Course Review: Dave Spaulding – Handgun Combatives – Vehicle Combatives Course; September 9th & 10th, 2017 – Coffeyville, Kansas (Host: Deputy Jones, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office)

On Friday, September 8th with Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Sunshine State I boarded a Southwest Airlines jet headed for Tulsa, Oklahoma by way of Houston, Texas and rented a vehicle to get to Coffeyville, Kansas for the course obviously not knowing what I would find when I got back home. Thank goodness for hurricane shutters and good friends because I fared well; however, many of my friends in the Fort Myers and Naples area were not so lucky.

When I arrived in Coffeyville I called the host, and let him know I was in town and to check dinner plans. He let me know that he was on his way to get Dave and to standby.

Let me tell you, Deputy Jones is an excellent host, he accepted my ammunition shipment and made everything easy for the students, some who came from as far away as Colorado, Texas, and both Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas. With such a large course, he was an invaluable asset to Dave on Sunday afternoon running us through the scenarios from inside the vehicles.

He also gave me some great tips about touring the local area to learn about one of the greatest shootouts in American history. That is the shootout between some armed citizens, one law enforcement officer and the Dalton gang who rode into town on horseback to rob two banks at the same time in Coffeyville back on October 5th, 1892.

I cannot say enough good things about Deputy Jones, well-done sir!

The photo below is of the outside of the Dalton Defenders Museum in downtown Coffeyville, this building is literally steps from where the entire gunfight took place. I walked the areas where the twelve (12) minute gunfight happened. That’s right, I said twelve (12) minutes. I also toured the cemetery where two or three of the defenders and three of the Dalton gang members are buried. If you find yourself in Coffeyville, Kansas you should take in some of this history.

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The Defenders; Charles T. Connelly, Charles Brown, George B. Cubine, and Lucius M. Baldwin. These plaques are placed exactly where these brave men fell on October 5th, 1892, may they rest in peace.

The photo below is the grave site of Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton, and Bill Power in Elmwood Cemetery. For many years the only marker that these criminals had was the original hitching post that they tied their horses up to near the old jail in what is now known as Death Alley. By the way, as historians put it, that was their first mistake.

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It wasn’t until Emmett Dalton’s sentence was commuted by the Governor some fifteen years later that the headstone that you see now was placed. Emmett Dalton survived the gunfight with twenty-three (23) pieces of lead in him from the Defenders, he never fired a shot, but he was obviously an accessory to the robbery and murders of four brave men. After his release, Emmett went on to be a real estate investor and actor in California.

Former Deputy United States Marshal, Frank Dalton who was killed in the line of duty many years before is buried in the same cemetery, you can see the base of his headstone at the top of the photo. He is buried only 100 or so paces from his more famous brothers who were laid out in the jail for all the townspeople to see.

OK, let’s get to Handgun Combatives

“The Out of Towners” that came in for the course met Dave and our host for dinner on Friday night at a Mexican restaurant across the street from our hotels. Dave had us laughing and also captivated with his knowledge of the application and adaptation of skills in using the handgun to be an active participant in our own rescue. Make no mistake, Dave’s methodology follows the adult learning theorem and his program of instruction is time-tested by his thirty-five plus years’ experience as a sworn Law Enforcement Officer in Montgomery County, (Dayton) Ohio.

Yeah, Dave has been doing this stuff a while and when he speaks, it might be a wise idea to use those ears you have and listen intently.

Fair Warning, Dave does not sugar coat much of anything and that might mean he uses some colorful language in explaining the realities of gunfights, and how does he know this? Well, because he has actually been in a few gunfights and has interviewed 100’s of people who have prevailed in gunfights as well. I’d say that Dave Spaulding is about as solid a subject matter expert as you will find in the firearms training industry.

One thing he is not is a “YouTube/Live Leak Ninja” who breaks down gunfights on video sometimes from only one angle without ever interviewing any of the active participants. I’ll defer to the subject matter experts like Dave, before the YouTube/Live Leak Ninjas.

Showtime, TD1 started on Saturday morning bright and early inside a courtroom in the municipal building located in downtown Coffeyville. This building also houses the Police Department and other city offices. Dave started with a brief background on himself and the course curriculum along with an overview of his complete program of instruction including his foundational courses.

His opening statement was telling us that his job is to train students to read the situation and be adaptive to the problem, then solve that problem.

From the Handgun Combatives website:

“Our Objective: To prepare you for the most dangerous moments of your life!”

