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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Our Course Emergency Plan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until next time …

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

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Course Review: Training with a Legend! Ken Hackathorn Advanced Pistol Course; October 7th & 8th, 2017 – Los Angeles, California (Host: Aztec Training Services)

Back in late April, I spent some time with industry giant Ken Hackathorn at the NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta and during our conversation I asked him if I could get in a course he was teaching in Couer d’Alene, Idaho in June. Ken said, “no way, the course was way oversold by the hosts” and we both said, “See you at Burro Canyon.”

Fast forward to last weekend. In between visiting family that I don’t get to see very often and meeting with some television executives about providing technical advice to them on firearms and empty hand skills for their network actors and actresses, I attended Ken’s Advanced Pistol course at Burro Canyon Shooting Park high up in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

On Saturday morning I woke up early because my body clock was still on Eastern Daylight Time, three hours ahead of the local time and because I might have been just a little excited to train with a man so well respected in the firearms training industry that everyone should do their best to get in one of his last courses before he retires full-time. So, shortly after sunrise, I found myself driving up to the range so I could be ready to learn from a man who has been on my list to train with for years.

Burro Canyon Shooting Park has nineteen bays ranging from forty-five yards to just under one-hundred ten yards in length.

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(The photo above is courtesy of the Burro Canyon Shooting Park website.)

At 0900hrs we started with Ken greeting all twenty of us and holding a short classroom session on the range before we got down to business running our handguns.

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(The photo above is of Ken giving a short classroom presentation at the back of the range on TD1.)

During the classroom presentation, Ken spoke with us about how he has been a “Student of Weaponcraft” all of his adult life. He said that current training is in decline right now due to oversaturation, and I agree. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the firearms training community have no business instructing anything at all, they either have untested POI (Program of Instruction) or they cannot explain why they teach what they teach and how it applies to the responsibly armed citizen. Sadly, many of them cannot figure out the adult learning theorem either. These same folks are the ones that get into arguments to raise their social media status and are desperate to sell tickets to Gun School.

Ken started instructing after meeting United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper at a course he was teaching in Colorado a few years before the Colonel started the American Pistol Institute, you would recognize that institution now as Gunsite Academy. The story of how Ken got in that course was excellent and you will need to attend a course with Ken in order to get that story from the man himself.

By happenstance, United States Army LTC Robert K. Brown publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine was also attending that same course in Colorado back in the early 1970’s and a short time after the course Colonel Brown offered Ken the opportunity to become a regular contributor to the magazine, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just so you know, Ken is very serious about retirement. Yeah, many people have heard him say that he is retiring over the past several years; however, this year he conducted four courses and next year it will be only two and only one is open enrollment. So, fair warning to you, I suggest that if you want to train with Ken you had better find a way to get in that one open enrollment course. (There are hints all over this blog postings with links to the course registration) Ken told us that he has goals in life to see some things like Yosemite, and the Cody Museum and one can’t blame him, for Ken has been training members of the United States Special Operations community, sworn Law Enforcement Officers and of course responsibly armed citizens for over forty-three years, he’s due a break.

Once we were on the range Ken started us with a drill shooting five shots at the “A” zone of an IDPA target from the ready position of our choice. Ever the evaluator and coach, Ken doesn’t miss anything on the range and he is constantly coaching his students. He is well prepared and has a course of fire planned out in his head, I never once saw him refer to any notes, this kind of experience is what you pay for when you attend a course with an industry giant like Ken Hackathorn who was one of the founding members of both I.P.S.C. and I.D.P.A.

Over the two-day course I never once heard him “undress” a student for not doing things his way as you see with some of the “traveling road show instructors” these days. Ken showed us techniques that he has perfected over his career as a sworn Law Enforcement Officer and as an industry expert; however, while we were shooting his drills he left it up to us to us to figure out what techniques we were comfortable with.

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(The photo above is typical of the weekend, Ken on his way to give some personal coaching to one of the students on TD1.)

We were constantly evaluated by the timer and by our target. Ken’s scoring system is based on time measurements, and you must add time for misses outside the designated target area for the drill. There are two things don’t lie in the shooting world, the timer and your target.

Speaking of that, Ken told us a few stories about how some top level shooters and even some regular Joe’s would boast in his courses how they can run certain drills and score times that are absolutely over the top ridiculous. Ken said that he used to tell them, “Well, today I am from Missouri, and you’ve got to show me.” More often than not these folks would make excuses and or embarrass themselves by not being able to perform as they said they could just minutes before.

