Course Review: SIG SAUER Academy Bullets and Vehicles; October 23rd, 2017, Epping, New Hampshire.

After spending a couple absolutely beautiful fall days in Green Bay, Wisconsin teaching my Handgun Essentials course, it was back to SIG SAUER Academy for my third trip this year. (I previously attended the Master Pistol Instructor course in June and the P320 and M400/M-16/M4/AR-15 Rifle armorer’s course along with the Low-Light Pistol Instructor course in August)

Upon my arrival at Manchester airport, I was immediately embraced by all the fall colors that New Hampshire has to offer, and for someone who has not seen a change of seasons in seventeen years, this was certainly a welcome sight.

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(Some of the fall colors found on property at SIG SAUER Academy)

Our training day started promptly at 0830hrs in classroom #6 with ten students with various backgrounds in firearms training. Both of our Instructors, Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro were excellent and spent a lot of time coaching us all throughout the day and as with all SIG SAUER Academy courses, the lead instructor explained and demonstrated all the drills before having students run them dry-fire and live-fire.

Once we got our “chow plan” figured out and completed all of the Academy paperwork, we got into introductions and then on to the range. Before we started any range exercises our Primary Instructor Dylan Kenneson outlined our Emergency Procedures, this was also reiterated after lunch.

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(Our Course Emergency Plan)

Once on the range, our first exercise was a modified version of David Blinder’s Dot Torture drill that was made famous by the late Todd Louis Green of Pistol-Training.

After being dot tortured (Pardon the pun) we got into some dry-fire exercises from seated positions on the range. We practiced all of the exercises dry-fire with a strict emphasis on safety and then moved on to live-fire once both Dylan and Chris were confident that we had the proper technique down.

Once we got in the first vehicle it was all about getting solid hits on the SSA-BM1 “Brett Target” named after Brett Martin, a former SIG SAUER Academy employee. Each student got the opportunity to be in the driver and passenger seat, engaging targets from two different distances. You couldn’t just point and shoot in this drill, you needed to take well-aimed precise shots especially from the passenger side of the truck as the target was about fifteen yards away.

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(SIG SAUER Academy Instructors Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro watching closely over our live-fire exercises. Coolest license plate ever … “-SIG-” New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”)

After a short break, a vehicle was delivered on a flatbed truck with major front-end damage, yet it had all its glass still intact to give us the chance to see how certain projectiles fared through windshields and of course side the window glass. In the course description, we were asked to bring some duty/carry ammunition and this proved educational as to what projectiles do when traveling through windshields.

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(On this target you may be able to see some of the markings as to what brand and the specific load that was used. We shot from the driver’s seat and the target was placed at a distance of five (5) yards away with the majority of shots taken with the muzzle positioned back from the glass. Our point of aim was to be the square box underneath the eight-inch center chest area circle. Look closely at the hole at the very top of the target, that shot was taken with the muzzle directly on the windshield using the Hornady Critical Duty 135gr +P load. The high deflection was due to the design of that particular projectile with its “Flex-Tip” design. The second shot with that load from back about six inches away from the windshield hit the target just to the right of the zipper, in the neck/collar-bone area)

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Important Note: When presented with a threat like this, your best option might be to mash the accelerator and run them over. If they have a weapon such as a handgun you would more than likely be justified in doing so as long as you can articulate and authenticate the presence of a threat of death or great bodily harm.

The course also included a block of instruction on escaping a vehicle in an emergency using many different tools to help with extraction. This block of instruction also included some innovative solutions to gaining access to a vehicle from outside as well. Personally, I carry a Benchmade Houdini Pro in the console of my vehicle and I also purchased a ResqMe in the SIG SAUER Academy Proshop to carry on my keyring as a backup. (See photo below)

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(In the photo above Victor from Sierra Element is engaging a threat through the rear window with Instructor Chris “Cav” Cavallaro coaching during the SIG SAUER Academy Bullets and Vehicles course October 23rd, 2017 in Epping, New Hampshire)

After lunch, it was on to some debussing drills and using cover to engage threats outside the vehicle. Our scenarios led by both Instructors and were all done with the utmost concern for the safety of the students and of course to ensure that learning was taking place while offering feedback on our techniques and more importantly keeping us focused on our performance.

(Just a couple guys out for a drive on a nice fall day in New Hampshire and then we start taking gunfire)

Teachable Moment: Getting out of the driver’s side seat and over the console of this Jeep Grand Cherokee proved difficult for a big dude like me. In this scenario, I was to engage our threats and provide cover for Victor to exit the vehicle. Once he was in position, he did the same for me as I exited the vehicle. This drill was very educational in the fact that if you’ve got to de-buss you need to do it quickly from any position inside the vehicle even if it is climbing out over the console. I also found that my Comp-Tac holster needs a little tightening down on the retention screws so it will hold my SIG SAUER P320 X-Carry a little more securely.

Lastly, several of us were given the opportunity to shoot through the Saturn in specific locations with several different calibers from .22LR to .45ACP in pistols and then a variety of long guns including a suppressed SIG SAUER MCX, M400 (AR-15), a Century Arms AK-47, a 7.62×51 sniper rifle, a 12 gauge Mossberg pump gun loaded with birdshot, buckshot, and rifled slugs. Then lastly, there was the behemoth below that Cav is point shooting without a scope, the .338 Lapua.

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In summary, the Bullets and Vehicles course does an excellent job in establishing some foundational skills for fighting in and around vehicles. Once again, SIG SAUER Academy does not disappoint and their Instructor Cadre, both Dylan Kenneson and Chris “Cav” Cavallaro proved themselves as two of the top trainers in this industry with their excellent instruction and positive coaching every step of the way. I also owe a big thank you as well to SIG SAUER Academy Training Coordinator Kathleen Randolph for getting me a seat in the course when it was already sold out. I wish that my schedule would have allowed me to stay for a few more courses before returning home to teach this past weekend.

