“Everyone’s gotta start somewhere . . .” goes some such saying or other. When an individual decides that they want to begin carrying a firearm on a daily basis for personal defense . . . they need to start “somewhere”.
IMNSHO – the NRA coursework is such place. For the totally new shooter – the Basic Pistol course provides a solid foundation for understanding everything from the bits and pieces of virtually every type of handgun action on the market today . . . to firing those first shots safely and accurately.
Their Personal Protection Inside the Home (PPITH) is a great introduction to the concept of using a handgun for personal defense. The focus on “inside the home” temporarily sets aside all the issues of carrying, drawing and using a handgun for personal defense in all settings and confines it to inside your home. The work is focused on mindset, the ramifications (both mental and legal) of the use of a handgun to defend yourself and then a solid introduction to defensive shooting.
The NRA’s Personal Protection Outside the Home course is the introduction to concealed carry, drawing from a holster and concealment, use of a firearm outside your home for personal defense and a more rigorous introduction to this skill set on the range. Add to this an additional 5-hour shooting block on the range and you have a 14-hour, 2 day course that provides a solid foundation for those new to defensive carry to move forward in their training.
As in all courses, they are held during a specific period of time. This course was held over a Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was scheduled to dry, sunny and hot – low 80s. Sunday was scheduled to be very wet – 1 to 2 inches of rain and temps in the upper 40s or low 50s. Both predictions held true. In lite of this forecast, I moved the lessons around to enable us to get our range work done – both the intro block and the 5-hour advanced block – as well as our guest speaker that taught Lesson III – the legal component - on Saturday with the remaining lessons and final testing completed on Sunday. It was a good choice but by 5:15 PM on Sunday, the group was pretty well drained.
There are three specific shooting “Lessons” – Lesson 5 – Presenting from Concealment, Lesson 6 – Presentation, Position and Movement and finally Lesson 7 – Special Shooting Techniques. Lessons 5 and 6 are contained within the “Basic” PPOTH course with Lesson 7 being the additional 5-hour block to fulfill the Advanced portion of PPOTH. Honestly, I don’t teach the Basic only. There is simply too much value in the Advanced portion that I just teach the Advanced version of PPOTH.
General introductions were done – in this case Mike, Bobbie and Lori are return students from the March PPITH Instructor course. Bobbie and Lori brought their husbands this time and Mike, Bobbie and Lori will finish the 3-course instructor block by coming back next month to take the PPOTH Instructor course as well.
The morning block was spent using dry fire exercises to work on presentation from the holster, loading their firearm, speed reloads and tactical reloads. We also worked on stance, grip and did our best to break some lifelong habits that had developed involving inserting magazines, racking slides, driving to the threat . . . it burned a good chunk of our early morning.
Lesson III was then taught by a friend that has been both a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney in our state. This portion can only be taught by someone authorized by the state to teach the specific components taught in this lesson. For Iowa, that must be an attorney or a law enforcement officer trained to teach these specific components. Chris did a great job, got peppered by a host of questions and we all left clearer on the defensive use of a firearm within the state of Iowa. Then it was out to the range in hopes that we could finish lessons 5,6,and 7 before the rain hit. We were looking at 6.5 hours of real work!
Lesson 5 and 6 consists of 9 specific exercises to help the instructor evaluate the shooter and then begin to build their foundation to complete the course. Depending on the class I will usually add a few more drills to hone their position, trigger press, method of sighting as well as to cover malfunctions. Add to this moving to cover, strong hand only shooting, and the introduction of Point shooting – both two handed and single handed – it makes for a very rigorous and busy introduction.
After lunch we began Lesson 7. By this time we were sitting in the 80s and the range was definitely warming up. As an instructor this is something you MUST be aware of – and how that heat is affecting the shooters. Water and breaks are a must. Frankly, it being the first 80-degree day of the year one shooter did, indeed, overheat. So, I slowed the pace a bit, made sure she and all were drinking and we all got back at it. Bottom line – as shooters or an instructor – keep your head in the game!
Lesson 7 is 12 additional exercises including everything from shooting at contact distances to facing away from a threat and turning to face and engage the threat. I also added in some cognition drills from time to time to keep everyone thinking. And sprinkled in cautions, reminders and complements as needed. By the end of Exercise 21 – it had been a long range day. The round count had just topped 300 rounds and the gang was hot, tired, sweaty and ready to find a place to relax for a bit.
And isn’t that just the time when a threat would appear to hand you a very bad day. On this occasion, while not being a threat – I did present one more set of drills – marksmanship on the LEB target with distances from 5 m to 25 meters. The drills went like this:
- 3-rounds, 5m on #5
- 3-rounds, 7m on #3
- 3-rounds, 10m on #1
- 3-rounds, 10m on #4
- 3-rounds, 10m on #6
- 3-rounds, 10m Triangle
- 6-rounds, 50 ft., center mass
- 6-rounds, 25m, lower square
All can find reasons to be pleased with their final target . . . and all can find areas to improve, as it should be with any course work. These courses are meant to teach foundational elements. Training past that occurs when each shooter returns home, goes to their own range and works on the fundamentals taught in the PPOTH Advanced course.
Sunday found us finishing the lessons that covered psychological responses to a shooting, the physiological response of your body to such a high stress event, modes of carry, types of holsters, levels of awareness – all those lessons bypassed on Saturday so that we could remain dry and warm on Sunday. It turned out to be a good choice because it was raining as the crew arrived on Sunday and it remained raining well into the night.
A final exam with grading and final discussions . . . and it was over.
I find I was spoiled yet again by a group of shooters who truly came to learn, work and give it 100%. So to Bobbie, Jeff, Lori, Dan and Mike – thanks for coming, thanks for all your hard work . . . and I’m looking forward to seeing you all in May!