Dave also explained that this course was developed out of necessity for the sworn law enforcement officer working in and around vehicles as part of covert narcotics operations and that he has evolved the course curriculum to meet the ever-changing training needs of not only the sworn law enforcement officer but the responsibly armed citizen as well.

Let me back up a little, Dave also mentioned that this was a tactics-based course and yet still a foundational level course for those who had never trained in and around vehicles. When I tell you that this course could have easily been a week long I am not kidding.

Dave also emphasized that this is not a marksmanship development course, and those who are attending this course should already have some marksmanship fundamentals that are solidly anchored.

I took a total of six pages of notes, front and back during the little more than hour-long presentation and I can tell you that Dave is well prepared and very well spoken; however, as I said before, he does not sugar coat much of anything.

Dave then explained how tactics, techniques, and procedures developed for the sworn law enforcement officer translates to the responsibly armed citizen. He also presented statistics that showed the types of attacks commonly occurring today. These statistics include assaults, carjackings, and overall violence in and around vehicles. Before I took this course, I did not know that the first documented carjacking happened in Detroit back in the 1980’s, go figure, Detroit of all cities. I was under the incorrect impression that the first carjacking happened to a couple German tourists while they were leaving Miami International Airport in a rental car, now I know better.

The statistics that he presented and the subsequent conversation has done nothing but reinforced my commitment to regular training. By the way, I still have Ken Hackathorn on my schedule next month in Los Angeles, two closed LEO only courses that I have been invited to attend and one, possibly two Pat McNamara courses along with the Rangemaster Instructor Reunion Conference in Shawnee, Oklahoma, somewhere in there I also have one more course that I am trying to fit in as well.

Everything with Dave Spaulding is contextual and how it applies to life-threatening situations, but he is also very careful to say that everything in this arena is situational dependent, and thus nothing has a “one-size fits all” type solution. Dave explained and demonstrated and then we practiced skill-sets that are proven to work in these type of high-stress situations that may have life and death implications. By the way, this is teaching to the adult learning theorems of hear, see and do.

Dave is also very careful not to use words like “defensive” which he defines as “losing slowly.” The book he wrote and his company name, “Handgun Combatives” was born from the word “Combative” which Webster’s Dictionary defines as, “having or showing a willingness to fight.”

Unless you have a propensity to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich you know that violence exists in your everyday life and around every corner. Dave showed us a few videos of real incidents, one involving a sworn law enforcement officer and student of his that were outright attacks. Some criminals go willingly and some end up with a toe tag and in cold storage at the morgue waiting to be claimed.

What was reinforced to me through these videos was the fact that the society we live in today is full of threats of violence that most people are completely unaware of, mostly due to a lack of training in situational awareness. We must remember that these threats exist in and around our vehicles especially considering that we spend so much time inside them, be it commuting to and from work, taking vacations, business trips, or just running errands around the cities and towns we live in, we are more vulnerable to an attack in and around our vehicles than we think.

In case you didn’t know, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) charts every act of violence in around the world; however, you and I will never see the data that they collect on these incidents because it is all “classified.” That to me is sad because they probably have the most extensive database of crimes committed on people and property in the world and that would be quite useful to all of us.

They, the CIA also developed a philosophy of “Avoid-Evade-Counter” for their operatives stationed around the world. Using that philosophy should one encounter a threat, the first option would be to avoid the threat. OK, that sounds simple enough; however sometimes we cannot avoid a dangerous situation so we must find a way to evade it, e.g., if someone is road-raging you, all you need to do to evade them is to make a series of four right-hand turns at your earliest opportunity. You will put yourself back on the road that you were traveling albeit quite a distance behind the person that was road-raging you. If you are on the highway, slow down and get off at the next exit. Simple enough to do, now make sure you go out a practice that the next time you are being road-raged by another driver.

Finally, you must be prepared to counter any attack on your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, you can’t always get away from your attacker and thus if you are presented with a threat of violence by someone known or unknown to you that is when you need to decide to counter the threat with quick and decisive actions that get you into a position of advantage. Remember, the criminal does not give you fair warning that he or she is about to attack you and cause a significant emotional experience in your life.

Here is where I remember the teachings of “Old Brother” Massad Ayoob, and Ayoob’s Law number #1: “Be able to predict where the attack will come, and have a proven counter-attack already in place and poised for launch.” – Massad Ayoob

Dave’s teachings reinforced a philosophy that I strongly believe in which is when you counter violence, you must take an aggressive approach and seek to win the fight immediately and not just survive. He also described mindset as the most essential of essentials, I agree 100%, every fight is fought in the mind.

