Utah Polite Society June Shoot
I've been getting some pretty good feedback on the big long writeup of the two Gabe Suarez courses I took last month. I'm part of a group called the Utah Polite Society that gets together and shoots the first weekend of every month. I thought I'd try posting a similar (but hopefully shorter) writeup of our monthly activities. Hopefully some folks will be interested in learning the sort of things we do and this sort of thing might be useful for others who are getting together to practice defensive shooting. It's also a bit of a shameless plug. If you're in the Salt Lake area, come shoot with us sometime!
Just for a bit of background, this group was started by a group of folks who felt that IDPA was teaching them some bad habits that might get them killed in a street confrontation. We don't keep score, don't post results, and usually don't time our scenarios (this month's is actually an exception). Unlike some shooting competitions, we don't have any equipment rules other than "bring what you carry every day."
Generally, we run a skills drill and one or two scenarios each month. The skills drill is very structured and focuses on teaching or practicing one or two particular shooting skills. The scenarios are much more freeform. You've got a basic situation (exiting an elevator, filling up your car at the gas station, waking up to a home invasion) four or five targets which may or may not have threat indicators, and are simply told to solve the problem however you see fit (solutions need not always include gunplay).
When I was initially thinking of doing this writeup, I was planning to concentrate on describing the skills drill and scenarios. However, one of the things we've been doing lately is trying to attract and train new shooters. Two months ago, we ran a class for beginning shooters alongside our regular shoot. That time we had two instructors trying to handle sixteen novice shooters (as opposed to the four or five we expected). I (perhaps foolishly) volunteered to help run the new shooter class this month if necessary. Since we ended up with seventeen new shooters, it was definitely necessary. In particular, since I've never done any shooting instruction before, a lot big chunk of this writeup is going to concentrate on that portion. Those of you who are just interested in the sort of scenarios we shoot can skip that section.
Force on Force Demonstration
One of the big things we learned from the courses last month was the virtues of force on force training. It also pushed us further toward the idea of being more fight focused and less shooting focused (something that was already becoming increasingly evident to most of us). To help impress this on both the new shooters, and folks who'd shot with us before but who hadn't attended Gabe's class, we decided to start off the shoot with a little demonstration. We got one guy who attended the class and one of our experienced shooters who hadn't and got them decked out in airsoft gear. We started by doing a couple of demonstrations of the suicide drill (where both shooters stand and deliver, and almost always end up shooting each other). Then the two guys got a lot closer together, just outside arms reach. This time, rather than shooting, the one who attended Gabe's class exploded off the X, went hand to hand, jammed the other guy's gun in the holster, got him in a one-armed bear hug, and pumped four our five airsoft pellets into him from the back. The way this all unfolded was pretty impressive. In Gabe's class we tried to simulate surprise, but here the surprise was genuine. Someone who I'd categorize as a fairly experienced defensive shooter was utterly vulnerable to this sort of tactic. We got some video of this as well, and I think it's going to be going up on the internet eventually. If so I'll post some links later. In addition to being instructional, it's also pretty funny :D. The last airsoft demonstration was a more traditional get off the x demonstration at a longer range (making it a firearms problem, rather than a combatives problem).
New Shooter Class
Helping teach the new shooter class was a pretty interesting experience. I've never done any firearms training before, though I do have teaching experience (I'm a grad student and I've taught a couple of classes at the university). It was definitely different, but kind of fun in it's own way. I wasn't the primary instructor (a fellow who occasionally posts here as Harold Green carried most of the load) but I helped with some of the demonstrations, interjected the occasional comment, and helped coach students on the firing line.
Taking Gabe's course last month actually had a fairly large effect on the new shooters course content. It changed quite a bit since we first did this two months ago. We still taught some of the same basics, showing them a few shooting stances and having them do some sighted fire. However, we also added some point shooting (from retention, half extension, and three-quarter extension). We demonstrated shooting on the move, but didn't have them do it.
One of the biggest obstacles was a lack of time. The force-on-force demonstration was pretty illuminating, but between that and the safety lecture for the new shooters, we only had two hours before we had to turn the range over to the group that rented it for the afternoon. Since the group was so large, we had to have them shoot as two different relays, which made things go pretty slowly. This gave us enough time to cover some really basic stuff, but didn't give them much trigger time. Important things like malfunction drills got left out and other stuff, like using cover, was demonstrated, but we didn't have a chance for them to actually try it. Afterwards, we talked about running the new shooter class either before or after the regular shoot, which would give us more time (at the cost of turning this into an all-day event) and allow those of us teaching the class a better chance to participate in the skills drill and scenarios.
One of the other issues was the level of equipment that some of the students brought. Several didn't have holsters (though we managed to get them something that would work) or had holsters that weren't really suitable for a defensive shooting class (including a couple of nylon IWB holsters that were almost impossible to reholster in. One guy was using a .22 target pistol, while another had a nice 1911, but only brought one magazine and didn't have a holster. We've done a good job informing people about this class, but we might want to emphasize the sort of equipment that students need to bring.
