AAR of Spencer Keepers Handgun Essentials & AIWB Skillsets

Handgun Essentials: 

Spencer’s choice for the course name is purposeful. It’s not “Introductory Handgun” or “Handgun Basics”. The fact that he calls it the “Essentials” class very much intentional: these are the things you should know to be prepared for a use of force event as a private armed citizen. You shoot a decent amount in this class, but you don’t just turn cash into noise. Spencer makes sure that there’s a reason for every round you fire. 

Full disclosure, I took this class as Day 2 of a training weekend with Spencer, so I don’t know of the tempo/cadence/sequence changes if you take this as Day 1 or as a stand-alone class. 

Let me start of by telling you what this class isn’t:

  • This class isn’t if you want to pretend your some hardcore elite door kicker, doing God’s work at the tip of the spear
  • This class isn’t designed to work on your weapon manipulation or mechanics. (none of the strings we shot required a reload. Most of the reloading we did was either in the holster administratively, or topping off between strings)
  • This class isn’t scenario based training. All the drills can be extrapolated to real world concepts, but you’re not yelling “stop” and side-stepping as you draw. 

This class is to allow you to become intimately familiar with your handgun if you aren’t already. You’ll shoot enough, and with enough guidance that you’ll be able to identify where you suck and what you need to work on most. Spencer’s class isn’t a “familiarization” class, but it’s definitely an exposure class.

For someone like me who hasn’t really shot under time & accuracy standards before, I came to 2 very important realizations:

  1. Shooting accurately and quickly isn’t this magical voodoo that takes decades of zen-like study to understand, and 
  2. It’s sure as shit not as easy as it looks on Instagram either. 

So, here are the top 3 things taught in this class 

  • X-Grip: Many instructors try and teach either a “front-back & side-side” or “push/pull”. The way Spencer teaches it, your grip forces are forming an X through the middle of the pistol grip. It’s kind of hard to explain, so I’ve included a diagram for reference. 
No photo description available.
  • Target Transitions: Lots of the drills had you switching targets. Sometimes you were shooting at different reference points on the same paper, sometimes you were changing targets altogether. Some involved minimal movement, some involved a lot more. But rarely did you shoot more than a few rounds at the same spot. 
  • Balancing Speed & Accuracy: Spencer has spent a lot of time with Tom Givens, both as a student and Assistant Instructor. One of Tom’s observations is that people who have been shooting (at speed) for any period of time have a familiar cadence, a rhythm with which they shoot. It’s almost like “cruise control”. Your system is familiar with the task and sets into that pace, regardless of it’s appropriate or not. You may have more time (i.e. slow the fuck down and make better hits), or you may need to push the speed a little bit, because your target is a little bigger and the time constraint is a little tighter. This was best represented in some of the drills where we had the whole “head” of the “bowling pin” target as a hit-zone instead of just the 3×5 card that represents a face shot.

Top 3 things I learned

  • You literally cannot grip hard enough with your support hand: Before I took this class, I had been watching some videos. Primarily Paul Gomez’s “Tweaking the Grip”. Spencer’s method stops at the “thumbs forward” stage of that video. Reason being that it better complements the X-grip that he teaches. Now body mechanics and hand specs are all different, so it may not work for you specifically. I can tell you that I saw a dramatic improvement in my ability to shoot quickly and precisely, by going back to the traditional “Thumbs Forward” grip, and just absolutely gorilla-gripping the everloving shit out of my left hand. This was the first non-combative 2-day class that I walked away from sore. Arms, chest, shoulders, all of it. Granted that’s not all good, there’s some excess tension in there that I need to work out, but that’s beside the point. If you feel like you’re having difficulty controlling the gun, or if you feel like your grip is constantly shifting, just crank down on it. You may be surprised as to how many issues that fixes. 
  • Shooting fast isn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it would be: The only other time I’ve been on a timer was the shooting qual at MAG-40. Anyone who’s taken that class knows the goal isn’t to shoot fast. There just needs to be a measurable standard for your accuracy. Spencer’s class is completely different. You shoot fast. You shoot faster than you’ve shot before (if you’re like most folks who have lived their lives on a square range and have never competed). You’ll shoot faster than you’re comfortable with, and that’s the point.

    Now I want to point out up front that at no point are you pushed past what you can do safely. There’s no instructor yelling at you and you’re never out of control, the closest analogy I can think of is it feels like the very first time you rode a bike without training wheels: the body mechanics and the machine you’re using are both familiar, and it’s something you’ve done hundreds of times already, but it’s unfamiliar enough territory to make you feel uncomfortable.

    The idea behind this is that, if you’re not missing, you’re not pushing yourself. If you’re missing inconsistently, or if you’re missing way too badly, then you’ll be encouraged to back it down to a level where you can consistently produce results, but in Spencer’s class missing is a good thing.
  • There’s a certain pace at which you’re still in control, but you’re going just fast enough that you can’t over analyze. This sort of melds in with the previous point. The idea is that, if you’ve mastered the basic mechanics enough, then you can start pushing your speed to see where your capabilities actually lie. Understanding that “good enough is never good enough” Spencer isn’t looking for perfection. He’s looking for pragmatic, functional results. The idea behind this class isn’t that you walk away a card-carrying master pistolero, but that you have a much better understanding of what you need to work on to get you to that level.

    During the course of the shooting strings, you start to feel what right feels like. It can be tricky for an instructor to help get you dialed in, simply because they’re not seeing what you’re seeing and not feeling what you’re feeling. A good instructor though, can help create an environment where you’re in tune with what’s going on, and is able to replicate things enough for you to recognize certain patterns. 

Top 3 things I’m going to change. 

  • I’m going to be a lot more attentive to my grip, and a lot more aggressive with it. Cranking down on my grip was the singular most productive thing I’ve done to my shooting performance in recent memory.
  • I’m not going to fear/mock the timer. You hear a lot of critics say “there’s no shot timer in a gunfight” which is a little myopic. Being faster certainly can’t hurt. That being said, it’s not the only thing that matters, but being able to get effective hits on target quickly is certainly not a bad thing.
  • I’m going to start a dry-practice regimen. My main focus for that dry practice (for now) is increasing my draw speed. 

*special thanks to Short Barrel Shepherd for this 3×3 format. 

AIWB Skillset:

This was actually the first day of our training weekend. The very first thing Spencer does when you train with him is take you out and have you perform a shooting evaluation totally cold. He does this for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s a reality check for you, because if you ever need those skills, you’ll have to perform cold, on demand. There’s no warm ups in “da streetz”
  2. It’s a good gauge for him of the ability of the shooters in his class. 

