Saturday, January 16, 2021

Training - LEO Proficiency Review

 I’ve chatted a couple of times about “Proficiency” . . . the links are here . . .

 Range Trip -  Maintaining Proficiency

 Training – Are You Proficient

 So what more can be said . . . well, how about some thoughts on how to go about a fairly rigorous review of either your own proficiency . . . or the review of the proficiency of an organization.  And that is the focus of this particular post – the proficiency of our local PD in the use and deployment of their duty weapon. 

 It’s that time of year for “Qualification” . . . the trip to the range to shoot the ILEA handgun course of fire.  It’s roughly equivalent to the old FBI handgun qualification and is the standard for officers in Iowa.  The dirty little secret about cops, training and range time is that it is last on the list for a typical officer.  Frankly, they simply don’t have the time while filling all the other training squares to meet a very long list of civil training requirements.  Add to that the fact that their training ammunition budget is very, very slim – the average officer sends less than 500 rounds down range each year – and about 20% of that is shooting up their carry ammunition in preparation for the qualification shoot and shooting the actual qualification COF.  Anything over this is done on the officer’s own time and at the officer’s personal expense.  There are some regions of the country where the round count falls to 200 or less – including the officer’s qualification round.

 The point is not to bang away on the officers or their agencies – but just to point out that with low round counts – proficiency suffers and suffers badly.  And an officer may not even realize it until “that moment” arrives – and they struggle to meet the threat.  Honestly, that’s a hell of a time to find out they need to spend more time on the range.

 I was contacted by the local training officer to see if I could conduct a couple half day range seminars to work with officers prior to this fall’s qualification round.  So, over 2 days I conducted 4ea, 4-hour “Proficiency Reviews” with a total of 14 officers attending.  In the context of the review the word “Proficiency” meant could they run their gun, get both rapid, multiple round hits AND very precise hits as well.  Were their fundamentals solid – stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through?  Were their emergency reloads solid?  Was their muzzle discipline good?  Did they make good use of both high cover and low cover?  Could they move rapidly and engage a threat from multiple distances?  Could they quickly and accurately engage a target from 5 yards to 25 yards?  And could they do all this in their full duty gear – they wore either a fully kitted out duty belt or plate carrier.  All officers wore a Level 3 vest.

 This was NOT a training course . . . but an evaluation course.  I made a few tweaks throughout for officers struggling with precise shots that typically revolved around either adjusting their grip or their sight alignment.  There was a fondness for not maintaining the “equal height” between the front sight and the rear notch.  This resulted it the “windage” of the round being fine, but the “elevation” was typically low.  As soon as they dialed in “equal height, equal light” . . . all was fine. 

 I evaluated their stance, how they drove their weapon to the target, their follow through, their ability to draw during movement, their movement to cover and use of cover.  Honestly, for some they had not actually done any of this stuff since their academy days.  So, it was well past time they take a hard look at themselves – and that’s what we did.

 Let me review my expectations of the officers.  I have a true fondness for LETargets SEB target.  It allows for a wide range of drills, from rapid multi-round engagements to single round precision engagements.  It allows for cognition drills calling out either individual numbers and shapes.  You can get a tremendous amount of good work done on these targets and it is my go-to choice for individual practice as well as coursework.  It is also an unforgiving target.  Let’s talk about scoring individual drills. 

 For the individual officer used to shooting their ILEA course of fire – the target of choice is a “Q-Traget” – a single silhouette with a “Q” where the heart is imagined to be.  Any round that is touching the outline or within the outline of the silhouette is considered a “hit”.   A round touching the outline where the threat’s right ear would be . . . carries the exact same weight a center mass direct hit on the “Q”.  I take a significantly different view.

 On the SEB target you must be touching or within the shape you are required to engage for the specific drill.  So, while you have an entire silhouette, within that you have an “Ocular Cavity” triangle, a “High Center Mass” box and a “Pelvic Girdle” box.   Add to that two numbered circles, two numbered squares and two numbered triangles . . . you end up with a real playground for challenging the officer.  I like it!!!

 As for the officer load out, each of their three magazines are loaded to 10 rounds each.  This provides a larger number of emergency reloads and allows me to evaluate the officer’s technique.

 So let’s put it all together – the full evaluation through a set of 20 drills.  Yeah, this is going to be a long post, take what value from it that you wish.  I use a lot of these posts as a reminder of what I did, why I did it and how well it worked – my After Action Report if you will – my AAR.  So here we go . . .

