AAR: Historical Handgun, September 2017

Historical Handgun: Karl Rehn, KR Training

I have not had this much fun in ages.

I participated in Karl Rehn’s first offering of the Historical Handgun (1-Day) course at KR Training on September 16, 2017. The half-day version was offered this past summer, but I was unable to make it due to prior commitments. There was no way I was going to miss this one.


FBI 1945

As one of Karl’s assistant instructors, I’ve been hearing a lot about this course. Karl spoke to me about it frequently as he was working on it, and I was happy when he got things done and could finally offer it as a class. You see, I didn’t grow up with guns. Oh sure, they were around me to some extent or other, I played cops and robbers as a kid, watched The Lone Ranger, and all those things. And in my almost-decade working for Karl, I’ve learned a lot about the development and history of handgunning. But I know there’s still much to learn, especially about the earliest of days.


And let’s be frank. As one of Karl’s assistants, I ought to know and have taken every class KR Training offers. 🙂


Army 1935, part 1

Karl is able to offer Historical Handgun in 3 formats: half-day, one-day, two-day. The content is basically the same, just when you have more time you can get more content and dive a little deeper into topics. Another twist on the class is striving to replicate the time periods. You shoot drills, qualifications, and standards from the eras, and you can shoot them with somewhat period-appropriate firearms. You could shoot the course with one gun, or you could shoot with a revolver, a 1911, a DA/SA semi-automatic, and a modern striker-fired gun (different guns for different courses of fire, as appropriate for the time-period). It’s a really cool twist and puts a different spin and challenge into the class.

Army 1935, part 2

Material was broken up by decade, starting in 1930 (if I remember correctly) and working up to today. Karl would point out significant events of that decade, things that were pivotal in the history of handgunning, affecting and influencing where we are today. Karl also pointed out significant people of that decade and what they did that earned them the right to be enshrined in the history books.

Karl would lecture in the classroom about a couple decades, then we would go outside and shoot. The courses of fire we shot came from those time periods, and if you had an appropriate firearm for the time period, you could use it to shoot the course. After we shot a couple courses, we’d go back inside. That was the rhythm of the day.

Gunsite 250

Weather was good, but a bit hot. Class had only four students, which was a shame. Y’all missed out on tons of fun.

Range Time

Gunsite 350

Two of the four students had taken the half-day class, and two of us (including myself) were first-timers. Three of the students opted to shoot the 4-guns. Me? I stuck with my M&P 2.0 9mm all day. I don’t own a DA/SA gun (I own the others), and while I could borrow one I opted to just keep it simple for the day. I actually think doing that gave me some good perspectives, which I’ll talk about later. I did shoot from my IWB holster, but there’s no concealment drawing in class so I tucked in my shirt.

We shot 9 courses of fire:

  • FBI 1945
  • Army 1935
  • Gunsite 250
  • Gunsite 350
  • FBI 1986
  • Marine (Advanced) Combat Pistol Course 2013
  • A local police department’s qual
  • FBI 2013

FBI 1986

Ran through about 400 rounds of ammo.

What Did I Learn?

This is not a class for learning how to shoot – this is a history class. You’re here to learn history.

US Marines (Advanced) Combat Pistol Course 2013

There’s no time spent on teaching you how to shoot, correcting your problems, or other such things. You need to come to this class already knowing how to shoot. But if you’re not awesome that’s OK – come anyways, because shooting the drills is really more about the experience and having a tangible aspect to the history lessons. If there is any “skills teaching” it’s to teach skills of the time period. For example, we spent some time with SIRT pistols to learn the proper FBI “hip shoot and crouch” position. We also did some dry work on the Weaver stance, not so much to teach it, but to help overcome our ingrained use of Isosceles. So again, you’re learning history.

When it came to the classroom portions, it was chock full of information. Yes I recognized a lot of events and names, but then it was cool to hear about some pivotal person and have a “Oh, so that’s where that came from!” moment.

One especially cool thing? Seeing how much “the times” affected the state of handgunning. Like developments in printing (magazines), or the advent of home-video, and how those cultural and technological changes outside of the gun world ended up having a big impact on the gun world.

It was also cool to see how one decade fed into the next. How things like cowboy quick draw gave rise to IPSC, and why the Gunsite Standards put so much emphasis on fast draws and fast shooting.

In fact, that was a neat thing to observe in terms of the courses of fire. You could see why a qual was developed as it was. Where emphasis was placed (and where it wasn’t). Seeing the qual in its (historical) context gave deeper understanding of the qual. Then to see how quals changed over time, especially since we shot three versions of FBI quals.

As for shooting…

Local PD qual

Those guys back in the 30’s and 40’s could shoot. You had to! They were shooting double-action revolvers, they were reloading from loose rounds, and were shooting at 25 and 50 yards under tight time constraints and tough scoring. You had to move quickly, and be highly accurate.

That’s where I had some interesting insight in shooting my M&P. When we were shooting at 25 and 50 yards, of course I was going slow. When it was time to reload I would do a reload, but of course mine was much easier than reloading a revolver from loose rounds. Even still, I’d find myself feeling the pressure of the timer. I found myself thinking that here I am with all this modern convenience and still feeling it, when those guys had double-action revolvers, loose rounds, and then even less time to get things done. And they managed to do it. It’s some tough stuff!

Pictures of the targets afterwards and simple point scores don’t tell the complete story of my shooting. No problems out to 15 yards. But 25, 35, and 50 yards? That’s where I lost points. I am happy for the time I’ve spent in the past year on longer distance shooting, because I finally figured out what I need to do, what I need to see, and how to do it — I just need to do it more consistently. So I was pretty happy with a lot of my longer distance shooting, I just have a lot of room to improve.

Another good thing? The work I put in towards my USPSA classification paid off with my drawstroke. I can get the gun out of the holster pretty quick, then slow down and shoot. The quick draw gives more time for slow shooting, y’know? Or in the case of something like the Gunsite standards, the quick draw just lets you do the course of fire.

FBI 2013

When looking at my performance, we were joking that I came into my own around the 1970’s. Seems about right. 🙂

What didn’t I like about the class? It’s too short. Karl could really only touch lightly on some topics, but that makes sense. I mean, covering almost 100 years of history and there’s only so much you can do. Some things got missed, and Karl made notes to himself about people and events to add. Some things we’d start going down a rabbit hole on, but Karl’s pretty good about time management and would cut things off and keep things moving. The one-day format is good, but I know the real gem is going to be the 2-day version of this class.

Karl also provided us a list of books, which he’s going to continue to expand. My reading list is pretty backed up as it is, and now it’s got even more in the queue.

Really folks, this was a fun one. Most other times when I take a class there’s some point or purpose. I’m trying to gain a certification, or I’m trying to focus on getting better at something. But here? It was just fun. The history was fun. The shooting was fun. The whole day was just so much fun. Nothing but smiles from everyone there all day. Even when we were stinking up the joint, it was so much fun. It was great to just get out and shoot, and gain some deeper knowledge about the history of handgunning.

What’s cool? Karl’s taking this course on the road. Stay tuned to the KR Training website, Facebook page, and get on the mailing list to know when it will be coming to a range near you.

My scorecard. Shot my M&P 2.0 9mm (full size). 25yd, 35yd, 50yd shooting is hard (for me).

4 thoughts on “AAR: Historical Handgun, September 2017

    • The kudos all belong to Karl — this is his hard work and project. I’m just fortunate to have him as a mentor and boss.

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