I’m not going to tell you what that drill is. I didn’t get a chance to practice it beforehand, so I’m not giving you that chance either. 

I always like to say up front what the class isn’t, to help manage the expectations and let people decide if this is a class they’d benefit from or not.

This is not just a shooting class. I honestly would almost suggest that Spencer change the name to “AIWB Lifestyle”, because he covers all aspects of AIWB. How to dress for it, how to live with it, and a bunch of gun handling considerations. 

You get a pretty great crash course in holsters. Spencer goes over a lot of the “industry standard” designs, and then walks you through the logic of why they’re not well suited to appendix carry. He of course has a few examples of his design as well, and is able to effectively articulate the why behind each of his design elements.

One thing I can tell you right off the bat is this: I’ve worked in sales in one capacity or another for the last decade, so I can sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away. This isn’t Spencer’s timeshare presentation; he’s not suckering you into a holster sales pitch under the guise of a pistol class. Now don’t fool yourself, he believes in his product, and he’ll tell you why his is better and why everything else comes up short, but if you run one of his loaner holsters (assuming he has one that fits your gun) and then come to the conclusion “you know what? It’s not for me”, you won’t hurt his feelings.

Most of the shooting drills are geared around familiarizing you with the access and presentation from the appendix position. There are some off-hand/support side/ whatever the trendy new term is for the hand you don’t write with drills. The main purpose of them, at least that I took away, was to show how beneficial appendix carry is for off-hand weapon access, and how important a good holster is for one-handed weapon manipulation.

3 major topics covered

  • AIWB gear considerations: Obviously the holster is a top consideration. What you learn is that a lot of manufacturers take the same holster body they’ve been making for other carry methods, and just change the attachment point to make it an “AIWB” holster. You quickly understand why this is a less than ideal solution. Next is the belt. Spencer recommends an “infinitely adjustable” type of belt; his preferred being the Wilderness Frequent Flyer. The ride height of your pants also factors in to the equation. This may come as a shock, but Spencer isn’t a huge advocate of skinny jeans. In all seriousness, he breaks down where the waist of your pants should fall on you to best position his holster for maximum concealment. This guy really boils every element down to its most important elements. 

Once question I had for Spencer that’s been a big challenge for me up to this point was “How do you carry in dress clothes, especially given that your holster isn’t tuckable?” His answer was almost maddeningly simple, and I’m a little annoyed with myself that I didn’t think of it sooner: wear a vest. *Insert Dope Slap Here*

  • AIWB specific drawstroke: The way Spencer teaches the drawstroke, and specifically clearing the cover garment is zen simple. Grabbing the bottom of the cover garment with the curled fingers, and simply bending the arm at the elbow. The reason for this is two-fold:
    1. It helps to ensure the drawing pistol doesn’t become entangled in the cover garment
    2. It helps make sure that you don’t hang up on the fixed blade, center line knife that you’re likely carrying if you’ve had any exposure to the Shivworks curriculum. 
  • AIWB specific reholster technique: aka “The Lean”. It’s somewhere between a limbo move and an obscene gesture. The basics of it are you push your hips forward, causing the muzzle line of the holster to be angled even further away from the body. The logic behind this is that even if the pistol discharges it’s pointed in the safest direction possible. Ballistic Radio did a good video of this technique with a cutaway holster and a T-gun. Look it up on YouTube. The other part of the technique that Spencer teaches is capping the back of the slide with your thumb. Now this only works if you’re running a hammer fired gun, or a Glock w/ a Striker Control Device (aka Gadget). Reason for this is, if the trigger moves during the re-holster, you’ll feel the hammer/gadget move. Not only will your thumb help resist the movement of the firing controls, but it also is a tactile alarm for “stop what you’re doing right now!”

3 things I learned

  • My carry gun & holster are too short: When I first entered the AIWB arena, I started with my Glock 19 a $20 Vanguard. My logic was it wasn’t a big financial risk, in the event that I didn’t like it, I hadn’t just burned a bunch of cash on another holster I’d never used. I was an immediate convert. I tried repurposing a couple of my old holsters, and it didn’t work too well. I finally bought a specific “AIWB” holster, but I was still having printing issues, so I went with a 26 for a shorter grip. I kept the same holster (which turned out to be my only saving grace), but still had issues. It was because the muzzle end of my holster wasn’t long enough. The more holster you have riding below the beltline, the more the holster can lever the grip of the gun in towards the body and keep it concealed. It also means a wider footprint and less digging. 
  • I’m not moving my hands fast enough: Spencer’s biggest criticism of my technique during the class was that I wasn’t getting to the gun fast enough. I knew this to be true, because I was scared of going too fast and fumbling the grip. Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t berating me to go faster, just encouraging me that I have the capacity to go faster. I need to get past the block that there’s a difference between getting to the gun and building the grip.
  • Face-shooting paper isn’t as hard as I thought it was: No I was by no means the best shooter in the class. Most of the folks that took this course shoot a lot more regularly, and some even competitively. But even with the accuracy and time constraints that I’d never been presented with before, I never had a “wow do I suck” moment. Every failure, every missed shot had a reason behind it. Something quantifiable that I could identify and work on. I was able to walk away from this class feeling a lot better about how good/bad a shooter I am, because I have a game plan now.

3 things I’ll start doing differently

  • I’m buying a Keeper: Spencer had a loaner that I was able to run the whole weekend. There were times that I almost forgot I was wearing it. It was amazingly comfortable, and didn’t shift around as much as any of the other holsters I’ve tried. Part of that is because of the giant loop he uses on the holster body. Even if you don’t buy his holster specifically, if you’re buying an AIWB holster, buy it for the duty-sized/longest barrel version of your pistol. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
  • Dry- practice regimen: For the time being I’m going to start off with just getting to the gun. Once I’m there, I’ll work on the draw itself.
  • Over-exaggerating “the lean”: It can’t be done. You cannot over-exaggerate that lean enough. There’s no such thing as overdoing it. I make sure to keep that in mind whenever I’m going to the holster now. 

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AAR of Tom Givens Social Shotgun

What can Tom Givens teach you about defensive application of the shotgun? A whole truckload.

What can Tom Givens teach you about the shotgun in 4 hours?….. Still a significant chuck of that same truckload.

My first exposure to shotguns was my dad taking me trap shooting on my 13th birthday (since that was the minimum age at his shooting club. It’s Maryland….they’re goofy about gun stuff). I knew about shotguns, I’d been exposed to them, I technically had one that was configured for a role in home defense, but I’d never had any formal instruction. The extent of my understanding of the gauge was very reminiscent of Antonio Banderas learning swordsmanship in that first Zorro movie: “Do you know how to use that thing?” “Yes, the pointy end goes into the other man!”. So I took this class fully expecting to be the most novice guy there. My goal was to identify everything wrong with my gear and assumptions, so that I would work on correcting and improving them, and be better equipped to employ my shotgun in its intended role.

