Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.– Jeff Cooper
This is a review of Don Mann’s book, The Modern Day Gunslinger: The Ultimate Handgun Training Manual.
I purchased this book around 2012 at my local base exchange. At the time, I was competing in local outlaw 2-gun and 3-gun matches in Montana. As it turns out, though the advice in the book was interesting, it
Since getting my carry permit in 2017 and participating in more tactical training than competition, I’ve been far more engaged with the content. The book is a wealth of information compiled from many sources.
About Don Mann
Don is a 21 year veteran of the Navy. Most of that time was spent as a SEAL including the famous Team Six. Additionally, he is a renowned adventure racer and motivational speaker. From his website:
Mann’s impressive military biography includes being a decorated combat veteran; Corpsman; SEAL Special Operations Technician; jungle survival, desert survival, and arctic survival instructor; small arms weapons instructor, foreign weapons instructor, armed and unarmed defense tactics, advanced hand-to-hand combat instructor; and Survival, Evade, Resistance and Escape Instructor; in addition to other credentials.
I’ve never met the man, but I’ve never met many of the authors I read and enjoy. His credentials certainly reasonable, and certainly more thorough in the realm of gunfighting than mine.
This book is the result of 12 years of research and practice. In the introduction, Don describes his initial confusion that so many world class shooters in different areas would disagree so wildly with one another in a lot of little ways. He relays that these differences are often the result of how each of these experts obtained their experience.
Shooting at a top level in IPSC is different than what a police officer faces. Both are different than what a military member overseas deals with. Each of these is perspectives are valid in their own way, though.
The goal of the book is to present a balanced view about what does and does not work across a wide variety of contexts within the defense realm.
The Modern Day Gunslinger contains 24 chapters, along with forward by Rex Grossman. The each chapter focuses on a different component of defensive pistol shooting.
- Weapons and Range Safety
- Dry Fire
- Use of Force
- Living in a Battlefield
- Combat Mindset
- Shooting competence
- Defensive Handgun Ammunition
- Basic Kneeling Positions
- Ready Positions
- The Draw Strokes
- Grip and Trigger Control
- Visual Techniques and Sight Alignment
- Multiple Shots
- Follow-Through and Scan
- Loading, Reloading, and Unloading
- Low and No-Light Shooting
- Concealed Carry and Holsters
- Learning Styles
- Training Fundamentals
- Shooting Drills
Rather than go through each chapter and provide a breakdown or summary, I’m going to break the book into regions.
- Handgun Proficiency
- Low and No-Light Shooting
- Concealed Carry and Holster Selection
- Learning and Training
Let’s take a closer look at the material.
Don opens The Modern Day Gunslinger by rightly focusing on safety. The 4 basic rules make their appearance, of course. Don thoroughly explains each one of Cooper’s classic rules, which are always a good refresher.
Once past the basics, though, Don goes on to talk about range safety, lead abatement strategies, weapon storage and maintenance, and many other subjects.
In short, he takes safety seriously as a life or death proposition.
In the second chapter, Dry Fire, Don talks about the benefits of the practice. But he also provides detailed safety procedures for dry firing to mitigate any mishaps. I’ve never come across another book that talks about how to stop a handgun round within your house in case you negligently loaded a live round during dry fire.
He covers that.
The next few chapters of The Modern Day Gunslinger covers mindset.
This portion opens with a discussion on the
While the book does not give legal advice, he covers similar ground to what you should expect in any concealed carry class. That is assuming your state requires one. If not, then this absolutely a good read.
Don spends a chapter discussing violence in society. He bases a lot of his thoughts on the work of Rex Grossman, who is somewhat infamous for connecting violence in media and video games to raising a generation desensitized to killing. I’m not a proponent of this idea, but it’s not my book. He also discusses methods of indoctrinating populations into violence. These methods typically show up in
The big takeaway here is that the capacity for violence is part of our environment, and we should not ignore it.
Don presents a discussion surrounding his stance on gun control. It’s pretty standard fare for any 2A advocate, so I won’t spend time reviewing it. He takes a very noncontroversial view here, at least from my perspective.
The last chapter in this section is the combat mindset, which I relied heavily on for my own discussion about mindset and the fallacy of “safe spaces.”