Drill 1 – Drive, Touch, Press . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds . . . Single round engagement

This drill begins at the High Compressed Ready.  On the command “DRIVE! the shooter drives the front blade to the designated target – in this case the Circle with a #1 in it.  At this point I am evaluating their stance, their grip, how their arms are extended, the position of their head, are they leaning slightly “into the gun”.  This process allows me to see all of this in a static position rather than trying to catch it all on the fly.

On the command “Touch!” the shooter touches the trigger.  This allows me to evaluate how their finger is placed as well as reviewing the overall stability of their stance.

 On the command “Presssssssss!” I ask them to smoothly press the trigger straight to the rear, complete their follow through and then return to the High Compressed Ready.

 This drill is the foundation of shooting to me.  It covers the entire physical process from bottom of foot to the return to High Compressed Ready.  It is the ideal drill to fine tune, detect problems, to teach and explain little tweaks it their stance, grip, evaluation of their sight alignment and sight picture, their follow through process . . . just a ton of basic, foundational pistol shooting information.  For me as a shooter it is where I return to fix any problems that creep into my performance as well.  Or if I change shooting platforms or evaluate a new platform.  This is “Home” and it needs to be as perfect as it can be before you move forward to the next drill.

 Drill 2 – From High Compressed Ready . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds . . . Single Round Engagement

 The drill begins from the High Compressed Ready.  On the “UP!” command the shooter drives out, places a single round in the Circle with a #2 in it, completes a follow through and returns to the High Compressed Ready.  With this drill I am evaluating the whole flow of the shooter’s engagement.  I’m checking shot placement, grip stability (does the shooter reset their hands between rounds), muzzle discipline – does it remain straight and level for the whole engagement, is their trigger press smooth (no slapping the trigger), are they consistently doing a deliberate follow through after each engagement. 

 Drill 3 – With a Draw from the holster . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds . . . Single Round Engagement

 The drill begins with a loaded weapon in the shooter’s holster.  On the “UP!” command they draw and fire a single round on in the Square with a #3 in it, they complete a follow through and scan and holsters their weapon.  This allows the shooter to evaluate their engagement in detail and do a self-evaluation of things they may need to work on.  The instructor can also use this time to fully evaluate the shooter’s draw stroke and engagement as well as their follow through and scan and offer suggestions if needed.

 Drill 4 – With Movement and a Draw from the holster . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds . . . Single Round Engagement

 One survival technique is to simply move “off the X” as you draw – forcing the threat to try and follow your movement.  The drill begins with a loaded weapon in the shooter’s holster.  On the “UP!” command the shooter takes a giant step left or right while drawing and extending towards the threat.  As they “plant” they engage the threat with a single round in the High Center Mass box.  This drill allows the shooter to evaluate their draw-stroke during their movement as well as how rapidly they can plant and engage a threat as well as their accuracy and precision.

 Drill 5 – “Hammer” . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 A “Hammer” is a two round engagement just as fast as you can pull the trigger.  The drill begins with a loaded weapon in the shooter’s holster.  On the “UP!” commander the shooter draws and places a “Hammer” in the High Center Mass box of the threat.  This enables the shooter to see how reliable their follow-up shots are and allows them to make any adjustments to their grip and stance they might need to increase their accuracy and precision.

 Drill 6 – With Movement - “Hammer” . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 The shooter adds movement to the “Hammer” by taking a large step either left or right as they draw their weapon on the “UP!” command.  They then plant and engage the threat.  This allows the shooter to evaluate their performance as dynamic movement is introduced to the drill.

 Drill 7 – Failure Drill . . . 7-yards, 15 rounds

 The “Failure Drill” is comprised of a “Hammer” followed by a single round to the Ocular Cavity.  It began life as the “Mozambique Drill” at Gunsite but became known as the “Failure Drill” after it was adopted by LA SWAT.  It pushes the shooter on two fronts – the first is pure speed, getting two combat effective hits as quickly as possible and then it demands an immediate switch to a precise shot.  It allows the shooter to evaluate their ability to handle both the requirement for speed as well as extreme precision.

 Drill 8 – With Movement – “Failure Drill” . . . 7-yards, 15 rounds

 The introduction of Movement with a large step left or right during the draw and then planting and delivering a Hammer and a precise head shot allows the shooter to evaluate everything from their movement to a fast and smooth draw, their accuracy of a very rapid pair of rounds and then a precise headshot.  This is probably as close to an actual response to a gun fight as you can get . . . “moving off the X”, a rapid 2-round engagement followed by a single precise shot.  This allows you and the shooter to evaluate their ability to quickly and accurately neutralize an active threat.

 The use of cover is an important skillset – both the shooter’s actual movement to cover and then their use of cover in an effective manner.  The next five drills cover the review of this skill set.  Three drills evaluate the movement to low cover and its use both to the right, the left and over the top.  The drill starts 5 yards or so rearward of cover.  On the “UP!” command the shooter moves to cover and engages the threat using a “Hammer”.

