Course Review: SIG SAUER Academy P320 Armorer, M400 Armorer & Low Light Pistol Instructor Course(s), conducted August 14, 15, 17 & 18, 2017

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On Sunday August 13th I flew up to New Hampshire to attend three courses at SIG SAUER Academy in Epping.

All three of my flights on Southwest Airlines, the two going and the non-stop coming home from New Hampshire went off without a hitch. I got upgraded to a Subaru Outback and logistically everything went very well. Once again I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Exeter. The hotel is very nice, I took advantage of the pool and the Jacuzzi this time and the complimentary buffet style breakfast buffet each morning is very good. The staff, to include the General Manager were all very professional and attentive to a few special requests that I made before and upon arrival. I will stay here each and every time that I visit SIG SAUER Academy.

Dinner at The Holy Grail twice and Telly’s once along with a pizza from New England Pizza kept me full. If you are in the greater Epping/Exeter Metropolitan area, you must experience The Holy Grail. It is a restaurant and pub inside an old church not far from the Academy. Telly’s specializes in pizza and other American fare, and New England Pizza in Exeter has a white pizza that is pretty darn good, especially when you put bacon and some other toppings on it. The Hanaford Supermarket was my other “go to” while I was there, along with the Hammersmith Sandwich Company for lunch while in class.

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Upon my arrival at the SIG SAUER Academy and Pro Shop late Sunday morning I noticed that the P320 X-Carry was on sale and I “attempted” to buy one with my student discount, one of the sales guys told me they had three of them in stock and I was all excited; however, after he came back from the storage room I was crushed because they were out of stock. At least I was able to put a deposit on one and will have it shipped to Florida when they are available. Still no P320 X-VTAC as of yet, Lipsey’s is shipping them out to their dealers, but not the Pro Shop. Had one of those been in stock I would have bought it instead, so I am 0-2 in gun purchases while attending courses at the Academy. On the bright side, I was able to buy a lot of accessories with no state sales tax and at the student discount price, score!

Important Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how professional and courteous the Academy Staff and Pro Shop employees are, those folks are always eager to help.

Let’s get to the course reviews …

TD1 for me started Monday morning I started in Classroom #1 in the Indoor Pistol Range Facility with Chris “Cav” Cavallaro for the P320 Armorer Course. “Cav” is the Subject Matter Expert on campus for the Armorer courses, and that means that he is in charge of the Program of Instruction for the Armorer courses. The P320 is a very simple weapon system to work on for both the operator and the certified armorer. Candidly, while attending the course there was no running from the elephant in the room, we talked about the voluntary upgrade announced by Sig Sauer on August 8th, 2017 and our Instructor was open and honest about all the things that the company is doing to remedy the situation. The voluntary upgrade will include a small amount of CNC work on the frame (That is the metal part inside the grip module) and they will be adding a disconnector and also swapping the current trigger to one that is lighter in overall weight and with a balance point that is near the pivot pin. My questions were answered about this issue and I used a P320 in the Low-Light Pistol Instructor Course on Thursday & Friday with no issues whatsoever. Parts for certified armorers are readily available by calling in to customer service and ordering them direct over the phone. I like that versus sending in an order form and waiting for months to get parts shipped to you. (Not mentioning any manufacturers in particular)

Overall, Monday’s course was excellent, and oh by the way, it was attended by several factory people and a couple Academy Instructors that interjected their insider knowledge of the gun and what is going on inside the factory to get ready for the influx of guns coming in for the voluntary upgrade. We were told to not leave with questions unasked and all of us got in our share. By the way, successfully passing the course (There is a test) gives the graduate a three year certification.

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TD2 on Tuesday was all about the M400. You would know this as the AR15 platform rifle. My first exposure to this type of rifle came 35 years ago this month when I joined “The Green Machine.” Many of the things taught came right back like I was in my Unit Armorers course while I was in the Army. We didn’t break the gun all the way down back in the day, but I knew how to and “Cav” showed us some techniques that really helped when disassembling and more importantly reassembling the rifle.

I enjoyed all the repetitions we got in working on the rifle, similar to the P320 course we were not left wanting more and all of our questions were answered. Same as the P320 armorers course, successfully passing this course (There is also a test) gives the graduate a three year certification. One important note, this course is hopefully switching to a two-day format with a one-day re-certification in the not too distant future.

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Photo: My instructor for both Monday and Tuesday’s courses, Chris “Cav” Cavallaro summoning the power of Thor!

Additionally on Monday and Tuesday I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Ofer and Amir from Be’er-Sherva, Israel. These two guys are living the motto, “Live Free Or Die” each and every day of their lives. Think about that, and let it sink in. They are at a constant state of war with all the terrorism in their tiny country, amazing when you spend some time in thought about it.

