October 17th & 18th, 2020 | Geoff
Waxahachie, Texas- Hosted by Extreme Tactics and Training Solutions (ETTS)
Gun: FN 509 full size, 9mm
Trigger: Apex Action Enhancement Kit Flat-Faced Trigger
Red dot: Trijicon RMR RM06 3.25 MOA Adjustable
Holster: HolsterCO OC OWB holster
Mag Pouch: Bravo Concealment Kydex Double Mag Pouch
Ammo: Blazer 124 grain 9mm FMJ, 600-700 rounds
Belt: 1.5” Rigid Cobra belt
TD1: 53 – 76 degrees, partly sunny to sunny.
TD2: 63 – 88 degrees, partly sunny to sunny.
Temps played a factor throughout the weekend. Oct – Nov are ideal training months in the DFW area because temps generally run in the 70’s. While starting off on TD1 at 53 degrees wasn’t “cold” per se, it was definitely cool and about half of the group started off wearing hoodies. Cloud cover and wind kept changing throughout TD1, so it would be cool at one moment and then warm the next. TD2 was more consistent, but around 1pm going forward, we were all feeling the warmth.
I’m a civilian and have been conceal carrying for over 20 years. I did one class in 2000 but didn’t do any training except for random range days of plinking up until 2016. When the shootings in downtown Dallas occurred that killed 5 officers and injured 9 others, I decided to start taking training seriously. Since 2016, I have 179 hours of training covering medical, handgun, and rifle from the most basic to advanced curriculums.
Normally I would practice up on some skills relevant to the class. However, with COVID and ammo being at a premium, it had been several months since I had done any shooting.
Around 5 USPSA shooters, 1 first time student, and the rest of us were just looking to hone our skills. Class total was 13 students. On the whole, I would say that that the skill sets of everyone was advanced.
What I expected going in
I think I’m an average to above-average shooter. The guys that were USPSA shooters were obviously looking to accomplish a different set of objectives than I was. Due to family obligations, I don’t really have time to be a competitive shooter. I really concentrate on being a well-rounded defensive shooter. I wanted to bridge some of the gap and learn to place shots on target in a quicker fashion.
What Really Happened
We got started at 8 am. Tim went over the 4 safety rules, and established responsibilities should a training incident occur. There was not the customary warm-up of shooting on the static line. We went straight into a 32 round USPSA stage. This helped Tim get an individual diagnosis of each shooter. Tim actually had a notebook out where he kept his notes, so this wasn’t something done just off the top of his head. After we did the stage run, we all gave a list of two things we’d done well, and two things that needed improvement. For the most part, we were all pretty dialed into our strengths and weaknesses. The point was to focus on the good things, and that we didn’t need to necessarily work slower, because you can work slower and still suck at what you’re doing. We were going to focus on the fundamentals. This portion was wrapped up by 11 am.
We then worked at the 7-yard line, working on grip pressure between the strong and support hands. We learned that grip structure is more about control during shooting rather than recoil control, which is secondary. We then worked alternating loosening the support and strong side grip.
Next was a modified Garcia dot drill shot at three yards. There were small-scaled A boxes printed out on 8.5 x 11” sheets of paper. The object was to shoot six rounds into each box, initially with no par time. Then we went to a five-second par time, and the number of rounds increased if you successfully placed all of your shots in the box. By this time, the class broke for a twenty-minute lunch at 1 pm.
After lunch, we worked on shooting strong side and weak side only. Things learned here on strong side only were to drive the shoulder into the target and apply pressure in the tang of the pistol with the thumb up. On support hand, we worked on threading the support thumb under the strong thumb in order to pass the firearm between the two hands.
Next up we worked on shot calling. By this time, our targets were pretty well shot up. The shot up targets were placed directly in front of clean targets. The object was to fire a string of rounds from 25 yards and see if you could tell where the shots landed based off the feedback the sights and gun gave you. This was interesting and it really taught you to pay attention to what the dot/sights were doing when you pressed off your shot.
Tim then spoke about anchoring the rear sight instead of being front side focused for iron sight shooting. I was getting tired at this point, so I have to admit to mentally checking out during this part as I’m using dots on all of my guns.
We closed out TD1 with the Blake drill. This introduced shooting across multiple targets, which can be a challenge for everyone. The objective was to lead the sights with the eyes, and that you have to keep the gun and your eyes moving. The big takeaway was to move your eyes to the A-box of the next target and then drive your gun to where your eyes are looking.
We finished up TD1 around 6pm.
TD1 Take Away
TD1 was a long day with a ton of learning. There was a lot of stuff that was relevant to the defensive shooter, not just the competition folks. Everyone was safe and there was not even an inkling of any safety issues. Of note, every time we left the line to go jam up mags or rest, our guns were made cold. This wasn’t a range rule, but I think it’s more in line with how USPSA competitions are run.
TD2 started off right at 8 am. We worked on the Accelerator and Decelerator drills. These are three targets spaced approximately one yard apart, but they were staggered at 7, 15 and 25 yards. The object was to get on target sooner at the closer target and then learn to throttle it back and still get your hits at the longer distances. This was alternated between various distances, we started 7-25-15, then 15-25-7, and then 25-15-7 yard. I learned that I had too much useless frenetic motion in my draw, with a lot of exaggerated shoulder movement that simply wasted time on my draw stroke.
