Class Review

Class Review: Rogers Shooting School

“Reactive shooting is shooting in the target’s time and not the shooter’s time.” –Bill Rogers

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The Rogers Shooting School is one of the most prestigious shooting schools in the world. Some of the world’s most elite military and law enforcement units come there each year, and “The Test” is well known among the shooting community. I won’t go into a detailed explanation of The Test. Rather, click here to go to Todd Green’s site for an excellent break down and videos of each stage. A minimum passing score is 70 plates and earns a Basic rating. An Intermediate rating is earned by getting 90 or more plates, and an Advanced rating is earned by getting 110 plates. There are 125 total plates possible in The Test.

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During my trip to Rogers, I was witness to a memorable event in shooting history. Now in its third decade of operation only two people had ever shot perfect scores on The Test. The founder, Bill Rogers, has done it twice, and the legendary Rob Leatham has done it once. In my class, two perfect 125s were shot. One was by Gabe White, and the other was by noted USPSA shooter Manny Bragg. If that wasn’t enough, Gabe White did it shooting from concealment.

I think the best way to describe Rogers is that it forces the shooter to maintain a strong mental focus. Any lapse leads to a cascading collapse of fundamentals and numerous steel plates taunting you as they drop out of sight.

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Shooting my advanced run under the watchful eye of Gunsite’s Ken Campbell

I am happy to report that I earned an Advanced rating.

Participants in the class came from as far away as Alaska. We also had participants from Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Indiana, California and Florida. We had a full gamut of weather from short and t-shirt weather on Sunday evening followed by rain on Monday and Tuesday to freezing temperatures on Wednesday and a beautiful day on Thursday. We managed to finish on Friday before another round of rain hit.

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Class Review: Rangemaster Combative Pistol I

“You don’t have time to miss.”

I could stop right there and sum up the essential lesson from the class, but that wouldn’t make for much of an adventure through the blogosphere.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster brought his Combative Pistol I class to my proverbial backyard. He was assisted by John Hearne, Jeremy Younger, and the lovely and gracious Mrs. Lynn Givens. There were 24 students in the class, including one who came all the way to Georgia from Pennsylvania only to be topped by another student who came all the way from New Mexico. The class was a mixture of private citizens and peace officers.

Due to logistics, we did all of the classroom work on the first morning of the class. The classroom portion consisted of a safety briefing followed by discussions of several real world incidents and the lessons learned from them. We then moved on to a discussion of basic techniques.

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After lunch, we convoyed to the range and began the shooting portion of the class. We began with warm-ups and then moved into drills all designed around specific teaching points.

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Day two consisted completely of shooting drills, and other than the initial warm-up, everything was shot from concealment.

Rather than going into the specifics of each and every drill, I’ll simply say that each drill had a specific purpose, they built upon one another, and they gave the students a structured way to practice in their own range sessions. We also shot several scored tests to assess our skills and our progression, and there were several drills where we shot on our own against the clock with everyone watching to kick up the stress factor.

 

Now I can move to the most important part of the class review:

The firearms training community is full of devotees to schools of thought who are not bashful about espousing their particular chosen sacred cow and then dogmatically defending it. Tom did a very good job of explaining why he teaches what he teaches, and he also explained many of the other schools of thought often including their origins and how they have been misinterpreted over the years. The focus was on efficiency and precision rather than such things as a Weaver versus Isosceles or  caliber debates. The pace was quick with students either shooting or loading magazines with no downtime other than a few short breaks, and the discussions were all brief and on point with the lesson at hand.

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I’ve been in a lot of classrooms over the years between my academic pursuits and professional training, and Tom is absolutely one of the top teachers I have experienced. His lessons are more than proven. Over 60 of his students have successfully defended themselves in violent encounters. The very, very few that have lost failed to have a firearm with them when they needed it.

Below are my results on two of the tests:

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2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference

The 2014 Polite Society Tactical Conference was held on February 21-13, 2014, at the Rangemaster facility in Memphis, TN.  The three-day conference consisted of numerous presentations by an amazing collection of knowledgeable instructors.  Three different options were available at any given time to attendees, and a myriad of topics were covered.  While I did attend a few presentations on other topics,  I tried to attend those that dealt with what is known about what happens in violent encounters; especially what those who won the encounters did and how they prepared, and these are the presentations I will discuss in this piece.

Before I get to that, I would like to thank the folks Rangemaster for organizing and hosting this conference.   The chance to partake of that much collective knowledge was a wonderful learning opportunity.  There were times when it was difficult to choose which class to attend as the concurrent options were all equally appealing.  I took 24 pages worth of notes, and many of the takeaways from the sessions will be incorporated into our training program.

