Training & Shooting

Class Review: Performance Shotgun with Erik Lund

“Every shotgun is a snowflake.”  –Erik Lund

Having previously taken a rifle class from Erik Lund, I welcomed the opportunity to take his Performance Shotgun course.  Erik was assisted in this class by Tod Lit.

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Of note, I have been firmly camped on the Remington 870 side of the Remington versus Mossberg question for several decades, but I won a Mossberg 590A1 in a drawing, and rather than learning my way around it in privacy, I thought it a much better course of action to trot it out in front of a group of people so that they could witness the process…

I did carry along a trusty 870P just in case I needed my security blanket.

The 590A1 in question has been upgraded to a Magpul forend, a Dave’s Metal Works aluminum follower and a Big Dot sight.  From previous experience, I have found that the Bog Dot sight works really well for buckshot, but slugs at 50 yards start to become a challenge as the sight covers up so much of the target.

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This class was not a basic or introductory class in that we didn’t spend time on basic loading and unloading drills or rudimentary discussions on shotgun ammo.  Erik did take a few moments to dispel a couple of shotgun myths.  One of these was the oft repeated notion that the sound of a pump shotgun action being worked was enough to win an encounter.  Another was the myth that a pump shotgun was more reliable than a semi-auto shotgun.  While this may be mechanically true, it is not true of shooter induced malfunctions.

As for technique, Erik is a proponent of consistency across platforms.  As such, his stances for pistol, carbine, and shotgun are all similar.  He stresses being balanced and having your hips oriented towards the target.

After the introductions and safety briefings, we jumped right into the shooting.

We began with a patterning drill.  Erik described shotguns as “every shotgun is a snowflake” stressing that even across the same lines of ammo and firearms that they will perform differently in each shotgun.  This was proved correct during the patterning drill.  As for buckshot, the clear winner for tightest pattern was the Federal Flight Control 00 buckshot.

From there, we did a few basic manipulation drills making sure that everyone was up to speed with the operation of their particular shotgun, and then we moved to reloading drills; a lot of reloading drills.  Both strong and support hand drills were taught.  After we worked through all of theses different drills, Erik told us to pick the one we preferred and to use it for the remainder of the class.   We worked predominantly from a sidesaddle.  Most of my previous shotgun work has been done using a belt mounted ammo carrier.  While I prefer loading from a belt mounted carrier, I do believe that working from a sidesaddle makes more sense as the ammo goes wherever the gun goes.  It is a much simpler equation to simply grab the shotgun and go than it does to take the extra steps of affixing belt carriers.

Personal note:  I strongly suggest using a sidesaddle that attaches by means other than the action pins.  These are often installed incorrectly, usually due to over or under tightening  of the pins, causing malfunctions.  I’ve also heard of the additional stress on the pins leading to their breaking.  I once had an issue to where the action wouldn’t lock, but everything looked fine. 

As to reloading techniques, we predominantly focused on those that would be used by the typical armed citizen or peace officer, but we did get to play around with a few of the competition oriented techniques, and Erik and Todd worked individually with any of the three gunners who wanted to work specifically on those techniques.

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After the extensive reloading work, we shot slugs at 25 and 50 yards and practiced slug integration (slug exchange, select slug, etc) techniques as well as handgun transitions.  A note on the Big Dot sight is that using the top curving edge of the sight at distance makes getting hits at distance a more reliable prospect.

We wrapped up with a few fun-and-gun drills.

 

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As for the 590A1, all in all it performed well.  I experienced no mechanical malfunctions.  The difference in the location of controls did get me a couple of times.  The guy shooting next to me commented on one such occasion,  “It looked like you got into your truck but somebody had moved the seat.”  As the day went on, it did begin to become less awkward.  It never quite got to the point where it pointed as naturally for me as does an 870.

A couple of things that I prefer about the 590 are the lack of a loading gate and the fact that the ejector can be replaced with a screwdriver rather than returning the firearm to the factory.  I will also grudgingly admit that location of the safety switch has some advantages.   If an identically equipped 870 and 590A1 were next to each other on a rack, and I had to grab one and go, I’d probably grab the 870, but after this class, I would feel comfortable picking up the 590A1.

Class Review: Advanced Tactical Pistol with Ken Hackathorn

“Under stress, you have got to have skill… Situational awareness is the single most important skill.” –Ken Hackathorn

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Eighteen shooters turned out for a rainy Saturday and beautiful Sunday of shooting with one of the foremost instructors in the business. Participants came from at least three states, and the class was a mix of private citizens, federal agents, and the Sheriff of a Georgia county.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

 

We began with a discussion of common elements found in self-defense incidents. That was followed by a discussion of current trends in the firearms industry and the firearms that he is most commonly seeing coming through his classes now.

