do is I add on all the Legos after that…around my hand position, around my shooting position, and I think a lot of people lay the gun down, put a bunch of accessories on it and then they modify their shooting around their accessories. 

“Your Style is your Own” at Costa Ludus

So the first thing I would say is “your shooting style is your shooting style.”  I tell a lot of guys, you’re either going to agree with what I say and then you’re going to do it, or your going to agree with what I say and then you’re not going to do it, or you’re going to disagree completely which I know means you’re not going to do it.   

Ultimately, I’m there at Costa Ludus to take you on a journey. Now, you’re going to do something at the end of that journey that’s going to differ from me because of the way your lifestyle is, your habits, what fits you, your body type, previous injuries.

So for example, the way I get up and down is going to be slightly different from the way that you get up and down.   The way you hold the gun because your wrist has been broken is going to be slightly different necessarily than the way I do…or if you have a shoulder problem, or whatever it is.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

“You will not look like me”

So my at goal at Costa Ludus is, if I do my job correctly, you will not look like me at the end of the day. If you were to look at martial artists, we might both have our black belts, but I guarantee our fighting styles are going to be slightly different.  Our movements are going to be slightly different.  So, for me, I focus on how to make an individual better based on their lifestyle and what works for them.  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on AR Accessories

Going back to shooting styles, or accessories or things like that, I would say one of the first things people need to do is change the trigger in their gun. 

Chris Costa on Upgrading your Trigger

If they’re running a mil-spec trigger…put in a Geissele.  Geissele has one of the most predictable, crispest triggers, and it is one of the most reliable triggers out on the market.  The trigger is very, very important…understanding when the shot is about to go off, especially when you are doing a standing 200-yard shot on C zone steel.  That’s a hard shot. So, knowing and timing when the gun is about to go off is vital, and if you’re running a mil-spec trigger, it is just a lot more challenging to do. So, the trigger would be the first thing.

Now, I don’t want to mention any other brands, but I want to tell you I have very rarely seen a Geissele trigger fail in my class. I can tell you other brands that I have seen fail across the board…so the bottom line is if someone is thinking about buying into Geissele, because they’re wondering when you write this article, “oh well what about this trigger?”  Well pretty much, there’s not a better trigger out there on the market than a Geissele for longevity and reliability.  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus
Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Trigger

I say this because I have seen those other ones go on auto…go on burst…when you run suppressed, the back pressure causes it not to lock and engage. I mean, I’ve seen a whole slew of shit.  And I’m not just going off of one class.  When I see 800 students in a year across America having the same problems with the same things, then it’s an issue, right?

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on Optics

Probably after improving your trigger, try to get a red dot.  For most people I would say, it depends on your eyes. I’ve seen guys banging targets out at 500 with a red dot, but my eyes are not that good anymore…my fundamental shooting isn’t the problem, it’s me seeing the target that’s a problem…

So for me now, if I am shooting beyond 100 yards, I prefer a Vortex 1-6 with an off-angled red dot.  But if I’m doing mostly 100 yards and in, running a red dot is fine…or you can substitute by running a magnifier behind it, and that will give you a little bit more distance on the gun.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on Aimpoint as the Optic of Choice

As far as optics go, I prefer the Aimpoint T2. There’s just not a more robust optic.  I’ve had T1s and T2s on my guns for years upon years.  I’ve seen the abuse.  The clicks…it’s not just the fact that it just goes on and off, it’s even dialing in on the clicks so if I go up to a target and I tell a student “12 clicks” because they have to move it 3” at 50 yards, boom….you can pretty much say that those clicks are dead nuts on.  Whereas other brands, you might turn it 12, but what happens on the target is completely different.  Internally, the mechanisms are not built to the same standard, let’s just say. 

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on Weapons Lights

Now, for a light? Get a white light on it immediately.  If you don’t put a white light on it, you can’t use that gun at night. I would say the best light to put on a gun is a Surefire.  It will handle the abuse.  You don’t want to pay the price…I get it.   You want to be cheap, but you’re going to end up paying for it. 

If you run suppressed, I’ve seen lights of other brands that are next to the suppressor, that when you start getting the heat coming off the suppressor, it starts dimming the light because its affecting the components inside the light housing.  So, Surefire across the board is probably one of the best white lights out on the market.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

“Don’t Buy Cheap”

Also…Don’t buy cheap.  Don’t buy cheap.  Again…Don’t buy cheap.  These 800 to $1,000 dollar guns, there’s a reason why they cost that much.  In classes, you’re coming off after doing 5 mags…then you’re doing 5 more mags.  You’re back out, then you do 5 more mags.  There’s a lot of wear and tear that starts to happen.  And that’s why you want a mil-spec gun. It will handle a certain amount of pressure.

If you bring your 400 dollar gun, you can shoot, but you’re going to be borrowing somebody else’s gun is all. (laughs).  If you go on the gun range and shoot 30 rounds every few days, you’re probably o.k., but when you shoot 120 rounds in a 15-minute segment it’s a completely different story.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on the Gunfighter Mentality

Q:  My final question to you might sound odd but I’m curious,  are there questions that you are not asked in interviews like this that you wish you were?  Perhaps any concerns you want to address?  I apologize it that’s a bit vague…

Chris Costa: No need to apologize. I think it’s a great question.  First of all, I’d say I think the second amendment is much stronger now because of all the new shooters we have. We have a big and strong gun industry, when it comes to people saying “hey, guns are fun.”

