On December 10th, I spent another pleasant Saturday in the company of Chris Fry, his assistant(s), and his students. This coursed was "300-400 level" material, including weapon retention and deployment while fighting off a gun grab, Extreme Close Quarters (ECQ) shooting, one-handed shooting with both strong and support hands, space maintenance and verbal warnings, and basic combatives (the edge of hand blow and the hammer fist).
Chris was as professional, engaging, and safety-conscious as the first time I went through a class with him (the aforementioned carbine class, of course). He is very vigilant on the line -- and so are his students, as everyone assembled does a pretty good job of looking out for anything that should not be happening on a hot range. When he corrects, that is all he does -- corrects
, without scolding the student but without downplaying the need for proper live fire procedures.
We started the class with a run-down of firearms safety, range rules locally, and the material to be covered in the class. Then, indoors, we got to work up a sweat (easier than you might think in temperatures just over 30 degrees) with some weapon-retention-and-deployment drills. Blue guns and holsters were distributed to each pair of students (we had 10 to 12 people participating in the four-hour class at any given moment). Then students took turns trying to grab the pistols from the holsters or otherwise remove it from the control of their partners.
We went full-out -- I was probably a little more zealous than I should have been -- and I was impressed with everyone's aggression. My own partner was a younger fellow named Don who was much smaller than me. He made up for this disadvantage in sheer ruthlessness; he was a real animal. We both succeeded in wrenching the pistol away from the other person a few times in the course of the exercise. The point of which was to drop your head, drive forward, and counter the incoming limb(s) while drawing and "shooting" from the "number 2" draw position -- a close quarters position in which gun is drawn with the elbow high and weapon close against the body, angled downward.
At one point I lifted Don completely off the ground and practically shook him like an angry bear, but he managed to keep his weapon. He was a great sport about the whole thing. Chris has a very solid core group of students from diverse backgrounds.
After all this fun we went out and did some close quarters shooting, much of it from only a couple feet away from the targets. Using various guard positions (support hand blocking over the head, horizontal or "flying" elbow with the support hand against the neck area) we shoot from that "number 2" draw position, resulting in tightly grouped shots in the "assailant's" lower left quadrant (the target's "pelvis"). We also shot from the "number 3" position (both hands on the gun, elbows tight against the body, with the gun against the chest and with the gun at full extension (an isosceles stance, knees bent, body angled forward aggressively, just like the carbine class stance).
We did a number of exercises, such as shooting from the "number 3" position and then shooting from full extension, or side-stepping to shoot an adjacent target at full extension after shooting up close, or shooting several times while extending the weapon (or while retracting it).
The close quarters shooting is something that must be disturbing to everyone the first time. Feeling the muzzle blast below
your face and close to your body is so alien
compared to a traditional sporting range experience... I actually felt afraid a few times, worrying I might screw up and shoot myself in the arm or foot, or that one of the other students shooting close to me on the line might make a mistake.
This, of course, does not happen
, in part because Chris and his assistant(s) do such a good job of supervising things, and in part because their influence demands you be alert and "on" the entire time you are on or near that firing line. Another student expressed the same sentiment, however -- that feeling of accomplishment when you're all done and nobody's hurt, coupled with that initial anxiety over the close quarters shooting.
Some of you may be thinking this close quarters shooting sounds familiar -- and those that do have watched SouthNarc's close quarters shooting DVD.
After shooting from so close we did some shooting from perhaps five yards back, one handed, preferably with the support hand against the chest. We were no longer shooting man-shaped targets; instead we were shooting small circles set five to a target, placing one round in each circle (ideally). From that distance, one-handed, I was able to put one round in each circle except for a flier (this happened in more than one group) -- until we switched to the support hand. At that point my marxmanship went to absolute crap and I vowed to do more practice with my left hand, unsupported.
I mentioned the cold temperatures before. We were standing outside on the range in the snow and the temperature was somewhere just above 30 degrees (F) for the duration. I bought a new pair of Wolverine boots knowing this would be the case. I also wore my Orlon watch cap, a scarf, and my flight jacket, coupled with the unlined leather "police" gloves I prefer. I was completely comfortable the entire time, had no trouble manipulating the Glock 19 I was shooting, and never once felt the need to go inside or otherwise flee the conditions.
The slash pockets of my flight jacket also carried several spare magazines for the Glock. After seeing just how much ammo we burned through so quickly at the carbine class, I came loaded for bear with eight magazines and five hundred rounds of Winchester 115 grain FMJ ammunition. I wore the Fobus magazine pouches and holster that I prefer for this type of range work (though I admit it is cheating to use a chintzy holster and mag holder combo that I'd never wear for real-life concealed carry; it makes life in the relays easier but that's not a god excuse). I even managed to burn all the way through my ammo during one long relay.
In just over two hours I shot between 200 and 300 rounds, which the Glock digested without malfunction and without complaint. The nice thing about that Glock is that I never once worried about cold temperatures or moisture giving it problems, either. The added benefit was that I didn't have to monkey about manipulating external safety levers during the exercises (in which weapons were safed prior to each drill) as did some of the other shooters.
When the shooting was done, we went back inside and gamed out some basic combatives -- getting the hands up in a modified "fence" stance, verbalizing warnings (Chris emphasized using profanity as the only way to make a street predator really take notice of your verbal caution), drop-stepping into edge-of-hand blows and hammer fists, and practicing the blows on air shields. We did a little striking with a magazine (which could as easily have been a flashlight, pocket stick, or other blunt tool) and I managed to take one directly on the top of my hand while I was holding the shield for one portion of the exercise. It hurt.
We concluded class by getting everyone's individual impressions. I enjoyed this class immensely; it was a very productive use of my Saturday. I learned some new things, got to practice needed skills in a safe and supervised environment, got more practice dealing with shooting under pressure, and had a blast running hundreds of rounds through a Glock. Who could want more out of a weekend afternoon?