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 because 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 from that course 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 leaning 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 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 a 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 in my phone and writing them down in my notebook just as fast as I could.

The Doctor’s catch phrase 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 going into 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 afterwards 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 by me 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 in 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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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 Spauldingfrom Handgun Combatives.
  2. Ken HackathornAdvanced 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 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!

Course Review: GLOCK Operator Course May 9th-10th, 2017 – Smyrna, Georgia

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(Photo Courtesy of Paul Pawela)

On May 9th and 10th I attended the first ever open enrollment GLOCK Operator Course held at GLOCK Training – Glock Sport Shooting Foundation Headquarters in Smyrna, Georgia.

Eligibility requirements for all open enrollment GLOCK Operator courses are as follows: Active or Reserve Law Enforcement, Active or Reserve Military, Licensed Armed Security Officers, current GSSF Members and current NRA Certified Firearms Instructors. These eligibility requirements can be found here, with additional course information, to include the course outline and expected round count can be found in this PDF.

As I mentioned above, this was GLOCK’s initial open enrollment offering, the first course was a closed course for Law Enforcement Officers only. The students were from many different walks of life. There were four members of the media invited to attend the course by GLOCK’s Media Department including some really big names in gun writing and one other writer who showed up and paid the full course tuition of $300.00. There were five regular Joe’s, all of whom paid the same $300.00 tuition as well. The regular Joe’s were as follows: Two (2) sworn Law Enforcement Officer’s, one (1) United States Army Reserve Captain and GSSF member from North Georgia, a Country Club Manager and GSSF member from North Carolina and of course, yours truly. Additionally there were also three (3) full-time GLOCK employees in attendance as well.

The GLOCK Pistols in attendance consisted mostly of 9mm models, 17’s, 19’s & 34’s, and one GLOCK 40, 10mm long-slide. Personally, I have never seen a student bring a 10mm to a course like this; however, the brave young man who did should be commended, he did very well considering he had a gun with tremendous impulse during the recoil cycle.

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(GLOCK 40, 10mm – Photo Courtesy of Andre’ M. Dall’au)

Our Instructor for the two-day course was Joseph “Willie” Parent, III; Director of Training and GSSF for GLOCK, Inc., Willie is a seventeen (17) year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and he let you know it with his rigid military bearing, serious demeanor and of course the vernacular he used on the range.

Willie used the term “event driven” many times in a short period of time to describe the course along with explaining that this course was a collaboration of several GLOCK Staff Instructors. He went on to say that they developed this course to help people who own GLOCK platform pistols operate them more efficiently and of course, effectively.

It is worthy to note that it was mentioned more than once that “GLOCK Training doesn’t sell excitement.” From taking this course I can assure you that is a true statement. Nothing about the presentation of this curriculum was exciting. (More on this later)

The round count for this course was advertised at 1,000 and GLOCK company policy is that each student bring only factory ammunition, no hand-loads are allowed in any GLOCK Training course. As someone who has attended a lot of high-volume round count courses, I have learned to give a twenty to twenty-five percent (20%-25%) buffer +/- on the advertised round count, and that estimate has been pretty darned accurate for years. I find that more often than not I have shot less than advertised number. My exact round count for this course was 375 rounds. TD1 round count was 135, TD2 was 240 including the 22 round GLOCK Operator Course Pistol Standards Test.

Now, I have never been in a course where the round count is 62.5% less than advertised; however, I have seen these things happen to others, and the reason is typically a lack of course content, unfortunately that was not the case here. There was plenty of course content that we didn’t even get to experience, e.g., low-light/no-light techniques and alternate shooting positions. Sadly, our course was shorted, that is the bottom line and you will understand how as you read further.

(Important Note: As a mentor I don’t see it my place to publicly shame someone on social media or on my blog that is read by literally tens of thousands of people, but our job is to never forget the first rule in teaching something; deliver all of the advertised curriculum to your paid students, no matter if your course is “event driven” or not, and do so in a way that minimizes you and your accomplishments and maximizes the curriculum and of course participant involvement. This will allow you to hit the adult learning theorem of hear, see and do in each block of instruction. The student who paid the full tuition will be grateful if you just remember that one simple thing.)