 The next two drills has the shooter repeat this engagement but through the use of high cover, first to the right and then to the left.

 These five drills allows the shooter to evaluate their ability to move to cover, take a solid shooting position and then quickly and accurately engage a threat.

Drill 9 – Movement to Low Cover . . . Hammer . . . Right Side . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 You begin this drill about 10 yards behind the “Cover”.  On the “UP!” the shooter moves to cover and then “rolls” out to the right to engage the threat with a “Hammer”.  Things to evaluate are their movement to cover, their final position behind cover – make sure they don’t crowd the cover, there should be enough distance to for easy movement, firearm manipulation and that they can fully extend towards the threat.  When they “roll” out to the right it should expose a minimum amount of their body to the threat.

 Drill 10 – Movement to Low Cover . . . Hammer . . . Left Side . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds


You begin this drill about 10 yards behind the “Cover”.  On the “UP!” the shooter moves to cover and then “rolls” out to the left to engage the threat with a “Hammer”.  Things to evaluate are their movement to cover, their final position behind cover – make sure they don’t crowd the cover, there should be enough distance for easy movement, firearm manipulation and that they can fully extend towards the threat.  When they “roll” out to the left it should expose a minimum amount of their body to the threat.

 Drill 11 – Movement to Low Cover . . .  Hammer . . . Over the Top . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 You begin this drill about 10 yards behind the “Cover”.  On the “UP!” the shooter moves to cover and then rises above the cover to engage the threat with a “Hammer”.  Things to evaluate are their movement to cover, their final position behind cover – make sure they don’t crowd the cover, there should be enough distance for easy movement, firearm manipulation and that they can fully extend towards the threat.  When they over the top it should expose a minimum amount of their body to the threat.

 Drill 12 – Movement to High Cover . . . Hammer . . . Right Side . . . 7-Yards, 10 rounds

 You begin this drill about 10 yards behind the “Cover”.  On the “UP!” the shooter moves to cover and then “rolls” out to the right to engage the threat with a “Hammer”.  Things to evaluate are their movement to cover, their final position behind cover – make sure they don’t crowd the cover, there should be enough distance for easy movement, firearm manipulation and that they can fully extend towards the threat.  When they “roll” out to the right it should expose a minimum amount of their body to the threat.

 Drill 13 – Movement to High Cover . . . Hammer . . . Left Side . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 You begin this drill about 10 yards behind the “Cover”.  On the “UP!” the shooter moves to cover and then “rolls” out to the left to engage the threat with a “Hammer”.  Things to evaluate are their movement to cover, their final position behind cover – make sure they don’t crowd the cover, there should be enough distance for easy movement, firearm manipulation and that they can fully extend towards the threat.  When they “roll” out to the left it should expose a minimum amount of their body to the threat.

 Drill 14 – Combat Effective Hits . . . Single Round Engagement . . . 7-yards, 10 rounds

 A concern of many shooters revolves around not being able to hold their handgun perfectly steady.  Of course that is a near impossibility and attempting to accomplish that while dealing with a lethal threat moves it to the fully impossible arena.  So, how can a shooter be shown that they can accomplish Combat Effective Hits (hits that diminish a threat’s ability to do you harm) even though their handgun isn’t completely stable?  This is the drill I’ve come to rely on.  

With a 10-round magazine have the shooter draw, extend and get a good sight alignment/sight picture on the high center mass box.  Then have them move their firearm in a figure 8 pattern with the cross over in the entire silhouette.  Have them continue to do this until their magazine runs dry.  While moving in the figure 8 each time you call out “UP!” they press off a single round as they cross the high center mass box – but the handgun never stops moving . . . never.  As they continue their figure 8 movement continue to periodically call out “UP!” and they will engage the target with a single round.  Continue for all 10 rounds.

 Typically the shooter will place the majority of their rounds will within the high center mass box.  This will help them see that even though their weapon is moving, they can still attain solid combat effective hits on their threat.

 Drill 15 – Balance of Speed and Precision . . .  7-yards, 30 rounds

 Begin the drill with three magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds.  Remember, you are shooting on an LE SEB target.  This drill forces you to balance speed against precision as well as being a cognition drill – shoot exactly what is asked of you.  On an “UP!” command the shooter moves, draws and delivers a “hammer” to the high center mass box.  On the “HEAD!” command the shooter moves, draws and delivers a single precise round to the ocular cavity triangular box.  On the “1!” or “2!” or . . . . “6!” command the shooter moves, draws and delivers a single precise round to the designated shape.  On the “Circle! Or “Square!” or “Triangle!” the shooter moves, draws and delivers a single round to designated shapes.  The shapes within the silhouette are ignored for these commands.  Besides the obvious purpose for this drill, balancing speed and precision – it also brings out the importance of being a thinking shooter. 