We then moved on to the live fire portion of the class and did some basic shooting and assessment drills so that he could see where we all were as shooters. The drills were pass/fail drills shot against a standard. We shot these as a mix of individual competition and the entire class shooting the drills altogether. We also shot some pivot/turn drills as well as some reloading drills. After a supper break, we had a low light session.

Sunday was a full day of shooting. The focus was primarily on shooting while moving. Added to that was some strong-hand-only and support-hand-only work.

Of note, we shot some point shooting drills. One of these drills involved a lot of movement and with our sights taped over. We then shot the same drill using sights. The evolution in which the sights were used had better results. Imagine that; that little bumpy thing on the muzzle end is actually there for something…. might as well use it. (Note: that is a poke at people that say you don’t need your sights inside certain distances. It is not a poke at the drill or the instructor.)

As for what he was packing, Mr. Hackathorn was toting a Hackathorn Signature Series 1911 from Wilson Combat. There was quite a bit of friendly banter back and forth on this issue as he is an unabashed fan of the 1911 platform.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a couple of days with someone as venerated as Ken Hackathorn. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth banter and all of the historical insights.

Ken Hackathorn 2014 - Tactical Handgun

Ken Hackathorn 2014 – Tactical Handgun in Atlanta, Georgia

And now for a bonus science lesson:

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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

Leverguns: Getting the Job Done Since 1860

Recently, I sent out a flier for a Lever Action Patrol Rifle course that I am teaching in March of 2013. I received a response from an officer who was appalled that I would teach such a course. In fact, he stated that in doing so, officers might actually take it as an endorsement from me that the lever action platform was worthy of use as a patrol rifle.

My response: I am endorsing the lever action platform as being worthy of use as a patrol rifle.

The lever action platform has been a viable personal defense platform since it came onto the scene in 1860 in the form of the Henry Rifle, and the Henry was itself a reworking for the Volcanic Repeating Rifle. Confederate soldiers facing the Henry Rifle in battle called it “that damned Yankee rifle that you load on Sunday and shoot all week”. Note: The above is not a slight to the Spencer Rifle and others of the same era, rather it is in homage to the direct lineage of the platform as we know it today.

The trend towards the use of patrol rifles was jump started by the North Hollywood Bank Robbery in which two gunmen clad in body armor engaged officers from the Los Angeles Police Department in gunfight lasting for over 40 minutes. The LAPD officers were armed with pistols and shotguns, and their rounds could not penetrate the body armor worn by the bandits. Eventually, officers went to a nearby gun shop where the owner provided AR 15 rifles, and LAPD SWAT officers arrived on scene and ended the battle. I doubt that any of those officers on scene that day would have turned away a Marlin 336 as being unworthy.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was on patrol as a Deputy Sheriff in a rural, northeast Georgia County. He ended up in a protracted gunfight in which the bad guy had a rifle while my friend had his duty pistol and a shotgun. I doubt that he would have turned away a Winchester 94 as unworthy had someone happened upon him and offered it to him.  (Note: Since I originally published this piece, I have spoken with the above Deputy, and he assures me that he would have very much welcomed a levergun had one been available to him.)

I am not making an argument that more modern options such as the AR platform be completely abandoned in favor of the levergun. I am simply making an argument that the lever action rifle remains an effective option for use as a patrol or personal protection rifle. In fact, there are some areas in which I believe the levergun offers some advantages.

The biggest advantage that a lever action rifle offers in the firearms market at the time of the writing of this article is availability. The talk of gun control legislation has resulted in a shortage of AR platform and other similar rifles. In the past few weeks I have ventured to out to as many shops I could get to, and the only AR platform rifles I could find still in stock were all class III rifles requiring extensive paperwork and an approval process that is measured in months. However, in several shops I have been able to find leverguns readily available for prices as low as $250.

To go along with this from both an individual peace officer and agency administrator standpoint, the price point makes a fine old levergun an attractive option to perform this function. That trusty deer rifle can do double duty, and an agency that might not be able to afford outfitting all of its personnel with AR platform rifles could more readily purchase leverguns.

Another advantage of the traditional levergun is that it fires heavier bullets than most of the modern semi-auto platforms commonly used as patrol rifles. So as not to overly-bore those readers who for some reason don’t spend their free time studying ballistic performance, what this translates to is that the rounds typically pack more punch and more readily penetrate barriers. This factor comes into play in such instances when a peace officer might have to shoot through a vehicle body or windshield to end a violent confrontation. I have personally witnessed standard .223 ammo (standard AR platform ammo) disintegrate when going through such barriers, but considering a standard .30-30 rifle will be hurling a projectile three times the weight of a standard .223 round this issue is substantially alleviated.

