Course Review: SIG SAUER Academy Dynamic Performance Pistol; April 9th & 10th, 2018, Epping, New Hampshire.

Earlier this month I was at SIG SAUER Academy to attend “Gun School” for the fourth time in nine months, and so to say that I might be familiar with the Southwest Airlines nonstop between Tampa and Manchester would be an understatement. As with my three previous trips I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Exeter using the SIG SAUER Academy discounted rate.

Since my visit in October, the student check-in process has changed slightly. All students now report to the Academy Pro Shop on TD1 of the course that they are attending to sign in and receive their course book. I would suspect that this is a welcome change to the staff as the students can select and pay for lunch from Hammersmith Sandwich Company in the morning and then pick up their lunch in the Indoor Range without interrupting the staff of the Pro Shop while they serve customers and of course Kathleen, the Academy Training Coordinator to pick up their lunches.

The course started for the eight of us inside classroom #7 out in Area 51 along with Academy Senior Instructor, Steven Gilcreast. We went over some basic safety rules and of course the differences between performance-based training objectives and outcome-based training objectives.

Dynamic Performance Pistol is an Intermediate level course and everything is geared to the student being focused on shooting each drill a minimum of three times, and having a goal to set a time and beat our time on the two subsequent runs or if it was a scored course of fire we were trying to beat our score with a higher point value. Sometimes the drill was a combination of both, scored for points and time adding in any penalties. I tend to like this method of training as it allows me to focus on what I can improve on to make each run better than the last. The difference between outcome-based and performance-based training objectives.

Once on the range, all of us were subject to 28° temperature and even though it warmed up to 40° later in the day, the windchill factor never rose above freezing. Personally, I have not experienced cold weather like that in nearly twenty years and candidly, I don’t see myself going back to the Academy for an outdoor course unless it is in June, July, August or September.

Our first few drills were designed to work on fundamentals mostly with respect to pressing the trigger properly using different cadences from 1s per shot to .50s per shot and even down to .25s per shot. Steve noticed I was pinning the trigger on my P320 X-Carry and not resetting and prepping for the next shot under recoil, and honestly, this is a problem that I struggled with off an on during the day. I fixed it later and yet I was still having some accuracy issues at distance. The good thing is I was able to identify these issues in training and since arriving back home I have gone back to shooting more bullseyes.

At the end of TD1, we had shot right at about 400 rounds running more than a half dozen drills three times each. At the end of TD1, I think all of us were looking forward to getting inside out of the cold.

After dinner at Telly’s Restaurant in Epping, I went back to my hotel and work on some dry practice and also to work on movement and footwork in the small gym that was located across from my first-floor room.

TD2 started on the range with a quick warm-up exercise and then we were right back into the drills. On this day we worked mostly on drills that involved a lot of movement and how to shoot accurately while on the move; however, one TD2 drill, Steve’s “Dirty Thirty” on an IPSC target didn’t involve movement, it involved shooting 30 rounds from 30 yards, trying to complete the drill in under 30 seconds. We practiced this drill from a couple shorter distances before venturing out to 30 yards, by doing this it helped work on technique and accuracy. I believe this is an excellent drill and the only one that I will give you the course of fire for in this review.

The Dirty Thirty: Starting with three 10 round magazines on the command, draw and fire 10 rounds in a two-handed standing position, reload and fire 5 rounds using strong hand only, then 5 using opposite hand only, reload and fire 5 rounds kneeling and finish with 5 rounds in the prone position as mentioned on an IPSC target.

If you are considering attending this course it is important for you to know that Steve is excellent at adapting the Dynamic Performance Pistol course of fire to fit the abilities of the students; however, this course is an Intermediate level course. Additionally, Steve teaches by the SIG SAUER Academy training methodology of “EDIP” or Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate, Practice. After explaining the drills he demonstrated several different ways to progress through the drill, even physically walking some of them and doing it faster than most of us as we ran it.

Just so you know, two students ended up ringing the gong on TD1, for not knowing the status of their guns. It was a sound we heard a couple times in the distance from other the ranges located on the property. Thankfully nobody from our course had to ring the gong on TD2.

My Gear and Equipment:

Gun(s): SIG SAUER P320 X-Carry and P320 full-size RX with Romeo 1.

Holster: Comp-Tac International strong-side OWB. (SIG SAUER Academy requires you use a strong-side hip holster in this particular course)

Ammunition: Federal American Eagle 147gr Flat Nose FMJ, this has been my preferred practice ammunition for the last two years, it is very accurate and I have had no ammunition related stoppages in the cycle of operations of my handguns while using it, so I’ll stick with what works.

