Posted: 12/9/2011 1:20:54 PM
THE IMAGE ABOVE IS A PAID ADVERTISEMENT
We had an array of weapons, from M1911's, to Glocks and a lot in between to include a Browning HP a little known favorite of mine. We also saw a lot of different “First Line” rigs, everything from the "war belt" types to concealed carry rigs. I wasn't to happy about the Sherpa's we had on the line, but after discussing some known issues along with a caution we had no problems. I say this all the time, but you have to define your mission. We had one Level 2 Safariland holster with the ALS and SLS retention system. I much prefer the ALS, but at first the student was using only the ALS with the SLS in the forward position. While at first glance the practice of omitting one retention system seems harmless, but if the hood should accidentally rotate into the locked position the student maybe in for a rude awakening. It is better to practice with all retentions locked than omit one by choice. Even better to trade in this model for the ALS only model and be done with it. Another student was running a SLS with the protective sleeve I find worthless, with enough tosses in a gear bag the sleeves folds over onto the SLS hood and adds quite a bit of friction making defeating the retention more difficult with time. This is a hardware solution to a software problem. Easy to remove though, so all is not lost.
Because of the extra layers of clothes everyone had to be cautious and vigilant when holstering. A few had waist draw cords that have been known to slip into the holster body when void of a pistol. Then if the student isn't paying attention when they holster up their pistol it could create a situation where the cord disengages the trigger safeties as the pistol then apply enough pressure to fire a round. Not good!
The cold was definitely going to be a factor, being exposed to a cold environment for a full day takes it toll. Technique would be important and we get a glimpse into other techniques that have reliability issues when the hands get cold or the student is wearing gloves. During the manipulation drills it didn’t take much effort to make that point. I have an old cold injury, one of my hands got frostbite and when it gets cold it is virtually useless and I feel like an idiot trying to complete simple tasks. It doesn’t set on until it gets really cold or I have been out in the weather for an extended period, so techniques that work in these conditions are important to me personally.
We had a class with about as big a skill divide as I have seen in a long time. A few novice students with some very experienced gunfighters, it would pose a challenge to keep everyone engaged and challenged, but they also had a great sense of humor that made all the difference in the world. No matter the skill level, there is still much to be gained from preparatory and basic marksmanship drills. This class was no different. We continue to see the same errors from class to class, but not all bad, since we have gotten really good at diagnosing and then correcting them. We ran the gambit of regular drills for most of the morning and when we returned in the afternoon we would start working on gunfighting skills on top of marksmanship skills. Probably the biggest shooting error we see is poor trigger control. This one stems to improper placement of their trigger finger on the trigger, to premature release of the trigger to incorrect trigger movement. The last one is probably the most difficult to solve and we had one student who had a big flinching issue. Once you employ dummy rounds it is pretty obvious, but one thing I noticed beyond many others was the whole body flexing that happens a split second after the hammer drops. This whole body flinching causes some nasty shot groups, usually in the 7:00 region. While we were able to make improvements; that will be a homework assignment they have to practice.
One thing I noticed was that we had several students who had difficulty dealing with their front sight due to age and other related issues. We will all get there at some point, but in having to work with these students I have begun to really look at alternatives to help them. I am pretty sure that traditional sights of any type will eventually become useless as the eyes deteriorate more and more. We will have to look at technology to replace the front sight and some of the mini-red dots are looking to do it nicely. I will be brining one to these classes to give folks an opportunity to see if this will be a workable solution for their situation. While limited in selection I feel it will be a good alternative for many, by no means are iron sights dead, but performance needs to drive the train.
Towards the end of the day we ran some drills that really require consistency and good skills. The repetitions along with the accuracy standard make this a challenging drill and one I really feel has helped us to get a better picture of the student. A single drill is hardly a good assessment, but the same drill compared over time helps us to really gauge the student’s skills. I know my problem is generally when I loss my concentration, it usually happens right when I drop the hammer so while the physical nature of the drill is not that demanding, it is the mental focus that gets most people. You have to take a deep breath prior to each rep and focus. If you can do that enough times then training is really taking place. We secured training and got everyone out of there just at dusk hit us. Aside from some colder weather, what really sucks about winter classes is the shorter days.
We started TD2 with some diagnostics and a few students changed pistols. I don’t get too wrapped around the axle; I do encourage folks to stick with one thing until they feel they got it down. One student wanted to work on a platform to build confidence the other student wanted to work with a full size over a compact. As the day would progress we came up with two pistols that had front sight problems. One nice thing about having a squared away gunsmith is problems like this tend to be a breeze to correct. JB swung into action and helped the students out during a break, which was much appreciated so thanks JB.
