Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review – Handgun 1 AAR 4/11/2015


There comes a time when projects nurtured, babied, reviewed, tested and refined finally bear fruit. Today was just such a day.

I’ve been teaching our own version of a defensive handgun course for a number of years. Over the past year I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours tweaking it, presenting it to other trainers, reviewing their AARs, making adjustments, teaching it again . . . until today. Today, finally, I taught it for “real”. Very small class – just three students but it allowed me to “watch” as best I could while I taught it and ran the range drills.

The idea of the coursework was to provide a solid foundation to new shooters but from a defensive point of view. Yes, yes . . . I know, there’s bunches of others out there doing this but I had my own thoughts on the matter so I pressed forward with the rework of our course that I’ve been teaching for the last number of years.

Topics covered are safety, holsters, clothing, various types of handguns, ammunition, situational awareness, “Ability-Opportunity-Jeopardy-Preclusion”, the foundation of the OODA Loop, various types of sight alignment, what is loosely defined as “startle response” (John Hearne recently lectured that there are over 30 different types), an introduction to defensive shooting and a set of 13 drills taking a shooter from dry fire through single round engagements to a final set of qualification drills from 5,7 and 10 yards. It’s been an interesting undertaking. I’ve had the benefit of a broad range of reviews from absolutely new shooters to seasoned LEO firearms instructors giving me feedback. It’s also been humbling and challenging.

Setup was completed by 7:30 AM and the students arrived by 8 AM. We jumped right to it. It’s a “full’ set of coursework. I provided handout material with key slides from the course PowerPoint and areas for note taking. As always, an emphasis was placed on a “bi-directional” course with an ongoing probe to make sure key points were understood. That was an advantage of a small class – it was much more intimate than a full classroom. I’ve always limited this coursework to 10 students. I believe that is the upper limit to really do the course justice. That said, since only minimal training is required here in Iowa to receive a carry permit, there are not many students that look for more than the bare minimum. These attending were different. Two fellows moving into a career in law enforcement and a friend of my daughters who is the mom of a 2 year old and looking to be a responsible gun owner capable of defending her family. Good motivation all around.

Classroom work is just that, classroom work. All in all, about 5 hours of lecture, questioning and dry fire using SIRT pistols. Lunch lead up to range work. One of the fellows going into law enforcement is former army with one tour under his belt. That said, it was apparent that the handgun is still a tertiary weapon system. Still, he came up to speed quickly. From single round engagements to accelerated pairs to working on both speed and accuracy – it’s a busy range session. Still, for many of my students I only get them once. A basic introduction, a basic marksmanship course simply isn’t enough to give them a fighting chance. My goal for this course was to provide something that would equip them with enough tools to have a reasonable chance of protecting their family in a fixed location in their home. To flesh this out I also added both low and hi barricade drills to the mix as well as a “challenge drill” forcing them to shout at an intruder. As simple as that sounds, we simply have become so “polite” as a society, the mere idea of shouting at someone is foreign to many. That particular drill is to just “break the ice”.

I also make it abundantly clear that this is “course work” and NOT training. I am introducing concepts and some initial drills. Their true “training” needs to be done on their own ranges – refining and cementing the drills I have taught as well as finding new ones to stretch their capabilities.

Finally, I stapled a B-8 target to the center of the LE Target they had been using. This was to become their qualification target with 10 rounds fired from 5,7 and 10 yards. I was pretty pleased with the result with two shooting over 90% and the third student coming in at around 70% but clear on the work he needed to do.

I’ll continue to this course as is through the rest of the year while I take notes, read AARs, present it to a couple other trainers for feedback . . . and then work on any updates over the winter.

And so it goes . . .

Congrats to Beth, Braxton and Nigel for a great effort . . . good job guys!



  1. This course was an excellent introduction to handguns. I am familiar and comfortable shooting rifles and while handguns have similarities they also have differences. Starting this class with coursework I think was an excellent idea. While this may not be the most fun part of the class/training it was vital to the success of it and anyone taking this class and/or carrying a firearm should realize and understand that. I will be taking many more classes from this instructor. Excellent job.

  2. Congratulations Bill! I'm glad all the hard work proved out!

  3. Congratulations Bill! I'm glad all the hard work proved out!