Flashlight: Surefire Dual Fuel Fury Tactical 1,500 Lumens

In summary, this is an excellent course that will test your skills in both gun handling and shooting. From the strict focus on accuracy and the use of a shot timer on nearly every drill to moving with unholstered firearms. The course of fire is true to the advertised 1,000 rounds and I highly recommend it for the Intermediate to the Advanced Practitioner.

I look forward to my next visit to SIG SAUER Academy this summer.

 

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!

Course Review – Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Development Course – March 14th & 15th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Rangemaster Advanced Instructor Development Course

Saturday and Sunday; March 14-15, 2015

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida at a “Sub-Optimal” Range Facility which will remain nameless…Inside joke between the Instructors and Students.

This course picked up where the three day Rangemaster IDC that I took last August left off. We (Myself and 11 others) started on Saturday morning and got straight to work. The demographics were ten (10) men and two (2) women, all previous graduates of the three day Rangemaster IDC. Students came from as far away as northern Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois and Ohio; however, the majority were southerners from Georgia and Florida.

Day one began with a little review of the three day Rangemaster IDC and then we hit the range for some dry-fire drills to make sure our presentations were sharp because a significant percentage of the course of fire was from a concealment holster, very little work was done from the low-ready position. Once we loaded our firearms we were in warmup mode to get the blood flowing into our trigger fingers. The day one course of fire was mostly bulls-eye drills used to diagnose our misses and get us “back in the black” so to speak. We fired several bulls-eye courses at varying distances out to 25 yards. After that we shot the Rangemaster bulls-eye qualification and BATFE qualifications not knowing if or what might be used as a “record score.” You see, at Rangemaster they put your actual scores on your course certificate.

Once we were done shooting for the day we had some classroom time with a presentation on Active Shooters and the statistics associated with them. Some really interesting stuff in this presentation, all of the data collected was from a study done by the Counter-Terrorism division of the NYPD. They researched 281 active shooter cases and we discussed quite a few of them that many people may not remember or weren’t even old enough to know about. The shootings that were studied all had at least four (4) victims or more and happened in a public place, and within a twenty (20) minute time frame. Excluded were domestic violence murder suicides etc…

Day two was just as fast-paced with us hitting the range immediately in the morning and running drills until lunch time, then back at it later for low-light shooting techniques. One thing about taking a course with Tom Givens, you will know he has specific goals in mind for himself and his students and both he and Lynn give coaching and encouragement to everyone, but when it’s time to get your hits, they tell you. The day two course of fire also included a “Changing Gears” drill, the “Parrot Drill” and the “Parrot Drill +P.” We also ran several variations of the “Casino Drill” as well. These drills all make you think about getting your hits as the targets vary in size, shape and color. The Casino Drill incorporates two slide-lock reloads and we made it even tougher by sticking a dummy round in our magazines and having our shooting partner mix them up so we would not know where it was in the drill. We also varied the magazine size, the drill uses twenty-one rounds and thus we made uneven magazines and mixed them up instead of just filling our three magazines with seven rounds each time.

Getting your timing down and being accurate at distance or on a smaller target is difficult, Tom showed us ways to help the new shooter all the way to the advanced shooter get their hits from various distances and target sizes. We wound up the morning with another BATFE qualification for score. (I had shot 96 on day one and 100 on day two, an improvement that I will take any day of the week) Two classmates tied for “Top Gun” honors 100% both days and thus they split the Top Gun award. Once back in the classroom we were given a presentation on low-light shooting techniques and then fired them in the range, obviously under low-light conditions.

Once we finished the low-light shooting techniques we were back in the classroom to talk about curriculum development and selecting the proper targets to use in training. As Instructors we must create the right mindset in our students where to properly get hits on the target when training.

In summary, I highly recommend both the Rangemaster Instructor Development Course and the Advanced Instructor Development Course, you won’t be disappointed as it is money well spent on your professional development. Additionally in training with Tom Givens you can be sure that his curriculum is well thought out, researched and presented in a manner that you can understand.

Notes: I used a Glock 17L for this course and it preformed as Glock’s always do, flawlessly. The ammunition I used was both Federal American Eagle and Magtech 115gr FMJ. The Federal American Eagle preformed flawlessly, the Magtech not so much. We (My friend who traveled from northern Wisconsin and who relied on me to provide his ammunition) experienced several “failure to fire” malfunctions using the Magtech ammunition, far too many in a 1,000 round lot. I won’t be buying anymore Magtech ammunition unless it is at a serious discount.

Learn more about Rangemaster at www.rangemaster.com

The final thought belongs to the Chief Instructor at Rangemaster…

“Shoot only as fast as you can guarantee hits, but no faster.” – Tom Givens

 

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