 The next few drills are used to have the shooter evaluate their overall marksmanship at three common distances – 10 yards, 15 yards and 25 yards. 

 Drill 16 – 10 Yards . . . Draw, With Movement . . . Hammer . . . 10 rounds

 On the “UP!” command the shooter moves, draws and engages the threat with a “hammer”.  This begins to push the marksmanship element of the shooter’s skillset.  At 10 yards the speed of the 2-round engagement should approach the speed of a “hammer” but getting the hit takes precedence.  The 2-round engagement is repeated 5 times.

 Drill 17 – 15 Yards . . . Draw, With Movement . . . 2-round engagement, slow fire . . . 10 rounds

The evaluation of the marksmanship element of the shooter’s skillset at 15 yards.  The speed of the 2-round engagement should such that it insures the shooter “gets the hit” as rapidly as possible but accuracy is the primary concern.  The 2-round engagement is repeated 5 times.

 Drill 18 – 25 Yards . . . Movement to Low Cover . . . 2-round engagement, supported, slow fire . . . 10 rounds

Finally, at 25 yards the shooter moves to cover and uses it to engage the threat from a supported position with a slow-fire, 2-round engagement.  This should be repeated 5 times.

 At the end of these three drills the shooter should have a better understanding of the area of his marksmanship that needs more attention.

 Drill 19 – 7 yards, 10 yards, 15 yards . . . 2-round engagement . . . random distance . . . 10-rounds, slow fire

Rapid movement is a very common element of a lethal engagement.  This drill begins at the 5-yard line with the shooter facing the threat.  A distance of either 7, 10 or 15 yards is called out and the shooter moves as fast as they run to the called distance and then engages the threat with 2 rounds.  The speed of the engagement should be as fast as possible yet one that insures a solid hit.  This 2-round drill is repeated 5 times.

 Drill 20 – Figure 8  . . . 2-round engagement . . . 10-rounds

 The final drill is one that brings the whole review together.  I first experienced the Figure 8 drill in coursework I took from Rob Pincus.  It is a way to simulate a 360-degree range on a traditional 90-degree-ish range.  My drill for this overall evaluation has been modified so the shooter only shoots their own target.  It is run one shooter at a time. 

The shooter walks a figure 8 around both a high-cover element and a low-cover element.  On the “UP!” command the shooter moves to the closest cover and engages their target with 2 rounds.  Should the shooter run “dry” it is expected that they will use cover while reloading.  Should a malfunction occur, it would also be expected that cover would be used while the malfunction is cleared. 

 Their three magazines start with 10-rounds in each magazine.  The drill is run until all three magazines are empty.

 The total score possible is 220 – meaning that all rounds are within the designated area called for the drill.  The expected score is 80%.  If the shooter is an instructor, the expected score is 90%.  So how did the department do??  There were 17 officers . . . the high score was 90% . . . the low score was 57% and the average for the entire department was 70%.  That said, at the end of my portion of the day the officers each shot their qualification round using the ILEA COF as defined by the state of Iowa.  As stated earlier, a “hit” is a round inside or touching the outside of a silhouette of a standard Q target.  Passing score is 80% and all officers easily passed their qual course. 

 So what to take away from this all.  First and foremost range time is a necessity if you plan to remain proficient.  My recommendation is a MINIMUM of 1000 rounds a year, roughly 100 rounds a month.  Taking coursework annually is should also be considered a necessity.  One day coursework at a minimum . . . multiday if at all possible.  There is always something to learn, to improve, to finetune.

 So, take the challenge – shoot the 20 Drill evaluation and let me know how it went.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Range Trip – 10-24-2020 – Maintaining Proficiency

Practice with purpose . . . I say this to my students over and over.  Do not go to the range just to make holes in the paper.  A range trip should focus on a specific skill set, provide practice for an issue the shooter may be having or . . . it may be just to maintain proficiency.  So, let’s chat about that specifically – maintaining proficiency.  Proficiency in what exactly???

 In a number of areas that Gunsite would call the Combat Triad – mindset, gun handling and marksmanship.