TD1 started in the classroom with a safety briefing that was a combination of Colonel Jeff Cooper’s four universal rules of gun safety and the NRA’s three rules of gun safety. (I really wish Instructors would pick one or the other and not both, and never make them your own by changing the words, it doesn’t add anything to them, in fact it takes away from them) At this time we also received an overview of the GLOCK pistols and their functionality.

The National Sales Manager and Assistant National Sales Manager brought the GLOCK summer releases down from “The Mothership” for us to see. These included the GLOCK 17L Gen 3 and GLOCK 24 Gen 3, both with their 6.02″ barrels, the GLOCK FDE frames and of course the GLOCK 17C & 19C Gen 4 guns. You may not be able to see them in the photos below; however, GLOCK is now offering guns with forward cocking serrations near the muzzle on their guns, that is something new this summer.

Once the classroom presentation was complete, we headed to the indoor range just a few steps away and through a set of double doors. Once inside we made sure our guns were clear and started with dry-fire presentations from the holster (Open Carry) at fifteen (15) yards while in an “interview position.” This position is similar to the position that a Law Enforcement Officer might use when speaking to someone just outside of arms length. Our Instructor taught what I call the “press out” presentation or the upside-down “L” and not the index presentation.

Once we were done with dry-fire presentations, we were then taught how to properly load a GLOCK pistol. This exercise was done by Instructor demonstration only, there was no student involvement in this exercise which surprised me because that goes against the adult learning theorem of hear, see and do. Besides, we were all instructed by the course outline to bring ten (10) dummy rounds each, this would have been a great opportunity to use them.

We then started on the course of fire standing on the fifteen (15) yard line shooting ten rounds slow-fire. The Instructors command of “Shooter Ready, Target” was our queue to present our pistol and fire. The target used was an NRA B-8 target. (See Below) We repeated this exercise three times alternating relays and pasting all misses that hit outside of the nine ring.

I had recently installed a new set of Ameriglo I-Dot sights (GL-301) on my GLOCK 19C Gen 3, and I needed to get used to the proper sight picture at fifteen (15) yards. In my first go around I had only three of ten hits inside the nine ring; however, after I made a slight adjustment in sight picture my group was spot on. (Pardon the pun) After we completed this drill, we took a lunch break for an hour.

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(The NRA B-8 Target)

If you attend this course at GLOCK Training/GSSF Headquarters in Smyrna, there are several small local restaurants close by; however, I suggest that you bring a cooler if you are driving and eat your lunch there in the classroom, that way you are not rushed going somewhere to eat and then making it back on time afterwards.

We reconvened in the range after lunch we started shooting pairs at fifteen (15) yards, again starting in the interview position and upon command. I found this very weird as there was really no reason to be “banging pairs” from fifteen yards away, this does nothing for marksmanship fundamentals or allows an diagnostics to take place; however, after shooting three iterations of pairs we then started working on slide-lock, empty-gun or emergency reloads depending on the terminology that you use.

Willie showed us four of the six ways Instructors teach their students to send the slide into battery after a reload and emphasized that the power-stroke was the way we should be doing it with the GLOCK platform pistol. (The power-stroke has the shooter cupping the support hand over the rear of slide and pulling it back using the thumb and fingers on the cocking serrations on the rear of the slide so the recoil spring assembly or RSA for short is fully compressed before you release it. Provided you have a good RSA, this action creates maximum inertia in launching the slide forward into battery)

Next we performed the one shot, slide-lock reload, and one shot drill working on perfect technique. This is a very good drill and one I use on a regular basis to improve my reload speeds.

Next we started shooting silhouette targets while preforming what Willie called, “immediate and remedial action” drills. These terms are nothing more than military jargon for clearing common stoppages and malfunctions, e.g., failure to fire, failure to eject, failure to extract etc…

Next we worked on failure to stop, or the Mozambique drill from the seven (7) yard line and we ran though this three times per relay. The Mozambique drill is two shots to the chest and one to the head performed from the holster or a ready position, we performed it from the holster. Once we finished this drill, TD1 was in the books.

It is also worthy to note that all drills were performed from either a low-ready or from open carry on TD1, there was no option to work from concealment, even for an experienced student.