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On Wednesday morning I got to spend some time with Steve Gilcreast, my Instructor from the Master Pistol Instructor Course I attended in June. Steve put me on the shot timer through his 100 round warm-up exercise, and I must admit that I didn’t do as well as I expect out of myself, and I had to hit the gong in Area 51, but I had a great time. Steve is a thinker and a doer who can translate his points across to students very well, anytime spent with him one-on-one is time well spent because of his knowledge, skills and his attitude. Steve is one of the top firearms instructors that I have ever trained with, period.

Back to the gong issue, in case you don’t know, if you don’t have a round chambered and you press the trigger on your gun and your gun goes click when it was supposed to go bang, (Dead Man’s Gun) you and your partner must run to one of the gongs on campus and you must smash the gong ten (10) times with authority using a hammer and then run back to your training area. (Your training partner goes along with you for moral support) It could also be that your magazine was not seated correctly, or a few other reasons. Yes, I had my moment with the gong while the students in the Master Rifle Instructor Course observed. Oh, and the hammer was missing so I had to make due with a BFR. I posted this photo for accountability in the photo album that I created on my business Facebook page at Trigger Control Dot Org, and I also posted one on my Instagram page @TriggerContolDotOrg – this one below is for accountability here.

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On Wednesday afternoon I got to see the factory from the inside, it was nice of one of the engineers to invite me in for a peek. Nothing to see here, no cameras allowed in the factory.

Lastly on Wednesday afternoon/evening I was able to go to Stratham Hill Park and find the very rock where Robert Todd Lincoln stood and read the Declaration of Independence to the citizens of New Hampshire on July 4th, 1860, just before his father Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States. Pretty cool stuff to stand on that rock, no kidding , it gave me goose bumps.

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After I stopped at the Lincoln Rock, I climbed the rest of the way up the Lincoln Trail (It’s pretty darn steep) to the top of the hill and found the Forest Fire Service Tower. I had to climb to the top all seventy-seven steps and seven flights to get a look at the surrounding area, and it was quite a sight. I highly recommend you go to Stratham Hill Park when visiting SIG SAUER Academy to experience these things, I can assure you that it is an experience I won’t soon forget. You can find out more information on Stratham Hill Park by clicking on this link to their Facebook page. Stratham Hill Park on Facebook

TD3 for me started in Classroom #9 in the Indoor Pistol Range Facility on campus with New Hampshire native Todd Moriarity and Nick Brazeau from Montreal, Canada in the Low-Light Pistol Instructor Course. We had six students/instructor candidates and that made for a really great course.

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Photo: For this course I ran my Surefire P2ZX Fury Combat Light (500 lumens) with a Surefire V85A holster system. I also brought my Surefire E2D LED Defender Ultra (500/5 lumens) as well. Both worked well and a few of my new best friends wanted to try my bezel down holster. Once I left the course I purchased a Surefire Y300 Ultra High Dual Output LED Flashlight as Todd had one and it looked promising for a back-up flashlight.

By the way, 500 lumens is plenty enough for anyone. These new flashlights with 1,000 lumens, yeah, they get way too hot running courses of fire like this and also they end up giving you a lot of back-splash if you are to close to cover and have poor technique, What happens is you will end up momentarily blinding yourself with the light bouncing back in your eyes. (So yes, there is such a thing as too many lumens)

After a short classroom session on Thursday morning going over some of the different flashlight options out there and of course the safety rules, we all hit the Indoor Pistol Range with our frangible ammunition and got to work. Like all SIG SAUER Academy Instructors, Todd is a master at teaching to the adult learning theorems. Before teaching each technique Todd would explain, and demonstrate the technique and then we would imitate it dry-fire and then practice it live-fire. This goes to the core of the SIG SAUER Academy training methodology of E.D.I.P. or Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate, Practice. (I’ll add in Test for E.D.I.P.T. and call it good)

By the way, I really can’t share the course of fire with you, it’s not something that they give out; however, I take really good notes and have it down on paper, but that is the exception, not a one of my fellow Instructors were taking notes on the range during the exercises, I just don’t have that good of memory to not take notes.

On Thursday, Todd taught us a new technique that was developed by Academy Instructor Jim Meyers. It is referred to as the “Jimmy Meyers Technique.” This technique is similar to the Rogers-Surefire; however, it is different in the fact that you turn the wrist of your support hand 90° so the back of your hand is up, and then you place the thumb of your support hand in contact with the grip of the handgun under the thumb of your master hand. It is an interesting technique, one that I certainly need to practice some more in order to become a whole lot better at.

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Photo: Todd and Nick going to put out a little fire inside the range on Thursday afternoon caused by the powder from the frangible ammunition we were using while shooting steel. It was only a little smoke, nothing major.

The Low-Light Pistol Instructor Course also requires the student/instructor candidate to preform a teach-back to the other students and cadre. On Thursday just before we broke for the day, we were assigned ours and my partner and I were assigned to T.E.A.M. teach the Modified FBI and the Neck Index technique.

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Photo: The Indoor Pistol Range at SIG SAUER Academy in low-light, that is not my camera flash, the lens is picking up light from in back of the range, once the shades were dropped it was pitch black inside that range, a perfect training environment for this course.