Mindset is, “a previous decision based on reason and intellect, to take action.” – Dave Spaulding

We MUST prevail, and we MUST have the will to win at all costs, this is crucial because the alternative could be our loved ones planning our funeral.

Webster’s Dictionary defines these words as …

Prevail (Verb): To gain ascendancy through strength or superiority; triumph.

Survive (Verb): To remain alive or in existence; live on.

Question: What would you rather do, prevail or just survive?

Dave paid homage to “The Duke” showing him in his last role in the movie, “The Shootist.” (I always liked that movie) The quote from John Wayne’s character that Dave wanted us to embrace with both arms was this;

“It isn’t always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing. I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren’t willing. They blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger, I won’t. – Actor John Wayne in his last role as John Bernard Books in “The Shootist.”

We then dove into some of the more technical aspects of the course, namely unconventional shooting positions and problems associated with shooting into and out of a vehicle, not to mention and the fact that vehicles are not as safe as you might think from gunfire.

Remember, a vehicle is designed to protect you in case of an impact from another vehicle or a hardened object, not gunfire. Dave gave us an overview of the federal guidelines for vehicle safety to include a list of vehicles that have side windows that are rated as well as most windshields. I found this to be interesting information and something I needed to know.

We talked about engine blocks and how they may stop the incoming fire from a handgun, but you’ve got to get real low to be considered behind the engine block on most passenger cars and trucks. Obviously getting away from the vehicle and to better cover offers you an advantage.

 

When we transitioned to the range we started with the three-shot fade back drill from a ready position of our choice shooting a vertically placed 3×5 card starting at 3 yards and going back to 25 yards.

(FYI: The range in Coffeyville is so close to downtown that if people sat outside the McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant eating their meals they would be able to hear gunfire coming from the range. Only in Kansas…)

After each firing order was finished with the drill Dave evaluated the target with the student and then did some individual coaching, giving some tips for them to work on, see the photo below.

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After a short break, we got immersed into Dave’s “Arc of Ready” methodology with him explaining and demonstrating a variety of ready positions that use an arc, hence the name. Dave can explain the methodology a lot better than I can, so take a few minutes when you are finished reading this and click on the embedded video in the link above. You can also see some of this in the photos I have posted below.

Once again, this course is all about working in and around vehicles, thus the high-ready position (Far right photo above) has a substantial upside to it. We did discuss Position SUL and Traditional Guard or Low-Ready; however, those two ready positions are not ideal for vehicle tactics.

The benefits and risks associated with the “Tacticool” Temple Index were covered as well, and oddly enough nobody tried it except one guy from Wichita on TD2. This was immediately caught by Dave’s keen eye and he asked the student to explain why he would try something that he had not done before during the previous twelve (12) hours of course instruction.

Tacticool Temple Index has some context in use with Executive Protection as well as working inside a tight-knit team of operators who trust your muzzle and more importantly your trigger finger discipline; however, there are significant drawbacks to it like how it limits your field of view, and that’s kind of important don’t you think?

After a short break, we then practiced moving through ready positions with Dave coaching both firing orders through the dry-fire techniques and the live-fire exercises encouraging everyone to keep focused on the task at hand. We all heard these words routinely over the two-day course:

“OK Team, stay focused. Let’s make this one a good one!”

An example of Dave’s coaching: In the photo below he is coaching me on a proper “high-ready” position as initially I had my handgun too far away from my body and it was also little too high. Oh yeah, I was also improperly indexing my eyes just over my front sight; however, Dave never once said, “you’re doing it all wrong” he just said, let me help you and then briefly explained why his way is the proper position. (Photo courtesy of the course host)

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We then got in some live-fire work from the “high-ready” position and we were made to paste up our bad memories of any hits that were outside of the scoring lines on the Handgun Combatives Chest Cavity Target.

The “walk of shame” is never fun for anyone with misses, I was pressing the trigger well last weekend thanks to a little coaching from my friend Mike Green from Green Ops a few weeks ago.

Next, we worked on presentations from the holster. Dave believes that the presentation should be efficient and cause you to be no wider than the width of your body. There should be no wasted movement, why? Because added movement wastes time. This is a philosophy I agree with and also teach myself.