Many of the drills we shot over this two-day course are drills that you have heard of, e.g., the Bill Drill, the El Presidente’ and countless others. What made this educational was the fact that we shot just about all the drills individually on the timer in front of everyone else, talk about pressure to perform, that was some kind of pressure. We then evaluated our targets, pasting our bad memories and adding up our scores using Ken’s scoring method.

Ken’s 20-second pass/fail par time.

A = 11 seconds and under
B = 11.1 seconds to 14 seconds
C = 14.1 seconds to 17 seconds
D = 17.1 seconds to 19.9 seconds
20 seconds and above identifies the shooter as someone who needs a little more personal coaching.

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(The photo above is of Ken demonstrating his slide-lock or empty-gun reload technique on TD1.)

My scores over the weekend were consistently in the B/C range, as with everything when you apply yourself and focus on what’s important now at Gun School, you can do well. Once again, attending a course of this caliber helped me identify some things that I can work on to increase my skill level and also gave me a lot of things that I can pass on to the students that I train as well.

During the two-day course, Ken taught to the adult learning theorem of explaining, demonstrating, and then coaching students through his drills each and every time, and as I have said many times before, this style of teaching works really well for me as both a trainer and of course as a student.

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(The photo above is of Ken using his own personal Wilson Combat Lightweight Commander to demonstrate his “Strong Hand Only” shooting technique.)

My gun of choice for the course was my SIG SAUER P320 X-Carry, using a Comp-Tac OWB holster. I ordered one thousand rounds of Remington UMC 115gr FMJ ammunition from LAX Ammo and had it delivered directly to my hotel. The ammunition and the gun ran flawlessly; however, I did have a small hiccup with my X-Carry when some sand and dirt got in it from putting it on the ground to run the weak hand only shooting drills. The “Lightening Cut” in the top of the slide is certainly cool looking, but if you get any dirt inside the action, bank on it creating stoppages in the cycle of operation.

Additionally, I ran all the drills in the two-day course from concealment as did one or two other students who were from counties where the Sheriff will issue a California License to Carry.

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(The photo above is courtesy of Aztec Training Services.)

Speaking of Aztec Training Services, Chen and Andrew did a great job as hosts. You may know that when Alias Training & Security Services “closed it’s doors” Aztec was formed almost overnight and they either represent or host some of the biggest names in the firearms training industry, e.g., Ken Hackathorn, Larry Vickers, Jeff Gonzales, Buck Doyle, Daryl Holland and Matt Graham. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have been in this course without being able to speak with Ken at the NRA Annual Meetings, but Aztec Training Services played a significant role by always being there to answer questions for an out of town traveler like me. Check out their website and course schedule in the various links I have placed in this posting.

In summary, this course is all about building your skills as a combative shooter. If you apply yourself and take good notes you will take away a lot of information that you can use in your personal range training sessions when you get back home. Again I encourage you to get in Ken’s open enrollment course next year if you want to train with him before he fully retires from teaching.

 

Until next time …

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

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Photo Disclosure: Featured photo courtesy of Aztec Training Services.

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: 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!

My experiences at the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings

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Last weekend I attended the National Rifle Association‘s Annual Meetings of members in Atlanta, Georgia. The NRAAM was held at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and attendance has been announced right at 81,000 for the weekend. I wonder if President Donald J. Trump was counted in that number. Isn’t it refreshing to have a pro-second amendment President after the eight years we endured from January 20th, 2009 to January 20th, 2017? Sure, gun sales, accessories and ammunition sales set all time records year over year, but it sure is nice having a “friend” living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Overall, the Georgia World Congress Center was excellent. Save one set of escalators being broken, there were enough elevators and other ways to get up and down the five floors of this enormous facility, and I didn’t see adding a hundred or more steps to my daily total as a hindrance. Even the restrooms had maintenance workers stationed near by to ensure cleanliness and the security guards were attentive and tried to be helpful whenever possible with directions etc…

The show floor could comfortably fit eight football fields inside and still have room left over. There were booths on each floor with the NRA Store situated on the fourth floor, you can be well assured that I left a little lighter in the wallet after my visit.

This NRAAM showcased the NRA’s new Insurance and Training products, NRA Carry Guard and NRA Carry Guard Training. More to come in a separate blog posting very soon, stay tuned!