TD4 for me started on Friday morning again in the classroom with a review of the the previous days POI, and then were in the Indoor Rifle Range. My partner and I were selected to go first with our presentations. We prepared well and hit E.D.I.P. by explaining the technique and the history behind it, then we talked each other through the demonstration phase of the technique and then we had the other students/instructors candidates imitate and practice the technique. (Personal Note: I love doing teach-backs)

After each presentation we were given actionable feedback on what we did good, what we needed to work on and what we did really well. During the review, we were told that we did a great job by our peers and the cad re. They made a couple comments about how we worked as a T.E.A.M. and that is exactly what T.E.A.M. teaching is all about. (Positive-Improvement-Positive or the “sandwich method” of evaluation is alive and well at SIG SAUER Academy)

Additionally Todd and Nick set up a drill for us to practice all the things that we learned on Thursday in a low-light/no-light environment. We had to start by moving to cover and then find and engage our threat with two to five live rounds. (The SSA-1 Brett Target gets shot a lot at SIG SAUER Academy) During this drill, we were had to move to a new piece of cover and perform a tactical reload when necessary, and then try a different technique, we got to do this twice going one direction and then moving backwards through the course in the other direction. I found this to be very beneficial because it allowed me to try just about all of the techniques from some unorthodox positions, e.g., kneeling, supine and laying on my side, and of course standing.

This brought us to lunch time. Once we had our bellies full of Hammersmith Sandwich Company sandwiches we got suited up for some training in a shoot-house. There are several single family homes on campus that the Academy uses for this purpose, they also have a series of Conex style containers set up for this type of training as well. The house we were in was nicknamed “Red Feathers.” Seriously, it should have been named “Bat Feathers” because there was a bat in the house that we had to eradicate during this evolution.

Each one of us got to clear the house as an individual and then as part of a T.E.A.M., Todd said this was not to grade us on our tactics, but to make sure we were using sound flashlight discipline, both he and Nick gave us excellent feedback on our flashlight use and gave us tips to make us better with our tactics, I found this to be an excellent evolution.

Funny Story: When I was picked to be the “bad guy” students John and Victor, both sworn law enforcement officers entered the house searching for me and Victor called out, “Gordon, are you in here? We got a warrant for you, come on out boy.” I had to do everything I could to keep from laughing. My new best friend Victor said he did it hoping that I would give my position away, that failed, but these two sworn LEO’s cleared this house like a boss using sound flashlight discipline and T.E.A.M. tactics.

One thing I enjoyed about Todd and Nick’s teaching style was this, after each evolution on the range or in the shoot-house we did a short review. Todd asked us what we liked and disliked, making us think about the techniques that we used and how we liked them in that particular situation. We got plenty of repetitions and both Todd and Nick gave us personal coaching to make sure we were preforming the techniques properly and with sounds tactics, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 3:1, that is easy to do.

At the end of the course may of us suggested adding a third day and incorporating the long gun into the POI. That could be in the plans, Todd is responsible for the POI for this course and he said that he has thought about that as a possibility.

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Photo: Sig Sauer Frangible Ammunition. The Course of fire was true to the number at about 500, rounds, we used this is the indoor pistol range; however, on the second day of the course we were able to use FMJ ammunition. SIG SAUER Academy has plenty of ammunition, if you show up they will give you student pricing on the ammunition. We all arrived with a good working knowledge of the techniques, what we did here is refined the techniques and preformed a teach-back as all Instructor level courses should require. Now, it is up to us as Instructors to transfer this knowledge to others. As with the other courses, upon successful completion of this course course, graduates are given a three year certification.

Overall, the Low-Light Pistol Instructor Course conducted at SIG SAUER Academy was excellent, I really enjoyed it and learned a lot of subtle nuances that make the techniques work well in a live fire situation. It tests your gear and your TTP’s under stress and that’s what you must do in training. I would highly recommend this course to an agency instructor or anyone who teaches these techniques to the responsibly armed citizen.

To find out more about taking an Armorer Certification course at SIG Sauer Academy click on: Armorer Certification Courses

To find out more about taking an Instructor Development course at SIG Sauer Academy click on: Instructor Development Courses

To find out more about taking a Shooting Development course at SIG Sauer Academy click on: Shooting Development Courses

To find out more about taking a Competitive Shooting Development course at SIG Sauer Academy click on: Competitive Shooting Development Courses

To find out more about taking a course in a certain specialty at SIG Sauer Academy click on: Specialty Training Courses

To find out more about taking a course from a Guest Instructor, e.g., Mike Pannone or one of the many nationally and internationally known Instructors they bring in to the Academy each year, click on: Guest Instructor Courses

Important Note: Your tuition includes free loan of firearms (In most courses, not all), holsters, safety glasses and hearing protection at the Epping, NH location.

Now, if you guessed that I am planning another trip back to SIG SAUER Academy, you would be correct, stay tuned!

 

Until next time …

As always, live life abundantly; train hard so you can fight easy!

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