February 27-28, 2010 weekend, KR Training hosted a guest instructor. Claude Werner, one of the top snub revolver guys in the nation (IDPA Master-level shooter, 5 years as the chief instructor at the Rogers Shooting School, and someone that’s carried a snub for about 30 years), came and taught two classes specifically on the snub revolver. This is my After Action Report (AAR) on the two days of snub-specific training.
Why the snub?
When I tell people I have a snub revolver (and carry it), they usually come back with the question, why a snub nose revolver? I think most of that comes from the fact we’ve so many high-tech modern semi-autos and the revolver seems so…. archaic. Certainly the revolver is an old design, but the reason it holds up today is because there are things revolvers can do that semi-autos cannot. Furthermore, there are some things that snubs are just better at.
If you want some good video on “why the snub”, check out my previous posting with the videos from the 2005 Snubby Summit. A lot of good information there. But in short, a snub is small, compact, light, easy to carry, easy to conceal, can shoot ammo with reasonable ballistics, has a relatively simple manual of arms that almost anyone can operate, immediate action (i.e. dealing with a malfunction) is very simple (pull the trigger again). Snubs are also useful in extreme close-quarters combat (ECQC, see SouthNarc). You can shoot snubs from within pockets. You can make contact shots with snubs. It’s easy to teach the revolver to non-dedicated personnel. They dry fire well. There’s a lot of good things about snubs.
But with the good comes the bad. Snubs are hard to shoot. You start with the fact revolvers have long and heavy triggers (even if they are gunsmithed and improved, they’re still never going to be as good as say a 1911 trigger), you couple the fact the snub is small so it can be hard to get a good grip on it, it’s light so it doesn’t soak up recoil, the sight radius is small and the sights are crappy, it only holds 5 rounds (or maybe 6 on some models), remedial action typically is not something you can fix in the field, they are slow to (re)load (we’re not all Jerry Miculek) and well… nothing is perfect.
Nevertheless, the snub has a place. Tom Hogel turned me on to snubs. I’ve been enjoying mine, but I knew I wasn’t that hot with it. Some time ago Tom visited Rangemaster because Claude Werner was teaching his snub class there. I was going to go but schedule did not allow. When Tom returned from Rangemaster he praised Claude and the class, and the wheels were set in motion to bring Claude to Central Texas. As soon as I heard about the class I put in for it because I knew it was an opportunity not to miss.
People think snub revolvers are good concealed carry guns. This is not untrue, but the reality is a snub is not a beginner gun. Problems arise because people start out wanting a gun for personal protection, the guy at the gun store recommends a snub (typically this is what is recommended for “you little ladies”). People go shoot the snub, it hurts to fire, they can’t get good hits, and then the snub is relegated to the dresser drawer to be pulled out once in a blue moon, if that. That is not setting yourself up for success. It must be acknowledged that a snub revolver is actually an advanced gun. Due to that fact, the content of the day 1 class was… interesting.
You see, most of what Claude taught on day one was fundamentals. These are things you’d see in any beginner handgun course. However, the way the class was could not have been handled by rote beginners. It was certainly an advanced class, but one that focused on fundamentals. Frankly, that was great. It was evident through the whole weekend that one key factor for successful snub shooting is trigger control. With those long, heavy triggers, it’s hard to have a good smooth trigger press. Claude’s emphasis was heavily on this by the constant use of “ball and dummy” drills. But being a snub, we could do ball & dummy in a great way.
The drills were generally run in a few basic ways. First, perform the drill with dry fire. Now, load the revolver and repeat the drill live. You might do one shot, then open and spin the cylinder, close it and perform another single shot. Open and spin the cylinder, close it and one shot. Repeat until the gun is empty. Another variation might be one shot, spin, two shots, spin, two shots. This was a great way to perform ball and dummy, costs you nothing to do, but pays off in providing immediate feedback about your trigger control. If there’s nothing else you take from this AAR, take this.