So, it all started for me on Thursday afternoon and candidly, I owe my friend Marty from the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network an apology for not helping both he and Vincent with the heavy lifting. In case you didn’t know, Marty and his wife Gila are a couple titans of the firearms training industry. They have built a firearms training academy that is in the top tier of what this industry has to offer in little old friendly Onalaska, Washington. If you are looking for high quality training and want your skills tested by some of the top trainers in the country, make sure to attend a course at Firearms Academy of Seattle; you will leave with far better skills than what you brought. Oh by the way, Marty and Gila were chosen by the worlds premier firearms training academy, GunSite Academy to host several off-site courses in 2017, that speaks volumes about these folks, both of whom I am honored to call friends of mine.

My volunteer efforts at the NRAAM afforded me access to the exhibition hall while the vendors were setting up their booths and displaying their products on Thursday afternoon, kind of cool to get a “sneak peek” that was authorized; however, at 3:00pm I was firmly seated in room B-203 attending the Firearms Examiner meeting. My volunteer commitment was Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, then to be on-call Saturday and Sunday to inspect any firearms that may have come in late and make sure they were inoperable, even if loaded with a live cartridge.

After checking somewhere south of five-hundred (500) guns the three person team I was assigned to decided we could not do anything more as the vendors in our area were not set up yet.  So, we returned on Friday morning at 7:00am to start again in our designated section and finish checking the guns we were assigned. Thankfully there were no unintended or negligent discharges at the NRAAM this year. (By the way, those tend to happen at these events when ignorant people administratively handle their “carry gun” and show it off to others, never a bright idea)

If you get a chance to volunteer at the NRA Annual Meetings, do it. NRA Certified Instructor, Greg Baird, the NRA’s volunteer coordinator is a class act in every way and he and his team need help is many areas like; the NRA Store, Eddie Eagle, Membership Registrations, NRA Youth Day, the air gun range and of course Firearms Examiners.

Just after the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday morning I was able to get a photo with someone I have respected my entire adult life; NRA Board Member, Richard Childress. I am a big fan of his, not only because of his unwavering support for our Second Amendment rights, but also because of the way he conducts his business as a person and as the owner of one of the most successful NASCAR teams in history. For me there is Richard Childress Racing, and everybody else is a few laps down at the start-finish line.

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A little earlier Friday morning I received a text message from my good friend Santiago Cuellar, from Godspeed Firearms School. Santi is a sneaky devil, surprising me by saying he was coming to the NRAAM for a few hours before heading home to south Florida after a business trip. Santi is an excellent trainer and a really good friend, I was very surprised and delighted to see him in Atlanta.

AAA Me and Santi Cuellar

After saying goodbye to Santi, it was time to get “Brother Vern” registered. I have known this guy a long time. Seems like yesterday I was a Sergeant and he a Private in the Green Machine, but that was 30 years ago when I met my main man “Vern.” Him flying down to Atlanta just to spend the weekend with me and attend his first NRAAM made this a real special weekend. V-E-R-N thoroughly enjoyed himself, but got quite distracted by all the shiny things to see everywhere. I ended up saying “squirrel” a lot just to make him laugh. This guy is one of my very best friends, one that I would want in a foxhole with me. Those who served know exactly what I mean by that, V-E-R-N is 100% my brother.

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Later on Friday I hosted a dinner for some pretty awesome people. Many of these folks are NRA Training Counselors. We met at Ted’s Montana Grill on Luckie Street. The proprietor there, Michael St. Bernard is a great guy, he and his staff did a fine job. Everyone said their food was excellent, having been to Ted’s before I knew that would be the case and part of the reason why I chose this particular place to host our dinner. So, what’s a gathering like this if we didn’t take a group photo? Again, I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone, several of you have suggested that we make this an annual event, and I think that is a great suggestion.

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On Saturday morning I woke up at my usual 5:30am not the 4:30am I had the previous two days and went to work out in the hotel fitness center, then I waited for Vern to get his heart started so we could head out to the NRAAM.

Saturday was all about hitting as many exhibits as we could, I was still on-call for my duties as a Firearms Examiner, but my first stop was at the Benchmade Knife Company booth so I could drop off my Mini Reflex II automatic to get sharpened and a deep carry clip added. Both were done free of charge and they sent me a text message when my knife was ready for pick-up. Now that’s what I call great customer service. Thanks Benchmade, I am a customer for life!

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Saturday at the NRAAM is the day that John Howard, NRA National Training Manager hosts his annual Trainers’ Update. This years update started off with John introducing the speakers and immediately Dr. Joe Logar took the microphone and gave an excellent presentation on the NRA’s Adaptive Shooting program. If you are an NRA Certified Instructor, Training Counselor or Coach you need to get to know Dr, Joe Logar, he can help you with ideas to train those athletes and responsibly armed citizens that have physical challenges. Dr. Logar can be reached via email at jlogar@nrahq.org

Next up was NRA Training Counselor, Klint Macro and his presentation on the new Pistol “Program.” Nothing really earth-shattering here, just information that if you have received the NRA Trainers’ Updates via email you would know already. Unfortunately many people do not receive those updates and the NRA needs to fix this so everyone is getting information disseminated directly from the Education & Training Department via email and not having to rely on asking questions of the “hive” on Facebook even though their Training Counselor should be their first point of contact.