Spoiler Alert: I wasn’t a soup sandwich. I experienced 0 gear failures or malfunctions. I’m sure that has very little to do with my skill, and much more to do with Tom’s ability as a teacher. He’s definitely a salty old cop insofar as he has no tolerance for grab-assy bullshit. He doesn’t yell or try and play drill sergeant, he’s just gruff enough to maintain the pace of his coursework. There’s a good amount of humor and levity as well to keep people engaged. 

This was a fantastic class for a complete newbie like myself. At no point did I feel lost, or like I was behind the curve. He started off covering the basics: manual of arms (separated out for the pump guns and autoloaders), ready positions, proper sight picture, preferred setups and ammunition, and patterning. In summary, here’s how he addressed each portion:

Ready Positions: 

  • High Ready = buttstock resting on your hip bone with a full grip on the forend, looking over the muzzle at your target (area), safety on. 
  • Mounted = shouldered, pointed down range, safety off, finger on trigger ready to fire
    • “The only thing the safety does is keep the trigger from working”

Proper Sight Picture: For a bead sight on a vent rib gun (which is how mine is set up), you don’t want to actually see any of the “table top” of the rib. You just want to see the bead sitting on a flat horizon to ensure the muzzle isn’t canted up. Red dots & rifle sights are pretty self explanatory.

Preferred setups:

  • Stocks: Adjustable is ideal. Generally a 12-12.5” Length of Pull is recommended.
    • Configure the gun for the smallest user in the household
    • Magpul is the hotness
    • You should be able to mount the stock into your shoulder without it hanging up on any clothing/gear. 
      • If needed (for longer stocks) punch up and out, then drive the stock back into your shoulder. 
  • Sights: Dots & rifle sights are generally better since they allow for a higher degree of precision. 
  • Ammo Carriers: “You’re only going to get to use what’s in and on the gun” so it’s a good idea to have an extra source of ammo physically attached to the gun somehow. 
    • Tom has fabric cards velcroed to the side of his receiver. Not because they can be reloaded quickly during a firefight, but because they’re easily replaced when the elastic wears out.
    • There was no appreciable difference between fabric shotgun cards, butt cuffs, or hard side saddles that I saw. YMMV.
  • Slings: Were never discussed. During the courses of fire we did, they only seemed to get in people’s way. 
  • Ammunition: Buck. 00, 0, or 1 buck. Tom commented that typically 8 pellet seemed to perform better than 9, since he’s witnessed 9 pellet almost always resulting in one “flyer” when patterning. 
    • Flitecontrol is your friend. 
    • Regardless of what’s the new hotness, your shotgun may only like certain ammo. Find what patterns best out of your gun, or send your barrell off to someone (read: Vang Comp) that can make it pattern for you.

Manual of Arms: 

  • For pump guns, the user is responsible for the entire function of the gun. 
  • Running of the pump should be an automatically conditioned response after pulling the trigger. 
  • Make sure your ENTIRE support hand is on the pump so you don’t mash/mangle/amputate your pinkie between the slide and the receiver. 
  • Loading:
    • Load the chamber first, then the magazine tube
    • Push shells past the shell stop
    • When loading/reloading, cup the shell in your ring/middle/index fingers, using the pinkie and thumb to secure it
      • This applies regardless if you prefer going over the top or underneath the receiver
      • I prefer underneath, since it affords slightly less risk of fumbling/dropping the shell. 
      • Butt cuffs tend to be more conducive to reloading from under the receiver
      • Side saddles can work either way, however the brass up layout is more efficient with an over the top reload
  • Running the Pump:
    • Don’t be gentle
    • Try and pull the gun apart

I left the class significantly more confident in both my ability with the shotgun, as well as my chosen setup. 

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

–          Manual of Arms for pump & semi shotguns

–          Presentation & manipulation during the cycle of fire

–          Dos/Don’ts, Pros/Cons

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

–          I could benefit from a shorter LOP

–          My setup isn’t nearly as suboptimal as I’d expected

–          The underneath shotgun reload seems to be the most intuitive/natural for me

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

–          Re-stock/shorten my stock

–          Pattern my gun to find what load(s) it likes best

–          Improve the front sight & add some sort of shell carrier.

Shotguns are absolutely still a viable choice for home protection, and they do offer some distinct advantages over other long guns. That being said, they are not suitable for a novice, and have a much longer learning curve to master. The nice thing is that the gauge is seeing a resurgence of late, and there’s a bunch of great instructors offering shotgun classes these days.

Here’s some of those resources, in no particular order:

AAR of Gabe White’s Technical Skills for Tactical Success Tac-Con 2019

The first time I heard the name Gabe White was actually at Spencer Keeper’s Essential Handgun Skills class. When a shooter as accomplished as Spencer says “check this guy out”, it’s probably a good idea to listen up. So when I had the opportunity to register for Gabe’s block at Tac-Con, I set numerous alarms to make sure I was one of the first ones signed up.

Gabe has an interesting way of approaching the technical mechanics of shooting that’s different than your traditional “fighting pistol” type of class. If you have the opportunity, it’s well worth your time. His methods and articulation really helped some concepts to fall in place and make sense for me.

Summary: I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up for Gabe’s “Translating Technical Skills into Tactical Success”. I honestly didn’t even know the name “Gabe White” until I took Spencer Keepers’ handgun classes last January. He spoke so highly of Gabe that I figured I’d be foolish not to avail myself of this opportunity. What really struck me about the class was that there wasn’t really any new information that was presented, but the way that Gabe quantified and contextualized his material just made a lot of pre-existing pieces fall into place.

One of Gabe’s big focuses is getting better by “reaching”. The idea is that if you’re shooting at a level where you’re able to reliably and consistently perform, then you’re stagnant. His analogy was “you can’t get to a 300 lbs deadlift by repping 100 lbs  over and over and over again”. Several of the drills started off with the instruction to “shoot at the level where you WANT to be, not where you are now”. Basically you were encouraged to fuck up and miss. Now that’s not to say that he advocates shooting indiscriminately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What he DOES advocate however is pushing to a level where things start to fall apart, and consciously analyzing what felt wrong/different to better identify the areas that need improvement and gain an appreciation for what actually works for you.