William Aprill’s presentation concerning how violent criminal actors (VCAs) select victims forms the cornerstone for this area of discussion.  It basically comes down to the VCA making a “go or no go” decision based on indicators by the person they have targeted.  This is really no different than a lion surveying a herd of lion food and picking which member of the herd will be dinner that night.

Shane Gosa, a fellow Georgia peace officer, presented “The Mental Trigger” based on Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense as well as other pertinent information.  Shane also addressed items such as mental awareness and winning the violent encounter rather than merely surviving it.

Tom Givens’ presentation on “Defining the Threat” was outstandingly well done.  Mr. Givens approached the question from the perspective of a citizen and not that of those in the military or uniformed patrol officers, and his breakdown if the information is the best I have ever seen.  His presentation (as was Chuck Haggard’s) on active shooters was nicely done, and quite frankly, I don’t understand how anyone could receive that information and then go about without the means to defend themselves.  As for active shooters, or active murderers as they should be called, every examination of the topic that have seen shows that the more rapidly force is brought to bear on the murderer the lower the body count.

Jim Higginbotham’s “Fire for Effect” presentation focused on accuracy in a critical event.  I found his illustrations of how many of the qualifying and competition targets actually reward high point values to areas that are not likely to instantly incapacitate a violent attacker to be quite revealing.  In my words, a fellow can kill you a whole lot if you give him 15 seconds to do it.

John Hearne did an outstanding job of debunking many of the myths and outright falsehoods that permeate firearms training.  I’m not much of a “science guy”, but his explanation of how the brain works was done in an easy to understand manner, and he makes a strong case for training to the point of “overlearning” (fancy scientific term) and building the proper mental maps and skill level as predictors for success in a violent encounter.

At this point, I would like the readers to take note that there is some commonality when both peace officers and private citizens are faced with a violent encounter, and overcoming the “initiative deficit” is imperative.   The difference here is that peace officers often initiate contact with the VCA whereas the private citizen is targeted; however, it is the response to that violence that must come swiftly and decisively, and the preparation shouldn’t begin at the point a person realizes there is a need for such.

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Fighting Rifle

Recently, I had the opportunity to take Erik Lund’s Dynamic Fighting Rifle class. I met Erik several years ago as a fellow student at an IALEFI Master Instructor Development Program and was happy to get the chance to take a class from him. For those not familiar with his background, the brief overview is that he has been a peace officer for over 20 years, is a USPSA Grand Master, and shoots on the FNH USA Professional Shooting Team, and he has numerous championships to his credit.

The students for the class represented four agencies in Georgia, and most were either firearms instructors, members of a tactical team, or both; so, after the introductions and safety briefing, we jumped right into the material. The class had a high shooting to discussion ratio, and was fast paced with around 700 rifle rounds fired per shooter plus some pistol work, and if we weren’t shooting, we were loading mags. It was a full day of training, and I don’t think any student left with the feeling that they didn’t get their money’s worth. We did a lot shooting while moving and from unconventional positions as well as some optics failure drills (no biggie for me as I was running iron sights exclusively).

 

The shooting community is not autonomous. There are those who only believe in the validity of “tactical” training, and often those of this ilk shun the competitive shooting world; usually with a “competition will get you killed” thrown in for good measure. The competitive shooting side of equation is not replete with spotless lambs as too many of them want to use punching holes in paper after a stage brief and a walkthrough as the exclusive measure of one’s ability with a firearm when, to be perfectly blunt, they have never had to go through a door with a true life or death shooting problem, to include a shoot/no shoot decision, waiting for them on the other side. These are broad generalizations to a certain extent, but they are illustrative of diametric mindsets that too often prevent the lessons learned from one being applied to the other.

Erik is one of the few out there that can successfully walk through both worlds with equal credibility. Frank Proctor of Way of the Gun is another such person. With the above in mind, Erik addressed the debate by saying that competition processes can be applied to tactical applications. In other words, the things learned about techniques and equipment from the competition world (processes) can be applied by those who must use tactics. A gunfight is solving a tactical problem at speed. That is not saying that you learn tactics in competition; rather, it is saying that you can combine the lessons of how do the important things faster in combination with sound tactics.

Among the so called tactical crowd, there is a debate over accuracy versus speed. This debate actually is in part based upon wound ballistics theory. I have been in some classes where the instructors made a case for intentionally spreading the wounds around the torso to create as many wound channels as possible. I have also been subjected to the notion (an absurd notion in my opinion) that if you are shooting a tight group that you aren’t shooting fast enough and that you are worrying too much about accuracy. Erik’s philosophy is that “accuracy is damage at speed “and that “damage is damage is damage”; however, he was clear in that the bad guy just might not present his entire torso to you and he might not give you a lot of time to aim; so, you better be able to make tight shots and do it in a hurry.

