Monday, February 11, 2013

Review – Tactical Handgun 2/9/2013


This past weekend saw Saturday (February 9th, 2013) set aside for a training course hosted by Armed Missouri and conducted by Gauntlet Professional Services. The title of the course was Tactical Handgun and was conducted by their primary instructor – Jeff Dill (more on staff in a bit). The short version of this AAR is that it was a great course – clear and measurable goals, solid training plan, good briefings before each exercise, knowledgeable staff, good staff/shooter ratio and a consistent “flow” to the entire day. At $120 for the day, the price point on this level of training was exceptional. For me, this was time (total of 3 days – two days travel and two nights in a motel) and money well spent. Thanks to Chris of AMI and Jeff of GPS for the invite and a great course. OK – that’s the short version, let’s talk about the “meat”.

So many courses attach the work “Tactical” to their course thinking . . . . what??? They can charge more? We all get to run round in “Tactical” clothing and do “Tactical” things?? I knew I liked Jeff right out of the box when he approached the word “Tactical” and what it meant in the context of this course . . . . it meant THINK!!!!! You, as a shooter, are responsible for EVERY ROUND you send down range. Regardless of the situation, you damn well better be thinking about your “tactics”. Which threat are you engaging? Why? Is there a hostage? Are there more than one threat in the room? Can you do the “basics” (headshot on the hostage taker)? Is every draw safe and quick? Are you aware of your surroundings and your team mates? And on . . . . and on . . . . and on . . . . Your “tactics”, your “Tactical” approach to the situation before you will determine the outcome – pine box or arms of your spouse . . . . it’s that simple. “Tactical Handgun” – how to best use your handgun as your primary weapon while engaging single/multiple threats . . . . all while your head is FULLY ENGAGED. Jeff was very clear, up front and during the run-through of each and every drill what the objective was, round count, direction of movement (if necessary) and what the expectation of the drill was. This is simply key to any instruction – period. If the lead instructor has no idea where the hell he/she is going . . . . there is real opportunity for things to go sideways in a hurry.

The next thing I look for is staff. Having not met these folks before, I do what everyone else does – scour their website. There were three folks there – Jeff (lead instructor), Michelle (EMT, course manager, RSO and photographer when she could sneak in a picture or two) and Derrick (RSO). A thing to note here on staffing level – 7 shooters, 3 staff, a good ratio! When you have a course with a high round count (around 400 rounds for me) with movement and all sorts of opportunity for things to go sideways – 3 sets of eyes watching the shooters is a very good thing. And, they were “active”. With me specifically Michelle corrected a foot position while I was kneeling and Derrick caught a thumb position error I made while switching shooting hands from left to right that could have easily messed my thumb up! Eyes, eyes, eyes . . . . are good things.

Also, Michelle brought to the table her position as a licensed and active EMT – again almost a must when you have a course with high round count, movement and multiple opportunities for things to go sideways.

Finally, you need a lead instructor that is “in charge”. No, not like the DI on the range but firm, clear headed, clear on his/her direction that can communicate clearly, directly and make honest assessments of your ability, things you need to work on and things you do well. Jeff was a solid professional in all of these areas.

Next, a look at the course and its content. Honestly, the first thing that caught my eye in Chris’s invitation to the course was the price-point. Hey, I’m as frugal as anyone and a full day course for $120 had my attention. Next was the course content – here’s a link. While any company can slap anything they want on a web page – the fact that it was POST certified for law enforcement in Missouri indicated that it had been reviewed and approved for continuing education for LEOs in Missouri. Again, a “plus” when I evaluated the course.

The content was also indicative of a skillset law enforcement and serious defensive shooters are interested in – combat accuracy, clearing malfunctions, movement, methods of retreat, transitions from carbine to handgun, single and multiple threats, deliberate room entry with a partner, what I call “cognition drills” – you shoot the “numbers” on the targets with a specified round count. All of these elements are skills that need work and evaluation if you are depending on them to save your life or the lives of family and friends. Courses that let you “make holes” hold little value. Courses that push, expect, demand allow you to grow as a shooter is where I would encourage ou to spend your time and money. Such was the Tactical Pistol course offered by GPS.

Attitude – one of the cornerstones of NRA courses, yet really a corner stone of any course and the staff of that course. I’ve had plenty of “hard asses” on military ranges. I suspect it’s because it’s just “expected”. However, in the civilian market, there is a line that must be walked between what I will call “firm” and being a jerk. All three staff members were clear, consistent, direct, “firm” and professional. Each drill was fully explained, practiced dry and then executed multiple times “hot”. Their attitude promoted excellence and their expectations brought every shooter up a bit.

All in all – GPS provided exactly the type of course and environment that I like to work/train it, and I truly appreciated it.

The Course:

Make a list – see here – and take the damn list!!! It would have been oh-so tempting to skip the cold weather components since it was “going to be near 60!!!” I’ve spent the past 4 weeks in a bit of a deep freeze and just the hope of warm weather could have easily led me to leave out the UnderArmor long-johns and heavy wool socks, the lightweight fleece and gloves. Fortunately, I have been around the block a number of times . . . . the list is the damn list!! I took it all.

8AM . . . . Saturday . . . . cloudy . . . . 32 degrees . . . . heavy sigh. If it topped 40 in any significant way I’d be shocked!! Midafternoon saw a pretty good breeze come up as the sun began to dip. By the end of the course – 5PM – it slipped past chilly. It’s the first course in the past few years that I shot with gloves the whole day. And, with UnderArmor long-johns, wool socks and a fleece . . . I stayed in the “comfy zone”.

There was a wide range of drills – from basic marksmanship to a deliberate entry drill with a partner into a room with 4 shooters. Interesting, good skills to practice and lots of meat to think about moving forward.

At the end of the course each shooter was presented with a full POST evaluation on 20 or so specific skills – from draws to movement to combat effective hits and more. A little back-slappin’ . . . I scored highest marks across the board. Pretty happy with my performance.

On a personal note, I’ve been really working on my weight (don’t we all???) and have dropped 32 pounds to date. That had a real effect on my ability to move and get down on my knees for low knee, high knee and double knee drills. Last year this time I would have just squatted. This year, with some awesome knee pads that will see their own review over the next few weeks, I performed all drills with little discomfort. I’ll take that as heading in the right direction!

Photos and videos. I used my Contour2 for videos and I was very happy with the videos. I will add those to this review sometime this week. Until then, Chris of AMI has posted a pretty good assortment here.   Still . . . here’s a couple of mine.

Hostage shot – pretty happy here, 3 round in the head, one miss low and left.  None in the victim!  I’ll take it!!

Hostage Shot

Deliberate Entry – me on the right.

deliberate entry

So . . . . good course, solid curriculum, good instruction, professional staff . . . . and a fun day learning/practicing/shooting . . . . a fine time was had by all! Given the opportunity, there is much value it GPS’s Tactical Pistol course. It’s well worth your time and money!

Thanks again to Jeff, Michelle and Derrick – I appreciate your efforts!  And Chris . . . thanks for the invite!


  1. Looks like a good one, and POST certification IS a plus!

  2. Great read, Bill! I am glad you came down for the class! Good seeing you again.