AAR: Langdon Tactical Technology: Two-Day Advanced Tactical Handgun
9-25/26 Culpeper, VA
I really don’t know where to begin with this AAR, the class was fast moving and very little time was spent in the classroom, we learned on the range and I think we all learned a lot. I shot just shy of 1000rds and that didn’t leave a lot of time for note taking during the shooting portion of the class.
There were seven of us in the class and I can say that I was in very good company as I was probably the “worst” shooter present. I don’t know why but I was off my game a little. I couldn’t shoot a group standing still to save my life but when the moving and shooting, and the moving and shooting of moving targets started I was back to a good level of performance.
I think one of the most unique things about this class is that Ernest knows every thing about the origins of what is currently “modern” pistolcraft. Ernest is a former Marine Corps sniper turned instructor and competitor and has worked for Beretta, Smith & Wesson & Sure Fire. The list of schools he’s attended is lengthy. He has spent the last 28 years or so learning his craft. The other students could shoot, and Ernest spanked us all with a M&P in .357 Sig that looked to handle like a 9mm in his hands, his recoil control is unreal. Not only did we get into the whos and whys but he went deeper in to why the whys are the whys if that makes sense.
Which stance is preferred? Where did the Weaver stance really come from (Jack Weaver couldn’t fully extend his left arm which is why he shot like that) we got answers to all that and then some even going into how the muscles of the hands and wrist work to explain why certain grip techniques work better than others.
We covered a little of the color codes in class as a refresher and talked a little on mindset. Something new to me was focus on the “visualization” of tasks/actions and how they can benefit performance. On a side note while flying to and from the class I managed to read “On Combat” by LtCol. Grossman and he touched on some of these same topics. Reading the book actually tied in very well with this class and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who carries a firearm. Ernest also went into how visualization of scenarios and even the way we phrase such scenarios can improve our mindset and psychological performance. Little things such as using “When” instead of “If”, making it a forced realization that things will go wrong instead of making them hypothetical as to remove denial when things do go wrong…
What was of note during the class room portion on “Training the subconscious”
Basically what that means is that our goal is that our techniques must work at the subconscious level in order to work fluidly under stress. We also need to think about “training stance” movements work at the subconscious level, or rather do what we practice really mesh well with reactive moments. A good example of this was when comparing the Weaver & Isosceles and looking at dash cam footage of officer involved shootings. They couldn’t find one case where an officer ended up in a Weaver style stance, however a modified two handed iso. position could be seen in many cases. Apparently the final straw in trying to find a case of anyone using the Weaver was when the found footage of a known Weaver proponent going to a modern iso. in a shooting.
Regarding the Weaver vs. iso, it’s Ernest’s opinion that the Weaver is fine for planned tactical actions, but the isosceles can be applied as a reactionary response and as such using that method more in training may improve performance under stress as the reactionary response is also a practiced response.
Getting further into the training aspect we covered the three levels of performance.
The first level is basic learning, I’m pretty sure we all know what that is. The second level is focused learning. Range drills; practice sessions, focusing on key elements of shooting. The third level is subconscious execution of actions. Of course no one can just leap to the third level, but with lots and lots of focused training/practice you can increase subconscious reactions/muscle memory/”neural pathways” or whatever buzz word suits your fancy. Bottom line is that you can reach a higher performance level with lots of practice. What also enables subconscious performance is “stress training” in the forms of competition, training classes, and FoF, simunition training, time/speed drills… Things that can take you out of your comfort zone and force you to perform under stress.
Also covered in class was reloading and using the slide stop/release or the slingshot method. I’m sure all of us here have discussed this time and time again, but Ernest brought up some valid points in favor of using the slide stop. Mainly that the sling shot generally requires a little more umph and can be short stroked and actually requires more fine motor skill than using the slide stop/release. Think about it, using your off hand thumb and index finger to retract and let go of the slide is doing more movement with two digits while the using the slide release is usually just done with the thumb of the firing hand. As for the argument that hitting the slide stop with your thumb is a fine motor skill, so is pulling the trigger and dropping a mag but we’re obviously able to do that just fine otherwise we wouldn’t need to be reloading and it takes less movment/number of digits than the slingshot method. And for the record I had two hiccups with my 1911 during the class, each one the result of a flubbed reload using the sling shot method which is now a training scar that has to be removed.