Paired with the debate about speed, the tactical side of the house debates over when confronted with a threat whether or not a shooter breaking for cover should concentrate on making it to cover or should they shoot at the threat while moving. Erik is definitely a proponent of putting shots on the threat. An illustration of this is included in the accompanying video.

Erik is also not a fan of the “shoot two and assess” model. He says that too often people want to run a rifle like it is a pistol and equates this to driving a race car at 55 MPH. He stresses driving the rifle hard and to keep hammering the threat until it is no longer a threat. Again, accuracy is damage at speed and damage is damage is damage. Unless a drill had a specified number of rounds for a specific training purpose, we were expected to shoot between two and six round on every fire command with the caveat that we could not fire the same number of rounds twice in a row.

Erik does not treat the pistol as if it is a secondary weapon. He refers to it as a complimentary weapon. He says there are times when it may be advantageous to go to the pistol instead of the rifle if in a very tight space or other such similar situations. We did do some work on transitioning to pistol and at any time a shooter experienced a malfunction and ran out of ammo during a drill they were expected to transition to their pistol in order to complete the drill. He did expect us to be doing tactical reloads to keep our rifles fully stoked so as not to be running dry.

In conclusion, this was an excellent class. If you get the opportunity to train with Erik you should take it. You will most certainly get a high return for your training dollar and your ammo expenditure. For all of you instructors out there, you will also come away as a better instructor as you will pick up a lot of teaching points that are readily adaptable to other platforms.

 

FBI Police Firearms Instructor Course

I recently had the opportunity to complete the FBI Police Firearms Instructor Course. In order to attend the course, candidates had to pre-qualify by successfully shooting passing scores on five courses of fire. Three of these courses were shot with duty pistols, one was shot with a patrol rifle, and the other was with a shotgun. I do not know the total number of candidates that applied for the class. On the day that I shot my pre-qualifying rounds, only eight out of 12 of us shot the requisite scores. Twenty-four students qualified and were enrolled in the class. Twenty-three students successfully completed the program.

FBI Firearms Instructor Certificate (1)

The high point of the class, in my opinion, was a block of instruction taught by Frank Proctor. Mr. Proctor is a member of the Unites States Army Special Forces, and he is also a USPSA Grand Master as well as being an IDPA Master. His block was concerned with weapons manipulations and focussed on “processing” what was happening throughout the shooting process. I look forward to being able to take more classes from him in the future.

Tiger McKee also taught a block of instruction on weapons manipulations. I picked up several teaching points from him that I will be incorporating into future classes.

Of the academic blocks, I found a block on Critical Incident Amnesia to be very informative. Of note, this material applies not only to officer involved shootings to both victims of violent crimes and citizens who find themselves in situations in which they must use force. This block is one that will go well beyond the range as it will also come into play when conducting interviews.

There were blocks on many other shooting and academic areas such as law enforcement officers flying while armed, lesson plan development, and ballistics.

As for the overall course itself, in comparison to the Firearms Instructor course at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, the GPSTC course involved much more teaching of the prospective instructor on how to teach the art of shooting. The FBI course had more of a focus on developing the instructor’s overall firearms knowledge. The GPSTC course was also centered around the pistol with the shotgun being the only other platform utilized in that course whereas the FBI course covered pistol, rifle, shotgun, and, yes, the revolver.

Another area of comparison is that the GPSTC course is taught completely by academy staff, and the program is the same regardless of staff instructor teaching it. The FBI course utilized many area instructors, and it appeared the subject matter could change significantly depending upon the instructors that teach in a particular class. Also, as this particular class was held in Alabama, there was a strong tendency towards the Alabama POST (APOST) standards, which fairly closely mirrored those of the FBI itself. The APOST courses have much more of a focus on longer range accuracy (50 yard shots with the support hand on the revolver course), and they are typically shot on one target. The GA POST standards which have more draws and reloads under time and require shots on multiple targets as well as shots while moving.

Finally, the biggest lesson I took from the course was from a major mistake that I made. Throughout the course, we had a running “Top Gun” competition going. I won several of the individual courses of fire and was very much in the running for the award. The last course that we shot for score in the competition was the rifle course, and here is where I made my error. The last time that I had my rifle out was during a manhunt at night. I flipped the rear aperture to the “low light” aperture. For those unfamiliar, this aperture is much larger to allow the shooter to get more visible light around the all important front sight. It is also often used in “close quarters” situations as it allows for faster sight acquisition. The trade off is that it is much less precise than the smaller aperture. Ultimately, I stored my rifle without flipping back to the smaller aperture and thus I shot the entire rifle course with the wrong aperture and gave up enough points that I finished in third place. The top three places were decided by points to the right of the decimal place.