Another benefit this trip gave me was the ability to reconnect with my friend Victor from Sierra Element. We took a little side trip to Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine and had a couple good dinners together at places like The Holy Grail Restaurant and Pub. I can see Victor and I attending many more courses together in the future, he is a high-quality individual whom I will not hesitate to recommend as a trainer. If you live in Southern California, you can find a list of his courses by clicking here.

Lastly, this will probably come as no surprise; however, I am already looking forward to returning in 2018 in order to work some more on my skills and learn a lot more things that I can bring back to my students.

SIG SAUER Academy is a world-class training facility with world-class people that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until next time …

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

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My 2017-2018 Personal Training Calendar

As we move solidly into the third quarter of 2017, I thought that it would be good to take a moment to reflect on where I have been, and where I am going throughout the rest of the 2017 and into the first quarter of 2018.

My 2017 training year started after the passing of my Great Aunt Doris, she was one of the strongest human beings that I have ever known. I took care of her as Trustee, Healthcare Surrogate, and Personal Representative watching out for her well-being for over six years, and it was very difficult to lose her because she taught me so much about life, unconditional love and the true meaning of family. Just before she was called home, and while she was in a very advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease she had a moment of clarity while we were talking and said, “go out and get it.” (I am paraphrasing slightly because the context of our conversation was about something a little different than firearms and self-defense training) When she passed away in the early hours of St. Patrick’s Day I was by her side and held her hand as she took her final breath. In the days following I thought that the best thing I can do to honor her memory is to follow her advice to “go out and get it.” So, I have embarked on a training schedule that many people would envy.

A significant percentage of these training courses are skill builder type courses and not instructor courses. I use these type of courses to identify gaps in my skills that lead me back to the range to diligently practice. Every once in a while, we all get into a training rut and work on drills that we perceive ourselves to be good at. I try to work on a different skill set each week when I visit the range. Oh by the way, I typically visit the range twice a week and shoot 150-250 rounds per session. This schedule works well for me and keeps me sharp, if I didn’t do it, all I would be able to do is shoot demos in the courses that I teach. Typically I find things that can always be improved upon, and that is why I use a lot of dry-fire in between my range sessions.

When I started my personal training year it was with Tom and Lynn Givens from Rangemaster Firearms Training Services in their two-day Combative Pistol course on April 1st & 2nd in Okeechobee, Florida at the OK Corral Gun Club. Tom and Lynn are excellent trainers and even better people. I chose this particular course because I knew that it would allow me to get back in the groove so to speak. Their two-day Combative Pistol course is an absolute must take for the responsibly armed citizen, and I will be hosting this course at Tall Palm Ranch, a private range facility in Lakeland, Florida on April 7th & 8th, 2018. I have posted a course review on this course here in this blog for you to read.

A couple weeks later, on the day before Easter I attended Assault Counter Tactics – Vehicle Counter Ambush course at the American Police Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. Paul Pawela, Director of Law Enforcement Training at the hall of fame was the chief instructor, and he held this course as a tribute to United States Army Colonel (R) Danny R. McKnight, former Commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion and the Commander on the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 during operation Gothic Serpent. There is a full course review in this blog for you to read.

At the end of April, I attended the NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta and volunteered some time as a firearms examiner on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. My good friend Dave flew down Minnesota to hang out with me for the weekend, the trip was great, I always enjoy attending the NRAAM. I also got to spend a little time with my friend Santi from South Florida who was in town on business, I took him to the airport when I picked up Dave from Minnesota. Thankfully I was also able to spend a little time with friends Marty and Gila Hayes from Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network and Firearms Academy of Seattle. I always enjoy learning from Marty, he and Gila are titans in the firearms training industry, and if you have a chance you should go out and train with them in beautiful Onalaska, Washington. Again, there is a blog posting of my experiences at the #NRAAM right here for you to read.

On May 9th & 10th I attended the first ever open enrollment GLOCK Operator Course given at GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation Headquarters in Smyrna, Georgia. The course and the instructor is not one that I would recommend to anyone, and as of this writing they still have not reached out to invite me back. (Not Surprising) Seriously, the course was absolutely horrible and I have no reservations about saying so. Maybe they are working on fixing things with the course of fire and the instructor has hopefully checked his ego, who knows, but this course and this instructor is not one I would ever recommend. I do know that about two weeks ago GLOCK invited a group of people to the course, one of which I know is a writer so maybe they are making an attempt to right the ship; however, that does not make up for all the money and time I spent traveling to and taking a course that was advertised as 1,000 round CoF when I only shot 375 rounds and missed out on a significant portion of the curriculum because of the instructor and his huge ego. I would hope one day that GLOCK – GSSF would step-up and invite me back at no expense to see the course again and if they have made the necessary improvements because myself and the others who actually came out of pocket for the course I attended did not get full value. You guessed it, there is a course review of my experiences at the GLOCK Operator Course here in this blog.

Next up was my third trip in four weeks to North Georgia. This time it was for another course with Tom and Lynn Givens, I took the Rangemaster Firearms Training Services three-day Combative Pistol/Vehicle Defense course. This course was hosted by Chief Deputy Lee Weems with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office in Watkinsville, Georgia. “The Chief” is a top notch lawman, highly accomplished shooter and an excellent instructor. On day two of the course we were joined by Claude Werner, The Tactical Professor, I was honored to meet Claude and had him in one of my courses over Father’s Day weekend here in Florida. Follow his blog by clicking on this link, tactical professor. The Rangemaster Combative Pistol/Vehicle Defense Course was excellent! Tom teaches to the adult learning theorems of hear, see, do and test, that works for a lot of people, especially me. As mentioned above, I will be hosting Tom, Lynn and hopefully their “Chinrens” (Skeeter, Dexter and Stub) in 2018. Once for the two-day Combative Pistol Course in April and then for the Three-Day Defensive Shotgun Instructor Development Course in November at Tall Palm Ranch, in Lakeland, Florida. Make sure to keep an eye on the events page at Trigger Control Dot Org. As for a course review on this course, it is on it’s way. I have not posted one yet because I wrote an article about this course for a publication, unfortunately I don’t believe that the article is going to be published, so look for a full course review very soon on this blog.