Klint’s presentation went a little long and led John Howard to announce that we were going to take a break before National Coach Trainer Daniel Subia’s presentation on the NRA Coaching program. This break totally broke the inertia of the update because nearly everyone in attendance flocked toward John and his staff to ask questions and get their face-time. I have attended the Trainers’ Update three of the four years they have been held and I have never seen John call for a break, not once. When the five minute break was up, Daniel and his guest presenter had to wait until everyone finally exited the room to start their presentations and they were left with maybe a dozen of us. IMHO, the coaching program presenters should have been afforded the same courtesy in making their presentations to the entire assembly of Instructors, Training Counselors and Coaches just as Dr. Logar and Klint were able to do, unencumbered by a break. Extremely poor time management led to this ball being dropped, and it is a shame because we need more people in the coaching ranks. Maybe in 2018 Daniel can lead off the Trainers’ Update.

There was no information given at the Trainers’ Update on NRA Carry Guard Training, I bet you a cookie that all of that information is being closely held by Ackerman-McQueen who handles all of the advertising and marketing for the NRA and the NRA Carry Guard Insurance and NRA Carry Guard Training programs.

One of the really cool things in the back of the room, Tony and Rob Lambraia had a makeshift UTM firing line set up for all Instructors to try the UTM training cartridges. If you are not using UTM in your training, you might want to consider it, they are excellent for Force on Force scenario-based training. Find out more about UTM by visiting their website at: https://utmworldwide.com/

After the presentation on coaching, I was able to meet and speak with Mike Hughes, Founder and CEO of NextLevel Training, Mike is the man behind the SIRT Training Pistol. I shared a real success story with him about a student/instructor of mine who greatly improved his defensive marksmanship skills by using a SIRT Training Pistol over a period of about a month. This student had a target grouping that looked like a shotgun pattern in my defensive pistol course and I worked with him to make some improvements during the course; however, after working with the SIRT for a few weeks he came back to me for another course and qualified easily, with a really tight grouping all the way back to 15 yards. The SIRT Training Pistol works, you just got to buy one and put in the time and effort to press the trigger correctly to get the desired result. It’s called “practice” yes, we talkin’ ’bout practice. (Thank you Allen Iverson)

Of course the NRAAM is also about meeting old friends and new ones as well. On Saturday afternoon I introduced my friend to “Uncle Mas” and bought him a gift membership to the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network, so he is now part of the ACLDN family. I wanted to get Uncle Mas to call him “Young Brother” but that didn’t happen; however, Vern did get a signed copy of “Gun Safety In the Home.” Thank you Marty, Gila, Vincent, Uncle Mas, Gail and all of those with the ACLDN family.

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Additionally on Saturday I was able to spend some time at the Colt booth talking with firearms training industry giants, Ken Hackathorn, Larry Vickers and Daryl Holland. I was fortunate to be able to spend a fair amount of time with both Ken and Daryl, but Larry had a book signing at the booth, and business is business. I will be taking a course with Ken later this year, and hope to have dinner with him as well. Later in the afternoon I found Ken once again and showed him a photo of my friend Steve standing next to him at a course in Arizona a couple years ago. Ken recognized him immediately and said, “I remember him, he was shooting a Glock 19, and was a good shooter too” both observations were spot-on.

Daryl Holland and I spent a little time talking about hog hunting in Florida, I had no idea he used to live just a few miles from me in Land O’Lakes. I proceeded to ask him for some suggestions for my Colt M4 platform rifle, e.g., what optic he recommended for it and such. It looks like I will be buying a Trijicon MRO® – 2.0 MOA Red Dot. I am a minimalist when it comes to optics on my M4 and this red dot fits that mold. I wanted an unbiased suggestion from a recognized subject matter expert on what he would use and I believe he gave it. I left with Daryl’s contact information and said that I might see him at Universal Shooting Academy for his handgun/carbine course with Shannon Smith in January 2018 or I would host him myself in the Tampa Bay area. One way or another, I will run my gun in a Daryl Holland course in the not too distant future.

