Thoughts on Training
Photo by Oleg Volk courtesy of LuckyGunner.com
Last Sunday, as part of the Blogger Shoot, I got to participate in some defensive handgun training with Tom Givens of Rangemaster. I briefly covered the training in yesterday’s post, but I’ve thought about the training since then, and I wanted to share some additional thoughts.
While I am fairly new to handgun training, I am no stranger to training in general. I have a degree in chemical engineering, and I’ve attended training seminars and classes on everything from hazardous waste regulations, to how to get more out of Microsoft Excel, to how to deal with the media during a crisis.
One of the things I learned a long time ago is that, unlike college courses, for short seminars and classes, a student can probably expect to take away one really usable point per day. While you might remember more, if you can take one point to heart and make it part of your daily routine, you’re doing well.
Now, I usually try to relax my brain when I take classes, since I never know ahead of time what that one take away point will be. Inevitably, too, there will be a lot of material that is familiar, and I want to avoid letting my mind wander, so I will try to pay attention to the teacher regardless.
Sunday, I almost forgot all that.
Tom started the class with a presentation of the Four Rules of Gun Safety made familiar by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper. These are well know. Heck, I’ve blogged about them, and about how we should make “Never try to catch a dropped gun” into Rule 5. So, in my mind, when Tom was talking, I was thinking about my blog post. Dumb.
You know what? Later, on the range, Tom told everyone never to try to catch a dropped gun. No, he didn’t make it Rule 5. He just said Don’t Do It.
Later, when we actually got to shooting, he talked about the concept of Follow Through. I had heard others talk about Follow Through before, but I had never been trained about it, but here it was – Follow Through is to complete the shot so that you are ready for another shot if needed. That means taking another sight picture, and having the trigger ready by only releasing it back to reset.
At that point, my mind wandered to a GSSF match at Fort Benning some years back, when an Army Marksmanship Unit RO asked me after one stage, “Do you mind if I give you a tip?” Heck, who turns down tips from the AMU? He then told me that I was taking my finger off the trigger between shots, and instead, I should only release it back until I felt it click, when the internals reset. He even cycled the empty gun for me so I could feel the difference.
Back to the training Sunday, and Sean Sorrentino of An NC Gun Blog and I are cycling each other’s gun so we can feel it reset. But my mind is at Fort Benning. And Sean is no AMU sergeant.
Then we start to shoot. Draw to ready, up, sight picture while taking up the trigger slack, squeeze a shot, follow through, take another sight picture, and let the trigger reset.
Only, after 3 or 4 rounds like this, I become aware that I AM LETTING MY FINGER LEAVE THE TRIGGER AFTER I SHOOT! Since we are only taking one shot, my mind thinks it’s over, and lets reset go out the window. How dumb.
Then, it’s Sean’s turn to shoot, and I’m watching, and he’s letting his trigger go to reset. After one shot.
So when it’s my turn, I concentrate, and let the trigger go to reset, and I put the sights back on the target. At the time, it’s no big deal.
Then comes multiple shots. First, one per second, then two per second, the four per second. I have to admit, in the past my groups have gotten very wide at this point. I’m talking about “Mike” wide. But, since I’m now following up the way I’ve been taught, my shots are still tight. In the end, my target has “one ragged hole.”
So, it turns out, Follow Up was my take away. And, I learned something about myself, that even an old skill can become a take away, if I’ve not used that old skill.
Monday, I shot a pistol steel challenge match at Creekside Firing Range in Taylorsville, GA. This was not your typical steel challenge match.
One stage involved taking 3 poppers from behind the left side of a barricade, the switching to the other side of the barricade and taking 3 more poppers, then hitting the stop plate. Sounds simple enough. Only the front popper on the right, it turns out if you watched the shooters, is set an a little bit of an angle, so that it takes multiple 9mm rounds striking it at the top to take it down. I watched one shooter in the squad ahead of us shoot this popper 9 times before it fell.
When my time to shoot came, I made my plan. I would start out on the multiple hit popper, then move on. I drew and aimed at the top center of the popper, and shot, and followed up. In four shots the popper was down, and I went on. Honestly, I don’t think I could have made that shot a week before. All because I followed through.
Thank you, Tom Givens.