While on the subject of ammunition, I would be remiss if I did not point out that leverguns are also available in several popular pistol calibers such as .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. While such rounds do not have the range of a rifle round, common loads in each can achieve notable penetration, and considering the elements and range predominant in the proverbial “average gunfight” the effective range such firearms is up to the task.

One should also not discount the inherent reliability of the lever action platform. One need not worry about gas systems or magazines. Simply work the lever and keep going whilst shoving rounds into the tube or action as needed.

Nothing in the above should be taken as an argument for the wholesale adopting of leverguns in place of other platforms. Also, I most certainly am not making an argument concerning what one needs other than that I steadfastly believe that each and every peace officer should go on duty with a rifle at hand. This is about expanding capability, and a rifle is more efficient at ending a violent encounter than is a pistol.

***Note: The above was written with a law enforcement audience in mind. I also wholeheartedly endorse and advocate the use of the lever action platform as a personal defense rifle. This endorsement is not to be construed as an argument that citizens should be unconstitutionally restricted from owning self-loading rifles or unconstitutionally restricted in the ammunition capacity of their rifles.

Lever Action Patrol Rifle course flier

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.

A Weekend of Wheelguns

I attended the academy starting in January of 1999, and at that time only two agencies in our region were sending cadets to the academy with revolvers. As of now, I do not know of any agencies outside of some correctional institutions that still issue revolvers as primary duty weapons. Outside of small, pocket sized revolvers, it isn’t common to run across a citizen choosing a revolver as their personal carry firearm either, and I must confess that I am firmly in the Glock camp as my choice for duty and personal carry; however, when I wear my class A uniform, I have taken to carrying a revolver because they are simply put: classy. It is just hard to argue against or not appreciate the elegance of a vintage Smith & Wesson revolver.

I feel that I must make the point that the revolver is still a viable personal carry or home defense weapon; however, the firearms industry has so strongly shifted towards polymer frames that revolvers and even metal frames pistols to a certain degree have decreased in market presence while increasing in price thus pushing them further out of the current mainstream, the venerable 1911 excepted of course. Furthermore, Smith & Wesson’s caving to the lawyers and the California legislature by manufacturing new revolvers with built-in key locks has led to the drying up of the once plentiful trade-in supply of affordable revolvers.

Take heart wheelgun aficionados, the revolver has not completely faded from the shooting world as evidenced by this past weekend’s Wheelgun Championship in Gainesville, GA, at the Cherokee Gun Club. As I mentioned in a previous piece, late last year I began shooting competitively on a regular basis, and I could not pass up the chance to shoot major match geared towards the venerable revolver, especially with it being in such close proximity.

The Wheelgun Championship is a sanctioned match of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). IDPA matches are broken down into five divisions based upon the type of pistol the shooter is using, two of which are revolver divisions, and the divisions are further broken down into classifications based upon the shooter’s skill set as determined by performance on a standard classifier course of fire and performance at sanctioned matches. Shooters compete against shooters within their own division and class. Shooters may earn a classification “bump” through various performance formulas. This was the first sanctioned match in which I have competed.

Although I have an affinity for wheelguns, I have very little true experience in actually shooting them, much less in a competitive environment or under stress. In fact, my classification going into this match was two levels below the level at which I compete with my Glock. For this match, I used traditional basket weave leather duty gear rather than the more customary kydex rigs seen at such events. After all, if you are going old school, you need to fully commit. I also shot a stock Smith & Wesson 586 revolver. Some of the shooters had more invested in the gunsmithing on their revolvers than I have invested in my entire setup.

At this point, I need to give a plug to Tom McElwayne of the Shooter’s Den in Watkinsville for putting together the ammunition that I used in the match. Tom being the perfectionist that he is went to great lengths to make sure I had quality ammo to use in the match.

As for the match itself, it was a long, long match consisting of 18 stages and over 175 rounds fired. The various stages contained shots at short, intermediate, and longer distance, and it had some stages that required multiple reloads. It was a good test of a shooter’s overall skill with a revolver.

I am happy to report that I won my classification in the Stock Service Revolver division. I also beat half of the field in the next higher classification and earned a match performance “bump”. I was the third most accurate shooter among the revolver shooters as well, which is what lead to the win as my times were on par with the other shooters. More importantly, I had a great time and met a lot of good people.