Here’s a thought without Dave having the benefit of being in his backyard on his deck or with a Crown Royal in his hand;

“It’s a really good idea to know what you are capable of before getting into a gunfight.” – Dave Spaulding

Personal Note: I was the only student to run the entire course of fire from a concealment holster. Granted there were fourteen sworn LEO’s in the course and they ran from their normal duty rigs, but none of the other five responsibly armed citizen students ran from concealment. I ran both my GLOCK 34 and GLOCK 19C from AIWB in a V-Development Group, Seraph holster. My ammunition choice was CCI/Speer Blazer Brass 124gr FMJ that I purchased from www.targetsportsusa.com

After lunch, we worked some more on presenting our handguns while standing with our hands at 10:00 & 2:00 like we had them placed on an imaginary steering wheel and then negotiating our handguns around that imaginary steering wheel and indexing them on the target.

We also did this while in a seated position in a folding chair facing the target and then we rotated the chairs 90° right and left to simulate shooting outside the passenger side and driver’s side window. There were a lot of dry-fire repetitions done in this block of instruction and that was to be expected because of the positions that we were in require extra safety precautions.

In the photo below you will see Dave holding a 1x2x8 target stake at or near steering wheel height to make sure students were clearing it properly while presenting their handgun to the target.

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After another short break, we then worked on some vehicle debussing techniques setting up the range with the chairs and barrels simulating the average length of a passenger vehicle. We did a lot of dry-fire work on this and then transitioned to live-fire for the rest of the day. See the photo below.

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Dave recognized when some of us were getting tired on TD1 as some students started launching shots at the target instead of placing them. When you are tired during training is the time when you must dig deep down inside and “gut check” yourself, making sure that you get those good repetitions in and placing your shots on target exactly where you need the hits. There are no second chances in a gunfight, and you should think that way while in training.

My TD1 round count was exactly 350 rounds.

On Saturday evening “the out of towners” had dinner with Dave and our host at Lanning’s Downtown Grille in Coffeyville. The meal was very good, our server was excellent, and the conversation was even better. Yes, there were a few Crown Royals sent the big guy’s way. Afterwards, it was off to Walmart to get lunch and a few extra bottles of water for TD2.

OK on to TD2. It all started at the range on Sunday morning at 8:30 am sharp with an overview of what we accomplished on TD1. Afterwards, we got right to the three-shot fade back drill, this time from the holster. Once again, Dave offered some individual coaching after each firing order finished and then we moved back into the chairs and worked some more on building the foundation of fundamentals that we would need later in the day when we got inside the vehicles.

He kept us working throughout the morning on the vehicle debussing drills that we had started on TD1 and we worked until Dave felt we were ready to move on to unconventional shooting positions.

Once we were at the level of competence Dave was looking for with the vehicle debussing drills, we took a break for lunch.

Afterward, Dave had us work through the unconventional shooting positions dry-fire over and over. They were all relatively easy to assume and move in and out of, I have done them before; however, my large frame body has a little trouble getting into the fetal position. My joints do not bend like they used to, this is where us old guys show the young “Flexible like Gumby” guys what they have to look forward to when they get in their 50’s. I believe that it might just be time to make a commitment to move from four Crossfit WOD’s per week to five or six.

Personal Note: Dave made mention many times about making sure that we get in our own vehicles with an unloaded gun or a training gun and work through these drills. He also mentioned that we need to be aware that when we rent a vehicle that we should not only spend the time to get the mirrors, seats and other creature comforts set to our liking, but we need to work the seat belts etc… Just so you know that when I travel my first consideration is to rent from a company who has Ford products, namely the Ford Escape in their rental fleet as that is my personal vehicle. As you may guess, I rented “my vehicle” in Tulsa and again on Monday in Atlanta to get home after Hurricane Irma.

Now, before we got in the vehicles Dave demonstrated shooting through windshield glass from inside the vehicle and how the bullet will react in those situations. I posted some videos on my Facebook page at Trigger Control Dot Org of me doing this and will do so on my Instagram account as well in the next couple days.

Dave also showed how a bullet will skip across the hood of a vehicle if shot at less than a 45° angle and how it will also skip under a vehicle when fired at a hard surface.

See this video below of Dave shooting through the windshield glass of a Ford Crown Victoria.

Additionally, during the course, I was given the opportunity to shoot through the rear passenger side window glass of a pickup truck that was covered with window tint. When I took my first shot I wasn’t expecting glass shards to penetrate my pant leg and lodge in my thigh; however, that is a small price to pay in the name of training.

