The hosts of Practically Tactical are on the very short list of content creators regularly putting out credible, high quality, and honest information about firearms. In a sea of shallow clickbait, Practically Tactical stands as a good example of how to do it right…especially when people’s lives could potentially depend on the quality of the information shared.
To learn more about Practically Tactical, we reached out to founder and host, Nick Humphries. We discuss the importance of firearms training for personal protection, keeping an open mind, what to avoid when building a reliable AR, his personal rifle setup and much more.
Q: Nick, let’s start with a bit of background and how Practically Tactical came about…
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: I was born and raised in Idaho and I grew up on “God, guns and gold” as they say. I hunted growing up, but I was never “into guns”. Fast forward, many years and my wife and I used to do foster care in the county we used to live in. We did foster care for about six or seven years, and during that time, we had a child with us who is now our adopted son.
During that process, the mother got a new boyfriend who had felony weapons and drug convictions, and they cleared him to come to our house. I was like “what are you talking about!?” I felt like I needed to defend my family, so I went to Gander Mountain of all places, and I bought the worst handgun ever…the original Sigma in .40, of course.
“a lot of chatting, but…”
I then started searching for credible information and I couldn’t find any. I found some chats and stuff but I never found what I was looking for. You’d go on YouTube and there would be a lot of chatting, but it was never actually subject matter experts. That’s really what inspired me to start Practically Tactical very soon after. It was a show where I could bring on these experts.
It didn’t quite start that way, but we eventually got there. Whatever type of self-defense subject, whether rifle, handguns, concealed carry, medical, combatives or whatever, we do our best to bring on extremely credible people to talk about those important subjects.
My first guest is now actually my co-host, Jeff Bloovman of Armed Dynamics…as well as my best friend at the time who was also a training junkie like me…former Army vet Jesse Gullikson is my other co-host.
The show is really dedicated to those who are responsibly armed citizens who seek training and are looking to get extremely credible information from those who train a lot. They’re looking for after-action reports on classes and they’re seeking information from top-level instructors on whatever the subject may be.
Q: Can you talk to our readers about why you feel training so so vital? It’s not all about the guns and gear…it’s about the need to prepare to defend yourself and your family from those who would seek to inflict violence on you.
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: You did an article recently with Jared Reston that really hit the nail on the head. The amount of things I have changed my mind on is astounding. One example is low light stuff. Early on, I used to think that I’d not want more than 200-300 lumens…and now, its like “no, give me everything you’ve got. I don’t care” (laughs).
Accuracy is another big thing. What many people think of as being accurate is not. There’s terms out there that get thrown around like “combat accuracy” that are just total crap. It’s been a complete turnover multiple times for me.
“I was incredibly lucky”
I really lucked out on my path in regards to who I got involved with. These are guys who became mentors…guys like Steve Fisher at Sentinel Concepts, Trek from MDFI, Joe Weyer from Alliance Police Training. I really lucked out into meeting those three amazing individuals who really guided my path and I was incredibly lucky to begin 360 degree training and force-on-force very early in my training path.
Q: Why was that sort of training important?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: When you are able to simulate scenarios that are as close as we can get to the real thing, that is a fundamental game changer in your approach to how you do training, but also in your approach to life. Name something and I’ve probably changed my mind on it…how I carry, where I carry, my setup, my EDC, importance of medical, low light.
The big thing that people miss is the context behind stuff. Back to the low light example from earlier. There’s still a ton of people that believe you only want 200 lumens or whatever, and it’s like man, give me one hour at night, and I’ll give you the context as to why that’s bullshit.
It’s hard to pick even just five things I’ve changed my mind on because it’s been a total change…and guess what? Things evolve. Will Petty, another mentor of mine, his class has changed every time I’ve taken it or helped out at classes.
Things evolve, things change, and things improve, and that’s why you cannot get stuck in the mentality of “I got it” because there’s always things that are new and changing. Tactics are evolving, and guess what? There’s always somebody out there that is better than you…at everything. So it’s always a process by which I am trying to refine the things that I know, and trying to learn new things as I go.
Q: I think a recent wakeup call for me was Varg Freeborn’s book, Violence of Mind. You can get too caught up in the flash and glamor and the gear and forget that what this is really about is violence.
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: I think what a lot of people unfortunately miss nowadays is that there is actually violence out there and you need to train and prepare accordingly.