Gabe stressed being PROCESS focused. The idea being that desired result is symptomatic of correct execution of the technique. Essentially, if you do XYZ, the results manifest themselves. This process focus also makes it DRAMATICALLY easier to self-diagnose errors. If you’re just gripping & ripping, without being aware of your grip, draw stroke, sight alignment, and trigger press, you’ll never be able to understand WHY your target doesn’t look like all those highspeed dudes you follow on Instagram (ask me how I know).

Another major focus of this class in particular was serial and/or non-shooting tasking. That’s Gabe’s fancy way of saying that you need to be focused on more than just shooting, because if you’re just pressing “play” on a pre-programmed subroutine, but for whatever reason at some point during that shooting process something happens that changes the circumstances and the target no longer needs to be shot (or something has interrupted or is about to interrupt your need/ability to shoot), you need to be in constant, conscious control. Going back to weight-lifting analogies, it’s like the old adage of “being able to stop the weight at any point during the lift”

There was a lot of dry work during the class, which I personally appreciated. Mostly because it allowed me to get a better idea of what my own dry practice regimen should consist of moving forward. There were several “Ready Up” drills where the focus was moving your finger from register to breaking the shot as quickly as possible, allowing you to understand the sensation of developing speed, and also an appreciation for the impact that movement could have on your sight picture. Gabe briefly addressed ready positions, and expressed his preferences. The short version of this is the primary goal is to allow for the most unobstructed view of the [potential] target, while minimizing the time/distance the pistol would have to cover to get on sights/trigger. He prefers low ready (gun extended, muzzle at the ground by target’s feet) instead of compressed high ready (i.e. Count 3 of draw stroke) for those reasons. (Context dictates)

“A deep confidence in your technical abilities helps to prevent over/premature reactions”

When it comes to drawing the gun, Gabe’s main focus in on hand speed. He teaches you to snap your hands into action “like you touched a hot stove”. Getting to the gun faster is where a lot of people can improve their time. As the gun presents to the target, he also teaches seeing the sights and working the trigger AS the gun is stopping, as opposed to reaching full extension before you initiate the firing process, and that the sights tell you when to shoot. 

Transitioning from the Technical to the Tactical, Gabe quantifies Defensive Shooting as “the correct and responsible application of your existing skill level”. I’m not going to go into too much depth here because I don’t want to give away any of his secrets, but suffice it to say that he has a FANTASTIC series of exercises that allow you to practice modulating your level(s) of force and rescinding your decision to shoot, even on a square range that may not allow work from the holster.

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

  • Ready–>Up Drills, focusing on acceptable sight picture (and maintaining that throughout the manipulation of the trigger)
  • Incorporating No-Shoot/Stop-Shooting drills into live fire practice
  • Segmented practice of different attributes (micro vs. macro)

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

  • My default “compressed high ready” is costing me time
  • You get better by “reaching”. I.E. shooting at the level/speed that you want to be instead of staying at the level at which you know you can comfortably perform.
  • Focusing on the process will yield the desired results (instead of focusing on trying to actively create the results)

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

  • Stop “throwing down” my cover garment, instead letting it drop and keeping both hands at the same height.
  • More sectioned practice instead of trying to do everything at once (I.E. practice just establishing grip, just the draw stroke, just first shot on target, then join them all together)
  •  Incorporating no/stop-shoot drills whenever possible.

AAR of Paul Sharp’s Recoil Management

Paul Sharp is an interesting cat. He’s almost suspiciously pleasant for as dangerous as he is.

I was fortunate enough to get in on his Recoil Management block at Tac-Con, and the way he broke things down really made things click for me.

You’re generally not going to find one single class that will solve all your problems and answer everything for you, but they tend to build on one another. Here’s my write up on his class. If you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up:

Knowing what I do about Paul, I half expected this course to be a crossfit workout. To my surprise, some of the first words out of his mouth were “recoil control isn’t about strength”. He also make sure that everybody was clear upfront that he was more concerned with what the gun was doing in our hands than the results on the target. His course was big on kinesthetic learning, and he structured things so that we were paired up and coaching each other through the whole process. 

Like Gabe’s class everything started dry first and then progressed to live fire from there. Paul talked a lot about internal vs. external coaching cues. External cues are your body interacting with something in the world around you, like using your thumb to push the button in the elevator. Internal cues are your body interacting with your body, like tucking your pinkie into the base of your thumb. With internal cues, you generally have 2 tactile reference points (the toucher and the touchee) instead of just the toucher for external.

When it comes to managing the handgun, Paul’s approach is to build a 360 degree framework around the gun, and lock that support in structurally, so that you’re able to consistently replicate it. If you’re just “muscling the gun”, regardless of how strong you are you’ll eventually gas out because of endurance and muscle fatigue. Paul’s grip/posture breaks down as follows:

  • Strong hand positioned so that there is as much surface contact as possible with the grip
    • It’s more important to have meat behind the backstrap and along the slab of the grip than it is for the muzzle to be in line with the bones of the forearm
    • “Knife Hand the target”
  • Support hand taking up as much real estate as possible on the opposite slab of the grip
  • Rotating heels of the hands inwards against the backstrap of the grip
  • Pulling pinkies in towards the palm/heel of the hand, creating “tire chocks”
  • Locking the tendons of the wrist to help reduce muzzle flip
  • Slight bend in the elbows to help act as shock absorbers
  • Elbows flared out slightly (not pointed down at the ground)
  • “Flexed” biceps, traps, and lats to provide additional structure/rigid
  • Pushing forward slightly with the strong arm/shoulder, pulling back with the support arm/shoulder
    • This can help offset grip issues
  • “Crunched” core
    • Trying to pull your sternum & navel together
    • Maintain upright posture, don’t “turtle” or overly roll shoulders
    • More natural/relaxed posture is less fatiguing, more stable, and easier to replicate consistently
  • Aggressive fighting stance
    • Weight front-loaded
    • Chin/chest to target
    • Nose over toes
    • Weight on the balls of the feet
    • Toes digging into/ “gripping” the ground

Paul didn’t go into too much detail about trigger manipulation, since trigger control is generally tied more to what the sights are doing than what the gun is doing. The tip I took away from class that I did find very useful was that he only bends the trigger finger at the 2nd knuckle joint, which helps him push the trigger straight back.

By the end of the class, I found that I was consciously able to witness the reciprocation of the slide, and that the sights “tracked” (staying in place) the entire time. I left not only feeling significantly more comfortable with my grip, but with a much clearer path and understanding of what I needed to practice moving forward. 

