I love being a teacher. If there’s anything I’ve learned over my lifetime, it’s that teaching is something I’m to do. I don’t attest to be the best, and I know there’s much to learn both about what I teach and how to teach. But I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to teach.
And so, another weekend out at KR Training with Basic Pistol 2 in the morning and Defensive Pistol Skills 1 in the afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, a good breeze all day (due to being on the southern tip of the storms that rolled through the midwest this past weekend), just a fine day to be outside.
I also got to meet Mr. & Mrs. Groundhog. Mrs. Groundhog was coming as a part of her winning the “A Girl And Her Gun” contest, and I was honored they chose us and that I got to be a part of her journey. I wish I could have chatted more with them that day (busy day!), but we did get to chat some and they were good folk. I look forward to seeing them again in the future, and reading their AAR of their range day.
Updated: Their post is up! And I’m a caffeinated squirrel. 🙂
What made it even finer were the students. Basic 2 got off to a rough start, but a lot of that came down to gear. DPS1 had its host of gear problems as well. Most of what I could talk about here is the same stuff that tends to come out of every BP2 and DPS1. Things like slowing down, practicing fundamentals, ball & dummy drill, working on the press out, working on trigger control, do more dry fire and so on (search my site for past articles, if you’re curious). But what really struck me out of the classes was gear, so I’d like to start off by saying:
Yes, your gear sucks.
There, I said it. Deal with it. 🙂
The thing is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So how can you roll into a class and know what gear to have? And you try to take input from sources you consider knowledgable, but the reality is most guys at the gun store, most people on the Internet, most well-meaning husbands and boyfriends… they don’t know, and they don’t know that they don’t know. And don’t take your advice from magazines either, because magazines never give bad reviews because they can’t afford to upset their advertisers.
Consequently, a lot of people start off with crappy gear.
Let’s look at the gun itself. The single-most important thing in choosing a gun is ensuring the gun fits you. The biggest, baddest gun in the world that you can’t shoot properly is useless. It always happens in class… we’ll see a person with small hands, typically a lady, that brings out a box with the words “Sig Sauer” on it. As soon as we see that, we know what’s going to happen — we’re going to lend her one of our guns. Why? Because Sig’s are HUGE. They have really big grips, they have a DA/SA trigger, which means a really long and heavy trigger … and that person with the little hands won’t be able to get their finger properly on the trigger let alone press it well. And usually, the Sig will be chambered in .40 S&W, so couple that sharp, snappy recoil with a gun they can barely hold on to, and it’s a recipe for disaster. We lend them one of our guns, and by the end of class they are more than happy to sell their Sig (good thing they have good resale value). What gun do we lend them? Sometimes it’s our personal carry gun that we have on our hip (e.g. S&W M&P9), but we’ll actually look at the person and their situation and find something in the safe that’s appropriate for them. For example, one lady in this past BP2 we lend a 9mm 1911 to because it had very thin grips and a short trigger, and it worked so much better for her than the big chunky Glock she came with.
Then there’s the whole “little lady, you need to shoot an airweight J-frame” crapola. We do our best to steer beginners away from that situation.
We also find that people shoot a lot better with full-sized guns, especially when you’re learning fundamental skills. Yes that Glock 26 might be good for concealed carry, but you should first get a Glock 17 or 19 and learn good fundamentals and shoot well with it. I went down this road when I started, first buying a subcompact then Karl showing me the error of my ways… when I got a full-sized gun, things were so much better and I was able to learn without fighting the gun and the quirks of small guns. If you’re a beginner, or someone willing to “start over” and learn things right, then don’t buy a gun because you want to carry it; first buy a gun that you can learn to shoot well on, then once you can shoot well, you can look at other options.
Gun fit matters. A lot. If you can shoot it, if you can hit what you’re shooting it, if it’s not painful to shoot it, if you even end up having a lot of fun and success in your shooting… gosh, you might just want to keep shooting, you might just want to practice more, you might end up getting really good, and it might end up building up those skills that one day save your life. Read this article on choosing a handgun; it’s a sensible take on what really matters.
After fit, I’d say keeping it mechanically simple is good. Simplicity is important, says me the engineer. The more dohickies, gizmos, latches, levers, buttons, switches, and other things you have to deal with, the more things you have to deal with, and the more things that can break and go wrong. Striving to have something as simple as it can be, but no simpler, is really the best when it comes to mechanical items. DA/SA guns have lots of mechanical mechanisms to have to deal with. Decockers add a bunch to the mix. Even thumb safeties — especially when you don’t NEED them, add so much to the mix. Sure a 1911 needs a thumb safety, but why do so many modern striker-fired guns have them as some added gizmo? I know… because some government or agency contract wanted them, and people buy them, but truly what good reason is there for the extra complexity? One lady in DPS1 had a Walther PK380 and oh… I can’t take that gun seriously for personal defense, and least of which is because it’s a .380 Auto. The thumb safety is difficult to operate with your thumb, and how in the world are you supposed to operate that magazine release “lever” under stress or with one hand? We also couldn’t figure out how to decock it as it didn’t have a decocking lever… but I read now that the way you’re to do it is to engage the safety lever then pull the trigger… holy shit! If that’s not a huge safety risk I don’t know what is. By the end of class this lady was shooting alright, but there’s no question the gun itself was holding her back because it was just too much poorly-designed stuff to deal with.
Then there’s other gear. The biggest? Holsters. You’re unlikely to find a good holster in a local store. Maybe you’re lucky and able to, and boy do I keep thinking about opening a gun store in town that only stocks good stuff… but I’d probably be out of business because people don’t know what’s good nor what’s bad, until them come out and shoot a more serious class like what KR Training provides and really put gear through its paces. Maybe KR Training should just have a pro-shop on site…. 😉 And it’s not just holsters for you gun, but magazine pouches too (you don’t need nor want covers on them; covers have a place but generally private citizens don’t need them). If you want a short-list of people that make stuff we like: Comp-Tac, Raven Concealment, Blade-Tech, all make good stuff. I’ve not personally tried Kolbeson Leatherworks‘ stuff yet, but I’m wanting to (and he’s local).
And the list can go on.
Yes folks, equipment matters. Do not be caught up in ego here. Ego will get you hurt or killed, or at least hold you back. If you are fighting your equipment, get rid of it. And yes, you might have to go through a few guns and a ton of holsters before you find what works. That’s life… guns and ammo are cheap, life is not. I guess it just comes down to how much you value your life.
But anyways… once we got the gear straightened out for folks, we did have great classes. Students were good, shooting really well, you could see lightbulbs going on and people improving as the class went on. I hope to see the students back for future classes, as there’s still much to learn. And meeting and working with Mrs. Groundhog was the icing on the cake for the day. Practice well!