Below is a photo of the window and my hits on the target, a little high from my point of aim, but that is to be expected shooting through auto glass.

 

I have a video of this to post on Trigger Control Dot Org just as soon as I edit out the expletive that I used when the glass shards penetrated my pant leg. By the way, you can clearly see the window tint peeled back from the muzzle blast of my GLOCK 19C, and also how my visibility was nearly lost when the window shattered.

We finished up the course with Dave’s signature 2x2x20 drill. (I’m taking creative liberty with the name to explain the drill to those who do not already know about it.) This drill is two rounds from the holster in two seconds from twenty feet on a vertically placed 3×5 card. Watch the embedded video linked above for an explanation from Dave as to the genesis of this drill.

For what it’s worth, nobody won the custom engraved Ares Belt Buckle and Belt this time, but there were a few close calls. Myself, well I screwed up the presentation by never getting a good grip on the gun, better luck next time for me. Oh, and there will be a next time, I already have my eye on the next two Handgun Combatives courses that I will attend in 2018.

Candidly, this is the sixth or seventh course that I have taken dealing with fighting in and around vehicles and I have learned something new each time because I keep my eyes and ears open and my notebook and pen at the ready.

It always amazes me to see all the folks who don’t take any notes at Gun School. I am the one with the notebook and pen out when not shooting and to be quite candid, I am still transcribing the notes I took last weekend right now even as I type this course review. Oh yeah, and my mind is still thinking of some contextual applications of the skills taught in this course. Ever the learner…

Because I had never trained with Dave before, I was able to learn some subtle nuances in teaching /coaching methodology that I see as invaluable to me as a full-time trainer and whenever possible during the course I would fill my magazines from the loose cartridges that I kept in my pockets, thus I was able to listen intently as Dave coached the second firing order through the drills that I had just completed.

Running up to get a bottle of water was the only break I took most of the time, call it a thirst for knowledge that keeps me training. As I said above, ever the learner. Sure, I took breaks to get out of the sun, (It was a little toasty in Kansas, Toto) but not each and every time in between drills because I felt that this was too good a course to miss anything.

In summary: The program of instruction was easy to follow and Dave gave all twenty of us a lot of repetitions both using dry-fire techniques and then on through the live-fire exercises. Mr. Spaulding is a very skilled coach and he uses his skills to get students through the fundamentals to build a solid foundation of these essential skills for the student to take home and then master to a level of automaticity that will anchor the skill. This will only happen if the student has a commitment and more importantly, the self-discipline to diligently practice them. Sadly, most do not keep their skills sharp, and it is a reoccurring theme when I talk to my students and ask what they have done in between the courses they take with me and others.

So, I ask you, what good is training if you do not go out and apply it by practicing what you learned after you get home from Gun School? As I say on a regular basis to both my students and instructor candidates, education without implementation is worthless.

My two-day total round count was just under the six hundred (600) rounds advertised, the dry-fire made up for any shortcoming. I assure you that all twenty of us got the repetitions we came for at this course.

To find out more about Dave’s program of instruction and his schedule of courses visit the Handgun Combatives website or follow Handgun Combatives on Facebook by clicking here.

 

Until next time …

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

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Course Review: Rangemaster Advanced Firearms Instructor Development Course; August 26th & 27th, 2017 – Culpeper, Virginia (Host: FPF Training)

Last Friday morning I boarded a Southwest Airlines jet in Tampa, and after a plane change in Atlanta, I arrived at Dulles slightly before noon. I picked up my rental car and I sped off to the National Rifle Association Headquarters in Fairfax for two reasons; First, I wanted to see the twelve Thompson’s that were donated for display at the museum on the first day that they were put out on display. I am a big fan of the “Tommy Gun” and to see twelve of them in one location, even if they were under-glass was spectacular.

The second reason was that I wanted to get some lunch. They have a darn good cafeteria at NRA Headquarters and I thought what the heck, let me get some vittles before making the drive down to Culpeper.

The photo below says it all, just look at them beauties.

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OK, after getting my “Tommy Gun” fix and filling my belly I headed out to Culpeper. Upon my arrival, I checked in for a two-night stay at the Holiday Inn Express using my IHG reward points and then I was off to Walmart to get a few essentials for the weekend.

Friday evening, I met Tom, Tim, Ashton, and a couple other Rangemaster Graduates at Foti’s Restaurant in downtown Culpeper. Foti’s is an American, Mediterranean/Greek style restaurant and is highly rated on Trip Advisor. I enjoyed the meal and more importantly the conversation.

