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