Another class, more observations

This past Saturday marked the end of the 2011 season @ KR Training, with a Basic Pistol 2 and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 set of classes.

For some reason the class enrollment rolled up and down — maybe because of the predicted bad weather? It was predicted to be very cold, a polar wind, and a lot of rain. Granted, not ideal circumstances to be out in, but one can argue that if you’re out to learn about defensive skills, you should sometimes shoot in less than ideal circumstances because it’s not like bad things only happen in good weather. Nevertheless, while it was raining in Austin, it was dry out at the A-Zone range; in fact, it was an amazingly pleasant and nice day out there. Y’all missed out. 🙂

We had a few extra hands helping out, so between that and people bailing, the teacher-student ratio was very beneficial to the students with a lot of personal attention.

Basic Pistol 2 went pretty well, and the students shot above average for a BP2 class. Remember: we train you to a higher standard, and you should always strive to train to a higher standard. That B-27 target is huge. When you go to the range to practice or when you dry practice at home, use a 6″ paper plate as your target. Aim small, miss small. Then when the pressure is on, such as when you take your CHL test, you’ll perform better.

Defensive Pistol Skills 1 I don’t think went as well. A couple of things stood out to me.

First, I’d say a fair portion of the class lacked solid shooting fundamentals: grip, stance, trigger control. DPS1 is not a class where we can fix such things. Yes, we try to point out and remedy such things where we can, but there just isn’t time nor focus for those topics. You can’t expect to build a house on a poor foundation. If you can’t take a reliable and repeatable grip that you can maintain throughout a string of shots, if you don’t know how to best work the trigger (not slapping/yanking; resetting the trigger between shots), you may be able to manage but it’s going to be difficult for you to excel. Remember, when the flag flies you’re going to do about 70% of your worse day at the range — if your performance will be that bad when it matters most, it means you need your average performance during practice needs to be very very high. The right way to achieve high performance is to start building upon a solid foundation of proper fundamentals.

This may be difficult for some folks to hear because I know — it’s a direct blow to the ego. We all think our gun handling is great… but hopefully some of you realized during class that no, your gun handling isn’t that great. By no means is this any attempt to embarrass or degrade or make anyone feel bad about things. Far from it! What we want is for you to have an honest assessment and awareness of your skills. The fact you chose to come to class means you accept you have something to learn, so that’s great — you are open to improvement. Sometimes improvement requires taking a step back and regressing down the ladder a bit, but only so you can make your foundation more solid. To expand upon that metaphor, if you realized your ladder was planted in sand, how high do you think you could climb? But if you started up the ladder, realized things were getting shaky, then climbed back down, poured some concrete around the legs, then climbed back up, how much higher do you think you could now climb? Don’t be afraid to back down and pour concrete.

So to that end, if you realize your fundamentals aren’t where they should be, please come back and see us for a class like Basic Pistol 2. That’s a class where we have the time and focus on fundamentals, to help you “pour some concrete” and establish a better foundation.

Second, mindset. Defensive Pistol Skills 1 is really “Gunfighting 101”. This is a class that’s introducing you to the concept of using a gun to help you stay alive in a violent confrontation: a mugging, assault, etc.. You have to take the class with that in mind. When we yell “GUN” and expect you to take a big step to your right before you draw, we want you to move as if there’s a fire under your butt… because there is! You shouldn’t be casually sauntering to your right and mellowly pulling out your gun, getting your hits just after the par-timer beeps to say the string is over. Yes this is still a square range, yes that cardboard target isn’t actually attacking you. I know it’s hard to make the mental leap — but you have to try. When it’s time to perform, you’ll perform like you practiced. Practice like your life is on the line, and you’ll perform like your life is on the line.

Granted, this is a “101” class and thus an introduction. I don’t actually expect people to perform to that standard because they don’t know yet to perform to that standard. Well, now you’re on notice. 🙂

Some things to help:

  • Dry fire practice. Whichever class you took, practice those skills dry at home. That will do more to reinforce the concepts than anything else. Some of the DPS1 skills you may not be able to do at your local practice range, but most all of it can do live at home.
  • Speaking of what you can’t do at the range, if your local range doesn’t allow you to draw from a holster, you should still be able to practice the “press out”.
  • Slow down. Yes we want you to go fast, yes we want you to understand time pressures (because even in a gun fight there’s a time limit and the Grim Reaper is holding the stopwatch). But at this level it’s more important for you to be correct in your skills and learn to do it right. As you learn the skill, you’ll start to get smoother with the skill. As you get smoother, you can get faster. Here’s some tips on getting faster and more accurate.
  • Shoot the “3 Seconds or Less” drill. Practice it dry. Practice it live. Practice it. Key to succeeding? MOVE! As soon as you hear the starting beep from your timer, work to get your hand on the gun, get it out of the holster, and get to business. Don’t dawdle, because every tenth of a second counts and adds up.
  • Think about what matters to you. Why are you choosing to carry a gun? OK, “it’s dangerous out there” but so what? What it is that you have to live for? True Love? Figure out what it is that you feel that strong need to live for. Fight for that. Keep that in mind as you shoot. Make your training matter.
  • Start to think beyond the gun. When it comes to defensive skills, hard skills like marksmanship are important, but more so are “soft” skills like awareness. Start to read, study, and take classes in other skills that strive to keep you out of trouble in the first place.