Saturday, September 7, 2013

Training – If It Ain’t Workin’ . . . Do Something Different


A couple days ago I stopped by the range and saw a couple new shooters on the pistol range. As president, I usually poke my nose in and say hello, see how it’s going and just check things out in general. We are a “members only” range but – we do make some exceptions. In this case they were a couple of I.C.E. agents – one an instructor and one going to instructor school at Ft. Benning in a few weeks that was putting in range time before leaving. He was having problems with the qualification course of fire portion that required 10 rounds, 25 yards, slow fire with his SIG service weapon. The issue was that while he had a “qualifying group” they were all low-right. Since he’s a left handed shooter, it would indicate he was jerking the trigger rather than a smooth press all the way through the trigger press.

Honestly, not my place to poke my nose in. I welcomed them and said my good byes, figuring he’d work it out with his instructor.

Yesterday I was back at the range and saw the same officer getting a bit more trigger time in. I said my hellos and just watched him a bit. 5 mags later, and not a single qualifying score – I let the instructor in me out to play a bit. When you share thoughts with other shooters, especially a professional I.C.E. Tac-Team member – well, it depends on how you offer advice and how open the shooter is. In this case he was open to my suggestions and, while I have been assured multiple times that I am an asshole – I can control it most times. So here were my thoughts and my advice:

Ditch the distance: Honestly, this guy is a true shooter – experienced, “been there – done that” experience. He seemed to be working through two issues – the distance, it’s easy to be intimidated by 25 yards, especially if your career is riding on you shooting better than the average critter. And, his service weapon is a .40 cal – there is a natural inclination to choke it to death and to “flinch” when you have time to actually think about it during a slow-fire course of fire.

Ditch the target: silhouette targets are fine for a full qualification run, but that wasn’t his issue, he needed to get back on target – period.

I asked him if he was open to something different and he genuinely was – so I had him pick up a couple 10 round mags and we walked to within 10ft of the target. Someone had left a sheet of target “pasties” laying around to I put up 3 black dots, about an inch in diameter. Then I asked him to shoot out the first dot.

The first engagement mirrored his 25 yard performance with a tight group low/right of the dot. I had him use less finger, a “firm grip” rather than choking it and to see every shot as the only shot – again slow fire. On the next dot he had around 70% in or touching the dot. Third dot – all but one round touched the dot.

He loaded six mags and drew four more dots using a marker from his gun bag. Four mags later he was hitting over 80% from 10 ft on a one inch dot.

He put up a new silhouette and went back to 25 yards to have another go at it. And, he dialed right in.

Moral . . .? If you are on the range, working on a specific skill set and it ain’t workin’ . . . . change it up and work on a smaller piece of the skillset – in this shooter’s case, trigger control. Then, when you have that dialed in – go back to what you were originally doing.

The other part of instructing another shooter is that you should always be ready to perform the task you are expecting the shooter to do. In this case – shoot a qual target from 25 yards. Honestly, I didn’t hall out my range bag and “show him how to do it” – what would have been a bit of “asshatery” IMHO. But, I did feel obligated to do some distance work to show myself I could. I had a bit of time this morning so I hit the range with my trusty .22/45 range gun. I managed to find a small (333 round) brick of .22 at a local store last week, so I had some ammo to use. Things are still terribly scarce for 9mm in this area.

The results can be seen here:


Dot 1: 7 yards, 10 rounds, 2-round engagements from concealment. Remember – THE FIRST ROUND COUNTS. You may only get one and sadly my first round was high left. Still, 90% within the circle – that meets my 80% criteria.

Dot 2: 7 yards, 10 rounds, 1-round engagements from concealment. Working on your draw from concealment should simply be part of all range work. The first dot had 5 draws, Dot 2 required 10. 100% - I’ll take it!

Square 3: 10 yards, 10 rounds, 2-round engagements from concealment. A shooter needs to work through change. Obviously I slipped badly on this one with only a 70% - gave me something to work on with the next square.

Square 4: 10 yards, 10 rounds, 1-round engagements from concealment. I pulled myself together and came back to 90%.

Lower silhouette Square: 50 feet, 10 rounds, 1-round engagements from concealment. Distance can “accent” everything – stance, grip, trigger press, sight alignment, sight picture. There is less tolerance for inaccuracy. Still, 50ft – I hit 90%. I’m happy with that.

Upper silhouette Square: 25 Yards, 10 rounds, 1-round engagements from concealment. Obviously, from an “inside the box” POV, things went off the rails here. 50% in the box – not very good. Then three rounds low left just outside of the box, one low-center just above the lower box and a final round high-right above the box. Heavy sigh. Oh a more optimistic note – all hits were combat effect and they actually would have passed the 25-yard requirement for the I.C.E. Instructor qualification course of fire. So, I’ll take that . . . . but I really wanted all 10 rounds “in” from 25 yards! Something to work on next trip. That said – if your primary issue is defensive shooting, while it’s nice to get all the rounds “in the box”, it is much more important to be able to draw and get your first multiple combat effective hits on your threat. If you wait until you have a sight alignment, sight picture . . . . you’ll go home in a Ziploc.

To close the trip out I found a loaded mag and an extra .45 ACP round in the bottom of the gun bag. And, I had my carry 1911 in the gun bag as well . . . . why not.

Final 8 rounds, 7 yards, slow fire from the low ready – headshots only. Three in the triangle, rest still within the “head”.

So, some final thoughts. If you aren’t getting your rounds to go where you want them – IT IS ALWAYS THE BASICS (well, unless it’s a weapon failure). At the lowest common denominator of shooting accurately, you can always go back to shooting out a single dot from 10 feet – and then build back from there.

Never ask someone else to do a drill you are unwilling to do. Your proficiency may be “off” that day, but don’t be afraid to do it first – to break the ice for the folks you are instructing and to insure them you’re not just blowing smoke at them.

Go shooting. I teach these skills from a defensive shooting POV – range time may well save your life. Make time!


  1. Excellent way to handle it, and glad you were able to 'help' him out!

  2. Excellent way to handle it, and glad you were able to 'help' him out!

  3. I'm going to print this one out. Your advice is spot on, and I learned a few things myself. You handed the situation very well. I'd be proud to have someone of your background offer me some tips.

  4. Jim - thank you, he's a great guy and will do fine. Just need to work out a few wrinkles.

    Brigid - Thanks! :)