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

–          Breaking the grip down into sections (fingers, wrists, arms, core)

–          Focusing more on the movement of the slide than the results on the target

–          Learning by doing/teaching

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

–          Having the slabs of your hands up against the slabs of the grip is more important for control than having the bore axis perfectly in line with the bones of your forearm

–          Proprioceptive “checkpoints” for better control of the gun

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

–          Work on building my grip, focusing on each of those checkpoints

–          Work my trigger by bending the 2nd knuckle joint of the finger vs. the 1st

–          Grip the gun harder

AAR Larry Lindenman: Saps & Jacks

Over the span of the last month or so, a couple of my posts have touched on my recent integration of impact weapons into my everyday carry. Now for Texans, it’s only been legal to carry impact weapons since last month (Sept. 1 2019) but given my penchant for travel, both national and international, as well as my regular appearance at many local watering holes, I figured that a better understanding of purpose built tools might also improve my understanding should I be in a position to have to fashion an improvised alternative.

The first time I’d heard of Larry Lindenman was his interview on Ballistic Radio, and I kind of knew that he was loosely affiliated with the Shivworks crowd, but beyond that I didn’t really know much about the guy. And, if I’m being completely honest, his was only 1 of 2 classes that was available on the Sunday morning, and I figured I’d rather get some hands on experience with something rather than sit through a lecture on ammunition (nothing against Dr. Topper, it just wasn’t my flavor). So I went into this with literally 0 expectations because I basically had nothing else better to do. Well Dunning Kruger is a motherfucker, as I’ve said on more than one occasion, and the universe decided to choke me on my own ignorance. 

I am so glad that I took this class! Aside from the fact that Larry is an incredibly gracious guy (I ended up being able to pick his brain the night prior over a wide range of topics), he takes a refreshingly pragmatic approach to impact weapons. To provide some context, in different Facebook groups you’ll generally see people that talk either about brass knuckles (which are wholly impractical for defensive application) or the “biker’s special” padlock/bandanna combo. The amusing part is that nobody ever seems to address application and targeting, as if it’s as easy as swinging a hammer! As you might imagine, it ain’t exactly that easy.

His application of impact weapons jives well with a grappling foundation, as you’d expect from both a member of the Shivworks crew and a competitive fighter. Access and application were all tight, with elbows almost pinned to the ribs. The blows were thrown not from the wrist, elbow, or shoulder, but from the hips like a boxer’s cross. Larry took great care to specify preferred targeting areas (clavicle, floating ribs, outer thigh), and made it abundantly clear that any blows to the head would likely constitute deadly force. (Check your local laws and, if at all possible, your local law enforcement’s policies regarding batons. I’m in no way a lawyer and none of this constitutes legal advice in any way)

We drilled some scenarios, working (briefly) through MUC (look it up), and into the access and deployment of the sap/jack. What’s different about Larry’s material as opposed to some of the other Shivworks members is that, because of the nature of the sap, access & preparation is actually part of the verbal engagement process. We’re able to get away with this partially because the impact weapons are generally viewed as less lethal force, and the visual presence of a hunk of leather isn’t as overtly hostile as a firearm or blade. Therefore once the aggressor decides to initiate the assault, the sap/jack is already chambered for its first strike and you’re not having to contend with in-fight weapon access. He also showed us a nifty little hack that he’d picked up from Claude Werner about how to make a sap sheath out of an old milk jug.

In between the drills there was also a show & tell where he showed of a wide collection of leather goods that could only be rivaled by Jack Clemons. Larry broke down the anatomy of both saps & blackjacks, the advantages and drawbacks to each, and what he personally looks for in a defensive impact tool. There was also some discussion on makeshift/improvised impact weapons, however that is Larry’s proprietary content, reserved strictly for the course, so you’ll just have to sign up and find out for yourself. That alone is worth the cost of admission in my book.

As stated at the beginning, I’m almost embarrassed at how cavalier I was going into this. Impact weapon knowledge is something that I think everyone could benefit from. If for no other reason than they’re the most universally available. My wife and I love to travel, especially outside the US. Firearms are a non-starter, and blades are dodgy at best. Having an understanding of how & where to hit people, and what to hit them with is invaluable in areas where more conventional weapons may not be an option.  There’s only so much that he could cover in the limited 2 hour window we had, but every minute was productive and I cannot speak highly enough about this course.

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

  • The anatomy of saps/jacks & what to look for
  • Positioning/staging/accessing the tools
  • Targeting & application

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

  • There’s a lot of instances where a sap/jack may be preferred over a knife/gun
  • How to make improvised impact weapons
  • I have a tendency to over-extend my fence.

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

  • Invest in a decent purpose built sap (for when I travel places that it’s legal to carry)
  • Put together a travel kit 
  • Keep my damn arms in!

If you’re within driving distance of Dallas, TX and are interested in getting more formal instruction with impact weapons, I strongly suggest you sign up for the Small Impact Weapons Instructor course that Steve Moses is hosting at PTG Training in December. Click the “Register” link to actually sign up. He’s also a contributing author on the CCW Safe Blog. Go check him out.

AAR of Chris Fry’s Practical Folding Knive Course (Abridged Tac-Con Version)

When I started writing the Dressed to Kill series (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already), I had folks messaging me asking for my opinions on alternative (deadly) force options in dress clothes. Many asked about blades; and why not? They’re a lot slimmer than firearms, easier to carry, and generally more socially accepted depending on what part of the country you’re in. I mean, when was the last time seeing a knife clipped to someone’s pocket raised an alarm for you? Plus it’s just flat out easier. You can have a shiny new pocket knife from a quality manufacturer from Amazon on your doorstep in 2 days! So lots of people go that route of clicking a few buttons, unboxing their new toy, and dropping it in their pocket without giving it any real further thought.

When I’ve had conversations with friends about folding knives for defensive use, the general response is much like Antonio Banderas’ comment in Mask of Zorro when Anthony Hopkins inquired as to his knowledge of sword fighting:

Well, there’s a little more to it than that. And Chris’ block at Tac-Con really highlights all the pros, cons, and considerations that you should be aware of if a folding knife is going to be part of your defensive tool set.

I took Chris Fry’s course for 2 main reasons: 1) there are places where it’s flat out illegal to carry a fixed blade knife and 2) I stopped carrying a folder after taking ECQC because I realized that with my current skill set a folder didn’t do me any good. 

Chris gave us a brief synopsis of his background, not mil, not LE, just a regular dude. He’d had enough run-ins with knives that he wanted to codify this material where he focuses on practical knife work (as opposed to technical knife work like in EWO, or tactical knife work like from “Spartan”). 

One thing that he harped on constantly was that “a folding knife is a broken knife”. The point of that is that you’re starting out behind the curve in even more of a deficit because, unlike a firearm, fixed blade knife, impact weapon, or even OC, once you get the folding knife out you still have to deploy the blade! This is why the controls (deployment & locking mechanisms), positioning, and deployment are ultra critical because the knife will be its least secure when you’re trying to deploy the blade. 