 Mindset – your mindset encompasses the entirety of your defensive skill set.  Do you take the idea of personal responsibility for your safety, the safety of your family or someone in your charge seriously??  Do you carry every day everywhere you can legally?  Do you maintain a “Condition Yellow” – are you observant of your surroundings?  Do you understand that there are genuinely folks out there that would do you harm given a chance?  Yeah, yeah – I understand . . . we’re in Iowa for Pete’s sake, relax . . . That is, of course, your choice . . . but Murphy’s a bitch . . . just sayin’.  As far as how a range trip helps maintain your Mindset – the fact that you take the maintenance of your skillsets serious enough that you do consistent range trips goes a long way towards maintaining a Mindset of being aware and understanding that you’re responsible for your personal defense.

 Gun Handling – Can you “run your gun”??  This includes loading, clearing, managing malfunctions and clearing them quickly, use of a light and sling, mounting it to your shoulder, remembering holdovers at multiple distances, us of accessories like backup sights, your optic of choice, checking your weapon zero, cleaning, quickly and smoothly drawing your pistol  . . . honestly it’s not a long list . . . but it is an important list.

 Marksmanship . . . can you hit what you need to in a timely manner?  There is a true balance between speed and precision.  For my range work I’ve settled on rapid single round engagements – a must to refresh the mechanics of mounting your weapon or drawing your pistol.  I spend some time on what Gunsite calls “hammers” – two rapid fire rounds to the high center mass area.  And finally some time on “failure drills” . . . a “hammer’ followed by a single round to the head box.

 As for time for me, start to finish is typically an hour to an hour and a half.  I try to keep a modest round count – 3ea 20 round magazines for my AR and 3ea 15 round magazines for my Glock 17 – and that is my every day carry weapon.  Total round count for the trip is 105 rounds.  Is this enough to learn a new skill set?? No.  Is it enough to maintain a skill level?  Yes, provided you mix in some dry fire as well outside of the range.  I accomplish this work with a SIRT pistol in a Glock format.

 Of course, I try to maintain proficiency with other weapons as well.  So, monthly, I try to shoot courses of fire that consumes . . .

 50 Rounds of .22 cal for my Ruger 22 precision rifle – I use Eley Club

40 Rounds PMC XTAC .223 for my Ruger Predator

40 Rounds PMC XTAC .308 for my Ruger Precision

100 Rounds 9mm for my Glock 17 – usually in two separate 50 round trips

60 Rounds of .223 for my “Duty” AR that I use for personal defense.

 Here’s an image of a 3-month loadout for range work.

 Bottom line it’s not a high round count annually – but it is enough – in my opinion – to maintain a skill set.

 Now, if I want to improve my skill set, or learn a new one this will typically involve taking a course of some type typically from 1 to 3 days and typically in the neighborhood of 250 to 1200 rounds of ammunition.  That is where you learn and cement in a new skill set.  The work listed above is where you work to maintain your skill level.  The trick here – other than actually finding enough ammunition to pull this off – is the individual discipline to actually do the work.  And, with the typical pace of life, that can also be a challenge.  Find the time.  Do the work.  Maintaining this skill set is simply too important.

 The next part of this is evaluation of the work you’re doing.  There are tons of ways to “score” our targets.  I score it pretty simply – if the round is “in” or touching, it’s a hit . . . if it isn’t you “drop one”.  I used a bit of a different target this time – a standard IDPA target with two 3” “stickies” I stuck near the shoulders. 

I engaged the left “stickie” from 25 yards with my AR, single round engagements.  Hanging my head in shame . . . I shot a 10%.  Holdover is a real thing, just sayin’ . . .  And I engaged the right sticky with my Glock 17 and shot a 50% - when using a combination of a Trijicon High Vis front sight and “The Claw” rear sight (which has a BIG rear notch) it should be obvious which rounds I took the time to get a good sight alignment on . . . and which I did not.  This is another purpose of maintenance trips – to remind you that the details matter.  If you last took a carbine class a year ago . . . do you remember all the little details you learned???  Range trips are necessary . . . just sayin’ . . .

 The remaining 85 rounds were split between the headbox and the High Center Mass box . . . 20 rounds for the head – I dropped 5.  65 rounds for the HCM box – I also dropped five.  I dropped a total of 10 rounds out of 85 for a score of 88%.  I accept 80% as a minimum score on the range . . . so I’ll take it. 

There was one other element I added on this day that I’ll present as a separate post . . . but I’ve added a “battle belt”.  It’s about a 6” tall, padded belt with molle loops and a belt running through it’s center to secure it over my regular belt.  It allows me to position two mag carriers for my G17 mags, 3 mag carriers for my PMAGS, allows me to secure a blowout kit in the center of my back and I added a SERPA holster with Molle attachments at around 4 o’clock.  Honestly, I just can’t get into tac vests . . . just not my thing.  I “grew up” with the LBE rigs of the late 60 and I found this similar but more flexible.  My reason for adding this is that my range work going forward will include both my AR and my pistol and this seemed the best way to go about it.  I’ve taken high volume pistol and carbine coursework before and tried clip on mag carriers as well as using my pant’s pockets . . . and it just seemed like it was time to move on.  Honestly, not sure how this experiment will end, but I’ll stick with it for 2021 and then reassess at the end of the year.