TD2 started with a good breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Atlanta Galleria area and upon checkout I was given a one-day credit on my bill because our room was not serviced for us while we were training the day prior. That was nice of the hotel management to offer and do that for me, after all I am an IHG member.

TD2 of the GLOCK Operator Course started in the classroom with a review of the safety rules from TD1 and then we headed into the range and started with a drill that is designed to help the student with trigger control. Candidly, this drill should have been the first drill after dry-fire presentations on TD1; however, it wasn’t me that wrote the course of fire and I was there to learn, it just seemed awful strange doing a drill that is used to teach the shooter about trigger control when we had already shot 135 rounds on TD1.

We then proceeded to shoot this drill from three, five and seven yards on an NRA B-8 target. During the first iteration we were instructed to pin the trigger to the rear and then let it reset after our sights were back on target. Firearms training industry titan John Farnam calls this, “catching the link.” In the second iteration we would go through resetting the trigger under the impulse of recoil, and in the third iteration we were to speed reset the trigger while firing pairs. I found this drill to be of little value as I do not nor would I ever teach pining the trigger to the rear and catching the link as you ride the reset forward.

Catching the link can have disastrous results if not done properly and with a loss of fine motor skills that will occur under stress this might just cause you to freeze when resetting the trigger, I have seen it too many times with Law Enforcement Officers being taught the fundamentals of trigger control improperly and because they pin the trigger to the rear they lose time on their qualifications, not to mention what might happen if they are in a gunfight with a hardened criminal who does not see handcuffs in his or her future.

We then performed this same drill at ten (10), twelve and a half (12.5) and fifteen (15) yards, only this time we were shooting a silhouette target center chest. Again, there is no value in doing this at distance, there are much better drills to help the student understand proper trigger control and cadence. With the experienced shooters we had in this course this drill could have been easily done in one or two iterations from three or five yards, yet we wasted time doing this out to fifteen (15) yards. Again, this drill is a TD1 drill in any course I have ever been to, but not the GLOCK Operator Course.

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The flames you see are the burning gases exiting the ports in the barrel of my GLOCK 19C Gen 3 as I shoot a drill at the first ever open enrollment GLOCK Operator Course in Smyrna, Georgia on May 9th & 10th, 2017. (Photo Courtesy of Paul Pawela)

After a short break we came back to find the NRA B-8 targets back up again and the next drill was the ball and dummy drill. Again, this is a drill that should have been done on TD1, not TD2.

In this drill we gave a fellow student a couple magazines and shot this drill at the twenty-five (25) yard line. This is way too far away from the target for this drill. Each iteration was from the holster, presenting the pistol and firing one shot. If we were on a dummy round and we caused the sights to deviate, we were supposed to tell our coach (Fellow Student) what we did wrong. The Instructor told us that saying “I anticipated” was not acceptable, he’s right about that, not everything is an anticipation or flinch. As shooters, we were to describe exactly what we did to cause the sights deviate off of our intended point of aim.

We then went on to shooting multiple targets with pairs to the high center chest area of a silhouette target from the holster. This drill was done from the seven (7) yard line and we were to change the target that we started with during each iteration. In this drill you must make sure to not “out-drive your headlights” as my mentor Tom Givens says. In case you are wondering, your headlights are your eyes, and to get good hits on the target or threat you are transitioning to you must move your head first and then bring the gun to your eyes and engage the second target or threat. See the example in the photos below.

Engaging multiple targets from the holster. (Photos Courtesy of Paul Pawela)

The next drill we worked on was a box drill. This is where you shoot two rounds to the torso and one round to the head on multiple targets. This drill is basically a failure to stop or Mozambique drill using two targets and taking the two head shots after you engage the second target or threat with a pair to the chest and then transition back to the first target and taking a head shot on that target as well.

After a break we started shooting on the move. First with moving forward from the fifteen (15) yard line all the way to the one (1) yard line while engaging a silhouette target high center chest. When the Instructor demonstrated this drill he was visibly upset with himself when he missed a single shot and even said so in front of the class. As a student I found this to be unprofessional and as an Instructor I was embarrassed for him. Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident, Willie had made this mistake on multiple occasions; however, this time it was pronounced and instead of him using his misses as a teachable moment to explain to the students why he missed the shot, he was down on himself and said out loud that he was worried about the writers making light of this miss in their articles and blogs.

