Monday, November 24, 2008

Pistol I - Day Two

Just completed day two of two of a "Pistol I" course held at the Metcalfe range in San Jose.

We got a nice and early start Sunday morning at 8:30 everyone showed up ready to shoot except one straggler.

We started the day doing the "shoot by numbers" drill for the instructors to access any skills deficiencies that were still lingering as well as getting people back into the mode of shooting accurately and deliberately. Meaning: focus on what you are doing!

We did the drill twice: once at about 15yds. The results were unsatisfactory as a few students were off the mark on a few of their dots so we went to 7 yds to do it again. After a brief discussion that amounted to telling us to watch our shot placements and focus on the front sight we were off and running on the second day curriculum.

We did a lot of stuff so it's mostly a blur for me so I'm going to do my best to recount the events of the day.

We started with a front facing target with the hit zones marked off. We first practiced our five point draw stroke and engaged the target from 15 yards.

After that Ken showed us how to shoot one handed with our dominant hand. That wasn't too bad for me because I practice that at the range.

We then moved to non-dominant hand engagement. We would draw then "palm" the pistol to the non dominant hand and engage the target. So I was shooting left handed. That was a bit weird as I started to switch eyes and had to think about aiming etc. That slowed me down and was interesting as it shifted focus/awareness away from engaging the target to "what am I doing". After doing this drill a while I got the hang of it but will add it to range practice to make it "feel" natural.

After that we practiced shooting one handed with our non-dominant hand. Now, that was an interesting experience. I have done that shooting before but not much. I would draw the pistol, palm it over and retract my right hand for shooting. I aim and pull the trigger, as usual, but the bullet seemed to have a mind of its own and went way off from where I was aiming. Eventually, I got the bullet to go in the right place, but I had to slow way down and really think about the steps to getting a good shot off. I almost felt like I wasn't shooting with my own body, as strange as that sounds. My usual control and level of comfort was out-the-door and I had to build that up again. I will have to try that more often so I don't feel weird handling my pistol that way: shift the focus back to the threat and away from my psychology of awkwardness - for lack of better words.

While we were doing these drills we were moving farther and farther from the target to a maximum of 15yds which really tested our ability to make hits from an uncomfortable/awkward position (for me anyway).

The next wrinkle thrown in was we were instructed to shoot non-dominant one handed shooting from kneeling. Mixing it up like this really makes you break down the steps and think about what you are doing. You cannot go automatic. I had to transpose what I did with my dominant side and think. This made things slow but focuses you on your technique because if you don't you miss! I also started to mix my automatic stuff in with my thinking stuff and that really screwed me up! I had to correct things and make sure everything was right step-by-step.

Another interesting drill was drawing with the non-dominant hand. Ken showed us three techniques.

One where you draw with the dominant hand, put the pistol between you knees and then obtain a master grip with the non-dominant hand and acquire the target while the dominant hand is against your chest. The downside of this technique is you reduce you mobility when the pistol is between you legs.

The second technique was to reach around to the holster with the non-dominant hand, manipulate the pistol so the grip is facing forward then obtain a master grip. This is a good technique to use if your dominant hand is out of action.

And finally, the last technique is to obtain a master grip by reaching around your back with the non-dominant hand and acquiring the pistol. Since I am flexible enough I did this style. It seemed pretty fast and the most direct approach. I'll practice the other techniques during dry fire practice so I accustomed to them though.

After that we did some supine drills, basically, shooting from your back lying on the ground. Ken reviewed the technique to draw straight out from the holster, and bring the muzzle of the pistol over you legs, making sure you don't sweep yourself, then engaging the target. You are shooting from between you legs. That was pretty tricky in that you rested you elbows on you stomach/chest and you had to be pretty careful about breathing and movement of your legs because that really affects accuracy. During that drill I was lucky to maintain a 50% hit rate. Too bad I can't practice that more at the range. I have to find out if I can lie down like that but I doubt it!

We broke for lunch at 11:30 for a hour where we all milled around and talked about what just happened etc. I got to know the other students better and heard some interesting stories.