In mid June I traveled to Titusville, Florida for three days to train with General Dynamics Simunitions in their Instructor and Safety Certification Course. Which reminds me to email them and ask for the new Instructor manual that they promised us. The course was excellent, and the instructors did a great job moving over thirty of us through several reality based training scenarios and then they coached us as we ran our own reality based training scenarios in an abandoned office building just up the street from the the host agency, the Titusville Police Department. I highly recommend the course, and once again I will post a full course review as the article I was writing for this course looks like it has been quashed as well.

Personal Note: I am right now working on a contract with a publisher, there will be an announcement about this soon here and on my other social media venues.

In late June I made a trip to SIG SAUER Academy in Epping, New Hampshire. The SIG SAUER Master Pistol Instructor course was great, and my Instructor Steven Gilcreast was excellent. I enjoyed my time in New Hampshire so much that I am heading back this coming Sunday in order to take three more courses next week. I can give no more positive endorsement than signing up and paying for more courses at SIG SAUER Academy. A full course review for the SIG SAUER Academy Master Pistol Instructor course was posted in this blog.

July is usually my vacation month to get things together for the courses I will instruct and also attend, along with the goals I want to accomplish throughout the rest of the year. At this time I also plan my training schedule for the following calendar year and make sure I have things on the books with range facilities and local hosts. However, during the month of July I did teach a couple courses and ended up taking the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Course given by On Point Safety & Defense at my home club, the Wyoming Antelope Club in Clearwater, Florida. Franklin did a great job with the POI for this course, it is one that I highly recommend for both the firearms instructor and the responsibly armed citizen. I will be hosting this as a closed enrollment course on Saturday October 14th at the Wyoming Antelope Club for my cadre with Trigger Control Dot Org, we may open up the enrollment in a couple weeks as I want to make sure to fill the course for Franklin because he is an excellent trainer.

Which brings us up to present day. Currently I am packing for my return trip to SIG SAUER Academy this Sunday. Once again I am looking forward to the time I will spend in the greater Epping/Exeter metropolitan area. Additionally I may find the time to drive down to Boston to take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, a bucket list item that you can be sure I will check off. Stay tuned for course reviews on the three courses that I will attend next week.

The last weekend in August I will be in Culpeper, Virginia attending a third course with Rangemaster Firearms Training Services, I will be attending the Advanced Instructor Development Course for a second time. I first graduated from this course back in March 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, and candidly, I am looking forward to seeing how Tom has evolved the curriculum of this course. I posted a course review on the original course in 2015 as the first entry in this blog, a new course review will be posted once I complete this course later this month, so please stay tuned!

In September I will be instructing and attending a couple closed enrollment courses for Law Enforcement and one NRA Instructor Pistol Shooting course, then I will be attending a course with Dave Spaulding from Handgun Combatives. I have been chasing Dave for a few years now and the opportunity presented itself, so I jumped on it. By the way, I am very glad that I took action when I did, when I paid my course tuition he only had six registrations, four days later the course was completely sold out. In fact it is oversold to the point that he had to bring in another instructor. Let that be a lesson to those who procrastinate in signing up for courses. Again, a full course review will be posted in this blog.

At the end of September I have been invited to attend a closed enrollment course with a training group that is offering a Combat Shotgun and Advanced Pistol course. Unfortunately this course is being held in one of those states that do not welcome me and my gun, fortunately I will be training with a bunch of operators who can protect me. (Wink-Wink) These two courses will allow me some more flexibility in offering closed enrollment curriculum for both Law Enforcement and Military units.

In early October I will be traveling to Los Angeles to do some consulting with a major television network at one of their studios. The contract is in hand, the money is in the bank, now I just have to work with some actors and actresses on gun handling and some self-defense skills. I know, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, right? Oh and yet again, I am traveling somewhere that I am not typically welcome with my handgun; however, it pays to have friends in high places.

At the end of my trip to California I will attend Ken Hackathorn‘s two-day Advanced Pistol course at Burro Canyon Shooting Park in the San Gabriel Mountains, high above the smog of Los Angeles. I am really looking forward to training with Ken, he has been training Law Enforcement Officers, the United States Military and Responsibly Armed Americans in the responsible and ethical use of firearms for somewhere close to 50 years. You can bet that I will be taking copious notes. When I met Ken at the NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta he told me that he will retire from actively teaching this year and that trainers like Larry Vickers and Daryl Holland both with Aztec Training Services will be taking over a lot of his training. As you might suspect, a full course review will be published in this blog.

The third weekend in October I will be in Green Bay, Wisconsin being hosted by The Well Armed Woman’s oldest chapter. The ladies and their local gun club have been very accommodating and I can’t tell you how excited I am to bring a one-day handgun and personal tactics course for the responsibly armed citizen to “Cheeseville.” I will have a few friends of mine helping me with the course and I am sure that my host and some of the students will be posting course reviews, I will share them as they are published.

The month of November will be very busy as well. During the first three weekends I will be driving to North Carolina, flying to Oklahoma and then flying to the Midwest to take courses in between several course commitments of my own as a trainer. One of these trips includes the first Rangemaster Instructor Reunion Conference to be held at the BDC Gun Room in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Tom and Lynn Givens scheduled this gathering for their alumni and it sold out very quickly, then Tom asked for a larger meeting space in the facility to accommodate more folks and now it is nearly sold out again. This will be a great trip, and one that I am sure will be memorable.

In December I will be headed to South Carolina to conduct a closed enrollment course and to attend a weekend course near Columbia. I am excited to take a drive around Fort Jackson where tomorrow (August 11th) it will be 35 years since I set foot on the soil, err sand there, more appropriately I pushed sand in the front lean and rest position doing push-ups while getting eaten by gnats on Tank Hill, “Bravo Four One” B-4-1, 4th Platoon, “Keep up the Fire!”

