Fourth Quarter 2017; Trigger Control Dot Org Training Schedule!

Hello Everyone! Because many of the courses that I teach are closed enrollment they are never announced anywhere. Regardless, many people have been asking for a listing of courses available for the responsibly armed citizen instructor and student and the ones I am attending as a student as well. This is a complete list of my upcoming training schedule for the months of October-November-December 2017. I foresee no changes to this schedule at the present time, plane tickets have been purchased, and both hotel and rental car reservations have been made as well.

October 4th (Wednesday) – Defensive Tactics Handgun Retention/Disarming Techniques (Closed Enrollment, LEO Only): Orlando, Florida.

October 7th & 8th (Saturday/Sunday)Ken Hackathorn (Aztec Training Services) Two-Day Advanced Pistol Course: Burro Canyon Shooting Park; Azusa, California.

October 10th thru 13th (Tuesday thru Friday) – 9th Annual High Liability Instructor Training Seminar: Tallahassee Community College; Havana, Florida.

October 14th (Saturday) – NRA Instructor Basics of Personal Protection In the Home Course: Clearwater, Florida.

October 15th (Sunday) – NRA Refuse to be a Victim Instructor Development Workshop: Clearwater, Florida.

October 16th & 17th (Monday/Tuesday) – Simunitions Reality-Based Scenario Training for Law Enforcement (Closed Enrollment, LEO Only): South Florida.

October 21st (Saturday) – Handgun Essentials & Defensive Tactics for the Responsibly Armed Citizen Course: Nicolet Rifle Club; Suamico, Wisconsin.

October 23rd & 24th (Monday/Tuesday)SIG SAUER Academy; Epping, New Hampshire.

October 27th, 28th & 29th (Friday thru Sunday) – NRA Personal Protection Outside the Home Student and Instructor Courses: Clearwater & Lakeland, Florida.

October 30th & 31st (Monday/Tuesday) – Vehicle Dynamics Course Days 3 & 4 (Closed Enrollment, LEO Only): North Central Florida.

November 4th & 5th (Saturday/Sunday) – NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting – Instructor Led Training and NRA Instructor Pistol Shooting Course: Clearwater, Florida.

November 7th & 8th (Tuesday/Wednesday) – Two-Day Vehicle Dynamics Course (Closed Enrollment, LEO Only): Tampa Bay Area, Florida.

November 11th & 12th (Saturday/Sunday)Rangemaster – Instructor Reunion Conference: BDC Gun Room; Shawnee, Oklahoma.

November 14th thru 20th (Tuesday thru Monday) – Closed Enrollment Course(s): Kentucky & Ohio.

December 1st & 2nd (Friday/Saturday) – USCCA Instructor Development Workshop: Clearwater, Florida.

December 4th thru 6th (Monday thru Wednesday) – NRA Practical Pistol Coach School: National Rifle Association Headquarters; Fairfax, Virginia.

December 9th & 10th (Saturday/Sunday) – NRA Rifle & Shotgun Instructor Course(s): Lakeland, Florida.

December 16th & 17th (Saturday/Sunday) – Pat McNamara TMACS, INC T.A.P.S. Sentinal Course: Panteao Productions Studios Facility; Swansea, South Carolina.

December 18th thru January 4th – Holiday vacation, no courses scheduled.

Please message me via www.facebook.com/triggercontrol for more information if you are interested in attending any of the open enrollment courses offered.

 

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.

AAA NRA B-8 Target
(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!

So, what is in your E.D.C.?

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  • Glock 19C Gen 3 w/Ameriglo I-Dot Pro Sights and a Blade-Tech Klipt AIWB holster
  • Spare Glock 19 Magazine w/OEM +2 baseplate Safariland 123 Horizontal Mag Pouch
  • Benchmade Mini Reflex Auto
  • Cold Steel Spartan
  • SOFT-T Wide Tourniquet in an Eleven 10 case
  • Monadnock D-Jammer/Kubotan Keychain
  • Griffin Pepper Strike w/Fury OC spray
  • Surefire E2D LED Defender Ultra
  • Wallet
  • iPhone 7+

All easily concealable in pockets and on my belt.