On to the range portion.
We shot a variety of drills starting off with slow fire on what must have been 2” circles painted on IDPA targets with some larger 4” circles at the bottom. I had a hard time keeping my shots in the circles and kept skirting the dots.
The first day is kind of a blur, along with shooting like a noob someone didn’t hydrate all that much in the days before class and that Saturday ended up being around 95 and despite pushing water once we started shooting by the end of the day I was suffering mild heat illness with a splitting headache. Most of my time in between strings of fire was spent loading mags and sucking down water. Note to single stack shooters, bring lots and lots of mags to a training class. This class required a minimum of four mags, I was toting nine to the line and doing well with four more loaded up in the bag in case I needed a fresh batch quickly. You don’t want to run short on the line and you don’t want to waste your time (as well as the other students time) having to load mags every 5 minutes. If you’re shooting a single stack, be it a Kahr, Sig, Walther, whatever, have at least double the amount of required magazines and have at least four on your belt.
Ernest likes to focus on what he calls “Full spectrum trigger control” this was basically an IDPA target up close and a steel disc further back. The purpose of drills like that is that while you can take more time on distant targets and shoot faster on close targets your trigger press (squeeze, stroke, pull etc.) should be the same every time (focused training to improve subconscious ring a bell?)
Other drills included explosive movement off the X while drawing. Ernest really drive in getting the gun out and into play while taking that first step, I know it sounds rudimentary but unless you practice it in IDPA or other classes, a lot of “square ranges” are funny about drawing, let alone drawing while moving and shooting. This wasn’t the traditional one step to the left or right; this was really moving and getting the hell out of Dodge aggressive movement. If you’re a lollygagger expect to get ran over.
We covered the Tueller drill and again focus was made on getting off the X and moving to the rear oblique to create distance that an attacker has to adapt too, moving straight back doesn’t really force a change, moving laterally forces them to make a conscious decision to turn/disrupt their OODA loop.
We spent some time doing slide lock reload drills shooting on average 3rds before the slide would lock back. Doing “dry” reload drills is good practice, but administering the gun after controlling it during recoil and a live slide lock and returning to firing after the reload is much better for learning in the long run.
I don’t recall if it was on the 1st or 2nd day but one drill I found quite useful was a drill to aide us in determining at what distance we as individuals need to transition from point to sighted shooting. Not too many instructors embrace both but Ernest did well in advocating that both have their place and we need to find out where those places are for us. This was basically move to the rear off the X and see what we needed to see to get good hits, tips included using the gun as a sight itself, at close range if you can silhouette the gun over the target, odds are it’s going to be a hit on the target.
Again this may sound rudimentary to some but the way Ernest taught things just clicked. I had a good number of “Ahhh hah” moments though out the class and this was one of them. He also covered that as our eyes degrade what works for us now may not work for us later. If I took away anything from this class (other than how important trigger control is) it’s that I should run this drill every couple of months and see if anything is changing.
I all ready mentioned the full spectrum trigger control drills, but to elaborate a little more on trigger control, no matter how far we are from the target, shooting one hand or two, sighted or point, moving or static, we still need to pull the trigger every time. It is the one constant in shooting and is very, very important if not the most important of the fundamentals. Another useful nugget was regarded off hand shooting and why a lot of people do better with their offhand. It has to do with not enough practice using the offhand so there are fewer learned bad habits affecting the off hand. It’s kind of messed up when you think about it but it rings true to me.
Back to the shooting.
We did very little off hand shooting, but it was done as well as strong hand only. We did basic movement the first day in two strings with the non-shooting string acting as safety men as the shooters were moving on line while advancing and moving to the rear ensuring that we were all staying online.
The second day was all moving and shooting on moving targets with a little bit of slow fire on those stinkin 2” dots. We did so much movement that the following day my legs were a little stiff in the morning. I did learn that you can’t ambush a moving target with a conventional pistol round and expect a good hit, they just don’t move fast enough, you have to lead the target and with a .45 you have to lead a little more. I haven’t had the change to shoot a lot of fast moving targets, let along fast moving targets on the move and this course really, really helped me develop those skills.