Candidly at this point I had heard about enough and had to chime in, “Let’s focus on the positive here, you shot sixteen or seventeen rounds and missed one, I’d say that is a good hit to miss ratio.” After I said that, several students approached me on lunch break and thanked me for having the courage to say that, because this was beginning to be a common theme and unfortunately that is basically what we were subjected to for two days.

Once each student had run through moving forward on a threat three times we took a lunch break for an hour.

After lunch we worked on moving to the rear from three to seven yards again shooting a silhouette target high center chest. I didn’t mention it before, but the key to any movement drill, no matter the direction you are moving is to press the trigger when you have an acceptable sight picture or sight movie as Gabe White refers to it.

After a short break we were then introduced to shooting on the move left and right at the seven yard line. This technique was new to many of the shooters and some struggled with the footwork associated. Similar to moving rearward we ran through this dry-fire once and live-fire once.

Next we worked on strong hand and support hand only shooting from the ten yard line and then we went dry for nearly two hours working on one handed manipulation drills using our strong hand and weak hand only. Two students showed their techniques to draw the gun from their holsters using the support hand only. These are techniques that I had seen before; however, I tried several different ones until I settled in on the one I have been using for years.

We then worked on more one handed manipulations including clearing malfunctions and reloading the pistol with strong hand and support hand only. The safety protocol was very high with these drills, and thus we only preformed the drills dry-fire with dummy rounds.

After a short break we were introduced to the GLOCK Operator Course Pistol Standards. This is an evaluation, not a qualification of your skills under the pressure of a shot timer. Due to all the wasted time in the course each student only got one try at the pistol standards test, even though the scoring sheet had room for three separate tests as they refer to them at GLOCK Training. Considering all of the penalties I had my score was a very disappointing Level 1; however, when I returned home, I was able to run the same exact course of fire three times in a row cold, scoring a very respectable Level 3, each time.

Please do not ask me to share the GLOCK Operator Course Pistol Standards with you, it’s not going to happen. One has to protect the integrity of the course so new students don’t try to practice the evaluation standards in preparation of the course.

This will not be a surprise to the instructor as I left many of these comments on my written course review before leaving the building; however, as both a student and fellow instructor I am not sure Willie is the right instructor to deliver this curriculum and I cannot recommend this course to anyone at this time.

As a mentor, I would jump at the opportunity to work with Willie in polishing his presentations and this course of fire so it makes sense, and flows better so the students can see all of it.

Sadly, I could have saved nearly $750.00 in tuition, hotel charges, gas, food the 625 rounds I never fired, not to mention sixteen hours worth of windshield time, had I known this was going to be the result.

As a good friend told me, “Gordon, someone had to be the guinea pig.” If GLOCK Training offered me a seat in the course again I would take it, and maybe I might get a chance to see the entire course of fire and run all the drills; however, after publishing this course review, and even offering to mentor Willie, I don’t see that ever happening, then again surprises do happen.

Oh, nearly a month has passed since the course and I did receive this nice GLOCK Operator PVC Patch in the mail, I will put it with all the other patches I collect and remember what might have been.

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Just remember, as a student you must be willing to pick up the brass on the range, and my good friend Paul caught me doing what I do best with a walnut picker.

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(Photo Courtesy of Paul Pawela)

#GLOCK #GLOCKTraining #GSSF #GlockOperatorCourse

Until next time …

Live life abundantly!

Stay Safe & Train Hard!

Course Review: Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course April 1-2, 2017 Okeechobee, Florida

AAA Combative Pistol Okeechobee April 1-2, 2017

“If gunfire is called for, then hits are called for.” – Tom Givens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Tom & Lynn Givens’ Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course at the OK Corral Gun Cub in Okeechobee, Florida.

Tom Givens is a subject matter expert in firearms and firearms training who has been training sworn law enforcement officers, security guards, military personnel and responsibly armed citizens for well over forty years. He is a court appointed expert witness in cases involving firearms and firearms training and also serves on the board of directors for the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. (ACLDN) Tom understands and can explain physiology, psychology and bio-mechanics better than most PhD’s in the field. His course of fire focuses the student on efficiency, speed and precision. His classroom presentations are well thought out and put together in a manner that gets the students attention. (More on that later) Lynn Givens is a subject matter expert on firearms and firearms training as well, with over 2,000 hours of professional firearms training to her credit, if she tells you to do something while you are in class, it would be a good idea to just do it. Lynn served as an Assistant Instructor this weekend, both she and Tom make a great training team.