I do have the satisfaction of being beaten with my own gun as I loaned a revolver to the eventual Top Gun winner after the revolver his agency provided him would not function properly. He is also a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. I feel pretty good about running down to the wire with one of the elite.

FBI Bullseye Course

FBI Pistol Course

FBI Shotgun Course

FBI Rifle Course

Old APOST Course

IALEFI Master Instructor Development Program

Recently, I had the opportunity to complete the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) Master Instructor Development Program. This course was sponsored by the Georgia Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (GALEFI) and was held at the Clatyon County Police Department range. All participants in the class are currently firearms instructors, and true to IALEFI being an international organization, there were a several participants who teach outside of the continental United States.

The program is a 24 hour workshop with eight hours devoted to pistol, rifle, and shotgun respectively, and the rifle and shotgun portions included some transition to handgun drills. Most of the drills were conducted on a par time standard, and there were quite a few drills run on a competitive basis.

One of the participants in the course was Erik Lund, a USPSA Grand Master (top five percent of shooters in USPSA). Erik was a good sport in the face of friendly but merciless harassment for the duration of the course. Erik was also nice enough to let an out of shape Chief Deputy type sneak up and beat him on a drill (sorry Erik, you know I had to include that 🙂 ). The drill is called “The Crucible”. It consists of a pistol loaded with two rounds with a reload magazine with four rounds. At the start signal, the shooter draws and engages the IALEFI-Q target with two rounds to the head, performs an emergency reload followed by four shots to the body all from a distance of five yards. Erik’s time was a 4.92, and mine was a 4.87 for a whopping .05 second win. He turned it up after that, and I didn’t beat him again, but I do now claim the title of “the guy that shot next to Erik Lund”. This was the first drill that we shot on the pistol day. We shot it again at the end of the day. He got his score down in the 3.3 seconds range. My time on the second run was a 3.89 seconds, but one of my shots was an eighth of inch outside of the circle for the head shots.

While we did some accuracy work, most of the pistol drills were focused on speed based on the adage that most law enforcement shootings consist of three to five rounds fired at three to five feet in a time frame of three to five seconds. Some of these drills consisted of one shot and two shot draws at five yards on the clock. The par time standard for a one shot draw was 1.25 seconds, with my time being .89 seconds, and the par time for a two shot draw was 1.75 seconds with my time being a 1.14 seconds. Other drills consisted of shooting on the move and one handed shooting.

In the rifle portion of the class, we began by checking to make sure our rifles were zeroed properly. We then worked through a series of drills involving one-handed manipulation, multiple targets, grounded weapon, support side shooting, and shooting on the move. We did weapon transition drills in which dummy rounds were randomly loaded into our magazines. As we proceeded through the drills, anytime we got a failure to fire due to our rifle feeding a dummy round, we transitioned to our pistols to complete that drill.

For decades, the shotgun was the prevalent shoulder weapon available to peace officers. Traditionally it consisted of a pump action shotgun with a cylinder bore barrel and buckshot and maybe slugs. In recent years, the patrol rifle has supplanted the shotgun, but the shotgun still has a place due to its versatility. In addition to buckshot and slugs, the shotgun is also capable of delivering a wide range of less-lethal munitions.

Our drills with the shotgun also mostly revolved around speed, but we also concentrated on some one-handed manipulation and transition to handgun drills. One drill that we did on the clock involved five steel targets. We were loaded with four rounds in the magazine and had to put one shot on each target with the fifth round being a combat load. My time on this was 3.88 seconds shooting a Remington 870P. This was topped buy another participant who was also shooting an 870P. He broke the 3.0 second barrier, and the aforementioned Erik Lund did it in 2.5 seconds shooting a Benelli semi-auto.

We finished up with an extremely fun drill called Rolling Thunder. We formed teams of five shooters. Each shooter started with a loaded pistol and one round in their shotgun. On start signal, the first shooter fired their shotgun round, then it went down the line. After each shooter fired their shot, they combat loaded two rounds. When the fifth shooter fired, they gave a “clear” command and it started over with each shooter firing their two shotgun rounds. This continued all the way through the combat loading of five rounds, and on the final relay each shooter combat loaded one round and when their turn came they fired their shotgun round and transitioned to their pistol for one round.

All in all this was a very good experience. Some of the material was dated, but the friendly competitiveness on the firing lane more than made up for it. The shooter that you were competing against one moment was legitimately trying to help you improve the next. The professional connections made were invaluable. I already have commitments from several of the other instructor for some training for the Sheriff’s Office, and I brought back quite a few ideas to improve our own in-house training.