Did I mention we shot a ton of moving targets while moving? We shot “swayers”, we shot multiples, we shot a mover on a pulley while going forward, backward, diagonal front & back…there was just a ton of shooting on the move. It was worth the cost of the class & travel just to get to have that much movement in a class, again this wasn’t lollygagger movement, it was aggressive movement and I almost did run over the guy shooting next to me. Despite all this movement everyone was very safe and aware of where the other students were. You couldn’t have asked for a better crowd to shoot with.
Regarding shooting while moving and going from near to far targets, proximity negates skill. You don’t have to be Annie Oakley to hit a target three feet in front of you. That close proximity negates skill, you don’t have to have perfect sight alignment, you don’t have to exercise perfect trigger control, the goal is to put a bunch of holes in something that’s too close to you. Ernest made sure that our firing rate was fast up close and a little slower at longer distances where distance and time were on our slide and our skill would be an attribute. Working the tempo changes while moving was a good exercise, the rate of movement also changes with the rate of fire and distance. When we were up close you moved off fast shooting as much as you could, as we got further back we could take time and slow our movement and apply the fundamentals and get nice hits. Distance from the target is our friend.
I’m sure I’m missing some drills, and some topics of discussion this is what I managed to note during and after the classes. Ernest is planning on doing some carbine courses as well as some other pistol classes and I would love to take them all, but that’s going to have to wait. Next up on our training schedule is Lima going to TDI for a knife course, hopefully Ayoob for both of us in the spring and we might be finally able to go to the LMS Defense Team Tactics course this summer.
What I plan on taking from this course to add to my practice routines is to:
1: Primarily use the slide stop to release the slide while reloading
2: More and more dry fire and trigger time with my .22 conversion kit.
3: Adjusting my “stance” to keep more bend in my elbows to help increase recoil control.
4: I’m probably going to send my guns in for new sights as I am really appreciating the wider rear notch on some of my guns that others don’t have.
5: Rather than rotate my head to the right to get better alignment of my dominant eye and my sights I’m going to try and align the gun further left of center.
6: More reloading practice/drawing practice. I may invest in a couple of dummy mags to use in the basement during the winter months.
Regarding gear and equipment, I’m going to stick with the 1911, I shot the Glock 21SF for a portion of the first afternoon and as if sits right now I don’t like how it handles compared to the 1911. I’ve shot it in some matches, gotten to know it better but running it in that class next to my Baer killed any chance of the Glock really becoming a daily carry gun for me. I will probably revisit the XDM later down the road again, but as of now I feel comfortable with 8+1 given the current trends in Iowa. I’m also ditching my shooting glasses which were some general use safety glasses that had a tendency for the top edge of the glasses to rest right on my forehead and they were constantly fogging up or getting covered in sweat. I’ve got a pair of Wiley X’s on order and I’ll see how I like them.
I tried out my new Alessi PSS which is for a railed 5” 1911 but it worked very well with my TRS. Previously my competition/range/carry OWB holster was a higher riding rig but I wanted something that rode at a normal height, while there’s probably a half inch difference, that half inch might as well be two feet to me as it feels that much better which I was really not expecting. Mag carriers I used was my 5-Shot Leather double mag carrier supplemented with two Blackhawk CQC single mag carriers. All worked flawlessly but the mags still fit a little loose in the 5-Shot carrier, I think I may need to find a replacement.
I had to ship my ammo to VA and Ernest was more than willing to accept it and transport it to the range, I picked up a Pelican 1510 case, it’s carry on size so I could bring it back easily without checking a second bag. I don’t know if it’s the weight or the boxes shifting internally but for some reason bulk ammo doesn’t ship well and the last think I wanted was my shipping method to be on the flimsy side.
All in all the class material was great, the range facilities were excellent. I would highly recommend this course to anyone looking to advance their skill set and I look forward to eventually taking his carbine course as well as his Tactical Pistol Course which is the predecessor to the class I attended. About the only complaint that I have is that the course is very fast paced and if you do learn something that you want to apply it’s hard to do as it adds to one’s concentration and there’s not a lot of time to practice subtle changes as the drills are fast running.