In January 2018 I will be headed back to Oklahoma to train with Tom Givens, William Aprill and Craig “Southnarc” Douglas in Establishing a Dominance Paradigm, and then on to the NSSF SHOT Show in Las Vegas. I will be hosting Patrick McNamara here in Florida for his T.A.P.S. Carbine course at the end of the month, I believe this will be his first course in the “GunShine” state. (That’s Florida for all you Yankees) I am excited about hosting Mac, he is one of the very best trainers across all firearms disciplines and a high quality individual as well. Trigger Control Dot Org will be handling the pre-registration for this course, so please stay tuned to the events page on Trigger Control Dot Org for a course announcement soon!

The weekend after the Super Bowl is going to be absolutely epic! I am hosting Gabe White for his very first course in the GunShine State. Gabe is the only man to ever score a perfect 125/125 on “The Test” at the elite Rogers Shooting School in Elijay, Georgia, and get this, he did it from concealment (AIWB) with his GLOCK 34. Both Tom and Lynn Givens and myself sold out Gabe’s course in short order with folks that we knew and have trained with before, so to be fair to everyone who missed out, I am bringing Gabe back in late September 2018 for another course at Tall Palm Ranch in Lakeland, Florida. Registration is open for the September 29th & 30th, 2018 course on Gabe’s Eventbrite page.

In March I will attend the 20th annual Rangemaster Firearms Training Services Tactical Conference at the Direct Action Resource Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The Tactical Conference has trainers from all across the country, people like John Farnam, Massad Ayoob, Marty Hayes, Chick Haggard, Claude Werner, of course Tom Givens and many more nationally known trainers. TACCON sells out way ahead of time and if you have not already registered you’ve got maybe a few weeks until it will be sold out. Register and pay your event fee now on Eventbrite or by mail by downloading the form in this link.

As mentioned several times above, on April 7th & 8th, 2018 I will be hosting Tom and Lynn Givens for their Rangemaster two-day Combative Pistol course. This will be a “Home Course” for them teaching at Tall Palm Ranch, in Lakeland, Florida. This course should fill up very quickly with my instructor cadre and students here in the Tampa Bay area, that is why I am hosting it, all for their benefit. You can register on Eventbrite or by sending your check or money order to; Rangemaster Firearms Training Services, 1808 James L. Redman Parkway, Plant City, Florida 33563.

There will be more courses to teach and more to attend in 2018; however, this is what I have going through the first quarter of 2018, how about you? Do you run your gun, or just run your mouth through your keyboard on social media about how you supposedly run your gun? (Sadly a lot of people do just that and they think they are experts in firearms training and the justifiable use of force)

I’ll leave you with this last thought … There are people in the world who watch things happen, then there are the people who make things happen and lastly there are people who wonder what happened. Get off your butt, schedule some training and make things happen!

 

Until next time …

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

Don’t be “That Guy.”

All day yesterday from 9:00am to a little after 5:00pm I participated in a Tactical Combat Casualty Course. I was asked to participate by the chief instructor to evaluate and offer some actionable feedback on the program of instruction.

It has been said many times, that it’s better to be, “the guy on the side” rather than, “the sage on the stage.” When attending a course as a student (Especially when you have some knowledge of the program of instruction) you must remember that you are the learner and not the master. I ended up keeping my head on a swivel due to “That Guy.”

Yesterday, “That Guy” was a neophyte who just jumped into the gun culture recently and showed up late to class, brought no note taking material and was literally more concerned with taking photos and videos for his Facebook page rather than receiving training and getting immersed in the program of instruction.

“That Guy” also had the audacity to invite his girlfriend to the course in order to take photos and videos of him running two of the reality based training scenarios set up for us in the afternoon. She (That Guy’s Girlfriend) wan’t dressed in the appropriate range attire and was again, a hindrance to training, and she could have created a liability for the instructors and other students. This is exactly why I never allow spectators in any of my courses. This is NOT a criticism of the instructor(s) in this course, I am willing to bet that neither of them knew that he invited her, and that’s normal behavior from a neophyte to do these kinds of things, so as an instructor, you must always be prepared.

Oh by the way, here is a measure of “That Guy’s” competence with a firearm. In the opening range exercise he took ten (10) shots at his target from five (5) yards away and missed 50% of his shots low and left. For a right handed shooter that shows a lack of trigger control,; however, he immediately blamed this on his sights being off and he left the firing line to go retrieve another handgun to use. He did no better with the second handgun. Oh, and not only did “That Guy” NOT ask permission to leave the firing line, he held up the entire course, the instructors and all of the students who were toeing the line and ready to go.

Now, as a professional firearms instructor, I know that it is normal for a neophyte to make excuses and blame their equipment for their deficiencies in basic defensive shooting fundamentals; however, it is the professional who takes notes of their errors and works diligently and deliberately to improve their skills. There is an old saying, “It’s never usually the arrow, always the Indian,” and from five (5) yards away from your target a sight deviation drill will prove that if you press the trigger correctly you will get a hit darn close to your point of aim. I do it in every class to demonstrate how sight alignment works.

My good friend, Major (R) Navarro says, “You are not what you say you are, you are what you do or don’t do.” He’s got that right, this guy is a neophyte.

Here is another important observation concerning “That Guy’s” muzzle direction. It was downright scary and I was shooting two lanes to his left, not a good position with his gun handling skills. Just so you know, he was corrected multiple times by the chief instructor, and each time he made a joke of it.

During the “Hot Wash” or review after each scenario, “That Guy” was very vocal on what he liked and didn’t like, adding in his spin on things. Unfortunately for him, each time he opened his mouth he proved that he was chalk full of unconscious incompetence. Just a more professional way of saying, “you don’t know, what you don’t know. Click on this link to for an brief explanation of the Stages of Learning.

To my fellow students and instructors, “That Guy” can not only be a hindrance to the delivery of the program of instruction, he can be a safety hazard. This means that you must be prepared when you encounter “him” and know exactly how to effectively deal with “That Guy.”.

One last comment, “That Guy” was first in his vehicle and race out of the range to leave, he didn’t stay and help the instructor(s) break down three bays that were set-up or take the time to help with the classroom cleanup. It was obvious what “That Guy” came for, the free training and to run his mouth, not his gun.

 

Until next time …

Live life abundantly!

