Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Training – Lessons Learned


Training environments are interesting places. They help a shooter evaluate the differences between the “mental image” of how things are going to work and the real world . . . . what truly happens when a threat appears in the “Red Zone” and your life hangs in the balance.

The “mental image” has you executing the perfect draw – clothing is easily moved, weapon grasped, a clean exit from the holster, quick rotation – extension – sight picture – BANG, BANG, BANG . . . . . threat down – you, your family, your friends are safe.

This personal protection stuff is just too easy. Especially when viewed from your favorite recliner, reading “Guns and Ammo” while watching a few YouTube videos on your tablet. Yep – too damn easy . . . . .

Where things start to go sideways with this little “mental image” melodrama is when flesh grabs grip, muscle draws weapon, eyes see a sight picture and mind presses trigger.

There are lessons to be learned . . . .

I begin all my range work with dry fire. Each and every drill a shooter will perform on the range, we work through during our dry fire exercises. I do this for a number of reasons. The vast majority of my students are new shooters. That didn’t really hold true for this last round of classes since our Defensive Pistol courses are meant for a more experienced shooter – still most have never taken a course with hundreds of draws and hundreds of rounds being expended over the course and none had ever taken a course where the range was “hot” for the duration of the range work. In that respect they are inexperienced and dry fire does a lot to settle nerves and provide confidence that when they step to the firing line, they can perform and learn.

This is also a great time for a total breakdown of how things work – because you can fix them before you begin live fire. And, we did have a few things go more than a little sideways . . . . What a “shock”! J

First day, first dry fire drill was simply to work on stance and “the draw”. On the command “FIGHT” one of the shooters draws their weapon, extends, acquires a sight picture and notices . . . . the holster for the smallish .380 they are carrying is still attached to her weapon. There is no access to the trigger; no way to make it go BANG and that in the real world real physical harm would come surely and quickly even though she was carrying her weapon. The holster was a kydex sleeve that came with her weapon and had a simple hooked bracket that clipped to their belt – though obviously not too well. Holsters were changed, an IWB with a more proactive clip replaced the OWB kydex and all was well with the world for the rest of the course work.

A second shooter began with an IWB holster centered in their back with a full sized Glock. Honestly, the concealment worked fine for him – not sure I have EVER been as skinny as he is (insert heavy sigh here). And, while the drills in polo shirt only worked just fine, when he added a jacket everything became much more difficult. Just the mechanics of clearing the weapon of shirt and jacket – holding the garments up – and then drawing and engaging became much more time consuming that he expected.

When this same shooter went to live fire, it became slow enough and frustrating enough and difficult enough that he went to a strong-side, OWB holster for the rest of the course with the thought that he would need to re-think his carry holster.

He also carries a .38 Cal hammerless J-Frame revolver in a pocket holster from time to time. He did a number of drills with this combination only to discover that while his revolver conceals nicely – his ability to draw and engage quickly suffered. And reloads (without speed loaders) could take enough time to easily prove fatal if his first engagement with a threat was unsuccessful.

There were nice surprises as well. One shooter noted at the end of the class that the target shared by him and another shooter had well over 90 of their hits within the silhouette and between the neck and pelvic region. “I didn’t aim once today!” he said – the surprise clearly evident in his voice.

Another shooter was pretty much “all business”. His head was in the game the whole two days, his draw and engagement was reasonably good to begin with yet clearly “smoothed out” over the two days and by the last day – as he moved-drew-engaged his threat with at least three rounds easily under three seconds – he had “that” smile that every instructor wants to see. Very cool!

And for me, it was fun to have my son as one of the students. He’s been shooting competitively for the past 2 years – moving from the bottom 20% to the top 10% in local IDPA matches during that time. He has all the things I remember from 40 years ago – fast muscles, good eyes, flexible body . . . . just a bit jealous here. And, he has a fun sense of humor as he reminded me he cleared the 5 plates during the past weeks steel shoot in 3.31 seconds . . . . clean. Where the heck did he learn how to rub it in like that?!?!?!? He’s grown into a “good man”, one I would trust my life to in a gun fight and one that can still walk up, give me a hug and say “how’s it goin’ pops??”

It was a good two days for everyone . . . .

I’m taking a lot of words to say: “Take a course!” One that will push your limits, challenge your abilities, expose your weaknesses . . . .

There are lessons to be learned . . . .


  1. Mike really is doing great, we missed him this weekend but glad you guys had a good time.

    The September match is a Saturday match, hope to see you both there.

    1. I don't remember the Sept. dates, but my Saturdays are pretty busy - the Ikes are doing an intro to Trap for new shooters, a 3D Bow Shoot, a rifle shoot for our Scout Troop after a month of firearm safety and - yeah - NRA TC course in Kansas City. Heavy sigh, my feet are gonna be movin'!!

      Yep, Mike is running pretty smooth. His steel times are dropping quick - but then over half the shooters will now have a sub-6 second run during the night. Keeps them coming back - just like sellin' crack!! :) Very fun to watch the improvements though, they are all becoming better shooters.

      And Mike does like to tweak the old man!! But, then, he's earning the right by whippin' my butt - going to have to spend more time shooting and less time timing! :)

  2. Yep, get training (but get REALISTIC training)...