Chris goes in depth on knife anatomy, making sure you’ve got a strong understanding of what to look for. The nice thing is that his methodology is pretty universal. Even if you’re stuck in some crummy border town, where the only knife you can get your hands on is a gas station special, his approach to access & deployment works (as long as the blade lock holds up).

Like all good tactical courses, Chris’ material has acronyms! To draw the knife, all you have to do is STAB!:

  • Slap your pocket with an open hand, fingers splayed (no knife hand, ironically)
  • Tuck, driving your thumb behind the knife into your pocket
  • Access the knife by drawing your elbow straight up like you would in a strong-side pistol draw, keeping everything in tight to the body
  • Brace the meat of your hand (hammer grip) against your hip bone. As the situation allows, deploy the blade using either the push or flick methods that Chris prefers.

Once the blade is out, then it’s easy right? Not exactly. One thing that I appreciate about Chris’ approach is that his techniques address one of the biggest concerns of defensive knife use: you’re going to get the other guy’s blood on you.

Chris teaches targeting “the face and the fork”, meaning the junction where the legs meet the trunk of the body. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • The face is targeted the same way that a boxer uses a jab. The idea being that humans don’t like stuff in their face, the same way the eye jab is taught in ECQC. The natural reaction is to recoil from that action. If someone is going to advance through that, they’re highly motivated and their intentions are pretty clear. 
  • The fork houses more major arteries, and Chris suggests that someone “will know a lot faster that they’ve been stabbed” in that region as opposed to the trunk of the body where you always hear “I thought I was being punched”. The fork has the added benefit of directing any spray downwards more than outwards, so it reduced the risk of getting your attacker’s blood in your eyes/mouth/etc. 

Due to the limited time there wasn’t a whole lot of focus put into the MUC portion, with the understanding that MUC can be practiced independently, and more readily than the physical aspects. And for that reason, we went right into drills. We paired up, and worked on assaulting each other and defending. We were going light only about 10% intensity, and even that was challenging to get the knife out. 

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barreled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

  1. Knife anatomy, what to look for in an effective defensive folder
  2. Preferred targeting: face & fork
  3. In Fight Weapon Access: STAB!

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

  1. “Knife jab” thrown almost like a boxer’s cross
  2. Slapping the pocket increases your chances of deploying the knife (splayed fingers find it)
  3. Knifeup.org great resource for when I travel within the country

Top 3 things I’ll do differently:

  1. Honestly, this class just cemented a lot of information that I already had, and just makes it easier for me to articulate my choices. I’m still carrying a fixed blade wherever I can. 
  2. Maybe practice my draw a little more?…….maybe?

AAR of Lee Weems’ Police/ Citizen Contacts

An alternate title for this lecture could have been “How to Not Talk Your Way Into Handcuffs”. 

Lee did a great job of taking what can be a rather dry and overwhelming subject like Constitutional Law, and make it both relevant and engaging, at least enough so to hold the attention of one hungover, sleep-deprived student on a Sunday morning (….me. I mean me). 

Lee starts off by saying that, while there are over 18,000 different law enforcement organizations in the US, they’re kind of like churches: All of them basically do the same thing with the same goals in mind, it’s just that the rules can change up a little.

He goes into the definitions of significant terms like reasonableness, seizure, probably cause, and the like. Here’s a brief summary of the terms and concepts that are covered in the class:

– reasonableness – seizure – legal authority – suspicion – probable cause – consensual encounter – consent – investigative detention – totality of circumstances – custodial arrest – use of force – objective reasonableness – Terry v. Ohio – US v. Arvizou – PA v. Mimms – MD v. Wilson – Graham v. Connor – TN v. Garner

We got brief summaries of the case studies that were referenced in the presentation, and how they relate to our rights as citizens, and how they impact how the cops do their job. A big focus of the talk was understanding the difference between what an officer is required to do and what they can do legally if the citizen doesn’t know better. There’s quite a bit of grey area in terms of implied authority, meaning that an officer can make a request that would be received as instruction. While the citizen is fully within their rights to decline the request, they may not be aware that it’s an option. It’s basically Jedi mind tricks for the Supreme Court. 

Shamelessly stealing the Short Barrelled Shepherd’s 3×3 Model for AARs, here’s the breakdown:

The top 3 things covered in the class:

  • Case Law & Doctrines
  • Definition of legal terms & how they impact the everyday citizen
  • How to protect your rights and guard against the effectively communicate with law enforcement

The top 3 things I learned from the class:

  • There are times & places where it’s perfectly ok to say No to a cop and there’s nothing they can do but send you on your way
  • Most of the time, you’ve got to be already engaged in some kind of suspicious behavior for them to come talk to you in the first place. 
  • PC = reasonable & prudent person / Suspicion = reasonable & prudent Peace Officer

Top 3 things I’ll do differently: There’s really just the 1: Better familiarize myself with the case law

Massad Ayoob Group MAG-40

One of the things I’ve found glaringly absent in the conversations being had on social media is a working understanding of Deadly Force Law. So much of the gun counter mythology is still sadly alive and well. On top of that, you have the “Armed Citizen” blurbs from the NRA publications that also contribute to the confirmation bias, especially since there’s no mention of the legal fallout in those one-paragraph summaries.

I’m currently reading through Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense, which I would strongly encourage everyone to pick up. It’s certainly a lot less expensive than shelling out for a 4 day class, although the class is absolutely worth it. I figured since it’s still topical, I’d share my experiences from The Massad Ayoob Group MAG-40. Here’s the AAR I wrote after I took his class back in 2016:

I wanted to write this while the memory of last week’s training is fresh in my mind. I’ll start off with some basic “dos and don’ts” to set the expectations of the course:


  • Treat this like a college/continuing education course, not like you’re regular weekend of burning through ammo
  • Bring a laptop. There’s so much material covered that I would have never been able to keep up with it trying to take notes by hand. Hell there were a few times where I got bogged down even whilst typing.
  • Have some prior training/experience. This is not an introductory course. This is not a course to teach you what gun to buy or what holster to carry.
  • Be proficient in basic gun handling/marksmanship.
  • Bring gear as close to your daily carry as possible. Not a requirement, just a good idea.