Q: With Practically Tactical, you’ve talked to enough subject matter experts…are there some very basic things that you feel our readers need to understand, or are there misconceptions that you see that may not be widely known?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: Number one is going to be get training. There is no piece of gear that is ever going to make you the best, or better. It can help, but the gear you have is simply not going to make you the most badass dude. Take a dude that has a ton of training in the shoot house versus someone who has the best gear and no training and guess who is going to win?
If I decide to roll on the mat with Cecil Burch, who is a black-belt, guess who is going to win that? You just cannot deny that the training makes you the best…so focus on that aspect and not the gear. The gear can come later.
Practically Tactical on “Stop Being Poor” being Detrimental
Something that we harp on with our show, right now in the industry, everybody is talking about “stop being poor.” That irritates the shit out of me. At our recent shoot house class, a woman came to the class, and she had just gotten her concealed carry a month or two prior. She had not even bought a gun yet. She took the idea of owning and carrying a gun so seriously that she is taking a 360 degree shoot house class before she owns a gun.
To me, that is the right mindset. She was completely safe, she worked at the pace that she could solve problems at, and she did a phenomenal job.
Think how this person is now an ambassador for the 2nd amendment. She’s a person that decided to do it, and she did the training before she made the hardware decisions. Think about how much she knows walking in to buy a gun, versus just walking in, buying a gun and then taking training. You cannot supplement training.
There’s a great quote from one of my mentors Joe Weyer is, “knowing how to do something is very different from knowing how to do something while making decisions.” That’s what training gives you.
“We disenfranchise a lot of people”
But as far as “being poor”, I can’t go to that shooter and say “I need you to get a Glock 19, send it to get milled, then I need you to get mags, ammo, a plate carrier…all this stuff.”
A new person walking into this for the first time cannot do that. I think in the training community, we disenfranchise a lot of people by shitting on their gear.
The best way to find out if gear works is running it in classes. We don’t do a ton of gear reviews at Practically Tactical because it takes so long because we want to run the gear in classes. The best way someone can know if a piece of gear is good or not is to find out themselves instead of a bunch of people shitting on them on the internet.
I hate the “stop being poor” stuff because for someone starting out, maybe all they can afford is a Glock with stock sights. So what if you’re running “iron” sights and pulling mags from your pocket, if you’re in a training class that’s what’s important. Buying a mag carrier isn’t going to do a lot for you. Going to a class and learning how to actually shoot a gun, that’s what’s going to make a big difference.
Q: Let’s switch gears to hardware…What works for you as far as your defensive set-up?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: You’ve hit me at a very interesting time as I have just moved from the city to the country on 12 acres. I just completely changed what I’m doing, and I’ve switched from a pistol for home defense to a rifle. But as far as set-up, let me start with what doesn’t work.
Typically what we see in classes is the really short-barreled stuff often has issues. The 7.5” ARs…those are typically the first guns that we see go down in classes. It’s very different when a gun is operating on your timeline, meaning you know when you’re going to shoot it, pretty much when you’re going to reload, you’re making all the decisions of running the gun.
Compare that to someone else dictating what you’re going to shoot, where you’re going to shoot, how many rounds you’re going to shoot, and then just the constant amount of shooting. Typically, under the 10” stuff is where we see the most issues.
“What Doesn’t Work”
The other issues we see are when people start messing with gas blocks and bolt carrier groups. I know that everybody likes to build a super lightweight gun. The issues we see when people start tweaking the gas blocks and getting adjustable gas blocks…that works great…until it doesn’t.
Usually, that’s coupled with aluminum bolt carriers out there, super light ones and all that stuff. I get that. In competition, you’re trying to ride that fine line of it working versus performance. You have to adjust that when we start looking at a build for self-defense. I need that gun to always be reliable. When people start messing with the gas, that’s typically when we start seeing issues in classes.
If you’re setting up an actual “work” gun, don’t mess with the gas and don’t mess with the bolt carrier group. Get quality parts for those because they really are the heart and soul of your rifle.
Pistol Caliber Carbines
Finally, pistol caliber carbine (laughs)…every time one of these guns is in the shoot house, they always say that the gun has never malfunctioned. I think I’ve only seen one pistol caliber carbine not malfunction in the shoot house. It’s a constant theme with those guns. My thought is that if you’re going to give up two hands to run a rifle, you might as well have the ballistic superiority of an actual rifle cartridge.