Drills were systematic, always building upon previous skills. Two-handed shooting from aimed fire, from the low-ready moving up to the target, and eventually draw from holster. Systematic, ball and dummy all around. Furthermore, one of the first things Claude taught was how to reload using loose ammo. Yes there are all sorts of contraptions one can use to reload a revolver, but it’s inevitable they’ll drop their rounds in your pocket sooner or later so it’s good to know how to reload from loose ammo in your pocket. Claude showed us a good technique for this, and the goal was whenever you were done with a string to get the gun reloaded and back in action. One thing to note is Claude was not dogmatic about things. He’d show you his way, he’d show another way, he’d tell you strengths and weaknesses of each approach. In the end it’s best to get the best teaching, the best training, the best techniques, then you can “degrade” from there to find what works best for you. This is again an advanced concept because a beginner often needs to be taught “this way only” so they don’t get too confused and overwhelmed with information and wind up with nothing good.
We closed off the day shooting the Nevada CHL test. It’s not a difficult test, but it’s used because it is easy to administer in this setting and does demonstrate a basic qualification. I had no trouble passing the test (no one failed). As a final exercise, Claude had us load our self-defense ammo into the snub. The reason? First, to ensure you’ve shot carry ammo so you know how it feels and behaves. Second, to see how the ammo shoots in the gun. Not all ammo shoots the same way out of the same gun. The fixed sights on most snubs .38 Special are set for shooting 158 grain bullets, so if you’re shooting say 135 grain Gold Dots, they may not shoot the same (this is one reason why my reloads use 158 grain bullets and my carry ammo is 158 grain). Claude had us shoot 5 shot groups, one at 3 yards and one at 5 yards, so we could see how our carry ammo performed. The guy on the line next to me? His ammo shot way low left. My Buffalo Bore 158 grain LSWCHP (20C/20) was pretty spot on. It’s just good to know this stuff.
The day also had a lot of information about different snubs, customization options (e.g. grips), holsters, loaders, ammo. All sorts of other gear and equipment related discussion about the platform itself.
Class was not a high-speed class, nor was it intended to be. It was meant to provide fundamentals and foundation in use of the snub. I believe it succeeded in that. Yes, a lot of the material in the class were things I already knew, but there’s something good about hearing all of that again from someone else. You obtain a different perspective. There may be some new thing they say or the way they view the subject that is enlightening. You obtain a greater depth into the subject, and that’s worth quite a lot.
The second day was a little more advanced. We worked in the same basic vein of foundations and fundamentals. Trigger control. Ball and dummy. We worked one-handed shooting, both strong and weak hand. We also learned some different techniques for drawing your gun with your weak hand from a strong-side holster. Techniques good for any handgun, not just a snub. We also worked shooting around a no-shoot target. Many of these things were done not to give us an extensive workout, but merely exposure. If you’ve never had to shoot at a target in close proximity to a no-shoot target, then the first time you have to do it is when some scumbag is holding your wife or child hostage… what are the odds you’ll do it? You may, or may not. But that you can be exposed to it in a controlled setting and know you can do it, that sets you up for success because now you have something better than a mental blank to draw upon.
We shot a scenario in an interesting way. It was based upon a real situation that happened, and it was set up so you were shooting from both sides of the situation. Furthermore, two people shot and you shot at the same time. First shooter went on the “go” signal, starting in the holster, had to engage one target, then shift to another target (reactive) and engage it until it fell over. The second shooter started from low ready and their “go” signal was hearing the first shot from the other shooter; the second shooter merely engaged a different reactive target until it fell over. I hadn’t run a scenario like that before, but it was a good one.
We then transitioned to performing the same scenario using Code Eagle (a “paintball” training round you can shoot out of your snub). This Force-on-Force component was nice to have. Trouble was, the winds were so high and the paintballs so light that it was tough to get hits. In one run I got shot in the leg and the shoulder, but the shooter was aiming for my chest. Oh well, apart from that wind the weather was gorgeous all weekend, so I can’t complain.
We did another brief FoF scenario with a hostage situation. It was simple. One person held another person in a hostage-like hold. You had your back to them. On the “go” signal you had to turn 180º and fire one head shot to the hostage-taker.