 So, I took a lot of words to say . . . go to the damn range, do it consistently, be diligent, take your ability to run your gun and hit what  you need to hit seriously . . . because . . . honestly . . . when you call 911 . . . the person that will need to respond to the immediate threat is . . . YOU!  The cops will just bat “clean-up” and put down crime scene tape and chalk lines . . .

You, and you alone are your first responder.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

AAR - Home Defense Shotgun - Beta Course

 Course development is not, and should not be, a trivial task. 

 “Yep, I sat down this weekend and wrote a whole new training course about shotguns!!!”

 No! That’s not how real life works . . . (I new phrase of mine that seems to have bubbled out of late, but it’s accurate in many cases, including this one).  I’ve discussed this before when NAPSI was developing  our initial sets of course work and I detailed that process over three posts.  I’ve included those links at the end of the article for those that might be interested.  However, a short review is in order of how NAPSI goes about it and how it applies to our new Foundations of Home Defense Shotgun course that I beta tested this past weekend.

 The basic concepts of the course were actually put together as fellow trainer Chris and I drove out to Cleveland, Ohio to conduct a Beta course on our Foundations of Defensive pistol nearly 6 years ago.  Much has happened in the interim, much has been learned, much has been incorporated in our 4 current sets of coursework revolving around the handgun . . . it was time to move forward with coursework for a whole new platform

 There were two obvious directions – AR/Carbine platform . . . or Shotgun.  The “glitz” is obviously down the AR/Carbine path . . . however the more valuable path in our opinion was the shotgun path.  Why??  The percentage of families that have shotguns tucked away somewhere versus those that have and AR/Carbine are significantly higher.  Heck, in the Midwest and most states with a significant rural area darn near every rural home has one tucked away somewhere.  It was obvious which path to chose – that of the Foundations of Home Defense Shotgun.

 Actually, the course has been under discussion for nearly two years.  Decisions were made about which common elements could be rolled in, which unique ones needed to be added, what drills would make sense, what types of rounds would be used in the course and a dozen more sets of details and items were discussed.  Over the summer that boiled down to a set of coursework that could be reviewed and discussed by NAPSI’s core instructors and allowed some elements to be wrung out on the range.  This led to the last and final draft and the release of the “Foundations of Home Defense Shotgun”- Beta release ready for field testing.

 Field testing can be challenging simply because of the amount of time required by the “students” – a number of students with a range of shotgun experience that are willing to invest a full day – the coursework will run about 9 hours with a full class – and the additional time required to have them write up their After Action Report (AAR) to give us feedback and suggestions.  Fortunately for me I met most of these folks at the shooting course offered by Jim Erwin that I reviewed just awhile back.  I also picked up a few others as well.  When all was said and done I had two LEOs – one of which is a trainer – both for officers as well as civilians – a shooter friend at Jim’s course, the local gun shop owner and his employee and a new-to-me fellow that had never attended a formal set of firearms coursework.  That’s a pretty darn good mix of experience to help us wring out our FHDS course work.

 For me, it’s standard to create a power point of said coursework.  I hate to keep poking my nose into and out of a course outline book.  That took an additional couple of days before I was ready so this past Saturday, October 10th was class day.  I also like to bring a full lineup of firearms, a full range bag and my two first aid kits – the Boo-Boo Kit and the Blow Out Kit.  Firearms included a break action, a bolt action, a semi-automatic, and two pump actions that I have equipped as defensive shotguns.  I fired up the coffee – opened the box of donuts (there were cops on premises ya know) and we got underway right at 8AM.

 Beta coursework is taught as though each and every shooter – for the FHDS course – is a new or inexperienced shooter.  Even if they were experienced bird hunters, the defensive use of a shotgun bears little resemblance to knocking down a pheasant or duck.  So . . . you start with the paperwork.  I begin each course with sign-in sheets, hold harmless agreements, media releases and collecting the money.  Of course, in this case the course work was paid for by their willingness to act as beta testers.

 Introductions were made, a review of the facility was given, and a medical brief was also given.  I always identify four people – the one with the most medical training and experience (most of the time myself, but not in this case).  Their job will be to respond to the medical emergency.  Second is someone with a good cell signal – their job is to call 911 and let them know that aid is needed.  Third is the person to go to the end of the driveway to make sure the ambulance knows where to go and fourth, a note taker to list everything as it happens.  I also take inventory of any known medical conditions or prescriptions that may cause problems throughout the day.