Q: As far as the short guns malfunctioning, what do you attribute that to, in your opinion?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: A lot of times, the guns are just beating themselves to death. If we’re shooting 600-700 rounds a day at a class, add in the heat, you’re burning off some of the oil/grease or whatever you’re running on the gun, and the guns are just beating themselves to death.
Another thing we see with the short-barreled stuff is people getting their fingers up by the muzzle devices. I’ve seen this happen multiple times, and thankfully all but one of them wore gloves.
Q: What’s your opinion on AR pistols?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: I think AR pistols are great. My home defense “rifle” is an AR pistol. I had a Form 1 SBR before AR pistols became a hugely popular thing. I understand why they’re super popular because “hey, I don’t have to pay a tax stamp.” I don’t have to wait, and that’s a huge plus.
Another benefit is, depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to carry them with you loaded or unloaded, or at least unloaded with a mag in it and have it next to you. That’s a huge bonus.
I carry an AR with me everywhere that I go pretty much…especially when I travel. I have a Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter on my AR pistol and I can take it anywhere with me. It’s easy to transport and it’s also my home defense rifle. My point is, I have no problem with AR pistols…as long as they run.
Q: Can you describe your current go-to setup?
Nick Humphries, Practically Tactical: I have the SBA3 with a Law folder, pistol lower, an 11.5” upper. I have my US Optics SR4C on top. Then I have my Cloud Defensive OWL light and a suppressor. I have back-up iron sights and I carry a 20-round mag in it with self-defense ammo. Finally, I also have a sling on it. That’s my discrete carry/home defense rifle right now.
I think the biggest thing that people miss is that you have to look at your environment and base your setup on that. Steve Fisher from Sentinel Concepts says you have to “look at where you live, where you work and where you play.” It’s all containers and zones. You have to evaluate all of those things and see what works for you.
“look at your environment”
When looking at switching from a handgun for home defense to an AR, I did so because now I’m dealing with distance. Now I have an out-building where my office is versus where my house is. I have 150 yards between where I work and my house.
Also, I now have a very large, ranch style house. There the longest potential shot in my house is 37 yards. So, I need a light that is capable of doing all of that. I need a rifle that is capable of doing all of that. Then, I also have the outdoors and environmental factors to consider in between the office and my house. I need a light that is capable. My rifle is only as capable as my light.
So, you have to diagnose and look at all of those things around you to determine what is “your” appropriate rifle setup. My rifle setup is not appropriate for apartment living. If lived in an apartment, I’d have an AR pistol, a red-dot on it and a light. It’s all about evaluating factors and picking what works for you and your environment.
So many people get caught up in thinking “well, what’s the best?” Well, what’s the best for me isn’t the best for someone else.
Q: As we wrap up, I’d love to hear more about the classes that Practically Tactical offers…
Myself and Jesse teach handgun classes…our thought there is that people just can’t shoot handguns accurately enough. Our handgun classes work on three things: how to shoot accurately, how to get a handgun into play (draw stroke), and how to move with the gun safely.
We also do listener classes. We team up with instructors from across the country, and we get a special deal for our listeners to be able to come take the class.
We’ve done those with Alliance Police Training, Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts, Trek, and others that I’m sure I’m missing right now. But the idea is that we can team up with our listeners and help them get affordable training that’s good.
But for our classes, we basically pick and choose things from our mentors that we think is good, for those that are looking for training.
Q: Where can our readers go to learn more about Practically Tactical?
Q: In closing, is there anything else we have not asked that you’d like to cover?
Something to talk about would again be shoot house class training. We’re big proponents of taking shoot house classes. I think there’s this mystique around it…but I want your readers to know that you’re not out there playing “Army Ranger.” It’s about the decision making and being able to think with a gun, versus wearing a cool kit, carrying cool rifles and all that stuff.
The reason I have a plate carrier and a helmet on is because it’s part of the safety requirements. Just like when you go to the range, you put on ear protection and glasses for safety.
“responsible for decisions”
It’s an amazing thing to see people for the first time having to be responsible for the decisions that they make in or around other people. Actually thinking with a gun in your hand, experiencing that for the first time, really opens up people’s eyes.
This type of training is for more than just hitting a house or defending your home. It’s also about how to get out of a place. Being able to move through a structure with a gun should be of high-level importance whether you are a person that carries a gun, or just has a gun at home. You have the gun there for a reason. I believe you should probably take training that goes along with that.
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