The Evil Princess and I have known Melody Lauer and John Johnston for some years, and know them to be masterful instructors as well as champion defensive handgun shooters. We have been wanting to take their Armed Parent class because people we know and trust have given it such great reviews, but our schedules have not yet intersected to make that possible.

We were, however, able to get my stepdaughter into one of their classes recently.  Here, as a guest blog, is her after-action report on the class:

Last weekend I attended the Armed Parent class taught by Melody Lauer and John Johnston. This seemed like a class perfectly suited to me. You see, I’m a mom. I have a grown child who has bounced back into my home with a sweet bouncing baby boy and a younger child who is in the third grade. I am often responsible for one or more of these younglings. Since I prefer to go out into the world armed it would only be logical to have some knowledge on how to do that safely. I can attend lots of uber cool, super tactical, ninjas from the rafters classes but they just don’t really relate to my lifestyle. I am not going into demilitarized zones or signing up for the next edition of The Purge. I am going to the grocery store, tutoring, cub scouts, MMA, insert any typical carting the kids around activity. The class started off with a classroom session. This lays the foundation of the principles for the class. Shit happens and sometimes it happens when your kids are around. The classroom portion was very interactive and well thought out. They define how the context of having your loved ones around during a potentially violent encounter may change your reaction. This allows you to build a foundation of how you should react when they are involved in the fight. There is a multimedia aspect that while it may be challenging to watch for some people really fosters conversation about how situations change when children (of any age) are involved. They also take the time to discuss legal issues, mindset, responses, and what to do if you are involved in an incident. All within the framework of how they change when your family is involved with the incident.

Then we hit the range. The first day we worked on concealed pistol skills. I know many of you might think this portion may be too basic for you. I’d say you are wrong. If time dedicated to working on the basic skills of accessing, drawing and delivering quality hits is too basic, you should find one of the classes I mentioned above. Here is one place where I will give this class major props. This is not a class that says you need a cover garment, and everyone shows up in a vest with many pockets. This is a come as you are, wear what you normally wear, just be sure it fits a few requirements. (All of which I think the owner of this Blog would agree are good ideas anyway. Like a quality belt mounted, open mouthed holster for your firearm.) What does this look like? Well, for me it meant jeans, light weight shirt with a nice loose hem, jean jacket with the sleeves rolled up, gym shoes, belt and AIWB holster. The ability to practice in my day to day clothing and not be “dressed” for going to the range made this portion of the class more valuable to me.

Day two started in the classroom. Melody brought out her anatomical model named Ruben. She explained what happens physiologically when a person is shot. She removed his lungs, she removed his heart, she opened his brain all while engaging in a very interactive lecture about how targets are not two-dimensional pieces of paper with bad guys and zombies printed on them. For many Ruben is the first time they really “see” how things are actually positioned in the body. I have spent the last 13 years in a level one trauma center as a nurse. I have treated many GSW’s and I can tell you her understanding of the process the body goes through is spot on.

Day two range time began with a ballistics demonstration. How well does that defensive ammo you are carrying work? What happens to the bullet once it leaves the chamber? What does 18 inches of penetration look like? (There may have been a reference to the adult entertainment industry somewhere.) How effective is placing your child behind you to shield them during a violent encounter? These are just a few of the questions answered during this activity. Again, this experience is interactive learning that really fosters a great amount of understanding.

Once the demonstrations were done we moved into a block of hands on training. What exactly do you do if you have a child in your arms? What if you are holding hands with a whining toddler who has to go potty while you are involved in a bad situation? What if you and your “book” club are out discussing the latest bestseller and a, um…bar fight breaks out? How are you going to manage them and be able to access your hand gun and deliver quality hits? Melody and John demonstrate and teach you techniques for managing anyone including ladies and gentlemen children of all ages. Once the techniques are down they move you to working on the same techniques during live fire. This all goes right back to how the context of firing a pistol while dealing with another person may change your performance.

Being a nurse, evidence-based practice has been beaten into my head. It is exciting to see how Melody and John have taken evidence and built a class supported by the research and precedent and made it accessible to everyone. Two of my favorite take a ways are:

  1. They absolutely did not tell you there is only one right way to do this. They taught you techniques. John actually said, “make the tasks of the encounter like changing the batteries in the remote.” Then you are free to be concerned about the priorities.
  2. Exercise emotional control. While this is a great rule for armed citizens, it applies to everyone and is a great skill to teach our children.

This class may be titled The Armed Parent/Guardian; however, it’s valuable instruction for all armed citizens who find themselves in a bad situation with any person they even like a little bit.

Sonja McCarthy

Melody Lauer coaching Sonja McCarthy through a drill.

John Johnston assessing a shooting drill.

Melody Lauer explaining one of the drills.