  • Be “that guy”. This is generally the first rule of any class. Don’t think you know everything, don’t be the one that says “but I do it this way”.
  • Get bogged down in gear selection. There was a bunch of time that got tied up (unnecessarily in my opinion) with “what pistol do you carry?”, “what holster do you use?” from novice attendees. Don’t think that gear is going to make you a better shooter.
  • Expect a shooting course. The ballistic portion of this class pretty much serves the same purpose as the shooting portion of your Concealed Carry qual: to show you’re responsible/effective/competent with a handgun. You’re not going to learn some new high-speed reloading technique, you’re not going to learn “transitional, dynamic multiple threat engagement” (That’s trademarked, by the way. You can’t just use that)
  • Make this your first shooting course. There is a lot of very intense material covered here, so generally it’s better if you’ve already got some time studying/thinking about mindset/negative outcomes/ etc.

OK, now to the review:

*DISCLAIMER*With my version of the course, the shooting portion was taught by a local instructor, certified by Mas, and then he taught the classroom portion. So, for me, the first 2 days were the range-portion, and days 3-4 were the classroom. When Mas teaches the whole thing, they tend to spread out the shooting and classroom both over all 4 days. You can tell which one you’re signing up for based on if your class specifies “MAG 40” vs. “MAG 20 Range” and MAG 20 Classroom”. Mas arrived around this time, and at that point the instructors shot the qualification to show us what it looked like, provide some context as to the time frame, etc. At that point, everyone shot the qualifier and was graded. If I remember, a passing score was 240 or better out of 300 (80%)


Day 1: Showed up to the range, signed your life away with the requisite paper work (waivers and the like), reviewed the basic firearm safety rules, and then we hit the firing line. They started with the basics first: grip, stance, trigger press, etc. Then they moved on to reloads. They didn’t really teach a specific technique, the understanding being that students already had basic gun handling down. From there they went into the different stances (Isosceles, Weaver, Chapman). You got some exposure to the different distances and times that you’d be shooting at.

Day 2: We continued over what was covered on Day 1. We then started working from the holster, and then went through the specific stages of the qualification, which entails:4 yards: 6 rounds off hand – reload – 6 rounds strong hand. 8 seconds. 7 yards: 6 rounds – reload – 6 rounds. Stance of your choice. 25 seconds. 10 yards: 6 rounds “Cover Crouch” – reload – 6 rounds High Kneeling – reload – 6 rounds Low Kneeling. 75 seconds. 15 yards: 6 rounds Weaver – reload – 6 rounds Chapman – reload – 6 rounds Isosceles. We shot each section 3 times. Once under no time constraint, once under the time limit for each stage, and once “as fast as you can” (while still keeping them in the A-zone).


*Secondary Disclaimer* There’s a lot of proprietary information covered in this class that’s not to be shared with the general public. That’s why one of the requirements of attendance is either a criminal background check or current Carry License. Due to that, there may be some gaps or ambiguity in the overall review. Trust me when I say that the 2 days of classroom are reason enough to attend the course. The range portion is there so that, should he need to, Mas can testify to your proficiency with a firearm, not just that you had the academic knowledge about use of force.

Day 3: The introduction covered the information that would be discussed, how we should handle that information, and certain steps we should take to document our knowledge moving forward. We covered some of the basics, like what is entailed in Jury Selection, some basic legal concepts like what circumstances justify use of deadly force, different levels of homicide (murder, manslaughter, justifiable, etc), as well as a more in-depth look at Cooper’s color code. We also discussed different standards of proof, and the different legal applications of each. We went over the fact that a claim of self defense constituted an “affirmative defense”, and what that entails.

Day 4: The day did start out with some discussion on equipment. There are prudent things that a defensive gun carrier should consider before purchasing/augmenting their firearm. We reviewed things like trigger mods, safeties, etc. We also reviewed studies in human reaction time, including the Tueller drill. There was some review of common “Defensive Myths”. You know, the dumb shit you hear tossed around at gun stores, gun shows, and on different internet forums. Throughout the course, there were a lot of helpful tips on how to prep your life for certain events.

One of the biggest segments was focused in the different physical/emotional reactions after the shooting. We talked about the psychological and societal impacts. The idea behind this is to ensure the students are aware of what to expect. That way a) they are less scared by the unknown of what to expect and b) are able to critically think and develop their support plans ahead of time. There was some discussion of attorney selection, as well as the potential value of being a member to a program like US Law Shield/ Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network/ etc.

We also discussed the how and why of ammunition selection. Not so much from the ballistic performance, but also how it can potentially play into your defense. They eschewed the mixing of ammunition. The discussion segued into combative anatomy, and the 3 major target areas, and which is appropriate under what circumstances. There was also a discussion on rendering aide, and under what circumstances it would be (im)prudent. As previously mentioned, there was a lot of proprietary information, that was to be expressly contained within the scope of the class, and only shared with those directly vetted by the alumni. What I can comfortably say is that this section was built around how to avoid getting shot by other good guys, how to communicate with all parties involved, and how to keep from turning a righteous shooting into an inadvertent homicide charge. The irony is that the most valuable segment of the course is the one I have to write the least about. There were lots of legal cases provided throughout as case studies of the different principles covered.

Regardless of if you take Massad’s course or not, you really do owe it to yourself to get more info on this topic. Just because you know one guy that came out on top one time and didn’t go to jail because of his defensive gun use does not mean you’ll share his experience. Branca’s book is only 10 bucks for Kindle. There’s really no excuse not to at least have that as a resource.

Citizens Defense Research Technical Handgun: Tests and Standards AAR

Back on July 14th, I was fortunate enough to attend Citizens Defense Research‘s Technical Handgun: Tests & Standards, taught by John Johnston. I first discovered John through his show Ballistic Radio, where he interviews national instructors, and other noteworthy personalities in the firearms and self-defense “ecosystem” (a term I first heard used this way by Mickey over at Carry Trainer that I liked, and therefor stole). The show is a great resource to help you discover new instructors you may be unfamiliar with, and help direct where you want to focus your training efforts. One thing I want to address up front is that I’m not going to go into the exact specifics as to the drills and tests that were used, for two reasons. Firstly, I can assume that John selected this series of drills in this order for a reason, and it’s part of what makes the class unique. Secondly, and more importantly in my mind, it gives people the opportunity to “train up” for the class, which I think does yourself a disservice. I’m personally of the opinion that a student will get the most out of this curriculum by taking it “cold”, to best assess their current abilities and skill set. But let’s get back to the class at hand.