Stay Safe & Train Hard!

Course Review: Sig Sauer Master Pistol Instructor Course – June 26th & 27th, 2017 at SIG SAUER Academy in Epping, New Hampshire

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On Sunday June 25th I boarded a Southwest airlines jet at Tampa International Airport and after a plane change in Baltimore I arrived in the state with the very best motto of all, “Live Free Or Die.” I traveled to New Hampshire to attend the Master Pistol Instructor Course at SIG SAUER Academy. After claiming my baggage and getting my rental car, (By the way, I was given a free upgrade by Enterprise to a Ford Escape, exactly what I drive at home) I set the Waze application in my iPhone for 233 Exeter Road, Epping, New Hampshire. Upon my arrival I was greeted with the view pictured above. This is a place that I have wanted to visit and obviously train at for a very long time.

SIG SAUER Academy is a world class training facility situated on 140 acres, the cadre there offer 110 different courses in many different disciplines. Several months ago I talked my good friend Dave from upstate New York to join me. This course is a performance/objective based course that is only conducted a handful of times per year at the Epping facility.

On my initial visit, I found SIG SAUER Academy to be as advertised and I was thoroughly impressed with all of the facilities, the friendliness of the staff, and of course the well-stocked Pro Shop on property. (Please keep reading, I haven’t even come close to covering the good stuff yet)

After visiting the facility Sunday afternoon I went to check in at my hotel. I chose the Hampton Inn & Suites in Exeter just a couple exits away off Route 101. SIG SAUER Academy has a corporate rate for students attending courses with them, the Fairfield Inn & Suites and also The Exeter Inn as well. Being a Hilton Honors member also made it an easy choice as well.

My friend Dave arrived a short time later and we headed out to see the Atlantic Ocean and to have dinner in North Hampton. After dinner we had some ice cream at The Beach Plum across the road from a public beach. The local patrons at the ice cream shop gave me a strange look when I asked, “what the heck are Jimmies?” For goodness sake people, just call them what they are, sprinkles. (Below is a great view of the Atlantic just off Ocean Boulevard 1A at Fox Point)

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On Monday morning at 0830hrs we started TD1 in classroom #7 with 17 students and SIG SAUER Academy Senior Instructor and Training Manager Steven Gilcreast. Steve started by having us fill out and endorse the SIG SAUER Firearm Safety Rules document and then we filled out and endorsed their General Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk document. The second document required a witness endorsement, this should sound familiar to those who have trained with me before.

Next up we made a “chow plan.” The chow plan at SIG SAUER Academy is pretty darn good. Hammersmith Sandwich Company delivers to the Pro Shop and all you have to do is pay your $12.00 at the sales counter and then pick up your lunch from Training Coordinator, Kathleen Randolph. Ordering from the Hammersmith menu is a great option for you, so budget for it because there is little time to leave the property and come back from lunch; however, for those who want to try it, there are a few fast-food restaurants close-by. Oh by the way, the Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad Wrap is unbelievable, I had it both days and it was more than enough to do me right.

Steve then asked who needed firearms and ammunition. If you read the course descriptions you will find this statement tied to all courses at the Epping location. “Tuition includes free loan of firearms, holsters, safety glasses, and hearing protection at the Epping facility only.” Now, how cool is that? We had several students from Canada and one from the United Kingdom who took loaner guns and gear both days. You can also purchase ammunition from the Pro Shop as well, so all you need to do is show up in Epping and they will give you all the gear to run the course, just buy the ammunition and you are good-to-go. You got to clean or wipe them down when you are done, just putting that out there, so you have an informed expectation.

After all the administrative work was completed, we got right in to a Power Point presentation and our workbooks. (See Below)

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Steve said, “the course objective, is to give you knowledge” and that is spot on. If you come to this course with an open mind and ready to learn you will learn a lot because there is a lot of information that your brain will need to process. Be prepared to take a lot of notes. As an observation, I noticed that on TD1 my friend Dave and I were the only two students taking notes in both the classroom and on the range. That changed on TD2 with several other students taking notes on the range with us.

Steve went on to describe the evolution behind the Master Pistol Instructor Course and the difference between “Instructors” and “Qualifiers.” I am quite familiar with the difference as I know one “Gun Pretender” in particular that I trained with in 2015 and 2016 that if you ask him to diagnose faults with shooting fundamentals he might say something smart like, “get your hits” or “suck less.” There is an important reason why I bring this up, Steve told us of his own faults as a shooter and gave his own example of a “Gun Pretender” that he trained with as he was struggling with trigger control when he was a sworn law enforcement officer. Steve was told in order to fix his trigger control issues he needed to, “shoot more.” Seriously, now how in the heck does that help anyone? It doesn’t, all it does is allow the shooter to reinforce bad techniques.

The message here is to stay away from “Gun Pretenders” who are good at telling you what you are doing wrong, but short on the substance of what you need to do right and the why behind it. Steve can diagnose the faults in your fundamentals and make you a better shooter, you just need to be willing to put in the work.

The Master Pistol Instructor Course is not a traditional instructor course in the sense that you are not required to give any presentations, or demonstrations; however, you are expected to coach your partner and hold him or her accountable for perfect practice throughout the drills that Steve assigns during the course. Also, this is a course that will expose weaknesses in your own fundamentals; however, it will teach you how to strengthen those weaknesses as well. (More on that later)

Important Note: This particular program of instruction tends to help the person who has “performance based objectives.” You ask, what are performance based objectives? They are objectives that a student is there to learn something new and more importantly try new techniques that will help them become a better shooter and or teacher. Yes, students have objectives, some are hidden and some are not. Just ask them, they will tell you. If you are going to SIG SAUER Academy to get a certificate I would suggest that you reassess your trip and go there to learn something, the certificate will happen. (More on that later)

We’ve all seen it before, people who go to courses to get a certificate or punch a ticket. Those are outcome based objectives and some of my best friends fall into that category. To go a little further these friends of mine chase the Dogma of people who are just looking to extract their hard earned discretionary income and then laugh at you and talk about how much money they are making during the course or worse, they back-stab you in the training community after the course and obviously give you little to no value for the money you have spent with them.

