I took a pistol class this weekend

I’m not a very good shot with a pistol.  I don’t have a very good grip, and I don’t find great accuracy with a pistol very rewarding.  That said, the likelihood of finding myself in a situation where I may need to shoot to defend myself is much higher with a pistol than it would be with something like a rifle or a shotgun.  Plus, we have pistols in the house, and both Craig and I feel that it is important that everyone in the house should be capable of manipulating and using all of the guns in our possession, should the need arise.  I am not trying to come off as someone who is paranoid, nuts about security or otherwise hoping for the opportunity to shoot someone. I hate the possibility of defending myself with deadly force.  What I hate more is the possibility of needing to defend myself with deadly force, not being skilled enough to do so, and ending up raped, held hostage, dead, or any combination of the 3.  I know that this may sound crazy, but there are occasional news stories where something terrible happens that could have been prevented had the person had a gun.  I’m not interested in arguing gun control, politics, etc.  I know that gun ownership makes more sense to some people than it does to others.  We are some of those people, and training is an important part of responsible gun ownership.  A few years ago we took a defensive shotgun class, and it was awesome.  Not awesome like we shot cars and they exploded while loud rock music was playing (although that would have been pretty awesome); awesome like even though before the class I had minimal shotgun experience, by the end of the day I was manipulating the shotgun like second nature and had at least acceptable accuracy.    That’s exactly what I was hoping to get out of this class, and I did.

Getting ready to shoot a pistol class

We took the class with Kevin, an instructor with LMS Defense.  If you’re anywhere near the Seattle area and are interested in firearms training, Kevin is your guy.  He’s a fabulous instructor, patient, friendly, and knows what he’s talking about.  A couple years ago we took an “Intro to Carbine” class with him, and I learned the basics of shooting a small semi-automatic rifle.  These skills translated across platforms and I use many of the things I learned in that class when we do tactical long range matches with tricky positional shooting.  The pistol class was “Defensive Pistol,” and was meant to be an introduction to the fundamentals of pistol shooting, and how to use your pistol defensively should the need arise.  It also taught marksmanship, malfunction clearing, and taught us how our accuracy is affected when our rate of fire increases.

The day started off with going over our gear to make sure we have everything required for the class, and going over safety rules.  We discussed a plan of action should someone become seriously injured, and made sure that nobody is allergic to bees or anything similar.  This is the email that we got from the instructor a few days prior to the class as a friendly reminder of what we’d need to bring.

Please make sure you have the minimum items:
  • Eye protection and hearing protection. Electronic ear pro is ideal, bring plugs as well.
  • Pistol, belt mounted holster, spare magazines, a sturdy belt
  • Rain gear (hopefully not needed), sunscreen
  • Food, water, snacks
  • Note taking material, and a pen (and Sharpie type marker if you have one)
  • Your driver’s license, I need to confirm ID’s.
  • Ammunition: minimum of 200 rounds. Bring more, shoot more.
  • We strongly discourage the use of Blackhawk SERPA holsters
Start time is aproximately 0900. Once you enter the property, drive to the range house and take a left and follow it around to the pistol range. I will be there in a blue Tundra.

We will take care of the admin issues and then get rolling. Please remember to bring your $15 for the range fee. I need to collect all funds before the start of training.

Bring a lunch, there is not much in the area in the way of fast food.

