I spent the day yesterday screaming at cardboard. Then, when the confrontation escalated, I shot it. Several times.
No, I am not off my rocker. Well, not any more than I was before yesterday. I was at a Defensive Handgun class presented by Options for Personal Security, along with 10 other students of the art of defensive pistol craft.
Our student group ranged from experienced IDPA shooters to new shooters just getting their first range experience outside standing stationary in a booth at a conventional range.
The course was divided between lecture and discussion sessions and live fire time on the range. The beginning of the course covered range safety and the rules for handling firearms on the range. Then, a presentation on defensive mindset brought us to the first break. As we used to say in the fire service, your mind can only absorb what your seat can tolerate.
Following the break, we moved into the defensive drawstroke. The draw is broken down into four distinct positions, with a specific index to the body at each position. Position 1 is the grip on the pistol in the holster. The pistol is withdrawn smoothly to position 2, with the thumb of the shooting hand indexed to the upper side of the chest, by the pectoral muscle. The hand and pistol remain in contact with the body from the holster up to the position 2 position. Re-holstering works the same way, with the hand sliding down the body to find and insert the pistol into the holster. Keeping the wrist locked and the hand in contact with the body naturally positions the muzzle in a safe orientation clear of the shooter’s body. During all of this movement, the non-shooting hand is kept flat on the shooter’s upper chest, out of harm’s way.
Position 3 involves bringing the gun hand up to the centerline of the chest, in tight to the body, and wrapping the support hand in from beneath to establish the two handed, thumbs forward grip. The gun is moved smoothly up and out to full extension of the arms to complete the draw and presentation.
Once the fundamentals of the draw are mastered (on the range, in a safe direction, with unleaded firearms), live fire begins. The first shots are fired from position 4, and then exercises begin to work in fire from position 3 and finally close contact from position 2. Emphasis is on safety (first and foremost at all times) and technique. Close supervision is provided to help shooters new to the skills of drawing from a holster and re-holstering a loaded firearm do so in a safe, controlled manner.
After lunch, we returned to the range to add in the essential elements of communication and movement. The instructor played the part of the assailant, standing behind the student and providing the dialog as we tried to defuse and de-escalate the conflict. Then, on the command “fight”, we executed a draw and fired from the appropriate position (2 if touching the target, 3 if very close, extending to 4 as we moved away). Emphasis on communication as a tool to both interrupt the assailant’s though process and cultivate potential witnesses along with movement off the line of attack and to create space (while shooting at the same time) was discussed and practiced.
Then, we moved back to the seats and discussed post-confrontation management. We discussed calling for assistance and being prepared for the arrival of the police (i.e. don’t turn around with the gun in your hand to talk to the officer).
Finally, we went through the final exercise of the day, which tied it all together. With the instructor providing the voice of the assailant, a confrontation scenario was played out, with attempts at defusing and de-escalation failing. With the instructor providing stressful stimuli, the students performed a draw to retention and fired on the target while moving off the line of attack and back toward cover. Once at the covered position, verbal commands to the assailant as well as bystanders “Call the police! Stay back, he has a weapon! Someone call an ambulance!” continued during a reload, and then a simulated call to the police. During this process, an instructor playing the role of the police began issuing commands to the student, and a brief role-play of interaction with the police took place.
Having been shooting for a while, I had to un-learn some habits, and came away with both a good deal of new information and some new ways of thinking about things I already knew.
One thing is certain – I will definitely be going back to train with OPS again in the future.