After dinner, it was time to get some rest; however, truth be told, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I just love to train with good people, so I really did not sleep all that well on Friday night.

Saturday morning (TD1) started promptly at 0900hrs with Tom welcoming us and setting our level of expectation for the weekend. Many of you have asked via email and private message why I would take this course a second time so soon after graduating from it in March 2015. Well, I can tell you that there are two very good reasons. The first is because I somehow lost my workbook and certificate of completion from the course back in 2015, and the second is because I know Tom to be progressive in evolving his curriculum. I saw this right away in the comprehensive student/instructor candidate manual that he provided us. By the way, you can find my original course review here.

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Let’s talk prerequisites, to be invited to this particular course you must have graduated from one of the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Courses that Tom & Lynn hold around the United States.

Assisting Tom over the weekend was Skip Gochenour. Skip is a licensed private detective and founder of S. R. Gochenour & Associates in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Skip has consulted on hundreds of civil and criminal cases involving firearms and use of force, and he has appeared as himself on documentary television shows such as Forensic Files, Autopsy, and Murder by the Book. Skip also founded and serves as the Director of the American Tactical Shooting Association (ATSA) and the National Tactical Invitational (NTI).

When Tom introduced Skip he said, “if Skip tells you to do something, it would be a good idea to just go on and do it.” That is good advice, Skip gave me several tips over the weekend that I am very grateful for. By the way, Skip wears a darn cool hat and knows a fine cigar as well.

On to our agenda for the weekend. Tom covered all of the classroom information on Saturday and that allowed us to go to the range in the afternoon, and then stay at the range for the remainder of the course.

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Let’s talk prerequisites, to be invited to this particular course you must have graduated from one of the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Courses that Tom & Lynn hold around the United States.

Tom had us stand up and do a little public speaking, introducing ourselves and giving our names, our training companies/where we were from, where and when we took the three-day Rangemaster Firearms Instructor Development Course. Lastly, we were asked to describe what was our biggest takeaway from that course.

What I learned from the introductions was, we had eighteen very diverse students/instructor candidates (seventeen men and one woman) many from the Northern Virginia area and several of the original thirteen colonies; however, one man made the trip all the way from Oregon, now I call that dedication to training and professional development.

I should add that one of the instructor candidates, Adam Gochenour, a very modest young man, and son of Skip is the youngest person to ever attend and graduate from the Gunsite Academy, Pistol 250 Course at the age of 10 or 11, I do not remember which. (The adult class, not the Gunsite Youth 250) What an amazing accomplishment at such a young age and one you will never see again at Gunsite. Adam is a heck of a good shooter and makes some very fine leather holsters as well. Check out his company website at Panolpy Holsters and Equipment.

After a short break, we got started with the curriculum. Tom suggested that we answer when he asked questions during the presentation, and if you have never trained with him before, think of Tom like a father figure when he suggests you do something, it’s not really a suggestion. Active participation in the learning process helps you and everyone else around you learn more from each other and adds to the overall experience.

As we discussed human anatomy as it relates to dangerous people, we all have an understanding that good hits must be made in the upper thoracic cavity on the human who is threatening your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These hits must be in the area marked from nipple to nipple up to the collar bones. We also discussed “the vault” as it applies to the facial targeting area, and how the target stays the same when the threat turns sideways to us.

Tom also said, “If you think you’ve been shot, that’s not a good thing, and a .380ACP is just fine unless you need to shoot someone.” I have read many books on this exact subject and seen plenty of police reports where a .380ACP failed to get the job done. (That means stop the threat from doing what they are doing to you or someone that you love) This does not mean that I want to take a few shots to the upper thoracic region from a .380ACP. Remember, criminals can afford to miss or get lucky with an unintended and un-aimed shot, they do not care about you, or the devastation they cause through their felonious behavior.

You, on the other hand, cannot afford to carry a gun that does not stop “Dude” when you need to stop “Dude.” As “Old Brother” Massad Ayoob says, “Friends don’t let friends carry mouse guns.”

We then transitioned to ready positions and the pros-cons of each. Tom teaches the “Traditional Guard” better known as the “Low-Ready” position. It was popularized by Lt. Col. Cooper at Gunsite and is used by many well-known agencies across the country.

Many other Instructors have their favorites, from the “Air Marshal Ready” and “High Compressed Ready” oh, let’s not forget “Position SUL.” The last is one of the most misused ready positions of all.