Next up, Vern bought a standard edition “Vickers Guide: AR-15 Volume 1.” Larry autographed it for him and was very gracious. Many people tell me that Larry is unapproachable and kind of surly. I call B.S., I found him to be neither of those in fact, quite the opposite. Larry did an execellent job in putting this book together, should we expect anything else from someone of his caliber? If you are interested, you can purchase your copy of Larry’s book directly from him at https://www.vickersguide.com/ – You can also find more products in the link below. I am a big fan of the floor plates that he designed for Glock magazines. They work very well when you have to strip a magazine out of a gun because of a stoppage in the cycle of operation. http://www.vickerstactical.com/products.html

By the way, you can be sure that I will do my best to host Larry in the Tampa Bay area in 2018.

AAA Vern with LAV

On both Friday and Saturday I spent some time at the Sig Sauer booth talking with Steven Gilcreast about my upcoming trip to Sig Sauer Academy, Steve checked his schedule and it looks like he will be my Instructor later this summer. I was also fortunate enough to meet Adam Panchaud the Vice-President of Sig Sauer Academy, both Steve and Adam are keenly aware that I am looking forward to training at Sig Sauer Academy.

Now, have a look at this beauty below. Meet the Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry, it is due to be released in about a month. Check out that flat trigger, undercut on the trigger guard and enhanced beaver tail. This gun also has a relief cut on the top of the slide and is milled for a Mini Red Dot as well. I am told that this gun will be added to the Active & Retired Law Enforcement/Military & Instructor discount program at 25% off MSRP. I am currently working with the fine folks at Sig Sauer to get one for Testing & Evaluation so I can write an article that I have been asked to do for one of the gun magazines. Stay tuned!

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Saturday ended with dinner and a great conversation with Paul Pawela and his girlfriend Linda along with my friend, Vern. Paul is Director of Law Enforcement Training at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida. He is also a former Special Forces Operator and sworn Police Officer; his company, Assault Counter Tactics specializes in reality-based scenario training. I plan to host Paul this fall for a Vehicle Counter Ambush Course in the Tampa Bay area.

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Sunday morning I started again with a workout and then it was off to breakfast with Vern before heading to GWCC. Sunday’s are great at the NRAAM, you can actually walk though the exhibits most of the day without worrying if or when someone will step on your heels. Vern bought a couple barrels for his rifles and I had Travis Hall (Retired Special Forces Medic) educate me on how to properly pack the Blue Force Gear; Micro Trauma Kit that I purchased on Saturday afternoon. You can learn more about Travis by following his business Facebook page at Second Chance Medical Consulting or on the world wide web at http://secondchancemed.com/.

Also on Sunday I made another stop at Patriot Ordinance Factory (POF-USA for short) to see Tony and his team there. POF-USA makes a superb rifle, I have always liked their Gen4 lower and have had my eye on a P415 Edge or a Renegade+ for a while now. I like the gas piston guns like the P415 Edge, but I am also partial to direct impingement guns like the Renegade+, I need to flip a coin or just get it over with and buy both of them. Take a look at them in the hyperlinks that I created above.

Finally Vern and I zig-zagged the exhibit hall for a couple more hours and then then we decided to leave and get some chow at Twin Smokers BBQ. When we entered the restaurant there was NRA-ILA Executive Director, Chris Cox enjoying his dinner. We had just met Chris and shook his hand on the floor at the exhibit hall a couple hours prior. When he left he waived and shook some hands and thanked everyone for coming to Atlanta and attending the NRA Annual Meetings. Chris and Wayne LaPierre are the two hardest working people in the building located at 11250 Waples Mill Road in Fairfax, Virginia. They are both on the front line every single day protecting our Second Amendment rights.

Once Chris left, Vern and I went about our business of smashing some barbecue and talking about the old days when we were younger, had better eyesight and could run four or five miles out the back gate at North Fort Lewis with our rucksacks on for PT. Yeah, my man Vern is a one of a kind, I am grateful that he came down to visit and enjoy his first NRAAM. “Squirrel”

The only thing I didn’t get to see at the NRAAM was President Donald J. Trump. The President gave a speech to the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, if you missed it, I have placed a link here.

In summary; I had a great time, I always do at this event. As I said a few times, I met up some old friends, made some new ones and got some possibilities for future course offerings from some of the top names in our industry.

Ironically I will be back in the Atlanta area next week attending the new Glock Operators Course at the “mother ship” in Smyrna. Be looking for a course review here on Thursday when I return home. I will also be submitting an article on the course to a few of the gun magazines as well, so stay tuned.

Live life abundantly my friends!

Until next time …

Stay Safe & Train Hard!