One bit of equipment I need to get if I'm going to help teach this class again is a red gun. I was able to borrow one from one of the other instructors for some of the class, but having one all the time would be really useful for demonstration purposes (and much safer than using an actual firearm for certain things). The other thing that struck me is that for a red gun to be as useful as possible, it ought to be one that fits in your holster. Part of the reason I was able to borrow one was that the guy who brought it had a Glock 17 red gun, but he was shooting a 1911. Not being able to work out of the holster is a fairly big obstacle. However, this brings up the issue of what to do with your real firearm while you're demonstrating draws using the red gun. Any of the more experienced trainers on the board have a suggestion (preferably something better than leaving it sitting unloaded on the bench :p).
Because I was helping with the new shooters class, I didn't have a chance to run the skills drill with everybody else. However, it was still set up when we were done, so I was able to run through it afterwards. The drill was basically intended to introduce some of the concepts we learned in Close Range Gunfighting to shooters who weren't able to come to the class. It involved shooting from half extension and three-quarter extension, and shooting moving to the 1 o'clock and 11 o'clock. I didn't get to see the rest of the group shoot it, but one of the things the guy who ran the stage mentioned was that most people were shooting low on the point shooting exercises. Since the partial extension positions don't provide any feedback on the vertical angle of the gun, it's something that takes quite a bit of practice to get right based on the body mechanics alone.
Live Fire Scenario
This month's scenario was also designed to integrate some of the stuff we learned in Gabe's class. Because of this, it was a somewhat simpler and more artificial setup than we usually use. Basically, there was a barricade 10-15 feet on either side of the shooter's starting position that represented both cover and an exit from the situation. Downrange were five targets, some of which had threat indicators on them. We don't usually time our scenarios, but to encourage people to get off the X and emphasize the speedy nature of the gunfight, we put a 2.5 second cap on this one. That's just 2.5 seconds to draw, shoot the BGs, and get to cover. According to the guy who ran people through this scenario, no one facing more than one adversary managed to neutralize all of them in the 2.5 seconds.
I had a bit of excitement when I was shooting this scenario. There were some steel targets downrange of our paper ones in the direction I was shooting, and I had a bullet bounce back and tag me on the chin. It was only a small cut, and it didn't hurt much, but it bled quite a bit. The odd thing is that it was an entire bullet, rather than just a bullet fragment like most bounce back. I'm in the process of switching over to my new Glock 21 for my carry gun, so I was shooting my carry ammo through it as a reliability test. My carry ammo is Cor-Bon DPX, which uses a solid copper Barnes X-bullet. When I got hit, it felt like a fairly substantial impact, rather than just the little fragments that you usually see bouncing back from steel targets. Later one of the other guys found a completely intact (and only slightly deformed) Barnes X bullet about where I was standing when I got hit (picture attached). From a carry ammo standpoint, this certainly bolsters the reputation of the Barnes X bullet as a very sturdy round that will have good weight retention. From a practical standpoint, the lesson is not to shoot solid copper bullets where they'll hit steel targets! A secondary lesson is the importance of eye protection. They only reason I was actually shooting the stage at that moment is that the guy in front of me forgot his shooting glasses and had to go back and get them. Despite a fairly copious amount of blood, getting tagged on the chin was a pretty minor injury. Getting hit in an unprotected eye by something like this would have been downright catastrophic (yes, I was wearing eye protection).
Despite spending most of the morning helping teach the new shooters course, I still got to shoot both the drill and the scenario. The one thing I didn't get to do was shoot the airsoft scenario. This is something new we're trying inspired by Gabe's class. The setup this month was exactly the same as the live fire scenario above, but instead of live weapons and paper targets, you've got airsoft guns and actual opponents. This allows you to see some of the differences between shooting at stationary paper targets and shooting at live, moving targets that shoot back. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try it.
The only other thing worth mentioning was the experience of one of our shooters with Glock +2 baseplates. I'm not the only one who decided to switch to a Glock after taking Gabe's class last month. Another guy (who posts here as Robin Hood) bought a Glock 22. He'd put the +2 baseplates on two mags, and both failed on him during the course of the day. The first popped off when he dropped a mag during the pre-shoot safety briefing. He switched back to his 1911 for the shoot, but afterwards he wanted to try out the Glock a little more. The other baseplate failed while seating the mag. I think both of them are coming off for good.
All in all, a really fun day a the range (despite getting my chin sliced open). Teaching the new shooter course was a good experience, and the scenario and drill I managed to shoot were both good (though I'd rather shoot them as part of a group, it's more fun and I learn more that way). Hopefully we can come up with a solution that both allows more time for the new shooter course and doesn't conflict with the regular shoot.