SIG SAUER Academy is NOT that kind of place. It is run by professionals for professionals, that is why on their sign out front it reads, “Where the professionals train.” SIG SAUER Academy is an excellent value for your training dollar, and if you do not take a trip there to attend a course, you are definitely missing out. You can thank me later; however, I encourage you to keep on reading.

Steve emphasized the adult learning theorems of hear, see and do or as the SIG SAUER Academy method of instruction states in our workbooks; Explain, Imitate, Practice, Reinforce and Review.

Steve is a top notch teacher, he coaches people through drills and does not over instruct. The very worst thing an instructor can do is “mother hen” their students and tell them what they are doing wrong. Steve does the exact opposite, he cares about his students and does his very best to give personal instruction.

In our course we had a 17:1 student to instructor ratio, that is my only gripe, there was little time for much personal instruction from Steve, again he did his best, but there were just too many students for him to spend time with each of us individually. He gave us tips and coaching on what he saw, but again, there were too many students for one person to work with. Not to mention that some students started “practicing” when done with drills screwing up the shot timers of others who were still working through the drills assigned. This could have been easily quashed with an assistant instructor or two.

If Adam Painchaud, the Vice-President at SIG SAUER Academy asked my opinion and he did in my survey. I would suggest that there be no more than a 6:1 student to instructor ratio in a course like this one. With 3 instructors and 17 students they could have split the course into two firing orders and then Steve could have had less than a 3:1 student to instructor ratio on the firing line and less than a 6:1 ratio overall. Now I know that math is hard and big corporations want to see net new income to the bottom-line; however, in my course there were the aforementioned 17 students, we all paid $600.00 each in tuition, that is $10,200 in gross income. No, I don’t profess to know the cost per student at SIG SAUER Academy; however, they certainly must have had even one or two more staff instructors somewhere on property that could have assisted Steve with this course and ensured a little more personal instruction. This is not a criticism, it is just an observation that 35 years experience in receiving and giving firearms training courses going back to 1982 has taught me.

Let’s get back to the course content. At SIG SAUER Academy, SIG = Simple Is Good. As we all know, the conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time and Steve emphasized this to us during each phase of the course by giving us what he called, “talking points” for us to keep focused on and think about while we were working through the drills. I use these talking points to help shooters with focus and to give positive words of encouragement.

If you put in the effort by practicing deliberately and holding yourself accountable to a specific standard, you will see some positive results as long as you are exercising proper technique. SIG SAUER Academy and Steve Gilcreast are all about teaching proper technique.

One thing that stood out to me was when Steve told us of his past training biases. He said that once he got over them and started trying new techniques, he found that some of these new techniques worked for him and they were’t so bad after all. Steve also owns his deficiencies as a shooter and said, “I figure out ways to screw things up.” You have to like someone who is humble, and can own their own deficiencies, Steve is very humble and obviously owns his own deficiencies. (More to come on that exact subject a little later)

Which brings me to the target used in this course. Meet the SSA-BM1 or “Brett” target for short. (Notice the tape on the binder clip in the photo below, all of us used a lot of tape over this two-day course)

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This target has very faint scoring lines on it with an 8″ circle placed in the upper thoracic region which is indicative of where you want to hit on a human in a gunfight. There is also a 4″ circle on Brett’s face that is there to signify where you would want to get a hit in a failure to stop drill or if in a gunfight and you needed to shut-off the computer so to speak.

Now, you are probably wondering why the scoring lines are barely visible, that’s simple to explain. It is to make it realistic because there are no scoring lines in real life, besides, if it was easy everybody could do it.

Important Note: For those of you considering attending any course at SIG SAUER Academy that has a standard course of fire test or qualification. A hole made by your projectile in a paper target that touches one of the scoring lines is out, not in.

[Quote] “If you have to ask, it’s out.” [End Quote] – Steven Gilcreast

Additionally, if you shoot the wrong target during a standard course of fire, both you and the student who owns the target that you shot are disqualified. Do the words “Know your target and what is beyond” make sense to you now?

It would be good to note that Brett is a former SIG SAUER employee. Steve pointed out that when he worked for the company, students would see him on property and tell him that they shot him a bunch of times, I’d imagine that Brett got tired of hearing that.

At SIG SAUER Academy Steve said that a safe direction is where there are no people, and that is not necessarily down-range. Steve does not allow any “admin style reloads” while the gun is in the holster, period. He also said it was up to us to know the status of our guns and on TD2 there would be a penalty for not knowing it. You will need to attend the course to understand the penalties (Plural), I cannot give all of the secrets away here, nor should I.

Steve emphasized, “holster your gun with control.” Upon hearing that, I asked if the recent shooting with injury on property a few months ago was done during holstering and he answered in the affirmative. This was no surprise to me, that is when unintended and negligent discharges tend to happen in courses that involve presentations from the holster.

Before we went “hot” on the range Steve laid out the Medical Plan, he asked if there were any Doctors first, then went down the list to Combat Medics, Paramedics, EMT’s etc… He assigned a primary and secondary medical team then assigned two people to be responsible to grab the medical kit. Then he assigned a primary and secondary person to call 9-1-1, he then assigned someone to go to the gate to greet EMS and lead them back to Area 51 where we were located, and someone to go to the Pro Shop and alert Kathleen as to what happened, so they could engage the protocols they have as a company to deal with any type of emergency where EMS is summoned to the facility.

One thing Steve didn’t do is assign someone to take notes for an incident report, nor did he assign someone to make sure that the firing line was clear and make sure everyone had their guns in their holsters. Sure, that is a given with experienced people; however, with a class of seventeen (17) students there was enough bodies to assign these two tasks for safety purposes; however, it might not be part of the SIG SAUER Academy Emergency Procedures as laid out in their range standard operating procedure, in my opinion it should be, but we all know what opinions are like. (See our Medical Plan in the photo below)

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Once the Medical Plan was in place, Steve then explained and demonstrated the SIG SAUER Academy Task, Conditions and Standards, (TCS’s) and then guess what? All students shot them, cold on demand.