TD1 began in the Ranch House at the OK Corral Gun Club with Colonel Jeff Cooper’s four basic rules of gun safety. Muzzle discipline and trigger finger discipline are absolutes in a Rangemaster course, Tom and Lynn run a “Hot Range” with all guns being always loaded. The emphasis is on safety and is non-negotiable with only three places a gun should be while on the range; In the holster, at the ready or on target.

After a short break Tom asked a question that he has been asked many times, “Why do you carry a gun?” he told us the correct answer, “Because I may have to shoot somebody.” As a responsibly armed citizen you never know when or where you may need to use your self-defense firearm to save your life or the life of your loved one. Unfortunately someone else decides that for you and they do not give you any advance warning. Understand that a handgun is a life saving piece of equipment, it does you absolutely no good if it is not on your person when you need it. So, carry your damn gun! (These are nearly verbatim quotes from other courses I have taken with Tom over the past several years)

After another short break we got into the defensive mindset and Tom used several real incidents as examples. These included an actual 9-1-1 recording of a woman and her toddler being brutally murdered over an open phone line; next was a dash cam video of a Sheriff’s Deputy in Georgia who took thirty-three shots at his killer missing him each time from about a car length away just to be murdered in cold blood; finally an interview with a jewelry store owner in Los Angeles who in his own words, “refused to be a victim of a violent crime.” These short audio and video presentations definitely got the attention of the course participants, and even though I had heard and seen them before, they served as a grim reminder to me of the evil that exists in our world, and how I must be prepared to deal with it when it comes calling. I apologize; however, you will need to take the course to fully understand the gravity of these presentations, they are something that cannot be illustrated to the student in the written word, nor should they be.

Next up was Tom’s Elements of Defensive Shooting.

  1. Marksmanship
  2. Firing “Fighting” Platform (Stance)
  3. Grip
  4. Sight Alignment and Sight Picture
  5. Trigger Press
  6. Breathing
  7. Follow-Through

After explanations and presentations on each area and their importance to defensive shooting, we broke for lunch.

A buffet style lunch was graciously sponsored both days by one of the students. The OK Corral has a large dining room and full kitchen. The choices on Saturday included a variety of items like, Chicken Marsala and Beef Pepper Steak, some really good red skin mashed potatoes and on Sunday it was more of a brunch buffet with 1/2 breakfast and lunch items.

After lunch we started the course of fire. Before each exercise Tom explained and demonstrated them for us, and then coached us through the exercise as all of the great instructors do. He knows that following this simple teaching principle is the key to connecting with his students and unlocking the adult learning theory.

We started with dry fire presentations using Tom’s four step method of presenting a pistol from a concealment holster. One is access the pistol and make sure you get a firing grip on it. Two is pulling the pistol out of the holster to your pectoral muscle (If you are carrying strong side hip) and rotating the pistol to the target by dropping your elbow. Three is joining your hands together to get a two handed firing grip. Four is pushing the the pistol straight out toward the target.

While we were in the middle of this dry fire exercise Tom and Lynn were observing and evaluating each individual student for their safety awareness (Muzzle and Trigger Finger Discipline) our skills and equipment choices, and they were quick to make suggestions that led to improvements in everybody where it was appropriate.

Once the line went hot, we ran exercises from the low ready, firing single shots, then moving on to pairs and then multiple shot engagements all on either a verbal command or the sound of a whistle that Tom keeps attached to his stopwatch. For this class Tom uses the Federal Way Washington Police Department Vital Impact Area Target because its scoring zones are well suited for defensive shooting instruction.

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Tom then explained and demonstrated a sight deviation drill further dispelling the myth put out there by the gun pretenders on the interwebz that you don’t need or will not have time to use your sights in a gunfight. The one thing you don’t have time to do is miss your intended target in a gunfight, so it is important to position the “bumpy things” on top your slide to get a hit on the person that is threatening your life.