  1. Your stepdaughter certainly did a fine job in writing this blog post. She held my attention throughout. My stepdaughter is/was a trauma nurse in a big-enough city and my sister an ER doctor in NYC, just btw.

    Seeing that child-sized black mannequin laying on the floor I was struck with, first a very decidely ‘un-pc’ thought referencing a liberal agit-prop group, and then, “what if the person who is creating the dangerous situation is actually holding a child?”

    As an ex-socialworker I have had the experience of individuals going off the deep end while holding a child in their arms, by the hand, or even using the child as a “prop” and shield.

  2. Great write up on a very informative class. No doubt we need more of these type classes available around the country. Thanks for you time writing this.

  3. Mas – I wanted to share a safety reminder with your readers. I took a friend to the range last night to test fire his new 9 mm compact pistol and ended up in the emergency room. After shooting only two rounds, my friend attempted to activate the safety to ask me a question. I saw his left hand in front of the muzzle and before I could get the words out and get his finger off the trigger, he squeezed the trigger and sent a 9 mm FMJ through his left hand. Fortunately, I keep a tourniquet and trauma pack in my range bag. We got the bleeding under control quickly and got him proper medical attention. The staff at the range reacted very quickly and professionally, as did the EMTs that arrived within just a few minutes. He’s home now and doing well – albeit in a lot of pain and embarrassment. In his case, I’m not sure which is worse.

    Two lessons here – follow the four rules every time and always be prepared to react in an emergency.

    • One can say from experience that Murphy’s Law is too likely to obtain, and that some kind of inadvertent discharge of a cartridge about once every year or two is going to occur at a particular shooting range. Obviously, not all such shots head downrange unimpeded, if at all. The short handgun may be most prone to cause a hand injury, actually largely because of its ease of handling. Maybe a very simple, fifth rule should be put first: Don’t shoot somebody accidentally, especially yourself! A sense of vulnerability to mistakes is an important component of a safe state of mind.

      • Especially at the end of the day when you’re tired.

        I was working with a teacher, and laid my rifle on a table, pointing in a safe direction to handle another weapon. I didn’t unload the gun because I planned on picking it up in about a minute. Well, time with the other gun lengthened to 15 minutes, and then conversation started. When I went back to grab my own gun, it was time to leave the range.

        I was tired, and was just going to slip the rifle into the case, when I forced myself to check the chamber. I remembered the rule “When you touch a gun, always check.”

        The gun had a round in the chamber. I remembered that I never unloaded the gun.

        First, I should have cleared the gun when I put it down. Second, I should have never even considered casing the gun without checking it first. It’s amazing how easy it is to mess up when you’re tired after training all day.

  4. Excellent article. For reasons that are about to appear clear, this time I am going to have to use my anonymous log in. Mas, if your stepdaughter Sonja doesn’t already know about the Thunderwear Holsters, please recommend them to her. I also work in scrubs and the Thunderwear holster works PERFECTLY with them (Size S with a Kahr PM9 and a spare magazine). Comfortable and completely undetectable.

  5. I have two female investigators that will start their 8 hour CCW training class next week. I had them read this article. We found it informative.

    Thank you for posting.

    J. Edgar Investigation Agency

  6. I hope no liberals will see that photo showing a white person standing over a prone, child sized black dummy and thinking that gun owners are now encouraged to shoot little kids of color instead of limiting themselves to only blasting black teenagers for sport 🙁

  7. Mas,
    I discovered Melody long ago, when I was first becoming interested in handguns. It was through her videos that I learned how to do a field strip of my 1911. And of course, even though a lot of her blog posts were related more to women carrying and such, I was able to glean much from her, simply because she was not trying to make things more complicated than they are.
    I also want to second your stand in, Sonja, for a very good, and informative article. I suggest that you let her write about things that affect her and her day to day practices of both self defense, and self awareness. She hits the mark solidly as to being both detailed and still understandable.
    I also have looked at some of the classes available, and while they all look like they might be fun, the truth is, I doubt that I will ever be asked to clear a 3 story building, or any of the other scenarios that some teach. I possibly will be forced to draw my firearm, while at the same time trying to contend with a loved one, either young or my age, like my wife. Thanks for posting this, and thank your step daughter for both being a good writer, but also a good student, who was able to teach what she learned to others.

  8. Outstanding!
    It’s wonderful that Melody and John are covering such an IMPORTANT skill.
    Sonya, that was a thorough review, nice jobJ

  9. John Correia has a video on his ASP youtube channel (from Brazil) that shows an off-duty officer with his toddler in one arm as he shoots at multiple BG’s in a store. Toward the end his wife runs up and grabs the kid, and he proceeds to further clearing of the aisles. That video is heart-stopping to watch.

    (the situational background is that BG’s normally kill any off-duty officers they encounter during robberies, and they are required to be armed at all times. Having a perp discover your gun or badge during a pat-down is a death sentence)

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