The SIG SAUER Academy TCS’s are a series of drills that are designed to test a shooters performance cold on demand, that should make sense to people who have trained with me before. In the SIG Master Pistol Instructor course description under prerequisites you will find the following statement, “Students failing to meet and maintain our safety requirements and/or who cannot meet and immediately demonstrate the minimum skills required for the specific class may be removed from training.” Nobody was removed from training; however, our performance on the TCS’s gave Steve a basis on how to teach the course because it let him know what skills we needed to work on.

The TCS’s objective is accuracy, if you missed the previously mentioned 8″ scoring circle in the upper thoracic region of the “Brett” target, Steve placed an “X” with an “M” on the score sheet in the box corresponding to the drill next to your name. If you missed the time standard you got the proverbial “X” and a “T” in the box. Before Steve let us see our scores he told us to not think about the outcome, think about improving our performance.

My scores on the TCS’s were as expected, the objective was accuracy and I met that standard on all six drills; however, I missed the time standard on two of the six. Having an informed expectation is important. Now, I’ll tell you exactly where my deficiencies are because the timer doesn’t lie and neither do I.

My empty gun/emergency reloads suck, plain and simple. I am at about a 2.75s reload, that is not getting it done, lots of wasted movement in that time. (I will have a video of me running a 2×2 drill from the holster on TD1 as soon as Steve responds to my email) How do I improve my time? Easy, increase my diligence and deliberate perfect practice at becoming consistent and efficient.

Next was target transitions. I lost a lot of time being a little too precise instead of pressing the trigger when I had an acceptable sight movie. (Only on a square range where targets are static is it called a sight picture) Again, having realistic expectations and knowing that I have some things to work on is a good thing, not a bad thing. As you can well imagine I am currently working on these deficiencies now. For accountability purposes I have posted proof positive of what I have written above. There were only two, possibly three perfect 6/6 scores, the average was about 2/6 and that is a guess because math is hard. (Just kidding)

TCS Accountability

Obviously in order to get better on the TCS’s I need to exercise my brain into telling my muscles the proper movements. (There is no such thing as muscle memory folks, you’ve got to train the brain to tell the muscles what to do)

At SIG SAUER Academy they obviously have unlimited resources and each team of two students were issued a Pact Club Timer III for exercises, Dave and I made good use of it. I love my PACT Club Timer III, it is the most versatile shot timer out there. There are those “Gun Pretenders” in the firearms training industry who say that a shot timer or a stopwatch is no good for training, they are typically the same ones who don’t shoot in front of their students. Yeah, that is a shot directly at you if you fall in that category.

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Important Note: Please do not ask me to share the SIG SAUER Academy TSC’s and times, it will not happen. Nor will I share with you the Master Pistol Standards Course of Fire either. If you have attended the five-day Semi-Automatic Pistol Instructor course you somewhat have a head start, that is why that course is a feeder for this one. If you have not attended the five-day course, you should plan a trip, travel to SIG SAUER Academy and make that happen.

Back to some more instructional methodology. On the range, Steve said, “the best presentation is one done in reverse.” He has got that right, you can build that particular skill backwards from the gun at extension and then going back to the holster.

Another thing taught at SIG SAUER Academy is this …

Consistency + Efficiency = Success this is something I had heard before I trained at SIG SAUER Academy; however, I never wrote it down and I was not putting it into practice consciously, maybe subconsciously, but not consciously.

Did I mention to take a lot of notes? My Rite in the Rain All-Weather Notebook got some good use in Epping. Oh by the way, if you forget yours, you can buy one in the Pro Shop.

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When TD1 adjourned I had fired a total of 289 rounds of the expected 900 stated in the course description. TD2 I fired 286 round for a total of 575 rounds, that is only 63.8% of the expected course of fire. Not in that 20% +/- that I expect to shoot when I am at a course like this one. That just means my friend Dave needs to send me the ammunition I sent him back behind the wall to “New Yorkistan” with because I couldn’t fly home with it all due to TSA guidelines.

This is not a knock on SIG SAUER Academy, the course was chock full of knowledge, I just like to see a 20% +/- disparity in round count that way I feel like I shot enough to get familiar with the drills. Lord knows you are not going to be able to anchor a new skill in a two-three-four or even a five day course, you’ve got to go home and #DoWork yourself to get better.

On Monday evening my friend Dave and I jumped in my rental car and drove to Kittery, Maine. I had never been to the Pine Tree state before, so this was something I was excited about. I had heard of the Kittery Trading Post before and now I have been there and have a receipt for $40.06 proving that I added to the economy of our 23rd state.

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Afterwards Dave and I had a nice dinner across the road from the Kittery Trading Post and then headed back to our hotels in Exeter. Once I got back to my room, I started in on some dry-fire exercises running five (5) sets of twenty (20) perfect trigger presses in a row using the wall drill that Steve had showed us earlier in the day. I also worked on some empty gun/emergency reloads in between the sets to give my mind a rest.

Dry-fire is mentally challenging when you concentrate and do it correctly. The photo below is SIG SAUER Academy Senior Instructor and Training Manager, Steven Gilcreast explaining the wall drill.

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On TD2 at SIG SAUER Academy we started in the classroom with a review of TD1. We also reviewed video that Steve digitally recorded on his iPad through the Coaches Eye application while we were running a 2×2 drill. Ever the coach and teacher, Steve gave us some tips on where we can become more efficient in our body mechanics and as he said many times over the two day course, any additional movement adds a “time penalty.”

Think about that statement for a minute, what does this mean in a gunfight where the “time penalty” could be your life or the life of your loved one. When you think of it in that context it is a pretty sobering thought, isn’t it?

While we were in the classroom Steve also gave us a reading list of some great books to dive into about all different subjects that have to do with performance. I have read many of them and I appreciated this because I am a voracious reader, in fact I ordered a few of the books online even before I left New Hampshire. By the way, I read an hour or two every single day and also spend some time in thought every single day as well, I encourage you to do the same.