Practice your ABC’s …

Stay Safe & Train Hard!

Beware of “The Gun Counter Instructor”

Yesterday evening I was in my local gun shop (LGS) just looking around, and a few feet away from where I was standing a young man in his 30’s was asking a salesperson for some advice on what ammunition he should use in his home defense shotgun. As you might imagine, I was trying hard to hide the fact that he had my full-undivided attention.

Enter “The Gun Counter Instructor” with is classic answer. “All you need is some #7.5 bird shot.” Then he gestured past where I was standing and said, “It’s right over there past the guy in the tan shirt.”

As the young man walked my way, I stopped him and said, “I couldn’t help but overhear that you are looking for some ammunition for a home defense shotgun.” He answered in the affirmative and I told him, “Bird shot is for killing birds, not home defense against a home invasion robbery.” I then asked him what kind of shotgun he has and he politely said, “Remington 870 Marine Magnum.” (One of my favorite shotguns)

I then handed him a box of Federal FliteControl® Wad 2 3/4″ 9 pellet 00 buckshot (Not the exact load I prefer, but it will work) and told him this was what he is looking for to load in his home defense shotgun and to try it out at 10 and 15 yards to see what the pattern looks like at those two distances. If it is smaller than 12″ to 14″ then he should be good to go as he probably won’t have to make a shot of more than 15 yards inside his home. He then confirmed that the largest room in his house is only 35 feet wide, so not quite 12 yards. We continued our conversation on the way to the checkout line and I handed him a business card inviting him to my next Defensive Shotgun Course and noticed he was buying five (5) boxes of 00BK. I left him by recommending he try to find the 8 pellet 00BK through one of the major online ammunition retailers and handed him an extra box that I had in my car.

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The moral to the story is, as an Instructor or a responsibly armed citizen don’t overtly make the “Gun Counter Instructor” look bad, and try to be consultative in nature when giving advice in a gun shop. If you are an Instructor, make sure to have some business cards with you as well.

It is my sincere wish that this using bird shot for home defense theory would go away, but it won’t until we educate all of the “Gun Counter Instructors” to stop giving out poor advice to unsuspecting customers, I’d settle for my local gun shop employees as a start.

Until next time, stay safe & train hard!

Join my 5,600+ fans on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/triggercontrol

NRA Basic Pistol Course Update

1l68vbOn March 9th, 2017 the NRA Education & Training department announced to its Training Counselors that it would be adding a new Instructor Led Training (ILT) course to their course catalog under the Basics of Pistol Shooting Course. This new curriculum will be available for all NRA Certified Pistol Instructors to offer to their students beginning on April 4th.

The NRA Education & Training department staff, including senior level directors and board members had been meeting with a team of Training Counselors over the past several months working on this new curriculum along with the policies and procedures to administer this new course.

The NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting, Instructor Led Training (ILT) course will be launched on April 4th. It marks a return to the traditional instructor/student relationship for this course and will give the Instructor the ability to offer a condensed version of the course, training on only one action type instead of both. (Semi-Automatic or Revolver). As with all NRA basic courses, both the “Blended” and the “ILT” version will include a course completion checklist. This checklist is an invaluable tool that will allow the instructor to document what they have taught their students, as well as a record of the student’s acknowledgement that they feel comfortable in understanding and performing each objective. The instructor will provide each student with a student package from the NRA Program Materials Center materials.nrahq.org that will consist of, the NRA Guide: Basics of Pistol Shooting Handbook and a course exam. The student packages will also be available starting on April 4th.

Once the course is complete, the instructor will submit an electronic course report through their instructor portal account and include the student’s written exam score, the shooting skill they achieved the action type they were trained on, and acknowledge that each student met all of the learning objectives as set forth by the National Rifle Association. After submitting the course report, the instructor will be able to print a course completion certificate for each student directly from their portal account and all of the information entered in the course report will automatically print on the certificate of completion.

The recommended targets to be used in the Basics of Pistol Shooting course have been improved as well. Instead of being four inch circles in solid red, white and blue, the targets will have a colored ring (Red, White and Blue) around four inch white circles allowing the student to focus on the front sight during the qualification instead of the target color.

