Course Review: Tactical Response Advanced Fighting Pistol
Course name: Advanced Fighting Pistol
Dates: July 16-17, 2008
Instructors: Sherman House and Allen Webb
We started the class at the classroom located at the Tactical Response Gear store. The first order of business was for the instructors to introduce themselves and then for the students to give a short intro. (name, where you lived, occupation, prior training, etc.). Once that was done, there was a first-aid procedures briefing so that everyone would know how to handle the situation in the event of an injury. This was followed by a brief demonstration of some basic trauma care (how to apply an H-bandage and tourniquet).
Following the first-aid briefing, there was a review of the 4 main rules of firearms safety (Finger off the trigger until you've made the decision to fire, keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction at all times, know your target and what is beyond, treat all guns as if they are loaded).
After this, the course objectives were covered. The quote that stuck with me through the entire week was that: "we're here to learn how to fight, not just to shoot."
--left for the range--
Once we arrived at the range, we hit the ground running with some drills that picked up right where Fighting Pistol left off. The first drills on "DEA dots" covered strong and weak hand reloading and strong and weak hand malfunction clearing. The procedures for types 1,2, and 3 malfunctions were addressed (clearing a type 3 with the weak hand only is a pain ).
After this, we moved on to grounded shooting. This included drawing, firing, and reloading with both hands, strong hand only, and weak hand only from the supine and fetal postitions. 360-degree scans and "topping-off" were still performed after every course of fire.
The next drill performed illustrated the Tueller rule or "21 foot rule." The drill was performed starting with the pistol holstered, and then again with the pistol already drawn and held in the "covert ready" position behind the leg. This did a good job of proving the axiom that "the fastest draw is having the gun in your hand when the incident begins."
After we returned from lunch, we had the "Mythbuster" segment of the class. Several drills were performed including drills where we would shoot while holding the pistol upside down and pulling the trigger with the little-finger, and shooting with the finger shoved all the way into the trigger-guard so that the third pad of the finger was in contact with the face of the trigger. These drills and others were intended to debunk many of the myths prevalent in the gun world (e.g. "you have to put ____ part of your finger on the trigger," or "your grip has to be done like ____."). In reality, if you have proper front sight focus and press the trigger straight back you will hit what you're aiming at regardless of how you are standing or gripping the gun, or what you're using to pull the trigger.
The next segment of class was a collection of drills designed to simulate the stress of an acual attack and to demonstrate that you can still fight effectively despite being disoriented. One such drill had us being pummeled for 30 seconds or so by the instructors who were wearing boxing-gloves. After being thumped for a while, we would receive the "fight" command at which time we would draw our pistol, engage the target, and reload, all while being struck in the back, sides, and head by the instructors.
One of the other drills that we did was what I'm going to call the "dizzy drill." Basically, you'd bend forward and spin around (like when you were a kid and you'd put your head on the end of a baseball bat and spin around before playing pin the tail on the donkey, etc.). After spinning around, you'd receive the fight command and engage the target.
I enjoyed this drill because I think it did an excellent job of simulating the disorientation that you might experience after receiving a solid blow to the head ("the first indication you have that you're in a fight might be getting knocked on your butt").
I want to make it clear that, while a little "extreme," these drills were conducted in a very controlled manner with the instructors standing by within arm's reach to control the situation should one of the student's become too disoriented or whatever. I think drills like this are excellent because many people don't ever consider the fact that they may very well be forced to fight under sub-optimal circumstances.
Back in the classroom again, we began the day with a discussion of several topics that each have their own unique considerations and problems. The first topic covered was vehicle tactics. To digress for just a moment. One of the sayings common in the Tactical Response classes is that "the root word to gunfight is not gun, it's fight." We were constantly reminded that we have to have options, that we don't want to limit ourselves to one response. To illustrate the continuum of options/planning, the acronym P.A.C.E. was used (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency).
Okay, back to vehicle defense...in a situation where we are attacked while in our vehicle (attempted car-jacking or whatever), the primary plan should just be to drive away. Why stay and fight if you can safely escape? The alternate plan is to run them over with the car. Why use a wimpy little pistol round when you have a 2-ton projectile? The contingency plan is to engage with your pistol, and the Emergency plan is to shoot and run them over. It was emphasized that you should either shoot or drive. You should not try to do both unless absolutely necessary. Many other good pieces of advice were given during this discussion. For example, something as simple as just leaving a car-length between you and the car in front when stopping at a light or stop-sign so that you have room to move should there be a problem. My favorite quote from this portion of the discussion was that "there are no red lights or traffic laws when your life is in danger."
The next topic covered was home defense. We discussed a variety of issues related to home defense including security doors, alarm systems, dogs, firearms, etc.
The final topic discussed before leaving for the range was the issue of low-light encounters and tactics. Various types of light (Bright light, medium light, low light) and the effects of different levels of light on our vision were addressed. We also covered topics such as the characteristics of a proper "defensive flashlight," techniques for using a light in conjunction with your pistol, and tactics for employing the flashlight in low-light situations.
--left for range--
Once we arrived on the range we started, once again, by building on drills that were introduced in Fighting Pistol. We started by running the serpentine drill which is a drill that has you weaving your way through a series of barrels while shooting and reloading. However, we now had to do the drill while firing and reloading with either the strong hand only, or the weak hand only...all while staying in motion and keeping our eyes on the "threat." We ran this drill with the barrels placed in line with the target, and also with the barrels placed perpendicularly to the target so that we were moving laterally.
After this, we spent some time working target transitions (engaging multiple attackers) and doing some drills like El Presidente on the clock to get an idea of what our times were as far as draw to first shot, splits, and reloads. This was a lot of fun as I'd never had the opportunity to shoot when there was a timer available.
When we returned from lunch, we spent some time doing some more of the "stress" drills. In one series of drills we were addressing the issue of being winded and having an elevated heart-rate after being in a hand-to-hand fight and then having to engage a target with your pistol. We would basically go "all out" on a heavy bag for 30 seconds or so, then receive the fight command and draw and engage the target. This was repeated with the bag in different positions to simulate different situations (standing opponent, groundfighting situation, etc.). We also applied some of our retention shooting skills in these drills.
Following this, we did some partner type drills to work on communication, providing cover for your partner while he/she reloads, moves, or performs first-aid (either on himself or on a third party). I can see a lot of value to these drills in a variety of situations.
Weapons used by the students were mostly Glocks in 9mm or .40 (one guy had a G22), a couple of H&K USPs (one 9, one .40), a 9mm SIG, and a 9mm Beretta. I don't recall any persistant problems or any major issues with any of them (no 1911 or XD guys to pick on).
One notable exception was due to a squib-load in one of the G19s. The barrel bulged locking up the gun. After the problem was identified, the student was given a spare and finished out the day.
The G17 I used for the four days (FP and AFP) digested 1800+ rounds of Wolf and plenty of dust and grit w/o a single problem (didn't clean it during the classes since I wanted to see if it would keep running). As I usually only carry the 17 in the winter, it usually serves as my "range gun" and only get's cleaned once in a blue moon. I would estimate that it probably hadn't been cleaned for 5-600 rounds or so before the class.
Overall, I think this was an excellent class. I learned a lot and saw a definate improvement in my skill level not only in my accuracy and speed while shooting, but also in my manipulation and general gun-handling skills. If you really want to take your gunfighting skills to the next level, I'd highly recommend this class.
I'd like to thank the instructors for their time and all their help, and also my fellow students for making this one heck of a great experience.
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