Another drill I really like is high round count drills, sometimes a one or two round drill just isn’t enough to help the student really learn. The higher round count drills allow a student to continue to apply their fundamentals, learning from each round. I know for me I had a hard time perfecting the kettlbell snatch move. I could listen and understand the move, but I had a hard time putting all the pieces together. I finally had to just knock out a super high rep count and it worked. I started to figure it out towards the end and while not perfect, it is much more efficient allowing me to push more weight. Sort of the same thing here, as you get rolling in the high round count drills it turns into a video instead of a snap shot. As long as you are not just hosing away at the target there is value to this and other similar drills.
One of my favorite drills is shooting while moving, it really taxes even excellent shooters. This is where you really have to buy into the First, Best Sight Picture (FBSP). You don’t have the time or space to perfect anything, it has to be acceptable and then executed with a smooth squeeze of the trigger. The movement drills give the student the opportunity to work at getting better with their FBSP. You can tell when someone isn’t getting it, they either look like they are moving in slow motion, have what I call a shooter’s limp or look like a tactical ballerina as they stretch their stride in an effort to break the shot. While not easy the concept is simple, when the sight settles on the target zone, break the shot. Harder said than done though.
The afternoon brought some cold and wet weather. I got back a little early to pass out some SWAG and got that bone chill just standing around chewing the fat with some of the students. I am no stranger to cold or operating in cold weather, but it does make for a challenge. I am lucky in that I use above average gear to keep me toasty warm and on this trip I finally was able to put into service a piece I have had with me, but hadn’t had a chance to use. It was the Arc’Teryx Gryphon Half Shell, it is a really neat pull over garment that is well thought out and designed to be used with modern day load outs such as armor or plate carrier. Heavy on the hood and shoulders and light on the sleeves and torso, well engineered. I was really impressed with its weight versus features and as someone who has to pack down to the last ounce (thanks airlines and their overweight baggage fees) I pay attention to those things. It was awesome and aside from being a pain to don/doff this piece of gear will stay in my gear bag for a while.
The rain started out light, then got to a more steady down pour. The targets started to melt and the hands started to get clumsy. You know things are going to be rough then, we were able to still a get a few drills in before it got too bad and we finally called it about an hour early and sent everyone home to dry out and warm up. They were a great bunch and it seemed when the weather got crappy their attitudes picked up.
We started TD3 out with some similar drills then rolled into strong hand only. I don’t shoot my pistol as much as my rifle, which I need to change, but when I do I try to practice SHO. We have had the opportunity to work with some remarkable people some with only one extremity over the years and this program is solid. We go through our usual brief then take it to the firing line. There are not a lot of tricks we teach, just a refocusing of efforts, but one thing we do ask folks to pay attention to is dropping their strong hand thumb down so it touches or is close to touching their middle finger. It really does make a difference; so much that it was one debrief point at the end of the class.
We worked some more elimination drills, which I like doing for the added pressure and it was good to see so many dueling it out with others on the line. One student who is an exceptional shot, can drive tacks all day long was able to make some adjustments and work with the FBSP through the course, you could easily see when he was and when he wasn’t. As soon as a bit of pressure appeared and the distance started to increase his technique would come up short. If he were able to let go of that “perfect sight picture” thought and run with something along the lines of acceptable he did better. Being somewhat OCD I feel his pain, but it was awesome to watch when he did pull it off.
We worked on some drills that had randomly loaded dummy rounds and those nasty trigger control problems surfaced again for many. You get wrapped up in the drill you forget about the dummy rounds, which is the point so we see your natural trigger movement. I am guilty of an occasional mash of the trigger and it took some time to correct. Definitely recommend everyone throw a dummy round into the mix just to keep you honest and they are great for unplanned stoppages.
We finished up with a run at the El Presidente drill, which is the pistol’s marksmanship drill similarly to the Modified Navy Qualification for the rifle. I was super happy to see that only two students failed to qualify, at most we get about 3 or 4 to qualify so seeing this many qualify was awesome.
Through the class everyone did really well, I always enjoy when a class has some camaraderie that comes from the various characters in the class and this class was off the charts. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time so thanks for that everyone. I have to say, that is one of the huge perks with this job. You meet some outstanding people. I am already looking forward to coming back to the greater Phoenix area next year. We will be there twice, for a rifle and pistol class. First one coming up in January so pass the word and come on out.
Posted: 6/26/2012 5:56:18 PM
I just completed Jeff's 3 day, level 2 class. It was awesome.
The hardest part for me was trying to forget all those old bad habits.
Once I got my head around Jeff's instructions, it all started to click.
It's a good class. Take it if you can...