First, I think it’s useful to address what the course is and isn’t. Honestly, I think they did a great job with the summary of the course on the website, but to summarize, here’s what you can expect:

What It Isn’t:

  • A beginner’s class. You need to have at least a modest level of technical ability with a handgun in order to take full advantage of this class. Safety is paramount, of course. You need to have a high level of familiarity with your handgun, carry gear, and range commands. It helps if you have shot enough to have failed certain standards before. Why? Because some people can have a tendency to become frustrated, and exasperated body language while holding a firearm can be potentially dangerous. Personally, I’d suggest you be familiar with common evaluations like the Bill Drill, FASTest, Casino Drill, etc. This class should not be your first exposure to shooting accurately under time.
  • A tactical class. Both in the literal definition, and in the marketing buzzword sense. There’s no shooting and moving. There’s no scenarios or decision making.
  • Designed to increase your maximum potential. John expressly said during the class that this was not the type of class to help you get to your sub-second draw.
  • A fundamentals class. The topics covered by this curriculum assume that you already have a capable grip, draw, and trigger control.

What It Is:

  • A deep dive in to the nuances and minutia of pistol shooting.
  • A mechanics class. John’s approach to managing the pistol focuses less on “tracking the sights” through the process of recoil, and more on consistency that allows the sights to return to the same spot after every shot.
  • Designed to raise your minimum threshold, and reduce the gap between your top level and bottom level performance. To paraphrase John “While I’m not as fast as I have been in the past, there’s not nearly as much of a difference between my fastest and my slower now”.

Until I find a better format, I will continue to shamelessly borrow the 3X3 AAR format from The Short Barreled Shepherd:

Top 3 Things Covered In The Class:

  1. Stance. Anyone that’s seen video of John shooting from his appearances on Lucky Gunner’s YouTube channel has seen his unique approach to body position and foot placement. It is important to note that he does not advocate utilizing this stance in a gunfight. The primary purpose of this methodology is that there’s enough built-in stability that it allows the shooter to actively focus on other, more important elements of the shooting posture. His approach, reasoning, and articulation does stem from his recent foray into yoga as well. I can tell you that activities that require a higher level of body awareness, and isolating individual limbs & joints can be highly beneficial so your understanding of this segment. Ballroom dancing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu really helped this material click for me. He pointed out how the “tactical turtle” forces you to engage the smaller muscle groups of the hands and arms, while a more relaxed upper body allows you to utilize the lats and triceps more efficiently.
  2. Sight Picture. The main focus (no pun intended) of the class was “seeing what you need to see”. Developing the understanding of what the sight picture needed to look like in order to achieve different results. Each exercise had both time and accuracy standards. I was the only iron-sighted shooter in the class, and everyone else was running a dot. It was interesting because I benefited greatly from a conversation that John had with another student. They were talking about point of aim, and how it need to be higher than the desired point of impact when shooting at 3 yards. This was the first time that I’d basically been “given permission” to adjust point of aim. Before that, I’d (wrongly) assumed that “Kentucky windage) was a lazy solution to bad mechanics. Yes it seems silly, and kind of like a no brainer, especially if you understand ballistic trajectories, but just hearing it spoke aloud really helped me, even though I wasn’t the subject of the conversation.
  3. Process Focus vs. Outcome Focus: John will be the first person to tell you he didn’t invent this idea, nor is this class the first time I’ve been exposed to it. That being said, it’s easy to get caught up in the outcome, since that’s what everyone fixates on, and is the part we want to show off on The ‘Gram. The reality is that the results are merely a symptom of correctly executed process. There were multiple exercises during the course of the day that highlighted the fact that the brain and the eyes know what right looks like, and if you just let the program run and allow things to happen instead of trying to force the hits, it tends to yield a more consistently successful outcome.

Top 3 Things I Learned:

  1. There is such a thing as gripping the gun too hard. Relaxed muscles move faster, so finding the right balance to achieve maximum recoil control and speed is critical. A solid foundation allows you to be less concerned with keeping the muzzle down, because it’ll end up back where it started.
  2. There comes a point where your body knows what to do, and your brain just interferes. It helps to divorce yourself from the shooting process, and just let it happen vs. making it happen. The results will allow you to more accurately diagnose the actual shortcomings you still have.
  3. Target focused shooting is a thing, and it’s very useful. I’d heard the concept discussed before, but never really played around with it until this class. There were moments during the strings of shooting where I didn’t actively register that I was looking at the target vs. the front sight, but when I replayed the image in my head I was able to recall the sights being fuzzy but still in proper alignment. I’ve been a front-sight focused shooter for the last decade, so it took conscious thought to maintain the target focus at times. I also finally understood what those “pre-game rituals” are for, when people draw out and aim in at each target. It wasn’t until this class that I realized the purpose of that exercise is not the sight alignment, but the snapshot of what proper sight alignment looks like over-top of the target. That way your brain already knows what to look for. While this might be a “no duh” statement for some, I’ve never seen it quantified in that fashion before, and was a moment of clarity for me.
  4. Bonus Lesson: Emergency reloads during The Super Test are inadvisable. I tried to game it, and download my mags to 10. I miscounted. Ergo I ended up hitting slide lock on the 9th round and having to reload within the time hack. Kind of a goat screw. Moral of the story: don’t game it, just shoot the damn drill.

Top 3 Things I’ll Do Differently:

  1. I’ll absolutely be incorporating this stance into my future shooting. It frees up “RAM” to focus on other aspects of the shooting process. It’s also just flat out easier and less fatiguing. After 2 days with Spencer Keepers, I was sore. After 4 hours with Paul Sharp, I was sore. Now those other classes were still immensely useful in their own rights, and I’m glad I took them. This information wouldn’t have resonated nearly as much without that previous perspective, but I definitely think this approach works better for me personally. After this class (10 hours) I barely felt anything. So it requires less active thought, less active effort, and lets me shoot as if not more effectively.
  2. Continuing the practice of “seeing what you need to see in order to make the hits, and shoot as fast as you can see it. Whatever happens happens”
  3. Be Decisive. This was the feedback that I got from John at the end of the day. We went around and he gave us each something to work on. He correctly identified me as an analytic, advised that my desire to explore all angles can negatively impact my progress, and suggested I’d be best served by simply sticking to a chosen course of action. Specifically, my focus is going to be continuing to work on target focus shooting.

Overall this class is well worth your time. It really feels like it’s a 2 day class compressed into 10 hours in terms of the volume of information and progress that’s made. It’s small, so you’re getting a TON of individualized attention. Whether your main goal is defensive or sport, if you shoot a handgun you’ll walk away with something from this class.

The last thing that I’ll say is that, with all the courses I’ve taken, there have only been a select few where the instructor has a palpable emotional investment in the performance of their students not just as validation of the coursework, but stemming from a place of compassion. John is absolutely one of these instructors. He’s able to show you soul-crushing, demoralizing failure, and yet leave at the end of the day all warm and fuzzy, wanting to do better and knowing that you’re capable of it. Take this class. Get better.