But it’s starting to turn into a fashion thing.  What’s happening because of Instagram and things like that, it’s almost like “oh shit, I can get a holster with these rivets matching the thread on my belt with my Arc’teryx zip up jacket, and I’ll get it to where it all matches.” But at the end of the day, the person is not a gunfighter. They’re losing perspective. They see a few videos and they’re like “I’m good.”  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

“Get Back to the Gunfighter Mentality”

To use a skydiving example…the problem is that I can skydive by myself, but when I go out with an instructor, they challenge me in a different way than I can challenge myself.  And they are very good about picking up on what you’re not good at. There’s no need to continue to focus on what you’re good at.  Our goal at Costa Ludus is to practice what you’re not good at so if you find yourself in a bad situation you don’t say “oh shit, I’m not good at this.”

I think people carrying a gun for self-defense and the defense of others need to get back into the “gunfighter mentality.”  Like, at the end of the day, do you know how to use that particular weapon? And not only that…do you know when to pull the trigger? Because use of force/deadly force is very, very important.  You need to know when to pull the trigger.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus – “Will you do it?”

But the biggest thing is you might know how to do it, you might know when to do it, but the question is, will you do it? And for a lot of people, they’re going to pause.  There’s going to be a moment of reflection, and that moment of reflection you may not be able to get it back…because you may be dead.  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus on Brutality

I think that’s what people are missing and it’s why I teach that in all my Costa Ludus classes, because that aspect is very important. People don’t understand what’s at stake.  I don’t think people understand that raw brutality of that particular fight and how that’s going to go. 

Not only that, but how is that going to go down when you’re with your family?  When your’e with your wife and kids…or just your kid? 

I think a lot of people picture themselves as Will Smith in “I Am Legend”…and they’re the one survivor at the end, right? Or it’s you with a group of people. You forget that it’s probably going to be you at a shopping center with your kid.

How are you going to negotiate that?  Have you even thought about that?  How far and how hard are you going to fight for that?

Factors to Consider in a Gunfight

Do you remember that coffee shop where those four cops got shot?   Think about that…4 cops die in a coffee shop.  What if you were in that coffee shop?  What if you were in that coffee shop with your kid?  That kind of changes things. 

Some people might say “I’d shoot back at him and try to stop him.” Well, I’m trying to remove him from the face of the planet as fast possible…like yesterday. 

Unfortunately, society says, “We want you to take an abnormal person and we want you to treat them like a ‘normal’ person.”  Well, I run across “normal” people all the time. “Normal” people is anybody who is not trying to kill me or others.  That’s a “normal person.” That guy can still be an asshole to me.  He can cut me off in traffic.  It doesn’t matter because he’s not trying to kill me.  

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus – Realize You are Fighting for Your Life

Anybody who’s trying to kill me…that’s an “abnormal” person and they do not get treated like a “normal person.”  So when I turn around in that coffee shop and I have my kid standing next to me, my eight year old who is just getting a hot cocoa…dude, I’m trying to tear that dude apart as fast as I possibly can. 

You can say “stop” all you want, but until you’re in a real life conflict and you realize you are literally fighting for your life, it just becomes bullshit until then.  You are literally fighting for your life. That’s what people don’t realize.  

Because there’s technically three outcomes.  But there’s two of which I will live with…one of which I will not.  So I’m there with my kid, I decide to dick around with this guy:  Shoot…evaluate….shoot…evaluate and see how it goes. And a stray round ricochets off the floor and hits my eight year old…


Chris Costa of Costa Ludus -“He’s the Hyena and I’m the Lion”

So, there’s gonna be two outcomes that are going to happen in my mind.  Outcome one is I shoot the bad guy and me and my son go home.  And I tell my wife what happened that day. 

Outcome two is where  a cop drops my kid off, and it’s going to take my wife a minute, and she’s going to be like, “where’s my husband”…but she’s gonna get it. 

Because option three…me returning without my kid….is not an option.  And that’s what I’m fighting for.  Because when I look at an abnormal person who’s trying to kill me or other people,  that is not normal. 

And when this guy shot four cops…dude…I’m trying to tear that motherfucker apart like he’s a hyena and I’m a lion. That’s it. Because I am fighting for something else.

Be the lion…

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus – “There’s brutality at the other side of this”

Look at that cop that was just recently killed over Christmas…is that bad guy going to pay for his kid to go to college?  Is that bad guy going to be there at his house to help show his kid how to tie his shoes and ride his bike?  No. That bad guy does not give one fuck.  And bad guys don’t have rule books…so what are you fighting for?  Well that cop was fighting for his life and he lost.  That’s unacceptable to me and it’s the kind of shit that pisses me off.  

I want every cop or every person that gets into a conflict with a bad human being to destroy that person, and I believe this goes back to the mental side…and that’s what people are missing.  They’re missing the big picture.  Because there’s nothing sexy about the big picture.  The guns and the holsters and all that…it’s touchable, it’s sexy…but there’s a brutality at the other side of this, and people are missing it.

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For more information about Chris Costa and Costa Ludus, visit him over at the Costa Ludus website. To read part 1 of this interview…be sure to click here.

Also, while this was planned as a two-part interview, we do have a third part coming soon…we had a discussion about Chris’ view of 300 Blackout. Look for that in the days ahead.

Chris Costa of Costa Ludus

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