Also worthy of note is that the Instructor will have the option to conduct the entire bench-rest course of fire with a SIRT pistol or a similar laser training device in the classroom ONLY if the range facility they are using does not allow bench-rest shooting.

The NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting course lesson plans for both the “Blended” and the “ILT” course will be updated with clarifications on exact minimum round counts, refinements of definitions, and of course policies and procedures. The new lesson plans will be available in the instructor portal on April 4th.

Speaking of the instructor portal, the NRA Education & Training department has been working on streamlining the site to make it easier for Instructors and Training Counselors to administer training and obtain updates from NRA headquarters. The new www.nrainstructors.org will also be launched on April 4th as well.

The NRA is also planning a media campaign associated with this release. So far, 30,000 people have completed Phase I online since it was launched in 2016 and with the increased media awareness, registrations for both courses will be sure to increase. The media campaign will include promotions in NRA media publications, newsletters, electronic and print magazines and also on television as well.

With this addition to the NRA’s course catalog, the Certified Pistol Instructor will be able to offer these four different courses to their students:

NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting “Blended” (Phase II)

NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Instructor Led Training (ILT)

NRA Pistol Marksmanship Simulator Training

NRA Gun Safety Seminar

It is important to note that the Basics of Pistol Shooting Phase I & II, better known as “Blended Learning” will remain as an option for those students who prefer the self-study eLearning modules as their introduction to firearms safety along with basic gun handling and shooting skills. Those who choose the self-study course must complete the entire course and score a 90% on their exam before they are able to meet with an NRA Certified Instructor and complete the hand-on practical exercises in Phase II.

Also starting on April 4th, NRA Certified Pistol Instructors and Training Counselors will be able to purchase a “Course Control Code” that they will be able to issue to their Students and Instructor candidates for Phase I at a significant discount from the current price on https://basicpistol.nra.org/ This will allow for a one-stop shopping experience for Students and Instructor candidates. Additionally all Instructor candidates will still be required to pass the Basics of Pistol Shooting Phase I as a prerequisite for attending the NRA Instructor Pistol Shooting course with an NRA Training Counselor.

Instructors and Training Counselors should make sure that their email address is up to date in their instructor portal account at www.nrainstructors.org as the NRA will be sending out a Trainer’s Update on March 22nd, that will detail all the changes with both course(s). They will also be placing alerts in the instructor portal for all 125,000+ Certified Instructors and Training Counselors.

Please help spread the correct information on these new additions to your fellow instructors, and let’s all work together in offering the highest quality firearms training to both our Students and Instructor candidates.

Finally, if you are an Instructor or Student and have questions about the new program please feel free to contact me by asking questions here in the comments section or by joining my 5,600+ Facebook fans at: www.facebook.com/triggercontrol

Stay safe!

Do you have specific goals when at the range? Think S.M.A.R.T.

Yesterday evening Tom Givens posted this to the graduates of his RangeMaster Instructor courses and I thought it was way too good not to share. For those of you who follow the Trigger Control Dot Org Facebook page, you know that we share a lot of content to help make you a better defensive shooter along with many other things focused on the responsible armed citizen.

When I am at the range, I am there with a plan in mind to work on a specific skill set that is important to me. Sure sometimes I am there to “shake out” a gun that I might be using for training or a new concealed carry gun that I bought, but let’s face it, these days with the cost and availability of ammunition, range memberships, gas to get there etc… we all need a plan with some goals to work toward in improving our defensive shooting skill sets.

I give the “floor” to Mr. Givens.

What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

A critical step in increasing your defensive shooting skill is to be able to set up S.M.A.R.T. training goals. Think of it as driving your vehicle from your home to some other destination. You could drive around aimlessly and hope you eventually arrive at the address you seek. A better solution would be to get directions, plot them on a map, and follow those directions directly to your destination. That is our goal in S.M.A.R.T. training.