Speed reloads and going back to the low ready position before holstering is common place in a Rangemaster course, this way all students can keep a full gun and get in the habit of reloading their gun quickly and efficiently. Important Note: If you ever attend any Rangemaster course, make sure you keep a pocket full of ammunition so you can keep the magazines that are on your belt topped off as well.

By this time it was getting later in the afternoon and we were on to the importance of using the correct cadence while shooting. Tom first explained and then demonstrated many different cadences explaining that as your distance increases so must the time in between shots. After he felt that we had an understanding of cadence we then progressed to strong hand and weak hand only shooting exercises. the last exercise of the day was to present our pistols from concealment and fire three shots within three seconds from three yards on the stopwatch, we did this drill several times and many people got faster as the drill progressed. TD1 ended with a round count a little over two hundred fifty rounds in total.

TD2 once again started in a classroom environment inside the clubhouse at OK Corral. Tom started out with some facts and figures on the percentage of hardcore criminals incarcerated based upon USDOJ statistics and then we watched the FBI’s own AAR on the April 11th, 1986 shootout in the Pinecrest neighborhood of Miami-Dade County that ended with the deaths of special agents, Jerry Dove and Ben Grogan along with their killers, Michael Platt and William Matix. Tom is very respectful of the agents involved; however, he points out all of the mistakes that were made and the lessons learned from this incident and how we can apply them to our every day life as responsibly armed citizens.

We departed for the range just after 10:00am and started with some warm up drills shooting multiples from the holster then transitioned to cadence drills.

We then shot the Rangemaster Combative Pistol Course Qualification, everyone scored over the 80% and got to stay in the class. (That was a joke, I’m sure had someone not passed they would have been coached more and given another opportunity to qualify) Myself and Bryce Bishop only dropped one point scoring a 249/250 on the qualification which made us first up on the dueling tree. Bryce cleaned my clock with his Glock 34, scoring the three hits needed to end the fight just as I got my first hit. Not taking anything away from Bryce, but I really broke the cardinal rule in a gunfight, I was the one who missed the most and he or she who misses the most usually ends up dead.

After having a little friendly competition on the dueling tree we started on basic command drills using the Discretionary Command Training Target DT-2A. There are three versions of this target, and I like to use all three in my courses to keep my students guessing, and so they don’t get complacent on memorizing where they are needing to get their hits.

AAA DT-2A

After running several of the command exercises we ran another fun competition to find the last person standing in each relay, by having people drop off after misses and whomever shot last, then we moved to the Casino Drill. Twenty-one shots in under twenty-one seconds with no misses, shooting each target in order and preforming two emergency reloads. We ran the drill several times and pasted our misses by doing the walk of shame after each exercise. Then we ran it for time, with the lowest time in each relay winning a Rangemaster pocket knife. Just so you know the record for this drill is 12.09 seconds, it was not in jeopardy this weekend.

Total round count for two days was just under the expected 800 rounds.

I ran my Generation 3 Glock 19C outfitted with Ameriglo I-Dot Pro sights from a Safariland ALS holster. I used a mixture of FMJ ammunition, mostly Winchester white box 115gr FMJ purchased at Walmart and the rest was Federal American Eagle 115gr FMJ. I had one ammunition induced stoppage (Failure to Fire) with the Winchester white box.

The course concluded at just about five o’clock with certificate presentations and the three questions Tom and Lynn always ask of their students at the end of every course. No, I’m not telling the questions, you will just have to attend one of their courses to find out for yourself.

A few final thoughts: Over the two days of training I identified two weaknesses that I must get better at, and I have already developed a plan to turn theses weaknesses into strengths. This course is one that will help get you refocused on basic fundamentals and will sharpen your strengths; however, as I said above it will also expose your weaknesses as well.

Lastly, it is my goal to convert back to a more conventional thumbs up style grip with my support hand wrist locked, the same grip that Tom teaches. It won’t be easy due to being habituated to the thumbs forward grip for so long; however, I am going to be working very hard to retrain my brain before the 3-day Rangemaster Advanced Combative Pistol Course next month outside Atlanta.

You can find Rangemaster on the worldwide web at:

http://rangemaster.com

On Facebook you can join their closed group at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/234643425923/

 

Until next time …

Stay Safe & Train Hard!

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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