Class size is currently 7.
Proper grip on a glock

After the administrative stuff had concluded, the class got down to business.  First we practiced drawing the pistols safely from the holsters and getting a good/solid grip on them.  It turns out that one of the most effective grips also happens to feel unnatural to most people initially.  The instructor told us that if we had trouble keeping that grip through the day, he’d draw a line on our hands/wrists to line up.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep that grip throughout the day (it just felt too weird), I asked for the line immediately. I found it IMMENSELY helpful throughout the day, especially when we were being timed and I was quickly drawing the gun and firing.  I was able to quickly and easily tell if my grip was where it should be, and if it wasn’t, know that that was the likely cause of my less than accurate shots.  We also discussed flinching.  Kevin told us that it’s generally only a matter of time before someone develops a flinch, and it just takes dryfire to correct it.  For those of you not in the know, dryfire is making sure there’s no ammunition in the gun, then pulling the trigger to simulate firing an actual round.  Because there is no bang or movement when you dryfire, it’s an effective way to determine what your bad habits are, mostly flinching and trigger jerking.  We did a drill where we buddied and took turns handing our partner a gun that either had a round in the chamber or didn’t. This was called the Ball & Dummy Drill. They had to fire the gun as though it was going to shoot. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t.  This is akin to putting dummy rounds (something shaped and weighted like a real round, but totally inert) in your magazine when you’re practicing.  Then if (or when if we’re being honest) you flinch, you quickly take 3 clean dryfire shots before proceeding to another stage of the drill.

shooting one handed
Shooting one handed is a lot more difficult than it looks!

With drawing grip, and flinch correction figured out, we moved onto sight picture, accuracy at close range, accuracy a little farther back, and how accuracy is affected by rapid fire.  We also did a walkback drill that consisted of starting up close to the target, drawing, and firing (I think) 2 shots at the target in a 5 second time frame.  Then we took 2 big steps back and did the exact same thing, all the way out to 25 yards or so.  It taught us how time management works, and how to balance speed and accuracy. At this point(about 12:45), we broke for lunch and spent about 15-20 minutes stuffing magazines, using the port-a-potty, eating our sandwiches, and bullshitting.

After lunch, we went over types of malfunctions and basic malfunction clearing.  There are 2 main ways to quickly clear almost any type of malfunction.  Those are “tap-rack-bang” and “eject the mag and rack the slide twice.”  We once again paired up and took turns setting up different malfunctions for the other person to clear.  We discussed what to do if we were to get into a situation where we were only able to use one hand, how to manipulate the firearm, how to effectively and accurately shoot it, how to even get it out of a holster!  We also did multiple target shooting, and theories with shooting multiple targets, like if you have 3 bad guys, it makes sense to put one or two rounds into each of the bad guys before coming back for followup shots, as you’re at least partially incapacitating them, instead of really effectively neutralizing one guy but then getting shot/stabbed/otherwise attacked/hurt by the other two.  With that, we practiced multiple targets and transitions, how you look over with your eyes, bring your gun over fast, and then take your time (comparatively) aiming and making a good hit on the next target.  Time then entered into the equation, where we had a few seconds to draw and take the shots.  To finish off the day, we set up VTAC barricades, which are basically staircase shaped pieces of plywood with slots and holes cut out to force you to take shots from positions that aren’t necessarily comfortable.  For this, there were 2 barricades, and we lined up and went up against each other, trying to finish the course of fire first.  We had to make one hit through each hole on a man-sized steel at about 25 yards, then after that had been done, make one hit on a steel that’s about the size of a 2 liter bottle however we wanted to.  I lost both times, but I also made first round hits on the small target at the end both times because I took my time and concentrated.  After that, we picked up the targets and gear, loaded it all into the instructor’s truck, and took some time to pick up the brass casings that we had shot so we can reload them. We had a quick briefing after the class was over where we each shared something that we learned at the class, and we got our certificates of completion. We finished sometime between 4 and 4:30 I’d say.

Shooting through a VTAC Barricade
This is a VTAC Barricade

Overall, what I learned from the class was:

  • I have a pretty bad flinch.  Dry fire should help this.
  • I need to work on my grip more.  When I was rushing to draw my gun and get firing, I’d slip back into my old grip and accuracy would suffer.
  • When I miss, I tend to miss low(flinch), and when shooting quickly the low misses almost totally disappeared – my theory is that I didn’t have a chance to flinch.
  • When I get flustered, my accuracy craps itself… I have to take a minute to collect myself again, though this really just reinforced what I learned at long range matches earlier.
  • Don’t forget sunblock.

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