After completing our TD2 “chow plan” and analyzing the rest of the videos we hit the range.

TD2 on the range was all about working on drills in a manner that was efficient and that allowed us to focus on deliberate perfect practice. We also ran drills with instructions to set a time and then try to beat that time. (This is a practice derived from the teachings of one Pat McNamara, I will be hosting Pat Mac for a T.A.P.S. Carbine Course in January, here in the Tampa Bay area. Contact me for registration information at floridafirearmsinstructor@gmail.com)

Candidly, I found this way of deliberately practicing to be of great value to me, I had heard of it and yet never really used it before. Education without implementation is worthless. Just so you know, I will be employing this methodology in my personal training and my method of instruction soon.

When we broke for lunch I got to work on making sure my gun was properly zeroed. Yes, I know, never go to a course without a properly zeroed gun. Well, I thought that my gun was zeroed as I had bench-rested it the week prior to attending the course; however, I was incorrect.

On TD1 I had some trouble at distance. Twenty-five (25) yards to be exact, the POI (Point of Impact) of my group was appreciably left of my POA (Point of Aim) and I got that worked out the best I could during a short but effective lunchtime range session using an NRA B-8 bulls-eye center. Steve usually gets in his work during his lunch breaks and I was robbing him of some practice time, I am grateful that he allowed me the time to get my feces sufficiently coagulated.

Which brings me to this very important point. Folks, if you do not bring the tools, and more importantly all the parts to fix or adjust your gun with you to a course, then shame on you. My MGW Sight Tool (See the photo below) sure came in handy.

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Now, let’s use this as a teachable moment. My handgun was not broken; however, it was not zeroed properly to POA/POI. (Point of Aim/Point of Impact) The lesson is as follows … Never, ever go to a course or more importantly carry a gun that is not zeroed properly. I made a mistake that cost me. (More to follow in that)

After lunch Steve set up the SIG SAUER Academy TCS’s again and then set up some drills that he came up with using his own ingenuity incorporating some steel targets into our training. One of the drills was his “Far to Near” drill and the other two were his famous “Blaze X” that Pat Mac named, and the last one was “Run-Shuffle-Run.” We had a lot of fun and worked on movement while shooting small plates and getting proper hits on “Brett” as well.

I will post a few videos of Steve from the course on my business Facebook page at www.facebook.com/triggercontrol, one of the drills will be him shooting his “Far to Near” drill and his “Run-Shuffle-Run” drill along with an instructional video or two as well.

At SIG SAUER Academy they teach that the key to any stance or shooting platform is to have balance, mobility and stability, I’ll add in consistency to that and call it good. Many people slid when getting into a shooting position running the drills, myself included. Steve says that is not very efficient and I agree with him.

Finally late in the day, we shot the Sig Sauer Master Pistol Standards Course of Fire. (No, I am not giving it to you)

Of the seventeen (17) instructor candidates only eleven (11) made the cut and earned a patch. Earning the patch signifies that you passed the qualification at 90% or better. SIG SAUER Academy Standards say that 22 of 25 hits = 90%. Now math is hard sometimes, but simple division says that number is really 88%. We’ll go with their number because it is their course of fire and their standard, and of course because they make the rules.

Now, if you follow my business Facebook page at Trigger Control Dot Org you will know that I was not one of the eleven. No excuses, I DQ’d and I don’t mean Dairy Queen. It doesn’t matter why, other than it was NOT because of a safety violation or rules infraction. Plain and simple though, I had a shot off the silhouette not the target, and that is an instant disqualification as it should be.

I am not happy about it, in fact I am pissed; however, I remember what I said about informed expectations. Even though I was getting in work before the course I was not getting in the proper work and I struggled with a unzeroed gun. (My fault entirely, that is called having integrity and owning my own deficiencies)

During the qualification I had to deal with hot brass landing on and sticking to my neck and on my arm. Again, my fault for not turning up my collar and staggering myself off the line a little to give the ejection pattern from the person to my left a wider berth. Listen, I am humble and I own my deficiencies, remember I said that I would mention this again later? Well, as Paul Harvey used to say so eloquently, “and now you know, the rest of the story.”

Let’s talk about fixes for this problem and it is a problem. Seventeen (17) students standing nearly shoulder to shoulder is just way too many on the line for a qualification with only one instructor. I mentioned the fix above is to split the course participants into two firing orders, this is important for the Master Pistol Standards qualification, there is too much on the line to go home without a patch signifying that you made the 90%, err 88% standard.

I believe one firing order was used to save time and that is fine; however, nobody was flying out that night and everyone was perfectly fine with training after 5:00pm, we just had to be done by 6:00pm due to the local range rules. With two firing orders the qualification would obviously have allowed a much bigger space in between shooters. If this sounds like I am belly aching, I’m not. Again, thirty-five (35) years of professional firearms training and instruction experience going back to 1982 gives me some perspective on things.

Folks, I am not one to take participation trophies or certificates of completion when I have not earned them by meeting or exceeding the course standards. In pertinent point, I have a certificate in my possession that certifies that I completed the course of instruction in Master Pistol Instructor; however, it is my belief that I have not completed anything until I pass the SIG SAUER Master Pistol Standards Course to the SIG SAUER Academy standard.

One thing is certain, you will never read anywhere that I am claiming to be a SIG SAUER Certified Master Pistol Instructor anywhere in the written word or hear me say it in the spoken word because my integrity will not allow me to do so. My participation certificate will go in a filing cabinet and when I pass the Master Pistol Standards Course and have a patch in hand to prove it, I will then write it and say it, but not until that patch is in hand.

By the way, I am so much the learner that I am taking over 300 hours of course work this year alone to sharpen my skills, and keep my training methodology relevant and focused on the adult learning theorem. How much training are you taking this year?

In summary, get yourself up to the greater Epping/Exeter “metropolitan” area and take a course at this world class facility, from a top notch teacher like Steven Gilcreast, you will be glad that you made the investment, and you can thank me afterwards.

Until next time …

Live life abundantly!

Stay Safe & Train Hard!