After lunch, we got out out stools that we were told to bring for this day.

Ken had us drawing and shooting from a chair. We did three positions. Facing the target dominant side to the target and non-dominant side to the target. We had to practice this using the NRA safety circle technique of drawing and keeping the muzzle safely pointing down while moving the pistol to a position in which it was safe to engage the target.

Next up was barriers. We learned the difference between concealment and cover and how to use cover effectively by maintaining a strategic distance from the cover to maximize visibility of the hostile scenario and maintain situational awareness.

Our cover in this case was garbage cans. Each student chose a cover position of chose and engaged the targets. The interesting lesson learned is you have to be very aware of your cover/concealment in relation to your muzzle bullet trajectory. You don't want to shoot your cover! Depending on what that is it could be bad! Also, If you had to shoot in a situation where a partner was in front of you behind the cover you don't want to tag them too! So, that was my lesson. Not necessarily using cover and hitting the target but being aware and mindful of the cover. Some people learned that lesson and I learned from them!

Next up: Shooting on the move.

That was the funnest part of the course, moving and shooting. It's a lot harder than it looks. Walking with knees slightly bent so they are like shock absorbers and keeping the sights aligned or moving the sights in a known pattern then engaging the the target and re-assessing the target.

We lined up in two groups on either side of the range and went down to the target from about 50yds engaging. The farther you are the harder is was.

After that we engaged the target down then back.

The part that was interesting was reloading. When reloading it has to be instinctive and automatic, no thinking. This is when you can really see the effects of practicing reloads as fast as possible. When reloading you don't stop moving so the slower you are the closer you get to the target the move vulnerable you become. If take two seconds to reload that seems like an eternity. Especially when the instructors are motivating you to do you best!

We then shot on the move laterally. Walking parallel to the targets we would turn and engage the target we faced when instructed too.

Finally, at the end of the day we had a shoot off where two people would stand and engage a target the the one who got all hits the fastest won. I sucked! But I don't feel bad about it because Todd sucked too!

The day wrapped up at about 3:30p.m.

I put around 350 rounds down range through my trusty M&p9.

The only guns to malfunction were a couple of Glocks but that was from user error and one had a type II malfunction.

We spent about 30 minutes picking up brass, that went pretty quick with 14 students and I can't remember if the instructors pitched in too, they might have had an "important" phone call to take care of and missed that part.

All-in-all it was an excellent two day class and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot too. I found a lot of weaknesses that I have to work on and skills that I still have to acquire. All the students were excellent with a great attitude.

Ken and Todd are excellent instructors and Todd is especially gung ho and insightful. Ken and Todd run a very safe range with excellent teaching styles. Ken is very straight forward and to-the-point. Here's how you do it, any questions? Now go do it!

The only improvements I can think of is to start the day when the range opens at 8:00a.m. so we can maximize training time but that is a minor issues considering Ken drove us along and kept the pace of the class moving along at a good speed. I like that I just like more training! But I'm kind of intense anyway.

A digression:

Physical fitness sure helps a lot in these courses so you can go the duration without getting tired and lose focus. A lot of people were pretty tired at the end of the two days. That's a lot to do with conditioning. It's good that you can shoot well under optimum conditions but how good can you shoot with a little duress under you belt. Just to throw in a little PT to get the heart going as and example to students would be a great learning aid. That would be an interesting course in itself. One with a little more physical requirements to get through.

It might happen though because once you do Pistol I, Pistol II with various schools etc. there's not much left to do except repeat. Pistol III might be the next step: The next generation of civilian training. To throw in some PT with the shooting, an obstacle course or some kind of running and then acquiring the target. Disengage the dominant hand and run to cover, reload and acquire a target with the non-dominant hand etc. If this course was a little more expensive with the idea that there would be less students I would be into it and sign up all the time!

When I took Carbine II with Todd Nielsen we had some of that and it was the BEST course so far. We got our hearts going and then had to maintain a high standard of accuracy. It was very rewarding and I felt I earned the cert at the end.

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