 This out of the way a short bio helps introduce me to the folks and lets them have some idea of my qualifications and experience.  Finally a short descriptions of the lessons to come that cover the different types of shotguns, fundamental gun safety, specific ways to outfit a home defense shotgun, we cover shotgun ammunition, key elements to home defense and the use of a shotgun to accomplish them, range safety and specific range protocols, live fire training, use of cover and concealment, a final exercise to evaluate the application of newly learned skills, a written exam, my final thoughts and a course debrief and After Action Review. 

 I have a fondness for a Range Shooting Sheet – a spreadsheet that details each drill as far as dry/live, round count, distance to target, and specific times that might need to be met.  This Range Sheet was five single sided pages and covered 16 unique shooting drills, both dry and live fire.  The range work ended up being two flights of three and took around 2-1/2 hours. 

 Just flat out – it’s a very busy day.  Taught as a Beta course, where I have never put my words to the course outline . . . it becomes even more challenging.  All that said, I made the call to my wife at 5:12 PM that it was a wrap and I was headed home.  The fact that I was giving the course to experienced shooters easily shaved an hour off the course.  The fact that I have now actually let the course “words” flow out of my mouth at least once should go a long way to make sure I stick within the 9-hour window.

 Bottom line, after 6 years of using this process to develop coursework, this Beta class simply reinforced that THERE . ARE . NO . SHORTCUTS.  PERIOD.

 As for what’s next for this coursework, we’ll wait to see what the individual student after action reports look like, make any final tweaks . . . but honestly . . . it went well enough that I consider this coursework to be “Live” and will probably schedule one or two classes before our year runs out.  Good job to all the “students” your participation and feedback truly do make a difference in turning out the very best in coursework for future shooters.

 And, if you’re an instructor that’s developing coursework of your own, I will continue to strongly recommend the use of Beta testing throughout the course development – from little chunks as you are putting it together – up to a couple before you finally pronounce it “Live” and ready to be taught.

 If anyone every has a questions about this process you’re more than welcome to give me a call for a chat, more than happy to help.

 Past posts on course development and it’s process.

First Review - Cleveland Trip

Second Review with Iowa Trainer Friends

Third Review - Sucking it Up and Reading the AARs

Monday, September 14, 2020

Review - Jim Erwin - Defensive Shooting Tune-up 9-12-2020

I had the opportunity to take about 4-5 hours of instruction presented by Jim Erwin this past weekend.  Before too much time slips away, I want to share my thoughts on Jim, his skill as an instructor and the coursework as it was presented.

 Short answer . . . Get Some!!!!

 Shooting Performance Institute

But wait . . . there’s more.  Isn’t there always.

 A friend of mine owns a local gun store, Tactical Creations.  One of the firearms they are dealers for is STACATO, a Texas base pistol manufacturer that was born in the ‘racing” community but has since transitioned to the professional and civilian market as a carry gun option.  Jim is their regional representative.  Jim was coming for Open House the store was hosting and was to highlight STI products during that open house.  After that there was an opportunity to take a 4-5  hour set of coursework offered by Jim.  I was offered a table during the open house to present my coursework and also a slot in the course – I quickly said yes to both.

 Frankly, I had my doubts about Jim.  He is truly a been there – done that kinda guy.  75th Rangers, Delta, Executive Security overseas.  I have had some experiences with “elite” operators and sometimes they have a real problem dealing with us lowly civilians.  Would we spend all our time listening to war stories and being shown all these tacti-cool drills . . . or would there be something of value offered for the everyday carry kinda guy.

 First impressions didn’t do anything to lower my fears . . . he’s a good-sized critter and while pushing 50 he’s obviously in good shape.  Of course, he’s a “firearms instructor” so he’s sporting a “Lion Cut”, shaved head, full sleeve of tats on one arm and a half on the other.  Yep . . . it’s going to be a long day . . . and then he spoke . . . and the day changed.

 Yeah, I know, I’m a judgmental asshole . . . so sue me.  Not like each and every one of us hasn’t been judged or judged someone else.  It’s just part of life and especially the shooting community.  The trick is this . . . can you live up to what you are claiming you can do . . . and if you’re an instructor, can you really share the information you want to the students paying good money for your coursework. 

 As I said, the moment Jim said “Hi, I’m Jim” you could feel that there was a real person there and not just an image of an “operator”.  I listened throughout the morning as he spoke with people interested in STI products – how he listened to what they wanted, described his products, probed their shooting ability and problems they were having, while he offered suggestions as well as handling anything else they threw at him.  There was no BS . . . simply straight talk – one shooter to another.  It was refreshing.