I’ve been teaching people professionally for over 35 years, for 18 years I owned a range where people often came to practice, and I teach almost every weekend somewhere in the US. On my range I frequently saw people come and practice with no plan, no goal, and little or no organization. When they left they were not one bit better than when they arrived, and they could have accomplished every bit as much with dry practice at home. In our classes no matter what part of the country we are in I see the same errors by shooters who have had a fair bit of prior training. The problem is, after the training their practice is unorganized, haphazard, and without real goals. Since they practiced so inefficiently they come to class shooting no better than when they came to the last class. We basically start over with these folks every time we get them in class. For your practice regimen to be of any real value you have to set goals and attain them. You can’t just say your goal is to be a better shot, or to be “really good”. That is so vague as to be meaningless. We need a standard to achieve and road map to get there.

For a goal to be effective and useful to you, it should be S.M.A.R.T…. S (specific), M (measurable), A (attainable), R (realistic), and T (timely). Broadly general goals, generally speaking, will not be achieved. So, let’s look at each of these criteria and see how they apply to the defensive shooter.

Specific– each range trip or dry practice session should be planned around working on and improving one or two specific skills. The skill should be identified in advance so that you can have the correct supplies, targets, and any other equipment you need to work on those specific skill sets. Trying to work on everything at once leads to improving nothing significantly. It is far better to concentrate your attention on one or two skills in each session. In advance of your range trip or dry practice session identify the skill set you want to work on and then identify the drills that would help polish those particular skills. For instance if you want to work on accuracy, a bull’s-eye course of fire may be in order, or perhaps one of the small dot drills.

Measurable– a time and accuracy standard gives you a metric for seeing if you are actually getting better or not. Never just blow rounds down range. Every drill fired and practice string should be critiqued and or scored, and targets taped or replaced so that you can see exactly where hits are going. Never rely on your subjective idea of how fast you’re working, you will just about always be wrong. You can have a training partner with a stopwatch, or if you practice alone you can use an electronic timer to verify your progress. Many smart phones now have timer apps available, so there’s really no excuse for not using a timing device in your range trips. To accurately measure your progress you can use standardized drills, exercises, and courses of fire. By scoring your targets and noting your time it’s pretty easy to track progress or the lack of it. There are a lot of standardized drills that emphasize discrete skills with well-known time/ accuracy requirements. The FAST drill devised by Todd Green is just one example. You either get your hits into the 3 x 5 card and the 8 inch circle or you don’t, and you either make the time specified or you don’t. It’s a great idea to use a small notebook as a log and note the date and time of practice, the individual drills worked on, and your scores/times. Tracking your progress in this manner gives you an accurate idea of how you are progressing.

Attainable– be realistic when setting your goals to avoid frustration and burnout. If you’re just starting out as a defensive shooter, a 1.2 second draw from concealment to a hit at 7 yards is probably beyond your reach. Find your current baseline by shooting scored drills, record your score or time and set a reasonable goal for improvement. For instance, if a slide lock reload currently takes you four seconds, make your goal cutting your time to three seconds. Once you achieve that goal, make your next goal cutting the time to 2 1/2 seconds. Each time you have a major improvement, it is going to be harder to make it to the next level, so work in increments that you can manage. Trying to go from that four second reload to a two second reload in one jump is a lot to ask. If you shot the current FBI pistol qualification course at 75% today, make your next goal shooting 85%, rather than 100%. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Realistic– when setting goals take into account your physical attributes, your training resources (time, ammunition, and money), your equipment limitations, and the context for which you are training. For instance, it is counterproductive to set goals built around what Grand Master USPSA shooters do with match gear worn openly if you are wearing a compact pistol concealed under clothing in an IWB holster. If you are older or have physical limitations take those into account realistically in your training plan.

Timely– set a real-time goal for your desired improvement. This helps you stay on track and put in the work. If you want to improve one specific skill such as the slide lock reload mentioned above, you might set a goal of shaving the time from four seconds to three seconds in three months of combined range work and dry practice. If your goal is to reach a certain score on a broad course of fire that covers a lot of different skills, you might set a time limit of say, six months. As mentioned before, use a logbook to record your efforts and your achievements as you work toward your goal.

Using the S.M.A.R.T. approach you can make the most of your training resources and I assure you, you will progress faster and get a lot more out of your limited training time.

Tom

Stay Safe and Train not just Hard, train S.M.A.R.T.!!!

– Gordon