We then re-ran the stage from the day before. I had better time but my accuracy suffered.
We then worked on efficiency from 5-7 yards as a man-to-man competition. Each shooter was mirrored off the other. You would start with your foot on a position, and when the timer went off, you would run to the barrel, which obscured your target, and then break a shot to the target. The person with the best time and shot placement would win. This increased the pressure to perform on demand. While a group of us was doing this competition, the next group was in the next bay over working on the first part of the stage to get individualized attention.
During this portion of individualized attention, we worked on the first part of the stage. I learned to minimize movement etc. for better practical performance. I learned to lean in the direction I wanted to go, as well as working on a better draw stroke while moving. One of the big takeaways here was to look where I was going, all while getting the gun up quicker to see the dot prior to get being fully on target.
The barrel drill was next. This was 2 barrels spaced next to each other with a small gap in between them, with 3 targets behind them. The object was to move from right to left, making 1 shot on each target as you moved across. The kicker was all that all shots had to be to the A box, and your shots had to be within .10 seconds of each other. You really had to learn to pace your shots as you transitioned from target to target. You would shoot 9 shots as you went across, the first 3 were on the right side, 3 in the middle, and 3 from the left side. Keeping a steady cadence was the learning point here. We then worked it going from left to right.
Before our final run of the stage, we worked on the activators. We learned how to navigate a clamshell/max trap variant. You would shoot a steel popper which would fall, and pull a cable to activate the next vertical target, which was covered by a door that would drop, revealing the target, and then it would pop back up, giving you only a few seconds to engage the vertical target. This was really a light bulb moment for me. Initially there were 2 steel poppers, one of which was the activator. Running the stage the first time, I saved the activator last, worried that I would barely have enough time to make the A-zone shot on the target. By the end of this lesson, I was able to shoot the activator first, press 1 shot on the next steel popper, and then press off 2 shots on 3 other paper targets while still being able to hit the target behind the dropper. This was really cool to see how my skills had all come together and I could get a ton more shots off in a shorter amount of time.
We closed the day out by running the stage for a third and final time. It was nice to put all of the skills we had learned over the two days into a that stage and be able to see how all of the unique individualized parts came together.
TD2 Take Away
It was awesome to see how the skills were all coming together in order to put them to use in the final stage run at the end of TD2. Of note, if you are considering taking this class, is something Tim will tell you at the beginning of TD1. During TD2 in the middle of the day, while one set of folks are working the man-to-man competition, and the other group is in the next bay getting individualized instruction, there is some downtime. The group running the man-to-man competition ended early, and ended up taking a break wondering what we should do. The individualized portion that every shooter gets simply takes time. This is a great time to take your lunch and relax a little, as we were all starting to feel fatigue and the heat. We gave this feedback to Tim and he appreciated it. It’s just hard to make this flow very well, so just be cognizant of this if you take the class (which you should).
Class Take Away
This was an awesome class. Tim provided excellent instruction that built on each set of drills from the previous ones. Don’t be deterred if most of the class are comprised of competitive shooters. While I don’t do competitive shooting, I still learned a lot. From a defensive stand point, I tend to plant and get a very stable base before pressing off my shots. I learned how to better keep moving and still be able to get the gun up with the dot acquired so I can shave off those precious seconds, whether it’s in a competition or an actual gun fight.
Gear Shake Down
Always inspect your equipment beforehand and make sure you have a zeroed gun. My MSA Sordins batteries died at the end of TD1 and I didn’t think I had a spare set of batteries. Luckily, I still had two additional sets of electronic ear pro.
If I’m at an outdoor range, I prefer to have footwear with ankle support due to the various terrain. I’ve been using a boot from Cabela’s, but as I’ve learned over the last 2 classes, the toe box absolutely sucks and has actually bruised my big toe nail. I’m going to transition to something with a bigger toe box, I’m looking at perhaps the Viktos Johnny Combat boots.
Zero, zero, zero. Make sure you have a zeroed gun. There’s a reason that a 10 yard zero may not be ideal. At the start of TD1, I was shooting a 2” group into the A zone, so I thought I was good to go. The problem is that when you stretch this out to 25 yards, any zero issues become VERY apparent at this point. At the end of TD1 when we were at 25 yards, my shots were going way high and to the right. Luckily, I had Tim there to shoot my gun and confirm. I don’t know what happened, as my pistol was zeroed at 25 yards and was confirmed during the springtime. We were able to get it re-zeroed without any further problems. Another reason why a 25 yard zero is what a lot of folks are using nowadays.
Instructor Shake down
Tim began shooting in 2010, and he’s already a GM level competitive shooter. He doesn’t have some storied LE/MIL career, but like Jedi, you quickly learn that this isn’t necessary in order to be a great instructor and convey fantastic teaching points to shooters at all levels. Tim was polite, cordial, and professional at every point during the weekend. If you’re looking to up your shooting game, I recommend his class!