About 1:30 PM I headed out to the range to set things up for him.  We were scheduled for around 200 rounds downrange and about 4 hours of work – it became 5 hours with just raw darkness stopping the range time.  In fact, the last shooter shooting his last set of drills was aided by Jim illuminating the target line with a flashlight. 

The session began with a safety brief, medical brief and Jim giving an abbreviated bio on his history and experience.  And that was followed by his general philosophy.  If I had to boil it down I would say is was . . . “do the basics, do them very well . . . and speed will follow”.  So, what did the basics consist of?  Let me break them down in the way that I took them – I’m sure Jim will offer correction if necessary.

 1:  Stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press follow through are the foundation of everything.

 2:  Malfunction clearing, magazine changes must be smooth and quick.

We spent hours working through number one.  The range was about 5 yards.  Our target was my favoring the LE Targets SEB target.  Our very first drill . . . all 30 rounds of it . . . were single round engagements – 5 rounds at a time – on each of the 6 shapes on the targets.  For each draw he was relentless on tweaking us from our stance, through our grip (I’ll spend a few extra words on this), driving to the target and transitioning our sight to the front sight, a smooth trigger press, follow-through in prep for a follow-up shot, and the a return to holster.  As I said . . . he was relentless – little words here, moving hands there, questioning, explaining, listening . . . for 30 rounds, one round at a time.

 During his startup of the class he said he’d recently taken coursework from Todd Jerett and that Todd had made an adjustment to his grip that had a tremendous affect on his accuracy . . . making sure the front-strap of his grip came down in the center of the Proximal bone of each finger on your dominant hand.  This is the bone immediately after the knuckle (moving towards the finger tip) on your hand.  They should all make contact with the face of the front-strap.  Ok, what the heck . . . I’m here to learn, why not try it.  Holy Crap!!!  My tendency to hit low-left with my G17 carry gun simply disappeared . . . instantly.  Holy crap!!!  Sure, sure . . . let’s see if it holds.  Well, let me tell you, it was rock solid.  If I had a good sight picture – I was golden with my trigger press.  In fact, honestly, I was really “on” dripping zero shots through the first magazine . . . 15 rounds . . . down zero.  “Bill . . . you’re not missing . . . shoot faster!!!”  So I did . . . just as soon as I saw the green dot of my Trijicon front post in the center of the target I pressed the trigger . . . and took about .3 off my shot time.  For the second magazine I dropped 3 I think . . . but I could “feel” them as I pressed and knew I had pressed early.  It was really something.

 Looking up and down I saw everyone move from “meh” on the first target to reasonably solid by the 6th.  Real, genuine, demonstrable improvement in a very short time.  One of the skills Jim truly posses is the ability to break down a fairly complex task . . . drawing and engaging a threat . . . to clear steps with an ability to watch and tweak each shooter regardless of their skill level.  He could find words to convey his thoughts.  You’d think that that’s an easy job . . . but if you’ve every taught someone something, you appreciate just how difficult that can be.  And with 6 individuals, 6 different skill levels, 6 different personalities . . . you can begin to appreciate Jim’s skill at teaching defensive shooting.

 Next up was what I called accelerated pairs.  Two rounds, high center mass . . . just as fast as you can run the gun.  This allowed him to work on recoil mitigation and again showed just how powerful the simple adjustment is my grip was.  I was still shaking my head at that.

 Next was a magazine full of mag changes.  Start with a single round in the gun and an empty magazine inserted.  On the “UP” draw and engage and do an emergency reload when your gun runs dry and holster.  Then, pick up the dropped magazine, execute a tactical reload, holster and stow the magazine.  Repeat on command until you run dry.  It was a very simple drill that let the shooter practice both an emergency reload and a tactical reload.  Again, Jim tweaked and changed and nudged everyone throughout this drill to improve their performance.

 This was followed by movement.  Turning to the left.  Turning to the right.  Turning to the rear.  Moving parallel to the line, engaging a specific target while squaring up to the threat and sidestepping either left or right depending on the direction of movement.  And finally, moving the firearm from one hand to the other, while moving and then engaging single handed while movement continued.

 Let’s just say it was a busy 5-ish hours.  Really good work was done by all.

 So in reflection, there are old sayings that are old because they’ve survived the test of time.  “Don’t judge a Book by its cover”.  While appearing to be a “tacti-cool” shooter, Jim is the real deal as an instructor.  Clear. Articulate.  Focused.  Solid material that is presented in an exceptionally clear and concise way.  And . . . he’s not afraid to laugh, crack a joke and be just one of the guys on the line.

 Jim, it was a great experience to take some coursework from you.  I genuinely appreciate your time and your feedback – I came away a better shooter – thanks.