Learning and knowledge are meant to be forgotten, and it is only when this is realized, that you feel perfectly comfortable. The body will move as if automatically, without conscious effort on the part of the swordsman himself. All of the training is there, but the mind is utterly unconscious of it.– Yagyu Tajima No Kami, as quoted in The Modern Day Gunslinger
The next several chapters focus on developing the foundations for good handgun shooting. Don opens up with a discussion on the learning process and the stages a student passes through on the path to mastery.
As someone who spent a lot of time training others how to do complicated tasks, I found this chapter interesting and in line with my own experiences. It’s actually quite similar in theory to Lanny Bassham’s work.
The next two chapters focus on selecting a handgun and accompanying ammunition. Interestingly, Don advocates that revolvers still have a place, particularly for those who don’t practice enough. While there is no benefit to marksmanship since revolvers are more difficult to shoot well, they are simpler to understand and operate than many magazine-fed pistols.
Following weapon and ammo selection, The Modern Day Gunslinger pivots to body mechanics. Don thoroughly covers the standard shooting positions, from standing to prone, as well as the accompanying ready positions.
He also covers grip and trigger control, sight alignment, malfunctions, and managing rapid shots.
I particularly appreciated his demonstrates of one-handed weapon drawing and manipulation. Prior to reading this book back in 2012, I hadn’t really thought about how to draw a holstered pistol with my left hand.
Speaking of the draw, Don goes in depth with each step of the process as well as different draw techniques for different levels of concealment.
Low and No-Light Shooting
This chapter contains a thorough explanation of how the human eye works in the dark. He also gives the most thorough description I’ve ever come across for flashlight techniques. Included in this chapter are the following flashlight usage methods:
- Harries Technique (the most popular, as taught by Jeff Cooper)
- Chapman Technique, as developed by Ray Chapman
- Rogers Technique, developed by Bill Rogers
- Ayoob Technique, developed by Massad Ayoob
- FBI Technique with flashlight hand high overhead
- Neck Technique
- Hargreaves Technique, developed by British Army
- Keller Technique, developed by Georgia State Trooper
Don ends the chapter with a discussion about night sights, red dot sights, and battery selection. He provides a pro/con for weapon mounted lights but doesn’t officially come down on either side. From the reading, though, I’d say he’s a fan of a standalone flashlight instead of a weapon mounted light.
If you’re looking for a detailed discussion about red dots on pistols, there isn’t one. This book hit shelves in
Concealed Carry and Holster Selection
This lengthy chapter covers a lot of ground surrounding holster selection and style. For a book called The Modern Day Gunslinger, I would expect no less.
Don goes into great detail about the advantages and disadvantages of different carry methods. IWB, OWB, shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, and even fanny packs are all included among several others.
He also offers some practical tips, like including a bit of lead weight in lower jacket pockets of a suit. The extra mass creates more momentum on the jacket as you move it out of the way for the draw, keeping it clear of your draw path.
Interestingly, the only method of IWB carry that he mentions is 4 o’clock. AIWB is not mentioned at all. Again, I think this is because AIWB started gaining popularity after the book was already published.
Learning and Training
The remainder of The Modern Day Gunslinger returns to a discussion about mastery. Specifically, how to progress along the learning path to unconscious competence.
This portion of the book talks about teach others, good range practice, competition, and drills.
Each of the many drills comes along with a discussion about what it’s suited for and how to perform it. I’ve used several of these over the years when practicing myself or training others.
The Modern Day Gunslinger
So that’s the overview. The real question is, should you buy it?
To that, I simply say that it can’t hurt. It’s a solid book with lots of research and examples.
That said, I look at this as a supplement to professional training that you’ve already accomplished. Don provides an alternative view or method that you might not have seen or tried before. But with that, if you don’t already have a solid grasp of the fundamentals, you’re liable to get yourself into trouble by teaching yourself pistol skills from a book.
If you’ve already had solid training, then I think the material in the book is worth checking out.
Aside from the pistol portions, I found Don’s discussions about mindset very valuable. I like his approach to learning and development, as well as the emphasis on safety.
This is the kid of professional image we should all aspire to display.
You can purchase Don Mann’s The Modern Day Gunslinger via Amazon today.
If you’ve read it before, or have any questions, let me know in the comments!
Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He’s former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He’s a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.