“Bootlegger Ready” is a ready position that a lot of Law Enforcement Officers use in many different situations; however, as Tom pointed out, it is much slower than just having your master-hand on a holstered gun. The master-hand on a holstered gun is a popular technique taught in my Defensive Tactics courses for Law Enforcement Officers.

We covered a few other ready positions and then moved on. Remember one thing … If nobody is using the technique outside of the training courses where they are being taught, then you are just being a beta-tester.

After another short break, we jumped into the other agenda items, and cadence was up next. Finding the right cadence to use in defensive marksmanship is easy if you remember that you should only shoot as fast as you can guarantee hits and no faster. It’s quite simple when you think about it; however, teaching newbies about cadence and trigger control can be extremely difficult.

Heck, I had trouble with this new gun I am shooting over the weekend, I wasn’t taking up enough slack in the trigger and I was crashing through the break, causing my sights to deviate. That will earn you a “miss” each time, and what can we ill afford to do in a gunfight?

Creating skill drills versus tactical drills and how they can be used to train the student was one of my favorite subjects, think of the Casino Drill, the 3M Drill, and the El Presidente. With less than a full box of ammunition, you can test yourself in everything you need to be able to do competently as a defensive shooter.

Before lunch, we discussed Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance and how many Firearms Instructors dig themselves a hole by teaching outside their lane, these instructors would do much better to stay in their lane.

[On my Soapbox] In Florida we have a very serious problem with both NRA and USCCA Certified Instructors delving into legal issues as they skirt a fine line in giving legal advice which can be considered as practicing law without a license in this state. Just so you know, that is a third-degree felony, and if convicted it is punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine. Do you want to be a test case? If you answered, no, then stop teaching the laws associated with concealed carry in Florida and stick to giving a “Firearms Safety Course” as codified in Florida Statute 790.06 2. (h) 7. By the way, many are still are teaching without having the proper certifications and some are teaching without Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance, which I find to be reckless and puts their students in danger. Always check the credentials of your Instructor and ask to see a copy of their Firearms Instructor Liability Insurance as well. [Off my Soapbox]

In this block of instruction, we discussed how the Instructor has a duty to provide a safe learning environment and to oversee training while providing a standard of care that is above the industry standard.

I asked Tom to interject as we discussed Lockton Affinity (NRA Endorsed) Insurance and how it does not indemnify Firearm Instructors when they engage in Simunitions/UTM/Airsoft/Force-On-Force type training.

Instructor Note: If you need to shop for a rider to your policy for Simunitions/UTM/Airsoft/Force-on-Force training, look at Joseph Chiarello & Company, they will give you a rider for $150.00 per year to cover you for this type of training.

After breaking for lunch, we watched and listened to a ninety (90) minute presentation by a well-known police psychologist. This was a riveting presentation that caused me to have my head down typing notes on my phone and writing them down in my notebook just as fast as I could.

The Doctor’s catchphrase was, “do you follow?” Yes, I followed, but there was so much that I missed by trying to take too good of notes. I should have brought my laptop and touch-typed my notes, lesson learned.

After the presentation was over we saddled up and headed to Stone Quarry Range about twenty minutes away.

Once at the range, we did some dry-fire work to ensure safety awareness and to polish out some wasted motion in our presentations.

Instructors Note: Remember the saying that most Gun Pretenders use? “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” – Well, I will tell you that slow is slow! You have got to get the gun out quickly and efficiently with little to no wasted motion. You can do this by dedicating yourself to diligent, deliberate, perfect practice.

Our shooting started with many drills that you would be familiar with if you have trained with Tom and Lynn over the years. We got in work from all distances and my scores improved each time we shot a qualification; however, to be candid my scores were dismal to my standards even with the “informed expectation” I had prior to the course.

Personally, I identified that I need a lot more bulls-eye work during the course. This is something known to me, and thus I see my Pact Club Timer III and a lot of timed bulls-eye target drills in my future.

We ended TD1 with “The Test” by Ken Hackathorn, you can find it by using your Google-Fu. Ending with all hits in a five-and-a-half-inch circle from 10 yards is a good thing.

The TD1 round count was somewhere just under 200 rounds.

After we adjourned, many of us headed to Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant where this happened, the “El Gordo Burrito.” I laughed when I saw this because El Gordo means “The Fat” in Spanish. Guess what? I smashed that Fat Burrito.