After we finished FoF, we went inside for a presentation by Claude. Claude maintains a database of some over 3000 incidents of “gunfights” in America. This database of incidents has provided him with a great deal of information and perspective. Furthermore, he’s read the law enforcement records, such as the annual FBI reports. All of this has enabled Claude to really understand what “gunfights” are truly like, at least here in the USA. I refuse to spoil it by talking too much about it here, you’ll have to attend a class or conference to hear it. This alone was worth the tuition.
My Take Home
Looking back on the whole of the 2 days, it’s evident how well-thought-out Claude’s curriculum is. You can tell it’s based upon all of his study and research coupled with his years of experience and a desire to ensure people set themselves up for success in personal defense. Everything was purposeful and intentional. Very nice.
For instance, so much training is done on large targets. The “-0″ ring on an IDPA target is an 8″ diameter circle. Consider if the SHTF that you’ll perform at about 70% of your worst day at the range (that’s pretty bad), if on your best day at the range you’re doing well to be in that 8″ circle, how do you think you’ll perform when trouble comes? Instead, Claude had us shooting 3.5” dots (DEA-DOT target) for most of the class. One point Claude made (which I knew, but somehow it really clicked during the class) was when you shoot you should pick a specific target. Aim for that target. For instance, don’t just “shoot for the head” or “shoot center mass”, pick out something specific: the eye, the tip of the nose, a pimple. Pick something specific and aim for that specific (and small) target. It makes a world of difference.
The other implication of the above? How often do you think you’re going to have a perfect target? Where the attacker is going to be facing you square on and totally unobstructed? You need to train to hit small. You need to train with no-shoots around the places you can shoot to add the pressure component. Furthermore for pressure, you need to train with timers. You need that pressure. Even while competition shooting may not be “tactical training”, it still forces you to shoot under pressure and to have to make decisions under pressure, especially when things go wrong. Of course, force-on-force training is another aspect of this.
I’ve been working on my trigger control. I’ve been working on getting on the trigger sooner. These things were worked heavily during the class, and I can see improvement. One “ah ha” moment to me was learning to trust the gun and trust myself. It’s like riding my motorcycle… you have to trust the machine will perform, and that you are driving it well enough to make it perform. You don’t need to always look and monitor things because they are working and you will “implicitly” know it. This was during drills going from low-ready to being on target and the shot breaking the moment you were on target. There were some things Claude said that, again, I already knew but somehow it all came together in this class.
I also learned enough specific snub things that I feel more confident in the actual handling of that particular platform. I’m going to be looking into a different mode of carry for my snub using Hip Grips and a little ingenious modifications.
I enjoyed the weekend. It was time well-spent. I learned a great deal, had fun too. Plus it was good to see some people again and meet some new folks as well. Most of the people in the class were serious and dedicated folks that I already knew or knew of, and it was good to work with those folks.
Claude, I thank you for coming out to Texas and imparting some of your knowledge upon us. I look forward to training opportunities with you in the future.
As well, here are some pictures!
That was from the first day of class. I’m the tall dude with the long hair. Claude is in the foreground in the tan shirt with the green cap. We’re doing whatever drills we were doing at the time, Claude looking on and providing help where needed.
That’s me shooting my snub. Don’t know exactly what we were doing at the time that was taken. I can tell we were shooting on the photorealistic targets. Man, that gun is tiny. 🙂
This is from day 2 (I can tell because I have my Judas Priest t-shirt on *grin*). That’s Karl to the left, me in the middle, and Claude to my right. I know what was happening here. We were working on one-handed shooting, starting in the low-ready position. Start in low-ready, bring the snub up, and the shot breaks as you come onto the target… which means the trigger press starts before the gun is perfectly on target. As you can see, I was having a bit of a time with it, but Claude came over, gave me a couple pointers, and then I was doing pretty well from that point on. That’s testimony to the teacher… he was able to spot exactly the problem and provided just the information necessary to correct it.