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Sunday morning (TD2) Sunday started with the host, Gary Jakl from FPF Training being gracious enough to meet me at the range at 0730hrs to bench-rest my GLOCK 34 Gen 3. This is the second time I have had to push the rear sight on this gun appreciably to the right to bring my grouping over enough to be on center. It’s really getting ridiculous with this gun and I shipped it off to GLOCK for them to address the issue for me.

I forgot to mention my gear considerations for this course. Obviously, the GLOCK 34 Gen 3 was my firearm of choice, I carried it AIWB in a V-Development Group Seraph holster with the large foam wedge. (See the photo below)

The ammunition I chose for the course was CCI/Speer Blazer Brass 124gr FMJ. Because of federal law, I couldn’t fly with thirty (30) pounds worth of ammunition, so once again, our host Gary Jakel came to the rescue and accepted my ammunition shipment from Target Sports USA.

FPF Training is an excellent host, and Stone Quarry Range is also a great place to shoot. We missed you last weekend John Murphy!

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Once we had targets up and were toeing the line Tom made sure we were clear in the holster and we started on dry-fire practice using the coach/pupil method. After all, this is an Instructor Course and Tom had us coaching and instructing our new best friends.

In the photo below Tom is having a little fun with Ashton demonstrating a drill while Tim supervises.

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Here is a good suggestion that you need to commit to memory, “If you line up the bumpy things on top of the slide and press the trigger properly, you will get a hit.” – Tom Givens

After a short break to get some water in and water out, we then started working on more drills from all sorts of distances. As you see below, my target was getting better and that’s what I like to see.

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“The presentation puts the gun on target, the sights are used to verify alignment.” – Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper (No truer words ever spoken)

Next, we shot a few qualifications and afterward we had some fun shooting steel. Shooting a little friendly “mano e mano” competition on steel during a course is a good thing and makes you work for what you get.

Then it was back to more work from various distances, we worked hard on a lot of drills up until time for lunch.

When we reconvened after lunch we worked together in teams using the coach/pupil method with our coach giving us encouragement on our techniques.

See the photo below: Tom is a master at hitting the adult learning theorem and here he is demonstrating a two-handed shooting technique from position #3 of the presentation, also referred to as “high compressed ready.”

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After this we did a few movement drills, presenting our pistols and getting off the “X” so to speak.

We then shot the course qualification. I scored a dismal 239 the first go around and 245 on the second. My 245 score is posted below. Again, not my best effort; however, it is exactly what I had on Sunday afternoon. I have a lot of work to do…

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We had a lot of guns that had problems in this course. A GLOCK trigger spring broke, Winchester White Box hard primers causing a failure to failure to fire repeatedly. Another shooter had a magazine spontaneously disassemble during a load or reload, I cannot remember which, and then there were feeding problems and cycling problems in a variety of guns, it was brutal to watch. As Tim Chandler put it, “The Rangemaster Advanced Firearms Instructor Course eats guns.” [Paraphrasing]

Let this be a “teachable moment” for everyone. Bring a spare gun to #GunSchool, no matter what course you are taking and regardless of the instructor.

In summary, once again Tom Givens knocked it out of the park. He evolved this curriculum from the course I attended in Fort Lauderdale back in March 2015. I enjoy Tom and Lynn’s courses immensely and will continue to challenge myself to be the best shooter and Instructor that I can be.

TD1 & TD2 round count was just under 700, with all the dry-fire practice we got in plus the 100-150 dry-fire presses I did on Saturday night at the hotel I had to be close to 1,000 or more trigger presses.

On a personal note, attending this course allowed me to reconnect with a man I highly respect and look forward to training with again soon, Mike from Green Ops. He was our “Top Gun” last weekend and he also earned a Master Class Rating in the handgun core skills test. Nice job Mike!

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The photo above: Mike with his 250/250 on the course qualification, this man can flat out run his gun.

Finally, I’ll leave you with these nuggets. My remaining 2017 personal training schedule includes courses with:

  1. Dave Spaulding from Handgun Combatives.
  2. Ken Hackathorn Advanced Pistol Course in Los Angeles.
  3. Two courses with Patrick McNamara.
  4. The First Annual Rangemaster Instructor Reunion Conference in Oklahoma.
  5. Two closed enrollment courses for LEO Trainers only in September and October.
  6. The new three-day NRA Practical Pistol Coach School at NRA Headquarters in December.

All of this in between teaching courses throughout the week and on select weekends. Yeah, I’d say that my plate is pretty much full.

 

Until next time …

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

 

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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!

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!

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!